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Category: Leadership

A Super Example of Positive Leadership

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is already a household name, regardless if he wins Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV. The East Texas native made waves in football during his first year as a starter in 2018, earning league MVP honors. Mahomes is a special athletic talent, but one thing that sets him apart from others playing his same position is his leadership style.

See what I mean in this clip below:

Down 24 points to the Houston Texans in his team’s first playoff game this season, Patrick can be seen on the sidelines encouraging his teammates and pumping them. He was facing overwhelming odds – losing 24-0 – but remained at least on the outside, positive and focused on helping his teammates stay locked in. He’s shouting positive words to “do something special” and simply focus on the next play.

“One play at a time. Do something special.”

You didn’t catch him whining. You didn’t hear him cursing out defensive players for giving up 24 points. You only saw him trying to keep everyone focused and believing they could get back in this game.

And get back in this game they did, outscoring the Houston Texans 51-7 in the time remaining.

It’s common to see athletes put their heads down on the bench, see the frustration on their faces, or hear the expletives shouted at a couch or teammate when their team is losing by multiple scores. That’s common in sports.

It’s also common in life. We pout, sulk, or whine when things don’t go our way. We don’t get the promotion we believe we deserved. We get injured and miss a physical goal we’ve set. Life deals us a bad break that’s completely outside of our control but derails what we expected to do. It’s common in those frustrating moments to be negative and blame the situation or others for our predicament. That’s common.

That’s also why great leadership is not common.

A leader’s ability shines brightest when the situation seems darkest. A great leader stays positive despite a turbulent storm and does their best to keep their teams in positive spirits too. What Patrick Mahomes did on that Sunday – and seemingly every Sunday you seem him on an NFL sideline – is special. It has nothing to do with his talent level (which is astronomical) but everything to do with his choices.

He intentionally chooses to take a positive attitude and look for the opportunities instead of whine and stare at the obstacles. The mark of a positive leader is unquestionably visible when things aren’t going as planned. They stay positive. They encourage their team. And they focus on the most important thing – what they can do next.

It doesn’t matter if your arena is a football sideline, a business office, or your own home. Your ability to be a positive leader doesn’t have to do with your title or talent, but your choice to intentionally want to be one.

And if you need a good example, look at the Kansas City sidelines this weekend for #15.

Four Leadership Lessons from Ford v. Ferrari

This post is the first of many categorized as “Leadership and Popcorn Lessons” that I’ll share business and leadership takeaways from movies. I love going to movies and watching great stories unfold on the big screen, and felt it would help you, my readers, in your career & life if you had additional insights into the film and key lessons to look out for if you were to see the film.

I’ve been excited to see Ford v. Ferrari since I watched its trailer release on YouTube. I’m a fan of both Matt Damon & Christian Bale, and was excited to see how they would bring this story to life. The film highlights the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s “oldest, active sports car endurance race.”

Ford Motor Company’s sales were struggling during the 1960’s. Desperate for a change, Henry Ford II hired a team of engineers, led by automotive legend Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver (Bale) to design a Ford racing car capable of beating Ferrari in the world’ biggest race. It was a move the company was banking on changing their brand image from an “old man’s car” to a new generation’s fast, sexy car.

Ford v. Ferrari is a fast-paced racing movie, full of ego, arrogance, and the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s also filled with key lessons for succeeding in business and life.

1. What’s Worked In the Past Doesn’t Guarantee It Will in the Future

Ford had built a large company on the backs of their early models, but during the 1960s, saw their market share slip due to a younger generation aligning Ford with their parents – and like all teenagers & young adults, they wanted to distance themselves from anything that made them look like their parents. James Bond, the image of sexy & strong, drove an Ashton Martin. Other brands stepped ahead of Ford until they turned to Carroll Shelby and unveiled the Ford Mustang in 1964.

As detailed in the movie, Ford had to change their brand image & product line from what “was” in order to rise back ontop for what it “could be.”

It’s easy for us to rely on the way “things have always been” in business. We grow comfortable and complacent sticking with what’s always worked instead of continually evaluating our systems, products, and customer experience – until one day we look up and realize we’ve lost ground in the market. “What got you here won’t get you there” is a phrase I’ve kept in the forefront of my mind during my own entrepreneurial journey so that I was constantly focusing on how we can innovate and continue growing instead of being caught complacent.

