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Welcome to nc’s blog. Read, comment, interact, engage. Let’s learn together - recursively.

Friday, July 29, 2016


Leadership development is not the responsibility of the human resource department.  It is the responsibility of the current leadership team.  We cannot abdicate the job of building the capacity of our organization's next generation of leaders, whether that organization be our family, our church, our charitable organization, our business, or our nation.

The work of attending to leadership succession is not only a fundamental responsibility of current leaders, it is also an amazing opportunity to shape the future culture and impact of our organization(s).  And, since most of us belong to multiple organizations that are nested within one another, that overlap with one another, that are intertwined with one another, and that are juxtaposed to one another, that development of future leaders is significant and consequential.

Thus, the very intentional and deliberate development of our children, our volunteers, our teachers, our sergeants, our sales people, our ........., will make all the difference in the world for them as individuals, and for the future of our organizations, and to the world that will evolve beyond our passing.

Notice that the root word of succession is success.  Time to reflect, revisit, and revise our role in this critically important process. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016


I recently read Texas, a historical novel by James. A Michener (1985).  "Recently" may be a bit misleading.  Since the book was 1076 pages long, I did, in fact, finish it recently, but started it quite some time back. ;-)

This novel traces the history of Texas from its first inhabitants up through the early 1980s.  JM taught me quite a lot about Texas history that I didn't learn in school.  The work maps the earliest efforts at settling by the Spaniard, then takes us through the advent of nationhood, statehood, the Civil War, cotton king status, ranching, oil, and, of course, Texas high school football.  JM weaves all these themes into the tale by tracing several generations of a few founding families. 

A good work.  I'm glad I read it.  If you decide to read it, set aside some time. 

Monday, July 25, 2016


Words matter.  

Actions matter more.

Words matched with actions matter even more.

When our words don't match our actions, it creates cognitive dissonance in those within our sphere of influence.  Thus, they discount our message, or worse, lose respect for us.

When our words and actions are aligned, it indicates a sense of integrity and reliability to those within our sphere of influence.

As leaders, when substantial word-action integrity is coupled with intentional pursuit of a better future together, magic happens.  Call it resonance.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Most of us have witnessed in wonderment the voracious learning of infants and toddlers.  They are virtual sponges of learning.  Similarly, we see children enter the primary grades of school eager to acquire new knowledge and skills, sponging up the learning at warp speed.  
Children somehow seem to lose their zest for learning as they move through the normal and formal schooling processes.  (I've argued for years that we educator types are culpable in that de-energizing of the learning desire - but that is for another conversation.)  

As children graduate high school most move into the world of work (becoming a slave to the almighty dollar) or the world of college, then work (eventually becoming a slave to the almighty dollar).  In both instances, the associated trend seems to be a relentless diminishment of enthusiasm for learning.

There are exceptions, however.  You know them.  They're the ones who are always dabbling in something new, tinkering in a field for which they were not trained, struggling to learn a new language, taking on roles that push them way out of their comfort zones, exposing themselves to experiences/people that are novel and stimulating.  

It is great fun to engage with those forever sponges.  They inspire us to keep on learning, too.

Possible epitaph:  "Sponge, to the very end."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The Pareto Principle (aka, the 80-20 Rule) is a cause-effect theorem that suggests 80 percent of outcomes/effects are the result of 20 percent of causes.  For instance, 80 percent of the income in many businesses can be shown to be generated by only 20 percent of the clients.  Another:  80 percent of crimes are committed by 20 percent (or less) of the population.  A similar 80-20 distribution between cause and effects has been documented in many natural phenomena.

John Maxwell, a prominent speaker and writer on the topic of leadership, suggests that leaders should aim to spend 80 percent of their time with the 20 percent of the members who are most likely to move an organization toward its goals.  I've actually deployed this practice as an organizational leader, with very satisfactory results.

Similarly, numerous holistic physicians assert that our health is premised on 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise.  I have altered my thinking and personal habits accordingly in this area as well, with remarkably positive outcomes.  This approach is quite contrary to what I practiced for over 40 years of my adult life, grounded in the belief that enough exercise would assure my health and allow me to eat anything I wanted.  I now know I had it completely backwards.

A provocation:  What are the health and performance possibilities for each of us, and our families, if we were to fully adopt a holistic wellness approach of eating nothing but healthy, nutrient-dense food, coupled with a moderate but sustained exercise regimen?

Friday, July 15, 2016


If feels just so darned good to be right, huh?

When, after the debate, the comparing of data, the argumentation of "the facts," our declaration of position, it is so gratifying to have "won" in the arena of comparative analytics.

Time, then, to break out the champagne, to celebrate our rightness, to take that victory lap, to high-five our alike thinkers.

There's a gnawing problem, however.  I can't remember a single time that I've proudly and bombastically proven someone else wrong that has paid long-lasting benefits when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship with that other.

Please don't misunderstand.  It's okay to make a reasoned case, to state our position, to be clear about our beliefs, to joust in the arena of ideas.  It's just not helpful (now or in the future) to make other people feel less for not sharing our position.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Those in leadership positions bear the blessing/curse of having weight attached to their words.  The very essence of leadership can be equated to skills in communicating.  Leaders communicate in lots of ways, but words are the most typical vehicle of influence. 

What are some key concepts that leaders should keep in mind as they fashion their influential words?  For your consideration:

  • Be precise and be succinct.  Much muddled mush obscures actionable meaning.
  • Speak always in terms of we/us, not I/me.
  • If you don't (or can't) mean the words, don't say them.  Disingenuousness is easily detected.
  • Connect with the audience, somehow; it is best done through stories.
  • Be measured and calm in delivery.  Bombast and emotion are discomforting.
  • Lift up, don't tear down.
  • Paint the picture of a better future.
Words wisely chosen can affect much good.  (The converse is true as well.)

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Sometimes the work of improvement (whether personal, organizational, or societal) seems to verge on the impossible.  The pounds just won't come off.  The hours in the day are too few.  The organizational culture seems intractable.  The partisanship persistently supercedes righteous thinking and action.  The *%&$ed grasshoppers eat all the plants (the current permaculture dilemma for Moe and me here on the ranch).  It feels as if we're trying to achieve the impossible, like trying to move Mt. Everest. 

BUT WAIT!  Mt. Everest is, in fact, moving.  According to China's National Administration of Surveying, Mapping, and Geoinformation, Mt. Everest moves about 4 centimeters every year.  It quickly moved 3 centimeters as result of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Heard this old adage?  "The difficult we do at once; the impossible just takes longer."

Why not?  If Mt. Everest can move, perhaps we can too.  On to betterness!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


There is a difference between image-protecting folks and image-managing folks.  

The image-protectors are adept at taking advantage of situations to protect or embellish their image.  They readily caste blame on others to protect or embellish their image.  They skillfully avoid decisions and responsibility that might tarnish their image.

Image-managing folks are cut from a different cloth.  They understand the power of image both on their own reputation and that of the organizations (e.g., families, schools, businesses) with which they are associated.  They are acutely aware of how their language, their habits, their movements, their interactions, and their relationships leave impressions, lasting impressions, on others.  Thus, they manage their image in the interest of ultimately enhancing the lives of others.

In short, the image-protecting characters are motivated by selfishness.  Image-managing people, on the other hand, operate from a mindset of selflessness.  Big difference, and it's usually not difficult to detect which ones are which.  

Know which ones you want on your team? 

Monday, July 4, 2016


"Stuff" happens!  Crises, storms, divorces, births, bankruptcies, hurricanes, weddings, death, job promotions, firings, etc.  Lots of "stuff" happens to us that trigger emotional responses.  It is perfectly natural to experience those emotions when "stuff" happens.  

Always, ALWAYS (unless we were the one that died), there is life on the other side of the "stuff."  The sun comes up tomorrow.  The storm recedes.  The job promotion, with great pay, begins to feel like work.  The next chapter of life begins.  It is at this threshold, on the backside of "stuff," that we define ourselves and our futures.

And, it is at this point also that we must consider and craft the future beyond "stuff" that we want.  We must think and act from a base of clear-headed rationality and intention, putting the generated emotional state on the shelf.  

Why?  Because the emotional states subside just as quickly as the "stuff" that triggered them.  Purposeful choosing is not an emotion.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016


My favorite mentors (of which there are many) possess the magical ability of being able to draw out the best of others.

How do they do it?  They astutely assess the talents others possess and fashion avenues of pursuit that would allow said others (like you and me) to exercise those gifts to the fullest.

Those skillful leaders also avoid spending a lot of time, energy, effort, and capital on trying to "fix" others in the areas in which they are not naturally talented.  For instance, they would never try to make a post player (in basketball terms) out of a 5'2" point guard.  

A simple formula might be framed this way:  

     Notice the gifts others bring to the table 
     Optimize the opportunities for those gifts to be used
+   Minimize time/expense lost in requiring others to function in their non-gifted areas
=   Stronger relationships and higher levels of performance

Looks like one of those win-win situations to me.