Monthly Archives: August 2014

Derrick Coleman: The NFL’s First Deaf Offensive Player




Playing fullback, the most physical position in the rough-and-tumble National Football League, Derrick Coleman does not lack bravery. He never has.

A 23-year-old native of Los Angeles whose hearing gradually declined starting at the age of 3, Coleman is the NFL’s first legally deaf offensive player.

With his hearing aids, Coleman is able to pick up about 60–80 percent of the sounds normal people register. Without the listening devices, that number drops to roughly 20 percent of normal hearing. To make up for the loss, Coleman taught himself how to read lips, using the technique to communicate with his teammates on the field while playing in some of the loudest venues in sports.

Doctors aren’t sure what caused Coleman’s deafness. He’s been told it could be genetic—both his mother and father are missing hearing genes. But Coleman credits his parents for helping change his outlook on his disability and helping him to gain confidence.

“The first couple years after I was diagnosed, it was very hard on me because I was different than everybody else,” says Coleman, who was embarrassed by his hearing aids as a youngster. “Everybody wants to feel normal so they can relate to everybody else. You don’t want to stand out in the crowd.”

The target of constant bullying in elementary school, Coleman was teased because he looked and spoke differently than his peers. He remembers kids who would try to yank out his hearing aids, fully knowing that without them he wouldn’t be able to hear his teachers in the classroom. But Coleman’s parents treated him the exact same way as his older brother and sister. They wouldn’t let him use his disability as an excuse. He wasn’t allowed to fall back on his impairment to justify bad behavior or lagging behind others in school.

“They put these quotes in my head,” Coleman says. “My mom used to always say, ‘If somebody makes fun of you, it’s either because they have insecurities about themselves, or they just don’t understand.’ My parents made me get rid of my shyness. They took me to a lot of different places with them and forced me into situations where I had to talk to people.

“Back then, I didn’t like talking to people. Now I can’t shut up.”

Shedding the bashfulness was especially valuable when it came to Coleman’s education. He learned to speak up in school if he missed something the instructor said, overcoming fears that he would be ridiculed. “Half the time somebody else didn’t understand it either,” Coleman says. “So you’re not only helping yourself; sometimes you’re helping the other kids, too.”

Coleman learned to use his disability to his advantage. Being hearing-impaired made him work twice as hard as everybody else in the classroom, a trait that translated well to the playing field or court. Coleman thanks his father, whom he calls a “sports junkie,” for pushing him to play football, basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis and track. Those activities represented avenues where Coleman could be judged based on his ability rather than his disability.

“Sports saved my life,” Coleman says. “The only thing that matters is if you can get the job done. You’re out there, and they’re trusting you to get the job done. It’s not about, ‘Oh, he’s kind of depressed’ or ‘He can’t hear.’ It’s the one place I can go where none of that stuff matters.

“There’s one common goal, and that’s it,” Coleman explains of his involvement in athletics. “That’s the feeling that I needed when I was younger.”

It’s a feeling Coleman carried with him to Troy High School in Fullerton, Calif., where he played three years as his team’s starting running back. He then went on to attend nearby UCLA, rushing for 1,840 yards and 19 touchdowns in four seasons. But when it came to the 2012 NFL Draft, Coleman’s name wasn’t called. It was a major disappointment.

But after everything he had endured and accomplished to reach the doorstep of a professional career, he wasn’t about to let it keep him down.

“There are so many opportunities you get in this lifetime, you can’t keep dwelling on the ones that you missed, or the ones right in front of you are not going to happen,” he says. Coleman capitalized on his next opportunity, landing with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. He was released from the team before the start of the regular season but again refused to dwell on being let down.

He signed on to the Seattle Seahawks practice squad later that year and was elevated to the team’s 53-man roster to open the 2013 season, earning a job as the starting fullback, asked to recklessly charge through running lanes as a lead blocker, clearing traffic for all-star runner Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks’ prolific ground attack. He did his job well, and the team indeed reached its common goal, winning Super Bowl XLVIII.

“He takes pride in doing a good job,” says Coleman’s position coach, Sherman Smith. “I think everyone recognizes that. He leads by example.”

A former NFL player himself, Smith is familiar with the bravery and attention to detail that goes with the ground-and-pound mentality of the fullback position. He says he’s constantly amazed by Coleman’s ability to excel given his lack of hearing, which speaks to a profound determination and work ethic that has rubbed off on his Seattle teammates.

“I treat him as if he has no handicap, and I think that’s the way he wants it,” Smith says, essentially echoing the attitude of Coleman’s parents. “Honestly, sometimes I forget that he has a hearing impairment. I really do…. He’s made it work. It’s not that big of a deal to him. And it’s not that big of a deal to us.”

Coleman recognizes the platform he has to help others turn negatives into positives. He’s worked with various foundations to raise awareness against bullying in schools and taken time to meet with hard-of-hearing children who face social stress similar to what he experienced growing up.

“My goal was to play in the NFL. I did that,” Coleman says of his time in the ultra-competitive league, where roster spots are always up for grabs. His amazing accomplishment notwithstanding, he must once again prove himself deserving of his job during this summer’s training camp. “Now I have another goal—to continue playing in the NFL. Knock on wood, I’m going to continue to do that.

“My thing is, as long as I’m still breathing, I’m good to go.”
– See more at:

4 Secrets Of Success


Of all the goals people set in life, two stand out: success in our personal and professional lives. It turns out, these two are interdependent.

Personal success supports and reinforces professional success. Professional success reinforces personal success. And together, they reinforce life’s most important pursuit — happiness.

That’s why both goals are on top of everyone’s agenda, especially the 20-something generation, as they begin the life journey from their parents’ nest.

How are these goals achieved? What does it take?

If you ask Rhonday Byrne, she’d tell you it’s The Law of Attraction.

Byrne argues in The Secret for the power of positive thoughts, which she says will act as a powerful magnet to bring things your way, and help you to identify and externalize your internal strengths and capabilities.

Put good things in your mind, says Byrne, and they’ll happen.

While positive thought may be a necessary condition for bringing out strengths and capabilities, it isn’t sufficient, counters Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica in The Element. That’s the second secret to success.

Maybe you are exceptional in drawing, dancing, cooking, or some other field. That’s where you ought to position yourself. You must find your own “element,” your passion– the right field of study, the right occupation, sport or activity that matches your inner strengths and capabilities — which you might or might not even know you possess.

Besides, luck, being in the right place at the right time often makes a big difference – which is why you should be willing to try and try again, learning how to endure failure. That’s the third secret of success, according to Scott Adams, author of How to Fail at Almost Everything And Still Win Big. “There is plenty of luck to go around; you just need to keep your hand raised until it’s your turn,” argues Adams. “If you drill down into any success story, you always discover that luck was a huge part of it. You cannot control luck, but you can move from a game with bad odds to one with better odds. You can make it easier for luck to find you. The most useful thing you can do is stay in the game. If your current get-rich project fails, take what you learned and try something else. Keep repeating until something lucky happens.”

The problem is, however, we cannot keep trying forever. Our life journey may finish before we raise our hand a sufficient number of times to take advantage of what statisticians call the “law of large numbers” – which provides equal chances for each possible outcome to occur.

Besides, getting your turn to succeed won’t work unless you can execute, and steer away from harmful behavior that destroys whatever progress you have made towards success. That’s where the fourth secret comes in: get your priorities right; use your resources wisely; stay focused; develop the right relations; don’t be greedy; and don’t be complacent—as we have discussed in a separate piece.

Why Success Always Starts With Failure


 “Few of our own failures are fatal,” economist and Financial Times columnist Tim Harford writes in his new book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure. This may be true, but we certainly don’t act like it. When our mistakes stare us in the face, we often find it so upsetting that we miss out on the primary benefit of failing (yes, benefit): the chance to get over our egos and come back with a stronger, smarter approach.

According to Adapt, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.” To prove his point, Harford cites compelling examples innovation by trial-and-error from visionaries as varied as choreographer Twyla Tharp and US Forces Commander David Petraeus.

I interviewed Harford over email to dig deeper into the counter-intuitive lessons of Adapt. What follows is a series of key takeaways on the psychology of failure and adaptation, combining insights from our conversation and the book itself.

The Wrong Way To React To Failure

When it comes to failing, our egos are our own worst enemies. As soon as things start going wrong, our defense mechanisms kick in, tempting us to do what we can to save face. Yet, these very normal reactions — denial, chasing your losses, and hedonic editing — wreak havoc on our ability to adapt.


“It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit we’ve made a mistake and try to put it right. It requires you to challenge a status quo of your own making.”

Chasing your losses.

We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it. For example, poker players who’ve just lost some money are primed to make riskier bets than they’d normally take, in a hasty attempt to win the lost money back and “erase” the mistake.

Hedonic editing.

When we engage in “hedonic editing,” we try to convince ourselves that the mistake doesn’t matter, bundling our losses with our gains or finding some way to reinterpret our failures as successes.
We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it.

The Recipe for Successful Adaptation

At the crux of Adapt lies this conviction: In a complex world, we must use an adaptive, experimental approach to succeed. Harford argues, “the more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.” We can’t begin to predict whether our “great idea” will actually sink or swim once it’s out there.Harford outlines three principles for failing productively: You have to cast a wide net, “practice failing” in a safe space, and be primed to let go of your idea if you’ve missed the mark.

Try new things.

“Expose yourself to lots of different ideas and try lots of different approaches, on the grounds that failure is common.”

Experiment where failure is survivable.

“Look for experimental approaches where there’s lots to learn – projects with small downsides but bigger upsides. Too often we take on projects where the cost of failure is prohibitive, and just hope for the best.”

Recognize when you haven’t succeeded.

“The third principle is the easiest to state and the hardest to stick to: know when you’ve failed.”
The more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.

How To Recognize Failure

This is the hard part. We’ve been trained that “persistence pays off,” so it feels wrong to cut our losses and label an idea a failure. But if you’re truly self-aware and listening closely after a “release” of your idea, you can’t go wrong. Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.

Gather feedback.

“Above all, feedback is essential for determining which experiments have succeeded and which have failed. Get advice, not just from one person, but from several.” Some professions have build-in feedback: reviews if you’re in the arts, sales and analytics if you release a web product, comments if you’re a blogger. If the feedback is harsh, be objective, “take the venom out,” and dig out the real advice.

Remove emotions from the equation.

“It’s important to be dispassionate: forget whether you’re ahead or behind, and try to look at the likely costs and benefits of continuing from when you are.”

Don’t get too attached to your plan.

“There’s nothing wrong with a plan, but remember Von Moltke’s famous dictum that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. The danger is a plan that seduces us into thinking failure is impossible and adaptation is unnecessary – a kind of ‘Titanic’ plan, unsinkable (until it hits the iceberg).”
Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.

Creating Safe Spaces to Fail

Twyla Tharp says, “The best failures are the private ones you commit in the confines of your own room, with no strangers watching.” She rises as 5:30 AM and videotapes herself freestyling for 3 hours each morning, happy if she extracts just 30 seconds of usable material from the whole tape. This is a great example of a “safe space to fail.” But many of us don’t have this luxury of time or freedom. So how do we create this space?

Practice disciplined pluralism.

Markets work by this process, encouraging the exploration of many new ideas as well as the ruthless weeding out of the ones that fall short. “Pluralism works because life is not worth living without new experiences.” Try a lot of things, and commit only to what’s working.

Finding “a safe space to fail is a state of mind.”

Assuming that you don’t operate a nuclear power plant for a living, you can probably infuse a bit more freedom and flexibility into your workday. Give yourself permission to test out a few off-the-wall ideas mixed in with the by-the-book ideas.

Imitate the college experience.

“College is an amazing safe space to fail. We are experimenting with new friends, a new city, new hobbies and new ideas – and we’ll often mess up academically and socially as a result. But we know that as long as we don’t screw up too dramatically, we’ll finish college, graduate, and move on – that mix of risk and safety is intoxicating. Yet somehow as we grow older we lose it.”

How to Ask for (and Get) Everything You Want



The best way of getting what you want is thinking about your request before you actually make it.

The big reason many people fail to get what they want is that they are too afraid to ask or they view their requests as all-or-nothing gambits—instead of a series of negotiations and compromises.

But there is a middle ground. Here are strategies to help you begin the “asking” process and avoid becoming upset if things don’t go exactly as planned.

Steps to Success

1. Tell yourself there is nothing to fear except fear itself. Fear of punishment or rejection is why most people hesitate to ask for what they want. They are afraid that going out on an emotional limb will result in humiliation if they fail.

Strategy: Before making your request, take plenty of time to remind yourself of the importance of what you are asking for. Tell yourself the only thing that matters is whether or not you are making good and well-articulated points. By focusing on the merits of your request, not on how you will appear to others, many of your initial fears will fade away.

2. Before you try to sell others, sell yourself. Two of the most important elements involved in asking for what you want—and-getting it—are self-confidence and determination. Unless you believe in your heart that you will eventually win over the other side, you will likely falter or become troubled at the first sign of resistance.

Strategy: An extreme emotional reaction to any hurdle will almost certainly doom your mission, causing the other side to take you and your points less seriously.

Tell yourself from the outset that you may not immediately get what you want. The statement is not the same as saying that you will never succeed, which could hurt your morale and determination. Instead, you are merely facing reality—accepting the fact that you may face a setback. By acknowledging this possibility, you will not be surprised or upset if you are turned down.

3. Organize your thoughts. You can’t expect to get the results you want if the other side doesn’t understand your request.

Strategy: Write out exactly what you want. Then redraft your points until your reasoning is clear, ordered and can be easily related. Practice in front of a mirror, or discuss the points with friends to be sure they make sense and you didn’t leave anything out.

4. When you ask, ask from your heart. Important requests are always better received when those making them are passionate, friendly, polite and firm. Such a stance is difficult to resist. It increases your odds of success… or at least minimizes the chance that your personality or attitude will sabotage your request.

Strategy: Ask in an enthusiastic manner and voice. Maintain steady eye contact to show that you mean business, but also exhibit respect and admiration for the person to whom you are speaking. In general, you stand a much better chance of getting what you want when you make people feel at ease and show them that you are truly excited about what you are requesting.

