Monday, December 28, 2015

The Scars Inside You (2015 edition)

Ahhh, the last week of the year. The haze of Christmas and holiday cheer is still strong, and the excitement for New Year's Eve is building. This week brings an odd set of thoughts and feelings that typically don't get much air time during the other fifty-one.

Good Riddance
One of the most popular comments this week is about how anxious people are to "get this year over with." The personal and professional challenges, changes, setbacks, or unrealized hopes come into view as we prepare to turn the page on the previous year.

The scars inside suddenly become quite public.

New You
The other theme of this week will be the promises to do all things better:
- work
- exercise
- eat clean(er)
- focus on 'what's important'

In some ways all of the New You talk is another version of what didn't go well the previous year; hence, our plan to fix everything about ourselves.

More scars from the inside, showing up on the outside.

How About You
I've been a member of the Good Riddance and New You clubs for as long as I can remember. In 2015 I experienced the most change that I've ever gone through personally and professionally.

What am I going to do next year? I'm going to focus on one thing. The negative self-talk about my failures won't help me. The extra pressure I put on myself to look a certain way physically isn't going to help me achieve my goals. The burden I feel to perform at a high level professionally can't truly help me be my best.

No, there is only one thing I need to focus on next year.

My attitude. 

The way I look at it...if my attitude is right, the rest will fall into place. 

Happy New Year friends!

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, December 21, 2015

I'm Not Interested

I have a list of things that I absolutely love. Whether it's time with my kids, working out, traveling, rocking social media, my job, going to a concert, spending time with close friends, or speaking to groups of people to get them fired up...I can't get enough!

I also have a list of things that I am absolutely not interested in...

At all.

I'm Not Interested
- in listening to bigots justify their stupidity
- in spending time with mean people
- in working with leaders who manipulate organizations for their own personal gain
- in being associated with the 'good old boys club'
- in hearing excuses for why something can not be accomplished
- in following the crowd
- in doing things the way they've always been done
- in settling 
- in remaining quiet
- in losing at anything
- in being anything but the very best I can be

How About You
What should be added to my list?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Threat is Real

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be in leadership roles. More than that, I chose leadership roles...or they chose me...from a very early age. Full credit goes to my parents, both leaders in their professional lives who instilled that passion, and responsibility in me.

There was only one path for me.

Wanting vs Earning
Despite my desire to move as rapidly through the ranks as possible, I learned another lesson very quickly once I entered the workforce. Leadership opportunities are earned. They are not an entitlement...have little to do with academic background...and have absolutely nothing to do with a new generation promoting that they are different somehow. (tip: every generation is the same...we all want decent jobs, working for decent leaders, and to have some time for our personal lives too. Sorry to blow the cover on the myriad stories that shed 'insight' into Gen X, Y, Z, etc.)

So, the realization for me was that I became laser-focused on what was necessary to earn a leadership opportunity. 

Laser-focused...albeit in an unconventional way.

As I reflect back on the biggest challenges I faced along the way it is obvious they boiled down to one major category. It was clearly the most detrimental threat to my journey, and sadly continues to get in the way today.

What was this problem?

Me. I was the threat.

How About You
There is a fix for this persistent threat:  taking action. If I've learned anything over the years it is that I must continue to push, take risks, and recognize that I'm going to stumble (sometimes quite publicly) in order to overcome my own weaknesses.

We can't be good at everything, but we can constantly improve if we're willing to make decisions, learn, and continue moving forward. It's not easy though is it?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, December 14, 2015


"The death of [leadership] is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment."

- respect to Robert M. Hutchins for my edit

In Plain Sight
Take a moment and think about the leaders you work with who are failing. You know who they are. It's no surprise to you...or all of the others watching them flail about the conference rooms and hallways of your organization.

Their struggle is obvious to everyone...

...except them.

Yet we watch as if their failings are some sort of carnival side show. Entertainment for those of us who are so much better than they are.


Hard Conversations and Politics
In a perfect world we would pull these well intended yet embarrassingly off-base leaders aside and set them straight. We would ask questions so as not to insult them, but rather to help them see the harmful impact of their behavior on the workplace.

With no consequences.

But, alas...the world of work is rife with consequences. It's as if common sense is optional at work, yet posturing and grabbing as much power and control as possible is almost acceptable.


How About You
Who do you work with that desperately needs a candid feedback session about their odd-ball behavior? Is it safe for you to do so? For most of you, I'm guessing your corporate environment is anything but safe.


I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

As I Lay Dying

Have you every felt completely stuck in your work? You know the feeling...projects are not on track the way they should be...leaders are doing lots of talking but very little leading...and it looks like deadlines are going to be missed.

So many issues hitting all at once.

The Cycle of Doubt
I would be lying if I told you I didn't suffer from a cycle of doubt every once in a while. First comes a series of challenges that are quickly followed by the pressure and frustration of the work not being executed the way it should.

I hate that.

Next is that sense of desperation as the pieces seem to be spilling out everywhere without any coordinated plan that is actually being managed. Many leaders tout their own skill set, but very few actually execute effectively. 

Titles do not equal skills. Ever.

The Cycle of Success
Hitting a low point every once in while does have it's advantages, although I would prefer never to get there myself.

Renewed Focus
Sometimes we need to simply change the way we frame our desperate situation. Consider the low point you're feeling as the laser focus you needed to drive forward. The issues are focus exclusively on those issues. As you begin to resolve them one by one you will feel not only a sense of satisfaction, but a sense of real control.

Have you ever noticed that when things start to go well you feel even more enthusiastic about the work you're doing? Progress brings with it a new infusion of energy. Embrace that adrenaline rush and keep pushing.

Now it's time to leverage your focus and energy and build a reasonable plan...and for God's sake execute that plan.

As your hard work pays off be sure to recognize the results you and your team are achieving. Part of every plan should be a few moments to formally acknowledge the successes along the way.

How About You
You're not laying there dying. You are a beast. Get the hell up, dust yourself off, and go kick ass.


I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, December 7, 2015

The Lost Art of Leadership Savvy

I'm often asked about the work I do, the issues I deal with, and the tasks necessary for me to be successful. I run through my story and explain how cool my company is, and discuss some of the innovative work we do to support our clients.

But there is an essential component of the work I'm involved with that is very difficult to explain...

...the ability to demonstrate leadership savvy in the face of questions, challenges, or outright crisis.

In my twenty years in leadership roles I've identified a few key elements that can make or break both new and well tenured leaders.

Understand the Organization
This sounds absurd, right? How could someone in a leadership role not understand how the organization operates, generates revenue, and takes care of it's talent in the modern world? It is quite simple actually, and here's how I've seen it happen over and over again.

Bright leaders who specialize in a certain discipline (finance, accounting, information technology, human resources, nursing, operations, marketing, executive leadership, etc.) rise through the ranks based on their ability to lead their specialized scope of responsibility. 

What they fail to do is think across the enterprise and ask questions:
- How does my work impact the organization's ability to generate revenue?
- What is the current state of talent attraction and retention and what specifically do I need to do to ensure I support the organization?
- Do I consciously live the values of the organization and role model them 100% of the time to all of those employees that are watching  me as a leader?

Challenge yourself as a's what you're getting paid to do.

The savvy leader not only understands the organization, but is also courageous enough (yes, courageous) to be humble. This is where so many talented leaders fail miserably. 

They may say all the right things (or at least most of the time say the right things); however, their delivery is so poor, and their behavior often does not match their words.

Think for a moment about the leaders that dominate meetings, talk and talk and talk, and insist their view is the "right" one. 

Do they earn the respect of the team; or are there eye rolls, smirks behind their backs, and a sense of fear among their team that unless they comply there will be consequences?

"When the focus of the work is no longer about proving how valuable you are, and shifts to making everyone feel valuable and understanding all of the work being done...that is leadership savvy."

How About You
What steps are you taking to ensure you are a savvy leader? Are you quick thinking on your feet? Are you keenly aware of the negative energy in a room, and you understand what the real dynamics are that are playing out? Can you connect all of the drivers in an organization and understand how they fit together?

What about your colleagues who've lost their way? Have you had the hard conversation with them to help them get back on track? That's part of our job too, right?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

If I Could Be Anything

That’s easy, I would definitely be a...

Formula 1 driver...they have the best job because they influence so many people.

Singer in a metal band...they have the best job because they influence so many people.

Hollywood actor...they have the best job because they influence so many people.

Novelist...they have the best job because they influence so many people.

Talk show host…they have the best job because they influence so many people.

Famous composer…they have the best job because they influence so many people.

World leader...they have the best job because they influence so many people.

How About You
Wait a second, maybe I all ready have the best job? 

Maybe you do too?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Teach or Stop Leading

"No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it."
Peter Drucker

The leadership lens I use to see the world often tricks me. I am accustomed to talking about leadership behavior, leadership style, leadership savvy, and perhaps most important of all...leadership presence.

I expect myself, and other leaders (including new ones), to perform at a high level. Candidly, that's not entirely fair. But then's not about being fair. Leadership is about doing the hard work...making the difficult decisions...and being both strong enough and humble enough to deliver your words with confidence.

When we see new leaders struggling to establish their executive presence what do we do? Are we quick to criticize to justify our own shortcomings?

When we see early careerists trying to contribute and they fail mightily what do we do? Are we quick to admonish and embarrass to justify our own authority and power?

When we see an experienced leader who has clearly lost touch with how the world works what do we do? Are we quick to write them off as old school and no longer valuable despite their years of experience?

We have an opportunity to teach them. We need to demonstrate what it means to be effective today. We need to use questions to help them understand without sounding arrogant. 

We need to know what we're talking about before we teach them.

How About You
When do you intervene to support a colleague? Is it to provide constructive criticism; or, is it something more? Think about a time when one of your role models supported you. It was powerful wasn't it?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

No Shame this Season

"When I look back upon my life,
it's always with a sense of shame.
I've always been the one to blame."

Happy Holidays?
One of the most exciting times of the year is kicking off right now...the hectic, joyous, family-oriented and festive stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. I love it...even though I know I can't see everyone that is important to me, it is still a great time of year. Plus, I will make sure I connect with those that are too far away for me to see in person.

But not everyone in our personal and professional networks will experience the holidays in this way. The burden of life's struggles, the challenge of broken relationships, the disappointment of a stalled career...can all build up to a very different view of "the best time of year."

We have an opportunity to make a difference in their lives.

Happier Holidays!
There is no simple solution to "help" our friends and colleagues. One thing is clear to me though, doing nothing adds no value. 

Here's a short, and admittedly woefully inadequate list of options available to us this year that might...if nothing else...bring a moment of caring front and center for those in need.

- call them
- connect via social media
- send a note (yes, an old school hand-written note)
- give a public shout out to let others know how special they are to you
- invite them to spend time with you
- encourage others to reach out to them
- purchase a small gift to show them you care

How About You
"So I look back upon my life,
forever with a sense of shame.
I've always been the one to blame."

Lets not have this be the mantra for those in our world this holidays season.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Morning After

I spend a lot of time focusing on action in my work. Building plans, developing complicated and sensitive relationships, and making decisions quickly to keep a long list of priorities moving forward.

Lots of time, energy and words invested in my daily life.

One of the greatest leadership failures in my opinion is when a decision is not made. The never ending quest to ensure success; or rather, lack of mistakes, is a clear signal that the leader is anything but one. 

The ability to make timely decisions is a mandatory competency for leaders today. (It has always been this way!) But sadly, we see many who show their fear of leading with phrases like "review" or "take a closer look at" or "we'll follow up on that" instead of deciding.

Why invest so much time and energy into a plan and not execute it?
Why set expectations with your colleagues and not meet them?

The ultimate test of any leader is their ability to deliver. If you have a terrific plan and never execute it what is your worth as a leader?


If you talk up how great things will be once you set your plans in motion but never actually build those plans let alone launch them, what is your worth as a leader?


If you are the classic all talk no action member of the team what is your worth to the organization?

Absolutely nothing.

How About You
The words we say are powerful. They represent who we are and what we do for our organizations every day. Don't be the one who wakes up the morning after it's all slipped away and wonder what happened.

Don't just talk about the work, get started. It doesn't matter if the plan is perfect. Get started now before a different decision is made about who the organization believes in to lead the way.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

You I Need

I think it's fascinating how some leaders make their lives so difficult. Those same leaders typically make the lives of those around them equally as difficult, yet they can't see how disruptive they are. SMH.

I Need You (in the mirror)
There is a simple reality to getting work done these days in my opinion. You have to do the heavy lifting. Unless you understand what is happening and invest the time to help build work plans, you are not leading. We can talk about delegating work all day long, but I've personally seen many executives fail because they believed they no longer needed to learn anything, and that delegating was actually leading.

Um, no. 

I've had to learn over and over again throughout my career in order to both grow my career and to understand what it actually takes to lead at a high level. (I'm still learning by the way...that's the fun part!) 

