Archive for the "Personal Development" Category

Teamwork is the Difference Between Success and Failure

Although teamwork usually isn’t a life-or-death situation, it often spells the difference between success and failure in business.

A company with many talented employees working separately isn’t nearly as successful as one where talented workers work together and believe in the mission.

Colin Powell tells a story about Napoleon Bonaparte. The French general would occasionally mingle with his troops. Bonaparte would ask the lowest-ranking soldier to state the overall mission of the army. Bonaparte believed that if the mission were clear, the soldier would be able to understand and explain it.

A successful team knows its mission, whether it’s to rescue nine trapped miners or to be the best data mining company in the business. The team leaders must keep the group focused on the mission.

Leaders can also bring out the desire and passion in the members of a team. The leader arouses passion and helps put fire in the members’ bellies. As Price Pritchett said, “Once you’ve pointed people in the right direction, and triggered a powerful internal drive, you need to get the hell out of the way.”

Joe Gibbs, the former football coach who now oversees a Winston Cup racing team, knows a great deal about team building. In his book, Racing to Win, Gibbs discussed the difficulties of building a team when you’re motivating people with very different personalities. Some are motivated by praise, while others need to be scolded from time to time.

Most of us work harder when we’re working as a team. We know others are depending on us and we don’t want to let them down. You should feel that same sense of obligation, whether it’s a coworker or the members of your family who are depending on you. If you don’t feel that sense of obligation to your employer, you need to find another place to work.


Have you ever looked up to watch a flock of honking geese flying overhead and wondering why they always fly in a ‘V’ formation? Have you every thought of these geese as role models?

Milton Olson, author of Lessons from Geese, makes a compelling case that five behaviors of geese during migration can be translated into leadership lessons for our lives.

1. First behavior: “As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an ‘uplift’ for the bird following. By flying in a ‘V’ formation, the whole flocks adds 71% greater flying range than if the bird flew alone.”

First lesson: “People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.”

2. Second Behavior: “Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the ‘lifting power’ of the bird immediately in front.”

Second Lesson: “If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go (and be willing to accept their help as well as give ours to the others).”

3. Third Behavior: “When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position.”

Third Lesson: “It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership—with people, as with geese, we are interdependent on each other.

4. Fourth Behavior: “The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.”

Fourth Lesson: “We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging—and not something else.”

5. Fifth Behavior: “When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or catch up with the flock.”

Fifth Lesson: “If we have as much sense as geese, we too will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.”

Successful people have great team-building skills. They know they’ll go twice as far with a good team surrounding them. The best team players are positive, creative and have good interpersonal skills.

To remind you of the power of team unity, the next time your hear that all-too-familiar honking and look up at the sky to see geese heading south for the winter while flying in the striking ‘V’ formation, you should remember why they fly that way and the valuable lessons we can learn from them about leadership and teamwork.

Become part of a team and then build your own!

Why Great Leaders Compromise

A leader needs to learn the art of compromise.  As former President Gerald Ford once said, “Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.”

Retired Judge Nelson Diaz learned that effective leaders also know that compromise and loyalty go hand in hand.  A White House Fellow during the Carter administration, Diaz was only the second person of Puerto Rican ancestry to ever work for the White House, and his principal was Vice President Walter Mondale.

Diaz had worked as an activist on economic development issues for poor minority communities in Philadelphia before his Fellowship.  He recalled that one day, he and Mondale were flying to Los Angeles on Air Force Two to plan a birthday party for President Carter when they heard a surprising announcement:  The President had just signed an arms sale agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Mondale did not know Carter was going to consent to such a deal, and he knew it would be extremely unpopular with the Jewish community, of which Mondale was a strong supporter.

“The Vice President had a choice to either turn the plane around or to continue on the trip,” Diaz said.  “Mondale consulted with Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan, who was also on the plane, and we decided not to plan the birthday party but rather to proceed to Los Angeles to meet with Jewish leaders.  When we got there the Jewish leaders were somewhat somber, but the vice president explained the genesis of President Carter’s decision to them and asked how we could be more responsive to their concerns.  He never gave a hint that he had no idea the deal was going to happen.  He made something positive come out of it.  I witnessed his loyalty to the President and his ability to compromise.  Having been an activist on the streets I hadn’t learned much about that, but on that trip I learned that sometimes half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.”

Diaz would convert that concept into action years later when he was tapped to be general counsel to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) by then Secretary Henry Cisneros.  Diaz and Cisneros met through the White House Fellows program in the 1970s.  Years after finishing his Fellowship, Diaz was working as a judge to reform Philadelphia’s court system by ridding it of a seven-year backlog and making changes that resulted in savings of $100 million.  When Cisneros, who had been mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was appointed HUD secretary by President Clinton, Cisneros called on his old friend Diaz to serve as general counsel.  “I didn’t want the job.  I didn’t want to go work for a friend, and I turned him down three times,” Diaz admitted. “But because I trusted Henry and he trusted me, and we were both White House Fellows, I ultimately decided to go ahead and take the job.  It turned out to be a very successful period.”

As General Counsel to HUD, Diaz used litigation settlements to implement Cisneros’ policies.  Diaz arrived at HUD during the most litigious period in the department’s history.  He resolved twenty-three major cases that had been pending for a decade, and hired as his deputy the lawyer who had brought more suits against HUD than anyone else.

“I wanted to demonstrate my willingness to be a listener and to develop a strong trust relationship so we could resolve all those cases,” Diaz said.  “And I was very aware that I had to use the art of compromise to resolve these very contentious cases.  During my time at HUD I also applied what I learned from Vice President Mondale about the need to be loyal to your principal.  Compromise and loyalty do go hand in hand.  I learned that you must do everything you can to directly and openly engage the individuals with whom you disagree.  However, loyalty demands that once a decision is made by the leader or a consensus is reached by the management team, you need to practice the art of compromise and proceed with the final decision as if it were your own.”

Whether you’re leading a business or a non-profit organization, a committee or a board, an athletic team or a family, you must learn when to compromise and when to stand firm.  Although it’s not possible to resolve every conflict through negotiation and concession, it is feasible in most cases.

The tougher decision is when not to compromise, which often puts your livelihood, your reputation, and the organization you lead at risk.  While a leader must clearly stand firm on matters of integrity, if you can resolve the matter through give and take, staying loyal to your core beliefs, then find the middle ground.  You’ll soon discover what Judge Diaz already knows:  Compromise is the art of making everyone a winner.

Sharing a Bourbon and Branch Water with LBJ

President Lyndon Johnson with Soviet Ambassador in the Oval Office (1966)

President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office with Soviet Ambassador (1966).

For a young man, Air Force Major John Pustay had already accomplished a lot. The New Jersey native had served as a military officer in South Korea and Japan, earned a doctorate and taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Although only one military officer had made it into the first class of fifteen White House Fellows in 1965, he decided to apply to the prestigious program anyway. After a grueling selection process, he was chosen in 1966. He was assigned to work for Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

President Johnson opened a window for Pustay to witness firsthand how our nation’s top leaders personally cope with the burdens of immense responsibility, impossible expectations and often-brutal public criticism

In his first month as a Fellow, Secretary Rusk sent him to the Oval Office to take notes for him at an impromptu meeting between President Lyndon Johnson and some of his most trusted foreign policy advisors. The Vietnam War was in full swing and the meeting was to discuss our response to an insurrection within South Vietnam’s leadership, and to select bombing targets in North Vietnam. Pustay recalled the small group huddled around LBJ: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, and General Earle Wheeler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The young major listened intently and took notes so he could give Secretary Rusk a proper briefing on the important meeting. “So everybody leaves, and I am the junior guy so I am going to be the last guy out,” Pustay recalled “And as I’m leaving the president taps me on the shoulder and he says, ‘Would you like to have a bourbon and branch water?’ I didn’t know what the heck branch water was, but if the Commander in Chief asks you to have bourbon and branch water, you probably ought to do it.”

The president summoned a steward who produced a bottle of bourbon and a pitcher of clear liquid. Pustay discovered – much to his relief – that “branch water” is just a Southern term for fresh water. The two men settled onto the sofa in the Oval Office, Pustay sipping his bourbon, the president his scotch and soda, while engaging in small talk for almost an hour. During a lull in the conversation, Pustay swirled the amber liquid in his glass and marveled at the fact that he was actually sitting in the Oval Office sharing a drink with the president. He smiled to himself and took another sip, enjoying the whiskey’s rich flavor and smoky aroma, and he was about to congratulate the president on his fine taste in bourbon when he looked up to see Johnson’s eyes welling with tears. “Mr. President,” Pustay said. “I didn’t realize, perhaps, the gravity of the situation we discussed in that meeting, and the decisions that you had to make there.”

“No, that’s not it,” Johnson said in his soft drawl. “I am very sad right now because this is still Jack Kennedy’s house. Jack had charm — he was witty, and handsome. And here I am, just a poor Texas school teacher, a dirt farmer. Since we got back from Dallas, the only one who has ever accepted me here at the White House is Lady Bird.”

Pustay sat with President Johnson, reflecting on the private thoughts of the man who dominated public life with the historic passage of sweeping Great Society legislation aimed at eliminating poverty and racial injustice. President Johnson continued to talk about some of the burdens of this great office. Starting to feel self-conscious that he was taking up too much of the president’s valuable time, Pustay said, “Sir, I think it’s probably time for me to leave.”

“Yeah, young man,” Johnson said. “You know, thanks for listening.”

Whether or not he intended it, President Johnson had opened a window for Pustay to witness firsthand how our nation’s top leaders personally cope with the burdens of immense responsibility, impossible expectations and often-brutal public criticism – a side of their essential humanity the general public rarely gets to see.

That experience showed Pustay early on that even the most powerful leaders are human, and at the core, it’s emotion that drives human behavior. It taught him that if you want to be a great leader you must have a laser-like focus on your people — so simple, yet easy to overlook. He recalled that lesson often throughout his distinguished military career. It undoubtedly helped guide him as he rose to the rank of three-star general, served as the lead advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and led the National Defense University as its president.

Far too many managers identify their organization by the product or service it provides. The fact is that we are in the people business — hiring, training and managing people to deliver the product or service we provide. If people are the engine of our success, then to be great leaders we have to put our people first.

Separate the Real Role Models from the Fakes

Jaime EscalanteYou can pursue your passion in life by finding a good mentor. You can pursue your goals by finding a good role model, and in turn, being a good role model yourself.

Although some athletes are excellent role models, I look for qualities beyond the ability to dribble a basketball or throw a football. I admire athletes who finish their college degree instead of taking the cash that comes with a pro contract.

I’d be much more inclined to view the athlete who drops out as a role model if he or she went back to school during the off-season. Either way, if they set the example of getting an education, I can live with them being paid 100 times more than what a public school teacher makes in a year. After all, they’re pursuing their passion, they give children who look up to them some sense of responsibility and they are making a good living at what they do.

Mike Haynes is an athlete I believe we all can admire. Haynes, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of the best defensive backs to ever play the game, was drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots in 1976.

He dropped out of college, but finished his degree in 1980. Haynes worked every off-season for fourteen years to prepare for life after football. Both on the field and off, Haynes set goals and objectives for himself. Haynes is now an executive with the Callaway Golf Company.

Regardless of our ethnicity or racial background, there are role models for all of us.

Role Models in Our Schools

More often than not, the real role models are in our schools, not on the football field, up on the movie screen, or singing at concerts.

In my mind, schoolteachers are the true stars of our society. The late Jaime Escalante is a magnificent role model and has been called the best teacher in America.

I admired Escalante long before I met him. When Escalante taught at Garfield High School, drug dealers were the role models for some of his students.

The people selling drugs had money and power, and this was what the students respected. Escalante sent the message that education is the far better route to success.

Thousands of people have fond memories of Marva Collins, whose passion is educating children. She believes strongly in staying true to the Latin meaning of “teacher,” which is to lead and draw out. Collins is determined to never lose one child. She has trained over 30,000 teachers and touched the lives of millions of children.

Teachers like Marva Collins help children to find new direction. A kind word of encouragement can motivate children to do more than they might have ever dreamed was possible. Teachers can open up a world of possibilities for a child.

David M. Shribman interviewed people from all walks of life. Everyone he talked with had an anecdote about a teacher who played an important role in his or her life. Whether the person was a good student or a bad one, and no matter what occupation they were in, all of them had a teacher who made a big difference in who they are today.

In the preface to his book I Remember My Teacher, Shribman said, “Those who can, do. Those who teach, do more.”

The best role models aren’t usually athletes, TV icons, rock stars or supermodels. The best role models are around us and in front of us every day. They are parents and teachers.

Role models should also be individuals who demonstrate qualities that contribute to good character development, who have a sense of ethics and morals, and who believe that success is more than just what is in your bank account, that what matters is what is inside you as a person.

Find your role models and become one yourself!

Create Success at Home

Creating and cultivating a culture of success is vital. This is true whether at work, in college, and at home, especially if you have children.

You can create a culture of success in your own home. Ask yourself what kind of messages you’re sending to your children.

Assuming your family sits down together at the dinner table, which is very important, ask yourself what messages you’re conveying to your kids. Are you conveying the message that hard work doesn’t get you anywhere and getting ahead is all about office politics, or are you teaching them positive lessons about being a success? Are you demonstrating the importance of integrity and honor by word and deed? Are you sending messages that encourage tolerance?

Even if your own workplace is less than ideal, don’t sour your children on the importance of hard work. Maybe you’re not getting the recognition you deserve at work, but your children should be recognized for their accomplishments. They should learn the value of teamwork, of seeing each family member working together toward a common goal.

As you pursue your passions, encourage your children to feel passionate about whatever excites them. Even if they pursue activities that you don’t necessarily approve of, don’t stand in their way.

My father wasn’t thrilled with my decision to apply to the Air Force Academy and pursue a military career, but he let me choose the path I wanted to follow.

All of us must pursue our passions, not those of our parents. Of course, that doesn’t mean parents must subsidize their children’s pursuit of their passions.

Andrea Jung, former CEO of Avon, received inspiring advice from her mother. Jung wrote that her mother said, “Girls can do absolutely anything that boys can do. A woman can reach any height in any discipline if she works hard enough.”

It is extremely important to create a culture of success in your own home. If you are single, then being a good and respectful son or daughter, and a good person to your brothers and sisters, will bring great joy to them and make your family proud.

If you have a spouse, then being faithful and considerate of each other, and treating your relationship as a team with a sacred trust will allow you to accomplish the most challenging goals in your life.

Not only are you your children’s role model, but put another way, you are their manager, and their boss. If your boss acts a certain way and wants you to emulate that behavior, you pretty much have to do it – or else look for another job.

Your children are in a similar position. You may want to fire them from time to time, but you’re both pretty much stuck with each other. Set the standard and watch them follow. Instill in them a sense of pride and passion for whatever it is they do. Show them the way, but ultimately let them choose their own path (they will anyway).

Just be sure you give them the tools to succeed when they reach that critical stage. The greatest gift you can give them is a moral compass — one built on integrity and honor.

Do it and I guarantee that they will make you proud!

Learn to Shave on Someone Else’s Face First

It is very important to have a mentor when you pursue your passion. With the right mentor, you can pursue your passion in any field, and avoid costly mistakes. Like my grandfather used to say:  “When you learn to shave, try to learn on someone else’s face first.”

Omar Khan was a scrawny teenager when he walked in the office of Buddy Teevens, the Tulane football coach, in 1996. Khan, the son of immigrants from Honduras and India, wanted to learn about football, not the game so much as the business of football, and was willing to start on the ground floor.

A Tulane student at the time, Khan volunteered to work for free and was willing to handle any task thrown his way. The coach had seen others like Khan, or so he thought.

Many students begged for work but in the end weren’t willing to put in the time, because they weren’t getting paid. Khan, on the other hand, took on every assignment and became indispensable to the Tulane football program.

Khan handled everything from computer projects to travel arrangements to filming practices and games.

In 1996, while still a senior at Tulane, Khan managed to land himself an internship with the New Orleans Saints. As was the case at Tulane, Khan handled any and every project given to him and, in early 1998, he was hired as a full time employee of the Saints.

One of his mentors at the Saints was Terry O’Neill who helped the football team with salary cap issues. Khan helped to research the contracts that O’Neill negotiated. By age 21, Khan was negotiating some of the smaller contracts. When O’Neill left the Saints, Coach Jim Hazlett hired Khan to be his administrative assistant.

On his 24th birthday, Khan was hired away from the Saints by the Pittsburgh Steelers. At age 25, he became the youngest business coordinator in the National Football League. Khan rose to the position as the Steelers’ lead negotiator, in addition to coordinating the team’s travel plans, and managing their salary cap. He has negotiated some of the largest contracts in Steelers’ history, while keeping the club’s salary cap under control. Today, he’s in his 12th season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Khan is in his third year as Director of Football and Business Administration.

Charles Krauthammer found himself an extraordinary mentor. Dr. Krauthammer wouldn’t have become a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist without his mentor, Dr. Hermann Lisco. When he was a freshman at Harvard Medical School, Krauthammer was paralyzed in a serious accident. At the time of the accident, Dr. Lisco was the associate dean.

Lisco convinced professors at Harvard to give the paralyzed student bedside lectures. Because Krauthammer was unable to write at the time, Lisco also persuaded the professors to give the injured student oral exams. Lisco even arranged for Krauthammer’s rehabilitation to take place at a Harvard teaching hospital, so the student wouldn’t fall behind in his studies. Krauthammer used a wheelchair to go on rounds with his fellow classmates.

Thanks to Lisco, Krauthammer finished his medical degree. He became chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He later became a science advisor to the Carter administration, and a speechwriter for Walter Mondale. In the 1980’s, Krauthammer turned to writing and won that Pulitzer Prize.

Whatever your passion is, you must find someone who has already achieved what you want and learn from him or her. Try to build a relationship with that person so you can learn directly from them, even if it means working for free.

Mentors can do more than just teach you how to succeed in a particular area. Mentors can help you avoid the mistakes they made along the way, which gives you a huge advantage.

Even President Obama had Great Mentors

President Obama was inaugurated today for his second term. In his autobiography “Dreams of my Father” he discusses some of the great mentors he had in his life. A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps and guides another individual’s development. This guidance is not done for personal gain.

Mentoring is used in many settings. It is common in business, and it is used in educational settings, especially with “at risk” students. It is also the basic principle behind the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs.

One of the most valuable assets your career can have is a good mentor.

Tips for Individuals being Mentored

  • At the core of virtually all-successful and personally satisfying mentoring is a meaningful relationship with another person. Prior to your first meeting with your mentor, write down at least three things you would like to achieve through mentoring. If not included in your lists, write down at least three things you would like your mentor to provide.
  • Prepare a brief autobiography that you can share with your mentor when you first meet. Be sure to also include your own vision, mission or life goals.
  • It is likely that you selected your mentor or were matched with your mentor because of the mentor’s resources. This typically means that your mentor has both considerable gifts and a tight time schedule. Dealing with time is a key aspect of the success of mentoring. Make sure you are clear about your needs.

Tips for person doing the Mentoring

With President Obama

Charles Garcia with President Obama in Oct. 2012

  • Listen deeply and ask powerful questions.
    The two skills that I think are essential for successful mentoring are (1) in-depth listening, that is, suspending judgment, listening for understanding and providing an accepting and supportive atmosphere; and (2) asking powerful questions, that is, questions that are challenging in a friendly way and questions that help the other person talk about what is important to that person.
  • Focus on wisdom.
    I see myself as a resource, catalyst, facilitator, idea generator, net worker, and problem-solver, but I do not see myself as a person with answers. I do have experience and I think I have learned from those experiences, but I do not see my mentor role as one in which I “tell” another person what to do or how to do it. I freely share what I have done (or have learned), not as a prescription, but more as an example of something from which I gained some wisdom. I also feel comfortable contributing ideas or suggestions, not as a sage, but as a collaborator.
  • Maintain and respect privacy, honesty, and integrity. I have had experience participating in events where these key values have been jeopardized. I know first-hand the disastrous consequences that can accompany violating these values. I can’t offer confidentiality in the legal sense, but I can do the best I can to ensure that “what is said in this room stays in this room.”


Focus on Improving Yourself and Your Business

Change in your personal and professional life is not only inevitable, but necessary to move forward on the road to success.

In our personal lives, we often encounter people who would rather do anything but change. They stay in a bad relationship, even though it makes them unhappy. They stay at a bad job, because it’s easier than trying to improve their circumstances. These kinds of people rarely focus on improving themselves and their situation. They’re resistant to change of any kind, no matter how bad things might be for them at the present time. It is extremely important that you concentrate on improving yourself on a constant basis.

A psychological study was conducted at a racetrack that makes an interesting observation about the decision-making process. In the study, bettors were asked to measure their level of confidence on the way to the betting window.

Researchers found that gamblers were moderately confident in their bet on the way to the window. After they had placed their bet, however, the bettors expressed a higher level of confidence in their choices.

The study concluded that there reaches a certain point when we all become psychologically attached to the decision that we’ve made. Once we’ve made our decision, our mind wants to believe it’s correct.

In business and life, change should be embraced especially when the status quo isn’t working. However, this is often hard to do after you become attached to your decision.

The theory of cognitive dissonance suggests that we rely on data that supports our reasoning and defends our position, while we choose to ignore facts that disagree with our beliefs and might cause us to have to rethink or change.

In his book The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, Oren Harari noted that Powell’s career has been all about change and that changing things ruffles feathers. Good leaders are constantly asking, “What if?” and “Why not?” They create a culture that demands initiative and experimentation.

Small business experts Paul and Sarah Edwards offered three suggestions for expanding your business. First, you must determine what your target is. You need to know what you want to accomplish, and when you want to get there. Unless you know what your target is, you can’t develop a growth strategy.

The second step is making sure you’re ready for growth. Lastly, the Edwards recommend that you figure out what’s your edge.  Warren Buffett, perhaps the greatest stock picker of all time, calls this a company’s sustainable competitive advantage.  What is it that sets your business apart from everyone else’s? What assets do you have that the competition doesn’t? By constantly focusing on improving yourself and your business every day, you will set a true north course for success.