Leaders Guide: Building Better Foremen through Questions

The best foremen plan work, anticipate problems and Leadersissues before they escalate. But inexperienced foremen are usually reactive. How can we develop our young leaders and teach them to think ahead? At Humanus Solutions, we believe the best way to develop leaders is to teach them habits – ways of thinking and acting – that produce results.

One of the best habits a frontline leader can learn is asking themselves a few, key questions throughout the day: What’s the plan for my crew? What do I need to do to set them up for success? What will we do if the plan falls through? If we can get inexperienced leaders in the habit of asking these questions, they will become better leaders rapidly.

Author James Clear says there are “three R’s to habit change”: reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior), routine (the behavior itself; the action you take), reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior). 

We believe that creating habits in groups requires “three E’s of change”: engagement (involving people in making the plan), expectations (making sure the bosses will hold people to account), example (making sure the bosses walk-the-talk) and encouragement (making sure the bosses praise good performance).

Five steps to getting your foremen to ask good questions every day.

Step 1: Engage the bosses. Tell your superintendents and general foremen what you’re up to. Ask them:

  • How are we doing developing our young foremen? Are you satisfied with their progress?
  • If we could teach foremen to ask themselves a few questions every day, what would you want them to think about?
  • Would this be useful to you? Can I count on your support rolling this out?

Step 2: Engage the foremen. Set aside thirty to forty-five minutes at your next foremen’s meeting. (Have flip charts and markers available.) Start by explaining the idea: 

The best field leaders are always thinking ahead, planning work and removing obstacles before they stop work. That skill takes a while to master, but each of us can get in the habit of asking ourselves a few questions to help think ahead, plan and see problems sooner.

Ask: Think about the best foremen you know…

  • What questions do they ask themselves at the start of each day?
  • What questions do they ask themselves during the day?
  • What questions do they ask themselves at the end of the day?

(The goal is to have the foremen own this, so resist the temptation to help them out too much! Draw out their ideas by saying, “Interesting… tell me more… what else… what do the rest of you say?”)

Ask: Let’s pick two or three from each list (start, middle, end of shift)…

  • Which question would have the biggest payoff if we each asked it every day?

Ask: Let’s get specific: when should we ask ourselves these questions? 

  • What’s something we each do in the morning that can be our trigger to ask these questions? 
  • What’s the right time in the middle of the shift? What’s our trigger?
  • What about the end of the day? When’s the right time… what’s the trigger?

(Again, the goal is to have the foremen own the plan, so let them choose the triggers! Your job is to make sure they are specific moments that occur each day.)

Ask: what do you think? 

  • Can we all commit to trying this for one week?
  • The other bosses and I will be following up with each of you… can we count on you to do it? 

Step 3: Run a one-week experiment.After the meeting ends, write down the questions and the triggers and send them out to all team members. Send via email, text message, paper copies… make it impossible for people to say, “Oh, I didn’t know… no one explained it to me.”

Follow-up by talking to foremen each and every day. Get the superintendents and general foremen to follow-up. Make it a point to ask foremen about it relentlessly for a week or so:

  • How’s it going with the “question exercise” we talked about? Are you doing it?
  • If not: Why? What’s getting in the way? How can I help? Let’s do it together, right now!
  • If yes: Fantastic! Thank you! How has this been useful to you? Can you help get others onboard?

Step 4: Re-engage the foremen. Debrief the experiment at your next foremen’s meeting.

Ask: How did it go?

  • What did you find useful about this exercise?
  • Are these the right questions? How can we make them better?
  • Are these the right triggers? How can we make them better?
  • What can the bosses do to help you continue to do this every day?
  • Can we count on you to do this every day next week too?

(Focus on building support for the idea. Instead of asking, “Did it work?” ask, “Tell me why this was helpful.” Instead of asking, “What didn’t go well?” ask, “How can we make this go better?”)

Step 5: Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. At this point, the success or failure of this venture hinges on one thing: you! So long as you make a point to ask about this every day… to talk about this every time you see a foremen, GF or superintendent… to praise people every time you see them planning, thinking ahead and solving problems in advance… this will stick.


  • Do the foremen in your organization use daily logs or notebooks? Consider custom-printing notebooks with these questions and triggers printed on the back cover!
  • Do your foremen have cell phones? Consider using an SMS messaging service to send automated reminder messages during the day?
  • This works for leaders at all levels in all roles! What are the questions you want Project Engineers to ask themselves each and every day? What about the HR or Purchasing departments? Could this approach work for them too?

How can we help?

Humanus Solutions develops leaders, teams and routines that engage people and create breakthroughs. We provide development programs for front-line, mid-level and senior leaders, as well as executive coaching and leadership team facilitation. 

Give us a call and let’s discuss how you can develop the leaders your organization needs. Contact Andy Erickson on (206) 218-7962 or at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com

Teaching foremen to ask the right questions

The construction industry is facing a shortage of effective, seasoned frontline leaders. We need inexperienced foremen to become effective leaders… quickly! 

The best foremen plan work, anticipate problems and address team issues before they escalate. Inexperienced foremen are often a step behind, waiting for direction and reacting to problems after they occur. This means less productivity, lower morale and added work for superintendents.

At Humanus Solutions we believe leadership is a set of habits – ways of thinking and acting – that must be taught and reinforced each and every day.

