Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough to be doing what you’re doing?  Or do you ever struggle with thoughts that  if people only knew the real you, they might lose respect for you? If so, then you may have experienced something called the Imposter Syndrome, and it holds people back from performing at the top of their game. In this week’s issue I do something a bit different as I take you on a mini-adventure to dangerous city in South America to highlight this problem.

Do you have a friend or colleague that is way more talented than they give themselves credit for? Pass this on to them because it will help them overcome the Imposter Syndrome.



MH900446392Holidays are coming and you know it is customary for you as a manager to send greeting cards to your staff. The problem is you hate the whole process. I am going to show you how to create a holiday greeting card like they have never laid eyes on before.

In our virtual world of email and text messaging, the hand written card has been placed on the endangered species list. The good news is that with rarity comes great value. I want to encourage you as a manager to redefine the holiday greeting card. I want you to create something that will actually move your staff emotionally. What we want to get away from are the usual cards everyone writes each year; the one’s where we sign our name and maybe write the words “Seasons Greetings” if they are not already included on the card.

It’s time to raise the standards. I’m talking about a human resources work of art. Imagine for a minute that this year, your employees will actually keep the card you write them. Imagine that they actually take it home and show their family, and that they even bring it back to work in January and keep it in their desk to read every time they are feeling discouraged. Imagine that they auction it off on eBay for a ton of money as “Best Card Ever Written…” Ok, now we are getting carried away.

We have become numb to the mechanical expectation of exchanging cards, and the good news for you and me is expectations are at an all time low. Employees do not expect their greeting cards from their managers to say much. So if you are willing to spend a little extra time, you can make a big impression on your employees this holiday season. Here are some ideas how.

Don’t assume Hallmark can say it better than you.

In fact go and buy the Cards that are blank on the inside. This forces you to write something yourself. Now what do you write?

Personalize it

In the card you want to write more than just ‘Happy Holidays,’ or ‘Thanks for all the great effort.’ Use the card to inspire, thank, recognize and uplift the employee.

Praise the past

Include a memory detailing one of their specific accomplishments during the year. “Bob, I’ll never forget how in March you organized that meeting when tensions were high and you set everyone at ease. That was pure magic. You set an example for us all.”

Comment on their growth

Let each employee know how much you have seen him or her grow this year. “Sara, I am so proud to see how much you have grown as an up-and-coming manager. I remember how at the start of the year you used to get a bit stressed about the paperwork and now you handle it with ease which has freed you up to use that Midas Touch you seem to have with the rest of the staff.”

Let them know they are integral to the team

People want to feel they are needed. Let them know specifically how the team relies on them. “Joe, I hope you realize how important you are to the team here. Not only are you the one that cheers everyone up, but your knowledge base is incredible and continues to grow. When anyone in the office needs to know something it’s always “Go ask Joe.” I don’t know what we would do without you.”

Point out where you have learned from them

This is huge because people want to feel respected by you as a boss. If they feel like you have learned something from them, it will communicate a huge amount of respect from you. Whether it is something big or as little as how someone handles customers on the phone, the key is to let them know they have value. “Kelly, you may not realize it but I have learned a lot from you this year. I see how patient you are when training the new hires, and it has made a huge impression on me.  Because of your example I have become a more patient manager, thank you.”

Acknowledge Tough Times

If an employee suffered from something during the year, maybe an illness, death of a family member, or trials with home life, you can also comment on how you admire them for persisting in tough circumstances and that your thoughts will be with them this holidays. The key here is to be sensitive and really care. This will mean a lot.

If you follow even a couple of these ideas, it will make your greeting cards stand out. Your staff will not bother comparing cards to see if you wrote the same thing in everyone’s card because they are all so individualized. Remember the key is it has to be genuine and from the heart. This is not just a way to manipulate your staff into staying with you longer.

I know what you might be thinking, how on earth will you have time to write a card like this to everyone of your employees? That’s why I am sending this to you in the beginning of December. The secret is to start now. Write one a day, or one a week depending on how many direct reports you have. In the end it is a small thing to do that goes a long way. All you need to do is start early and you will be amazed at how many employees warmly thank you for the card at the company holiday party. You may even here “It’s the nicest card any boss has ever given me.”



