Your New Mantra

A friend of mine uses the following mantra for ensuring he exercises regularly:

“It’s not IF I work out today, it’s WHEN I work out today.”

When you set your mind to believe in this mantra and execute according to your own plan, you will exercise consistently. How easy is that? It is something I still think about when I’m tempted to choose something else over my gym time, buying into victim mentality that something else “has to” come first. But it doesn’t. It is a choice. It’s not IF…it’s WHEN.

As someone who constantly looks for ways to drive the transition from strategy to culture (plan to execution), this is one of the best mantras I have ever heard. And it works every single time if you believe in it and act on it!

Recently I’ve been thinking about this idea, but with the substitution of other words. Multiple authors tell us we always have a choice. It is how we react to a situation that truly defines our level of stress and I can buy into that philosophy.

So, with this mantra, and a few modifications, we can simply say things like:

“It’s not IF I will be more productive today, it’s WHEN…”
“It’s not IF I finish that project, it’s WHEN…”
“It’s not IF I help someone today, it’s WHEN…”
“It’s not IF I encourage others around me, it’s WHEN…”

What do you want to do today? Answer that then tell yourself this simple little mantra. The options are limitless and totally up to us. What do we need to focus on to transition from IF to WHEN?

It’s not IF I use this mantra today…it’s when. 🙂

SS Chalkboard


Practice, Prowess, & Passion


Warren Bennis has been quoted as saying, “I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation.” Being uniquely qualified to comment, as someone who has conducted orchestras, led jazz ensembles, and run at least large divisions of multiple national and international organizations, I love this concept.

The idea is great but there is more to it than that. We all see the leader of a company, making speeches and accepting awards for the results their people achieved. We see the conductor on the podium, bowing to take credit for the sounds they didn’t even make. But that’s not where leadership happens. The true leadership is in all the steps it takes to get there, not just the final performance. All of the learning, the studying, the driving, the pushing, the pulling, the continual effort, and the intentional steps to get there are really what shapes the lasting legacy of the leader. Without the leadership, the performance would fall flat. Is that really any different than your organization…when you really think about it?

A conductor of a symphony orchestra spends more time preparing alone than with others. One conventional theory of score study dictates that for every minute of music, a conductor should spend one hour of score study. So, yes, a 45 minute symphony would require 45 hours of study! Before the concert or even the rehearsal is the intensive study time. This is where thoughts, ideas, and concepts turn into concrete action plans. This is the practice before the practice. Are you spending the necessary alone time alone to craft your message before sharing it with the group?

In the book, Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, the authors say, “Much of Prowess is Practice.” And haven’t we all heard sayings like, “What does it take to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.” Did you just say it out loud with me? (My own personal journey to play at Carnegie Hall was a combination of practice and knowing the right people at the right time.) And isn’t it interesting to hear someone like Arnold Palmer say, ”It’s a funny thing, the more I practice, the luckier I get.” What you see on the stage is the prowess of a practiced professional, honed by hours of individual study time, crafted through rehearsals where numerous interpretations are unified into one. Is your process actually much different?

Prowess through practice isn’t enough though, is it? There is one more ingredient which, in my opinion, is the most important. Passion.

Recently, while attending a Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert, we were treated to the sister piano duo of Katia and Marielle Labèque, performing the Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos. Clearly displaying prowess through practice, the sisters (who have probably played this piece hundreds of times) were so contagiously passionate about the piece. Their joy in performing was absolutely infectious. As they smiled, we smiled. The passion they felt…we felt.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to cover conduct the same piece with two extremely well known pianists. At that time, I was left with a flat impression of the work, but I realize only now, that was unfair of the work. It was the missing passion of the performers, not the piece of music that left me feeling flat. Practiced prowess isn’t enough. A technically played piece of music is never as exciting as one delivered with passion. Combined, they are unstoppable. A passionate performance can change your whole outlook. It changed mine. Is your meeting delivered with passion, or merely practiced prowess?

So then, my question is this: Is it any different in your office, or in your team? Planning and practicing leads to prowess, but it is only when prowess is truly ignited by passion, that you can accomplish anything you set out to do. Have you made time in your plan to include practice, prowess, & passion?

The Leadership Puzzle



The DMI Completed Leadership Puzzle

Leadership is often described as an intricate puzzle with a seemingly endless number of pieces to arrange and put into place. It is a constantly evolving puzzle that is as challenging as it is rewarding to solve. As you add each piece, the solution becomes clearer and clearer.

Recently, eight members of our Home Office Family received the fifth and final piece to their Dickey’s Management Institute (DMI) Leadership Puzzle, and I could not be more proud of their accomplishments!

What is the Dickey’s Management Institute? The DMI is a blended delivery interactive curriculum designed to enhance leadership and management skills in our high-potential future leaders. With a twelve month, multi-faceted approach, the DMI curriculum includes philosophy and strategy with weekly learning sessions, followed by practical application activities, designed to stretch the learners in each of the core competencies, including: Influence; Compliance Standards; Communication; Accountability; Department Plan; Learning Agility; Escalation Management; and Forecasting.

One year ago, participants were hand-selected for the inaugural class of the DMI. Each received a true “message in a bottle”, inviting them to a mysterious meeting at “the leadership table”. This meeting was the kickoff of a commitment to growth, intentionality, accountability, and excellence. Divided into categories, and following the over-arching principles of the John C. Maxwell 5 Levels of Leadership, participants experienced what each of the core competency means in regards to each level of leadership. Certainly, a concept for a Department Plan on Level 1 is different than on Level 4, and the curriculum is a reflection of that journey.

After each core competency is demonstrated on each level of leadership, participants receive one piece of the puzzle, culminating in the fully assembled DMI trophy.

During the DMI journey, six of eight participants received promotions, title changes, and/or additional responsibilities. Since the first DMI group was launched, a second group, calling themselves “DMI: Top Notch” has begun and is currently venturing through Level 3. With Employee Development as a top priority in our Culture, the DMI is a valuable addition to our development opportunities, including: commitments and wins; daily kick-off meetings; monthly evaluations; monthly book clubs; quarterly development; quarterly team building; team lunches; monthly supervisor training; and much more.

Congratulations to our inaugural graduating class of the Dickey’s Management Institute! I am proud of what you have accomplished. Our future is bright indeed thanks to you!


The DMI Message in a Bottle – Invitation to Leadership

What is Culture?

What is Culture?

It is a great question and one that more and more people are asking. It is also a topic more and more people are paying attention to recently. Whether you are thinking about it or not…you are part of your Culture, and you…yes YOU, and influencing that Culture.

Before we decide how you can affect your Culture, let’s decide what Culture really is! John Maxwell said, “Culture is who we are now. Who we are now determines our success now.” Truer words have never been spoken but that doesn’t really define it. Peter Drucker captured Culture’s power when he said, “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast”. Also true. We can plan, and think, and meet, and brainstorm, and document, and idealize, and, and, and, but until we take action, it is still just Strategy. Even when we have a clear and decisive direction in which to run, if we don’t take every step in accordance with our concept, we undermine the Strategy. Culture is what happens in reality – on purpose or otherwise. Culture is how we drive Strategy…or hinder it. So then, Culture must have a direct correlation to action, right? If that is the case, then here is what I believe Culture can be described as:

Strategy is who we want to be tomorrow…Culture is who we are today!

Ok, Shawn. That is an apt description, but not truly a definition. Fair enough. Even though my mind thinks artistically and creatively, I keep coming back to an analytical thought I have about Culture. Culture, in my mind, can be formulized as such:

Culture is the balance between the behaviors we intentionally drive, and the behaviors we allow to occur.

Culture then is truly a resultant product. It is the solution to an equation:

Culture = Intentional Behaviors / Allowed Behaviors

Intentionality and allowance of behaviors both drive Culture, but often in different directions. If the sum of your intentional behaviors outweigh your behavioral tolerance threshold, you are driving a positive improvement in your Culture. If not, and you find that your potentially (likely) negative behavioral allowance is driving the Culture, you are probably not moving in lock step with your Strategy Concept.

So, how do we influence our Culture in a positive, impactful, and lasting way? Stay tuned!