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Hugh Ballou on July 18th, 2016

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. – John F Kennedy

Removing the Barriers to Success

barrierWhen I work with leaders, I find repetition of some of the same issues, mostly the issues are of our own causing. Leadership actually set up problems. We then are confused and point fingers at others, when we should be looking in the mirror.

Here are some of the most prevalent barriers to success that I encounter:

  1. Not Knowing Self: What’s blocking our success is about not knowing what really happening in our subconscious mind and not being aware of how past issues are crippling future success. It’s crucial to understand self and have an expert guide the process of self-discovery and awareness. We get trapped in a cycle and don’t know what caused us to get trapped in the first place.
  2. Not Having a Coach: Yes, I’m a coach and I’m certainly in favor of everyone having a coach. Actually, I have 2 coaches, so I do practice what I preach. I can’t do for myself what I can do for others…none of us can and if we think we can, then who do we think we are fooling? Look at those who are successful and explore how many coaches they have. Successful people have coaches…the rest think they can do it for themselves.
  3. Not Having a Plan: The quantifiable difference between those who are successful and those who continually find success is elusive…is a plan. Having a plan is a roadmap to your destination. It’s not an option.
  4. Not Having a Team: Building and maintaining a support group is how legendary leaders stay informed and inspired. In his research, Napoleon Hill discovered that the successful people he interviewed (Ford, Edison, Wanamaker, Woolworth, 5 Presidents, and more) all had a group of successful individuals they used for a mastermind support system for inspiration and problem solving. We become like the people we hand around with the most.
  5. Not Having an Accountability Process: Having the motivation and support of those who hold leadership accountable is a trap. Marginal leaders make excuses. Effective leaders have transparent accountability.

Check out my posts on SynerVision Leadership Foundation about leader burnout and let me know Burnout3what you think.

Click HERE

Hugh Ballou on June 20th, 2016

Guiding Principles are the compass that keeps leaders on track.

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. 

― Stephen R. Covey

CompassGuiding principles are statements that guide our decisions and keep us true to our “Basic Self*.” When guiding principles are clearly defined, leaders can apply these principles to decisions without compromising the fundamental values that shape our organizations and ourselves. This is called “Differentiation of Self” in Bowen Family Systems Theory.

Differentiation of Self is one of the eight Bowen concepts that define our basic self. As the leader remains solid in principles, he or she remains true to what Bowen refers to as “Basic Self.” Adherence to these principles keeps the leader from making decisions in the state Dr. Murray Bowen called “Pseudo Self” in which leaders make compromises to their principles to accommodate the desires of others.

In my leadership journey, it has been difficult to remain true to myself and my principles. I have sometimes opted to make a compromise in my principles to please others. I now see that decisions that compromise one’s guiding principles can be harmful to self and others.

Guiding principles anchor the leader in a way that guides decisions and influences others. I have created personal guiding principles for my personal life, principles for my relationship with my wife, and principles for my business. Each set of principles is consistent with the others and, as a whole, strengthens me and my leadership.

Here are some examples of Personal Guiding Principles (I set these for myself):

Principles that shape and guide my personal life:

  1. Always remain calm in spite of adversity and stay in my thinking self, rather than feeling self.
  2. Refer to #1.
  3. Focus on the few that matter, rather than the many that can confuse and create stress.
  4. Observe people, processes, and group interactions, and intervene only when appropriate.
  5. Maintain a personal discipline for food, rest, pace, study, play, work, writing, and relationships in order to be my healthiest self.
  6. Live out my leadership principles of Foundations, Relationships, Systems, and Balance.
  7. Read my guiding principles daily and highlight pathways to improvement.
  8. Pray without ceasing.
  9. Speak the truth in love – always.