Liz and her husband Francisco in Asuncion, Paraguay.

In less than one month’s time I get to share the stage with one of the biggest names in Leadership. I will be in Asuncion, Paraguay with John Maxwell speaking at a leadership seminar. This will not be a multi-day conference with 20 other speakers; it’s just a one-day event with the two of us.

Now it’s not like we’re splitting stage time 50/50. I am the opener. I’m like the warm up band that gets on before the main act that everybody has come to see. Last week a friend from Paraguay sent me a photo from the newspaper that was promoting the event. In it you see this huge picture of John Maxwell and then down at the bottom there’s a tiny square with my head in it. It’s perfect. In fact, this is the thrill of a lifetime. Its akin to a high school basketball player getting to shoot hoops with Michael Jordan or an artist sharing some studio time with Picasso. Maxwell really is on that level.

Now you might be wondering how I managed to secure such a high profile booking?
Well, it all began when my immigration lawyer called me with some bad news.

I moved to the US from Canada over three years ago. While I was waiting for my Green Card to process I received a call from an association that wanted me speak at their conference. This was a great opportunity except my work visa at the time didn’t allow me to work for more than one client, which is why I needed my Green Card.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Liz, a young Guatemalan mother of two was recovering from her battle with cancer. Doctors had discovered an aggressive tumor in her jaw, which required a large section of her jawbone to be removed. Through fundraising efforts of a group in Florida, Liz was flown to the US for the procedure. The doctors were able to use part of her hip to rebuild her jaw. With the surgery a success, Liz returned to Paraguay to be with her family. While the surgery saved her life, it also wiped out most of the teeth on the right side of her face. The next hurdle was finding a surgeon to figure out how to install dental implants into the fused bone. This required several trips back to the US over the period of a year to complete the procedure. This is when I first met Liz.

Since I could not accept payment to speak at the conference, I asked them if they would be willing to donate my fee to help pay for the final stage of Liz’s procedure. They were more than happy to and because of their generous donation Liz was able to have teeth again on the right side of her mouth. It was a happy ending.

Almost a year later and Liz is back in Asuncion attending a woman’s conference put on by the John Maxwell Team in Paraguay. After the event, she contacts the owners, Timothy and Gabby Teasdale, and tells them about me, insisting that they have me speak at one of their events. They had never heard of me before, and after checking out my website and demo video they invite me to present Nueve Minutos El Lunes (Nine Minutes on Monday) which I did last November in Paraguay. It was so much fun.

A few months later and Timothy and Gabby (the owners of the John Maxwell Team in Paraguay) are coming to the US for a family vacation. We invite them to stop by our house on their way through and end up spending a great day together with their family at the beach.

A few months after that, they decide to put on a huge event in Asuncion by inviting John Maxwell down to speak. They want to have a second speaker be part of the event and so they end up calling me.

So that is how I ended up on the program with one of the most respected names in leadership and a person I have looked up to for years. In fact, John’s book The 21 Laws of Leadership was one of the first two leadership books I ever read. The other being The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Larry Posner.

Looking back now, when my immigration lawyer called me with the bad news that day, I had no idea it would lead to such an incredible opportunity. So the next time you experience a setback, whether in your life or your business, try to make the best of it. Because you never know what chain of events may unfold, ushering you into a situation that you never imagined possible.





Imagine trying to get someone to run fast while attached to an open parachute. Its hard.  So how do we motivate this person to run faster? If you said “Get rid of the parachute” you would be wrong. While eliminating the obstacle will make the job easier and they probably will be able to run faster, but it does not mean we have increased the motivation of the runner.

A very common misconception is that in order to motivate employees you need to identify the de-motivators and then eliminate them. While this is always helpful, it does not always lead to a motivated workforce. A better way to think of de-motivators is to imagine them as rocks in everyone’s shoes when they are climbing a mountain. The pebbles make the journey a lot more difficult. Removing them will definitely create a more satisfying environment but does it increase your motivation to climb the mountain? Probably not.

