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One Book in 2015

He stood in the middle of the room – in a chair. He was surrounded by 18 senior H.R. executives who had assembled, from around the world, to design a global strategy for their organization. They were here this day to, as he put it, ” agree on a smart strategy to get, grow and keep more than their fair share of top-shelf leaders.” My role was to assist him. A few minutes before he stood up in the chair, I pulled him aside to let him know that were we way off our agenda. He thanked me and told

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Thanks A Lot

Are you interested in lowering your blood pressure, sleeping sounder, worrying less and exercising more? Would you like to move your career to the next level, manage team conflict more effectively and make wiser decisions about the future? Experts tell us that regular doses of gratitude may be a good place to begin. For over a decade Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, along with Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami conducted pioneering experiments where they validate the positive affects of consistent thankfulness. They instructed people to keep a journal listing five things for which

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Strategic Stillness

When you’re on a roll at work – completely focused, tearing through your to-do list – the last thing you want to do is take a break and lose momentum. But research shows that no matter how engaged we are in an activity, our brains inevitably tire, and we become more vulnerable to distractions. [1] He is a 38 -year-old business analyst /senior project manager who has worked very hard all his life. He loves his job, is loyal to his boss and respects the mission of this large not-for profit organization, but he describes his workplace as a war

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When Succession Works

Last month I made a presentation on the human side of business continuity planning. Following my talk, the president of a midsize company stopped me in the hallway and said, “Over the past couple of years, three of my key staff members have retired. The Director of Administration was one of them.” Two Board members were standing nearby, overheard his statement, interrupted our chat and in unison asked, “When did that happen?” The president beamed with well-deserved pride. His planning had paid off. Gambling on Succession Unlike the successful story above, many Boards and leadership teams appear to be rolling

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Business Success Son

“Will you help our son decide what he wants to do?” This question created my first management consulting assignment. The location was a furniture store on the outskirts of Louisville, Kentucky. This business was still owned by the founders, a Jewish couple, who opened the store in the 1950’s . They were prominent community leaders who had made a very good living and reared their only child here. It was now the late 80’s and time had come for the parents to retire and turn the business over to their son, but their outstretched offering was landing on tightly closed

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Healthy Transitions – Slow Down to Go Fast

On April 21 my 81 year-old mother had a complete hip replacement and I turned completely 60 years old. For over six months she suffered with increasing pain and struggled with what she should do about it. During that time I agonized over speaking my age to others and grappled with what I would do in the next phase of my business. My mother’s surgery was a marvelous success and her rehab is right on track.  I have come out of my ” how old are you now? ” closet and have rebranded my practice to embrace my calling over 20

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The More History Matters

A group of baby boomers attended a Smart Transitions retreat I was leading a few months ago. One participant, a newly appointed CEO, told us about moving the company headquarters to a new location. During the move they found a dented filing cabinet filled with project drawings and photos, as well as some tattered journals from the firms’ founders . The documents were dated in the 1950’s. He said he looked through the old stuff and had decided to do away with all of it as part of his transition. When I heard his plan I remembered a New York

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Having a Fit

He was a superstar. A tall, dark-eyed, voice of thunder, leader of leaders…or so he appeared. He could be the new pastor of our church, but we better act quickly before a larger congregation scooped him up. The vote was expeditious and unanimous.  Every deacon, elder, leading woman and child, of hand-raising age, were in one accord. The small church of my childhood got the perfect leader. About two years later the congregation split and so did the superstar. There is nothing that will deeply damage an organization’s effectiveness faster than hiring a key leader who is not a fit.

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Small Fish

“So what’s going on in your life that made you decide to get sick?” is what I hear whenever I catch the flu or get a bad cold and finally visit my doctor. This is his way of asking, “Mike, why is your life so out of balance?” Almost every person these days says they are just too busy, and we seem quite proud of it. In America, the phrase “It sounds like you’ve been really busy!” is interpreted as, “It sounds like you are really important!” Unfortunately, a very busy person is usually just someone caught in constant activity

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All the Way In

Everyone on the beach knew it was the first time my granddaughter had been in the ocean. Screams of terror filled the first 10 minutes. For the next hour, screams of delight drenched everyone within earshot as she fought the waves to hold on to her ‘My Little Pony’ boogie board. The whole world knew when she finally made it “all the way in “. Joyfully exhausted, we marched weak kneed back to our bright blue beach chair under our big umbrella to the applause of my lovely wife. “Perfect” would be the word I had used to describe that

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Leadership Drive

Once upon a time… … A very proud man in his very fast car was competing in a grueling cross-country race. He had a few races under his belt, but this was by far his most challenging. Anxious for a quick advantage, he gunned his car off the starting line and took a big lead. Soon he was cruising at blistering speed. With no cars in sight he relaxed. Bracing the steering wheel with his knee, he fumbled with an old road map with his right hand; with his left he waved to the cheering crowds. On a hilltop high

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Unforgivable Power?

The Center for Creative Leadership studied 21 derailed executives, who were expected to go higher in the organization, but had reached a plateau in their careers and were fired or forced to retire early. They were compared with 20 managers who made it all the way to the top. The researchers found the two groups astonishingly alike. Every one of the 41 executives possessed remarkable strengths, and everyone was flawed by one or more significant weaknesses. So a person can make a lot of mistakes and have certain weaknesses and still rise to success. But a close study of the

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Advocating Inquiry

Gavin is my youngest grandson. Like many healthy children at age three, he is captivated by the sound of his voice and zealously curious…his mouth runs like an outboard motor. Last week, my wife and I ate dinner with Gavin and family. During the meal, everyone was engaged in a debate about a local community issue, except Gavin. He sat intensely silent, politely waiting for a chance to jump into the conversation. Finally, someone took a breath. And he got his motor running…rattling off a litany of brilliantly ordered, utterly random (and pretty compelling) questions in record time: “Why is

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Retention – Who Will Go First?

Family Matters A mid -size family business, run by a father and his two sons, was having trouble retaining their part-time employees. We met for a compression planning session to get a solution to this problem. As we began the session, a few questions came to mind. “What’s an example of a company that’s world-class at retaining part -time employees?” I asked. They thought together for a bit and agreed that “Chik-fil-A” was a good example of a company great at employee retention. “Why do you think “Chik-fil-A” is so effective?” The two sons started rattling off reasons, “good pay,

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