The Importance of the First Mile

For the past few days I have been chewing on the words of former Ritz Carlton CEO, Horst Schulze.

Having hired dozens of people myself, and helped train them, I am challenged by the former CEO’s view on the importance of the first mile.

Mile 1

Schulze says, “The first 40 hours are the most important of a persons career.”

Wow! What a sweeping statement.

What Schulze knows is those first few days are the best chance a leader will have to cast vision, set boundaries, clarify roles, and model core values. In fact, Schulze, who recently opened a another chain of luxury hotels, is so passionate about training and orientation, he leads the process by personally spending time with his newbies.

In an interview with Forbes, Shulze says, “the finest people in the world work in our hotels and I don’t let just somebody train them. When we open a hotel, I train them. I did that in 50 Ritz Carltons and I still do it. I do it because I love it, not because I have to.”

If you have plans to expand your team, maybe you should put your orientation process under the microscope and evaluate your personal involvement.

I encourage you to remember the following:

1. A new person is like a sponge. They soak up whatever is made available to them. If the leader is absent, they might learn from the wrong person and get the wrong idea about your leadership. Your reputation is on the line. Be present!

2. A new person is not just a learner. They also have fresh eyes and can give you much needed input from an outsiders perspective. Ask them what they see and then after they tell you what they think you want to hear, ask them what they really see. You might be surprised at what you can learn. Listen as much as you talk!

3. A new person needs to be connected. Coming in from the outside can be challenging when you don’t know the language, metaphors, stories, or people. As the leader you are best positioned to paint the picture and foster vital relationships. Be strategic!

It’s true … you have one chance to make a first impression. If the first 40 hours are the most important of a persons career, don’t leave the training to chance and hope they “get it” through osmosis.

Be intentionally present, open, and strategic, and you too can lay a foundation that will lead to lasting impact.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What other things does a team member need during the first 40 hours on the job?

Comment Below …

Have You Become Too Civilized?

Over the weekend, I ran across Rocky III on AMC, and I couldn’t resist. The movie is a leadership case study.

It begins with Rocky winning the Heavyweight Championship, leading to the spoils of victory. Namely, a life of luxury.

After several months on Easy Street, Rocky is challenged by #1 contender, Mr. T. (a.k.a. Clubber Lang). Before the fight Rocky makes a terrible assumption. He assumes greatness is a given based on the fact he was once great. WRONG!

Rocky’s trusty trainer, Mick, tries to warn him. His words are legendary. “The worst thing happened to you that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized.” 

Rocky agrees to the fight despite the warning from Mick and, predictably, Clubber knocks his block off.


For leaders, just like fighters, the biggest threat to tomorrow’s result is yesterday’s success. If we are not careful, we can get sucked into the allure of achievement.

Lately, I’m asking myself if there are areas where I have become civilized. I encourage you to look in the mirror too.

Rocky eventually gained the title back. But it took a beating to make him hungry again. I hope the same isn’t required for us.

Please don’t go off and get yourself civilized. It is the worst thing that can happen to any leader.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are some of the reasons a leader can lose his hunger to be great?

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Do You Have Any Cracks in Your Leadership?

A while back I went all home improvement and made a trip to a local hardware store. Let’s just say, I am not Mr. Fix It. But after three weeks of the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink leaking, I had had enough.

FaucetI actually debated replacing the entire sink. Thankfully, I thought better of it when I saw that the new faucets were several hundred dollars.

Plan B turned out to be much better. I asked a clerk for a plumbing expert and then waited on isle seven while one could be paged. After ten minutes of no one showing up, I started talking to myself, which is not unusual. A customer standing nearby detected my frustration. He asked me what I was doing.

I showed him the spray nozzle and told him about my leaky dilemma. He suggested I tighten the spring, put in a new washer, and purchase some plumbing tape to seal the threads. I followed his advice to a “t” and now my wife thinks I’m a plumber. It turns out all I needed was a little know-how and $1.37 worth of materials.

As a leader you should be aware that leadership leaks. It only takes a little crack in a system, an unfocused team member, or even a flaw in your own integrity for the leaking to begin. Just as water finds its way to the cracks, your vision will begin to leak if you don’t pay attention to the crevices in your leadership world.

If you are like me, I’m guessing you could use a little tightening up on some of your processes, a fresh perspective in some area of priority, or a renewed focus on your mission. What you probably don’t need is a brand new start.

Take it from a plumber – this week, if you will make a few necessary adjustments to your leadership cracks, your leaking might just go away.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are some places where cracks tend to show up in a leader’s life?

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Is it Time for a Trip?

St. Augustine once said, “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

When is the last time you traveled and what is one thing you learned?

If it has been a while, maybe it is time for a trip.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Do you have upcoming travel plans?

Share one leadership lesson from your last trip . . . 

Are You Struggling With Resistance?

Writing this blog may be the end of me. I don’t want to do it. Truthfully, I don’t want to do much of anything today. I am struggling with resistance.


I’m tired and don’t feel like I have much to say. But I’m here, and quite sure the resistance I feel is an indicator that someone needs to read this.

Donald Miller would agree. In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he writes, “Every creative person, and I think probably every other person, faces resistance when they are trying to create something good … The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be.” I hope he is right.

Resistance is one of the chief enemies of a leader. So many great ideas, projects, and goals are never realized because we give in to the resistance and fail to even take the first step.

If you find yourself less than excited about some area of your leadership, I encourage you to take not one step, but three.

  1. Show up, even when you don’t feel like it. People tell me that showing up is half the battle. Maybe more like 90% if you ask me. All I know is you will never finish anything you don’t start. I also know that rarely do I feel like doing hard work. 
  2. Incrementally stay the course. A bunch of little bits add up to a lot (the grammar may be bad, but the principle is powerful). I have written over 30,000 words this year. How did I do it? About 300 at a time. Have all my words been good? Unfortunately, no. Many of them have disappointed me and caused you to hit delete. But some of my words have added value to leaders – leaders who have tremendous influence. I have discovered I increase my chances of writing something interesting by writing more. The same is true for your work. The cumulative effect of your incremental efforts is making a bigger difference than you think. Stay the course.
  3. Finish what you start. Marathon medals aren’t given to those who run 25 miles and stop. They are given to those who cross the finish line. Perhaps the best feeling in the world is the feeling of being done with something. It is tragic to think of how many things are half completed, the joy of completion forfeited. While you will never finish anything you don’t start, you will also never finish anything you don’t finish. For every project, visualize the finish line and keep moving toward it until you are done.

I encourage you to resist the resistance. It will attack often, but you have what it takes to defeat it. I just did, and so can you.

Leadership Begins at Home,


How do you deal with the resistance?

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