Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Dan Rockwell

Attitude matters far more than skills, talents and knowledge?
In politics, Bill Clinton said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In leadership it’s the attitude, stupid.
By Dan Rockwell?

Top Ten Marks of Lousy Leaders


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David Lewis, co-author of The Pin Drop Principle, told me he was exposed to poor leadership when he was in his early twenties.

“Back then everything was a race and all that mattered was the numbers. In that context customers are statistics.” Lewis explained.

It’s been over a month since our conversation and I’m still thinking about the damage poor leaders wreak on others. David said, “They didn’t teach me the importance of working together.”

It’s about attitude:

Lousy leadership begins with self-protective attitudes not lack of skills, intelligence, or talent.

Lousy leaders:

  1. Need to know more than others.
  2. Can’t explore for fear of being wrong.
  3. Won’t ask obvious questions for fear of looking dumb.
  4. Need their egos stroked.
  5. Wonder who’s out to get them.
  6. Fear high performers; they need the spotlight.
  7. Struggle to collaborate.
  8. Won’t change their minds.
  9. Feel isolated and alone.
  10. Sacrifice long-term success for short-term profits.

Lousy leaders can’t serve others because they serve themselves.


All leaders screw up. But great leaders possess right attitudes even when they fall short.

  1. Humility.
  2. Optimism.
  3. Curiosity.
  4. Endurance.
  5. Tenacity.
  6. Compassion.
  7. Responsibility.

Leaders matter most when they help others learn to help others.

Lewis said he’d learned that “success is not just about the numbers.” It’s a challenging statement because numbers matter. Skill, talent, and intelligence also matter. Attitude matters most.

What bad attitudes do bad leaders possess?

For how long you intend repeating the same routine?

Repeating things without improving them means you’re dead in the water, stuck in the muck, dying on the vine.

Don’t simply do the next thing; make it better.

By Dan Rockwell?

Leading isn’t repeating.

Your calendar includes reoccurring things  like, performance reviews, company meetings, client calls, and staff development, to name a few.

Don’t repeat, improve.

But isn’t improvement hard? Is there time, energy, and resources? Improvement isn’t an option it’s an imperative.

Making things better is better when it’s easy. Remember, making things harder isn’t an improvement.

Making it easy to make things better:

  1. New techniques. Do old things in new ways. What new approach to performance reviews can you employ, for example?
  2. New value to clients. Quarterly client calls gain value when you bring new value. Clients who trust you want your recommendations and suggestions for improving their business.
  3. More humanity.
  4. Variety. Try new locations, times, participants, even order of activity.
  5. Next level. Last time we had balloons this time we’ll have clowns.
  6. New value to employees. Shift from receiving value to giving value. How can you delight staff?
  7. Build on the present, don’t eliminate it.
  8. Eliminating antiquated systems, rituals, processes, and procedures. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, it’s time to stop it or rediscover why.
  9. Surprise.
  10. Define “better”.

Bonus: Improvement means canceling a minimal-value  meeting. Send an email instead.

Don’t change everything but improve something.

Waiting for big improvement often results in no improvement. On the other hand, small improvements make a big difference.

Where and how can leaders make simple improvements that make things better?

Pain is living: Early actions let you live better

The trouble with pain is ignoring it.

Toothaches begin as dull twinges. Tumors are coughs. Before long, fillings are root canals and tumors are death.

Toothaches and tumors never magically go away.

I’m not ready to check with a physician means it doesn’t hurt enough.

By Dan Rockwell?

Pain is a slow sunrise, quiet. But, noon always comes. Listen to pain in the morning; don’t wait for noon.


Life without pain is death.

Leaders courageously listen for pains voice. Delay invites damage. Pain is not the enemy. Invite it in for a chat. “Damn that hurts.”

The role of pain:

  1. Pain screams “something’s wrong” but doesn’t solve or correct.
  2. Pain points to symptoms not root problems.
  3. Pain is a consequence not a cause, at least at first.
  4. Pain succeeds when we look for causes and cures.
  5. Pain solves when stopping is enough.
  6. Everything that hurts isn’t bad.


“Just make it stop,” is a distraction. Leaders look through pain to find real issues.

Under-performing employees are the toothache, but the root problem may be organizational, for example.

Correcting under-performers may provide surface solutions; developing organizations capacities provides deep cures.

Dull ache:

You’re feeling dull aches that suggest intervention.

  1. Relational aches.
  2. Staff malfunctions.
  3. Inner dissatisfaction.
  4. Customer distress.
  5. Procedure failures.


  1. Point out pain-points and ask, “What’s behind this issue?”
  2. “Is it escalating or de-escalating?”
  3. “Does this situation require intervention? Why or why not?”
  4. “What are you doing about it?”
  5. “How can I help?”
  6. “Can we solve this with current or new procedures?”
  7. “Tell me more next week.”

All leaders have stories of toothaches that turned to root canals and tumors that killed.

I’m not ready means it doesn’t hurt enough.

Leaders don’t address every issue; they give space for others to find solutions. However, leaders always monitor pain-points. Don’t pretend they’ll go away.

Do you tend to delay too long, act too quick, or move-in on pain-points at just the right moment?

