Thursday, February 28, 2008

Humiliation - Just Say No!

Today I watched a manager humiliate one of his charges in a meeting.
It was embarrassing, humiliating, and unnecessary.
The gist of the situation was that this person's department had not performed well the previous night and the manager wanted to know why. It went something like this:
"What the hell happened to your department last night?!? Why can't your people do what they're supposed to? Do you have any idea what you're supposed to be doing?"
This is just bad management. A leader never criticizes in public. The simple rule is: praise in public, criticize in private. This manager's behavior was predicated on the worst possible idea: people won't perform well unless the manager rides them and stresses them out. C'mon, guy. Get with the concept of leadership.
You see, leadership is not that hard to understand. Leadership is always cognizant of "The Golden Rule:" Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you would not like being treated the way you treat your charges, then change your behaviors. For the enlightened, compassionate, and effective leader to be successful he or she remembers that first and foremost they have to work with their charges to get the job done. People don't work well with folks who treat them like dirt.
.'s message on leadership is to remember The Golden Rule, be respectful, and treat people right. It's really not that hard,...if you care.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Social Networking Primer

Originally uploaded by
Dutch Cowboys

Social Networking.

A way for people with common interests to connect online. Simple in its application. Complex in its ramifications.

These networks are an extension of our desire to connect with people of similar interests. More intimate than just going to a person's point, click, read website, these networks connect people around the world. Having a conversation with a person half way around the world is as simple as sitting down and entering a chat room.

More than anything to come along in the last 20 years, the Internet has shrunk our world to the size of this laptop I am writing on. It really is an amazing thing.

People have always had a need to connect and form communities. Until the Internet, this took very physical form: Towns, cities, countries, clubs, churches, etc. On the Internet, communities formed around varied and diverse commonalities in a virtual setting. Coming full circle, the social networks of the future are once again returning to the a desire to connect physically.

Most of you reading this are familiar with this topic. If you're not, type in the search criteria "Social Networking" and check it out.

You'll be amazed!

Monday, February 25, 2008

How Many Ways Can You Package Common Sense?

Common Sense
Originally uploaded by
SudiM Collective

Recently, I was exposed to a group of trainers that presented a full week course on "The New Science of Fixing Things."

No joke.

That's really the name of the training class, and, in fact, their entire business. A couple of guys took old ideas (so close to the Shainin teachings that they have a bold disclaimer on their site letting everyone know that they are not teaching the trademarked Shainin stuff....even though both of them worked for the Shainin, LLC! "methinks thou dost protest too much!") and packaged them differently and called them something else. Personally, I prefer "The Old Science of Not Breaking Things in the First Place!"

Is there really anything new under the sun when it comes to "fixing things" or in "breaking things?" Probably not. Things still get broken by neglect of proper maintenance, improper adjustments, poor construction, operator error, end of useful life, sabotage, etc. Fixing those broken things is still a matter of getting to root cause by digging into the facts, data, and circumstances.

One of my favorite ways of getting to root cause has often been credited to Demming and "The Toyota Way." It's called "the 5 whys," or simply asking why 5 times. Personally, I credit that method to every 3 year old that ever lived..."But why, daddy?"

Many fortunes have been made and lost by organizations offering the next "greatest way to fix everything!" In reality, there is much to be said for common sense in finding the root cause to problems and the solutions are pretty easy to find. Implementing the fixes is where organizations stumble and fall. Do these sound familiar?

  • We can't fix that problem! The solution is too:


-time consuming


-politically incorrect


-(fill in the blank)

Until you are ready to face the unvarnished truth about your problem and its solution, no progress can be made. All the common sense is for naught without a commitment to address the real problems. Until all filters are addressed, and overcome, the problems will still exist.

When you are ready, drop me a note. I can help you with that problem....I know some pretty smart 3 year olds....grins...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Don't Get Drawn in and Dragged Down

Originally uploaded by
Josh Sommers

(I enjoy this fella's work! Click on the pic to see more of Josh Sommer's work.)

