My Favorite Books on Leadership Philosophies and Personal Growth

What are some of your career or personal goals?  Become an expert in your field? Or even an expert with your finances? Cooking?

How do you become an expert in your field or area of focus?  Read.  As quoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”

Self-development expert Brian Tracy tells us that, “If you read just one book per month, that will put you into the top 1 percent of income earners in our society.” Now, imagine what would happen if you read one book a week!

If you read 30-60 minutes a day in your chosen field, that translates into 1 book a week, resulting in over 50 books per year.  In three years, that is 150 books in your field or area of focus – quickly allowing you to become an expert in your field.

I know, I know, you don’t have the time to read. I hear that excuse all the time. Try this … listen to audio books.

It works for me. My iPhone is a mobile library.  I listen while I drive around town, cook in the kitchen or even while exercising.  I was able to read five books over Christmas break this way.  There are many online resources for downloading audio books, even your local library might offer them.  If you prefer to read physical books, be sure to set time versus saying you will make time. Schedule your reading – this makes it a routine and it will quickly become a habit.

Twelve books that have shaped my leadership philosophy:

  1. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  2. The Speed of Trust by Steven M.R Covey
  3. Great by Choice by Jim Collins
  4. Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  5. 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  6. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr
  7. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell
  8. Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey
  9. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry
  10. Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
  11. How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath
  12. 8 Dimensions of Leadership by Jeffery Sugarman

Three books that have helped me grow as a person:

  1. Jesus Calling by Sara Young
  2. Daring Greatly by Berne Brown
  3. 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert Smith

….and a personal author from my childhood is the beloved Dr. Seuss as he was always very wise – “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.  Happy reading!

What are your favorite books?

Attitude of Gratitude – Thankful for YOU!

A friend shared a story about how when they feel grateful for even the small things in life, it changes their whole outlook.  It retrains them to think of all the good things in their life versus the things that are wrong, or little annoyances.

He used a shiny plastic gem.  I have heard others just carrying a small stone in their pocket, etc.   The purpose is to carry it wherever he goes-whenever he touches it in his pocket, it reminds her to be thankful regardless of the good or bad of what is happening at the moment.

This simple act changes his perspective – to a thankful attitude.  Thankful for what he has, instead of lacks.

We may think we lack so much….wish we had a different job, or that our kids behaved better, or were heading off on vacation for the holidays. It certainly does not dismiss the pain and suffering that some people may be experiencing, especially at this time of year, but all this “lack” thinking depletes us.

The gratitude stone is one tool that helped my friend, and believes it will be a life-changing experience if we all give it a try.  As 2014 comes to a close, let me challenge you to push the pause button and write down ten items you are thankful for right now. I know one at the top of my list….it is all of you – thank you for your business, or being a participant in various training programs, or even just reading this newsletter to inspire yourselves and others.  I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Robyn Marcotte
Founder, Aha! Leadership

Concentration Busters

Many people start projects with good intentions but struggle to stay on track.

Here are a few of the most common concentration busters that throw people off schedule:

  • Social media and email. Avoid logging into social media and checking email when you’re working on a project. Consider turning off your alerts and possibly even Wi-Fi. If you feel compelled to check your email, wait until breaks throughout the day.
  • Multitasking. While people often think they can accomplish more in less time by 8047b7b9-2bd5-4800-bf30-dff0253cd2a7multitasking, they lose time when shifting attention from one task to another. Try to devote your time to one solid project and see how much further you can get.
  • Hunger. Remember to always eat breakfast and snack on high-protein items, such as cheese and nuts; and always choose complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains.
  • Disorganization. Rather than attacking the day’s projects randomly, take some time to organize your deadlines, projects, and plan of attack. Rank them in order of importance, and always tackle the hardest projects first.
  • Cell phones. Utilize caller ID and let calls go to voicemail. Silence your phone so you can have distraction free time.
  • Lack of sleep. Most adults need a solid seven to nine hours of sleep each night to fully recharge. If you feel exhausted and tired, your body and mind will benefit from some extra sleep.
  • Dehydration. Drink water. Even mild dehydration can cause inattention.
  • Clutter. It can be hard to focus on the task at hand in a room full of cluttered items, so try to work in rooms that are well organized and de-cluttered.

Congratulations, You’re the Boss Now

Help for those Managing Former Peers

ManagerHave you ever been in a situation where you were asked to step in and lead a team you were once part of as a peer?

Making this transition from team member to team leader can be a tricky one.  You go from being one of the group; hanging out at lunch or in the break room, to being “management” and the relationship changes.  At times this feels like an overnight transformation as your once“lunch-buddy” group is now treating you like an outsider.

How do you navigate this situation?  Are there some ways to make it easier?

