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Steps We Take Can Help Us Become Better Leaders

One of the things I like most about writing a weekly blog is that it reminds me what I need to do to become a better leader. I don’t pretend to be a great leader. I do plan, however, to get better day by day, week by week, year by year. This blog helps me become better and, hopefully, it helps you become better.

A few things happened this week that remind me of things we all need to do to increase our effectiveness as great leaders.

Keep in Touch with People that Helped you Along the Way

These people may be peers or maybe they were mentors of yours at some point. I started working for Kinetico Inc. 32 years ago. Their founder, Bill Prior, was a visionary in several fields. In my five years there he taught me several key lessons.

One was simply keeping a daily diary/calendar. His was a simple “seven days at a glance” calendar that showed each day in 15 minute intervals. I was always amazed how Bill could go back and see who he visited with every day looking back several years. Today, there are electronic versions. Use what works for you, but keep a chronicle of your activities and contacts.

Look for Solutions—Don’t Just Identify Problems

I remember walking in Bill’s office one day at the young age of 27 and alerting him to another problem. He told me that I was always welcome to come into his office—but asked that I do so when I can present possible answers to our challenges. It changed me and helped me become much more creative finding solutions.

For some reason I always remembered his birthday was Valentine’s Day. This year I found his e-mail was and sent him a quick note just thanking him for teaching me his leadership qualities and wishing him a happy birthday.

Here is an excerpt from the e-mail he sent back to me a few days later:

“So thank you for remembering my birthday. Yup, I’m 82. I’m older and weaker, but I’m the same guy. [I’m] still working on developing sustainable quality water.”

Make Sure You Are Passionate about What You Do

I remembered something else about Bill when I received his note. Bill was passionate about what he created. I remember him talking about his vision for quality water 25 years ago. Only after “official retirement” is he able to take that passion to the next level as he keeps inventing stuff.

Send Notes of Encouragement

The other action item that came to mind this week was triggered by a note I received from someone who attended a training session I conducted several years ago. I sent her a note of encouragement and this is an excerpt of what she sent:

“Thanks, Mark. It is words of encouragement like that that keep me going! The absolute honest truth is that you were one of the people that inspired me. I first met you in El Paso, Texas (2008) at the UT Collage of Business franchise certification class.”

Any idea how that made me feel?

This was reinforced as I listened to an interview with Bradley Cooper on PBS’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Cooper was describing to her how he would use a camcorder to film himself in his kitchen auditioning for roles. He did this over 200 times, distributing the homemade tapes to casting directors. At one point Robert DeNiro came to Cooper’s home in Los Angeles to meet him. He told Cooper that he didn’t get the part but to continue doing what he was doing.

Cooper did and the rest is history. Cooper looks back on the kindness that DeNiro shared. He validated Cooper’s what-seemed-like-fruitless efforts when he was a young actor.

So Here Are our Leadership Challenges this Week:

—We need to reach out to someone who inspired us and say thank you! We have to tell them what a difference they made for us.

—Secondly, we need to reach out to someone and tell them we like what they are doing. Surprise someone. Make it a point to find someone who isn’t expecting anything from you.

I promise you it will make for a very rewarding week and increase your leadership skills!

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