A Positive Attitude Can Be Contagious

Parkour Egypt


I recently spent a week with about 25,000 teens at a national youth gathering.  You may have assumed that this posting on attitude would be about stereotypical negative teen attitudes.  Instead, I’d like to share my observation of how positive attitudes that week were contagious.

Everyone who attended the national youth gathering had to walk miles each day in high heat and humidity, wait in long lines, share hotel rooms with others, and sleep very little.  There were definitely many reasons to have a negative attitude (and all of us were tired and grumpy at some point during the week).  However, what impressed me was how quickly positive attitudes changed everything.

These teens went around saying “Hey” to other groups of teens and giving one another high-fives.  They burst into spontaneous song and dance, clapping and laughing.  When someone started to complain or feel sorry for themselves, another person distracted them or got them to laugh.  At one point, we had fun turning complaints into “love” statements, such as, “I love how much my feet hurt”, or “I just love sweating and standing in line”.  We were soon laughing and back in positive moods.

Vistage speaker Boaz Rauchwerger often says, “Fake it till you make it!”, and these 14-18 year olds showed me how effective that approach can be.   A positive attitude can be contagious.  As a leader, you can overcome the negative attitudes in your company with a little effort – even if you have to fake it till you make it!

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Bolt laughing

When was the last time you laughed so much that your cheeks hurt?  For me and 100 of my colleagues, it was just last week.  I was co-leader of an event in Boulder, CO for 100 Vistage/TEC peers from around the world.  My co-leader and I selected the topic of “Creative Brilliance”, which enabled us to take the group down a path most had never experienced.  We decided to bring in an expert to do a session on “Laughter Wellness”.  After sharing a bit about the physiology of laughter and the impact on health, she led us through 30 minutes of laughter yoga. 

At first, our “ha, ha’s”, “he, he’s” and “ho, ho’s” were forced, yet in a very short time, we were all laughing hysterically.  Each time I looked at someone else doing the motions, I found myself laughing even harder.  It’s amazing how terrific we all felt after just 30 minutes of laughter.  The tension left our bodies, and we were energized and ready to take on the world.  

It was a great reminder of how easy it can be to pull yourself out of the doldrums.  When you’re having a rough day, take a short break and watch a funny video, ask someone to tell you a joke, look at the comics in the newspaper, or just remember the last time you laughed until you cried.  Once you start laughing, invite others to join you so they can reduce stress and become energized as well.  Laughter is the best medicine – no prescription needed!

Time Management

*Time Alone*

Do you often find yourself saying you are “too busy” or that there “just aren’t enough hours in the day”?  I often speak with people who tell me that time management is a challenge for them.  A wise Vistage speaker once suggested that we should call it “priority management” rather than time management.  I agree since we can all make choices as to how to spend our time.

The fact is that each of us has the same number of hours in each day.  Some people seem to be able to find that perfect balance of time spent on various aspects of their lives and business.  Others struggle to find time for important but not urgent activities.  Have you talked to a leader recently who says they don’t have time to work out?  Or to take a day off?  Or to work “on” their business rather than “in” their business?  What they are actually saying is that those things are not a high enough priority right now.  If they were, they would be taking action to make time for them.

If you ever crammed for exams by pulling an all-nighter, you showed how you can shift your schedule to make time for high-priority activities.  Grades were more important than sleep that night.  Did you ever work so hard on a project that you realized you forgot to eat?  The work was more important than your awareness of hunger.  If you can put things higher on the priority list than sleep and food (which are pretty important!), then I know you can make time for those other things if you really want to.


Why not identify what you really want and then manage your time according to those priorities?

Emotional Intelligence

Conversation with a rescued owl

You may be smart, but are you emotionally intelligent?

Is there someone in your company who is very much attuned to the needs of others? They seem to be able to sense things about people that the rest of us miss. Others have a way of controlling their emotions and remaining level-headed in even the most stressful situations. I suspect each of you can think of at least one person who displays those characteristics. How do they do it?

Chances are that they have a high degree of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, also known as Emotional Quotient or “EQ”, is often defined as the capacity to understand and interpret the intentions, motivations and desires of others and the ability to understand oneself. EQ is often broken down into 4 core skills:

  1.  Self-awareness — is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across situations.
  2.  Self-management — involves controlling your own emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3.  Social awareness — is the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
  4.  Relationship management — is the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.

Studies have shown that 90 percent of high performers are also high in EQ.   These are important skills for good leaders. The good news is that EQ can be developed.  You can start by taking an EQ assessment to identify which areas you would like to address, then by creating a plan to improve in those areas. By focusing on increasing your emotional intelligence, you will likely increase success in both your business and personal life.

