Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goals for the New Year? How About Your Legacy?

I’ve spent some time with my grandmother this week as she lies dying in hospital.  It is a small, rural hospital that mostly caters to the dying – those who are not dying are usually sent to the larger center in the city.

My grandmother doesn’t react to many of the things that I say to her but she appears to enjoy hearing me read from Scripture.  Her favorite, as I have discovered, is Psalm 23.  For those who ask “which one is that”, as soon as you say “The Lord is my shepherd” they often say excitedly “Hey, I know that one”.

As she rests, I take out my journal and think about her life.  She brought 12 children into the world.  She lived in a small rural town that has seen it’s boom and bust cycle now settle into the steady decline so unfortunately common in remote, rural places.  She never had much but she made do with what she had.  Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren went on to become doctors, engineers, nurses, fathers, mothers, IT experts and just about everything else under the sun.

Now here she is – alone and in her final days.  She doesn’t have time to change anything even if she wanted to.  Everything she can create has been created. 

Her legacy lives on in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She has made mistakes.  She has won her victories.  She has made her share of friends and enemies.

Haven’t we all?

New Year’s Resolutions

As we move from 2009 to 2010, I am receiving the typical end-of-year plethora of emails about goal setting, New Year’s resolutions and such.

Many of the people who respond to these talk about what is important to them.  This year they are finally going to lose the weight they always wanted to get rid of.  Maybe they are hoping to shrug off smoking, not saving enough money or some other thing they feel is important.

However, as I think of these things, they always seem to be “small potatoes” in comparison to the important things in life.

I think of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 4 L’s of Life, namely:

  • Live
  • Love
  • Learn
  • Legacy (as in, to leave one)

Many of the resolutions that people make don’t seem to fit into a larger picture.  For example, if you ask someone why they would quit smoking, they cite reasons such as “it is not socially acceptable”, “I will live longer” or “I will save money”.

These are all excellent reasons.  However, if one asks them the obvious next question, such as "what will you do with the longer life or additional money?”, you discover they haven’t figured out that far ahead yet.

Without that compelling “bigger picture” question in mind, many of their New Year’s resolutions will fall flat.

After all, their larger life goals remain undefined so there is no compelling reason to actually live up to the short-term resolutions and goals.

Life Legacy – What is That?

They have no idea what their Life Legacy is all about – why they are here on this planet, what can they do in the relatively brief time they are here and how will they be remembered when they are gone.  They believe it is too difficult to answer these questions and having come to that conclusion, move through their life with short-sightedness.

The interesting truth is that even if they don’t know what their legacy could or should be, the very act of living their life is producing a legacy anyway.

When they get to their end-of-days as my grandmother has, they may like the legacy they have created.

It is possible they may not.

However, if they build their life purpose and life actions around an intended legacy, they have a better chance of creating one closer to that which they desire.

Your Resolutions

So as you go through the typical year-end gyrations for what the New Year brings, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How can I live a life with purpose?  Better yet, do I know what my purpose is?
  2. Who can I love more and in an unconditional manner?  How can I welcome more love?
  3. What can I learn in 2010 that will make me a better person?  Once I have learned it, who can I share it with?
  4. What legacy am I leaving behind?  How will I be remembered?  Am I happy with this?

Our end-0f-days draws closer for each of us with each passing day. 

As you establish your resolutions, dreams and aspirations for 2010, keep the big picture of your life and your legacy in mind.

Your life, your gifts and your talents are too valuable to settle for anything less. 

I raise a toast to your legacy.  May it be everything you wish it to be and more.

I wish you all a blessed 2010 filled with abundance of life, love, learning and sharing.

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Goals for the New Year?  How About Your Legacy?”, please click here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Christmas Tradition From My Family to Yours

Dear friends,

Some years ago when my oldest son was very young, we had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy our son even more "stuff".  After all we mused, for our son to have so much stuff that he rivaled Toys R Us in inventory still didn't seem enough.

Just before we stepped out of our vehicle, a story came on our National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York to be exact) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, we sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started the truck and we drove out of the parking lot in silence. 

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it. 

The teacher always appears when the student is ready and our Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions we have in our family at Christmas, there are two that we find important.

1. We always listen to this story at least once.

2. We always share it at least once.

The story we listened to can be found here -  Click on the "LISTEN" link right under the title "John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story".

Besides my family and life itself, I consider myself blessed to have so many incredible friends.

With that, I thank YOU for what you do - for the light and love you bring to so many.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.  However you celebrate these days, cherish them.  In an uncertain world, these days are still an incredible gift for all of us.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Value of Results - Do We Care Anymore?

I was recently speaking to someone who has a position of influence within the Canadian Government and he was going on and on about how great Canada's influence is in the world.

