Aliveatwork's Blog


The Problem With Loyalty …

Some leaders believe that because they hold a position or title, they deserve the undying loyalty of their people even when they treat others poorly.

That isn’t loyalty, that’s positional leadership and it is the lowest form of leader ship.

Some folks believe that because someone is “family,” they are entitled to the loyalty of the other members of the “family,” even though a member’s behavior doesn’t warrant it.

That isn’t loyalty, that’s dysfunction.

Politicians and voters believe that once you claim membership in a particular party, you must vote along party lines even if when you vehemently disagree  with a stance, position, or candidate.

That isn’t loyalty, that is submission bordering on totalitarianism.

Loyalty is not an entitlement, it is not a reward for achieving status, nor is it a reason to be guilted into doing something that you don’t want to do or saying something you don’t want to stay.

And yet people are strongly urged to vote along party lines to protect an idealism, they participate in unhealthy relationships in the name of preserving the family, and they believe that a word or letters after their name earns them respect.

As with all things … you can’t give away something that you don’t have.

In other words … you can not be loyal to something or someone else if you are first disloyal to your self!

It’s that simple …



Oops … I Did It … Again!

Saturday I had a chance to watch my girlfriend’s 12 year old daughter Ally play club volley ball.

They won their first match pretty quickly and then moved onto the next.

It was during this second match that I watched the negative affects that poor leadership has on a team.

During the second game, the other team started making mistakes. That’s when their coach started yelling and screaming.

It was just a matter of time before they came undone and lost. Obviously the coach’s screaming had a negative effect on them. Gheez  they’re only 12 years old what did he think was going to happen?

After the game we walked out into the lobby and that’s when things got ugly.

Sitting in the center of the floor between the exits and the bathrooms for everyone to see was this same coach grandstanding in public. There he was towering over his team as they sat on the floor in front of him like indentured servants. Obviously he needed them sitting because he himself was only about 5′ 5″ tall and getting shorter by the minute.

He stood there yelling, berating, and shaming them in public for everyone to see … “and if you want me to give you names I will.” (I’m sure that will help)

People were walking by and staring, the parents stood there and didn’t say a word. One of the girls on the floor looked up at me and I smiled at her …  Okay I’ve seen enough … is anyone gonna take a stand for these kids?”

Hey wait a minute! I speak and coach on Leadership, maybe I should share a few thoughts on the topic to help him out.

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!

He finally stopped …  and then I stepped in.

I thought this would be a good time to share a few quick lessons on Leadership …

Lesson #1 – Be Polite But Speak The Truth – I asked him if he was finished and then I shared with him my truth … I told him he was a jackass, actually I called him something else that started with an A ended with an E and had 2 S’s, an H, an O, and an L in between … sometime it’s best to speak your truth right up front!

Lesson #2 – State The Facts – I explained to him exactly what kind’ve of a coach/leader I thought he was … I made sure that he knew that berating and humiliating 12 and 13 year old girls wasn’t a good example of great leadership.

Lesson #3 – Provide Solutions – I explained to him that the next time he wanted to humiliate someone  he should probably find a less public space … I recommended the men’s room   as a good alternative … BY HIMSELF!

Lesson # 4 – Clarify & Repeat – Sometimes it’s best to repeat yourself … repetition is a good way for people to learn and a good way to clarify your message. I restated what I thought about him as a leader … yes I repeated the long A word just so there wasn’t any confusion or miscommunication.

And that got me thinking about what authentic leaders do ……

Authentic Leaders: 

  1. Build people up – they don’t tear people down … especially when they’re already down (the girls already felt bad they knew they didn’t play to their potential)
  2. Care for people – they don’t use them to make themselves look bigger (taller) … especially in public!
  3. Are other-centered –  they realize that it’s about their people and not about them (the coach thought it was all about him … if he didn’t he wouldn’t have done what he did or  where he did it).

