How To Connect With People – The Painless Secret

Tips on how to connect with people.

Ask anyone what they want. If they’re being honest, most people will tell you they want friends . . . real connection with others.

The problem is that we live in a world where everyone is looking down at their mobile devices. They seem more interested in cyber relationships than the actual people around them. How do we get around this?

Just for fun, my son, Michael,  and I recently did an experiment to see if we could more easily connect with people. What we found astounded us.

South Dakota State LineMichael is studying at a college across the country. While he had been making do without a car, the time came when he really needed his beloved old Toyota 4Runner at school.  Rather than simply ship it from Seattle to the University of Florida, he wanted to drive it on a “coast to coast” road trip. I was reluctant, given that the 4Runner is 30 years old and has 200,000 miles on it. But I gave in, knowing it would be a great time to make memories.

Now for the experiment. We wanted to see if we could connect with some of our fellow travelers. To accomplish this, we would try telling our story using window paint. We marked the following messages on the truck’s windows:

1986 Toyota 4Runner - Connect With People Using Window PaintWA to FL in 5 days (the “what” of our trip, easily seen on the rear window by cars approaching from behind)

Dad & Son Cross USA (the “why” of our trip . . . a message with family appeal on a side window that would be seen by vacationing families passing us)

1986 Toyota 4Runner - Connect With People Using Window Paint’86 4Runner, 30th Bday, 200K Miles (on a side window to be seen at gas stations, a message to car enthusiasts)

14 States, 3K Miles, 5 Days (the “how” of our trip on a side window)

Our hope was that different parts of our story might appeal to different people. But would it make a connection with others? Would people say anything?

1986 Toyota 4Runner - Connect With People Using Window PaintThe results were overwhelming. People talked with us every time we stopped for gas or food. People took pictures of the truck. Most surprising of all, we received a constant stream of smiles, waves and honking horns while driving.

We connected with people with all kinds of backgrounds . . . approving semi-truck drivers, families on their own road trips, people who had never seen window paint, teens gawking at an old 4Runner and even hard core bikers on their way to their famous Sturgis, South Dakota rally. We made a lot of fast friends. Easily.

1986 Toyota 4Runner - Connect With People Using Window PaintTHE SECRET? When we reflected on our silly experiment we discovered a secret. We connect with people when there is story. We took a risk and put a little of our story out there. But by doing so, it gave people the opportunity to respond.

I could have given you a thousand reasons why we shouldn’t use window paint. The truck was full of dorm stuff we didn’t want stolen out of a hotel parking lot. We didn’t want to be targeted by con artists. Why call attention to ourselves? How easy it would have been to do nothing and simply blend in with all the other cars.

Having a story is like sanding before painting (“keying”). A keyed surface is rough and gives the paint something to which it can attach. Without keying, paint simply slides off polished/smooth surfaces. There’s nothing to grab on to… no way for it to adhere. Our stories give traction – something others can take hold of. They give people a way to connect with us.

APPLICATION: How can we put this secret to work? How can we better connect with people? Here are some ideas to better start conversations:

•       Next time you fill out a name tag don’t just put down your name, but a question like “What’s your favorite movie?” or “What was your first car?”

•       Make nice polo shirts or a jacket with your interest on them. Embroider a hat or handbag. Wear them strategically.
•        Put up a picture or poster in your work space.
•        Have things that interest you in your garage that others can see and speak with you about.
•        Create a sign, custom mailbox or artwork for your yard.
•        Put a bumper sticker or license plate frame on your car (or use window paint!)

Put just a little of yourself out there and see how much easier it is to connect with people!

— Ride Along With Us For A Few Trip Highlights —

Columbia River

Crossing the incredible Columbia River in Washington State.

Freight TrainThere are more trains in the middle of American than you would think. Montana has a lot of highway with an 80MPH speed limit.

Circle CloudRound clouds and fire in the evening sky.

Weird Street Name

Street names we didn’t know how to pronounce.

Open PlainsThere’s an incredible openness and beauty in the plains states.

1986 4Runner - Wyoming State LinePassing a lot of state lines.

Train End To EndLook closely and you can see an entire train, end to end. Now that’s open country!

Black Hills, South DakotaSouth Dakota’s Black Hills really do look like they are black!

Wing WindowWho decided cars shouldn’t have wing windows? These are awesome!

Train With Engines In Middle

Trains so long they need engines in the middle.

Sturgis, South Dakota

The famous motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Tens of thousands of bikes in one place. We’ve never seen anything like it.

Falling Off Mount RushmoreFalling off Mount Rushmore.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

There really are falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Nebraska Furniture Mart, OmahaWarren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, has one the world’s largest stores in Omaha, Nebraska. Five blocks of furniture.

Mizzou Stadium - University of Missouri

On the lookout for Tigers at the University of Missouri.

St. Louis Gatway Arch At Night

It turns out that the ‘Gateway to the West’ is ‘Gateway to the East’ if you’re going the opposite direction.

Cheap Gas

Some places still have cheap gas.

Police On Waze

Waze seems to indicate there are more police in Florida than the rest of the USA combined.

Century Tower, University of FloridaLast stop . . . Century Tower, University of Florida.


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How to Know and Coach Staff

10 tips on how to coach staff members.

You’re responsible to lead your staff. But how can you do that if you really don’t know them? A great leader is going to be a coach for his/her team members. Begin staff coaching relationships by using these great tips from Executive Coach Dr. Nathan Baxter:

START WITH THEIR STORY: Put a big piece of paper on the wall. Ask your team member to share their story with you. Go decade by decade through their life. Ask them the positive and negative things that impacted them in each decade, then capture the responses on the paper. Ask questions to draw them out. This will help you better understand how they view life and work. If they want, flip the paper over and walk them through your story in a similar way.

DREAMS: When you coach staff in the workplace, ask them about their dreams and aspirations. “If you could do anything, what would it be?” Of course you may not be able to make it happen on a job. But given time you may be able to help them on their journey towards that dream.

DISCOVER HOW THEY WANT TO BE HELPED: Ask, “What is your preferred style of coaching?” Some people want an informal, conversational style of coaching. This might happen over coffee or a meal. Others want formal coaching. They like to have a business setting, an agenda and written action points. Adjust your coaching style to meet the person’s expectations. It’s not about how you want to coach them, it’s about how they want to be coached.

DETERMINE THEIR RECEPTIVENESS: Openness to coaching varies by individual. If someone is really ready, they may want to meet once a week. At the other extreme, some may only want to meet once a year for their annual performance review.

FIND OUT HOW THEY ARE HARDWIRED: When you coach staff in the workplace, tests like DISC, Taylor-Johnson and the Birkman will help you (and your team member) understand their gifts and personality.

ASSESS LEADERSHIP SKILLS: How is your staff member at basic leadership skills such as conflict resolution, planning, and communication? Where there are weaknesses among your team members you can teach about them during staff meetings.

ASSESS SPIRITUAL MATURITY: How strong is this person in their faith and walk with God? Knowing where they have room to grow allows you to help.

coach staffASK PEOPLE TO MOVE TOWARDS THEIR FULL POTENTIAL: Assure them that you will help them do so if they will commit to being their best.

TAKE NOTES: When your meeting is over, take a few minutes to write down what your team member is saying or not saying. OneNote is a great place to keep track of meeting notes.

PREPARE BY REVIEWING YOUR NOTES: Use the five minutes prior to your coaching meeting to review your notes and pray for the meeting ahead. Pay attention to where God is developing them.

Remember that coaching your team both takes time and saves time. It takes time on the front end to do the coaching. It saves time because your guidance leads to fewer mistakes and less time spent resolving problems.

Dr. Baxter shared these tips at the annual conference. He shares great leadership wisdom on his blog: Lead Self and Lead Others.

Thank you for reading Rob Cizek – Practical Leadership. If you would like to know when new posts are available, simply enter your email address below:



How to Coach Your Staff in 6 Steps

Tips for Employee Mentoring and Coaching

7 Steps for Coaching Your Employees

6 Coaching Strategies You Can Use in the Workplace


How To Get Along With Your Boss – 6 Tips

Tips on how to get along with your boss.

Bosses. Few topics hit closer to home than our relationships with bosses (whether they be our past, present or future superiors). Everyone has a boss (even our boss has a boss!) It’s wise to know how to get our your boss’ good side. Here are some tips:

#1. It’s my job to get along with the boss. Most bosses want to get along with their employees. However, ultimately it is the employee’s responsibility to get along with the boss, irrespective of the boss’ skills or leadership direction. Set your expectations accordingly. I know of one executive who was determined to implement a program that would make his company a lot of money. His boss was wary and said not to do it. The executive went ahead anyway. He thought that pursing a good idea and making money would outweigh ignoring his superior. Instead of praise, the executive got fired. On the way out he said, “I was wrong. It’s my job to get along with the boss, not the boss’ job to get along with me.”

How to have a great relationship with your boss.#2. Establish your working relationship early. Knowing how to talk to your supervisor is important. How much communication does the boss want? When do they want it? Does the boss want to know every detail or do they just want the big stuff? When will you meet to consult with the boss? When you first start a job, meet with your boss. Ask him/her to detail what the ideal relationship looks like.

#3. Keep short accounts. Any boss/employee relationship is going to have challenges. Establish an agreement with your boss to keep short accounts. This means that he/she has the freedom to speak to you about any difficult subject right away. In turn, you have the freedom to tell your boss about difficult things. This keeps problems and offenses from building up in your working relationship.

#4. Have a “No Surprises Policy”. Nobody likes surprises, especially the boss. Create brief “heads up” conversations (or emails) with the boss that let him/her hear news from you first.

#5. Speak truth to power. Sometimes we see things the boss is missing. When appropriate, let the boss know what you are seeing. This must be done with a spirit of humility and with the boss’ best interest in mind. There is an element of risk to this. However, properly done it will create trust and value in your relationship.

#6. Be aware of timing. Know your boss’ working rhythms. Give him/her the right information and actions at the right time. For instance, asking for a favor at a time when your boss is drained isn’t a good idea. Conversely, if the boss is a morning person, asking first thing is wise.

Creative Followership by Jimmy CollinsChick-fil-A’s first president, Jimmy Collins, became wildly successful getting along with his boss (company founder Truett Cathy). In his book Creative Followership, Collins offers this wisdom on how to have a great relationship with your boss:

Hire your boss. You aren’t just taking a job, you’re committing to follow a leader. Don’t look for a job, look for a boss. Work for someone you like, respect and is going places. People don’t quit companies; they quit lousy bosses.

Helping someone else succeed is my quickest path to success. Follow a good leader and we will be caught up in their success. If their strengths complement ours (and vice-versa), both are stronger on the climb to the top. A trusted follower shares the reputation of the leader, as well as much of the leader’s influence.

Make good on promises. When we say we’re going to do something, do it. If it doesn’t work, do what it takes to make it work. Delivering builds credibility.

Getting ahead means doing what the boss does not like to do. If the boss knows we’ll do what he/she doesn’t like to do, the boss will work hard to keep us and promote us. Offer to help with a task in the boss’ area of weakness, or just get the task done on your own. Your influence will grow. It’s how to get along with a difficult boss.

Do the dirty and difficult jobs. Do the best job ever done with them and your personal stock will rise.

Do more than is expected. You will not go far doing only what is expected. Doing more will give you a sense of accomplishment that far exceeds simply getting the job done. It gives the boss every reason to support and promote you.

Do not wait to be told what to do. Exceed expectations even when the boss isn’t looking.

Do not compete with the boss. Our role is to work for the boss, not against the boss. The employee never comes out the winner when competing with the boss.

Authority comes packaged with responsibility. More authority can be gained by taking responsibility. This is a way to gain authority in bits and pieces. It’s a way to gain authority without having it given to you. If you sometimes overstep, don’t slow down. Simply find another way to do it so that the boss will like it.

Do things the way the boss likes them done. It will be easier for him/her to support. It also endears you to the boss and make you more promotable.

Creative Followership In The Shadow Of GreatnessLet others see the boss in you. Present ideas with unified purpose (people may not even know whether an idea is yours or the boss’.) When people see management in unity, they are more confident in their own roles and feel empowered to follow management’s example.

Help your boss succeed. This is the reason you were hired! Know your organization’s vision for the future and help achieve it. Assist your leader in gaining the support of others.

Build support in advance. To effectively support your boss, you must be able to win the support of others. Build buy-in before key meetings. This allows people to know in advance how to better support an idea… or if there are going to be major problems. People in key positions do not like to be blindsided.

Encourage the boss. Do you know who needs the most encouragement but gets the least? The boss. We typically hear about encouragement coming down the chain of command, but we seldom think about how beneficial it is moving up the organizational chart.


9 Ways To Win Over Your Boss

8 Things Your Boss Wishes You Knew

How To Get On Your Boss’ Good Side

What New Managers Learn That Employees Don’t Know

How To Get Along With A Difficult Boss

Thank you for reading Rob Cizek – Practical Leadership. If you would like to know when new posts are available, simply enter your email address below:





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How To Have A Great Social Media Strategy – Tips From @JonAcuff

Practical social media strategy tips from Jon Acuff

Jon AcuffDo you want to get the most from your time on social media? One of the best people we can learn from is Jon Acuff. He’s timely, smart and funny. He knows how to develop a platform and bring value to those who follow him.

Jon spoke at the Orange Conference in Atlanta and shared his social media tips and tricks. Below you will find great notes from Jon’s session taken by my friend @CherylKneeland.

Orange Blog Rob CizekThis year’s Orange Conference will be held in Atlanta during the last week of April. This is the last week for registration. I’ll be there blogging the conference and would love to connect with you. Click here for more information on how to attend this year’s Orange Conference.



How do we engage in social media, navigate it? A few words underscore what Jon tries to do in all social media interactions:

Empathy: Understanding what someone needs and acting on it. As leaders we serve the community we live in.

Generosity: Giving more than what’s expected. People always remember your generosity and they never forget your greed. Be generous with time, content and re-tweeting others.

Stubbornness: You have to be stubborn, keep going. It never stops. Social Media will always be there, the exact platform may change a little, but the interactions on the internet are here to stay.


Figure out where to plant a flag. Go everywhere. Google+ seems like a ghost town to many social media experts; however, for some it’s working. Jon planted a flag there, to let him at least establish his name there. Go to as many places as you can. shows you instantly where your name is still available on various social media sites.

Recent college graduates have moved into Instagram and Snapchat. Facebook is old to them.

Get out of the way. It’s about starting the conversation, not owning the conversation. Maybe you create a private Facebook group. Jon created a group called dreamers and builders. Be careful not to own everything, the ego sets in. You want to create a space for people to connect with each other and share with each other, building relationships; do not make it so everyone can only respond directly to you or through you.

Be part of community. Pinterest is great for this. One out of every three women uses Pinterest. You can have shared boards. Let everyone be part of the community.

Don’t over-commit. Don’t do everything, just because it’s out there. He created a Tumblr account and realized he didn’t know much about it or have time to maintain it. It’s okay to ease into social media. He choose to stick to his blog, Twitter, and Instagram.

Use the accordion effect for promotions. This means you need to create content that’s helpful or funny, it’s just content; DO NOT do all promotional tweets/posts! A promo is promoting something specific. If you want to promo a lot you MUST start doing all the other posts a lot too. (Otherwise, you’ll be ignored or un-friended/deleted).

Don’t treat your social accounts like Las Vegas. What happens on social media does not stay on social media.

Why is it that people with the most grace filled bios on social media are the meanest? When you say things on social media that are rude or egotistical, people are watching and they will look into you, see who you are. Don’t be the Christian that types a nice bio and then acts like the biggest hypocrite.

We previously used social media to document moments that were created.  Now we create moments to use in social media.

Think multi-platform. When you have an idea, think of the other platforms to see if it would work somewhere else too. You can turn a tweet into an image and put it on Instragram and Pinterest. Often we waste an idea on one platform.

People’s attention spans are not getting longer. We want to fast forward everything.

Be honest. We have to be honest about what we are posting/tweeting/photographing. Are we doing it because we’re trying to serve the audience or because we are celebrating ourselves?

Learn the difference between satire and mockery: Satire is humor with a purpose. Mockery just causes a wound.

Write about issues, but not individuals. How am I an expert on someone I’ve never talked to, never seen live, never met? (I’m NOT).

Jon’s goal is to seed the clouds for ideas and conversations instead of chumming the water for sharks. You can write about controversy and get a lot of hits real fast, but it’s not worth it to be rude or mean.

Blogging: Never come up with categories before you write. The best way to figure out your voice is to write. Social Media is a great place to experiment because it’s not permanent, it’s not an encyclopedia.

Have some fun with it, experiment: Go slow, when you start a new blog, don’t post constantly or set high expectations to blog multiple times a day. Sometimes blogging sucks, you feel like you have a deadline. Jon posts 3-4 times a week.

You don’t control how people read your blog, you control how you write it: Sometimes people will interpret things differently, don’t try to control that. Share the things God puts on your heart.

Always use a picture on your post. Your audience wants a short idea and a picture.

Don’t end it with a question if you write something heavy or you don’t want to start a conversation about something (usually personal): Questions are a great tool if you want to start a conversation with people about a topic and watch them interact… you very well may get a new idea for a blog post from this.

Is this something that I really care about, that I need to say something about? Some topics are too big to put in a tweet or a blog, some topics are better for a face to face conversation.

Deep theological conversations are weird on a blog. It’s okay for some things to be taken off-line. Especially when it’s something that you and others will be really impassioned about.

Feel free to use old content.

Always test anything you hear on the internet with your community, sometimes it doesn’t fit where you are.

Treat your blog like a magazine, have a content calendar.

Guest post, but figure out what the blog is really about. Don’t repeat what they’ve already talked about or post something that is completely irrelevant to the blog.

Twitter: Think about your audience. What are they going through during that week? Tweet some funny things, but try to tweet some serious things too. Mix it up. Only tweet or post things that you would talk to your Senior Pastor about. Don’t be weird…”I don’t want to sound like a stalker, but your bushes are prickly.” Do not do a public announcement of unfollowing, it’s like the middle finger of tweeting. Jon doesn’t say “repost” if he’s repeating his own content. Make your profile complete. Pick a photo like actually looks like you, don’t keep the egg.

Public speaking: Change your tone, you have to have ups and down. Don’t be monotone online either. Always mellow or always loud is not so good.

Facebook: Millions of people are on there. Not everyone sees what you post. They limit who sees your content. Only 10-15% of followers will see what you post. They pick and choose who sees it. You may have to post over and over to get it out to more people. You have to over-communicate. Create private groups. Sometimes your group needs a little wall, it’s amazing what people will say because they know others aren’t there. It feels a little safer. Would a private group help? Do a poll on Facebook. Example: “Parents what are the things you are most concerned about going into this school year?” And let them add their own to the list. It’s okay to ask them what they want.

Instagram: Always credit your sources. Do visual countdowns; you can use picklab to add words and numbers to your photos. Use a photo of the event that’s coming each day up until in the event. (Example: Fall Family Fun Night 30 Days away! with photo of pumpkin… FFFN 25 days away w/photo of the event flyer… FFFN 20 days away w/photo of spaghetti…etc.) It’s all or nothing. You can’t follow only some of a person’s pictures… you get the all-access pass regardless of if it’s what you want to have. There is a balance of selfies. Don’t take a picture of every angle of your face. Make a diary or scrapbook if you want something private or all about you. Know that it’s a window not a mirror. Don’t be egotistical!

Pinterest: It’s not a dead-end. When you pin-it, it can lead them to something. You can attach a link. In general, the worst people online are the peopel that just got engaged because they post like they just invented love. You can follow just one board. If you create a church Pinterest page you don’t have to follow the whole church, you could follow just the age group of your child or a certain ministry area. It’s about your personality, your images. It’s about the content, not the content creator. You can co-manage it with others from your church.

Thank you for reading Rob Cizek – Practical Leadership. If you would like to know when new posts are available, simply enter your email address below:


Jon Acuff at Orange Atlanta with Jeff Foxworthy and Reggie Joiner.

Jon Acuff (right) at Orange Atlanta with Jeff Foxworthy (center) and Reggie Joiner (left).



How To Create Safe Meetings That Encourage Authentic Communication

Tips for creating safe meetings that encourage authentic communication and relationships. 

Do you want more effective meetings? Do you want to encourage genuine and authentic communication between your team members?  How about if the topic is controversial or difficult?

Start creating safe environments by being a facilitator. As the leader don’t dictate or teach. People open up when they are asked questions. When leading a meeting, draw people out as a facilitator. Ensure they feel heard and valued as they respond.

In addition to facilitating, set up safe meeting ground rules for the group. Present these at the start of each meeting and hold people to them.


SAFE GROUP: It is everyone’s responsibility, using grace and emotional intelligence, to create a place where everyone can be real, open and honest.

USE “I” STATEMENTS: It’s easy to talk about the issues of others. However, this is a place to put ourselves on the table. Use “I” sentences rather than “them”, “us”, “we”, “the organization”, etc. Do not purport to represent a group or other people.


meetingVEGAS RULE: What is shared here stays here. This conversation is confidential.

LISTEN: Really listen and hear what is said. Avoid “thinking ahead” about how you might respond or about what’s next. Allow the speaker to pause without jumping in. Allow for uncomfortable silence while people process. Give the speaker time and space to express 100% of what they’re thinking.

ONE PERSON SPEAKS AT A TIME (WHILE EVERYONE LISTENS): No side conversations or cross talk.

DON’T OVERSHARE: Be sensitive about the amount of time you use when sharing. Avoid unnecessary “rabbit trails” and excessive detail.

NON-VERBALS MATTER: Maintain an open posture, friendly countenance, and an approachable tone. 80% of communication is non-verbal.

NO FIXING OR RESCUING: When people are sharing something personal, there can be a tendency to immediately provide counsel or condolences. This stops the sharing. Avoid trying to fix or rescue people.

DISAGREEMENT DOES NOT EQUAL DISUNITY: When it comes to tough subjects, not everyone is going to agree. That’s okay. We can still respect and love each other. We can still fellowship and worship together. Differentiate between tensions to be managed and problems to be solved.

DIFFERENCES MATTER: Loving and respecting each other does not imply that we devalue our differences. Differences are important and meaningful.

GIVE GRACE: It’s possible that people won’t make their points as well as they would like (or use incorrect terms). It’s possible that emotion might overpower content. That’s okay. We’re big enough to give grace.

ENTHUSIASM VARIES: Not everyone has the same level of enthusiasm for this conversation. Some may be excited about it, while others would rather not discuss it. Be respectful of how others may be feeling.

EVERYONE GETS A PASS: Everyone has the right not to participate. Politely say, “I’m going to take a pass on this one.” No one should force anyone else into participation.

TURN OFF MOBILE DEVICES: This is a crucial conversation. Let’s be fully present. There will be plenty of time during the breaks to check messages.


​It’s okay to take care of yourself.
​It’s okay to take time away. You don’t have to do anything.
​It’s okay to be overwhelmed.
​It’s okay to ask for help

These safe communication guidelines aren’t entirely original. Many of the ideas have been assembled from a variety of credible sources.



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Travel Tips: 8 New Things That Will Improve Your Trip

8 travel tips to improve your next business trip or vacation.

Leaders travel. It’s been an unusually busy travel season for me. I’ve enjoyed discovering some new things that can improve our travel experiences:

USB Battery For Travel.TRAVEL TIP #1 – EXTERNAL USB BATTERY: Your phone can be in almost continual use when you travel. You’re lucky to get through most of the day before the battery dies. For $30-$75 you can get a rechargeable battery with a USB port. Plug in your phone during a flight and you will arrive with it fully charged. If you get a battery with 2 USB ports you can plug in your tablet, game or music player in addition to your phone.

Don’t wait for your mobile device battery to drain down before connecting it to the external battery. Plug the phone in to the external battery even when the phone is fully charged. You can then use the phone all you want and the phone battery will remain full for later use. When buying a battery, be sure to compare its “mH” rating. This is the amount of power it can store. The higher the “mH” the better. I like batteries rated with at least 10,000 mH.

TRAVEL TIP #2 – EXTENSION CORD: A simple household extension cord makes a huge difference. Keep it in your carry-on and pull it out in airports. You can recharge your phone or laptop without having to sit on the floor. An extension cord also allows you to plug in 3 things. This comes in handy in hotels where there are usually fewer outlets than you need.

TRAVEL TIP #3 – FOUR-WHEEL CARRY-ON: I replaced my traditional two-wheel carry-on suitcase with one that has four wheels. What a difference! It doesn’t fall over and my briefcase sits nicely on top as I wheel it through the airport. Be sure to get one with a solid handle. The four-wheel design puts a lot more strain on the handle; cheap handles won’t last long. Also look for a suitcase that expands. It seems like we always come back with more stuff than what we had when we left.

TRAVEL TIP #4 – AIRLINE APPS: These mobile phone apps make it easy to check in from anywhere and can be used as an electronic boarding pass. No more trying to print boarding passes at the hotel business center!

iPad Keyboard CoverTRAVEL TIP #5 – TABLET WITH KEYBOARD COVER: It’s hard to open a laptop in an airline seat, especially if the person in front of you reclines. A tablet paired with a keyboard cover fits nicely on a tray table, even if the seat in front of you is reclined. I wrote this post in just this situation!


Bluetooth SpeakerTRAVEL TIP#6: PORTABLE BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS: These are compact, rechargeable speakers that pair with your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. You can listen to music, movies or make a hands-free call. They are great for listening to music when you are getting ready in the morning or watching a movie on your tablet. I chose ECOXBT because it’s compact, waterproof and double as a speakerphone.

TRAVEL TIP #7 – QUALITY HEADPHONES: Smaller earbuds have all but replaced larger headphones. However, earbuds can be uncomfortable and they don’t block external noise very well. Recently a particularly loud infant was crying in the airline seat behind me. Earbuds could not block the noise. I found that a decent set of headphones did a much better job of eliminating cabin noise, were more comfortable for longer periods of time and sounded better. When buying headphones here are a few things to consider:

Beats Headphones> On-the-ear headphones: These are smaller headphones that rest on top of your ear. They are more compact and easier to carry with you. However, they can press your ear to your head and can become uncomfortable with time. They also may not block external noise that well.

> Over-the-ear headphones: These are larger, but they completely cover your ear. This more effectively blocks external noise. They also press against your head (not your ear) which makes them comfortable for longer periods of time.

> Noise-cancelling vs standard headphones: Some headphones have a noise-cancelling feature. This helps mask external noise. However, it requires that the headphone be powered by a battery (that can go dead during a trip). It also affects the sound quality of the music. It’s a good idea to test-listen before you buy.

> Wireless headphones: Many companies now offer wireless blue tooth headphones. This eliminates being tethered by a cord, which is nice on a crowded plane. However, Bluetooth technology can affect sound quality and requires a battery. Again, it’s wise to try before you buy.

Decent quality headphones can be expensive ($100-$400). However, so is travel. Even the best headphones cost less than a plane ticket. They can significantly improve your travel experience every time you leave home. If you don’t mind buying used, you can find nearly new premium headphones on Craigslist for about half the price.

I chose Beats Pro headphones. I like that Beats provides the best deep bass. The Pro model doesn’t need a battery. The over-the-ear design is comfortable and does a good job of blocking external noise. The only downside is that, even when folded, they are pretty big. I can also recommend Bose Quite Comfort 15 (QC-15) headphones for their excellent sound quality.

iPod 160GBTRAVEL TIP #8 – LARGE CAPACITY MUSIC/VIDEO PLAYER: It’s nice that media files can be stored on our phones. However, our phones also need to store a lot of other information (like apps and photos). That means capacity for media can be quite limited. For traveling I purchased a 160GB iPod that holds my entire music collection and dozens of movies. It’s compact to carry and allows me to bring a wealth of entertainment for long trips. It also saves me from draining my phone when using media.

Another way to take all your music with you is to upload it to Google Play (free). Using an app on your mobile device you can stream your entire music collection to where you are.

Travel is a great way to enrich your life and career. Investing in the things that make travel better means you’ll want to travel more. . . and that can pay huge dividends.

What travel tips make your life better? Share them in a comment below.


Parenting: Empty Nest Syndrome – 7 Tips For When Your Kids Leave Home

Tips and advice for combating empty nest syndrome.

Orange Blog Rob CizekAs leaders, our responsibilities don’t stop when we leave work. We also lead our family. The “final exam” of our home leadership comes when our children move on . . . they day they no longer live under our roof.

As our kids left for college we began to experience empty nest syndrome. It’s a challenging time of transition for any family. Here are some of the things we learned:


It’s time: Your son/daughter may have really enjoyed high school. You may have liked attending sports, music or drama events to see your kids. But no matter how much you may wish it could all go on indefinitely, it can’t. It shouldn’t. By design, high school has a limited duration. Staying one extra day won’t add more value. Living at home also has a limited healthy duration. Lingering isn’t better . . . it just keeps everyone focused on the past (looking at the rear-view mirror). Instead, look out the windshield. The only way forward is to let go of what was and embrace what’s ahead (even if it comes with a difficult transition). Life has moved on. So should you. It’s the only way if you want your children to have a successful career, get married or give you grandkids.

A major life transition is thrust upon you: All the attention is on your child’s transition (as it should be). However, this can mask that you and your spouse are also going through a significant transition. Perhaps you are comfortable with how things have been. Maybe you thought most of your major life transitions were behind you (after all, you’ve already graduated, been married, moved and secured a job). This change may feel like an unwelcome surprise.

Loss of a focus: Think about it. You’ve spent a lot of time anticipating raising a family. Perhaps when you were a kid yourself you thought of getting married and someday having children. That means that you have been anticipating children and raising children for decades. Raising kids can be the source of our identity. It’s a valuable pursuit. For many, children are the biggest dream and focus of their lives. With the children leaving home, what dream or focus is now on your horizon?

Time and adult friendships: Having children means spending time at their events. It can also mean making friends with other parents at these events. We can get used to spending our time this way and having a social outlet. How will we spend our time and make new connections going forward?

Loss of contact: We like our kids and enjoy spending time with them. Over countless hours and experiences a wonderful relationship has been established. Losing this day-in, day-out contact can make us feel sad. We want what’s best for our kids (moving on), but selfishly, we don’t want to give up the time we enjoy with our kids.

Your child is a boomerang: You are mentally preparing to be without your child. You’re ready to reclaim their room, donate the old toys and reconfigure your home for a new era. But then junior comes home for breaks. He/she is gone, but not totally. You want them to have a place in your home, but they aren’t there very often to use it. This can make it feel difficult to cleanly transition to a new era.

Your mortality: Each year in the Pacific Northwest millions of salmon return home. They spawn the next generation and then die within a few weeks. Thankfully, that isn’t the case for humans. Still, empty nest syndrome can cause us to take stock. The years moved quickly with children at home and we’re a little older. Somehow we’re not in as good of shape as we used to be and we’re beginning to feel some of life’s mileage. We are reminded that life is finite and precious.


#1. Know that they are leaving home, not leaving us: The temptation is to equate our child’s physical absence with their absence from our lives. The truth is that our relationship with them continues. Our children still need us and love us.

#2. Electronic communication: Stay in touch with your kids electronically. Gone are the days of expensive phone calls. Social media, texts and video calls are free. Take advantage of them. If your child is away at college, suggest that they call you while walking to class (nothing else is competing for this time). Take an interest in their academic life (their friends probably don’t).

#3. Plan visits: Plan ahead so that you will always know the next time you will see your child. Time moves more quickly when you are looking forward to a visit.

#4. Dream: The dream of raising young children is now behind you. Don’t let there be a void. Dream some new dreams and set some new goals. Budget resources to help you achieve them. Chances are we are better skilled and better off financially than we were before kids. There will never be a better time in life to accomplish new things.

#5. Reconnect with your spouse: Years of raising children changed how you relate to your spouse. Use this opportunity to do the things you couldn’t after your children were born. If you used to enjoy doing something together, chances are you still will now that there aren’t kids in the house.

#6. Get a “kid fix” if you need it: If you find yourself missing simply being around kids, volunteer in your church’s Children’s Ministry or Student Ministry. There are plenty of kids that would benefit greatly from your time and attention.

#7. Celebrate the win: Your job as a parent is to work yourself out of a job. Congratulations, you’ve successfully equipped your child to leave home and live in the real world! If the day your baby comes home from the hospital is worth celebrating, so is the day your young adult leaves home. You’ve completed the “adult-child” stage of parenting and can now move on to the “adult-adult” stage. It’s quite an accomplishment.



4 Things They Never Tell You About Empty Nest Syndrome

What Are The Stages Of Empty Nest Syndrome?

How To Recover From Empty Nest Syndrome


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Direct Communication Style – The Secret To Improving Your Leadership

You know the feeling. Something is wrong. You’re the leader. You really should say something about it. But confronting someone is the LAST thing you feel like doing. You consider your options. Perhaps you can do nothing, or simply drop a hint, and the problem will go away. You’re in agony watching the cycle of identifying a problem, shying away from a difficult conversation and then having the problem continue. How do you fix it?

I was raised on the West Coast, a part of our country where people are “nice”. Speaking in a frank manner was definitely NOT the tool of choice when resolving problems. People might subtly infer if there is a problem. Rarely would they say what they were thinking directly to your face (though behind your back was generally okay). It just wasn’t “nice” to tackle relational problems head-on.

Then I moved to the Northeast. I got creamed. I thought everyone hate me. They were always raising problems . . . to my face! They were direct and it didn’t feel particularly kind. I thought something must have happened to me on my trip from the West Coast to the East Coast because people were treating me so differently. But after about a year I came to a revelation: I did have friends and people did like me. I realized that on the East Coast, you always know where you stand with someone. The relational air was surprisingly clear. Great things happened because people weren’t afraid to be direct.


Do you struggle to be direct? You’re not alone . . . most people do. But if you’re indirect you may be hurting your career, relationships and potential. Here’s why:

Indirectness kills creativity and productivity. Indirect leaders fail to communicate both what they want and what they don’t want. Employees don’t understand what behaviors to avoid. They don’t know what the boss’ pet peeves (organizational landmines) are. This makes them afraid to contribute new ideas (for fear of presenting something that isn’t wanted). Employees retreat into their known silos and do business as usual. Indirect leadership creates an atmosphere where playing it safe and doing nothing is rewarded with continuing employment.

An indirect communication style fails to resolve problems and causes stress. Unresolved problems cause dull pain. It’s like a toothache that reminds you that something is wrong. Just like our teeth, problems don’t get better when we fail to address them. The dull pain amplifies other problems, making indirect leaders feel worse than they would otherwise.

An indirect communication style may reveal a lack discipline. It takes leadership discipline to look for problems, find solutions and speak with the people involved. Indirect people sometimes lack this leadership discipline and feel it is easier to let problems go in the hopes they will go away.

Indirectness makes leaders look weak. Leaders are in charge. Sometimes we are the only ones on our team who can deal with the obvious problems. Our people are relying on us to solve the challenges they can’t. We hurt our careers and our people when we fail to directly address challenges.

Indirectness promotes staff turnover. Indirect leaders drop hints. They beat around the bush. Indirect leaders ask others to communicate their message to a problem individual. Staff members view these things through their own lenses (past personal experiences) and come to negative conclusions. The unclear expectations create frustration and insecurity among staff members, which ultimately promotes turnover.


Angry Direct CommunicationBad “direct” – The truth in anger: One of the reasons a direct communication style can be so difficult for some people is because they associate it with anger. How many times have we had an angry person say direct things to us? They have something that bothers them but are afraid to bring it up. It’s only after a problem emotionally elevates during an argument that the finally truth comes out (in an ugly way). Their issue may genuinely need to be raised. However, it’s impossible for the recipient to accept the criticism because it is in the middle of a heated argument. Directness is seen as an instrument for hurt rather than a positive relational tool.

Good “direct” – The truth in love: Good “direct” is about good intent. The Apostle Paul had one of the best “direct” styles in history. In Ephesians 4:15 he promotes the power of “speaking truth in love” to each other so that we will grow. When you read any of Paul’s letters you see that he is both encouraging and direct about things needing to be addressed. Paul says a lot of tough things, but always from a standpoint of constructive criticism and caring. When done this way, directness positively promotes growth and strengthens relationships.


Arrows - Direct CommunicationOur personality and skill set determine how easy it is for us to be direct. Some people are wired to be direct (drill sergeants, football coaches, prophets, etc.). Some people have had “direct” modeled well for them by friends and family. Other people are wired in a way that they detest conflict or have only seen “direct” used against them in ugly arguments. Where are you in this continuum? Knowing yourself will give you an indication of how difficult it will be for you to “speak the truth in love.”

Being direct starts with intent: If you need to speak with someone directly, make sure it is because you have their best interest (and the best interest of your organization) at heart. People are perceptive. People will listen if they sense you are talking with them because you care. If they sense bad intent they will quickly become defensive. Remember Theodore Roosevelt’s wise words, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Direct communication is enabled by relationship: Beyond good intent you need relationship. This means that you know the person you are speaking with. Over time you should have built positive relational capital with the individual. This means that you have made relational “deposits” in the past by encouraging them, asking about their family, helping them and paying attention to them. Having plenty of relational deposits means that you can make a “withdrawal” by being direct, without destroying the relationship. In the best relationships, showing you care by being direct can actual be a relational deposit and not a withdrawal.

Find the right location: A direct conversation requires the right location. Choose a place where others can’t see/hear you. Have tissue available in case things get emotional. Choose a place where you both can quietly go your own way immediately following the conversation. Choose an informal setting (seating area in your office) over a formal one (you behind your desk).

Use the right tone: Be mindful with your tone of voice and body language. Both should be calm, friendly and business-like. Remember that your words will have a lot of weight just because of your leadership position. The person you are talking with may have had bad experiences with confrontations and conflict. They may bring a lot of past baggage into the conversation. They may quickly become defensive if they think you are angry or wanting conflict. Commit to having the conversation quickly after the problem is discovered. Procrastinating builds tension and makes it more difficult to maintain an even tone.

Start by prefacing your comments: People want to be treated as adults. Set the stage by sharing what you will be doing and that you will be speaking in a straightforward manner. Example: “John, I know how much you care about things around here and I appreciate that. There are some things that are concerning me. If it’s alright, I would like to speak frankly with you about them.” This allows people to know that something difficult is coming but that you are going to speak about it as adults.

“Rip off that bandage quickly”: Having set the tone now is the time to say what needs to be said clearly and directly. Example: “Last month I asked you to get an agreement signed by ABC Company so they could use our facilities. As I understand it, that never happened and now they are going elsewhere. What’s up with that?” Asking for a response after stating a fact engages them and allows you to discover things you may not know. Many times the person will make excuses at first, but ultimately accept responsibility for their shortcoming.

Frame your response with common sense: At this point, keep the conversation frank and focused on the problem (so that it does not become personal). Example: “Okay, I see where things went wrong. John, losing ABC Company’s business is a $10,000 loss for us. That’s money we need to pay our employees and expand into other cities. We can’t afford these kinds of oversights. You’re better than this and I need you to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” If the person wants to take the conversation down different trails, politely and firmly redirect it back to the topic at hand. Example: “John, maybe Mary did mess up that other account . . . but right now we’re talking about what happened with ABC Company.” Stay singularly focused on the problem at hand.

Cover everything: In direct conversations there can be a temptation to explore most of a problem, but to leave out the most difficult part. Be sure to say all of what is necessary. There will never be a better time to do it! End by affirming the future and the value of direct communication: Example: “John I’m glad you’ll be doubling your efforts with ABC Company. I’ll look forward to seeing them here next year. I’m glad we have the kind of relationship where we can be straight with each other like we were here today.” End the conversation with a smile and handshake if appropriate.


Directness isn’t just about being able to occasionally “dish it out.” Through all your interactions, invite others to be honest and direct with you. Respond to them thoughtfully when they are. You should be able to accept direct communication from others as well as provide it. Be consistent in your directness and people will see you as a “trusted critic.” Directness with honesty can be so rare that people will value it . . . and you as a leader . . . to an unusual degree.


Conflict is unavoidable. It’s a natural part of our organizations and relationships. The only question is, ‘How will I handle conflict?” If you have been defaulting to an indirect communication style, I encourage you work on becoming direct. It may be one of the more difficult things you do in your leadership this year, but I’ll bet it will be the most rewarding.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. – Ephesians 4:25

Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. – Matthew 5:37

Note: This post was developed from my presentation to the national Xpastor conference in Dallas and originally appeared on the Xpastor website. I discuss it further with Rich Birch on the unSeminar podcast. Click here to watch.




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Leadership Lessons From A Leader Of Leaders: Carey Nieuwhof

Who do you like to learn leadership from? Perhaps the best people to learn from are those special leaders who can lead leaders.

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

It was my privilege to sit down with just such a person at the Orange leaders conference. Carey Nieuwhof is a leader in the Orange organization, which attracts some of the best minds anywhere. He also leads a highly successful church in the Toronto area. He is an outstanding speaker, connector, doer and visionary. Nieuwhof is a leader of leaders . . . and I asked him for his most practical leadership advice.


Deciding what you are not going to do is as important as deciding what you are going to do. The genius is in knowing what you are skilled and gifted at. Only say “yes” to those things you do well. Say “no” to everything else, especially those things at which you aren’t very good. Become excellent at saying “no” graciously. Your spouse and your assistant can help you in saying “no”. They may be able to decline some opportunities for you. Eliminate 90% of the opportunities that come your way so that you can focus on the 10% of opportunities for which you are gifted.


Being a morning person helps. Get up early for your quiet time, writing and social media posts. Have them done by 8am.

Have a good assistant.

Be very careful what you say “yes” to and focus on what you are good at (as noted above).

Productivity varies with life stage. A driven person in a life stage where there are no kids at home may have one capacity level. A leader in a life stage where there are heavy family demands may have a different capacity, in that specific season. It’s good to be aware of your personal life circumstance and adjust your priorities/expectations/time accordingly.

Cultivate your heart. Your interior journey determines your external journey. Guard your heart with great friendships. Gather wise people around you. Maintain good relationships with Jesus and your spouse. Get enough sleep. Do the things that energize you.

Nieuwhof does not regularly watch TV or play golf. He enjoys cycling and uses the time cycling to think and create outlines for his writing.

A note for senior pastors. Pastors are expected to create sermons and give their church vision. In essence, pastors create “something out of nothing.” This means setting aside meaningful time to think and create message series/church vision. Nieuwhof limits doing church business functions to a maximum of three days each week in order to preserve enough margin to create.


It is character, not competency, that determines your capacity. As you grow your character you grow your capacity as a leader. It’s relatively easy to develop your skill set, especially in the areas in which you are gifted. However, character issues such as humility and submission were the things Nieuwhof wrestled with as a younger leader.

Having a mentor is important throughout life, but it’s especially valuable in your 20s.

Learning to work with a team is critical. A team can bring out the best in you and in others. Learn this skill as early as you can.


Nieuwhof writes one of the most helpful and practical leadership blogs on the internet (

Writing blog posts help leaders process thoughts. You can become a better thinker by writing.

A blog teaches you what resonates and connects with people. If you write a book you will wait a year for feedback. A blog post allows you to receive immediate feedback. It can be surprising what ideas resonate and get shared. . . and which ones don’t.

Social media allows you to float trial balloons. Nieuwhof notices when one of his tweets gets a lot of response. He will build that idea into a blog post or a sermon.


Zombies, Football and the Gospel by Reggie Joiner

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

Love Works by Joel Manby


The greatest challenge the church faces is creeping irrelevance. We are more irrelevant than we think we are. This is a major blind spot for the church. The best place to see this is in the Millennial Generation.

There is a lack of next generation leaders. Where are the 20-something leaders? We have not seen enough emerge. We need to ensure there are enough young leaders to fill the leadership tank.

There is too much of a divide between business and the church. 100 years ago the best and brightest went into ministry. Now they go into business or elsewhere. This is creating a brain drain for the church.

People and families are looking for answers. However they don’t think the church can help.

The church has a great opportunity to reach people. There has never been more unchurched people. The fields are ready for the harvest.

The church also can leverage billions of dollars in under-used real estate (church buildings).


Carey Nieuwhof - Leading Change Without Losing It

Carey Nieuwhof – Leading Change Without Losing It

Nieuwhof is generous when it comes to sharing his leadership experience and wisdom.

Follow his blog at and on Twitter at

He is also author of the books “Leading Change Without Losing It” and “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity.”







How To Get The Most Out Of The Orange Conference… Or Any Professional Seminar

Do you want to supercharge your career? Consider regularly attending professional conferences. The connections and information we receive are well worth our time. Here are my tips for getting the most out conference experiences:

Prepare: Before you go, review the conference web site. Do the pre-conference reading or listen to the pre-conference podcasts. Some conferences have workshops the day before the main sessions begin. Arrive a day early and participate. Double check your travel plans to ensure you have enough time to comfortably make it where you need to be on time. Check your directions so you won’t be lost and frustrated. You want to be relaxed and ready to learn when you arrive. Look at the list of people attending the conference and figure out who you will be looking for.

Take notes:  Take notes in each session you attend. They are excellent to share with others and for your own reference. Offer to send your notes to people you meet at the conference as a way to further connect.

Take pictures: Grab a few shots with your phone and email them back to the office and to your family. Let everybody see what’s happening at the conference and your enthusiasm for it!

Prepare a report: When an organization spends hundreds of dollars to send you to a conference, a great way to say “thank you” is with a report. Write a brief summary sharing the main takeaways and new resources you found. Email your summary to your bosses and to anyone in the organization that might find it helpful. Mention the takeaways in your next staff meeting. Write a piece for the organization’s newsletter or blog. The more broadly you share the information you gather, the greater value it will be to the organization. This is also a great way to set yourself up to attend the conference again in the future (what boss doesn’t want to send a grateful employee who brings back information for everyone else?) Your report can also be shared on your personal social media streams to be of help to others.

Lead a session: There is a huge difference between simply attending a conference and leading one of the sessions. As a presenter you may receive discounted registration and access to “presenter only” privileges. People will see your name in the program and seek you out. You will connect with like-minded people when they ask questions immediately following your session. You don’t have to lead one of the main sessions. Simply volunteer to lead a breakout session.

Network and Connect: Make some new friends! Most information at conferences can be obtained in articles, books or on conference videos. What you can’t get anywhere else is the opportunity to meet other people. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Ask questions during panel discussions. Participate in interactive roundtables. Introduce yourself to the speakers and conference organizers. If you hit it off with someone you meet, suggest going to coffee or a meal. Everyone is in the same boat at a conference. People will be glad you took the initiative to break the ice. Exchange contact information and offer to help people any way you can. Write thank-you notes to them when you get back and follow them in social media. Send them articles, leads or other resources that could help them.

Extend your time before or after the conference: Many conferences are intentionally held in places where there is nice weather and lots of activities. See if you can extend your stay a few days (at your own cost) and enjoy the travel. Bring a spouse or a friend with you (at your own cost).

Purchase conference videos and audio sessions: Buy the audio/video recordings and show them to your staff. Even if the recordings cost a couple of hundred dollars, it is still far cheaper than what you have already paid to attend the conference in person. Individual sessions can be shared during staff meetings. You can also hold a training day, where several of the sessions are shown to staff.


The Orange Conference is where several thousand church leaders will gather to learn and connect.

Rich Birch has an excellent podcast on his unSeminary website (listen or watch here). In it he interviews notable Orange leaders Elle Campbell and Carey Nieuwhof. Here is a summary of their tips:

Tips From Elle Campbell

> Read breakout session descriptions in advance. If you have multiple people going, divide up the sessions so different people can attend different sessions.

> In advance, find out who will be there. Tweet to your followers and ask who is attending so you can make connections during the event.

> Bring orange clothing.

> Bring business cards or fliers. Do promotional giveaways from a backpack.

> Bring your electronics and don’t forget the chargers.

> Follow conference and #ThinkOrange hash tags on Twitter.

> Follow Orange bloggers on the OrangeLeaders website (list of bloggers here).

Tips From Carey Nieuwhof

> Stay for the weekend to attend Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church.

> Hold a team debrief dinner following the conference.

> Write a report. Share your report on Google Docs so everyone can benefit from your learning. Taking notes in Evernote can help with this.

> Many times people at conferences are from your tribe. Meet new people. Look at name tags. Look for clues as to like-mindedness.

> For social media during the conference, make sure you have a good internet connection (preferably cellular data, because public WIFI can be a problem).

> Live streaming information will be available at and

What is your best advice for getting the most out of conferences? Leave a comment below.



Lessons and Tips from Being Stranded at the Airport

We’ve all seen the pictures on the news. Extreme weather closes a critical hub airport. Soon planes all over the nation are stranded and huge numbers of flights are cancelled. Hundreds of people stand in line to rebook; others are sprawled out on the floor. It’s more refugee camp than airport.

Airport DelaysUnfortunately, my family (along with tens of thousands of others) got caught up in the recent weather mess that resulted in thousands of cancelled flights. Its effects literally affected flights all over the planet for several days.

While stranded, we learned some valuable lessons that can be applied to both life and leadership:

CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION: Sure you paid for your ticket. Yes, the airline has a responsibility to get you there. However storms in life are unavoidable. They wreck your best made plans. This is a hard concept for us. We are so used to reliable air travel (and reliable food supplies, communications, fuel and water for that matter) that disruptions can feel like a violation of our rights. It’s also a scary reminder. We are dependent other people and hugely complicated systems, all of which are outside our control. “Going with the flow” will help keep you sane when life’s storms disrupt your plans.

De-icing An AirplaneEVERYTHING LOOKS WORSE WHEN YOU ARE TIRED: After an already long day of travel, a cancelled connection can feel like the end of the world. Disappointment, anger and frustration get the best of you. You want to take out your frustrations somewhere (or on someone!). The best play is to rebook and then get a hotel room. A decent night’s sleep will ease your frustration and put the situation in better perspective. Hotels are money well spent. In leadership situations, give yourself a night to sleep on a frustrating problem.

USE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ADVENTURE: Because of changes in the airline business, delays of 1-4 days are becoming common. Accept that you are stuck and use the opportunity to explore the city. Spend a little money to see the sights. After all, when will you ever have an opportunity like this? It’s better to treat the days as a vacation opportunity than a jail sentence. In difficult leadership circumstances, ask yourself, “How can I make the best of what has happened?” If you look at a problem from a variety of angles, many times you will discover opportunities that you would never have seen otherwise.

Flight Status BoardDISCOVER ALTERNATIVES: When rebooking, ask if the airline can get you to cities near your destination. You may be able to get into a nearby city days earlier, then simply take a shuttle bus or rent a car to get you to your final destination. In leadership, being willing to adjust your plan may allow you to still meet your target (simply using different means).

ALWAYS TREAT AGENTS WITH RESPECT: Airline employees have a lot of power to help you. If you are kind to them they are much more willing to do so. Being angry and demanding your rights gets you nowhere . . . or maybe worse. The same is true in leadership.

EVERYBODY IS IN THE SAME BOAT: You may feel like you are alone and that getting to your event is more important than to the other travelers around you. The truth is that people pay to fly for a reason. They all have a tight timetable and something important to which they are traveling. Leaders, the same is true for our staff members and customers. They face the same challenges and frustrations you do. Be the boss who empathizes and understands . . . not the one who thinks only they have problems.

Free WiFi SignTHINGS ARE RARELY AS BAD AS THEY FIRST SEEM: Cancelled travel plans feel like a disaster when you first hear of them. With a little patience and flexibility, things do work themselves out. The same is true when leaders first hear bad news.

HUMOR IS APPRECIATED: A few quips with gate agents, flight crews or fellow travelers can humanize a difficult situation. Everyone appreciates a little levity under difficult circumstances. Leaders build clout when they bring humor to tense situations.


Cancelled Flights

What lessons have your travels taught you about life and leadership? Please leave a comment below.