On Leadership and Morning Routines

Businessman Breakfast

Hey Leader: Does Your Morning Routine Matter?

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs

Successful CEOs and business leaders have different ways of starting their days. Some depend on established routines, mapped out almost minute-to-minute, in order to extract the greatest productivity out of every day.

Others take a more chaotic approach, believing that winging it actually gets more done than some preordained system.

Top 3 Things in the Morning

The sheer variety by which CEOs and others start the day begs the question — does your morning routine really matter?

Yes, says corporate wellness coach Mike Iamele, and here’s why:

Three compelling reasons for a morning routine

  1. This is ideally the time to focus on yourself (there may not be another chance to do so all day). This is when you “consistently remind yourself that you’ve got to take care of yourself first before you can possibly be effective at helping others.” Those who adhere to a regular routine generally get more done because their morning routine acts as a reminder to first of all, take care of yourself.
  1. An established morning routine doesn’t have to be perfect — you don’t have to run five miles every day, your eggs don’t have to be perfectly cooked, etc. What truly matters is your willingness to get up and get moving according to a set pattern that propels you through the day. As Iamele says, “The fear of failure can’t hold you back, because if you do it every day, you’re inevitably going to fail once in a while. But that’s OK. You’ve got a routine, so you just get up the next day and do it again.”
  1. The previous day may have been difficult, overly demanding, even a bit traumatic. A solid morning routine acts as a “reset button” — a time to pause, meditate and shake yourself free of yesterday’s distress.

Breakfast Counts

Not everyone needs a big breakfast to get moving in the morning. But health experts generally agree some type of breakfast is important for your physical health.

If preparing breakfast seems to take too much time, consider doing some prep work the night before. Slice up the fruit you intend to eat and store it in the refrigerator. Set out dishes you plan to use. Do everything you can to hit the ground running come morning.

Keeping things simple is another no-nonsense approach. For many people, a cup of coffee and an oatmeal muffin will suffice — or some other easy option like yogurt with fruit, a frozen fruit smoothie or a peanut butter breakfast bar.

Exercise Makes a Big Difference

Exercising at the crack of dawn isn’t for everyone, but even a little bit of physical movement can help clear your mind for the day ahead.

The good news is you don’t have to do the same type of workout every day.

Running, push-ups, swimming laps — whatever you choose, some strenuous activity boosts your energy level and helps you stay charged and focused throughout the day.

Start the Morning the Night Before

Some business leaders incorporate a brief evening ritual into their daily routine. At the end of the day, for example, Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, writes down the three top things he intends to accomplish the following day.

He uses that list to get started in the morning.

Tackle the Hardest Stuff First

Once you’re in the office, don’t waste valuable creative time looking over emails or listening to voicemails. “In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day,” says Kevan Lee of Buffer.

Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage.”

A growing school of thought proposes that CEOs tackle their most challenging task or project at the beginning of the day. Proponents cite the fact that for most of us, the early hours of our workday are our most creative, energetic and productive (or have the potential to be). Why waste that precious time and energy on niggling administrative matters or chitchat with others that gets nothing done?

Corporate trainer Jennifer Cohen urges business leaders to start the day by focusing on what they least want to do.

Instead of anticipating the unpleasantness of it from first coffee through your lunch break, get it out of the way,” she says. “Look at this way, your day will get progressively easier, not the other way around.

What’s your tried-and-true morning routine? Do you have a favorite breakfast item to start the day? What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay
She serves in Sales, Operations, coordinating, and Business Development
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On Leadership, Anxiety and Stressful Decisions

Making Tough Decisions

So as a leader, do you feel like you are forced to make decisions much quicker and under more stress than you would like? Are you finding yourself in an anxious state when decision-time is near? And how do these decisions work out for you and your team?

Chances are that making great decisions while you are feeling anxious and stressed just might surprise you…

On Making Decisions

There is no escaping it: we all have to make decisions:

  • Some will be small and inconsequential whilst others will change the course of world history.
  • Some we can mull over and others must be instant; we may not get a choice.
  • The one thing we hope for is freedom to make decisions objectively based on best information and in a calm frame of mind.

But most often life is just not like this. We are faced with rapidly changing, high stakes emotionally charged decisions that fuel anxiety and over time cause emotional and physical stress.

Wouldn’t it be great to sit back let the anxiety subside and then decide? If you were a field commander faced with the possibility of being overrun by the enemy YOU DON’T HAVE TIME – DECIDE NOW!

“Neither comprehension nor learning can take place in an atmosphere of anxiety. ~Rose Kennedy

On Anxious Decisions

There is a strange but eventually understandable phenomenon where anxious decision makers are more likely to seek external advice, are less able to discern good from bad advice and will accept advice even from people with conflicts of interest. The greater the intensity of anxiety and stress the more driven to habitual and external advice we become.

Maturity is achieved when a person accepts life as full of tension.”  Joshua L. Liebman

Re-framing anxiety can free us from seeking questionable advice and making inappropriate habit-based decisions. Fear drives anxiety and when we misunderstand the physical sensations triggered by fear, excitement, uncertainty, time pressure and importance we view the decision from a skewed perspective.

On Living In Reverse

Well, the good news arising from the basic research of Soares and colleagues is that “Stress-induced changes in human decision-making are reversible.

For those of you with a neuroscience inclination the author’s general conclusion can be interpreted as “chronic stress biases decision-making strategies in humans toward habits, as choices of stressed subjects become insensitive to changes in outcome value“.

Using functional brain imaging techniques, they demonstrate prolonged exposure to stress in humans causes an imbalanced activation of specific brain networks governing decision processes.

Importantly and reassuringly, a longitudinal assessment of the stressed individuals showed that both the structural and functional changes triggered by stress are reversible and that decisions become again goal-directed once the stress is removed.

Stress As An Option

I can hear you saying something along the lines of, “but the stress never goes.” This may be true, but you can alter the way you perceive the stressors and adopt mitigating measures such as mindfulness meditation, yoga or tai Chi to offset the downsides of pressure and stress. All of these practices have been proven to reduce physical symptoms of stress.

Stress is an ignorant state.  It believes that everything is an emergency.”  Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind

Q: How can you re-frame your perception of anxiety generating situations? Let’s assume you can’t simply sit waiting for anxiety to subside or rely on advice or look for perfect solutions?

A: Don’t wait until you’re faced with high stakes instant decisions.

  • Start small and become accustomed to physically and emotionally sensing anxiety associated with small low impact decisions.
  • Appreciate the small buzzes you get next time you have to select from a complex menu, or your partner asks for a decision on which dress or suit they should buy. This is what I call “decision-making homeopathy.”

It gets you comfortable with the physical and mental sensations of anxiety. Then later up the stakes by taking notice of your reaction to decision-making in increasingly stressful situations until you know you can make decisions under heavy incoming fire.

Your objective isn’t to squash anxiety but to function effectively alongside it, doing what must be done.

If you don’t believe me then take a short while to watch Kelly McGonigal’s fantastic TED talkHow to make stress your friend” where she shows you that stress can actually protect you and help you live longer; it’s just how you view stress that matters.

Your Actions Today

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 rate your anxiety prior to, during and after today’s decisions?
  • Whose advice did you seek for today’s decisions?
  • Did this advice alter your decision?
  • How anxious do you feel others are when they make decisions (scale of 1 to 10)?
  • Did they seek you advice?
  • Did your advice bias their decision in your favour?
  • Did you make decisions based on habit or adaptation to new circumstance?

Recommended Reading

Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan by Francesca Gino


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Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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5 Types of Leadership Style


Articles of Faith: Leading in a Fallen World

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

This  Articles of Faith series investigates leadership lessons from the Bible.

Check in on Sundays for new and refreshing ways to understand how to be a better leader.
Interested in Contributing? Contact Us.

When it comes to leadership, Christians are called to a different way to view it, understand it, and live it. The leadership model for Christians is Jesus Christ himself. But for many modern Christians, they are taking the world’s view and understanding of leadership and not the biblical view.

So what’s a Christian to do?

Eyes on the Prize

Rather than living a life “looking in the rear view mirror”, Christians should lead by example with their eyes fixed on the prize on the road ahead. They should live in the present and not in the past. Christians should show love in the reality of a fallen world where hope is craved and leadership comes through grace.

Otherwise, living in the past is like still living with an ex-relationship governing your thoughts. And that will only lead to somewhere unwelcome.

The key to leading is the present is to live in the present with hope for the future.

Being Of The World

The many recent battles facing the Christian faith today are showing how much Christians care about being seen as equals with the rest of the secular world in which they live. To these Christians, I say this: Fellow believers, we are fighting the wrong fight and focusing on the wrong relationships.

Why are we fighting for equality, when the scriptures tell us that won’t happen. We are, in many ways, perpetuating our own struggle.

Don’t be surprised if the world hates you...” 1 John 3:13 NIV

Pretending We Are Locals

We keep calling it the world that we are not a part of (foreigners & aliens) and yet we get up in arms when the same world we are not a part of does something that offends or alienates us…guys, it’s not our world remember!

That’s like being upset about who your ex-spouse is dating. Listen, if you’re upset about what your ex is doing, then you’re not over them!

Do not love the world or anything in the world.” 1 John 2:15 NIV

Coming Together

Instead of spending our time, energy, and effort on things that don’t belong to us; we should be focusing more intentionally on coming together and being the spiritual community and kingdom the bible talks about in both testaments.

But we are too busy looking for common ground outside the faith (where we are told it’s impossible) instead of building common ground inside the faith (where we are told it’s essential).  We are fighting for equality outside of our walls, when we don’t even have unity within them.

A kingdom divided shall not stand.” Matthew 12:25 NIV

Being Right on “Rights”

The ugly truth is this, the reason we fight some much for our “religious rights” is because we want all the privileges of the secular world while not playing by its rules….I have news for us..it’s not going to happen (the Bible is clear on that).

If you love the world the world would love you like you were it’s very own.”

So why do we need to let go and move on from these fights we are so deeply entrenched in?

  • First, we are already told that we won’t win this fight. The secular world will continue to progress in ways that are secular and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
  • Secondly, it is taking our focus away from what we really should be fighting for. As Christians we are in many ways fighting for rights in Sodom and Gomorrah when God is saying to us, “get out of there and don’t look back!”

Getting the Point

So what is my point? My point is this…

Many of us don’t realize that these things we are trying to fight for socially, politically,  and economically tell us (and God) where our hearts lie. What do we want to keep more…

  • Our tax breaks or our spiritual values?
  • Our relevance or righteousness?
  • Secular handouts or kingdom holiness?

If your ex-spouse knows that what they are doing still bothers you, then they also know that what they do can still hurt you. Why are we as the church constantly running after our “ex” only to keep being hurt time and time again? This is the time for all believers to re-evaluate our values and to recommit to our unity.

There is no need to keep running after our ex when we have already become a bride. Let’s stop trying to hold on to what we need to let go of, and let’s lead the church to grab hold of what we’ve been letting go of for so long…each other.


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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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Does Counting Coins Make You More Money?

Technological advancements just keep on coming. And all the while we tout them as “more efficient” and “better.”

In many ways, though, the technologies seem to only take care of “keeping the lights on” tasks.

Wasting Our Time?

These are just mundane or routine undertakings that once “wasted” precious human time.

  • Are we really any more productive though?
  • What do these technologies do to our ability to collaborate and innovate?

Compare and Contrast

I recently took a trip to the grocery store with a year’s worth of change, and after about 30-seconds of dumping coins into a machine, I was given a total and a receipt for my 22 pounds worth of coinage. When I was younger, I would bring this same pile of change to the bank, and wait patiently while the teller spent 10 minutes counting it out. During this time, my parents would chat casually with one of the bank employees.

While this wasn’t a huge transaction, or even particularly important business for the bank, manually completing the task allowed time for relationships to be built between my parents (the customers) and various bank employees (the business).

Now the automatic coin-counting machine has replaced the teller for this task. Yes, that bit of technology frees up some time for the teller and allows him or her to “get more done,” but at the end of the day, is it really making any more money for the bank?

Getting More Done With Less

With all of these technological breakthroughs, most of us are able to be very self-sufficient in the workplace. We can accomplish dull tasks more quickly and more accurately than in years past.

With that tech-based efficiency, however, we’ve adopted this idea that the same amount of work can be done by fewer people – and therein lies the problem.

It’s true that technology allows us to be more “productive,” but what are the underlying costs to the organization?

No Bandwidth

A recent client of mine, an information technology group, reduced its team of database engineers from 55 to 45 employees. Because they are exceptional people with state-of-the-art technology, they were able to maintain the same level of customer and project support even with the reduction in staff. There was no noticeable drop off in performance or reliability. There were, however, some unintended consequences:

  • The team has little to no ability to take on new projects
  • Team member get over 400 emails every day, and that’s not including phone calls, instant messages, and texts
  • Career development is stagnant – not intentionally, but because there is no time to dedicate to it
  • Database interruptions, though rare, now take almost 30% longer to resolve

While the current workload wasn’t impacted, the reduced workforce left zero bandwidth available to take on anything outside of their narrowly defined roles. Customers were mildly disappointed in this lack of expandable service, and other IT teams found the group difficult to work with – because the level of stress (with no prospect of relief) has the team stretched tight like a drum.

Now What?

Instead of looking at how to get more done with fewer people, organizations need to start asking themselves, “what’s best for the company?”

In an emergency, sometimes layoffs can’t be avoided, but it’s worth considering that a team with adequate resources and enough members is far more capable of scaling to meet demand.

When every member of a workforce is operating at maximum capacity, there is no room for additional polish on a task, no room for an expanded market share, and perhaps most importantly, no time to devote to solving problems and innovating within the company itself.

Doing Things Better

Instead of looking for ways to do more with less, companies should simply be look at how to do things better. The push to “increase productivity” is a false measure of success, because efficiency is not necessarily akin to quality.

Productivity is not just accomplishing more with fewer resources, or in less time, but rather the collective result of taking on greater workloads, improving efficiency, and delivering a higher quality result at the end of the process.

There is an assumption that technology has made organizations more productive, but is this really the case? They may be able to get the same amount of work done with fewer people, but what about taking on more work? What about coming up with innovative solutions to customer issues? What about fostering relationships?

At what point does squeezing efficiency out of a company become strangulation? When does “trimming the fat” turn into cutting out muscle? How much staffing margin be in place to make sure your organization is primed for growth and opportunity? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Anil Saxena

Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

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On Leadership, Perseverance and Leading Through Failure

Henry Ford's Model T

When great entrepreneurs set out on their quest to “do what they do,” they often times meet a massive amounts of personal, professional, and financial failure. Yet it seem like the most successful have one thing in common: Perseverance.

Title this one: “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The Worst Failures By the Most Respected Entrepreneurs

Being Defined by Failure

There’s much that budding entrepreneurs and experienced business people can learn from the success of others, but entrepreneurs are also defined by their failures. Examples of modern entrepreneurs who came back from failure abound, from Steve Jobs, who was fired from Apple, to founders of budding companies, such as Todd Pedersen, founder of Vivint.

However, we would be wise to also pay attention to the lessons learned from some of the most respected entrepreneurs in our history books. These visionaries may be remembered for their great successes, but there’s a lot to be learned from their greatest failures too.

3 Great Leaders Who Led Through Failure

1. Henry Ford

Henry Ford created his first car inside a brick shed in his garden. Appropriately named the Tin Lizzie, it was pieced together with scrap metal, featured a two-cylinder, four-cycle motor, sat on four bicycle wheels and had no brakes. Ford probably first realized he’d made a mistake when the car wasn’t able to make it out the shed door, but after breaking down a wall and taking the car around the block, he realized the design wasn’t successful.

I’m guessing it had something to do with his inability to stop.

Ford’s failure didn’t stop him from pursuing his interest in the automobile, however. He approached a group of businessman to fund his venture and was given $10,000 to create ten cars. Unfortunately, Ford got so focused on perfection that he ended up spending the money without producing a single car.

After gaining some public recognition through racing, Ford once again formed a company, but due to production delays and conflicts with shareholders, Ford saw his company collapse once again.

Yes, it wasn’t until his fourth attempt that Ford’s famous Model T led him to success, but there is plenty we can learn from his failures as well as his successes:

  • Good ideas take time to develop
  • You need a good product to get funding; you need good business sense to succeed.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail (or knock down brick walls.)

2. Walt Disney

Walt Disney went through bankruptcy at the ripe old age of 22. His first cartoon series, Laugh-O-Grams, started out as short pieces on a weekly newsreel. The Laugh-O-grams were a hit, so Disney decided to start creating animated fairy tales that were modernized by including recent events. He managed to produce seven of the cartoons before his company went bankrupt due to the distributor failing to pay for the cartoons as promised.

Disney’s first big success also turned out to be a failure, as he lost the rights to his character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as well as many of his workers who decided to work for the distributor instead of him.

The inspiring thing about Disney’s story is that despite being betrayed and cheated out of his business twice, he continued to take risks and develop something new, and Mickey Mouse was the result. The rest is history. What should we learn from this?

  • Despite our own talents and work ethic, we must also deal with the consequences of others’ actions.
  • The ability to take risks after experiencing failure is a key attribute for a successful entrepreneur.

3. Rowland Macy

For the first ten years of his business pursuits, Rowland Macy had four retail ventures fail. Despite these failures, Macy founded the first Macy’s store in Massachusetts. Applying what he had learned from his earlier mistakes, Macy started offering lower prices for cash purchases and eliminated bargaining in his store.

Unfortunately the changes he made weren’t enough to keep his venture from failing a second time. Still he didn’t give up, and once again founded a Macy’s store, this time in New York. Macy’s sought to learn from his past mistakes and chose to work on solely a cash basis, refusing any credit from wholesalers. His wise business decisions allowed him to turn a hefty profit despite the country being in a recession.

