Food for Thought

Why do your employees quit? quit 

The fact is that unemployment levels are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years, making it particularly difficult to find the skilled workers you need to grow. To make things even more challenging, 76 percent of employees (probably some of yours) are either actively looking for another job or open to one — just waiting for the right opportunity. 

A war for talent 

The job market has turned upside down, switching the power from employer to employee. You can take solace from the 46 percent of other employers who are having the same problems you are. Everyone is in the middle of a highly competitive war for talent. But there are things you can do to win and keep the right people and grow your business in this and any market. 

There are many reasons why people quit their jobs. You have no control over the personal issues that make people leave, like moving out of town or health issues. But you do have control over the kind of workplace environment you offer, and this is where small- to mid- size companies have the advantage. Take it! It’s much easier for you to add flexibility, purpose, and caring to your culture and get rid of outdated rules and practices that tie you down and turn employees off. 

Start by listening 

Before you develop strategies to improve your work environment, take time to understand why employees typically leave. Then, through stay interviews and other practices, you can find out, specifically, the reasons your employees choose to leave—and then do what you need to do to delight your top employees into staying with you. 

Why they leave; How to entice them to stay 

“I’m not feeling appreciated and I don’t feel valued.” In taking on your most difficult work and/or responsibilities, top employees have earned your praise and deserve recognition. It’s highly important that they feel the love. Create a celebratory culture where everyone is valued and those who go the extra mile get the most appreciation and reward — not just once a year, but any day it’s deserved. 

“My boss is mean and my coworkers don’t care about me.” Don’t let managers or supervisors create their own tiny cultures that make life miserable for their direct reports. Use assessments to hire for attitude, then train for the experience and skills you need whenever possible. Attitude is very difficult to change. You’re either respectful of others and empathetic to their situation, or not. Get rid of the people who aren’t positive, including managers and supervisors. They’re creating a toxic environment that talented people won’t tolerate. 

“I don’t fit in here.” It’s your culture that makes you unique and it can be your strongest competitive edge—if it’s inspiring and motivating. Assess candidates for cultural fit first. Skilled people will follow, attracted by your positive culture. 

“I’m bored at work.” Top talent is motivated by challenge. They like to stretch to see how far they can go. Give them your biggest challenges to solve and reward them with promotions and recognition. 

“I don’t see a career path.” Curious people want to learn. They thrive on opportunities to grow and move their careers forward. Make sure you include a strong development program for top performers and work with them to set meaningful goals. 

“I’m burned out and stressed by my workload.” Challenge and opportunity are one thing; being overworked is another. Remember that even your most motivated, most talented people have a life. Make sure your culture allows for work/life balance. 

“I’m not paid what I’m worth.” It’s not a bargain to negotiate the lowest possible wage a candidate will accept. If you want to keep top people, or any good people, make fairness part of your culture in what you pay and how you treat them. Fair wages should be a core value of every company. 

“I don’t find meaning in my work.” All employees, and especially younger generations in today’s workplace, want to find meaning and purpose in their work. Help them understand what their contribution is to the whole; and find a nonprofit or other organization that’s relevant to the work you do and support employees in contributing to them on company time. 

“I not allowed to make decisions on my own.” If your culture allows managers to micromanage their people, restructure. Employees want to be empowered with autonomy and the ability to make meaningful contributions on their own or on a team. They cannot do that with someone constantly watching over them and judging. You hired them, you have to trust them. If you can’t, they shouldn’t be working for you. 

“I have no information on the company finances.” Lack of communication from executives, especially about the financial stability of the company, breaks trust. When things are happening, especially negative things like layoffs, respect your people enough to tell the truth. Build a culture of trust, not rumor and fear. 

Build or rebuild your culture into a setting people look forward to spending a third or more of their time every day and you will have no problem winning top talent. Compensation is important to all of us, but how we feel when we’re earning it is equally important. Low turnover is a sign you are doing many things right—and it can help you be on the winning side of the talent war. 

3 Things Good CEOs Do and Don’t Do

by Sam Reese in Small Biz Daily

During every cross country race in college, no matter how far ahead I got, my running coach would scream: “Don’t be content!” I would get frustrated with him. After a race, I once asked him if there was ever a time in life that he’d want me to be content?

“No, never be content,” he said. “Always try to improve.”

That line has stuck with me my whole life. The goal of effective CEOs is to continue to improve day after day and never be comfortable with the status quo for your company or yourself. Here are three quick dos and don’ts for CEOs who are on the path.


  1. Keep everyone energized and committed to the purpose of the company and use that as the fuel that keeps everybody rolling. When you are clear about purpose, it invites every single employee, every customer and every supplier to make sure you’re doing what you said you’d do. And it creates a true north star that’s the foundation of integrity and trust in your business.
  2. Align the team around strategy, culture, organization, results, and execution. It’s important to always stretch people to get the goals you’re after. But you’ve got to make sure employees are equipped with the right tools, resources and plan to get there. And always make sure the organization and culture are where they need to be. If culture isn’t where you need it to be, it won’t matter what your organization looks like. You won’t get the results, and you’ll never execute with precision.
  3. Listen to objective perspectives from people you trust. CEOs sometimes develop confirmation bias and seek the easy places to get answers that validate their points of view. Avoid situations where you listen to people who just tell you what you want to hear. It may make you feel smart and like you have all the right ideas, but it keeps you from seeing important pitfalls or better solutions. Good CEOs listen to contrary beliefs—both inside and outside their companies—so they understand the full picture.


  1. Tolerate executives within your organization who take the shortcut to leadership. What I mean by that specifically is people who care more about their own personal credibility than what the company is really trying to accomplish. When things are not going well, some executives will take the path of: “Well, I don’t know what the company is doing, but my team is doing great.” That only develops a counterculture within organizations.
  2. Allow for excuses. Excuses breed failure. By not having excuses, you get creative. You think about ways to manage through challenges, and your goals stay the same. If you start with a list of excuses, the team is going to quit the first time they hit an obstacle. If you don’t have excuses, you can accomplish great things even in tough times and changing markets.
  3. Create multiple stories about performance. It’s dishonest. You’ll end up losing transparency and respect when the truth comes out. You have to just have one story for your team, staff and stakeholders, and the one story has to be the truth.

The more I work with executives and the more I work on my own development as a CEO, these lessons remain true. Being a great CEO isn’t something anyone is born to do, because the challenges of a company, its culture and economic cycles always stay in flux.

It’s a race. Good CEOs are mindful of the health of their team and aware of their competition. They are neither above nor afraid of doing the hard work. They don’t allow themselves to be content. And they always try to improve.

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizations and has advised CEOs and key executive of companies all over the world. To learn how a peer advisory group can help you navigate challenges, make better decisions and achieve growth, visit

How leaders decide: Three lessons to learn from one of U.S. history’s bloodiest days

Winners, we’re told, write history. Yet the history of one of the bloodiest days on the
American frontier — June 25, 1876 — was written by the losers.
For nearly 100 years, Americans portrayed the Battle of Little Bighorn, commonly known as
“Custer’s Last Stand,” as a heroic engagement led by General George Armstrong Custer, the
“daring boy general” of the Civil War. As the story went, the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry
soldiers fought valiantly but eventually were overpowered by Native American warriors, who
vastly outnumbered them.
But that’s not what actually happened. Decades later, when the surviving Native American
combatants were finally interviewed about the battle, they shared a different narrative —
one that offers important lessons for today’s leaders.

Lesson 1: Listen to the voice of experience, not your ego.
On June 25, 1876, the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes were not seeking trouble — far from it. They were following buffalo herds, which they depended on for food, clothing and shelter. The Plains tribes were also gathering for their most important religious event of the year: the Sun Dance. Meanwhile, General George Armstrong Custer was ordered to “round up the hostiles.” He imagined a successful outcome of this mission might lead to the presidency of the United States. He ignored the reality that the Native Americans outnumbered his troops 10 to 1. Clearly, Custer was daring. But his determination to prove himself, combined with impulsive
decision-making, produced a volatile leader in search of heroics. His bad judgment, incompetence and indifference eventually led to the annihilation of the Seventh Cavalry.

Lesson 2: Collect facts and assess conditions before making
critical decisions.

At 36 years old, Custer was a complicated man who battled American Indians ruthlessly, yet admitted he would resist if he were one of them. He was a decorated officer who’d been court-martialed twice in six years. He relished a fight; his style of leader​ship on the battlefield was poorly suited for peacetime. Custer was facing the largest Native American encampment in North America, comprising 12,000 people. One-third were led by Sitting Bull, whose bravery, political prowess, generosity and inner strength positioned him as a leader of leaders. During the Sun Dance, Sitting Bull had a vision in which he saw soldiers “as thick as grasshoppers” falling upside down into the Lakota camp. It foreshadowed his victory over the army. By sun-up that Sunday, Custer’s scouts reported seeing large numbers of Indians — which meant that the Native Americans had likely seen the Seventh Cavalry, too. The element of surprise was lost. Custer was afraid they would slip away and scatter, so he made his first mistake: pursuing his quarry against unknown odds. At noon, Custer halted his regiment between the valleys of the Rosebud and Little Bighorn Rivers and made his second mistake: splitting his troops into three combat groups and a pack train.
Two hours later, the advance reconnaissance party returned, and scout Mitch Bouyer told Custer, “There are more Sioux than all of your soldiers put together have bullets.” All scouts agreed. Custer rebuked them and ordered his troops to move out. The sun blazed as Custer mounted a ridge and saw below what appeared to be a deserted village. “We’ve caught them napping,” he shouted. It was just after 3 p.m. when Custer made his third and final mistake. “After them, boys! Charge!”

Lesson 3: Lead people in the right direction, or risk desertion.
Crazy Horse yelled the Sioux war cry — Hoka hey! Follow me / Today is a good day to fight /Today is a good day to die — as warriors engaged Custer’s three separate combat groups. Major Marcus Reno’s unit attacked first, losing half of his 112 men before ordering a disorderly retreat. Reno survived, and later was cleared by a court of inquiry for his performance, though the stigma of drunkenness and cowardice followed him to his grave.
Captain Frederick Benteen commanded 140 men and failed to comply with Custer’s order to reinforce him. His hatred of Custer may have been one reason. He survived the day; his reputation did not. Custer and 300 men attacked the village, and Custer was shot in the chest crossing the river. Witnesses recall that, as soon as Custer fell, his men lost their fighting spirit. They dragged their commander to the ridge, where the battalion was annihilated — 20 minutes after Custer had ordered the attack.

Questions for reflection
Battle or no battle, modern-day leaders can learn from the mistakes Custer made. Questions to ask yourself include:
Where are the gaps in your knowledge and experience that may be skewing your perspective?
What’s your process for proceeding with a decision in the face of data that suggests you shouldn’t?
How might your ego be clouding your decision-making?
If you found yourself in a tough spot, who are the key people you’d call for help? How would they respond?
Will your “troops” follow you? Should they?

This article is an edited excerpt from How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices, the #1 new historical reference book on Amazon.

Welcome to the New Roaring Twenties!

Welcome to the Roaring 20’s!
Vistage speakers Alan and Brian Beaulieu have ascertained that the 20s will be years of growth economically.  Read this article with data to show why they still believe it.  

By Lauren Saidel-Baker

Happy new year, and welcome to the 2020s! Prepare yourself for a decade of overall economic growth.

If you follow ITR Economics or have heard one of our speakers, you likely already know about our forecast for another Great Depression starting around the year 2030. If you aren’t familiar with this topic, consider reading Prosperity in the Age of Decline, which outlines the causes, scope, and some strategies for withstanding this event. While the book was published in 2014, the key depression drivers cited by coauthors Brian and Alan Beaulieu – our CEO and president, respectively – are more prevalent than ever. Our forecast remains intact.

We have yet to fully quantify the magnitude of decline expected in the coming Great Depression, but it will likely be comparable to that first Great Depression of the 1930s. While this prediction seems dire, there is some good news in the near term. We expect the coming decade of growth – the 2020s – to be somewhat analogous to the 1920s. Welcome to the new Roaring Twenties!

There is an adage, often attributed to Mark Twain: History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

The following graph shows the US Industrial Production Index from 1920 through 1940. The coming decades won’t perfectly parallel this history, but it can serve as a reference.

The 1920s were characterized by overall economic growth, prosperity, and social development. But even the Roaring Twenties did not exhibit straight-line economic rise. In fact, there were three significant recessions in the industrial economy during the decade. We expect the 2020s to be similar: overall growth with some recessions. Expect the industrial economy to contract mildly into mid-2020 and another recession in late 2022 into 2023.

Much like the 1920s, there will be economic ups and downs during the 2020s. Don’t let these regular business cycles distract you from the overall economic rise. If you haven’t already determined how you will take advantage of the opportunities that the 2020s will bring, now is the time. If we can help in this process, please reach out!

Whatever prosperity the 2020s offer, it will be critical to keep the looming Great Depression in sight. Use this decade to position yourself for the downturn. If you own your business and are considering an exit plan, the mid-to-late 2020s may be a good time to sell. At this point, we don’t know exactly when the depression will begin – it could arrive anywhere from a few years before to a few years after 2030. Keep in touch with ITR Economics throughout the Roaring Twenties and be the first to know!

Lauren Saidel-Baker

Transformational Vistage speaker shows how you can make your goals actionable for this year. Is it any wonder that this successful business owner is a Vistage Peer group member?

My Favorite New Year’s Resolution: Going Deeper on a Piece I wrote 8 Years ago

In 2012, I wrote a piece about my favorite New Year’s resolution. My commitment to this resolution has only intensified and my goal is to share my pontifications as well as some actionable best practices. 
Early January is that time of year when people start contemplating the changes or resolutions that they want to make in their lives. Of course, some iteration of “getting in shape” falls at the top of the list for many people; and this IS important. However, I am going to side-step this cliché for a moment. I’m convinced that the most compelling New Year’s Resolution, a resolution that is relevant to nearly everyone but specifically to Discover Strength clients, goes something like this: Work on Yourself or as I prefer, author Dr. Stephen Covey’s iteration, Sharpen the Saw. Whatever the vernacular, the message is the same. Before we can become more effective and contribute more meaningfully in our relationships, the organizations we work in, our families, our communities, and the other roles we play, we must first take care of and in fact, go to work on ourselves. Speaking of the habit of “Sharpening the Saw,” Covey states, “This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – Investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw.”

This resolution manifests itself in a myriad of ways. I think the key is that we should be able to point to the mechanisms we have built into our lives that are focused on “Sharpening the Saw.” Everyone’s chosen mechanisms will be different, but here are a few of my Saw Sharpening mechanisms for 2020:

  • Read 30 books.
  • Be an active member in a Vistage Peer Executive group.
  • Attend church a minimum of 29 times.
  • Strength train twice per week.
  • Attend 4 conferences.
  • Commit to the practice of a daily gratitude journal.
  • Schedule one full hour each week to step away from the business, with no technology, and take a “Clarity Break” where I simply spend time thinking, writing, and ideating. 

Again, I’m not suggesting that these are the right mechanisms, I’m simply sharing them as examples that I have committed to; yours may look very different. The purpose of each of these mechanisms is to improve myself and my capacity.   

Okay, back to exercise. Covey goes to great lengths to articulate the importance of taking the time to “Sharpen the Saw” as it pertains to our physical being. That is, we must take the time to improve ourselves through exercise. From this vantage point, exercise is anything but a selfish act. Instead, we must make an appointment with ourselves to exercise so that we can maintain or improve our health (and performance). In effect, when we Sharpen the Saw via exercise, we are better prepared to be effective in all of the roles that we play.

As you contemplate Sharpening the Saw through exercise, I encourage you to consider the following approach in your exercise and fitness goals:   1. Include process goals. A process goal might include:

  • I will strength train 75 times in 2020 (an average of 1.5 workouts per week).
  • I will perform one, high intensity interval workout per week.
  • I will perform a Bod Pod test every month (this was one of my 2018 and 2019 goals and it will be a 2020 goals as well).

2. Include outcome goals. Examples might include:

  • PR (personal record) in a 5k, half marathon, or marathon.
  • Achieve a Bod Pod assessment of sub 25% (or whatever percentage makes sense for you).
  • Perform one, body weight chin-up with perfect form.

Conclusion: Consider building in a few Saw Sharpening mechanisms into your day, week or month and create goals that connect to these mechanisms that are both process focused and outcome focused. 

It’s said that we don’t really need more leaders, we need more GREAT leaders. At GiANT, the goal is to create leaders who people WANT to follow not those that they HAVE to follow. Here are some thoughts on becoming that leader. Keep moving my friends!

Big Ideas of “Becoming” a Leader Worth Following

Staying effective in life and leadership is no longer a choice. It is the ticket of admission if you are compelled to be successful. Surviving, thriving, and transforming in this new reality will require each of us to build upon and reach beyond effectiveness to a new calling, a new era of significance.

Becoming significant is intentional and will require grit, endurance, and smarts. Becoming requires a new mind-set, a new skill set, a new tool-set, and new tendencies of responding to our well-worn habitual patterns.

The Big Ideas of Becoming

  • Leadership is a Requirement: One person can live on a desert island without leadership. Two people, if they are totally compatible could probably get along and even progress. If there are three or more in your midst, someone has to lead!
  • Leadership is an Imperative: In a nation, a world as complex and fluid as ours, we cannot function without leaders. Our quality of life depends on it. We must have competent leaders in every sector, every city across the globe. You are needed NOW.
  • Leadership is Collective: Great leaders and followers are engaged in collaborative relationship. No longer is the leader a sport of solitaire. The days of having a single individual (however talented) solve complex problems are long gone. The “lone ranger” is dead.
  • Leadership is Complex: Simple leadership declares, “Let’s bake a cake!” Complicated leadership says, “Let’s build an airplane!” Complex leadership says, “Let’s influence a family, team, organization, or a community!” It has become quite clear that leadership and coaching matter most when the elements at hand are complex, uncertain, ambiguous, changing, volatile, emergent, chaotic, and constantly swirling. Becoming is complex.
  • Leadership is Resilient: Dead ends are inescapable to leaders. It is never if we get stuck, but when. These roadblocks can appear in our lives as a harbinger of transformation to give us hope in the way forward. Positive mindsets, vision, and a supportive tribe are the restorative elements (elixir) for Becoming.
  • Leadership is Courageous: If you have the will to break from behind your natural walls of self preservation, pay the price of vulnerability, and yield to the insights of Leaders Worth Following, your influence will steadily grow from the inside-out; you will find your leadership voice and will inspire your team members to find theirs in a dramatically changed world.
  • Leadership is Motion: It matters little about your starting place of Becoming. Your age, occupation, financial, or social status is certainly never an excuse to Become. The most important step is the first step. The speed of the journey matters not. As Confucius says, “It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.”

Simon shares how engaging with a rival can help up everyone’s game. Maybe the competition in our local Craft Brewing scene is one of the reasons our local breweries bring home so many national awards. How can you engage a rival?

It’s time for organizations and individuals to stop focusing on dominating the competition — and learn from them instead. By identifying a Worthy Rival and looking at their strengths and abilities, we can keep improving and innovating, says writer Simon Sinek.

Professor James P. Carse has argued that there are two types of games: finite games and infinite games. In finite games, the players are known, the rules are fixed, and the end point, winners and losers are all clear, as in a game of football or chess. But in infinite games — like business or politics or life itself — the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined end point. There are no winners or losers, just ahead and behind.

Writer Simon Sinek believes that many of the struggles faced by organizations exist because their leaders are playing an infinite game with a finite mindset. While a win-lose mode can sometimes work for the short term, it has grave consequences over the longer term. Leaders who embrace an infinite mindset have the resilience to thrive in a changing world.

One key aspect of cultivating an infinite mindset is to identify who your Worthy Rivals are — and study them. “Traditional competition forces us to take on an attitude of winning; a Worthy Rival inspires us to take on an attitude of improvement,” writes Sinek, in his new book The Infinite Game. “The former focuses our attention on the outcome; the latter focuses our attention on process … An excessive focus on beating our competition not only gets exhausting over time, it can actually stifle innovation.”

Below, he shares his experiences with his own Worthy Rival.

Whenever I heard the name “Adam Grant”, it made me uncomfortable. If I heard someone sing his praises, a wave of envy washed over me. I knew him to be a good person and a nice guy. I respected his work a great deal, and he was always nice to me when we’ve met. We do the same kind of work — write books and give talks about our views of the world.

Although there are many others who do similar work, for some reason I was obsessed with him. I wanted to outdo him. I’d regularly check the online rankings to see how my books were selling and compare them to his. Not anyone else’s rankings — just his. If mine were ranked higher, I would smile a gloaty smile and feel superior. If his were higher, I would scowl and feel annoyed. He was my main competitor and I wanted to win.

Then something happened.

We were invited to share a stage at the same event, and the interviewer thought it would be “fun” if we introduced each other. I went first. I looked at Adam, looked at the audience, and said, “You make me unbelievably insecure because all of your strengths are all my weaknesses. You can do so well the things that I really struggle to do.” The audience laughed.

Adam looked at me and responded, “The insecurity is mutual.” He went on to identify some of my strengths as areas in which he wished he could improve.

We have to stop thinking of other players as competitors to be beaten and start thinking of them as Worthy Rivals who can help us become better players.

In an instant, I understood why I felt so competitive with him. Whenever his name came up, it reminded me of the areas in which I grappled. Instead of investing my energy on improving myself — overcoming my weaknesses or building on my strengths — it was easier to focus on beating him. That’s how competition works, right? It’s a drive to win.

The problem was, all the metrics of who was ahead and who was behind were arbitrary, and I had set the standards for comparison. Plus, since there was no finish line, I was attempting to compete in an unwinnable race. I had made a classic finite-mindset blunder. The truth is, even though we do similar things, he isn’t my competitor; he is my rival. My very Worthy Rival.

To anyone who has spent time watching or playing games and sports, the notion of a finite competition where one player or one side beats the other to earn a title or prize is familiar. Indeed, to most of us, it is so ingrained that we automatically adopt an us vs. them attitude whenever there are other players in the field. However, we have to stop thinking of other players as competitors to be beaten and start thinking of them as Worthy Rivals who can help us become better players.

A Worthy Rival is another player in the game who is worthy of comparison. Worthy Rivals may be players in our industry or outside our industry; they may be our sworn enemies, our sometimes collaborators, or our colleagues. Regardless of who they are or where we find them, the main point is that they do something (or many things) as well as or better than us. They may make a superior product, command greater loyalty, lead more effectively, or act with a clearer sense of purpose than we do. We don’t need to admire everything about them, agree with them, or like them. We simply acknowledge that they have strengths and abilities from which we could learn a thing or two.

There is no value in picking other players whom we constantly outflank simply to make ourselves feel superior.

Since we get to choose our own Worthy Rivals, we should select them strategically. There is no value in picking other players whom we constantly outflank simply to make ourselves feel superior. That has little to no value to our own growth. We choose them to be our Worthy Rivals because there is something about them that reveals to us our weaknesses and pushes us to constantly improve … which is essential if we want to be strong enough to stay in the game.

A Worthy Rival can push us in a way that few others can — not even our coaches, mentors or advisors. The impact of this subtle mind shift can be profound in how we make decisions and prioritize resources. Traditional competition forces us to take on an attitude of winning; a Worthy Rival inspires us to take on an attitude of improvement. The former focuses our attention on the outcome; the latter focuses our attention on process. That simple shift in perspective immediately changes how we see our own businesses. It is the focus on process and constant improvement that reveals new skills and boosts resilience. An excessive focus on beating our competition not only gets exhausting over time, it can actually stifle innovation.

Another reason to adjust our perspective toward seeing strong players in our field as Worthy Rivals is it keeps us honest. It’s like a runner who is so obsessed with winning that they forget the rules, ethics or why they started running in the first place. They may spend time and energy to undermine someone who is running faster than they are and resort to tripping their competitor or take performance-enhancing drugs to give them a secret edge. Both tactics will absolutely increase the chances they will win the race, but will leave them ill equipped for success beyond those races. Eventually, those strategies run dry and they are still left a slow runner.

When we view the other players as Worthy Rivals, it removes the pressure of being in a win-at-any-cost struggle, so by default we feel less need to act unethically or illegally. Upholding the values by which we operate becomes more important than the score, which actually motivates us to be more honest.

In an infinite game, we accept that “being the best” is a fool’s errand and that multiple players can do well at the same time.

As for my Worthy Rival, when I thought of Adam as a competitor, it didn’t help me. Rather, it fed my finite mindset. I devoted too much time and energy to worrying about what he was doing rather than focusing that energy on how I could be better at what I do.

Since that day when I learned to shift my mindset, I no longer compare my book rankings to Adam’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter). My mindset has shifted away from channeling my feelings of insecurity against him to partnering with him to advance our common cause. We have become dear friends (he kindly gave this book a proofread and helped make it better), and I feel genuine happiness when I hear his name or see that he is doing well. I want his ideas to spread. In fact, everyone reading this book should also read Give and Take and Originals; they are both essential reading in and out of the business world.

In an infinite game, we can both succeed (and, as it turns out, people can actually buy more than one book). An infinite mindset embraces abundance, whereas a finite mindset operates with a scarcity mentality. In an infinite game, we accept that “being the best” is a fool’s errand and that multiple players can do well at the same time.

As hard as it may be to recognize a player as one of our Worthy Rivals, especially if we find them disagreeable, to do so is the best way to become better players ourselves. “The more I questioned these guys, the more I came to understand that the successful criminals were good profilers,” explained John Douglas, retired FBI unit chief and pioneer in criminal profiling. Douglas understood that, as unconscionable as we all find serial killers, the best way to catch one was to acknowledge that they were very good at the exact same thing that the FBI does … which meant the FBI had to be better. Having Worthy Rivals — criminals adept at evading the FBI — pushes the FBI to constantly improve their techniques.

Failure to have a Worthy Rival increases the risk that a once-mighty infinite player will gently slide into becoming just another finite player looking to rack up wins.

Having a rival worthy of comparison does not mean that their cause is moral, ethical or serves the greater good.It just means they excel at certain things and reveal to us where we can make improvements. The very manner in which they play the game can challenge us, inspire us or force us to improve. Who we choose to be our Worthy Rivals is entirely up to us. And it is in the best interest of the infinite game to keep our options open.

