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With the New Year upon us, I was reflecting on 2016 and acknowledging that there is so much to be thankful for. I thought about the places I’ve traveled and the people I’ve met, and it was a trip to a Hawaiian zip-line adventure company named CLIMB WORKS, that got me thinking about next level living and leading.

On this adventure, I was also ending a long run of watching the latest season of the reality TV show Big Brother. Yes, I admit it; I’m a fan of the show. I cheered when Nicole won this season (I had met her at an event after her Season 16 – great kid), and I rooted for Shelby to pull out a win in the online version of the game called BBOTT.

For me, the fun of watching Big Brother each season is getting introduced to a bunch of strangers and watching how they will work their way through a maze of conversations, contests, and dramas on the show. They fall apart, they lie, they back stab, they divide, argue and they even fall in “TV love”, and when there is a little strategy thrown in, you have Big Brother at its most entertaining.

I love getting to know the new houseguests each season. To me, that is the real value of Big Brother – the opportunity to meet personalities compelled to put themselves out for all to see. The show truly is a social experiment – one that can teach us all something about ourselves and about leadership.

I imagine being a houseguest on the show and utilizing the conversation models and techniques I use to train others every day in my role. Which house guest would get my feedback, or how I could coach someone or “tee-up” a difficult conversation to get out of a jam and maybe start one.

Today, the show is more about looking into a doll house rather than a game of manipulation and strategy to compete for a prize. Allison Grodner (producer) and Robyn Kass (casting director) have their critics; maybe they are just genius at adapting a show to fit the times. When I look at early Big Brother seasons (1, 2 or 3), would they fare well with today’s TV audiences for ratings? My favorite seasons are 2, 3, and 10; these three are essential to anyone who understands the value of Big Brother, and they made the show the hit series it is today. Seasons 6 – 8 were the best for gameplay and strategy, and seasons 15 and 16 are personal favorites due to cast members and personalities (who I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting through events). The game teaches more when it’s about a new, diverse group of people overcoming challenges and Climbing to new heights.

What does it teach, and what redeeming value can it add to what I want out of life? It depends on what gives you the most entertainment, and you must look for where you learn. Want to CLIMB into new levels of leading, living and connecting? You can find those lessons inside of a reality show … really!

You see, I don’t ever care who wins the show, and I don’t get into the “Who’s the best?” discussions; I can make a case for any of them. My favorite is Season 3 winner Lisa, who had to overcome more than all the modern day winners, and in the end it doesn’t matter.

Aside from just enjoying the entertainment value of the series, meeting and actually becoming friends with some of the cast members, Big Brother has taught me lot about making the CLIMB to a better YOU and a better leader.

That’s what I want to share with you. Take the CLIMB.

CHALLENGE: There is nothing more defeating than knowing you have a monumental task to accomplish, and believing that even after you do it, you will still fall short of your overall goal. You see it in sports all the time: toward the end of the game, when it’s mathematically impossible to make a comeback and win the game, yet great teams play until the end. Well, Big Brother had their off moments too: Brittany Martinez (season 16), a single mom of 3 and one of the most talented, kind and socially responsible people you will ever meet, had just lost a competition, was nominated for eviction and knew she was going home. She received a punishment of kicking a soccer ball through a net 2500 times in 24 hours. Her game was over, she had nothing to lose or prove, yet she not only completed the task but did it to the best of her ability like it was for the win! As a leader sometimes you have to put on your best face, overcome challenging bad news and rally your team through a tough situation. Brittany did that with poise, like a true champion.

How do you handle yourself when challenged? How do you face adversity?

LEAD: There are so many lessons on leadership that taking an example from a reality show would be a refreshing perspective. Showing how people act when isolated from the outside world gives you a glimpse of the current day cadence of humanity. How they play when put in difficult situations, and the personal tools they use to get through each day. It’s a lesson in tough conversations: who holds back, who delivers and who succeeds? Derrick Lavasseur (season 16 winner) displayed true leadership for the whole game, influenced a house of loose cannons, kept himself under the radar, suggested who would be candidate for eviction and followed up with each houseguest on insuring they met expectations. He knew who to rally when he needed the numbers, and when they were no longer needed he cut them. Leadership requires rallying a team around a set of goals, finding out what each person wants, setting expectations and then holding people accountable to the results, trimming the non producers.. That’s leadership.

What do you do when faced with a tough conversation?
Stay silent? Run from it? Or lean in, deliver and lead?

INSPIRE: There are many inspiring lessons through Big Brother, but staying current, there was never anything more inspiring than Cody Calafiore (season 16) choosing friendship and loyalty over a $500,000 win. Cody won the final and most important challenge, giving him the power to decide who he brought with him to the finals to face the jury. Instead of choosing Victoria (and securing possible win), Cody did the selfless act that inspires and picked his greatest ally Derrick; choosing friendship and loyalty cost Cody the win and the 500k. As a leader, how many times were you lead to a crossroads where you could take a shortcut but it would impact the relationships of people you cared about long term? Our military heroes do this all the time; on the battlefield “leave no man behind” they sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the team. In a small way, Cody did just that, and Derrick took the win he needed for his family and future. A big lesson in loyalty, and inspiration.
Who do you inspire? How do you inspire?
Is there a selfless you that inspires others daily?
That’s Climbing.

MOTIVATE: There has so been much written about motivating people, how to do it, and examples of great leaders and people who have done it throughout history, but rarely does anyone give you a story about someone who had to mend a relationship and motivate someone towards a common goal. To me, this was plenty apparent with Dick and Dani Donato: a father and daughter who hadn’t spoken in 3 years, forced to live together on a reality show, and they managed to put aside their differences, collaborate, team up and win the game! It showed how even when people struggle to communicate as long as they have respect and common goals good outcomes can happen.

Today, in a world where we communicate in 144 characters, Big Brother reminds us that people can still interact despite differences and find common ground that motivates them to CLIMB to higher ground. Leaders today can do the same thing with their teams, and they don’t have to like everyone, BUT they do need to set clear expectations and have agreed-upon goals and respect each other. That’s what Dick and his daughter Dani did: clear expectations, goals and respect. How will you motivate your toughest associates? Will people know what you stand for and agree on common goals? Getting people to CLIMB for you requires they respect you, understand your expectations of them and what’s in it for them at the end.

BELIEVE: I love the very beginning of every Big Brother season, with the initial interviews of each cast member. I enjoy hearing how strong they are in their beliefs or intent they are on winning a nearly impossible game and making the most of each opportunity. This past season 18, house guest Paul Abrahamian played a brilliant game, but what he didn’t take into account was that Nicole Franzel (the ultimate winner) had dreamed about winning Big Brother for a long time, and it was her belief in that dream that carried her to the winners circle. Nicole had a vision and executed it. People CLIMB higher and faster when they believe in a cause, the people and the process around it. Strong belief with a plan carries people beyond what they thought they were capable. People accomplish extraordinary things when they have strong conviction and belief in what they are doing, coupled with goals and expectations. It heightens the CLIMB.

Take a minute and define what you will do to CLIMB next year.
Write them down, set expectations and goals and then go execute it.

SO, that’s my version of how to CLIMB in 2017 and lessons learned from a reality TV show. Oh, in case you’re wondering… I’d CLIMB through the house and win.

My wish for you in the New Year 2017: YOU can CLIMB yourself to a better you
Challenge * Lead * Inspire * Motivate * Believe
Let me know how you will in CLIMB in 2017

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