The Comparison Trap

We all fall into traps in life. One of the most common is the comparison trap: constantly comparing ourselves to others and judging our worth by how we stack up—mostly on things that are superficial and unimportant: Where do I live? What do I drive? How much do I make? Where do I fall in … Read more

Are You Drifting through Life?

“Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives.” -Henry David Thoreau How did I get here? Is this what I wanted for my life? Is this what I chose? Life can be messy. Many of us go long stretches of our lives on autopilot. We sleepwalk through our days. “It is remarkable … Read more

Guard Your Heart

A year into the pandemic, we’re reminded of how important it is to guard your heart. Here we mean our metaphysical heart, our sacred center. Parker Palmer said it beautifully: “I’m using the word ‘heart’ as they did in ancient times, when it didn’t merely mean the emotions, as it tends to mean today. It meant that … Read more

Are You Playing the Long Game?

These days it’s easy to fall into the trap of playing the short game. Our culture is geared toward it. With our devices, we’re developing the attention span of a gnat. We swipe and scroll. We get fidgety with a few seconds of down-time. The power of the long game is astonishing, but the short game is alluring. Now more than ever we need to reorient our life and work to the long game.

Designing Your Work for Flow

We’ve all heard of flow—that remarkable state of being in the zone and operating at our best. Many of us have experienced it. But what exactly is it? And how do we get into it? First, we note that the deep concentration and absorption associated with flow is becoming much harder to attain these days … Read more

What Is Your Quest?

What is your quest? Where are you going? And why? What quest are you on in your life and work? In days long gone, there were many quests. For Power. Glory. Riches. Discoveries. Love. Beauty. Truth. Peace and quiet. These days, our quests have changed, but we still have them. Quests for success. Recognition. Wealth. … Read more

How to Give Effective Feedback—A Communication Superpower

Giving effective feedback is a powerful skill. When done well, it can be a big performance booster. When done poorly, a disaster bringing fear, discomfort, and resentment. At its best, feedback is a great gift that can build trust and respect. At its worst, a spiral to anguish and despair. So tread carefully. According to … Read more

The Most Important Questions for Leaders

Leading others well can be a great challenge. It requires courage, judgment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, integrity, and much more. Leadership excellence comes with experience, but it begins with intentionality and commitment. Here are the most important (four) questions to help ground your leadership in a powerful foundation, whether you are a new leader learning the ropes … Read more

Leading without Authority

Leadership is a complicated subject. Most everyone recognizes good leadership, but there are many varying definitions of leadership, as well as many different versions of what constitutes good leadership. Unfortunately, most examples of good leadership also cite people who are in positions of authority. Such authority gives people hierarchical power to enforce their views, or … Read more

Personal Resilience and Self-Care in Hard Times

In times of great upheaval and uncertainty, we struggle to find ways to thrive despite the challenges. Much of this comes down to self-talk, self-regulation, and self-leadership—navigating our reactions to external events and ensuring that our inner voice does not undermine us amidst the difficulties. The toll of the pandemic is massive, from disease, suffering, … Read more

The Perils of Climbing Mode in Our Career

In our culture today, it is easy to assume that the proper frame for going about our working life is to pursue “climbing mode” as early and aggressively as possible. When I say “climbing mode,” I mean striving to move up the ladder of success, focusing on achievement and advancement. For many, this notion is … Read more

Ten Keys to Self-Leadership

There is one meta-skill that shapes how we respond to all these challenges: self-leadership. Without it, we cannot sustain ourselves for long. Leading self may be obvious, but it is far from easy. We neglect it at our peril. The task of leading self is the task of a lifetime. Here are ten keys to … Read more

To Lead Well

A poem by Bob Vanourek Summarizing Great Leadership “To Lead Well” by Bob Vanourek I’ll start within, Cultivating quality character, Acting with integrity, Listening with my heart, Composed amid chaos, A soul flooding forth with love. I’ll reach out, Caring and connecting, Serving, Engendering trust, Building relationships, Unleashing others who soar. I’ll step up, Saying … Read more

10 Keys to Self-Leadership

  We face a barrage of challenges these days: astonishing technological change, intense competition, a barrage of demands on our attention, tension between work and home, and more. There is one meta-skill that shapes how we respond to all these challenges: self-leadership. Without it, we cannot sustain ourselves for long. Leading self may be obvious, … Read more

A Leadership Lightning Bolt

by Bob Vanourek Early in my leadership quest to “find a better way to lead,” I had the wonderful pleasure to work for Jan and Olga Erteszak, Polish immigrants who had fled the Nazis in Europe and then founded a ladies’ lingerie company in Los Angeles. The Olga Company was the creative leader in this … Read more

Why Do You Want to Lead?

I was flying from Cleveland to Chicago to meet my wife, June, and two young sons. They were flying from Los Angeles to meet me for a brief Christmas holiday. I had been “too busy” to fly back to help her cope with our toddler and the baby. (It is really so embarrassing to relate … Read more

Escaping the Stressors of Leadership

  Guest Post by Mike Figliuolo The pressure on leaders is increasing every day. Calls for “doing more with less” echo through the halls as ever-escalating expectations create a great deal of stress for leaders. The investment of a leader’s time, energy, and attention (what we call “leadership capital”) is a critical choice leaders make … Read more

The Problem with Tired Leaders

  Are you tired? Stressed? Busy? Just par for the course for today’s leader, right? Wrong. These days, it seems that “busy is the new black.” Busy is in. People boast about how busy they are. When answering a schedule request, they regale you with all the things in their calendar that prevent them from … Read more

Set No More Than Six Personal Values

Six Personal Values

  “Values tell you what to do when you don’t know what to do.” -Tom McCoy, executive vice president, CH2M HILL Your personal values are essential. They set your moral compass. They guide your behavior when you are under the stresses of life. Most people have not clearly articulated their personal values, and we strongly … Read more

A Treasure of Wisdom

Follow Your Conscience

 “A Treasure of Wisdom” By Bob Vanourek Every now and then, I have a chance to read a book a colleague has written and want to tell others about it. Such it is with Frank Sonnenberg’s Follow Your Conscience: Make a Difference in Your Life and the Lives of Others. Frank is an award-winning author … Read more

New to the Boardroom? How to Succeed

Boardroom

By Bob Vanourek Congratulations. You’ve just been invited to join your first public company board. Great. Now, what can you expect? It’s not just approving the CEO’s strategy or officer compensation recommendations after asking a few questions. It’s more than risk assessments, financial statement reviews, and meeting with the outside auditors periodically. It’s much deeper … Read more

The Ethical Challenges Faced by Leaders

Ethics Right Wrong

Image credit: Public Domain  “Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.” -James MacGregor Burns We all face ethical challenges and dilemmas, and all the more so if we lead. Think how you would act in the following scenarios: You give the cashier a $10 bill, and she gives you … Read more

Take Fear Along For The Ride

Leadership authors and speakers, Bob and Gregg Vanourek, use this picture of an x'd out fear to show the importance of overcoming fear.

“I have learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, But he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela Years ago in Dallas, Bob attended a presentation on courage that made a lifelong impact on him. He expected to … Read more

The Longest Tail (Guest Blog by Walt Hampton)

According to Steve Coburn, “It’s not fair to the horses that have been in the race since Day 1.” Coburn is the co-owner of California Chrome, once thought to be the heir to the Triple Crown, who lost at Belmont. “Look at it this way, if you can’t make enough points to get in the … Read more

Tips for New Graduates about Leading and Living

With this cap and gown season upon us, here are some thoughts for new graduates as they transition from school to work or other pursuits. 1. Avoid making choices for the wrong reasons. You are probably under a lot of pressure, both self-imposed and externally thrust upon you. As you look at various work opportunities, … Read more

Dreams Versus Goals

Leadership speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek use an image of two hands reaching toward the sky to illustrate the importance of goal-setting.

“Goals are dreams with deadlines” ~ Diana Scharf, author Goals are the secret ingredient for turning our dreams into reality. Our good friend and fellow leadership practitioner, Bob Whipple, “The Trust Ambassador”, wrote a helpful blog on goal setting recently. We excerpt below some of Bob’s wise insights for setting great goals. 1. Make your goals … Read more

Your Leadership Mindset

Leadership speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, use an image of a man with his head buried in a vast desert of sand to illustrate the "fixed mindset" that is so detrimental to leaders.

What is your leadership mindset? What are your self-conceptions and beliefs that drive your behavior as a leader? In many cases, these are unknown because they operate beneath the level of our conscious awareness. Yet they are crucially important because they affect the way we approach people, situations, opportunities, and risks. In short, our mindset … Read more

“Take This Job and Shove It”? Not So Fast

Sometimes you have to walk out. Some of you are stuck in a toxic firm or with a terrible boss. But before you say, “Take this job and shove it” (to quote the old song), let’s run through a pre-flight checklist before flying the coop. #1 Live Lean. If you don’t have your dream job … Read more

Unleash Your Latent Leader

  Too many people disempower themselves with comments like “If only they would …“ Or “I’m only a (fill in the blank with ‘engineer,’ or ‘salesman,’ or ‘clerk’).” Too many people self-select out of leadership. (See our blog on “The Biggest Barrier to Leadership.”) What if Alice Paul (who fought for women’s rights), or Rosa … Read more

What to Do If You Work For a Jerk

So your boss is a jerk.  What to do? Of course, how to approach it depends on the severity of the situation, but here are some tips: 1. Go Lean. You may have to make a change, so you need money in the bank. That’s not tapping into your 401k or IRA. You need six … Read more

Unhappy at Work? Check Before You Step in It

“The grass always looks greener beyond your cow pies.” -(We made that up.)  Tempted to switch organizations? Bigger responsibilities, title, pay? Before you make the move, find out what the culture really is. Unless, of course, you’re a serial job switcher only interested in how fast you can become a VP. This blog is not for you. … Read more

In Memoriam: Stephen R. Covey

One of the great icons of our time, Stephen R. Covey, passed away this week. This giant of an intellect with the soul of a child cannot be replaced. His insights into the nature of people, his wisdom, his writing, his speaking, his work and service, his example, his integrity, and his just-plain common sense … Read more

How Great Leaders Maintain Exceptional Focus

One of the cruel ironies of our time is that with such incredible access to information, many leaders are drowning in data and bogging down in complexity. They drink through a fire hose of reports, analytics, blogs, and tweets. Mobile devices blessedly update and painfully distract. At some point, the choices become debilitating, especially with … Read more