2. Sometimes You Have to Look Outside of Your Industry for Game-Winning Ideas

Ford’s team looked beyond the American consumer market for ideas on how to rebrand themselves and create a new product (insert Ferrari & the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Most companies succeed with innovation with they look outside of their own industry and direct competitors for fresh ideas in other industries altogether.

We get stuck in a habit only reviewing our space when many great ideas can be found by looking at the processes & systems of other industries. Just look at how companies like Uber & AirBnB have changed the transportation & travel industries. If you’re ever feeling stuck, challenge yourself to look at how successful companies in entirely different spaces are working for a fresh perspective.

3. Be Willing to Experiment and Test with the Continuous Focus of “How Can We Get Better Today?”

Shelby’s team was relentless testing Miles’ race cars to create the most efficient & powerful machine so he had the best opportunity to win at Le Mans. Just the same, successful organizations encourage a culture of asking “how can we get better today?” It’s a simple question, that if integrated into all levels of a company, can create powerful results.

This simple question encourages every position within a company to evaluate their own workday, communication lines, customer-engagement, and more for opportunities to streamline and improve the workflow & experience. The tests to improve the workflow only benefit the company’s productivity and – just as important – the customer experience.

Be less concerned about something “not working” and more concerned with testing different ideas for improvement. You won’t bat 1.000% on new ideas – but you will bat 0% if you never attempt to test them.

4. Someone Will Always Criticize You – Even Try to Bring You Down – Ignore Them To Focus on What You Control.

Throughout the entire movie, Damon & Bale’s characters faced challenges – both from external teams & influences as well as internal at Ford. It reminded me of one key truth we forget when pursuing something great – not everyone is going to like it or you. It doesn’t matter if they do, it only matters what you continue to do.

You can’t control how someone else treats you (or tries to sabotage you) but you 100% control how you respond in your attitude, effort, & actions. You can waste precious time worrying about what someone else will say or do – or you can invest that time in getting better with your product and service. Even if you do a flawless job, someone will have something negative to say – so it’s a more effective use of your time to ignore outside critics and instead focus on what you control.

Ford v. Ferrari is a great film on the importance of thinking creatively outside of the box, believing in your ability to win, and hiring people you believe in — and then getting out of their way to let them do their job effectively.


Do the Dirty Work

I grew up working in a small town gas station my Dad owned in east Texas. Starting at the age of 7, I’d spend summer days sweeping parking lots, cleaning gas pumps, and stocking the coolers at the store as my chores before I could play with my neighborhood friends or head to baseball practice.

I hated every minute of it.

Sometimes my dad would jump in and help me stock the cooler or change out a soda line that had run out of syrup. I didn’t understand why he was going that or was making me work in the store. Didn’t we pay employees to do all of this, I asked him one day.

“We do – but many times throughout life a leader has to get in there and do the work himself.”

He went on to teach me about the importance of setting the example for a team. He said,

Never Give Up an At-Bat

Last night my Texas Rangers lost to the Minnesota Twins 13-6. I turned the game on during the 5th inning and saw my team was already trailing by 10 runs.

Ouch.

Ten runs is a huge amount in baseball. In fact, only a few times in baseball history has a team overcome a 10-run deficit to win the game. It would be very easy at that point to call it a night and start looking toward tomorrow if you were losing.

In baseball, maybe more than any other sport, great players know the importance of every single at-bat. It doesn’t matter if you’re up 10 or down 10, a great player won’t mail it in at the plate just to get through the inning. They’ll work the count and do everything they can to get a hit.

How to (Actually) Be Better Than Yesterday

Do you know who you’re competing with?

Who are you looking toward as your competition? Who do you see on a daily / weekly / monthly basis as your measuring stick, and God help you if you haven’t caught up – or passed – them?

But do you know know you’re most important competition is with? It is not with the person you work with, the friend at the gym, or the stranger you follow on social media.

Your strongest competition is with the person you were yesterday. It’s that face that looks back at you in the mirror every morning and every evening.

A lot of people talk about the importance of being “better than yesterday.” It sounds great, but honestly, what does that look like in the real world?

Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t look like

  • bases-loaded home runs
  • 99-yard touchdown runs, or
  • “overnight” success.

In reality, it looks like small steps forward, every day. Boring, monotonous, plain steps forward.

It’s 1% progress made.

Newspaper headlines won’t scream “1% BETTER” but if you’re serious about getting better, that’s how you do it.

Because 1% today starts, and then you add 1% tomorrow, and the next day, and next….

Here’s a cool fact: if you do that, every day, in one year you aren’t 365% better. You’re actually exponentially better (thank you compounding interest!)

What does 1% better look like then?

1% is a small number. It’s simple to make a 1% positive adjustment each day – but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. And simple doesn’t guarantee that everyone will do it. Most won’t – because a 1% change requires being present and intentional in your daily actions. It can look like a number of different things, but here are a few suggestions to get your wheels turning:

  • Create the 5 minutes to journal that you skipped yesterdaywrite 3 things you’re thankful, 3 targets for the day, or 3 lessons you can build on.
  • Push yourself harder in a workout than you did last time. Instead of giving in, this time tell that voice to shut up when it said slow down you’re almost done and instead sprinted to the end.
  • Prepare for that presentation just a little bit more than you did before. When is your next meeting at work or socially? Can you review your notes more thoroughly instead of ‘winging it’ this time?
  • Practice more patience in a (work, social, love) relationship. Bite your tongue when you want to give advice. Take a deep breath when you want to fight. Keep working on that goal when you get anxious and want to quit because it hasn’t been achieved yet.
  • Read 1 chapter of a book that’s collecting dust just sitting on your shelf not being read. You can knock out 30+ books a year if you focus on just 1 chapter a day.

Whatever it looks like, pick one thing and do it just a little bit better than you did today. We all have the ability to be 1% better every day. Most people fail to take advantage of the day (i.e. opportunity) they’re given. Don’t be like most people.

Be a Competitor instead. (I promise, winning tastes better than “what if”).

Do what you can to be a little better than you were last time.

I’m curious – what’s one thing you do every day to build on the previous?

Leave a comment below with your daily action to be better than yesterday!

What If There’s Nothing Special About Me?

But there’s nothing special about my story.

I remember telling my coach that early in our time working together. I was new to public speaking and had hired his team years ago to help me elevate my craft to better serve my audiences. I had goals of becoming a household name as a speaker, but mentally, I was struggling to see myself as one. I wasn’t able to connect my stories with everyone else who carried that “speaker” title. I’d never been homeless. I hadn’t overcome a powerful addiction or had a near-death experience, and I didn’t “live in a van down by the river.” By all accounts, my life was very, well, normal.

And that normal thinking was keeping me in neutral at the starting line instead of taking action for my goal. Normal doesn’t change lives – or so I thought.

No One Is an Island

“For a long time, I convinced myself that I could will my way to a dream. As long as I wanted it bad enough, I could make it happen. But if there is one great truth I learned from this great game, it’s that no great accomplishment is ever achieved by yourself. Being successful is contingent on others, and it always starts with someone taking a chance on you.” – Kurt Warner, PFT

I heard retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner say these words Saturday night during his enshrinement into the NFL Hall of Fame with his fellow 2017 classmates.

“…no great accomplishment is ever achieved by yourself.”

I believe a lot of us love the idea of reaching our goals and claiming that “I did it.” I put in the work. faced the obstacles. won. Our (long) roads from Day One to eventually reaching our goal can many times feel, well, lonely. We remember the early mornings we woke up and went to the gym, alone. We think about the times we drove cross-country for our dream, alone. And we think about the struggles we went through financially, alone.

Yet, through all that time, we were never actually alone. And the reason we got to that goal was never just us.

Be Their Reason Why

People all around us are searching for inspiration.

They scout their social media feed, multiple times a day, for the right quote, the right picture, the right spark to help them. The world around us gives enough reasons every day to question if we actually “have what it takes.” Buy this. Do that. Believe this. Each and every one claiming to be the missing ingredient we need, the source of inspiration. They hear the doubts whisper in and wonder, “can I really be a Competitor if I think this?”

They’re desperate to believe that “yes, they are a Competitor, and yes, they can win.”

So what if you were the reason why they did believe?

Competitors Don’t Cheat Themselves

“All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.” – Scott Alexander

I still remember my coach’s face when he caught me and a teammate cheating reps during our workout.

It was a mix of disappointment and pure hell-fire anger.

Brad and I had cut our 3 sets of 10 reps short by a few here and there. Our coach had been watching us the entire time and waited until the whistle blew (signaling time to switch stations) before using us as an example to the rest of the ninth grade football team.

“Jake, did you and Brad complete every rep before stopping?”

I looked at Brad sheepishly, knowing we’d been busted. He looked back at me with an “oh sh*t” expression.