How do you address pain-points?

Note: For terminally ill patients, when all kinds of tranquilizers stop functioning, do you believe a patient still keep thinking: “As long as I’m in pain, then I’m alive?”

Are Superstars talented? Can these kinds of talented people save the day?

By Dan Rockwell?

Superstars aren’t the answer:  they may be a few of our problems.

Isn’t it thrilling when high performers join your organization? Finally, someone can bring home the bacon like no one else. Wrong!

Superstars who believe they save the day are selfish hogs. Organizations don’t need swine they need strong teams that deliver results together.

Individual contributors – superstars – might help for the short-term but eventually they cripple organizations and destroy morale.

High potential:

Real high potentials work well with others; they don’t work in isolation.

Team players are better than individual contributors.

Team players:

  1. Develop organizational capacity.
  2. Share the spotlight.
  3. Sacrifice for the team.
  4. Build morale.
  5. Have humble spirits.
  6. Encourage.
  7. Listen.

Dig deep:

Highly talented individuals who work well with others produce results and lift organizations.

Control yourself the next time you interview a super star. Ask, “How well have they played with others?” Perhaps the real job interview should be with team-mates. How well did they work with others?

  1. Disagree agreeably?
  2. Speak honestly?
  3. Work behind the scenes?
  4. Contribute to the success of others?
  5. Back-stab?

It’s easy to find yourself starry-eyed with talented super stars and high potentials. Beware, you need more than talent; you need talented team players.

How do you spot highly talented team players?

What can leaders do to enhance team work?

How do you conceive self-worth? How you go about creating worthy achievements?

How to feel satisfied with or without money?

By Dan Rockwell?

Money matters.

Do you believe that money without the attached respect is dissatisfying? How to feel satisfied with or without money?

What is this self-worth concept? Is it a personal perception or actual recognition of people around you of your worth?

Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Inc. stated: “There are two things people want more than sex and money- recognition and praise.”

“Always affirm worth, even if you can’t reward financially”.


I believe we go further by focusing on strengths, but I tend to focus on my weaknesses.

It’s a constant battle. When someone comes to “help” me with a shortcoming I smile and listen but the truth is I’ve already thought of that one and a dozen more.

The bad tends to overshadow the good; failure tends to overshadow success.

Passion to improve may magnify shortcomings and failures.

Change begins with dissatisfaction. Discontent is part of passion for excellence. Organizations grow gloomy apart from large doses of recognition and praise. More criticism than praise results in depressed environments.

Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend everything’s ok. Deal with failures and shortcomings, and stop pretending that failure is a good enough reason to withhold praise for success in another.

Celebration works better than complaint.

When failures obscure successes, darkness prevails. Negative environments are created as we keep criticizing failure more than recognizing success. Things could always be improved.

Replace discontent with recognition and praise, just for today.

How do you fall into the negativity trap?

How can you create positive energy?

Creating 16 good fortune? I’ll settle for one, as a start

By Dan Rockwell?

Ask any successful person how they achieved success and many will mention good fortune.

Some will say, “I was lucky.” (Napoleon believed that some generals were just Not lucky persons)

For instance:

Jay Elliot told me he met Steve Jobs in the waiting area of a restaurant after leaving Intel for a job at a start-up. The start-up failed. Jay had no job.

Andy Grove, Intel’s president and Jay’s former boss, gave Jay this parting message, “You’re making a big mistake – Apple isn’t going anywhere.”

Jay became a V.P. at Apple and Jobs’ right hand man. Steve was twenty-five. It was just months before Apple went public.


I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it. (Denzel Washington)

The Sweet 16 of creating good fortune:

  1. Stay open. The thing you seek may not be the thing you find.
  2. Keep asking questions. (Intently listening for the opportunities?)
  3. Look for favorable circumstances. People see what they look for.
  4. Set direction and goals; they help you understand favorable winds.
  5. Adapt to favorable opportunities that aren’t perfect.
  6. Keep moving forward even if direction changes.
  7. Prepare for adversity.
  8. Embrace turbulence; it opens hearts and minds.
  9. Let go of failure.
  10. Talk opportunities. Talking problems elevates and validates them. The more you talk about problems the more problems you see.
  11. Learn from mistakes.
  12. Push through resistance.
  13. Disregard convenient activities; do what is right.
  14. Build a network of friends.
  15. Ask for advice, a lot. Seek out experts and others who share your experiences and vision.
  16. Express gratitude.

Bonus: Do your best where you are.

Successful leadership includes good fortune. I don’t believe in luck but good fortune isn’t always an accident.

How can leaders create good fortune?

Do we really need cures for pessimism? Like what and for resolving what?

By Dan Rockwell?

I’m a huge fan of “just go do something,” but this world filled with options and uncertainty is paralyzing.

When fear prevents the next step, pessimism prevails. Pessimists can’t lead.

“The more fearful we are the more pessimistic we grow about the future,” Soren Kaplan, author of, Leapfrogging: Harnessing the Power of Surprise for Business Breakthroughs.

The cure for pessimism:

Refusing to take the next step because you fear failure creates pessimism. On the other hand, anticipating and preparing for contingencies is wisdom, not pessimism.

Churchill put it this way, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

I asked Soren for a cure to fearful pessimism. He said, “It doesn’t matter what you do next as long as you do something and learn.” The worst thing you can do is sit and stew.

Kaplan said, “Do something you believe is right – that aligns with values and makes sense – and you create optimism. The exciting thing about optimism is it fuels action.” But how?

Choosing the next step:

During our conversation we explored strategies for identifying the next “best” step.

Soren suggested three questions:

  1. Where is the opportunity for biggest impact? Prioritize.
  2. What must be done? Urgency is determined by threats and opportunities.
  3. What are the abilities of the team? Where can the horses in the barn take you?

Expert opinions, data, and research are helpful but not necessary. Just go do something.

Soren said, “Mitigate risk by asking, what’s the smallest step you can take that gives the biggest impact.”

The only thing remaining is the courage and resolve to step out and learn.

“To achieve greatness: start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” Arthur Ashe 

In a world of options and uncertainty, how can leaders identify the next “best” step?

When does failure matter?

By Dan Rockwell?

The self-defense instructor taught us to escape first. But if you can’t escape, put your back up against the wall or find a corner to stand in.

Any position that Attackers can’t surround youvulnerabilities diminish by 50 and 75 percent, respectively (wall or corner).

Every leader has been up against the wall. What was it like?

Up against the wall is the place
where failure matters.


  1. “Proper” procedures fade.
  2. Fear creates resolve.
  3. Passivity turns to activity.
  4. Confusion turns to clarity.
  5. Confusion turns to clarity.
  6. Everything matters more.
  7. You forget about what others think of you.


  1. Clarify your mission – realign.
  2. Forget what you used to do – reinvent.
  3. Escape remembered identity – re-imagine.
  4. Assess the strengths of your current team – reexamine.
  5. Better utilize the strengths of your team – reassign.
  6. Tap into sustaining relationships both within and without – reconnect.
  7. Act decisively.
  8. Be willing to fail large, it’s freeing – release.

When you’re up against the wall, stop doing the things that got you there.

What has being up against the wall done for you?

What suggestions can you offer leaders who are up against the wall?

Let failure stew: Resist helping until proper attitudes reached..

By Dan Rockwell?

Peter Jenson, Ph.D., author, coach, and Olympic sports psychology consultant, said many things during our conversation but one most gripped me.

“I let them stew in their failure for a while.”
Peter Jenson Ph.D.

A team Jenson worked with suffered a disappointing loss. He let them sleep on it. I’ve been mulling over Jenson’s strategy.

Resist the impulse to help when not helping is helpful.

  1. Struggle strengthens.
  2. Failure humbles.
  3. Defeat opens hearts and minds.

Resist the impulse to help when helping in the past didn’t help.

The goal of helping is less helping not more. Repeated helping suggests deeper issues, stop it.

An inability to stop helping
is about you.

The longer you help the more painful the stop. If you’ve been carrying someone, it’s going to hurt when you drop them.

The pain of dropping them now will be less than the pain you cause by helping too much. The painful truth is helping isn’t always helpful.

A history of helping – helps. Be certain you have a history of helping before resisting the impulse to help.

I’ve often been hands off too soon. It makes me seem distant, disconnected, and uncaring. My objective is noble but my method ineffective.

To me, staying back expresses respect. Build a base of support before resisting the impulse to help.

The goal of not helping is the same as helping.

The goal of pulling back or stepping in is always development. The simple question is, “Will pulling back aid development?” It’s never personal.

Don’t pull back to prove a point. Anger suggests pulling back is about you not them.

Bonus tip: Don’t help those with bad attitudes. Deal with attitudes before behaviors.

Pulling back isn’t permanent. Jensen called a team meeting the next day to discuss their disappointing loss.

When/how do you resist the impulse to help?

Why are you so scared for asking feedback on your actions?

The statement that consistently receives the lowest rating is, “Asks for feedback on how his/her actions affect other people’s performance.” (pg. 85)

By Dan Rockwell?

“Leaders are reluctant to want to know
how we impact others.” Jim Kouzes

This thought woke me up about 3:00 a.m. this morning:

Authenticity leaves a thin line between
who I am and what I do.

Authentic leaders act authentically. The problem with negative feedback is it’s about us, it’s personal.

Dealing with negative feedback:

First, feedback must be so regular it’s expected and normal.

Second, the frequency of positive feedback must outweigh negative. Positive environments are established and maintained with positive talk. Work at being affirming and encouraging.

Third, make the authentic you a person who pursues excellence. It’s impossible to achieve excellence without feedback. Choosing to pursue excellence opens the door for leaders to frequently ask, “How am I doing?”

Bonus benefit: Constant feedback may prevent the bubble of negative feedback that builds up and festers in organizations. Many small doses may be easier and healthier that one large dose.

What other suggestions would help leaders more frequently ask, “How am I doing?”

Leadership Freak Alert: I’m heading to the Global Leadership Summit and it’s likely you’ll receive at least one more Freak-post today. If you’re at the Lancaster, PA site, look me up.




June 2023

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