build the bench

It’s rare that people start out as stars, most of the time there are layers and layers of learning and mistakes and growing and starting over. If you are only looking for the superstars, I can promise you will be overlooking someone who has the desire and potential to be a star player on your team. Take a look at any sports team, and the starters are always a smaller group, the other players are on the bench or in the bullpen. They may be earlier along on their journey, but they are adding value nonetheless. If you have been taking care of your people and your culture you will most likely have superstars that are playing full out for you, but don’t forget about the supporting cast. Look at the bench as the apprentices, some easy to recognize early on for their positive potential. Many, however, are laboring in relative obscurity, day to day just under the radar.

If you are on a team take a look at yourself and see if you are a starter or on the bench. If you are on the bench, your job is to support the starters and prepare yourself for becoming a star. You can do this by doing whatever you can to learn and grow, and to develop a mindset of serving and trainability. This means that you don’t think you know it all, and are able to follow the direction of the leadership while also showing your additional value, by going above and beyond, and by being part of the solutions instead of part of the problems.

If you are a leader, your job is to know that there is always a revolving door in any organization, and to make sure you are building your bench by ensuring you are coaching and training the bench and bringing in higher caliber people than those that leave. Everyone has value, but if you are losing people that operate at level 8 and bringing on level 4, you have a problem. If you are only focusing on the starters, as the door revolves and you inevitably lose someone from your team, you will find yourself scrambling to find a replacement. Our goal as leaders is to always be building and strengthening the team from the bench up to your inner circle (the top performers who you’d really be bummed to lose).

In our organization we can proudly say that there is no limit to the growth of our people. We have a culture of building and growing our team as individuals, and the more we nurture that culture by rewarding the progress they make, the more people we are attracting onto the team who share the desire to grow and contribute. We have managers who started with us at entry level, with no prior experience, who are top performers and are learning to train and develop their own supporting players. It is a process, and takes time, energy and consistency to help people to grow, but the rewards are compounding and gigantic when you see the trainee becoming the trainer.

looking ahead

It felt so good to get out there on my mountain bike again for a ride. We had just started getting back into riding after a long lazy winter, and after my Tuesday ride I felt so pumped and complete! I was excited to get more of those endorphins flowing! We started pedaling up the first incline, a pretty gradual but challenging up hill that we used to be able to ride without a rest. I kept my focus on pumping and moving forward, my mind filled with dreams and thoughts about the new restaurant we are working on building. I almost made it to the top, but my will gave waay and I ended up stopping for a rest in the shade to catch my breath, a big improvement from two days ago when I made 4 stops up the same hill.

I am feeling pretty good about myself at this point, and ready to tackle the rest of the ride. We get to the top and get ready to make the rolling downhill ride to the Lake, where we will need to climb back out again. The rains have left the trail rutted and rocky, making the downhill a lot more technically difficult than I am comfortable with, but I am determined. I am chanting “trust the bike, trust God, you can do this” over and over as we start our descent.

I get about half way down and there’s the slope of death. I call it this because it has gotten me before. In the best of conditions it is difficult, but I have been able to conquer it in the past by keeping my eyes focused softly ahead to where I want to go, instead of straight down and looking into the ruts.

I have learned the hard way that my bike will go where I look. Look at the rock you don’t want to hit and 10/10 times you will hit the rock. Yup, my aim is that good. I am sad to say the hill got me, but not big time, just a gentle fall over to the side, with a little bruising on my elbow and knee. Humbling message to walk this part.

I get back on the bike and catch up with James, he is so sweet he makes me feel better by saying he also almost succumbed to the hill too. I decide to follow him the rest of the way, looking at his line (where his tires go) as a guide for my own path.

In theory this would have been a great plan, but we are talking about looking ahead here, one of the 17 laws of teamwork I was just reading about. Seeing more and before- the big picture, all the stuff I am working on living.

So my looking ahead only extended to James who was riding about 20 ft in front of me. I saw him navigate a muddy groove, it looked like he jumped up a little to make it through, but this processed in my mind a little too late for me to take action.

I followed his line, whizzing down the hill at a pretty swift speed, and suddenly I found myself bouncing on the trail. My front tire locked into that muddy groove and sent me and the bike flying over the handlebars to land with the thud of my head thwacking on the ground.

I was at that moment unable to find the strength to lift the bike off of me and get up. I could feel James stopping and looking back at me, I said “I’m ok I’m ok” as I lay there stunned for a minute, and did an quick inventory of my body to make sure there was nothing seriously hurt. With his help, I got up and looked at my muddy mess. My pride was bruised, along with a few body parts, but it could have been worse.

My thoughts as I was walking my bike up the hill after my spill were “what is the lesson here?” In riding in these conditions I was venturing into unknown territory, and since I was following a strong leader, I neglected using my own brain to look ahead. Had I remembered what I was learning, to look at the big picture, I would have slowed down and listened to my intuition that told me I was going too fast.

understanding people

When you are learning something new, how do you like to learn? Do you want to know the reason why it is important? Do you like to just dive in and experiment, get your hands dirty? Do you prefer step by step procedures? Or do you want to know how, or the factors that led up to this way of doing things? These are 4 very different approaches to learning, and I like to know why it is important before taking on a new project. For me to buy in and jump in whole-heartedly it means a lot to me to know the why as well as the outcome we are looking for.

