Author Archives: John Rue

MORE Good. OPUS. Conviction…and FOCUS

O.P.U.S. Focus is what you want.

When you get the kinda clarity the clients which Chet just wrote about have, the team starts believing and will soon be-living out their beliefs with uncommon practice.   What you say “yes” to and “no” to and WHY becomes crisper.    As goals become clearer, so does the mojo as you go into mo’ flow as ONE – distinct and deeply connected.

I love what my start-up client has done with their O.P.U.S.   A picture is worth a thousand words, so here it is.    I took this one during Team Practice #34.  Behind 3 team members you can see their O.P.U.S. is up on the wall as big as a Jumbo-Tron.  It’s clear, it’s living, it’s constantly under construction – and of course, don’t miss this – it’s literally HUGE.

OPUS Scoreboard

At the very top in a clean-mounted font is their P-urpose followed by the next phase for their O-verching Vision.   It’s the Dream State for where they want to be by June 2018.

In the 5 rectangles below are their Five U-nifying Strategies.   Below each U-nifying Strategy in a clean-mounted font are the priorities for each, and then on the whiteboard in blue marker is their Playbook of Productive Actions (Goals) with a date and initials for the mustang in charge.   Behind that is their S-corecard – a sticker in Green/Yellow/Red for whether they are on track, under caution or in trouble.

This team is building trust to tell each other exactly what they want, what they are doing, and how they are doing.    Like FLOW, the goals are clear, feedback from the work itself is immediate, there is challenge in the zone stretching their capacity, and they do it as ONE.

They have O.P.U.S. Focus.    Together we improve.



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True ONEness…

…is the Dream State for the Builder’s Journey.   It’s our value proposition and our deliverable for leaders and their teams.  It stands apart from the false oneness of group-think, outward appearance/compliance, or temporary alliance against a common enemy.  True oneness is integral to lasting impact and the greatest teams, lives, & legacies.

Our purpose is to awaken, challenge, and together transform a few leaders, teams and individuals into ONE – distinct & deeply connected – one BUILT TO LEAD.

How valuable is oneness?   To find out, grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.    On the left side, write how work & life feels when you don’t have oneness within yourself, or with your significant other, family, partner, board, team, et al.   After you finish, reflect on what you’ve written – what’s the cost when you don’t have oneness?   Write some more.

On the right side of your paper, repeat the exercise writing about how work & life feels when you have this kind of oneness.    Reflect again.  What’s it worth?   Write some more.

The Builder’s Journey to true oneness requires practice – real, hard, work — and you can’t build it with others until you’ve started to build authentic oneness within.    Great leaders have a strong CORE.  Leaders are believers — they know with uncommon clarity, depth & alignment WHY they are here, WHO they are, and HOW they want to live & work.   And they are constantly building their core stronger, never settling — always a W.I.P. – ever-deepening their W-orldview, I-dentity and P-rinciples.

A self-centered, others-controlling life will never produce true oneness.  Leaders who try to control others find themselves A-Lone, because leadership is about influence, not control.  Your influence and true oneness with others will only grow as you lead in a core-centered, self-controlling way.  Leaders are connectors to an inspired vision much greater than themselves.  They serve their teams, and with BUILT TO LEAD they practice with their teams to become ALL-one.  A-Lone vs. ALL-one?   It’s literally one ‘L of a difference.

The one ‘L is the love leaders give and receive (not take) along the Builder’s Journey.  BUILT TO LEAD leaders challenge their teams to do the same – to become truly ONE with them – through intentional, deliberate, ongoing practice.  Starting in Practice 1 and continuing through Practice 1000, BUILT TO LEAD leaders & teams practice speaking truth in love, believing in each other and pushing each other to do what they CAN.  Together they share a great big dream and a labor of love called OPUS where average is no longer tolerated.

Together we train, and together we practice to build true ONEness.  Together we improve.

NOTE:  As a friend of Harvey Hook, Shannon Lee and the vision of ReLa, I’m facilitating a ReLa Half-Day in Columbus OH on Thursday afternoon, November 16.  If you’re a leader and want to experience BUILT TO LEAD, register today.  Better yet, bring your team and give them the gift of practice with you.  All proceeds go to support ReLa.  For more click

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What Got You Here…

…won’t get you there from your Current State to your Dream State.

