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Leader on the Rise: Charles Thomas, Jr. (former Notre Dame basketball player)


20100424 Charles Thomas_0156From time to time, we will highlight people we see as leaders on the ascendency – or as we call them “A Leader on the Rise.” In this segment of LOTR, we are featuring Charles Thomas, Jr.  He is the author or Scars, Exile, and Vindication, which is an account of his life from his early start in Flint, Michigan to playing basketball at the University of Notre Dame and then on to working all across the world as a member of the US intelligence community.

When you look at Charles you might not expect to hear some of the stories and credentials he presents to you, which is one of the main reasons why I thought it was important to feature him. Charles represents “a commitment to excellence [which is just one] demonstration of human potential,” as he says so matter-of-factly during this segment, and that commitment to excellence is not limited to one race, one neighborhood, one school, or any other marker that tells you you can or can’t be great. A leader will rise “like a rose in the concrete,” and Charles is definitely on his way from the ground to the moon and beyond.

Click below to see an excerpt of the LOTR interview with Charles Thomas, Jr.

Please contact us if you know someone that should be considered for the LOTR segment.

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5 Questions with an MVP: Ron Israel (former Pittsburgh Steeler)


Watch this quick video and learn how this MVP has charted his path post NFL –  Meet Ron Israel! Oh, how could I forget;  Ron played for Notre Dame as well. Notre Dame is the number one team in the country!Go Irish!




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Who is blocking you from success?

Capital Y. O. U!

You are blocking yourself from success.

Before I tell you why you are the person blocking yourself from success, let me give you a guidepost when taking advice from anyone — even me.

Never trust someone that is telling you to do something they won’t or don’t do.

How does this relate to the question at hand, well if you are taking advice from anyone about being successful make sure that the person you are asking is. First and foremost, ask the person to define success as it relates to them. (If you know them, you will know if they are defining it accurately and if they are actually living that definition. If you don’t know them, then why are you asking them? )

If you feel comfortable that the person you are seeking advice from is indeed successful, then ask them how they became successful. Their definition of and their journey to becoming successful is likely to include:

1. Doing a job that makes them happy,

2. Having a career that they are passionate about,

3. Having a happy family,

4. Something they consider fun,

5. Serving their purpose, etc.

Whatever, they say will generally include a fire and burning need to do what they are doing. Sure there are more components of success, but I want to focus on this one – the fire. I want to focus here, because this is what you more than anyone has the answer to. Why? Well, only you know what is the burning need or desire inside of you.

If you can identify this need you have already started your journey to success. Beyond that, you have to do something to help you live that desire. And just because you wanted to be an NBA player , for example, and you aren’t doesn’t mean you aren’t successful. Maybe you play in a YMCA league in your hometown. Maybe you coach a high school team. Success is up to you. You define what it is.

People aren’t successful generally because they are letting someone else define success for them whether they are doing this consciously or not. Who might be defining success for them could be a number of things. Society. Your wife or your husband. Your girlfriend or boyfriend. Your mother or father. Your ego versus your soul or your heart. Whatever it may be, if you did not define success for yourself; it may be impossible to ever achieve that definition and if you do achieve that definition: is it really success? or just a goal attained?

In closing, success makes you feel a certain way –– good. Gosh darnit, if you are really serious about the idea of success and you are able to manifest that idea, success might feel a little bit like bliss. So, tell me: What is your definition of success? Are you successful (as per your definition)? If you can honestly answer no or a half-yes/half-no, then QUICK think of 3 things you can do to achieve success. I promise you will find that changing the way YOU think may be a big part of the solution.



Click the link below to see more useful tips on success from Richard St. John at the TED conference.

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Most Liked (and Most Disliked) NFL Players of 2012: Does this mean anything, really?

Leadership is not just about titles. The case can be made that every person on a team is a leader. In keeping with this idea, everyone’s brand can impact the team – the morale and the performance alike. But does it really? Let’s take the NFL’s latest most liked (and least liked) players of the year list as compiled by Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research and see if the aforementioned supposition holds.

Most Liked NFL Players                                                Most Disliked NFL Players

1. Troy Polamalu, Steelers, (63 percent)                          1. Ndamukong Suh, Lions (19 percent)

2. Drew Brees, Saints, (62 percent)                                   2. Jay Cutler, Bears, (21 percent)

3. Charles Woodson, Packers (62 percent)                     3. Michael Vick, Eagles, (23 percent)

4. Peyton Manning, Broncos (59 percent)                       4. Randy Moss, 49ers, (24 percent)

5. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (58 percent)                           5. Matt Leinart, Raiders (26 percent).

Hypothesis: Is there a correlation between winningest team and the most liked players? Let’s see. Atlanta Falcons are the winningest team and only remaining undefeated team in the NFL with a 6-0 record. The Falcons aren’t represented on either Top 5 list. The most liked player is Troy Polamalu,  or as I call him Troy “Long hair, don’t care” Peezy. Troy  is on the Steelers, and they are sort of middle of the road in terms of their record, 3-3 with a 12th place power ranking on several lists. Meanwhile, the Packers (with 2 of the 5 most liked players) fare somewhat better; they sit at no 5 on many power rankings with a 4-3 record. That leaves Mr Peyton Manning. He is no 3 on the most liked list and the Bronco’s, like the Steelers, are 3-3 but one spot above the Steelers in the power rankings at no. 11. So, being well liked appears to be somewhat helpful towards winning.

Conversely, Jay Cutler totally debunks the notion of most disliked player and capital “L” loser team. His team is ranked consistently at no 3 on power rankings with a 5-1 record so far. Jay is no 2 on the most disliked list. While Vick, another QB, is not doing so well in terms of winning with a 3-3 season and is no 17 on power rankings. The 49ners are represented on the downside with Randy Moss making an appearance on the disliked list but they are close to the top of the winning record teams with a 5-2 showing. Matt Leinart is no 5 on the most disliked list so he was the best of the worst in this regard, but he is on the 2nd worst team in terms of power rankings  at 31 out of 32 teams in the NFL with a 2-4 record. That leaves Ndamukong Suh. He is the most disliked player this year. I think everyone knows why, but dirty hits are predominately to blame if you are not aware of his antics on and off the field. The Lions are 24th on the power rankings with a 2-4 record. Even though there are more losing records than winning records here; the winning records are pretty darn good. Hmm?

So, does a “disliked player” make a losing team and does a “most liked” player make a winning one? Well, as you can see we are left with a mixed bag in terms of trying to make a prediction based on this list and the team’s overall performance. There are just too many other spurious and non-spurious factors that coalesce together to give a team the big W to have this single factor create a 1:1 ratio between being well liked and winning and vice versa. However, we do see that a player’s brand is not just a superficial concept. It actually translates not necessarily into wins  or losses on the field all the time,  but it can definitely have  financial, cultural, and social implications for sure. Still, Ndamukong Suh is not doing himself or his team a favor with his bad behavior and subsequent “dirty playmaker” brand. So, even if the Suh’s Lions lose more games this season, if Suh gave his brand a more positive reboot, his brand is one less loss they have to worry about.


Watch the stomp heard ’round the world and lend your opinion to the list above. Do you think Suh earned his spot? :

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What’s Love Got to Do With It?

The most overlooked pre-requisite for good leadership is love. When I am coaching someone, I consider the whole person. My core principal is you are who you are. People often try harder to “behave” at work – covering parts of themselves. However, your authentic self emerges still. So if a person has no love that authentic self will not be patient, gracious, and kind ; at least not long enough to build solid ties at work such that others want to rally behind them time after time.

There are many types of love that can undergird good leadership.For example, love of your family can provide you with a template for the type of love you need to lead a team.  This love of family can empower a leader to take more, do more, and/or embrace more challenges because they have the love of their family to show them what is possible when love is present. Love of work and love of the brand or product generally run a close second and third when I ask my clients what they love the most in their lives at any given time.

But if you love nothing it will be very hard to be a good leader, because you won’t have this framework of passion and compassion to draw upon. These things are required to move things along when the going gets tough.  Leadership is about leading when things go smoothly as well as when things get rocky. Now, depending on how good you are at showing, expressing, and communicating your love will determine if you can have great leadership. This does not mean you don’t get upset or frustrated at all; it just means that the leader with the capacity to love that exercises this capacity consistently knows how to make sure that everything can come back to love and is done in love.

In closing, it is not my job to judge what or who you love, but to find out if you have the capacity TO love and to then show you how that love can help you correct areas in your leadership that are holding you back from being a good/great leader. However, if you are faltering in your leadership and don’t have a coach to help you on your journey, first look to see if you can find any love in your life. And if you can’t locate any real love anywhere, I suggest you turn inward because it is very likely you may need to first start loving yourself. That will be the first step in your journey on being a good leader.


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So you want a raise in a tough job market?: 5 Tips for Making Your Case

You Get A Raise

1. Get to the point. Always find ways to say what needs to be said “simpler, better, faster.” This does a few things: it shows you are able to digest information and make sense of it quickly; it shows you are listening; and it shows that you are efficiency minded. The boss will think of your agile, crisp reports as your signature style and brand; and as Martha Stewart would say “that is a very good thing.”

2. Be innovative. Make sure you come to work with a clear head. If you have less distractions than others, you have more capacity to think abou the issues at hand as well as the issues that could plague the company in the future. Those that help companies stave off issues in the future — and particularly if you can codify that in terms of cost savings, ROI, or a reduction in COGS — you pay for yourself as a resource a few times over.

3. Predict the future. Take some time to think about what your boss needs done and do it. Of course, do this within reason. Take care of extraneous tasks quickly. However, for bigger initiatives or strategy, scope out your ideas and show your boss a strawman outline. Even if she says “David, I don’t have time to address that right now but good on you for taking the lead on this. I appreciate your initiative.” You will likely be congratulated for being forward-leaning at a minimum and in the best case scenario, you will likely be given the lead on the initiative and will be able to receive a big portion of the credit for the outcome.

4. Do more with less. With such an emphasis on overhead and cost reduction initiatives, employers are looking for people that are resourceful. Over and above just saving the company money, it is similarly as helpful to find ways to make the most of the resources a company currently has. This is where being and thinking “green,” for example, comes into the fore and becomes more than a machination of political wonks and academics. Being green saves green.

5. Spell it out. As a leadership coach, my job at the end of an engagement often consists of putting together a summary of targets met and overall achievements (also known as a “brag book”). What did you do to warrant merit? So, if you have done the aforementioned steps 1-4, you should have a record of all of the cogs, efficiency measures, KPIs that show increases in sales, velocity, churn, etc. Data is king in this instance. If you have substantive proof of how you created value, particularly if this exceeds average output; you will have more than made the case for your employer. Some perceptive employers may even say “Natalie, looks like someone deserves a raise.” If they don’t, and you feel some good will in the air, it may be worth brokering the conversation without the prompting of your boss.

In short, know your worth. Know what value-add you are bringing. Be able to tell the story clearly with data and a strong narrative. If you think you can do this yourself but want to increase your chances of getting what you want, a good coach can help you in your efforts. I have personally supported my clients in this regard, and we secured not only a raise but a promotion in many cases. So there you have it; 5 tips for making your case for a raise. Go for it! Good luck in your efforts !


For more information on compiling your brag sheet and other offerings that could help give you that extra edge, contact Patrick Parks at


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The advice President Obama took from Whitney Houston years ago: You should too!


My first solo in church was “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston. One of the lines in the song is “find your strength in love.” As I looked at President Obama in a photo with his family it is obvious to me that he finds his strength in them.  As a leadership coach, I have thought about strength in ways that expand the conventional view of the word. I have broken it down into two types of strength: internal strength and external strength.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines strength as “the quality or state of being strong : capacity for exertion or endurance.” In other words, strength can be seen as the maximum force one can exert. I only have enough strength to lift my body weight. I can’t lift anything beyond that. I call that internal strength or leveraging all you have inside.

External strength is strength you use outside of yourself. Let’s say you weigh 150 lbs and can only lift your body weight and you need to lift 250 lbs. You will have to seek additional means to accomplish the task. Either some type of tool, lever, pulley, mechanical lift would be needed or additional people could support you.

As a leader it is important to know how strong you are? It is equally important to know when you exceed your lifting capacity? And when faced with a challenge that exceeds that capacity, how do you make up the difference? A true leader knows how to not only find their own strength (and strength reserves) but how to find the strength in others and effectively leverage that strength for the collective good or task at hand.

So, I return to the song lyric of “find your strength in love.”  When you face a task that appears to call for more strength than you can muster from within, think consciously about where you can find your strength externally and you will. Trust me, I’m a singer.


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See the gallery of the Obamas and their palpable strength transfers to Barack. Collect your own photos of strength transfers of those that give you strength and keep them in your phone, your office, etc to be able to draw on them when you need to.