Winners Plan, Planners Win!

Do you want to win?  You better learn how to plan!  Almost nobody wanders into success.  Success in any arena takes intentionality. A successful life requires intentionality across all dimensions of life.  Zig Ziglar summed these up as the seven spokes in the “Wheel of Life:”

  • Career
  • Social
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

In order to have the type of life we all dream of having we need to plan first to have time to devote to all seven dimensions, and then have a plan in each of these arenas, both short-term, and long-term, if you really expect to achieve results in each area.

Finally, you must realize that a plan is only a plan, subject to change.  A friend of mine who has retired from a distinguished military career including combat command says the army has a saying about this reality:

Fight the Enemy, Not the Plan!

We have to realize that no matter how in-depth and detailed our planning is, that when we go to execute on the plan, things change.  The enemy defies our expectations, unforeseen external forces come into play, we forgot to contemplate a variable altogether…  What do we do at that point?  If you want to win, you cannot run, you cannot wave the white flag…  We have to adjust the plan and press forward to our objective, even if that means a temporary retreat to re-engage under better circumstances.  Just because you made a plan, don’t be married to it!  You did not take a vow to serve the plan “til death do you part.”

With the liberating thought that plans are made to be changed, let me throw out a few challenges for planning across the dimensions of the wheel of life:

  • Career-  How are you doing on executing this year’s plan in your current career role?  Do you know your next step for promotion at your current employer, or advancement by moving on to another?  If you are an entrepreneur, what will take your company to the next level?
  • Social- Who are you planning on having over for dinner in the next month?  What are you doing to create or tie into a network of friends that you can enjoy life with when your kids have flown the coop?
  • Financial- How are you doing at living within your budget this month?  Does every dollar have a name?  Are you telling your money where to go before the month begins, or wondering where it went when the month is through?  What is your number to reach financial independence so you can literally do whatever you want to do for the rest of your life?  How long until you get to that number?
  • Family- Do you have time set aside on your calendar each day to connect with your spouse?  Do you have a weekly date night?  How about a night for a family devotion with the kids?
  • Physical- How many calories can you consume and maintain your weight, or how many do you need to cut to get to where you want to be.  What will you eat today to reach that amount?  How much will you need to exercise if you eat that Krispy Kreme?  Is there time on your calendar set aside for exercise?  Could you maybe combine that with time with your spouse, or time to pursue intellectual pursuits with audible books or podcasts?
  • Mental- What are you doing to expand your knowledge in your specific career track.  Who are you reading or listening to in order to become a better leader, better spouse, better father, better person?  Can you make use of that awful highway commute by tapping into the information superhighway?  Can you listen to podcasts on your commute, your run, or on the elliptical?
  • Spiritual- Do you have time on your calendar each day to pray and meditate?  Could you turn your car into your prayer closet?  Is there a group of like-minded people at your work place who might like to study scripture or a book exploring scripture, together.  What are you doing today to answer the most important question in life?  When you stand before the maker of the universe and he asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”

The biggest part of successful planning is committing to do it.  If you want success in an area of life that you are not winning in today, MAKE A PLAN!

Rip Van Winkle- 2015

Imagine the well-known tale of Rip Van Winkle revisited this New Year.  The protagonist of our story, Rip, having gone on a weekend excursion into the Catskills as part of a team building exercise for the hospital leadership team he had just been promoted into six months earlier from his Radiology Technologist position, decides to take a nap after the team finishes 4 hours on the ropes course.  It is Spring, 1995.


He awakens in his well-appointed cabin to find it covered in dust and cobwebs.  He stumbles out of bed and out of the cabin to find the entire property abandoned and in disrepair.  Confused he eventually hikes out to the main road and eventually flags down a car with a very nice young couple and asks for a ride back to the city.

During the course of the ride, Rip cannot help but notice the technology in this car is simply remarkable!  There is a car phone that plays through the radio, and the dashboard looks like something out of a Star Trek, Next Generation episode.  There is a computerized Navigation system displayed on the dashboard that the couple accessed and manipulated by voice commands to input Rips home address.  He expressed his awe at these devices and the couple laughed at him as if he was joking.

As they travelled the wife pulled out an 8 x 11 device that looked like a laptop, but had no keyboard and started watching a TV news program on FOX news.  Rip saw no cords, no antennas, and was so intrigued that he leaned forward from the backseat and started watching and was completely confused as the broadcasters were discussing next steps that President Obama would be pushing for to assure that “Obamacare” would not be undone by the new Republican controlled Congress and Senate!  President who?  Obama what?

Over the course of the next two hours he sat silent and mystified as he continued to watch news story after news story that made sense only by matching it with the date at the bottom of the TV screen.  April 1, 2015.  He did not know how it was possible, but either he was going mad, was currently dreaming and unable to wake himself, or he had slept away 20 years of his life?  He thought about opening discussion with the couple, but thought better of it realizing that people do not react well to having mad men in the backseat of their cars.

You can imagine the rest of the story.  The couple dropped Rip off outside his home in the suburbs of the city, and he found the house and surrounding neighborhood to be 20 years older.  Not surprisingly, his family no longer resided at the location.  He walked a couple of miles to the local library, which was still there.  After an hour or so of coaching from a young, pleasant librarian on how to research using Google, Rip sat mesmerized as he, in 3 short hours, was able to find out almost everything that had happened to his wife, son and daughter over the last 20 years.  He wept as he read of his wife’s fatal car crash 8 years earlier, then again when he found his now 32-year-old daughter’s wedding notice two years later, and his son’s, now 30, licensure as a Medical Doctor in Radiology.


The next few months were nothing short of fantastic.  Reuniting with his son and daughter, DNA testing, and cellular analysis confirming that Rip was who he said he was, and that his body had somehow escaped aging over the last twenty years.  Speculations ranging from alien abductions, to stasis, to wormhole time travel, to cloning all were debated on CNN and Fox News!  Rip declined the Reality series, Biography and Lifetime movie offers that would have made him a very rich man.

Within a couple of years, Rip’s life settled into a new normal, working again as a Radiology tech.  Digital X-ray was not that difficult to learn, and he really had no interest in 360 slice CT’s, 3T MRI’s, 3D Hybrid OR Angiography Suites that had become the rage in his chosen career field.  People still broke wrists and needed x-rays.  He still had meaningful work.

Over time he was able to establish a relationship with his children, and later grandchildren and that brought him joy to offset the sorrow of the loss of his beloved wife and his former life.  All in all, he considered himself blessed for the strange life he had been appointed to live.


The thought occurred to Rip one day, that many of his peers went through their lives as asleep as he was.  Missing the important time with family as their kids grew up, some losing spouses as well from death or divorce.  At least he had a wake-up call that allowed him to change the rest of his life around what was truly important.


Leaders: At Which Stage are You?

I know a wise leader who recently shared about three stages of life that everyone goes through roughly corresponding with benchmark age groups of 1-25, 26-50, and over 50.  As I reflected about these stages later, it occurred to me that the same stages, and lessons for each, also applied to people who aspire to leadership.

Setting the Stage: Ages 1-25

This is the preparation stage.  All the remaining stages depend on getting this one right.  For leaders, it means acquiring the base skills and competencies you will need to perform.  It may include, but not be limited to schooling, internships, selecting/ruling out fields of study and career tracks, cultivating relationships that will help you be the best person possible, and avoiding some that may lead you down rabbit trails away from your goals.  It is a stage for dreaming, exploring, and ultimately choosing.  Wise choices may propel you into the next stage, foolish ones may delay or completely derail you.  The choice is yours and yours alone.  There are no victims in the Leadership track!  If you want to play the victim, pick another line!

 Striving for Success: Ages 26-50

This is the proficiency stage.  You laid a great foundation by working hard and making great choices.  You know what you want to do and now you are beginning to realize that if you want to succeed, the real work has just begun!  The goals you set to leave the preparatory phase and launch into the “real world” looked like a finish line right up until you crossed it.  Now the realization is dawning on you.  All that was just the pre-season!  The real season has begun and all the scrubs are gone.  You are now on the field with the A players who are older, wiser, and more experienced.  But you are prepared and you have something many of them have lost.  You have passion, drive, and “the eye of the tiger!”  You have youth, energy and fresh eyes!  Use them, but find ways to work with others, assisting them and complementing their skills and wisdom with your drive and passion rather than challenging them at every opportunity.

After a number of years, you will be the wise one who has led and succeeded.  You will be the one looking at the new guys coming in as idealists and inexperienced.  You will be the one they might offend with their new way of looking at things that dismisses your tried and true approaches.  When you get there and find yourself reaching out to one of those newbies with wisdom and advice on how she might position her idea in a way to be heard by leadership, you may find your success growing exponentially.  You will leverage the passion and energy of the young and temper it with the real world wisdom you have acquired.  When you get to that place you may find yourself on the threshold of the third stage of leadership.

Sustaining Significance: Age 50 and over

Leaders who get here face a choice between two paths.  They might choose the path of pleasure.  These people choose to only sit back, relax, and remember… They take their hard-earned savings and live out their lives in comfort.  There is not necessarily anything wrong with that, and if someone chooses that option, I will not judge them or be mad at them.  It may be the right path for them.

Others will choose another path.  I call it the path of principle.  People who choose this path believe in a higher calling.  They see the wealth they have accumulated as a tool to leave a legacy.  Some may give large portions away.  Others may use it to fund their life allowing them to be free to serve any where, doing anything they feel called to do, whether or not they ever get paid for that work.  All of them will likely reach back behind them and help others progress through these leadership stages.  They understand that the only real significance is that which out lives them.  Sustained significance comes from preparing the generations behind to face the challenges ahead.

Where do you find yourself?  Do you need a hand up to reach the next level?  How about those behind you?  Who can you help reach the next stage?

Any Advice for the New Guy?

There he is.  The guy in that new office down the hall.  He has that look.  You know, the one that says “where am I, how did I get here, and how do I get where I am really supposed to be?”  Looking at signage, then his watch, leaning in one direction, then the next, finally picking a hall though you can tell he has no clue if he has chosen correctly.

As many of you are aware, I recently changed jobs.  I am that guy.  Although this position is in the same industry I have worked in my entire 28 year career, it is a different environment from any other organization of which I have been a part.  The organization is larger, the campus has been around for a century and the current layout has resulted more from necessity and availability than from planning.  Way finding is not the only issue for which I find myself on the steep slope of the learning curve.

I am two months in and I am currently up to 14 different information systems I must learn to fulfill my job duties.  My new employer’s culture of accountability for managers and directors, with visibility of results, is like I have never seen in my career.  I love that!  However, the new guy that is still learning those information systems to do his job will not always achieve expected results, nor able to document them if he is!

When I was about one month in, I pulled out my consulting hat and had a conversation with myself as the new guy.  Here are the main points of that conversation in case you are the new guy, or you run into one in the hall looking lost!

Remember the serenity prayer

Concentrate on the things you can control, and back burner the things you cannot.  Prioritize among the things you can control with the limited knowledge you have to the best of your ability, and with advice from people you are learning to trust in the organization.  That leads to the second point.

Relationships are the key

Make sure that the bulk of your time is going toward cultivating relationships with the people who hold the keys to success.  The most obvious is your one-up leader.  Make sure he understands the steep curve you are climbing through and that you will not get everything on the list done at first so he can help you prioritize.  Having said that, get to know the other people who will make or break you; staff that work for you, support staff in IT and Finance, peers in other departments that can show you the ropes.  Invest in those relationships.  Find ways to be supportive of them, show your appreciation for the help they have given, and never take them for granted.

Right decisions depend upon accurate information

Experience is a two-edged sword.  It can be very beneficial, but it can also lead to supposition that may or may not apply to a new environment.  Make sure you have the facts before you get to far down a pathway toward a strategy that may or may not apply in your new organization.  This is especially true if that new organization is vastly different from the ones you have experience working in.  Listen and learn first, then when you act, you will be much more likely to have the desired result.  It is OK to go slow.

So, how long has it been since you were the new guy or gal?  What lessons would you impart to the next newbie?  What do you wish someone would have told you?

3R’s of Success for Behavioural Interviews

“Behavioural Interviewing” is all the rage.  In this post, I will answer two questions:  What is a Behavioural Interview, and how can you succeed in this type of process?

Believers in Behavioural Interviewing have one main assumption, past behaviour will predict future performance.  The questions are designed to elicit responses from the candidate about how he or she behaved in specific job situations in the past.  The questions are usually scripted in advance to maximize interviewers’, often in panel settings, chances of hearing not only about the candidate’s accomplishments, but also his/her struggles, shortcomings, attitude toward their teams, leadership style, etc.

Gone are the questions like, “What is your management philosophy?” and “What is your greatest strength?”  Instead you will hear things like, “Give me an example of a time you reached a goal, and how you did it?”, or “Have you ever had to implement a policy with which you disagreed?  What did you do about it?”  These are questions designed to create stress and limit the candidate’s ability to give trite, pat, practiced answers.  It is really tough to be on the receiving end of this process.  When I am interviewing candidates who I can tell have not prepared for this type of interview, I almost feel sorry for them.  So how can you prepare for this style of interview?

Here are the three basic tenants to succeed in a Behavioural Interview.  Of course, I have packaged them into 3 R’s!

Be Ready

Readiness comes in two steps.

First, know your audience.  If possible, get a list of all the people you expect to be interviewing you.  If you cannot get actual names, try to get titles.  Next, start googling and hitting professional social media sites where your interviewers might belong. Linked-in is a wealth of information these days.  Look for connections in career history, education, places your interviewers have lived. Make mental notes and try to work them into your conversations on interview day.  Most people will be flattered that you read their most recent publication, or remembered where they went to school, or recognized they worked with a former colleague of yours a couple of jobs prior.

Next, know your story, and know how to get it out amidst the difficult context of these questions.  If you google, you will find many web sites that will give you the top 10 or top 50 Behavioural Interview questions.  I HIGHLY recommend candidates take the time to answer these questions.  It will help to pull forward those moments that have made you successful, and for which you can be proud.  It will also unearth the memories of the times you made mistakes, and hopefully learned from them.  If you take time to work through 50-100 of these, you will know your story well enough to tell it fluidly through the behavioural interview format.  If you do not, you will likely spend your time sweating through pregnant pauses, ums, and uhs.  These are not your grandpa’s interview questions.

Be Real

While you should prepare, make sure that you are authentic.  Do not prepare answers you think people want to hear, prepare answers that reflect who you are, what you believe, and how you lead.  Most of all, let them see your personality.  Hopefully you are seeking a role you are passionate about.  Let that passion show.

Be Reciprocal

By reciprocal I mean you should put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer.  Think about what his/her role is and what he/she hopes to see from the person that will be hired for the opening.  As the questions allow, draw upon your experiences to show them you are the person that can deliver what it is they want.

My final piece of advice is to follow all the basics you have learned about interviewing before.  Dress for the job you want. Have copies of your resume and references available.  Arrive 5-10 minutes early.  Give them a firm handshake, and look them in the eye.  If you struggle with any of these basics, practice in front of a mirror, on video, with a friend, spouse or coach.  It will help you correct idiosyncrasies and become more confident.

Oh yeah…  One more thing.  Be likable.  People hire people they like!