Thursday, October 8, 2015

That Which We Lost In The Fall

I recently sat with a friend complaining about the stress of work, parenting, husbanding and the like. The conversation progressed and we talked of a friend battling Leukemia, we then realized how frivolous our complaining had been.

We are healthy, well-paid, engaged in our work and in charge of a wonderfully imperfect brood.

How did our perception lead us astray?

There are people who mean well for us so they listen to our wailing and complaining... because that's what friends are for. We feel better having the excuses for our lack of effort validated but when we reflect upon the gravity of the situation, we know we can do better....!

So try and get better and don't ever accept less. Take a plain black marker and write this on your chest..... She drew a line across the middle of my broken heart and said, "come on now let's fix this mess" .... 

We Can Get Better Because We're Not Dead Yet!    

Are we to allow the feather weight of insignificant detail to weigh us down while others would give anything for an ounce of our strength?

Jobs will come and go, people will break your heart and you can find a meaningless argument in any public place.

We who gain fortune, earn it. Maintaining our commitment to success requires focus... and along the way we are called upon to interact with the less-ambitious. It is not our responsibility to highlight the inequities of others but to find a way to accept their faults and to lift them above.

Where more than one person meets in public forum there will be uninformed opinions, ignorance and cruelty. The more we avoid these things to preserve our sanity... the further we stray from our ability to help one another get better.

...I know you were carrying too much weight on the evening when you slipped away...   

There are those who have an inability to genuinely care for you because they are too afraid of making such an investment... or they are incapable of embracing the responsibility of friendship. To allow such people to have the slightest effect on a single precious moment in our lives is criminal.

There are people with whom you will be forced to interact. Hold their commentary for a brief moment and drop it in the trash on your way out the door.

We are all lost at one time or another. Some of us just have a harder time finding our way back. Some times we need a kick in the ass, some times we need a hug and some times we need a few moments away from advice.

You will not look back on life and wish you had completed the mundane tasks forced upon you by the less emotionally intelligent.

We Can Get Better Because We're Not Dead Yet!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Holacracy Debate

A long time ago I read an article about Medium's company culture. The piece introduced Jason Stirman and an approach to performance management know as Holacracy. Since then the debate regarding the merits of Holacracy has gathered significant momentum. Proponents of Holacracy seem to be realistic about the time this radical change in thought technology will require to fully take shape. Opponents of Holacracy seem to underestimate the strategic relevance of the process.

To this day no one has said it better than Jason Stirman:

And as soon as Zappos jumped on to the Holacracy bandwagon the haters crawled out of their consultancies to call foul. 

There are a few truths to this system that seem to have been ignored:
  • Holacarcy is highly strategic in emphasizing/tracking individual performance objectives.
  • Holacracy ignores bureaucracy and amplifies trust.
  • Holacracy is not corporate anarchy.

In time, some iteration of Holacracy will move from idealism to the standard. Here's why:

Strength Emphasis!
The workplace is competitive. We tend to take the wins for granted and re-tool with great intensity when we lose. There is no better example than the 2004 the United States Men's Basketball team to exemplify the basis for Holacracy:

It takes diverse skill sets to win when the competition is harsh!

You cannot have an entire team of forwards and expect the other functions of the game to care for themselves. 

Organizational success is predicated upon focused individuals accepting their role in producing an overall result. Without egos or the search for individual accolades; everybody wins! Titles sustained by egos have no systematic relevance to the necessary need for organizational evolution.

... Leader Do!

There is an inarguable truth in Corporate America:

Poor Middle Managers survive at the cost of the organization losing extraordinary talent. 

It is a revolving door through which any threat to bureaucracy is removed to keep from disrupting the status quo. Mangers manage out the organizations best talent, millions of dollars are lost in production costs and the corporate politicians maintain their place on the mantle. 

The Village Doesn't Require a Court Jester!
Hire great people, give them effective tools and trust them to succeed.

There is no greater accountability than that to one's self. Transparent goal setting and candid coaching are paramount to employee success.

Leaders Develop Their Legacy and Managers Control the Present to Preserve the Past.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Are You HAPPY Yet?

Over the past several years there has been a ground swell of advising toward Happiness at work. Starting with Tony Hsieh and further by vendors and consultants alike, this movement seeks to better engage people's personal interests and infuse it in their work. Employee Engagement, Work/Life Balance and Organizational Culture are all central points of emphasis in bringing smiles to the workplace.

My father would hit an employee over the head with a chair who came into his office asking for more happiness. Steve Jobs would tell an employee to hit the bricks who said they weren't happy at Apple. Any great coach would bench a player who sought greater happiness. Very few academic institutions highlight Happy Time in their syllabus.

