History is full of irony. Consider some of the more famous statements leader’s have made and how’s it’s come back to haunt them later:

• “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

-Decca Recording Company, declining to sign the Beatles, 1962.

• “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

-Western Union Internal Memo, 1876.

• “Everyone acquainted with it will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.”

-Henry Morton, Stevens Inst. of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880. 

photo credit: Code Michigan via photopin (license)

photo credit: Code Michigan via photopin (license)

• “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

-Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

• “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.”

-Bank president advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in him, 1903.

We laugh at these quotes in hindsight, but the truth is, people have always struggled to see the big picture. We simply cannot envision what’s coming up ahead. We get tunnel vision; we become combative. Our egos are big. We stubbornly cling to our ways, and it blinds us.

Let me offer some of the most intriguing ironies in history and what we can learn from them as we lead today. Pause and ponder the following…

Shakespeare’s children were illiterate.

According to History.com, William Shakespeare attended Stratford’s local grammar school, where he mastered reading, writing and Latin. He went on to be one of England’s greatest writers, poets and playwrights. He is famous for Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and many others. Ironically, his wife and their two children, Susanna and Judith, are believed to have been illiterate their entire lives (though Susanna could scrawl her signature). Wouldn’t you think that a man who’s famous for his written words would have passed on his skill at home and equipped his own wife and children with the tools he possessed?

My Lesson: Be sure to pass on my gift to those closest to me before I offer it to the rest of the world. Practicing what I preach is Rule #1 in leadership.

Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were both nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

During the 1940s, the actions of these two political leaders led to over 40 million murders combined. However, Hitler was honored as Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939… the very year he began seizing other European nations by force, while Stalin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948. What’s up with that? When elected, these men took great aims to appear as “saviors” to outsiders, helping to organize their countries after horrible economic depressions. Unfortunately, the rest of the world had no idea just what plans they really had in store.

My Lesson: Live above pretense. I must not pose as something I’m not, knowing the truth will eventually be discovered. Authenticity lends credibility in my leadership.

Napoleon Bonaparte enlarged France’s rule… but wasn’t even from there.

This military conqueror and emperor won battle after battle, expanding France’s dominance during his day—as if his calling was to restore France’s dominance among the world’s powers. One would think his passion emerged from the fact that France was his mother country—but he was originally from the island of Corsica, a land that had belonged to Genoa for years. Wouldn’t you think that adopting another country as one’s own, for which one is willing to die, is a little strange?

My Lesson: Know who I am. I must match my identity with my calling, not merely adopt a context just so I can conquer a world. Context and competency must align.

IBM Chairman Thomas Watson didn’t think there was a future for computers.

Watson’s line is now famous. The chairman of IBM just couldn’t see the future of his own company when he said in 1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Little did he know that the mainframe computer would become the primary funding for his payroll and, eventually, the very future of his company.

My Lesson: See beyond my current reality. Effective leaders master today’s tasks, but work to envision where the future’s going and adjust to it. I must be willing to adapt.

Alfred Nobel was famous for his Peace Prize… but he also invented dynamite.

The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel noticed one day that the local newspaper had confused his brother’s death with his. In other words, the obituary was for him, and the main thing it mentioned was his revolutionary dynamite… a tool that enabled armies to slaughter each other. Not wanting this to be the way he’d be remembered, he created the Nobel Peace Prize… and the rest is history. Nobel had the rare chance to change his obituary halfway through his life. Sadly, we don’t always seize this opportunity. How interesting for this chemist to preview his potential legacy… and then choose to change it.

My Lesson: I must be sure my legacy is ultimately positive and redemptive. Leaders work to leave their world better when they pass through it. I must add value.

Pause and reflect on your own life and leadership for a moment. Are there any ironies? Is your self-awareness high or low? Is there anything you need to change as you embark on 2015 that will lead to greater integrity and productivity?

