Light Leadership

May 31st, 2015 § 4 comments § permalink

“He who has great power should use it lightly.” —Seneca

How do you wield power?

It’s critical to you use your power responsibly as a leader. You can choose to throw your weight around while issuing directives and barking orders. Or you can rely on attraction, where you inspire others and invite them to join you. How you choose to leverage your power will impact your long-term success as a leader.

Autocratic leadership styles aren’t effective over the long-term. If you attempt to rule through fear and intimidation, you’ll end up with two negative outcomes. First, you will run off the most talented people on your team. Individuals who are confident in their abilities know they don’t have to put up with this behavior. They trust in their ability to find a more suitable role and won’t hesitate to leave.

Those who don’t leave will retreat and become a shell of themselves. Your behavior will create a culture of fear where everyone is afraid to take risks. They’ll do the minimum necessary to get by and fly under the radar. Although it may initially appear that your autocratic style is the key to getting people to do what you want, the positive results will be short lived and it won’t take long before your results begin to suffer.

A better alternative is to employ a coaching and collaborative leadership style. Rather than dictating to others what they must do, help them understand why certain tasks and directives are important. When faced with a difficult challenge, seek their input. Make a point to tap into their knowledge and get them to help identify potential solutions.

Finally, help each member of your team understand their strengths and how they can use those strengths to impact the mission and vision of your organization. The more opportunity they are given to play to their strengths each day, the more engaged they will become. They’ll be excited to come to work and will continually look ahead to identify potential problems or opportunities before they even crop up.

Successful leaders understand that they don’t have to exert their power in order to be effective. Rather, they work hard to earn respect by showing respect to each member of the team. True leaders know that once they’ve cultivated a relationship of mutual respect they’ll have built a team that is committed to the organization and willingly step-ups to any challenge presented to them.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one challenge to seek your team’s input on.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Excellence vs. Perfection

May 17th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”—Harriet Braiker

What are you striving for?

I like to say that I’m a “reforming” perfectionist. I have learned over the years to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies but I still have plenty of room for improvement.

The idea of striving for perfection is very alluring. When you set perfection as your standard of success it drives you to work hard and may enable you to achieve significant accomplishments. However, it will often leads to a standard of unrealistic expectations, which lead to impatience, increased anxiety, or a general reluctance to take risks.

Excellence is a healthier target. Each of us will define excellence differently. What matters is that you are continually taking steps to fulfill your personal potential and make a positive contribution to the world. Rather than expecting to complete any task perfectly and free of mistakes, challenge yourself to make progress each day. As long as you are continuing to improve and developing new skills, approaches, and mindsets you will be taking a step closer to achieving your personal definition of excellence.

Replace the idea of being a perfectionist with the concept of being an optimalist. In the book: In the Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Sharar talks about how our desire for perfection is the number one obstacle to our ability to find happiness. Ben-Sharar states that perfectionists reject failure and expect life to be an endless stream of positive emotions, which means they also reject reality. On the other hand, an optimalist recognizes that failure and negative emotions are an inevitable fact of life and uses those experiences as learning opportunities to improve.

Choose to give yourself a break. When you recognize that the route to success isn’t a straight and flat path you’re able to accept and weather the inevitable peaks, valleys, twists and turns that life throws your way. While it’s important to continually challenge yourself to improve, choose to focus on excellence rather than perfection and accept that even when things don’t go as you planned there is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one area of your life where you need to replace perfection with excellence.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Embrace Abnormal

April 19th, 2015 § 6 comments § permalink

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” —Maya Angelou

Are you hiding behind normality?

You have a choice to make. Either you can decide to play it safe and follow the crowd. Or, you can choose to embrace what makes you unique and the gifts you have to offer. Normality is a myth and success depends upon your willingness to affirm who you are and what you have to offer.

It takes courage to be true to yourself. As you step out and let the real you shine through, there’s always a risk that others aren’t going to like you. Even those closest to you might not agree with your beliefs or approach. However, no matter what you do there will always be someone that doesn’t care for you. The greater risk is living a life of mediocrity.

A seed of potential exists within every one of us.  Unless we’re willing to take the necessary steps to cultivate our potential it will never blossom. The first step is to become clear about who you are.  Discover your passions, values, and strengths so you understand the impact you want to make.

Once you have this foundation of self-awareness in place you can begin to develop your potential. Actively look for opportunities to use your strengths. Start sharing your desires with close family, friends, and colleagues to see what ideas they might offer for practicing your strengths. The more you experiment the more clarity you will have about what is a best fit for you. Additionally, you will continue to refine your strengths.

Accept that it’s okay not to be normal. The concept of being normal is a myth and only exists when people continue to feed the belief that we have to fit in to some popularly accepted norm. No body is normal. We are each unique with our own set of strengths, challenges, desires, and fears. Recognize that these are the things that make you amazing and embrace who you truly are. Then you can begin the path to happiness, success, and fulfillment.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify three strengths you possess and share one of them with someone.

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

Embrace Your Dream!

December 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“In each of us there is a private hope and dream, which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone.” —John F. Kennedy


What dream do you hold inside?

We all have a dream. Each of us has something we long to accomplish. Unfortunately most of us keep our dream hidden deep inside. Whether we’re afraid of failure or embarrassed about what others might think, we never give our dreams a chance to become reality.

The world needs you to embrace your dream. You have something unique to offer. You’re meant to make an impact in a way that only you can.  However, if you never let your dream shine you’ll never know how successful you could be. You’ll never fully comprehend the positive impact you could make on the world.

Life is too short not to follow your dreams. Don’t allow your dream to wither and die within you. This will only lead to a life of regrets. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and give your dream a chance. Although you can’t know for sure if you will ultimately be successful, I can assure you that failure isn’t as demoralizing as regret.

Make the decision today to make 2014 your year! Choose to take your dream seriously and allow it to see the light of day. All that is required is a commitment to take a few simple steps to explore the possibilities of your dream and see what you might uncover.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify 3 steps you can take in 2014 to embrace your dream.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Don’t Fear Failure

November 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” – Beverly Sills

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

We all have a tendency to create barriers that hold us back from achieving our potential. You might worry about failing in a new endeavor or simply spend so much time trying to figure out how to do it perfectly that you never get started. Or maybe you’re worried about being embarrassed if things don’t turn out like you had hoped.

The bottom line is that you’ll never know what the outcome could be if you don’t take a chance. By stepping out of your comfort zone you might discover that success is right around the corner. Your new venture, whatever it is, could potentially open the door to a more fulfilling career or life.

Of course it’s also possible that you could fall short of your dream. However, this doesn’t mean you’ve made a bad decision. By choosing to take a chance you’ve given yourself an opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of. You’ll likely discover abilities you didn’t realize you had which may become your foundation for future success.

A fulfilling career and life requires risk. You can’t sit back in your comfort zone and play it safe if you want to be successful. If you’re ready to experience genuine fulfillment in your life, you need to let go of your fear of failure and step into the new experiences waiting for you. Embrace the possibilities of what you could create in your life and throw yourself into new experiences.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Take one action this week to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC


Get Up & Hustle

July 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln 

Are you ready to move?

In order to achieve your dream you must be prepared to work hard. Whether you want to change careers, start a business, or get promoted to the next level the best opportunities won’t simply fall in your lap. You have to jump in the game and make things happen.

Ask yourself is, ‘Am I ready to move forward, or not?’ You can talk and daydream about what you want to do all day long but at the end of the day you’ll have nothing to show for your time. If you’re ready to make progress, back-up your talk with action. Begin following through on your ideas and see what you can create.

Maybe you’re sitting there thinking, ‘I agree, but I just can’t seem to move forward.’ If you’re feeling stuck, take a moment to evaluate what’s getting in your way. Maybe you’re afraid you won’t succeed. In my post Fear is Natural I encourage you to refocus on learning how to leverage fear to your advantage rather than trying to eliminate it completely. Fear is inevitable but allowing it to hold you back is a choice.

Closely related to the fear of failure is the desire to do everything perfectly. If you’re trying to devise the perfect plan for achieving your goal, you’re actually the trying to eliminate the potential for failure, which is impossible. A couple of weeks ago, in Get Started Now, I wrote that every action has risks and you need to move forward and embrace the learning opportunity you’ll be given along the way.

Finally, maybe you lack accountability. Achieving your dream isn’t easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be worth dreaming about. When the road gets challenging, most people aren’t able to hold themselves accountable. It’s all too easy to slip into a routine that is comfortable and safe. We all need someone in our life to hold us accountable. Someone that believes in us, embraces our dream as a possibility, and challenges us to push forward, all without making us feel guilty when we occasionally fall short.

If you’re finally ready to make your dream a reality, identify an accountability partner. It could be mentor, coach, colleague, friend or family member. Regardless of whom you choose make sure it is someone you trust. Your partner should believe in your abilities and remain optimistic while providing unbiased and candid feedback. When you have someone like that in your corner, you’ll have the extra push to get started on your journey.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify at least one person to be your accountability partner. Please let me know if you would like to explore how I can assist you in that way.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC


Dare to Fail

February 24th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

— Robert F. Kennedy

Are you afraid of failing?

You might be thinking to yourself, “Well that is a stupid question.” No one likes to fail and we’ll typically do whatever we can to avoid that fate. However, failure is inevitable. It’s impossible to succeed in everything you attempt in life, but true success in life requires risk and occasionally choosing to bypass the safe path.

The important question is: “how do you react to failure?”  It’s natural to be disappointed when you fail to achieve something important to you. You shouldn’t try to stuff this feeling; however, this moment also represents a significant juncture in your life. You can choose to beat yourself up about your failure, which will only decrease your confidence and likely cause you to retreat to safety.  Or you can choose to embrace the situation as an opportunity to learn.

Challenge yourself to step back and take a “big picture” view of the situation. As you look from afar, what do you notice about what went well or wrong? What did this experience teach you about yourself? How are you wiser today and what would you do differently next time?

When you answer these questions with an objective frame of mind, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from the situation. Of course you made some mistakes along the way, but once you’ve analyzed them to fully understand what happened, you’re unlikely to repeat them. You are now prepared to use these lessons to increase your chance of success the next time around.

Quit playing it safe if you want to be successful in life. Challenge yourself to venture out of your comfort zone. While you may not achieve your goal, if you remain open and apply the lessons to be learned in any situation you are bound to find your path to success.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Take one step in order to risk failure in some area of life.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Eliminate Negative Influences

February 10th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

—Mark Twain

Are the people in your life energizing or draining you?

It’s very important to be mindful about who you choose to spend your time with.  You interact with many different people every day and each of them has the potential to influence your beliefs and outlook on life. Some of them are upbeat and positive while others always seem to find the grey cloud in a sunny day. In order to be successful, you need to cultivate those positive relationships in your life and do everything you can to steer clear of the individuals that drain you.

Unfortunately you will encounter many people that don’t want you to be successful. You may even discover that some of them are your closest friends or family. Recognize it isn’t about you and don’t take it personally. Success is the result of hard work, risk, and a little bit of luck. Many people aren’t willing to put forth the effort or are simply afraid to take the risk necessary to be successful.

Additionally, some people may find your success threatening. It challenges them to look at themselves and question why they can’t experience the same level of achievement. Rather than commit energy towards working hard, it’s easier to blame their circumstances for their lack of success. Pulling you into that same mindset only makes it easier for to avoid taking ownership for their own lives.

If you find yourself surrounded by individuals that drain your energy, do whatever you can to distance yourself from them. The best approach is to limit the amount of contact you have with these individuals. When you have to interact with negative people, employ a couple of simple strategies. First, make sure you are emotionally strong. When you’re confident in your abilities, you’re less likely to be swayed by the other person’s negativity. It is your choice whether or not you allow their behaviors and mindsets to drain you.

Finally, make the decision to be of service to these individuals. Approach them in a polite and empathetic way. Try to understand where they’re coming from but don’t feed into their victimization. Instead, model the positive mindset you believe is important. Help them see a more effective way to approach the situation but don’t get caught trying to force them to change. Simply demonstrate another approach.

The road to success can feel lonely at times, especially if those closest to you aren’t willing to travel down the same road. Rest assured, although the road may not be crowded you are bound to find several like-minded people who will happily support you in achieving your dreams.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Develop strategies to handle the negative people in your life.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC




Your Personal Prison

August 19th, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

“If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only think lacking…is freedom.” —Dwight Eisenhower

Does your drive for security shackle your potential?

Everyone wants to feel secure. The desire to meet our basic needs for food and shelter is a powerful driver which takes center stage whenever we feel it is threatened.  However, when our need for security becomes our supreme focus it exacts a significant price and ultimately hinders our success.

One of the most detrimental consequences of a disproportionate focus on security is reliance on an organization to take care of you.  In today’s work world, this is not only ineffective it is inappropriate. When you go to work for an organization you are entering into a mutual contract which can be terminated at any time by either the organization or yourself.

An organization can never guarantee you anything.  Their responsibility is to provide a fair wage, create a safe working environment, and assure they abide by fair labor practices.  Beyond these basics, your organization doesn’t owe you anything. They can’t guarantee you will have a job or that they will even be in business in a year. We would all love to work for an organization that is reasonably stable, treats their employees with respect, and invests time and energy to help their employees grow.  Any organization that does this effectively will set themselves apart as an employer of choice; however, as an employee this is “icing on the cake” and not something you should take for granted.

Another dangerous consequence of a preoccupation with security is risk aversion. When your biggest fear is losing your job, you will avoid any activity you think could make you look bad or anger others. The status quo becomes your friend as you refuse to promote change and develop new skills.  In reality, nothing around you is going to stay the same whether you choose to change or not.  Ironically your steadfast refusal to change with the times will render you obsolete and likely the first to go during a downsizing.

So a sense of security is a natural need but you shouldn’t place your security in the hands of a given organization. Where does that leave you?  Placing your security where it should be, with yourself.  The more confidence you have about your strengths and what you are capable of, the less you will worry about your ability to rebound should you lose your job. However, this isn’t easy work.  For most people it is challenging to look at themselves to determine what they have to offer.  Too many people are operating out of what I call a mindset of false humility, where they don’t believe they are good at anything and that even if they are it is inappropriate to discuss it because they perceive it as bragging.  This mindset that will keep you fearful of losing your job and likely make it harder for you to find a new job should the need arise.

In order to break through this mindset, you need to be willing to look at yourself and honestly assess what you are good at and what you aren’t. Start by identifying the knowledge, skills, and talents you possess. One good activity is to identify your most significant professional accomplishments and break them down to identify the knowledge, skill, and talent you used to achieve success. Look for patterns and themes throughout your accomplishments. These may point to areas that are of particular strength for you.

Once you’ve identified your strengths and what you are capable of, challenge yourself to take it to the next level.  Look for opportunities to use these strengths more regularly or fully within your current role or within a community organization.  Search out opportunities to attend classes or read books that will help you refine these skills and abilities and make them even stronger. Finally, use your strengths to identify and propose a potential change or new idea in your organization.  Trust that you know what you are talking about and be willing to throw your hat in the ring.  Even if the idea isn’t accepted, you will have demonstrated that you are capable of thinking broader and challenging the status quo.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify the knowledge, skills, and talents associated with your top 5 professional accomplishments.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC