Rand Golletz Performance Systems
Executive Coaching and Personal Consulting for Tough-Minded Leaders.

Articles for Leadership » The Real Deal

Joe Maddon’s Lessons In Authentic Leadership

Note From Rand

A month left before Labor Day. I’m at a point in my life at which it feels like I have breakfast every fifteen minutes. I look in the mirror, and I still feel like I look as I did when I was thirty … until I look at a photo of myself at that age. My birthday is in four weeks. Someone PLEASE send me some spackle for my face. But I digress …

This month’s column is about Joe Maddon. Joe is the low-key and cerebral manager of MLB’s Chicago Cubs. Among baseball people, he is known to march to his own drummer. When I was a corporate executive, people said that about me. I like quirky rule-breakers. Joe certainly is one. You’ll enjoy learning how his approach to his job and his life can be instructive for you.

Until next month and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going!

Joe Maddon’s Lessons In Authentic Leadership

Joe Maddon looks like Clark Kent with white hair. He’s played tambourine and sung backup with Jimmy Buffet. Joe didn’t become a major league manager until he had been a minor league manager and major league position and bench coach for decades. When he interviewed for the Boston Red Sox job over a decade ago, he was passed over by Sox GM Theo Epstein, who selected Terry Francona. It proved to be a wise decision by Epstein. Francona led the Red Sox to two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. They hadn’t previously won one since 1918

Maddon went on to become the Manager of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006. During the next eight years, the Rays became and remained a serious contender, despite having a payroll that was among the lowest in baseball and fan support in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region that was tepid, at best.

Fast forward to 2014. Theo Epstein had gone on to become the General Manager of the Chicago Cubs. They hadn’t gone to the World Series since 1945 and hadn’t won one since 1908. He vividly remembered his discussion with Maddon over a decade earlier: his self-confidence, his humility, his belief that players win ball games, not managers, and his quirky sense of humor. Per Epstein: “Comparing Joe now (2014) to when I interviewed him a decade ago, his confidence has reached a new level because he has done it, and it has worked.” Epstein continued: “He knows he can connect. He knows that all he has to do is be himself and he can lead and he can win. That’s why we feel he’s our long-term fit as a leader.”

The prior three paragraphs are the “what.” Here’s the “so what:”

• The Cubs are in a position to win their Division and are recognized as one of the best-led teams in baseball.

• When he took over Tampa Bay, Joe had to have a lot of tough conversations with players who were not as good as they thought they were. He delivered those messages in a very direct but modulated way. His tone never overwhelmed his message. He demonstrated that you can be tough-minded without being a jerk. Many leaders only deliver difficult messages with an accompaniment of yelling, threatening, and fist-pounding. Those leaders are either unaware that their message gets lost, or they are less concerned with effective impact than they are about being perceived as “the man.”

• Continuing with the last point, when Joe delivered those messages, the receiver would often whine to teammates. Virtually always, those teammates turned a deaf ear, instead supporting their manager. Joe had built credibility that enabled his PERFORMERS to manage the locker room. His words: ” … when the fans are looking for a definition as to why I let the players handle it, why the clubhouse is so important, why you have to have leadership within the clubhouse (among the players), it’s because when you do, these little pockets looking for allies in a negative sense, they get blown up immediately by the guys. I’m pretty sure that we have that now where the negative component cannot prosper because the guys in the clubhouse get it.”

• One of Maddon’s mantras is “don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” He understands that baseball is a boy’s game played by men for LOTS OF MONEY. Often times, their inclination is to forget that it should be fun. As the manager in Tampa Bay, he famously brought in dogs, penguins and snakes to lighten the clubhouse mood. As skipper of the Cubs, he had players take a night flight in their pajamas. Those stories only scratch the surface. The best business leaders know when to take their feet off of the gas. They frequently lighten things up during tough times and put the pedal to the metal harder when things are going well.

• This point is more easily understood if you saw the movie “Moneyball,” or read the book. We’re now in an era when teams often either slavishly embrace “Moneyball” type statistical analysis or completely repudiate it – favoring an old-school, more instinctive approach to managing. Maddon embraces detailed statistical analysis combined with his intuition and instincts. Effective leaders never blindly embrace new approaches, nor do they desperately cling to tradition. They “pick the best and leave the rest.”

• Joe remains positive without being a Pollyanna. Amid a tough streak or when a young player makes an obvious bone-headed play, Maddon always remains positive and extracts life and baseball lessons that he discusses with his players later. He neither beats up (figuratively) his players in face-to-face meetings nor embarrasses them in post game press conferences. He literally views life and baseball as opportunities to learn and CHANGE. He doesn’t ignore negative lessons. Rather he uses them in a productive way. When it’s “hitting the fan” in your business, do you do likewise?

• He tries hard not to be the center of attention. He will occasionally do charity events or a TV spot, but most of the time he remains low key. During games, he stands passively in a space at the end of the dugout carefully assessing what’s going on and planning his next moves. He always has an “if this, then that” plan(s) A, B, and C. He never takes undue credit. I’ve seen corporate managers who employ a “zero sum game” perspective when it comes to getting and to giving credit. They operate as if there’s a finite amount of credit for a job well done and that if their players get credit, there’s none left for them. Just plain bulls*&t. How about you?

Even though I’m a fan, I used to roll my eyes into the back of my head when someone talked about sports as a metaphor for life. I no longer do that. Management is about getting people to DO what needs to be done. Leadership, in any arena, is about getting people to WANT TO DO what needs to be done.

You Can Change Profoundly, FOREVER!!

Note From Rand

My Baltimore Orioles are in first place. How that is possible with VERY weak starting pitching is beyond me. My admiration for manager Buck Showalter and General Manager Dan Duquette grows by the year. We lived for a decade and a half with poor performance and little hope of improvement. If you click here, you can read about some of the ways that Showalter has made a difference for the baseball team and the psyches of the people in the Baltimore area.

My column this month concerns the neurobiology of personal change. I tried to distill a complex subject into something brief and yet meaningful for you. The important point is that we now know that you are NEVER a finished product unless you choose to be. If you believe you are hard-wired, you may just be hard-headed.

Thanks for your readership. I’ll see you in August and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going!

You Can Change Profoundly, FOREVER!!

Our knowledge of brain science is rapidly evolving. Some things we now know:

Words matter. When you quit smoking, for example, did you tell people you were a non-smoker, or a smoker trying to quit? When you tried to change your leadership style, did you say things such as “I’m an autocrat trying to become more empowering,” or “I’m a leader who empowers people?” The difference in verbiage between these approaches is not hair-splitting. Your brain hears things literally. So saying “I’m a smoker trying to quit” makes change difficult because your brain identifies you as a smoker.

Science is showing us that the brain is NEVER the finished product that we once believed it was. New behaviors and actions cannot only change skill types and LEVELS throughout your entire life, they can (and do) change your perspective on what’s possible for you in compelling ways. In the not-to-distant past, science believed in the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” theory of learning; that the brain was hard-wired by the age of ten (or even earlier), and the basics of your strengths, personality and character were likewise. Then came the discovery of neuroplasticity. Here’s the short version of what we know about that, and its impact on learning:

Neuroplastic change in the brain can occur on a smaller scale, such as physical changes to individual neurons, or whole brain scales, such as cortical remapping, due to an injury. Regarding the latter example, most improvement will only occur if the injured person is a child. The former example, however, provides real hope to those of us who are either in the business of personal change or are attempting to change ourselves. In that case, behavior, environmental stimuli, thought and emotions can cause fundamental, neuroplastic change. That’s good news regardless of your profession.

Scientists distinguish between synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes in how neurons connect to each other, and non-synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes on the neurons themselves. When you hear someone referring to the brain’s capability to create new connections and pathways, they are referring to non-synaptic plasticity. Either way, we now know that old excuses like “I’m too old to change,” or “my parents made me who I am, and I can’t change,” don’t hold water – nor did they ever.

What are the implications for you?

• You can become fundamentally different than you are, even in later years. While change is easier when you are younger (You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s tougher), you can still develop new skills and perspectives as you age. You may have been the creation of your parents, but you needn’t be a permanent victim of earlier experiences, or limited by them, for your entire life.

• Outside-in change is more effective than inside-out change. Our experiences inform our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. You needn’t have a spiritual epiphany to change.

When working with clients who are skeptical of their ability to change, I tell them not to worry about their beliefs or feelings. I encourage them to practice new actions and behaviors and to get feedback along the way. That way, they’ll become incrementally more comfortable as they see the effectiveness of new behaviors. That success will rewire their brains.

• Self-talk matters. There was a time that I doubted the importance of positive self-talk. Science has shown us, however, that the messages we consciously repeat TO ourselves, ABOUT ourselves either stymie our growth or propel it. This is a fact and no longer a matter for legitimate debate among reasonable people. A personal example: I repeat the same five affirmations EVERY morning. Doing so over a long period of time has made a huge difference in how I view myself, and what I believe about my potential.

• Understanding, in a deep and specific way, how your early life experiences directly impacted your current beliefs, feelings and actions is a REALLY important part of your change journey. This isn’t about blaming your parents for your life. It IS about understanding the REASONS that you became who you are without letting those reasons become EXCUSES. Reading material on this subject and reflecting on it is a good place to start. You may want to attend a workshop like the Landmark Forum (see landmarkworldwide.com) to develop deep understanding and craft change strategies.

• Developing the brain is like building muscle. It takes time and practice. We live in a world in which the pursuit of instant gratification coupled with short attention spans make this tough. We want answers and results quickly. Commitment, determination, focus and patience will yield positive results. Requiring results immediately will not.

• Effective techniques are available that will yield positive results. Mindfulness meditation, for example, can help you cultivate your ability to focus, to deal with pain, and to challenge preconceptions. Google Richie Davidson at the University of Wisconsin for more on this subject.

The bottom line: While a lot of people choose to be finished with their own development before they’re thirty years old, they don’t have to be. Do you want to be one of them?

To Be or Not to Be … A “Jerk” That Is

Note From Rand

As we enter June in the mid-Atlantic, I wonder what happened to spring. The answer: We didn’t HAVE one. From the last week of April through the third week of May, we had 25 days of rain in a 30 day period. The temperature during that span was 5-10 degrees below normal. As I write this, however, the temperature is 85 degrees, and it’s sunny. Thank goodness.

In greater D.C., our public transit system is called METRO. They’ve been having a lot of safety problems. Breakdowns … fire, and oh yes … there was a rape on a train that didn’t get reported until much later. I read in the Washington Post this morning that the governments of D.C. Maryland, and Virginia want to establish a “committee” to oversee safety. That is a TYPICAL government solution. Their answer to a problem is more bureaucracy, more committees, more supervisory layers. My answer is this: Establish firm accountability with A PERSON and hold that person accountable (accountability = consequences) for the performance of the system. End of story.

You’ll find my column this month thought-provoking and instructive. It addresses the challenge and difficulty of individual change. The example comes from personal experience.

I’ll see you in July and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going.

To Be or Not to Be … A “Jerk” That Is

Jerry was the CEO of a large bank headquartered in New York. As a client of mine for several years, he had grown to trust my ability to work with “difficult” executives.

One Friday evening I got a call from Jerry’s executive assistant, asking me to meet with him to discuss one of his direct reports’ performance and development; it sounded more urgent than was typical of his requests. Three days later, I went to NYC for a luncheon meeting.

Jerry explained that one of “his guys,” as he called him, comported himself in a way that was unacceptable. He regularly threatened members of his team with termination; he ignored people to “make a statement;” he demanded phone access to people 24/7/365; he required that they provide his assistant with copies of their calendars so he could see what they were doing, and he treated people like “servants.” There was more, but you get the idea. He then asked me if I could “fix” Steve (the culprit) by coaching him. I said, “no.”

