- April 1, 2021
Kyle McDowell’s career transformation from multibillion dollar executive to national leadership coach, author and keynote speaker had an unassuming beginning: the spark was lit in the summer of 2017 inside a dark hotel room in Lawrence, Kansas around midnight.
This principal is “consciously No. 1,” says McDowell, because “if you can’t do that, then everything else is a house of cards.”
McDowell says leaders many times miss opportunities to lead by positive example, given how often employees look to leaders for all sorts of cues. “Those in authority are constantly under a microscope, and others emulate their behavior, whether good or bad,” he writes. “Leaders must ensure their behavior is worth emulating.”
“Leaders,” McDowell writes, “are in the service business — but a leader’s primary objective isn’t to serve customers. You serve your team, who ultimately serve the customer. When you make a commitment to do something for a customer, the expectation is you’ll do it. Why should things be any different behind the curtain for your team members?”
Taking action and making a mistake is OK. Being idle is not. This principle is a follow up to No. 3. Taking action is the follow-through to what you said you would do. This principle also crystallizes, in some ways, McDowell’s approach to life. It’s why, for example, he punted away a perfectly-fine corporate career to go on his own — a move several in his inner circle told him was nuts. McDowell also writes about how creating an environment where choosing to be curious; not settling for the status quo; and thinking like you're the company founder is essential. That’s the only way, he says, where the team will feel safe to explore new ideas.
Although McDowell doesn’t have a favorite principle, per se, this one is near the top of the list for how it resonates with his life ethos. “Mistakes are an opportunity to objectively improve,’ he writes. “The key is to allow for mistakes, identify the correct path of remediation and ensure the mistake only occurs once.”
McDowell says for bosses to become leaders they need to not only encourage and embrace the success of others, but facilitate an environment of opening doors for their teammates. Even if that means they leave the organization. It’s being OK with asking this kind of a question to an employee on your team, writes McDowell: “Marissa, what do you want to do next in your career? Do you have an interest in assuming my role someday?”
“The biggest myth in Corporate America: a jam-packed calendar signifies importance and automatically equates to progress toward results,” McDowell writes. “Endless meetings and other forms of bureaucratic activity only matter if we can clearly draw a line from the activity to the outcome. If an activity doesn’t conspicuously contribute to an outcome, it should be questioned.”
If you are not challenging your team, and yourself, to be better, says McDowell, “by definition, we are not only accepting the status quo, we are promoting it.” (See principle No.4)
This principle follows No. 8 because challenging each other and yourself, realizes McDowell, can be grueling. It’s why he quotes ultramarathoner and retired U.S. Navy Seal David Goggins at the start of this chapter on comfort zones: “If you live in one for too long, it becomes your norm. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
“Obsessing over details is synonymous with obsessing over our clients needs and wants,” McDowell writes. “It’s the difference between average and excellent.” McDowell adds this is the final principle for a reason: if your end-product your company makes or provides isn’t adhering to standards of excellence, then there’s likely problems in principles one through nine, too. “Details,” McDowell says, “are an absolute indicator of the care you put into your brand.”