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



The Art of Leadership

February 16th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

“Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” —Dwight Eisenhower

Is your staff compliant or committed?

Leadership is a complicated endeavor. Success is dependent upon your ability to build a team that is committed to your vision as well as the aims of the organization. Leaders don’t simply give orders and enforce compliance; they inspire commitment within each member of the team.

Effective leaders understand that the key to influencing their staff is to make it personal. They recognize that each member of the team has a unique set of motivations and that money is not their highest priority. Additionally, they understand that each individual wants to master a task, which will enable them to make a positive contribution.

Your responsibility as a leader is to understand your employees’ values, passions and strengths. In order to foster commitment within them, it’s important to help them understand how they can utilize their unique talents and passions to make a difference for the team, organization, customers, and community as a whole.

Once your staff understands and appreciates the impact they can make, provide the autonomy they need to make it happen. Encourage them to collaborate with the rest of the team to identify strategies for utilizing their strengths, which they may not recognize. Finally, when they encounter challenges along the way help them consider various approaches to overcome the barriers they face.

There are no shortcuts to success as a leader. Simply giving orders won’t work. If you want to be successful as a leader, you must invest the time and energy necessary to build the commitment within your team. Once you do, you will have created a team full of enthusiastic and energetic individuals that are inspired to achieve the shared vision.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Make time to talk with each of your staff about their passions, values, and strengths.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Define Yourself

January 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

“We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”

—Virginia Satir

Are you proactively defining yourself?

Everyone’s perception is limited. We all believe our perception is reality, but it’s actually only one piece of a bigger puzzle. Each of our individual perceptions are based upon our unique set of experiences and are therefore biased.

You’re the best judge of what’s right for you. Nobody else, your family, friends, or manager are in a better position to accurately assess what you need to do. Others have a valid perspective to offer and you may benefit from learning from their vantage point. However, you need to recognize the limitations of these various perspectives. Ultimately what is right for one person may not be what is best for you.

In any given situation, you’re the one that must decide which route to take. Take time to consider how the various options align with your strengths and values. Also consider which option excites or energizes you. Although having a steady job with an established company may be the best approach for a close friend or family member, maybe starting your own business or going back to school to change careers is what is most consistent with the real you.

You only have one life to live! It’s your life and you’re responsible for making the most of it. Fulfillment comes from refusing to live a second rate version of your ideal life. Make the decision to take your dreams seriously. Start today to define and claim the life you want to live.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Write about how your dream day would look if you made the decision to embrace the life that is right for you.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker M.Ed., LLC




Are You Believable?

October 21st, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”

John Maxwell

Why should your team believe in you?

A couple of weeks ago in my article Look Forward, I talked about the importance of having a vision.  Without an inspiring vision for the future you might be an effective manager of the status quo but you aren’t a leader.  However, as the quote above by John Maxwell indicates, vision isn’t enough.  It is impossible to accomplish your vision without the assistance of your team and you can’t convince them to follow you unless they trust and believe in you.

Great leadership begins with self-awareness.  You need to be crystal clear about who you are and what’s important to you.  Start by articulating your core values and determine how they shape your leadership philosophy.  Next, discover your strengths and become willing to let go of your weaknesses.  These insights will help you determine where to focus your energy as well as the areas in which you should ask others for help.

While self-awareness is important you can’t truly harness its power unless you are willing to share it with your team.  Ensure the members of your team understand what is important to you, what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you as their leader.  Likewise, let them know where they can depend on you to make an impact and which areas you will depend upon them for assistance.  This level of clarity eliminates any confusion that might exist about what it will take for the team to be successful.

After you have let your team know who you are, there is only one thing left to do, follow through!  You must walk the talk or you have no chance building the trust needed to achieve your vision.  However, once you have cultivated your team’s trust and articulated an inspiring vision for the future the possibilities are endless.  You will unleash a creative energy and commitment that can surmount practically any obstacle and potentially create results that surpass your wildest dreams.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Spend one hour journaling about who you are and what is most important to you.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Lead, Don’t Manage

July 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

“Lead and inspire people.  Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be manipulated but people must be led.” —Ross Perot

How do you relate to your staff?

How you interact with your staff is critical to your success as a leader. Some managers believe their role is to issue orders and simply expect their employees to follow direction without asking any questions. They treat people as if they were robots that can be programmed to follow specific steps. However, the best leaders realize this is a completely ineffective approach.

A leader seeks to understand and empower his or her staff.  They recognize that they are dealing with human beings and not robots and we all have a desire to understand why a particular task needs to be done.  We also want the opportunity to share our ideas on how to accomplish the goals of the department and organization so we can feel as though we are fully contributing in the area of our strengths.

Not only does the autocratic approach cause most people to bristle, it actually undermines the creativity and problem solving necessary in most roles today. In his book “Drive”, Daniel Pink distinguishes between algorithmic and heuristic tasks. An algorithmic task is one that has a prescribed order of steps while a heuristic task requires the individual to be creative in order to identify a novel solution to the situation at hand.  Pink predicts that 70% of future job growth will come from heuristic tasks.

Approaching a heuristic task through micro-management of your employees prevents them from successfully solving the problems at hand. To be an effective leader in the 21st Century you must inspire creative problem solving in your employees. The business world is moving and changing so fast, it is impossible for a leader to have all of the answers and he or she has become even more dependent upon the talents of his or her staff.

Once you’ve established a vision for what your team/department/organization needs to accomplish, set your sights on empowering others to make it a reality. Rather than telling your team how to accomplish the goal, ask how they would approach it.  When they come to you with a challenge or obstacle, don’t simply give them the answer.  Coach them through the situation so they can determine how to resolve it.  Finally, let them make mistakes.  As long as they aren’t planning to take action that is going to cripple the organization, allow them to experiment and learn from the experience. 

Leadership is complicated! There isn’t a blue print for how to handle various situations. You are dealing with people and each of them has different personalities, communication styles, values, strengths, and passions.  You have to be patient and learn how to adjust your style in order to work effectively with each of your employees.  Yes, this takes more time but the rewards are immense when you are able to unlock the potential of each individual and develop a team that compliments each other.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one task or project where you need to empower your staff more fully.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC

Aim High

July 1st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it. But that it is too low…and we reach it.” —Michelangelo

How high are you aiming?

Take a deep breath and honestly answer the following question.  Are you striving to achieve your dreams or are you intentionally aiming lower in hopes you will exceed expectations?  This is a difficult question to answer.  Maybe it leads you to the realization that you have been playing it safe in life.  Sure this might enable you to achieve a moderate amount of success, but you aren’t standing out and making the impact you know you are capable of.  You aren’t sharing the authentic you with the world.

There is an inner desire in each of us that is just waiting to explode.  We all have a dream or goal we think about in the quiet moments of our life.  You might long to go back to school and become a teacher.  Possibly you dream of starting your own business.  Or, maybe the desire to relocate abroad is tugging at your heart.  Regardless of what your dream is, you know that achieving it would be a more authentic expression of yourself. However, I’m willing to bet you are scared to take the leap.  You probably ask yourself what if you aren’t good enough.

If you don’t give your dreams a shot, how will you ever know if you are good enough?  Garth Brooks has a great song titled “How you ever going to know” in which he states you will never know how it feels to live the life you were meant to if you never take a chance and dare to try. Instead of being able to say you were successful, or at least that you gave it your best shot, you will find yourself full of regrets and always wondering if you could have made it happen. 

I have one wish for you.  Don’t let yourself get trapped in a life of regrets.  Jump in the game of life and give it your best shot.  Commit to transforming your dream from a vague idea in the back of your head to a specific concept you can articulate to anyone you meet.  Until you are willing to take your dream out of the dark corner of your mind and share it with the world it will remain merely a daydream.  As you share your dream with others you will begin to realize there are a lot of people with ideas and connections that can help you along your journey.

