Learn to Lead

September 27th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

—John F. Kennedy

What have you learned lately?

We’ve all heard that life long learning is the key to success. However, it can be easy to simply dismiss this as a trite saying. In reality, this adage has never been truer than it is today.

In the book The Coaching Manager, James Hunt and Joseph Weintraub point out that it used to be possible to spend the first 20 – 30 years of our life amassing all the knowledge we needed and then rely on what we acquired for the next 30 years of our career. That approach is no longer effective. I recently read an article that stated the only thing it takes to be the smartest person in the room is a smart phone. The author’s premise is that it is the ability to learn that is important today and we need to focus on developing learning workers not simply knowledge workers.

With the pace of change today, you must continue to evolve or your will be left behind. It’s not acceptable to rely on a strategy or approach that worked a year ago, let alone five years ago. If your not pushing yourself to consider and explore new approaches you will eventually find that your skills, and possibly your organization, have become obsolete.

Challenge yourself to stay curious. No matter how much you might think you have the answers, remain open to the ideas of others. Seek out the perspective of your team and ask them to suggest improvements. It’s also critical that you stay up on changes happening within your industry. Regularly read industry trade magazines and attend conferences where you can learn about what other organizations in your industry are doing.

Although it is important to learn from your staff and about your industry, it’s equally critical to learn from areas outside of your industry. Seek out key innovations from a range of industries and in the field of science. You never know when new technology or techniques in one industry might spark an idea for your industry and organization. Finally, continually study the practice of leadership. Challenge yourself to evaluate your leadership style and make any adjustments necessary.

The bottom line is that in order to be successful as a leader today you must keep learning. Upon earning a leadership position, if you adopt the attitude that you have arrived, it is only a matter of time before you realize that you are being passed up. On the other hand, if you stay curious and open to learning, you will have the flexibility necessary to adapt quickly and will likely discover ideas that can help you and your organization thrive in a chaotic business environment.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one step you can take this week to learn something new.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Keep Moving Forward

March 22nd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

—Chinese Proverb

What are you doing to continue your growth?

Every year it seems as if the pace of change increases exponentially. In order to keep up, it’s critical to ensure you continue to make forward progress. There’s no such thing as standing still, you’re either moving forward or falling backwards.

One of the books I read in graduate school was We Are All Self Employed by Cliff Hakim. Hakim’s premise that we all enter into a contract with our employer, which can be revoked by either one of us at any time, had a big impact on me. There are no guarantees and we never know when our contract will come to an end.

Rather than worrying about if, or when, that day will come, you need to focus your energy on continuing to refine your knowledge and skills. Luckily there are many different approaches you can take allowing you to grow as quickly or slowly as you want.

One option you might explore is to earn a new certification. Whether you’re in HR, IT, project management, or health care there are often a variety of certifications you can earn to expand both your knowledge and skills. You could also choose to go back to school for a degree or simply attend a course that is of interest to you.

Another approach is to seek out a new project to work on within your organization. Look for an opportunity that will allow you to play to your strengths yet challenge you to apply them in either a new way or in a new domain. Gaining exposure and working with a different area of the business or industry will not only add to your knowledge base it will make you better at your core responsibilities.

Looking to challenge yourself to learn how to handle difficult situations more effectively or enhance your people management and/or influencing skills, then you might want to work with a mentor or coach. He or she can help you step back and consider different perspectives as you navigate challenging situations. This is also a great strategy if you are looking to develop and implement a vision for yourself and/or your team.

Finally, you could choose to pick-up a new hobby or read a book about a new topic that appeals to you. Taking the time to develop a new skill or read about a new topic will challenge you to use your brain in new ways. Again, you’ll probably find that through this experience you make connections back to your professional life, which will make you a better employee.

Change is inevitable but growth is optional. There is nothing you can do to stop it, yet you don’t want to allow yourself to get passed by either. Challenge yourself to learn something new this year and keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one strategy you are going to implement in 2015 to grow.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

You Always Have a Choice

August 24th, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” —Carlos Casteneda

What kind of life do you want?

It’s within your power to choose how you want to live your life. You can choose to approach life with a pessimistic attitude and walk around as if the sky is falling. Maybe things are going pretty well but you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop on your head. Or, you can decide to have a more positive and optimistic outlook. While you recognize that life is not without challenges, you trust in your ability to persevere and emerge in a better condition.

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes it can even feel like quite an emotional roller coaster. One minute you are excited about a new opportunity and a few hours or days later you are drained by a significant challenge. These high and low moments are unavoidable. However, you can decide how high or low you want to allow yourself to become.

It’s all about where you focus your energy. Some people choose to spend their time and energy complaining about their situation. They spend countless hours looking for people or reasons to blame for their predicament. Additionally, they are on an endless quest to find people who will listen to them weave their tales of woe in an effort to convince everyone that it simply isn’t their fault. Individuals like this have a knack for sucking the energy out of a room.

In order to be happy and successful in life, you need to focus your energy on learning from every situation. Begin by identifying your part in the problem. If you can’t determine what part you play, you have little chance of resolving the situation or learning from it. Maybe you inadvertently did something to lead to the situation. You might have made a decision that you knew in your gut wasn’t right. Even when thrown into a difficult situation that wasn’t of your making, your part in the problem is determined by how you respond to the situation.

Next, find someone you trust to share your problem with. It needs to be someone who won’t judge you but will also challenge you to consider your part in the problem. They won’t allow you to wallow in self-pity and victim hood rather they push you to determine what you can do differently in order to make a change. The focus of this conversation is learning, not commiserating.

Life isn’t always easy. With every situation you face you have the power to choose how you want to live. You can choose to stay stuck in anger and negativity or you can decide to focus on the positive and look for opportunities to learn regardless of the situation. Approaching life with a positive attitude will provide a sense of relief and make life easier, especially during the difficult times.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Look for at least one positive in every situation you encounter this week.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Don’t Let Life Pass You By

May 18th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink


“Lots of people let life go by and never accomplish what they want. I wanted to see what I could do.” Edwin C. Moses

What action are you taking to accomplish your goals?

Life is short and you have a finite amount of time to make a difference. Your life is your responsibility. If you choose not to make an effort to achieve what you want out of life, you can’t make excuses or blame anyone else.

The older I get the faster it seems time slips away. It’s easy to allow yourself to be swept along by the currents of life while telling yourself that you have plenty of time to achieve your dreams. In reality, before you know it you’ll wake up one day and wonder how you arrived where you are. You’ll find it heartbreaking as you try to comprehend where the time went and the opportunities you have missed.

It’s never to late to choose to achieve your goals and design the life you want. However, the sooner you begin the quicker you can experience the fulfillment that comes from living a life of purpose. Don’t wait until you have all the answers before getting started or you’ll find your self permanently stuck in fear. Recognize that life is a journey and that your goals and dreams will evolve along the way. The most important part is to be an active participant in your life while remaining open to opportunities to learn and grow.

As Stephen Covey stated in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it’s important to “begin with the end in mind”. Imagine you’re retiring and are being given an award. What do you hope people say about you? How do you want them to remember you? What difference do you hope to have made in the lives of others? How will your community, industry, and the world be better off because of you?

You are the captain of your own life. It’s up to you to decide what you want to accomplish with the life you have been given. The rest of the world is waiting for you to share your gifts and strengths. Don’t deprive yourself of the fulfillment you deserve!

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one step you can take to begin achieving your dreams.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC





Embrace Mistakes

April 13th, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” —Albert Einstein

How do you respond to mistakes?

Mistakes are inevitable. Great leaders realize that success is based upon the output of their team and micro-management isn’t effective. When someone on your team makes a mistake, you have a choice to make. You can reprimand the individual or choose to leverage the experience as a learning opportunity. This single choice sets the tone for your leadership and creates a ripple effect throughout your team.

One of the best ways for your team to learn is through the mistakes they make. Nothing ever works perfectly. One of the leaders I coach made a profound statement recently. She stated that many managers cultivate a fear of making mistakes in hopes that it will reduce the number of mistakes that are made; however, it actually increases people’s anxiety and leads to more mistakes. Rather than fostering anxiety within your team, create an environment where it’s safe for people to fail.

In order to develop a strong and successful team, you have to let go of the desire to eliminate all mistakes. If you aren’t encouraging your team to stretch themselves and risk making mistakes, you aren’t merely maintaining the status quo but your organization is actually falling behind. Without taking chances to be innovative, your competitors will begin to surpass you and you won’t realize it until it’s too late.

The key is to identify the areas in which you can’t risk mistakes. However, you need to apply the 80/20 rule. Approximately 20% of the potential mistakes made by your could be detrimental to the organization. Clearly define these risks and establish safeguards to prevent them from happening. All other mistakes simply aren’t that critical. You’d prefer they don’t happen, nor do you want your employees repeating them, but they aren’t going to bring the organization to it’s knees. These are the types of mistakes that present a legitimate learning opportunity.

Now is the time to embrace mistakes. Pick one area of your team’s responsibilities and provide them with latitude to experiment. Encourage them to take a chance and not worry about making mistakes. Regardless of the results, commend them for taking a risk and discuss what they can learn from the experience. Finally, leverage the learning further by sharing it with the rest of the team so everyone can benefit and realize that making mistakes isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one area to encourage your staff to take chances and risk mistakes.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker M.Ed., PCC

Pick Yourself Up!

February 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink


“One of the secrets of success is to refuse to let temporary setbacks defeat us.” – Mary Kay Ash

How many times have you fallen down? More importantly, how many times have you picked yourself up?

Life isn’t perfect and a straight path to success does not exist! You will inevitably stumble along the way. What’s important is how you respond to the natural roadblocks and setbacks you encounter. The steps you take to pick yourself up when you encounter challenges make all the difference in achieving success.

We all want to believe that if we prepare long enough and work hard enough we will predictably find success. Unfortunately, this just isn’t realistic. While hard work is essential, it’s impossible to predict exactly how life will play out. Flexibility and perseverance are essential to your ability to respond effectively to the setbacks you encounter.

When in doubt, move forward. If you find yourself paralyzed by analysis and the desire to identify the perfect strategy, push yourself to take action. Utilize the information at hand to make the best decision you can and prepare for potential adjustments.

The more you can anticipate the curve balls you might be thrown the easier it will be for you to adjust along the way. When you expect the setbacks, you’ll see them as a learning opportunity and won’t become discouraged.

No matter how many times you have fallen down, keep picking yourself up! Regardless of what setbacks you experience, as long as you continue to learn from your experiences, you have not failed. If you want to achieve success in your life and career, continue to pick yourself up and push through the obstacles you encounter.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Make a plan to pick yourself up and push through an obstacle in your life.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC 





Life Requires Flexibility

October 27th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

“Your level of passion and aliveness is directly proportional to the amount of uncertainty you can live with.” —Tony Robbins


How flexible are you?

Life is full of twist and turns. The more you’re able to flex and adjust course when you hit life’s natural detours the more successful you will be.

Flexibility has never been one of my strengths.  While I’ve definitely gotten better over the years, I’m sure those closest to me would say I still have a long way to go. My natural personality leads me to focus a lot of energy on planning for the future. While there are some definite advantages to my inclination for planning, life rarely plays out just as I planned.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Every moment presents you with an opportunity. Even when something doesn’t go as you had planned, there is something you can gain from that moment, if you stay open.  

The distractions and detours of life might be just what you need. If you stay open to making the most of the present moment you might find you have an opportunity to learn an important lesson or appreciate a new experience that you would have otherwise missed.

The key is to strike a balance between planning for the future and living in the moment. It’s important to identify what you want to accomplish and the steps you need to take to get there. At the same time you need to allow for adjustments along the way. If your focus is too narrow you won’t recognize when you are being tugged to consider a new approach, which just may be the key to your success.

Time for this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Each day this week, focus on allowing yourself to flex from your plan when necessary. You just might be surprised by the opportunities that present themselves.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

















Leaders Grow Leaders

September 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.” – Jack Welch

What are you doing to develop others?

Success as a leader is about working through others, not getting things done by on your own. This is one of the most challenging and critical transitions for a new leader. If you fail to develop your team, they’ll be unable to meet the challenges of today’s evolving business environment and you’ll find that your career will stall out.

Business today becomes more complex every day. You need to challenge your staff to continually refine their current skills while simultaneously developing new ones in order to prepare them for rapid change. It’s important to challenge your team’s perspectives as well. Don’t allow them, or yourself, to become complacent with the status quo. You’re either moving forward or backward, standing still is not an option.

You also need to build a leadership pipeline within your team. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on your replacement. Consider other leadership positions within the organization your staff that might be a good fit for your staff.

Additionally, don’t fall into the trap of withholding development in an effort to protect your position. If you don’t develop your staff and delegate effectively, you’ll never find time to develop strategy and participate in key projects.

The bottom line is: if you want to grow yourself, you have to start by helping your team grow. Only then will you have the time to develop higher-level skills yourself. Without these skills and an opportunity to demonstrate to senior management what you’re capable of, you’ll find yourself passed over for one promotion after another.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one person who could potentially step into your role and delegate a key task to help them grow.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC


Got Confidence?

August 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself.” —Robert Collier

How confident are you?

I’ve noticed that many people lack confidence. I haven’t always been the most confident person myself and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s one of the biggest barriers to success. In my opinion two critical factors drive lack of confidence, perfectionism and lack of awareness about your strengths.

Where does your lack of confidence come from? Trying to figure out the answer can be like determining which came first, the chicken or the egg. Regardless of why you struggle with confidence, if you aren’t careful you’ll find yourself trapped in a vicious cycle. When you’re unsure of yourself, fear of failure will lead you to approach life and situations apprehensively. As a result you’re more likely to fall short, which will only decrease your confidence even more.

Only you can choose to break the cycle. First, you need to realize that everyone makes mistakes. When you embrace that perfection is a myth you won’t be devastated when things don’t go as planned. Rather than beating yourself up for not being good enough, you’ll be able to pick yourself up, apply what you learned, and move forward.

It’s also essential to understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. In No Overnight Success I talked about what appears to be sudden stardom is actually the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. There are no shortcuts to success and you can’t bypass the bumps in the road.

Once you let go of the need to be perfect, begin building your confidence by focusing on your talents. Don’t try to tell me you aren’t talented because everyone has talent. You might have an instinctual ability to organize complex tasks and projects into smaller steps to ensure completion. Or, maybe you have an uncanny ability to sense what the future will bring while preparing yourself and others to take advantage of the opportunities.

As you become more aware of your strengths you can watch for opportunities to use them more fully and frequently. The more you play to your strengths the more energized, confident, and successful you will be. Along with this confidence you’ll begin to accept that you don’t have to be good at everything. When confronted with the decision on how to spend your time you’ll choose to play to your strengths rather than become drained trying to fix a weakness.

Nobody is perfect or strong in every area. You will experience true confidence once you’re clear about your strengths and deliberately choose to spend your time and energy developing them. Embrace your imperfectness and let your strengths shine!

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one strength to focus on and one weakness to accept and let go.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC



Happiness is a Choice

March 17th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances.” —Martha Washington 

How happy have you chosen to be?

Happiness is very important to all of us. We’re all driven, either consciously or unconsciously, by the desire to be happy. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize how much control they actually have over their happiness.

Life can be quite a roller coaster ride. One moment you’re humming along and feel on top of the world and a day, or even 5 minutes, later something knocks you to the bottom of the hill. It can be quite frustrating these moments sneak up on us. It’s also very tempting to complain about the situation and commiserate about what it was like to be at the top of the hill.

I used to think the goal of life was to find a way to stay on top of the hill at all times. That simply isn’t reality! I now realize that my peace and serenity is a byproduct of my ability to navigate the natural peaks and valleys of life. And, when I take the right approach the peaks aren’t quite as high and the valleys aren’t so low.

Your happiness in life is dependent upon the two things you have complete control of in your life, your attitude and response to situations.  Any time you’re confronted with a trying situation you can either choose to play the victim and blame others or you can choose to take ownership of the situation and look for the positives. Only the later response will increase your overall happiness.

Once you decide not to be a victim, implementing the following three strategies will help you respond effectively to any situation. First, accept the situation for what it is. You don’t have to like or agree with what happened, but you do need to accept it.  Lack of acceptance will only cause you to spin your wheels in the mud of victimhood.

The next step is to take ownership for the situation. One of the best principles I’ve learned is: “If I’m not part of the problem there is no solution”. This doesn’t mean you’re completely to blame, but you need to consider if you consciously or unconsciously did something to bring the situation about. Or, possibly your reaction to the situation has actually made things worse. Get clear about what you can do differently and take ownership for that piece of the situation.

Finally, view the situation as a learning process. If you’ve identified your part in the problem you can now begin to consider how you would handle things differently in the future. When you’re able to proactively learn from a challenging situation, you might actually look back at the situation with gratitude because it helped you grow in some way.

Life isn’t always easy, but you can choose to be happy regardless of what situation you’re dealing with. When you’re able to embrace life with an attitude of acceptance and ownership you’ll find the highs of life aren’t so high but the lows aren’t so low either. Choosing to live a more even keeled life will lead to a greater sense of peace, serenity, and happiness.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Make the decision to accept a challenging situation in your life.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC