One Thing Series: Being a Present Leader w/ Jon Rennie — #onethingseries

One Thing Series: Being a Present Leader w/ Jon Rennie — #onethingseries

Man the ship and bring her to life. ~ First traditional order as an active unit in the Navy

Jon Rennie is a Business Leader, Author, and Speaker. He is Co-Founder, President, and CEO of Peak Demand Inc., a global manufacturer of products for electric utilities. 

He served as a Naval Officer on Nuclear Submarines during the Cold War and has been leading industrial businesses for more than 20 years. 

He is passionate about leadership and employee engagement. His articles and blog posts have been read and shared all over the world. He believes that Leadership can make a significant difference in the performance of any organization.

His latest leadership book, I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following is an Amazon bestseller.

Key Thoughts from the Interview:

  • Jon provides incredible insight into how the absentee boss leads from their comfort zone. 
  • When asked who he follows to learn and grow, Jon didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the impactful work of Coach Bru
  • You have to hear why he gets up at 4:00AM every day. 
  • Jon describes how a ship is nothing more than cold metal in a harbor and that it’s the crew who brings a ship to life. Listen for what he wants to continue to do and how he wants to grow.
  • Don’t miss what she says about his Dashboard University.
  • Lastly, Jon covers some of his fascinating life story; he reveals, in the end, that leaders don’t have to know all the answers. 

Jon’s interview is packed full of practical ways to become a more present leader. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did! 

Please follow, like, and comment. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you. For more great leadership content, follow

Joe & T.J.

Staying Tuned in as a Leader: The Habit of Noticing — #TheThree MinuteChallenge

Staying Tuned in as a Leader: The Habit of Noticing — #TheThree MinuteChallenge

Having a keen sense about the world around you is critical for leaders who want to show up and be responsive for their team. In its simplest form, understanding your surroundings requires us to “notice,” and when we have the habit of noticing, we stay tuned in to the needs of our people. The problem is that noticing, and a consistent ability to be situationally aware, takes an extreme amount of energy and focus. Because of this, the human brain likes to relax when we feel things are normal or that we understand something that we haven’t totally digested yet. We tend to do our best “noticing” when we encounter something new…or something that we think is new. Even then, we typically allow the new experience to drain our senses versus fueling them. But that doesn’t have to be the case. 

The facts are clear. Noticing more can be energizing versus depleting; noticing more can help us to stay positive; and, noticing more helps with speed and productivity (Langer, 2016). The following 3-minute challenge is meant to help you get better at noticing so that you can be a present leader in your organization. 

Being a present leader, one who notices the details of each interaction closely, requires practice. It’s not that some leaders are better at being present and others just aren’t. It’s that present leaders practice the skill. That’s what leading better and growing faster is all about. You can take the following challenge to improve your skills. 

  1. Reflect: What is one thing that you are scheduled to do this week that you feel is pretty normal for you? This is something that you don’t need a lot of planning to be able to execute. It could even be something that you feel is mundane. 
  2. Identify: During the activity you selected above, identify one, two, or three new things about it. Especially in a time when “everything” seems new, these new experiences shouldn’t be too hard to enumerate. 
  3. Do: Look at each of the items you identified in Step 2 and decide how to react to the new insight. It might just be using a mindset of forgiveness if it’s something that someone else did or said that upset you, or it might be that you need to reach out to someone to do a quick check-in because of their body language or facial expression. 

Pro Tip: When addressing something that you “noticed,” start the conversation with “I noticed that…” That gives you an opening to ask questions about perspective. Present leaders notice more but they also seek perspective before casting judgement. 

Reach out and share your story with us.

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

The Present Leader: Showing Up When It Matters Most — #SH302

The Present Leader: Showing Up When It Matters Most — #SH302

  • Photo Above: Cave Art, Bisons, Altamira, Spain. >40,000 yrs BCE

Approximately 95,000 years ago, humans developed the distinct ability to think abstractly about our world. Our systems for communication evolved into the language, reasoning, mathematics, science, and other forms of meaning-making that we capitalize on today. Our social connections became stronger and our tribes grew. In general, we have learned to think more about our purpose and reflect internally about our thoughts and actions, including how we fit into the larger context of our community. 

But this type of abstract and philosophical thinking doesn’t come without its challenges. When we find ourselves searching or lost in an internal dialogue, we also tend to manifest stress and worry about the present and future dangers that we (might) face. The problem is that if we’re left to our natural instincts, we can do more harm than good. Our concerns create anxiety, our anxiety develops into apprehension, and our apprehension begets paralysis. Then, when our inaction is at its worst, we lose the ability to be present with others. Instead of projecting a faithful present and a positive future, we’re stuck on a carousel of unwanted, inaccurate, and misleading assumptions about our self and others. 

The good news is that this state-of-mind doesn’t have to be our reality. Great leaders learn to be present in both mind and matter. They harness the mental strength to stay focused in the moment. This is not an innate ability to connect with people and live in the moment. The belief that any soft skill, like being present as a leader, is native for some and foreign to others is simply not true. Great leaders actually plan to be present. They hone the skill of presence with strategy and practice. This essential skill is only done with strength and ease when we become deliberate about it. 

As our world leaders look to increase social distancing to preserve our safety, there has never been a more important time to be present as a leader. The further apart we need to be physically, the more intense the need for connection becomes. The following pillars are the necessary aspects for being a present leader. 

Are You Tuned In?

The simple definition of being tuned in is “noticing.” This is what some leadership experts have deemed as mindfulness, not to be confused with meditation practices, although meditation goes a long way in helping with our tuning abilities. “This process of noticing comes naturally when we’re exposed to something we think is new, and it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming” (Langer, 2016). 

Effective leaders treat every situation uniquely, even the ones that are similar to what we’ve encountered in the past. People who tune in are less judgmental and more authentic by not making assumptions or jumping to conclusions based on past interactions or previous circumstances. Mindfully tuned in leaders are present by extending trust and enjoying authentic relationships with friends and coworkers. 

Who is Presently Leading

Presently leading has a dual connotation. First, it means that you’re present, in the moment, rather than stuck in the past or the future. Present leaders don’t allow themselves to be trapped by dwelling on their past failures or projecting their future fallouts. Second, it means that whomever is “presently leading” is a leader. Titles don’t make leaders. Leaders are the people who show up to do the work, to make a difference, and to bring about the best in others. 

“The industrial era, struggling for the last decade or two, is now officially being replaced by one based on connection and leadership and the opportunity to show up and make a difference” (Seth’s Blog). Presently leading just means that someone has taken the reigns, ready and willing to do what it takes to move forward. 

What are You Forecasting for the Future

Effective leaders who identify what the future will look like are typically making that prediction based on the future that they intend to create. “In an unstable world, the best option is creating the future now” (Rockwell, 2018). Great leaders can’t see into the future better than the rest of us, but they are tuned in and leading in the present to create opportunities that bring about what they want for tomorrow. 

Forecasting the future requires us to be steadfast with our beliefs and behaviors regarding the here-and-now. With an unwavering focus on our vision, we become clearer on what needs to be done in the present. The actions of today are the fruits of tomorrow. 

Leaders know that when we’re tuned into the world around us, when we stay present for our current scenario, and when we work to make the best future for ourselves and others, we reap the benefits of a positive and productive relationship with our community. When we shed the futile consumptions of our abstract thoughts–the negative feelings of doubt and disaster–we push forward into the world that we want and that, ultimately, we’ve designed. That’s what it means to be a present leader–the one who shows up when it matters most. 

Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

Review and Reflect: Growing Mentally Stronger Every Day — #reviewandreflect

Review and Reflect: Growing Mentally Stronger Every Day — #reviewandreflect

Model for Mental Strength

This is TheSchoolHouse302’s monthly #reviewandreflect, wrapping up our focus on Mental Strength

Major Takeaway for this Month:

Problems can be overcome by having a powerful purpose.

  1. Stay positive by visualizing and anticipating a better future. 
  2. Be rational by breaking down the situation so that you can understand each aspect of the problem to respond appropriately.
  3. Remain focused by knowing where you are going and how your daily contributions are meaningful and impactful.

Three Minute Challenges

Throughout the month we offer 3 Minute Challenges to develop the skills necessary to be mentally stronger. Identifying a goal is critical, but it’s only valuable if it is supported with decisive action. 

How well did you do on the challenges this month?

Staying Positive

I’ve identified one key area of my life that I want to focus on and improve. I know if I grow in this area it will impact many others.

Remaining Rational

I tried Box Breathing when I started to feel a little overwhelmed or anxious?

Staying Focused

I Identified one thing that I should do every day to stay focused and build resilience.

Great Leaders Are Avid Readers

One of the most powerful ways to fuel your thinking and continue to grow is to be a voracious reader. Below are the three must reads we’ve featured this month.  


What an expert has to say about mental strength:

We were thrilled to interview Amy Cooper Hakim this month. This powerful interview reveals how we can view situations practically and rationally. We all know how hard this is to do when we are confronted with some very tough issues in life, both personally and professionally. 

What we’ve realized here at TheSchoolHouse302 through our interview with Dr. Cooper Hakim, the books, and other research is that developing mental strength is an ongoing process that requires effort and dedication. Like most things in life that are worthwhile, our efforts must be geared towards progress not perfection.

That’s our Review and Reflection on mental strength

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple and maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Please let us know how our leadership posts are working for you, what you are reading to improve yourself, and your thoughts on leadership and growth here on our blog and Twitter. Follow our #onethingseries podcast on iTunes and our #readthisseries on YouTube. 

Joe & T.J.

Avoid Blurred Vision by Harnessing the Power of Focus for Mental Strength — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Avoid Blurred Vision by Harnessing the Power of Focus for Mental Strength — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

One word comes to mind when we think about mental strength: resilience. The immediate question, though, is how do we develop this incredible quality? The ability to bounce back, get up when you’re down, or pivot to something new during the most challenging times is a critical skill for leaders.

Quite frankly it’s not just a skill, it’s a mindset. The belief that our purpose is greater than our issues, and that the only way to persevere is to stay focused, is what allows us to make a truly meaningful impact. This doesn’t mean that we ignore reality, but rather embrace the words and wisdom of J.K. Rowling: “rock bottom became the solid foundation in which I rebuilt my life.”

Developing our mental strength requires focus. This means that we must always focus on our current situation, focus on our future, and focus specifically on how to become stronger mentally between now and then–for the sake of now and then.

  1. Single out one thing in your personal or professional life that will ground you to move forward regardless of the circumstance. This can be a loved one, your faith, or your belief in humanity. This is the basis for your need for mental strength.
  2. Identify something that typically detracts you from staying focused, derailing your attention despite your best efforts. This might be social media or something else that keeps you from remaining diligent. This is the thing that keeps you from being stronger.
  3. Pick something that you should do every day to build your resilience and focus on what matters. For example, exercise matters. Whether it is for physical or mental fitness, there are things we must do routinely to develop our mental strength. This is the strategy you’ll use to be more focused and mentally strong.

Pro Tip: Find the learning opportunity in every situation. Everything we encounter in life presents us with an opportunity to learn. We’ve often heard the need to “find the good in every situation,” but if we are being real, we have to admit that there are situations where “good” just isn’t available, but learning always is. This quote by Canadien Poet, Shane Koyczan, sums it up: “if your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.” When we focus on learning, we grow stronger for ourselves and others.

Reach out and share your story with us.

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.


3 Books You Need to Read to Grow Mentally Stronger — #readthisseries

3 Books You Need to Read to Grow Mentally Stronger — #readthisseries

For the second time ever, we’re posting a written #readthisseries. We’re practicing social distancing so we didn’t get together to film. It’s a serious time for all of us, and we pray for our nation and everyone around the globe. As we follow and abide by recommended health practices, it’s an opportune time to read. Below you will discover our book recommendations on the topic of mental strength–something we’re covering all month long. It’s moments like this, when we are facing a true emergency, that we need to be at our best. 

Our first recommendation is Working With Difficult People by Amy Cooper Hakim. This book is perfect. Considering that much of our work at a distance these days requires us to connect with one another in new ways, but it’s tough. This book provides great strategies for handling people “without losing your mind.” You can buy it here.

Our second recommendation is an incredible book by the great Dale Carnegie. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living is a game changer. Carnegie has left us with riches in the form of words. What we love about this book is that it tackles the complex topic of worry. Read this book to gain perspective and to learn to live in “day tight compartments.”

Our final recommendation is Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. This book is our Mac-Daddy. Dr. Seligman is the father of positive psychology, and we are big fans of his work. What we think you will love most about this book is the techniques he provides for changing your own mind–an absolute must read for leaders! 

A Reader’s Tip: If you find it hard to build time into your busy day, especially if you’re working from home with new demands, schedule it. Growing as a leader is intentional. To do so, you need to work at it. Reading is just one strategy, but like anything else worth doing, it takes time. If you’re not finding the time to read, be purposeful with fitting it into your day by placing a hold on your calendar. 

If you’re at home because of social distancing, use some of this time to read. Let us know what you think of these three books or just give us a shout about what you’re reading to learn to lead better and grow faster. 

Last thing, the first person to contact us via Twitter, using #readthisseries, will receive a copy of Passionate Leadership. All you have to do is tweet, “I am a passionate leader” and we’ll send you a copy. 
Joe & T.J.