MVP Seminars Blogs

Recently my wife and I took a cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  While in Cozumel, I stood on the aft deck waiting for clearance to go ashore.  As I waited I saw a submarine crossing the harbor.  After several minutes I noticed a tugboat several hundred feet in front of the submersible ship.  A minute or so later I looked again and it seemed the submarine was following the exact line of travel as the tugboat.  After another minute or so, I looked a third time and noticed the distance between the two vessels seemed not to have changed.  So, as I looked closer, I detected a small cable from the rear of the tugboat and it was attached to the front of the sub.  No wonder the sub was not gaining distance on the tug; the tugboat was towing the submarine! So what do a tugboat and a submarine have to do with leadership?  The answer is that sometimes you might be surprised at who is needed to do the leading.  We all have pre-formed ideas about who or what a leader should do and how it should be done.  We have pre-formed ideas about how a leader should look, speak and dress.  But the bottom line is that the leader must be able to get the job done; no matter what the job may be. Sometimes leadership takes the form of a submarine.  Other times it takes the form and power of a tugboat.  When identifying and developing potential leaders in your organization, don't look only for submarines.  Do not erase from your "potential leaders" list those who appear to be tugboats.  You just might be surprised as to who is able to do the leading!
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The People First® Business Strategy Map: The Ultimate Peak Performance Foundation for Sustainable Success

By Jack Lannom   I’ve got three quick questions for you. First: How does your organization perform at strategic thinking? Most organizations have established a long-term goal or goals more specific than “to remain profitable.” Having established a clear-cut target for future success, your strategic plan should identify all the elements and processes that will make that goal become a reality. Economics Pt 2So I’m assuming that, to echo George Barna, you have chosen to live by design rather than to live by default. You’ve developed a strategic plan, right? Well done! Let me ask you a second question: How many members of your leadership team can clearly, concisely, and confidently articulate that plan? Can every member of your leadership team promptly identify your strategic objectives and the metrics you’re using to track the organization’s progress toward reaching those objectives? Are you feeling just a little uncomfortable as you consider your answer to that question? Just one question to go: How many of your employees can communicate the objectives and metrics linked to your strategic plan? Can you name even a handful? OK, let’s make it easier; how many staffers can communicate the strategic objectives and measures established for their own department? If you truly want to thrive—not merely survive—in business, your answers to these three questions should be: (1) “Yes,” (2) “Everyone,” and (3) “Everyone!” If your answers were not quite so positive, don’t feel too badly; you’ve got lots of company! The BSC Designer group reports these startling statistics:
  • 95% of a typical workforce does not understand its organization’s strategy.
  • 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully.
  • 86% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy.
  • 70% of organizations do not link middle management incentives to strategy.
  • 60% of organizations do not link strategy to budgeting.[1]
These figures are staggering! It can’t be a surprise that more than 9 out of 10 organizations fail to accomplish their goals when nearly nine out of ten executive teams spend less than one hour per month focusing on those goals and only five per cent of their employees understand them! Forgive me if this statement seems unkind, but this doesn’t sound like “leadership” to me, or even “management,” for that matter . . . it sounds like chaos! The way to turn chaos into coherence and cogency is to examine the way we think about the way we do business. Are we thinking wisely and well? Over the course of the next several weeks, I’d like to point you toward a way of thinking that holds the key to sustainable success. It’s called the People First Business Strategy Map. The Strategy Map will help you to think more philosophically and strategically about your organization so that you, as the leader of your company, begin to think more intentionally, deeply, and wisely about how to grow and improve your organization and help those whom you lead to do the same. In addition to introducing you to our Strategy Map, I’m going to devote some time to talking about thinking; you’ll learn the phrase metacognitive thinking, which essentially means “thinking about your thinking.” You’ll learn some techniques that the best organizational thinkers have mastered in order to take their companies to the next level. And I’ll discuss one of the most basic, one of the most effective—and one of the most overlooked—principles of motivating people available to every business leader. I truly look forward to interacting with you and reading your comments on this series. The tools and techniques I’m going to outline during these articles will be of tremendous benefit to you, both personally and professionally. Let’s get going!  
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Black Belt Leader As Beginner: Part Twelve

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.

? John Steinbeck, East of Eden

How do we as “Black Belt Leaders in the Making” discriminate between what we “may” do and “may not” do? One way is through our intellect: we can use logic. Another is through our bodies — our kinesthetic sense or what is sometimes referred to as our “body wisdom.” Here’s an example of what I mean.

While taking a walk one day in my neighborhood, I passed under an avocado tree that had ripe fruit hanging from its branches. Reflexively, I reached up and picked one that was dangling just above my head. I slid it into my pocket and walked on. It didn’t take long, about a block or two, before I noticed something didn’t feel right in my body. Something was off, thrown out of balance. I kept walking, hoping that this sickening feeling would go away. It didn’t; it only increased in intensity. What’s happening? I wondered. And before the entire thought moved through my mind, I realized what it was — the avocado. Somehow, kinesthetically-speaking, I “understood” that that avocado wasn’t mine. It wasn’t a logical knowing; it wasn’t a moral issue either — that I had taken an avocado from a tree that wasn’t my own. It was simply that my inner sense of integrity had been compromised.  

When I returned home, I got in the car with my avocado ensconced in my jacket pocket and drove back to the house with the avocado tree. I got out of the car, placed the avocado on the doorstep of the house, and presto! My sense of balance returned. The sick feeling in my belly was gone. My body had been trying to tell me — in a way that wasn’t logical yet still true — that taking that avocado in that place and time wasn’t the best choice for me. As a “Black Belt Leader in the Making,” it was important that I listened to what my body was telling me: “Thou mayest not have that avocado.”

What signals has your body been sending you lately that — for whatever reason — you have been ignoring? 

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TAKING THE SHORTCUT WITHOUT DOING THE HOMEWORK How many times as a leader have you tried to take a shortcut only to discover it was the long road? Maybe you thought you’d take the shorter route determined by MapQuest only to discover fewer miles didn’t equal less time. Or maybe you thought you would forego learning about your past, so you could jump right into the future only to discover your future seems to be a repeat of your past. I’m not advocating that you forget about taking shortcuts. Some shortcuts work. What I am saying that those shortcuts work, because you gained information that allowed you to use the shorter route. What happens to most leaders is they want to take the short cut without doing the homework. THE JANUS EFFECT There is a phenomenon called the “Janus Effect,” which is named after the Roman god who had two faces. Janus had one face which looked forward while the other one looked backward. This allowed him to see the past while facing the future. Wouldn’t this be the ideal situation for you as a leader—to see how you failed or succeeded in the past while making strides toward your goals? The key is not to make the past your future, but to SEE THE PAST AS A STEPPING STONE TOWARD your future. When you make the error of believing what happened in your past is going to occur in your future, you are perpetuating what is going to take place. Perhaps you’ve heard somebody say, “This always happens to me.” If they are referring to something good, that is awesome, but if they are saying that bad things keep happening to them, they are creating more of the same by believing it is going to happen. However the past can serve as a preface for opportunity. When you take the time to examine the past, to become aware of the whys behind the events, to study why you connected with your dreams, or why things didn’t come to fruition, you are altering your possibilities. INTEROGATE YOUR PAST When I was younger, I was known as an antagonist, because I always asked the question, “Why?” What I learned was the majority of the people I “interviewed” (okay interrogated), didn’t have insightful answers to my question. In fact what I learned was that most people did something a certain way, because they had learned it from their parents. Their beliefs mirrored their families. They didn’t take the time to examine their beliefs; they simply accepted them. It is okay to mirror your family’s beliefs if those beliefs are benefitting you. It is when your past beliefs are limiting you that you might decide upon a different course of action. This action does not have to mean that you are right and somebody else is wrong. It simply means that you need to take a different course of action to find your success. Your past can lead you a different direction or it can keep you cemented where you are. When you can examine your highs and lows without judgment, but with an eye for growth, you can understand the central recurring themes of your life. Those themes didn’t just materialize for the first time today. The idea is to spend more time doing your homework, learning from the past, so your future won’t feel like the long road. It will feel like the shortcut.  
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This post is about one of the most powerful but hidden barriers to change. When people attend leadership training, they are asked to say and do things differently so that they can be more effective as a management team. Perhaps this kind of change involves leading the morning meeting, using an agenda for meetings, assigning action items, following up as promised, etc. These are all value-added activities; however, at the core of these kinds of changes is "BEING" different. Perceptions about leaders are formed by the way they conduct themselves in meetings, at gatherings and behind closed doors. It doesn't take very long for people to form an impression about the values of a leader from these activities. Sometimes people speak or act in a certain way to intentionally create an image with others. Some want to appear as unapproachable or as power figures that are not to be questioned. Others may lack confidence and may not say much at meetings, even though they have good ideas. Observers or people on the receiving end of these communications form opinions about each personality type. When these individuals are asked to change, the personal obstacles will be great. Some individuals may be unwilling to give up the power base they have created; others may not have the courage to lead meetings confidently. Either way, these very personal barriers to change will not be talked about UNLESS there is a high level of trust that permits that kind of conversation without judgment. Once a high trust level is achieved and people begin letting go of old barriers to change, they will make new choices about the image they want to project. At these moments real change is fragile and can be easily discouraged, which means that the rest of the team must allow them to "BE" different without teasing or ridicule. If a management team can trust each other enough to resolve these kinds of issues, they can achieve almost anything together
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What strange thing is man: Born without asking: Lives without knowing: Dies without wanting! …during the course of life, this strange thing called man must properly manage his life if he or she is going to be an effective leader.  Understanding one’s role as a leader means that attention must be given to living by virtue.  Attention must be given to developing noble traits.  In other words, good leaders must rise above the average way of living and excel in such ways that their good character is part of the reason they are able to lead.  By their good qualities and characteristics, leaders are able to earn the respect of others.  There are those who lead with fear and intimidation.  And there are those who have followers only because of the position or title they hold.  But the crowning mark of a good leader is when he or she is respected by those they are leading.* Noble character is part of the recipe in earning the respect of those you lead.  Which friend, acquaintance or associate do you trust enough to ask their honest assessment of your character?  If he or she identifies something less than noble, what will you do?  Your character is important.  If the assessment reveals something negative, I encourage you to not become angry with your friend, but use his or her honesty as an opportunity to improve yourself as a leader. ___________________________ * Mark T. Sorrels, Understanding Your Role As A Leader, (Bloomington, IN, Xlibris Corporation, 2011), 26.
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Black Belt Leader As Beginner: Part Fifteen

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

 John Lennon

Black Belt Leaders value the wisdom of many traditions, especially when it comes to teachings about how to participate with dynamic change.

Traditional peoples over the millennia have grown accustomed to dynamic change as the norm ? being so closely tied and exposed to the unpredictability of Nature and its mysteries. As such, over the centuries some cultures have developed protocols and skillful practices that when facing dynamic change have allowed them to survive, some to thrive ; preserving their culture and their heritage. 

An example of one such culture is the Moken, the sea gypsies of the Andaman Sea, who have lived for hundreds of years on the islands off the coast of Thailand and Burma. They have recited the legend of “the Seven Waves” from generation to generation around their campfires, which describes what to do when seawater acts “strangely,” when it recedes from the shore in an unnatural fashion, when a tsunami is on its way. “Head for the hills,” the story advises. When the deadly tsunami of 2004 hit their island, the Moken people, having seen the signs, climbed to higher ground, and were saved, untouched by the tsunami’s devastation.

Unfortunately, very few of us as “Black Belt Leaders in the Making” have employed in spirit the kinds of protocols and practices that our ancestors have used when dynamic change is upon us. Instead, we prefer to align ourselves with Woody Allen’s humorous yet poignant comment, “I don’t mind dying (i.e. experience dynamic change). I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”  


Why do we feel this way? One reason might be because change is unsettling; it shakes things up: there’s something new on the horizon, but what that is exactly or what that will be is unknown. And for most of us, this uncertainty elicits fear, and as a result, we try to cope with this as best we can, seeking to ease our own and others’ concerns. We want to feel confident and assured that everything is going to be all right, even though at the moment that’s not our actual experience.

Ultimately, the wisdom of our ancestors tells us that we can’t manage change anymore than we can control the tides. We can, however, as “Black Belt Leaders in the Making” learn protocols and skillful methods that can enhance our ability to participate consciously with dynamic change, so we don’t merely get dragged through the changes. And when our own capacity to participate with change increases, we can then more readily facilitate change for others.

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Suppose a person in a leadership position has the ability to readily attract followers.  Suppose that person speaks well, has great vision and ideas and presents him or herself well before the public.  What is it that could prevent that person from being a good leader?  You guessed it.  Negative qualities or character traits can bring death to the life of an otherwise talented leader.  No matter whether you get your news from the internet, television, radio or the newspaper, it will not take you long to learn of a politician, religious leader or sports figure that has bitten the dust as a result of some less than noble quality in his or her life.* Never under estimate the value and power of good character.  On the other hand, never under estimate the negative power of ignoble character.  Looking forward to upcoming articles, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions: What character trait do I have that might negatively affect my ability to lead?  What can I do to delete this trait and replace it with something positive?  If you answer these questions honestly and are willing to take action concerning them, you are on your way to being a better leader. . ______________________________ * Mark T. Sorrels, Understanding Your Role As A Leader, (Bloomington, IN, Xlibris, 2011), 25.
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As part of my continuing education, I listened to Angela Lee Duckworth yesterday on TED. The TED Talks on YouTube are a great way to increase your learning. During Angela’s career as a seventh grade math teacher, she discovered that I.Q. was not an indicator of performance. The brightest students did not necessarily make the highest grades, nor did the ones who scored lowest on I.Q. tests make the lowest grades. She quit teaching to pursue a career as a psychologist so she could study kids and adults to discover who was successful and why they were successful. She tried to predict what individuals would be the most successful at West Point, at spelling bees, at troubled schools, and at private companies. What she found was the most prevalent indicator was not intelligence or social intelligence, but grit. Angela defined grit as passion plus perseverance for long term goals. Grit, she said, is living life like as if it is a marathon, having the desire to move through tough obstacles to get to your goal for a sustained period of time. My question to you is: Do you have grit? Do you have what it takes to sustain for long periods even when the road seems to get muddier every day? Do you have what it takes to believe in something possible even when it looks as if there are road blocks at every turn? How do you get grit? I think it is something you can learn. You start by being a lifelong learner. You read and then read some more. You go to seminars. You listen to people who are the top of their fields. You ask questions. You try and when you fail, you try again. If you really want to change, to get the grit to reach your dreams, I suggest reading some of the following books. They are not magic and they won’t turn you into an instant success, but they will cause you to think, and they will provide you with a different way of looking at things. Here are some of my favorite books to date:
  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  • Excuses Begone by Wayne Dyer
  • Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
  • Seven Strategies for Wealth and Happiness by Jim Rohn
  • Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Influence Science and Practice by Robert Chaldini
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz
  • The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino
  • The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer
Education is started in school, but what school really does is teach you how to learn. Real learning occurs once you have left school. This type of learning is up to you. You have a world of possibility in front of you. If you want grit, go find out how to manifest it and keep it growing.
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Black Belt Leader As Beginner: Part Fourteen                                        

“The god of Victory is said to be one-handed, but Peace gives victory to both sides.” 

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Black Belt Leaders appreciate conflict as a natural part of life. When conflict arises, it’s not an aberration or proof that something is wrong; just the opposite. Let’s take a moment to consider how often in our daily life are we caught between two opposing ideas Whether these two contrasting points of view are internal arguments, or they are with a friend, a spouse, or a co-worker. I mean, it happens frequently, doesn’t it? Thank goodness that it does. Why do I say that? Because the content of conflict; whatever we’re in conflict about; can act, if we’re open to it, as a timely “tonic” or specific remedy to help us personally and professionally  to move forward when things (whether we are aware of it or not) start to stagnant.

But wait, you say, you make conflict sound so “positive,” Robert. It doesn’t feel good to me. It feels bad. And I say, it’s true. Being in conflict can be painful and even frightening. And here’s the reason why: most of us have not experienced conflict in its optimal form. We are mostly familiar with it as part of a negative pattern, where the conflict is ongoing, a repeat of the same, and there is no peaceful resolution. A very unpleasant result.   

In its optimal form, though, conflict’s value is indisputable: it is the spark that ignites the fires of creation in the world; it initiates the process of change. As a consequence of conflict, the opportunity is there for us to grow and establish a new balance in our lives. 

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