• No products in the cart.
View Cart
Subtotal: $0.00

Year: 2013

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 Times article I’d read entitled, “The Stories that Bind Us”. The origin of this news article was in early 2000 when a learning disability specialist, Sarah, who had worked with children for many years made an observation: the students who knew a lot about their families tended to do better when they faced challenges.

Do You Know?
Intrigued by her hypothesis , her husband and a colleague from Emory University developed a measure called the “Do you know? Scales”. This survey asked children to answer 20 questions about the background and events in the lives of their parents and grandparents. The questions were posed to children in 48 different families and then compared to their results with a battery of psychological tests. The team reached the overwhelming conclusion that Sarah’s theory was correct: the more children know about their family’s history the stronger their sense of control of their lives, the higher their self-esteem, the more successfully they believe their families functioned.

Researchers reassess the children after the traumatic events of September 11, 2001. Once again they found the ones who knew more about their family proved to be more resilient. The lead researcher said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and the other researchers called a strong intergenerational self. That is they know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Leaders in the military and in business found similar results. Jim Collins, famous business author, says that successful human enterprises of any kind always take time to look back and capture their core identity. The U.S. Air force found that having new recruits experience history appreciation exercises, such as visiting a cemetery to pay tribute to the first Naval aviator or visiting B-1 replicas, increased their camaraderie and improving retention.

The Bottom Line
If you want a healthier and happier family, troop or company ; create, refine, and retell the stories of your best moments and the ability to bounce back from difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your domestic or corporate organization will thrive for many generations to come.

After I shared this story with the retreat group, the new CEO considered that there might be some use for the old box of photos and journals.

Journal Entry: Consider the gifts are you giving the children in your life this Christmas season. How long will those things last? Would this year be a good time to share a family history story that brings with it the possibility of strengthening a young spirit to meet and beat the challenges he or she will certainly face in their future leadership and life?


“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”   – Albert Einstein

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. – Mahatma Gandhi

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:9-12

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. It is easy to see how some country church folks could be taken in, but it is amazing how often a similar scenario plays out with some of the smartest business teams in the world. Research by PWC and Saratoga Institute affirms that the average tenure of 60% of newly hired executives across a wide range of industries is two to three years.

Act Sooner

Whether in a non-profit or publicly traded organization, within the first six months most people intuitively know when a key leader is not a fit. Instead of admitting the error and quickly correcting that error, most of us placate the misfit manager hoping he or she will see the light. This seldom happens. An HR officer I know has a mantra about such a challenge as this, he says, “It is easier to change people than change people.”  In a small organization change most often means outplacement.  In a larger company a well-designed transfer to a new role can sometimes be a win for everyone.  The point is, do something sooner than later. The longer we put off the inevitable, the more time it will take to recover and rebuild what is left of our team.

Act Slower

As important as it is to act quickly to correct a bad decision, it is better to avoid the mistake altogether. By slowing down the selection process, the emotional pull to close the deal is lessened and a wiser decision can be made.  There is no magic formula, but I believe there are three areas every hiring team needs to carefully confirm when selecting the right person for key leader role:

1.Skills – Intellectual and technical capabilities that match the position profile

2.Motivation – Passion for the organization’s mission and a keen interest in the management skills inherit in the role

3.Fit – Balance of humility and confidence that facilitates effective personal conversations about difficult issues and energizes a team toward a shared vision or noble cause

The majority of bad hires excel in #1 and #2…so much so that #3 is rarely discussed until the deal in done. “She is so smart, it will be easy for her to get the people leading part ” is the hopeful chorus that an astray hiring team will sing aloud to support their erred decision. This refrain soon becomes a hum.

Journal Entry: A perfect leadership fit seldom happens in a business, a civic group or even a family. The ideal is picking the right person and having a team that is sincerely committed to helping her or him make their best contribution. This has been and will always be the formula for having a fit in leadership and life.

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge or to be hasty and miss the way. – Proverbs 19:2

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 desperately trying to catch something – but all the while not really sure what that something is.

Counting Each Year
For the past 10 years I have held to a tradition on my birthday. No matter which day of the week it falls on, I get away alone to reflect and try to remember what’s important, count the cost of the past year, and set new plans. This year my birthday fell on a Sunday. What an ideal day for personal reflection, right? Well…instead of being in a quiet place designing my life, I was sitting on a plane working on a presentation for a client. We all know that there are times in business that require shifts in priorities, but this trip was not a requirement, it was my choice. It was busyness.

Daily Matters
My life slippage had started well before that fateful trip, however. For the previous four months, instead of beginning my day with a time of prayerful mediation and reading as I have for years, I started going directly to my office desk, checking my email and looking over my calendar. Even though I started “working” as soon as I got out of bed, I consistently fell behind each day. So, to compensate, I got up earlier but still I found I was accomplishing only half of what I typically did when I started my day in the quiet. Things needed to change.

Just Right
Last month, on a warm Saturday afternoon, my 85-year-old uncle invited me to go fishing. I meet him at the lake. I was ready to start casting hard for big fish but instead of my fancy fishing rod he handed me a cane pole with a bobber and an earthworm dangling on a hook. Then, he opened the door of his mud caked truck and out jumped two English Setter puppies. For the rest of the day we sat in worn-out lawn chairs on a weathered dock with a pair of speckled bird-dog puppies, soon paw-to-paw, sound asleep beside a dented tackle box. On the ridge above the lake a Bobwhite quail whistled his mating call while we caught small fish. A red sunset closed the day too soon. It was just right.

