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A Lesson on Tolerance & Working Together from Napoleon Hill

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A Lesson on Tolerance & Working Together from Napoleon Hill

I enjoy reading non-fiction and especially classics. Should we be surprised that an impactful lesson from around 1925 - 1928 is still relevant and highly applicable in today's society? No. The book, "The Law of Success" written by Napoleon Hill is full of tried-and-true lessons, and I'm only on page 79! 

While reading last night I came across a particular story that stood out to me. The lesson from this story should be adapted and taught at every level of school or university ... written on the walls of every corporation and echoed through the halls of our government establishments. It should be weaved throughout the speeches of all leaders within our communities. I'm not making a political statement. I'm not pointing the finger at the right or left, at the corporations, Hollywood, or anything/anyone else. In fact, it is an observation and lesson that can be seen and learned across all of these institutions and their respective constituents. We need to look in the mirror. We need to reflect on how we can change as an individual first. Then, how to help support others to improve and spread tolerance across our communities. Right now in the US, the world, our communities, and within corporations, we are suffering from two major problems:

1) Intolerance - an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own 

2) A Lack of Willingness to Work Together - Not setting aside our differences due to intolerance, the lust for undisputed power, success, or any other illogical reason to come together for the good of all

Note: According to Mr. Hill, we can define Power as "organized energy and effort." Success is the "development of the power with which to get whatever one wants in life without interfering with the rights of others." 

So by now, you might be wondering about the story that inspired this message. It's a simple story of a father that had seven children that were always quarreling. The father wanted to demonstrate the impact of their lack of co-operative effort and intolerance. So, this father prepared a bundle of seven sticks and carefully tied them together. One by one he asked each child to attempt to take the bundle and break it. Each child was unsuccessful. The strength and power of the bundle was no match for the individual. Then, the father cut the strings and handed one of the sticks to each of his children. Again, he asked each child to try and break their stick. All sticks were broken. 

At this point, the father said, "When you boys work together in a spirit of harmony you resemble the bundle of sticks, and no one can defeat you, but when you quarrel among yourselves anyone can defeat you one at a time." 

To gain power and to reach a successful end (as defined in the note above) we must work together in harmony and be tolerant of others. 

It doesn't matter who you are, where you work, your political affiliation, or anything like that. Intolerance and the lack of a willingness to work together is hurting our communities and corporations. We are all different. We may have different beliefs. But, we are all seeking the same goal: To leave this world as a better place for generations to come. 

Some of you have already made snap judgements about this article. You might be thinking, "Hey, it's not my fault, it's their fault!" All I'm asking is for you to stop for a moment. Take a deep breath. This time, instead of immediately pointing fingers, take some time to start reflecting. Accept some of the responsibility. Conduct an internal inventory. Change yourself first. Learn to listen. Learn to be tolerant. Learn to work together with people you don't agree with. Lead the change. You set the example and spread the word. Show up each and every moment ready and willing to listen, to show tolerance, to be humble, and to work together. It may be a complicated and tough road ahead ... I know this. But, believe me, if we all work together, just like the bundle of sticks, there is a win / win solution. Success is inevitable when working together in harmony without interfering with the rights of others. 




Have a burning question on marketing, sales, or strategy? I'll answer.

I enjoy writing. I also enjoy challenges. I want to engage with you, answer your questions, and have conversations.

What would you like me to write about? What questions do you have on marketing, sales, or strategy? Submit your questions in the comments of this post or via email:

I’ll read through the submissions and pick questions to write about. Leave me your twitter handle as well. When I answer, I’ll tag you in the tweet.

I look forward to hearing from you. 



Solopreneurship: 3 Awesome Insights From Building My Own Desk

Solopreneurship: 3 Awesome Insights From Building My Own Desk

When I left the corporate workforce to start my consulting firm my first steps was to build my desk. I repurposed wood discarded from a coffee shop build out and old pallets. I combined the wood with galvanized pipes typically used for plumbing. I certainly had the means to buy a desk, but that defeated the purpose. I’m building a constant reminder of my foundation and my journey.

