Archive for June, 2011

Checking In? Yes, where the heck am I?

How often do you go right to your hotel room without first stopping to check in at the main desk? You don’t, you need to stop and give some information about yourself and confirm you have a reservation. Your hotel attendant may even ask you what business you are in town for so that they can match your needs during your stay. Checking in is good because it lets us know we are in the right place and have the right rates and correct length of stay.

Okay, how does a check in relate to your business or you as a leader? If you run your own business or lead a team of sales professionals you should practice regular “check ins” throughout your business cycle. These should take place collectively as a group and individually. You have to step off the trail for a while and check your map and get a pulse on the climate and surroundings. It’s a pause, a time out.

Baseball is a favorite sport for me and I’m a season ticket holder for St. Louis Cardinals. Tony LaRussa has managed in over 5000 games. Only 2 other managers have managed more games. He still takes strategic timeouts to check in with players, especially pitchers, during the heat of a game. Why? Is it for the team or for him or the individual?

The answer could be yes for all three. The “CHECK IN” isn’t for others in your team as much as it is for you. Often times a manager needs to make sure that what they are seeing play out is being correctly interpreted or assessed by them. They may check in with others on the team for more perspective. The one thing that can render a check in useless is lack of straight talk and authentic answers.

Let’s go back to Tony and the Cardinals. He gets the word…”my arm is fine”, the pitcher stays in and throws a ball up and over the plate and the batter jacks one out over the fence. Was that trip to the mound a wasted leader moment? Maybe or maybe not—it really depends on how authentic the conversation was that took place, for all parties. I think it is part of the dynamics of the game that makes it so strategic and interesting.

In fact, every time I meet with clients or a business team we do a form of a check in to make sure we are connected and ready to do authentic work together. It isn’t just about a list of activities to date. It is more about where is the energy in the moment. Are we both ready to be in a coaching/development relationship? Where’s the momentum or not for the client?

The process of checking in helps the client and I get a grasp on what they are experiencing. They may be in a maelstrom of activity personally or professionally leading up to a quieter space of reflection and planning. Or it may be the beginning of a rut that is growing deeper and longer. Much like a baseball manager gets a handle on how his pitcher is doing “in the moment”.

Shifting from “doing” mode to a mode of “being” in the moment takes a lot of personal awareness every day. Intentional pauses or check ins can be a great technology for a leader. It is a process that forces you to attend to time spent thinking and assessing. Too simple…right?  Just pausing and reflecting is almost too easy. If it was easy why don’t more of us do it more often?

So there are longer time horizons to take stock of as well and not just in the moment of a hectic day. As a leader/owner you need to create a forum for checking in. Leaders and owners of our own businesses can get into protracted periods of very focused and mindful work—that—if not followed by some real, felt, and meaningful downtime can lead us to burn out, being unprepared for the future when it arrives, and a smothered human spirit.

Here are 3 key areas to consider as a simple, but deep powerful check in for leaders and entrepreneurs with your team or organization.


  • What likely industry and market scenarios have you built your business “go to market” plan from to achieve success? And are they still valid?
  • What are the current needs in the industry and customer base that you are seeking to engage and provide profitable solutions?
  • How does [Company Name] define success for the owners and stakeholders?  For its constituents and associates? And most importantly its customers?
  • How would you as an owner(s) rate your current success based on your original objectives?
    • 1 = We fell far short and are unsure of the future
    • 2 = We are short of target, but working to adjust
    • 3 = We met or are just meeting our expectations
    • 4 = Our offer is off to a great start and we are ahead of plan
    • 5 = We are wildly surprised at the demand for our offer
    • 6=Huh?


  • Relationships: How we are working together as a team of business owners?
  • Structure: How is the organization of decisions and implementations working?  How well is the work getting done?
  • Accountability and Performance: Do the team members (owners, partners, and leaders) deliver the necessary growth and contribution to results?


  • What industry and global trends will impact us and our customers that we can control or influence with our actions?
  • What would tell us we need to invest in new offers?
  • How will you keep [Company Name] a healthy and growing business?
  • Do we need new milestones for the next journey to our vision?

I hope these three key areas will be useful at your next “check in”. Take an intentional pause, hard work is rarely the problem with leaders and entrepreneurs. Taking a productive pause will let you know where the heck you really are.

©2011 The Heartwood Group, LLC


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A Father as Shepherd and Still Waters

To fathers on Father’s Day. Whether you follow Judeo-Christian principles or not there is a powerful metaphor for all fathers in the 23rd Psalm ? The idea that a father is a Shepherd. You are the Shepherd of your family and children. You need to keep watch over your family, especially in their growing up years. The Psalm is often read at funerals, but it is not a “song for the dead”! It is for the living.

The Psalm speaks of the essence of what a committed father, not just a father God,  should be for his children.  Here is a list of what I see being called out for us as fathers.