The first person to make this distinction between motivators and de-motivators is a psychologist by the name of Frederick Herzberg. By studying workplace motivation, he made a profound discovery that is still talked about more than 40 years later. Herzberg found that the things which satisfied and motivated people at work, are different in kind from the things that make them dissatisfied. Things like low salaries, uncomfortable workspaces, stupid processes, annoying bosses, and dysfunctional teams, lead to job dissatisfaction. Herzberg called these Hygiene Factors as they were mostly related to the environmental factors surrounding a job, rather than the work itself. Herzberg’s research also found that people are more motivated by achievement, recognition, increasing responsibility, growth, and the work itself.

In order to increase motivation, we cannot only focus on eliminating these so-called “Hygiene Factors,” but must also find ways to enrich the jobs themselves, so employees can experience achievement, recognition, increasing responsibility, challenge and interesting work. So our goal should be to reduce sources of employee dissatisfaction while striving to increase motivation through enriching the jobs themselves. Herzberg’s theory is called the Motivation-Hygiene Theory, also known as the Two-Factor Theory.

Practical Application

Make your own list of Hygiene Factors (rocks in everyone’s shoes) that are currently lowering job satisfaction. Try and figure out which of them are the most prevalent and see if you can proactively begin to eliminate the problems. Secondly, take a long hard look at the work which each of your direct reports is required to do each day. Within their job functions, ask yourself if there are ample opportunities to experience achievement, recognition, challenge, responsibility, and interesting work.

Below are a few ideas on how you might enrich someone’s job in order to increase their motivation.

–       Introduce new and more difficult tasks not previously handled.

–       Remove some of the controls and give them more freedom in how they accomplish their role.

–       Grant them additional authority in their role.

–       Help some of your staff specialize and become experts in certain niche areas.

–       Let employees be able to touch a project from start to finish increasing their sense of achievement.

–       Make sure employees have specific feedback which helps them see their progress.

–       Make sure employees are regularly recognized for achievements.

Reducing Hygiene Factors as well as increasing Job Enrichment are both essential for creating a  motivated and satisfying workplace.

Want to learn more about Employee Motivation and how to increase the engagement on your team? Don’t miss the free webinar. Click Here.





A simple method to help you finish the work that matters most.

Every once in a while when I am out in the wilderness I do something stupid that gets me into trouble. That happened yesterday when I decided to take a quick kayak trip near St Augustine, Florida. My mistake was that I didn’t check the tide chart before I departed; something you should do in a place where ocean tides create strong currents. St Augustine lies along the intercostal waterway with a narrow opening leading to the ocean. During outgoing tides, all of the water from the harbor and surrounding waterways are squeezed through one tiny channel, creating a deceptively swift current. To make matters worse, the water eventually collides with the waves from the ocean creating some very turbulent conditions. It’s not advisable to navigate such waters in a small boat. I was in a kayak.

It was just before noon and I was making my way across the St. Augustine inlet to reach a sandy beach on the other side. The tide was heading out to sea, but it wasn’t until I was halfway across that I realized the current was flowing faster than I had anticipated. The closer I got to the other side, the more I could see that I was caught in a river which was carrying me out into the open ocean. The surf coming in from the Atlantic was getting ominously close and I knew I had to reach the beach before it was too late. I picked up my pace but the closer I got to shore only showed me how fast I was being carried out to sea. Finally I was within 30 yards of the shore but was about to hit rough water. I haven’t felt a sense of life-threatening panic for quite some time, but there came a moment where I realized I was in real trouble.

For an instant I thought of jumping out of my kayak in order to make a mad dash for the shore but something inside me advised against it. After a quick but intense prayer, I began repeating this phrase over and over again; STAY IN THE BOAT AND PADDLE HARD! STAY IN THE BOAT AND PADDLE HARD! STAY IN THE BOAT AND PADDLE HARD! I don’t even know where it came from but I kept repeating it over and over again. It was like some part of my brain decided to take over operations and gave me two simple marching orders. STAY IN THE BOAT AND PADDLE HARD! Nothing else mattered. With the beach only 10 yards away and my adrenaline pumping, the back end of my kayak began slipping into an oncoming wave. While I expected this to be a bad thing I actually felt the wave lift my kayak and push me back upstream and towards the shore. Now, with only a few feet to go I jumped out and pulled the kayak out of the current and up onto the safety of the beach.

