So you want to be a Star?

JeffreyHayzlett

I think somewhere inside each of us, we want to shine. We have a desire to be thought of as a “star” in our world. We just have to look at the intense interest in celebrities to see evidence.

I’ve been working once again with my old friend, Jeffrey Hayzlett. Over the past 18 years, I’ve watched him rise from amazing to a star. I’ve had the opportunity to closely observe what makes up the change in him.

So many people come around our work and want to be like him. I can see why they would want this. Jeff has been generous with so many to show them what he does so they can appropriate it if they want. Yet, few have been able to grasp the golden ring of their ambition. Why?

There are five qualities that Jeff exhibits that few have. The first is Jeff has an amazing clarity of vision. He is clear what he wants and uses that clarity in making all the key decisions in his life. Most people have an idea of what they want but hold back for a variety of reasons.

Which leads to the second reason why others don’t succeed as he does – commitment. Jeff has an unfailing commitment to do all that’s required to bring his dreams to life. If this means three red-eye flights in a row, he does it. If it means he needs to shift his business model, he does so without looking back.

The third reason is courage. Most of us worry in some form about failing at what we do. We know this worry will likely attract the thing we are afraid of and yet, we continue to worry. Jeff is fearless and bold in his leaping into projects and initiatives that he feels are necessary for his vision.

The fourth reason is relationships. Jeff is in relationships with literally thousands of people. This is not a cursory kind of relationship we see often in social media. He knows people and what they are concerned with. He is constantly looking for ways to connect with them in meaningful ways and link them to each other.

The final reason is generosity. Jeff does not engage people thinking about what he can get out of them. He looks for ways he can offer something of value to them. He’s been doing this for all his adult life. His network of friends and associates have all benefited in some way from this extreme generosity.

So you want to be a star. The path is clear. Are you prepared to do what it takes to make that happen?

Open-mindedness and Truth

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This week’s cover on Time Magazine headline reads… “Eat Butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” How many times are we told that something is true and later discover what we were told was just the latest interpretation. Whether it’s scientists or the government or our company or religion, so many things called Truth is no more than the current thinking on something rather than truth.

Truth is something that never changes. Truth is not subject to interpretation. It simply is.

As leaders, we are faced with many “truths.” More likely than not, what is being touted as truth is an interpretation of a situation or set of data. For most of us, our reality is the interpretations we are making of the world around us. These interpretations arise from the myriad of beliefs we have, most of which we are totally unaware.

When I was teaching leadership programs and had groups that were made up primarily of people who didn’t know each other, I would conduct an experiment. I asked each person to select someone in the room they didn’t know and write a story about them. Everyone found this very easy to do. Then I had them talk to that person to see how accurate the story was. Not surprisingly, the story held little “truth” in it.

We walk around believing we know who others are because we know the truth about them. This sense of truth comes from our inner need to “know” the world. This “knowing” helps us feel more secure in our surroundings.

It’s this need that is the biggest blind spot for leaders. We stop questioning what we know, because we believe it’s true. Then something happens that we didn’t anticipate. For the most part this is because we believed we “knew” our world and what we “knew” turned out to be untrue.

Look back and see where that’s happened to you. Learn the cost of self-imposed blindness. Then, start the practice of questioning what you “know” to better see the truth.

Authenticity 101

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As all the hubbub in the media analyzing the congressional primary victory of David Brat over Eric Cantor reaches a crescendo today, I think the reason Brat won is very simple. David Brat didn’t play the game of big media buys and big money. That’s not who he is. He is a college professor in economics who is concerned with the way things are going. He tried to get the attention of the “establishment” and was unsuccessful. So he decided to take some action.

Now, he didn’t go raise a bunch of money and hire a top political operative and polling team. He found like-minded folks who agreed with his perspective and they agreed to support him. He did this over and over again. Sure, he had support from a very vocal conservative talk show host. This made sense because his basic positions were ones they supported.

The headlines about this campaign victory are misleading. He is not a darling of the Tea Party. They didn’t put their muscle behind him. In fact, they ignored the race.

What mattered here was one man who was true to his positions and talked about them every day to those who mattered – the voters. Showing that when we hear something authentic it motivates us to act. (18,000 more voters turned out for this primary than 2 years ago).

As a leader, this is a good example of the power of authenticity. People know if you are blowing smoke or speaking truthfully. Granted not all the time, but when it really matters, they understand. If there is one leadership trait you choose to guide you, I suggest it’s always be true to yourself and speak to all your constituencies with integrity, NO MATTER WHAT.

