It’s Time for a Kick!

imgres (1)Being creative takes work.

Sometimes I just want to do things the easy way, the simple way, the way that requires the least amount of effort. Sometimes I don’t even care if what I’m doing has meaning, I just want to get through it.

Do you find yourself here? Do you feel at times that you just want to “get through it”? Do you want to put it the “least amount of effort possible”?

Take a minute and think about some the most memorable speakers or communicators you’ve heard in your lifetime. Do you remember them because of “what” they said, or because of “how” they said it?

For me, it’s the “how”. People that approached a topic differently then others, people who put effort and creativity into a presentation,people who surprised me:  They’re the ones I remember.

One stands out: I was at an international conference in Illinois years ago, and one of the speakers, a global statesman, in the middle of his presentation, pulled his pants down and showed us his boxers that were covered with a map of the world. He then went on to talk about the world and how important it is that we have a global perspective.   I remember that talk. I remember the illustration, and I remember how it caught be off guard. He took a huge risk, and created a historical moment that not only I can remember years later, but thousands continue to talk about.

I have a book on my shelf from 1986 by Roger von Oech. It’s called “A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants” and it’s a book about creativity. Von Oech’s approach to creativity is that sometimes we need a swift kick to get us out of the rut we’re in, to get us out of the routine and the boring. He writes about different styles of creativity. He writes:

“It’s difficult to get your creative juices flowing if you’re always being practical, following rules, afraid to make mistakes, not looking into outside areas, or under the influence of any of the other mental locks.” (Roger von Oech)

He goes on to say: “By the time the average person finishes college, he or she will have taken over 2,600 tests, quizzes, and exams. The right answer approach becomes deeply ingrained in our thinking. This may be fine for some mathematical problems where there is in fact only one right answer. The difficulty is that most of life isn’t this way. Life is ambiguous; there are many right answers – all depending on what you’re looking for. But if you think there is only one right answer, then you’ll stop looking as soon as you find one.” (Roger von Oech)

The challenge today to learn to think outside the box.

  • To not settle for easy, quick or effortless.
  • To keep looking for the “best” answer and approach, not what’s most attainable
  • To allow creativity to push you to think and to answer to question, “what if…..”
  • To wake up to an incredible word around you, full of opportunity, lessons and practical applications.

This is a KICK for each of you.  I’ve been KICKED, and it’s time to wake up and not settle.

Today, approach something in a way you’ve never approached it before. Be creative. Put some effort into looking at it a different way. You’ll be amazed how fun, how rewarding and how fulfilling this approach is. It might even stick with you!

For more on CREATIVITY

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,

BRAINSTORMING: Focused Imagination

imagesBRAINSTORMING is one of my favorite things to do. I call it ‘focused imagination’.

Most of us day-dream about ‘what if?’ or different levels of problem solving like ‘how to apologize to someone’ to ‘how to build a better whatever’.

BRAINSTORMING is imagining, or day dreaming out loud. It tends to happen in a group, so you are sharing your dreams, your ideas in front of people.

Many people totally discount their ideas or their dreams. They are embarrassed to share them because they have not solved all the problems or issues related with them. They are just ideas. They are afraid people will point out the inconsistencies or impossibilities so they hesitate to share them.

BRAINSTORMING is taking ideas, dreams and accepting the fact that they are unfinished, maybe even impossible, yet considering them and allowing them to carry our imaginations to other ideas and dreams, maybe even solutions.

There are rules that have to be recognized and accepted for brainstorming to work:

  1. Brainstorming starts by presenting a fixed issue to be discussed or a problem to be solved.
  2. There should be a guide person, or chairperson for the discussion so you keep moving from idea to idea. Solutions will come later.
  3. Anything goes in brainstorming. No idea can be told that it is bad. People can take turns speaking or just speak as an idea comes that they want to contribute.
  4. Remember this is an imagination gathering session. No long stories. No rejection of ideas.
  5. Each participant should finish their thought before another person speaks unless they speak in support of the idea, and actually help develop the idea.
  6. It is customary to move rather rapidly from idea to idea, so be sure each person knows that just because you didn’t dwell on their idea, that doesn’t mean it was bad.
  7. If an idea seems to solve the issue, then move to ideas for developing that idea.
  8. Do not try to develop a total response in that first session. Leave the development and structure of the idea to others better suited to that task.
  9. Thank everyone involved. If the idea is used to solve a problem, publicly thank the group.
  10. Inform everyone involved in the original brainstorming session of the way you will use their ideas, especially if a solution was found.

BRAINSTORMING has a good side: It brings people together to be creative and to share ideas and to feel like they are a part of the solution.

BRAINSTORMING also has a bad side: It lets a bad manager pretend to involve people when he has already decided his course of action. It also can waste a lot of time.

BRAINSTORMING is a tool that can be used to discover (1) what your fellow workers think, (2) solutions for problems, and (3) allow for a group interaction.

BRAINSTORMING is only useful if something comes from it.



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The Back Side of Influence

imagesI think when you talk about ‘getting things done’ you have to include a conversation about ‘influence’.  But, you need to talk about the ‘back side’ of influence.  So, I am not going to talk about the influence of the words you say.  That’s obvious! Your words have a powerful influence and people’s lives can be changed by just your words of correction or recognition or encouragement or instruction.

I won’t talk about the influence of your actions either.  They are equally vital, because of what people think when they see you do what you do.  People who perhaps think that by copying you, it will make a difference in their life.

No, I want to talk about the ‘back side’ of influence.  That would be what people think when you are no longer there. After you leave the room, when the meeting is over, when you have left the platform…what do people say about you?

Was there something you did that will stick in their mind?  Maybe how you said it, or how you responded, or how you acted, or how you treated them that will be the thing that influences them the most.  If you don’t like ‘back side’, we could call it your ‘after glow’…there is a powerful influence there, and, I believe that is where your credibility and legacy is built.

That’s when people say, I want to be like that guy…thinking of your style or attitude.

Today, people seem to take pride in ‘doing their own thing’, in ‘breaking the mold’, in ‘pioneering their own trail’.  They really don’t seem to care what people think, but they should because people have unspoken expectations of a leader that seems to give birth to things like respect and appreciation.

That respect and appreciation has nothing to do with words and actions, but what they think about when they think of that leader, his integrity, his character, his passion and his respect for the position.

I have discovered, in recent days that my model was the president of the college where I worked for 10 years.  I find that I think about how he would do this or that when I am in different situations.  I have even found that I have some of his hand gestures when I speak and his style of listening when someone is talking to me.  It is amazing.  How did I ‘catch’ that?  How did that happen?

He did a lot of things and said a lot of things, but the part of him I wanted to be like, the part that influenced me the most was his person, who he was, his values and passions…his ‘after glow’.  That’s what I seem to have copied into my own leadership style.

Think about the people that have impressed you, the leaders that have helped shape your life.  What was it about them that you appreciated?  What was it that you wanted for yourself?

So, what are you leaving behind as you go along?

Posted in Leadership Community, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , ,

Say No to Say Yes

P40B-man-with-board-saying-noWe all want to GET THINGS DONE. There is nothing as frustrating as seeing things stagnate, fall through the cracks or going south.

If you want to get things done you need to know what those things are.

In order for us to do that, we need to stop and decide what our priorities are and stick with it…and to say “no” to everything else.

Here are 4 reasons why saying “no” is a blessing

  • Getting others to step up

Someone once told me that I should not “rob” my team from opportunities to grow and take risks. At first I did not know what this meant, later I realised that it was all about smart and intentional delegation. If we say no it will give others the opportunity to step up. This is not saying no to tasks that we want to avoid, but to the things that are not important for ME to do. The results will be amazing – the development of the others around you. A warning: If others step up it will probably look a bit different that when you do it – but isn’t that what we want? Creativity, Growth, New Ideas?

  • Say yes to what is more important

It is crazy how much of our time can easily be consumed with issues that are not important or not our core business. When last have you taken time to pray about, evaluate and list the things that you believe God wants you to focus on? The other day a man cancelled on an speaking engagement he committed to a long time ago and his answer was simply this: “I am so sorry, I’ve realized that I had to come back to my main calling”. I was not upset, in fact, I had so much respect for him.

  • It kills the people pleaser in me

If we have to be honest, many of us struggle to say no because we do not want to “let others down”. This, friends, in the deepest form, is pride. Therefore, even if it is only for this reason – to kill the people-pleaser in me, it is reason enough to say no. We cannot please everyone. Even our Lord Jesus said no to a lot of people, He was only set on pleasing his Father in Heaven through doing what He was called to do.

  • To be healthy/balanced

A result of not saying no is that it brings health and balance in our lives. The tendency is for people to always expect a lot from leaders and the sad result is unhealthy, overworked and tired leaders. The sad reality is that the ones that really suffer under this are the closest people and most important people – our families. It is possible to live a healthy, balanced life where you have margin in your day, intentional time with family and energy.

We need to say no to the unimportant things so that we can say yes to the things that really matter.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Learn to Focus

imagesToday is a perfect example of an issue I deal with on a regular basis. I wonder if you fall into the same trap.

I started the day by doing all of the RIGHT things:

  • I made my list
  • I determined my priorities
  • I allocated time in my schedule to get things done
  • I told the people around me my plan for productivity today

Then, I sat down and spent an hour trying to figure out where to start:

  • I cleaned my desk off
  • I emptied my trash can
  • I made a second cup of coffee
  • I watched a short video clip that showed up on Facebook that had nothing to do with anything
  • I thought about some other things I need to add to the list
  • I had another cup of coffee

I’m already over 60 minutes into the “Getting Things Done” zone, and I have no idea how to start.

Some days, it’s like this. Other days, I can just dive in and move straight into productivity

Nadia Goodman shares on that there are 3 things any of us can do that will increase our ability to focus.

I’ll share her 3 points, and I’ll comment personally on them. To read her full article, CLICK HERE.

#1) Do Creative Work First

Goodman shares, “Typically, we do mindless work first and build up to the toughest tasks. That drains your energy and lowers your focus.”

How many times do we begin our day by responding to unimportant emails and social media, by using energy that doesn’t require us to think, by doing repetitive tasks.  We are at our best when we’re fresh, when we are beginning the day and when we have the most energy.

FOCUS on the things that require the most thought, energy and creativity first.

#2) Allocate Your Time Deliberately

“Notice where and when your focus best, then allocate your toughest tasks for those moments.”

Just because we have a desk in our office, this doesn’t mean that this is where we’ll be able to be the most focused. For me, getting out of my office and walking around the block enables me to think clearly and to look at a situation from a different perspective.

FOCUS comes when you learn where you work best and when you work best.

#3) Train Your Mind Like a Muscle

“We’ve trained our brains to be unfocused”

Multitasking is a really bad habit. We often praise it, but we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by too many things at the same time, which limits our ability to focus and give something our full attention.

FOCUS requires us to use discipline to look at the task at hand and nothing else.

So, now I get back to the task at hand. Tomorrow I’ll try these three things and determine if I can avoid the distractions that face me every day.

What about you?


A Two-Minute Training on MAKING YOUR LIST

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Getting Things Done

imagesI was at a conference on Emotionally Healthy Leaders with Peter and Geri Scazzero. Pete said to me, “I can tell – you are a high capacity producing leader.” I was surprised by his comment. What did he mean? It is true that I get a little frustrated with my life if I am not producing. I get bored easily if there is not enough to do. There are two concepts that have helped me become a high capacity producing leader.

The book by Stephen Covey on Highly Effective Leaders helped me prioritize. The book called The 80 20 Principle – The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less By John Koch helped me focus.

  1.  Covey taught me amazing things from the Urgent VS Important quadrants. This gave me a perspective and permission to say no to things that were not important. Learning to live in the Important and Urgent quadrants help us get more things done. We still have to do some quadrant II things – Not Urgent but Important things as well. But I have tried to minimize the quadrant III and IV as much as possible.



  1. John Koch in his book The 80/20 Principle – The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less taught me the importance of focusing on the most productive time of the day. John Koch explains this 80/20 principle:


“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs or rewards. Taken literally, this means that, for example, 80 per cent of what you achieve in your job comes from 20 per cent of the time spent. Thus for all practical purposes, four-fifths of the effort—a dominant part of it—is largely irrelevant” (pg 4).

This speaks to something really important – 80% of the work you and I produce every day is completed in 20% of our time. Let´s discover when that time is. When do I produce the most in my day? I have discovered that I produce the most between 9am and 11am. Sometimes I can stretch it until 12 noon. So, applying the Covey quadrant of important things to the Koch principle of production we can produce more – get more done.

I want to do the most important things of my day in the time when I am most productive. Therefore, I make a list of the most important things in my day and I focus on completing them during my productive time of the day – for me that is 9am till 11am.

So, I challenge you to do two things:

  1. Make your own Urgent vs Important Quadrant. What are the things that are most important to get done in your day? In your week? In your life?
  2. Discover when your most productive time of the day is. When is it that you produce 80% in 20% of your time?

Once you have both of these figured out – put them together and watch how you get a lot more done each day.

To purchase The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, CLICK HERE

To purchase The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch, CLICK HERE

Both of these books are must haves!


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Learning to Work SMARTER

imagesI remember when I was assigned to read the book entitled, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” by Stephen R. Covey.  I was a student in grad school and was struggling with balancing my graduate studies, a full-time job, and a growing family. I remember feeling so overwhelmed and unproductive. When I read the title on that book, I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time to read a book about being more effective! I just need more time!”

Looking back, it’s easy to see the struggle I was dealing with, but sometimes when you’re in the middle of everything, it’s really difficult to see.

I did read the book, eventually, and I had to write a paper on how the book impacted my life. I don’t have the paper anymore, and I don’t remember what I wrote, but I would love to re-write that paper today.

Reading this book began a process in me that continues today. The book caused me to look at myself first, and to figure out how to work SMARTER. Up to that time, I had focused on how to work HARDER.

I’m not afraid of hard work, but I’ve learned a lot about myself: what motivates me, what I’m good at, what challenges me and what things I like to avoid. I’ve learned my habits, my weaknesses and my rhythms.

There are some simple lessons from this book that I wish I would have understood back in 1989. It took me a while to really understand things and then to apply them to my life.

Let me share three things with you. Maybe you can learn them quicker then I did:

#1) Figure Out What’s Most Important

In Covey’s book, he talks about “Putting First Things First”. The challenge is to figure out what is most important to you, and prioritize your time doing that. We all waste so much time and energy doing things that aren’t important, or doing things that others can do, and sometimes do better. Figure out what your most important role or task is, and do that first. Eliminate the distractions that keep you from doing that important thing.

#2) Figure Out How To Listen

Covey calls it, “Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood”. I used to think that if I talked louder and pushed harder, others would follow. I’ve learned the value of listening first, hearing people’s hearts. If you don’t start listening, often you’ll never get a chance to. I ask a lot of questions and I listen.

#3) Figure Out How To Keep Growing

Covey calls this, “Sharpening The Saw”. I need to be continually growing, being stretched and renewed, always learning and developing in all areas of my life. When I become stagnant, my effective leadership ends. How do I stay in places where I am forced to grow, learn and develop? How do I avoid the feeling that “I know it all”?

There are so many other lessons that have taken me decades to learn and apply to different areas of my life.

If you want to be more productive, don’t start doing more. Learn to work SMARTER. When you do this, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

To purchase Covey’s book, CLICK HERE It’s still a timeless book that will challenge you and teach you to work smarter.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

How to END a Partnership

Pfizer-reveals-PPD-as-third-strategic-CRO-partnerWe never really talk about this because we don’t want to consider that the partnership might now work out, however there are many reasons for partnerships to not continue forward. Here are a couple:

  • There’s no NEED for the Partnership

Sometimes partnerships come together for a specific purpose, and when that purpose is met or finished, we continue on without knowing why we’re working together. Find out if there’s a need to continue and celebrate if you accomplished what you set out to do.

  • The KEY PLAYERS are no longer involved

Often, partnerships are drawn together because a couple of people want to collaborate and work together. Many times, these people move on, and one day people are looking around trying to figure out why you’re in this partnership. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s the reality of change.

Sometimes partnership just doesn’t work. The idea is good, but as it rolls out it’s not working. Identify this and get out! It’s better to figure this out early than to continue to invest time and energy into something that isn’t going anyway.

  • You’d rather work with SOMEONE ELSE

As you dive into an opportunity, sometimes better partners emerge along the way and we feel trapped. We’re working with someone in a partnership, but we’d rather be working with someone else.

How do we respond to these 4 scenarios?


#1) Define the goals of the partnership before you begin. This gives you something to evaluate along the way. Be sure to determine who’s responsible for doing what and talk about a given time period that you’ll work together. Set a date to evaluate how things are going, and give both sides an opportunity to “get out” if things aren’t working. Talk about this before you even begin!

#2) Be honest! Don’t be afraid to say something isn’t working. Real partnerships want the best for each other, so that means we’re honest when we need to be.

#3) Don’t bail out because you’re afraid to put the work into it. There’s a difference between “ditching a partnership” and “ending a partnership”. Do your best to make it work. Do the work it takes for both sides to be successful. If after that, things aren’t moving forward, have the conversation about ending it, but don’t quit before you try your hardest.

#4) Be gracious in the process. There are many reasons why partnerships don’t work. You can spend a lot of energy blaming others, or you can exit graciously. Be generous and end well. You may have another opportunity in the future for partnership and it might be a completely different scenario. Keep the door open to continued relationship by being gracious.

Sometimes PARTNERSHIPS end.  They will either end WELL or they’ll end BADLY.

Do all you can to end WELL.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development Tagged with: , , , , ,

Rushing Into Partnership

imagesWe all believe that having a healthy strategic partnership is a great thing but many times we rush into partnership without asking some really important questions first.

I had an early experience in “partnership building” while in college. I remember clearly the excitement I felt when I met an organization that was just as eager as our organization to impact people living in Mexico. I went to meet with them face to face, because I knew the value of due diligence! After seeing their work, hearing their vision and dreaming about what we could do together, we forged a partnership and agreed to work together on a couple of initiatives. I soon learned that the word “partner” can be defined in many different ways. The partnership didn’t work. They wanted me to do some things for them that I just couldn’t do. They assumed that I would bring resources and other partners to the table. I soon learned that what they expected and what I had hoped for were completely different. The partnership never really moved forward, and I felt like a failure.

I believe we had the right intentions, but we didn’t communicate clearly because we were so excited to find someone else with similar passion that we rushed into partnership without really defining it.

Here are some questions to ask before you RUSH into partnership?

• How do we define success?  What does success or impact look like?

We all define success differently. It’s not just a measurement of people, resources or impact. There are lot’s of ways to measure this. Be sure that you’re speaking the same language.

• Who is the point person assigned to the partnership?

Every successful partnership has 2 clearly defined point people. Who are they? What are their parameters when it comes to making decisions? Are they the people that initiated the partnership or where they handed the partnership?

• How long will we be in partnership?

Every partnership needs to have a goal. Open ended partnerships tend to fizzle out. Clarify and evaluate by creating some timely markers in your relationship, especially at the beginning as you get to know each other.

• How do we celebrate our partnership and end our partnership?

Celebrate the things you learn together along the way, and determine an exit strategy when it’s time. Clarify what it looks like to end a partnership and communicate that to both organizations and the public.

Healthy partnerships take time.

– Time to build the relationship

– Time to rally around trust and vision

– Time to learn about each other and from each other

– Time to make some mistakes and recover from them

– Time to confirm that the partnership is really a strategic alliance that will produce impacting results.

Don’t rush into partnership. When you take you time, you build something that will last.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development Tagged with: , , ,

Be Thankful In Your Fundraising

imagesWe celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States tomorrow, and it’s a day that’s set aside for us to stop and be thankful for all that God has done for us and provided for us. Of course, we celebrate this day by gathering together with family and friends, and we eat a traditional meal and enjoy the day together.

We’ve been talking about fundraising this month, and I thought this would be a perfect way to end this stream of conversation, and today as I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I was reminded of how being thankful is an important aspect of fundraising.

Years ago, I met with a man to invite him to contribute to a project I was working on. After listening to my presentation, he simply said something like, “Thanks Russ for sharing this opportunity. I’m sorry, but I’m not able to be a part of this right now.”

When he told me that, my heart sank. I had spent time and money to get to this meeting with him, and my hopes were that he would jump in with me. I tried my best to hide my disappointment, and I simply said, “Thank you for the opportunity to present this need to you. I appreciate the time and I know that you need to get involved where God is directing you to give. Thank you for your generosity to the Kingdom, even if you can’t give to my project.”

Honestly, I didn’t say that to change his mind or to guilt him. I said that because I was genuinely grateful for him and his willingness to be involved in hundred’s of great projects all over the world.

Two weeks later, he sent me a check. The check wasn’t for the amount I had asked him, but it was a gift that would help me eventually reach my goal. With the check was a simple note. It said this: “Thank you for ‘thanking me’. I don’t get thanked often.”

Of course, I called him and thanked him again, but what he said stuck with me. Why don’t we thank people more often? Why don’t we take the time to simply communicate our heartfelt gratitude, not just for their investment, but for their trust, for their partnership, for their interest, for their impact, for their lives?

Sometimes I get so busy that I don’t do a good job of thanking people, but today, I’m really thankful to those that regularly contribute to my life, my ministry and the vision God has given me.

What about you?

Here are a couple of practical things you can do that will create a habit of thanksgiving:

#1) Thank your current donors, partners, churches, organizations. Figure out a way to simply communicate how grateful you are. This can be a visit, a hand-written note, a short e-mail or call. Whatever! There’s no excuse for not thanking the people who are regularly involved with you.  Make this a habit.

#2) When you receive a large gift or a special gift, stop what you’re doing and thank them immediately. Don’t wait or put it off. A 5-minute call will mean a lot.

#3) Don’t just thank people when they give. Thank them for listening to you, for making time for you, for other things they are involved in. Thank them for ongoing prayer, for input, for networking. Let thanks flow from you regularly!

#4) Thank them again. Sometimes, just saying thanks once isn’t enough. Let’s “thanks” be the foundation of many conversations and connections. Thank them continuously.

Sometimes people don’t like to be thanked. Sometimes people don’t want any public recognition. Be aware of this! You don’t want to challenge a donor’s desire for anonymity. Ask them if you can share about their gift or get permission before ever publishing something publicly.

Really, the lesson here is to simply thank people.  Stop what you’re doing and say THANK YOU. If it helps, cook up some turkey and some pumpkin pie to get you in the mood.

Be thankful.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Leadership Community, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,


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