“After all”, he said, “Canada was a driving force behind the land mine treaty of the 90s and the Kyoto Accord and we both know how fantastic both of those initiatives were”.

I reminded him that the players who own 97%+ of the landmines in the world never ratified the landmine deal and even Canada has never lived up to the measures outlined in the Kyoto Accord.

"It doesn't matter", he said proudly, "It's the principle behind it that counts.".

Is that true?  Do we really believe that results don't matter and that life has become filled with the mantra of "good intentions are good enough"?

As I look back over my professional career, I see some glaring examples that support this theory and so I am reaching out to the readers today to prove me wrong.

I want to be proven wrong for if this is an accurate assessment of where the world is going, then we have greater challenges before us that make our current challenges look pretty tame in comparison.

As I share a few stories, I invite the reader to think of their own stories.

Stories such as the following:

  • The business owner who claims that they will do anything to make their business grow only as long as it doesn't include investing in the company or spending any money.  At the end of the year, profits are way down but they have some REALLY cool pens that they highlight in a business presentation.  Next year's goal?  Profits would be good but if they don't manifest, there are some really cool pieces of corporate clothing that can be bought to keep morale alive. After all, I am told, the key is to minimize expenses.  When I remind them that the focus is on creating optimal results in the areas of: service to the customer, impact on the environment, growth for the employees, and enhanced revenue and profit (which should also lead to minimizing expenses), I am reminded that I have my focus backwards.  I wonder what the jacket will look like next year.
  • The business unit that passes on the $300 million opportunity in favor of the $1 million opportunity.  The year-end holiday party praises the person who brought in the deal.  They neglect to tell people that the same person was also the reason why the larger project didn't manifest.  He was afraid of something so large so instead of asking for help, he deliberately "opted out" of going after it.  His unit for the year never made it's sales quota but he was the hero for making his individual quota.  When one asks if the $300 million deal is still around to be harvested, the subject of the conversation rapidly changes to something equally important, like who is going to win the Super Bowl.
  • Some people on the green-legislation bandwagon that want to pass laws that are not measurable and have no teeth to enforce the immeasurable.  When election time comes around, they tout the incredible legislation that will now prevent people from "deploying unnecessary numbers of galactic framazams in a manner that is bad for the environment".  When one points out that no one uses galactic framazams anymore, the legislator waves off the point as insignificant and goes on to talk about the potential to take this initiative internationally.
  • Some of the folks who are drilling wells in Africa who come to you with their hand out for more money to continue this "great and worthwhile project" while talking incessantly about their great results to-date.  What they neglect to tell you is that they have left 50,000 dead wells in Africa also but can't be bothered to fix them or remove them.  Providing clean water to people who have never had it is a good thing - telling us of the people who had it but no longer have it because the wells die quickly seems to be unimportant although in my mind, the latter is more criminal.   And besides, drilling new wells seems so much sexier when it comes to raising money then fixing old wells, doesn’t it?
  • Watching the latest stats on people who are struggling financially while hearing the banks and governments announce that the recession is over and that all financial indicators tell us that it's all good from here.  Tell that to the people who haven't found work in a year or continue to lose their homes, their benefits, etc.
  • Watching one three-year project fail three times on Wall Street for the same reasons each time and after 10 years, the project scope is reduced by 75%, half of that is delivered before the drop-dead date and a corporate announcement goes out describing the project as delivered ahead of schedule and under budget.  Meanwhile, in the backrooms, people are trying to figure out how to deliver the remaining 7/8's of the work and bury it in a different general ledger bucket so no one notices.
  • The people who spend years meeting to discuss some initiative they want to launch.  After many years of meetings, their interest starts to wane as they burn out.  What do they do to compensate for this?  They schedule meetings, of course, to figure out what went wrong while publishing memes that describe the effectiveness of their process.

Do We Even Care About The Results?

I could go on but it seems to me that we have disconnected authentic, measurable information from actual results.

It seems in a world focused on hype and appearance, that it is possibly better to create images of unlimited potential, secure the funding to deliver it, not deliver it (or deliver a small subset of it), disguise the result and then celebrate it as exceeding our expectations.

Maybe that's ok when it comes to the small stuff in life - the important projects that don't really matter.

Of course for those projects, if they don't really matter, why are we wasting our time on them in the first place?

But if we do it on larger scale projects where health, safety, or fiscal, social or ecological responsibility are on the line, then we need to take a closer look at who is delivering one thing while describing the result as something else.  Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch comes to mind.  Click here if you want to see it (warning - there are some delicate words in it).

After all, If we accept a description of a result that is not accurate, it is not the fault of the person delivering the inaccurate message. 

It is ours.  They only gave us what we wanted to hear and not what we needed to hear.

Shame on us.

I understand all the reasons people give as to why this phenomena happens.

