Great Leaders Model Happiness

Goals provide people with a vision or a light at the end of the tunnel. They are conjured up in the hope that people’s dream lives can be attained. Aspiring minds seek to push beyond the belief of what is deemed possible in the world (as it is known) and set goals that will carry the human species to the next level of evolution.

But does perfection exist? Is it an attainable reality that people would actually know they have achieved?

My answer is, no perfection is not real, however I base my life on setting and achieving goals which carry me along toward one end result…happiness. I believe happiness is what everyone is searching for in their lives. It is the fuel that energizes each person to wake up in the morning and walk out their front door hoping to find the one moment that makes their day.

Happiness is perfection. Yet most discover it far too late in their lives to enjoy it.

Make it your goal now to enjoy each moment. Enjoy the moment, no matter where you are, what you are doing, or with whom you are interacting. Take ownership of yourself and don’t leave your sense of positive well-being in the hands of someone or something else. You have all the power in the world to make your life the best it can possibly be and if you believe that you are your best self then others will follow your lead.

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson 

To learn more about how your focus influences your ability to achieve more than you perceive possible, Register Now for the Leadership Livecast “Doing ‘Still’ More With Less”. This is a free online event with guest commentary from Ken and Scott Blanchard!

Leadership as an Experience in Humanness

At the beginning of my career, desperate for experience, I took whatever job I could in my field. Fortunately, my first manager treated employees and customers like gold. Luck struck twice when I was hired by yet another wonderful manager.

Regrettably, subsequent managers provided the “opportunity” to witness appalling treatment of both employees and customers. Still relatively naïve, I unconsciously swept their behavior under the rug in an attempt to gain valuable experience.

As my skill-set grew, I became disillusioned with my own attempts to lead. Emulating a combination of previous managers, who overall, seemed successful, led to followers who appeared blatantly angry, humiliated, and hostile. Advised not to take it personally, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing wrong and how I could change. With a warrior mentality, I read every work regarding leadership I could find and studied leaders as if by doing so I could internalize their success merely by being in their presence.

My leadership skills improved, yet something was still missing. I fervently questioned reasons why I was obsessively engaged when being led by some and so greatly disappointed when being led by others.

It took a truly unfortunate interaction with a leader long ago for me to embrace that even in the workplace I was a learning, feeling, developing, mistake-making fallible human being….and that there was nothing anyone could do to change this. The difference between those leaders who got the best and worst of me was their willingness to unconditionally accept me. Those who received my highest level of loyalty, performance, engagement, and respect were those who liked and even embraced my humanness.

Leadership as an Experience in Humanness

Downshifting emotionally, I tapped into a level of humility that allowed me to personally, yet not unprofessionally, connect with those I was leading. Forgiveness, understanding, compassion…the willingness to let go of control enveloped me. Resultantly, I felt the vulnerability and fear of those I was leading. I could see and feel the need for hand-holding and that was okay! I could connect with their lack of confidence and disbelief in their abilities.

I listened. Then, I listened some more and allowed for silence and space. Never have I experienced employees so willing and hungry to give everything they have to their work. The change was so fast and dramatic it was emotionally overwhelming. There was no need to question how those I lead felt; it was clear that through their actions they felt just as I had at the beginning of my career.

*Photo courtesy of


Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

Narcissism and How We Perfected It

I’m taking a rather ambitious stab at clearing the name of an entire generation with a single blog post. I have not been chosen by my generation to represent us, but by definition I’m entitled so I deserve a shot. Many have called Gen Yers as Generation “Me”, but I see it more as “Generation Y Not Me?” We’ve been called rude, entitled, lazy, narcissistic, and smart – ok, I snuck the last one in there, but you get the point.

Ok, so we like to watch a little TV and play video games, so what’s the big deal? We live life on the edge (of reality) and love to surf (the web) and socialize (on Facebook) all day. We are the doers. We seek not war, but peace. We love reality television and hang on every word they say (even the illiterate ones). We are not better than any of you, but we are special. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are just extensions of our inner self. We love rap music, iPhones, and Dancing with the Stars (my wife made me put that in here). We are not all about ourselves; everyone is just all about us.

This is our motto.

normandy soldiers landingTom Brokaw accurately named the World War II generation as the Greatest Generation. After reading the book, watching the Band of Brothers series, and hearing the stories from WWII vets themselves, I can’t deny this. These men and women were some of the purist of Americans—hard-working, dedicated, and loyal to their values. I remember visiting Normandy about 10 years ago and seeing the crosses of the buried soldiers neatly displayed—such a beautiful display of sadness and pain. In my own experience as a captain in the Army and a combat veteran serving in Afghanistan, I hardly saw any sense of entitlement among the troops. There were men and women who were generally unhappy to be there (I admit even sometimes I wondered why we were there),  and hated everything about the war, but they still wanted to fight. There was a sense of pride about them and they fought long and hard. While in Afghanistan, I had a West Point Captain tell me about his 18-month deployment. He said the length of the deployment really hit him hard at the first Thanksgiving dinner. They were just about to start eating when one of his soldiers said, “Hey sir, don’t worry about saying grace. I’ll do it this year and you can say grace next year.”

20090513TalibanUnderwearI don’t claim we are the Greatest Generation but I do think Gen Y has contributed significantly more than just TV and video games. We are a young generation, but like many others we adapt, overcome, and move on. I never liked the label, “entitlement generation” because frankly I don’t think we deserve it. I hope this generation can rid ourselves of this brand and demonstrate the core American qualities that have been delivered to us from previous generations.

For any further information or questions contact me at

13 Athletic Minded Affirmations to Adapt to Your Leadership Style

Sports Psychology is an emerging topic that is becoming more mainstream and acceptable among professional athletes. Much of what is discussed between a sport psychologist and an athlete, or team, focuses on mindfulness, performing under pressure, finding the confidence to take risks, and learning from mistakes. In the workplace, we struggle to lead ourselves and others over these hurdles. We often miss the chance to grow, when, as leaders, we fail to address moments when our direct reports are demonstrating anxiety about their tasks.

Developing leaders who adopt the mental practices athletes use not only improves their productivity, but also strengthens your ability to communicate effectively with colleagues, push yourself past apprehension into action, and increases your overall self confidence.

Put these athletic minded affirmations into practice and increase the success of your whole organization.

  • Your potential is limitless only you set boundaries on your success
  • Always assume full responsibility of your actions
  • Seek to be the best at what you do
  • Find a role-model who exemplifies the skills and character you aspire to possess
  • Nothing ever goes as planned so stay flexible
  • Stay in the present moment
  • Develop a warm-up routine that prepares you mentally and physically for any challenge ahead
  • Seize the opportunity in front of you, it may only show itself once
  • Push yourself and your team beyond what is believed to be possible
  • Listen to your teammates with an open mind but act on your final instincts
  • Wins and losses are a byproduct of the process; focus on the process
  • Learn from a loss;  do not dwell on it
  • Celebrate success and find a way to replicate it

If you believe in yourself have dedication and pride and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.
-Paul “Bear” Bryant

Interested in learning how some of leaderships top thought leaders manage to accomplish more tasks in less time? Visit to register today for The Ken Blanchard Companies next free event “Doing Still More with Less” on April 24th.

George Washington’s Leadership Legacy

Let’s indulge, for a moment, on a seasonal exposition that preys on a national day of remembrance—not as a desperate attempt to capitalize on optimal web search methods spiked by the holiday; but rather as mildly hopeful attempt to cull out wisdom from the past, in hopes of gleaning some bit of meaning and truth for our present circumstances.

Washington Revolution

Washington Revolution

Yes, George Washington is the father of our county. Yes, he is the guy on the One Dollar Bill and a few of those silver tokens we used to slide into the arcade machine at 7-11 as a kid. Yes, he is one of the four presidents enshrined on Mt. Rushmore, as a tribute to several of America’s most recognized and cherished leaders.

Washington’s wisdom is not found in the mythological figure he has become in today’s modern media culture—although I doubt he would have as many FaceBook friends as his other famous February cult hero, St. Valentine. Washington’s legacy is as solid and secure today as it was the day he published his Farewell Address in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796—One of the great pieces of American Political Literature that every American Citizen should read on a day we should honor the legacy of leadership he has left us with.

It is in this address that the core of Washington’s leadership legacy rings most loudly and clearly. In his closing thoughts, to the American people, a people he had served so nobly throughout the many fragile moments of a nation in its infancy, he turns to them with a most astonishing request.

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

American’s Zeus. The conquering hero of the American Revolution! The man who could never tell a lie! The highest authority of a new nation, at the absolute pinnacle of his popularity and power, turning to his people and confusing his shortcomings, before asking for their forgiveness. An astonishing moment in world history, and perhaps the most important lesson for leaders today—having power, but laying the sword of his authority at the feet of his people through service.

Let us not overlook a great leadership lesson amidst a sea of leadership lessons by one of the great leaders the world has known. George Washington shows a humility and grace that set the standard, not only for future presidents, but any great leader—yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

Molding A Culture For Millennials

In a Deloitte survey published last month, almost 5000 Millennials across 18 different countries were asked various questions regarding their gen-y-imageviews on innovation.  According to the survey, 78% of the Millennials surveyed believe innovation is essential to business growth.  However:

  • 52% believe their workplace environment helps them innovate.
  • 26% believe their organization’s leadership encourages innovation and idea sharing regardless of organizational hierarchy.

