The Path to Success is Paved with Learning

4 Tips for Continual Growth

The Path to Success is Paved with Learning


“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning” — Benjamin Franklin

The world is constantly changing, it has been and always will be. It is also a universal truth that our ability to prosper in a changing environment is dependent on our willingness to continually invest in our personal development through life-long learning. There is no shortcut and at the same time there is no higher return on investment available to us to increase our success, fortunes, and satisfaction. Investing in our ability to adapt and increasing our capability have no downside and for the most part cost us little beyond the work of executing a planned strategy.

We need to continue to grow which means developing our capabilities. When we stop learning we are stuck where we are. The world around us is going to continue to change and advance. If we are not willing to at least keep pace with the change, we will be left behind and just keeping pace with the change will not move us toward our goals. To thrive in a changing environment requires that we are developing our capabilities in a planned direction, with sufficient depth to increase our ability to provide value.

We master change through continuous learning. As an individual and a leader, continuous learning is about upgrading our skills and increasing our knowledge to be able to provide solutions in the future to questions that have not yet been asked. It is about combining our experiences with new ideas to have a better ability to adapt to new or different circumstances. Continuous learning involves viewing every experience as a learning opportunity and updating our understanding with the new information. We subjugate change to a common condition as we add to our knowledge and understanding and then apply our learnings to our environment. The very act of moving forward results in change and we become accustomed to change as a common component of every day life.

Our goals include personal growth. Continuous learning is such an important element in our personal growth and success that we should not leave it to chance. As we develop our annual development plans in alignment with our long-term career goals, it is important to identify specific educational and stretch-assignment opportunities to grow our experience. Ensuring that our goals have specific learning opportunities identified increases our understanding and enhances our capabilities.

The primary purpose of continual learning is to help us enhance our capabilities so that we are more effective in the future than we were in the past. This is the fundamental definition of the pursuit of personal excellence. In order to gain greater satisfaction from the results of our efforts, it is essential that we increase our capability. By investing in ourselves through continuous learning we enable ourselves to deal with future issues more effectively than we do today. We enable our future.

I have provided a framework for pursuing personal excellent in my book EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here! In the book I have outlined both a system for evaluating our strengths and talents and setting long-term goals and a process for pursuing those goals leading to greater personal success and satisfaction. These processes work together to help us set a direction and utilize continuous learning to maximize our ability to pursue personal excellence. We should not leave something as important as our personal success to the random whims of circumstance. If we are to be successful, we need to plan our success.

Here are 4 tips for achieving continual learning:

Embrace Who We Are

4 Tips for embracing who we are

Embrace Who We Are


“We are who we are” — Skip Gilbert

Do you ever feel the pressure to be like someone else? At times do you feel like everyone else seems to know more, be brighter, have more experience, or be more capable? Do you feel unsure of your suggestions because other people have differing perspectives? I know these thoughts have crossed my mind at times.

We need to embrace who we are and not try to be someone else. We are a collection of unique experiences, talents and skills. No one else has the same experiences combined with the same things we have learned. No one else has our exact education, social, or work experiences. Nobody has seen all the things we have seen, thought the things we have thought, learned the things we have learned, lived where we have lived, all combined into a single person. It is no wonder we feel like sometimes we don’t fit in. How could we? We are very unique individuals and anyone that tries to push us into a common mold is simply misguided. We are highly valuable and unique resources with a perspective that nobody else has.

Think about yesterday. There was not anyone with us every minute of the day. During that day we experienced new things as well as other things that either reinforced our opinions and perspectives or changed them. From just that one day alone we have a different perspective from anyone else on how the day went.

The path of our life is unique and distinct. We are the only one to have walked down this path. We have a unique set of experiences, molded and shaped by a unique set of circumstances and events. It is a journey that we are on alone, though there may be others with us at various points in time. We have a unique perspective and it is just as valid as anyone else’s. We have not come to our opinions lightly, but by what we have experienced and learned along the way.

Keep in mind that we are all unique people. Everyone around us is on their own journey as well. As a result they have formed their own perspective, based on their unique journey. From their perspective, their opinions and conclusions are just as valid as ours. Here lies the challenge and the opportunity. Each person has a unique set of opinions and conclusions based on their experience that may or may not align with ours or other’s perspective. But to that individual, they are solid conclusions.

As a smart leader, we recognize that everyone is vested in their opinion. We need to be sure to value that diversity and treat those opinions with care. If we need to help change someone’s mind, we should not imply that they are wrong, that would only setup a boundary. To influence a change in opinion we need to offer new information or perspective that will align with the experiences of the other person. We need to approach it carefully, thoughtfully, with respect and allow the other person to assimilate the change into their perspective.

There isn’t anyone else like us and there never will be. We are one of a kind, the only one; the original us. We should take pride in our journey and recognize that our perspectives come from our years of experience and knowledge. We were there for every learning and accomplishment. We know what we know and we should be confident in our ability to contribute.

Each one of us can be a better me. As I point out in the book EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here!, we are a work in process. When we choose to pursue Excellence, we put ourselves on a path of continuous improvement. We need to create goals, leverage learning opportunities and gain knowledge from those around us. Each one of us can always be a better me.

Here are 4 tips for embracing who we are:

Focus on Solutions

4 Tips to focus on solutions

Focus on Solutions


Nothing can be done about the past, but the future is ours to mold. — Skip Gilbert

Are your days perfectly in control or are you like the rest of us, surrounded by chaos? For most of us we continually battle against changes in priorities, miscommunications, actions that are not what we expected, and things that require our energy and attention to address. Chaos arrives in our inbox with ongoing frequency, our phone rings with problems or new demands and nothing seems to be going forward as planned. The mounting pressures can become overwhelming and no matter how hard we work, there is not enough time to fix everything. If this describes some of your days, welcome to the crowd.

As our inbox fills with issues we have to make a choice, we can either see these as problems or opportunities for solutions. That choice can have a huge impact on what we do, how we feel and how effective we are. Our choice will set our state of mind and that will dictate our emotional reaction to the situation. If we choose to see the issue as a problem, then we are going to be expending emotional energy reacting to the issue. Emotions such as anger, fear and doubt will take us down a path of worst case scenarios and negative outcomes, all of which require energy. Energy that does nothing to eliminate the issue, only serves to increase our anxiety around the situation.

A better response is to focus on the solution. What is done is done. Nothing can be done about what has happened in the past. Even if the news is something unexpected or unfavorable the fact that you are now dealing with it is as a result of something having happened in the past. Nothing can be done about the past, all we have is now and what we are going to do next. We are better served by focusing on the solution and putting the emotion behind us. It’s part of Emotional Intelligence.

Focusing on the solution allows us to expend our energy on overcoming the issue and getting to a better place. A place that does not include this issue. It puts us in control of our circumstances and makes better use of our energy to resolve the issue. It allows us to logically draw upon our experience and skills with a clarity unencumbered by emotion. We can layout the facts, look at alternative courses of action and find a solution, one that takes us away from this current issue or problem.

Why dwell on the past, what might have happened or what caused us to get to that point? We can address those issues once we get the problem resolved. For now we focus on the solution. We find a way forward and replace our negative emotions with hope and encouragement. We plan a way to make things better and move ahead bringing feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.

It is up to us to set the tone for our own thoughts. We can be the victim and see everything as a problem or we can focus on the solution and resolve the issue. We can wallow in fear and worry or move into accomplishment and satisfaction. It all depends on our choice. I choose to focus on the solution, how about you?

Here are 4 tips to focus on the solution:

Positive Reinforcement

4 Tips for providing positive reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

Thumbs Up 700

“If you want to see more of what you are looking for in individual performance, let people know you appreciate their efforts.” – Skip Gilbert

Which would you rather receive, a sharp criticism every time you do something wrong or positive words of encouragement every time you do something right? Most of us would prefer the words of encouragement and I think most of those around us would answer the same way. We feel more respected and open to change when we receive encouragement.

Positive reinforcement is more powerful than negative criticism. We all prefer to hear kind words of encouragement and recognition when we do something good. It makes us feel good about ourselves and makes us want to do it again to receive another reward. It seems to be part of our DNA that we learn new behaviors more quickly when receiving positive reinforcement.

In 1938 Dr. B.F. Skinner published the findings of his research in his book Science and Human Behavior. In his studies he concluded that both positive and negative consequences of an action changed behavior. However, positive reinforcement encouraged more willing and rapid learning than negative reinforcement. He concluded that negative reinforcement is temporary and has a series of unwanted side effects and often unwanted consequences. On the other hand, positive reinforcement encouraged repeating the behavior more frequently.

These findings were true in their day and continue to be true today. We are more likely to repeat a behavior when receiving positive reinforcement than being admonished for not displaying the preferred behavior. When we receive positive reinforcement for something we have done correctly, we can easily connect the action with the reward. Conversely, if we are punished for not displaying the preferred behavior, then we are still not sure what the correct behavior is.

Using positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in our leadership toolbox. When we want to adjust behaviors we are more likely to be effective when we reinforce the preferred behavior rather than admonish for the lack of the preferred behavior. By publicly providing positive reinforcement to an individual for demonstrating the proper behavior, way of thinking, or action, we not only build their self-esteem, we encourage others to model that same behavior. It builds a self-reinforcing positive chain of events that leverages the single event across the entire organization.

As a leader it can be hard to find the patience to wait for the right behavior to happen to reinforce. We know what we want and want to make things change as quickly as we can. Sometimes it just feels more expedient to point out a mistake and say “don’t do that again”. The problem is that pointing out mistakes creates an environment of negative reinforcement and will slow down the change that we want to take place. We have to be patient and then reinforce the instance of somebody doing something right, and then make a big deal about it. Pick the right moment and then go overboard with praise. It works. We will see and feel the difference as people respond to the positive environment and learn from their observations.

In the end, nobody gets too much positive reinforcement. We all thrive on being recognized and encouraged by those around us, especially by our leaders. Given all of the chaos and challenges we face, it is not likely that we will simply become desensitized to being told we did something right or did a good job. There is just too much that needs to be fixed and too many people that do not have the patience to truly leverage their leadership. Positive reinforcement will not drive negative behavior. It naturally works for us, not against us.

Smart leaders allow people to feel good about their work which is a big part of the self-image of the individual. Most people want to please their manager and are looking for positive recognition. If we want to see more of what we are looking for in individual performance, let people know we appreciate their efforts. It does not mean that we cannot or should not provide adjusting guidance or lower our standards of acceptability. By providing positive feedback we open the door to greater acceptance of doing something even better next time.

Given a few cycles of positive reinforcement, most people will soon figure out what we are asking for. As a smart leader we will be building the effectiveness of our team as we reinforce the behaviors that we are looking for while providing a positive and encouraging environment. These are all necessary conditions for building a high performance team, achieving our goals, and driving organizational success. Then again, that is why we are smart leaders! 😉

Here are 4 tips for providing positive reinforcement:

Simple Truths of Leadership

5 Simple truths of leadership

Simple Truths of Leadership

There are a few key simple Truths of Leadership that are universal to all leaders and serve as a guide to achieving effective leadership. They are simple to embrace but sometimes difficult to practice. Anytime we find we are operating outside of these principles, we need to stop and reevaluate our thoughts and actions.

By following these simple guidelines we will be more effective in our leadership and have greater satisfaction with our results.

1) Make learning our life’s goal. We need to be continuously seeking greater knowledge and understanding. There is more to know than we will ever understand. It is imperative that we take every opportunity to learn more to expand our base of knowledge and understanding to make better decisions.

We have limitless opportunity to learn. We have continually available access to online education, through webinars, YouTube, blogs, LinkedIn, educational institutions, books, and many other resources. There are usually educational and training options available to us through our employers, as well as from professional organizations and informal common purpose meet-ups.

Most importantly we can learn from those around us and our everyday experiences. We are surrounded by people who have differing backgrounds, experiences and wisdom. They are bound to offer a different perspective based on their blend of experience and understanding. We need to be sure to take in everything they have to offer and synthesize our own view of understanding.

We operate in a real-life learning lab. Take full advantage of trying new things in a controlled manner and observe the result. Analyze the current blend of culture and actions and measure the results against our own perspective. Make an adjustment and see what happens. Be sure to observe the change and catalog the results so that we can continue to rise to higher levels of Excellence.

2) Do not act against our principles. We have a solid perspective on right and wrong. Every time we act outside of our core principles, we not only diminish the effectiveness of our leadership, we diminish ourselves as a person. We know when something is right and wrong. We established those core values years ago. When we operate outside of those values, we can never get back the part of us we lose.

Our values keep us centered and in alignment with how we want to be treated and want others to treat us. These values are important to us and serve as guardrails to keep us centered in doing the right thing. It is almost a certainty that when we operate outside our values we are going to hurt someone else and that will cause unrest in our conscience. That unrest will undermine our effectiveness and eventually catch up with us in one form or another as we wrestle with the outcome of our decisions.

3) Always speak truthfully. Our word is our bond of integrity. When we speak untruthfully or even spin something to better fit the desired narrative, we diminish our authority and integrity. Eventually the results of our misspeak will impact our credibility as others come to realize that we cannot be trusted.

Our word must always be as solid as stone. The words we speak as well as communicate through other means are the essence of our leadership. We are in the business of influencing others to engage and follow our lead. Our words are our currency for that exchange. If our words cannot be trusted then we have reduced the value of our currency as well as the value and effectiveness of our leadership.

4) Be thoughtful in our planning. As leaders we set the direction for others to follow. We are going to ask people to commit their most valuable resource, their time to achieving a purpose we put in front of them. We need to carefully consider how we ask them to utilize that valuable commodity and make sure that we do not waste their energy along the journey.

We need to make sure that our planning leads to the destination we truly want to reach. It will be ultimately disappointing and highly ineffective for our leadership to take people in the wrong direction. We need to be sure that when we arrive, we have arrived at a point of value and intention. There could be nothing worse than leading to a dead end or achieving lesser results than promised. We must be sure that we are clear on the destination.

5) Follow through on our commitments. It is extremely hollow for a leader to point to a direction, make commitments to engage action and then not provide the follow through. We will quickly be discovered by our followers as just being a noisy clang if we do not provide the support, resources and personal commitment that we advertise. Our effectiveness as a leader will immediately be diminished as those around us realize that we are not committed and they imitate our example.

Follow through is imperative. It demonstrates that we are committed to making the progress described and can be counted on to help provide the means to get there. Without follow through, the journey will stop as soon as it gets started. There is no substitute for delivering on our commitment.

These are simple but key truths that define us as leaders and directly impact the effectiveness of our leadership. They can boost our results and satisfaction by closely following them. Ignore them at our own peril.


Skip Gilbert

Return on Influence

4 tips for managing our Return on Influence

Return on Influence

Influence 700

“We influence people around us with every interaction” — Skip Gilbert

As a leader our success is measured by our ability to meet our goals and the goals of the business. We either achieve our goals or we don’t. It is a relatively simple exercise to understand our accomplishments and where we stand compared to our expectations. Something that is much more difficult to measure is our effectiveness as a leader. Are we leading by attraction or by command? How many people follow us and do they do so willingly or under duress? Are we producing the maximum results that our teams can deliver or are we holding them back? These are interesting questions and the answers are critical to our continued success.

Ultimately, we lead by influence. As an effective leader we call upon the good sense and imagination of those around us to join in our vision and help move our efforts to a better state of existence. We set a compelling vision, offer practical ways to get started, help our teams see that the future is better than the present and ask them to engage in getting us there. We are rarely able to do this alone or even directly with our own team. We generally need the support of others around us to participate in the effort. Since we cannot do it by ourselves and we need the assistance of others to accomplish it we do it by influence.

There is a term increasingly being recognized in digital marketing called Return on Influence. This term is being constructed to indicate the indirect benefit of exposure in other venues, such as social media to increase traffic on the originator’s site. The idea being that the more others hear positive commentary about a product or service, the more likely they are to seek out the product or service. It is a term of indirect influence rather than a measure of direct advertising.

The concept of Return on Influence is an interesting way of considering our effectiveness as a leader. Since a great deal of our ability to achieve goals is dependent on influencing others to commit their time and energy to our cause, how our influence impacts the results is worth managing. We need the people around us to think positively of our leadership and openly support our efforts to move forward. We need our influence to carry the positive message even when we are not present in the conversation.

We influence people around us with every interaction. Our greeting in the hallway, the expression on our faces when deep in thought, the tone and substance of our email, the words we say, the way we react to things others say, these are all points of influence. As leaders, people are watching us at every moment. They are trying to understand who we are, if we are sincere, and most importantly are we trustworthy. They want to know that their leader is intelligent and well informed as well as human. They are constantly trying to get the measure of us as a person as well as decide if it is safe to follow our lead. This scrutiny just comes with the job. It is part of the pleasure and burden of leading people, especially highly talented people.

The great news is that since we know that we are being observed and our thoughts and actions are influencing their thoughts and behaviors, we can make sure that we are doing the things that help further our ability to lead and achieve our goals. We need to consider our every action and comment through the the eyes of those who are evaluating us as leaders. Even the little things matter.

We have a large influence when we speak in meetings and through our written correspondence. We need to take the time to make sure that the tone we are delivering is the tone we want people to hear. We need to make sure we are prepared and engaged when we participate in these meetings. The behavior we display will quickly be imitated by those around us and will become the norm. We need to make sure that the norm we set is the behavior we want to see.

Interestingly, the informal times we engage with our teams and individual resources may play an even larger part in the effectiveness of our influence. We need to make sure we are pleasant and courteous to those we meet. We need to be engaging and acknowledge other people as we pass. We need to be able to engage in personal conversation, even when we are busy or distracted. We need to be encouraging and recognize the contributions of others, even in the small things. Remember, our ability to achieve great things depends on others to willingly follow us. If they cannot relate to us, they will not give us their very best.

We get our return on this investment as people embrace our vision and invest their own passion and energy into achieving or exceeding our goals. This is where all of the time and effort we spent engaging with others and making sure we set the best example possible has the payoff. This is where the example of Excellence we display comes back multiplied by those around us. This is how we succeed. This is our Return on Influence.

Here are 4 tips for managing our Return on Influence:

Be Transparent

4 Tips for being more transparent

Be Transparent

Workplace 700

“Keeping the destination a secret only makes the journey more challenging” — Skip Gilbert

To be an effective leader we must be transparent in our actions and communications. If we can trust ourselves and be trusted by others, being transparent is a powerful thing. If we are not confident in our leadership skills or do not believe in our people, then this will be a difficult thing for us to do.

To be transparent as a leader has many different meanings, but put simply transparency is consistently behaving in a way that is predictable and authentic. This means no surprises. Transparency is making things clear. Being transparent does not mean being an open book
or telling everything we know. There are some things such as trade secrets, financial disclosures, negotiations and other common sense things that must remain confidential.

We need to disclose all that we can, especially if it impacts our resources or changes our direction. People want to know that their leaders have a direction, have experience with current challenges and have a solution or can describe the path to find one.

Our employees will quickly detect if we are not being fully forthcoming with them. They will conclude that there must be something bad we are hiding from them if we are not openly sharing. This will cause them to lose confidence in the direction and start to distrust the communications they are receiving from their leaders.

We need to share our vision and be prepared to sell the benefits of the future state with our teams. They need to understand where we are going. After all, they are the ones that are going to take us there. Keeping the destination a secret only makes the journey more challenging for others to know if they are doing the right thing.

Trust and transparency go hand-in-hand. Employees seek to sort out what is real and true. They expect their leaders to be forthcoming in sharing where the company is headed and honest about its future. They want transparency so they can understand where they fit in the picture. They first of all want to know how they are personally impacted and then ensure that the changes match with their values.

Transparency is a necessary condition for building trust. When we are not transparent people will fill the gap with their worst fears. In an information vacuum, people assume that it must be bad for them or they would be included in the conversation.

The digital age has changed the levels of transparency that people expect. Consistent transparency is the easiest way to build trust however it does not happen quickly. Email, videos, text messages and other social media can spread perceptions faster than we can redirect them. The only way to stay ahead of that rumor mill is to always be open and consistent in our message and keep the skeptics from dominating the conversation.

The reason some leaders are not transparent is because they believe they will be viewed as less authoritative; they will lose their power, leverage and perceived authority. It is challenging to be a leader and there are times when we may not have all of the information to make a perfect decision. Some managers fear that not being perfect will expose their weaknesses and they hide behind an information vacuum to make sure they are not exposed. None of us are perfect and always right. That is not a realistic expectation and when we are open and transparent, people can see our authenticity. That authenticity actually builds our credibility and makes us a more trustworthy leader in the eyes of those around us.

Employees will enthusiastically follow a leader who demonstrates a true desire to see people succeed. Employees need leaders who want the best for their team members and will do what they can to help employees achieve their goals. We need to show that we are invested in their success and that we are part of the team, not just the people in charge of it.

Effective leaders are confident in themselves, and they project that attitude to those around them. We need to respect the views of others and treat everyone fairly, never speaking negatively about anyone or discouraging them from trying new things.

Most employees want to do their best. They want to believe in their managers and they want their managers to believe in them. A mature leader conveys that we have a stake in individual and team success. Effective leaders continually have their teams’ perspective in mind. We need to create an air of authenticity around ourselves. We project an image of confidence and success that becomes contagious such that our team will willingly go in the direction we set.

It can be hard to measure if we truly are a transparent leader. Here are some questions to help us assess if we are being transparent:

  • Do we genuinely express our thoughts and opinions?
  • Does our message remain the same, regardless of the audience?
  • When we can’t divulge information, do we help people understand why?
  • Do we keep our commitments?
  • Do we admit our own mistakes without blaming others?
  • Do we ask questions, listen to the answers and new ideas?
  • Do we value the feedback of others?
  • Are we candid, open and honest?

The following are 4 tips for ensuring that we are transparent in our leadership:

Positive Leadership

4 Tips for maintaining positive leadership

Positive Leadership

Positive Leadership 700

“In every problem there is the opportunity to make something better” — Skip Gilbert

One of the greatest assets a leader can have is the ability to see the positive and move people in that direction. When we have a compelling and viable vision, we need to engage people to embrace the end-state and put their energy into moving in that direction. In that journey, we will always encounter troubles, issues and challenges, it is just part of moving forward and creating change. As a leader we need our resources not to see the challenges as roadblocks, but to see them as expected encounters and an indication that we are making progress. We need our resources to enthusiastically see this as an opportunity to make something better. We need them to continue to see the positive.

Let’s not confuse seeing the positive with being naive. We will encounter real challenges and not all change will be received with universal enthusiasm. As we move to our vision of a greater state, the change may cause a realignment or adjustment to processes or ways of thinking that others find difficult to embrace. Again that is expected and there are change management techniques and strategies to help us make the transition. The key is to help people through the transition by staying positive and help them to not expend energy in maintaining the status quo. Positive energy helps us move forward while negative energy diminishes our willingness to make the change.

It is currently popular and increasingly common for a negative outlook to be viewed as having clear, critical perspective and wisdom while people with a positive outlook are considered naive or unenlightened. While we may all believe that there is a better future available to us, many leaders are only able to provide a view of what is wrong. These leaders have perfected the ability to project dissatisfaction with the status quo, but not to provide a compelling vision or practical first steps of action to get to a better place. In fact, there is much more to being a leader than just our placement in a hierarchical organizational structure. Real leadership knows that we need a clear vision and people so highly motivated in reaching that goal that the roadblocks are merely obstacles we either teardown or go around.

There may be many reasons for this seemingly prevailing attitude of negative thinking in leadership. Sometimes there is a misconception that projecting dissatisfaction with the current state alone creates change. They confuse negative thinking with critical thinking and the need to provide a view of a better future. Negative thinking just communicates that the present state has real problems. Critical thinking recognizes that there are real problems, identifies the root causes and provides clear direction for a better future. Just creating dissatisfaction with the current state, while a necessary condition for change, does not in itself produce change.

Immature leaders who have not yet fully embraced the necessary conditions for success may be imitating others they have viewed as successful or may be only interested in building their own resumes by spending a few years in a position before leveraging that title for another opportunity. Being negative provides the illusion that they can lead to a better state by joining the choir of criticizing the current state. For other leaders not really ready to lead, being negative may provide a defense mechanism. By being negative they are never surprised when disappointed, it is what they were expecting. Of course, negativity brings on more negativity which kills enthusiasm and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. They end up with an organization that is highly dissatisfied with no real release for their energy since nothing they do is good enough to be be recognized as having value.

Leaders with a negative perspective may tell you that they understand the problem, but oftentimes they are the problem! They either do not understand the full equation for creating change and making progress or they may not truly understand the impact of their actions and communications.

People are attracted to leaders who bring a vision and message of hope. They are more likely to commit more of themselves to the cause than those who lack hope. Reaching a future state that includes them, meeting their needs and those of the business will attract the energy of everyone involved. We can all see the problems, but a true leader is one that can point the direction to a better place.

True leaders bring a sense of possibility that helps to cause others to believe. When we express our optimism for the future and can articulate the benefits and provide a way to get started to get there, others will naturally follow. They will commit more of their personal energy and passion to the cause. Basically, positive energy is a stronger motivator than negativity.

To be the most effective leader we can be we need to focus our energy and thinking on being a person with a positive perspective. We need to help others understand the direction we are headed and understand what is in it for them. We need to offer a message of hope and confidence and encourage others to embrace the change and contribute their best thinking and actions to get there. We need to reward the positive steps and recognize those who are moving forward with the change. After all, the only people who get things done are the people who believe something can be done.

Here are 4 tips for maintaining positive leadership:

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

7 Principles for Personal Excellence

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

Learning Edge 700

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” — Neale Donald Walsch

The following is an excerpt from my book: EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here!

It is important that we continually stretch ourselves to try new things and reach higher levels of performance. In order to try new things, we have to move outside the comfort of our routine to have new experiences and with that comes the anxiety of the unknown.

Simply put our Comfort Zone is a place where our activities and behaviors fit a pattern that minimizes risk and stress. It provides a mental illusion of a state of security characterized by regular happiness, low stress and low anxiety. It feels comfortable and routine. It is everyday activities that we are used to that keep us from feeling anxious, uneasy, and unsafe.

In order to push ourselves to learn and achieve more, we need to move from the routine, safe Comfort Zone to a place that fosters improved learning and engagement, which is an area just outside our Comfort Zone. This area is sometimes referred to as the Learning Zone. As our anxiety level increases we move from the Comfort Zone into the Learning Zone and finally the Panic Zone. The idea is to find the proper balance that helps us increase our performance without moving into panic driven anxiety.

While anxiety is not something we typically go looking for, studies have indicated that a small amount of extra anxiety move us into an area of increased learning and performance. When we mix feelings of success with a limited amount of anxiety we find that we are more engaged, creative, energized and ultimately satisfied than living in our Comfort Zone.

In the Learning Zone we will find that we will have an easier time dealing with new and unexpected change. One of the worst things we can do is pretend that fear and uncertainty do not exist. By taking risks in a controlled manner and pushing ourselves to do things beyond what we would normally do we become accustomed to living with uncertainty and change in a controlled environment and realize our greater potential.

We will find it easier to brainstorm and channel our creativity. While not a fully quantifiable benefit, it is commonly agreed that seeking new experiences, learning new and improving existing skills and opening our thinking to new ideas can inspire us in ways that few other things can. Learning new things and comparing that knowledge with our previous experience can lead us to explore and seek out even more ideas. As we see old problems with a new perspective we find new solutions and we find that it brings greater energy to our curiosity.

Stepping out of our comfort zone into the Learning Zone enhances our ability to grow. Our Comfort Zone is really not about comfort but about avoiding risk and anxiety. We have overcome our fear of risk by redefining our measure of success such that as long as we learn we are successful. Living in our Learning Zone is a no-risk proposition for us and is a key part of our foundation for supporting our journey to excellence.

Learn more about the 7 Principles for Personal Excellence in my book EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here! available at in paperback and Kindle.

Thank you for taking time to join our community. I look forward to exchanging comments with you on this topic.


Skip Gilbert

Play From the Same Sheet of Music

4 Tips to ensure alignment

Play From the Same Sheet of Music

Conductor 700

Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment. — Jim Collins

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone seemed to be headed in a different direction on the same topic? Ever been in a situation where nobody seems to agree on what we are supposed to be doing or what we are trying to accomplish? I think we have all been there and it is not only unproductive, but demoralizing. When we experience this, we know we are a long way away from being a high performance organization.

When everyone has a different interpretation of what is being asked or does not really understand the vision, we do not have alignment on what we are trying to do or where we are going. Without clear communication and leadership we are all left to wander around the topic trying to persuade others to join our solution when in fact we are not even all working on the same problem. Just having a vision is often not enough, we need to have alignment around the vision to come to a common understanding.

So what is alignment and how do we describe it? According to Wikipedia, “Strategic alignment is the process and the result of linking an organization’s structure and resources with its strategy and business environment (regulatory, physical, etc.) Strategic alignment enables higher performance by optimizing the contributions of people, processes, and inputs to the realization of measurable objectives and, thus, minimizing waste and misdirection of effort and resources to unintended or unspecified purposes”.

There is a lot of substance to this definition and more than we can cover in a single article. For the purpose of this discussion let’s focus on the second part “…higher performance by optimizing the contributions of people, processes,…” When we take the time to ensure we have alignment around where we are going or what we are trying to accomplish (our vision), we enable resources to focus their energy on developing a solution rather than debating the objective. It creates a better efficiency in our use of resources and ultimately allows them to produce a better result in less time.

Though sometimes overused, the metaphor of the relationship of the orchestra conductor and the musical score to the musicians is a great example of alignment. Imagine a conductor in front of a sellout crowd at the music hall stepping up to the podium and expecting the orchestra to play a complicated piece of music without anyone actually having a sheet of music. While the highly talented and experienced musicians probably have familiarity with the music in concept, there is no way for them to join together or even know where they are at any point in the performance. The conductor may think he is leading the orchestra, but in fact all he is doing is waving his arms. Without the sheet music, there is no way for the orchestra to be in alignment even though they are assembled in front of a leader.

Much like the conductor, we need to make sure that everyone has the sheet of music (alignment) to create a solution. In addition we need to be sure that everyone is at the same place in the music with a full understanding of where we are headed and what we are trying to accomplish. By taking time to make sure we have alignment, we are ensuring that we are producing an environment that will allow our resources to work more efficiently and produce better results.

Here are 4 tips for ensuring we have alignment: