Your Focus Determines Your Future

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct or focus; we never concentrate our power.  Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” –Tony Robbins


Our brains have become attuned to the beeps, chirps and buzzes of a world that competes for our attention and it can be difficult to find focus.  But it’s increasingly imperative that we learn to recalibrate our focus if we want to live purposefully.

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We move by line of sight.  Where our eyes focus, our body will follow.  And where we focus our time and energy, our lives will follow.

What’s in your line of sight?

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of what your future will look like, just open your calendar.  Where is your line of sight today, this week, this month and this quarter?  Have you filled it with purposeful events?  Does it tell your story?

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Is Your Team Speaking the Same Language?

In the 1803 Battle of Maida, an army of 6,200 Napoleonic French prepared for battle against 5,200 allied British and Italian soldiers.

At the beginning of the battle, a commander for the allied army sent orders to “advance when the drums sound.”  By the time the order reached the front lines, it had been interpreted as “advance, sounding the drums.”

Despite such a colossal miscommunication, the allies were able to fight their way to victory.  But misinterpretations and miscues are often one of the greatest hindrances within teams.

Are Your Employees Speaking the Same Language?

Crystal clear communication is an essential ingredient of success for any organization, and in order to communicate well, there must be a shared language; with words and phrases which become the daily building blocks of an organization’s culture.

At SEI, we guard our culture vigilantly.  Part of The SEI Way of doing business is not only ensuring that we share the same core values, but also that our language reinforces those values.

What kind of culture does the following terminology evoke in your mind?  And more importantly, what kind of action do the following words inspire?

  • It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it.
  • Plan your work and work your plan.
  • Just do something. Continue Reading…

5 Ways that Great Leaders Communicate

Great leaders have nonnegotiable values and they surround themselves with people who share those values.  At SEI one of our non-negotable values for leaders is to be great communicators.

An organization’s capacity to achieve great results is proportional to its leader’s ability to communicate how those values align and impact results.

Here are 5 ways leaders can assure that they are communicating expectations effectively: Continue Reading…

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company [Part II]

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company: This is the second post in a two-part series. You can view Part I here.

Last week, I published the first in a two part series on the attributes of a Big Dumb Company.  In that post, I highlighted the the first 4 characteristics which were bureaucracy, prioritizing numbers before people, an intolerance for failure, and a lack of Vision.  Here are the final 4.

5. No Flywheel

Steve Jobs once said “I’m as proud of what we don’t do, as I am of what we do.”

Often, organizations that experience great success in their beginnings, do so because they do some thing well.  They offer a product or service that meets the needs of their customers and provides adequate revenue to sustain their growth.  But as a Big Dumb Company grows, it attempts to become all things to all people and it loses sight of its core-business; it’s Vision becomes blurred.

Continue Reading…

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company [Part I]

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company: This is the first post in a two-part series. 

As an organization grows from its entrepreneurial roots as an innovative upstart into a larger organization, it must guard against developing attributes of the Big Dumb Company; attributes that repel the top talent that it had once attracted, depress revenue growth and margin, and alienate customers.

At Service Express, we vigilantly guard against “catching” the cultural attributes of, what we call, the Big Dumb Company.  Our leadership team is intentional about consistently communicating the values of SEI to ensure that everyone understands what makes our people and our culture great.  We like to say that we’re living the SEI way.

I have the privilege of being able to talk to SEI leaders and employees regularly about our business.  Because we’re a growing company, I often take those moments to remind them that we must continually guard ourselves against becoming the Big Dumb Company; a transformation that doesn’t happen over night but is gradual and almost imperceptible to those who are unguarded.

Here are attributes of the Big Dumb Company:

1. Bureaucracy

As the Big Dumb Company grows, so also do its layers of management.  Often, managers at the Big Dumb Company create these layers to “shield” themselves from ideas, problems and customers and it works.

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A Great Team, Like a Great Marriage, Fights Well

Some of the healthiest marriages I’ve observed are ironically partnerships of two people who have learned not just to fight, but how to fight well.

Each accepts that the other brings a unique personality and perspective to the table.  And each understands that the partnership is stronger when each focuses on the other’s strengths and not on their weaknesses.  Both learn that a strong partnership is a result of open and honest communication, and the goal is personal and professional growth.

As with marriage, many make the incorrect assumption that the best teams are conflict free.  They often equate conflict with dysfunction.  It’s an assumption that can lead to misaligned expectations (for others and for oneself), hurt feelings that turn into wounds, resentment and mediocrity.

Conflict in teams is beneficial when it:

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The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager

Recently, on Twitter, I got into a disagreement with someone on the difference between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  Those who know me, know that I love disagreement.  Agreeable disagreement causes us to examine our beliefs and it challenges us to make sure that we’re practicing what we preach.

I believe that there are very distinct differences between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  But the roles should not be in conflict with each other.  Sustainable, high-performance organizations recognize that there is a symbiotic relationship between managers and leaders and they ensure that both are being utilized effectively.

I believe that we manage things (processes, procedures and outcomes) and we lead people (employees, customers and others).

 Here are examples of differences that I’ve identified (I’d love to hear yours in the comment section below):

A manager focuses on process and procedure, a leader focuses on people.

A manager administrates.  A leader envisions. Continue Reading…

Great Leaders are in the People Business

Recently I blogged about how performance measurement aids in creating high-performance cultures. But performance measurement should never eclipse an organization’s most powerful asset- people.

Metrics and measures have a funny way of pushing their way into the forefront of a leaders attention, particularly during times when they’re facing economic hardship or increased stress.  Often they hole-up in their office and stare at numbers on their screen thinking that if they just stare hard enough, maybe they’ll move. They retreat and spend less time with their team.

When I see that happening, I encourage leaders to get out of the office and invest in their people first.  I’ve found that when we do that, the numbers will almost always correct themselves.

Performance measurement begins with investment in people.

In his book, The Carolina Way, Dean Smith says that it’s critical to focus on people and process, not on winning. Winning will be the end result. His rational – If

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Hire the Will, Teach the Skill

It’s a phrase I often use with leaders at SEI, particularly when they’re recruiting for talent at our organization.

Hire the Will, Teach the Skill

Because SEI is a growing company with an exceptional culture, we’re fortunate that we attract applicants with a high level of skill and aptitude in their areas of expertise.

But we don’t just hire people who can do the job.  By the time they’ve made it past our initial screening process, we’ve determined that they have both the skills and the aptitude to succeed.  We also have many candidates who rise to the top because they have an advanced skill set.

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5 Ways to Work Smart, Not Hard

Success is often a result of hard work.  But it’s important to recognize that failure, too, is often a result of hard work.  As leaders, we must recognize the difference between working hard and working smart; not just for ourselves, but for those we lead.

Leaders work smart, not hard

Here’s a simple truth: working hard on the wrong things does not make one successful.  

Too many people work hard at making sure that they’re doing things right, but fail to consider first whether they’re doing the right things.

Here are a few signs that one may be falling into that rut:

  • They work hard throughout the day, but at the end of the day wonder if what they’ve done really made all that much of a difference.  
  • They work hard but don’t feel like they get the recognition that they deserve.
  • They work tirelessly but it rarely feels like they accomplish much of anything.
  • Their task list is endless and they often feel overwhelmed.

If you can identify, take solace in the knowledge that it is entirely our doing, and that means that it can be entirely our undoing.

Here are a few actions that one can take now to begin to turn things around.

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