Winning Every Day: Leadership Lessons from Dax “Mojo” Cornelius

Written August 4th, 2022

Post Tags: behavior, high performance, leadership, performance, teams

NetCentrics’ ongoing leadership series is purpose-built to create the winning mindsets needed of high performance teams. Last month’s guest lecturer was Dax “Mojo” Cornelius, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, F-16 fighter pilot, and North American lead of Bastion, Australasia’s largest independent marketing and branding agency. The talk was titled “Unlocking the potential of an organization by unlocking the potential of the people within”.

“Me, We, and Go!”

To build the habit of a winning mindset, Dax reminded us that high-performance teams have a philosophy. The philosophy is: “Me, We, and Go!” That is:

  • Ongoing personal/professional development (“Me”)
  • Commitment to the broader team (“We”)
  • Willingness to jump in and do it (“Go!”)

A company’s culture is defined by leadership expressed at every level. His definition of true leadership is straightforward. Who are people and what are they doing when no one is watching?

He added that leadership requires three things beyond behavior. These are a mastery of skills, mindset and structure. Mindset is frequently cited as the most critical; but Dax reminded us that structure is frequently underappreciated.

Structure makes use of your skills, tools, and techniques. Leaders must not overlook structure. Instead, they must intentionally build a structure that supports what the mind conceives.

How Do You Lead Through Influence?

Your personal influence on a team tends to grow with time because you gain familiarity and establish trust. How do you build your influence in the quickest time possible (exponentially)?

  1. Set the standard. Perform to your highest abilities and act the way you’d want others to behave, too.
  2. “People follow soul before they follow role,” said Dax, emphasizing that titles do not automatically convey leadership or respect; the values you demonstrate are more important. He shared a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
  3. Trust requires empathy, vulnerability, and listening. Don’t assume you don’t have more to learn.

Visualizing How You Live, and What You Value

Next, Dax asked us to draw a circle divided by three lines, creating a “pie” with six slices. He asked us to assign an important area of our life to each slice. Examples include: family, pets, learning, creativity, adventure, career, financial lives, hobbies, spirituality, etc…

Then, he asked us to shade each slice in, from the center out, representing how fulfilled we are right now in each section. Which slices are filled in the most? The least? Are all of them filled in to some degree, creating a functional “wheel”? If not, why not?

Dax suggested doing this simple exercise semi-regularly. It forces you to check in with yourself, asking what you value and where you want to improve.

He then introduced the idea of marginal gains. By taking action to improve each part of your life by 1% every day, you can make substantial progress toward any goal. One percent is inconsequential on a daily basis, but can be transformational over time…

You’re Running Out of Time

Speaking of time: you’re running out of it. Quickly. No, this isn’t about how many years you may have left. This is about THIS YEAR.

He demonstrated.

There are 8,765 hours in a year.

Let’s round down and call it 8,500 for easier math, and call that unavoidable wasted time every year, like sitting in traffic.

You need to sleep approximately 2,500 hours each year. That leaves you 6,000 hours.

You need to eat. Let’s call that 500 hours a year, between quick bites and evenings out. Now you have 5,500 hours.

You look at screens – phones, computers, televisions – outside of work hours. The average American has 4 hours of screen time excluding work. That’s ~1,500 hours every year. Now you have 4,000 hours left.

If you work full-time, though, that will cost you about half of those hours, or 2,000 hours.

So now you have only ~2,000 hours every year of productive time; time available to live your one and only life. How are you spending this precious time?!

High performing teams and individuals are committed to prioritizing and managing their time. Examine how you’re spending your time and adjust accordingly.

Trust is Earned

Finally, trust. Nothing is accomplished without mutual trust. He retold the story that Simon Sinek shared about the ideal recruit for the U.S. Navy Seals. After much research, the Navy found that the candidates most likely to succeed in the most demanding contexts were not the highest scoring performers with the greatest levels of natural ability. Rather, it was the average performers with the highest levels of trust who excelled. Their reliance on, and return of, trust within the group enabled these teams to outperform teams with the highest scoring performers. Lesson? Team trust trumps talent. Here’s the clip he referenced:

As a business leader, you are literally asking your team to spend more time with you (limited, see above) than with their own families; they need to trust you.

In summary:

  • Leadership starts anew each day. No one cares about your past. They care about today and the future.
  • Structure: build a structure for yourself, and your team, that supports the right mindsets and behaviors.
  • You may not be a “leader” on the org chart but each one of us is the leader of ourselves, our careers, and our lives. Take ownership.

Does your company offer the opportunity to hear from business leaders on a regular basis? Here at NetCentrics it is a monthly opportunity to learn. (It’s one of our benefits, and we’re hiring.) Typically, we adhere to Chatham House Rules; our speakers, and our discussions, are confidential. We’re making an exception here with permission because the message, building a mindset of winning every day, is so valuable.