Some people are like whirlpools. They spend most of their time going in circles, accomplishing little, complaining much and trying to drag others down by sucking them into their problems and their inefficient constructs. You can almost hear the sucking sound as they come to you again to help them out of another jam.

The best way to keep from getting drawn in and dragged down is to know where (or if) their concerns fit in your day. Too often, other people's urgent and important (Quadrant I) problems upset our day when we fail to have a plan for our own time.

Much has been written about effective "time management." All of the planning, workbooks, courses, etc, come down to one critical element: The discipline to stick to your plan and execute. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my learning of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits and will get more into the nuts and bolts of how they have worked for me and can work for you.

If you can sit down at least once a week and plan the following week, you will go a long way towards avoiding the maelstrom created by everyone else's Quadrant One crises. By engaging in the discipline of laying out a structure for your week, you will have more control over your time and will be less likely to get drawn in and dragged down.

More to come, so stay tuned!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Where do you Lead?

Okay. Enough silliness. Back to the purpose of the blog.


Where do you lead? Interesting question, so let me explain. In our lives, personal and professional, we are all, to some degree, expected to lead. Formally or informally, wanted or unwanted, we are expected to provide leadership and guidance. Sounds pretty basic, right? I submit that not everyone realizes this. For example:
  • We've all seen the tragic stories of an 8 y/o child killed by a stray bullet on a city street at 11pm on a school night, right? Why was he on the street, instead of somewhere safe in the care of the person responsible for his welfare? Who was leading that child?
  • A "manager of others" at work screams, yells, and throws things to get what he wants. His abhorrence for mistakes does not allow his charges to grow and learn. Yet he complains about all the calls he gets at all hours of the night, asking him for a decision on the most menial of items. Should he really be in charge of others?
  • The president of the PTA is in the role, but has absolutely no idea what to do to motivate others, so she winds up doing everything herself. After one term, she is burned out and wants nothing to do with the PTA. Why did she put herself in this position?
  • A child comes home with a failing grade and the parents blame the teacher...yet they have not taken the time to check homework or enforce rules requiring study at home. Is it really the teacher's fault?

These are just a few examples of where leadership is required and the leader isn't necessarily aware. They blame others or circumstances or fate or genetics or their horoscope....anything else except the face in the mirror. This is not how leaders should behave.

If we are to effectively lead in whatever way life demands of us, we must understand something I learned early in my military career: The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters. That is: don't make excuses for your shortcomings.

Recognize that no one is perfect and we must all admit failure from time to time. What you do after that will determine if you are a leader. What you do after you recognize a failure of your own making should be to try to understand what went wrong and learn from it for the future.

Failure is just an opportunity to learn. Repeated failure in the same task is an inability to be honest with ourselves and learn. Take the time today to be aware that it's okay to make an honest mistake, but be honest with yourself.

Leaders learn from their mistakes and drive on to be better.

And it's a lifelong process.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yeah Jimmy! (Just for fun!)

My son James (I prefer Jimmy, he prefers James) is a budding animation artist. Check out his first two movies. Just goes to show what a kid can do given a little encouragement, a video camera,some clay and some pipe cleaners! Yeah Jimmy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Taxes Cuts Simply Explained

I received this from a friend and thought it was perfect! Thanks, Pete!


Because it's the election season, let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
  • The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
  • The fifth would pay $1.
  • The sixth would pay $3.
  • The seventh would pay $7.
  • The eighth would pay $12.
  • The ninth would pay $18.
  • The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until one day the owner threw them a curved ball. "Because you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."

Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so:

  • The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
  • The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
  • The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
  • The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
  • The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
  • The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth man and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between
all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our Tax System works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible

Monday, February 18, 2008

Introducing AutismSpeaks

Autism speaks
Originally uploaded by forester401

As a NASCAR fan, I was watching the Daytona 500 yesterday and there, on the back of the pace car and displayed prominently throughout the day, was this beautiful blue puzzle piece. It made me smile and remember a few friends.

My buddy Mike introduced me to this symbol. He is a close personal colleague and his son Tyler has Autism. What is Autism? Here's a comprehensive definition from :

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.

