Quick Question


I’m close to finishing preparations on my new leadership training offering.

I’ve been preparing for this for more than five years, and I’m almost ready to launch. I’ll be ready to announce soon.

This offering will focus on helping emerging and experienced leaders push past those tough “School of Hard Knocks” years and dramatically grow their effectiveness.

It will help them focus on growing their teams’ productivity and quality by growing their team members. We’ll focus on relationships, counseling, negativity, communicating, managing time, learning consistently, leading effective meetings, and many other subjects.

However, I need your help. Before I put it all together, I want to truly meet needs.

In the comments below please answer these two questions:

1. What are the three most important questions, concerns, or stresses you think emerging or younger leaders need answered?
2. What’s the format for an offering you’d suggest?
a. Group discussion
b. Book
c. Live seminar
d. downloadable training

Thank you so much for your help.

David DeFord

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Am I Investing My Time with the Right People?

Many years ago I met bestselling author and motivational speaker Charles “Tremendous” Jones. His signature line was, “Your life will be the same five years from now as it is today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

I agree.

If we hang around complainers, we become complainers. If we spend time with achievers, we tend to achieve. If the people with whom we associate spend their evenings watching mindless television, you guessed it, we watch what they watch.

This principle of our becoming like those around us points to reasons we should consider participating in associations, service clubs, religious organizations, and mastermind groups. These groups tend to attract the very best people—ones who take initiative, who seek personal growth, who live by higher standards, and who expect more from themselves.

Also, leadership opportunities abound in such organizations. Though I’ve spent my entire career in leadership positions, my leadership in volunteer organizations has been the greatest source of leadership learning.

I’m a much better leader because of my participation in such groups.

If you’d like to receive my new newsletter, The Fruitful Leader, you can subscribe by going to

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If It’s Lonely at the Top, You’re Not Doing Something Right


John Maxwell says that if it’s lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right. I agree. Old-timey leaders keep their distance. They lead with a frown, and manage their humble subjects. Most of their communication is one-directional—from the leader to underling. They grow their productivity by pushing and scolding. They convey, “I’m up here. You’re down there.”

Enlightened leaders grow productivity by growing their team members. They lead their people to the top. Taking personal interest in their teams, they create a climate of greater initiative and self-starting. They communicate, “Let’s go to the top together.”

Titles don’t make leaders. Influence does. You can influence your team WANT to improve, to grow, and to perform.

Do you regularly walk slowly through the halls, observing, and making yourself available? If you do you make yourself accessible. You can see who is challenged, under-challenged, or over-challenged. You can see who helps whom. You can reduce the frustrating drop-in visits at the wrong time. Your team members know that you’ll be around, so they’ll take care of most of their business with you during your little trips around the workplace.

Do you have people with leadership potential? Do you groom, grow, train, and give leadership opportunities to them? If you do, they get motivated. They may rise to the occasion and join you in influencing the others. You can even attend training, conferences, and meetings without receiving phone calls and text messages every few minutes, because your leader trainees can handle many of the issues that arise in your absence.

If you are leading rather than managing, you’re not lonely at all.

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Don’t Complain about Complainers

Complainers are toxic. They poison a workplace. Their constant negativity sucks the life out of a room and out of a team.

These unhappy stink bombs waste time, their time and the time of those around them. They waste your time.

So how does an effective leader handle complainers?

First, they model the behavior and attitudes they want their people to demonstrate. Stay out of what Jack Canfield calls “the Ain’t It Awful Club.”

Second, have a one-on-one direct counseling session. Be clear of your expectations. Tell them the outcome if they don’t fix their problem.

Third, schedule the follow-up visit during the first session. Tell them you’ll review their progress at that time.

Fourth, pile on more work. Your biggest complainers are those who are the most under challenged. Explain this to them.

Fifth, institute the 5/10 Rule. Explain that they can complain to you about anything–for five minutes. Then, they owe you ten minutes of their suggestions. They don’t get the five unless they give you the ten. Enforce it.

Then when you hear them griping about something, schedule a 5/10 session.

You have options. Don’t just complain about complainers. Act.

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Study Leadership

A few months into my work as a young computer operator, my boss Roger, added to my responsibility. He assigned me to supervise the eight data entry operators.

I was so excited to have my first leadership role. That excitement lasted a few seconds. As soon as Roger announced my new appointment, the operators started lining up outside my little office. They complained about each other. They shared with me very intimate details about their personal lives.

I had no idea this stuff went on at work. Stressed me out!

After a couple of weeks, Roger asked to see me. He said that everyone was worried about me. He told me I looked ill. Actually, I was. I felt sick to my stomach with stress.

Roger advised me to study leadership. He said I could learn away most of that stress by learning to handle the stresses of leadership.

He told me, “Study leadership the rest of your life. It will help you in your career, at home, and in your volunteering.”

He set me in the course to better success.

You can learn from those who lead you, but if you limit your understanding of leadership to those who lead you, you’re limiting the scope of your possibilities–learn from the world’s best.

Develop a passion for improvement.

Read books, listen to audiobooks, attend conferences. Do whatever you need to do to improve.

So who pays for this? Who gets the most benefit? The answer to both questions is the same–you do. You own your career.

You will do better work, enjoy it more, and suffer less stress


Here is one book you may want to study,

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Sweet Leadership Swing





I feel lucky. I took my very first golf swing in my first lesson. The instructor made immediate adjustments, and got me started well. He didn’t have to break me of any bad habits, because I hadn’t formed any. I developed a sweet swing.


Wouldn’t it be great if new leaders could do the same? Instead, most new leaders get selected because they’re good at the doing. But doing the work and leading the workers take different skills.


Most young leaders learn to lead by making mistakes. With no training, they do their best and gain experience through those mistakes.


When they realize they need to make big changes, they have formed bad habits that are very challenging to break.


They rely on what they’ve observed from the leaders who have led them. They become reserved about making decisions and giving directions.


Young sparks need help. They need direction. New leaders need someone to coach them before they form too many bad habits.


If you know a young spark–someone who just started leading or who is on track for promotion to leadership, urge them to study leadership the rest of their lives. This practice will help them in their careers, their homes, and their community work.


Here’s a great place to start:


I’m organizing a free mastermind group for young sparks. I want to help.


Pass this along to them.


Young spark, I have been in your shoes. Let’s get you started right.


E-mail me and we can see if I can help.


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A Different Kind of Throwback Thursday

A Different Kind of Throwback Thursday




While in Portland, Oregon last week, I took the opportunity to attend the fourth annual Grateful Dead Meet-up. Movie theaters around the country played a 1972 concert of the jam band on Thursday, July 17. The concert, performed in Bremen, Germany, was performed in a television studio for the rock and roll television show The Beat.

When most people think of the Grateful Dead they recall the 1960s acid rock experiences of San Francisco. They served as the house band for the legendary Electric Kool-aid Acid Tests chronicled by Tom Wolfe and Aldious Huxley. Most people remember Woodstock (they chose to not be featured in the movie), the disaster at the raceway in Altamont, California, and Deadheads who followed them from city to city attending hundreds of shows.

The Dead carry the label “jam band” because they played improvisational rock. In fact, they are the original jam band. They rarely played the same arrangement of the same song twice. In fact, they had hardly any arrangements at all. They also rarely used a set list. They responded to the audience’s energy, and chose each song as they played.

So the music itself is a social experience. Add in the energy of their devoted following, and you find the ultimate in social musical performance.

Though they disbanded in August of 1995 at the death of their leader, Jerry Garcia, their following has actually grown. Live albums from old concerts sit at the tops of sales charts every year. Podcasts and YouTube videos allow Deadheads to continue their experience with the band members and the music.

While I never saw them in concert, I bought my first Grateful Dead album in late 1969, Workingman’s Dead. I’ve loved them ever since.

Though I have long since moved away from the failed promise of peace, love, and freedom of my hippie days, it still love the Dead.

As I drove to downtown Portland, I wondered what I would experience? Would the audience be nothing but sixty- and seventy-year-olds stuck in the bad old days? Or would I find professional people who stopped using drugs and got lives? Like me.

I found both. The parking lot was filled with new Priuses, Mercedes, and Nissans, but it also featured old VW Microbuses, and rust-cankered sedans displaying discarded trash in the back window shelf. The audience members wore beat up tie dyed shirts, long pioneer dresses, pony tails behind mostly bald heads, but also business casual and modern attire.

The way the audience really stood out was in its friendliness. While waiting for the show to start, rather than sitting in a dark theatre playing with iPhones, we visited warmly. Freaks spoke freely with those who dressed more stylishly. I’ve never seen a louder, pre-movie crowd. I saw, and even experienced loud and friendly conversation, hugs, and teasing.

“What shows did you attend?” The friendly competition for who hS attended the most concerts broke out. The winner in my section of the theatre had attended 378.
I loved it. I even teared up a little, though that isn’t unusual. I felt aligned with the eclectic group of music lovers.

So, what did I learn on this unusual “Throwback Thursday”?

Goodwill comes in many forms. My faith generates positive sentiments in me for every child of God. My relationships with my Father in Heaven, the Savior, and my wife are my primary attachments. But I also felt good about the good feelings I felt from my fellow Deadheads.

I also felt grateful in my good fortune to sever my connection to the chains of drug use when I did. At this event I saw many who did not get out in time. I saw signs of mental illness, diminished capacity, and broken bodies.

I felt a stronger desire to share Kathy’s and my unusual story—how we met, how we searched, how we discovered the truth, and how it’s turning out for us.

I’m so grateful for my life.

If you want to read our story, go to http://alturl.com/xyyxi

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Look on the Bright Side of Life


1897748_10152648783933206_326277397_nAs I sit on Southwest Airlines flight 260 from Tucson to Denver, occupying my allotted two by three feet of space, I’m reflecting on an incident I hardly believed when I experienced it.

Toward the end of a long flight, as I sat restrained by a seat belt, not allowed to leave my seat to walk to the latrine, the captain made the announcement that we would be arriving at the gate twenty minutes early. Excellent!

After we landed, the captain came back on the PA. This usually isn’t a good thing. I’m accustomed to hearing that because we’re early, the gate personnel aren’t ready for us, so we’ll have to sit on the tarmac until they’re ready.

This time, though, he announced that the gate workers were ready, and that we would arrive in the terminal twenty minutes early. I thought that would make everyone happy. But, alas, my fellow-constrained neighbor lamented, “Oh G**, now I have to sit at the airport an extra twenty minutes!”

I looked at this guy, my mouth open in amazement. How can arriving early be anything but good?

I feel sad when people look for the bad in the events of life. It seems they’re always in evaluation mode, searching for some way to feel the victim.

When we look on the bright side of life, we aren’t hiding from life’s challenges. We’re simply choosing to focus on light instead of darkness.

This choice between the light and the dark can be evident in our conversations, our facial expressions, and in our social media posts.

Light and darkness attract their own. When we look for the good, we find it. The same principle applies to looking for darkness.

The happiest and most content people seek light.
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Air Karma

Air Karma



As I travel each week, I’ve learned that things will happen. Flight delays, cancellations, turbulence, disinterested or near-hostile flight attendants, and very expensive airport food. I also know that most of the things that happen cannot be controlled by me. The only control I have over these situations is in my response to them.

I can tell a rookie flyer just by his or her over-reaction to even small issues. More than once I have seen a novice traveler swearing viciously at the airline customer service person responsible to take care of him. I like following these guys in line—because I’m nice I get extra food vouchers and other amenities.

Many years ago as a member of my team and I were trying to get home from Dallas, very violent rain storms buffeted the city. We turned in our rental car, rode the shuttle to the terminal, and discovered that every flight out that day had been canceled. We were given an 800 number to call to rebook flights home.

Both of us called and waited on hold for more than forty minutes. When a service rep finally came on the line, she sounded like she had been crying—she sounded hurt. I asked her, “Are you alright?” She told me that the last guy had cussed her out badly. I told her that she’d like my call.

As she worked out my rebooking, my I could barely hear her over my team member yelling in the phone at his service rep. After our calls I held a brief counseling session with him. I explained my disappointment in him, and asked him to envision his rep’s day.

The next day, as we received our boarding passes, I was assigned to first class, while my team member sat in the back row by the latrine.

Air Karma.

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Tell the Truth and Tell It Early

Tell the truth and tell it early.

Too many employees hide issues, hoping they can figure them out before they are exposed. Big mistake.

Hiding issues complicates their resolution. It adds to your stress. It hurts your credibility.

When an issue arises, one of your first thoughts should be, “Who needs to know about this?”

Be careful to be truthful avoid exaggerating or minimizing impacts.

If you have a solid reputation for truth-telling, your influence rises.

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