Simple Promises for Your Team

I was attending a conference this week, and listened to a team sharing how they’d led some spectacular changes in their organization.

They explained that they’d made a commitment to their team as they started:

  1. We are going to do work that matters: “If it’s not important, if it doesn’t matter to you and resonate with why we’re all here, we won’t do it.”
  2. We are going to do practices that work: “We are going to measure our work.  If there isn’t evidence that it is effective, we won’t do it.”

We all aspire to these principles–two simple ideas that are easy to defend, and that we can always be glad to be held to, or to hold ourselves accountable to.  May these be true for all of us in our work.

Stay encouraged, and have a great week!

Self-Determination Day

I voted yesterday!

This was the first time I’ve ever voted in person.  I’ve spent a long time living in places away from my home of record, or deployed overseas.  Then, two years ago, with two kids under three, I got to the polls 5 minutes after close.

Yesterday, I arrived around 815am.  Where I voted, there were two groups.

People who were prepared were generally in hurry.  They left their car running in the loading zone while they jogged to the drop off box, dropped their prepared and sealed ballot, and headed off to work.

People who hadn’t filled out their ballot were mostly confused.  Inside the building, I saw lots of uncertainty and confusion.  I heard things like “I think I’m registered, but I’m not sure…” or “I’m not sure who the candidates are”.

For those that showed up later in the day, there were huge lines–so some who wanted to vote, but waited too long to arrive, and didn’t feel like they had the time to stay, weren’t able to cast a ballot at all.

Like many optional, important in life, it’s tough to quantify the cost of not voting.  An individual vote feels like it doesn’t matter in the big picture. But few would say that the leadership of our nation is inconsequential–it impacts our laws, our national conversation, our economy, and whether we have peace or war.

I thought this was a good analogy for the important decisions in life:

  • We often don’t set aside time to make deliberate, optional choices
  • It’s a private, individual decision, so it’s tough to learn from others
  • The cost to waiting is substantial, but tough to quantify
Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

May we all take the time to be intentional about our decisions and find ways to keep learning from others–particularly in the small, optional, important actions that determine our direction.

Stay encouraged, and have a great day!

Book Review: Influence–The Psychology of Persuasion.

I recently read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PhD.

Highly recommend:  I thought this was an entertaining read, and essential for anyone who interacts with others in making decisions (that is, everyone).


In the book, Dr. Cialdini explains a set of compliance triggers.  These include:

  • Social Proof–the idea that we look to others to know what to do
  • Consistency–that we all want to be consistent to the view we have of ourselves
  • Comparison–we tend to judge our options by what they’re compared with, rather than to an objective baseline, and that comparison changes our willingness to comply.

For each trigger, Dr. Cialdini provides a detailed explanation, a humorous example of how it works in the real world, and ideas for mitigating its impact.  While the book is focused on the interaction between people, many of these ideas can also be helpful for supporting personal change.

I felt like the book was filled with interesting stories and examples.  However, I thought the most important insight was at the beginning.  The author points out that in a world of increasing complexity, we will all use these compliance triggers more and more in making our decisions.  Here’s the quote:

“…each principle is examined as to it’s ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willingness to say ‘yes’ without thinking first.  The evidence suggests that the ever-accelerating pace of informational crush of modern life will make this particular form of unthinking compliance more and more prevalent in the future.  It will be increasingly important for the society, therefore, to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of automatic influence.”

Since reading the book, I can’t stop seeing these influence techniques in media, advertising, and interactions at work.  Because of this, I highly recommend this book.

Happy reading, and stay encouraged!

Book Review: The Culture Code–Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

I recently read The Culture Code: Secrets of Highly Successful Groupsby Dan Coyle.


Highly recommend:  Actionable tips for leaders on building a successful culture.

I felt like this book was great for a few reasons.

First – Dan organizes around three key skills: building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose.  For each of these, the author gives concrete, tactical recommendations on things leaders can do to carry these out in their organizations.

Second, Dan gives examples from an incredibly diverse group of organizations.  He talks about top-rated restaurants, comedy groups, military units, elementary schools.   It felt like anyone reading would learn a little about a new industry or team.

Third, he finishes with a story of how he put these principles into practice in coaching a group of students in a writing competition.   He used this story to give incredibly detailed, tangible examples of how to put these actions into practice.

