3 Leadership “Gifts” From the Beach

3 Leadership “Gifts” From the Beach

Back in September, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by going to Marco Island, Florida. The goal was to eat good seafood (I live in Nebraska so that doesn’t happen very often) and lounge on the beach.

My plan was to not do anything work-related on this trip, including my reading material. So I chose a book I read for the first time about 6 years ago entitled Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Since Lindbergh wrote this book at a beach house, I felt like it would be the perfect companion while soaking up the sun (besides my wife, of course.)

With the S/T album by This will Destroy You in my AirPods and the Kindle app on my iPad, I was ready to relax and reflect. What I wasn’t prepared for were the lessons that my beach classroom would teach me.

Here are 3 leadership “gifts” I received from the sea on this trip:



In today’s consumerist society, the pressure is to accumulate more stuff. As a result, garages have become storage containers instead of shelters for our vehicles and a show like Hoarders can hit way too close to home.

The problem is that stuff doesn’t bring sustained happiness and can actually make us less productive.

“Research done by Cornell University professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich, University of Chicago postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Amit, and Dr. Matthew Killingsworth, who studies human happiness at the University of California, San Francisco, found that when people spend their money on experiences, over time their satisfaction goes up whereas when people spend money on physical things, over time their satisfaction goes down.” -The Employee Experience Advantage 

In her highly successful Netflix series Tidying Up, Marie Kondo showed us the psychological benefits of decluttering our spaces. After watching the second episode where Marie helps a cafe owner who has ADHD, Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo shared that “As a neurodiverse individual myself, I see how decluttering and getting organized impacts life far beyond having a tidy home. It really gives you the space in your brain to be more focused and more present.”

What I have begun asking myself is, “How little can I get along with?”


Practice Solitude

Technology has allowed us to fill literally every moment with “noise” or distraction. Anytime I have to wait, my first instinct is to pull out my phone and swipe right to see Apple News. 

This constant intake of information has caused mental overload for many of us. The antidote is solitude

James Mattis, four-star Marine Corps General and former Secretary of Defense, remarks, “If I was to sum up the single biggest problem of senior leadership in the Information Age it’s lack of reflection. Solitude allows you to reflect while others are reacting. We need solitude to refocus on prospective decision-making, rather than just reacting to problems as they arise.” 

Solitude helps us become better decision-makers, increases self-awareness, and refills our inner resources so we are able to invest more into others. 

For me, the best time of “solitude” is in the morning when I take my dog Rudy for a walk. This 30-minute, uninterrupted time allows me to process what happened the previous day and prepare for the next day’s demands.


Work Without Pressure

I need to clarify this one. Not all pressure is bad. There is constructive pressure that helps us grow and develop. The opposite is destructive pressure which will hinder or stunt our professional and personal growth.

For me, this destructive pressure comes in the form of “hurry.” I put too many tasks on my to-do list and try to rush through each of them so that I can feel “accomplished” or “productive.” The problems with this mindset are (1) I always feel behind, and (2) I am not fully present for any one task. 

I am very much a work in progress with this “gift” but I am trying to be intentional in embracing it by being mindful of how much I commit to do on any given day. Also, I am carving out more time and casting better expectations for projects both for myself and my clients so I don’t feel as rushed and can be fully “in the moment” with that particular item.

One byproduct that I am noticing in this area is that I enjoy projects more when I feel I have the time to be creative and even dream a little. 


Game Plan

Which leadership “gift” do you need to receive? All three are offered freely, we just need to open our arms and embrace them.


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The Learning Formula

The Learning Formula

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo and Conference in Orlando, FL.

At the conference I was able to catch up with many colleagues from the attractions industry. I am reminded of one particular conversation I had with a manager in this industry.

This manager was struggling with how to give a certain piece of feedback to their direct report and they asked for my advice. After asking a few more questions so I could get a better understanding of the situation, I shared a few tools that have helped make my feedback more effective. Afterward, this person expressed appreciation for how clearly and concisely I was able to articulate these tools.

Looking back, there is one reason I was able to retain this information and present it in a clear, concise way: The Learning Formula.

In today’s Your Leadership Coach video, I share what The Learning Formula is and how you can use it to retain up to 90% of the information you consume.



Game Plan

For yourself:

  • If you want to retain the information you are learning, pretend you are going to teach it to someone else. Put it into an outline. Maybe even rehearse it. Or, you can take it a step further by asking your supervisor if you can share what you’ve learned in a team meeting.


For your team:

  • When it comes to their development plans, at the end of the quarter or the end of the year, set aside time where they can share what they’ve learned with the team. This will help your team gain more knowledge but most importantly, it will help that specific team member retain what they’ve been learning.


