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Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Human capital, by definition, is the sum effect that humans contribute to the productivity of an organization - things like skills, knowledge, habits, social and interpersonal prowess.

Usually, human capital is discussed as just one mechanical piece in the larger organizational structure.  The organization is thought of in terms of parts and pieces - schedules, supply lines, organizational charts, human capital, infrastructure, strategic plans, capital outlay, etc.

Wrong way to think about it.

Oft forgotten (or ignored, or dismissed) is the fact that organizations are systems, much like the human body is a system.  And, it's the humans in the system that give it life, much like the blood in a human body.  The humans in the system flow in and out and between and among all the other "pieces" (the cells/organs/systems of the organization).  In the process, they transport the nutrients, the oxygen, the disease fighters, and ... even the toxins.

In that respect, the body's (i.e., the organization's) health is not only the direct beneficiary of the human capital, the human capital is the direct beneficiary of the collective, systemic wellness of the body (i.e., the organization).  This symbiotic relationship is what we often call "culture."  The humans feed the culture which feeds the humans which feeds the culture which...  

My point:  Wellness (individual or organizational) is a physical thing, an intellectual thing, an emotional thing, and a spiritual thing.  All in one, all at once, all intertwined.  It is the sum of the knowledge, the skills, the thinking processes, the physical fitness, the peace, the love, the rituals, the nutrition, the learning, the dispositions, the improvements, the interactions,... of the WHOLE.

ONLY when the humans in the organization are holistically healthy and well can the organization be healthy and well.  When they are, then the culture of the organization synergistically fosters more healthy and more well humans.

It's a reciprocal and recursive thing.  The role of leaders is to attend to the health and wellbeing of both.

Monday, March 30, 2015


What guides our thinking when things are going great?  What stipulates our reactions when we're under duress or dealing with difficulty.  What guides our behavior when no one else is watching?


Our character is our default setting.  When we reboot, our character is ground zero, the place we start from.

So, how is character fashioned?  It's the result of several things:
  • The values we were raised with.
  • The influence of consequential others in/on our lives.
  • The choices we personally make regarding our beliefs.
What are the indicators of our character?
  • Love - how we display it, how we receive it.
  • Self-control - how we regulate ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
  • Integrity - how we align our actions to our beliefs and words.
  • Optimism - how we see, and work toward, a better tomorrow.
  • Humility - how we acknowledge and accept our own frailty.
  • Courage - how we fare in the face of opposition.
  • Respectfulness - how we view and treat others.
  • Spiritual groundedness - how we seek and represent the God of our understanding.
Is our character set in concrete?  Nope.  Just like our golf swing, our reading habits, our morning routines, and our nutrition regimen, our character is, in effect, the habitual manifestation of choices we make.

While character is our default setting, we have the power to determine what those settings are.  And, we have the power to change them if we like.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Strategies are the plans we craft to accomplish our goals.

Too many strategies and inertia sets in.  Too few strategies suggests our goals may be too simplistic.  To channel Goldilocks, what we're looking for when crafting strategies is just the right number that will engage us and our team fully without overwhelming us, that will keep us focused on our vision, that are tightly aligned to our mission, and that move us in substantive ways toward our goals.

Two things that should never be part of our palette of strategies:  hope and panic.  

I've written about the futility of hoping for good outcomes before, here.  And, Rudy Guiliani says, "...hope is not a strategy."  Agreed.

Panic never produces positive results, either.  In his book Quiet Strength, Tony Dungy quotes former Pittsburgh Steeler head coach Chuck Noll:  "Leaving the game plan is a sign of panic, and panic is not our game plan."  Indeed.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Time is the most precious and finite resource we have.

Dishonoring the time of others is one of the most disrespectful things we can do.

Yet, we see that dishonoring happen all the time.  Like this:

  • Scheduling meetings for meetings sake, with nothing substantive to address.
  • Showing up late for appointments.
  • Creating and delegating "busy work," simply to fill up time.
  • Engaging in long diatribes in response to straightforward questions.
  • Starting meetings/events late and/or letting them run long.
  • Interrupting one conversation (or phone call) to engage in another.
  • Cold calling (showing up without an appointment).
  • Being thoughtless of the time/effort/energy that another invest.
  • Showing up unprepared.
Note to self:  Respect the time of others as if it were my own.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


We see it all the time, everywhere.  Those charged with enforcing laws/rules/regulations stridently uphold some and seemingly look the other way on others.

Why does this happen?

  • Often the sheer number of laws/rules/regulations make enforcement of them an overwhelming impossibility.  Cases in point: the U.S. tax code, environmental protection regs, student handbooks in schools, etc. 
  • Sometimes the enforcer(s) fundamentally disagree the with the laws/rules/regulations.  Been there, done that.
  • Occasionally the enforcer(s) can be bribed or extorted.  Sometimes they get caught, but rarely.
Almost always, those that create the laws/rules/regulations aren't responsible for their enforcement (and don't want to be).

Enforcement is a tricky and unpleasant business, especially when the laws/rules/regulations seem trivial or downright senseless.

As long as we insist on having pages, tomes, volumes, of laws/rules/regulations, we're going to have selective enforcement.  

And, injustice. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I've owned lots of dogs over the years, every kind from St. Bernards to Chihuahuas.

Chihuahuas are tiny little creatures (usually house dogs) that have the unique ability to be extremely annoying.  They bark, nip, hop, gnaw, and growl in a persistent way that it drives one crazy.  (Yep, I know I'm probably offending Chihuahua lovers.) They're not particularly dangerous, yet they have the uncanny ability to demand one's attention.

In life we often encounter other humans who have the same effect; I call it the "Chihuahua Factor."  Annoying, persistent, noisy, nerve-grating, but mostly ineffectual.  Except for the fact that they constantly demand our attention.  

Maybe we shouldn't let them.  Distractions are only such when we allow them to be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


We see exploitation occurring everyday.  Exploitation is irresponsibly and unfairly using/misusing/abusing other humans or natural resources.

Here are some examples:

  • Senseless consumption of natural resources.
  • Taking credit for the work of others.
  • Hubris in all its forms.
  • Abuse - physical, mental, emotional, and social.
  • Insider trading.
  • Bullying.

Our responsibility as humans?
Our existence in this universe calls upon us to fully respect the time, bodies, personness, and space of others, and to dance symbiotically with Nature as if our very lives depend on Her (because they do).

One more thing: We must object overtly to exploitation when we see it.  To not do so is to condone it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Viewing life through the windshield instead of the rearview mirror is the healthiest way to live.

"Let go them chains you been draggin' around" is a powerful lyrical expression, written by one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Jordan Price, in his song Forever Takes You.  

In that line he implies that there is no value in carrying our burdens around with us every minute of every day.  Perseverating on mistakes/miscues/regret from choices past has no redeeming value and only serves to weigh us down.  Not only that, but carrying those burdens needlessly constrains our ability to achieve, even to function reasonably well, into the future.  

There are really only two worthwhile reasons to "look back":
  1. Reflect on the work/lives/legacy of consequential others who preceded us.
  2. Learn from the past.
One of the most predominant toxins of "chain dragging" is a refusal to forgive.

Let us forgive, ourselves and others.  "Let go them chains."  Live well.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


The "system and cast of characters" that told us for decades that:
  • Fluoride in our public water systems was good for us.
  • Vioxx was a safe and life-saving drug.
  • Eggs should be eliminated from our diets.
  • Assured us that Fen-Phen, Ephedra, and a whole list of other weight loss drugs were perfectly safe.
  • Statin drugs are helpful, even necessary, for about half of us.
  • We should eliminate natural fats from our diets.
  • Artificial sweeteners were perfectly safe.
  • Flu vaccines are pervasively efficacious deterrents.
  • Corporations that create android crops should be able to successfully sue neighboring farmers whose natural crops were cross-pollinated with the "alien" crops.
  • Margarine is better for us than butter.
  • Protects manufacturers and policy makers from liability lawsuits if their vaccines, in fact, do harm.
  • (Though I could go on and on, I'll curtail the list in the interest of brevity.)
now presumes to demonize those of us who are a bit skeptical.

It turns out that those public health policy decisions were built on faulty assumptions and dubious science.  In most cases, the system and the cast of characters simply say "Oops, we goofed," and conveniently divorce themselves from the pain and suffering and loss and funerals of those adversely affected by those policies.

In each of the historical scenarios I referenced above, money changed hands as a result of those policy decisions (LOTS of money), and conflicts of interests were rampant (and still are).  Virtually all one-size-fits-all policies turn out to be fatally flawed, literally.

That same system and cast of characters is now telling us that it is wise public policy to give 69 vaccinations to our children (49 by age 6 and 20 more by age 18). 69! Really?

Even today, there is legislation pending in several states that would eliminate the right of parents to "just say no" to the proliferation of vaccines. 

I'm not a physician.  I'm not a public policy expert.  I'm not even a health researcher (by credentials, that is).  I'm not even interested in debating the efficacy of vaccines.  I do, however, care deeply about my health, the health of my family, and the health of the communities I serve and live in.

And, I am an unapologetic cynic (especially in light of the evidence noted at the top of this post), when it comes to public policy that robs ANY of us of the freedom to make our own decisions about our "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (which includes our health).  

Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, 1932) is looking more prophetic all the time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I often get asked by mentees, "At what point do you give up on folks and fire them?"

First, I still believe patience is a virtue, though I have been accused of being too patient from time to time.  Guilty, as accused.

Terminating someone is not a fun activity, any way you slice it.  It is painful for both the firer and the firee.  The firing process takes years off the lives of each, and generates tons of stress for both. However, from time to time, it's a necessary evil.

My decision points for that conclusion lie in the answers to two questions I ask myself about that employee:

  1. Is he/she able to get better?
  2. Is he/she willing to get better, at a speed I can live with?
If the answer to both questions is "yes," then that employee gets my redoubled effort to help them get better, or to reassign them to a position that better fits their skills set.

If the answer to either of those questions is "no," then I begin to diligently coax/coach/entice/encourage that person to seek employment elsewhere.  Notice that I didn't say I would immediately fire them.

Firing only occurs when all means of a separation that affords both parties a modicum of dignity have been exhausted.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Authenticity suggests that we are what we proclaim to be.  It implies a genuineness about us.  Those are good things.  Authenticity, however, is subject to perception, to image management, to illusion.  It is not at all difficult to appear authentic, yet not be.  This machination is successfully deployed rather frequently by politicians, con artists, salesmen, and leaders of all stripes.

Integrity, on the other hand, goes beyond suggestion and implication. It is the proof in the pudding.  Integrity is the consistent manifestation of trustworthiness, the unwavering alignment of our actions with our words.  Integrity is the dependable and consistent enactment of our espoused beliefs, values, and tenets.

Authenticity is about depiction.  Integrity is about conviction.

Authenticity can be faked.  Integrity can't.

Integrity trumps authenticity.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


The late Stephen Covey noted in his 2004 book, The 8th Habit, that early in his life he felt absolutely ignorant.  SC describes being overwhelmed by all that he didn't know, feeling as if there was always a cloud of "ignorance" overshadowing what he did know.  Kinda like this:

Thus, SC set out on a mission dedicated to overcoming that umbrella of ignorance, by learning as much as he could.  As that learning journey unfolded, this was the reality he found instead:

Did he learn much more?  You bet.  But the main thing he learned was that the more you learn, the more there is to know.

That's the world I live in.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I've been there (far more times than I'm happy to admit).  Maybe you have, too.  
Burned out.

Here are some classic indicators of those who fight the overachiever monster:

  • We think that the only way "it will happen" is if we make it happen.
  • We hyper focus on tasks and productivity.
  • We go without sleep, in order to keep all our "projects" moving.
  • We let our diet and exercise play second fiddle to our "responsibilities."
  • We feel that the answer to every request for help should be "yes."
  • We sacrifice our personal growth to the idol of efficiency.
  • We tend to let relationships suffer at the expense of getting stuff done.

Don't get me wrong.  It's OK to be dependable, capable, resilient, committed, tenacious, and busy.  The problem arises when we make ourselves "sick" in the doing.  That "illness" can be manifested in our physical and/or emotional and/or intellectual and/or spiritual and/or social lives.

The difference in being effective and not being effective lies along a razor-thin line.  On the good side of that line we find the Nirvana of "balance," on the other side the Hades of "imbalance."

Some strategies that help:

  • Toggle between tasks and relational interactions (at least every 90 minutes).
  • Eat slow meals (of healthy food), sitting down, with someone(s) you like or love.
  • Read, listen to, or watch something that makes you think/grow, everyday.  
  • Exercise a little, somehow, every day (can be as simple as walking the parking lot during a break).
  • Get outside for a least a little bit, daily (the sun and fresh air are immensely healing).
  • STOP long enough to commune somehow with the God of your understanding - from which values spring and are fed.
If you're like me, this is a daily struggle.  Nobody else can find balance for us.  

Happy balancing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


One of my mentors, Joe, describes himself as being the product of many fine folks who taught, coached, and mentored him through life.  Aa Joe says, "Those folks left their fingerprints all over me."  

The conveyance of principles, values, mindset, knowledge, skills, and experience is embedded in the process of mentoring.  We all have the "fingerprints" of others all over us.  And, we all leave our "fingerprints" on others.  Intentionally...........or not.

Our greatest contribution is leaving our "fingerprints" on those we leave behind, namely our children and grandchildren (and beyond).  Call it mentoring, call it legacy, call it the circle of life.

And, as is the nature of fingerprints, we each get to do that in an absolutely unique way.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Lucy "had a little age on her," but she had a remarkable ability to connect with students 40-50 years younger than her, especially those who were marginalized.  I was blessed to have worked with this wonderful school counselor for four years.

Lucy died quite unexpectedly, a shock to us all.  A memorial service was held in a 1500-seat auditorium, almost every seat taken.  Any and all were invited to say a few words of tribute to Lucy.  Long lines of eulogists, ranging in age from 14 to 70+, formed down both sides of the auditorium to access the microphones on each side of the stage.  All spoke emotionally, most through tears and tightened throats, of the impact Lucy had made on their lives.

But then...

A gorgeous young woman (30ish?) stepped to the microphone and described her transfer as a 9th grader into the high school in which Lucy worked.  The young lady told of her anxiety, the unfortunate circumstances of her life at that time, her fears and paranoia about entering a new school, and the challenging family situation that caused her to be withdrawn and insecure.  Lucy took this freshman girl under her wing, nurtured her, supported her, coaxed her out of her shell.  Lucy, in the words of this young woman, had rescued her from the depths of despair.  The young woman noted that Lucy often introduced her to others as "the girl that will sing at my funeral." 

The young woman shared with us that she had moved on in life, finished college, was fully absorbed in a professional career and family life, when she saw in the newspaper that Lucy had passed away.  She and Lucy had been out of touch for many years.  But, the young lady said that she knew, as soon as she saw the obituary, that she MUST attend Lucy's memorial service and that she MUST fulfill Lucy's prophesy.

The young woman then launched, a cappella, into the most beautiful rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" that I have ever heard.  Three thousand wet eyes and 1500 heavy hearts knew, without doubt, that we were hearing the voice of one of Lucy's angels, one Providentially dispatched to sing Lucy home.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Who controls you, at the most fundamental level?

Not your boss.
Not your banker.
Not your spouse.
Not your children.
Not your publisher.

Whomever is supplying your food, OWNS YOU!

"If the people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in a sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny." - Thomas Jefferson

As in virtually every aspect of our lives, we get to choose.

And in the case of food, we can own ourselves.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


I recently read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014).  

AD weaves a fictional story of several German and French citizens whose lives get intertwined during World War II.  He did a lovely job of establishing subplots around several well-developed and interesting characters (ranging from a blind French teenage girl to a German Army officer battling prostate cancer).  AD then skillfully blended those individual stories into the common space-time of the bombing of St.-Malo, France, at the end of the war.  

Not only was the story compelling (though quite dark), it was beautifully written.  The word smithing and imagery were simply superb.  The "lit geeks" will love this one.

This was my first encounter with AD’s writing, but it won’t be my last (I hope).

Monday, March 2, 2015


A fundamental process in the human body is that of metabolism.  It the set of chemical reactions and interactions that occur in our bodies that cause us to move, to grow, to digest food, to expend energy, to absorb nutrients, to reproduce, to heal.  Metabolism can be observed at the cellular level and at the level of our organs and at the level of our systems.

In effect, metabolism is a process of taking inputs and converting them to outputs.  We take in, then metabolize, air, food, water, minerals, etc. The quality of the performance of our bodies is directly attributable to the quality of the inputs that get metabolized.

Enough of the anatomy and physiology lesson.  Now, allow me to provoke your thinking.

We also metabolize experience.  Yep.  Our mind and our spirits absorb experiences of all kinds and metabolize them.  As with the physical stuff, the resulting quality of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual performance is directly connected to the quality of the inputs.  

So, what we read, who we associate with, what we listen to, how we move, the way we worship ALL MATTER.  Good stuff in, good stuff out.  

Chew on that for awhile (pun intended).

Sunday, March 1, 2015


You may or may not believe in hell.  This post is not intended to trigger an existential debate.  Believer or not, you probably have a good idea of what the word "hell" means conceptually.

Hell is suggests a state of eternal discomfort, endless pain, infinite sorrow and unhappiness.  Add to that the spiritual implication of perpetual separation from the God of your understanding.

BUT WAIT!  You may know some folks who seem to reside in hell while still living here on Earth. 

Here are some of the indications that lead me to believe they simply prefer to live in hell:

  • They live in (or create) a perpetual storm, for themselves and others.
  • They refuse to be happy, with anything or anyone.
  • They believe the universe is conspiring against them.
  • They feel that they never get their "fair share," as if it is somehow deserved.
  • They display consistent meanness and extend only conditional kindness.
  • The neighborhood of hell's occupants is not one most of us want to live in.
While the verdict on my eternal dwelling place is probably still out, I think I'll spend what time I have remaining on "this side" NOT living in hell.  

It's a choice, you know.