Where it gets tricky is that everyone has different approaches to learning, and if I am communicating with someone who just likes to dig in and figure it out as they go (experimenter), they can get frustrated with me explaining the why to them. We tend to think that everyone learns like us, and we train and teach from our own perspectives instead of taking the time to connect with the person and ask them how they learn best. This was so enlightening to me when I learned this – my husband and business partner is a hands on learner. He would get impatient with my need to explain why, and expect me to just jump in and go, like he would.

Its almost like we are wearing different prescriptions of glasses. We often operate from the misguided belief that everyone is like us, and this is so untrue. There is no cookie cutter formula for training and developing people, and despite what we were taught when we were kids, you cannot treat everyone the same. Taking time to connect and really get to know your people by asking them the easy questions to gain insight into how best to communicate with them will pay huge dividends in building your culture and team.

* Do you want to know the reason why it is important?
* Do you like to just dive in and experiment, get your hands dirty?
* Do you prefer step by step procedures?
* Do you want to know how, or the factors that led up to this way of doing

selling your vision

I was at a dinner party recently and was talking to Martin about his son. Martin’s son had graduated from college with a degree in psychology, and was contemplating what to do next. His son’s perspective of his choices was limited to going into the field of counseling, but the desire to sit with people and work through their personal issues was not a big pull. Martin, who I speculate did NOT have a degree in psychology, used his skills to help his son expand his vision. “I told him, well son, sales is all about psychology, and life and business are about sales. Why don’t you use what you have learned and see what you can do to build a business?” Great advice! I may be biased, but I am a big fan of entrepreneurs and I love it when people are inspired to go into business for themselves.

This got me thinking about the thought of life being about sales, and its true. When you are parenting it definitely is, and my kids are great at selling me on what they want, and I definitely needed to be a really good salesperson to convince them to take a jacket to school or eat their veggies! In business of course sales play a big part, not only with the client or customer, but also with your team. It may be more subtle, since the team is not actually purchasing something tangible, but buy-in is vital to the creation of a healthy growing culture.

“Will they buy in to my vision?” I’ve heard this question from aspiring entrepreneurs, and its not about the vision. It’s about the leader. People buy in to YOU. People will rarely support even a worthy cause unless they have first bought in to the leader. That’s why corporations use celebrity endorsers, we automatically think that someone who is famous and successful at sports, music, or acting has credibility, and as such the product they endorse also gets that benefit.

The question comes down to have you given them reason to buy in to you? This requires building trust. We have seen this in action in our business as sometimes people we have placed in leadership positions end up falling flat on their face. When they start out they have a level of respect that comes automatically since they are in a position of authority, but from there it is up to the salesmanship and leadership of the person whether they succeed or fail. More than once we have seen a potentially great leader neglect the important part of the leadership process that requires you to build relationships and the trust of the team before attempting to make major changes. Buy in takes time, it requires integrity and a track record of credibility so that the people you are leading know and believe you will be there for them no matter what. It requires being honest with them, and sincerely taking an interest in their goals and helping them grow. Ultimately it requires patience and the work to build the relationships that will bring you to your vision.


There is a circle in life that includes giving and receiving. I have been guilty of wanting only to give, and of falling into the trap of “paying back” what I have received. This is the sneaky ego that wants to be independent and keeps score. It may be a belief that it is selfish to receive, or that we are not worthy. It allows us to only be the giver, and causes feelings of discomfort when required to receive. It can be difficult to learn to receive, and also to ask for help. Some of us have deep seated beliefs that require us to prove ourselves, to show that we don’t need help and can do it on our own. But come back to the circle, if you do not open yourself to receiving, and are always giving, you are interfering with the circle and the living, synchronistic energy that happens when we are in the flow. If you only give and do not open yourself to receiving, you cannot fully experience the freedom and joy that comes with learning to give fully without conditions.


“If you fail to prepare you are preparing to fail.” – John Maxwell

This quote was at the forefront of my mind as I prepared for my meeting with the leaders we are helping to grow in our company. The most important thing to remember when leading a meeting is to know your outcome. My outcome was to add value to them and ensure that they left the meeting uplifted. The absolute importance of taking the time to connect with the people you are leading is non-negotiable. My flexible agenda when I lead a small meeting goes like this:

1. Set the expectation (Tell them why they are there. Most people are sitting there thinking to themselves, why are we meeting? What is this about?)
2. Appreciation (Let them know how much you need them and appreciate them)
3. Intention (Let them know your goal is to add value and that you value their time. Start and end on time.)
4. You go last (Ask questions before sharing your story or message)
5. Anything Else? (When people are sharing and communicating with you, I always ask “What else”, never “is that all”. This keeps the communication open.)
6. Conclusion (Recap and summarize your message, while thanking them for contributing)

I look at my meetings as an opportunity to collaborate and connect with the people that I am meeting with. Many minds are smarter than one mind, and there is a synergy when people with a shared vision begin thinking about solutions and ideas. The ability to nurture this incredible group power and be open to the direction it takes you is a super-power when it comes to growing your business. The more you grow yourself and your own leadership abilities, the more you can lift the people you are leading. I am being pushed upwards to grow by the emerging leaders that we are developing, I learn from them as I teach them, its an amazingly beautiful thing.

your intention

Its not what you do but how you do, is what I have been told time and time again, but do we really realize how true it is? How many times have you said yes to something that you really didn’t want to do, for reasons like obligation, or not disappointing someone, guilt? But if it is really true, that its not what you do but how, doesn’t the “how” that you are not doing it out of pure joy and desire negate any possible positive impact from saying yes?

If you are martyring yourself or would rather be elsewhere, and you say yes to that invitation, the energy you are bringing to the interaction or date or dinner or event is not going to be positive. What if you made the decision to stop trying to be everything to everyone and focused on being the one complex thing that you are? What if you gave up trying to please everyone and really got to know yourself and what brings you joy?

I’ll tell you what if. When you begin making decisions based on your values and truly what aligns with them its a game changer. You will suddenly find a tremendous feeling of peace. You will appreciate the freedom of being where you are, because you have chosen to be there. I can’t count the times when I have said yes, sure, of course, no problem, okay, I’ll be there, I’ll do it. My habit of over committing and over booking was in constant danger of sending me into overload. The process of learning to be me and being OK with saying no has shifted my perceived stress into genuine wellbeing. Everything I commit to I am all in, I know that this means I can’t say yes to everything. Take a look at your calendar from the past 30 days and you will see really look at where you are spending your time. Can you see what you are placing value on? Does it tell you what you want to hear?


Culture is a living growing organism. Miso, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut…all contain it. It needs the right environment to grow and to thrive. We are encouraged to include it in our diet because it contains active, live probiotics that help to keep us healthy. In your organization, in your family, in your country, you have a culture, whether you are creating it intentionally or not. Just like in in food, it needs the right environment to grow. Like foods, if your culture doesn’t have the right environment, it can spoil and turn toxic.

We are constantly in the process of nurturing the culture in our organization. We know that if you neglect the important things, like listening, really listening, the environment can and will change. The good news is that your culture has muscle memory. Well the good news and the bad. If your culture was not conducive to growth and love and teamwork, it can easily slip back there without strong leadership. When a culture has started to slip, as it can, you’d better pay attention and get in there before apathy starts its alluring pull back to the starting point. That the pull is like a tug of war, with the followers becoming stronger than the leader. Discord and inertia and even sabotage can and will happen when the culture is slipping. But muscle memory- it can bring you right back up to where you need to be with the right leadership.

Every problem, every issue, is a leadership issue. Without a strong leader who listens and cares and lives what they teach it is impossible to sustain a positive culture. Turning around a slip, or even the act of constantly creating and growing a culture entails connecting with the key people on your team. These are the green leaders and top performers, the 20% that are producing 80% of the results.

Connect and talk to your people. Ask them what their biggest challenges are. And help solve them. Listen. Follow up and follow through. And listen some more. If you don’t care, no one else will either. Celebrate the direction while keeping the goal in your sights. Remember that it is the little things that you do consistently that stack and compound and build the culture, be intentional about your habits.

more freedom

Do you want to go into business for yourself so you can have more time? More freedom, more money? Let me tell you that you will get none of those things, not at first. Being self employed is not for the weak. If I can talk you out of it, you should go do something else. It takes a do whatever it takes mindset to not only launch but especially to grow a business. The successful entrepreneurs I know are a scrappy bunch. They are driven, motivated. They can be stubborn, yet they need to know they will be constantly growing. They have a strong opinion on the things that they will not compromise on in their business. For my father one of the things was his phone system. He insisted that no matter how much his company grew, his clients would reach a real person when they called. After my 3 disconnected phone calls and “touch 3 for technical support”, “I’m sorry, please repeat your selection” frustrating call to Directv yesterday I can really appreciate this as a standard. In our restaurant business we will not sacrifice quality for price. This is a non-negotiable standard.

I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so it was a natural flow for me to open my own business, but even with that foundation it has been a steep mountain to climb. The rewards are tremendous, we have been able in our business to provide jobs for so many people we know and in our family, we have been blessed to be able to work together as husband and wife and with our kids, we have amazing positive fun people who we get to work with, and we have the freedom to choose who works with us. But every benefit comes with a sacrifice. You have to be willing to sacrifice time to reap the rewards. You have to sacrifice your ego to continue to grow. And when you reach the place where you realize that you are successful, you need to sacrifice more. You can never rest on your laurels, you must continue to ask “How can I serve (my tribe, my planet, my team, my clients)” and “How can I make it better”.

One of the dangers for the passionate individuals who venture into business is to fall in love with their product or service. They are so enamoured of their amazing widget or delicious food or beautiful artistry or interesting website or matching fleet that they forget the most important part of being successful. You have to be in love with your people. Your clients, your customers, your employees…this is the secret of success. Your question should always be “How can I better serve them”. Great success comes only after great sacrifice. Great success also comes with a big responsibility, a responsibility to share and contribute and grow and to serve.