For most people Monday is the most dreaded day of the week.

This is unfortunate as Mondays occupy 15% of your week and another 10-15% of Sunday (assuming you start dreading returning to work the day before). Now perhaps you as a leader, are immune to this way of thinking. Fair enough. However what about the team you lead? More than likely they are NOT immune to the dread of Monday. A recent LinkedIn survey indicated that 66% of professionals start thinking about and dreading going to work on Sunday. So let’s spend a little time looking at how to address this dis-ease.

Why do we dread Monday’s so much?

Part of this is perfectly normal. The weekend is filled with fun and/or relaxation and we don’t want it to end. We look forward to ‘long’ weekends and relish the time we have with our loved ones. But even a ‘long’ weekend doesn’t end the dread of the first workday – it just moves it back one day. The start of the week is filled with problems and gremlins that appear to have been beefing up all weekend – just waiting to unleash themselves on us. It is also the day that weekly meetings tend to be scheduled, further eroding the amount of time we have to spend those troublesome gremlins. Oh yes – and email – that scourge of the 21st century business professional. Even if you took the weekend off there always seems to be a lot of people that decided to spend their weekend hours getting ahead start on cluttering your inbox with urgent requests. It’s no wonder that Monday is the least favorite day of the week for most people!

If 66% of your team is feeling this way it makes sense to try to see if we can address the parts of the Monday dis-ease that are at least within our control and/or influence.

Here is a short list of simple actions you can take that will help your team make this week different:

  1. Ask your team NOT to open email first thing in the morning. For many professionals this is the first thing they do when they wake up. The psychological damage this does to your creativity and ability to be proactive cannot be overestimated. You are immediately mentally doing battle with your gremlins even before your week has started. But you ask: What if there is a crisis in there? What if I do not see it right away? What if indeed? If your clients or coworkers expect you open email immediately in the morning they may send you an email to alert you to the crisis. In most cases however, they would have texted or called you. Now be honest with yourself: The reason we open email first thing in the morning is because it is a habit. We want to know what awaits us. You don’t have to. You WANT to. It’s like watching an accident – you just can’t look away. When should you open your email – after you complete the second item on this list – and NOT before.
  2. Identify your Weekly TOP 3. Those of you that have followed me for some time know that I am big on lists of three. Jack Johnson immortalized the number three in his hit The 3 R’s where he convinced us that 3 was the magic number. Why do I mention this? Well, some of you followed that hyperlink and listened to a bit of that song. That is what we refer to as a rabbit hole :). Did you fall for it? Even if you didn’t – you know you do at different times of the day, usually when we are at a low energy level. And your mind will always be attracted to what you focus on. If you focus on just ‘surviving the day’ that is exactly what you will get. Part of the way we address this in our flagship coaching process LeaderShift One2One is to have leaders identify three most important items that they want to make progress on in a given week, before they start engaging in the tactical work and the crises of the moment. What are the three most important items you want to make progress on this week? These should be the kind of things that you will feel good about at the end of the week – knowing that you made progress and did not just settle for survival.
  3. Lead with The Positive Focus: Make sure you recognize that your team is a collection of individuals that have lives and interests outside of work. One of the best ways to do this is to have each team member share one positive thing that happened over the weekend at the start of the weekly team meeting. This frames the meeting in everyone’s mind in a positive manner. The benefits to this simple exercise are too numerous to mention here (I’ll write about them in another blog). However – the more unimportant this exercise seems to you the more critical it is that you engage in it. Task oriented leaders are notorious more thinking this is ‘fluff’ and margialzing the importance of connecting with the team. Don’t fall victim to this thinking!

So that’s it. Three simple actions that will help you and your team dread Monday less.

Oh and did you notice there were 3 action items – 3 truly is the magic number.

March 6, 2023 / By

What is the best way to set goals for your team?LeaderShift One Day Intensive

It all starts with a goal. Either you are handed a goal by your manager, or you are asked to set one for your team. Set properly, the goal will establish a GAP between where you are and where you would like the team to be. In fact if there is no GAP there is no need for a leader. And that’s what you are – so how SHOULD leaders set goals?

It turns out that conventional wisdom flies in the face of recent brain science research.

What does the research say?

Modern brain research indicates that we evaluate a ‘status quo goal’ as more difficult to achieve than a ‘modest increase goal’. Yup. Thats right. Respondents were MORE negative about how hard it would be to keep things the same versus a modest increase. (Harvard Business Review  Nov 2018 – ‘Why You Should Stop Setting Easy Goals’)

But it gets even worse…

Not only did lower goals cause more negativity in respondents, when they were asked whether they would rather pursue the status quo goal – or the modest increase goal – they again chose the modest increase goal. And that finding held true across all different kinds of areas we set goals in.

So maybe we need to rethink HOW we set goals with our team. Lower goals are not actually more desirable or easier to get people to rally around. In fact, research has found that lower goals are less likely to be achieved. Now, before you fire off setting super stretch goals, know that those stretch goals rated the lowest of all three types of goals in terms of engagement and commitment. Maybe not verbal commitment – people may still commit verbally. They just don’t follow thru.

So what is the solution?

In order to maximize team commitment and engagement you need to set a modest increase goal while simultaneously decreasing the timeline allowed for the goals achievement. It is also critical that you make sure the team knows that this goal is a milestone on the way to a larger ideal – an ideal future that they have agree is important and desirable for the team to achieve.

So here is this week’s leadership insight: Set modest goals with shorter timelines.

If you have found this Leadership Insight helpful click on the LeaderShift icon below and we can show you how to go further faster.


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February 5, 2020 / By

Problems. There never seems to be a lack of them. And there is never any lack of people that want to obsess over them! And when I say obsess I really mean that they are stuck TALKING about the problem as they are not working on a solution.

If we are honest, we are all guilty of indulging in this behavior from time to time. We know it is not helpful and yet we still get sucked down the rabbit hole of negativity at LeaderShift One Day Intensivetimes. Recent brain research gives us some insight into why this is and what we can do about it.

Research on how the brain deals with positive and negative stimuli published in an article in Psychology Today  gives us some insight into why we get so stuck in the negative. It should come as no surprise that our brains are more impacted by the negative. What is surprising is that the ratio of positive to negative stimuli needs to be at least 5:1 in order to maintain a balance in our relationships. This may explain why leaders tend to try to overwhelm their teams with positive ‘how we can’ information when their team wants to talk about ‘why we can’t. Unfortunately all that positivity falls of deaf ears, and the team may eventually writes of the leader as disconnected from reality. And that leads us to Deadly Sin #4.

Leadership Deadly Sin #4: Allow People to Focus on Things They can Neither Control Nor Influence

There is a lot riding on whether you can get your team’s focus on solutions rather than problems. It will come as no surprise to you that your success as a leader is directly proportional to your ability to get your team to focus on what they can do, rather than on what they cannot. The question is HOW. In order to answer this question, we need to first look at a mental model of how problems interact with what we can control and what we can influence.

Your Circle of Control (COC):
Although we may try to control many different things in our lives, there are only two that we can exert complete control over; our thoughts and our actions. No matter how talented you are you cannot control your results, and you definitely cannot control another person. As a individual contributor you may have felt that you were in control of your results, but you really were not. You just were using your talents, skill and experience to create positive results. Once you become a leader you now are responsible for the results of others, but you have even less control because you are one step removed from the activity that creates results.

While you may not be able to control people, circumstances and results – you can influence them.

Your Circle of Influence (COI):A second larger concentric circle is your Circle of Influence. This circle encompasses people you have strong relationships with, some events that occur, and some circumstances you encounter. There are other people, events and circumstances that you have little or no influence over that would be outside your COI. While the Circle of Control is static (it does does change), the Circle of Influence is dynamic – it will grow or shrink depending on how you deal with Problems that come into your life.

We define a Problem as a person, event or circumstance that you have some influence over. There are actually two parts to any problem. The first is the part that you have some control of influence over. The second part of the problem is the part that you have no control or influence over.

If you chose to focus and take action on the part of the Problem that you have some influence over, then you will feel empowered and you will experience growth in your capabilities and results. In addition, over time your Circle of Influence will grow; and people, events and circumstances that were previously outside of your Circle of Influence will now fall within your new Circle of Influence.

Unfortunately, many people choose to focus on the part of the Problem they have no influence over. This is initially very liberating, as blame for the problem can be assigned elsewhere. However, over time this focus will lead to a decrease in growth and eventual decay of an individual’s Circle of Influence.

How to Change Your Team’s Focus:

In order to shift a team member’s focus off the part of the Problem they have no influence over you must do something that is completely alien to most leaders. You have to agree with them and stop arguing with them. In other words, when they say “We can’t because … insert reason here” we would normally say “But you could do … insert solution here.” This amounts to an argument with your employee. It’s an argument it would appear you eventually win, because they may capitulate and appear to be committed. However you almost always will find that they do not change.

What if you tried this. Next time when a team member says “We can’t because … insert reason here” say “You are absolutely correct, that is why we can’t do it.”

Then stop. Don’t talk. It will absolutely pop their navel. They were expecting an argument but you a agreed with them. They don’t understand. And so they will be listening to what you say next.

The Magic Moment:

Now you have their attention say: “I have a different question for you though… What could you do that would positively impact the situation?”

Do you notice what happened? We moved from why they can’t – to what they could do. However, we did not ask them to do it – just to entertain the possibility. Now that you have them discussing what they could do you can engage in a conversation about can actually happen.

So next time you notice that your team is focused on ‘why they can’t’ do what needs to be done – don’t overpower them with positive solutions. Redirect their focus with a question like, “What part of this Problem do you have control or influence over? Once you identify the part of the Problem that they have some control or influence over, then coach the person to set goals and action steps in that area.

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October 24, 2019 / By

It all starts with a goal. Either you are handed a goal by your manager, or you are asked to set one for your team. Set properly, the goal will establish a GAP between where you are and where you would like the team to be. In fact if there is no GAP there is no need for a leader. And that’s what you are – so how SHOULD leaders set goals?

It turns out that conventional wisdom flies in the face of recent brain science research.

What does the research say?

Modern brain research indicates that we evaluate a ‘status quo goal’ as more difficult to achieve than a ‘modest increase goal’. Yup. Thats right. Respondents were MORE negative about how hard it would be to keep things the same versus a modest increase. (Harvard Business Review  Nov 2018 – ‘Why You Should Stop Setting Easy Goals’)

But it gets even worse…

Not only did lower goals cause more negativity in respondents, when they were asked whether they would rather pursue the status quo goal – or the modest increase goal – they again chose the modest increase goal. And that finding held true across all different kinds of areas we set goals in.

So maybe we need to rethink HOW we set goals with our team. Lower goals are not actually more desirable or easier to get people to rally around. In fact, research has found that lower goals are less likely to be achieved. Now, before you fire off setting super stretch goals, know that those stretch goals rated the lowest of all three types of goals in terms of engagement and commitment.

So that brings us to Deadly Sin #1.

Deadly Sin #1: Set a goal you know how to achieve.

Now, I realize that to many of you that statement looks like a typo, however I can assure you that it is not. I also realize that volumes have been written on setting goals. The problem is that most of the articles and books on this subject are written by people who have never had the responsibility of making payroll, or having to figure out how to make a profit or a budget month after month. So, however well intentioned they may be, they often are only repeating the same tired old mantra about how to reach and achieve objectives that has been taught for years.

But let me start at the beginning with the difference between a goal and an ideal. What differentiates the two of them? Consultants (present company excluded of course) have earned vast fortunes working with leadership teams assisting them in writing their mission and vision. I realized some years back, when challenged by a client on the definitions of these terms, that even the consulting industry does not agree on what they mean. Well heck, that’s a problem in my books. So, rather than seeking the consensus definitions, I started to look at the clients that we had worked with, specifically the ones that had experienced the most rapid change in results and what they had in common.

Here is what we found: The most profound, rapid measurable change came when clients set goals that were completely illogical but that they were completely passionate about achieving.

But wait, aren’t goals supposed to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timed)? (Hmmm … I think I remember teaching that somewhere!) Well, yes they are, but our experience shows us that the time frame within which you set the goal is the key. For example, if you set a time frame that is quite short, say a week or even a month, you had better adhere to the S.M.A.R.T. criteria. However, as the time line stretches toward 3 months, or a year or two; you can afford to be a little less stringent on the ‘realistic’ criteria. This is because the more time you have, the more possibilities exist for learning to occur.

Now, obviously we do not want to be delusional. Your goal should be big enough to excite you and your team. The entire team should be passionate about it’s achievement. That means that it should mean something. Many teams wonder why they are pursuing numbers that mean nothing to them. After a while they stop engaging in the ‘game’ even if they give lip service to the goals that are handed down to them. If we are just going to push people to work harder and harder, then there is very likely not much in it for them.

While you should be passionate about your goal – it should also scare you a little… but it should not panic you. If it does not scare then you probably already know how to do it, or can see how you could achieve by working harder.

Do not fall into the delusional goal setting mode though. Though it may be exciting to dream of achieving these types of goals, if it is too unrealistic then your team they will not expend the marginal effort to pursue it.

So it seems there is sweet spot in goal setting. The goal has to be big enough that there is a win in it for you and the team, however it has to be reasonable enough (within the time frame allowed) where they believe it is possible to achieve it – even if they cannot see how to do it right now.

Next we will look at what to do now you have goal you are passionate about, but do not know how to achieve. Click here to go directly to this post…


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October 2, 2019 / By

What can you learn from your alarm clock about leadership? It turns out quite a bit.

This scene is played out in almost every household across the nation each morning:

The alarm clock goes off to alert you that it is time to get up. At that point there is a battle that takes place between the the rational side of you that wants to get up (and get a head start on the day) – and the emotional side that wants nothing more than just a few more minutes of sleep. I won’t ask you which one normally wins – or how many times the ‘snooze’ button gets slapped in your household. Suffice it to say that the fact that there is a snooze button tells us everything we need to know!

Enter the Clocky, an invention of an MIT student by the name of Gauri Nanda. As you can see, it is no ordinary alarm clock. Once set, it will go off at the prescribed time just like any other alarm clock. But that is where the similarities stop. Once the alarm goes off, the Clocky rolls off your bedside table and away from your reach. Imagine how hilarious it would be to watch someone chasing one of these around the room in attempt to silence it! But wait – what on earth does this have to do with leadership? Well, I’m glad you asked…

It turns out that the Clocky is a perfect analogy for what happens in human psychology whenever we are asked to do something that we rationally believe to be beneficial, but that is in conflict with our emotional side. The unavoidable conclusion is that when we say we need to ‘make up our mind about what we need to do’ – we really should say ‘we need to make up both our minds’ – the rational and the emotional. Unfortunately the rational side is typically overwhelmed by the sheer power of the emotional side. The emotional side of you is the part that is instinctive and feels both pain and pleasure – and it tends to be governed by HABIT. The rational side of you is what we would refer to as the intellectual or conscious mind. This is the part of you that thinks and (in theory) makes decisions. The crazy part of this is that all decisions made in the conscious mind must first pass thru the filter of the emotional mind before we can take action. In order for the conscious mind to win there needs to be a crisis that reinforces the need for change, or a lot of repetition (hence the prevalence of the snooze button).

So how do we use this knowledge to lead more effectively?

While we all know that it is relatively hard for us to change our own habits, we tend to underestimate the lock that our employees’ habits have on their behavior patterns. Because of this we tend to frame logical reasons to our employees why they should change. While I am not saying that we should throw logic aside – it is without a doubt an important and necessary element of any change initiative – I am saying that convincing the rational mind of the importance of a change is actually the easy part. The harder part of any change is getting a person to change their habits.

There is normally only one time of year that most people give any attention to changing their habits: New Years Eve. Although many people have given up on the fruitless ritual of the New Year’s Resolution, others cling to the dim hope that the new year will help them overwhelm the power of habit and they will indeed change for the better.

How to change any habit:

Changing a habit is one of the hardest things you will ever do, however it does not have to be as laced with failure as it normally is. Here is a simple strategy that you can follow to help yourself or an employee increase the likelihood of success:

  1. Focus on the root cause of our frustration – which is likely a HABIT not a bunch of tasks that needs to be completed. For example, if you have a messy desk and it bothers you (I say this because it does not bother everyone!) – do not set a goal to clean your desk. It will only be messy again in no time. Instead focus on the HABIT that is generating the messy desk, likely that you tend to dump things on the desk rather than putting them away.
  2. Identify ONE habit that needs to change. This is of course not what we normally do – we normally get so frustrated that we identify a whole raft of changes that need to happen. This almost assures failure before we even start the process. Since most people struggle to change even one habit at a time we must find a way to focus them on that one change.
  3. Follow up relentlessly until either change occurs or you determine that the change will not occur. If you determine that this one habit cannot change and it is critically important to the success of the role, then it is immaterial if other habits change or not.
  4. Back out of the follow up cycle slowly ensuring that there is adequate positive reinforcement and then identify what needs to change next.

By following this strategy you can overwhelm the emotional mind with your consistency of follow up. In essence you have (for a short period of time) become a Clocky – a constant reminder of HOW the change needs to happen – but definitely NOT just a reminder that it has not yet happened.

Now let’s get started! What HABIT would help you be more successful? If you are unsure you might want to try attending our next Webinar “The 7 Deadly Sins Of Leadership & How to Avoid Them” and you will then have 7 to choose from!

Here’s to your success!


We have found that most leaders are frustrated that they experience the same problems day after day. At the LeaderShift One Day Intensive we teach leaders a process that helps them create a Performance Acceleration Plan so that they radically accelerate their business results. To learn more click here or on the icon below.


September 24, 2019 / By

when feedback failsOne of the most difficult challenges we must deal with as leaders is the fact that some people would rather blame others for their results, rather than place at least part of the blame where it certainly belongs: with themselves. We even have a term for this: Defensiveness.

When I speak with leaders there is an almost universal agreement that this is one of the core challenges that they deal with on a daily basis.

Whether you are speaking with a family member, a peer, or an employee: we are providing feedback to help that person make progress. And yet often that ‘help’ is viewed negatively and discounted by the person we are seeking to assist. Too often they seem preoccupied with deflecting responsibility onto someone or something else.

The challenge that you must overcome when providing feedback to another person, is that your ideas (feedback) conflicts with the way they see the situation – even if they believe that you have their best interests in mind. Complicating matters, research shows that a majority of employees would actually trust a stranger more than their boss. Ouch – I know. I’m not saying that lack of trust is warranted or appropriate, however it could be true that your relationship with the person your are attempting to give feedback to is strained.

How the Brain Experiences Feedback

We tend to believe that since our feedback contains useful information, providing that information to another person it will accelerate their learning. Recent research shows that the opposite is true. There are at least two reasons for this:

The first reason for this is that we make a number of assumptions about the superiority of our understanding of the problem that the person is experiencing. We communicate this superiority through our lack of questions about how they see the problem. Whether or not you do understand their situation better than they do or not – that is not the issue. The issue is that you have cast yourself in a superior role and that is almost always going to cause a defensive reaction.

The second reason that feedback often does not accelerate learning is that when we are presented with a new idea – or at least one that conflicts with what we believe to be true, we have a choice to make. We can choose to learn from that idea or we can choose to attack that idea and defend what we know to be true.

But we cannot do both. At least not at the same time.

Now if we were to be honest, we would have to agree that it is hard to be open minded about ideas that conflict with what our experience has shown us to be true.  So our natural reaction is to defend our own perception of the ‘truth’.

When providing feedback to others, what we really want is for them to be open minded – in other words we want their mind to be open to the possibility that they could learn and that the idea may actually help them. Unfortunately, our process for getting them to change their minds is flawed.

Instead of opening their minds to the possibility that their understanding of what is happening is flawed, we instead encourage the very defensiveness that frustrates our ability to assist them in making a positive change. In other words, we try to argue people into changing their minds. Rarely does this work, so we up the ante and increase the volume and intensity of our dialogue. Even if this results in a temporary change in behavior – it is too often short lived, and the person reverts to their previous behavior pattern.

A Better Model For Feedback

So then how do we coach positive change in another person?

It is actually easier than you may think.

As a leader, we are often told to ‘walk the talk’ or ‘model that which we expect from others’.

Unfortunately, we tend to interpret this in the narrowest sense – we should arrive on time if we want others to do so, we should work hard if we want others too etc. While all of these habits are a great start – they are really just the price of admission to being able to ‘lead effectively’.

So what should we do?

The answer is to model the very behaviors we desire in those we seek to lead. So, if we want people to be in ‘learning’ mode rather than ‘defensive’ mode – we need to model that behavior ourselves.

Think of a time when you last experienced defensiveness from someone. Did you you model being in ‘learning’ mode? Or did you argue with them and attempt to convince them that your feedback would help them? Did you ask questions with a desire to understand their point of view, or did you ask questions with an eye to uncover where their logic was flawed?

The question is – are you in ‘learning’ mode when they you are interacting with the people you need to model the behavior for? That’s when it counts – they need to see you making an effort to learn (interpret this as understand) their perspective on a change you are seeking them to make.

Try this experiment next time you are faced with defensiveness from another person: Set aside the need to be right, and ask questions to understand their perspective. That does not mean they are right, and you should accept their answers as facts. However it does mean that you listen and really try to understand why they feel the way they do. You will find that the emotion in the dialogue decreases, they open up and you actually can have a conversation rather than an argument.

Consider this: When we are in ‘defensive’ mode we are almost always talking. When we are in ‘learning’ mode we are almost always listening. So, to model ‘learning’ behavior we must listen. Only then will you understand how the other person sees the issue.

So how about you: When you are seeking to change the behavior of another person do you do most of the talking – or most of the listening?

August 22, 2019 / By

Asian Businesswoman Leading Meeting At Boardroom Table

Today’s organizations are increasing characterized by cross functional teams or a matrix structure. In this environment, leaders can rarely achieve their goals by relying on the individuals that are part of their own reporting group. In nearly every case, a leader’s ability to do their job and deliver on the promises they make is dependent on the cooperation of individuals that they have no authority over. Not to mention the fact that often we need to collaborate with vendors and partners outside the company we work for.

In fact, your formal title and the authority that comes with it will only take you so far in today’s workplace. Without question the most relevant skill to address this challenge is the skill of Influence.

At The Oxley Group define we define the amount of influence you have as the inverse of the amount of positional power required to get anything done. The challenge for most leaders is that it is very hard to assess the amount of influence you have with another person. That is at least unless you know how.

Warning Signs

Here are a few warning signs that perhaps the your ‘influence’ muscle could use some work:

  1. You find your work is sometimes stalled because of your reliance on the response from individuals that do not report to you.
  2. It is hard to get people to return calls and emails.
  3. You are not invited to meetings where you perceive your input would have been helpful, or your would have desired your input to be heard.
  4. People rarely ask for your input.
  5. You rarely receive candid negative feedback – even when it is solicited.

Even the most capable leader needs to constantly monitor their current level of influence if they want to ensure maximum contribution and effectiveness.

The Influence Audit

In order to assess the amount of influence you have with the individuals that are critical to your success, perform the following audit:

  1. List the individuals that have the most impact on your ability to get work completed.
  2. Assign a score from ‘0’ to ’10’ to each contact based on how critical they are to your success.
  3. Assign a score from ‘0’ to ’10’ to each contact based on how much value they provide to you. Value includes support, timeliness, and accessibility. Do not assess your perception of their ‘skill’ as part of this equation.
  4. Now take each individual and assign a score from ‘0’ to ’10’ based on how much value you provide to them.

As you look at the scores you may see some immediate areas you need to address. Here are a few Challenges you may recognize in your scores:

Challenge #1: You have individuals that are critical to your success (question #2) however you rated them low on value they provide (question #3)

This a red flag that you may have an issue with Influence with these individuals. Consider how you can build your influence through the value you provide to them. Is the only time they hear from you when you need something? What skill do you have, or that you could develop, that you could proactively utilize to provide value to them. Have you spent time getting to know them as a person? Do you know what is important to them?

If you rated their value low and you suspect that they lack the skill for what you are asked them to do, that is a perfect opportunity to build influence by assisting them develop that skill. Remember that they may not be particularly trusting of you at first, and you may have to spend some time building trust before they feel able to open up about the challenges they are facing.

Challenge #2: You have individuals that are critical to your success and provide great value (question 2 & 3), however you rated the value you provide low (question #4)

The good news here is that you do not have a short term problem. The bad news is that you have a long term problem: this type situation is not sustainable. If you do not address this imbalance, you will eventually find that not only will your current relationships suffer, you will gain a reputation as a person that is a ‘user’. While I have never met a leader that feels they fit this term, I know of many leaders that other people would describe this way. The solution is simple: How can you start to provide value to others? Consider projects that are outside of your formal role that you do not have to be involved in. In this way your peers will start to view you as a contributor to the success of others, even when there is not a direct benefit to you.

At some point in very leader’s career there comes a point when your success will be less dependent on your personal skill and ability than it will be on the relationships that you have created that allow you to play at a higher level.

