Keys to Success

Having been audacious enough to write a book called “Success is a System” last year, it’s hard not to feel the pressure to consistently walk the talk.

Through researching and reflecting to write Success is a System, and in the months that followed, I became ever more aware of my ‘mental diet’ and habits.

I started to notice, and organize my thoughts and my actions, as either moving me forward or holding me back.

The simple framework that followed proved to be quite helpful in keeping me on track, and helping me to adjust faster if I got off track. As such, I wanted to share with all of you!

Please see my simple formula below- feel free to use as is, or tweak to make it your own as you reflect on what makes you tick. In either case, I hope it helps you move closer toward your goals – to your success!


Keys to Success

Just Start

Start line

In order to achieve truly remarkable success, you need to know what that looks like for you – you need a clear, compelling goal that inspires you to take massive action. Then, you need to take that massive action – you need to work hard for it.

In order to work hard for it, you need to know what you’re supposed to be working on – you need a clear and concise strategy.

In order to have a clear and concise strategy, you need a solid understanding of the ecosystem you’re treading into. Your goal will likely carry with it inherent challenges, as well as opportunities to better your chances of attainment. Lastly, you’re probably not the only person (or business) vying for your inspiring goal. Knowing the landmines, opportunities, and competitors in your space is essential to the development of your well-informed strategy.

In order to even come up with an inspiring goal or definition of success, you need to have found your passion, or at least – a field of expertise or type of achievement that resonates with you in a deeply meaningful way.

To discover your passion, or at least, achievements that resonate, you need to develop the self-awareness to identify your strengths, weaknesses, what piques your curiosity, and eventually, becomes your passion.

In order to develop self-awareness, you need to have (or cultivate) an innate burning desire for more in life.
In order to want more out of life, you need to realize that more is possible than your current circumstances and limitations.

The only way to discover that more is possible from life – is to participate in life – two feet in, not on the sidelines.

The pathway to learning enough to make brilliant strategic choices, and to develop world-class skills that will separate you from your inevitable competition is to just start. Start where you are, with whatever little or much you have, and give it your all. Fail, dust yourself off, reflect, learn, and go fail again. Build your resiliency muscle and refuse to quit because your goals mean too much.

In order to become a local or world-renowned success, you need only start as a nobody who refuses to quit, and who gets in the arena no matter how they feel that day. Outwork, outthink, out-strategize, outlearn, and then out-achieve the rest. You just need to start.

Business is Hard, But Simple.


Organizational success flows from a systematic, learnable process. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

1. Having an inspiring vision that borders on an obsession to light the souls of everyone in your organization. Your organizational ‘why’ must be a must – the world should be missing something important without you. The greatest of goals excite and scare at the same time, and it is ok – if not preferred, to set long-range lofty goals without a clear idea on how you’ll get there.
2. Setting a clear description of exactly who you serve (customer or business), and what problems you solve for them and how you do so. Intimate knowledge of how you do this differently, better than, or more uniquely than the marketplace is essential for long term survival and to thrive within your niche.
3. Keeping in mind there will be variables and uncertainty, having powerful strategies in place to attract new customers (stakeholders in not-for-profit or charitable organizations) and retain them through solving the aforementioned problems and delivering on a consistent high level of service. Your value proposition must inform your marketing strategy, communication, and sales process.
4. Massive clarity on exactly who you need to bring into your organization to help execute your mission can be the biggest difference between success and failure.
5. Effective systems, honed over time that are reviewed and improved over time, to onboard each new hire and set them (and your customers and the organization) up for as much success as possible.
6. Flowing from your organizational purpose and vision – concise core values that serve as the moral compass of the entire organization, and are integrated into strategic decision making, even if it means saying no to short term profits at times.
7. An organizational identity – chosen on purpose and safeguarded as a matter of utmost importance, because great leaders realize that their culture is either but by design – or by default. Furthermore – culture is simply “how things are done around here”, so great organizations ensure their performance standard is set by them, not by forces outside their control. While the notion of a gatekeeper may not engender thoughts of fun, organizational culture includes unique customs, traditions, and ways of making and keeping work (or volunteerism) fun!
8. Assessment and development tools to ensure your team is working together effectively, and finding a balance between conflict and groupthink. Disagreement from invested team members can be very healthy, as can organizational consensus, but both can be taken too far.
9. Goals set for every important aspect of what you do.
10. A detailed, aligned, yet simple strategic plan for the attainment of said goals – that gets updated and communicated regularly throughout your entire organization.
11. A dashboard of measures/ key performance indicators (KPI’s) to assess how you are progressing towards your goals and plans in each area, from financial performance to operational efficiency to team and customer satisfaction.
12. Feedback loops tied to the above that help inform the leaders of each team/ department what to keep doing, what to stop, what to start doing, and what to do more or less of to maximize return on investment (in terms of both time and cash).
13. Rhythm of meetings and communication from leadership to working teams, and between teams and team members, to address issues, provide recognition and praise, and course correct when necessary.
14. Physical space, as well as methodology designed to infuse new ideas, creativity and innovation into the organization.
15. Systems for assessing, prioritizing, and addressing risk in your organization.
16. Systematic, regular off-site strategic planning sessions not just to ‘check a box’, but to plan for the future, infuse energy into the coming term, ensure the succession of your key personnel, and take an organizational ‘look in the mirror’ to ensure you are becoming who you want to become.
17. A commitment on behalf of present leadership to resist becoming entitled or disconnected from the mission, and to hold all who will come into the organization in the future to the standards upon which the organization was founded – never to lose their way or be swayed by temptation. A business, a church, a community that remembers its roots – is an organization that will remain relevant as long as it so chooses to.

My Google search of ‘business success’ yielded 2,370,000 results in 0.77 seconds. If one so chose, they could dive ever deeper, and examine with ever greater granularity the multi-faceted complexity that is business. Or – one could choose to boil it down to its simplest form, and accept that the score card is simple, but to hold oneself and one’s entire organization to a world class standard every day for decades may be one of the rarest accomplishments they could ever strive for.

May this road map, however simple, serve as a beacon to you and your organization as you go forth to create something to be remembered, and as you look back many years from now, may your journey be worth it. May your days be spent as the gifts they truly are.

The Three Levels of Listening


We’ve all heard the saying, “we have two ears and one mouth”, and that we should use them in the same proportion.

True as that may be, does talking less automatically make for a better listener? To answer this question properly, let’s briefly explore the “Three Levels of Listening”, and how much value can be created or destroyed by our mastery of the skill called listening.

Level One: Listening to respond. We’ve all been there. You hear your co-worker or friend say something, and it takes everything in us not to interrupt so that we can reply, compare notes, or maybe even ‘one-up’ their story with our own, clearly better anecdote.

Level One Listening is the lowest form of listening, if it can even be considered listening. Any conversational value, or any potential deepening of the relationship, goes out the window when we show that our only real interest is in talking about ourselves. Furthermore, while we are trying not to interrupt, and trying not to forget what we are going to say next – what are we not doing? Listening to everything the other person has said since the first point they made that we’re waiting to reply to!

If we agree that Level One is at best impatience, and at worst, low level maturity and even disrespect for our colleagues, let’s see how we can do better.

Level Two: Listening to Understand. The reason Level Two listening is so much more effective, and so much more well-received, is because of the shift in our intentions (that can’t be faked). Instead of ‘one-upping’ our colleagues best story, we might even be slowing them down, to ensure we get their meaning. The classic rephrasing is the earmark of Level Two listening, “if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that you don’t feel appreciated at work. Did I catch what you were saying?

Level Two listening may sound like being forced to pay attention, but in reality, as soon as we shift our attention from wanting to speak to wanting to understand, there is a dramatic shift in our body language. Instead of (at the more extreme level) tensing muscles to hold us back from erupting in an ongoing verbal cavalcade, our body shifts to a relaxed ‘catch’ state, where we sit back as we wait to catch all of what our colleague is saying. Even our facial muscles become more relaxed. If Level Two listeners look more empathetic – it’s because in that state – they are!

If Level Two Listening sounds pretty good, then you’re probably wondering, what does Level Three look like, and how can I even do that?

Level Three: Listening to add (or co-create) value. Recall that Level One is all about me. By comparison, Level Two is all about you. The beauty of Level Three is that it is all about ‘us’. That is, by listening well enough at Level Two, if there is an earnest desire to help your friend, or see them overcome their challenges or attain their goals, there is an even deeper level of listening, done by the whole body, which is focused on “how can I help?”

It’s important to clarify here that sometimes really helpful people are guilty of Level One Listening, because as soon as their friend utters a challenge they might spring to “how can I help?” before the other person is finished their sentence.
As a coach, there are two reasons Level Three Listening creates more value than a Level One helpful sprinter.

First, we never want to be a crutch. As Lexington James said, “the helpful hand you are looking for is usually at the end of your own arm”. By rushing in to ‘save’ our friend, we might be giving them what they want, but not what they need. If I got the help I wanted when I was building my business, I wouldn’t have developed the resiliency I needed, and I wouldn’t be in business today.

The second reason Level Three Listening generates far more value than Level One helpful sprinters, or even conscientious Level Two listeners, is that by giving your colleague space (versus rushing in) or patiently allowing potentially uncomfortable silence, we can get to the root cause. In short, we tend to complain about the problem we know about.

In relationships, we complain about the other person, we don’t lead with our own shortcomings that are manifesting as a reaction from the other person. In business we complain about cash flow or a lack of sales, not how we are uncertain about the mechanisms that would lead to greater revenue consistency. In terms of our health we complain about the extra 20 pounds we gained, not the willpower and discipline we’ve been lacking.

Level Three Listeners care enough about the outcome to be truly ‘in’ the process enough to be patient. Patient enough to let their friend squirm for their own benefit long enough to come to self-awareness, rather than being a crutch. They also care about a systemic, powerful solution, not a Band-Aid®.

Awareness precedes change. Now that you’re aware there are deeper levels of listening available to you, will you rely on your one mouth? Will you deploy both of your ears? Or will you call on your whole body, mind and soul?

To your success my friends, and to the success of those you’re now more equipped to help!

A Note to My Former Self

We often see articles about employees leaving their position because of the influence of management. It would be naive not to acknowledge that management does have an influence, and trust me they are not off the hook yet. Those who lead us definitely have an impact on us, we learn from them, become inspired by them, experience challenges from them, and even lose our passion because of them. However, as much as they have an impact on our lives, our careers and our work, they are not the ones I want to speak to today.

Today, I want to speak to everyone who is an employee. There is an important factor that we need to acknowledge within the span of our careers, which is the responsibility employees have to take on their own accountability for their own choices and eventual results.

Fellow employees we need to be accountable for our work experience, work culture, and the actions and attitudes we bring forward to our work environment. For the purpose of this discussion I want to share the 3 rules that I wish I had learned earlier in my career, that I now carry forward with both positive and negative issues within the workplace. However, I would like to state that these 3 rules did develop from the adversity that I faced and are inspired by my development. First let me start off by saying that we all have a choice, we have a choice to take initiative, to be honest, and to not let challenges/issues snowball into great big problems that can contribute to a toxic environment. We have a choice to acknowledge our courage, happiness and to stay true to our ambitions that led is us to that position in the first place. As employees we are the glue that supports the success of any company. Therefore, we have a responsibility to truly give our best, and when challenges come before us, I do not believe that we always take on the responsibilities associated with this task.

  1. Rule 1: Be accountable and take ownership.When issues arise be honest about the situation at hand and how it is has impacted you. However, do not stop there, there is always a take away from every situation that we encounter. It is important to acknowledge what we brought to the table and the steps we could have taken to ensure a stronger resolution. Through the majority of situations there is an opportunity for an employee to take initiative or be a leader and to work towards finding the solution. Taking the steps to keep us accountable to ourselves, and establish a strong working foundation.
  2. Rule 2: Do not forget your ambition.As employees we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge our pride in the work that we do. Every position that we endure is one that grants us the opportunity to grow further, and therefore we must ensure that we take every step to give our best for that position. In times of adversity, we must take it upon ourselves to ignite that ambition in ourselves and our team to come together. Rather than inflicting silos and creating environments for humility.
  3. Rule 3: Never forget, you are not alone.As an employee what you go through and the challenges you face are never something you will endure alone. It is something that impacts everyone, a chain reaction. It is your responsibility to remain honest about the situation at hand. Yes, you may be facing a challenging situation and it’s okay to acknowledge. Internally you will have acknowledged way more for yourself, but now you have created a level of interaction that allows you to be honest and to speak about your situation without carrying out a discussion too far, or creating unnecessary drama.

I choose to incorporate these rules in my daily life because they were once some of my biggest mistakes and I think many people can relate to these concepts as well. The point I am striving to make is that too often we employees do not own our position in the situation before us, and we forget to look beyond the issue and towards a solution.  Just as management impacts us, we impact the company as a whole and we need to remember the pride we take in what we do. As it is that pride that we have, that we need to change to confidence as we apply it to being stronger employees. Those Individuals who take ownership and accountability in challenging situations are the ones who will be able to continuously rise in their development. They will also do justice to their team, to the workplace and most importantly to their growth.

Swing For The Fences!

Swing for the fences

In business, just like baseball, most people strike out far more often than they hit a home run. In fact, outfielder Ty Cobb has the highest career batting average (.366 over his 24 year career). In other words, the man who most efficient at hitting the ball struck out or fouled out more than 63% of the time.

As a business coach, a lot of our entrepreneurial clients are hoping for a ‘silver bullet’ solution that will double their business and lead to ‘happily ever after’ results. While we have had clients more than double their business in a year (even after their initial high growth start up years), this is rare.

In short, . Failure, or more accurately, adversity, remains possibly the single best teaching mechanism in business. Now this can have a significant effect on the mental health, and self-confidence and self-efficacy of any entrepreneur. Because self-efficacy is so intricately tied to entrepreneurship, I wanted to dispel a few myths en route to encouraging more entrepreneurs to keep fighting the good fight, as well as encourage more potential founders to take the plunge and enjoy the journey.

Myth # 1: You might fail

This is no myth unfortunately, it’s very true, and something every entrepreneur must find a way to wrap their head around. That being said, failing in business is not always as dramatic as needing to lay off your entire team or having to shut down your business. Cliche as it might sound, failure (of your sales strategy or marketing campaign or talent recruitment initiative) leads to learning, which leads to success. In short, truly great entrepreneurs should be diving headfirst into a litany of small failures to learn faster and improve their chances of success.

Myth # 2: There are tons of experts who have figured it out even though you haven’t

This one is a major contention point for me, and it is a myth that rarely, if ever proves to be true. Please realize there a an endless array of bullshitters who would try and manipulate you into thinking they are massive successes so they can charge you money to ‘show you how’. Envious some ‘influencer’ posted a video from a private jet? There are companies who will rent you time on a private jet for $300 so you can film your “I made it” post – without ever leaving the tarmac.

En route to growing our business by over 1000% in the last 3 years, I have experienced;

  • more than one panic attack
  • a broken back
  • having all forms of credit maxed and not being able to access a dime
  • being rejected countless times for interviews, sales, you name it

One of my favorite expressions regarding being an entrepreneur is that running a business is the great equalizer; no one gets to take the escalator, everyone must take the stairs. This means every successful entrepreneur does have to figure it out the hard way – there are no short cuts. Even if a few of those who profess to offer their advice (including myself and our coaches) must be keenly aware that personal success does not lend itself to ‘magic pill’ solutions that will work for everyone. As a coach, I am always careful, if I give advice, to phrase it as “this is what has worked for me” – however our clients must disseminate any wisdom from our experience and apply it to their own challenges to learn, grow, and thrive or else we become a crutch. In this case, we don’t help our clients become better entrepreneurs which means we’d be doing them a disservice.

Myth # 3: You’ll hear “no” a lot

You probably guessed it – no myth here!

In our experience, most businesses are limited by not hearing ‘no’ enough. How can that possibly be? Two reasons. First, all things being equal – the more no’s you hear is correlated to the more opportunities you have. Being a numbers game (without compromising quality or integrity for volume), the more shots you take the more often you score.

Second, no’s (mini-failures) lead to learning. Great leaders reflect at times of failure. Did I hear no because of price, or was it my presentation? Did I ask my prospect enough questions to properly understand and qualify them? Personal reflection, combined with tracking everything and keeping solid business metrics – leads to better learning outcomes and greater chances of future success.

In short, ironically the best cure for ‘no’ is more ‘no’!

Myth # 4: My reputation will suffer if I fail (especially publicly)

This almost always proves to be a myth. I’m convinced that the only reason I’ve been hired to be a keynote speaker for different conferences, is because I once gave a speech to 3 people. I felt like a joke, but I gave the best speech I could to those 3 people, they each received a copy of my latest book, and by the end, the attendees all commented how everyone who didn’t show missed out. It’s been said before that the difference between the novice and the master is that the master has failed more times than the novice has tried, and I agree!

While this article started talking about home runs, and how they are rare, it is still essential to step up to the plate on a regular basis for entrepreneurs. I firmly believe that the best way to build a solid business is brick-by-brick through consistent execution of solid business fundamentals. That being said, as you’re methodically growing organically, take a few potentially game-changing home run swings every now and then. I call this out S.T.A.W. metric (Shit Thrown Against the Wall). My philosophy is, if I take at least 1 S.T.A.W. attempt every week, and my ‘home run’ percentage is only 1%, then every 2 years I will experience at least one “how on Earth did you do that” success.

With our S.T.A.W. mentality, I have been shot down by the Dalai Lama, John Maxwell, and several of the top CEO’s in business for book interviews, and I have heard no or nothing at all from at least 40 conferences for speaking engagements when I was building my speaking career. A quick review of HubSpot revealed that we lost out on at least 24 potential clients in the last 2 years, one a month. I could go on, and the failures greatly outnumber the wins, although through S.T.A.W. I’ve also managed to be published in Entrepreneur magazine, Bizztor online, guest blogs, and I’ve appeared on 15 podcasts as a guest expert on topics ranging from leadership to sales to entrepreneurship. The discipline to accept, even pursue ‘no’ has given me more yeses than luck, talent, or skill has.

To you, brave entrepreneur, I implore that you accept yourself as human, incapable of perfection and prone to making mistakes, but also unique. May ‘no’ be your teacher, and may you find the bravery to step up to the plate for often. Fans may boo or get bored with all of the strike-outs headed your way, but only those brave enough to strike out can hit a home run, and if (WHEN) you hit your home runs, everybody forgets the strike-outs. That’s one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur – sales cures all. Hitting a home run helps you instantly recover from the last 20 (or 100) strike-outs.

May you swing for the fences, and enjoy the journey friends!

Value Prop Design

Your Value Proposition is Not About You!

Today few business concepts are as topical and ‘buzzwordy’ as that of an organizations’ value proposition. The subject of constant debate and conjecture, a value proposition can be defined as a “positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well”.

Here’s the thing: most people don’t care. That is, most people spend their days in a busy, if not hurried state, focused on their own problems and priorities. Adding to the marketers’ challenge is that the average American will see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. While the traditional advertising approach is fighting for a potential customers’ attention, that customers’ subconscious mind is actively blocking out the noise so that they focus the finite amount of mental processing we have available to us. Because concentrated mental tasks deplete a major brain function known as executive function, our subconscious mind helps us to limit the number of stimuli we focus on to preserve our higher cognitive function for our more important decisions. We simply lack the time and mental capacity to actively pay attention to 4,000 – 10,000 inputs a day in addition to all of the other tasks our day demands of us.

Understanding the ‘sea of noise’ challenge, we have two choices as business leaders;
1. Be mental distraction # 10,001 and try to compete for limited, waning attention; or
2. Focus where your customers focus

If we choose the latter path (which this author recommends), there is a fluid, three-step process to crafting an effective positioning statement to highlight your value proposition. Before you start, get yourself some Post-it® Notes.

Step One: Identify your Ideal Customer Avatar

If your business is in the B2C space, you are reverse engineering a person. If you’re a B2B player, you are crafting an ideal business to sell to. The parameters change, though the process is identical.
Using one trait per Post-It® note, list off all of the demographic information you have (or hypothesize) about your ideal customer. Examples would be as follows;


B2C example

  • Location Residential community
  • Income Household income (example $75K – $99K)
  • Industry Occupation (ie dentist)
  • Age 35 – 65 years of age

B2B example

  • Neighborhood, City, or State/ Province
  • Annual revenue ($2M – $5M)
  • Industry, including any niche (example railway construction)
  • Business cycle (start up, scale up, etc)

Once you’ve brainstormed (or listed, if you have the available data) the key demographic typifiers of your ideal customer, it’s time to repeat the exercise for their psychographics. More important than where they live and work – is how they think; how and why they make their purchase decisions.

Important psychographic considerations for an individual might include their goals, their values, their career objectives, and even their relationship with their boss (and spouse). Psychographic considerations for a business might include when they need to submit a budget, whether or not a potential vendor aligns with their organizational values, and who they are competing against (and how that drives their competitive spirit and strategy).

You will know your work is complete through this first step when you have a crystal clear picture of the individual you are looking to sell to, or you can imagine yourself walking the halls (or through the warehouse as the case may be) of the business you’re trying to supply to or service.

Step Two: Understand their pain, goals, and needs

Once you have that clear picture in mind, the next Post-it® exercise is to brainstorm all of the perceived (or known) pain points your ideal customer faces. Start with their pain points, because according to research, 70% of all purchase decisions are to ease pain, only 30% to gain something or seek out pleasure. Keep in mind their pain is not just associated with your product or service. They also may be kept up at night by competition, dwindling profits (or losing money), imposter syndrome, leading a team, or their children’s hectic school and sports schedule. Focus on the likely pain points your ideal customer would be facing, tied to their position, industry, and any other information you know about them.

Pain points listed, shift your focus to their goals, both personally and professionally; as well as individually and organizationally.
Finally, narrow the focus on your scope of services, and what your ideal customer needs you for. What does success in your transaction or working relationship look like to them? If you don’t know, this is where customer interviews or focus groups can be particularly effective.
By this point you’ll have an ideal customer avatar covering both demographics and psychographics; as well as goals and challenges (pain points). See an example here.