5. Prepare to deal with resistance. Even if you do everything right, you might still meet resistance. The person you are asking might want to confer with someone else before he/she makes a final decision… or he may want to table his answer, hoping that you’ll retreat from your position once you have had some time to think about it… or he might just say no.

Strategy: If someone resists or challenges your request, be polite and gracious. Do not lose your temper or become discouraged. Instead of seeing the other person’s resistance as a dead end, view it as part of a continuing conversation. Translate every no into a next. Realize a no doesn’t mean stop—it simply means not yet.

6. Learn the art of saying thank you. Whether or not you get what you want, say thank you. Gratitude will leave the other person open to giving you what you want—or more of what you want—sometime in the future.

Strategy: Say thank you directly to the person and follow up with a written note. In some cases, flowers or a gift may be appropriate.

Learning the art of expressing gratitude will force you to focus on the positive. It will also keep you from holding a grudge, which is difficult to hide and only works against you in the long run.

John C. Maxwell: The Daily Routine of Successful Leaders


Whenever I speak, I like to chat with people, shaking hands and signing books afterward. Often during those times, someone will say something like, “I wish I could spend a day with you.”

It makes me chuckle because, well, my days are pretty dull.

Yes, it’s exciting to speak to an audience, and I truly love meeting and helping people. But most of my life consists of regular routines and steady disciplines. I believe that’s true for most successful leaders. Why? Because the secret to your success can be found in your daily agenda.

The first step in determining your daily routine is figuring out what really matters to you. You can’t prioritize if you don’t know your priorities.

If you’re not certain of your principles, you can look at my pledges below and use them as a starting point.

1. Attitude: I will display the right outlook daily.
2. Priorities: I will act on the things most important to me daily.
3. Health: I will follow healthy guidelines daily.
4. Family: I will communicate with and care for my loved ones daily.
5. Thinking: I will practice good thoughts daily.
6. Commitment: I will make and keep proper promises daily.
7. Finances: I will properly manage dollars daily.
8. Faith: I will deepen and live out my faith daily.
9. Relationships: I will initiate and invest in solid relationships daily.
10. Generosity: I will model kindness daily.
11. Values: I will embrace good standards daily.
12. Growth: I will seek improvements daily.

With that for context, I’ll walk you through my typical day and teach you how to make yours as effective as possible.

Prepare the Night Before

If it’s going to be successful, my day has to start the night before. Before I go to sleep, I do two things. First, I reflect on the day that’s ending. You will never make the most of the day that’s coming until you evaluate the day that has passed. Who did I help? What did I learn? Did I do my best?

Second, I look at the next day to see what I need to accomplish. I know I can’t be at the top of my game every minute of the day. So I look at my schedule and to-do list and decide what will be the main event. Then I make certain I can give my all to that most important thing.

Don’t try to prioritize your whole life. Just prioritize the day. If you can figure out the best possible way to spend four, eight or 12 hours, you can be successful.

Ask the Right Question in the Morning

Because I wake up knowing how I will spend my day, I’m able to hit the ground running. That leaves me with just one question to consider each morning: How can I add value to people today?

Asking this puts me in the right frame of mind as I approach my responsibilities. I want to make a difference. If I look for ways to add value to those I encounter, I will likely be satisfied with how I use my day.

Give Your Best

Parts of my day are routinely the same: I prepare at night. I get my mindset right in the morning. I try to carve out time to exercise in the afternoons when I’m at home or in the early mornings when I’m on the road. And I do things to help me grow personally (more on that shortly).

The rest of the day varies. Sometimes I’ll be speaking to live audiences. Other times I’ll be in meetings with leaders of my teams. Or I’ll write. Or I’ll be recording or thinking through future projects.

Whatever the day holds, I try to give my best. Success in life and leadership consists of being good in the moment. If you can be totally present physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, you become a “100-percenter,” and those people are the ones who rise to the top and make a difference.

The best “100-percenter” I ever met was Bill Clinton. I got the opportunity to meet him at the White House during his second term. In our short time together, he focused completely on our conversation and made me feel important.


If you do everything I’ve listed, you will be able to add value to people and have a successful day. But how do you sustain that over the long haul? By adding value to yourself every day.

I grow by practicing what I call the “Rule of Five”—five things that I do every day:

1. Read. I am constantly feeding my mind. I try to read one or two books every week. Some I skim. Others I fully digest. I also listen to podcasts and other audio messages, the best of which I have transcribed.
2. File. It’s not enough just to read. The No. 1 time-waster for most people is searching for lost items. Whenever I find a good quote or idea, I file it. That way I can retrieve it within seconds or minutes.
3. Write. I help others primarily through books and speeches. That means I need to write continually. Look in my briefcase or on my desk and you’ll find files of material I’m working with to create new lessons and ideas.
4. Think. Perhaps the most valuable thing I do every day is stop doing and just think. I evaluate experiences, weigh opportunities, consider how to help my team and ask God for guidance.
5. Question. Good questions unlock doors and reveal opportunities. I feel so strongly about this that I wrote a book called Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, which will come out in October.

Renew Your Preparation

When I reach the end of the day, I repeat the process. I plan tomorrow and reflect on today. If I’ve added value to others, then I have done something to make my family, community and country a better place to live. Mission accomplished.

John C. Maxwell: Create Opportunity



People sometimes ask me when I plan to retire. They seem to think that I “deserve” to take it easy and put my feet up at this stage in my life. Maybe they believe retirement is a prize you win at the end of a long and healthy career.

The truth is that I can’t imagine retirement. My prize is finding more ways to impact others: I just turned 67, and I’m more conscious of the opportunities to do that than ever. It’s a good thing, too, because the possibilities keep coming. There’s a phenomenon I call “success momentum”—the ability to see an opportunity, seize it, capitalize on the success and then jump at the next chance.

Here’s a good way to think about life: Picture yourself walking through a maze. You’ll test all sorts of doors, some of which might take you to new and interesting avenues, some of which might dead-end. If you just keep opening doors and moving forward, eventually you will arrive someplace worthwhile.

You can build success momentum, too. The open doors of opportunity are all around you, but they won’t do you much good unless you learn to see them and recognize when to walk through them. Let’s consider how you can align yourself with the opportunities coming your way, and open doors for yourself.

• Keep walking. On your journey, you won’t find lights illuminating your path or signs stating that your destination nears. You could be on the verge of success and not even know it. Push forward! Perseverance pays. Most people don’t get to the open door because they don’t walk far enough. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “It’s always too early to quit!”

• Keep searching. Try new things. Watch to see what works for others.

• Keep clarifying. It is easy to miss an opportunity if you don’t know what you are looking for. The most successful people wake up each morning with a clear sense of what they want to create in their lives. That clarity of purpose makes it easy to identify a good opportunity.

• Keep working. As Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I love that! Nothing worthwhile in life comes free. If you want bigger and better things, you have to be willing to work for them.

• Keep opening. Too many people get to one door, go through it, and say, “Whew!” They don’t realize that taste of success is really just a nibble. The only advantage of going through the first door is that it leads to a second door. A dozen doors later you are really starting to experience success.

Once you conquer the maze, you can turn around and guide others. To me, that is the highest form of success. I enjoy maximizing my own opportunities, but I find more satisfaction in helping others grow and achieve. Here are four ways you can become a mentor who opens doors for people to reach their own potential:

• Push them to grow. How often have you known people with remarkable gifts but no idea how to tap into them? Sometimes people don’t recognize their potential until someone points it out. Be that motivator. Help your colleagues identify their strengths, hone their talents and recognize their capabilities. It’s the greatest gift you can give.

• Be open to their questions. Let others gain from your wisdom and experience. Good leaders are accessible to their top performers and take time to answer their questions. Your wins and losses can be a gold mine for developing leaders. When you share how you think, your people gain insight that makes them productive beyond their personal experience.

• Give them chances to change. Are your people innovative? Do they like to develop new ideas? Give people ownership and allow them to problem-solve, create new products, or interview new team members. When people contribute to meaningful change, they feel pride in the organization’s success and responsibility for it.

• Provide opportunities for them to win. Momentum is a leader’s best friend. Your team needs regular opportunities to win together. I like to encourage friendly competition among my team. I offer incentives based on measurable results and watch my people push each other to victory. It’s a fun way to improve performance, increase profits and build team unity.

Opening doors for yourself and others builds a culture that celebrates growth, change and risk-taking. Opportunity-seeking can, in fact, become a habit. Tell your team members to be on the lookout for opportunities to improve themselves, the team and the company. Ask people to look at your processes, products and procedures with fresh eyes.

By doing so, you’ll take your business to a whole new level. You may find that team members begin to come to you with their new ideas and opportunities. When you communicate that you value, appreciate and implement good ideas from any source, you set your team up for success and encourage individual contributions.

Author Orison Swett Marden once said, “Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.” That is great advice. Start opening doors and never stop. Life is full of opportunity for those who are willing to look for it.

Jumpstart a Change Initiative With These Simple Steps

presentation Jumpstart a Change Initiative With These Simple Steps

Are you rolling out a change or new initiative in your company? Don’t even think about starting a change process without completing these steps.

Start with a plan

Any change you want to get rolling, whether it is a change in strategy, policy or when changing systems, must come with a well thought out plan.

If you don’t have a plan before beginning the change process, the expenses for your change effort will increase rapidly. Chances are, you will also find that your efforts will not be accepted among your staff and may ultimately fail.

