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!


Enterprising Leaders have incessantly been engrossed in the bearing of morale on results throughout the ages, but the recent economic degeneration has unreservedly smashed businesses over the skull creating an upshot of gut-punched workers.  Having survived copious rounds of layoffs, unnerving uncertainty for their futures, relentless reactive upheaving change, and fearful atmospheres of overwrought anxiety, many employees are fighting off a recessionary post traumatic exhaustion.  We are experiencing soars in

productivity from a workforce that has been coerced to toil protracted arduous hours for less compensation.  This phantom productivity gain has been compelled by survival instincts rather than tangible productivity improvements generated through process improvement, technology application, six sigma strategies, and the like.   The Gallup Management Journal’s semi-annual Employee Engagement Index puts the current percentage of truly “engaged” employees at 29 percent. A slim majority, 54 percent, falls into the “not engaged” category, while 17 percent of employees are “actively disengaged.”  Just as the workforce is anticipating a respite, Leaders are contriving to exploit the productivity upsurge to gain a jump on the impending economic recovery.  A keen Street Smart Leader will possess the facility to elevate morale throughout this opportunistic fiscal transition, re-engage his team, and leap beyond his competition.

Several years ago I was being interviewed by a mid-range “human-resourcer” for a national executive leadership position I was very intrigued in.  As we progressed through his predictable tedious entreaties, I endeavored to generously respond with the mundane conventional ripostes that would amply check off his questionnaire and propel me forward in their process.  Everything was proceeding smartly and then he hit me with it.  “How do you motivate people?”  As my brain filtered through the imaginable index-card retorts I had stored from the management books, my gut tightened and sent a repulsing shot back to my throat causing me to choke on the “canned” answer.  There I was, a moment of truth.  My brain pushed headstrong with an internal argument of, “Just answer the question and move on.  What are you doing?”  But my guts countered for a grasp of authenticity and challenged, “You are not going to cave-in on this one too, are you?”  With my integrity intact, I innately postponed my quest for employment as I leaned in, looked the neophyte straight in the eye and authoritatively responded, “I do not believe you can motivate others.  People must be motivated for their own reasons.  Without understanding this, you are only manipulating them”.  As he writhed to recoup his speech along with the decision of whether to not drop his pen or not drop his clipboard, I knew my unconventional position had closed the interview.

The first step in having a motivated A-Team is to hire motivated people.  Although this concept may appear sophomoric at first, take a moment and reflect on how many unmotivated people you know.  Motivation is not a given that can be taken for granted.  Motivation is a value which some people possess and act upon and some do not.  As with all values, you cannot thrust motivation upon an individual through mandate.  No matter how strong of a manager you believe yourself to be, the best you can accomplish with an un-motivated player is short-term manipulation.  Constantly manipulating your employees is a trying and tiring methodology for the long run.  Unmotivated workers must be culled from the workforce if there is to be a chance for good morale to succeed.

Although you cannot motivate someone else, you can be diligent in understanding what motivates each motivated member of your team and then support their motivation with an enriched environment for it to thrive.  Thriving motivation equals exceptional morale.  To understand what goes into a moral supporting environment, let us look to the studies of psychologist Frederick Herzberg, who in 1959 published his “Dual Structure Theory”.   Herzberg rejected the prevalent manipulation methodology of “stick and carrot” (which he dubbed KITA for “kick in the ass”) and developed two lists: Motivator Factors and Hygiene Factors.  He believed that Motivator Factors lead to satisfaction and Hygiene Factors lead to dissatisfaction.   He proposed that Motivator and Hygiene Factors operate independently of each other based on their psychological impact and therefore are not opposites of each other.  So the lack of satisfaction does not equal dissatisfaction, it equals “no” satisfaction.

Herzberg’s theory can be summarized as follows:

The understanding of Herzberg’s Theory has been widely adopted and expanded upon.  Managers everywhere have committed to fulfill these necessities with an assortment of policies, programs, and initiatives.   Rages of “new age” thinking to promote cultures of “feeling good” have saturated the workplace in the hope of fashioning “good morale”.  Here is a short list of ill-fated ideas I plucked from the internet for improving morale:

  • Encourage employees to discuss their problems
  • Protect employees from unfair criticism
  • Develop salary and review guidelines
  • Make training available
  • Encourage employees to rotate jobs
  • Implement rewards to show appreciation
  • Use team building games

This partial list could go on with multitudes of formulas for attempting to make people “feel better”.  The problem with them is that their successes are short lived at best and quickly revert back to “carrot and stick” mentalities.   Herzberg contends management not only must provide hygiene factors to avoid employee dissatisfaction, but also must provide factors intrinsic to the work itself in order for employees to be satisfied with their jobs.  Accomplishing all of this with any half dozen initiatives is an impossibility.  Focusing on individual programs to increase morale is a short-lived waste of time.  A Leader must determine how to raise morale with a complete comprehensive approach to Herzberg’s Theory which will deliver long-lasting and far-reaching impacts for his team.

A Leader acknowledges the absolute answer to achieving incomparable morale through a team of motivated people comes down to one unconquerable action –WINNING!

This lesson was brought home last weekend when my wife and I were lunching at a deli-counter and she leaned over to me and asked what kind of ring the gentleman next to her was wearing.  I recognized it, but encouraged her to ask him.  As she inquired, the seventy-something year old man, who had been fixated on the behind the counter action, softly left his trance and proceeded to take off his Superbowl Ring for my wife to adorn.  As she slipped the humongous golden hoop onto her slender finger, Pro George Timberlake

began to tell us of his days as a Green Bay Packer in the mid-1950s.  He became animated and enthusiastic as he shared his tales of the pre-facemask, pre-Lombardi, and pre-money days of football.  I noticed him straighten up slightly as he pointed out how he played both offense and defense in those days, never coming off of the field.  A light beamed from him as he chronicled his contribution to the genesis of the National Football League and the bestowment years later of his honorary ring.  As his story extended and he described his trade to the Washington Redskins, his shoulders began to faintly slump again.  He became more solemn and dismayed as he spoke of departing football to “get a real job”.  Expecting to hear of a horrific injury, I asked him why he left the game.  With his head sagging a bit and his eyes downcast he slowly returned the prized ring to his finger and explained, “…the Redskins could not win a game and after a few years of continuously losing, the situation was just miserable.”  So he left what most would consider the dream-job of a lifetime.

Show me any winning team and I will show you exceptional morale.  Reflect back on those champagne-flying locker room celebrations you have witnessed after championships … that is what morale looks like and feels like.  Good morale is simply about winning and there is no substitute for it.  It has been said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser”.  I will also show you a demoralized person.

Your responsibility as a Leader is to win!  Motivated people give everything they have with the expectation that they will win.  If they don’t, they will leave.  Remember, you need to begin with motivated people.  But once you have them, you must win with them.  Winning is contagious and builds a self-realizing momentum which creates successive wins.  Winning is not an easy goals to accomplish.  It takes intelligence, strategy, goals, planning, execution…but most of all, it takes winners.

Tough Leaders face the contest of re-energizing their teams during these threatening transitional times.  As excited as you may be to hear of an economic recovery, it sounds like more work and stress to your employees.  You must not wait for the “win” if you are to leap ahead of your competition at this key moment.  Begin winning now!  Start acting like a winner; start talking like a winner; find ways every day to make your team feel like winners.  Winning is as much a philosophy as it is an action.  A Street Smart Leader accepts he cannot be Herzberg’s everything to everyone, but he knows deep down that if he can take a motivated team of people and win, exceptional morale will materialize and everyone will want to stay on the field and keep playing at their best!