It doesn’t matter if you’re 12, 17, or 70 … never ever let someone humiliate, shame, or berate you.

You don’t deserve it and you don’t have to tolerate it … you deserve more just because you are who you are.

And who you are doesn’t change because you win or lose a game … you’re still extraordinary!

And last … the next time you see someone bullying someone else … please don’t just stand there … DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!



Somebody Hold Me Accountable .. PLEASE!!!!

Most of us want to be successful …

Most of us want what we want …

Most of us want more …

And the truth be told … we want it to be easy!

Have you ever wished you could simply wave a magic wand and create your dream life?

What would you wish for … exotic cars, amazing houses, fabulous vacations, traveling the world …  of course you would give a portion to charity … right?

Whatever your dream is, you know that success doesn’t happen just because you read  “The Secret” or that it will simply knock on your  front door while you’re inside watching American Idol on the couch!

Well maybe some folks do … and most of us know that if we want to be successful we need a few things.

We need: 

  1. Clarity –  of our vision or goal – what we really want.
  2. A Plan – that is well defined, attainable, and measurable.
  3. Consistent Execution – over a long period of time.
  4. Accountability – that keeps us on track or helps us get back on track when we slip a little or a lot! 

Of course all four components are needed in order to be successful. But if I had to admit which of the four I find the most difficult to achieve … I would say Accountability. Why?

First, I think it is difficult to commit to being held accountable. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable, a surrendering of sorts … and surrendering or asking for help typically isn’t in my vocabulary.

Second, I think it is rare to find the right person or group of people who challenge you, question you, praise you, guide you, help you get back up on your feet when you fall down, and love you enough to tell you the truth … the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

We can all sit down and write out our goals … we do it all the time. We can create a plan, and start executing our plan. We can even hold ourselves accountable … for awhile.

However, I have found that without checking in with another person or group on a daily or weekly basis I easily start to slip off the path …

And when I slip off the path my actions become erratic and inconsistent …

And when I am inconsistent with my actions I am not following my plan so well …

And when I don’t follow the plan … I don’t achieve my goals or the level of success that I want … basically I miss the target.

Accountability is the glue that holds it all together. It is what gets you back on track, It’s the pat on the butt when you succeed and a kick in the a** when you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and play bigger!

So what about you … who’s holding you accountable?

Need a little help?

If you need a kick in the a** email me, call me, or respond to this blog, and I will help you find a system that can help you achieve more success than you ever thought was possible!

And you were waiting for … ?



What Does It Real-ly Take?

Last night I was traveling home from facilitating  an all day Leadership Workshop.

As I reflected back over the trip I thought: What a privilege!

I get to be a part of a process of helping group members push past their comfort zones to do the hard work of  becoming an authentic team.

Yes, I said the hard work of becoming an authentic team.

The word “team” has become an overused, greatly misunderstood word in Corporate America, in sports, and even within partnerships and marriages.

Nowadays, it seems like anytime we put 2 or more people in a room together to accomplish a task we call it a team … it’s not!

 Being an Authentic Team Requires:

  • Courage to speak your truth to each other regardless of how uncomfortable it might be.
  • Holding each other Accountable.
  • A deep seated Commitment to the process (goal, objective, etc).
  • Acknowledging the Strengths of each member (the sum is greater than its individual parts) and allowing each person to show up and contribute.
  • The willingness to put aside individual egos and agenda’s to Focus on the overall team agenda.

As I flew home that evening I realized that even though I am an individual entrepreneur, I have a team in place to support me. They hold me accountable to do all that I can to become an even better Speaker, Coach, and Consultant.

So that got me thinking …

  1. Do you have a team of people whom you trust to speak the truth to you in your business/personal life? Even when it’s hard?
  2. Do they hold you accountable?
  3. Do they acknowledge your strengths and call you to play bigger than where you might be comfortable playing?
  4. Are you committed to the process of becoming the best Salesperson, Parent, Partner, Leader, or Pastor that you can be?
  5. Do you let your pride, ego, or judgment  get in the way of taking in feedback or allowing yourself to be held accountable?

Someone once said it takes a village. Really?

My thoughts … if the people in the village aren’t an authentic team … it REALLY  doesn’t matter!

 So who’s REAL- ly on your team? 



Happy New Year … ?

As our year starts to wind down, we might be coming to the realization that we didn’t accomplish everything that we had planned on this year.

We might be asking ourselves “Why am I not getting what I really want in “X” area of my life?”

For some of us this area might be the same one we’ve been talking about …  for years.

It may be our financial situation, our job, our health, where we live, our relationships, or even the way we feel about ourselves.

If you should find yourself in this situation (not getting the results you want in life) here are 4 paths you can choose:

Path #1 – Hope the situation will change by itself.

Path #2 – Make excuses as to why you can’t change and then end up having the same dialog next December or January.

Path #3 – Choose to accept your situation exactly the way it is and decide to be happy … just the way it is. Sometimes what we say we want is not really what we want.

Path #4 – Choose to change your attitudes and/or beliefs about your situation and then take the necessary actions to correct it so you can have the results that you want.

Five Really Good Question To Ask Yourself:

  1. Is there anything about your life that has to change in order for you to have a successful year in 2012 or to have a successful life?
  2. Which 1 of the 4 paths do you really need to apply to this situation? Why?
  3. When will you take action?
  4. How will you stay on track so you can achieve success in this area of your life?
  5. How can you be held accountable even thought you really don’t want to?

Wishing and hoping for things to be different is not going to get you where you want to go. Don’t wait till the first of the year to start thinking about how you want your 2012 to be even better… that is unless you’re totally and completely happy with the way your life is going and don’t want to change a thing!

So don’t just sit there …

Start thinking … better yet … start writing!

If you’re interested in finding out how 2012 can be different email me:  joe@aliveatwork.com and learn about an exciting new program! Just add “My Best Year Ever … in the subject line!



Great Leadership Is NOT ….

Great Leadership is not a reward for performance … it’s a calling.

Many times we find good performers who were promoted to a leadership role even though they lack the skills, talent, or most importantly, the desire to be a leader.

In most companies leadership is a reward for great performance. We take our top producers, promote them, and then expect them to take the rest of their team up to the same level of performance that made them so great. In some cases this scenario plays out as expected, the sad truth is that in most cases it doesn’t.

Companies are filled with unhappy workers not because the employee’s dislike the company … but because they dislike their leader. Statistically it has been proven that people don’t leave companies … they leave leaders.

3 Thoughts About Being A Great Leader …

  1. Being a great leader requires more than just talent and skills. It requires a burning desire to help others transform their lives so they can reach their maximum potential. If you were born to lead you don’t want to do anything else and you will do what ever it takes to achieve your goal of be a great one.
  2. Being a great leader isn’t just about desire either, it requires that you lean into the truth about who you are at your core. It requires that you push through obstacles and self-limiting beliefs  so that you can show up full out with all of your talent, brilliance, and genius.
  3. Being a great leader means that the focus of your leadership is not about you … it’s about the people you are privileged to lead … yes, leadership is a privilege!

3 Questions You Can Answer:

  1. Do you have a burning desire to lead … is it your calling?
  2. Are you clear about who you are at your core?
  3. Who is the focus of your leadership … you or your people?
3 Actions You Can Take:
  1. If you answered ‘no’ to question number 1 you might want to do you and your people a favor … resign, quit, walk away. There’s a chance you could be doing more damage than good … not just to your people but yourself as well ?
  2. If you answered ‘no’ to number 2 … start by buying the StrenghFinder Profile 2.0 Assessment and discover your base strengths. It is a great first step, then look into hiring a Coach to help you take the next step in developing yourself as a leader. By the way … I know a guy!
  3. If you answered  ‘no’ to number 3 … it’s probably time to do a gut check and a realignment … if you’re not willing to do that you might want to revisit action number 1.
How will you know if your leadership is a calling … you simply can’t imagine doing anything else!


Who Would’ve Thought?

Billy & Timmy

My brother Billy is an extraordinary man. For years I have watched as he’s bumped up against and then pushed through the mental challenges that he was given at birth … you see Billy is developmentally challenged.

Growing up we had other words for people who are now referred to as  “special needs” and because of many of those words I was in my fair share of fights with ignorant kids and unenlightened people.

A number of years ago Billy befriended Timmy, another “special needs” man who lives down the street. Timmy is autistic … think Dustin Hoffman in his role as the Rain Man. If you give him a date and a year he will blurt out, “Joe Contrera, October 27, 1961 that was a Friday” and Timmy will be right.

At first Billy didn’t like him, in fact Billy would say, “but he’s afraid of dogs Joe … he’s stupid or he talks too much.”

Timmy didn’t have any immediate family. Over the years he lost all of them, first his mom, then his father and finally his older brother who Joe passed away at a very early age leaving Timmy an orphan under the guardianship of his uncle.

It’s stuff like this that happens in life that just doesn’t make sense to me. Why does someone who needs their family to survive, lose their family, while others who don’t even appreciate their family still have them?

One day Billy and I were talking and I said, “You know Bill, I’m wondering if you could look in on Timmy from time to time and see how he’s doing … maybe he could use a friend?”

Almost 5 years have passed since that day and over time Billy and Timmy have become best friends. They watch reruns of old television shows like Hogan’s Heroes and Mayberry RFD together (Billy owns the complete DVD collections).

Billy makes sure that Timmy gets to local carnivals or out to dinner. Recently they went to a Cleveland Indians baseball game together with my nephew Kevin.

A few weeks ago Billy was in the hospital. One of the first people to visit him was Timmy. He brought him a get well card with 3 dollars in it.

Who would’ve thought that these two gifted men would become such good friends?

Sometimes we get so inundated with life that we step over the things that are important: caring for others, spending time with a friend, or just being there for someone in their time of need.

So here’s my question to you: Is there someone you know going through a tough time that could probably use a friend right now?

If so, walk away from your computer right now and pick up the phone and call them … go spend some quality time together … you never know it might be the brightest spot in their day or week.

I’ve learned a lot of things from my brother Billy … one of those lessons is that no matter how impossible a situation might look … everything happens for a reason … who would’ve thought?



Ch … Ch … Ch … Change? (Gulp)

As a consultant I have come to the realization over the years that not every company who says that they want change, really does.

The reasoning varies and here’s just a few of the reasons I have observed.

5 reasons I believe that organizations don’t change:

  1. Leaders are not willing to be honest with themselves.
  2. Some people are just not willing to do what it takes to commit and see the change all the way through.
  3. People don’t like to be uncomfortable.
  4. People fear the unknown (change).
  5. Some folks prefer the status quo … even though it’s not working!

Change can be hard for many reasons here are a few:

  1. It requires leaders and their employees to let go of old beliefs and find new ways of thinking and doing.
  2. It requires the willingness to sacrifice short term comfort in order to get a payoff that is not always immediate.
  3. It requires the leaders of a company to really examine the fears that have prevented them from moving forward and to take 100% responsibility for the results they are creating in their organization.
  4. It takes time, sometimes more time than people are willing to invest.

Here are 10 ideas that need to be embraced if you want an organizational transformation to be successful:

  1. ALL of the leaders (especially at the top) must be bought in to the change or your process will be slowed dramatically and more than likely fail.
  2. Have a clearly defined vision, mission, and values (beliefs) of the change you wish to see.
  3. Communicate that change throughout the organization down to the very last employee consistently and in a variety of venues.
  4. Involve key leaders and positions in various levels of the organization to increase the buy in and begin weaving the change into the culture of the organization.
  5. Remove the obstacles and barriers that prevent change from flowing up through the organization. Communication needs to flow bidirectionally between the different levels of the company.
  6. Realize that not every person is the right person in the right position and that not everyone of your employees has unlimited potential (including some of the leaders).
  7. Be willing to go “all in” in order to get where you want to go, there really are no short cuts.
  8. Let go of the people who are not willing to change.
  9. Define measurable attainable milestones to make sure you’re on track and moving forward.
  10. Remind yourself of the “why”  (the reason ) you are changing. This will help especially when you bump up against obstacles … and there are always obstacles!
So how are you transforming the culture of your organization? Are you seeing the results you need to take the company to the next level? Need help?
Call and let’s have a conversation about what’s happening in your organization and how you can transform your culture starting today!!!
1-877-97-A-L-I-V-E


Be the Ball … not the Egg!

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

There has been much debate about whether Humpty Dumpty was actually an egg … or not. The point here is that whatever he was, he certainly didn’t bounce back from his fall.

On any given day, we might be met with news or information that we dread.

It might be personal in nature – Maybe it’s a discouraging lab report, the bank didn’t approve the loan restructure, a phone call informing us that someone we love passed away, or someone we love is walking away.

Maybe it’s a business related matter – We didn’t get the contract renewal, we lost the big order, we didn’t get our dream job, we lose what we thought was a great job, or one of our star employees hands us their resignation letter and says “I’m leaving,”

Whatever the situation, whatever the circumstance, how we frame the event and what we make that event mean in our minds determines our ability to bounce back from adversity.

Yes, we may be in a painful place at that moment in time. However, we don’t have to stay in that painful place forever!

Sometimes the difference between bouncing back and breaking are the choices we make. To trust or not to trust … that is the question!

Sometimes you just have to trust: 

TRUST that things will get better. There will always be better opportunities, relationships, contracts, employees, or jobs. We will always find what we set our focus on – focus on what you want.

TRUSTthe process. Believe that everything unfolds exactly as it need to be. It doesn’t matter if we agree with the current situation, facts, decision, or whether or not we like how it is unfolding. Always trust the process.

TRUSTand let go. Sometimes we have to let go of people, jobs, relationships, opportunities, or something we love so that we can make room for something or someone new.

Your ability to trust and the depth of your trust determines your ability and the speed in which you will bounce back!

In other words … be the ball … not the egg!



The Path of Leadership …

The path to becoming fully “alive” as a leader begins when you define your purpose – your reason for living.

As you get clarity and awareness of your own path you are then able to help others discover and live their own path.

Leadership is about pathfinding. In his book Aspire, Kevin Hall breaks down the meaning of the word leader – lea means path, der means to find – a leader is a pathfinder. Someone with vision who can see the big picture and helps others to discover theirs.

Discovering your path can be like discovering God (sometimes they can be one in the same), THERE ARE MANY PATHS AND MANY WAYS!

Sometimes it is with words, sometimes it is with actions, a fleeting experience, a lifelong journey. At times it is in a flurry of activity and yet other times it is in that moment of stillness when you sit and reflect on your thoughts or you stop thinking all together.

Finding your way is not necessarily easy. It requires commitment, desire, and action … it requires a fire within!

A fire that burns or at the least … one that used to burn. It may have been reduced to a smoldering ember because you’ve lost your path for one reason or another.

Maybe you got side-tracked, maybe you gave up hope, or decided to abandon your path altogether so that you could take the path someone else chose for you … your Mom, Dad, Brother, Mentor, etc.

Author and psychologist Ayala Pines once said that, “In order to burnout a person needs to have been on fire … at one time!”

Have you lost your path, are you still looking, could it be in front of you but you can’t see it because your eyes may be closed … don’t give up!

What if you were to … rediscover your path … recapture your fire … what if you were to lean into the heat and leaned in so far … that you could not go back!

What would you do next?