There is risk in following your dream.  You might not succeed in the way you hope to.  However, this does not mean you will have failed. Regardless of what happens in your quest to achieve your dream, you will come out on the other side as a stronger and more authentic person.  You will learn more about who you are, what you are capable of, and what is important to you.  And most importantly, you will be a part of the minority of people in this world that can say, I gave it my best shot!

Time for this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Write out your dream as specifically as you can and identify at least five ways it is an authentic expression of you.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC


Express Your Authentic Self

March 11th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


“Grace is knowing yourself. To be bold is to express you authentic self in such a way that you are serving others and yourself.” —Cliff Hakim

Are you being true to yourself?  Do you know how you can be of service to others?

If you answered no to the questions above, you need to ask yourself what’s holding you back. Maybe you have never stopped to consider the answers to these questions. You might even feel like these questions don’t apply to you because there isn’t anything special or unique about yourself. Or, you may be simply allowing fear to get in the way. Regardless of which situation is true for you, you need to challenge your assumptions if you want to achieve a life of Authentic Excellence.

You are here for a reason and you are meant to use your talents and strengths to make a positive impact in some way. Maybe you already intuitively know what you are supposed to do. It’s as if your soul is tugging at you to embrace your potential and venture out; however, you lack the courage to do so. This fear is natural but it doesn’t have to hold you back. Find someone objective that can help you unpack your fears and analyze which ones are realistic and which aren’t. Once you have let go of the unrealistic fears, you can begin to develop plans to work around the realistic ones.

If you aren’t sure what contribution you are meant to make in the world, begin your journey to discover what that is. Take an honest look at who you are and what is important to you.  What causes and issues get you excited and passionate?  What types of activities come effortlessly and naturally to you? What are you core values? The answers to these questions will help you to explore the type of impact you would like to make. You may come up with ideas that you have never considered and some of them may even feel impractical. Challenge yourself to stay open to all possibilities until you have explored them further.

While taking the time to figure out what you want to do is important, this awareness is not enough.  You must embrace your authenticity. It is important to become completely comfortable with who you are and what you believe you are meant to do so you can share this with others. Keeping what you have to offer a secret won’t benefit you or anyone else. If your goal is to build a career out of your strengths, you may need to begin by giving away what you have to offer for a limited period of time. This way you can build your confidence as well as a list of satisfied clients that can provide testimonials and referrals.

We all suffer when you stifle your authentic self. Not only are you robbing yourself of the opportunity to live a fulfilling life, you are depriving others of the difference you can make in their lives. Nobody can do everything by themselves and we all depend on the support of others from time to time. Dedicate yourself to discovering how you are meant to support the rest of us.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Answer the questions above to begin exploring what you are meant to do with your life.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC

Leadership Jazz

March 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


“I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that is quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation.” —Warren Bennis

How flexible are you as a leader?  Are you open to changing course when necessary?

One of the most discussed leadership topics is the importance of having a vision for your team or organization.  Without a clear vision, your staff will be confused about where they are headed or even why their role is important.  Articulating a vision will help you, and your staff, prioritize more effectively and make better decisions.  However, you must also guard against defining your vision so narrowly that you become trapped.

Your vision should be a living entity.  While you need a crystal clear focus about what you are looking to achieve, it is also essential to remain flexible regarding the strategies you might utilize to get there. Rather than scripting every single step you will take, identify the key milestones and start down the path.  Once you have reached the first milestone, take a step back to reassess and see if you need to make any course corrections. Employing this approach will allow the process to naturally evolve and you just might find you end up creating something even better than you originally imagined.

Likewise, if you want to create an effective vision then make sure it is a “shared vision”.  In order to achieve the level of commitment you need from your team, each member must believe he or she can fulfill his or her own goals and values by helping the team achieve its vision. It is also important to remain open to their ideas.  If you are set on doing everything your way, you will miss out on potentially great ideas.  Additionally, your employees will become disengaged which significantly decreases the probability of achieving your vision. 

Once you have defined and communicated your vision, stay flexible.  Allow new ideas and approaches to naturally present themselves and pay attention to the ideas of your staff. Give each of your employees and opportunity to use their strengths in service of the team’s vision.  Once you have every member of the team owning the vision as their own, you are well on your way to reaching your destination. 