That’s a huge gap in the number of Millennials who feel innovation is critical, yet who also feel their leadership teams aren’t fostering cultures of innovation.

Where does your company leadership stand on innovation?  Do you believe that innovation comes only from the top?  Should new ideas be shared and implemented based on seniority, or do employees on the frontlines have opportunities to innovate?

A lot of this deals with change.   Well-established companies may be struggling with an old way of thinking that leadership is where all of the good ideas are generated.  53% of respondents perceived that newer businesses were better able to innovate compared to older businesses.

In reality, innovation should come from all levels.  Innovation shouldn’t be thought of as flowing in a pyramid starting at the top.  Instead, think of innovation spreading across a level playing field in an organization.

innovationFrontline employees who work directly with customers are often the ones who see areas for change.  They can spot problems with processes and even products and services.  They’re the ones who hear the most feedback from customers.    That makes them a great source of new ideas.

How do you know if your employees feel they can innovate?  Can they come to you and/or other company leadership and bring up new ideas for products, processes, and solutions?  Do you have any established process for those ideas to be shared?  Are you open to listening to those ideas, or are they quickly dismissed regardless of how innovative they may be?

There are various other studies/surveys that have shown Millennials are less “loyal” in staying with a single employer.  In other words, if they aren’t getting what they perceive is essential to their work environment, they are more likely to find employment elsewhere compared to the other generations.

In seeing how important Millennials feel innovation is, this could also lead to a possible conclusion that businesses who don’t foster a culture of innovation will have a hard time retaining talent from this generation.

There are some other key data points in the Millennial Innovation survey:

  • 66% of respondents agreed that innovative organizations will be better positioned to attract talent.
  • Innovation was considered a top reason for the purpose of business.
  • Employee satisfaction and retention was ranked as the #1 non-financial  measurement for business success (the interesting part about this is that this category could be further broken down by the Employee Work Passion survey published by The Ken Blanchard Companies on what factors affect employee satisfaction).

No matter where you are in your organization’s hierarchy, what are you doing to foster innovation?

Leave your comments!

Lead Your Team To Effectively Use Technology To Learn

Ensuring employees have ample opportunity to learn and develop is crucial to organizational success. Yet, leaders can be bombarded with messages to increase the use of technology if they want the most effective means for their teams to learn.

As a leader, how do you judge which learning modality will lead to the most effective, quality learning experience? How do you appeal to learners on your teams at differing levels of technological savviness without discouraging their development? Or, worse, avoid humiliating anyone who is not as technologically savvy while simultaneously avoid disengaging your digital learners? Preventing yet more training materials being set up on a shelf never to be used again is key!

GEIKuMAosmicN5EZXkEBKDl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBXEejxNn4ZJNZ2ss5Ku7CxtSteps you can take to lead your team to effectively use technology to learn include:

1. Understanding how your team learns – Become intimately familiar with how your team learns. Do you offer a learning product on a flash drive only to find you run out before you can order more or are you scheduling face-to-face classes on their behalf with little resistance? Are your most productive employees viewing recording links from live stream workshops because they want to learn in their own time in the comfort of their office? How your employees learn will help you intuit in what form content should be delivered to increase learning. Don’t discount your own observations regarding what your employees seem to gravitate toward.

2. Determine their favored modalities – Fit how the content is offered to the learner by offering it in various forms such as audio, video, face-to-face, and asynchronous. Have a workshop that you know learners on your team will love but know it’s in a format they won’t be interested in learning from? Encourage your employees to determine if they would be interested in learning the same content in a different modality. If the content is off the shelf, inquire as to whether it is offered as mp3, asynchronous, and face-to-face format. Purchase and offer multiple forms and see which format your team seems to prefer. Learn from your purchases and take note of what your employees want more of and most often request.

3. Then…limit options – mp3 audio books, asynchronous learning groups, virtual book clubs , CDs, DVDs, hard-copy libraries, face-to-face workshops…the list goes on as to how employees learn and you could potentially intimidate and confuse learners by creating modality overload. Most important after determining how your team learns is to introduce new technology and options slowly by choosing their favored modality. Then, let them get comfortable with change by limiting the options offered to those two or three favorite modalities the team gravitates toward. Don’t get caught up with the new, shinny technology if you know your employees will most likely not be interested in learning in that particular format. Perhaps you have determined your team enjoys reading hard-copy books, listening to CDs, and asynchronous learning. Invest in these three modalities by allowing your employees to show you this is how they most feel comfortable learning. If the content is then offered as a webinar with live chat, don’t spring it on the team. Wait to allow them to lead you in their own learning.

Understanding how your employees learn will help increase the benefits derived from learning in modalities that best fit the learner and resultantly most benefit the organization.


Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.


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