Step Three: Now it’s your turn

Once you’ve spent this much time in your customer’s shoes – you can finally craft your positioning statement. In order to do so, the third Post-it® exercise is to list off your skills, experience, and product and service features that are the perfect match to your customers’ pain points and goals.

When businesses and leaders go through the process in this order, the findings are quite profound. Instead of innovating your product or service in a vacuum, the light bulbs go off when companies realize exactly how they provide value to their customers.
Put simply, instead of going to market as “this is who I am, now who needs that?” businesses can go to market as “we know this is who you are, and what you need/ struggle with, and so this is why we (make/sell) X.”. As Dr. Marilyn Taylor, professor of leadership studies at Royal Roads University puts it, “don’t be an answer looking for a question”.

Once you’ve completed your brainstorming, a priority sequence is given to your product & service features, and company competitive attributes, according to the urgency & importance of the problems they solve for your ideal customers. For instance, an accountant would miss many an opportunity by leading with “providing timely and accurate financial statements” if they were also able to provide “insight into latent profit potential” for their customers.

In the above example, the positioning statement at the heart of their value proposition says nothing of the accountants’ experience, training, or credentials. Their value proposition speaks only to the value realized by their customers. If this was your accountant, would you really care what software they used, or where they went to school? As long as they help you stay tax-compliant in ethical ways, what you really care about is finding out where your business is leaving money on the table.

In closing, your value proposition is not about you. Value is in the eye of the beholder. The beholder is your ideal customer avatar. Since they’re the ones paying the bills, they get to determine what value means. Put your customers in charge of your marketing, and your sales team will be forever thankful!

Values Based Leader Interview: Stephanie Jackman

Aristotle gave us the great maxim, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. This maxim has lent itself to teamwork in sports, business, community building, probably any scenario in which individuals must come together and combine their efforts for the good of the collective.

The same could be said for the career of a leader, and how year by year their legacy compounds rather than adds from one year to the next. Stephanie Jackman, founder of REAP Business Association, is such a leader.

Passionate about sustainability and creating a social impact through businesses that are “forces for good”, Stephanie takes a long term view in terms of the kind of business and collective that she’d like to create. In her words, “an individual business trying to balance profit and social impact has a lot going on. A collective takes a long term view in that greater impact can be achieved if many businesses are telling the story, not just one.”

This view makes sense. One ‘conscious capitalist’ may have to choose between profit or social impact on some decisions, which could threaten the business or lessen its ability to affect positive change. The association Jackman launched in 2008 has over 150 businesses that share a commitment to Respect the Earth and All People (which is what REAP stands for). With a critical mass of values aligned businesses networking and referring to one another, profits don’t suffer and the impact is multiplied rather than compromised.

As far as the size of that impact, here are just a few statistics on the impact REAP businesses have in their local economy and environment each year;
• $21 billion in annual revenue;
• 8,300 Calgary area jobs;
• $5 million in local charitable donations;
• 93,000 employee volunteer hours;
• 11,000 tonnes of CO2 diverted from the atmosphere through green power purchasing; and,
• 9.5 million kgs of waste diverted from Calgary landfills.

As impressive as this may be, getting more than 150 business owners to buy into an idea that’s become a movement takes time. 10 years and counting, to be exact; but all great causes start with a visionary and a bold (perhaps even crazy) idea. For Stephanie Jackman, the inspiration for what would later become REAP came from friend and mentor Lynne Twist, author of “The Soul of Money”. After hosting one of Twist’s Soul of Money workshops, Stephanie found herself making a public declaration to “hospice out the old era of business based on trade-offs to midwife in a new era of ethical business”.

In addition to Twist, Jackman was inspired by Margaret Bourke-White — the first American female war journalist (who also was on the cover of the first issue of Life magazine), and the first foreign photographer to take pictures of the Soviet ‘five year plan’, implemented in a war-threatened Soviet Union between 1928 and 1932. Jackman admired Bourke-White’s courage to enter such hostile environments, to be a trailblazer and defy gender stereotypes.

Jackman’s other mentors and heroes lived closer to home. From her mom, she learned the importance of unconditional love and having a supportive community. Her father taught her discipline and innovation. Having these lessons and their support, she felt the confidence as an entrepreneur to go, try, risk and even fail. What wonderful lessons for all of us parents who want to see our children go and live their dreams later in life!

Thinking back to when she started REAP, Stephanie recalls that the initial challenge was to build something that business leaders would find valuable, something unique that they would pay for, then finding those businesses that shared the values of REAP. If the first decade was about building the business case for REAP, the next decade will be about scaling the impact that a value-based network has on its members, the community, and local economy.

As REAP continues to grow, larger collaborations are occurring. (For example, at the time of publication REAP has been asked to host a gathering of triple bottom line businesses to provide feedback on the impact of environmental policy to the Minister of Environment and Parks.) Stephanie sees this as crucial for continued growth and advancement of a ‘business as a force for good’ mentality.

Jackman is excited about the prospects REAP and other values-based leaders face today. She sees the coming together of profit and social purpose as accelerating, with a foreseeable future wherein this will be the only way. The way Jackman sees it, we define life balance from a holistic point of view, taking into account the whole person, so why should we look at business any other way?

It’s not hard when speaking with Stephanie to pick up on her passion and enthusiasm for leadership with a purpose. In fact, she defines leadership as, “inspiring people to get engaged. A great leader can help people see the gifts they have to bring to the [idea/challenge/initiative] so that there is more engagement and impact.”

Despite her impressive career, numerous awards and accomplishments, Jackman remains humble. She wouldn’t profess to advise others on how to run their businesses, but when asked what advice she might give her younger self, it’s all about faith. “Don’t worry so much, follow your heart, believe in your vision, you’ve got this.”

When asked if she would do anything differently if given the chance, Jackman replies “yes”, but concedes that the decisions that got her here, right or wrong, led to learning and so therefore are not a source of regret. Her biggest early mistake, she admits, is thinking she’d get it right the first time. It now gives her great fulfillment to meet with REAP members or other leaders embarking on their journeys to share her experiences, lessons, and even mistakes. She sees it as a great leadership opportunity to pay it forward.

Given the impact Stephanie has had on business in Calgary and Alberta, I’m excited on behalf of all Albertans to see what the next 10 years brings!


Personal Awareness (the 360)

We’ve all heard the old adage in business, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

This is often very true, as networking is key and decision makers (be it a potential client, a potential supplier, a potential employer) often prefer to deal with who they already know. Before we spend any time on the topic of networking though (if you are keen to learn from the best when it comes to networking, I recommend reaching out to Catherine Brownlee), it is imperative to start at home.

In the mirror.

With you.

How well do you know YOU?

Do you really know your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Do you know what your greatest people skills are? Have you ever thought about what your most consistent contribution to a group project or team dynamic might be? If you are truly committed to personal and professional growth, and you have the guts – wouldn’t you like to know what your ‘blind spots’ are? Do you wish you knew what people wanted to see more or less of from you?

There are numerous sources [like here and here for starters] citing the correlation between personal awareness and leadership effectiveness. From the above scholarly articles to the ancient Greek aphorism, “know thyself”, the concept of self-awareness or knowledge of self has been documented, and thus, studied – for millennia.

Whether you are an employee looking to create more opportunity for yourself, a leader looking to climb the corporate ranks and join the C-suite, a manager looking to drive employee engagement and buy-in, or a sales professional seeking to ‘show up’ as your best and most likable self- the link is clear. High levels of self-awareness correlate to high levels of performance and effectiveness in groups and with others.

So the million dollar question becomes – “how do I gain such insights?”

The short, bad news, hard-to-sell answer is years of personal and professional development, reflection, exercises, conversations, mistakes, courses, and experience (both good and bad).

The good news is we can shorten that time dramatically and reduce the associated pain through a powerful tool known as the 360 degree leadership peer review. On average at InSite we take 1 leader a month through this process, and the results never cease to impress – if not amaze. When well designed and executed, the tool has the power to uncover:

• Your leadership ‘brand’ – what it is those led by your experience through your leadership
• Your greatest professional contribution assets; and from there – what sorts of jobs or environments you are most likely to thrive in
• How others perceive your values
• What others want to see more and less of from you
• What you need to improve on if you want to see better results
• What you are really good – if not great at, and how this could be the key to an amazing career path
Before I build this tool up too much, see an example of what we provide for our clients as an example;

Values your peers would like to see you exhibit more often
1. Self-discipline & patience (5 responses each)
2. Trust (4)
3. Perseverance, commitment, decisiveness, and well-being (all with 3)
4. Mission focus, community involvement, positive attitude, vision, listening, and conflict resolution (all with 2).
[Your answers Self-discipline, accountability, well-being; highly correlated]

Trends from above:
A. See it through A-Z; stay focused & disciplined every step of the way
B. May have a blind spot around engaging, involving, getting the best from others

Leadership Style
1. Visionary (23 pts)
2. Connector (21 pts)
3. Subject matter expert (19)
4. Authoritarian (15)
5. Coach (13)
6. Delegator (10)
7. Evangelical (7)
8. Servant leader (6)

While this is of course a brief snippet, you can see just 2 paragraphs of what is typically a 7 – 10 page report. Although this report takes a lot of back end work to generate, and a skilled & experienced coach to debrief, it’s remarkably simple to understand – and all users have a vested interest in the content, because it’s about them!

