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Begin before you Start into the Wind

My wife and I spent the first week of 2016 in a beach vacation house in on the Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was not the ideal time to being on a non-tropical beach, but we thought it would be fun. We knew it would be cold, but we could bundle up. Best of all, we would have the beach mostly to ourselves. The temperatures were comfortable the evening we arrived, so the next morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and went outside to see the sunrise. I was totally unprepared for the near gale force wind that

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Wisdom of an Innkeeper

Mary and Joseph’s First Christmas (another perspective) The weary couple at the close of day hoped this crowded Inn was their place to stay. Compelled by the expectant couple’s plight, the innkeeper found them a room that night. He ushered them into his hectic hall When he heard God’s voice so still and small, “Don’t birth my son in the ruckus place Of noise and drink and want disgrace. Is this a place to begin a life that will change the world of dark to light? So the keeper of the inn did say, “There is no room for you

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A Well Pruned Life

It is winter. If you are a gardener, the chill in the air is a reminder that this is the time to prune your fruit-bearing trees and vines and flowering perennials. This act of cutting a plant almost to the ground seems extreme. But the law of nature requires near total destruction before new growth can produce of a good harvest. If this cutting back doesn’t happen at all or happens too late, the results are not good. Total neglect of pruning over time results in disease and untimely death. The un-pruned plant becomes an unbalanced mixture of old and

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Uncomfortable Truths

Five years ago the Millennials (employees ages 18- 34) made up around 10% of the workforce. Today, their numbers have increased to around a third of the workforce, and by 2020, they’ll make up almost half of the workforce. Last week I asked a large gathering of executives, “Do you have some managers in your organization who constantly complain about the new generation of workers on their teams? Do they have many conflicts and ongoing problems motivating them?” Heads nodded across the large room. Then I asked the nodders, “Are they the same managers who had constant conflicts and complained

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Looking Up to Leaders

Pulling out of my driveway yesterday morning, I looked to my left and saw a very young boy standing beside a middle-age man waiting for the school bus to arrive.  They stood about a block away, and I recognized them from the neighborhood. I thought, “What a fine way to begin my day – seeing a father and son begin their day together.” I stopped my car to take in the moment. The boy looked up at his dad and tugged on his sleeve, and the dad looked down – at his cell phone. I waited. The son said something

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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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