When to learn from or ignore criticism...ask these 5 questions

How do you know when you should listen to criticism and when you should ignore it?  From my own personal experience, I know there are times when I need to really lean in when it comes my way, but there are also times when it can actually be destructive.  So how do you know when to appreciate it and treat it as a gift for growth and when to ignore it?

In his book, Put Your Dream to the Test, John Maxwell provides a list of 5 statements that serve as a great filter that you may find helpful to use the next time you hear from a critic.  I am going to phrase them in the form of 5 questions.

  1. Are you unconditionally loved by the person who criticizes you?  This is the person who says, "I love you if you do.  I love you if you don't."  At the beginning of each week I try to set aside time to outline and prioritize my wildly important actions for the week.  I create these on a simple Google spreadsheet and then I share them with one of my best friends from Michigan.  I send them to Doug because he is a great accountability partner.  I know that he is one of the few people in my life who loves me and is totally for me.  He is also one of those rare people who will tell me the kind truth when I need to hear it and ask me the hard questions that few others will.
  2. Is the criticism tainted by their own personal agenda?  Most of us can sense this when it is happening and nothing undermines trust faster.
  3. Is this person naturally critical of everything?   It's one thing to receive criticism from someone who looks at life through the lens of the glass being half-empty.  It's quite another to receive substantive critical feedback from someone who is typically positive and supportive.  That should give us pause to stop, reflect, and honestly process the feedback.
  4. Will this person continue to support you on a personal level even if you choose not to listen to the criticism?  This is a sign of a really mature person.  They understand that they are responsible TO you, (telling you the truth as they see it), but they are not responsible FOR you (attempting to manipulate your response to their criticism).
  5. Does this person have knowledge and success in the area of the criticism?  They've been there.  They've done it.  They've done it well and they want to pass it on to you.

I hope this helps.  



The top 2 limiting beliefs that most people have about time...

Hello Friend,

In one of my recent newsletters, I asked my subscribers to tell me the number 1 change they seek in 2017.  Their responses centered around three primaries areas of change:

  1. Some want to change and improve a vital relationship.
  2. Some want to change something personally (lose weight, develop better character, build your confidence and self-esteem).
  3. And MANY of my readers want to get better at managing your time so that you can live a balanced and healthy life.

Because the theme of time management represented most of the responses, I'm going to start there.

Many of people believe that getting better at managing their time would enable them to live a more peaceful and less chaotic life, have more time to devote to their most important relationships, get more done in a day, etc.  

I can assure you that they are not alone.

The key to changing this or any other area of our lives, however comes down to changing repeated behaviors that we call habits.  But here's the deal.  Our behavioral habits flow out of something deeper...the beliefs we hold.

This is something that comes up over and over again in coaching.  So much of what keeps us from realizing our dreams and living the lives we were meant to live, flows from a deeper, more fundamental inner game issue.

Sometimes our beliefs serve us well and sometimes not so much.  When the beliefs we hold are holding us back, we call these self-limiting beliefs.  And quite often we aren't even consciously aware of their negative impact.  We don't realize that they are the cause of the effects we are experiencing.

Time is one of these areas that all of us have beliefs about and some of those beliefs generate results (the effects) that were not too excited about.

I'm going to expose what, in my experience, are the two biggest self-limiting beliefs regarding time.  We'll call these myths.

Myth #1 - "I just need to manage my time better."  There's only one problem with that.  Time is not the issue.  You don't manage time.  Time is just the currency of our lives that we trade for the priorities we choose to invest in.  What you need is clarity of what is most important and a plan to live by those priorities.

Myth #2 - "I don't have enough time."  I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard that phrase.  This is an incredibly powerful self-limiting belief.  What are the consequences of continually telling yourself that you don't have enough time?  You will constantly feel under pressure and stressed out.  You will be continually disappointed because of what didn't get accomplished.  You will run the risk of falling into the trap of making excuses at work for not fulfilling key responsibilities or meeting critical deadlines.

