Leadership Lessons From the NFL’s Domestic Violence Controversy

Self Talk

With the horrific behaviors of some NFL players in the news (Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and many more) there is a renewed focus on the topic of abuse.

It is completely appropriate that these conversations are taking place because no advancement in human history has occurred until people started talking about. I’m not going to get into the specifics of each of these cases. But it’s important to talk a little bit about the leadership implications of abuse: in all of its forms.

Obvious Forms of Abuse and Leadership Responsibilities

  • Physical: Zero tolerance! End of story. If you are a leader in any organization and you see evidence of physical abuse among employees or their families, you are obligated to act, and act swiftly. Period.
  • Verbal and Emotional: There is a widely accepted term to describe this: Bullying. Bullying is not a topic that is relegated to middle school or high school locker rooms. It happens daily in the workplace. Just this month I was working with leaders in organizations talking about behaviors, actions, and words that amount to workplace bullying. The biggest challenge that leaders have in addressing workplace bullying is to stop making excuses. Yes, the bully may be really good at financial modeling, marketing, customer service, or some other function. But they leave a path of destruction across the entire organization. No matter how you cut it, that behavior negatively impacts the bottom line.

The Loudest Silent Killer

There’s another kind of abuse that takes place which often goes unnoticed. And there’s a good chance that you have engaged in this kind abuse recently. This is verbal abuse against yourself; even if it only happens in your head.

Imagine the scenario. You work all day putting together a presentation. It takes all day because you’re constantly being interrupted. With every other sentence you hear a voice over your shoulder pointing out every imperfection. The voice says things like:

  • “That’s such a stupid idea.”
  • “They are never going to accept that.”
  • Or, “Face it, you just aren’t good enough. You may as well start updating your resume.”

Harsh words. And there’s very little anyone else could do about it because that voice is yours.

Words Matter

Words matter. Leaders must appreciate the fact that the words they use will influence the words that their team uses. And the words that are used by anyone will influence behaviors and actions. Inclusive words can form a bond and bring people together. These are words like: we, team, together, support, empower.

At the same time, divisive words can separate, segregate, and build barriers between individuals and teams.

This also applies to words you use on yourself.

Be honest with yourself. You are probably your own worst and most frequent abuser.

Stop The Madness

Here are some steps to take to stop abusing yourself

  1. Would you say it to a friend? The next time you criticize yourself, write down what you say to yourself. Then take those exact words and go tell them to your coworker or your best friend. How would that advance your relationship? If it wouldn’t, then stop saying it to yourself.
  2. End the story. You are probably beating yourself up, because there’s a story about something that happened. History is what has happened in the past. There’s nothing you can do about it other than recognize it, acknowledge it, and learn from it. The story is the importance you put on it. You lived it, but you don’t have to re-live it. Though it happened yesterday, you don’t have to give that story a home today.
  3. Find your leadership presence. Leadership presence comes from the inside. People see it. If you don’t believe in yourself, then there is a good chance that others won’t either. If you think those words and that story is just something that’s rattling around inside your own head, you’re mistaken. It’s a lot more visible than you think. Start by taking a breath, and believe in yourself. Because if you do, there’s a good chance others will too.

 What actions will you commit to take to stop the cycle of abuse?


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David Hasenbalg

David Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps organizations develop collaborative cultures to make a mark in their industry
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3 Leadership Lessons that Steve Jobs Never Learned

Rolling Stone Magazine Steve Jobs

Imagine the potential Steve Jobs had if he had been a Leader…

A quick Google search will return descriptive words for Steve Jobs, who passed away the evening of October 5th, 2011.

  • Genius
  • Visionary
  • Perfectionist
  • Hard-driving executive
  • Brilliant
  • Creative
  • Master Showman
  • Cult Hero
  • Co-founder

Without a doubt, there is something quite amazing about watching someone who is unabashedly passionate about their craft.

That focus and energy can be contagious.

And that contagion can have a significant impact on those around them. Almost like a strong man pulling a train you are almost compelled to come along for the ride.

A Turbulent Business Career

Though Steve Jobs accomplished much and was the chief executive of some of the most recognizable companies in the world, he was also, by all accounts, very difficult to work with. He was a “hard driving and difficult boss.” His style created a challenging environment, for both individuals and for the company as a whole.

For example, after the Macintosh was released and Apple failed to gain market-share on IBM, Jobs was forced out of the company he co-founded.

His next company, called “NeXT” also failed to have the impact he hoped.

Steve Jobs the Tyrant

There are times when difficult situations are thrust upon us, through no fault of our own. And there are times when our behavior creates, or significantly contributes to, the situations we are in.

Steve Jobs’ behavioral style clearly contributed to his challenges. It is pretty well documented that the work environment for teams in the companies run by Steve Jobs was not good.

According to Robert Sutton, Stanford management science professor and author:

“As soon as people heard I was writing a book on assholes, they would come up to me and start telling a Steve Jobs story. The degree to which people in Silicon Valley are afraid of Jobs is unbelievable. He made people feel terrible; he made people cry.”

The environment under Jobs was not good. There are multiple accounts of his temper flaring and causing him to fire random employees for minor reasons, terminate important business relationships, and cause executives to resign after altercations that include personal attacks.

Paul Allen of Microsoft calls him a jerk in his memoir…

But What if He Were a Leader?

Despite the working environment, Steve Jobs was able to create change and bring innovation the likes of which have not been seen since Thomas Edison.

Make no mistake, Steve Jobs had an amazing impact on the world, through his passion and vision for what technology could do in people’s lives. That should not be minimized in any way.

But, perhaps the most telling insight to take away from the thousands of words that are pouring out to rightfully eulogize Steve Jobs is the one that is conspicuously absent: Leader.

Imagine the impact he could have had if, among all the other things, he were also a more effective Leader.

Steve Jobs Apple logo

3 Leadership Lessons that Steve Jobs Never Learned

There are 3 essential leadership lessons that it appears that Steve Jobs never learned, but you can.

1) People are more productive, creative, and innovative in an environment in which they are happy and feel valued. Period.

2) You will get more out of people if you demonstrate Versatility/Emotional Intelligence and work with them in a way they are more comfortable based on their own behavioral style. Understanding behavioral style and adjusting your approach to meet the style of the people you are leading will get you more results and higher performance.

3) It’s not about you.

Clearly, most of Steve Jobs’ career was focused on himself. He emphasized this in his famous 2005 address to the graduating class of Stanford University when he said this:

“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

But if you want to be a leader, you also have to understand that you cannot do it alone. As a leader, it’s not about you. It’s about the people you are trying to lead. How can you make THEM successful? Your people cannot be secondary.

Imagine how much more could have been accomplished if Steve Jobs had demonstrated more collaborative behaviors. Imagine how much more could have produced if he were easier to work with.

A Leader’s Call to Action

Don’t let yourself suffer from the same affliction that Steve Jobs did. You can learn to be a better leader. You can learn to foster an environment where people who work with you are more engaged and are happier. Do that AND tap into your own vision and creativity.

Understand the environment around you. Become aware of your behavioral style. If you aren’t aware of your style and how it impacts those working around you, then it’s definitely time to do something about that. Take a class. Attend a webinar. Read up on it.

Your people deserve it.


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David Hasenbalg is President and COO of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps individuals and organizations achieve their objectives and their potential
Email │ LinkedIn │Twitter │Web │Blog

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Understanding Real Leadership

Understanding Real Leadership

Put That Leadership Book Down, It Could Hurt You!

From the Mouths of Leaders

Spend enough time in leadership roles or around leaders in organizations and you will hear people say things that will make you turn your head. Sometimes it’s because you have heard a strong leader give exactly the right message to the right person at the right time.

Those moments can be transformational.

Then there are times when you hear leaders say things so ridiculous that you have to turn your head to see if they were joking. Not long ago, I heard a senior executive make a comment that fell in the category of the latter.

One of her staff members was leading an initiative that was transforming how a business unit would function. She said this:

You’re the leader. You stick to the strategic level. You don’t worry about how it gets done.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Then it occurred to me, this is the kind of leadership that many organizations practice (and has led to their destruction). In fact, some very popular leadership books clearly state that the main job of a leader is to “inspire a vision” or that “the domain of leaders is the future,” thus implying that real leaders don’t function in the here and now.

