8 LeBron James Quotes to Help You Find the King Within

The NBA star's words of wisdom on motivation, mindset and the path to success.

Increasing your leadership potential

Leadership is a behavior, not a position or a title. While some executives exhibit remarkable leadership behaviors, others simply become good managers, never fully realizing their capacity for leadership. The latter will likely have the skill and determination to operate a program and possibly even oversee an organization. It is the former, however, who will successfully guide an organization toward unlocking its true potential.

A key leadership behavior revolves around building strong relationships with others. To some, relationship-building is viewed as soft, emotional or irrelevant to an organization’s success. In my experience, however, it is the leader who brings out the best in others who guides organizations to a higher level of success. This is the leader who makes people feel important, and who is attentive to the voices, concerns and actions of others. This is the leader who knows that strong relationships rest on trust and respect.

The good news is that behaviors can be learned. Learn to be a leader-like relationship builder by doing the following:

  1. Establish your credibility. Whenever you consistently make decisions that benefit others you work with or that benefit your organization, you earn people’s trust and respect.
  2. Lead through informal authority. Formal titles and positions are shallow sources of authority. Respect, trust and admiration are stronger, more durable currency. Win hearts through sincerity, passion and vision.
  3. Talk with people at all levels. Tell them about your plans and hopes for the organization and how they can participate in its success. People will watch how you treat others and how you communicate with them.
  4. Live by the Golden Rule. As an old saying goes, “People may not remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Treat people the way you would want to be treated by them.
  5. Listen to people and hear what they say. How do you feel when you know that a person you’re taking to is listening to you? You feel great, so return the favor. Ask people what they think of an issue and then really consider what they have to say.
  6. Deliver on your promises. It is crucial that you keep the promises you make to people. On the other hand, if you can no longer keep a commitment that you made, own up to it and let them know why. They may not like your decision, but explaining your reasons lets them know you have integrity.
  7. Be seen. Don’t hide behind a desk and communicate by emails or tweets. Effective leaders take time out from their desk-bound responsibilities and connect to people. If your colleagues see you, they will feel connected to you and you will get the best from them.
  8. Make the tough decisions. People need to know that there is a leader steering the ship. They need to know that when a tough decision must be made, someone will make it. It is not the leader’s job to make everyone comfortable or popular, but your actions must reflect your core values.
  9. Be a decision-maker, not a procrastinator. Have you ever worked with someone who just couldn’t make a decision? Do you remember how frustrating it was? It is a blessing to others when a leader can make decisions in an appropriate and timely manner.
  10. Be fair and flexible. People are going to make mistakes, particularly if you empower them and encourage them to take risks. Before you reprimand someone who has made a mistake, ask yourself if it would be better to give the person a second chance. Sometimes, people will achieve more if they know you are there for them. Like a child playing on the monkey bars, they will trust that you are there to catch them if they fall.

It may take some practice, but by learning to build trust and respect among your colleagues, you will dramatically increase your leadership potential. Your influence and positive impact will increase, leading your colleagues and organization to greater levels of success and achievement.


Dennis C. Miller is the managing director of The Nonprofit Search Group and a nationally recognized strategic leadership coach with more than 35 years of experience working with nonprofit board leadership and chief executives across the country. Dennis is a sought-after motivational speaker, retreat facilitator and successful author. His new book is “A Guide to Recruiting Your Next CEO: The Executive Search Handbook for Nonprofit Boards."

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Taylor Swift and Pope Francis Have at Least 1 Thing in Common. Can You Guess What?

You can teach yourself how to be a leader. Just take notes on -- yes, we're putting their names together -- the pop singer and the pope.

Who You Are in Tough Times Reveals Your Strengths as Leader

Kidbox CEO Miki Berardelli says you can't enjoy success without having been on the other side.

Come on, be happy

Listening and kindness are two characteristics of human behavior that sometimes fall by the wayside in the workplace.

"Listen to what others say!" has morphed into a mantra in management. And so it is ignored. Here are some questions to help you become a better listener -- and a better helpmate for your colleagues.

  1. What is my role? Knowing what you do, as well as what you are expected to do, is critical to understanding your role in the company.
  2. What is my colleague’s role? Knowing what others do is equally important because, if you don’t understand their roles, you cannot assist them.
  3. What can I do to help? Consider action steps you can take. It may be as simple as being timely or courteous. It may be as time-consuming as actually helping them complete a task.
  4. What’s stopping you from helping out? Some people resist help. None of us like meddlers. Being “of service” is not interfering; it’s offering assistance.
  5. How do you know when you are succeeding? Serving others works when it facilitates work. People work more efficiently and more cooperatively.

And all of this taken together makes for a happier and more productive workplace.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2017, Trust Across America named him a Top Thought Leader in Trust for the fourth consecutive year. Global Gurus ranked Baldoni No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, Inc.com named him to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

How NPD Group’s CEO leads and communicates

Karyn Schoenbart has spent more than 30 years at market-research firm NPD Group, working in several areas and serving as president and chief operating officer before becoming CEO this year. She is also the author of “MOM.B.A.,” a book that came out of conversations with her daughter and seeks to impart business and career advice to people early in their careers and executives alike.

Her book includes sections on motivating others, surviving your boss, dealing with difficult situations and other common scenarios we face in the workplace (and elsewhere). I thought she was a great person to talk with about the challenges people are facing at work today and how they might find the motivation to move forward and inspire others to do so, too.

Below are some of her lessons learned in an interview condensed and edited for clarity.

Why she’s stayed at NPD Group for so long

"Several things. The first one is, the company’s growing. So, when a company is growing, it affords continuous opportunity -- opportunity to advance, opportunity to move laterally, opportunity to take on new responsibilities. So, NPD has been growing pretty much the whole time I’ve been there. The second thing is culture. For me, it’s a really great culture fit. It’s very collaborative, people work together in teams. It’s not a backstabbing type of environment. And the third is, I like both the business model and the people. I like what we do, people have a lot of passion for what we do, and I enjoy the people I work with. So, why leave?"

At what point did she start to think, “I could turn my experience into a book?”

"My daughter, when she started working in advertising, she realized she knew all these things that her peers didn’t know. And she just assumed that they all knew the things she knew. She realized it was because she had me as a live-in mentor her whole life.

"For example, when she was 6 years old and she wanted to have a sleepover, I made her give a presentation on why she should have a sleepover.  When the other mom and I agreed, and she kept talking, I said, ‘Stop. Don’t sell after the close!” … And when we would be driving in the car, we would play the interview game. And I would say things like, ‘So, Danielle, for what things have you been criticized?’ So, she just grew up having this around, and once she started working and realized that not everyone knew these things, she said she felt like she had gotten a ‘Mom.B.A.’ … The idea of the book was to provide that competitive knowledge, on questions you didn’t even think to ask, to people starting out in the workforce. Interestingly, the feedback has been that it could be for anyone in the workforce.”

How would she describe her leadership style today? How has it changed since she’s become CEO, or even earlier, compared with when she first became a manager?

"I think that I’ve always been very transparent, a very clear communicator, and when I made my first transition, which I talk about in the book, from an individual salesperson to a manager, you have to learn that your success as a leader or a manager is now not based on your own performance but based on the success of your team. So that lesson really taught me of the importance of helping to make other people successful so that we can all be successful. And, it’s kind of in my nature to be a mentor. I was an education major, so my leadership style is very much about helping people bring out the best they can be and helping us all succeed together.

"I’ve been working in this company for over 30 years, and been working for the owner, so I wasn’t sure how much things really would change with my promotion to CEO. But, what I found I was able to start to tweak the culture a little bit. I love the culture, I love the company, but there were things we that needed to do to be competitive. So, my three things that I’ve been working on -- and they’re tweaks:

  • More outside-in thinking. This could be more client-oriented, more technology-oriented, more focus on competition, because we have a tendency to build good products and they will come. But in today’s world, you have to be more outside-in thinking.
  • Speed. I quote Jeff Bezos all the time, because he said today, you have to make a decision with only 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90% you’re too slow. I feel that’s very true, so I’m trying to push us to be faster. The world is going faster, the clients demand it, technology demands it.
  • Accountability. Since so many of us in leadership have been iwth the company a long time, people tend to look up for answers, and I’m trying to convince them to step up and not just look up."