What we learn from Macy:

  • Pay attention to details
  • Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid of them.

What other lessons would you add from your favorite entrepreneurial story or your own business ventures? How have they impacted they way you persevere? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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Leaders: Opening a Window to the Unknown You


What did you see the last time you looked in the mirror?

  • Were you surprised by (yet another!) new wrinkle?
  • Maybe you suddenly realized a haircut was past due?
  • Perhaps, it was the same tried and true smile you saw looking back.
  • Or, maybe it took you a second to recognize your own face, to see beyond the mask that was representing you at that moment, revealing only those characteristics of yourself that you were willing to allow others to see.

No matter what you saw, or think you saw, there is undoubtedly more to the picture that what was in the mirror.

You see, there are many different images, reflections, personas, faces, and interpretations to the person that looks back at you in the mirror at any given moment.

Seeing Yourself. Revealing Yourself.

Undoubtedly, you are fully engaged in many relationships, sharing and revealing aspects of yourself and your life with others to whom you feel close.

In other situations, you may favor a more conservative approach, so you keep information about yourself closer to the vest.

Knowing what, and how much to reveal about yourself is a challenge in all relationships at one point or another. For leaders in particular, such challenges occur with some frequency as they try to balance the need to develop trusting relationships with the hope of engaging employees on various levels, while at the same time establishing appropriate boundaries within those relationships.

The Johari Window

The Johari Window

The Johari Window provides a means to help better understand and explain group dynamics.  Four quadrants delineate between what we and others know (or don’t know) about ourselves, and how much we are willing to reveal about ourselves to others. The four quadrants are:


Things that you know about yourself and that others know about you. This would include issues that are common knowledge such everyone’s role in the organization, or knowing how many children a colleague has as a result of your informal conversations or having seen photos on his desk.


Those characteristics that others can see in you, but you do not see in yourself.  Studies indicate that supervisors often evaluate themselves more positively than do their employees. So, while you may think you are being crystal clear with your expectations, staff may be frustrated with your communication, or lack thereof. Alternately, your off-the-cuff acknowledgements of staff accomplishments may have much more of an impact on satisfaction and appreciation than you know.


These are the things you keep to yourself. Perhaps your employees would be shocked to hear that you dread speaking publicly given your frequent presentations; or, maybe they assume that your professional attire is a choice that reflects your position when, in reality, you always wear long-sleeves to cover a tattoo or scar.


Issues that neither you nor others know. For example, your company may be targeted for a takeover; or someone’s currently undiagnosed illness may have serious implications for staffing.

At both the individual and organizational level, this model offers leaders’ guidance on disclosure and self-evaluation. One way to better understand the model is to use one of many exercises that help leaders (and group members) gain a better sense of who they are and how they appear to others.

And there are multiple benefits from going through this practice!

On Self-Disclosure

Research suggests that self-disclosure, the intentional act of revealing personal information, helps reduce perceptions of status difference, which can lead to greater participation in discussions, more feedback across teams and increased feelings of respect.

Self-disclosure also leads to greater liking, which leads to greater self-disclosure because we feel safe disclosing to people that we like.  A potentially even greater benefit is the opportunity for thoughtful self-evaluation from having received feedback that addresses those aspects of yourself for which you have no awareness.

Self-disclosure also helps:

  • increase self-awareness
  • build trust
  • develop and maintain relationships
  • lead to feelings of closeness with those to whom you disclose
  • create a safe and supportive environment

On a very pragmatic level, creating better, more participatory relationships can lead to greater job satisfaction, job productivity, and involvement.

Leadership Impact

Of course, disclosure should be appropriate to the relationship and the situation.  It’s important to build up to appropriate levels of self-disclosure to avoid “over-disclosing.”

This could make those to whom you are disclosing feel uncomfortable and potentially have a negative impact on the relationship. This is especially true for leaders.

Ultimately, however, as self-disclosure increase, the “open” quadrant of our own Johari Window become bigger as we learn and reveal more about ourselves as a result of feedback from others.

Self-disclosure offers great opportunities on multiple levels.  As the leader of your organization, it is incumbent on you to support, or perhaps even initiate appropriate disclosure.

How comfortable are you self-disclosing to your peers at work? To your employees?  Are you letting your own hesitancy or discomfort limit your interactions? How might you establish a culture that supports appropriate self-disclosure?


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Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D is AMP Consulting
She provides Organizational Communication Consulting & Research Focused on
Relationship-Building and Presentation of Image
Email | LinkedIn |  Web

Image Sources: Image Sources: jobsearchexpertise.com


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