So the question emerges....

Is the workplace really a place to seek happiness?

As we explore further a trend emerges. Happiness may be characterized as gleeful jubilation resulting from a dopamine overdose caused by the engagement of ones heart. Instead of floor boarding the dopamine drip, organizations may want to focus less on happiness and more on achievement.

We can throw parties, send employees on trips and wear pajamas to work... but nothing will get done. At some point between meeting rock stars and knitting classes, we've got goals to achieve.

Achievement provokes courage which allows us to accelerate. In the end, we all want to do work that matters for a cause we believe in and a leader who sets the tone for the future.

Work That Matters
There are people who relish the opportunity to receive a trophy in front of a room full of their peers, others are embarrassed by such accolades. There are those who bust their ass all year long to earn a trip to an exotic island, some would prefer not to go on vacation with their co-workers.

More than trophies, trips or even cash; people want to know that their time on earth has a purpose. When we sunset our careers we won't cherish the big deal we closed or the money we made... we want to know that we've left an admirable legacy behind us. Snap reactions to achieve short term results only serve to tarnish one's legacy.

A Cause We Can Believe In
What are we doing here... what are we trying to achieve? Is it making a difference? Do people look upon us with admiration?

You don't have to be sending shoes to poor children for your work to make a difference. All you have to do is care.... for your co-workers, your customers and anyone who might witness your demeanor while wearing your company logo.

Do you care enough to stay on the phone with someone until their problem has found a solution?
Would you stay late at work to fix a problem?
Could you bring your children to work and be proud to show them what you have built?

One Person to Follow
I recall the first CEO who genuinely inspired me.... he was not a lovey-dovey person. He was driven, competitive, creative, and astoundingly fair. He appreciated the effort of his employees, was proud of us when we won and held himself personally accountable when we lost. He took the wins with a wink and spent nights awake fretting over the losses.

You don't have to be a jerk to be a great leader, much to the contrary, but happiness simply cannot always be top of mind. There is not an inherent emotion within us that calls for recognition of our every professional feat; we want to earn our accolades. We don't want to show up at an office where people are napping, we want to be in place that inspires us to be better. We don't want bosses that are going to pat our backs and tell us it will be OK... we want to work for people who get upset on our behalf when we do not achieve our goals.

We are driven by achievement! We are engaged by work that is challenging. We are motivated to conquer that which was presented to us as impossible. We want to be better than our mothers and fathers and we want our children to achieve more than we do.

It is time to wake up and take Accountability for our responsibility to achieve greatness. No one is going to perform to a higher level simply because they are happy. No one ever hung a 12th place ribbon with pride. There cannot be progress without a determination to elevate the norm. Happiness may only relate to the satisfaction with the norm.....

Create the impossible. Drive yourself to be better. Don't waste your time waiting around for someone else to determine what will make you happy.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Mentality of Invincibility

In situations of competition we search for subtle differentiators.... the small things that take us a step further. With similar skill sets in place, what differentiates a winner from one who may not deliver when the chips are down?

One Word: Mentality!

There are people who always find a way. The people I know who have developed a method for repeatable success have developed a Mentality of Invincibility!

The elements of the Mentality of Invincibility?

Ignorance of Negativity

There are a few people I know who are so positive that I have at times questioned their mental stability. They are also massively successful!

We often acquaint positivity with naivety. We see someone smiling and assume they are unaware of the tragic world around them. When someone smiles at us on the street we spring to clinch fists.

It is far more difficult to be positive than to be critical. We can accept that one may possess an intricate mind and a wide-scope view of the world but still find a way to smile.

Indeed, positivity is a sign of courage not ignorance.  

A System and A Voice

Leadership is complimented by a system to predicate success and the ability to articulate what it takes to navigate said system.

If you have a dream but no strategy you are pissing in the wind.

If you cannot explain the positive impact participating will have on my life... I will not try!


People are allowed to try and fail as long as they have learned through the process. Learn from your mistakes or try something completely different and change the game.

To be a leader you must secure the trust of those who's followership you require. Trust is earned through having a system, the ability to explain your vision and a tireless work ethic for others to emulate.

Each day is an opportunity to change the lives of those with whom you interact. We seldom work to capture such moments.

People come looking for something to believe in. Who is going to step out and create it?

You've got the same tools as everyone else. You may just have to have a greater belief in your unique invincibility.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Because Self-Loathing Ever Solved Anything..........

I saw a film about a guy who was so consumed with creating an alternative reality that he overlooked the fact that he was the lifeblood of his organization. We all want to be CEO (or at least we think we do). We have ideas about what we would do if we were "running the show"... but we're not and we probably never will. So, there may come a time when we have to accept our role in our organization and perform it with exceptional grace.

The times I have failed in navigating an organization have usually resulted from a lack of patience. In politics, most lose their first election. Sports are filled with stories of failure creating the experience and courage to finally succeed. Many Entrepreneurs have developed and closed up to 10 companies before they finally found their extraordinary idea.

Sometimes we have to accept where we are before we can get to where we want to be. 

Our excellence reveals itself in supplementary roles that lead us to greater opportunity.

Your Life or Your Work
We've come to learn that time spent in the office can actually be less-productive than remote work. Meetings can be a time suck, we get caught up hearing about our co-workers personal struggles and when we actually need something our resources may be consumed in other work. 

I know, however, that structure is necessary to success! Work/Life Balance is now mandatory in creating meaningful work, but consider the following:

~ Do you hate your work because you don't have a girlfriend?
~ If your personal life was more abundant would you be more productive at work?
~ Is it your Boss' fault that you have trouble interacting socially?

Find It Within The Structure
There is a rule breaker in each of us. I always tell people that they can oppose any idea as long as they have a better one. If you oppose the system without an alternative, you are just complaining! No one ever gained anything through complaining.... save it for (un)Happy Hour.

We cannot be stifled by an inability to adapt. We need new ideas and the courage to try new things to stay relevant. There is a difference between Constructive Disruption and complaining through the virtue of inability.  

Navigating the Emotional Component  
We spend the majority of our waking hours at work so it's hard not to take our profession personally. In fact, if you are not emotionally invested in your work, you are probably a dispensable commodity. It may not be your organization's fault that you have failed to engage in your work

The key is to differentiate what is worth fighting for!

How often do we allow a mundane detail to derail a meeting? Then, there are times when we keep our mouth shut and hide our passion for the sake of harmony. 

How do we discern when it is time to put our flag into the ground?

Who is responsible for Employee Engagement: 
The CEO?
Middle Management?
Human Resources?

How About You Take Control
We can wait around for our Manager to tell us we are doing a great job. We could take that thing our CEO told us at a company banquet to heart. We can hold high our certificate of achievement.

OR.... We can take control of our own professional development!

There are things you have to do and things you want to do. My advice is to check the "have to dos" off your list so you can get to what you want to do.

If you do your job well, you will be rewarded.... with money, additional opportunity and an eventual promotion. If you are not receiving the aforementioned accolades or you are too impatient to wait for them.... Quit Your Job! If you are too cowardly to find a better job, quit complaining about the one you have.

Come up with a bold idea, build a network to support you and develop data to validate your proposed organizational development.... OR DON'T but stop telling us how you "would do things if you were in charge".

Work hard, be creative and find avenues for evolution.... then get a pair and be bold enough to share your vision!

Or Don't and keep your trap shut!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Creativity, Self-Expression & Professional Advancement

Let's cut the crap and be frank about Employee Engagement:
You ever feel like your being lied to? Is said Bullshit masked as a Best Practice?

Stop believing the hype and be realistic about what works, what doesn't, and what you can do that no other organization does.

It's Shiny & I Like It!
I love Medium because the platform is sexy. I love because the imagery drives the perception. I love Instagram because of the ability to photoshop regularity into awesomeness.

You can pretend there is no ROI to graphic design... but you are wrong. If your platform is clunky, no one will use it!

Everyone Sings!
There is an artist is each of us. We all sing in the shower! Everyone reading this post has pretended to be in a movie at one point in an average day. Admit it, you've done it.... and there is NOTHING wrong with that!

The dullest people in the world have a strong creative force (they have repressed it because the one time they tried to speak in front of a group, everyone laughed at them). There cannot be Innovation without Creativity! We face extinction every day and we figure out how to keep moving forward.

What Color is a 12th Place Ribbon?
If you know the answer to that question you have compromised your ability.

There is absolutely a way for everyone to win in the workplace. You don't have to be an asshole to be successful! The best Leaders understand that Leadership is an act of servitude.

We need to be authentic in our expectations. We need to push one another to live a life that is meaningful. Life is too short to allow 'best practices' to create a convenience-driven existence that is shrouded in quite desperation.

You Wouldn't Allow Yourself to Be Regular... So Why Do You Promote Programs That Turn Your Employees into Cogs in a Gearless Shit Storm!

Rise Up! Think Proactively! Put Work In!

... it will be hard! You stand to embarrass yourself and little failures are inevitable.

So Why Even Try?

If Not YOU then Who?

The workplace is evolving with whiplash intensity. Progress is based in a combination of bad ideas, failures and the willingness to be vulnerable. Success will no longer be a protected climb. Transparency is here.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Chasing The Gjallarhorn

Last week I quoted Jim Valvano's advice to be moved to tears every day. I was recently moved to tears in the seemingly most moronic of ways when an astronomical revelation of adulation was brought to my attention. Apparently, one of the greater achievements in playing the game "Destiny" is earning a Gjhallarhorn.

~ Why would anyone get so excited to receive a capability upgrade on a stupid game, you ask?
~ How much time is spent on such a meaningless achievement?
~ What type of lifeless douche do you have to be to get excited over such an innocuous event?

Without the slightest need to investigate the response to these questions, my only retort can be:


To hear excitement coming from young people inspires me to live a better life. To get back to what matters, to recreate the joy of accomplishment, to remember that there still can be joy in this napkin of a world. I'm not concerned that it took a little person six months to achieve the aforementioned badge of achievement. This accomplishment can be held as high as a trophy or any certification.... why not allow people a little bit of joy...?

As we grow older, pessimism replaces wonderment, uncertainty is replaced with predictability and the magic gives way to joyless process.

The question is pretty simple: How Do We Get It Back?

When was the last time you were moved to tears? Remember the Little League Championship, the speech contest you won, a movie you witnessed or that time you were overwhelmed by the beauty of the world around you. These things happen all the time, we've simply forgotten how to recognize them.

Before You Got Jaded
The world celebrates visionaries in ones. For every person crazy enough to change the world there are thousands who came up with an idea and were chastised for disrupting process. Others gave up trying new things because it brought them more work without adding to their credibility. In order to change the atmosphere you have to be creative, bold and resilient. Very few of us possess even one of those virtues.

Bystander Behavior
The responsibilities of the day fill our calendars from inception through sunset. We simply do not have time to laugh, cry or think. When the work bell rings we scurry off to forget what we have learned. We tend to find joy in things that disconnect us from our work. We live a double life of production without reward... supplemented by free-time spent complaining about our jobs.

It doesn't have to be that way....!

Chasing the Gjallarhorn
Occasionally, we are awakened from our disengaged work trance by someone who thinks different. Have you ever been knocked off your schedule through the positive force of another. That person who tells you your idea is not stupid despite your behest. That person who counters your complaints with a request for a better idea. That person who pisses you off because you know they are right.

...And then you take action.

Back a man in the corner long enough and he is going to come out swinging.

Find your Gjallarhorn!

... that achievement that would move you to tears (or at least laughter). That thing deemed impossible that can be conquered. That action that would implement enough change to silence your critics.

You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself, to try and fail, to propose and counter, to stand up for what you believe in, to rise against mediocrity.

... and they say video games are a waste of time....

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leadership Simplified

Every Summer I have the pleasure to teach at the worlds elite Student Leadership Conference. It has become evident that Leadership training requires a new approach.

There is a Leader in all of us. Leadership CAN be learned. We cannot, however, teach Leadership in the same fashion we would economics. There is not an all applicable system that we can plug people into and spit them out as Presidential. Leadership requires courage more than process. How can we teach courage?

The Leadership Challenge
The new challenge we face in Leadership is debunking the dictator-driven operating system made popular by yesterdays micro-managers. In the same manner that selling is more about listening than talking; Leadership is an act of servitude.

A few elements to implement:
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The moment you corrupt your advice through disingenuous actions you have lost the privilege of influence.
  • Rally Around A Cause: There must be a common mission that everyone who serves the organization genuinely believes in.
  • Be Constructively Disruptive: You are allowed to challenge any idea as long as you have a better one.
  • Pass The Torch: Every Leaders goal for each of their team members should be to help them advance beyond their current role.
  • There IS Crying in Business: In the immortal words the great Jimmy Valvano, "be willing to be moved to tears (every day)".    

A Little Commonsense
It is not the content but the people who teach it. It is not the process but the people with whom you share it.

You can game plan and systematize all day long, but if your teachers do not genuinely believe in what they are preaching, no one will follow. Through the process we develop kinship.... human connection drives us forward. Put anyone in a classroom with a bunch of strangers and their greatest accomplishment will come not from passing a test but from passing along their goodwill.

An Inability To Accept Injustice
We are all moved by the fight for Civil Rights. Every great revolution starts with one person who identifies a wrong and is no longer willing to accept that way of living.

Reflect on your moments of courage.... my guess is that each of them began with your inability to accept the ignorance of others dismissed as tradition.

We can not stand by and allow naivety to be dismissed as progress.

No organization has "we've always done it this way" as a core value.

Perhaps our greatest oversight is in pretending that Leadership is an extroverts role. Every point of progress has been cultivated by someone who could not sit on their hands and allow walking in circles to be dismissed as determination.

Are you willing to accept the way things have always been?

Do you have a better idea?

What are you going to do about it?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 24, 2015

The Group Photo

Before our lives were documented and shared in real time there was mystery and romance. We took photos, had them developed and picked them up a day later. Picking up photos was an exercise filled with wonderment... much like receiving a letter in the mail or meeting a person with whom we feel a kinship.

We need not think in terms of digital photos replacing framed pictures. Facebook updates will not displace our need to call an old friend. There exists a need for nostalgia and mystery in the midst of all this turnkey interaction. A person is not a profile or a brand. You will not discover what embraces one's heart by reading an online resume.

Everyone can contribute to making your life better. You may just be too impatient to open the photo album.

Before there were selfies, there were group photos. There was a time that we cared to gather a group and document our time together as opposed to just taking pictures of ourselves.

The Wonderment?

I used to keep my photos in a Monkees lunchbox. On a Sunday afternoon I could open the box and see pictures of myself with thousands on people; the greatest joy in this exercise was remembering someone I had forgotten. Where had they gone? What had they become? Hopefully they are OK!

Self affirmation has never been easier to attain. You can post a picture of yourself in social media and 100 friends will tell you that you look great.... even if you don't. Branding yourself can be a great use of social tools. Pretending you lead a life that you do not will catch up with you.

The Group Photo

How much time do you take to embrace others as opposed to turning the camera on yourself. If narcissism fuels your success you may be in denial.

"Happiness not shared is wasted" - Chris McCandless

People are difficult: they have contrary opinions, egos and a limited amount of time. Too often we propose a meeting with an old friend simply to tell them how well we are doing (or worse to complain about our lives).

Your friends should see you laugh and you should be there to embrace them when they cry. If you cannot pick up the conversation where you left off 10 years ago... those people probably are not your real friends.

It is easy to "like" a photo or post a comment. It's far more difficult to travel 200 miles to see a friend before they die.

It takes far more time to make a few meaningful connections in life than it does to develop 100 followers online.

That which is easy is never sustainable........Open up the photo album.........

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 10, 2015

That Which We Choose To Accept as Gospel

Recently, the Society for Human Resource Management released their annual Employee Recognition survey.

It was conveyed that the top three challenges HR Professionals face are:
Employee Turnover
Employee Engagement
Succession Planning

... no real surprise.....

The problem is that surveys seldom tell the whole story. Here are a few potential questions to pose:

1. If you were responsible for putting together your company's Employee Recognition program are you are going to defend it's viability at all costs?
2. If you weren't, are you automatically prone to seek alternatives?
3. Was the survey worded to confirm program viability or to challenge it?
  • Human Resources professionals do not lack organizational strategy, but we are passive aggressive.
  • Surveys that seek to validate do not create actionable change management.
The problem is not your Employee Recognition Program, it is the intent that it has never revealed.

All companies have a reward and recognition program in place, but the degree of adoption is what is genuinely important.

If you do not seek to understand what sucks about your program it will remain a transactional "nice to have" not a critical organizational component.

Think about the last survey you took.... were you honest about the GAPs in your strategy or defensive of the choices you seek to validate?

Employee Recognition is merely the entry point to Employee Engagement... If recognition is the endpoint, engagement remains unattainable.

If you continue to believe that you can micro-manage employees, you are sadly mistaken. Your employees may not submit their discontent with the free lamp you gave them for 10 years of service on a program survey.... Glassdoor & other Social Media outlets may tell a different story.

Progress Measurement
More than a reward or cash, people want to know their opportunity for organizational advancement (in real time). You cannot wait until the end of the year to tell your employee she is doing a great job. Nor can you allow only the middle manager to be the ticket taker on the road to employee progress. 

Employees should have clearly defined goals. Completion of said goals should be broadcast to the masses. Corporate Citizenship should be valued equal to performance metrics in developing the leaders of tomorrow. 

Managers Masquerading as Leaders
Are your middle managers building their legacy or covering their ass? 

Scenario: Tom has been married 3 times and has kids in grade school and college alike. He'll be dammed if he is going to give up his place in the middle of the hierarchy. You are paying him $500,000 a year and each year he drives away 4 people who are more talented than he is. 

Either don't know...don't show...or don't care that your organizational future is being corrupted. 

If your door is open but your employees fear the implication of engaging HR, your managers may be protecting their point at the helm of the sinking boat. 

You can have a pot of gold at the end of the hallway but if no one is given a key to unlock the door your greatest benefits are gathering dust.

Don't Forget to Remember!