What it means to be an exceptional leader.

In the Navy, they call it the 40% rule. When you think you're done, you are actually only at 40% of your ability.

The question then becomes, how do we unlock that other 60%?

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As a leader, as somebody who is responsible for a team, how do you pull that other 60% out? What do you say, do, or put in place, that encourages and supports every team member to contribute at their highest level? 

According to the research, we do know that a high-performing individual can do more than an average performing team. But, a high-performing team will always beat out the highest performing individual.

Knowing how to lead your team in a way that unlocks their best is the secret to creating your strongest story each and every time, while also empowering each person on your crew to continually grow, learn, and have ownership over their role.

This April 7th and 8th we're hosting a Leadership Summit here in Portland, OR. To help you determine if this event is for you, I wanted to share some of my own learning about leadership and invite you to a webinar later this week.

Over the past decade, I've had my fair share of leadership opportunities, from running companies to leading workshops, to directing large productions both for our clients and for educational experiences.

I certainly still have a lot to learn about leadership, but I've also learned so much on my path thus far. I've made LOTS of mistakes, been a terrible leader far too many times, but it was only through an earnest desire to be better, to be all that I can be, that I've really taken myself on in looking at how I can be the best leader I can be.

Here are three of the biggest things I've learned about effective leadership:


1. The Victim vs the Victor mindset.

So much of creating a film is about problem-solving. You constantly run into issues with your gear, crew, talent, and logistics.

But how you respond to what happens can make all the difference.


Let's say, for example, you're on day one of your production and you lose an amazing location to do your interview. You've got an hour before you need to shoot and it all falls apart.

In the classic victim mindset, you're often making excuses for what went wrong, shifting blame, operating out of fear, and have an overall lack of self-confidence. This manifests itself not just in how you communicate to others, but also in how you're thinking about yourself.

So the victim mindset responds to the lost locations with thoughts like:

"the shoot is ruined"

"why didn't our producer plan for this?"

"maybe I'm just not cut out for this"

On the other hand, within the victor mindset, you're focused on settings goals, you stay motivated to overcome, you're constantly acquiring new knowledge and learning from what happened, you're overcoming your fears and looking to implement solutions to achieve the goal.

The victor mindset would respond to this challenge with:

"I can sort this out and still make an incredible film"

"what can I learn about how I could have prevented this next time?"

"I'm going to do x, by y, to find a new solution"

How we fall into the victim or victor mindset is rather complex and, in my opinion, not as important a question as to how we change our mindset to that of the victor.

As a leader, your mindset is directly correlated with what you and your team can produce. It can either infect or inspire everybody on your crew.





The first step in owning a victor mindset it to be aware of where you're at. When something goes wrong, pay attention to your self-talk and look at whether it's empowering and goal-oriented, is it positive, or is it about shifting blame and overall quite negative.

At the Leadership Summit, we'll be doing a deep-dive into the Victim and Victor mindset. We'll also do several exercises that help you to implement the Victor mindset moving forward.


2. The power in a Vision Story

High-performing teams are very rare. Most teams create something that is on par with, or slightly above, the aggregate of their abilities. But a true high-performing team creates at an unexpected level, at an almost impossible level–what they do is called emergence, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here’s the thing–creating a high-performing team isn’t about getting everybody to like each other and work well together. It’s a common misconception, but creating a strong team isn’t about the team, it’s about a shared vision or goal.


Research suggests that having a very clear, and a challenging goal, is one of the single biggest ways to create a strong team. And one of the best ways to create that alignment, that connection to the purpose, is through a Vision Story.

Here's the problem–a Vision Story is one of the toughest stories to tell.

Story, by definition, is a retelling. We're used to telling stories of the past, of things that have happened. In contrast, the Vision Story is one that largely lives in the future. It sets out a journey that you can embark on to reach a future resolution.

Because it lives in the future, it takes more effort to become good at telling a Vision Story.

Knowing how to tell this type of story though, is so critical that our producer, Maddy, loves to open up every production with a team meeting where the vision is shared.

The Vision Story lets your crew know why they are here, why their role matters, and gives clarity to the next steps needed to achieve your grand vision.





As with any strong story, one of the foundational elements is conflict–understanding the obstacle that you're looking to overcome. A vision without conflict won't engage your team, and won't give them a deeper connection as to why this matters.

Let me give you an example. Last year we worked for a health-care company that focused on diabetes prevention and weight loss. We were tasked with wrapping their education in story so that it was more entertaining and easily remembered.


One of our characters, Diane, was a 2nd-grade school teacher who had gained so much weight her classroom had to be moved to the first floor of the school so that she didn't have to take the stairs. 

There are many people like Diane who have never had access to information on good health behaviors and, as a result, have gotten to a point where their poor health is affecting all areas of their life in a negative way.

What we were doing, the stories we were creating, they had the potential to reach thousands of people through this program, and as a result, dramatically change their lives. The quality of the stories we told was directly related to how much the members embraced the material and remembered the ideas–how much the concepts would drive real change.

Sharing a Vision Story about why these stories mattered with the whole crew was a little confronting. There were people I hadn't met before and hadn't hired directly. There were nearly 15 people on set for one of the main shoots. But stepping out and expressing the vision in a story created a much deeper connection with everybody on the crew–from the art director and stylist to the focus puller and cinematographer.

The story took it from 'just another shoot' to something they really cared about. As a result, how well do you think each person performed?

At the end of the shoot, we watched a rough cut of one of the pieces as a team. The number of people that came up to me and expressed sincere gratitude for being a part of a project they cared about was so telling as to the importance of sharing a Vision Story.

At the Leadership Summit, we'll be exploring every step in creating a Vision Story. Each participant will be guided through building and expressing a Vision Story in front of the group.


3. Effective Leadership isn't about you.

You may have heard of Myers-Briggs personality profiles, the DISC model, or perhaps the Enneagram model of personality types.

There are quite a few models of how to measure and break down one's personality, but regardless of which model you might subscribe to, the underlying thinking is that we each have a central disposition, a way in which we interact with the world.

Knowing your own personality, knowing how you commonly interact with others is very important information. 

But when it comes to leadership, and leading well, it becomes much more about knowing how to best communicate to those on your team. Many times that requires needing to abandon your natural response or inclination and find the best way to communicate so that you will be heard.

Somebody on your team might perform best by being told exactly what you need from them, and by when. They prefer clear and direct communication.

"Please have the key light setup in 15 minutes."

Whereas somebody else on your team might respond way better to a more supportive and shared way of communicating. A 'let's do it together' kind of attitude.

"We need to get this key up in 15 minutes. Let me show you what I'm thinking and then you can take it from there."

Yet a third crew member may respond way better to being inspired. They need a story.

"The talent is going to be here in half an hour, and we really want to be set up well in advance so that we can debrief as a team and ensure the set is calm when they arrive. If you can get the key up in 15 minutes, we'll do a roundup as a team and make sure everybody feels great before the talent arrives."


Though hypothetical, those are three totally different ways of expressing the exact same task. Here's the thing–we usually make our communication style about us, we choose the method we naturally connect with and are good at.

Effective leadership means knowing who you are leading and communicating with them in a way that best works for them. 

That means needing to be a WAY better listener than most of us are used to. Learning to pick up on the clues that tell us how to communicate to each person. Knowing when and how to change our communication style because one isn't working.

At the Leadership Summit, each participant will do a personality assessment to learn their natural leadership style. We'll then look at how to understand how to best communicate with each member on your crew.

Interested in seriously upping your leadership abilities? We have a few spots left in the Leadership Summit this April 7th/8th at our studio in Portland, OR. 

The Victim vs. Victor mindset, telling a Vision Story, and understanding how to best communicate with your team is only a fraction of the Summit. We'll also be exploring the most common cognitive biases as a way of ensuring we're making the best decisions possible, along with what qualities make for a high-performing team and how you can cultivate those within your teams.

Each module offers a background on the theory and science behind the concept, along with practical exercises we then dive into right away to implement the new knowledge.

Check out this short film we made about the Summit and why it matters.


At this stage, we don't have any recording or webinar options for the event. We've definitely heard your request for remote options, and we'll continue to evaluate that, but so much of the value of an experience like this is being able to participate in the exercises and implement the ideas in front of the group. For that reason, we're currently not offering an online option.

Interested in joining the Leadership Summit this April 7th and 8th?

The two-day experience is $1,697 and limited to 16 people.