Setting Clear Expectations – A Key to Better Employee Engagement

Management training shows how to establish, write and communicate clear job performance expectations effectively and create a solid basis for appraisal and performance management efforts.
Setting performance expectations is absolutely one of the most difficult jobs for most managers. Why? Because few managers or supervisors ever receive this type of in-depth training.
A mutual understanding of what managers expect from employees is essential for improved performance, employee success, and good employee relations overall. Not to mention worker retention, attendance and “presenteeism”.
Without clear job expectations, employees can:
  •  Waste effort due to a lack of priorities
  •  Waste time with unnecessary work
  •  Endure increased stress due to uncertainty
With clear job expectations, employees can:
  • Understand what is important and what they should be doing
  • Understand why they are doing their work
  • Know how they are doing and when to ask for support
  • Recognize where performance improvement can occur


Too often performance problems revolve around this question and this answer:
“Why isn’t my employee doing what needs to do be done?”

“But, I thought I was doing a good job.”
Poorly defined performance expectations leave the employee questioning how to achieve job performance goals and leaving them no way to track their efforts to meet job expectations. The result is both employees and their managers becoming frustrated.  The manager is frustrated because the employee is not doing the things that need to be done.  The employee is frustrated because they think they are doing the best they can and the boss is still not satisfied with the work they are doing.
When results are easy to measure (for example: parts per hour or sales volume per month), defining expectations seems fairly straightforward.  But what about adding in error rates, new customers, profit margins on sales, or other issues?  All of a sudden, it gets more complicated.
Now, add in the more subjective, but extremely important, performance criteria such as interpersonal skills, teamwork, quality customer service, and others.  How can managers effectively communicate these expectations? If managers cannot effectively communicate all job expectations, they cannot expect the employee to meet those expectations.
HOW to Set Employee Expectations
As much as an employee needs a job description to know what their role is, they might need expectations of achievement to sharpen their focus. Although every company will have its own desired level of performance from employees, getting the best work out of employees requires knowledge of each employee’s strengths and the proper techniques to motivate them. Employees usually start a job wanting to do well; managers should work with them to help them to bring their enthusiasm to work every day.
  • Set job-specific goals tailored to the position and employee. A list of job duties is a starting point to develop a series of targets for employees to meet. Especially in long-standing positions where the role of the employee is clear, the company will know what achievement levels are best for the company. These levels might have to be adjusted, however, to match the skill set and experience of the person in the position.
  • Allow new employees time to get settled in the position. It’s an unfortunate reality that high expectations placed on star hires don’t always pan out; giving new staff time to ease into the position and mentoring from a senior co-worker will avoid disappointment. Set early expectations to be achievable; instead of a long list of sales or productivity targets, be realistic about what’s possible and ask your staff to meet only a few key objectives during the first three months. Remember new hires are unlikely to ask a lot of questions until they feel comfortable in their jobs.
  • Make expectations part of an ongoing conversation. Meeting with employees on a regular basis, once a month at least, to discuss goals and progress will help employees understand t the employer’s expectations. Regular meetings help managers assess the workload of each employee and can adjust it if necessary to help employees meet the company’s goals. Learning what interests and engages employees can help managers to distribute work in a way that promotes enthusiasm for completing tasks. Expressing confidence in each employee’s ability and reinforcing past achievement is key to maintaining employee motivation.
  • Develop short and long term goals. Specific targets for employees are easier to meet than vague platitudes about stronger sales or greater productivity. Remember that employees work daily in their jobs and therefore might have a better idea of what goals are realistic and achievable. Maintaining an open dialogue about workload is a good way to assess employee capability and to find targets they can meet. Specific targets allow for clear tracking of employee performance.
  • Exhibit role model behavior when it comes to performance. Set goals for your own performance and share them as much as possible with employees. This demonstrates you are not simply managing in a “top-down” fashion; you expect as much from your own work as from your workforce.