This is a principle with much wisdom and makes a sticky book cover. At BTL we believe when a leader stops growing, so will the team. For awhile the team may keep growing and push and try to wake up a stagnant leader but sooner or later the best and brightest will leave. It’s too hard and life’s too short to keep working around a leader who isn’t leading anymore.

If you are a BTL client, don’t miss this – it’s huge. The best pains are growing pains, but sooner or later growing pains are going to create a dilemma of their own whether In a business, sports team, church or other non-profit entity.

The dilemma begins with this: Nearly every entrepreneur, founder, pastor, football coach, et al. who built anything successful did it with a few faithful allies who were with them from the beginning, stuck with them through the dark days, and emerged with them to inaugurate an era of glory days. Their legend of faithfulness will be forever carved in history, and their leaders will always look back and say: “I would never have made it without them.”

The dilemma becomes cathartic when at the very time the enterprise must shift to the next level or die slow death, the faithful few who were so necessary in the beginning are now either unable and/or unwilling to play the new leadership support roles essential for expansion. They must decrease so others might increase. Some like John the Baptist and George Washington see it coming and voluntarily step aside. Others are less willing to do so and hang on too long. It’s easy to see it in sports. Until Brett Favre finally retired there was no room for Aaron Rodgers.

Loyalty is an ethereal attribute, but the greatest attribute in a strong core is love. Love recognizes the truth. Love does the hard things at the right time in the right way. A leader who loves their team will honor the past, celebrate the present, and plan for the future. The faithful few who love their team and their leader will surrender their posts, embrace the transition, and support the leaders who emerge.

Life is filled with seasons of “kairos” moments. If you are a leader whose faithful few has fulfilled the season for which they were called, your courage and your core is about to be tested before the eyes of your watching team.

Do not wait – INITIATE. Uncomfortable conflict is not a situation to be avoided (it will get worse), it is a difficult conversation to be had. The truest of the faithful few will see it coming and make it easy for you. If they have grown less engaged, your conversation may reveal what their heart has been longing to pursue in their next season of life, and together you can make it “done so.” If in their faithfulness they have worn multiple hats which have outgrown them, it’s time to pass the hats to new leaders who may not exist within the current team, which also means it’s time to inject new leadership spark from the outside. If there is still a hat or two which still makes sense but only in a reduced role, this will take exceptional courage and humility, including adjusting the commensurate pay and reporting structure. This last option can only work if the faithful one and the rest of the team can quickly move past the awkwardness, and ONLY if the faithful one has remained actively engaged. Making a special provision for one who has become disengaged is a failure of nerve which loves neither the person nor the team and will seriously compromise your mission.

Remember, every leader has exactly the team he/she deserves. Leadership is not for the weak-minded or feint-hearted. Be strong, be decisive, be loving, be humble, be courageous, and be generous.

If you KNOW these things, you and your faithful few and your team will all be blessed and prosper….if you DO them.

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The test for Low Pressure Leadership…

…is what happens when High Pressure builds around you.

The paradox of Low Pressure Leadership is it’s the HIGHEST form of leadership. The greatest, most sustainable leadership influence comes through low pressure — drawing others TO something bigger than you out of love — not pushing them along out of fear through the power of your high position.

In South Carolina with Connie for the total eclipse on Monday, I learned a nuance. Low pressure systems spin counter-clockwise, the opposite of high pressure systems. The “whether” test which will determine our weather is which system will be stronger come Monday. If the low pressure is strong enough, its eye will lead the storm out to sea, and draw in a high pressure system behind it like clockwork by 2:45pm for a clear sky to do what it can – to make a once-in-a-lifetime total eclipse moment magic.

This is the same “whether” test for Low Pressure leaders. When your team is facing a storm or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this will test the strength of your core and the steadiness of your eye. Unlike storm chasers, at BTL, we build the strength of our leaders to stay strong and stand strong amidst the storm to protect the team from the storm.

