Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Snark is Not a Leadership Skill

Snark - "Biting, cruel humor or wit, commonly used to attack someone or something."

Snark and Credibility
I'll be honest with you. I love jokes...not only playing them on people, but also being on the receiving end of a good prank. Good ones use a combination of fun, creativity and a clear signal that the balance between humor and cruelty will never crossed.

Quite honestly I think they can show the human side of leadership, particularly if we demonstrate that we don't mind being on the receiving end of a well-intended and harmless prank. I would much rather have the team feel comfortable teasing me vs. them worrying if my teasing has some sort of underlying message (even though it never does.)

Never lose an opportunity to show the "real you" with your team.

Snark and Losing All Respect
The flip side of course is when the fun morphs into simple cruelty. We've all made mistakes and crossed the line, but that's not what I'm talking about. 

The decision to brand oneself as the one who always takes things a little too far is for stand-up comedians.

It is never a legitimate strategy for leaders.


Candidly the underlying issues that seem to drive these behaviors are typically based on low self-esteem and some sort of inferiority complex. 

I've seen it many times in my career. It has nothing to do with how bright or accomplished the aggressor is; in fact many are quite good at their jobs.

Sadly though, they allow their insecurities to shine brightly as they use snark as a weapon.

How About You
Which leadership style have you chosen? Do you look for opportunities to show that you are human along with the rest of your team? Or, is your self-talk machine blaring so loudly you don't realize you are inadvertently hurting those around you?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Hand Me My AR-15, the British Are Coming...Oh, Wait

The gun control issue is so polarizing in the United States, that I almost decided against sharing this post. However, judging from the flood of comments I received when I hinted at writing on this topic, it speaks to the need for the dialogue to continue.

This is not a comprehensive policy proposal; rather, it is a message about one component of the bizarre place we find ourselves in...regardless of which side of the "debate" you fall.


I am pro-gun ownership. 

Let me make that crystal clear. I am pro-gun ownership.

From target practice, to hunting, to feeding one's family or to protection in extreme circumstances, guns are a valuable part of our society.

Our forefathers sent a powerful message about guns and freedom as well...IN 1776!

In Case You Missed It, We Won the Revolutionary War
The message the Founding Fathers sent to all Americans was that we could fight real tyranny (think King George III...aka a foreign power occupying America) and gain our independence. The bravery of those patriots, both men and women is absolutely astonishing. 

But the world is a very different place today than it was in colonial times. Our government (regardless of how much the crazies want to claim that it will happen) is not going to turn America into a police state and invade our homes.

It's not going please stop talking about defending yourself from...ourselves.

Machine Guns Are For The Armed Forces
One of the things that surprises me most about the gun control debate (if you can call the choke hold the NRA has on Congress a "debate") is the belief that ordinary citizens need high powered machine guns.

Seriously? It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetically embarrassing for those that believe we need that sort of firepower laying around our homes. 

Before any of you head out to do a drive-by and exert your Second Amendment rights, check out this and this or this from the New York Times. Guess what? We're number one in the world! 

In gun deaths. Please save the "guns don't kill people excuse"...the other civilized nations of the world don't have the guns we do, and shockingly they have far fewer deaths.

Coincidence? Um, of course not.

How About You
Do you think our forefathers would have been excited to have each and every farmer load up with a row of cannon outside their barns? 

The rabid gun advocates should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. 

Although, I feel sorry for them. They have lost their way...they actually believe we have "control" over the millions of guns in America, and it's just an enforcement issue. 

I wonder who they trust to "control" things, or at least have a meaningful discussion about the many layers of this issue? It appears, no discussion is the preferred option.


What do you think?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016


There is a unique responsibility that comes with a leadership job. It's more than just representing your company well, and working hard (much of it behind the scenes that most simply can not appreciate.) 

It's a responsibility that has to do with how we treat people. I know that sounds like an overused phrase, except there's a catch.

Many leaders...formal and informal alike...treat their colleagues and team members quite wretchedly

Yes Sir, Yes Ma'am, Yes Sir, Yes Ma'am
Before you completely dismiss this post, consider those around you. Think about the team members who are keeping their heads down...who are remaining quiet...who seem reserved "all of a sudden" or are quick to agree with everything the "leader" has to say.

Maybe there is something happening that you're not aware of yet.

It seems that something odd happens when people are offered the privilege to serve in a leadership role. They suddenly lose the perspective they once had when they were starting their careers, and now believe they can act without any consequences. 

That is a flawed assumption.

The Most Important Thing
It turns out that the most important thing that happens in any organization comes down to how the leaders treat the people. Whether it is employees, volunteers, vendor partners, interns or students shadowing as part of their academic curriculum, the people are the number one priority.

After many years in human resources leadership mired in policy and procedure manuals, I have learned a couple of very important things:
- people matter
- our job as leaders is to encourage, support, mentor and develop
- our ultimate goal should be for our people to soar

How About You
If I were to ask the people who interact with you everyday, would they tell me that you help them soar? Or, might I hear something different?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, June 20, 2016

My New Career Strategy

Today is my birthday. Some people bemoan their birthdays because it means they are getting older. Others don't want to share their age because our society has a "thing" about numbers. 

I'm happy to take as many birthdays as possible.

I'm Going To Live to 100
My Dad used to tell me he was going to live to be 100 years old. He was serious, and for a long time I thought he might make a run at it. How we get from our very first day, through each birthday, and land on our last day is a combination of genes, luck, and hard work.

Since Dad didn't have the chance to hit his magic number, I've decided I need to finish the job for him.

Today I'm just about half way home.

Hard Work
I don't have much control over my genes, or the luck that is (or isn't) headed my way, so I've decided that if I'm going to live that long I need to focus on the hard work part of the equation.

Today begins a new commitment to hard work. A new way to think about fitness and food and sleep and health.

I already enjoy working out, and I am quite disciplined with what I choose to eat. But I haven't been thinking big enough about how far I can go...about how much I can achieve...and how much harder I can push myself.

How About You
Oh, and one more thing. One of the most powerful benefits of my fitness journey so far is the incredible amount of energy I have at work. Think about that for a minute. I'm now making health a central part of my career strategy. Maybe it could be part of yours too.

Now it's go time! Dad, I've got your back.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

There's Something About Power

It seems to me there is a direct correlation between the amount of power one has and their ability to think clearly. 

Yes, I said it. The more power we have, the less tuned in to reality we are. You can't argue, because quite frankly your primary rationale for arguing is to justify your continued level of power.

Mmmmm....power. It feels good.

Why is that when someone moves into a formal position of authority they equate that with their own brilliance? Quite the opposite is actually occurring. Good leaders are the ones that recognize the enormity of the responsibility before them, and quickly build the most effective team of bright minds around them. 

"I don't need to come up with the best ideas. I need to implement the best ideas."
- Jay Kuhns
I fear for those organizations that have leaders who believe they are the smartest people on the team. How many new and innovative opportunities to grow the company, build the culture, and achieve breakthrough performance are lost simply because an arrogant leader believes he or she "has it all figured out?"

Real Power
There is an old, and incredibly accurate phrase that basically says...the more power that you give away...the more power you receive.

I can personally attest to this being true. I can also tell you it used to be extremely difficult for me to give away any power. I knew what needed to be done! I could do it myself very quickly! I knew my path to the endpoint was the best path!

Until I realized I really did work with a bunch of bright people who had different (and better!) ideas on how we could reach our shared goals.

It is a very good thing indeed that I have an appetite for humble pie.

How About You
How do you navigate your personal power trip? Does everyone on your team know that you are the boss with the best ideas? Or, are you the leader that everyone wants to work for?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Breathing Lightning (The Right Thing)

It sounds so simple. So easy. We're taught to do it from the time we are "forced" to share with other kids at pre-school. That same mantra flows through our formative years and into our working life.

When facing a difficult situation, just do the right thing. No problem, right? After all, we're leaders, so we always make the right decisions. (epic eye roll here)

But seriously, we do, don't we?

You always have the chance to do the right thing.

Not So Fast
I think we can agree that difficult decisions are not all the same. Some can be hurtful but necessary. Others will have a winner and a loser...and sometimes we can not avoid having someone lose. 

We are even faced with decisions that may derail our own career temporarily because we can no longer support the behavior of the leaders in our organizations.

What often starts with so much promise...all of a sudden...isn't so clear.

Until the right thing comes undone.

As leaders we strive for many of the same things: for our teams to trust us, to be known as someone who makes "good" decisions even when they are the hard ones, and above all to be an example of how the work can be done well while still caring about people.

By the way, if these aren't at the top of your list, I'd love to hear what is.

