How to regain focus at work



Life and never-ending to-do lists seem to go hand in hand. We cross one item off seven more appear while carrying the stress of “never having enough time.”

In our pursuit of greater productivity, we seek out the newest book, app, or software program to help us get things done and experience increased productivity.

But what if lack of productivity isn’t the problem?

We understand what needs to get done; the tasks are staring us in the face taunting us from our endless list.

Our struggle isn’t a lack of productivity or understanding of what needs to accomplish but a lack of clarity as to where to place our focus.

We receive emails with to-do’s; we walk out of meetings with assigned to-do’s that pile on top of our laundry list of to-dos we already had written down.

Being peppered with multiple tasks day in and day out won’t stop, this is the nature of work.

So how can we gain greater clarity around our to-do’s? I honestly believe it comes down to one thing, clarifying expectations.

If you or your boss decides something is worthy of landing on your to-do list, then it becomes one of your ‘priorities”.

The funny thing about priorities is you can only have one at a time thus the need to clarify expectations.

The definition of Expectation is: “A belief that someone will or should achieve something.”

Expectation goes beyond the tasks of work to the psychology of work.

We have our to-do list, and then we have the voice in our head wondering if we are meeting the expectation of our boss.

So how do we calm the voice in our head? Have real, honest conversations around your work.

We clarify expectations by asking the simple question
“When does this task need to be completed?”

The only way to know what can wait is to have clear, set times and dates that create natural boundaries for your work.

When we are assigned tasks that lack precise schedules we tend to push aside our work to ensure we get the bosses tasks completed which causes us to lose focus on work that might be more important.

Can your boss insist that you push all other work aside to complete an assigned task? Of course, but it is then your job to clarify expectations by clearly communicating what you have on your list of to-dos and how focusing on the newly assigned tasks will affect your other work load.

Clarifying expectations around your work by identifying deadlines and due dates will calm the voices in your head and give you a greater understanding on where to place your focus.

How do you establish clear expectations around your work? What would you add? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts!

What is your failsafe? [New Blog Post]



“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray” – Robert Burns

On October 30th, 1935 at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio Boeing’s chief test pilot Leslie Tower and Army test pilot Major Ployer Peter Hill set out to test the most extraordinary prototype bomber every developed for its time, the Boeing Model 299. The Model 299 nicknamed “The Flying Fortress” was equipped with four engines, multiple gunner stations, a central bomb bay and excellent long range flying capabilities.

Both men died that day.

Leslie Tower and Major Ployer Peter Hill lost their lives that day because of a simple mistake; they overlooked the fact that the control lock had been left in place. The control lock is a device that stops the control surfaces moving in the wind while parked prior to take-off. A simple checklist of steps would have caught their error.

That same year management and engineers at the Boing Corporation introduced the first pre-flight checklist; this is called a failsafe.

a system or plan that comes into operation in the event of something going wrong or that is there to prevent such an occurrence.

Failsafes save you time, money and potentially lives.

Much the failure that happens in our life and business is not due to the lack of planning but the failure to install proper fail safes.

Jim Collins in his book “Great by Choice describes how in their research they discovered that 10X Companies (Meaning the best of the best) always assumed that conditions could and often do unexpectedly change, violently and fast. They are hypersensitive to changing conditions, continually asking, “What if?”

“What if” is the right question to ask all the time about everything we plan to do because the time to fix the leaky roof is when the sun is shining.

Life happens.

The furnace will break in your home; your star employee resigns and goes to work for your competitor. Heck, you might get hit by a bus.

As we develop great plans, we must look into the future and plan for the possible unforeseen events that will crop up and try to kill the idea.

We can’t plan for everything, but we can create Failsafe’s in the major areas of our life and business to mitigate the potential derailment of our plans, goals, and strategies.

Question: What Failsafes can you put in place even today? Leave a comment below. 

How to unlock relational trust in your organization [Blog Post]


I’ve been thinking a lot about establishing trust in organizations lately which led me to want to write a blog post about trust. (of course! ) As I started to brainstorm and outline my post One of the best books I have ever read on trust came to mind. It’s called “The Speed of Trust” by Steve Covey

The subtitle of the book says it all: “The One Thing That Changes Everything.”

Establishing trust in your organization is crucial to your effectiveness, more importantly, it’s critical to having healthy relationships in every area of your life.

As I thumbed through my “Speed Of Trust” book looking for inspiration and great quotes I decided rather than try to write about trust, I would share one of the best excerpts from the book that has been foundational to my life and leadership.

Steven Covey shares about “Relationship Trust and the 13 behaviors that are a part of establishing relational trust.

Here is the excerpt:

Relationship Trust is all about consistent behavior. People judge us on behavior, not intent. People can’t see our heart, but they can see our behavior.

Building Trust Accounts: There are several keys to trust accounts. The fastest way to build a trust account is to stop making withdrawals. You also have to be aware that withdrawals are bigger than deposits. Each trust account is unique. There are two ways of viewing a trust account: your way and their way. What is a deposit in one person’s account may be a withdrawal from another person’s account.


1. Talk Straight
Say what is on your mind. Don’t hide your agenda. When we talk straight, we tell the truth and leave the right impression. Most employees don’t think their bosses communicate honestly. This creates a trust tax. This causes speed to go down and costs to go up. We spend entirely too much time trying to decipher truth from spin.
Straight talk needs to be paired with tact. There is no excuse for being so blunt that you hurt feelings and destroy relationships. Tact is a skill that can be learned and when coupled with straight talk, will build Relationship Trust.


2. Demonstrate Respect
The principle behind demonstrating respect is the value of the individual. The behavior is acting out the Golden Rule. Almost every culture and religion recognizes the value of the Golden Rule. We should treat people the way we want to be treated. Our actions should show we care. They should be sincere. People will notice if an action is motivated by a lesser reason or an impure value. Respect is demonstrated in the “little” things we do daily.

3. Create Transparency
Tell the truth in a way that can be verified. Transparency is based on principles of honesty, openness, integrity and authenticity. It is based on doing things in the open where all can see.

Part of transparency is sharing information. If ever in question, err on the side of disclosure. Rollin King, founder of Southwest Airlines states, “We adopted the philosophy that we wouldn’t hide anything, not any of our problems, from the employees.” That’s transparency.


4. Right Wrongs
To right a wrong is much more than apologizing. It involves making restitution. With customers it may include that free gift along with the sincere apology. We have all been to a restaurant where we received an apology along with a free dessert or a coupon for something free the next time we eat there. It is the principle of going the extra mile. Some will justify their wrongful behavior while others will try covering up their misdeeds. Both of these attempts will not only fail to make deposits in trust accounts, but are certain to make substantial withdrawals.


5. Show Loyalty
There are many ways to show loyalty to your employees. Covey focuses on two. First, give credit to others. As a leader you need to give credit to the individuals responsible for success. A leader should never take credit for the hard work of others. Just as bad is the one who gives credit to someone in their presence, but then down-plays their contribution to others.

Giving credit to others is the right thing to do. It will foster an environment where people are encouraged to be creative and innovative. It will increase trust and have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Second, speak about others as if they were present. Some people think it builds relationships to talk about others. The opposite is true. Talking about others behind their back will decrease trust with your current audience.


6. Deliver Results
The fastest way to build trust with a client is to deliver results. Results give you instant credibility and trust. Delivering results is based on competence. “This behavior grows out of the principles of responsibility, accountability and performance. The opposite of Deliver Results is performing poorly or failing to deliver. The counterfeit is delivering activities instead of results.” Delivering results converts the cynics, establishes trust in new relationships, and restores trust that has been lost due to lack of competence. It is also the first half of Covey’s definition of leadership: getting results in a way that inspires trust.


7. Get Better
In today’s ever changing environment one must continue to improve or become obsolete. You cannot learn a skill and ride that one skill for 30 years. You have to constantly be improving. When others see you continually learning and adapting to change, they become more confident in your ability to lead into the future. Be careful not to become a life-long learner that does not produce, or one who sees only one way to improve self and others.

Covey suggest two ways to get better. First, seek feedback from those around you. Second, learn from your mistakes.


8. Confront Reality
We cannot close our eyes to the tough realities we face. If we are honest about the difficult issues and are addressing them head-on, people will trust us. We have to avoid the temptation to avoid reality or act as if we are addressing the difficult issues while we are actually evading them.


9. Clarify Expectations
It is important to focus on a shared vision of success up front. This is a preventative measure. When expectations are not clearly defined up front, trust and speed both go down. A lot of time is wasted due to leaders not clearly defining expectations.

Failure to clarify expectations leaves people guessing. When results are delivered they fall short and are not valued.


10. Practice Accountability
In a 2002 Golin/Harris poll, “assuming personal responsibility and accountability” was ranked as the second highest factor in building trust. Great leaders build trust by first holding themselves accountable then holding others accountable.

Holding yourself accountable includes taking responsibility for bad results. It is often our natural response to blame others for failure. When we fail, we need to look in the mirror.

Holding others accountable allows performers to feel good about the job they are doing. It also increases trust by assuring performers that slackers and poor performers will not pull them down.


11. Listen First
Listening before prescribing, builds trust. Trying to give advice before knowing all the facts is a waste of time and simply not fair. You need to be careful not to learn the mechanics of listening and leave the impression you are listening when you really are not. Remember that communication is more than just words so you will have to listen to nonverbal messages as well. If a person is displaying a high level of emotion, they don’t feel understood. Keep listening. Also, a person is not likely to ask for advice until they feel you understand all the pertinent information. Don’t give advice too early.


12. Keep Commitments
Covey refers to this as the “Big Kahuna” of all the trust behaviors. When you make a commitment you build hope. When you keep a commitment you build trust. Be careful when making commitments. Make only the commitments you can keep. Also, don’t be vague when making commitments.

There are implicit and explicit commitments, and violating either is a huge withdrawal from the trust account. Be aware of the expectations to a commitment i.e. Some companies are strict with internal meeting times and others are more flexible. Also, remember family commitments are just as important if not more so than work commitments.


13. Extend Trust
The other behaviors help you become a trusted leader; this behavior helps you become a trusting leader. We should extend trust to those who have earned it. Be willing to extend trust to those who are still earning it. Be wise in extending trust to those who have not exemplified a character worth trusting.

I couldn’t have written a blog post that so wonderfully defines healthy relational trust. The 13 behaviors that Steven Covey describes are not easy but are the most rewarding to creating a great team and healthy relationships.

If you want more information on “The Speed Of Trust” you can purchase it HERE.

Question: Out of the 13 behaviors, which ones are the most difficult for you and why?

Living a life of alignment [New Blog Post]

We all have a definition of what we believe success to be.

The question is, Does our description of success line up with God’s definition of success for our life?

True success is not a destination but a journey of our lives becoming more and more aligned to God.

Alignment happens when we live a life in joyful, willing obedience to Him, this is where we find fulfillment, purpose, and meaning.

So where do we begin?

We start by becoming acutely aware of how our daily choices align with the Bible.

Our habits and daily choices reveal the things we value and highlight what we deem important.

Our priorities are the things we do every day.

When we examine our lives through the lens of the Bible, our selfish ambitions and worldly desires are brought to light and revealed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gently He prompts us to realign and move toward Him.

The Spirit’s nudge is His loving guidance directing us toward His definition of success, living a life submitted to Gods desire for our life.

This is the safest and most successful way to live.

So where do go after the nudge of the Spirit?

I have realized that if I don’t have a plan and a strategy to overcome areas of my life that are misaligned with God best for me, I will NEVER fully reach my potential that God has designed for me in this life.

We have to define the WHAT realignment God is calling us into and design actionable steps to define the HOW of living it out.

If God is speaking to you to move away from the pursuit of more to align you with His giving heart (Your WHAT), you may develop a strategy to give some of your possessions away to those in need. (Your HOW to live out the Spirit’s nudge)

Every spirit unction calls for actionable function.

The great news is God has your best in mind and is for us and not against us. His desire is for you to live your best life, a life of Godly success.