Failure to Respond


Are you someone who fails to respond?  Not to cold-calls or blind solicitations, but rather to someone you contacted first?  I am curious what is causing you to behave in that manner?  Do you realize that when you reach out to someone else, they must spend time and energy to respond?  Your own lack of responsiveness when they reply to you creates more work for that person, who wonders if their message was actually delivered or tries another way to reach you, thus expending even more time and energy.  If you contact someone and then change your mind, it would seem to be common courtesy to let them know.  You could send a quick note or leave a voice mail message, anything that would enable the other person to take you off of their list of things to do.

Vistage is not for everyone, so I know that many of the people I speak with will not be a good fit for our organization.  However, I want to help people and will always try to respond in a timely manner when someone reaches out to me.  However, when they fail to respond to my offer to answer any of their questions or provide them with information, it becomes very frustrating.  I am left alternating between irritation, concern for their well-being, and curiosity as to why they reached out to me in the first place.

If you read this and realize you have been unresponsive to others, it’s not too late to change your behavior.  Just let them know you resolved the situation and no longer need their assistance.  Display some no-longer-so-common courtesy!

Why Do So Many Executives Work Without Assistants?

Sometimes, there shows a helping hand where you don\'t expect it - be grateful

Why do so many executives work without assistants?  Years ago, it was common for all executives to have a dedicated executive assistant to help them with scheduling, typing, travel arrangements and other tasks.  That enabled the executive to focus on the most important things, such as creating and executing company strategy.

During the economic downturn a few years ago, overhead cuts were made, and many administrative positions were eliminated.   Additionally, automation and computer literacy increased, with many executives doing much of their work from their phone or tablet.  As a result, fewer executives have assistants.

Now that the economy has improved, and business is on an upswing, why are people still not utilizing executive assistants?  When I ask that question, I am often told things such as, “It’s easier and faster to do everything myself.”  Or, “That is a luxury I can’t afford right now.”

Yet I see those same executives working very long hours and still not getting important things done.  They are not taking the time to think strategically because they are too busy doing all of the small stuff.  Their company likely will not be able to grow as efficiently and effectively because they have become the bottleneck for their business.  If they are already working long hours, they cannot take on any additional work.  Most importantly, they may be missing major market shifts that could either provide terrific opportunities or significant risks to their business.

My Vistage members who have hired executive assistants have been able to effectively train and delegate much of the busywork they were previously handling themselves.  Trained administrative personnel can often perform those same tasks in less time and with fewer mistakes.   They can create efficient systems and processes, streamlining operations, and reducing wasted time within the organization.  This increased efficiency often more than covers the cost of the added overhead.

Those executives now have time in their day to step back and evaluate market trends, and create and execute the appropriate strategies for their business.  Most importantly, they can scale their business and grow at a much more rapid pace than ever before, allowing the executive to achieve their dreams.


Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time

Have you ever noticed that there are some tasks on your to-do list have been there for a while?  If you’re like most people, it’s easy to see an item on the list and put it off for another day.  Then when that day comes along, you’ll move the task out even further.  As time goes by, you may realize that you have carried it on your list for several weeks.  Sometimes it’s a difficult conversation that you are procrastinating.  Other times it is related to doing paperwork or getting organized or other non-rewarding tasks.

You may also notice that there are other things that you love to do that never get carried over the next day’s to-do list.  As a matter of fact, I suspect that sometimes you actually complete them earlier than necessary.  Why do we delay doing some things and tackle others immediately?

This often happens because we have a to-do list that reflects unrealistic expectations of what can get done in a normal day.  If we lived on a deserted island with no phone or email, we might be able to accomplish the list in a day.  But we live in a world of frequent interruptions, and should allow cushion in our schedule to accommodate those interruptions.  However even if we were able to get through everything on our list, there are some things we would choose to do last because they are difficult, stressful, or are just plain boring!

If you recognize that you are a procrastinator, what can you do?  Here are a number of suggestions that have worked for me over the years:

  1. Delegate those tasks to someone who works for me
  2. Outsource the tasks to a company or person who does it well
  3. Barter with someone to trade tasks we don’t like to do. For example, “I will set up your spreadsheet if you set up my filing system.”
  4. Create a reward system: “If I get this task done on time the first day, I will reward myself with a chai tea latte.”
  5. Do the undesirable first – before working on something I enjoy
  6. Schedule a regular time in my calendar in which to accomplish those tasks.

Years ago, I used to let my office get messy with piles of paperwork and work that was partially done.  I could not seem to get to the task of cleaning and organizing during the work day.  Even if I stayed late on most weeknights, others were working late and interrupted me.  I learned that everyone left at 5pm on Friday, and I had a nice, quiet environment in which to roll up my sleeves and get this done.  I also could go home over the weekend without the nagging feeling of piles and a messy desk awaiting me on Monday.  Then when I arrived at work on Monday, I could walk in and feel relaxed because I had a clean desk to start my week.  It really reduced stress in many other ways – I was more efficient and could find information more quickly during the week, so I could get things done more quickly.

At another company, I used to arrive 1.5 hours before everyone else, and shut my door, turn off the email sound and my phone, and tackle the most important priority for the day.  It was amazing how much I could get done in that 90 minutes of uninterrupted, focused time.  The same thing can occur if you work from home for a morning each week.

I have come to love the feeling of getting things done right away.  I have learned that it’s much easier to block out time in my calendar to get things done than to deal with the subtle stress of carrying things over on a to-do list.  I have created a follow up system to easily track the things I am waiting on from others.  And I now have much more realistic expectations of what I can accomplish in a day.  Now it’s time for that chai tea latte…

Stretch Goals


Miss Charley Leaping for Treats

What are your stretch goals for 2016? Make sure they are “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Specific. Then write them down, share them with others, and look at them daily or weekly.  If your goals can be broken down into milestones and you can establish target dates for those milestones, you have just increased your chance of success.

Along the way, if you are not achieving a particular goal, figure out why. Is it a limiting belief that is holding you back? If so, work on overcoming that limiting belief. Is it procrastination? Then make a point to tackle that goal first thing in the morning before doing anything else. Or establish mini-rewards for achieving milestones toward that goal. For example, once I have achieved “X” today, I’ll take a break and walk around the office, or get a latte, or go out to lunch today rather than eating at my desk.

If you are particularly challenged with a goal and you can’t figure out a strategy to overcome a roadblock, ask for help. Others might be able to brainstorm alternative approaches that would enable you to achieve that goal.

Lastly, sometimes outside forces make a goal no longer relevant or attainable. If you are a taxi company and your original goal was to continue to grow your business as you have done in the past, and now Uber has come into your area, your original strategy may not be working. Rather than focusing on your goal of doing more of what you did in the past, it’s likely you will need to revise your strategy to compete with Uber. If goals become impossible due to external factors, it’s fine to replace them with other goals that will help you to achieve your long-term vision.

Stay focused, and make 2016 a terrific year!

Gratitude Journaling

Wilson Lam {WLQ} / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

At Thanksgiving, we are reminded to give thanks for what we have. However the remaining weeks of the year are often a stressful time for people and it’s easy to feel like you are in a slump or down in the dumps. If you are truly depressed, please get professional help. If you are just going through normal ebbs and flows in life and find yourself down in the dumps for more than a couple of weeks, I’d suggest that you try gratitude journaling.

What is a gratitude journal? It’s a notebook, diary or journal where you can jot down thoughts of gratitude each day. When you are feeling great, it is simple to think of things for which you are grateful. However when you are in pain (mentally or physically), worried, angry, or fearful, you don’t naturally think of appreciation or gratitude. Instead, you focus on the negative, and that negativity feeds on itself. That cycle can be hard to break. One way to break it is by forcing yourself to find something to appreciate each day. You can start by writing down all of the things that normally come to mind, such as family, friends, housing, etc. Then you should try to think of something new to add to the list each and every day.

It’s ok to start small. I’ve had someone tell me that all they could identify was that their car did not break down as they drove to work that day. Everything else that happened that day was awful. So if that’s the only thing they could come up with that day, it’s a start. However, I would suggest changing the wording to be more positive. In that example, it would be better to write, “I am grateful my car got me safely to work today.” Focus on making the journal a place for positive, grateful thoughts.

What typically happens after a week or so of gratitude journaling is that you become motivated to find more things you can appreciate, and therefore you start to see things in a different light. You’ll find yourself feeling better and more positive about everything, gradually leaving those dumps behind!

Please be aware, that sometimes you will have a truly awful day. On that day, it may be difficult to come up with anything new to write in your journal. On those days, I suggest you read back through your previous gratitude postings, and you will be amazed how far you have come. You may even be able to identify something new to write for that bad day!

Happy journaling…

Trust and Connectedness

Story Blog man hugging tiger

I had the pleasure last week of training new Vistage Chairs through our 6 day “boot camp”. It’s always fun for me to bring a group of strangers together and, in just a few days, create a tight-knit, bonded group of people. We do that intentionally to show them how quickly they should be able to bond their new Vistage groups once they are established, since creating an environment of confidentiality and trust is critical to the success of a new Vistage group. When people are truly connected on an emotional, caring level, they are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to help one another.

Of course, Vistage is not the only environment where that works. Our military branches also do a great job of connecting people emotionally to one another, which is crucial when their lives are on the line. Survivors of trauma are often also connected on a deep level with one another. Even kids attending summer camp away from home also can create close friendships in a very short time. Perhaps you have experienced this type of connectedness with others. Isn’t it a terrific feeling?

What could that type of bonding and closeness do for your business? What if your employees truly cared for one another, and went above and beyond the call of duty to help one another succeed? What if you were able to create a culture of trust and camaraderie? Not only could your profits increase, you would also likely attract the best new employees. In this competitive marketplace, that would be a valuable differentiator. Why not give it a try?