Never Underestimate The Transformative Power of Enthusiasm

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Video Notes:

This week I want to talk to you about “Never Underestimating The Transformative Power of Enthusiasm.”

I was on vacation two weeks ago in Walla Walla playing golf with my good friend Scott May. Scott if you’re watching, I’m going to talk about you and golf.

Scott loves golf. I think he may be addicted to golf, but that’s a separate Monday Morning Minute. Scott is someone who will spend an hour, or more, the night before playing a good course reviewing each hole and calculating distances for each shot. To which I’m thinking, “are you crazy?”

But here’s the thing, when we got to the course the next morning Scott’s enthusiasm for playing golf was absolutely contagious. Scott was a kid in a candy store and I got swept up in his enthusiasm. Now I’m not a good golfer. I don’t practice, every once in awhile I hit a good shot, but ladies and gentlemen Scott’s enthusiasm was transformative and contagious. I wanted to be around Scott because he was so terribly enthusiastic.

The same thing happens in the world of work. Imagine working for a leader that was absolutely IN LOVE with their work; they were so enthusiastic that they swept you up in their enthusiasm and you in turn devoted more time to understanding the subtle and intricate nuances of your work and the people in it. If you had that kind of enthusiasm you would be the pied piper throughout your organization. People would gravitate toward you because of your enthusiasm.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we need in the world of work. We need people to be genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about what they do…and it starts with you. Whenever a leader is ho hum, very nice you know, and they’re simply going through the motions you’ll never create anything extraordinary. There will be nothing exemplary.

This week, if you want to have a more effective workweek, find that one piece of your job that just grabs hold of you and will not let go. When you do, people will gravitate toward you and they will want to be around you because you are absolutely engaged in what you do. If you do that, you’re going to have a fabulous week. You won’t shoot par, but you’ll have a fabulous week.

Seven Steps To A Compelling Leadership Brand

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One of the most beneficial activities I have my leadership coaching clients participate in is my Brand Audit. Specifically, they answer three leadership branding questions:

1. What is their default brand?
2. What is their desired brand?
3. What is their designed brand?

My brand audit involves the following seven steps.

Step 1. Define your Default Brand. The starting point for building your leadership brand involves writing four words or phrases that you believe best describe your leadership. Don’t overthink this; simply capture what you see is the essence of your leadership. This is your default brand from your perspective.

Step 2. Create a list of eight to ten people you trust and respect. They can be colleagues, managers, coworkers, direct reports, former employees, and or friends. Your list should be a list of people whose opinion you value.

Step 3. Ask for their insight. Call and or speak in person with those on your list and let them know you are involved in a leadership activity that requires candid feedback. As someone you respect, his or her assistance in seeing your leadership from an outsider’s perspective is essential. Specifically, ask them to provide you with four words or phrases they believe best describe your leadership. It can be a one word descriptor such innovative or inspiring. It can also include phrases such as “can do attitude.”

This step will capture thirty-two to forty words that represent what others see as your leadership brand. Review the words you received and compile a list of themes or patterns. Similar words or synonyms should be distilled into a one-word descriptor that best represents what you believe is the tone and or feel of the words.

Step 4: Clarify your brand from others perspective. The overarching objective of step four is to clarify your leadership brand / reputation from others perspective and to distill the feedback you received into the fewest words possible. To do so, whittle your list down to a list of four or five words that best represent your leadership from others perspective. After completing step one through four you will have your Default Brand from your perspective as well as the perspective of others.

Step 5. Look for gaps. Determine if there is a gap between the personal descriptors you generated and the list generated by your observers. Ask yourself the following questions:

a. Am I being seen in ways consistent with my goals and aspirations?
b. Is my list of descriptors (both my own and from my observers) distinctive or simply the price of entry for being in my role?
c. What is the upside and downside to my leadership brand / reputation?
d. Am I excited about the words used to describe me, or am I neutral?

Step 6. Define your Desired Brand. YOur Desired Brand is exactly that. The brand you want to be known for and that will enhance your influence and reputation. You determine your Desired Brand by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is it that I want to be known for?
2. What traits, characteristics and or values are essential and or non-negotiable to me?

This step is less about logic and what’s probable; it is rooted in articulating your highest hopes and aspirations for you and your leadership.

Step 7. Define your Designed Brand. After determining your Desired Brand, ask how you can behaviorally live your Desired Brand. What behaviors will you exhibit in order to be seen as your Desired Brand? Again, ask yourself if the behaviors you’ve identified are distinctive or simply necessary for being in your role?

These seven steps take courage to undertake. It especially takes courage to see ourselves as others see us, to isolate the gaps and to venture into a new way of leading that is more effective and rewarding.

