We Set A Low Bar For Leadership

Stop calling managers leaders if they can’t manage themselves.

It’s crazy that we are so badly in need of leadership that we have lowered our standards to such an incredible degree. Look at what passes for leadership now days. We throw around that word so much and it is such an easy badge to be anointed and to anoint ourselves.

We want it so bad. We look around and we want to be inspired. We want to see that leader who makes us jump up and want to take notice. We watch the news and pray for leadership.

You do not lead by hitting people over the head, – that’s assault, not leadership.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Especially in these times when the world has turned a bit upside down and our daily lives have changed dramatically. We want leadership. Since there is so little leadership out there within plain view, we lower our standards to such a degree that if you sound a bit like a leader, we will take that. Sound a bit authoritative, or like you know what you are doing, or even half way confident and we perk up and take notice. Look there is a leader, well they sound like a leader at least.

Quit setting the bar low for leaders

Here is the deal. If a person can’t manage themselves, they are no leader. That isn’t the only thing needed to be a leader but it is one of the foundational things needed.

I’ll say it again, because I think it is so important, if a person can’t manage themselves, they are no leader. They may be a manager, but they are not a leader.

That doesn’t make you a bad person. Self management is an important skill and one that can be learned. Check out my LinkedIn article, Self Management : First Lead And Inspire Yourself for a primer on how to develop this important set of competencies.

As well as being important for the single contributor, self management is a foundational part of being a good manager and leader. Before you can lead you must learn to manage. If you can’t manage yourself then you’ll never be an effective leader.

Why should anyone listen to us as a leader, if we can’t manage ourselves first?

The answer is, of course, they shouldn’t. You wouldn’t and neither should they.

So, please quit throwing out the title leader to people who just aren’t there yet. I know we’ve created a world where the word manager seems like a dirty word. It’s in so many job titles and yet, we still vilify this word. Only leaders are worthy of praise. And don’t get me wrong, I love that we moved to a world where we are aspiring to be leaders and not just pushing around people like papers on our desks.

And it isn’t that leadership is easy. It isn’t. We are just too quick to bestow the word of leader on someone, when all we’ve done is lower the bar too low.

Your position never gives you the right of command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others may receive your orders without being humiliated.

– Dag Hammarskjold

Keep aspiring. I worked hard to be a leader and not just a manager. Many people put a lot of time and attention into trying to get it right. They make entire careers out of becoming a better leader.

Management doesn’t have to be a dirty word

We also have to recognize that management is something we need at times as well. This is a skill. And it is certainly a stage that most have to go through on their road to becoming a leader. You don’t just get there without a lot of hard work, development, feedback and adhering to principles.

Let’s just stop with calling everyone a leader. It lowers the bar too much. It makes many people think they can easily do it. Or it begins to distort what real leadership qualities look like. This is how many incompetent people seem to end up in high level positions.

Leadership is a posture and a choice, not a role that must be bestowed on you. Step up and be a leader when no one is watching or expecting you to do so.

– John Izzo & Marshall Goldsmith

When we really think about it we know what real leadership looks like. We see it around us in so many small ways. I know so many people who are leaders in their lives and to others, without ever having been given the title.

There is a quiet leadership revolution that is happening and it is time for it to be given more of a voice. A time when being a leader and demonstrating through actions of competence, empathy, thoughtfulness, intelligence, ethics and principles are given more weight than sounding confident and full of bravado while shouting down others.

A leader is a dealer in hope.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

Here is to the hope that more people cultivate the leader within. The more we demand of ourselves, the more our leaders will have to do to gain our respect.

I am a dealer in hope. Will join me?

How to Be Productive, Never Busy

Action expresses priorities.

– Mahantma Gandhi

Be productive – Never Busy.

You always have time for things you put first. Time is the great equalizer. We all have the same amount of it each day. It is how we use it.

Getting the most out of our time spent requires some organization and productivity. To be truly productive we need a habit, a system that we use daily that fits into our values, goals, and priorities.

Everyone has their favorite productivity system. There are lots to choose from. So choose away. I’m not going to list all the ones out there – there are too many and each has it’s own philosophy that makes it intellectually interesting. Instead I’m going to share what you should be looking for in a system, the best mindset and how to make use of whatever system you choose.

Here are some things to consider when selecting a productivity system.

#1 – Prioritization shouldn’t be complicated. Stay away from systems that can’t be done in 5-10 minutes each day.

#2 – Know your values. Know your goals. And you’ll have an easy time knowing your priorities. If you don’t do this, then you’ll never be able to make #3 work and you’ll be working hard and getting no where.

#3 – Daily task list should be no more than 3-5 items and be more priority based than task based. Three of those should be “best work” items. After you’ve checked off everything from the day’s list, will you have done your best work? If the answer is yes, then you have found the sweet spot for prioritization.

It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at essentials.

– Bruce Lee

To accomplish the right things that lead you to success it’s good to keep somethings in mind.

If you are able to Eat the Frog, or do the hardest thing or what you’ve been dreading or putting off the most at the beginning of your day – the rest of your day will be all downhill from there. 

Procrastination mounts up the pressure as tasks are looming over our head. The longer we wait the more power they take on, the larger, slimier, wartier, that frog becomes until it is a monster waiting to devour us.

Task List Seduction for some of us entices us into it’s charming lair. The lists get longer and longer. We add more and more to it. It feels good to get those things down on paper rather than in our heads waiting to stab us awake in the middle of the night. Always adding to the list and reshuffling the most important. 

It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.

– Roy E Disney

We work through complicated systems with letters, numbers, and formulas to find the most efficient way to tackle the immense list that has taken on a life of its own. We know if we find the right system, we can tame the beast and we will find efficiency nirvana.

Except we start to lose sight of the important and the urgent begins to take over. The longer the list and the more of a love affair we have with the list, the more we only get to the things that have to get done today because of a deadline guillotine.

Fight the seduction and keep those lists to those 3-5 items that are mostly priority based. Do, Just do anything that takes 2 minutes or less. Poof it is gone. No list, no prioritizing it, no thinking and stressing about it or forgetting. Just do it. 

And use the SMART goals. If you can’t set a realistic, achievable and measurable goal that can be clearly articulated then you are working on the wrong things. It is that simple. 

Stop chasing perfectionism. The perfect system. The perfect day. The struggle for perfection robs you of time. The effort it takes to move something from 95% to 100% is more than the energy it took to get it from 0-80%. That is a lot of wasted energy for something that won’t net that much more.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

– Stephen Covey

5 Platinum Rules of Prioritization and Organization to set you free

  • Value your time. You don’t waste what you value. Get the most out of the moments you spend. 
  • Schedule but don’t overschedule. Lots of little things that still needs to get done will eat up time. Don’t over commit and schedule every minute of your time. Work ahead of Schedule – set deadlines ahead of when it needs to be done. Treat this deadline seriously. Leave room for the unexpected.
  • Unclutter your life – Remove what doesn’t add to your life. Everything has it’s place. Before you add, subtract, and always know exactly where anything will go before you bring it home. 
  • Keep Track – write it down. Notes, planner, post-its. You can’t organize if you don’t write it down. Record those commitments.
  • Do – You can’t just keep adding to your to-do list. The key to all of this organizing and efficiency is to take action. Knock out the most important priorities and celebrate those wins, especially the small ones. 

Above all keep it simple. Say no to anything that doesn’t fit your priorities and values. And keep hacking away. Time is relentless and so you must be with your management of your time.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.

– Paul J. Meyer

Organization : Simplify Your Way Out of Clutter

To improve efficiency, you have to be organized. 

You can lose a lot of time due to disorganization. The longer it takes to find what you need ends up wasting your most valuable resource – Time

Remove the clutter and you are removing the obligations that may come with owning certain items. Having stuff that isn’t getting regular use is wasting the money originally spent on it and the money you are spending in housing things and taking up valuable space in your home.

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” 

Wendell Berry

You may not even realize the mental and emotional strain that you are putting on yourself by having so much stuff.

As always, start simple. You may not be able to do an entire home purge. So, keep it simple and go for one room or area of your home. 

Start with whatever is bothering you the most. 

#1-Remove everything. Clear out the space you are trying to organize.

#2-Everything goes in 3 piles

  • Absolutely need! You regularly touch this item. It has a clear use and need to be in your life. 
  • Bye Bye – This pile is the stuff you know for sure you don’t need any longer. You haven’t touched in in the last 6 months. And touching it, to move it from one place to another doesn’t count. 
  • Not sure– You aren’t sure you can part with this. You think you need it, you use it occasionally.

#3-Take the items you know you need and begin organizing them to go back into their space.

  • Put like items together. 
  • Put those items you use most in the closest and most convenient spot. 
  • Use bins to keep items together
  • Label where appropriate – don’t rely on memory. This takes up valuable mental real estate and increases the chances that you don’t stick with your organizational system. And then ever drawer or closet becomes a junk drawer.
  • Put things back as you go. 