I also felt like he highlighted a few key behaviors that are underappreciated, but crucial:

  • Accompanying feedback with a simple reminder: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”
  • Be vulnerable:  it’s often enough to say, as the person in charge, that you don’t have all the answers and you need help.
  • Shape the environment: high performing teams have constant reminders in their environment of where they want to go, the kind of organization they want to be.
  • Use catchy phrases to connect behaviors and priorities.  He gives examples like “Pressure is a privilege” or “The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”  Leaders of great teams found ways to make reminders of key behaviors easy to remember and repeat.
  • Repeating yourself as a leader:  many signals of purpose can be viewed as redundant or unnecessary.  But “the value of those signals is not in their information but in the fact that they orient the team to the task and to one another.  What seems like repetition is, in fact, navigation.”

Recommended for anyone leading a team or working to build a culture.



“What’s Your Best Career Advice?”

I was talking with a friend this week, and she asked: “What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?”

Such an interesting question!

For me, the best advice I’ve received was pretty simple.  I had left the military, and been searching for my next step pretty unsuccessfully for several months, when a mentor connected me with a two of his friends.  I met them for dinner, and the very first thing they said to me was this: “Stay encouraged!  Stay ENCOURAGED!  STAY ENCOURAGED!”

They said it to me three times–I’ll never forget it.  Advice worth listening to, and worth sharing.

Encouragement to keep going, courtesy of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals |  Denver, Colorado

I also spent time thinking about the lessons I would share.  Three thoughts came to mind.

Keep working to find your people.  Most of us find that it takes time to find your groove, figure out where you belong and what problems you want to tackle.  And, once we do, time passes, we grow, and want to look for new challenges.  Along the way, most of us will find ourselves feeling slightly out of place, undervalued in our work, and struggling to decide where we should go next.  That’s okay–it’s part of the process, and this uncertainty is the gateway to growth and more compelling work.  Stay encouraged, and keep up the search for your tribe and your calling: it will be worth the effort.

Everything that sets you apart is optional. In every job, the things that are mandatory will only get you average returns.  If we want to have an out-of-the-ordinary career, we’ll have to do work that is optional in order to set ourselves apart.  For a career that is more than mediocre, look for ways to go beyond what’s required.

You cannot outsource your investments.  No one will take responsibility of caring about our career, our time, our advancement, our fulfillment, or our happiness for us.  With our time and our money, we are accountable for the results of our decisions.  We are supposed to be enjoying the adventure of our work–but it’s up to us to find that happiness, and that success.

So – these are the best lessons I’ve heard and learned.  What would YOU say?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stay encouraged, and have a good week!





Weekly Highlights #16: Community, Speed, Leading in Adversity, and Navigation

Grateful for… community.  Had a few reminders this week of how like-minds and good friends can encourage, strengthen, test, and support in all of life’s endeavors.  Thankful for such relationships wherever I find them.

Challenged…  to be much, MUCH faster.  I reached out to a colleague at work who produces dashboard reports for one of our regions that is doing well in a broad set of metrics: he’s being very effective, and I wanted to ask why.  I expected him to say that he a more refined product that had taken years to perfect.  Instead, he said the secret was speed.  Instead of weeks or months, he could make changes for the whole organization’s reports in a few hours, or create a new product entirely in just a few days.  As a result, he had more relevant products and greater buy-in from his team.  A great reminder that fast beats perfect almost every time.

Watching…. Scott Frost, the coach of the University of Nebraska’s football team.  Scott has been a winner for a long time:  he quarterbacked a national championship team at Nebraska, went on to play safety for six years in college, and has had an incredibly successful coaching career.  Most recently, he took over as coach of an 0 – 12 UCF team, and two years later led them to a 12 – 0 record.   It’s likely he’ll be very successful at Nebraska.

But the Cornhuskers are currently 0-4, and clearly having a disappointing season.  Scott’s press conferences are an incredible lesson in how to lead through adversity: acknowledge the present, have faith in the future, trust the process, and show up to do the work every single day.  Inspiring to watch.

Quote I appreciated…  repetition as navigation.  One thing that is always surprising for leaders is how often you end up repeating yourself.  It can be exhausting and discouraging.  I’m reading The Culture Code, and the author talks about this work.  As the he describes, this simple act of connecting daily work to the bigger picture can be the difference between engaged energized teams, and people wanting to slit their wrists.  I thought this quote was a great piece of framing for that behavior.

“The value of those signals is not in their information, but in the fact that they orient the team to the task and to one another.  What seems like repetition is, in fact, navigation.  Those signals added up in a way you can hear in team members’ voices.”

Stay encouraged, and have a good week!