Goodbye 2016 Hello 2017

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There are two types of responses to 2016 coming to a close and 2017 starting.

The first is “Good Riddance! 2016 is over and I’m glad to be done with it.”

The second is “Bring it on! 2017 holds tremendous promise and I can’t wait to get started.”

However you view the closure of 2016 and the start of 2017 I want to share two offers with you that I believe will help you make 2017 your very best year ever. Both offers have limited places available and must be reserved by December 31, 2016.

Mastering Your Mindset Intensive
One of the most exciting new programs I offered this year was the Mastering Your Mindset Intensive. It was oversold for the first cohort, but will be offered again in Feb and March of 2017. The results participants are experiencing are:

* 100% of participants anticipated a 50% or greater increase in their performance. At week seven 80% of participants were on track to achieve their performance improvement, and by week eight 90%.

* Participants are experiencing increases in confidence, decreases in anxiety and an increased belief in their ability to do GREAT work.

Current participating organizations and any new participant for 2017 can enroll at the 2016 registration fee of $495.00 versus the 2017 fee of $695.00. This $200.00 per person savings is available through 12-31-2016.

Read more about the Mastering Your Mindset Intensive here.

Pulling Out The Stops – Executive Coaching
Stop making resolutions and start making each year a year of clarity, energy and focus. My Pulling Out the Stops coaching program will accelerate your professional growth faster, more reliably and with greater satisfaction. You’ll learn to rapidly optimize your performance and productivity with custom strategies and techniques. Experience the rapid career growth that my most successful and satisfied clients enjoy.

Finding Direction and Purpose – Transformational Coaching
A program for individuals who want to make 2017 their best year ever. Whether you want to kick start your career, find a better work / life balance or improve your personal and professional relationships, this is a 60-day program to set direction and purpose in all aspects of life. More effective than another list of to-do’s, this is the perfect gift for yourself or someone you love.

Read more about my coaching work here.

Applications – For an application and more information, contact Hugh by email @ or call 206-829-9413.

All my best,


When You’re Afraid…Start Paddling

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On Wednesday of last week Alyson and I drove to Hood River, Oregon to pick up her new Stand Up Paddle Board. It was a whirl wind trip, but one that provided me with a potent reminder of the power of just starting.

We went white water rafting on Thursday morning with a fabulous outfitter by the name of Zollers Outdoor Odyssey in White Salmon. In the safety talk before hitting the water Mark mentioned one of the cardinal rules when hitting a rapid…keep paddling! Even though you’re afraid and want to stop paddling…start paddling.

Our guide was Seth, a 20 something with an unbridled enthusiasm for rafting and helping those in his charge have a wonderful time. Seth has only been guiding for one year, and while that would normally make me nervous, after hearing Seth’s story I was convinced Seth was the best guide for us. Why is that?

Seth has a “yes, I can mindset.” When Seth learned about a guiding school hosted by Mark at Zollers he said yes to going, but didn’t have the money. I can’t remember if he begged or borrowed the money, but he attended guide school. After graduating he traveled the river over 50 times before taking a group down the river solo. Yes, he was required to learn the river by Mark the owner, but he LOVED rafting so much he was excited and eager to travel the river and learn as much as he could. He was so enthusiastic that he didn’t limit his learning solely to the names of the rapids, bends and falls, he set out to learn about the history of the land that cradled the river for seven and a half miles.

We’ve all met people like Seth who have what we euphemistically call a “spark” or a “fire in their belly.” In my consulting and coaching work I recommend leaders hire for mindset and train for skill set. Why? We’re drawn to people like Seth because their first answer to how they’re going to get something done is a simple and unequivocal “yes.” They know they want to do something and they start. They don’t have all the steps laid out in front of them. They just know they have to start. They do what Mark said to do when hitting a rapid…they paddle knowing that paddling is the only route to their destination.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

1. Name the one area of your personal or professional life where the fire is on the verge of being extinguished.

2. Name the destination where you want to arrive if the fire was blazing with regard to question #1.

3. Say yes to one thing this week that fuels your fire. Don’t try and have all of the plans laid out in advance as that is nine times out of ten procrastination. Just say yes and start paddling until you make it through the rapids of not knowing. You may get wet, but the alternative of sitting on the shoreline with no fire in your belly is far more scary than a five foot waterfall.

Happy paddling!

The Vacuum of People Skills and How To Fill It

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Two businessmen in business suites facing off with boxing gloves

Have you ever met, talked with or interacted with someone who after really, really frustrating you you wanted to punch them out? We all have. When you consider all of the factors that frustrate you about working with others you will undoubtedly find that it is their behavior and the corresponding way they make you feel that is the issue.

