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Articles

Daniel LeMoine is a social entrepreneur, change-maker, and writer. Here he writes at the intersection of faith, work, & building a matterful career.

26 Game Changing Tools You Need To Be Using In Your Work & Life

Dan LeMoine

"Work smarter, not harder” is how the maxim goes. How about making it a "both/and” to help you do your best work, to help you be more decisive, serve hard, lead humbly, and to steadfastly pursue Jesus in your work and life.

Shortly, I'll create a stand-alone page with this library of tools and resources which I’ll keep updated. Until then I'll be adding to this post 5 tools each day over the next five days.

  1. NeuYear's The Week Dominator (neuyear.net)
    Did you know we are 2-3 times more likely to do something if we state our intention and when/where we’ll do a thing? Yep. And that's why I love the Week Dominator. Yes, it is analogy but it gives me the whole week beautifully laid out in a minimalistic way. Not only that, the days are not dated so you never "lose" a week while on vacation or that, so the calendar actually lasts you longer than a year.  

    What’s more, I found out about these killer productivity product(s) from a Four Hour Workweek blog post where the owner Jesse unashamedly gave Jesus full credit for the success they launching thier first product. What a stud. I’m a raving fan of NeuYear.net and thier products, many of which I use or have used. (Here is an affiliate discount link which will get you 10% off your order of calendars or planners or other productivity products)
     
  2. Evernote (evernote.com)
    If you write, compose articles, need an online notebook to capture ideas, thoughts, or things you find online (or offline), or simply need a spot to capture notes, ideas, or important documents electronically, I highly recommend Evernote. The place where I keep track of all my writing, ideas, notes, etc. It’s a wondefully robust tool to stay organized. It syncs across all devices so capturing ideas and thoughts on the fly is a breeze.
     
  3. Canva (canva.com) 
    Want to make delightfully designed digital media? Who doesn't. But not everyone is a designer who can just whip up delightfully designed media. That's where Canva comes in. Canva has truly democritized good design. In other words, anyone can produce elegant, well designed marketing collateral — from brochures, to cards, to resumés, to blog headers, you name it — with the help of their predesigned templates and drag and drop editor. No need to be a professional graphic designer to make beautiful looking media you can be proud of. No need to ever use clipart and Microsoft Word again!
     
  4. Pablo by Buffer (pablo.buffer.com)
    Similar to Canva in that it helps you create wonderfully designed and simple digital media, Pablo is a wonderful tool. It is perfect (and outperforms Canva) specifically for creating social media shareables pre-formatted for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Instagram.

    One thing I love is the ability to create a design and switch between the different optimised dimensions for sharing to different social platforms, a feature Canva does not currently have. This helps make sure your images are formatting properly and getting seen on the different platforms and not cut off. 

    For quickly and easily creating good looking marketing collateral for social media, Pablo is the way to go.
     
  5. Buffer (buffer.com) 
    For the sake of time, it is powerful to be able to batch create content and schedule it out over the course of several days, weeks, or months using Buffer's simple and easy to use dashboard. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, writing, publishing, and marketing a post or article are three very different and time consuming tasks. Buffer is super effective in helping you semi-automate the "marketing" side of your content creation by helping you schedule out where, when, your content is seen across social media platforms — a very effective way to save time while not loosing any effort in increasing your brand awareness.

    I've tried similar products like Hootsuit, but Buffer is hands down, best in class.
     
  6. Fount (fount.artequalswork.com) 
    Does a font ever catch your eye on a webpage and you wonder what font thier using? No? Welp, that’s becasue I’m a nerd I guess. But if you do appreciate web aesthetics and are constantly observing how different sites effectively delight users through design and micro engagement (like typeface and font) to make raving fans, then you'll appreciate Fount. It allows you to "identify any web font you see" on your screen with a simple click. Very handy if you'd like to identify a font and use in your own design or site.
     
  7. Boomerang for Gmail (boomeranggmail.com)
    Hands down one of the most powerful tools I use for staying on top of my inbox, following up with prospects or leads effectively, and making sure important conversations never fall through the cracks. You can "boomerang" conversations you'd like to revisit later to leave your inbox (got to maintain that inbox: zero ya know) and return on a date/time you choose. This allows you to keep your inbox super clean and avoid letting your email become your de facto to-do list.

    If you spend any amount of time in your inbox (and use Gmail), Boomerang is a must-have. 

    Another handy feature is the 'send later' feature which allows you to do exactly that — compose an email and set it to send at a later time and date. Super effective if you'd like to follow up a conversation right away but don't want to seem desperate or overeager, want to make sure your note hits their inbox at an optimal time to not get buried (like 9am or just before lunch), or make your boss think you're still hard at work at 11pm when you're actually sound asleep ;)
     
  8. Pocket (getpocket.com, iOS)
    When I come across a good article or catchy headline or someone sends me a link to read, I rarely have time in that moment to consume the information, but don't want to let forget to read it or let it get buried in my inbox. So I’ll save these article to Pocket, which syncs across all devices and internet browsers, to batch read these later while I’m at the gym or on Saturday mornings or in a plane. Super great for making sure you're still staying informed, keeping up with the blogs you follow, but without feeling the need to consume content at the very moment it hits your feed or your inbox.
     
  9. ROMWOD (romwod.com)
    ROMWOD (which stands for "Range Of Motion Workout Of the Day") is like having a personal trainer walking you through the most relaxing and loosening cool down stretch. It's kind of like a relaxation protocol for your body, soul, and mind.

    I’ve tried yoga, it’s pretty good, but almost too active — I always end up sweating profusely and I once did a traditional yoga workout called "Happy Hammies" and my hammies were anything but. Think of ROMWOD as a more relaxing, contemplative, passive approach to yoga where you end your romwod “workout” feeling completely open, limber, powerful, and peaceful. The focus is on breathing and passivlely working out the kinks. I like to spend the quite time praying and meditating while doing the routines which generally last about 10-20 minutes. "Romwod - It does the body good."
     
  10. He Reads Truth (hereadstruth.com, iOS)
    This masculine and minimalistic bible and devotional app is elegantly designed with the user in mind. It’s delightful and the devotions (which I try to do every morning) are deep, thought provoking, yet “snackable” and can be done in 15-20 minutes (sometime less). A staple part of any morning routine. It's like hipster designers made a bible app. 
     
  11. Blue Book by Jim Branch
    For many years this untitled devotional was a grassroots-y underground bestseller of sorts. It wasn't for sale, really. It was more a word of mouth movement that seemed like you had to know a guy who knows a guy in order to get this book packed with weekly devotionals which are deep, flexible, and structured in a wonderful thematic and structured way. Each day consists of opening prayer, scripture, thematic readings for reflection, song, etc. Compared to the He Reads Truth app (#10 above), the Blue Book is a slightly more more robust guided devotional time and is a great resource if you're trying to develop your spiritual life but don't feel like you can just open a bible and direct your own devotional from scratch all the time.
     
  12. TurboScan for iPhone (iOS)
    If you're ever in need of scanning and sending a document and don't happen to be within 10 feet of a scanner (or even if you are) this app allows you to use your phones camera for extremely accurate and clear scans of documents you may need to scan in a pinch. Truly a clutch tool to have in your Productivity folder on your smartphone.
     
  13. Expensify (expensify.com, iOS)
    Expensify makes tracking expenses and creating expense reports fun…well, not fun, but the funnest you’ll ever get doing somehting so mind numbing. You can enter relatively painlessly log expenses, create reports, snap receipts, and even SmartScan your receipts to automatically upload to a given report with little manual entry. If you ever have to fill out expense forms, this tool will save you significant time and headache. 
     
  14. Time Buddy for iPhone (iOS)
    Living abroad and travelling, setting up meetings and calls, etc. can get hairy with different time zones. I don't use this app everyday, but it is a huge time saver when I need to see what time it is in a particular city compared to where I happen to be. From Seattle to London, Costa Rica to Cleveland, New Orleans to Nashville this Time Buddy app is super helpful.
     
  15. Google Translate App (iOS)
    If you're learning a new language, or like me live in a culture which doesn't speak your language of origin, having a translate app is super helpful in a pinch to recall a word or look one up. I have yet to find a translate app as easy to use and reliable as this one. During worship I often come across a word which I don't recognize. My first option is to ask my wife what it means; my second is Google Translate app. 
     
  16. Unroll.me (www.unroll.me)
    Do you sign up for different newsletters, or want to follow different thought leaders from around the interwebz, or don't sign up for newsletters and digital publications for fear of crowding your already crowded inbox? Unroll.me is your answer to keeping that inbox clean and manageable. Sync unroll.me with your email client and you can quickly and easily see all the companies and people who have your email and you can quickly and easily unsubscribe from those you don't want to hear from. From those you do want to hear from you can "Roll Up" to be compiled each day into one single email which has all the publications you do want - keeping you inbox nice and clean. Trust me, it's pretty sweet solution to still hearing from those you want to hear from without the dreaded inbox overwhelm.
     
  17. Postable — "Really nice cards, mailed for you." (postable.com)
    Allows you to pick from curated collections of wonderfully designed cards, type your message, and then Postable prints, stamps & mails your cards for you. It's a HUGE time saver and the cards cost just as much (or less) that you'd pay at getting a Hallmark and buying postage. You also get the added benefit of being able to copy, paste, delete, rearrange your note without having to get a new card because you messed up or grab the white out pen (which is the biggest benefit for me as what ends up on the page often is the result of several drafts or iterations). The cards are printed in handwritten font and I often get complimented on my nice handwriting.
     
  18. Stock Photos Sites (for license-free good-looking photos you can use for whatevs)
    For a while, finding great looking, license-free stock photos that didn't look stock was hard. Then I discovered a few clutch sites which have beautiful, artistic, and well composed photos all license-free so you can modify, crop, overlay text, use for commercial use, or whatever else you want to do. Here are my top go-tos:
    + Unsplash (unsplash.com) — my top spot for finding great stock photos (including the header image on this post!).
    + The New Old Stock (nos.twnsnd.co) — interesting vintage photos from the public archives.
    + Death To The Stock Photo (deathtothestockphoto.com) — they'll send you a pack of 10 photos (usually by some theme or adventure shoot DTS has been on recently) each month. Also, they are from Columbus...reppin' the O-H-I-O!
    + The Stocks (TheStocks.im) — A repository of sorts of all the different license free stock photo sites in one place. (Usually I'll go to The Stocks if I'm not finding what I'm looking for at Unsplash or The New Old Stock sites.)
     
