Why Should I Read | Bringing Out the Best in People

The Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us on this island or lose the war…

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: “This was their finest hour.”

With these words, Winston Churchill, the stodgy has-been who somehow was given the Prime Ministership, galvanized an entire nation huddled in their homes awaiting bombardment. Through his thunderous voice booming across the airwaves, Churchill instilled a will to survive and an unshakeable spirit in the people of Britain.

Dr Alan Loy McGinnis distills principles of great motivators down into 12 principles recorded in his book Bringing Out the Best in People. Each of these principles has tremendous potential for application and one blog post can hardly do justice to even one of them.

Here is the full list of 12, but realize there are four indexed pages of names at the end of the book… Each name represents a story of how that person exemplified one of the principles somewhere in the book. So go read the book!

12 Rules for Bringing Out the Best in People

  1. Expect the best from people you lead.
  2. Make a thorough study of the other person’s needs.
  3. Establish high standards for excellence.
  4. Create and environment where failure is not fatal.
  5. If they are going anywhere near where you want to go, climb on other people’s bandwagons.
  6. Employ models to encourage success.
  7. Recognize and applaud achievement.
  8. Employ a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement.
  9. Appeal sparingly to the competitive urge.
  10. Place a premium on collaboration.
  11. Build into the group an allowance for storms.
  12. Take steps to keep your own motivation high.

This may seem like a daunting list, but McGinnis reminds the reader on p. 16: “Motivators are not born – they are made. And they are almost always self-made.”

While some may possess several of these traits naturally, they can all be learned and implemented with increasing effectiveness.

Let’s explore the first of these twelve.

I promise in the beginning of this week’s video that we’ll discuss someone you have never heard of before.

That’s right, there’s almost no chance that you’ve heard of John Erskine before. Go ahead, Google him.

The thing is, you’ll have to go to the end of the second page of hockey player results to reach a result about this John Erskine.

While Google may pass him over for someone who has a twitter account, former U.S. president (and former president of Columbia University) Dwight D. Eisenhower called John Erskine the greatest teacher Columbia ever had. Teaching in the english department he was also a concert pianist, author of 60 books, and was described as having a defiant optimism.

His bullish view of the future became apparent when he would often tell his classes, “the best books are yet to be written; the best paintings have not yet been painted; the best government are yet to be formed; the best is yet to be done by [you].”

That kind of inspiration caused one of the most powerful men on the planet to call him, “Columbia’s greatest teacher.”

That sums up in a certain sense principle #1. “Expect the best from people you lead.”

Another way to look at this expectation principle other than simple sanguine predictions is the idea of necessity and building on people’s innate desire to succeed.

In one of the toughest experiences of my life, I realized the power of these points.

I was working on a campaign to elect the next governor of Texas. At 3 weeks to election day, our campaign manager got all of the staff on a call and announced that the final two weeks would be entirely filled with phone calling. She expressed her sincere belief that we could reach our individual call goals and reminded us of the stakes of the election.

After getting off the call, I realized that to reach my goal I would need to make over 1,000 calls every day myself within my districts. I knew at the rate I had been calling I couldn’t do that. After a brief period of fuming, I began figuring out how to change process so that I could hit my goal.


Our Campaign Manager sincerely expected the best of each of us on staff. I knew that we had to figure out how to make enough calls to voters unlikely to vote if they were not contacted and I had an intense desire to win.

Her belief coupled with these other factors motivated me to change my process, work longer hours, and stay at the office later during those last two weeks than I thought possible several days prior.

The study of becoming a great motivator and an effective leader is the pursuit of many lifetimes. Towards the end of the book McGinnis oversimplifies in an elegant way his view of the two things one must possess to be a successful leader: “1) an astute knowledge of what makes people tick; and 2) a spirit that spreads excitement and energy to other people” (p. 161).

I personally think that is far to simplistic but it wouldn’t be a great book if I agreed with everything, right?

I’ll leave you until next week with this thought from Zig Ziglar:

“Motivation is like a shower, you might not notice if you don’t have it every day, but those around you sure will!”

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Why Should I Read | Crucial Conversations

You’ve been asked by your boss several times to have expense reports in on time. It’s been on the agenda at 3 monthly staff meetings now. He has given several “office lectures” about punctuality. You’re on top of things this month, and got it in by the deadline. Two days later you see the boss slip an expense report into accounting. What do you do?

Crucial Conversations can sneak up on you at any time.

Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler define a Crucial Conversation, as “any conversation between two or more people where emotions run strong, opinions are varied, and the stakes are high.

Check out this week’s video at 0:45 for a fun story about one of my past experiences being totally unprepared for a crucial conversation.

Later on in the video I give one main idea and two quick points for getting you out ahead of the mass of people who find themselves in crucial conversations.

There are a plethora of situations that these world-class researchers have analyzed and give ideas for handling. But this main strategy and two applications will put you in good stead in many of them.

The main idea is this: Keep dialogue and the flow of meaning alive.

The word “Dialogue” from Etymology.com has this history:

dialogue (n.)Look up dialogue at Dictionary.comearly 13c., “literary work consisting of a conversation between two or more persons,” from Old French dialoge, from Latin dialogus, from Greekdialogos “conversation, dialogue,” related to dialogesthai “converse,” from dia- “across” (see dia-) + legein “speak” (see lecture (n.)).

In my video, I state a different etymology of this word, based on the original greek roots of the parts of the word.

In order to make the free flow of relevant information the path of least resistance we need to start with ourselves and be aware of our style under stress. There are a number of ways that people try to throw you or themselves off the path to dialogue but you can be prepared. Go read the book for full strategies but here are two to start with.

First, “Learn to Look.” Within this strategy we will look at two tangents that you need to look for that take you away from dialogue: Silence & Violence.

Within Silence, people intentionally leave out or withhold information from the pool of meaning. The three most common forms of this are masking true intentions, avoiding sensitive subjects, or withdrawing from the conversation altogether.

Within Violence, one tries to force meaning into the pool. This generally comes through trying to controlling others, labeling them something derogatory, or attacking them verbally.

Second, “Make it Safe.” There are five parts to making it safe, and you’ll have to go read the book to get them in detail. In summarizing them, I looked back to last week when we went through Tribes by Seth Godin and took a page from his book. He states that leaders when communicating with their tribe and bringing them together either choose to “lean in” or “lean out.” Making it safe for the person you are in conversation with could mean leaning in by determining the true issue or it could mean leaning out by stepping out to clear the air.

You’ll have to go read the rest of the book to get through mastering your story, exploring paths to reconciliation, taking action with others and by yourself.

Until next week, keep reading!

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Why Should I Read | Start with Why

Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.  – Start With Why p. 6

If you enjoy TED talks, you’ll enjoy Start With Why. Simon Sinek’s explanation of “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” through the “The Golden Circle” and “The WHY” is the third most watched clip in TED’s history with 26.7 million views.

For a group of over 26 million people to spend 18 minutes doing the same thing is remarkable. In comparison, the new Game of Thrones premiere on HBO brought 10.7 million viewers together and broke the HBO record.

Sinek brings out many of the same points in his book and is able to expand and apply the concepts that he touches on in this video. A phrase you’ll hear repeated throughout is that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” 

In this week’s video, I start off with the now-famous newspaper ad Ernest Shackleton put in an early 1900s London newspaper:

Men Wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

 Sinek argues that an ad like that brought together individuals who were united by their burning desire to overcome, to face long odds, to survive. When Shackleton assembled a team of overcomers like this, they set off to traverse Antarctica.

ice wave

But the expedition was ill-fated, the Endurance, was crushed in the ice before they ever reached the southern continent. Yet the men were undaunted. Shackleton led his intrepid band across the frozen sea 828 miles to Elephant Island. During this ordeal not a single explorer perished.

Their incredible stamina and their undying perseverance speaks to the intensity of their desire to overcome. ice hikers

Sinek says that individuals who are able to tap into this well of inner strength and fortitude of individuals have accessed their “WHY.”

In fact, we are designed with our limbic brain and through our subconscious minds to attach to certain values and actions in a way that generally cannot be accurately described in words. Usually we can find a logical reason for the way we act, but in general we act on our “gut” feeling. (p.53-64)

This gets us closer to the central premise that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The “WHY” of an organization or movement, according to Sinek, is usually embodied by an individual. Someone like Steve Jobs, who made everything he did about challenging the status quo, inspired a company that disrupted several industries.

You’ve never waited in line for the next Dell product or heard of people that did, have you. apple store

People, when asked why they bought Apple products, could come up with any number of seemingly logical explanations but in many cases it was because they resonated with the “WHY” of challenging the status quo. It was a certain type of person who sat outside the Apple store for the next model iPhone.

They could have gotten a similar phone with nearly identical specifications from a different brand or just waited a week and got an iPhone later, but they were busy buying the “WHY” of Apple. The “What” had to trail behind.

This doesn’t mean that companies or individuals can tap into a “WHY” and then run rampant. Several weeks back we took a look at Sam Walton. He embodied customer service in his retailing, and every action that Walmart took while he was alive was to serve people. This built their business into one of the largest companies in the world, but after Walton passed away, the corporation lost the “WHY.”

Today, if you go to Walmart, you’ll find a very different store than the ones described in Made in America.

You and I have the opportunity to tap into this well of motivation as well. We are well supplied throughout history with individuals who found their “WHY.”

Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi identified their why and inspired a movement that went far beyond their personal influence.

Sinek encourages you and I to inspire rather than manipulate, and I agree with him.

Start with your Why.

Just don’t get shipwrecked in Antarctica.

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