Category Archives: Blog

Ten-ish Must Read Books

Tremendous (as Charlie was often called) was spot on, at least in my experience. About this time 5 years ago, I had just been invited to join the Executive Team at a franchisor HQ in South Seattle. I had been training and equipping small business owners and their teams to scale and grow quickly. Doing well in that role, I got my break!

Learning to Grow

At that time I was literally practicing (albeit imperfectly) skills and tools that I had learned two years previously at an off-site training day led by Shandel. When I first learned about her process, it was vital pivot in my formation as a leader. By the end of the training, I made my way through a long line of people to personally express my gratitude for her wisdom and ask to keep in touch!

Little did I know that her training was to be the training ground for healthy leadership. And that Shandel taught me to bring #nextlevel action every day as a new member of the Executive Team.

How did you fare in your first executive level role?

Well, in addition to skillfully wielding the tools Shandel equipped me with, I dove head first into the books. I began forming new friendships with the likes of Bob Burg, Jim Collins, Stephen Covey, Mark Sanborn, Pat Lencioni, etc. I was so hungry to grow. So in large part, thanks to Shandel and a diverse group of humble, phenomenal authors, I was able to add more value than I was taking in return.

Asking the Right Question

Now fast forward to today, in which a day does not pass without being asked one of three questions.

  1. What are you reading right now?
  2. What book would you recommend for “X” situation?
  3. How do you choose the books you’re going to read?

While these are good questions, I usually ask a clarifying question to get to the root of the ask. I typically want to know “why”. In other words, I’ll say, “Will you help me understand why you’re asking and what you hope to gain?”

Previously I’ve taken the baited question hook, line, and sinker. So eager to “help” I would take a question at face value and unknowingly give a less than helpful response. Yes, I answered the question, but did I really serve the person to the best of my ability?

Wait, that doesn’t necessarily compute. Will you put your point another way?

The value of really helping someone is partnering in a way (whether in word or action) that you actually serve them in the best way possible for them. In other words, give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. (Chinese Proverb)

I share all of this as a qualifier before listing what I believe to be the top ten-ish books* that everyone should have to read. Primarily because the real X factor is what do you most need to learn and grow in (as all of us are in perpetual need of growth whether we realize it or not!). It’s more about where you’re at versus what has worked for me that you now hope will work for you.

Bottom line, unless you have a high level of personal awareness, understanding where you need to learn and grow, then stop what you’re doing and figure it out. And, yes, we can help you do that too.

What Do You Need to Read?

For those of you who know where you’re at and ready to be better, faster, smarter, more helpful, etc. Here is my list of the top books you should read if you want to learn and grow to be holistically healthy.

  1. The Advantage by Lencioni
    • After reading this Shandel knew our firm needed an Organizational Health Coach. Ironically, when I read this book in 2014 I said that I was going to grow into an Organizational Health Coach. This book will help you learn how to measure what matters most so you can be a healthy organization, team, or small business.
  2. The Anatomy of Peace by Arbinger Institute
    • I love this book because of what it represents. In a word, alignment. The Anatomy of Peace is a great read that will help you learn how to do more of what you need to do, namely connect peaceably with humans. It deconstructs how to create alignment and health in your relationships.
  3. Collaborative Intelligence by Markova & McArthur
    • This book is especially helpful when it comes to figuring out your personal wiring. Clarifying how you hear, understand and communicate is imperative. This book clarifies collaborating with others in a fun and applicable way. If you’re working with people or building teams read this!
  4. Extreme Ownership by Willink & Babin and QBQ by Miller & Levin
    • Now look, I get it. I shared two books. The reality is that these are different sides of the same coin. Extreme Ownership is vitally important. Equally imperative is QBQ. How so, you ask. These authors will share a perspective on life and leadership that you are unlikely to have. QBQ is 115 pages. Extreme Ownership is 320 pages. If you have less than an hour to read, start with QBQ but add Extreme Ownership to the list.
  5. The Go-Giver by Burg & Mann
    • If I could, I would recommend the ENTIRE Go-Giver series, but that would be a third of my Ten-ish must reads in and of itself. The Go-Giver will help you understand how to add more value than you take in return and grow into a holistically healthy human. I have given more Go-Giver’s away than any other book.
  6. Good to Great by Collins
    • This was the first business book that I was given by my girlfriend. I read the book and realized that I needed to marry Sarah… and eventually I talked her into it! Collins brilliantly lays out what it takes to become great. And the truth is, it may not be what you thought. Although, this book uncovers just about every area of management, tactical planning, strategic thinking, and the list goes on.
  7. How People Change by Lane & Tripp
    • This book is really great at simplifying the personal change process. It not a business or self-help book. It is primarily a faith-based book that focuses first on one’s heart or attitude and then builds out the functional change process. To be clear, it is steeped in a faith-based approach to life and leadership.
  8. Mindset by Dweck
    • Mindset helps you learn how to develop a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset (which like me, you likely have!). In so doing, you will be able to be a more fully present and helpful person, partner, parent, professional, etc.
  9. Scaling Up by Harnish
    • This is a fun read! Well, fun providing you want to perpetually be learning, growing and becoming a more helpful leader, entrepreneur, manager, etc. Harnish and team help coach you on ordering your business priorities, focusing on what matters most and then scaling effectively.
  10. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey
    • This is a classic. I likely don’t need to explain much here. If you want to increase your influence across the spectrum of life, including personally and professionally, start here. Learn to become proficient in all the areas of life that matter most.

I realize that I did not list some really quality and influential books. I would genuinely like to hear your thoughts on which book(s) are missing and why. If nothing else, you can look forward to reading Shandel’s list of top books that is forthcoming!

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

*Listed alphabetically-ish

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.


Learning from Tesla | The Value of Clear Communication

We interrupt this broadcast with a special report… Okay, not really.

However, I just wrapped up a great meeting with a colleague in the Professional Training and Development world. As we discussed ways to engage and motivate people to growth, I was reminded of a sobering story about genius.

Namely that of Nikola Tesla. In this quick video (3 minutes, 20 seconds to be exact), I pass this genius’ story along as a way to fuel your thinking about the value of clear communication.


Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.

Cross-Learning Clarity

Like you, I want to become better.

Better in my practice of faith, loving and providing for my family (wife and kids, which I wish someone would’ve told me are two different responsibilities!), partnership with Shandel Group, participation in local civic duties, member of the Seattle community, etc.

But why are we unable to quickly and significantly get better?

In a word, “clarity”.  It boils down to our lack of clarity in priority and motivation. Which then bleeds into a lack of uncertainty in how to accomplish our growth process. We simply don’t know why, where or how to start the growth process.

Thinking outside the box to jumpstart growth.

One of the most effective and “out of the box” ways I’ve learned to gain clarity (in various areas of life and leadership) is in practicing Interdisciplinary or Cross-Curricular Learning. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call this Cross-Learning and I’ll share a recent example.

I just finished a book about weight loss and personal organization, two things I have a pretty good grasp on. I chose to work through “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” because I wanted to jumpstart my brain into thinking about fresh ways for hitting my targets and attaining my goals by subtracting something in my life.

Alan, this is all fine and good. But I am more interested in how I can lead more effectively. And I certainly do not believe that I have extra space in my schedule to go research and find some sort of Cross-Learning subject to help me do that!

I get it, I’m here to help!

A starting point for practicing Cross-Learning.

You may know that Malcolm Gladwell (author of best sellers like The Tipping Point, Outliers, etc)  has started a new podcast called “Revisionist History”. It is a brilliant podcast that “will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.” The most recent episode is called The Satire Paradox.

In this episode, Gladwell and team uncover a brilliant but very sad reality about Western Satirical Comedy. And even more amazingly, whether podcast crew realize it or not, they uncover 2 important lessons that you can take note of. Primarily to gain clarity and learn to be a more effective leader!

So if you are ready to sharpen your leadership skills, click the image below and engage in the Cross-Learning. Listen for the two subtle takeaways (though there may be more than just two).

Consider the following as you practice Cross-learning.

  1. How the general public critically think or process particular topics
  2. In light of this, how can you lead by communicating more effectively

Gaining Clarity Through Cross-Learning.

The two Cross-Learned takeaways that I took from Revisionist History are…

  1. If there is a lack of clarity in communication around a specific directive or discussion topic, your hearers are more likely to comprehend your topic as they want to hear it. Not necessarily as you intend for it to be understood. I.E. They will conform your message to meet their agenda. (A big pitfall in leadership!)
  2. When there is room for interpretation in directive or discussion topic, your people use energy that is intended for execution or implementation of directive. Inevitably wasting energy on thinking and therefore lose effectiveness in taking action or completion of said directive.

Do you agree?

What were your takeaways from this Cross-Learning resource?

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.

How to Give Feedback that Actually Works!

This week, we are talking about constructive feedback. Here are some suggestions to help you get the conversation started with your team. Below, 13 entrepreneurs share some insight on how they communicate with their key people when they start sliding in their performance.

In your own experience, what has worked for you?

Your Coach,




How to Give Your Employees Feedback That Actually Works: 13 Suggestions

Is a key staff member suddenly underperforming? Here’s how to tell them the truth.

Your team can make or break your company. So what do you do when a valued employee isn’t living up to expectations or performing to their full potential? Fourteen entrepreneurs fromYEC share the best ways to deliver constructive feedback or criticism.

1. Find out what it is about their job that isn’t living up to their expectations.
Make the conversation about what that employee wants for his/her future. What type of career do they want? What do they think are their strengths and weaknesses? If you can frame it in a way that prioritizes getting the most out of their potential, they will be much more receptive to your concerns about their current productivity.–Simon Casuto, eLearning Mind

2. Use the sandwich technique.
When you have to criticize someone for any reason, always say something nice to begin with, then provide a bit of constructive criticism before ending with something else positive. It works every time.–Bobby Emamian, Prolific Interactive

3. Use the “2 ears, 1 mouth” approach.
My granddad advised, “You’ve got 2 ears, 1 mouth. So listen double.” First, ask the employee to self-evaluate. Their answer tells you if they’re honest or delusional. Many times they’ll suggest a solution. They’ll commit to an internal solution far more than anything you’d suggest. When it’s my turn, I commend one thing they feel they’re doing well. Then I dig in with where they must improve. -Joshua Lee, StandOut Authority

4. Schedule reviews regularly so issues don’t build up.
We have a review cycle that takes place every 6 weeks. These reviews are a free back-and-forth exchange about how things are going, what’s working and what’s not. The frequency makes sure that strong relationships grow and no small issue has time to evolve into something larger.–Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

5. Understand the roadblocks they’re facing first.
Your lowest performing employee may not actually be the weakest link within your firm. Before offering advice, listen carefully to what may be hindering true productivity. Help eliminate those roadblocks, then see if performance has changed. If so, then you avoid an awkward conversation which challenges a person’s worth. If not, then you may directly diagnose and address the problem.–Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

6. Get personal.
Talk to employees on a human level and refer to a time in your own career where you received similar feedback. We all make mistakes and have personal growth opportunities, and sharing your own experiences with the employee can soften the message and get the discussion focused on improvement.–John Tabis, The Bouqs Company

7. Begin with a positive.
The person has to be doing something right. Initiate the conversation with that, and follow with an “and” rather than a “but.” For example: “Alex, you’re doing a wonderful job managing the client database, and I’d like to see you take more initiative to solicit updates for it.” This approach will put the employee in the right frame of mind (i.e. nondefensive) to receive the feedback. -Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work

8. Split the ownership.
At RTC, we’re known for our interventions. When someone has a blind spot that is not serving them, our clients, or our company, we have a responsibility to make them aware and then challenge them to engage in coaching to overcome the issue. We split the ownership by saying, “This is going to be awesome for both you and the company.” And we offer to split the cost of the coaching. Works every time.–Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

9. Reiterate their importance to your business.
A common tactic most people use is leading in with one positive for every negative comment, which is always helpful. I think it’s a good idea to take it one step further and reinforce that they’re part of the team, and everyone is working toward the same goals. This can prevent them from feeling singled out.–Daniel Wesley,

10. Be clear from the get-go about expectations.
Be clear about what you expect from your employees from the beginning. A lot of disappointment can be avoided if everyone is on the same page. When you do need to deliver constructive feedback, be honest and straightforward about it, understand where they are coming from and create an action plan with them to improve it. No one benefits if you don’t respond promptly when you’re disappointed.–Basha Rubin, Priori Legal

11. Give specific details about the impact of their actions.
People always wants to know where they stand, whether good or bad, so they can focus more on what they’re doing right or wrong. But delivering the news is key. Try to word it in a way where the job they’re doing is letting their teammates down and putting more pressure on others. Give specific details so they clearly understand.–Michael Sinensky, Village Pourhouse

12. Make it about us, not them.
Most likely, if a good employee isn’t living up to expectations, you as a leader haven’t provided them a clear path to the goal. So take some responsibility and make it a “we” conversation with them. How can we work together to fix these problems? How can we make the end goal clear and work together to get there? They will be more receptive to change, plus you’ll learn something and become better too.–Kyle Clayton, Better Creative

13. Whatever you do, don’t sugarcoat it.
If an employee is not performing, it is your duty to clearly communicate your exact expectations and discern the nature of the issue. If you did your job and hired the right person it could be something else, personal or professional. But if you decide to let the person go, be sure to do so with respect and dignity. How you treat people who have been promoted out will have a direct impact on morale. –Joseph DiTomaso, AllTheRooms

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.

