Slowing Down the Game

by middlemanager on September 12, 2017 Comments Off on Slowing Down the Game

I coached high school varsity athletics for 20 years. One of the lessons I learned early on is the adjustment first-time varsity athletes have to make to this level of play.  At each level of athletic play, the game gets “faster”.  Athletes grow, get stronger, get faster, and gain experience.  One of the high water marks is high school Varsity.  In most cases, the jump from junior high or middle school to high school is large.  The speed of the game weeds out many athletes.   The levels of college and pro narrows this number even further.  The success of the athlete moving up depends on the adjustment to the speed of the game.  For the successful athlete, the game seems to slow down.


An interesting example of this comes from the fictional movie The Matrix. In the movie, Neo, the main character, goes through the adjustment of how the matrix works.  In the end, the bullets slow down and he is able to handle dangers at a quick pace.


Moving out of the everyday job and into supervisory roles such as managers and the like is a very similar adjustment. When first promoted, many times, a manager is overwhelmed by the speed of the position.  This happens at every level as one moves up.  The “speed of the game” is too fast at first.  This is a true pivotal point in a person’s carrier.  Unfortunately, many managers fail for lack of guidance or remain in their positions until they are fired or they burn out.  However, many become quite successful.  Below are five essential strategies to help slow down the game:


  • Do not give up! Perseverance is key. You may be closer to your goal than you think. A line from Edgar A. Guest’s poem You Musn’t Quit gives us a powerful reminder. “…you never can tell how close you are, it may be near when it seems afar…”
  • Get help. Find a mentor who is or has been in your position. Hire a coach to guide you. Many companies have a training budget to help you grow in your position.
  • Increase your level of competence. Admit to yourself that you are not where you want to be. Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Do what you need to strengthen the weaknesses. Below is a helpful assessment on knowing your competence level.
  • Gain experience by learning from experiences. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, he had some great words of wisdom. In Matthew 7:24-27, he describes the difference between the wise and the foolish. The wise hear his words and put them into practice. To slow the game down, one must learn from experiences and apply the learning.
  • Work extra. This is tricky. This can create a “workaholic” pattern. However, early on in the position, extra time is essential. Much like a player staying after practice for extra work on a shot, catches, groundballs, swings, etc.


Putting these five strategies into practice will help you begin to find some comfort in your position. There is no magic pill or perfect formula to reach the point of when the game actually slows down.  However, with practice, you will look up and notice the feeling of “I’ve got this!”


A great place to start is to know your level of competence. Below are the Four Stages of Competence.  This a commonly used measurement and applies well to a promoted person’s self-assessment.  Look over each stage and determine where you fall as far as your personal supervisory and management skills are concerned.  Where do you need to improve?  What will it take to get there?


  • Unconscious incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t realize you don’t know it. What you are experiencing is foreign and you just have no experience in this area.
  • Conscious incompetence – You now realize that you do not know. Now you can begin to learn what you need to become competent. Learning form mistakes is key.
  • Conscious competence – You are now beginning to get the hang of your tasks. You are successful but it still takes effort and concentration.
  • Unconscious competence – No the game has slowed down. Accomplishing tasks is natural. You have integrated yourself into your role. You are now able to think and apply outside the parameters set by the position.


I would love to help guide you and coach you to reach your highest level of competence in all areas. If you want more information, then click here and set up a FREE CALL with me to see how coaching can work for you.

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Four Essential Building Blocks of a Leader

by middlemanager on August 31, 2017 Comments Off on Four Essential Building Blocks of a Leader


“What does it take to be a leader?” 

“How do I know I am a leader?” 

“Nobody asks me to be a leader for them.” 

“Someone told me I’d be a great leader one day, but no one has shown me how.”   

Above are some of the statements and questions I have heard through the years related to stepping into leadership.  At various times in my life, I have made similar statements.  While growing in my leadership and watching others lead, I have noticed four essential characteristics that all leaders possess.


To lead…a leader has to make a move.  A leader must have a certain level of decisiveness.  This initiative and decisiveness shows up in several ways:

  • To become a leader, a person must take and show initiative by asking. I notice people who want to be leaders yet sit in the woods and voice a faint cry of, “Pick me…notice me.”  Furthermore, a person may begin to manipulate his/her way into leadership by making multiple suggestions or asking many questions all in an effort to push an agenda.  This person does this because he/she does not feel the power of authority.  Regardless of the approach, this person never asks to be a leader.    Personally, how did I move to each of my leadership roles?  I asked.
  • The leader must do more than want and dream. Dreams are great.  They become visions, plans, and outcomes when the leader takes action.
  • A leader must step into his power. Step through barriers of fear and complacency.  Step in, not on.  Be assertive yet sensitive.  Use the God-given power, not power up.
  • Avoid being the victim and take responsibility. Avoid blaming people or circumstances and own choices and decisions.


Both becoming a leader and leading others requires patience.  Once one has asked to lead, a good balance of patience and initiative is required.  Stepping into leadership requires skills to learned, training, apprenticing, etc. before moving forward.  Leading people requires trust in you…and trust takes time.  Here are some other points about patience:

  • Some things just take time. If a leader rushes a process, he could actually create setbacks.
  • A leader must know how to submit to the leadership over him. Patience allows for that submission to bear fruit.
  • Learning methods, people, terms, protocols; takes time. Let it unfold.
  • Pay attention. A leader has his thumb on the pulse of the group he is leading.  Patience creates room for growth and movement.
  • Watch for opportunities. As one aspires to be a leader, he must watch for leadership opportunities.  Once in the role, a leader is attuned to new opportunities.


All leaders possess a certain amount of knowledge in their area.  Most leaders have a vast amount of knowledge, that’s partially how they moved into leadership.  A leader is a “sponge”.  He is constantly soaking up knowledge.  Here are some other important effects of knowledge on leadership:

  • Leaders tap into previous knowledge. What a leader carries experience-wise is quite helpful.
  • Leaders continue to learn about leadership. They stay in contact with other leaders and soak in all they can.  It’s been said, “The day we stop learning is the day we die.”
  • Leaders are continually learning about themselves. They continue to learn, look at and work on their gifts, their triggers, their wants, their dark places, their stretches, their weaknesses, and their strengths.


In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares the difference between the wise and the foolish builders.  What is the difference?  The wise man “…hears these words of mine and puts them into practice…”  This is what I call the “get busy” characteristic.  A leader must apply his skill and knowledge.

  • A leader uses what he knows. Knowledge is no good unused.  Application of that knowledge is powerful.
  • The application must fit the leader’s personality, be authentic, and natural. A true leader’s personal touch and style becomes apparent.
  • A leader applies his knowledge and skill everywhere; not just where he leads. To be authentic as a leader, one must live what he believes.

By far, this is not an exhaustive list of characteristics of a leader.  However, when assessing leaders, one would find all four of these characteristics at work in a leader’s everyday guidance.  Not all leaders begin with these characteristics.  For some, the skills have to be taught, noticed, developed, and/or awakened.  For some leaders, these are natural gifts.  But for all leaders, these four are both basic building blocks and essential.

If you want to develop your leadership to the point of moving into a leader’s role, then contact me here.  Employers, if you see leadership potential in an employee and want to develop him/her, then contact me to help here.

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

by middlemanager on April 18, 2017 Comments Off on Measure Twice, Cut Once


Measure twice, cut once

Those who build things learn to live by the phrase, “Measure twice, cut once”. If one miss measures and the piece is too short, then another piece has to be cut at the cost of time and materials.  If one miss measures and the piece is too long, then time is wasted making another cut.  To measure twice, is to be clear and certain the piece will fit the first time.

This phrase came to mind recently as I was working with a management team for a company I have been consulting with. We were talking about how to hold employees accountable to instructions and job expectations.  One overlooked area, when it comes to holding people in account, is the clarity of the initial instruction.  The question is, “Does the employee have clear instruction, or is it assumed he/she does?”  We then talked about strategies for communicating clear instructions.  That’s when the phrase above really came to mind.

What was discussed in that meeting is true for our everyday life.   Between parent and child, spouse to spouse, friend to friend, clear expectations and communication is one key to avoiding wasted time and effort fixing what should have been clear all along.  There really are some simple steps to communicating clearly that admittedly, most of us do not practice.  These steps only take a few seconds to a few moments longer and could save us hours of extra work in the long run.  Measure twice, cut once.  Below are three steps that can allow us to avoid the results of what I sometimes call “assumicide”.

  • First, repeat what was said and/or expected. When I have an expectation, I should take an extra 30 seconds and repeat that expectation.
  • Second, have the expectation mirrored back to you. “What did you hear me say?” This allows us to hear how we are perceived. All of us have perception filters we process messages through. Hearing back allows me to make sure my intent was communicated correctly. This allows for clarity if needed.
  • Third, summarize. “To be clear, we agree to…” “If I am hearing all this right, we will…” The summary is one last verification that all parties are on the same page. This allows for any new wrinkles to the expectation to be added or taken away.

These all seem very simple…and they are. However, putting them into practice takes time.  I know that for myself, I tend to assume too much and take for granted the relationship I am in.  The result is I become disappointed when my expectation is not met.  Sometimes, I try to hold the other party accountable when there really was no clear agreement.

Where can you apply some or all of these steps to your everyday communications? How will you benefit?  How will those around you benefit?  Begin by taking baby steps by practicing some of these with those closest to you.  Add this short method into your workplace communication.  The results may surprise you.

Photo Credit: Sean McEntee via Creative Commons

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Four Reasons Why “Clean Talk” is Important

by middlemanager on March 8, 2017 Comments Off on Four Reasons Why “Clean Talk” is Important

During some of my recent coaching sessions, I have both noticed my clients leaning toward wordiness and/or my clients would have to address wordiness in others. Furthermore, part of our work in The Crucible Project is the encouraging of each man to practice clean talk. In other words, avoid story and speak to the point. I had always heard that “less is more”. Now as I coach others in their jobs, and everyday life, I am beginning to understand “clean talk” in a deeper way.

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Ten Essentials for the First Time Manager

by middlemanager on March 8, 2017 Comments Off on Ten Essentials for the First Time Manager

The first time and mid-level manager has a special place in my heart for various reasons. I’d like to explain one of the top reasons. I see a phenomenon that occurs when someone is moved into management for the first time. He/she has been highly competent and dedicated in performing job tasks of a particular area. He/she is loyal to the company. It makes sense that there is a natural progression upward into a management position. In most cases, the employee knows the department well. He/she could probably work any position in that department. However, working in the department and managing the department are two different things. Furthermore, employers, upper management, CEOs, and owners do not have the time to mentor the new manager.

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Three Practices of the First Time Manager: Possessing, Modeling, and Empowering

by middlemanager on March 8, 2017 Comments Off on Three Practices of the First Time Manager: Possessing, Modeling, and Empowering

In the Summer of 2016, I drove and staffed our youth mission trip at Camp Barnabas in Missouri. This is a camp ministry for children and adults with special needs and some disabilities (many spectrums of Autism and Down’s Syndrome). This is a wonderful ministry and for the sake of this article, a great place for young leaders to begin practicing their call as leaders.

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Ten Keys to Successful Hiring

by middlemanager on March 8, 2017 Comments Off on Ten Keys to Successful Hiring

As I work with Entrepreneurs, Employers, and Middle Managers, one of the issues each of these groups deals with is hiring and retaining good people. It becomes difficult to make the right choice. Sometimes it is a tough pool of candidates to choose from. There are some great ones out there, but they cost too much. There are much less expensive options but they are inexperienced or unqualified. Once employers finally have a pool of candidates, the task becomes one of choosing who is best suited to fill the position. And, let’s face it… Entrepreneurs, Employers, and Middle Managers can have what looks like the absolute right person and find out weeks or months later the person doesn’t fit or is leaving.

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Own it or it will Own you

by middlemanager on March 8, 2017 Comments Off on Own it or it will Own you

“Own it or it will own you.” This was a phrase I used recently as I was working with a team around them taking responsibility for themselves when dealing with conflict. I recently read two great blog posts by John C. Maxwell relating to this subject. No “Blamestorming” allowed and Responsibility: The First Step in Learning. From the Blamestorming article, Maxwell offers this: “Taking responsibility for your life, your actions, your mistakes, and your growth puts you in a place where you are always able to learn and often able to win.” And from the Responsibility article he offers: “When you take responsibility for yourself, you take responsibility for your learning.” I would add that when you take responsibility for yourself, you take control of you. What does that mean? Well, let’s go back to, “Own it or it will own you.” There are a few thoughts that come to mind around this statement.

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Four Essential Characteristics of a Leader

by middlemanager on March 8, 2017 Comments Off on Four Essential Characteristics of a Leader

“What does it take to be a leader?”

“How do I know I am a leader?”

“Nobody asks me to be a leader for them.”

“Someone told me I’d be a great leader one day, but no one has shown me how.”

read more
middlemanagerFour Essential Characteristics of a Leader