5 Reasons Why Dreams Don’t Take Flight: John C Maxwell

Recognize the things that trap our dreams—and overcome them.

A lot of us never see our dreams come true. Instead of soaring through the clouds, our dreams languish like a broken-down airplane confined to its hangar.
Through life, I have come to identify five common reasons why dreams don’t take flight:

Reasons Why Dreams Dont Take Flight_0

1. We have been discouraged from dreaming by others.
We have to pilot our own dreams; we cannot entrust them to anyone else. People who aren’t following their own dreams resent us pursuing ours. Such people feel inadequate when we succeed, so they try to drag us down.
If we listen to external voices, then we allow our dreams to be hijacked. At some point, other people will place limitations on us by doubting our abilities. When surrounded by the turbulence of criticism, we have to grasp the controls tightly to keep from being knocked off course.

2. We fall into the habit of settling for average.
Average is the norm for a reason. Being exceptional demands extra effort, sustained inspiration and uncommon discipline. When we attempt to give flight to our dreams, we have to overcome the weight of opposition. Like gravity, life’s circumstances constantly pull on our dreams, tugging us down to mediocrity.
Most of us don’t pay the price to overcome the opposition to our dreams. We may start out inspired, but through time we fatigue. Although never intending to abandon our dreams, we begin to make concessions here and there. Through time, our lives become mundane, and our dreams slip away.

3. We are hindered by past disappointments and hurts.
In the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise plays Maverick, a young, talented and cocky aviator who dreams of being the premier pilot in the U.S. Navy. In the film’s opening scenes, Maverick showcases his flying ability but also displays a knack for pushing the envelope with regards to safety. Midway through the movie, Maverick’s characteristic aggression spells disaster. His plane crashes, killing his best friend and co-pilot.
Although cleared of wrongdoing, the painful memory of the accident haunts Maverick. He quits taking risks and loses his edge. Struggling to regain his poise, he considers giving up on his dream. The incident nearly wrecks Maverick’s career, but he eventually reaches within to find the strength to return to the sky.
Like Maverick, many of us live with the memory of failure embedded in our psyche. Perhaps a business we started went broke, or we were fired from a position of leadership. Disappointment is the gap that exists between expectation and reality, and all of us have encountered that gap. Failure is a necessary and natural part of life, but if we’re going to attain our dreams, then, like Maverick, we have to summon the courage to deal with past hurts.

4. We lack the confidence needed to pursue our dreams.
Dreams are fragile. They will be buffeted by assaults from all sides. As such, they must be supplied with the extra strength of self-confidence.
In Amelia Earhart’s day, women were not supposed to fly airplanes. If she had lacked self-assurance, she never would have even attempted to be a pilot. Instead, Earhart confidently chased after her dream, and she was rewarded with both fulfillment and fame.

5. We are missing the imagination to dream.
For thousands of years, mankind traveled along the ground: by foot, by horse-and-buggy, by locomotive and eventually by automobile. Thanks to the dreams of Orville and Wilbur Wright, we now hop across oceans in a matter of hours. The imaginative brothers overcame ridicule and doubt to pioneer human flight, and the world has never been the same.
Many of us play small because we do not allow ourselves to dream. We trap ourselves in reality and never dare to go beyond what we can see with our eyes. Imagination lifts us beyond average by giving us a vision of life that surpasses what we are experiencing currently. Dreams infuse our spirit with energy and spur us on to greatness.

Never stop dreaming!

4 Steps to Living Your Leadership Legacy

Posted on October 5, 2014 by Randy Conley

Honor. Courage. Humility. Integrity. Loving. Fun. Hero.

Those were the words used to describe Dan Hines at his memorial service last Tuesday. I didn’t know Dan that well, having met him just once, but those who knew him well, really knew him. By the stories told, the laughs shared, and the tears shed, it was evident that Dan’s legacy was clear to those who knew him best.

Are you intentionally living your legacy, or are you leaving it to chance? As a leader, what is it you want to pass on to others? What kind of lasting impact do you want to make? Have you even thought about it? If not, you should.

You will leave a legacy. Your leadership will have an impact on others no matter what you do. The question is, what kind of legacy will it be? Here are four steps you can take to identify the kind of leader you want to be and the legacy you leave to others.

1. Know your core values – Your values are those deeply held beliefs that guide your decisions and priorities in life. They are the guard rails on the highway of life, keeping you on track and pointed in the right direction. Sadly, many people don’t take the time to thoughtfully consider and explore their core values. If you don’t know your values, how can you expect to live them out? A good place to start is by doing a values identification exercise. As you go through this exercise, get the input of others who know you well. Once you identify your core values, you’re ready to move to the next step.

2. Craft a personal mission statement – I used to think this was a bunch of warm, fuzzy, namby-pamby leadership nonsense. Until I wrote one. It helped me take the jumbled mess of thoughts, values, and ideals that I knew in my gut were my personal mission, and express them succinctly and coherently. My personal mission statement is “To use my gifts and abilities to be a servant leader and a model of God’s grace and truth.” The great thing about personal mission statements is they can be whatever you want them to be! You don’t have to follow any specific formula, but here’s an easy one to get you started. First, brainstorm a list of personal characteristics you feel good about (these will be nouns). For example, “computer skills,” “sense of humor,” “artistic,” “enthusiasm.” Second, create a list of ways to effectively interact with people. These will be verbs like “teach,” “motivate,” “inspire,” coach,” “love.” Third, write a description of your perfect world. For example, “My perfect world is a place where people know their destinations and are enjoying their life journeys.” Fourth, combine two of your nouns, two of your verbs, and your definition of your perfect world. For example, “My life purpose is to use my energy and my people skills to teach and motivate people to know their destinations and enjoy their life journeys.”

3. Share your leadership point of view with those you lead – Your leadership point of view is the combination of your personal values, mission statement, beliefs about leadership, and the expectations you have for yourself and others. It explains the “why” of your leadership. Sharing your leadership point of view with those you lead builds tremendous levels of trust and helps your team clearly understand why you do what you do as a leader. It helps your team know you on a more personal and intimate level and is a way to express your vulnerability and authenticity as a leader.

4. Surround yourself with truth-tellers – There are a couple common pitfalls of moving into higher levels of leadership. One pitfall is you begin to think you know all the answers. After all, that’s how you got to where you are, right? Another pitfall is people around you may become less willing to challenge your beliefs and actions because of your title and position power. The combination of these two things results in you being blind to areas where you may be falling short or not living up to your values. That’s why you need to surround yourself with truth-tellers. Truth-tellers are those trusted confidants who have your best interests at heart and are willing to engage you in those difficult conversations when you aren’t living true to your leadership purpose. I’m fortunate to have several of those people in my life and they are worth their weight in gold. They keep me on the right path of living my leadership legacy.

Dan Hines left college and joined the Army during the Vietnam War. He went on to become a helicopter pilot and was shot down three times. He refused a Purple Heart medal because he felt he was just doing his duty and his actions weren’t as significant as other soldiers who sacrificed more. He loved his wife and daughter deeply and his actions showed it. He adored his grandchildren. He pulled pranks on friends and family and enjoyed life. He strove to live by his principles and do the right thing.

Honor. Courage. Humility. Integrity. Loving. Fun. Hero.

Dan lived his legacy. Will you live yours?

14 most inspirational people of 2014: Richard Branson

29 December 2014

The world is full of wonderful people doing extraordinary things. I feel very fortunate to come across many of them, and to be able to use my blog to highlight as many more. As the year wraps up, I’d like to shine a special spotlight on 14 exceptional people (or groups of people) who have inspired me in 2014.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala’s drive, passion and perseverance in standing up for education and girls’ rights in Pakistan and around the world is extremely moving. She is a true human rights champion, and a worthy recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. I had the privilege of meeting Malala earlier this year at We Day, where her presence and words empowered everyone in the room.