Philippians 2:13 says (NLT)
13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Jesus WANTS us to live a successful life according to His word, and He empowers us to do it by His Spirit!

Godly success does not promise a life free from pain and struggle, what Godly success does promise is that you will find real joy, meaning, and fulfillment as you align your life with His best for you.

Question: How do you define success and how is God’s Spirit nudging you to a retirement with Him? Leave a comment below. 

There’s a system to everything [New Blog Post]


Today you woke up and followed a system. You got out of bed, jumped in the shower, got dressed, ate breakfast, brushed your teeth and out the door you went.

Have you ever been late to work? Did you forget to set your alarm? Did you hit the snooze button one too many times?

Why do I bring up these examples?

Because there is a system to everything, we do. Most of the systems we follow are learned habitual habits ingrained in us from childhood, so we haven’t needed to stop and document our processes.

For most of us, this is not the case with our work.
Most of our workflow processes are not identified, well thought out, or well executed.

We are usually running too hard too fast to stop and physically document the significant steps in the processes we use.

How do you prepare for a meeting you are leading?
What do you do with the notes you take at meetings? Do you take notes at meetings?

They key question is “Have you identified the next steps you need to take to ensure that you and your team reach your end goal with the least amount of hiccups.

Have you ever had a team member drop the ball on something?

What happened?

Did they forget to send an email, call a client, clearly cascade a message? Whatever it was, you can trace it back to a step in a process/system that was missed or skipped.

Productivity and efficiency fall apart when we circumvent steps in the system.

Dropped balls will occur. We are human. We forget things in the midst of our busy schedules. No matter how organized you are, you will forget to do something.

All the more reason to identify the steps we need to follow for our most important tasks.


Question: What important tasks do you need to document?

The pursuit of right answers over being right [New Blog Post]


Admitting when we are wrong can be difficult. Our ego is easily offended when our ideas are challenged. When it comes to being effective and achieving great results, ego is the enemy.

The key to achieving great results and making a huge impact is the pursuit of right answers over being right.

No matter your position, CEO or custodian, everyone has great ideas they can bring to the conversation when working in collaboration as a team. Now, not every custodial decision needs input from the CEO and vice-versa.

The objective is to create the space needed for deep dialog that pursues results over being right.

I’ve been in meetings where I raised my voice and argued my position, and luckily there were others in the room willing to do the same. We were open to other possibilities; we were able to argue our positions and also acknowledge the ways we were also wrong.

The team was more concerned with right answers over being right.

Kim Scott in her book “Radical Candor” shares about creating these types of environments.

She says:
“Make it safe to “speak truth to power” at all levels of the organization; encourage your team to tell you when you are wrong.
If a person is bold enough to criticize you, do not critique their criticism. At Apple, as at Google, a boss’s ability to achieve results had a lot more to do with listening and seeking to understand than it did with telling people what to do; more to do with debating than directing; more to do with pushing people to decide than with being the decider; more to do with persuading than with giving orders; more to do with learning than with knowing.”

I completely agree.

Everyone has bad ideas and makes wrong decisions. When you create an environment that encourages you to challenge ideas, admit when you’re wrong and share your ideas freely, you will see your team begin to make tremendous strides towards accomplishing your goals by getting to the right answers.

So what steps can you and your team take to ensure you are pursuing right answers over being right?

1. Have ideas but hold onto them loosely.
Just because you have what you consider to be an excellent idea doesn’t mean that the timing is right or that there isn’t a better one that will help to move the project, or organization forward.

2. Listen with your heart not just your ears.
It’s easy to hear with our ears and ignore with our hearts; this can be even more difficult if we are set on being right. Listening with our heart says”I’m going to seek to understand you and your position by placing myself in your shoes.

3. Be willing to debate with your team.
Having a willingness to debate as a team will help you to dig until you find the right answers.

4. Be supportive as a team player when another idea is chosen.
In the end, someone has to make the final decision; collaboration does not mean consensus.

As we pursue right answers over being right, we deepen our level of trust as our team and dismantle potential silos before they happen.

Everyone likes to be right, but pursuing right answers are better.

Question: What would you add to the list? I love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.

How to walk in step with our senior leader/upper management [New Blog Post]


I was hiking in the Smoky Mountains along the Appellation Trail enjoying a wonderful vacation detached from technology miles away from the office spending a week with some amazing Christian men.

Since I had never been hiking out in the middle of nowhere with just a backpack unfamiliar with the terrain, I thought it would be a splendid idea to get out ahead of the group without a map and be alone, so I could spend some time walking and praying.

As I enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the woods in late September, a black bear came rushing out from the brush about fifteen feet in front of me.

My heart pounded as she kept running. Luckily she didn’t know I was there.

After I knew she was gone, I accessed if I needed to change my pants, wait for the guys to catch up or keep hiking.
I realized how stupid it was to get out ahead of those who had been here before, had a map, and the experience.
In my excitement, I made a quick decision, and it was the wrong one.

When we are excited about new opportunities, it’s easy to make quick decisions, miss seeing the potential danger and pitfalls and miss the big picture altogether.

When a new exciting opportunity presents itself, it’s easy at work and in life to get out ahead, to want to prove ourselves instead of taking to time to walk in step with those around us that have a clearer picture as to the direction we are supposed to be going.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to explore, take calculated risks, or have the ambition to grow in your career.


It’s when we get out in front of the ones that are leading the way that we run into trouble. 

When we get out in front of our senior leaders/upper management, we run the risk of taking wrong turns and working on projects we were never ours to work on in the first place.

Wanting to have the freedom to pursue something you’re passionate about it great. New ideas are fantastic, but they have to first align with the vision that’s been cast by your senior leaders/upper management.

So how can we ensure this happens?

Here are some steps we can take before we start running and risk of getting out ahead of our senior leaders/upper management:
1. Slow down.
2. Communicate the steps you want to take.
3. Ask for feedback about the path you want to take.
4. Confirm that the direction you want to go is in alignment with the vision/direction of your senior leader/upper management team.
5. If you get the green light, check in regularly to ensure clarity and that you are in fact on the remaining on right path.

Question: When have you gotten out in front of vision too fast and found yourself facing a bear of a problem? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you. 

4 reverse engineering steps that lead to success [Blog Post]


What do you want to achieve?

The best ways to accomplish our goals is to learn from others have achieved what we want to achieve.

So how can we do this?

Two things.

Reverse engineering and consistency.

Wikipedia describes Reverse Engineering as the processes of extracting knowledge or design information from anything man-made and reproducing it or reproducing anything based on the obtained information.

If you want to be a writer, research the process your favorite authors use to write and start writing.

If you want to become better at public speaking, study the public speakers you enjoy and look for opportunities to speak.

The goal is not to act like them but learn the steps and habits that they practice each and every day.

Everything worth doing has a daily routine built into it, and most of them are boring.

Every successful endeavor is a process of small, mundane choices leading up to the moment you reach your goal.

Success is not easy and never happens overnight.

Getting in the best shape of your life means consistently making decisions to eat healthy foods and exercise.

Becoming an author means sitting your butt in a chair and writing EVERY…SINGLE…DAY…no matter how you feel until the book is complete.

Reverse engineering the processes of men and women that have been successful in the areas we are struggling helps us discover their tips and tricks that kept them consistent and will do the same for you.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ― Darren Hardy,

Whatever you want to call them, tips, tricks, strategies, or habits, they are all systems that were routinely executed.

Following a successful reversed engineered system day in and day out is what leads to amazing outcomes once you have reversed engineered someone’s system always remember to trust the system over negative thoughts and emotions.

I promise that you will experience negative mental clutter when pursuing any worthwhile goal.

Our feelings and emotions will lie to us, tell us to quit and to give up. Trusting the reversed engineered system that has worked for those who have gone before us is key to achieving our goals.

You can achieve great things by following the steps below:

1. Decide what it is you want to accomplish.
2. Study the systems used by the greats
3. Stop believing the lies in your head
4. Practice those same systems each and every day until you reach your goal

Remember, you make your choices, and then your choices make you.