Beware the leader that says  they are an expert or have figured it all out. The world is moving so fast, I'm not sure anyone is an expert any longer. 

You may be damn good...but be careful with the self-appointed labels.

What does need to manifest itself however is the inner drive that the best leaders demonstrate each day. They have vision, they build plans, make decisions, and have stopped running scared of the political noise that can dominate an organization but provides zero value.

I Need You (everyone on the team)
Newsflash: real leaders are not individual contributors. Honing your communication skills, understanding that different members of your team need different levels of attention and guidance, and appreciating that without the team's efforts you will fail are all hallmarks of the best of the best.

Let me say it will fail without them. Now, how do you think you should treat your team?

How About You
Trust yourself first. Trust your team second. "You" need them.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, November 16, 2015

HR Reflections: Learning to Lead

It was all about that first opportunity...and learning what I didn't know. 

Laws, compliance, rules, policies, structure, control, process...that was good HR.

Then it was about managing...and learning what I didn't know. 

People, behavior, expectations, deadlines, accountability, communication...that was good HR.

Next it was about complex organizations...and learning what I didn't know. 

Corporate values and politics, the business of healthcare, governance, bizarre third party behavior, national perspectives...that was good HR.

Later is was about thinking beyond my organization and industry...and learning what I didn't know. 

The digital world, social media, employer branding, national strategies that go far beyond traditional ideas...that was good HR.

Today it's about one thing: courage...and I'm still learning.

I no longer have time to focus much energy on those that are so caught up in their own stuff that they suck time and energy out of those around them. 

Those leaders have failed. They won't recover, and we don't have time for them.

There is simply too much ahead that must be accomplished. Maybe if I can be courageous enough, I can help make it happen.

How About You
Ignore the noise. Be courageous instead.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Apex Predator

I'm a super competitive guy. I like to win. I push myself hard at work, in my workouts, and in how I try to cram two lives into just one. I like the pressure to differentiate myself, my company, and my clients from the competitors in their respective markets.

I like to win.

Every time.

Winning Without Being A Loser
Part of winning is making sure I try to help everyone on my team win. This is no small task. Think about the people you work with and how they (read here --> many) are slow to accept change. 

Some may be early in their careers and don't want to make a mistake. Others may be long-tenured but still cling to the prehistoric notion that a command and control leadership style actually garners credibility in 2015.

Whatever obstacles we confront, it is essential that we try to include everyone. Candidly, not everyone will make the journey with us. It is easier to accept this reality when we know we've done our best to be inclusive.

Winning Comes in Threes
When you commit to winning you can not simply state you want to win and expect to get a good result. It requires courage and thick skin (particularly when hearing the criticism from those that want 'everyone' to win --> impossible, by the way.)

Let's take a look at my big three:

1. An endless supply of enthusiasm
Are you the one that everyone knows is fired up...all the time? Can you be relied on to jump in front of a group of people and get them engaged on a new project, strategy, or set of business tools?

If not, what the heck is going on? It's up to you to change your organization for the better. No one else. That means you must be the one who is out in front.

2. A willingness to take risks
Are you the one that is pushing to try new things and challenge the status quo? Or, do you wait for "approval" for everything and make sure each issue is so "safe" that you never take a step forward? 

If so, what the heck is going on? It's up to you to create a culture where innovation and creativity are normal. If you're not role modeling this behavior who is going to do it?

3. An ability to execute
Progress never occurs when we "wait and see" or "take a closer look at something." Do these phrases sound all too familiar? Is it suddenly uncomfortable reading this post?

If so, what the heck is going on? You must be the one must be the first one through the must make decisions and move forward.

How About You
Do you want to be the apex predator in your industry, organization, and life? 

Reality check...the only thing stopping you is you. 

Get yourself fired up, take some risks, and above all else execute more effectively than anyone you've ever seen. 

In the're going to make a world of difference.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

We Only Need One HR Policy

I’ve been in human resources for twenty years. I’ve written, revised, edited, printed, emailed, posted and leveraged policies to make decisions over and over again. Too many times following the policies morphed into the focus of the work…instead of the work being the focus of the work.

Sound familiar?

We Need A Policy for “That”
My favorite policy of all time is the “policy on policies.” You know the one. It describes the proper format, headers, indentations, when to bold and not to bold, etc. Argh!

