10 Simple Ways to Become a Likable Leader

My favorite show on television is Shark Tank.

I DVR every episode.

I love watching the ideas entrepreneurs come up with and seeing the Sharks give feedback to the business owners on how they can succeed.  I find it fascinating and I’ve learned a lot about life and business from the show.

Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank celebrity and business mogul said,  “If people like you, they’re going to want to do business with you. And if they don’t, you’re going to have an almost insurmountable obstacle to overcome.”

This statement is not only true of business, but in personal relationships as well.

People want to do business and personal relationships with people they like.

This topic is relevant to all of us because we all are in the “people business” in some form or fashion.

At our very core, we are hardwired to want to be liked.  We need relationships.  If we don’t have them, life becomes a challenge.

It reminds me of Tom Hank’s character in the movie, Castaway.  Out of sheer desperation and loneliness, he created a fictitious character named Wilson out of a volleyball, just to have a friend.

We all want to create better relationships and connections with people.  Better connections happen when people like us.  And when we have something of value to offer, it creates a win-win for everybody involved.

When we get this right, we advance at work faster, create more and better relationships easier and add value to the world around us.

Here are 10 Simple Ways to Become a More Likable Leader:

1)  Smile.  Experts tell us we have only a few seconds to make a good first impression.  A smile is the fastest way to communicate acceptance and welcome.  If people know that you accept them, it creates an immediate bridge to connection.  Nothing communicates a disconnection faster than a frown.  Be aware of what your face is communicating and make sure a smile is one of the first things the other person notices.

2) Be a Good Listener (and put the phone away).  In our fast paced world of technology, it’s so easy to get distracted.  Our attention spans are getting less and less.  Resist the urge to keep checking your phone while your speaking to someone.  Better yet, put your phone out of sight.  This communicates huge respect. Be a good listener and respond with good questions.

3) Maintain Good Eye Contact.  We all have a tendency to want to pay attention to what is going on around us.  Unfortunately, consistently looking over the person’s shoulder at the next “shiny object” (“Squirrel!”) is a quick way to disconnect and cause a person to not like you.  One tip to help maintain eye contact: Notice and pay attention to the person’s eye color. It will help you to make eye contact easier. A good rule of thumb is to use a 10 to 1 ratio for eye contact.  Maintain eye contact for about 10 seconds and break contact for 1 second.  That will keep you interested without looking creepy.

4) Focus on the Interests of the Other Person.  People love to talk about themselves and what they are interested in.  Find out what interests them and you will never run out of things to talk about.  Focusing on their interests makes them feel like the most important person in the room.

5) Keep It Positive.  No one likes a Debbie Downer.  I’m not saying you need to become Pollyanna, but stay away from the complaining.  Consistent complaining is a sure fire way to repel another person.  Look for the positive and keep a good attitude.  Positivity in a negative world will help you to stand out and become contagious. People love connecting with positive people.

6) Use the Person’s Name.  A person’s name is the one of the most sweetest sounds to their ears.  Use it sparingly in a conversation, but use it.  If you are meeting someone for the first time, using their name will also help you to remember their name after you meet them.

7) Lean In.  Leaning in slightly while having a conversation is a great tool to use for better connection.  It helps the person to know your interested and engaged with what is being said.

8) Watch Your Body Language.  In certain situations it’s been said that body language makes up  55% of our communication, tone  of voice represents 38% and actual words spoken represent only 7%.  While those percentages vary based on context, our body language is extremely important in how we connect and communicate with others.  Our body language can communicate disinterest (folded arms, slouching, looking away) or interest (positive facial expressions, nodding head, etc.)  Use it well and you will become more likable.

9)  Have Variety in Your Voice.  As mentioned above, tone of voice can make up a large part of our communication.  If you’ve ever listened to someone who speaks in a quiet, mumbling, monotone voice, you know it’s very difficult to stay interested.  Use some variety and appropriate volume in your voice and you will have an easier time commanding attention.  Your voice is like an instrument.  It can be played very well or not so well.  No one likes to hear the same note played over and over.  Slight variety peaks interest.

10)  Stay Connected.  To set yourself up from the crowd and create lasting value, stay connected with your relationships you develop.  I heard of one business executive that writes 5 hand written notes every morning.  Who wouldn’t like someone that shows that kind of value to them?  Social media, text messages and phone calls also are an easy way to create a quick connection that shows the other person you care and think they are important.

