The 3 Little Pigs of Digital Leadership

Photo Cred from Disney Archives

Digital Transformation isn’t just for companies; it’s for leaders too. A company’s need to digitally transform has been well documented, but the need for its leaders hasn’t.

So what does becoming a Digital Leader even mean? 

Becoming a Digital Leader means becoming more data-driven than you are today. 

When you use data to become a Digital Leader, you become more insightful.

And that insight helps you transform your company to withstand the winds of change. You become the little pig building the brick house

It’s important to clarify – becoming a Digital Leader does not mean you have to become a techie. Instead, it means using technology to make smarter and faster business decisions. It’s about using technology to run a more agile operating model.

The next 10-20 years have been referred to by many as the technology deployment age. There will no longer be the have and the have nots. It will be the use and use not – until the use nots go out of business.

Technology is shifting from differentiator to equalizer. 

Large corporations will use technology to more cheaply reach into secondary and tertiary markets to access customers previously too fragmented or expensive for them to serve.

Small and mid-size companies will use technology to punch up in customer experience, target marketing, and solution design.

(To dive deeper into this concept, check out this podcast with PE Investor @Tracy Graham of Graham Allen Partners about investing in overlooked businesses and modernizing their operating model to unlock value.)

This creates a huge opportunity and risk for both sides…so who wins? 

The little pig building the brick house wins. 

Which leader little pig are you? Let’s find out. 

Little Pig in the Straw House

Most of us, myself included, are building straw houses. We’re building straw houses because we’re relying too much on our tribal knowledge to make decisions.

Tribal knowledge cements us in the past, like using MapQuest to drive to your Florida vacation.

Suppose you’ve been in your industry or your job a while. In that case, you’re likely using your well-earned experience and “gut feel” to fill in data visibility gaps and make (outdated) insights.

Recently we acquired a company that brought new talent into our organization. The new leader, let’s call him Tom, and I began working together to integrate our businesses. Tom started asking data-driven questions such as:

“How do you know how much client work is in your backlog at any point in time?”

When I went to show him our reporting and respond to his question, it hit me: I had been building a straw house. I was relying too heavily on my tribal knowledge. There was no way this data alone was sufficient to make the right resourcing decisions.

The biggest problem the little pig building the straw house has is thinking their tribal knowledge is an asset to the company.

 In truth, it rarely is as valuable as we believe it is.

Little Pig in the Stick House 

The little pig building the stick house recognizes the need for change but gets it wrong. 

In business today, this little pig is an “add more people leader” when solving a problem or gaining access to the data they need.  


“Our systems don’t integrate the way we need them to. Let’s create roles and hire people to manually perform a process, and give us the reporting we need.” 

In truth, we should be spending our time being ruthless about systematizing access to the cold hard data. 

Little Pig in the Brick House 

The little pig building the brick house spends his time systemizing the data in his business, department, or team. His objective is to make it visible and usable for himself and the other little pigs across the enterprise. 

By systemizing the data you need, other leaders in your business begin to benefit from that visibility too. You help other leaders start to see customer change happening earlier than they previously would have. 

This is how digital transformation begins in a company. 

So, which little pig are you? And what can you do next to start building a brick house?

Will you be my mentor?

What do successful people all have in common?  Well..you have to be smart. Hardworking. Charismatic. Be willing to take some risks. Confidence helps. Movie star looks do too. 

Ok, that’s not all true.

The truth is successful people have all asked for help from someone that’s been where they want to go. Somewhere along the way, they asked someone, “will you be my mentor?” 

I know what you’re thinking

Maybe you’re thinking mentorship is old-fashioned like 1-800 Collect or Cable TV.  Or that it’s uncomfortable to ask for help. You might think you’re being an inconvenience. Or that you can get there on your own. And where does someone even find a mentor anyway?

We’ll get to that, but first…

The magic of mentorship

Mentorship might be the 8th wonder of the world…really. Think about it, someone, maybe you, works their entire career to gain the right knowledge, skills, and experience for which they become well compensated.

But then they discover their hard-earned wisdom’s true value when they start to share those life lessons with others (this is where you come in). This is why mentor-mentee relationships are typically mutually beneficial. 

