Lucky Man


People often get into ruts, where it seems like the sky is falling, and every decision made is perceived as incorrect or wrong.  And sometimes, people will go through unlucky times.   My personal journey has certainly had its share of good and bad luck over the years, but it has helped shape me as a man, husband, father, friend, and leader.   While we all think we control every decision in every situation, you are incorrect.   There are always going to be factors outside of your control that will impact you.   Every day you make choices to be a fountain or a drain. Positively focus on the things you can control, and when in “unlucky times,” work to get out of that rut quickly.   Life is too short and too valuable to be taken for granted.  

I know of a very special person who was experiencing pain in her right knee.   She listened to all sorts of doctors and physical therapists who gave her advice for 18 months, but eventually, surgery was the answer, with a 12-month recovery time.  During month 8 of her recovery on her right knee, her left knee began to bother her (which never happened before).   An MRI revealed that she would need the same surgery on her left knee and her 12-month recovery starting line reset.   She found out that there was nothing she could control with the deterioration of her knee condition and that these knee challenges were hereditary.  This situation is the definition of unlucky, but we quickly shifted gears and went through an exercise to have her appreciate all of the good she has in her life.  In the short term, she will have to work even harder to get better, and the physical and emotional toll will be tough to overcome. The long-term recovery that we will now focus on, along with getting better 1% per day. We know she will be back stronger than ever.   This special person is my 15-year-old daughter, who is the bravest and most determined person I know. 

I am an extroverted optimist who tries to control the outcomes of my life.    I trust people until they give me a reason not to trust them.   It is tough to earn that trust back with me if lost.  I focus on working harder and smarter than anyone because I am surrounded by people who are better than me both at work and at home.  I also focus on consistently being fair, being present, and being honest to everyone around me. I love the grind of being purpose and process focused. Some days I succeed, and a lot of days I fail.  I like to humbly review my life every now and then and “count my blessings.” To celebrate the luck of the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day, I went through the following exercise last week to remind me of the extraordinary life I am able to live.   I ask you to conduct a similar exercise to identify 10 reasons why you are lucky as an individual.   A similar exercise can be conducted with your teams. 

I am a lucky man for the following 10 reasons:

  1. I am married to the most amazing woman in the world, who has always been by my side to help me survive and advance in life (A little march madness quote).
  2. I have two incredible children who I love to spend time with.
  3. We have three great dogs in our home who are always smiling and happy to see us.
  4. I have a roof over my head, meals to eat, clothes to wear, and a car to drive and live in a great state in a free country.
  5. I am fortunate to have a job that I truly love and has a direct impact on the happiness and development of others.   Almost everyday,  it does not feel like work.
  6. I am surrounded by so many talented people, both personally and professionally. 
  7. I get to work with two excellent Non-Profit Groups, NCFC Youth and Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina to help improve the lives of others. 
  8. Through my health challenges over the last 24 months, I have learned how to help mentor others going through similar cancer recovery situations.
  9. I have an internal “Board of Directors” who I trust to guide me with decisions in my life. 
  10. All of these connections mentioned above make me realize I am never perfect, they accept me as I am, and challenge me to be better.

On March 18, 2021, I was dealt the unlucky hand of having a very aggressive and rare form of cancer in my head that was negatively impacting the dura layer of my brain. The limited statistics on this disease noted that people diagnosed with this type of cancer and it’s size and location had a mortality rate of 75% in two years. That two year diagnosis anniversary is tomorrow. What I have thought about over the last three weeks is how this unlucky day two years ago has actually been a blessing, because I will never again feel unlucky due to the ten reasons I listed above. I focus on being a fountain every day. Remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed and that life should be enjoyed daily.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!!! or Happy St. Patrick’s Day in English!!!

Well Done> Well Said-




The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always one I truly enjoy. Between the celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s, time seems to slow down a little, and more time is spent with our family together than at any other time throughout the year. Closing out one year and starting another also brings many into an exercise of creating goals and resolutions for the coming year. I use this week to reflect on the last 12 months, personally and professionally. In order to get to where you want to go, you have to understand where you started, and comprehend where you are now. Once reflections are completed, I will then will move into the goal-setting stage for 2023.

Personally, regarding my health, 2022 has been a year of more good days than bad.  We have been in remission since October 2021.   The side effects of the radiation from the summer of 2021 were still evident, with hand tremors, wound dehiscence, and headaches, but it was nothing we could not handle.  We would continue to have MRI scans every three months to make sure there were no complications in my head. 

On January 4, 2022, Christy and I were in Charleston, SC, for a 7-hour surgery to still try to heal the wounds in my head.  While being hopeful that this would work and be our last surgery until Q4, when they would try and reshape my head, the January surgery was not a success.   Three more head wound surgeries would follow in February and March, along with a Gall Bladder removal in March (you really cannot make this stuff up), and we still had one wound open on the front of my head with the Titanium Plate exposed and visible.   We were presented with two options by our surgical team in Charleston.  The first option was to leave the wound open and cover it daily with a wound gel and 4×4 bandage.   They told us many people lived like this.  The second option was to start over, with them removing my right lat muscle to cover my head (remember, my left lat muscle was removed in April 2021, and we are still rehabbing this).  Needless to say, option #2 was ruled out very quickly, so we tried option #1 for six months.   

I returned to work in March and fell back in love with the company I work for and the impact I could have on others.   Being back around people, versus being in a state of quarantine from both COVID-19 and Cancer recovery was re-invigorating.  I took on a new role with Align, and it is one of the most rewarding positions I have ever had.  Through September, I was feeling good, back to my old self at work and home, and on a consistent routine.

With the MRI scans every three months, a spot was revealed on my brain in September, which was a slight concern for our surgical team.   They were confident it was not cancer, but they needed to rule out this consideration and determine what this spot was (we later found out it is radiation necrosis).  Also, we cultured the wound on the front of my head and learned that the plate was now infected, and the infection was spreading throughout my head.  My forehead was red, and I was constantly itching it.   Headaches came back daily, and sleep was tough to come by.  Christy and I kept these challenges internally between the two of us, and I did my best not to show these pains and discomfort at work or to friends (thank goodness for the medical cabinets we have at work with Tylenol).   We met with some doctors at UNC-Chapel Hill who presented us with a new option…remove the entire titanium plate, shift the existing flap on my head, and close the rest of my head by shifting up my neck, which will lead to multiple new scars.  They would also conduct several biopsies in my brain during surgery to determine where the infections were and ensure the cancer was not back.  The main risk was would the sutures and staples keep the wounds closed, and for the future, I would not have the titanium plate in my head to protect my missing skull.  We decided to take this risk of surgery, with the confidence of the surgical team impacting our decision.

We knew the surgery would be in November, and we asked for it to be the week before Thanksgiving.  Connor would be home from college, and we were all looking forward to spending the holiday together.  Surgery was posted for 11:00 AM on November 14.   The multi-disciplinary procedure between Neurosurgery, ENT, and Plastics would take about 5-7 hours, and discharge would be 4-5 days after surgery was completed.   Anesthesia was given to me at 10:30 AM, I was on the surgical table by 11:00 AM, placed in the prone position, and ready to go with the Foo Fighters music playing in the background.  We had forgotten that nothing is simple with our case.  I woke up at 11:45 PM Monday night.    The surgery was more complex than anticipated, with several challenges presenting themselves to the surgical team.

Results from the surgical biopsies showed that I had four different infections in my head, which would require a heavy dose of antibiotics for six weeks, with one antibiotic being a constant 24-hour-a-day delivery into my body.   They outfitted me with a machine and shoulder bag, put a PICC line into my left bicep, and I was connected to this machine for 23 -24 hours a day until December 27.  The three other antibiotics were taken orally.  My neck was tight from the shifting, and we had many staples and prolene sutures placed in my head and down my right shoulder to keep everything tight.  We are still in a nursing shortage in the U.S., and I was in Intensive Care for the three days after surgery and finally moved to the neurosurgical floor on Thursday, November 17.  We should have been discharged on Tuesday, November 22, but we had to have a home health nurse at our home to admit us. There was no home health company to do this for us, so we wound up spending Thanksgiving in the hospital, with a great dinner provided by my peers, and gave thanks to the amazing nurses who worked on floor seven and got us through these two weeks.  We were discharged on Friday, November 25.  It was a Thanksgiving we will always remember.

With each health situation we have been through over the last 18 months, I tried to take something away to help me lead others.  My biggest takeaway from this November 2022 surgery was to focus on the customer’s experience as the number one priority.   If we are making decisions that do not improve the experience of the end user (internal customer or external customer), then we need to re-evaluate this choice.  I spent much of my hospital time following up on social media with leadership and business blogs, posts, and podcasts (also, the World Cup saved me from a sanity perspective in the hospital).   One of the recurrent themes I noticed in recent articles and posts from industry thought leaders was that creating a positive work culture and understanding the psychology of influencing people was constant.  Being more strategic and focusing on results is still an important part of any business, but leading people and creating value with your organization’s culture and employees is the number one theme for many heading into 2023. 

We are hoping this November surgery is our last one for a while (12 surgeries in the last 18 months could be considered a lot), but this is nothing that we cannot handle.  My wife, children, friends, and co-workers all support us, and we will win this battle with the right mindset.  We are blessed beyond measure heading into 2023, and we know this will be a great year.   I leave you with some takeaways going into 2023.

  1. Every day is a gift.   Don’t take life or health for granted.
  2. Create a “Board of Directors” for your personal development.   A group of 3-5 mentors with varying backgrounds who challenge you to consistently be better every day.   Don’t just choose people who think and act as you do.  Listen to their advice and implement suggestions.
  3. Find people you trust to take the wheel for you when needed.
  4. It’s amazing how many people are focused on the past when they complain about the present and worry about the future.  Leadership and Development should always be forward-facing.   You cannot effectively lead when you focus on the past.
  5. “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.  Truth and Courage are not always comfortable, but they are never considered a weakness” – Brene Brown

In memory of Colin Hadley, who recently passed away after a heroic battle with ALS over the years. Collin – Your strength in battling ALS inspired me to be better. You were the best strategic marketer I have ever worked with. You were genuine, authentic, always positive, and put your family first. You were an amazing man who I was fortunate to know. Our prayers are with your family.

Well Done > Well Said


Five Minutes, Live and In-Person, FOMO


Ninety Days into my new role with Align Technology, and I am loving life.  The joy I get from working with our leadership team, as well as our Early-In-Career group, provides different perspectives on how I can positively impact our future generations.   Each week is different with focused time spent with both groups.  I am fortunate to have a strong group of leaders to work with, learn from, and challenge me daily.  Thank you Joe, Josh, Alex, and Joel for the selfless daily commitment you display to developing others. 

One of the projects we give our Early-In-Career team is to have them conduct a 5 minute Ted Talk on any topic they want and present it back to their peers. This is usually our first chance to see each individual’s baseline presentation skills and how they share information to influence a group setting. There are a lot of nervous feelings before these presentations, and that is common. The current class we have is our 23rd class since this program started, and when I see the talent we have brought in with Classes 21,22, and 23, I know that our future is very bright. The topics consistently change from class to class and here are the topics presented during the most recent Ted Talks and how I left this 90 minutes inspired to be better:

  • Handling Adversity is an essential component of life
  • Overcoming Disappointments – Don’t fear failure; embrace it
  • Eat More Sugar!
  • A 30-minute “Hot Girl Walk” can help you decompress from a hectic day
  • Embrace past experiences, both the happy and sad
  • Self-Care is important
  • The positives of being an organ donor
  • Trying a new hobby like golf made her feel refreshed with early morning weekend tee times
  • Travel Internationally
  • Run towards a storm like the buffalo
  • Need to re-watch Reservoir Dogs
  • Develop a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset
  • Need for commitment and sacrifice – “Things don’t happen to us; they happen for us”
  • Be self-disciplined like Michael Jordan, the best basketball player ever
  • Have Faith that everything is going to work out by taking risks, working hard, and being agile
  • Overcoming Imposter Syndrome which is a collection of feelings of being inadequate despite success
  • Rely on your friends and support network to turn bad habits and depression into great habits and positive outcomes
  • Live in the moment and watch the road

I think we are going to invite more departments into our next Ted Talks session with Class 24.  Hearing this younger generation talk about personal obstacles they have encountered, being open, and presenting authentically with emotion was so refreshing to hear.  It was a great way to end a crazy Thursday. 

It also reinforced to me that this millennial and Gen Z generation has a different mindset at work and at home than what I do.  They are very critical of themselves.  If they accomplish 20 tasks in a day with 19 being positive and 1 being negative, they usually only focus on the negative.  Our job in developing them in their career is to provide them with the knowledge and skills to be successful and to pick them up when they stumble.  We use the mindset of “Never expect to fail but when you do, learn to accept it and learn from it”.  Some of the most important growth in my life occurred when I started a project, and it failed.    

This younger generation is also very open to sharing their personal experiences of success and failure, whereas my generation rarely shared the negatives of life.   My generation viewed these signs of vulnerability as being weak.  This new generation also suffers from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  They want to be involved in everything, and if they miss something, they will quickly conduct a google search or find a youtube video on what they missed.  They understand how to be resourceful in this current digital age and are way more conscious than I was at 22 years old. 

I recently participated in a leadership workshop that started off with the question “what do you fear” or “what are you most scared of”.  It took me a couple of minutes to think through my answer.  I had a tough decision in front of me in how I answered this question.   I decided to follow the lead set by our Early In Career group, and be vulnerable.   My greatest fear is not waking up after falling asleep.  Suffering another seizure is still a possibility after last year, as we are still battling the after-effects of cancer.   The 6,000 grays of radiation I received over 30+ treatments in June/July of 2022 cause me consistent headaches and tremors in my hands.  I am in daily discomfort and have not taken any pain pills since February, yet we continue kicking cancer’s ass, being in remission since October 2021.  I still have an open wound on my forehead with open exposure to the Titanium Mesh plate in my head, which is sort of scary.   I will have another 6-hour surgery in November which will have our surgical team conduct multiple tests on my brain and the radiation necrosis I suffer from as they try to close my head once again.  

I also have a serious case of FOMO if something were to happen to me.   I want to be involved in everything and cannot imagine not being able to see my kids graduate from college or get married.   I cannot imagine not being by my wife’s side as we get older.  We still set short-term goals to make it to the next holiday, birthday or anniversary (Happy 22nd Anniversary to my wife this week).  But I am so happy to be alive today, taking no days for granted.   I love being a part of live and in-person daily interactions at work and even went to my first live and in-person concert in July with Connor and Christy, seeing Whiskey Myers and Shane Smith and the Saints play for three hours on a rainy Saturday night (Picture included in this post).  Being able to attend soccer games for my kids moving forward is also a blessing.  Being back to live and in-person experiences is so great compared to the year of covid and the year of cancer we personally experienced in 2020 and 2021. 

Two closing thoughts for today:

1 – Learning is not about the answers given but about asking the right questions to get to these answers. 

2 – Emotional intelligence says you must find a way to break the habit of making permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.

Well Done > Well Said


Some Therapists Have Four Legs


It has been 15 months since my last blog post. One year ago this week, we received the unfortunate news that I had a very rare form of cancer, Eccrine Porocarcinoma (EPC). EPC affects approximately one out of 400,000 people annually in the US, typically in patients much sicker and older than I was. We immediately googled the name EPC as well as what we should experience related to time frames, recovery, treatments, and healing. We found little to no information that set the expectations of what we would go through. With no known treatment protocol and very high mortality rates, we attacked our treatments beginning with an 18-hour surgery on April 27, 2021, to defy the odds and return to some type of normal healthy life. We continue to fight this battle every day.

There have been many more challenging days than positive days. In the last 8 months of 2021, I spent 33 days in an in-patient hospital room and went through six open-head surgeries to heal wounds and fight infections. We also had 32 days of radiation where 6,000 grays of radiation were administered into my newly formed head. While recovering in the hospital, the door to my room was typically closed all the time, and when I received a knock on the door, it typically was a nurse having to administer a painful test or treatment or to bring me hospital food, which was most of the times cold and not good. There were several situations in 2021 my doctors said I should have not survived and I find thanks with every day. I am still walking around with an open wound on my head (covered with a bandage). The shape of my head is still similar to a rhombus and we will have several more surgeries to fix these two final challenges. However, I am back to work and feel better than ever. We have paved the way for others to learn from the treatments we went through and how to set expectations for healing.

There were two scenarios where the knock on the hospital room door would bring a smile to my face. The first scenario was when my wife or kids walked into the room. This was always the highlight of my day. The second scenario was when a volunteer would walk into our room with a therapy dog. We are a dog family and throughout 2021, whenever I would return home from the hospital, our two dogs, Honey and Daisy, would greet me at the door with wagging tails and crazy enthusiasm. The volunteers and companion dogs created an environment of therapy and comfort whenever they walked into the hospital room.

You will hear me discuss a concept called “Post-Traumatic Growth” where a person goes through a very traumatic event in life and commits to helping improve the lives and experiences of others. There are two steps we have started in our Post-Traumatic Growth Journey. The first is that we are training our newest adopted dog, Blanton (Pictured Above) to be a therapy dog where any member of our family can hopefully bring a smile to the face of a child or an adult in a healthcare setting as they are experiencing their own recovery. We want to return the joy brought to us while we fought cancer. Blanton is a Blue Nose Pitbull who is a gentle giant and loved by everyone. His therapy training will take a while to get him certified, but the therapy he brings me every day is amazing.

The second step is more tangible in nature. We wrote a book about our journey to healing, called “We Got This, Leadership Principles Learned and Reinforced Through a Twelve-Month Battle With Cancer”. Our hope with sharing this book is that it will help motivate and inspire others to perform at their best, have a positive mindset when dealing with difficult to impossible situations, especially within the small community of EPC patients, and to live life every day as if it could be their last.

I have learned a lot over the last twelve months about pain, healing, compassion, empathy, and communication. I have learned that people typically fall into one of two categories of thought processes when suffering through a challenging time:

Thought Process #1- “If I had to suffer through it, others should too”

Thought Process #2 – “If I had to suffer through it, I’ll work to make sure those who also go through it will learn from our successes and mistakes”

I choose to be in option #2. Success typically comes to those who are positive, helpful and finish a project in a better place than what they inherited. Very rarely do you hear of successful people with negative outlooks on business or life. We still have a long way to go to be fully healed from the events of 2021 but We Got This!

Well Done > Well Said


Leadership (and Frozen Custard) is Essential for 2021


Happy New Year!

The year 2020 was one that challenged us all in ways we could have never imagined or prepared for.  Businesses had to adapt to new tactics mid-year, while shifting their work environments.  Parents had to understand how to be effective at work while also managing to assist their children at school with many students still learning remotely 9 months after the March shutdown.  And we all learned what was “essential” to us individually…whether it was what essentials we needed to shop for at the grocery store, what essentials we needed to get through each day, or what businesses/restaurants were deemed essential in our particular state.

My son works at Goodberry’s Frozen Custard, which has been able to serve their customers throughout these trying times as an essential restaurant with outdoor and to-go offerings for their customers.  Their product is consistently excellent, and their lines continue to be long, as families visit to try and bring some happiness to their lives.  They have done an excellent job of being an essential part of many family’s lives throughout the years, and especially the last several months.  Our family has realized that Frozen Custard from Goodberry’s is now a weekly essential part of our lives. 

The “essential” term has also made many people think about what are the essential traits of leadership, if these leadership pillars have changed in a post-covid world, and how to be the most effective leader possible going into 2021.  Consider these statistics about the current workplace*:

  1. 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace
  2. 81% of employees would leave their job for the right offer, even if they are not actively looking
  3. Companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable
  4. Good company culture increases revenue by 4X
  5. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 53% of employees surveyed say they feel more exhausted
  6. A full week of virtual meetings leaves 38% of employees feeling exhausted while 30% felt stressed
  7. 22% of employees say they have a difficult time unplugging after work
  8. During the pandemic, employees worked up to three hours more each day

Understanding your team’s needs and how to productively engage them is ESSENTIAL to success.  Here are five leadership essentials to assist you with leading others in the new year, and beyond.

  1. Focus on PURPOSE and PROCESS: This is a recurring leadership principle and, in challenging times, is even more critical.  If your team understands the “why” and the “how”, obstacles become opportunities.  Your company and team’s purpose needs to be reinforced weekly, and establishing processes and sticking to them (adapting when necessary) will increase your organizations efficiency. Looking back on 2020, the challenging times we faced were typically when we allowed others to circumvent the processes we had established for projects. 
  2. Connecting with people has to be frequent: One of the biggest challenges many leaders face is running teams in a remote environment.  We rely too much on e-mail, text messages, or other messaging tactics, without having a real-time small group discussion.  I have a rule that if there seems to be confusion after 3 e-mails, I pick up the phone, or set up a quick 15 minute zoom meeting to insure alignment.  In addition, your team could be comprised of millennials, Gen Z, and baby boomers, all 3 generations with very different ideas of how they learn and what is important to them.  Understanding what is essential to the individuals on your team will help you drive employee engagement. 
  3. Your attitude can be your passport or your prison:  Before you provide feedback on a situation, ask yourself these three questions:
    • Is your feedback positive?
    • Is your feedback helpful?
    • Is your feedback offering a solution?
  4. Understanding and dealing with stress at home and at work: Stress isn’t all necessarily bad.  Reasonable doses of stress challenge you to rise above and conquer!  Having a job with no stress can cause complacency.  However, understand that your team may be stressed by non-workplace things.  Practice listening and be empathetic to your team.  If you feel a member of your team is stressed, ask what you can do to help and follow through on this.  The most effective leaders manage stress by taking care of both mind and spirit (for the leader as well as influencing their team to do the same), managing time by prioritizing what is important (everything cannot be urgent or a fire drill), and asking for assistance when help is needed, whether in the office or at home. 
  5. Being a Servant Leader and Leading with Humility: Servant leaders put the needs of others first, and, in a work environment, they help people attain their highest performance potential. Instead of people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve their teams.  According to recent workplace statistics, 88% of participants prefer a collaborative work culture, 79% want a manager to serve as a coach or mentor, and that 64% want to help make the world a better place.  In 2021, focus on these ideas to help become a leader others want to work for and follow:
  • leading by example (the higher up you go, the harder and smarter you need to work)
  • creating an environment of safety and support
  • listening without judgement
  • respecting individuals’ abilities
  • removing any obstacles to success
  • helping the team work better together

I read the following quote about understanding relationships with others.  “You can’t just give up on someone because the situation is not ideal.  Great relationships (personal or business) aren’t great because there are not any problems.  They are great because BOTH people care enough about the other person to find a way to make it work.”  Being a leader means you are now an ambassador of your organization’s culture.  Whether you are a small business or a global organization, understanding the essentials of your team will help you thrive in 2021.  And sometimes a Hot Fudge Sundae from Goodberry’s Frozen Custard should be considered essential! 

Well Done > Well Said


Your New Normal – What’s Behind You Doesn’t Matter


Ten years from now, we will look back at the year 2020 and remember many things…most of which have changed the world we live in and our future.  It is safe to say that the world we knew over the previous 5-10 years is long gone, and the term “New Normal” has become commonplace in our daily conversations and interactions.  The most successful companies, individuals, and teams will be the ones who adapt quickest to this new environment and gain inspiration from creating this New Normal.

As a leader, you must also adapt to this New Normal approach.  More than likely, you have to lead your teams remotely.  You are having to manage individuals who are struggling with keeping their households intact, whether it being balancing remote learning for their children or keeping them engaged as extra-curricular activities slowly ramp back up.  School administrators are facing significant challenges with creating a safe environment and rewarding curriculum for their students, our children, and the strain on a work from home parent to help support the teachers will continue to grow in the next 12 months.  Depression and anxiety statistics are also increasing with teens, young adults, and individuals without children or living alone as the ability to socialize with others safely has been compromised with COVID-19.  Balancing the challenges of being a leader within your home while trying to change and succeed in a new work environment is a difficult task for everyone.  Our lives will never return to the way they were before 2020.  How you evolve and adapt will determine your success and happiness, both personally and professionally. 

During my conversations with leaders over the last couple of months, I feel there are five fundamental principles that New Normal Leaders must embody to lead their teams in the coming months successfully:

  1. Understand Priorities: I tell people who I work with that I expect work to be the third priority in their life, behind their family and their faith.  There will be times that business will require an individual to highlight work ahead of these first two priorities. Still, an employee’s personal situation has a significant influence on both the quantity and quality of their work.  Make sure you are asking questions of your team of how they are spending time outside of work.  When they are on vacation or taking time off, respect that time away and do everything possible not to engage them. Before they take time off, have a quick call asking them what you can do to help them while they are away, and take that work off their plate.  Get to know what gets them out of bed in the morning, and talk to your team members about motivating factors outside of work that interests them. 
  2. The Success of The Team Is More Important Than The Success of the Leader: I was talking with a friend of mine recently who joined a sales team where there was a new manager.  The team was told that they would receive leads from the manager and that there would be a sharing of accounts.  Within one year, my friend had received one lead from their manager, which was considered a minor transaction.  The manager had kept all of the good leads and customers for himself and his commissions.  My friend is already looking for another job.  The best leaders hire employees with clear guidelines on what the job entails and ensures the success of their team members, which in turn creates a high performing unit.  Understand each team member’s strengths and celebrate them.  Discuss their development areas honestly.  In a virtual world, your employees must feel valued, respected, and relevant, or they will soon be looking for another job.  If you are more concerned with your individual performance than team performance, maybe leadership is not for you. 
  3. The New Normal Requires Humility:  Everything good in leadership begins with humility!  We have all been humbled by the events in our communities over the last seven months.  Great leaders are humble.  They are willing to serve their teams without authority or ego.  When things go well, they point out the contributions of their team.  When things go wrong, they humbly admit their mistakes and take responsibility.  Humble leaders understand that trust – earning it, giving it, and building it- is the foundation of great leadership.  They treat everyone with respect, regardless of their position, role, or title. 
  4. Great Leaders Display Gratitude: Great leaders take every chance to show how thankful they are.  They understand that the team’s performance creates success.  Gratitude and appreciation travel a long way in successful companies.  Effective leaders take the time to specifically recognize a minimum of one person per day through an email, phone call, text message, hand-written letter, or social media post. I was recently on a call, and a new manager recognized her team for a project well done.  In announcing to the company the great work that was accomplished, the manager stated, “There are so many people to thank, I cannot mention them all here,” and did not mention anyone. When you publicly state you cannot mention everyone and don’t mention anyone, you have missed an excellent opportunity to display specific and genuine gratitude.
  5. Purpose & Process Driven and Outcomes Aware: This is a concept that I have tried to follow for years.  In a virtual working environment, this model is more important than ever.  If your team understands their purpose and creates a process to deliver on that shared purpose, a positive outcome will typically follow.  A virtual organization in the New Normal also should have limited exceptions to the process.  The challenges I have faced over the last couple of months have typically been attributed to either me or someone else going outside of a created process.  And never assume that your purpose is always understood.  Every presentation I deliver starts with our company’s purpose in how our product improves the lives of our customers.  Remember that developmental coaches and leaders help people find their own answers.  Treating people as tools by giving them answers and expecting them to follow your way is becoming an outdated way of leading others. 

Influential leaders challenge their teams without making their jobs more complicated.  Being agile and nimble with your New Normal development can also develop an innovative and enhanced leader for your teams.  I hope this note finds each of you staying healthy and safe, and that no matter how big the challenge you are facing, your comeback will be stronger than the setback!!!

Well Done > Well Said



What a difference six weeks has made.  What were you doing 45 days ago? Think about that; in less than 45 days, our world has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected every interaction in our lives.  We are working different, exercising different, playing different, leading different…and with each day, a new different seems to be thrust upon us.  This global crisis will be something we all will remember with the impact it has had on our family, our friends, and our society.

Since 2003, I have been fortunate to have worked with two different companies in the medical industry.  Both of these organizations provide products, treatments, and technologies that improve patient lives and clinical outcomes.  I have witnessed many stories from patients who attribute their health and healing to the products we promoted, and I have always felt lucky to have been a small part of their journey.

Please note that I played a small part in their journey, as the products we represented are only as good as the professionals who are treating the patients.  Over these last 17+ years, I have been humbled by the relationships I have built within the healthcare community.  From each level of the multi-disciplinary experience a patient goes through when being treated for a complication or illness, these heroes are trained to deal with unplanned emergencies every day. While this current scenario is new and troubling, it is with no surprise that our medical professionals are beginning to receive the credit and RESPECT they deserve.  In addition, many of the patients I have met have also exuded these same RESPECT qualities.

7 Characteristics the Medical Community Uses to Handle a Crisis with RESPECT: Resilient, Empathy, Simple, Persistent, Empower, Consistent, Team

Resilient: Being resilient is the mental or physical ability to recover quickly from a setback.

Empathy: Recognize another person’s feelings and to respond accordingly

Simple: Make things easy to understand

Persistent: Continuance in a course of action despite difficulty or opposition

Empower: Giving someone the authority to make a decision

Consistent: Behaving in the same way with each interaction

Team: The sum of the group is better than that of an individual

An example: My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer many years ago.  The chances of him surviving six weeks were incredibly slim.  However, my dad and the team who treated him, from the nurses to the surgeons, followed the same example my dad set of being resilient and not accepting the odds of surviving past six weeks.  They showed empathy with our family throughout his treatment, realizing what we were going through, and explained scenarios to my mom in simple terms.  They showed persistence in providing a solution to overcome the tumors that were ravaging his body, and they empowered each other to think of new methods of treatment.  This consistent approach allowed my dad to live 13 years past the original 6-week diagnosis, and he was able to witness weddings, births of his grandchildren, and many other great cherished moments.

