Which of these six leadership hacks are you using?

One day I will get around to creating a Hype Cycle (à la Gartner) for management and leadership buzzwords. Somewhere in between blockchain and tiger team you will find leadership hacking.

I don't always use jargon, but when I do it is crisp and disruptiveLeadership Hacks are Cliché but Effective

No, I’m not talking about the guy that learned all the languages while blowing hard boiled eggs out of their shells (no hyperlinks: if you don’t get that reference already, I’m not going to torture you with finding out). Leadership hacks are those subtle yet amazing techniques that aren’t written down in Drucker, or HBR, or Military Doctrine. These are the six techniques that I’ve observed in the real world over my first couple decades of professional experience:

  1. The Compelling Event: to prompt action (or a decision) by a certain date. Also known as “pencils down.” Why it works? In a multi-tasking, oversubscribed world, this technique prevents the modern version of Parkinson’s Law from taking hold: that every task expands to fill the time allotted.
  2. The Three Legged Race: to get two team members to confront their differences and appreciate their complementary strengths. Long-term version also called “two in a box.” Why it works? Often we fall into the trap of confirmation bias when we can keep people, or issues, at arm’s length. By forcing close collaboration, this can be overcome.
  3. The Yes, And …: Remove the word no from your vocabulary. Just like in improv comedy, to succeed you need to encourage participation and contributions, and work on redirecting creative energy towards the goal. You might be pleasantly surprised by new thinking that arises. Why it works? Gives your team the chance to provide the solutions (and receive the praise) while you constantly reframe and reframe.
  4. The Pre-Project Press Release: Begin with the end in mind. At the start of a project (or software development cycle), write the press release that you want to cross the wire when the project ends. Why it works? Visualization is a time-honored technique in athletics, performing arts, and business. Resist the urge to run off quickly to take action without planning the critical steps by working backwards from the goal.
  5. The On-site Off-site: Take a team into a conference room full-time for a full day (or week) to reach the depth of focus required for a true breakthrough in thinking. Oh, and also actually finish a task that they start. Why it works? Our work days have been fractured into thinner and thinner slices of focus by technology and projects running concurrently.
  6. The Weekly Digest: Send your manager, your team, or your customers a digest of important and interesting highlights from your work week. Include graphics and short summaries linked to longer items or attachments for easy digestion. The best Weekly Digests are a mixture of what matters to the reader with the topics that the author wants them to keep front-of-mind, written in a style that is lighthearted and enjoyable to read. Why it works? We can’t rely on others to communicate the ideas that are most important to our own success. In the hundreds (thousands?) of emails that people receive weekly, it’s easy to miss something important. Sending a digest email at the same time each week makes it a predictable, and in the best cases eagerly anticipated, summary. Take the time to advocate on your own behalf. Or, in a more Orwellian sense, ensure that you are the one to document history on your own terms.

Which of these have you used successfully? What would you add to this list? Leave a comment and let us all know!

The post Which of These Six Leadership Hacks are You Using? appeared originally on Leadertainment.com

Is Your Professional Development Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

One of my favorite former managers, whom I am now fortunate to call a friend, used to say that “hindsight is the only option in the absence of foresight.” Perhaps that’s the reason I can now look back on the first 1.5 decades of my career and offer some insights about personal development.

In our careers, and perhaps in life, we progress through phases:

  • thinking that we know everything
  • realizing we know very little about anything
  • demonstrating that we know a lot about something (or for the fortunate, a small number of things)
  • accepting that we can never really be certain about anything, while remaining curious about everything
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What is an Executive, you ask? Usually I reserve sidebars like this for comedic asides, but US tax dollars commissioned the Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm) and I want you to read it. Someone actually went to work over a series of hours to weeks and wrote this sincerely for the benefit of the US Economy. So please stifle all laughter when reading in the presence of public servants.

Previously I have written about specialization and capability development in career progression. In summary, as we follow a single career track our knowledge and proficiency become deeper and narrower, until we jump across to another track. Recently I realized two opposing corollaries to this concept.

The farther we progress on a single career track, two things arise

Pessimist’s view: the number of capabilities that you need to develop in order to advance gets smaller, and the chances that you have to practice or demonstrate them become less frequent. In my first year out of college, I was terrible at everything; pick any one skill and I would have 10 chances a day to practice doing it better (let’s start with “never hitting reply all“). Let’s say you are an executive with 25 years experience in the top decile of your industry, by some generally accepted scorecard. Maybe the thing at the top of your professional development list is “maximizing shareholder value from acquisitions.” Those are going to come along, like, once every 3-5 years? Even if you are in Private Equity or advise on deals you might only be personally responsible for a handful in a year. So the stakes become higher and the at-bats become scarcer. Pretty bleak.

Optimist’s view: your capability profile is positively differentiated from other professionals with equivalent tenure on other tracks, giving you an advantage in “disrupted” organizations. So if you are risk-tolerant enough to jump onto another track after developing significant capabilities, you are likely to find yourself in high demand (and it’s never too early to prepare a transition). Let’s say that on average, across industries, job descriptions for a given equivalent seniority level (e.g., “Vice President”) have 12 qualifications. If you are a top performer in, say, Marketing for a Software firm, and you see that there has been a major disruption in another industry, say, B2C Media or Telecom, you could find yourself in a situation where your skill set is a scarce and valuable asset compared to the incumbents who have been dutifully advancing their proficiency in the set of skills that was most valuable for the previous decade but is now less relevant. Will an executive search committee offer a prominent and strategically important role to an industry outsider in a time of disruption (read: crisis)? That will have to be the subject of another post!

So if you have managed to get this far in the post and are asking yourself, “What does this mean?” Here are is my advice, take it or leave it:

As you advance in your career, stay aware for opportunities to hone your craft, because the most important ones will become less frequent. At the same time, be willing to switch specializations because what is common in one organization could be rare and valuable in another.

What are the best job interview questions?

Mediocre interview questions are boring for everyone and don’t create clear differentiation between candidates, leaving the hiring manager to draw on gut instinct (also known as good old fashioned bias) when making a decision.

“How is this an issue?” Some interviews are doomed from the start.

Good interview questions help the hiring manager understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of a set of candidates in the context of the role’s requirements. Good interview questions are predictable enough that a candidate can provide composed, complete answers that put his or her best foot (feet?) forward, exhibiting both technical capabilities and unique personality traits.

Great interview questions make the experience engaging and informative for everyone involved. The best interviews build a positive reputation for the employer, regardless of whether the candidate receives an offer. The best interviews build confidence in both parties that there is a strong mutual fit and build positive momentum into the offer and joining phases of the hiring process.

So what are the best interview questions? Here are a few categories you should test for, regardless of the job description, along with a few examples I’ve encountered in my experiences on both sides of the interview table.

  1. Domain knowledge: “Tell me about five subjects on which you’d consider yourself an expert and how you gained knowledge in the area.”
  2. Interpersonal dynamic: “Think of a time where you discovered a mistake that would have caused significant cost to your team if it was not corrected. What was the mistake, who made it, and how did you resolve the situation?”
  3. Adversity and its aftermath: “Tell me about the most significant failure in your last role. What specific, personal contribution did you make that created the failure?”
  4. Unique contributions to success: “Tell me about the most significant success in your last role. What specific, personal contribution did you make that created the success?”
  5. Self-awareness and commitment to development: “What would you say is your main development area today? How did you become aware of it, and what are you doing to improve in that area?
  6. Professional relationships: “Looking at your resume, tell me in one sentence for each transition why you left and how you found the next role.”
  7. Mental fatigue: Near the end of the interview, ask the candidate to stand up in front of a white board and work through a tough logic puzzle like these involving weighty things, calendar cubes, or other popular techie puzzles. It’s not the answer that matters, it’s how the candidate demonstrates their ability to apply structured thinking under pressure.
  8. Mutual evaluation: Last, let the candidate ask any questions he or she has for you, so that everyone walks out of the room with the information they would need to make a decision on an offer. Are the questions about strategy, career progression, pay, coffee quality, weekend emails? You can learn a lot from what questions candidates ask in what order.

Please leave a comment if you have feedback or suggestions on this post. Happy hiring!

Executive Churn: It’s Not Me, It’s You

After enough seemingly random events, it’s natural for the human brain to start looking for patterns (just ask Daniel Kahneman). So when I recently heard news that one of my executive team was leaving the company to pursue the inevitable “other opportunities,” I started to wonder:

  • how did I manage to accept an offer with another company with an unstable leadership team?
  • where did my post-offer diligence break down?
  • what other blind spots do I have that are hiding major risks about this company?
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Is there a revolving door in your company’s executive suite?

Then a surge of awareness kicked in, and I realized that my self-orientation was causing a perilous bias in my view of the situation. ELC-Mercer data from 2013 put C-Suite turnover among Fortune 500 companies at 7.4%, in 2015 Crist|Kolder put CFO turnover at 10.9%, and in 2015 PwC measured the turnover rate for CEOs as 16.6% in the largest 2,500 companies globally. So after a couple years at the same company, seeing one or two executives walk does not seem like a rare and exceptional event, or necessarily precede a corporate apocalypse.

And why does executive churn even matter? For a few reasons, at least:

  • the remaining execs will have to pick up the extra work left by the open seat
  • the instability of the team may spark a power struggle and additional executive vacancies
  • uncertainty among analysts and investors could spark a period of volatility and decline in the stock price, further devaluing the long term options for the remaining execs and increasing the risk that they walk away

Of course understanding why the executive team is leaving, and how extensive of a search the Board and CEO are doing in order to restore a balanced, effective and aligned executive team, are important questions to answer in order to understand whether the executive churn at your shop is in-line with the industry average, or a precursor to an epic corporate meltdown. So here are a few questions to consider when estimating the executive churn risk at your business, whether you are evaluating an offer of employment or already an employee:

  • how long has each executive been in place, and how does this compare to the median tenure?
  • how aligned is each executive’s experience with the go-forward strategy for the company?
  • which executive’s “work-life balance” is increasing the risk of burnout? Warning signs include execs who live in a city other than the corporate HQ and commute more than 2 days per week, or those who are temporarily filling open division or functional leadership roles in addition to their core responsibilities.
  • is there a defined executive succession plan in place?
  • have there been significant corporate turbulence that increases the succession risk for your company’s executives? For example: merger & acquisition activity, entering or exiting markets, or significant upward or downward movement of the stock price.

There is a certain balance to be struck between staying focused to be successful in your own role, and staying aware about existential risks for the company that could threaten your career stability, regardless of your own performance. Everyone has their own risk tolerance, and hopefully the questions above will help you make decisions to find a place in an organization where you can thrive.

image credit: Alamy via dailymail.co.uk

 

Two ways to build trust in a new manager relationship

Like many things in life, these options could be summarized as: the easy way, or the hard way. And I am not going to post the link to the Boondocks clip. You’ll have to find it yourself.

There's the easy way, and ...
There’s the easy way, and …

Manager relationships are…relationships. Establishing trust is essential for both parties to feel valued, engaged, and satisfied. Getting to that point in a short period of time, without triggering tears or rage, is essential for the long-term health of any relationship. And it doesn’t happen by accident. This post focuses on the employee-manager relationship; feel free to abstract these concepts to other relationships at your own risk.

Building trust requires establishing a mutually agreed level of autonomy for the employee under the guidance of the manager in two key dimensions:

  • time span of discretion: what is the longest duration task for which the employee can take complete accountability? Viewed another way, how long is the manager willing to wait for a status update?
  • delegated decision authority: which decisions can the employee make without consulting and or informing the manager?

Time Span of Discretion

Credit for this term goes to Eliot Jaques, whose book The Requisite Organization is underrepresented in the modern leader’s library. I will warn you that it is not a casual read; be aware that the large conceptual rewards packed into this book require a large investment of attention. With that disclaimer out of the way, the idea from the book that I’m highlighting here is about what duration task the employee has the trust of the manager to execute independently. Does the manager want to see a daily task list and a midday status update? In this case the time span of discretion is somewhere between 4-10 hours. At the other end of the scale, CEOs often embark on multi-year global transformation programs with the hands-off support of their Boards, often requiring quarterly status reports at a maximum.

Delegated Decision Authority

The best metaphor from this concept that I’ve encountered is the Decision Tree from Susan Scott’s book Fierce Conversations. Just as a tree’s roots, trunk, branches, and leaves have different weighting on the future health of the tree, the levels of decision making have different weighting on the future health of the organization (or the career of the decision maker). I’ve summarized the concept in the table below:

decision tree table

For example, the pair might decide that any decisions around hiring, firing, or promotion are Trunk decisions. Which vendor to choose for the trade show giveaways is a Leaf decision. And so forth.

Now that we’ve defined the two essential components to establishing trust, let’s address the original question of HOW to get there:

  • The Easy Way: proactive, implicit, inductive. Sit down with the other party and discuss, before any specific events occur, what level of decision making authority will be delegated and what is the time bound of discretion. Establish the boundaries of the relationship before they are tested. In another context, how do you learn your way around a new city? Look at a map before you leave the house, ask your neighbors which parts of town to avoid.
  • The Hard Way: reactive, explicit, deductive. Jump into it, wait for things to happen and then talk about whether the events fit within the desired boundaries of the relationship. This approach to learning the new city is to wait for sunset and then wander out the front door with some cash in your front pocket and hope you make it back in one piece.

My intent in writing this piece is to raise your awareness of what will help define trust in your manger relationships and how you are going about establishing it. You can choose to take the hard way without judgement; just be aware of the potential bumps and bruises you might encounter along the way.

Thanks to Dan Schultz for inspiring this post. Questions or feedback? Leave a comment!

Have More “Right Side Days” in the New Year

If you aren’t yet overwhelmed with end of year review articles and new year prediction posts, here’s one practical exercise that I hope helps you live each day with a deeper sense of purpose and clarity. And pssssst, here’s a secret: you can start doing this any day of the year!

What do you want more of in your life?
What do you want more of in your life?

Whether we spend 5 minutes thinking about it or 5 days, each of us can list aspects of our life we’d like to experience more, and those we’d like less. This time of year is filled with ambitious intentions and aspirational resolutions that typically vanish in a few weeks. Chip Heath’s books (such as Decisive) are full of methodologies and examples to counteract this phenomenon: anyone visiting a gym or yoga studio in January vs March has seen it come to life.

So here’s a technique that will get much more longevity and traction towards making a positive change in your life than a few champagne splattered resolutions. By first reflecting to create the list, and then reviewing it often to hold ourselves accountable, and lastly using a brief “mantra” or trigger phrase to make the desirable aspects more memorable, this technique will help us follow through with good intentions. And let’s be honest: actually doing something feels way better than resolving to do it and forgetting!

Step 1: List the things you want more of, and want less of, in your life

Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. Or grab a notebook and open it to two clean facing pages. On the top of the left side, write “LESS OF”, and on the top of the right side, write “MORE OF.” Now as quickly or as slowly as you wish, fill each column with “stuff” (you decide which column these examples belong in!):

  • things: donuts, kale, headaches, puppies, money, coffee
  • activities: date nights, yoga classes, sleeping, reading books made of paper, looking at screens, dancing
  • ideas to uphold: self-respect, patience, treating kids like grown ups, aligning income with purpose, judgmental language

What worked for me was to keep a small notebook with me while I was on vacation, and jot a few ideas in it whenever I noticed myself doing something I wanted more of (or remembering that I wanted less of) in my post-vacation life. But whatever method that gets the ideas from your brain to the two columns is the right method for you. Last tip for step 1: one side’s list doesn’t have to contain all the opposite items on the other side, because you’re smart like that.