Caroline Lucas
UK drug laws are over 40 years old, and up until October this year, there had been no Government assessment of whether they are effective or good value for money. Enter Caroline Lucas: a Member of Parliament, who secured enough signatures to support a parliamentary debate with cross-party backing – prompting conversation on outdated drug policy. Caroline is an instrumental force in driving UK drug progress, and ending the global war on drugs. All the people who are working tirelessly around the world to end the war on drugs have been a huge inspiration this year.

Tim Cook
When Steve Jobs passed away, the world wondered whether his successor could lead with the same courage. Tim Cook not only successfully took up the Apple reins, but also moved the world forward by publically declaring he was gay and proud of it. “It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.” Tim is a great example that sexuality, gender or race have no bearing on the skills, talent or character of a person.

Scott Budnick and the Ironwood Prison inmates TEDX
How we learn from our mistakes defines us. I was honoured to visit Ironwood Prison for a TEDx talk, where as well as speaking with prisoners, I joined Anti-Recidivism Coalition founder, Scott Budnick, onstage. Scott and the Coalition work tirelessly to reduce incarceration and improve the lives of formerly jailed people. This work aligns with Virgin’s philosophy of giving second chances to former offenders by providing them with jobs.

Yulia Marushevska
I was deeply moved by Yulia Marushevska’s I Am a Ukrainian video. Capturing the horror of conflict in Ukraine, Yulia delivers a powerful message, which focuses on the hope for a brighter future.
Since watching the film, I have met Yulia and supported her work. I also visited Ukraine, where the bravery of the Ukrainian people in their fight for true democracy was very moving.

Barlows Primary School
One my favourite parts of my job is meeting young people, and this year I was particularly impressed by a group of kids from Barlows Primary School, Liverpool. Winning Virgin Money’s Fiver Challenge, the kids (aged just five to eight-years-old) came up with the idea of selling ‘Poppies for Peace’ in small biodegradable pots to plant in memory of World War 1. Not only was their business idea eco-friendly, but they also gave their profit to Help for Heroes – what an excellent example of using business as a force for good.

The Virgin Strive Challenge team
From London to the summit of the Matterhorn, entirely by human power, the STRIVE Challenge raised funds to support young people in the UK to develop the life skills they need to reach their potential. I’ve been lucky enough in my lifetime to do some extreme challenges, but I’ve never taken on a challenge as huge as the Strive Challenge. Led by my son Sam and nephew Noah, every single person on the team stepped out of their comfort zone to great results – forming strong bonds of friendship while pushing themselves to achieve the seemingly unachievable.


Nainoa Thompson
My fellow OceanElder, Nainoa Thompson, is one of the most gentle and wise people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He has inspired me time and time again throughout our friendship, and continues to do so, especially in his presidency of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and quest for a sustainable future.

Kofi Annan
From his work at the United Nations to receiving the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, Kofi Annan has inspired the world over. He lives with integrity, speaks with conviction, and serves with sincerity. Time and time again Kofi has drawn our attention to pressing issues that cannot be ignored – this year particularly shining a spotlight on climate change.
Speaking as the Chairman of The Elders, at this year’s Climate Week, Kofi explained that climate change is the biggest issue facing the world today, and that “we have a duty to be exceptionally ambitious”.

Megan Smith
When Megan Smith joined our Virgin Disruptors “Have entrepreneurs lost the will to innovate?” debate, I was amazed by her knowledge, passion and drive to dream. At the time, as VP of Google X, Megan was in the business of identifying and turning once-impossible ideas into reality, otherwise known as moonshots. Think the self-driving car; Google Glass; and even an artificial brain! Megan’s ability to think differently has now landed her the job of Chief Technology Officer of the United States in Obama’s government – I’m excited to see what she comes up with next.

