Monday, August 22, 2011

Ben Pollhein's Address in Basic Training!

Here it is blog readers! My son finally got to call us with his address in Basic Training:

PFC Pollhein, Benjaman
E Co, 3-13INF
4th PLT, Bldg 5421
Fort Jackson, SC 29207

I would ask that all my friends send him a note of encouragement. In this day and age of immediate contact, Basic Training may be the last bastion of letter writing as a means of communication.

For those of you who've been through it, there is little in life to compare to hearing your name at mail call...especially in Basic Training. It means someone has thought of you...someone out there cares....someone out there took a few minutes of their day to think of you and encourage you. It means so much and it costs so little. Please send him a letter or two.

For those of you who haven' those of us who have...grins!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thank You, Tim Ferriss!

I am in the final pages of this book and I must say, Tim saved the best for last:

"Most of us have resigned ourselves to partial completeness,...(it) can take many forms, usually the form of self-talk like: "I'm just not [thin, fast, strong, muscular, etc.]. That's the way it is."
"XYZ doesn't matter. It's not that important."

These are said or thought for many reasons. Oftentimes, they're used to excuse something on the outside that people believe they can't change.

The beauty is, almost all of it can be changed....

If you want to be more confident or effective, rather than relying on easily-defeated positive thinking and mental gymnastics, learn to run faster, lift more than your peers, or lose those last ten pounds. It's measurable, it's clear, you can't lie to yourself. It therefore works....

Start with the precision of changing physical reality and a domino effect will often take care of the internal."

How awesome is that! In the realm of personal leadership, no clearer statement can be made.

To Ben, my son in Basic Training: I'm proud of you! You inspire me and those who know you. You will succeed and you will discover things about yourself you never even knew you had in you.

To Lisa Steptoe, my dear friend: You keep running, biking, and swimming and the confidence you have will grow and continue to inspire others. And it will change your life.

To the casual blog browser or repeated visitor (frustrated by my lack of posts over the last few months!): Go do something everyone says you can't...that you really have wanted to do for a long time, but keep making excuses about...and just get up and take action.

And finally, to my dear wife Terri: Keep at the challenges you face every day and know that by continuing to take action...a walk...changing your diet...praying for guidance...making one more thing in our home a little will change not only your outer world, but your inner world as well. I love you with all my heart.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden is Dead!!!

Cadets celebrate the death of bin Laden

And here's the President's address:

God bless all of the men in women in uniform who fought so hard over the last ten years to get this son of a jackal dog.

God bless especially all of those who gave their lives in the pursuit of this inevitable outcome.

I am surprised today by my tears during the President's address. So many emotions. So many painful moments over the last ten years. So much pain caused by one sociopath with so many psychotic followers. All of the memories dredged up of how much we lost since 9/11. Our world has changed so much since then and so much of our innocence was lost.

I am so happy he is dead, and so sad it took the lives of so many in the world to bring this bastard to justice. In the end, it was a bullet from a U.S. Navy SEAL that made it happen.

Amen. Alahu Akbar.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting More Interested in Twitter!

(I borrowed the image above from )

I have to tell you, as I am working on the social networking aspect of what I want to share with people and learn from people, I find Twitter to be more and more interesting.

There are many types of "tweeters" out there:
  1. People who are new to Twitter and haven't even figured out how to put their picture up
  2. People who are new to Twitter and think that by following everyone and contributing nothing they can create some sort of following for some sort of "get rich quick" scheme
  3. People who have paid others to tell them who to follow and how to get the biggest audience so that they too can profit by the "get rich quick" route
  4. People who love to watch TV shows and tweet in real time with their friends (Big shout out to the #criminalmindssb in the #twitterdayroom. Hey!)
  5. People who actually have something to say that is worth reading
I like the last group best. I confess to wanting to someday leverage my social network to support me on projects I believe in, but it is not my reason for creating a presence on Twitter.

I like the immediacy of being able to tweet to friends and have them respond. I like being able to support others with great things to share. And I like the sheer humongous possibilities of having such contact with one tweet!

Tweet on Peeps!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

No Excuse, Sir!

Just wanted to take a minute to tell you about a great read I have added to the carousel today. I am about half-way through the book on my Kindle and just loving it!

It's called "No Excuse Leadership: Lessons from the U.S. Army's Elite Rangers" and was written by a classmate of mine, Brace Barber. Here's the link to his site:

(gotta love the domain name grab, eh!?!)

Brace has hit the nail on the head with this one. The main premise of the book stems back to the four responses we were taught as the only acceptable answers for a Plebe at West Point: "Yes Sir!" "No Sir!" "No Excuse, Sir!" and "Sir! I do not understand!"

Think about living your life for one year and those being the only words you could utter to your boss...or anyone with authority over you. In simple terms, that's what we were required to do for the duration of Plebe year. In their base simplicity, they helped us to revise our paradigms of personal responsibility and develop a foundation for becoming pretty darn good leaders.

You see, if you just think of your "reasons" and "explanations" in the terms of "Excuses," it give you a whole new perspective on just how often you justify your own short comings and failures as "Not really my fault." That is not the position a leaders takes. A leader is accountable for his actions and decisions, regardless of how they turn out. You can delegate responsibility, i.e. who actually has to pull the trigger, but you cannot, as a leader, delegate the accountability, i.e. who sent him out to shoot and gave him the instruction as to what to shoot at!

Read the book. If you are a grad, you will have a deep understanding already and this will be an affirmation of all we have been taught. If you are not, you will gain some insight into the lessons taught in two of the most intense crucibles for leadership development: West Point and the US Army Ranger School.

Great job, Brace!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kids on Leadership

Found this very cool clip and thought I would share with you:

I think sometime we, as adults, have a tendency to over-complicate things. Leadership and good leader behaviors are not that difficult to understand or articulate. They are tied to right principles: Integrity, compassion, fairness, consideration, kindness....and much more. children, especially at the age of the children in this video, have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong.

In our grown-up world, sometimes the line between right and wrong seems to get cluttered with a lot of stuff. We sometimes lose the notion that right and wrong are black and wiggle room. Either you do the right things or you do the wrong things. We think we can use our grown-up intelligence to argue about degrees of right and wrong. We "quibble" over nuance and "shades of grey."

Kids, in their purity, remind us that to be good people, we must act in good ways. To be good leaders, we must act with integrity and serve those we lead.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Leader in Me Program Changing Lives

As I was checking out Twitter today, I found this awesome post by Stephen Covey about the impact the leadership training program "Leader in Me" recently had on a Charter School in Utah.

Can you imagine the impact on the world at large if we were to teach our children proactive...begin with the end in mind....put first things first....think win-win....listen to others first then seek to be listened to.....synergize.....and to sharpen the saw in their daily lives?

If you kick around youtube, you will see many such stories as this. It's amazing to me that such a program can be installed in a school for about $50 a child, yet we are more interested in paying for much less productive things with our tax dollars.

I have actually often thought of working with the Franklin Covey organization to make a difference in the world. I am glad I came across this as I will be getting in touch with them to see what it would take to be apart of this awesome organization.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Diary of a West Point Cadet

Found this book the other day on Amazon and thought I would share with all of you this very funny piece from the Colbert Report:

Enjoy and click the link to the right to purchase from Amazon!

I can't review the book yet as I just bought it to read, but wanted to recognize Preston Pysh's work and innovation.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some Good Thoughts Around Good E-mails

Dr. Brinkman makes some very good points on when to, and when not to, use e-mail.

In today's fast-paced digital age, I think we often forget the importance of face-to-face communication and use e-mail as a kind of crutch to keep from having to interact personally, especially when said interactions may be difficult.

E-mail is a necessary evil, but don't let it reduce the effectiveness of your communication with others important to you.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Self-Serving Leadership

Who are you serving as a leader? Are you serving yourself or those you lead? I am exposed to many leadership styles daily in the consulting work that I do and it is often good to sit down and reflect on my observations, and do a little introspection. I came across this recently from Ken Blanchard:

Interesting concept on the "self-serving" leader. I have often been viewed as someone with strong opinions and a rather defined viewpoint when it comes to leadership. I have also been guilty of the defensiveness that Dr. Blanchard describes. What I have learned over time is to take a breath and try to get past the emotional reaction to criticism and look at the comments in context. And yes, that is easier said than done.

