Leadership; Have You Made the Mental Transition?

Monday Morning Minute

First a quote: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” — Max De Pre, Author

Transitioning into a leadership role often requires a significant, and sometimes difficult, change in our mental models. One might almost call it a mental transformation.  How we think about others, ourselves, our roles and responsibilities must change; or at least in my opinion, should.

Early in our careers, we are often recognized, rewarded, and sometimes even promoted because of our personal skill sets and individual abilities to “get stuff done”, to make things happen, and to deliver results. In many ways, we become what I have described as “super-doers”.  We’re often rewarded for being hard workers; we are recognized for our individual efforts and accomplishments.

Most organizations love super-doers! Who doesn’t appreciate hard-working people who consistently deliver results day after day, month after month?  Don’t get me wrong, organizations need people who deliver results. This will never change. And, please know I am not advocating for less focus on delivering results. Results will always be important. What I am suggesting however, is that how we get those results needs to change if our career goals include taking on leadership responsibilities. At some point, those same “super-doer” qualities that served us well early in our careers, may become a liability, or even a “glass ceiling” of sorts, later in our careers.

Transitioning into leadership from more tactical roles and responsibilities requires a conscientious and deliberate shift in mindset, focus and priorities in many important areas.  How leaders spend their time, and what gets their attention, must change. For many of us, myself included, this can be a difficult transition.

Following are a few key mental transitions leaders must consider:

  • Results matter, not just today, but in the future as well. Leaders must deliver results today, AND simultaneously prepare their department, function or business for the future. While leaders must obviously address today’s challenges and deliver results in the present, they must also be more future-focused. Setting aside time to proactively look further down the path, anticipating future needs, problems, challenges and opportunities. This requires the discipline to think more strategically, proactively and be far less reactionary than earlier in their career. Their focus should increasingly be on “strategic fire prevention”, not reactive day-to-day “firefighting”.

    Click here to read: Prioritizing Your Schedule Isn’t Enough, March 5, 2018 
    Click here to read: Time Management is Not the Problem, August 26, 2018 

  • Structure, systems and processes are the responsibility of leadership! Leaders must be more focused on the continual improvement of organizational structures, systems and processes. When we ask talented and motivated people to work with tools, systems and processes that are less than ideal, perhaps even antiquated, we get mediocre results at best. It has been my observation that our employees and teams are frequently blamed for poor organizational results.  When managers blame their people for poor performance, it relieves those managers of their own personal responsibilities for repairing and/or replacing dysfunctional systems and processes. What processes need to be updated in your area of responsibility? Have you asked your team what is getting in their way of producing better results? 

  • Culture matters!  Leaders must now pay attention to, and shape, the culture of their department, function or business. Someone once said, “Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast” (frequently attributed to Peter Drucker but has never been confirmed). The point; it doesn’t matter how grand your strategy, if your organizational culture doesn’t support it, or worse yet, fights that grand strategy. Often, organizational culture is the reason many change efforts fail or fall short of expectations.

    Click here to read: Culture Matters; February 17, 2019 

  • People Matter!  When a person becomes more concerned about the well-being of others, over their own personal needs, you know they have what it takes to be a leader. Leaders know they have performed their job well if the department, function or organization is positioned for success long after their departure.  True leaders value servant leadership as a mental model. Their role is to serve others, to remove barriers, to provide resources and to champion the success of others. I was fortunate to begin my career with a company where managers were taught this concept; they called it the “First Assistant” philosophy. Jack Welch said it this way, “Before you become a leader, success is about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

    Click here to read: Congratulations, You’re the Boss; Who Serves Who? August 12, 2018 
    Click here to read: Grow Your people, Grow Your Business, July 22, 2018

Being a “super-doer” can be a very good thing and serves most of us well early in our careers. However, if we don’t make the required mental shifts that come with leadership responsibilities, that same “super-doer” quality will likely become a glass ceiling.  Getting results will always be important, getting results with, and through, others is a critical function of leadership.

Bonus quotes:

“When you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others!” —Jack Welch

“I don’t want my life to be defined by what is etched on a tombstone. I want it to be defined by what is etched in the lives and hearts of those I’ve touched.” ― Steve Maraboli

How will you lead differently, or better, this coming week?

All the best! Give your best! Do your best! Be your best!  Have a great week!!

Do you know someone who might benefit from this weekly leadership minute?  If so, please feel free to pass along the subscription link below:

Click here to subscribe to Monday Morning Minute.

How will you lead differently, or better, this week?

Bryan Yager – Expanding your capacity for success
208.376.1701

Have a great week! 

This post was first published on May 6, 2019 at BryanYager.com

To have his newsletter “Monday Morning Minute” delivered to your email inbox every Monday, just click here: SUBSCRIBE

SIV #077: Jonny Burgess Returns!

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I love Jonny Burgess! Even if he did almost get me fired. I first had Jonny on the SIV podcast back in 2014. He had just written and published his book You Can Too. The book details his start in the Voluntary Benefits arena and the challenges he had to overcome. (Apparently, his kids wanted to eat every day… lol) More importantly, Jonny gave his readers a step-by-step outline on how to be successful too. Hence the name of the book.

How the nearly getting fired part works is that Jonny was, and still is, representing Aflac. In his book he talks extensively and exclusively of his work with Aflac. He went so far as to put a picture of the Aflac duck on the cover. He also received an endorsement from the Aflac President.

So far so good, right? Well…. here’s the thing. At the time I was a corporate employee of Aflac’s biggest competitor. I put a picture of Jonny’s book (with the duck) on the Success Is Voluntary website. My company lost its mind and threatened termination if I continued the SIV website and podcast. They believed I was “training competitors how to sell Voluntary Benefits.” I reminded them that Success Is Voluntary is carrier agnostic. They didn’t care. So as I wrote about in my blog article “I’m Back!” on January 1, 2018 I’m ashamed I caved. You can read the article here: http://successisvoluntary.com/im-back/

That’s all ancient history and I’m glad to no longer have to answer to Corporate America and work with shortsighted people.

Fast forward to around Thanksgiving of 2018. I came home to find that a book had been delivered. That’s not that unusual as I read a book a week. What was unusual is that I didn’t remember ordering a book. I hadn’t. It was a copy of Jonny’s new book: You Still Can Too. I had no idea he had written it. It was signed and contained a note that I was mentioned in the book! In his book, Jonny mentioned this very podcast and encouraged anyone in the VB arena to listen. Thank you Jonny for your kind words.

I want to give credit for today’s episode to Jennifer Hyatt. Jen is a rookie VB agent in Las Vegas. She is absolutely kicking ass. She found the SIV podcast because of Jonny’s blurb in his book. Jen asked me to get Jonny back on and I couldn’t have agreed more. Thanks Jen for the suggestion!

Remember, Jonny’s book is called You Still Can Tool not Jonny is a rockstar. Jonny, Jen and I all believe that you can too… If you get serious about this thing, stay coachable and take action. Oh yeah, taking a note or two couldn’t hurt either.


Things Jonny And I Talked About

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Getting Buy-In Isn’t Enough

Monday Morning Minute

First a quote: “We can change our whole life, and the attitude of people around us, simply by changing ourselves.” -Rudolf Dreikurs

When facilitating workshops about change leadership, I often hear managers and leaders talk about how important it is to get employee “buy-in”.  I have certainly used those exact words myself, probably hundreds of times over the years. While I agree, getting people to “buy-in” to a pending change is important, we would be more effective and get better results when leading change, if we changed our mindset and our language first. Our success as change leaders begins with us.

The change in mindset I’m proposing is subtle, yet extremely powerful. As leaders, we must shift our mindset first, before asking others to change their mindset!

Here it is: From this day forward, as change agents and leaders of change, let’s erase the words “buy-in” from our vocabulary and more importantly, from our mindsets and the way we think about leading others through change.

I offer three reasons:

  1. When we think of getting people to “buy-in” to a change they don’t initially support, they must be “sold” on the change. I submit many people resent “being sold” much of anything, let alone a change they don’t desire, or perhaps thoroughly understand early in the process.
  2. If you think about it, buying something also means “paying a price”.  People are rarely willing to pay a price for an undesired change. More importantly, the “price they will pay” is often difficult to calculate or predict. They find themselves wondering: “Will this change result in a downsizing? Will it cost me my job? Will I have to learn new skills? Relocate? Work harder? You get the point. All of us listen to Wii-FM radio. Click here to learn more about Wii-FM Radio
  3. Many people today are often cynical, suspicious and “on guard” about being taken advantage of by self-serving salespeople, politicians and/or leaders.  Even the most altruistic and well-intended salespeople and leaders will battle this phenomenon. Of course, this becomes a non-issue if people trust their salesperson, politician or leader. Click here to learn more about trust

What is the subtle change in mindset I propose?  As change agents, let’s shift our mindsets from trying to create “buy-in”, and focus instead on creating a “believe in” mentality of the people we lead.

When people “believe in” the change, they will more fully accept, promote, champion, practice and live the desired change. Isn’t that our goal as change agents?

My theory is, by changing our mindset first, we will do a far better job of:

  • Creating a shared vision and set of beliefs about the change.
  • Explaining “The Why” and “The Need” for the change.
  • Sharing the data, a peek into our crystal ball and related conclusions.
  • Telling “The Story & History” that got us to this point in our journey.
  • Creating a compelling “Vision” for the change.
  • Involving others in creating the change; to be co-creators of our collective futures.
  • Instilling ownership and accountability for our success.

Again, a subtle, but important nuance. Let’s stop selling and start leading… start believing!

Bonus Quotes:

“Few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring vision of the future.” – Sarah Clayton

“I wanted to change the world.  But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” – Aldous Huxley

How will you lead differently, or better, this week?

Bryan Yager – Expanding your capacity for success
208.376.1701

Have a great week! 

This post was first published on April 15, 2019 at BryanYager.com

To have his newsletter “Monday Morning Minute” delivered to your email inbox every Mondy, just click here: SUBSCRIBE

SIV #076: Daniel Blue – It’s your money!

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Daniel Blue - Quest Education

I don’t know about you, but if I’m being completely honest and transparent, I haven’t done a very good job saving for retirement during my career. About 7-8 years ago I got serious and started to find ways to invest in my future. After talking to this week’s podcast guest, Daniel Blue, I realized that there was/is a different approach that might be better than the traditional “just invest in mutual funds and keep it there until you retire” strategy.

My guess is that you probably haven’t heard about the strategies Daniel talked about during his interview. I know I hadn’t. Please hear me clearly, I am not even close to being a financial advisor. Having said that, I think you might want to explore some of the things Daniel suggests.

You might also want to take notes. If you don’t take notes, and you end up broke at retirement… That’s on you!


Things Daniel And I Talked About

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SIV #075: Elizabeth Hale – Protect Your Profit

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Elizabeth Hale - Protect Your Profit

“Every dollar you write off saves you 30 cents in taxes.”

I don’t know about you, but I am NOT a fan of the IRS. We have tangled more than once and surprisingly I have yet to win, sigh… Today’s guest Elizabeth Hale is a CPA that specializes in business accounting. She is definately a fantastic resource for the self-employed.

Elizabeth has a passion for helping businesses protect their profit through multiple avenues, not the least of which is helping them avoid unnecessary taxation. I have run my own businesses for 25 years and thought I had a preaty good handle on tax strategies. Elizabeth gave me (and you) a Master Class.

If you don’t get out something to take notes on, you deserve every single penny you are going to pay in taxes this year. But maybe you don’t feel the need to save money on your taxes. If that’s true, please make your checks payable to the Tim Martin retirement fund…


Things Elizabeth And I Talked About

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Think Influence, Not Authority

Editor’s Note: Success Is Voluntary is very excited (and proud) to introduce you to Bryan Yager of the Bryan Yager Group. Bryan writes a very popular newsletter that is delivered each week titled Monday Morning Minute. To find out more about Bryan, and the fantastic work he does, just head on over to BryanYager.com

Monday Morning Minute

First a quote: “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”

Ken Blanchard

Many years ago, one of my mentors taught me the following: “Leaders must never be afraid to use their authority in a quest for action and results; and yet, the greatest of leaders rarely do.”

Certainly, there are situations when the use of authority, or “position power”, correctly applied, has a place in the application of modern leadership principles. I contend however, the use of authority, which comes with a person’s job title, can make for lazy and ineffective leaders. It is after all, so much easier to issue commands and bark orders, than to thoughtfully figure out what makes an individual tick, shape a culture where action is valued, and to lead effectively with values, vision, inspiration and a sense of hope for a better future.

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SIV #074: Ken Coleman – Focus on the 5

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Ken Coleman - Focus on the 5

“40% of millionaires are 1st generation immigrants.” – Ken Coleman

I met Ken through a series of events and I am so thankful to connect with him. He has challenged my thinking and I‘m relatively sure he will yours as well.

I’m really interested in finding out if you are a 5% er. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email to tim@successisvoluntary.com

I know you are probably sick of hearing me say this, but you might want to take some notes… Of course, you don’t have to. Taking notes is voluntary… but so is success. Remember, you don’t have to be all fancy about it and write your notes in a bound leather journal. Just grab a brown paper bag and some blue crayons and let’s go to work.


Things Ken And I Talked About

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SIV #073: Andy Neary – Shift Happens

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“Before you shift your mindset, you have to clear the mindsh*t.”

Today’s guest, Andy Neary, was introduced to me by our mutual friend and frequent podcast guest Eric Silverman. I’ve got to tell you, I loved doing this interview. On the Success Is Voluntary podcast we often talk about mindset or we do a deep dive on technical skills/strategies. I’m not sure we have ever done both in the same episode (at least to the level we did here.)

The only way you won’t get something out of today’s podcast is if you don’t listen. The best way to get the most value out of your time listening is to take some notes. Here’s what I would encourage you to do: hit pause, get a pen and something to write on and let’s get to work.


Things Andy And I Talked About

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Weeds, Green Grass & People

Editor’s Note: Success Is Voluntary is very excited (and proud) to introduce you to Bryan Yager of the Bryan Yager Group. Bryan writes a very popular newsletter that is delivered each week titled Monday Morning Minute. To find out more about Bryan, and the fantastic work he does, just head on over to BryanYager.com

Monday Morning Minute

First a quote: “Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” 

H. Jackson Brown, Jr. Author, Life’s Little Instruction Book

Ok, I’m guessing I’m not the only person who is ready for spring. (Compared to the rest of the country, we have had an unusually easy winter here in Boise, ID.)  Spring fever has arrived for me; I am anxious to be spending more time outside, both relaxing of course, and tinkering in my yard.

I’m likely to be amongst a small minority of people who, for the most part, enjoys yardwork. I have always mowed and maintained my own yard. Returning from a road trip to a home with a green, weed-free yard is gratifying for me. There are also important life lessons about relationships, teams and organizational cultures to be learned from green grass, weeds and mother nature herself.

Gardeners know the best deterrent to dandelions and other weeds is thick, green, healthy grass. (A related sports analogy would be, “The best defense, is a great offense.”) When the grass in our lawns is thick and healthy, there is no room for weeds to grow or even germinate. Healthy grass works like a barrier or shield against even the toughest weeds. Of course, the opposite is true as well, once grass becomes weak, perhaps from neglect, undernourishment, lack of water or stress, weeds attack with a vengeance.

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Culture Matters! How Fast Are You Driving?

Editor’s Note: Success Is Voluntary is very excited (and proud) to introduce you to Bryan Yager of the Bryan Yager Group. Bryan writes a very popular newsletter that is delivered each week titled Monday Morning Minute. To find out more about Bryan, and the fantastic work he does, just head on over to BryanYager.com

Monday Morning Minute

First a quote: Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter Drucker (Maybe)

While many people attribute the quote above to Peter Drucker, it should be noted the phrase does not seem to appear in any of Drucker’s 39 published books on management theory. Regardless of its origin, anyone who has ever attempted a large-scale change initiative knows there is at least some truth in the statement. 