If you have any questions, or would like help working through these seven steps on a guided basis, drop me an email at or call me at 206.829.9413.

3 Steps to Getting Really Good at Something

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Video Notes

This week I want to talk to you about how do you get really good at something. It’s really quite simple.

#1. Fall in love with an idea, hope, dream or aspiration. You cannot like something if you want to be really good at. You have to love it! You have to have a resounding YES to the idea.

#2. You have to learn it. You have to continually study your idea. You willingly look for other people’s perspectives, read and study continually because when you love something you want to get better at it.

#3. You have to live it. You stretch yourself and your behavior. You say to yourself: if I want to get really good at something I will be uncomfortable and I have to be willing to fail. I will take uncomfortable actions and try new things this week because I know that living out my hope, dream or aspiration is a learning process and is aligned with that which I’m in love with.

You do that ladies and gentlemen, if you love it, if you learn it, if you live it, you’re going to get really good at that which you choose to get really good at. I hope you have a fabulous week, and I’ll see you here again next week. Take care.

Clarifying Your Leadership Purpose

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Video Notes:

This week I want to talk to you about your purpose.

To do something on purpose means that you are doing it intentionally. I have found that the vast majority of people do not have clarity around what their purpose is and in turn, don’t lead purposefully, but rather accidentally.

One of the most valuable things you can do in your organization, in your work and your personal life is to get clear about your purpose. Ladies and gentlemen, most people don’t know how to do that…but I do, and want to help you do just that.

I’m going to make available to everyone who’s watching this Monday Morning Minute the first module of a thirteen-module program I developed called The Transformational Leadership Project. The first module deals specifically with purpose.

What’s included is a four to four and a half minute short video and a fifteen page Purpose Planner. This module asks the most targeted questions I found that help you clarify your purpose. Questions such as; what am I really passionate about? What am I really good at doing? Where do I provide the most value?

I am making this available to you because so many of you are asking how to get clear about your purpose, and I am making this available on a complimentary basis. It is my gift to my viewing audience in the hopes that you will get clear about your purpose.

What you will do is look directly below this video on the webpage, not in the newsletter, but on the web page and you’ll see the Purpose video as well as the Purpose Planner for you to download.

Also, in the month of November I will do a teleconference on transformational leadership and the role purpose plays in organizational transformations. This is my way of saying thank you to my viewing audience for your participation with my content and for your feedback.

So if you want to get clear about your leadership purpose, you’ll find everything you need in my video and in the planner below it. I hope that you find it valuable.

The Transformational Leadership Project

bonus materials

Free download: [download id=”4336″]

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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The army and it's weapon on land, sea and air
photo courtesy of iStock Photo

Periscopes allow a submarine to visually search for targets and threats on the surface of the water and in the air from shallow depths. If they are spotted though, the submarine becomes a target and their primary defense is to dive to the ocean floor and take refuge from the soon to follow depth charges.

One employee I met recently told me how she felt stranded on the ocean floor of her organization. She lamented that after six months of having a new senior executive in role she remained in the dark as to what the executive wanted for strategic priorities. After town hall meetings and the much talked about “listening tour” this leader had submerged and gone silent as to what the organization would strive to accomplish. What the manager wanted was a clear line of sight as to what she could focus on in order to be successful. What she saw on her radar was nary a blip.

Far too many employees are working in environments where they are submerged underwater and unable to fix their sights on a financial or operational target. They will remain significantly underutilized until their leader answers the following three questions:

1. Where are we going?
This is the fundamental question every employee wants to know the answer to. Without a clear destination employees will never perform at their highest levels. It’s similar to driving in fog. When you can’t see the road in front of you you slow down, tighten your grip on the steering wheel and drive defensively.

2. Why are we going there?
While having a five year old continually ask you why questions can become tiresome, in the world of work when employees ask “why” it’s an invitation into greater enthusiasm for the vision. Answering “why” questions clarifies the future state further, communicates that all options have been considered and infuses emotion into the desired future.

3. What’s in it for me to go there?
Many leaders answer the preceding two questions, but they neglect to answer the most important question on every employees mind…”what’s in it for me to go there with you?” This is not a selfish question. It’s a highly practical question. Employees want to know what the payoff is for exerting greater effort to achieve a leaders vision. If there is not a compelling payoff leaders need to be prepared to have one of their greatest assets remain dormant.