Kimberley Motley
As the first Western lawyer to practice in Afghanistan, Kimberley Motley tackles some of the world’s most challenging human rights and criminal injustices. Taking on pro-bono cases, covering everything from child marriage to domestic abuse and freedom or speech, Kim is an inspiring litigator with a powerful message: “The laws are ours – no matter your ethnicity, nationality, gender, race – they belong to us.” By protecting the people otherwise forgotten by society, we are protecting ourselves.

Eve Branson
More than anyone else, my mum taught me the value of hard work, independence and entrepreneurial spirit – and year after year she continues to serve as a great mentor in life and in business.
This year, on top of celebrating her 90th birthday, she promoted a hugely success polo match in Morocco and continued her great work to enhance the lives of Berber communities in the Atlas Mountains through the Eve Branson Foundation. Mum has always been my biggest inspiration as a person, let alone as an entrepreneur.

Marion Bartoli
Marion Bartoli may have won the hearts of tennis fans all round the world in 2013, but she stole mine in 2014 – so much so that I even proposed to her… well sort of. Marion was an amazing member of the Virgin Strive Challenge, and like the rest of the team, she really put her heart and soul into the adventure. I was also privileged to hang out with her at this year’s Necker Cup, where she took up the challenge with great enthusiasm, raising money for good causes and having a blast along the way.

The Virgin Galactic team
I’m always so proud of the team at Virgin Galactic. Their work to give the public access to an out-of-this-world experience, inspires people to dream, put themselves outside of their comfort zones, and to strive to achieve the seemingly impossible. But this year I have been extraordinarily inspired by the team, for pulling together in the face of tragic adversity; bouncing back from the loss of Mike Alsbury and SpaceShipTwo. It’s been a tough year, but they persevered with great integrity and we’ll move forward together in 2014.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg of people that have inspired me this year. Who would you place on your list of inspirational people for 2014?

Catch People Doing Something Right


I believe the key to developing employees and building a great organization is to wander around and catch people doing things right. This is a powerful management concept that isn’t used as often as it should be. Unfortunately, most leaders tend to focus on the things that are being done wrong so they can fix them.

The best way to start this habit is to take an hour out of your week to just walk around and observe what goes on in your organization. I know you’ll see several examples of people who are doing the right thing: conducting business with corporate values in mind. When you see this happening, praise the individual.

Remember, though—effective praising has to be specific. Just walking around saying “thanks for everything” is meaningless. If you say “great job” to a poor performer and the same thing to a good performer, you’ll sound ridiculous to the poor performer and you’ll demotivate the good performer.

For example, in a retail environment you might see an employee walk with a customer to a different location in the store in order to show the customer where to find a certain item. An effective praising would sound like this: “Mary, I noticed just now how you put the customer first by taking her to the merchandise she was looking for instead of just pointing in the general direction. That is an excellent example of living by our values. Keep it up.”

This principle can also help relationships flourish at home. If your school-aged child makes his bed or does his homework without being asked, let him know right away that you notice and appreciate his efforts. Be timely and specific with your praise.

Catching people doing things right provides satisfaction and motivates good performance. So remember: give praise immediately, make it specific, and encourage the person to keep up the good work. It’s a great way to interact with and affirm the people in your life—and it will make you feel good about yourself too.

Trust Provides “Overdraft” Protection for Your Relationship Bank Accounts

Posted on November 23, 2014 by Randy Conley

Maybe you’ve had that awkward experience when you’ve reviewed your bank account statement and discovered you made a purchase but didn’t actually have enough money in your account to cover it. Most likely you had overdraft protection on your account. That’s where the bank will advance you the money, allow the payment to be processed, but charge you an extra fee for covering your indiscretion. Overdraft protection is valuable insurance, because even though you may not intend to spend money you don’t have, sometimes you overdraw your account by mistake.

Sometimes we overdraw our relational bank accounts too. Careless words that hurt feelings, angry reactions that leave emotional scars, or broken promises that lead to disappointment…all examples of an overdrawn relational bank account.

Fortunately, we have overdraft protection for relationships and it’s called trust. I experienced this overdraft protection last week with a colleague at work. My colleague unintentionally said some things about me that were hurtful and not true, but since we had the overdraft protection of a high level of trust in our relationship, we were able to:

Address the issue directly – I confronted my colleague about what she said and was able to honestly share my feelings with the confidence it would lead to productively repairing the situation rather than making it worse.
Discuss the issue openly and honestly – Trust allowed us to talk about the issue objectively and without fear of reprisal. Our history of trust had demonstrated we were both committed to the value of the relationship and were willing to discuss the hard issues in a way that was respectful and honoring to each other.
Hear each other – It’s one thing to listen, it’s another to actually hear what’s being said. The trust we have in our relationship allowed us to hear one another. My colleague was able to hear how I felt about what she said and I was able to hear about what the intentions were behind her words.

Trust serves many purposes in a relationship. It’s the foundation of all successful, healthy relationships, and it’s also the fuel that powers relationships to higher levels of growth and intimacy. Trust is the lubrication that keeps relationships functioning smoothly, and thankfully, it’s the overdraft protection when relationships get overdrawn.

Coaching Tuesday: Learning from Your Mistakes

Patricia Overland / December 16, 2014

Try, Fail, Try Again Till Success

It’s inevitable: we all make mistakes, hard as it is to admit it. And it’s agonizing when we realize our actions may have had a negative impact on our boss, clients, colleagues, friends, or family.

In the world of coaching, we know that how one responds to a mistake is as important as what one learns from it. Here are three guidelines along with coaching questions that may help you manage your response or coach someone in your organization through a mistake.

Own up. What have you done to be accountable? What apologies have you made? The key is to avoid defending the mistake. An explanation can be useful, but it must come with total ownership—throwing someone else under the bus is not advised. Avoid the “whyne” and stick with the facts. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s a values-led decision to take responsibility.
Learn something. What did you learn from this mistake? Is a process broken? Does communication need to improve? Is a new skill set needed? Learning from mistakes is actually a great way to identify gaps in organizations. Think it through and close those gaps where you can. How can you avoid repeating this mistake in the future? While mistakes may be inevitable, repeating mistakes isn’t useful for you, for others, or for your organization. Get a plan in place to ensure repeat offenses don’t occur.
Move on. What will help you move forward? Momentary agonizing may be part of the process by which we think through mistakes, but it isn’t useful long term. Mistakes often generate emotion, and it can be important to recognize what you are feeling. But berating yourself or others about a mistake won’t accomplish anything and might even cause harm. Recognize the emotion, name it, and maybe even discuss it a bit. Then move forward.

Jules Verne said, “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make because they lead little by little to the truth.”

Humans aren’t perfect. As much as we strive to do well, to succeed, and to be on top of our game, we will make mistakes. How we respond to those mistakes is the true measure of our character. Own them, learn from them, and move on.

Instead of Complaining, Remember These 10 Things: John C Maxwell

How you can be a can-do person with the right attitude

A faint but discernible dividing line separates achievers from dreamers. What makes the difference?
Attitude. Achievers have a can-do attitude that sets them apart from mere dreamers. Achievers are sold out to success—no matter the obstacles—and they are willing to put forth the effort and pay the price of success.

Here are 10 tips to reveal your own can-do attitude:
1. Disown your helplessness. Can-do people aggressively pursue solutions, and, in the process, uncover creative solutions others never even try to find. Rather than wallowing in helplessness, can-do leaders search diligently to overcome the obstacles in front of them.
2. Take the bull by the horns. Can-do people are fearless. They go straight to the source of their solution. Their very effort commands attention as they wrestle a problem to the ground with expediency. They don’t wait; they initiate.
3. Enter the no whining zone. Can-do people abstain from complaining. They recognize its futility and guard their minds and mouths against indulging in this time-wasting activity.
4. Put on another’s pair of shoes. Can-do people empathize with others. They attempt to see any predicament from the other person’s perspective in order to make the best decisions.
5. Nurture your passion. Can-do people are immune to burnout. They love what they do because they’ve learned how to fuel the fire that keeps them moving. The prize is not given to the person who’s the smartest, nor to the person with the advantages in resources and position, but to the person with passion.
6. Walk the second mile. Can-do people exceed expectations. While others settle for an acceptable solution, they aren’t satisfied until they have achieved the unimagined. They set expectations for themselves higher than what is dictated by the people or situations around them.
7. Quit stewing and start doing. Can-do people take action. While others are crippled by worry, fear and anxiety, they have the fortitude to press forward. The perfect moment when all is safe and assured may never arrive, so why wait for it?
8. Go with the flow. Can-do people can adjust to change. They don’t get caught griping about an unexpected curve in the road. They accept transition with an optimistic outlook.
9. Follow through to the end. Can-do people not only initiate, they finish. They are self-starters with the capacity to close the deal.
10. Expect a return as a result of your commitment. If you make an all-out commitment with a can-do attitude, expect a return. Passionate commitment is contagious, and resources follow resolve. Committed leaders will reap rewards and find open doors as others are drawn to the excitement and energy emanating from them.

Are You Stretching toward Your Goals or Just Coasting?: John C Maxwell

You should keep pushing—and pushing hard—to the finish line.

Swimmer Michael Phelps is arguably the greatest American Olympian and one of the greatest competitors of all time. In the 2008 Beijing summer games, Phelps won eight medals—all gold—to break the record for the most hardware ever captured in a single Olympiad and become the most decorated Olympian in history.
But it is the race that almost blew his winning streak that captivates me the most. It was his seventh contest, the 100-meter butterfly, and Phelps trailed for literally 99.9 meters of it. In the last fraction of a second, Phelps thrust his arms into one final, mighty stroke. Meanwhile, his Serbian competitor, Milorad ˇCavi´c, coasted the final few inches. Almost implausibly, Phelps tapped the wall first, beating ˇCavi´c by a mere one-hundredth of a second.
Most of us won’t experience such a heart-pounding, dramatic moment in our lifetimes, but we do make daily choices to either stretch or coast toward the finish lines we create for ourselves through personal goals. They’re often small decisions—routine things we don’t think about a lot—but they have the power to determine much of our success.
Reaching a finish line can be as simple as completing an “almost done” project or initiating a long-delayed and difficult conversation. Unfinished business can be disastrous. It drains your mental energy. It derails your goals. It impacts how you feel about yourself. And, critically, it can undermine your reliability in the minds of others.
Simply put: Procrastination is the enemy of progress.

Life is full of moments that require one more stretch to achieve success. If you don’t have the discipline to persevere, well, you’re going to end up like Phelps’ competitors—looking up at the winner from a lower podium (or worse). In the words of economist Thomas Sowell, “Doing 90 percent of what is required is one of the biggest wastes, because you have nothing to show for all your efforts.” Instead you must develop the habit of staying committed and finishing strong.

Finish Strong_1

Here are some suggestions to help you do that:

  • Engage in brick-by-brick thinking. I confess: I have very little patience. I tend to want instant results. Still, I understand success requires daily progress. How do I solve this dilemma? With daily disciplines. I practice what might be called “brick-by-brick thinking.” My friend Henry Cloud, Ph.D., says, “All success is built and sustained just like a building is built, one brick at a time.” I practice regular disciplines every day, and these small, incremental actions turn into tangible steps toward success.
  • Amplify the reward. When you don’t feel like doing what you should, then focus on why finishing is important. The why can keep you motivated even when you lack desire. Motivation is fickle. You can’t depend on your emotions to keep you committed to your goals. So envision your end result and keep it in the forefront of your mind. How will you feel when you accomplish your goal? Why is it important to you? By focusing on the answers, you’ll stand a much better chance of reaching your goals.
  • Build structure and systems around your goals. Great intentions don’t get me very far. I need systems. They make it easier for me to stay disciplined. I have an insatiable hunger to learn, so I read every day. I want to stay fresh, so I file great quotes and illustrations every day. I had a heart attack in my 50s, so I exercise by swimming every day. (Phelps’ Olympic records are safe, by the way.) My life is filled with systems that move me forward and push me to reach my wall.
  • Surround yourself with support. Over the years I have found that I am most successful when I tap into a network of people who support me and encourage me in my goals. When I need business advice, I talk to my brother Larry and my company’s key businesspeople. When I want to launch a new venture, I talk to my CEO, Mark Cole, and members of my inner circle. When I am ready to write a book, I meet with my creative team to brainstorm and vet ideas.
    If you want to succeed, surround yourself with people who will help you, encourage you and, when necessary, hold your feet to the fire. Remember to choose wisely—your success largely depends on the company you keep.
  • Quitting isn’t an option. A great start is important, because all’s well that begins well. But it takes much more to reach your goals. I tend to think of it like farming: You can prepare the land immaculately and plant the seeds just right, but if you don’t water, fertilize and cultivate as you go, then you wasted your time by planting the crop. Remember the reward that awaits you—the fruit you will harvest—and it will help get you through the times of hard work in the “summer.”

When I was a kid, my father always told me, “When you made the choice to start, you made the choice to finish. It isn’t two choices… It’s one.” He taught me early that if you aren’t careful, quitting can become a habit. The good news is that finishing can also become a habit when you practice diligence in all that you do.

There’s an old saying, “The fortune is at the finish line.” It’s absolutely true. Why did Michael Phelps aggressively reach for the wall at that critical moment? Because he had practiced finishing strong every day of his life. And that made the difference between gold and silver.

Let’s learn from his lesson. And let’s remember that, oftentimes, the only thing separating us from success is a few inches. So don’t let up, and reach for the finish line!

How to change the culture within your business: Richard Branson

People often ask how we create such a positive, vibrant culture at Virgin. As with most things, the answer is in our people.

The key to any organisation is how it treats its people. If staff are downtrodden, disrespected and underappreciated, customers will be too. If teams are happy, supported and empowered to take on challenges, customers will follow suit.

I wanted to point out a few other examples of embedding culture outside Virgin that have caught my eye. The first comes from an old Google video, with Larry Page and co fighting back against a rampaging colleague popping balloons in the office. It shows the importance of having fun in the office, welcoming new employees and treating them like part of the family.

The other example is from the World Bank. I visited Jim Yong Kim earlier this year and it was fascinating hearing him explain how he is changing the culture at the Bank to one that is more collaborative and focused on problem solving.

He showed me how he had moved out of his grand corner office on arriving at the Bank – an office so remote he had to “call his assistant to organise a meeting!” So he moved everyone to a central room, which had only been used for cocktail parties before. He now works in the centre of the room in what looks like a newsroom or trading floor. The lack of walls has helped to improve collaboration and broken down some of the formality of the bank.
He explained he was now focused on building an organisation that tries to learn from its work with different projects and share the lessons of successful development around the world. He told me too many times the World Bank would create a successful programme around, for example, irrigation or land management in one country and then not transport the ideas to a new country when exactly the same issue arose. Under Kim they are determined to capture the knowledge and transfer it. Interestingly, Jim Yong Kim is not a bureaucrat or banker by training but a leading academic, health expert and more recently the president of one of America’s leading colleges. He is bringing fresh thinking and is not afraid to speak out on his issues he thinks are wrong.

He also confessed his first interaction with the bank was as a young activist trying to get the bank shut down on its 50th anniversary! It shows how you can make positive cultural change from within.


The final example comes from Mike Bloomberg, who I happened to bump into when being interviewed at his organisation in New York recently. As I was leaving the building I spotted Mike sitting across the room and went over for a chat. His desk was in the thick of his employees – not cut off in a big separate office. The lesson here? Leaders should make themselves available. By sitting on the shop floor with the team, Mike was able to ingrain himself back in the culture of the business, and inspire those around him. Plus, there was much greater opportunity for the type of unscheduled meeting we had. Random conversations like that one are often what result in great new ideas.

By changing the culture of your business to be more open, collaborative and creative, you will help to inspire and empower your employees – and have a lot more fun along the way too.

8 Ways to Move Your Employees from PowerLESS to PowerFULL

Posted on November 30, 2014 by Randy Conley

Would your employees say their relationship with you makes them feel more powerful or powerless? Leadership – real, authentic, people-focused leadership – involves helping others discover their sources of power, not suppressing it.

So how can I…how can WE as leaders…help others find their power? I think part of the answer lies in helping our employees find autonomy and control in their work and self-confidence in their abilities. It also requires the leader to be self-assured in his/her own abilities and not afraid to give power away. It’s only by giving power away to others do we unlock our own leadership greatness.

Here are eight practical ways we can help our people move from feeling powerless to powerful:

1. Give them public opportunities to shine — It’s easy to get trapped in the daily grind and just let people toil in the shadows. Leaders should look for opportunities to sing the praises of their team members to other leaders in the organization or let them showcase their talents in cross-functional teams, projects, or public presentations.

2. Share information — It’s a cliche because it’s true; information is power. Leaders tend to withhold information because they want to retain power and control. It makes them feel valuable, needed, and in charge. However, it also creates a passive and reactive team who sits around waiting for the leader to tell them what to do rather than being assertive and proactive on their own. People without information cannot act responsibly, but people with information are compelled to act responsibly. Liberally share the information your team needs to act responsibly and watch their power and confidence rise to new levels.

3. Let them make decisions — Don’t micromanage your employees. There’s no quicker way to make people feel powerless than to rob them of their ability to make decisions over their own work. Constant micromanaging develops a mindset of learned helplessness among your employees and inhibits their ability to learn and grow in their role.

4. Ask for and incorporate their feedback into your decisions — Simply asking others for their thoughts and opinions signals that you respect what they bring to the table and you recognize that you don’t have all the answers. Contributing to decisions and the direction of the team allows your employees to feel they have power to influence their own work environment.

5. Be a straight shooter — Being evasive or vague in your communications can create the perception that you’re trying to hoard information, power, and control which leave people feeling powerless about their situation. Giving and receiving honest feedback builds trust and confidence with others because they always know where they stand with you and that gives them a measure of power and control over their current reality.

6. Give them leadership opportunities within the team — Whether it’s formal or informal, giving employees a chance to experience leadership positions is a positive step toward empowerment. I’ve seen a number of instances where someone who was thought to not be of “leadership caliber” was given the opportunity to lead and turned out to be a fantastic leader. Sometimes people just need a chance.

7. Let them fail — It’s easy to want to protect our people from failing. Whether we want to spare them from the pain or we’re reluctant to let go of control in the first place, we often don’t let our people get in situations where they have the potential to fail. Part of empowering our team members is letting go of control and allowing them to experience success and failure. Failure is a great teacher as long as we’re willing to learn, and that’s a key role of a leader – helping your people learn from their mistakes.

8. Let them clean up their own messes — Building on the previous point, when your people fail, let them pick up the pieces on their own. Don’t swoop in to pick up the pieces, no matter how tempting it is to play the role of the hero who is arriving to save the day. If you’ve given your people the responsibility and freedom to make their own decisions and succeed or fail on their own, then you need to let them figure out how to clean up the mess if they happen to fail.

It’s our job as leaders to find ways to “power-up” our employees so they gain that sense of control and ownership of their work which leads to higher levels of commitment and engagement. What are some ways you’ve helped your people develop and embrace their personal power?