How to Lead at a Higher Level

As Bill Taylor said so well in his Harvard Business Review article

The Best Leaders Are Insatiable Learners

To Lead at a Higher Level you must be willing to learn and grow. That’s why I’m excited to share a unique opportunity for you to take part in the Higher Level Leader Summit, free online. During this online event you can access key leadership insights from 16 of the most respected leadership and entrepreneurial leadership authorities around.

How to Overcome The Doubters – Dealing with Those Who Underestimate You

My friend Ben Arment sent out an email recently that was really powerful… not just for authors but for anyone who is pursuing a dream. I asked Ben if I could share it and he obliged. Read his words below..

Want to know something?

One of the best outcomes of pursuing a dream is showing people what you’re capable of.

Until then, they think they’ve got you figured out. They put you in a box based on what you’ve done before. You’re not capable of what you haven’t already achieved, they think.

But the minute you bring your dream to life, it awakens people to your true potential.

And here’s the kicker – no one will ever pay you for what they have no idea you can do. It’s not even on their radar. You can announce that you’re going to do it on twitter, but until you actually deliver it to the world, you’ll be defined by what you’ve already done.

Like right now.

I have no idea that you can write a novel, or produce a feature film, or lead a big church, or host your own television show. I don’t think you can raise a million dollars, or speak at TED, or write a best selling business book, or launch a global brand.

I am completely underestimating you.

So there is some work you’ll have to do for free… for now. It’s work that expresses what you’re capable of but remains unseen by the world. You can’t get paid for it… yet.

The goal is someday.

But for now, you may have to spend two years on that novel without seeing a single dime. You may have to self-fund that short film with a second job. (Now, the rest of the work? That stuff you’ve already proven you can do? You should charge for that.)

But for now, you should spend as much time as you can doing work for free that brings your dream to life… and shows the world an unseen side of your capabilities. This is going to sound cheesy, but “the free work is the key work to unlocking your potential.”

Did you know that Walt Disney paid for the initial drawings of Disney Land with his own money because no one else believed in him at first? (You’re in good company.)

I know some talented individuals who only use their talents for paid opportunities (It’s terribly humiliating to do unpaid work, isn’t it?) So they only deliver the things you’d expect… the things they’ve done in the past… the things you already know they can do.

And they remain the same people they have always been.

Among being a swell guy with really insightful ideas and perspective, Ben is the author of Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love. It’s a book I HIGHLY suggest you pick up and read. But don’t just read it, do what it says. Ben has helped many people realize their dreams and if you follow his lead… your dream could be a reality as well.

In Dream Year Ben guides you, step-by-step, as you identify, plan, and launch your dream career—in just one year.

6 Ways to Master the Art of Woo (Winning Others Over)

Regardless of who you are or what you do, you have influence.

It’s what you do with the influence you yield that matters.

Your influence can be positive or negative. It can be a haphazard byproduct of your life or it can be an intentional reflection that serves to lead and move others towards something greater.

When you start to step into that “intentional” aspect of influence, you also begin to develop the need for The Art of Woo: Winning Others Over. Woo is about the ability to persuade… to guide others towards adopting an idea, attitude or desired action.

Former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca once said, “You can have brilliant ideas; but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Tweet That

The Art of Woo bridges that gap.

But here’s the thing, persuasion and The Art of Woo are not necessarily about you and your ideas (at least, not in the way you might initially think). It’s about them and understanding what triggers (wants, needs, desires, etc) they have that will enable you to craft your message (want or ask) in a way that they will be most likely to identify with and that will move them towards the result / action you seek.

You have to start with The WIIFM Factor (What’s in it for me?) … the “me” here isn’t you… it’s them.

See, it’s about your idea (or product or service or whatever) but it’s really about them and how they will use or benefit from it. You always lead with the Value Proposition when trying to persuade someone else.

Don’t get confused though. Persuasion is not manipulation. There is a big difference.

Effective persuasion guides by looking through a two way lens of benefit for both parties, using that to achieve a desired outcome. Manipulation controls and tries to dominate one over the other by coercing them into something that might not be of value or benefit to them.

Any one of us can try to manipulate for short term gain but if you want influence that lasts…. the Art of Woo is best utilized as a long term approach. It’s really a way of life that enables you to identify with others in a way that makes you connect and add value, but it comes at a price. A price of putting others first and being intentional about your interactions. (A price I hope you are eager and willing to pay).

The Art of Woo happens naturally for some and needs a bit more focus from others. Regardless of where you fall on that scale, here are 6 ways you can practice The Art of Woo and Win Others Over:

1. Be Strategic: Have a plan. You need to first know what action you want before you can ever expect someone else to take it. When you know what you want then you can be better equipped at determining the best way to guide others towards the desired outcome.

2. Put Their Interests First: As I noted above, consider The WIIFM Factor in everything you do that requires the response of someone else. You have to step out of your shoes and into theirs. Try to empathize and see it from their perspective before you even start the conversation. When you do, you’ll be better equipped to speak from a point of value to them instead of just what’s in it for you. When they know you care, they will be more likely to care in return.

3. Give: Don’t make things lopsided. Give value. Lift others up, serve them in some way. Never ask for something without being willing to give them something in return (and sometimes you should give without asking for anything at all, just because being a giver rocks and makes you a better person).

4. Be Honest: No matter what, be honest. State your WHY (the reason behind what you’re doing). The more people see the WHY, the more likely they will join in.

5. Think Long-Term: Never sacrifice long-term success for a short-term gain. Sometimes the temptation is there but resist it. Your future ability to persuade and influence is built heavily on the level of trust that you build and maintain. Trust takes time to create but can be eroded in a second.

6. Be Nice: This may sound like a no-brainer but it’s amazing to me how many people step into a scenario where they are trying to get someone else to do something for them and they do so without being nice. Kindness goes a long way. Every day you have the opportunity to share it, be an ambassador for it and utilize it as a tool for Woo. Take the time to be nice, to encourage, to randomly send a note saying you care (but make sure you REALLY do), and to just treat others like you’d want to be treated.

The Art of Woo is a powerful tool that can make a significant difference in your work, life and in the lives of those around you. Use it wisely and use it well.

Suggested Books / Resources: The Art of Woo | Start with WHY

Live Intentionally – The Decker Family Creed and How to Create Your Own

Note: Several people have asked me how to create a Family Creed like what I did for my family. Below is some background on the creed along with 5 simple steps you can take to create your own.

What we think about matters.

Our thoughts can build us up or tear us down. That’s why we must be intentional with what we think about. And being intentional starts with a choice.

A while back I ran across an article that talked about the significance of creating a Family Creed. A creed is basically a “system or statement of principles and beliefs.” It could also be considered sort of like a mission statement or series of statements that serve as a guide for how you want your family to live.

Author Steven Covey said…

Family Creed’s are important because they help your family to create a vision. Without a vision or a destination in mind of the future, you run the risk of letting life just happen, of getting swept along with the flow of society’s values and trends without having any real sense of intentionality or purpose.

Family creeds help you as a family to decide what kind of family you really want to be and identify the principles that will help you get there.

I want my family to be intentional and

How to Achieve Your Goals and Have Your Best Year Ever in 2014

Every New Year most of us set new goals for ourselves. Things we want to do, achieve, become, etc. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, in fact we should have goals. The problem though is actually achieving them.

Like the gym on the first week of the year, we start out strong but come March… life, distractions, busyness, etc. seem to get in the way and before we know it we’re off track, some of us even falling back into old bad habits.

Sound familiar?

The truth is that traditional goal setting just doesn’t work for most of us these days. Well, the goal “setting” part might but the “how to actually achieve our goals” part is where things seem to come up short, especially when we’re pressed for time… don’t know where to start, etc.

That’s why I was excited to hear about a new tool that my friend Michael Hyatt was releasing.

Let me give you some quick back story. Michael, who was formerly the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is a New York Times bestselling author and probably one of the most productive and efficient people I know. Honestly, the guy is like a machine. I’ve known him for a while and had the opportunity to work along side him on a few projects. I have seen first hand how he gets things done… a lot of things… and he does it all with excellence and integrity!

So, when Michael said he was going to release his proven 5-step process to achieving our most important goals… I couldn’t wait.

Now, a few days later I’ve had the opportunity to go through the material and I can say without a doubt that it is a fantastic resource that I’d highly recommend you checking out. It will help you to get clear, get motivated and get started as you discover how to transform your relationships, your health and your career in 2014.

Michael’s BEST YEAR EVER program is already helping me and I’m confident it will help you as well.

Get started by watching a free 3-part video series from Michael here.

14 Ways to Expand Your Influence

Before we try to expand it, we need to first define it. What is influence? What does it mean to you? says influence is:

(Noun) The capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.

(Verb) To move or impel (a person) to some action.

Bestselling author John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

If Leadership is influence then the reverse must also be true, influence is leadership. Or is it? I’d add influence is only leadership when that influence is leading someone towards a positive destination or outcome. After all, influence can go two ways. It can be positive or it can be negative. It can be self serving and manipulative or it can be liberating and uplifting.

Our thoughts and our actions determine which it will be.

Influence comes from more than just our intention to lead or the words that we say as we instruct those who follow, it comes by what people experience and see in us each day. It comes by example and is often witnessed then repeated.

While there are many ways to expand influence, here are 14 various ideas that I believe are a good start:

1. Understand It – First you have to recognize that regardless of your position, you have influence into the lives of those around you. Sometimes we never realize the impact we have on others directly or indirectly but recognizing that we do and conducting ourselves accordingly is key.

2. Be a Person of Integrity and of Values – Let who you say you are be reflected in all that you do. Stay consistent. Don’t take short cuts. Make a stand for your brand and give others an example to follow. Values determine your actions which ultimately determine your influence.

3. Be Authentic and Transparent – Don’t put on a show. Be real. Be honest. Trust is built that way and trust amplifies influence.

4. Accept Responsibility – Don’t make excuses. If you are at fault, accept the blame and do it proactively. Being a leader doesn’t mean being perfect. Learn from mistakes and show others the way.

5. Be a Solution Seeker – Don’t sit around complaining about what doesn’t work or about all the problems around you, instead seek solutions. People are attracted to solution seekers and by being one you will help influence others towards a new perspective.

6. Be Proactive – Don’t sit around expecting someone else to take the lead. If you want to create positive influence then step out. Be the one who generates new ideas, who takes a risk, and who creates movement towards a desired future or outcome.

7. Practice Empathy -Take the time to understand the feelings of others. What motivates them? What do they care about? They won’t care about you and your ideas unless you care about them in return. But here’s the deal… it must be genuine. You really have to care. People are more important than numbers.

8. Appreciate & Recognize Others – A simple THANK YOU goes a long way in person and even further when done publically. Choose to recognize the efforts of others and lift them up as shining examples for others to see. By doing so you are influencing others by reinforcing what works and what was done right. We all want to be valued and appreciated.

9. Respond vs React – People are watching. While you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them. How you respond is what others see. Don’t react, slow down, take a second and think through your options. When you respond you do so considering the outcome.

10. Bring Out the Best in Others – This should be a no brainer but in order to avoid influence that is self serving and manipulative, you must leverage your influence more for the good of others than for yourself. Pour into those who follow you. Use you influence as a catalyst to spark something bright within someone else. You might see potential in them that they do not. Help them bring it out.

11. Practice the Golden Rule – Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t just read over this as a nice ideal. Put it into practice. If you want grace extended to you, extend it to others. If you want someone to respect you, respect them. It’s reciprocal and it sets an example.

12. Be a Giver – Don’t hoard what you know, share and equip others so that they can build upon the knowledge you’ve acquired. Give freely, give often. Show the way.

13. Go Above and Beyond – Good enough is really not that good at all in many situations. Hold yourself to a higher standard and watch that standard trickle down to others. When we raise the bar by our own actions, we end up challenging others to do the same. Give a little more (time, effort, etc.) and perhaps you’ll encounter those around you giving a little more as well.

14. Have Vision – Proverbs says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This is imperative if you are trying to intentionally influence others. You have to know where you are going in order to get others to go there with you. Be clear. Set expectations. Communicate.

Influence is not just one thing. It’s the sum of many and it’s built over time.

As Andy Stanley says, “Leadership is a stewardship … it’s temporary and you’re accountable.”

If we are accountable for our leadership, a.k.a. “our influence,” then we should do everything we can to make that influence count.

What about you? What else would you add to this list?