Assets & Liabilities

Lance Accountability, Excellence Leave a Comment

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Which one are you?

We like to think that the past is what adds up to our current value to our employer or our team: education, experience, skills learned, accomplishments, road traveled, etc. All resumes say the same thing: “Of course I can be an asset to your organization. Look what I have done in the past.”

Value, however, is decided in the present.

  • The value of your house isn’t what you paid for it in the past, but what you can sell it for today.
  • The value of your stock option isn’t its price when issued, but the price you could sell it for today.
  • The value of your education or experience is a function of whether they remain applicable to the world as it exists today.

In fact, value isn’t just about the present, but about measuring the utility of something in the present. $10,000 in the bank is only worth $1000 when you can actually withdraw $10,000 and put it to use today. Go ask someone in Athens how valuable $10,000 is in the bank when you can only get access to it at the rate of $66/day.

So, when it comes to being an asset or a liability to your company, your organization, your team … the real question is this: which one are you today? The answer to this question can change in an instant. One moment, you’re an elite Navy SEAL with nearly 20 years of the world’s toughest training and experience under your belt and armed with the most sophisticated equipment ever provided to a warrior in history. The next moment, your leg has been shattered by a bullet, and you are now nothing more than an immobile, screaming liability to your team and the mission. (If you’ve never heard of Jimmy Hatch, take an hour and listen to him tell his own story in his own words.)

The lack of bullets notwithstanding, your life and your work face the same questions. Do you have the necessary skills and attitudes to be a valuable asset today? Are you NOW a liability because you have been wounded by getting overlooked for an opportunity, having an idea rejected, or having a failure criticised in the open for all to see? Have you turned those wounds into assets by leveraging the learning you took from them, or are you still focusing on your disappointment, refraining from taking risks, or activating defense mechanisms instead of accepting and learning from criticism? Have your past accomplishments and record turned you from a well-equipped asset into a liability of dead-weight stagnation who sees no need to change, grow, learn, or improve?

It’s hard, but being accountable to your team, your organization, and yourself, requires brutal honesty in accounting.


Find a Way to Pick the Lock

Lance Creativity, Excellence, Ideas Leave a Comment

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Golden Handcuffs” — I most recently heard this term while listening to an episode of The Learning Leader Show, in which nutrition and body weight fitness expert Natalie Jill explained how she left a well-paying corporate career in dental sales to launch her own fitness brand/business.

Of course, the imagery of the metaphor is perfect when it is the lock-in effect of a high salary, generous benefits, or a contingent bonus or stock option that makes it very hard for an employee to seriously consider leaving. But money is just a unit of transactional measure. To think of the power of “golden handcuffs” in terms of dollars alone is to create blind spots that prevent us from really seeing what’s going on.

Money can buy all kinds of things, including intangibles like Influence or Status. However, in those moments when an Idea beckons in one direction but the power of the “golden handcuffs” locks you in place, it’s really one of two things (or both) at work: Security & Comfort. But for the fears of losing Security and forfeiting Comfort, is there any doubt more people would leave their current, unhappy situation and head off to create something better?

By recognizing what’s really at work — not the money or benefits, but the security and comfort they provide — we are in a much better position to see other ways in which Security and Comfort lock us down and hold us back:

  • The emotional security of hanging onto known relationships, even if not healthy;
  • The psychological comfort of resting behind conventional wisdom;
  • The occupational security of sticking to the tasks you know by heart;
  • The intellectual comfort of never listening to contrary views.

In reality, all of these promises of Security and places of Comfort are mirages. All too often, job and income security are just one corporate reorganization away from evaporating, and the places we find most comfortable can be the worst places for us to stay.

Make it a practice of identifying where feelings of Security and Comfort have put down roots in your life and loosening their grip. Expose yourself to new ideas, and force yourself to try some of them. Embrace the risk of trying things you didn’t think you could do. Develop a habit of doing these things when it doesn’t involve your income, and when Opportunity does show up, those “golden handcuffs” will be much easier to unlock.

To Lead Is to Clarify

Lance Accountability, Leadership, Simplicity Leave a Comment

Reading Time: 2 minutes

You’re about to be handed a mission from above. Your career growth within the organization will be determined by how well you execute the task at hand. As you sit across the desk from your boss, your task takes shape from the words that come out of his mouth. Eager to succeed yet stressed by the circumstance, you hear the following directive:

You need to improve your performance. We need more out-of-the-box solutions from you that better leverage existing resources. In short, we need more of an impact from you in the near future. You need to take your game to the next level.

Well, there ya go, right? What are you waiting for? Go do THAT.


It’s not just jargon that causes confusion. Passive-Aggressive behavior keeps everyone affected in a foggy confusion about the state of affairs. Perpetual use of passive voice sentence construction is a veritable magic wand for hiding the truth about accountability.

If your goal is to effectively lead your people, do yourself the service and give them the professional courtesy of clearly communicating where you want them to go, when you want them to get there, what you want them to do there, and how they will know if they’ve succeeded — otherwise known as

  • A clear mission
  • A clear deadline
  • A clear set of objectives
  • A clear set of measurements

In other words, quit trying to sound like a sophisticated leader and focus on simply being a successful one.


You Be You, I’ll Be Me

Lance Excellence, Integrity Leave a Comment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Crisis of confidence are awful things to behold. They’re even worse to experience. They come in different varieties and from different causes, but they tend to exhibit the same symptoms:

  • self-doubt
  • indecision
  • loss of direction
  • halting of motion

These are no-fun places to be, but truly awful places to stay.

I’ve visited this hole a time or two in my life, the first of which occurred at the onset of my time in law school.


Upon entering law school, I started noticing that nearly everyone around me appeared to be approaching the work of law school differently than I was. I had been a successful student through high school and college reading, studying, and learning in the manner that was natural to me. But in law school, I looked around and saw the group I was now surrounded by taking the task of studying to a whole new, more formal level. I was shocked — and my confidence initially rattled — within the first week of law school when I saw that so many around me had been planning how to succeed in law school before they ever arrived. My peers had done things like taken law school prep courses and worked at law firms spending the summer building up a headstart of legal understanding and knowledge. I was in a competitive race and already behind even before it started.

So, I tried to do what any sensible, wanting-to-succeed, confidence-shaken person would: I tried to follow the pack and keep up. I cast aside my less-formalized approach to studying and tried to mimic what I saw all around me. For several weeks, I spent long hours, into the wee hours of the night, reading the assigned cases and typing up briefs on each one that identified all the bits and parts of each case — the parties, the litigation history, the issues, the HOLDING (!!), etc. I did these things for weeks because it appeared to be the thing law students were supposed to do … and wasn’t learning much of anything. Focused on mimicking the process, I wasn’t learning how to think like a lawyer (the real point of that first year of law school) … and I knew it.

Then it happened.

McHenry_Library_stacks,_University_of_California_Santa_CruzOne day, for reasons I don’t recall, I just stopped. I was done. Wracked with self-doubt and buckling under the stress, I just quit. I still remember the place in the lower level of the law library where it happened. I was down there looking for a “horn book” (everybody else seemed to know what those were but me!) to do some extra reading on the general principles of tort law (Zzzz..zzz) when my confidence cracked completely. All of a sudden, for the first time in my academic life (which really constituted my whole life to that point!), I was facing the question of whether I was good enough to be excellent at this level … and realizing the answer may very well be “no.”

I walked out of the library without the horn book. I went home, and for the next several days, I did nothing. No homework. No reading. No case briefs. I went to class, but paid no attention, more out of habitual obligation and fear that simply skipping classes outright would freak out my Wife. After a few days, I had a choice to make: because literally quitting law school wasn’t an option (we had moved across the country and now had student loans either way), I could either —

  1. return to trying to keep up with the rest of the herd as I had been, knowing that certain mediocrity would be the result, at best, or…
  2. I could move forward approaching my job as a student, learning in the manner that was natural to me as I always had in the past, and let the chips fall where they may.

I chose Option #2, if for no other reason than I simply couldn’t bear the thought of climbing back onto the stressful mental gerbil wheel I had been on over the previous handful of weeks. By choosing to just be Me, I also had to be willing to choose the possible outcome that being Me may no longer be good enough to be considered Great. I didn’t like that thought, but I accepted it because if it proved to be true, at least it would be Reality. I would dance with the Me that brought Me, and if that was no longer good enough to be among the top of my class, so be it. Reality — whether good or bad, it’s always your friend.

It now sounds trite and cliche as I type this, but it’s absolutely true: because I made that choice, law school instantly became a much less stressful experience. I studied the way that was natural for me, I learned what I needed to learn, and I ultimately finished near the top of my class. Turned out I was, in fact, good enough. Thank God I gave myself the chance to find that out.