Knowing who our Worthy Rivals are is the best way to help us improve and adapt before it’s too late. Blockbuster — the sole superpower in the movie rental business — failed to appreciate that a small company like Netflix and an emerging technology like the internet required them to reexamine their entire business model. Taxi companies chose to sue ridesharing companies to protect their business instead of learning how to adapt and provide a better taxi service. Sears got so big and so rich from sending out paper catalogs for decades that they were too slow to adapt to the rise of big-box stores like Walmart and to ecommerce. And believing itself without a Worthy Rival, the behemoth that was MySpace didn’t even see Facebook coming.

Without a Worthy Rival, we risk losing our humility and our agility. Failure to have a Worthy Rival increases the risk that a once-mighty infinite player will gently slide into becoming just another finite player looking to rack up wins. Where once the organization fought primarily for the good of others, without a Worthy Rival they are more likely to fight for the good of themselves. When that happens and when hubris sets in, the organization will quickly find its weaknesses exposed and without the kind of extreme flexibility they need to stay in the game.

Excerpted with permission from the new book The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. Published by Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. © 2019 by RedCar, LLC.

About the author Simon Sinek is an optimist and the bestselling author of Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, Together Is Better, and Find Your Why. He is working to build a world in which the vast majority of us will wake up inspired, feel safe at work, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day. Learn more about his work at

Forbes Coaches Council members share top ways to incent employees, and none of them include a generic raise. 10 Tips For An Incentive Program That Goes Beyond Compensation

In decades past, motivating employees was all about raises, promotions and bonuses. Those days are gone, and today’s employers are quickly learning that engagement stems from different kinds of incentives — ones that impact an employee’s emotional,rather than financial,health.

Based on insights from members of Forbes Coaches Council, here’s why traditional incentives might be out of date, and what you can do to offer customized and effective rewards to your team.

1. Promote Ownership First, Incentive Second

It takes more than incentives to motivate employees long-term. Sustainable engagement happens when the company culture provides trust, ownership and performance management. With those three pieces integrated into your leadership style, you’ve designed a culture where incentives can be a great added bonus to employees who are already engaged. – Meridith Elliott-Powell, MotionFirst 

2. Recognition Matters More Than Bonuses

Traditionally, we think of incentives as a payment or concession to stimulate greater output or investment. Instead, define incentives as a thing that motivates or encourages one to do something again and again. The greatest incentive that is both sustainable and economical for a large business is positive recognition. High performing teams give four positive pieces of recognition for every one negative. – Dean Miles, Bridgepoint Coaching & Strategy Group 

3. Incentives Need To Be Customized To Be Effective

In many cases, people who work at large companies seek stability, benefits and perhaps status. Incentives generally work when people are motivated by economics. If your employees enjoy your company benefits, then they will bebest incentivized by adding another fantastic benefit. If your employees love status, change their title after reaching certain benchmarks. Customize their options. – Judi Rhee Alloway, Imagine Leadership LLC 

4. The Most Powerful Incentive Has Always Been Meaningful Work

The most powerful incentive is and always has been meaningful work. Incentives that are connected directly related to the job and its desired outcomes keep people motivated throughout every work day, even in the most difficult stretches, and not just at bonus time. Always align mission and meaning with responsibilities. – James Lopata, InnerOvation 

5. Learn What Your Team Wants And Incentivize Accordingly

Incentives are always a good way of motivating employees in a business of any size. It is the type of incentive that makes a difference. Using surveys and focus groups are an effective way to determine what incentives employees desire. Offering relevant incentives will be a strong motivation for continued employee success, and they will appreciate the investment in their overall well-being. – Daniel Rounds,

6. Incentives Are A Short-Term Solution To Engagement

Incentives are great! They put employees in a happy mood and give them something to feel good about. The only problem is that feeling is fleeting. Incentives that are not related to the work, advancement and having impact in the organization are typically a temporary fix. To sustain employee engagement, understand the individual motivations and infuse them into the job regularly. That’s real incentive. – Michelle Tillis Lederman, Executive Essentials 

7. Use Achievements, Not Entitlements

To work effectively, incentives need to be transparent and directly tied to a measurable action or achievement so they don’t become entitlements. Educational and training incentives are a great way to reward employees with a break from their daily routine while providing them with an opportunity to improve their expertise, which can spur career advancement and make them more valuable to the company. – Fleet Maull, New Line Consulting 

8. Link Incentives To Personal Intrinsic Motivations

Incentives need to be linked to the intrinsic motivation of employees in any sized organization. Link them to supporting employees with developing mastery, gaining more autonomy or having time, resources and ability to create an impact they care about. Without these links, incentives become about money only and the benefits rarely materialize as planned and performance may even decrease. – Jenn Lofgren, Incito Consulting 

9. Understand Shared Values To Create The Most Effective Incentives

Understanding the shared values across your organization and hiring people who also share those values can help companies create effective incentives. You can’t please everyone, but if you are aware that the majority of your people value things like family, flex-time or recognition, you can create incentives that motivate the individuals and support a strong company culture. – Andrea MacKenzie, Lead With Harmony 

10. Consider The Emotional Impact Of Your Incentives

Show me a culture that motivates exclusively with money and I’ll show you a calendar from 1984 and a poster from Glengarry Glen Ross. Yes, financial incentives were hugely popular in the Industrial Age. In the Social Age, though, people want to feel aligned with the purpose of the organization. They want to know their work has meaning. Your incentive plan must consider those emotional impacts. – Mark S. Babbitt, YouTern 

Larry Fast in Industry Week, uses Noah’s ark as a model for Continuous Improvement Leadership lessons we can all learn from.

Continuous Improvement Leadership Lessons from Noah’s Ark Ten ideas to improve your leadership performance.

This column is based on material I used years ago for a roundtable discussion. Unfortunately, the author of the Noah’s Ark quotes is unknown. However, that author put some very clever thinking into their idea. I was struck by how relevant these quotes are when applied to leadership in a continuous improvement culture. Perhaps you can lead your own roundtable discussion with your team.

“Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark.”

  1. “Don’t miss the boat.” Procrastinators beware. Leaders who say they’re going to get started on continuous improvement “when things calm down” are lying to themselves and to their people. These are the worst kind of bosses. All talk and no show. Anyone who isn’t moved to lead the team to improve quality, constraint management, delivery performance and cost should be put on notice to either lead or leave.
  2. “Remember that we are all in the same boat!” If any function in the business is not aligned, then improvement possibilities will not be maximized and, in fact, may be undermined. Performance improvements depend on the right team of people coming together to improve the business one project at a time. Everyone in leadership needs to understand the big picture and think like a business manager, not just a functional manager.
  3. “Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.” Anticipation is a trait that, unfortunately, isn’t present in every gene pool. Usually this trait is instinctive to great leaders, but it can also be learned. My Little League baseball coach, in fact, taught us how to anticipate in practice. He asked us to anticipate overthrows to bases and where to position ourselves to prevent a base runner from advancing. He taught us to warn players who were running for a foul ball pop up, or the outfield fence, and were at risk of crashing into the fence and hurting themselves. My favorite Wayne Gretzky quote: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
  4. “Stay fit. When you’re 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.” They may also ask you to do something really big today! Are you prepared? It’s more than being physically fit. The larger question: Is your mindset fit for leading CI with both competent leadership and a vision for change?
  5. “Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.” See No. 1 above. Raising important questions is important, even critical, and should be debated by the team. That said, once the decisions have been made, the losers of the debate must respect the decisions that have been made and get to rowing the boat in the same direction as the winners of the debate. At this point everyone on the team should be bought in. If not, then it’s time to start parting company with the dissenters. Life’s too short to be pushing a rope.
  6. “Build your future on high ground.” To me this means building a future based on high standards that are set from the top, i.e., to do whatever is necessary to become a truly world-class company. This requires that the board of directors, the CEO and the corporate leadership team get themselves up to speed with CI thinking. Acquiring and developing the basic understanding of what it takes to deliver nearly flawless planning and execution is the example that employees across the company are waiting to see from the top. Once the “high ground” leaders are up to speed, they must collectively deliver this clear message to all employees: the voting is over. Time for everyone to get on board. We are committed to the journey of continuous improvement. This is how companies can build their culture and future successes on the high ground of a career-long commitment to CI.
  7. “For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.” This, of course, applies directly to the shop floor, the distribution centers, hazardous material storage, etc., during the normal course of everyday work. Each of us is always for our own safety, but we’re also alert for teammates who may not see a hazard, may be distracted, may be at risk of getting hurt. The team objective is to have a zero OSHA incident rate everywhere in the business. All leaders must be alert and set the example by never walking past a potential hazard. Leaders must “walk the talk” on safety just like everyone else.
  8. “Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.” We’ve all seen the news as well as ads on TV that show serious injuries or death by people driving at a high rate of speed. In that context, “speed kills” people. In a CI context, however, speed in our business model kills. It kills competitors who are still mired in a batch scheduling mode, have huge amounts of cash stuck in inventory, have long cycle times relative to competition. Speed can also kill suppliers who “don’t get it” and expect factories to stock two or three months of raw material inventories to prevent outages in the shop while they maintain lead times in months instead of days. Other suppliers often can step up to meet expectations and take away the lion’s share of the business. Lean principles create a huge speed advantage compared to those stuck in the status quo.

The snail in this context represents the ever-present quest for CI, chipping away with kaizen projects and innovations while the cheetahs only work in short bursts of energy and don’t sustain. Snails improve processes forever.

9.“When you’re stressed, float awhile.” No, this doesn’t mean to just go with the flow and create a void in leadership for some period. Whenever any leader begins to behave differently, the rest of the workers will notice it immediately. They may be concerned (but afraid to mention it) or say something to their peers, such as, “Have you noticed how tired and uptight the boss has become the last few weeks? I wonder what’s up?” Or, they may decide to park their brains at the front door for a while because that’s what the boss is doing. Being less of a leader is unfair to those around you.

Instead, have a conversation with your boss to discuss your need for a breather. Over the years I can’t even guess how many times I’ve heard coworkers in the fourth quarter of the year gripe that “I’ve got four weeks of vacation and I’m going to end up giving three of them back. I’ve got so much on my plate it isn’t worth it to come back to the mess I’ll have after a week.” (Hint: Take two weeks at a time. Everyone will wait on you for a week. If you’re off for two weeks, your appointed leader can’t wait that long and must do something!) Be sure that you have provided the proper mentoring and spent the time it takes for your backup person to learn what and how to deal with issues that may arise. Give them the confidence to be decisive without fear you’ll come back and be unhappy with decisions taken. This is invaluable for their personal development and for you to take all your vacation time without being stressed out.

