March 2011

A few years back I was engaged in some Small Business consulting assignments coaching Entrepreneurs desiring to take their businesses to the Next Level.  I was introduced to a distressed Owner whose endeavors to grow his business had resulted in agonizing quality glitches and dreadful performance deficiencies.  More than counsel, he required “hands on” development and implementation of a reliable proficient Operational Structure and Process before he could advance with his exceptional Sales Strategy and apprehend the growth he envisioned.  We met several times to deliberate his anxieties.  Although the project was relatively un-daunting for me, as I provided “off the cuff” resolutions, he was apprehensive to “pull the trigger” and hire me for the assignment.  Just as I believed we were there, he requested another meeting.  As he set forth upon his familiar nervous

The Real Thing!

path asking about my methods, interactions, and approaches it became evident we were headed down the similar track as the preceding four meetings.  One thought reverberated inside my head, “What do I have to do to get this guy to let go of his fear and understand I am his solution.”

He initiated again, “John, if I engaged you for this project, how…?”  I did not even heed the remainder of his query.  Instead I shifted from my comfortable conversational position, released my smile, and pitched forward with both hands forcefully clinched together on his desk.  I stared right through him and with a deep concentrated adagio tone I began, “Paul, I know you are nervous about letting a stranger into your company to effect such an important change with your people.”  Capitulating, he dropped his shoulders but before his next word could escape his lips, the intensity and concentration of my face silenced him.  Resolutely, I leaned into his space, paused until he was craving my next words and then solemnly declared, “Paul, I am the ‘real f—ing thing’ here, and I know what I’m doing.”  Slightly startled, he gazed right back at me and scrutinized to see if I would break.  I stiffened, and finally heard those words I had been anticipating all month, “Can you start tomorrow?”  Permitting my smile to return and relaxing back, I let Paul know everything was going to be alright with a “You bet!” It wasn’t solutions but rather convictions that made the difference.

We have all endured those endless meetings where everything is adeptly laid out.  The dialogue is smart and on target.  Relevant questions are countered with thoughtful ripostes.  Some great concepts surface and everyone approves they move forward.  The brilliance, logic, and impenetrability of the proposal make it destined for success.  And yet, as the group exoduses the room the strategy begins its passage into the abyss of “lost ideas” where it will meet a sluggish obscure demise.  Regardless of the time, thought, and coordination that went into the plan, it is destined to Die.  Why?  Because an idea, a plan, a program, no matter how dazzling, has no life.  By themselves they are DOA!

People will follow Leaders only because of the Passion they bring to their ideas.  They may reason an idea to be successful, but if you want people inspired to action, they must “believe” in your idea.  And they must believe you believe in it.  Passion when applied to an idea or plan creates an intrinsic feeling among people which confirms they are working for something of value.  With Passion comes truth.  And contained within the fulfillment of the Human Endeavor is an essential yearning to see truth become a reality in our lives.  Passion is Life!

Passion is a combination of a penetratingly deeply felt Emotion, relentlessly driven by an unwavering Commitment, which is forge-burned into one’s psyche through Intensity.  Passion is the sine qua non with which we invest our intimate personal human capital in a truthfully remarkable idea.  Passion dives deeper than identifying the activities we enjoy.  Passion defines us, who we are and what we stand for.  When Passion is connected with an extraordinary Thought people are compelled into Action.

Leading Compelling Action

There is a story telling of three bricklayers working side-by-side who are each asked what they are doing.  The first replies, “I’m making $10.00 an hour”.  The second acknowledges his work with. “I’m building a wall”.  And the third looks up to an empty sky and smiles, “I am building a Cathedral”.  While each man is performing the same task, we can certainly conjecture which one is performing at his finest.  Only one worker has a Passion for his effort.  This is the Key for Leaders:  Passion creates a reality where people are willing to invest in an entity greater than themselves and more meaningful than any company.  People working for Passionate Causes, are determined to create extraordinary results because their motive is grand.  Passionate pursuits undermine the limitations of personal inabilities and the smallness of selfishness crafting an atmosphere where anything is possible.  The best of people will want to reside and thrive in a Passionate environment.

Having a Passion for your ideas does not mean for each newfangled idea you cultivate a new Passion.  Leaders who attempt to “sell” new Passions are rapidly indicted with a

Get Naked, Get Real, Get Happy by Kevin Rafferty

“flavor of the month” manipulation which quickly disenfranchises everyone but the most gullible of “suck ups”.  A new mentor of mine, Kevin Rafferty, coaches executives in finding their Passions.  In his book,Get Naked, Get Real, Get Happy: Becoming Your Authentic Self”,Kevin helps Leaders recognize and understand their “Core Passion” through his Passion Exercise.  Kevin relates our Core Passion as the one whose common theme or thread runs through our other Passions.

