Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Military Protocol, Political Correctness and Being Human

Cleveland firefighter John Coleman was suspended for giving President Obama a nod and wave after President Obama made eye contact and waved at Coleman during the Inauguration parade. 

Bandleader Pipe Major Mike Engle told reporters that it had been reviewed over and over with band members that this was a military parade and protocol and proper decorum had to be followed at all times. "Unfortunately, John chose to ignore that."

Did Coleman choose to ignore this directive? Did his being human touch his heart and he reacted with love? Was this the most loving thing to do? Does love win and take precedent over military protocol, proper decorum and directive? Was this the right thing to do? Must black and white rules and regulations be held at all times? Is life so serious we must remain serious under all conditions? I have more questions than answers. Author and consultant, Peter Block, reminds us questions tend to be more transformative than the answers. I'd ask you to "noodle" on asking more questions.

I am reminded of a story...

Two monks were walking along a road. They came to a swollen creek. A young, beautifully dressed woman was standing by the stream at a loss of how to cross the stream without messing up her dress. The one monk on upon seeing her dilemma, squatted down and told the woman to climb onto his back as he would cross the swollen creek and prevent her from getting wet. All crossed the river safely and the young woman grateful, climbed down off the monk's back. The two monks continued their journey. After a mile or so of walking, the one monk turned to his companion and said, "How could you have done such a thing as to come in contact with that women after the vow we took!?" The other monk paused and looked at his companion and said, "I put her off my back some time ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Stop. Think. Reflect.

Do you compare yourself with others? Are you a scorekeeper... consciously, perhaps unconsciously?

Do you hate to lose? Do you see losing as failure?
Are you always aware of your image - literally and figuratively and looking to be in the "best light."

Do you hate to look bad and berate people who affect your perceived image negatively?

Are you always looking to see who is on top?

Are you always looking to be rewarded? Do you hunger for recognition?

Are you always on the lookout for conspiracies? Do you buy in and support conspiracy theories?

Do you need to be in control? Do you have mirco-manager tendencies?

Do you have a Teflon coating? In other words, does fault never stick to you?

How does pride affect your ability to lead?

Do you lead with humility or do you lead with pride? What is the difference? Which enhances leadership and which hurts leadership?

Pride in These Times

Our culture is highly competitive. While competition can be healthy, pride can make competition unhealthy. Consider the paradox, competition breeds pride. Pride can destroy good sportsmanship. Aren't those asterisks after well known athlete's records related to pride? Aren't those well known disgraced business leaders and politician's downfalls connected to pride? How is pride affecting your relationships at home, at work, in your community and in the world?

I remember playing racquetball with a highly competitive individual lacking experience to play at my level. The longer we played the worse he played because his pride kept him from learning skills, techniques and rhythms of good play. Instead of failing forward, learning from mistakes, he fell backwards. It became painful to play with him. Immediately after we played, he wanted a rematch as soon as possible!

During these tough times, many of us are examining what and who got us into this mess. Pride maybe preventing us from seeing and understanding our role in this crisis. I believe there is enough blame to go around beginning with ourselves. The greed factor has played a trump card and as a result we have all felt the pain. We compare ourselves to our neighbors and we are always to looking to better ourselves even at the expense of others. We want what we want. We want it our way. We deserve better.

A question I continue to ask, "Whose responsibility is it to lead?" As I have written before, leadership is an act, a verb, a relationship, and a continuous possibility of growth and change. Leadership is everybody's responsibility. Leadership is accountability founded in commitment. Each of us has the responsibility to lead with our gifts, talents and passions. Each of us has the responsibility to serve humankind. Each of us has the responsibility to collaborate in creation.

The silver lining in this chaotic downturn of the global economy is each of us gets to mess with crisis. The Chinese language uses two characters to describe crisis roughly translated, dangerous opportunity. This is an opportunity to explore, evaluate, experiment and challenge our lifestyles. Are you taking more than you are giving? Are your needs and wants skewed? What are you doing to build trust in the community and in the world? Are you perpetuating fear?

Downsizing and rightsizing are dangerous opportunities to create better lives. Pride can keep us from dealing with this dangerous opportunity effectively!

Pride and Judgment

Pride and judgment are neighbors. Like pride, judgement separates and may prevent healthy, positive change. Judgment is supported by my way, my thoughts, my beliefs are superior to yours. Judgment has a monopoly on truth. Judgment hears what it wants to hear. Judgment speaks and acts with righteousness. Like pride, judgement does not listen well. Judgment's mind is made up, so don't confuse it with the facts. Judgement can also cause us to miss dangerous opportunity.

A greater opportunity is to seek to understand rather than judge. Be curious. Ask, "Please tell me more!"

Be curious, not judgmental. Walt Whitman

And while you consider the relationship of pride and judgment, ponder the relationship of pride, ego and greed. These three maybe the Ace, King, and Queen of downfall and destruction. This royal family play off each other. They have a common bloodline and heritage.

Pride and Character

Pride wants to be a stakeholder in our character. Adversity does not create character. Adversity reveals character. Pride does not care if it uses truth, twisted truth, little white lies or big, bold, hairy lies. Unfortunately, when you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself deepening the chasm between reality and perception. Speaking untruths and distorted facts is worse than speaking foul language.

When things get tough, the prideful morph into undesirables. During stressful times, the prideful seek to control, micro-manage and demonstrate unsportsmanlike behavior. Teamwork and community take a hit. Teams, groups and communities lack productivity and create unhealthy cultures. Good excuses for poor behavior and bad character will not sit well with others on the team, the community or the group. Don't let pride prevent you from turning out to be who you need to be!

Pride lands you flat on your face, humility prepares you for honors. Proverbs 29:23 (MB)

Pride and Humor

Pride takes itself seriously. After all, it's all about pride, never about others. Learn to laugh at yourself and not take yourself so seriously! I recall a co-worker who asked during a management meeting if an off site company-get-together could be counted as time worked. His supervisor quickly responded, "Brock, we already pay you not work! You want more?!" All of us around the table laughed except Brock. He shot back that he was underpaid, overworked and felt unappreciated! His unwillingness to laugh at himself became the beginning of his end with the organization. Pride caused him to perceive a comment as a threat! Pride lacks a sense of humor. Pride is always an ouch looking to avoid pain!

Dealing with Pride

Each of us needs to have a regular, ongoing heart-to-heart, face-to-face in the mirror. Recognize the pride factor in your life. What do you do about pride? Seek support, a person or people you trust, who will be honest with you, who model-the-way and walk-the-talk of being unprideful. The ultimate goal should be to learn to choose wisely how you will deal with pride. Learn to push your pause button and think through the consequences of prideful behaviors. Challenge yourself to be the best not just for yourself but for the team, the community, the group and the world.

Experience Pride

Broken Squares learning lab. The objective of this learning lab to create five same size squares, one in front of each of five participants using all the all the resources given to the five participants. The five participants sit around a table. Each participant receives an envelop with geometric shapes. No one is allowed to speak or write notes. No participant may take any geometric shape from any other participant. A participant may give another participant a geometric shape from his or her resources. Once five same size squares are created, one square in front of each participant, participants may talk.

Some key debrief questions include how individuals felt, what they noticed about themselves as well as others and what it took to succeed. This learning lab demonstrates success by what individuals give rather than what they take. How does this relate to pride?

"I can't be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can't be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be." Martin Luther King

My name is Pride. I am a cheater.

I cheat you of your God given destiny... because you demand your own way.
I cheat you of contentment... because you "deserve better than this."
I cheat you of knowledge... because you already know it all.
I cheat you of healing... because you are too full of me to forgive.
I cheat you of holiness... because you refuse to admit you are wrong.
I cheat you of vision... because you'd rather look in the mirror than out a window.
I cheat you out of genuine friendship... because no one is going to know the real you.
I cheat you of love... because real romance demands sacrifice.
I cheat you of greatness in heaven... because you refuse to wash another's feet on earth.
I cheat you of God's glory... because I convince you to seek your own.

My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
You like me because you think I'm always looking out for you!
UNTRUE! I'm looking to make a fool of you.
God has so much for you, I admit, but don't worry...
If you stick with me, you'll never know.

Beth Moore

Suggested Video

If Everybody Cared - Nickelback (music video, 2005) "If everyone shared and swallowed their pride, Then we'd see the day when nobody died"

'Boundin (Pixar, 2003) Jackalope - Pink? Pink? Well, what's wrong with pink? Seems like you got a pink kink in your think!

Chocolat (Miramax, 2000) Pere Henri (Hugh O'Conor) I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we *embrace*, what we create... and who we include.

Suggested Reading

egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability) by David Marcum and Steven Smith ISBN-10: 1416533273 Fireside 2008

How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living by Rushworth Kidder ISBN - 10: 0688175902 Harper Paperback 2003

Dangerous Opportunity by Chris Musslewhite and Randell Jones ISBN-10: 141343469X Xlibris Corporation 2004

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Joy of Joy

I am doing it again!

After eight incredible years at Joy Outdoor Education Center, Clarksville, Ohio, as Venture Out Director, I am leaving to begin a new position at Montreat College, Montreat, NC. People have asked, “Why would you leave a dream job?” or have commented, “I could never do that!” Perhaps e.e. cummings and Lord Byron said it best:

It takes great courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
e.e. cummings

The biggest risk in life, is to take no risk at all. Lord Byron

I came to Joy realizing I was not living my passion in my previous work. My father modeled the way for me when he left corporate America in his early forties to go into business for himself because he realized he was not living his passion. The roots run deep and the apple has not fallen far from the tree. I can leave Joy knowing I made a difference and have left Joy in better condition than when I found it. Unfortunately, the current economic climate has caused Joy and Venture Out some pain, but there are creative, innovative and resourceful people who will build upon Venture Out’s success.

We only give up what does not own us. Anonymous

What am I taking away from Joy?

I am taking away a better, more informed understanding of leadership and its importance. I had some incredible leadership teachers including Steve Coats and Steve Houchin from International Leadership Associates, Tom Heuer from Fifth Third Bank and Scott Steel from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center as well as the Joy staff and the many participants who came through over a 1,000 programs I was connected with through Venture Out. I learned to practice leadership as an act not a role. Leadership is about relationships and serving. Leadership is about creating nurturing communities in which people feel valued and can grow. Leadership is about vision and creating possibilities where others see or think none exist. Leadership is about battling the phantom rules or the little voice in the head that says, “You can’t do that,” “That’s impossible,” or “What will other’s think especially if you fail or look foolish?”

Don’t believe everything you think. Thomas Kida

Few people learn from success, but there is often much to learn from failure. Steven Miller

Leadership is about change. Being a leader means to be a change agent and to get out of one’s comfort zone. Leadership is about being humble, admitting when you made a mistake rather than always needing to be right. Great leadership has a powerful paradox, great follower-ship. Great leaders know their strengths, recognize their weaknesses and allow others to lead in their areas of strength.

If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less. General Shinseki

Children see the sand. Adults see the box. Steve Coats

I also learned much about trust. My two favorite questions to ask participants during a trust learning lab, “Are you trustworthy?” “How do you know?” Trust is at the core of every relationship. Trust is what is missing in today’s economy and with the people leading us. Trust is a priority needing to be restored NOW! When trust is high, fear is low. If we want to eliminate fear, trust must take firm root. It’s not enough that our money has printed, “In God we trust,” we must relearn to trust each other. We each must personally craft a vision as well as we must help our organizations and our country craft an inspiring vision. Martin Luther King demonstrated best in his “I Have a Dream” speech. We must trust our vision.

Trust is the ultimate value upon which to build a stable way of life. Dick Capen

Trust is the most significant predictor of individual’s satisfaction with organizations.
Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge

Where there is no vision, people perish. Proverbs 29:18

I have also learned that at times I take myself too seriously. Life is already too serious! I learned to laugh and play more. Lynn Watts and Amy Thompson were two who had infectious smiles and laughs that made work at Joy a true Joy. A fun workplace should not be an oxymoron! I also learned not to worry about being right. It is far more important to seek to understand before being understood as St. Francis so eloquently prayed.

Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.
Sir Isaac Newton

There are so many interesting ways to be than right. Robert Rauschenberg

The deepest need of the human heart is to be understood. Sean Covey

What am I leaving Joy?

I am leaving Joy and Venture Out! a better sense of knowing what value they can add to people's lives and to corporate teams. When you know your value and people acknowledge the value you deliver, you are well compensated emotionally and financially. Venture Out! has a much better business model and can make a more significant contribution to the Joy community.

I leave behind an incredible adjunct staff who became one of the most important groups in my life. Creative, thoughtful, hard-working, true believers of the Joy mission, keepers of the Joy values, dynamic servant leaders... are just a few of the many adjectives that describe this group. This group meets roughly five to six times a year on a Saturday to share, connect, support, learn and advise. Those Saturday's are rich. I always came away well fed! I will miss those gatherings!

I thank all the incredible people, too numerous to mention, who touched my life while at Joy. My work at Joy exceeded all my expectations and has enabled me to continue this work in a new setting.

I begin a new adventure in my life’s journey with a very willing partner, my wife. We look forward to new scenery, different lifestyle, a bit warmer weather, a closer drive to the ocean and lots of opportunities to carry on a ministry of helping people to be their best and live life out loud!

Carrpe Diem!

David Carr