Guest Post: “Must Wins” by Mark Miller


promo_04Today’s guest post is from Mark Miller, co-author of “The Secret:  What Great Leaders Know and Do”.  This post was originally published on Monday, June 9, 2014 at

I’ll have more to say myself about this great anniversary edition, but for now, here’s Mark with some solid leadership thinking …



Have you started working on your 2015 plans for your organization? If not, it’s probably time. Where should you begin? One approach is to determine what’s most critical for your organization to accomplish in the coming years.

I attended a meeting recently in which someone shared the “Must Wins” for their department. After listening for a few minutes, I realized, he was describing what I’ve historically called organizational priorities. His language is far better than mine. To describe something as a “Must Win” gives it importance and urgency.

Here’s a working definition of a “Must Win…”

A statement of strategic intent critical to the health and future success of your organization; substantive enough to require 12 – 60 months of focused attention and deserving of disproportionate time, energy and financial support.

A “Must Win” is not a tactic or a program, nor is it a goal – although there should be metrics established to monitor your progress. It is about closing gaps or seizing opportunities to fundamentally strengthen your organization.

Here are some examples:

1. We must improve our retention among hourly team members.

2. We must meet our quality requirements more consistently.

3. We must establish a successful west coast presence.

4. We must create products and services to reach new customers.

5. We must find new ways to reduce costs across all divisions.

6. We must increase repeat business from our existing customer base.

7. We must develop the business acumen of our people.

8. We must create a leadership culture.

How do you determine what your “Must Wins” should be? That will require a blend of research, hard work, heated debates and a good measure of leadership intuition.

Here are a few questions that may help…

· If a new leadership team took over our organization today, what are the first three things they would do?

· If this new leadership team were creating their 3-year plan, what would they deem most critical?

· If you could eliminate one competitive threat over the next 36 months, what would we choose?

· What could you do to create significant competitive advantage?

· Where are we falling behind our competitors?

· If you were not worried about the difficulty involved, what is the one strategic priority you would certainly embrace?

· What is the most significant gap you need to address over the next 36 months in your organization?

· What should you do if we want to fundamentally strengthen your organization for the next decade?

· If you could only have one strategic initiative for the next 5 years, what would you choose? (You’re certainly not limited to one, but the thought you might be, should force some thoughtful conversations.)

These, and other questions like them, should always be on our mind. Not only are leaders the architects of the future, we set the strategic direction for our organizations. A successful organization cannot do everything – “Must Wins” help us know what we must do.

The future begins today!

clip_image002Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

The 10th anniversary edition of The Secret will be released September 2, 2014.

Here Be Dragons … So What?



“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Neil Gaiman in Coraline

I find this comforting, because I know that dragons exist.

The world is full of dragons, who want to breathe fire on our faces and eat us. 

Some dragons wear power suits or religious attire, while others sport business casual.

Some dragons talk using terms from economics, politics, or academia, while others claim love, even as they act in hate.

Some dragons pretend to be your friends, while others avow their hatred for you publicly and often.

Some dragons live inside our own brains or hearts

All dragons are to be feared, but must be fought and defeated if we are to live in peace and harmony.

Dragons are real, but they are not invincible.  All we need to is call on our resources:  Courage, Thoughtfulness, Critical Thinking, Active Listening, Reflection, Engagement, Empathy, Tolerance, and so on … you know, the usual stuff.

Thinking of dusting off some very old books for the afternoon in the Heartland ….




Sometimes All We Need …


Sometimes all we need is a little push .  . .



… to get moving on a project.

… to go first and apologize.

… to do the right thing for the long haul.

… to be more focused and productive.

… to help someone else.

… to create momentum and power.

… to fix a wrong.

… to show mercy.

… to begin a thing that we need to do.

… to end a thing that we need to let go.

… to start swinging high above the ground.

… to think of something new and different.

I could go on … after all, I have already received my little push today.   I have two questions for you today: 

Who could you ask to give you a little push?

Who do you know who needs a little push?

Well, what are you waiting for? 

Enjoying the feeling of real momentum in the Heartland ….


Letting Some Things Be …

People and Sunsets - Carl Rogers

People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be.

When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.”

I don’t try to control a sunset.

I watch with awe as it unfolds.

                                   ~ Carl R. Rogers


I spend a fair amount of time every day dealing with change in one way or another.  Those of us who believe in the power of  transformational change and transformational leadership emphasis change, because we know that is what brings our better selves into focus and our better futures into reality.

Change is a given in life, whether you welcome it with open arms or cling desperately to a past (which may only exist in your mind).   Change is hard, but worth the pain.  Change is refreshing and gives us energy to do great things.

Of course, not everyone shares these warm and fuzzy feelings about change.

Change is good … You go first.”  

Scott Adams via Dilbert

Some of us automatically look for what could or should change in things.  We are never quietly accepting of what is, because we are always focusing on what could be.  We see ourselves as the great movers of people, organizations, and society.  If it weren’t for us, goodness … we might just sit around and take pleasure in what we already have, such as …

The process that does what it should do adequately …

The system that delivers what it promises without too many glitches…

The colleague who does their job competently, without sharing our dream of being the “World Class Whatever” …

The sunset that takes our breath away and does not ask a penny in return …

Mindfulness includes the idea that sometimes we just become aware of the moment.  We focus on what is, not on what might be or should be, but on what is before us.  The ability to just enjoy a moment or a person has been dented by our modern society … Our sometimes manic emphasis on speed, achievement, and growth has value, but it comes at a cost.

No argument here that some things need desperately to change.  Open your browser or morning paper (depending on your bent) and you will see ample opportunity to improve who we are and how we are.   Sometimes we are impelled to act: 

When things or situations endanger life, liberty, or property, it is time to act . . . 

When your own dissatisfactions affect your ability to get through your day, it is time to act . . .  

When you want a thing so much that you are willing and eager to engage in positive change to achieve that thing, it is time to act . . .

… But sometimes it is time to just sit on the back patio and watch the day come to a gloriously beautiful end.

Forcing myself to take time to just let it be in the Heartland ….


Three Simple Leadership Lessons The Hard Way …

Excitement“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Enthusiasm creates energy and excitement … all great words that happen to start with “E”.  

I remember once when I was leading a group on a path of development and I had high hopes that we could accomplish great things.  Most of the folks in this group were intelligent and thoughtful people who were very interested in doing a good job.  I was a young and energetic leader, with a solid grounding in leadership theories and practice.

So I pulled out all the stops as they say and dove into the Mother of All Training Programs.   Over the course of six months or so, our entire team  …

Listened to lectures, watched videos, and attended seminars . . . Took long contemplative walks and short energetic jogs (mind and body) … Completed not one, but two ROPES courses (team-building) . . . Created scenarios and simulations to prepare us for all manner of possibilities . . . Practiced and debriefed countless situations based on those scenarios … Indulged our creativity with art and song, and even staged a talent show … Analyzed and strategized to create a great vision, mission, and values statement . . . Reviewed, rewrote, and revised policies, procedures, and marketing messages . . . Read great works by famous authors from the past and pondered their meaning for us today . . . Went out to eat together to celebrate personal milestones and group achievements . . . Learned to line dance as a team (team-building) . . .  Had faithful weekly team meetings to share concerns and announce news …

I was doing all the things that I had been told good leaders do to create cohesion, connection, and synergy (love this word Smile)

A bustling time … we were riding the wind and I was exhilarated throughout.  Since I was the One In Charge (OIC), I felt it my duty to lead from the front and became a veritable whirlwind of frenetic energy (redundant?).   I was a sight to see in those days.  I experienced it all as great fun … and I sensed we were becoming a great team in the process.

Until the day, my two most trusted senior team members approached me with a message . . .

“John, you are wearing us out.  We want to do a good job and everyone has the utmost respect for you, but we are overwhelmed by all the activity.   Our daily work is 24/7 in a stressful environment.  We need a respite.”

Yes, that is a direct quote, because those words were burned into my then still young and enthusiastic leadership mind.  Being a reflective type, I immediately went into seclusion for a time to consider this new information.   I had to understand how people who I cared deeply about and was showering with my wisdom, enthusiasm, and energy, could not simply accept and be completely thankful that I was doing so. 

Cutting to the chase, I realized that:

I had failed to understand that my obsession is not another’s obsession …

Sometimes less is more …

Leadership is not just about creating and driving toward goals, but also about taking care of those you serve.

Now, I will take credit for developing two young leaders to the point where they were able to honestly and appropriately approach a somewhat intimidating boss and respectfully kick his butt.

I could mark this off to youthful leadership enthusiasm, but the truth is that I was just swept up by my own ego and desire for achievement and recognition.  Nothing to do with age, but everything to do with not taking the time to reflect on the larger issues … too busy sharing my technical knowledge and creating hoopla.

These were painful, but very useful leadership lessons.   In my enthusiasm, I had failed to consider the needs of others and made some assumptions about their motivation and our work environment that were simply wrong.

Thoughtful Collage“Enthusiasm is a good engine, but it needs intelligence for a driver.”

The Proverb Zone

Thinking about how I can continue to inject intelligence into my service in the Heartland ….