One of my favorite new clients just turned 34 years old, and his company is on the brink of hailing in a new wireless power capability which will transform the world as we know it in the same way the Internet transformed my world at his age. In July, the storm this CEO faced was raising $$ to keep his start up afloat – it required a 2-week around the world tour to meet with investors. My work was simple but not easy – to remind him of what he believes, and to challenge him to have the non-anxious presence and emotional strength to not only steady himself, but to steady his team, and to draw in investors to connect with his big dream. Day 1 the tweet couldn’t have been more sweet — he had already exceeded the $1.25mm goal. By the end of the trip it was nearly doubled.

Another of my favorite new clients just won CEO of the Year in Columbus. He and his team deserve it. AND I believe he would have won it without BTL, which would miss the point. Those who invest in BTL and in themselves are often already at the top of their industries, the most recognized in their field. What sets them apart is they never settle. They are always building for the next opportunity, the next storm, and as the storm approaches, their focus is not on the strength of the storm but on building their core stronger. This too is a paradox of low pressure leaders and teams – part of the reason they don’t “feel the pressure” so much is they’ve girded themselves for it. At a time when others would be reacting to the pressure, their “eye” – their focus – stays centered.

When a low pressure leader and a high pressure situation confront each other, the “test” is which will be stronger. Low pressure leaders anticipate the test, embrace the test, and prepare for the test – by building a strong core.

Together we stand strong. Together We Improve.

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Purposeful practice…

…requires less work and more play – IF you really want to master something and sustain improvement.

Kitty just shared an article about an 11-year old mastering the cello.    Like most kids, this boy loves to play and hates to work.   When something becomes drudgery, your mind wanders elsewhere, you go through the motions and you can’t wait for it to be over so you can go PLAY.  The boy discovered mastering “the art of practicing is finding a process for repetition without boredom.”

In Colorodo this week, Toto blogged about one of his secrets for embracing life as an ongoing work-in-process – it’s the same principle.   Keep it fun.   Mix it up.   The same old same old may be familiar but when grooved it’s not groovy anymore.   When I fall into the same routines my “Rue-tines” become “rut-tines.”    When you’re in a rut you stop growing because your brain is disengaged.

In Peak, Ericsson talks about how Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin got out of her rut just doing laps.  “For much of her early swimming career she would pass the time she spent swimming laps by daydreaming… Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, over and over again for hours on end; it’s hard not to get bored and just zone out, letting your mind wander far outside the pool.”   The breakthrough came when “instead of letting her mind wander, she could be focusing on her technique, trying to make each stroke as close to perfect as possible.  In particular, she could be working on sharpening her mental representations of her stroke — figuring out exactly how her body feels during a ‘perfect’ stroke.  Once she had a clear idea of what that ideal stroke felt like, she could notice when she deviated from that ideal – perhaps when she was tired or when she was approaching a turn – and then work on ways to minimize those deviations and keep her strokes as close to ideal as possible.   From then on, Coughlin made a point of staying engaged in what she was doing, using the time spent swimming laps to improve her form.  It was only when she began doing this that she started to see improvement in her times, and the more she focused on her form in her training, the more success she had in her meets.”

No wonder you learned the most when you were just growing into a kindergartner.   Playing with my 6-year old granddaughter this weekend, I was reminded how much fun life is when you approach it through the eyes of a little kid.   Unless you don’t LET them, little kids make games of EVERYthing – even when they are helping with chores or putting their shoes on.

Ha.   Dream and Do requires a little imagination.   A little imagination will free you from the mundane of Dread and Do.    How do you talk to yourself?   Do you LET yourself have fun in the lab?  on the mat?  getting ready for a sales call?  preparing for a meeting?   writing the same old same old weekly report?   Are you getting better, or are you dying slow death?

Let yourself PLAY today.   As you do so, you will push yourself to be GREAT today.  Don’t lose a day — you don’t have many days to lose.   Like Ted Williams, who every day swung 100 deliberate practice swings even in hotel rooms, perfect your craft.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.”   – Vince Lombardi

Together We Improve.





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Master Operators…

…are ones other masters and masters-in-training love to study. They are all around us, yet they are relatively few. They operate heavy equipment, machinery, treatment plants, warehouses, motor vehicles, airplanes, systems, switchboards, and more. They operate on the mound, on the field, on the dance floor, on stage, in surgery, in construction, in productions, in manufacturing, in securities, in the military, in the goal, and more.

Masters neither over-operate nor under-operate.

This is also true of extraordinary relationships in marriages, families, partnerships, businesses, churches, groups, and teams. Master Operators build true ONEness in all their relationships by practicing two disciplines extraordinarily well:

1. Master Operators initiate talking about the right things with the right people at the right time. Simple, but not easy. The right “things” fall into the category of putting first things first. Masters distinguish between urgency and importance, governed by a core-centered/self-controlling (not self-centered/others-controlling) mindset. The right “people” means honoring the principles of roles and relational boundaries — for example, master parents speak first with each other about important issues before they talk with the kids. Master partners speak first with each other and then their other leaders about important issues before they speak with the whole team. The right “time” requires the same kind of discernment and wisdom so as not to be overly reactive, nor overly deliberate. Repeated violations of the above principles foster dysfuntion, disunity and disengagement.

2. Master Operators talk about things the right way. When seeking to understand, they are Curious George. When seeking to be understood, they are CCDR (clear, concise, direct with respect). When listening, they tune in like an animal being stalked. When speaking, they have “shoot” (I.e. conviction) in their eyes and kindness on their face. They challenge out of belief, not out of frustration. They are neither so combative as to shut another down nor so overly tactful as to leave another wondering what they are saying. Simple, but not easy.

Every individual and every relationship and every team has tendencies. Do you know yours? Do you realize “under-operating” at work will usually surface in “over-operating” at home? Ouch.

These two disciplines are part of every BTL practice, where they are taught and caught by Master Operators and Master Operators-in-training.

What are you mastering? Together we improve.

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Team Practice is not your ordinary…

…workshop, seminar, forum, class, lab, teambuilding event or training you may have been “sent to” or otherwise experienced.

Nothing against workshops, they have an important role — I’ve been to some great ones.

You know the drill.  Nearly all workshops are focused on imparting information or building a skill – on answering a “how to” question.  Workshops are usually led by a talking head.   There is often a workbook or handout from a powerpoint deck for taking notes and following along.    In the best workshops you come away with great content and a presenter who is interesting to listen to.  Sometimes they ask thought-provoking questions, too, but they are generally rhetorical as a transition technique for maintaining flow.    Some workshops feature breakout discussions to talk about application of the content being discussed.  Most workshops have a start and they have an end, and upon completion sometimes you receive an accreditation or continuing education credit.

So what makes BUILT TO LEAD team practices different?

Let’s start with the purpose, which is to awaken, challenge and together transform a few leaders, teams and individuals into ONE – one distinct AND deeply connected – one BUILT TO LEAD.   Increasing oneness is our deliverable – increasing oneness within, with each other, with a team and its leaders, and with the overarching vision for “why” the team exists.   This is why practice is not optional for the leader – the leader must set the edge and set the tone by their own commitment and engagement.

Practice is not an event, it’s a process.   It’s a framework which never ends.  Practice is second nature for the military, for sports teams, for the entertainment industry, and for the performing arts.   Practice is the road to mastery, and there are no shortcuts.   In business, practice is the uncommon practice of extraordinary teams led by extraordinary leaders.

There is content in practice, but the content is provided by the participants.   The facilitator is there to run practice according to an intentional framework which makes teammates think, write, challenge self-limiting beliefs, discover self-freeing disciplines, and gain more clarity and alignment in why they are here, who they are, and how they live and work.    We study, learn and apply the principles of pursuing a labor of love, of replacing fear, of embracing learning through failure, of succeeding without becoming complacent, of challenging out of belief not frustration, of mastering Dream & Do and “together we improve” – not settling for going it alone.

This is why whether you are on Practice #1 or Practice #274 there is sometimes something new and always many reminders.

Many companies send their teams to various workshops.   Few leaders give their teams the gift of practice.

Only a few will become BUILT TO LEAD.







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