Get Excited about Saying Goodbye

Henrik Lundqvist
Image Credit: Bridget Samuels

A flood of mixed emotions are racing through my head this morning. It has nothing to do with Monday, going to work, or other everyday obstacle. It’s a new situation; one that will certainly play out again in the future. A child is leaving the nest- not permanently but for the longest stretch of time in his life (five months). And, he is going far away (to The Netherlands). His semester of study abroad will pass quickly. I know because my semester as a college professor invariably moves fast… seemingly faster as I get older. It was not a long-term goodbye, but nonetheless a parting that led me to rethink my role as parent and teacher.

Saved by a Goalie

Feelings of sadness over my son’s departure were soon replaced by comforting words that I read when I needed them. And, of all of the sages who could have uttered timely words, it was a hockey goalie who spoke to me. Henrik Lundqvist is a star National Hockey League goaltender. Lundqvist plays for the New York Rangers and has played for his native Sweden in the Winter Olympics and World Cup of Hockey. By all measures, Lundqvist has made it.

Despite his successes in hockey, Lundqvist acknowledges there is a person who can be credited with an assist in his accomplishments: his father. Lundqvist recently authored a letter to his eight-year-old self. In the letter, he touches on the influence of his father. Lundqvist shares that his father encouraged him to dream big, to see himself playing professional hockey and for his country.

Lundqvist observed the following about his father’s impact in shaping his destiny:

My job as a parent is to prepare my children to say goodbye because they have achieved their dreams. By extension, my role as a teacher is to do the same for people studying under me.

It Doesn’t Feel Like Sacrifice

Henrik Lundqvist observes the true meaning of sacrifice is to help position people we care about to succeed and expect nothing in return. As I think about his words and what I have done for my three sons, I realize it does not even feel like sacrifice. The first time I heard about 6:00 a.m. hockey practices when my youngest son took up the game I thought to myself “that’s crazy- we will never do that.” It may be crazy, but we have done it many times… and many other crazy things, too. But, my wife and I have never sought sympathy or Parent of the Year awards. We do it because we are preparing our son for that day when he says goodbye.

Enjoy the Ride

I am going to follow my own advice I shared with my middle son as he departed today. Many possible words of wisdom crossed my mind, but I kept returning to one idea: Enjoy the experience. I have the opportunity to enjoy it with him through photos and stories. I will focus my energy there, and not dwell on his absence or count down the days until he returns. Such thoughts are selfish and do not help him (or me) grow. Saying goodbye can be taken as a signal that our work as a parent or leader was well done. Thus, it is not a sad time but one of growth possibilities.


Whose Life Is It Anyway When Serving Others?

11-16 One to Grow On

Sign the form. Reply to the email. Approve the request. Take the meeting. Answer a question. Listen to a rant. Deal with a problem. I could go on, but you get the picture. A day in the life of a role in which others count on you requires complete attention to their needs. That focus could require your own needs, goals, and priorities be tabled in order to serve others. A shift in my job responsibilities had led me to reflect on just how I should approach my new leadership role. The above quote from Albert Einstein is an idea upon which I will focus this week to give clarity to what can be a frenzy when serving others.

Shift Value Perceptions

Do we tend to be selfish by nature? As I read over the list of ways others seek my time I cannot help but think about how it takes away from my time- the reading I want to do, social media interaction that has to wait, and writing that becomes less frequent than hoped. I want my life back to do the things want to do!

At the same time, a huge red flag is raised when I encounter complaints that include frequent mentions of “my,” “me,” or “mine.” That skepticism extends to my own language. I realize I need to reframe how I define value. It is not dependent on how much “me” time I get but rather the impact can I have on persons who depend on me- family, coworkers, and students, among others.

Kid’s Play

If you are put in a position of service to others, avoid the temptation to think about how to get out of the situation or what it would be like to not have those obligations. You are there because you are needed. Replace “obligations” with “opportunities” to clarify your purpose.

Einstein’s statement seems strong- is a life lived for others really the only way to attain a worthwhile life? As I reflect on some of the most meaningful experiences in my life, I realize the answer is “yes.” And, I can thank a group of four-year-old kids for one of the most poignant life lessons I had.

When my now 20-year-old son was four years-old, we signed him up for his first soccer team. I was excited when the phone rang and the league president was on the other end of the line, calling to tell me about Sidney’s team. He told me that there was no coach for Sidney’s team, and if a coach could not be found… there would be no team. You can probably guess who became coach. My qualifications were puny. Although I am a lifelong sports fan I never played soccer nor knew nothing about it.