st-augustineI sat there for a few minutes on the hot sand recovering, which is where I took the picture you see above. I was kicking myself for getting into the situation in the first place. As humans we can make some pretty poor choices, but its also amazing what can happen when we get really focused on what matters most. In those few panicky moments it was STAY IN THE BOAT AND PADDLE HARD, but most of life is not so intense so focus becomes more of a choice than a necessity. But it’s actually focus that helps you reach your goals and create results. In fact, few other things will get you to where you want to go like a laser-guided focus on the things that matter most.

I, like you, am extremely busy, but one thing that helps me is a simple system I rely on to keep me focused. It has made all the difference and I want to share it with you. In fact if you put this simple method into practice, I guarantee you will make more progress on what’s truly important in any given month than you did before. I call it my Three Big Steps Method. Here’s how it works:

Every Morning

Every Monday I get super clear on what I need to accomplish that week. Then each morning before I get going, I write down three things that must happen that day in order to move toward my objectives. I call these my Three Big Steps and I only pick three. While my to-do list is much longer, I isolate three things that matter above all else. They also need to be three things that are taking me towards my larger objectives. I do this same exercise each day of the week, ending on Friday.

Every Evening

At the end of each day, I review my three things list. Did I get them done or not? If not I want to know why and its usually one of three reasons:

  1. I didn’t schedule it – If you need to get something done, you need to schedule it. Your most important to-do’s must become calendar items. Even though I know this and teach it, there are still times I forget to schedule one of my big three. If you don’t make room for what’s most important it will get squeezed out by the urgent. Guaranteed!
  2. I wasn’t realistic – Sometimes I didn’t get my big three done because I underestimated the time it would take to complete them. To me this is a failure in planning. Whenever this happens I remind myself to think more realistically when picking my big three for the day.
  3. I was derailed – Sometimes things beyond my control invade my day and I’m unable to get to one or all of my big three. This is usually rare and when it happens, I don’t let myself get down about it. I simply reload for tomorrow.

Friday Afternoon

Friday is judgment day. I quickly look back on my week and give myself a score out of 15. Three big steps a day for five days equal 15 big steps. For me, a successful week is determined by how I did on my Big Three Score. A 12/15 is pretty good, 13/15 even better. This score is the most important metric I use in my work life. Recently I had two weeks in a row where my Big Three score was 47%. I wasn’t happy and I made sure I found the problem so I could turn it around the following week. Bad weeks can happen, but using this system ensures that I catch myself when I begin to become unfocused or unmotivated. An added benefit is that it gamifies my focus, giving me something to aim for each week. Whenever I have high scoring weeks not only do I feel amazing, I know I made great progress on the things that matter most.

So try the Three Big Steps Method for a couple of weeks and see how it goes. It may take a few weeks to get used to, but it works. When you stay focused week after week, those steps begin to add up and soon you find yourself making progress, achieving goals, and posting amazing results. It all comes down to creating a monomaniacal focus on the things that matter most. STAY IN THE BOAT AND PADDLE HARD!


Do me a favor and forward this on to one manager you know.



Here’s the current I was caught in yesterday.


by Canadian business speaker and author Michael Kerr. 

“Did you hear the one about the manager who got a bigger bonus because he had a great sense of humour?”       Happy People

You probably haven’t heard this one making the rounds at the water cooler, because it’s not a joke. It’s actually one finding from a study by researcher Fabio Sala—a consultant with the Hay Group’s McClelland Centre for Research and Innovation—who found a positive correlation between the size of executives’ bonuses and their use of humour. The study also found that outstanding executives use humour more than twice as often as the so-called average executives.

Studies like this point to a growing consensus that if you are serious about your career, then sometimes it pays to not be serious. At least, not too serious. Not when a healthy sense of humour can help you manage stress, spark creativity, build relationships, communicate more effectively, and stand out from the herd (not to mention earn you a bigger bonus).

