Win the Heart

In his upcoming book, Chess Not Checkers, my friend Mark Miller writes about the most misunderstood and overlooked facet of creating a High Performance Organization: Win the Heart.

Leaders mistakenly believe the “soft stuff” will derail their efforts to achieve the organization’s goals – nothing could be further from the truth!

It is only a fully engaged workforce that allows an organization to begin to approach their full potential. The path to superior sustained performance always goes through the heart of every employee (or volunteer, if you are leading a non-profit).

After writing Chess Not Checkers, Mark wanted to help organizations around the world turn the principles into practice. He asked me to partner with him to create the Chess Not Checkers Field Guide. The following is our introduction to the third move all High Performance Organizations make… they Win the Heart.


In High Performance Organizations, leaders consistently capture the hearts of team members, leading to greater engagement and deeper fulfillment. In such an environment, outstanding results become much easier to achieve.

One of the best ways to Win the Heart is to encourage people to be themselves. Every person in your organization has unique strengths, talents, interests, capabilities, personalities, and experiences. The more those differences are leveraged, the greater the impact your organization can make.

Betting on leadership and acting as one is not enough. No, unless you can Win the Hearts of your people, there will eventually be a lack of engagement, and in the end, you will never reach your potential. We have all witnessed scores of talented groups who never accomplished anything great.

In his book, Crossing the Unknown Sea, corporate poet David Whyte tells of a conversation he had while seeking guidance from a counselor, who made the following statement, “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.” Whyte inquired, “What is it then?” The counselor replied, “The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”tweet_bird He went on to explain how one grows weary because he or she fails to be fully engaged in life.

As you think about your organization, would you describe your employees as fully engaged, or are they halfheartedly going through the motions? Do you sense there is fatigue coupled with a malaise about the mission? If so, the answer is to Win their Hearts.

In addition to encouraging people to be themselves, great leaders seek to win hearts as they Build Community. They recognize people want to be a part of a group who genuinely cares for one another. Secondly, they Share Ownership, understanding people desire real responsibility and an opportunity to contribute. Finally, these leaders Foster Dreams. They know people have aspirations both inside and outside of work and are genuinely interested in helping make those dreams come true.

Never underestimate the power of a group of united hearts. Throughout history, they have won championships, built companies, and even conquered nations. Is it possible greater things could happen in your world? Why not go after the hearts of your people and find out.

Leadership Begins at Home,


How important do you think it is for a leader to win the hearts of his team members?

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Are You Playing it Safe?

Leaders are risk takers. Few people ever have great influence while playing it safe, and they certainly never live up to their potential.

When is the last time you took a leadership risk? Don’t get me wrong. Risk doesn’t = being stupid. Risk means being brave. In many cases, simply showing up and flexing some initiative.

I have a friend, Stacey Williams, who is a great leader. He has been motivating me with his encouragement for the past 30 years. One of the places where Stacey is showing up is in the writing of acrostics. He is great at it. Stacey recently sent me this one on why leaders play it safe.

SSecurity is valued more than Success.

AAcceptance is valued more than achievement.

FFear is valued more than faithfulness.

EEase is valued more than excellence.

Recognize any of those traits in yourself? If so, chances are, you have greater potential than your performance is currently indicating.

Why not be brave today and take a risk? It’s time to stop playing it safe.

Leadership Begins at Home,


When is the last time you saw a leader take a risk?

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Reframe the Way You Look at Family

Without being morbid, may I remind you there will be a last time you will have the opportunity to talk to each of your family members.

What if you knew your next time would be your last time?

While your next time might not be your last time, the truth is you only have one shot at each moment – Oh how I wish declaring a Throwback Thursday would really take me back.


A while back I read an interesting challenge from blogger, Phil Bolsta. It was a great reminder about how important it is to relish the moments you have with your family.

Bolsta writes, “Imagine that earlier in the day you got the news that your loved one had passed away suddenly. If that had actually happened, you would have given all you owned to sit with them like you’re sitting with them right now — to hold their hand, to look them in the eye, to say “I love you” one more time. What a gift, what a miracle that would be! And yet, that same experience barely registers in the course of an ordinary day.”

He goes on, “Why wait until something tragic happens to reframe the way you look at your loved ones? Never forget that each time you see or talk to a loved one, you are treading on holy ground. Remember this little exercise in perspective every time you interact with those you love. Savor each encounter and recognize it as an outright miracle cloaked in the guise of an ordinary moment.

Leadership really does begin at home. It starts with not just being there, but really “being there” … fully engaged, totally present, and thoroughly interested.

If you find yourself unbalanced in your home life, maybe it is time to “reframe” the way you look at your loved ones.

Why not treat your next conversation like you would if you knew it was your last?

Leadership Begins at Home,


Why do you think it is so hard for leaders to maintain a balance between work and home?

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The Road Always Makes the Difference

The longer you stay on the wrong road, the further you will find yourself from your intended destination.

Robert Frost penned the following words at the end of his poem, The Road Not Taken. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”


The road always makes the difference. Are you on the right road? A road that leads to your dreams?

Head down Easy Street, and you can be certain, things will eventually become hard. Shortcut Avenue equals failure to reach your full potential. The Long Way Around, and you end up running in circles.

Why? Because the road always makes the difference.

If today finds you headed in the wrong direction, perhaps it is time for a u-turn.

While the masses will take the path of least resistance, I encourage you to stay on the narrow path.

Remember, your direction will determine your destination … because the road always makes the difference.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Why do you think so many leaders choose the path of least resistance?

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Service with a Smile

Last night was perfect. After nearly two weeks in Africa working with Kenyan high school students, our baby girl came home.

The smile on her face was a great reminder that leaders are better when they serve.


First Lady, Betty Ford, once remarked, “I don’t think there’s anything as wonderful in life as being able to help someone else.”

Is your emotional tank full? Is there a smile on your face because you have been consistently adding value to others?

The great thing about being a servant leader is you don’t have to go around the world to find your smile. Usually, all it takes is a walk down the hall at the office. Or maybe even a word of encouragement across the kitchen at home.

As I have written before, great leaders Think Others First

Open your eyes today and find someone to serve. But if you do, be prepared to smile. Remember, there’s nothing as wonderful in life as being able to help someone else. 

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is one way a leader can add value to those around him?

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