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

Sunday, October 1, 2023


A valued friend of mine shared a lovely concept with me this week. (I'll call him Bob for purposes of anonymity.)

Bob told me that he had been advised at a young age by valued mentor to take the following approach to life:

Whenever you have the opportunity to help someone, take it. For it may never come around again.

Yeppers. A simple tenet to make the world a better place. 

We could begin today...

Monday, September 25, 2023


I recently read The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation of Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt (2018). 

In this is book, Lukianoff and Haidt premise what they call the three Great Untruths:

1) The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; 

2) The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings; and 

3)The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

My top takeaways:

·       “Untruths” contradict ancient wisdom, contradict modern psychological research on well-being, and harm individuals and communities.

·       There is great wisdom in the old saying: “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

·       There are two kinds of identity politics: Common-Humanity (unifying approach) and Common-Enemy (divisive approach).

·       Words are NOT violence, and telling our children so is not healthy.

·       Definition of Witch Hunt: they seem to come out of nowhere; they involve charges of crimes against the collective; the offenses that lead to those charges are often trivial or fabricated; and people who know that the accused is innocent keep quiet, or in extreme cases, they join the mob.

·       The loss of Free Play time is exacting a heavy and detrimental price on the socio-emotional development of our children.

·       Two common conceptions of justice: 1) Distributive justice (the perception that people are getting what is deserved), and 2) Procedural justice (the perception that the process by which things are distributed and rules are enforced is fair and trustworthy).

·       Four rules for productive disagreement: 1) Frame it as a debate, rather than a conflict. 2) Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind). 3) Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective. 4) Acknowledge where you agree with your critics and what you’ve learned from them.


My favorite quotes:


“… wind extinguishes a candle but energizes a fire.” (p.23)

“A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.” (p.29)

“Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”  -from Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer (p.99)

“Free play helps children develop the skills of cooperation and dispute resolution that are closely related to the “art of association” upon which democracies depend. When citizens are not skilled in this art, they are less able to work out the ordinary conflicts of daily life. They will more frequently call for authorities to apply coercive force to their opponents. They will be more likely to welcome the bureaucracy of safetyism.” (p.194)

While Lukianoff and Haidt get into the weeds a little prescriptively toward the end of the book, I found the premise of their arguments to be sound and consistent with my societal observations. 


This is a book I’m thankful to have read. And, I’m thankful that my grandchildren are being raised by parents and educators who are teaching them that life is what we make of it, not what happens to us.

Sunday, September 24, 2023


Why does it seem that bad habits are so easy to adopt and stay with, and good habits are so hard? Why is it that good habits are so easy to abandon, and bad ones hang on like dandruff?

Habits seem to anchor to our LEASTness mindset:

What takes the least time? There's habit for that.

What takes the least effort? There's a habit for that.

What causes the least discomfort? There's a habit for that.

What helps us avoid making difficult decisions? There's a habit for that.

What if we made it a habit to think about our habits? And to quite intentionally unhook from some of the bad ones. And to purposefully build into our day/calendar/thoughts/systems/relationships a few habits that move us toward who we really want to be?

No time like the present...

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


As we do work on complex problems, in fluid environments, with people and systems that mightily resist change, leaders can (and often do) succumb to the challenge. The inertia seems impenetrable at times.

Providing clarity of direction is, perhaps, the best service we can provide in "murky" environments.

Consider enacting the following daily strategies of effective leadership:

  • Articulate clearly the Vision of the organization. Tell us WHERE we're heading, constantly, even if the path is hard to find.
  • Pick a FEW measurable and understandable goals we can pursue toward that Vision, then monitor the progress, talk about that progress, adapt to the inhibitors of that progress, and continue making progress.
  • Listen to stakeholders constantly, steadily asking questions about their understanding of the Vision, about their deployment efforts toward that Vision, and about their progress in pursuit of that Vision.
  • Analyze the systems of the organization, weeding out the ones that seem errant to the Vision, bolstering the ones that promote its achievement.
The persistent drumbeat of the Vision and constant, clear communication is the daily work of leadership. Clarity of direction is a powerful accelerator. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023


Leaders in organizations cannot eliminate gossip, but we can mitigate it. How?

  • Don't Participate - simply excuse ourselves from the harmful chatter.
  • Notice - be persistently conscious of the good things people do for the organization and each other. Folks seem always attentive to what the leaders are looking at and listening to.
  • Acknowledge - let others know the good things/people we've noticed -- through personal notes, through public praise, through our affirmations to those up and down the organizational food chain.
  • Amplify - make public affirmations for other folks in the organization a permanent feature on meeting agendas. In church, we used to call it "testifying." Make it a habit to let folks praise each other in public.
We can't completely kill gossip, but we can discourage it. We can most certainly create uncomfortable conditions for gossip -- and gossipers.

Sunday, September 10, 2023


Sometimes we slip into recalcitrant thinking and behavior. The impact of such behavior is defensive, limiting, and "slowing." That impact is especially magnified when the recalcitrance comes from leadership.

What does recalcitrance look like in an organization?

  • Impose layer upon layer of permissions and approval for menial tasks.
  • Talk about data but rarely examine the data with a skeptical and open mind.
  • Discourage risk taking and risk takers.
  • Limit professional development and/or organizational learning.
  • Stay focused on the day-to-day actions rather than on the BIG espoused outcomes.
  • Harden the protocols/rules/procedures.
  • Listen and talk only to the internal stakeholders.
Where recalcitrance rules, obsolesce -- or irrelevance -- soon follows.

Anti-example can be a powerful teacher.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023


What do we want for our children as result of their having been in our schools for 12 or 13 years?

What do we want them to know? What do we want them to be able to do? How do we want them to be able to think? What behavioral practices will serve them and their community for a lifetime? What kind of citizens do we intend to shape?

Those are questions any school community should have. Those are questions that are best fleshed out by ALL the stakeholders in that school community.

Choosing to ask those questions is a bold step. Attempting to answer those questions is a messy and challenging process. Posing those questions and chasing the answers is ideally a process led by the school leaders of the learning community.

For those of us who serve in school leadership, some additional questions follow:

How willing am I to undertake the task?

How well have I prepared myself to lead this process?

How well have I polished up my skills of engagement?

Only when we clearly articulate the aspired PROFILE of the learners we serve can we begin to put some meaningful plan of affectation in place. Without such a plan, we and our learners languish.

It's only the futures of our children, and our communities, at stake. (Time's a wastin'.)

Sunday, September 3, 2023


The best leaders I know are constantly doing the work of succession planning.

Most organizational leaders know they are only one minute or one decision away from no longer being the leader.

How do these wise leaders go about the business of succession planning?

  • They hire folks who embody the highest qualities of Emotional and Social Intelligence.
  • They put quality systems in place to carry out the organizations vision and mission.
  • They insist on transparency in the way the organization's business is conducted.
  • They imbue the organization with a mindset of continuous improvement.
  • They cross-train folks up and down the organizational hierarchy.
  • They invest heavily in professional development and mentoring.
Do the leaders hand-pick the next leader? Rarely. On the contrary, when the day comes that they leave the organization (for whatever reason), there remains a stable of highly capable, highly prepared next-generation leaders to choose from.


Wednesday, August 30, 2023


Most of us have been "thrown under the bus" at some point in time. Sometimes it happens with malice aforethought; sometimes it occurs as an effect of happenstance.

Either way, it's a most unpleasant experience. 

How we handle being thrown under the bus makes all the difference in how we proceed thereafter.

We can consider these moves in getting ourselves out from under the bus:
  • Take the high road. Recrimination and vengefulness rarely pay worthy dividends.
  • Keep producing. The best way to right wrongs is to prove our worth, which means..........produce desired outcomes.
  • Resist division. Though tempting, alliances and polarization almost always produce negative vibes and worse outcomes.
  • Secure or leverage a mentor from OUTSIDE our organization. We need someone to whom we can talk safely and honestly.
  • Continue to learn and grow from this experience. Just like we do from all the others.
  • Be kind, be pleasant, be professional, be wary.
How we respond to being thrown under the bus makes all the difference.................whether we stay in our current organization or move on to another.

Sunday, August 27, 2023


Pushing for improvement is a process, not an event. It involves adopting new habits AND abandoning old habits. The time-tested mantra of "Old habits die hard" has staying power because of its profound truth.

It really doesn't matter if we are at the top, middle, or bottom of the organizational power structure, we can all affect improvement. And those changes toward improvement rarely come easily.

A common "dodge" is to claim that we don't have the power -- or enough power -- to cause that improvement (which always involves changing something).

But each of us can do something. Even if it's a little something. Even if it's just us doing it. Whining about what we can't do -- or are not allowed to do -- never causes improvement.

Getting better. Every day. On purpose.

And today is the best day to do it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023


Culture is the ultimate expression of our values. 

We default to the values of our dominant cultural affiliation UNLESS we choose values different from those. 

Important questions to ask ourselves and our teams as we examine whether or not our organizational culture is effectively manifesting our chosen values:

  • How clearly have we articulated our fundamental guiding values?
  • What ways of thinking serve to promote those values?
  • What observable behaviors do we see in ourselves that manifest those values?
  • How well do we acknowledge, praise, honor, and memorialize those who are effective exemplars of those values?

As we answer those questions, two important action steps follow:

  1. Adopting habits to reinforce those values.
  2. Abandoning habits that don't.

Culture shaping is hard work that requires constant attention. Culture shapes us AND we shape culture. It is a dynamically reciprocal relationship.

Values matter!

Sunday, August 20, 2023


What we believe about ourselves in frames the way we behave and the actions we take.

What we believe about ourselves is the result of what we choose to believe about ourselves.

What we believe about ourselves has impact on others, and in our world.

Consider tattooing some of the following beliefs on your soul and mind:

  • I do matter, and I will continue to matter. Do my actions reflect such?
  • My happiness and my emotions are under my control. Do my actions reflect such?
  • My doing always matters more than my talking. Do my actions reflect such?
  • Serving is the gold standard of a worthy life. Do my actions reflect such?
  • Engaging with like-minded others accelerates my growth. Do my actions reflect such?
  • My success is directly proportional to how much I help others succeed. Do my actions reflect such?
Well....................do they? 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


Few things are more motivating to us than when someone notices when we done good or did it right.

When we hear things like.......

"Thanks for...."

"I appreciate your....."

"You inspired me to..."

"I'm grateful for your..."

Makes us wanna do even gooder, or get it more rightlier.

BONUS: Expressing gratefulness to others costs us almost nothing.

Sunday, August 13, 2023


Early in my career I pretended to be an athletic coach. One of the events I attempted to coach was the high jump.

In the high jump (and the pole vault) there is what is called the "opening height." That is the height at which the bar is initially set to start competition. Athletes must clear that opening height to remain in the competition. Those that don't......................put their warmups back on and head to the bus.

In organizational work, we also have opening heights. We call them "standards." 

A mistake that is made quite often is to think of the standards as THE GOAL. They are not! Achieving the standards is akin to clearing opening height -- it is simply the starting point that keeps us in the competition.

EXCELLENCE is the goal. It is that ever-increasing height to which the bar is moved as we push ourselves, and each other, to betterness. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023


One of the most frustrating elements in organizational life, or personal life for that matter, is dealing with non-answers.

Discovering that there is a problem is not rocket science. Teasing out the root causes of the problem is a little trickier. Addressing the problem is tougher still. 

When we're finally ready to roll up our sleeves and get to fixing the problem, we usually need guidance or permission or assistance or resources. That's the point at which we ask the Boss or the Board or the Team some fairly easy questions about getting started on the repair job. 

If the answers we get to those getting-started questions include stems like: 
"We might..." 
"Maybe we should..." 
"Let's pause just a bit and see if...." 
"Don't do anything until..."

The answer is "NO." 

Getting to "YES, let's fix this problem" is a problem unto itself.

For those committed to continuous improvement, saying "YES" as often as we can is really helpful.

Sunday, August 6, 2023


Good leaders are hard to come by. GREAT leaders, nearly impossible.

The best leaders I know purposefully lift up and inflate those around them. The lesser ones serve as DE-flaters. 

What is it that those DE-flaters do to let the air out of the rest of us?

  • View and speak from the negative perspective, ad nauseam.
  • Insist on time-eating processes, protocols, procedures.
  • Tolerate, or even incentivize, bad behavior.
  • Diminish, devalue, nit-pick, and demean.
  • Focus more on the past than the future.
  • Talk, A LOT.
Anti-example can be an excellent teacher... (for those who are paying attention).

Wednesday, August 2, 2023


Birthdays are merely anniversaries of our arrival on this planet. That day may have been much-anticipated and dearly longed for. Maybe not. It might have gone just as expected and without complication. But then, perhaps not. It might have occurred with much fanfare and brouhaha. Or not.

Whatever the circumstances, that day launched an inevitable turning of the clock. And with it, some constant changes (yes, that seems a contradiction). Don't believe it? Look at pictures of yourself over the years.

We have no control of the birthday clock. We do, however, have tremendous control over our GrowthDay clock. We can choose on this day, and every day, to get better and learn more. On purpose.

There's recipe for making today a GrowthDay:

  • Choosing - choosing to grow and learn gives the process meaning and order.
  • Reflecting - taking glances in the rearview mirror helps us make sense of where we've been, what went right/wrong along the way, and what next needs our attention.
  • Pressing - consequential growth does not occur when we're "in neutral" or comfortable.
  • Inquiring - asking Why? or How? or What if? or Could we? triggers the antecedent to learning-growth which is.................curiosity. 
Atrophy happens. It happens more and faster when we let it.

Happy GrowthDay! (Today, and every day.)

Sunday, July 30, 2023


In most organizations, the end of summer marks a "new" beginning. Rather than January 1, the return of employees (or students) at the end of summer seems the de facto initiation of a work year.

The best leaders I know understand the power of HABIT, on themselves and on the organizations in which they work. In simplest term, HABITS are those things we repeat, again and again, until they occur mindlessly.

Wise leaders also know that talking about it doesn't affect adoption of new habits, nor eliminate bad ones. Doing good habits is the only thing that gets it done.

Some habits worth considering:

  • Focus daily on the vision and driving goals.
  • Frame all meetings around the vision and driving goals.
  • Allocate resources only to things that contribute to the vision and driving goals.
  • Isolate and eliminate "stuff" not directly contributing to the vision and driving goals.
  • Notice employee acts/decisions made in the interest of the vision and driving goals.
  • Converse often and individually with team members about the vision and driving goals.
If we really want to achieve our Vision and Driving Goals..........they pretty much have to become HABITual foci.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Sometimes those of us in leadership roles shoot ourselves in the foot. We can become our own worst enemies.

Here are some of the common acts of FootShooting we commit: 

  • We perservate on process, at the expense of focusing on outcomes.
  • We slip into treating team members as enemies.
  • We decide to talk more than we listen.
  • We build walls instead of bridges.
  • We think we can stop learning.

Most often, we slip into those FootShooting activities in times of crisis, stress, or duress.

Organizations seem to function better when the leaders don't have feet with gunshot wounds.

Sunday, July 23, 2023


The challenge of finding work-life balance is familiar to many.

How much time, energy, effort should we dedicate to our work? How much should we carve out exclusively to family, to recreation, to self-therapy?

Michael Fullan says that "it's not hard work that de-energizes people, it's negative work."

But, what if we're convoluting things by thinking of "work" and "life" as mutually exclusive constructs? If they are, then we are compelled to constantly tip the scale between the two back and forth in mostly futile attempts to achieve "balance." No surprise that so many fail miserably and disproportionately to attend to one at the expense of the other.

Might our lives achieve a healthier balance if we choose service as the primary driver, in all facets of our lives? What if both in work and in life, our primary motive is to seek avenues for rich service to the other humans within our sphere of influence (whether professional colleagues, friends, or family)? Service, in fact, seems to afford significant benefit to both giver and receiver. 

The most admirable people I know seem to have figured out a way to spend all their moments in service to others, regardless of the "activity" in which they are involved.

Seems worthy...

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


You've heard the old saw: "Curiosity killed the cat." While that idiom may hold fair warning for cats, it's not a great tenet for humans to live by.

People with truly curious minds tinker, poke, stretch, re-do, undo, experiment, innovate, and improvise. They LEARN! (And, usually, they're fun.)

The best leaders I know take that curiosity to another level. They use their curious minds to foster improvement in themselves, in their teams, and in their organizations on two important fronts:

1) Observation and Attention-Paying -- these leaders closely watch, attend, listen, notice, discern .... ALL the time.

2) Inquire -- these leaders ask really good questions of themselves, of their teams, of their competitors, and of high performers in other professions. Moreover, they learn from the responses they get because they LISTEN to those answers.

Wonder what I can learn today, and from whom? 

Think I'll ask.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023


Some of the folks I admire most get a LOT of stuff done. They have eclectic interests, curious minds, and superb skills in task completion.

I've noticed some commonalities in these Gitter-Doner types:

  • They know the time of day when their brain works best, and they do the most cognitively challenging work at those times.
  • They tackle the "worst first" during a normal day.
  • They organize their files/documents/emails/stuff so that they can lay their hands/brains on it immediately (without having to go on a time-sucking scavenger hunt).
  • They have a network of trusted "experts" whom they tap for advice and counsel on tricky decisions.
  • They remove distractions when doing work that requires intense focus.
  • They put tasks/meetings/deadlines on a calendar (usually just ONE calendar) and monitor that calendar daily.
  • They communicate with their team frequently.
  • They create "first drafts" of important work weeks or months in advance, to allow percolation time for improvement modifications and ongoing cognigitation.
  • They have fun with their work and at their work.
Gotta run. Stuff to get done today.

Sunday, July 9, 2023


Leading implies both optimism and hope. 

The best leaders I know inspire us to aim high and perform well. They're fun to work for and with. They're downright contagious.

Here are some of the things those leaders do to inspire and embolden us:

  • Focus the most time/effort/attention on the future (not the past).
  • Understand that perfect is not the goal, better is.
  • Express mucho gratitude and appreciation for effort invested.
  • Develop others to be the best they can be.
  • Know the team and place them in roles well-suited to their skill set.
These impactful leaders understand that hope is just the starting point. The optimism is manifested in the Ways of Thinking and Ways of Behaving, which bring our aspirations within reach. 

Friday, July 7, 2023


Good listeners are rare. Outstanding listeners are rarer still.

What keeps folks -- maybe me and you -- from listening well and deeply?

  • We might not care.
  • We're too &$%#ed busy.
  • We think the speaker is uniformed, or worse.
  • We're distracted by ___?___ (something, or everything).
  • We don't value the speaker, or her/his opinion. 
  • We'd rather be talking.
  • We're TIRED!
Oh, but how much could we learn, and how much more open to us would others be, if............
we'd just LISTEN?

Sunday, July 2, 2023


Trees come in lots of flavors and styles. Some trees...

  • Grow best in dense forests; others survive best in complete isolation.
  • Have deep and strong tap roots; some exist with shallow roots near the surface.
  • Have massive trunks and impervious bark; others have wispy and tender trunks.
  • Have leaves that are broad and expansive; some wear leaves that look like needles.
  • Live for hundreds of years; others but a flash in the pan.
  • Invite engagement and cohabitation; others have defense shields permanently deployed.
  • Shoot hundreds of feet into the air, straight skyward; others have branches that resemble a tangled skein.

    And everything in between.

    All trees have unique personalities. All trees are inextricably intertwined and interdependent with many other species of critters in the environment in which they live. 

    Trees are people, too.

    Wednesday, June 28, 2023


    We all have finite amounts of energy. We deal with endless incoming data, urgencies, people, and demands that compel our attention and energy.

    If we want to have optimal impact -- in both our personal and professional endeavors -- we are wise to direct our energy and attention toward the BIG stuff and away from the little stuff.

    Consider NOT investing effort-energy-time in the following distractors:

    • Negative Nellies -- These are the complainers, whiners, victims, problem identifiers.
    • Asses -- These are the insulters, the devious, the ill intentioned, the parasites.
    • Non-learners -- These are the change resistors, the bureaucrats, the incurious, the purposefully uniformed.
    • Myopics -- These are the minutae-driven, the small picture, the narrow minded, the knit-pickers, the non-servants. 
    Our time, and lives, can be much better spent. 

    (But, don't forget to ignore these folks in a respectful manner.)

    Sunday, June 25, 2023


    Sarcasm generates giggles. Tackiness scores laughs. Insults get chuckles. Condescension delights. Disrespectful snipes entertain. Mockery amuses. Ridicule gets likes.

    Almost always are those effects short lived, among the watchers. 

    Almost never are those efforts forgotten, by the targets.

    Civility and respectfulness come with their own rewards. 

    And, generally, those rewards compound over time.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2023


    I've got a little age on me now. And yet, I still have mentors. My mentors come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders, but they continually make me better. As the beneficiary, I've had a front-row seat to their deployment efforts. 

    Here are some of the impactful things those MentorMeisters practice:

    • Advocacy - they cheer and encourage.
    • Attentiveness - they pay attention, intensely.
    • Inquisitiveness - they ask really good questions.
    • Listening - they engage in powerful and active listening.
    • Reflectiveness - they cause me to look at myself, VERY closely.
    • Betterment - they embody continual improvement, and invite others along.
    I have much to pay forward.

    Sunday, June 18, 2023


    The best leaders I know understand that the quality and impact of their work is directly proportional to the quality and impact of the work of those with whom they serve.

    The get-this-done-today list of these wise leaders resides permanently at the forefront of their brains. It looks kind of like this:

    • Listen more, talk less
    • Foster pervasive trust
    • Connect authentically
    • Exhibit respectfulness
    • Challenge, don't threaten
    • Model eyes-forward optimism
    • Notice and acknowledge worthy effort
    Their motive and approach? Move the needle today.

    And tomorrow....................they get up and do it again.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2023


    Our professional-intellectual growth is a direct function of intentional decisions we make -- every day. We accelerate our journey toward betterment with a robust network.

    One of the most impactful decisions I made about 30 years ago was to join a professional organization. In my case, as an educator, the organization was the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP). That organization is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. 100 years of service to students in Texas and the principals that serve them. 

    Without question, that organization provided me with resources, connections, and support systems to help me better serve the students and communities of the schools that allowed me to work for/in them. 

    Perhaps the biggest benefit of that participation is the support network of committed professionals that has evolved for me over the decades. Countless times have I been faced with a tricky dilemma which was beyond my isolated ability to frame and address. Again and again, my colleagues in that organization offered questions, insight, guidance, and even commiseration, in the interest of helping me be a better servant leader. 

    At no cost, and without judging me. Good and smart people, helping me be gooder and smarter. 

    Every profession has organizations of this nature. To choose not to participate is a choice to make our work even harder than it already is. 

    Sunday, June 11, 2023


    Most of us want to accomplish a couple of things in life:

    • Have meaningful impact
    • Be effective in our undertakings
    To be sure, there are a lot of sub-objectives to both of those endeavors, with nuances and webs extending from each.

    Constant reflection is required to optimize our impact and effectiveness. And, impact necessarily implies connections and relationships. 

    Some important questions to consider in the Reflectification process:

    Am I focused on the right thing(s)? 
    How well am I fostering new and nurturing current relationships?
    Which of my habits contribute to my impact and effectiveness? and Which don't? 

    Our answers determine next steps. There is no finish line, so we're in for constant improvement along both dimensions. There's plenty of room for growth.

    Right now is always a good time for reflection.

    Wednesday, June 7, 2023


    If we work in some kind of organization, there'll be problems. If we work with people, there'll be problems. If we're trying to accomplish something important, there'll be problems.

    Problems are best addressed with a mindset of improvement. Getting better is the objective (since getting it perfect is probably not a realistic option).

    The best leaders I know lead with important betterment questions:

    Is our ship headed in the right direction?

    How can we do what we need to do better?

    What are we doing that isn't moving us toward our object(s) needs to be eliminated?

    What personal/organizational habits need to be adopted/abandoned, to make us better?

    And tomorrow, they ask the same or very similar questions.

    Getting better and thinking about getting better are both HABITS.

    Sunday, June 4, 2023


    I spent the day yesterday with my grandson and a very eclectic group of musicians. When our calendars can align and accommodate, he and I like to travel to a monthly "music circle" in San Angelo, Texas.

    In that gathering, and myriad similar, a strange mix of music appreciators mingle. It's open invitation; pull up a seat and join in. Ages from teens to octogenarians are represented, genders aplenty, education levels across the spectrum, instrument variety a given, skills ranging from neophyte to professional, worldviews diverse to the extreme. Songs of ancient origin as well as current Top 10 are played, and everything in between.

    And yet........................we set aside the obvious differences. We embrace fully that one commonality -- a deep appreciation for music. We swap tunes, we accompany each other (as we can), we attend carefully to the performances of each other, we learn from each other, we cheer and clap and encourage, and we freely dismiss mistakes. 

    We listen, really LISTEN! 

    Music seems to bind us intellectually, socially, spiritually. 

    The verdict is still out on whether I'll have opportunity to be present, but I'd bet good money there'll be music circles in heaven.

    Thursday, June 1, 2023


    Decades ago, one of the students of my lovely bride of 46 years -- Moe -- related to her that he had had an "epiphery." Moe quickly discerned that he was sharing with her about an epiphany, but had mispronounced the word. To this day, Moe and I frequently use the word "epiphery" to describe those breakthrough moments in our learning. 

    Some common elements by which Epipheries find us:

    • When we are being intentionally observant.
    • When we carve out time regularly to think and/or meditate.
    • When we are engaging purposefully with bright-minded others.
    • When we cross-pollinate by probing across multiple topics/genres.
    • When we have been focused and fixated on raising our level of learning.
    Rarely, if ever, do Epipheries come to us in the midst of a hurricane (literal or metaphorical).

    Intentional effort at learning anew seems to play a pivotal role in Epiphery appearances.

    Sunday, May 28, 2023


    Leadership is tricky business. 

    Sometimes we find ourselves believing things that just ain't so.

    Like what? Like the following lies we sometimes tell ourselves:

    • "If I ignore the problem, maybe it will go away."
    • "I'm sure I can change Bill (or Betty or Bertie)."
    • "If I just work harder, that'll fix it."
    • "It's best not to be known by, or to know well, others on the team."
    • "Keeping things just like they are is the safest course."
    • "If I show too much appreciation, folks will slip into neutral."
    • "Maybe another rule/policy is needed."
    Truth telling is a powerful ingredient. Not telling ourselves lies is equally so.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2023


    As a kid I loved playing catch. My partner of the moment -- dad or brother or friend -- and I would grab a ball of some kind and throw it back and forth to each other. Playing catch provided an easy but engaging hang with the other person. (It could even include more than two participants.)

    Engaging with curious-minded others has the same effect on me. It's like playing intellectual "catch."

    Here are some of the benefits of playing Curiosity Catch:

    • Thinking skills sharpen.
    • It is beneficial to all participants.
    • Interesting stuff and ideas always surface.
    • It provides a safe and easy place to "wonder."
    • Collective intelligence accelerates individual intelligence.
    • It pushes thinking to the outer edges of what is already known/believed.
    LEARNING is the outcome. Every participant wins. No one loses.

    Wanna play catch?

    Sunday, May 21, 2023


    How energizing to work with a leader that liberates.

    Rather than prescribe, direct, demand, define, ..... there are some leaders who take the path of liberating folks to do their very best work.

    What are some of the things Liberating Leaders do?

    • Articulate clearly, and dialogue pervasively around, the Vision of the organization.
    • Focus relentlessly on Outcomes that move the organization toward that Vision.
    • Learn team members strengths and place them in roles that leverage the same.
    • Deal with the low-performers directly and individually, without putting constraints on everyone for the sins of a few.
    • Notice and acknowledge frequently those who are serving well the greater good.
    • Learn voraciously, and bring every other person in the organization into the learning journey.
    • Listen deeply, to a lot of folks; and talk sparingly.
    • Model daily the work ethic, commitment, effort that is expected of all.
    Liberating Leaders are simply wonderful to work for/with. 

    Ask me how I know...........

    Wednesday, May 17, 2023


    Sometimes we get stuck. The rut seems to grab hold and won't let go. 

    Getting stuck happens to everyone. Getting unstuck is not rocket science.

    Try this recipe:

    • Get off the accelerator. Spinning the tires even faster won't get us out of the rut.
    • Reflect carefully. Figure out what got us stuck in the first place.
    • Seek the perspective of wise observers from outside the organization.
    • Discern carefully whether we got busier at doing than we were at being.
    • Decouple from habits that got us here.
    • Add in a couple of habits that move us toward what we wanna BE.
    Constant monitoring, constant reflection, constant correction. 

    Sounds like work, but well worth it to get UNstuck.

    Monday, May 15, 2023


    I love being in spaces with smart people. 

    Smart people come in all shapes and sizes. Two quick "tells" on whether they're the kind you'd like to learn something from are: 1) Bright and interested eyes, and 2) Willingness to engage.

    Where do I find those "smart" people? In the checkout line of the grocery store, sitting next to me at a ballgame, serving me at a restaurant, in the foyer of the hotel, in a breakout session at a conference, etc. Pretty much anywhere. If I'm not looking for them, it's my loss.

    How do I open the door to engagement? I usually ask a simple question or make an invitational comment. They'll let you know quickly whether or not they're willing to engage.

    Where do I look? Everywhere.

    Why do I look for smart people? To LEARN. They know something that I need to know.

    By the way, the education I get from those folks is pretty much cost free. The only thing it costs me is just a smidgen of my time. And, it's well worth the education.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2023


    Football can serve as a nice metaphor for organizational endeavor.

    The VISION of the football team is to win games and championships.

    The MISSION of the offense is to make first downs and score points.

    The ACTION PLAN of the offense is to effectively executive plays in a coordinated way.

    In football, there are many offensive schemes that can be used (all good), each with its own nuances:

    • Wishbone Offense
    • Split-back Veer Offense
    • Winged T Offense
    • Run-and-Shoot Offense
    • Slot-I Offense
    • and many more
    Imagine the result if a team breaks huddle, sprints to the line of scrimmage, and each of the 11 players then attempts to execute a completely different play, from a different offensive scheme.

    We see that very thing happen with remarkable frequency in organizations. It's as if the VISION, the MISSION, and/or the ACTION PLAN somehow get lost in the day-to-day work.

    When that happens, we should not expect to make first downs.....or score points.....or win.

    Sunday, May 7, 2023


    I recently read God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning by Meghan O’Gieblyn (2021).

    My top takeaways:

    ·       Science presumes a third person perspective, yet consciousness is a first-person experience. 

    ·       We have yet to understand the phenomenological experience—the entirely subjective world (color, sensations, thoughts, ideas, beliefs)

    ·       The “hard problem,” as described by Chalmers, Chopra, and others, is understanding consciousness.

    ·       Kurzwell predicts that Singularity – the merging humans with technologies – will happen by the year 2045.

    ·       Nature can be thought of metaphorically as a huge river, constantly flowing, changing, evolving.

    ·       Are “atheists” and “believers” simply choosing different metaphors for understanding the transcendent?

    ·       Self-organizing emergent systems occur at ALL levels of life – from tiniest organisms to humans –  and perhaps beyond.

    ·       Emergence is the ontological opposite of reductive materialism.

    ·       Our mind is not simply a physical object to be examined, but rather, a structural pattern that emerges from the complexity of an entire internal-external network.

    ·       Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, defined information as “the resolution of uncertainty.”

    ·       A current theory of consciousness is called Integrated Information Theory (IIT).

    ·       Panpsychism envisions all of nature—plants, animals, humans, angels, and God himself—existing within a continuum of consciousness. It’s sort of an all-centric vs human-centric (anthropomorphic) view of the universe.

    ·       Metonymy is the belief that the mind serves as a microcosm of the world’s macroscopic consciousness.

    ·       There is an irrefutable connection between “influencer” and “influenza.”

    My favorite quotes:

    “All perception is metaphor—as Wittgenstein put it, we never merely see, we always ‘see as.’” (p. 11)

    “In the lecture rooms and the laboratory, the only value that should hold is intellectual integrity.” (p. 47)

    “Bohr believed that whenever we encountered a paradox, it was a sign that we were hitting on something true and real.” (p. 130)

    “In the year 2001 alone, the amount of information generated doubled that of all information produced in human history. In 2002 it doubled again, and this trend has continued every year since.” (p. 194)

    Many researchers in the AI field suggests that the WHY really no longer matters. They argue that if the data show us the WHAT and the HOW, then we know all we need to know. I still have a burning question: Can justice, and morality, and quality of life be reduced to an algorithm? 

    I picked this book per my current interest in AI. Learning is sense-making. If you’re interested in trying to make a little better sense of things, this book will aid your journey.

    Sunday, April 30, 2023


    Blessings come our way in a multitude of forms: kindness extended, forgiveness offered, assistance, deference, prayers, time given, a listening and nonjudgmental ear, a simple smile, an encouraging word, .......... the list goes on and on. Most (and some of the most meaningful) cost not one penny.

    Blessings have a boomerang effect. The more we choose to serve and bless others, the more blessings come our way.

    It's not hard to find those who need a word, a hand, a little help.

    Go ahead. Give it a try. 

    But only if you like to be blessed in return.

    Saturday, April 22, 2023


    Little children, pets, and visionaries often share a similar trait. They see a person, object, or objective of great desire. They accelerate quickly in the direction of that person, object, or objective, gaining unbridled enthusiasm and speed in the pursuit. 

    Then.....they crash -- either into the apple of their eye (the teacher? the wall? the organizational resistance?) or some other unnoticed barrier along the way. 

    The effect, late realized: Their brakes did not work as well as their accelerator.

    Wisdom and good judgment are key in our ability to make optimal decisions about how much accelerator pressure and how much brake application helps us achieve our goals (whether personal or organizational). 

    Surrounding ourselves with strong teams of diverse, wise, and outcome-focused folks helps us make sound(er) accelerator-brake application decisions. 

    For leaders, two questions burn:

    1) How well have we shaped a culture that attracts such a talented team?

    2) Why in the world would such talent choose (because they can) to work with us?

    If we're not paying very close attention, there is ZERO chance we can approach answers to those two questions.

    Proceed? Yes. 

    How? Judiciously.

    Gotta have good help to make it happen.

    Sunday, April 16, 2023


    Organizations are actually living, breathing organisms. They have health markers, just like us humans.

    Leaders are in particular need of being able to assess and address organizational un-health.

    Consider the following graphic conception for viewing, thinking about, and discussing the health of your organization. 

       Healthy <<------------------- Blah ------------------->> Toxic   -

    Transparency <<------------------------------------------------------>> Secrecy

    Trust <<---------------------------------------------------------------->> Distrust

    Collaboration <<----------------------------------------------------->> Isolation

    Service <<--------------------------------------------------------->> Self-Interest

    Equality <<---------------------------------------------------------->> Hierarchy

    Support <<-------------------------------------------------------->> Destruction

    Macro-focused <<-------------------------------------------->> Micro-focused

    Freeing <<---------------------------------------------------------->> Oppressive

    LEARNING <<----------------------------------------->> Imposed Ignorance

    How can we better affect healthy and robust organizational culture? Just as with our personal health, knowing how to do better means very little………unless we actually choose to do better.

    The burning question: Whatcha gonna do about it?