This may explain why some workplaces even hire for a sense of humour, and why, if you’re in the job market, you may want to hone your humour skills. In fact, a survey of 737 CEO’s by Hodge Cronin and Associates found that a whopping 98% of them would rather hire someone with a good sense of humour than someone with a more serious demeanor.

Barry Williams, the manager of Barney’s Motel (“Rooms So Clean Even Our Mothers Are Proud!”), in Brandon, Manitoba, believes in the power of humour. So much so, that while a wing of his motel was burning to the ground, Williams changed his highway promotional sign to read: “Great Deal on Non-Smoking Rooms!”

Williams’ belief in humour is reflected in his help-wanted ads: “You LOVE to clean. . . on weekends . . . for NO wages . . . What, are you crazy? Why are you doing this for free when you could be making large coin at our place?”

Ads like these, Williams suggests, are not only more likely to get read, they also send the message that Barney’s Motel is a different kind of place to work, and that overly serious candidates need not apply.

Known for their positive use of humour both internally and with their customers, WestJet Airlines also considers attitude in their employee selection process: to become a “Westjetter” it helps to demonstrate a positive use of humour during the hiring process.

Even NASA has publicly stated that when the space agency recruits future astronauts one of the personality traits they will be looking for is humour, believing that candidates who demonstrate a sense of humour are more flexible, more creative and better able to deal with stress. (Of course, if you’re flying to Mars for 17 years with only one other crew member to keep you company, a good sense of humour might just be a lifesaver).

Once your foot is in the door, a well-flexed funny bone can also help maintain a thriving career. Humour is an important social lubricant, bonding tool and trust builder. A healthy sense of humour is also one of the most effective stress busters available, helping people distance themselves from their workplace stressors, maintain a more balanced perspective and overcome obstacles. Moreover, humour is one of the best catalysts for creative thinking, which makes sense, given that both humour and creativity are about combining unrelated ideas and looking at something in a new and different light. All these benefits are likely why a survey by Robert Half International found that 84% of the CEO’s and
H.R. directors believe people with a good sense of humour do a better job.

And as the Sala study points out, a sense of humour is even becoming an essential skill for senior executives. As humorist Bob Ross observed, “A leader without a sense of humour is like a lawn mower at a cemetery—they both have lots of people underneath them, but no one is paying them any attention.”

Senior executives set the tone for an entire workplace, and one who demonstrates a healthy sense of humour can create an environment of trust and openness. In this respect, workplace humour and laughter also serve as a useful barometer—an indicator of sorts—as to just how healthy and well-functioning a team or workplace is. After all, if there is a lot of laughter around the office, chances are people are getting along with each other, highly motivated, and working in a positive and supportive atmosphere. (And if you’re thinking this is a sign that people are slacking off and not getting their work done, think again. Several workplace productivity studies suggest that fun is a key component of success, if only for the simple reason that people perform better when they are enjoying themselves.)

So does all this suggest you need to sign up for a stand-up comedy class or turn into the office joker? Not at all. Demonstrating a healthy sense of humour in the workplace is rarely about telling jokes, and it certainly isn’t about becoming the class clown. In fact, misusing humour is also a terrific way to get yourself noticed (and not in a good way).

They key is to practice “safe humour”: humour that builds rather than divides relationships, humour that laughs with people, not at people. For as much as humour can be a beneficial career skill, we all learn at an early age that humour is also a powerful weapon—a favourite of schoolyard bullies. Therefore, offensive humour—such as sexist or racist jokes—is strictly off-limits during work hours. Sarcastic or bullying humour can also be career-damaging, and many practical jokes have resulted in lawsuits (as in the case of the employee who brought laxative-filled brownies to the office) or outright dismissal.

So what is safe, particularly in this current climate of political correctness? The first rule of safe humour is to take your job seriously, but not yourself. Learn to laugh at your own foibles and the small things that are beyond your control, like the morning traffic jam, that receding hairline, or jammed photocopier. WestJet Airlines, known for creating some in-flight turbulence with their groan-inducing one-liners, keeps their humour safe by poking fun at flight attendants or pilots.

A word of caution, however: don’t laugh too often at those things that are critical to your success. Laughing at yourself when you make a boneheaded blunder is healthy, but if you repeatedly poke fun at your own core competencies, then sooner or later folks might start believing you. Which is why WestJet pilots may joke about their hair or egos, but never about their ability to fly a plane (for this, passengers are eternally grateful).

Practicing smart humour also means keeping the humour relevant. Relevant humour—topics related to your office or profession—will have the greatest impact and is the best kind of humour for creating a sense of shared history and teamwork in a workplace.

Studies on the use of humour in such dry subjects as university level calculus showed that when the instructors incorporated humour that related to the subject at hand, also known as “concept humour,” their credibility increased.

Practicing relevant humour in business presentations keeps the talk on topic, helps people retain the information longer and demonstrates that you know the subject so well you are able to play around with it. And if your audience doesn’t get the humour, nothing is lost because by making the humour relevant you’ve still delivered your message. Smart humour can not only help you get your point across, ideally, it gets people looking at your topic in a new way.

Knowing your audience, whether it’s one or 1,000, is essential. Everyone’s sense of humour is different, so it’s important to respect those differences in a work setting. Different cultures also have very different sensibilities. In Japan, for example, any humour that brings even slight attention to another person is considered not just unfunny, but a social taboo.

Finally, the key to preventing terminal professionalism (symptoms include too many bad hair days, a permanently furrowed brow, strained relationships, and a stalled career) is to give yourself permission to just be yourself and tap into what is thought to be the most human characteristic of all, our sense of humour.

And if someone says, “You can’t be serious!,” tell them they’re absolutely right.

Then tell them the one about the executive who got the bigger bonus . . .

Sidebar: Flexing Your Funny Bone
Want to bring more humour into your work life and fine-tune your humour sense? Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

  • Read more humour, watch more humour, but be analytical. What actually makes it funny?
  • Seek out unintentional or “accidental” humour, such as signs that say things like “Ears Pierced While You Wait” (what’s the alternative?) or “Bras Half Off!” (which half?)
  • Start a humour file or journal to collect humorous material (work-related jokes, funny bloopers, alternative definitions to workplace terms or acronyms etc.) and your funny ideas about work.
  • Look for simple, safe opportunities to slip some humour into the mix, such as a meeting agenda or small presentation.
  • Write work-related Top 10 lists. Keep them short and snappy and don’t worry about being overly funny to start with, just start writing.
  • Set up a humour bulletin board in your office.
  • Bring in a humour first aid kit to help you tap into your sense of humour, stockpiling it with items that will make you laugh in the face of stress.
  • Share funny stories about how you started in the business or about early mistakes you made. They’ll help you appear more humble, confident and human.
  • Be curious, adopt a child’s mindset and ask a lot of questions: Why do people . . .? Why do we never . . . ? Why is it that . . . ? What would happen if. . .?”

Sidebar: Laughing in the Face of Stress

  • Reward yourself: attach a fun reward to your common everyday stressors. For example, every time you suffer through the commute from hell, treat yourself to a special lunch.
  • Reframe the situation: mentally play around with a situation to find something funny in it by exaggerating wildly, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, looking at it from the opposite perspective or asking yourself how the situation could be worse.
  • Reflect. Visit your “happy place” by recalling a funny event from your life.
  • Relax. Take a five-minute humour break to mentally floss away your anxiety.
  • Read a funny book. Pull out a photo of your dog dressed in a nightgown. Or use a laugh-line: phone a friend and give them one minute to make you laugh.
  • Remember, when it comes to managing your own stress, the only person you need to worry about amusing, is yourself.

Michael Kerr is the author of “Inspiring Workplaces” and “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humour to Work.”  Michael is a Hall of Fame business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, and trainer on the topics of workplace culture, business creativity and humor in the workplace. Reach Michael at 1-866-609-2640 or via e-mail at mike@mikekerr.com. For more free articles, resources, and DVDs on this topic surf on over to www.mikekerr.com .  And be sure to sign up for his raved about weekly e-zine, Humor at Work.

