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Notes from the author

This is just one of the lessons shared in Follow You Anywhere - 22 Little Lessons for Team Leaders

Written by Kyle Sexton, Follow You Anywhere is based on the life and leadership of the late Mike McLaran, the Oregon business leader who dedicated his career to building great teams and promoting excellence in education. 

Follow You Anywhere -- which was released on a Sunday -- reached #1 on Amazon by Tuesday. Pieces of the book were contributed by notable Salem business leaders Tom Hoffert, Greg Astley, Bonnie Milletto and Scott Sadler, among others. Reviews of the book are overwhelmingly positive, like this one:

"This is a home run on team development. There are revelations for both the experienced leaders and those who are just joining the ranks of leadership. This book would make a great reference for anyone's desk." ~Tim Ream

What follows is a compilation of contributions from those who watched, practiced, and have accepted the next role.

Critical listening skills and engagement with the person you are working with is the foundation to professional communication.  “Talk less, listen more” is kicked around a lot in leadership training.  Mike taught that REAL communication occurs when you engage with your audience and genuinely care about the information being presented by the other person(s) in a conversation. 

Much of communication is non-verbal - it is about truly focusing on the message and passion behind the information that allows us to make a connection or solution.  The best part, sometimes people just need to share what's on their mind - be someone who people are comfortable sharing information with.  Being a good listener doesn't mean you're a "yes person", it means people trust you and value your thoughts.  Mike lived it daily.   

~Tom Hoffert

Mike McLaran embodied the skill of listening and seeking first to understand. He taught me this every time we interacted. Whether it was an issue of high conflict or teaching he would always listen, value and seek to understand others. This is what provided his success and allowed him to allow others to succeed.
~Brent Neilsen

Mike and I would get together monthly and talk about life over a beer. Many, influential moments came out of those conversations for me. I can connect a “Mike Moment” every day in my life and business.

As a fast paced entrepreneur I was talking about a particular challenge I was facing. He suggested, before I take action, I slow down, become an astute “observer” and take notes. If I observed things from different angles the resources I needed would show themselves. His suggestion became a way of life for me. My life flows simply and I thank him for planting the seeds that have become my roots today.

Months later he said he had been observing my entrepreneurial skills for years. He wanted run things by me for planning his next business venture. It made me swell with pride to be able to offer my insights to Mike, who had offered so many of his insights to me.
~Scott Sadler

 I learned three important lessons from Mike:
1. Speak up, because if you don’t, who will?
2. No one ever wants to talk about politics, but it is what we need to talk about, especially when it comes to business.
3. At the end of the day, the work you don't finish will still be there tomorrow. What are you missing out on today that will not be there tomorrow? Do that instead.
~Chelsea Pope

My husband and I met Mike a few months after we moved to Salem for my husband's job. After dinner with Mike and his lovely wife, Diane, we were saying goodbye and Mike said, “I am so glad you're here."

We said, “Thanks, we like you too Mike.”

Then he said, “I meant I'm glad for Salem.”

My husband and I think about Mike and that comment often, how we are not called to just one job or just one nonprofit, but by we are called to serve and improve the whole city.
~Joy Dickinson

 A challenge Mike left me with regularly: "Now that you understand there is a problem (issue), what are you going to do about it?" There is never a reason to wait on someone else to fix it, to assume the problem is not yours once you have knowledge about it, or to excuse inaction because you think it's not your responsibility. Once you know that something could be better there is no excuse not to start working to make it better. 
~Nathan Knottingham

Courage to Get In the Game
I asked Mike to speak with me at the Rose Garden. He spoke on servant leadership and I am still moved on many levels from that experience. After the event I expressed a fear on moving forward with my speaking career and in typical fashion he brought the conversation around to a game called life.

“You have a dream. Follow it. Do not let the fear of the past or the unknown of the future stop you from moving forward. Will you be the one that sits in the stands and just watches or will you get in the game and make positive things happen? You have a gift. It is useless if you don't share it. Get in the game and make things happen!”

Well said, Coach. Lesson learned and continually paid forward to others.
~Bonnie Milletto

Leadership requires listening more than talking. Mike was responsive and compassionate. He continued to place my agenda first during our "catch up times". He inspired my faith to find and focus on the good in people.
~Christine Dieker

Mike used to always say, "Now that you know what the problem/need is, what are you going to do about it?" I hear him say that all time and it reminds me I need to take action and not ignore the problem/need or wait for someone else to do something about it.
~LeAnn Keim

Twenty three years ago a new loan officer for First Interstate Bank came to town. He knew no one and was involved in nothing. His boss began introducing him to many people he thought would be important for the loan officer to know. One of these persons encouraged the loan officer to seek out opportunities to become involved and help Albany become a better place. Something struck a chord with the, not so young, loan officer. Before long he was involved in so many community activities that his boss began wondering if he was going to get any work out of him. But he continued to be encouraged.

Over the years the volume of activities decreased but the involvement continued. So did the encouragement. Mere days before he passed, Mike stopped by my wife’s place of work. He told her how excited and pleased he was that I had become passionately involved with Honor Flight. Encouraging to the end.

I miss you brother, I won’t let you down.
~Ed Bock

When others shine a spotlight on you, redirect the light on to those who helped you get there. It was something I witnessed Mike do so many times. It's humbling. It builds others up. And it reminds you that when you accomplish great things, there are always people behind you, fighting for you, cheering you on, and that you couldn't do it alone.
~Jessica Chambers

Mike always wrote and said “thank you for all that you do”. How many of us received those sweet little notes in our membership statements? I am currently holding one in my hands dated back from 2005 and it still makes me feel appreciated! That was one of the many special gifts that Mike possessed, the ability to make other people feel important. Thank you Mike for making a difference in my life, and yes I am “paying it forward.”
~Debra Herring

At the end of every day in Leadership Salem, Mike would come in to talk to us, and make us think. After 'History Day' many of us were fired up about saving all the historical sites and buildings around town. Mike understood, but his lesson of the day was "when do you let history go, to be able to grow and progress into the future?" To this day I understand that it is not just about buildings, it's about almost everything in life. I had the chance to have coffee with him two weeks before he passed. I told him how much his words meant to me, and how I applied them to many life situations. That was the last time I saw him, walking down the sidewalk of our state capitol. I will never forget. Thanks Mike. 
~Bry Taylor

While undertaking the role of president for my Rotary club, Mike sat down with me and talked to me about what it was to be a leader. The thing I remember most of that conversation (and have carried with me into presidency of a different Rotary club), was when he said that a good leader is not the one who makes everyone happy, a good leader is the one who listens to everyone and then makes the hard decision, for the betterment of the whole. This has proven to be a very valuable piece of advice.
~Karin Holton 

Mike gave me the strength and confidence to believe in myself. He was a wonderful buffer for me. He liked my passion and taught me to control my negativity and work on positive solutions. Take all that negativity and write it down. Throw it in a drawer and read it the next day. He was right. By the next day I could process it better, and think of much better solutions. I know I had been told all that before, but coming from Mike, it sank in, because I knew he cared. Now, go out there and "sizzle", he would say.
~Kathy Goss

My last words spoken to Mike: “I appreciate you.” Last words from Mike: “Remember, I picked you for my team. I picked you.”

What an honor to be part of his team and to play a role in the big canvas that he allowed us all to paint.
~Lisa Franceschi-Campbell

Mike personified the saying, 'It's amazing what you can accomplish, if you don't care who gets the credit." He was always promoting others, and that got others to accomplish much.
~Michael Duane Brown

Being on the staff of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce for 17 years was pure joy because of Mike McLaran. He believed strongly that TEAMWORK MAKES DREAMS WORK.... and he was absolutely right! Under his leadership, I feel our staff worked well together and were one of the closest knit groups you'll ever find. Our Monday morning staff meetings were fun, inspiring, encouraging and positive. The staff retreats were also important as we set new goals and visions for the Chamber. Life-long lessons were taught and learned in these meetings, and with the amazing leadership of our CEO, the Salem Chamber rose to great heights and received numerous awards and recognition throughout the entire Northwest and beyond.

It has been said that it's not what we have in our life, but WHO we have in our life that counts. I feel so blessed to have been a part of the Salem Chamber staff and work with a man who changed my life forever. My hope is that I can be the sort of friend and mentor that Mike was to me."
~Sharron Seideman

Mike was a big supporter of mine during my campaign in 2012 for HD 21.  He challenged me, encouraged me, and motivate me to be successful during my campaign.  He open doors where I would have never thought of opening, which gave me confidence in running for office.  I only knew Mike for a year, but it felt like I knew him my whole life.  I really looked at him as a brother, friend, and business partner.  When he talked, you listened to every word he said.  As a businessman, father, and husband, it is always great to hear and speak with a man like Mike, a Christian Man with strong faith, honesty, truthfulness, integrity, and promises that are genuine. I'm proud to be able to call him my friend.
~Dan Farrington

A few months ago, I found an old newspaper clipping that had an article about the Salem Chamber. Mike was quoted in it and I now have the quote in my office so that I can read it whenever I need to refocus my energies into putting the interests of others before myself.

"It is not what you do individually, but how well you facilitate the success of others."
~Madeline Nowell

We were created with two ears and one mouth. If Mike's true listening to talking ratio were accurately represented by his anatomy - he would have had many more ears.
~Nick Williams

Mike had a surreal ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the world and that it was his duty to lift you up and encourage you. The patience and commitment required for that level of focus separated him as a leader. Leadership is a journey like so many other things in life. Stronger focus, like that exhibited by Mike so consistently over the years, has the ability to make us all better people.
~Jason Brandt

Mike trusted those he worked with. He gave people jobs to do and trusted them to give their best effort,  That gave those who worked with Mike the encouragement and confidence to do and be their best.
~Myron Musick

 "If you have an appointment, be there early!" (Vince Lombardi time)  
~Dick Withnell

Have fun at what you do. Even dancing.
~Russ Rainwater

Mike exemplified that one can teach by example, and that by accentuating the strengths in a person, you enable them to work on their weaknesses and become the person they were meant to be.
~Cori Pratt

Grace under pressure. There is so much more power in keeping your eye on your rally cry than the obstacles that line the path to your goal.

In my life, knowing Mike more professionally than personally, he was a great leader of consistency. I think his message was able to be the same because he knew what he was about and what was important to him. So even through the wind tunnels and cement mixer situations he might have found himself in, his emotions were in check and his eye was on the prize.

It's my biggest weakness and I look FORWARD to creating this strength.
~Erin Molyneaux

If you noticed that the numbering in Follow You Anywhere skips from #9 to #11, here's why: Number 10 is this page. Number 10 is represented by all the lessons learned by the folks who contributed to this project. Number 10 is symbolic of the 10 years I got to work down the hall from Mike McLaran. The book is missing number 10, and I miss my 10 years with Mike. 

McLaranism: A More Graceful, Dignified Approach to Leadership

It's 4am. If it wasn't a Sunday morning, Mike McLaran would be getting ready to head to the gym for a workout. He joked on his 53rd birthday that he was 35. That was less than a month ago.

After working with Mike at the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce for a decade, I got to know some of his ways. I call them McLaranisms. Here are some of my favorites. Some of these are things he actually said, while others are my interpretation of how to be McLaranistic. I've already had to update this list five times now, as you McLaranizers remind me of others.

Diplomacy // The art of letting someone else have your way

Excellence // It's just a little bit more than greatness; a hard place to get to, and even harder to stay there

Team // Everyone has a role, and no role is more important than any other. No one can be great at their role if everyone isn't great at their role.

Champion // A title that comes with a target on your back. If you're not a contender, you're not part of the conversation.

Annual Review // Do you still love what you do here? Where do you want to be in 5 years? How can I help you get there?

Firing Employees // A failure of management to hire well and align his/her team's strengths

Teaching // A way to demonstrate that you have learned something

Servant Leadership // To publicly give credit to anyone who played a role in your hard work or achievements. Requires that you are willing to do, and capable of doing, anything you would ask of someone else.

Faith// Something you don't need to talk about if you live it

Dignity// What you preserve in others when you refuse to take anything but the high road

Blame// Something a leader takes for his/her team, even/especially when it has nothing to do with them. Never to be assigned to someone else.

Integrity // Something earned over decades but lost in a careless moment

Trust // Something you receive when you give it first

Love// When honesty and trust and selflessness are directed at another

Listening// Listen with your eyes and your ears will work better

Focus// Wherever you are, be there.

Promises// Keep them. See also: Integrity.

Crisis// Focus on issues, not personalities

Initiative // Reward it in others. We need people to start things and take risks. Support them. When it's your turn to initiate, they will join your army.

Patience // Seek first to understand, then to be understood. See also: Listening

Interruptions// Refuse to speak over anyone else, and never, ever, ever interrupt anyone else. See also: Listening

Silence // Sometimes it's the loudest thing in the room

Discipline // You can't lead others if you don't first manage yourself



It's yesterday.

I had missed several phone calls within 5 minutes from my best friend, Tom Hoffert. Spring weather was upon us and I was hoping he wanted to take the boat out, but even the boat was only worth one phone call.  I knew it wasn't going to be good as Tom delivered some tough news.

Mike had passed away. He was running at the time - something that gave him immense personal satisfaction.

Tom and I let ourselves in to Mike's house as we had done so many times before and were greeted by many tearful embraces. My tears still weren't coming.

Mike McLaran has been the greatest influence on my adult life since hiring me at the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce in June of 2001. In a meeting room full of agendas, egos, and hot-heads, it was always the purposeful silence of Mike McLaran that was the loudest. You can imagine how much louder his spoken words are in the lives of those who knew him.

When I was finishing my first book, REMEMBERSHIP, I was so excited to write the acknowledgements. I wrote one to him first of all, although I recall moving it to the end because he wouldn't approve of being first. His humility taught me everything.

At about the same time, I had given Mike a finished draft and told him that I couldn't publish it until I could get his feedback. I was so nervous. I should have called it Things Mike McLaran Taught Me or Allowed Me To Learn. I remember feeling nauseous about the idea that I might have stepped out from under the shadow that Mike provided. It was a huge, safe place, of course.

I regularly had dinner with Mike and Diane. Mike always finished the evening by asking me, "Is there anything I can be doing for you?" My response was always the same. "Mike, you've already done so much for me. I could never thank you enough for all you have given to me."

I'm so grateful that I emailed him one more thank you last week. His response:

Thank you for the note.  Always pay it forward.  We enjoyed something very special with our team at the chamber and we'll have that to build on for years to come.

When you make a difference in the lives of others and live your life to the fullest acknowledging God for the blessings he has provided you.....that is the best thanks of all.

You can imagine how emotional it was at Mike's house. We spent the evening with his wife, Diane, as we awaited the arrival of his daughter, Katie and her husband from Eugene, and his son, Chris, who went down to Albany to pick up his grandparents, Kathy and Chuck. I was sitting with friends of Mike's and mine -- all of them board members or former teammates at the Salem Chamber.

Look at this mess. All these thoughts and memories thrown together on a blog. What I really want to say is this... If you knew Mike and you are grieving, I beg you to teach others what he taught you. (And for crying out loud, spell his name right.) If you know me and not Mike, anything good about me has been polished and made presentable by Mike. I promise, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you can get some more McLaranisms.

You can't really be of help to someone else if your own tank is empty. My tank overflows from years of McLaranisms. They guide you in difficult times and push you to reach further in good times. Fill your tank with love and trust and integrity and selflessness and servant leadership and championship teams. When someone needs help, don't solve their problem for them. Give them a McLaranism instead. That way, you know you've actually learned it.

Mike's Mom, Kathy, was sitting alone in Mike's den looking at photos yesterday. I went in to give her a kiss on the cheek and thank her for giving us Mike. She asked if I was there to tell her it wasn't true. How do you comfort someone who just lost their child?

I saw Mike's warmth and kindness in her eyes as I replied: "Mike was the most Christ-like person I've ever met, and my life's work is to teach others what he taught me."

Ah, there they are: the tears I've been waiting for.

PHOTO: Mike McLaran receives an honorary doctorate from Corban University

Professional Bio of Mike McLaran

Mike McLaran is the founder of McLaran Enterprises, a leadership development firm based in Salem, Oregon.

Mike has served as a CEO of Chambers in Oregon for over twenty years. For over sixteen years, he headed the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.  During his tenure, the Chamber has grown from a membership of 860 to the current membership of nearly 1300.  Prior to coming to Salem, Mike served as the CEO of the Albany, Oregon Chamber of Commerce where he helped establish the Chamber as a highly respected leadership organization.  He has served as President of the Oregon Chamber Executives and helped lead efforts to establish the importance of Chambers engaging in the political arena to advocate for business.  He is a past-chair of the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce’s efforts in governmental affairs and was a Director on the Board. Mike is also a Past-President of the Northwest Chambers Leaders Conference and is continually asked back to lead and facilitate workshops for both professional and volunteer leaders.

Mike’s community involvement is extensive. He has served as the campaign chairman for both the United Way of Linn County and for the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. He served as a director on the board of the Salem Leadership Foundation, is a member of the Salem Downtown Rotary Club and serves on the program committee, served as a Trustee on the Salem Hospital Board and works with the Cascade Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He has been and continues to be involved in numerous committees, task forces and advisory councils and was recently part of the team that helped Salem “win” a 30 million dollar Kroc Community Center.  He was recognized as Albany’s Jr. First Citizen in 1993, Chamber Executive of the Year in 1997, and received the Russell E. Pettit Excellence in Leadership Award, among many others.

A graduate of the University of Oregon in the field of Business Management, Mike also is a graduate of a six-year program in Organization Management held at UCLA.  Mike has used his experience in business and organizational management to move organizations to new levels of excellence.


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