Write your story

 

A little over a week ago Grace Upon Grace … My Story was released.  The most consistent feedback that I have received has been  “I need to write my story, too.”

I agree. You have a story!  Everyone needs to write their story.  It would help you and those around you.

In Grace Upon Grace there are experiences described that you may be living today. There are chapters in my story that may become chapters in your story in the future. Grace Upon Grace exposes my life experiences so you can laugh and cry with me. More importantly, my life story is for you to draw strength and inspiration when you are in the midst of a personal storm in your life. And, I hope it will be a reminder for you to celebrate grace during your time of peace and joy.

My greatest desire is that you will become more acutely aware of your own story and all of your gracious blessings, regardless of your current circumstances.

Write your story. You can start with writing five or ten minutes a day.  Just get started. You may be surprised to discover how the events of your life were woven together to help you become the person you are.  You lasting legacy will be the experiences that you document and share.

When you write your story, you may discover with astonishment, amazement, and humbleness – as I did – God’s amazing grace upon amazing grace throughout your life. I hope you do.

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Medicare, Social Security and Pickelball

Well, I have reached the age where my conversations tend to mysteriously evolve to medicare, social security and pickelball. (If you don’t know what pickelball is, google it. It is probably not what you are thinking).

I can’t be 65, can I? Almost. I will be 65 years old in two days. How could that be?

I have a theory about aging. My theory is that everyone thinks that they are 30% younger than the number of birthdays they have celebrated. So, in my mind I will be about 45 years old in a couple of days. I believe my theory until I try to do some things that I did when I was 45 and quickly discover that the 65 candles on the cake may be correct.

65 years tends to be a landmark age. A lot of people retire at 65. Medicare kicks in. You are a veteran AARP member. Some 65ers begin traveling. Some try to figure out their next chapter in life. Many people after they adjust to their new reality enter into their best years. For all of us, turning 65 is a natural time for reflection and anticipation for the fourth quarter of our life.

Several months ago I began reflecting and documenting my life. I think that everyone should take the time to review and share with others the events that shaped our lives. You have a unique story that only you can write. I hope you will consider doing that!

I invite you to connect with me and my reflections. Grace Upon Grace … My Story reveals the lessons that I learned and provides some insight on how those experiences may help you become the person you want to be.

Many of you have been with me on my journey. You may have been beside me in school, Xerox, FedEx, CornerStone or with me on my personal journey. You witnessed my successes and failures, breakthroughs and heartbreaks, joys and suffering.

You may get a chuckle or two when you read about some of our memories.

If you are interested in reading my story, check out Grace Upon Grace … My Story from CornerStoneLeadership.com or Amazon.com.

Cheers to many years of Medicare, Social Security and Pickelball.

Monday Morning Backstory

“How did you come up with the idea of Monday Morning Leadership?”  That is the most common question I am asked. I am not sure why so many people are interested in knowing the backstory to Monday Morning but maybe it is time for me to publically share my story.

Before I get to the Monday Morning backstory, it is important to know that that Monday Morning Leadership is unique in several ways.  It took days to visualize the concept of the book instead of weeks.  It took two days to write the first complete draft instead of months. Final edits took a couple of weeks instead of volleying the manuscript back and forth between me and the editors for months. And, it has been a perennial best-seller for sixteen years.  For all of those unique events to happen, I am convinced that – for whatever reason – Monday Morning Leadership was God’s special gift to me.

Here is the backstory. In 2002, I was traveling on a business trip from Dallas to Atlanta.  During the plane ride I read a book titled Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom.  The book was a true story about an old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, and Mitch who was one of his students at Brandeis University. Nearing the end of the professor’s life, Morrie and Mitch agreed to meet on Tuesdays for the professor to share his thoughts and experiences. I thought the book was interesting in the way that Morrie taught Mitch with weekly stories inside of his major story.  The wisdom shared by the professor was insightful, although not real inspirational. I enjoyed the book but finished it feeling more depressed than when I started.

The following week while I was traveling to Toronto the Tuesday’s with Morrie concept consumed my thoughts.  I could not help but think that we need an inspirational book in the business arena where a trusted mentor guides someone whose career may have hit a snag.  My thoughts were that the book would need to be practical lessons but also provide tools and hope to the reader. The thought would not pass but my more prevalent and realistic thought was “I am not sure how to put that together in a book.”

