Learn From Jerry Seinfeld’s Red X Method

Accountability Productivity Purpose


Key Point: Get better at setting goals and achieving them. I continue to be amazed how many organizations and individuals struggle with accomplishing goals. This is connected to the challenge most of us face with procrastination issues. So what does the research say? And how might the Jerry Seinfeld method help us?

Some Experts and Research:

Tim Pychyl, a Carleton University psych prof and Founder of Procrastination Research Group in Ottawa, encourages us to make specific implementation intentions. Stop being vague.

An example of a vague goal is, “I want to eat less.”

An implementation intention however, is “I am putting a smaller plate on the table and eating only what’s on it.”

Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School administration professor, and co-author of The Progress Principle finds that we do better when making progress on meaningful goals. “The Progress Principle” involves setting up small wins to achieve and celebrate along the way.  

Jerry Seinfeld’s Red X method was captured in the Lifehacker blog. When asked what made him a great comic, Seinfeld pointed out that comics need to write jokes every day. To help him, he put up a wall size calendar and slashed a red X through everyday he wrote. The goal was to never break the chain of red X ‘s. Seinfeld claims to have used the same method for achieving other goals too. 

Character move:

  1. Be absolutely honest and clear that the goal is meaningful to you. Decide that you must achieve it.
  2. Break it down to small and important steps. Celebrate progress along the way.
  3. Be very specific and intentional in combining a series of small wins leading to your aspirational goal. No vagueness!
  4. Use Seinfeld’s Red X method to keep the chain of continuous small wins in view. Keep the chain unbroken for as long as possible. It will become a habit.
  5. Remind yourself how good it feels to connect an unbroken chain of small wins. This sense of progress creates a positive environment.

Red X method in The Triangle,

– Lorne


Are You a Flat Panel?

Abundance Books Purpose


Key Point: Search for a flat panel TV and one will get more than 30,000 results on Amazon alone. Now that’s competition. It’s stretching the metaphor a bit, but we are all to some extent like flat panels. How do we stand out above the crowd? Read on for a hint!

Michael Hyatt is a platform and social media phenomenon. He has more than 400,000 monthly visitors to his blog. His new book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is a “tour de force” on the subject. His message is that we need to make “wow” happen if we want to have an impact and rise above the crowd. Read and study the book to get the whole picture but the following highlights will hopefully prime the inspirational pump:

1. Take a stand for greatness! Don’t settle. When you decide the dream warrants it, play it out fully!

2. Have and connect with a vision. Become present to what you’re trying to create.

3. Remind yourself what’s at stake. Why is “this” (the vision) so important?

4. Listen to your heart. Our inner voice is a powerful driver. Being present with ourselves creates velocity.

5. Speak up! Give voice to your heart. If you don’t, who will? Go for what you deeply believe in.

6. Be stubborn. Believe in yourself. Mediocrity is natural and drifting with the current is normal… Perhaps that’s what you want? If so… That’s what you’ll get. There are lots of excuses to let yourself off the platform.

Character move:

  1. We have one short lap around the pool of life. Somewhere, sometime, we need to challenge ourselves to have an impact and to create a “wow!” Have a vision and purpose and go for it. The other option is mediocrity.
  2. Take a stand for greatness! Take a stab at a “wow!” No excuses. It doesn’t have to be a “whale saving” event. It can be one event…one project…one relationship…. But after, bask in the glory of the “wow…” Not just for ego gratification but more importantly because of what the outcome meant to others.
  3. Start with one step. Ask yourself, “What would achieving this make possible to others? To you?” Forget about what people think…If they don’t like you… If you fail… So what? Really, just imagine it! Then start.
  4. When you are lying there in palliative care, hopefully after a long and gratifying life, you can smile and know you gave it a shot for greatness.

Above the Noise in The Triangle,



Be Simple Not Simplistic

Accountability Management Organizational leadership


Key Point: Board of Directors (the recent financial meltdown in the U.S. notwithstanding) are usually wise, smart and accomplished. If you get a chance to listen to the questions they ask, you will learn a lot. These individual probes come from a place of experience. The reason board members ask them is because they have learned something important, often resulting in memorable scar tissue they still carry with them. Read on and I will share two areas or principles where smart board members really zero in.

I recently attended a major company’s board meeting. I loved listening and watching where and how that board managed a constructive inquisition. True to form, this very capable group put a spotlight on the following:

Principle No. 1: Where there is complexity, one usually finds cost and opportunity!

When management proposes something that is complex and difficult to understand, the antennae of knowledgeable board members’ usually buzz. They know that if they can’t “get it,” a lot of others won’t either. The unintended consequence of complex systems or processes is often extraordinary administration and that usually costs a lot in people, technology and capital. On the other hand, board members get excited when management is capable of taking the waste out of complexity. This usually means more margin if that activity has commercial value. The worldwide champion on reducing complexity into simple, almost beautiful elegance is of course Apple.

Principle No. 2: Cause and effect are not closely related in space and time.

This principle is well known by experienced board members. They understand that providing data does not equal problem resolution. Finding the real cause and true drivers of end results is one of the most challenging aspects of strong leadership. This is especially true with complex systems. When real catastrophes happen it is usually based on multiple, interconnected root causes. That’s why intensive investigation is necessary and finding the cause is hard work. The same is true when something is exceptionally better in value than what others are providing. The outcome of extraordinary value is often based on a connected system; all elements working optimally. That’s why sports teams can’t be excellent from just copying a playbook from another great team. There is more to being exceptionally better than just what’s in the playbook. It’s the end-to-end system that wins.

Character move:

  1. Look for complexity in your work and personal life. Simplifying it will result in cost saving and/or a way to make more money (get better results). Just pick one thing and pilot it. When you hear somebody propose something that is too complex, don’t just assume you’re the only one that doesn’t get it. Trust your gut and really question where the simplicity might be. My guess is if you don’t “get it,” others don’t either.
  2. Learn how to get to root cause by using effective problem solving methodology. The Japanese scientists and engineers, who really developed the break-through total quality and lean systems, reinforced the five “whys?” They believe that if you ask the question “why?” after each response to a problem, you’re getting closer to the real root cause.
Be simple (yet elegant) in The Triangle, 



Last Sip of Goodness From That Drink With Marshall

Abundance Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: As promised here is my third and final blog regarding that glass of wine with the renowned Marshall Goldsmith. Feedback has merit when done well. Its limitation is that it is focused on the past and as we all know, nothing can be done about our past actions. Goldsmith encourages the clients he coaches (all big wig CEOs) to implement a concept called “feed forward.” This approach focuses on getting guidance on behavior and what the people you care about would like to see you do: More of? Less of? Start doing? Stop doing? If you want a simple process to try this, read on.

Let’s say your goal is to be a better leader. Identify a core group of people who care enough about you to be thoughtful, frank and really want to help you improve. Ideally this group would include a combination of peers, direct reports, and your boss. Ask each of those people for just ONE day to day leadership behavior they would suggest you adopt. Ideally, working on this would be actionable and specific. An example could be, “be more present and attentive when we have our one-on-one meetings.”

Collect the data from each person and say “thank you” for their suggestion. Do not judge the ideas given to you. Regardless of how helpful or not you think the comment is… Just say “thank you.”

When you get all the data, pick just ONE key thing you are honestly willing to commit to and execute on it.

Then get a progress report on how well you’re doing. Go back to the people you asked for “feed forward” help and check to see if they see behavior change in you. “Hey, remember when you suggested I be more present at one-on-ones? How am I doing? See any improvements?” If you have, keep building more “feed forward” goals. If not, you have work to do…

Character move:

  1. Try a “feed forward” process ASAP. It works in the office AND at home. For example, “tell me one thing I could do to be a better Dad? Son? Daughter? Partner?” 
  2. Remember to say, “thank you.” No passing judgment.
  3. Pick one thing, commit to the behavior until it becomes a good habit, and get a report card on that specific thing.
  4. Do it over and over… Evolve!

“Feed Forward” in The Triangle,



Drinking With a Leadership Guru… Part 2

Abundance Contribution


Last blog I told you that you would get more “juice” from my glass of wine with Marshall Goldsmith. As promised here it is.

Key Point: Marshall works with exceptionally capable people as an executive coach. Most are CEOs of the world’s largest companies. And even these people lose their way. The only way for these high achievers to improve is to get a “mirror” and really see how their behavior is impacting others. This is more challenging than one thinks. Frankly, it’s challenging because people suck up to their bosses. The higher one goes in a company, the funnier our jokes get, and ideas more “brilliant.” We don’t like really obvious “suck ups,” but if we are honest most of us do pander (subtly) to our bosses and find it difficult to point out their shortcomings. It is even tougher than when we’re dealing with a CEO.

All CEOs (me included) have lots of confidence and big egos. And it’s that big ego that usually gets us off compass. We need to tweak behaviors that set us off course from time to time and we usually need help from people we care about, to make those course corrections. Goldsmith points out about 20 common behavioral missteps. I’m going to focus on four.

1. Winning too much. This one is an area that I personally have to improve on. I feel like I have to literally win at everything, regardless of how little or big. I’ve been so darn competitive all my life that I can lose my way if not careful. Of course a winning spirit is important, but when we do it to excess and apply it in situations that are not worth our time and energy, it limits our success. My trivial example is that I have to always be right when my wife points out my bad driving habits. Frankly she is normally right, but I argue with her anyways. Why? Does it really matter? This flaw at work can get us off course because we might unwittingly put our need to win over what’s best for the company.

2. Adding too much value. I worked for one person that just couldn’t stop when it came to adding too much value. You could come with a Nobel Prize idea and you would get, “already knew that and thought of it years ago” and/or “it’s a good idea but it would be better if…” The problem with this behavioral defect is that it totally diminishes the ownership of the idea. The irony is that often as bosses, we only add 5 percent value. What is the real contribution? Is 5 percent worth taking away the motivation the presenter? Certainly when we know something someone proposes is going to cause harm, we have an obligation to weigh in. But in most cases if we step back and focus on others winning versus us “having to add value,” we become even more successful.

3. Passing judgment. When people offer suggestions or help, we cannot pass judgment because if we do, it just pushes people away. If people want to help and the outcome is “that’s stupid,” “won’t work,” “idiot idea,” etc. it ensures people who genuinely care about helping will think better of it next time. Whatever we think of the idea, the only right response is, “thank you.” When we just acknowledge the offer to help with a “thank you” and go from there, we will eliminate pointless arguments and negative conflict.

4. Making destructive comments: When we make destructive comments it is mental graffiti. It just sticks around as an ugly memory. If the comments we’re making are not beneficial to customers, the organization, or the person we’re talking to and/or about… DON’T SAY IT! It just detracts from others and us. I especially detest the act of trashing other people. It is not respectful.

Character move:

  1. Assess how much you are dominated by having to win all the time. Have a little talk with Mr. or Ms. Ego.
  2. When some one presents an idea, think about the trade off of “adding too much” value versus just giving them a thumbs-up and gifting them the joy of making their own idea come alive.
  3. Just say “THANK YOU” when someone offers suggestions intended to help. The ideas are not to be received as “good” or “bad,” but just what they are… neutral. Accept and go from there.
  4. No destructive trash talking period. Ever. We’re not perfect but take a moment before letting that little sarcastic, cynical, gossipy tongue waggle!

Getting there from here in The Triangle,



Lessons From Drinking With a Leadership Guru

Accountability Growth mindset


Key Point: What if you could spend a few hours having a glass of wine with this dude? His book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, was ranked as America’s No. 1 best-selling business book in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He is one of a select few advisors who have been asked to work with more than 80 major CEO’s and their management teams. He also delivers top-rated keynotes, seminars and workshops. He’s been a member of the board of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for 10 years. He has been a volunteer teacher for US Army Generals, Navy Admirals, Girl Scout executives, international and American Red Cross leaders, (where he was a National Volunteer of the Year).

This man has a Ph.D. from UCLA. He teaches executive education at Dartmouth’s Tuck School and frequently speaks at other leading business schools. His work has been recognized by almost every professional organization in the leadership world. The American Management Association named him as one of 50 great thinkers and leaders who have influenced the field of management over the past 80 years. Business Week listed him as one of the most influential practitioners in the history of leadership development. He was recognized as a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, America’s top HR honor. His work has been featured in a New Yorker profile, Harvard Business Review interview and Business Strategy Review cover story (London Business School).

Major business press acknowledgments include: The Wall Street Journal (one of the top 10 executive educators), Forbes (one of five most-respected executive coaches), India’s Economic Times (as one of five rajgurus of America), The UK’s Economist (one of three most credible executive advisors in the new era of business), and Fast Company (as America’s preeminent executive coach). His 23 books include: The Leader of the Future (a Business Week best-seller), Coaching for Leadership and the upcoming Developing Your Successor (in the Harvard Business Memo to the CEO series). The bio above, as many of you have already determined, belongs to the renowned Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.

On the night of May 7, I did spend a few hours over a glass of wine with Marshall. It was three of us, in the ultra hip Hotel Le Germain lounge in Calgary. Just Marshall, a big time CEO and me. That same day, before getting to Calgary, he talked to the CEO of Ford (CEO of the year , Alan Mulally), the head of The World Bank (Dr. Jim Yong Kim), Dave and me. He finally hit the big time with us (haha). I learned so much from this man during our time together that evening that I am going to share it with you over a couple of blogs.

So what did I learn? Lesson No. 1 (and you get this insight from Marshall before 99.9 percent of others).

Marshall and his Yale educated Ph.D. daughter, have been doing research on employee engagement. Here is what they are finding out (totally in sync with The Character Triangle). When we ask people active questions versus passive questions, employee engagement improves significantly.

A passive question would be, “are you engaged in your work?”

An active question would be, “did you do your best to be engaged at work?”

The point is that the person who has the most to gain from employee engagement is the employee. When active questions are asked, self-accountability emerges. When we ask passive questions, the response is environmentally driven rather than personal. (For example; the organization is responsible for me being engaged more than me taking responsibility).

Character move:

  1. An active question begins with a phrase like: “Did I do my best to..?” Learn to distinguish active versus passive questions.
  2. Ask yourself and your team active questions. The four BIG ones according to Marshall are: A. Did I do my best to be happy today? B. Did I do my best to find meaning today? C. Did I do my best to be engaged today? And D. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  3. Recognize that the only way people will change and commit to improve their engagement is because in their hearts they want to, AND they recognize they have the most to gain from doing so! 

Active questions in the Triangle,

– Lorne

P.S. – Stay tuned for more lessons from “drinking with Marshall!”