A lot…

I recently began writing another book. Not wanting to embark on this adventure alone, I contacted a few friends who I knew wanted to do the same thing. The agreement was simple; spend one hour a day, five days a week working on your book and be accountable to the group for time spent. So far we have already had one person drop out and the hardest part is yet to come. This is part of the email I sent the group yesterday:

“Greetings Authors,

 I trust last week was inspiring for you as you spent time crafting your masterpiece. Just a note of caution; things are about to get difficult. While we seem to be off to a good start, the real test lay ahead. This is to be expected; after all, it’s not easy carving out an hour per day to work on something new. All new initiatives begin easy enough, but later they test our resolve. Knowing this is part of the secret to pushing beyond our own unwillingness to sit and write. But after a time, as we continue to plod along, you will notice a shift in your motivation as each step takes you closer and closer to your goal. The key is to not give up.”

All great efforts to do something new go through a predictable cycle. Understanding this cycle is the key to creating sustainable long-term behavioral change, and it can be summed up by the image below. In fact, this might be one of the most important images when it comes to leading change.

Change Is Not Linear

Contrary to the evidence, we still like to believe that change is a simple linear process; we decide on what we want, we plot the path to get there and voila, there it is. But change, at least any significant change, does not work like this. Remember your last set of New Year’s resolutions? Not so linear were they! Instead of a straight path to new behavior, change is more like a deep ravine demonstrated in the drawing below.  Each one of these points on this diagram represent crucial places along any change continuum, whether its getting your work team to embrace a new piece of software, or you simply trying to lose some of your belly fat. Here is an explanation of each:

  1. The Status Quo – This is Latin for the current state of affairs. This is where we exist on a day-to-day basis with relative ease thanks to what psychologists call Automaticity. It’s a fancy word for being on autopilot, like the way you drive your car. Your habits and lifestyle are deeply embedded in your neural circuitry.
  2. The Catalyst – At some point, your status quo is interrupted by a catalyst; a friend asks you if you want to write a book while he writes his, you watch a documentary on juicing and vow to change your diet, or perhaps its time your company rebrands itself with updated mission, vision and value statements. This catalyst causes you to make immediate behavioral changes in order to line up with your new goals. These are exciting times as you launch into your new endeavor with eyes set on the prize. This state of elevated performance is supported partly by the excitement of change. The problem though is that it only lasts about 7-21 days before the shimmer begins to fade.
  3. The Dip – When it comes to behavioral change, things always get harder before they get easier. There are many reasons for this but one has to do with energy. Embarking on something new takes energy, in fact a lot of energy. Change means new decisions, more self-denial, and a disruption of your current life, all of which suck energy from your brain. This leaves us tired and discouraged, and vulnerable for a relapse. The key to surviving the dip is persisting long enough to reach automaticity; that big word for not having to think about what you’re doing.
  4. The Climb – After persisting long enough (research out of University College of London says on average 66 days) you will begin to make progress. This will come in tiny steps but each new one takes you closer to your goal. As you continue, you build momentum and momentum finally leads you to E.
  5. The Goal – Your new behavior, supported by a fresh neural pathway in your brain, has become automatic and requires less thought and energy. This enables your brain to devote resources to other things like enjoying your life again, and finding new things to change.


People are amazingly good at point A and pretty adept at point B as well. Where the majority of us falter is at C; The Dip. But if we recognize how change works, both personally and organizationally, we can better prepare ourselves. Some of the things you can do to help are:

  1. Don’t commit to changing too many things at once. In fact one thing is better than two.
  2. During The Dip focus on finding small daily wins in your execution of small behaviors and not the final goal. Remember the lesson of tiny steps. They seem insignificant at the time but if you stick with them they lead you someplace great.
  3. If you are leading others through change, The Dip requires a lot of extra support, motivation,  and communication from you. How you lead during The Dip will be the difference between succeeding or failing.
  4. If you are going to add something new to your life, figure out what you are going to subtract in order to make room for it. We only have so many hours in a day.
  5. Lastly, remind yourself and others that change is exciting at first, messy in the middle, but amazing in the end. This simple acknowledgement will help you persevere.

So the next time you are about to embark on a new change initiative, whether in your own life or within your organization, remember this diagram and plan your steps accordingly.