Three key questions:

1. Are you crystal clear as to your organizational priorities?

2. Are your employees crystal clear about their role in helping you achieve your priorities?

3. Which of the three questions above needs the most clarification?

One simple way to correct your leadership vision

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One Simple Way To Correct Your Leadership Vision from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Congruence: 5 steps for becoming an authentic leader people want to follow

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There is an aspect of organizational change most leaders don’t know about or understand. It goes like this:

If you want an organizational transformation you must first undergo an individual transformation first.

Yes, we can all recite the words “all meaningful change starts with the leader.” But recitation of these words does not produce meaningful change. What produces meaningful change is a leader who is unabashedly living their life in ways that is congruent with that which is most important, uplifting and compelling for the leader.

Now, the good news is that most leaders don’t need to transform who they are at their core. What they need to transform is how they show up – or put another way, they need to transform how they lead themselves as well as others.

How do you do that? The starting point is as simple as grabbing a pen, a journal, and answering a few questions. This writing exercise will help you get clear about what’s important to you and for your leadership. In short, this exercise allows you to identify the most important aspects of your leadership and what your next steps are.

Step 1. Find a journal or some other place to write (not type) and record your thinking. While you may feel that writing is too “old-school,” there is a reason why writing in a journal makes a difference. We write differently long-handed because it is kinetic and forces us out of our normal pattern of thinking and processing while on a keyboard. Indulge me.

Step 2: Use the following questions to prompt your writing and thinking. The best method is just to write, without stopping, editing or censoring. If you struggle with writing, or this whole idea sounds torturous, make it as easy as you can on yourself. Use a digital kitchen timer and set it for 25 minutes and write until the buzzer goes off. You can do anything for 25 minutes. If you get stuck, just write “I can’t think of anything” until you get unstuck.

The five congruence questions:

1. What do you want? What comes to mind when you envision the best version of yourself as a leader? Where would you work? With whom? In what industry or circumstances? Or perhaps less general, what do you want in a particular situation or scenario? In your current role?

2. Why do you do what you do? What is your personal mission or purpose? What gets you excited and completely enthusiastic? Where is your passion? Where do you feel whole-hearted?

3. What experiences have shaped you? What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned? How do you know? What would you do again no matter what?

4. How do you make things better? What is your ultimate value and contribution? How are people better of for having worked with you?

5. What’s next? Where do you go from here? What’s your next step, decisive action or grand adventure?

Step 3: Put your writing/thinking away for at least a day. Give yourself some distance from the idea generating and brainstorming.

Step 4: Set aside an hour or 90 minutes to review and reflect on what you’ve written. Ask yourself the following:

1. What themes do I see that are important?
2. What is surprising or intriguing about what I wrote? Was anything missing that I thought would show up, but didn’t?

Step 5: Complete the following:
After my review, I have identified the following three intentions for my own development as a leader:

If you need a second set of eyes on your answers and or want help getting clear as to your leadership transformation, there are four slots open in my coaching and mentoring programs. I’m happy to discuss these with you.

Stay on Message

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Monday Morning Minute 01-23-2012

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Limited Visibility

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We live in a hurried and impatient world. Why? This morning as I was parked on the side of the road waiting for my wife, a large dump truck drove by with a windshield partially obstructed by frost and ice. The driver, in the hopes of improving his visibility, was leaning forward to get as close as possible to a clear and unobstructed view. I don’t believe he was anywhere close to seeing clearly, but that didn’t stop him from turning onto a busy thoroughfare.

From my vantage point the driver’s need to reach his destination prompted him to do something reckless. He viewed driving with limited visibility not as risky, but rather as something required in order to arrive at this destination on time.

Before I throw stones at this glass house I need to admit that I’ve done something similar. Not in a car with an icy windshield potentially endangering other drivers, but in ways that are equally as reckless. Here’s what I do:

1. I oftentimes start my day with the completion of my to-do list as my exalted destination and neglect my to-be list. I focus so tactically and operationally that I neglect the important destination of who do I want to be as I go through my day. I’ve forgotten that every action I take will involve, impact and influence others, and I’ve neglected to get clear about how I want to show up.

2. Because of number one I sometimes think of what is in my own best interests as opposed to my colleagues. I’ve placed my own interests at the head of the line and neglected to prioritize my most important relationships and what is in their best interests. I sometimes lose sight that this is a relationship limiting maneuver.

3. I didn’t spend time yesterday grooming my calendar for today. I had some very high level ideas about how to live the most rewarding and enriching life possible, but I hadn’t taken the time to be behaviorally explicit. I entered my day driving not unlike the dump truck driver…with partially obscured vision. I was in essence driving blind.

Leaders cannot be effective long term driving with limited visibility. We have to have a clear line of sight of how we create valuable experiences for our customers, our employees and ourselves.

How is your visibility?