  19. Squarespace (squarespace.com)
    I've used everything from Strikingly, to Weebly, to Wordpress, and even have some experience with Umbraco in building out different projects on the web. If you're looking to get a beautiful and simple blog or website up and running quickly with little technical know-how (or just don't have the patience to mess with the backend stuff), Squarespace, which this site is built on, is my recommendation. 
     
  20. Wordpress (wordpress.org)
    If you do want more customizablitity and the full freedom to choose from endless themes and features, a wordpress hosted site might be your best bet. I've used Wordpress to build out several websites for our nonprofit recently, and the process isn't one I'd necessarily recommend. My saving grace with some of the technical issues I ran into with customizing our sites was being able to send "Code: RED! I broke the internet again!" messages to a junior web developer friend who'd help me get unstuck. The process learning the WP backend has been a great one. So if you're curious and have the time and energy, have a go at WP.
     
  21. Mailchimp (mailchimp.com) — "send better email"
    Mailchimp is an amazing tool for sending email newsletters. Plain and simple. I use their Free account for personal newsletters (like this blog's amazing newsletter), and I've used their full Pro account for our nonprofit and for some work with an online company I've consulted for. From their drag and drop editor to their robust features like automation and workflow, it's the best free place to start cultivating and serving your online tribe in a delightful and effective way.
     
  22. Click Funnels (clickfunnels.com) — "marketing funnels in minutes"
    If you're looking to set up a website with the sole purpose of digitally marketing a product or service online (e.g. an ebook, membership site, info product, or on-line coaching or consulting service), CF is an uber-powerful product to help you with just that. While some of the tools I mentioned above (Wordpress, Squarespace, Gumroad, Mailchimp) are my recommendation for building your brand presences and audience online and can certainly be used to frankenstein an online product sales funnel from start to finish together, CF is my recommendation if you're just looking to launch a product that sells. 
    It's a one-stop-shop for everything from email automation, sales pages, squeeze pages, shopping cart set up, tripwire and product sales, automated sales funnels, and online product delivery. It truly is "everything you need to market, sell, and deliver your products online." My work with CF has been extensive since setting up multiple sales funnels for an online membership site I've had the privilege of helping craft and create a full sales funnel (using CF) from start to finish. 
    CF isn't free though. After the 14-day free trial, it will run you between $100-$300/mo. This may seem like a lot (and it's certainly not chump change) it's actually a small price to pay considering this one product can/will replace your website, email newsletter service, analytics tools, shopping cart, and any other service you may need to build an online business. 
     
  23. Gumroad (gumroad.com) "helps creators take control of their creative career"
    Gumroad is an online marketplace where you can sell your digital products (music, ebooks, etc.). It's convenient, easy to set up, and a really solid option if your looking to sell a digital product. You only pay a small fee every time a product sells. When I wrote The Fundraising Playbook, I used (and still use) Gumroad to facilitate the sales of the book. I built a landing page on Strikingly and the checkout and product payment on Gumroad. Check out this super helpful "Gumroad QuickStart Guide" put together by the guys at Fizzle.co.
     
  24. Smallpdf.com (smallpdf.com) — "a free solution to all your PDF problems"
    The benefit is in the name — it makes your delightfully designed and content-packed PDFs which are too big to send via email or download in any short order, smaller. The cool thing is, smallpdf.com does WAY more than compress PDF files. You can rotate, split, merge, protect and unlock pdfs. You can convert PDFs to Excel docs and back again. You can make an image a PDF or a PFD an image. ¡Y más!
     
  25. Pomodoro Time App (iTunes App Store)
    Certainly, you don't need to use this app, you could just set a timer, but this little clock that sits at on my menu bar is such a nice way to set and track how many Pomodoros I complete to maximize my work time and stay productive. (If you're unfamiliar with the Pomodoro Technique you can read more about it here). "I don't always break my time into 25 minute work increments with a 5 minute break, but when I do, I use Pomodoro Time on my macbook."

ARTICLE NO. 54,55,56,57,58/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM AND HOW YOU CAN JOIN CHECK OUT THIS POST.

7 Lessons Halfway Through 100 Days of Creating

Dan LeMoine

Around 50 days ago I started The 100 Day Project where I’ve been posting regularly an essay or article here daily and plan to continue doing so until I’ve hit 100…so, carry the one, I’m just over half way. The rationale behind this project is learning to show up, forging a habit of creating and to slay the perfectionism dragon. 

Being just over halfway there I thought I’d pause and reflect on lessons learned and what I’ll be doing differently since I’ve learned these things. I hope they can help you as you continue to build a body of matterful work you’re proud of.

7 Lessons Learned Consistently Showing Up:

Momentum is a mindset.

Momentum is a real thing...but not really. It’s a mindset. I can choose if I want to let a day off or a missed opportunity throw me for a loop and let me loose my mental edge and feeling of forward progress. I have a choice on whether I let a broken self commitment send me into a downward spiral or if I have a short memory and fuggedaboudit.

Space and time matter for doing matterful things.

I preach this lesson in my fundraising workshops and have written about it in The Fundraising Playbook — give your work, especially work that often gets marginalized, a space and time to breath on your calendar. 

The same principle holds true even more for creative habits like writing or working on your side hustle or developing a skill. These things areoh-so-easy to push off and never get your best attention. The difference between the amateur and the pro is that the pro shows up and shows up and shows up again. Give your thing time and space to on your calendar (preferably the same time each day) to help you show up.

My friend James Clear once told me (in an article on goals and doubling your chances of success):

Simply by writing down a plan that said exactly when and where they intended to exercise, the [study] participants [...] were much more likely to actually follow through [compared to those who did not write down their intentions]...

The researchers discovered that what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your plan for implementation [...]

In fact, over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.

You're 2-3 times more likely to do a thing if you actually write down when and where you'll do it. I've found this to be true in this writing habit. When I preemptively write down in my calendar when I'll be writing and/or make a plan to do my writing in the morning and build it into my morning expectations and routine, I produce better, more consistent work.

Maximize time you do have. 

Even though space and time matter, there are just some weeks when finding time to write every day seems nearly impossible.

There have been times where I must maximize smaller chunks of time to structure my posts. While finding 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there to compose my thoughts or musings isn’t ideal, it is good practice at self discipline and the art of using your constraints to your advantage. By self-discipline I mean the discipline to get into the work quickly and cut to the chase clearly. When you have limited constraints (in this case limited time), it forces you to cut out the unnecessary and the fluffy. I don’t get to waste time looking for the perfect header picture or getting distracted on the internet while “doing research” for a post.

Things inevitably take longer than you think.

I suck at estimating how long I think something is going to take. I’m not sure if this is a human thing or just me, but every time I approach a post I have this idea that my thoughts will magically appear on the screen in a wonderful and effortless way and only take me a half hour.

In, like, 150 posts this has never been the case. Sometimes it takes me twice that long, usually 3 or 4 times that long.

Learning to reframe my expectations has been massively helpful. With appropriate expectations I can schedule accordingly so less late nights writing, and begin capturing post ideas and outlines throughout the day in Evernote. These have significantly cut down on my surprise when the genius seems to be taking longer than I think it should!

Writing and Publishing and Marketing aren’t the same thing.

One important part of The 100 Day Project is showing your work. Specifically, I’ve committed to not only writing every day but also publishing my writings publicly on this blog and sharing on Instagram each time I do. Oh yeah, and I’ve got an email newsletter which goes out about every week or so with relevant posts too.

I’ve learned that a heck of lot more goes into publishing and 'marketing' a post than just typing. Especially if I want my work to be seen and ideas to spread and connection to be made. 

For this daily habit it’s been difficult to write, format, find relevant license-free images, format for IG, write up IG caption, and post and share across platforms and email. For this project I’ll be doubling down on the habit of writing and have grown in my understanding in the time and energy necessary to truly be an effective content marketer. It takes a lot of stinking time. Plan accordingly.

I’m beginning to see where I hide.

Which is to say I am not more effective at mitigating this “hiding” to be more effective at shipping the work.

Once I can identify how/where I hide from "just shipping it" — that is, getting my work out to the world regardless of imperfection — the more effective I will be overall as a thought leader and communicator. Personally, where I tend to hide is in the formatting and the finding the right photos for posts and aesthetic things like that. I can say it’s attention to detail, but I really think it’s my subconscious hiding. In reality these things matter very little, but I tend to linger and obsess over them instead of getting my thoughts out there.

I’ve gotten much better at identifying when I’m doing this and I’ll even call it out: “Dan, quit hiding! Let’s goo!” 

Where I used to let a post sit in my “Work In Progress” notebook in Evernote, I’m finding that pushing through this perfectionism and getting my work out to the world is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to grow. 

Editorial theme (will eventually) matter.

One of the last lessons I’m learning is that the theme and arch from post to post matter. This project, in large part, was structured to help me find my voice and identify certain themes to weave into my work going forward. Through this daily writing I’ve realized  that just writing whatever I want to, whatever is on my mind, whatever the spirit leads me to, results in less flow and continuity from post to post.  

Not that each post must be the same, but I’d like some intentional editorial focus week to week, month to month, year to year in the long run. I have yet to do anything to remedy this issue just yet, because the purpose of the 100 Day Project (for me) is to simply shut up, sit down, and type. It’s habit building. It’s putting in the reps. But I’m seeing the need and value of having a focused approach to what I publish. I recently put together an editorial calendar for our blog, social, and email communication at our nonprofit. After these 100 days, I will be building my own editorial calendar to make sure I’m effectively communicating with a continuity and clarity across all relevant platforms with a clear message.

--

Now, I'm sure there a plenty of more lessons that have and will be learned from building, but these are the one's that first came to mind. (Plus I only had like an hour before the Cavs' NBA Finals Game 7 to structure this - remember lesson 3 above :)) 

Thanks to those who’ve joined the newsletter, followed along on IG, and have been providing input and encouragement. I hope the insight you find here makes you a more courageous leader, more effective creator within your org, and challenges you to fully allow your faith to inform how you approach your everyday work.

Til tomorrow, stay gold.


ARTICLE NO. 53/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM AND HOW YOU CAN JOIN CHECK OUT THIS POST.

How To Develop Our Self Awareness To Be More Effective Communicators

Dan LeMoine

Yesterday we talked about how the way we say things is as, if not more, important than what we’re saying. In short, how we say things is just as matterful as what we’re saying.

But practically, how do we make sure the way we’re saying and doing things is God-honoring? Sometimes it is extremely difficult to view ourselves objectively, or two gauge how we come across and are perceived by others. I know that my directness or intensity has, in the past, come across as condescending or too fuerte for some. I may think I’m saying something one way, but it’s being heard another. It’s hard in the moment to evaluate how my nonverbals, my tone, my pace, and my communication structure form the experience and essence of what I’m trying to communicate to others.

It really boils down to your self-awareness and your empathy for how others are receiving what you're saying.

Self awareness is an invaluable trait worth developing in order to make sure our means match our messaging, our way matches our what. But how do we develop this?

Here’s how I’ve grown and developed this area of my leadership in recent years.

Post mortem (self-feedback)

Reflecting is an important tool to improving in your self awareness and getting invaluable data points on your journey to delivering your communication in an empathetic, compassionate and effective way. Pausing after a talk or an interaction and asking: “How do I think that went? How was it received? Did the way I delivered what I was saying honor God or was it manipulative, device or self-motivated in some way?"

Sometimes answering these questions is hard to do on your own, so it also helps to process situations in a safe environment with someone who knows you well, will shoot you straight, and help point out aspects or factors you may be overlooking or unaware of in your reflection and processing. 

Community feedback

Having (or building) a culture of vulnerability and transparency where conflict is dealt with healthily and where you can get feedback you can learn from is absolutely invaluable. For me, my wife is a huge help for me in processing situations I’m in, conversations I had, or presentations I’ve made. She helps me see how what I was saying was actually heard, and how my messaging was actually perceived. Was it understood? How did it come across? Was I too direct? Did I only touch on the rationale? Did I win them over?  Are all questions having a third person's perspective is massive advantage.

I also have several close friends who will give me no-B.S. feedback about how I’m coming across or challenge me to improve in the way I go about saying or doing something.

Who do you have in your inner circle to help you grow in making sure the way you’re saying things is just as effective as what you’re saying?


ARTICLE NO. 52/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM AND HOW YOU CAN JOIN CHECK OUT THIS POST.

How We Do Things Trumps What We're Doing

Dan LeMoine

(Yes, the pun was intended)

It’s safe to say that the current presidential election happenings in the United States are/have been…well, interesting to say the least. I’m just going to leave it at that.

trump.gif

Recently, I found myself in a half-heated discussion (in reality it was my counterpart who was heated, I was unflustered and staying cool, like the Fonz) about our respective voting preferences and rationale behind each preference.

My friend was arguing that his candidate's way of saying things — in a very direct, unfiltered, and un-politically correct way — offends the politically overcorrect and overly sensative. His argument was that much of what his candidate is say has merit and isn’t as device or hate-mongery or facist-y as the pundits portray.

That may be true (it also may very well not be), but I’m not going to opine on the accuracy or rightness of any particular candidate's stances in this article. But here is what my counter-argument to my friend was, which I believe is relevant to all of us as leaders...

The what we say (and don’t say) is important. But how we say things — the way in which we bring our thoughts to the world — is equally, if not more, important. The What is the vehicle for truth and justice, but How we say something creates the medium for grace and love and mercy to abound. Unfortunately, the second half of that equation is the one we often neglect. And if we desire to reflect Christ to the world (which, if you call yourself a Christian, you doctrinally do), that second part matters immensely.

How we say things matters, and the way we do says more about our heart and our intentions in advancing the common good than the What ever will. It's simply not enough to have good intention (even if we’re “right”). 

The bottom line is that each one of us must prioritize how we say things just as much as what we’re saying; the way we do things matters as much as what we’re doing. Aside from looking for this trait in our political leaders, at the individual level, each one of us can increase our own effectiveness as leaders when we prioritize this way. 

Is there any area of your leadership where you know your messaging can be improved if only you refined and developed the way in which you are doing things?

 

Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


ARTICLE NO. 51/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM AND HOW YOU CAN JOIN CHECK OUT THIS POST.

Career Contentedness May Be Closer Than You (We) Thought.

Dan LeMoine

For most of us, we spend a vast majority of our waking time working. It’s part of God’s original commandment ("subdue the earth.”) Basically he’s saying, as far as I can tell, "go out and work to beautify the world." Build computers, compose music, scrub toilets (we’ll get to that in a minute), create structure and organizations which help others flourish.

It saddens me deeply when I see others who hate what they do for work. I have friends who synonym-ize loving what you do with being a workaholic. As if you must hate your job in order to justify being more focused on your family or to do work you really want to be doing.

I think we can agree that having a career you don’t find meaningful — or worse, one you hate or resent — is a tragedy and a sign of a wasted life.

Here’s the unconventional pivot to this “follow your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life”-type mentality: we can learn to love just about any job we find ourselves in*.

All this stuff about finding our vocational calling, following our passion, working to our strengths, etc. is really good stuff, don’t get me wrong. But is a very new luxury we are privileged to have. In the not-so-distant past you did what you did to survive, or what your family did, or what your tribe or community needed you to do, or what you were forced to do. Choice was a tertiary consideration, if a consideration at all. 

Are we saying those who had little autonomy over their professional destinies couldn't be happy and enjoy their work? I don't think so.

Here’s a story from entrepreneur and now Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy at AirBnB, Chip Conley from his iconic TED Talk:

With the youthful idealism of a 26-year-old, in 1987, I started my company and I called it Joie de Vivre, a very impractical name, because I actually was looking to create joy of life. And this first hotel that I bought, motel, was a pay-by-the-hour, no-tell motel in the inner-city of San Francisco. As I spent time with Vivian, I saw that she had sort of a joie de vivre in how she did her work. It made me question and curious: How could someone actually find joy in cleaning toilets for a living? So I spent time with Vivian, and I saw that she didn't find joy in cleaning toilets. Her job, her goal and her calling was not to become the world's greatest toilet scrubber. What counts for Vivian was the emotional connection she created with her fellow employees and our guests. And what gave her inspiration and meaning was the fact that she was taking care of people who were far away from home. Because Vivian knew what it was like to be far away from home. […]

I guess I'm sort of a curious CEO. I was also a curious economics major as an undergrad. I learned that economists measure everything in tangible units of production and consumption as if each of those tangible units is exactly the same. They aren't the same. In fact, as leaders, what we need to learn is that we can influence the quality of that unit of production by creating the conditions for our employees to live their calling. In Vivian's case, her unit of production isn't the tangible hours she works, it's the intangible difference she makes during that one hour of work.

What Chip found was that Vivian made a connection with people and found meaning in a job that many of us would deem as undeserving or even undignified.

This is/should be utterly humbling as we strive to become servant leaders within our organizations. Somewhere along the path we will be required to do work we don’t “have a passion for” or isn’t “life-giving.” We all have the power, influence, and ability to step up and own our roles, no matter how far off they may be from our dream job, and bring meaning to ourselves and others. 

This doesn’t mean we give up our goals or abandon our direction for bigger and better things. It simply means we choose to practice contentedness, we decide our mindset and how we view our circumstances, we lead-up with even the smallest amount of responsibility, and we steward what we’ve been given right now…with the vision on our ultimate professional goals and aspirations.

Happiness and contentedness and meaning in our work is a choice. This is a lesson we should not soon forget.

Note:

*Learning to be content with where I'm at on my professional journey has been a long hard lesson. It is still something I struggle with often.

I get angsty with where I'm at compared to where I want to be. Remembering that this is a marathon, not a sprint is something I constantly need to be reminding myself. Being content with where I am at even though I yearn for something more, something different, maybe even something greater, is hard. It’s a constant battle to humble myself, trust that God has got me right where I am for a purpose, and ruthlessly try to lead up and solve meaningful problems for those I’m most close to now, all while keeping my ambitions high. Most of us are privileged enough to a have a certain level of mastery of our own professional destiny living in the developed world. Most of us will never have to scrub toilets if we don't want to. We get to choose our vocation and career and think through (usually over the course of many years from high school and college) what we want our career focus to be. Learning that we are in it for the long game and to have the patience to serve well where we are at now on this journey is as much an art as it is a science.


ARTICLE NO. 50/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM AND HOW YOU CAN JOIN CHECK OUT THIS POST.

What To Do When You Lack Discipline & Don't Follow Through

Dan LeMoine

About 50 day ago I set our to write everyday for 100 days. I knew when I set this goal that it was somewhat audacious. What I also did was mentally prepare myself to fail. 

And I have failed. (I RACK DISCIPRINE!)

Right now, it’s been 2 days since my last post. I have not upheld my commitment to myself and my readers (that’s you!) to post each and every day. 

In the past this falling off the bandwagon would have thrown me into a negative self-fulfilling prophesy — a downward spiral of guilt, shame, and disappointment of sorts — resulting in a complete halt of progress and momentum. 

We do this often...

We go months without posting to our blog solely because we hadn’t posted on it in a while. 
We stop working on that passion project or side hustle because we stopped working on it. (<—seriously, this is the rationale we use)
We lose momentum in our gym routine because we feel horrible about ourselves for not having gone all week. 
We don’t call that friend because we should’ve called like 6 months ago. 
We feel guilty about having one too many cinnamon rolls so we abandon our whole healthy eating regimen.

Sound ridiculous but I’m sure you’ve got some habit or area of your life where this happens either at work or at home.

So how do we mitigate this sabotage to our forward progress? How do we marshal on even if we’ve had a hiccup or stumble? 

The worst thing we can do, is allow our stumble to stall us. We have immense control over our own mindset and how we react and respond to our own short comings. And that is all this is—mindset.

From my experience as someone who once battled with feeling down about false starts and unfulfilled self-commitments, one of the most powerful tactics I’ve learned is to give myself permission to fail.

You may think that this gives me permission to not uphold my commitment, but the opposite is in fact true. It is actually a very strategic (and realistic) move. It gives a sense of freedom and liberation from the guilt and shame we often feel when we fail to uphold the high standards we hold ourselves to.  Look, life happens and we don’t always follow through with what we say we want to do or be about in our work. So we must plan accordingly and craft a bulletproof mindset around this truth.

With that liberation we know we can stop the downward spiral and get back on the horse. We can decide to not allow the mental momentum to come to a stop.

So when we fumble or stumble...

We know we can do what we can do.
We have grace with ourselves (and others).
Instead of excuses, we make appropriate accommodations to have a short memory and start again.
We take note of what and how we chose something else over "turning pro.”

So rather than let our oversight feed into a negative identity and sabotage our focus, we take stock of what needs to be in place to better prioritize our creative habit going forward. 

If we value building bodies of work we’re proud of we need to make the appropriate sacrifices. In a busy season, maybe it means waking up 25 minutes earlier to get your writing done before the day whisks you away. Maybe it means taking a 15 minute lunch instead of a 45. 

What’s worse than not following through on your creative habit or discipline? Letting one (or two) missteps tank your project or scuttle your initiative. C’mon we’re better than that.

The moral of the story is this: Don’t beat yourself up over your lack of discipline — don’t be so hard on yourself and certainly don’t let it stop you from moving ahead — that does more harm than good. Simply re-start (or re-re-start), keep you head down, and forge on.

Keep moving,

Dan

//

Note: It’s hard to talk about this without talking about priorities. It’s a given that my writing habit should take a back seat to my relationship with God or my wife. It’s a bit less of a given if my writing should continually take the back seat to wine and cigars with a close friend, a workout with some buddies, golf with my brother-in-law, sleeping in an extra half hour, birthday parties, or house guests.

At the end of the day having a clear view of our priorities will give us a framework to help clarify our decision making in these instances, but it’s still hard. The key is to feel less guilty about hitting the pause button or saying No, even to our work, from time to time for more important things (or sometimes less important things). We just got to keep grinding, there is no room for getting down about missing a day or two.


ARTICLE NO. 49/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

The Entrepreneur Doesn’t Need Our Convention. (Another Great Lesson From Rocky Movies)

Dan LeMoine

I have a friend who is a true entrepreneur. While I fancy myself entrepreneurial, he is 100% to the core an entrepreneur. Right now, he is out there on his own, hustling and grinding to try making his business work. 

He is a close friend who values my input on things like branding, copy writing, content marketing, management and operations, and I’ve been fortunate enough to consult for him (i.e. help him for free so long as he pays for food and beer and the occasional work retreat to Costa Rica)

But one big value-add I contribute as well is sharing the emotional burden of trying to get his company off the ground. We’ve bonded over the lows and highs of starting something that matters, and the toll it takes on ones personal and family lives.

As he’s invited me into some of the moves he’s going to make, risks he’s going to take, many times my initial knee-jerk reaction is to give him conventional wisdom — to tell him things like: “have you ever considered getting a sales job? you’d be so good at it. You could easily pull 85-100k.” But I refrain, because I know it would do more harm than good.

This is a highly intentional move.  The entrepreneur hears this "conventional" wisdom all the time.
He hear the doubts and sees the safe alternative paths in his own head.
He hears from parents and in-laws trying to “be realistic."
He hears from the concerned spouse spouse.
He hears from the culture that doesn’t want him to build his own thing and forge an uncommon path.

There is never a lack of these distractions staring you down when you’re out there trying to bushwhack your own way.

In this case, as one of this entrepreneur’s main confidants, I’ve made the conscious effort to simply support.

He’s undoubtably hearing the “voice of reason” from everywhere else, and the last thing he needs is someone to be another reminder of his “other options.”  So, if all I have to say is distracting him with input about safe backup plans he could pursue, then I say nothing. 

This doesn’t mean I say nothing when he may walk off a cliff or make imprudent decisions which would hold his family in financial hostage or scuttle a big project he’s working on. I shoot him straight, I tell him when I think something is wise or foolish, etc. The entrepreneur always knows what “short-term gratification” is out there, and he doesn’t need me to be another person reminding him of that.

To do this would be like Mick shouting to Rocky in the middle of fighting Apollo Creed, “Hey, I hear Ford is hiring some middle managers!” No! He’s already in the ring. He’s already in the fight.  

The entrepreneur needs someone in his corner like Mick saying,

“Get up you son of a b*tch! Cuz Mickey loves you!” 

ARTICLE NO. 48/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

The Difference Between Managing & Leading

Dan LeMoine

There is a difference between managing and leading. 

Managing is checking people's work, doing progress reviews, having strict structure. Managing is generally for employees that are collecting paycheck and punching the clock. Not always, much of the time it is.

Leading is casting a vision and removing obstacles in order to maximize the efforts of already self-motivated people who arepassionate about their work, have a sense of ownership or investment, and are passionate about the organization’s vision.

When you get the right people in place, it ends up being less about managing and more about leadership. 

The difference is often subtle but is muy importante.

One isn’t neessarily better than the other. There is a place for both in organizational development.

People need to be led in seasons and managed in others. People need leadership in certain areas of their work and management in others. While I may be framing managing in a less-than-ideal light — as if managing something to avoid or never have in your organization — I do very much think it has an important place in helping your people move from a “punch-the-clock” mentality to being self-motivated and invested.

Effective managers create rule and order to help move people along that spectrum and create room for good things to run wild in and among their team which benefit the company.

The risk we run is being unaware of which hat to be wearing in a situation or with a certain teammate. If we go in wearing the leadership hat when we really needed to be wearing the managing hat we can end up walking away frustrated, disappointed, or angry (at them or ourselves as leaders).

As Christian leaders trying to push the envelope of excellence we need to be clear about the distinction between the two and think critically on how to best move someone along this spectrum of needing to be managed to wanting to be led.


*Thanks to Rich Landa and Dave Franco for helping me clarify this distinction.

ARTICLE NO. 47/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

A Right or a Revenue Stream? A Challenging Lesson from Richard Branson

Dan LeMoine

We believe that certain [things] should be a right, not revenue stream.
— Richard Branson [1]

This quote was from an article about Virgin hotels offering luxury amenities like free social hour drinks, resonably priced minibar and flexible check-in/out. This mindset is a huge reframe from prevailing or “old school” approach rooted in a zero-sum mindset.

If the purpose of business is to maximize profit, then the economist might say that this is imprudent. That everything from the minibar to the minibars of soap we should be looking to find opportunity to increase our margin. But, if the purpose of business goes beyond profit (of course it still includes it) and is to help people flourish, then this focus on making delightion a “right not a revenue stream” is almost inevitable. If this is our focus—to "make all boats rise”— then we will naturally find ways to provide value and delight to our customers without making it feel (or actually be) transactional.

The paradoxical thing is that this economical “imprudence” is becoming a highly effective strategy for winning and maximizing profit. Brand loyalty is a real thing that drives real dollars over the long haul.

Certainly it will look different for each organization — delight will look different given the nature of your business. What works to delight the customer of the plumber electrician looks different from what wins for the media agency, or from the educational nonprofit. 

What in your organization or business shouldyou consider shifting from a revenue stream to a “right”?


[1] Quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, July 2015 (<-- Yeah, I was reading a SUPER old issue my buddy brought on a work retreat to Costa Rica. Don't judge!)

ARTICLE NO. 46/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

2 Criteria To Build A Matterful Career

Dan LeMoine

There are two criteria we need to focus on in building a meaningful career:

  1. Doing what we love,

  2. Making an impact (feeling like we’re solving a meaningful problem

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But from the successful men and women I know, to my own experience in walking the road of building a career with purpose, these are really important pieces to the puzzles. Ideally, the bulk of our working days meet both criteria.

Doing What You Love (But Know That Love is a loose term)

The “do what you love” part sounds corny. And it is to an extent. I don’t put too much weight on this criteria because of the two, I think it’s the the weakest.

What we like and love can shift, and everyone’s tastes are different, but I do think to some extent you need to be engaged to your work, and that's why it's still a marginally important criteria in building a matterful career.

It’s why I don’t think staying in the financial sector was for me. Could I do it and do it well? Sure. But nothing about it made me come alive. It’s simply unrealistic to expect that we’ll love every moment of every day no matter what we choose. At some point even the most ideal job has aspects which are a grind (especially when you’re pushing to be a servant leader).

The caveat is that on our journey to “turn pro” we learn to love the climb. We learn to love the grind and the work itself becomes a reward. Any athlete can tell you that when they started working out it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. But somewhere among the 5am wake-ups, the make-you-puke workouts, the ice baths, and the injuries, they learned to love the lifestyle. 

While marginally important, I do think there is an uncommon approach to this "follow your passion - do what you love" maxim, which is: You can learn to love just about any job. (READ: "Career Contentedness Is Closer Than You [We] Thought") I recently heard Mike Rowe on Tim Ferriss' podcast (which I HIGHLY recommend giving a listen) validate this. Mike has a distain for the "Follow Your Passion" ideal from his years exploring people's work on Dirty Jobs, where he engaged with many wildly content and happy people doing jobs most of us would categorize as a living hell. Instead he like runs with: "Follow Opportunity and Bring Your Passion With You" approach to work. 

Making an Impact.

Of the two criteria, I believe this is foundational, or at the very least should be prioritized. From what I can see, those whose sole purpose for going to work is for the pay check, end up being miserable. I made a decision back in 2012 that if I’m going to do anything, it needed to have a deeper purpose than padding someone’s bank account (including my own). It only made sense with the amount of time we inevitably spend at work. I wanted to move the needle in a more meaningful way beyond a number on a screen proceeded by a dollar sign.

Having a deeper purpose in our work gives us vision. And that vision is a very helpful motivator when we eventually hit a season of burnout or frustration with our work (no matter how much we love/d it). There will come a season (and it’s generally just a season) when your lovely job becomes a slog. Having purpose and the sense that you’re making an impact will help propel you through those valleys.

In our darkest moments living abroad, when everything inside us wanted to quite because the job wasn’t feeling “fun,” —when we’ve been at the end of our ropes — my wife and I always came back to the questions: “At the end of the day do we still see the mission working? Are kids’ lives being changed? Do we still believe in the vision of supporting micro-entrepreneurs and the need for economic development?"

The answer was always yes, and that was incredibly massive in helping us remember to love our work again. Reminding ourselves of the problems we were trying to help solve and issues at hand — the global education crisis and empowering local entrepreneurs — was key to our longevity and why we didn't bail several years ago. 

This recalibration cultivated crucial mental perseverance and grit necessary to us laying the foundations to our careers marked by purpose and impact. 


ARTICLE NO. 45/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

Are your celebrations actually complaints? One-Up Your Leadership By Making Sure They Aren’t.

Dan LeMoine

Did you know there is a way to complain while actually celebrating or encouraging someone/thing. As leaders we need to be aware of this pitfall in order to grow in our effectiveness. Let me explain by starting with a story.

I was recently in a team meeting where we were celebrating one of our teammate’s work - let’s call her Mary. Sounds like a good thing, right? And it was.

But then something interesting happened.

Another team member, we’ll call her Bethany, began celebrating in a very interesting way. She began celebrating Mary’s work by subtly putting other aspects and historical aspects of our organization down.

It was underhanded and unintentional, but it took away from the complements and celebrations being given. What’s more, it undermined and dishonored the hard work of past teammates work (many of whom are still in your organization). It was obvious Bethany had some issues with the way things had been done or where being done in other areas of our organization.

My friend Patrick always said, “What’s in the well, comes up in the bucket.” In other words, what’s in the heart will eventually seep out. If you are bitter or jaded or allow yourself to feel prideful about your work it will come it, even in your celebrations and encouragement. As leaders we must ruthlessly rid out bitterness, pride and other jadedness junk that may cause us to sneakily complain even in our celebrations.  

There is a way to celebrate and encourage which actually tears down the hard work of the past.

Unfortunately, I've been guilty of this (and maybe still am at times). As problem-solvers, we can easily see all the issues needing fixed. And when we are part of fixing them we run the risk of pridefully looking down at the past and how broken it seemed. We rarely, if ever, stop to consider how much better the past version we are judging was from the version before it (or it before its pretesessor). We don’t consider or pay homage to how much hard work was put in to get it to that point which allowed us to get to it’s current state of goodness.

As our organizations evolve and we build cultures of discipline, we must be careful to celebrate (and improve) without putting down the hard work of those from the past.

The best leaders I know are able to acknowledge and honor the totality of work which the organization has been a part of. They are able to celebrate in a way which doesn’t belittle another area of the organization or the shortcomings of a past version of the organization, department, product, or service.

Be a better leader. One way is to move closer to that goal is to be vet whether your celebrations aren’t actually just sneaky ways to be a complainer. As leaders we must honor the past of our organization while still improving upon it.


ARTICLE NO. 44/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

What To Do When Prospects Go Cold (My Exact Steps & Scripts & Process)

Dan LeMoine

If you are in sales, fundraising, build relationships or drive leads via email, or do anything in email where you want timely responses (which is like, errrbody) you will get serious value from this post. It's several of my most precious and most used tactics to reigniting conversations gone cold. 

I've used these tactics during my time consulting, building our business accelerator, and I even use them in personal and organizational fundraising every week. Feel free to copy and tweak these scripts as you find valuable. Enjoy!

//

When you sign up for my email newsletter (<==you've signed up for it, right?) one of the first things that happens is that you get an email from yours truly from my personal email (not an autoresponder) welcoming and thanking you. I even include a fun .gif in there to make you chuckle. I then ask: 

What's one thing you struggle with right now in your work? 

One recent sign up replied and we ended up having a really cool interaction where I believe he walked away encouraged and a little more focused on pushing through the resistance to building a career he's proud of. It was exactly the type of value and engagement I was hoping for as evidenced by the fact that he emailed again me a week or so later asking for help. 

His Problem: Conversations gone cold

We've all been there. We have a great interaction with a client, potential sale, donor or would-be BFF and we email or call them. No answer. Maybe we even email them a couple more times...still nothing. 

It's the worst. 

That was this guy's problem — he had a group of fellow musicians working on a project but now he is getting the run around. Below is my email interaction with him where I lay out the EXACT steps and email scripts I successfully use to get responses in my past and present work. 

Here's his email (edited slightly for length):

Hey Dan, I have one thing I could really use your help on...

As I mentioned before, I'm an aspiring music producer and still in the learning process. My main project is house music and DJing, which I'm on my own in.

But I want to be a multi-genre producer to help my career. Last fall a friend of mine wanted to start a blues/folk/rock project and be the lead singer (he has a good voice) [...] So I called a piano player and a guitarist that I knew. [...] I had them over at my house a couple times to draft some songs and it was alright at first. Great chemistry.

But now they will not answer any of my calls or texts.
[...]

Anyway, how can I pull these guys together?

Here's my response (Blame YOURSELF, Presume the negative, And don't forget to give them a backdoor.)

Hey man,

I've seen similar situations in business and development (non-profit fundraising). Generally if people go unresponsive it means either they don't have a clear path on how to answer/proceed or they are avoiding giving you the unsavory news of backing out or saying 'no'.

So, here's what you can do:

1. Break down what they need to do to the smallest step possible. 

Make it easy for them to say yes. So given your situation I would email or text them saying something to the effect of: 

"Hey guys! It's been too long. Somewhere along the way it seemed like we were all really excited about creating something great. I think I dropped the ball on keeping everyone in the loop. Apologies if this is the case. Can we all find a time next week to grab a coffee or beer to catch up and see if this is still soemthing we all want to do?" 

This "blame yourself" tactic can be very effective because it often prompts the recipient to think "Wait! No no, I was the one who dropped the ball...not you!" and gets them to respond. 

(Props to Scott Britton for introducing me to some of these inbox ninja-ry moves)

2. Be sure to give them a backdoor.

When you email/text them, give them a "backdoor" to say no.

Sometimes, when I'm emailing folks to donate to our ministry and they've gone "cold" or unresponsive, all it takes is throwing in a line like:

"Even if it's a 'not-at-this-time' type answer it would really be helpful to know either way whether you're in or out. (I promise we'll still be friends :) )" 

Give them permission to bow out. Yes, it'll suck if they do, but it would be so good for defining your next steps if you know where they stand.

3. Final chance email—Presume the negative.

If they are still unresponsive after all this it's time to cut bait and run. Something like:

"Hey So-n-So,
Been trying to get ahold of you these last couple weeks without any luck. Since I haven't heard from you about Project: [Insert Your Project Name Here], I'm going to assume this is something you're no longer interested in and you don't want to work together.

If this is NOT the case, let me know and we can hop on a 5 minute call to iron out next steps to re-ignite this project."

This is good closure for you if anything. You'll hang up your hat on working with them unless they get back to you. If they do, then you can re-set expectations and responsibilities and set some small milestones to hit to get the ball rolling again.

That's where I'd start. Keep moving,

Dan

---

These are just a few of the inbox tactic I've found to be extremely helpful in getting responses. Remember people are busy (so make it easy to say Yes), we hate conflict (so give them a backdoor and permission to say "no"), or we don't want to change unless faced with an ultimatum (so be willing to end the relationship).

I'll be sharing more business development and "sales" tactics I've found to be incredibly effective in coming posts. 


ARTICLE NO. 43/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

How To Be More Intentional: Balance Action & Contemplation

Dan LeMoine

One of the tensions I’ve been working to strike is the one between Action and Contemplation.

ipso’s lead partner Brent Warwick says, “If beauty and freedom and culture truly matter to us, then...well that means a lot of things, starting with taking the time to consider our purpose. Genuinely asking the question “why” until we get to the root of our underlying intentions.”

Recipe for intentionality: mix equal parts action and contemplation, splash of bitters and garnish with an orange peel.

In order to challenge the conventional understandings of the purpose of business we need more than just action. We must balance our action with contemplation, and visa versa. This Action-Contemplation balancing results is intentionality.

Thoughtless action is folly and results in risks that will eventually undermine your ability to make wise decisions and results in erosion of the ability to be effective. Yet, contemplation with no action will never results in anything meaningful because nothing is actually being done with that contemplation— no impact will be had, no matterful connection will be made, no momentum will be gained. This is why it is a creative tension we must strike, and a question to live.

We believe intentionality is closely tied to having purpose.

At ipso, our leaders have spelled out exactly what we believe about how profit, sustainability, culture, and purpose all fit together:

Profit is merely a component of a company's sustainability. And sustainability is merely a component of a company's culture. And a businesses culture is merely a component of a company's purpose. And that brings us to what we, here at ipso, believe about our purpose.

We believe that the purpose of business is to help humans flourish.

Purpose and Intention are quite synonymous. To have purpose is to have intention. Our recipe for intentional business building and human flourishing is rooted in purpose, and it takes intentionality (balancing equal parts decisive action with equal parts deep contemplation) to fulfill our purpose.

//

Originally written for ipso Creative at ipsocreative.com/musings


ARTICLE NO. 42/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

Remove this one thing to be a more effective communicator

Dan LeMoine

When editing posts I often go back to remove the I-statements—“I think” “I feel” “I wonder"

I don’t limit this practice to just blog articles either. Emails and other correspondence or writing get the same once over too. They don’t all get taken out, but I try to thin them down. Below you’ll see why I do it, and hopefully it may help you in your own messaging as well.

I do this for two reasons:

1. It tightens up the writing.

If someone is reading your blog post, they already know the bulk of it is your opinion, perspective, or take on a certain matter. For largely subjective or arguable statement, you can take "I think" out of the sentence structure and not loss anything (and in my stylistic opinion it makes the sentence better). Example:

“I think business has the potential to be a massive force in shaping culture to help others flourish.”
vs.
“Business has the potential to be a massive force in shaping culture to help others flourish.” The latter is neater and tighter, wouldn’t you say?

2. It helps structure the thought in a way that’s not entirely about me.

Even though I’m sharing my thought or perspective, by starting sentences or thoughts with “I” puts me more in the spotlight than the idea I’m working to share. And ultimately, it’s not about me, It’s about my reader (you!). By removing the I-statement I’m widdling the sentence down to just the idea and allowing the reader to agree/disagree with less interference that may come from it being about me.

It’s a subtle change. But it’s details like these that, compounded over time, can make a difference. Maybe you’re like me and your writing isn’t where you desire it to be. This is just one of the ways we can tighten up our messaging — by working hard, even in these smallest of details, to make the audience the hero, not us.


ARTICLE NO. 41/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

What Seth Godin & Jim Collins Say About Building A Culture of Discipline

Dan LeMoine

Jim Collins on "The Culture of Discipline"

"Entrepreneurial success is fueled by creativity, imagination, bold moves into uncharted waters, and visionary zeal. As a company grows and becomes more complex, it begins to trip over its own success—too many new people, too many new customers, too many new orders, too many new products. What was once great fun becomes an unwieldy ball of disorganized stuff. Lack of planning, lack of accounting, lack of systems, and lack of hiring constraints create friction. Problems surface—with customers, with cash flow, with schedules."[1]

And to continue with a paraphrase: But then, out of a need for organization and to rein in the mess, a new wave of playmakers are brought in to bring order to the chaos, to help the organization grow into it’s next level of maturity. With them comes necessary procedure and process and structure. But if not implemented with intention, they risk killing the entrepreneurial spirit and slowly suffocating the egalitarian environment. As I’ve noted before the purpose of any policy or proceedure is to seek the highest good (for the individual and the organization).

As Jim Collins notes, veterans begin to get disenchanted that these forms and processes and procedures are slowing down the ability they once had to GTD, and the “creative magic” begins to slip away. What was once an innovative entrepreneurial culture is replaced by hierarchy and bureaucracy and mediocrity.

So how do we guard against this from happening?

How do we stay organized and efficient, but also continue to push the boundaries, innovate and be massively effective?

Here’s what Jim Collins continues with:

"…the purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline—a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place. [Yet] an alternative exists: Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a cultures of discipline. When you put these two complementary forces together—a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship—you get a magical alchemy of superior performance and sustained results."[1]

Similarly, this reminds me of a post by Seth Godin where he affirms this human-first approach. Seth says,

"The most important part of a race car is the tires. Good tires will always beat bad ones.

The most important part of a cup of coffee is the beans. The grinder, the machine, the barista pale in comparison to the quality of what you start with.

And the most important parts of an organization are the people you begin with. Not the systems or the policies or even the real estate. Great people make everything easier.

And yet...

And yet we spend money on 4 wheel drive instead of snow tires.

And yet we upgrade our coffee maker instead of buying from a local roaster (or roasting our own).

And mostly, we run classified ads to find the cheapest common denominator employee and spend all our time building systems to protect our customers from people who don't care..."[2]

What Jim Collins and Seth Godin are saying here has been true in my experience as well.

I have a unique perspective of serving in an organization going into it’s second chapter of maturity. I was blessed to serve under the founder and in a culture that was super scrappy entrepreneurially-driven culture. I’ve watch the transition of the founder to new leadership (my beautiful wife), and I feel we’ve played a key role in fostering a new culture — one of discipline and organization. As I reflect, the moments where a culture of discipline and a culture of innovation both seemed very far off where the moments when, looking back, we can see that we had the wrong people on the bus (or in the wrong seats).

What we’ve seen work, and what Seth and Jim have validated—

Focus on the right people (not everyone, necessarily).
Focus on building a culture where your a-team can flourish and perpetuate their 'a-team-ness'.
Build a culture your proud of — one that naturally expels the cancers, and attracts the playmakers.
Give your team freedom to navigate their way into the right positions to best serve your organization.


Notes:
[1] Jim Collins, Good To Great (p. 121)  
[2] Seth Godin, "Tires, Coffee, and People" (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/09/tires-coffee-and-people.html)

ARTICLE NO. 40/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

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3 Lessons Learned Hunting Stag In The Scottish Highlands

Dan LeMoine

We’d just belly crawled over a small hill when Graeme finally spotted “the beasts” as he called them. There were about a dozen of them several hundred feet away and Graeme instructed me in a powerful Scottish whisper to take the fifth one from the left as he handed me the rifle.

We’d been stalking these Scottish Highlands for close to 6 hours in search of the famed Scottish red deer. At this time in my life (2009-10) I was still pursuing the pipe-dream of playing professional rugby and found myself living in Edinburgh, Scotland. It just so happened that one of my teammates was the son of a professional hunter, gamekeeper and former estate manager for some royalty or top Scottish muckity muck. Naturally, I did what any overconfident American would do…I invited myself hunting (read: I basically begged him to take me).

I’d taken a life before. My dad and I hunted pheasant when I was growing up and I used to be a crack shot with my trusty pellet gun, claiming a number of pigeons and even a squirrel once.

While shooting my first deer was by far the highlight of this day, second to only getting the blood of the animal smeared on my face, per Scottish tradition, the life and business lessons I learned from this epic trip are profound.

3 Lessons Learned Hunting Stag in Highlands of Scotland

Lesson #1: Life Is About the Hunt (Not the Hunted).

Sure, shooting the deer was cool.

But not as spectacular as walking in some of the most famed and fabled land in history. Tromping through the highlands, dawned in a tweed cap, freezing my royal nee-nees off, channeling my inner William Wallace not only increased my T-levels and helped me sprout a few more chest hairs, but it was one of the most magnificent settings I could’ve imagined.

We could have gotten a deer to come right up to us if we’d wanted to. These deer were accustomed to eating food from cattle troughs. It wasn’t about (just) getting the deer. It was about the hunt. The chase. The pursuit. About intentionally going into the wilderness to seek them. For the challenge.

In a life of comforts, I’m realizing the difficult experiences are often the things we end up most cherishing. (click to tweet)

The outcome was elusive that day. We had difficulty tracking the beasts and there was a time where I doubted I’d get my deer. 

But the experience as a whole — the cold, the mist, the tweed, the crisp air, the view, the scotch…God, the scotch! — was a great reminder that the journey is richest part. Deer or not, I’d have been delighted either way.

This is something I constantly need to remind myself of. I want it all now, and I forget that it really is the journey (as cliché as it sounds) is the reward. It’s the process, the hustle, the hunt, which we must wake up and relish. 

Focusing on the process produces patience and love for the grind and the climb; it’s “the happiness of pursuit” as Chris Guillebeau puts it (vs. the pursuit of happiness).

Don't just take my word for it. David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals) fame wrote an amazing article about reaching "The Dream" of becoming a millionaire (aptly titled "The day I became a millionaire").

"It was like I had pulled back the curtain on that millionaire’s dream and found, to my surprise, that most of the things on the other side were things I already had. Equal parts shock and awe, but ultimately deeply reassuring.

Chiefly because I couldn’t lose those things. Barring any grand calamity, I could afford to fall off the puffy pink cloud of cash, and I’d land where I started. Back in that small 450 sq feet apartment in Copenhagen. My interests and curiosity intact. My passions as fit as ever. I traveled across a broad swath of the first world spectrum of wealth, and both ends were not only livable, but enjoyable. That was a revelation." - DHH

He reminds us that getting to whatever end we're chasing won't "move the needle of deep satisfaction." He says, "We humans acclimate to our surroundings incredibly quickly. The buzz is not going to last. Until you realize the next rung of the ladder isn’t where salvation hides, the siren song will keep playing."

Life Lesson #1b: hold looseLy to expectations.

There came a moment in the early afternoon where we were thinking we may not get the deer. Which would’ve been unfortunate as it was the only day we had scheduled to be on the hunt. I was getting a bit disappointed about this could-be outcome because without a deer to show for myself all I really had then was a story of walking in some hills (or so I thought, note lesson learned above).

Yet once I came to grips with the possibility of not getting my first blood, I was free to really just enjoy my life in that moment regardless of the outcome of the day. 

This is an area of weakness that I’m still getting stronger in. Even when we say we don’t have expectations, we really do.

Happiness is often deeply tied to the gap between our expectations and reality. If I’ve learned anything it’s been this:

we often don’t realize the expectations we have until they are not met.

 

As DHH mentions in the above mentioned article, "Expectations, not outcomes, govern the happiness of your perceived reality."

The ramifications of this lesson— in marriage and family, career and business, faith and our relationship with God, diet and health—are massive. Growing in our understanding of the play between expectations, reality, and our mood will drive significant value (and gratitude) in our lives. My intuition tells me that taking the time to grow in this way will pay huge dividends in my long-term overall happiness. 

Lesson #2: It’s (More Than) Okay To Accept Help.

This was one of the more profound lesson learned, so listen up kids.

During our stalking of the beasts we were climbing our way higher up into the highlands near Invercargill and came to a small frozen creek. Graeme was first over and was offering a helping hand to his son as he crossed the creek, then to the other hunter we were accompanied by.

It was now my turn to cross. Don’t mess up now. Don’t embarrass yourself.

His hand was outstretched to me as well. Fancying myself as the spry physical specimen I was (note the lingering hubris), I ignored his outstretched hand and leapt successfully across the creek (I was at the peak of my athletic career after all).

But instead of getting along our merry way, we paused for a bit of a pow-wow. Graeme began his lesson and I got the panicky feeling I was the focal point of the lesson. Shoot. What did I do?

Apparently I was risking his life. Dang it.

He explained that I was putting all of our lives in danger by not accepting help. Sounds a bit melodramatic, right? Wrong!

He continued to explain if by chance I rolled or broke an ankle it would become very difficult for them to navigate the rough terrain carrying me out, putting at risk the safety of the others. God forbid more than one of us were injured because of a refusal to accept help we would likely die of exposure if we had to spend the night outside in the elements. 

The combination of his serious tone, full tweed outfit, rifle on shoulder, and professional hunter status commanded my immediate and future compliance of any help offered.

I think (especially as Americans) we’re out of practice receiving help, let alone asking for it. Staunch individualism is for Hollywood and Marlboro commercials, not for real life. 

One guy I look up to online, James Clear, in his 2015 annual review vulnerably reflected on this “syndrome” and how correcting it resulted in not only personal growth, but business growth as well. He notes:

Like many entrepreneurs, I repeatedly fall victim to “superhero syndrome” and attempt to do everything myself. I improved in this area in 2015 by surrounding myself with a great team. I hired an executive coach, signed with a fantastic book agent, hired a world-class book editor, and added a few assistants to take repetitive tasks off my plate. The result? Revenue tripled this year. I still have a long way to go when it comes to becoming a great team leader, but this year would not have been what it was without Charlie, Lisa, David, Peter, Susan, Walter. Thank you all!

We are called to live in community, not in isolation. Unfortunately, one of the ugly side effects of the wonderful tools and technology we have at our disposal is the ease to which we can become isolated, too self-reliant, and pridefully individualistic.

Dependence is often synonymous with weakness in our culture. Graeme  — probably one of the more manly men on the planet — taught me that this is in fact untrue. There is, in fact, immense value (implicit and explicit) in having a healthy level of dependence in your life. 

Dependence results in intimacy, trust, and strength.

Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it, and accept help even when you think you don't. (click to tweet)

Lesson #3: Celebrate Life’s Victories (Or “Whiskey makes things wonderful.”)

After killing the beast and having its blood smeared on my face (which does wonderful things for your complexion), we commemorated the event with a strong pour of some fine single malt scotch whiskey. Let’s be honest it tasted like a bonfire in my throat but I can’t think of a more fitting ending to celebrate the day.

Author Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles In a Thousand Years notes how in the Old Testament times, when big events happened along their many journeys, God’s people would build small alters or monuments out of rocks. He mused about how God probably isn’t that impressed by a pile of rocks. Creating these alters was a way for his people to remember and to celebrate these significant moments in their spiritual and physical history walking with Him.

If we always are rushing along from project to project, adventure to adventure, job to job, and we never stop to reflect, celebrate, and remember the victories we’ve had, then we’re robbing ourselves of experiencing the fullness of where God has assigned us. This applies equally to our day-to-day small victories and our big life milestones.

Whether this celebration is pausing for 5 minutes at the end of the day to journal what went well, reflecting on what you learned from a given experience (ergo, this post),  throwing a big dinner party, or having a dram of whiskey with some Scots, don’t forget to identify and celebrate your victories.

//

I will always appreciate Callum and his father Graeme for one of the most memorable adventures I've had the privilege to experience. Not just for the deer, or the amazing scotch, or the amazing dinners of venison medallions, qual eggs and ratatouille, but for facilitating an experience which is informing my life. 

What experience is waiting for you to reflect on, learn from, and celebrate?


ARTICLE NO. 39/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

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Maintain Your Creative Habit…Even When You Don’t Want To.

Dan LeMoine

Somedays you say enough is enough and hang the hat with a less than all-star performance.

Somedays you come home from work and all you do is start dinner with your wife and open a bottle of grape and try to sneak 15 minutes on the laptop to keep the habit going. 15 minutos, that's it. Because you love your wife. And wine. And your wife.

Somedays it’s 11:30p, you still haven't [insert your creative discipline here] and you’ve just committeed to doing a crossfit workout with your top dudes at 5:30a; you’ve committed to the process though, so you open that laptop. 

You shut up, sit down and type only for the mere purpose of staying in the habit by pulling on the tiniest thread you can find, even if just for a few minutes.  

It’s like the days when I’ve only got twenty minutes before the gym closes but I go anyway to stay in the rhythm of going. I don’t produce anything meaningful (and maybe a case could be made that it does more harm than good judging how my hammy is feeling right now after rushing a set of deadlifts without a warmup #Cmon! #You'reNot18NoMore!), but the habit was maintained. The momentum was kept. The mind was tricked into thinking: Yeah, I’m still in the routine. Nothing’s lost. We still got this. 

Or it's like when our kids hike the Caribbean's tallest peak. They inevitably end up dragging ass (to their credit they're lugging packs half their body weight on their backs). "Just keep moving," I say. "I don't care how slow you go, just don't stop. Keep the momentum going. It's so much harder to get moving again once you stop. Just keep cloggin'. "

When life gets in the way, when the more important “first things” must be kept from slipping into the margin, but you don’t want to lose your precious momentum, find the smallest thing you can do, the smallest ember to blow on, and keep the fire from going out. Know, that you can’t maintain and grow this fire with this minimal effort, but it’s enough to keep the ember alive until you recharge, reboot, or whatever else you need to give it the appropriate attention and resources to get that flame roaring again.

Here's to crushing it...tomorrow ;)

Dan


ARTICLE NO. 38/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.

Empower Yourself & Others With This Simple Phrase

Dan LeMoine

“Figure it out.” 

 

Few other words can strike anxiety and empowerment all in the same breath. Let me tell you a quick story.

I had just moved back from Scotland, where I’d been pursuing my goal of playing rugby at the highest level I could. It was a good run, but student loans were kicking in soon and I needed to get a ‘big boy’ job. (student loans - the killers of all things good in this world). 

Leveraging some personal connections and parlaying the relative success I had in academia and sport, I secured a position with a corporate boutique turnaround firm that I was (probably) slightly under-experienced for, though my educational pedigree said differently. But I acclimatized well enough. 

As I settled into the job, work days ebbed and flowed, and though our two partners created inevitable bottlenecks at themselves (inevitable for anyone running a persona-based firm), the other associate/analyst and I often got slammed with assignments.

4:30p would roll around, Boss’s phone would ring. We’d overhear Boss taking the call — half holding our breath as these calls sometimes meant our home-by-5 expectations would be smashed on the rocks of clients’ urgent needs. Our stomaches would sink a bit when we’d hear Boss promising to deliver something big in a near impossible turnaround time. The phone call would end and we’d inevitably hear the ambitious footsteps coming down the hall to pass along said assignment.

Mild depression sets in because there goes the evening. Sulk. Coffee. Nut up. Get to work.

And inevitabley, a problem would arise.

Balance sheets not balancing. The forty tab financial model we’d built would begin acting like the fickle mistress that it was. The finanical statements Client sent over where in PDF from and completely uneditable, uncopiable, unpastable. Ugh...You know what I’m talking about—something always would get us stuck.

My fellow associate and I were fresh out of the halls of university and had little framework for dealing with some of the advanced roadblocks. So naturally, we’d run to Boss with our obstacle in hopes that his years of experience would quickly get us unstuck and back on track.

But Boss already had a full plate of his own deliverables and other Client work to handle. There was no time to “take a quick peek at solving the problem.” So Boss would deliver the anxiety-producing words I wouldn't have wished on my worst enemies:

 

“I need you to figure it out.”

I hated that. I would be so frustrated/angry/panicked/hopeless/helpless when I’d hear that. “What do you mean, 'just figure it out'?” I tried. That’s why I came to you, because I couldn’t.” I’d think.

But now, now I couldn’t be more thankful for those words.

They forced us to push through.

They forced us to be scrappy and resourceful.

They forced us to be creative and gritty. They empowered us.

It’s kind of like bootstrapping your business—where resources are in scarce supply and you’re forced to be creative with what you’ve got. And so we were. We had to problem solve when Clients’ expectations where on the line, when the stakes were high. And that forced us to get it done. 

[I even went as far as outsourcing to a virtual assistant in Sri Lanka $30 to do some menial tasks I needed completed on a project (“I need a contact list of each concrete forming and shoring companies east of the Mississippi”) so I could focus all my energy on “just figuring it out” on another more time sensitive project.]

Now, as I’ve pushed into more leadership and am faced with similar requests, I can empathize with Boss. I wouldn't be helping my teammates if I just solved each problem for them as it arose. That doesn't empower, that doesn't grow, that doesn't better the team.

Next time you run into a roadblock or obstacle and feel the urge to fire off an email to your partner or run to your manager for a quick solution, first ask yourself: Can I try to solve this on my own first (even if I know they probably have a quicker answer); Can I “figure it out” on my own before derailing someone else whose plate is already over-full?

Figure it out.


ARTICLE NO. 37/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

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Connect With The "Why" To Get Important Things Done

Dan LeMoine

Yesterday I finished the "8 Strategies of Building A Culture That Sticks (or ‘Don’t Just Think About It, BE About It’)” and the 8th Strategy is: Connect Yourself (and Others) to The Why in order to truly bring to fruition the culture you desire. Here, I want to expound on this tactic a bit.

Here's a short and sweet video from the guys at Fizzle (of the above mentioned podcast) which explains this tactic very nicely. Podcast about why our work isn't getting done here: http://FizzleShow.co/163

[Serendipitously enough, I was then in the gym this afternoon and listening to one of my favorite podcasts on honest business building and the hosts hit on something that I think really drives home this approach of connecting with your why, which I'll touch on below. Watch video at right ==>]

When we (re)connect with our Why — the reason a project, objective, or to-do is important to our business — it legitimizes our otherwise non-urgent projects which often got deprioritized by all the urgent “fires" we are forced to put out in our organizations.

By connecting to the Why behind a given objective or project, we’re in essence building a business case (a strong rationale) for doing a thing, especially when that 'thing' falls into the important-but-not-urgent category. Let’s take this vague concept of culture as an example.

In the theme of the previous post, forging a culture you can be proud of falls directly into this category of “important but not often urgent."

Work/team culture is an important thing. I think we can agree on that.

But I can tell you from my time trying to upstart my own venture — intangibles like culture and team morale and whether we’re “living our values” was hard to focus time and resources on when Survival and Urgency were the two modes we operated in most.

Each time I felt the urge to cancel our weekly team pow-wows — where we checked in, enjoyed organic coffee (roasted on premises!), and sharpened each other via Seth Godin’s Krypton Course — I had to reassure myself that this “culture stuff” matters. I had to remind myself that if I wanted to build an organization I was proud of, it was this stuff (ie. the pouring into our humans) that mattered more than the emails I needed to send, the potential partners I need to call, or the interns I needed to direct.

I had to connect to the Why behind pouring into my staff in order to push through the dip of doubt of doing the important-but-not-urgent thing.

Our values are only our values if they cost us something, remember.

How I've used this strategy in brand building

The Doulos Brand Platform is another example of a project where the Why is a primary motivating factor. I’m currently championing and spearheading this project, and in all candor, it’s been a struggle to see this thing to the finish line (because it’s important but never urgent).

[For reference: a brand platform is a guide to how we look, sound, and feel as a brand. It’s the things we believe as an organization and how those practically play out into our brand messaging and how others experience our story. It’s an intentional guide and important first step to making raving fans of our donors and supporters. To get a more visual idea, you can see amazing examples of this here and here.] 

In the begining, my motivating force behind building this brand platform was because it was fun and I was excited about running point on building a delightful brand experience like those of the organizations I look up to. Then, as my zeal naturally waned, and as others stopped asking me this project, it kept being pushed lower on my to-do list.

How will I ever get excited about this again and get it done? Maybe you've asked yourself the same question on certain projects you've started on as well.

I had to reconnect with WHY it is important to our organization. I had to revisit my belief that Doulos can be an enviable brand, and that a well thought out brand will be key to making raving fans. I had to remind myself that a delightfully designed brand is a repeateable and memorable brand. I had to remind myself that our message — a beautiful message of hope and transformation through education — truly matters, and that a consistent and intentional brand message helps to spread our story and multiply our impact. 

Reconnecting with my core beliefs about how brand identity is key to building a successful organization helped me revive this project and get moving on it. 

Practically, it’s helpful to ask: Why is this project so important? (And not just once you’ve found yourself putting off a project, but before, during, and all the way to the finish line).

The guys in the podcast even go as far as advising that as you write out your project, include the desired outcome and Why right there on your task list. This way every time you look at your project task list, it’s right in your face of why this matters.

This tactic has ramifications WAY beyond work, as you can imagine. If i’m able to think through why asking humbling asking for forgiveness from my wife matters, or why revisiting a conflict I had with my parents will help us build a better relationship, or why spending two hours in the middle of my work day to “shalom and granola” with a close friend matters, well, then I’m able to execute on the important stuff that too often gets marginalized in my life. And that, my friends, is key to holistic success.


ARTICLE NO. 36/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

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8 Strategies on How To Build a Culture That Sticks ("Don't Just Talk About It, Be About It")

Dan LeMoine

My buddy Tim used to always say,

"Don’t just talk about it, be about it."

We can talk ad nauseum about culture, doing the most human thing, the reason behind delightful design, and the purpose of business, but at some point we need to bring our ideas on culture and brand and values from the theoretical to the practical. We must create a framework and formula to operate from.

Over the next several days I'll be building out this post—each day adding a new element which will help you in the articulation, implementation, and execution of your values and purpose as a leader and organization. These are tactics and strategies I've either used, are currently using, and/or have seen other leaders use effectively to bring these ideas of purposeful work culture and brand identity to life within their organizations.

ELEMENT #1: BUILD TRACTION THROUGH COLLABORATION

Things like brand platforms and culture codes are great first steps in defining who you are as an organization, what you value, and how those values inform how you feel, sound, and look as an organization. These "shared purpose" documents are powerful starting points in building a meaningful brand experience and casting the vision for your team.

These things, while great, can still keep you too much the clouds and never truly work themselves out in a practical way in your daily operations and culture. The last thing you want is to spend the energy and resources creating something that just sits up on Google Drive and grow weeds. 

One powerful tactic to help mitigate this, and truly create buy-in is to involve people in the process of building this cultural collateral. Invite your playmakers and challenge your leaders to have an active hand in crafting these things.

This creates a shared sense of ownership among your most valued humans. It helps create proud ambassadors of your brand and culture, both internally and in the marketplace.

Because we often discover what we believe in the course of actively articulating it, what better way than to have a cultural "task force" of sorts collaboratively capturing who you are and who you want to become as an organization?

Build buy-in and traction through collaboration.

ELEMENT #2: SET A DEADLINE. SHIP. ITERATE. REPEAT

Once you've begun building buy-in through inviting your key playmakers and stakeholders into the creation process of your cultural collateral you're crafting to help inform who you are and who you're becoming as an org, you need to get that thing out into the world. It's far to easy to just ...whoever is taking the lead on this project needs to set a date and ship it.

Parkinson's Law is the is the truism that: work will expand to fill the time available for its completion. Meaning, give yourself a freaking deadline to actually ship your project, otherwise you'll just keep tweaking and perfecting and never actually get it out into to the world to make an impact. 

In creating our brand platform for Doulos (the document describing and guiding how we look, how we feel, how we sound as a school/ministry to the outside world), I set a series of mini-deadlines to ship each section of our brand platform draft to our team of collaborators to add input on each week for input.

Without a deadline(s), procrastination-parading-as-perfectionism is inevitable.

Set a final date for a launch party/celebration within your company. Not only will this force you to actually ship your strategic plan, brand book, culture code, or policy, but will help the idea spread.

This will help get your project completed AND will also be a crucial step in building a broader buy-in across your entire organization—getting them excited about your new direction, and the cultural identity or standard you want to living into.

Be sure to make it as much of a party as you can. Build buzz. Have food, always have food. And be proud as you actively work to create and direct your company culture in an intentional and relevant way.

ELEMENT #3: MODEL & TRAIN [I.E. EDUCATE]

DON'T LEAVE CULTURE TO CHANCE

Don’t assume people know how to "do culture" well.

Culture happens (good or bad), and without intention in creating the proper environment of shared values and purpose, you open yourself to simply having a mediocre culture (or worse).

Training and on-boarding your new (and used) team members on “this is how we do it here” is crucial.

Now, practically, this shouldn't look like a mandate as much as an invitation—an invitation to live into your ideal culture. An invitation which empowers and challenges your team to steward well the power they each have in crafting and living into this culture. 

Yes, "trainings" may not be the most efficient use of time...but I promise you the evidence is showing, culture and purpose and mission matter deeply to win in business.

You may get some indifference or complaints. Stay the course. Know that there will always be folks who can't be bothered by this type of woo-woo stuff. But rest assured, this stuff matters.

CULTURE IS A COMPETITVE ADVANTAGE

If your sole purpose in your business is to make money (or in your ministry is only to get more people in the seats), then this won't matter. But if we truly want to create places of work where humans flourish — which, if you're still reading, chances are you do — then this is important work.

Approaching this stuff intentionally is not only the right thing to do, it's a strategic thing to do as well. Culture is a massive competitive advantage, and it pays to model and train the same way we train employees in other aspects of their work.

Not only does this helps galvanize long term direction and vision, but also solidarity, organizational trust, continuity and transparency. All which flow to the bottom line by building long-term engagement among your team (lower turnover, ability to attract top talent) and creating raving fans of your customers (as more people want to put their money in endeavors with purpose and care).

MODELLING TRUMPS TRAINING 

While formal training is important, at the end of the day we are social learners. Seeing culture and values and purpose modeled well by leadership will trump any workshop everyday of the week. All the training won't help if we're not modeling our values well. We as leaders have a crucial obligation and responsibility to model the culture well ("BE about it" remember)

This relates and leads to our next element...

ELEMENT #4: FOLLOW THE BRIGHT SPOTS

We won’t always get it right. As any business leader or entrepreneur or artist or impresario will tell you, you will mess up…lots. Those you work for and those who work for you will not be 100% on-point 100% of the time (“60 percent of the time, it works every time” Anchorman, anyone?…I digress). I love how Hubspot describes their own culture code: “This document is part manifesto and part employee handbook. It’s part who we are and part who we aspire to be." They know they won't get it right every time, but it's an identity to live into.

One of the most effective long term tactics in living into the meaningful culture you desire is the consistent celebration of what is working well. Rather than pointing out where your team is failing, complaining about what isn’t working (without every proactively bringing solutions), gossiping about how stuff isn’t meeting your expectation, or how so-n-so isn’t living into the cultural standard you desire to uphold, focus on what is working. What the Heath brothers call “following the bright spots” in their book Switch! How To Change Things When Change is Hard.

According to a good friend who is a master of community development and crafting programs which create space for good things to run wild, this “focusing-on-what’s-already-working-then-celebrating-the-crap-out-of-it” is a powerful tactic in what he calls Asset Based Community Development.

When entering a community with hopes of bringing development and change and goodness—find the people, places, and things that are already working and already fostering community and already helping people flourish to some degree. Then identify creative and sustainable ways to breath life into those things. In other words... “Follow The Bright Spots"

I saw this modeled exceptionally well during my time building our social business accelerator. During our upstart phase I was put in touch with an organization called Social Entrepreneur Corps’ Community Empowerment Solutions. I was blown away at how their model/approach worked.

In short, their Micro-Consignment Model works to identify “local assets” — that is, locals who are vouched for by the community or local leadership — who are reputable, honest, hard-working, and entrepreneurial. CES then trains these entrepreneurs to start social-minded micro-businesses while also training others to run these consignment-based micro-businesses as well…Follow The Bright Spots.

So whether you’re trying to institute a change in culture at the office, at your weekly basketball game, or within your family—follow the bright spots to lead the change.

ELEMENT #5: BE TRANSPARENT

This one is tightly related to modelling & training (element no. 3, above), but is worthy of its own section. Transparency leverages consistency of character.

When you’re transparent as a leader—sharing information, trust, and responsibility generously—it cultivates empathy and trust among your team. This tactic is powerful for two reasons.

First is, when you’re transparent, it’s very difficult to live antithetically to the values you proclaim as important for your culture. At some level, each one of us wants to live consistent with what we say/believe, but we all have our moments of hypocrisy or inconsistency; the places and times when our actions fall short of what we aspire to. However, the more open and transparent we are, the easier it is to identify our inconsistencies, correct course, and live into the values we set for ourselves.

Second reason being transparent is a powerful tactic is that it helps to cultivate grace, patience, understanding, and empathy within your team culture. When you are appropriately open about your vulnerabilities, challenges, and weaknesses, it humanizes you to your team and makes you a stronger leader. By “taking up residency” among your team in this way—i.e. being more relatable—it actually turns the conventional/traditional frameworks of power and leadership on their heads, making you a more followable teammate and leader.

ELEMENT #6: Build in visual cues

Whether you’re a solo-preneur or work on a robust team—your physical environment matters. It’s no big trick that using visual cues and crafting your environment can help you achieve your performance goals. But why not build in cues for cultural excellence and identity-based goals as well.

Whether we realize it or not (does a fish even know it’s in water), our environment shapes us, for good or for mediocre. As leaders we need to do what we can to craft our physical environment to inspire and support our cultural and character goals for our team, not distract from them.

College campuses are great examples. You walk onto a beautifully manicured college campus you can’t help but walk a little taller, feel a little more confident. Those places reek of excellence.

Physical workspace is a powerful way to push us towards who we want to be. Use visual cues and inspiring space and delightful aesthtic to win the cultural battle. Don’t underestimate the power of space.

ELEMENT #7: Build in feedback loops & Listen (with Humility)

Feedback Loops

If you’re not engaging with your clients and with your employees/teammates in a way that provides cues as to whether or not we’re living what we say we value, then you’re essentially running blind.

There is only so much we can do to self-regulate and self-evaluation before we need to look outside. We need to gather feedback on whether we’re actually walking the walk. Sometimes this is über-practical like sending out a customer survey or a 360° Feedback Evaluation.

It also be feedback loops like employee absenteeism, simply following up with each and every new client or employee to have a conversation, and/or trusting your gut feeling about the state of your culture.

As we increase in our social and emotional intelligence, it’s easier and easier to identify when something is “off” within a given work culture. It’s then our job as leaders (aka “thermostats") to know what to correct course and set the new tempo.

Listen (with Humility)

The extent to which you humble yourself and listen well is the extent you will profit from the feedback you get. It's as simple as that. First step in being able to lead and craft a culture is listening with open hands to those who occupy and inhabit this culture.

ELEMENT #8: Connect yourself and others to The Why

Why are you doing what you do as a business. It’s not (read: shouldn’t be) to make money. That’s just a rule to the game, not the ultimate goal.

Knowing why it is you do what you do. Reminding yourself and your team of that continually. Discovering and living out what you believe—about the world, the purpose of your work, and the meaning of your life within your organization and outside of it—is paramount.

Be radical about your self-inquiry and diligent in your focus on others.

Working to live a life of/with/on purpose is the only way we can transform an otherwise sterile/neutral sphere of culture like business for good.

Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company magazine believes business is THE driving force for progress in modern culture.

He says, "We’re not in business to make money; we make money so we can stay in business. […] Not all enterprises embrace that sense of mission, but the ones that do have shown that it is, paradoxically, a highly effective way to deliver financial success."

Staying closely connected with your purpose and your why is a massive key to galvanizing the edifying culture you’re creating through your work. 

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That’s it for this novel-of-a-post. Thanks for hanging in there. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list but I hope it gives you some tactics and strategies to help you become more of a thermostat than a thermometer when it comes to leading-up and creating a work culture you're proud of.

Serve hard, sell soft, and keep making culture.

Dan 


THIS ARTICLE MAKES UP NO. 27-35/100 OF #THE100DAYPROJECT AND 100 DAYS OF WRITING.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIMENT IN CREATIVITY, DISCIPLINE, LEADING UP, AND SLAYING PERFECTIONISM CHECK OUT THIS POST.