The Rockstar Dilemma

The Rockstars: the great performers in your organization.

For a while it was you. Everything connected. Everything was going your way.

You were on top.

You were the one everyone sought out.

You were the first pick to help others, mentor them, and get them up to speed.

You helped develop others.

But things change.

They began to rise.

They started to perform.

Now, they are the ones everyone seeks out.

Now, they are the first pick to help others.

A shift in Rockstar status can be disruptive. The shift can leave you feeling unsure and insecure.

“Is there still a place for me?”

“What will happen if I build and develop others, and I am no longer needed?”

At some point in your career will most likely be faced with the Rockstar Dilemma: When you move from the top performer to another role as others rise up and take their place in the organization.

The Rockstar Dilemma presents us with a choice that usually takes two different paths.

  1. We see our role not only to perform, but to help build capacity in others, and to share what we know to help them succeed.
  2. We see our role to perform as sheer competition, and anyone’s gain is our loss.

Choosing the second path is easy. We just perform, and perform, and move ahead as long as we can.

Choosing the first path is hard. We face the dilemma of performing, while helping others develop and perform, knowing that there is a chance that someday they will surpass us.

There is insecurity in the first path.

There is risk in the first path.

I hear the response every time I introduce the first path of the Rockstar Dilemma.

“But, if I develop them, I will no longer be needed. You are essentially having me work myself out of a job!”

My response is always the same.

“If you are the kind of leader who can build teams who are better than you, and can out perform you, you will never be out of a job. Organizations will pay you a lot more than you are making today to build that kind of a performance culture.”

When faced with the Rockstar Dilemma, let’s pick the right path.

Work Life Separation


We get a quick note on the weekend.

“Sorry to bug you about work on a weekend, but I need…”

Or a text late at night.

“Hey, sorry, I know it is late, but can you send along…”

And there was an email early in the morning.

“Sorry, this is last-minute, but can you give us a call right away…”

These requests were simple. They took just a few moments of our time.

We enjoyed being able to respond. It didn’t even feel like work.

There was a time when we thought we needed work life separation.

There was a time when we thought this divide was important.

There was a time when work felt like work.

Over the past few years the work life separation wall has slowly been dismantled.

Brick by brick, the need to be distinct and have boundaries has faded away.

The work life separation wall has become a smeary, messy, blended tapestry.


When our work, and life is about helping others, both happen at interesting hours, times, and moments.

It doesn’t feel like work. It isn’t distinct from our life. It just is.

We live and work at weird hours when there is a need. There are no office hours.

We aren’t counting the days until we retire. We just live.

We live and work in various locations, and at various times.

We meet the needs around us throughout our entire journey.

There is no longer a need for the work life separation.

The absence of that artificial barrier sets us free.


Parachuting In


(Image Courtesy of Pinterest)

While getting coffee before a consulting gig, I happened to bump into two leaders from that same organization who were at a table sipping their morning brew. There was a brief pause.

“Hey, are you parachuting in again today?”


Awkward pause.

“It’s not us right?”

“Nope, you are fine. In fact your departments are doing well.”

“Great. Good luck. We are just glad it is not us.”

Parachuting In: the new term this group jokingly uses when I stop by to help a division or group of folks in the organization understand themselves better, work through conflict, or learn to be a more effective team.

I kind of like it.

Parachuting in means someone is in immediate need of help.

Parachuting in means that you have come to help.

Parachuting in means that your mission or goal may be secret (you are not going to air another department’s issues when questioned).

Parachuting in means that your work is temporary.

Parachuting in means that you are bringing needed assistance, resources, and strategy.

Parachuting in means that it is their department, their operation, and their team.

That simple phrase has stuck with me. Partly because the work has been long-term enough to earn a nick-name.

What will your work’s nick-name be?

Is your art, your craft, your life, your relationships, your consulting, your business creating the right resonance to earn its own phrase or nick-name?

The other part that I remember is how happy they seemed that I was not there to see them.

Is it Dan?



(Image Courtesy of

I got together with some friends I met during a regional leadership program to serve a local non-profit a few months ago. The day was spent mostly covering ourselves (and some of the walls) with paint, and catching up with each other.

While painting one particularly difficult area, we had four of us cramped in a small stairwell. Having resigned to have paint all over, my new quest became just to simply not step in the tray filled with paint.

The small space was a great time to talk, laugh, and catch up. Somehow we got on the topic of servicing our cars. I started to share a story.

Oh, you should go where we go. The same guy has been servicing our cars for over a decade.

Ok, but why should I go there?

No, you don’t get it. This is service like I have never experienced. I can call and get my cars right in. He always calls when the car is ready, and if there is going to be a delay. The price is always good, and if there is a way to save a little, he makes good recommendations as well.

There was a pause.

Is it Dan?

Yes, yes it is.

I figure it had to be. I have been going to him as well and feel the same way. Amazing service.

About seven years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend. We started talking about our cars. The conversation moved to service. I started to share my story.

We have been going to this one place for about three years now. They really take care of our cars, but there is this one guy who really seems to take an interest in making sure our cars are well cared for and safe.

Is it Dan?

This was the first time it happened. Seven years later it is still happening. People from different cities and different circles, all ask the same question: Is it Dan?

Every time I teach a class on customer service, I tell this story. Many ask me where Dan is, and if he really exists.

The story is true, he does exist. Maybe I changed his name, but that is not what matters. Something else matters.  Are we providing a level of service that is memorable in our roles, our jobs, and our lives?

Are we providing service that is memorable enough that when someone tells someone else about it (and they will tell others), they cannot help but ask one question:

Is it [insert your name here]?

The “Everything is Okay” Phone Call

The Phone

Most of the phone calls that come my way are from people who need something. This seems like an obvious occupational hazard for a consultant who is trying to help others. However, I began to think that this pattern is deeper than just my work world. Over the past few weeks I started to keep track.

Text from kiddo – request for money.

Text from family – request to service their cars.

Phone call from friend – needed advice on issue.

Phone call from colleague – request to cover a meeting.

In the midst of this tracking experiment, there was one call that stood out:

The “Everything is Okay” phone call.

I didn’t actually take the call, it went to voicemail. Imagine my surprise when I listened to that message.

“Hey Carl, just wanted you to know that everything is okay I was just calling to connect with you and say Hi.”

It was just the call I needed. At times, the constant giving of yourself to others, their needs, and their problems can become a solitary place.

Relationships begin to feel like one-way streets.

I am taking this person’s example and trying an experiment of my own. Deliberate and intentional communication with others to connect with them, not to request from them.

Give it a try this week. Who knows, it may just change the world.

Glasses or Binoculars

GlassesBoth of these tools have lenses, and are designed to help us see the world more clearly in their respective application. They are not competing with each other, but we may favor one over the other in our lives.

When looking at a situation, do you reach for your glasses or your binoculars?

Glasses help you see clearly.

Binoculars exaggerate and make everything appear closer.Binoculars

Glasses address things right before your eyes.

Binoculars help you see things that are far away, but may need your attention.

Glasses may need new lenses as life changes and our vision fades.

Binoculars may take some practice to learn to focus and interpret events.

Both glasses and binoculars have their respective role, application and usefulness. They become a burden when we get so used to using one, that we forget to change when the situation warrants.

A life lived solely through glasses makes the world seem smaller, as a quiet seclusion develops over time. Everything around you is in focus, but there is everything “out there” that is fearful and unknown. The life close to you is clear, but there may be a larger world around you that too far off in the distance to be seen.

A life lived solely through binoculars makes everything feel more close, more personal, more perilous. Interactions are overly scrutinized. Risks appear larger than life. Even the past events stay close because of the ability to keep them in sight, long after they have passed. This distorted view may cause you to miss the life that happens close, since your focus is much further away.

Where have you used glasses when binoculars were needed? When have your binoculars exaggerated aspects of your life when glasses would have brought the much-needed focus?

Picking the right application for both glasses and binoculars can be the key.

(Images courtesy of my iPhone and Lifesun)