Get everyone involved

The key ingredient to change effort success is your team. You want as much brainpower behind a new initiative as possible.

If you want people to accept a new initiative, you must make sure they are involved in the planning, decision making and implementation. By keeping your staff involved, you will ensure they support your efforts.

Why is getting your staff’s acceptance important for change to occur? If your staff does not support new methods, they will stick to old practices, rendering your change effort useless.

Continually reinforce why the change is important

Not only do you need to get your staff to embrace change through keeping them involved, you also need to communicate to them why the change is so important.

If your staff fails to understand this simple fact, they will never see the importance of your new strategy, and cling to old practices.

Implement change

Now comes the hard part. This is where behavior, practices or systems must actually be changed. You must stick to your plan, keep your staff involved and actively working so the implementation is a success.

Expect hiccups

Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Chances are, you will run into problems during the beginning stages after a new initiative has been rolled out.

A system may not work as expected, a new strategy is proving more costly, or employees might not be adhering to new policies. Whatever the issues are, you will be at a severe disadvantage if you don’t plan for these setbacks.

Brainstorm possible issues that could arise and plan for contingencies.

Are You Giving Employees Permission to Speak Freely?



     Hiring and keeping the right team players is tough—often because people don’t have what Anne Katherine, therapist and author of Boundaries Where You End and I Begin, calls good “boundary intelligence.”

    During the trial employment period, Katherine recommends giving new hires some boundary dilemmas and asking them how they’d handle each situation. Common boundary issues at work include office gossip, project overload and personal issues on professional time.

   Ongoing, use your regular meeting times to help team members develop the soft skill of boundary setting. “I work with entrepreneurs a lot, and one of the things I train them to do is to actually have developmental conversations with their people,” says John Townsend, Ph.D., a business consultant, psychologist, leadership coach and co-author of 27 books, including Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.

    Your employees are looking to you for help in developing not just in sales, marketing or operations. “We’re supposed to develop them as people as well,” Townsend says.

    Even with the best team, setting an example as a leader is vital to keeping healthy boundaries throughout an organization. So rather than blindly assign tasks, give people permission to speak freely, as they say in the military. Encourage them to be candid with you about their workload, interest level and issues regarding projects with potential teammates.

    In his organization, Townsend also encourages team members to give him candid feedback about his own performance. “If they see a problem in my workload or my attitude or my behavior, and I’m not aware of it and they don’t say anything, then my career could go off a cliff,” he says. “I think every entrepreneur needs to give their people permission to speak freely because they’re seeing things that we’re not seeing. They can be extremely helpful in solving problems and meeting challenges. We need their feedback.

“What you find is that the culture begins to change,” he adds. “People feel empowered. People feel stronger. They feel trust. They feel more confident. And work gets better.”

The Leadership Secret to Supercharging Your Team



So you were first in your MBA class and have the smarts of Jeff Bezos and Marissa Mayer combined. If you want the brightest possible future in business, you may still have a few things to learn.

“During our school years, there’s this fallacious sense that only how well you do academically is going to matter in your life,” says Daniel Goleman, one of the country’s best-known writers and researchers on the subject of leadership. “Once you get into a business, particularly if you’re an entrepreneur, you know that’s nonsense. Lots of people with straight A’s wind up working for people who were B students. I once spoke to a roomful of CEOs; I asked, ‘How many of you were magna cum laude, had the highest grades in your class when you graduated?’ Out of 200 or 300 people, it was about 1 percent. I said, ‘There goes the assumption that how well you do in school determines how well you do in business.’ ”

Then what does determine how well you do? Goleman has spent three decades finding out. He’s written or co-written more than 20 books, including the best-seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ; Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence; and 2014’s What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters. Through a compelling blend of anecdote and scientific analysis, he has made the case that what sets top businesspeople apart is “EI” (emotional intelligence), which he describes as the sum of self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skills.

“A higher proportion of the competencies that distinguish the stars among leaders turn out to be based on emotional intelligence rather than IQ-type abilities, by far—like 80 or 90 percent of them,” says Goleman, speaking from his office in the Berkshires. He reached this conclusion after studying data from nearly 200 organizations, large and small, that compared their best performers with run-of-the-mill ones.

“That doesn’t mean IQ is irrelevant,” Goleman adds. “IQ is important in sorting people into jobs they can do. But once you’re in the game, you’re competing with people as smart as you, and you’re competing with how well you can manage yourself and lead other people.”

Luckily, he says, emotional and social abilities aren’t fixed at birth. With diligence, you can “rewire your brain” to push your EI to genius levels.

Take Stock

To figure out which aspects of emotional intelligence need work, Goleman’s What Makes a Leader suggests “imagining your ideal self” five to 10 years from now. What would your typical day be like? Who would be there? What sorts of relationships would you have with them? Consider your “deepest values and loftiest dreams.” How would these be part of your daily life?