Always Ready.. Never Surprised…

Like many things in my life, this story originates with a conversation with my wife. She was telling me about a blog posting she just read by Sharon Astyk. If you don’t know her work, check it out at this link. She is a clear writer, that’s for sure. What I appreciate about Sharon’s writing is how authentically she tells the story of her life and the impact of all of our choices on our lives.

The posting my wife was talking about is titled, Always with the Prep. I’ll let you read it to get the full story she’s telling. In essence, the message is that we can prepare for radical shifts in our world. We can do this by going to the essence of what’s involved in sustaining our life. We need water, food, shelter and clothes. That’s what we need. Everything else is not required, however, everything else is where most of our creative attention goes.

Most of us, and I put myself in this category, spend little, if any, time or attention on making sure we have the basics of life if something disrupts the way things generally work. We go to the grocery store and expect that all our food needs will be met. What happens if the power is off in your community for a month? Not so far-flung, when you consider that a million folks are still without power today from an unpredicted storm that went through the northeastern U.S. last week.

Power is needed for refrigeration, lighting and from the perspective of the grocery store owner, to collect your money. When the power is out the grocery stores are closed. What do you do about food for a month? It doesn’t stop there. We also need electricity to power the gas pumps at the local filling station, so no groceries and no gas for a month.

If you are living in an area where heat can be in the triple digits (more and more of the U.S. qualifies), how do you cool your home when it was built for air conditioning as the only way to stay cool in the summer? You can open your small windows but that will only make a dent in what you need.

I haven’t gotten to the good part yet. Then there is water. Water needs electricity too. The pumps to put the water in those towers we see around the town need electricity and the backup generators will only last a short period without more gasoline. Right.. no electricity, no gasoline.. no water….

You get the picture. We are being offered a less than gentle nudge toward preparedness. Sharon makes a good point in her piece. If there was a hurricane coming, you would stock up. Hurricane tracks are becoming more predictable. Things like thunderstorms and earthquakes and tsunamis are not. They happen when they happen.

We could say there’s nothing we can do about these types of “natural disasters” . Yes, I can’t control them. I can, however, be prepared for them. We don’t seem to want to put attention on preparing ourselves for an uncertain future. Let’s face it, the future is uncertain and we can ignore this fact or take action.

The Mormon church is very aware of the possibility of an uncertain future. They strongly encourage their members to have a year’s supply of food and water. Take a look at this excellent writing on questions of Mormonism for more details. What stops me or you from this level of preparation? Many reasons, but at the heart of it is that we are focused on protecting the present form of our life, and live in deep hope that nothing will mess that up.

I encourage you to take a new look at your life. If you are a business owner, you know that nothing is constant. How are you prepared to take care of the basic of life for your business if a major disruption happens. I know, first hand, the impact of not doing this. I consulted for a major company, who represented almost all of my client billings. One day in September of 2008, they called and said, “We won’t be needing you after this month.” Whoops. I knew better and allowed myself to be lulled into the ease of the situation, and totally forgot the truth of how life works.

If you are concerned with the care of a family or elderly parents, how can you prepare, in a reasonable way for the uncertainty of the future? It will require that you put some attention and resources on this. Some of the money you are making is set aside for this purpose.

We live in a society of gratification now. That’s ok, as long as everything remains the same. SInce that’s not going to happen, I MUST focus on preparation, or be willing to accept the consequences of my choices. Which, quite simply, are that I will be putting my business and all that I care about at risk.

Something to consider on this hot, summer’s day.

Optimism, Denial and Love

Hello my name is Thomas and I’m an optimist. You see, I’ve thought that being an optimist, particularly in business, was one of the greatest sins a leader could commit. I had this opinion confirmed by many colleagues along the way. So, I have been a closet optimist for over 35 years.

Today, I’m coming out of the closet. It’s time to speak the truth about my optimism and let the cards fall where they may.Today’s writing is only focused on the implications of optimism in a business content. More about the impact of optimism in the rest of my life, soon. I can see the challenges to being an optimist. The most obvious is that the view of the future (and the present for that matter) is often obscured by a feeling of hopefulness. I feel that anything is possible. That’s got good points, but it also brings with it challenges. (Note: I’ve noticed that optimism is a common quality among entrepreneurs)

Optimists can miss seeing what’s really going on, right before their eyes, because it doesn’t fit their hopeful perspective. They can hope that the contract will be signed any day now. They can believe that the “perfect storm” will happen and the business idea will be a home run long before events confirm this outcome. Optimists think everything is easy, and overlook the steps along the way that are required for lasting success. The cost of this underestimation of “what’s so” is not meeting expectations of customers, co-workers and other owners, which has a big impact on trust. In extreme cases businesses can run out of resources (think money) before the payoff can happen, which means everyone loses.

