Monthly Archives: April 2013



My wife and I spent much of our day on a pretty casual hike up Romero Canyon Trail, a really cool route between Summerland and Montecito (near Santa Barbara, CA). We hiked a couple miles up and then began our descent towards our car. Maybe 500 feet from our car, we came upon a mountain biker who had stopped early in his ascent. He was clearly concerned about something…and as we got closer, we could see a 5′ snake across the side-third of the trail.

The snake was not a rattlesnake but, instead, an extremely docile, friendly, and clearly not-concerned-with-us Pacific Gopher Snake. Still – we gave it distance – out of respect for our new reptilian friend.

The snake was an unexpected obstacle – then exciting – and finally something we will reflect upon happily. How often do we leaders see a snake on our path that might intimidate or scare us at first but ends up being something great? It could be a change or innovation, a systemic improvement that comes from outside our box, or a new leader above us with a different way of doing things? In these moments we:

1. Observe the change (See the snake on the trail)

2. Analyze the new challenge’s effect to ourselves (It’s a Pacific Gopher Snake and it will not bite me)

3. Assess and implement our own response to this change (I will walk around Mr. Snake and let him be.)

4. Reflect upon the change with an opinion or emotion (That was a cool snake and I’m happy I have a pic of it!).

The moral of the story: Systematic implementation of standard analysis can make snakes on the trail that much more enjoyable, both, for you and the snake 🙂

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Filed under change management, motivation, observation

Obama Pokes Fun at Himself – Real Leaders Laugh

Real leaders laugh sometimes. Well, a lot actually. Humor is an excellent connector between leaders and followers.

President Obama just made this video with Steven Spielberg and Tracy Morgan, taking some shots at himself and showing that even the most prominent leader in the world isn’t too big to laugh at himself. Well done, Mr. President.


Filed under communication, motivation, videos

How to Motivate


Think back to when you were very motivated to do something.

Why did you to feel motivated to succeed?

Most likely, it was an internal drive to feel successful at something.

Most likely, it was not to avoid punishment but instead to feel accomplished.

How can we facilitate this feeling in the other people around us? Thoughts?


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What Hiking Mount Wilson Taught Me About Becoming a Leader


I’d heard much about the 16 mile roundtrip hike to the top of 5600′ Mount Wilson, a prominent mountain above Pasadena, California. However, the prospect of embarking on a day hike of that magnitude intimidated me, to say the least. Furthermore, I was going to be making this maiden voyage with 5 other people who also had not done something on this level… and I was expected to be the leader of the group. Oh the pressure!

I must have spent 2 hours prepping my daypack with food, extra layers, sunscreen, water, and the like. Finally, after much stressing, I left my apartment and met up with my fellow dayhikers at the trailhead in Sierra Madre. We began our trek in rhythm with each other. Here’s where it gets interesting.

We joked and talked and talked and joked with each other. We still remembered the goal – to reach the summit – but our minds were fixated on our discussion. I also began to track our progress on my beaten up Tom Harrison Map. First we, reached First Water. Then we reached the helipad. And then Orchard. A couple of splinter trail turnoffs. Manzanita Ridge. The weird mark on the map that stands out as awkward. Etc…

Our hard work paid off and we reached the top. Here’s the lesson learned: Reaching Wilson’s summit was much easier, no as a journey unto itself, but instead as the final goal of a series of goals. We had little check-in spots to reach along the way and we had conversation topics that also captivated our attention…while we still moved in tandem.

Leadership is the same way. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If your goal is to become a great leader – create a series of small goals to reach and focus on the progression of reaching each of those goals. When you reach a small goal, it perpetuates a sense of victory and will spur you on to further victories. It’s not a bad idea to have a big goal – in fact its a great thing – but do not let a giant goal become the only thing you’re thinking about.

Remember – this is a walk and not a jump.


Filed under change management, communication, motivation

5 Questions with David Hunt




Every week, we ask 5 questions to a different person. The questions remain the same but the people change. Some people are leaders, some are followers, but all have valuable input. This week, to change things up a little bit, we’re looking at one of my direct employees as our featured personality.

Name: David Hunt

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Position/Job: Retail Sales Specialist at REI Santa Barbara

1. Think back to when you were extremely motivated by a boss, leader, or teammate. What did they say or do that motivated you so much and why did it work?

Honestly all of my managers at REI have been amazing in their own way. Matt is terrific at recognizing people who are doing exceptional work and finding ways to increase productivity in less motivated workers. Lindsay puts everyone around her in a better mood by balancing her warm and sincere personality with a work-ethic that everyone respects. Wil is a master at bringing workers together for outside events, and making sure sales and membership goals are emphasized. I could go on and on about my experience with leadership at REI to talk about Dave, Piper, Mitch, Payton, etc (and I am still leaving a lot of people out), who are all stylistically different and yet are unquestioned leaders of their respective departments. They have all taught me to play to my strengths and embrace the leadership qualities I have while building on areas that I am less experienced in with their help.

2. When have you been very unmotivated by a boss, leader, or teammate? Why did it create a feeling of un-motivation to do your job better?

At RCC I was involved with a “leadership” group where the executive board was made up of six friends who decided to start a local chapter of an east coast organization. They had big ideas, and exceptional communication skills but never executed any of their goals that they spoke about in their first meeting which hosted over three-hundred students. The three hundred students quickly dwindled when they found out that they would not really be participating in any kind of reputable seminars, and the focus was more on generating profits to pay back the east coast operation. The experience made me realize that it doesn’t matter how excited you are, or how many people you can bring together for a meeting if you don’t deliver a product, or experience people that validates you as a leader. In other words, “Talk is cheap”

3. What is one characteristic you look for in an effective leader?

To me the quality that makes a truly good leader is someone who wants to listen to the concerns of those around them. It’s easy to tell someone what to do, and even to show them how it should be done in your own terms. To create an environment where not only do people feel productive, but also validated with their ideas and contributions is a skill that true leaders always need to master.

4. When have you motivated another person to better themselves or to be more productive in their job?

I am currently developing a peer recognition program at REI where employees will be able to support each other for the work that we do every day. We experience unexpected challenges on a daily basis and a lot of times recognition for the way we handle those experiences goes unnoticed. When I see someone do a particularly good job, handling a tough customer, or cleaning up after somebody who didn’t do their job correctly etc, I make sure that I praise the effort to ensure they know their actions are appreciated. This helps motivate workers who otherwise might feel that someone else can handle the problem and/or default to calling a manager.

5. What is one piece of advice you’d give towards aspiring leaders?

I will refer back to question 3. Leaders have to be perceptive to what is going on around them and be able to respond with plans and goals that benefit their respective communities/organizations as a whole. If you are a leader people will look to you to help solve their problems and you can’t do that with incomplete information. An isolated leadership style will only allow you to work with the information you already have, but branching out and gathering knowledge from those around you will always help distinguish a true leader from someone in a position of power.

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What Can Carlton “Lassie” Lassiter Teach Us About Leadership?



(photo courtesy of USA Network)

If you guys are like me, you enjoy the USA comedy show Psych. If you’re not – well – you’re missing out. This is the final of three posts on leadership in Psych.

Detective Carlton “Lassie” Lassiter is the good guy who is kind of a bad guy sometimes. He is a thorn in the side of Shawn Spencer, psychic (but secretly not psychic) protagonist. Here’s how:

Shawn is a person who constructs lofty, wild pictures. He is aloof and – while he often is right and can solve the mystery with his gifts – he needs grounding. Gus, Shawn’s best friend, is excellent at pushing back and making Shawn think more about what he is positing. Lassie, on the other hand, is a complete rationalist. He would rather take the path of least resistance to make something happen. Lassie is a no-nonsense person (although not as much as much over time if you really follow the show) and he loves facts. In fact, he loves facts so much, I will repeat it again. Lassie loves his facts.

Every leader needs a Lassie. If you are a retail manager, Lassie is the guy making your price tags. If you’re a football coach, Lassie is your statistician or a coordinator. If you are a fashion design, Lassie is your guy to tell you what materials you need. You get the picture. Every leader needs a rational component to their game or else the game will fail miserably.

Do you have a Lassie in your professional life? How are you able to remain grounded in strong factual and rational thought while also pursuing lofty dreams of grandeur and – dare we say it – idealism?

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What Can Burton “Gus” Guster Teach Us About Leadership?


(photo courtesy of USA Network)

If you guys are like me, you enjoy the USA comedy show Psych. If you’re not – well – you’re missing out. This is the second of three posts on leadership in Psych (the first was posted yesterday).

Burton “Gus” Guster is the tertiary star of Psych. Gus’s best friend, Shawn, is a gifted observer who has a spectacular eye for detail. Shawn uses his ability to solve crimes. However, like every leader, Shawn has some major weaknesses – especially his cockiness and overconfidence in his own abilities. Enter Gus.

Gus is Shawn’s confident and the yin to his yang. For every crazy scheme Shawn has, Gus is supportive while also pushing back. Shawn’s ideas are often lofty, eccentric, and only partially correct. Gus provides a much more grounded perspective that compliments Shawn’s raw thoughts.

All leaders need push back. This can come from a mentor, a peer, or from multiple other sources. I will say it again: all leaders need push back. Every leader needs a Gus to expand their myopic view on things towards a more holistic and accurate perspective.

Who is your Burton “Gus” Guster? How have they changed your perspective? How do you validate this valuable push back?

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