Jerry tilted his head, looking perplexed, and said, “You fixed ME!” I challenged his thinking with several questions. He concluded that I did not, in fact, “fix” him. What I did was help him accept that his style (some of his substance, too) detrimentally affected corporate results. Together we then crafted and implemented a plan to improve his performance along the dimensions that we (along with feedback from others) identified.

I agreed to meet Steve to discuss the possibility of working together. A couple of weeks later, we met. He had a physically commanding presence. In a Brioni suit and Gucci loafers, Steve looked like the Wall Street guy that he was. He shook my hand firmly and gazed right into my eyes as he introduced himself. His office resembled a Ralph Lauren showroom – dark wood, antiques – very “Harvard Club” looking.

After a couple of hours with Steve, I was perplexed. He was a charming gentleman. I had a hard time imagining him getting angry. I could imagine, however, that under certain circumstances his understated tone and stare could give chills to someone on the receiving end. I also sensed that while he accepted the need to change, he didn’t understand the magnitude of his problems or the challenge that they created. We agreed to work together and signed a one-year coaching agreement.

Fast forward three months.

We had gotten feedback, developed an action plan and begun working in four categories: Delegation; Impulse Control; Communication (especially “listening to understand” rather than just “listening to respond”); Trust. A couple of these had psychotherapeutic implications, and Steve engaged a renowned therapist to partner with us. He was “all in.”

Steve had a sincere attitude and a willingness to do the work; I was encouraged and optimistic. I believed that we had begun making real progress. Then on a Sunday night, my cell phone rang; it was Steve.

“You have to come up here for a talk,” he said. I wasn’t sure if it was a request or a demand. Either way, he sounded agitated. When I arrived at his office the following day, I found him pacing. His assistant briefed me before I entered his office. Apparently, he had been asking her to evaluate his management style. He was looking for validation.

Here’s how my conversation with Steve went:

“So … how can I help you today, Steve?”

He started: “My team doesn’t appreciate me, Rand. I’ve been working my tail off to change perceptions of me by changing what I do. I really appreciate your help, but I’m not getting any love from my people!”

“Tell me more,” I said.

“My results have been substantial. I feel really good about our progress. I don’t think my team notices, however. They still seem leery of me. When I’m around, I sense that they’re overly careful. When they’re in the middle of a conversation and see me coming, I can tell that they either change the subject or end the conversation. I don’t feel as if they’re opening up to me any more than they were before.”

I laughed!

“Why are you laughing? You know I’m serious! I’m tempted to just go back to being who I was before!”

“Stop,” I said. “Please listen to what I’m about to say because this is as important as anything we’ve spoken about since we’ve been working together.”

He quieted down, and I continued by going to the white board hanging on his wall, picking up a marker and drawing a long line. At one end, I wrote “Steve, the jerk.” At the other end I wrote “new and improved Steve.” Then I asked him a couple of questions:

“How long have your direct reports worked for you, Steve?”

“Two of them for over five years; two of them for three to five years; three of them for two to three years,” he said.

I went back to the board and continued: “OK … let’s say that this line represents five years – the length of time that your two longest tenured guys have reported to you.” I then segmented the line into the chunks of time that each of his directs had worked for him.

“What’s your point?” Steve asked.

I then depicted, on the five-year timeline, the amount of time represented by our working together – three months. I looked at Steve to get a sense of whether he knew what I was going to say next. He didn’t. I went into a measured, non-judgmental semi-rant:

“So Steve … your guys have worked for you anywhere from two to five years. You and I have been working together for three months. Giving you the benefit of the doubt and for the sake of argument, you began demonstrating new behaviors six weeks ago. These guys saw the old Steve for anywhere from two to five years. They have seen the new and improved Steve for six weeks. Which Steve do you think they believe is the REAL STEVE?”

“I get it,” Steve said. “When will they come to accept that I’ve changed? Is it going to take FIVE YEARS?”

“I can’t answer that,” I said. “I do know that it’ll take a lot longer than you’ve had so far.”

“So I’m going to have to be this way for a lot longer?”

“I’m not sure how to respond to that, Steve,” I responded. “But I’ll try if you’ll indulge me for a minute. First, your guys probably view the changes you’re making as being ‘forced’ on you. They know you’re working with me. Second, your changes are uncomfortable for them. Even though they probably like ‘new Steve’ better than ‘old Steve,’ they don’t know what to make of new Steve. They don’t know if he’ll last; they don’t know how to relate to you. They don’t know how to relate to EACH OTHER. Not only will their relationship with YOU change, the entire team dynamic will change. You have to be patient with this ambiguity. It’ll work itself out. You have to persist.”

“What should I do with my discomfort?” Steve asked.

“Acknowledge it. Tell them what you told me. Ask THEM to be patient. Tell them that you’re available at any time to discuss their concerns, collectively or individually, about what they’re seeing, thinking, or feeling.”

“Why does all this ‘change stuff’ have to be so hard?” Steve asked.

“Because it just is,” I said.

Think about the implications for you. As you have embarked on either individual or team change initiatives in the past, where did your impatience or need for certainty derail either the effort or your psyche? In the future, what are the lessons for you contained in Steve’s story?

Specific Requests Require Definite Answers

Note From Rand

Here we are in May. In the mid-Atlantic, our temperatures have been hovering the 50s. If past is prologue, we’ll skate right from this to the 80s. I cannot wait! I’m a big baseball fan; it’s hard for me to get excited about that when I have to wear a couple of layers to go outdoors.

This month’s column discusses a customer experience issue that I had in a hotel. The incident and lessons, however, can be extrapolated to any type of business. When it comes to dealing with customers, I have VERY high expectations that organizational leaders should have the people and processes in place to guarantee customer delight.

I’ll see you in June. In the meantime and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going.

The Power of “No” – Specific Requests Require Definite Answers

I arrived to check in at my hotel in the middle of a long business trip. I approached the counter and was greeted by a pleasant young woman with her name emblazoned on a badge affixed to her shirt. It said “Melanie.” Underneath her name was printed one additional word – the dreaded “Trainee.”

I’m very careful to treat novices with the appropriate kid gloves. I have no expectation that a person with limited experience will have the authority or expertise to solve major problems. In this case, I didn’t expect to present any major issues to Melanie; I expected an uneventful check-in.