 #4-Donate the Bye Bye pile or get a few of your dollars back by using a site like Letgo.com or Mecari.com

#5-The Not Sure pile, that is simple.

If there was room after putting everything from your Absolutely Need pile then you can consider keeping it. If it has a home, you aren’t sure you can’t part with it and you do use it, then let it survive this purge cycle. Otherwise, if there is no space, then it should move into the Bye Bye pile. 

Rinse and repeat until you have each area of you home organized and clutter free.

“As I declutter and downsize, I gradually discover more of my essence and my purpose.” 

LIsa J. Shultz

You will begin to feel yourself relax, just with these simple steps as you reduce what is weighing you down. 

Similar to how we need to organize our physical spaces to be more productive and to reduce stress, our digital world need maintenance as well.

This is not just about stuff. Declutter your digital life.

We all spend a lot of time on our computers, laptops and definitely our phones.

If you are not one of those who are naturally skilled in organization and meticulous in your day to day life – then if you are anything like me, your electronic world starts to look like a junk drawer.

Your desktop can get littered with files and with thousands of apps at our fingertips, we can get buried in a hodgepodge of icons scattered across our phone screens.

Find an organizational system that works for you.


  • Alphabetical is the simplest.
  • Sort into folders by use is great. But be careful and ensure that these titles are clear. The default Utilities and Productivity is meaningless and will make it more difficult to keep up with as you add new apps.
  • Themed rows or pages is another good way to go.
  • How often you use an app is also a natural way to organize your apps. Keeping those you use least often on later pages.

Don’t forget to check out the usage statistics for your apps. Undoubtable there will be some that you just don’t use. Consider removing these as they are wasting space, energy, and valuable real-estate on your screen.


  • Get rid of duplicate files
  • Create 3-5 main folders and then sub folders within those
  • Do not keep files on your desktop. Put those 3-5 main folder links on your desktop.
  • Erase your download folder
  • Photos – this is an area you will need organize and probably deserves it’s own article on just photo management. Using a cloud service is a good way to go – it will reduce the footprint on your computer, is easier to organize, and is a good backup in case you have a system issue.

Same as with your phone. If you know you haven’t used a program in 6 months to a year, you can probably delete it.

You spend a lot of time in your electronic world, so it is best to put a little effort into getting organized.

It doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Take it in bite sized bits and make those adjustments. Every time you have to manually search for something on your phone or computer is wasted time and effort. And that is the one thing, you never get back.

Fight Mediocrity : Strive for Excellence

Excellence is the gradual results of always striving to do better.

Pat Riley

We strive for excellence. We drive for excellence. We seek excellence from ourselves. We surround ourselves with excellence.

It is a way of thinking and believing. It is not a destination. It has nothing to do with perfection or being perfect. In fact, we know that attaining perfection is the death to excellence, because it is the death of good.

Excellence comes from doing the thing over and over again, learning to do better, seeking better. You have to be good before you can be excellent at something. It is a state reached from working towards mastery, not being a master.

  • Do you take pride in your work?
  • Look for opportunities to improve?
  • Do you move forward with resilience, determination, and innovation? These are the hallmarks of those who are committed to excellence.

These all have to do with ourselves. Excellence is not a standard that we can easily place on others. Especially, if you haven’t clearly defined actionable and measurable results that shows your particular frame of reference for excellence.

As a leader, it is dangerous and all too easy to go too far with an expectation of others for excellence. Most people can’t define it, let alone articulate it, and it is so different for everyone. It is difficult to clearly define and will leave some of your team always wondering.

Either that or you will fall victim to the overuse that already exists for the word. We are abound with business excellence, centers for excellence, excellence in academia, and a host of meaningless rhetoric everywhere you turn. It is a gold standard that can be claimed by anyone and is seriously overused.

Instead of dictating this to your team, or demanding it of others. Keep that focus on yourself.

Demonstrate the behaviors that you believe in as you strive for excellence.

Role model what you believe. This is the best way to influence others. With your own behaviors and actions.

Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better.

Gordon B. Hinckley

Fighting against mediocrity is good. Striving for more than okay is worthy.

Excellence is beyond competency. Competency is the state of being competent or suitable for the general role or ability. It’s good to be competent.

Excellence means that competency is not enough, and that you strive to regularly improve with a goal toward mastery.

