Sage advice from a true American success story.

American Dream


Mike Phibbs


“In America, you can have anything you want if you are intelligent and have courage.”  ~ Reza


I want to be a millionaire and so do many of you. Three sage questions arise when we admit that we want to be millionaires. First, how do we get the money? Second, what will we have to give up getting the money? Third, will money truly make us successful and happy?

I met Reza many years ago while visiting Miami with my wife. We met through a chance encounter and have been friends ever since. He is the model of the self-made American success story. As a group, driving through Miami, Reza’s phone wrong, it was a business deal in the final stages of negotiations. Reza told the guy on the other end of the line that 20 was the final offer. He continued by telling the other party if he kept trying to push the number lower then Reza was going to start climbing again. I thought they were talking about thousands of dollars. I was wrong, very wrong. I was shocked when Reza told the caller that he was going to ask my opinion. Not knowing the game I aloud, “make it 25 or nothing.” I could hear the guy on the other end choke a little and then agree to the 20. When I learned it was millions and not thousands of dollars I instantly knew I was not in Kansas anymore.

The story of the deal was interesting, but the man behind the deal is far more interesting than can be posted in a blog. We have all met those people, larger than life and with the personality to bring any room to life. Reza came to America in 1979, a week before the Iranian hostage situation began. Reza was born in Iran and left to come to American and make a better life. He brought just enough money to get to New York and buy a bus ticket to somewhere else. He could only say “Florida” in English, so he bought a ticket to Florida. Before he left the station the American Embassy fell. People were outraged and someone had to pay for the American humiliation. It was Reza. He was constantly being assaulted by people on his trip to Miami. Only one person helped him out, the bus driver. The driver tried to protect him and ensure he got to his destination alive.  Even the police turned a blind eye to the assaults. People seem to find this behavior acceptable when their country has been humiliated, the President is ineffective, and the citizens are scared. We are shocked when we see such behavior in other countries and ignore it in our own.

Reza has a charming personality, but he has something else:  A drive to succeed. He worked odd jobs and ended up working at a gas station. Unknowingly, fortune was about to show its face. One day a friend who owned a limousine business mentioned to Reza that he had too many jobs that night and not enough chauffer’s. Reza took the chance and asked if he could take one of the shifts. History is made during these types of serendipitous encounters and this was the case. Thus the rise of Reza began. He continued to work the gas station during the day and drove at night. He eventually bought his own limousine company and made customer loyalty and service the hallmarks of the company’s success.  He could have sat back running a lucrative business and been regarded as successful. But no, he continued to branch out into different areas and continued to make the South Florida financial empire he has today.

One night, while eating dinner at a restaurant overlooking the water with the Miami skyline in the background, Reza put his fork down and pointed out into the bay. He looked back and said, “Look at the billions of dollars out there. Why don’t you have any of it?” I replied that I didn’t have anyone rich enough to knock off. He then spoke the sage words that I use in seminars today, “In America anyone can be as successful as they want if they are intelligent and have courage.” He is completely right. Many people don’t have the intellectual acumen to develop a product idea which people will want to spend money on. More likely, in America has lost the will or courage that brought our forefathers here in boats that would be illegal by today’s Coast Guard standards. We have lost the desire to do what it takes to make a better life. Most Americans are not willing to risk what they have to fulfill the possibilities that America presents.

Does this mean you have to be a millionaire to be successful? If you want to be on the Discovery, TLC or Bravo Channels then yes, yes you do. But in the world of reality, success is something that is enjoyable, fulfilling and builds self-worth. For Reza the money is a by-product of enjoying the running of successful companies. He enjoys providing services and money is just a score card to gauge his own success. The companies he owns are centered on making both his clients and employees equally happy. He knows when you are happy at what you do then it is not a job or a profession, it is something deeper with more meaning.

If you are miserable at your job and have a desire to do something else then ask yourself three questions:

  • Am I an intelligent person who can research my own idea?
  • Do I have the courage to take the actions necessary to fulfill my life’s calling?
  • How happy will I be when I am in charge of my own destiny?

Only you can answer these questions. The answers are scary for most people. But when in doubt remember Reza. He came to a strange land with nothing, not even knowing the language. He became a proud American citizen and through intelligence and courage he became an American success. Put down the fork and look out the window. What is stopping you from living the American dream? Reza lives it and so can you.

Create success through Evidence Based Leadership techniques.



Mike Phibbs

Everyone has read a book with “Leadership” somewhere in the title. Why, we all want to become leaders that inspire and sought after for our sage advice. So, we go to the local book store and find a book that explains how Company A transformed itself from an average company to an extraordinary icon in its industry. Once you begin to read the plethora of books you realize two critical ideas. First, most books are more about management then leadership. Second, the ideas may be great for that specific organization but will not work for yours. However, there are two easy solutions for wading through the sea of books and learning how to truly transform you into a highly effective leader. To begin, you must understand the true nature of leadership and then look for Evidence Based Leadership training that provides a high-octane boost and will accelerate your leadership potential well past the next level.

First, understand that leadership and management are systematically opposed. People like to disguise management training as leadership training since it is cool to be a leader and a drag to be a manager. The overall concept is as simple as leaders lead and managers manage. True understanding of leadership requires a deeper understanding than that simple statement. Leadership is about transformation through the creation of a greater vision for the future and in-depth understanding of people to guide and motivate people. Leaders possess the ability to create the end goal vision for their organizations. They readily read the tea leaves and anticipate where the road blocks are, and how to navigate around them. They understand how to overcome organizational inertia that resists change and can prevent average leaders from creating an impact. Effective leaders have the capability to transform their organizations and take them to the next level. Extraordinary leaders transcend these bounds and create legendary organizations.

Management is about putting parameters on organizations. They develop and follow rules and regulations and keep score. They are the traffic cops that keep the organization moving along at a specified pace. Managers put the brakes on organizational change until ideas are clearly vetted. I am not saying managers are bad people. Managers are the yin to the leadership yang. They develop the strategies that keep organizations going day-to-day. Without managers a high-octane leadership driven organization will wander from one vision to the next, but it will make great time. Management trims the sails and ensures check points are developed and targets are met. Another analogy says leaders want to expand the balloon. Managers want to have rules limiting how fast it expands and requires constant pressure testing to ensure the balloon does not pop.
Now, are people born with innate leadership capacity? Have you ever read in the newspaper, “A great leader was born today at General Hospital” or hear in the hospital hallway, “That baby has great management potential.” Some people do seem to inherit innate leadership skills, but they are still limited. Some possess exceptional leadership skills that work in one industry, but they may flop in another. There is light at the end of the tunnel for struggling leaders: Evidence Based Leadership.

Evidence Based Leadership is a compilation of proven techniques that work in any organization, or profession. At first, I too was reluctant to believe there is a one size fits all solution to leadership problems. However, after I read the key principles and concepts I found they are right on point. I read the concepts and was reminded how it worked in another organization. The Evidence Based Leadership skills are based on facts of which leadership interventions works and which ones don’t. Your next book on leadership should be on Evidence Based Leadership. Then you can read other books on successful leadership and suddenly realized they took the long road to success. By understanding the differences between leadership and management and the principles of Evidence Based Leadership you are on the express route to being an exceptional leader.

Build your public safety organization’s brand through social media.

How can social media help build your agencies brand?   Organizational branding is a new concept for public safety.  Every organization had a brand which encompasses more than its reputation. The organizations brand represents everything it values and how it operates.  In your mind, picture the Texas Rangers, Virginia State Police, FBI and images automatically come to mind. The image may, or may not, be an accurate representation of the organization.  Your organizations brand brings words to describe how your citizens see and feel about your officers and organization.  Therefore, it is an accurate statement to say: You control your organizations’ brand, or you are relinquishing control to someone else.  Social media can help you take ownership of your organization’s brand and increase your overall effectiveness and employee engagement.

To have an effective social media branding campaign your organization must be completely transparent. If your organization is misleading on how it operates or what it values, the negative impact can be insurmountable damaging.  By being honest, a “This is who we are, warts and all” attitude, you can make the connections that develop an effective brand. The conversation started during your organization’s social media branding campaign can help shed light on areas that you need to strengthen or change.  If your past had been difficult, but you made major changes, social media is a great platform to get your message out.

Now, let’s examine how social media can impact your brand in just two areas. As just mentioned, the first area is getting your message out.  Before you can build your brand and share it through social media, you must truly know what your organization values.  Does your agency focus on highway law enforcement, strict enforcement of laws over solving problems, community policing, zone policing, sector policing, or another traditional  style?  There are many more styles; however, each one of those listed has their own unique attributes.  What works well in one community may not work well in another.  When the style of policing fits the needs of the community, agency, and officers, a synergistic connection is created that improves the lives of all.

Congratulations.  You created synergy, but does anyone outside of your region of the world know about your success?  An active social media campaign can take you to the second level of organizational branding.  Your website is your brochure to the world.  Facebook, Twitter, and the others Social Media sites are your connectors that get your message out to your customers, also known as citizens, and the rest of the world.  As your message goes out, you receive information from others back through the same Social Media pipeline. You may receive questions on the success of a particular program, or suggestions to make improvements.   New South Wales Eye Watch Facebook program has been a great success and help build the organizations brand for outside the box thinking.

The second way an active social media branding campaign impacts your organization is who you attract, retain, and repel for employment.  A study completed in 2010 revealed that 30% of public safety officers did not know a significant amount of the host organizations culture before being hired.  Imagine the impact on engagement of a person who up-roots their family and moves several hundred miles to join your organization, only to find that the organization’s culture does not match their expectations or desires.  The new employee’s engagement levels will drop immediately.  Social media can prevent this by creating a realistic job preview of your organization.  This will help ensure prospective employees have as much information about your organization as possible before applying.  The statement has been made, “If we put the information on the web then no one will apply.” This is more of statement about the host organization than the impact of social media.  Your organization may not be socially connected however, the officers are and they talk around the world.  Not telling applicants up front about the culture has a significant impact on employee engagement, as well as fiscal impact on the community when officers give up and only perform the necessary requirements to keep their job.  By not being honest, your organization builds an international brand as a place to avoid.  Proactive organizations build a brand by being introspective and transparent creating a positive international image and become employer of choice.

It is imperative for an organization attempting to get its organizational brand out to strategically use Social Media to connect to its customers, employees, and prospective employees around the world.  The brand is more than the reputation; it is a summation of what the organization values and foundation it rests upon.  Social media makes the connections and creates the synergy that will allow your organization to continue to build on its success.

A Negative Workplace and “The Nine Rules to Neutralize Negativity”


Gary Samuels

Negativity is a growing concern in the workplace. Many stressors in create concerns for management. The economy created a need to downsize companies, lay off employees, cut incentive packages, defer raises, and increase workloads for employees. These stressors created a concern for employee mental health, workplace violence, and negative attitudes. Negativity decreases employee performance, increases safety concerns, and costs the company in productivity.
The first step is to have a leader who is willing to identify and address this issue head on. A proactive leader stays in touch with line personnel and recognizes the early warning signs of negativity. Many times, we find that negativity is the result of a managerial decision, gossip, rumors, or even one bad apple in the workplace. Leaders must demonstrate a genuine concern for the employees wants and needs. Engagement at all levels to create a culture of caring within the workplace is important.

Social media is a marketing and branding tool for many departments. Many departments find social media plays an important part in preventing negativity within your agency. The key to progressively managing your image is paying attention to what your employees post in the social media arena. If you read blogs, websites, and other public social media venues, you can gain the needed edge. Internal feedback gained from suggestions, employee feedback in appraisals, and employee meetings is very beneficial. Utilizing employee feedback tools, like the 90 Degree North Model developed by LeadershipRVA, gives leaders information to facilitate change. This information will help you learn to identify the symptoms of negativity before its morale-busting consequences damage your workplace. It will also assist you in preventing and curing workplace negativity. Using social media to market and brand your organization is a positive step. Providing the public with immediate information about the news worthy events that employees and the company are doing to help the community and the environment will increase your public image.

Refocusing the workplace is the key to increasing performance when negativity has zapped your organization. Utilizing strategies to prevent negativity will benefit the whole organization. Nine rules to neutralize negativity are:
1. Lead by example. The moral and ethical character of the leadership will directly influence all employees.
2. Increase the ability for input at all levels. Allow employees to express concerns, make suggestions, develop ideas, and have ownership in the policies and procedures.
3. Provide responses to the employee concerns in a timely manner. Before the ripples in the pond disappear, a management response is important.
4. Treat people with fairness and consistency. Equality is important for employees. This transparency shows all employees that the department is doing the right thing.
5. Do not use the shotgun effect to address issues. Do not punish the whole organization for one mistake of one or a small group of employees.
6. Explain your actions, decisions, and new policies to all. This makes everyone feel included and important.
7. Give everyone access to training that will facilitate succession management and the ability to gain promotions. Educational opportunities can be a powerful tool to increase morale.
8. Engage employees to be a part of the strategic planning process and have input into the mission, vision, values, and goals of the agency. This can be an education in itself.
9. Develop a plan to review all programs. This gives employees input into changes.

“The Nine Rules to Neutralize Negativity” are merely tools to help prevent negativity and increase morale. Leaders must embrace criticism with an open mind and develop positive responses that build the organization. Put your leadership team to work by challenging them to create a culture within your organization that wipes out negativity and increases morale. Find the best practices and develop strategies to implement these practices in your workplace everyday.

A fun and reliable way to score your leadership and management talents.

90 for leadership blog

Ever thought about the perception of your effectiveness as a leader or manager of your team? No? Your team loves you right? Perception is reality when you’re in charge of a team. Everyone in a supervisory role believes they have great leadership and management skills, but the truth is most are not that gifted. It’s not that we’re delusional, we simply judge ourselves in the best light possible, namely, from own perspective. Our egos don’t want to look at the bigger picture, therefore, we resist feedback. In order to facilitate, if not force supervisors to see the perceptions from their teams perspectives consultants developed the 360 evaluations. The 360 combines perspectives from the top down, sideways, and from the bottom up. Great, however, with all of the data the 360 provides, it is still easy to overlook your team’s perspective on your ability to lead and manage. Notice I said, “Team”. If you don’t refer to the people you supervise as “Team” you, my friend, are in deep trouble as a leader. Your boss and friends may think you are great, but if you team has a dissimilar perspective you are not as effective as you could be. You may be what is keeping your “Team” from not just being at the next level, but stopping them from being effective at their current level. Now for the fun part, there is a new tool that allows you to rate your leadership splash and post it to social media. Using the Matrix from Integritas Leadership Solutions, LLC, you can rate yourself, or someone else, on leadership and management aptitudes and directly post the scores to face book. When you receive multiple scores from your team members you can plot them and see your splash as a leader and manager.

First, understand both management and leadership positions are diametrically opposed. They are always trying to get ahead of each other. They both have an important part to play in any organization but most people confuse the divergent skills and abilities required for management for leadership. Leadership is about breaking out of the box and taking your team to a new level. Leaders, create a vision, overcome the inertia of status quo, and bring the team to life to meet new challenges. Management is about policies and procedures, following the rules. Basically, managers keep you in the box. When you were back in school, the leader was the high school rock star and everyone wanted to follow him or her. The manager was the chemistry geek who had to follow the rules or his test tubes would blow up. You asked the chemistry geek how to do your homework, but went to the rock stars house to hang out. Hint, the chemistry geek never forgot, or forgave, you and is now retaliating for your transgressions through their management roles.

Now, fast forward to today and learn something about yourself. The Integritas Leadership Solutions Matrix rates you on your leadership and management abilities. The basic program allows you to answer the questions and then places your score on a graph for you to see. You can then post your score to Facebook. When you have your team complete the basic program you can see your splash as a leader and manager. Let’s take a look at how at how they developed the score:

Leadership can be rated on your ability to create a vision and inspiration. Can you create a vision that is compelling and can you inspire people to follow you. When you look back are people following?
Management is more mundane, but just as important. Do you have the basic knowledge to perform your job at the level required and do you have the ability to perform.

The Matrix is a fun way to receive your score as a leader or manager. More importantly, it is a way for you to gauge your effectiveness. Now, go to the Matrix site and get your score on these four basic skill sets, Vision, Inspiration, Knowledge and Ability.

Using stories to engage and teach.

A couple years ago, while teaching a group of public safety professionals, I was asked the best method for me to keep students engaged? I replied, “For me, I teach through stories”. That is why I am able to get seasoned professionals to stand on their chairs within five minutes of my opening. I create the visuals through stories and take my students on a trip that teaches them new information. After years of research, I found stories are the natural way people process information. By creating stories people create strong images in their minds that help them connect the pieces together. For millennia, people have been telling stories as part of their oral traditions. The first cave drawings were used to tell stories to other members of the tribe. Ten thousand years later, we can still look at the cave drawings, in France, and understand the meaning of the images. Aristotle, two thousand years ago, wrote down the parts we still use today to create a good story. When we watch movies, we wait for the lead character to tell the story that motivates the other characters to action.

The most influential leaders I have ever met spoke to people in ways that allowed everyone to join the overall story. You wrote your own part. You were a part of the team. You could make a difference. As a leader using stories to motivate employees, you do not have to be a hero, or someone with a spectacular past. Anyone with imagination can tell the story that moves someone to action; you just have to connect at the individual level.

Stories can be used to teach mathematics, science, police science, hydraulic pressure theory for firefighters, or other “dry” classes and still keep people riveted. Imagine Halley’s Comet hurtling past the earth every 70 years. Physics and stories explain why the comet is pulled past the earth on its way towards the sun; however, stories also tell what people thought when they saw it in the sky. In 1066, William the Conquer saw the comet and thought it was a sign to invade England. The ancient Romans thought it was a god riding a chariot through the skies. The Aztec Indians saw the comet as a sign to go to war. The stories suck you in so your mind grasps, and materializes, the images to create a meaningful form to transfer information. You can talk about the science behind Star Wars to help transfer complex theories of physics, engineering, or computer programming. Anyone can come up with a thousand stories to explain how biology works. One only has to make the connection at the individual to keep people engaged.
Remember, “It’s the Story”, the next time you get asked to talk about a subject and want to make an impact.

The seven steps from self-actualization to creating a high performance team

January 10 picture

In order to create a High Performance team, the foundation must be created on a solid base of leadership. I will outline a simple course from individual self actualization to creating a high performance team.

Step One: The leader must become conscious of his or her actions. Take an inventory of youself and and ask, ” can I lead myself? Why would others follow me?” Are their actions disciplined or undisciplined? Do the actions hurt the team, or help build it up? Do I have the knowledge skills and abilities for their job? If not, how fast can I acquire them? Leaders biggest mistakes stem from not realizing they need to add to their knowledge base, and then making bad decisions based on that lack of knowledge.

Step Two: Without introspection as to why you behave the way you do, you will never be able to create a cohesive plan of action and become an exceptional leader. Through conscious awareness you can begin to create the self discipline you need to create a vision that people will follow. People will not follow someone who is all over the place, but will follow one who is strait, steady and consistent on reaching the desired goal.

Step Three: Self discipline an creating a steady course for people to follow takes courage. You have to change your own behaviors, and then those of your team. You will have to confront people and make your argument for them to change, for their betterment, and that of the team. It takes courage to try and overcome resistance. Confrontation take courage. Sometime the leader had to have the courage to tell someone they do not fit and need to go. Confrontation is good in that it opens up communication lines. Confrontation does not mean yelling and screaming, but actually discussing difference in opinion, not hiding them and letting resentment build

Step Four: Once you begin to control yourself through self discipline, and created an awareness how individual actions impact the team, you can begin to motivate and inspire. Create your individual vision of where you want to go. How will you get their? You will get there through your team and their willingness to follow.

Step Five: What is the vision for the team? What do you collectively believe? As you build yourself up, your vision of the team may change. As the team evolves and changes, their vision may change. The vision the leader and team create must be consistent with the vision of the organization. As good vision for a team takes the organizations vision and then raises the bar. By raising the bar and meeting those goals you become the “go to” people in the department.

Step Six: Celebrate little victories. Rome was not built in a day. Set the long range plan with short term in initiatives. Celebrate once you have reached the initiative goals. Regroup, when you don’t. After a victory or setback, notice I did not say defeat, evaluate what went write or wrong. Adjust course, and then move on. Always look towards to long term future, but remember it is the actions you take each day that get you to fulfill your vision for yourself and your team.

Step Seven: The more successful your team is, the more other teams will recruit away your best team members. Rejoice when a team member moves on to help someone else. It reflects greatly onto you and what you have accomplished. So, now you bring in someone new. Let them know who you are. Find out who they are and what they want to accomplish. Bring it the team, and introduce each one of them. Let the team share the vision with the new person. Together, as a team you use each day as a touchstone for success.