A Recipe For Failure: Focusing On Success

Great Recipe

When cooking food, a little too much or too little of an ingredient can ruin a dish. So if you are cooking from a great recipe, it is vital to focus on every aspect of building that recipe in a way that will yield success.

Great meals don’t come from great recipes; they come from great execution of a great recipe.

Great Recipes Do Not Equal Great Results

At first, I couldn’t understand how someone could have a great recipe for a great meal but still not be able to produce a great meal. With that reasoning, everyone should be master chefs (and we know that’s not the case). I have come to realize in my ignorance and oversimplification of cooking that the problem lies not so much in the recipe as it does in the placement of focus.

Let me explain, great chefs have great focus and an innate ability to place focus on the right things at the right time. A masterful meal is the byproduct of placing great focus on the details and the processes. The reason many fail at making great meals is because they are focusing too much on… making great meals.

Notice Your Focus

As a youth football player I tried being a kicker (kickers are cool in little league). I couldn’t make the cut and had to settle for a skill position. Who knew playing a position other than kicker could be a demotion! The reason I kept failing as a kicker was because I was focusing too much on trying to make successful kicks rather than the actual process of kicking.

Q: So what does a successful kicker, cook, and company have in common (if only “kicker” was spelled with a “c,” my alliteration would be classic)?

A: The answer is, they all do well when they focus on the details and not the results.

They don’t focus on success because they recognize you can’t place focus on results; you place the focus on the details and processes it takes to produce results. Great kickers have an incredible ability to avoid the temptation of wanting to look up and see if their kick in going to be a successful kick or not.

Similarly when it comes to organizations, I have seen where leaders really wanted to be successful but were not able to stay focused on the details and processes it took to produce success.

Recipe for Disaster

Here are a few examples of how recipes for success can come up short:

1. Missing Ingredients

A team wants to be successful, yet no one brings the focus down to the real issues that preventing or hindering its success. Take the time to find what’s missing; could very well be the key ingredient to your success.

2. Half-Baked Plans

An example of a half-baked plan would be having a long-term strategy that you abandon when the early results are not what you hoped for. If this is a long-term process, then stop assessing it by short-term indicators.

Indicators are important, but they are not results.

That’s like pulling the chicken out the oven half-baked and tossing it in the trash because it’s taste was not what you had hoped for. News flash, don’t expect half-baked chicken to taste like anything other that half-baked chicken! You don’t pull out half-baked chicken to taste it, you pull it out to see if it’s cooking according to plan.

Leaders can feel the pressure to show immediate returns on their work that they fall into taste testing their approach and not merely assessing it. This can lead to constant abandoning of incomplete plans and approaches. This can also lead to high turnover and instability within an organization or group. Be sure to keep checking on you plan, just remember that it’s still not finished yet.

3. Wannabe Master Chefs

Don’t try to get creative until you’ve mastered the basics.  People often view creativity as if it is the opposite of order and discipline. Creativity should actually be an expression of high level mastery of the fundamentals. Many try to go out and start with this new creative, out of the box approach only to fall well short of all expectations. Before we become creative, let become competent. Once you’ve mastered your understanding you can begin to apply it in unique, and innovative ways.

What’s your recipe for success? Once you have your unique ingredients, turn your attention to the details and process of following your plan, strategy, or approach. This will help you have the success you’re looking for. My wife (who’s a wonderful cook) at times would ask me how I would make such wonderful dishes on the rare occasions that I do cook? My reply is usually the same,  “I followed the directions from the recipe, Sweetie.”


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Dr. Tommy Shavers

Dr. Tommy Shavers is President of Tommy Speak LLC. and Unus Solutions Inc.
His lenses are Teamwork, Leadership, and Communication
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I’m a Leader Now But No One Likes Me


What too many people fail to grasp is that one doesn’t become a leader overnight.  You may have the title, but that’s not all it takes to be successful.  To become a good leader takes some planning and experience.

Have you ever felt like this:

“I was “one of them” on Friday, but since I’m their supervisor now, no one likes me.  Why?”

