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  • Aspire » Inspire

    24 Aug

    Picture from Pine Tar Press

    Picture from Pine Tar Press

    On Saturday Aug. 15th, 2015 Mike Sweeney became only the 29th Royal to be inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame.     In an era where we often are challenged to find professional athletes who qualify as role models, Sweeney has always left no hesitation (well, there was that “one time in 2001”….but more on that later☺).   In retrospect of this special honor, there are many business (and life) lessons one could take from Sweeney’s career, here are some that came to mind during his recent induction ceremony.

    Be ready when opportunity presents itself

    Mike was recruited as a catcher in 1991.   In 1995 he made his debut in the majors and spent the next few years playing sparely, never over 100 games in a season.   By 1999, just prior to spring training he was actually told by a coach that he had zero percent chance of making the team, essentially his career as a Royal was over.  Through a series of unlikely events he was basically forced to play 1st base after a rare open tryout (it was him and one other player).  Mike seized the opportunity and chose to do whatever he could to help the team.  He was all in.  His desire to embrace that position on the field in addition to his strong bat made him become one of the most respected players (and feared batters) in the sport.  How different may his career have played out, if he only viewed the need to play 1st base as a temporary role?  

    Don’t run your business with blinders on, remember to look up and be open to trying something different if the opportunity presents itself.


    Have some heroes & mentors

    Mike speaks of his father often and how he has always been his hero.   His dad was a excellent baseball player too, but he played in a time when league contracts didn’t always put food on the table, so he left the game early to provide a living for his young family.   Mike has never forgot that sacrifice and he is quick to share his accolades with his father and let him know how much he means to him, how much he appreciates all that he taught him both on and off the field.  Today as his father battles cancer that hero is standing taller than ever.  Mike is also quick to acknowledge the many peers, mentors, and coaches he has had along the way, many of them were there to share in his induction ceremony.  

    Surround yourself with peers and mentors who make you better. If you have peers, mentors, or heroes (past or present) make sure you let them know you appreciate their advice and guidance.


    Don’t be afraid to expose a weakness in your competitor

    In 2002 Mike Sweeney did something that hadn’t been successfully executed by a Royal in 24 yrs.  He stole home base, not because he was fast, but because he saw a weakness in his competitor and decided to capitalize on it.   Sweeney noticed that Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte was taking a deep breath and then appeared to be closing his eyes for a moment before each pitch.   Mike sent a sign to his coach and the next pitch he took off for home just as Pettitte went into his routine, by the time Pettitte could respond it was too late Sweeney would score.  Sweeney had identified a weakness and it turned into a score for the Royals.  

    If you have a product or service that is superior to your competition don’t be afraid to leverage it. It is competition that makes us all better.


    There may be a time you have to stand up for yourself

    About that “one time in 2001” …the Royals were in the middle of another trying season and by now Mike Sweeney had earned the reputation of being a nice guy in baseball.  Some thought almost too nice, maybe even soft.   Jeff Weaver was pitching for the Detroit Tigers and things were already heated due to a previous exchange a couple days earlier.   As the story goes, Sweeney requested the umpire to have Weaver move his rosin bag away from the mound as it was distracting him.  Weaver responded with some expletives that are not printed in Webster and Mike charged the mound.  Some compared it to Bruce Banner becoming the Incredible Hulk.   It netted Mike a 10 game suspension, but his point was made he would not be walked on by his peers.   This is not suggesting you go out and pummel someone who has wronged you but it is OK to stand up for yourself when the situation calls for it.   

    As a side note….years later Mike called Jeff Weaver just before Christmas and apologized for the incident.  Mike said it was his 2 year old son that gave him the courage and motivation to do it.  He realized his young son would one day see the video and hear the story and he wanted to make sure he also knew he’d corrected his mistake.

    Know what you and company stand for and don’t be afraid to let others know.


    Have a value system and live by it

    You can’t talk about Mike Sweeney without referencing is strong Christian faith. He is a devout Catholic and has referenced it throughout his career as the glue that has bound together his family, his baseball career, his work off the field, and now working in the Royals operations.   

    Mike leads by example in all that he does; his work ethic both on and off the baseball field, his positive attitude and his eternal optimism are all part of who he is.  You repeatedly hear his former teammates and coaches say that if you think Mike was great on the field, he is even a better person off the field.  There are no smoke screens for the public.  Think about it this way; what would your peers say about you if you were being recognized as a Business Owner or Business Leader “Hall of Fame” member?  What would your employees say?  What about your friends and family?  Would they all say the same thing?       

    Though he readily admits he has made his share of mistakes, Mike’s value system is rooted deeply in his Christian faith and he has lived it both on and off the baseball field.

    If you want your business to succeed long term you and your company need to consistently operate under a value system.


    If you didn’t happen to be one of the 39,251 who attended the Royals 9-4 victory on Aug. 15, 2015; the night 5 Time All-Star, Mike Sweeney was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame, you can watch the ceremony in its entirety at this link Mike Sweeney Hall of Fame Induction.  Congratulations to Mike Sweeney.  It truly was a great day to be a Royal!

    What do you think?  If you were following the events leading up to Sweeney’s induction, did you have any thoughts or memories that stood out to you?  Any business or life lessons that spoke to you?   As always we value any comments you have; please feel free to leave them in the space below.    

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach  

    06 Jul


    This 4th of July, the United States celebrated its 239th birthday.  Hopefully you’re reading this with memories of holiday weekend filled with fun and some relaxation with family and friends and no trips to the emergency room.

    In honor of our founding fathers we thought we would share a few timeless quotes that apply to business, from some of the more notable names who signed one of the greatest documents ever drafted.


    Core Values never change….

    “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”.

    – Thomas Jefferson


    The power of Effective Communication….

    “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.”

    – John Hancock


    Keep your Mind Sharp….

    “Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”

    – John Adams


    Make Continuous Improvement part of your business…

    “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

    – Benjamin Franklin


    Remember Passion and Emotion trump logic and numbers…

    Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.”

    – Samuel Adams


    We hope you had a great 4th.  If you want to watch one of the best readings of the Declaration of Independence in recent years, check out this version by Morgan Freeman.   Please feel free to leave any comments in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    12 May


    As humans we are all more productive when we are in a positive state of mind.  You are more productive in your business when you’re experiencing positive emotions than when you’re feeling negative emotions.    At some point you have probably heard (or experienced) the phrase “We are on a roll” because of a series of good events.   Conversely, you also may be familiar with term “We can’t catch a break” which would be negative.

    The first thing we all need to accept is that it is impossible and frankly unhealthy to not experience some negative emotions or events in your life and or business.    Studies have shown that if try to completely block out negative emotions, we restrict the flow of positive emotions, partly because not processing the negative is like adding fuel to a fire.

    The good thing about negative emotions and feelings is that they cause us to narrow our focus and try to solve a problem.    Doctor’s don’t poke your body during an examination and ask “Is this where it doesn’t hurt?”    Of course not, if your body is experiencing pain, you want to find the source and eliminate it!

    So we need to accept that everything isn’t always going to be positive and with the negative hits we can actually leverage the natural response of narrowing our focus and efforts to finding the source and resolving it….which would results in something positive.

    “Negative emotions narrow and restrict our attention in our behaviors. Whereas positive emotions broaden our attention and ultimately our behaviors”.   Bill Turpin, PBCA Master Coach

    Barbara Fredrickson from University of North Carolina is one of the most respected authorities on this topic.   Her research discovered when it comes to positive emotions there is actually a Top 10 List that is considered Universal across all cultures and demographics.   For global companies it provides a tool that has no boundaries.

    Top 10 Universal Positive Emotions:

    • Joy
    • Gratitude
    • Serenity
    • Interest
    • Hope
    • Pride
    • Amusement
    • Inspiration
    • Awe
    • Love

    Can you leverage this in your business?

    Research has shown that when people are experiencing positive emotions the mind is open to taking on more challenges and is more creative and productive.    But unfortunately, we are wired to remember the negative more than the positive.   Scientists call this “Negativity Bias”.  Think about social media and the news….do most of the stories produce positive or negative feelings?

    Seriously, the news can often be downright depressing.   What about political campaigns? …most will profess to dislike the negative ads, but they are the ones that stick in our minds and influence voters.

    The reality is most of us experience significantly more positive emotions than negative, but they are often more subtle and you could even say we simply take them for granted…and so they don’t stick with us.  One way to counter the Negativity Bias of our brains is to more directly inject things that are positive.

    Give this a try…(and No,  it doesn’t require everyone holding hands or singing in a circle)   😉

    Share the top 10 list with your company.   Create a positive email address [email protected] or go old school with a jar or box.  When someone experiences a positive emotion during the day, have them shoot off an email or drop a note in the jar.  Then, once a week, month, or whatever is appropriate share the comments with your company.   You might be surprised how much something as simple as this might add a spark to the attitudes of your team.

    What do you think?  Is this something you could use to improve the awareness of the good things going on in your business?  In your personal life?  Could it help soften the blow of unavoidable negativity?   As always we value your thoughts and any feedback.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach


    24 Feb

    Businessman and questions

    The story of your life (so far) is what it is.  As a business owner or leader you have made choices that have created the path that leads to where you are at this point in time.  It’s your story and in that story, your Why exists…and it turns out that your “Why” is the key to success. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

    “Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.” ― Simon Sinek

    Let me share an example to show you what I mean:  Marty is a physically fit and mentally sharp man who looks at least 10 years younger than the birthdate he was given over 7 decades ago. A few days ago he was discussing his business with a group of his peers.  He’s been struggling with the growth of his business over the past several years and the frustrations were mounting.  Curiously, someone asked “So what’s your Why? (in your business)”  Typical of many business owners, he was able to fire back quick pointed answers, and they were all honest, sincere statements, but they were mostly answering “What” he did and “How” he did it.  The “Why” was not coming through and the lack of clarity fueled the conversation.

    However Marty is very clear on a lot of other things – he has defined his target market in a very specific way…something every company should do regardless of size.  At the very least a clearly defined market provides direction for sales and marketing efforts of a company. Without that clarity, you’re going to be lost – no business can be all things to all people.  In Marty’s case, he has defined a specific industry and also a very specific segment of that industry.   So in terms of Shallow and Wide vs. Deep and Narrow, there was no question his business plan had clarity on where it was focusing its efforts.  Marty was all in on the Deep and Narrow.

    But the fact is, he wasn’t clear on everything. Here was this well-educated man, with an MBA with Honors in Marketing & Finance, years of successful corporate experience working with fortune 500 companies, and an intentional business model that is 100%  focused on a very clearly -defined market segment, yet he is unable to articulate his “Why?”.  There had to be more.

    Others in the group added their thoughts and suggestions in an effort to get to the heart of this thought provoking question he seemed challenged to answer.  He answered a few “How’s” when he explained how he had two homes and splits time between them to match the climate he prefers, how he operated his business, how he helped some past clients, and so on.

    Then he added he wanted to be a good a father and grandfather to his family…. it felt like the “Why” was getting closer.  But the question still remained.

    Find your Why and you tell your story…

    Pressed one more time with “But that still isn’t your Why”   Marty leaned forward and spoke with a passion that is hard to describe. He said “15 years ago I lost my first wife.  She had a professional career and was under a constant stress and I lost her.  She was 53.”   And with that, Marty’s “Why” was a mystery no longer.  He’s driven to help women business owners (even more specifically female dentists) find a way to succeed without all of the stress from their business. That’s the kind of motivation that makes everything else – his what, his how…fade into the background. This is a guy who will do whatever he possibly can to help his clients because of what he believes (his “Why”). That’s the kind of guy you want to hire if you fit his target market.

    His niche is very narrow, but his model is not constrained by geography. If you know any female dentists who live in Tucson, AZ,  Walnut Creek, CA, or anywhere else in the country that has ever thought they might want someone to help them with the “business side” of their business, please introduce them to Marty. He has discovered his Why and he would love to help them discover theirs!

    Do you ever ask yourself what your Why is? Why do you get up in the morning? Do you share that “Why” with your team or your customers?  Want  to learn more? Simon Sinek gave a great TED talk explaining the Golden Circle of What? How? & Why?  It is one of the best, most watched Ted talks of all time. Discover your why, tell your story and it will make all the difference.

    We’d love to hear what you think – share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach 

    29 Dec

    Gratitude - Relax

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on what it takes to be happy and successful (not necessarily the same things by the way…). It’s interesting that one of the ideas that keeps coming up is the importance of consistently and authentically practicing gratitude in your life. (As an example, it’s physically not possible to be mad/upset and grateful at the same time…so if you’re having a bad day, taking time to find something to be thankful for can really shift your mood).

    Overall 2014 has definitely had it’s challenges – but with the idea of focusing on the positive, here are 14 things I’m grateful for in 2014:

    1. Family

    I love watching (and participating) with my kids as they make the tough transition to adults – it’s a very cool thing to see happen. I also deeply appreciate my wife and extended family for their support and connection this year.

    2. Clients

    I enjoy working with my clients – and I’ve discovered that one of the best things is the opportunity to celebrate their successes. And I have some really sharp clients, so that’s been happening a lot in the last few years…!

    3. The economy – finally starting to show some signs of life

    Despite the huge vacuum of leadership in Washington, we are finally starting to see the overall business environment pick up. I started Aspire back in 2007, right before the economy crashed, so it’s been a long stretch of down years, which makes it great to see even the small sparks we’re seeing now.

    4. Opportunities to TravelSouth Africa - Cheetahs on the hunt

    We had the chance to take one of our bucket list trips this past summer to South Africa and it was everything we could have hoped for (and then some). It’s difficult to put an exact value on travel, but I can tell you that a great trip will make everything else you do better…and that’s worth a lot.

    5. Networking Partners

    The past year has really been a good one in terms of developing relationships with business contacts that I admire, enjoy and have opportunities to collaborate with. These great relationships are also starting to pay off with quality introductions and referrals (in all directions) – creating the kind of environment you have to have for continued growth.

    The Quadrafoil Electric Boat6. Cool Technology – example: The Quadrafoil

    My entire life I’ve been inspired by cool ideas of what could be (probably because my Dad had me reading Science Fiction in grade school…). We live in an amazing time where technology is really starting to meet (and often exceed) what was only dreamed of years ago. Quick example – I don’t want a boat and I don’t live near water, but I can’t deny how cool the Quadrafoil is for a lot of reasons – check it out: The Quadrafoil

    7. Friends

    With work, family and all of the other obligations at hand, it’s not possible to spend as much time with friends as I’d like, but I do value the time that I have been able to spend this year (and I will be pushing to spend more next year…).

    8. Time to Think – White Space

    Another key to success and happiness that I’ve been reading about (and observed this year) is finding time to unplug and find some white space. I haven’t quite worked up to meditation (although I’m sure that’s good for you as well) but I definitely appreciate the benefits of finding some quiet time.

    9. Entrepreneurship

    When I worked in the corporate world the ongoing message was doom and gloom with never-ending challenges. Maybe that’s why I so appreciate the optimism and energy of entrepreneurs and small business owners.

    Photo by  eagle102.net via Flickr

    Photo by eagle102.net via Flickr

    10. Gary Pinkel and Mizzou Football

    The Tigers were supposed to struggle this year, but ended up going back to the SEC Championship and winning at least 10 games – and Coach Pinkel has built a program that’s gratifying to root for.

    11. Bill Snyder

    I didn’t go to K-State but you can’t help but be impressed and inspired by their great football coach. Unfortunately I’m getting old enough to really appreciate what he’s been able to accomplish at his age…or at any age.

    12. Abundance – example Solar Energy Revolution

    I first ran across Peter Diamandis and his book Abundance a couple of years ago and I was struck with what a different (and great) message he had. The essence of the book and most of what Diamandis does is that technology is building the capability for a golden age in the next 10 to 20 years. One recent example from his blog is a write-up on the Solar Energy Revolution. As you can see from his blog (and the book) – the possibilities are amazing. I’m grateful to be living in a time where the world is fundamentally changing and often for the better (despite what you hear on the news).

    13. Marvel Comics – Bringing us great Movies

    One of my Christmas gifts was a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy – one of the best movies of 2014…not one of the best superhero or comic book movies, but overall one of the best movies period! And Marvel also brought us the excellent Captain America – The Winter Soldier this year as well. I’ve always been a fan of superheroes and science fiction and now we’re getting a chance to see great adaptations on the big screen!

    14. Health

    Probably no surprise that as you get older you start to clearly realize how your body works…or doesn’t work. I don’t always enjoy going to the gym or eating right, but I definitely appreciate feeling great and staying healthy (and relatively) fit. It’s harder work than it used to be, but I think that makes it even more valuable.

    What are you thankful for this year? You don’t need to write your own post, but I would encourage to carve out at least a few minutes to think about it. It’s a great stepping stone for planning next year. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach