About Me

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017


The best parents do it.
The best teachers do it.
The best preachers do it.
The best mentors do it.
The best physicians do it.
The best leaders do it.
The best coaches do it.

They pay exquisite attention to those over whom they have influence.  

They notice thoroughly, they watch carefully, they ask probingly, they listen deeply, they engage fully.

And when they do, we grow - well and rightly.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


When my boss told me and her other direct reports back in 2005 that she wanted all of us to develop a personal growth plan for ourselves...............Well, I was not a happy camper.  

The connotations I had always associated with growth plans were negative - a compliance document foisted upon less-than-optimally-performing subordinates.  I failed to see the need for us to engage in such a meaningless waste of time.  After all, we were in leadership positions, heading up divisions of a high-performing organization.  WHAT???  REALLY???

We dutifully complied with the boss's wishes.  That boss was my boss for only one more year.  A tough boss, but a good one.  She made me better.

I am now in year 12 of crafting and re-crafting my own annual growth plan.  No need for a boss to push it on me.  I intend to keep up the practice until they put me six feet under.

There is great power in reflecting on our performance, assessing where we need growth and improvement, and making a plan to get better, every day, on purpose.  There is also great power in sharing those intentions publicly.  

My current version is HERE, if you care to peruse.

What might yours look like?

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Moe (my lovely bride of 40 years) and I learned early in our experience as stewards of the land the unintended consequences of bulldozing.  We purchased several acres of land and promptly had some bulldozing done, to create the aesthetic effect on our property we desired.

That was over 20 years ago and we still see the negative effects of that carnage in these ways:

  • Compromise of the life systems in the soil, which is ultimately the feeder of all life above the soil.
  • Reduced availability of water/moisture (the life-sustaining medium) in the ground.
  • Lessened evidence of wildlife (birds and animals), who both feed and feed from the plants that grow on that ground.
  • Diminished diversity of plant life and of animal life that does manage to grow on that plot.
With years of hindsight and experiences in trying to regenerate life on that acreage, we have learned that gentle embellishments, that work WITH the natural systems, would have been a much better path to take in trying to increase the health, wellbeing, and long-term productivity of that land.

Leaders who think they want to "bulldoze" perceived negative elements in their organizations........................take heed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


I recently read The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion (Hagel, Brown, & Davison, 2010).

This is one of the best books I've read on the topic of leadership - moving others and ourselves - in several years.  It would make a great resource for team book studies. 

My biggest takeaways:
  • Success can be defined as making sense while making progress.
  • In current contexts, our ability to tap knowledge flows is more important than tapping archives of knowledge.
  • We should think of our environment as a creation space, something we have power to shape.
  • Talent development MUST be a top priority.
  • Push models lead to heightened resistance, boredom, and stress.  Pull models stoke curiosity, innovation, and energy.
  • Seek out and engage the folks who have the tacit knowledge - the know-how - rather than the know-what group.
  • Connect with smart, talented, capable others, and make the most of those "serendipitous" encounters.
  • Leaders should be trying to pull the core to the edges rather than the edges to the core.
  • Senior (seasoned?) leaders ought to be seeking out "reverse mentors," in order to stretch their own thinking.

My favorite quotes:

  • “As a billboard along Highway 101 in Silicon Valley put it, '1,000,000 people overseas can do your job. What makes you so special?'” (p. 12)
  • “There are always more smart people outside your company than within it.  If we are serious about developing our own talent, we must find more ways to connect with and collaborate with all of those smart people outside our organization.” (p. 189) 
A superb book!

Monday, November 13, 2017


I've been reading a lot lately about the advent of artificial intelligence (AI).  Machine intelligence, driven by powerful software and computer algorithms, is progressing at warp speed.  This opens up worlds of possibilities for supplanting human work/thinking, not just in the manufacturing realm.

The assumption is that these AI thingywhoppers (droids?) will begin thinking on their own.  Not only will they be able to compute, search, disaggregate, and decide much faster than us humans, they can do so more effectively, more efficiently.  Doubt it?  jWhen you start shopping for something online, you get some nifty little "suggestions" to one side of your screen about other things you might like to consider buying.  Those suggestions are NOT coming from a human; it's AI at work.

What happens, however, when these powerful AI solution crafters start making decisions and feeding us "answers" to our problems that are completely void of compassion, of judgement, of heart?

Then we'll get automated solutions to complex problems that have some of these features:

  • No concern for the human collateral damage of the decisions.
  • Solutions driven solely by data, ignoring contextual elements.
  • Decisions completely devoid of values.
  • Purely transactional processes, disregarding the contributions of those who do the work.
  • Zero accountability for the decision maker (in this case, AI).
  • No interest in the development of others on the team (they're only humans, you know).
I've already worked with a few boss-humans that think and act like that.  Heartless.  Don't wanna do that anymore.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Magicians do it when they create illusions that fool us.

Contract designers do it when they fill up pages with font-size 4 text that immunizes against responsibility.

Lots of professions do it with their disclaimer statements.

Policy makers do it with endless babble that goes in circles.

Occasionally in life, however, we run across people who mean what they say, say what they mean, and back up both with their actions.

Even more rarely, and blessedly, those folks end up in leadership positions.

Enjoy them when you find them.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


We talk about learning a lot in this blog.  ;-)  Let's look at it backwards for a moment:

What are some things that keep us stuck on dumb (or ineffective)?

  • Thinking we're too busy to read that book, take that class, post the question in that forum, ask someone who can help...
  • Deluding ourselves into thinking our shortcomings are simply the result of bad luck.
  • Failing to spend some time (individually and as teams) reflecting on our results and discerning which of our practices produced the same.
  • Being fearful of failing or of looking less smartish.
  • Presuming that we have no control over the outcomes (aka, victimhood).
  • Ignoring the fact that it takes time, effort, energy, and resources to LEARN new stuff.
  • Trying to go it alone.
Here's the continuum.

DumbStuck                                              WarpLearn

Both the direction AND the speed we choose to move along that continuum are completely within our control.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Consumption is part living.  We consume stuff like:
  • Nutrition
  • Knowledge
  • Time
  • Energy
  • Love
  • The thinking/perspective of others
With all this consuming, a couple of tenets hold:
  1. When we consume healthy versions of that stuff, we get healthier.
  2. When we consume not-so-healthy versions of that stuff, we get sick(er).
These principles apply whether we're talking about physical health, intellectual health, emotional/spiritual health, or organizational health.

Some important questions:  What are we consuming?  Why?  How are those intakes impacting our health right now?  What are the expected long-term effects of that consumption on our wellbeing?

What we consume is based on choices we make (either consciously or subconsciously).

Conscious is better.  Conscious and healthy, even more so.