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Pain: Are You Growing or Dying?

Alan Andersen

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4 Minute Read


Pain is much like death and taxes. It is an inevitable part of life, regardless if one is looking at their personal or professional endeavors, pain will impact them.

Candidly, I know that this is not particularly motivating to hear or even maybe a “normal” topic that you will find on a professional services blog. However, it is the truth.

One of the best leaders that I know of, a person who exceeds expectations in both their personal and professional world, shared one of the wisest gems that I’ve ever heard.

Before I pass it on, I’ll share the context. I aim to grab coffee or lunch with this gentleman as much as I possibly can (typically monthly). As we’ve gotten to know each other over time, I finally asked him how he had become so wholistically “successful”. His response was gold and as follows.

Alan, you have to be willing to be hurt. I am willing to be hurt. I don’t necessarily try to get hurt, I don’t make reckless decisions. In fact, I strive to be a faithful steward of everything and everyone that I am entrusted with. And yet, I know I will be hurt by others at some point or another. I have been hurt by others, but that pain has not been wasted.

Wow! Even as I review my notes now from that meeting and reiterate them here, I am blown away. Maybe you’re wondering why are you so easily awed. But seriously, who in their right mind is OKAY with getting “hurt”? Or to put it another way, who is on the lookout for pain and doesn’t merely avoid it at all costs?!

The truth is, the best of the best. Exactly like this gentleman that I mention here. High performers do not shrink from a challenge, they rise to the occasion.

This idea may seem like an “extreme growth mindset”, but it reminds of one of my favorite quotes. A quote that we’ve likely all heard (from one of the greatest boxers of all time, mind you).

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

While Mike Tyson said this in the context of the boxing ring, does it not ring true for every area of life? I submit that it does. Namely, we must be open to embracing the growing pains of maturity.

Side note, one of the biggest lessons an aspiring boxer must learn is that it is not only about how hard one punches, but how well that person can take a punch and keep going.

The Gist

As we begin to experience pain or hurt in realtime, my aim is to help begin to say, “In spite of this pain, I will keep moving forward in the right direction.” However, what if we are not naturally able to practice this mindset?

Growing vs. Dying

Practicing self-awareness is where we begin to learn how to distinguish between growing pains and dying pains. We strive to embrace the discomfort of healthy pain and differentiate between unhealthy (or unnecessary) pain.

Physiologically, most people can see and or sense the tremors of “would-be” pain. Whether this is the pain of interpersonal differences, conflict resolution or simple communication contrasts.

Here is how we can learn to embrace the growing pains and hurdle the dying pains.

  1. PAUSE

    At the first signs of pain, pause. Don’t run away, don’t hide, AND don’t just dive head first into the thick of it. Pause for just a moment to get a “good look” at what you’re experiencing.

  2. ASK

    Consider the nature of perceived or apparent pain and ask yourself, “If I avoid this situation will it come back to bite me?” Or, “Will this be more difficult to deal with in a day, a week, a month, etc?” Or, “What if I embrace this situation now, while it’s a smaller deal or incident, will it save me time, energy, and headache?” In my experience, it’s usually the latter!

  3. ACT

    For God’s sake take action! Indecision is nearly as bad as pure avoidance. Why? Because our brain and body can become accustomed to doing nothing… which in most cases is actually choosing to breath to death!


    Finally, after a decision has be made, whether to embrace the clunkiness or to ignore it, look back and see what would have been best for you to do. Then next time simply iterate based on what you learned.

In closing, I want to remind us of a fundamental reality. As my friend and former navy SEAL Leif Babin so often says, “There’s no growth in the comfort zone.” That is the truth!

Now, let’s embrace the growing pains so that we can hurdle the dying pains.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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Instantly Spotting a Great Leader

Alan Andersen

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At the end of the day, our intent is to help you accelerate the healthy growth process. Practically speaking, a great way to stunt that growth is to not attract excellent leaders (and or would-be leaders) to join you on that journey.

So just how can you speed up that process? First, you must live up to the standard that you desire to see in others. Second, you need to have an eye for “talent”.

Let’s learn from Buffett on how to zero in on identifying the right people.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, captures the world's attention with simple wisdom that stretches far beyond wealth and investment.

The billionaire's hiring advice, for example, should be common sense for any organization choosing which leaders it will hire and promote to higher ranks. But, truth be told, Buffett's advice is not common practice in the age of narcissism. He said:

We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you're going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.

So it's time to hold up the mirror. Do you hire for integrity? The pinnacle of a person's character should be explored in-depth but is often overlooked in interviews, which can be costly later, especially in upper levels of the hierarchy.

6 Reasons Integrity is Key

Here are six reasons you should consider basing your leadership hiring decisions on people with integrity.

1. An orientation toward the truth.

The ability to connect with others and the ability to be oriented toward the truth are two non-negotiable parts of a person with integrity. In essence, this is someone who will leverage both abilities to operate from honesty, embrace change, reject wrongdoing, and get real results.

2. Practicing what they preach.

Leaders walking the talk of integrity follow through on their commitments and deliver on "doing the right thing." Of course, they allow room for mistakes and failure (they're human, after all), but they hold themselves accountable to a high standard absent of outside influences. 

3. Giving others credit.

Leaders with integrity know they're the experts and understand the power they possess. What they don't do is take advantage of their status and hog the spotlight. They make a constant effort to praise and acknowledge an employee's contribution; they give them credit for exceptional work.

4. Being generous with their time.

Leaders with integrity make it a top priority to know their people in order to grow their people. They spend considerable time pouring into the lives of others through mentoring and by exposing them to new responsibilities that will stretch their development.

5. Cutting through conflict to solve problems.

Conflict is unavoidable when human beings are involved. Rather than being passive-aggressive, leaders with integrity are aware that cutting through conflict with active listening skills to understand a situation from all angles is a much faster solution to resolving an issue than running away from conflict and avoiding people.

6. Putting away the mask.

A common tendency for people at work is to put on a mask that hides who they truly are when faced with difficult people or situations. A leader with integrity shows up with her best and most authentic self; she'll face difficult people and situations with unfettered, emotional honesty and transparency.  

Originally published on Inc.

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What Is Leadership

Alan Andersen

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While we have already shared our working definition of leadership, we want to zoom out and look at the big picture of leadership. You might ask why and here’s the truth.

We are seeing more and more leaders (and would-be leaders) look at leadership all wrong.

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality of being a leader. Therefore, let’s look at the two major factors for practicing healthy leadership, namely, Attitude AND Action.


Ever taken an inkblot evaluation (formally called the "Rorschach" test)? If we had more time, I would take us through a variation of the inkblot test with an emphasis on leadership. The truth is that healthy leadership is MORE about…

  • Accountability not Accolades

  • Responsibility not Rewards

  • Patience not Instant Gratification

  • Persistence not Give-In

  • Tenacity not Slacking

At the end of the day, healthy leaders are focused on serving others to the very best of their aptitude and ability with a happy, humble ATTITUDE. Healthy leaders are not primarily focused on about being served themselves.


Now, let’s look at the other side of this metaphorical coin. Using a simple but practical analogy, consider the contrast between two characters. In fact, these two characters are doctors. They are experts in their field and let’s imagine their next appointment is to give their respective patient an annual check up but here’s the twist…

Doctor 1 Doctor 2

Scenario A

Doctor 1 is all about getting you in and out in the quickest, most helpful manner possible. So the visit goes something like this, after waiting a few moments in the back room. Doctor 1 arrives, cordially greets the patient and commences with the physical.

A short time passes, Doctor 1 clearly begins to wrap up and share something to the affect of “continue with your regular exercise, eating healthy, and don’t drink more than a few alcoholic drink beverages per weeks. See you next year.”

All in all, not bad. You got what you came for. Either a clean bill of health or progress steps to pursue health.

Scenario B

Doctor 2 is equally all about getting the patient in and out in the quickest, most helpful manner possible. Instead though, as soon as he arrives, he verbally sets expectations for the duration of the physical and begins to verbalize EVERYTHING that they are doing.

For instance, they say, “I’m taking my hand and running it from the top of the thigh to the bottom of the knee. Then I’ll use my reflex hammer to assess each leg’s reflexes. Then I’ll monitor blood pressure and we’ll verify stress level too.”

Do you see what is happening in this second scenario? Is Doctor 2 more competent than Doctor 1? Negative!

Doctor 2 is simply verbally communicating what is going on to minimize guesswork and dispel fear. In other words, while Doctor 2 is not necessarily a “better” physician than Doctor 2. The patient feels more in control and subsequently more bought in to getting things done!

A Winning Recipe

I’ll drive this point home. Can you tell the subtle but clear differences between scenario A and B? I’ll bet you can.

As a healthy leader that is focused on embracing responsibility versus looking for a reward. He or she also exercises the muscle of verbally, proactively communicating what they’re doing in order to make the people in their sphere of relationship feel comfortable.

Great leaders eliminate guess work and increase trust with everyone in their reach. This is not through rocket science, but simple, proactive communication that expresses their observations, expectations, and intended results.

Now let’s get out there and build our muscle in these two areas. Practice having a great attitude and communicating proactively discuss in order to keep others in the loop and bolstering trust.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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2 Questions Every Leader Will Ask

Alan Andersen


Inevitable Questions

Do I have what it takes?

Will I be found out?

Even the most successful leaders struggle with one or both of these questions at some point in their career. After 15 years in the business, I can assure you there are solid, healthy, affirming answers to these two tough queries.

But only if you are willing to look deep into your heart to find the source of the question.

Often the hidden self-talk to these questions can sound something like this:

Do I have what it takes to reach the next level of success? Will I be able to be successful in the long run? Will I be able to survive the inevitable challenges? Can I really be all that I want to be, or is this it? Do I have what it takes?

Leading Well

If you are going to lead well, you need to answer these questions and stop making a fool of yourself trying to prove yourself. If your identity is grounded in your job, your business title, your status, then these questions will haunt you.

However, if you excel your leadership maturity process, you can rest in the confidence and challenge that great leaders before you have calmed themselves with this simple truth: 

Your identity is not your job. Your job does not define you.

Great leaders believe they have what it takes to do whatever their purpose requires of them. While at the same time, they are humble to stay open to the fact that they do not know everything and need others to help and support them.

When we walk in humble confidence, these questions lose their power over you. 

Do I have what it takes? Yes, and if not, I have a team around me to help me figure it out. 

Will I be found out? I already have been found out. I did not get here alone and I will not get to the next level without a team of people around me. I am confident of our future success because of the people I have around me.

When your identity is not in being “all that” and “the best” but simply your best, then you will find you are the very best you can be, today and always.

If you are ready to answer some of these questions for yourself we are here to support you in the journey!

Your Coach,

Shandel Sutherland

(Repost, but still so GOOD!)

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Navigating Success

Alan Andersen

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The biggest secret to success is determining what success actually is for you. And then defining success for your team, your department and or your organization.

Too many times we just jump into work without doing the heavy lifting of thinking on what “success” actually looks like. (Side note, if you don’t think about it, how will you know when you get close?)

After you’ve determined what success looks like, then you need to FOLLOW THROUGH. Working toward the end game will look different over time. And this is why we’re learning from Dan Rockwell on this topic.

In the industry and on social media, Dan is more commonly known as Leadership Freak. Soak this in!

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen


The path to success is messy. You’ve seen straight-line growth arrows, as if success is neat, safe, predictable and always in the upward direction.

The path to success is a volatile ocean that takes you through uncharted waters. Sometimes you circle back on yourself, lost in the fog.

The Call to Adapt:

Tenacity doesn’t serve you well until you know how to adapt.

Every stormy sea is a call to adapt as you go.

The captain of a ship knows the ship drifts. Winds blow her off course. Invisible currents pull sideways.

You never arrive at the correct destination without adjusting course as you go.


#1. Adaptability is the ability to shift expectations. Failure to adapt means you either get what you expect, or you get nothing. But people fall short. Expectations are off target.

Hold to long-term goals. Adjust short-term objectives.

#2. Adaptability is the ability to navigate disappointing results while continuing to work for great results.

#3. Adaptability is the ability to take full advantage of the team you have, not the team you wish you had.

Successful team members use THEIR strengths everyday in service to organizational mission.

Expecting performance out of weakness is a fool’s errand.

#4. Adaptability is the ability to extend second chances. You never get where you want to go if you aren’t willing to start again after failure.

#5. Adaptability is the ability to reach high – fall short – and reach high again.

A leader who can’t adapt ends up giving up.

#6. Adaptability is the ability to find something good when things don’t go as expected. Performance seldom meets expectation when you reach high.

#7. Adaptability is the ability to learn.

Disappointment is a learning moment for adaptable leaders and teams.

Bonus: Adaptability is the ability to renew energy.

Fill in the blank: Adaptability is the ability to ….

Fill in the blank: Unhealthy adapting is ….

Previously posted on 7/1/19 by the Leadership Freak blog. Follow Dan, he’s tremendous!

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Alan Andersen

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To follow through or to not follow through — that is NOT the question!

The question, what does it look like in your world to be a master of the skills of Follow-Up and Follow-Through? (See previous blog entries for the Why and the How!)


  • Have a vision for your commitments. Use visual reminders in your work area to boost your motivation.

  • Provide encouragement and motivation to others. You’ll uplift yourself in the process.

  • Follow prevailing standard operating procedures (if established) until you can improve on them. Model your actions on someone successful.

  • Plan your processes ahead of time. Create checklists so you don’t have to rely on memory to ensure each step is completed.

  • Schedule next steps using specific dates and times. Use business tools such as mobile devices or computer calendars to set automatic reminders at the time you schedule.

  • Respect other people’s time and wishes by asking what works for them and being on time.

  • Plan to take actions every day that can move you toward your commitments.

  • Schedule periodic evaluations of your effectiveness. Identify what actions were missing that could have improved outcomes and add them to your checklists.

  • Offer resources of value to others based on their needs, working towards a win-win situation.


  • Embed your campaign with value. This is helpful for building new relationships, maintaining current ones and expanding current engagements into larger accounts.

  • Build a favorable “personal brand recognition” with your customers by using frequent, brief emails, tweets or phone calls to provide communications the customer is genuinely interested in.

  • Educate people to aid their decision-making process and motivate them to action. Help prospects move towards making a decision without pressure or hype.

  • Personalize your efforts. Plan ahead to provide something of value from the other person’s point of view.

  • Be persistent, but don’t continually pester people who have told you no. Have a valid business reason (such as new information) for asking them to reconsider.

  • Ask permission to follow up with them at a later date when they may have further needs. Set a reminder to do so.

These are just the beginning of applying Follow-Up and Follow-Through in your working world. Of course you can (and need to!) apply Follow-Up and Follow-Through in your personal life as well.

If you could use a little assistance in strengthening these skills, let us know. We’ll follow up with ya!

Your Coach,



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Passing the Test of Time, Pt. 1

Alan Andersen


Winning the Long Game

If you have done any amount of work with Shandel Group, you have undoubtedly heard us discuss “passing the test of time.” In other words, we want you to win the long game!

Our aim is to help you excel in both your personal and professional life. In order to do that, we are taking a couple of weeks to highlight first, “what is on the test” and then second, “how to pass the test”.

Our intention is to make this process simple so that you can take immediate action.

What's On the Test

The truth is that every human is essentially taking the same test. There are varying degrees of importance to be sure, however, for the most part we’re all working within similar constraints. For instance…

  • Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, a week, and month

  • Everyone has a body that needs to be nurtured (by discipline)

  • Everyone needs sleep (and whitespace)

While the list can go on, I’m trusting that you can see a principle emerging.

Namely, regardless of life stage, income level, or even competence EVERYONE is responsible for wholistically keeping themselves healthy and actively competing in the game of life.

Clarity Creates Direction and Focus

In paraphrasing the intent behind David Allan Coe’s quote captured above, it is far less important for us to look at the external trappings. Emphasizing things like looks, charm, status, wealth, and other less imperative frills. Instead, we must first value the foundation with which our external structure stands on. Like our understanding our purpose, values, vision, and mission in this short life.

And yes, even if you live until 150 years of age (which may not be altogether impossible, though it does sound terrible) that is still quite short in comparison with all of recorded history.

Our encouragement is for you to pause, and consider…

“How can you live life while keeping the end in mind?”

Closing Questions

In fact, when was the last time you updated your eulogy? Or, better yet, have you ever even written your eulogy in the first place?

If the answer is a hard negative on both accounts, start there. And if that seems too hard or even dark, let me encourage you that it is far better to live with the end in mind than to have to approach the end having never before considered it.

If you’re reading this now, you still have time, time to prepare to pass this test called life.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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Leadership Defined

Alan Andersen

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What is Leadership?

Seriously, take just one moment and consider how you define it. Moreover, have you ever defined it?

If we’re honest, most of us have not paused long enough to think through a clear, concise definition of what leadership is. Much less, have we taken the time to write anything down in order to pass on the idea to others or maybe even to set expectations for new leaders.

Therefore, we want to define leadership, or at minimum share a simple version for you to build upon. After all, how can you empower and equip someone in something that has not been defined? Now, maybe that is a rhetorical question, however, the truth is that you can’t lead most optimally when there is uncertainty.

Finally, before we share our take on leadership. It is important to consider why we need to define leadership. In brief, we live in a “new” context where there are fewer “ready-made leaders” coming out of high school, college and even graduate school than previous generations. To prove this point with a little levity, consider this as a reflection of our current society.



What is Leading?

Leading is less about managing and more about serving, developing, and growing (yourself and others). In other words, you manage resources, finances, etc. but you lead people. Those are not inherently the same things.

Now, at Shandel Group, we fully understand that management is more commonly used. However, our reasoning for contrasting management and leadership is simple. With powerful apps that automate reports, or the computing power of software, and countless other tools that will help you maintain control of resource allocation we would be wise to notice the difference between human development and non-human development.

To put it plainly, it is unlikely helpful to relegate leadership and management as that same act or task.

Leadership Defined

We believe that leadership is healthy growth that has an impact on you and others.

How do you define leadership?

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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Intellectual Honesty

Alan Andersen

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Intellectual honesty is amongst the most important principles that must be honored in our industry of Professional Training and Coaching. Too many times people can lean into their own intuition or isolated incidents. In so doing, they can even elevate their own experience to be more than a simple experience.

Today we work through a very helpful and brief write up on this very topic by Steve Hunt, Senior Vice President Human Capital Management Research at SAP SuccessFactors. I trust that you will find Steve’s voice to be as helpful as we have.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

Fallacies about feedback: almost everything about feedback in this article is wrong

It frustrates me when things are presented as truths when they are at best opinions, and at worst self-serving fabrications.  This is the reaction I had to a recent article in the Washington Post interviewing the author of a Harvard Business Review article about his soon-to-be released book about performance feedback.  My goal here is not to attack this author*.  My goal is to point out things the author is doing that I believe are both wrong and inappropriate. I will do this by critically examining a few quotes the author makes during the interview.  The quotes are placed in two categories of things people do when trying to generate market publicity using misleading pseudo-scientific claims.

First, make stuff up.

One common way to generate publicity is to make bold statements that are counter to prevailing beliefs. Never mind that many common beliefs are common because they are true. The author demonstrates this technique by leading with the following statement:

we think the thing we should be doing is continuously giving each other feedback. But there’s no research at all that says that leads to greater performance”

This claim is flat out false. There are hundreds of studies looking at the impact of feedback on performance.  The overwhelming consensus is feedback improves performance if it is delivered the right way in the right conditions. Note that the part about how feedback is delivered is really important, as feedback delivered the wrong way can hurt performance. Nevertheless, on average feedback does tend to positively impact performance.  Here is small sample of findings from this massive body of peer review, non-commercially oriented, empirical research:

  • “[Based on analysis of 21 studies representing 7,707 employees] nearly all the effect sizes for direct report, peer, and supervisor feedback were positive.” (Smither, London, & Reilly, 2005)

  •  “A meta-analysis (607 effect sizes; 23,663 observations) suggests that feedback interventions improved performance on average” (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996)

  • “Combining feedback and goal setting is superior in affecting performance to providing goal setting alone.” (Neubert, 1998)

The author then attacks the belief that high performers often share common traits. He uses this to claim that feedback does not work since supposedly there are no common elements associated with effective performance. 

“but you actually look at excellent sales people, excellent nurses, excellent doctors, excellent leaders, and the first thing that strikes you is they all look and behave differently”

This claim reflects something called “restriction of range”.  If you compare a sample of excellent performers against one another, you may observe that they do not all act identically. But if you compare a sample of excellent performers with a sample of average performers you will see things excellent performers have in common that make them different from average performers. For example, a study of anesthesia teams found that high performing nurses share common mental models not found in lower performing teams (Burtscher et al, 2011). 

The author’s claim that excellent people “all look and behave differently” is like saying elite NBA basketball players all look and behave differently. That may be true when they are compared to each other. But they share a lot in common compared to average high school players. Next to average players, most NBA players are highly similar in the sense that they are much taller and faster, and have far greater mastery of basic skills like dribbling, shooting and rebounding. 

Now, discover stuff we already know

Another marketing ploy used to generate publicity is to repackage well-established scientific findings as though they were new research discoveries. The author does this when he starts talking about what companies should do instead of feedback:

 “There’s only three sources of input that are valuable to a team member: facts, steps, reaction.”

 The author goes on to explain that to increase performance you should observe someone’s performance, provide them with facts that will help them be successful, tell them if there are specific steps they should start or stop doing, and let them know how their actions might affect or be perceived by others.  This sounds like another psychological process often covered in Introduction to Psychology textbooks. It is called “providing performance feedback”.   The author is just restating several well-established rules for providing effective feedback. Feedback should be specific, describe observable behaviors, and be delivered in a non-judgmental fashion.

 I have no problem with people restating the importance of applying well-established psychological principles like the use of behavioral-based feedback. What I object to is making unfounded criticisms about the value of feedback to generate publicity. And claiming to have discovered something new about feedback that is already extensively documented in existing studies. It is damaging to our field as HR professionals, misleading to the business customers we serve, and disrespectful to the researchers who have gone before us


*If you want to know who the author is do a Google search using the title of this blog.

Burtscher, M. J., Kolbe, M., Wacker, J., & Manser, T. (2011). Interactions of team mental models and monitoring behaviors predict team performance in simulated anesthesia inductions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17(3), 257-269.

Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254-284.

Neubert, M. J. (1998). The value of feedback and goal setting over goal setting alone and potential moderators of this effect: A meta-analysis. Human Performance, 11(4), 321-335.

Smither, J. W., London, M., & Reilly, R. R. (2005). Does performance improve following multisource feedback? A theoretical model, meta-analysis, and review of empirical findings. Personnel Psychology, 58(1), 33-66.

Article originally posted via Steve Hunt on LinkedIn

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Minimizing Frustration

Alan Andersen

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Reactive Expectations

Let’s consider the root cause of frustration for just a moment together. As Dr. Lewis reminds us, the core of frustration is an unmet expectation.

In light of this simple reality the question that we would be wise to ask is…

“How can I most effectively minimize frustration?”

There are certainly several ways to decrease the likelihood of frustration. Yet one of the more simple ways is to make sure that you are rightly seeing whatever triggers irritation. In other words, too many times we overlook the context of whatever pain point or annoyance that we experience.

Reflect for a moment on a manager and team member relationship.

When a manager is mentoring their team or team members and someone does something wrong, a healthy manager would be wise to pause and consider if:

The employee tends to make mistakes despite my leadership.


The employee trends to make mistakes despite my leadership.

This is a subtle but important distinction. Things can tend to break or fail from time to time. As leaders, we should learn to be gracious and flexible. The world is dynamic, people are ever changing, and especially the context of business can be a moving target. So when legitimate mistakes take place, we should expect it and help correct it.

However, if someone has a habit of making poor choices or mistakes. Namely, they trend to misappropriate time, energy, or effort. We must be prepared to coach them up or coach them out of the organization.

Maybe a question you are asking is, “This is all fine and good. The distinction between “tends to” and “trends to” makes sense. But…

How can I proactively get in front of potential frustration with my people?

Proactive Expectations

The way that we can minimize frustration for all parties is by walking people through our pathway of Empowering Action.

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Once you set expectations, the final key to making this process sustainable is to have a consistent feedback loop or regular rhythm for candid communication.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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When Productivity Equals Toxicity

Alan Andersen

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Admittedly, this is going to be a longer post than normal. BUT before you decide to skip it, let me emphasize the significance of this read.

We get to learn from Dave Bookbinder and he has done a tremendous job breaking down a study from Harvard. Essentially, he helps us see that working with a highly productive but ‘toxic worker’ does more damage to an organizations bottom line than having more employees that are less productive, but collaborate with one another.

Please read this and share the idea with the decision makers who hire people in your organization. This wisdom will be the equivalent to a headache curing Advil for you and your company.

Originally Posted @ TLNT

It’s all about THEM

Toxic employees don’t care about a company’s goals, nor do they care about building relationships with co-workers. More than just self-centered office bullies, toxic employees are actually strategic and covert.

A 2015 study by Michael Housman and Dylan Minor published by the Harvard Business School defines a “toxic” employee as:  “A worker that engages in behavior that is harmful to an organization, including either its property or people.”

The data suggests that toxic employees drive other employees to leave an organization faster and more frequently, which generates huge turnover and training costs, and they diminish the productivity of everyone around them.

To gain some additional insights behind the research, I spoke with co-author, Dr. Housman. According to Dr. Housman: “Behavior is contagious… we find that when a toxic person joins a team, others are more likely to behave in a toxic fashion.”

Paraphrased by a the Harvard Gazette, Minor observed that client customer surveys indicate that toxic workers “absolutely” tend to damage a firm’s customer service reputation, which has a long-term financial impact that can be difficult to quantify.

The study also estimated the value of finding a “rock star” — defined as workers in the top 1% of productivity — as compared to the value of avoiding a toxic worker.

According to the findings, by avoiding the hiring of a toxic employee, companies will save an average of $12,489 through the avoidance of potential litigation fees and avoiding a reduction in employee morale, among other things.

The findings show that avoiding a toxic employee generates returns of nearly two-to-one as compared to those generated when firms hire a rock star.

This suggests more broadly that “bad” employees may have a stronger effect on the firm than “good” employees.

To further my understanding of the impact of toxic employees, I visited with Candida Seasock, founder of CTS & Associates. Candida has successfully assisted management teams ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to emerging growth companies through her award-winning approach “Growth Path to Success.”

According to Candida, companies make the mistake of hiring potentially toxic employees by not focusing on hiring to fit corporate culture. “Skills can be taught or developed, but honesty and integrity are found from within” she says. Candida also warns that some of a company’s earliest hires might not be the best fit as the company grows. “Holding on to employees who are resistant to change and growth, can result in toxic behaviors as those employees try to survive,” she says.

This can be a costly mistake.

Productivity or toxicity?

The Harvard study found evidence that toxic employees are more productive than the average worker. This helps to explain how superstar athletes who are bad in the locker room or have “off the field issues” for example, can remain with their teams, and why toxic employees can remain with their organizations.

Dr. Housman notes, however, that, “While toxic employees are more productive, meaning getting more things done, the quality of that productivity often is less than desirable.“

Organizations are often confronted with the situation where they need to decide whether to terminate a high-performing toxic employee for the betterment of the team’s morale. How many are able to do that, as compared to looking the other way because the employee’s “numbers were just too good?”

Candida says, “The toxic employees are top performers because they’ve literally become know-it-alls. As a result of their behaviors, they pick up valuable pieces of information along the way.”

But these behaviors can only be tolerated up to a certain point.

Toxic workers cost you

Presented with the apparent correlation of high productivity among the toxic employees, the Harvard researchers explicitly examined the trade-off in increased productivity vs. the propensity for toxicity.

As it turns out, avoiding toxic workers is still better for the organization in terms of net profitability, despite losing out on a highly productive employee. Avoiding a toxic employee (or coaching them up to becoming an average employee) enhances performance to a much greater extent than replacing an average employee with a rock star.

What role does management play in creating or fostering a toxic environment? Even when management is not contributing to the toxic behaviors, Dr. Housman says that, “By not policing toxic behaviors, management can create an environment where people feel that they can ‘get away with’ behaving badly.”

What to do with a toxic worker

Clearly it’s best to avoid hiring a toxic employee in the first place, but if you’ve got them in your midst, Candida recommends that the toxic employee either needs to be terminated or isolated.

For management teams that just can’t give up the high performance, Candida emphasizes the need to “recognize the toxic behavior and separate the toxic employee from the rest of the workforce by letting them focus on what they’re really good at.”

But at some point, the toxic behavior outweighs the high performance.

Afraid to cut the cord? Wondering if removing a toxic “superstar” really pays dividends? Take the case of a Pennsylvania metal shop that had a highly productive, but toxic worker. For several years, the owner attempted to coach him. It didn’t work. The situation worsened to the point that a group of workers switched their lunch time so they wouldn’t have to be around the man and his team.

When he and two of his team were finally terminated, the value of shipments per labor hour jumped a month later by some 40% — from $85-$90 per labor hour to $123. And that was without three of the shop’s most productive workers.

Check out Dave’s new book on Amazon

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Getting Things Done (GTD)

Alan Andersen


If you’re like me, you learned about David Allen’s GTD method about 10 years ago. While not an early adopter (since GTD was published in 2002) there was still some geeking out on this new productivity method.

Then there are a number of you who don’t care. You don’t need a method for GTD. You just put your head down and get things done. No need for tricks, tips or frills. (Boy, do I envy you!)

Regardless of where you land on either side of the conversation, I want to highlight the imperative key to unlocking productive action. Namely, Clarity.

Okay, Alan. Clarity seems like a broad concept to state as “the key” to GTD.

I’ll clarify by sharing a familiar scenario:

  • Manager hires new team member that has industry experience, but from a different culture and business approach.

  • On-boarding ensues and new hire is given information about company culture, industry approach, and his/her responsiblity.

  • Post on-boarding new hire is expected to get after it.

  • In the first two to four weeks, the new hire is scrambling to keep learning. Working to grasp company tools, tactics, contacts (internal and external), culture, etc.

  • In the first two to four months, the new hire is feeling tired, colleagues may feel like he/she is not pulling their weight, and the direct manager is likely unclear why the new hire seems to be producing “so little”.

Let’s end the scenario right there. While we could go on let’s get straight to the solution.

The Key to GTD

The missing clarity that I was highlighting early is this. As leaders, we must understand our personal wiring, have sharp tools, but most importantly get REALLY clear on communicating expectations.

What does that look like practically?

Good question. The foundation of GTD is having…

  1. A clear understanding of the objective (and number of them)

  2. Proficiency to prioritize said objectives in order of importance

  3. Competency to accurately execute action

I really like how the military has modeled this for us. They make it even more simple. Prioritize and Execute.

Quality GTD Leadership

My point here is that most of the time we get caught up with someone not GTD in the same manner that we do. Or a person prefers different tools than we like. The reality, as the leader, is that our job is to make crystal clear what the concrete expectations are.

Are we so clear that when a team member begins to “drop the ball” there is no doubt that you set them up for a “Win”? Or is there reasonable doubt that they were not given a fair shake in GTD. Much of the time we burn through employees because we deem them unsuitable for a job when in reality they were never given the clarity they needed to be successful.

Once we’re crystal clear in communication, setting concrete expectations, etc. Then we will adequately know if someone is not a good fit. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Do you disagree with my GTD assessment?

I welcome feedback or even pushback!

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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The Top 10 Ways to Be in the Present

Alan Andersen

Sometimes we are so focused on the future that we neglect the day in which we are living. Let us focus on this very moment and make it the best it can be!

What are you doing TODAY to focus on THIS 24 hours?

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen


1. Change your affirmations from future to present tense.

Change “I will be five pounds lighter in June” to “I choose healthy ways to nourish myself.” By stating our goals, visions, and beliefs in the present tense, we give them immediate power to happen now.

2. Gently redirect your mind back to the present whenever your thoughts stray.

Being in the present is a gradual process. Forcing, punishing, and feeling bad about yourself will disempower you.

3. Live your life with joy.

If you are presently content, you have fewer reasons to chase illusions.

4. Open up all of your senses and experience the moment.

What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and know on the deepest level about this moment? These thoughts can help ground you in the present.

5. Realize that time is never wasted; it’s only spent.

6. Celebrate the passing of time by enjoying each season.

7. Deliberately place your focus on present action rather than past regrets or future worries.

8. Keep your fear in proper perspective.

Fear is a tool for survival, but it shouldn’t be leading a filibuster in your head! Allow other emotions to have airtime.

9. Look at the big picture.

Often we get caught up in the details and our perspectives become skewed. Take a step back – take three steps back. Expand the picture as far as your mind can conceive.

10. Breathe.

This piece was originally submitted by Erica Wang

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Increasing Your EQ

Alan Andersen

eq robot.jpg

More than ever we are hearing about the necessity of growing greater EQ. The truth is, developing Emotional Intelligence is important. And while it is not the end all, be all (which we wrote about here), your EQ is something that you must become proficient in using in nearly every inter-personal exchange.

Having helped countless people accelerate the Emotional Intelligence growth process, a big part of that ability is knowing which tools and resources are most helpful.

As we move into a new year, we have referenced this tremendously helpful list actions and tools you can practically apply to your day-to-day life, both personally and professionally.

So if you find yourself needing to grow greater EQ or you know someone else that has room for growth, pass this helpful note along!

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE / 50 tips for improving your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence fuels your performance both in the workplace and in your personal life, but it starts with you. From your confidence, empathy and optimism to your social skills and self-control, understanding and managing your own emotions can accelerate success in all areas of your life.

No matter what professional field you are in, whether you manage a team of two or 20, or even just yourself, realising how effective you are at controlling your own emotional energy is a great starting point. Absent from the curriculum, emotional intelligence isn’t something we are taught or tested on, so where did it come from, what is it, do you have it and is it really that important?

Fortunately, it is something you can learn and we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of tips to help you explore your own level of emotional intelligence and gain important emotional intelligence skills that can be implemented into everyday life. Some of these tips we follow ourselves and others have been revealed to us by our amazing clients and partners who know how to motivate and inspire their teams but first and foremost, themselves.

Emotional Intelligence

Put simply, emotional Intelligence is how well individuals identify and manage their own emotions and react to the emotions of others. It’s understanding how those emotions shape your thoughts and actions so you can have greater control over your behaviour and develop the skills to manage yourself more effectively. Becoming more emotionally conscious allows us to grow and gain a deeper understanding of who we are, enabling us to communicate better with others and build stronger relationships.

We suggest starting with these initial 8 tips, they provide a good starting point to discovering the foundations of your emotional intelligence.

#1) Practice observing how you feel
Often we lead hectic, busy lifestyles and it’s all too easy for us to lose touch with our emotions. To reconnect, try setting a timer for various points during the day. When the timer goes off, take a few deep breaths and notice how you’re feeling emotionally. Pay attention to where that emotion is showing up as a physical feeling in your body and what the sensation feels like. The more you practice, the more it will become second nature.

#2) Pay attention to how you behave
While you’re practising your emotional awareness, take the time to notice your behaviour too. Observe how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions, and how that affects your day-to-day life. Managing our emotions becomes easier once we become more conscious of how we react to them.

#3) Question your own opinions
In this hyper-connected world, it is easy to fall into an ‘opinion bubble’. This is a state of existence where your own opinions are constantly re-enforced by people with similar viewpoints. Take time to read the other side of the story and have your views challenged (even if you still feel they are right). This will help you understand other people and be more receptive to new ideas.

#4) Take responsibility for your feelings
Your emotions and behaviour come from you, they don’t come from anyone else and once you start accepting responsibility for how you feel and how you behave it will have a positive impact on all areas of your life.

#5) Take time to celebrate the positive
A key part emotional intelligence is celebrating and reflecting on the positive moments in life. People who experience positive emotions are generally more resilient and more likely to have fulfilling relationships, which will help them move past adversity.

#6) But don’t ignore the negative

Reflecting on negative feelings is just as important as reflecting on the positive. Understanding why you feel negative is key to becoming a fully-rounded individual, who is more able to deal with negative issues in the future.

#7) Don’t forget to breathe

Life throws various situations our way, with most of us experiencing some sort of stress on a regular basis. To manage your emotions when this happens and to avoid outbursts, don’t forget to breathe. Call a time out and go put some cold water on your face, go outside and get some fresh air or make a drink – anything to keep your cool and give yourself a chance to get a hold on what’s happening and how you should respond.

#8) A lifetime process
Understand and remember that emotional intelligence is something you develop and requires continual improvement; it’s very much a lifetime practice.


A key component of emotional intelligence, self-awareness is the ability to recognise and understand your own character, moods and emotions and their effect on others. It includes a realistic self-assessment of what you’re capable of – your strengths and weaknesses – and knowing how others perceive you. It can help highlight areas for self-improvement, make you better at adapting and can limit wrongful decisions.

#9) Learn to look at yourself objectively
Knowing yourself completely is difficult and it’s almost impossible to look at yourself objectively, so input from those who know you is vital. Ask them where your strengths and weaknesses lie, write down what they say and compare it. Look out for any patterns and remember not to argue with them – it doesn’t mean they’re right – they’re just trying to help you gauge your perception from another’s point of view.

#10) Keep a diary
A great way to get an accurate gauge of yourself is to keep a diary. Start by writing down what happened to you at the end of every day, how it made you feel and how you dealt with it. Documenting details like these will make you more aware of what you're doing and will highlight where problems might be coming from. Periodically, look back over your comments and take note of any trends.

#11) Understand what motivates you
Everyone has a core motivation when they begin a project. The difficulty is keeping this driving force in mind when adversity appears. All too often people start a project but fail to complete it because they lose their motivation to do so. Take time to understand what motivates you and use it to push you across the finish line.

#12) Take it easy

Sometimes emotional outbreaks occur because we don’t take the time out to slow down and process how we’re feeling. Give yourself a break and make a conscious effort to meditate, do yoga or read – a little escapism works wonders. And then the next time you have an emotional reaction to something, try to pause before you react.

#13) Acknowledge your emotional triggers

Self-aware individuals are able to recognise their emotions as they occur. It's important to be flexible with your emotions and adapt them to your situation. Don't deny your emotions stage time but don't be rigid with them either, take the time to process your emotions before communicating them.

#14) Predict how you will feel
Think about a situation you’re going into and predict how you will feel. Practice naming and accepting the feelings - naming the feeling puts you in control. Try to choose an appropriate reaction to the feeling rather than just reacting to it.

#15) Trust your intuition
If you are still unsure about which path to take, trust your intuition. After all, your subconscious has been learning which path to take throughout your entire life.


Once you’ve gotten to grips with self-awareness and how your emotions work, you can get a handle on self-management. Which means taking responsibility for your own behaviour and well-being as well as controlling emotional outbursts.

#16) Snap out of it
One key way to keep your emotions in check is to change your sensory input – motion dictates emotion as the old saying goes. So jolt your physical body out of routine by attending an exercise class or try channelling a busy mind with a puzzle or a book - anything to break your existing routine.

#17) Maintain a schedule (and stick to it!)
Ensuring that you create a schedule and stick to it is extremely important if you want to complete tasks effectively. Paul Minors of Productivityist writes "When you schedule appointments in your calendar, you’re saying to yourself: “I’m going to do A, B and C by X date and it’s going to take Y hours.”

Once you make this promise, it becomes harder to procrastinate."

#18) Eat well
This sounds like an easy one but regulating what you eat and drink can have a massive effect on your emotional state, so try your best to maintain a balanced diet.

#19) Don’t get mad

Funnel your emotional energy into something productive. It’s okay to keep overwhelming emotions inside, especially if it’s not an appropriate time to let them out. However, when you do, rather than vent it on something futile, turn it into motivation instead. Don’t get mad, get better.

#20) Be interested
A key factor in managing yourself and your emotions is consciously taken the time to be interested in the subject matter, whether it be business or personal.

#21) Don't expect people to trust you (if you can't trust them)

Establishing trust with a person can be difficult, and once it's lost it's very hard to regain. Try to be mindful that people are only human and will make mistakes. By offering your trust, you are inviting people to offer their trust in return.

#22) It’s your choice
You have the ability to choose how you react to a situation - you can either overreact or remain calm. But it’s your choice.


A personal skills aspect of emotional intelligence, self-motivation refers to our inner drive to achieve and improve our commitment to our goals, our readiness to act on opportunities and our overall optimism.

#23) Personal goals
Personal goals can provide long-term direction and short-term motivation. So grab a pen and paper and have a think about where you want to be and set some targets for yourself. Base them on your strengths and make them relevant to you and ultimately, make them exciting and achievable. This task alone is enough to get you instantly motivated!

#24) Be realistic
When you’ve set a new goal, be sure to give yourself realistic and clear aims to achieving that goal and understand that change is an inevitable part of life. Achievement boosts confidence and as self-confidence rises so does the ability to achieve more, see how it works?

#25) Positive thinking
To keep motivated it’s important to maintain a positive and optimistic mindset. See problems and setbacks as learning opportunities instead of failings and try to avoid negative people and opt to surround yourself with positive, well-motivated people – they’ll have a great effect on you.

#26) Lifelong learning
Both knowledge and information are key for feeding your mind and keeping you curious and motivated. And with information so easily accessible, you have the opportunity to fuel your values and passions at the click of a button!

#27) Be prepared to leave your comfort zone
The biggest barrier to achieving your full potential is not challenging yourself frequently enough. Great things can happen to you if you’re willing to leave your comfort zone, so do so as often as you can.

#28) Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and vice versa. If others need help, don’t hold back in giving it to them. Seeing other people succeed will only help to motivate yourself.

#29) Stand and stretch
For an instant short term boost to your motivation, take a stand and stretch out as far as you can for 10 seconds. When you return to your desk, you'll be in the correct frame of mind and ready to work.


Quite simply, empathy is the ability to understand other people’s emotions. Understanding that everyone has their own set of feelings, desires, triggers and fears. To be empathetic you’re allowing their experiences to resonate with your own in order to respond in an emotionally appropriate way. It’s a lifelong skill and the most important one for navigating relationships, and whilst it may not come naturally, there are a few ways it can be nurtured.

#30) Listen 

Before you’re able to empathise with someone you first need to understand what it is they’re saying, which means listening is at the very epicentre of empathy. It involves letting them talk without interruption, preconceptions, scepticism and putting your own issues on pause to allow yourself to absorb their situation and consider how they are feeling before you react.

#31) Try to be approachable
Whether you're the leader of a team or working on a project with others, try to remain accessible and approachable.

#32) Perspective
We’re all familiar with the phrase “put yourself in their shoes”, and this is exactly that. The simplest way of gaining a little perspective the next time an issue or situation arises is to switch places with the other person and really think about what’s happening from their point of view. Sometimes there’s no right or wrong but at least you’ll understand enough to come to a resolve or offer some useful advice.

#33) Open yourself up
One of the quickest ways to offer a sincere exchange or sign of empathy is to listen to someone’s experiences and connect to it with a similar experience of your own. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up, it might just be the start of a great and lasting friendship.

#34) Immerse yourself in a new culture
The old saying 'travel broadens the mind' is still true, even in this ever shrinking world. Sometimes the best way to open your mind is to jump on a plane and go somewhere completely different.

#35) Cultivate a curiosity about strangers

Highly empathetic people have an insatiable curiosity about strangers. When we talk to people outside of our usual social circle we learn about and begin to understand opinions, views and lives that are different to our own. So next time you’re sat on a bus you know just what to do…

#36) Acknowledge what people are saying
Another useful tip is, whilst listening to what a person has to say, use acknowledgement words such as 'i understand' and 'i see' to show a person you're listening (but of course only say these things if you are actually listening!).

Social skills

In emotional intelligence terms, social skills refer to the skills needed to handle and influence other people’s emotions effectively. It covers a wide range of abilities, from communication and conflict management to dealing with change, meeting new people and building relationships and plays a part in almost every part of our lives, from work life to our romantic life. It’s complex and requires utilising almost every point we have already mentioned, but here are a few pointers for you.

#37) Get started
A good way to get started on improving your social skills is to isolate one skill you know you’d like to develop, this narrows it down and gives you focus. Internationally known psychologist, Daniel Goleman, suggests highlighting someone you know to be good at that particular skill, observing how they act and how they control their emotions and then implementing and applying that knowledge to yourself.

#38) Wear somebody else's shoes
Not literally of course! Everyone has heard the phrase 'walk a mile in somebody else's shoes', but how many people actually practice this advice? Give it a try, you never know.

#39) Practice makes perfect
The idea of practising your social skills might sound strange, but like everything in life, practice makes perfect.

#40) Social media cold turkey
We don’t mean to sound old, but taking your social life offline and engaging face-to-face with people will open up so many opportunities for you to gain and develop your social skills. So next time instead of instant messaging your best friend, meet up for a drink! Emotional intelligence doesn’t expand within the confines of (un) social media…

#41) Get networking
A good way to practise your social acumen is to attend local networking events. The great thing about these events is that everyone attending has a shared reason for attending.

#42) It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

We’re talking about the importance of nonverbal communication and how that can affect a person’s opinion of you. Body language, tone of voice and eye contact is key to letting others know how you feel emotionally. So once you’ve got your emotions intact, think about how you’re physically coming across.

#43) The unknown
The ultimate method to building your social skills is to get out there and be sociable. It sounds simple, but you can’t strengthen your social skills without being social! Join a group or network outside of your usual circle; it’s the perfect way to put all of our tips into play.

What to avoid

Those with a high EQ very rarely display the following traits, something for you to be mindful of.

#44) Drama
Emotionally intelligent people listen, offer sound advice and extend empathy to those who need it but they don’t permit others’ lives and emotions to effect or rule their own.

#45) Complaining
Complaining implies two things – one, that we are victims, and two, that there are no solutions to our problems. Rarely does an emotionally intelligent person feel victimised, and even more infrequently do they feel that a solution is beyond their grasp. So instead of looking for someone or something to blame, they think constructively and dissolve the solution in private.

#46) Negativity
Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to kerb cynical thoughts. They acknowledge that negative thoughts are just that – thoughts – and rely on facts to come to conclusions as well as being able to silence or zone out any negativity.

#47) Dwelling on the past
Those with high emotional intelligence choose to learn from the mistakes and choices they have made and instead of dwelling on the past are mindful to live in the now.

#48) Selfishness
Whilst a degree of selfishness is required to get ahead in life, too much can fracture relationships and cause disharmony. Try to avoid being overly selfish and consider others needs.

#49) Giving in to peer pressure
Just because everyone else does something, they don’t feel compelled to follow suit if they don’t want to. They think independently, and never conform just to please other people.

#50) Being overly critical
Nothing destroys a person's morale faster than being overly critical. Remember that people are only human and have the same motivations (and limitations) as you. Take the time to understand another person then communicate the change you want to see.

By understanding and successfully applying emotional intelligence, you too can reach your full potential and achieve your goals.

Originally posted at Roche Martin’s Blog

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Seth Godin crushes it again!

Alan Andersen


Now I know that may sound hyperbolic or overly emphatic. However, he does such a helpful job and breaking down what it looks like to think and function at the “10X“ level.

Take the three minutes that this note from Seth takes to read and see what I’m talking about!

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen 

The 10x lesson

The 10x programmer, the 10x strategy expert, the 10x surgeon.

This is something we are always in search of. The human who is playing at a different level, generating work that changes everything.

The thing is: a 1x contributor can’t become a 10x merely by working ten times as hard. The physics of time won’t allow it, certainly, but it’s also because 10x doesn’t work on the same axis. It’s not about more effort. It’s about more insight.

In order to make that forward leap, you need to trust yourself. To create space. To have the discipline to say no to distractions or even to projects that put you back into the 1x mode.

The reason that there are so few 10x contributors isn’t that we lack innate talent. It’s that our systems and our self-talk seduce us into believing that repeating 1x work to exhaustion is a safer path.

Originally posted at Seth’s Blog

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Legacy or the Long Play?

Alan Andersen


When you think of the idea of “leadership” what comes to mind?

There are a myriad of components that go into “leadership”. However, if we can simplify those factors, I would encourage us to consider true leadership to be healthy, influential, and sustainable impact on the lives of others for the good of all.

In fact, what would our countries, communities, colleges, offices, or families look like if we defined leadership like this?

From my vantage point, as a societal whole, we would look different. We would look better. We would BE better.

Practically, how do we begin to be better?

I’m so glad you asked! A very practical first step is to assess how far down the road we are setting our focus. In other words, are we focusing on our “legacy or the long play”?

As such, we get to learn from Dr. Rob McKenna on this very point.

Sit back, relax… Or better yet, buckle up and lean in so that you can get the mental tune-up that we all need from Dr. McKenna.*

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen


If I told you that much of your impact on others may not be realized for five, ten, or even twenty years, what would you think? I just finished watching a movie about Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. His story has some personal meaning for me because my name is Robert Bruce. I’m not aware of any real connection to him, but as a kid, I never failed to share that I was named after Robert the Bruce – the King of Scots. At the end of the movie, it was noted that an ancestor of Robert the Bruce eventually became the king over the shared nation of Scotland and England, 300 years after his death. 300 years! That’s a long time for impact that he never saw.

Playing the Long Game

What if your greatest impact may not be fulfilled or felt for 300 years? Answering that question for myself is both incredibly meaningful and challenging in the same moment. I recently had the privilege to speak to a group of leaders about whole and intentional leader development and our mission to prepare a generation of courageous and sacrificial leaders.

One of the leaders said, “You are in this for the long play.” I had never heard our work and mission described that way, but it made sense. It was one of those statements you don’t fully comprehend when it’s said, but is powerful enough to drive you to your knees if you let it sink in. “You are in this for the long play.”

At another event only a few weeks before, I had the privilege of watching two leaders I’d mentored share their own thoughts on leadership development with a group of 200 leaders. Their talks sounded like something I might say, but a whole lot better. It occurred to me then that the real impact of the mission I’m on may be felt long after I’m. If I’m honest, it’s both devastating and overwhelmingly fulfilling at the same time. There is a part of me that wants to see the fruits of my work, and another part that feels so free in my understanding that my impact matters, but it’s not all about that.

It’s Not About Your Legacy

Contrast the emphasis in every part of our culture. Whether in athletics, business, music, churches, or even in education, so much emphasis is on quick success, fast weight loss, snappy chats, instant messages, personal impact and meaning, our calling, and the worst of all – our legacy. Focusing on our own legacy is still about us, and if it’s about us and the possibility that we will see our impact, it’s by nature a very short play. Focusing on our calling also misses the point that a calling is as much or more about the one who is calling as it is about us.

I was recently asked to speak on a conference panel about corporate leader development programs and the topic was “Accelerating Leader Development.” We want it fast, we want to see the results.

  • How would your life and work look different if you thought about the long play? And, I don’t mean planning for your retirement.

  • How would your life and work look different if you believed that your impact on people was going to outlive your time in your current organization, or even your last breath?

  • How would you invest in the leaders you are responsible for developing?

  • How would the conversations with your team change?

  • What urgent emails would you put aside for a moment in order to better see the people around you? Think about that long play and the relationship to your mission.

  • How would you organize your work?

  • How would it impact the people you hire, invite, or even how you deal with conflict and moments of pressure?

  • How would a long-term focus impact how and when you speak, who is given credit, and who is given grace?

I’m not suggesting that actions for immediate resourcing, small wins, and even impact are irrelevant or wrong, but that our experience may be more honest and impactful if we realized what it may all be about in the end. My team is driven by a sense of urgency that is necessary to support leaders, but I am also being reminded that much of the impact of our work may be fulfilled long after our time on this earth.

What is your long play?


Dr. Rob McKenna is the Founder and CEO of WiLD Leaders Inc. a firm focused on whole and intentional leader development and creator of the WiLD Toolkit, a set of 10 sequential developmental tools and personalized feedback reports that provide a comprehensive and intentional development plan. He is also Chair, Dept. of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Seattle Pacific University.

*Originally posted on the Christian Leadership Alliance blog

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Learning from a GOAT: Tom Peters

Alan Andersen

Jones Tombstone.jpg

Tom Peters

When you think of leaders who are in the category of Greatest Of All Time (commonly referred to as GOAT), who comes to mind?

Seriously, consider pausing for just a moment to consider if you can come up with at least 10 leaders that are in this category.

One of those candidates for me, and many others, would be Tom Peters. Tom has done (and continues to do) great work for individuals and organizations. He is probably most known for his commitment to Excellence.

Specifically around the understanding that whatever you do, regardless of the industry, if you are committed to excellence you will more than likely succeed.

The Excellence Dividend

I want to highlight two things from Tom’s most recent book, The Excellence Dividend.

First, in the pursuit of excellence, we must keep what really matters top of mind.

To drive this point home, Tom reminds us that tombstones never list the Net Worth or the Wins and Losses record. Rather, we see what kind of human being he/she was.

Let’s commit this very moment to remember there are never ever u-haul trailer following a hearse. We can’t take it with us. Therefore, lets pursue excellence to the benefit of others along the way. Not pursue excellence at the expense of others.

Second, Tom has compiled this a 600+ PowerPoint Slide Deck that reflects the thoughts in this most recent book, which you can download for free here.

You read that right! Tom has compiled a deck that you can access for free. Click Here to download it.

To be clear, the 600+ deck is not flashy or the most aesthetically pleasing. BUT, the content is good and I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to download the deck and at least zoom through it to pull out a handful of leadership gems that will help you live, love, and lead better.

Cheers to Tom Peters for modeling what excellence is and encouraging us all to pursue excellence the right way.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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INTENT and IMPACT: Different Sides of the Same Coin

Alan Andersen

Photo by  Andre Guerra  on  Unsplash

How many times have you said, “I didn’t mean that!” or “I didn’t mean to hurt you!”? Wait, I’m sure you’ve never had those experiences before, but maybe you have a friend who has…

Look, all kidding aside, if we’re honest we’ve all said or done things that if we were granted a do-over, we would definitely say or do differently.

Have you every wondered why that is?

Practically speaking it is because in the moment we were not mindful about making certain that our intentions and our actions were connected.

Connected, how? Like connect the dots?

Somewhat. Think about it this way.

The Platinum Rule

One of the greatest ways to build true trust and lasting, effective relationships is to practice the Platinum Rule. To be clear, you must do so with a genuine spirit or attitude of serving and caring for others in greater ways than yourself. If you practice the Platinum Rule with ulterior motives, you will be found out and you will ruin your relationships. Likely for good.

Okay, I’ve heard of the Golden Rule, but what is the Platinum Rule?

Good Question! I’ll share both “rules” so we’re on the same page.

  • The Golden Rule is essentially the principle of treating others in the same way that you want to be treated.

  • The Platinum Rule is essentially the principle of treating others in the way that they want to be treated.

Now that may seem gimmicky or like a subtle nuance. However, Bernard Shaw shared this helpful insight back in the 1930’s! Yet, the reality is that this idea is more true today than ever before.

A simple reinforcement of this concept is found in a great book by Todd Rose called, “The End of Average”. The gist of the book is this:

There is no more “average”. Instead, humans are more individualized and unique than we ever knew or were taught. Stop treating people based on the “averages”.

Intent and Impact

Now, if you “buy-in” to this notion that we are all unique*, then you can begin to see why it is imperative that we start to put ourselves in the shoes of those that we engage with. Namely, we must begin to exercise the mental muscle that thinks ahead and thoroughly considers not only the intent of our thoughts, words, and deeds. But as well as the impact of those expressed thoughts, words, and deeds.

Alright, but what are you getting at here?

My premise is that we, as a society, have not grown accustomed to proactively making sure that our intentions and our actions are in complete alignment. For instance, when I was in my first career job, I had the opportunity for a promotion. Through the multi-phase interview process, I became friends with the hiring manager and over the course of the 3 or 4 week hiring process, I would pass my “new friend” in our very public hallway at the office and enthusiastically say things like, “Hi, dude.” Or, “Hi, brother.”

That behavior resulted, in large part, to me not getting the promotion because I did not have the tact and or professional courtesy that our corporate setting required.

Did I intend to be disrespectful or flippant? Not at all. Could my actions have come across that way? Yes.

The truth is that I simply misunderstood our relational connection to be more familial than it was. Add to that the company’s cultural norms within the hierarchical chain of command and my impact came across like a “bro” versus a young professional.

Graciously, that hiring manager took me to lunch (which he paid for) and helped me understand what tact and professionalism looked like at our company.

Actionable Takeaway

Do we all screw up? I know I do regularly!

Have we all said or done something that we regret? Obviously.

However, we must remember that our intentions and therefore the subsequent impact of our expressed intentions (via word or deed) are simply different sides of the same coin.

How do we remember to align our intentions and impact?

  1. Pause.

    • I know that sounds too simple, but pause before you speak or act.

  2. Consider.

    • Think about the worst case scenario of how your words or actions will be experienced.

    • Then assess if you can proceed as planned or if you need to…

  3. Clarify.

    • When in doubt, ask it out.

    • Literally, just ask a clarifying question before you mindlessly proceed like you “always” do.

Let’s not carry on without intentionally putting ourselves in the shoes of the people that we interact with.

Even if you don’t desire to be a great leader, I implore you to seriously learn how to align your intent and impact 24/7/365. And if you find yourself regularly making statements like, “I didn’t mean that.” or “Come on, you know what I meant.” let’s talk. There is likely more happening below the surface than you are aware of.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

*To be clear, I am not working to push the “snowflake generation” idea. We simply believe that there is insurmountable evidence that every human is equal in dignity, value, and worth and simply different in form and function.

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What You Need to Transform and Thrive Pt. 1

Alan Andersen


Immature Leadership

When I was a young leader, I thought my primary job was to have all the answers. In addition to answers, I thought my ideas had to be completely original.

“That’s ludicrous!” you think. Yes, it is.

As I was coming up in my professional career, the “leaders” that had modeled that very tactic would rarely, if ever, “site their source” for the ideas or wisdom they would share.

For instance, I once heard a person in a position of authority share, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” I thought that was brilliant until I later learned that was not their own idea, which they projected as their own.

Some of you even had a freak-out moment because I didn’t instantly put Maya Angelou’s name following that quote. Yet this is a simple and helpful example of immature leadership.

Think about this as you lead…

How profound would it be for an aspiring leader to see his or her manager model the humility to site their source? Not to mention the implicit encouragement to read and learn from others, even people outside of their “camp”!

Maturing Leadership

About a decade later in the 2008/2009 timeframe, I learned that at the beginning of knowledge is typically a very good question.  I learned this in large part from a person named Shandel, who was the head coach of True Life Coaching at the time.

Instead of having answers, I learned that I should strive to have questions. Admittedly, not just any questions, but questions that assume the best and are genuine. Questions that are “positive, proactive questions.”

Shortly thereafter, two pivotal life events took place that reinforced the notion that I must become GREAT at asking positive, proactive questions. Namely: foreclosure and getting fired.

Nowadays, I get to share that some of the the best things that happened to me, next to faith and family, were the foreclosure on our first home (due to getting laid off in the great recession which was paired with the pregnancy of our first child) and getting fired a few years later from what I thought was a dream job (which corresponded with the pregnancy of our second child).

Why do I mention this?

It was during these “hurt so good” moments that I realized I had a very weak muscle when it came to asking positive, proactive questions. In other words, I was so busy telling everyone what to do that when I got caught in a jam, I experienced my poor ability to ask good, hard questions.

Thankfully, I was motivated to learn the “art of asking” positive, proactive questions.

Okay, nice story. Glad you made it through the rough patch, but how can I figure out how to ask better questions? So glad you asked!

If I had to do it over, I would begin practicing the two most helpful exercises that I learned during those hard years:

1.    Positive, Proactive Listening (which I’ll describe below)

2.    Reading very specific Books (which I’ll map out in Part 2)  

Leadership is an ongoing Process

The real secret here is listening (sometimes referred to as “active listening”). Listening for what IS being said and what is NOT being said.

In my later career I had a quality leader that shared listening was a lot like physically attempting to enter a structure. 

Think about it this way, when we’re in a conversation we should listen to what is being said as if the words being used were access points like a “gate”, a “door”, or a “window” into a world. Each example is simply a different angle in.

We would most likely walk through a gate differently than we might climb through a window because either entry point has different nuances and requires ME to be “granted access” to my companion differently.

Now, let’s assume that we’ve been granted access into their world. Once inside, we then follow the positive, proactive listening model which is simple but profound.

Shandel Group Model*

1.    Listen

  • For what is being said and what is not being said, but always assuming the best first and while considering what you need clarification on.

2.    Learn

  • Being fully present to learn from what you just now heard? Not giving into previous assumptions or hunches, but actual, concrete fresh learning.

3.    Lead with Questions

  • Continually practice “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood” by asking clarifying questions accordingly. (Want to know where this concept became more mainstream? It’s Habit #5 of the 7 Habits by Covey)

That's it! Now you have a point of reference for the positive, proactive listening mental model. In Part 2 I will share the specific resources that were most helpful in developing quality listening skills in order to care for our people even better.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

*We’ve learned and adapted from our friends at the Eagle Center for Leadership

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Reduce Emotional Hijacking with Emotional Intelligence

Alan Andersen

While we seem to be keenly aware of leading action toward completing goals, objectives, and even KPI's in business. I've started noticing that we're not as proficient in leading our people in using Emotional Intelligence for our good. And more specifically, how to minimize the Emotional Hijacking!

Our Research Partners have done a wonderful job of making sense of this timely topic. Check this out and see how you can set you and your people up for a big win.

Pulling for you,
Alan Andersen

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Everyone knows someone who gets emotional, or even fears getting on a plane. The person tenses up, hands turn clammy, and they become generally irritable simply by driving to the airport. Although this person may be the pillar of common sense and practicality in any other situation, when they get on a plane they morph into a completely different person; almost a Jekyll and Hyde response.

Why is this? In most cases it’s an issue of control. When getting on a plane, they have absolutely no control since control lies with the pilots. Because their control has been taken away, an irrational response of fear, irritability and even panic is exposed.

Emotional hijacking works exactly the same way. When someone is put into a stressful situation, their brain function is actually altered, and their reaction can quickly turn from reasonable and rational to primal and reactive. Emotional hijacking is a term that anyone in the workforce needs to understand, be aware of, and act to keep under control.

Defining Emotional Hijacking

Emotional hijacking is often referred to as “amygdala hijacking” since that is essentially what happens in the brain during these times of crisis. The term amygdala hijacking was first coined in Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence. The amygdala is the emotional part of the brain which regulates the flight or fight response. In flight or fight, our brain senses imminent danger and blasts adrenaline into our bodies to cope with the perceived danger at hand.

During emotional hijacking, the stressors that we react to actually disable the higher cortex of the brain, preventing us from making sound, rational decisions. A person suffering from emotional hijacking may become extremely reactive, defensive and lash out at the stressor. And if that stressor is another person, things can turn negative quickly. Preventing emotional hijacking from occurring in the first place is paramount to being successful in the workplace.

There are two critical things you can do to avoid an emotional hijack. The first is to increase your emotional intelligence. The second, is to identify and proactively address your triggers.

Increasing Emotional Intelligence

The level at which people control emotional hijacking, or let it control them, is typically correlated to their emotional intelligence, also known as their “emotional quotient.”  The higher the emotional intelligence, the more able a person is to understand, identify and subdue an emotional hijacking situation.

According to Mark Debinski, President and Founder of Bluewater Advisory, “90% of the difference between star performers and average performers in senior leadership positions is EQ.” Leaders at successful companies tend to have very high emotional intelligence. This intelligence helps them to successfully lead and grow companies exponentially in size, while seemingly possessing the ability to always make the right decision at the right time.

So how can you increase your emotional intelligence? By being aware, making choices to take a break, and proactively empathizing.

  1. Be aware. The first step in improving any fault is identifying the need to improve it in the first place. Be aware of your emotions at a moment in time. Look for consistent situations where you find yourself stressed or quick to anger and simply become aware.
  2. Take a break. Once you identify triggers that have the potential to set off your emotional hijack, do anything in your power to address them so you are able to do more than just react. Take a microbreak and walk away from a tense situation by going for a walk, getting a drink or just giving yourself a minute to calm down. If the triggers are recurring and driven by a specific individual, have a respectful conversation with this person to diffuse the situation and find common ground.
  3. Practice proactive empathy. Lead by example by acting in a manner that demonstrates the type of behavior you wish to see by those around you. Show how things should be done and with a little luck your co-workers will take a queue from your example and begin to reduce the stressors that could lead to an emotional hijack.

Identifying triggers

The good news is, just like muscles, emotional intelligence can be strengthened. Practice makes perfect and it all starts with identifying the stressors or stimuli that trigger these responses. Once the stressors are identified, the key is to diffuse the emotional outburst before it occurs. When one encounters a stressful situation and finds their heart racing, muscles tightening and mind spiraling into a reactive mode, the absolute best thing they can do is hit the “pause” button. Think of it as defensive driving in the workplace.

People are all wired differently. Those in better control of their emotions are more likely to thwart emotional hijacking than those who lack emotional control. For someone more sensitive, small things can set a person off. These stressors can surface through any of our senses and can manifest themselves physically, mentally or emotionally. Some people can be triggered by physical things such as bad smells, someone chewing with their mouth open, or a co-worker talking too loudly while another worker may be set off by emotions triggering from political or religious conversation. Have you ever gone ballistic when someone inexplicably cuts you off on the highway? Road rage is a classic example of emotional hijacking. And, it’s important to understand that emotional hijacking can take place in a highly-charged, positive situation just as easily as it can in a negative one.  Think: rowdy fans celebrating a world series victory by smashing windows. Anger, fear, excitement, love, hate, disgust and frustration are all things that can trigger a potential emotional hijacking.

So what do you do when you realize you’re in the middle of an emotional hijack? Use these three tips to help you:

  1. Take a deep breath. Before saying a word, shooting a scathing look or worse, immediately take a breath to start the calming process.
  2. Change the setting. If at all possible, get up and move around. Do anything possible to change your environment. This serves a few purposes. By changing your environment, it makes your brain reactivate some of the pathways it had shut off to handle the emotional hijack. Secondly, it buys time to calm down and begin to think rationally.
  3. Turn a negative into a positive. Take negative stress and use it as fuel to achieve your goals. Whatever triggered the emotional hijack may have made you mad, but you have three choices and two aren’t good. You can lash out at the person who angered you (not good), stay mad and sulk (neither good nor productive) or you can take that energy and use it as fuel to do something positive. Caffeine will only get you so far, so finding another source of fuel to get you through the day is never a bad thing, so why not take a negative and turn it into a positive?

Becoming a victim of emotional hijacking is avoidable and increasing emotional intelligence is absolutely possible. Setting your mind to doing both will help you succeed markedly in the workplace.  Learn more about emotional hijacking by watching the video below.

This article was originally posted by TTI Success Insights

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