FREE Chapter 7

How Courageous Leaders Create and Sustain Inspiring, Motivating Cultures and Families

Self-motivation and true self-accountability come from understanding what motivates others and articulating the organization’s mission, vision and strategy in the language of team members. These attributes will be a huge factor in determining the success or failure of the organization’s goals and initiatives. How do Courageous Leaders create and sustain inspiring, motivating cultures and families?

Sustained inspiration doesn’t come from motivational speeches and feel-good initiatives. It comes from people finding ways to align the purpose of the work they do with their personal purpose for being on earth, including their natural interests, talents and capabilities. When team members understand how their work not only helps the organization deliver on its mission and vision, but also on their own personal mission and vision, a motivating and empowering environment is created and self-alignment is achieved.

We believe that when a person’s personal mission is aligned with their organization’s mission, the most powerful energy for improving the world is created.

To understand what motivates those on our teams takes curiosity, time and constant work. To build and nurture these relationships, teams cannot be so large (ideally 8-12 people per team) or they will likely have difficulty having enough airtime and space to fully contribute. When team size is less than five, there may

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

not be enough diversity of views and opinions to challenge one another for innovation which we believe is the lifeblood of any organization. More than 12 can function more like a committee than a team. Functioning like a committee means some voices are dominant and others are crowded out with little airtime and dissipating energy.

It has been said that, to lead the many, we must lead the few. We often cite the example of Jesus, not as a religious figure, but as a leader who exemplifies leading the many by leading the few. By working with a dozen disciples, he reached the many.

Take Action:

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you multilingual, understanding the different languages (thought patterns) of those on your team?

  • Does your language invite/require different perspectives and points of view?

  • Does your language help relate team member’s comments to one another?

  • Does your language recognize and reinforce the value of divergent thinking?

  • Does your language give credit to the ideas and solutions offered?


Do team members think, feel and realize from their collective intelligence that they are smart and capable, so they want to and do participate?

Lifting those on our teams by developing, coaching and encouraging them, while providing available resources and removing barriers will empower them to lift the few on their teams and so on, eventually lifting and empowering all the people in the organization from one Peak Performance to the next.

We often discuss research that repeatedly shows the top two attributes team members say they desire in a leader:

  1. The leader is positive.

  2. The leader creates a motivating, inspiring work environment.

How can leaders create positive, motivating work environments? We know that energy is contagious. We always think about it as human glue.

Is the leader...

  • Exuding human-glue relationships and positivity?

  • Excited about the shared vision they created with their organization?

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

  • In love with the organization’s mission and vision?

  • Excited about the organization’s winning proposition (promise to the customers they serve)?

  • Committed to by living into the organization’s values, not just espousing them?

    The leaders described above are absolutely positive because they are serving the mission of their organization or company. They want all the team members to serve the mission. It’s all about the mission while pursuing the vision.

    Leaders come and go, and they will over time. But if the consistent message is, “We are all here to serve the mission!” (and it’s a really good one), then the environment will be an exciting and worthy place where they deliver products and services. We can hardly talk about that without getting quite excited!

    Every action is strategic:

    • Living according to shared values.

    • Pursuing a shared mission every day.

    • Delivering on a shared winning proposition as the promise to customers or clients.


Pursuing a shared vision, where we want to be in the next 3 to 5 years.

That’s really exciting because we all want to feel accomplished and successful. We can all make a good day, week, month, year and life!

Next, we begin asking questions about what we have to accomplish. What are our key objectives to get to the vision? What needs to be accomplished in the following strategic perspectives:

  • Financial stability and community impacts.

  • Customer or client services and products.

  • Friendly, lean, effective and efficient work processes.

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion in a culture that is inspiring and invigoratingly healthy.

    When leaders are really focused on what’s important (a few things and not everything), they begin to let go of what is really not very important. Work is prioritized and not just a pile that strains teams. A “stretch” is far different from a “strain.”

    Leaders help employees know exactly what’s important. Everyone is linked and aligned. Everyone understands that saying no to a number of things enables them to say yes to where they want to go, how they’re going to be with each other getting there, and what they will be delivering to their customers and clients.

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

With this kind of mission-driven, vision-pulled, values-based culture and an inspiring winning proposition, Courageous Leaders have the opportunity to create a motivating, inspiring environment that will really excite team members.

When people make a mistake, they understand it’s just a learning opportunity. Shared values lived daily, help guide us in our decision making and gets us back on track if we slip up. If someone falls off the truck one day they know how to get right back on with the advantage of their learnings. When team members are doing new work for the first time or taking smart risks, there are always important learnings. In fact, life is one big experiment. When we do something that does not work, we learn to do it a better way.

People know what it takes to do well in this environment. There is synergy between the leader and the employees. It’s just fantastic. That’s the job of the positive leader.

There are so many choices in the world today. The positive leader says,

Let’s get laser focused on the difference we can make with our employees to serve them better so they can serve our customers even better.

We believe we can get choice-laden. It’s the job of the leader to not let that happen but to have the focus and excitement about where we are going and the things we must do to get there. Being clear and courageous does not leave team members guessing if they are doing the


right thing. It is why real-time feedback, coaching and reinforcement requires intentional-attention from leaders.

We often talk with groups about time mind travel. Most of the time, we are either worrying about something that may happen in the future or ruminating about something that happened in the past. Even when we are physically present, our minds are usually traveling to some other place in time!

It's important for a leader to be vision-pulled. Setting a vision for the future is a key part of being a leader. But how does a leader, once that vision is set, stay in the present moment and not live in the future?

It is also important for a leader to learn from and extrapolate lessons from past experiences, both good and bad. So, how does a leader take lessons from the past and not dwell in the past?

When we focus on the future so much that it creates anxiety, it can take us out of the present. The same thing is true if we're focusing too much on the past. We may be associating guilt, regret or other negative feelings to a past event that can pull us out of the present.

The question for the leader is:

How can we stay in the present while bringing lessons learned from the past and be inspired by a compelling vision instead of feeling frustration from the past or anxiety about what might happen in the future?

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

Take Action:

Three key actions that a leader can take are:

  1. Remembering past events, negative and positive, and how they shaped the person that leader is today. That way the leader can bring the lessons from the past that helped develop their strength forward without dragging the baggage along with them into the present.

  2. By setting a clear and inspiring vision, the leader can be pulled toward the vision, inspired and motivated by it, versus being stressed or anxious about an unknown future. The focus can be on the present moment and, what is that next step to work towards the vision and then the next, and the next...?

  3. Be aware of the running inner-narrative in our minds. We are telling ourselves an ongoing story of what happened in the past and what may happen in the future. If the leader is feeling anxious, guilty, or whatever that feeling is at a particular moment, it is good to be aware of the story they are telling themselves. That story determines the quality of our lives and how successful we will be. A helpful question is, “Am I safe and okay right now?”


Science tells us it is impossible for our minds to be present 100% of the time. The three actions above can help leaders have more awareness of when they are not present and help them be present more often when it is most important. As author Eckhart Tolle says, "The moment you are aware that you are not present, you are present."

Leaders are always on stage. From the moment a leader enters a room, people are constantly watching and interpreting their body language, actions and possible mood. Truly being present when we are present requires moment-to-moment lifelong work and mastery.

It is life-changing when we don’t easily believe all the stories we tell ourselves. Instead, just watch our stories go by like a movie while we sit back and not become the movie... just watch life unfold of which we have little control. This is the way of the calm, cool and collected person.

Overcoming fear and self-doubt to stop second-guessing ourselves is the greatest adventure of our minds. This is because fear hides in shame, resentment, anger, worry, depression, superiority, inferiority and many other hidden ways of our being.

What a waste of our precious days on this Earth. Taking our power back is crucial not just to existing but also to living! Creating our life where we are not living in fear and self-doubt is our biggest gift to ourselves and others. We become self-empowered to not waste our life. How can we not?

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments


How Courageous Leaders Develop Cultures of ‘Self-Accountability’

Another topic that comes up over and over again in our groups and in coaching is accountability. How do Courageous Leaders develop cultures of self- accountability?

It seems accountability is really quite elusive. When we talk with our clients about what their role as a leader is, we start with:

  1. Setting very, very clear expectations (goals, targets and timelines) and being consistent about those standards.

  2. Asking team members to give examples of what accomplishing those expectations looks like (actions and behaviors).

  3. Asking team members if they understand why the expectations are important to successful performance.

When people have clear expectations for their deliverables (behaviors, products and services) and how they are going to do them, they now have the what and the how. Through these discussions, team members have the opportunity to be self-accountable to deliver on the clear expectations the leader has set. Self-accountability is the only true accountability, and it is the way people can become very proud of themselves and their accomplishments in life.

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

Only when there’s accountability to expectations will people be responsible in their work. Team members have the opportunity for self-accountability, but we cannot hold others accountable. We hear this language all the time. We can hold others to compliance. This is very different than having an engaged workforce.

Year after year, Gallup Polls continue to show only about 30% of the people in the USA are engaged in their work. We believe that understanding the difference between developing self-accountability and holding people to compliance plays a major role in these dismal numbers.

How team members think about expectations and accountability leads them to the actions they can take to accomplish the results. Teams also determine if those are the results they want to achieve.

Are they in line with the mission? Are they in line with their leader’s


Are they in line with their leader’s intent for the work being done?

So, we could say just the reverse, right? Without accountability, there is no responsibility. Without responsibility, people don’t think clearly about what needs to be done. When they don’t take the actions, they don’t get the results.


Clear expectations from the leader and self- accountability from the team-members to those expectations is where the magic is.

It seems that one thing that really helps with leaders we work with is getting to the desired specific actions and behaviors. What do the specific actions and behaviors look like and how will we work together to accomplish our goals?

When team members can envision how they will meet the expectations, we get to the actual behaviors (how people are going to do their work, how they’re going to interact with others, how they’re going to need to be).

Without clear expectations, consistency and team members understanding how they will meet those expectations, accountability is just a nice word that gets thrown around. Yes, everybody agrees that motherhood, apple pie and accountability are all wonderful. So, the real work is to live into self-accountability.

Leaders who provide clarity are kind, giving team members the opportunity to succeed again and again. Without clarity, as the “Father of Quality,” Dr. Deming, used to say, “We’re off to the Milky Way.” It’s pretty milky!

We have a lot of fun working together and working with our clients. We take our work very seriously and we share many laughs in the process! The best leaders use humor to create positive environments.

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

"Humor is a real secret tool of a highly effective leader.” This doesn't mean telling jokes but just being humorous about whatever is being worked on at the time and leveraging our natural humor. We are all humorous in some way.

Some ways humor enhances the work environment are:

  1. It Creates a Positive Work Environment

    As we mentioned, the most important two characteristics that people say they desire in a leader are the following:

    • The leader has a positive attitude.

    • The leader creates an inspiring, motivating

      work environment.

      An integral part of a positive work environment is that people have some fun and enjoy working together. It's good for people to laugh. Humor has a lot to do with creating a positive work environment.

      We know that one of the two key responsibilities of a leader is to establish a positive, motivating culture. Humor is part of this positive culture where if team members so choose, will be self- motivated. Just bringing out the natural levity of people.

  2. It Creates Balance


Another great advantage of appropriate humor in the workplace is that it's a nice balance so things don't get overly serious when hard work is being done. Balance is always such an important word. It's an important concept in the workplace. Humor is a major factor for balance.

3. It is Relational Glue

When appropriate humor is being leveraged as a part of the environment, it helps to build strong relationships.

People do more, and they do better when they really like the person they work for and when they can relate to them as a human being. Humor is part of being human.

We think of humor as an element of glue in relationships. We all have a certain degree of humor in us—a way of just being funny, where we can enjoy life in a very positive and constructive way. It builds wonderful relationships and helps to create team spirit, effectiveness and efficiency.

We know that a smile is the shortest distance between any two people. Humor helps create an uplifting and high performing culture. Appropriate humor is part of the environment and is actually a very big deal.

When we ask people to think of the best leaders they’ve encountered in their careers, the ones they really connected with always seemed to have a way of making

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

them smile or laugh or bring some fun and humor into the workplace.

Leaders can create an environment where the work is enjoyable, it’s warm and humor is a part of doing very important and hard work.

A major attribute of successful leaders is that they are relentlessly proactive in their adaptability and predictable in their purpose and behaviors. Adaptive leaders never think any two days will be the same with customer and employee needs. There is more than enough evidence that needs are progressive.

Too many leaders lose their way (and take their companies with them) by straying from worthy missions, visions and values... and at the same time, not reading, analyzing, actualizing and flexing to constantly changing customer needs and economic conditions.

An important question is, how can leaders be highly adaptable and rigorously predictable?

Take Action:

First, the greater ability leaders have to notice the needs, problems and opportunities that are constantly around them, the more agile they are in the following:

1. Creating clear direction.


  1. Developing and coaching employees to become more independent in solving problems and providing the best solutions to customers.

  2. Delegating work to provide growth options for team members instead of turning people into “ducks” lined up at the door to be fed every answer and to get approval for every decision they make.

  3. Staffing projects with talented and creative team members where their leadership can flourish.

  4. Seeing and leveraging the positive in difficult situations. Pain births growth. Letting pain exist while relaxing and letting it flow through and out of us is constructive human growth. We grow our strength when we feel the pains of life and stay patient as they pass through us.

  5. We move fast enough, but not so fast as to churn ourselves and others. We go beyond excellence to the next level of Peak Performance.

Second, leaders need to be highly predictable in serving the worthy mission of their company. All business practices and dealings are aligned with deserving missions, visions, values and benefits to customers.

Corners are not cut, and integrity is not compromised. Leaders' decisions and behaviors come from a place of consciously and predictably pulling themselves to their higher selves. Employees, led by

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

such leaders, are proactively living the values and serving the organization's mission while pursuing the evolving vision.

When the true compass for all work is aligned with the why of strategy (mission, vision, values and benefits to customers), the following is true:

  1. Individuals and teams will be collaborative, results-oriented and high-performing.

  2. Team members are proud to be working and feel they're working for one of the best organizations.

  3. Employee ownership, self-accountability, innovation and productivity reach surprising heights of Peak Performance.

    Take Action:

Some actions to consider:

  • Actively seek and listen for challenges and problems to learn what still needs to be solved in the future.

  • Be strategic in learning what, how much and how fast to improve in the immediate future and in the long-term.


  • Enroll team members in the why of the next improvements and in how it will benefit them and their customers.

  • Make conscious decisions to be and to stay in alignment with the worthy purpose and values of the organization.

  • Be the positive leader everyone desires, not only demonstrating predictable, resilient behaviors in the good times, but also in times of failure and setbacks.

    Through adaptable and predictable behavior, team members and leaders are stoic in mental and emotional grit and resilience, reliably delivering Peak Performance Results. People and teams live and lead with courage.

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

How Courageous Leaders Understand Trust as An Operating SystemTM

Everyone talks about trust, but what does that really mean? We think about Trust as An Operating SystemTM and we've created a simple equation for our conversations with leaders. How do Courageous Leaders use trust as an operating system?

The equation is:

On one side of the equation is TOS: Trust as An Operating SystemTM.

The numerator in the equation are the four Cs of trust. The four Cs represent what years of the best research (very much aligned with what we experience in our work with leaders) indicate as the key factors that build trust.

The four Cs of trust:


  1. Competence: Is the person competent to accomplish what needs to get done? Do I trust that the person has the experience and know-how to deliver on the desired results?

  2. Congruence: Does the person say what they're going to do and then do it? Is there congruence between words and actions?

  3. Consistency: We think of that as certainty or uncertainty. How consistent is the person we interact with? How certain or uncertain are we of how they will behave? Are they reliable?

  4. Character: Do we view this person as honest and real, meaning appropriately vulnerable?

The denominator in the Trust as An Operating SystemTM equation is E: ego.

In our equation, we think about ego as self- orientation. Do we have enough ego so that we're not a doormat, but not so much ego that we are egotistical?

If trust is going to be an operating system, we have to really use it as an operating system, making sure that self-orientation or the E in the equation, ego, is in balance with self and other orientation.

The four Cs may be present, but if the self- orientation (ego) is too high, it really wipes out the four C’s in the numerator. In this case it is all about me, me, me and not much left for others. Why would anyone trust them?

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

Hiring new employees is one of the most important and costly things for businesses. People will obviously present their best selves in an interview. Asking the right questions and noticing answers using Trust as An Operating SystemTM can help leaders better understand if they can trust a job candidate.

Below are some examples of how Trust as An Operating SystemTM can be used in hiring conversations:

  1. Hold the tension of knowing and not knowing. What we think we know about the self- orientation of a person we’re hiring, for instance, must be balanced with a healthy respect for what we may not know. This way, we are very careful about the discussion we have with the person before we hire them or before we promote them. This tension can make us better in our decision making.

  2. Slow down so we can think fast. Really try to see if the self-orientation of the ego is enough, too much, or just about right. Think about that rather than a more impulsive reaction. The four Cs may be wonderful, but how does self-orientation (ego) factor into the equation?

  3. What are the questions at play? What questions have we really asked that go beyond just the technical part of one's work and get to the adaptive skill? Get to who they really are and what their self-orientation really is. Do they have their ego in tow? If a person is all about me, me, me and very little for you, why would anyone


trust that person regardless of strength in the four Cs?

A person may demonstrate the four Cs, but the question is, does their self-orientation cancel out the four Cs in the numerator?

If self-orientation is too high, a person may be self- centered. Again, everything is about me, me, me and very little is left over for you.

If a person's self-orientation is too low, they may be self-less to the point where fear and self-doubt causes them to believe they are not enough or incapable of successfully leading a team.

A person whose self-orientation is in balance, we say, is other-centered. They believe they can lead a team, an organization, a community, a movement, a cause, whatever it is they're leading to reach its vision, and they do it all in the service of others, not just for their own benefit or glory or self-aggrandizement.

Be sure to hire for good character, attitude and relational skills. Then consider technical content knowledge and skills which can be more easily taught.

Hiring is an incredibly expensive and time- consuming process, especially when someone doesn’t work out. Trusting a person enough to bring them into a culture that a leader has so carefully created is a difficult task.

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

What we find so often, is that staffing is an activity in itself. Someone leaves and we're replacing that position with another person. That's staffing, and we do it over and over and over.

The question really becomes: staffing for what responsibilities and how does staffing enable the strategy of the organization to be supported and become a reality through people?

Take Action:

We think of it as being careful not to have the cart before the horse, and we hear it frequently. Instead of just filling a position, the questions really are:

  • What is the strategy of the organization? What is the strategic learning, planning and execution cycle?

  • What is the structure in the organization to enable the strategy to be successful?

  • Within that structure, what are the positions?

  • For each position, what are the responsibilities?

  • Who is the best person or the best individuals (internally and externally) for the different positions based on those responsibilities?

    By following this process in that order, we can get

the best person into the best position. We don't want to


hire people to take on a job. We want to hire people who see it as taking on the responsibilities of the position and making responsibilities very clear.

When this process is followed, people aren’t just taking a job, they're having an opportunity to live who they are and leverage their strengths based on the agreed upon responsibilities. It's great for them because it becomes a self-projection of themselves beyond themselves through their daily work and chosen career.

Three things to think about based on our questions above:

  1. Do we have a clear strategy of where we're going over the next three or four or five years?

  2. What does the structure look like? Do we need a major part of our structure to be sales? Do we need a major part of our structure to be compliance to regulations? What is the needed structure?

  3. What are the responsibilities for each position? We can then hire or promote people who are excited about the responsibilities and are a good match for them.

By maintaining strategic leadership through strategic learning, planning, executing and verifying at all times, we can avoid hiring just to replace or to fill openings. Now we have a chance

Courageous Leaders Create Inspiring, Motivating Environments

to get hiring right the first time, because it's linked and aligned all the way through the organization.

While carefully considering input from references and behavioral/motivational interviewing results, it is extremely important to study candidate resumes. By doing so, each candidate’s education, experience, training, development and length of service (in each position) is revealed. Who is motivated for the short- term and who is motivated for the long-term, especially when the work is difficult and requires personal sacrifice?

Resumes revealing length of service in given positions is often significant information to be considered and should not be overlooked. When the going gets tough, resumes may reveal who is really courageous through pain and demonstrates true grit and resilience versus who just leaves and looks for the shiny penny and greener grass! Who lives and works courageously?