If you'd like to learn more, please visit that site. I learned a lot from my friend Mike. I also learned a lot from a young man I had in my den when I was a Cub Scout Leader. Kyle is an amazing boy. This disorder doesn't slow him down one bit. He's always involved and always excited, just like any boy his age. His Mom and Dad are devoted and patient and loving. I always smile when I think of him and his family.

I appreciate Mike taking the time to introduce me to the AutismSpeaks organization.

I hope you appreciate me introducing it to you!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Making _______________(fill in the blank) Happen

As my mind wanders in another meeting that's someone else...I am actually paying a little bit of attention. The message in this meeting is about all of us (25 of us) being responsible for "making ____________ (fill in the blank) happen."

Guess what that means?!? _______________ (fill in the blank) will definitely NOT happen! Why, you ask? Because no one can be held accountable when everyone is responsible. Teamwork is a great thing, but this isn't even that. None of the individuals in this room will be working with any of the other individuals in this room!

Be careful when a group is assigned a task like making ______________ (fill in the blank) happen. At the minimum., you should:
  1. Break "making _____________ (fill in the blank) happen" into individual supporting tasks.
  2. Assign individuals specific tasks to establish accountability.
  3. Establish reasonable criteria for completion and a completion date.
  4. Give everyone one point of contact to discuss problems, roadblocks, and completion dates.
  5. Set up a follow-up meeting to mark the end of the project to ensure ___________(fill in the blank) actually happens.

What? The meeting is over? And I don't have a task or any reason to have attended? Sure am glad I didn't miss this one....grins...

I rest my case.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Building the Ideas

So we met again last night. My two business partners and I. Sam and Pete.

We are working on developing some ideas for web communities that are topical and current and tied into the new generation of what the web is becoming. Web 2.0 has been defined as many things. Our ideas center around the fact that people want to be a part of a safe and secure web community that is centered around topics they are passionate about and that help them connect online and off with others that are as passionate as they are about their topics. They don't want the ads and the noise. They don't like corporate involvement. Just a grass-roots, down to earth, safe and secure community built on common interests and trust. Everyone wins.

Elegant in its simplicity, but the devil's in the details. That's what we're working on. Our guiding lights are Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, and David Silver, Author of Smart Start-Ups. These two fellas have planted the seeds and given some pretty detailed road maps for this venture to be successful.

So I put these questions to those who view this entry:
  1. What are you so passionate about that you would join a community centered on that passionate subject?
  2. Would you pay $1.99 a month to have some security (i.e. everyone will have to prove they are who they say they are) and no ads?
  3. Would you like to help?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Inspirational Soldiers

Arlington National Cemetary
Originally uploaded by Kelly Nigro

In this time of war and turmoil in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf Region, I often recieve communications from classmates "over there." They are an inspiration to me. As I began this blog post, I thought I'd link to some stories about some inspirational soldiers.

Read and remember. They paid the ultimate price so we don't have to. God has blessed them and taken them home. Pray for strength for their families.

May God bless you and keep you safe.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Encourage Them

The Long and Winding Road
Originally uploaded by ~*Anne*~

It's a long road, this life of ours. Long, uphill and down, winding and straight. On any given day we may encounter the unexpected. Often, just the boring and repetitive sameness of a two-lane through Kansas wheat.

What's nice about this journey is that we don't have to travel alone. When you encounter the struggling, the lonely, the frightened, the bold, how do you greet them? With a smile and a wave? With a downcast look, intent on your own part of the road? Do you notice the others?

Take a minute and give. Give a smile...a wave. Put yourself in their shoes and remember how it felt when you were struglling to see that outstretched hand reaching to help. How often the load seemed lighter with a smile from a friend.

Encourage your fellow travellers on the road of life....

For only then will it have meaning and fulfillment.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Recharge your Energy, Revisit your Compass

I received an e-mail today from my friend, Ron. That's him and me in the pic above, Crackberry in hand, even at our 20th reunion at The Academy. I had recently recommended a book to him and he was writing to tell me it was officially on his list, and he would be getting to it soon.

