God Lives Under the Bed


I envy Kevin. My brother, Kevin, thinks God lives under his bed. At least that’s what I  heard him say one night.

He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, ‘Are you there, God?’ he said. ‘Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed….’

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he’s 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life?

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed.

The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied.

He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work.

He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores.

And Saturdays – oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. ‘That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go! ‘ Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.

His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.

And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.

He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent.

His life is simple.

He will never know the entanglements of wealth or power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it.

He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it  is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.

He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue.

Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.

Not confined by  intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God – to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an ‘educated’ person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith.

It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.

It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they  all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God’s care.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won’t be surprised at all !

When you receive this, say a prayer. That’s all you have to do. There is nothing attached.

 (Shared with me by my friend Curt Cullison, original author unknown.  Thank you, Curt.)


Do You Know the 5 Steps to Inspiration?

Inspiration.  All of us need it.  We crave it.  At work and at home. And we’re each catalysts of inspiration for people around us. What inspires you?  Who inspires you?  How inspired are you?  Who do you inspire?  These are important questions we each must answer to live happy, productive lives.

Sadly, most of us aren’t so inspired.  Nearly 75% of  US workers are unengaged or a disengaged.  71% of us want to work for inspiring leaders.  The lack of inspiration in the US is a serious problem, at both work and home – but it doesn’t have to be.

We’re thirsty for inspiration.  Do you know the secrets to getting yourself and others inspired?

I’m C-suite level executive coach, instructor and author, Chuck Bolton and I invite you to join me on February 19 at 6 pm at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina for the CPC BNG event, 21st Century Inspirational Leadership. I’ll share 5 steps to Inspire  – and my best ideas and tips on inspiring yourself and others.

The CPC BNG meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at CPC in Edina.  You’ll learn some great new ideas on business and meet excellent people – all in a Christian environmentWe’ll even feed you. Best of all, it’s free!  You’ll need to RSVP, so please visit our website.  CPCBNG.org or our CPCBNG social media sites on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to find the link to register.  And please invite a friend or two.

Looking forward to February 19th at 6 pm for 21st Century Inspirational Leadership.  I’ll see you at CPC. 
Click to RSVP

How Do You Inspire in 2013?

All of us need to be inspired. We crave it. At home & work. We have the power to inspire anyone, anywhere, anytime. We’re all catalysts of inspiration for people around us. Research shows that 71% want to work for inspiring leaders – that’s up from 58% just 25 years ago. Unfortunately, most people aren’t inspired at work. Approximately 70% of US workers are disengaged because their leaders fail to inspire them.

We crave meaning. We’re desperate for inspiring leadership. The secret about inspiration is that we have to lift hearts and minds – in that order. This applies at both home and work.

So let’s discuss how you inspire.

1. Know Your Why. What’s our cause? What are we passionate about? What gets us out of bed in the morning? That is our why. Inspiring leaders define & serve a higher purpose than themselves. Our “I have a dream…” or Our “man to the moon & back” cause.
2. Practice the 3 E’s. Energy, Enthusiasm and Excitement. The 3Es are an inside job. Energy, enthusiasm and excitement taps our emotions. And passion, which drives energy, enthusiasm and excitement, is required to accomplish anything great.
3. Radiate Optimism. Inspiring individuals are optimistic. Recognize that moods are contagious – such as optimism. Be a beacon of hope. See problems as challenges to be achieved. Break down challenges in bite sized pieces. Colin Powell said. “Optimism is a force multiplier.”
4. Show Empathy. Take time to listen. Put others first. Understand their situation, needs, fears. Encourage them. Share with them, “What I see”, to lift their spirits and raise their self-confidence.
5. Praise others. When good things are achieved, recognize and give the credit to others – not yourself.

