Inspired Leaders Have GRIT

On October 10, 2014 I was blessed to be a host for L2:Learn-Lead, the new annual leadership simulcast produced by the John Maxwell Company.  In the last post, I shared the opening keynote by John C. Maxwell to initiate this series.  Today, I want to share some of the thoughts from Linda Kaplan Thaler.

About Linda

Linda Kaplan ThalerLinda is the co-founder and head of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, a marketing and advertising firm.  She is definitely a leader within her industry; creative and innovative.  She knows how to get things done.  Among the many claims to fame she has is the creation of the Kodak Moment, the AFLAC Duck, and the Toys R Us Kid jingle.  She is also co-author of a few books, including The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness.

GRIT Creates Extraordinary

Linda spoke on GRIT: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary.  GRIT is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Industriousness, and Tenacity.  Here are some of Linda’s thoughts from her talk:
  • 98% of highly successful people were considered average.
    • Walt Disney was fired from his first job for being “uncreative”
    • General Colin Powell was a C- student
    • Michael Jordan wasn’t good enough to make his high school varsity basketball team
    • What makes the difference is their GRIT.
[snaptweet]Anyone with perseverance and pluck can go from ordinary to extraordinary. -Linda Kaplan Thaler[/snaptweet]
  • If you are brave enough, stop dreaming and start doing!
[snaptweet]I never spent one minute dreaming about success. I worked for it. -Estee Lauder[/snaptweet]
  • Overprepare and outwork everyone else
  • We get easily distracted and need to refocus on where we are going.

Four Keys to Help Stay on Track

  1. SOLVE SMALL PROBLEMS – when you resolve the small problems that pop up regularly, it prepares you to solve the big problems.
  2. MAKE YOUR BED – Military recruits are taught early on how to make their bed first thing every morning and to make it neat and precise.  Part of the reason is discipline but a good deal of it is that you accomplished something immediately.  If you accomplish nothing else that day, you made your bed.
  3. FINISH WHAT YOU START – With busy schedules and competing priorities, it’s easy to jump from one thing to another and not really finish anything.  Successful people finish.
  4. FORGET WILLPOWER – No one has enough willpower to stay the course consistently simply based on their will.  Develop habits and create situations that take willpower out of the equation.
Next post will cover Tim Sanders thoughts from L2:Learn-Lead.

Action Items:

  1. How will you apply this to your life?
  2. What do you need to change?
  3. What should you share or teach to others?

Taking Work as it Comes

Opportunity Missed and Taken Green Road Sign Over Dramatic BlueWhen you work for yourself opportunities to earn money are precious.  Anyone who doesn’t think that way doesn’t last long in business for themselves.

The challenge comes in deciding what to take and what to refuse.  I have heard many advise to take everything, especially when money is tight.  One of the popular quotes cited lately by Richard Branson concerns opportunity:

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!

The interpretation by many is to simply take every opportunity that comes along and then figure it out. Yet, that’s not really what Branson is saying here. You need to emphasize the word amazing in that; for it is the amazing opportunities we don’t want to pass up as they don’t come very often and are usually the launching points for greater things.

What’s an Amazing Opportunity?

How we define an amazing opportunity is what makes a difference.  An opportunity for steady work, or to increase our reach, or increase our income significantly is not necessarily an amazing opportunity; especially if it takes us into areas that don’t speak to our strengths.

[snaptweet]We are most significant when we embrace the amazing opportunities that utilize and challenge our strengths.[/snaptweet]

Anything else not only is second best, but threatens to compromise everything we have worked towards prior to that.

Saying No to the Amazing Opportunity

That doesn’t always make it easy.

Earlier this week, I was presented with an opportunity to lead training on a course in Social Media for Business.  I had nothing else income generating going that week in question and my first impulse was to say, “why not?”  It’s important to note that while I blog (as you can see here), have a Facebook fan page for both my company and for the L2:Learn-Lead Orlando simulcast event, post frequently on Twitter, have a LinkedIn page, and a Google+ page; I am not what you would call a “social media expert”.  It would have been a significant and sharp learning curve to overcome to be considered authoritative enough to teach a course on it.  It’s not my area of strength.

