Saturday, December 14, 2013

Where Do You Surf?

Recently, I was having a conversation with close friends. They asked where I go on the Internet. So I thought share where I "surf" with a short connection.
For news, I go to:
I find these sources to be the most credible with the least slant.

I also check in on USA Today for basic news.
I do check out Fareed Zakaria's website, as well as I try to listen to his weekly podcast.

These are the web sites I frequent quite a bit.    (Desribed as a "smart tabloid.")  (Literary and cultural magazine founded over 150 years ago.) (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz)     (Tracks what is viral on the Internet.)   (Keep up on human behavior in easy to understand format. Lots of blogs to check out.) (Uses social media to give ideas for a healthier lifestyle. Draws on all kinds of sources including natural medicine as well as traditional medicine, reformatted in a simple, easy to understand format.)  (Creativity resource.) (Good place to remind myself not to take myself too seriously!)  ("At best, things online are usually either awesome or meaningful, but everything on has a little of both. Sensational and substantial. Entertaining and enlightening. Shocking and significant." David Carr, NY Times)  (Jim Wallis, God's Politics
(Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)
(John Shelby Spong, Jesus for the Non-Religious
(Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity
(You are what you eat! Do you know what you are eating?)
(Bill Moyers is a critic of big media and an investigative reporter.) 

Finally, here are the podcasts I listen to via iTunes:

This American Life -
(Hosted by Ira Glass. Get informed, entertained and surprised!)
The Moth -  (Incredible storytelling. Food for the soul!)
Freakonomics -
(They explore the hidden side of everything!)

The TED Radio Hour -  (Brings the thread of similar TED Talks,,  together to explore a topic.)

On Being with Krista Tippett -
 (A thoughtful approach to all matters spiritual. Soul food.)

Do you have suggestions? I'd love to know where you surf!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Soulfully Strong People: 7 Things They Do Well

Having worked with many leaders and teams, the most obvious work needed, is to overcome dysfunctionality. This is work of the soul. It’s that fourth edge of the saw we need to keep sharp. It's a part of the 7th habit of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which Covey refers as spirituality. Scripture says, “Where you seek your treasure is where you will find your soul.” (Matthew 6:21) It’s the core of emotional intelligence. Our psychological and social well being are connected to the spiritual. In keeping with Covey’s theme of seven, here are my observations of seven things soulfully strong people do well.

1.) They know themselves and accept themselves just as they are including their imperfections. They know they are a bundle of habits, some good some not so good. They acknowledge their weaknesses and let it go. They focus on their strengths, seeking to grow them and live into them. Their strengths are their gifts. They know that to “love their neighbor just as yourself,” they really do have to love themselves! Thus, they have skin in the game of life. They avoid comparing themselves to others and don’t live into wishful thinking. They live into an affair of the heart.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”                      - Buddha                                                                                                                       2.) While they know themselves, they also are able to forgive themselves. They recognize shame as “I’m not worthy,” and recognize they are worthy even with warts, scars and imperfections. They see themselves as a work in progress, making mistakes as part of life’s journey, not taking themselves too seriously, forgiving themselves and asking for forgiveness. By living into this, they are able to forgive others. Thus, they laugh more especially at themselves and experience the “thin spaces” more fully.

3.) They don’t take things personally. They recognize there is another side to the story that they don’t know. They question the ugly story they begin to create. They avoid climbing the ladder of inference. They recognize what they can control and what they cannot control. They don’t try to change or control other people. Their expectations are realistic, they grow their wisdom and they seek to live in truth.

4.) They work at connecting with others accepting others just as they are. They suspend judgment and extend curiosity towards others. They know even the least of us is worthy of connection. They live string theory. To-do lists are not nearly as important as to-be lists. To-do is about success. To-be is about significance. They find more joy in being than doing. Being connects back to their purpose in live, to make connection and build bridges.

5.) They live in the now. They work on being mindful and fully present. They acknowledge the past has lessons. The failures of the past are lessons learned. They recognize that who they are at this moment is because of where they have been. The past cannot be changed nor should it be changed. The past is what it is. The future is yet to be determined. No one knows what in is the future.

6.) Gratitude is a state of mind for the soulfully strong. They acknowledge their blessings including the blessing of pain and suffering that has revealed it’s gifts. They know pain in inevitable but misery is optional. Consequently, their gratitude becomes the font of their happiness. Thanksgiving is a daily occurrence.

7.) They love more and consume less. They recognize love as the greatest force on earth and the arch rival of fear. Their courage is girded by love. As darkness is the absence of light, as cold is the absence of heat, fear is the absence of love. Thus, their biggest battle is overcoming fear in themselves and helping others to battle their fears.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to increase my workouts...soul workouts!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What's On Your Rear End?

NOTE: This is the message I delivered at Black Mountain Unitarian Universalist fellowship on Sunday, October 6, 2013. I was given the opportunity to step out of the pulpit and to use PowerPoint as well as create experiential worship! I am an ecumenical Presbyterian!

Micah 6:8   What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. (NRSV)

Matthew 22:39    And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (NIV)

Ever since we moved to Asheville in 2009, I have noticed there are more cars with  
      bumper stickers than anyplace else I’ve ever lived or visited! I have probably over 300  

           bumper sticker photos! In the Mountain XPRESS 2013 Best of WNC there was a 
                category for Best Bumper Sticker! Keep Asheville Weird was not only #1 but
                      has Hall of Fame status!

Two bumper stickers I’d love to not only see on every car but see every car driver practice:
              Hangup and Drive
                     TXT :(    Don’t Text and Drive.

People in Asheville do not take themselves too seriously. Evidence:
              Asheville - The Sweet Cesspool of Sin
                    Welcome to Asheville! Now Go Home!
                             My comedy channel? Fox News.
                                   My News Source? Comedy Central

There are the thought-provoking bumper stickers.
              What good is a strong leader if he is going the wrong direction?
                     If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?

There are health related bumper stickers like...
               When people suck the life out of you,
                     wouldn’t it be nice if they took some fat too?
                           Sweat is fat crying.

Of course there are political bumper stickers beyond the typical political office seeker. A couple of my favorites:
               Darn the Gov’t
                     I love my country...but I think we should start seeing other people.
                            Under Republicans, Man Exploits Man.
                                  Under Democrats, It’s Just the Opposite.

Then there are the “faith” bumper stickers. A few favorites include...
               I’m For The Separation of Church and Hate
                   Jesus Loves You, But I’m His Favorite!
                           Even people who believe everything is predestined
                                 look before crossing the street!
                                     Prays Well With Others
(shows the symbols for Christianity,
                                          Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh)

There are the compassionate bumper stickers.
          Some people are gay. Get over it.
                  I’m Straight But I’m Not Narrow.
                         Homophobia is so gay.

Do you have a problem with these bumper stickers? My core values and beliefs are
        rooted in Micah 6:8. What does the Lord require of you? To love kindness. To seek
             justice. And to walk humbly with the Lord your God. The God I know doesn’t
                   make mistakes. On the other hand, I make plenty!

The Catholic Church had a very hard time acknowledging a mistake. It took them nearly
        600 years to finally acknowledge Galileo was correct. The earth was not the center
             of the universe as the Psalmist had written. The sun is at the center of our
                   universe! God knew that! There is a bumper sticker for that...
                            The Truth Will Set You Free...But First It Will Piss You Off!

Perhaps the greater challenge is how well do I love myself? Do I still love myself just as
        I am...warts, scars, imperfections...because if not, I fail at the second greatest
            commandment...Love your neighbor as yourself. My neighbor...the person who
                    doesn’t look like me, who has that funny accent, who has a different
                           socially economic background, who believes in a different religion, 

                                 different politics, different sexual orientation...

One of the most powerful bumper stickers for me is...
       LOVE > FEAR

I believe the opposite of love is not hate or indifference, but fear. I believe fear is the evil  
       one. My anger, my ugly conversations, my finger pointing, my phantom rules, my    
             shame...are rooted in fear. The abuses that we do to others and
                     ourselves...drugs, addictions, credit card debt, over eating...rooted in fear. It's the

                           fear of not being worthy, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not                                              being accepted, the fear of being less than, the fear of not being valued, 
                                         the fear of pain, misery and suffering, the fear of not being, the fear                                                        of  being.

I am going to ask you all to stand if you are able. I would like you to find two other
        people you know the least. Please introduce your selves. I’d like each person to
              answer the following question: Why is it important for me to be here?

(After about three minutes, I ask, “What surprised you?” Feedback from the  

Please find two other people you know the least. Again, introduce yourselves. The
       question I’d like for all to answer: What is the gift that you bring to this

After about three minutes, I ask, “What surprised you?” (Feedback from the  
       participants.) “What do you know now that you didn’t know a few minutes ago?
             Perhaps we would all be better off with this bumper sticker....
                    Less Judgment. More Curiosity

(Picture appears on the screen of our family.)

What’s wrong with this picture? Terri and I have been married for over 33 years. We’ve
       been blessed with great work, wonderful homes, great travel. Brett is our son. He
             had a very successful high school varsity soccer career. He was goalkeeper all
                     four years and co-captain his junior and senior year. He graduated from
                              Gardner-Webb University in the 2012 and is a U.S. Marine stationed
                                     at Camp Pendleton, California.

Erin is our daughter. She was a high school valedictorian. She has two college degrees
      and currently works in New York City at a three-star Michelin restaurant which
            also rated #5 in the top 100 restaurants in the world!

What’s wrong with this picture? Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with this
      picture! Oh yeah...Erin is gay!