This trip was during the time when if you travelled on Saturday your airfare was reduced by about half.  I was traveling to conduct a training class and had agreed with my friend, Mark Layton, that I would travel on the weekend to save on his company’s expenses.

So, I was alone on a Saturday night in a hotel room in Toronto scribbling notes about Tuesday’s with Morrie.  Then, seemly out of the blue, a business concept surfaced.  What if I developed two fictional characters who would meet every Monday for several weeks?  Their meetings could address issues faced by every manager and provide a mentor’s wisdom that would encourage and guide the manager through the crisis?  Suddenly, the book concept was crystal clear.

At that time, and even today, the common challenges managers face are obvious: Accepting responsibility without excuses, maintaining focus, staying connected with the team, maintaining integrity, making great hires and coaching, time management, recognition, and continuous improvement.  I narrowed my list down to those eight areas because I wanted the book to be brief so that people would actually read it. Those eight challenges became stand-alone chapter ideas to form the outline of the book.

I have read and heard about many people who have an “out of body” experience, an unexpected touch, or a feeling that God intervened in their life in a miraculous way.   I took those stories with a grain of salt until it happened to me with Monday Morning.

I did not write Monday Morning.  Oh, my hands were on the keyboard but the inspiration was from a power greater than me.  Ideas and words started to flow like never before nor since. For two days, my experiences at Xerox, FedEx, and CornerStone were interwoven tightly together to create one seamless story.  The characters quickly revealed themselves as people that I knew.  The main character was the mentor, Tony Pearce who was named after Tony Van Roekel – the person who promoted me into my first leadership position at Xerox – and Pearce, my father in law. The “student” was Jeff Walters (the combined names of two different guys who I was mentoring at the time).  The rest of the characters were named after family members:  Karen, Michael, Kim, Jeni and several other friends.

I could not sleep.  The keyboard was sizzling.  The chapter on accepting responsibility became Drivers and Passengers that was initiated from a casual conversation with my best friend Louis Krueger. Focus became Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing created from direction given by Jim Barksdale with FedEx.  Staying connected with the team became Escape from Management Land built on a conversation with Dan Amos, CEO of Aflac.  The integrity chapter became The Do Right Rule based on my father’s teachings to me.  Great hires and coaching became Hire Tough centered around a casual conversation with my friend Eric Harvey. Time management evolved to Do Less or Work Faster based on my previous book of 175 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time.  Recognition became Buckets and Dippers based on a private conversation with the late Don Clifton.  Continuous improvement evolved into Enter the Learning Zone – I do not remember what generated that thought.

When I returned home to Dallas on Monday evening, the book was complete.  Done.  The writing process for a normal book is at least six months for the first draft.  Monday Morning was completed that weekend in Toronto.

Monday Morning combined many of my experiences into one short book that has sold well over a million copies worldwide.  How could I do that?  I didn’t.  It was a gift that was given to me.  Most of you do not know the personal challenges I was facing at that time.  Trust me, it was a dark and difficult period.  Everything was tested including my faith.  For whatever reason, God chose Monday Morning to be the catalyst to propel me from an emotional bottom to something far greater than anything I would have ever asked.

Now you know the backstory of Monday Morning Leadership.  Thank you Jesus!

It’s Thanksgiving week!

Thanksgiving week is my favorite week of the year.  Regardless of how busy I am, before carving the turkey I carve out some reflection time. I think about my family and the close friends who mean the most in my life. I think about associates whose kind words and a little nudge have provided me the inspiration and encouragement I needed to press on.

I hope you will take a moment to encourage a relative, friend or associate today.  You will probably never know the impact of your encouragement.  And, you may be surprised to discover a boomerang of encouragement that comes right back at you.  Try it.

Thanks to people like you, I have been blessed to live out a dream far greater than I could have imagined. Thank you! I have been extraordinarily blessed.

May this Thanksgiving week provide you peace, love, and encouragement for the future.

David

Learning from Failure

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

  • Thomas Edison

Why do some people who have incredible gifts and abilities end up going nowhere?  I believe that the main reason that those talented people get stuck in their career mud is how they respond to failure. They take the easy route, accept failure and give up. And, watch out, they may throw some blame and victimization your way.

On the other hand, successful people learn from failure. In fact, most successful people fail faster and more often than the average person. They learn enough from failure to be successful.

When failure shows up:

  1. You have to stay in the game. You may have to change direction but you are in good company. Every successful person has been where you are. No one has been successful without overcoming some adversity along the way.
  2. Failure is teacher. Keep your eyes open to the opportunities that failure is teaching you to move toward.
  3. Don’t hang your head. Hold your head high and look failure squarely in the eye and say, “I am bigger than you. You cannot ruin me. I am going to learn from you and whip you.”

Excerpted from Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.

No Rules. Just Right.

 

Do you remember that restaurant slogan a few years ago?  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it.  Get what you want without following any rules. That may sound like a pretty good way to run your organization.  After all, isn’t the bottom line the bottom line regardless of how you get there?  And, many people have rebelled against rules since sixth grade.  Give them what they want –freedom!

Really?  Do you think they really want to work in a no rules environment? They probably want everyone else to have structure and rules … each person wants the autonomy to do it their way, right?  That may sound good but allowing anyone complete autonomy is a good way to ruin your organization.

However, a shift you may want to consider is to make is to shift from absolute structure to enabled autonomy – where your team’s independence is encouraged and supported within your established guidelines. Technology has created an avenue for more autonomy and creativity in how results are achieved, but there has to be a balance between structure and autonomy. No rules, just right does not work.

Structure creates definition and clarity. And it also helps to provide you with information, strategy, resources, and recognition. In addition, it provides a consistent way to enforce rules and ethics. Structure is necessary, but it exists only to assist in the results you are trying to achieve. It does not exist to manage the process you follow.

Absolute autonomy – total independence – may sound good and may even work for a short period, but it does not work long-term. Without some structure, chaos will reign. The result would be constantly shifting priorities, direction, processes … and the fallout would be unhappy customers and disengaged employees. Long-term chaos is never a good thing. Your structure is designed to prevent chaos from sneaking into your team disguised as fulfilling a need to be autonomous.

No one wants to be micromanaged. But, there is responsibility that comes with enabled autonomy. Your primary responsibility is to create positive, healthy conditions for your team to do their best work. The more freedom that they are provided within your guidelines, the more responsibility they will accept to deliver positive results.

Here are a few points to ponder as you coach your team from structure to enabled autonomy:

  1. Too much structure or too much autonomy is toxic to your team.  Do you have a balance of structure and enabled autonomy?
  2. Does your team have the freedom to creatively deliver positive results?
  3. Simplicity liberates your team.

Based on the book LeaderShift … Making leadership everyone’s business.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Living Your Purpose

How do you define and live your personal purpose?
I think that you have to answer three main questions with crystal-clear clarity:

First, what are you currently doing that you believe in and are proud of? To prevent drifting, you have to know where you are. You have an unique set of skills. You have been trained and understand the demands and challenges of your role. Given your knowledge of your job, how does your role at work connect with your purpose?

The second question is: what positive difference do you make to those around you? Are you a positive influencer who lives your purpose? What do people say about you when you are not around? What if you did not show up at work for a week, would it matter?

The third question is: ‘Does your work contribute toward your personal purpose?’ You are at work a majority of the time. Your time at work should be an opportunity to help you become the person you want to be. If what you do at work does not add to your personal purpose in some way – like providing you the funds, knowledge, skills, time, or connections with others who can help guide you toward your purpose – then you may need to make adjustments. If you connect your personal purpose with your job, everything at work will be a lot easier and more fulfilling.

For example, one person’s purpose is to help the less fortunate in our area. His job provides him resources, skills, and knowledge to help hundreds of people every year. His job also provides him connections. Several of his co-workers, and their friends, invest their time and energy to help him fulfill his purpose thus he can help thousands of people every year. His job is not the end to fulfill his purpose, it is the means for him to become the person he wants to be. The more successful he is at his job, the more funds, knowledge, skills, time, and connections he has to live out his purpose.

Here are a few points to ponder as you coach your team from drifting to purpose:

  1. Do you come to work with your purpose of doing a task … or are you coming to work because your task will help you achieve your purpose?
  2. Have you fallen into a comfortable niche and drifted instead of pursuing your purpose?
  3. Do you believe in what you are doing?  If so, you will achieve your best and enjoy life to the fullest.

Based on the book LeaderShift … Making leadership everyone’s business.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/