Mentors give you access to information and guidance that can save you years, even decades’ worth of time.  

What’s that worth?

How to choose a mentor

Do you look for a mentor that’s 10 years ahead of you in your career? 30 years ahead? Your former boss or someone retired? The answer is yes. 

“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”


Whether it’s your former boss, a peer, or even someone you’re mentoring, everyone has something of value to contribute to your career journey. 

That said, do your best to be intentional and build your own personal board of advisors. It works for companies. It’ll work for you. “Mentor” doesn’t have to be singular and the two of you don’t have to get married. My hunch is that over the course of your career, plenty of successful people have crossed your path

What if you reached out to one of them with a question about your career path? Or sought their advice for a challenge you’re having at work? 

Would they ignore you? Really…would they? 

The email doesn’t have to say “will you be my mentor?” but it could say “I’m struggling with this challenge and wanted to see if you’ve encountered something similar. Do you have time in the next week to talk?”

They could say no. They might say no. Or maybe they say, “I’ve been working on something too and could use your advice…will you be my mentor?”

How to become an “A” Player

Most of us think we’re good drivers. Spend any time on the highway and you’ll see this just can’t be true. Is being an “A” Player kinda like that? 

Are you an “A” Player? How do you know? If you want to become one here’s how…

The definition of an “A” Player

An “A” Player by definition is someone who is in the top 10% in their field. 90% or higher on your math test is usually considered an “A.” Same in life. 

There are 203,000 CEOs in the U.S. Is your CEO in the top 10%?

There are roughly 1.57M sales reps in the U.S. If you’re in sales, can you get in the top 157,000? I think so. What field are you in? Think you are in the top 10%?

Here are four steps on how to do it. 

Four steps to becoming an “A” Player

Step 1: Develop a scorecard

In sales, this is typically a quota. But what if you aren’t in sales? A scorecard helps make the subjective, objective. Important to mention, a scorecard isn’t a job description. It’s outcome-based. A scorecard states what you are going to achieve, complete or execute and by when. 

The best scorecards are written in the format of “I will achieve these initiatives by X date defined by Y criteria”. Think  “From X to Y by Z.” Develop a scorecard of priorities with your manager and now you have a clear measuring stick. 

Being an “A” Player means delivering undisputed results. Agree to the priorities, the timelines and go get it done. 

Step 2: Solve a problem

Being an “A” player means standing out. The best way to stand out is to solve a problem – something that’s slightly outside your normal job responsibilities and expectations. Curious about standing out? Check out this post: How to stand out at work. 

If nothing comes to mind – I’ll give you a hint. The best problems to solve are the ones your boss has. What is your manager struggling with that he/she doesn’t have time to prioritize?

I asked this question to a hungry sales rep a few months ago. I just caught up with him around the holidays. Here’s what he said: 

“I asked my boss if I could help him organize the inbound lead process with marketing. I knew it was causing our team a lot of headaches so I raised my hand and proactively offered to help fix it. Now he loves me. He even told his boss the good work I was doing and that guy took me to lunch.”

Want a two for one? Write this into your scorecard. 

Step 3: Build Relationships

The value of being an “A” Player is not being able to say you’re an “A” Player. That’s cocky. 

Sure, you want to know if you’re one, that’s confidence. The real value is for other people to say you’re an “A” player…especially when you’re not around. 

One time I got promoted without ever applying for a role or even knowing it existed. An executive from another part of the company called me up and asked if I wanted a critical role they were creating. 

Why did he do it? Because I was crushing Steps 1 & 2. I was delivering results in my core job and I had solved a problem outside of my immediate role that got me noticed. 

But here’s the kicker…

Before he called me, he called my boss. And he called two other senior executives in the business to ask about me. 

Know what they said? “He’s an A-Player.” 

Being an “A” player means building relationships across your company – not just your team. Many of today’s companies are matrix organizations – which means leaders always need help from other parts of the business. That’s where you come in. 

Being an “A” player isn’t about who you know. It’s about who knows you. 