I have worked for some folks who were very good at this, but they number on one hand. On both hands and feet I count the number I have worked for that really suck at it and it is always a challenge to have the strength to speak up when you can tell by their words and body language that you are probably better served talking to the chair they are sitting in. It is easy to get discouraged by this. But if you care about that leader and your relationship with him or her, keep at it. Taking the time to listen with an open mind to feedback is not an easy task, but it will yield dividends for you and those that you lead. Listening to feedback with a desire to understand and improve is the only way a true leader can become better at serving those they lead.

It is a challenge that you will have to face often before you can become better at it, but don't give up. Keep at it and try your best to be as understanding of the criticism you receive as you are of the criticism you give.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Believing in Right Principles

When I think of believing in right principles, I think from a core perspective...or, as in the image above, from the roots of why we do things.

I believe that too often we find ourselves doing a myriad of things for a myriad of reasons. "This boss wants that, that client doesn't want this, If we do this thing, it'll make a quick impact, if we force the issue, they won't have a choice..." on and on and on it goes.

In order for something to truly have value to an organization, it must first be aligned to the right principles. In a recent interview, Dr. Stephen R Covey was asked to define principles:

“To expand, a principle is a natural law like gravity. It’s different than a value. Values are subjective; principles are objective. Gravity… if you drop something, gravity controls. If I don’t tell you the truth, you won’t trust me-that’s a natural law."

Natural laws. Objective. Black and White. Interesting in these days of everything being subjective (if you believe the media), that we should be discussing principles. those things that at our core influence the development worthwhile values.

This is not to say the we are perfect in living in concert with our principles day to day. We are human and we make mistakes. I am more concerned with how we strive to live in a way that is true to right principles in both our personal and professional lives.

In our personal lives, i think it is more clear to us the impact of not living in concert with right principles. If we lie to our significant other, the impact is usually very immediate and very painful. So I believe most people are more honest in their personal dealings with the people that matter most to them.

It's the professional lives that are most concerning to me when it comes to people acting in principled ways. It is often easier to gloss over or side-step the true motivations for a change we advocate than to delve into the hard work...finding the root causes and working to eliminate them. Getting to the bottom of the issue, regardless of the pain it might cause, is the right and principled way to go about solving a problem...not going with the easy answer because it will be accepted more readily than the harder right answer.

Back at the Academy, part of the Cadet Prayer was: "Make us to choose the harder right over the easier wrong and never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won."

Simple. Forthright. Honest.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are you Listening?

Sometimes it feels like this is what you need to do to be heard, doesn't it?!?

It is interesting to me that I put this as one of the things I had to do much better...and it is an area I am struggling with the most. You know how it do what you think is right and then the powers that be...bosses, in this case....parachute in and point out how screwed up everything you thought you were doing right is. No mention is made of what went right, just what went wrong. You get defensive and then you get argumentative and then you feel like the small dog that appears to be where their heads are!

Unfortunately, the onus is on you to really try and understand the message they are trying to convey. Let's face it, we can't count on those in charge to always take the time to notice the things we do right....they expect those things to be done right...that's what they pay you for.

As far as the criticism, you have to listen closely to what they are trying to say...not necessarily what they are verbalizing, but the intent. Often we get defensive because we think our answers are the best. Um...hate to break it to you (and to myself), but...not always, my friend. Often a different perspective is what is needed to make your good idea a great make your good solution a great solution.

It's hard to do and we often find ourselves looking back with regret on how we handled someone who was being critical of our efforts. Listen closer for the real message. If you decide, after careful reflection, that their message is off base, then take it with a grain of salt and move on. Sometimes you will be able to get through to them that they are wrong, but, when it becomes clear that they are emotionally invested in their point of view, you probably won't be able to get them to budge. Just go do what you know is right and ignore their criticism.

And, if you decide, after careful reflection, that there is something to be gained by following their advice, thank them and give their idea a try. As simple as this sounds, it is the most difficult to do because we are too often emotionally invested in our solutions as well and don't like to be told we're wrong either. The reality is the only person you can change is you. Your actions are key to accomplishing what you set out to do. Only you can decided how to respond and only you can make the changes to make things better.

I am definitely struggling to follow my own advice, but the fact that I realize I have room to grow in this area is a positive thing. I hope that by sharing this with you, you can grow a bit too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Keeping an Open Mind

Ever find yourself challenged to look at things a different way? Ever encounter folks who refuse to see the world through anything but their own frame of reference? Are you one of those folks?

