Who Would Follow You, the Leader?

Celebrating the best of the Epic Living Blog, 2012. Enjoy!

I've been thinking a lot these last few weeks about what's the best measurement of quality leadership-in the business world and out. There's so much flowing out there about defining quality leadership, it can be a bit overwhelming. Did I mention burdensome?

I will attempt to set a context you can use to measure leadership in a way that you can pull out in virtually any situation. Maybe it's a question you ask a prospective manager or the HR recruiter who wants to know if you have any further questions.

The question comes down to this; "who follows you even though they don't have to?"

The answer to the above question is so important because anyone can follow when there is a stick and carrot involved. But what about when you're not in charge or some other circumstance changes the order of things? Every time I've met someone who has followed a leader without the force of position, I've encountered someone whose life has been impacted. Impacted in way that you can feel deep in your gut as the observer. Sort of like being in the audience when a great singer sings "that" song.

This all should make us remember that how we influence people (every day) is what builds true followers. And if we do it right, they will stay.

How I Manage My Health

With a title like How I Manage My Health, you might wonder how broad I'm going here. Not very. I will keep this post confined to the physical, nutritional and how to engage with the medical community.

I want to give you a sense of how I'm managing my physical health by the following:


  1. I exercise 6 days per week for about 30-45 minutes in each session
  2. I work with weights, I run, I do core strengthening work, and I do yoga. These routines are alternated on opposite days. For example, Monday is running and core work, Tuesday is Yoga, Wednesday is wieght training, etc.
  3. All of my training, with the exception of yoga, is based on high intensity intervals
  4. I rest on Sunday because the Lord rested on Sunday. What's good for him is good for me.
  5. I train alone (no people, no videos, no classes). My friend Rob Banhagel says I'm into the Zen of training. He's right!


  1. I eat organic. I do this for a couple of reasons; it's good for me and I don't trust large corporations like Monsanto who are responsible for much of what's killing our population.
  2. My diet is higher in protein and fat (the good variety). The carbs are not eliminated, but are lower and usually come from fruits and vegatables.
  3. I drink 1-2 glasses of red wine daily with food.
  4. I eat 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate (minimum of 72% Cacao and organic).
  5. I use high quality whey protein shakes as a meal replacement. Usually, the shakes are for post-workout meals.

Now for interacting with the doctor community. As someone with Type 1 diabetes, I have been on a drug (insulin) for 25 years. I've kind-of made a promise to not use any other types of drugs if at all possible. I guess I believe that an all natural approach along with diet and exercise can reduce the chances, significantly, of the need for the pharma candy. So far I have been blessed in this area.

Three years ago, my endocrinologist at the Ohio State University recommended I go on a statin to lower my LDL cholesterol. In the diabetic world physicians like that number to be 100 or lower. My LDL was at 126, my total cholesterol was 187. I'm fortunate to be working with a medical team that acts more like a consultant than a parent, so we went through the dance of them recommending and me telling them I wasn't ready to start taking a statin. I just didn't give up on finding an alternative. In the late Autumn of 2011 I started do high intensity interval training and it made the difference because in April of 2012 my LDL dropped to 101 from 126.

The main point of my story is to, please, be the manager of your health. No doctor, no goverment, no organization was designed to do it for you. This is a "you" opportunity or problem. Another thing to remember is to have a clear understanding of timing and urgency when interacting with the medical community. Not all conditions are equal.

I wrote this post to let you know how I'm living out what I write and to let you know that Epic Living isn't just a title or phrase.

What Management Doesn’t Know Will Hurt Them

Does your manager operate on assumptions? It's kind of a turn on my saying, what management does know will hurt them. The following are some examples:

  • We hit our numbers (cutting costs, revenue goals, quarterly profit), therefore we've earned the right to proceed with the next phase of growth.
  • The last employee survey was better than the last, so we don't need to dig any deeper into past complaints of favoritism.
  • We all have sacrificed, so morale isn't as bad as it may appear. Besides, we're a team.

Obviously, you and I could think of many other examples. My point is to illustrate the two different worlds management and employees live in. The most dangerous part is the inevitable collision to come. In America those collisions are happening on a regular basis. For example, our fiscal cliff is causing many publically traded companies to pay out one-time dividends at a lightening pace to beat what they see as the inevitble in 2013. The hike in tax consequences on dividend income. This is happening while many employees, and potential employees, are wondering when will the hiring will start again. The money is there for a dividend, why not for hiring someone.

Human beings are complex creatures. The DNA is fixed and we are who we are. Survival instincts, the need for affirmation and a desire for clarity are just a few to consider. How can this be missed. Lower quality leaders just don't know any better. Call it a leadership deficit that's difficult to remedy.

We're doing battle with culture here. A culture that staked everything, or so it seems, on some false-growth model. There needs to be some cleaning out to the rot. I'm not advocating we toss the entire system out, but I am advocating that we add some serious leadership development that is NOT based on giving the appearance of change. Way too many programs conform to keeping the status quo alive and well. We need to find courage now because we are far into the second-half. Expecting an epic comeback is a very dangerous outlook.

Management is toying with grave consequences when it forgets this.


The Essential Element

Until organizations realize that people are the essential elements of what make things work, we will forever have a win-lose proposition. Meaning, the organization thinks they've won and people are always on the losing end of the stick. Paying lip-service to this will only further deepen the hole. 

I admire any leader that has the courage to speak up and act. These types of leaders are willing to pay a steep price, in-order to fight for something worth fighting for. This is rare. Far too many people of influence are looking the other way.

The absence of leaders willing to raise their hands is the rot we have on our hands.

The Future of HR with Carol Morrison of i4cp

The following is an interview I conducted with Carol Morrison of i4cp on the future of HR. A very compelling conversation we had.

Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst. She has been with i4cp for eight years,
researching and writing about the talent, strategy, and leadership issues that
directly affect organizational performance. In addition, Carol has authored
articles for Talent Management Magazine,
Chief Learning Officer, HRPS Journal, Human Resource Executive,
and other


I’ve heard for some years that HR
professionals desire a role that makes them more of a partner in the business
enterprise. Is this desire becoming a reality? Are they moving the needle?

You’re absolutely right. This has been – and continues to
be – an evolution for HR and the business partner role. i4cp’s interviews with
CHROs and other top HR and business leaders confirm that many are shifting
their HR functions toward greater efficiency in handling the transactional and
administrative duties typically associated with HR. Technology is helping to
enable that transition.

In turn, greater efficiency affords HR professionals more
time to focus on the value they can provide to the business by helping to
identify issues that impede productivity, by uncovering potential opportunities,
and in working with business leaders to better leverage the contributions of
the workforce. As i4cp’s recent study, The
Future of HR: The Transition to Performance Advisor,
underscores, the HR
professional’s role is all about driving organizational performance and that’s
unfolding in more companies today.

What traits/strengths should the HR
professional of tomorrow possess?

Exploring competencies that the future
HR professional will need is one of the core aspects of the i4cp study.
Certainly, keen business savvy is the starting point for a business partner who
can be a trusted and credible advisor to business leaders. It’s more than an
understanding of basic financial statements and business models. It’s in-depth
business acumen, along with such competencies as strategic thinking, the
ability to develop and execute strategy, a strong sense of ethics,
organizational design skills, comprehension of metrics and analytics, decision-making
capabilities, and an understanding of technologies and information systems.

CHROs with whom we spoke told i4cp
that HR performance advisors need to know how to ask the right questions to get
at the issues important to the business. They need courage to speak up when
it’s important to question the status quo, and the emotional intelligence that
enables them to effectively function in volatile situations and to serve as
confidantes when business leaders need reliable counsel.

How will the HR function stay relevant
in the next 10 years?

By contributing those competencies
just described. As long as organizations employ workforces, HR will be not only
relevant, but crucial. Human capital generally represents an organization’s
greatest investment and its greatest asset. If you are a leader who believes
that employees and their contributions are key elements that drive innovation,
differentiation, and competitive advantage, then there’s an important place in
your organization for HR professionals who can help you optimize performance by
ensuring that your workforce is appropriately trained, motivated, and deployed
to execute your business strategies.

In some ways, HR is exploring the last
frontier that holds promise for truly affecting business performance. The
economic challenges of recent years have sharpened leaders’ abilities to cut
costs, streamline processes, and wring all they can from tangible
organizational assets. There is tremendous power in the intangibles that
employees bring: discretionary effort, creativity, tenacity, wide-ranging talents,
and the desire to excel – to name just a few. HR is the integral link in the
performance chain – the force for uncovering and developing that human capital

On the whole, do most HR professionals
understand the challenges ahead within the world of work?

Yes – certainly as well as any of us
can understand the challenges within our volatile business environment. HR
professionals see the work world’s issues reflected in the faces of the
employees and managers they serve every day. So long as HR professionals – and
those involved in every other business discipline – remain curious, eager to
learn, and engaged in moving their organizations ahead, they’ll rise to the
challenges that come their way.

In fact, HR already may be ahead of
the curve. HR professionals often are intimately involved in organizational
change initiatives. Leading the way for change and helping employees and
leaders, alike, adjust to it has afforded HR professionals years of
opportunities to develop the agility and resilience to meet even unanticipated
circumstances with solid skills and resolve.

In addition, the HR leaders who shared
their views with i4cp made clear their investment in providing their promising
talent with unprecedented development options. Often, these involve stretch
assignments, job rotations, and specialized training that extends far beyond
the boundaries of HR. That means HR professionals are learning about
operations, finance, marketing, and other business functions, along with the
challenges they face. They return to HR with expanded networks that cross
functional lines and with a deeper understanding of the issues challenging employees
and managers organization-wide.