[snaptweet]I have a policy that I stick with what I am good at and try not to pretend to be good at something I’m not.[/snaptweet]

NO is sometimes the best answer

It speaks to my integrity with myself and others and to my core values.  I never want to present myself as an expert on something I’m not and just as important is I don’t want to spend my time trying to be good at something I’m not and neglect getting better at my areas of strength.

I turned the job down.  As I said, I’m not a social media expert but fortunately I know people who are.  So I was able to refer them to someone who was able to meet their needs and provided an “amazing opportunity” for someone else.

What are you doing now that you really shouldn’t be doing?  Is it in the wheelhouse of your strengths?  What amazing opportunities are out there for you?  What will you do to pursue them?  Comment below.

Under Construction

Construction projects are fascinating.  I’m a guy and like many can watch a construction site for quite a while and see what’s going on, even though I have nothing to do with the industry.
I was sitting in a coffee shop about halfway up one of the many towering office buildings in Dallas, Texas and out the window watched a construction project in action.  One of the tall tower cranes was working.  Since I was inside, I couldn’t hear anything, I could just see it work.

Equipping and Supplying the Project

Tower Crane in DallasSleekly and silently the crane would swing around counter-clockwise and then stop.  The cable and hook would lower all the way to the ground.  Someone would attach some heavy machinery or a large metal bin to the hook and then signal.  The hook would raise with its payload to about 5 stories high.  Then, the crane would swing around clockwise, again silent and sleek, until it was over top of the building in progress.  Then, cable, hook, and payload would lower the top floor of the building and deliver it’s cargo.
These cranes serve a very necessary and distinct purpose on these multi-story projects.  Without one, carrying all the equipment and material up to the top levels becomes a very unwieldy and time-consuming project.  So the crane helps everyone work more efficiently and effectively and saves the company time and money while increasing productivity.

The Leader as Tower Crane

Leaders serve similar roles.  Good leaders often go about their work silently and smoothly, looking for where they can help others be more effective and productive by equipping them and supplying them with what they need.    A good leader serves a very necessary purpose and if they are truly effective, their work is critical because they increase productivity, save time and money, and do things no one else can do.
[snaptweet]Great leaders do the things that no one else can do.[/snaptweet]

Lonely At the Top?

BTW, years ago I read a news story about those tower crane operators.  They are usually stuck up there for hours, since climbing up an down can be very time-consuming and tiresome.  As a result, they take of all their functions up there; eating, toilet, etc.  The crane operator remarked that you can feel very isolated and even a little lonely up there on many an occasion.
Leadership is a role that can often make you feel isolated and lonely, especially if your leadership becomes more managerial instead of empowering.  To prevent that, spend more time equipping and empowering your people.  Even more so, spend time growing other leaders so you don’t feel so lonely at the top.

What do you do to serve as the tower crane for your team?  Are you supplying and equipping them with what they need?  How can you be more empowering?  What leaders are your growing today?

The Animal Nature of Nurture

One of the benefits of living in Central Florida is all the attractions around here.  One of the attractions, of course, is Sea World.  Sherry and I love to watch the animal trainers work with the animals at Sea World. It’s really interesting how they can do so well with it.  There seems to be a very special relationship with the animal and many a trainer will tell you exactly that.
Recently I discovered how they are able to work with them so effectively.  When an animal trainer is going to work extensively with an animal, it is critical during a developmental time that the trainer spend one-on-one time with the animal.
  • They will feed the animal
  • They make physical contact
  • They talk to the animal and encourage it.

This nurturing, one-on-one time allows the animal and the trainer to build reciprocal trust.  The reciprocal trust and the nurturing that allow the trainer and animal to be able to work together effectively and safely.

The Human Nature of Nurture

As humans, we aren’t any different.  We need nurturing ourselves.
  • We are all desperate for people to recognize that we are significant
  • We want them to recognize that we have an impact.
  • We want them to encourage us
  • We want them to guide us.