More importantly he was writing to share with me a recent conversation with his mentor and coach, Willie Jolley Ron is a very successful entrepreneur who is President and COO of Owens Development Company. I admire and respect him as one of the smartest people I know and as a close personal friend and confidant.

Here is an excerpt from his e-mail:

"I wanted to let you know that I have every intention on reading the technical business book you recommended. However, I am in the process of tremendous personal growth and Corporate leadership growth. The past year has been very challenging on a financial and business front. God has provided supreme grace on both of these fronts. The final signing of the St. Lucia resort development deal has been a great blessing and has relieved stressors known and unknown. As I move forward in my now confirmed role as a senior partner and Corporate head of true Billion dollar empire, I have some interpersonal development that I need to refocus myself on. I have for reasons known and unknown gotten away from the reading that was so instrumental in getting me to this success point. After a recent heart to heart session with Willie Jolley (my coach), I have committed myself to reading each day in order that I may improve who I am, so I can then help other improve themselves. I have spent the past 3 mornings starting my day at 6:30am reading. You know this is really early for me. I have not felt this encouraged and focused and ready to really lead in a long time. I guess I was in survival mode and lost a bit of focus. Please feel free to post this email on your leadership blog with your honest and candid leadership response. I am sure my experience is not uncommon. We can all loose focus on the basics. Yet it is the basics, that cause us to succeed. It is also the basics that will keep us succeeding. As you said in your leadership blog:> No matter what is happening around you always remember, " If you are cold , do not complain - go in the closet and put on your designer jacket by ("The Basics")"

My response to him goes for all of you dear readers as well:

"I am happy to hear that Mr. Jolley has done his job as your mentor and helped you to refocus. We often have to stop, take a breath, and refocus. Day-to-day challenges often knock us a bit off-track. Stephen Covey says the symbol of our lives should be the compass, not the clock. The proper moral compass in our lives will always point us back to what is true in our hearts; our morals and right-minded principles. Be true to yourself, my friend. You are an incredible person and your future is bright....I would imagine you are spending time with a more valuable book these days. Time spent with the word of God is the basis of who we are as Christians and men who value God and Family above all."

Focus on the compass, not the clock.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Some People Were Born to try Your Patience

You know the guy I'm talking about, right?

Arrogant, self-absorbed, know-it-all, that goes out of his way to suck up to the boss, the boss' boss, anyone above his level that might possibly advance his lame career. A manager mistakenly given charge of real people. A grandiose glory-hog that will run over you just to get attention. No respect, no class, no real future.

Pitiful, eh? We often get sucked into their world, usually by accident. We know we're above their behavior, but they tend to strike a nerve when they put us on the spot. They have a real talent for hitting our hot buttons.

Take a breath. They really aren't worth another thought.

You see, they will fail because their life is not in balance. They place such importance on things that ultimately do not matter that they usually wind up the failing. Or they get sucked into a hierarchy that is only interested in "what have you done for me lately?" Sometimes they wake up to what they have done to themselves. Sometimes they do not.

Pray for them and move on. I know you'd probably like to try and help them, unfortunately, they usually will not listen. Leave them be. Hug your child, kiss your wife, and thank God you're not them.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Grand Pioneer Toastmasters

What an interesting organization!

I recently joined the Grand Pioneer Toastmasters organization to become a better public speaker. What a great group of folks! Toastmasters is a nonprofit organization of nearly 220,000 members in 11,300 clubs in 90 countries, offering "a proven – and enjoyable! – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills." Locally, Grand Pioneer is one of the oldest clubs in the area, promoting growth and learning of members through bi-weekly meetings focused on public speaking.

I will be giving my first official speech next Monday and I can't wait to get started down the path to Distinguished Toastmaster! The members of this club are kind, supporting, enthusiastic and encouraging. What a great atmosphere to learn how to be a better public speaker!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Originally uploaded by mym

Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. Our christian commitment to reflect on the last days of the most beautiful life. Jesus Christ, our lord and savior.

Reflect and remember some things are bigger than all of us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Volunteer Leadership

How many of you volunteer in your community? You know, Scouting, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Toastmasters, etc. Whenever I attend an initial meeting in a new group, I am always amazed that the same old problems are still the same old problems. To wit:
  • No one comes to our meetings.
  • We can't get the volunteers to do what the group needs them to do.
  • Where are all the new members?
  • A few people wind up always doing all the work.
  • People do not speak up because they are afraid of offending someone, even when someone desperately needs to speak up!
  • Leadership, true Leadership, is weak.

People mean well. Their hearts are in the right place. It's just that many of them have not had good examples of leadership to model and have not been trained to be leaders.

I am definitely of the school of thought (and experience) that leaders are made, not born. That being said, once a person develops their leadership talent, they become a magnet for leadership roles, especially in volunteer organizations. The caveat to this is that those with true leadership skills are, unfortunately, few and far between.

Often the mantle falls on the person who thinks they can lead because they are a manager in their daily job position. The trouble is that leading volunteers takes a whole different level of leadership skills, most of which work-a-day managers do not possess, because:

  • Volunteers need to be led by their hearts, as well as their minds.
  • Volunteers can walk away with little to no consequence.
  • Volunteers are not short on opinions, all of which must be valued in some way.

Even classically trained and successful leaders are put to the test in this environment.

Here's one recipe for success as a leader of volunteers:

  • Set your expectations of members up front and with the consensus of existing memebers.
  • Engage all members as if they are the most important part of your club...they are!
  • Listen for opportunities to praise and include everyone you can as often as you can.
  • Thank them constantly
  • Walk the talk. If you have a position of responsibility, make sure you understand what's required and if you can accomplish it on a regular basis. Then make a personal commitment to do it better than expected.
  • Be creative.
  • Let others take the credit. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.

Leadership is humble. Leadership is firmly rooted in service. Leadership is unselfish. If you can't lead humbly, unselfishly, and with a sense of service to others, don't frustrate yourself with a leadership role. You're not cut out for it.

Finally, if you'd like to learn how to develop these skills, I can mentor and coach. Drop me a line.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Benjaman and St. Wolfgang

So his mother makes the mistake of saying something seemingly harmless and simple: "Ben, I need you to fill out this Confirmation form." She asks this of the same child who, when the toilet paper roll was empty, instead of replacing it, wrote on it "Ha, Ha! You're Screwed!" So it should have come as no surprise that when the form was returned to his mother, her review went something like this: "okay. good. you filled out the address correctly....WHAT!?! WOLFGANG! There is no Saint Wolfgang! You can't choose that name for Confirmation because you must choose a saint's name!"

Ben begged to differ. He said that Saint Wolfgang was indeed a Catholic saint and his feast day was on Halloween.

Enter the power of the internet. I felt just like Timmy Turner (if you don't know who he is, you're not watching enough Nickleodeon!) as I Googled "Saint Wolfgang" and, lo and behold, he is indeed a Catholic Saint, circa 994 AD. In fact, that's a painting of him and the devil (not Benjaman) at the top of this post.

I love the way this boy thinks!

Yeah, Ben!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I Love the Book Store

There's just something about going to the bookstore.

There's always so much...possibility? Is that the word I'm struggling for? Yes, I think it is. From the time you walk through the doors, past the latest deals along the sides of the entrance foyer, or in warmer weather, on the racks outside, there is just so much possiblity.

Sometimes we visit with a specific book in mind. Sometimes we visit with a topic or subject in mind. Often, we just visit because we can, because we have the time. Nothing in mind except the possibility. Today, I visited because my wife, Terri, wanted to and I wanted to spend time with her in what is arguably her favorite place. We often go our separate ways once we're through the threshold, and meet up later for coffee and a review of our new-found "treasures." It's a very nice time and we cherish it together.

I came away with Jonathan Yang's "The Rough Guide to Blogging," and Entrepreneur Magazine's "Start Your Own Seminar Production Business."

I can't wait to explore these two possibilities!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

This is Too Funny!

This guy is hysterical! Jeff's been around for some time and is most well known for his work with Walter, the old-guy dummy. You can't watch this without laughing out loud!