The implied message is that a company’s culture is more important to the organization’s success than some grand strategy. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your strategy is if your existing organizational culture won’t support it; or worse yet, attacks the strategy like the human body attacks an infection.  And yet, so few leaders measure, monitor or intentionally shape the culture of their department, function or organization. Why? I suspect, in part, because culture seems so squishy. It is perceived by many as “soft stuff”. Or, leaders assume, “the culture is what it is,” and can’t be measured, shaped, changed or reinforced.  Or perhaps, they’re just too busy fighting the fires of the day to care. That is a mistake.

You have heard me say this before, “the soft stuff, is the hard part” when it comes to leadership responsibilities. Organizational culture is seen by most as a “soft stuff” challenge.  I’m a believer, when it comes to organizational norms, behaviors, actions and results, culture is a stronger force, than strategy, policies, management edicts and glitzy marking campaigns. Let me use a simple example.

Envision a local highway, interstate or thoroughfare near your home or office during a “non-rush hour time of day.” Have a road in mind? Now, let me ask you two questions. First; “What is the posted speed limit on that road?” And second; “How fast do most people drive on that same road?”  For this discussion, let’s assume you have envisioned a road with a posted speed limit of 65 as pictured above.  And now, what is your answer to the second question; “How fast do people drive on that same road?”

I have asked workshop participants these same two questions for years. Most people answer the second question with something like, “You’re safe up to five or ten miles over the speed limit.”  What I find interesting; they’re not talking about their physical safety here; they’re talking about “safe” from not getting a speeding ticket from an officer of the law.

Here is the point, the law says, “Thou shalt not drive faster than 65 miles per hour on this section of road.”  The sign is not a suggestion; nor does it say 65ish, or 65 + 10. It says the speed limit is 65!And yet, our culture seems to say, “It is OK to drive five to ten miles an hour over the speed limit.” Repeating, culture matters because it controls human behavior, with more effectiveness, than any policy, procedure or management edict ever will.

This same phenomenon is at play in every division, function and department in every company around the world. We put up posters in our breakrooms announcing: (pick your favorite)

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Pessimism; Good or Bad??

Editor’s Note: Success Is Voluntary is very excited (and proud) to introduce you to Bryan Yager of the Bryan Yager Group. Bryan writes a very popular newsletter that is delivered each week titled Monday Morning Minute. To find out more about Bryan, and the fantastic work he does, just head on over to BryanYager.com

Monday Morning Minute

First a quote: “I like pessimists. They’re always the ones who bring life jackets for the boat.”
Lisa Kleypas, author


If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I like to write about positive energy and how important it is for leaders to be forward looking, optimistic and creators of hope, confidence, trust, promoters of opportunity and a better world for all. (see links below) Today, I focus on the opposite end of the optimistic/pessimistic continuum.

I am often asked to deliver workshops demonstrating the importance of diversity and the role of diversity in an organization’s success. As you might correctly assume, there is often a focus on gender, ethnicity, age and sexual orientation in most diversity initiatives.  Those are certainly important topics and at the same time, the importance of diversity extends well beyond those critical topics.

There is also a need for diversity in terms of personalities, working styles and leadership tendencies. Just to give a few examples, please consider:

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SIV #072: Eric Hemati – Twins Separated At Birth

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“We get out of life what we put into the lives of other people.”

I first met Eric Hemati in early November of 2018 and knew immediately that we were kindred spirits. Since then we have probably spent 20-30 hours on the phone together.

The more I talk to Eric, the more I realize that he is one of the “good guys” in our business. He does everything with excellence and integrity.

Eric has spent 13 years building and growing his agency that has agents all across the United States. To accomplish this he does a great job of leveraging technology including a very innovative website for his agents to learn through.

As I’ve gotten to know Eric, I swear our experience, philosophies and leadership style are so closely aligned that I swear we must be twins separated at birth (and about 10 years.)

I know you are probably sick of hearing me say this, but you might want to take some notes… Of course, you don’t have to. Taking notes is voluntary… but so is success. Remember, you don’t have to be all fancy about it and write your notes in a bound leather journal. Just grab a brown paper bag and some blue crayons and let’s go to work.


Things Eric And I Talked About

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