• Check out The Aspire Success Story

    Learn how clients have succeeded with Aspire (right click and 'save as').


    Success Stories 


  • Sign Up for a Free email Series!

    Leading Your Business To Success!

    A free (but valuable) resource - you'll learn essential strategies to grow your business...the right way!

    sign up here!




  • RSS Feed

  • Sign Up for Email Updates for Blog

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

  • Recent Posts

  • Google+

  • Archives

    View All Archives

  • Aspire » Leadership

    18 May

    Close up of a men's quadruple skulls rowing team, seconds after the start of their race

    Teamwork has been described as the ultimate competitive advantage for a business.

    If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.
    ― Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

    According to Lencioni (and quite a few others) – great teamwork starts with trust. Not that you trust how someone will react – but real, vulnerability based trust where you really know someone as a person. Where they are willing to share their weaknesses and concerns with you (and vice versa). And most importantly where you know with certainty that they put the goals of the teams ahead of their personal goals.

    When you have real, vulnerability based trust and everyone is on the same page then teams can argue, admit weakness, point out issues and challenge each other – and that productive conflict will make the team and the outcomes better.  (And it’s fun to be on a team like that…which pays off down the road as well).

    When you don’t have that kind of trust – one of two things will happen. Team members will lash out at each other when they feel threatened, believing that the best way to get ahead is to bring others down (lots of political games). Alternatively (and probably more likely) people will fall into an ‘artificial harmony’ – where they agree with everything on the surface (or at least don’t disagree) but have absolutely no intention of actually supporting anything. This leads to all sorts of issues like infighting within the ranks, lots of passive aggressive behavior and a significant likelihood that nothing gets done.

    As a leader, how do you develop trust?

    So we’ve established that trust is critical if you’re going to build a great team. And that trust is based in vulnerability and the idea that the team members want to be part of something bigger. It’s all very logical and really not that difficult to understand…but it’s not likely to happen without some focus and leadership. As that leader – what can you do to develop trust within your team?

    1. Actually have a team…

    There’s a huge number of business owners who have employees, people they work with, but they don’t actually have a team. Anything that’s important is personally handled by the business owner and everyone else is just there to help. That’s not a team, that’s a very busy, stressed out business owner who has some help with lots of tasks.

    Having a team means a leadership team where everyone has clear responsibilities and accountabilities. They may need to get approval for big decisions, but on the whole they are enabled by the business owner to make things happen in their area.

    Do you have a team?  Could you create one?


    2. Have a vision…

    People want to be part of a team because they want to achieve something that they can’t do on their own. In sports players don’t talk about trying to become the MVP…they talk about winning championships. As a business owner, what are you building? What’s your big picture? It doesn’t have to be finding a cure for cancer…it could be as simple as being the best pizza/plumber/wealth manager in your city. Whatever it might be, you’ve got to have something that others will find compelling – what would make them want to be part of your team?

    Do you have a clear idea of what you’re building? Have you shared it with your team lately?


    3. Go first and be vulnerable…

    If you want others to trust you, you’re going to have to trust them first. You’re going to have to be the first one out on the ledge before others will follow. If they sense you’re not willing to open up, be vulnerable and to trust others…there’s no way they’ll trust you and the team will never come to pass. The vulnerability part is often very difficult for a business owner. *Note – it’s important to point out that you don’t have to share your deepest, darkest innermost secrets (in fact you shouldn’t) – but you do need to be a real person with hard and soft edges.  And you do need to admit weaknesses…and be able to accept that you’re wrong (and that others are right).

    Suggestion – get to know each other on a more personal basis. Where did you grow up? What kind of challenge did you have as a kid? What was your family like?  Consider using some behavioral assessments as a way to develop a common language around different styles.

    Are you putting up a front for your employees that you can do no wrong? Or are you willing to admit that you need their help and value them?


    Building a great team isn’t really a complex thing – the ideas are straightforward and easy to understand. But they’re not easy to implement…and it’s not a one time thing. You can’t just buy a team in a kit – instead you have to start leveraging core behaviors every single day. Things like:

    • Taking the time to get to know each other on a personal basis,
    • Letting go of important responsibilities and trusting others to come through,
    • Engaging in productive conflict – disagreeing on things (in a professional way) and expecting and encouraging others to disagree as well but also to ultimately commit to whatever the team and the leader decides.

    Simple – but not easy.

    What do you think about trust and teamwork? Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach


    20 Apr

    Prefer to listen to this post? Click the start button below…



    Establishing goals and defining values with our clients is one of the fundamental exercises we try to work through in trying to help create a road map for their future.   Candidly, the” buy-in” from our clients in this process varies.  Though almost every business agrees that setting goals is important and establishing a standard of core values makes sense, many often dismiss the importance of following through with the implementation.

    Clarifying the two…

    Goals are like items on a bucket list; once you do them you cross them off and go on to the next one.  A realtor may sell $1M of real estate one month, but the next month they start back at $0.  Goals help create focus on a particular project and give constant feedback on how well you are advancing towards an end point.

    Values are what matter most to you.  Things you are committed to.  They are not one and done events. You don’t cross off values after a $1M month of sales.  They are a constant. Think of them as a compass that keep you pointed in the direction you want your business to go.  Values come from a much deeper place.  Your business doesn’t “achieve a value” it exemplifies and demonstrates it in the way your company conducts business day in and day out.

    The alignment…

    When one accomplishes goals and does so using the values that are important to them (regardless if they have ever written them down or verbalized them) they feel good about it.   If you accomplish goals but are not able to do so using your values, it will likely cause you stress and you will struggle to feel good, even though you achieved the goal.

    Recently I heard about a sales person who left a company, not because of lack of sales but because the tactics the company was using did not align with the sales person’s personal value system.  It didn’t matter how much this person sold, the values and the goals did not align.

    Why this matters to you…

    Many companies struggle with turnover and getting everyone on the same page.   The factors that contribute to these two issues are more complicated than simply goals and core values.  That said, there has to be a foundation under every building.  We view the core values of your business as the foundation of any organization.

    It is hard to build a strong team and expect them to focus on a goal if the members of the team all have different core values.   It’s unlikely that you’ll have every employee of your company agree 100% with the core values of the company, but that doesn’t mean they don’t abide by those values.   And, the more the values are referenced, whether it is a new employee orientation, during employee reviews, or just shared openly as part of the culture of the business, the more likely the employees will be setting goals, taking actions, and responding to things in ways that complement the values instead of disregarding them.

    Setting and attaining SMART Goals is important.  If you want to increase your success rate and improve the morale of your company, consider looking down at your foundation.  If you (and your team) haven’t clearly verbalized what matters most to you in the way of a set of values, make some time to clarify them in writing and then share them with your company.   Then set goals that allow you to incorporate and align with your values.  We trust you will be happy with the results!  As always we value any feedback in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas Business Coach

    06 Apr

    Prefer to listen to this week’s post? Click the start button below:


    Recently Gallup released their latest report about the state of the labor force in America; it turns out that 1 in 2 employees leave their job because they can’t stand their boss. Stories & headlines like this are good for filling air time on the business network channels because everyone has an opinion, though I often wonder how many of them have ever actually had an employee.

    If you’re a business owner let’s start by taking an optimistic approach.  1 in 2 is 50%, so your glass is already half full….now let’s focus on filling it up!

    This past week Business Insider posted an article by Jacquelyn Smith titled 3 Things that make People Love their Boss. She referenced a different Gallup case study of over 7,700 US adults and found 3 things that make employees feel good about their bosses.  I decided to put the 3 suggestions to the test for a quick Case Study with one of our Aspire clients who has been working diligently on this part of the business for at least a year now.

    3 suggestions from the Gallup study…

    Gallup suggested the following: Consistent and meaningful communication, Performance management beyond annual reviews, and a Focus on strengths, not weaknesses.  Putting that into perspective with a local business (our client) for a case study, here are the initiatives they put in place that match up with the Gallup suggestions:

    1. Consistent and meaningful communication

    • This business holds weekly meetings all employees to keep employees abreast of pertinent news about current and upcoming work.
    • They have the opportunity to ask questions.
    • Employees are recognized for their accomplishment in front of their peers.
    1. Performance management beyond annual reviews.

    • Several “on-going” metrics in efficiency (KPI’s) are being measured and tracked. (Not 100%  “live” yet,  but getting closer.)
    • Expectations in maintaining actions and metrics that various employees are responsible for are reviewed weekly.
    • Expectations of employee alignment with the company core values & mission.
    1. A focus on strengths, not weaknesses.

    • Bonus program that focuses on successes.
    • Leadership training that allows employees to learn from each other.
    • Rewards for perfect work.
    • Employees are praised in public, reprimanded in private

    Case Study: The results…

    Ironically, in a recent meeting this client noted

    • This may be the best group of employees their company has ever had.
    • It is the largest group of employees the company has ever had.
    • Turnover is low.
    • Work efficiency numbers are at an all-time high.

    There isn’t nearly as much magic in all of this as we are often led to believe, but it takes commitment and hard work to get there.  If you think you might be viewed as a “Bad Boss” (or know someone who is) maybe it is time to consider implementing these three strategies into your business?  Make your employees feel good about you and maybe your half full glass will be fuller too!   Please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic.  As always we value your comments and feedback.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    24 Nov

    If you’d prefer to listen to this post, click the start button below – and leave us a comment when you’re done!


    Thanksgiving Parade Picture from Martha_Chapa95 via Flickr

    Thanksgiving Parade Picture from Martha_Chapa95 via Flickr

    There is no other single day of the year that causes us to pause and give thanks more than Thanksgiving.   As the biggest travel holiday of the year, more friends and family are gathered together during this period, than any other holiday.  We spend time with family, we usually eat way more than we should, and we give thanks for what is good in our lives.

    Business owners may not have an official thanksgiving day, although I think some would say it is the day after they finish their YE taxes. 😉    But as a business owner or manager we all have so much to be thankful for.  Not just once or twice a year, but every day of year.   Here are 4 that I think we all should raise a glass and have a toast to:

    Always Be Thankful for….


    It has changed the way we do business. The world can be your market place.  Today even the smallest companies can look as big as they want on the internet.  Brick and Mortar is not a requirement or measuring tool for success.  “The Cloud” has allowed businesses to be more remote than ever before.  The ability to access information, network and share ideas, and outsource business functions has never been easier; and it will only get better.  Be thankful and leverage this.

    Social Media.

    Technology created it and there are negatives with everything, but the positive impact of social media is changing the game of traditional marketing and how we connect with our customers. Big advertising budgets are often being replaced with leaner more targeted social media strategies that can connect and interact with their target markets instantaneously. Be thankful and tweet it, pin it, or share it!

    The USA.

    It is easy to find things to complain about when it comes to owning or operating a business.  We all hate taxes, over regulation, etc. etc. and globally there may be other countries that are more business friendly.  But, the powerful blend of culture, resources, and the laws that guide our country are unmatched. The bottom line is, the USA still offers tremendous freedom an opportunity to those who choose to go out and get it.  Be thankful for our freedom and all those who gave their lives so we could have it.

    Employees, Business Partners, Friends, and Family.

    The anthem of the business owner in independence. But the people we surround ourselves with ultimately have a huge impact on long-term success. Take stock in the people around you.  Thank them for their contributions and support. Let them know they are valued and appreciated.  These people (esp close friends and family) are often the people who support you the most and are acknowledged the least.  Be thankful they are in your life and let them know.

    On this Thanksgiving, we would like to thank all of those who have contributed to our successes in life and in business, especially our families.  It is through your trust, support, understanding, and encouragement we are where we are.

    Finally, we are thankful for our clients who allow us to help them in their businesses and entrust us to be part of their business success story.  We are thankful.

    What are you thankful for?  We always appreciate your comments.  Happy Thanksgiving!

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach

    18 Nov

    Prefer to listen to this post? Click the play button below and let us know what you think in the comments below:


    Frustration stress and writers block

    Do you spend a lot of time avoiding failure?

    How do you react to a failure on your team? Unfortunately most of us in a business environment view failure as unacceptable and will go to great lengths (including not trying something) just to avoid the risk of failing. And to make matters even worse, failure of any kind within the team is usually punished harshly, sending a clear message that a new approach or pushing the envelope is a bad idea.

    Everyone loves success and winning…and if you can skip directly to that point in everything you do, then you’re set for life and you should be writing books about your magical abilities. However for the rest of us, the problem with success when you look at the big picture is that you don’t learn anything from it. When you’re successful you’re just going to to duplicate whatever you just did – there’s no incentive to learn or to grow.

    Failure on the other hand, gives you a lot to think about and a huge incentive to learn a lesson, to change and get better.

    Henry Ford said it very elegantly:

    “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

    The world is changing – and those changes come faster every day. The long term winner is going to be those who focus on learning and growing and the only way to learn and grow is from failing.

    Consider the recent sad tragedy with the Virgin Galactic Space crash, in one of the last few test flights before they planned to launch commercially Space Ship Two crashed shortly after separation from the launching platform ship. One pilot died and the other is severely injured. No one wanted this failure to happen but now that it has, Virgin Galactic has a choice – they can either stop trying or they can learn from this and come up with a better solution…learn and grow.

    “Space is hard – but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together,” – Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic

    The good news for almost all of us in the business world is that failure is rarely a matter of life and death (although it sometimes comes across that way). I’m not suggesting you should be seeking out failure but you have to allow it to be a possibility and when it happens you should celebrate the opportunity to learn from it.

    How to Incorporate Failure into your business

    1. Change your perspective (and your team’s perspective)

    Nobody likes to fail, but realizing that it’s the only way to truly move forward, the first thing you have to do is change how you look at failures. Historically you may have looked at a failure as a huge setback, maybe you got mad or depressed and reacted emotionally. However if you look at a failure as an opportunity to learn and improve – for you and for your team then the next failure takes on a different aspect and becomes something you can work with.

    “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  – Winston Churchill

    2. Engineer opportunities to learn (and to fail)

    In his book Great by Choice author Jim Collins suggests the idea of firing bullets before firing cannonballs. He learned that the most successful companies that he studied had a practice of launching new ideas or products in a very small and controlled way – which let the team fail and learn without causing a major impact. Do you have a great idea that you’ve wanted to try but held back on because you didn’t know if it would succeed? Come up with a way to trial the idea in a way that a failure won’t really hurt but could still teach you a lot.

    3. Celebrate Failures of Commission

    If you really want to make a tangible change to your culture and your environment then it might be time to adopt a ‘failure of the month/quarter/year’ award. The idea is that you want to encourage your team to try new things and even when they don’t work out they should be rewarded or at least recognized in a positive way for trying. To be clear, you’re rewarding people who purposely try something new, not someone who just got lazy and screwed up. It may feel unnatural at first, but it will send a strong message that you truly value creativity and innovation.

    How do you deal with failures? Do you have some other ideas on how you could promote the idea of failing forward at your business? We’d love to hear your thoughts – if you have a minute, share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach