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Peeking Pushing Mentor

Once upon a time a small child saw a big teenager riding a bike. He admired the teenager’s skill, and he decided that he wanted to be able to ride a bike too. At first the idea of peddling fast and staying upright was frightening. So he tested the experience in a safe environment. The child found an old bike in his family’s garage, and he pushed it up to a workbench and put the kickstand down. He then climbed up onto the workbench and then slid over to the bike seat. And there he sat, turning the handlebars and

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Projects that Go “Know Where”

History shows us over and over, leaders have a way of getting things wrong. Yet stronger leaders will see in these errors in judgment a knowledge that lays the groundwork for future expansion and growth. Take the 1803 effort by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their expedition to find a Northwest Passage – connecting east to west and establishing a U.S. presence in land that other nations had their own sights on – was one of the most important projects in U.S. history. Though this effort had a profound effect on the United States we know today, if we were

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Planting a Strategy

When I was a child we had a good-sized garden. My father liked to plant many crops in it, but loved his green beans. Not just any bean would do. “Kentucky Wonder” pole beans were his calling. He was known for his knack of growing them and his disposition for sharing baskets full with others. His process for planting was logical and systematic. Plow and fertilize the soil based on climate or moon phase. Select high quality seeds and plant them at the correct depth. Place a 5-foot pole near the bean plant, so the vines (runners) can latch on

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Comma or Period

A few years ago I facilitated a focus group of high potential leaders at a very successful and innovative enterprise. This small lean organization had run uphill fast to reach its current peak of achievement. People were stressed to near breaking point, but still determined to become even better. I asked the group, “What is the chief barrier to your organization getting to the next level of success?” The room was silent. Eyes darted. Truth telling can be terrifying. Then one guy spoke-up, “We do a good job planning most of our projects, but we have too many going on

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Mark the Start

This local college president is a visionary with a hands-off approach to leadership. She invested over 15 years ingraining quality and efficiency at the main campus. Three years ago the college established a second campus on the other side of town. Although very near retirement at that time, she was on the new campus almost every day.  This seemed out of character. So I asked her why she was spending so much time there.  She said,  “Because I need to make my mark.”  By this she meant she knew she needed to model the organization’s values and teach their principles of success,

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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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