Thursday, June 8, 2017

The great unknown is just the future version of the new normal. Fear not.

Why do we fear the unknown?  Isn’t the unknown just the future version of the new normal?  
In 2003, my wife gave birth to twin boys.  They were premature and spent four weeks in the hospital gaining weight and stabilizing.  So, our first four weeks of parenting were backed up with round the clock nursing care.  I recall the fear I felt as I drove home from work the first day that our babies were home with us after we left the hospital.  They were our responsibility now.  No nurses to do the job when we felt overwhelmed.  Just Sara and I.  Over thirteen years later, we’ve added two more boys to the mix and I can imagine nothing else than a house full of kids.  It’s the new normal.

In July of 2009, I paced the parking lot of an East Tulsa hotel.  The gravity of the move I was about to make hit me hard.  I was about to move my family from a stable life we knew well in Pennsylvania to a completely new, and unknown, life in Oklahoma.  The fear inherent in all the questions hit me hard that night.  What if this new endeavor we’re jumping into in Tulsa fails?  What if this experience hurts or even scars my kids for life?  What if this puts a strain on our marriage that we can’t recover from?  Is this something a responsible – or even sane – man does?  We moved in December of 2009.  Over seven years later, we love living here and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  It’s the new normal.
Change is usually scary, but not often fatal.  In time, the things you may fear the most become your new normal.  The mistake we often make is to run from the fear at the decision point.  If we do that, we never know what could have been.  If we can find the fortitude to lean into that fear, the thing we feared the most becomes the new normal . . . in a surprisingly short period of time.  Is there a decision or move you should make, but fear is holding you back?  Of course, I’m talking about a decision where the cost has been counted and you’re convinced it’s a good and right decision, not a flippant gut-level decision.  If you’ve done your homework, and you are truly convinced it’s right, lean into your fear.  Isn’t the unknown just the future version of the new normal?  
I’d love to hear your story, as it relates to this topic.  Will you share it?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Is gut-level the best way to make a decision?

I’ve been privileged to operate in the world of organizational leadership for over twenty years now.  Some days I feel old, but whether I feel old or just seasoned, the reality is that I’ve seen a lot of leadership decisions made and executed. Some have been brilliant. Some have been disasters.
Over all those years and through all those decisions, I’ve seen a common theme.  Most of the brilliant decisions were backed up by data and most of the disasters have been gut-level decisions. I’ve sat around many tables and heard phrases like, “my gut tells me we ought to do this” or “I’m just feeling led to go here”.  Look, I’m not discounting God’s voice speaking to a man or woman in leadership.  It happens and needs to be heeded. But don’t we just get lazy sometimes and just want to make the decision without doing the work it requires?
About ten years ago I was serving at a church that was out of space.  We were full and knew we needed to expand.  We all sat around the table and talked about the scope of the facility expansion project we wanted to undertake.  In our gut, we all agreed that we could probably take on a project in the neighborhood of $3M.  Thankfully, there was a voice of reason in the group who said we ought to hire a consulting firm to vet our ideas with hard questions and crunch some real numbers for us. We did.  And after the conversations were had and the numbers were crunched, we were disappointed to find out that our church could probably handle a project no larger than $1.1M.  Wow, our gut would have led us into a $2M mistake.  Do you know what a $2M mistake does to a church that size?  It kills it.  I’m so thankful we made a decision based on data, not our gut feelings.
If the decision is what to order at a restaurant, go with your gut.  No big deal.  But, when you're making real decisions that have real implications for you and those who depend on you, remember this.  Decisions made with real data are almost always better decisions.

If you know some leaders who are gut-level decision makers, share this with them and challenge their method. You’ll be doing them a favor.  And if you're that gut-level decision maker, don't dismiss this quickly.  Perspective before planning brings success.  The truth is your friend.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

3 Steps To Share Your Gifts With The World

Over the last couple months, we’ve explored how you might know what you can offer the rest of the world and why you would even want to share it.  If you don’t think you have much to offer or you don’t know what those things are, go back and read this article.  We explored 4 questions you can answer to determine what you do have to offer.  This month, let’s explore the next level to this question.  How do you share your value with others?

Just because you have a gift or talent or message that could benefit others, and just because you recognize the value of sharing it, it’s not going to be valuable to anyone until you find ways to release it into their lives.  So, while identifying is good, you must go a step further and release what you’ve found.  That will require building and executing a plan.  For some, this is an exhilarating prospect, for some, it’s paralyzing.  Whether you’re in the camp of the former or the latter, or somewhere in between, let me offer you three simple steps to share your value with others.

Step 1: Write down a plan of action.  I’ll cut to the chase.  If you think it and never write it down, it’s not a plan.  It’s wishful thinking and not much will come of it. For you to truly share your value with others, you’ll need a written plan to follow.  Your plan should include answers to questions like, “What will I offer?”, “Who will I offer it to?”, “How will I deliver it?” and “When will I deliver it?”.  I have a good friend who decided, earlier this year, that she had a message she wanted to share with other women.  She had never done anything like it before, but she got serious about it and came up with a plan.  She knew of a women’s conference that was taking applications for breakout speakers.  She had never done any public speaking before, but she knew she had a message to share, so she applied to be one of those speakers.  Speaking at that conference was her plan to share the value she knew she had to offer.

Step 2:  Put in the work it takes to deliver real value.  Just because you have a message or a God-given gift to share, does not mean you’re ready to share it.  To be ready to share what you’ve got with anyone in a meaningful way, you’ll need to put in some serious work.  Back to my friend.  She applied to speak at the conference and she was accepted.  That was the plan. But, she had a lot of work to do to get from knowing she had a message to share, to being able to share it in a way that was going to make a real difference in people’s lives.  Since she had not done any public speaking, she found someone to coach her through the process of building her message and preparing to deliver it.  This was a process that took place over a couple of months with dozens of hours of preparation.  It was not easy work, but it paid off in a big way for the dozens of women who benefitted from the message she shared with them.  Imagine if she would have shown up unprepared.  What a wasted opportunity that would have been.  As you build your plan to share your value with others, don’t skip the hard work you’ll need to put in to be truly ready to give your best.

Step 3:  Follow through, despite your fears.  This is all about accountability.  I can assure you that if you build a plan and get yourself prepared, when it comes down to sharing what you have with others, you’ll feel incredible fear.   That’s why you must build accountability into your plan.  One last check-in with my friend.  She had a good plan and she prepared well.  That did not exempt her from fear.  Part of her plan she worked up with her coach was to rehearse her message out loud in front of others.  The day before, she rehearsed in front of a friend and the night before she was to speak at her session, she delivered her talk out loud in front of her husband.  Talk about nerve-racking!  Luckily, she’s got a good friend and a great husband and they both gave honest and constructive feedback.  One of the pieces that helped her follow through with her plan to share her value with others was that she had accountability built in.  She told her coach she would share it live before she delivered it at the conference.  She also was committed to delivering the message at the conference.  Her name was printed on the schedule and there was no turning back.  That is a good thing.  How many of us have turned back in the face of fear, simply because we could?  It’s easy to make plans when emotions are high and you’re fired up.  It’s also easy to abandon your plans when you’re accountable to only yourself.  Don’t make this mistake.  Build accountability into your plan so you will follow through, despite the fear that certainly will come.

Just like my friend who spoke to those women that day, you too have incredible value to share with others.  She saw dozens of women impacted by the message she shared.  Several even asked her to mentor them, as a result.  What kind of value could you bring to people?  You’ll never know until you build and execute a plan to share it.

If you’re ready to get started now, I would love to help you begin building that plan by utilizing some highly effective coaching tools. Just click here to get started on your journey to living out your dreams and bringing great value to others.  When you’re ready, I'll be ready to help you get there.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Why You Should Want To Create Value In Others

Ok, let’s get back to a question we started to answer last month. How do you determine your personal value and share it?  Last month, we explored how you might know what you can offer the rest of the world.  If you don’t think you have much to offer or you don’t know what those things are, go back and read last month’s article.  We explored 4 questions you can answer to determine what you do have to offer.  This month, let’s explore a new question.  How do you create value for others?

Maybe we need to answer an even more fundamental question first.  This is a question that gets to the heart of the vision you have for your life.  Why would you want to create value for others?  Well, the short answer is because you were made to do just that.  If you’re not careful, our culture will fool you into thinking that your goal ought to be creating maximum channels of inflow for yourself.  Make more money, have better relationships that make you feel good, move up the corporate ladder, drive a better car, live in a bigger house . . . you know the drill.  Nothing wrong with any of that provided that’s not all you have going on in your life.  In this scenario, everything is flowing one way – toward you.  You might think you want that, but you don’t. 

Think of the air conditioning system in your home.  You turn it on and it blows out cold air and your house cools down, right?  Not exactly.  If all it did was just blow cold air, it would be very ineffective.  While I’m sure you’ve noticed the vents in the ceiling or floor that blow the cold air, take a closer look at the complete system.  You’ll find some larger vents in the ceiling or walls that don’t blow any air out at all.  These are called return air vents and they take the stuffy, warm air and pull it out of your rooms and into the air conditioning system to cool it down.  So, your cold air vents blowing cold air toward you work in tandem with your return air vents that pull the warm air away from you.  It’s an outflow and inflow system that only works – only creates satisfactory results – when the inflow and outflow are working together. 

Your life is the same way.  Sure, you’re working hard to attain your goals and provide for yourself and your family.  Those are inflows.  But, you’ve been given gifts and talents that are specifically for the benefit of other people (see last month’s article).  Using those are the outflow.  And the health and fulfillment in your life come when the inflow and outflow are working in tandem.

If you need an even more life and death example, think of your own physical body.  The normal and healthy state of things is that you inhale air and you exhale air in a one-to-one ratio.  Take a deep breath.  Now take another deep breath.  Don’t exhale.  Now take another deep breath.  You see what happens.  Continuing the inhale – inflow of air only – actually, begins to choke your lungs.  It can’t be sustained.  Although it happens more slowly, so it’s harder to perceive, the same effect happens in you (emotionally, relationally, spiritually) when you have all inflow and no outflow.

You don’t need to get all the way to writing down a plan of action yet, but I hope this builds some vision in you to want to create avenues to share those unique abilities, gifts and talents that you’ve been given with those in your current circles and even beyond.  Next month, we’ll get specific about how you can build a strategy and a plan to create that value in others. 

--> You may not want to wait until next month.  If you’re ready to get started now, I'd love to help you begin building that plan by utilizing several highly effective coaching tools I have at my disposal.  Just click here to get started on your journey to finding your future.  When you’re ready, I'll be ready to help you get there. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Power Of Failure - How Big Mistakes Can Pay Off Big Time

(Guest Post by Chris Colvin)  Chris puts thoughts into words into actions.  See all he has to offer at

Failure is powerful. But that power is really two-directional. It can either crush you or build you up. Good leaders know how to distinguish between the two.

No one likes to fail. It’s part of our nature to resist any sign of failure, whether that’s distancing ourselves from those we see as failures or avoiding situations that have a low probability of success. But failure is not optional, it’s inevitable.The right approach to failure begins with honesty. Instead of trying to cover up a failure, good leaders will face it head on and tap into the positive power it presents.

When I first started out as a freelancer and entrepreneur I really felt unprepared for what I was doing. I’ve never considered myself to be an entrepreneur, and my ability to self-motivate was pretty low, to be honest. By God’s grace, I lucked into enough stable jobs from great clients that I was able to keep myself afloat while I built my business. Looking back, there was one failure early on that really defined my whole approach. It’s really what created the impetus for me to create channels in my life to self-motivate and innovate.

One of my first clients was a bad fit. I can say that now. But at the time I thought it was a perfect fit, only because they were a paying client. I could go into detail, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that from the beginning there were red flags that I ignored because a paycheck was coming on Friday. But after struggling to make the relationship fit, I got the heave-ho after only a month and a half.

The Best Thing to Happen to Me

My fear of failure has always been pretty high. After dropping that client – and there were plenty of mistakes on my part that led to my failure – I could have easily spiraled out of control, got down on myself, and spent the weekend nursing some self-pity. Instead – and again, this is the grace of God – I picked myself up and dusted myself off and took a good, hard look at the situation.

What did I find from this failure? I found invaluable information that I could never get if I had only tasted success. I found strength where I thought I’d find weakness. It was maybe the best thing to happen to me.

There is a problem among many leaders I see today. It’s a phobia of failure. I hear others talk about “failing forward.” That’s just a cop-out. Every failure is a failure in the same direction – down. You attempted something and missed the mark. Own it!

The phobia of failure leads many people to shift and redefine their failure in a way that clears them of any notches in the loss column. If the goal is to have a perfect record, then you’ll always play it safe. You don’t know your boundaries until you push past them into failure. Take weightlifting for example. You don’t know how much you can bench press until you find out how much you can’t bench press.

Lessons Learned from Failure

From that failure, I learned a lot of great lessons. I want to share three with you. These may not fit your particular situation, but they can give you a pattern for how to approach your own failure as a way to learn lessons.

1. I learned I’m not for everyone.

When I first started Cohort Research Services, I envisioned being able to help any pastor of any church anywhere. This was against the advice of a life coach who told me to define my “perfect client” and only market to them. But it was only when I tasted failure from n “imperfect client” that I realized the whole nature of my business.

Instead of a mass produced and mass marketed product, I service a very niche and select crowd. And that’s fine! It means that I can personalize every research experience to an individual client, maximizing my impact. But on the flipside, it means that I can’t service just anyone, and certainly not everyone. It pushed me back into that space of locating the “perfect client,” which is a great space to be in!

2. I learned what I really need for success.

Instead of scrambling for coins, I realized I could scale my business for dollars. That may sound materialistic, but sometimes you need to see your business as just that – a business. When it comes to what you need to be a success, you need to define the monetary component.

My failure with an early client allowed me to take a good hard look at my finances and budget. What dollar amount did I really need to succeed? How many clients did I need to accomplish that? How should I go about finding the right type and number of clients to meet that goal? It also helped me evaluate where I wanted to be a year from now, five years from now, and even ten years from now from a financial perspective. And having the right perspective is essential if you ever hope to scale your business.

3. I learned I’m going to survive.

This was the most important lesson for me to learn. I’ve had heart-to-heart conversations with people in the past about failure and risk-taking. So many times they’ve said, “I think you’re just scared of success,” and I still have no idea what that means. I’m not scared of success. I welcome it with open arms! I’m scared of losing everything, and that’s what I thought would happen with even one failure. That’s absurd, but that’s where my brain went.

Going through failure helped rewire that part of my brain that saw any step back as a fall off a cliff. I failed. I got through it. I might have lost a bit of momentum, but I picked it right back up. I survived! And you will too.

Success without failure is a fallacy. And the idea that any failure is an ultimate failure is also wrongheaded. Instead of skirting the issues of failure in your life, redefining it in an attempt to escape it, lean into your failure and pull as much from it as you can. Failure can lead to success, but only if you approach it with honesty.