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Monday, March 28, 2022


I recently read Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman (2017). 


In this book, the warrior (former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Dempsey) and the academic (Dr. Brafman) dissect the impact of global interconnectedness on the social arrangements and behavior of 21st humanity. In particular, they focus on how leaders can best make sense of this social milieu and use it to good ends. 


My top takeaways:

·       Being part of a community is increasingly divorced from geographic proximity. It’s virtual now.

·       Wise leaders listen, amplify, and include.

·       Retention of power should take a back seat to a focus on efficacious outcomes.

·       MD/OB’s six key principles for effective leadership:

1. Belonging isn’t optional: give them memories.

2. Connect effort with meaning: make it matter.

3. Think about what you’re not thinking about: learn to imagine.

4. Prevent decision paralysis: develop a bias for action.

5. Collaborate at every level of the organization: co-create context.

6. Expand the circle: relinquish control to build and sustain power.


My favorite quotes:

“More specifically, the world is moving from debates about facts to battles of narratives.” (p. 22) “Facts are by definition grounded in logic. Narratives, however, are based on emotions.” (p. 22) “A narrative battle is won by drowning out the counter message.” (p. 23)


“Inclusion isn’t necessarily the opposite of exclusion. Real inclusion isn’t about letting just anyone in; it’s about understanding the pillars of participation, personalization, and purpose.” (p. 42)


“The most important responsibility of leaders—no matter how busy they are and how many other priorities demand their attention—is to make their people feel like they belong.” (p. 81)


“A bias for action is the recognition that, in our complex world, learning is active and iterative. We act, we assess, and we act again. A bias for action is the recognition that facts are vulnerable and that speed matters in the era of digital echoes.” (p. 108)


“Our challenge as leaders is to empower the entire organization to take part in understanding the problem the team is facing and to encourage individuals at all levels to suggest potential ways to reach our desired outcomes.” (p. 123)


This book would make an excellent team study. It could provide the basis for some very rich and deep conversations about moving an organization well and rightly into an ambiguous future.

Sunday, March 27, 2022


Most of us were exposed to the concept of sweeping generalizations while we were in school. We learned to be alert for and wary of phrases such as...

All Men are ___ ... or ... All Asians practice ___ ... or ... All Marines will ___.

We were taught that use of such language and the mindset underneath it are an expression of prejudice, or outright bigotry. At the very least, it is an attempt to prejudice the minds of others.

In recent years I have become increasingly aware of the prejudicial impact of labels. As soon as we place a label on an INDIVIDUAL we automatically cause inferential assumptions about that person. Those implied assumptions occur in our own minds, and they emerge in the minds of our audiences (whomever they may be).

For instance... take the label "Baptists." I know a lot of Baptists, but very few of them live tightly according to codified Baptist doctrine. Yet, when I use that label my mind instantly lumps them into a pattern of behavior/thought that is likely not accurate.

For your consideration, here are some other labels that generate auto-assumptions in our minds: Democrats, Conservatives, Southerners, Women, Rednecks, Educated... 

The labels we use automatically generate assumptions; those inferences are often unfair and frequently incorrect. 

Mostly, we all think and behave as INDIVIDUALS

I'm trying mightily to view others, to act, to think, and to speak accordingly. It's harder than you think.

Join me?

Sunday, March 20, 2022


Getting better. Every day. On purpose. That could be a tattoo for the continuous improvement mindset. 

Why would betterness not be a goal for each of us, both in our personal lives and in the organizations we belong to?

Betterness is a discipline, the direct result of deliberate habit formation.

What do some of those powerful habits of betterness look like?

  • Caring -- It's absolutely OK to care, and to show it. We can make it a habit to demonstrate care for others. 
  • Alertness -- Observe, pay attention, listen, ask questions, assess.............on continuous loop.
  • Target Fixation -- Be perfectly clear about the BIG picture outcomes we seek, and speak to others with intent to clarify that picture for them, too.
  • Stop-N-Start -- We can make it a habit to stop doing stuff that does not directly contribute toward our goals, and to start doing those that do. Status quo is an illusion.
  • Modeling -- No teaching tool is more effective than modeling. If we can't model it, we can't demand it. If we don't model it, we are not serious about it.
  • Refresh -- Each day is a new day. We can start anew each day. Actually, we can start anew each minute.

Betterness is magnetic. Magnets are much better at "pulling" than they are at "pushing." A good lesson to remember.


Wednesday, March 16, 2022


Of all the communications tools we have in our tool chest, listening is the most powerful. 

Being a better listener is a craft (craft = art + science). And, sharpening our listening skills is a daily discipline. 

Some things to consider if we wanna be better listeners...

  • Asking first - enter conversations with quality questions rather than statements. Inquiring about others as people, about what we don't know, about how to do or be better, about.... Inviting others to talk is a great way to learn.
  • Slow the pace, lower the volume - pausing, considering, reflecting about what is being said, all lend a sense of being valued in the minds of others. Prospects for our learning something useful and important go up immensely.
  • Truth rules - when we listen (and speak), truth must be the standard. Anything less is an open invitation for the suspension of attention. Opportunities to learn are lost, on both sides.
  • Deference disposition - assuming others have important insight that we want and need is an excellent way to learn. Virtually impossible to gain if we are the one talking. 
Learning is the outcome we seek. 
Learning what we need to know is important. 
Learning what we don't need to know is just as important. 

Learning occurs best when we're listening (not talking).

Sunday, March 13, 2022


Reflecting on our personal and collective history can serve as a powerful stimulant for the future we choose to make. 

We have been shaped by people, by experiences, and by forces. Those shaping mechanisms generate within us purpose (whether we define it or not). As we manifest that purpose the stories of our lives, businesses, communities begin to unfold. 

Those shapers are:

  • People - those whose words and actions prompted us to be better versions of ourself.
  • Experiences - the events, efforts, encounters that formed our worldview.
  • Forces - the overarching and underlying contexts (e.g., love, service-mindset, faith, etc.) that impact the way we "feel" about our corner of the world and impact how we act upon those feelings. 

We have the editing rights. Deliberate consideration of those shaping elements of our story most certainly makes us better "writers" of the next sentence, paragraph, chapter...

Note to self: As I edit and write my own future, I am most certainly shaping those of others.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022


One of the powerful conclusions we glean from research in the field of psychology is that of reciprocation. It is in our nature to mirror/reflect behavior others send in our direction. It's as if we feel some powerful pull to respond in like kind.

As servant leaders we are wise to better understand the concept of reciprocation and to employ it in the dispatch of our work.

Some possibilities for us to consider:

  • Listening...more, talking less.
  • Respectfulness...for everyone, all the time, even when we don't "feel" it.
  • Valuing...others and their contributions.
  • Performance...perseverate on outcomes and objectives.
  • Honor and accentuate strengths...minimizing focus on weaknesses.

Some people might describe that list as "norms." Maybe so, but norms are worthless unless leadership persistently models them.

Worth noting is that reciprocation runs both ways. Whatever devaluing. self-serving, dishonoring, or deceitful behaviors we exhibit will most certainly be boomeranged back at us -- usually in spades.

Sunday, March 6, 2022


Organizations are made up of people. Always.

The problems organizations experience are generated by people, often by people within the organization (but sometimes by people external to the organization). One way or the other, it's people who are somehow, someway the genesis of the problems experienced.

How can servant leaders effectively deal with those behavior problems (aka people problems)?

Consider the following strategies:

  • Focus first and always on what's going right.
  • View and treat the behavior problems as individual issues. Don't splatter the entire organization with a reprimand or redirection that is clearly aimed at one (or just a few) behavior problems.
  • Invite the others in the organization to articulate what the organizational outcomes would look like if things were going great.
  • Invite others in the organization to articulate the behaviors that would lead to that going-great scenario.
  • Address the problem people privately, directly, and specifically with your concerns about only two things: 1) their behavior that is affecting weaker results, and 2) the weaker results their behavior is generating. Avoid any conversation at all about attitude, about feelings, attempting explanation of the problem. Behavior is what matters.
Organizations will always have behavior problems. Those with the fewest behavior problems have the highest performance metrics. 

It is our role as leaders to minimize the behavior problems, in order to maximize performance. 

Leadership ain't for skeerdy cats.