Author Archives: John Rue

About John Rue

Why playbooks are core to BTL practice…

…is also why practice is core to our playbooks.

Here’s a simple illustration from Practice #7 with a CEO, his exec team, and his up and coming team leads. A cool team of 12.

In the 8 Essentials of Leading Teams, the team took turns reading one paragraph at a time on building trust. After each paragraph, we paused and each leader underlined one thing they wanted to remember. We rinsed + repeated for a couple pages – reading & reflecting. Then we broke into 3 teams of 4 to practice speaking & listening about what we had underlined and why.

Afterwards, each team broadcast the melody line they found at their table. For the first team, it was a reminder the leader must trust first – a reversal of what seems intuitive. For the second team, it was a reminder how a leader must subordinate their desire for control to trust the team to do what they can while doing for the team only what they are yet unable to do for themselves. For the third team in which the CEO sat, it was a reminder to build a tolerance for “just this side of chaos”, and a reminder for the leader to model the way when it comes to ‘fessing up mistakes.

This was 45 good minutes.   The last part of practice was even better.    The team accepted my challenge to write ONE THING they wanted to make sure the leader heard from our reading – and CEO wrote one thing he wanted to make sure the team heard.

Then, each team member spoke in turn to their leader (nobody chose to pass), and CEO played back what he heard:

“Sometimes your mind seems made up when the team might have additional input.”

“Teams will stick it to the man but stick with the human – keep being human.”

“Continue to trust us.”

“When you are away for awhile and then re-enter, check in with us first upon re-entry before judging what you see.”

This last one was from the COO and it took two rinses for him to hear it — and the team really wanted him to hear it.  It took twice because she was using way too many words and being way too indirect.   At practice #7, this is normal.   My challenge to her for next time is “less qualifications, less disclaimers, just SAY it CCD.”   Done so.

CEO thanked the team, and then he told them the one thing he wanted them to hear.   “In my worldview, most business problems are math problems.   Bring me your input and your feedback — I welcome it — but if you want to persuade me, show me the numbers.   Boil it down to something non-emotional – bring your ideas in that format.”

Practicing using our playbooks builds a common language for “together we transform”.    Reading together highlights how each of us doesn’t see things the same, we see things the way we are at that time.

In just over one hour, fear took a hit.   Trust went up.    One-ness set in.   This is why practice is core to our playbooks, and why our playbooks are core to practice.




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Dream, Do, AND…


I believe most of us are wired for 2 of the 3.     When I got a journal for Christmas, my aversive reaction affirmed the obvious.    I don’t like to reflect.

According to Myers Briggs, half our mental functions are conscious, half are subconscious.   The subconscious ones are unnatural for you.  They drain energy from you.   They operate like a shadow, a critic, a trickster — even a demon.    For me, reflecting fits those 4 descriptions.

But the rhythm of life is missed if you ignore any of the 3.    The rhythm of life is harnessed if you cultivate each of the 3.   

One of my favorite questions to ask is “when are you at your best?”   I love watching people’s faces when they stop to think – and REFLECT – about it.   Something changes, like Miss Lang in Mr. Holland’s Opus when he asks her what she likes best about herself when she looks in the mirror and she replies “her red hair, because her father says it reminds him of the sunset.”  

So if you’re sitting somewhere like me trying to jumpstart your 2018 and transition from the holidays, give yourself the gift of time and reflect on 2017 before you move on.    When were you at your best?   What did it result in?   How did it feel?   Write.    Reflect.   Write some more.   Don’t just make it about work – remember, OPUS is about work and life.   And you don’t have to do it alone – just writing this I realized a lot of what I miss in my relationship with God is because I don’t ask him to help me — especially with what’s unnatural.

Every year is filled with joy & pain – some of it chosen some of it not.   Don’t miss the chance to celebrate the victories.    Much of the power of reflecting is it quantifies the achievements, the breakthroughs, the learnings, the transitions, the victories and the re-realization life matters.

This kind of reflecting is inspiring as you honor the past.   The greatest leaders and greatest cultures honor the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future.

Reflecting helps you to re-solve, not resolve.    In looking at just a few of the highlights from 2017 I just got an energy boost thinking about the possibilities for 2018 – which I’m capturing on my “dream” list.

God,  thank you for 2017.   And, God, thank you for 2018.   Thank you for today.

Dream, do & reflect.    God help us dream.  God help us do.   God help us reflect.   God, together you inspire us.   God, together we inspire each other.   God, together we improve.    

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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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