Selling an Idea

…is often like selling someone a meal when they’re not hungry. You’re offering a solution to a problem they don’t have…yet. But what if you could create a version of the future so compelling, so interesting and legacy driven that you could gain enrollment to go there? And what if you could take responsibility for getting past the obstacles that stand in the way? What if you did the heavy lifting?

Big ideas often come with hard work and risk. But they are necessary for meaningful change. Your job isn’t to sell the idea. It’s to lead the charge to get there.  

A Culture of Help

Your goals aren’t nearly as important as the ones of the people around you.

A posture of generous and caring commitment to people on your team is the most effective way, perhaps the only way, to fulfilling your own dreams…because people naturally want to help those that help. 

Leading change is really hard to do on your own. Gaining enrollment from others may be even harder…unless you commit to seeing them first.

Common Ground

It doesn’t mean you need to agree on everything or even some things to co-exist. But it does mean you need to share the same point of view about what’s on offer when you’re seeking to change it together. People use different filters to process information and form conclusions. And it’s okay and totally expected they will arrive at different points of view on the same subject. The challenge isn’t to ignore everyone with a different perspective. It’s to recognize they exist, see them, understand them and then decide where you have common ground to do productive and meaningful work together.

Unexpected Small Delights

The great American statesman Henry Clay captured this sentiment perfectly: “Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.”

I’ve noticed in my thirty-five years of innkeeping that it’s almost always the small acts which impact people the most, both guests and staff. It’s particularly meaningful when you stop to focus on them when you hadn’t planned on it, when you’re hurried…when it’s the most inconvenient. At this point it’s no longer a task…it’s a gift. The result…wow, you did that just for me.

When you don’t have the time…take the time. Caring matters.

Why Selection is So Important

Outside of establishing your cause and the culture you seek, choosing those that will join you on the journey is the most important act. Selecting people who are enrollable...people aligned with your values, who have similar world views and who are willing to make the same sacrifices as you is critical to the eventual outcome. The wrong choices will waste time, cause friction and drain the life out of the project. This has nothing to do with completing assignments, working hard or making things happen through authority. That becomes necessary when you haven’t chosen well…when people who can’t see it your way, who don’t believe what you believe, insist on hanging around. And when they do, they resort to commander tactics because that’s what’s left when you aren’t able to get someone to fall in love with an idea…which it turns out is so hard to do when you don’t believe.

Find people who believe what you believe…the work is so much easier when everyone wants to lift. 

Sorry About That

Perhaps the most powerful words one can utter or write. The power comes from taking responsibility…shifting it from someone else to you…being on the hook. But it goes beyond power…it’s a gift. It’s an offering of freedom and peace from worry…worry about being blamed, worry about lowered status, worry about financial impact and so on.  And it comes without expectation, without quid pro quo. It’s not a transaction, it’s an act of generosity. If it comes with strings, it’s not an apology…it’s merely a deposit in a zero sum game. And the withdrawal is inevitable.

Conflicting Ideas

vs. being conflicted.

A conflict of ideas is a good thing...different outcomes, more possibilities, often leading to compromise or a new idea altogether. It’s a welcomed beginning. Conflict within a team, partnership or even with yourself however is a deep rooted problem which prevents constructive analysis of opposing ideas. The lack of trust, empathy and fear of uncertain outcomes undermines the chance to work together to solve problems and consider options. Too often we mistake personal conflict as idea conflict and work to create compromise or simply to choose one to move things along. Managers choose, often through compromise. But ultimately, they decide. Of course this leaves one or more sides unhappy...leading to more conflict. Alternatively, a leader focuses first on the root issue, resolving conflict by restoring or building trust, teaching the value of generosity and seeing alternative points of view. At this point conflicting ideas are no longer seen as a problem, as an obstacle to get past so one can win out over the other, but rather as a range of possibilities for an even better outcome. A group who trusts each other and is enrolled around a central cause now sorts it out themselves. Of course leadership like this takes longer and requires more effort. But the results exponentially expand the universe of possibility.

The Wave

Harley riders wave to other Harley riders. Same for Mini Cooper drivers and Aston Martin’s. 

We see you…and we respect your choice. People like us drive vehicles like this. We care about uniqueness, out of the ordinary and most of all the feeling we have when someone acknowledges us for our decision.

This sort of wave is beyond an act of kindness. But it’s reserved for those willing to live on the fringe. It’s not found in the mass market middle or in the ordinary. While there’s nothing wrong with the middle and the safety that comes with it, that choice doesn’t garner the same type of respect and acknowledgment as an outlier…one who seeks to be different.

Change doesn’t happen without those seeking to make it. Thank you for being one of them. And here’s a wave to you…for making life interesting. 


People confuse leadership with authority. They say they want to get a promotion so they can lead. But what they really want is authority...to be able to tell someone what to do. They want control…to be the boss. They want this for status and to earn more money. And almost all organizations are set up this way…people in charge, managing other people to produce outcomes more efficiently. The better you fit into the system, the more successful you become and in turn you receive more authority. And the cycle continues. But this has nothing at all to do with leadership. Leadership isn’t reserved for people with direct control over another. It has nothing to do with giving instructions. Leadership requires vision for change, the ability to enroll people in a cause and the desire to take responsibility when something doesn’t work out as planned. It means you’re on the hook. Authority comes with a system, a structure that’s on the hook. There are always systems and other people to blame when it doesn’t work.

I haven’t met many people who want more people telling them what to do and exactly how to do it. Alternatively, I meet a lot of people who want to go somewhere exciting, create a legacy and be a part of something bigger than themselves. Seems logical then that we need more leadership and less authority. So who to promote…choose wisely.

The Art of Selection

The hardest part about selecting someone to join your team is dealing with the non-selection. It’s easy to celebrate with the victor…the one that made it. The hard work is teaching the others…explaining why they didn’t make the cut. And more importantly how they can prepare...what specifically they can do to change the outcome next time.  

Authority includes the power to choose. Because in the end, the leader is accountable when it doesn’t work. But authority also comes with the duty to teach and to help people achieve their dreams. This requires a specific vision, enrollment by everyone in that vision and empathy for those that can’t achieve it. Because if there’s a chance someone can get there next time…great leaders ensure they do.

What is Experience For?

The first time you drive a car it’s quite nerve racking. After a few years of experience that fear goes away…until something unpredictable happens. Now it’s new…experience is minimized…what to do next? After twenty years, after dealing with a lot of unexpected situations, there’s far less fear when something out of the ordinary occurs. Now we have experience handling the unpredictable and solving problems in an instant. We’re more comfortable with the discomfort.

Experience is mission critical when life safety is at stake. Heart surgeons and airline pilots spend years training to handle the unexpected. They earn a premium for their ability to calmly handle things when they don’t go as planned. That’s why there are Chief Surgeons and Captains…they have the most experience and we need them around in the most uncomfortable situations to lead us through. Passengers aren't worried about how much the airline captain earns when the landing gear doesn’t deploy properly.

But experience also counts in other work. No matter how much the band has practiced, the tension is quite high before the first concert. Because unlike practice, the stakes change once someone is counting on you..expecting a certain outcome. The same band, playing the same music, is much more at ease after the fiftieth concert. At this point, they’ve felt the fear of the first notes, and the pressure of expectation so often, they can dance with it because they know it’s coming. They know that an amp is going to fail at some point and what that feels like. They know people are going to respond differently, maybe even a boo or two…and they know what that feels like. And they know what it feels like to get to the other side…to lead through the choppy water. 

Experience allows us to become comfortable with uncertainty and give comfort to others by demonstrating that we know what we are doing…especially when the wheels fall off.

Experience creates comfort…and makes room for improv and art.

Top of the Org Chart

is reserved for people who…

  • teach
  • take responsibility
  • give credit
  • create enrollment (to do something which might not work)
  • help others solve problems
  • establish and lead cultural change 

Turns out you can do all of this without being on the top. At this juncture it’s a choice. But once other people count on you...it’s a duty. Please don’t let them down.

The Stalemate of the Suggestion Box

Top Management

We would love to hear your ideas…bring ‘em on.

Middle Management

We don’t like new ideas because we already have too much work to do…and their isn’t anything in it for us.


Why bother, nothing ever happens anyway.

The only way to solve this is to gain enrollment in the purpose of the idea by everyone involved. Everyone needs to have skin in the game (share in the risk if it doesn’t work) and be rewarded when it comes to fruition. This requires leadership by someone to create a meaningful vision (to create the enrollment) and to gain participation by everyone to do the required heavy lifting. 

Leadership isn’t reserved for those with titles…and either are the most effective ideas.

Earning More...the Value of Leadership

You can earn more by doing more and faster while meeting spec. The industrial era created value through higher productivity. The fallacy of this approach for the worker is it will only lead them so far…until someone else or some other more productive method replaces them. The other option for higher pay is based on risk and being accountable when things don’t go well…leadership.

Taking responsibility deserves a premium. The pressure of leading change and being accountable requires special skills, no matter if it’s for a team of three or four thousand. The value of the outcome and the risk associated with the journey should be the basis of the payment, not the authority to tell others what to do. 

A Leader's Job Description

  1. Create a culture of remarkable work…in the organization, in the department or the team. Treat each product, craft or service as an opportunity to create a legacy.
  2. Protect the group’s core values (the culture) by choosing team members wisely.
  3. Lead the charge of solving interesting problems as they arise and teach others to do the same.

Some Thoughts on Leadership

Leadership- to create a culture of causing delight and change (improvement)

Why Lead?- What would be missed if you were gone? What do you hope to change? Who will you enroll to go with you? What is your legacy?


  • Take responsibility- This might not work
  • Establish a hospitality and change oriented culture
  • Are highly intuitive. They notice things (that need to be changed). And can see an outcome which will cause delight.
  • Care enough to leap...to try something that might not work.
  • Recognize they can’t do it alone.

Leaders are people who inspire and enroll others on their journey. They are...

  • Artists- Not all artists are great leaders. But all leaders are artists. They are emotionally engaged in their work...beyond the transaction.
  • Craftsmen- they create something (from nothing) and take responsibility for things that might not work.
  • Improvisors- they seek the discomfort of handling the unexpected and enjoy the exchanges along an unknown path.
  • Innkeepers- they are in the hospitality business...causing delight through pleasant surprises and serving others in a meaningful way.

Leadership Attitude

It’s simple in concept...
  • Surround yourself with high levels of aptitude
  • Generously give others the credit
  • Take responsibility…put yourself out there to be ultimately accountable.
I’ve never met a great leader who didn’t embody these qualities. And more importantly, I’ve never met anyone who acts this way that isn’t a great leader…no matter their title.
Really hard to execute…but it starts with a mindset, a world view that this attitude is what it takes to lead and to make change.

Does a Leader Care?

If you think about Seth's recent post about loving customers in the context of leadership, a leader has two customers. There' s the external customer who ends up paying for the experience. And then there's the internal customer, the staff...all the people under the leader's care.

I've seen many managers totally miss the point of "who serves who" inside the organization. They have this idea that employees are there to serve them, to do what they say and follow their "lead". Great leaders recognize the opposite is true. They know they are there to serve everyone else, to inspire, to remove obstacles, to comfort, to teach...to create leaders.

Best plan for a leader is to always treat employees like customers. Failure leads to distrust, disgruntlement and finding someone else to buy from.