These aren’t the only ways to become a more likable leader, but put these in practice and I guarantee you will create more value for others and for yourself.

Go be likable this week.

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One Key to Empowering Your Team

Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” ~ Seth Godin

Let’s face it.  Nobody likes a ball hog.

We’ve all encountered people like this.  Growing up playing sports it was the kid who had to take every shot and get the credit when she/he scored.

Entering the workplace, it’s the leader that feels the need to make every decision and get the glory for the success of the organization.

That may build ego, but it doesn’t build a team.

Here’s a key to leadership success: pass the ball. 

It empowers your team and gets the ball down the court.

Ultimately, it creates a win-win for everybody involved.

After all, nobody likes a ball hog.

How can you empower people in your organization by giving them a platform to spread ideas that work?

One Thing Successful People Do

There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Success in the sense that something great and lasting was built. Maybe it’s a great business or marriage. Chances are it took time. Lots of time.

Group of happy business people clapping their hands

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

We often times hear about success stories only after all the hard work is put in and view it as an instant success.

The good news is all of us have been gifted with the potential for success.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is often one thing.

PERSEVERANCE:  Not giving up when things get tough. 

When I think of perseverance, I think of five famous people that you’ve heard of and maybe didn’t know their story.

They didn’t give up when things got tough.  In fact, if they did give up, we would have never heard about them.  PERSEVERANCE was the difference in them being average and them doing great things.

1) Walt Disney

Did you know that Walt once was fired from a job because they thought he wasn’t creative enough? What if he gave up?  There would be no Mickey Mouse.  There would be no Walt Disney World. He didn’t give up when things got tough.

2) Thomas Edison 

Edison tried 1,000 times to make the light bulb.  What if he gave up on the 999th time?  He didn’t give up!

3) Hellen Keller

Helen Keller was blind and deaf and learned to speak and read.  She went on to graduate college and become a speaker and author.

4) Albert Einstein 

When we think of smart people, everyone thinks of Albert Einstein.  One of the greatest thinkers of all time. He didn’t always remember to comb his hair, but he was really smart in Science.  He didn’t talk until he was 4 and didn’t read until he was 7 and some people called him mentally slow and challenged.  He didn’t let that stop him from going on to make some of the greatest discoveries that science has ever seen.

5) Michael Jordan 

Some would say Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.  (If you are a Miami Heat fan, you may say that title would go to LeBron James.) Michael Jordan was amazing on the court, many times unstoppable.  But did you know he once got cut from his high school basketball team?  What if he quit?

PERSEVERANCE.  That’s what made the difference in all of these people’s lives between being average and great.  They refused to give up when things got tough.

Here’s the cool thing.  God knew that you and I would have great days and tough days and He made a promise to us that would help us persevere through the tough days.  It was a guy named Paul the Apostle that wrote one of the greatest things in the whole Bible.  He wrote it while he was in prison and it is my favorite scripture, my life verse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

I’ve come back to that scripture over and over again in my life, especially when something is hard.  “God, this is tough, but I’m not going to quit because you promised you will give me the strength to succeed.”

What would your life look like if you persevered, followed your dreams and never gave up?

You would become everything God created you to be and you could make a difference in the world!

God has an amazing plan for each and every one of us.  He wants to use your life to make a difference in the world by serving others.

In fact, there is another scripture in the Bible that says, “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans for hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has made you to be great.  So go be great.  Persevere when things are tough, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  Don’t give up.  Go make a difference in the world!

What is one area you need to persevere in to see your goals achieved?


12 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 43 Years

I turned 43 today.

I feel a bit like Forrest Gump sitting on a bench, reflecting on what I’ve learned in my life.  (Cue music and feather floating in the air.)

Sit down
I wish I learned these things earlier, but I guess this is all part of the journey.

Here are 12 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 43 Years.

1) Giving is better than receiving. Serving others brings great joy.

2) You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.

3) Life is better when you focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

4) Starting each day with gratitude leads to greater perspective and a happier life.

5) Words are powerful. They can be used to shape people’s futures, for better or for worse.

6) Money doesn’t buy happiness. (But it can be a blessing when you use it in the right ways.)