Instead of living with a scarcity mindset regarding time (there's only so much to go around), replace it with an abundance mindset.  Begin to tell yourself, "I have all the time in the world...to do what I need to do and to do what is most important."  Imagine the clarity and freedom that change could create.  Imagine what it would feel like to go throughout the day feeling peaceful, centered, and in the flow.  You would do better work.  Your work would be more fulfilling.  You would become more productive.

And all because you fixed an inner-game issue.

I'll leave you with these questions for further reflection:

  • What are the 6 most important priorities of your life?  What are those key accounts?
  • What do you need to do to give them the priority that they need?  
  • What activities consistently show up in your calendar that do not tie back to one of these 6 key accounts?  
  • What do you need to stop doing so that you can invest more time in one of these key accounts?  
  • When will you start doing that?
  • What might be some additional beliefs that you hold that are not currently serving you well?  What are some of the negative effects you are experiencing because of them?
  • What empowering belief could you create to replace this current self-limiting belief with?

I hope this helps.


Great questions to reflect on at the end of 2016...

Hello Friend,

2016 is almost in the books.  Wow!  It is amazing how fast a year goes by.  It is amazing how fast a life goes by.  I just turned 50 this past week.  Looking at that number as I type it causes me to do a real double take.  

It reminds me of the words of an ancient author by the name of James who wrote, "What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

Me celebrating the BIG  5 0

Me celebrating the BIG 5 0

That is why it is so vital to step out of the busy daily rhythm of life and reflect on what we have learned and the kind of people we've become over that past 300 plus days..  It is really healthy to set aside time for reflection at the end of each year to seek to understand what we have learned, how we have grown, what we need to do more of, what we need to do less of, and what circumstances or experiences shaped us in a significant way.

You and I both know people who avoid this and experience the consequences as a result.  

  • They fail to change destructive behaviors.
  • They repeat the same mistakes time and again.
  • They fail to capitalize on the experiences that could open new doors of opportunity.
  • They miss the opportunity to gain true wisdom.

I recently read an email from Ryan Levesque, a very successful entrepreneur and creator of the Ask Method, in which he outlined 9 vital questions to ask yourself at the end of each year.  These are fantastic questions.  I thoroughly enjoyed working through them for myself and have provided them for you below with a few minor tweaks of my own.

  • The 10 biggest wins in your business or life in the last year
  • The 3 top lessons you’ve learned
  • The greatest influences that have had an effect on your business or life in the last year
  • The smartest decision you made last year
  • The biggest risk you took
  • One word that best sums up and describes last year’s experience
  • Three things you need to do less of in the next year
  • Three things you need to do more of in the next year
  • Three things you need to stop doing altogether in the next year

Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, author, and psychiatrist once wrote, "We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who are being questioned by life, daily and hourly."

There is so much wisdom and truth in that statement.  Namely that the circumstances, choices, and experiences of our lives and how we choose to respond to them, reveal so much to us about ourselves.  Answer these questions and find out what life reveals to you.

The Single Greatest Quality that Separates Average Leaders from Great Leaders...

Hello Friend,

Well…what would you say it is?  Intelligence?  Charisma?  Tenacity?  The ability to think strategically or focus on the big picture?

Author Daniel Goleman would contend that this "single greatest quality" is something else.  In his book What Makes a Leader, Goleman analyzed the competency models of 188 companies around the world, including some very large organizations such as Lucent Technologies and British Airways.  He wanted to understand “which personal capabilities drove outstanding performance within these organizations.”

Do you know what he found?  It wasn’t cognitive ability or IQ or technical skill.  Nope.  The quality that separated the average leaders from the great ones was emotional intelligence or EQ.  Now, before I outline what EQ is, I want to provide one extra detail so that the importance of this will sink in more deeply.  

Guess what else Goleman's research revealed?  When he calculated the value of emotional intelligence against the other capabilities leaders need in order to achieve excellent performance, he found that EQ was TWICE as important as all other capabilities…regardless of the job or level of positional authority.  Did you catch that?!  EQ has 2X the impact on our effectiveness as leaders than any other skill or capacity!

So what is EQ?  Goleman breaks down emotional intelligence into 5 skills that enable leaders to maximize their own performance and the performance of those on their teams.  Take a look and reflect on how much each one of these is reflected in your own life.

