Don’t Fence Me In – Open Space Technology


Cole Porter wrote the song.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sang it in a movie of the same title.  Now, Cooksey is CONNECTING this idea with your organization’s needs!

This weekend, I was introduced to an amazingly low-tech, highly effective group tool known simply as Open Space Technology.  If you’re looking for a technique to tantalize your team, wake up your weary, or engage your effectiveness as an organization, this is it. CONNECT with COOKSEY and his associates to learn more about this remarkable facilitation technique and how we could bring it to YOUR ORGANZATION!


Accept the Challenge to Connect With Success


Last week, I had the distinct honor of presenting to a community bank in Oklahoma for their officers and personal bankers.  A bank with over 108 years of history had invited me in to deliver a motivational speech about change- a topic they have placed an emphasis on for the past several months.  Over the past few months, multiple trainers and consultants have delivered their material to many of the same people.  This time, however, something was different.  There was a CONNECTION.

By being introduced as a nationally known consultant with a 14+ year career in banking and financial services, my audience decided before I had spoken a word that I was “one of them”.

Throughout the presentation, I was able to share real stories of overcoming tradition, change, and unexpected challenges to find success.  I connected with some of the very pain their organization is experiencing today, and left with them some very specific NEXT STEPS they could put into action by the end of that day to set them on a course to success!

Think back to a time when you were in an audience and felt as though YOU truly connected with a presenter. Or, more powerfully, think of a time when you presented to an audience/your team/organization with which you sensed a noticeable, positive, connected energy.  What was it that made it so magical?

When I teach on leadership, I often say the two most important ingredients for achieving success are DESIRE and KNOW-HOW.  Following the feedback of last week’s presentation, however, I believe there is one more: INSPIRATION.

EXERCISE: This week, write down the names of three people who inspire you.  Next, write down as many descriptive terms about those people, being specific to focus on their observable actions and behaviors you admire most. Finally, consider how you can begin to make changes to your own actions and behaviors others see when they observe you.

By taking on the above challenge, the leader within you will begin to emerge in an entirely new way.

Cooksey’s Challenge:  Reach out to the people you listed in the exercise above and share with them what you admire most.


How to Get The Most of Any Networking Opportunity


You’ve heard me say time and again how much “success” is such a subjective term. Perception is a powerful aspect of how we as people and professionals (as if those are two different things) are viewed, it is amazing to me how many of us still miss the point from time to time.

Just this week, I was invited to visit a networking event with one of my clients, whom I have networked with for years. My travel schedule makes it tough for me to be a regular member of a group that meets weekly, but I figured it could be a fun way to meet some new people. When it came time for my 60-second commercial (as a guest I was granted 120-seconds), I glanced down at a few notes I’d scribbled on an index card and just started talking. They laughed. They smiled. We connected. Isn’t that the goal? At the end of the meeting, several people in the group requested the opportunity to meet one-on-one over coffee to learn more, and one fellow even handed me a referral AT THE MEETING!

Here are a few tips to get the most out of any networking opportunity. Try these the next time you walk into a room full of strangers. You never know where your next opportunity or client will come from:

  1. BE CONFIDENT – You are who you say you are, if your actions are confident. You are a subject matter expert for what you do…ACT LIKE ONE! [Need help in this department? Visit a local Toastmasters club!]
  2. TELL A QUICK STORY – Which do you think is more memorable: a) “Hello, my name is ______ and I work for _________.” or b) “**insert a quick 30-45 second story about how you solved someone else’s problem**:..
  3. LET THEM KNOW HOW TO GET MORE INFO ABOUT YOU – Two great ways to do this are: a) direct them to YOUR website (ask them to connect with you on a professional, social networking site like “LinkedIn” or if your organization has a “Fan Page” on Facebook, direct them there or b) Tell the audience to ask the person who invited you to the meeting to tell them how you successfully worked with them! What’s better than a live, word-of-mouth success story from a CLIENT!?

Above all…If you don’t have any business cards (hey, sometimes we forget them or run out)…make sure to get one from everyone in the room and make it a point to follow up with each one directly! Anyone remember the hand-written note? It works! Now…get out there a find some business!


Bueller…..Bueller…… Ben Stein Got THIS One Right!


Yeah, I’m of the age that first remembers Ben Stein as the teacher who droned over and over while calling roll in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – one of my favorite teen movies of all times.

Well, here’s a recent clip he delivered for CBS on what President Obama REALLY meant about meetings…something I REALLY care about, since I’m a corporate trainer and speaking professional.

What do you think? Watch the video and reply with your thoughts. I’d like to hear your opinions. Go ahead!

Watch CBS Videos Online


Can General Motors Pull This Off?


If you think I’m bit nuts today, blame Larry Winget! This guy has the intestinal fortitude of a giant, and I have to say I agree with more of his recent blog post than I don’t. (CAUTION: It contains some stronger language than is comfortable for some, so if you’re squeamish, skip it…If you can handle it, HERE IT IS). [For the record, I still like LeBron James, but I get Larry’s point.]

On to MY post:

As you may know, I spent the 10 years or so of my professional life working with investments. First as a bank trust officer who helped install new 401k and other employee benefit plans into companies of all sizes, then later as a personal financial adviser. Over the years, I have found that most people in the general public simply don’t take time to stop and truly think about their investments. Instead, they simply rely on what other people tell them to be the truth. Therein lies the issue.

Financial advisers are the people who are left to help when a widow has earned their title. For the “traditionalist generations” (those born ahead of the Baby Boomers), too often these “blue haired ladies” would be handling their financial affairs the way their deceased spouse had told them to. Though they never told me, their actions said their spouses had said to them:

  • You can always put money into a Certificate of Deposit (CD) at the bank, because it’s FDIC insured if something should happen to the bank
  • Cash is king
  • The “Blue Chip” stocks in our investment account will always be there.

If I may, I’d like to respond to these facts.

  • On CDs: Yes, you can always put money into a CD, but sometimes there are other VERY SAFE INVESTMENT OPTIONS that can offer you a better return without much more risk. Sure, you may not have FDIC coverage (something instituted by the federal government during the Great Depression), but that’s not always a bad thing.For example: If your only criteria is “FDIC Coverage”, you are limited to bank deposits as an investment. The banks know this, and often offer very low rates of return in exchange for using your money to make more for themselves. I’m not against banks making money, but know that your ENTIRE INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO might serve you better if some of that money is invested in something else like a FIXED Annuity. When used correctly, these can prove to be a nice CD complement or alternative.
  • On Cash: If you plan on living off of your investments for some time, you need one of two things: a large account full of money or a diversified portfolio. I can’t tell you how many times I’d see someone come up to me in a 401k enrollment meeting or into my financial adviser office saying “I’m going to retire next year, what do you think?” Then they’d show me an account with a balance of about $30,000. When I asked, “How much money do you think you’ll need to get through a year?”, the reality would set in and these folks would look at me as if they’d never considered that question. In short, to get where you want to be LONG TERM, investments in something other than cash are going to prove VERY important…unless you happen to start with or fall into a very large bucket of money.
  • On Blue Chip Stocks: “Blue Chip” stocks are those that are typically thought of as the larger, more established companies that “should always be around”. Often times, these are exemplified by the stocks of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), an index used to represent the “overall market”. Here’s a fact too many people don’t know: the components (or stocks) used to calculate the DJIA CHANGE! Sure, some companies like General Electric have been a DJIA component since 1907…But, two of the component stocks (General Motors, since 1925 & Citigroup, since 1997) are being replaced on June 8, 2009. Earlier this year, other victims of the financial and economic meltdown were also replaced in the DJIA.

This morning, I ran across a website dedicated to the “re-invention of General Motors“. While I know there is a tremendous amount of pride in this, one of the “big three US automakers”, there is much to be done to pull this one off.

Somewhere along the way, I say a LONG LONG time ago, General Motors ceased operating as an automobile manufacturing company, and became “a large pension plan that happened to also make cars”. I’ll save my complete diatribe for another posting, but the point is this. General Motors (along with other over-sized companies) fell victim to its own success. Somewhere along the way, decisions were made likely based more on emotion than facts, pressure from unions vs. other labor options, and arrogance over intelligence. For those investors who didn’t take time to keep up with the health of the companies in which they were invested, GM’s recent bankruptcy filing was a rude awakening, as all of that former “blue chip stock” almost immediately dropped to a value of pennies on the dollar.

Can GM pull off this “re-invention” and save itself as it claims in this video? I don’t know. But to the millions of people who have learned that “doing what you’ve always done won’t always get you what you’ve always gotten” the hard way…let’s hope so!


Three Card Monte


We’ve all seen the game, Three Card Monte. On a side note, I actually saw some vice cops take down a game that had attracted quite a gathering around it on the Las Vegas Strip. I guess you have to have an actual gaming license in the State of Nevada to actually rip people off….but that’s not my point today.

On the television screen at the gym a few days ago, I watched the mainstream media following the latest on the U.S. financial markets and how they were reacting to the passage of the $700 Billion bailout bill. I was listening to some of my favorite guitar players on my iPod at the time, but just watching the pictures on the screen had me asking, “How in the world get we get into this mess?” Then, immediately, the answer came to me as if in a song, “Greed.” What else?

As a “recovering financial advisor” I have to say all of this madness isn’t all that shocking to me. Don’t get me wrong, as a self-employed person who can’t just take a copy of a paystub down to the local mortgage shop and get a home loan (they still do those, right?) I know it’s going to be a while before I will be able to buy another house….Frankly, that’s okay with me.

It IS the alleged American Dream to own the house you live in…but is all the stuff we see in the mainstream media just financial pornography for the masses?

Somewhere along the way, Americans seem to have shifted from a curious public to public unsaddled with the burden of responsibility, wise judgement, and just knowing what the heck we were getting ourselves into. “It’s okay,” say many. “Someone will come along and bail us out if we really screw this up. Besides, what are the odds this is really going to happen anyway?” [If that last comment intrigues you, here is some recommended reading: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable]

I love this country. I’m also a fan of capitalism – even though it has it’s dark side. Because of the fundamentals (yes, they ALWAYS matter) on which the United States of America was built, we DO have a nearly unlimited ceiling of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard. The problem of it all, though, is when it becomes so difficult to know who you can honestly trust, and who you can’t.

There are a number of financial advisors in this world who truly DO CARE about their clients. I’ve had the priviledge of working around some of them during my tenure in the business. Unfortunately, when you start moving up the food chain toward the top of so many of Wall Street’s operations, there appears to be a real disconnect between what is “right” and what is “right now”. Big finance is driven by deals (a la capitalism), but it’s also driven by greed. When those two are shuffled, dealt, and flipped over on a piece of cardboard on the side of the road by a huckster, all that remains is a house of cards.

There is more than one way to work through this financial crisis we’re all paying for today, and how we got here is another story (read “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game“). I’m personally nervous that Congress has put into play a $700 Billion “bailout” plan for our economy.

Did something have to be done? Yes. Might there be a better way? Yes. Is it time for the United States to have it’s leveraged head handed to it for pushing too close to the financial edge of the world? Maybe.

Let’s just make sure we’re not playing a high stakes game of Three Card Monte.


Accountabilty Matters


See Coach Gundy’s Rant Here!

Perhaps there is another way to drive home his point, but I have to tip my hat this week to Coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys for defending a player.

While I appreciate the attention and research conducted by most of the writers involved with the media, let’s face it. It isn’t all that uncommon to find some degree of misinformation or quotes taken out of context in a report from any media source, on a given day.

To see a football coach, however, call out a reporter for gross inaccuracies in a newspaper report in defense of a player recently moved from his season start at quarterback to a different role on the team, is something else.

Coach Gundy is known as a “players coach”. To any parent wondering about the Oklahoma State coaching staff’s dedication to players, I think that was solved with the video clip you just watched. In full disclosure, I’m a graduate and long-time football season ticket holder at Oklahoma State. Sure, I’ve watched a coaching staff bring in talented recruits in recent years, only to fall short of the “spectacular season” we always seem to be promised. Hey, I’ve never played a down of football in my life, nor have I coached. I am a fan of the game, however, and I do like to see my team win.

Well, this weekend the OSU Cowboys pulled off a spectacular win over a talented Texas Tech football team (led by standout quarterback Graham Harrell). I’m hoping we’ve righted the ship for the season. We’ll see.

As for today, Coach Gundy, thanks for standing up for our players and showing your passion, fire, and dedication to team. Reid isn’t a failure, he’s a student-athlete who still supports, contributes, and plays on our team. Thanks for correcting the reporter. Can you do something about the ticket prices? Go Pokes!


The Man in the Arena


Here is an excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic address delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910. The quote below is one of his most famous, referred to as “The Man in the Arena”.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

[ Read the entire address at Leadership Now.]

In what arena do you stand each day?