How has such a high impact function in the organization devolved into a paper pushing bureaucratic machine? 

It’s as if we in human resources believe we are the core business, when in fact we are the engine that fuels the core business. I’ve even seen policies called “Policy on ___.” 

Seriously? We love them so much we even put the word policy first! 

All for One and One for All
Here’s where I'm going with this concept. The noise, criticism, and candidly glacier-like movement that typically comes from HR relative to change must end. The one-policy approach can send a powerful message to the organization, that no longer will human resources hide behind a stack of excuses…er, paper…any longer.

Here's my human resources policy of the future:

“We will follow all applicable laws that impact our organization and will treat each team member with respect as we strive to be a truly world class company.”


How About You
One policy says it all. The only piece you need to ensure you keep track of is the consistent practices for various issues so as to avoid unwarranted discrimination or third party claims. Let’s start moving away from the paper, and get into the business of driving the business forward.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Wellness Isn't About the Workplace

Now before my HR friends get all wound up hear me out. Let’s think for a minute about what wellness is ultimately intended to achieve:
- lower benefit plan costs
- fewer missed days of work; and,
- theoretically a healthier workforce

Let’s be honest. Do you actually believe large employers have launched program after program simply because they felt a passion for the personal health and “wellness” (which is a very odd word if you think about it) of their workforce?

Um, no. It’s capitalism, remember? 

So What Is the Deal?
If any of you are still reading let’s take this a step further. I’m a fitness fanatic. I work out a lot, push myself (too) hard…and eat healthier than I have to. I’m motivated to stay healthy and strong. But it has nothing to do with any workplace program that was ever launched at the organizations where I worked…and I’ve launched some really good ones!

When was the last time you heard a woefully out of shape colleague announce to the team “thank God the company launched that wellness program, now I can finally get healthy!"

Um, never.

In my view there are only two instances when workplace wellness programs make an impact. 

1. Financial incentives are put in place.
2. The employee experiences a personal health crisis or scare.

That’s it. No amount of pedometer propaganda or limited availability of sugary drinks in the cafeteria can come close to the power of money and the fear of dying.


So Why Even Launch Wellness Programs?
The answer here is simple. Once employers understand what the real drivers of these programs are (save money, reward employees who either are motivated by money or literally are scared to death due to their own lack of motivation and now poor physical health) only then can real progress be made.

Be honest with yourself about why these programs are useful.
Align your incentives properly.
Make sure your leaders participate as role models.

How About You
Are you fired up about wellness program that are based on grandiose ideas but in reality are not aligned with what really matters? Make the changes necessary, and get moving. For the minority of employees that will truly embrace your program it will make a world of difference.

And that makes all of it worthwhile.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Wonders At Your Feet

There are times when we believe we have built the perfect team. We convince ourselves that once those final few pieces fall into place all will be right in our world of work. We so desperately want things to be smooth and steady.

But that's not how work happens.

So Much To Do
For any of you that have glanced at my blog over the years you know I am a big fan of lists. When I say lists, I mean digital lists. (Post it notes and stacks of paper are so 1985.) The upside of using lists for everything in your life means you're super organized. The downside is that you can feel pretty overwhelmed at times.

Don't let the lists become your world. They are a tool...they are not the boss of you! They are a system to help you keep your priorities moving in the right direction. They are an asset, so stop thinking about them as a daily liability.

Teams Are Stronger Than You Think
When we realize some of our team members are struggling, and combine that with our never ending task list we can feel like throwing in the towel.

However, all is not lost. Nor is the road ahead as bumpy as we may think. Challenge yourself to do the following:

- identify and recognize the strong players on your team and what they've done to overcome adversity, rise up and meet challenges, and push themselves to a new level

- summarize the huge amount of work that you and your team have completed in the last six months

- push those who are lagging behind very, very hard

You Are Stronger Than You Think Too
Some days the cumulative weight of pressure at work can bring us to our knees. But today is not one of those days. 

Your focus, commitment to world-class work, and unwavering intolerance for anything less than exceptional performance  has helped you get this far, and it will power you ahead into the future.

Do not lose sight of the impact you have on the workplace, or on the lives of those around you.

How About You
Are you looking at the days ahead with a sense of loathing; or, have you decided to take a look around and appreciate the wonders that have been lurking just beneath the surface? Now is the time to keep pushing, and to keep making the difference you make every day.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.