That time with my uncle was a microcosm of all I’d been missing amidst my busyness – a balance of quiet reflection, joyful effort and rest. I felt like a kid again. Since that day, when someone asks me, “Have you been busy lately?” I say, “Nah, I’ve been just right.” If nothing else, it’s a reminder for me towards keeping my life in balance and remembering my lesson from a few small fish.

Journal Entry:
Been real busy lately? What needs to happen for you to catch a vision for a healthier leadership and life?

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T. S. Eliot

I am convinced that there are times in everybody’s experience when there is so much to be done that the only way to do it is to sit down and do nothing. – Fanny Fern

The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else- we are the busiest people in the world. – Eric Hoffer

Sometimes you wonder how you got on this mountain . But sometimes you wonder,” How will I get off. – Joan Manley, comedian

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 Florida afternoon. Then I felt something in my right pocket and it was not moving…my iPhone. It was very dead.

Amazing Effort
My wife made a quick call on her phone to Apple. At 8:30 the next morning my new iPhone was delivered to our condo. That was amazing, but what happened next was even more amazing. As you might have guessed, the new phone would not work, but the problem was not the phone itself, it was my office system. Jason, my online Apple helper, tried for several hours to work around this IT system problem. He did his best, but had no success. I thanked Jason for his tenacity and said goodbye. Later that day this email appeared on my laptop:

“I would like to take full responsibility for your issue we were working on together today. To do this, I would like you to have a direct way to get a hold of me if any further follow up needs to occur with this case. You will find my contact information below. Please contact me right away if you need anything regarding this case and include the following case ID within any correspondence.”
Sincerely, J L Apple

You might be thinking “Wow! I wish could get some Jason’s on my team”, followed by “and get rid of the unmotivated people around here “. Have you ever thought that you may hire several Jason’s in the past but, after working with you, his or her natural desire to go “all the way in” faded away?

Three Types of Leaders
Leaders come from one of three dispositions:

  1. The first type believes that within every person there is the spirit of a healthy seven-year-old child with a burning desire to give his or her best and never give up. They actively nurture that view of people and all stakeholders win. Plus, they usually have more than their fair share of Jason’s. There are a lot more of these leaders than today’s critics want to admit, but a few more would only help.
  2. The second type of leader believes that people are basically lazy and only work for money or whatever they can get. They treat people as tools to be used. In this type of environment, everyone loses, usually sooner than later. The Jason spirits die quickly in this place of management by manipulation. This leader is rare and he/she will seldom change.
  3. The third type of leader is ambivalent. Sadly, they are all too common. The other two types, for good or for bad, are “all the way in” but this leader is only half the way in. This means their lips say that they support the purpose of the organization, but their heart has its own private agenda. Frustration, false starts and time wasting filibusters are thehallmarks of these leaders. Their organizations limp along, up and down, until the culture simply implodes or the leader lets go of their ego and exits. If they have the courage to then move on to a place where their heart leads them and follow their passion, they will more often than not become a shining example of our first type of leader.

When you follow your innate interest or calling, you and the people you touch become more alive, more autonomous, more productive and more likely to act and feel like … work is a beach.

Journal Entry:
What is the attitude of the individuals in your organization, on your team or at your home? What decision do you need to make to be “all the way in” with your leadership and life?

The last 1 percent most people keep in reserve is the extra percent champions have the courage to burn. – Chis Carmichael

Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him. – James Allen

It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world. The great man or woman is the one who never steps outside his or her specialty or foolishly dissipates his or her individuality. – Og Mandino

Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. – Bill Bradley

…Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3 ( NIV)

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it. – Groucho Marx

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 above the rows of spectators all the drivers pit crews were stationed. This gave them a panoramic view of the course, except for the finish line area.

Midpoint of the course, this fast driver was still far ahead of the pack, when a radio call interrupted his zealous mood. The message was urgent, “Danger ahead”. It came from his crew, whom he had ignored all day. Annoyed by this distraction from his people, the driver switched off the two-way radio and answered a call on his cell phone. It was a longtime buddy who hailed him on shouting, “Way to go! Keep the throttle down! Remember first is all that matters! “…. But neither of them had noticed that just around the bend the bridge was out.

… In this same race was another driver who had faced several tough courses in his career. He was a confident yet humble man who kept his eyes straight ahead and hands tight on the wheel. When the race started, he quickly found his pace and positioned his car to benefit from the draft of the front-runners. Over the course, this seasoned driver talked non-stop with his loyal crew, who were stationed on the same limited vista. They had coached him to take several detours, along the way, to avoid potential mishaps. As he rounded the final turn in the race, he heard his happy team on his radio shout, “Look’s like you’ve got it. Be careful”. With a grin he replied, ” 10-4 “. Then he put the pedal to the metal, inspired by what a big win would mean for everyone, especially his crew … fully aware that just beyond the finish line the bridge was out.

I have observed that many smart people, who say they aspire to be a top tier leader, are often motivated by an expectation of recognition, rewards and happiness. When at its core, true leadership has always been characterized by sacrifice, suffering and passion. Every effective leader whether an executive, officer, entrepreneur or a marriage partner, who finishes the race well, will face a time when he or she must willing let go of their ego and self image and fully embrace a cause that is beyond their control to receive a reward unsought.

Journal Entry: There is good probability that a bridge along one of the many roads you are traveling will one day be out. How do you plan to drive to each of your finish lines in your leadership and life?

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. – C.S. Lewis

There is always someone who will love your idea if you have enough time to find him.

The most pitiable among men is he who strives to turns his dreams to silver and gold. -Khalil Gibran

What is to give light must endure burning. – Viktor Frankl

Scroll to top