Twelve Questions that Build Better Foremen

Young leaders cannot know the answer to every question – but if we train them to ask the right questions, they’re more likely to see trouble coming before it creates delays on the job.

Here are twelve questions we recommend foremen ask themselves each day:

In the morning, before the crew meeting:

  • What’s my crew’s goal for today? What, specifically will we get done?
  • Who am I counting on to achieve that goal? Have I given them clear instructions and specific expectations? 
  • What’s “plan-B” if we run into a roadblock?
  • If someone was going to get hurt today, how might it happen?

Just before going to lunch:

  • Are we on track to achieve our goal for today? What can I do to help?
  • What’s my crew’s goal for tomorrow? What can I do this afternoon to set us up for success? 
  • What’s something I can do motivate or teach someone on my crew this afternoon?
  • What can I do to support the least experienced person on my crew this afternoon?

Just before clocking out for the day:

  • Did we achieve our goal for today? If not, what could I have done differently?
  • What’s the hardest task we’ve got ahead of us in the next two weeks?
  • Do our work areas, equipment and toolboxes look professional and orderly?
  • Who did a good job today and how will I praise / appreciate them tomorrow?

Choosing the questions is less important than building the habit of asking good questions. If you want to try this with your team, be sure to engage them in coming up with the questions and the times to ask them. Be sure to engage superintendents and general foremen in the conversation. Most importantly, make sure to follow-up: and encourage, expect and praise young foremen for asking questions and taking action. 

Download our guide for building better foremen by teaching them to ask good questions: click HERE.

Interested in learning more? Ready to accelerate the development of your frontline leaders? Contact Andy Erickson on (206) 218-7962 or at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

By Chip and Dan Heath


We all have defining moments in our lives—meaningful experiences that stand out in our memory. Many of them owe a great deal to chance:  But is that true? Must our defining moments just happen to us? Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors of them.

We have two goals: First, we want to examine defining moments and identify the traits they have in common. What, specifically, makes a particular experience memorable and meaningful? Second, we want to show you how you can create defining moments by making use of those elements.

When we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions. The point here is simple: Some moments are vastly more meaningful than others.

A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful… we have found that defining moments are created from one or more of the following four elements:

  • ELEVATION: Defining moments rise above the everyday.
  • INSIGHT: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world.
  • PRIDE: Defining moments capture us at our best—moments of achievement, moments of courage.
  • CONNECTION: Defining moments are social:

Defining moments often spark positive emotion—we’ll use “positive defining moments” and “peaks” interchangeably throughout the book—but there are categories of negative defining moments, too, such as moments of pique: experiences of embarrassment or embitterment that cause people to vow, “I’ll show them!” There’s another category that is all too common: moments of trauma, which leave us heartbroken and grieving.

This is a book about the power of moments and the wisdom of shaping them.

Thinking in Moments

What was your first day like at your current (or most recent) job? Is it fair to say that it was not a defining moment?  The lack of attention paid to an employee’s first day is mind-boggling. What a wasted opportunity to make a new team member feel included and appreciated.  To avoid this kind of oversight, we must understand when special moments are needed. We must learn to think in moments, to spot the occasions that are worthy of investment.

Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled. That’s the essence of thinking in moments.

Moments of Elevation

To elevate a moment, do three things: First, boost sensory appeal. Second, raise the stakes. Third, break the script.  Moments of elevation need not have all three elements but most have at least two.

Boosting sensoryappeal is about “turning up the volume” on reality. Things look better or taste better or sound better or feel better than they usually do. Weddings have flowers and food and music and dancing.  It’s amazing how many times people actually wear different clothes to peak events: graduation robes and wedding dresses and home-team colors.

To raise the stakesis to add an element of productive pressure: a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public commitment.  One simple diagnostic to gauge whether you’ve transcended the ordinary is if people feel the need to pull out their cameras. If they take pictures, it must be a special occasion.  What lessens a moment are the opposite instincts: diminishing the sensory appeal or lowering the stakes.

Beware the soul-sucking force of “reasonableness.” Otherwise you risk deflating your peaks.  One reason it’s hard is that it’s usually no one’s job to create a peak.  It’s no one’s job, and it’s a hassle, and there’s always something happening that seems more urgent.

Breaking the scriptisn’t just surprise, it’s strategic surprise. The most memorable periods of our lives are times when we break the script.  Break the script consistently enough that it matters—but not so consistently that customers adapt to it? One solution is to introduce a bit of randomness.

Moments that break the script are critical for organizational change. They provide a demarcation point between the “old way” and the “new way.”

Moments of Insight

Tripping over the truth is an insight that packs an emotional wallop. When you have a sudden realization, one that you didn’t see coming, and one that you know viscerally is right, you’ve tripped over the truth. It’s a defining moment that in an instant can change the way you see the world.

This three-part recipe—a (1) clear insight (2) compressed in time and (3) discovered by the audience itself—provides a blueprint for us when we want people to confront uncomfortable truths.

Imagine that you have a good idea that you want other people to support. What would you do? You’d try to sell them on it. Your focus, in other words, would be on the virtues of the solution. You can’t appreciate the solution until you appreciate the problem. So when we talk about “tripping over the truth,” we mean the truth about a problem or harm. That’s what sparks sudden insight.

Self-insight rarely comes from staying in our heads. Research suggests that reflecting or ruminating on our thoughts and feelings is an ineffective way to achieve true understanding. Studying our own behavior is more fruitful.