They say being gay is wrong! Who are they?
      They say being gay is not normal! Who are they?
            They say being gay should not entitle you to the same benefits and rights as
                  “normal” people! Who are they? Who are they to say what is normal?

I can tell you that Erin did not choose to be gay. She struggled with it. As she told her
      mother and me, “Life is hard enough. Why choose to be this way? God just wired
            me differently!” God doesn’t make mistakes, but I do. Do you?

I leave you with one last bumper sticker...

Seriously, what is on your rear end?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why Would I Want to Work With You?

Recently, I talked with a young woman who left her job after a little over a year. It was a small business with less than ten employees. There were a lot of reasons to leave including a pretty good commute of nearly 40 miles round trip and poor communications. (She asked off from work nearly five months before a wedding of a good friend and still had not heard back on the request just two months away!). This individual had gifts, talents and passion for the company’s products and service. They expected her to do her job, get rewarded (paid) and repeat. They did not value her working with them (Motivation 3.0*). They valued her working for them (Motivation 2.0*)

What an organization values is what drives practices, behavior and outcomes. Values are not words on the wall of the lobby or on the annual report. Values are the actions of its people from the bottom down and from the top up. Actions do speak louder than words. Culture matters no matter how big or small the organization.

Steve Sasson, electrical engineer with Eastman Kodak, is credited with inventing the digital camera in 1974. The image was only .01 megapixels! The advent of digital photography allowed us to enhance the conversation and understanding rather just record an event. Kodak and its culture saw the digital camera as a huge threat to its profitable film and print business. Kodak valued profit and success rather than creativity and significance. What gets valued becomes the culture and recorded legacy.

Culture is not about office design, outings, special perks (air hockey tables, exercise rooms, free vending machines) or salary.

Culture is about engagement, overcoming fear, reducing arrogance, promoting understanding, treating failure as an education, asking more than telling and recognizing all employees have value. A nurturing, healthy culture recognizes its people are the most important asset and makes it possible for them to bring forth their best to workincluding their curiosity, wonder and challenges.

Healthy and nurturing culture encourages employees to work with rather than work for! Working with implies engagement, compassion and community.

How would the people on your team or in your organization respond to the question, “Do you feel you work for this organization or work with this organization?”

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink (Riverhead Books, 2011)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Who Opened Your Door?

I began my corporate career in sales. I was a psychology major fresh out of college thinking about continuing to get a master’s in counseling. My father owned a distribution business. The business had a territory that needed a sales person. He asked me if wanted to give sales a try. I took the position, thinking it was a temporary bridge to my future.

Every morning as I would be taking a shower, I’d throw-up! I’d begin thinking about the day, the people I’d be calling on, the sales process...presenting features, advantages and benefits...overcoming objections...asking for the stomach would speak for the rest of my body. Yet, my father believed in me. He reminded me of my initiative, perseverance and leadership roles I’d taken on high school and college. He counseled with wisdom and patience. He helped me to see the lessons in failed sales and point out that my sales closings were better than most baseball player’s batting averages!

More importantly he introduced me to people who mentored me. That was the door he opened for me. David Thompson was a huge door opener for me!

David Thompson was a regional sales representative with Spartan Chemical, Toledo, OH, and a main supplier to our product line. David loved our industry. He loved people. He loved solving problems. David’s gift was creativity. He made work into play! His facilitation of training seminars was like no other. No death by overhead or slides. He energized the audience. He was on par with Zig Ziglar!

David taught me so many lessons and opened so many doors. He made sales fun. When sales became fun, I no longer had morning sickness! David was a master of the right question at the right time. He taught me how to get customers to trust me which is the foundation of sales. David didn’t make promises he couldn’t keep. When a customer asked a tough question that he didn’t know the answer, he’d tell them he didn’t know, but he’d find the answer. David was credible. David was inspirational. David was compassionate. David was a lover of people. David was authentic before it was popular!

We are who we are because of where we’ve been and the people who touched our lives. David Thompson was a cornerstone to me becoming significant. He opened a door to my future.

Who opened a door for you?

This post is part of Leadership Opportunity Fest Blog Tour, hosted by Bill Treasurer. Watch the Leadership Opportunity Fest webinar here, find his book on Amazon, and then join us for the blog tour on August 13 as we celebrate leaders who open doors!

Postscript. After I wrote this blog, I got to wondering about David and where he was and how he was doing. It had been over eight years since I'd last seen and spoken with him. I did a little research on the Internet, got his current contact information and reached out to him. He has had a major health issue as has his wonderful wife Jane, but they are healing. I told David about the blog post I'd written and got to tell him over the phone, "Thank you!" He made a difference in my life. He did open a door for me me! Sounds like they maybe passing through our area this fall and we might break bread!

Who do you need to reach out to and thank them for opening a door?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Inspires You? Part two.

There is an exercise I facilitate with groups. I ask people to turn to a blank page in their handout or journal and with a pen or pencil, I then ask them to write down the name...

- of a Noble Peace Prize winner last year
- of the MVP of MLB World Series last year
- of an actor who won an Oscar last year
- of the richest person in the world
- of Time Magazine's Person of the year this past year

Many participants look at me like 'deer-in-the-headlights.' Some may get a name or two.

Then I ask them to write down the name...

- of someone who makes a difference in their lives
- of a teacher who made a difference in their lives
- of someone who was there for them during a crisis
- of someone who they look forward to being with
- of someone who inspires them

During this second part, the names flow like a river. There is a name for each category and sometimes multiple names! The people who truly inspire us are the people who touch and move our hearts. They are inspiration! When I reflect on those who've touched my heart, I'm so rich. Beginning with Jesus Christ, my wife, Terri, of 33 years, my children, my family, my men's small group, friends, co-workers, clients, workshop participants, those currently living as well as those not living, so many names, so little time and so little space, so I narrowed it down to...

Six people...

Michael, yoga instructor, inspires me to be humble, to be vulnerable and to breathe! Michael is a good, thoughtful, gentle, compassionate, yoga instructor who has a way of working my body, my mind and my heart. Michael is humble. He is extremely knowledgeable and deeply experienced in yoga. To be in his class is to feel one with him, side-by-side. Michael reveals his vulnerability. He shares stories of himself. He reminds me not only how to breathe but why to take long slow breaths and focus outside of his class. He reminds me of what is really important in life. I want to be like him when I grow up!

Jonathan Feldman, IT guru, inspires me to be credible. Credibility is the main currency of leadership. As near as I can tell, Jonathan not only knows his values, but lives them. I've gotten to know many of those whom he leads. They believe in Jonathan and he believes in them.
I'm seriously thinking of shaving my head and seeing if his "look" can enhance my leadership!

Brett Carr, US Marine, inspires me to persevere. Brett is someone who when he makes up his mind to do something, he masters it. In the fifth grade, he came home and told his mother and me that he wanted the male lead in the fifth grade musical. My wife and I looked at each and kept our skepticism to ourselves. He did get the lead and sang two solos! His teacher urged him to join a children's performing arts group! Brett did it again with soccer. He decided he wanted to be a goalkeeper. He practiced relentlessly and tirelessly. He's got a wad of medals and honors as evidence of his passion and persistence. When he decided to join the US Marines after graduating from college, the Marines kept delaying his entry with all kinds of excuses. I challenged him to consider another branch of the service. He was determined, focused and persistent. Again, his focus ended up with him not only graduating from MCRD boot camp but being an Honor Graduate. I hope the Marines recognize what they have in him!

Lynn Watts, soul sister and Nubian Princess who inspires me to be. I get the honor of periodically co-facilitating with her. Her energy, her passion, her smile, her being are an inspiration. Lynn shares. One of my fondest Thanksgivings was when my wife and I had Thanksgiving with Lynn and her family. Lynn challenges my lack of diversity and opens my mind and heart to greater possibilities in ALL people. She is a catalyst for connection. To be in her presence is to create community filled with joy and laughter. She often shares the quote from Hitch, "Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away." The groups we facilitate definitely lose their breath because of her!

Mark Ramsey, senior pastor, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC, inspires my faith. His stories and messages are like the bread at communion. Mark feeds me! He reminds how important the care and sharing of stories are in creating community and living into a relationship with God and others. Mark amazes me. He is a role model of living faith and how faith helps one navigate the pain and suffering in our lives. It is a blessing to be with him and in the community he leads.

General Lori Reynolds, Commanding General MCRD, Parris Island, SC inspires me to be a role model. I had the unique experience to spend a week at Parris Island attending an educator's boot camp workshop. General Reynolds spoke to our group on several occasions during the week. She was dynamic and eloquent. But what truly inspired me was Thursday morning at the crack of dawn, several hundred soon-to-graduate recruits to becoming Marines go on a 2.3 mile motivational run. Guess who was leading the run? General Reynolds! Actions speak louder than words. A reminder that we are all role models to someone sometime. Choose wisely how you will act because it will make an impact.

It's your turn. Who inspires you to be your best in your relationships, in your communities, in your work?

Monday, July 29, 2013

What Inspires You? Part One.

Inspiring a Shared Vision is key practice of exemplary leadership from Kouzes and Posner's, The Leadership Challenge. Good leaders recognize the importance of inspiration. They nurture inspiration. They tune into inspiration.

 LinkedIn has a channel entitled, What Inspires Me. Many different people have shared. See

It got me to noodle. I discovered two categories for my inspiration. Here is part one of What Inspires You?

Five things...

TED Talks. Here is where I find the law of abundance! Magnificent wisdom, incredible creativity, and expansive thought that opens my mind and heart to possibilities. The diversity of presenters is amazing. The diversity of topics is astounding! Presentations are short and to the point. It's a great place to get ideas for books to read. Best of all, is only a couple of clicks away on the Internet and it's free. If you are not familiar with TED, begin with  Side note: TED is a great place to learn how to use PowerPoint correctly!

Haywood St. Church, Asheville, NC. A true community that accepts people just as they are. Judgement is left at the door. I get goosebumps when I attend. My gratitude jumps. I get renewed hope that it's possible for people of all walks of life to come together. Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, Rush Limbaugh and Jodie Foster would be welcomed!

White space. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the late 1700s wrote “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” One hundred years later, Claude Debussy said it in a slightly different way, "Music is the space between the notes."  In the age of big data and big distraction, I find inspiration in the white space. When I still the "chattering monkey" in my mind, I find inspiration in the calm. This becomes the "thin place" where sacred intersects with the conscious. To have the body, mind and heart align is to be in a pinnacle experience, perhaps beyond Maslow's self-actualization, maybe nirvana and definitely heaven on earth. White space becomes sacred space.

Commonplace Book. This is a moleskin in which I write down verses, proverbs, quotes, stories, poems, summaries from inspiring books, wit and humor and what to do upon my passing from this earth. This book reminds me of what is important, lessons to-be relearned, studied, marinated and digested. It is a source to go when I'm crawling through the dry-desert-of-bones. It is the one book I'd make sure to grab if our house was on fire.

Our home. It never fails. Whenever my wife or I come home from being away, Jackson, our dog, greets us with exuberance! I can have a lousy day, and Jackson is there to remind me life is good! Welcome home! Jackson is unconditional in his love. He reminds me of the  bumper sticker, "Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am!" Perhaps his gratitude comes from being rescued. 

After I get inside, I enter a sanctuary. My wife, Terri, is the creative source of making our house a home. It is a place of nurture, healing, recharging and inspiration. Some homes are furnished, others are decorated. Our home is a source of living into being.

It's your turn. What inspires you?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Tale of Two Doctors

The doctor should be opaque to his patients and, like a mirror, should show them nothing but what is shown him. 
                                      - Sigmund Freud
                                                                  Earlier this year I experienced back pain like I'd not experienced before. I went to my medical doctor. He felt that I had pulled a muscle. I did not want pain medication so he suggested I try a chiropractor. 

I found a chiropractor. I made an appointment and went. I was examined and x-rayed. I was given an adjustment and suggested I return in a few days. I did return a few days later. I was shown my x-rays and told of all my structural imperfections! He recommended I come in for a series of adjustments, so I could sleep better, so I could stop taking pain medications, so I could have better digestion. I looked at him in amazement! I go to sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I doubt if I finish a small bottle of aspirin in a year. And digestion, well without giving TMI, I'm fine! He asked no questions. He made a whole lot of assumptions and didn't really address why I had come to him!

When I told my doctor I couldn't afford the treatment, he offered to touch-up my X-rays. - Henny Youngman

My wife had a swollen eye and had sought the advice of an eye doctor. He prescribed something but a couple of days later, it had gotten worse. I took her to the ER of our local hospital on a Sunday morning. The ER doctor came in and immediately sat down next to my wife and introduced himself. He then proceeded to ask thoughtful questions, taking notes and asking follow-up questions. He looked at me and began asking me challenging questions as well. He was trying to understand lifestyle, behavior, where we had been, what we had been doing, what was abnormal, what was new. He was a medical Colombo! He examined my wife's eye as well as skin around and near her eye. He surmised she had a reaction to an insect bite. He prescribed treatment. AND 24 hours later HE called my wife to find out how she was doing!

The difference between the two doctors: one asked questions, built trust, created a connection; the other made assumptions, forged distrust, created uncertainty.

Think about your leadership, your relationships, your salesmanship, your connection to other people. Do you ask questions or do you give advice? Do you try to connect by being interested or do you try to connect by being interesting? Do you tell or do you ask? Is it about you or is it about others? 

The real insight from these questions will be to ask others about your behavior. It could make a difference in your life!

 The more ignorant, reckless and thoughtless a doctor is, the higher his reputation soars even amongst powerful princes. - Desiderius Erasmus 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Importance of Fatherhood

There’s always that, “if I could have just one more conversation,” I’d like to have with my dad. I’d have to catch him up on the past 25 years! I think it would go something like this...

Dad, we moved to North Carolina. Long story, but I sold Gordon’s and did what you did, found my passion and leaned into it. I got out of the corporate world and worked in non-profit, academia and now government plus a whole lot of other businesses with whom I consult. Quite a ride! I’ve learned a lot! Life is good! I’m not sure I would have done this if it hadn’t been for your leadership. Thank you for modeling the way!

Dad, remember the cartoon strip Dick Tracey? Remember the TV communicator the cartoon characters wore on their wrists? We’ve got them! They are called smart phones and they are a whole lot more than phones. They slide into your pant’s pocket! Oh yeah, I need to tell you about the Internet and the age of big data. Remember how you use to get the Wall Street Journal and the Dayton Daily news delivered? They are now digital. Let me explain! I’ve got this website and a blog...there are these sites called Facebook and LinkedIn...

Dad, remember all those books you read, they have become electronic. Your library would fit onto a hand held device about the size of two composition notebooks! Really! I still prefer a paper book so I can highlight, write notes and feel the page turn. I know you were a big fan of Peter Drucker. He is still a sage, but you really ought to read Patrick Lencioni, Daniel Pink, Seth Godin and Jim Collins.

Dad, the United States got attacked! I need to explain about 9/11. I need to explain how the world changed because of that event.

By the way Dad, I got a tattoo. I know, I never thought I’d do that, but well it was special and it was done in a special way and in someways it links back to you! You always seemed to “seize the day!”

Dad, the president of the United States is an African American, Barack Obama. He’s very intelligent. He has a good heart. He’s trying to lead the United States, but people in Washington have forgotten how to collaborate and compromise. That could be a long conversation.

Dad, Graeter’s Ice Cream, it’s still the best!

Dad, Westminster still looks like Westminster. Still a great Christ-centered community much involved in and with Dayton. I still check to see if your name is on the sign out front of the church whenever I get back.

Dad, we’ve got a chef in the family. Remember Erin? Remember grits? Well, they get fixed a lot differently than when you remember them. Erin is carrying on that food thing that Carr-Carr and Betty had. She got a good foundation from mother and Terri! She also knows a lot about wine and other adult beverages! Think a lot of that goes back to a year she spent in France during her junior year in college.

Dad, we’ve got a United States Marine in the family. You never got to meet Bretton, but you’d love him. Remember Jim Johnson teaching at Gardner-Webb? He still does and Bretton graduated from there as well. Once he was all boy, now he’s all man. I wish you could have been there when he graduated from MCRD as an honor graduate! I cried tears for both of us! He’s found his passion. Like you he’ll make a positive difference in the world.

Dad, mother is doing well. She sold the homestead and moved into Bethany Village. Huge transition and she has adjusted. I get back to see her several times a year. Lawrie is doing a great job of helping her with things. You’d be proud of both the women in your life. Lawrie is a vice president in US Bank’s trust restate.

Dad, whenever I get to Charlotte, I still go to Elmwood and visit you and the family. Unfortunately, the Ol’ Smokehouse is gone, but I still grab a BBQ sandwich and cold sweet tea to take, eat, talk and remember.

Dad, I just want to say that you taught me well. I’m deep into leadership and helping create nurturing communities. I say you were ahead of the curve when it came to leading and creating a nurturing work culture. You lead with love rather than command and control. “Management by Object” and “carrots and sticks,” were the big thing back when you were alive. Today its about creating balanced scorecards with people being given autonomy, mastery and purpose. It’s about creating a business culture that is nurturing, but then you knew that and did that!

Dad, you taught me about being significant. It was amazing how much more I learned about you after you died. You touched people in ways I had no idea! I’ve kept the cards and letters people sent to me after your death. I still pull them out and read and remember. They are gold. They are a reminder of your legacy.

Dad, most of all you taught me that fatherhood is priceless! When I look around at people who are having trouble in life, a lack of fatherhood is a factor. You taught me that fatherhood was about being there and making sure to connect with life’s mysteries, wonders, challenges, pain and sadness. I’m still trying to walk-your-talk and model-the-way.

I say thank you over and over and it is still not enough! But, here goes again, thank you. I love you. I’ll never forget! Happy Father’s Day!

Monday, May 27, 2013

To The Graduating Class of 2013: You Must Be Present To Win!

Have you been to one of those events, programs, or grand openings which, upon registering, you receive a chance to win a door prize? Perhaps you’ve noticed the italicized print at the bottom of the ticket and sign..."Must be present to win". Sponsors want the patrons to experience the whole event. They don’t want the patron to miss anything, most of all the grand finale, the closing, the climax. This “Must be present to win!” is fundamental to living a life of significance. There have been some notable graduation speeches in which the “Must be present to win!” tagline applies.

- Steve Jobs to the Stanford graduates in 2005 said ...
    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Jobs was right. Been there. Done that. Got the connect-the-dots-artwork in my life. Yet people yearn to find a good fortune teller. There is money to be made in future forecasting and predicting trends. People still refer to Nostradamus. Yet Christ told his followers, only the Father knows what the future holds (Matt 24:36). You are what you believe. The real danger in your beliefs is absolute certainty. Absolute certainty creates so many problems for living a life of significance. Absolute certainty will suck the life out of you. Take the advice Andy gives Red in the 1994 movie, Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Great case for, “Must be present to win!”