Step 2: Keep the list visible, and do one thing from the right side every day

The wall next to your bed. The bathroom mirror. Your desk. The kitchen cabinet door. Any place that you see at least once per day — bonus points if you see it at a time when you can actually follow through by doing one of the things from the right side column. The death of good intentions occurs directly after the phrase “Oh! I’ll do that right after I…” So even better than a reminder of what’s on your right side list, is DOING something on the right side list. Equally valuable is immediately NOT DOING something on the left side list. Congratulations! You’ve just experienced a Right Side Day.

Build your life one action at a time, and be happy if each act you perform contributes to a fulfilling and complete life. No one can prevent you from doing this.

Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor’s Handbook

Step 3: Remind yourself of your intentions with a trigger phrase

Be prepared to mutter a few of these embarrassingly until you find the one that feels right. Something like “right side, right now” or “left side, left behind” or “today’s a right side day” will help you remember the list you created when it’s not visible, and reinforce the positive choices you make to follow through on those intentions. No one but you ever has to hear this phrase in order for it to work, and, if you choose, you can share your list and your trigger phrase with a loved one to support you in reinforcing the new set of behaviors that you’ve selected.

All of us have ideas about making changes to our lives to be happier — whatever those changes and that definition of happiness might be. Whether or not today is the first day of a new year, it can be the first day that you start living by those ideas. My hope is that these three steps will help you have more Right Side Days that bring you happiness.

Has this technique worked for you? Do you have an even better method for living by your intentions? Leave a comment and let us know!

image credit: leadertainment.com

Grow your business faster with fewer “slow nos” in your sales pipeline

Sales conversations obviously boil down to a yes or a no answer from each prospect. But whether you get to that ultimate answer slowly or quickly makes a big difference to your revenue growth, margin, and sales team productivity.

yes no maybe 1000Sales people are a unique species (see Philip Delves Broughton’s The Art of the Sale), often blessed with inextinguishable optimism. In many situations, this can lead to slow moving or low probability opportunities hanging around in the pipeline for too long, consuming time and attention along the way. Sales and marketing teams should not be afraid of getting to “no” quickly — that’s why lead nurturing programs, such as the one designed by Marketo, or Hubspot, or OpenView, exist.


Here are two improvements to your sales and marketing systems that can prevent “slow nos” from getting into your opportunity pipeline in the first place:

Better lead qualification: How rigorously does your team score leads before they are treated as opportunities? How consistently are the definitions understood and applied across your teams? Generally, the more complex an organization–splitting sales and marketing organizations by region or product, for example–the greater the risk that “slow nos” are getting introduced into the pipeline. There are a number of different acronyms to define lead qualification criteria: BANT, CHAMP, FAINT, ANUM…besides awkwardness, all of these share elements of purchasing authority, pain or need, and urgency. Viewed through the eyes of the buyer, these components are obvious prerequisites to a purchase decision. The reason for applying rigor to lead qualification with these criteria is to filter out optimism with objectivity.

A better content marketing system: to allow prospects to direct themselves through the path to purchase. Typically buyers follow a progression through four phases: awareness, engagement, research, purchase. More and more commonly today, both B2C and B2B buyers take initiative to move themselves through the path to purchase phases, doing their own comparative research, checking their own references, and assessing value on their own. The role of the sales team shifts to enablement and advocacy (one style on the more aggressive end of the spectrum is The Challenger). Again, seen through the eyes of the modern buyer using Amazon, Yelp, or Glassdoor, this is obvious. Your organization can modernize its content marketing system by applying the best practices defined by OpenView or CEM. Success here will be measured by increased yield on outbound sales and higher inbound activity. Please note that getting a content marketing system right is really hard, and takes lots of hard work by a coordinated team of people. MarketingSherpa has tons of great case studies and other resources, including this B2B software example.