She greeted me cheerfully by name and took an imprint of my credit card. As she was about to reach for my key, I made the mistake of asking the following question: “Melanie, as I’m a super-duper member of your frequent guest program, do you think I could have an upgrade to the concierge level?”

She stared at me in terror. There was no one else around to ask. I expected Melanie to break out into a flop sweat like Albert Brooks in the movie Broadcast News. After about 30 very quiet seconds, she said, “Well, Mr. Golletz, I don’t know!”

I calibrated my response and tone to suit her inexperience. I didn’t want her to get turned off to a career in customer service, but I did want to teach Melanie a valuable lesson. I proceeded: “Well, who would know, and when will they know?”

I wasn’t improving Melanie’s self-confidence; she stared at me without a sound. I continued.

“Melanie, I can’t do anything with your response. Your ‘I don’t know’ assumes one of the following: that I’ll forget about it and just go to the room you had intended me to get, or that I’ll wait here for someone who can give me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on my request.

“I could decide the latter, but I’m tired and I’m sure you’re tired of me, so I’ll go to my room. I want you to remember a couple of things, however. ‘Yes’ is a good answer. ‘No’ is also a good answer. Both allow me to do something; they’re complete. ‘Maybe’ is not a good answer because it leaves me hanging. In this case, you could have said, “Mr. Golletz, I’m a trainee, and I don’t have the authority to make that decision. I apologize.” I would’ve been OK with that too.”

I hope Melanie learned something, and that she is in a position to teach others valuable lessons about service.

When dealing with customers or clients, specific requests require definite answers.

Later, the hotel’s General Manager called me, offered an apology and asked if we could meet. An hour later, I arrived at his office, and he offered me a basket of fruit. I accepted it but assured him that I had no expectation of a gift to compensate for my experience.

After a moment of chit-chat, he made a request: “Rand … please don’t blame Melanie (the front desk trainee) for the mix-up. She’s only a trainee.” My response chilled him: “I DON’T blame Melanie; I blame YOU!”

I then added the following: “You hire the people; you train the people; you’re responsible for their preparation or lack thereof. Therefore, if there’s blame for this, it rests with you. I don’t think, however, that blame serves a useful purpose. Blame begets fear. In this case, you unintentionally hanged Melanie out to dry. You now have a credibility issue with a member of your team.”

He got my point, and I returned to my room to find that in my absence, my stuff had been moved to a suite.

This incident was full of lessons for Melanie, her boss, for you, and for me:

  • If you want something, ask for it. Too often we harbor unarticulated expectations. When they go unfulfilled, we become frustrated, angry, and resentful. If you ask for something, you may or may not get it. If you DON’T, however, you’ll never know.
  • When dealing with customers, “maybe” is a lousy answer. When BEING a customer, settling for “maybe” may assure lousy service for the vendor’s NEXT customer/client.
  • Putting untrained people on the front line to deal with customers may facilitate their learning. It may also instigate ill will toward you by the customer. Make sure your customer-facing associates are either fully competent or are supported by an experienced back-up person.

I’m sure there’s more, but you get the idea.

The Importance of Trust

People in organizations talk about trust. Much of that time, however, is devoted to talking about others who they do NOT trust. I hear comments like the following with regularity:

• “I don’t trust my boss. He gives me an assignment and then micro-manages me.”

• (From a CEO) “I don’t trust that most people in the company are prepared to do the jobs that they’re supposed to do.”

• “My spouse doesn’t trust me. Whenever I go on a business trip, he gives me the ‘third degree’ when I return.”

Trust is a “loaded” word. It’s invoked in disparate situations, generally describing negative aspects of a relationship. In truth, it’s multi-dimensional.

When working with clients, I describe trust as having two broad meanings with many implications:

Trust is “confidence in competence.” This is frequently an overlooked definition of the word. Whether you are a boss, a team member, or just working among peers, the level of confidence you have in the competence of others (and they in you) determines levels of authority, autonomy, and responsibility that are delegated as well as accountability for results.

Trust is the “assumption of intent.” When you trust another person, you assume that he/she has positive intent. When you don’t trust that person, you assume that person’s negative intent. In this context, trust has a complex “anatomy” that includes the following:

Boundaries – I trust that you are clear about your boundaries and can hold them, and that you are clear about my boundaries and respect them.

Reliability – I can only trust you if you do what you say you are going to do – over and over and over again.

Accountability – I can only trust you if, when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, to apologize for it, and to make amends. I can only trust you if, when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, to apologize for it, and to make amends.

Vault – What I share with you, you hold in confidence; what you share with me; I hold in confidence; we do not share anything that is not ours to share (gossip). In our relationship, I see you acknowledge confidentiality; we do not create false intimacy by having a common enemy.

Integrity – I cannot trust you and be in a trusting relationship with you if you do not act from a place of integrity and encourage me to do the same (choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; practicing your values rather than just professing your values).

Non-judgment – I can fall apart, ask for help, and struggle without being judged by you; you can fall apart, ask for help and struggle without being judged by me; trust = help that is non-judgmental and reciprocal.

Generosity – Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intention, and behavior, and then check in with me.

Using these criteria, how many of us have truly trusting relationships in either our workplaces, our homes, or among friends? Real trust requires that we dissolve our egos. It’s courageous; wimps need not apply.

Trust is a lubricant that reduces friction, a bonding agent that glues together disparate parts, a catalyst that facilitates action. No substitute – neither the carrot nor the stick – does the job as well.

In every context, trust begins with a period of extending. In new relationships, we extend some degree of trust. As our actions provoke responses, positive or negative, we can withdraw, remain or extend our involvement further. While we need to be alert for danger signals, we also need to extend enough trust to move forward.

If you extend to a person who also extends, trust will grow between you. In any organization where people are trying to get a job done, we need to work at trusting others and encouraging them, through our actions, to trust us. Trust building is a dynamic process; an investment in the future. It isn’t blind; no investment ought to be. Like any investment, it’s a calculated risk. When we trust, we are braving a connection with someone else and creating an environment in which independent and interdependent actions create purpose and effectiveness.