This is absolute HOGWASH.

Understanding Real Leadership

Interpersonal CommunicationReal leadership doesn’t happen in the future. Real leadership happens here and now.

In reality, probably 80% of real leadership happens in the interaction between two or more people. It happens face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder with those people you hope to lead.

Don’t get me wrong, vision is good and is an important factor to leadership.

But it is not the end by itself, and alone it is not enough

Leadership is about effectively influencing others to a common goal. It’s about getting the right people to do the right things at the right time for the right reasons.

Dwight Eisenhower said it best,

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it”.

If you can master influencing through effective relationships, you can learn to be a good leader. And, make no mistake, leadership can be learned. And the first thing that leaders learn is that trying to go it alone leads to failure. There is a futility in trying to be leader without considering those you are trying to lead.

You Can’t Lead If You Aren’t With Those You Are Leading

One of the most disappointing things I’ve seen that perpetuates this image is the Successory quote about leadership. You know the one. It has the bald eagle sitting alone in a tree and ends with this caption

…In the end, leaders are much like eagles…they don’t flock, you find them one at a time.

This is one of the most ridiculous images for leadership I can imagine. Whenever I’m coaching a leader and I see this in their office, I immediately know that I have my work cut out for me. It’s stupid because it gives the impression that a leader is one person doing things by themselves, at their own will.

It’s like the idea that a leader just sets the strategy and vision and then disappears. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Successful leaders are found in the middle of those they are leading.

They don’t swoop in, do their business, and fly off to their lone perch. Perhaps a more appropriate image for a leader might be a wolf as it is leading its pack.

Leading The Pack

Leading the pack requires:

  1. Courage to know where to go. Sure this requires vision.
  2. Leading by example (walk the walk). You can’t do this unless the team can see you. You have to be among those you are leading.
  3. The ability to influence people in the way most effective to them. Build effective teams.
  4. Recognition that it isn’t about you, it’s about the pack.

Leadership, at its core, is about influencing people where they are and getting them to go where they need to go.

  • So, if you are a leader how are you influencing those around you?
  • Are you building effective teams?
  • Are you making sure that your followers are also building effective teams?
  • What are you doing to build your own influencing skills?

Do something today to make yourself a better leader. Read a leadership article (good start right here). Enroll in a workshop that will build those skills. Find a coach or mentor to talk you through your areas of your own that need improvement. The key is, never stop working on yourself. Your team deserves it.


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David Hasenbalg
David Hasenbalg is President and COO of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps individuals and organizations achieve their objectives and their potential
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Image Sources: cjeffaustin.com.au, communication-type.com

What Can Newton Teach You About Leadership?

Gravity is the Law

It sometime seems like some people wouldn’t understand leadership even if it hit them in the head… So here’s some help to explain it to them.

Natural Laws of Leadership: Motion

Recently I was coaching a senior leader on the topic of operational improvements underway in the organization. There was general frustration that changes and new procedures weren’t being widely adopted by the staff in the department.

He asked why people weren’t doing what they were being asked to do.

I asked, “What are you doing to motivate a change in their behaviors to ensure people were doing things differently?

He said that he thought that the right solution should be enough to get people to want to adopt it.

While that idealistic thought might work in the fantasy of a Disney movie , it isn’t realistic in real-world leadership.

Getting Real

One reality of leadership is this:

Unless inspired or motivated to do so, people don’t generally possess the desire to do things any differently tomorrow than they did today.

In other words, just because you say something, or present a good idea, or a more efficient way of doing things, it doesn’t mean that people will jump to do it. It requires more than that from the leader.

It requires the right amount of force in the right direction.

Direction & Force: 3 Laws

As a leader, your job is to know what direction you want to take your team/organization (have a vision) and to know those whom you are leading well enough to understand the proper amount and type of force to apply in the right place to change the direction (tension) I wrote about this topic in an earlier article.

Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion

This reminds me of the scientific truth of Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion. There is absolutely a Leadership correlation to those laws.

I recently read an article by Vivek Mehrotra (www.vivekmehrotra.com) where he does a good job of identifying some basic correlations between Newton’s first two laws and leadership. I’ll elaborate on those thoughts here and add perspective to Newton’s Third law as it applies to leadership. Without a doubt the leadership correlation to each of Newton’s laws are as true as the Laws of Motion themselves.


Newton’s First Law of Motion

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

First Law of Leadership

An organization in its current state (status quo) is in an organizational “state of motion.” Things won’t change unless you apply force to cause them to change. Without that leadership force, it will continue to operate along its current path.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion

The relationship between an object’s mass (m), its acceleration (a), and the applied force (F) is Force = mass x acceleration.

Second Law of Leadership

The force needed to bring change to an organization depends on the size of the organization and the size of the change. If you want to make big changes fast, then you need to apply lots of force. If you don’t mind changes taking lots of time, then smaller but consistently applied force over time will work. The converse of this law is also true. If you expect big changes to come from the part-time efforts of a few people, then get used to disappointment.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Third Law of Leadership

Even when you provide the right direction and motivation, there will be a force that acts to negate the action you are undertaking. So, don’t be surprised when there seems to be resistance to changes you are trying to implement. Particularly in light of the First Law of Leadership, it means that you must continue to exert the right amount of force to continue to make things move until your goals are achieved.

Always remember the natural laws of leadership!

What kind of force is required to get your organization to achieve the results you have in your vision? Are you aware of the reactions to your actions? Do you understand how your actions are driving the reactions of your people?


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David Hasenbalg
David Hasenbalg is President and COO of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps individuals and organizations achieve their objectives and their potential
Email │ LinkedIn │Twitter │Web │Blog


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Hey Leader, Bring On Some Tension!


The Utopian World?

It seems that we operate in a world where most people expect to go about their business in an ultra-professional, rational, controlled environment. In this utopian environment, people expect their leaders to give them nothing but calm, “let me work at my own pace”, conflict-free interactions in a workplace where nobody is offended or challenged?

Contrary to that perspective, that is not what leadership is about and it is not how leaders should operate.


2 Leadership Imperatives

In any organization, leaders need to do 2 things:

  1. Bring a vision to inspire others and give them a direction to go.
  2. Introduce the right amount of tensionto get results.


Vision Alone Isn’t Enough

There have been volumes written about the importance of leaders setting a vision and inspiring others to adopt that vision as their own (Good to Great, The Leadership Challenge, etc.). Vision alone is not enough. As an old Samurai saying goes,

“Vision without action is dreaming. And action without vision is wasting time.”

And, as my father used to say,

“If you don’t know where you are going, any old road will take you there.”

It takes more than a vision and a strategy to get results. How do leaders get results? In a word: tension.

The Value of Tension

TensionThere isn’t much written about the need for leaders to bring tension to the workplace, but if it is results you want, tension is exactly what you will need. To get things done a certain amount of tension is required. A reasonable amount of tension leads people to act. Too little tension or too much tension leads people to inaction or inappropriate action.

Let’s get something clear. Tension is not by itself a bad thing. Tension is simply a condition that exists and that can be managed. This fact may surprise those of you who have always seen tension as something that happens to you rather than something that you can manage.

There are 2 kinds of tension: task tension and relationship tension. Task tension is a focus on a particular assignment or something that needs to be done. This is generally accompanied with a deadline. Relationship tension shifts the focus from the task or the assignment to the people doing or supporting the task. When tension shifts to the people who are involved, rather than the work that needs to be done, that tends to make things less productive.


3 Possible Outcomes Based on Tension

The right kind of tension brings a team of people together, focusing on a common outcome. The wrong kind of tension can destroy a team. Understanding and managing tension is a component of the Social Style workshops that I teach. In those workshops, we emphasize that there are three possible productivity outcomes from the level of tension in any interpersonal interaction. Here they are:

1. Low Tension/Low Productivity:

I call this the vacation mode. You don’t have anyone telling you where you need to be or what needs to be done. And there certainly aren’t any deadlines. Without something specific to do or a time to do it, not much progress is made. Ever have a project to work on like this?

2. Moderate Tension/High Productivity:

This is the optimum environment. Stress levels are manageable, tasks are clear and defined, objectives and priorities are agreed upon, and deadlines are realistic.

3. High Tension/Low Productivity

In this environment, people are working under high stress. Timelines are unrealistic, objectives are not clear, priorities compete with each other, and relationships are strained. This is the most unhealthy environment in which to work.

As a leader, one of your jobs is to create the environment in which your team can operate at the optimum level.

As a leader, you have to understand how to read the amount of tension among team members in any given situation. Then you need to adjust their behavior to influence their team members to increase the right kind of tension and decrease the wrong kind of tension.

Once you have managed the tension, then you will be more successful achieving your vision.

How about it, leader? Are you looking for better results? Bring the right kind of tension to your world and you’ll be surprised by the results you get.


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David Hasenbalg
David Hasenbalg is President and COO of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps individuals and organizations achieve their objectives and their potential
Email │ LinkedIn │Twitter │Web │Blog

Image Sources: eyestorm.com

Leadership and Four-Letter Words

Words matter.

Mark Twain once said,

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

This truth is as important to leaders as it is to writers.

Leaders must appreciate the fact that the words they use will influence the words that their team uses.

And the words used by anyone will influence behaviors and actions.

Inclusive words can form a bond and bring people together. These are words like: we, team, together, support, empower. At the same time, divisive words can separate, segregate, and build barriers between people and teams.

Leaders set the example for things expected and tolerated, in both words and behaviors.

Sam Walton, founder of the Walmart department store chain, said,

“It takes employees about two weeks to start treating customers the way they are being treated.”

The same is said about the kind of words that leaders use. But it probably takes less than 2 weeks to impact behaviors.

Anyone who has been in any kind of leadership role can probably testify to the barriers that often form between people and teams. These barriers get in the way of effectively completing the team’s objective. And it is these barriers that often take up much of the leader’s time and effort.


Dropping the T-Bomb

The Nasty Four-Letter Word

Thinking of these barriers brings to light a nasty, four-letter word that can describe, and is often the source of, most problems with any team barrier: T-H-E-Y.

How often have you heard team members say “THEY don’t understand our needs?”

How often have professionals in your organization say, “THEY don’t know how to communicate?”

THEY is one of the most divisive words used by any member of a team, particularly by a leader. It creates a mysterious, nameless, faceless enemy that is somehow controlling your world. More divisively, it creates an antagonistic environment where you and your teams have to work.

Once anyone starts to use the term THEY, of course there must be someone THEY are competing against. And that someone is, of course, US. There can’t be one without the other, whether it is implied or explicitly stated. And as soon as the competition between US and THEM is introduced, you will be spending more of your leadership time addressing relationship tension than you will be actually delivering results.

The message to all Leaders out there is, yes, words matter.


Solution Set

You can do something about it!

Fortunately, you can do something about the mysterious “THEY” and prevent this issue from thwarting your valiant efforts as a change agent. The first step is to understand that YOU are part of “they.” You have more control over what is happening around you than anyone else.

You can break down the barriers, starting with those which are right next to you.

To do this, you need to do four things:

  1. Alignment: Make sure everyone who works for you and around you is focused on working towards the same goal. There can be no tolerance for hidden agendas. That simply wastes resources and energy. Did you know the only difference between a laser and an incandescent light is FOCUS? And with the right amount of focus, that laser can cut through almost anything.
  2. Know yourself: Be honest with yourself and understand your strengths and limitations and your preferred method of operating. Just as important, understand those things you aren’t particularly good at or don’t like to do. It takes real self-awareness but this is essential.
  3. Know your partners: Just as with knowing yourself, understand the strengths, preferences, and limitations of those with whom you are working.
  4. Take the first step: Do something bold. Do something for others. “THEY” starts with you. If you don’t like them then start by looking in the mirror. If “THEY” don’t understand something, make sure you do (See #2). Then make sure that you are explaining it to your team in ways that they will get it (See #3). If “THEY” aren’t partnering well, then make sure you rise above the conflict and become the best partner imaginable.

Do yourself and those you lead a favor: ban that four-letter word. You’ll be amazed what a difference that will make. Do these four things and you will be prepared for greater success.

Do you have a problem use the “THEY-word” too much? Do members of your team also suffer from this foul-mouthed language problem? Do you sometimes wish that simply washing people’s mouth out with soap would solve the problem? Or are you up for the challenge of cleaning up your workplace and making it nice and tidy for everyone? I’d love to hear your perspective.

Bookmark Leadership and Four-letter Words

David Hasenbalg is President and COO of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps individuals and organizations achieve their objectives and their potential

Image Sources: farm1.static.flickr.com, bourneinstyle.com

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The Checkbook and the Calendar

Several years ago, during the dot com boom, I worked for an internet startup company. During the company’s prime there was a desire to have the Account Managers understand what it takes to be a good Project Manager (PM). There was lots of talk about doing training to develop these PM skills.

Despite the talk, there was never the time or the budget to get the Account Managers trained.

After one particularly disastrous software implementation, the Account Manager admitted that he made promises about dates that were completely unrealistic, but he was hopeful the team would be able to “pick up the slack.” Even after this situation, there continued to be lots of talk, but very little action. Sadly, this startup company didn’t actually start-up (are you surprised?) Today, I affectionately refer to it as “goingdownthetubes.com.”

Is It Really Important?

This scenario is not reserved for young, startup companies; nor is it reserved for inexperienced staff. It highlights what happens in the most elite of organizations and in your personal life on a daily basis.

It highlights the foolishness of hoping for one outcome while demonstrating behaviors that do little to ensure it will happen.

The result is frustration, counter productivity, and unintended consequences. And it is something that we can all relate to.

The Checkbook and the Calendar

This scenario highlights a truth called the Checkbook and the Calendar. I learned this model from a good friend and leadership coach, Croft Edwards. The Checkbook and the Calendar model is a simple and effective way to do two things. First, it is a way to validate what is really important to you. Second, it is a way to see what is really important to those around you (staff, peers, or superiors).

Here is how it works

If you want to know what is truly important to someone, all you have to do is look at their checkbook and their calendar. People spend their time on those things that are important to them. Conversely, the things that people spend time on show what is really important to them. Similarly, people will invest (spend their money) in those things that are important to them and the things they invest in are what is really valuable. This is true whether it be a conscious or subconscious decision.

It is a cruel and brutally honest reflection of what is important to you. It is universally true and accurate. You can’t deny it.

Let me give you two examples to which most of you will be able to relate. Thinking of my college days, no matter how “broke” my buddies and I were, when the weekend came around we were somehow always able to come up with enough money for beer. It was fine if that meant we had to eat Raman noodles for a month. What was important was getting the beer.

You could see that by where our money went.

Another example is a bit more current. I know that it is good for my overall health to exercise at least 4 times per week. My doctor has even confirmed that this is an important thing for me to do. Despite the validation from a medical professional and the logical argument purporting the benefits of this activity, it is relatively easy to see if I concur with the importance of acting on this. Just look at my calendar. How many days in a week do I set aside an hour to exercise at some point in the day?

If it is really important you will see it on the calendar.

If you still have doubts about the truth of the Checkbook and the Calendar, then think about yourself. What’s happening with that unfinished project in your garage or the box of pictures that you are going to scrapbook when you got a chance? How much did you spend on that leadership development class you were looking at?

The beauty of the Checkbook and the Calendar model is in its simplicity.

  • It always tells the truth.
  • You can use it to look at yourself.
  • You can use it to look at others.
  • And others can use it to see what’s important to you.

The Checkbook and the Calendar model is a way to prove something that Stephen Covey says,

“You can’t talk your way out of something that you behave your way into.”

So, what is really important to you?

Do you pay lip service to developing the leadership skills of your staff or even yourself? Where are you demonstrating that on your calendar and with your checkbook?

Bookmark The Checkbook and the Calendar

David Hasenbalg is President and COO of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps individuals and organizations achieve their objectives and their potential

Image Sources: ti-journal.com

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