No matter what your business sells, and no matter who your customers are, you can grow revenue and margin faster by keeping the “slow nos” out of your pipeline with the best practices above. Have a success story to share? Struggling to put these theories into practice? Leave a comment and start the conversation!

original artwork by Juliette Hale.

What drives your actions: interruptions or initiative?

The more Capitalist Hero biographies we read, the more we start to believe that initiative, drive, spark–whatever you call that motive force inside a leader that turns ideas into reality–is the essential quality that we should bring to work every day. Except, of course, when you shouldn’t.

[Note: I was recently reminded that this knock-knock joke is not quite as funny when “cow” is replaced with “husband.”]

Ironically, the vast majority of leadership roles–across industries, up and down the ranks of various size organizations–require the opposite type of trigger for action. Interrupt-triggered leaders, meaning the ones who are masters of prioritization, delegation, and execution of tasks that originate externally, are far more effective in the situations where you show up to work with a 5 gallon pail only to have 10 gallons of, er, sunshine piled on your desk every day.

I came across the idea for this post buried deep in a refreshing book by Ben Horowitz called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. I believe it was in a chapter about memorable hiring mistakes. In fact, most of the book is about memorable mistakes from his career as a technology entrepreneur, interspersed with hardcore West Coast rap lyrics, which makes for a very refreshing alternative to most Silicon Valley Hero books I’ve encountered.

So with the concept of leadership actions triggered by interrupt vs initiative out in the open, here a couple questions for you to consider as you take the concept with you to work tomorrow:

  • Am I more naturally triggered to act by interrupts (reactive style) or initiative (proactive style)? Here’s a test to help you decide: imagine a meeting gets canceled at the last minute and you find yourself with a free hour. Do you grab that crumpled bar napkin/receipt/sticky note off your desk with the “big idea” you wrote down last week and start working on it, now that you finally have some time? Or, do you wait a couple minutes for some hot new emails to arrive, and if nothing comes, take a lap around the office asking if anyone needs a “roadblock removed?”
  • What style of leader will my team need most in the next 12 months? Remember, there is no judgement between interrupt- vs initiative-triggered leaders. They are just different styles, suited for different situations. I won’t, however, open up the can of worms about whether the interrupt- or initiative-triggered leader is the cause or the effect of the organizational situation. Let’s just acknowledge that when they fit, the right kind of work gets done at the right pace to move the group forward.

Who is the quintessential interrupt-triggered leader in your life? Who is the embodiment of initiative? When do you find that one style is more effective than another? Leave a comment and let the leadertainment community know!

Which of these 4 traps makes you work longer hours?

In today’s “always on” business world, containing the workday becomes increasingly difficult. For many people, the concept of a 9 to 5 job is a fantasy, as projects, meetings, and inbox wrangling can easily consume nights and weekends if left unrestrained.

But blaming your boss, colleagues, or clients for having to work longer hours provides false satisfaction. Which of your own work habits are the cause? Watch out for these four traps:

  1. Goal not defined clearly: if you are the type of person who immediately jumps into a project or task without stopping to define the outcome, this trap is the most likely cause of your long work hours. Even if you “begin with the end in mind,” you must take the time to think about your work product and deliverables from the perspective of your customer (or manager, or peer; whoever is the recipient of your work). What does success look like from his or her perspective? What problem are you working to solve? What are the acceptance criteria? For larger projects, it is worthwhile to outline your answers in a few concise bullet points, and review them with your customer before beginning work.
  2. Process to achieve the goal not well understood: Once you understand the goal, you must understand how to get there. Often re-work and delays arise when the process of getting from point A to point B is undefined. If the work is new to you, but not to your organization, invest a bit of time in researching the group’s documentation for the processes you will follow (examples: procurement, maintenance, software release management). Then, talk to people you trust to understand the “tribal knowledge” that isn’t captured in any formal document. If the work is new to everyone, take a few minutes to sketch out a swimlane diagram (see basic and advanced examples) to clarify who does what, when.
  3. Time not reserved to do the work: Block out a few hours per day in your calendar with working time to discourage people to invite you to meetings for for whole day. If you don’t you’ll find independent work time creeping into your nights and weekends (in many organizations, the meetings will too, sadly).

    Meetings are productivity eating zombies if not tightly managed.
    Meetings are productivity eating zombies if not tightly managed..
  4. Unproductive during work time: There are three main causes of low productivity during the time you’ve blocked out to work independently. First, you can be distracted: phone calls, drop ins (different from hop ons), reading mildly informative blogs and other unrelated interruptions (for starters, just close your email client!). Second, you can have relatively low domain knowledge: “newbies” in any industry will be less productive as they learn new vocabulary and concepts (although they may find novel solutions without suffering from the same constraints as the veterans). Third, you can have low process proficiency. In plain English, you are slow to complete tasks despite having both process and domain knowledge.

Everyone makes different choices about how much time to devote to career and how much to family, friends, and hobbies. If you’re interested in reclaiming more of  your weekly hours to non-working pursuits, check whether you are susceptible to any of these four traps. Leave a comment if you have other feedback, questions, or ideas!

image credit: myconfinedspace.com

Lessons in Life and Leadership from My Dog, Jack

It might seem surprising to think of a pet as a role model. But when reflecting on the 10 years that I was fortunate enough to share with this Corgi, I recognized a number of character traits worth emulating.

Jack. 2000 - 2015.
Jack. 2000 – 2015.
  1. Know what motivates you. Pursue that with passion. Like most Corgis, Jack was “highly food-motivated.” His nose was a relentless sentinel in pursuit of the next snack. A good belly rub was a close second. Key point: Reflect and understand what deep, internal drive motivates your actions. Don’t get caught in a mindless routine.
  2. Be fully present and focused on the task in front of you. Ignore distractions. Whenever Jack was playing his favorite games or practicing his (admittedly limited) commands, nothing could break his concentration. Squirrels, cars, kids, cats, seagulls – none could elicit a wiggle of those attentive ears. Key point: in an increasingly distracted, multi-tasking world, give yourself completely to the person or work in front of you. This focus and commitment demonstrates the priority and will elicit your best level of performance.
  3. Be patient when people get in your face. Know when to walk away. Jack was not a fighter. Sure, he would growl at dogs three times his size if they came on his turf. But he showed admirable patience with babies pulling his paws, grandmas wiping his whiskers – and when he had enough, he would trot back to his crate and find space. Key point: Control your emotions when others test your temper to avoid damaging relationships.
  4. Speak only when you have something important to say. When you speak, leave no doubt that you were understood. We have all met people, and dogs, who whine, yip, and howl incessantly. None of these are fun to be around, and eventually we tune them out. Jack rarely barked; when he did, there was a good reason, and we listened. Key point: The most effective communicators are selective, clear, and concise.
  5. Make the most of second chances. We adopted Jack when he was 5 years old, after his original owners got divorced and he was returned to his breeder’s kennel. We were all very fortunate to come together, and Jack became the “first, furry kid” in our family. Key point: Mistakes happen, plans fall apart. Don’t let the past hinder you from building a rewarding future.
  6. Demonstrate consistency, integrity, and thoroughness in your actions. These traits build mutual trust and confidence. We joked that Jack was the best behaved member of the family, but in many ways, it was true. Without reciting a long list of examples, please remember that exhibiting the traits listed above will strengthen any relationship: with clients, co-workers, friends, or family.
  7. Leave nothing but positive memories in your wake. Jack made a lot of people very happy. Even as his body failed him, his energetic personality prevailed. Many of us would be fortunate to live up to such a positive standard in our own lives.

Rest in peace Jack, you will stay with us in our hearts.