Month: November 2018

November 19, 2018

Who is your Kevin McHale?


“Fortune Favors the Bold” – Bohemian Rhapsody

On one of my best days in 2018, I was boarding my flight when I looked up and saw Kevin McHale sitting in seat 2A. Without even thinking I blurted out, “Kevin! Wow, hello!” like he was my best high school buddy, reaching my hand across the person in 2B all but elbowing them. I love those moments – when at 50 years old I’m suddenly transformed into my 14-year-old self. From my perspective, Kevin was THE power forward in 1982, playing for the Boston Celtics team that had just won the ‘81 NBA championship. I remember studying his moves: baby hook, turnaround jumper, but it was the drop step from the low post that he perfected.

On that day, Kevin graciously shook my hand and I took my seat in 19B. Being the ever-persistent fan, I walked with Kevin from the gate to the baggage claim area. I thanked him for teaching me the drop step, which had allowed me to start as power forward for the St Patrick’s 8th-grade team. Our team went 35 and 3 that year, letting Kevin know he had played a key role in that was very cool.

In 1982, at 14 years old, all I knew was that I wanted to improve my basketball game. The best self-directed step seemed to be watching and adopting the techniques of the best NBA player who played my position. Little did I realize that this was my first attempt at using a Gap Analysis Continuous Improvement Process.

Here are the steps to that process:

Envision your goal. For example, to become the top sales professional or top general manager in the industry.

Find a role model. Study the industry’s top professionals to find your Kevin McHale and make a list of everything he or she does. Notice I said the industry’s top professionals, not your company’s. Aside from the relatively restricted range of talent that you will find within one company, you will also limit your exposure to new ideas and approaches. An individual company’s practices are subject to historical biases and outdated customs that are likely begging for a fresh perspective.

Create a list of questions. These should be aimed at learning about this top professional’s path, both his successes and failures. Be comprehensive with your questions, we will sort and prioritize later. Be confident, professionals at the top of their game will be open and willing to help.

Your list of questions should be thorough:

  • What steps do you take developing your sense of purpose?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • How do you handle stress?
  • How do you recharge your batteries?
  • How do you maintain your level of energy?
  • What methods do you use to stay positive?
  • Who do you go to when you need objective feedback and increased self-awareness?
  • What is your diet?
  • What is your workout regimen?
  • How do you manage your work/life balance?
  • How do you set goals?
  • What are the 3 biggest mistakes you’ve made in your career?
  • What is your process for managing your ego?
  • What are your favorite creative sources?
  • How much time do you dedicate to personal development per week and what do you do?
  • What is your process for staying organized?
  • How did you develop your financial discipline?
  • What spurs your curiosity?

Now, take that list of questions and give it to 5 people who know you well and care about you enough to be brutally honest. What are the gaps between you and your Kevin McHale? Break the list into the following 4 categories: low effort-low impact, low effort-high impact, high effort-low impact, high effort-high impact.

Carefully write down the high effort-low impact and low effort-low impact items and throw them away.

If you are fortunate enough to have low effort-high impact items on the list, pursue them.

High effort-high impact areas are where the rubber meets the road. As humans, we are inherently emotional beings prone to undervalue the high impact-high effort items in order to protect our egos. This is the same reason I choose to shoot free throws every time I’m at the gym. As an 87% free throw shooter in high school, my ego loves the free throw line – off-handed ball handling and shooting… not so much.

What is the one thing from the high effort-high impact list that will bring about the greatest evolution and advancement toward your goal? Concentrate your efforts on this “One Thing”. Set a reasonable timeline to learn, practice and implement these changes. Stay focused until you can apply the new methods consistently when under pressure.

What is the value of a professional coach?

  • To help you recognize the high impact-high efforts areas.
  • To help you understand that what your brain perceives as Mt. Everest is emotional fiction, the reality is a countryside rolling hill.
  • To force you to work on the highest impact area of your game, which typically requires the greatest emotional resiliency.


My daughter Madalena will be graduating from UW Madison this spring. Looking back and comparing pictures of her as an incoming freshman to a graduating senior I am in awe… such phenomenal growth. Why in the hell should accelerated growth be exclusive to the young?

With every breath keep growing! – Tony


November 5, 2018

Are you working for a Mushroom Leader?

“I never saw your future only your possibilities” – Billy, counselor at The Refuge

Coaching youth sports for over 20 years created some of my favorite life memories. Youthful souls, hungry to learn and full of energy. I view my role as coach with this simple objective: learning how to compete, win and lose well is foundational to a successful life. The accelerated learning loop of athletics might be its greatest asset. Attempt, fail, assess, adjust, try again. That loop can happen dozens of times in one game. Learning to compete requires mental resiliency, the common trait among top career professionals.

Years back when my sons were in grade school, a new director took over the town baseball program. Their first action was changing the names of the teams from the Cubs, Pirates and Tigers to the Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries. Yes, this is a true story, you can’t make this up. Their next move, we were no longer to keep score and statistics. The purpose was to avoid exposing kids to failure and act like some protective bubble from the reality of life. The change was initiated out of fear for the children’s’ feelings and emotional state. Irrational and ridiculous, right? When the kid strikes out at the plate, it’s impossible for their peers and parents to unsee what just happened. In life, when has any good come from hiding a failed attempt? The essence of a great athletic experience that comes from embracing outcomes with encouragement and proper guidance, was destroyed. The response was overwhelmingly negative, and the director was replaced, thankfully, the following year.

At various industry speaking events, I focus on helping operators improve their recruiting efforts. I am shocked at the large numbers of companies that refuse to share financials, profit and loss statements, with employees. When asking them “Why?” the responses range from “confidentiality” to “the people’s inability to handle it” or “it’s just not our traditional way”.  These responses are rooted in an irrational fear of some sort, you can see it in their eyes. A more honest answer might be, operators either feel guilty because of the high profits they are making and low compensations they are paying their employees or embarrassment of the low profits the company is generating as it negatively reflects their poor leadership. Not sharing financials is called the “Mushroom Management” approach, avoiding the facts and not allowing the crucial conversations to take place. Consistently the results are disengaged people and high turnover rates, mixed with mediocre talent, delivering low profits.

“We live two lives; the one we learn with and the one we live with.”

Naming a sports team the Raspberries and not keeping score or stats is equally as ridiculous as not being transparent with your financials. Being human means we often do not act not in our best interest, but rather in the interest of serving our ego and emotional state. Our subconscious mind’s favorite tool in this ploy psychologists call “duration neglect”, in which we craft stories about the experiences of our past to support our emotional state. Simply put, we lie to ourselves. And worse, we make future decisions based on those lies. Don’t kid yourself, duration neglect is a pervasive human trait. Resist the natural response of applying the concept to someone else and take the tough look in the mirror. Collecting facts and tracking how activity impacts financials is the best duration neglect defense. Financials don’t lie, making them the ultimate report card.

Employees can hold their own fault and responsibility fulfilling a role supporting the Mushroom Management model. As it requires a codependency of employees willing to lie about how great the company and its leaders are, in return the leaders don’t hold them accountable. If you are in a position where you cannot define your impact and value in hard numbers daily, you are likely in some form of Mushroom Company, or Mushroom Position. National Sales positions are famous for lacking clarity between their daily actions and market share and profit gains. Key buying decisions are made in the local market, what is your impact on the company beyond the next golf best ball tourney? A person’s unhealthy fear of change and exploring a better career path is a vote of confidence for the Mushroom business model and being treated this way. If you find yourself in this business model take action. Create your own measurements, tie them to a financial result. Request 360 feedback from peers and leadership. Develop your own mini-MBA, reading and studying books a minimum of 4 hours per week. Personal development done well should increase your income by 20% per year minimum and increase your efficiency by more than the 4 hours per week you are carving out to study. Call our team, we can help get you started.

Leadership – it comes down to trust and impact. Either you trust the people that make up your company, or you don’t. The actions of a prevailing trust culture are easy to identify – everyone in the company understands how their daily efforts impact the P&L and want to be measured and rewarded based on that clear outline. Open conversations regarding the professional’s current skills and talent, including both successes and failures, are welcomed. Leadership, in turn, requires constant feedback, increasing their self-awareness acting to grow and improve to close their leadership gaps. Great professionals take advantage and look forward to their failures, knowing their approach will drive significant personal growth on the other side.

The choice is simple: allow everyone to keep score and individual statistics through financial transparency, or keep telling lies. Regardless of whether or not your head is buried in the sand, there are winners and losers. I guess, you could always change your name to the Raspberries.


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