Principles that shape my life as a leadership strategist:

  • Listen – listening is so close to loving that you really can’t tell the difference – listen actively
  • Ask questions – I’m not the “answer man”
  • Allow for silence in conversations – for clarity, for validation, for emphasis
  • Allow clients to find their own answers – don’t over-function
  • Do not see the failure of clients as my failure
  • Breathe

I set the context for group process – define deliverables, off-limits, background, and purpose of session (informational, brainstorming, decision-making, etc.)

  • I manage the process – I am the sole focus for the group
  • The participants are responsible for content – I manage process
  • I remain calm – I approach sources of conflict and interact with questions
  • I clearly define what we are not going to do (Off-Limits) – taking a stand
  • I observe people, ask for participation, and address people who are attempting to dominate
  • I set the context for speaking the truth in love – allowing all to remain separate, open, equal
  • I never use useless tools – agendas, chart pads, PowerPoints, because they are the enemy of productivity and barriers to relationship building

Examples of guiding principles for an organization (private school):

  • We will hold ourselves accountable to achieve tasks, goals, and deadlines we set for ourselves. We will act on details while keeping in mind the big picture.
  • We will help kids to adapt to the world as it is, prepare for the world that might be, and help create the world that ought to be.
  • We celebrate diversity in our membership and in the world. We explore Wisdom Traditions and cultural celebrations, engage in service learning, and work to contribute positively to both our local community and the larger global community.
  • We will not take money if it compromises our values. We do not compromise our values.
  • We will socialize people to our culture and we will resist pressures to assimilate with societal values that betray our core values (we will focus on our values rather than compare them to others).

The bottom line: leading without guiding principles is like trying to sail a boat without a rudder.

Have you written guiding principles for yourself, your professional and personal interactions, and for your enterprise?


* A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment.

Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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(c) 2013 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.


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Hugh Ballou on June 12th, 2016

Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.

– John C. Maxwell

TeamHaving the dream team is every leader’s dream, however few know how to build that team. We tend to gravitate to people we like, regardless of their fit for the culture we have or are creating. Selection of team members is an art and a skill.

When I studied with the composer, conductor René Clausen, he shared the process he used to select the right singer for the Concordia Choir. This highly skilled ensemble has matched voices who understand how to participate in maintaining ensemble and how to become part of the skillfully blended sound. The audition process included all the demonstration of skills – matching pitch, sight reading, staying in tune when singing a cappella, and vocal tone quality. In addition, René classified their voice type as “fluty” or “reedy” with an intensity measure of 1-6. Finally, he placed the final candidates in a circle by that nomenclature. He could only replace graduating singers with the same voice type, so he had to select from that voice-type group only the number of singers to fill the open slots.

This is a lot of work; however, this recruiting process ensures that the quality of the ensemble remains constant. If leaders used a similar kind of process to measure competency, agility, values, personality, and ability to follow principles and apply lessons learned, then there would be a consistency in team synergy and functionality.

We typically don’t know how to do this.

Here’s a process I teach leaders who are hiring new team members:

  1. Have an updated strategy – Be sure that the strategic plan is up to date and that the competencies listed are still the competencies needed. In addition, review roles and responsibilities to be sure that you are hiring for the right profile. It’s tempting to just replace the former person with another one for the same job description without reviewing the position to see if it’s still accurate.
  2. Define the qualifications needed – Hire for competencies and hire for personality. I didn’t say hire people that you like. There’s a danger in hiring people just because you like them. Hire people who fit the culture you are creating or the culture you have. This is crucial. One hire who is not a team player will change the makeup of the team. First, define competencies, then determine personality, and then spend some time getting to know the person. Over time, they will reveal more about their personality.
  3. Ask open-ended questions and listen carefully – Define a situation and ask how the candidate will deal with it. Create about 3 questions that will reveal different aspects of their thinking skills, such as problem solving, creative thinking, sequencing, and reasoning, and to get insights on their thinking and experience.
  4. Create success by developing an assimilation process – Develop an entry process and a checklist of information to transfer. Fitting the new person into the culture is as important as the hiring process. You can’t leave this to chance.
  5. Define performance expectations – In addition to defining the person’s role and responsibility, define what you want them to accomplish monthly and annually, and then schedule check-in points weekly to have an opportunity for coaching and course correction.

Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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(c) 2015 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.

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Hugh Ballou on May 16th, 2016

It all starts with why. – Simon Sinek*

 Leaders Start with Why
Simon Sinek speaks, writes, and consults on this topic and makes a compelling case for knowing why we want to do something – especially when it comes to leading an organization. Defining the why is an individual choice, not a group decision. It’s the leader’s duty to create and define the vision, and then to define the why. It’s the why that’s compelling, not necessarily the what – and especially not the how.

For many years as a leadership coach and trainer, I did not understand this principle. It was not until I had a paradigm shift that I attracted people to me who needed my skills. They needed to know why they needed me.

As I wrote about in a previous post, Bob Circosta, the “Billion Dollar Man,” defines the WSGAT ™ to tell people why they need to purchase a product. It’s the What’s So Good About That line that’s clarifying. He says sales is about telling people why they need something. Then they’ll buy it.

In his book and TED talks, Sinek uses Apple as an example of beginning with why. They make the user experience easy – that’s why you need to buy their products.

I work with many start-up entrepreneurs who have great ideas for products or services. Any one of these ideas has the potential to change the world as we know it. There are many, many people who look at things that aren’t and say, “Why not…” and create a solution. Out of every 100 of those people I meet, only three, on average, will actually do something about it. Out of those three, only one will survive in the business world and be successful.

Many start-ups need funding. Many do not receive the funding to begin design or production of a product. Some who get money to start production don’t get enough funding to market the product successfully and create a sustainable cash flow to support the business long-term.

The problem? So many of them focus on the what – what the product or service does. Or the how – how the product or service does whatever it does. Until people understand why it matters or why they need it, they really can’t connect with the project to purchase it or to invest in the company.

We all need external support to validate, refine, or challenge our thinking. We know why, but we can’t create a compelling message so others understand the why. We know it, so we assume that others know it because it’s quite obvious. Well, it’s obvious to us, but we’ve been living with the idea we birthed and it’s a part of our thinking and feeling. We forget that others need information and time to come up to speed with the concept.

So, in my personal journey, I have changed my language to talk about the why of leadership and why people need me. I’m constructing a new website for my company, SynerVision International, Inc. The URL is I invite anyone to check it out and provide me with feedback. Is my why clear?

Once we think we have arrived at a decision or a plan, we get stuck. We really never arrive like it’s a destination. We do, however, get on track and begin a journey like a train on railroad tracks. The railroad tracks keep up focused and in line with our plan. Having a coach and a mastermind team helps us to stay on track.

Define the why. Make a plan to achieve the why. Evaluate the plan regularly. Revise the plan as needed. Commit to the revision and get back on track.

Successful leaders do what others are not willing to do. Is that you?


* Purchase this book on Amazon: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (affiliate link)

Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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(c) 2013 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.

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Over-functioning is irresponsible responsibility. – Murray Bowen

OverfunctionWe, as leaders, influence everyone in our presence. The orchestra conductor influences how the instrumentalists play: just playing the notes, or playing with passion. The conductor does not tell the orchestra how to play their instruments or play those instruments for them.

Many leaders struggle with underfunctioning staff, boards, volunteers, etc., and are not aware that they have potentially caused that problem with their overfunctioning presence.

In the recent post, “The Drawbacks Of An Overfunctioning Leader,Geri Scazzero made these points about how overfunctioning causes problems:

1. Overfunctioning Disguises Itself As Caring

2. Overfunctioning Perpetuates Immaturity

3. Overfunctioning Prevents Me From Focusing On My Own Life Direction

4. Overfunctioning Erodes My Spiritual Life

5. Overfunctioning Destroys Community

Read the post HERE.

The unintentional role that leaders play in problems is elusive.

Here are ways that the Transformational Leader creates balance and prevents overfunctioning:

  1. Define what to delegate: Trying to do it all is the first trap for leaders. We know how it’s supposed to work, therefore, we attempt to model by doing it rather that teaching others how to do whatever “it” is. Define your major skills and your gaps and find the most competent person to fill the gap. Define the end result clearly and then create a process to coach that person into higher functioning.
  2. Learn to delegate: It’s easy to say, “delegate more,” however, learning how delegation works is a challenge for many leaders. Define the end result, allow the other person to define the steps with your approval, and create touch points on a regular basis to make corrections and to mentor – this is not micromanaging!
  3. Do not micromanage: Micromanagement is a form of overfunctioning. Don’t do it.
  4. Work on self: Learn to manage anxiety and learn to listen, observe, and ask good questions. Leaders who don’t know how to manage self fall into the habit of overfunctioning by over talking, over managing, and exerting too much pressure where it’s not warranted.

Autocratic leadership is a form of overfunctioning. Please give me your comments below.


Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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(c) 2015 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.

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Hugh Ballou on April 14th, 2016

The More the Leader Controls the Group, the Less Effective the Results Become

My friend and colleague, Larry Dill, hired me to develop a world-class music program in Huntsville, Alabama. When he called to invite me to consider the position, I asked him, “Where’s Huntsville?” I was in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time and had very little self-awareness of smaller places.

I went to check out the position and, after much consideration, accepted the job. I did so mostly because of Larry. He showed up as a visionary and passionate leader. He showed up to empower the skilled members of the team he put in place. He showed up to model the results he wanted to see.

I can remember sitting in the conference room on numerous occasions, planning programs six months ahead. During many of these sessions, seemingly insurmountable challenges arose. Larry would ask the team a question, presenting how to solve the problem. He would then sit quietly as the team discussed, debated, and defined ideas to answer his question. At the right moment, Larry would simply and calmly interject his comment: “I’ve heard enough. This what we will do.”

He listened, observed, and processed the information coming forth in the meeting. He had a highly competent team. He did not control the process or the conflation of ideas. He, however, remained very much in charge. He demonstrated a high competence as a leader.

The value in planning ahead is that teams can be more creative and effective. Work is more energized and focused. There is less confusion and less destructive conflict.

The paradox in leadership is that by doing less, Larry got more accomplished and helped the team be more productive and creative.

If you are working too hard, maybe you are doing too much. The first trait of Transformational Leadership is to define what to let go of. If you have too much to do, think about this polarity. Do the opposite.

Hmmm…that’s counterintuitive and goes against the work ethic that many leaders have been taught. Well, if it’s not working, then change it.

Define what is not working. Write it down. Define why it’s not working. Define all the potential solutions. Look for solutions that are similar and can be combined for strength. Develop an action plan based on what you discover in this process. The final solution might not be what you had initially expected.

Remember to think about systems. Transformational Leadership is a system – a thinking system, and not a feeling system.

How will you approach your team next in problem solving?


Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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(c) 2012 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.




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Hugh Ballou on April 12th, 2016

No More Boring, Unproductive Meetings!

An agenda is the killer of productivity in meetings. Focus on specific outcomes expressed as deliverables instead. Drive for excellence on outcomes in all activities, and you will create the DNA for excellence for your organization and yourself. – Hugh Ballou, The Transformational Leadership Strategist

Yes, you read this correctly. Organizations hire me to run meetings, team planning sessions, board retreats, etc. Never once in over 22 years have I used an agenda for a meeting! I promise.

This is not just semantics. It is a paradigm shift. Think about meetings you have attended in the past. Think of a boring, unproductive meeting that you experienced. Maybe that particular session was not planned thoroughly. Maybe that particular session was planned with unclear outcomes. This is the nature of the problem: AGENDA = activity, and DELIVERABLES = results. Reframe your thinking and focus on outcomes, not on activity.

This is one paradigm shift that makes leaders more effective. Create and maintain a culture of excellence in the organization you lead. Focus on outcomes and excellence in every activity and every process. Transformational Leaders constantly build leadership skills in their inventory of leadership tools. Conflict management and conflict resolution become less of an issue when clarity of purpose takes away some potential for conflict.

Success is a mindset. Think about what you want to achieve and make it happen.

Start now!

Conducting Power Packed MeetingsBonus: Get my free article and video on Conducting Power-Packed Meetings HERE


Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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(c) 2012 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.

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The Friday Five…The Best Of…The Best Blogs of the Week

April 1, 2016


The Friday Five

I’m constantly discovering something that advances my leadership knowledge and competency. This series presents the best ideas and resources that I have discovered during the week. The list of the 5 best will vary randomly, featuring my top posts, the top posts from others, leadership books and resources, and top concepts.

I don’t benefit from promoting any of these posts unless noted. Sometimes, I don’t even know the writer. However, I do read and personally grow my knowledge by reading posts that challenge my thinking and get me to think outside my old paradigm. It’s not important that you agree with any of these writers. It’s only important that you think. I hope you will find some new sources of inspiration with these posts. Here’s the next group of 5 in the series:

Memorable Blogs of the Week


Michelle Martin

When to Make Exceptions to Your Own Personnel Policies

Michelle MartinAt long last in your search for top talent, you’ve found the right person with the right resume and right vision for the right price. The only thing is that she’s eight-and-a-half months pregnant and won’t be eligible for your company’s paid maternity leave policy by the time she starts. What do you do?

A lawyer will be the first to tell you that enforceable employment policies are crucial in any business. But what your attorney probably won’t mention is that the rigid enforcement of these policies—like vacation time, sick days, non-compete agreements, bereavement policies, maternity leave, and rest of the gamut—can choke the life out of a company’s culture.


“If your policies are more important than your people, they’ll certainly notice.”

After my company mined our best resources for a new director of catalog services, we were left with an outstanding candidate who we probably couldn’t keep because of our own rules…

Read the post…


Joshua Spodek

Resilience: What The New York Times, New Yorker and Most of Academia Got Wrong

Joshua SpodekIf you want to be resilient, not just know about resilience, research and the media won’t help you.

You’re covered in mud, exhausted, bruised, and have a long way to go. Disaster or glory?

Any leader or entrepreneur knows it’s how you look at it. The active among us find ways to motivate ourselves and our teams.

Resilience is a hot topic. It’s valuable to know to handle challenges and recover from adversity. Those who can will succeed and attract people others can’t. You might expect the latest research and top media to help you.

But maybe not. When people depend on you–customers, employees, investors, partners–you learn to solve problems. Academia doesn’t have that motivation and it ends up researching forever. Nor does the media and it ends up writing thought-provoking stuff.

You want to be resilient, not just know about resilience.

Read the post…


Dustin McKissen 

How I Went From Living in My Car to Owning My Own Company

Dustin McKissenWhat I learned about success and overcoming adversity from living in my car.

When I was 18 years old, I moved into a Honda Civic. I didn’t get along with my parents, didn’t have money for an apartment, and was not attending college. I read a lot about the student debt crisis many young people face today, and while that is real, with potentially dire consequences, I faced a crisis of a whole other kind:

Where to shower before I went to find a job.

I had no money, no food, and had to sleep parked behind the gym that provided me a place to bathe.

I addressed the hunger by occasionally resorting to theft. Some nights I would go into the grocery store, suck in my stomach, and tuck a package of shrimp into my pants.

Why shrimp?

It was pre-cooked, and I hate cold hot dogs.

I ultimately realized that this was no way to live. Humans are not meant to live in Honda Civics, or survive on stolen shellfish.

