November 30, 2006

Think Like a Leader and Lead Like a Thinker

Filed under: Professional Development, Leadership Lessons — Mark Sanborn @ 12:30 pm

This month’s Leadership Lessons is titled “Think Like a Leader and Lead Like a Thinker” and provides 6 suggestions for better thinking. Leave a comment on the article or, better yet, leave your “best practices” for better thinking!

What are You Learning from Your Kids?

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 9:53 am

I was listening to an old recording by my dear friend Charlie “Tremendous” Jones ( on my frosty drive into the office today. He said it used to make him crazy trying to teach his kids things. One day he realized, “God didn’t give me kids so they could learn from me, but so I could learn from them! So I could hardly wait until they had kids of their own to learn from, because it seemed awfully one-sided!”

Charlie is a master at using humor to make a point. We do want to raise our kids well–to make sure they learn how to be good and also to invite them to be great–but we learn an amazing amount if we pay attention. Kids challenge us in unique ways.

What have you learned from your kids today?

The Power of Connection

Filed under: Non-titled Leaders, Leadership, Moral Leadership — Mark Sanborn @ 9:46 am

I just did something I rarely ever do: I responded to an internet “freebie” marketing offer. It centers around the 12 days of Christmas, and I’ll purportedly get lots of free, valuable, cool stuff. Past experience has shown that more often than not, what you really get is spammed to high heaven once you’ve provided your email address.

So why did I respond to this one? Connetion. The guys who emailed me are authors of a book to which I contributed. I’ve been in touch, via email, over the past couple of years. I’ve never met them, but they’ve been stand-up in their dealings to date. So when they emailed and said “This is good,” I believed them.

Of course there is still some risk. If they picked the wrong pony by recommending this program, their credibility will be severely damaged. That is the risk we all take. When we have connection, whether a little or alot, we want to be careful not to breach that trust or erode confidence.

Connection is powerful in sales and marketing, and it is powerful in business and life. We allow ourselves to be influenced by a leader, with or without a title, because we feel a connection based on past direct or vicarious experience, so we trust them. This connection is built slowly over time, and must be judiciously guarded. Ultimately, it doesn’t give us power over people, but rather power with them. It is influence by consent and commitment, the best power of all.

November 29, 2006

Losing Faith at Ford?

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 5:39 pm

Ford announced that 38,000 employees took the offered early retirement package. Itwas a high number than expected.


Was the package that compelling? The bean counters would have designed a package just compelling enough to get the desired number of employees to opt out, not fewer, not more.

So could it be that there is a loss of faith in Ford? Are those on the inside thinking “I’m getting out while the getting out is good”?

That possibliity has to be disconcerting for shareholders and managers at Ford.

Good Work and Good Works

Filed under: Difference Makers — Mark Sanborn @ 11:48 am

When I wanted to upgrade our corporate photography I checked around and found out about Ray Ng. He’s a professional photographer in the Denver area and go-to guy for major business publications like Forbes. He shot me–not an easy task as I’m posing impaired–and I was pleased with the results.

I was even more pleased when I saw Ray on the local news this morning. A TV station was reporting on photographers who donated their time and services to capture memories for the families of children at Children’s Hospital. There was Ray doing his magic in bringing out the best in sick kids and bringing light to a dreary situation.

Ray Ng does good work. But I’m even more impressed with his good works.

Happy Thanksgiving. Again. And Again.

Filed under: Observations, Success, Difference Makers — Mark Sanborn @ 10:21 am

Yes, the official Thanksgiving celebration is past. But recent reseach in the area of happiness suggests that people who are happiest don’t necessarily have more to be thankful for, but they are thankful more. They pay attention to the good things in their lives and reflect upon them frequently. They deny or avoid the unpleasantness-they’re just more thankful.

I’ve always believed that the best antidote to negativity wasn’t necessarily positive thinking but gratitude. It is hard to stay negative when you focus on what’s good in your life.

So why not give thanks every day, and celebrate thanksgiving year-round?

November 28, 2006

Cutting “Winners” Too Much Slack

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 12:17 pm

We are much more forgiving of those with a winning record.

Bobby Knight claims moral high ground when he says he is commited to bringing out the best in his players. His means are dubious.
He’s known for profanity laced tirades leveled at players and anyone else who angers him. His emotional outburts on and off the basketball
court are well-known.

So does the end justify the means? After all, many of his players credit him with their success.

Consider this: would Knight’s behavior be tolerated if he didn’t have a winning record? If he wasn’t so successful, I believe he’d be thrown out of many if not most programs because of his bad behavior.

But we like winners. And we overlook behavior in them that we wouldn’t accept from losers.

Sound hypocritical? It is.

Whether you lead a sports program or a coroporation, remember the words of John Maxwell: You teach what you know but you reproduce who you are.

The means are as important as the end.

November 27, 2006

Leading without Titles at Lost Valley Ranch

Filed under: Leadership, Moral Leadership, Difference Makers, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 2:25 pm

Our family just spent a wonderful four days at Lost Valley Ranch outside of Deckers, Colorado, where we rode horses, ate too much great food and enjoyed the splendor of the Rocky Mountains.

One of the wranglers was a young man named Matt who really impressed my son Hunter, who is nine. His professionalism, knowledge of horses and willingess to make guests feel special made him a hit with our family.

On the day we left, Matt handed Hunter an envelope. Hunt was thrilled. Inside was a Christmas card with a picture of Matt riding his horse in the snow, and a handwritten note telling Hunter how much he enjoyed meeting him, and encouraging him to be a role model to his younger brother (a desire Hunter had shared with Matt). He encouraged Hunter to come back again and closed with a bible verse for Hunter to look up.

I had made friends with another wrangler named David with whom I shared a love of books and philosophy. On our group trail rides I had as much fun talking about books and life as I did riding.

Without exception, all the staff at the ranch were warm, friendly and anxious to be of service. They all had a positive, upbeat attitude that just can’t be faked. When was the last time you can recall a hotel stay or vacation where everybody you encountered was that way? I’m not sure what the owners, Bob Foster and his family, have done to create this kind of extraordinary organization, but I’m impressed.
The ranch was beautiful and the activities enjoyable, but the positive influence of employees like Matt and David and the other Lost Valley Ranch team members–leaders without titles–made for an extraordinary vacation.

You can bet we’re looking forward to returning.

November 20, 2006

Serving Leadership

Filed under: Non-titled Leaders, Leadership, Moral Leadership — Mark Sanborn @ 11:39 am

In a USA Today interview, the head (National Commander) of the Salvation Army, Israel Gaither, was asked about the concept of “sevant leadership,” a term coined by Robert Greenleaf. I liked his response:

“I define it a little differently than servanthood, or servant leadership. Servant leadership can be inactive. Serving leadership is active. It’s not just a mantra…It’s about giving myself absolutely to my mission.”


Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 11:05 am

I wish you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday if you live in the U.S., and for my international friends I simply wish you thankfulness. I will be at a ranch in the mountains celebrating with my family and be offline for several days.

What am I thankful for? Many of the same things you are thankful for: family, faith, friends, and health. But I’m also thankful for mentors no longer living, liike C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. Both had the ability to deal with the deeper, more difficult issues of life in a way that not only inspires but instructs.

I’m also thankful for problems. This is more challenging as I can’t think of any problems I’ve had recently that I would have signed up for, but I can think of many that have made me a better person and created unexpected insights and blessings. I don’t believe God wastes problems on anybody, but I do often waste my opportunity to respond well to the problems that face me and learn from them.

I’m thankful for ideas, and the freedom to share them as an author and speaker. Not only will the truth make you free, but as someone else once said, it can also make you odd. Deeply thinking about the important stuff of life will often lead to conclusions that are different from the norm. Culture is a mixed bag of fact and fiction, and there are many ideas competing for our attention. Intellectual rigor is often missing, in public debate and elsewhere, so for those of us to whom ideas really matter, we should be thankful for the freedom to pursue them and do our own thinking.

I’m thankful for the men and women who defend our country, and for their families who sacrifice greatly as well. Not only am I thankful, but I pray for their safety and God’s blessings on their efforts.

And of course I’m thankful for you, for you’re shared your time and attention to consider my thoughts, and for that I am appreciative.

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