A personal note: I am frequently better at elocution than execution along all of these dimensions. I view my shortcomings this way: It’s about progress, not perfection.

Do You Capitalize On Leverage?

Note From Rand

Welcome to March. Spring hasn’t quite sprung, but it’s close. It’s hard for me to fathom that after a lengthy career as an executive leader, I’ve spent the last fifteen years helping other leaders create and sustain success. Wait a minute – that makes me OLD!!

I once heard someone say that he had gotten so old and time was advancing so quickly, that he felt like he was having breakfast every fifteen minutes. I’m not quite to that point, but it’s close.

This month’s column addresses “leverage” – a concept that is often better understood abstractly than it is in practice. It’s one of the handful of things that can make a huge difference in your level of purpose and prosperity. Enjoy it; learn from it; use it. Until April and as always: Get real, get tough and get going.

Do You Capitalize On Leverage?

In the real estate world, we read and hear a lot about the power of leverage. Essentially, it means investing a limited amount of personal cash to geometrically increase net worth. Let’s say you buy a piece of rental property for $300,000 with a down payment of 20%. You laid out $60,000. The rental on the property covers your monthly mortgage and all of the expenses to maintain the property, so the investment is cash flow neutral (for simplicity sake).

In ten years, you anticipate selling the property for $600,000. After you pay off the mortgage, you get a return of $360,000 on your original investment of $60,000. Six times your down payment in ten years. Not bad. If this was new information for you, you’re probably reading the wrong newsletter. I do have two bigger points: First, leverage has power in every area of life. Second, the failure to exploit leverage will lead you to an unsatisfying life.

Let me explain.

My “bigger” definition of leverage is employing time, talent and money to create a disproportionately high level of value. Let’s take a look at a business example: Several years ago, one of my clients, John, owned one car dealership. His personal annual income and net worth ($500,000 and $3.5 million, respectively) were enviable for a guy in his early 40s. John was not, however, a happy camper. He had not taken a vacation of longer than three days in six years. His relationship with his family was tenuous, at best. He was also an anal, detail monger in the office. Although he professed that he trusted his people to do their jobs well, his demeanor portrayed something else. He submerged himself in almost every decision – even those for which he had no background or expertise – not because he added value, but because he could. His typical work week of 75 to 80 hours was a source of personal pride. John was also 50 lbs. overweight and suffering from high blood pressure because, he said, he was forced to eat on the run and had no time for a fitness regime.

Let’s review the bidding here: We have a financially successful guy with an unrewarding, unhealthy, unbalanced, obsessive/compulsive life. Is that what you want?

Four years later, here’s the picture: John has an income and net worth of $1.5 million and $12 million, respectively. Last year, he took off 180 days (that’s not a typo)! He has a hyper-qualified (and highly paid) president now running the business. He is working about 40 hours a week. John’s time in the office is now consumed in two areas: the performance and development of people and prospecting for acquisitions. His family life is much improved, and he has lost the 50 lbs. with a regular routine of running, lifting weights, yoga and meditation. His blood pressure has improved to 105/70.

The only difference in the “two Johns” is leverage. He now dedicates his time and talent to activities which give him a disproportionately high payback for the resources invested. That requires a complete understanding of his strengths and passions. Where they intersect, he wades in. Where they don’t, he steers clear.

Many, many business people become martyrs and then brag about it as if self-sacrifice is sexy! Tony Robbins says, “life rewards action.” That’s an incomplete assertion. Life really rewards RELEVANT action. In order to be relevant, action has to produce the results you intend. Otherwise, it’s just MOVEMENT. Relevant action must create leverage. Otherwise, personal and professional growth and success are not possible.

Don’t major in minor things. Use your own personal leverage to your advantage.

Development Lessons from RGIII and Aaron Rodgers

Note From Rand

We’ve almost arrived at Super Bowl Sunday – too much eating, too much drinking, and yes, sandwiched between all of those commercials there is actually a football game.

In keeping with that theme, I’m invoking two case studies this month. One is the story of Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins; the other is the story of Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. Comparing the journeys of these two gentlemen yields some interesting lessons regarding personal development that you can employ immediately. I think you’ll find them to be thought-provoking, instructive, and entertaining.

Until next month and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going!

Development Lessons from RGIII and Aaron Rodgers

If you read this publication, you absolutely know that I’m a sports fan. I’ve always been a participant as well as an observer. I believe in keeping a VERY active lifestyle. But I digress!

Along with many people (male and female) in the U.S., I’m an unabashed NFL fan. I cheer for the Washington Redskins, but I’m much more a fan of specific individuals. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Greg Olson are among my favorite players. Pete Carroll, (former coach) Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin are among my favorite coaches. The only common threads that exist among these people are their authenticity, resilience, perseverance and spirit of community service. I’ve researched each of these people’s “stories” in depth, because I’m fascinated by the pursuit of excellence in any field. I believe that success in team sports and team success in business are analogous.

Being a Redskins fan, I pay particular attention to developments among players and coaches there, looking for leadership (or lack thereof) nuggets, which brings me to my subject: Robert Griffin III, Aaron Rodgers and some lessons they can provide you.

Robert Griffin III was the ‘Skins phenom rookie quarterback in 2012. Having won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, having graduated 7th in his class and coming from a disciplined, respectful military family, RGIII went on to win NFL Rookie of the year. Two concerns that coaches and scouts had before the NFL draft his senior year in college: He was an undisciplined quarterback (lots of athletic skill but not much disciplined “quarterback intelligence”), and he had blown out a knee in college requiring ACL surgery with a protracted rehab.

Griffin dazzled during his first year in the NFL and took the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time in five years. In a midseason game, he injured his knee (the same knee on which he had surgery in college) but kept playing. In his first playoff game against the Seahawks, he once again tore his ACL, again requiring surgery.

When RGIII came back, he was not the same guy. He attempted to learn and perform in coach Mike Shanahan’s system. That required a bit less athleticism but a lot more brainpower. He was unsuccessful. The Redskins benched him after their preseason games in 2015 and moved on with great success to Kirk Cousins.

I spoke to several people who would know about Griffin’s inability or disinclination to work in a more cerebral system. Each said that team management believed he would come back post-surgery, learn to be an NFL quarterback rather than a free-wheeler and be successful. Why? Because they believed that he had the intelligence to do that. “Look at his college grades,” one person admonished. Robert Griffin was “book smart.”

Aaron RodgersAaron Rodgers grew up in California where he did well in school and was an undersized quarterback. He scored over 1300 on his SAT (when a perfect score was 1600). The combination of his football performance and academic performance led him to believe that he’d be highly recruited. His slight body (at the time) overrode his attributes and virtually no schools recruited him. Rodgers desperately wanted to develop as a football player, and he enrolled at a community college to hone his skills; he performed superbly. That led to a scholarship at The University of California at Berkeley where he again performed brilliantly and was expected to be one of the first three choices in the NFL draft. He was drafted twenty-fourth by the Packers, which was a great disappointment that further sharpened his “edge.”

As a Packer, Rodgers sat on the bench for three years behind Brett Favre who gave him little attention. When asked about that, Favre said, “It’s not my job to train the guy who may take my place.” When he eventually got the starting job in 2008, he was not a popular guy. Fans in Green Bay shouted, “We want Brett,” as Rodgers initially struggled. A few years later, Rodgers took the Packers to the Super Bowl, which they won. He also won the league MVP award twice and is a lock to be voted into the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Some vital information about Rodgers’ Intelligence BEYOND classroom smarts: He won celebrity Jeopardy last year, easily topping astronaut and physicist Mark Kelly and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary. Per people that know him, that victory came down to “his intelligence and reflexes” (i.e. an ability to process information quickly and click the buzzer fast). Both of which are critical attributes for a quarterback.

In addition to needing only two days to memorize his college playbook (which he did), Rodgers has a quick, integrative mind. He can process lots of diverse information, integrate it into a cohesive whole, make a decision as to what to do with that cohesive whole, and take action with that decision almost instantaneously. “Classroom smart” may be a necessary component of quarterback success; “performance quick” is even more so.

Here’s what this means for you: Most of us think of “strengths” and “weaknesses” in very general terms. I hear CEOs ALL THE TIME describe people (for example) as being “smart,” as having “people skills,” or being “analytical.” Those are abstract terms that are useless when it comes to personal development. Robert Griffin is smart; so is Aaron Rodgers. In order to really understand the application and utility of each of their intelligence, one must be able to describe what each is able to DO!

When an executive tells me that one of his/her associates is (again, for example) not a good collaborator, I ask the following: “When he is not being a good collaborator, what is he doing that he should stop doing, and what is he not doing that he should start doing?” If the executive says: “In staff meetings, he intimidates people,” I ask the same two questions again, until we get to the root of the issue in terms that are behavioral, action-oriented, specific and granular.

Redskins management should have known that integrative thinking and processing speed were not among Robert Griffin’s strengths when they charged him with leading an offense that was complex and wouldn’t depend solely on athleticism. YOU should know your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the people who report to you, in finite detail, or your development initiatives will be wasted.

This is a Test – Just the Facts

Note From Rand

It’s January in Maryland, and we’ve yet to receive one snowflake. I LOVE IT! We may pay for this later, but our winter has so far been a non-event. As I write this, I can see boats out on the water in St. Michaels. After a couple of tough winters, this is a welcomed respite.

If anyone had told me in September that the Redskins would make the playoffs, I’d have recommended a psychiatric exam. Low and behold, here they are. This Sunday – the Packers. I predicted in September of 2013 and 2014 that the Seahawks would win the Super Bowl. I was correct once and incorrect once. This year, I also predicted a Seattle Super Bowl victory, and I see no reason to change that prediction now.

This month’s column challenges your decision-making objectivity with a test. You’ll have some fun with it and hopefully learn something about your unconscious biases and preconceptions.

Until February and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going.

Just the Facts

I’ve often written in the past about decision-making biases. ALL OF US rely to some degree on decision-making approaches that yield suboptimum results. Most of those are unconscious. An example is the human tendency to use past experiences, even if statistically insufficient, to make critical decisions about the future. Another – confirmation bias – compels us to depend on evidence that conforms to our preconceptions and ignores evidence that contradicts our preconceptions. There are a lot more of these.

Emotion vs. Mind

The discipline of Behavioral Economics examines the ways in which human psychology intersects with traditional economic theory. The concepts are easy to understand and still easier to apply TO OTHERS when we see examples. However, we rarely if ever, see evidence of those decision-making biases IN OURSELVES.

To illustrate and instruct, I often ask a group of executives to take a “test” that involves reading a simple three-paragraph story, and then answering twelve questions about what they read. That test follows. Read the instructions, and then answer the questions. At the conclusion, I’ll ask you to consider the ways in which your preconceptions or biases may have affected your answers. I’ll include the correct answers, but don’t read ahead, or you’ll be wasting your time.


Read the following story, and then respond to the statements that follow with True, False, or Unknown.

The supervisor yelled at the new recruit.

The young man waited until the supervisor was gone and poured sand into the machine, smiling and shaking his head.

Later that month, the boss discovered the problem and fired him.


I. After being yelled at, the young man poured
something into the machine.

II. Two men are involved in this story.

III. If the supervisor had not yelled at the young man,
he might not have ruined the machine.

IV. It took the supervisor one month to realize that
the new recruit had ruined the machine.

V. Sand was put into the machine.

VI. One man yelled at another; the new recruit poured
sand in a machine; someone was fired.

VII. The supervisor fired the new recruit.

VIII. The new recruit was a man.

IX. The new recruit got revenge on the supervisor,
but the supervisor retaliated in the end.

X. No one was fired.

XI. The new recruit waited until the boss was
gone before pouring sand in the machine.

XII. When the supervisor found that sand had been
poured in the machine, he fired the young man.

It seems like a pretty easy exercise, but it’s not. Its simplicity illustrates the point that even in routine situations, we frequently over-rely on our inner voice of experience, bias, or speculation when making decisions.