Passion connects our thinking and feeling parts of being human. It makes us feel bigger, better, bolder, more alive.

Kevin Rafferty

As a Leader you must exhibit Passion for what you unreservedly believe in.  The Passion for the primary singular objective which is at the Core of why you are doing what you are doing must be evident to all.  Your passion must come through as an outstanding quality which you exemplify every day in which people feel they know who you are down to the Core and why they want to be associated with you.

Are we not, those of us who observe others whose passions are worn on their sleeves, in awe of them, maybe even a bit envious because they somehow seem to be more of something, be it successful, creative, happy, or joyful?

Kevin Rafferty

I can think of little else which would compete with Passion in its ability for contagiousness.  People gravitate towards it, they rise to it, and they suck at it for life.  Passion is a universal.  It generates an urge which exceeds logic and creates a sense of action.  A team driven with a common passion becomes a mighty force to compete with. A Leader who can find Motivated People, Build an A–Team with them and create a Passionate reason for them to accomplish goals will continually reach new heights of Success.

Whether your Core Passion is Quality, People, Relationships, Excellent Design, Profitability, etc., guarantee you understand your internal driver completely.  Then focus on entwining it throughout your agenda and everyday expectations.  Be the walking, talking, living, breathing epitome of your Passion.  My Core Passion is “Winning”.  I hate to lose and truly detest second place.  I want anyone with me to feel my beating driving desire to Win!  Winning means we have bravely competed against formidable odds by wielding the “best of ourselves” and attained a “perfect moment” christened Victory.  Be a Street Smart Leader and next time you have to lean across the table to show someone who you really are and what you’re made of, just unleash some of your personal brand of Passion. Show them that you are the Real Thing!


One of the incomparable sensations of any Leader’s quest for achievement is the realization that his toiled unbreakable determination has prevailed through difficulties and overwhelmed impediments to finally grasp a triumph which becomes recognized and honored with the bequeathment of a Promotion.  In this moment his chest lifts and his eyes gaze onward to the promise of a brighter future.  Proudly he carries the “fruit of his labor” home and celebrates his exhilaration with his family.  It is a time of jubilation which builds a sense of rising and evolving self-worth and value.

The determination of Promotions extends beyond sheer accomplishments and reflects additional dynamics such as character, values, fit, and potential Leadership facility.

Promotions are a culmination of what you have done, who you are and how much you can grow.  A Promotion validates you have “what it takes” to contribute to the company’s impending success.  This “whole picture” amalgamation of attributes often results in a promotion being awarded to someone other than the highest statistical performer of a group.  And therefore, as the freshly endorsed manager is reveling at home, some peers are congregating around their dining tables questioning and rebuking the verdict of upper management.  However contented and supportive they were as peers, the game has now transformed and the newly anointed one begins all over again, trying to prove himself as their new Leader.

Managing former peers is one of the most difficult encounters in a Leader’s career.  Whether a front line position or breaking into the C-Level, he must now lead the group that he has been a part of.  They have seen him bare, candid, and imperfect.  He must be prepared to encircle the uncomfortable and problematic challenge of power if he is to effectively cultivate this new station of leadership among his peers.

My first leap into this abyss remains crystal clear in my mind.  At 17 years of age, I began working loading trucks in the shipping department and managed to pick up slightly better tasks as my drive and ethic was detected.   One day my twentyish peers were submerged in a gossip involving our manger’s purported scandalous behavior.  With the scuttlebutt swelling, each professed their personal prophecies of the outcome.  On the first count, everyone had it exact as the manager was dishonorably relegated back to the group.  But their flapping jaws suddenly twisted to open mouth silence when our revered and crusty Transportation Director, Marvin Shultz, ordained me the new manager.  With Marvin’s iron-handed mentoring, I traversed through the initial scorn and doubt and began my initiation into managing my former peers.  Moving out from peers repeated itself often over the ensuing years as I climbed the corporate ladder and with each new promotion, I learned how to more adeptly master the next one.

If you find yourself in this position, Congratulations, “take a bow”, you have done well.  Next, immediately abandon any idealistic philosophies about how you might still be a part of the gang and how nothing has to change between you and them.  You are now their boss.  There are those who are exultant for you without necessarily acquiescing their validation, those who are covetous or distressed and those who just do not care.  Regardless of where they stand, Get over it!  As their boss you are there to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Your focus must shift to building a strong A-Team from within them.  It is not about keeping or making friends.  It is about creating results to further the goals of your company.  Your peers will not accept you as their boss until “you” accept that you are their boss.