Next: Learn how your ideal self compares with your current self. Goleman recommends answering such questions as:

• Are you usually aware of your feelings and why you feel that way?
• Can you manage your distressing emotions well—e.g., recover quickly when you get upset or stressed?
• Can you usually sense the feelings of the people you interact with and understand their way of seeing things?
• Do you have a knack for persuasion and using your influence effectively?

Don’t just introspect. You also need to find out how you make others feel and how they see your leadership style. This can be tough to glean, of course, especially from employees. One possibility is to solicit anonymous written critiques. You also might form or join a support group in which peers who know you well (perhaps outside your company) give you frank opinions about your behavior.

Then there’s “360-degree Feedback,” a process Goleman helped develop. In 360, a certified coach would have bosses, peers, direct reports, clients and sometimes family members critique your “social intelligence”—the empathy and social-skills part of EI. Among other things, they would consider your sensitivity to people’s needs, your mentoring style, your interest in others’ opinions and your tendency (or lack thereof) to bring out the best in people.

Once the feedback rolls in, resist the temptation to dwell only on your EI shortcomings. It’s “just as important, maybe even more so, to understand your strengths,” Goleman writes. He finds, for instance, that most entrepreneurs are resilient and innovative. “Knowing where your real self overlaps with your ideal self will give you the positive energy you need to move forward to the next step in the process—bridging the gaps.”

Praise, Pay Attention, Practice

If you’re like many entrepreneurs, one EI gap will involve your ears. “Poor listening is the common cold of leadership today,” Goleman says. “Very often we want people to keep it short, which often means we cut them off and take over the conversation to get them out the door quickly. But if you want to be a good listener, then you have to actually take time to hear what they have to say and be sure you understand them.”

Another common shortcoming: being a Debbie Downer. “This is a big problem for entrepreneurs,” Goleman says. “Entrepreneurs are typically people who drive themselves harder than most others and who have a very high internal standard of excellence. They do things very well, and that can become a pattern of perfectionism, where you tend to look only at what was wrong rather than what was right. The problem in leadership is when people who have driven themselves to the top that way become managers or leaders and use the same lens with their direct reports. If they give only failing grades, not passing grades, that demotivates people.”

To overcome such weaknesses, Goleman proposes drawing up an action plan. (Ideally, he says, do this with help from a 360 coach or other business coach who can monitor your progress. “Anybody who is at the top in sports or entertainment typically has a coach throughout their career”—so why should it be different in business?) Pick a short list of changes you can make, both inside and outside the office, that target each of your goals.

To boost your listening skills, you might plan to meet each of your colleagues or employees for lunch, away from office distractions. You might also volunteer at a crisis center, where understanding the needs of others is crucial. At home, for starters, try not to take over conversations and “relax into just listening, being sure you understand before responding,” Goleman says.

To become less critical, constantly remind yourself to notice what others in your life do well. “Praise them; don’t just attack them,” he says. “And make it genuine—our radar for phoniness is just too good.” Here, too, talking to employees away from the office is helpful. “One powerful conversation with the person away from work—about what they want from their life, their career and this job—will give you sound grounds for giving them feedback in terms of where they want to go: ‘When you did X, it didn’t help you toward Y. Perhaps you could work on Z, and here’s how I can help you,’” Goleman advises. “That personal angle builds great loyalty, and a sense that you care about people.”

Above all, no matter which aspect of EI that you’re attempting to build, you should work at it daily and consciously. “The neurology of habit tells us you need to become mindful of the old way, what you’re trying to change, intentionally replace it with the new habit and do it at every naturally occurring opportunity,” Goleman says. “It might be with your kids; it might be with your spouse; it might be with your direct reports.

“All of those are learning opportunities, and you’re trying to build new circuitry in the brain—a foundation of the better way. If you practice three to six months in that way, we find that one day you’ll do the new thing in the right way, at the right time, without having to think about it. It’ll become spontaneous, which means your brain has moved it from the prefrontal area, where it has to make an effort, to the basal ganglia, where all of our habits live.”

Open Your Eyes and Close Them

As you continue your daily practice, Goleman says, you can speed your progress by shadowing leaders known for their empathy and social skills: Observe how they stay cool under stress and adapt. See how they strike a balance between listening and effectively communicating; how—in a group—they help move everyone toward a joint goal, acknowledge others’ contributions and encourage everyone’s strengths.

Because of brain chemistry, you may start emulating these role models before you know it. Maybe you’ve heard of mirror neurons—these fire not just when we do something, but when we see others do the same thing. Many scientists think mirror neurons help us understand each other and learn skills. “Mirror neurons have particular importance in organizations, because leaders’ emotions and actions prompt followers to mirror those feelings and deeds,” Goleman writes in What Makes a Leader.

Similarly, even imaginary feelings and deeds could raise your EI. When you picture a happy scenario in detail—listening well to an employee, say, and working with her to solve a problem—it can “fire the same brain cells actually involved in doing that activity,” Goleman writes. “The new brain circuitry appears to go through its paces, strengthening connections, even when we merely repeat the sequence in our minds.”

Speaking of repetition, Goleman believes another key to EI is daily meditation: Focus on your breath and bring your mind back to it when it wanders, for example, and scan your body for points of tension, then relax them.

“Essentially it’s training attentional skill,” he says. “I would try to do at least 10 minutes a day of meditation.” One of Goleman’s favorite things about mindfulness is that you take it everywhere. Say one of your EI shortcomings is anxiety or a quick temper. “When you’re starting to get really mad or overly worried, mindfulness can help you notice that’s happening to you. You can short-circuit the episode.”

Meditation is vital over the long haul, too, Goleman finds: “It’s fundamental, the ability to stay focused on the task at hand or keep going to reach your long-term goal…. Every successful entrepreneur needs this ability.” Small wonder, then, that increasingly, companies such as Google and The Huffington Post are offering meditation sessions for employees. “Not only do you, the leader, need mindfulness, but so does everyone you depend on to get to your goal.”

Savor Face Time

Now more than ever, our EI is under attack. Technology fragments the attention we pay each other with every text-message beep and social-media alert. A company may have employees spread across several offices or even time zones, making it harder to feel empathy or use your social skills to advantage.

Don’t give up, Goleman urges.

If your business involves telecommuters or far-flung offices, aim for informal get-togethers once or twice a year—or at least, frequent Skyping and the like. “The brain was built for face-to-face interaction; that’s always best,” Goleman says. “The social brain is designed to engage the brain of the person you’re with and read visual signals very, very quickly and tell us what to do next.”

Simply being in the same room as someone else may not be enough, as proved by couples in restaurants who seem to be dating their iPhones instead of each other. “Notice when you’re being pulled away from a person by a thing,” Goleman says, meaning a phone, or some other tool. “And then ask yourself, Can I afford this? Is this the best thing to do now? You may say, Yeah, this is a really important text; I can look at it. Or you may say, I care more about the person in front of me.” With luck, caring about those in front of you will generally prevail.

“Chemistry happens when we pay full attention to each other—never when we’re distracted. This is true in romantic relationships and in business relationships.”

So whenever possible, let that call go to voicemail. Close that chat window. And start spreading your emotional intelligence, one rich, face-to-face moment at a time.
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My Top 10: The Best Career Advice I’ve Received


This list got me thinking, and I want to share it with you. Here’s my “best career advice,” in no particular order:

1. You can’t accomplish what you don’t start. You have to start somewhere and the first step often isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be. In my research for Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life, I learned that Wave Makers—people who start changes—often take a very small first step. But they get started, and that’s what creates momentum.

2. No one will be more excited about your idea than you are. You set the baseline, and if you aren’t enthused and optimistic, don’t expect it in others.

3. People will tell you that you can’t have it all. You can. As a young female early in my career, this conversation greatly affected me. An impressive senior leader shared how she’d created a great career while also having a wonderful family. She said I’d have to make some choices along the way, but it’s not all or nothing.

4. Act like you have the job you want. If you want to start your own business or be promoted, start thinking and acting like you are already there. Promote yourself first.

5. Never ever burn a bridge. You may need to cross it someday. I’ve seen this too many times. The peer you never liked shows up as your boss; the difficult team member you haven’t seen in five years walks in at your first meeting with the new client. Be respectful and know that even if paths don’t cross again, you’ll have no regrets.

6. People do business with those they trust and like. When I was a new entrepreneur, a trusted and successful friend told me that in spite of all of the advice on selling and growing a business, people want to do business with those they trust and like. This gave me the confidence that I could be an entrepreneur and not have to change who I am.

7. Don’t expect others to solve your problems. I learned to spend my energy on what I could influence or control even if others had a role to play. The buck stops with me.

8. Spend at least an hour a week with your network. This is the practical application of staying in touch with people, being a friend and helping each other. One wise colleague once told me she blocked 30 minutes every day to check in with her network, which she described as the most valuable and enjoyable asset of her career.

9. Ask for what you want. It’s hard to get what you want if you can’t articulate it to others. Don’t expect others to know more or work harder than you before they can make an introduction or recommend you for a new job. Tell your story. Eighty percent of your dream is good enough.

10. Think bigger. Don’t be boxed in by what your current company offers, what everyone thinks you should do or where you live. Those who realize their dreams and do big things take thoughtful risks and try. It may not work or play out as you expected, but you tried. And you won’t regret trying.

I’d love to hear your list, too, so that we can all help each other. So tell us, what is the best career advice you’ve ever received?