The correct answers: Number 5 is true; number 10 is false. All the rest are unknown. Go back and tabulate your score. If you got them all correct, you are in a VERY small minority. A few questions for those of you who DIDN’T get them all correct:

• What assumptions did you make where no facts were given?

• What preconceptions or biases might be the source of those assumptions?

• When confronted with more difficult decisions, how might your decision-making be clouded, and what might be the consequences of that?

• What formal decision-making structures and methods do you have in place to countervail legitimate or incomplete intuition, as well as biases and preconceptions? How well are those structures and methods serving you?

I help executives create formal structures for legitimate decision-making. Those honor experience and intuition, but recognize that ALL of us rely too heavily on arriving at the answers we WANT rather than those that we NEED.

What Were Bill Walsh’s Secrets of Success?

Note From Rand

I feel like I’m living in some kind of alternative reality. The Redskins are in first place after eleven games of the NFL season. I am a fan, but I don’t expect a deep playoff run from a team whose record is five wins and six losses. Still – things are looking up.

Speaking of game changers regarding football, my column this month is about the late, great Bill Walsh. His coaching credentials and record put him in the upper echelon of NFL coaches and executives. His 49er teams in the 1980s, led by Joe Montana (the best name of a quarterback – EVER), set a standard of professionalism, discipline and class envied by other coaches and business people.

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, and I equally hope that we in the mid-Atlantic enjoy a temperate winter. I’ll see you in January. Until then and as always: Get real, get tough and get going.

What Were Bill Walsh’s Secrets of Success?

Bill Walsh is generally considered to be the second best coach in the history of the NFL (after Lombardi). People called him a genius because he concocted novel offenses. As head coach and President of the San Francisco 49ers in the 80s, he won four Super Bowls. He embodied technical expertise, vision, creativity and execution excellence. He communicated directly and without equivocation. He knew what he wanted; he was not demure.

Steven Covey had his “seven habits.” Bill had thirteen. Those follow along with the implications for you!

1. Be Yourself: I know business leaders who try to emulate the “style” of others. Not a good idea. What IS a good idea is to integrate things from your observations of others that coincide with your own personal substance, style, and expertise. Only then will you demonstrate consistency, authenticity and commitment.

2. Be Committed to Excellence: I HATE the word excellence as I feel it is too generic. Walsh used it, so I will here.

During three decades in football, Bill developed what he called his “Standards of Excellence.” Those standards were the explicit responsibilities and accountabilities to which he held EVERYONE in the 49ers organization. They were supported by precise objectives for each person. Obviously, a player had different objectives than a person who worked in Public Relations, but the overall standards were the same. Think of the standards as strategies.

3. Be Positive: Many managerial leaders are hyper-critical. They give very little attention to positive reinforcement. They believe that approval and gratitude will encourage complacency. That’s just bull*#%t. If you believe that developing people is a part of your job, then setting expectations and giving encouragement are two of your primary responsibilities. I’ve found that leaders with whom I’ve worked who rely only on negative feedback are insecure people.

4. Be Prepared (Good luck is a product of good planning): Planning is critical. It translates generalities into specifics, long-term vision into short term targets, reduces complexity and gets people with diverse interests on the same page. However, it doesn’t guarantee preparedness for the unexpected. General George Patton said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” He went on to say that you still have to have a plan so that as things change, you can examine which of your assumption were faulty.

As a leader, you have to be constantly asking this question: “What happens when what is SUPPOSED to happen, DOESN’T happen?”

5. Be Detail-Oriented: Per Walsh: “Organizational excellence evolves from the perfection of details relevant to performance and production.” I agree with him TO A POINT. As a leader, WHICH details you pay attention to is extremely important. If you are leading 10,000 people through four layers of management, you cannot possibly be plugged into everything. If you are, you’re a micro-manager. You MUST be acquainted in a specific way, however, with the accountabilities of your direct reports and of the critical initiatives managed by their people.

6. Be Organized: A symphony orchestra wouldn’t sound very good without each musician knowing what to play and when to play it. Your job as a leader is to manage in the “white spaces” by making sure that your expectations of individuals are integrated both in planning and execution. The whole must be greater than the sum of the parts.

7. Be Accountable: “Accountable” is a word that business people throw around A LOT! Real accountability means “consequences for the achievement of planned results.” That doesn’t imply that accountability is a negative concept. When salespeople sell more, they should earn more. When project managers consistently miss cost objectives and target dates … you get the idea.

8. Be Near-Sighted and Far-Sighted: The best leaders understand the importance of getting things done TODAY. Simultaneously, however, they integrate their thinking and execution so that short-term priorities don’t compromise long-term direction, or that their long-term perspective isn’t so abstract, ethereal or impractical that they’re useless.

9. Be Fair: I call this being “values-focused.” Both you and your organization must stand for something. That must be reflected in your short-term decisions and actions. If, for example, your company espouses the value of “openness” and yet your leaders consistently “shoot the messenger,” it amounts to hypocrisy.

10. Be Firm: Successful leaders … successful PEOPLE … know where and when to stand their ground. They also understand that compromise is frequently necessary. One cannot make EVERYTHING a matter of principle. Conversely, core values, standards of performance and important principles shouldn’t be forsaken in the interest of expediency.

11. Be Flexible: I’m a planning nut. I subscribe to the adage “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” One has to be mindful of changing circumstances, however. Great managers don’t continue to “march east looking for a sunset” merely because their egos require them to be right, or their stubbornness makes them myopic.

12. Believe in Yourself: To a large degree, people take their behavioral cues from organizational leaders. Those leaders must demonstrate confidence without arrogance. Leaders must have not only confidence in themselves but also in their people.

13. Be a Leader: One of my favorite quotes: “Managers get people to DO what needs to be done; leaders get people to WANT to do what needs to be done.” Management is an exercise in planning, staffing, organizing and controlling. Leadership, by contrast, involves setting direction and aligning people with that direction. Both are important. People will only align/commit themselves to their organization’s direction if they believe in it, if they are supported, and if they understand in a granular way how what they do contributes to overall organizational success. Commitment cannot be mandated; it has to be earned!

