"We provide innovative approaches to achieve

serious business results."Tim Connor - President, Rodeo!

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Your Life: Taking Command


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

If sales of time management classes and books are any indicator, most people consider managing their time important. But managing time is often like grabbing a greased octopus, where do you start and how do you keep your grip? The truth of the matter is that most folks begin by trying to manage all the things in their lives – and it makes them losers before they even start.

Every one of us has too many events clamoring for our attention, and the key isn’t managing all of them – it’s eliminating those that shouldn’t be there. That’s right, you can’t begin with a plan for order, you have to begin with a sieve. And guess what? YOU had better be the one who decides what that sieve is going to filter out.

This “orderliness mistake” is made by 90% of the people who try to get a handle on their lives. They buy calendars, planners, sticky notes, and reminders. They spend hours learning the nuances of computer planning, but they never take the time FIRST to decide what is most important to them, actually deciding what’s going to get through that mesh and what isn’t.

Think about it a minute: family, marriage, self, career, today’s tasks – how many issues come pressing in on you from every one of these areas every day? Dozens? Hundreds? It’s a mess, and trying to put it all into order is both frustrating and hopeless. Your initial task HAS to be to find a way to limit the number of things you’re going to handle, and that means developing a plan. There are three “Need tos” to developing the right plan:


1) It needs to address the important areas in your life. What are they? It’s not hard to sit down and list them, and you’ll find that most of them have to do with your critical relationships.

2) It needs to take into account important things by category. What categories?
A) Things important things to me;
B) things important to other key people;
C) things important to my work.

3) It needs to recognize priority among those life areas. What’s that mean? Simply that some are more important than others OR that some need more work than others. Those with highest priority should get the most time allotted to them.

Once you’ve taken the half hour or so to develop these Needstas, you have suddenly opened up a whole new ability to yourself: the ability to Say No. You will still have the hundreds of issues coming into your life every day, but with this starter system you will know which are not important – those you should say “No” to. There’s more to it, of course, and it’s wise to use a planning system that will allow you to incorporate your Need tos into your daily and weekly planning. But this approach will get you started on the right foot, and you will find it much easier to know which issues SHOULD be handled in your life.

Time: The Great Leveler


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

The 21st Century. 2000 years after the birth of Jesus Christ in the Middle East. But what do we today, a man from 2000 years ago, a knight from the middle ages, and a colonial planter from 1751 in Virginia have in common? All have exactly the same number of hours in a day.

Exactly the same number.

Look around you: you might see an assistant, the CEO, a housekeeper, a surgeon, a younger colleague, it doesn’t matter who it is, all have 24 hours in a day. So how come Bill the accountant looks calm and unruffled while Zelda the vice president is hollow-eyed and jittery? It’s in the way they handle their own personal 24 hours.

When most people think of time, they think “not enough of it”. But is there really not enough – or are there too many things that come into our time? It’s a little shocking to think of the past 80 years and the work that has been put into machines and methods aimed at saving us time. What’s going on? Did the machines work? And if they did work, where the dickens is all this time I’m supposed to have on hand now? The Big Question: How do I arrange my day to get important things done and still have time to relax?

The answer starts with understanding time. Time is inanimate, it doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t care what you are doing, and it certainly can’t be managed. So put any thought of time management out of your mind – time marches on! You have to begin with the concept that a day is a series of events. How did you begin your day today? What were the first things you did after your eyeballs popped open this morning? Chances are it looked something like this:

  • Turn off the alarm
  • Groan gently for a minute or so
  • Hit the bathroom
  • Take a shower
  • Greet your spouse
  • Make the coffee
  • Glower at your kids
  • Eat breakfast
  • Feed the cat
  • Glance at the news
  • Get in the car and drive to work

See any “time” in that list? Nope! That list is a series of EVENTS. And the rest of every day of every person is another series of more events. Some are predictable, some are not. But what events you allow within your 24 hours is the key to having a sane and productive life. It involves three things: knowing your priorities, having a plan, and using a system.

Knowing Your Priorities

To begin with, if you don’t have formal priorities for your life, EVERYTHING that enters your day will force its priority on you. You’ve seen it happen.

“This is critical, we HAVE to get it done!”. “If we don’t do this right now, the business is going to suffer.” Or: “Sure, we can skip this meeting, but it will mean the end of civilization as we know it…”

Of course, there are emergencies that come up, they happen. But look at those statements just made, do you see any similarities? It’s the word “We”. Every single event that you face in a day has a priority to someone, and the goal of that person is to get YOU to share in that priority. It goes beyond your face-to-face interactions with people. Email calls you to new tasks.

Internet “clicks” pull you into time-consuming blurbs about travel, social issues, and the newest drug for dealing with a health malady you didn’t know you needed.

Television gobbles up huge chunks of time showing that you CAN fire a rock over 1000 yards using only steam and a hollow log – an interesting study, but probably fairly low as far as usefulness in your life. All these things claim time from you, and leave less time for other things – remember, you only have 24 hours to begin with. Knowing your own priorities allows you the luxury to say “NO” to events pushing into your day’s events. They actually can free up significant pieces of time for you.

So the number one activity to get a handle on your time? Decide and write down your own priorities, both for your personal and your professional life.

Having a Plan

Obviously, having a set of priorities – knowing what’s important to you – is a huge step forward. But they won’t do you a whole lot of good if you don’t have a plan for accomplishing things within those priorities. A plan includes goals, both short and long term, for getting important things actually accomplished. Goals will probably include significant other people in your life, such as your spouse, or children, or parents. They might include skills you want to learn, hobbies you want to practice, places you want to visit.

A good plan takes into account the actual goal, but also the plan and the time needed to accomplish that goal. And don’t sell that last one short, ALL goals take time, and only YOU can see that the time to bring about that goal is there as it’s needed.

So your second activity is to write out goals within your priorities, including both the detail and the time necessary to bring them to fruition.

Using a System

Priorities and goals are indispensable for reclaiming time within your day, but it’s a system that actually allows you to get them done. The system should include a way for you to plan for finishing the details that lead to your goal. It will allow you to set time aside BEFORE your week – or your day – begins. It should allow you to track progress, and to monitor important daily events that you want to remember. Did you know that a study done by Franklin Covey showed that the average time a business professional spends just looking for such important information is six weeks a year? Would you like to have six weeks back in a year? What could you do with an amount of time like that?

So the third, and final activity to reclaim time is to have, and use, a system.

The Key to Effective Leadership: Defining Roles, Relationships, and Responsibilities


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

You’ve read keys to leadership before, probably enough to fill a sizeable key ring! But let’s face it, leadership is about people – who else would you lead? So if it is about people, there ought to be a way to systematically become more effective. And I’m not just talking about folks at work, but also about leadership with your spouse and children.

So what’s the scoop?

The secret, as in almost any worthwhile endeavor, has to do with having a plan. In this case the plan involves defining three important “people area questions”: “What are my roles?” “What are my key relationships within each of those roles?” And “What are the responsibilities that go along with each of those relationships?”

First off, What are my roles? Each of us has roles in life, some more than others. You might have a role as a boss, or as an employee. You might even have both! You might have a role as a wife or a husband, or as a father or mother. My own key roles are as a boss, as a husband, and as a father. Whatever your key roles are, write them down on the left side of a piece of paper, and leave room between them.

Study those roles for a minute or two. Each role will have key relationships that go with it. For instance, if you are an employee, you have a manager, supervisor, or an executive you report to. That’s a key relationship. You may also have a few people who work with you on a company team, and again, those are key relationships. Don’t put everyone in the company down, but capture the key few. List the key relationships to the right of each role you have on your paper. Leave space to the right of each relationship, because you’ve still got more to do!

As an example, I have a role as a father, and the key relationships for me in that role include my three sons. I would list their three names to the right of my role as “father”. Now that isn’t so hard, is it?

The third area to consider to make this leadership exercise work is the responsibilities that go along with each of the relationships. Take some time to think about these. What do each of these people need from you in order be more effective themselves? If you’re a boss and the key relationship you are considering is that of an employee who reports to you, it might be communication. It might also be encouragement, or a regular time each week to give you feedback. In the role of a father, you have to consider the age of the child you’re dealing with: a 12 year old needs a lot more time than an 18 year old, and the activities you do with him or her will be considerably different. Whatever those key responsibilities, as you think of them list them to the right of each relationship.

Now, I’ll bet you’ve got a full sheet! The final step is to start taking those responsibilities and making time for them. And this is important: if you’ve identified your key roles, and your key relationships within each role, and your key responsibilities for each relationship, you have a list of some of the most important activities you can take time for in your life. Putting aside time here will make those who are important to you more effective. But it will do a lot more than that. Time spent here will heal hurt feelings, it will smooth out misunderstandings, it will energize interactions. You will find that you get along better with these people, and that crises will begin to disappear from those relationships.

And isn’t that what true leadership is about…making others more effective? Try this little exercise out, I think you’ll find that it works.

The Case for Executive Coaching


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Executive Coaching, a hot topic over the last couple of years. But is it effective? Does it pay off? Do the results stick?

What Are Your Desired Results?

It’s good to start out by identifying the results you want. For a business owner or business executive, that will surely include improving your ability to move the company to the next level. You will likely want to sharpen your own time management skills. You may want to discuss company direction, or challenges facing your organization. You might even want to review alignment of your company departments with the overall vision and direction. A coach can help you do all of these and more. But you should take time before you start to get these clear, and to define the results you are expecting in each of your areas of concern.

Three Areas for the Buyer to Review

So, who is doing coaching, and what are their credentials?. There is a move today among many professions into coaching, primarily into “life coaching”. There is also a move to certify coaches, emanating primarily from companies whose main business is certifying coaches (duh!). The business man or woman who is considering hiring a coach should review three areas: 1) What actual experience has the coach had in the business world? 2) What results did the coach see when working in that world? And 3) What results has the coach seen since opening his/her practice? In any new endeavor there is a pattern evident, beginning with the opening of the field by people who have worked hands on and are now farming themselves out to others to get them started.

An obvious example is the PC computer industry. In the beginning (the first five years or so) the people available to help with business computing were primarily those had worked on computers. Some were good, some were bad, but they had all learned ‘by the seat of their pants’. As time went on a lot of different credentials came and went, but those that have stuck are those that have produced people who give results, and many of those still are not degreed people. Coaching is no different; if the coach you are interviewing can’t show you results, keep looking.

How Do Coaches Work?

There are a wide variety of coaching approaches, of course, but they’re really not too hard to sort out. If you want someone to discuss things with, bounce ideas and strategies off of, then once or twice a month for an hour at a time will probably meet your needs. In that case, the experience of the coach will have a lot of bearing on the discussion, and the advice you’re going to get.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to change attitudes or build new skills, you will obviously need someone who is going to meet with you more often, and who has a system to help you develop these new abilities. Remember, old habits and attitudes took years to develop, you’re not going to get rid of them by reading a book, talking with someone once or twice, or going to a seminar. It will take directed effort toward a specific end, and the coach is there to advise and to hold you accountable.

What Results Can You Expect?

Results will depend on the type of organization and on the position of the person being coached. A recent study of executive coaching results in a Fortune 500 firm reported a 529% return on investment and significant intangible results to the business (study by Metrix Global). Manchester Incorporated completed a survey of 100 executives and found that the average return on investment was six times the money spent on the coaching process. Interestingly, an internal report from the Personnel Management Association reported that training alone produced a 22% productivity increase, but training combined with coaching increased productivity to an average of 86%.

Why the big results? Some of it has to do with the personal aspect inherent to coaching – it’s just more effective to be able to think through strategies when it’s done with someone else. But there is also the factor of increased accountability, and if it’s done right, the systematic addition of new habits and skills, that account for most of the increase. This is particularly true with an executive or business owner. The executive position has (of course) associated costs that go far beyond the salary of the executive. Decisions made at this level affect the entire company, which may include hundreds or thousands of people. Rework generated by poor decisions here can result in costs in the millions. Poor relationship skills may leave contracts on the table involving the same amount, or result in union activities or significant drops in morale. Faulty direction could put a company out of business, or at best force it through years of playing catch up with competitors. The risks of executive actions are significant, but consequently so are the opportunities when improvement is systematically under-taken.


Executive coaching, done systematically with an experienced coach, is extremely likely to produce outcomes far in excess of its cost. The only caveat being the willingness of the executive to apply himself or herself in developing the new habits and attitudes. In a nutshell – it’s worth the investment.

How Important Is It to Test Your Assumptions?


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Most leaders don’t consider the assumptions they work under every day. But that’s the point! Assumptions affect direction, decisions, delegation, relationships, conflict – there is literally NO area that isn’t affected by our assumptions. Does that mean assumptions are bad? Of course not – they’re inevitable. But great leaders go through a deliberate process to find and test their assumptions – it’s foundational to effective action.

Assumptions: What Are They?

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary describes an assumption as: The act of taking for granted, or supposing a thing without proof; supposition.

Assumptions are sometimes a little difficult to understand, but they’re a daily part of every person’s life.

Where Do We Make Assumptions?

Every decision made by a human being is bedded in assumptions, it has to be. Here are some common, everyday decision areas with their assumptions:

Machinery: We assume that the coffee maker will work, the car will start, the airplane will actually leave the ground – you get the idea.

Travel: To most of us travel is a part of any normal day. We assume that a certain route will be the shortest, that traffic will be at certain levels, that travel times can be predicted. Our decision on our route is based on assumptions from these areas.

Situations: Things get sticky here. We make assumptions about how situations will unfold or continue to unfold based on the decision facing us. Business and organizational strategies are heavily grounded in assumptions made here.

Relationships: Assumptions made within relationships will have drastic results on the ongoing health of that relationship, whether business or personal. Assumptions here relate to the future of income, training and education, attitudes, conflict, and the expected actions of the other following the decision.

People Groups: Both serious benefits and serious problems arise when we make assumptions about people groups, and these assumptions are made all the time.

Political assumptions tend to be particularly deadly, because they affect lives, living, and money in large groups of people. In this area, major facts arising from research can be either missed – or even ignored – because they conflict with other assumptions that are more acceptable to those doing the research. The founding fathers of the United States had this in mind when they touted moral character as being the single most important thing to seek out in a prospective leader. Why? Because such character was an accurate predictor of the assumptions under which that leader would live and operate.

In this article, we’ll look at assumptions regarding people.

How Assumptions Affect Actions

Assumptions are important, because they allow life to move forward quickly and hopefully in a productive way.

When we assume certain characteristics of people, we tend to look for actions on their parts that will bear out our assumptions. If we stop there and don’t go further, we can make grave mistakes that will affect our reactions to both individuals and groups who are in our “assumption focus”.

So how should a great leader routinely go about making good assumptions?

Surfacing Assumptions

The first thing leaders should do is to surface their own assumptions. This is nothing more than selecting an area, either with people or within a situation, and then taking the time to figure out what assumptions are being made there. Where to start?

  • Where are the biggest area of conflict in the decision I’m considering? What actions are likely to result from my decision?
  • What good might come out of my decision? What bad?!
  • Will my decision add extra work to the daily life of those affected by my decision? How much and how often?
  • Will my decision add costs to the business? Are those costs offset by other benefits? Will it cost my employees?
  • Are my assumptions based on selfishness on my part, or am I honestly looking for the good of the people involved? Am I looking for the long term good of the organization?
  • Are my assumptions arising from fears I have? Are those fears accurate, and arising from responsible consideration on my part, or are they purely selfish fears?

Testing Assumptions

Once assumptions have been surfaced, testing assumptions involves digging down and finding out if our assumptions are correct. This process takes work, and most people don’t really care to do it. But a leader HAS to do it, because his or her decision will affect the future of the organization and the people within it.

The questions I use to surface assumptions will lead directly to the research I must do to test my assumptions. If my questions are good ones, research will be fairly straightforward and effective. BUT, it’s a wise leader who makes written notes on research done, as such notes will prove invaluable later when second thoughts occur OR when others want to know how I came to that decision!


Whether related to my own plans, plans regarding my marriage and family, or plans relative to the business I lead, surfacing and testing assumptions is one of the most powerful tools a great leader uses to make solid, long-lasting-for-good decisions!

Leadership Development Consulting | Ocala, FL

A national company based in Ocala, Florida.