It’s important to also talk about the many positive aspects of optimism. The most obvious is that you don’t believe what others say about something being impossible. There are many times, when I have pushed along business ideas, products or programs that everyone (I mean everyone) was saying was impossible. When these work out, the positive consequences can be enormous.

What’s behind my optimism? Part of it is that I like being heroic. I love doing those things that look impossible. It is an emotional high. Others want to play on a team that’s inspired. Optimists are good at inspiring others, for without high levels of energy their dreams would never happen. Being in this highly charged environment is exciting.

I also feel that behind my optimism and the underlying hopefulness is that I don’t want to let anyone down. I know, I know, everyone is responsible for what they feel. Still, there are moments, when an old belief kicks in and says, “You want others to respect you, which means you never disappoint them.” This old programming has a strong partner with optimism.

The first step to being a reformed optimist is acceptance and love. I accept my personality and all that has come from that. I appreciate what I’ve gained from my optimistic experiences. I know that the motivations that have fueled optimism are unnecessary. It’s time to let them go.

The road ahead as a reformed optimist brings the best of my optimistic orientation, which is that I believe that everything is possible, using the gift of intuition to see where things truly are right now. As I started my day, I was feeling bit of dread about writing this. Now, I’m excited to see what this brings.

Let it all hang out!


Most of my days start with tea and a conversation with my wife. We sit in our comfortable chairs looking over a part of our beautiful outdoor space. This morning I was sharing that I have separated my work into two buckets, if you will. I work with individuals on “personal issues” and with organizations on “leadership issues”. I realized that this separation is artificial.

As humans we don’t have a public and a private side to ourselves. We are who we are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s true that certain aspects of our personality may be more prevalent at work than at home, but we bring ourselves to both. So what is this separation about? For me, it’s my comfort level. I am uncomfortable with bringing my full resources into a business setting. I believed that certain conversations are off-limits in the workspace, like people’s relationships with their spouses or children.

From time to time, I would find anomalies to my beliefs. I remember sitting with a group of executives of a financial services company. The occasion was the completion of their nine-month leadership program. I asked what was the most important learning from this program. Almost half spoke about improved relationships with members of their family. In particular, the lessons they learned about satisfying their customers extended to these important relationships. I remember feeling deep satisfaction about this and then, over time, I forgot.

Today, I’m reorienting my work (actually everything – more about that in a moment). After all, it’s all about authentic relationships – relationships with myself, others and the world around me. The essence of relationships is integrity, accountability, love, harmony and service. The tools to deepen each of these are the same.

As if some magic spell dissolved, I don’t feel any hesitancy in talking about the “soft stuff” in any context. I know from my experience as a business leader, and working with many organizations, that by focusing on these three aspects of relationship all aspects of life improve. I have seen this show up almost instantly in improved income or profits, breakthroughs in solving problems and clearing up messy issues like distrust.

The funny thing is that I realized that I operate in a way that separates how I work with my clients and how I support my family. As I was talking with my wife this morning, I recognized that I could be of service to her, and when I was, it helped her immediately. Its time to let it all hang out – holding nothing back at any time……

Bringing Love to Business?

Today I put to bed a new episode of Business Matters. I like my involvement with the program. It puts me in contact with people who are true change agents in the most positive way.

As I pushed the publish button on the web posting for the program, I was thinking about what to share with you today. Wednesday is the day when I bring you a conversation with someone I feel will offer inspiration. Immediately, I thought of one of my conversations with Tim Sanders. Tim was part of the Mark Cuban internet business, broadcast.com. That company was acquired by Yahoo, where Tim became the Chief Solutions Officer.After he finished his Yahoo stint, Tim wrote his first book, Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends. I loved the book, because it brought into a popular context the consideration that love was critical for success in business. Now Tim’s definition of love is too narrow for me, but it’s a good beginning.

Another friend, Deb Robins, wrote in 2010 for the Huffington Post, CEOs here’s one four letter word you need to start using. She said, “When CEOs the world over take the word love out of their closet and use it as their primary driver for success, businesses will experience unprecedented creativity, unprecedented profitability, as well as unprecedented human happiness.” You can read the article where she lays out why it makes good business sense to bring love into the office.

What would your business world be like if love was out in the open and guided your decisions and actions? Kind of makes you stop and wonder, doesn’t it?

You can listen to my conversation with Tim below.

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