We typically think of feedback as binary: either good or bad. “Hey, great job today!” or “please step into my office.”

Feedback is so much more. It’s my relationship to the world and the world’s relationship to me. These are the conversations that drive business growth. They drive people to get more out of their leaders, and leaders to get more out of their people.

I tend to think of improving my feedback by being more clear, more effective, and more often. As if more is the answer. I thought I needed to hone those — which I did. But it turns out I misled myself.

Not only do I need to learn how to give feedback, but I’ve got to learn from feedback that’s poorly delivered and off-base. Feedback is necessary, though it can be some of the most painful experiences. Instead of sidelining those times, could it be best to understand the pain to get to the learning that much faster?

Getting back to binary feedback. It’s not simply good or bad. I’ve been trying to solve for the wrong question.

There’s Appreciation, Coaching, and Evaluation — I’d been focusing on evaluation (tell me where I stand: whether good or bad). But I’d forgot about appreciating others, not to mention coaching. Both critical and necessary functions of feedback.

I was challenged with regard to feedback: become better at receiving it, and then I will earn the privilege of being heard. Start with two questions:

  1. “What’s one thing in particular that I run this team or a meeting really well?”
  2. “What’s one thing you see me doing — or failing to do — that’s getting in the way?”

To avoid only focusing on the negative and remembering I do some good, keep the first question. No need to completely eradicate everything I do if there is something good to be retained — rather than purged. But it’s all to grow to be a better leader. Modeling feedback.

Originally published at

Shame. Vulnerability. Openness.

I had the awesome pleasure of attending a conference where Brené Brown spoke (she’s a wonderful speaker, I first watched her on a TED talk).

Speaking of shame, there’s almost a shame about talking about shame — as if anyone who acknowledges it will then be shamed as weak. Ironic?

She is open and honest about shame, vulnerability, and openness. For me, without admitting and being honest, I know I make my own life so difficult — just ask my wife.

Here’s an example: when we’re unsure of something, our mind automatically begin filling in details. I’m telling myself a story — whether true or false — to fill in the gaps. Sometimes shameful details. That’s when we need to hear from the other person: “here’s the story I’m telling myself. I need to hear from you.”

How many times someone wasn’t talking to me and I felt like they were ignoring me for some past event or action. Do I really have the guts or courage to say, “here’s the story I’m telling myself. I’m afraid you’re not talking to me because of…I need to hear from you to tell me what the truth is.” Otherwise, my brain is hardwired to make up a story on what went down.

That’s shame. That shame can be deep-rooted under decades of activities, statements, and actions. Moving forward — going past the point of no return — is where leaders are defined, refined, and found.

After getting rocked, can I really:

  1. Reckon with my emotions? Am I okay with discomfort? Do I have real emotional awareness to work through this?
  2. Can I rumble with emotion? Can I be brave about talking about this discomfort? Rumbling with truth and others is difficult — but necessary, growing, and beautifully metamorphic.
  3. Creating a revolution. My worthiness lives inside the stories I tell myself…Courage is uncomfortable, which is why it’s rare.

The bravest among us will be the most brokenhearted. The creative and innovative ones will always know failure. The physics of vulnerability is straightforward: if I am brave, then I will fail.

Originally published at

New Perspectives

A professor told the following story:

He’d been wearing this particular tie for many months — perhaps years — and one day he pulled out a different shirt, by necessity, put on his tie and headed out the door. When he got to the office he had not one, not two, but a number of people compliment the tie. Yes…this was the same tie that he’d been wearing for quite a while. The only difference is that he wore a different shirt.

That day he taught me a lesson: a new perspective can make all the difference to truly highlight a pre-existing truth.

It may be a tie; it may be a new website or book cover; or it may be the method I’ve been trying to communicate a particular idea to a teammate.

I learned many things from that professor, but one thing is that the concept may be perfect — it does not need to be changed — although it’s the perspective that may need to be replaced with a new shirt.

Originally published at

Abdicating Rank

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, said something that’s still spinning my head. Ambition, not for ourselves, but something bigger. Something greater. Something meaningful.

The disease of mediocrity and stagnant companies is ripe with self-ambition and the individual’s desire to grow their own career, rather than see the product/project/company mission to the end.

Leadership is often confused with personality, rank, and power.

Leaders just need nice, white teeth, a charismatic voice, and be calm under pressure. Right?

There’s a bit more to it. I know I’m guilty of it. In fact, just this week. Using rank, title, personality, traits, or power is an abdication of getting others to follow you. It’s replacing openness, candor, and relationship.

As leaders, we must get others to do what must be done. This involves three components.

  1. Knowing what must be done
  2. Getting people to want to do what must be done
  3. It is not a science, it is an art. (We must develop our own peculiar art form…we shouldn’t — not can we — copy others, though we can certainly learn from others.)

This isn’t manipulation. It’s about the tribe having visibility into the foundational purpose and reason, then wanting to be a part of something bigger, more than a single individual’s dream or hope.

Commanding others (”You have your orders”) is not leadership…that’s dangling a carrot and having someone forced to do it whether they want to or not. That’s role-power, not relationship-power. That is a major difference between a healthy, strong culture and a weak, selfish, wanting culture.

If we need to do whatever it takes to grow and scale our leadership from 1x to 2x to 5x to 10x, then leadership is key. We can coerce others into obeying in order to get that paycheck or promotion…or they can do it because they believe in the greater mission. They see the purpose — they know the Why.

Originally published at


I was recently at a conference where the speaker opened with talking about the next generation leaders. But that’s not breaking news. Nor was it his big point.

It was humility.

His belief: “armed with enough humility, we can learn from anybody.” Businessmen can learn from non-profit CEOs; pastors can learn from government leaders…etc. (A beautiful sub-goal of this conference is to draw together people from different walks of life — whether those in business, government, religions, Americans, Brazilians — you get the point.)

At first, I thought it was a lofty goal, though as I reflect on it I can’t help but wonder: what’s stopping me from learning from anyone else, no matter how much our core values, backgrounds, or beliefs differ or are in opposition?

Imagine: leaders of all walks living that out. For the sake of leadership, bettering each other, strengthening countries, and healing humanity.

Imagine: being a leader means listening to others, rather than turning it into a political charade.

Imagine: being a leader means you let the other person talk first, rather than attempting to suck up all the time on the 2 minute tv debate. If we, as leaders, heard others and took into account their thoughts and feelings…instead of demonizing or belittling “them”.

That is humility.

Originally published at