10.“Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.” Continuous improvement zealots who use lean thinking and lean/Six Sigma tools will outperform professionals (and anybody else) who don’t.

From Vistage and Vistage Chair, Greg Bustin, are you building a team that can win and wants to win? How can lessons from Vince Lombardi help you make that a reality?

Lombardi on leadership: How a team of losers became perennial champions by Greg Bustin

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”      — Vince Lombardi

If you’re a leader, you’re a coach.

Every team — in sports, business, government, academia or nonprofit — has a roster of talented people. However, some leaders are better than others at bringing out the best in their people.

In 1957, the Green Bay Packers finished Coach Lisle Blackbourn’s fourth straight losing year with a 3–9 record. Ray “Scooter” McLean replaced him for the 1958 season. McLean went on to post a 1-10-1 record for a last-place finish in the National Football League. The Packers team had the worst record in its 39-year history.

In other words, the club had hit rock bottom.

The locker room was split, with the offense and defense pointing fingers at each other. The players liked McLean, “but he had no leadership qualities,” remembers the Packers’ Gary Knafelc. “If you’ve been around ballplayers, you know they’ll take you to the hilt every time. And we took Scooter in every way.” Consequently, the players were able to walk all over McLean and get away with poor behavior and poor playing — something a stronger coach would never have tolerated.

The Packer franchise was unique because 1,000 citizens bought shares in the club in 1950, raising $125,000 and preventing the team from moving to a bigger city. The shareholders elected a 45-person committee, which selected a 13-person executive committee that ran the team. Or tried to. The team had lost 72 games in the 1950s while winning only half that many. As a result, the shareholders demanded improvement. Talk swirled about replacing the executive committee. In addition, the other NFL owners wanted Commissioner Bert Bell to eject the Packers from the league.

The Packers needed a new coach. Who would risk making that decision? What coach would take a job in the NFL’s “salt mines of Siberia”?

How bad must things get before you decide to change?

The executive committee began its search following the January 1959 draft. Rumors abounded. One name continued to surface: Vince Lombardi.

At 45 and with no head-coaching experience, many believed Lombardi was too old for the job. Yet he was the fiery offensive mastermind of the champion team, the New York Giants.

“Why should we put so much trust in a guy from New York who’s never run anything in his life?”

After being turned down by one coach and passing on the popular “Curly” Lambeau, the executive committee presented Lombardi as its choice for the next Packers coach. The know-it-all shareholders were incredulous. Curly made this town — how can we turn away from him now? Why should we put so much trust in a guy from New York who’s never run anything in his life?

But the executive team had the votes. Twenty-six members voted for Lombardi, one voted against and 18 abstained.

Some leaders are better than others at bringing out the best in their people.

When Lombardi traveled to Green Bay in February to sign his contract, he outlined his football philosophy to the board: “A power offense built around the running game; a 4–3 defense; players who are in shape and will listen to what I say. If they don’t, they’ll be gone.”

“I want it understood,” Lombardi told the shareholders, “I’m in complete command here. I expect full cooperation from you. In return, you will get full cooperation from me. I’ve never been associated with a loser, and I don’t expect to be now.”

Who’s running your business? You or someone (or some­thing) else?

Before Lombardi arrived, one sportswriter compared the Packers’ offense to “a conga dance: 1, 2, 3, and kick.” Arriving after the December and January drafts, Lombardi nevertheless built a formidable team.

True to his word, he sent 16 prima donnas packing, includ­ing trading the Packers’ best receiver to the Cleveland Browns for three players who would become defensive stalwarts.

Scooter McLean’s team — that had lost 10 out of 12 games — was loaded with talent but McLean did not have the coaching ability to recognize and nurture it. Lombardi, on the other hand, was a terrific judge of talent. He brought out the best in those same players who went on to become Hall of Famers including Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Jim Ringo and Jim Taylor, as well as future All-Pros Jerry Kramer, Ron Kramer, Max McGee, Bill Forester and Dan Currie. 

“I’m going to find 36 men who have the pride to make any sacrifice to win. There are such men. If they’re not here, I will get them. If you’re not one, you might as well leave right now.”

On July 23, 1959, at a dinner attended by 56 players before the first day of training camp, Lombardi set the tone. “Gentlemen, we’re going to have a football team here, and we’re going to win some games. Do you know why? You are going to have confidence in me and my system. By being alert, you are going to make fewer mistakes than your opponents. By working harder, you are going to out-execute, out-block, and out-tackle every team that comes your way.”

“I’ve never been a losing coach and don’t intend to start here,” he continued. “There is no one big enough to think [he] can do what he wants. Trains and planes are coming in and leaving Green Bay every day, and he’ll be on one of them. I won’t. I’m going to find 36 men who have the pride to make any sacrifice to win. There are such men. If they’re not here, I will get them. If you’re not one, you might as well leave right now.”

If Lombardi was in your face, it meant he saw your potential.

Who on your team is waiting for you to help them bring out their best?

“Perfection is not attainable,” Lombardi believed, “but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” The 1959 Packers finished 7–5 and Lombardi was named Coach of the Year.

Lombardi led the team to five NFL Championships in seven years and won two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967. Today, millions of people worldwide view the Super Bowl, and the winner of that game is always awarded the Lombardi Trophy.

About the Author: Greg Bustin

Greg Bustin is a 15-year Vistage Master Chair with two Chief Executive groups, a Key Executive group and an Emerging Leader group in Dallas.