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Four Key Decisions That Shape Your Character

Charisma may be useful in attracting a following, but it is largely useless when it comes to achieving a long term positive impact on the people and organizations we lead. For this, we need character. Effective leadership is an inside-out job.

The older I get, the more this quote from one of my mentors, Michael Hyatt reveals itself in everyday experience. As leaders (we are all leaders in some area of our lives), our influence is shaped by our character, which, in turn, is formed over time by our daily choices. The fact is, who we become is not a product of the milestone moments in our lives as much as the small, seemingly inconsequential decisions we make every day.

The good news is that, unlike personality, which is fixed at birth, your character can be developed through the intentional decisions you make about how you spend your time. If you are consistent in managing them, these daily decisions become powerful forces that will encourage you to live with more passion, purpose and influence. Here are four to consider:

Decision #1: The content you consume.
How much news do you expose yourself to every day?
What are you reading and how often?
What do you listen to while driving?
How you answer questions like these says a lot about how intentional you are in developing your character. Author and speaker Matthew Kelly tells his audiences, “You show me what you’re reading and I’ll tell you what sort of person you are. If you give me a list of the books you read last year I can tell you what happened in your life. Even better, you give me a list of the books you’re going to read in the next 12 months and I will tell you what will happen in your life in the coming year.”
That’s a bold prediction, but his message rings clear: Your character is shaped by what you allow to occupy your mind every day. I recall a successful entrepreneur telling me that he largely ignores the news because, if he didn’t, he would be too fearful to launch new business ventures. Remember, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you’re on, both Fox News and MSNBC do not exist to deliver news; their goal is to achieve ratings, which means their mission is keeping you glued to the TV. Over time, the negativity, alarmism, and agenda-driven drama affects us, injecting doubt, worry and passivity that, over time, can hijack our dreams and stifle our initiative. While I’m not suggesting we ignore what’s going on in the world, I strongly believe we need to set boundaries not only on the news we watch, but on all the content we consume every day–podcasts, blogs, streaming video, social media, etc.

Decision #2: The friendships you maintain.
Personal development icon Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Although we are often called through our work and personal lives to minister to many different types of people, those we choose as our closest friends and confidants will have a disproportionate influence on who we become, so we must choose them wisely. If you want to have a great marriage, for example, hang out with people with strong marriages. If you’re looking to become healthy and fit, cultivate friendships with people who practice good nutrition and exercise habits. On the other hand, avoid making close friends with people who exhibit the traits you want to avoid. Remember, birds of a feather really do flock together.

Decision #3: The beliefs you cultivate.
It’s been said that our actions ultimately reflect our beliefs. If you believe, for example, that human life is the result of random, meaningless chance verses the product of a loving, personal God who created you for a purpose, then chances are this belief will, at some point, play out in your life. Your world view–the fundamental beliefs you have about ultimate reality–matters, and every world view attempts to answer these four questions:
>Origin: How did I get here?
>Meaning: What is the ultimate meaning of my life?
>Morality: How should I live? Is there a right and wrong, and what is the difference?
>Destiny: What will happen when I die?
In a culture shaped by superficiality, these questions may seem over-the-top, but your capacity to formulate clear, confident answers to each of these will profoundly influence the breadth and depth of the person you become.

Decision #4: The habits you develop.
In his book, Make Today Count, leadership expert John Maxwell makes a provocative claim. He writes:

If I could come to your house and spend just one day with you, I would be able to tell whether or not you will be successful. You could pick the day. If I got up with you in the morning and went through the day with you, watching you for 24 hours, I could tell in what direction your life is headed.

According to John, when he shares this at conferences, he always gets a strong reaction. Some people are surprised and get defensive because they think he would be making a snap judgment about them. Others, however, are intrigued and want to know why he would make such a statement. As John points out, our character isn’t something that suddenly manifests itself in someone’s life. It is a process; every day is merely preparation for the next, and our habits–the simple, repeatable actions we consistently take over time–ultimately determine who we become. As John famously says, “You will never change anything in your life until you change something you do daily.” So what are your habits preparing you for, and is it aligned with where you truly want to go?

Of all the forces shaping the quality and impact of your life, your character stands alone. No one wants to reach the end of their life and feel regret over squandered opportunities and broken relationships, yet sadly, it will be the destination of choice for so many. The difference between experiencing regret verses a deep satisfaction with life, I believe, lies in the importance you attach to each of these life-shaping, character-defining decisions.

Question: Which of these decision areas do you feel confident you have made? Which ones have challenged you? What do you plan to do about it? I’d love to hear your comments!

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Learn To Be Lucky

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This time of year, luck is often top of mind — have you ever wondered why some people seem to live charmed lives, full of lucky breaks, while others fall victim to one misfortune after another?

In his landmark book, The Luck Factor, Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Herefordshire in England, answers this question, coming to the promising conclusion that luck — good or bad — is purely a state of mind.

Wiseman exhaustively researched the beliefs, habits, and experiences of more than 400 people over several years. His findings: Luck is not the result of random chance, nor are people born lucky or unlucky. Instead, luckiness can be predicted by examining people’s patterns of thinking and behavior. In other words, luck can actually be learned. Here are four core principles underlying lives of good fortune.

1) Lucky people create chance events. They are adept at noticing and finding ways to act upon chance opportunities. They tend to be relaxed and open, often discovering possibilities well beyond what they were looking for. Unlucky people, by contrast, are more tense and myopic and avoid taking risks, preferring to stay in their comfort zones.
2) Lucky people produce success by relying on their intuition. They tend to go with their gut instincts while unlucky people tend to rely more on logic.
3) Lucky people expect good things to happen. They create self-fulfilling prophecies through positive expectations, knowing what they want and reinforcing it through positive, affirming self-talk. (They tell themselves how lucky they are.) By contrast, unlucky people tend to dwell on what they don’t want… which often turns out to be exactly what they get.
4) Lucky people display a high level of resilience that transforms bad luck into good luck. Wiseman’s lucky subjects were extremely persistent, while their unlucky counterparts gave up at the first signs of struggle.

One of the most striking contrasts from Wiseman’s research was the difference in how his lucky subjects re-framed unfortunate experiences compared to unlucky folks. Wiseman explains:

“I decided to present lucky and unlucky people with some unlucky scenarios and see how they reacted. I asked lucky and unlucky people to imagine that, while waiting in line in a bank, an armed robber enters, fires a shot, and the bullet hits them in the arm. Would this event be lucky or unlucky? Unlucky people tended to say that this would be enormously unlucky and it would be just their bad luck to be in the bank during the robbery. In contrast, lucky people viewed the scenario as being far luckier, and often spontaneously commented on how the situation could have been far worse. ‘It’s lucky because you could have been shot in the head — also, you could sell your story to the newspapers and make some money.”

As Wiseman’s research reveals, the differences between lucky and unlucky people have nothing to do with blind chance. Perhaps most encouraging, luckiness can be learned, a claim the author backs up by creating a “luck school” in which he coaches previously unlucky people to adopt measurable, luck-building behaviors. The results, according to Wiseman’s research, are dramatic. “Eighty percent of the ‘luck school’ students are now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps best of all, luckier.”

So, if you want good fortune, start telling yourself how lucky you are, act upon chance events, trust your instincts, and persistently go after your goals!

What is your reaction to Wiseman’s findings? What are your beliefs about luck? Do you consider yourself to be superstitious? (According to a 1996 Gallup Poll, 25% of Americans claimed to be somewhat to very superstitious.) Did anything in Wiseman’s research surprise you? If you lived out these four “luck-building” principles consistently, what would it mean to your personal brand… and to your life?

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Tommy Gibbs’ 10 Gs of Leadership

For this week’s post, I’d like to share Tommy Gibbs‘ 10 Gs of Leadership. Tommy is a former NCAA college basketball referee, a highly respected automotive consultant, leadership trainer, and friend — and one of my favorite sources of leadership guidance.

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Leadership 101 — 10 Gs of Leadership

1. Guard Against The “Peter Principle”
Don’t promote people based strictly on how they have performed in their current role. Promote them to their ability to perform in their new role. People are often promoted to their level of incompetence.

2. Guard The Processes
The team with the best and most consistent processes wins the most often.

3. Guard The Team
It really is about the team. You need team players. If they aren’t on the same team you cannot afford to keep them on the team. They will destroy morale and production.

4. Guard The Customers
When you protect your customers, you build your business and set the bar for the team to do the same. The team is watching and emulating how you deal with customer issues.

5. Guard The Vendors
You must demand the same high quality and standards from your vendors as you demand from your team. Don’t lower your standards because you’re saving a few bucks.

6. Guard The Culture
There’s nothing more important that you can do than guard your culture. You cannot afford to hire people who aren’t of the same mindset. If you make that mistake you will wake up one day and there is no culture.

7. Guard Against Legacy Thinking
Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Stop looking back. Look forward.

8. Guard Against Making The Same Mistakes
Mistakes are a part of growing, but what you cannot allow is the same mistakes happening over and over again.

9. Guard The Training
You cannot train too much. It’s not “redundant training” until the team is perfect. The team isn’t perfect.

10. Guard The Passion
Don’t let anyone steal or drain your passion and don’t be afraid to show your passion for all the above.

That’s all I’m gonna say.
– Tommy Gibbs

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As a leader, take time to express your gratitude

Thanksgiving is almost here — I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of gratitude and how it relates to leadership. This Thanksgiving message from my good friend, Robyn Marcotte of Aha! Leadership, inspired me:

Gratitude does more than make us feel good, it does us good. What’s more, it’s good for other people too. So, thanking the people we’re grateful for increases happiness all round.

How do great leaders express their gratitude? A recent LeadStar Leadership Moment written by Angie Morgan offers excellent tips you can use during the Thanksgiving holiday — and all year ’round.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  – William Arthur Ward

As a leader, take time to express your gratitude by Angie Morgan

Thanksgiving is a time of joy, appreciation, love and gratitude. The holiday has evolved to include all sorts of great accessories, too, such as pumpkin pie, turkey, casseroles, football and naps. These foods and experiences help us celebrate, but sometimes they can overshadow the spirit and intent of this important day.

As a leader, enjoy the holiday’s bounty, but also take time to express your gratitude for the people in your life.

  • Share with your parents 1-2 memories of how they helped you become the person you are today.
  • Talk with your siblings about their strengths and how you’ve appreciated growing up with them.
  • Call your friends and remind them how important they are to your life.
  • Do something unexpected for your neighbor – write a card and place it on their doorstep, shovel the snow off their driveway, bake them cookies.
  • Write a Facebook post about a favorite teacher or coach and how they inspired you (and if they’re on Facebook, don’t forget to highlight their name so they see your message – this will light up their day).
  • Tell your children why they are so special and how important they are to you.
  • Take five seconds and walk inside the gas station after pumping gas to wish the attendant a Happy Thanksgiving and share your appreciation that they’re open on a holiday.

Also, don’t let the little things get in your way of experiencing thanks:

  • Turkey that’s too dry
  • The cousin who has snarky comments
  • Your uncooperative two-year old
  • A rainy day
  • Demanding workload that’s infringing on your Thursday
  • A long-standing family disagreement

Let’s all be present on Thursday, bring our best emotions and set the right example for others to follow … and then work to be present for the days and weeks that follow.

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