Step 4: Ask for help

This might seem counterintuitive, but if you want to be an “A” Player you need to ask for help. Not just from anyone, but from the people in your role already performing at a high level. Note: this necessarily doesn’t have to be someone in your company either. Might even be better if you go outside. 

You’d be surprised how often fellow “A” Players will lend a hand. (That’s what makes them “A” Players)

When I stepped into my first sales role as an outside rep in Columbus I asked my manager if I could spend a few days with the top rep based in St. Louis. For two days we drove around. I asked him a million questions, we ate some great BBQ, I took a ton of notes and I sat quietly through his customer appointments. 

On our way back to the airport he said “man I’m shocked no one else has asked to do this. I had a great time. I really wish I would have done this when I was first starting out like you.” 

Being an “A” Player means helping others to become “A” Players.

So, now that you know the critical steps to become an “A” Player, are you sure you want to?

Why you want to become an “A” Player

Becoming an “A” Player means maximizing your potential. I believe we’re most fulfilled when we’re pushing the boundary of what we think we can do. 

I think you can become an “A” Player. Do you?

What the best growth strategies have in common

What do the best growth strategies have in common? 

Is it that they’re focused, differentiated, competitor-crushing ideas? A can’t miss plan that will return 10x in shareholder value? What about a highly researched analytics model that makes it a sure thing? 


Ok, then what about a strong core service offering and a happy customer base dying to buy your next thing? Limitless funding?


Alright fine. Then what?

The best growth strategies are all simple. Napkin simple. 

Napkin simple?

Proof is in the napkin right? Amazon’s strategy fits nicely on a cocktail napkin. Think you could draw this? I bet you could.

Amazon growth strategy on a napkin

What about the strategy Apple used to come back from the brink? When Steve returned he put Apple’s entire strategy in a simple 2×2. Done. Drinks anyone?

Apple growth strategy on a napkin

My favorite though is Bob Iger’s. When he became CEO of Disney he created a long list of priorities to return Disney to glory. His mentor on the board said he could have three. 

So for the next 15 years here’s what he wrote on his napkin:

  1. Prioritze Original Content
  2. Embrace Technology
  3. Use parks to develop lasting customer relationships

After acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, rolling out Disney+ and bringing the magic back to Disneyland he nearly 10x’d Disney’s stock price. That was a good napkin. 

Strategy for the rest of us

Look if you’re not much of an artist like Jeff or Steve you can write your strategy like Bob. A lot of us out there call this defining your “strategic pillars.”

Strategic pillars are the few, very clear ways a company is going to achieve its future ambitions.

Most companies have strategic pillars. The best-performing companies have 3-4. Poorer performing companies have many more.  

“ We can do anything we want, but not everything we want.” 

– David Allen

It has to be simple so that everyone (including Mickey and Minnie) can remember it, and more importantly execute it. 

Do you know your company’s strategic pillars? 

If not, that’s OK. The good news is you can help develop them. Write some down and share with your boss or a colleague at lunch. Most napkins end up in the trash anyway but that’s not the point. (If you want to know why, check out this post on why new business strategies fail)

Think brainstorming corporate strategy could make for a memorable 1:1 with your manager? I do. 

And if you’re not sure if you’re that strategic – I think you might be. Want to know how I know?

The most powerful word in goal setting

From the archives…

I wrote this post in January of 2021 when I set a goal to write a blog post each week for a year. I made it 50 weeks. Effort: check. I thought I could get to 1,000 subscribers. Result: unchecked. 

I’m not there…yet. How about you with your 2021 goal(s)? If you aren’t there yet, let’s re-up and go another lap around the sun.

The most powerful word in goal setting

141 million Americans will be setting New Year’s goals this year. Unfortunately, only 8% of us will be keeping them. What if you knew you would reach your goal? What if you were guaranteed to achieve it? 

This one little word can make that happen for you. It can change your fortune in 2021 2022 and beyond. Please use it wisely. The word is: yet.

Have you set a New Year’s goal for 2021 2022?

Around this time of year, we can typically be categorized into 3 groups:

  • 1: No New Year’s goal (or resolution)
  • 2: Set goal but abandoned
  • 3: Set goal and still committed 

Which group are you in? If you’re in Group 1 or 2, yet can help. 

Group one: no goal

My assertion is that this group doesn’t set goals, not because they aren’t ambitious or driven, but because they don’t believe they can achieve them so why try? Maybe between kids and work, there isn’t any extra room or time in the day. Let’s be honest: life usually gets in the way. 

I get it. But..

“If the only reason you’re not pursuing a dream is because of the length of time it will take to achieve it, you should start right now. Think longer-term.” 

-James Clear

I ignored the scary idea of starting a blog for months because we just had a baby, work was busy, and I was skilled at convincing myself that I had nothing to say. I kept telling myself, “what would I even write about?” 

So I used the word yet. 

“I don’t have anything to say…yet” 

I started small. I began a list of ideas to capture topics as they popped into my head and my idea list started to grow.  

Group two: set a goal but abandoned it

This group was gung-ho about the New Year. Did the reflection. Got intentional and might have even written their goals down. 

But when Grandma made her special dessert, our diet goal got eaten. We slept in, and our exercise goal got snoozed.

And then, when we looked at the timeframe over which our goal was intact (no matter how short), we didn’t see enough progress to dust ourselves off, get back up and try again. 

So we abandoned it. I only know because I’ve been there…but “yet” can change things.

“I don’t have 1000 subscribers…yet.” 

Group three: set a goal and still committed

This group is actually no more gifted than the people in Group one or two. 

But mentally and emotionally, this group accepts that progress takes time. Transformation is a journey. There is no arrow “straight up and to the right” in life. It’s windy, crooked, and takes unexpected twists. 

So they just hang in there on their goal by using the word yet until they finally hit their target.

Yet gives us unlimited chances

I like those odds. If we knew we’d hit the goal, wouldn’t we set it? 

So, it isn’t that you haven’t reached your goal. It’s you haven’t reached your goal yet. 

Which goal can yet help you achieve?

How to hit your sales number next year

According to the internet, 57% of salespeople are expected to miss their quota this year. 


But we’re not going to focus on the pain. It’s all about gain today. 

The good news is this is figure-out-able. You can make your sales number next year. All you have to do is learn and apply this fundamental sales principle. The principle of free. 

Wait…what? I can make my number by learning about free?

That’s right. 

Before things get out of hand…

Right about now I suspect my sales readers are dancing in the streets while my finance compadres are reaching for an oxygen mask. Before someone gets hurt…allow me to explain. 

There are two types of “free” for salespeople to master to make their number next year. None of them have to do with discounting your product or bankrupting your company. Quite the opposite really.

The first type of free to master is working for free. The next is serving for free.

Allow me to explain… 

Working for free

It’s an easy mistake to make, but a lot of salespeople work for free. They spend time with people that will never buy from them. 

A friend of mine often tells his sales team “You’re on commission. Your customer isn’t. They are getting paid while you are not. Don’t work for free.” 

The elite salespeople that I’ve worked with are trying equally to disqualify the deal as they are to qualify it. It takes confidence to tell a potential customer that your services and solutions aren’t a fit for them…and help to point them in a different direction. 

Perhaps one day they will be a fit, but if not now…don’t waste your time or theirs. Meaning, don’t work for free. 

This leads us to the next type of free worth mastering…

 Serving for free

I like taking sales calls. It’s fun sitting in the visitor’s section and seeing the game from a different perspective. 

One day I met with a lady that runs her own sales consultancy. After our initial meeting, I said, “man I feel like I got so much value out of this call that I’m already a customer.” 

“Then I’ve done my job,” she said. “My goal is to make the other person feel like they would have paid for the meeting.”

 “A buyer wants a consultant masquerading as a salesperson.”

 – Ed Wallace 

This is where the concept of a trusted advisor comes from. If you want to hit your number next year, serve the right customer for free first with your knowledge, credibility, and expert advice. Start by helping them solve their problem and the business will follow.

My new friend Mark Roberts said recently on the Level Up podcast, “sales is the ultimate act of service.”

Who can you serve next? 

This is how you can use free to hit your number next year.

Why reps miss their sales number

This post is for sales leaders – 

When Einstein said sales is a numbers game, he wasn’t wrong. He still isn’t, although the game has changed. 

Don’t get me wrong, smiling and dialing is still needed. In fact, in a world where it’s easier to set up an automated email campaign than talk to an actual human – it’s needed now, maybe more than ever. 

Consistent and predictable sales growth is no longer about the number of dials you make, the number of doors you knock on, or the number of proposals you send out.

Because our products and services are becoming more focused, so must our sales strategy. Modern sales is now about the number of qualified opportunities in your pipeline.

I missed my number because…

Sound familiar? The deal pushed, and you missed your number for the quarter. It happens. It’s happened to me. 

The issue isn’t that the decision-maker turned over, their budget got reallocated, or they won a surprise trip to Disneyland. The number got missed because it was the only real late-stage opportunity to get over the hump. 

True, pipeline coverage isn’t new. Depending on your industry, you might want to have 3-5x your quota of active pipeline…hopefully, you do.

But are they qualified opportunities? If they were – how good would you be feeling right now? Instead…how are you feeling right now?

Still, if pipeline coverage isn’t new, why were we hanging on that one deal?  

Why reps miss their sales number

I’ve carried a bag and know first-hand that developing qualified opportunities is hard. I get it. You have to know your ideal customer, what problems they have, and how you solve them. You must know the industry and demonstrate credibility and trust through helpful advice. 

But that’s not why reps miss their number these days. 

Our customer’s organizations are becoming increasingly complex – but guess what? So are ours. 

Reps miss their number because once a meaningful conversation begins, the salesperson shifts much of their energy to cradling that egg across the finish line and stops selling the next one. A one-person production line, if you will.  

We found our reps were only performing proactive selling-related activities less than 15% of the time during one assignment. They were too busy making the pitch deck, figuring out the demo, developing pricing, redlining contracts, logging data in CRM, staying on to oversee implementation, or onboarding.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “it’s harder to sell internally than it is to sell externally,”...I’d have enough nickels to buy bitcoin. 

It used to be reps who missed their number because of a lack of will or skill. Now there’s a third reason climbing the ranks: lack of support. 

Sales as a system

Companies that deliver predictable sales and top-line results think about sales as a system—a repeatable set of processes and teams working together for a common goal. 

If you want your reps to consistently hit their number, build a sales machine that glides qualified opportunities through the organization, not slows them down. 

Wondering what kind of machine you have? Just follow a deal through your organization and hang on. You’ll find out pretty quickly if your machine is a flywheel or pinball.

Reps shouldn’t have to play hero ball to get a deal done…but that’s a lot of what I’ve seen out there. 

Does a sales flywheel sound too good to be true? Like the mythical unicorn or free Chick-fil-A? I don’t think so. I’ve built them at two different companies and you can too.

Ask me if you want to find out more or check out this post on how to hit your sales number next year.

Not just another post about company values

I was at work one day when my division got acquired. I didn’t want to go, but like a stubborn 1st grader who doesn’t want to go to school, I didn’t have a choice. Call me old-fashioned, or maybe naive, but I thought I’d put in another 30 years or so, get my gold watch, and then hang up my cleats. 

My old company had decades of established history, success, and hard lessons learned. My new company was a few years old and still figuring it out. 

For months after the acquisition, I felt like I was in a weird parallel universe. The job, the people, the office were all the same, but it wasn’t the same. Everything had changed. 

That’s when I noticed something. 

The values I used every day to make decisions weren’t actually mine. I thought they were, but they weren’t. They belonged to my former company. 

Let me explain

Company’s communicate their values to employees and customers in a variety of ways, but the best way to tell what a company values is by what gets measured. 

My new company measured different things. The stuff I was working to improve before I was acquired kinda didn’t matter anymore. 

I didn’t think my new company cared, so I stopped caring too. 

Why this matters

I remember saying to myself “if the company doesn’t care about xyz thing, then I won’t either. All of a sudden, it’s on no one’s radar” 

But I was wrong… because deep down in dark rooms where I hide feelings, I did care. 

