There is impact in your “I am”

In my late twenties, I was the Audit Director for a billion dollar company traveling the world and using the phrase “Tone at the Top” every chance that I could. I even trained my auditors that the organization, its culture and their potential audit findings would most likely be a result of how those at the top of the organization dealt with risk, process and communicating vision.

While this all still remains true, I’ve altered my thinking to also include every single person and touch-point throughout the organization. While vision, goal-setting and direction are key factors to success, I truly believe that each individual, and their authentic self, has a dramatic impact on the company they work for, the teams they work with and ultimately how their customers will perceive them in the marketplace.

If this is true, why don’t many leaders (regardless of position or title) focus on personal development? Here’s my two cents! Many leaders have blindspots and think they don’t need to improve. This is an extremely dangerous place for a leader and here is why! Any individual who is not progressing is regressing. Which by definition means that many of our teams are building silos, pointing blame for process failures and investing more in proving why a concept will not work versus pulling together to bring new things to life. Our companies are made up of these teams, which also by my definition means that a company who is not progressing is losing. Losing badly. Losing hundreds of customers each month without noticing! All because of the “I am”.

On the contrary, when I am investing in myself, I learn, I challenge, I apply and I get better. When I get better, my team gets better. Why? Because we learn, we challenge, we apply and we get better. When we get better, our customer’s experience with us gets better. When our customer’s experience gets better, we win!

Without a high-dollar, high-powered marketing campaign, customers recognize that there is something different about us. To me, this directly ties back to the investments we make in ourselves and our people. One could even argue that there is no better way to invest long term.

So the question of today is, what follows your “I am” and what are you doing about it on a daily basis as a result of this awareness? Are you trying to win in the marketplace without a key spoke in your wheel? Experience has taught me that the “Tone at the Top” is vital, but the “I am” permeating throughout your entire organization is the true game-changer. Check your personal and organizational blindspots! There is definitely intentional impact in your “I am”!

Kevin D. Jackson

Pivotal Moments: They happen to you or through you!

Have you ever wondered why some leaders go down in history as one of the greats?  Better yet, wouldn’t it be amazing to be added to the list?  As life-learners, we all yearn to be better than we were yesterday.  We recognize that the world around us is rapidly transforming, so it’s a no-brainer that vigilance, flexibility and relevance is paramount.

While thinking about this subject, my mind wondered to the topic of sailing.  Don’t ask me why!  I’m not very fond of boats, nor do I swim!  However, there is something intriguing to me about how these fine vessels work.  If you are a sailor, please forgive me now!  Everything that I have learned in the last few days about sailing was from Wikipedia and YouTube – Ha!  So here it goes!

Check out these 10 things as it relates to leadership:

1. You must first be trained on the parts of the boat and their purpose.
2. You must be given standard training on how to operate the boat.
3. You must understand the responsibility of each person on the boat.
4. You must prepare the boat, with a detailed checklist of items,before it is sailed.
5. You must determine the wind direction.
6. You must hoist your sails and point the boat into the wind.
7. You must realize that along the way you will be faced with changing winds.
8. You must make key decisions and adjust accordingly.
9. You must accept that you are responsible for everyone on the boat.
10. You must ensure that everyone is doing their job effectively. If not, the boat will not sail properly and you will find yourself off-course.

Well, I could probably stop here and let you draw your own conclusion about the connection I have made to sailing and leadership.  But, I won’t do that to you.  I’ll leave you with this!

Leadership takes initial and ongoing training to be truly successful.  Although, there are textbook-standards to leading a team, transforming a company and keeping the boat afloat (pun intended), it is the leader’s charge to get everyone rowing in the same direction.  Checklists and processes are key to ensure the organization is prepared, safe and set up for success.  A leader must be forward-thinking and always checking the wind (sometimes affectionately known as understanding the customers’ needs and staying abreast of market dynamics).

Once a direction is charted, it is the leader’s responsibility to take a head count, ensure everyone is on the boat and make the call to leave the dock.  As the team sets sail, the leader must prepare the team for changing wind patterns (as this will occur).  Changing winds may come in the form of new legislation, competitive pressures, customer preference changes and economic swings.  Great leaders anticipate and adjust!  Why?  Because pivotal moments can either happen to you or through you!

When the time is right, leaders adjust the mast rate to regulate the direction and speed.  They stay connected throughout the journey with their key personnel.  Why?  Because leaders understand that each person on the boat has a responsibility.  If they don’t do their job effectively, the boat will never sail properly.

Leaders take calculated risks and intently set the sails to seize pivotal moments.  Will you be this type of leader?  #letsgo

Kevin Jackson

The indisputable formula for sustainable success!

Friends, there are two things that we must be honest with ourselves about. #1 Am I taking the appropriate amount of risk? #2 Is my leadership style positively infectious? If you can honestly answer yes to both of these questions, you are well on your way to a successful career, business and life. Let me explain further.

Risk is an important element to your trajectory. Although it never feels good when a situation or decision goes sour, standing idol while the world changes around you is also a recipe for disaster. I’ll even go as far to say that standing idol, with a false sense that everything is okay, is worse than spiraling down, smacking the floor, regaining composure, learning from your mistakes and getting back in the game with a renewed sense of purpose.

The unknown (also known as the golden opportunity) will always be unreachable without challenging your natural human tendency to avoid risk at all cost. Here’s a secret… fortunes are found in the failures. However, the good news is that the failures don’t have to be your own. Leaders who are vigilant and savvy will solve problems for their end customers that their competition is not aware of or willing to tackle. Great leaders are intentional about winning! When everyone else has gone home for the day, they are planning ways to be better than they were yesterday. They work feverishly, often using erasers, white-out, the backspace and delete keys. A plan is never perfect, but the implementation, with mitigating controls to address the key risks, must be flawless.

This is where the infectious leadership trait must kick in, because a leader is only as good as the people surrounding him/her who will carry out the vision. And… we all know that the troops will not give 100% to an ineffective leader. So, we must now pause and ask ourselves… Am I an empathic servant leader who listens and is able to build bridges, or do I just have power and influence to give marching orders?

Leadership is about understanding your tribe and what makes them tick. For every single person has special gifts. A leader’s job is to find out what these gifts are and to place people in positions that play to their strengths. This is how you carry out the vision that you stayed up all night worrying about.
Investing in your employees at this level will take you to places that you never dreamed of. Why? Because the troops see an authentic leader that not only cares about the bottom line, but one that understands that the destiny (and how you get there) will ultimately bring the dividend. For this is a leader whose outlook and approach is contagious!

And… courageous and contagious leadership always wins the day!  Always!!

Discipline in the routine will eventually shine through when it’s time to march!

Friends, I have never played in a marching band, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the end product of countless hours of practice, determination and bond. For spectators like me, there is something magical about the rhythm of the entire unit.  However we must recognize that the team’s success truly lies within their routine.

Let’s explore 5 key characteristics that could make our own teams amazing:

#1 Unselfishness – Individual instincts and desires must often be sacrificed for the team. No one is off-beat, no one is off-key, no one is out-of-step. As Patanjali says, “When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.” Too often in life and in business, selfish interests creep into our teams and cause us to collectively stumble. One mishap, whether internally or externally facing, may cause us to lose to the competition. As leaders, we must model unselfishness and work tirelessly to build it into the fabric of our organization’s culture and character.

#2 Discipline – Committing to excellence every day is important. Taking actions to be excellent every day is paramount. In our fast paced society, our focus will be tested and our inability to remain disciplined will result in lost opportunity.

#3 Style – Whatever we do, let’s not forget to put a bow around it! For it is within the presentation of our final product or service that we will either be noticed or forgotten. Practice may make perfect, but presentation makes the final impact.

#4 Execution – It’s Showtime! Time to be on point! Each member moves independently, but the focus is on team. It’s not rocket-science, but the quality of the individual affects the entire unit. Those who did not practice well will definitely not play well. That, in itself, is a life lesson!

#5 Pride – Be proud of your organization, your team and your effort. Let your audience, your customers and/or your investors see your passion. When you have true pride, you inherently want to be personally better for the benefit of the team. As for leaders, a true leader understands their tribe and brings their tribe to life!

Now, it’s very easy to see why a band marches in lock-step. They put their teams before themselves. They work hard in the off-season – many months before the home game half-time show. They not only practice their routines, but they inject style into their presentations to differentiate themselves from the competition. They execute consistently on what they practice. Lastly pride is exuded with enthusiasm as the drum-line holds the rhythm steady.

The time is now for our organizations to stay in step. Formation can be found in the practical application of routine and disciplined application. #letsgo

Business lessons before 7AM

Friends, have you ever taken a moment to think about all the lessons that life teaches us before 7AM? Be honest, of course you haven’t! That’s why you were intrigued to read this article. So since you are here, let’s jump right into it!

For those that know me, you know I’m an early riser. To be an early riser one must have some sort of a plan or at least remember to set the alarm clock before turning it in for the evening. In business, how often do we want to begin a project, attack a new market, land an important deal, etc. without a well thought-out executable plan? Yes, we know we want to accomplish a goal, but often we haven’t taken much initiative to set the alarm in advance. Or possibly, we have in our minds that it’s not our responsibility to set the alarm. Shouldn’t the alarm be set by the CEO, the owner, the executive team, the supervisor or “those” people over there? No, it is our personal responsibility to plan for our success. Set the alarm!

For me, when the alarm goes off at 5AM, I have a choice. Snooze and lose or begin and win! I consistently choose to hit the ground running with thanksgiving for another chance to be better than I was yesterday. This sets the tone for my day. A day of excellence, continuous improvement, proper attitude and of course… gratitude. These are all things that are of the utmost importance to my customers, employees, colleagues, family and friends. I know you’re probably thinking – wow he’s only been up for a few minutes now!

Time to get ready, but before I do, let me check in with my social media peeps. Over the years I’ve been consistent about sending a positive message out into the atmosphere before 6AM. Why? Because life is much bigger than just me. Despite all the ills of social media, I enjoy having a platform to connect intimately with customers, help change a friend’s day or inspire the next generation of leaders.

To be candid, I realize that not many people wake up and start their days like I do. But I enjoy a challenge and my tribe challenges each other to be better every day. The same thing applies in business. People buy from people that care about them. Relationships that provide value are priceless. In whatever you do, always provide value!

Okay, the KJ solitude is over and now the fun begins as the rest of the Jackson family begins to awake! For those of you who have children, you know the drill. It’s the race to get everyone showered, fed and out the door without forgetting the lunch bag or the homework. In business, we call this the busy season, the end of the quarter or better yet the end of the fiscal year. It’s game time and only the ones that have properly prepared will pull this off flawlessly. For those of you who do not know, there are some serious unwritten rules to how this should go down. Ironically in business, these times sneak up on us more often than we would like to admit. Deadlines cause us to skip important steps, which always causes pain down the chain (you do know this, right?). It’s important to follow the playbook in all four quarters! Great execution, turns into great plays, which results in great teams!

Now it’s time to head out the door. We’ve triple checked our calendars for the day, added a few thousand things to our to-do list, given our final hugs and kisses and there’s one thing that we’ve all forgotten – to feed Sean Smith. You see, Sean Smith is the only goldfish with a first and a last name (named after a minor league baseball player). Sean expects us to tap on the glass twice and drop one pinch of fish food in the tank by 7:00AM. No different than the expectations of our customers. To our end customers, it does not really matter what happened between 5:00AM and 7:00AM. Customers expect a consistent delivery of value, product, service and messaging. They also expect us to deliver all of this to them with a great attitude. And don’t forget to say thank you and really mean it. Organizations that consistently do this will easily rise to the top!

Never forget to feed Sean Smith! #letsgo  

Kevin Jackson

I was ready to do business with you, but…

Regardless of your culture, upbringing, economic status or stage of life, we can all agree on one thing.  If we are going to spend our hard-earned money with you or your company, you must first listen to us, meet us where we are, provide value to our lives, care about what we need, use the communication methods that are easy for us, do a really good job and stand by your product and workmanship.  If we are super-lucky, you’ll also say thank you and follow up with us in a few months after the sale just to see how we’re doing!
Easy peasy, right?  Sounds good, but all too often that’s not the customer experience journey that most of us encounter.  Let’s talk about a few pitfalls that happen in today’s world before the customer’s pen even hits the contract.

Business owners, relax… watch your blood pressure… and please don’t shoot the messenger.   I get it!  I know you’re busy with what’s in front of you right now.  However, you must always ask yourself, “Am I ever too busy to hear from my potential customer, as this could drastically affect my sustainable success?”  Here’s a quick five reminders from my own (good and bad) personal experiences:

Make customers feel good about what you are offering.  Yes, they are buying your product or service, but they are also investing in you.

Communicate properly (before, during and after the sale) regardless of how busy you are.  C’mon people!!  Follow up!  Stay engaged!  Customers want to know what’s going on!

Show them that you care. Your website can say that you care, but if you don’t answer the customer’s questions, show up when you’re supposed to, etc. – You don’t care and the customer knows it (sometimes before you even sell them anything)!!

Drop the ego.  You may be the top salesperson in your organization or your friends may think you walk on water, but customers don’t have time for that!

Instill trust and inspire the customer to become an advocate for you!  That’s where you will win!

Friends, since Al Gore created the internet (ha!), consumers have had endless information available to them.  As a result, they are educating themselves on how business should be conducted.  Customers are also researching your products, services and ratings.  They have become more demanding because of the “screen education degree” that they received from a YouTube video, slideshare or TV segment.  Whether you like this or not, this new day requires business owners, organizations and their affiliates to step up their game (big time!).  Company leadership must invest time to work “on” the business, instead of just working “in” the business.

They must train their employees that the customer experience is paramount and that without customers there is no need to worry about being busy when the dust settles.  You either focus on your customers’ needs or you will eventually need customers!

The bottom line is that people must ultimately trust you before they do business with you.  What a different world of commerce it would be if most entities understood and did something about this very basic principle.  Will you do anything differently today knowing that customers think before they ink?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Balance well and win every time!

We’ve all seen the gymnast with perfect form, poise, preciseness and execution.  They make it seem so easy and often this gives us a false sense that we could do exactly what they are doing without much effort.

However, we all quickly realize that in time our athletic ability is not what it used to be.  Our discipline to be the best at our craft has slightly slipped.  We are not as tenacious as we once were.  Why?  Because life happens around us.  We get busy, we get distracted, our priorities change and this thing called balance comes into play in a huge way!

What do you mean KJ?  I’m successful, my business is doing extremely well, so I must be in balance, right?  Friends, you may be in balance while you’re on the balance beam, but when it is time for you to successfully stick your landing (when all the eyes are on you) how will you do?  To prepare for a successful landing, let’s discuss some concepts that will change the way you think about personal development, leadership and business.

Let’s begin with the power of connection.  How many of us are self-taught, self-made and have never relied on anyone else for an idea?  Let me answer that for you! NADA!!  Hence the power of surrounding ourselves with people who care about what we do.  Those who are smarter than us and have the ingenuity and the passion to light something within us that will make us better.  Often our busy lives become an excuse for not investing properly in the threads that make up the fabric of our sustainable success.  Just because we have one thread, or two threads, we think we are okay.  But in reality, we give up the opportunity to become a better person, a better team, a better business.  Connections have always mattered and they will always matter going forward.

In addition, I always say, “live life with open palms”.  It’s my opinion that those that take time to give will always find themselves on the leading edge of performance.  Share your experience with a colleague, an apprentice, a mentee or with your entire industry.  What you give will come back to you in spades, believe me.

In addition to giving, don’t be afraid to take a little (but make sure you give first – lol).  Be mindful to check your ego at the door.  Don’t be too proud, bull-headed, close-minded or busy to miss out on best practices, continuous improvement ideas, innovative techniques and things that will transform your life and your business.  We are living with innovation every day.  Don’t miss your genie in a bottle!

Lastly, keep your balance by committing to be a life-learner.  Don’t just pay your membership fees to be emailed the organization’s amazing newsletters or to have your company listed in their directory.  Learn something from the connections, the giving and taking of information and combine that with your desire to be the best and to remain the best in your field.  That’s how you consistently stick your landing my friends!  Now get out there, strike the balance that works for you and win!

Strategy – Alignment – Execution! #letsgo

Okay friends, raise your hand if you are tired of hearing all the business buzzwords that relate to an organization’s strategy. While the mission, vision, values, quality policy and purpose statements of organizations are critical, they are often misaligned when compared closely with the consumer’s reality.

How can this be? Well, I read this on the internet, so it must be true (Ha!). According to Larry Myler, in his article Strategy 101: It’s All About Alignment, Larry quoted the following statistic:

Wow! Who knew? Let’s be honest with ourselves, we all know this to be relatively true. However, as leaders, the real question we must ask ourselves is, “How do we obtain proper alignment and remain properly aligned?”

I’d like to challenge you to think about the following C’s as it relates to alignment:


We all say we have it! We all say we do it! But, we are all human, and by the very nature of admitting such, we often fall short on delivering consistently on character. Before you get upset with me, let me clarify my position. It is easier for an individual to have character, versus the organizations that we work in and work with on a daily basis to have character.

Is it impossible for an organization to align its character with what is plastered all over the corporate office and its website? Of course not, but that is where true leadership comes in. Yes, leaders must have authority to develop strategy, but they must also work tirelessly to gain influence and buy-in with all constituents who are both front-facing to the consumer as well as those who support the organization behind the scenes. An organization without a consistent alignment of character will find themselves only as good as its weakest touch point.


You’ve heard it! “We must all be on the same page.” “We must all row in the same direction.” This is 100% true, however you must first pull back the covers on the real culture of your organization. What do you mean Kevin? I mean you must realize that your company’s traits can change your company’s atmosphere, which ultimately can and will change the outcomes of your strategy. To tackle this, you must be totally honest with yourself about how well you communicate, accept change, break down silos, embrace diversity and create an environment conducive to winning. Your consumer will see and feel your culture before you do! Take time to work on your culture. It’s not a set-it and forget-it discipline!


Once you have the strategy figured out and you have the culture to support it, you must execute. Execution requires capability. Capability requires passion and care for your craft and for the entire progress of the organization.

Before you stop reading this article, let me clear something up. I’m not saying that everyone in your organization must be great at strategy, but I am saying that everyone must be capable of moving the organization forward in their own way. Not by passing the buck, or saying “that’s not my job”, alignment requires leadership, understanding and collaboration of everyone to achieve what you said you were going to do in the first place.

So, why the disconnect? It’s strictly due to alignment! If one of your four wheels is pulling to the left or right – guess what? – the entire car will pull to the left or right, even when the strategy clearly says to stay straight ahead.

Alignment is the bread and butter of business success. Give it its proper attention if you really want to succeed! #letsgo