  • Leading and Meeting their needs
    • Green Pastures…our children should not want for love, nutrition, and direction. We must insist that they choose a rich environment to become an adult learner and responsible for not only their lives, but those less fortunate.
    • Still Waters…be a place where they can come to gain clarity and depth of being. With so much turmoil in the lives of children and growing up in today’s world…you may be the one place of solace and pause for reflection they get.
    • Restoration of the Soul…to help them heal  when their wounds are spiritual and deeply troubling times come upon them. Who better than a father to be a place of restoration and power.
    • Righteousness…to advocate for living from their values and taking a stand for what is good, right, and not always popular.
  • Protecting, Guiding, and Blessing their lives
    • Walking with them together through the shadowy and darker times. Don’t leave them when it counts most and don’t do it for them.
    • Your children are comforted to know that you have their best interests in mind…even when they don’t! They are comforted by your guiding hand that keeps them from potential harm. Your wisdom is needed and not appreciated sometimes until years later.
    • You must be a calming spirit when times are stressful take time to communicate and be available
    • Blessing your children with the abundance of confidence that can only come from a father who never, ever gives up on his children.
  • Attitude and Choice
    • Role model that you can choose how you will view your life. You can instill in your children that you will seek goodness and mercy regardless of life’s circumstances.
    • How you choose to spend your life and eternity is a powerful example to your children. It is more powerful than words. To dwell in the house of the Lord is a choice we all can make.

I hope you enjoyed a little different spin on this most well known Psalm written by David.  David was a man seeking after God’s heart even after all his shortcomings and accomplishments.

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Are you a Sustainable Leader?

Are you going through people in your business like a parent goes through napkins wiping up a two year old with an ice cream cone on a hot day at the St. Louis Zoo? It’s usually the best that leave first, especially in today’s economic climate. Wondering where all the employee candidates for your business or department are going to come from in the foreseeable future? That is another problem that plagues unsustainable leadership. Their business doesn’t attract candidates to them. Sustainable leaders have a line up and list of people just waiting in the wings.

Sustainability is so diversely defined that we tend to think about just the environment and natural resources.  We should be thinking about sustainable human resources and capital as leaders and owners of a business. You can’t begin to have a “sustainable” business without creating a leadership environment that encourages and nourishes people in their development. Leaders that sustain their people attract others to work for them. It often is the “mystery” thing that people are seduced by, but just can’t describe. Its really simple and essentially costs your business nothing.

There is an epidemic in organizations of treating adults like children. Leaders have become increasingly afraid of letting people take risks and make mistakes. In addition to lack of risk taking there is an unwillingness to have meaningful conversations with others that really demonstrate your sincerity and caring as a leader. This unsustainable leadership shows up in putting off tough conversations or talking behind peoples back to others. It allows the unsustainable  disease of entitlement to poison a workforce. People begin to think they are owed something and make it okay not to deliver on numbers or take off from work early.

AND equally as bad unsustainable leaders justify everything as…I could have but…I wanted to but…IF ONLY…  When a SUSTAINABLE LEADER steps up you feel it, you sense it, and you live for it. We are longing for the support and challenge of a mature adult who has taken charge of their own future. Not a fiercely  independent leader, but a leader fiercely dependent on tapping into the collective human spirit and energy of those individuals around them. They build a narrative that is compelling and is embodied in the character of each and every person.

You see—sustainable leaders BUILD SUSTAINABLE leaders. I think God knew that the human spirit was the one thing that truly is sustainable and limitless. It is the energy that can recreate itself exponentially when it is unleashed by your leadership. Do it….I dare you today to be more than you ever dreamed possible as a leader. To be more human and authentic then ever before.

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Team Works: If you are Share and not Compare

Sharing or Comparing

Any team or business has potential for tremendous public identity to get things done and to perform amazing things for their customers. Our customers demonstrate this by continuing to do business with us and refer others to our offer.  Each person within a business or team is unique in his or her talents, gifts, and personality.  Combine this fact with the clarity of a compelling offer to your market place and you have some magic. Working together as a team requires unique and constant compromise. Some compromises by teammates are undertaken silently. Others are vocal and fully visible journeys to agreement.

The level of agreement needed for successful decisions in a team is everyone’s responsibility. When a business or intact team decides to focus on a performance result there is always the important task of decision making. If you feel that there is confusion or an agreement has been broken or misunderstood…it is each individual team member’s responsibility to reach a new understanding as a team.

When we compare ourselves to others we might think we don’t have enough skills, gifts, or talents. Or when we compare someone to someone else we may not think one person measures up to another. What really is at play is varied or unknown expectations. Expectations come into play because they often are unclear, unconsciously assumed, or were never clearly established upfront. Team members need to know (and constantly seek out) what is expected of them from not only from their coach/manager, but other teammates.

Accepting each other for the special gifts they bring to the team or project is a tremendous start to begin taking full advantage of maximum team performance. Even more empowering is to have a clear understanding of the team’s common purpose…its reason for being. Each individual has a purpose in life and can follow after a certain calling if they are clear what it is.

A calling is merely the vocational experience of your purpose. There is no need to have a calling if there is no caller.  And that is exactly what purpose (the reason for being…a team or business) does. It calls us to something greater than ourselves. This dynamic works through each layer of an organization…starting with the individual and growing with each system layer.

Grow your ability to speak what your heart says is truth to you and the entire team will be able to push out of a comfort zone. You will grow a willingness to encourage others even when it is difficult. Share your feelings and thoughts more openly than maybe you have in the past and don’t “play small”.  Be prudent as needed, but take risks or live with status quo. And lastly aspire to be kind and value others as a human being first and invite them to accompany you on a quest for greatness.

Let go…so that you can take on new possibilities of greater team work. Start sharing and quit comparing.


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