RightPath Tools: From Failing Student to World-Renowned Astronaut

The Keys to Transforming Your Leadership Today

In the inspiring book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly describes his journey to become an astronaut, living for a year and a half in space and commanding both the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. 

While the book recounts many fascinating details about living in space and NASA training, I was most intrigued by a key turning point in Kelly’s life.

Kelly was a poor student in high school and during his first year of college. He spent his days in school staring out the window, watching the clock until school was dismissed and he could roam the woods and think up stunts that often landed him in the emergency room. 

Unable to focus on school work, his grades suffered. He was so distracted that he ended up applying to the wrong college. 

His freshman year of college found him at the bottom of his class, listless and directionless until two things transformed his life: Vision and Grit.

Vision Is Only the Start

He picked up a copy of The Right Stuff which describes the training and adventures of the early NASA test pilots and astronauts. Kelly was hooked. 

He instantly knew that he wanted to become a Navy test pilot and eventually an astronaut. 

Yet, as a young man with a poor academic record, low motivation and a history of coasting through life, Scott realized that his vision was not enough, he needed grit.

A key moment came during the first weekend at the Merchant Marine Academy. He called his brother and told him that he wanted to visit some friends on another campus for a party. 

His brother said, “Are you crazy? If you are going to be a Navy test pilot, you need to spend the entire weekend in your dorm room and do every problem in your textbook until you can do them all PERFECTLY.”

When he started on Friday afternoon, distractions would pop up in his mind

  • “I need to sharpen my pencil.”
  • “I should get a drink of water.” 
  • “I wonder what my friends are doing.” 

Yet he resisted these distractions by remembering his vision of becoming a Navy test pilot. After a full weekend of study, he aced his first test and started down the road that would lead him to set the U.S. record for endurance space flight.

Can You Relate? 

What is your vision? When you get to the end of the year and look back at the events of this year, what will you have learned? What new skills will you have? How will you have grown?

To accomplish your vision, how will you develop the power of grit

Let me suggest three steps:

  1. Use a tool. Objective insights from an assessment tool that measures natural, hard-wired behavior like RightPath’s Path4 and Path6 assessments provide valuable understanding of your strengths, struggles, and how to relate to others.
  2. Make a plan. Too often vision only focuses on the final result, not the process to accomplish it. Take time to write down the steps to accomplish your goal. Be specific and describe the commitment of time, energy, and money you will invest in accomplishing your goal.
  3. Get a coach. A coach can be a powerful ally and help make change last. Not only does a good coach hold you accountable, but coaches provide new insights and perspectives that can help you overcome any obstacles and roadblocks you face. Drop me a note if I can be of help.

Start by Getting on the RightPath

Over my career, these steps have been my leadership lifeline. I’ve always had a vision, but these keys to grit-development have become disciplines of success that no leader should lose. 

Without third-party insight, I’m running blind. But with the right tools, there is no limit to the places I can lead my team. 

In fact, we have been using the insight tools RightPath’s Path4 and Path6 for over a decade, which is why I’m so excited about the “joint adventure” we’ve undertaken. 

They are essential parts of my success path. 

Influence Leadership wouldn’t have achieved such high levels of performance without equipping our leaders with

  • High-level understanding of emotional intelligence
  • Detailed training for building stronger relationships
  • Enhanced communication between individuals, teams, and companies
  • Tailor-made team and leadership development solutions

With RightPath, I’ve seen myself and my people increase accuracy, maximize team relationships, and continue to grow bigger and better as a company. 

Our vision grows. Our grit increases—and the proof is in the results.

How to Attract Top Talent at Your Company

7 Ways an InSPIRED Culture Keeps the Best People

Lack of direction, definition, and subsequent re-work exhausts the team, leads to missed deadlines, and lowers productivity. 

About $1 million is wasted every twenty seconds due to poorly executed business strategies. You might as well light your revenue on fire, because poor execution will send whatever you earn up in smoke. 

When you hamper productivity, blow through finances, and destroy relationships—even unintentionally, you create the unholy trinity of culture gone wild. 

In the end, when you fail to execute, you’re not only hurting the bottom line, but also betraying the trust of your people. Who puts faith in someone who can’t be trusted to complete the plan? When trust leaves, commitment isn’t far behind. 

If you promise an inspirational culture but don’t deliver execution, inspiration turns to exasperation, especially for the top talent you need to stay engaged on your team. Remember, talent always has a choice. 

The best people want to get things done, not stagger in and out like zombies. 

On the other hand, a team that drips Inspired Culture can plan to catch—and keep—top talent that keeps them on the rise. 

You Can’t Afford to Miss This

If you’ve had the privilege of working in an InSPIRED culture, you’ve already experienced some of its benefits. But you may not have realized how deeply this kind of culture can impact the entire organization. 

In my years of working with companies and helping them build InSPIRED cultures, here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered. 

InSPIRED culture…

  • Attracts the top talent. Talent always has a choice. Especially in today’s highly mobile work environment, the best people can go anywhere to work for anyone. So why would they choose you? A healthy culture produces all the intangible quality-of-life benefits that top talent demands. Even if they may be able to make more money elsewhere, they’re more likely to join a team where they like the leader, are treated fairly, and feel connected to a sense of purpose.
  • Maximizes top talent. A healthy culture is a pro-growth culture that seeks to empower everyone on the team to deliver his or her best in the areas of their greatest strengths. If you think it’s too much trouble to maximize your current talent, try not doing it. You’ll soon be left with only the employees who lack both the skills needed at present and the ambition to grow in the future. Not good. 
  • Retains top talent. According to the Qualtrics Global Employee Pulse 2017 study, “employees with a high confidence level in their company’s senior leadership are five times as likely to remain with their employer for more than two years compared to employees with no confidence.” It’s that simple. If your people believe in you as a leader, they’ll stay. If not, they’re five times as likely to leave.
  • Increases productivity. When your employees are engaged, you’ll get more done with fewer people because you won’t be carrying the weight of disengaged employees. At the end of the day, a healthy culture grows the bottom line (and possibly, your own performance bonus).
  • Frees you to focus on the future. It’s amazing how proactive you can be about tomorrow when you’re not having to put out fires today.

Is Your Team INspired or Exasperated?

What are the marks of inspired culture? 

1. INtentional. An InSPIRED culture begins to form when you get intentional. Some companies and leaders try to succeed without ever understanding why. But how can you replicate what you don’t understand?. Excellence is never an accident.

2. Service. More than ever, service matters. An InSPIRED culture serves both external and internal customers. How people experience your team or organization over time becomes their expectation. Their expectation of you becomes your brand. 

Is your brand one that serves others well, or is it a self-serving brand? Do you even know? 

3. Passion. What fires you up? What passions fuel your best performance? Inspiration may influence you, but passion moves you and motivates the people you lead. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your product or service is—if you’re in leadership, you’re in the people business. And people run on passion.

4. Integration. Everything is connected in your organization. But how well do all the parts and pieces work together? The gears and sprockets that make up the inner workings will determine whether you produce inspired results or the clock expires on your results. 

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “It really shouldn’t be this hard,” then you know the pain of disintegration. 

5. Real. As much as business leaders focus on hard data like production numbers and the bottom line, real people touch everything and determine long-term success. Everyone is wired for greatness, but not everyone is wired for greatness in the same areas. 

Consequently, the best leaders develop a team of people who lead where they’re strong and team where they’re weak. To do that, you must first get to know the people you lead in a real way. 

6. Execution. Why do you need to inspire? Results. And to get results, your team has to execute. If you don’t actually get things done with an accountability cadence, all your work becomes merely a relational exercise. 

The reason you need to be intentional, service-focused, passionate, integrated, and real is so you can execute with excellence to achieve optimal results.

7. Develop. Once you achieve excellence, the question becomes: can you sustain it tomorrow, next week, and next year? The best leaders know they can’t stand still—they must continue to develop. So how do you and your team do that? By choosing to get better every day. Leaders must choose to develop continually. 

Top Talent Always Has a Choice

If you promise an inspirational culture but don’t deliver execution, inspiration turns to exasperation, especially for the top talent you need to stay engaged on your team. 

Remember, talent always has a choice. The best people want to get things done, not stagger in and out like zombies. 

BUT—Imagine for a moment that in your particular sphere of influence you create a thriving culture where people are happy to come to work.

They love their jobs and are proud of the work they do. They push each other to greatness and, as a result, they execute with excellence. People are real with each other, because they are living with authenticity. 

They follow their passions, because you’ve put them in the right seat on the bus. 

They serve one another because they know a rising tide lifts all boats. And they aren’t stagnant, because you’ve created a plan to help them develop and grow. 

Do you think a team like that would get noticed in your organization? You bet.

The Team-Building Process in 6 Steps

Lead Where You’re Strong, Team Where You’re Weak

Maybe you think, or even know, that there is a certain way you are expected to act, so you put on a persona each day you walk into the office.

You want to be the real you, but you’re so busy figuring out the right thing to say that you forget the best thing to do—be real and authentic to who you are. 

Inauthenticity drains your energy and renders you ineffective. 

Even more importantly, if you’re not comfortable with and can’t get along with you, how in the world are you going to get along with anybody else? 

Everyone is wired for greatness, but everyone is not wired for greatness in the same areas. 

It’s a key life principle, not just a business one. That’s why I encourage leaders to have their people use self-assessment tools so everyone gains an awareness who he or she is and best to work together. 

For example, if you are a blunt, get-it-done person, you may be great in crisis management, but not so great where the situation calls for empathy and patience such as mobilizing the day-to-day habits that create a profitable workplace. 

That doesn’t mean you’re inferior or defective. That doesn’t mean you’re weak, but you’re weak in that role.

Team-Building Requires Interconnection—Instead of Shame

Weakness is more about role-fit than anything else. And finding yourself in a role that doesn’t leverage our natural strengths is stressful.  

We do need to learn to stretch, grow, and adapt. But if we are spending most of our time and energy out of our strength zones, we’ll run into trouble and wear out everyone around us. 

Genius and flaws exist in each of us, and neither one has to diminish the other. If you know where your genius lies, but struggle in one particular role, you can create a multifaceted team.

Lead where you’re strong, team where you’re weak. Don’t have someone to team with? Lead where you’re strong and put a system where you’re weak!

Thankfully the process to “teaming” up your weak areas is straightforward. 

In fact, the hardest part is mustering the honest, authentic courage to reach out for help and collaboration.

adult-brainstorming-group

Teaming Process: 

  • Recognize Areas of Weakness
  • Ask For Guidance  
  • Hire the Strengths You Lack 
  • Learn from Your New Team Member 
  • Grow Strength as a Team 
  • Move on to help others with similar problems 

It’s time to admit you can’t do it all. And you’re not expected to!

What is expected of you is to realize that truth. 

I help leaders all the time who say, I can’t admit weakness to my team or tell them what I’m not good at. 

In a sense, the joke is on them, because their team members already know their weaknesses.  

Think about it. How hard would it be for you to rattle off the top five things your leader doesn’t do well? Pretty easy, right? 

So why would you assume that your direct reports can’t do the same? You aren’t hiding your weaknesses from them when you won’t admit them. 

They know your weaknesses better than you do. That’s why you need to be authentic. 

You’re not fooling anyone.

Team Building Begins With Humility

It takes humility to admit, “I am not amazing at this, so I should partner with someone who is.”  Humility multiplies strength. 

Pride isolates people and breaks down teams. 

A humble leader, rather than trying to do it all, functions like an air traffic controller who scans the radar and calls certain team members to move depending on the strengths needed in any particular situation. 

If inauthenticity has created a rift between you and your team, you’re missing out on their support to cover your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. 

Remember: leaders are to achieve results with—and through— their teams.

How Excellent Service Creates Customers for Life

Build a Customer Experience They want to Write Home About

If focusing on service is a significant step on the InSPIRED leadership path, how do you go about making excellent service an everyday practice? You guessed it—by being Intentional

Great service doesn’t happen by accident. Every member of your organization is a person who has good days and bad days. 

Without a detailed plan in place for excellent service, you’ll only get the best any of those people can bring themselves to give on any given day. 

But if you architect superior service every step of the way, you’ll know in advance, and with great certainty, the quality of your customer experience. 

You’ll be able to deliver the gold standard when you define what optimal service must look like for your customer.  

Excellent Service Creates Exceptional Stories

As I serve business leaders and organizations around the world, I travel quite a bit and stay in many hotels. Sometimes my wife goes with me. When we visit San Diego, my wife loves to stay at the Hotel del Coronado (or Hotel Del).

If you’ve never experienced the Hotel Del, it is a magical place to stay. 

It was built in 1888 and turned into a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It has hosted presidents, movie stars, and all manner of famous people. Located right on the Pacific Ocean and just outside downtown San Diego, it has a unique vibe. 

When we visited a few years ago, we checked in, got our keys, and went to the room. When we opened the door, the room looked nice, but no different than any other hotel room. 

Plus, it faced the parking lot, so the view wasn’t great. A little disappointed, I went back down to the front desk clerk and explained that I was here with my wife and needed a bit of downtime. I asked if she might be able to put us in a better room. 

Her response was excellent service in action. It gave us a customer experience extraordinaire. 

She clicked a few keys on her computer, issued new room keys, and sent us to the new room.  We walked down the hall both nervous and excited to see what was behind the next door.

As we swung open the door, the view took our breath away.

This Californian cabana looked out over beautiful landscape and onto the Pacific Ocean. Out the back door was a small patch of grass that transitioned to the dunes and then on to the beach. 

An incredible beach vibe immediately washed over us as we felt the stress slip away. We could hear waves crashing with immense power and beauty. Sunlight streamed in through windows and doors, as the salty smell of the ocean permeated everything.

It was the polar opposite of the parking lot view in the other room. 

Excellent Service Sets You Apart

Did the lady at the front desk have to upgrade us to this room? Certainly not. 

But in doing so, she delivered a wow experience like nothing I’ve ever experienced. That was no accident. 

Long before we arrived, someone architected that experience, empowering and encouraging her as a frontline employee to make superior customer service a top priority. 

No matter your industry, when you deliver that kind of experience to your customers, you set yourself apart from your competitors. 

Any hotel could provide us with a decent room and a continental breakfast, but Hotel Del provided us with an experience we’re still talking about. Even better, we committed this year to annual stays by joining Hotel Del’s Club level membership. After this particularly outstanding teammate served us well, we more than returned the value of her service. 

3 Tips For Excellent Service

Every team member has the ability to create a WOW experience for each customer—if they feel equipped and encouraged to deliver. Here are three tips for taking an average interaction from eh to excellent. 

1. Get in Their Shoes

To best serve your customer, you have to think like your customer. What are they in front of you to experience? What might be a potential source of stress? What could put their experience with your brand/company/team over the top? 

2. Take the Extra Step

The steps to excellent service are, more often than not, simple—they just take that extra step. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy on your mission.  

So if you don’t have the information your customer needs or the authority to architect a WOW experience, take the time to gather, research, connect, ask, extend, engage, and even surprise! 

3. See the Big Picture

Every interaction between you, your team, and your customers is just one moment in their larger story. But a truly inspired brand can leverage a single moment into a memory. 

It might feel inconveniencing to take the extra step for a customer you may never see again—but with the bigger picture in mind, that one act of InSpired value can spark a connection that brings them back again and again and again.

Make this level of excellent service part of your value proposition. 

Anyone can do what you can do, but no one can do it the way you do it. I call it serving others “from tip to tail.” It means you see customers as valued individuals, without whom you wouldn’t exist. 

Average brands/teams perform individual tasks day after day. InSpired brands/teams create customer experiences they will never forget. 

Architect a wow customer experience to make service your strength. Lean into it—and shine. 

Why You Need a Productivity Plan in a Changing World

Spoiler Alert: You Can Be Busy But Not Productive

It’s always interesting to try to imagine what the future will bring. 

