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Sunday, September 12, 2021


As a quick examination of many professional sports teams will attest, simply having a stable full of talented folks does not guarantee a winning team. The chemistry of the team is EVERYTHING, and achieving high-performing chemistry with a team full of talented folks is especially challenging for those of us in leadership roles. 

For your consideration, some strategies for managing teams of talented folks:

-Religiously keep the focus on the BIG PICTURE, the vision of the organization.

-Provide wide latitude in process by the various team members in moving themselves and their teams in the direction of the vision. But, keep a very close eye and ear on the work being done.

-Insist on (and model) respectfulness in all interactions. Strong players usually come with strong personalities, exceptional intellects, and stridently held opinions. Discussion, debate, and dissent make us stronger, but only when done in an environment of respectfulness. 

-Create the conditions in which all team members have opportunity to leverage and showcase their particular strengths. 

-Relentlessly pursue and demand continuous improvement. Complacency is a disease.

-Be prepared to replace any toxic talent that poisons the chemistry of the team. Dignified and expeditious separation is sometimes the best solution for the team's success.

Phil Jackson's books are excellent case studies on managing talented teams.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021


Experience ONLY matters if we learn something from it.

Wisdom is the direct, downstream (possible) effect of experience. The best chance we have of gaining wisdom is to reflect (look back and think back) on the stuff we've lived through.

That wisdom-producing reflection is best focused on our being able to take an objective look at the events, decisions, performance, and relationships that make up our personal history.

As we look back, our attention need not be on regret and commiseration and self-pity, but rather on how best to use the experiences of our past to make ourselves better today...and tomorrow...and next year.

And, it's always nice if we have some trusted others with which we can safely talk through what we have learned from those experiences. 

Our past need not make us tense. We can use it as a springboard to betterness. 

Experience ONLY matters if we learn something from it.

Sunday, September 5, 2021


Quality education is a gateway -- THE gateway -- to better futures for children. There is no societal commitment more noble than that of guaranteeing a high quality education to ALL its children.

What makes for a high quality education?

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2004), a quality education is premised in five dimensions:

Learner Characteristics: The learner's aptitude, readiness for learning, and life experiences are key.

Context: The commitment to high quality learning for ALL by the public, familial, and socio-cultural environments is critical.

Enabling Inputs: The significant investment of both tangible and intangible resources makes all the difference in the quality of the learning experiences. 

Teaching and Learning: What is taught, how it is taught, and how it is measured all have direct bearing on the quality of the learning.

Outcomes: The end results reflect the quality of the learning - proficiency in literacy and numeracy, empowering life skills, and values respectful of life and diversity. 

All are important components, but NONE more than the persons who craft and manage those five dimensions for the learner. And of those persons, NONE is more important than the teacher. 

High quality teachers produce high quality learning. Moreover, they can get it done more effectively when all five of those dimensions are robustly in place. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021


Tough times call for strong leadership. The very best leaders I know personally (and have studied) have not only survived tough times, they have emerged on the other side of them even stronger.

Here are some commonalities in the way those impactful folks led (and lead) through adversity:

-They use the adverse conditions to re-focus themselves and their followers on the BIG PICTURE vision they are pursuing.

-They acknowledge the difficulties/sadness briefly, but pivot quickly to expressions of support, comfort, and appreciation to/for those who are navigating those treacherous waters along with them.

-They purposefully and overtly avoid the sky-is-falling crowd, that tends to perseverate only on all that is going wrong.

-They speak with persistent clarity about what we do next, then next, then next, keeping the team centered on doing those things they CAN control.

-They understand that facing and overcoming adversity is a function of personal grit and determination, and that waiting on someone else to fix the problem(s) is a victim's mindset.

Leadership in tough times ain't for sissies.

Sunday, August 22, 2021


I recently read The Obstacle is the WAY: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday (2014).


I didn’t realize it until the very end of the book, but RH was really describing Stoicism. Interesting that I’ve never thought of myself as Stoic, but clearly, I have some Stoic tendencies. That, I think, is a generally good thing.


My top takeways:

-Difficulty and crisis make us better, or worse. It all depends on how we respond to them.

-NOT panicking is a learnable skill, and a quite necessary one. It is fundamental to the training of astronauts.

-Emotion almost never has the power to change a condition or circumstance.

-Things that are in my control (assuming I choose to): Emotions, judgements, creativity, attitude, perspective, desires, decisions, and determination. 

-Replacing fear with process is key to self-regulation (and organizational regulation).

-In truly important matters of strategy and deployment, have Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C, and…

-Premortem is the act of exercising hindsight, in advance; an excellent strategy formulation technique.


My favorite quotes:

“…Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel…described what happens to businesses in tumultuous times: ‘Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.’” (p. 3)


“We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.” – Theodore Roosevelt (p. 71)


“If you’re not humble, life will visit humbleness upon you.” – Mike Tyson (p. 140)


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Confirmed much of what I already believed and gave me interesting insight into some areas that I had not considered.

Sunday, August 15, 2021


Abstractions help us make sense of real stuff. 

A map of India is not really India, but it helps us have a better understanding of India. A map can never give us a complete understanding of India. We only approach that awareness by actually experiencing India. (A lifetime is not long enough for us to completely understand India, or ourselves, for that matter.)

We use all kinds of abstractions in our sense-making: maps, pictures, concepts, symbols (as with mathematics), categorizations/labels (as with race), and WORDS.

Yes, the words you are reading are abstractions for the ideas that are currently rattling around in my brain. They are not the actual thoughts in my head, nor are they the realities I am describing. They are simply coding mechanisms for those realities.

We often err by mistaking the abstractions for the real stuff.

A prime example is when we falsely believe that talking about doing something is somehow the equivalent of getting it done.

It's quite important that we know the difference. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021


The best leaders I know are as much coaches as they are anything else. These wise folks commit huge portions of their time to the development of the folks around them.

In that process, these astute leaders skillfully deploy some exceptional coaching up strategies:

Noticing -- They observe carefully the processes, the people, the interactions, the dynamics. Noticing is a discipline.

Inquiring -- They ask powerful and deep questions that not only cut through the clutter, but also compel thoughtful and reflective thinking in response.

Listening -- They listen a hole right through you when you're talking.

Engaging -- They are very busy people, but when they are present, they are fully present. 

Learning -- They are constantly learning about themselves in order to be better servants and learning about others in order to better serve them.

The development of those within our sphere of influence might well be the most important thing we do each day. Coaching others up is a learnable skill, and it always pays dividends for both the coaches and the coached.

Sunday, August 8, 2021


The best leaders I know have some notable difference making attributes. Almost all are learnable skills and/or mindsets.

Those impactful leaders exhibit the following attributes:

-Integrity -- What they DO matches what they SAY, consistently, persistently, reliably.

-Emotional-Social Intelligence -- They know themselves, they self-regulate effectively, they understand others, they are excellent at relationship management (see the writings of Daniel Goleman). 

-Betterness Focus -- They are deeply and energetically committed to improving themselves, the teams on which they serve, the communities they inhabit. 

-Courage -- They are not afraid to try new things, consider new perspectives, engage with those different than themselves, rigorously test their own assumptions, speak the truth. 

-Transparent -- They consistently convey humbleness, willingly show their vulnerabilities, and seek the advice and counsel of many others. They neither traffic in secrets nor engage in low-level conversations. 

-Voracious Learners -- They understand that LEARNING (both personal and organizational) is the basis for all the bulleted items above; thus they relentlessly pursue more knowledge and better skills.

As I review the list above, I see that I have much work still to do.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021


There are always those who cause us heartburn. It doesn't really matter who we are or what position we hold, some folks have a way of causing us heartburn.

When we find ourselves in positions of leadership, however, it seems the the number of HeartburnTistas (HTs) increases disproportionately.

Consider the following measures in dealing with HeartburnTistas:

-Engage. Engage the concerns and address the issues raised by HTs transparently and respectfully. Selfish and unhealthy movers are most uncomfortable in environments of openness and rigorous discourse. 

-Reflect. The pushback of the HTs often comes from a place of legitimate concern. Seeking deeply to understand their position, interests, and motives often reveals to us much about our own.  

-LEARN. Resistance strengthens us -- intellectually, physically, and emotionally-spiritually. We will certainly improve ourselves and our organizations if we effectively address, or adapt in response to, any legitimate challenges the HTs present.

Though it is tempting to want to curse, punish, fire, silence, and/or discredit the HTs, we are wise to avoid plunging off the cliff right along with them.

Sunday, August 1, 2021


 We all learn, every day, in millions of ways.

We learn when we read, when we observe, when we consider, when we discuss, when we listen, when we attend, when we ..........

However, nothing matches the learning efficacy of when we DO something. There is sticking power when we actually remodel that room, assemble that tool, plant and grow that garden, train for that competition, speak those sentences in another language, calculate the area under the curve, etc. John Dewey was on to something in the 1920s and 1930s when he was advocating for experiential learning. 

The late Dr. Phil Schlechty often reminded us that, "Students don't learn from work students don't do." Indeed. What PS didn't specifically note in that assertion is that "students" come in all ages. His assertion holds, regardless of age. We learn best when we actually DO something.

Applying ourselves to a worthy task/skill requires a lot of and from us, namely effort. 

Those investments of effort - the doing - always pay powerful dividends - LEARNING! 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


 No, I'm not going to talk about fishing.

Perspective exists in two different dimensions: 1) our ability to consider something against the broader contexts and 2) our ability to consider something against a lot of other individual somethings.

Healthy perspective results from our careful consideration of something - an event, a product, a process, a person - both against the "grand scheme" and many individual others. It's sort of macro and micro at the same time.

Unhealthy perspective results when we choose NOT to look at things from as many angles as possible. Myopic viewpoints always miss a lot of important data. 

Disciplined minds insist that the embrace of healthy perspective prevails. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021


 I recently read The Beauty Underneath the Struggle: Creating Your BUS Story, by Niki Spears (2020). 


NS was a student of mine when I taught in the UT Austin Principalship Program several years ago. She has learned to leverage her many and significant gifts to make the world a better place. This book is evidence of her impact on others.


My top takeaways:

- We are the editors of our own lives, with not so much power to re-write or undo the previously “published” part, but GREAT latitude in writing the next chapters.

- FEAR is the premier disabler of progress and prosperity.

- The most meaningful rewards come with significant risk.

- Practicing gratefulness pays dividends both inwardly and outwardly.

- We are wise to protect ourselves from low-level conversations.

- Choosing an positive attitude is a superbly healthy practice, and it makes us more attractive companions to others. 


Some of my favorite quotes:

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour. (p. 7)

“Don’t believe everything you think.” (p. 67)

“Nothing different will happen in your life unless you’re willing to do something different.” (p. 132)

"S versus S. Is this choice serving me or stopping me?" (p. 135)


This book serves as a wonderful reminder that WE are editing our lives, daily writing the script for that which is to come. We are editors, not victims. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021


I recently read Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plantsby Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013). 

RWK is of native American heritage (Potawatomi). She is also a research botanist. In this book she blends her science-based understandings of life with the ancient wisdoms gleaned from the teachings of her heritage. The result is a remarkable work of knowledge reconciliation, with the effect that the science she understands so well makes the best and most sense when studied in the context of the wholeness of creation. 

My top takeaways:

-Ceremonies represent a way for us to “remember to remember,” they marry the mundane with that we hold sacred.

-Ceremony has the effect of converting attention to intention.

-Wisdom is best thought of as a compass – providing orientation – not as rules or commandments.

-It is immensely useful to think of plants, animals, fish, all of creation as beings(just not human) rather than things and resources; they are nonhuman persons vested with awareness, intelligence, spirit.

-Compelling new research is yielding the truth that plants really do talkto each other.

-Reciprocity is the currency of relationships.

-We understand fully only when we understand with our mind, body, emotion, and spirit; that is indigenous wisdom.


My favorite quotes:

“It’s not just land that is broken, but more importantly, our relationship to land.” (p. 9)  


“Restoring land without restoring relationship is an empty exercise.” (p. 338)


“To name and describe you must first see, and science polishes the gift of seeing.” (p. 48)


“Food plants and people act as selective forces on each other’s evolution—the thriving of one in the best interest of the other. This, to me, sounds a bit like love.” (p. 124)


“To be heard, you must speak the language of the one you want to listen.” (p. 158)


“Paying attention acknowledges that we have something to learn from intelligences other than our own.” (p. 300)  


“But I know that metaphor is a way of telling truth far greater than scientific data.” (p. 368)


Braiding Sweetgrass was one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in the last few years. That makes me happy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021


 Leadership is hard. Servant leadership is harder.

Wise servant leaders know well that success almost always comes as result of impactful, effective, and efficient work done by TEAMS of capable and committed folks. 

So, what do servant leaders need from those team members?


-Zealous pursuit of the organizational vision

-Learn, then teach others, on a continuous loop

-Ask consequential questions, then listen discerningly to the answers given

-Commit completely to continuous improvement

-Build bridges relentlessly, build walls only as anomalies

Notice that these elements are more about mindset, attitude, and disposition than they are about skills or knowledge. 

Wise servant leaders are always on the hunt for folks who are willing and able to play by these rules. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021


Communication is the primary medium of leadership. It is the most impactful tool we have at our disposal by which to foster trust, to invite participation, to fashion vision, to reinforce right thinking and behaviors.

Wise leaders learn to effectively communicate (and constantly improve those communications skills) through multiple media.

Here are some important considerations as we sharpen our communications skills and add to our communications toolbox:

-The language we use can serve to clarify, or ambiguitize. We get to choose.

-The language we use can be positive and uplifting, or negative and de-energizing. We get to choose.

-The language we use can be invitational and inclusive, or off-putting and silencing. We get to choose.

-The language we use can bolster reflective discourse, or encourage superficial cliche-ity. We get to choose.

-The language we use can be expressed just as effectively without words as with them. We get to choose.

Did I mention that we are wise to continually be improving those communications skills?

Did I mention that we get to choose?

Sunday, July 4, 2021


 As leaders we often find ourselves dealing with two distinctive kinds of folks on our teams: Stoppers and Goers.

The Stoppers constantly serve as a drag on progress. They resist change (of any kind), they block initiatives, they hold up progress in both overt and covert ways, they squelch forecasting conversations. Stoppers make us feel like we're stuck in mud, and they seem downright giddy about that stuckness.

The Goers are the ones that are ready to push each and every idea forward, zealously. They never hear a bad idea. Goers don't take the time to think through logistics. Goers act as if the quantity of tasks undertaken somehow trumps the quality with which they are undertaken. They resemble waterbugs on a pond, darting around energetically and relentlessly, but with no discernible purpose or direction. 

Most teams have both kinds of folks. The worst and unhealthiest of teams have too much of one and not enough of the other. The healthiest of teams have leaders who understand both the Stoppers and the Goers, and they understand that keeping both archetypes at the table, in the conversation, and engaged in the work is the surest pathway toward judicious improvement.

Navigating the organizational tension between the Stoppers and the Goers is one more thing that compels us in leadership to LEARN - learn to understand others even better than they understand us. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021


 We're all in business, of one kind or another. 

Interestingly, all businesses have the same outcome as ultimate goal: to gain and hold "customers."

Also interestingly, there is ubiquitous similarity in the "secret sauce" of making that happen. To gain and hold "customers," we'd best figure out how to reliably do one very important thing: Make their lives and futures better.

Regardless of our vocation or avocation, if the service or product we deliver makes for better lives and futures for our customers, we prosper. And so do they. Most every other contextual element that surrounds that effort -- our processes, procedures, schedules, price points, inventory, workflow allocations, and organizational chart -- boil down to that very one thing. 

Imagine how much better and self-actualizing our "work" would be if we all started each day with crystal clear clarity around the WHY of what we do.

THAT is the essence of effective leadership -- keeping the attention of the organization persistently on that WHY. 

And yes, it's always much easier said than done (probably the very reason most folks don't).

Thursday, June 24, 2021


Full disclosure: Writing this post is a little painful as I look in the mirror and reflect on leadership lessons learned.

We've all know 'em. Most of us have worked for some of 'em. They're the group of folks who have been handed the leadership role in an organization and choose to operate in Control Freak mode.

Here are common outcomes that result from a Control Freak Leadership mindset:

> The stronger folks around us "stand down," waiting to be told what to do, when to do it, how to do it.

> The weaker folks around us gladly let us/others do all the work.

> Creativity, motivation, energy, synergy, and innovation grind certainly downward.

> The most talented team players quietly drift away from the organization.


Some worthy alternative energizing modalities for leaders are:

> Collaboratively paint and communicate a clear picture of the Vision of the organization.

> Encourage ALL members, regardless of role, to pursue that Vision with as much autonomy as possible.

> Invest more time/energy/resources in team growth than in team management.

> Relentlessly notice, acknowledge, praise, and incentivize those who take the "permission" given to achieve both exceptional results and learn-worthy fails.

> Continually seek feedback from all quarters, non-judgmentally, about "how things are going."

Control Freak-ness results in Performance Weak-ness. Dependably.

Sunday, June 20, 2021


 In recent years we have heard the word "makeover" used quite a lot. That word is loosely applied to the results gotten from a day at the spa, to buying and flipping a house, to restructuring one's financial portfolio, to ...........

The case for a complete makeover is often made per the perception that something "ain't working right" and the results we're getting (whether cosmetically, financially, organizationally, health wise) are no longer acceptable. 

Rarely, however, are complete makeovers and epiphany-driven changes warranted. Rarer still do they produce long-term results. Change takes place over time and is the result of incremental, intentional, and stubbornly disciplined effort. 

MakeBetters -- the purposeful approach of continuous improvement processes, made piece-by-piece, inch-by-inch, and day-by-day -- are the surest path to getting better, doing better, being better.

We are wise to pick a few, very important, elements of our life and work and purposefully move the needle in those areas. 

Betterness will surely happen, but almost never will it occur overnight.

Did I say disciplined?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

+++ >>> +++ >>>

The wisest leaders I know spend a LOT of time on the positive, and as little as possible on the negative. They are particularly purposeful in this respect when it comes to working with their teams.

These impactful leaders are astute discerners of the skills and acumen of team members, and very intentionally fashion the roles of teammates to fit their respective skills sets. Leaders of this ilk understand clearly that folks function best when they are able to leverage their "gifts" as opposed to trying to spend time compensating for their "deficits."

Thus, these results-oriented and smart leaders do several things that optimize the performance of individual team players (and, consequently, the organization):

-They relentlessly focus their attention, planning, and actions on the future.

-They lift up rather than beat down.

-They don't dig up old and buried bones of failures past.

-They constantly fashion work for others premised in Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose (see Daniel Pink's thoughts on this topic HERE).

-They regularly bite their tongues and ignore old wounds in the interest of progress for all.

-They understand that Positive and Forward are two sides of the same coin.

Leadership is not for sissies. Never has been.

Monday, June 14, 2021


 I recently read Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World - - and Why Things are Better Than You Think by Rosling, et al (2018). 

In this book, Rosling and co-authors use a remarkable collection of data to identify and address numerous misperceptions that we typically hold regarding the current state of affairs in our world. To underscore these misperceptions he repeatedly compares the responses to survey items in his voluminous audiences (usually highly educated ones) to the response rates he gets on the same surveys when placed in front of chimpanzees. All too often, the chimpanzees outscored the humans. Actually, almost always. Uh oh!

My top takeaways from reading Factfulness:

·     Averages mislead us by hiding a range, often a very broad range, of numbers in a SINGLE number.

·     Beware comparisons of both averages ANDextremes.

·     Be very careful jumping to any conclusions if the data variances are less than 10%.

·     Bad news plays much better in the media than good news; that’s why we get so much of the former.

·     Trends in data almost always exist in curves; rarely ever in straight lines.

·     I/We are not normal; and other people are not idiots.

·     Categorizations are the same as generalizations, and they are usually misleading.

·     Change is almost always a very slow process, thus very difficult to see while it’s occurring.

·     Single perspectives are notorious liars; viewing problems from many different angles is the best path to a meaningful solution.

My favorite quote(s):

“I never trust data 100 percent, and you never should either.” (p. 50)

“The world cannot be understood without numbers. And it cannot be understood with numbers alone.” (p. 128)


“Factfulness is … recognizing when a scapegoat is being used and remembering that blaming an individual often steals the focus from other possible explanations and blocks our ability to prevent similar problems in the future. To control the blame instinct, resist finding a scapegoat.”  (p. 222)


“Factfulness is … recognizing when a decision feels urgent and remembering that it rarely is.” (p. 242)


This book was recommended to me by a colleague who noted that it completely changed the way he thought. It had a similar impact on me. I just love it when authors, speakers, teachers, wangateurs take my mind to new places. 


I highly recommend Factfulness

Wednesday, June 9, 2021


The wisest leaders I know are relentless focusers. Or, RE-focusers.

These leaders understand that their personal time, energy, and resources are finite. They know full well that they cannot do everything, meet with everybody, read every book, invest in every project, or attend every meeting.

Thus, these wise leaders decide with laser-like clarity the most important things in need of their attention (the late Stephen Covey described them as "the BIG rocks") and they relentlessly focus and re-focus on those elements of highest import.

The words, the calendars, the schedules, the efforts, and the expenditures of these wise leaders send an undeniably clear message about what they deem important. 

Failling to do so is what former Secretary of State Colin Powell describes as "mission creep," the inevitable dilution of our impact and effectiveness when we allow the myriad competitors for our attention to de-focus us.

Time to (re)FOCUS? 

Likely. Always.

Thursday, June 3, 2021


The late Dr. Hans Rosling did very impactful work during his lifetime - first as a physician, subsequently as a data analyst, finally as an evangelist for truth.

He told a story in his book Factfulness (2018) about serving as a young physician in a poverty-stricken country. Initially, he filled his very long days trying to treat and heal as many children as he could. Eventually, he came to the exhausted conclusion that he could heal far more children by teaching the parents some basic health habits that would interdict the antecedents of the illnesses that were killing their children.

In short, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

The wisest organizational leaders I know understand and apply this same logic. They purposefully spend the preponderance of their time teaching key players and implementing impactful systems aimed at interdicting the effectiveness killers of the organization - things like poor customer service, inventory bottle necks, bureaucratic time wasters, meaningless busy work, etc.

Upstream "health" habits dependably mitigate downstream "disease." This applies equally to both individual and organizational wellbeing.

Sunday, May 30, 2021


 I recently read Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, by Dallas Willard (2012). 

In this book, DW leads us through a careful consideration of what it really means to communicate with the God of our understanding, deeply, meaningfully, continually.

My top takeaways:

·     The Bible – THE word of God – is not EVERY word of God.

·     Our conversation with God should be similar to that which we have with a spouse or dear friend, simply a continuation of the one begun years ago.

·     Real communication is a two-way street that is only substantive when both parties choose to be engaged. It is bogus and hollow when either party doesn’t.

·     God can and does communicate with us through a wide array of media: the Bible, other humans, our spirit, music, nature, events, …

·     Just as with the other beings in our lives (not just the human ones), the quality of the communications is directly proportional to the depth of our relationship with one another.

·     Presence is a powerful medium of communication, both spoken and non-spoken.

·     A very nice recipe for learning: Read > Reflect > Respond > Rest.

·     Our faith walk is about sense-making, us making sense of our existence and purpose. We can only do so via a communicative relationship with God.

My favorite quote(s):

“God is not looking for a holy place. Places are holy because God is there.” (p. 97)

    “Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by the ease of its workings.” (p. 156)


    “We are required to “bet our life” that the visible world, while real, is not reality itself.” (p. 284)


    “Spiritual people are not those who engage in certain spiritual practices; they are those who draw their life from a conversational relationship with God.” (p. 288)

This book helped me think about my relationship to the God of my understanding, and about how I might make that relationship even richer. 

Thanks for the recommendation, LP.

Monday, May 24, 2021


 Somehow, I got old.

I wasn't really aiming for it, but here I am. And, I'm happy to be here. Old, that is.

As I heard another oldie say a few years ago, "I can see the finish line from here." True enough. 

I often reflect on what I might have done better over the years, but I don't perseverate about it. Just a look-back and think-forward process. There is very little about what I did/didn't do in the past that can be changed now. 

What I CAN do is apply that knowledge to the remaining years available to me. I know a few of the things I want to focus on with the days remaining:

> LOVE - those whom God has brought into my sphere, freely and fully.

> WORK - predominantly on those things I deem consequential (and not so much on the other).

> ABSORB - as appreciatively as possible all the blessings with which I have been gifted.

> COMMUNICATE - deeply with others, asking and listening with my full being, probing to learn.

> LEARN - as much as I can, as fast as I can.

> TEACH - what I have learned, generously and often, right up to the last breath.

Not to worry. The homestretch is a nice view.

Sunday, May 16, 2021


 It is widely believed that blood is the life-sustaining medium. Blood has three primary functions in our bodies: transportation, protection, and regulation.

Blood transports good stuff (oxygen, nutrients, etc.) into to each cell of the body, and it transports not-so-good stuff (carbon dioxide, waste materials, etc.) out.

Blood also serves as the lead element of the "homeland security" system of the body. It carries around a host of "first responders" that initiate the protective response of the body when unhealthy invaders are at the door.

Blood also plays a regulatory role, serving as the bridge medium between and among all the integrated systems that make up our bodies (respiratory, digestive, muscular, etc.). It helps keep the interface among/between those systems functional and smoothly operating. 

The best leaders I know are superb communicators. They effectively use varying types of communications methodologies as a sort of "blood" of the organization. 

Those wise leaders know full well that the health of the organizational "blood" - communications - is the upstream determinate of the health of the organization.

Sunday, May 9, 2021


We said our final farewells to another long-time friend this week. Those "good-bye" events seem to be coming more frequently these days.

While painful, attending memorial services always prompt some reflection on the WHY instead of the What and the How.

Clearly, we are all on a journey toward our last day, our last breath, on this planet. None are exempt. 

For some, it's a very long walk. Even so, those long lives are immensely varied in the levels of joy and pain they experience. 

For others, those life-walks are short indeed. Some, even in utero. Through the millennia, countless billions of parents have laid children to rest; from childhood diseases, tragic accidents, casualties of war...

Important to remember is that our life journey is NOT the destination. We are all, every one of us, moving toward that same moment in time: the one just AFTER our last breath here. 

Depending on our personal beliefs and faith, that first breath in the next journey has EVERYTHING to do with WHY we take each step in the current one. 

Either way, THIS is not the destination. 

Safe travels.

Sunday, May 2, 2021


 The wisest leaders I know work diligently to garner buy-in from stakeholders.

Why? They understand that agency is by far a better force multiplier than compliance.

When organizational members enthusiastically and energetically invest in the work (as opposed to being, or feeling, "forced" to it), rather amazing outcomes ensue.

Christensen refers to it as a mindset of "covenant" vs "contract."

Hagel, et al, describe it as "pull" vs "push" leadership.

Schlechty articulates it as gaining the highest levels of engagement.

Agency = High Commitment + High Effort

An aspiration well worth pursuing. 

Maybe that's why those wise leaders are so diligent in that regard.

Sunday, April 25, 2021


 We all deal with frustration. Leaders of organizations deal with even more frustration (since organizations are made up of.............humans).

The causes of frustration are simply too many to note. How we choose to deal with frustration is the more important issue. What should we think, say, and do in response to frustration's triggers?

Frustration triggers some typical responses from leaders: Outbursts, harsh words, assignment of blame (to others or ourselves), shutting down (emotionally or intellectually), doing "something" (or "anything") NOW... Anger and reactivity often win the day.

Consider a better approach: Constantly monitor, constantly discuss, constantly assess, constantly plan, constantly deploy, constantly adapt. 

It's called continuous improvement. Getting better, every day, on purpose.

Engaging in the continual habit (both as individuals AND teams) to honestly answer the following questions is beyond powerful:

Are we doing (or attempting to do) worthy work? If not, we should change something.

Are our attempts at worthy work producing good outcomes, at an acceptable pace? If not, we should change something.

Is the work we are doing making for a better future for BOTH us and others? If not, we should change something.

Whatever the subsequent changes made, the power is in the process.

Frustration feels acute, though it's mostly the result chronic problems. Dealing with it on the frontside (habitually rather than reactively - chronically rather than acutely) is by far the better approach. 

But only if BETTERNESS is what we're striving for.

Thursday, April 8, 2021


Leaders have the responsibility of trying to make things better. Almost always, it's a heavy lift. 

Here's one of my favorite definitions of leadership: The craft of moving others by influencing them to do things they would not do of their own accord, or at a pace which they would not undertake for themselves.

Leaders who fail to move organizations toward better futures often fall victim to one or some combination of the 4 DIS-es. 

1) DIStrust - when leaders fail to gain the trust of organizational members or fail to foster a culture of trust in the organization.

2) DISrespect - when leaders signal lack of respect (overtly or covertly) it becomes a cancerous toxin in the system.

3) DIStancing - when leaders disregard feedback, ignore the viewpoints of the customers, or show favoritism to some (which implies disenfranchisement of others).

4) DISsonance - when leaders dishonor the time of others by allowing meetings to be ineffectual time-wasters and engagements with members to be superficial or off-putting.

As leaders, we need not delude ourselves into believing anything positive will ensue if we foster, or allow, those four DISsing dynamics to exist - or worse, to persist - in our organizations. 

Get better. Every day. On purpose.

Sunday, April 4, 2021


 Getting better is a personal choice. We can choose to improve ourselves, either personally or professionally, along several domains: intellectual, physical, or emotional-spiritual.

Two elements determine our success in affecting better futures for ourselves: 

1) Will - Do we have the strong sense of need for a change in status and the drive to put processes in place to make that change?

2) Ability - Do we have the moxie, the skills, the discipline, the capabilities to actually make the changes we deem important to make?

Almost every human on the planet has the Ability piece in their skill set. The most frequent barrier, however, to personal/professional improvement comes in the area of Will. 

These same two dynamics are fundamental to organizational improvement. Wise leaders attend carefully to both aspects - Will and Ability - if they hope to foster a culture of continuous improvement.

But, oh, when they do!!!!

When is it too late to start getting better? When we're dead.

When is the best time to start? Now. 


Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Influence is an interesting dynamic. We can think of it as the act of impacting some sort of outcome through unobvious and often indirect means. 

The Earth is a physical body, yet it influences weather patterns, seasonal changes, celestial bodies beyond itself. The Sun is similar. While it is a finite physical body (in one sense), it’s power, reach, impact, INFLUENCE can be felt well beyond the confines of its physicalness. It commands attention and it emanates significant influence across millions of other celestial bodies, across light years of time. And, the Sun’s influence does not just stop at the surface of the Earth; it penetrates to its very core, to and through all the life forms that live here.

I am increasingly aware of the power of influence among and between humans. We, too, emanate signals(?), fields(?), influence(?) – SOMETHING – that reaches beyond our physical bodies, and across time. 

What is not in question is that you and I have some impact on the thinking and behavior of others, well beyond the physicalness of our bodies.

What IS in question, however, is the nature of that influence, and whether or not we are intentional in what we are emanating. 

We are at once the influenced, and the influencers.

A question most worthy of our deepest consideration: “What am I emanating in the way of influence?” 

Thursday, March 18, 2021


I recently read The Merit Myth: How Our Colleges Favor the Rich and Divide America by Anthony Carnevale, Peter Schmidt, & Jeff Strohl (2020).

 My top takeaways:

- Educational separation and sorting, by race and class, begins in kindergarten.

- College admissions and IQ standardized tests are inherently skewed to disfavor the non-privileged.

- “Enrollment management” processes used at elite universities ensure access for the wealthy and well-connected, at the expense of all others.

- Financial aid support in higher education is frequently directed (or re-directed) to those that need it the least.

- The high school diploma is no longer a harbinger of lifelong economic security.

- Bachelor’s degree owners have been rising out of the middle class into the highest-earning 30% while those with only a high school diploma have been dropping into the bottom 30%.

- Bachelor’s degree possessors can expect to earn about $1 Million more dollars over a working lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. (That’s a whole lot of iTune purchases!)

- A quality education can, and should, serve as the “social glue” that mends societal divisions.

- High school, college, and career should be treated as ONE system, not three distinct ones. 

- “College” should represent a pathway to security and contribution, not a codification of prestige.

- Social forces exist in six types of mechanisms: 

1) Cognitive mechanisms, causing us to inaccurately judge and categorize each other 

2) Spatial mechanisms, segregating us into very different living conditions 

3) Market mechanisms, leaving the disadvantaged disproportionately unlikely to benefit from economic change 

4) Policy mechanisms, via government and/or other entities, having the effect of increasing inequality 

5) Cultural mechanisms, which influence our thinking/behavior as we adapt to our distinct circumstances 

6) Educational mechanisms, which tend to replicate disadvantage generationally.


My favorite quotes:

 “In a seminal paper on the industry, the late Gordon Winston, a Williams College economist, described higher education as a place ‘in which very different educational quality is produced in very different schools at very different cost and sold at very different prices—gross and net—to students with very different input characteristics who get very different subsidies and are often selected from very long queues of applicants, leaving a lot of unsatisfied demand.’” (p. 62)   


“We currently set aside seats in the top colleges for students who already have the most advantages—the equivalent of reserving beds in the best hospitals for the healthiest people.” (p. 196)  


The authors of this book did an excellent job of pulling together data, identifying from that data a compelling societal need, and making a sound argument for change.


The only “gap” I detected in their argument was the insinuation that “college” represents a means to an end, rather than an accelerator of a lifetime of self-directed, disciplined, and ongoing learning.  


When we stop learning, we start dying.


A very good book, and one that’ll bump your thinking about how we can do better.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


We humans are fond of measurement.  It seems to give us a sense of control, of understanding, of certainty.   

Below is a picture of the folding rule my paternal grandfather (who passed before I was born) used in his trade as a carpenter.

To be sure, Austin Coulter used that rule to design and craft buildings, cabinets, and furniture that was at once structurally sound, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. 

However, very few things are as reliably static and dependably consistent as a 2x4 cut to 82.5" in length (actually, even those vary wildly).  And, the more complex the issue we wish to measure - mental health, body weight, wind speed, IQ, love - the less dependable our measuring devices become. 

Complexity of contexts added to relentless variability makes the act of measurement, on its best day, tenuous. 

Albert Einstein is oft quoted, "Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted." 

Margaret Wheatley, one of my favorite authors, asserts that "Every act of measurement loses more information than it gains, closing the box irretrievably and forever on other potentials."

We are wise to try to take account - to measure - things in order to track change and make improvements.  

We are wiser still to understand that those measurements, in almost all instances, are nothing more than snapshots of the present state (which has already changed).