Make Your Productive Life, Significant

Make Your Productive Life, Significant
Is the pursuit of a significant life getting in the way of being productive? A recent blog post on by Umair Haque provided another reminder of the importance of pursuing a life of significance. It even provided some helpful tips to achieve that. But as I read it, I wondered if such pursuits get in the way of my productivity at work. Can I have both? Can I achieve significance and be productive? Can I keep my eyes toward the stars while logging my time? Can I dissect the monthly financial reports while contemplating our company’s vision?


But to do so, we need to consider productive activity and significant pursuits on a continuum. Let’s put productive actions on the left side of the continuum and significant pursuits on the right. Place a mark somewhere on the continuum that represents where you typically operate for each principle.

  1. I follow societal order. I oftentimes dissent.
  2. I instill policy. I operate on principles.
  3. I sacrifice desire. I embrace desire.
  4. I’m goal oriented. I sell out to a compelling vision.
  5. I guard my emotions. I unleash my emotions.
  6. I’m defined by my role. I’m defined by my impact.
  7. I present myself well. I show my authentic self.
  8. I don’t take things personally. I make things personal.
  9. I work to achieve power. I work to grow.
  10. I love building teams. I love building individuals.
  11. I execute the work. I inspire change.
  12. I effectively navigate through the known. I effectively navigate through the unknown.
  13. I strive for balance. I manage life imbalance.
  14. I strive to live safe and secure. My passion pushes me closer to the edge.
  15. I manage the outputs. I manage the outcomes.

Are you more skewed to the productive life or the significant life? I hope your continuum doesn’t always line up on either extreme. The key is to have your marks move across each continuum at certain times. Sometimes you should follow societal order, but not always. Change often calls for challenging our sacred tenets. Always pursuing our desires would be counterproductive. But never pursuing them leaves us stale and boring, not inspiring. So I hope your marks are at various places on each of these lines. And I hope the next time you take this simple assessment, your marks have changed locations. Don’t always be on one side or the other. To be productive and achieve significance, you should move back and forth along each of the continuums at various times in your life.


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Thursday, October 20th, 2011 Leadership No Comments

What Role Does Vulnerability Play in Your Leadership?

Can a leader who protects their vulnerability be effective? Strong leadership requires that people feel comfortable communicating their concerns, their needs, their aspirations and where they need to grow. How well can others be led by a leader who has armor on? The fact is that many of the most powerful leaders have gone through challenging life experiences that helped them grow dramatically. Those experiences hold important lessons that others can learn from and be encouraged by.

My own story started as the loser kid growing up…with bad grades, fights, and often alone on the playground. At an early age, I was beginning to accept my inevitable lifelong journey through Loserville. But something happened my junior year in high school. I learned the game of acting like everyone else acts. Just mimic those people who you want to become so badly. So I joined a sport, improved my appearance and painted on a confident smile day in and day out.

And it worked…really well.

It worked well in my professional life also. But there was a consequence to all of this “acting”. Faking everyone out and hiding behind a false image was hard and tiring work. Unauthentic living was down right exhausting. That exhaustion finally caught up with me. I was completely out of gas and started showing physical signs from the stress including anxiety and high blood pressure.

My body was telling me that I couldn’t play the game anymore. It told me that I had to learn to be who I was, and to truly accept myself. I had to stop the performance and live genuinely.

This was a scary growth process for me, because I knew who I was when I wasn’t performing. I was alone and unaccepted. My transition to authenticity meant that I had to embrace my inner ragamuffin nature. I would have to be ok with myself and gain a sense of personal value and worth even when I felt inadequate. I started to let people in to my life more – my authentic life, not my “presentation” life. I’m more open with my fears. I don’t pretend to have all the answers anymore. I could go on here, but hopefully you get the point.

So how has this whole new vulnerability / transparency thing worked out? I have a better perspective of life – knowing that I’m not really that big of a deal… and, thank God, I don’t have to be. I don’t feel quite as much pressure as I once did. I learned to empathize with others more and I’m more interested in them than I used to be. I am more engaged with life, feeling more and bigger emotions. I have more joy and I’m less anxious about things.

As leaders, we often live with intense pressure. Eventually that pressure will bubble up and explode – maybe causing a personal collapse. Trust from others is so important for leaders. And people trust leaders who are authentic. Those who lead from a guarded state will be exposed and eventually trust will fall.

To grow as leaders, we need to learn to be more vulnerable and authentic. As we are more authentic, we also direct our energies in productive ways as opposed to putting a drain on ourselves trying to keep up a front. The more authentic we are and the more we are willing to let others see our humanity, the greater trust we build. It also allows us to truly impact others so that they can learn from our mistakes and life lessons and become future leaders.

Also, check out this video from TED featuring Brene Brown. She has some very valuable words of wisdom that support this idea. I hope your journey toward authenticity is a valuable one. Onward!

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Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 Leadership 1 Comment

Playing It Safe Isn’t … Safe

I’m the un-proud owner of five residential units. These properties have never cash-flowed and they continue to deteriorate as it becomes yet another residence for yet another college student. Over the past two years, I’ve just been riding this money pit, waiting for an economic revival. Still waiting.

As I wait, I’ve tried to do as little as possible. Pay for maintenance only when the maintenance problem is life-threatening. Shrubs? Ha! Not a chance. But my lack of attention to these properties is starting to show. My competition is passing me by as they have better yards, brighter colors, and new amenities.

Over the past two years, with my properties, I was playing defense – protecting my position and my cash, doing as little work and as little harm as possible.

But my strategy is now shifting. If I continue to play defense, my properties will collapse (not literally, buy maybe). I need to look for ways to be more relevant and more attractive to potential customers. I’ve got to learn to compete again. I’m starting to spend again in order to make money. While that was uncomfortable a year ago, it’s absolutely necessary now.

It’s time to get aggressive, to play offense in business, to move from protection to progression. Those who are unable to shift from a defensive to an offensive mindset will find themselves significantly behind the competition as we grow closer to the rebound.

In order to shift to this offensive mindset in business, it will be important to become opportunity-minded – curious about our potential, evaluating the quality of our position, forward thinking and visionary, and courageous. Yes, spending money in a cash crunch environment takes courage.

Interestingly enough, our initial findings from the Champions ECChO assessment ( reveal that the opportunity-minded principle has the lowest average scores of all of the core principles of a champion as well as the smallest spread of scores.

Core Principle #1 – Enlightened: Avg. enlightenment score = 69%
Core Principle #2 – Connected: Avg. connected score = 72%
Core Principle #3 – Change-Maker: Avg. change-maker score = 73%
Core Principle #4 – Opportunity-Minded: Avg. opp-minded score = 68%

Those findings may have developed as a result of our difficult business environment. In a difficult business environment, defensive minds prevail. However, I encourage you to shift your mindset:

  1. Grow your curiosity
  2. Cast a new vision
  3. Develop the courage to begin to take more risks


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Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 Leadership, Org Champs Book No Comments

The Organizational Champion Webcast – Ep. 02

icon for podpress  The Organizational Champion Webcast - Ep. 02 [35:32m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Show Notes:

It was a dry week for news stories.  We pored over endless news feeds this week and there was nothing there.  Where are the commentators and people with opinions and vision?  Where are the stories about exciting companies and visionary leaders?

Which comes first vision or execution.  On first blush the answer may seem simple and straight forward, but not so fast.  Depending on the state of a company, and the state of the marketplace the best strategy may be to attack the problem backwards.  In our conversation today, we will explore both execution and vision and when to focus on each.

Questions from Twitter

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We would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments about the podcast. Our email address is podcast (at) organizationalchampions (dot) com.

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Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 Org Champs Book, Podcast No Comments

The End Result from Organizational Champions – Championship Companies

Champions build championship companies. What are championship companies?

Championship companies don’t compete, they win. They are most often category or industry leaders, or at least on their way to a category leadership position. Sometimes you might find a newly formed championship company in a turnaround effort. These companies are easy to spot.

  1. They have great agility in an ever-changing world
  2. They maximize partnerships and operate globally as an enterprise
  3. Their culture is a highly diverse and performance-based culture
  4. Accountability moves in all directions (evaluations happen up and down)
  5. The organization operates as an interdependent system of cross-functional teams, clients, and suppliers.
  6. These companies make bold plays and are disruptive by nature, often changing the game.
  7. These companies are authentic – they walk the talk.
  8. These companies have a genuine concern for their success and their contribution to society.

How do champions help build these championship companies?

  1. They have trust and build trust within the organization by their example, their authenticity and consistency, their pure pursuits (win-win), and through accountability.
  2. They are highly encouraging to others and spend a great deal of time investing in the highest potential.
  3. They are inspiring through their emotional energy and drive for what’s possible.
  4. They are always reminding people of the vision and connecting the dots to execution.
  5. They are amazingly persevering and always get back up after a set-back (perspective).
  6. They receive and give feedback regardless of hierarchy. They elevate above the politics. They have no time for politics.
  7. They value the unique styles and experiences of all.
  8. They personally engage. Their work has purpose, and therefore, they have a strong sense of mission.
  9. The world doesn’t happen to them, they happen to the world (Jib Ellison).

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Friday, September 12th, 2008 Leadership, Org Champs Book 3 Comments

OC Attributes Survey Findings

Thank you all for participating in the recent online survey regarding the attributes of an organizational champion. So far, we’ve captured the data from 57 responders. While we will continue to capture additional responses, this post is an update on findings from these initial responses.

Participants were asked to rank the importance of each of the attributes shown in the chart below regarding leadership today. The specific question was:

Based on organizational needs and demands in the 21st century, please rate the necessity of the following attributes of an organizational leader in order to have the most impact on organizational success on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “Completely Unnecessary” and 10 being “Completely Necessary”.

The attributes and their ratings of importance are below (Click on image to enlarge.):

Not surprising, trustworthiness captures the number one spot for the most important attribute followed closely by vision. The next three attributes emphasize the importance of communicating to and enabling a complex and decentralized group of work teams toward change across many organizations and enterprises of which one has no or limited authority over.

Ok. Agree. The next question is how? Communication skills will fail if motives aren’t trusted. Therefore, motives must be pure and good. But motives will fail if you have an inability to communicate. Communication is a behavior (non-verbal) and skill (verbal). In order to be trustworthy, behaviors, skills, and motives must be trusted and understood in order to effectively move people, an organization, and a group of organizations.

Effectively maneuvering people and organizations through change seems to be at the top of the priority list as it relates to effectively leading in the 21st century.

Trusted behaviors and skills seem to fit many leadership principles. The next level of valued attributes for a leader in the 21st century according to survey responses are drive, inspiration, and authenticity. Today, inspiration can’t be manufactured as followers are smarter and leadership is constantly being tested and evaluated. It must be authentic from within. And because trustworthiness is so important, one’s authenticity must be good. There are few things more destructive than a driven and inspiring leader with a completely self-serving or evil agenda.

Therefore, the current data seems to align with the definition for an organizational champion. Organizational champions are enlightened change-makers who are sensationally tuned to altruistic values and relentlessly driven by possibilities.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

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Sunday, July 27th, 2008 Leadership, Org Champs Book 2 Comments



About the Author

Mike Thompson BlogMike Thompson is the CEO of SVI, a leading organizational development company that provides leadership development services to companies such as Walmart, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, University of Phoenix and many more. Mike is also the author of McGraw Hill's new leadership book The Organizational Champion.

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