Ellen DeGeneres to the graduates of Tulane in 2009 said ...
    “The definition of success changes. Success is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to be something you are not. ... never follow some else’s path;   unless you’re in trouble in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, then by all means, you should follow that.”

On the other hand, Ellen doesn’t take herself too seriously. She can laugh at herself. Laughter and humor are essential to “Must be present to win!” You will experience grief and laughter is the only cure.

- David Foster Wallace to the graduates of Kenyon College 2005 said ...
       “You can stand in that supermarket line, surrounded by irritating, equally bored people and if you want, you can imagine them beautiful or gentile or helpless - even it they’re not. You have the choice. Your education gives you the option to see things from several perspectives. You can call it delusional. Or you can call it hope. Or you can call it a form of pain relief from your own pain. Whatever you call it, with it, you are unshackled ... a chance to fly free. (Watch, “This is Water” at

I was blessed to hear David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech in person at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, in May of 2005. I didn’t recognize the real wisdom of this commencement address until I went back to read and reread it. Wallace’s comments are the ultimate, “Must be present to win!” We are the richest nation on earth not because of resources, things, geography, history or successes. We are rich because we have choice. This is the central point in Wallace’s address. Everyday begins with a choice of how you want to be experienced, what kind of attitude you want to put on, how you will treat others and a further array of choices! Choose wisely so you can continue “Must be present to win!”

- David Brooks to the graduates of Sewanee 2013 said ...
    “The third thing not to worry about is the question: Will I find my passion? Commencement speakers are always telling you to find your passion. This is the biggest load of crap old people have ever foisted on the young. No, you will not find your passion. Your passion will find you. Relax and wait for it."

Two things about Brook’s wisdom. Worry is a total waste of energy. Worry will keep you from “Must be present to win!” Worry removes you from the present and puts you into the realm of shame and fear. Fear is the absence of love. For love to happen and grow, “Must be present to win!”

Second, Brooks is right on when he says your passion will find you. I’ve met a lot of people searching for their purpose in life. What is more important is to remember your purpose! When you remember your purpose, your passion will show up. When your passion shows up, you are present to experience your whole life!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Have You Been Assessed?

The unexamined life is not worth living. Socrates

Taking personality and trait assessments throughout my life has contributed to better self-management, better coaching practices, and to better facilitating of teams, tribes and communities. Assessments are like mirrors. They reveal some interesting things but not necessarily the essentials! They are tools to help explore and discover more about oneself and others. Assessments are a starting point and not a be-all, end-all summary.

The most powerful assessments are of the 360 variety where you get anonymous feed back from supervisor, peers, direct reports, friends and others. They can create powerful “AHA” conversations. They can be catalyst for personal growth.

Here is a summary of the assessments I have taken:

Strength’s Finder
- My five strengths include: Strategic, Connectedness, Learner, Maximizer, Belief 

Engramme - 9 (Peacemaker) 
Big Five - Open to new experiences, neither organized or dis-organized, both social and reserved, considers the feelings of others and calm in tense situations 
Herman Brain Dominance Inventory - D > C > A > B 
Devine Inventory - Action oriented, can turn arguments into discussions, seen as being on top of the situation, tactful and diplomatic, not satisfied with the status quo, stimulated by learning, enthusiasm for the audience, can create change, able to prioritize, has high energy 
Gregoric Style Delineator - Concrete Random (CR) 
DiSC - Promoter (i/D) 
MyHardwired - Yellow 
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - ENTJ (Qualified MBTI practioner) 
Temperament - NT 
Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) - strong in all five areas of leadership including: modeling the way, challenging the way, enabling others to act, inspiring a shared vision and encouraging the heart
Emotional Intelligence EQi 2.0 - 113 (Certified)

Recently, as part of emotional intelligence certification, I took an EQ-i assessment. The assessment looks at self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision making and stress management. The results indicated moving towards the high range for emotional intelligence. My “happiness” factor was also high.

Since the EQ-i is a self-validating assessment, I talked with the EQ-i facilitator. She asked if I was surprised by the results. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. The assessment validated much of what I know about myself. I acknowledged my strengths as well as areas for growth. I am still a work in progress!

Couple of things I’ve learned about assessments. We human beings are very complex. We are a bundle of habits shaped by nature and nurture. Add other human beings to our environment, lives and work and things become very interesting!

It’s not enough to be given results or feedback on the assessment. When your doctor screens you for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar or any number of things, the results do not mean a thing without understanding how they impact the quality of life.

The same is true of assessments. Couple assessment results with experience-based learning labs, you can discover and understand how you show up and how others experience you. You can learn to bridge the gaps of reality-perception, knowing-doing and sighted-blind spots.

The tough questions can be asked. What habits need to challenged? What behaviors need to changed? What behaviors do I need to do more? What do I currently understand about myself? What do I need to do to better understand? What heart-to-heart conversation do I need to have with myself? Where can I get support?

Socrates was right!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another Conspiracy?

Mother’s Day came upon us recently. Did you remember your mother? How did you remember your mother? Why should you remember your mother?

Perhaps you have bad memories of your mother...being made to eat your broccoli, nagged to hang up your towel after your shower or prevented from doing what your friends were allowed to have or cable television in your bedroom, no staying out past 11 PM on a Friday night or being made to go to church on Sunday mornings instead of sleeping. (I hope there was a father in the house who sided with your mother!)

On the other hand you may have fond memories of your mother. She’s the one who stood up to that strict teacher who gave you a bad grade for turning in your project late. She’s the one who told the referee off after your soccer game for the red card you got. She’s the one who threw a fit at the bookstore when they ran out the latest Harry Potter book at the midnight release party. You only hope she’ll be there when you go for your first job interview. (I hope there was a father in the house who disagreed with your mother on those issues!)

Some think Mother’s Day is just another greedy greeting card, flower shop, restaurant ploy to sell more. No doubt, they benefit from Mother’s Day. If you research Mother’s Day, it goes back to the Greek and Roman civilizations. It has deep roots for every living creature as it is a celebration of being born, being given the gift of life and making a connection to life. It’s worth not only remembering but celebrating. What get’s celebrated, gets repeated!

Dorothy Day, journalist and activist, wrote about the spiritual transformation upon giving birth to her first child. “No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.” Blest be the tie that binds!

As a child grows, a mother-child relationship evolves through several roles. First role is nurse. This role is about care and feeding including taken care of the soiled diapers! Queen is the second role (along with a father who is King.) Our home, our rules and you will abide. This role evolves into Coach, standing on the sidelines and offering advice as well as encouragement. The final role is Friend, a confidant who knows your imperfections and loves you just the way you are! All roles are transforming. All roles are founded on unconditional love. Every role validates the relationship and reminds each of the purpose of life, to be of significance.

I believe motherhood is one of those epic events defining required responsibility morphing into desired responsibility for both the mother and for the child. Hopefully from this forge, we learn what it means to be in relationship with others. It nurtures the spiritual wisdom deep within. The lessons of intimate community lead us to greater communities grounded in love. What a gift?!

It’s not too late to remember your mother. And if you still think its a lot of hype, consider the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they wish to be treated. It’s not too late to celebrate a relationship that launched you into life. A text does not work. An email is one notch above text. A phone call is a start. A written letter, note or card is much better. Face-to-face is best. And don’t just wait for Mother’s Day, find other days to celebrate your primary collaborator in your creation!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Do You Lead Negatively?

A powerful tool in executive coaching is the 360 assessment. Anonymous feedback from the leader's direct reports as well as others who work with the leader are powerful conversation starters.

Here are a few anonymous comments from past assessments in my files that raise red flags.

- She points the way, but doesn’t support her followers.
- He only knows how to make demands. He doesn’t know how to express faith in people. 

- She leads by fear.
- Weak on encouragement. Very judgmental.
- Always needs to be in control. Lacks confidence in the people she manages
- Comes to meetings with is his mind made up.

There seem to be three major categories for "negative leadership."

The Power personality: Always with the team and always in control.
- Demands respect, tyrant, inflexible, restrictive, perfectionist

- Rule oriented rather than people oriented, command and control, her way or no way
- Loves and recruits “yes-men” and keeps them close at hand
- Low self-esteem and low in confidence, roadblocks to connecting with others
- Workaholic and expects others to do the same
Team outcome: tired, uncreative, low morale

The Flash personality: The “helicopter” leader drops in to check on the team.
- Swoops in to make suggestions, leads with assumptions, laissez-faire
- Doesn’t listen to ideas suggestions or take questions (or limits questions)
- Behaves differently in front of superiors
Team outcome: instability, poor productivity, team members don’t see a future

The Ego personality: There is an “I” in team and its me!
- Has all the answers, needs to be right, Teflon coated so if there is a problem it’s not his fault
- Insincere, exploitative, arrogant, narcissistic
- Shows favoritism, may lack integrity
- Emotional insecurity, lack of conscience
Team outcome: distrust, tension and stress, team members make sure their butts are covered!

All three of these types have a bad reputation. I am not sure any of these negative leaders are coach-able. They are candidates for counseling because there are deeper issues involved. Counseling will only work if they acknowledge their bad leadership and want to change.

Ideally, these “leaders” need to realize they lead and act poorly. They need to learn to dial back and become adaptable. Overcoming negative leadership requires taking the hit and also giving credit where credit is due. Most of all, they must learn to think of others, use emotional intelligence and practice the Golden Rule. 

The man who stops by the negative leader’s office to dust and empty the trash, he is part of the team and should be treated with kindness, courtesy and compassion. Take time to get to know him. He may hold a great idea that creates a positive bottom line! 

If you were have those who report to you and those you work with fill out a 360 assessment on you, what do you think the feedback would say?