Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Learning To Focus On What Matters Most


One of the things that I enjoy about speaking at conferences and at various organizations is the opportunity to meet new people. In the case of the MHLC conference I spoke at last week, it was being able to meet up with friends I made from speaking at this conference for three consecutive years, as well as meeting colleagues in the leadership sphere who I had previously only connected with by email and on the phone.

Being able to spend time with these good friends was certainly one of my personal highlights from this conference. But there was something else that I came away pondering about, and it wasn’t my now infamous encounter with the drummer from ZZ Top (that’s a story for another time).

Looking back at the numerous conversations among those attending this conference, there was a couple of times where people told me how impressed they were with how well I remembered people’s names.

Now the reason why this caught my attention is because remembering names of people I just met is something I’d hardly say I’m good at, a fact I’m sure my wife will be happy to attest to given the number of times she’s had to remind me of the names of the people she works with.

The problem is that when I meet someone new, my sense of curiosity takes over and I become focused on asking questions to learn more about the person in order to develop that connection. Consequently, I end up remembering many details about the person’s life and their work – while their name tends to be a bit fuzzy around the edges.

As such, whenever I meet someone new, I do have to work at making sure I grab ahold of their name so that it sticks in my mind for more than a few minutes.

And yet, in thinking about those moments where people were impressed with my ability to recall the names of people I met a year ago, I realized that the common thread connecting them together had less to do with remembering their names and more to do with something more significant.

Something that leaders need to adopt if their are to be successful in tapping into the collective talents and experiences of those they lead.

Now to be clear, remembering a person’s name is important, but it’s only the first step in the bigger process of Click here to continue reading »”Learning To Focus On What Matters Most”

Leaders, It’s Time To Make Work Meaningful Again


Over the past couple of months, I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders in both the private and public sector, discussing some of the key issues they face today and what they see as the main challenges they’ll face going forward.

In many of those conversations, a common theme inevitably surfaces – how do I get my employees to care more about the work we do? How do I create that environment where people are internally motivated to bring their discretionary efforts to the table?

Naturally, such questions invariably lead to discussions of how can we make work more meaningful for our employees; of how do we help them make contributions that matter to them as much as it matters to our organization.

It’s a train of thought that came to mind a few days ago when my oldest daughter returned home from high school happy to share some great news – “Leslie’s back working at our school”.

To help put this news in context, my daughters’ high school has had to make some serious budget cuts this academic year, which unfortunately included having to let go of some valuable and greatly-appreciated personnel at our high school.

Without question, Leslie is one of these employees. But thankfully, the school’s administration has found some other way to keep him involved and present in the school community, much to the excitement and delight of the students.

Now I’m sure many of you are probably thinking that Leslie is one of the ‘cool teachers’ at my daughters’ high school. The truth, however, is that Leslie is not one of the teachers – he’s the school’s security guard.

So why would my daughter and the other students be excited about his return? It’s not because they go to a dangerous school – far from it. Rather, it’s because of how Leslie approaches his job.

Since the day he started, Leslie made a point to not simply sit in his security booth. Instead, he would reach out to engage with the students, wanting to learn about their successes, and taking part in the fun activities meant to break up to monotony of the school routine.

So when news broke out that Leslie would no longer be working at the school, many of the students were sad to hear it because for many of them, he was the smiling, friendly face that greeted them at the end of their school day. He was also the cheery presence that kept them company while they waited for their parents to come pick them up.

The way Leslie approached his job reminded me of a study I share in some of my talks which found that all of us view our work in one of three ways: as a job, as a career, or as a calling.

Now, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear a pediatrician or a firefighter talking about their work as being their calling. But for the majority of us, the more likely response we’d give is that we view our work as being our career.

In Leslie’s case, given how he used to be a professional guitarist whose work can be heard on certain album recordings, it should be a given that he’d view his current work as a high school security guard as nothing more than a job.

And yet, in my numerous conversations with him, it was obvious that Leslie never saw his role at my daughters’ high school as just a job, and he certainly didn’t view it as a career.

Indeed, it’s clear to anyone who spent time interacting with him that he definitely sees the work he does in our school as being his calling. Why is that? The answer is surprisingly simple – Click here to continue reading »”Leaders, It’s Time To Make Work Meaningful Again”

How Feedback Can Help Your Employees Succeed And Grow


With August now coming to a close, many of us – myself included – are feeling that bittersweet tinge that comes with the end of the summertime period. Indeed, contrary to so many of those back-to-school commercials, I personally am not eager to see the summer break come to an end for my daughters because I love having them around. Then again, as my wife likes to say, I’m not a fan of things ending.