August 13, 2019 / By

In our previous blog entitled, How Lennon and McCartney Used Collaboration and Competition to Create Genius, we looked at how John Lennon and Paul McCartney used their opposing behavior styles to work brilliantly together. John and Paul, along with a little help from their friends George and Ringo, changed the world in their eight years as a popular music powerhouse. Taking a closer look at the power duo’s behaviors and drivers, John and Paul couldn’t have been more opposite. How did they make it work and change the music world as we know it?

Defining behaviors and drivers

In the realm of behaviors as measured by DISC, Paul is a classic S/C. He was slower-paced compared to John and his priority was the proper execution of his tasks. While friendly and good with people, Paul would probably have preferred to work in the studio than have a press conference. However, he clearly understood the value the press provided for the band and was willing to accommodate. Paul was very systematic when it came to making music and he could also be possessive of his musical ideas. Paul was comfortable when things were status-quo. When something came in to affect the status-quo, such as Yoko Ono’s presence in the studio, it made Paul very uncomfortable.

John was the epitome of a high-D, low-S/C, driven to accomplish much, but always in a hurry to finish whatever it was so he could move to the next thing. Definitely lacking patience, John wanted everything to be done as quickly as possible. John never cared much for rules and followed only those rules that seemed to suit him. He was charismatic and people were always drawn to him, which is indicative of someone possessing at least a relatively high-I. Comparing the behavior of John and Paul, they were mostly opposites.

From a driver’s perspective, John was constantly being driven by new ideas and ways of doing things. Paul was much more set in his way, having very specific ideas for how he liked to do things. Paul wanted to learn as much about music as he could while John learned mostly what was necessary for the project he was working on at the time. Paul always worked purposefully and knew exactly what he needed from others to accomplish his goals, which were always driven around increasing the stature of the band.

Both men enjoyed the spotlight, but Paul would defer to John on occasion, such as when standing on the Ed Sullivan stage after their performance, when there was only room for one Beatle on the higher platform. Other times, John would step back and let Paul have his moment, usually to the delight of the screaming girls in the front row. They realized they each brought their own value to their audience, to the overall benefit of the band, so they adapted their behaviors accordingly and willingly shared the spotlight.

Switching roles

As the decade progressed and The Beatles continued to define the music of the generation, John and Paul continued to answer each other through music. When John penned the politically-fueled Revolution, Paul answered with his own social commentary in his ballad, Blackbird.

For a new challenge, the two occasionally spent time reversing roles. John was known for his rockers and Paul for his ballads. However, toward the end of the union, Paul penned the very raucous, Helter Skelter, while John countered with the touching soft ballad, Julia, a tribute to his deceased mother.

What it all means

Most people will argue that Lennon and McCartney were more successful together than as solo artists, and rightfully so. Together, the two created a force that far surpassed what they could, and did, accomplish individually. With a unique balance of collaboration and competition, the two pushed each other to continuously raise the bar and exceed even their own expectations.

While Paul may have been the band’s unofficial “musical director,” he and John took turns running the show. Early on, John and Paul may have deferred to the mastery of their experienced producer George Martin. As time went on, they took turns calling the shots for various album sessions. Paul was widely known to have controlled the majority of the Sgt. Pepper sessions while John reasserted his leadership during the tumultuous White Album sessions. Both albums are considered brilliant by critics and fans alike.

As a unit, The Beatles seemed to have a natural ability to channel the exact behaviors and drivers needed when they were needed. When John lost focus, Paul took control. When Paul began to lose interest, John took control back. Finally when conflict between John and Paul was making it difficult to accomplish anything together, George Harrison stepped out of the shadows, asserted control and delivered some of the bands most iconic songs as showcased by their epic masterpiece, Abbey Road.

There was a perpetual give and take, push and pull, that made The Beatles work. John and Paul were clearly each other’s yin and yang. The complementary behaviors and drivers closed all the gaps and filled all the holes, making The Beatles an unmatched force in the music scene, something the world hasn’t seen since.

Note: This article originally appeared on TTI Success Insights and was republished with permission.

January 9, 2019 / By

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it can be argued, formed the greatest songwriting partnership in the history of recorded music. The Beatles changed the world in their eight years as a popular music powerhouse. On the surface, the two may seem like two peas in a pod. In reality, John and Paul couldn’t have been more opposite, when viewed from a behavior and driver perspective.

As the staff writer for an assessment solutions company, I am intrigued to study how different behavioral styles and motivators can work together to create greatness. And who better to study than the brains behind arguably the greatest band of all-time?

While George Harrison and Ringo Starr certainly contributed to the group (especially in the later years), it was McCartney and Lennon that did the majority of the songwriting and were the engine that powered The Beatles music machine.

After being inspired by reading a thought-provoking article about the differing personalities of the two lead Beatles, I was motivated to compare and contrast Lennon and McCartney from a perspective of behaviors. The article is entitled The Power of Two, written by Joshua Wolf Shenk of The Atlantic, a great read for anyone who considers themselves a fan of The Beatles.

Proving that opposites certainly do attract – and have the ability to work fantastically together – comparing the behaviors of these two musical geniuses and the drivers behind those behaviors sheds insight on how their individual opposing forces were often the fuel that brought out the greatness in both men’s songwriting.

Behaviors form early

While John was just twenty months older than Paul, the age gap was significant enough to position John as somewhat of an “alpha dog” during the two boys’ formative teenage years. John was 100% rebel, moving to the beat of his own drum from the very beginning. John lived in the moment and did as he pleased, without much care or concern for future repercussions.

Paul, on the other hand, was a proper and polite young gentleman, well-schooled and respectful. Paul came from a loving family, while John was raised by a strict aunt who cared for him after his father left and his mother decided she wasn’t cut out for the job. While John’s aunt had his best interests at heart, her style of parenting left John more resentful than appreciative.

When the two boys met sometime around 1957, a magnetic pull occurred instantly. John was the rebellious older boy that did as he pleased, which appealed to the well-behaved Paul. Conversely, Paul’s musical ability was equal, or even superior, to John’s. Paul’s ability to be able to keep up with and push John appealed to his competitive nature. John, whether he’d openly admit or not, was somewhat envious of Paul’s stable household while Paul often wondered what it would be like to break some rules once in awhile.

Competition vs. collaboration

The two were virtually inseparable from the time they met until the later years of The Beatles. They could often be seen with their guitars in hand, learning popular songs of the day or creating songs of their own. Both Liverpool lads had wildly-creative minds and ideas flowed like fountains from both of them. One would create a song idea and the other would have an equally compelling idea to complete the song. John and Paul thrived on collaboration, and what they accomplished together was leaps and bounds above what they would have seemingly accomplished individually. In this case, 1+1=3. There was John, there was Paul and there was a third force that was created when the two worked together.

Their collaborative genius can be seen in what many consider to be the Beatles greatest song, A Day In The Life, where both members came to the table with parts of incomplete songs. While vastly different in musical composition, the pair fused these parts together to create an epic masterpiece that defines their greatness. In writing the psychedelic Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, it is said that they “volleyed” lines back and forth, coming up with ideas with ease, creating the definition of a true collaboration.

Interestingly, competition also drove the pair. During the Beatles’ heyday, when everything the band wrote became a hit, they began to write significant parts of songs, or even entire songs, on their own. When John appeared in the studio one day with Strawberry Fields Forever, a melancholy reflection of his childhood, Paul immediately answered with Penny Lane; an interpretation of his childhood. Always trying to “one-up” each other, the pair kept raising the stakes on what it meant to write a great song. Because of this, the songs kept getting better all the time.

When they weren’t competing with each other, they were teaming up to compete against other rival bands. The Beach Boys were their main competition, battling The Beatles in the early and mid-60s for chart supremacy. When the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson wrote his signature classic God Only Knows, Paul answered with his touching ballad Here, There and Everywhere.

The competition wasn’t confined to the music either. Shortly after Lennon broke the unwritten rules of bringing an outsider (Yoko Ono) into the studio, McCartney quickly followed suit introducing Linda Eastman. When Paul married Linda, John and Yoko also married, a mere eight days later.

Comparing behaviors

Paul was meticulous and organized; he was known for always carrying a notebook with him should inspiration hit him while he was on the move. Known for his neat handwriting, and equally smooth communication skills, Paul usually had a plan and a specific method for doing things. He was willing to put in the long hours to accomplish his goals. He’d see ideas through to completion and was known to be somewhat set in his ways.

John was the opposite of organized, scrambling to find scraps of paper to jot down unreadable notes when inspiration struck him. He didn’t have a set method for going about his tasks, he was open to go with the flow and enjoyed constantly trying new things. He liked to move quickly from song to song and project to project, having a high sense of urgency. If an idea of his morphed into something different than he originally imagined, he was open to the change. This was unlike Paul who would often take offense when someone would critique one of his ideas.

Being a natural communicator, and usually having a calculated purpose in mind, Paul was a perfect fit for the press. Always prepared, he was engaging and he gave them exactly what they were seeking. This made him a media darling. It also helped counteract John’s sometimes harsh, if not crude, approach with the same media members. John could get away with his rebellious attitude because of Paul’s opposite manner. Together, the two made it work.

John’s first wife Cynthia Lennon was known for saying “John needed Paul’s persistence and attention-to-detail while Paul needed John’s anarchic, lateral thinking.” They each had strengths and weaknesses and it seemed, in many regards, one’s strength was the other one’s weakness. That’s why things worked so well for John and Paul.

While the two did share many things in common, it seemed their opposing behaviors and drivers are what really propelled them to a place no band had ever reached previously.

Note: This article originally appeared on TTI Success Insights and was republished with permission.

January 9, 2019 / By

With box office sales reaching $142 million in the US and almost $600 million worldwide, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody has captured the hearts and minds of movie goers everywhere. Based on the story of the British rock band Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the nascent band from its early days playing clubs to its rise into megastardom.

Comprised of four superstar musicians, the band was unquestionably led by frontman and vocal virtuoso Freddie Mercury. Much like The Beatles did a decade earlier, Queen leveraged the unique personalities of each member to create a sound that changed the music landscape forever.

With millions of musicians in the world, what made Queen so special? Authenticity, emotion and energy is what set Queen apart from everyone else. Whether it’s the euphonic harmonies of the song Bohemian Rhapsody or the unparalleled energy the band delivered during their live concert performances, Queen was the true embodiment of emotion and energy, with a side of style and class.

Creating the band’s sound
Queen is a study in how disparate styles can come together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. In many ways, the differences in the band were showcased in how Freddie’s style contrasted with the other three band members.

Freddie was a showman who clearly envisioned the big picture, imagining a song from its conception to its stage delivery. Incorporating classical music training into his songwriting, Mercury challenged the status quo of the rock world by delivering a sound that possessed elements of ballads, rock and opera.

Brian May’s musical palate was as vast as his intellect, spanning from classic hard rock such as “Hammer to Fall” to the softest of ballads found in the beautiful melodies of “Love of My Life.” Drummer/vocalist Roger Taylor liked to inject a little humor into his writing as is shown in the song “I’m In Love With My Car.” Bassist John Deacon was a frequent songwriting contributor, penning some of the band’s bigger hits including “You’re My Best Friend” and the unmistakably bass-driven “Another One Bites the Dust.”


Challenging the status quo
Often rejected by record company execs for not being commercial enough, songs like Bohemian Rhapsody redefined what commercial became. At the time the song was recorded, there were no six minute radio hits, no opera parts in rock and certainly no music videos.

Queen wanted to break free from what was previously considered “radio acceptable,” fully believing there was a market for their new brand of rock. They rightfully believed that if the public had a chance to experience the music, they would enjoy it.

For a song “certain to fail” according to record company execs, Bohemian Rhapsody became the third most popular song in the history of the British charts based on sales, having reached the #1 spot in two separate decades (on its release and upon Mercury’s death) and charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in an unheard of three different decades (70s, 90s, 10s).

Collaboration is king
It’s safe to say that Queen left an indelible mark on the music world. The bigger question is what propelled Queen to produce music that became so long lasting and impactful? A strong argument can be made that the unique personalities of the band members is what created the greatness.

While no one will doubt that Mercury was the band’s driving force, every member of the band was a contributing songwriter. The future astrophysicist May was the yin to Mercury’s yang, with Mercury’s soft melodies being sonically balanced by May’s raging power chords. When it came to songwriting, they were very collaborative, with different members taking the lead at different times, creating unique, memorable songs that spanned the musical gamut. When the band performed live, however, the three members of the rhythm section were willing to take on more of a supporting role role so that Mercury’s star could shine the brightest.Queen-Performing

History has seen many bands crash and burn with a dominant personality in the mix. However, May, Taylor and Deacon understood that letting Mercury take the lead on stage – and often in the studio too (i.e. Bohemian Rhapsody) – brought out the best from the vocalist. The band’s epic performance at Live Aid, considered by many to be the quintessential rock performance of all time, showed that the bigger the stage, the better the band performed.

As self-assured as Mercury was, it was what the others contributed that made Queen the powerhouse they were. The commercial failure of Mercury’s solo album, made without the help of his trusted bandmates, confirmed this point. It proved that even the most creative minds have their limitations and often it takes another voice or idea to elevate something from good to great.

What motivated Queen?
Queen believed in pushing the limits and creating a new definition of what was considered to be mainstream. The band understood that with their supreme songwriting and performing capabilities, they could accomplish just about anything. Freddie had a commanding personality, wanting to be the center of attention at all times. The spotlight energized him. The others were smart enough to realize that Mercury was a bonafide star and that letting him shine was very much to the band’s benefit.

John Deacon seemed to avoid the spotlight, instead preferring to be the foundation on which the songs were built. Slow and steady, Deacon’s bass lines were the glue that held everything together. Roger Taylor was a showy drummer and a good vocalist in his own right. While the press would regularly gravitate toward Mercury during interviews, Taylor would frequently chime in to remind the eager press that Queen, in fact, consisted of four equal members.

While Mercury attracted attention with his showmanship and stage acrobatics, May attracted attention with his style and guitar virtuosity. With a precise attention to detail, May performed like a master craftsman, creating both a style and a sound that was unlike any that came before or after him.

Wanting to be unique, May and his father Harold built an unconventionally-shaped guitar that became known as the Red Special. It produced a thick, bright sound which instantaneously conveyed the Queen sound. Playing with a Sixpence instead of a guitar pick, May created his unique, ear-piercing squeal that a traditional plastic pick could never produce. To say May was detail-oriented in his approach would be quite the understatement; he was nothing short of a guitar maestro.

The show must go on
The members of Queen had an insatiable appetite for songwriting and performing. Attention to the finest details is what set this band apart from other acts of the time that were more consumed with sex, drugs and everything else that came with the rock and roll lifestyle.

Queen was a supergroup before the term was even coined. Understanding that, through collaboration, they could achieve virtually anything they wanted to, the individual members sacrificed a certain level of personal fame and fortune in exchange for a lasting legacy for the band as a whole. They were a band in the truest sense of the word.

Note: This article originally appeared on TTI Success Insights and was republished with permission.

January 7, 2019 / By


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* The Balanced ScoreCard (Kaplan/Norton)