Read the post…


Ted Bauer 

Poor priority management = lack of organizational trust

Ted BauerThere’s some new research from MIT’s Sloan School of Management about senior managers within organizations and their understanding of priorities, and it’s not exactly pretty. (Here’s a summary of some of the work from Fast Company.) The participants included 11,000 senior managers at 400+ companies, and there were two major tiers of results:

  • Senior managers trust their own teams, but distrust other senior managers
  • Only about 33 percent of senior managers can correctly identify corporate (CEO-spoken) priorities

None of this is that surprising, but let’s dive a little deeper.

Senior managers and team trust vs. trust of other managers

This is pretty basic, I’d argue. Most of life is about ‘in-group’ vs. ‘out-group.’ I’ve met managers in my life who have terrible teams — I mean teams that never hit targets,…

Read the post…


Lolly Daskal 

Listening: The Forgotten Business Tool for Amazing Success

Lolly DaskalIf you want to succeed, you must be able to hear what people are saying.

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have when it comes to business and leadership.

We listen to learn.

We listen to stay informed.

We listen to understand.

We listen to gain information.

We listen to acquire knowledge.

We listen to obtain wisdom.

Given all the listening we do, you would think we would be much better at it.

In fact most of us are lousy listeners. Research suggests that we remember only 25 to 50 percent of what we hear…

Read the post… 


Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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Hugh Ballou on March 29th, 2016

Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. – Stephen Covey

Leadership Blind Spots

ProblemsIn one of my previous posts, “Leaders Cause Problems,” I pointed out how leaders set up situations that cause problems – mostly without awareness of what they are doing or how they are setting up that problem. Often, those leaders blame others for the problem and respond in ways that compound the situation. Self-awareness is an important leadership trait. Leadership awareness is not an arrival point; it’s an ongoing journey. The more aware we become, the more we understand there’s more to learn. Leaders need not have all the answers. More importantly, leaders must have good questions and learn to listen to the response of others to those inquiries. Growing leadership skills goes hand-in-hand with growing awareness of one’s own competencies and an awareness of group emotional process. Observing systems and group interactions provides perspective for effective interaction, which is key to effective leadership skills and a culture of high-functioning leaders. Here are some of my systems for sorting out my own issues and staying aware of my skills and gaps:


First, how do you evaluate your skills, personal interactions, and functioning as the leader of the organization?

  1. List Your Top Skills – Leadership is skill based. Nobody is born a leader. Some people adapt easier than others and some have more potential than others. Build an inventory of the top skills you possess. Rate each one from 1-10, with 10 being the highest.
  2. List the Skills Worthy of Improvement – Choose from the list in #1 those skills with a number above 6. Those skills below 6 should be delegated. Don’t waste time working on skills that need too much development. Fill those gaps with people rating high in those competencies.
  3. Define Your Gaps – These are things you are not good at or should not be doing. These are the top duties to delegate. Letting go of things you should not be doing lets you focus on the things that only you can do.
  4. Define New Competencies to Explore – You might have more abilities than you realize – until you consider the challenge of developing a new skill. Make a list of some new things to consider. Caution: If you have lots of ability, don’t try to do everything. Letting go of low priorities gives more value to the high priorities.

Personal Skills Upgrades

How do you access your skills as a leader?

  1. Think About It – Not every leader thinks. Specifically, many leaders do not set aside time for thinking. Schedule a time on your daily calendar for thinking time. Develop a strategy for thinking – define a topic, identify a problem, reflect on your evaluation, review your schedule, etc. Or, just push out every thought in your mind and reflect on whatever enters your mind. Define the time slot and set a timer. Take notes when finished. Moving immediately into action without thinking about methods or processes can be a way to set up problems.
  2. Ask Others – There are ways to get perspective from team members that don’t compromise the leader. Ask open-ended questions such as, “How did you feel when I ….” or “How did you interpret my comments in the last team meeting?” You should also have a group of colleagues in a formal or informal peer group who will provide you with straight answers to your questions. Think about the questions because the choice of words will directly impact the response you get. Be sure to listen, and don’t argue or defend.
  3. Create a Feedback Group – This is different from #2 when you ask individuals. This is asking questions in a group setting of advisers, peers, colleagues, or other trusted leaders. Develop consistent questions to ask at various intervals – get feedback over time on some of the same issues or challenges. A mastermind group is a good example of group support.
  4. Constantly Read Leadership Material – Check out trusted sources and compare yourself to those ideas. Stay away from what’s trendy or radical. Don’t read a book one day and then attempt to try everything in that book the next day. Learn the principles behind the tools, systems, or strategies, and then adapt those principles to your leadership style and personality. Nobody respects a copy-cat leader. Be authentic.

Being Authentic

When you don’t know the answer to a specific problem, what do you do?

  1. Bluff and pretend that you have the answer – Pretending that you are always right, or have the right answer, is a fast way to lose the respect of your team. Pretending that you don’t have weaknesses tempts others to want to prove you to be wrong. A bluff covers up the problem and isolates you, preventing receiving answers from a person who might have some wisdom to share. Bluffing is bad.
  2. Call a friend – No, this isn’t a TV show, but you can take time out to call someone with specialized knowledge – or several with expertise that you need. Leadership is about identifying your gaps and allowing others to fill those gaps.
  3. Ignore the problem, hoping that it will go away – This is the #1 strategy that causes small problems to grow into nuclear proportions. Address any problem when you first see it. The longer you wait, the more it will cost – in money, time and relationships.
  4. Gather your executive team and conduct a problem-solving activity – This is the best way to gain perspective and to define potential solutions. Be direct in addressing the issue in specific terms without blaming or criticizing individuals. Let the group respond and own the actions that come from this session.


Here’s a short leadership assessment to help you think about your situation. Let me know if you want to talk about your results. Leadership Assessment:

More for developing your skills and systems for creating a sustainable, profitable enterprise at

Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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(c) 2014 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.
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Hugh Ballou on March 21st, 2016

You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand.  

– Irene C. Kassorla

One of the most common problems I encounter, when working with leaders to build results and create effective teams, is described in the statement, “My people just don’t do what I need them to do.” I suggest that this problem comes from the leader, not from the team. Leadership is defining the desired outcomes, and then making those outcomes become reality. Leadership is a skill and a system.

When a leader defines the vision and then sets specific goals to achieve that vision, it’s important to leave a place for team members to create their strategies for their work. It is limiting for team members when a leader not only defines the outcomes, but also defines all the steps to get there.

You have a worthy vision and have created powerful goals that will drive processes toward achieving that vision. Create systems where team members can create the steps to success – the action plan. Once each team member can contribute a process step, they move from being interested in the vision to owning the vision.

When developing the action plan, encourage the team to define the standards of excellence – the critical success factors. Define what success looks like and how it will be measured.

If you create a sloppy procedure for this process, then you are creating a less-than-excellent organization. Inspire excellence. Define the goal, move forward by creating a process to define all the steps to achieve that goal, put the steps into a sequence, and then let the team members divide up the responsibility for managing those process steps. Be focused in your process. Allow each member to contribute. Assign responsibilities and deadlines. Shift the accountability from you, the leader, to the team, in a culture of peer-to-peer accountability.

The biggest killer of excellence is the boring, unproductive meeting! Rehearse excellence by creating effective systems. Effective meetings empower and encourage high functioning in team performance. The finest musical ensembles rehearse for every performance. Change the misquoted phrase, “Practice makes perfect,” to the correct quote, “Perfect practice makes perfect performance.” Rehearse for success. Build the DNA of high performance into every system in the organization you lead.

TIP: Plan the outcomes at the planning meeting. Plan the process to get to the outcomes. Define the process and outcomes at the beginning of the meeting. Keep the group on task. Excellence in planning leads to excellent results.


Conducting Power Packed MeetingsGet Hugh’s report, 

“Conducting Power-Packed Meetings”



Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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