The First Steps to Becoming an Influencer

The First Steps to Becoming an Influencer

Whether we realize it or not, we all want to be an influencer. You may not want to be a social media influencer, but you do want influence. You’d like to be respected and trusted enough that your spouse, kids, friends, and co-workers pay attention to what you have to say and, in many scenarios, act upon what you have shared with them. That’s influence. 

Leadership is influence. Without influence you will never effectively lead others. Why? Because at the core of leadership is the ability to mobilize (aka influence) a group of people toward a common mission or goal. 

Since influence is important in all aspects of life, how do we grow or develop it?

If you would like to begin the journey towards becoming an influencer, the first steps you need to take can be found by the following example of Ezra. 

You might be asking yourself, who is this Ezra guy? Ezra was an ancient Hebrew leader. To give a brief history lesson… The nation of Israel had been displaced. Conquered by the Babylonians and many of their citizens were exiled to Babylon. Years later they were allowed to come back to Jerusalem and start rebuilding their city. Ezra was one of those leaders sent to help out the cause. The problem is that he faced an insurmountable challenge. How do you influence a group of people who have been devastated by war, have no national pride, and have lost their identity (and motivation)?

Here’s what the ancient Hebrew history text says: “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes.” 

Ezra didn’t rally the troops and give them a “ra ra” speech. He didn’t try to persuade them with a catchy slogan. The first thing he did was to study and learn. Ezra was a spiritual leader. So he set out to perfect his craft. He did this by gaining knowledge and then applying that knowledge so he could become an expert in it. He got in the trenches with his team and lived out his mission. As he learned more about their situation, their feelings, and their priorities and concerns, and as he earned trust through his actions, then he used his words to motivate them. 

If you want to become a person of influence, you must practice the Ezra Principle: learn, apply, share.

But in order to have effective influence, you need all three. Here’s why:


If you learn and share but don’t apply, you are a hypocrite 

Remember the phrase, “your actions speak louder than words?” Our life is a more powerful sermon than our words. As influencers, there can’t be duplicity between the words we say publicly and the way we live our life personally. They must match up. On the flip side, when you live out what you are sharing it multiplies your influence. 


If you apply and share but don’t learn, you are ignorant

You are hollow. It’s like someone who talks a big game but can’t actually play. You need to perfect your craft (or skill set) through becoming a lifelong learner. A person who is not a learner is like a car without an engine. You might look really good on the outside, but under the hood you lack substance and depth. 


If you learn and apply but don’t share, you are selfish

In my opinion, this is the saddest state. This person has the ability to influence those around him, but chooses to withhold. Most withhold because of a lack of confidence or because they’re worried about what others will think of them. As a result, both parties lose. People miss out on being impacted and this person misses out on helping others.


My hope is that you understand that all of us have the ability to influence others, but to turn that potential into progress we must learn, apply, and share. We must perfect our craft through learning and applying and then sharing both our successes and failures with others so that we can help them out on their journey. That’s influence.


Game Plan

  • Out of the three components to the Ezra Principle, which one comes most easily or natural to you? How can you refine or perfect that?
  • Which component do you struggle with the most? How can you grow in and develop that area so that it doesn’t hinder your ability to influence?


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My Toolbox: Learning

My Toolbox: Learning

Charlie Munger, who is Warren Buffet’s longtime business partner, quipped, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time.”

If we combine that bold saying with our opening quote, the point is well taken. If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to lead effectively, you need to read.

Maybe you have heard about the reading exploits of Bill Gates, who takes a reading vacation each year and reads 50 books a year. Or Mark Cuban, who reads 3 hours a day. In fact, many of the most successful (and busiest) people find time to read.

The question comes in, “why is reading so valuable?” 

Well, it comes down to learning. Learning is probably the greatest skill you can possess. 

In our ever-changing world, the knowledge that you gained in college or even just a few years ago has become irrelevant. The best tool you can give yourself (and your organization) is the ability to learn. Learning allows you to adapt and evolve with the changing landscape. It helps you gain new skills and refine existing ones.

With that being said, how do we get the most out of learning? 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been opening up my toolbox and letting you see the tools that have helped me become more productive and effective both in my personal life and with my business. (If you missed our first two posts in this series, I encourage you to check them out: My Toolbox: Productivity and My Toolbox: Blogging.

Today, I’m sharing the tools and books that are helping me cultivate my personal and professional growth.



The book market is saturated. It seems like everyone you talk to has a book they are recommending. But which books are the most valuable to your learning? That depends on what you want to learn or what skills you want to develop. 

For me, leadership, management, and business are extremely important. Here are my top 5 books in each of those categories (and note that each link is an affiliate link in case it looks like something you may enjoy also): 



  1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  2. Getting Things Done by David Allen 
  3. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  5. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell 



  1. The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard
  2. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  3. The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
  4. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  5. 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey 



  1. Good to Great by Jim Collins 
  2. Start with Why by Simon Sinek
  3. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber 
  4. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries 
  5. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath


Current News

I don’t know if you are like me, but I struggle when it comes to current events like politics and business. The reason is that 1) I can spend too much on Facebook or Apple News “getting caught up“ and not realize that an hour has just passed by and 2) I get tired of the bias that many people and news companies have. I just want the facts.

Fortunately, about two years ago, I came across the Morning Brew. They offer a free daily newsletter that is a concise, unbiased summary of both national and world news including politics, business, technology, and sports; and it is presented in a light-hearted, clever manner. It takes me about 5 minutes to read and I feel like I’m more “in the know” than ever before in just a fraction compared to before I started receiving this newsletter.


Learning Retention

One of my favorite quotes is “Information is not transformation. Transformation is in the application.” The caution or danger for those that read voraciously is that the knowledge simply gained doesn’t impact our lives and the people around us. For reading and learning to be the most effective, we have to apply it.

One app that has helped me out with this is Evernote. Evernote is like my digital brain. For learning purposes, I record the highlights from my books in what they call a note. This way I can review my highlights whenever I want. 

I also put quotes, articles, and even my daily Morning Brew newsletters in Evernote. This way I can easily recall that information for a certain topic or training session I’m conducting as needed.


Game Plan

What skill or subject area do you need to learn in this season of life to take your leadership to the next level? After you identify that skill or subject area, create a learning plan to start working toward that goal.

And if you need help, let me know. We just launched a new coaching and accountability program called GPS (Guidance for Personal Success). In this program, we help you create a customized personal development plan and then provide “turn by turn” navigation to help you accomplish that plan. If you are interested in talking more about this, let’s schedule a free consultation session. Just click here and we will get the conversation started.


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My Toolbox: Productivity

My Toolbox: Productivity

I can remember as a little boy being fascinated with my Dad’s tools. He’s talented when it comes to woodworking so I had the opportunity to watch him firsthand use those tools to build some really cool stuff, like a marble roller. (It’s much cooler than it sounds and that woodworking masterpiece provided hours and even years of entertainment.) 

My parents even bought me a kid’s tool belt with a plastic hammer and screwdriver that I could wear as I “assisted” my dad on those projects. You may have had one like it.

Tools are important to any project, whether that be woodworking or leadership. If you don’t have the right tool or don’t know how to utilize the tool correctly, your leadership will suffer and will not be as effective as you would like it to be.

I’ve seen too many well-meaning leaders who have the vision and passion for leadership, but don’t take the time to assemble and learn the tools they need to maximize their leadership potential. Most of the time these tools are not sexy, but they are vital to a leader’s success.

So over the next two weeks, I’m going to open up my personal “toolbox” and show you some of the practical tools, programs, and apps I use on a regular basis that help me be an effective leader, small business owner, husband, and friend. 

Today, I’m focusing on productivity.


Productivity 101

I’m a self-proclaimed productivity nerd. My goal is to be efficient with tasks so I can be effective with people. I wouldn’t be able to be efficient if I didn’t have productivity tools to help me remember tasks, minimize the time I spend on email, and serve as a catalyst for getting things done. 

Maybe you’re new to this topic. Maybe not. But before I dive into these tools, let me give you a crash course on productivity. Productivity 101, if you will.

The most influential resource for my productivity is David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. Here are some of the basics:

There are three basic avenues for effective productivity:

    1. Inbox: Any avenue that collects information (email, physical mailbox, text messages, etc.)
    2. Project/Task Management: The place where you actually get the work done (checklist on a piece of paper or something more complex like a digital task management system)
    3. Filing System (Reference): The place where you store information to retrieve later (physical filing cabinet, notes app on your phone, etc.

These three avenues or systems need to communicate efficiently, and ideally you want to be able to move information and projects seamlessly through each one.

The reason you need three distinct systems is because each one has different strengths. Your email inbox is a great place for communicating and receiving information but it doesn’t make a good project/task management system because you can’t prioritize those emails or tasks very easily. In the same way, your project/task management system isn’t a good filing system because you want to be able to “check off” or delete projects and tasks once you complete them, so you are only seeing what needs to get done. (Who doesn’t love the feeling of checking something off a list?)

This chart from David Allen shows how these 3 systems work together:


Now that you know my productivity philosophy (aka David Allen’s), here are the two apps I use the most for helping me stay productive:



Nozbe is my task management system. My favorite aspect about Nozbe is that it’s simple to use. You can start using it after only 5 minutes of downloading it/setting it up. Yet it doesn’t lose its power in its simplicity. 

Here are some other aspects I like about Nozbe:

    1. Inbox (Emails and Text Messages): I can forward emails directly into Nozbe and create a task right from my email inbox. (I can also take screenshots of text messages that I need to respond to and upload them directly into Nozbe.)
    2. Priority: Nozbe easily lets me create projects and then tasks underneath those projects. I can “star” them, which automatically puts those tasks on my priority list. Then, I can sort those priority tasks and put the highest priority at the top.
    3. Calendar: Nozbe syncs with my Google Calendar so any tasks that have specific due dates automatically sync to my calendar.
    4. Categories: This is probably the most powerful feature in Nozbe. I can create a customized “category” list and then assign categories to each task. I can also filter my priority list based upon that category. For example, let’s say I’m about to get in my car and run some errands. That is prime time for me to knock some tasks off my list (redeem that time in the car.) I can filter my priority list with the category “phone” and this shows all of the phone calls I have to make. Perfect – now I know what I can do while I’m driving. Or, let’s say I sent out 20 emails and now I’m wondering who hasn’t replied back. I can filter my list by “waiting-for” and see all of those emails. I can quickly follow-up on those emails with the filtered list.



Evernote is my digital brain. I use it as a filing cabinet, project management system, and content calendar for my blog. Again, I value simplicity, which is why I use Evernote. It can be used in a matter of minutes after downloading. (And they have a free version so you can test it out before deciding if you want to pay for their more robust features.) 

Here is why I like Evernote:

    1. Inbox:Just like Nozbe, I can email directly into Evernote. If I receive an email with some key information from a client that I want to remember, I can directly send it from my inbox. Or if there is an attachment that I want to save I can shoot that over to Evernote. 
    2. Digital Filing Cabinet: Evernote lets you create “notebooks” that contain multiple “notes.” Think of notebooks like a file folder and notes like the actual files inside that folder. With Evernote, I can put text, pictures, videos, and audio files all inside a note. What makes Evernote really powerful is its search function. You can take a picture or screenshot of a quote and Evernote can read the words of that quote from your picture. Amazing!
    3. Scanning: Evernote has a scanning feature inside the app which is great for loose paper information that you want to digitize.
    4. Business Cards: In my opinion, Evernote is a must for business card storage. You can scan the business card in Evernote and create a digital file. Plus Evernote will create a contact on your phone if you want it to. 
    5. Tags: I already mentioned the power of Evernote’s search. But “tags” make that search even more powerful. Just like categories in Nozbe, I can create a customizable list of tags and then tag notes. I use tags for helping me create content for public speaking events, training workshops, and blogging. For example, let’s say I am speaking at a conference called IAAPA Expo 2020 (which I really am, by the way). I can create a tag for that conference “IAAPA 2020” and then every time I read or see something that would be great for that speaking engagement, I can create a note in Evernote and then tag it with “IAAPA 2020.” When it comes time for me to prepare for my session, I can search “IAAPA 2020” and find all the quotes, illustrations, and other pieces of information for that speaking engagement. 

I could talk all day about Nozbe and Evernote. (I told you I’m a productivity nerd.) But I’ll refrain for all of our sakes. :) 

If you would like to learn more about the apps and programs in my toolbox, check out my brand new Resources page. Here I include the productivity apps listed above, my website and blogging tools, and some of my favorite books. 