Moments of Pride

Recognize Others.  Of all the ways we can create moments of pride for others, the simplest is to offer them recognition.  The importance of recognition to employees is inarguable. But here’s the problem: While recognition is a universal expectation, it’s not a universal practice.

Wiley sums up the research: “More than 80 per cent of supervisors claim they frequently express appreciation to their subordinates, while less than 20 per cent of the employees report that their supervisors express appreciation more than occasionally.” Call it the recognition gap.

Corporate leaders are aware of this inadequacy, and their response has generally been to create recognition programs, like Employee of the Month awards or annual banquets recognizing star performers.  First, the scale is all wrong. When we talk about the need to recognize employees, we’re not aiming for one employee per month! The proper pace of recognition is weekly or even daily, not monthly or yearly.  Second, the mulish formality of the program can breed cynicism.

Recognition experts have advice on how to escape this trap. For formal recognition programs, they recommend using objective measurements, such as sales volume, to protect against cynicism.

The larger point is that most recognition should be personal, not programmatic.  The recognition is spontaneous—not part of a scheduled feedback session—and it is targeted at particular behaviors.  Effective recognition makes the employee feel noticed for what they’ve done. Managers are saying, “I saw what you did and I appreciate it.”

Expressing gratitudepleases the recipient of the praise, of course, but it can also have a boomerang effect, elevating the spirits of the grateful person.  This disjunction—a small investment that yields a large reward—is the defining feature of recognition.

Multiply Milestones.  Executives tend to set goals that sound like this: Grow revenues to $20 billion by 2020! A numerical goal plus supporting plans. Notice what that combination leaves us with: A destination that is not inherently motivating and that lacks meaningful milestones along the way.

A wise leader can look for milestones en route to a larger goal.  To identify milestones like these, ask yourself: What’s inherently motivating? (What would be worth celebrating that might only take a few weeks or months of work? What’s a hidden accomplishment that is worth surfacing and celebrating? 

Hitting a milestone sparks pride. It should also spark a celebration—a moment of elevation. We’re not stuck with just one finish line. By multiplying milestones, we transform a long, amorphous race into one with many intermediate “finish lines.” As we push through each one, we experience a burst of pride as well as a jolt of energy to charge toward the next one.

Practice Courage.  When people make advance mental commitments—if X happens, then I will do Y—they are substantially more likely to act in support of their goals than people who lack those mental plans.

In most organizations, employees won’t be called on to deal with situations this grave, but at some point everyone will face an anxiety-making conversation. How do you stand up to a dictatorial boss? How do you say “no” to an important customer? How do you fire an employee who might lash out? How do you lay off a loyal employee whose role is no longer needed?

Moments of Connection

Create Shared Meaning.  How do you design moments that knit groups together? Create a synchronized moment, invite shared struggle, and connect to meaning.

 “Reasonable” voices in your organization will argue against synchronizing moments. It’s too expensive to get everyone together. Too complicated. Couldn’t we just jump on a webinar? Couldn’t we just send the highlights via email? Remote contact is perfectly suitable for day-to-day communication and collaboration.But a big moment needs to be shared in person.The presence of others turns abstract ideas into social reality.

If you want to be part of a group that bonds like cement, take on a really demanding task that’s deeply meaningful. All of you will remember it for the rest of your lives.

To create moments of connection, we can bring people together for a synchronizing moment. We can invite them to share in a purposeful struggle. The final strategy centers on connecting them to a larger sense of meaning.

Sometimes it’s useful to keep asking, “Why?” Why do you do what you do? It might take several “Whys” to reach the meaning.

You know you’re finished when you reach the contribution. Who is the beneficiary of your work, and how are you contributing to them?

When you understand the ultimate contribution you’re making, it allows you to transcend the task list.

Deepen Ties.  What is it about certain moments that deepen our ties to others?  Our relationships are stronger when we perceive that our partners are responsive to us.

Responsiveness encompasses three things: 

  • Understanding: My partner knows how I see myself and what is important to me. 
  • Validation: My partner respects who I am and what I want. 
  • Caring: My partner takes active and supportive steps in helping me. 

If we want more moments of connection, we need to be more responsive to others.

Responsiveness doesn’t necessarily lead to intimacy.  When responsiveness is coupled with openness, though, intimacy can develop quickly. One person reveals something and waits to see if the other person will share something back. The reciprocity, if it comes, is a sign of understanding, validation, and caring. An unresponsive partner terminates the reciprocity, freezing the relationship.

Relationships don’t deepen naturally. In the absence of action, they will stall. 

Making Moments Matter

Once you realize how important moments can be, it’s easy to spot opportunities to shape them. That’s how we imagine you using the ideas in this book. Target a specific moment and then challenge yourself: How can I elevate it? In the short term, we prioritize fixing problems over making moments, and that choice usually feels like a smart trade-off. But over time, it backfires.  This is what we hope you take away from this book: Stay alert to the promise that moments hold.

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip and Dan Heath

Seventeen questions about “small moves” that cause “big change”

At Humanus Solutions we offer a one-day Align and Commit Workshop to jump-start culture change efforts by getting everyone engaged in making a few small but high-leverage changes in daily behavior. We accomplish this by inviting all field leaders to participate: we usually ask for “foremen and above”. 

You can do this yourself by engaging your team in the right conversations. Here are seventeen conversation-worthy questions to help you get started.

Getting the right people involved:

  • Who has the most influence on the way other people think, feel and act?
  • Which positions or roles “cast the longest shadow” – affect the experience of others?
  • Which individuals to team-members look to and follow – due to their seniority, personality, experienced, etc.?

Getting committed to the change:

  • What’s the change we need to make? Why is it important? What’s at stake?
  • Why does this matter to you as a person (rather than a manager or supervisor)?
  • Pretend you’re explaining this to your spouse or kids – how would you describe what we’re up to and why it’s important?

Getting aligned on a critical few “moves”:

  • If a miracle happened and this change happened overnight, how would we know? What would we see the next morning that would indicate something had changed?
  • What do we want people to do differently (focus on visible actions)?
  • Who are the “bright spots” in our organization – the people who don’t have this problem? What do they do differently (focus on visible actions)?
  • What’s a small, visible action we can each take, every day, to demonstrate our commitment and encourage others to change?

Getting aligned on a critical few “rituals”:

  • What are the activities, meetings, processes that involve the most people, the most often? Which meetings do we have every day or every week? 
  • Which activities involve all employees (e.g. orientations, town-hall meetings, etc.)
  • How can we use these activities to promote this change?
  • If this change were the most important thing around here, how would we do these activities differently?

Follow through:

  • How’s it going with the “moves” and “rituals” we discussed?
  • What have you learned from this process?
  • Who are you bringing along or engaging in this process?

Interested in learning more? Ready to get your team Aligned and Committed to making big changes through small moves? We’re ready to help. 

This article first appeared on www.humanus-solutions.com

About the author: Andy Erickson is a fouder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com


Align and commit: getting everyone into action

Culture change isn’t easy, but sometimes we make it harder than it needs to be. Managers often resort to “big” change programs when what’s needed is sustained change in “small” behaviors.

At Humanus Solutions we offer a one-day Align and Commit Workshop to jump-start culture change efforts by getting everyone engaged in making a few small but high-leverage changes in daily behavior.

In order for a “small moves” to have a “big effect”, they must meet a few criteria. 

  • Visible. As leaders, our actions, not our words, tell people what we value and expect. We help leaders influence others through behaviors that others will see.
  • Frequent. One-off gestures don’t shift culture – daily, routine behaviors do. We work with clients to find “moves” they can do any time in any place.
  • Simple. The best moves are the ones that you’ll do – so we remind clients to keep it simple. We help them find moves that they can pickup easily – and teach to others.
  • Scalable. For change to take hold, the “move” must be do-able by anyone and everyone in the organization, regardless of rank or role.

Examples of “small moves” that have made a “big difference” for our clients: shaking hands with each team-member at the start of shift meeting, introducing yourself to someone every day, asking someone a specific question once per day, parking where employees park and using the same gate they do, walking in the workplace and talking to people every day, setting up one-on-one meetings with each team member.

Pro-tip: picking the right “move” matters less than getting the right people involved! We accomplish this in our Align and Commit Workshops by inviting all field leaders to participate: we usually ask for “foremen and above”. Once we’ve got leaders together, we take them through four candid, no-holds barred conversations:

  1. Why are we doing this? What’s the change we’re committed to making and why does it matter to us?
  2. How can we demonstrate this commitment through our daily actions? What visible, frequent and easy behaviors will we all take on each and every day?
  3. How can we leverage our team’s regular activities and meetings? Which meetings will we use to engage people and promote the change we’re making?
  4. How will we support each other, hold each other to account and follow-through?

The result? “Soft” skills become easy to discuss – leaders no longer need to urge team members to “be” differently; instead they can focus on doing the moves we agreed to take on. Progress becomes easier to measure – we no longer have to wait for next year’s employee survey to see if changes have occurred; we can see people behaving differently (or not) each day. And the process starts quickly – rather than spending months studying the issue and designing a change program, an Align and Commit Workshop can be planned and conducted in within a few weeks.

Interested in learning more? Ready to get your team Aligned and Committed to making big changes through small moves? We’re ready to help. 

This article first appeared on www.humanus-solutions.com

About the author: Andy Erickson is a fouder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com


Changing culture through “small moves”

Culture change programs are often complex efforts involving surveys, reports, leadership retreats, training programs and communication campaigns. But what if there was another way? What if culture change didn’t require a program but could be effected through our daily, business-as-usual activities?

Organizational culture occurs in the everyday interaction between team members, in the small decisions we make, in the things people see, do, say and think as they go about their work. Why not tackle culture change by working at this level? Instead of “going big” in our change efforts, let’s “go small” and start now.

At Humanus Solutions we work with clients to identify a critical few, high-leverage “moves” – actions they can take each day to promote the desired mindset, behavior and performance. We work with them to make small moves that have a big effect on organizational culture.

For example, want to create a breakthrough in worker safety? You could schedule hazard recognition training for all employees, design a “see-something-say-something” campaign and launch an incentive program focused on safety results. But that’s going to take a while. (And let’s be honest: did those ideas solve the problem last time you tried them?) What if you got each manager in the organization to make time every day to ask someone “what could go wrong on this task you’re doing?”

Worried about loss of seasoned leaders and the inexperience of young supervisors in your company? You could launch a multi-tiered leadership development curriculum and a process to identify and mentor “high-potential” employees. Those are good ideas. But in the mean time, what if you had a one-on-one meeting with each front-line supervisor in your organization and asked, “how are you doing and how can I help you?”

Want to reduce silos and increase collaboration within your organization? You might try re-organizing your team or re-design your offices to co-locate members of project teams. But while you’re making those plans, why not get everyone on your team to meet someone new each day – introducing themselves to others and learning something about their life away from work?

These “small moves” may not seem like much – but they have a great effect! They demonstrate what matters to you and set an example for others to follow. Best of all, they are simple to start and promote – anyone, at any level of the organization, can lead change through “small moves”.

Jerry Sternin once said, “It’s easier to act your way into new thinking, than think your way into new acting.” Next time you’re tempted to “go big” and launch a complex culture change effort, consider “going small” instead and adopting some daily “moves” to promote the change you want to see.

Interested in learning more? Ready to make big change with small moves? We’re ready to help.

About the author: Andy Erickson is a founder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com

You vs You: 12 Ways to Kick Your Own Ass and Win by Todd Cahill

Excerpts from

I want you to read this book and walk away knowing who you want to be, and feel equipped to become that person. I want you to divide and conquer the ultimate battle between your ears and win the head game. I believe the easiest way to do that is through reflection, inspection, and direction, so I break down each battle into three parts: Return, Redefine, and Repeat

  • RETURN: isolates the real issue. It requires you to admit where you are in the battle and how fighting it really affects you. 
  • REDEFINE: is exactly how it sounds. How can you think about the battle differently? If you redefine what it means, you can start to relinquish its power. 
  • REPEAT: is the choice you have to make every day to become the best you. You return to the issue, redefine its meaning, and then repeat the cycle over and over and over in order to keep winning. 

The bottom line is this: these bodies, minds, and spirits of ours are extraordinary things, in and of themselves. They are the most important tools we’ve been given. They were made to dream big. They were made to do great things. If we’re paying attention, we can see it happening every day all around us.


RETURN: Winning the battle between you and your persona takes, first and foremost, telling yourself the truth about you.  If we go beyond narcissism and judgment as the underlying reason people enjoy posting highlight reels, I think we’d find insecurity. The dreaded root of so much evil, insecurity is also the cause of the deep-seated shame about something we feel we lack followed by the deep-seated shame about having the shame

REDEFINE: Make a shift in your allegiance. Learn to love you more than the edited persona you’ve created. Everything about us—the good, the bad, the ugly—makes us who we are. What would happen if we embraced it all and projected that into the world? What if we all decided to cast aside our edited persona and chose instead to own our shortcomings and insecurities?

REPEAT: Winning the battle takes a concerted effort to stop spending time trying to impress others and instead spend it doing the things you are meant to do, the things that move you. Let’s choose to own exactly who we are and put it out there with no apologies. Let’s get out of our own way and dispel the myth that we have a glorified montage of a life. Let’s prefer to be rejected for who we are rather than loved for who we pretend to be.

TAKE ACTION: For the next five days, take the time to share with your close friends and family something they may not know about you, something that is authentically you, something that lets them get to know the real you even more.

Write down three things that encourage you to become your best self and three things that show how you will take action in doing what moves you daily.

Write five people a handwritten note or a personal message on social media complimenting them and letting them know that they inspire you. This will enable you to practice moving the attention off of yourself and instead spotlight the gifts and strengths in others. Make this a weekly practice moving forward.


RETURN: Winning the battle between you and your success requires that you first figure out what success actually means to you.  Once you know that within success there are always concessions—for everything you gain, you lose something—then the key to winning the battle is to pursue only the sort of success that requires trade-offs that don’t diminish the best you.

REDEFINE: Don’t think about it as failure. Think about it as time-released success.  The second law of thermodynamics states that in an isolated system (one that is not taking in energy), entropy never decreases. Translation: living beings (us) are constantly taking in energy (movement, life), which means we’re in a constant state of deterioration (entropy).  In order to offset the inevitable deterioration, as it pertains to failure and success, one must not stay still. Keep moving! Move along, move out, move over, move up, move on.

REPEAT: There is you and then there is your list of achievements. To ultimately win the battle, you can let what you’ve done refine you, but you cannot let it define you.  The best version of yourself is an accumulation of where you’ve been and where you’re going. Some days you feel armed and ready to take on the world, and other days you feel like all you’ve got is a wish and a prayer. You’re a balancing act and you’re doing a damn good job.

TAKE ACTION: Write down your definition of what success means to you. Define it in detail in your own words.

Write down some of your biggest failures over the past five years and describe what you learned from them.

For the next three days, meditate the first thing in the morning for five minutes and then do it again at midday.


TAKE ACTION: Write out your five-year vision statement. Write it as if you are already living it out, like it is already happening. (Note: Take the judge’s robe off when you do this. You need to be pulled by your vision statement, and it needs to really move you. I did this less than five years ago and one of my visions was to write a book. You are now reading my dream!)

  • What do you want to be in five years? 
  • What do you want to do in five years? 
  • What do you want to have in five years? 

Write down your current reality in the following areas of your life; be real with yourself. Then take 10 minutes to create a mental picture of where you are now and visualize where you want to be in each area:

  • Financial 
  • Spiritual 
  • Relationships 
  • Health 
  • Family


RETURN: We’re creatures of habit by nature. Yet deep down, we have a wanderlust that never quits.

REDEFINE: To win the battle between you and your routine, you must introduce disruption.  What do habits, rituals, and routines all have in common? Discipline. Highly successful people have it.  That doesn’t mean you always have to add something to your routine in order to improve; maybe it’s what you remove that could make the biggest difference. Warren Buffett said, “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” The moral of the story is to tinker. Gain, lose, adjust, change, stop, start.

REPEAT: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

TAKE ACTION: Out with the old—Isolate three habits in your life that are holding you back from your full potential and think about why. In with the new—Determine three great habits that you can implement for the next 30 days that will permanently divorce you from the habits that are holding you back. Write down a new daily routine that you can implement for the next seven days and stick to it.


REDEFINE: To win the battle between you and your calendar, you have to know how to balance what must be done with what might come up.

REPEAT: You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

TAKE ACTION: Slow down so that you can speed up your progress. What are the three ways in which you can eliminate hurry from your life today? Prioritize your life to be productive, not busy. What are some areas in your life that keep you “busy” but aren’t actually helping you get to the next level? Make time now for the things that really matter. Build your daily, weekly, and monthly plan to first make time for what truly matters and then fill in the rest. I have learned that when you make time for what matters most, all the other pieces in life begin to fall into place.


RETURN: The financial issues we face are ultimately not financial issues. They go deeper than that—they’re heart issues.

REDEFINE: To win the battle between you and your finances, you must figure out what you value and then look at how you go after those things.

REPEAT: When in doubt, remember: there are people so poor all they have is money.

TAKE ACTION: Define reality. What is your financial situation? Write it down. This is only way to create awareness. Awareness will lead to your choice to create lasting change in your life. Hope is not a strategy when it comes to your finances. Set a goal. Where do you want to be in the next 12 months? Money should never own you; you need to own it. List three things money does to better your life and the lives of those around you. What is your overall belief about money? Think about this question and answer it honestly. There is no right answer, only your real belief. How has your upbringing or past experience negatively affected the way you look at money? How will you change that?


RETURN: What consumes your mind, controls your life.

REDEFINE: Your ability to win the battle between you and your freedom hinges not only on how you view your freedom but also on how you choose to use it.

REPEAT: Instead of just using your freedom to develop into a better version of yourself, use it to develop others into better versions of themselves.

TAKE ACTION: Take inventory. What do you need freedom from? We are all trying to overcome something from our past. Grab a piece of paper and identify the negative thoughts and actions that have ruled your life up to this point. In order to move forward, you have to get gut-level real with what is holding you back. Get rebellious. What do you need to get freedom to? Write down the core values that drive you. Write down your strengths and gifts that need to be unleashed. You were created to thrive, not survive. Recklessly abandon yourself to who you were created to be, and spread your wings and soar. Get a bigger vision than yourself. What do you need freedom for? Write down who you want to impact. Write down what positive change you want to create in the world. Realize the impact you can have on those around you. Begin to live your life with a heart that bleeds to help improve the quality of life for others.


REDEFINE: To win the battle between you and your promises, you have to be willing to do what you promise and only promise what you’re able to do.

REPEAT: Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just show. Don’t promise, just prove.

TAKE ACTION: Talk is cheap. Don’t promise, just prove. Write down the qualities you want to emulate in the people you admire. Write down the areas in your life in which you talk a good game but don’t play a good game. As always, get honest and then make the changes you need in order to become a person of action, not a person of many words. Stop being “all things to all people.” You can’t make everyone happy. Take a moment to write down the people in and areas of your life that you are currently overcommitted to. Then, make a plan to right size those overcommitments. Put simply, do the right thing.


REDEFINE: Winning the battle between you and your health means training your body to work for you instead of letting your body work against you.

REPEAT: Love the process and not just the end result.

TAKE ACTION: You get one body; it’s a miracle. Go look in the mirror and instead of thinking about what you want to change, meditate on the miracle that you are. Focus on how limitless you are, not on the limits you have. Just start moving. So many options, so many plans. Commit to moving every day. Walk a mile, run a mile, bike a mile, row a mile, etc. Do a mile every day for seven days, and you will see progress. Ultimate health is about daily progress, not perfection. Keep moving forward. Small changes over long periods of time produce the biggest results. 


RETURN: Nothing will shape your life more than people.

REDEFINE: When it comes to you and your relationships, you must be willing to fight for the good ones and remove yourself from the toxic ones.  The old adage says, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” King Solomon said it more directly some 4,000 years ago: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but the friend of fools suffers harm.” The company you keep can bring you up or bring you down, make you better or make you worse. If

REPEAT: Take initiative to invest in relationships that either build you up or build others up.

TAKE ACTION: Forgive. Unforgiveness and bitterness are toxic emotions. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Forgive those that have hurt you, not for their sake but for yours. It’s not easy, but the weight of these toxic emotions will affect all your relationships if they’re not dealt with. Nourish. Each day, take time to share with at least five people how grateful you are for them and the value they add to your life. Build. Write down your inner circle of friends and next to their name, write down how you can serve and help them. To build solid relationships, you must first be willing to give your best before you can get the best in return. 


RETURN: You don’t need to know everything. You just need to know where to find it.

REDEFINE: In order to win the battle between you and your knowledge, you must first realize that uncharted is the best kind of territory.

REPEAT: You must always be the apprentice, even when you become the master.

TAKE ACTION: Always be hungry. Take a minute to write down the areas of your life you know you can learn more about and excel in. Under those areas, research a book you can read and a podcast or video series that will expand your knowledge. Always be humble. This is a cool option but will take effort to make happen. Find someone older than you who you respect and look up to and ask them to meet with you once a month so that you can learn from them. Also, find someone younger who you respect that you can learn from as well. Get out of your comfort zone. Learn something new. 


REDEFINE: The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose. If you don’t, the battle between you and your future is already lost.

TAKE ACTION: Write down your life mission/purpose statement. Try to do 2-4 sentences so that when someone asks you what you’re all about, you will have a clear, focused answer. This will take some time but will give you clarity, which in turn will give you focus. Think about what you would do with your life right now if you knew you were going to die in a year. This might sound morbid but is a pretty fascinating exercise. How would you spend your time with the ones you love? What specifically would you do with your day-to-day? What do you want your Legacy to be?

Let’s talk about mindset

We know our attitude makes all the difference: the way we feel about something determines how we see it and what we do about it. But it can be tough to notice our mindset! (The fish isn’t aware of the water in which it swims.) It can be even tougher to change the way we think about something! 

Here are twelve conversation-worthy questions to get folks talking (and thinking) about mindset.

Let’s talk about mission… 

  • What are we ‘up to’? What’s our goal… our ‘why’… the reason we’re here together?
  • Why does this goal matter to you personally? Not the business reasons, but the emotional one; why are you working on this rather than something else?
  • What do we want people (us and others) to do differently, in order to achieve our goal? What do we want them to think and feel differently?

Let’s talk about possibility… 

  • Is this thing we’re up to possible? (We’re not asking if it’s likely to happen or predictable!) Do you believe, in your heart-of-hearts, that this can be done? Why?
  • When have we done this thing before — for short periods of time or on a smaller scale? What examples of this can we see in other fields or settings?
  • What’s an example from your own life of a time when you proved doubters wrong? What stories do you know about people who have done things that didn’t seem possible? 

Let’s talk about responsibility… 

  • Who needs to change in order for us to achieve our goal? 
  • What’s our part in this situation? How do we (you and I) contribute to people actiing and thinking the way they do? How do we think and do those things too?
  • How do we (you and I) influence the way other people think and act? What do we do that affects other folks’ mindset?

Let’s talk about commitment… 

  • What are you are committed to (family, faith, marriage, health, etc.)? How does commitment affect your behavior in those areas? What is the power of commitment?
  • What’s your commitment with regards to this goal of ours – no kidding: what can other people count on you to do?
  • What would get in the way of your declaring this commitment to the people on your team? How might these reservations affect your ability to achieve our goal?

Interested in learning more? Ready to get people thinking about how they think? We’re ready to help. 

About the author: Andy Erickson is a founder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com


The Breakthrough Mindset

Are you up to something? Maybe you’ve set yourself a daunting goal; maybe you need to produce results you’ve never seen before. You need a breakthrough. 

In my career, I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in four or five organizational breakthroughs: a factory that doubled production in half the floor space; a supply chain that slashed lead times by 80%; massive construction projects completed without hurting a single worker. Behind each of these successes were a host of changes to tools, processes, procedures and systems. But they all had one thing in common: leadership. Specifically, leadership that changed the way people thought about their work, their team and themselves; leadership that changed mindsets, as well as toolkits.

If you’re out to create a breakthrough, start by thinking about mindset – and start with your own before setting out to change anyone else’s. Three elements are vital to a “breakthrough mindset”:

  • Possibility. Until I believe that the thing I’m up to is possible, I’m unlikely to bring my full self to the task. Note that the word is possible, not predictable. The thing I’m up to may be insanely difficult and I may not know how to do it, but so long as I sincerely believe it can be done, I will persevere. Before I engage anyone else, I’m well-served to convince myself that the goal, while daunting, is nonetheless possible.
    • Who’s done this, or something like it, before… maybe in another setting or industry?
    • When have I already done this thing for a brief period of time or on a smaller scale?
    • What stories do I know about people like myself doing seemingly impossible things… overcoming setbacks or tough circumstances, earning degrees, running marathons, passing laws or building businesses?
  • Responsibility. Until I believe I can affect the situation – that I am able-to-respond to it – I’m unlikely to be effective. When I focus on changes “they” need to make “out there” I am at risk of developing a ‘victim’ mentality. My success is beholden to others changing. Better to figure out ways in which I’m a ‘player’ in this game rather than a ‘spectator’ – ways in which I’m part of the problem and the solution.
    • How is this challenge similar to challenges I face elsewhere in my life?
    • How do I contribute to the way things are right now?
    • How do I influence the way others think, feel, talk and behave with regards to this issue?
  • Commitment. This is the secret sauce! When I say to myself, “Yes, I’m up for this… I’m going to make this happen” my situation doesn’t change, but the way I see my situation is transformed. Commitment unveils opportunities and openings; hesitancy reveals barriers, excuses and reasons why-not. When I say to others, “This is what I’m going to do” my situation doesn’t change, but I’m more likely to get help and enroll others!
    • Where else in my life have I experienced the power of commitment… as a parent, spouse, team member, etc.? 
    • How does being committed to something change the way I think and perform?
    • What am I up to here? Specifically: what do I say is possible… that I’m going to cause?
    • Am I willing to say this out-loud to my peers and colleagues? If not, why not? The thing that prevents me from declaring my commitment will likely be a barrier to accomplishing it!

Breakthroughs require leadership – specifically, leadership by you the person sitting in your chair. Before looking for new tools, processes, procedures and systems to change the way we work, look to change the way people think – and start the process by looking at yourself.

Interested in learning more? Ready to adopt a breakthrough mindset? We’re ready to help.  

This article first appeared on www.humanus-solutions.com

About the author: Andy Erickson is a founder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com


Changing my mind: leadership and soymilk

I spend a fair amount of time urging clients to examine their mindset before setting out to create breakthroughs in their organization. Attitude is the single greatest prerequisite for success and I’m a firm believer that we have the power to choose how we think about situations and challenges we face.

But I confess, I sometimes have doubts. Am I being too glib, offering feel-good advice that’s tough to implement? Lord knows I struggle to choose a powerful mindset in a variety of areas: exercise, building my business, balancing my checkbook, etc. If changing your mind is so damn easy, why haven’t I done it throughout my life?

I recently had a breakthrough in one of my ‘problem areas’ – I consciously and intentionally changed my mind about something: soymilk. Specifically, I became committed to switching from dairy to soy in my morning latte. This is utterly trivial, but it’s revealed some “moves” I have since used to change my mind about other things.

It’s hard to describe just how stuck I was in my previous mindset: I knew, in my heart-of-hearts, that I wasn’t the kind of guy who would ever order a “soy latte”. In fact, when I overheard folks in the coffee shop asking for soymilk, I had irrational judgments and reactions: “what a pretentious, preening, hypochondriac, sissified yuppie!” I felt an urge to change my order to something less healthy, involving more dairy, just to compensate / spite / provoke the other person. (And if you think that’s strange, trying hanging out with me in the organic produce section of the grocery store!)

A couple of months ago, I joined an accountability group focusing on weight loss – a bunch of guys committed to supporting each other in eating better, exercising more and dropping a few pounds. Despite my best efforts, my weight hardly budged. After a few weeks of frustration, I realized I had to do more: I needed to cut carbs and fat, and increase protein. Article after book after website suggested the same thing: drop dairy… switch to soymilk.

One fateful morning, I did it: I pulled my barista aside and whispered to her, “Look, I’m a bit uncomfortable about this, so please don’t make a big fuss, but I’d like to order a soymilk latte.” And what do you know? It tasted pretty good. I had another one that afternoon. The next day, when I went shopping, I ventured down the hippy aisle in the grocery store and bought a container of soymilk to use at home. Fast forward a month or so, and I’ve cut cow milk out of my diet entirely. Me. The guy who would never, ever, in a million years put soymilk in his latte had been transformed.

How did that happen? What steps enabled me to change my mind about this trivial topic… and can I repeat the process in other areas of my life? Looking back, I see seven keys to my success:

  • Reason. I had a reason, a motivation, an urge to change. I want to be more fit. 
  • Willingness. I found it within myself, if only for a moment, to acknowledge that what I was doing wasn’t working and that I needed to change.
  • Rationale. I had “facts and data” that supported the change. Where reason and willingness worked on my ‘heart’, rationale addressed my ‘mind’.
  • an Experiment. I tried it once. And I didn’t die. In fact, I kind of liked it.
  • Environment. Soymilk is available at my coffee shop – but getting it into my house was key. I changed my environment to make it easier to sustain the change.
  • Support. I told my barista about the change, I mentioned it to my wife, I told the guys in my accountability group… and even though they never said a word about it, I felt as though I needed to follow through; I felt as though I could turn to them for support; I felt ‘safe’ making this change.
  • Repetition. With a reason, willingness, and a rationale for changing to soymilk – having tried it and liked in, brought it into my home and enlisting the support of oithers, it was easy to repeat the behavior each day. It became easier and easier.

Note: I didn’t set out to change my mindset; I started by changing my behavior. Over time, with repetitions, my mindset changed. This is a great example Jerry Sternin’s adage, “it’s easier to act your way into new thinking than think your way into new acting.” After drinking a half-dozen soymilk lattes I changed my self-identity – turns out I am the kind of guy who drinks soymilk! (I recommend James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. His take on this is deeply insightful.)

Here’s the kicker: fresh from my success with this small change, I felt excited and open enough to change other behaviors. I’m not the kind of guy who weighs his food and counts calories; I’m not the kind of guy who takes walks or gets 45 min of cardio each day; I’m not the kind of guy drinks two or three glasses of water before each meal. Except, it turns out, I am! Using the same steps above, I’ve incorporated all of these behaviors into my life – and my mindset about these things has shifted.

Let’s bring this back to leadership and creating performance breakthroughs: no matter what you’re up to, changing your mindset and helping others change theirs, will be vital to your success. Don’t for a minute assume everyone is on-board! Just as I had crazy ideas about soymilk, influential people within your team have crazy ideas about worker safety (“workplace injuries are part of evolution – removing idiots from the gene pool”), mentoring (“the sink or swim method was good enough for me… let them sort it out themselves”), customer service (“cheap, fast or good – choose two”), etc.  These mindsets and dozens like them are alive within your organization and will cause mischief until you shift them.

Whatever you’re up to, start by examining your own mindset – and then help others examine theirs. Create reason and offer rationales for change; help people make small experiments and changes to their environment; and when you see the desired behavior, celebrate and encourage it. If a guy like me can drink a soymilk latte, there’s no limit to what you and your team can accomplish.

Interested in learning more?  Ready to change mindsets in your organization?  We’re ready to help.  

About the author: Andy Erickson is a founder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com