The 5 steps to inspire others. Remember to lift hearts and minds – in that order. Practice these five steps and you’ll be on your way to inspiring yourself and others in 2013. www.theboltongroup.com

How’s Your Integrity? 21st Century CEO Success Characteristics

I recently polled CEOs, asking the question: “What are the characteristics that are a must for successful CEOs in the 21st century?” Responses were received from CEOS and C-suite leaders from over 10 countries. Our top 5 list of 21st century CEO characteristics includes:

1. Inspirational Leadership
2. Exceptional Team Builder
3. Unimpeachable Integrity
4. Clear Communicator
5. Compelling Visionary

Unimpeachable Integrity was the 3rd leading vote getter, receiving 66 mentions and can be described by honesty, operating ethically, having a strong moral compass, demonstrating personal accountability and showing the courage to always do what is right. Given the environment, It was no surprise to see Unimpeachable Integrity make the top 5 list.

Earlier this year, the Edelman Trust Barometer reported that only 38% trust information about a company that comes from a CEO, down from 50% last year and the biggest drop since Edelman started doing their survey 12 years ago.

Another poll conducted by Weber Shandwick showed that only 14% of American executives hold a positive view of chief executives. This estimate is probably even lower among among the general public.

So it is time for a reset of CEO reputations and CEO brands. What can CEOs do to demonstrate unimpeachable integrity? More than anyone else at the firm, it’s the CEO who needs to create trust. Trust is a function of both capability – your skills, results and track record — and character. Character has to do with your integrity, your motives and your intent with others. So how’s your capability, the level of trust you create and your integrity?

And as CEO, are you explicit about your values? The core values you’d fall on the sword for? Put another way, if you had to put your top 5 values on a t-shirt and wear that t shirt around the office, could you credibly do it?

Have you explicitly defined the emotional experiences you’d like others to experience when you interact with them? Creating positive emotional experiences for others is critical in building trust and reputation. And it is important for your personal brand, just as it is in building the brand of your company and its products and services.

Make your values explicit and walk the talk. Define intended emotional experiences for others and hold yourself accountable to these behaviors. Talk straight and do what’s right. These are all keys for demonstrating unimpeachable integrity. So, if you graded yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, what’s the level of trust you create? What’s the level of integrity you demonstrate?

Successful 21st Century CEOs are Exceptional Team Builders

“What are the characteristics that are a must for successful CEOs in the 21st century?” I recently asked that question of CEOs. With over 100 CEOs from 10 countries responding, here’s our top 5 list of 21st century CEO characteristics:

1. Inspirational Leadership
2. Exceptional Team Builder
3. Unimpeachable Integrity
4. Clear Communicator
5. Compelling Visionary

The second most mentioned characteristic by our respondents was Exceptional Team Builder. It takes a team of unified, committed, capable professionals to create and market innovative products and services your customers will love. Great 21st CEOs know how to build a high performing team. How do you do it?

There are three conditions of top team performance that need attention for the team to fly: 1. Creating Clarity, 2. Building Capabilities; and 3. Increasing Commitment.

Creating clarity means becoming explicit about the purpose, direction, values and the desired results of the business and for the top team. It addresses the norms of behavior, how information is shared, decisions are made and how conflict is raised and resolved.

Top teams continually grow their capabilities both individually as team members and collectively. Capability building includes developing the skill and will of each team member to talk straight, give and receive feedback and collaborate collegially.

As clarity is created and capabilities are increased, and attention is paced on building solid mutual relationships, commitment increases, trust increases and a belief emerges that when it’s time for the top team to work together, the team can and will operate in a way that will drive a superior outcome.

Who is the most important individual in determining the team’s success? It’s you! As CEO do you stack the deck for a great team performance, by ensuring the conditions are in place that increase the probability the group of direct reports will transform into an extraordinary top team and be sustainable?

So on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the performance of your top team today? Where should it be? If it is not a 9 or 10, what would be the benefit if it became a 9 or 10? What’s the price you pay without it being a 9 or 10?

An extraordinary top team is a very powerful competitive advantage that cannot be duplicated. Are you committed to becoming an exceptional team builder?

Attention CEOs: What is Most Important for 21st Century CEO Success?

We recently polled CEOs, asking the question: “What are the characteristics that are a must for successful CEOs in the 21st century?” Responses were received from CEOS and C-suite leaders from over 10 countries. What’s the single most important characteristic? Inspirational Leadership.

