Tag Archives: Playing big

Playing Big as a Leader


My blogs are usually about how to become a better leader. This time I would like to take a step back and provide an assessment as to what it looks like to Play Big or Play Small. Let’s be honest with ourselves. None of us have all of the characteristics of Playing Big in leadership, but the best leaders are aware of their shortcomings and are improving themselves. When reading this post, look for areas you need improvement and write out some simple steps to address your weaknesses.

Playing Big in leadership is not a one-cut diamond; it requires a multi-faceted approach. Below is quick checklist assessment to ensure you are doing everything you can to Play Big in your leadership.

Leaders Playing Big:

  • Do not jump to judgment
  • Remain calm during challenging times and in tough relationships
  • Pause to reflect and don’t rush to react
  • Do not place self-imposed limits on their potential
  • Have an ability to be present and engaged when it counts
  • Understand how emotions affect their behaviors
  • Can see from other people’s frame of reference
  • Can admit when they are wrong
  • Can see the great potential in others
  • Accept that sometimes they are Playing Small and need to step it up
  • Can appreciate their lives and their successes

The above list gives you some attitudinal goals; below is my list of attributes to avoid.

Leaders Playing Small:

  • Are more judgmental of themselves and others
  • Allow negative self-talk to derail their big plans
  • Are often reacting, rather than responding
  • Are not willing to admit when they are wrong
  • Are often distracted during conversations
  • Become defensive when criticized
  • Feel a need to be right rather than do right
  • Want control for control’s sake
  • Have a hard time following other
  • Seek short-term success
  • Avoid short-term pain
  • Are driven by habitual, default behaviors
  • Lack a strong sense of purpose.

Remember: To get big time results you have to Play Big. What are two or three characteristics of Playing Big can you work towards today?

Here is to building better leaders

-Steve Gutzler

u work towards today?

image credit: www.mattmorris.com

Steve’s Favorites: What Makes a Good Leader

This blog was originally published on October 4th, 2011 by Steve Gutzler and Leadership Quest.

State Library of Vicotoria

Human pyramid by members of the Ebenezer Gym Club

“Gaining trust and building teams is hardest”

Good Leaders tend to produce more good leaders.

Quick List of Valued Qualities in Good Leaders:
1. Adapts quickly to new situations; can handle bad news
2. Gives useful feedback; sets high ethical tone
3. Is positive, encouraging, and realistically optimistic

Recently, I was speaking at a large Microsoft Leadership Development Day and gave an opening example of what makes a good leader. I had read a report that asked that very same question by the Army War College in a study of highly regarded major generals in Iraq.

Good leaders produce more good leaders

Below are the responses in order of importance:

  • Keeps cool under pressure
  • Clearly explains mission, standards and priorities
  • Sees the big picture; provides context and perspective
  • Makes tough, sound decisions on time

The study showed that even when tactical and technical competencies are excellent, interpersonal skills are critical. One of the authors of the study, retired General Walter Ulmer, said: “One thing we found is it’s still easier to teach technical skills than to teach people how to gain trust and build teams.” Ulmer also noted that many key behaviors are learned by example; therefore good leaders are able to create more good leaders.

I looked at every one of those leaders in that room at Microsoft and said “Look your technical skills and tactical abilities got you into the game. Now, how successful you’ll become will be determined by your ability to harness effective Emotional Intelligence and Play Big!”

Playing Big and Building your Leadership
The stuff that leaders are made of:

  • Emotional Self-Awareness:
    • Stays Calm Under pressure
  • Empathy
    • Is aware of other’s moods
    • Is a good listener
  • Personal Drive
    • Is energetic
    • Is goal oriented
  • Optimism
    • Handles set-backs effectively
    • Had a positive outlook
  • Coaches others
    • Is a good mentor
    • Gives clear feedback
  • Authenticity
    • Honest and open when presenting one’s self to others
    • Builds trust through actions
  • Communication
    • Gives adequate instruction
    • Doesn’t personalize disagreements
  • Impulse Control
    • Rarely acts impulsively
    • Maintains sense of humor under stress
  • Adaptability
    • Is open to change
    • Is effective through change

One thing I’ve learned about “Playing Big” and leadership throughout my life is that successful application of these skills is not something that happens instantly. But, with even a little improvement in one department, performance goes up, effectiveness goes up, and personal leadership goes up. That is why it is called “PLAYING BIG!”

Emotional Intelligence and Play Big-
How we handle ourselves and our relationships can determine life successes more than IQ.

THIS WEEK: Pick one of the EI Playing Big Competencies and practice it. Observe the differences your deliberate practice will make in your life at work and at home!

IMAGINE: Success and Significance

There’s a woman I know who blogs from the Toronto Area. She has three spectacular boys and a wonderful husband. And somehow, someway, she still manages to make time to write about victims of sex trafficking. Why does she make time for this?”

One of my clients had just signed the largest contract in Seattle sports history! We were sitting in his brand new Mercedes Sedan when he said something shocking, “Steve, I know all about success but I am clueless about significance.”

He is not alone. You see, I think our culture, your culture, my culture, is fixated on success. The symbols of it, the toys that surround it, the seductive lifestyle we all secretly, and sometimes overtly, covet. But wait before you jump on the soap-box with me. I’d like to suggest success isn’t all bad. In fact, I have a conviction you may or may not agree with:

I believe success is in most cases a necessary platform to significance.

You need some success. Admittedly, success is “me and my family.” It might be a little bit selfish, but I enjoy a certain measure of success. Being somewhat professionally successful has been a blessing to my family. It has allowed us to live in a nice home (albeit not a luxury home) and allowed us to afford to put the kids through college without accumulating a huge debt.

Success has also allowed Julie and I, at a crucial defining moment in our lives, to leverage our resources to start a non-profit, compassion2one. Through our non-profit we help rescue victims of sex trafficking “saving one child at a time.”


Significance is a totally different animal from success. It is when you come to a place and realize…

  • I can only eat one meal at a time
  • I can only drive one car at a time
  • I can only live in one house at a time
  • I can only love one person passionately at a time

Significance is about others, making a difference in the lives of others. Even when most of those others can never pay you back.

Lora Rossi @thehugginghome

I met Lora through Twitter. Her charm captured my attention. Soon, I looked more closely and found her heartfelt (and a little sassy) blog. She found out about our cause at compassion2one and offered to post a blog to bring awareness to another group of followers. That was a significant moment. Her post drew significant attention. We asked if we could put it on our website. After a short period of time, Lora became our new Editorial Contributor as well as Canadian Awareness Director. That is pretty significant!

Let’s talk about the other side of Lora too. She is a hockey mom, a freelance writer, a home décor expert and a fabulous wife and mother. Bottom line: she’s busy! Like CRAZY busy. But still, she has decided that she is not too busy to be both successful and significant.

When I take a moment to think about the work she is putting in, along with so many other “difference-makers,” I get misty eyed. Carving out time for the significance now, not waiting until some other day. Finding and making time for others.

Lora has been very successful in the corporate marketplace and is taking this time now to stride forward in her career as a freelance writer. She is gaining well deserved success and attention. But I love the fact that she recognizes that she can be both successful and significant. And that it is important to be both. She can strive for both, and both are good to strive for.

Lora, keep it up! You inspire me and others and you are making a difference in the lives of others!

Let’s refocus for a moment.

How are you successful? How are you Significant? Imagine how you could be both successful and significant!

  • Work hard and leverage your success for the purpose of significance
  • Decide today to make a difference in the lives of others
  • Make a difference with others who want to make a difference, Team up!
  • Choose something, a cause, a purpose, something that touches your soul and changes lives
  • Make this year your year to give some of your time, talents or treasures

Side note: my Seattle sports client, as a result of our discussion, decided to give 15% of his income to charities. He is now retired and has his own foundation. He is living, what I think he would be proud to call, a successful and significant life.

Lora Rossi does her chores, drives her young hockey stars to the rink multiple times a week, writes, cooks, works out, and loves her boys and her husband. She has built a successful life around her and created her imagined life through adding another form of significance. She makes time to help victims of sex trafficking by using her talents and resources as a successful writer and blogger.

I hope that you too can Play Big and find time to turn your success into significance! 

Follow Lora at @thehugginghome on Twitter and on her blog The Hugging Home.