Your GPS Moment

March 10, 2020

We were completely lost…

We were somewhere east of Bryson City, NC deep into the mountains with tons of foliage above. We’d driven through the area multiple times, but we were trying to find a specific location and needed guidance on how to get there. The GPS in our car couldn’t get a signal! The cell phone had no signal. The only thing we had to go with was the good old-fashion magnetic compass and, hang on now Millennials, a map! Yes, that’s right an old-fashioned paper fold out map of North Carolina! With those two things we could finally figure out where we were and where we were going. We could craft a route to get to our destination. We had had a REAL world GPS moment! For those of us that travel extensively for work, having a real world GPS moment is a recurring situation, but today, I want to talk about what it means to have a leadership GPS moment.

In my book, Leadership Lessons from the Thin Blue Line, I devote an entire chapter to helping you discover your leadership GPS moment and how to layout your pathway to success. Just as we shouldn’t drive in unfamiliar territory without the tools to help us find our way, we shouldn’t expect to lead or even map out our career without a strategic plan to get us where we are going. And yet, so many of us do just that! In this blog post, I will offer some suggestions on how to find your GPS moment and then develop a strategy that works for you.

Throughout my career, I’ve had many GPS moments. No, these aren’t crises that overwhelm you emotionally or mentally, these are turning points if you will where you make key decisions that chart a new course for you. This could be deciding whether to go back to get an advanced degree in college or whether to take that job that would advance your career, but might put your family at risk because the time of life for your children just isn’t right. Those decisions will impact your journey for sure, and should always be taken with caution and foresight.

Today I want to focus in on what it means to create a road map for success for yourself.  I call it Strategic Self-Discovery and it will certainly give you a step-by-step approach to crafting your GPS moment for leadership.

Why?  The first question to ask yourself is to envision your ideal future avatar. What do you look like? Where are living, working, doing? Who are interacting with on a daily basis? This “avatar” of yourself allows you to begin with the end in mind. By beginning with where your ideal self will be in (5, 10, 15, 20 years), you can then ask, and craft, your “why” statement.  This has three phases to it that I think work really, really well. This is simply a brief overview compared to the in-class activities we do in our Intentional Leadership: Leading with a Purpose class or will offer on our LHLN member site later this year, but it will get you started in the right direction.

 Step 1: List those people in your life that have or do impact you in a profound way. I call them your Mount Rushmore people. What qualities to they possess? What values did they instill in you that make you who you are today?

Step 2: List those values out on a piece of paper and then group them into “like” core values or things that motivate you to action. Why do they do that?

Step 3: What motivates you to take action on those values? What skills do you possess naturally or learned that enhance your ability to take positive action so as to affect the lives of others in a specific positive way?

Step 4: Using the list of core values and motivators, craft a why statement from that that looks something like this  To (use a specific gift, talent, skill) so that (impact it will have on others)

You are Here:  I admit, I have a weakness for ice cream. On a trip many years ago, I recall heading to the local mall one evening after teaching and looking for an ice cream shop that someone had mentioned earlier that day. I walked into the nearest entrance and went straight to the directory – you know the one that every large building has – and as I looked at it, I saw a marking on it that said “You are Here”. By being shown clearly where I was, I could then navigate my way to that ice cream shop.  Leadership GPS moments are much the same. To find out where you are, you sometimes need to be told by a kind mentor, spouse, etc. before you can chart your course for growth.  When I had my first AHA moment about this, I was a young chief who was learning my way. I got great advice from three of my go-to books to this day: The Leadership Challenge by Posner and Kouzes, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Winning Everyday by Lou Holtz. I learned more than I could share in a single blog post, but I will share these concepts and suggestion for self-growth.  Here are some quick tips for you to consider:

Know Yourself – know your personality, what motivates you, what your “non-negotiables” are. I talk at greater length about the layers of a leader in my class, Intentional Leadership, but these two are perhaps the most critical.

Personality – there are so many tools out on the market to help you understand yourself and others. I’m partial to the DISC because of its ease of assessment and it’s ease of use. In a fairly short amount of time, one can discover their primary behavior style, how it is perceived by others and how you can adjust your style to communicate better with others.

Motivators – unlike behavior that is readily observable, the things that motivate you to action can be very different. Understanding what drives you and what may drive others will make you a better leader of yourself and your team.

Evaluate Your Mindset – make sure you are clear on your mindset. Be honest with yourself and where you are at on your journey. Do you have a growth mindset? Or more of a fixed mindset? You can read more about this in my blog post (linkhere) on mindset and I encourage all of you to read Carol Dweck’s book on Mindset. Having the right mindset will allow you to be honest with yourself.

Plot Your Course – Once you know where you are, and, when you have an idea of where you want to be, you will be able to plot your course. Just as a ship’s captain does with his coordinates, you can develop your plan of action for your intended destination. Make sure your GPS device is getting a clear signal. This means having what I call “Check 6ers” or colleagues, mentors, friends that help you make course adjustments as you travel.

These are just some of my tips for finding your GPS moment and setting your course for growth and success. I hope these tips will help do just that and that it will help you stay on your pathway to intentional leadership.

Tell me your thoughts on this? Do you have other tips that I didn’t mention? I would love to hear them!

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Until next time,



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