The top five list of 21st century CEO characteristics includes:

1. Inspirational Leadership
2. Exceptional Team Builder
3. Unimpeachable Integrity
4. Clear Communicator
5. Compelling Visionary

Far and away, Inspirational Leadership received the most mentions. CEOs who inspire commit themselves to serving a greater purpose than just themselves. They define and shape a purpose that is motivating to them and others. So here are a few questions to consider: “Can you hardly wait to jump out of bed in the morning to get to work leading your company to fulfill its purpose? If so, do others you work with share your enthusiasm and motivation?” If not, you most likely have work to do on becoming a leader who inspires.

Inspirational leadership is about being self aware, socially aware and having strong relationship skills. Inspiring leaders lead with the right balance of head, heart and hands. They’ve mastered the visionary, coaching and participative leadership styles. Inspiring leaders know others are motivated by a sense of purpose, an opportunity to master their crafts and the autonomy to figure out how to best do their work to meet the company’s goals. CEOs who inspire build companies that are not only smart but also healthy. They realize, as a company gets healthier, it also gets smarter and performs better.

If you are a CEO or aspire to that role, how well do you demonstrate inspirational leadership? What can you do to become a more inspiring CEO today and in the future?

For each of the next five weeks, we’ll take each CEO success characteristic and provide ideas for lifting your performance. We’ll discover together new approaches for becoming your best as a 21st century CEO. Make sure you follow the Leadership Buzz blog so you receive these ideas each week. And please let me know if you need more information. See you next week.

What are the Characteristics for Successful CEOs in the 21st Century?

I recently asked this open-ended question directly to over 200 CEO and C-suite level leader connections on LinkedIn. The question was also posted on discussion boards for several LinkedIn CEO Groups.

Within 10 days, 105 responses were received. On average, six characteristics were mentioned per response. Only responses from individuals who are CEOs, C-suite level leaders or professional service providers who work with CEOs were included. Responses were received from ten countries including the USA, Canada, UK, Switzerland, France, Egypt, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Australia.

The five leading characteristics mentioned were:

1. Inspirational Leadership
2. Exceptional Team Builder
3. Unimpeachable Integrity
4. Clear Communicator
5. Compelling Visionary

Inspirational Leadership received 96 mentions and was far and away the leading characteristic mentioned. CEOs who inspire are self aware and socially aware. They are passionate about their businesses. They use supportive leadership styles and encourage others. They have strong relationship skills, show their humanity and are approachable. They listen well and are humble.

The second leading characteristic was Exceptional Team Builder at 69 mentions. CEOs who model this characteristic hire and develop the best talent. They know in order to build a strong business they must surround themselves with a capable, unified, healthy top team. They believe in investing in and building the capabilities of their team and sharing leadership to achieve the organization’s desired results. They are collaborative, inclusive and make sure the conditions in place for their team to succeed.

Unimpeachable Integrity received 66 mentions and can be described by honesty, operating ethically, having a strong moral compass, demonstrating personal accountability and showing the courage to always do what is right.

The fourth leading characteristic at 54 mentions is Clear Communicator. CEOs who model clear communication skills recognize the on-going need for clarity and context. CEOs who demonstrate this characteristic are clear about the vision, mission, values and goals of their companies. They are open and active communicators up, down, across and outside of their organizations.

CEOs need a clear vision for their enterprises and the characteristic of Compelling Visionary was the fifth most mentioned characteristic with 51 mentions. A Compelling Visionary creates with others an exciting, magnetic future for the company. Visionary CEOs are intelligent, credible and know their sector and can mobilize others. They seek feedback and validate along the way, shaping the vision as necessary. They don’t lose sight of the vision and long-term goals while they meet medium and short-term objectives.

If you are a CEO or aspire to that role, how do you rate against these five 21st century CEO characteristics? Where are you strong and where is improvement necessary? In today’s globally competitive, human capital intensive, technology driven 21st century economy, becoming better as CEO directly impacts your company’s behavior, culture and, ultimately, results. So what will you do to improve these on these 21st century CEO characteristics?

