How to Turn a Good Leadership Team into a Great One


The enemy of becoming great is being good. That is the reason we have many good companies, not great ones, good schools, not a great ones, and good management teams, not great ones.

Most organizations, institutions, teams, and individuals have become comfortable with being good. That’s where they stay. Consequently, there is no urgency, drive, and motivation put into extra efforts to become great.

When the CEO of a construction company called me to provide leadership development, the company went through a lot of change. They had transferred complete ownership of the company twice in the previous year and experienced a high turnover in personnel. The executive team consisted of nine individuals with very driven, ambitious, A-type personalities.

Their culture was one in which managers made decisions based on the interest of their department or themselves, not the entire company. For example, during budget discussions the managers would fight and argue for who was to get the most resources, instead of allocating funds to implement what was best for the company. The three main departments were functioning as “stand alone silos” instead of “well oiled machines”.

The biggest challenge was getting the entire team to commit to change and to demonstrate a true desire to better oneself, the team, and the company.

We implemented the following four strategies to move their management team from good to great:

  1. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable
    When teams do the same things as they did in the past, they continue to attract the same results. Change is needed. Initially, the team had lengthy conversations about what was going well, what the challenges were, and where change was necessary. Those discussions helped create urgency for leading the change efforts. Each manager committed to shake up one of their daily routines such as visiting the field more regularly, or walk through the entire office once a day.
  2. Increase the quality and quantity of communication to foster trust
    Some of the managers didn’t mesh well together. Rather than collaborating, they were competing with each other. Two of the managers barely knew each other even though they worked on the same client projects. On one occasion they carpooled to a client meeting and learned more about each other during the trip. By spending more time together, mutual understanding increased, so did the trust between them.
  3. Uncompromising focus on new positive opportunities
    A great team owns their “purpose” and articulates it to the entire organization with clarity and tenacity. This management team met regularly for strategic sessions to align themselves around a clear future direction for the organization. They focused on opportunities rather than challenges, solutions instead of problems, and talked about new market niches rather than complaining about clients. They developed a clear vision of where they wanted to go and what they wanted to accomplish together.
  4. Define and demand clear standards for performance and behaviors
    The team discussed collective efforts, assigned roles, responsibilities, and contributions based on skills and talent. This resulted in specific performance standards and expectations. In addition, they clarified behavioral guidelines that stemmed from their company values. This was the foundation for mutual accountability.

As the management team led the change efforts, employees noticed significant improvements.   These were the responses from the team members:

  • – “Now there’s more listening here.”
  • – “We are more open with each other.”
  • – “There’s a lot more interaction and proactive discussions.”

This resulted in tangible progress in the numbers. Besides working together better among the managers, the workforce increased by 10 percent, revenues by 50 percent, and profits grew by 300 percent within 3 years. The CEO summarized the progress in his own words: “We always had skilled people. I attribute a lot of results to making changes in our own behavior. Now we are more skilled in working together as a great leadership team.”


Unleash the Power of a Compelling Vision


One of the most popular buzzwords in business.  It has been discussed in management literature, offices, and boardrooms around the world. Yet I think it remains one of the most misinterpreted and underused concepts in business.

Here’s an example of the word “vision” that has become so common: At a recent meeting with Stan, the VP of sales in a large software company, I asked, “What’s the vision for your company?

He gave me a blank look, reached into his drawer, and pulled out a 3×5 card. He started reciting the words printed on that card. His voice was dry and monotone, as if he was reading a legal document.  His face revealed no enthusiasm whatsoever. I couldn’t blame him…the words he read were downright boring.

I thought, “This executive doesn’t get it. He’s reading a vision without seeing one.”

Stan was lost in the fog.

Fog Can Be Very Dangerous

I invite you on a road trip, starting in the San Francisco Bay area. Let’s imagine it’s a beautiful summer day. We rent a convertible sports car at the San Francisco International Airport and set off south towards the coast. The sun is shining bright as we head south toward Monterey, and the curvy road traces a tricky path between the vast blue ocean on our right and the sheer, rocky cliffs on the left.