As stated earlier, the 360 is but one of many tools that can bring about personal and professional development through greater personal awareness; but it is one of the most widely used and widely trusted tools in use today.

If you’d like more information on how to go about scheduling your 360 degree review, please contact me at and I’d be happy to discuss setting up your secret weapon to personal mastery and success!

“I am Not an Entrepreneur”

hate my job“But I’m just not an entrepreneur”.

You’d be surprised how often I hear that phrase as a business coach. You might not be surprised, as a coach, how many people I meet, and you might not be surprised how many of those people I meet that are unhappy.

I meet a lot of people who are unhappy in their work, unhappy with their pay, unhappy with the level of meaning in their lives, and unhappy with the number of options that seem to be available to them to make a change.

As of January 2017 there are still a great number of laid off or unemployed Albertans (300,000+ according to many best estimates). As such, there are a great, seemingly equal number of Albertans who feel lucky to have a job, even though they dislike (and maybe even hate) their jobs. It’s an interesting paradox. Your neighbour has been laid off, so you feel guilty complaining about hating your job, but every day you feel your soul dying a little bit more.

Admit it, if you haven’t been there, you know someone who is there right now!

Getting back to the point of this article, many disillusioned workers feel more disheartened when they consider the notion of working for themselves if they haven’t done so before, thinking it’s not in their skill set, or even in their DNA. Why is this?

I propose we have an unrealistic idea of what entrepreneurship is, and also – what it isn’t. When I lost passion for my previous career, I delayed starting a business, as the notion of a coaching practice took a year to plan. It wasn’t until I did a 360 degree review that coaching as a passion and career hit me in the face. At first, my mind went straight to starting a business – any business, and I felt lost because I didn’t have any great ideas.

This is where a great many of us (based on my research, experiences, and many conversations, at least) have a less-than-accurate view of what it means to be an entrepreneur. My experience (personally and in working with those considering starting a business) is that many would-be entrepreneurs never venture down that path because they think they need to invent the next big thing, or because they’ve never run a business previously, so they don’t know how (true) and think they won’t be good at it (could be totally false).

The latter argument sounds a lot like that vicious cycle facing recent graduates, “I can’t get a job because I have no experience, I have no experience because I can’t get a job”. The fact is, most of us just start (with a solid idea, solid plan, and at least some financing, mind you).

One of the truest maxims of becoming an entrepreneur is that you jump first, and develop your wings on the way down.
This may sound like the secret is to throw caution to the wind, and I am warning very strongly that is not the case. You have to do your homework, you have to know your market, know your product or service, you have to know your customer’s needs (and problem you can solve), and you need to work your ass off. All things considered, however, starting a business is much like getting married or having a child – if you wait “until you’re ready” – you’ll never do it.

Surrounding yourself with great mentors and an executive or leadership coach (or better yet, those who do both) can improve your chances, but there are zero guarantees in business and many ‘sure things’ have closed their doors. This is not to discourage anyone, quite the opposite, it’s to bring to attention the realities so that you walk in prepared.

The last notion to explore and explode is the limiting assumption that many yet-to-be-entrepreneurs tell themselves. They often hear someone utter the phrase ‘self-employed’ or “I run my own business”, and they assume that A) that other person is successful, and that ipso facto B) that other person is different than them.

Just like the neighbour with the nicer house & faster car may not be happier, so it is with business. We know nothing about that other person’s skill, tenure, business model, or balance sheet, so do yourself a favor and don’t assume that they are a success and by comparison you are a failure.

By that same logic, don’t rule yourself out as an entrepreneur either, unless you;
• Are highly risk adverse
• Crave security
• Perform at your best specializing in a compartmentalized role rather than wearing many hats.

No different than horseback riding, surfing, painting, or any other skill – you might just be a natural as an entrepreneur if only you give yourself the chance to develop wings on the way down!

Happy to grab a coffee and discuss whether there’s merit to your business idea and help you increase your chance of success by the way!