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I know, I know. You’ve already been burned, haven’t you? Although there are millions of sharp, savvy, intelligent young graduates out there, you found the cocky, entitled, lazy ones who came to you for a job interview. They ask about vacation time in the first interview; they inquire about inappropriate personal topics, they check their cell phone during the interview and they want your job after one year.

May I offer some advice?


Look for FAITH.

As a hirer of college students and recent grads for over three decades now, I’ve learned the hard way what needs to happen and what needs to be discussed. I don’t know it all, but I have five issues I always try to cover in an interview… and they spell the word FAITH:

F – Faithful.
Ask how consistent they were with their past work experience. If they’ve never worked for a boss before, ask about what teachers or coaches they liked the best. Find out if they’ve been consistent and committed to the activities in which they’ve been previously engaged. In a world of seven-second attention spans, consistency is huge for me as an employer. Were they faithful to the commitments they’ve made?

A – Available.
This may sound crazy, but I’ve hired young people before for a paid job, only to find out they weren’t completely available. It wasn’t a priority for them. They instantly had vacations to take, other interests to tend to, or people they needed to visit. You are about to give them money—don’t hire them if you catch a whiff of entitlement.

I – Initiative.
Ask enough questions to get a sense of their own initiative. Do they sit and wait for opportunities, or do they make them happen? Do they pursue mentors themselves? Initiative is a “must” for me. I’ve been known to meet with a person their first day on the job if I don’t sense this, reminding them of this topic from the interview. Without any drama, I tell them they’d fit better somewhere else if they don’t want to take initiative as they serve our mission. If they don’t, I’ll show them to the door.

T – Teachable.
Ask about their past experiences with other authority figures. Be brutally honest with them. If need be, scare them a bit to see if they can be completely teachable, learning from you and your environment, or if they’ll act like a renegade, picking and choosing what they’ll do. You’re not a “cult”, but you must have healthy culture on the job. This means you must hire the culture you want through good team members.

H – Hungry.
Do a “hunger check.” I have seen enough of the “I’m above all this” attitude or the “This job is beneath me” mindset. Ask about projects for which they’ve volunteered in the past. Find out how passionate they are or how much they yearn to grow by assessing what they’ve done, not just what’s said in the interview. Entry-level work is the gauge I evaluate. Early jobs are about earning trust, even more than showing talent. I won’t hire slackers.

Building Good Habits in Them…

In the words of Leslie Jane-Seymor, “Remember—everyone announces themselves at the job interview.” They will tip their hand and show who they really are if you’ll keep your antennas up. Often, it will be in their effort to get a leg up on peers. They’ll presume too much after reading your website or your blogs and potentially say something inappropriate. I understand that sometimes, young professionals may mess up just trying too hard. That’s OK. But don’t ignore your gut on job candidates. If they bring a 4.0 GPA but you feel uncomfortable with them, don’t hire them.

Help Millennials Transition from Backpack to Briefcase

In order to cultivate great habits and attitudes in new professionals, I am thrilled to introduce you to Habitudes® for New Professionals, our latest installment of the Habitudes series. (Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes.) This engaging discussion guide is designed to help new professionals succeed in the workplace. Check it out HERE.




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Recently I had the great privilege to talk with Andy Lorenzen, Senior Director, Organizational Effectiveness and Development for Chick-fil-A, and discuss the importance of leading the next generation and creating a culture they will respond to in the workplace. Here are a few notes from our discussion. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

Andy Lorenzen

Andrew Lorenzen

Your company employs tens of thousands of young team members across the country. We say these young team members are from Generation iY, in which this generation has become famous for being “screenagers,” not just teeanagers. What do you look for when your operators or corporate managers are hiring a young teenager?

We look for the three C’s (Character, Chemistry and Competence) and the three O’s (Ownership, Optimism and Opportunity).

Character, Chemistry and Competence:

Character: What is their track record of decision-making or commitment to a long-term goal?

