Mission Statement

Mission Statement for Ahrend Coaching & Training: "To inspire and empower people to meet their challenges with confidence and to help people lead more meaningful lives through the development of their special talents and gifts."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Find Your Passion...Get Out of Your Head

In my last post I talked about discovering your WHY, in other words, what were you born to do?  What's your calling, what's your purpose, what's your passion?  All related and yet all slightly different.  Today I will focus on how to discover your passion.  I wish I could tell you it's easily discoverable or that I had the answer for you.  Unfortunately I don't know your passion and for many of you it will require some digging.  The answer truly does lie within you but first you have to be willing to explore, get out of your comfort zone and try new things.

For starters you must get out of your head and search within your heart.  Passion comes from the heart not from the logical mind.  In fact your logic may be the exact thing that is keeping you from discovering your passion.  You see, we can talk ourselves out of just about anything.  Something you love to do can be dismissed because "it's not practical", "not realistic", "couldn't make a living doing that", "too old to try new things", "too young", and the list of reasons can go on and on.  What's your excuse for not exploring the things you love?

Maybe you have not discovered things you love?  Why is that?  Afraid to get out of your comfort zone?  Afraid to try new things?  You have already decided you won't like this or that, whatever it might be?  You have to try new things to discover new things, to discover activities you may develop a passion for.  I once had a student who told me he did not like cheese because his Grandmother, who raised him, would not allow him to eat any cheese products growing up.  Then he married a women whose favorite restaurant is the Cheesecake Factory.  She tried and tried to get him to try the cheesecake but he refused insisting he did not like cheese and therefore would not like cheesecake.  Her question to him was "how do you know if you have never tried the cheesecake?"  Good question!  Finally one day to get her off his back and prove to her he did not like cheesecake he reluctantly tried a small bite.  Well much to his surprise he LOVED the cheesecake.  Another student in the same class shared a story about his passion for sailing.  He grew up on a island on the South Georgia coast and had always loved fast boats.  After marrying his bride, his father-in-law wanted to take he and his wife sailing.  His first thought was how boring, what could be fun about a boat without a powerful engine.  And while he wanted to turn down the invitation he thought that may not be a wise choice under the circumstances.    Since it was his new father-in-law he thought it best to accept the invitation.  Boy was he glad he did.  He quickly discovered he LOVED sailing as much as he loved to ski and race fast boats across the water.  That was one invitation he was glad he accepted!

Discovering your passion is much like trying the cheesecake or accepting an invitation to try something new...no matter how boring or distasteful you think it might be!  If you are unwilling to try new things you will never know what you might be missing.  So please, if you want to discover your passion be open to possibilities, reserve judgment until after your experience, and let your heart guide you.  Get out of your head and explore your heart and you will eventually discover your passion.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Big WHY

Do you know the two most important days of your life?  I am sure you can think of many memorable and important days which have had a profound effect on the person you are and the person you strive to be. According to Mark Twain, the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why.  If you are reading this blog obviously you have experienced the first most important day but have you discovered your WHY?  I can't be certain but I think most of us want to have a good sense of why we were born and what's our purpose.  Many people spend a life time trying to discover their WHY...some do and some keep seeking, some may even eventually give up.  Discovering your WHY and living your purpose is a real game changer.  If you know your WHY making decisions becomes easier, choices more clear, and life is more meaningful.  Understanding your WHY helps you gain clarity and confidence; your commitment and contribution will be greater.

Have you discovered your WHY?  If you have your are one of the fortunate ones.  The people I know who have discovered their WHY have direction, purpose, drive, they are intentional about how the spend their time and resources, and I can see and feel their passion.  It's a beautiful thing.

If you haven't yet discovered your WHY, don't give up.  There is hope and there are things you can do to discover your WHY.  The answer of course lies within you.  I can't tell you your WHY nor can anyone else.  I can however help you on that journey, the journey to discover your WHY.  Look for upcoming blogs on how to discover your WHY but be willing to put in the work.  Until next time, remember...TODAY MATTERS, make it a masterpiece.

Friday, October 12, 2012

#1 - The Law of Intentionality

The Law of Intentionality, the first of 15 laws of personal growth in John Maxwell's book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, is pretty straight forward...if you want to grow you have to be intentional, growth doesn't just happen.  John Maxwell begins this chapter by asking the question "Do you have a plan for your personal growth?"  My guess is that 97% of the population would say "no", if they are honest.  People plan vacations, they plan the menu for the football tailgate on Saturday, they might even plan their week, but most of us have NO plan for our personal and therefore professional growth.  We hope we will do well, we hope we will get recognized for a job well done, we hope we will get a promotion...but "hope" is not a strategy.  Working hard does not guarantee success.  Like most things in life, if we want a guarantee of success we need a plan and we need to be deliberate

I have been teaching project managers for 15 years now.  Many of them want to get certified as Project Management Professionals (PMPs).  Some of them do get certified and some never will.  I hear all the time, I will study for the exam when I get some time.  When I hear those words I know that person will very likely never get certified.  We don't "get" time, we "make" time.  To grow as a project manager one must make time to study, put a plan in place and follow the plan.  They must be deliberate and intentional about learning and growing as a project manager. 

In this chapter, John Maxwell talks about the Growth Gap Traps:

1. The Assumption Gap - This assumes that by living we will grow...that only happens to children who grow stronger and taller and more capable during their "growth years."  As adults if we want to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritual we must take ownership of the growth process.

2. The Knowledge Gap - This is thinking we do not know how to grow or that someone else will teach us how to grow.  Sure we learn lessons as we go through life but that can be difficult and random.  Instead it is better to have a plan where WE decide in the areas WE want to grow, what WE want to learn, and WE set the pace. 

3. The Timing Gap - "Nows not the time, too busy, I'll study for my PMP exam when I have more time."  I like to ask my project management students when they plan to take the exam after completing the PMP Exam Prep class.  I know that the ones who push the date out the furthest are least likely to ever take the exam and get certified.  "The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it."

4. The Mistake Gap - This "gap trap" is about the fear of failure.  Anyone who has ever succeeded has failed.  I told a friend of mine not long ago that her biggest failure would be the failure to do nothing.  She was afraid of making a mistake and therefore paralyzed and was doing nothing to move forward with her dream.  After my statement...about the failure to do nothing being the biggest failure, she booked a flight to Latvia and began moving forward and has since impacted the lives of many forgotten and neglected orphans.

5. The Perfection Gap -  This is where we think we have to have all the answers before getting started.  Like any large project I have ever worked on, it is important to start with a vision but each and every activity can not be fully defined.  As we move forward steps will become clearer.  In the project management world this is called progressive planning.  If we wait until we know everything we will never get started. 

6. The Inspiration Gap - "I'll started when I get inspired...I just can't seem to get motivated." As John Maxwell would say, "forget motivation --just do it."  I know if I am ever going to lose 40 pounds I have to just do it and stop waiting for motivation.  The same thing applies with growth. 

7. The Comparison Gap - Personal growth is not about catching up to someone else or being better than someone else.  Learing from others, seeking guidance from others, being mentored by others can help us meet our growth goals, but comparing ourselves to others will do little to help us move forward. After all, it's not about being better than them, it's about YOU being better tomorrow than YOU are today!

8. The Expectation Gap - Growth does not come easy; it requires work, it requires time, it requires perserverance.  "You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight." (Jim Rohn)  The expectation that growth will happen overnight is unrealistic...not going to happen.  However, you can make a choice overnight to be deliberate and intentional in your personal growth.

Do it now, do it now, do it now...make a plan for personal growth.  Perfection not required.  Not motivated...make a choice and just do it!  Five important components to a growth plan include:  attitude, goals, discipline, measurement, and consistency.  All five are subjects for future discussion. 

From a Bruce Springsteen song the following lyrics are a good summary for the Law of Intentionality...
"A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be."

Monday, October 8, 2012

The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

Over the next five weeks I will be leading a Mastermind group to study and apply 15 invaluable laws of  personal growth, from John C. Maxwell's newly published book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  John Maxwell has been passionate about personal development for over 50 years.  I share this same passion and that is why I do what I do. As a trainer, speaker, and coach I focus on leadership development, team building, and personal growth strategies to inspire and empower people to discover their passion, reach their full potential, and get extraordinary results.  

Potential, as John says, is a word filled with hope, optimism, and promises of success.  However, potential alone does not guarantee success.  Too many people never reach their full potential, many die "with the music still inside."  Growth is what helps us to reach our potential but growth doesn't just happen, it requires one to be deliberate and intentional.   For the majority of us, once we graduate from high school there is no one telling us what to read, what to study, what paths to take, what doors to open...we must now take control of our own personal growth. 

As a young man John was asked the question "Do you have a plan for your personal growth?"  That question changed his life and set him on a journey that has spanned almost 50 years.  John now has written over 60 books on a variety of topics most having to do with leadership and personal growth.  In The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth John shares his Lessons Learned and strategies for becoming the person you were created to be.  I look forward to going on this journey of personal growth with the participants of the Mastermind Group as we read, study, discuss, and apply the timeless laws of growth to unlock the potential inside each of us.

The 15 Laws we will study include:

1.  The Law of Intentionality: Growth Doesn't Just Happen
2.  The Law of Awareness: You Must Know Yourself to Grow Yourself
3.  The Law of the Mirror: You Must See Value in Yourself to Add Value to Yourself
4.  The Law of Reflection: Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up with You
5.  The Law of Consistency: Motivation Gets You Going--Discipline Keeps You Growing
6.  The Law of Environment: Growth Thrives in Conducive Surroundings
7.  The Law of Design: To Maximize Growth, Develop Strategies
8.  The Law of Pain: Good Management of Bad Experiences Leads to Great Growth
9.  The Law of the Ladder: Character Growth Determines the Height of Your Personal Growth
10.The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be
11.The Law of Trade-Offs: You Have to Give Up to Grow Up
12.The Law of Curiousity: Growth Is Stimulated by Asking Why?
13.The Law of Modeling: It's Hard to Improve When You Have No One but Yourself to Follow
14.The Law of Expansion: Growth Always Increases Your Capacity
15.The Law of Contribution: Growing Yourself Enables You to Grow Others

I will blog on each of the 15 laws to share some insight and to challenge you to live them and reach your potential.  Consider purchasing the book and following along.  If you would like to participate in a Mastermind Group to study the 15 laws please get in touch with me to join an upcoming group or to form another group.  My studies are virtual to allow for those of us (myself included) who travel frequently to be engaged and not miss out on this very important journey.  So you see...you cannot even use the excuse that we do not live in the same city.  Be intentional, be deliberate, and take action to create and apply your own personal growth plan!

AND AWAY WE GO........ 

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I have been following one of the Linked In group sites and there is a discussion currently about the nomenclature "servant-leader."  Is this term politically correct?  Is there a better way of saying this without using the word "servant"?  My first thought in response to these questions is "politically correct to whom and who defines and decides what is politically correct?"  And then secondly, what is wrong with the word "servant" which simply means "one who serves."  I will not address my first thought as that would put me on a soap box and that is not the purpose of this blog.  What I want to discuss is the meaning of the word "servant."

If you look at my previous blog (way back on November 30, 2010) I defined servant-leadership and it's origins.  To be a servant-leader is to focus on the growth and development of individuals and organizations.  A servant-leader uses collaboration, trust, communication, compassion, and the ethical use of power to lead and serve others better.

There are many kinds of leaders in this world but I believe the highest honor and most honorable leader is the servant-leader.  A servant-leader is not self-serving but serves others to help them achieve their highest potential as individuals, as a unit, as a church, as a business entity.

Over the past two decades (for recent recall) and throughout history there are numerous examples of leaders who were self-serving and not focused on the needs of their stakeholders.  Ultimately the end result is never good.  There are unfortunately too many businesses, financial institutions, and even governments which have collapsed because the leader or leaders became more concerned with their own personal advancement (leading to greed, lust, and other "deadly sins") than the needs and expectations of the stakeholders they were put in place to serve.  Outside of a monarchy such as Great Britain, few of us come into leadership roles without the help of others.  Generally we must earn the right to lead through the development of trust and by building relationships, through our reputation, knowledge, and experience.  We have to work to earn a leadership position/role and then remember why we are in that role...to serve those who helped us attain our position.  As leaders we are there to serve those who look up to us with trust; who expect we will have their best interest in mind and will act accordingly. 

Leaders of businesses are there to serve their customers.  Without customers there is no business; no one keeps us in business like our customers.  Men and women of the military "serve" their country, they are servant-leaders.  Politicians are voted into office to serve their constituents. (I see politicians as falling into two general categories...those who truly step forward to serve and those who seek the recognition and power for personal gain, hopefully the second category do not last long and will be voted out of office.)

I personally find the term servant-leader to be very descriptive of the type of leader I admire and want leading me, my organization, my church, and my country.  It is both an honor and a privilege to be a servant-leader.  I believe that our God-given purpose in life is to serve others and help make this world a better place for everyone.  Serving others is not self-sacrifice and a life of poverty but fulfillment and an enriched life by making a positive impact in the lives of others. 

Politically correct?  I think so.  Is there a better term or way of presenting this leadership style, I think not.  Now if there were only more "leaders" of industry, organizations, and countries that would embrace this style of leadership and lead with a servant's-heart...now that would make a difference for all of us!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Building A High Performing Team

(Note:  In my last blog I said I would be expanding on developing a "Shared Vision."  I am postponing that discussion for now but will address it very soon.)

As I was reviewing one of the group discussions on LinkedIn this morning I saw the question posted regarding advice on how to build a high performing team.  This is every project managers’ biggest challenge and greatest opportunity.  There is so much to share and explore on this topic so I will focus on just a few essentials to get started.  I will briefly address the following topics and expand on them in future blogs:
·        Looking in the mirror
·        Servant-leadership
·        Creating a vision
·        Stages of team development
·        Leadership styles and approaches
·        Habits of effective leaders
Looking in the Mirror:
First and of utmost importance in building a high performing team is to look in the mirror…yes, that means at yourself.  A gathering of individuals will never become high performing, a highly productive unit, unless the leader is high performing or at least open to learning and developing skills required of a leader.  Many people think they are leaders but in reality no one is following.   What does it take to get people to follow you?  Why would anyone want to follow you?  Advice…don’t focus first on “how do I mold this group into a high performing team” but rather on “what do I need to do to be an effective leader?”  So let’s start with you as the leader and later we will move onto the team members and their role in becoming a high performing team.
People want a leader who has vision and is worthy of earning their trust and respect.   A leader earns trust by giving trust, by being trustworthy, through consistency, follow-through, and by setting the example.  Establishing rapport and building relationships are essential.  As the expression goes, people will care when they know you care.  See it is about you first…getting your house in order before creating marching orders for others.  This requires personal reflection and an honest assessment of your ability to earn the trust and respect of others.  How do you earn trust and respect; how do you build rapport; how will people know you care?  Hmm…some good questions for reflection.   Let’s take a look at some strategies and practices that will help answer those questions.
Have you heard the expression servant-leadership?  Are you familiar with this concept?  It is a leadership philosophy and practice that has been around for centuries.  The term itself was coined in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf  to describe a leader who gives priority attention to the team members, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders to whom they serve.  The servant-leader’s emphasis is not on increasing their own power but on increasing the growth and development of individuals in the organization as well as increasing teamwork, personal involvement, and accountability.  They use collaboration, trust, communication, compassion, and the ethical use of power to lead and serve others better.  Becoming a servant-leader requires self-awareness, a desire to serve others, and a commitment to lead. 
Creating a Vision: 

How can you get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going?  Ever get in your car and just drive with no destination in mind?  If you are a sailor, do you set sail without charting a course?  Probably not!  However, in my experience I have witnessed many “leaders” (so called leaders) who will embark on a project without creating and sharing a clear vision with the team.  I have seen and heard from many project managers who are stuck, with their team, in conflict and confusion and have no idea of how they got there.  Vision sets the direction and having a shared-vision ensures everyone is going in the same direction TOGETHER.  One of the exercises I recommend to teams stuck in “storming” is to have everyone write on a post-it note what they think the vision is for the project.  The responses can be eye–opening and will explain a lot about why the team is struggling to make progress. 
Stages of Team Development:  

If you want to be an effective leader and mold a group of individuals into a highly productive team you MUST understand the stages of team development.  These stages are predictable and necessary and all teams will go through them to become high performing.  The predictable stages are Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning.  This is also called the Tuckman Model.  At each stage of team development the leader can expect to see and experience certain behaviors and attitudes from the team members.  And there are certain things that must be addressed at each of these stages.  The leader’s understanding of the stages of team development and ability to navigate successfully, by employing the appropriate leadership approach and techniques, will determine the level of success the team has moving forward. 
Leadership Styles and Approaches: 

A number of years ago, back in the 80’s I believe, Ken Blanchard developed his model called Situational Leadership II.  I have had the privilege of teaching his material and highly recommend it to all in leadership positions.  Essentially situational leadership says that there is no one right leadership style to use in every situation.  That makes sense, intuitively, but the reality is that most people tend to use only one or two styles of leadership in all situations.  The majority do so because they know no better.  For example, ever had a boss who delegates everything, regardless of your level of understanding or expertise, because he or she couldn’t walk you through it if they tried?  Situational leadership describes four leadership styles and ties them to the stages of team and individual development.  Those styles are:  Directing (also may be referred to as telling or tasking), Coaching (steering), Supporting (encouraging), and Delegating (entrusting).  Using the appropriate style in the appropriate situation will facilitate and enable your team to achieve desired results.  Using an inappropriate leadership style will in fact hinder your team from being successful.  It will hold them back and result in frustration, mistrust, and confusion. 
Habits of Effective Leaders: 

If you haven’t read Stephen Covey’s book entitled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, 1989) then let me recommend it now.  If you have and it was a while ago, pick it up again.  Those 7 Habits are timeless and essential habits of an effective leader. 
Habit #1 is Be Proactive.  Bottom line it means have a plan.  Without a plan you can plan to fail.  We should be creating effective solutions and not spending our time in reactionary mode putting out fires.
Habit #2 is Begin With the End in Mind.  This goes back to having a vision, a set direction so everyone will be on the same page.  Without clear direction your team will surely get lost and again will encounter frustration, mistrust, and confusion.
Habit #3 is Put First Things First.  Covey followed up the 7 Habits book with a book entitled First Things First (Simon & Schuster, 1994) This is about prioritizing and putting the important things first.  Anyone struggling with time management issues (which is almost everyone) will benefit greatly by following this quadrant approach to setting priorities.  A team will struggle without having a clear sense of priorities.
Habit #4 is Think Win-Win.  To be a successful high performing team you must collaborate and work together to meet common and shared goals and objectives to achieve the vision and mission of the project.
Habit #5 is Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.  As a leader you must do more listening and seeking to understand the other party’s needs and expectations.  Ask open-ended probing questions, listen actively, and seek to understand the interests (basic human needs; Maslow) of the other person. 
Habit #6 is Synergize.  Leaders don’t have all the answers and they recognize that.  They engage others in joint problem-solving and joint decision making.  Respect, trust and rapport are built through engaging others and respecting their input.
Habit #7 is Sharpen the Saw.  Some leaders may be “born leaders” but most are not.  Most are individuals who are committed to building their skill sets and developing their people or team members.  This takes us back to where we started…reflection, looking in the mirror to see what skills, knowledge, abilities, desires and habits it will take for you to become an effective leader worthy of being followed.  What does the (wo)man in the mirror look like…would you follow him/her?

Look for expanded discussions on the topics above in future blogs...including developing a "shared vision."
For more information on Situational Leadership visit http://www.kenblanchard.com/.  And for offerings by Stephen Covey go to http://www.stephencovey.com/ 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey day is here...certainly my favorite meal of the year.  Thank goodness most of my family likes the dark meat, I prefer the white.  Today is a day to give thanks and count our blessings.  As I said in my blog yesterday, Thanksgiving should become a habit and not something we celebrate only one day a year.

Tomorrow is "Black Friday," a crazy shopping day and the official start of  the holiday shopping season. I personally stay home on the day after Thanksgiving, too many people and too much traffic for me.  (And I am an extrovert!)  The next 30 days is the ultimate push for materialism.  Wouldn't it be nice if instead of giving more stuff to people who already have too much stuff that we gave to those in need.  Here are some ideas of things you can do to give back this holiday season:

  • Give money to the Salvation Army to feed the homeless during the holidays
  • Make a donation to your favorite charity in the name of a friend or loved one
  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen
  • Actually give to the "bell ringers" outside of WalMart and other stores (isn't that Salvation Army?)
  • Buy a cow, goat, chickens, trees, seeds, or other items through the Heifer project/Heifer International at http://www.heifer.com/
  • Buy a bag of groceries and take to a family in need or give to your church to donate
  • Send a care package to the troops overseas
  • Donate coats, hats, gloves, and/or scarves to a local homeless shelter
  • Invite a family over for the holidays who may not be able to afford to cook the turkey, ham, and all the trimmings
  • Buy a turkey or ham and donate it to an organization that distributes food to families in need
  • Purchase and deliver a Christmas tree to a family who cannot afford the cost of a tree
  • Contact your church (or a local church if you do not attend one) and see if they can give you the name of a family to adopt for the holidays
  • Volunteer to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity
  • If you knit or crochet, make gloves for our soldiers (my aunt did that last year)
  • If you are a handyman, help a single mother or an elderly person do house repairs or basic maintenance
  • Help a single mother or the elderly decorate their house for the holiday; put up the tree, hang the outside lights, etc.
I am sure if I keep thinking I could come up with many other suggestions and I am sure you have plenty of ideas of your own.  There are so many wonderful charities out there who could use not only your money to help those in need but your time as well.  Here are some of my favorite charites (in no particular order):

  • Make a Wish Foundation
  • Special Olympics
  • St. Jude's Childrens Hospital
  • Heifer Project
  • Canine Companions
  • Local Animal Shelters (Don't forget the animals...a great place to adopt a cat or dog for your children)
  • Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue (serving Eastern North Carolina...many rescue groups nationwide serving your local area)
  • Salvation Army
  • American Red Cross
  • Women's Shelter of Wake County (check your local listings for a shelter in your area)
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Any organization serving the military service men and women and their families
Your generous donation of time and/or money will be a blessing to you and to others.  Celebrate the season as it should be, by giving back to those in need...spend wisely!  Happy Holidays

(In my next blog I will get back to the topic of creating a "shared vision")