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Tuesday, August 30, 2016


The best leaders I know practice the art of ownership when things aren't going so great.  They understand that not-going-so-great is a part of the deal when we are in the business of business, governance, management, or living. 

Does this mean these leaders are constantly falling on the sword and absorbing all the blame for things gone awry?  No.  These wise leaders understand that getting to the source of the not-going-so-great problems usually takes careful analysis, substantive reflection, and consequential conversations.  They resist mightily the temptation to quickly declare causes, identify and eliminate scapegoats, and jump to premature "solutions."  In short,  these thoughtful folks understand fully the law of unintended consequences - both as the triggers of not-going-so-great conditions AND in the premature reactive measures intended to heal such conditions.

By assuming their own culpability in the not-going-so-great-ness, these leaders are typically attempting to buy a smidgen of time and provide a bit of cover for the folks who work with them.  That bought time affords the team a chance to carefully dissect the antecedents to the not-going-so-great circumstances, and to react with soundly reasoned remedies.

Then and only then do those wise leaders react with the needed changes in policy, adjustments to protocol, and/or changes in membership.  

Through this process of ownership, these leaders enhance greatly the culture of their organization, as well as protect and retain the highest quality team players (while quietly and in dignified manner removing the poorest).

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Many among us (especially those with the Type-A personalities) get consumed by "the project."  They hyperfocus on today's big project.  To be sure, these gitter-doners regularly get a lot done.  

Often, however, these same task-oriented folks leave a trail of hurt feelings and damaged relationships in their wake.  Their penchant for prioritizing the project at the expense of the people working on the project is detrimental to their long-term relationships with those very same (and often talented) players. 

Worth remembering is that people are projects, too.  We're each an ongoing work of art (even if rudimentary) that requires persistent attention to our development.  

CAUTION!  Entering Construction Zone.

Friday, August 26, 2016


I was a weakling, until...

  • My parents taught me that I alone am responsible for my decisions/behavior.
  • My teachers held me accountable for doing my own work.
  • My coaches pushed me mentally, physically, emotionally beyond my perceived limits.
  • My employers expected an honest day's work for a fair day's pay.
  • My professors required me to think rather than just "show up."
  • My valued peers modeled the "costs" associated with excellence.
  • My mentors taught me the absolute necessity of self-discipline.
  • My spiritual advisors impressed upon me the power of love, and forgiveness.
Everyone of those folks, in their own way, let me make some mistakes.  They didn't knock me down themselves, but they were willing to let me get knocked down.  And, they were always there to pick me up, dust me off, offer some guidance, then push me back into the fray.

I'm not yet as strong as I wanna be.  But thanks to the folks above, I know the recipe.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


What should we say?  What should we leave unsaid?

We all struggle with what or what not to "put on the table."  

We all know folks who feel a deep obligation to state openly and often their opinions, their beliefs, their objections, and their positions.  We also all know those who never share their thoughts with us, for one reason or another.

Consider this as a possible criterion for whether or not to share our thoughts:  If our words will have the effect of lifting others up, strengthening relationships, improving circumstances, then by all means speak up!

If, on the other hand, the likely impact of our considered words will be the diminishmeent of others, the damaging of relationships, or the worsening of conditions, then perhaps we're all better off if we just keep our thoughts to ourselves.

The unsaid is often much more powerful (and helpful) than the said.

Monday, August 22, 2016


It's not the new building.  
It's not the slick hardware.
It's not the powerful software.
It's not the inspirational speeches.
It's not the important new initiative.
It's not the innovative process we've implemented.

The magic is in our people.  

Whether we are successful or not, at the end of the day, depends on 
the quality, 
the learning, 
the engagement, 
the commitment, and 
the service-orientation of 
our people.

Yes, we can make magic.  But only if we understand and invest in its source.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


The best organizational leaders I know are talent scouts.  They are constantly on the hunt for talented folks they might be able to add to their team, or to their network.  They are also exceptionally adept at raising up talent within their ranks.

What techniques do they use to scout for talent?  These exceptional leaders:

  • Make organizational learning a top priority.
  • Foster an organizational culture that attracts and holds talent.
  • Create "whole jobs for whole people." (Stephen Covey quote.)
  • Reach out personally to talented folks they hear or read.
  • Purposefully interact with out-of-industry folks (it's called cross-pollination).
  • Stay constantly alert for manifestations of talent (both the conventional variety and the unconventional).
  • Intentionally introduce/connect talented others to talented others.
Who wouldn't want to work with/for those kinds of leaders?

"On, Scout."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


I recently read Plum Island, a novel by Nelson De Mille (2011). 

An NYPD detective, John Corey, is convalescing in a rural Long Island area after being shot in the line of duty.  During his recovery he is befriended by a young couple of Ph.Ds who work at the federal research facility on Plum Island.  The focus of that facility is on animal diseases, but it has long been suspected of also being involved in germ warfare research.

When the young couple is murdered, Corey gets invited into the investigation by local law enforcement.  The story takes off from there.  More murders, more intrigue, pirate treasure, a hurricane, romance.  A little something for everyone.

Love De Mille.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Avoiding the uncomfortable often seems the safest route.  However, avoidance rarely produces good results.  More often, it only postpones the discomfort.

What are some things leaders typically avoid?  We sometimes avoid confronting bullying or backstabbing behavior.  We sometimes avoid dealing with issues in a straightforward way.  We sometimes ignore complaints or anger from customers (both internal and external).  We sometimes avoid challenging mediocrity, thus becoming complicit in it.

We can avoid the yucky stuff, but the longer we do the yuckier it gets.   

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Gaining a clearer view of things is harder than it appears.  If greater clarity is a goal, consider this recipe:

  1. Be authentically willing to "see more clearly."
  2. Be prepared to suspend one's own biases, prejudices, and pre-conceived notions.
  3. Seek the perspective of others, even if (especially if) they think, look, and behave differently than oneself.
  4. Invest thoughtful reflection upon the varied perspectives one can garner.
  5. Triangulate said perspectives against whatever obtainable data exists.
  6. Percolate slowly over an extended period of time (can't microwave "clarity").
Clarity is elusive.  Clarity evolves slowly (the stickier the problem, the slower the evolution).  Gaining clarity doesn't always "settle the issue."  Clarity does, however, inform our thinking and decisions about living and leading well. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016


What is dead weight?  It's an unenergized, unhelpful, and distracting drag on progress.  It impedes the ability to move forward.  Dead weight requires a great deal of effort on the part of the non-dead-weight components/membership.

We experience dead weight in organizations quite a lot.  What does it look like?

  • Systems, processes and procedures that burn time, with little or no value added.
  • Meetings that have no real purpose, or are poorly conceived and deployed.
  • Initiatives and strategies that are cool and trendy, but completely disconnected from our core purpose(s).
  • Players who can't add or won't add or (even worse) intentionally avoid adding value to the endeavor.
What drags us down wastes our time, it squanders precious energy, it impedes our pursuit of betterness.  Leaders and effective teams must identify it, must call it what it is, and must diligently root it out.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Today I spent time in the shop with my grandson.

During that time he gained experience with a table saw, a jig saw, a miter saw, a belt sander, a disk sander, a tri-square, a measuring tape, a cordless drill, and assorted other tools.  Skills were honed and knowledge was gained, accompanied by numerous guiding questions, suggestions, and anecdotes from Nel.  

"Training" (the conveyance of only knowledge and skills) can be done by mercenaries (and often is).  "Teaching," real teaching,  also includes the conveyance of ways of thinking and ways of behaving.  And, it is always done with optimal fidelity under the care and guidance of a caring mentor.

We are all mentees.  We are all mentors.  Presence required.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Paralysis, figuratively speaking, can occur in our personal lives or/and our professional lives. 

So, what triggers that figurative paralysis?  Here are some of the primary antecedents:

  • Lost - we forget what is most important and get distracted by the inconsequential.
  • Mission mushing - we try to do too many things, for too many people, in pursuit of too many objectives.
  • Health sap - we sacrifice our (holistic) health in pursuit of whatever it is we're chasing.
  • Outerfocused - we direct and spend all our energy on outward objectives, forsaking attention to our inner peace.  
  • Multitasking milieu - we let our attention and efforts bounce profusely, rather than staying on one task/thought/project to completion.
Rarely is this state of paralysis fatal (literally or figuratively).  Hitting this "wall" can be an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the things we deem most important.  Then, we can re-order and re-distribute our thinking/effort/learning/energy accordingly.  

We simply cannot function effectively if we are not centered and grounded - emotionally/spiritually, intellectually, and physically.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Some leaders try to rely on forced compliance among followers.  Such compliance is usually transactional in nature - either reward for compliance or penalty for non-compliance.  This carrot-and-stick approach usually results in getting things done, just without much quality or fidelity.  Trust levels in this kind of environment are typically low, with commensurate performance levels.  

Another kind of leader understands that high levels of performance in the organization are based ultimately on the volunteered effort, energy, and commitment of others.  Those leaders are keenly aware that such response from others springs from a basis of trust. 

Achieving high levels of trust in an organization is tricky business, but it's the real work of those who aspire to truly high performing and self-actualizing organizations.    

If we desire excellence in our organization, the starting point is trust. 

Monday, August 1, 2016


Assessment is a tool/process by which we assign value to someone's/something's performance or knowledge or skills or prowess or wealth, based on some chosen measurement (often chosen by someone else).  I know, there sure are a lot of "somes" in that sentence.  Adds to the clarity, huh?

Summative assessments are snapshots taken of that someone/something on a rather infrequent time frame, often annually.  For students, we have become accustomed to testing them once per year with a really long test, presumably to find out whether they have learned what they were supposed to over that year of time.  For us big people, it might be a measurement of our net worth on March 1 of each year or our body weight on each January 1 (ouch!).  A summative assessment is a little like an autopsy, an after-the-fact, backward-looking evaluation. 

Formative assessments are ongoing evaluations, taken hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly.  Formative assessments are more like a movie-in-progress (as opposed to a snapshot).  Formative assessments can be likened to frequent, regular monitoring of personal health markers (like weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, pulse rates, etc.).  They measure current progress, with an eye on what growth/development/learning needs to happen next - the next minute, the next hour, the next day, the next month.  Generally, formative assessment is viewed in the context of cumulative progress to date.

Summative assessment is most often used to compare or sort or rank someone/something with some other someones/somethings.  Formative assessments are most useful when we're trying to get some sense of authentic and current growth/performance, as individuals or organizations - it's our progress being measured against our own previous progress or performance.

How, then, shall we choose to measure our lives?  Formative for me please.