Here are some tips for managing your former peers that can help things transition more smoothly.  By the way, these tips apply to ALL LEADERS very well:

  1. Address the change immediately and openly.  Share your excitement to earn the respect of your team.
  2. Acknowledge that your relationship with former peers has changed.
  3. Accept that there may be mixed feelings about your promotion:  people may be happy for you, at the same time, wondering what they were not selected to receive the promotion.
  4. Meet with each team member privately and ask what issues or concerns the person may have.
  5. Engage each team member – learn what excites, motivated and inspired him or her.
  6. Show that you deserve the promotion by demonstrating the skills, knowledge and abilities that go along with your new role.
  7. Focus on earning people’s respect, not being everyone’s friend.
  8. Be your authentic self: don’t radically change your behavior.
  9. Resist the urge to share information inappropriately. True friends will not force you to choose between friendship and career.
  10. Be honest about what you know and don’t know.
  11. Be willing to listen for understanding and value other’s opinions.
  12. Do not treat your friends on the team differently than how you treat others.
  13. Deal with tension by speaking directly and privately with former peers.
  14. Be physically and emotionally present during interactions.
  15. Include your skeptics in decision making; take initiative to turn them into supporters.
  16. Be understanding.  Give former peers time to adapt to your new role on the team.

Top 10 Entrepreneurial Books

As a small business owner, I’m always trying to learn from the experience of other entrepreneurs, and that happens most often through reading their books.

If you find yourself with some downtime over the holidays, here are the top 10 books I buy in bulk and regularly recommend to clients and colleagues. Read them in any order – this just happens to be the order that I discovered them!

Small Giants1. Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham

One of my all-time favorites, Small Giants changed the way I looked at growing my company and inspired me to connect with owners of like-minded companies to learn how to create a culture of ownership, trust, and passion for greatness.

2. A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business by Nick Sarillo

Many entrepreneurs feel tied to every element of their business, because they can’t seem to let go and trust in their employees. This book taught me how to build a culture of trust and accountability through education, training, tracking, and process – and changed my way of thinking about my responsibility as an employer to educate and nurture the development of my team.

3. The Great Game of Business, Expanded and Updated: The only Sensible Way to Run a Company by Jack Stack

Most business owners would never dream of opening the financial books up to their employees, but this book may change your mind! Creating a culture of financial intelligence can cultivate a sense of ownership and responsibility in every employee. We started implementing Open Book Management at Whole Brain Group in 2011, and it has transformed the efficiency & profitability of our company.

4. A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading) by Ari Weinzweig

The first of three books written about leadership, this book teaches the power of creating a clear, shared vision of greatness in your company. Once everyone is clear about where you’re going, you can make faster and better decisions – following the 12 “Natural Laws of Business” that every leader should embrace when trying to build a great business.

51wXqBKrFLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_5. Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow

If you’re seriously thinking about selling your business, or just fantasizing about it after a particularly bad day at work, Built to Sell will help you take an objective look at what needs fixing before others can recognize the value you’ve built in your company. Once you make your punch list and start fixing things, you may find that you don’t want to move on after all!

6. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

Most of the drama and lost productivity inside companies is due to the lack of a clear vision and misalignment of teams. Gino’s book outlines a process for defining your company vision, clarifying priorities, and maintaining traction to move your company forward. Implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System was so successful at Whole Brain Group that it’s now the foundation of how we work with our clients on marketing & sales strategy.

7. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

It’s nice to read a book that honestly discusses the experiences of women in business, and the feelings many of us have about leading. I’m used to being in the minority at conferences and business meetings, so I had stopped noticing some of the things Cheryl points out. This book made me think about the culture at Whole Brain Group, and take steps to make sure we aren’t inadvertently perpetuating learned behaviors among men or women.

8. Why is Everyone Smiling? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit by Paul Spielgelman

Think that having fun at work and caring for employees is bad for your bottom line? Think again! Paul’s book describes the culture at Beryl, a company that was built on the principle that employee loyalty drives customer loyalty, which in turns drives profits. Applying concepts from this book helped Whole Brain Group improve our level of service and increase revenue from existing customers by 50%.

9. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series) by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan

If you can’t seem to generate the leads and sales you need to support your revenue goals, inbound marketing may be the answer! Dharmesh and Brian describe how to develop a strategy and process for attracting prospects, converting them to customers, and encouraging them to become evangelists for your company. This book is required reading for all of our customers!

10. Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices of by Aaron Ross

If you’re frustrated with your sales team’s performance, it may be because your structure isn’t aligned with the strengths of your team members. Aaron’s book describes how to reorganize your sales roles and revamp your process & tools to align with how buyers are making decisions today. This book is a great companion to “Inbound Marketing” by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan (above).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books, or suggestions you may have for my list!

Empowering Employees as Agents of Change

Q: What is the best way to transform your workplace?

A: Inspire your workforce.

TEAMWORKWhen people hear the word innovation, they often think about game-changing, market-creating inventions such as personal computers or smart phones. But innovation can encompass any new idea that positively influences a company’s bottom line–including incremental improvements in ordinary operations.

Your front-line employees, steeped as they are in day-to-day processes, may be your best source of such innovative ideas. How can you empower them to create change without causing chaos? Here are a few tips for putting the wheels in motion:

  1. Align employee contributions to shared goals. Before you can even elicit solutions from employees, you must underscore the importance of their role in making your company’s strategic plan a reality. Share these goals at every level and show employees how they can contribute to their success. Telling a factory worker, “You need to increase sales by 10%,” isn’t very motivating, but by saying, “We need to find ways to optimize production to reach our sales goal,” you’re helping to inspire innovation through teamwork.
  2. Give employees permission to question the status quo. Innovative organizations embrace a culture of open communication, in which employees are encouraged to offer ideas and question inefficiencies and rewarded for their suggestions. In such a culture, “because we’ve always done it that way” is not an acceptable response to questions. These companies encourage not only vertical interaction but horizontal as well by forming cross-functional teams to break down silos and solve problems.
  3. Provide a conduit for ideas. It’s not enough to have great ideas. There must also be a process for gathering, evaluating, funding and implementing them. Team members must know how to propose ideas, and groups–often a cross-functional committee–should convene on a regular basis to give each idea consideration and determine which ones merit funding (if necessary) and implementation. The decisive factor should, of course, be their effect on the bottom line and how closely they align with overall strategy.

The rewards of empowering your workforce to become agents of change go beyond just process improvement and innovation, allowing your employees to experience a sense of shared purpose that can invigorate the entire organization.

What strategies have you utilized to empower your employees? Please share in the comments below!

The Definition of Success

Zig Ziglar was an iconic expert on complete and balanced success, and in Born to Win! Find Your Success Code, his last book before his passing, he shared his winning philosophy: that you have to plan and prepare to win, to succeed-and the strategies to go with it.

In this excerpt, he shares a short list of the characteristics that he believes comprise success:

What Success Is:

1. Success is knowing that you did a great job when you close the door to your office at the end of each workday and head home.

2. Success is having a home and people to love who love you in return.

3. Success is having the financial security to meet your obligations each month and the knowledge that you have provided that security for your family even when you are no longer around.

4. Success is having the kind of faith that lets you know where to turn when there seems to be no place to turn.

5. Success is having an interest or hobby that gives you joy and peace.

6. Success is knowing who you are, and whose you are.

7. Success is taking good care of yourself and waking up healthy each day.

8. Success is slipping under the covers at the end of the day and realizing with gratitude that: “It just doesn’t get much better than this!

You can see straightaway from this list, that success is defined by more than one sentence. Success involves the whole person, and if you skimp on one area, you will limit your success.

As important as it is to think about what success is, it is also very important to think about what success isn’t.

What Success Isn’t:

1. Success isn’t missing dinner with the family several times a week because of working excessively.

2. Success isn’t rushing home from work and hiding out with the TV thinking: “After the day I’ve had, I need my space!

3. Success isn’t about how to make more money when you already have more money than you can spend.

4. Success isn’t about going to church and ignoring everything you hear.

5. Success isn’t all work and no play.

6. Success isn’t about being so busy that you live on unhealthy fast food, served to you through little windows.

7. Success isn’t spending mental energy worrying about late projects, being home on time, your health, missing your child’s school play, being able to pay your bills, or finding joy in your life.

8. Success isn’t texting while you drive to catch up on your overloaded schedule.

Question: Which of these do you do? Be honest with yourself!


7 Personality Traits of a Great Leader

Article courtesy of Success Magazine

If you want to be a leader who attracts quality people, the key is to become a person of quality yourself. Leadership is the ability to attract someone to the gifts, skills and opportunities you offer as an owner, as a manager, as a parent. Leadership has been referred to as the great challenge of life.

downloadWhat’s important in leadership is refining your skills. All great leaders keep working on themselves until they become effective. Here’s how:

1. Learn to be strong but not rude.  It is an extra step you must take to become a powerful, capable leader with a wide range of reach. Some people mistake rudeness for strength. It’s not even a good substitute.

2. Learn to be kind but not weak.  We must not mistake kindness for weakness. Kindness isn’t weak. Kindness is a certain type of strength. We must be kind enough to tell somebody the truth. We must be kind enough and considerate enough to lay it on the line. We must be kind enough to tell it like it is and not deal in delusion.

3. Learn to be bold but not a bully.  It takes boldness to win the day. To build your influence, you’ve got to walk in front of your group. You’ve got to be willing to take the first arrow, tackle the first problem, discover the first sign of trouble.

4. You’ve got to learn to be humble but not timid.  You can’t get to the high life by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility. Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. An understanding that there is something unique about the human drama versus the rest of life. Humility is a grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we’re part of the stars. So humility is a virtue, but timidity is a disease. Timidity is an affliction. It can be cured, but it is a problem.

5. Be proud but not arrogant.  It takes pride to win the day. It takes pride to build your ambition. It takes pride in community. It takes pride in a cause, in accomplishment. But the key to becoming a good leader is being proud without being arrogant. In fact, I believe the worst kind of arrogance is arrogance from ignorance. It’s when you don’t know that you don’t know. Now that kind of arrogance is intolerable. If someone is smart and arrogant, we can tolerate that. But if someone is ignorant and arrogant, that’s just too much to take.

6. Develop humor without folly.  That’s important for a leader. In leadership, we learn that it’s OK to be witty, but not silly. It’s OK to be fun, but not foolish.

7. Lastly, deal in realities. Deal in truth. Save yourself the agony. Just accept life like it is. Life is unique. Some people call it tragic, but I’d like to think it’s unique. The whole drama of life is unique. It’s fascinating. And I’ve found that the skills that work well for one leader may not work at all for another. But the fundamental skills of leadership can be adapted to work well for just about everyone: at work, in the community, and at home.

The Power of Positive Feedback

thank20you20post20itMany business leaders miss a key opportunity to recognize great work and provide positive feedback. Why is it so easy to see what’s not working and so hard to celebrate when people get it right? Recognizing team members will not only enhance your organizational growth; but also helps retain great employees. Regardless of business size, correctly given; recognizing others early and often can help improve job performance, promote professional and personal growth, and ultimately increases overall morale. Here are some tips to help you along the way

  1. Never hesitate. Share encouraging words often and loudly.  Believe it or not… It is often worth more than money.
  1. Make it public. Constructive feedback can be given privately. Recognition is often more powerful when given in public.
  1. Be specific. Focus on exactly what was done right. We all know it is easy to call people out when they do something wrong, but what about calling out people when they do something right?

Positive feedback goes along way to growing and reinforcing any relationship. And, like smiling, it cost nothing.

Feedback Do’s and Don’ts

Feedback Do’s

  • Be Specific. What did the person actually say or do? Was the statement or action was effective or ineffective?
  • When offering developmental feedback; provide or seek alternatives the person can use in the future. Discuss why the alternatives might result in enhanced performance. Provide support, but allow responsibility for developing to remain with the person.
  • Provide feedback on both the “what” and the “how”. What are the results?   What did the person say or do to achieve or not receive the results?
  • Think of feedback as a learning opportunity that can lead you and others to better performance.
  • Listen with full attention to the feedback people provide. Focus more attention on understanding their perspectives and suggestions than on defending your action or behaviors.
  • When receiving feedback, ask for specific examples of what you did well and what you could have done better.
  • Watch for trends in behavior to focus on high-payoff development areas.

Feedback Don’ts

  • Don’t assume you are the only and best source of feedback. Encourage people to seek feedback from peers, internal partners, customer and other leaders.
  • Don’t give vague feedback or feedback that cannot be supported with data or examples.
  • Don’t say someone did something well when you don’t believe it.
  • Don’t guess at someone’s motives.
  • Don’t become defensive about your actions.

Feedback – What Works and What Doesn’t?

Do you like receiving feedback? How do you prefer to get feedback?

Think of a time when someone gave you helpful feedback. How did the conversation go? What did the person providing the feedback do to make it a productive conversation?

My guess is that you appreciated feedback that was:

  1. Timely – We tend to be more willing to accept suggestions that are timely. When we face difficult or challenging situations, we usually want to know how we are doing, and what we can do to develop. On the other hand, no one wants to hear what he or she could or should have done long after the fact.
  1. Balanced— I am sure you appreciated getting some positive feedback as well as suggestions for development.
  1. Beneficial— We think of feedback for development as information that helped me be the best I can be, not just comments that pointed out a performance problem.
  1. Sincere— The most effective feedback that I ever got was from someone that I knew really cared about me and took the time to share specific changes that I could make to be more effective.
  1. Engaging—They encouraged me to take responsibility for my own growth and learning by actively creating an environment that constantly helped me seek feedback from my leader, peers, and customers.
  1. Ongoing— Feedback shouldn’t be a one-time event. For top performers (like us!), ongoing feedback can address new challenges and achieve success FASTER!

Now, flip it and think of a time when you received feedback and you got defensive… why did that happen? How was the message delivered?

Next steps: Take 10 minutes to create your own list.

First, think about the best feedback you ever received and model that style. Then, think about what not to do… and don’t do it.

Believe me … it’s easier said than done.