SmartBrief’s most popular leadership stories this year have largely reflected people’s worries about work, on dealing with difficult workplace situations or co-workers. How has Schoenbart dealt with such situations? How has she motivated?

"I can think of several of them. In 2008, we had the recession. In 2001, a major, major client pulled out … from all market research companies. They stopped providing their information, which was a big blow. It wasn’t just to us, it was to everybody.

"I would say three things that, as a leader, I try to do in any of those situations. Number one is to be really transparent. We are a private company but we still do quarterly WebExes to all 1,600 employees, and we share with them financial performance, and we share with them highlights and lowlights of what happened in the last quarter. And we’re very transparent about what’s going well and what’s not going well, so that there’s trust. So that’s number one, because even in bad times, you’re going to stay with a company if you trust them, you’re not going to stay with a company if you don’t trust them. So, transparency equals trust.

"The second thing is to still have a vision. ‘OK, this is bad, but here’s what we’re going to do about it. And maybe we haven’t figured it out all yet. But we’re still going to be tracking this business, we’re still going to” -- whatever it might be for somebody’s particular business. And, how the employees fit in. So, here’s the vision, and here’s how you can help. Again, that might require multiple levels of communication. You want to show people there is a vision, and how they fit.

"The third thing is demonstrating confidence. I have confidence in our vision, I have confidence in you as employees, and also you have confidence in me. So, I would say transparency, which equals trust. Vision, how they fit, and confidence."

What about when people are miserable at work? How do they cope?

"Very often, if you look back on a long career -- and I’ve been doing this over 30 years -- some of your most learning opportunities are during a tough time. Dealing with a difficult person, dealing with a difficult boss, dealing with a difficult economic situation. So you kind of have to take a look at the broad perspective and say, ‘these are notches on my belt. And if I learn how to get through this, then that’s going to make me a stronger worker, stronger manager, stronger leader.’

"And, again, it’s tough in the day-to-day moments, but just try to acknowledge that these are opportunities to get a notch on your belt and learn how to do the best you can in that situation. … Then, of course, try to focus on the positive. I’m big on keeping lists. So you keep a list of the things that you’re not happy about, but you also keep a list of the things you do like about your job or you are happy about. And try to keep that list going so that you see that balance. When you’re feeling down, you can look at the positives."

How does a CEO make sure her messaging is properly communicated and followed through on?

"First of all, I try to use multiple messages, and I try to do some of it directly. And there’s so much technology today to take advantage of. We use company webinars, and I started using Salesforce Chatter a lot, and I have a Chatter thing that goes to all 1,600 employees from me. So, once a week or so, I can do some informal communication directly from me on something important.

"Then, it’s having trust in your next level of management to make sure that they are really clear on the message. One of the tips is to just not make it too complicated, to try to keep to three things. And if you continue to reinforce those three key things that are most important, up to maybe 5 at most -- because if everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority. So if I can be very clear in my communication to the whole company and then to my leadership … then hopefully there won’t be so many opportunities for miscommunication because everyone knows what those things are and what we’re working towards. The more you try to make it too complicated, I think that’s when you get into trouble with miscommunication down the road.

"And then, what we do, this is just basic kind of management 101, we have our corporate objectives, and then we cascade that down to department objectives, then we cascade them down to people’s SMART objectives, so that it all ties together.

“For example, we’ve got three [objectives]: it’s growth, quality and culture. Under those, there’s a couple, but I’m trying to drive home growth, quality and culture. You just keep reinforcing it, and you have lots of different ways of communicating the same messages.

"There was something I read once, that said you have to tell people something 22 times before it really stick. Now, that may be an exaggeration, but we do that a lot to make sure people really understand, and then understand again, what does that mean for their department, and what does that mean for them? And if you’re consistent, and it cascades down to the departments and the individuals, it’s pretty easy to be on the same page.”


James daSilva is the longtime editor of SmartBrief's leadership newsletter and blog content, as well as newsletters for distributors, manufacturers and other professions. Before SmartBrief, he worked in newspapers for four years, where he witnessed the industry's ongoing struggles with digital amid the great recession. Find him at @SBLeaders or email him.

Staying true to your core during hard times

Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Art Barter.

When you have times of challenge, don’t shy away from your core values. Don’t compromise your values in order to obtain or retain business. Your core values must stay intact. Core values are more important to the vitality of the company than any financial goals.

A difference between a value and a core value is a core value is one you won’t compromise on. You may compromise your values now and then. One of the areas that a member of my leadership team pointed out to me was the hypothetical (and common) scenario of someone calling your office, but you direct your secretary to tell them you aren’t in the office when you really are.

Are you compromising one of your values -- perhaps, one of your core values? At our radio manufacturing company, Datron World Communications, the above example would be violating our No. 4 core value: Honest and Trustworthy. We may falter with our values from time to time, but refusing to abide by them is communicating something so much greater about our character. Someone else may not notice it, but we do.

For example, here are the core values my company strives to adhere to:

  1. Our Families Come First
  2. Honor and Serve Others
  3. Conduct Ourselves Ethically and with Integrity
  4. Honest and Trustworthy
  5. Uncompromising in our Values

Act for the sake of others

When challenges arise, we need to make sure we do things for the sake of other people. It’s not just about me surviving the challenge -- everyone is trying to survive and overcome the challenge set before them. When times get tough, decisions are made that will affect people’s lives, plain and simple.

When you start to affect people’s lives, you must ensure you’re compassionate with those decisions. How you communicate those decisions is extremely important. It’s not about what is comfortable for you, but how to ensure the best treatment for the other person.

Open and transparent communication

As a servant leader, you owe it to your people to be visible to them and open to their input and feedback. Keep people up to speed on what is going on in your company, even when times are tough. If you don’t, the hall chatter begins and the rumor mill becomes toxic. Your people are the most important asset in your company. When there is little to no transparency, people wonder what you are hiding and start to question your key decisions and actions.

When you are transparent with your employees, they understand where you and the company stand, which eliminates unnecessary speculation and gossip. Provide people with information, even if that information is difficult news to grasp. You will see the impact your authentic transparency makes in showing others your human-ness – which is much more relatable and credible than operating from a hiding place!

“We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect, and at times a bit vulnerable -- regardless of hierarchy or rank.” ~ Glenn Llopis


Art Barter is CEO and cultural architect of Datron World Communications Inc., a company he grew from $10 million to $200 million in sales by putting into practice of servant leadership. He also is founder/CEO of the Servant Leadership Institute, an organization that helps people and organizations put servant leadership into practice. His latest book is "The Servant Leadership Journal."

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader and communicator. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

Q&A: Building a resilient workforce

In today's global economy, marked by intense competition and drive to innovate, how do organizations foster an engaged and high-performing workforce? What is the best way to maximize human capital?

The key is a resilient workforce, says Walter McFarland of global consulting firm North Highland People & Change. McFarland recently worked with a team from North Highland and Harvard Business Review to issue a survey on this concept of workforce resilience. The survey report, Building Resilience From Disruption, was compiled based on feedback from executives at nearly 500 companies reporting $1 billion-plus in annual revenue. In this Q&A with SmartBrief, McFarland shares what the report found about how to develop, nurture and maintain resilience. The conversation has been edited for space and brevity.

What are the traits of a resilient employee? Is this "capacity"?

A resilient employee is able to perform well under stress, learn continuously, and keep work and life balanced. Resiliency takes several forms. During an upswing, resilient employees are able to take advantage of market opportunities that help a company grow. During a downturn or industry disruption, resilient employees are able to remain flexible and work through challenges to help a business survive or redefine itself for changing times.