How can entrepreneurs, who are
building organizations, include HR in the vision and execution of business

By doing just that – including them at the top level from the
outset. Savvy executives know that HR leaders are valuable members of teams
charged with developing business strategy. Leaving human capital considerations
out of strategy formulation is an ill-informed approach that seriously
jeopardizes execution. You wouldn’t leave out budget considerations when
planning new business objectives. Nor would you ignore the technologies or
equipment you’d need to accomplish your desired ends. Employees and their
skills are an equally vital element. Strategies require execution, and that
falls to managers and employees. In many companies, carefully crafted plans
fail because leaders leave human capital considerations out of the strategy

When i4cp researchers interviewed
Larry Myers, SVP of HR at T-Mobile, he observed that “companies that understand
the impact that sophisticated, top-quality HR organizations and professionals
can have, automatically gain strategic and business advantage. Their executive
teams would not think of making a step strategically without involving HR.”

Successful entrepreneurs understand
that ideas, resources, technologies, processes and people must be deftly melded in order to bring business goals to
fruition. They include HR leaders in developing
strategies to ensure that they’ve addressed all the elements necessary to
capably executing those strategies.


Ideas Are Not Enough

Ideas are not enough in business and personal. There was a point in my entrepreneur journey, though, when I believed having a great idea was enough. It isn't.

I attended a breakfast meeting this morning sponsored by a local group, TechColumbus. The presenters were from Clarus Parners and they gave wonderful insights into the art and science of presenting your business for funding/investment.

As I sat in the meeting, I couldn't help but think about how much I've learned over the last 5 years. I'm pleased to be where I'm at today. One of the big lessons is understanding that you can't just rely on a good or great idea. Your ideas need a full-spectrum of attention. It runs from capital to advice.

Here are some notes from the presentation this morning:

  • Know your sales trends. Are they up? Are they down. Is the trend long or short-term in nature?
  • What's the real value of your idea? Warren Buffett said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."
  • Be realistic in your projections.
  • Investors want to see that you've got "skin in the game." How much of what you've got (money, time, intellectual property, etc.) is attached to the idea?
  • Funding comes when both sides see desired value.
  • Surround yourself with quality advisors.


Candor and Clarity

I've written before about the importance of clarity on the part of managers. Most of that was directed at mid-level managers who are often tasked with leading individual contributors.

This post is directed at those who are steering at the senior level. It may be an obvious, but candor and clarity is important. Consider the following:

  • Every organization should be willing to be clear and candid about the direction of the enterprise. If you are a publicly-held group, then you may have some disclosure issues to navigate. That said, legal limitations on what can and cannot be disclosed should not be an excuse for a lack of candor and clarity.
  • Every organization should let their employees know what the value system is based on, even if it means the employee is not at the top of the list. Avoiding this discussion/communication could be fatal. So many employers and employees operate under assumptions. Assumptions that go out the window when the storms come.
  • Every organization should be clear about how the organization makes money. This places a shared accountability and education.
  • Every organization must understand the life-cycle of and employee and give those employees the room to move on. So many organizations live in fear of employees leaving. Turn-over (internally or externally) due to terrible managers is bad (really bad), turn-over due to an employee completing the mission and moving onto a new dream is a great thing. By the way, the latter example might make your company a highly desired place to work.
  • Every organization should be able to communicate when the end is near. I know it sounds morbid, but don't tell an intelligent adult things are good when collapse is not far off. By giving them the tough reality upfront you give an opening to prepare. Every good employee deserves this kind of candor and clarity.

If you work for an organization that finds candor and clarity nearly impossible, I would consider moving on because a lack of candor and clarity is usually a sign of decline. The irreversible type of decline.

The Hard Choice

Daily, we all face a multitude of choices. Human nature drives us to the easy ones. Defining moments are found in the hard choice. You know, the one you'd rather not do or would rather ignore.

The problem is really on the front-side pain. The initial struggle and dislike associated. Many lose out on their dreams by giving into their fear and avoidance.

It would be great if there were a voice telling us "it's ok, the pain is worth it." The truth is we do-in one form or another.

The listening and doing part is the crux. 

Output and Input

A post from 2008 that I got to thinking about this week. To this day, I'm struck by the silence on the input side of things.

It's easy to get excited by the output of one's work.  In many ways, a leader can feel a sense of justification for what's flowing from their perspective tributary. 

If you connect with glowing about your output, then you could be missing something vital.  You could be missing the input.

Here's why you might not think, or like to think about, you input:

  • The input part is the hard work of your endeavor.
  • The input part is the pain of your endeavor.
  • The input part is the fears you've dealt with in the journey.
  • The input part is the hope within your heart.
  • The input part is the sense of destiny you feel deep inside.

There are times I still have to look away from my own "inputs."  But we must look and examine what has gone into what has been produced.   

There are some valuable benefits to embracing the input: 

  • It will keep you from thinking your management style is a 10.
  • It will humble you and bring a sense of thankfulness.
  • It will redefine how you define success.  You'll discover that the journey is where the gold is.  Think about a marvelous road trip and what you see along the way.  The destination can never compare.
  • It will help you know who really digs you.  People who are for you are the ones that have time for you when no one can see the tangible (fame, wealth, influence, etc.) benefits of the output.
  • The world will smile at the thought of you because embracing input implies an inside-out approach.

The input is the gold found in our lives.  Ironic how our age worships output instead.  Some longing for meaning I suppose.