That’s all well and good.

However, let’s forget about the reasons and look at the results.

Results still matter …. I hope.

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “The Value of Results – Do We Care Anymore”, please click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Overcoming Einstein’s Law of Insanity – A Review of “Drive” by Daniel Pink

We have all heard variations of Einstein’s Law of Insanity – to expect a different result from doing the same thing over and over.

Unfortunate confirmation of the pervasiveness of this law is all around us:

  • The company who hires an expert to guide them, knowing the expert has guided all of their recent clients into oblivion.
  • The company that follows the same means of execution, watching their profits ride up and down like a roller coaster.  Each dip gets a little lower, but they assure themselves that their strategy is sound and no changes are necessary.
  • The organization that struggles with making a profit and because of their struggles with revenue, insist that the only help they will accept is that which is offered free-of-charge or at below market-value.  After the free resource has left, their profits dip even more, they find another free resource and the cycle continues until a catastrophic end is in sight.
  • The leaders who have so much ego that they cannot accept guidance from anyone and insist to everyone that everything is under control right up until the end.
  • The organizations that pleads “we are a not-for-profit of some type and can’t afford to pay for assistance”.  Some are successful anyway but many struggle from year to year accepting whatever they can get for free or at minimal expense, loudly espousing great things while hiding from others, the opportunities they missed or didn’t take advantage of.
  • Organizations that have broken compensation models that don’t reward smart behavior and yet have leaders that complain when revenue is down.  I personally witnessed a sales team years ago that went after a $1 million project while intentionally bypassing a $300 million project.  Why? Because they had a commission model that knew how to reward one type of sale but not the other.  So individual got rewarded for the small deal while the organization missed its overall sales target.

Creatures of Habit – Breaking the Habit Before it Breaks Us

Being creatures of habit, we often will not follow a different path unless we are forced to or we are offered a significant motivation to change.  Surprisingly, fear of failure for many people is not sufficient motivation, since they believe that they will always save themselves right before things collapse completely.

How do we change our motivation model and therefore our results?

If you are a leader, owner or advisor to companies who suffer from the results of Einstein’s Law of Insanity, then you need to apply a cranial defibrillator to the head of the leadership team (or perhaps have someone apply it to you).

Daniel Pink’s latest book, “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” is such a cranial defibrillator.

I found Mr. Pink’s book to be a blast (not just a breath) of fresh air.

Using a writing style that is engaging, informative and enjoyable, Mr. Pink takes the last 50 years of research in diagnosing and improving motivational behaviors and presents it to the reader in such a way that the reader says “Duh … of course”.

Now That We Know What Motivates and Demotivates

Having come to such obvious conclusions, then the reader is forced to ask themselves these questions.

Why am I not doing this? 

Why is my organization not doing this? 

How can we change how we motivate ourselves and others?

Drive” explains what motivates and demotivates us personally and professionally.  Commonly used “carrot and stick” models, even ones that people don’t realize are carrot and stick models, are shown for what they are – models that for the most part motivate for the short term but are detrimental in the long run for most situations.

Mr. Pink then discusses intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators, intrinsic being the things that motivate us from within (based on our purpose, passion and sense of self-fulfillment) versus extrinsic sources – external factors that are offered in an attempt to motivate people or artificially guide results.

Intrinsic motivators, that which we do because it gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment and which makes use of our gifts and talents are then analyzed along three primary elements:


How self directed are you and your team in terms of control over time, tasks, techniques and teams when called upon to produce a given result and what are the surprising truths and myths that exist around giving people more autonomy?


What are the laws around accomplishing mastery of knowledge and technique in a given subject area?


How does one define, ignite and sustain a sense of purpose?

Implementing New Models

Many books in this genre tend to end the discussion at this point, leaving the reader hanging; wondering “ok, you’ve got me all excited but how do I move towards a better model?”.

Mr. Pink doesn’t disappoint.  The last part of his book contains a toolkit with practical strategies and ideas to enhance motivational models for, but not limited to:

  1. Individuals
  2. Organizations
  3. Parents and educators
  4. Maintaining a fitness regimen
  5. Compensation plans for employees

He closes his book with a wealth of guidance from experts who “get it”, the likes of Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Gary Hamel and more.

Without a doubt, I rank this book as one of the top books in its space in terms of addressing how to motivate yourself and others.

It boils a LOT of research in motivational behavior down into practical, understandable, obvious diagnosis of modern day challenges.  It then provides powerful prescriptions to help heal the motivational woes of individuals and organizations.

The next time you or your organization needs a little ummph added to the team’s level of motivation, forget about people who sell you rah-rah corporate events or tell you that you just need to communicate more effectively. 