We define capacity as the resources and creativity an individual needs to work, to accomplish his or her goals and to contribute materially to the present and future success of an organization. Beyond the knowledge and skills required, this definition also includes the energy and resources needed to maintain a sense of buoyancy while floating across rapid sea changes. Also important is maintaining a strong emotional intelligence and degree of wellbeing that will help change fuel innovation.

Complicated hierarchies can lead to a breakdown in resilience, according to your research. How can companies dismantle these hierarchies?

Organizational complexity decreases resilience by imposing a confusing — and stress-inducing —hierarchy on employees. Two-thirds of survey respondents (66%) complained of too great organizational and procedural complexity.

Complicated hierarchical organizations can also obstruct collaboration, team empowerment, flexibility and autonomy by overburdening employees with processes that don’t directly support these efforts. Almost three-quarters of survey respondents (72%) complained that excessive multitasking and an overload of meetings are common.

The key to smashing hierarchies is by finding ways to increase cooperation and information flows. De-siloing and leveling hierarchies also diffuses decision-making among a larger population, creating a wider set of organizational leaders.

An example of this in action is to make sure that no single individual holds all the information for a given project or workflow. By organizing work teams to use a central information repository (e.g., secure network server, work management platform such as Slack, etc.) access to information and responsibility for completing tasks becomes more spread out, giving responsibility to all team members.

Another way to break up hierarchies is by examining how a company’s corporate headquarters services other branches. Sometimes it makes sense to cluster offices into regional groups which can help make a large company seem smaller and more manageable.

It seems like we're putting the responsibility of developing resilience on companies and employers. Shouldn't the employee assume some responsibility for this as well? Where's the balance?

Employees have a responsibility to self-engage. Teams become more engaged as individual members make the effort to do so.

Set expectations for how employees can contribute to a company’s overall resiliency. Ongoing education, trend monitoring and proactive workflow assessment are three ways that employees can work beyond standard expectation to help their organization prepare for and deal with market changes.

Two-way mentoring is named as a way to foster resilience. What does this look like in real practice?

The traditional model for workplace mentoring often pairs a more experienced individual (the mentor) with a newer employee (the mentee). However, the practice of two-way mentoring realizes that the most benefit can be gained from following a multidirectional model.

In practice, a more experienced employee may share institutional knowledge, tips learned through years of experience and practical skills needed to accomplish workplace success. In return, a less experienced employee may share tips on using technology, new suggestions for workflow and bring different attitudes and values.

Beyond linking employees from different generations, organizations can benefit from encouraging mentoring across departments. This may include interaction between employees taking over comparable jobs and between veteran leaders and newly minted managers. The passing on of institutional knowledge is especially important for organizations that have long-tenured employees and want to ensure that the heritage of a company is shared.

The benefits of resilience to employees are clear: stress management, enhanced learning and improved work-life balance. But what are the advantages to the organization?

Organizations that have a workforce that can thrive in an environment of continuous change are poised to create real competitive advantage. They are not only able to adapt faster, cheaper and better than their competitors, they are also able to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities and see breakthrough performance increases. In a resilient workforce, continuous change ceases to be debilitating and becomes fuel for continuous performance improvement.

What can companies do to foster a culture of resilience?

A resilient culture values its people, transparency and authenticity above hierarchy. It is not defined by silos but by experimentation, clarity and respect.

Our research revealed six factors that determine an organization’s success at promoting resilience:

  1. Getting employee buy-in
  2. Rewarding and recognizing employees
  3. Smashing hierarchies
  4. Harnessing automation and digitization
  5. Nurturing and retaining talent
  6. Mentoring employees and leaders

Stress, rapid change and the need for repeated transformations will continue to define the environment of organizations large and small. Initiating programs and processes that encourage resilience is the easy part, however; sustaining them can be trickier and must be recognized as strategic — as a source of competitive advantage in order to succeed.

Walter McFarland is an executive leader within North Highland’s People & Change practice. Based in Washington D.C., McFarland focuses on building the firm’s talent strategy and development expertise, as well as developing client relationships. He is co-author of the book “Choosing Change.”



A Stroke Nearly Killed Me. It Was the Best Thing to Happen to My Business.

Figuring out how the business could run without you is a good way to figure out how to run it better.

Leaders don’t cry, and other lies

Each month, When Growth Stalls examines why businesses and brands struggle and how they can overcome their obstacles and resume growth. Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands. The company was recognized by Advertising Age as 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. McKee is also the author of “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding.”

SmartBrief offers more than 200 newsletters, including SmartBrief on Leadership and newsletters for small businesses and marketers and advertisers.

Strong. Stalwart. Stoic. Unflappable. The defining characteristics of a leader. Or are they?

I used to think they were. In fact, in my younger days, I thought showing emotion was weak. Grow up watching movies like "Patton, "First Blood," "Die Hard," "Gladiator" and (a classic) "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," and you get conditioned into thinking that real leaders don’t cry and, perhaps, don’t even feel.

But that’s not true, as I learned the hard way when my company when through a two-year near-death experience almost two decades ago. Nobody—not least me—can keep a stiff upper lip that long. I’ve relearned the lesson many times over the years and was reminded of it recently when a significant initiative I had been pursuing for some time came to a sudden and unexpected halt.

Now, to cry doesn’t only mean to shed tears (although I’m not saying there haven’t been some of those). It can also mean “to call loudly or shout” (guilty), “to make a noise, when bent, like the crumpling of paper” (um…yeah), and “to utter inarticulate sounds, especially of lamentation, grief or suffering” (OK now this is getting personal). Whether the waterworks flow or not, to cry is to emote. And genuine leaders emote.

Sometimes the emotion comes in the form of grief. Experts will tell you that grieving is a fundamental aspect of the human experience, and our modern American temptation to rush through (or deny entirely) the grieving process is harmful to our health, both physical and psychological. But grief isn’t limited to the death of a loved one. It also results from the death of a dream. Or a company. Or a job. Or even a sales presentation on which you worked really, really hard. When something dies, it must be mourned.

Death, of course, isn’t all that can cause tears. Let’s face it, business is difficult. The continuous pressure to grow, for example, can be wearying, and research my company conducted reveals that over the course of an average decade, more than half of all companies suffer through revenue declines. Given the fact that nothing about the past decade has been average, and that two-thirds of companies don’t even make it to their tenth birthday, there’s a whole lot of crying going on. Whether it’s visible or not.

Dealing with others is complicated enough when business is good, but when growth stalls, swirling emotions are sure to be nigh as your colleagues grow increasingly frazzled, frustrated and often in fear for their jobs. It’s human nature (and, frankly, professional) to put on our best faces at work, but to pretend that there isn’t roiling lava under the surface is to ignore what’s really going on.

A great deal of internal tension, lack of alignment, turf battles and even working at cross-purposes can result from unaddressed emotional undercurrents, and a leader who is blind to these dynamics (willingly or otherwise) won’t be a leader for long. Genuine leadership requires empathy—the ability to feel and understand the emotions of others. And there’s no way you can feel the emotions of others if you’re not conversant with your own.

That’s why I believe the best leaders—those that have suffered in the trenches, skirmished with competitors, struggled through recessions, and survived tough transitions—do, in fact, cry. The Book of Proverbs says, “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,” and “with the humble is wisdom.” The road from haughtiness to humility can’t be trodden without tears.

Wisdom and humility are marks of a true leader, as is transparency. Accumulate enough scars, and there’s no sense trying to hide them. If you do, people will know you’re just covering up. That said, there’s a time and place for everything; you don’t want to bawl in front of the board of directors or blubber at an all-employee meeting. But don’t stuff the emotion. That’s where heart attacks come from.

If you’re near tears, there’s a reason, and you need to find a healthy form of release. Leaders who don’t cry either have hearts of stone or are in denial. Neither is good. Get it out and you can get on with it.