The two most substantial recommendations I can make when leading former peers is to embark on your new relationship as a Tough Leader and carry yourself Quietly Bold.  You can always temper toughness as directives become effortlessly accepted and engaged by all.  But leniency in the hopes of being affable followed by an attempt to harden up later, when necessary, becomes a fool’s mission.  Disregard bravado and any urge for chest pounding.  A boisterous style will appear as if the power has gone to your head.  Ensure you are listening and discerning your new team’s reactions.  Focus on understanding and prioritizing your boss’s agenda.  Be unobtrusive, but do not yield to manipulations or intimidations.  Be bold enough to make decisions, take stands, and have honest conversations.  Set about your new relationships as tough, quiet and bold.

During your first 30 days as a new leader you must size up your team quickly and understand their dynamics and propensities towards you.  It is a common mistake to believe your friends will help you and your detractors will try and harm you.  There are many possible outcomes as your tenure progresses.  Friends can become quickly frustrated with your new obligations and can become very difficult to manage.  And prior skeptics may welcome the changes you are pioneering and get on board easier than you think.  You can categorize your team members into Supporters, Apathetics, and Dissenters who will be either weld influence or not.  Understanding how to use each group to your advantage is a key to early success. My experience is that 50% of your newly inherited group will not be with you in one year.

Sizing Up Your New Team

Once you have sized up your Team it is time for you to begin to take action.  By now, you should possess a vibrant passionate understanding of your boss’s goals and priorities and what he expects of you and your team to advance his purpose.  During your Start-Up Cycle your complete focus is to accomplish your boss’s short term objectives.  There will be abundant opportunity to initiate your own ideas and campaigns once you have built a “power base” with your boss.  The Start-Up Cycle delivers meaningful results to confirm that your benefactor made the right decision in spite of what he will be hearing from the “back door” Dissenters you are dealing with.

The Start-Up Cycle begins with communicating what needs to be executed with your Team and garnering their contribution as to how the task might be best accomplished.  Do not open the agenda to the mistake of asking the team “what should we do?”  Stick with your mandates and focus your discussion and efforts on “how” you are going to carry out your tasks.  This is a time to raise the expectations of your team, particularly from your Supporters.  Let them know you expect the very best they have to give in pursuit of the Team’s Goals.  Do not debate the task and kill any serious opposition if you are tested.  Be passionate about winning the issue.  With each footstep of improvement progress is multiplied and your power base is strengthened.  Repeating the Start-Up Cycle several times with different directives throughout your first six months will build a foundation of confidence with your boss.  This foundation will place you in a position to reward your Supporters, eradicate your Dissenters, and coerce Apathetics “off of the fence”.  From this position of strength you will be able to launch your own enterprises for the future advance of your team and career.

The first months of leading your former peers are a crucial time.  You are under close examination and scrutiny from above and beneath (not to mention your new peer group).  This is a time for self-improvement; for learning new things, absorbing new ideas, and demonstrating new skills. It is a time for you to dress better, think better, and be better.  You must conduct yourself as a leader, size-up your support, and demonstrate your ability to accomplish the important tasks which your boss has charged you with.  Place your feet squarely on the ground with purpose and determination void of manipulations from Friends and negotiations with Dissenters.  A Street Smart Leader rises above the tribulations of his former peer group and confidently looks forward to the future.

read more about “The Challenge for Your Authority


How You Recognize Them
Supporters believe that change is necessary and they possess the skills and the desire to help you accomplish your mission The apathetic are often considered harmless and ignored.  But these “fence sitters” are the hidden threat to your agenda.  They are waiting to see if you make it. The dissenters clearly wish to maintain the status quo by watching you fail in any way possible. They do not want to change … at least for your benefit.
Who They Are
Supporters of Influence are your biggest asset to generating change and creating success Fence Sitters of Influence detract commitment from others stealing valuable time and resources This group is Challenging Your Authority and will deliberately attempt to trip you up.
What They Say
“What wall do you want us to run through next?” “I’ve heard all this before.” “Why do I have to listen to you?”
How to Use Them
These Champions can get quick points on the board to validate your cause.  They set the standards for the group and make those “not on board” look obvious. The Apathetic must be pressured and confronted from the beginning.  Most will not have the guts to become dissenters and instead become Non-Influence Supporters These double threats must be identified quickly.  Within the first six months you will want to fire the ringleader of this group regardless of their importance. Play it smart and they will give you the opportunity
Who They Are
These Supporters are willing to quickly follow success and do their part. This group is not a threat, but they can suck the passion from a program. They will try and stay under the radar. These Dissenters are stifled by the ringleaders and are non-performers.  They believe you are not going to make it.
What They Say
“I think he has good ideas.” “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” “I’ll do as little as I can to keep my job.”
How to Use Them
Keep these supporters closely in the loop and feeling a part of the team.  Do not spend too much time with this group they will follow. They are your “work horses”. At best this group becomes your “C-Players”. Begin to weed them out from the beginning and replace with Supportive Influencers. These misguided followers often helps make your best case for need to change.  To almost everyone they recognizably the “problem”.  With the ringleader fired this group quickly falls apart.  Eventually you will end up firing most of this group.