Help someone you know who is trying to make a change by forwarding this article on to them.

P.S.  Any of you have a book inside them that they want to write but you need help? I invite you to join our authors group; we are just about to head into the dip!

How To Be Great

If you want to be great, I mean truly outstanding then read the story below. Have you ever witnessed someone so skilled at their craft that simply watching them was inspiring? I recently had the chance to see pure mastery. A couple of months ago my son had an opportunity to spend a weekend with arguably the best ice skating coach in the world. His name is Besa Tsintsadze. Besa is from Tbilisi, Georgia and grew up behind the Iron Curtain in the former Soviet Union. Besa loved to play hockey as a boy but when he was 12 years old his coach told him he was too small and encouraged him to switch to figure skating, which he did. After a successful career as a figure skater he retired and began teaching hockey players in the US how to skate. This is where the story gets interesting.

For seven years he worked in relative obscurity, practicing and perfecting his methods until one day the National Hockey League took notice. The Pittsburgh Penguins hired Besa as their skating coach and over the next 5 years he trained some of the best players in the sport. In 2011, the Boston Bruins hired Besa as a skating consultant during which time they won the Stanley Cup. With his reputation now firmly in place, the superstars of the league are now phoning Besa to set up private coaching sessions.

10 Years of Silence

Besa’s ability to help the best skaters in the world get better is nothing short of amazing and there is an important lesson here in the principles of excellence. Have you ever heard of the 10 Years of Silence? It’s a term coined by John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Hayes wanted to know how long does it take for someone to reach elite levels of performance at something. Hayes has spent years studying masters in their field such as Mozart and Picasso. While researching musicians he discovered that over 95% of the most popular symphonies were written in year ten or after of a composers career.

In fact, none of the masters were overnight successes. It seems excellence requires more than raw talent, it needs time. Dr. Hayes began to refer to this period filled with hard work and little recognition as the 10 Years of Silence.

Not Just Time But Deliberate Practice

But time was not the only factor, which led to success for each of these geniuses. It was time filled with what Anders Eriksson calls Deliberate Practice. It’s about spending focused time everyday trying to improve a certain area of your craft. In Besa’s case, he already possessed an amazing ability to skate, but that did not mean he was ready to teach it to hockey players. It took him 7 years of perfecting his drills to become someone who could train the very best in the world.

I have often said that leadership is a role and you can get better with practice. Great leaders are not born but are made by deliberate focus and daily improvement. The key for you is to stay focused in how you spend your time. Everyone is busy, but the truly great ones make mastery a priority.

The 10 Years of Silence Requires Persistence.

What if Besa had quit after 4 years, or 5 or even 6? No NHL superstars would have him on speed dial, that’s for sure. But he didn’t. He kept working, diligently, day after day, from one cold ice rink to another, until his excellence could no longer be ignored.

So what is your magnificent obsession? How will you gift the world with what you have already been given? Where do you need to focus a little time each day to improve your craft so that you will eventually reach genius-level mastery? Is it giving speeches, leading teams, teaching others, or writing? Perhaps it’s plotting strategy, coaching staff, or designing training programs?  Whatever it is, be willing to stay the course during your 10 Years of Silence so that you too may cause people to sit up and take notice.


Forward this on to someone you know who could use some encouragement.


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Don’t you hate it when you work around someone who always sees the glass as half empty? Nothing can sap your mood like a complainer. And when you try to help them see that the world (or office) is not as bad as they think, it only leads to more complaining. So what’s a person supposed to do?

Believe it or not one of the best ways to stop a complainer from complaining is to validate them.  This involves finding some kernel of truth in what they are saying and empathizing with them about it. This is counter intuitive because our natural fear is that if we agree with them, the floodgates for more complaining are going to open, but in reality the opposite is true.

Many times a complainer is simply trying to voice a frustration. They are not looking for the bright side, but rather to be listened to and understood. Once they feel like you understand what they’re frustrated about their complaining begins to die out.

So the next time you work around, (or live with) someone who is on a complaint spree, avoid trying to shift their thinking to the positive. Simply listen and try to acknowledge the frustration they must be feeling.

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