7 Ways to Lead with RESPECT in Times of Crisis:

  1. Embody Resiliency: Companies are dealing with situations they have most likely not prepared for. Make sure you are communicating with your teams on your specific plans to recover and set realistic time frames on each project you start. Most importantly, set the expectation of what the future holds.  After getting knocked down, people will get up quickly if they know that good times are ahead. Mistakes will be made in times of crisis…the concept of failing forward and starting over will get you through difficult times.
  2. Lead with Empathy: Your teams are going through a time of uncertainty right now, whether it is working in a new environment, having to help their children learn from home, or the countless other ways that our lives have been affected. And each individual is experiencing these challenges differently.  Conduct a call with the teams you lead with no work agenda…just ask questions and listen to understand versus listening to respond.  Don’t feel you have to offer a solution to every scenario.  Shallow leaders think they need to fix each situation, making it about them.  Often time, just listening and acknowledging is the best course of leading others.
  3. Keep Things Simple: In challenging times, many companies’ over-complicate situations, especially as business needs change and suddenly evolve. Ask these two questions for any solution you are looking to provide: Does this solution provide a positive experience for our customers? Do we have the resources to offer this solution in a timely manner, in addition to supporting this solution?  You have to answer yes to these two questions before investing time and resources.
  4. Be Persistent: Inspire your teams to realize the value your company provides.  Motivation is an internal characteristic that either people have or do not.  If you or your teams are not willing to put in the work to overcome setbacks, then your resilience will suffer as well…persistence and resilience are synonymous with destination companies who evolve with the times.
  5. Empower Your People: Insecure leaders begin to micromanage in times of crisis, continually talking and focusing on their own self-work and importance, and making decisions without involving the teams and others. Successful leaders delegate tasks, even the highest priority ones, and create an environment of development and trust, which leads to an engaged culture. Make sure your teams are involved with all projects, not just the low-visibility ones.  And provide recognition to those who deserve it.  Make a point of recognizing or thanking one person per day (phone call, text message, e-mail) with a specific way they have helped your team.
  6. Stay Consistent: Successful teams usually have a leader who provides consistent messaging and are constant in their day to day operations with their teams.  If your organization is not sure what to expect from their company or their leader from one day to the next, the team environment suffers, and culture eventually is compromised.  Establish a team of peers and ask them for advice on how they are leading with their teams.  Make sure your behaviors are the same in times of prosperity as they are in times of worry.
  7. It Is All About The Team: President Eisenhower said: “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” Prosperous organizations are comprised of a group of individuals who understand their roles and responsibilities to succeed as a team.  Make sure your team is aligned on what you are looking to accomplish (vision and mission) and know that what you can achieve as a team far exceeds what you can complete as an individual.

Now more than ever, our healthcare professionals deserve our respect.  I have learned so much from people like Dot Weir, John Lantis, Seth Rosenbaum, David Galler, Robin Bethell, and Shannon Carroll, who are just a small sample of the thousands of medical people I have worked with over the years.  They are committed to help others improve their quality of life by providing a level of care that meets all of the above characteristics.  Clinicians are taught to deal with crisis on a patient by patient basis, and I hope this blog post shows my respect for these front-line warriors in our current landscape.  And for my followers, a crisis always ends…while times may be tough now, we will come out stronger and better, having lived through these times of adversity.


Be More Like Phyllis


My wife and I have two children, Connor and Kelcie.  We are proud of both of them and the decisions they are making.  They are active with their school, athletics, and their communities.  Over the years, we have met some incredible family members and team-mates through their sport’s teams and schools who have helped us raise them and be a sounding board to Christy and I when we have questions regarding topics such as curfew, cell phone usage, college prep courses, among others.

One of the most remarkable people we have met is Phyllis.  She is the grandmother of a player my son has played club soccer with over the years.  Phyllis is the kind of person who is always smiling and displays an infectiously positive attitude.  Just being in her presence will lift your spirits, no matter how your day is going.  She videotapes every game her grandson plays, through rain, bitter cold, or ridiculously hot weather, and sends out game highlights to the families of the team.  When my son played in a pretty big high school game earlier this year, with a temperature of 40 degrees, wind, and pouring rain, there was Phyllis, cheering his team on.   She is the epitome of class and someone who I always look forward to seeing at the soccer field or around town.

Several years ago, when our team was driving back to NC from a game out of state, Phyllis was involved in a horrible automobile accident.  The result of this accident saw Phyllis lose her right leg.  Imagine being a grandmother who has always taken great care of herself, who now has to learn how to do everything differently in her life, resulting from a situation she had no control over.  So, how does an amazingly positive person like Phyllis handle the adversity of losing a limb?  Check out this 6-minute video below.

Phyllis’s story is a living example of how to deal with a challenging situation head-on with positivity and turn a negative condition into an opportunity to influence others.  Every single one of us has had to deal with adversity in our personal and business lives, but probably not to the extent of what Phyllis went through.  Being an effective leader requires leading teams through adverse events and recognizing that every setback sets the stage for a comeback.