When those difficult choices come up, the team is relying on us to do the right thing. We may be filled with doubt. We may be concerned about how our decision will "look" in the eyes of others. Even with our best intentions, it can be so confusing.

I look inside myself, is this the right thing? 

How About You
They say that leadership is a lonely place. Take a deep breath...and accept that they're right.

Is this the right thing? I don't know.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuse.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Self-Awareness is a Lie

"No matter how unbiased we think we are, we may have subconscious negative opinions about people who are outside our own group. But the more we are exposed to other groups of people, the less likely we are to feel prejudice against them."
Mind Tools

I'm in Leadership, I'm Not Biased
I hate to break it to you...but yes, yes you are, and we have our brains to blame for some of those biases. We are not able to process the millions of bits of information slamming into us every second of the day. 

So, our brains make quick judgments based on things that are familiar (skin color, accent, job, education, geography, etc.) to help move past the simple things and get us to the really important stuff. Except the little things are the important stuff.

Trying to convince ourselves otherwise is not only foolish, it is quite literally, impossible.

Attack Your Biases...With Humility
One of the inherent problems of leadership, and in particular as we rise through the corporate ranks, is that we rely on our our own opinions more and more. We become removed from the operations, and the work flow, and the team that understands how the work gets done in the trenches.

Our over inflated egos block our ability to see and hear what we need so desperately to lead effectively. If we are to guide our organizations forward, we must understand what is happening from every point of view.

The solution is pretty straightforward if you're a strong enough leader to handle it.

- Ask for input.
- Listen to what your trusted circle tells you.
- Do not get defensive.

How About You
Who is there for you? For me, it is my Personal Board of Directors. A team of leaders who don't know it, but are the ones I on rely for candid feedback when I'm sure "I know exactly what I'm doing."

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Power of Time

I received a healthy dose of "don't forget what you can do Jay" from a member of the team during a call last week. I had decided to forgo an extra night at a hotel to save my company a few bucks. But... 

...I was reminded that time is more valuable than money.

Making It
Despite the never ending stream of "I'm so busy" comments that we hear all day, it is really not about our work, or responsibilities, or life that gets in the way. It is our unwillingness to make time. Have you ever heard this phrase before?

"Where does the time go?"

Of course we all have a full plate, that's not what I"m talking about. It is the choice to protect time, schedule literally make time to get important things done.

Sharing It
One of the most important things leaders can do is share their time with the people around them. Yes, the people that help make them, and the company, successful. Sharing our time is not a one way communication. I often receive as much as I give when I connect with our team. in...every time.

Not only does sharing time help with the fundamentals like communication, building internal communities, and living the values of the company. It also reinforces the influence leaders have in their organizations.

Think about the early days of your career. Did it matter if a senior executive took time to connect with you. Not because they had to....but because they genuinely wanted to?

It sure did for me.

There is another reason it is important to invest your time in the people you work with, and it is quite obvious. We all talk about how important our people are to our businesses. When we connect with our people, we are connecting with the lifeblood of our companies too.

Are you with me?

How About You
The old adage that time is money is true. But it is far more important than dollars and cents. How we prioritize our time speaks volumes about whether we back up our executive-speak or not. So, how will you spend your time today?

Thanks for the reminder Julie.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In Our Mind

Group think. 

Let that phrase roll around in your head for a minute. Group Think.

Is it positive? 
Is it the corporate equivalent of a lynch mob? 

Thinking Is Good
It sounds funny to say it out loud, but thinking through the challenges we face is a really good thing. Except, there always seems to be a little voice in our head that cautions us about our thinking.

"What will the other leaders think of that crazy idea?"

"That will surely be a career-limiting decision if you push too hard."

"Remember the tricky behind-the-scenes alliance of those leaders who conspire against those who don't do things their way."

That little voice is annoying as hell...and is just as wise.

Thinking Is Bad
Sadly, the pressure cooker of leadership brings doubt, fear, and worry about our decisions when in reality we should be excited about the energy our teams create together.

We should be fired up about a new day to solve problems, help people breakthrough to the next level in their leadership, and help our team members feel even more valued than yesterday.

But that little voice...

How About You
How do you handle that voice that tells you to slow down...don't take risks...fall in line...and maintain the status quo? I used to listen obediently as a member of the executive club.

Until I realized that's not what real executives do. So I listened to my own voice instead, and decided that taking risks and kicking ass was not only a lot more actually helped me get the work done.

Which voice are you going to listen to?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.