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Strategic Discipline Blog

4 Keys Ingredients to Leadership Success

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, May 8, 2017

Jack Welch Others Succeed.pngThe most rewarding part of being a business coach is watching the business and people you coach grow and succeed.  If you’re in business, I’m sure you share this feeling.

Conversely when someone you coach doesn’t attain success you feel extremely disappointed.

Several weeks ago, I received an email from a former customer.  It wasn’t the first time he’d contacted me since our initial engagement.

He was seeking help, feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, wondering what to do.

I listened, then responded with compassion and understanding.

This former customer is intelligent, he is disciplined (he’s completed several triathlons), his business has been very successful in the past.

Our past relationships have yielded very little progress for him or his business.

Our last short coaching engagement was last year.  He hired me to help him Topgrade an office manager for his segment of the business.

We began the process using the Snapshot portal Topgrading provides to screen candidates.  We received 10 qualified candidates who had submitted their Career History forms, and had the necessary Snapshot profile to conduct a phone screen interview.  topgrading_snapshot_(a_player)-resized-600-1.jpgAbout half of the candidates made it through the phone screen interview I conducted, with the final candidate showing exceptional qualifications, motivation, and resourcefulness.  I believed he could do the job, handle the challenge of working with my customer’s personality.  This former customer is a perfectionist who tends to micro manage.  To this point he’d only hired minimum wage employees, occasionally attempting to find more qualified people for positions of management potential, but never finding anyone capable of meeting his standards.

This final screening interview made me feel very optimistic about the potential to help my customer finally break through a barrier that’s been limiting his company for years.  He would finally have an A player committed to acquiring more A players to increase productivity, reduce staff, and achieve better results in sales and marketing.

The Call

After the interview with this candidate I sent a copy of my notes, including an intro in my email indicating, “We may have found your ideal candidate.”  My customer responded shortly thereafter with a phone call.  “We’re going to have to put this on hold Doug!  The governor is planning to increase minimum wage here to $15, and if he does we’re going to strongly have to consider moving to another state.  I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but there’s no sense hiring someone for this position if I don’t know where we’re going to be a year from now.”

My efforts to reason with my customer failed, “Mr. X, there’s no reason to be concerned with an increase in minimum wage.  A year from now you won’t have anyone on your staff at minimum wage.  You agreed you need to Topgrade your staff.  Next year you’ll have less people, producing more, at an overall lower cost of compensation.”

Mr. X remained fearful.  Even if it wouldn’t affect him, it would affect his brothers part of the business, the factory where their products were produced.  His fear paralyzed him. 

Plant your Seeds in Fertile Soil

quote-whatever-the-mind-can-conceive-and-believe-the-mind-can-achieve-regardless-of-how-many-napoleon-hill-48-65-93.jpgWhen Mr. X rejected my proposal this time, I recalled Marshall Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, and The Keys to Improvement from the 2011 Houston Growth Summit.

Goldsmith, a highly successful executive business coach, offered his success wasn’t predicated on how good he is, but rather on how good his customers are.

In other words, who you select to coach or be on your team is more important than what you know, learn, and do.

Remember Jim Collins, “First Who Than What?” 

No matter where you plant your seeds, they need fertile ground to grow.  If you plant your seeds in weeds, rocks or sandy soil, your return will be far less than planting them in lush, fertile soil in the right climate.

Attitude, Discipline, Priority, Trends

Whether you’re the CEO, key leadership team member, HR, or simply someone who has a deep desire to learn, grow, and improve, my coaching and business experience suggest there are four key characteristics you need to acquire to succeed.

Here are four key ingredients for successful leadership:

  1. Attitude: The most powerful audio tape I listened to when I first started my business life was Earl Nightingale’s Lead the Field, “Your attitude at the beginning of a task more than anything else determines the successful outcome of that task.” Your attitude is the single greatest contributor to your success. We’ve shared this idea in Kids Say the Darndest Things – Formula for Human Potential.  If you don’t believe this, please read this blog again.  Can you change your attitude?  If you expect your outcomes to be good, this suggests you can.  I believe affirmations can change your attitude.
  2. Discipline: No one achieves success without possessing a generous amount of discipline. Discipline requires energy which is derived from having a purpose.  Without a purpose for your life, your business, you will never sustain the discipline to meet the challenges you face. Do you have the highest level of purpose to achieve the results you want? If you don’t believe business requires discipline, read BIG LIE #3 – Myth of Self Discipline.
  3. Priority: What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? This One Thing rule is the key to success in your business and personal life.  We’ve share countless examples of this which can be found 54x in One Thing, and the 7x The One Thing Blogs I’ve written. The concept is beautifully captured in Gary Keller’s The One Thing: The Surprisingly Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Keller notes, “The ONE Thing shows up time and again in the lives of the successful because it’s a fundamental truth. Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects. It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.”  Are you cultivating a One Thing focus in your life and your business?
  4. Trends: It’s never been more important for business leaders to be cognizant of change and developing trends. The lifespan of S&P 500 company at one time was 67 years.  It’s dropped to 15 years. In the 9 months Salim Ismail took to write his book, The Exponential Organization, he discovered this number dropped to just 12 years.  In Outthinkers and Thinkers In Business - Examples  we shared companies who have emerged due to quick thinking and innovation, as well as several who failed with disastrous consequences. David Rose, economics professor University of Missouri-St. Louis, Author, The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior states, “Any business still doing business as they did in the 20th century will not survive the 21st Century.” Need help recognizing how new discoveries and innovations are changing the world and impacting your business?  

If your business would like coaching help with your growing business, please consider
our help in reaching your goals.  Please contact


“Great Performance is about 1% vision and 99% alignment.”  Jim Collins, Built to Last.  In Above the Line, Urban Meyer dedicates a complete chapter to Alignment.  Can a championship winning college football coach teach us anything about the value of alignment in our business?  We’ll explore this next blog.


Topics: Discipline, priority, Leadership DNA, Effective Leadership, Attitude, Trends

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1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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