With the top down and the music up, we speed along, delighted with the spectacular view of the ocean on one side and the picturesque mountains on the others, while our conversations are flowing. We are having fun as the time flies and the miles disappear behind us.

Then, as often happens in this area, a cloud of fog creeps in off the ocean. The temperature drops, chilling our skin, and the view disappears before our eyes. Feeling more cautious, we instinctively slow down.

Eventually we stop the car, put up the roof, turn down the music and continue on our way. Now we’re moving at a much slower pace, feeling a little uncertain on the curvy road. We think about the sheer drop off to the right, and instead of lighthearted banter, we speak in serious tones. We have lost the fun in our trip.

Forty minutes later the fog grows thin then fades away entirely. As the visibility improves, so does our mood. Our smiles return, we pick up speed, and we find ourselves appreciating the journey much more.

Now, for the moral of the story

Many organizations – and even more individuals – are trying to direct and maneuver themselves through the fog. Because they can only see what is immediately in front of them, they feel cautious, afraid of making quick, bold decisions, and they avoid risk. Instead of feeling energized, they feel hesitant.

Companies and professionals in a fog are usually so focused on the immediate road ahead – the problems, quotas, quarterly profits, stock prices, and other key performance indicators – that they lose direction for the long term and of the big picture.

Without a strong vision, sense of direction, and a large enough perspective to see down the road, people and companies become nearsighted, overly cautious, and uninspired. Over time, this dramatically compromises their speed and progress. This is the danger of being lost in a fog.

With a clear, sharp, compelling vision of the future, people get excited. They become surprisingly innovative and committed. They plan ahead, set ambitious targets, and take inspired action. That’s the power of vision unleashed.

What is your “fog”? What is the vision you like to create? How can I help?

Questions Every Professional Should Answer for Clarity

In the field of effectiveness, Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker.” The toughest job of a knowledge worker is to define his or her “work.” Knowledge work can be described as one whose main asset is knowledge.

For example, what is the “work” of a manager, financial analyst, quality control specialist, software engineer, or executive coach? Answering that in a clear, concise sentence is hard.

Clarity is needed.

To gain clarity, we have to go to a higher place. It’s just like mountain climbing – the higher we go, the further we can see. We want to put things in a different context, generate unrealized ideas, or change perspective how we see things.

Good, relevant questions can do that. It’s less important to come up with the “right” or “perfect” question, and more valuable to go through the thinking process, reflecting on your intention. Just like Eisenhower said, “A plan is worthless, planning is everything.”

I invite you to take some time to plan. Here are 10 questions to get you started to gain clarity in your life and business.

  1. What are your five most important accomplishments you have achieved in your life that you are most proud of?
  2. What are your top 3 professional strengths and assets?
  3. What five goals do you want to accomplish in the next 12 months?
  4. What five goals do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
  5. What five goals do you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
  6. What are three factors that support your motivation and performance?
  7. What are the issues that limit you? What are you putting up with that is holding you back? (i.e. recurring problems, unproductive habits, disorganization, etc.)
  8. If you could change one thing in your life what would that be?
  9. What are some opportunities you currently see in your life/business?
  10. When you are at your best?



What is Your Plan for 2015?

I am amazed at how many professionals start the New Year without established personal or career goals. Many people have New Year’s resolutions, yet they avoid setting clear intentions for their personal/career life and when they do they avoid writing them out.

Seven years ago, I started a personal planning exercise for my life and career. At the beginning of every year, I sit down for a couple of hours and write down what I want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Throughout the year I track my progress towards my goals and make adjustments.

Over the years, I have not only made progress in my personal goal achievements, I have also developed better, more realistic goal setting and effective execution skills. In particular, I have benefited in three ways:

  • • I have gained more clarity about what is really important to me and what is not important. This helps me tremendously to integrate all aspects of my life to ensure more balance and less stress.
  • • I am more honest and realistic about what I can achieve. I tended to be too optimistic in the beginning of planning when considering what is achievable.
  • • I have developed a habit to hold myself accountable to meet my own goals and commitments, which is humbling.

As we start a new year, I have two questions for you:

  • 1. Have you set your goals for 2015?
  • 2. Have you written them down?

If you answered both questions with YES, congratulations.
If your answers is NO, I invite you to go through this very simple and powerful exercise.

Annual Personal Planning Exercise

I have conducted this exercise annually for the last seven years. It is simple, powerful and has helped me to create clarity and stay focused on what matters most. It will do the same for you:

Step 1: Take a blank sheet of paper. On top of it, I write down:

“2015 has been very successful because …” Then I finish the sentence.

Write down all the things you want to have accomplished by the end of 2015. Imagine that we sit down on December 31, 2015 and review the year. I ask you about 2015 and you say, “well, 2015 has been very successful” – then you tell me all the things that made your year successful. Those things are your goals that you write down on this page.

I recommend you divide your “life” into relevant categories. My categories include the following areas:

  • 1. Health and well being (including rest, vacation, hobbies, and travel)
  • 2. Relationships and Family (love ones, friends)
  • 3. Personal Finances (income, savings, net assets)
  • 4. Business and Career (including learning, networking, new skills)

Step 2: For each of the goals, ask the following question:

“How do I know?”

The answer to this question is either a yes/no or a number. If we don’t establish clear measurable standards, we will not know if we are going to accomplish our goal or not? Remember the concept “what gets measured, gets done; what gets measured gets improved”.

For example, in my health category, my goal is to be healthy, fit and energetic.
How do I know? I have four measures for this:

  • • Get an annual physical check up (yes/no)
  • • Weight (195 pounds)
  • • Get quality sleep (seven plus hours daily)
  • • Work out five times per week, e.g. run, bike, soccer, gym, yoga

Step 3: At the end of each month, review your goals and see if you are on track. If not, make the necessary adjustments either in your goals or your behaviors.

Breakthroughs, Behaviors, and Beliefs

To ensure you stay on track with your plan, reflect on the following questions:

  • 1. In what areas of your life will you have opportunities for breakthroughs and new levels of performance? What are one or two major challenges that you might face?
  • 2. What do you want to change in your behaviors, habits or skills to achieve your personal goals?
  • 3. How do you want to (and have to) show up to attract success in 2015? What new beliefs will you nurture and develop?

I send you my best wishes as well as determination, discipline and persistence in pursuing your goals and making 2015 a successful year.

Maximize your coaching experience to create lasting, positive change


Two months ago, I hired a coach, Gerry Rose, to help me make positive changes.

Over the last three years, my business has been good. Now I want it to be great. I want to strengthen my brand and boost my revenue while having fun. Like any other business, the leadership development and coaching business has become increasingly competitive. Everyday more and more coaches enter our field; former executives, psychologists, personal fitness trainers, etc. are hanging out their shingles and open coaching practices. I’d better stand out, differentiate myself, attract, and sign up more clients.

One of my core principle as an executive coach is to “apply what I teach”. Therefore, I better have a coach myself! I believe it will make me an even better, more compassionate, insightful coach because I experience what my clients are experiencing. I go through the same struggles that my clients go through.

Here are 5 suggestions to get the most out of your coaching experience to create lasting, positive change:

1.  Make a (real) commitment: It is very easy to say, “I’m going to make positive changes.” Doing it is a different challenge. In my second month of being coached, I realize (and my coach Gerry knows) that I am not doing all the things I wanted to do or said I was going to do. It can be hard to change old habits. Unless the commitment is there, real changes won’t happen. I have seen it so many times in my own clients. Words are cheap.

2.  Pick a coach that is really invested in you. Make sure you develop the confidence in your coach so that s/he will get you to the “next level”. Asking your colleagues and co-workers for referrals can save you valuable time. There are three important factors in selecting the “right” coach.

(A) Develop a personal relationship with your coach

(B) Check their relevant background and coaching qualifications; can your coach relate to your challenges and help you deal with them?

(C) Ask about client success stories or talk to references / former clients about their experiences with your prospective coach. Who are his clients and what benefits did they receive?

3.  Clarify your expected outcome and connect it to desired behavior change: Setting a goal of “making more money” or “being a better leader” is a very vague goal. I suggest that you link your goal to revenue or a behavior. Ask yourself, “For me to make more money, what can I change in my behavior? What can I do better to contribute more value to my team, my employer, and my clients?”

4.  Be willing to get challenged: One of the biggest obstacles in creating change is the person making the change. The coach is not responsible for making change – s/he is the facilitator and “guide” who cares, believes and challenges the client with insightful questions.

5.  Stick with your coach for at least 6 months: Lasting behavioral changes don’t come easy and usually, they don’t come fast. Usually, there are roadblocks, distractions, and interruptions on the way. Progress is not linear. It happens quite often that we make two steps forward and then one step back. Set backs happen. That is when the coach is there to carry you through the challenges.

I am excited about working with Gerry and creating lasting positive changes in my own behavior and my business. Gerry has lit a fire in me and already helps me “become more comfortable with being uncomfortable”. One thing I can rely on with him is that he is diligent, caring, responsive, and guides me on the right path. That is what great coaches do.

How to Get More Done Without Stress


How often do you say, “I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do”?

When you focus primarily on better results, there is a tendency to compromise the quality of life. There is a powerful answer to that dilemma: the idea that there is a lovely balance between focusing on results and being relaxed.


In karate, the power of a hit comes from speed, not muscle power; a tense muscle is a slow muscle. This means your ability to generate results is directly proportionate to your ability to relax. You can’t get things done faster until you learn to slow down, take a step back, and get a different perspective on how you do things. Relaxation is the key to focus. You must be able to clear your head to focus your energy appropriately. This truly is an elegant model of productivity.

To increase productivity there is a key lesson: taking responsibility – being responsible for where you have put your energy (= equal actions in the past) and being responsible for what you are doing with it now (your action now and in the future). We create our own experiences because we are the ones who allow stuff to enter our lives.

For example, what does your e-mail inbox look like? An overloaded inbox simply represents what you have allowed to come into your world that needs to be managed.

It’s not about how much you have, it’s about your comfort zone and how many unprocessed e-mails you feel comfortable with. You want to be able to close open loops and have clear agreements with yourself. This will allow you to be more relaxed when surprises come up. Rather than being stressed, you will get creative.

Simon Says:

  1. Take responsibility for where you put your attention and energy. In the end, this determines the results you produce.
  2. Our ability to generate results is directly proportionate to our ability to relax. When you’re too controlled, you limit your ability to respond to and deal with things.
  3. Slow down and breathe. Open up to different perspectives on how to do things. New perspectives bring unrealized ideas and solutions.

8 Quick Ideas on Reducing Stress


Do you feel overwhelmed and stressed with the multitude of demands in your life? Here are 8 thought-provocative and powerful perspectives on getting back to a fulfilling life with purpose, intention and focus:

1. Having a focus is a by-product of purpose. The clearer your purpose in life, the more focused you are on the areas that really have priority in your life.

2. Good habits are hard to develop, and they’re easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to develop, and they’re hard to live with.
3. Something that is worth doing is worth doing well.

4. Always give without remembering. Always receive without forgetting.

5. Extraordinary people always are very good listeners. Make listening an intentional focus of habit.

6. It doesn’t matter how much you know or what you can do. What really matters is what other people believe and perceive you can do for them.

7. Our state of being leads to our state of doing. We have to “be” before we can “do.” Be authentic.

8. There are no rose gardens without thorns. When things get tough, the tough get going. Consistently execute, and persevere.

Those ideas are published in my book STAND OUT, from the chapter “Nido Qubein on being focused”, page 52.

Seven Ways to Promote Your Professional Services

You are convinced you have a valuable professional service to provide. But how do you convince potential clients that you are worth  their investment or time and/or money?

Follow these seven steps and you will attract more leads and turn them into clients.

1. Know exactly what you provide to others.

Here is a great exercise: choose two or three words that explain the essence of what you do. You will use those words to express to everyone what it is you can do for them—this is your “verbal business card.”

2. Be proud of what you do.

If you do not love what you do, are not proud of how you do it, or don’t feel good enough about it to tell the world, it will be difficult to be very attractive to others. Others will be drawn to you and want to know more if you can honestly express true passion for what you do.

3. Become a model of what you’re selling.

You’ve heard the sayings “practice what you preach” or “lead by example.” Become the walking brochure for what you do. This will allow you to tell and not sell your product or service. Customize what you are selling so that it fits you perfectly.

4. Have something to offer every potential buyer who has an interest in what you offer.

You will not sell your top of the line product or service to everyone. So be sure to have different levels of service at different price points, including free. Be sure everyone walks away with something of value. As they gain confidence in you and your service, they will be more likely to return for the next level.

5. Tell clients what you want them to do and how they should do it. 

We are faced with hundreds of choices daily. Simplify the decision-making process for your customers by expressing the benefits of what you are offering in a way that relates to them. They need direction on how to fully utilize and benefit from your product or service, so educate them along the way. Either during the selling, using or receiving of service, continues to provide direction that will make their choice crystal clear.

6. Tell clients all the value they are receiving. 

Be sure to express the value that is not apparent. What is it bringing to their lives that they did not previously have? Remind them often. If you tell your story well, they will begin repeating it, thereby bringing you more referrals.

7. Develop a system of various ways to help people learn about you, what you offer and the benefits they will receive. 

Then make it easy for them to receive additional information if they want to learn more. A good system will allow you to spend about 10 percent of your time telling your story, minimizing your selling time. The bottom line is that if you truly believe in what you have to offer, then others will also believe. Be shameless in your marketing, focusing on informing rather than boasting to everyone.

Looking for more great tips to help grow your personal brand? Visit our list of branding services. Or if you have additional questions, send us a message directly at


“Stand Out” Book review from Greg Voisen

One of good friend of mine, L. Greg Voisen wrote an article about me and my book “Stand Out”. It is interesting to see how others perceive me and there is always something I can learn from.

Below is his article.

Inside Personal Growth

Years ago I was attempting to get Dale Carnegie and Associates to look at a software system I had developed for sales representatives, when I met Simon Vetter. At the time, Simon was working for the San Diego office of Dale Carnegie as a sales associate. That was quite a few years ago and both Simon and I have moved on to other ventures. However, Simon always kept in touch with me over the years and as a matter of fact I hired him do some marketing consulting for a company that I owned. I have always been impressed with Simon’s tenacity and thorough approach to everything that he does. He is a master at marketing and has developed those skills through study and application in the field of sales. Currently, he is coaching people and organizations on marketing and branding themselves.

Simon’s recent book entitled, “Stand Out! Branding Strategies for Business Professionals“, is an excellent book for anyone wishing to learn more about personal branding. Simon can help anyone find their unique qualities and talents which will help them in differentiating themselves from the rest of the crowd. In my interview with Simon, he reveals what he learned from the following professionals, who Simon believes are amongst the best at personal branding. Simon interviews are with professional speakers and business people such as: Nido Qubein, Tony Alessandra, Beverly Kaye, Marshall Goldsmith, David Allen, Gayle Carson, Brian Tracy and Jim Kouzes. Simon learned something different with each of these professionals and articulates how they built their strong personal brand. In my interview with Simon he reveals the top ten (10) rules of personal branding, five (5) insights and five (5) commandments.

Simon states that, “Whatever we do, we leave an impression. We send out signals all the time. It’s like walking through fresh snow. We cannot hide the footprints behind us. People all around us-at work, at home, in the gym, at a restaurant-see and observe us. Our brand is based on the experience people have with us. Every action, every word, every element of our appearance is noted, recorded, and judged by everyone we meet. Ultimately, we always leave a mark and at the same time this is the process of brand building.”

I encourage you to listen to the informative interview on personal branding. Simon discusses important issues as it relates to building a better personal brand and image. I love the quote in his book by Gandhi , ” Be the change you wish to see.” If you want to build a better YOU, then I encourage you to visitSimon Vetters’ site and pick up a copy of his book, Stand Out! Branding Strategies for Business Professionals.

To see more his article:

Interview with Bailey Gardiner: Advertising and Public Relations Agency

Seven Tips from a Leadership Coach

I got interviewed by Indra Gardiner, who is the CEO of BaileyGardiner Creative Agency, a leading PR and Advertisement Agency in San Diego. After one year of working together in a coaching, Indra asked me seven questions about leadership coaching and getting their business to the next level.

1. How do you define successful leadership?
Successful leadership requires two kinds of people – people who lead and people who want to follow. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.
• Do you really want to follow that person?
• Would you want to go through the fire for that person?
• Do people stand behind that person?

Answering yes to these questions points to a successful leader.
Remember you can’t have everyone follow you, so who are you leading? Have you found the right people to lead? We have a lot of different constituents. How do we engage the different stakeholders so that they are all engaged? Great leaders figure this out.

2. Do you think leaders are born or taught?
I believe they are taught. Anybody can learn effective practices to be a good leader. Some may have natural talent or dispositions that make them a more natural leader but even those people have to learn and refine their skills.
Leadership is not objective. It is a subjective experience to the people who are following. In leadership it’s not as obvious as, for example, listening to a piano player who you would know right away whether you respond or not. True leadership has a lot to do with personal perception and emotional response of the people around the leader. That’s hard to measure and can change over time.
Everybody can learn skills to be a leader, even people who are introverts. The ultimate measure of a leader is credibility – do people believe in that person? We gain credibility from our actions and congruency between what we say and what we do. So based on that, I can be an introvert but in my own authentic way through what I say and do, become an effective leader.

3. What are the 3 biggest mistakes you see people in leadership positions make?
Let’s talk about people in managerial roles for this question. I think that is most applicable.

1) They will say things to appear a certain way or, for example, they often think they should know all the answers rather than ask people for help. They become inauthentic. People feel and detect that. That diminishes the leadership impact. Be true to yourself – be authentic and sincere.

2) Lack of trust. Managers do not engage with their constituents enough or get to a trusted level and that creates an atmosphere of doubt or suspicion. To be effective, spend time connecting with people, build trust and rapport. Show that you care. Engage their hearts/emotions.

3) Lack of strategic direction. A key mistake is not spending enough time on big picture thinking – where is the organization going? What are the trends? How do we adapt? How do we position within the marketplace? Make time for strategic questions/issues. I often see mangers who do not spend enough time sharing strategic vision with their team. We get too caught up in action, budgets, interruptions and the daily to do list. The key is to set a high priority on the long-term vision. Keep going back to that.

4. What advice would you give to someone looking to grow their leadership skills?
Do a perception check. Understand what people around you, your constituents and stakeholders, think and say about you when you’re not around. One way to do that is to get candid and honest feedback. Anonymous 360 surveys are good for this. Hire a coach (like Simon!) and have him/her talk to the stakeholders so they have a neutral environment.

5. Can you share a favorite quote about leadership?
If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.
– Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner

6. Any books you suggest people read to learn more?
The Leadership Challenge – Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner
What Got You Here, Won’t Get you There – Marshall Goldsmith (side note – I was reading this book when I met Simon and, since life is strange that way, turns out that Marshall is Simon’s mentor).

7. Final thoughts
I believe, ultimately, leadership starts with the person and leadership development comes down to self development. If you want to be a strong leader, start with yourself. Be aware of your behavior and how you come across. What feelings do you leave people with? How do others experience you? Get an objective view of yourself and start improving your behavior. You will see the change you desire.

By Indra Gardiner Bowers, COO & Founder of Bailey Gardiner