Don’t Excuse the Interruption

I loved my DVR when I had cable. Not only could I watch my shows when I wanted to, but I could do something even more profound.

I could skip the commercials.

Photo credit Pablo Torvinen

I could circumvent the negative side of television. It felt like I was cheating, almost. Why is that? What is so disdainful about the commercial breaks, and their attention-grabbing tactics?

It’s the interruption.
I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s 1999 book, “Permission Marketing“, and even though it is a little dated, he describes some concepts that are more true now than ever before.
Seth describes the dilemma of all marketers. He says that they are trying to grab the limited time and attention of the public. He says that “interruption marketers” try to take your attention away from your interest any time they can. If you are watching TV, they interrupt your program. If you are reading a magazine, they try to grab your eye as you turn the page. Or they pop up on your computer. I think of it as the type of marketing that people complain about. The annoying ads…
On the other side, “permission marketers” are trying to build a relationship with you. Instead of counting on love at first sight and running off to the wedding chapel, a permission marketer would go on a few dates first and then ask you to marry him.
In permission marketing, the person has to “opt-in” in order to receive material from you as the marketer. They have to give their permission because they are interested already. You have provided something of value for them, information, entertainment…and now they want more.
This process takes time, Seth Godin says you build these relationships by turning strangers into friends and friends into customers. He also says that this takes a leap of faith. It takes faith to put away the TV ads, the direct mail, and actually get to know people. Slow down and build trust with people, it can pay off in the end.

This can apply to a leader and her team as well. If she spends time with and gets to know the members of her team, they will trust her. She can help them reach their goals.



How can you focus on relationships to turn strangers into friends, and friends into customers?


Strengths Training For Leaders: Part 3

What Do They Need?

Being a leader is kind of a funny thing. You really aren’t a leader alone. You can’t study and learn and sit at home and be a leader. You have to have something else.


In the last two posts, we’ve looked at improving ourselves as leaders and as human beings by knowing our strengths. When we know our strengths, we can build on them. We get a greater return on our investment of time and energy than if we invest in our weaknesses.
Our team can take us to the next level by filling in for our weaknesses.
Now we can look at how we can meet the needs of our followers.
Tom Rath at Gallup, asked in a survey about a leader that influenced people’s lives. They then asked for three words to describe that person, or what that leader gave them.
After thousands of entries, these four general needs rose to the top of their results.

1. Trust
2. Compassion
3. Stability
4. Hope


We have all seen how quickly the media jumps on a story of a business or political leader being dishonest. To foster trust, a leader must,
“die keeping your promises.”

Relationships are key, even more than competence, according to Rath. Get to know your followers and have integrity, sounds easy enough, huh?


A leader has to care about people. A leader has to be positive, says Mervyn Davies in Strengths-Based Leadership, “employees don’t want to follow negative people.”


This means that your principles are solid. Nobody can question your motives. It also can mean transparency to your followers. They see you have weaknesses and you acknowledge them. That builds confidence in followers. Don’t try to cover up your weaknesses, people can see them, so consequently, they just see the cover up for what it is. Be who you say you are.


Tom Rath says in Strengths-Based Leadership, that most leaders react to the needs of the day. This shows followers that their leader is tossed about on the waves of life.
He continues to say that when leaders initiate action, they create hope. Just by choosing their direction, they share hope for their future.

This last point was really important for me in my business. I would start a training program with my team, or we would start a staff meeting, and someone would bring up an “emergency.” Great, so let’s all spend the rest of the meeting and the next week working on this “emergency.”
So nothing got done. And it was my fault, I let it happen. Once I chose to downgrade the “emergencies”, I felt lifted. I chose what we would discuss and train on, and not someone from outside our office. I felt the hope. I was directing my team to go where I wanted to go.

Now I have read and implemented many of these principles, but I am still working on developing my strengths.
I make mistakes, I have weaknesses, but I’m planning to lead, and my team will continue to lift me, and us, all up to new levels of greatness.

And I hope yours does too.


What can you do to build trust with your followers? What can you do to create hope with your followers?

Strengths Training For Leaders: Part 2

Part 2: Who, Really, Is On Your Team?

Who is on my team?

Have you ever played a pick up game of flag football or basketball, and teams are picked, and you can’t remember who is on your team?

Who should be the quarterback?

Who can catch?

What do you do?

You ask everybody:

“Hey, can you throw?”
“Can you kick?”
“What play should we run?”
“Whose team am I on?”

Imagine yourself at work or church and not knowing who is on your team.
Should you just hand out jobs like it’s Halloween? To anybody that’s standing in front of you? What do you ask people to do, if you don’t know what they are good at?

In the last post we looked at the need for a leader to focus on what she does well. And to let everything else fall away.
But not forever, and here is where your team comes in. They can pick up the slack for you and for each other.
In Strengths-Based Leadership, Tom Rath described this process.
He talked about effective leaders and how they surround themselves with the right people and build on each other’s strengths.
Mr. Rath worked closely with many great leadership teams. He discovered that every team had strong elements of all four of these domains:

Relationship Building
Strategic Thinking

The 34 strengths we briefly looked at in the last post fit into these four domains.When you learn your team’s strengths, you can develop a team that has aspects of all four domains.

“Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.”

Leaders should know their own strengths and their weaknesses. Rath says that they should know “who they are and who they are not.” Then form a team to bolster your weaknesses.

Effective teams, Rath says, can discuss openly their strengths and how to utilize them best. He goes on to describe how these strong teams also have 5 things in common:

1. Conflict doesn’t destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results.

2. Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward.

3. Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work.

4. Strong teams embrace diversity.

5. Strong teams are magnets for talent.

When you have built your team, the work is not finished. You must continually develop your team’s strengths, give them opportunities to grow. And you must continue to build stronger relationships within your team.

If we go back to the flag football analogy, now can we say what position everyone should play? Can we take advantage of everyone’s strengths? To the benefit of our team? Can we pass and catch and block effectively? So now that we are an effective team, what is our goal?

That is up to you.

What could a focus on strengths do for your team?



We have examined what a leader needs to do to focus on strengths, but now what do the followers need? For the answer, stay tuned for the next post.

Strengths Training For Leaders Part 1

What is Strengths-Based Leadership?

I’ve always been taught it’s vital to be well-rounded. If I have weaknesses, I should strengthen them. If I struggled with a subject in school, I should study harder, and “just learn it.”
That’s not necessarily true.

A friend introduced me to The Strengths-Based ideas a few months ago. Just prior, my team and I had taken the DISC personality profiles. The Strengths approach offered additional clarity.
About the same time I heard the author, Tom Rath, on the Entreleadership podcast talking about his book, Strengths-Based Leadership. In that podcast, he gave an example of why focusing on strengths is important.

Report Card

He asked if you were a parent, and your child brought home a report card with
4 A’s and
1 C,
which subject would get the most attention?
The C right? Most likely it would be the subject in which the child doesn’t have a natural aptitude, or doesn’t enjoy. All the while, ignoring the subjects he loves or is good at. Why is that the case? Why can’t we focus and build on what our kids do well? Why can’t being great at a few things be good enough?
But we don’t always take the opportunity to invest in those talents early.
Tom Rath shows an equation of what constitutes a strength,

Talent  X  Investment = Strength

The Key

The key, he says is to invest and build on who you already are.

Gallup polling, and Donald Clifton developed the Strengths-Based philosophy. Basing it on years of polling data and statistical studies. They interviewed successful leaders and identified 34 Strengths, or attributes that these leaders showed.

Not Well-Rounded

Not every successful leader has the same strengths. They just have spent time recognizing their own strengths and developing them. They were not “well-rounded”, but they knew themselves and they gathered a team around them to help make up for their weaknesses.
When I bought the book, “Strengths-Based Leadership” I was given a code to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 online test. It was revealing about who I really was, and what I do well.
I think the results were right on the money.
My top 5 Strengths are:

1. Learner
2. Context
3. Connectedness
4. Input
5. Belief

Let’s take a look at my number 1:

I am an avid learner. I am always reading something. I’ve been known to pack a suitcase full of books for vacation. I can’t seem to help myself. So, with that in mind, I need to leverage that, and build on that strength.
I take continuing education courses every year. I’m an avid note-taker, I use them for review and teaching my team.

In summary, get to know who you are, develop your talents. Invest in your strengths. Don’t strive to be the well-rounded person that our culture values so much.

Be strong.



What are your strengths?


Next time, we’ll investigate how this philosophy can help you build a rockstar team.