4 Tips to Handling Adversity as a Leader:

  1. You cannot do it alone: When a challenging situation is presented to a leader, the quicker they involve the team in creating a solution, the better. Problems are almost always solved quicker and easier when multiple people are involved.  Effective teams are developed when each individual contributor is asked for their input…not when the project is half-way completed, but when the problem is first raised.  Accountable leaders will also take responsibility when something went wrong and work with his/her team to set plans in place to avoid the same mistakes again.
  2. Ask the right questions of your team: What caused this challenge to occur? Could we have avoided this setback?  What is the desired outcome we are now looking to accomplish?  Do we have the right resources to address this challenge?  If not, how do we address these gaps?  What type of accountability measures will we need during this project? What will we learn, and how will we grow from this?
  3. Strive to be Positive and Consistent: There are going to be ups and downs when dealing with hardships. There will be times where others will challenge your strength and conviction.  Set a goal to have as many positive days as possible.  This simple emotional intelligence concept sounds elementary but rarely do people self-evaluate their actions.  At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to recount the good and difficult.  With the hectic and crazy schedules we all manage, take some time to reflect on your accomplishments and create a “scorecard” to assess your endeavors.  I love the following quote “My belief is stronger than your doubt.”
  4. Trust in the process your team created: If you bought a ticket for a train and started through a 4-mile dark tunnel, you don’t throw the ticket off and look to hop off during the first ¼ mile of the darkness.  You trust that the train will get through.  The same thing goes through the process of overcoming adverse events.  You created a plan with your team, you asked all the right questions, and you are positively and consistently influencing the plan.  While agility and making changes may be warranted, make sure those modifications are still answering the same initial questions.

Hopefully, every person reading this has a Phyllis in their lives.  She hardly missed any games after the accident, and the emotions we all shared watching her share hugs with the team after her first game back was something we will never forget.  In addition to her stand-up comedy, Phyllis has become an inspirational humorist, performing at churches, clubs, and organizations.  This past November, she spoke at the Durham VA Amputee Support Group. She has also become a Handicapped Accessibility Warrior, working with local school systems and Parks & Recreation departments to ensure accessibility is present and enforced. She literally infuses happiness and laughter into others through the most challenging of circumstances.  We all could learn something from Phyllis and how to handle adversity with a “Healing with Humor” mindset.

Well Done > Well Said


Greatest Hits


About 10 years ago, I was asked to volunteer and assist with several projects at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.  Projects with these MBA candidates range from providing feedback on assignments, mentoring students through experiential projects, and my favorite, mock interview day.  We would work with the students on situational interview Q&A and provide our feedback on areas they did well and ways to improve their responses.  I loved helping out and we were able to hire multiple employees from this program who I still stay in touch with to this day.

During the interviews, we allowed the students to ask us 2-3 questions on any topic they wanted.  Most of the times, the questions asked back to us were very common questions…“tell me about a time where you had to think outside the box” or “what do employers like you look for in a candidate”.  However, there was one student whose question I will never forget.  She asked, “if you could summarize the successes you have had professionally and create a Greatest Hits Album, what would be the 5-8 titles of this album and why”?  She had asked a question that really caused me to think through the response, and allowed us to have a productive conversation on the cause/effect of the things I did well and the mistakes I had made and learned from.

Here is a sampling of what I would consider my greatest hits and an appropriate music genre/potential artist or group I would associate this title with:

People First…Always (80’s Dance Music – Bell Biv Devoe): If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.  It is that simple.  This is not to say that you should make personnel decisions that will negatively impact your business but great leaders put these people decisions into perspective.  Ensuring each member of your team knows their well-being is in your best interest will improve employee engagement and reduce turnover.  Be intentional with your team and their careers and they will be more apt to support your cause through good times and tough times. Assign each high potential member of your team some type of project to develop their skills outside of their current job description.

Experience Does Not Equal Proficiency (Classic Country Music – Hank Williams Jr.): I have played close to 1,000 rounds of golf in my life, and am still not really that good in swinging the golf club.  The same can be said for people in their careers.  Hiring the right person is the most crucial role for any leader.  Make sure that you are accurately describing the position you are hiring for and ensure that the candidate you land on is someone you can learn from.  Steve Jobs said it best when he said “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Selection, Not Elimination (90’s Alternative Grunge – Pearl Jam): This has to do with hiring as well. Hiring managers and recruiters typically spend too much time on eliminating potential candidates versus selecting the right candidates to move forward.  I always looked for employees who left their position in better shape than what they inherited and maybe were not a perfect fit for the role now, but had the determination to succeed if we worked together on developing into the role.  I will likely take a chance on someone who was the right motivational fit for the company and give them an opportunity…however you have to be committed to their development throughout their career and not just in the on-boarding phase. This was an area I was extremely deficient in as a newly promoted manager because I felt I needed a potential new hire to “check all of the boxes” before hiring them.  Companies with poor organizational and developmental cultures also tend to write people off based on one interaction or experience instead of constructively talking to the development areas and investing in their improvement.  Destination companies focus on selecting the right people and tirelessly working to develop their skills.

Purpose and Process (Modern Country Music – Zac Brown Band): The last few blog posts have really tried to position this shift in thinking for teams and leaders. Every member of your team and company should know the purpose of your organization.  From there, you should create processes to allow your company to make the right decisions.  This same concept should also be applied to the meetings you are running.  Over the next 30 days, set a purpose or agenda for every meeting, and while running the meeting, if people start to sway off course, bring them back together around the purpose.

Always Selling and Training (Modern Day Pop – Taylor Swift): Every role I have had required me to be successful in selling and training.  My dad used to tell me that no matter if you were a doctor, a lawyer, a wire lather or janitor, everyone is in sales. Your ability to conduct a job is only as good as your ability to sell and convince others that you could perform the tasks necessary to excel in the position.  I could not agree more with this statement, and will add the component of training as it relates to leadership roles.  Your focus on the training and development of your teams will improve personal and business efficiencies.  And while the methods with which we teach continue to evolve and expand with different generational employees entering the workforce, the foundational principles of what we learn are still the same and should constantly be evaluated and monitored.  I love the Kirkpatrick Model as shown below.  Most companies employ tactics in level 1…Best-In-Class companies measure output in levels 2-4.  If you are conducting training today and not evaluating the change in behavior next week or next month, then the training is a wasted exercise.  


Humility and Character (70’s Classic Rock Music – John Denver):  This title is non-negotiable for putting on a Greatest Hits compilation.  The most effective leaders I have seen through the years use the term “we” when describing their teams.  A leader’s own importance is secondary to the individuals on their team.   Effective leaders are consistent in their day-to-day interactions and humble in their learnings, understanding that the team is so much more important than the individual leading them.  Successful business character traits including respect and loyalty (character is always earned through actions and never implied) are equally important to be visible from the position of CEO to the people in the trenches.  If one of these traits is compromised, team challenges typically follow.  Leading with humility and character both at work and outside of work will usually lead to success.

Know your Value (Inspirational – MercyMe):  There will be challenges….there will be people who question you, doubt you, and love to feed into a drama filled corporate environment.  Wake up every day convinced that you are making an impact.  When others begin to devalue your role or contributions (and this will happen to everyone), don’t let them bring you down to their level.  No person is perfect 100% of the time so make sure the days you wake up happy to go to work outnumber the days you are dreading going into the office.  Surround yourself with good people, in and out of your company, and gain their advice.  A CEO I know, who was in his new role for less than a year, was promised and told great things by his new employer.  After this short stint in his position where the promises were not coming to fruition, he left this great company feeling he would be happier serving another organization who was more in touch with where he wanted to be.  He knew what he was worth and was not going to let anyone convince him otherwise, which will bring him great respect in his next career choice.

I love working with High School and College students at TCU (Thanks to Ed for this great opportunity).  The excitement and enthusiasm most of them have towards learning is infectious.   I wish that the candidate who had asked me the “Greatest Hits” question years ago was looking to join our field as she is someone I have remembered and felt would make an immediate impact in any company she joined.  She is extremely successful in the finance world and I know she is creating some of her own greatest hits with her team and people she influences.

Well Done > Well Said

Evaluating And Making Decisions Based On The Right Factors


Recently, I was asked to organize a webinar with some of our company’s most influential customers.  As this was my first introduction to many of them, I wanted to make sure this call went perfect.  Our team put together a great agenda and worked with our logistics partner to review the technical specifics for all attendees.  We setup a meeting the day before the call to run through the details and to practice executing the call which went perfect.

As we all know well, life is not perfect.  We can role play and practice in artificial models or scenarios, but these types of interactions are not what determines success.  Accomplishment is determined by the end result, in this case, the 8:00PM call with our top customers and educators.  We had instructed all of our presenters to login 30 minutes prior to the call starting to make sure we were prepared.  At 7:40, everything went wrong…the slides were not advancing, there was background noise on the phone from one of our presenters, attendees were in-correctly allowed into our presenter “room” and heard us going through solutions to the multitude of technical problems we were experiencing.  Luckily, our team remain composed and we were able to conduct a positive call, overcoming the obstacles we faced.

The reason I share this story with you relates to how you and your team determine success versus failure.  When evaluating the company handling the logistics for this call, the practice call was great, but that was not the performance which mattered.   The only call that mattered was the 8:00PM call and this experience did not meet our expectations.

In running a training department for several years, our team witnessed many people who flourished in a controlled environment, participating well in simulated drills/role plays/testing modules.  Many of them achieved great things after training, yet we also witnessed people whose success in the classroom did not translate to the job they were hired to do.  We also saw people who performed at an average level in the training room but truly excelled in their jobs in front of our customers.  The best employees are the ones who perform on game days, combining the skills they learned in training with the will to succeed when it mattered.  Practice is essential to success, but companies or teams are only judged by their performance after training.  I will take the employee who rates a seven out of ten in the training room and performs at a ten out of ten level when it counts versus the employee who is a ten out of ten in simulated practices but only a seven out of ten when they have to produce.   If your scoreboard is based on practices or simulated exercises and results only, you are setting your teams up for failure.

  1. Make sure you are holding your players accountable to their performance “in games” versus their performance “in practice”. Again, this does not minimize the value of practice.  However, accomplishment is measured by the performance when it matters.   If a person’s success is only seen on the practice field or in the training room and does not translate to the job they were hired to do, then we need to ask if they are the right person for the job.
  2. When determining the right person for a role or job, make sure to gain feedback from others on the decision. Great leaders do not make decisions in a silo.  Listen to what peers and others say about any person you are evaluating for a position.  An example – a couple of years ago, we had a leadership position come available which we had 3 highly qualified people for.  In my mind and the mind of others, there was a clear-cut leader for this promotion, who was the most tenured and we had the most involvement with.  We asked for feedback from many people, especially the direct supervisors and peers of the other two candidates who had applied for this position.  These other two candidates had less tenure with our company and we did not have as many touchpoints or experiences with them.   In the end, we promoted the least tenured person for the position because of what her performance was and for the intangibles she brought to the interview and evaluation process, which we were not initially aware of.  The other two candidates did well in simulations, but when it came to specific performance when it mattered, it was an easy decision.  If we would not have asked for the feedback of her peers and managers, we would not have endorsed the right person.  And this new manager has been crushing it for two straight years in her role.
  3. In training environments, don’t set a goal to be perfect, but to get better. There will be times when your practice is perfect, but it will not be every day.  Work on minimizing mistakes and set a goal of improving on 1-2 things per week.  Very few people in life perform at a 10 out of 10 level in all areas every day (maybe they exist but I have never met them).  We all have strengths and development areas.  Prolific people and teams work to improve on both.

When I was living in Texas, I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast with a Division I college football coach who described the “it” factor he looked for when recruiting players.  He would spend a lot of time watching practices, but the most important metric to his staff was how these recruits performed in games, when the pressure was on and when performance was tested outside of the simulations of drills and practice. While he was talking about players he wanted in his program, he would ask their high school coaches if their player had “it”.  This was defined by intangibles such as leadership, determination, handling of pressure, grit and many times could not be replicated on a practice field.  These “it” factors were important in every interaction every day, but he wanted players on his team who performed most on Saturday game days in front of 60,000 screaming fans and not just on Monday through Friday practice days.  If a player did not have “it” then he would typically pass on them.  Gary Patterson has won 167 games and lost only 63 games in his 19 years as a coach at Texas Christian University because he has recruited players into his program whose performance is analyzed by both practices and games, but most importantly the way they play and win on Saturdays, when it counts.  Successful businesses should do the same!

Well Done > Well Said-