The Jetsons cartoon show, based in the year 2062, envisioned a future where robots do all the housework, cars fold up to the size of a briefcase, and much of what we need is automated. 

We’ve got forty more years to see how that turns out. The movie Bladerunner, set in 2019, envisioned a future where rogue replicants were virtually indistinguishable from humans. 

Back to the Future II, set in 2015, predicted hover cars, self-lacing Nikes, and food rehydrators. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted a colonized moon by 2001. 

While predictions of the future are often wrong, what we know is that the present will change dramatically in a short period of time.

The more technology advances, the more the business environment must advance with it. If you aren’t paying attention, you may just get left behind. 

You need a productivity plan. 

Consider this list of things that didn’t exist fifteen years ago: 

  • iPhone
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • iPad
  • Netflix streaming
  • Google Maps
  • Snapchat
  • Spotify
  • Android
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Alexa
  • Airbnb
  • App Store
  • Google Chrome
  • WhatsApp
  • Fitbit
  • Waze
  • Slack
  • Square
  • Dropbox
  • Pinterest
  • Venmo
  • Bitcoin
  • Hulu
  • Kindle

The lesson for an InSPIRED leader is this: change is inevitable and you can either get left behind or develop a plan for growth that puts you in the best place for success.

Stand still and you’ll be outpaced rather quickly. But if you’re nimble enough to move wisely with the changing times, you are in a position to grow with them. 

But this lesson comes with a warning. 

Tyranny of the Urgent vs. a Productivity Plan

There’s a mistaken notion that being busy is the same thing as being productive. It’s the tyranny of the urgent in action. 

By responding to the urgent, we tend to neglect the really important things in life—production capacity, personal growth, striving to make a difference, living a life of adventure, building a family, or crafting a leadership legacy. 

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, Red, “the guy who can get anything,” says, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” 

In a counterintuitive way, busyness may seem productive, but it can actually be a distraction that slows you down. When you don’t invest time to put first things first, you’ll fall behind faster and struggle to catch up.

The truth is many people don’t know how to adapt when things change, so they remain still, embracing the madness they know. However, nothing in life remains still. 

If you’re not intentionally growing, developing, and moving, you’re not standing still—you’re getting left behind. That’s why you need a productivity plan. 

No One Gets Productive by Accident

I’ve spent my fair share of time in airports around the world. Have you ever paid attention to what happens when you step on one of the “moving sidewalks” between concourses?

These giant conveyor belts run silently in the floor, moving people along at about 1.4 miles per hour. The average person walking briskly (as you might expect in an airport) moves at about 3 miles per hour. 

airport-walking-sidewalk

So, if a person walks onto a moving sidewalk and continues a normal stride, he or she can go farther, faster. 

But consider this. Suppose you and a friend are walking through the concourse together at a steady 3 miles an hour clip trying to make a connecting flight.

Your friend jumps on the moving sidewalk and keeps walking at his normal pace. You stop to find something in your carry-on, figuring you’ll just catch up in a minute. But when you look up, you can’t even see your friends in the crowd ahead. He’s gone, and you’ve been left behind. 

Unfortunately, many people make this same mistake in leadership. 

They set aside intentional development and think they can just catch up later. But when you stop, you stagnate. Stagnate long enough and you’ll die. There is no standing still in life. 

You’re either moving forward or falling behind.

Spend Your Time Where You Want to Reap Results

So if you shouldn’t stay still, but you shouldn’t hop on the hamster wheel just for the sake of moving, what’s the answer?

It comes down to your priorities. Your to-do list is broken. 

Spend time only on the urgent.

So where you spend your time? Are you taking advantage of the “moving sidewalks” or sitting against the wall waiting for the right moment to move. (HINT: you’ll be waiting forever.) 

Where are you growing and where are you letting yourself stagnate? Don’t neglect it. Otherwise, the world will pass you by, and you’ll wonder where everybody went. 

I’m not advocating hustle and grind 24/7 with no rest or relaxation. 

I’m advocating an intentional, holistic productivity plan for developing every day in the midst of executing with excellence. 

We can’t live in either ditch. We need results for today AND results for tomorrow.