What Marcus Mariota Teaches Us About Success


Marcus Mariota throws a pass while playing against Colorado in 2014. Photo courtesy of Alex Thies.

As seen on Fox Business

Marcus Mariota’s list of accomplishments is impressive. Although his Oregon Ducks football team ultimately lost the national championship game to Ohio State, the young quarterback can still claim a Heisman Trophy, Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl victories, and numerous other awards earned in just a few short years. His success as a quarterback places him in an elite group of individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their fields.

But how do people like Mariota become so successful? Are there certain characteristics these people share that set them apart?

Is It Ever Wise to Swear at Work?


By Michael Lee Stallard and Katie Russell

You discover a careless error your administrative assistant made in printing a proposal you need to present to a potential new client in a few hours. Should you swear to express your frustration?

How about when you are speaking to the people you lead who are clearly not giving their best efforts?

How about if you are a woman in a male-dominated culture and you want to fit in?  Would cursing be wise in that situation?

A recent Quartz.com article argues that in circumstances like these, swearing is ok. We disagree. Let’s look at the rationale presented. 

How Leaders Can Guard Against Unethical Behavior


When leaders behave in ways that violate ethical norms and harm customers, it has a devastating effect on connection and employee engagement. A quick glance at business news headlines shows the extent to which unethical behavior has become a problem today. Many of these unethical practices seem to defy common sense, such as the restaurant owner in China who made headlines for lacing food with opium in an effort to get customers to return.

The best leaders, whom we at E Pluribus describe as servant leaders, maintain a mindset that they serve employees who in turn serve customers.  This mindset inspires them to excellent performance and helps protect them from drifting towards unethical behavior.

If leaders don’t maintain this mindset, they are likely to start serving themselves, which makes them vulnerable to drifting into unethical territory to beat competitors and maximize personal wealth, power and status. Ironically, this mindset only diminishes personal wealth, power and status because unethical behavior sabotages sustainable superior performance once a business’ reputation is tarnished.

How do you protect yourself from the temptation of unethical behavior? Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

Consider Both Competence and Character in Hiring and Promotion Decisions

Business Handshake

#32 Hire, Develop and Promote for Both Competence and Character That Connects

Most managers hire for competence but are not anywhere near as intentional about probing to understand a job applicant’s character.  Take time to identify your core values as a leader then ask questions that explore those values as you interview applicants.

Advice for Graduates From Creator of Calvin and Hobbs

Graduation Cap and DiplomaWith graduation season once again upon us, our thoughts turn to the many students who are preparing to enter the next phase of adult life. Some will continue their education. Some will begin careers. All will face the pressure of juggling competing claims on their time and attention.

In 1990, Bill Watterson, creator of the famous Calvin and Hobbs comic strip, addressed the graduating class of his alma mater, Kenyon College. Watterson was just ten years removed from his own graduation, and shared with the graduates some of the struggles he faced as he worked to break into his chosen field and then dealt with the pressures that come with success. 

John Wooden: They Called Him Coach

Day of Discovery Document John Wooden They Called Him Coach

Day of Discovery Documentary – John Wooden: They Called Him Coach

I’ve written a lot about legendary Coach John Wooden on this blog, and for good reason. His life, leadership, and legacy are an inspiration to us all.

I highly recommend taking the time to watch the documentary John Wooden: They Called Him Coach, available online. You’ll learn more about Wooden’s perspective on success, love, and faith and see interviews with his family and former players. It will definitely motivate you to be a better leader, family member, and friend.

What’s your favorite Coach Wooden story? Feel free to share in the comments.


3 Lessons from the Life and Leadership of Coach Wooden

As seen on SmartBlog on Leadership.

Most people know the legendary basketball coach for the ten college basketball championships (including four perfect seasons) his UCLA Bruins Men’s Basketball Team won while he was head coach from 1948 until 1975.

Many people know Coach Wooden was inducted twice into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and as a coach.

Some know Wooden was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor.

Few, however, know about the event that constitutes his greatest contribution to the game of basketball.  

When “Failure Is Not an Option”

Some years ago I ran into the director Ron Howard at our local Starbucks. I said hello and told him how much I enjoyed the movie “Apollo 13,” which, in case you didn’t know, he directed.

“Apollo 13” is a remarkable movie. It captures the story of one of NASA’s finest moments, when the NASA team’s extraordinary willpower, energy and creativity snatched the Apollo 13 crew from the jaws of death after an electrical malfunction impaired the spacecraft’s guidance and oxygen systems. Gene Kranz, flight director for the Apollo 13 mission, led the rescue effort. During one of the movie’s best moments, Kranz (played by actor Ed Harris) rallies the troops and declares with resolve that “failure is not an option.”

Assessing Ballmer’s Leadership

Check out technology critic David Pogue’s “How Ballmer Missed the Tidal Shifts in Tech” which appeared on the New York Times’ website on August 24.

I believe the most relevant question to ask in assessing Ballmer’s leadership and why Microsoft missed the tidal shifts in tech is: did Ballmer and his leadership team develop a culture of control, a culture of indifference or a “connection culture?” (These are the three types of psychosocial cultures in organizations.) Connection Cultures are required to maximize innovation, employee engagement and productivity, a case we made in our book Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Sympathy is NOT Empathy

Connecting with people requires empathy i.e. you feel the emotion another individual feels.  This is different from sympathy where you recognize the emotion but don’t feel it.

In Fired Up or Burned Out, I wrote about the company Cranium and how it designs “high five moments” into its games.  High five moments are times when people connect via the shared empathy of joy (remember that we define “the force of connection” as shared identity, empathy and understanding).  When you are interacting with people you want to connect with, feeling and expressing emotion helps.  When you feel someone’s joy or pain, it connects.

In the news

Here are a few recent articles related to connection that you might enjoy:

Walter Isaacson wrote about leadership lessons from Steve Jobs’ life for Harvard Business Review.  In the article, Isaason addresses issues relevant to Connection Cultures including the elements of Vision, Value and Voice.  Jobs was brilliant when it came to Vision, terrible when it came to Value and mixed win it came to Voice.  Fortunately, there are other members of Apple’s senior leadership team whose strengths helped overcome Jobs’ weaknesses.

David Brooks just wrote a column for The New York Times entitled “The Relationship School” that touches on aspects of Connection Cultures in schools.

The Atlantic had a piece entitled “Stress Makes You Sick: Exploring the Immune System Connection.” The article explores how stress weakens the human immune system and mentions the link between stress and connection. (Remember I shared with you that recent research over a 20-year period showed people who work in cultures with supportive relationships had mortality rates that were 2.4 times lower than people who worked in cultures with weak relational support. This supports the longstanding view that lifestyles with little relational support produce chronic stress will kill you.)

While teaching seminars on leadership and Connection Cultures at the Darden Graduate School of Business, Professor Marian Moore introduced me to the work of her colleague Jonathan Haidt, a social psychology professor at the University of Virginia.  Haidt just wrote The Righteous Mind.  Here’s a well-written review of the book entitled “Why Won’t They Listen?”  The book review clearly shows it addresses issues related to the Connection Culture elements of Value and Voice.  I’ve ordered a copy but not read it yet.

Finally, I recently spoke with Jim Blasingame about the competitive advantage of culture on his nationally syndicated radio program entitled “Small Business Advocate” that you can hear at this link.  Also, I wrote an article on the  “Science of Engagement” for Training Industry Quarterly.