Chemistry: The ability a person has to build and maintain relationships with team members and customers.

Competence: Does the person have an orientation toward learning? Is it lifelong or momentary?

Ownership, Optimism and Opportunity:

Ownership: Do they own their successes as well as their failures? That leads to humility.

Optimism: Do they view things as glass half empty, or glass half full?

Opportunity: We want people who are driven by a sense of wanting to help people, seeing the best in people, and opportunity in every customer who comes in the store. Opportunity to sell chicken, but also to make an impact, we believe that every one has a story, and we want people who see those stories.


Do you expect the same second mile service from a 16-year-old? Do you onboard a young team member a little differently, or do you think they need to come in ready and, if they aren’t ready, we don’t hire them?

Figuring out Chick-fil-A can be a difficult thing for anyone, It’s not an easy thing to figure out how to serve that many customers in a consistent way. But at the end of the day, we do believe that a 16-year-old can be a servant leader, just as a 46-year-old can be a servant leader.


I totally agree. Sometimes, I think we’re guilty of low expectations of a teen. I love how you call out the best.

The quick service industry is notorious for high turnover among employees. However, Chick-fil-A enjoys a much lower turnover rate. What’s your secret?

We have incredible operators that lead incredible businesses, and all the credit for a low turnover rate in restaurants goes entirely to them. But something else is in play here: it’s the idea that our operators value results as well as relationships.


Every boss wants results, but that can lead to short-term thinking. When it’s results and relationships that’s culture not just cash. When it’s a fun culture, you want to stay around.

A few tricks our operators use that have been particularly helpful with Millennials is the idea that they share the score. The score doesn’t have to be cars in the drive thru, it can be smiles in the drive thru.


What do you do at both your corporate headquarters and your restaurant locations to create an environment that is conducive to retaining employees? Could you elaborate more on the power of culture?

One of the things that we are teaching operators is a model that has four parts.

  1. Betting on Leadership: believing that your business rises and falls with leadership
  2. Act as One as a Leadership Team: the team members who come to work everyday need to feel part of a unified team.
  3. Engage the Heart: make sure the relationships you have with people are not solely centered around the work product, but around the life product as well.
  4. Excel at Execution

So much of Generation iY is motivated by a purpose.


Our research reveals that young people want a place where they can serve a meaningful cause, experience flexible hours, enjoy close relationships, and be developed. Talk about some specific examples of how you do this, either at Chick-fil-A headquarters or at your restaurant locations.

In restaurants, this comes down to three things: friends, fun and flexibility. All of these things work together to create a local purpose.

wiki leader

Chick-fil-A has a strong conviction to develop people. Why are you so committed to developing people, and how do you go about developing good people and great leaders?

This is a great, highly strategic question. There are some fundamental reasons why we feel so deeply about learning and development at Chick-fil-A:

  1. It’s an opportunity to live out our corporate purpose.
  2. When you develop the talent you have, you maintain your people as a competitive advantage.
  3. It helps us combat complacency and stagnation.
  4. We think that when we invest in learning and development, it helps build cultural cohesiveness. It establishes common language and knowledge.


You gave us some practical reasons to take time out and grow your people.

What have you seen as the greatest need for growth in the emerging generation?

When people come into the work-force for the first time as a 23- or 24-year-old, they often have some misled ideas about work that maybe haven’t been honed over time, such as:

  • An accelerated belief system about their workplace
  • A misunderstanding of work ethic or ownership of one’s career


One of our brand new Habitudes® is called Apartments and Homes. We simply say you tend to take care of your own home better than that apartment you rented. We tell people: don’t rent your job, own it.

We have gotten so much benefit from using Habitudes in our restaurants. We have many operators that have used them over the years with their leadership teams to start a dialogue. It’s really good, rich content for personal development, but its also really good, rich content for team leadership development. We want to thank you for creating such great content; it’s been helpful to our operators, franchisees, and the leaders they are growing in their stores.


How fun it is to have a picture and dialogue that helps a young person really get it. Is there any last thought as you think about the development of the next generation of workers for companies across the country?

There’s one thing I think would be incredibly helpful for all generations, and it’s the idea of mentorship. There is an opportunity in every relationship to be a mentor to someone and have a positive influence.


Want to use the resource Andy is raving about? Check out our newest installment, Habitudes® for New Professionals. Individual books are available for purchase now!



I’m excited to share a guest blog from Jeff Henderson, one of our speakers at our 2015 National Leadership Forum. Jeff is the founder of PRIMED, a company created to teach presenters how to be primed and ready for their next presentation. He has worked with leaders in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors to hone their communication skills in a variety of settings.

Today, Jeff will be discussing the responsibility of public speaking that inevitably comes with leadership. Take a look.


When I present to business people, I usually begin by asking one question that always generates laughter and raised hands:

How many of you have ever sat through a boring business presentation?

Every hand in the room goes up, and we all laugh. The next question, though, isn’t as funny:

Is it possible that the reason we’ve endured boring business presentations is because we have delivered one ourselves?

Silence in the room.

This isn’t surprising. Many people are afraid of public speaking. (It’s the second greatest fear in life behind death!) And for those who aren’t scared, the lack of fear doesn’t necessarily equate to a successful presentation. Often, many business presenters hide behind podiums and PowerPoints to get through their speech. And once it’s over, we go back to the “real work.”

This is a missed opportunity because leadership eventually comes with a microphone. You can have the best product, strategies and tactics, but if you can’t clearly and compellingly present the “why” behind the “what,” there will be confusion. And confusion is never good.

It’s why I’m passionate about helping people answer this question:

What is your system toward becoming a better communicator?

My experience is most people don’t have one. At some point, most leaders (if not all) will be called on to give a presentation. It could be in front of 50 people or five. It could be in an auditorium, classroom, locker room or a conference room. But if you’re a leader, the moment will inevitably arrive because at some point, leadership comes with a microphone.

To help prepare you for that moment, let me suggest two simple tips:

  1. Seek out more opportunities to speak. The challenge with many people is that they don’t do presentations very much. Think of trying to run a marathon on three weeks of training — that would not be a fun opportunity. Neither is presenting if you don’t do it that much. This is why you need to actively seek out speaking opportunities. Speak at schools, community organizations, or seek out other places to speak in your business or organization. It sounds simple, but most communicators simply need more practice.
  2. Create a 15-minute “stump” speech. Almost every politician has a stump speech: a well-rehearsed talk given over and over again. Every leader needs one of these. It could be a vision-casting speech, one you give to students at the beginning of the year, or something you believe in about the organization that everyone needs to know. It doesn’t have to be long. Fifteen minutes would be great. As you try this out, you will notice that not only will the speech get better and better, but so will you.

These two tips will require discipline to block out your calendar and invest time into this. Trust me, though: it will be a great investment. The reason I know this is because you’re a leader. And eventually, leadership comes with a microphone.

Join us as we wrestle with mastering clear, compelling communication with the next generation—in writing, social media, teaching, coaching, inspiring talks and vital conversations!


I hope to see you at the 2015 National Leadership Forum. Registration for Early Bird pricing ends this Saturday, February 28!


After listening to Michael elaborate on his painful year in 2014—which included spending time in rehab for alcohol, losing a job, fighting with three girlfriends, and incurring deeper debt for college—he looked at me and mused, “Life is hard.”

He’s right, you know, and for tens of millions of young adults from Generation iY (those born since 1990), they’re struggling to navigate it on their own. Most don’t. Gina was forced to quit school after getting a DUI, receiving a huge fine, and getting tossed out of her sorority. She’s now at home… again. All dressed up and nowhere to go. The problem is not merely financial, intellectual, or even social. Psychologists who specialize in treating adolescents and young adults tell us the core of the problem—the factor that leads to all other kinds of challenges—is emotional.

Studies show that 27% of college-age kids experience some type of mental health problem. The issues we hear most about are anxiety disorder, eating disorders and depression. Parents and students should know that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students, and the main reason is untreated depression. “Emotional issues that were absent, controlled, or hidden in high school may start to cause problems in this new environment,” says Guy Napolitana, MD, chairman at the Lahey Clinic at Tufts University School of Medicine.

photo credit: stress via photopin (license)

photo credit: stress via photopin (license)

Six Steps to Good Emotional Hygiene

Certainly not every student can avoid emotional illness—but the steps below are important ones we can help them take to have better emotional health in their lives. Psychologist Guy Winch, PhD, reminds us that we all understand dental hygiene, which includes brushing our teeth and flossing. Sadly, few of us practice emotional hygiene, which is far more important in the long run. Here is a starting point below:

  1. Help them clarify their identity and affirm their self-esteem.

I realize it sounds like a cliché solution to a middle school problem, but at the root of so many adolescent issues are identity and self-esteem. As you meet with a high school or college student, help them draw their sense of identity from ingredients that cannot be taken away, such as family, personality, natural gifts, or faith. When a student draws their self-esteem from popularity among peers, belonging to a fraternity, or their drinking buddies… they can’t protect it. Their sense of wellbeing is out of their own control. Help them to verbally affirm who they really are.

  1. Teach them to pay attention to emotional pain.

I endured shoulder pain for weeks until I finally visited an orthopedic doctor for treatment. My prescription was to practice some rehab exercises to strengthen my rotator cuff. In the same way, we must emotional pain that’s lingered for days or weeks. If a student appears depressed over a period of time, it likely won’t just go away. We must help them pay attention to inward pain and to put their finger on why it’s there. Just like physical pain, they’ll need a diagnosis and a prescription. Help them stay on top of it.

  1. Convince them to focus on their strengths.

Some people debate this point, but I believe it’s important for emotional hygiene to focus on our natural, God-given strengths. Author Marcus Buckingham reminds us that our greatest growth, satisfaction and confidence occurs when we spend the majority of our time in an arena where we can practice our strengths. For students, this may mean you sit down with them to help them identify their strengths. Then, encourage them to find classes, mentors and places where they can focus on those strengths. This is a natural “health booster.”

  1. Equip them to manage stress.

Often, stressful situations launch unhealthy patterns of behavior. For example, if we fail, it often leads to lack of confidence and helplessness, which only leads to more failure. Students may try to compensate artificially with coping mechanisms like binge-drinking, over-eating, shopping, or other addictive behaviors. We must equip students to stare stress in the eye—and develop a plan to manage it. Stress does not have to become distress. We all have it; few manage it well. Seeing a solution to a stressful problem, like falling behind in class, can enable them to stay healthy.

  1. Encourage them to avoid those who wound them psychologically.

It’s been said for years: we become like those with whom we spend the most time. Often, students choose poor friends just to feel better about themselves. They become the hero or the rescuer. In the process, however, they often get dragged down emotionally. Spending lots of time with unhealthy companions feels good in the moment, but frequently leads to psychological or even spiritual wounds. Health stems from good input, including great books, friends and experiences. Encourage them to seek positive relationships.

  1. Enable them to start new, healthy habits.

Good emotional hygiene always includes healthy habits and attitudes. This year, part of the answer to poor health may be launching new habits. In fact, I believe old habits won’t go away until they are replaced with new ones. Ask if you can hold a student accountable to start a new habit (such as outside reading, community service, a hobby, meeting with mentors, etc.) and help them stick to it for at least 21 days (the time it takes a new habit to become “muscle memory”). Growth is a natural sign of health.

Good leadership always begins with healthy people who practice emotional hygiene. What steps would you add to this list?

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