You probably made the jump too suddenly.

Learning Leadership

When people tell me they want to be a leader in their organization or I hear that someone is being looked at to fill an upcoming position, the first thing I tell them is to start the transition NOW.  Plan and learn.

Don’t wait to make a sudden change over a weekend, because you’ll set yourself up for disaster.

Two Lessons on Leadership

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Story One

Mike has been one of the guys since he started at ABC Company.  He knows his job well, and that of the department, but really only does what’s required.  He watches the clock, is always yucking it up with everyone, and hits the bars every Friday afternoon having drinks with the best of them.

But behind all of that, Mike does think about moving up and his managers believe he has some good leadership potential.  A supervisor position is getting ready to open up in 2 weeks and Mike is offered the job.  That means more money, control and responsibility.  He says he’s up for the challenge.

Mike does nothing to prepare, thinking he’ll learn what he needs to know once he starts.  He continues his ways and on Friday Mike goes out with the gang and pounds shots.  On Monday morning, Mike is a straight-laced, all business, suit, barking orders around every corner.  What do you think the reaction of his staff is to this new look?  “What the h*ll happened to you?”  Is his staff ready to work for/with him?  I don’t think so Tim.

From then on, Mike is in an uphill battle to get respect and support.

Story Two

Patty, on the hand, knew she wanted to be a leader within the ABC Company someday.  Everyone likes her and although she’s also one of the guys, she never goes overboard.

She has fun, but within limits.

Patty, like Mike, knows her job and the department well.  But unlike Mike, she asks questions and tries to understand the business as much as she can.  She also reads leadership blogs online (i.e., Linked2Leadership) and participates in leadership type webinars.  The people she works with know where she’s headed some day.  So it comes as no surprise that when a leadership position opens in her department, she’s offered the job and accepts.

She immediately asks for time during the next two weeks to meet with experienced leaders to discuss her new position and to ask questions.  At the same time Patty discusses how this new position is going to alter her relationships with her,

  • old peers/new team,
  • new peers/other leaders,
  • old/new boss, and
  • . . . family.

How do you think Patty’s transition goes, compared to Mike’s?  I see much success in Patty’s future.

Leadership and Family

When I talk to people about changing relationships, many don’t immediately understand how there’s a change with family.  After all, work and family are two separate things.  Well, not exactly.  Even though we like to keep the two separate, they’re pretty well intertwined.  The added responsibility of being a leader is going to cause more stress, working more hours, and possibly travel, among other things.

Your future is also your family’s future.

Don’t get caught up just looking at the job itself.  It’s going to affect other people besides you.  The better prepared they are, the less stress it will cause.

It’s never too late to learn and plan for the future.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and comer, or you’re a director, or even a CEO.  Learning should be a lifelong endeavor.

When we stop learning, we stop growing.

The two books I always recommend to people when they’re starting out in their first leadership role are:

These books are not only good for new leaders but also serve as great reminders and inspiration – and some new info – for the seasoned leader.

It takes little effort, or time, to read a couple of blogs or books here and there.  Then be sure to share that new found information with the people coming up underneath you.  Remember, some of those people are going to be in your position some day.

Have you planned your future?  Do you discuss your future with your family?  Are you investing in continued learning?  Are you helping others succeed?


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Andy Uskavitch

Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
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4 Simple Ways Leaders Can Follow Their True North

True North

Most of us are passive spectators in our life. We plan careers, retirement nest eggs, and vacations, but we do not plan our life. As a result, we don’t live our life on purpose.

Is it any wonder that many of us feel unfulfilled and not following our higher calling?

We are not empowered and are no longer active participants in the direction our life is going.

Anchoring Your Goals

Research has shown that people who regularly write down their goals earn as much as nine times more than their counterparts who do not write down goals.

  • Over 80% of Americans do not have goals
  • 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down
  • Less than 4% actually write them down

Guess who they are? They are the ones making nine times more than the rest of us.

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

A goal is a dream set to paper. If you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?

Finding Your True North

Inner SelfIn a previous post, I shared the story of Oleg, a KGB officer that I met while working as an FBI undercover agent a few years ago. Neither Oleg nor the Russians knew that the FBI had identified him as a Russian Intelligence Officer.

If they had, he would have been sent back to Moscow immediately.

Oleg’s cover was a Russian businessman involved with the joint venture. I represented myself as an individual working for an international public relations company.

We met at a seminar, but the one thing we never talked about was his work.

It wasn’t that Oleg couldn’t talk about some aspects of his overt job; it was that he didn’t want to talk about them. He couldn’t drum up enough enthusiasm about the job to even keep up a good conversation. His lack of engagement in what he was doing was a clue that he was not doing something he felt passionate about.

Oleg was not following his True North. Somewhere along the line, he had compromised and had settled for less than his dream.

Here are 4 ways I encouraged Oleg to empower himself and start following his true north:

1. Explore Lifetime Goals

I encouraged Oleg to look deeper into the goals he set for himself in each of the areas listed below. It helped for him to look at each aspect of his life as a spoke in a wheel, with each leading to the hub, which is the heart. To have a balanced life, each spoke needs attention.

  • Career
  • Spirituality
  • Education
  • Recreation
  • Travel
  • Relationships
  • Family
  • Health
  • Financial

As I got to know Oleg better, I’d probe about the important aspects of each spoke—not all in one day, but over time—and ask how much attention he gave to each of them, and what his goals were in each area.

2. Be Specific

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” B.J. Marshall

I encouraged Oleg to be specific with his answers. How many of us go into a restaurant and say, “Bring me food?” Instead, we’re very specific, picking what we want from the menu, and sometimes asking for substitutions to what is offered.

Do not just say, “My goal is to be more spiritual.”

  • Be specific.
  • Articulate ways in which you will be more spiritual in the 6 months, in the next year, in the next 5 years.
  • Write down your goal in clear and vivid terms.
  • List the steps needed to get there.

3. Own It

As I talked to Oleg about his goals, I learned that, besides relationships with his family, his goals were to travel and write. He had fallen into a rut in his career at an early age and was now afraid to move away from a secure job and retirement.

At some point, Oleg needed to learn that he was either living his own life or someone else’s dream for him. He was not setting his own course, and it left him empty and unfulfilled in his work and life.

  • Review your list of goals.
  • Write down reasons why your idea or goal will work.
  • Acknowledge issues that will need to be overcome.

4. Start a Life Plan

Never ask, Can I do this? Instead ask, How can I do this?

Living your life on purpose is an intentional act. It requires a simple plan to set your goals in action. Start by answering these questions:

  • Envisioned future – when and how is the goal functioning at it’s best
  • Inspiration – identify scripture, books, poems, speakers and authors from which to draw inspiration
  • Current reality – be honest; where are you in relation to the envisioned future
  • Specific actions needed – list what you will need to do to accomplish your goal

Writing down his goals helped Oleg to gain clarity on what he really wanted to do in life. Once he took ownership of his future, he was able to break it down and follow his True North. As it turned out, Oleg’s higher calling turned out to not be the KGB, and he resigned to begin a new career in writing.

How did you find your True North? What tips can you share about how to live your True North with intention? What can you share about your implementation of a life plan?


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LaRae Quy is former FBI Agent and Founder at Your Best Adventure
She helps clients explore the unknown and discover the hidden truth in self & others
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Goal Setting for Leaders: Why Bother?

GoalsThe topic of goals and objectives arises frequently at the end of any year. And by March, many people have given up on them.

  • Have you already stopped trying to achieve the New Year’s resolution that you set late last year?
  • Or did you not even bother to write down your goals for 2012 knowing that you wouldn’t even make it until March?

Many successful organizations (and individuals) are well into their new strategies and are busy executing their plans for this year. Are you there with them? Hopefully you are, and if you aren’t, well – you may want to add goal-setting to your ‘to do’ list.

“Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor.” ~Brian Tracy

Defining Goals

So what are goals and why are they important?

  • A goal represents the “to be” state, not the action of getting to that state
  • Goals are the most important outcomes that need to be accomplished to achieve and maintain the vision of the organization
  • Goals are derived from the vision statement and must be addressed through the objectives of the organization and establish the long-term direction for the work within the organization

In short, goals are the desired end result.


As Stephen Covey says, it helps to “Begin with the end in mind.”

Goals should also decide the results that are wanted/needed and set a time frame for achieving results. Most importantly, goals must build in accountability and consequences for not achieving them.

Performance measures are the best indicators of success in achieving goals and outcomes; they should be relevant and practical.

Measuring Goals

It helps to ask…do the goals:

  • Address improvements in performance of mission?
  • Address individual improvements in performance?
  • Tie to the strategic objectives?
  • Capture the requirements of external and internal customers?
  • Emphasize the critical aspects of the organization?

Most leaders know that an effective strategic plan must contain measurable high-level goals and objectives, though goals should not only be high-level organizational in nature. They should also be in place for each contributor.

Individual and Organizational Goals

I am often asked this question by leaders who have a developed strategy:

“Why do my people need their own goals – we already have high level strategic organizational goals they are expected to meet?”

My reply is this:

“Goals tell you as an organization where you want to be and what you want to achieve – they do the same for your people.”

Employees must have goals and objectives, not only to help support the organization in achieving its strategy, but also to see how the actions they take in executing their roles and responsibilities directly contribute to the broader organization mission and vision.

In developing organizational and employee goals, it is important to ask this:

“Are we measuring the right things?”

Goal Alignment

Program, departmental and individual employee goals should align to and support organizational goals and objectives. If the workforce cannot see themselves and their actions in strategic goals, then your organizational goals aren’t as likely to succeed.

Remember this: Personal goals, incentives, and competencies should be aligned with the strategy.

Without individual goals tied to specific roles and performance, it is difficult for employees to gauge the impact they are making through their work.

It is also more difficult for them to see the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for achieving high performance – without goals, it proves difficult to measure, evaluate and reward individual performance.

 “My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose – somehow we win out.” – Ronald Reagan

Goals and ObjecivesOn Communication and Goals

Clear communication of goals and priorities is necessary for people to see how their goals are contributing to organizational success and why they are being measured and evaluated against them.

That creates a win/win for both the employee and the organization.

For goals to truly increase accountability, they should include baselines. Baselines are time-lagged calculations which provide a basis for making comparisons of past performance to current performance.

A baseline may also be forward-looking, such as when you establish a goal and are seeking to determine whether the trends show you’re likely to meet that goal.

Measuring performance at a specific time establishes a baseline and provides the starting point for setting goals and evaluating future efforts and overall performance.

Getting Started with Goals

Several questions to ask when developing and defining goals: 

  • Does the goal support the mission?
  • Does the goal represent a desired result that can be measured?
  • Does the goal reflect a primary activity, a strategic direction, a strategic issue or a gap in service?
  • Is the goal challenging, but still realistic and achievable?
  • Is there at least one key goal for each program/sub-program, but not more than can be reasonably managed?
  • Is the goal important to management?
  • Is the goal important to the employee?
  • Is the goal important to customers and stakeholders?

On Goals, Journeys, and Milestones

Just as your final destination is important to your journey, your goals are important to your business and your people.

Goals define your destination and shape what your business will become.

So, as you and your organization dive deeper into your objectives this year, give some thought to where you want to be, how are going to get there, and how you’re going to measure success.

Set goals early and take one step closer to being set for success in all year!

After all:

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”   ~Yogi Berra

So have you already given up on New  Year’s resolutions that you set just two months ago? Or are you progressing toward your goals and making headway. What kind of milestones and road markers do you have in place so that you can measure your progress toward your goals? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Scott Span
 is President of Tolero Solutions OD & Change Management firm
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On Leadership and Santa Claus, CEO

Be Wise, Prioritize!Have you ever run into a leader who had no daily strategy; no plan; no focus; and no idea how to approach getting organized at all?

Yeah, me too…

Working without a strategy is like setting sail across the Atlantic Ocean with no charts (or GPS) and no idea what your destination looks like, and no sense of how long it will take.

Here’s a Secret from Kringle…

A few years ago, I was surprised to receive a book in the mail called, The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause, by Eric Harvey, David Cottrell, Al Lucia, and Mike Hourigan (Walk the Talk).

My first thought was, “okay, cute gimmick,” and I quickly stuck it on the book shelf. It sat there for a year or so before I finally cracked it open. Once I started looking through it though, I realized the basis of the book, and that is this:

No matter who you are, you are running a business (department, etc.).

And because of this, there are certain things that you must do in your leadership role no matter where you are. You must prioritize  and navigate.

Track Santa in 2011 Here!

North Pole, Inc.

Santa is no different from any other “CEO” (. . . well, maybe he is a little different.) But as far as leadership goes, he has the same types of problems and issues as we do.

So what does the big guy do to get everything done on time and within budgetary constraints?

He follows simple, but effective strategies. One of Santa’s eight leadership strategies is this:

Make a list and check it twice.

Sound familiar?  This is one of the most basic things that leaders need to do, yet something that often gets overlooked.

To Do Lists

The first thing Santa has bulleted under Making the Most of Time is this:

“Prioritize tasks (do the most important things first) and use “to do” lists to organize daily activities.”

  • Lists are goals and strategies; you have to put them into perspective
  • Prioritize your tasks from most important to least important
  • Once you have taken the time to prioritize, stick to the list
  • And remember, you made the list for a reason

Santa has been around for years . . . and years. He has seen leaders come and go over hundred’s of years. Just remember what he says – “plan your work and work your plan”.

A Modern Look

Lets take a look at a different perspective with something a little more current. I saw writer/speaker Larry Winget for the first time on FoxBusiness’s Happy Hour program. I was immediately intrigued by his attitude towards business life.

He writes/talks about business in a straight forward, to-the-point manner.

It is said of him that he

“…tells the truth and doesn’t give a damn if you like it or not.”

The first book of his that I read was called, It’s Called Work for a Reason. I found a fantastic idea in the first few pages. In his book Winget suggests that you get rid of your “Things to Do” list and replace it with a “Things That Have to Get Done” list.

Are you getting everything delivered on time like Santa Claus? If not, then ask yourself this:

How many times have you taken time to make a “to do” list and only partially gotten any of it actually completed?


Herein lies the problem with the typical lists.

According to Winget:

  • Your “to do” list is nothing more than a wish list
  • Your “Things That Have to Get Done” list is more focused and concise; it acts as an action plan for your day

The second list has a more psychological effect on how you approach your priorities and plans of execution. Lists that you make up of things that you need to accomplish are part of your time management. By making a list you hope to be able to accomplish more.

But if you’re constantly only getting bits and pieces done, you’re not really accomplishing anything. It is time-consuming to manage time.

Winget says that:

“Everyone should forget about managing time and should instead focus on managing priorities. When the right things get done, time takes care of itself.”

Focus on what has to get done, not what should get done or would be nice to get done.

Roy E. Disney once said that:

“When priorities are clear, decision-making is easy.” Set the right priorities and everything else follows.

How is your strategy working for really getting things done like Santa? Do you make lists? Are you checking them twice for what really is important? How do you prioritize? Or, do you prioritize? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
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Telltale Traits of A Perfectionist


What does a perfectionist look like? Bo Derek in the movie “10” will always epitomize a man’s vision of what a perfect woman should look like. Movies and television are great ways for us to explore the physical boundaries of fantasy.

The pursuit of perfect physical attributes will continue to keep plastic surgeons wealthy. But what about those of us who live with the personality of a perfectionist? There are no plastic surgeons to reshape the way we think, or react with others.

However, there are ways we can learn to cope.

The Iron Lady

Watch Meryl Streep play former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming film, “Iron Lady.” Thatcher earned the moniker “iron lady” because she had a strong moral compass of what was right—and wrong—in the world. She was a perfectionist who stuck by her strict standards and took hard lines against policies she felt did not work toward the greater good.

The movie, already touted as an Oscar front-runner, is an intimate portrait of Great Britain’s first and only female Prime Minister. Thatcher ran a tight ship and was one of the 20th century’s most famous and influential women.

Margaret Thatcher is an example of a principled leader who places a great deal of worth on integrity. Perfectionists are orderly, want the job done right, and pursue a vision of perfection. They have a strong sense of right and wrong, and in pursuit of perfection, their worst nightmare is that they might get it wrong.

What is A Perfectionist?

I’m the sort of person who believes that mistakes can provide a great learning experience, but perfectionists have a difficult time giving themselves permission to be wrong. They look around and see everything that isn’t done right—and they resent it. This can turn into self-loathing and self-mutilation if it gets too far out of hand.

Remember Natalie Portman’s descent in the movie “Black Swan.” A perfectionist can feel anger when things don’t turn out as well as they feel they should.

This is an extreme reaction. Most perfectionists are merely content to point out the incompetence and disorganization they see around them. Because of this, they can be very judgmental—on themselves and those that work with them.

How Does A Perfectionist Think?

Perfectionists see themselves as just trying to do the right thing with as few errors as possible. They are attracted to things that work for the greater good and projects that will help them become better people. That’s why they get critical when they see lax standards in either themselves or others.

Here’s how to tell if you work or live with a perfectionist: They . . .

  • Don’t look for shortcuts; they want the job done right.
  • Like schedules and lists.
  • Have a relentless eye for details—like bad grammar and spelling.
  • Do not have warm people skills.
  • Take great pains, and then give them to others.
  • Want work done to a standard, and will tell you what it is.
  • Notice incompetence and this BUGS them.

Stephen Covey of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People writes, “Our security comes from knowing that correct principles do not change. We can depend on them. Principles don’t react to anything. They don’t get mad and treat us differently. Principles are deep, fundamental truths . . . they are rightly woven threads running with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength throughout the fabric of life.”

Do you notice how many times the word “principle” comes up? Stephen Covey cares about quality and he loves a good plan. He is a perfectionist.

How To Spot A Perfectionist

Behavior may be the same for a variety of people; it’s the reason for the behavior that distinguishes us.

Let’s use an example. Leaders and thinkers always prepare for a meeting. Why do they want to be prepared? There are several reasons, and they depend on our personality types:

  • Achiever—want to look good.
  • Risk-adverse—reduce fear of failure.
  • Domineering—in control
  • Analytical—have all the information.
  • A perfectionist, however, would want to be prepared so everything runs according to plan.

I’m an achiever and I feel comfortable comparison-shopping for standards that will make me look the best. For a perfectionist, however, there is only one moral standard, and that is moored to authority, plans, and principles.

Listen to Them

Perfectionists are remarkable leaders because they feel that they lead by moral example and inspire others to live the same way. As an FBI counterintelligence agent, I discovered that many foreign spies were perfectionists. How did I know? I listened. Here are some typical comments they would make:

  • I’m a serious, no-nonsense type of person.
  • I follow my conscience.
  • I feel like I’m living with a judge inside my head – one that is harsh and judgmental.
  • I believe that right is right and wrong is wrong—that’s all there is to it.
  • I don’t understand why so many people have lax standards.
  • I have to do it, or it won’t get done the right way.

How To Motivate A Perfectionist

Hillary Clinton  is a perfectionist. I’m certain that you know several others. Here are some tips to help you motivate the perfectionists in your life to perform at their best:

  • Combine strong values with a vision of high standards.
  • Show integrity.
  • Arrange feedback from people they respect.
  • Create and maintain structure and clear channels of authority.
  • Provide accountability and guidelines—they thrive on it.
  • Provide appreciation and recognition.
  • Set limits on their responsibilities so they know they won’t be blamed for a mistake.
  • Attract a perfectionist as a new client by helping them to find ways to justify their actions—they do not change their minds easily.
  • Provide them with everything so they know what is required—they really need the rules.

History is full of perfectionists who left their comfortable lives to do something extraordinary because they felt it was a higher calling. Their talents are well worth our time and effort to uncover.

Do you think you’re a perfectionist? What tips do you have for motivating others like you? What are your greatest strengths?


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LaRae Quy is former FBI Agent and Founder at Your Best Adventure
She helps clients explore the unknown and discover the hidden truth in self & others
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Leadership: How to Make an Elephant Fly

Flying Elephant

“I seen a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I seen a needle that winked its eye.
But I be done seen ‘bout ev’rything
When I see an elephant fly.”

                                                                         ~”Dumbo” lyrics

Have you ever made an elephant fly?  Probably not, but I know an organization that has.  Of course I’m talking about the Walt Disney Company, and it’s become a catch-phrase . . . Make an elephant fly.

Uncle Walt’s Wisdom

Walt once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and get started”.  Figure out what you need, what you have, get the creative juices flowing, and get going.  Good leaders ensure that this is being done.  You can’t get anywhere by sitting around complaining because you don’t have this or that.

Unless you’re extremely lucky to have unlimited resources, you probably already know that accurate project planning is essential when you have a new project.  This is illustrated in the way live-action and animated films are developed.  With live-action, you can shoot extra film and use editing to get the outcome you want.  You can’t do that with animation.  It just costs too much to produce extra footage that you know you’re not going to use.

Another Disney executive summed it up perfectly in preparing his team saying, “Within these boundaries you will create.  This is the budget, these are the limitations.  Make it work within this framework.”  In other words, “make an elephant fly”.  Sometimes you just have to do with what you have to make it happen.

How to Make an Elephant Fly – Project Plan

The key to a successful project is in the planning.  Creating a project plan is the first thing you should do when undertaking any kind of project.

Often project planning is ignored in favor of getting on with the work.  However, many leaders fail to realize the value of a project plan in saving time, money and often, many, many problems.

In The Disney Way, Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson outline the nine steps to the planning process called, the “Blue Sky” process.

Step 1 – Blue Sky

  • Ask “What if?” instead of “What?”
  • For a while, learn to live with the discomfort of no knowing, or not being in full control.
  • Take a trip through fantasyland by starting with the story.

Step 2 – Concept development

  • Develop research.
  • Evaluate alternatives.
  • Recommend an idea.

Step 3 – Feasibility

  • Reconcile scope.
  • Prepare pro forma.

Step 4 – Schematic

  • Finalize master plan.
  • Outline initial business processes.

Step 5 – Design objectives

  • Finalize design details, equipment, and materials.
  • Develop implementation strategy and budget.

Step 6 – Contract documents

  • Prepare contract documents.

Step 7 – Production

  • Construct site infrastructure and develop work areas.
  • Produce show elements.

Step 8 – Install, test, adjust

  • Install the show.

Step 9 – Close out

  • Assemble final project documents.
  • Monitor performance.
  • Get sign-off letter from operations.

I guarantee that no one LIKE’s putting together a detailed plan, but it’s the only way the team and all of it’s leadership levels (in and out of the project team) can stay on track.

Expanded Excellence

In expanding on the Blue Sky process I’d make note of a couple of things that will make life so much easier. Because easier is good…

1 – Document Everything

Keep records throughout.  Every time you change from your baseline, write down WHAT the change was and WHY it was necessary.  Every time a new requirement is added to the project, write down WHERE the requirement came from and HOW the issue was adjusted because of it.

No one will remember everything – so write it down and you’ll be able to look back at any time.

2 – Keep Everyone Informed

Keep all of the project stakeholders informed of progress throughout the process.  Let them know of your success as you complete each milestone, but also inform them of problems as soon as they come up.  Also keep your team informed.

Make sure everyone is aware of what everyone else is doing.

Having followed all the steps above, you should have a good project plan and be able to deliver consistently successful products and services.  Remember to update your plan as the project progresses, and measure progress against the plan.  And at the end?  CELEBRATE!

What elephant are you going to make fly?  Have you started planning yet?  Is your team on board? What steps can you take this week to get things going? How can you help others who need this help? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

Image Sources: johnlund.com

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