I not only got through the season, the joy those kids experienced playing soccer gave me more joy than they will ever know. It would have been easy to say “I can’t do that,” but it would have denied me the opportunity to stretch my comfort zone and the resulting thrills of coaching a youth soccer team.

Grow Up, not Give Up

This week, embrace the possibilities for growth by looking for ways to live life for others. What you are most likely giving up, your “me time,” is limited in impact compared to the difference you can make in the life of others.

Biz Eye View: Building a Brand that Looks Different, Stays Agile

Editorial Note: This post is the first installment of a new feature, Biz Eye View. Innovative business professionals will be featured periodically, sharing their expertise to help you grow.

In marketing, we place a premium on differentiation. The opposite of differentiation is commoditization, the specter of which terrifies many marketers. It is easy to understand the importance of differentiation; the challenge resides in figuring out how to execute. This challenge is not limited to product brands. Differentiation is essential for building your personal brand and advancing your professional career, but moving from concept to action snags many people.

How to Survive and Thrive in the Jungle

For professionals looking for guidance on how to break out from commoditization, I recommend reading Zebras and Cheetahs: Look Different and Stay Agile to Survive the Business Jungle by Michael Burt and Colby Jubenville (Wiley, 2013). They acknowledge that there are no quick fixes or “Easy” buttons for developing your brand, but they tackle this problem through systematic questioning of assumptions and background to position ourselves for growth.


One of the creators of the Zebra/Cheetah model is Colby Jubenville, PhD. He is a professor, consultant, and strategist based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Colby shared his perspective on zebras, cheetahs, and differentiation.

DR: What inspired the Zebras and Cheetahs model? 

CJ: The model was developed with Coach Micheal Burt while sitting at Demos’ restaurant in Murfreesboro. A company challenged Micheal to dive monster growth over an 18-month cycle. We asked ourselves how we could make growing a company simple, easy and fun. The model is simple to understand because it is centered on a dominant focus that everyone can see and connect to. Once people understand the dominant focus of the organization, it’s easy for them to carry out the work that must be done that is related to the dominant focus.

DR: In your view, what are some obstacles that businesses and professionals face in the quest to “look different and stay agile?” 

CJ: Many experts tell others that they must differentiate. But, don’t follow that up with how one does that. To me it’s about answering one simple question: What is the unique value I deliver to others in the market?  Unique value is broken into three areas:

  1. Unique Perspective (How you see what you do)
  2. Unique Education (How you know what you do)
  3. Unique Experience (How you deliver what you do).

Understanding perspective, education and experience is critical to looking different.

Running Faster is about mindset and buying into this idea that we all need coaches in our lives. If you look back on your life, I would bet that a mentor/coach had conversations you didn’t want to have, made you do things you didn’t think you could do which led you to become something you didn’t think you could become. Coaches, in essence, teach us how to see and seize opportunity.

DR: How do you keep your personal brand focused on continuous development and growth? 

CJ: I think that starts with having a clear understanding of the unique value I deliver to the world.  I focus on helping organizations and people do three things: become better known, better understood, and better understand the unique value they deliver. Every decision about my brand and how I position myself goes through that filter.

Ask Questions to Understand Your Brand

One of the strengths of the Zebra/Cheetah model is the use of questions to gain perspective. Specifically, Burt and Jubenville encourage us to ask six questions for introspection to connect our past, present, and future:

  1. How is my perspective different from any other in the jungle?
  2. Through my education, what do I know that will give me and the tribe an added advantage?
  3. What are the top three experiences that have shaped who I am and who I want the tribe to become?
  4. What past struggles have helped me think better, make better decisions, and communicate in a way that the tribe understands?
  5. Where is the most opportunity for growth for me and my tribe?
  6. How can I make all of this simple and easy for others to understand?

Working harder isn’t the answer; trying your best isn’t the answer; completing checklists isn’t the answer; technology isn’t the answer. Developing a new perspective that will elevate our performance to a higher level is the answer. The Zebra/Cheetah model can help you navigate the concrete jungle and enable you to look different and stay agile while adding value to those with whom you serve.

Look Different like a Zebra/Cheetah

Let’s face it- the pace of change and speed of competition seems to be under the influence of performance enhancing drugs these days. Leaders are tasked to stay on top of change, build an internal organization, and develop a community around their brands and business. The multiple demands can be dizzying. Fortunately, a new guide is available to assist in navigating this difficult terrain.

Leadership and the Call of the Wild
A recently released book by Micheal Burt and Colby Jubenville, Zebras & Cheetahs, Look Different and Stay Agile to Survive in the Business Jungle, provides a unique perspective on how managers can simultaneously direct business strategy, organization culture, and customer relationships. Burt and Jubenville cleverly use analogies from the wild to illustrate how business leaders can learn from the jungle to discern vision, make decisions, and lead people. Among my favorite analogies are:

  • The Current of the Urgent– The daily pull of emails, meetings, phone calls,and other “priorities” can occupy the moment and remove our focus from what is really important to advance our business. While these activities can be checked off to-do lists, they can be like trying to swim against the current- you will work hard but not get very far!
  • The Tribe – Seth Godin popularized the notion of tribes as essential to our success whether it is cultivating advocates for our brand or developing employees. Burt and Jubenville define a tribe as “a group working together through struggle and success.” Does that not describe any organization? There are successes and failures, victories and losses. The tribe must persevere through all of those events to flourish.
  • The Zebra – A leader should be distinctive, standing out to the tribe and be recognized by others in the jungle. Like a zebra’s distinctive stripes, a leader should be perceived to be different than the rest.
  • The Cheetah – Agility is crucial in today’s hyper-competitive markets, but being fast is not necessarily what is needed. The Zebra and Cheetah (Z&C leader) move with what is called “deliberate speed.” Burt and Jubenville describe deliberate speed as rapid movement coupled with a sense of purpose and understanding. Such agility is influential in shaping behavior of the tribe and instill purpose in them, too.

Look Different

The takeaway from Zebras and Cheetahs with the greatest impact for me was a simple but powerful directive: Look different. Why did these two words resonate with me? They were powerful because the phrase contains dual meanings. One take on look different refers to the unique makeup of a Z&C leader (the book’s cover illustrates this application of look different). The book is an instruction manual on how managers can blend the distinctive qualities of the zebra and cheetah to stay agile and lead a tribe toward shared goals. The second take on look different is more of a mindset to employ in our professional lives- look different(ly) at the problems of customers, the challenges faced by employees, the ambitions of competitors, and the dynamics of the external environment. Most importantly, I must look different to fuel my  professional growth. Also, it is important to point out what look different is not– wild hair style, outrageous wardrobe, or outlandish behavior. Those are esoteric gimmicks, not authentic characteristics of a Z&C leader.
Your Z&C Trainers
Here is one more analogy from the jungle to ponder- Burt and Jubenville are the trainers who use Zebras and Cheetahs to coach us to reach for a higher level to be Z&C leaders. Micheal Burt believes “everybody needs a coach in life.” That includes those of us called on to be leaders ourselves. Leaders need to be nurtured and developed in order to advance their tribes. We have the capabilities to look different; Zebras and Cheetahs provides the map to navigate the concrete jungle and not only survive, but thrive.

Who is Driving the Culture Bus?


I had the pleasure of spending yesterday morning listening to two dynamic speakers: Dan Heath and Chris LoCurto. I was familiar with Dan Heath as one-half of the Heath Brothers duo that has written two outstanding books, Made to Stick and Switch. Chris LoCurto is a vice president in the organization of personal finance expert Dave Ramsey. Heath’s presentation was full of salient points from his books and informative as expected. I was unsure about what to expect from LoCurto’s presentation, but he knocked it out of the park with a theme of “Culture Can’t Wait.”
Creating a culture committed to customers and employees requires leaders make a commitment in five areas:
1.      Force It – Establish the culture that is desired; create change if needed
2.      Teach It – Employees must learn what norms and behaviors are consistent with the desired culture
3.      Recognize It – We are quick to admonish behavior or performance that does not meet expectations. Do we praise employees when positive actions are observed?
4.      Attack It – Employees will fall short of meeting expectations, if not outright challenge expectations. To create the desired culture, leaders must take on the bad stuff and clearly communicate expectations that comprise the culture.
5.      Repeat It – Creating an organization culture is not a one-time project. Rather, it is an ongoing process of managing expectations and leading employees.
Your organization’s culture is a in building customer relationships, improving employee retention, and the firm’s overall success. For me, the most powerful message of LoCurto’s presentation came in his discussion of “Force It.” He said “you are either going to force culture or other people will force it for you.” Who is driving the culture bus in your organization? Is it the people with the map that understand where you are going, or is it other people who would rather take side trips than get to the intended destination?