When someone’s behavior is different from ours; they like to do things quickly when we like to do things methodically, we don’t describe the other person as different we label them as difficult. And therein lies the problem for teams and leaders. When one person has a core belief that their way of doing their work should rule the day they will see the other persons way of doing their work as an impediment to them doing their best work.

There is one central message here. If you want to become a person of positive influence you will have to learn to focus on the impact your behavior has on people and not your intent with people. Impact is what determines the level of trust and respect in all professional and personal relationships. Technology has advanced at an unprecedented rate, for leaders and teams however the advances on the people side of the work has faltered like an unreliable wireless network.

Hugh’s Challenge for Today:

1. Quickly and without too much advance thinking identify the top ten things people do that really frustrate you when working with them.

2. Review your list and choose your top three most frustrating items.

3. Review your list a second time and identify the top three things other people would say frustrates them when they work with you.

4. Admit you can be as frustrating to others as other people are to you.

5. Identify one item from your lists and brainstorm one or two behaviors you will adopt that will reduce your frustration with others as well as the frustrations others may have toward you.

Step #4 above is a big step. If you can’t do step #4 the likelihood you’ll take this challenge is small.

Are you up for the challenge?

Happy New Year!

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It is December 28th, and we are 3 days away from wishing each other a Happy New Year.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make the suggestion that you do not declare any new year resolutions this year.

You and I both know what happens when we declare a resolution. Within a few short weeks we’ve gone back to our old ways. I’m going to suggest that when one year turns over to the next there is one important question that we need to ask ourselves. The one important question is:

2016’s Most Important Question
If today were December 31st, 2016, what will my life look like? What do I want it to look like personally, professionally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually…what do I want my life to look like? And then you follow that question with what is the one thing I can do to make those things happen?

Ladies and gentlemen, businesses have strategic plans, but too often we don’t have a strategic plan for our life. What I think really must happen is that we disavow ourselves of any kind of notion of resolutions. Resolutions do fit, but not at the beginning of determining what our best year ever will look like.

Let me suggest that the most important need we all have is is to know what we want our life to look like and what we’ll do to move toward that life. If what you want is compelling for you; if your life looks uplifting, if it is something that engages you, if it is something that inspires you, if it is an idea that has grabbed hold of you and will not let go, you don’t need to worry about resolutions. You will be drawn toward it in powerful ways.

Too often we come to the new year thinking, thinking, thinking as opposed to feeling. We intellectualize our hopes and dreams. We need to stop “thinking” about our ideal life and start feeling what it would be like to live a flourishing life in 2016. Once we have that clarified, then we will make promises and we will set priorities that propel us forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, stop making New Years resolutions. Start envisioning a flourishing life that is so compelling for you that there is absolutely no way you could say no to it.

I also want to thank you for another 52 weeks of your engagement, your comments, your willingness to take a few minutes out of your single week and just devote yourself to living a more rewarding and enriching life. I am honored to be a part of your week. Thank you for joining me, and I really look forward to helping you flourish even more in 2016.

Happy New Year everyone!

Happy Holidays!

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This Monday it’s December 21st, 2015. Seven days ago Hanukkah ended, and in four days we will celebrate Christmas. Now at this time of year our faith traditions tell us to slow down and to immerse ourselves in the mystery and gratitude that the season holds. For me there is a wonderful joyous nature at the center of what Christmas is supposed to be and I want to extend to you my best wishes for the very best the season holds, however you celebrate the holidays.

I had a conversation with someone who was doing some work in my house over the weekend, and he said, “you know, I’m a little bah-humbuggish.” I said, “why is that.” He said, “because I look around and see that the Christmas season has become very commercialized.” I said, “Shawn, I understand that.”

So, this time of year is an opportunity for us to slow down and to immerse ourselves in the mystery of the season. To be immersed in joyousness, celebration, gratitude and for many of us, a faith in something that we cannot see.

I hope that the things you cannot see over this past year become clearer to you. Specifically, how you’ve done exceptionally good work, that you are an exceptionally talented and smart individual, and the people that you surround yourself with, while they may all not be perfect, that there is a lot to be grateful for. You can say, “I am very blessed to have this person in my life or this event happen because every event or person allows me to live the most rewarding and enriching life possible…even during times of adversity.” We have the ability to have that kind of conversation with ourselves. I think that’s what is really at the root of what this season holds…for us to be grateful for all of what we have, and in turn to be generous with those around us.