The Value of Personal Accountability

A number of our clients are experiencing renewed energy and unexpected team cohesion as we’ve been equipping them on the practice of personal accountability this year. This is music to our ears!

For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, we’ll review why the Value of Personal Accountability is significant. For those of you familiar personal accountability from our Q2 post, this will be a helpful refresher. Let’s begin with a question…

Have you noticed that we live in a day and age where a low level of self-awareness is normal? You’ve probably heard employees say things like, “I can’t believe I didn’t get the promotion!” or “I had no idea that my communication style was irritating.” What is the cost of this detrimental disease?

Can Be Learned

The primary way to combat this shortfall is to adopt the practice of taking responsibility for our own situations, challenges, choices, emotions, and results.

Where personal accountability is lacking, it can be taught and learned. It’s not rocket science. It simply takes diligent training and commitment.

It all starts with asking “proactive questions.” Proactive questions are at the root of personal accountability. The Shandel Group specializes in this training. We can help you, your team, and your leadership grow into personally accountable people.

Undermining Confidence

So where do we start? Start by looking in the mirror! Personal accountability starts with “me.”

Think about it. Most people attempt problem-solving or troubleshooting by looking at everyone else first. They typically ask what Miller calls “incorrect questions” and we call “Reactive Questions”.

Reactive Questions:

  • Why did they do … [fill in the blank]?
  • When is that team going to … [fill in the blank]?
  • Who missed their numbers this month?

These may seem straightforward enough. However, people who initiate questions like these are functionally isolating themselves from a sustainable solution. To illustrate this, let’s pull the thread on these types of questions, looking at the intended outcome and see just how these harmful reactive questions look when illuminated from this new vantage point.

“Illuminated” Reactive Questions:

  • I am the victim here — why did they do … [fill in the blank]?
  • I don’t want to procrastinate, but when is [fill in the blank]?
  • I will blame the real culprit — the one who missed their numbers!

Can you see how these types of questions undermine trust and instill a lack of confidence within your organization and people?

Becoming the Change

Instead, we can learn to ask “proactive questions,” the antidote to a lack of trust — the accelerant for how to grow relational equity with your people and implement productive action.

Proactive Questions:

  • What can I do to help?
  • How can I best support … [fill in the blank]?
  • How can I help the team hit our numbers?

When we switch our focus to asking proactive questions, we begin eliminating bureaucracy and we lead by example — regardless if you’re the leader, manager, or an entry-level employee. You are a leader when you exemplify personal accountability.

You and I begin to be the change that we want to see in our company, not to mention overtime we will begin to save time and money and eliminate unhealthy stress by helping people to thrive.

The practice of asking proactive questions will empower you and your people to stop playing the unnecessarily common blame game. You’ll be equipped to work collaboratively and accomplish more together. Remember, it is a practice. We must commit to making proactive questions a habit.

Is it time to invite Shandel Group to help lay the groundwork for your team or organization to learn the value and practice of personal accountability?

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen


Trust AND Verify

Would anyone actually say that “Trust” isn’t valuable? I doubt it, however, I find that most Leaders, Managers and Front-line staff don’t pause long enough to realize many of their individual or organizational issues are due to lack of trust.

Instead of realizing the power of mutual trust and working to create space for trust to grow, we skip past the interpersonal effort and jump straight to blaming. We accuse slim profit margins, poor performance and even lost productivity for our individual or organizational mistakes. This lack of trust is not merely corrosive, eventually it will sandbag your business from performing at its full capacity.

What’s more is that in 2004 Stephen M. R. Covey discovered that the cost of complying with federal rules and regulations in the U.S. was right around $1.1 trillion! The essence of rules and regulations pertain to a fundamental distrust that people will follow implemented guidelines. Think about that within the context of your organization. What is the hard cost that you’re paying because you don’t have a culture of trust?

Okay, Alan. I get it, as the Leader I need to foster an environment that will allow trust to grow. What is the quickest route to growing a culture of real trust?

Great question! You may recall that President Reagan popularized an old Russian phrase, “Trust but verify”. We will take our cue from President Reagan here and “Shandel” the concept…

Instead of “trust but verify” we are going to replace the “but” with an “and”. This important edit indicates that Leaders, Managers and Front-line employees are willing to begin trusting one another and agree to create the space to verify a job or project well done.

The pushback we usually hear is that, “this ‘Trust AND Verify’ seems like semantics”. However, I assure you that this not the case. This approach allows your people to more closely and more often see how KPI’s are being achieved, not to mention an increased opportunity to give praise where praise is due because your looking at deliverables together.

Well then, why are you highlighting the importance of a couple of conjunction words if it’s more than semantics? We need a practical tool that will help our organization foster this culture of trust!

Agreed, and much like setting expectations for a newly licensed driver, I want to make sure that we are on the same page for using this new vehicle for communication and action. In other words, unless we intend to earnestly commit to working “Trust AND Verify” into our cultural DNA from the top down, we will only poison what organizational health we do have. Merely announcing a new concept for getting things done but eventually forgetting the practice will be detrimental.

Now that we share the same perspective for this concept and understand the importance of consistent follow through, I will share 5 steps* for cultivating organizational trust…







I’ll close with this…

If you, your Leaders, Managers and Front-Line employees commit to practicing the healthy discipline of “Trust AND Verify” you will not only grow a strong culture but you will create a healthy organizational ecosystem.

We have found that when people (of all levels of responsibility) commit to this way of getting things done, job satisfaction and overall morale has grown exponentially! Do you have feedback on the “Trust AND Verify” approach to growing a culture of trust? Share with us what has or hasn’t worked.

Pulling for you,
Alan Andersen

*These 5 Steps are our adaptation from various leadership materials. The core concept, however, is not original to Shandel Group.

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.

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Smart Goals Equal Attainable Goals

Last week Shandel Group Coach Alan Andersen shared with us about goal-setting. If you perform a simple online search on this topic, articles and blog are numerous! This is clearly a topic people are into reading about! How about you? Ever wonder how to set goals, especially ones that revolve around a particular project? Today we are sharing a blog from Smart Goals Never Fail that can break down into manageable parts what can often be perceived as overwhelming. Enjoy!

How to Find Time for that Important Project

I started following the Michael Hyatt blog a while back, and he constantly posts good stuff, especially relevant to goal setting. Actually, if you google “goal setting”, Michael Hyatt’s post called A Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting is result #4. In one post he talks about how to find time for that important side project that you’ve been meaning to work on. I figure that many of you reading this blog set goals, and there is a high chance that one of your goals involves a project, or side business, or “evil plan” (as Hugh Macleod would call it) that you want to work on, so I thought I would share this post. Here are the 7 things Michael Hyatt says you should do to find time for your project in your busy life:

  1. Accept reality. You only have 168 hours a week—the same as everyone else, including presidents, captains of industry, and the homeless man you passed on the way to work. Time is finite. You can’t borrow, beg, or steal more of it.Starting and finishing that important project is not about time management as much as it is about priority management. It’s not so much about efficiency as it is about courage.

    The question is this: How important is this project compared to everything else in your life?

  2. Get off your but. No, not your butt, your but—that excuse that keeps you mired in the status quo.
    • “I could do it, BUT I just started a new job.”
    • “I could do it, BUT I just don’t have the energy.”
    • “I could do it, BUT I have small children.”

    In order to move forward, you have to accept responsibility for where you arenow. Your current situation is the result of choices you have made—not all bad, by the way, but yours nonetheless.

    The question is this: Are you ready to make new choices? Yes or no. (It’s okay to choose No. Just be intentional.)

  3. Set a clear goal. The momentum begins to shift when you chose a different destination. The way to turn a dream into a goal is to put a due date on it. This one act will often create the urgency you need to get going.And while you are at it, make the goal S.M.A.R.T. You can read more about that, in “The Beginner’s Guide to Goal-Setting.”The question is this: What do you want? Can you clearly articulate it? Can you see it?
  4. Understand what’s at stake. The is perhaps the most important ingredient in finding the time for that important project. You have to connect why your why.The way to overcome inertia (or keep going when you want to quit) is to understand clearly what you gain if you do your project and what you lose if you don’t.The question is this: Why is this important to you? Write down your reasons as a series of bullets. Keep them handy—you’re going to need them.
  5. Schedule time on your calendar. This is where the rubber meets the road. What gets scheduled gets done. You literally have to block out time on your calendar to focus on your project. It won’t happen otherwise.I literally set these up as appointments with myself. If anyone else looks on my calendar, they see that I am busy—and I am busy. I have set aside this time to work on my project.The question is this: When will you set aside time to begin? Or re-start? Or finish?
  6. Keep your commitments. Too often, we sacrifice the important on the altar of the urgent. We can always do it later, right? Wrong. The key is to honor your commitment to your project as though it were an uber-important meeting with an uber-important person.I just faced this again today. Someone wanted to book an appointment with me when I had scheduled time to work on my pet project. I said, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t meet then. I already have a commitment.” I didn’t provide any detail. My response was enough. And guess what? We found another time.

    The question is this: Do you really want to get this project done or not? Are you brave enough to say No to other demands, so you can say Yes to this?

  7. Make time to celebrate. Honestly, I am not very good at this. I’m better than I used to be, but no where near where I want to be. As a recovering Type-A personality, as soon as I check something off, I refocus on the next objective. Ultimately doesn’t serve me or the people I work with well.It’s important not only to acknowledge what you have accomplished but thank the people who helped you. Otherwise, you wear out your team and eventually yourself. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Yes, it really is possible to find time for those important projects you want to accomplish. You just have to be intentional and use the right strategy.

Let us know how we at Shandel Group can assist you as you consider the goals in your life!

This article was originally posted at Smart Goals Never Fail.



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Two Tools you Need

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

The chances that you have not heard that infamous line from Lincoln are tremendously low. And yet, how much power are in those few words. Every time we hear that quote, we should be encouraged to pause and examine our time and energy output to make sure that we’re using the sharpest tools we have.

In light of this reminder let’s pause for a moment and examine our professional tools (and personal, for that matter).

2 Razor sharp tools you should use today


First, and maybe most familiar is setting “SMARTER” goals.  We’ve all heard of SMART goals, but I first heard Michael Hyatt nuance this back in 2014 and it has been very helpful for me! SMARTER Goals go like this…

You need to set Goals or Objectives that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound
  • Exciting
  • Relevant

The only variation I encourage you to seriously consider is drawing a clear line between Goals and Objectives.

In our firm Goals are 13 months or longer and Objectives are 12 months or less.

This distinction helps us differentiate between priorities. And to be blunt, if you or your team can’t easily determine which priorities you need to pursue and when… then get out the white flag! Well, call us first, we can help with that. But if you do nothing, its only a matter of time before you will be sunk.

Next Practices

Second, forget “Best Practices” and “Better Practices”. Embrace “Next Practices”.

Now wait a minute, Alan. Isn’t this just a gimmicky play on words? I don’t think so, and what’s more is that does Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and Mark Sanborn, author of numerous Best Selling books (and two men that I greatly respect and have benefited from their leadership in big ways).

Let’s think about the concept of “Next Practices” through this lens. When researching for her book Rookie Smarts,  Liz Wiseman discovered this mind-bending fact.

Given the rate that information is coming at us faster and that information is also becoming obsolete… I found that if you work in any field that is technology related or infused about 15% of what you know today is likely to be relevant in five years.

WHAT THE WHAT! If indeed that discovery is true, and I linked her interview explaining this statement, what in the world is our antidote? Well, one layer of insulation will be adopting the concept that Zappos already employs which is “Next Practices”.

This concept is most fruitful when embraced and implemented from the top down. In other words, when a leadership team is open to exploring new and more helpful ways of completing responsibilities then your people will likely be more apt to embrace this way of thinking.

Here’s the bottom line, you and your people need sharp tools. I am trusting that setting SMARTER goals/objectives and considering Next Practices will empower you to keep an engaged and motivated employee force that will aid you in overcoming any obstacle.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.


Oops! Five Ways to Recover After You’ve Made a Leadership Mistake

As a coach, it is my constant quest to help leaders lead well. All leaders at some point will make a mistake…And when that happens, it is vital that you immediately work on regaining trust, communication and influence with your team. How you may ask?

Ron Edmundson has some great tips below that are brief and effective. It will take clarity, courage and character to take the next step, but it will be worth it!

Your Coach,




5 Suggestions to Recover after You’ve Made a Leadership Mistake
by Ron Edmundson

Communicate quickly – You don’t have to tell the world, but those who need to know should hear it from you and not from anyone else. Let the offended parties know and the people who will have to answer for the mistake. This can’t be done too soon. Surprises like this never turn out well, but with advance knowledge many times further damage can be averted

Own it – Don’t make excuses. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Don’t blame others. Don’t say, “I’m sorry”, but then try to wrap the other person into your story. Ask forgiveness if necessary, but own it now. You made a mistake. Be a leader. Own the mistake and be willing to accept the consequences. You’ll be far more respected and stand a better chance of bridging support in the recovery process.

Stop the loss – Do whatever you can to stop further damaging from occurring. If there are financial issues involved, try to recover as much as you can. If there is collateral damage with relationships, apologize quickly and try to restore trust. I have always found a humble, yet not martyred, but confident response is usually best in these situations.

Figure out what’s next – Help the team recover. Find solutions. Don’t leave the clean up to anyone else. As you lead into the mistake — or even better — lead through the recovery. Help bring people together, seek wisdom, and help steer energy back to a more positive position.

Learn from it – The best thing you can do is to grow from mistakes — all of them. They can shape us as people and leaders — either positively or negatively. The good news is that we get to decide which one. In the process of recovery, sometimes keeping a journal is helpful. Start with the question, “What can I learn from this that will help me make better decisions in the future?”

Of course, the intensity of need for this depends on the size of the mistake and the size of injury caused to the team or organization, but the principles still apply in context.

Do you have any examples to add to this post from your own experience?

Adapted from its original text.

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.


What No One Tells You About Life and Leadership

We’ve discussed that perpetual hunger is a key characteristic of a healthy leader. But let’s pause for a moment to clarify this metaphorical “hunger”.

I recently met with my OD (Organization Development) mastermind group (technically we’re a book club, but let’s not put labels on things). Imagine a group of highly smart, articulate leaders that head up Learning and Development departments for hundreds of employees. It is an absolute privilege to reflect on how to be a better leader with these masters.

As we talked shop our discussion took a brief pivot on to the topic of “hunger”. Hunger in ourselves, in our employees, in the marketplace, etc. I expressed my belief that it is tremendously difficult to remain hungry in the context of America, especially as an employed professional in our marketplace.

Think about it, typically an employee has a predetermined annual salary and providing he or she does their job at a “satisfactory” standard there is usually an opportunity for a raise and/or bonus (side note: a bonus is a functional myth, but that is a topic for next time).

This is a big problem! The root of this problem is our topic at hand.

What I believe no one will tell you, or at least we don’t discuss enough, is this reality:

To sustain a healthy life and leadership, in part, you must live hungry.

I’ll share our central point in another and far more compelling way.

Toward the latter part of Socrates life, one of his pupils approached him and stated, “I want wisdom the way that you have wisdom”. Socrates response was noted as being, “Let’s go for a walk.”

The two go on a walk, walking through the town and down to a nearby lake. Socrates leads them both into the water. Once the water is up to their waist, Socrates surprisingly takes his compadres head and fully submerges it into the water!

For some context this pupil is allegedly Plato. And what most people don’t know about Socrates is that he was said to have been a valiant soldier. So not only was he philosophical, he was also scrappy.

Now initially Plato shared that he thought, “what pithy thing am I supposed to learn here?” But that thought quickly faded into a fight for his life. His arms began flailing, body started jerking in an attempt to get a fresh breath of air.

However, Socrates literally kept Plato’s head under water until the last possible moment. At which point Socrates pulls Plato’s head up from under the water and says, “When you are fighting to learn wisdom the way that you were fighting for the last breath of air, then you’re ready to begin learning. Until then, you are not even ready for wisdom.”

Wow, love that parable! And while we need to be aware that this story may or may not be true, what is completely true is the concept. The paramount question we should consider asking,

“Am I fighting to sustain a healthy life and equally healthy leadership?”

I assure you that if you’re not growing, you’re dying, albeit slowly. The way to live long is to live healthy and continue growing. So let’s at least take our pulse on the level of hunger we have been exhibiting in our life and leadership.  Are we on cruise control or is there evidence that we are bringing our A-Game to each of the 168-hours in a given 7 day week?

In closing, I understand that “hungry” will look different for all of us. But don’t miss out on the opportunity to see if you’re still growing. The short Socrates-Plato fable serves us well. It is a sobering reminder that we must continually live and lead from a hungry mindset.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.