Time Out!

February 13, 2013

time-outI survived and I remain in the black!  My yearly pilgrimage to Las Vegas to speak to the National Limousine Association was successful and as always, filled with tremendous personal learning.  If you own a couple of cars, buses, a large truck or anything that carries humans, you might consider joining the 6,000 members of the National Limousine Association and attend their convention in Las Vegas.  It is interesting because most owners of limo companies are product peddlers due to the love of their cars and trucks.  So you can imagine the fun when you challenge them that if they want to grow their businesses they must stop talking about the features of their top brand name cars… smile.

Instead, they must ask their customers what their expectations are… surprise, surprise, it’s not the cars, but rather the benefits that the cars and buses provide.  So the magic is turning top service into sales as a strategy to building their business.  If you have been reading the Mid-Week Mentor for a while, you know by now this is not an event, but rather a painstaking process.  Oh, and by the way, it is the owners who have to make the most changes in order to create this positive culture within their organizations in order to inspire change.

Flying home was quite an experience.  I was called to the counter 3 minutes before we were ready to board and was told that I was being bumped to 1st class… Life is good!   Little did I know how good it was going to be in meeting my neighbor in 1st class, Emil Signes.  Emil was a retired engineer who had spent most of his life participating, coaching, and evangelizing the sport of Rugby.  The following I did not learn from Emil, no I found it on Google.  Emil was much to humble; a true Level 5 Leader.  “Steeped in humility with an unwavering will to succeed…” – From Good to Great by Jim Collins.


Widely regarded as one of the best sevens coaches in the world, Emil Signes has compiled the most varied and successful record of any US coach during a rugby career that has spanned more than 30 years. He has coached both the US Men’s and Women’s National 7s teams, the German Men’s National 7s team and consulted for the Portuguese National 7s team as well. He founded and manages the Atlantis sevens program, a national touring select side that has one of the winningest records in US rugby. Not limited to sevens, Signes has also helped coach the US Women’s National 15s team and several territorial men’s and women’s select sides. 

“USA Rugby and USA Sevens are honoring “The Emperor” Emil Signes (aka The Wizard) at the HSBC Sevens World Series tournament in Las Vegas this February 8-10! With a Life Time Achievement Award.

Reading the above and thinking of all of the stories he could have shared, all the wins and great players he had coached in his career… you will never guess what he wanted to show me.

A slide show of photos he took recently in traveling with a US National Girls Team to Laos.  The photos were of children playing Rugby with Emil and his team teaching and playing Rugby on the dirt streets of some god forsaken village with bright fun loving smiles on the faces of children. The trip of a life time… was impacting a generation of players, children and families who will never remember his name and could care less about his fame.

Towards the end of our flight, I asked Emil what the three most important lessons were that he teaches athletes in order to compete and win at the elite world level of Rugby. He said nothing but pointed to his heart.  You can have all the talent, the physical tools, speed and endurance, but the great ones have heart and it cannot be taught.  When your lungs are bursting and your arms and legs are hurting so bad, your mind is shouting to you… “You have done enough, you have no more to give, stay down”…and yet, you find a way to rise to your feet and sprint again. Secondly, it is how you prepare for the competition that separates the winners from the losers.  Finally, keep your goals in front of you and never quit trying.  Perhaps this third pearl of wisdom is why he was successful in taking several teams to play in Cuba when it is almost impossible to get the US government’s support to do so.  Even though he was turned down last year in 2012, he was looking forward to returning home to start the paper process for this year’s trip.

Then I got my biggest surprise of all.  Emil said, “Perhaps I learned my determination from the Dale Carnegie Course I took while working as an engineer at Bethlehem Steel 42 years ago.”  He said, “I can still remember winning the outstanding award, a pencil, for my presentation in week #2.”  How cool, a Dale Carnegie graduate…

Life, many times, gives us its greatest surprises when we least expect it. I thank Emil for impacting my life.

So in business, how are you doing?

  1. Do you have heart to succeed?
  2. How well do you prepare to win?
  3. Do you have the never quit attitude?


Human Relations Principle of the Week: (Coaching tip Emil took to heart over 42 years ago…)

Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement.  Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

–       Dale Carnegie

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