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The Leadership School of Adversity

The Leadership School of Adversity

I don’t know about you, but when I graduated college I was pretty excited to be done with school. (The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll go back.) At the time, I was most thrilled about not having anymore homework.

What I didn’t realize then (but I realize it now) is that in a way, we never leave school. Life is one big learning lesson after another. And the “school” that has probably taught me the most is what I like to call “The Leadership School of Adversity.”

I’m going to make a bold statement: You will not be successful as a leader until you learn to embrace adversity and the stress and pressure that come with it.

In this Your Leadership Coach video, I share why adversity is such a great teacher and how we can use those not-so-pleasant seasons to serve as a catalyst for our growth and development.



Game Plan

The question we need to ask ourselves in the midst of adversity is: “What can I learn from this?” Can you think of a time when you faced stress or pressure recently? Take some time to reflect on one of those times and think about what you might learn from that experience.

Here are a couple examples:

  • You encounter a poor supervisor: What can I learn from them? What will I not do if I become a supervisor?
  • A project fails when you thought it would succeed: What can I learn from this? Why did it fail? What can I do better next time?

Life is less about wins and losses and more about learning.


Tweetable Lesson

The Art of the Buy-In

The Art of the Buy-In


Last month, G/O Media made headlines for the wrong reason. The short version of the story is that the company ordered staff to return to the office. The employees had concerns about this new policy, tried to raise those concerns, were not heard, and staged a stand-off with the company.

There are so many poor leadership examples we could highlight from this story, but the one I want to focus on today is buy-in. The leadership team was trying to force compliance instead of cultivating commitment.

Leaders have to pursue buy-in if they want to increase their influence. In today’s Your Leadership Coach video, I share 4 tips on how we can create that buy-in. Check it out below.



Game Plan

Think about a time when you wanted to start a new initiative or make changes to an existing process. This could be at work or with your family.

How did that situation go?

Based upon what you learned in this video, how can you get more buy-in on the front end next time a similar situation arises?


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The Top 5 Temptations That Will Derail All Leaders

The Top 5 Temptations That Will Derail All Leaders

We have all heard stories of highly talented leaders (and celebrities) who never reached their potential because poor choices ended up derailing their career. 

Many people aspire to be leaders because of the prestige, social status, or even pay raise. What they don’t realize is that leaders are held to higher standards. They are more accountable when things go wrong and if they are going to have sustained success, they must live a life that is above reproach. 

Our leadership journey is a marathon; not a sprint. And if you are going to be a leader that finishes well you must stay away from these common temptations.



This is the number one temptation and is at the root of all the other temptations on this list. Pride is so deadly because it gives us the illusion of success like a mirage in the desert, while it is actually slowly eroding away our leadership potential. 

Prideful leaders never reach their potential for a myriad of reasons: 

  • They think they are smarter than others and never ask for help. 
  • They don’t surround themselves with highly capable people because they have to be the smartest person in the room.
  • They end up plateauing as a leader because pride makes them apathetic when it comes to learning and development. 

Effective leaders are confident but not arrogant. We must know the difference.



One of the ways pride manifests itself is through success. In fact, I am more fearful of success than failure. It’s hard to be proud in failure and failure is a great teacher. (I write more about the benefits of failure here.) On the other hand, success can be intoxicating. We can become addicted to it and spend so much in the pursuit of success that we neglect higher priority areas of life. 

Now, there is nothing wrong with success in itself. And I think we all want to live “successful” lives. We should all strive to work with excellence and be as successful as possible. 

But we must be careful because there is a dark side to success. It covers up weaknesses and allows blind spots to creep in. It can make us think we are better or more important than others. 

It also leads to our next temptation. 


Lack of Character

Success creates pressure and that pressure can cause people to make decisions that lack character. They try to find shortcuts or make excuses for failure. Unfortunately, no amount of success or charisma can make up for a lack of integrity.There are many areas where leaders can be tempted to have a lack of integrity: fudging numbers, lying or covering up our past mistakes, and immoral or improper relationships to name a few. 

If leadership is like a house, then character is the foundation. A crack in it will slowly affect the whole house. Most of the time this crack starts small. A little decision of indiscretion. A small “white lie.” But over time it spreads like cancer, killing our leadership. 



A lack of character can frequently be seen in regard to money. Whether a leader has a lot or a little, the way they manage their money reveals both their priorities and their character (or the lack thereof). Too many leaders, especially in the social sector, have been derailed because of their poor handling of both professional and personal finances. 

Leaders should be transparent, especially with their finances. I’m not saying they should share their personal bank accounts with just anyone, but they do need to be above reproach in how they manage their money. 