This constant seeking for improvement. Of improving what you know about a subject and the skill you employ, so that your process continues to evolve and improve – this is at the heart of excellence.

With striving for excellence comes a great deal of learning intimately about a thing. And with that intimacy comes an uncommon way of viewing that subject. You see it in a new way and perhaps can contribute to a better understanding or a more unique way of viewing that subject.

Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.

Booker T. Washington

I am competent at some things. I’m working at excellence in something things. And I suck at some things.

I have to suck at some things, in order to be excellent at the things that are most important to me. I seek excellence in most of what I spend my time on. There are a few things that I work on regularly and consistently to improve. Where I am not satisfied with where I am, and want to understand intimately and do at my fullest capability.

I have a special affinity for those who strive for excellence or rather personal excellence. This doesn’t mean they are excellent at everything, I certainly am not even close on that one. But I do love to surround myself with others who also seek excellence.

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.

Ralph Marston

What it does mean is that I most enjoy others who demonstrate personal excellence. Those who demonstrate integrity, accountability, intellectual curiosity, and those who develop themselves and are learning and growing as people.

It isn’t a merit rating. It isn’t an award. Or a center. It’s more than a buzzword.

Excellence becomes a way of looking at things. A principle of beliefs and how we choose to behave. It is a drive for more than good, where we take great delight from our purpose and reason for getting up every day.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


Relentless Action : Never Give Up, Never surrender

The distance between dreams and reality is called action.

In pursuit of your dreams, those big goals you have, you must be unrelenting in making consistent movement forward.

Never give up. Never surrender.

You’re allowed to scream, you’re allowed to cry but do not give up.

You’ve made the choice. This is what you need to do. So, go after it with all your heart and both your hands.

If it’s not working change tactics but stick with your decision. If you’ve really looked at the situation and have seen that you need to make adjustments because it isn’t working. Find a new tactic. Overcome that barrier and keep moving towards your goal.

The many give up. The many quit and don’t win. They don’t learn.

Many will start fast, few will finish strong. 

Gary Ryan Blair

Be different. Commit yourself to a high standard where you focus on right now, what needs to be accomplished today, and keep moving.

You are going to feel fear. That is natural. Fear is a dream killer. You don’t need to fight fear. Merely recognize it for what it is and let it pass through you.

Your reputation is on the line. Either as one of the many who succumbs to fear and gives up, or as one of the few who has character, determination, and perseverance. Be the one who does what they say they are going to do.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.


To build this power within yourself, to become relentless in your pursuit and focus consider the following :

  • Consistent Actions : Build these actions into daily habits.
  • Do one thing you hate or have put off and procrastinated about, every day. Just one thing. You can’t let the pile of undone weigh you down. The rest of your effort should be in using your strengths to make movement on your big goal.
  • Keep laser focused on high value productive actions. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t waste your energy on things that aren’t giving you the most forward motion.
  • Take steps every day toward your goal. It’s the forward motion that will keep you going. If you stall, take another step, even if it is a small one. Inaction breeds inaction.
  • Never confuse busy with productive. Lots and lots of people are busy. The busiest people I know are the least successful. Those who are the busiest are the least productive. Don’t be busy. Take action with purpose that keeps you moving on the journey. Work hard, but work hard on the actions that have meaning and that only you can do.
  • Course correct and keep moving
  • If facing a decision, use the 5 Steps of Decision Making. You’ll make better decisions and start to use less energy in making those decisions.

The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.

Robert Greene

Fits and starts wont’ get you there. Neither will giving up. Wrestle those demons to the ground. Keep moving. Each step along the way will teach you something. Your determination and grit are under your control. They are the magnifiers of your ability that leads to accomplishment.

By constantly moving forward and staying focused you will learn each day of your journey and get that much closer to mastery and ultimately to finding the success you are striving towards.

Happiness is in the journey, but you must keep your feet on the path.

5 Steps to Supercharge Your Decision Making

There are thousands of choices to make a day. Which means there are thousands of decisions to make every day. It is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 35,000 decisions we make on average every day. Wow. No wonder sometimes at the end of a long day, the last thing we want to do, is make a decision.

Not all those decisions are huge decisions. Most are mundane affairs, such as the alarm goes off, do I hit snooze or get up? Do I wear a jacket today? What do I want to eat while out for lunch? They take a toll and they add up. This is why behaviors and habits begin to play a strong part in our daily survival. The autopilot begins to take over, lessening the burden of consciously thinking about these decisions.

Our ability to make decisions must stay strong to ensure the integrity and quality of our decisions utilizes our best judgement. This ability has to be practiced and improved upon just like any skill. It must be guarded against over use and fatigue.

Deciding and Confirming

When making decisions we must each be aware and vigilant around our personal biases. We tend to seek out and synthesize information that confirms or even strengthens our beliefs.

Where decision making is concerned, we may sometimes find ourselves taking a position or making a decision without the facts. We may be overly relying on intuition and gut feeling. Then we may use information seeking to merely confirm the decision we have already made.

You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.

Michelle Obama

It is important to recognize that there are barriers to effective decision making.

  • Misidentifying the problem
  • You don’t care either way – a lack of emotional attachment
  • You care too much – emotions are getting in the way of making a decision
  • You don’t have enough information
  • You have too much information
  • To many people are involved, decision making by committee
  • Self interest – too much skin in the game

This is where having a decision making process can come in handy. It’s one more tool in your tool chest that can help combat these barriers.

Some decisions don’t require a formal process to come up with an answer. The every day mundane decisions do add up and our lack of willpower may not even be willpower at all, but rather a diminished ability to make decisions because of decision fatigue.

But many decisions can benefit from working through a process.

If a decision-making process is flawed and dysfunctional, decisions will go awry.

Carly Fiorina

The problem can be complex. The process needs to be simple.

This way you can use it more and more. That use will improve the quality of your decisions and make the decision making more efficient. More efficient means not only does it take less time, but it taxes less your pool of mental and emotional resources required to make good decisions.

In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Theodore Roosevelt

5 Simple Steps for Better Decision Making

  • Identify Your Goal/Decision – Clearly define your goal or what the decision is
  • Gather Information on Options – List out your options. Get the information you need to make a decision. This can be information from others, books, online. Fill in the blanks of what you don’t know that you must know to make a decision.
  • Consider Consequences/Weigh Evidence – Evaluate each of the options and weigh them for the potential of reaching your goal. Consider the consequences of each option. Visualize carrying out either of the paths before you. Which one appears to get you to where you want to go.
  • Make Your Decision – Decide. If you’ve done your homework and worked through the other steps, then it is just a matter of picking. Decide and commit.
  • Evaluate Your Decision – After you’ve implemented your decision, consider if it has resolved the situation. You may need to take another look and choose a different direction if it didn’t do the trick. Also, this is a good moment to reflect on the process of making the decision. Did you have the facts needed? Did you give too much weight to your feelings without understanding why you were feeling that way?

So. Tell me. What do you think? Which is better? To take action and perhaps make a fatal mistake – or to take no action and die slowly anyway?

Ahdaf Soueif

Pick a path

If you find that you are in paralysis on a decision where it’s a 50/50 good and bad, and you could go either way, then it is still time to pick. Unless you are missing a key piece of information then taking any more time to decide don’t do any good. One path or another is just as good, so you might as well keep going on your journey.

Perfection is the enemy of good. There is no such thing as attaining perfection in decision making. It’s the best decision you can make in the moment. Even with the big ones, don’t worry so much. It clouds judgement and eats away at your ability to make decisions. There are plenty of other decisions to make, so you’ll get another crack at another one soon enough.

Using a process will help reduce some of the stress around making decisions and having a framework will give you an easier way to evaluate your decision making. 

Everything is a Negotiation

From the time you wake till you head hits that pillow everything is a negotiation. You negotiate with yourself over oatmeal or a donut. Negotiate with your partner to take out the trash now or tonight. With your co-worker on if you can spare 10 minutes to look over their presentation and give feedback. With your boss if you have room to take on another assignment. Let alone all the big ones like salary increases, buying a new car, or if you’ll let your 16 year old drive the new car. 

Every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between ‘his’, ‘her’ or ‘their’ wish and yours.

Andy Warhol

We won’t get into all the high powered negotiation tactics and techniques that are out there. This is for every day negotiation. Negotiation in your professional world. It is where you take all the politeness, active listening, developing trust, building rapport and assertiveness to ramp things up a bit and improve your negotiating.

The great thing is that if you are looking to hone your negotiating skills, there are countless opportunities out there every day to grow your skills and tweak your strategies.

Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing.

Carrie Fisher

First is to recognize the negotiation. Open your eyes to the negotiation that is going on all around you. Recognize that you are in negotiations every time you sit down for a 1-1 with your manager. You will constantly find yourself on the wrong end of these mutually agreed upon decisions if you can’t recognize a negotiation for what it is.

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

John F. Kennedy

Next, is to be willing to engage in the negotiation. That doesn’t mean you have to play anyone else’s game but you have to be willing to engage. When you accept a job, there is a negotiation whether you play or not. If you don’t then you will always be accepting only what someone else is willing to offer. You are also setting the tone for the relationship with your new employer. Respect yourself and ensure that you get what is most important to you.

This means, asking yourself the important questions. Make sure you know what you want. What is the best possible outcome?

When you start to work with someone, there’s a negotiation that takes place involving what’s going to happen when you have a difference of opinion. Most attempts at collaboration never survive the negotiation. Merely being agreeable is not enough.

Walter Becker

The basic framework of any discussion where an agreement is to be reached:

Think win-win

  • Respect – treat the other person with R-E-S-P-E-C-T
  • Work the problem not people – Separate the person from the problem
  • Point of View – Try to understand their point of view
  • Listen – listen first, talk second. 
  • Facts – stick to the facts
  • Resolve -explore options together


Seriously consider getting out of any negotiation formal or informal that is one sided, or where one party is only concerned with creating a win-lose scenario. The best partnerships are based on relationships where both parties have similar ethics and principles and have some degree of wanting to see you succeed.

At least, never work with anyone who wants to see you screwed over. If you are forced into this scenario, then you will need to use formal negotiation tactics and you will also be forced to employ other tactics in order to win in the win-lose scenario.

Supremely skilled negotiators can work with the win-lose scenario and still turn it into a win-win.

Use all of your interpersonal skills to improve your chances of success. Assertiveness will help you respect their wishes, desires, opinions and thoughts while also giving voice to your own in an appropriate and clear manner.

Never, ever, ever turn a discussion into a war. Everyone loses in a war.

James Marcus Ross

Sincere Connections Through Building Rapport

You want others to care about your message or what you are trying to accomplish, you must build rapport. Fat chance persuading or influencing others without it. And frankly nearly everything you do is about your message or what you are trying to accomplish. 

There is little we can get done on our own. So it is imperative we have the sincere connections in our lives.

Why should anyone listen to you, if you haven’t first shown that you care about them, are interested in them and have built a relationship with them?

Like many of the interpersonal skills, this isn’t one most of us are taught. For many of us, we fall into the trap of overestimating our skills in this area because we are so good at getting people to like us. Actually, we are really good at getting people who are very similar to us, to get us to like us.

Since we are not typically taught rapport building and we may not be as good as we think, let’s put a little time and attention into building this skill so that we can better connect with others.

Frame of Mind 

Our frame of mind when rapport building is important. Set yourself up for success by keeping the following in mind.

  • Step Out of Yourself – You need to step out of your own  self interested world and begin to enter the world and viewpoint of another. 
  • Show genuine interest – I f you don’t care about them, getting to know them, or understanding them – don’t even try to build rapport. Your efforts will be tainted by your thinking and undoubtably it will show up in your attempts to connect and form a bond with this person. 
  • Everyone is different – Get to know people as individuals. Each person is unique. When we take the time to show that we care about them as an individual person and show interest in their uniqueness we get the opportunity to build a deeper relationship and fuel our own growth.
  • Judgement Free – Leave your preconceived ideas at the door. You can’t learn about someone if you’ve already made up your mind. Seek their thoughts and opinions without judging them. 


Don’t forget the basics. pay attention to who you’re speaking with, good communication, and positive body language.

  • Pay Attention – No distractions. Put away the phone. Keep your focus on them. This is the ticket to entry. Without it, the rest won’t matter. If you are too busy to pay attention and that you look like you should be doing something else with your time, then quit wasting everyone’s time and go do that instead. 
  • Eye Contact – Using balanced eye contact helps show your interest and that you are paying attention. Don’t overdue it, too much or too little eye contact makes people uncomfortable. 
  • Verbal – Use clear and concise language. No jargon or being wordy. You won’t impress anyone with thesaurus required level vocabulary. I love language and the diversity of words we can employ but this isn’t a doctoral thesis paper. This is about connecting with another person. 
  • Tone – Your tone of voice affects your message. The words you choose to use are important and the way they are received by the listener is augmented by the tone of your voice. 
  • Non-Verbal – If you are in the right frame of mind, then your non-verbals should follow suit. Positive body language is extremely important. A majority of our communication comes through non-verbally and intuitively.
  • Trust – In order for people to like you they have to trust you. Be the person who tells truth. Be open. Don’t have a hidden agenda. 

Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. While few will admit it, nothing sounds sweeter than the sound of their own name. Use their name in conversation. Show interest in them. Ask questions about them. As long as you genuinely care they will open up and share with you.

No Process, Process

There isn’t an exact process for building rapport. In fact, having a rigorous process goes against and can erode having the right frame of mind in the first place. Keeping an open mind and tailoring the interaction to the person, environment and circumstance will yield better results.

There is a basic flow to building rapport through a conversation, whether it be on the phone or in person, your first interaction or if you’ve known someone for a while.

  • Greet – Open and friendly greeting. Shake hands, use their name. This sets the stage for a positive interaction. Put them at ease and be comfortable and relaxed.
  • Listen – Pay attention, show genuine interest, look at them, do not talk but show that you are listening to understand. If you don’t understand something ask a clarifying question or test for understanding with paraphrasing. When they are talking the focus is on them. 
  • Questions – Ask good questions. When we are interested we ask questions, rather than jumping in to talk about what we wanted to talk about. When you follow up to what they are talking about with questions it shows your interest in what they are talking about and getting to know them better. 
  • Balance/Sharing – While you shouldn’t be doing the lions share of the talking, you want the focus to be on them – it is also important that their isn’t an imbalance in sharing. No oversharing, but keep it on par with their level of openness.
  • Mirror – As we build rapport, we begin to get in sync with the other person. Unconsciously we mimic those we like. You’ll find that you are both mirroring one another in subtle ways, the speed of your speech, the way you sit or stand, your gestures and arm movements. If you are unsure if you are building rapport, try adjusting your body language, if they follow suit, then you are headed in the right direction in building rapport. 
  • Empathize – As we show empathy with another, we show that we care by trying to understand their point of view, feelings, and opinions. This doesn’t mean you have to show that you agree about everything they say. It is showing that you care about their point of view. 

As with all skills, it takes practice. The good news is that there is no end of possibilities for working on your ability to build rapport with others. There is no end of need to improve in this area. It forms the basis of much of our interaction with others and is a fundamental area in building Negotiation or Leadership skills.

Build upon your skills in areas related to Building Rapport, such as Active Listening, Developing Trust, and Politeness.

By showing an interest in others and trying to better understand the unique and diverse people around us you will learn more about yourself, you will grow as a person as your learn from others and others will have more interest in your message and your influence will grow.  

Grow or Die :Self Development 101

Grow or Die.

While this saying is typically applied to the business world, and may in fact have little basis in reality, it actually has more relevance for us as individuals.

Our capacity for growth is one of the key things that make us amazing individuals and as a species. We just aren’t stagnant creatures. We are explorers, builders, thinkers, and creators. We are constantly changing, remaking, testing and learning as we adjust our environments striving for improvement.

We have the capacity as individuals to grow and improve. While that individual capacity exists in each of us, we have to be willing to consciously tap into it and make the most of what we were given. Your talents were gifts handed to you. How you grow them, expand them, and put them to use is up to you. 

Own Your Growth and Achievement

Self development should really be seen as a life-long process. We should always be setting goals, learning, striving, and achieving goals as we grow. Celebrate that success and then rinse and repeat. There is more to do and the doing can be a lot of fun.

Personal growth is a two sided coin : self awareness of who you are on the one side and growing into who you need to be to meet the challenges and goals you have, on the other. Working through this process of both clearly understanding yourself and challenging yourself to reach your maximum potential is what development is all about.

On this journey, you will open up opportunities for:

  • Increased Motivation
  • Enhance Focus
  • Renewed Purpose and Direction
  • Improved Resilience
  • Increase Awareness
  • Boost Effectiveness
  • Rewarding Relationships

Taking steps to improve yourself is a process. It doesn’t look exactly the same for everyone and depends on where you are and what you are trying to accomplish.

The time it takes to even make movement in one area or to meet a goal looks different for everyone. The important part is that you are committed to improvement, open to learning, and stick with it.

4 Key Steps to Successful Personal Development

There are 4 overall steps to having a successful personal development journey. Vision, Awareness, Plan, Sustain and Renew.

Vision – This is where are you going? You’ll never get where you want to be if you don’t know where you want to be. Pick your destination.

What do you want? Who do you want to be? When you think of your future life what do you envision? Do you know what it looks like 5 years from now or 10 years from now? If you don’t know what you want, then it is very difficult to develop in a specific area since you don’t know what your purpose is.

Awareness – What is in your pack? This is what you have to work with and what you are taking with you on your journey.

How aware are you of your individual talents and opportunity areas? What are your Strengths? What are your weaknesses or opportunity areas? It’s important not to focus in on weaknesses, but at this stage it is important to be self aware and know yourself. Do you have a good gauge of these things?  Have you checked your picture against how others around you view you? Do you know where to go to get feedback and a more accurate picture? 

Plan – This is your map to where you are going. 

Having a personal development plan is critical. Knowing what you are working on, the act of building a plan and keeping track of progress is the only way to know where you are going and if you are getting there. The plan should be specific. What are you working on? What will you do? How much? When? What is the measure? Think SMART goals.

Sustain and Renew – Take your bearings and check your surroundings. You made it to the x on the map, but are you really where you want to be. 

After completing the steps on your plan are you where you want to be. You can complete all the steps and possibly be off target still. That’s okay. Take stock of where you are, how far you’ve come, and what do you need to still do to hit the target you have. Adapt to what you have learned this far in the journey. Once you are sure you made it, then you need to ensure that this new behavior is sustainable. How will you keep this skill alive and not allow it to atrophy once you take your attention off it?

Final Thoughts

A word to the wise because I’ve been there.

Don’t get lost in forms and processes. A blank piece of paper can be daunting.

There are some techniques we will cover later for questions you can ask yourself to make this process easier. It should challenge you but not be a burden of monumental proportions.

Afterall, you know yourself better than anyone else. And if you are having difficulty with the plan, there are lots of resources out there, contact your HR department, a mentor in your professional world, or a developmental coach.

Now, go forth and enjoy the journey to a better and happier you. 

Driving in circles :Are you Busy being Busy, or are you truly Action Oriented?

Look closely and you will see an ugly little truth that no one really wants you to see.

Those who are always busy, they expect you to be busy, are competing with who is the busiest, and are judging you if you aren’t running as fast and hard as they are.  They don’t want you to notice that they are moving quickly, but going no where.

Sure,  we’ve all seen that some of them look very successful. They are in positions of power. They are getting the promotions and get put on the big projects.

This is the shell game. It propagates the myth that if you drive hard and fast, you will get results.

Look closer. We are getting conned.

They don’t want you to see that they are not accomplishing much. They are also, probably, working for another fellow, busy person.

If you really watch you will see these people don’t actually hit goals. They make quick action plans. Usually recycled plans over and over. But every time a goal isn’t where they are expected to be, they order up another rehashed action plan and jump in quick. They are in everyone’s faces about forward motion.

They are always in motion. Constantly moving. They don’t ever slow down.

The talk about accomplishments, sure, but those are ones that happened that were never planned on. Either it wasn’t on the action plan or they have so many plans that they can always point to one of them as having been correct.

At the end of the day, whatever does happen, it wasn’t intentional and inevitable. Looking in the rear view mirror they looked for what went right and publicize on that. It’s like playing pool and never having to call your shot.

There are always so many new plans, new goals, and no one every really notices that there is lots of motion but there aren’t really true results. Nothing high up on the goals list ever gets scratched off the list, it is always lots of the low and medium level daily and weekly goals and tasks that always gets done. 

Busy doesn’t count. Everyone is busy. Everyone is busy being busy, looking busy, stressing out about no time because they are busy.

Stop with all the busy.

Busy people have lost their sense of direction and purpose. Busy people aren’t accomplishing anything just trying to convince you and themselves that they have.

I’ve been there, I became one of the busy people. Competing with others for hours worked, how early I got up, how late I worked, constantly in motion and working. It is a merry-go-round to no where.

Working hard is important and action is critical to getting things done. We can’t sit around and dream all day, or analyze every aspect of a situation while never getting around to the doing. Doing things for the sake of doing without a direction and plan is just as dangerous and accomplishes just as much.

The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but on significance – and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.

Oprah Winfrey

Now, when you marry action, (Idea- Plan-Action) with purpose you get results.

Actions must be married to thoughts and plans. It must be persistent and consistent. It is what you do over and over again that fits into your long term goals. This makes the result inevitable.

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

Robert Collier

This is why if you want to make a big difference, make steps every day. You can improve your skills at being an action oriented person who has goals and meets those goals in living their purpose.

That is where the magic happens. 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao Tzu

Take those steps and take them in a direction that leads you on the journey you set out on. Take the first step and then the next one after that. Stick to it. That is the key.

Almost every idea worth doing, no matter the barriers that get in the way, will work out if you are persistent and consistent.