The end of the summer period also brings to mind another ending that was marked this month – the end of Jon Stewart’s 16-year tenure at The Daily Show.

Now, to be clear, this piece is not about Jon Stewart’s legacy and whether you agreed or not with his socio-political viewpoints. Rather, it’s about an unscripted and honest moment that happened during his final show, and what we can learn from it about the nature of giving feedback and how it can help those we lead to grow.

The moment I’m referring to was when Stephen Colbert shared with the audience how Stewart made a point of telling his employees to never thank him because they owed him nothing, an idea Colbert said Stewart got “dead wrong” for the following reason:

We owe you because we learned from you. … All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours. And we are better people for having known you. You are a great artist and a good man. … I know you’re not asking for this, but on behalf of so many people whose lives you’ve changed over the past 16 years, thank you.”

It was a wonderful, heart-felt moment that gave us a glimpse into what it was like to work under Jon Stewart’s leadership at The Daily Show. Of course, it also gives rise to a question about how will our leadership be viewed when we’re done – namely, what will be the impact those under our care remember the most about our leadership and what will that say about the legacy of our own leadership?

Granted, such questions can be quite daunting if not a luxury for many leaders to ponder given the complexity of today’s interconnected, global environment where things happening halfway around the world can wreck havoc on our strategies and plans here at home.

Indeed, if today’s leaders can’t Click here to continue reading »”How Feedback Can Help Your Employees Succeed And Grow”

Understanding Leadership And The Meaning Of Life


Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of being invited to participate in a number of projects and initiatives looking at collecting the thoughts and perspectives from a diverse set of experts, thought leaders, and personalities. For some of these projects, the contributions being sought were straight-forward and to the point.

But others tended to take on a more thought-provoking approach. The most recent example of this came in the form of a web project I was recently asked to participate in where organizers asked people from different fields and life experiences to give their answer to this question: what is the meaning of life?

As I began to write down my response, I couldn’t help but note how my answer to this profound question also revealed something about the very nature of leadership in today’s workplaces, and what’s required for us to be successful in bringing out the best in those we lead.

Of course, if there was ever a question that continued to capture the imagination and promote a healthy intellectual debate about the value of our collective humanity, it’d be the question what’s the meaning of life.

Lately, it would seem that the answer to this question for our contemporary Western society is the pursuit of happiness, and not surprisingly so when we consider that while the majority of us are not rich, we have nonetheless attained a level of materialistic and gastronomic comfort.

So it would seem that all that’s left for us to grasp for is attaining a constant level of happiness in our daily lives.

Certainly, this is a common theme that’s found in many books and articles looking at how to reignite the internal drives of our employees – that to boost employee engagement in today’s organizations, we need to promote a “happy workplace”.

And yet, if you ask me, the answer to finding the meaning of life – and with it, a greater level of employee engagement and motivation in your organization – is Click here to continue reading »”Understanding Leadership And The Meaning Of Life”

Are You Creating Purpose Through Your Leadership?


Over the past few months, I’ve been noticing a common thread in my work with various leaders and organizations, as well through my various speaking engagements with audiences in Canada and the US. Regardless of whether it’s the private or public sector, there’s a clear desire out there among many leaders to understand how to better engage their employees in the work they do.

No doubt a key factor behind this drive to better understand how to get employees to fully commit their discretionary efforts to their organization’s shared purpose stems from the realities of leading today’s organizations. Faced with increasing demands on their time, attention, and limited resources, it’s very easy for leaders to lose sight of what their employees truly need to feel inspired and empowered in the contributions they make to their organization.

Certainly, there are numerous studies out there which help shed some light on just how far organizations and their leaders have to go to improve employee engagement and productivity in their workplace.

From Gallup’s finding that only 13% of employees in 140 countries surveyed were engaged in the work they do, to Salary.com’s multi-year findings that 20% of a typical workday in US organizations is spent on non-work related tasks because employees don’t get a sense of value from what they do, it’s clear that this is a critical issue for every leader to consider and address.

Of course, when faced with such findings, it’s easy for leaders to either assume their organization is the exception to these findings, or that to address these issues requires some large-scale transformation in terms of the type of work they assign to their employees.

Regardless of how leaders choose to react to such findings about the realities found in today’s workplaces, one thing that’s clear is that in order to truly improve the way we work, leaders need to shift their focus from Click here to continue reading »”Are You Creating Purpose Through Your Leadership?”

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