Monthly Archives: December 2010

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Maybe you’ve heard the analogy about how difficult it is to teach an “old dog” new tricks.  An “old dog” is someone who is set in their ways, who’s “been there and done that” and who is not particularly impressed by our leadership credentials.  We run into “old dogs” all the time when we inherit teams, and they can make our jobs a chore.  I once had a children’s joke book that had stellar advice about how to deal with “old dogs.”  The joke went like this:

“What do you need to know to teach an old dog new tricks?”

“More than the dog.”


Great advice!  As leaders, we need to stay at least one step ahead of those on our teams.  You do this through continuous improvement – taking courses, being a bookworm or a tapeworm (someone who listens to tapes), reading trade publications, attending conferences….  There are a gazillion options available to us.  The hard part isn’t finding a way to learn more; it’s making it into a habit!

Think about this:

If you haven’t learned anything new lately, have you earned the credibility to lead a group of people who are experts in what they do on a daily basis?  You can’t lead any farther than you yourself have gone.


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Filed under authority, coaching, discipleship, expertise, Fathering, growth, habits, leadership, learning, mentoring, modeling, parenting, Sharpening the Saw, Spiritual Growth, Teaching, trust

Behold the Underlying Truth

Pardon my French, but most of us could use a “BUT” reduction (just one “T”).  We use the word much too often (I couldn’t even start this article without one.), and it weakens our message.  Worse, it often contradicts our message.  For example:

“That was an excellent presentation, BUT it could have used a few more examples.”

“You’re doing a great job, BUT I’m disappointed in your recent performance.”

“This project is a great opportunity, BUT I’m afraid it’s too much of a stretch for us.”

What message do you think others would take away from these examples?  …the positive part at the beginning or the negative part at the end?  Most of the time, the word “BUT” acts like a big eraser.  It rubs out whatever comes before it and declares:

Behold the Underlying Truth!

The first part of our message seems insincere and “technique-y.”  It gives the impression of nothing more than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.  And if the truth be known, that’s exactly the way many of us communicate.  When our true message is negative, we often look for a way to soften the blow.  Those who know us well know the “BUT” is coming.  Instead of listening to what you are saying, they are “BUT watching” – waiting for you to do an about face and wipe out the first part of your message.

If I’ve just described you, the first thing you have to do is to eliminate the insincere from your communication.  It kills your credibility.  The second thing you ought to try is replacing your “BUT’s” with “AND’s.”  It will feel uncomfortable at first, but it becomes easier the more you use it.  Notice the difference in what is communicated in the following revised examples:

“That was an excellent presentation, AND it could be even better with a few more examples.”

“You’re doing a great job, AND I’ve got some suggestions to help you take your performance to the next level.”

“This project is a great opportunity for us, AND it’s really going to stretch us.  Are we ready for it?”

It’s a small adjustment, but it makes a dramatic difference in the message that gets communicated.  When you use “AND,” you maintain the integrity of the first part of your message and you…

Add a New Dimension

You’re still communicating the first part, and you’re helping your listener to see things from a new perspective.  If you want to communicate more effectively, you need to get off your “BUT’s!”

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Filed under coaching, communication, feedback

Possibility Thinking

During World War I, a Colonel was notified that his troops were surrounded by the enemy, who was demanding that they surrender.  The Colonel took this message to his troops, “Gentlemen, we have a situation that armies dream of.  We are surrounded on all sides, so we can attack in any direction we want.  All we have to do is pick one and go.  Our danger is if we sit here.”

Now, that’s possibility thinking!  Leadership sometimes requires that we reframe an impossible goal so that our team’s can see their potential for success.

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Filed under Abundance, Attitude, Challenges, Change, coaching, conflict, Denial, determination, faith, Fear, Goals, Hardship, leadership, learned helplessness, management, motivation, overcoming obstacles, paradigm, paradigm shift, Persistence, Problem Solving, Scarcity, success, Suffering, Trials