Game Plan

When you think about your inboxes, project/task management system, and filing system, which one of those areas is hindering your productivity? Review David Allen’s chart above and focus on one of those areas to make yourself more efficient.


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The Most Important Strategies for Managing Effectively

The Most Important Strategies for Managing Effectively

Gallup research has found that employees don’t leave organizations, they leave bosses.

If you could do only one thing to significantly improve your employee experience, hire better managers. Your managers and positional leaders will have the greatest influence on your employees and their experience. 

That’s the simple answer. But in reality, hiring is only one piece of the equation. The next piece is how you train managers or really, the expectations you should have for your managers. 

Here are some of the key strategies great managers use:


Conduct Consistent 1:1 Meetings

Research detailed in the book 4 Disciplines of Execution has shown that only 34 percent of employees can respond positively to the statement “I meet at least monthly with my manager to discuss my progress on goals.”

It’s no wonder that managers are clueless on how their teams feel. 

Consistent 1:1 meetings give you (the manager) the opportunity to individually check the pulse of your team members and see how they are doing. It also allows you to get an update on their projects and communicate any relevant information they need to know. Finally, 1:1’s actually make you more productive as a manager. When your team knows they will have a touchpoint with you in the next week, they are less likely to interrupt you with non-urgent matters. 


Motivate Through Vision (and Stories)

Employees need to see why their job matters. Research tells us that if you give an employee a handwritten note, you will motivate them on average for about two weeks. If you give them a raise, you improve their morale for about 6 weeks. Both of those things are important. But if you want to motivate someone for life, they need to be able to answer “yes” to this question: “Did I make a difference today?” 

How do you show your team they are making a difference? Though stories. You need to become a story collector. Share positive customer reviews and testimonials with them and show them how they played a role in that customer’s experience. 


Nourish Through Praise

Most people are malnourished when it comes to praise. Gallup found that 79% of employees leave an organization because of a lack of appreciation.  And Dave Ramsey says, “The last time most people received praise was at their high school graduation.” You need to praise and recognize both your team as a whole and individuals when they succeed. The key to effective praise is being specific, genuine, and (when possible) rewarding the person publicly. (Here are some tips on how to give effective praise.)


Starve Through Feedback

“It’s what you tolerate that shows your leadership.” –Extreme Ownership 

Too many leaders allow employees whose actions are not aligned with the organization’s values to thrive. Managers have to starve negativity, gossip, and anything else that distracts from the company’s culture. 

The way you do this is through constructive feedback. The best way to think about giving feedback is like being a “rumble strip.” (You know, the bumps on the side of the interstate that tell you when you’re headed off the road.) They make a lot of noise when you cross them. As a manager, you need to cast good expectations so your team knows what is expected of them. Give them freedom “in between” those expectations so they can make projects their own. But when someone crosses that expectation you must restore them back in line with your organization’s values. 

Remember “what gets rewarded gets repeated.” 

(Want to learn how to give feedback effectively? I talk more about this subject here.)

Finally, the most important attribute a leader can have is empathy. As John Maxwell says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much they care.” Your employees need to not just hear about how much you care but they need to see your empathy in action by the way you value them. 


Game Plan

Do you meet regularly with your employees in 1:1 meetings? If not, I want you to start by meeting with them biweekly. In one of your first meetings, ask them “What is hindering you from being more productive and successful at your job?” And don’t get defensive if they talk about you. Listen and show empathy. 


Tweetable Lesson

The Secret to Effectively Leading Others

The Secret to Effectively Leading Others

Think about a person who has significantly influenced your life. Someone you would consider a mentor or personal hero. Do you have that person’s name and face in your mind?

Now, I want you to think about how that person influenced your life. What did they do to have such significant influence or leadership in your life? Check out today’s video for the secret to effectively leading others.


Game Plan

Think about this question (and then go and do!): Who do you need to spend more time with in your life? 

PS – If you’re interested in learning more about leading others well, especially those of you who either manage people in the workplace or contribute to your company culture, I invite you to attend Part 3 of our free Summer Webinar Series: The New-Norm Employee Experience: 5 Essentials for Creating a Healthy and Effective Team Culture. It will be a great time to talk through how we can lead others well in both a season and an environment that is different than what we’re used to. You can join me by registering here.

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How to “WOW” Your New Employee on Their First Day

How to “WOW” Your New Employee on Their First Day

Do you remember the first job you ever had? (I mean aside from working around the house for your allowance.) 

I do. My parents wanted to instill in me a good work ethic so they got me a job the summer after my freshman year doing maintenance work for my high school. It was basically manual labor. (And why to this day I hate painting.)

Do you remember the first day of your first job? 

Again, I do. My mom dropped me off at the school. I had no idea where to go. I didn’t know if I was meeting my supervisor at the office or the maintenance shed or even where the maintenance shed was. So I wandered around for a while and eventually found it. Honestly, it wasn’t a great first impression for me or a great start to my professional career.

Most people remember the first day of their first job. And if you haven’t worked for too many companies in your professional career, you probably remember most of your first days (especially the negative experiences).

Unfortunately, too many organizations are not intentional with their onboarding process (the time from after an employee is hired through their first few weeks on the job.) Onboarding is extremely important because it will shape an employee’s experience and their initial view of the company. Sometimes this experience (especially when it’s poor) will create lasting impressions that an employee will never get over. 

How do we as managers create an onboarding process that values our incoming employees? The best way to think about onboarding is to picture yourself planning a birthday party for the employee. 

Here are the steps:


Be Prepared

When you plan a person’s birthday party, you think through the logistics. When are we going to have it? Where is it going to be? Who is invited? Have I communicated the details to everyone?

After a new employee accepts your job offer, you need to begin planning for their first day. Create checklists of the people who need to know that this person has just been hired. Communicate with IT about getting them an email address, computer, login access to the different technology systems you have, and etc. 

Too many times companies don’t have these things ready for when the employee arrives. That’s like having a party where nothing is set up when the guest of honor arrives. 

Also, make sure they know where to park, how to navigate through security, and where to meet you.


Be Intentional 

At a birthday party, the host thinks through what type of dessert or cake that person likes. They think through the decorations and ambience of the party.

Design your onboarding process so that you get some information on what your new employee likes. Find out what their favorite drink is from Starbucks, favorite candy bar, go-to snack, etc.? Have those things on their desk before they arrive. Decorate their workspace. If they are new to your area, create a list of top restaurants to try. Be intentional. It shows that you care about them individually.


Be Present

After being prepared and being intentional, a host makes sure that they are actually there for the party. Not just physically, but also mentally. 

As their direct supervisor, you need to carve out time during your employee’s first day and first few weeks to spend extra time with them. You need to show them the ropes so to speak and get them accustomed to your company’s culture. 

One approach that I have seen organizations adopt that I really like is to assign a new employee a “buddy.” A seasoned employee who can help get your new employee acclimated. When choosing a “buddy” make sure that the employee is a really good culture fit. You don’t want someone who is bitter or a gossiper. You don’t want them to start instilling bad habits into the new employee. 


Show Your Culture

Every party has a theme or purpose. Your organization has a theme and purpose. It’s your culture. Your mission and values in action. Too many times during a new employee’s onboarding and orientation culture is talked about but not experienced. As a good friend of mine says, “Culture is more effectively caught than taught.” New employees need to be immersed in your organization’s culture.

Here are a few ways to do this:

    1. When possible, let your new employee experience your company like your customers. If your business is a restaurant, let them (and their family) dine at your place and enjoy the food and ambience. If you are a technology company, let them use that technology.
    2. Share stories. Stories are powerful. Share the positive comments that both customers and other employees have given about their experience with your company.
    3. Let them have fun with your team. Plan lunches, happy hours, and other “hang out” times that allow them to meet the team in a non-threatening and not overly formal environment. 

You might be thinking, “Shawn, this all sounds great, but how am I supposed to onboard a new employee effectively in this season where my whole team is working remotely?” If that’s you, I encourage you to join me for our Part 3 of our free Summer Webinar Series entitled: The New-Norm Employee Experience: 5 Essentials for Creating a Healthy and Effective Team Culture.


Game Plan

What is one practical thing you can do to improve your onboarding process?


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