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Spend at least 10 minutes considering the merits of any new idea presented to you.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC

Inner Peace

December 4th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink


“Courage is the price life extracts for granting peace.”

—Amelia Earhart

Do you feel restless?  Does it feel like something is missing in your life?

Money doesn’t buy happiness.  You can have all the material things you need and want in your life, yet still feel restless inside.  This sense of discontent will infect everything you do and lead to a negative attitude.  When you aren’t feeling fulfilled in your life you will begin to worry about the future, which begins a cycle that only perpetuates your negative feelings.

In order to combat this restlessness, you need to develop a sense of inner peace. This frame of mind is rooted in the positive belief that you are on the right path and that everything will work out, regardless of where you are right now.   When you are at peace with yourself you are able to stay calm in any situation.  No matter what is happening to you, you don’t over react and get either too excited or sad.

Additionally, you are able to focus on the present moment and recognize what is perfect about that moment.  Even if you aren’t where you ultimately want to be, there is something perfect in this moment.  Your ability to recognize what that is, as well as the appreciation that it won’t last forever, will bring you a sense of calm in even the most challenging situations.

However, you can’t just think your way into believing you are on the right path.  You have to know that you are. In order to be sure you are on the right path, you need to become clear about who you are to ensure that you can be true to yourself.  You need to have clarity about your values and live according to them.  Finally, you need to have the courage to acknowledge and follow your dreams and not the desires that others have for you. You must be prepared to take risks and even fail along the way.

Life isn’t perfect but each moment you experience can be perfect if you are willing to view it that way.  However, without having a greater meaning to your life each moment will seem like a random and meaningless event.  Once you stand up for yourself and become willing to follow your dreams you will have a new perspective with which to view everything you experience.  Through this prism you will be able to explore what there is to learn in every moment, which will help you to find greater meaning in your life.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify what dream you need to embrace for yourself.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC

Doors Open

May 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do you want to accomplish in your career?  What decision do you need to make?

My personal career path validates Emerson’s quote.  In 1998 I found myself searching for what I wanted to do with my life.  I had a good job with the support of a mentor and some great colleagues.  However, I knew something was missing.  I ended up developing a personal mission statement, “Inspire and foster the potential in others”, and from that day forward doors began to open for me.

While developing and reflecting on this statement, I decided I was interested in the training industry.  Upon sharing my discovery with a colleague, I learned that the organization we worked for had an Organizational Development department.  I met with the manager of the department and she took me to a meeting of the local training professional association.  Over the next five years, my involvement with this association helped me find my first part-time training job, discover the master’s program I graduated from, and meet a colleague who hired me for my second full-time training position.  Oh yeah, I also worked for the OD department of my original organization as well.

At this very moment there are countless opportunities out there for you.  If you can’t recognize them, it is probably because you aren’t clear about what you want.  And if you don’t have clarity, then it is impossible for others to help you.  It wasn’t until I became clear about my interest in training that I became aware of the OD department.  My clarity literally opened a door for me. 

Even though we are currently experiencing challenging economic conditions, we are fortunate to have exponentially more opportunities then generations before us.  There are hundreds of jobs today that didn’t exist 30, 20, or even 5 years ago.  However, all of these possibilities can make it difficult to determine what direction you should take. 

You need to start by determining what impact you want to make in the world.  Think about what excites and/or frustrates you in society and how can you make a difference.  Have you overcome significant challenges in your life that you could help others through?  Think about your core values and how you could fulfill those in a career.  Finally, consider how you can use your natural strengths to make an impact on others.

Reflecting on these concepts will begin to highlight your strongest passions and where you can make a significant contribution.  Once you have an idea of what you want to do or where you want to go, you need to begin sharing your insights with others.  Talk to your family and friends and get their ideas on how to get started.  Attend networking events to meet new people and share your vision of the difference you want to make.  If you take the steps of getting clear and sharing with others, I think you will be amazed by the doors that begin to open.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Carve out one hour to reflect on the impact you want to make in the world.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC