“If you wouldn’t follow yourself, why would anyone else?”

John C. Maxwell


But when we say we “are passionate” to lead, we usually mean we are passionate to lead others.

One thing leaders need to realize is that leadership begins with you. If you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others.

Why is leading myself more difficult than leading others? Why do I say or do things I know are wrong (there is a biblical reference here)? It happens at home, at work, with my wife, co-workers, and those I love and lead. So while I speak of myself, I am sure I’m not alone. 

The answer is simple. 

I believe there are times I don’t see myself from a realistic point. I see myself from my intentions, and others see me through my actions and words. I should probably also admit that I see my intentions from the training and talks I give.

Self-leadership is defined as “the process of influencing one’s self to establish the self-direction and self-motivation needed to perform.

Self-leadership is the foundation for leadership, but unfortunately, it’s not the fun part. On the contrary, it’s most challenging. Still, self-leadership is the hard work behind the scenes that prepares you for exceptional leadership. 

Tough Truths About Self-Leadership

Before we dive into some ways to lead ourselves, let me share a few more tough truths about self-leadership.

  • No one cares more about your personal development than you do
  • You can’t wait for someone to lead you
  • No one owes you leadership
  • No one is responsible for your leadership development

3 CORES of Self-Leadership 

Here are what I believe are the cores of developing self-leadership.


Who are YOU when no one is looking? 

  • It requires YOUR attention to how you act and react
  • It means expecting more from YOURSELF than others do
  • It means exceeding everyone’s expectations

The question to ask YOURSELF, “What qualities do you want to be accurate within your character? 


Don’t talk about it, do it!

  • Identify what needs to change
  • Take the initiative.
  • Read voraciously. Explore what others think
  • Be a lifelong learner, and be passionate about it.
  • Surround yourself with mentors and people more intelligent than you.

The question to ask YOURSELF, “What are the three things I can do to improve my personal and professional growth?” 


  • Know your strengths & weaknesses
  • Seek coaching 
  • Identify mentors
  • Constantly evaluate what you need to “own” (good or bad) in every situation

The question to ask YOURSELF, “Where do my choices take me?”

So What, Now What

As leaders, we must never forget to self-manage our actions. Whether it is a situation or a person, we react results from our leadership frame of mind. 

Failure to manage your self-leadership will create a loss of respect and the inability to influence, causing people to leave and follow others. On the other hand, if you lead yourself correctly, you will influence others, and they will follow. 

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

John Wooden

Take the time to evaluate your self-leadership, focusing on these 3 CORES. Then establish a process where you consistently work to apply these principles and improve.

Jim Rhone once said, 

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.”

 If you can take hold of this, you will be an effective leader. 

Denis is an Executive Director for the John Maxwell Group and is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behaviorial Consultant. Denis is a senior safety professional and a strong, passionate influential person. He is committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.


Need Leadership Quotes For Inspiration? We Found All The Best Ones ...

For every organization that employs people, the safety of the people is a critical part of organizational success.

Safety methods must be fully integrated into the entire organization, from finance down to daily operations. This ensures safety is always being considered regardless of the conversation being had or activities being considered. 

Being a leader in the current year has undoubtedly put a magnifying glass on this truth. With the number of job losses, the reduction of budgets, and the need to think differently, we have fallen into an unprecedented challenge for the safety of our people. However, we must realize that without workers, companies can’t succeed. So the need to ensure the safety of our workforce is critical.

In our efforts to ensure people’s safety, leaders must be effective influencers to establish or change expected behaviors. To be an effective influencer, leaders need to know what markers are critical to their success. 

What kind of safety leader does your company need? The answer to this question is; All leaders are safety leaders.

To send you in the right direction, I have identified four crucial markers of an effective safety leader.


Passionate leaders are fully engaged and committed to supporting the safety of their people. When you’re in the presence of a passionate leader, your senses become stimulated, and your emotions are increased as you pick up their positive, contagious attitude and energy. People who work for passionate leaders tend to exhibit very safe behaviors.

If you are not passionate about what you believe, what you do or the safety of your people, THEN DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT!

However, as a passionate leader, you need a vision that drives people forward. Realize that everything you do matters! Great lives are produced when they’re committed to a great cause—and the most significant purpose is the safety and success of people.


There are two types of thoughts: those who view the glass half-full, and those who see the glass as half-empty. This is called perception, and our perceptions profoundly impact how we view things. After all, our perception determines our reality. “Perception molds, shapes, and influences our experience of reality,” says Linda Humphreys, Ph.D. 

In other words, we believe what we perceive, and we create our realities based on those perceptions. 

“You must see past your perception to visualize the reality that is coming.” –

Denis Baker, CSP 

Anytime you attempt something, especially change, trouble and resistance will come your way. 


The term “consistency” is not referring o all leaders are the same. It merely means that whatever style, management techniques, or leadership traits you exhibit, you must implement them consistently. A leader must be predictable, as consistency and predictability are positive traits that provide respect and ultimately allows the influence of others. In most work environments, especially now, leaders are faced with a whirlwind of change, and the leader must provide stability in their leadership.

Inconsistent leaders sometimes require a lot of detail, and on other occasions, need little detail. Sometimes they want you to seek their approval, then later question why you brought the same approval request. That causes a lack of respect and decreases your influence. 

The bottom line is that people working for inconsistent leaders often spend unnecessary time wondering how to proceed or harboring resentment because they cannot predict what the leader wants. This substantially slows down the organization’s and reduces its effectiveness. 

“The lack of consistency results in the lack of safe behaviors, which results in more injuries.” –

Denis Baker, CSP


To tackle change, you can’t give up. You must keep doing what you feel is right, no matter what happens. Just because you show courage during difficult times doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is moving ahead despite your fear.

Persistence is one of the critical markers of an effective leader. To gain persistence requires determination and a mindset that — no matter what happens — you will stick to your principles. Persistence is equivalent to running a marathon. The time you spend training and preparing, and what you do leading up to the race will determine how well you perform. To effectively influence others, you have to work hard and continually find ways to motivate, build respect, and consistently stand your ground.

You became a leader for a reason; success in leadership comes from developing and perfecting courageous persistence. 

People’s safety rises and falls on your leadership.


“Don’t Fool Yourself; LEADERSHIP IS HARD!”

In my effort to cultivate and grow my leadership, I find it challenging to stay the course and achieve what I read, witness, and teach. In fact, I often find myself telling people one thing and doing the exact opposite. Doing that can hurt those you lead, coach, mentor, or teach. If you don’t improve, you will ultimately lose respect, trust, and, eventually, the ability to influence. 

As 2020 approaches, I decided to evaluate my leadership abilities and identify those things I do well and those areas where I need to improve. The last four years have been a personal leadership challenge for me. I’ve had a job change that put me in a role with no direct reports and limited my decision-making authority. I’ve had to learn to lead differently. The term; “influence without authority” has become an actual reality challenge for me.

During my self-evaluation, I identified my top 5 strengths in leading others and having a strong influence on the decision making process.

1. I am a very HIGH ENERGY AND PASSIONATE leader in the areas I believe in.

2. I am willing to embrace CHANGE, even if I don’t entirely agree with it

3. I am PERSISTENT in my approach to achieving my desires, goals, and objectives

4. I am CONFIDENT in my decision making but open to ideas and suggestions

5. I am a strong ENGAGER of people

It is always good to identify your strong points, but it can be challenging to identify areas for improvement. The way I approached this was to reflect on 2019 and the many conversations, suggestions, and feedback I received throughout the year. I am always asking for feedback (although many times I don’t want to hear it or I have an excuse) 

Based on my evaluation and reflection, I will focus on building and improving the following five leadership traits in 2020. 

1. Being Clear in My Communication – I will work to enhance my communication approach through tone and word choices. Working to pull my feelings and frustration back and undoubtedly transfer my thoughts, ideas, and expectations. I will explain the “why” more often and ensure people are well informed. People want to be “in the know.” People want to deliver expectations, but can’t be successful if we don’t clearly and successfully communicate. They also want to know what the rewards are for good work and the consequences for sub-standard work.

2. Build Stronger Relationships – Relationships are critical to leadership. Strong relationships build trust and respect and offer the opportunity to influence. I will work to be present with my customers, leaders, and the workforce. I will reach out for general conversations and make sure I follow-up with the right people. I will work to show how much I care about all facets of the business. It is said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” They are looking for you to care for them and build a working relationship. I will work harder to learn and remember names and recognize that life is going on outside of work.

3. Humble Myself – I am am very confident in my role but must be better at leading with humility. I don’t know everything and always make the right decisions, but I will work diligently to illustrate my knowledge through the quality of my choices. I will recognize all persons, regardless of position, and work to realize that no one is any more important than anyone else. I will demonstrate this through my actions and interactions. I will let each know how important they are by involving them and getting their brains in the game.

4. Be a Stronger Encourager – I will continuously look for and recognize the great work people are doing. I will express my gratitude and exemplify the positive difference they are making. I will encourage them for their actions, the work they perform, and the value they add.

5. Have Courage – I understand creativity and innovation drive progress and performance. I will make bold decisions, push back when needed, but fully support the final decision. I will have difficult conversations when necessary, and I will do the difficult right things.

With a new year and new decade roll into place, I feel like it is the optimal time to increase my influence and achieve more than I ever have. I don’t know where most of you fall within your leadership needs (unless I know you). Still, I believe the results from my self-evaluation will encourage many of you to look within yourself, identify areas of improvement, and make the necessary changes to become a stronger influencer and more effective leader.

WHEN THE EARTH CREATES SHAKY LEGS, A Leader Must Remain on Solid Ground

Fotosearch_k21692991It was 5:39 am.  My wife and  I were laying in bed trying to motivate ourselves to get out and start our day.  As we were laying there, I heard a loud rumbling noise, felt the bed shake violently and heard the windows and pictures shaking.  Things were falling and breaking.  My wife started screaming and I grabbed her and laid on top, protecting her from the falling roof.

We had just experienced a 4.3 magnitude EARTHQUAKE!  This scared the tar out of us!I remember getting out of bed (had no problem getting out now), opening the bedroom door and noticing items on the floor.  Walking around the corner, I saw more and more things that had fallen over or fallen on the floor.  We were lucky, nothing broke and the roof didn’t fall on us.  After calming myself down and holding tight to my shaking wife, I realized everything was ok.  Getting out of bed, I noticed my legs were shaking. My hands were trembling and I had that nervous feeling in my stomach.  A quick look around revealed things had fallen, but nothing had broken.  The house didn’t have any cracks and it appeared all my bricks were still in place on the exterior.

We live in a suburb northeast of Oklahoma City.  If you have watched or read the news in the last few years, you have probably heard that Oklahoma has become one of the most active earthquake zones in the world.  So, we are use to a few jolts here and there.  Most are in the 3 –shake 3.5 magnitude range.  We can feel them and they can be unsettling.  However, I can’t recall anything as jolting as this one.  The ironic thing is I left that morning on a business trip while my wife continued to experience smaller earthquakes and multiple aftershocks.  In fact, she counted 30 that day.  However, even though I had left town, my legs were shaky.  My nerves were somewhat on edge.  As I returned home the next day, I went to bed wondering if I was going to experience another earthquake and how big would it be this time.

Now I know that many have experienced earthquakes much stronger with resulting damage and injuries.  I am not taking anything away from you or those times and I feel for anyone who has experienced it.

Now your probably thinking, exciting, scary stuff, but what does this have to do with leadership?  I’m getting there, just chill.

During this whole ordeal, I realized that people need someone to follow.  Someone who can lead when things are unsettling.  They are looking for direction. They want to follow someone who is in control and can provide a calm meaningful dialogue.  they are looking for people that can provide solutions.

Here are 4 things I realized people look for in a leader when things get a little scary.

  1. REMAIN CALM – I’ve realized others are looking for those they admire to remain calm in all situations, especially when the outcome is unknown or can be life-altering.  Have courage to do what is necessary.  I am not saying there is no fear, but tFotosearch_k27360163
    he fear must not control you.  Fear is contagious.  If someone senses fear in you, they will become fearful. Your family or employees need to believe you are in control, if you exhibit a calm and confident approach approach, they will have confidence you can make smart right decisions.
  2. KEEP EVERYTHING POSITIVE – Everyone is watching you!  Are you calm? How are you reacting to the situation? My wife screamed and cried when the earthquake hit. I reacted by getting on top of her and telling her things were going to be ok. You don’t think I wanted to do the same? What if, I started screaming and panicking?  I think there would have been a lot more screaming.  One thing I have become very aware of is when you become a leader, EVERYONE is watching your actions, behavior, relationships and overall demeanor.  You must maintain a strong positive attitude, smile often and exhibiting a sense of compassion.
  3. COMMUNICATE YOUR THOUGHTS, DESIRES AND INTENTIONS – You must communicate clearly and concisely during an event.  Tell them exactly what you want them to do and then tell them again. Communicating in difficult situations is crucial for both setting the expectations and a successful outcome.  Be sure to use inflection your voice and maintain the volume necessary for everyone to hear.  Be short, quick and expedient in your demands and orders.  I’ve found people react well to calm commanding directions.
  4. REMEMBER YOU’Fotosearch_k21376380VE BEEN HERE BEFORE – Keep your composure, you have been in similar situations before.  Calm and composed leaders that reflect they have been through difficult times before, exude a strong presence with a sense of elegance and grace. This will give you a genuinely compassionate approach to ease the minds and fears anyone may be experiencing.

When things go bad or wrong, and they will, it is the leader that influences the outcome.  Whether it is family, friends or employees, they are watching everything you do, listening to everything you say and looking for direction.  I will admit I was terrified when the earthquake hit.  But I also realized very quickly that I had control of the immediate outcome with my wife.

Sure I had to reflect on what happened and what I did during those few minutes to identify these 4 things above.  However, I
realize there is a leadership lesson in everything that happens.  I have come to the conclusion that I define who a leader is and what a leader does, the more I understand how to use the information and training I’ve gained.

I hope you will take the four items above and learn how to apply them in your life and prepare for the unexpected.  After all………you are a leader!

A YEAR IN REVIEW. My Reflective Evaluation of 2015


2015 is coming to a close and 2016 is quickly approaching.  For me personally…the end of 2015 can’t come soon enough.  However, 2015 was a year of growth for me.  I was challenged with decisions and actions.  I was challenged personally and professionally.  Let me share the highlights;


  • I made a temporary job change in January.  I left my current job and took another (see blog post, “CEO For A Week”) for 8 days.  Realizing that was a mistake, I returned back to my current position.  However, that put me behind and I played “catch up” all year.  I had to repair and rebuild relationships.  I definitely took several steps back.
  • We had 2 serious injuries in the 1st Quarter.  For the first time in 18 months, I had two employees seriously injured.  As a Safety Professional, that is not what you want to see.
  • The overall oil and gas business suffered and we had to make some cuts within the organization.
  • I had to make a very difficult decision and lay-off one of my EHSS Representatives.  That created a void that had to be filled by myself and others.
  • My daughter lost her first baby; meaning my wife and I lost our first grand baby.  Many tears were shed and many prayers and healing took place.th-49
  • My mother had triple by-pass while my father suffered multiple respiratory issues. This required much attention and commitment from my wife and myself.


  • I got back the job I loved so much.
  • After a very rough first quarter, the company went the remainder of the year (10 months) without any other serious injuries.  Our employees overcame and succeeded!
  • Our company continues to perform at a level greater than most of our competition.
  • My staff has stepped up and filled the void of our downsizing and we have accomplished more in 10 months than any of us expected!
  • We have increased our manufacturing capacity and reduced redundant quality issues.
  • My son-in-law and daughter moved to the OKC area!!  Great having them close to us.
  • My daughter is pregnant and I will be a GRANDFATHER in APRIL 2016!!!!
  • My mom has recovery nicely from her triple by-pass and is more active than she has been in 20 ears.  My 82 yr old father is healthy and continues to be active in retirement.
  • MY MOTHER-IN-LAW GOT MARRIED!!!! (you read what you want in the statement)
  • Marlene and I celebrated 29 years of marriage!!  I love the women so much and can’t imagine what I would do without her.
  • I increased my leadership through self-growth!
  • I was elected to the OK Safety Council Board of Directors and the Porches of Arbor Creek HOA Board of Directors.
  • I was Keynote Speaker at a record number of events and conducted a record number of leadership training.

Well you get the idea.  I hope I didn’t bore you.  Here is what I learned from this exercise.  Sure 2015 was a challenging year.  However, I realized that my SUCCESSES far outweighed my CHALLENGES.  Believe it or not, I just realized that by writing this blog.  I understand the frustrations and challenges we all have in life.  However, I have come to see that success will come.  Sometimes you just need to peel pack the layers to find them all.


Alaska. Chugach Mts. Portage Glacier and Portage Lake, mountain reflection in water.

I conducted this year-end review by identifying my successes and challenges by “reflective evaluation”.  So, what does the term “reflective evaluation” mean ?  Reflective evaluation is self-created term I used to extract value from past experiences by knowing where we started, where we stand currently and where we want to go.


How did I achieve this?  By doing the following:

  1. I take time to reflect in a quiet place.  Usually at work or the hotel room before 6 am.
  2. I always include time in my daily routine to reflect on my personal and professional goals and objectives.  The month of December is when I will reflect and evaluate for the closing year.
  3. I look at what was achieved and where I fell short.  I list what was good and bad and positive and negative about each.  I AM TRUTHFUL and IT HURTS!
  4. I always fill in my personal goals and objectives as I work on and hopefully complete each one.  This allows me to easily evaluate my actions and what needs to be changed, modified or stretched.
  5. I look forward. I am always looking at how I can stretch my goals and the goals of those who work with me.  This allows me and my group to always look for opportunities to EXCEED evaluationEXPECTATIONS!

Be it very simple and plain, this is what I do in my reflective evaluation process.  It is very effective in producing a practical and accurate portrayal of my performance and/or the performance of my group.

Those who don’t reflect and evaluate will continue to muddle through the days, weeks, months and even years being cultivated by the forces of a culture, social pressures and personal weaknesses.  In contrast, those who reflect and evaluate will create a firm foundation that leads them to the road of success.  People who reflect and evaluate will know what to do and when to do it.  They will navigate the open road along with the winding curvy mountainous roads to success.

I strongly encourage you to reflect and evaluate 2015.  Where did you come from? , Where are you now?, and Where do you want to go?

Do it now for a successful 2016!!

2016 New Year celebration display with the date outlined with fiery sparklers in green and blue on a black background


morning-routineAs I grow in my leadership, I realize the importance of creating a daily routine that will  drive my thoughts and actions for that day.   What I do at the beginning of each day and throughout the day are very important to the others days, weeks and even months.  What we think and do now, has a direct outcome on the future.


I thought I would share what I do to ensure my heart and attitude are right for the day’s activities and the interactions with others.

Here are 6 things I do every day to ensure I am fully prepared to succeed in whatever is planned or whatever unplanned events may come my way.

  1. Up By 4:30 AM – I get up early. I love being at the office and watch the sun come up.  It seems to inspire me.  Getting up at that time also allows me to complete the next 5 steps.  In addition, scientific evidence has shown getting up early will:  help your performance, make you more reliable, be more alert, stress less and loose more weight (not that you ladies need to).
  2. GET MY HEART RIGHT – I’ve come to know the great importance of beginning my day in prayer and reading the word of God.  This prepares  my heart and soul for the day activities.  I spend 30-45 minutes doing this.  It ensures I have the right mindset and attitude to interact and work with people, solve problems and to fully engage myself in the conversations and activities throughout the day.  I spend a big part of my day providing coaching and at times guidance to fellow employees.  My heart must be right, to give the right advice or coaching.
  3. PRIORITIZE – I have a list.  Every morning I review it, add to it, subtract from it, move things up or down, write notes out to the side of some, put ? marks on others.  I identify what is essential for that day. I prioritize for the days activities.  However, I also spend a little effort and time to determine what items are critical for tomorrow’s activities and the weeks to come.  I found the tI must not only plan for today but also the future.  I also know the tI must realize that some things can b put off for another day.  YOU CANNOT TACKLE EVERYTHING…….trying to will drive you mad!! Check your list multiple times a day and be flexible to re-prioritize as needed.
  4.  PERSONAL GROWTH – If you don’t invest in yourself, then you can’t invest tin others. Part of my morning is spent reading listening or watching a video to ensure my grow as a leader and professional. I use to hate to read.  Now, I just dislike it.  But I also realized that reading stimulates my thoughts, ideas and affects my actions (consider what you read). It also stirs up a sense of adventure, encourages me and  grows my vocabulary.  Find what motivates you.  But remember, this is your time, use it wisely.
  5. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS – This is different from networking. Networking is positioning yourself within a professional setting through acquaintances .  Networking is not relational, but can produce relationships. Relationships are investing in others. It is the glue that holds people together.  Relationships allow  you to build trust through adding value and eventually influencing. Spend your morning and time throughout the day to send that email or call that person and see how they are doing and what you might be able to help with.
  6.  FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS –  Distraction can be is disastrous!!  Be sure and know when social media is appropriate and when your focus needs to be completing the task at hand.  It seems these days that every free mental moment is used to accept friend request, check that snapchat picture or grow our linked network.  Hey….that stuff will be there later.  However, if you don’t perform it might mean you don’t have a job.  I am very selective when accepting calls or emails.  Every hour I th-45will check my voice and email mails and respond to those that require my attention. Social media and conversations are reserved for breaks and lunches.  Now understand, situations change and there are always exceptions to the rule.

When we get the right routine, results follow.  Unfortunately when we have the wrong routine or no routine at all, results can suffer.  Invest the time and effort to create a routine that ensures your success.  Stick with it.  Make adjustments when necessary.  However,
have a routine and you will benefit from it.


5 STAGES TO BECOMING A LEADERWithout influence there is no leadership.  John Maxwell states, “leadership develops daily, not in a day” Leadership is a process. In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell states, “Champions don’t become champions in the ring, they are merely recognized there.” People who aspire to become great leaders, must relate to the boxer. They must progress through the stages with hard work and determination for success. One must however, realize the stages within the process and what each entails. After all, each stage within the process, ultimately allows the leader to influence.

Through my development of leadership training material, speaking on the subject and coaching business professionals, I have concluded that leadership is achieved through a simple five (5) stage process that culminates with influence.

The five stages to leadership are:

STAGE 1 – CONNECTING with people

STAGE 2 – Building a sincere RELATIONSHIP

STAGE 3 – Creating TRUST

STAGE 4 – Adding VALUE

STAGE 5 – Ultimately INFLUENCING their decision process

Let’s take a look at each stage within the leadership process;


Connecting with people is the first stage in becoming a leader.  There is no influence without first connecting.  In the book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell states, “Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them”.   One must look for opportunities to come along side employees and meet them where they are.  An intentional effort must be made getting to know employees.  Spend as much times as possible getting to know them, their families, their hobbies, and eventually what they like and don’t like or what works and doesn’t work.  To efficiently connect with people, do the following:

  • Don’t take anyone for granted – Value everyone and every task they perform, regardless of their position.
  • Convince them that you want to make a difference – If you don’t believe in it, how will they?
  • Follow up and follow on – I say it all the time, “Action is Traction”. Look for small and quick things that you can address. Start getting their buy-in by winning in the little things.
  • Look for common ground – I look for things in common. For me it’s baseball, NASCAR.  Listen in your conversations and key in on things that you have in common.
  • Be honest and transparent – Honesty and humility go a long way in connecting with people. Leave the arrogance at home.
  • Once you feel a connection, move on – You must complete the connection  before moving on to any other stage. Without it, there is no other stage.

When you connect with employees, you position yourself to make the most of your efforts, thus creating an environment for performance.  Connecting creates the foundation for moving to the next step, building a sincere relationship.


In his book, My Personal Best, author John Wooden writes; “There is a choice you have to make in everything you do, so keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make makes you”.  Nowhere is this more evident and true than in the relationships you build.  Building a sincere relationship is the second stage of the leadership process.  Relationships are sacred. When we connect with people, we must maintain that connection by building a relationship. That simply means spending time with employees. Helping them solve problems, standing with them in the rain, snow and heat. Being there to hear their struggles and concerns. Relationships are the key to creating trust. In the relationship stage, employees begin to trust you. In the book, Beyond Talent, Maxwell outlines mutual enjoyment, respect, shared experiences, trust and reciprocity as the five signs of a solid relationship.   Steven Covey said, “The relationship neither makes the issue any less real or important, nor eliminates the differences in perspective.  But it does eliminate the differences in personality and position and creates a positive cooperative energy focused on thoroughly understanding the issues and resolving them in a mutually beneficial way.”  Building relationships creates trust.


Steven Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life.  It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication.  It’s the foundational principle that upholds all relationships”.  Trust is crucial in the leadership process. In fact, trust is the foundation of leadership. Trust can be described simply by comparing it to pocket change.  Every good decision puts change in your pocket.  Every poor decision takes change out of your pocket. The key is to increase your pocket change, rather than always paying it out. Sure we all make mistakes.  And each mistake cost us change from our pocket. However, employees are tolerant of mistake as long as we are transparent, quick to humility and strive to regain their confidence.

John Maxwell shares three qualities a leader must exhibit to gain trust; competence, connection and character. Violate anyone of these three qualities and you will loose the trust of those who follow. Trust is doing what’s right because it’s right.  I don’t think anyone can remain a leader if he or she continues to make poor decisions and break the trust of employees. In fact, a leader can’t be a leader if there is no trust, because trust leads to influence. If people don’t trust you, you can’t have influence. Without influence, you can’t lead.


Adding value is the work of the three stages above. If you have properly connected with your employees and built a sincere firm relationship through trust, then I believe you have the tools and knowledge to add value to them. Zig Ziglar said. “I had to live in the desert before I could understand the full value of grass in a green ditch.” Value is achieved by understanding what is important to those you influence or desire to influence.

Let’s make sure we are all on the same page. I am not talking about the monetary value of something, but rather the value gained through effort. You add value through respect. Respect is gained not in the normal things, but rather the difficult right things. One must be viewed as competent and credible before respect is given. John Maxwell said, “While poor leaders demand respect, competent leaders command respect”. As leaders become more and more credible their command for respect become more and more evident. Value takes more than just “telling” , but rather one must demonstrate commitment and consistency in the activities and actions relating to safety.

Proactive value should be the basis for all activities and goals and objectives. Proactive professionals are smartly driven individuals looking to read reality and know what’s needed. Professionals who look to manipulate begin a series of distrust which tends to cause relationships to dissolve and the loss of leadership. Albert Einstein said ,”Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value”. If the organization see’s the value in the direction, activities and actions, then the door to influence is open.


Ultimately, the goal is to influence all levels with in the organization in the direction that provides the most successful outcome. Influence is what we need to lead. Without influence no one can achieve anything.  Leaders must learn to influence without authority. If you want to lead, you must become a person of influence.

Leadership is achieved by completing these 5 stages.  But remember, leadership is influence………….

If you can’t learn how to influence, you can’t be a leader.



cropped-influenceyoucanmakeadifference.jpgWant to increase your influence?  I think the 10 actions and concepts below will help you.  As you have probably heard me say or read John Maxwell’s writings, he defines leadership as Influence,Nothing More, Nothing Less. I work daily to increase my influence.  However, I’ve come to realize that influence takes time.  It requires consistency and tenacity.   Try these actions and concepts. Practice them often and  stay you will increase your influence.

Read it…….it’s less than a 1000 words!

  • WANT TO INFLUENCE? FIRST THINGS FIRST, ENCOURAGE – Start every conversation with something positive about the person or group you are addressing.  I’ve learned this over the years.  People are motivated by encouraging words.
  • INFLUENCE BY UNDERSTANDING  – Although you have a responsibility for self-leadership, leadership is about others. When I think about what needs to happen or take place, I think about how my actions, my conversations and my vision will affect others. I’ve realized that my performance is a direct reflection of my leadership.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS EXPERIENCE THE WORLD OF THOSE THEY LEAD – They look at the bigger picture, they understand the trials and troubles they go through. Good leaders become someone who listens to their people, not to reply, but to understand. Get in tune and understand the people you lead and you will increase your influence.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS REALIZE  EVERYONE COMES IN DIFFERENT SHAPES AND SIZES – They realize that Good Leaders Ask Great Questions (read this book from John Maxwell). The right questions will uncover a person’s interest and what motivates them. I think it is important to connect by finding common ground and nurturing relationships. This process will allow the leader to develop relative questions that will reveal their desires and interest.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS HELP OTHERS – I think we get so consumed with our own desires and agendas that tunnel vision occurs and we don’t see the needs of others.  I have learned when we are first to offer assistance and help, we begin connecting in such a way that our relationship allows us to influence.  Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”.  Look at those you lead, take action and watch your influence grow.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS ADD VALUE –  People who are in it for themselves will never achieve anything great. Those who look for ways to add value to others will influence.  Add value by finding out what is important to those you lead. Value will look different in every situation.  A good leader will ask great questions to identify what value looks like.  Treat value independently to the person.
  • INFLUENCE WITH STORIES AND EXAMPLES – As a speaker, I’ve learned the importance of sharing good relevant stories. As a leader and professional, I’ve recognized the importance and effectiveness of sharing good stories with those I influence. People want to see the human side of leaders. I believe stories create a sense of belonging and connect us through life’s similarities.  Leaders who learn to master the art of good storytelling are the one’s who attract followers.Showing-direction-influence
  • INFLUENCE BY GIVING OF YOURSELF WITHOUT ANY STRINGS ATTACHED –  Give without any strings attached. I believe it is very important to be in “in tune” with those you lead or have potential influence with. Christopher Reeve said “Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take”.  When we give without any strings attached, we will benefit professionally and personally and professionally.
  • PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE KNOW THE IMPORTANCE OF A NAME – What is so important about a person’s name?  It is how we identify them.  Sure there are many people who have the same name, but what happens when you call a random name in a crowd?  People respond.   Learn the names of those you meet and associate with.   Few sounds are as sweet to a person as hearing their spoken name, few sounds are as irritating when you refer to someone by the wrong name.  Remembering names, shows you value them.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS PUBLICLY ACKNOWLEDGE STRENGTHS – I think one of the best ways to gain influence is to acknowledge a person’s strengths.   Areas within their personality or employment that seems to tie them well to the organization. When people are recognized for what they do well, they gain an enthusiasim to do more and do it better.  In fact, they will want to “Exceed Expectations”, not just meet them.  When people exceed expectations, everyone wins!  Recognize what people do well in front of others and you will be surprised by the growth of influence.

We all have influence, big andInfluence-2 small.   We all have things we are gifted or good at. Things we leverage by adding value to others.  Whether it is our attitude, problem solving skills or simply just our ability to laugh, we should be sharing our knowledge, experience and influence.  Employees respond to influence.   We should work hard to increase our influence by adding real value everyday. Do this and you will increase your leadership. You’ve heard it before, Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.  Go have influence on others!!

