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Friday, September 29, 2017


NO!  I'm not gonna talk about religion.  However, I am gonna rob a phrase that cropped up in my early days of religious education - "the unforgivable sin" - to make a point.

Let's talk about getting better, every day, on purpose - the process of continuous improvement.

We ALL have flaws, weaknesses, points of vulnerability.  Those weak spots could be in areas of our physical health and wellbeing, they could be in areas of our intellectual/cognitive health and wellbeing, or they could be in areas of our emotional/spiritual health and wellbeing.  Most of us, in fact, have some limitations in all those areas.

And, most of us will go to our grave with weaknesses that still need our attention and remediation.  

So, if we've all got 'em, what's the sin in that?

When we decide that getting better, doing better, learning more is not worth the time or trouble, we have chosen to give up, to not care.  In effect, we've made the choice to begin circling the drain.


Monday, September 25, 2017


Our personal or organizational growth, real growth, always causes some ripples.  

Just as a pebble (or boulder) is dropped into a body of water causes ripples outward, so does our learning and development (whether as an individual or as a team).  Authentic learning always has derivative impact beyond ourselves. 

Some observations about the rippling effects of learning/growth:

  • Ripples are, in effect, disturbances to the calm surface of the water.  So, too, does our new growth disturb the status quo.  If it doesn't, it probably does not qualify as real growth.
  • Incremental growth (the pebble) causes small ripples.  
  • Significant and consequential growth (the boulder) causes much larger disturbances.
  • Learning in and with teams almost always accelerates the growth experience, and thus the ripple effects.  
  • Lack of growth/learning preserves the precious calm, a state also known as stagnation.
How's the learning/growing/rippling going with you?  Your team?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The phrase "pencil whipping" is old expression often used in discussing fancy footwork when it comes to accounting practices.  It can also apply to a lot of organizational behaviors meant to create falsified or questionable data.  

Fundamentally, it's the egregious practice of the let's-don't-but-say-we-did syndrome.  Huh?  Examples, you ask?  Here goes:

  • Keeping sign-in sheets for staff each morning to provide proof that everyone showed up on time.
  • Tying commissions to new sales only, thus incentivizing sales staff to chase new customers and disregard old (and faithful) ones.
  • Crafting survey questions in such a way that they only provide the data responses that can be portrayed as favorable.
  • Posting a sign on the inside of the door of your public restroom to prove it's cleanliness, though any casual observance will clearly reveal otherwise. 
  • Developing padded up budgets with innocuous sounding line items to hide expenditure plans.
You get the idea.  The list could go on and on.  Those of us who have worked in organizations of any size could continue to add to this list of absurdities that serve as falsifiers of reality.

To what end?  Such acts and initiatives never serve the organization, or its membership, well.

TRUTH is a fundamental metric of health, whether personal or organizational.  Denial, or outright deceit, are symptoms of deep-seated dysfunction or illness.

Our habits, our behaviors, belie our intentions.  Always.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Deception is very much like a disease.  It can creep in on us unawares, and it can insidiously compound itself to the point in which we feel significantly compromised - cognitively, politically, emotionally, physically...

The disease of deception is problematic and limiting in any of its forms.  The worst form of that disease, however, is SELF-DECEPTION.

So, what are some of the symptoms of self-deception?

  • Feelings of victimhood.  Thinking we deserve more/better, just because.
  • Insecurity, which drives defensiveness.  Not being comfortable enough in our own skin to admit weakness and to genuinely seek assistance in closing those gaps.
  • Bulletproofedness.  The misconception that we can go it alone, do it alone, accomplish it alone.
  • Martyrdom mania.  Stuck on the belief that nobody cares like we do, nobody tries like we do.
  • Condescension.  Believing we're (almost always) smarter than those around us.
Some antidotes to the disease of of the self-deceived?
  • Strong, healthy relationships with thoughtful and honest others.
  • Relentless focus on the BIG stuff.
  • LEARN more.  Tirelessly, persistently, ubiquitously, pervasively.
  • reflection...Reflection...REFLECTION!
Happy healing.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


You know the old saw:  "Even a blind hog finds an acorn sometimes."

True enough, but the implication is that the hog finding the acorn was pure luck.  

I think not, and here's why:

  • The hog had a need and knew it.
  • The hog had a clear objective in mind - food.
  • The hog was actually searching and working to achieve the objective - not waiting for someone else to supply it.
What makes the acorn finding somewhat accidental is that the hog did not have the full compliment of tools needed (in this case, sight) to expedite the achieving of the objective.

Now let's shift the view into the mirror... 
  • Are our needs clearly known?
  • Are our objectives precisely articulated and understood?
  • Is our tool set full and functional?
  • Are we working, really working, toward our well-defined goals?

Wimpy, wobbly, wishy-washy, and whiny are not the tools of achievement.

What excuse(s) do we really have for not achieving?

Thursday, September 7, 2017


It has been a personal objective of mine for several years to be (and become) a better listener.  Progress is being made, but not as quickly as I'd like.

From that learning journey toward being a more powerful listener, here a few observations that continue to shape my growth in this area:

  • Listening, counterintuitively, seems to be a more powerful tool of persuasion than talking.
  • Talking makes me tired while listening makes me think.
  • Deep listening is a very difficult skill to hone.
  • Talking is more likely to convey arrogance, condescension, rudeness, devaluation, and pressure than does listening.
  • Listening exposes me much more to the thinking and wisdom of others than does my talking.
  • Listening seems to make me a better servant, a better friend, a better husband, a better leader, and, yes, even a better talker (not a more prolific talker; just a more effective talker).
The journey continues.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


I recently read The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (2010).

In this work of non-fiction, IW documents the Great Migration of black Americans from the South to the East, North, and West from 1915 to the 1970s.  IW gives us meaningful context by specifically including the stories of three individuals:

  • Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, who migrated from Mississippi to Chicago.
  • George Swanson Sterling, who migrated from Florida to New York.
  • Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, who migrated from Louisiana to California.

These three, as did millions of others, chose to flee the codified and overt racism of the South (even after their supposed emancipation), only to find themselves subject to tacit and covert racism in the American North, East, and West.

The southern migrants fled for many reasons: fear for their lives, an unwillingness to continue to cope with oppressive Jim Crow laws, the hope of a better future.  But oppression was not the only thing they left behind; loved ones, heritage, tangible belongings, and precious memories were also casualties of their flight.

Some powerful quotes:

"Still it made no sense to Pershing that one set of people could be in a cage, and the people outside couldn’t see the bars.” (p. 174) 

“All told, perhaps the most significant measure of the Great Migration was the act of leaving itself, regardless of the individual outcome. Despite the private disappointments and triumphs of any individual migrant, the Migration, in some ways, was its own point. The achievement was in making the decision to be free and acting on that decision, wherever that journey led them.” (p. 535)

“With the benefit of hindsight, the century between Reconstruction and the end of the Great Migration perhaps may be seen as a necessary stage of upheaval.  It was a transition from an era when one race owned another; to an era when the dominant class gave up ownership but kept control over the people it once had owned, at all costs, using violence even; to the eventual acceptance of the servant caste into the mainstream.” (p. 538) 

An informative and moving work.