7) Everybody needs encouragement. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

8) Life can be hard at times. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

9) Everybody is in the people business. Most of our success in life is built around how well we interact with others.

10) Life is not meant to be boring.  Have fun and create adventures.

11) A marriage of your dreams is possible.  Dating your spouse and learning their “love language” are keys to creating it.

12) God is faithful.

Bonus:  Chipotle is better than Moe’s.  (Moe’s fans, please refer to #2)

What has been the best advice you’ve ever received?  Would you share it in the comments below?  

Yes You Can

English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.”

We all have tapes that play in our head.  Many times, those tapes are saying something negative.  “I can’t do that”.  “I’m not smart enough”.  “I would fail if I tried that”.

However those thoughts got there, I think many people have a tendency in general to gravitate first towards the “I can’t” mentality.

What if we could change that?  What if we started with “I can”?

I happen to be a Christian.  One of my life verses from the Bible is:  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

Attitude is everything.

Someone once said, “If you think you can, you can.  If you think you can’t, you can’t.”

In other words, if you start with an “I can’t” mentality, it will be 10x harder to accomplish something than if you start with an “I can” mentality.

A positive attitude will trump a negative attitude every time.

Here are 3 Ways to Have an “I Can” Attitude:

1)  Surround yourself with the right people.  Experts tells us we will be the average of the 5 people we associate with.  Your friends are a preview of your future.  Are you surrounding yourself with mostly negative people?  Seek to limit those relationships and surround yourself with positive people.  You will begin to notice a big difference in your attitude.

2)  Fill your mind with the right stuff.  Read books and listen to podcasts that are life giving. If your media diet consists of only watching the news, it’s probably time to change the channel.

3)  Remind yourself of the right things.  God has created you to be amazing and unique.  There is nobody else on the planet exactly like you.  You have gifts and talents and were created to do great things.  Remind yourself of past accomplishments.  Rediscover (or discover) what you can be the best in the world at and work on your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses.

Change your attitude.  Change your life.

Yes You Can.

What is one area you can have a more positive attitude in today?

3 Ways To Make a Good Marriage Great

When I was younger I worked as a life guard at a community pool.

Enamoured couple is played

One day, a disgruntled older man decided he would give me some advice.  He said, “Don’t ever get married.  You’ll be miserable.”

I remember telling him, “Just because you have a bad marriage doesn’t mean I have to have a bad marriage.” It was a sad thing to see someone so negative against marriage.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

With the divorce rate in America hovering around 50%, there is a good chance you know someone that has been affected by the devastation of it.

No one sets out on their honeymoon with the goal of getting a divorce, but sadly many people end up there.

For the 50% of couples that don’t end up divorced, there is a percentage of those that feel their marriage is  just not what they thought it would be.

But I believe a large percentage of that 50% have a good marriage, but feel it could be better.

Whether you are married and looking for ways to make your marriage better or you are currently single and desire be married; 

Here are 3 Ways To Make a Good Marriage Great.

1) Consider Your Spouse’s Interests.

My hunch is that when you were first dating you did lots of things that typically “weren’t your thing”.  It doesn’t mean that men need to flock to the mall with their wives every weekend or that women need to go out and buy a set of the latest Duck Dynasty camo.  It does mean that marriage isn’t all about us.

How can you create a connection with your spouse with the things he/she is interested in?  It may be as simple as a conversation asking them about their interest that shows you care.

My wife, Jacque has a love for helping orphans in Mexico.  She oversees a mission trip there with a group of about 100 people.  I know she cares about that deeply and I know it means a lot to her when I ask how things are going with the planning.

2) Apologize When Necessary.

The two words, “I’m sorry” tend to be some of the hardest to say when you are married.  No one likes to admit they are wrong.  If you have offended your spouse, be quick to apologize.  Easier said than done, but sincere apologies create relational equity.  It goes a long way and shows your spouse your relationship is more important than being right.

On a similar note, when your spouse apologizes be quick to forgive.  Unforgiveness and holding grudges create a wedge in your marriage.  It’s impossible to create a great marriage if a spouse is holding onto a grudge.  Drop the rock of unforgiveness and your relationship will move forward.

3) Be a Good Listener.

Listening shows value.  Genuine listening.  Waiting for your turn to talk is not listening.  Your spouse knows you care when you listen.

A word to the men.  We have a tendency to try to “fix things”.  Sometimes our wives need to just be heard and understood.  Ask them if there is anything we can do to help, but many times they will just want to be heard.

Also, a word to the women.  Men have shorter attention spans when it comes to listening.  Men want to serve by listening, but it can be difficult to stay with a long story.  It’s just the way many of us are wired.

If husbands and wives can understand their differences, communication in the relationship can flourish.

These are not the only ways to make a good marriage great, but they certainly are things every couple can put into practice and see results.  

A great marriage is possible.  One great decision at a time.

Which of these do you feel is the most important?


5 Strategies To Instantly Improve Your People Skills

I’ve heard it said that 85% of our success in life comes from our people skills.

Closeup portrait of a group of business people laughing
The way we interact with others in our personal and professional life can make or break a situation.

John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

The good news is everyone can learn to improve their people skills.

Good people skills start with the right heart.  A heart that genuinely cares about others.  This works in business, personal relationships, job interviews and casual conversations.

Here are 5 Strategies To Instantly Improve Your People Skills:

1) Be a Good Listener.  We’ve all heard the adage, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”  People love to be heard.  One of the greatest gifts we can give to others is to listen to them.  It’s normal to mistake listening for waiting…waiting for your turn to talk.  Fight the urge and genuinely listen.  Listening shows others we value them and are ready to serve them.

2) Smile.  The was a popular song recently that was called, “What Does the Fox Say?”  A great question to ask is, “What does my face say?”  If we are not careful, we may be sending off a mixed message and not even know it.  Especially for more intense individuals, our face may be communicating a scowl when we are really just thinking about solving a problem.  Be aware that your body language can communicate even more than your words.  If you want to instantly connect with someone, smile more.  Even a slight smile tells others you are approachable and sends a positive message.  Positivity trumps negativity every time.

3) Give a Sincere Compliment.  Positive comments are a bridge to connecting with others.  Everybody loves to be noticed.  Look for ways to connect with others through a sincere compliment.

4) Talk About The Other Person’s Interests. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and what they like.  Talking about the other person’s interests is the fastest way to building a connection.  Look for common interests as that engages you in the conversation and builds an even stronger connection.

5) Follow Up.  Look for ways to continue to build a great relationship by following up.  Bring up the last conversation you had and ask them how they are doing.  I have a business friend that would actually write notes from our conversations.  He would refer to them the next time we talked about restocking his product.  Even though he was in sales, it made me know he cared about more than the sale and that made a big impact on me.

Relationships will always be at the core of who we are and what we do. 

Put these 5 strategies to work and I guarantee you will improve your people skills.

Which of these strategies do you feel is the most effective in connecting with others?

5 Things All Kids Need From Their Parents

If you are a parent, at some point you will connect with the opening words of Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

kids and parents Parenting can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be very trying. 

Which parent hasn’t wanted to pull their hair out at times? Let’s face it, kids aren’t born with a manual attached.

However, after working with kids and families for almost 20 years and being a parent of two teenagers myself, I have found there are several timeless principles that bring greater success in parenting.

Here are 5 Things All Kids Need From Their Parents:

1) Unconditional love.  Our kids are growing up in a tough world.  I can’t imagine the pressure they must feel from things like media and other peers.  Our kids need to know that no matter what they do (and they will do some things), we will love them.  No strings attached.

One of the greatest stories ever told is the Biblical parable of the prodigal son.  A certain man had a son who decided to basically disown his family, take his inheritance and sow his wild oats.

After his wild living landed him a job feeding and eating with the pigs, he decided to return home and beg his father to be a hired hand.  His father, upon seeing his son, ran to meet him.  He had a robe and a ring put on him and ordered the finest feast be thrown in his prodigal son’s honor.  Unconditional love doesn’t get any better than that.

2) Structure.  Parenting can be exhausting.  It is so much easier to let kids do whatever they want, when they want.  However, kids need structure.  Bedtimes, curfews, homework schedules and chores can seem restrictive.  In the long run though, structure within reason teaches our kids how to be successful adults.

3) Time.  How do kids spell love?  T.I.M.E.  No amount of gifts or freedom can trump time with our kids.  Kids crave it.  Even when they act like they don’t.

One thing that has been effective for me in the past is to pick a day for each child and take them out to breakfast before school.  We would talk about whatever was going on in their life, and I would always reserve about 5 minutes or so to teach a life lesson or leadership principle.

Lastly, don’t forget to make it fun.  One of the best things Jacque and I have ever done with our kids is family competition nights. The kids absolutely love it.

4) A good example.  No amount of teaching can replace living out a good example.  Kids won’t remember most of what we say, but they will remember what we do.  Do we want them to manage their money and time well?  Have great relationships?  How we model those things in front of them will have a huge impact on our children’s future.

5) Grace. Our kids need to see grace in action.  Recently, one of our children was grounded for incurring charges just over $1000 that were connected to our iTunes account.

He was playing a certain video game on his phone and was buying extra add-ons that went along with the video game. To his benefit, he did not realize how much he had actually charged over a period of weeks. He just thought he had the money to pay us back.

Regardless, he was supposed to always check with us before he purchased anything through his phone. (thus, the grounding.)

We told him, not only was he grounded, but that he would also have to pay back every last penny. This would mean that it would take him over two years to pay it back.

Pretty much an eternity for a 13-year-old.

We really thought there was nothing we could do about the charge, and we were going to have to cover it in the meantime.

My wife, Jacque decided that she would try to call iTunes and see if there was anything they could do. To our surprise, they said they do not normally do this, but they canceled the debt.

Ryan thought that this was not going to be a good Christmas because of his poor decision. So we decided we would wait until Christmas morning to tell him.

As he was ready to open his gifts, we handed him an envelope with his name on it. The letter inside said this:

iTunes Debt $1,034.00
You now owe: $0
Love, Jesus

With tears in his eyes, he read the letter. Actually, we all had tears in our eyes.

We explained how this was the true story of Christmas. God sending his Son to the earth as a baby, who grew up to be a man and paid the debt for our sin on a cross.

It was a priceless memory and by far, was the best Christmas gift we have ever been a part of. It showed grace in action.

These are not the only 5 things our kids need from us, but they are definitely principles that contribute to parenting success. 

If you are a parent, take heart.  You will make it to the other side. 

And with the right strategies you can even enjoy the journey. 

What is your biggest challenge as a parent?  Leave a comment below.  

This is the third of three posts about relationships. In the first post, we discussed “4 Things Every Woman Needs To Hear From Her Husband,” and the second post covered “3 Things Every Man Desires From His Wife.” Be sure to read all three and get a well rounded perspective about improving your family relationships.

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One Secret to Winning in Life and Business.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was telling me about a family member who had passed away. He didn’t have a formal funeral. Only a few family members gathered to remember him. Why? He didn’t really make a big impact on people with his life.

I’ve done plenty of memorial services in my life and I can say from experience, you can always tell the impact the person has made from the size of the crowd that gathers.

I believe that we all share three common desires.

1) The desire to be loved.

2) The desire to be happy.

3) The desire to do something that matters.

So what is the secret to seeing those desires fulfilled?

Give more than you take.

One important question you could ask about yourself or your business is, “Am I a giver or a taker?”.

We all can think of people and businesses that are takers.

It’s the person that is constantly expecting everyone to do something for them. They’re entitled and think they “deserve it”.

It’s the business that promises the world, takes your money and never lives up to the expectation they promised.

The problem is, nobody wants to be around that person or do business with them again. That person or business begins to isolate themselves from the very thing they were after to begin with.

In contrast, we can all think of a person or a business that are givers.

I know a married couple that are off the chart givers. They are constantly giving their time and resources to serve others.

They recently befriended a man who was previously homeless and have literally turned his life around. In fact, this man now has a great job, his own place and has 4 months of savings in the bank. Countless numbers of people would look at Bob and Barbara and tell of the impact they have made on their lives. Why? Because they gave more than they took.

Many of us would point to Chick Fil A as a company that gives more than they take. Even though it is a quick service restaurant, it almost has a cult following. The service is amazing (who hasn’t heard their famous, “It’s my pleasure” in the drive through window?), and they consistently give to the community. Their profits have skyrocketed. And they do all of this in spite of being closed on Sunday to give their employees a day off to be with their families and go to church.

So, if you want to win in life and business, give more than you take.

Because givers always win.

Who is one person or business you feel exemplifies the “give more than you take” principle?