Eventually, we all would. As the business grew and matured we started to care about different stuff. The stuff we used to care about.

It took me a little while to figure this out. When I did, I realized I could positively influence change. I had already been where my new company wanted to go. 

Help your company care

Want to know something? Like with people, companies change and grow. 

If you care about diversity and inclusion but D&I doesn’t exist in your company yet, can you change that?

If you care about employee engagement, but no one has ever asked if you would recommend your company to a friend, can you change that?

If you care about free snacks in the break-room, I know you can change that. 

Take stock of the things in business you actually care about, even if they aren’t on the poster. If your company doesn’t care about them yet, can you change that?

I think you can. Let me know when you do.

Career advice for beginners

The greatest benefit I got out of college was figuring out exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

The moment I walked across the graduation stage and was handed an empty pad-folio, it all clicked. Suddenly I had it all figured out. Or maybe it was when my degree was mailed 2 weeks later…honestly I can’t remember. 

In fairness, I got plenty out of higher education, but I can’t say career clarity was tops on the list. 

You too? 

Don’t sweat it. Here are three lessons I’ve learned since graduation day that can help if you’re just starting out.

Lesson No. 1: Prioritize the company over the role

As Sheryl Sandberg famously said, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”  

The first question to ask when starting out is not what seat or job do you want – that comes later. 

The first question is “what type of company do I want to work for?” 

Do you want a big company with a lot of structure? Or smaller, more fast-paced? High growth and high risk, or slow and safe? More responsibility or a brand name on the resume?  Maybe its some combination of all of these things. 

Regardless, the environment shapes the role, not the other way around. This is why choosing your environment first is critical. You can have the exact same role at two different companies – love one, and hate the other. 

I figured this out when my company was acquired. I had the exact same role. Same title, same office and worked with most of the same people…but the job was suddenly completely different. 

There’s a second reason to prioritize joining the right company. 

In today’s corporate world, you’re only going to be in your role “as is” for a short while. Some new manager will come in and change it…just you wait. But ideally, if you’re good, you’re going to get asked to do something else. This leads me to lesson number two. 

Lesson No. 2: Eventually its better to be a big fish in a small pond

You could argue this is lesson 1.5 because its still about choosing your environment. Either way, let’s continue. 

I started my career a little fish in a big pond. One of 40,000 guppies swimming around. 

It was a great place to learn “what good looks like,” but difficult to stand out. Despite how badass I was, the waiting list to get a seat at the table was out the door and around the block. Like the list for the stimulus package, dead people might have been on it. 

When I went to my next company I learned what I’d been missing. With each new achievement, I was the next man up. Being in a smaller pond gave me experience I would have had to wait decades to get previously. 

I had the opportunity to execute multi-million dollar investment strategies, run a high-growth international business unit, build another one from scratch, and have regular 1 on 1s with our CEO, most of which before I turned 30.

By shrinking the size of my pond, I was able to condense decades of career experience into years. 

But what do you do if you’re already at a company grinding out that j-o-b?

Lesson No. 3: Start by maximizing where you are

Before you get wet by jumping into new ponds, strive to first maximize your performance in the role you are in. 

Your view might change once you’ve become the top performer in your peer group or given it everything you have. To the victor goes the spoils. If you become a top performer in your role, doors you didn’t even know existed will open for you. 

“If you’re not maximizing your potential where you are, then you can never know if you should leave because you haven’t experienced all that it has to offer.” 

-Rory Vaden

Thankfully, this isn’t a “if you’re not first your last scenario” The key is to maximize your potential in the role. Do that first, then re-evaluate. 

I believe these three lessons will help you discover the career clarity you seek. They have for me. This leads me to the final lesson… 

Stay a beginner. College was fun, but it’s nothing compared to the school of life.

The warning passive job seekers need to hear

Got a job but lookin? You aren’t alone. According to the department of labor, a record 4M people this past April quit their jobs for new opportunities. The Great Resignation is officially upon us. Dun Dun Duuuun

U.S. workers are leaving their jobs for more money, more flexibility, more happiness. But before you go dancing in the streets….heed this warning: 

Don’t leave before you leave.

Play To The Whistle

One day, long before pandemics I was in a room where our COO gave this piece of career caution: Don’t leave before you leave.” 

Meaning, don’t check out while you’re looking for a new gig. Don’t ease up because you’re no longer into it. Play until you hear the whistle. 

Why is this such good advice? 

3 Reasons To Stay Bought-In To The Bitter End

Reason #1: Things look different at the top

Have you maximized your growth potential in your current role? To the victor go the spoils. If you’re middle of the pack, become the top guy or gal on your team, before you leave

The view is different from the top of the mountain. You might find that different opportunities come your way when you’re the go-to person. If you get to the top and there’s still nothing there, use that experience to get a better job somewhere else. 

Reason #2: Breadcrumbs

You never know how a new gig is going to work out. You just don’t. In 1-2 years down the road, what if you want to come back? If you check out 3-6 months before you leave how will you be remembered? Be a class act until your final day. Want a surprise?! You’ll actually be more valuable to the company if you ever do return. 

A good friend of mine recently returned to his former employer after a 2-year stint at a Fortune 50 company. Know what they gave him? 

A promotion. 

Reason #3: Karma

A little more squishy, but by golly this one is real. You still care about the folks you work with right? When you check out, who is picking up the extra workload? Who is counting on you? Whether it’s a high-five or a work project, no one wants to be left hanging. 

Wrapping Up

Turns out I’m one of the 4M. I started my new gig on April 15th. After I gave my notice, I spent the next 4 weeks (which in hindsight I don’t recommend) helping to interview for my replacement. I worked evenings and weekends. I wanted to put every last finishing touch I could to leave things better than I found them. 

Will that extra effort ever pay off? No clue.  

But at least I took my old COO’s advice. I hope you do too. 

The secret to good execution

Your team invests oodles of time, energy, and resources into a project. At the moment, it’s 80% done and 0% usable. Sound familiar? 

All of a sudden a new priority emerges. Resources are redirected and your initiative gets put on the back burner.

Now what?

This might sound familiar because it happens in companies all the time. Yet some leaders still find a way to execute. Eventually, they get it done. 

What’s their secret? 

Their secret is they knew it was coming, even if they didn’t see it coming. 

Enter the whirlwind

The whirlwind is the hustle and bustle of your everyday job. Stephen R. Covey coined the phrase in his book The 4 Disciplines of Execution.The Whirlwind  is the urgent activity needed to run everyday functions in your business.” The Whirlwind is the daily chaos associated with keeping the wheels on the bus. 

What does this have to do with execution?


Chaos theory

Leaders who find a way to execute plan for chaos. They know the whirlwind, while unpredictable, is constant. They allocate time and resources for the unknown to happen… because it will. 

Think you’ll close that deal in September? Try November when your decision-maker comes back from an unexpected leave. 

Think you’ll upgrade your software system in January? It’ll be April after the integration issues. 

I’m not talking about sandbagging. Sandbaggers lower the bar so far someone might trip over it. I’ve known several impressive sandbaggers in my career. They always hit their goal or deadline…and never got promoted. 

I’m talking about reality. Chaos and order are laws of nature. Best to not mess with the universe. 

The whirlwind applies to our personal lives too

When setting ambitious goals to lose weight, run a half-marathon, or eat a Whitecastle crave case we incorrectly don’t plan for the whirlwind. 

“When choosing a new habit many people seem to ask themselves, “What can I do on my best days?” The trick is to ask, “What can I stick to even on my worst days?”

-James Clear

This happened to me recently. My blogging motivation waned. My tiny habit of one sentence per day turned into only – one – sentence – per -day. I was running out of gas. 

Thankfully before I launched my very first post I got a head start and wrote a couple for a staging queue to give myself a buffer.

Usually, I can write a post in about 3 cocktails. This one took me over two weeks. 

You know what? 

I’ve shipped a post every Wednesday morning for the last 8 months. Thankfully I planned for the whirlwind. 

Think about your key priorities over the past year. Any get sidetracked? 

Next time plan for the unexpected because the whirlwind will find you.

That is the secret to good execution.