I blogged recently about how hundreds of us were once flown across the country so that we could literally play “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” at a corporate motivation-builder event.  I don’t know how you would react, but personally I was offended for my team and I to be treated like 5-years-olds at incredible expense and my client was incensed to hear that we were out of the office for a few days for a mandatory morale building exercise that turned out to be insulting (and thus demotivating) instead of boosting our motivation.

Many of us left in the months that followed that exercise, with the exercise having proven to many that the company really didn’t understand what motivates people.

Don’t fall into this trap and don’t allow your teams to be further demotivated.

Instead, pick up a copy of Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”, strap on your seatbelt and prepare to be whisked into a new paradigm – a paradigm where we finally embrace a true understanding of what motivates ourselves and others and shows how to use that information to create greater productivity and a sense of fulfillment – both personally and professionally.

It will one of the most refreshing and informative books you will have read for a while.

And it could change your life and the life of your company.

I choose transforming my knowledge, execution and sense of purpose over pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey any day of the week.

How about you?

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Overcoming Einstein’s Law of Insanity – A Review of “Drive” by Daniel Pink”, please click here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Collaboration – Life Lessons From a Sandbox

Collaboration, teamwork, empowered teams ….

Buzzwords that we like to throw around, brag about, lay claim to and espouse as our personal mantra when telling others the “secret to our success”.

Collaboration was on my mind as I watched a group of kids playing in a sandbox and as I observed their behaviors, it occurred to me that it may be possible to predict tomorrow’s collaborators just by observing these young people.

Consider the following scenarios and ask yourself if they resonate within your own professional or personal circumstances.

The “Results and Fun” Group

The first group of kids I noticed were focused on the goals and appreciating each other’s contributions.  It didn’t matter how well dressed each kid was, how well spoken they were, how strong their personalities were or the quality of each contribution.  They were intent on building the sand castle and enjoying each other’s company as they did it.  They mattered to each other.  Ego wasn’t important.

Occasionally, some kids left this group, having been satisfied that his or her contribution and purpose had been satisfied.  They left quietly and the remainder of the group continued on happily, sometimes acknowledging the departure with a “see ya later”.

They also welcomed new additions to the group easily.  The newly added talent simply slipped into the production stream and the team continued without missing a beat.

Human creativity and collaboration at its best.

The “My Way is the Best Way” Group

The next group I observed were very busy in a different way.  They struggled with whose idea was best - “maybe there should be a moat around the castle” or “maybe the castle should have bigger walls”. 

During the fighting, some would start to cry and leave the group.  Some left in anger.  Some left in boredom when they realized their contribution didn’t matter.

Some stayed anyway, contributed for a bit and then suddenly kicked the castle down because they never liked it anyway – their idea was much better.

Having destroyed the results of the group, they walked to a different part of the sandbox and started an argument with another group of kids, intent on finding a group who agreed that their ideas were in fact the best.

The “My Way is the Only Way” Group of One

One kid was building castles by himself.  It didn’t take very long to figure out why.  Every time another kid showed up to help, the first kid would say “I want you to do this or that”.  When the new child would offer a new idea, it was promptly rejected.  Some kids were more stubborn than others in pressing their point of view but eventually, the stubbornness of the one kid was too much and the others left.

Sadly, he was alone the whole time I was there.  He had pushed everyone away.  I suspect it wasn’t the first time nor will it be the last.  I wonder if he felt lonely at all or was his need to be right more powerful than his need to play with others.

The “If I Wanted  Your Opinion I’d Give it to You” Group

One kid was struggling with getting his castle to stand without crumbling so he went over to another group of kids who were happily and successfully building their castle.

After much observation, he asked them why their castle didn’t fall over.  When they told him that you had to put just the right amount of water in the sand, he told them they were wrong.

After arguing with him for a minute, they ignored him and returned their focus to the task at hand.

The kid went back to his castle, got angry and stomped on it, walking away from it.  I overheard him telling his mother that the other kids wouldn’t help him fix it.  The mother didn’t help by reminding him that in this world, most people won’t help others.  The source of his programming was pretty clear.

The “Teamwork in Name Only” Group

One group of interest built a decent little sand castle and the parents were called over to admire it.  As they arrived, one kid in particular started to lay claim to the whole project – the design, the construction, the whole bit.  Some of the kids protested while others stood in silence with their heads down.  The one kid prattled on and on about “the best castle in the park that he built”.  I’m sure the hearts of the other kids sank as they listened to him – the potential for a collaborative spirit being torn out of them by one person seizing the rewards.  The long term effects, especially if this is not the first time, are varied and complex, either creating people who won’t collaborate or people who feel the need to take all the glory themselves when they get a chance.

The “Non-Creative Way is Safest” Group

This group was of particular interest to me.  There was a group of kids building a simple castle out of blocks of sand and a child came along and said “wouldn’t it be neat if ….” and made some observations.