7 Keys to Becoming an Influential Safety Leader

7 Keys to InfluenceIt is my belief that the safety professional can have more influence than any other person within an organization. Think about it. Executives are typically in the office and seldom experience the field or the manufacturing daily work environment. Managers/Supervisors have assigned areas of responsibility, where they typically regulate a certain department or area.

The safety professional, on the other hand, typically upholds responsibility for the entire facility, region or area. Much of the workday is spent in the field or on the floor. Safety Professionals are expected to have a broad range of knowledge and an array of information concerning the business. In addition, they must have the ability to solve a wide spectrum of problems.

It is evident safety professionals have the ability to influence others more than any other position within the profession. The problem is that too many of us fall into the “authority” trap, where we think we can force compliance and the “0” injury campaign. So wrong! That used to be me. I thought I had the power and the authority to fix any problem. After six or seven jobs, I realized this was not the case. Rather, I’ve recognized the power of influence, it’s a trait that enables me to evolve as a strong and effective leader.

If you want to be a leader who has influence upon executives, manager, supervisors and employees, the key is to become valuable. When I reflect upon leadership, I think of John Csafetysign. Maxwell’s definition of leadership. He simply states, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” I have fully bought into this belief and I daily strive to increase influence. My desire is to influence others a little more each day. In my quest to increase influence, I have identified 7 Keys that will help create more authority as a safety professional.

They are as follows:

  1. Be firm but Fair – I learned this back in 1985 when I was in the academy for the Texas Prison System. I will never forget when I heard it for the first time. I was in a sweltering classroom listening to an old instructor when he said, “Inmates are people. Like anyone else, they respond to tone and attitude. If you want an inmate to respect you, you must be FIRM BUT FAIR with them.” This is an extra step you must take to become an influential, capable leader. Talk to your employees and listen to them. They will tell you why they can or cannot comply. Some people mistake rudeness as a sign of strength, however, it’s not even a substitute. Establish a high expectation for performance and hold others accountable. Observe the “big picture” because there might be something that keeps an employee from fully complying.
  1. Be Kind but not Weak – Do not mistake weakness for kindness. In my opinion, people are not weak when they demonstrate kindness. In fact, I think kindness is a leadership strength that has a positive impact upon others. Kindness is telling someone the truth, letting him or her know the consequences of their actions and laying everything on the line. Kindness is also about being open and honest. People will hear the truth if it is presented in a gentle and respectable manner. Remember, respect is achieved through the way we discuss and talk with others. Dealing kindly with people will generate respect ad allow you to influence them.
  1. Be Bold but not Annoying – It takes boldness to be an effective safety leader. In order to build influence with executives, managers or employees, you have to lead the way. You have to have your back exposed to the group. Such an idea can be expressed in the prison term “willing to feel cold steel,” although not literally I hope. Rather, you have to be the individual who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. You must be the first to identify and address problems, taking initiative and providing solutions. I love how Jim Rohn states, “Like the farmer, if you want any rewards at harvest time, you have to be bold and face the weeds and the rain and the bugs straight on.” Be known as a problem solver, not a problem creator.
  1. Be Humble but not Timid – You can’t get the “high life” by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility, but humility is a virtue; timidity is a downfall. It’s an affliction, although it can be cured. Humility is the opposite of pride. Ezra Taft Benson said “Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right.” Humility does not come easy. In fact, I personally find it very difficult at times. We all want to be right, as well as our ideas and thoughts acted upon. We all want people to look up to us and think have the answers and know the way. However, we don’t always know what others are going through. Sometimes we don’t have all the facts or see the bigger picture. Be willing to admit when your wrong and you will gain respect as well as influence in doing so.
  1. Be proud but not Arrogant – It takes pride to build your ambitions and pride in a cause or accomplishment. The key to becoming a good leader is to be proud without being arrogant. Do you know the worst kind of arrogance? Arrogance that stems from ignorance. It’s intolerable. If someone is intelligent and arrogant, it can be tolerated at best. To be ignorant and arrogant, that’s unbearable.
  1. Be funny without being Goofy – In leadership, we learn that it’s OK to be amusing but not silly, fun but not imprudent. Be of good cheer and it will rub off on others.
  1. Be a Realist – Deal in truth. Delusion creates agony. Simply accept life as it is, even the drama that comes with it. Enjoy the ride; it will be fascinating!

Showing-direction-influenceOur ability to influence others is the core of our profession. Influence is achieved by earning the respect of those you come into contact with. We have a unique opportunity to influence at all levels within the organization. The 7 Keys listed will help create an individual atmosphere where influence is increased. After all, our ability to influence within the safety arena could result in a life or death consequence.