I can honestly tell you that since leaving the role of Plant Manager and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer for many organizations throughout the last twenty years, I have come to realize that there is a lot I do not know. Don't get me wrong...I have learned many things over the years and am a pretty astute fellow, but there is still much I do not know.

When cast in the light of consulting, I have learned an incredibly valuable lesson: Keeping an open mind and asking questions will allow me to learn and become more. More knowledgeable...more involved....more valuable as a consultant and Project Manager....just a lot MORE.

In his book, Four-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss talks of figuring out what you want to "become." It is a very thought provoking approach to thinking about the future and what you want to do. Life should be about more than "having." Real meaning in life should relate to "becoming" more than you are right now...becoming all that you can envision yourself being.

I believe that in order to "become" more, I must keep an open mind. This is not easy to do, especially when you know the answer...have the solution...have seen this before and know how to solve it. If you listen a little closer, you will often understand that no two situations are exactly the same and what might have worked well in one place will not work as well...or at this place, with these people, at this time in their development.

I am learning everyday from those I am teaching to become more. In this way, I can see we create synergy...the whole being greater than just the sum of the parts. I doesn't happen overnight...or even over 32 weeks of nights (grins!)...but it does happen. And when it does, it can change lives...yours and the lives of those important to you.

So try to keep an open mind and see what starts to fill it up! I believe you will like what enters in.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Critic

A great quote from a great man. Fitting in this time of trying to understand what is important and believing in yourself.

Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

I know that my place will never be with those "cold and timid souls."

How about you?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Missing the Rest of the Picture

"Focus on the results!" "Success is all in the numbers!" "All the hard work in the world means nothing if the results aren't there!"
I guess we've all heard these and similar things more than once. If we can't measure the improvement than there is no improvement, right? I believe that depends on your measuring tool.
Don't get me wrong. I know that measurable results are critical to the success of organizations. I just do not believe they are exclusive of the time and effort necessary to create human change, and, let's face it, without the human element....without the blood, sweat, and tears of people, without their buy-in and commitment, nothing will truly change.
Unfortunately, since the human change is often not easily measured, and, since it often comes long before the gears of the organization change perceptibly enough to measure improvements in key metrics, organizations sometimes give up long before the culture has changed enough to sustain any improvements.
I firmly believe that you manage things, but you must lead people. Leadership take much more than pretty charts, checklists, and action logs. Leadership requires strength with compassion...persistence with understanding....pushing without being pushy...engaging the hearts and minds and not just the hands...respect for what has come before this point while helping develop excitement for a new way of doing things.
I am learning that I must understand both perspectives in order to develop a better solution for those who must do and for those who are only interested in results. The former are most important, but will not survive without pleasing the latter.
When either group becomes too focused on what is only important to them, they will miss the bigger picture. Therein lies the struggle.
So what to do? I go forward with a few things in mind:
  1. Keep an open mind
  2. Listen
  3. Believe in right principles
  4. Speak up
  5. Keep faith with God and Family
  6. Trust in yourself and your abilities

I will be exploring each of these in future posts as I work through the details in real life. I view the upcoming weeks as an experiment in my ability to exhibit true leadership by trying to understand each of these in context and build something synergistically within my chosen work and my life. Hopefully, there will be things to share with you that may provide help and insight into your struggles as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Positive Mental Attitude

So...there I was....having endured 6 hours of blistering criticism...tired....down-trodden...and a little bit angry....almost on the verge of self-pity....okay, quickly sinking into self-pity...

You've been there, right? You have just a crappy day, nothing goes right, seems like the deck is stacked against start to doubt yourself and your are on the edge of just running as far and as fast as you can...

So what to do? Well, for me, it was a nice steak, a glass of red wine, a Facebook chat with my little girl who is 2400 miles away, and a talk with the one who loves me wife, and a good solid 8 hours of sleep. Good stuff, right?

When you find yourself in the midst of a potential setback, you gotta realize that you are the same great person you were before someone started in on you. You are still the same talented, driven, wonderful individual you were before. Remind yourself of that and get on with setting things to rights.

It's all between your ears.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!

Happy New Year to all of you!

What promises are you making for the New Year?

It really is a good time to begin anew many things you would like to accomplish. Personally, I committed to finishing what I start. And I plan to start quite a few things this new year!

I wish you all the best and hope to share the starts and finishes of many endeavors here with you this year.