We all need that.

Giving Nurture

The flip side is that we all have the ability to nurture other people, it doesn’t come out naturally.  It has to be intentional and it has to be developed over time.
Why would I want to bother to do that in a business environment or as a leader?
When we are able to nurture people, we are able to connect with people.  When we can connect with people, we can build our influence with them.  When you can build our influence, then you can help them get the most out of themselves.  That’s what we want to able to do as a leader or businessperson: get the most out of others.
[snaptweet]”People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”[/snaptweet]
John Maxwell

Here’s some things you can do to build those nurturing relationships:

  1. COMMIT TO PEOPLE – you have to be committed to their development.  It doesn’t mean you are an enabler, it doesn’t mean that you take over their lives; it simply means that you provide the circumstances and that you are committed to helping them help themselves if they are willing to take the steps to go in the right direction.
  2. BELIEVE IN PEOPLE – If you don’t believe that they can become better or that they can achieve greater things, then you are not going to be able to get anything out of them because that belief will show through.  Whether you believe they are worthless or believe they are worthwhile, it will show through in everything you do.
  3. GIVE WITH NO CONDITIONS – Pour yourself into them and do it without setting any conditions.  A lot of people thing that giving is a reciprocal thing; I do something for you and you do something for me.  No conditions here.  Go in and pour yourself into them simply because you want to see them get the best out of themselves.  You will benefit in the long-run but you can’t go into it with the expectation of a tradeoff because there isn’t necessarily going to be one.

It Comes Down to INTEGRITY

If you take a quick look back in history for the last 20 years or so, integrity in business has seemed to take a huge hit.





A Lack of Integrity is Fatal to SuccessIf any of these names seem familiar to you then you can relate to what I am talking about.  All four were giant, multi-national companies that had equally giant implosions due to a lack of integrity inside of the business.

Failure From Way Back

Another example:  Dutch East India Trading Company. Another huge, multi-national company that fell apart after more than 100 years in business due to massive corruption.  And that was in the 1700’s.

A lack of integrity isn’t unique to this generation.

Integrity That Drives Business

For contrast, look at Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol.  One of the items in their mission statement is that they will do all things with “honesty and integrity”. They have placed a huge focus on the well-being of their customers as being vital to their success.  Executive management is asked to agree to and commit to all of this in order to be part of the organization.

Putting It to the Test

Back in 1982, there was a big scare with Tylenol.  Several containers had been tainted with poison and several people lost their lives as a result.  Within hours of the discovery of this, the President of Tylenol ordered the immediate removal of all containers of Tylenol from store shelves across the country. This despite the fact that this would cost the company millions of dollars (over $100 million).  Someone later asked him how he could make such a decision so quickly in the face of the consequences involved, including the financial hit.  He responded that he was simply acting in accordance with the values they had agreed upon from the very beginning.
“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” -Roy Disney

The result today

Tylenol is one of the most trusted brands and Johnson and Johnson is doing well.

Integrity Matters!

It is the foundation of creating long-term, sustainable success in your career or your business. If you don’t have integrity, it becomes clear to everyone sooner or later. It permeates everything you do, everything you say, and everything you say about what you do.

Build integrity to build success.

So here’s three things you can do to build or maintain your integrity:

  1. BE TRUSTWORTHY – It starts with honesty.  It continues with showing respect to everyone.  Give it before they earn it and until they unearn it. Be consistent in how you treat people, with caring, consideration, kindness, and politeness.
  2. BE RELIABLE – Don’t ever promise what you can’t deliver and always deliver what you promise, no matter the cost.  Let people know what and who they can count on.
  3. DO TOUGH, UNPLEASANT THINGS FIRST – The benefits for you is that it gets em over with, it makes the rest of the day better by comparison, it gives you confidence, helps people develop confidence in you, and identifies you as one who can get things done.

What are other qualities you can think of that demonstrate INTEGRITY? Share your thoughts here or contact me at psimkins(at)