  1. Self-Awareness – knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others.
  2. Self-regulation – controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods.
  3. Motivation – relishing achievement for its own sake.
  4. Empathy – understanding other people’s emotional makeup.
  5. Social skill – building rapport with others to move them in desired directions.

Here are a few questions for reflection...

  • If you have the courage to honestly assess your own level of EQ based on the 5 skills that Goleman outlines above, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10?  
  • What does your rating reveal to you about yourself?  
  • Which of these skills represents areas of strength?
  • Which of these skills needs attention?
  • What connection might exist between the grade you gave yourself and some of the frustrations, conflicts or performance issues you are experiencing at work?
  • If you were to focus on developing and improving only one of these five skills (the skill that would have the greatest impact on becoming more successful as a leader), which one would you focus on?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how motivated are you improve in this area?

Ok.  If you've made it this far, you have just taken an incredibly important step.  You have defined reality and in doing so, you've just grown your own level of self-awareness.  Congratulations!  Max Anders writes that, "The leader's first responsibility is to define reality."

But what now?  How can you change and improve?  Great question.  Let's talk about what the change plan might look like in my next post.


The Third Vital Source for Lasting Change

Most of us have a change that we'd like to make and guess what?  The people we choose to surround ourselves with will have a massive impact on whether or not that change is realized.

As I've outlined in previous emails the authors of the book Change Everything, demonstrate that change is not only possible, but inevitable when we understand and leverage all of the different sources that make change possible.

I have already written about the first two sources that the authors outlined, Personal Motivation (getting really clear on why I want to make this change, what it will look like when I do, and what my default future will look like if I do nothing) and Personal Ability (what are the critical knowledge and skills that make change possible?)  Leveraging these to sources of change help us "love what we hate" and "do what we can't".

Today I'm going to touch on the third source of change, Social Motivation.  This source helps us get very intentional about our people environment.  If we're serious developing new habits, then we'd better plan on being serious about putting the right people around us.   

Author Malcom Gladwell wrote, "The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are."

Those whose lives have experienced significant change through Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers understand the truth and power of this principle well.
So how can we tap into this source of change in our everyday efforts to change and transform our own lives?  Let me just give you one principle to apply in your existing relationships.  Turn accomplices into friends.  There it is, but what does it mean?  It means that you have people in your life who are consciously or unconsciously sabotaging your efforts to change and you must identify these folks and have a transformational conversation with them.  What does that look like?  I would break it down like this.

  • Take some time to reflect on who is in your inner-circle and identify which of your friends (this could and very likely does include family members) through their actions and words are encouraging the changes you want to make and which ones are undermining those efforts.
  • Set aside 15 minutes with each of them to have a sit-down face-to-face meeting.  During the meeting begin by painting a clear picture of the kind of person you want to become and the changes you are serious about making.  It could be that they have no idea.
  • Next, balancing honesty and kindness, explain the things they are doing that are undermining your change efforts and provide them with concrete replacement behaviors (words and/or actions that they enable them to be an active partner in your change efforts).
  • Finally, thank them for their friendship, explain how vital their support is for your success, and invite them to be a fan, not just a friend.

Try that and let me know what happens...


The Second Vital Source for Lasting Change...Personal Ability (Do What You Can't)

If you're like me, there is a change you seriously want to make in your life, but have been unsuccessful in making.  You know that if you made this change, the quality of your life would be significantly better.   You would be happier, healthier, more confident, and more at peace with yourself. This change would be in harmony with the person you genuinely want to become.  So why haven't you made it?

The authors of the book Change Everything, contend that the reason isn't that you don't have enough will power, but that you have not leveraged key sources of influence that make change possible.

In one of my previous emails I gave you the first key source of influence which is personal motivation.  Change requires real motivation and the way to increase motivation is first, by getting real clear on the person you will be once you have made this change and second, by visiting your default future (what will your life be like in 5 years if you do not make this change).

There are 6 sources of change that they outline in this book.  Source 2 is personal ability.  To put it simply, one of the reasons we fail to make important personal changes (health, finances, relationships, personal habits, etc.) is that we lack the critical knowledge and skills that make change possible.