Creating the Right Work Environment

Employee engagement isn’t controlled by an on-off switch. Instead, you’ll find that most people will thrive in certain environments, and will flounder or become frustrated in others. While much of this fit is personal, there is a lot you can do as a leader to build and encourage the right kind of environment for your team.
Note, as I said before, that there are always going to be factors that are outside of your control. You may have two or more employees who have a personality conflict that you wouldn’t have been able to predict. Or, one of your staff members might have a situation in their personal lives that causes them to be distracted.
Because there’s so many moving parts involved at any given time, the point of this isn’t to have you thinking you can necessarily direct or account for every variable that’s going to come up. Instead, it’s to make you mindful of what’s going on around you so you can both get the pulse of your team and encourage top-level performance from them.
In other words, you have to set the tone for everyone else. Let’s look at how you do that…
#1 – Make Work More Enjoyable (While Still Being Work)
Does hard work have to feel like hard work? That’s a pretty philosophical question, and one that would probably garner lots of different answers from various business owners, executives, and managers. Some of us feel like hard work should be gritty and determined, while others insist that we are more creative and driven when we’re in a carefree state.
I tend to side more with the second group, and the feeling that work should be fun, within reason. In some jobs and situations, there just aren’t going to be a lot of laughs to go around. And certainly, some leaders are more comfortable than others with an environment where people are having a good time (remember, this is about you being the best leader you can be, not a clone of someone else).
But, when work feels joyless, you get lower engagement, higher turnover, and lots of other things that come from having grown men and women spending most of their time in a place they would rather not be. So, my advice would be to make work enjoyable, when you can, or at least try to foster an atmosphere of comfort.
#2 – Lead by Example
There is nothing in the world that inspires others like a good example. Actions always speak louder than words, and we instinctively gravitate towards leaders who won’t ask others to do what they wouldn’t do themselves. And conversely, we instinctively distrust those who don’t lead from the front by setting the right example.
As a leader, you have to exhibit and reflect the qualities you want from your group. Otherwise, you’re a figurehead – or worse, a hypocrite – who they feel is simply using them to get what you want. When that happens, you cease being a leader, regardless of whatever it might say on your door or your business card.
People follow leaders, but to become one you have to lead. And that means setting a consistent example your team can see and follow on a daily basis.
#3 – Encourage Teamwork and Cooperation
I’m a big believer that we are almost always stronger when we work together. Most of us are more energized and efficient when functioning within a team. This is even true in jobs or departments, like sales, that are based on individual performance. A strong group can encourage one another, share tips, and inspire more commitment.
There’s a big difference between a group that is working together for common goals, and a collection of individuals – no matter how talented – who refused to cooperate. Do everything you can to push your team in the right direction towards productive collaboration.
#4 – Give it to Them Straight
If you want to be effective in supervising and motivating others, you have to develop the habit of giving it to them straight. That’s not always easy, and some conversations are going to be tough. But, over the long run, it’s the only way to make yourself authentic and earn the confidence of those who are around you.
A side effect of being straightforward and genuine is that it will inspire others in your group to do the same, with you and each other. Better communication is always a good thing, because it means more efficiency and fewer nasty surprises.
#5 – Honesty Leads to Loyalty
Honesty and authenticity are also the cornerstones of loyalty, which is often thought to be nonexistent in the business world. While many of the employer’s I have worked with fret and complain about the fact that employees will supposedly jump ship with little or no warning, many of the same managers don’t stop to think about the role they play in the process. Because they aren’t honest with their staff, the team senses it and stops being transparent in return. When you are honest with your employees, and have good ongoing relationships with them, it benefits everyone.

What Handicap??

The following are some excerpts and highlights from an article posted to the internet on March 31, 2015, entitled “6 Inspiring Stories of Overcoming Adversity”. This just hits the highlights!
If you’re a baseball fan-and even if you’re not-then you know that with spring comes Spring Training, wherein hope springs eternal. There have been quite a few pitchers who truly were and are inspirational people-you might say overcoming adversity is a prerequisite to succeeding in any sport.
When it comes to overcoming adversity, few compare to Jim Abbott.  In making the big leagues, Abbott truly was one of a kind-he is the only player to have played Major League Baseball with only one hand.

As a boy, he would throw a rubber ball against a wall, slip his throwing hand into his glove-which rested on the stump that ends his right hand-and then fielded the ball using his now-gloved left hand. But those rubber ball exercises gave Abbott great reflexes, and he went on to not just make his high school and later college baseball teams, where he not only pitched, but he also batted for himself-and even hit home runs one-handed. Wow!

He attended and pitched for the University of Michigan, where he won the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1988.  From there he made the US Men’s Baseball Team and won an unofficial Gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and the following year he realized his dream and made it to the big leagues, signing with the then-California Angels.

But his crowning moment of glory was still to come.  After pitching solidly for the Angels, Jim Abbott moved on to the biggest names in baseball-and sworn enemies of every Mets fan out there-the New York Yankees.
The original Yankee Stadium was called “the House that Ruth Built,” and it saw more than two dozen World Series winners, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, the 1950s Yankees of Mantle, Berra, Ford and Casey, the 1970s variety with Reggie Jackson-suffice it to say it saw some of the biggest names and moments in baseball history.
Even amongst such hallowed baseball history, Jim Abbott not only showed himself to be an All-Star when it came to overcoming adversity, he earned baseball immortality and joined those other Yankee greats in 1993 by pitching a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium.  He also pitched for the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he got his first MLB hit-an RBI.
No one overcame more physical adversity to make it to the major leagues than Jim Abbott. After that incredible no-hitter and a career that spanned more than a decade, he’s still working to inspire people, having appeared on Boy Meets World and making his living today as a motivational speaker. He certainly qualifies for that role!
Remember-with baseball, hope springs eternal.  Here’s hoping that there are a number of players who make a great comeback this year…and that they and everyone else who plays the game may do so with the same degree of determination and character as Jim Abbott.

Welcome Inspiration from an Unexpected Source

Iowa High School Wrestler Forfeits to Honor Opponent Who Died
by Bob James
Just days before Christmas, an Iowa high school wrestler collapsed during a match and died hours later. During the school’s first home dual meet since his passing, an opposing wrestler forfeited his match and drew the adoration of everyone in the gym in the process.
Austin Roberts of Spencer was 14-0 during his senior season when he collapsed during the championship match of the Spencer Tiger Invitational on December 19. He died within hours at Spencer Hospital. Amed Castro-Chavez of Estherville-Lincoln Central High School was on the mat next to Roberts that day. He had lost to Roberts earlier in the season and when the team returned to Spencer last Thursday, there was no one to wrestle Castro-Chavez in the 220-pound weight class. Instead of taking six points for his team due to the forfeit, Amed did something no one was expecting.
Castro-Chavez, with his team trailing 22-3, forfeited. He left his warm-ups on and went to the front row of the bleachers where Austin Roberts’ mom, Lori Roberts (in boots in front row above), and grandfather were seated. Amed told the Sioux City Journal, “I wanted to show Austin’s family respect because they are grieving. I told Austin’s mom that I wished I could wrestle Austin again because he was such a good wrestler.”
The entire crowd at Spencer Field House stood and cheered. Nate Shaughnessy, a columnist for the Spencer Daily Reporter, told the Sioux City Journal, “It’s not often hairs stand on the back of your neck at a high school sporting event… There are touchdowns and dunks and goals, but I’ve never felt anything quite like those few minutes in the Field House.”
When Roberts’ grandpa, Dennis Roberts, shook hands with Castro-Chavez, he simply said, “Thank you.” Castro-Chavez told him, “It was an honor to wrestle Austin.” All the while, the awestruck crowd looked on.
Amed Castro-Chavez, a high school wrestler from Iowa, reminds us again life is about so much more than points and victories. Wins and losses are forgotten, but the compassion he showed will never be.

Don’t Fall Back on Employee Engagement

Times have changed. And so have some of the attributes that make great leaders to guide us through these challenging times. Now, more than ever, the world at work and everywhere needs and is looking for leaders to show us the way.
So…..WHAT makes great leaders? Do you have to have the title “Manager, Director, VP, President, CEO” attached to your name to be a true leader? HOW is it different now in the “leadership suite” as compared to before?
There are numerous lists, books and articles addressing leadership and the traits or attributes that make a great leader. All are worth reading and taking to heart. Based on my personal experience in over 30 years of business, here’s my Top 10. They consistently show up in my working past. And definitely do so today in the great leaders I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with through my own consulting and coaching practice.
Top 10 Leadership Qualities
  1. Real, genuine, self-aware and “they are who they are”
  2. Consistent, level-headed, thoughtful, NOT “Dow Jonesers”
  3. Outwardly focused, not all about themselves and their agendas
  4. Good to great communicators that know to L-I-S-T-E-N and truly hear the message
  5. Flexible, able & willing to change
  6. Calculated risk-takers that learn from their failures, using them to grow & improve
  7. Big picture thinkers, forward- thinking in their approach to their actions and plans
  8. Exudes confidence without being perceived as arrogant or self-absorbed
  9. Live in a place of high integrity, honesty
  10. Good relationship builders
Great leaders know that you can’t do it alone. The effective ones today have discovered people working together is far more effective than the old school style of strong fisted, fiery, authoritarian leadership. Including others in the work, the project, the conversation is important. Listening, giving others a voice, adapting and changing what you might have thought originally to adopting new ideas is admirable and needed. It helps tremendously in building real, valued and meaningful relationships with others. That can have multiple payoffs for all. And that all helps create something that is key to all of this…TRUST!
HOW is it different in the leadership role today? The successful leaders at the top of organizations are out in front of their people and their customers more. The really good ones manage by wandering around interactively and getting to know their teams, face to face. They go out and meet their customers and build relationships while increasing their understanding of what they need. More open and revealing about themselves, this in turn makes people understand, appreciate and trust them more. They also know the value and power of group communication, frequent contact, visibility and messages to employees and to customers via social media and web conferencing. Town hall style meetings are making a comeback and they should! In other words, they’re not a robot but a real person with family, friends, interests and problems like the rest of us. They “keep it real”!! Modern day leaders are adaptable and know there is more than one way to get the results. One size and one way does not fit all.
And the same holds true in their relationships and direction of others. Great leaders know that taking the time to understand each person’s preferred style of doing things, likes, dislikes, wants, needs are all vital in doing what really works best. They know to manage to the individual in order to get those results we all are expected to hit and exceed. In turn, this makes them more approachable and keeps them more in tune with what is really going on with their team, business, etc. And this allows them to do so without having to dig for the information in a forced way.
Expectations are everything, especially in great leaders. IF we are around leaders that are more consistent in how they present themselves emotionally and in their communication, actions and decision making the better it is for those around them. The feedback I get more than I like to hear in my role as a workplace consultant and development coach is often “I never know what to expect from one day to the next from him or her. I don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong depending on their mood that day. I’m afraid to take the lead or stick my neck out because I never know how that is going to be received”.

Sound familiar?? Consistency in how you show up as a leader solves a lot of problems and certainly creates a more positive, workable dynamic around you.

No Excuses

One of the key elements of successful people in all walks of life seems to be their amazing capacity for focus, clear goals, determination, the willingness and ability to learn and adapt as things change or circumstances out of their control come into play. And in meeting, talking with and working for some great leaders the one thing that seems to come up again and again is the “No Excuses” way of life.


These people seem to have an incredible ability to focus on the important stuff, learn along the way and despite the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges find a way to not allow there to be any excuses to reach the finish line. No doubt we are all built differently, but I also know many of us including me are capable of much more than we realize sometimes.

In beginning to write this month’s newsletter on this very subject, I stumbled across a mini-documentary on a very young man exhibiting all these qualities. It also served as a reminder that we can always use the help and guidance of a friend, mentor, or coach to get there. We do not have to do it all alone. This short film made me stop, slow down, think about what I had just written and take into account his story to support what I was about to launch to all of you. Here it is, the story of Isaiah Bird, age 7, from Glen Cove, NY.