For each of the next five weeks, I’ll take each characteristic and provide ideas for lifting your performance. I’ll share tips and we’ll discover together new approaches for becoming your best as a 21st century CEO.

What Are The 10 Best Ideas on Leadership?

Last week’s high energy Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago was informative, thought provoking and inspiring. The Summit is targeted for pioneering leaders and visionaries who are serious about leading better, whether they work in business, non-profit, government, academia or the clergy. World class thought leaders share their best ideas at this event and previous speakers have included: Bill Clinton, Jack Welch, Warren Bennis, Bono and Tony Dungy. This year’s speakers included Jim Collins, Carly Fiorina, Condoleezza Rice, William Ury, Pat Lencioni, Craig Groeschel and several others.

So borrowing from David Letterman’s Top 10, here are the 10 Best Ideas on Leadership I heard at the 2012 conference:

10. “Everyone gets better when a leader gets better. When a leader struggles, everyone suffers. Humble yourself, learn from whoever can help you.” Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL.

9. “As CEO who are your truth tellers?” Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, Stanford, CA. Speaking about her working relationship with President George Bush and the need for honest, direct feedback.

8. “How do you exert a sense of control in a crazy world? Do a daily 20-mile march. What’s your organization’s 20-mile march? What’s your 20-mile march?” Jim Collins, Best selling business author of Great by Choice, How the Mighty Fall and Good to Great, Boulder CO. Speaking about the South Pole expeditions in 1911 of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott and critical differences in their approaches.

7. “You are the most difficult person you will ever lead.” Bill Hybels. Speaking about the emotional intelligence characteristics of self-awareness and self-management.

6. “Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage. It is the last frontier of competitive advantage and will be the transformation of unhealthy organizations into healthy ones. “ Patrick Lencioni, Founder and President, The Table Group; Best Selling Author, Lafayette, CA

5. “If you’re not dead, you’re not done! God still has something for you to do.” Craig Groeschel, Founder and Senior Pastor, LifeChurch.tv, Edmond OK. Speaking about generational differences and the mission God has for each person. Age is not an excuse.

4. “The leader’s most valuable asset is not time, but the ability to energize. Rarely discussed, but so critical. Ask, “What are the six most significant initiatives for our organization where I must channel my focus and energies?” Write on an index card. Review it daily and work these 6 the next six weeks. Creates a tremendous level of clarity and energy. Can’t sprint for 6 months; can for 6 weeks.” Bill Hybels

3. “The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.” Jim Collins

2. “What will you do with your life that will last forever?” Bill Hybels

1. “The local church is the hope of the world.” Bill Hybels

Over 8000 leaders were present for The Global Leadership Summit and 77,000 leaders watched it live across the US via video link. Over the next five months, 95,000 leaders, from 90 countries, in 42 languages, will participate in Summit events that are translated, contextualized and prepared specifically for the local leaders and circumstances.

In summary, a remarkable two days for our heads and hearts. Picture nearly 200,000 leaders who have learned and been touched by the Summit, doing their best, turning their heads and hearts to God, listening and stepping into the leadership adventure He has laid out in front of them. These leaders will touch millions, inspire others and focus their energies on doing great things. 200,000 inspired leaders, engaged with their followers in figuring out how to make the world better. Making their 20-mile marches. Imagine what will be accomplished. That vision fills me with hope.

Hey Rookie, Can You Spare a CEO a Dime?

While the public likes to vilify CEOs who are over-the-top, narcissistic and receive massive compensation packages, there is a different perspective worth considering. 

It’s my experience as an advisor to CEOs and C-suite level executives, the vast majority of CEOs are honest and hardworking.  Their job is lonely, they are a lightning rod for criticism and most are not as self-confident as they appear to be.  They are vulnerable and, with an average CEO tenure of about 6 years, they pay for mistakes and underperformance with their jobs. 

Most CEOS seek to accomplish great things in the companies they lead.  They are acutely aware of the unique influence and impact they have on their organizations, their employees and customers.  They are motivated by a burning desire to build a company of great value that delivers results in a sustainable way while they delight customers, employees and their shareholders.  And while they are competitive and financially motivated, only a small minority is rewarded with multi-million dollar compensation packages. 

Chief Executive magazine recently completed its annual survey of CEO compensation in private companies.  With responses from over 1100 private companies, their research revealed:

  • The median private company CEO compensation packaged totaled $362,900 in 2011, just a 1.9% increase from the 2010 median package.
  • To put this $362,900 in perspective, it is just 3.8% of the $9.6 million median compensation package given to S&P 500 CEOs in 2011. 
  • To put this in perspective, consider the vast majority of CEOs in the US, literally thousands, work at private companies – only 500 lead S&P 500 companies.
  • And to further put this in perspective, consider the rookie salaries in 2012 for the NBA, MLB and NFL are $490,000, $480,000 and $355,000 respectively.

The responsibility and commitment required by CEOs is virtually unmatched.  Certainly not by rookies in our big three professional sports.   An enlightened, capable CEO builds great value for investors, customers, employees, suppliers, communities and society at large.  The US economy needs CEOs to be successful and well-rewarded.   In my view, $363K is far from over the top.  What do you think?

Handling Life’s Curveballs: A Mother’s Day Tribute

My Dad had died suddenly the year before. As an 8 year old, my world had been shaken. I never knew of anyone who had died. And the idea a parent could die was not a concept I had ever thought of. Since I was 6 or so, I had enjoyed playing catch in the backyard with my Dad when he got home from work. With his death, the game of catch abruptly stopped – a huge void for me.

With an older brother and sister who were away at college, my Mom was simply not going to allow me to not have a partner with whom to play catch. She jumped in to fill the void. My Dad’s beat up, tattered left-handed first baseman’s mitt with a rag in the inside wasn’t going to work for Mom, so she saved her stamps with an eye on that catcher’s mitt.

Once she had that mitt, the games of catch began again. Having been the only girl with four brothers, she was fearless. She hit it with gusto. Playing catch together lasted until I was about 11 and started throwing pretty hard and experimenting with curve balls and throwing sidearm. Fortunately, we had moved to suburban Chicago, where I could ride my bike to the park where our Little League games were played and there were plenty of catch partners. So when I was 11 and she was 51, we were both glad to see her retire that catcher’s mitt. It had served its purpose. And my Mom had gotten me over the baseball hump. I could now fly on my own.

Her support clearly didn’t end with hanging up the catcher’s mitt. From a baseball standpoint, she was my greatest fan. I can’t accurately guess the number of hours she sat on those uncomfortable stands watching Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth, High School, Summer League, and traveling All Star games. And when I played in college and our team played anywhere close to Chicago at Illinois, Notre Dame, Indiana State, Eastern Illinois, University of Illinois-Chicago and other schools, she would always travel to see us play.

My Mom was truly my hero. Helen Bolton. She didn’t have it so easy. She was widowed at 48 with two children in college and me. She moved us to Chicago to take care of her aging parents. She went to work as a legal secretary to support us. She cared for her elderly mother and other relatives. And she was an incredible woman. I cannot remember her ever complaining. She was a leader. She was so kind and wise. Always inviting people to the house for dinner that were alone. Giving people who didn’t have rides, rides back and forth from church. She cared deeply for others. While she didn’t’ have a lot of free time, she volunteered for Red Cross and the United Way. She served on the Board of Directors of the United Way for Chicago in the ‘70s – how many legal secretaries served on Boards at that time? A life master bridge player. An excellent golfer who had her first hole-in-one at age 70. And she sure loved her kids and her grandkids. My greatest teacher. She died 19 years ago. I miss her every day.

When I tell the catcher’s mitt story, I can’t tell it without getting choked up. I am crying as I write it now! My Mom was a great mother; a great woman. I can only hope my kids feel that I’m the kind of parent my Mom was to me. While she helped me learn how to pitch, what she really did was help me learn how to handle life’s curveballs. That’s what Moms do. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

<em>First posted for Mother’s Day in 2010, I really can’t think of a better way to tribute my Mom for being a great person than sharing my story again.