Glimpse of Civility

I do not attend comedy shows nor follow politics very often, but this week I sat in an amphitheater and watched comedian Jim Gaffigan. It was a great show with lots of one-liners. My favorite Jim line was, “I’m fat. That’s not self-criticism or low self-esteem. It is self-awareness, which seems in very low supply these days.”

Then for some reason, I picked up a copy of USA Today, turned to page two and read the Rod Rosenstein letter of resignation to President Donald Trump. This line caught my eye:

“I’m grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; the courtesy and the humor you have displayed in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education, and prosperity.”

The story went on to tell of the public scorn and emotional abuse rained on Rosenstein by Donald Trump over his time as Deputy Attorney General. Yet the man did not take the current politically approved approach of bashing anyone as any opportunity arises. He instead showed civility, a true civil servant so to speak; he displayed kindness and courtesy to a man who reputably ranks very high on the list of the worst people managers in the world. Rosenstein acted from a place of good for his country, instead of a position that was good for his public image.

Leadership evolves by intention. In my work over the years with some very effective and ineffective managers, I have noticed that many young high-potential professionals, and most four-year-olds, act out of a self-absorbed place of arrogance and pride: “I’m right, you are wrong. I will win. That’s it.” Then as life goes on, some people choose to step back and observe their behavior honestly. Those rare individuals become true leaders as their self-awareness transforms them into being civil, which is synonymous with humility and confidence: “I may be wrong. How can we work this out? What’s next?”

Journal Entry: Have you had a manager, spouse or child that you consider to be a person of civility? How do they influence the way you show up in your leadership and life today?


“Gentle words are a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” — Proverbs 15:4, the Bible, NLT

After God created 24 hours of alternating darkness and light, one of the angels asked Him, “What are you going to do now?” God said, “I think I’m going to call it a day.”

“When you know you can do something, and you feel good about yourself, you do not have to devalue others.” ― John Patrick Hickey

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“The person of greatest strength is also one of great gentleness. The most accomplished person learns from both failure and success. The strongest leaders know how to follow, and that asking for help can sometimes be the best thing she or he can do.” — Found on a birthday card

“Any fool can criticize condemn and complain, and most fools do.” — Benjamin Franklin

Prayerful Question

Sam is good leader. He knows the two things that matter — 1) What he wants, and 2) the primary question a person needs to answer to become a leader.

When Sam called me to help him with his team, the team was not in trouble; as a matter of fact, his division had led the company in production and profits for many years. When I asked how he had accomplished this, he gave some credit to “the luck of the draw” on his part, then without the slightest hesitation, he gave the lion’s share of credit for success to the amazing people on his team. Sam had called because he sensed the team may have peaked, and he wanted talk about ways to make this team even better.

In a few verbal bullet points, he spelled out the vision he hoped for his team and the impact they would have on the organization. Then he said “Over the last few months, I have been asking myself is there something about me that is keeping this team from moving to the next level of performance?”

Is there something about me? Philosophers, poets, prophets and presidents — found in prayers, speeches, and books since civilization began — have put this single inquiry forward, in different words, from altering angles. It is perhaps the one indispensable question necessary for the growth of anyone seeking to influence others toward something better or bigger.

Legend has it that in some ancient tribal cultures, the warriors (or the leaders in the tribe) strived to walk as if every step they took was a prayer. I have yet to learn what words were in those prayers or if this only figuratively represented a posture of humility and gratitude. But I believe if there were such a “walking prayer,” and that a warrior did indeed pray this prayer on his road to leadership, it might have been something like a reworking of The Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the thing I can, and the wisdom to know that it’s me.

Journal Entry: Are you feeling like things are good and hoping that things could be even better? What might happen if you sought the answer to this one prayerful question as you consider your next move in your leadership and life?

Physical strength can never permanently withstand the impact of spiritual force. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better. – Abraham Lincoln

It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. – Mahatma Gandhi

Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. – Ann Landers

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – The Bible’s New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 7 verses 3-5

The Right Questions

Of the things we think, say, and do we will ask ourselves—

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I have been an active member of Rotary International for 24 years. Rotary has 1.2 million members in 200 countries. This network of clubs has one big goal, which is to promote ethics in business and peace in the world though strategic investments of financial resources and hands-on action. One of this organization’s many objectives is the eradication of polio in the world. I still marvel at the effective stewardship and influence of this 110-year-old organization.

The Power of Rotary
The power of the organization is founded on the core value of “service above self.” Underlying this value is the real leverage of Rotary: it is individual members’ shared commitment to a simple criteria for living and working each day, as expressed in what is called The Four-Way Test (as you read above).

Dr. William E. Hull, in his book The Four-Way Test—Core Values of the Rotary Movement, states, “The Four-Way test does not decree how we are to honor these four criteria but only puts them in the form of questions which we must answer for ourselves. In the pluralistic world of the twenty-first century, differences run so deep that the best place to begin a dialogue is not by discussing our conflicting answers, but rather to agree on what are the right questions.”

Question Your Meetings
On a more day-to-day note—have you ever wondered if there is a way to prevent meetings from lasting so long and accomplishing so little? My experience is that if you change the meeting agenda from a list of topics to be discussed to a list of questions to be answered, 50% of your meetings will never need to be held, because you’ll find you can answer the questions without a meeting. And the meetings you hold will take 50% less time, if you agree that the meeting will dismiss when the questions are answered, not when your scheduled meeting time is up.

Journal Entry: Are you facing a potential divisive conversation or dreading another unclear meeting? Could settling on the right questions beforehand possibly help all concerned get what they want and have more time for the good stuff in leadership and life?

Resource: To learn more about Rotary International check out


He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. – Chinese proverb

You can have everything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want. – Zig Ziglar from See you at the Top

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. – Henry Ford

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong. – Bono

One man there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ – John, a disciple, from the book of John chapter 5 verses 5 & 6 – The Bible’s New Testament

Another Option – Clarity

A mentor of mine once told me that when you’re frustrated you have three options:

  1. Stay frustrated & worry
  2. Quit/ leave or
  3. Make a request.

At the beginning of each new year, many people get frustrated and think about changing jobs or careers. Most assume that the best way to get a better career is to quit where they are and move on to another organization or start their own business. Sometimes leaving is the best option, but not always.

Twenty-five years ago, I found myself in a situation where I had good job and made good money with a reputable company that was growing, but I was frustrated and bored in my work. So I decided to option #3. I wrote down what I wanted in my ideal career. I thought about sharing it with someone inside the organization, but I was not sure how my manager would respond. Instead I shared it with an outside colleague who helped me make it more realistic and, of course, kept it confidential as he was looking around outside for me. Amazingly in less than two months, the job profile scribbled out on one sheet paper was created in the organization I was already in, and I was offered the job.

I stayed at this organization for another two years and enjoyed it, plus staying also gave me time to affirm what I wanted. Then I left and started my own practice, which I’m in today. But I learned a great lesson. Moving outside is not always the best option at the time you think it is.

I shared the story with a friend of mine last week at breakfast. He said if you had a great mentor inside, you could probably share your plan with them and they would help you find something new inside. We agreed that might have worked better, but the point was I wrote down what I wanted, and amazing things happen when you have clarity.

Journal Entry: Are you frustrated at work? Which option will you choose and what action will you take to get clarity about what you really want from your leadership and life?

Resource: If someone you know needs a guide for getting clear on what he or she wants, my new book “The White Shirt – Find Your Life-giving Career at Any Stage of Life” might help them. It is available on Amazon or you may suggest they go to the book website and watch at 3-minute video about the book and/or a take a 30 second career direction quiz. Website:

Today is one of those days that even my coffee needs a coffee.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. ~Steve Jobs

I’d rather be a failure at something I love than successful at something I hate. ~George Burns

My mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso. ~Pablo Picasso

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own ~The Bible’s New Testament – Matthew 6:34

Stand There

I walked through the pristine workshop admiring the creations of the piano artisan. Each piano, some over 100 years old, had been refurbished to its original glory, except one. The Baby Grand looked perfect except for a large spot on the lid. “What happened?” I asked the craftsman.

He stared at the spot as he explained, “I was working nearby and inadvertently dropped some solvent there, then I immediately picked up a cloth to wipe it off.” He took a deep breath as he continued, “In that moment I forgot the advice my mentor offered me years ago.” His teacher had told him “Whenever you’re working on a delicate or complex project and something goes wrong, don’t just do something – stand there.” He said, “As you can see, I didn’t.”

Get Going
Most of us got where we are by taking the opposite advice: don’t just stand there, do something. Get movin’ was great guidance early in a career when we were focused on producing and getting assignments done alone. But if you are in management and still saying things like, “I can’t let go because I need to make sure it is done right,” or “it’s faster if I do it myself anyway,” maybe now is a good time to put the fix-it rag down. Instead, stand there and involve someone who wants grow and needs to learn how to make things work.

Getting things done and done right will always be the key measurement at any stage of leadership. However, the higher you are in management, the more your focus needs to move towards growing others by not “just doing something” yourself. Studies continue to show that, at the executive level, 80% of your success rides on your ability to recruit, retain and influence people, inside or outside your organization, who will produce, plan and execute the work. In the leadership world where problems-to-be-solved turn into predicaments-to-be-dealt-with and conflicts to resolve can be turned into meaningful leverage points to get the best possible outcome, the idea to “stand there” and empower other people might be worth consideration.

What Happened?
If you are wondering what happened to that piano, I returned to the workshop a few weeks later and walked straight to it. The ugly spot had vanished. The surface was so well finished that I could not even locate the area where it once was. The craftsman was proud. Then he explained that he had tried to fix it himself and had wasted several days before finally reaching out for someone to help him. He said that in the end he had spent more time in that repair than the total labor time he had invested finishing the rest of the piano. “Next time I think I’ll stand there,” he said.

Journal Entry:
How might you and the people in your life benefit if you intentionally stand there more in your leadership and life?


When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders.
Craig Groeschel , founder of Life Church

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it. – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. – George S. Patton, U.S. Army General

First rule of leadership: everything is your fault. – A Bug’s Life

Parable of the CEOwer

The parables of Jesus are rich with instruction and applicable to our work and lives in so many ways. Envision for a moment a slightly altered pronunciation of the word “Sower” to see how a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) learned the lessons of the farmer.

Letting Ego Rule the Day
He was moving fast up in his career path. He had just landed the top spot at an organization twice the size of his last. Intent on building a world-class organization, he hit the ground running and pulled his team together to talk about “the amazing things we did at my last organization.” He urged them to try some of these great programs that had worked there. There was a weak attempt, but not much happened. His last-place-ideas dried up like seeds on hard-packed ground and were carried away on wings of resentment.

Looking for Your Vision Out There
So the next year he went to the national conference. There he heard about best practices, benchmarking and metrics. “Wow!” he thought, “I now see the error of my ways. I just need to do three things: 1) get my team rallied around (OPI’s) other people’s ideas, 2) show them programs that have worked ‘everywhere’ and 3) convince them to spend half of their time tracking numbers so we can compare ourselves to others and win.” Initially his team seemed enthused, but still nothing much happened. So he had his team read a new management book every month to get even more ideas. As you would expect, these “worked everywhere” ideas did not take root in their culture. It was getting rocky.

Forgetting that Relationships Matter
This CEOwer was bruised, but not beaten. He had learned a great lesson. He took his team on an offsite retreat – listened to their ideas and let them create their plans. He supported and encouraged them. He even set up an incentive plan. He was pumped! The team was pumped! However, because he had spent much time and effort looking for outside answers, he had ignored his relationship with the Board. So when he presented the new team projects, they died a slow death, tangled up in the thorns of the Board’s bureaucracy and choked by a budget cut.

Finding Your Leadership Vision
The next year he took a different path. He took a few days off and wrote his leadership vision for the organization. Then he shared it with his staff and asked for their ideas and got their buy-in. This step of courage cured himself of his addictive FOMO (the fear of missing out). Because actually having a vision to work toward made it easy to just say “No” to time wasted in benchmarking and comparing. The organization set all kinds of records and created innovative processes that were so effective organizations near and far lined up to learn from his team. Those who have ears let them hear.

Journal Entry: You may not be a CEO, but you are influencer somewhere, be it at work, with your family and friends or in your community. Consider the principles scatter through out this little parable and think about how you might apply them in your leadership and life.

Book Suggestion: If you find you have tendencies to behave in ways similar to the CEO in his early times, I recommend you take a look at the book Margin by Mike Swenson.

He told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ The Bible New Testament Matthew 13:3-9

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. ~ Dr. Peter Drucker

It’s A Wonderful Life

This classic movie was on TV on Christmas Eve. Of course it’s on every day in December, but my wife and I watched it that night. I noticed something I had missed before. As you may recall, Clarence, Angel 2nd Class, was assigned to go to earth to help George Bailey. Clarence asked, “Why are you sending me to help this man. Is he sick?”

The head angel replied, “Oh no, it worse than that. He’s discouraged.”

At this time of the year a good many people, like George, are discouraged. Many are discouraged about work. According to the 2017 Global Workplace report from Gallup, only 31.9% of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs. Engaged employees are defined as those “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work.” Over 50% said they were planning to change jobs next year.

Popular Reasons

A few of the popular reasons for why people say they get discouraged at work are: dealing with a difficult boss, feeling underpaid, not feeling challenged or over burdened with busy work. Rather than attempting to prescribe a series of steps or tactical fixes to solve these issues, I’d like you to consider a simpler approach.

A national survey of 27,000 people conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago said that there’s one characteristic that’s far and away the most likely to make a job satisfying. This article began by listing the most satisfying careers. Some of the top ones were: clergy, physical therapists, firefighters, education administrators, painters, sculptors, teachers or authors.

OK, most of us are not one of those. Plus we all know or have heard of people in these professions who are not having a wonderful career, and many more in other more profit-focused careers who love what they do.

One Characteristic

The survey article concluded, “If you don’t feel your work is helping others in some way chances are good, it won’t make you truly happy. The most satisfied people are those who view their jobs as giving to others.” It is not your work. It is how you look at your work.

Journal Entry:
I often asked to consult with that once-upon-a-time effective and encouraging leader who is now discouraged and ineffective. When we begin, many will place blame on some of the popular reasons mentioned earlier. Environment often can have some negative impact. But then I ask her or him, “What are your main goals in your work each day?” When their answer is about job responsibilities, numbers, metrics or financials and they don’t talk about how they serve customers, help teammates or support employees, I know that a change of their heart goal is needed more than a change of their job role.

How do you look at your work each day? Is there anything you’d like to view differently to experience a more wonderful leadership and life in 2018?


When you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.
― Dr. Seuss, author, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Job fit is a moving target. With all the changes in our work world today, holding on to your perfect job is like pushing Jell-O up hill. So take your eyes off your job title, look for some real problems and fix them good. ― Michael Alan Tate, consultant, writer

The best leaders are clear. They continually light the way, and in the process, let each person know that what they do makes a difference. The best test as a leader is: Do those served grow as persons; do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become leaders? ― Robert K. Greenleaf, author and founder of the modern Servant leadership movement

And indeed, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last. ― Luke , physician, disciple of Jesus Christ, The Book of Luke 13:30, NIV Bible

Finding Your Mission in Life

Earlier this year a great man died. His name was Richard N. Bolles. He was the author of What Color is Your Parachute, a book that the Library of Congress listed as one of the 25 most influential books in the world. I was lucky enough to have known Dick, as he preferred to be called.

He helped a lot of people and wrote many amazing books, but one of the most astounding gifts he left here on earth is something he wrote to a lady who ask him the question of all questions, “How do I find my mission in life?”

He wrote…

“ … as it has been impressed on me by observing many people over the years (admittedly through Christian spectacles), it appears that the three parts to your mission here on earth can be defined generally as follows:

Your first mission here on Earth is one which you share with the rest of the human race, but it is no less your individual mission for the fact that it is shared: and it is, to seek to stand hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the one from whom your mission is derived. The Missioner before the Mission is the rule. In religious language, your mission here is: to know God, and enjoy Him forever, and to see His hand in all His works.

Secondly, once you have begun doing that in an earnest way, your second mission here on earth is also one which you share with the rest of the human race, but it is no less your individual mission for the fact that it is shared: and that is, to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guidance of God’s spirit within you and around you.

Thirdly, once you have begun doing that in a serious way, your third mission here on Earth is one which is uniquely yours, and that is:

  1. to exercise that Talent which you particularly came to Earth to use — your greatest gift, which you most delight to use,
  2. in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you the most,
  3. and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world.

When fleshed out and spelled out, I think you will find that there you have the definition of your Mission in life. Or, to put it one other way, these are the three Missions which you have in life.”
(From any copy of What Color is your Parachute – look in the pink pages)

Journal Entry: It seems there is a process for finding your calling, your career or your vocation. It is God > Others > Self. Would this process be worth considering in other areas of your leadership and life?

Salute Dick

Caring or Comparing Culture

Last month , I offered some suggestions about what to do and what not to do when there is a death at your workplace. There was a tremendous response to those simple and practical ideas.

To refresh your memory, the August 31 Leadership and Life message boiled down this: to equip employees to help those who have experienced a tragic loss, ask those employees three questions and suggest that they take a step as follows:

  1. Have you ever experienced a tragic loss in your life
  2. What did people who tried to support you do that was helpful?
  3. What did people do that was not helpful?

Step – do what was helpful for you and don’t do what was not helpful.

I believe that my readers reaction to this advice was significant because those ideas and questions were based on the core value of caring and listening instead of telling and fixing people. This caring behavior creates a culture of compassion rather than a culture of comparison. The compassion version is the environment that people want and is where most are truly motivated to do their best.

Let’s lean on this concept a bit more and consider its possible application to work and life in general. So may I ask, in your past, when you had a made a big mistake or had a project that failed, which can often lead to a loss of confidence or defensive reaction, how did your manager respond? Was it a tell-and-fix you approach or listen-and-coach approach?

When someone on your team makes a mistake, what is your typical response? Most of us mirror the way we are managed in the past. Good or not so good, it is natural to emulate our past models. But you can change your response if you decide to.

So the next time you are faced with addressing an employee who missed the mark, before you speak, stop and think about your past experiences and ask yourself:

  1. What was helpful about the way my manager handled me in a similar situation?
  2. What was not helpful?

Step – try the helpful stuff, if you care to.

Journal Entry:
In your role as manager, friend, spouse or parent, when any person in your life, large or small, makes a big mistake or disappoints you, stop. Before you say anything, remember your action sends a message, which creates a culture. Will it be one of caring or comparing? Decide on caring. If you do, I am certain you will to see people become motivated to a higher level of confidence and performance in their leadership and life.

Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything – for better or for worse. – Simon Sinek – author of Start with Why

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. – Peter Drucker, management consultant

Culture drives great results. – Jack Welch, bussines leader

Never be so busy as not to think of others. – Mother Teresa, leader in world-wide peace

Comparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt, past U. S. president

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV- The Bible)

What’s it all About?

I was in a skating rink enjoying a birthday party for one of my grandchildren. By the way, not surprisingly the skatin’ around music was much hipper than when I was a boy. But when the unfamiliar music finally stopped, something very familiar happened. A teenage employee, dressed as a clown, skated smoothly to the middle of the rink. The lights dimmed. The room went silent. The clown called in the kids, then the light went up and the sound system blasted, “Put your right foot in, put your right foot out.” On cue every kid and a few the uninhibited adults started doing the hokey pokey, ending with a group scream of “and that’s what it’s all about!”

Some things never change. Some things should never change.

In my childhood, the hokey pokey was all the rage at most events and especially at the skating rink. The rink was the most fun, because even if you weren’t a very good skater, you could still do the hokey pokey. Even the super skaters would sometimes fall or stumble when the song called to “shake it all about” and “turn yourselves around.” The point wasn’t the best performance. The point was the joy of the being in the game.

Have you noticed that when great teams, healthy families or good friends get together, the one-upmanship stories subside quickly and the conversation leaps into a lively litany of hokey pokey stories? Even though achieving great things will pull a group of people together for a while, over time, even the best of us will miss more than we hit. Leaders learn that lighthearted humility always takes the day , because …

Things turn out the way they do. Not the way they should.

Successful teams and happy people make a decision to play their own game, not someone else’s, and give it their very best. Hokey pokey experiences are the threads that stitch things back together when the tightly-woven fabric of our perfect plans unravel at our feet.

Taking risks, making mistakes and having slipups are the most incriminating evidence that you are working to turn yourself around in this game of living and leading. Laughing at your mistakes and helping one another get back on our collective feet and trying again – a little wiser this time – maybe that is what it’s all about.

Journal Entry: With the pace and stress level of organizations, teams, careers and family life at an all-time high, maybe it is time to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Celebrate a few more hokey pokey moments because some good things never change, and never should change in leadership and life.

Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. The world would go on even without you. Don’t take yourself so seriously. ~ Norman Vincent Peale – author and speaker

Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard. ~ Colin Powell – military leader

Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun. ~ Alan Watts – philosopher

Frame your mind to mirth and merriment which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life. ~ William Shakespeare – poet

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ~ Proverbs 17:2 – book of wisdom, The Bible

Scroll to top