You never know when someone is going to want to ask for your tax returns. (wink, wink…)


Lack of Accountability

Accountability is like the rumble strips on the interstate. They keep us in bounds. We all have moments of weakness where we want to take the easy route or an immoral shortcut. Accountability keeps us from doing that. 

An unfortunate story that shows the importance of accountability occurred with Marion Jones. Jones was one of the most dominant female Olympic track and field athletes in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, she cheated by taking PEDs and then lied to Congress, which meant prison time and the disqualification of some of her achievements (including Olympic medals.) When asked about what led her to start cheating she said that she stopped hanging out with people who would tell her like it is and started associating with people who would just pat her on the back. 

Take this lesson to heart. We don’t need “yes” people in our life. We need people who will tell us like it is. Accountability is the answer to each one of these temptations. If you have accountability, I can almost guarantee your leadership will be guarded and protected. Accountability won’t stop you from making mistakes, but it will hopefully cause you to think twice about making the mistakes that derail a person’s leadership. 


Game Plan

For most leaders, there are one or two areas from those listed above that will be their greatest temptation(s). Which of those areas is that for you? 

If you don’t have accountability, make a point this week to find someone and share your top temptations with them. (I talk more about accountability in The Missing Ingredient to Goal Making and How to Lead with Significance: Accountability)


Tweetable Lesson


The Secret to Dealing with Criticism

The Secret to Dealing with Criticism

In 1954, Billy Graham was conducting his first crusade in London, which received a lot of criticism. (It would be noted later that Graham received criticism almost everywhere he went.) 

He recounts in his autobiography Just As I Am, “A columnist for the Daily Mirror (London), Bill Connor, under the name Cassandra, wrote a devastatingly clever article against me; it appeared the day we arrived in Britain. I wrote him a note telling him that while I didn’t agree with him, his column had been very well done. He wrote back that he would like to meet me.”

After their meeting, “Cassandra” wrote another column about his interaction with Graham. Connor still made a few verbal jabs at Graham’s expense but he also painted him in a much more favorable light. 

“All leaders get criticized. It’s their response to criticism that sets them apart,” write Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley. If you try to accomplish something that adds value or makes a difference, you will be criticized. One of the areas that separates great leaders from the good leaders is how they respond to and manage criticism

When it comes to criticism, the first question we must ask ourselves is, “Is this criticism constructive or destructive?” If it is constructive, we embrace it and engage with the critic. If it is destructive, we dismiss it. 


Embracing Criticism 

If the criticism seems to have even a hint of truth or if it is constructive, we should embrace it and, if possible, engage with the critic. This calls for radical open-mindedness and extreme humility. An attitude that is constantly seeking to learn and grow. 

When reaching out to a critic, we should respond in kindness, even complimenting where appropriate, just like Billy Graham did. The goal is to learn. As author and leadership mentor Fred Smith says, “Turn your critics into coaches.”


Find the Kernel of Truth

When listening and processing criticism we need to find the “kernel of truth.” Dawson Trotman said, “There is a kernel of truth in every criticism. Look for it, and when you find it, rejoice in its value.” 

Even if the critic is 99% wrong, there may be 1% of truth that provides valuable insight. There’s a saying that goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know and what you don’t know can kill you.” We all have blind spots; criticism is a way to perhaps bring those blind spots into view.


Don’t Dwell on Criticism

We don’t need to engage with all criticism. Some critics are off base and we need to dismiss it. Fred Smith also says, “Sometimes if a racehorse pays too much attention to horsefly, it makes the fly too important. Some people’s only taste of success is the bite they take out of someone whom they perceive is doing more than they are.”

Most of the time criticism comes from people who are dissatisfied with their own life. Instead of taking responsibility and ownership for their current situation, instead they attack other people. As the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.” 

This is probably the toughest step when dealing with criticism. It’s hard to just simply dismiss criticism and not think about it. But a way to help with this process is by taking captive our thoughts and self-talk and comparing them to the truth. Is this criticism actual reality or distorted truth? It’s also good to have an inner circle of friends to process criticism with. People who will tell it like it is.


Give Equal Weight to Compliments

Jon Acuff talks about “hater math.” One “hater” is greater than 100 compliments. We remember the one time someone criticized us and forget about the hundred times someone said something genuinely complimentary of us. 

I think it’s very beneficial to keep a praise journal. What are the accomplishments that have happened in your life? What are the genuine praises that you and your work have received? Yes, we need to be careful that we don’t become arrogant over our achievements. But this journal can be a source of encouragement in those seasons when we feel like we can do nothing right and the critics let us know it. 

Take time to celebrate and remember your successes. 


Game Plan

Think back to the last time you received criticism. How did you respond and manage it? Write down both the positive and negative ways you reacted. 

What will you do differently next time?


Tweetable Lesson