Isaiah’s life is far from the norm for most if not all of us for a variety of reasons. He was born with a birth defect that resulted in his being born with no legs. In addition to that, he was being raised in far from ideal circumstances. His father has been in prison a large amount of the time and his parents have actually been involved in domestic violence against each other. He lives the majority of the time now in a church homeless shelter in Glen Cove, NY with his mother and younger brother. Based on that, his age and his physical challenges one might think Isaiah is doomed to a very difficult life. Keep reading!

Luckily for Isaiah a guardian angel came into his life at school. Miguel Rodgriguez, a classroom aid who also functions as a wrestling coach, took Isaiah under his wing. During the wrestling season, Isaiah stays 5-6 days a week with Rodriguez, his girlfriend, Miguel’s own son(Elijah) and his mother. Miguel himself came from Venezuela to the US back in 1997, with practically nothing and very few prospects for success. According to Miguel, wrestling saved his life. He now is doing his part to provide a platform for Isaiah and his mother to achieve their own level of success.

Rodriguez has been the coach of the Long Beach NY Gladiators for a number of years. They are a competitive youth wrestling club with a long history of success in New York State wrestling. Just as a trial to see how he would do, Miguel took Isaiah to practice with him one day. Flash forward just two short years later. Isaiah Bird, the boy with no legs, a rocky home life, no real father and limited prospects has become one of the best wrestlers in his age group for the entire state of New York. According to his coach and others, when he first started wrestling “He was cute. Now he IS the competition. He is the guy to beat.” Wow. Does he always win? No. But most of the time he does. And his attitude is exemplified in this quote from Isaiah. “I always try my best. It’s okay if you don’t win, because we go out there, shake hands, say ‘good job’ and that’s it.” But the biggest thing that jumped out from both Isaiah and his coach/mentor/father figure Miguel was the constant phrase “No excuses”.

For such a very young man from a very troubling environment, Isaiah seems to have somehow figured some things out that many adults struggle with. In the mini-documentary telling his story, Isaiah clearly states he wants to go to college, teach, have children of his own and spend his life teaching & coaching kids less fortunate. Obviously, people do and have looked at him and felt bad, but clearly Isaiah feels much the opposite. I don’t know about you but I found it very inspirational. In closing, here is my favorite quote from our star and role model this month.

“My name is Isaiah Bird.   I have no legs, but that’s okay, because God made me that way. I’m a Gladiator, and there are no excuses.”


While on a very recent working vacation out in my home away from home, Colorado, I was reminded of that first hand. And in line with that need for change in order to positively impact employee engagement, we are also presenting the newsletter in a slightly different way as well. The theme this month is “Who’s the Customer”. And the key point is something I heard and experienced first hand within this past month. That experience centered around an old concept I often think about but had not heard someone say for years. That ideology is to treat each person as if they are your MOST important customer and what that means for you and your team members.

Click the image below to listen to the link to a recent radio spot for more details!

STOP Doing It All Yourself & DELEGATE!!

Leave your ego at the door.  A big mental speed bump to delegation is that “If you want it done right, then do it yourself.” Remember, you’re not the only person in the world who can do it right. You may be the only person who can do it right at this very moment, but if you take the time to train someone, they can probably do it right, too. And (don’t pass out) they might even be able to do it faster or better than you. This is something you need to not only accept, but invite!

Stop waiting for people to volunteer. ASK FOR HELP!  It’s not a sign of weakness.  And if you’ve got “martyr syndrome”, you’re probably overwhelmed, and you wonder why people don’t ever offer to help. When they do, maybe you turn them down, just to be polite, and quietly wonder why they didn’t insist.  Actually, many people are quite oblivious to what others are going through. Let go of any frustration you might have and don’t expect them to change.  But you can!  It’s ultimately your job to communicate your needs.  Please don’t view  asking for help as some form of weakness.  It’s not.  But trying to do everything yourself is a weakness and not good for the organization as a whole – or you!!.


Attitude is everything.  Your tone of voice, body language, WHERE you delegate or ask for help are extremely important.  I know, basic stuff, right??  Well, I had two questions last month asking what to do when a boss delegates with a “tone” in their voice as if they are a dictator making demands rather than asking for help.  How do you think that’s going to turn out, LOL?  Give it the right setting(an office or conference room if possible).  Be collaborative in your approach to the person getting the task, work, project.  Lean forward.  Smile.  RELAX.  Pause for them to absorb it and ask questions.  LISTEN.  And be sure to express supreme confidence in their abilities to perform the job at hand superbly.  Confidence breeds confidence!  AND competence!


Delegation is not dumping.  If you really want to reap the benefits of delegation, “delegate don’t dump”.  Try to never give someone the impression that all you’re giving them is “garbage” work.  Don’t imply that you are just dumping unpleasant assignments on them that you or no one else wants to do.  Certainly not the first time or two you give them something new to do.  And later, when that does become a necessity based on shear volume, try to spread that around and be honest about the work.  It’s not a glamorous job but it needs to be done and I’d really appreciate your help on this.  Something to that effect.

Recognize your helper when it counts. Delegating tasks to someone else is necessary if you are to take on more and more responsibility. It’s counterproductive when you delegate the task, your helper works hard, and then you take all the credit. Recognize and praise the efforts of others on your behalf.  Catch ’em doing something right, as I have always preached!


Say Thank You. When someone does something for you, it is important to say thank you, acknowledge the help and let the helper know they are appreciated otherwise you appear ungrateful. People are more likely to offer to help again if they feel appreciated.




The Delegation Quiz

Here is an opportunity to learn how well you delegate. This exercise will help identify your strengths and determine where improvement would be beneficial. Rate yourself as follows:

1(rarely)-2-3-4-5(almost always).

1. Each of my subordinates know what I expect of him ____


2. I involve employees in goal setting, problem solving and productivity-improvement activities___


3. I place my personal emphasis on planning, organizing, motivating and controlling rather than on doing tasks others could do___


4. When assigning tasks, I select the assignee thoughtfully___


5. When a problem occurs on a project I have delegated, I give the employee a reasonable chance to work it out for himself___


6. When I delegate work to employees, I brief them fully on the details of the assignment___


7. I see delegation as one way to help employees develop their knowledge, skills and expertise___


8. When I delegate a project, I make sure that everyone involved knows who is in charge___


9. When delegating a task, I balance authority with need and experience___


10. I hold my employees responsible for results___


A score between 41 and 50 suggests you are on target. A score between 31 and 40 indicates you are just getting by but could improve. Anything below 40 means you immediately need to make changes in your delegation skills.

Staying Motivated is THE Key

Here’s some real-world advice on how to stay motivated even during difficult times.



LIFE is an emotional roller coaster, and unless you figure out how to manage those emotions and keep yourself motivated, you’ll have a difficult time succeeding. This is particularly true right now. The economy continues to struggle and seems to always be in “recovery mode”. In addition to that, while there are jobs now opening up for people, lower pay has become more the norm. Many companies are still cutting back, and pressures to perform are greater than ever. It’s easy to lose our motivation.


However, even though the world around us may be dreary and depressing, that in no way reduces our personal need to do the best we can. That means that we all have a responsibility to stay motivated.


It is amazing what a difference a few degrees of attitude adjustment can make in our performance. Try this little exercise. Tell yourself these things: “Business is terrible. Life is tough. Everyone is struggling. Nobody wants to see me, and when they do, it’s just to complain.” Now wallow in those thoughts for a moment, and note how much energy and enthusiasm you have.


Now, think the opposite: “I have great opportunities. People need me more today than ever. I have valuable solutions for them. It’s a great time to have this job. It’s a great time to be alive!” Roll those around in your mind for a while. Note how much energy and enthusiasm you have.


As you reflect on this exercise, it’s clear that your energy, enthusiasm and drive to succeed come about as a result of your thoughts. And here is one of the most powerful truths known to mankind: You can control your thoughts.



Going beyond “positive thinking”

Succeeding in difficult times depends a great deal on our motivation. Staying motivated requires us to take charge of our thoughts. I’ve heard dozens of people say, “I’ve tried positive thinking. It just isn’t me.” I agree that it is difficult to patch a bunch of positive thoughts on top of an essentially negative personality. The issue is deeper than that. Let’s, therefore, examine the deeper issues.


At the heart of motivation lies a set of powerful beliefs that you must embrace if you are going to successfully motivate yourself. Without a wholehearted commitment to these foundational beliefs, all the techniques and tactics for self-motivation are like spreading wallpaper over crumbling plaster. It may hold temporarily, but it is soon going to deteriorate into a mess.


Here’s the first foundational principle: You must believe that you can do better than you are now doing.


The second is this: You must accept that it is your responsibility to do so.


It’s simple and common sense, but, the more I observe people the more convinced I am that far too many people do not share these core beliefs. Rather, they are in the habit of making excuses for their situation. They believe fate, not their actions, determines their success. They believe success is for someone else, not them. They never really grab onto the first of these foundational principles.


Others believe that they can achieve greater degrees of success. They embrace the first principle, intellectually, but they never internalize the second. They become content with their situation and remain in pre-established comfort zones. They look at their manager as the person who is responsible for their success, or lack thereof. Maybe it’s their parent’s fault, or their spouse’s, or… the list goes on.


Whether you are struggling with a lack of energy that accompanies a bad day, or you’re depressed and frustrated with your lack of progress on a larger scale, examine your core beliefs first. If you really accept these two principles, you have the keystone in place to become highly motivated.


Grayling MI is a community of only 1,800 people located approximately 200 miles North of Detroit. Not a spot you would probably even know exists or know that there might be anything extraordinary about the people in that community or on their high school’s golf team. But there is SO much that stands out. Let’s tell the story so we all can be inspired and learn from their experience.


On April 29, 2013, the Grayling golf team was in a van headed to a golf tournament at Grand Traverse Resort. Unfortunately, they never made it to their final destination. They collided with another driver and the devastating after effects of that were as follows: The other driver’s 27 year old daughter died, the Grayling High School’s 31 year old golf coach and their 18 year old senior leader died as well. 7 passengers were injured, 4 of them critically (all golf team members). The injuries ranged from a fractured and crushed clavicle and punctured lung, to a pelvis broken in 6 places for another, to one team member, Jake Hinkle, suffering a traumatic brain injury. AWFUL. SAD. DEFEATING. But not to this team or the other team, their community.


ONE WEEK after this tragic accident the remaining 11 golfers, their parents and the school decided to honor those injured or killed by not giving up on the season. Their next tournament, one mile down the road from the accident site, had 5 new starters. To quote one of them, “We ain’t going to win, but we’re going out there. We’re ALL part of this team”. They finished the season, went through the first step of possibly qualifying for state by showing up and competing at the district meet. They didn’t advance, but they were there. Prior to the accident they were the #10 ranked team in the state of Michigan Division 3 rankings. Now…no shot but as they said, they showed up!


And what happened from there? The next year, in April 2014, they competed in the exact same tournament that had been the destination the day of the terrible accident. And they got better as each meet passed. ALL the previously injured players returned and competed, while they healed. Then the district tournament came and this time they surprised everyone and finished 3rd. This qualified them for regionals, where a top three finish would get them all the way to state! They performed well but were just edged out for the third place trophy, finishing fourth. But THE most amazing story of all, Jake Hinkle(pictured below in 2013 while still in the hospital), qualified as an individual for state!!  Amazing! To quote his parents, “One year ago the goal was to wake up and know what city he was in and to be able to hop 25 feet with the help of his walker”. Now, after a traumatic brain injury and a totally shattered femur…he was going to the state finals!



In 2015, according to the documentary I watched, they had a record turn out this Spring for the golf team. More than they ever have had in their history and almost more than showed up for football. Quite a turn around!


So, what did this team and town show that I see in really engaged teams?

  1. Resilience
  2. Toughness
  3. The will to survive/evolve/keep moving forward despite the occasional challenges
  4. The need and willingness for other players to step up, not just the stars
  5. Support of each other
  6. The ability to COMMUNICATE, no matter how tough the topic