If we do that we will have a fabulous holiday season. For those of my Hanukkah clients and friends, Hanukkah ended last Monday but i want to extend to you a happy belated Hanukkah. For those of you who are celebrating Christmas, I wish you the very merriest of Christmases. And for those of you who don’t celebrate in any official way, I extend to you the spirit of both of these faith traditions and wish you the very, very best.

Thank you for your support over the last 51 weeks. I’ll see you here next week. Take care.

The 3 Reasons Why Your Learning Initiatives Fail

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I’ve seen first hand the successes and failures organizations experience when they try and learn new ways of doing things. All too often there are more failures than successes. Why? The number one reason is that in a world of do more, do it better, faster and cheaper, it is hard to push through from learning about something to learning to be something. Here’s what I mean.

There are three levels of learning.

1. About– Learning “about” something is primarily rooted in having new information or data. It oftentimes comes from watching a documentary, reading a book, or listening to a lecture. I can learn about leadership from books, but until I move to the second level I can’t grow as a leader and become more effective. Can you think of a leader who relays the merits of new information they’ve acquired but never changes their behavior? This is learning about something.

2. Doing– Learning to “do” something comes from “doing” what’s been read or listened to about a subject. It requires practice and is something that is done consciously. Once the current literature on leadership has been read it’s time to practice what’s been learned in order to truly learn how to “do” leadership. For example, a librarian who has read volumes of books about investing cannot become a better investor unless they convert their intellectual understanding of investing into practical and real world experience.

3. Being– Learning to “be” something is achieved when we internalize and take ownership for what we learned in levels one and two. We embrace and embody what we’ve learned in previous levels and take great pride in exemplifying what we’ve learned. We do so because it makes us feel more successful and satisfied.

Too many people believe level one is sufficient in order to create extraordinary results and to live an extraordinary life – that’s simply not the case. You have to move to level three in the most important areas of your professional and personal lives in order to be successful.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Challenge
Start your week by creating two lists. Your “to-do” list as well as your “to-be” list. Your to-be list should have a maximum of three traits or characteristics on it that you will be the exemplar for. These traits or characteristics; if embodied in an authentic and passionate way, will communicate to your most important customers what you stand for, what you value and what you believe.

What are the three traits or characteristics you will be this week?

Be Distinct or Be Extinct

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My old boss, Tom Peters, had a great quip about leadership and branding. He said, be distinct or be extinct. He makes a great point. If there is nothing distinctive about what you do, about the results you achieve and how you help your organization perform, then at some point you will be extinct. As Tom used to say, “you’re toast.”

There is a very strong and compelling case to be made about why brands are among the most strategic assets of an organization. Brands and reputations have tangible, financial value. Leaders have a brand also and they must be cultivated purposefully. Why? Because what a leader stands for and the value they create is central to their leadership effectiveness.

What is your leadership brand?

To answer this question I ask my clients the following: what are you known for? Do you have a distinctive brand or reputation? If in the face of business models becoming obsolete, do you have the distinction to survive the corporate chopping block? Or, even better, do you have what it takes to quickly land an even better opportunity if your current work were to be eliminated? If not, developing a personal brand is a high stakes proposition for you.

Leaders who achieve above average performance have defined what I call their default, desired and designed brands. They have learned how to think in personal branding terms, and have specifically answered the following five essential questions.

1. What do people think I stand for?

2. What do I want to be known for?

3. What value am I creating for my organization?

4. Do the people who matter most to me see me in the way I want to be seen?

5. What’s the best way for me to communicate my brand to my key constituents?

Monday Morning Minute Challenge:

Take 15 minutes to answer the above questions with a targeted emphasis on what you want to be known for. Once you have the traits and characteristics listed ask yourself this hard question: are the traits and characteristics I listed distinctive or simply the price of entry for being in my job? If for example you listed reliable and dependable. These traits are the price of entry in the world of work.

If you are really interested in whether your descriptors are distinctive, share them with someone you respect and ask them for their perspective. If you can, share them with your boss and see what they say.

If you do this weeks challenge you will take a giant step forward to becoming more effective.

Managing Your Leadership Message

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This week I want to talk to you about managing your leadership message.

Ladies and gentlemen, every day, by the words that we use and the actions we take, we are communicating a message to the people that matter most to us. Whether it’s our family, an employee, a key stakeholder, a shareholder or a board member, we’re communicating a message.

An important question is: are you doing it purposefully or accidentally?

If you are communicating your message purposefully you can and will get so much more leadership traction and will be so much more effective…if you manage these three messages.

1. The message you send to yourself. The six to eight inches between your ears is the most important repository of the messages you send you can manage. Are you sending messages to yourself of optimism, a can-do attitude and playing to win? Or, are you sending messages of the inverse? Whatever message you plant in between your ears creates a mindset that is cascaded throughout your entire organization.

2. The message you send to employees. Are you sending the message that you want every employee to be an owner as opposed to an employee? Are you sending the message that you want every employee to be engaged in creating the extraordinary? What message are you sending through the words you use and the behaviors you exhibit? This message needs to be managed purposefully in order for you to have the greatest success.

3. When employees or key stakeholders respond to you, how do you manage the message that you send to them in return?

There are three messages: one to yourself, one when you deliver messages to others and one grounded in how we respond when we receive messages from others. These are three critical messages that will help you become a more effective leader.

Monday Morning Minute Challenge:
This week, identify one meeting you will attend and the message you want to deliver. How will you craft this message? What words will you say, what examples will you give, what results will you associate with your message?

After delivering your message the second part of this weeks challenge is to learn from your experience and ask, “what worked, what didn’t work and what will you do differently next week?”

By engaging in this weeks challenge you’re sending a message to yourself about continual improvement, getting better, learning and growing. And that’s a fabulous message to cascade throughout your organization also!

Why You As A Leader Must Discriminate

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This week I want to suggest that you need to discriminate more. Not discriminate against a person, or race, a religion or ethnicity. Oh no, au contraire. I suggest you discriminate toward higher performance.

If you don’t discriminate toward higher performance you accept and tolerate lower performance.

This is a mindset shift ladies and gentlemen. Some employees play not to lose as opposed to playing to win. If you tolerate that then you are lowering the performance bar. You’re lowering the performance bar as opposed to raising it by saying, “we will always strive towards higher performance. We will always strive toward higher employee satisfaction and employee engagement so that we have truly flourishing employees and customers so that this business can flourish.”

In order to not become anesthetized to the pockets of lower performance that grow in all organizations, this week discriminate toward higher performance. No longer accept the reasoning, the excuses and the lack of accountability that some have toward higher performance. The moment you do that ladies and gentlemen, you’re toast. Your business is toast. Your performance is toast.

This week discriminate more towards higher performance. When you do, you’ll develop the flourishing leadership that fosters flourishing employees and that creates a flourishing business. And yes, it all starts with you discriminating. Discriminate more this week ladies and gentlemen and you will have a fabulous week.

Are You A Human Doing Or A Human Being?

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This week I want to ask you…are you a human doing, or are you a human being?

That question is designed to tee up a fascinating subject which is: the vast majority of employees and leaders I come in contact with feel overwhelmed. They feel that they have too much to do and far too little time to accomplish it. They feel they are on a treadmill running at twenty miles an hour and there is no time to catch their breath.

I say to them, “do you feel that you are a human doing (doing one thing after another after another after another) to get things on your to-do list done, or are you a human being? Being a human being allows you to be fully present with employees and customers in a meaningful way; ways that allow you to learn from them and be fully engaged with them?” The vast majority say, “I feel like a human doing.”

Ladies and gentlemen, there is really only one recommendation I have for you this week, and it is this: recognize that the longer you remain a human doing, the easier it is that you will end up feeling as though you’re crawling on your belly through enemy territory with bullets flying over your head. Life becomes a long, slow, slog.

For some people, human doing-ness has been their modus operandi for years. For some people it is short term, intermittent or short lived. But the reality is that what’s required for you to be fully present on the human being side of life is for you to have quality time where you detach from all of your professional and personal obligations. There comes a time when you have to slow down, breathe, and think creatively.

The only way to do that is to shut off your phone, your email, and to pull back and separate from the busyness of the world of work. When you do you can think in ways you normally don’t because of the pressures of doing more with less in shorter periods of time. To be able to consider alternative perspectives and their implications and applications you must have greater margin in your day. You simply cannot do this when you are on a treadmill running at twenty-five miles an hour.

This week I only have one recommendation for you. Put on your calendar a minimum of fifteen minutes to think through your work, what you want to accomplish as well as your strategic priorities. You must be able to pull aside, to think creatively and say, “what can I do to be more effective in this regard?” When you do that; and you build up to thirty minutes or an hour once or twice a week you’ll be astounded at how much more effective you become.

One of my clients just started with two – one hour segments per week, and he said last week, “my wife and son are now seeing me for dinner, and they don’t really know what to make of it because I’m so much more attentive as well as effective. My team now tells me I am thinking so much more clearly, and that I am a more effective leader because I am taking the time for myself.”

That’s the power, ladies and gentlemen of taking the time for yourself. You no longer will be a human doing, you will become a human being and will be so much more effective.