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Thursday, December 31, 2015


In his book titled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2011) Donald Miller makes the case that we edit our own lives, we write our own stories.  To be sure, things happen to us in life that are beyond our control.  Generally, however, we have the power to be who we want to be, proceed as we want to proceed, and react to prosperity/adversity as we wish.  We do, in fact, "edit" our lives.

We will continue writing the story of our lives tomorrow.  As such, we usually hang a sort of esteemed status on the new year's dawning, christening it with the specialness of a clean slate.  Indeed, yet we have that same opportunity with the dawn of each new day.

The authors of the best stories (both the literary kind and the life-story kind) do their writing with an eye in both directions.  They connect with the pages/chapters past fluidly as they craft the pages/chapters future.  Knowing they can't unwrite the pages already published, they are fully aware that they can take the next pages/chapters in any direction they wish.

Here's to writing the next pages/chapters as you wish them to be.  

Happy New Life!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I recently read What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker (2012).  This is a second edition; I read the original version back around 2004.  

In this work TW outlines 18 tangible attributes he identifies as blue-chip qualities of great principals, from his decades of research.  

My biggest takeaways, from a book that is chock full of great thoughts:

  • It's the people, not the programs, that make the real difference in successful schools/organizations.
  • Be ultra visible and ultra accessible.
  • Hire the people you want your organization to become, not the ones who fit the organization as it is. 
  • Refuse to let hot-button issues or inconsequential urgencies distract us from what matters most.
  • Focus first on behaviors; beliefs will follow.
  • Base organizational decisions (e.g., schedules, rules, protocols, guidelines, expectations) on the best employees, not the worst ones. 
  • Ignore minor errors.
  • Behavior and beliefs are implicately tied to emotion.  

My favorite quote:
"Every principal has an impact.  Great principals make a difference." (p. 141) 

TW's thinking regarding principals adapts nicely to leadership in general, germane regardless of organizational setting.  Glad I read this book (again). 

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Colin Powell (former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and former U.S. Secretary of State) refers to what he calls "force multipliers."  These are strategies we can use that accelerate or intensify the impact of an action/campaign/initiative.  Think of them as steroids for impact.   

According to David Rock (2008) there are certain similar factors that allow us to magnify our ability to influence others.  By reducing the sensation of threat and at the same time leveraging the nuanced impression of reward we can enhance our influence via five domains:

Status - making others feel more important
Certainty - removing as much uncertainty about the future as possible
Autonomy - giving others as much control of their own work/destiny as possible
Relatedness - fostering a sense of safety
Fairness - cultivating an environment of equity and fair exchange

Using this SCARF model, we make it easier for others to trust us.  Sort of like steroids for influence.  

Or, to channel General Powell, influence multipliers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Fire is...
what warms us when we're cold.
what we use to cook much of our food.
how we incinerate stuff we don't want around anymore.
what we do when we discharge a weapon.
when we terminate someone's employment.

Fire is a tool for our use (both in its noun and verb forms).  As with all tools, we get to decide whether that use is for purposes good or bad.

Metaphorically, fire is what burns deep inside of us, providing the passionate connection to our goals, our dreams, and the ones we love.

That metaphorical fire can and often does go out, but only if we quit purposefully stoking it.

Still, the choice is ours.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Most of us encounter artful dodgers as we work in or volunteer for organizations of some kind.

What do artful dodgers look like?  They avoid...

  • making substantive decisions.
  • owning the decisions they do make.
  • having tough conversations.
  • sharing the praise/glory/kudos.
  • the messy but meaningful work that occurs on the front lines.
  • change when it's evident that change is needed.
  • the explosion, once they've lit the fuse.

The worst of the artful dodgers are those who happen to occupy positions of leadership.  

While we can't completely avoid the artful dodgers, we can most certainly avoid being like them.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015


I've committed every one of the leadership mistakes in the list below:

  • Talking too much and listening too little
  • Trying to "fix" the weaknesses of others rather than leveraging their strengths
  • Deploying too many initiatives at one time
  • Believing flattery
  • Noticing only the bad stuff
  • Attempting to resolve conflict through email
  • Allowing uncertainty to prevent progress
As I abandoned each, slowly but surely, our results got increasingly better.

Still got work to do, but knowing what doesn't work is a good start.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Distrust causes us to...

  • View others warily, as if they have malicious intent.
  • Act in defensive ways in the interest of self-protection.
  • Limit our communications.
  • Bureaucratize processes/rules/structures that constrain others.
  • Engage others with skepticism and apprehension.
  • Refrain from letting ourselves care.
  • Live in a state of disquiet and foreboding.
Distrust tends to restrict our vision, our level of communication, our productivity, our connectedness, and our happiness.  

Generally, distrust makes us less than we can/should be.  We are better served, both personally and organizationally, when we extend distrust only to those who have proven they deserve it.

Trust is by far the better default setting 
(unless we like living in of world constant anxiety and suspicion). 

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Change is not discomforting to me.  I've come to accept change as the norm.

Change continually happens around us, in the form of technological advances, political winds, social arrangements, fashion trends, and the like.

Sometimes, however, I feel the need to change me.  That need usually springs from one of the following:
  • A desire to be/get better, somehow.
  • The realization that I've been wrong in some way, and need to rectify it.
  • The need to adapt to evolving external factors.
Two questions drive my decision to change me:
  1. Is there concrete and irrefutable evidence that I need to change?
  2. Will I be a better servant to others as a result of the change?
Emotion and social trends are not sufficient to trigger change effort in me.  The need must be something deeper and more substantive.  

Well-intentioned change makes us better (which is a good thing).

Monday, December 14, 2015


I recently read Business Secrets from the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin (2014). 

In this book, Rabbi Lapin outlines 40 "business secrets" that he believes are rooted in scripture.  He often references "ancient wisdom" as he makes the case that working for and attaining wealth is a good and holy thing. 

My biggest takeaways from the book:
  • Worthy work, and the money that flows toward it, is always premised on serving others. 
  • Faith drives both religion and commerce.
  • We are meant to work and commune others.
  • The greatest gift we can give is to do something good for another person's children.
  • We are ALL in business, serving customers (which is sometimes our employer).
  • Success is a direct function of self-discipline, integrity, and character.
  • Culture and language shape one another.
  • Time is inextricably tied to speech and music.
  • The two primary means of making money are creation and transport.
My favorite of his "business secrets":
  • Secret #7: Focus on other people's needs and desires, and you will never, ever be short of what you yourself desire and need.
  • Secret #9: We love the people whom we help more than we love those who help us. 
  • Secret #10: Life isn't about what you know - it's about who you are.
  • Secret #18: The importance of service is that you cannot lead if you cannot follow.
  • Secret #33: Don't live beyond your means - give beyond your means. 
My favorite quote:

"At the end of the day, what we know means nothing; it is who we are, what we do, that matters."  (p. 73)
A provocative read.  Thanks for the recommendation, TC/DC.    

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Damage and destruction occur at the hand of saboteurs.  Sometimes that harmful work is done quite intentionally.  Other times, however, it is the product of the unwitting.

Tools of Willful Sabotage (via the ill-intentioned)
  • Insistence on adherence to the rules/processes - slavery to the letter of the law
  • Pervasive use of committees
  • Talking "it" to death
  • Introducing distractors - taking focus off the vision
  • Incessant word smithing
  • Constant rehashing of past decisions
  • Being stuck on the starting line - reluctance to say "GO!"
  • Aversion to ownership
  • Continual permission seeking

Tools of Unwitting Sabotage (via the well-intentioned)
  • Insistence on adherence to the rules/processes - slavery to the letter of the law
  • Pervasive use of committees
  • Talking "it" to death
  • Introducing distractors - taking focus off the vision
  • Incessant word smithing
  • Constant rehashing of past decisions
  • Being stuck on the starting line - reluctance to say "GO!"
  • Aversion to ownership
  • Continual permission seeking
There are some rather obvious similarities, no?  Regardless of the motivations, sabotage is sabotage.  And saboteurs are saboteurs, irrespective of intentions.

Constantly reflecting on what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how we might do it better can help us avoid the sabotage trap (both of the ill- and the well-intentioned varieties).  

It's the only way to improve, continuously.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


One of my favorite songs is titled "Little Folks," written and recorded by Charlie Daniels.

This time of year always heightens my awareness of the need to model the best of human attributes for those young people whose eyes perpetually follow us.  

Attributes like... 
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Patience
  • Positivity
  • Courage
  • Kindness
  • Gratefulness
  • Respectfulness
  • Love (expressed and manifested)
  • Forgiveness (offered and accepted)
  • Faithfulness (to each other and to the God of our understanding)
While this season is known for giving, what better gifts could we give the "little folks" in our lives than to teach them the ways of right living, as embodied in those attributes above?

"Little folks are people, too; very much like me and you." 
(Per the song referenced at the top of this post.)  

Indeed.  They become us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


We can transcend...

our biases,
our weaknesses,
our learned prejudices,
our preconceived notions,
our blind spots of ignorance.

But only if we're willing.

Willing to learn, that is.

Monday, December 7, 2015


Am I...

  • stronger than I was yesterday (physically, emotionally, intellectually)?
  • more knowledgeable than I was last week?
  • more empathetic toward others than I was last month?
  • more inclined to serve than I was last year?
  • more loving and forgiving than I have ever been?
  • less judgmental than I have ever been in my life?
  • closer, somehow, to the God of my understanding than I was in the last hour?
An answer of "no" to any of those questions calls for a bit more polishing.

I'm on it.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Hereafter is one word, not two.

The HERE is part of the AFTER.

This moment is part and parcel of our future.  Any aspirations, planned changes, or dreams we have for that future start now.  
Planning to get better later doesn't work.

Self/Organizational improvement is actionable and appropriate in this moment, and it continues ad infinitum.  

Continuous improvement is a way of thinking which drives the way we act/react.

Here, now, and after.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Diversity adds richness - diversity in thought, diversity in age, diversity in maturity, diversity in skin color, diversity in expertise, diversity in gifts, diversity in political leanings, diversity in religious inclinations.  

Diversity, however, does not necessarily imply strength.  

Strength comes from unity, unified effort around a noble and worthy vision.

The best leaders (and the ones, unfortunately, that are hardest to find) are the ones that encourage us to celebrate our diversity and teach us how to respect our differences, yet have the ability to help us see the better future we can create through coalescing around that vision.  

That kind of leader is worth more than his/her weight in gold.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


My friend and wellness advisor, Dr. Roby Mitchell, is fond of saying, "Consequence is no coincidence."

RM's assertion is spot on.  Our habits guide our behavior, every day, in small ways and large.

From our daily hygiene routines to the way we read newspapers/newsfeeds to the order in which we eat our food to the processes we use to organize our schedules, all are driven by habits.  In most cases, there's not a right or wrong way to do such things.  For instance, there's not a correct way to shave our faces/legs, but each of us has a habitual process by which we accomplish the task.

Some habits, however, are far more consequential than the routine ones noted above.  When it comes to our health, our spiritual state, the nutrition we choose to consume, our intellectual growth, the "rules of engagement" we use when interacting with others both professionally and personally, our habits have far greater impact on our happiness, success, and wellbeing.  

Can we change our habits?  You bet!  First, we gotta want to.

To be certain, "Consequence is no coincidence."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


On purpose.
The purpose behind.
The purpose of.

Purpose gives our efforts meaning and direction.

We can pick worthy purpose(s), or we can surrender to the bogus and/or hollow.

Purpose is like the lighthouse that guides a ship through storms, darkness, and fog.  It keeps us "steady" when circumstances dictate uncertainty. 

Purpose is not as much the end we seek as it is the direction we choose.

And, yes, we get to choose.