There you have it. Now you know SOME of Walsh’s secrets. As a colleague of mine once said: “Simple, but not easy!”

Do You Strive for the Brutal Truth?

Note From Rand

What happened to summer? At my home in St. Michaels, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay, most of the boats have been taken out of the water, and people are harder to find. They spend more time in their primary residences as the weather gets colder. I still love it here in the winter; it’s quiet and provides a great atmosphere for contemplation.

My column this month is designed to help you make more fact-based decisions. It’s instructive and specific. I think you’ll like it.

I’ll see you in December. Until then and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going.

You Must Get to the Brutal Truth

“Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice,
and a PROFOUND tendency to see what they want to see
rather than what is really there.”
Dr. M. Scott Peck

Discovering areas of your life and/or business that require some work to improve is a meaningful first step in the change process. Alone, however, it’s insufficient. Life rewards action. I’ve found that doing things differently in the future than in the past requires tough-minded discipline – a fierce dedication to doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the way it needs to be done – every time! Old behavior patterns are difficult to break. The fact that they are patterns suggests that they’ve been repeated, reinforced and repeated over and over again.

I’ve developed an analysis process for people courageous enough to
• explore the reasons for their patterns.

• consider the consequences of their choices and actions.

• align their actions with their espoused priorities.

I call this process the Brutal Truth. Notice the subtitle: get real, get tough, get going. I believe that any relevant change requires those three major action steps.

Get Real
This concerns rigorous, relentless honesty and objectivity. It requires confronting things as they are, not as you’d like them to be.

Get Tough
This step deals with developing the thick skin and character required to be tough-minded as a way of life; however, don’t infer hard-headedness or cold-heartedness. The former characterizes people who resist input or feedback that challenges their preconceptions; the latter describes those who punish either themselves or others for the “way things are.”

Get Going
I’ve worked with many people adept at honesty, objectivity and tough-mindedness who unfortunately accomplish nothing. They know what to do, but they never actually do it. Again, you must remember that life rewards action.

The Framework
The following questionnaire will take you from intention to action on any given issue. An explanation/elaboration follows each question.

I. What is the problem, opportunity or issue that requires attention?

Refer to an issue that you determined to be a priority. For example, you may have decided that competition is endangering your business.

II. What evidence do you have that confirms that this is a problem, opportunity or issue requiring attention?

• What are the data and hard facts?
• What does your intuition tell you?
• To what degree do your preconceptions and past experience make objective evaluation difficult?

Webster defines truth as “the body of real things, events, and facts.” The operative words are “real” and “facts.” Real facts are unassailable; they’re indisputable; they just are. They pass the test of “reasonable scientific certainty.” 2 + 2 = 4 is a fact. “My business is teetering on failure because of competition” is not a fact.

The Brutal Truth is the state of certainty to which successful people aspire. It implies fact-based analysis and decision-making. It differentiates facts from legitimate but incomplete intuition. It requires the ego-less testing of assumptions and the relentless scrutiny of preconceptions. It explains results in terms of valid reasons, but it never translates reasons into excuses.

Arriving at the Brutal Truth is difficult. As humans, we all cling to our own ideas and perspectives as if they represent the truth rather than merely our truth. It’s a protective mechanism that helps us make sense out of nonsense, bring order to chaos, and validate our own rules for how the world works.

The “subquestions” in this section are designed to get you to the real issue.

III. After answering the second question, is your answer to the first question still the problem, opportunity or issue that requires attention?

After putting your issue through the truth test in question II, has your answer to the first question changed? Perhaps, for example, your original assumption merely scratched the surface. The issue you identified is really only a symptom of something deeper or something else. This question is a good checkpoint, and a place to stop and reassess.

IV. To the best of your knowledge, what are the causes of #1 being a problem, opportunity or issue worth your attention?

• What are the data and hard facts?
• What does your intuition tell you?
• To what degree do your preconceptions and past experience make objective evaluation difficult?

This question intends to get at the root cause(s) of your answer to question I. The subquestions, identical to those in II, will aid in getting to an answer that is as close to being objective as possible.

V. What will happen if you do nothing?

Actions have consequences; so does inaction. On occasion, a problem requires no action. This question highlights this fact.

VI. What are your desired results?

Remember – to be legitimate, results must either be measurable or observable.

VII. What alternative actions can you take to bring about the results you want?

• What obstacles must be overcome?
• What opportunities exist?
• What strengths can be leveraged?
• What are the possible unintended consequences that may occur as a result of the alternative actions you documented?
• What will the “cause and effect” time span be between each of the alternative actions and the results you want?

This (number VII) is the source for your objectives and action plans. The reason for considering alternatives is to put each to the test of the sub-questions that follow. A few points about those:

• Every action we take to produce a result we want confronts obstacles. You need to identify those of which you are aware and document them. Some may be more subtle and tougher to identify than others. Some may test your will more than others. Answering this question, in a rigorous way and to the degree that you can, will provide two benefits. First, it will help you accept the fact that personal change requires conviction, will, discipline and a very thick skin. Second, it’ll help you consider appropriate actions for the time when those obstacles arise.

• Issues are best dealt with, opportunities are best exploited, and problems are best solved by dealing from strength. Peter Drucker once said that the primary job of management is to “make strength productive and render weakness irrelevant.” He was speaking from an organizational context, but the situation is no different for you as an individual. Leveraging your strengths will help you to build momentum more quickly and to achieve the results you want.

• Two of the immutable rules of cause and effect: All causes have unintended effects, and cause and effect are almost always remote in time and place. When you take an action, something(s) you didn’t expect is (are) going to happen. Also, when you take an action, your desired result will almost never happen immediately. Knowing this in advance will help you confront your impatience and craft reasonable timelines both on paper and in your psyche.

There you have it. Effective problem solving requires effective reasoning. That, in turn, requires relentless dedication to the truth regardless of the cost or consequences.