Blueprint for Life and Leadership

Successful people, model themselves after successful people. You want to be a good leader? Find a leader that exemplifies what you believe are key characteristics, qualities, skills and abilities that you need and write them down. That is only the beginning. Watch them, the way they handle situations, people, projects and as much as you can see, their very life. “Take the meat and spit out the bones.” Take from them what will help you, and include in your developing blueprint for your life… as a leader.

What in the world is a blueprint? And why is it so important for you to have one? A blueprint is a design plan, or a model. Builders use them to ensure that what they are building is exactly what the “economic buyer”, that’s you – wants as a finished project. That’s a simple definition. No rocket science needed. Do you have one for yourself? For your team? For your organization? A blueprint for life and leadership is what each one of us needs if we plan to be successful. I know you remember the old adage, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It applies here too, for your life and leadership!

Imagine you want to build your dream oceanfront home in San Diego, California. You own two acres of a lot free and clear right on the ocean. Money is no object. You have it in the bank. You’ve selected an excellent architect and excellent contractor. And they are ready to meet with you and discuss the project. At your first development team meeting, you get asked the critical questions: “What do you want? What would make this oceanfront home perfect for you and your family?” You don’t have an answer for these questions.


You can’t see the finished house at this early stage. You figure you’ll get started and see where the project goes. Wrong answer! Without some input from you, the architect can’t put pen to paper and see what you see and the contractor shouldn’t begin building. Much like my scenario we need to have a blueprint for our life as a leader and we should ensure that every person on our team has a blueprint, at least as it pertains to what they do in the organization and where they are trying to go. Especially high-performance people. It is critical that you are clear about what they need to continue to develop and they should understand that they can’t make it to the next level without a clear plan.

Let me say it differently. You need a map. You need a destination that you can compare with your starting point. What is it that you must develop in order to be a strong, respected and credible leader in your organization? What does that person look like? What are your strengths? What do you need to continue to do? What do you need to stop doing? What are your gaps? Areas of growth opportunity? All of this can be included in your blueprint.

Last week, I introduced a series I will be writing called “Under Construction”. For some reason, that phrase has provoked much thought on why we don’t accomplish what we think we should accomplish. Why aren’t we always successful as leaders? What gets in the way of success? Sometimes we fall short of the finished line and we beat ourselves up for not getting the promotion. We beat ourselves up for getting a demotion or we lose a good opportunity – we get fired. How does that happen to someone that came in with guns blazing? No plan for success. No plan to grow. No plan for succession. No plan for our people. No plan… you finish the sentence.

Ultimately our blueprint for life and leadership comes down to us making a commitment “to write the vision and make it plain that men might run with it.” I will write more on this topic as I continue to develop this series on “Under Construction“. Remember to “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are like children of your soul; the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” – Napolean Hill



How Long Do You Carry a Poor Performer?

What if you had a poor performer on your team? How long is too long to carry them on the team?

What If?One of my ducklings is leading a project. He has someone who is not performing and we are 2 weeks from the go live date on the project. As a mentor coach, I have recommended he remove the person from the project. The individual is not committed to performing at a high level (based on performance to date) and their poor performance will impact the project significantly. What would you do? How much longer would you attempt to coach this person through their obvious lack of commitment? Would you remove them? If so, how?

This post is a response to yesterday’s post, “What if you have a Poor Performer?” When you have someone who is not performing, it is critical that you handle the situation with some urgency. Too many leaders, including the one I am writing about today, make excuses and justifications for the poor performance of those they are leading. That is not good leadership.

When you are dealing with an issue, you must do something different. You must see the problem from a different perspective then maybe the perspective you were at when you made the decision to select this leader or when the project was assigned. Don’t expect that the problem will go away without your intervention. Without you making some hard decisions about the project and those who are handling the project, including and especially the project leaders. Here is one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein

“The significant problems we face today, can’t be solved at the same level we were at when we created them.”

Too many times Novices and Experienced Leaders alike will put off making the hard decision because they are afraid of hurting the person’s feelings. They are afraid the project can’t possibly go on without that individual. That is just not true. Ultimately, it is critical that you make leadership decisions that ensure the best result for the project and  the people or persons. And sometimes removing the person is the best result for both. Fear will kill your leadership. Being fearful to make a decision will put your leadership in question. Leaders make hard decisions. Period.

When success is in jeopardy, assess the situation, identify potential options and solutions and make a decision. Yes, there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel. Yes, you should consider all the players, and the expected outcome of the project. But don’t let the project fail because you are afraid to remove a poor performer (project leader or otherwise). If you are two weeks out from the deliverable date on a project and the leader is the primary reason the project may not be successful – FIRE the leader and get someone else in there that can help the project be successful.

What If You Had a Poor Performer?

What If?What if you had a poor performer on your team? How long is too long to carry them on the team?

One of my ducklings is leading a project. He has someone who is not performing and we are 2 weeks from the go live date on the project. As a mentor coach, I have recommended he remove the person from the project. The individual is not committed to performing at a high level (based on performance to date) and their poor performance will impact the project significantly. What would you do? How much longer would you attempt to coach this person through their obvious lack of commitment? Would you remove them? If so, how?

I am looking for serious advice. I will add an aside tomorrow morning with my recommendations for novices and experienced leaders. Today I am looking for your input. Help me help my young leader. I look forward to your recommendations.

On A Personal Note: Listen to Learn

Larry King said, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” There is strength in learning to listen to the world around you. Too many times in my life I know I have been too busy moving about the cabin (that’s a Darleneism), to just enjoy my world.

Recently I made a change in my life and I am not working right now. I have been moving for about 6 and half years and I have learned in the last 6 weeks I have been home that I have missed a lot. I don’t have any regrets. I loved my job and the people I had the privilege to lead and support. But it felt like more than I could handle and as a result I walked away. Right or wrong, ultimately, I needed a change. I needed to see some things. I need to learn some things. I have stopped moving so fast. I seem to hear my thoughts a lot clearer than I have and I am enjoying just being…Listen to Learn

  • Being alive and writing again
  • Being a wife and a mom
  • Being a woman
  • Being a leader
  • Being a coach
  • Being…

What I have learned in the last 6 weeks is that there is still much for me to learn. I don’t know it all. Not that I ever thought that, but it is very easy to assume you know enough to live and move forward in your life. I am only scratching the surface of what I am suppose to be doing in my life. I am VERY clear about who I am and what I can offer to the world around me. I am clear that I am valuable and that there is much for me to continue to pour into others but I have also learned the importance of being a life-long learner. My mom actually demonstrates this every day of her life. I know I got that lesson, but sometimes in the busyness of life and living you forget.

As leaders it is critical that we learn from those around us. My students taught me something every day over the last 6 years. I know they did. The problem is that I am not sure I always embraced the lessons – the learning. ‘Be teachable’ is one of my values. In the quietness of my life today, as I have listened – to my thoughts, to my God, I know that I am embarking on a new journey, a new season. I have no idea where it will take me but I am up for the journey and look forward to the learning. It feels like I am stepping off a cliff with no apparent path or footing, but if I am right, the road will come and meet me as I step out and begin.

Novices and Experienced Leaders: Who is around you that you are learning from? I am not talking about your mentor(s). They are great and you should have one if you don’t. But who else do you listen and learn from? I am talking about the 2 year olds who are just discovering the world around them. What can you glean from the simplicity of a child? When is the last time you discovered something? Or, what about that employee who gets on your last nerve? What about your leadership team? Do you listen to them or do you have all the answers?

These are just a few people we can sometimes take for granted and miss what they are saying. Slow down and take in the scenery…LISTEN! Enjoy the quietness of the early morning. There is so much to hear in the quietness of a morning. But be careful not to allow your mind to be at work. Settle your thoughts and just experience what’s going on with the people around you. There are lessons waiting for each of us, every single day, if we will stop long enough to listen and embrace them.

Did you hear that? The bell just sounded and school…I mean life is in session! Enjoy!

Leaders Can Burn Out

As I spent time this morning in our prayer room, this post began to formulate in me. I am working on improving my blog and I am in the midst of a 30 day writing challenge. This is the writing challenge for Day one “Free Write for 20 Minutes – Unlock Your Mind!” I am going to do my best not to edit this post and just write as it comes. Enjoy!

Unlock Your MindI began to think about why leaders get burned out. As I thought about it, these three thoughts came to me:

  • 1. Whose drinking from you well?
  • 2. How do you replenish your well?
  • 3. Athletes actually eat more calories than the average person because they burn it off.

Let’s start with the first thought:

Whose drinking from your well?

Who do you pour your life into every day? Your employees, your family, your neighbors, your students? Whose drinking from your wellspring of life? Do you find yourself on empty at the end of every day? May be you are already empty and all people are getting are the dregs of your well…You may be burned out or you are well on your way to being burned out.

How do you replenish your well?

Every leader gets tired or drained at some point. It is imperative that you take some time to replenish your well so that those that look to you for strength and sustenance can find it. Imagine being thirsty and dipping your cup in the only well that is available for miles and finding no water there to drink. That is unacceptable for leaders. When you are the captain of the ship, the lead dog, the head haunch, you have to have something to sustain your organization and the people that make up your organization. What do you do to replenish your well? Some people replenish their inner well with:

  1. Exercise
  2. Prayer
  3. Thinking
  4. Reading
  5. Getting away
  6. Reading a book
  7. Sleeping
  8. Writing

Athletes actually eat more calories than the average person because when they do what they do, they get depleted. In other words, their training depletes them. They need the extra calories for energy. So eating more calories helps them continue to grow and train for their next event. I believe this principle is similar for leaders. You may not be training your body for the next marathon or the next athletic competition but when you are the one people draw from every day, you better be increasing your “caloric” intake to ensure that your well does not run dry.

Prayer replenishes my well. I can see times in my life when I prayed consistently and there was strength in my life to show for it. I can also see times when my prayer life waned and I was easily depleted by the workload and lives of people I was leading. Prayer helps me recharge and feel strengthened. It is an inner thing. It helps me draw near to the creator of the universe. It helps me to hear and get downloads, much like this post. I was praying and these thoughts or this download came to me. I stopped praying and let the thoughts come and I captured them on paper right there in the prayer room.

What works for you? If you don’t know – you should. It is very easy for people to drain you – to drain your well. There are other people who help fill your tank. Be vigilant to know which people are which. Do what you must do to draw away on a consistent basis and get your tank filled again so that burn out does not become your portion!

Attitude Reflects Leadership…Captain

“Leadership is the exercise of influence by one member of a group or organization over other members to help the group or organization achieve its goals.”

“Attitude reflects leadership…Captain” This is definitely one of my favorite movie quotes that sends a clear message to those of us who are the captains, the leaders in various settings. What’s the message? The simple answer – we have the ability to affect the attitudes of those under our leadership. Do agree with that answer?

What’s the temperature in your organization? Are your team members ducking you? Are they fearful of you? Are they excited to be around you? What are they accomplishing? The goals and objectives you’ve set or do they have another agenda? Are you scratching your head trying to figure out what else you need to do to get them excited and motivated to do the job?

As a leader do you believe that the attitude of your team is a direct reflection of your leadership style? Ultimately only you can answer that question. What I will say is as leaders we set the tone in the organizations we run. We determine the organizational climate and we reflect the value system within the organization. We have the ability to INFLUENCE the attitude of those we work with every single day. Whether you agree with me or not, as leaders we set the culture and climate of the organization.

Listen, my thoughts by no means minimize the attitudes people bring to work every day in spite of the organizational culture and climate. I absolutely believe that we are all accountable for our attitudes, our choices and how we respond to what happens to us and around us. But as leaders we must be accountable for our contribution to the health and well-being of those we lead by the way we do what we do as leaders in the organization.

For Novices: Consider the analogy of a garden. If you are the head Gardner, the captain – you are responsible for nurturing the soil, caring for the plants. Ensuring that there is enough water to feed the root system so that your plants (your people) can grow to be the best plants they can be and at the same time, you ultimately meet the goals and objectives set by your organization. In other words you produce the “bounty” your garden is intended to produce. Remember you will have some difficult plants in your garden. You may not be able nurture all of them but create a healthy environment so that all who want to flourish and grow can do so.

For Seasoned Leaders: The best recommendation I can make for you is to take some time and assess your organization. Whether you are leading a team of people or a large department, STOP. Do a pulse check. Ask questions and listen objectively. Are your people healthy or do they need an attitude adjustment? You take responsibility for what you have allowed in the culture and climate. And then, challenge your team to take responsibility for their contribution. Then, reset and keep moving forward! Sometimes you have to prune the garden to get back to the soil. Don’t be afraid to begin again!

Attitude reflects leadership…Captain!” Yes or no? You decide!



The Value of New Seasons

I wonder how many leaders just lead. Every day, day in and day out without a thought about the season they may or may not be in. Good leaders have vision, strategy, goals, accomplishments, failures and the beat goes on. But…one day in the middle of life, living and leading something happens and they are forced to stop the madness…

Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall

When life happens and you are forced to stop, it’s probably an opportunity to reassess and begin to embrace a new season. That’s my current status. I am laying on my back as I write this blog post. I was living my life and then I jumped up and in a moment – with a pop – my world has seemingly shifted and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have entered a new season. A season of introspection, a season of evaluation, a season of transition, because as surely as any season we walk through, this season will pass and a new season will be waiting for me on the other side. So I am embracing this new season…a season of stillness, a season of allowing others to HELP me, a season of rest (for my mind, my body, my spirit), a season of ….

The value of these seasons becomes evident through the journey. If you are anything like me, I resist these kinds of seasons and yet, they can be the most valuable season for a leader who is wiling to learn the lessons, apply the lessons and move forward. I can’t tell you the value of this current season I find myself in, but I know it will become clearer as I navigate the waters and resist fighting the process and see the goodness of my God in the midst. I am alive, not that it was ever a doubt through my injury…I just acknowledge that there are worse places to be (like 6 feet under) rather then in my current spot – my bed! And I am grateful for this place.

For new leaders or novices – When the season is obviously changing in your world, don’t fight it. Like the sunshine, the wind, the rain, and the storms of life, you can’t stop them from happening. That is God’s business. He determines the seasons, the length of the seasons and daily lessons within each day of the season. Embrace the season and you will find the value.

For seasoned leaders – When the season is obviously changing in your world, don’t fight it. Embrace it! Go with it! Move with it! Learn from it! So that in the due season of your life, you will have a testimony of the lessons learned and you will teach another how to walk through the new seasons they will inevitably experience in their lives.

Whether you are seasoned or a new leader, remember that ultimately you will determine the value of each and every season you walk through in life. No one can define it for you. By definition the word value (verb) means to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness or importance. So the value you place on the new seasons life has to offer will help you traverse the potentially treacherous terrain or difficult lessons. But if you can find value in the journey and the lessons think how much more valuable your life will become to you and others around you!