One of the reasons many people fail to quit smoking is that they are literally unaware of the impact of second hand smoke on their children. 

If you are someone who wants to eat healthier, one reason you might not be changing your eating habits is that you don't realize (knowledge) just how many calories and how much fat was actually in that Triple Hog Dare Ya sandwich at Applebees (not that the name shouldn't tell you all you need to know:-)).  

Weight Watchers is one of the most effective organizations in the world in helping people lose weight.  It should come as no surprise then, that one of the core components of their strategy is to teach people how to count calories.  Learning and applying this simple skill equips them with a much higher level of awareness of just how many calories they are consuming in relationship to how many calories their bodies actually need on a daily basis.

Maybe you aren't changing because of a key skill you need to develop.  Dave Ramsey has helped thousands of people change their spending habits, get out of debt, and become financially free.  One of the core components that makes Dave's program (Financial Peace University) so successful is teaching people the skill of learning how to track expenses and then develop a monthly spending plan (a budget).  Learning this skill provides people with a powerful tool to change their spending habits and get their spending under control.

So, if you are serious about making a change, take 10 minutes to reflect on and answer the questions I have provided below.

  • What is the change that you are genuinely seeking?

  • What is deeply motivating your desire to change this?  Consider writing a one or two sentence motivation statement that you could read and refer to on a daily basis to keep your motivation strong.

  • What knowledge or skills do you lack that would make this change more possible?

  • What resources do you need to gain that knowledge and skill?  Is it a book?  Is it a class or seminar?

In my next post I'm going to share with you the third source of influence for change.  It is probably my favorite and it is very powerful...stay tuned!

The First Key to Change...Personal Motivation (Love What You Hate)

As I outlined in my last post, the reason that you and I often fail to make the changes we want is NOT BECAUSE WE LACK THE WILLPOWER.

It's because we haven't tapped into some of the most vital and powerful resources that make change possible.  

According to the authors of  Change Anything:  The New Science of Personal Success,  Joseph Grenny and Kerry Patterson, there are six sources of influence that they have identified in their study of  5,000 people who successfully changed (long-lasting behavioral changes) areas of their lives that were deeply important to them. 

And, get this...their research revealed that the people who use these sources of influence and apply these skills, are "1,000 percent more successful at producing change than those who try other means."

Wow!  That is an impressive number.

So what are those resources?

The first source of influence or skill to develop is to "love what you hate."

As the authors point out in the book, the changes that we need to make are often boring, uncomfortable and oftentimes challenging.  In theory we would love to make these changes, but in the rubber-meets-the-road reality of everyday life, it's a different story.

So, we need to make something that feels undesirable, desirable and enjoyable.  Why?  Because we ultimately do the things we enjoy.

And how do we do that?  Well, by "visiting your default future" and "telling the whole vivid story."  In other words, paint a very clear and graphic picture of your life 3-5 years from now if you continue on with your current behaviors.

What if you choose to continue with the same high fat, high calorie diet that you have been on?  How will it effect your weight, your self-esteem, your energy, your blood pressure, your cholesterol levels?  What will you look like?  How will you feel?  Imagine it.  Picture it.  Feel it.  Spell it out in graphic detail.  Write it out and read it out loud to yourself.

One of the most powerful reasons we don't change is that we have not painted a future picture of the vivid reality of what our default future will be if we make no changes.  A practical and powerful idea for you on this one is to identify someone you know who is already living your default future.  Reflect on their life for about 30 minutes and let the full weight of that sink into your consciousness.

On the flip side, paint a vivid picture of what your life will look like when you successfully make the changes you want to make.  I have a friend who wanted to become a positive inspirational person at work.  One of the practical steps she took to love what she hated was to create a vision board filled with inspirational pictures and quotes that regularly reminded her of the kind of person she wanted to be.  She placed this in a prominent place close to her desk and reflected on it so that it could be a force to "pull her up" in those moments when she felt the pull to enter into the negative office politics around her.

Then use your default future and your ideal future to craft a "personal motivation statement."  This is a concise statement that captures WHY making this change is so important to you.  This connects you to the transcendent values that you want to define your life and serves as the compass for your actions.  Discovering your "why" provides you with the kind of "pull power" that you need, the motivation it takes to trade short term happiness in favor of long term joy.

So I have 2 questions for you to think on and answer because coaching is all about deepening the learning and forwarding the action.  First, what did you learn that was most valuable to you?  Second, what is the one simple concrete step you will take to apply what you learned?

What if real change were actually possible...

One of my favorite aspects of being a coach is having the privilege of collaborating with my clients to make changes in their lives that are deeply important to them.

Often, that's the reason I begin working with them in the first place.  They feel "stuck" in some area of their life or business, have attempted to fix or change it multiple times, but have been unsuccessful.

Have you ever been there?  You wanted to...lose weight, quit smoking, stop reacting to your spouse negatively, treat your employees better, get in shape, lay off the Doritos and start eating healthier...and the list goes on.

And then what happened next?  In a moment of inspiration after watching the ball drop in Times Square, you dove into changing that behavior with all of the fury of a LeBron James dunk...for about 5-7 days.  And then...well..."Give me that bag of Doritos!  Losing weight is overrated!" 

And what do most of us conclude after failing to make those changes?  Well, after beating ourselves up and wallowing in our own self-hatred, we come to the conclusion that we're doomed because we're not one of THOSE people who were born with truckloads of self-discipline.

We just don't have enough will power!  I'll bet you have heard those words uttered more than a few times throughout the course of your life.

But what would you think if I told you that is not true?  What if I told you that you could change any behavior that you really wanted to change?  What if I told you that the change you so desperately seek would, in fact, be inevitable if you understood and leveraged the key ingredients that make change possible?

In their book, Change Anything:  The New Science of Personal Success,  Joseph Grenny and Kerry Patterson and their team studied 3,000 people who successfully changed (long-lasting behavioral changes) areas of their lives that were deeply important to them.  Throughout the course of their study of these folks, they were able to identify 6 sources of change that every one them used in order to make and sustain the changes they were seeking.

In some of my upcoming posts I'm going to be sharing these 6 sources with you and giving you some practical ideas on how you can begin implementing them in your own life.

But for now I simply want you to hold out the possibility that change truly is possible, even predictable.  You just need to start thinking about change differently.
There are some things that you may need to UNLEARN first before you experience the change that you desire.  Mark Twain once wrote, "Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned."  And the first thing you may need to unlearn is this:  Your level of willpower is NOT the problem.

3 Vital Keys to Success

Last Friday we traveled to Michigan to enjoy a weekend with some of our dear friends over Labor Day.  One of things on the agenda, along with tackling a do-it-yourselfer house project, boating, swimming and eating bad stuff, was a 5k race that my friend’s oldest daughter ran in.

This race was called the Running with the Cows 5K.  It’s an event hosted by a family who owns a large dairy farm (they milk 1,400 cows 3 times a day…that’s big in my book.  I grew up on a farm where we milked 20…) and who is passionate about sharing their knowledge of dairy farming to help farmers in northern Ugandan produce a quality milk product to improve nutrition and build business.  I love supporting people who have a passion to use their lives to live transcendently and make a difference in this world! 

So anyhow, after we arrived around 8:30 am and I was hanging out waiting for the race to begin, I thought to myself, “You might as well run!  You’re here.  Make the most of it.”  So I did.  And, even though it was ugly, I finished!  

I’m so glad that I decided to run because the process of running the race reminded me of 3 principles that I believe are a vital part of living life well.  Here they are:

  1. Don’t Just watch life, jump in with both feet and live it!  It would have been the easy comfortable thing for me to just hang out, drink coffee and watch the race, but I would have missed out on being part of the race!  I would have missed the chance to support a great cause.  I would have missed the chance to experience the deep satisfaction of finishing something that was difficult, but really worthwhile.  As Vidal Sassoon once said, “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
  2. Run your race, not someone else’s.  I noticed that when I kept my eyes facing forward on the course in front of me, I did well.  But when I took my eyes off of my course and began to look at others who were way ahead of me on a distant hill to my left, I became discouraged and a bit overwhelmed with how much of the course that was left.  As former President Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  

    There is a race that you are supposed to run, that only you can run, a calling in this life that you were meant to fulfill that no one else can.  Focus on what that unique and irreplaceable contribution is that you were meant to make.
  3. It’s no better to be the tortoise or the hare.  Stay with me on this one.  You remember that story that we learned when we were kids, right?  The hare was faster and should have easily won the race...BUT he became distracted and the tortoise, because he was steady and focused ended up winning.  The moral of the story:  It’s better to be steady and focused because the race isn’t to the fast, but to the steady.  Tell that to Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt!  

    My point is, if you are a rabbit, be the best rabbit you can be.  If you are a turtle, understand how your strengths of steadiness and consistency can best be utilized…but don’t try to be a rabbit!  You’ll just get discouraged.

    So what in the world does this have to do with the 5k?  Glad you asked.  During the race I kept trading places with a girl whose pace wasn’t fast, but it was very steady (she was the tortoise).  I, on the other hand would run past her, then walk for a while and yield the lead back (I was the hare).  The whole race was that way.  

    What I realized though, was that I probably run the way I do because of my personality more than anything.  In the DISC personality profile, I am a high “I”.  Which means my core tendency is to approach life with bursts of energy and focus really well in small spurts, but then I can have a tendency to get bored and distracted if I have to focus on any one thing for an extended period of time.  Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

    So, for example, when I am working in my office, in order for me to work effectively, I have to schedule short periodic breaks into my work schedule, to give my mind periodic opportunities to recharge for another burst of energy.  This is vital form me in order to be able to work productively throughout an entire day.  I also have to start each day with a clear understanding of what my top priorities are or I can fritter my time away doing a thousand little, but not very important tasks.

    My guess is this girl who kept trading places with me during the race was an “S”.  She was steady, stable, and consistent.  That has some tremendous strengths…and like my personality style, it has some caution points as well (obviously...she finished before I did!).  I’ll discuss the DISC in a future email and you’ll have the opportunity to find out your core personality style.  This is one of my favorite activities that I like to do with my clients.  It is a HUGE eye opener for most people.

    Bottom line?  One of the keys to living your life well is to understand what your core personality is and to live in alignment with it, leveraging the unique strengths of your style while limiting and being aware of the caution points and limitations of your style.

It's amazing what you can learn while running in a cow pasture!


What Is Your Purpose?

What will you do with your one and only life? How do you want to be remembered? What is your purpose? What’s your plan to achieve that purpose? Do you want to be a true leader who adds value to and has an incredibly positive influence on those you lead? Do you want to get on a pathway that will help you discover and pursue the deepest passions of your heart?

As a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker, I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.

I joined the John Maxwell Team out of a deep passion to add value to people, and to help them unlock and unleash their passions, potential and influence.

That's what John did for me 20 years ago. While a young and inexperienced pastor who couldn't even spell the word "leader," I attended one of John's conferences. I was so impacted by what I learned over those two days that I could hardly get up from my chair. It was the first time I had heard anyone teach on the absolutely vital importance and power of leadership.

Those two days changed everything for me. I resolved to do for others what John had done for me: to help people pursue their God-given dreams and passions and realize their full leadership potential.

I have discovered, through leading and working with people from all walks of life, that no matter what our background or title or salary, each of us has a unique story. We all possess a one-of-a-kind combination of priceless resources (passions, personalities, gifts, and life-experiences) that God wants us to use to make an irreplaceable difference in this world.

With 20 years of experience in building dynamic volunteer teams in a non-profit organization, coaching people from a broad variety of vocations and backgrounds (business leaders to dairy farmers), and leading and developing the staff of a thriving multi-site church in Northwestern Pennsylvania, I believe that I have the character, passion, and experience to help you unleash your full leadership potential.

Contact Me. I am looking forward to assisting you on your journey to becoming a successful leader.

  • Guiding and coaching you through a process of self-discovery that will enable you to unleash the God-given passions, dreams, and intelligence that already reside within you.
  • Providing you with tools and principles that will enable you to grow your influence and effectiveness as a leader.
  • Providing leadership training and coaching for your organization.