Welcome!

The purpose of this blog will be to celebrate success in life and leadership.  I am honored to connect with some of the finest young leaders who will help shape tomorrow as well as wise seasoned leaders who have made their mark of success and now share their insights through mentoring.

As I interact with these leaders from all over the world, I continue to discover that the light does outshine the darkness.  These men and women in corporations and organizations have demonstrated that once you capture a sense of purpose and meaning for life, you can invest your talents and resources to leave a lasting imprint.

A recent conversation with a fellow Rotarian underscores my motivation for this forum.  Over lunch we discussed what we were experiencing in our professional lives and shared some goals we had for the next couple of years. As he reflected on the financial success he had achieved in his career and considered what he wanted to accomplish the next five years, he paused and then said,

I want to know my time on this earth counted for more than just a pay check.  I want to help those who did not have the opportunities I had as a kid.  I just don’t know…..

He never completed his thought.  As his eyes moved away from direct contact with me, I could see an inner battle playing out in this 45 year old executives mind.  His heart was longing for a life with more meaning; his mind was challenged by the fear of change and frustrated for not knowing what steps to take.

My goal through speaking, coaching, and writing is to inspire more leaders to look  beyond their life walls to see a greater vision and map out stepping stones for creating a legacy that not only brings fulfillment to them but also needed change in communities, corporations and our world.

I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas as together we lift one another to another level of influence and success.

The Most Important Thing That All Leaders Can Do to Be Successful

hand with the raised thumbs

 

By Mike Day, PhD & Kevin Light

We’ve all been there. Things in life can become so complex that it’s hard to diligently focus on anything for the length of time that it deserves. Nurturing a marriage, raising a family, serving and leading a local church, and training business leaders in the U.S. and abroad takes up 110 percent of my time. It’s an exciting and challenging life!  

Because of my renewed focus on non-profit leaders, my mind goes to that leader who must focus on multiple disciplines to effectively lead his or her organization. Because of the foundational need to make the most of donated resources, this leader finds that they need to be CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, and CIO of their organizations. The mission and vision is steadily being fulfilled, but the layers can be so complex that it’s also tempting to give up.

“When my situation becomes so complex, out of simple survival I try to boil it down the most important step or principle to simplify yet still keep things moving forward.”

In searching for what others consider the “most important thing” in life and work, here are just a few interesting quotes –

  • “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”Maya Angelou
  • “The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.”Audrey Hepburn
  • “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”John F. Kennedy
  • “Family is the most important thing in the world.”Princess Diana
  • “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”Peter Drucker
  • “Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the ‘gotta have it’ scale.”Zig Ziglar
  • “Enthusiasm is the most important thing in life.”Tennessee Williams
  • “Politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion.”Pope Francis

While there’s an element of truth in the context of each quote, none of them really help the non-profit leader (or any leader) that feels under-staffed and overwhelmed.

“During my search, I couldn’t find what I think is the singular, most important area to focus on during those challenging moments—relationships.”

Focusing on relationships has the powerful potential to simplify and solve many of the challenges that non-profit leaders are facing –

  • Emotionally, relationships can be comforting, joyful, and inspiring.
  • Rationally, relationships can solve your strategic, funding, technical, staffing, and marketing challenges.

If cultivated with honesty, respect, humility, and authenticity, relationships are the non-profit leader’s (and all leader’s) most powerful asset. So, here’s my quote – “The most important thing in life and work is relationships; without them, you’re hopelessly independent, isolated, and vulnerable.”

What about you? How have relationships encouraged or solved a problem in your life and work? Or, how can relationships be a source to a current challenge? Please share your thoughts and comments below. 

Mike 

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About the Author: 

Mike Day, PhD is President of MorningStar Leadership Group™, a leadership coaching and consulting organization created to provide values-based leadership guidance to some of the finest leaders in America and around the world. He is also a recognized keynote speaker and holds an Accounting degree from Auburn University and a Master’s Degree and PhD from Southern Seminary. Learn more about his speaking, consulting, and resources at MikeDay.com.

 

A Dose of My Own Medicine: My New Leadership Development Plan

By Mike Day, PhD

This past month, I had an “Aha!” moment while practicing what I call other leaders to do. I carved out time for personal reflection to evaluate how well my professional trajectory was aligned with my life vision and values.

Values and Action Defined

Northwestern University professor and former CEO of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer Jr., defines self-reflection as the number one principle in his book on values based leadership, From Values to Action.  Having been a Chairman and CEO of a multibillion-dollar healthcare company, he is well aware of how the whirlwind of work and life can drive a leader far away from the values they intended to maintain.  In his work with MBA students, Kraemer challenges these leaders to incorporate the practice of pulling aside on a regular basis to revisit personal values and evaluate if their professional journey is heading in the direction they desire.

Nonprofit Leadership Development

During my recent reflection time, I concluded that I derive satisfaction and fulfillment helping leaders in all walks of life—corporate, nonprofit and church.  While much

of my personal leadership journey has been in the church and nonprofit sector, most of my leadership work has been with Fortune 500 companies.  These companies invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in leadership development to ensure their leaders have every opportunity to be successful.  Furthermore, most of these companies have also developed leadership universities that provide a plethora of training opportunities.

My Turning Point

As I continued to ponder what I do and where I want to be in 10 years, several questions continued to ring in my mind –

  • Am I called to bridge the gap between these two worlds?
  • Why are you not providing the same level of executive coaching and leadership training to leaders in nonprofits and churches?
  • Why are you not taking high-level training to men and women in other countries where these resources are lacking?

My inner voice answered quickly, “Because they don’t have the money like large companies to pay for these programs.”  Most of these organizations provide services on a shoestring budget.  These leaders would love to have an executive coach, but they don’t have the financial resources to pay for one.  In addition to my initial answer, I followed up… “And, I don’t have the financial savings or means to offer these services for free.”

For the past 15 years, I’ve primarily viewed my leadership work developing corporate leaders whose companies had budgets to pay for my services; but I knew that my time of self-reflection would reveal new curves and adventures ahead.

A New Vision and Renewed PassionMountain Vision Leadership

My next step after my private meeting was to begin holding conversations with other leaders. I shared my thoughts and challenges with this question that continued to ring louder.  Based on these conversations and further thought, I’ve decided to develop a nonprofit organization that offers leadership training programs and executive coaching to leaders in nonprofits, churches, and in countries where leadership training is needed.

While I will continue to work with corporate clients for now, my long term vision is shifting my work primarily to this under-serviced group.  This type of work aligns with my values and stirs up my passion.

Shaping Better Cultures Worldwide

As I think about the work that I’d like to do in my next 15-20 years, I want to be a part of shaping culture for a better future.  Through building strong leaders in nonprofits and churches, these organizations will fulfill their purpose in their communities more effectively; and by working to equip underdeveloped leaders worldwide, I’ll be able to assist them in creating positive change for years to come.

My focused goal is to close the leadership development gap between the corporate and non-profit world, and I’ve committed this chapter of my leadership journey to pursuing this grand adventure!

Please share your thoughts or suggestions below as I move forward with this pursuit. 

Mike  

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Mike Day, PhD is President of MorningStar Leadership Group™, a leadership coaching and consulting organization created to provide values-based leadership guidance to some of the finest leaders in America and around the world. He is also a recognized keynote speaker and holds an Accounting degree from Auburn University and a Master’s Degree and PhD from Southern Seminary. Learn more about his speaking, consulting, and resources at MikeDay.com. 

Two Important Ways to Help Your Team Flourish at Work

Mastering the Leadership DanceWarren Bennis, American scholar and organizational consultant and author, broached the subject of creativity in terms of leadership development. Hsays it this way, “There are two ways of being creative: one can sing and dance, or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” As we all look for methods to help your fellow team members or employees flourish, here are a couple of important ways to create that environment. Hopefully, someone did that for you in your career, so now it’s time to pay it forward.

1. Leaders Recognize and Appreciate

While some people need more positive affirmation than others, all people like to feel appreciated and recognized for their contribution and accomplishments. Look back on your career and remember a special moment when you were recognized or appreciated by someone else. I’m not simply referring to a time when you received a plaque that you took back to your office and stored in a drawer; I’m referring to a moment when you thought, “Wow! This person really noticed what I’ve been doing and publicly affirmed me in very specific ways.” How did that make you feel? That’s genuine recognition and appreciation, and as a leader the best way to build this habit is by spending time with your people.  

Douglas Conant was the president of Campbell Soup until 2011, and he came to the company during an all-time low. He was charged with turning it around, so he employed his proven philosophy of “tough minded on the standards, tender hearted with the people.” He called this practice “touch points.”

“…he employed his proven philosophy of “tough minded on the standards, tender-hearted with the people.” He called this practice “touch points.””

Campbells Soup Leadership StoryAs the CEO, he would walk the hallways and grounds of Campbell Soup with other executives. When he came across an employee, he would stop and ask, “How are you doing? How are things going?” and deliberately spend a few minutes with them. The other executives with him would say, “Why are you wasting your time with your employees like that? You’ve got much more valuable stuff to do.” He said, “No, I see these as touch points where I can clarify vision, express appreciation and recognition, and hear where they are. This helps me to learn what I need to do and what we need to do as leaders to help them get better results.” He saw those moments not as interruptions but as interactions that helped move them forward.

pennies in BMW leadershipWe all have great intentions to connect with our people, and then we get to the office, begin answering emails, attend scheduled meetings, and the day goes by without fulfilling that need to connect with others. From one of my training sessions, I heard about a leader at BMW who established a system to help him connect with his team. He would put five pennies in his left pocket, and those five pennies had to move to his right pocket before the end of the day. The only way a penny could move is if he spent time going out on the shop floor engaging another person by recognizing or appreciating them. If it got toward the end of the day and he hadn’t shifted his pennies from one pocket to another, he knew he wasn’t going home until the task was completed. This was a practical, systematic approach to solve a strategic problem. Sometimes we need those systematic approaches to help create a habit to connect with others.  

“This was a practical, systematic approach to solve a strategic problem. Sometimes we need those systematic approaches to help create a habit to connect with others.”

2. Leaders Create an Environment of Trust

Leaders focused on building a great culture and values should ask themselves regularly how they’re building trust in their organization. Survey after survey validates the character traits that employees want in a leader, and one of the top traits is trust—the confidence that they can put their trust in you and your word.  

Trust is built up by small acts over time. It’s more than the knowledge of people knowing you and you knowing them. It’s not enough for you to know their birthdays and to know something about their kids; it’s making yourself transparent and vulnerable where they know you, too. Your goal is to create an environment of honest yet respectful mutual communication where there is no fear of sudden, harmful consequences.

These are just two of several ways that leaders can create an environment to help other leaders flourish. Which of these attributes can you start immediately? Or if you’ve successfully implemented either of these tactics, please share your success story with me in this forum.

Mike  

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Mike Day, PhD is President of MorningStar Leadership Group™, a leadership coaching and consulting organization created to provide values-based leadership guidance to some of the finest leaders in America and around the world. He is also a recognized keynote speaker and holds an Accounting degree from Auburn University and a Master’s Degree and PhD from Southern Seminary. Learn more about his speaking, consulting, and resources at MikeDay.com.

Why Great Leaders are Dancers—Part 2

By Mike Day, PhD

As we discussed in part one of this article series, leadership can be viewed metaphorically as being a dancer. While most dancers’ perspective remains on the dance floor itself, we noted that those dancers that want a better look at the dance floor find a balcony to get a broader outlook.

So it is with being a manager versus a leader; you must elevate your perspective above the constant noise and movement.

Not only is vision and perspective important in the art of dance and leadership, it’s also important to see all of the changes in dance in recent history. Think about the changes in dance in the last four, five, or six decades. How many of you are familiar with The Ed Sullivan show years and years ago when this gentleman was on there?

Elvis - Mastering the Leadership Dance 

And at the time he was on there, it was only videoed from the waist up, because America was not ready for the movement of the hips. There’s been a little change since then, correct?

How about crumping? Have any of you crumped lately? You see, crumping is an American street dance, and it’s where you use your elbows, your knees, your head, your neck, your nose, and everything, and it’s really expressive and energetic.

Crumping - Mastering the Leadership Dance

And I don’t know about you, but at my age if I start crumping, something’s going to start cracking, and it’s not going to be good!

Just like dance, there’s also been a lot of changes in the workplace and you’re in the midst of some of those changes.

Some of you have been in your workplace for three months; some have been in that same place for three years. Take a couple of minutes to think and write down what you’ve seen in the last six months to a year regarding the culture of your workplace and the changes, stressors, and challenges that you’re facing.

What were some items that you considered in this exercise? Regardless of the examples, I’m guessing that most of them are either challenging or potentially overwhelming.

I also use the dance metaphor because my daughter was a dancer. She began dancing when she was three and danced professionally for a bit before she went to college. And as I watched her dance, I remembered growing up playing and coaching football. We routinely joked with our fellow football players, “If you can’t hack it out here, we’re going to make you go do ballet.”  Well, it wasn’t until I watched my daughter go through all types of dancing such as ballet or jazz that I realized that there wasn’t a football player I coached that could’ve ever made it through her dance training and routines. It was that difficult. I watched her cope with injuries to get back on that platform and be able to dance.

As you dance through your daily leadership tasks and challenges, be encouraged that you can improve, push beyond your challenges, gain more clarity, and achieve your personal goals at the same time. You’ll have to stay focused, diligent, and steady on your foundation of values, but it can be done. And ultimately, you’ll help influence and shape the overall culture of your workplace. If you have some tactics or tips that you use in your daily leadership, please share your comments in this blog. 

Mike

Related Articles: 

Why Great Leaders are Dancers – Part 1

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Dr. Mike Day PhD is Founder and President of MorningStar Leadership Group™, a leadership coaching and consulting organization created to provide values-based leadership guidance to some of the finest leaders in America and around the world. He is also a recognized keynote speaker and holds an Accounting degree from Auburn University and a Master’s Degree and PhD from Southern Seminary. Learn more about his speaking, consulting, and resources at MikeDay.com. 

Why Great Leaders are Dancers—Part 1

How many of you reading this article can honestly say that you’re a good dancer? Okay, that may be a stretch for most of us. But can you remember your first dance? Maybe it was your first school dance in sixth or seventh grade? Or, maybe it was later in high school where you took a date to a homecoming dance or your school’s prom? Think about the emotions and actions during that event. Whether it was a slow dance, a fast dance, or you were taking a break between songs, you were constantly on the move having to make a choice about the next song.

As leaders, we’re all on a metaphorical dance floor each and every day. For some of you, you’re right where you thought you were going to be. As you began mapping out your career in high school, college, or technical school, you began thinking about where you wanted to go. And some of you are right on track.

On the flip side, some of you are thinking, “How in the world did I get to where I am? How did I get to this position? What am I doing with people looking to me for direction and guidance that I’m now supervising? How in the world did I land here, and where I’m going? I don’t know.” In either situation, you’re on the dance floor everyday making decisions that will affect your personal future and the future of your team or organization.

“…here’s a challenge: there’s a difference between managers and leaders on that dance floor.”

As we explore the dance floor as kind of a metaphor for leadership, here’s a challenge: there’s a difference between managers and leaders on that dance floor.

Here’s the manager’s mindset on the dance floor:

  • All you can see is what is right there near you or around the person next to you.
  • You’re scuttling to your right or left, but you’re really not able to see a whole lot because it’s pretty crowded out there and the whirlwind of the dance floor captures pretty much everything that you’re doing.

Conversely as a leader, you need to elevate yourself off that dance floor and go to the balcony. Moving up from the dance floor to the balcony, you begin to look on that dance floor and see the trends, changes, and changes in the group dynamic, and you can also see the possibility of thinking about what may come. Since you’re a good leader, you also move back and forth—back down to the dance floor, and then back up to the balcony, and so on. You’re engaging your people during those movements, but you’re also getting a broader perspective of where you are now and where you’re going.

Do you see where we’re going in the art of dance in leadership? What does this metaphor make you consider in your life and work? What steps can you begin to take now to get up in the balcony? There are more elements of dance to consider, and we’re going to explore them together in Part 2 on this topic. In the meantime, please share your thoughts in the forum.

MD

Good Intentions

After a recent presentation, I had a mid level manager voice a message I hear often.

“Every morning I start my day with the intention to get on the floor and spend time with my people.  But the day gets filled with emails, phone calls and meetings, and I never make it out of my office.”

We all start our day or week with great intentions, but then life hits us.  Emails, meetings, family turmoil, equipment failure…….

While we cannot control all the situations that may come our way, we can prioritize one or two actions that will enhance our leadership and life.  Often these actions will reflect what we value most in work and life.  Our ability to follow through and complete these actions will move us closer to reaching the goals we desire to achieve.

Recently I asked clients to list one or two of the most important actions they could take next week that would move them forward on their leadership journey.  Here’s a few of their action items:

Once a week, I will have lunch/coffee with a team member.

I will plan a date with my spouse once a month.

I will read a book that will challenge me as a leader and person.

I will surprise my employees/team with a celebration event once a quarter.

I will write a note of encouragement or appreciation once a week.

These are great actions for every leader.  As we all know, having a great idea is one thing, following through with completing the idea is another.  Here are a couple of strategies for turning good ideas into good deeds.

Program the action item on your phone calendar for a specific date and time.

Give a trusted friend the authority to hold your feet to the fire.  We all need someone who will hold us accountable.

Assign points to your action ideas and set up friendly competition with another leader.

As leaders we want to look back over the month and year to see task accomplished rather than a list of good ideas.

Are you investing in your top 10%?

Management studies reveal that leaders spend over 80% of their time dealing with the lower third of their team.  Most of this leadership time is spent on problems and discipline and

Most of this time is issues, problems…

Unfortunately, while investing most of our time with the lower third, we take our top 10% for granted.  Although we think the world of these individuals, we fail to appreciate or recognize in ways that make them feel valued.

No, I am not talking about another year-end plaque for them to hang on the wall.

Here are a few suggestions for expressing appreciation to you top 10%.

In an impromptu intersection with this person, note what you see in them….their behavior, their influence, their affect on the team.  Rather than voicing a general statement of “thanks for the good job you are doing,” demonstrate to this high performer that you have observed specific practices that set them apart.

In a team email or newsletter comment on one or two leadership traits that will help your team excel.  As you conclude the article, state that you see these traits best exemplified in this particular employee.

Take them to lunch.  Thank them for the value they bring to you, the team and the entire organization.  Ask them to share what motivates them to have the work ethic they practice.  Listen as they share some of their leadership journey.

Send a note to their spouse or parents expressing praise for the employee and the value he/she brings to the team.

Investing in these top performers will motivate them to further achievements and will also give you a sense of accomplishment as grow in your leadership role.