I was starting out as a solopreneur. I was building a company. But first, I needed to build my desk.

Throughout my career I’ve jumped around a little. I've moved from sales to marketing to commercial operations and strategy. I’ve held operational and consultative roles. I’ve stretched myself through taking on more than I could chew. I found my limits, and then pushed beyond them. I went through a little bit of “crazy,” but it was all in the name of learning and growing.

Because of this, I had the opportunity to work on some of GE’s most difficult global commercial challenges. My mentors and colleagues were some of the best leaders in the world. I developed a solid foundation of cross-functional skill sets. These skill sets will prove invaluable for the rest of my life.  

1. Build a solid foundation

I built my desk with a solid foundation as well. Your desk is the central point of business operations. You get shit done here. It’s here where you crush out that work product that beats your client or boss’s expectations. 

The galvanized piping is connected through various types of fittings. Each individual pipe represents a skill set. The fittings embody my network of contacts and life-experience. The whole symbolizes my learnings, training, and cross-functional experience. When combined, it comes together as a solid foundation. When I sit at my desk, it’s a constant reminder of the business foundation I’ve built. 

  • If you’re not where you want to be, focus on your foundation
  • Stop worrying about wanting that huge paycheck RIGHT NOW
  • Develop a plan to find roles & experience that builds the skill sets you need
  • Once you develop your skill sets, everything else will start falling into place. Plus, all sorts of options will open up for your career as well.

2. Bumps and bruises in your career are a valuable asset

So far, I’ve had a good career and adventurous life. But this didn’t happen without hard work and failure too. I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve made mistakes, plus received a few bumps and bruises along the way. But, I’ve learned from each bump, bruise, and failure.  

If I am to succeed at building my consulting practice, everything has to come together. I have to take everything I’ve learned, refine it, and then use it to strengthen my skill sets. My good, bad, and ugly learnings come together to create a cohesive product for my clients and partners.

To create the top of my desk I used 3 different pallets and old wood discarded from a coffee shop build out. Each source of wood had a different grain, length, and width. The wear and tear was different as well.

First, I had to create a vision. From that vision, I developed a plan. When something wouldn’t fit properly, I adapted the plan. Then, I had to refine the wood by sanding, cutting, and staining each piece. Since I’m not a skilled carpenter, this process took a lot of sweat equity.

  • The different sources of wood, plus the wear and tear is a constant reminder of learnings from all my assets – The good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Always reflect and refine. Use the good, bad, and ugly in your career to develop into a better businessperson.
  • Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. It will take a lot of sweat equity, but pay-off in the end. 

3. You don’t have to do it all alone

The last step to finish my desk was to put it all together. Piece by piece I started building the top and connecting it to the foundation. At one point in the process, I realized I couldn’t it do alone. I needed a partner. I brought in an expert to help me finish up the rest of my desk. This person was more skilled in this particular area. We finished the rest of my desk in no time at all.  But, most importantly, I watched and learned. Next time, I’ll have a better idea on how to do it myself or be able to forecast the need for help.

If I want to continue to succeed, I need to work with partners or hire people from areas outside my expertise. This isn’t a reflection of my intelligence; it’s a good business decision. 

To wrap this all up:

  • Build a solid foundation
  • Don’t be afraid to fail
  • Always learn from the good, bad, and ugly     
  • Plan ahead and work hard
  • Understand your strengths and limitations
  • Surround yourself with people outside your area of expertise, use them to support your projects, but always learn from them as well

I’d enjoy hearing from you. What did you learn from your biggest failure?

- Stewart Swayze




Answer to: Why are some CEOs so disconnected from reality?

Why are some CEOs so disconnected from reality?

A friend of mine recently asked me: Why are some CEOs so disconnected from “reality?” In this context, reality is defined as field level information. My immediate thought was to explain that CEOs shouldn’t be disconnected. A good CEO would understand his/her company from the field level and up. Then it hit me.

First, let’s change CEO to Sr. Leadership. Then, use Sr. Sales Leadership for illustrative purposes. You can apply this to any function. Next let’s consider opportunity cost and focus.

How does this disconnect happen?

As you move into a Sr. Leadership position, your goals & objectives expand beyond your specific functional task - “sales.” You are now creating strategy, developing tactics, managing people, operations, HR related issues, budgets ... etc. Your breadth of responsibilities expands as you move up.

When your breadth of responsibilities expands, there is less time to focus on specific functional tasks. For this sales example, less time increasing sales and delivering on targets. The Sales Leader has to balance his/her time. Trade-offs happen. Less time on one item or person and more time on another – opportunity cost.

Why is it OK for less connection to the field as a Sr. Leader moves up the organization?

In this paragraph I’m going to layout my current though process on why it’s OK for the field level connection to decrease. Later in the post, I’ll explain a few ways to manage or mitigate the disconnection.

1) As a leader moves up, the dollar value of their decisions should increase 

The numbers listed below are illustrative. Your values and ratios would depend on your company strategy, plus the span and layers of your organizational structure.

As an example: Company A sells a product at a value of $100 per item.  This company reaches $100 Million in sales per year.

If I’m a CEO of Company A, my breadth of responsibilities is immense. I need to focus my attention on sales decisions that are higher dollar value. If I’m a field sales person, I sell a product and manage a territory. I focus my sales decisions on lower dollar values. For this simplistic example, I'll use a 10X value system. 

Dollar Value for Decisions

  • Field Sales: $1-100
  • Field Sales Management: $100-$1,000
  • Regional Manager: $1,000-$10,000
  • Regional VP: $10,000-$100,000
  • VP: $100,000-$1,000,0000
  • CEO: $1,000,000-$10,000,000


2) You DON’T want Sr. Leaders making field level decisions if they are disconnected. 

  • Remember, breadth increases, time on a specific function decreases, and trade-offs create opportunity costs.
  • This leader wouldn’t know what’s going on at the field level. Why ask them to make a decision specific to the field?
  • It would take too much of everyone’s time to catch them up to speed?
  • The opportunity cost of that time would negatively impact the entire organization
  • They have historical depth in sales, but not day to day
  • You want the power and ability to make these decisions for your own career, development, and recognition

These two concepts are actually simple. As the sales leader moves up, the value of the decisions increases. As you move up, you want the power and ability to make decisions without the influence of a disconnected leader. Even though these are simple, the disconnect is still frustrating.

5 ways you ensure the disconnection doesn’t negatively impact the field and company? 

1. Empowerment: Your organization needs to develop a system or process that empowers each layer with the ability to make decisions based on their respective value. Understand your talent. Recognize their abilities and give empower them. If you aren’t comfortable with their decision making abilities ... develop, train, or attract better talent.

2. Field Visits: From the CEO level down, leaders need to visit each layer on a semi-regular basis. Connect with each level. Try to understand day-to-day operations as much as possible. Be present. Listen and learn.

3. Voice of Customer: Conduct internal and external voice of customer (VOC). Yes I did say internal too. It’s just as important to understand how the finance team is serving the sales team. Cross-functional relationships impact the entire organization. The VOC process will change a little bit depending on if it’s internal or external.

4. Data: Stop making decisions purely on “experience” or intuition. It’s fine to use those as qualitative factors, but clean data doesn’t lie. Collect data at all levels, internal and external. Find ways to simplify, track, and improve those numbers.

5. Reduction of Layers: Determine if there are too many layers. This goes hand-in-hand with empowerment. The more layers of management, the greater the disconnection. The more layers of management, the harder it is to gain feedback.

6. Cross-Functional & Multi-Level Meetings: Hold quarterly meetings with a cross-functional & multi-level group. Ensure all functions are represented. Make certain you have employees from the field level to the c-suite. These meetings are action-oriented. Goals: 

  • Gain feedback
  • Work on challenges
  • Create open-communication channels across the organization

Every organization is different. You’ll need to develop your own dollar value decision-making ratio. Empower your people. Allow them to take on more accountability and responsibility. If you aren’t comfortable with empowerment, consider training or upgrading your talent. Hold cross-functional and multi-level meetings, but make sure these are productive meetings. Solve challenges with this group. Create open feedback channels.

I hope this post helped. Feel free to give me your thoughts or feedback. This subject is something I’m still exploring. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.




The 2 Most Powerful Words for Coaching Employees

The 2 Most Powerful Words for Coaching Employees

During my last year at General Electric (GE), they successfully piloted a new employee evaluation process. I was a little skeptical at first.

Luckily we had an awesome HR Leader, Meghan DeFoe. She trained and coached our leadership team on the process. Plus, our team leader Amar Arekapudi championed the pilot within our organization. This program taught me the 2 most powerful words for coaching: Continue & Consider.

4 Basic Principles for Coaching

There are many different schools of thought or strategies for coaching employees. I even recommend a book - The Coaching Habit - Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever - by Michael Bungay Stanier. Yet, I’ll list out a few things you can always do below, then how to use continue and consider.

1. Actively Listen – Ensure you listen to your employees. Don’t interrupt and allow them to speak openly

2. Understand – Have them walk you through their thought process. Develop a greater understanding of the situation, decision, etc.

3. Remain Cool, Calm, and Collected – You’re the leader. To effectively coach, remain calm. This will allow your employee to feel safe and not defensive

4. Use Continue & Consider – Once you’ve listened and gained an understanding, use the terms continue and consider

How to use Continue & Consider?

It’s so damn easy to use Continue and Consider for coaching! Plus, the terminology disarms an employee. If you want to promote a behavior, action, or thought process … use continue. If you want to change something … use consider.

Example 1: Continue

Julie, thank you for being so prepared for your presentation today. Walk me through your preparation process? Listen & understand. Then you simply state, “Julie, continue to use that process to prepare for presentations." In fact, you can use the same X, Y, & Z principles to develop your next strategy session.

In this example you were able to promote Julie’s behavior, but also coach her on how it can be used for a different scenario.

Example 2: Consider

Jim, thank you for presenting during the strategy session today. Can you walk me through your preparation process? Listen & understand. Then, Julie, I like how you do X. Please continue to use that. Next time I’d like you to consider using Y & Z. Y & Z will help you provide a clearer message to your audience. I’d be happy to help you work through the process. Let’s set up time next week to review these steps before the next strategy session.

In this example you were able to understand Jim’s thought process for preparation. You then provided him a positive message to continue with a certain step. After the positive, you used “consider.” This neutralized any defensive behavior, but provided coaching on the proper process. Last, you followed this up with making yourself available to help the next time.

You Don’t Have to be a Manager or Leader to Coach

You can use continue and consider on your colleagues and managers as well. These terms are useful when providing feedback throughout the organization. It will depend on your organization’s culture, but hopefully your colleagues value feedback. 

I hope this post helped. Please continue to check back each week for my leadership posts. Also, consider sharing this article with your network if it’s helped you.

Last, how you are showing up as a leader? Consider if you could benefit from Executive Coaching. If you want to explore the idea, click here.

Take care,




Book of the Week: The Coaching Habit

Each week I plan on providing recommended books that I've read. These books have helped me develop as a leader, marketer, and consultant. 

The Coaching Habit - Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

by Michael Bungay Stanier

One of the most important skills you can develop as a manager is the ability to coach. 75% of managers receive training on coaching techniques. Yet, 73% of employees never receive coaching. These numbers are sad since you can coach an employee in “10 minutes or less.” In this book, Michael Stanier helps you develop a coaching habit. He outlines coaching’s “Seven Essential Questions.” These questions provide a framework to drive better coaching conversations.

Good coaches help employees improve skill sets, build networks, and enhance workplace relationships. Indirectly, proper coaching creates employee autonomy by reducing the amount of time a manager needs to spend with his/her team on the little things. It helps create focus. The time spent with your team will be on the larger more strategic items.

If you’re a manager, become a leader. Develop a coaching framework. Unlock your team’s potential.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.





9 Steps to Boost Your Confidence - Present Like a Champion

9 Steps to Boost Your Confidence - Present Like a Champion

In my last presentation post I outlined, "10 Simple Steps to Rock Your Next Business Presentation." This post we'll deep dive into building your presentation confidence. 

If you are confident, then you'll exude that confidence. It will come out in your presentation. The manner in which you present shows the audience you're confident in your material. 

Sounds great right? Well what are a few ways you can gain and show confidence?

1. Posture: Stand or sit up straight. Standing would be the preferable method for presenting. We all know, this isn’t always acceptable. It's simple. If you slump down in your seat, with your head down and back arched forwards, you’ll look and sound like a slouch! Work on your posture. It will open up your airways for projection and give the perception of confidence.

2. Relax: 15-30 minutes before your presentation … put down your notes and relax. Listen to some music. Do a few breathing exercises. Calm yourself and turn those nerves into passion and enthusiasm.

My favorite Pandora Station is Indie Folk Revival. It allows me slip into fantasyland. I'm out on the beautiful plains or maybe somewhere in Montana on a cool and crisp day. The music helps me to clear my thoughts, relax, and smile. Do you have a band or station that helps you relax? Try it out.

3. Let go: Everyone makes mistakes, even the pros! Have you ever watched presidential speech bloopers? It happens to the best of us. So let go of the fear you’ll make a mistake. Focus on the presentation at hand. Tell your mind to reserve its critique for after the presentation. 

4. Practice: Enough said. If you don’t practice, you’ll never improve. If you don’t improve, your execution will fail or at the least, everyone will know you didn’t prepare.  We’ll cover this more next week, but it’s important to building confidence so I had to mention it.

5. Passion / Enthusiasm: Be passionate about your material. Show some enthusiasm as the presenter. Smile! If you use passion, enthusiasm, and smile, your confidence level will increase. Your audience will feel your passion and cheer you on. 

6. Exercise: If you don’t already have one, develop an exercise routine. You don’t have to become a body builder or marathon runner. Start small. Schedule 20 minutes out of your day for a short stroll and move up from there. Exercise helps relieve stress and mentally preparing for the what's ahead. Plus, studies show your own body perception can impact confidence levels. 

Right before sitting down to write this post, I came in from a light 20-minute jog. I’m in the same boat as a lot of people. I work and travel internationally all the time. I haven’t concentrated enough on my exercise. It’s hard! So, I started scheduling my exercise in small steps. I wake up every morning, stretch, and breathe for 15 minutes. Next, I review my goals for the day and then walk out my door for a short jog. When I get back, I’m invigorated and ready to hit the ground running. Tomorrow, I’ll stretch and do some basic exercises like push-ups, planks, lunges, etc. Nothing special. My goal is to increase my exercise each week. Every week I’ll become a little stronger and a little more confident. 

7. Dress: You know when you look in the mirror and think, “Damn I look good!” Well, that’s confidence! Dress for success. Again, not saying you should go out spend $1000’s on new clothes. Choose clothing that reflects who you are and how you want people to perceive you. Find clothes that are comfortable, look damn good, and make you feel like a million dollars. When you look good and feel good, your confidence increases.

Deals, deals, deals! You can find deals everywhere! There are plenty of online retailers using e-commerce to buck the brick and mortar model. By doing so, they can bring you awesome deals on clothing. My only caution is to know your size and ensure they have a good return policy. Sometimes sizes differ with brands. If you want to go the brick and mortar route, try places like Nordstrom Rack or Saks Off 5th.

8. Fake it: 99.99% of the time I wouldn’t recommend faking anything. It’s always best to be genuine. But … if all above fails, fake it. I know, I know … but the cliché “fake it until you make it” applies here. Act like you’re the most confident person there is … Go in there and knock your presentation out of the park. Then, walk out of that room, find a private spot, and puke if you have to. Kidding. You can only get away with faking it for so long.  by the time it catches up, you’ll be a seasoned pro and it won’t even matter anymore.

9. Come back next week: I'll deep dive on techniques to improve practicing before presentations.

As always, I welcome feedback. Please let me know anything I missed, what I can improve on, where I can go deeper, and any of your success stories. I wish you the best of luck and let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.

- Stewart Swayze