His observations were quite creative but one kid replied “if we do that, it will fall down anyway so we won’t do it”.  The new kid offered a few suggestions as to why that wouldn’t happen and then walked away to play on the swings.

After he left, I was startled to hear one child say “it would be neat if …..” and repeated one of the other kid’s observations.  “That’s stupid”, said another kid, “nobody does it like that” and the latter with her bullying attitude carried the day.  The potential for a great castle died because the strongest personality in the group didn’t like the idea.

The “I Don’t Like Any Of Your Ways” Group

This group was the saddest group of all.  They in fact were not building anything in the sand.  However, they took delight in occasionally running through the sandbox, destroying everyone else’s work.

They had no intention of creating anything.  Maybe they felt they couldn’t.  I don’t know.  All I know is that they didn’t want anyone else to create anything either.

Looking In My Own Sandbox

As I observed this, I was both fascinated and saddened.  We are taught that we are a product of our life genetics and life experiences. 

The sandbox was in fact a microcosm of the world I have been a part of for a long time.

I started to think about the many groups I have worked with over the years and I realized I could categorize all of these people into one or more of these groups.

I have observed many successes and failures over the years.  The failures all fell into one of these groups – the leader who would not share credit but preferred the glory, the leader who delegated all the blame, the bully who crushed creativity and contribution, the leader who only liked their own ideas and nobody else’s or the leader who seemed to exist to take the wind out of the sails of others, crushing their projects and dreams without offering a contribution of his / her own.

Every one of those leaders eventually hit a brick wall in their personal or professional lives.  After alienating, driving away or ticking off so many people for years, they suddenly found themselves alone.  They may have had short-term success but long term success has proven to be elusive for them.

They missed the key ingredient that the first group I described knew all along.

The first group knew that we need each other.

That our collective ideas are stronger than single ideas.

That focusing on our result and not on our ego produces a better result.

That sharing the credit encourages us to continue to work together on new projects and assures us that others will stick around to help us with the next sand castle.

That embracing team creativity takes all of us further than if we chose to follow our own ideas only.

Collaboration creates much better potential for good memories as well.  In twenty years, you will be telling people the story of when you worked with so and so to build an incredible sand castle.  Not many people want to relive the time they scared everyone away or that they left in sadness that they didn’t appear to matter.

This brings something else to mind.

Maybe the next time a team is looking for a consultant to help them solve their collaboration problems, maybe we should pay a bunch of kids $1000 a day to allow us to sit and observe them.

They will not offer us “stuff” to please our ego or to tell us what we want to hear.  They will not offer advice influenced by their own life experiences which may be empowering or disempowering.

They will just be themselves and in doing so, place staggeringly profound lessons in front of us.

If we are open to those lessons, it may be the most authentic lessons we will ever learn, lessons that are placed in front of us with no ulterior motive.

Aren’t they the most profound lessons of all?

I wish you well with your own “sand castles”.

Yours in service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Collaboration – Life Lessons From a Sandbox”, please click here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


It is a cool, sunlit day and as I scan the faces of those in attendance at today’s Remembrance Day ceremony, my gaze falls upon one person in particular.

He is not standing with the throngs that have gathered to honor those who serve and who have served.  He is elderly, perhaps 80’s or 90’s in age and is in uniform.  The sun is behind him and casts him in shadow as he stands on a small hill overlooking the ceremony.

He stands alone.

As I listened to the prayers and speeches being made, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking.

Was he thinking about the horrors he may have experienced?

Perhaps he was remembering the good times that also manifest in the midst of the nightmare of conflict.

It’s possible he was thinking about his comrades – his brothers-in-arms who went forward together and experienced times of mirth and moments of horror.

His comrades and many other men and women sacrificed much to preserve our freedom.  They are part of a fellowship that those of us who have never served will probably never understand or truly appreciate.

When the ceremony was over, I looked in his direction with intent to walk over to him.

He was gone.

Seeing this man and pondering what he might be thinking got me to thinking about fellowship in general and how much we cherish those whom we serve with.

We often take the concept of fellowship and camaraderie for granted.  We reach out to people once in a while with a cursory “how’s it going?” and often receive a perfunctory “fine”, “good” or something similar in return.  We often respond in the same manner when queried.

When I compare the depth of the fellowship that those who have served have compared to many of us in today’s society, it makes me realize what a gift their fellowship is.

They knew that they could always rely on their comrades.  Their comrades also knew that they could always rely on them in return – no matter what the cost.

How many of us can say this about the people within our circles of influence?

How many people can say this about us?

To those who have served, to those who serve, to the ones who have paid the supreme sacrifice and to all of their families, I say “thank you”.

We not only owe them an incredible debt of gratitude for the freedom they earned for us.

They also offer us incredibly powerful lessons in fellowship and camaraderie that would serve us well to understand and learn from.

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Fellowship”, please click here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Legacy – Being Aware of our Impact

I was thinking about my friend Donna Butler today.

Donna is one of those people who always comes up in conversation whenever people of my graduating class get together.

Earlier this summer, I was reconnected with two friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in 28 years.

Within five minutes of each of our initial conversations, the inevitable question was asked by each of them:

Do you remember Donna?

Both guys went on to describe the impact that Donna had in their lives.

I know all about it – I think about her impact on me all the time.

If you will allow me a moment, I will tell you about Donna.

She was like any other typical kid in many ways.  She was smart.  She was cute.  She seemed up more than she was down.  She always had a kind word to say about someone.  She spoke of her brothers a lot.

Her life in many ways seemed to be quite normal.  She didn’t aspire to be in the limelight and her impact on others seemed to be typical for a kid her age.

Donna did have something that we didn’t have.  She had a heart that wasn’t healthy.  She died in 1983 at the age of 18 of a congenital heart defect.

While we were stunned and saddened at the time, such things occasionally happen and we moved on in life.

So I thought.

I thought I was the only one that thought about Donna a lot but it seems like a lot of people think about her on a fairly regular basis.

I was thinking about this today and wondering how one who lived such a seemingly ordinary life could have left such an impact on us.

Then it occurred to me.

Donna saw the best in people, regardless of who they were.

She worked hard, not because it brought her public acclaim, but because it seemed the right thing to do.

She spoke words of wisdom without trumpeting them or pushing them down your throat.

She wanted everyone to be happy and did her best to help everyone around her.

If someone spoke harshly to her, she didn’t return the act with venomous words.

She was always smiling.

She did all of this for only one reason – it seemed to be the natural thing to do.

In living a life of unselfish giving and doing it as naturally as you or I breathe, she left an incredible, powerful legacy on those who were lucky enough to have met her.

This got me to thinking about the legacy that we all leave behind.  Many times, we work so hard to leave a personal or professional legacy as we would want it defined – wanting to get the legacy just right.

Many times, the legacy that we leave will not result from the things that we tried to create willfully.

Our legacy will come from the things we do naturally, from the things we do when no one is looking, from the things we do when we are significantly challenged and from the things we do because they are simply the right things to do.

That’s what Donna did.  While many of us have gone on in life to create personal or professional success, the one that everyone remembers and talks about is Donna.

Thank you, Donna.  Twenty six years after you have left us, you are still teaching us.

Which brings me to this question:

How is your legacy doing?

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Legacy – Being Aware of our Impact”, please click here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

O Passion, Where Art Thou?

Para leer este blog en español por favor pulse aqui.

I’ve been feeling lately like I have been working double-shifts in the ER.

Many of the patients who have been admitted haven’t been in any type of accident.

They are suffering from what I will define as deficientia passio – passion deficiency syndrome.

As each patient is rolled in, a quick assessment is usually all that is required.  I grab the passion defibrillator, yell out CLEAR and zap them with the passion they need to make a difference in the world.

Ah, if it were only that easy.

A lot of wonderful people have come my way lately whose passion is either gone, never manifested in the first place or manifests in destructive ways instead of constructive ones.

The reasons are many, I’m sure.  We can can all psychoanalyze the many reasons – fear of this or that, bad life experiences, the stress of living in the 21st century, etc.

All I know is that when it comes to making a real difference in the lives of ourselves and others, when all things are equal;  opportunity, networks, intelligence, etc., there are two things that will separate those who can’t or won’t from those who do.

The ones who ultimately get it done exhibit ferocious amounts of passion but do so with an inner humility that allows the passion to be directed in a positive manner.

I have worked with a number of business leaders lately who exhibit one or more of the following symptoms of deficientia passio.  If you have any of these symptoms, please see your “passion therapist” right away.  The symptoms may appear similar to one of the following:

  1. People who wonder why their team doesn’t seem to care about exceeding expectations (or even meeting them).  Meanwhile, the team leader doesn’t seem to care either, focusing on irrelevant things but getting upset when their team is not focused.
  2. Leaders who hope that their company can survive while telling everyone that they are doing everything they can.  At the same time, offers to inject capital or help of any kind are spurned and some go off on vacation at the wrong time, with the scarcity mindset of “the company is lost anyway so I will take one more vacation on someone else’s dime”.  These people also embrace the concept that to own all of nothing is superior to owning a smaller piece of a much larger entity.  Passion to protect ego is stronger within these people than passion for success.
  3. People who lead organizations or groups with little or no communication, have meetings with no purpose or have no clearly established vision, mission and goals.  These leaders will lament ad nauseum about how their people won’t get engaged or are worthless.  How can they get engaged – the team either doesn’t know how to get engaged, what they should engage in or why they should even bother?
  4. Leaders who demand respect from the environment while at the same time, perform acts that violate most acceptable HR principals.  “My people are professionals”, these leaders reason, “they should be able to do as I say and not as I do”.
  5. People who are in constant “hurry up and wait” mode, right up to the final demise of their team, committee or organization.  These are the people who exhibit less passion for their team and their purpose than the people who are called in to help them.  They are the ones who will ask for help or money but when it is offered to them, take weeks to respond.  Weeks later, the cry for help comes again and is even more desperate.  The offers of help go out again and again there is silence.  The cycle continues for a while until suddenly there is long-term silence.  A year or so later, you run into this person and they tell you the sad story that everything collapsed because of the fault of everyone but them.  They in fact snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
  6. People who constantly talk about the need to improve themselves or their company.  They never make any progress towards improvement but they will meet with you forever and never do anything themselves.  Some even get angry when you won’t do it for them – that somehow you must be more passionate about them than they are.
  7. Leaders who demand strong values of respect, honesty, collaboration, etc. and yet do everything to undermine these values.  Eventually the team members get disgruntled, performance levels fall, team members leave and the leader blames all the problems on the team members. 

I guess I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t add that other symptoms also include dry-mouth, headache, stomachache, a sense of fatigue, a sense of hyperactivity, constipation and diarrhea.  It seems that all diseases and the medications that treat them include these symptoms also!

There are amazing opportunities all around us.  There are more than ever, despite the projection of gloom and doom.

We only come this way once.  We get one whack at whatever our purpose is and then we are gone.  In the grand scale of things, our limited time on this earth is a blip that doesn’t even register within the context of time in the Universe..

However, that blip has huge potential within the context of our lives and the people around us.

We all have different impacts on this earth.  Some of us live quiet lives and impact a few people.  Some impact a lot of people but still do it quietly.  Others prefer to be “out there”, using their gifts in a more noticeable way.

Whatever we do, we need to make sure our passion is engaged. 

Our passion changes our result from good to excellent.

It is contagious.  A strong passion brings other people into your circle to help  you achieve that which you are striving towards.  Lack of passion is equally contagious and can kill projects (and sometimes people).

When Life gets tough as it always does on occasion, passion (with other things) helps us to move forward.

A lot of people are afraid of passion.  I’ve been told that my passion is intimidating.

That’s fine – don’t waste your time trying to make them passionate.  You will burn yourself out and upset them at the same time.

Find others who are equally or more passionate.  This is not always easy.  However, when it comes to finding passionate people to engage, remember the law of the 4 SWs.

Some will

Some won’t

So what ….

Someone’s waiting.

St. Augustine wrote:

The fire you wish to enkindle in others must burn in yourself.

Find your purpose.  If you don’t know how to do that, send me an email.  I’ll help you find it. 

Why would I do that? 

Because the world needs your passion for success, excellence and contribution.  It needs you to share your talents, knowledge and strengths and to do so with as much enthusiasm as you can muster.  It needs you to light the fire of passion in others as well.

A world of apathy and indifference is a world that will ultimately collapse.  Read your history books – organizations and nations have fallen when leaders either didn’t have passion or their passion was misdirected.

As Earl Nightingale once said:

Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm.

Be passionate.

Associate with passionate people.

Make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.

Do it with the best of your ability.

Make the most of your time.

After all, when it comes to time:

  • We are born with a finite amount allocated
  • We don’t know how much is remaining
  • Once it is burned, it is gone forever

Now if you will excuse me, I have to run.

Another patient has been rolled in and it looks like a really bad case of deficientia passio.

<<Ok … I need 10 ccs’ of purpose here, 20 cc’s of legacy definition and 30 cc’s of enthusiasm …. and get that passion defibrillator here … stat.  C’mon people, move it  – this person’s in trouble.>>

Yours in service and servanthood – passionately.


For other musings about passion, please check out:

Check Your Passion at the Door

A User’s Guide to Passionate People

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “O Passion, Where Art Thou”, please click here.

Para leer este blog en español por favor pulse aqui.

Oh, pasión, ¿donde te hayas?

To read this blog in English, please click here.

Últimamente, me he sentido como si hubiera estado trabajando doble turno en la sala de Urgencias de un hospital.

Muchos de los pacientes que han sido admitidos no han sufrido ningún accidente.

Sufren de lo que yo defino como deficientia passio – síndrome de deficiencia de pasión.

Según llega cada paciente, tan solo hace falta realizar una valoración rápida. Agarro el desfibrilador de pasión, grito LISTO y les doy un zap de la pasión que necesitan para marcar la diferencia en el mundo.

Ay, si solo fuera así de sencillo.

Muchas personas maravillosas se acercan a mi últimamente, cuya pasión o se ha desvanecido, nunca se ha manifestado o se manifiesta de forma destructiva y no constructiva.

Estoy seguro de que hay muchas razones. Todos podemos psicoanalizar las múltiples razones: el miedo a esto o aquello, malas experiencias en la vida, el estrés de vivir en el siglo 21, etc.

Lo único que sé es que cuando llega el momento de marcar la diferencia en nuestras vidas y en la de los demás, cuando todos los factores son iguales, por ejemplo, oportunidades, contactos, inteligencia, etc., hay dos cosas que separarán a aquellos que no pueden o quieren de los que lo hacen.

Aquellos que marcan la diferencia exhiben una cantidad tremenda de pasión pero lo hacen con una humildad interior que permite que la pasión sea dirigida de forma positiva.

Recientemente, he trabajado con varias personas, líderes de negocio, que exhiben uno o más de estos síntomas de deficientia passio. Si sufres de alguno de estos síntomas, por favor acude a tu “terapeuta de pasión” inmediatamente. Estos síntomas pueden parecerse a alguno de los que describo a continuación:

  1. Personas que se preguntan por qué a su equipo de trabajo no le importa superar las expectativas (o siquiera cumplirlas). Mientras, el líder del equipo tampoco se preocupa, centrándose en cosas irrelevantes pero disgustándose cuando ve que su equipo no se centra.
  2. Líderes que tienen la esperanza de que su compañía sobreviva tan solo por medio de decir a todo el mundo que están haciendo todo lo que pueden. A la vez, rechazan ofertas de inyecciones de capital o de cualquier tipo de ayuda y algunos se van de vacaciones en el momento equivocado, con el pensamiento escaso de que “la compañía está pérdida de todas formas, así que me iré de vacaciones una vez más con el dinero de otro”. Estas personas además, también aceptan el concepto de que es mejor ser dueño total de nada a ser dueño de algo más pequeño dentro de una entidad más grande. En este caso, la pasión para proteger el ego es más fuerte dentro de estas personas que la pasión para el éxito.
  3. Personas que lideran organizaciones o grupos con poca o ninguna comunicación, celebran reuniones sin sentido o no tienen una visión, misión y objetivos claramente definidos. Estos líderes se quejan ad nauseum sobre como su gente no se comprometen o son inútiles. ¿Como pueden comprometerse, si el equipo no sabe como embarcarse, en que deben centrarse o siquiera molestarse?
  4. Líderes que exigen respeto de su entorno y, sin embargo, llevan a cabo actos que violan los principios más básicos de recursos humanos. “Mi gente son profesionales” según el razonamiento de estos líderes “deben de hacer según digo y no según hago”.
  5. Personas que están siempre en modo de “date prisa y espera”, justo hasta el momento final de su equipo, comité u organización. Estas son las personas que exhiben menos pasión hacia su equipo y propósito que las personas que llegan con ayuda. Son aquellos que correrán a pedir ayuda o dinero pero cuando se les ofrece esta ayuda o dinero, tardan semanas en responder. Y semanas después, llega de nuevo la petición de ayuda y en esta ocasión, es aún más desesperada. De nuevo llegan las ofertas de ayuda y, de nuevo, se produce silencio El ciclo continúa durante un tiempo hasta que, de repente, se produce un silencio prolongado. Más o menos un año después, te encuentras con esta persona y te cuentan la triste historia de como todo se vio abajo por culpa de los demás, salvo ellos mismos. De hecho, ellos arrancaron la derrota de la fauces de la victoria.
  6. Personas que están hablando constantemente de la necesidad de mejorar su compañía o a ellos mismos. Ellos nunca harán ningún progreso hacia la mejora pero se reunirán contigo eternamente y nunca harán nada por ellos mismos. Algunos hasta se enfadan contigo si o lo haces por ellos, dando a entender que tu debes ser más apasionado sobre ellos que ellos mismos.
  7. Líderes que exigen fuertes valores de respeto, honestidad, colaboración, etc. pero, sin embargo, hacen todo lo posible para minar estos valores. Al cabo del tiempo, los miembros del equipo pierden la motivación, la productividad cae, los miembros del equipo se marchan y el líder echa la culpa de todos los problemas en los miembros del equipo.

Creo que no cumpliría con mi deber si no incluyo otros síntomas tales como sequedad de boca, dolor de cabeza, dolor de estómago, fatiga, hiperactividad, estreñimiento y diarrea. ¡Es que parece ser que todos los males y su medicación también incluyen estos síntomas!

Existen multitud de oportunidades a nuestro alrededor, más que nunca, a pesar de las predicciones negativas y borrascosas.

Venimos por este camino tan solo una vez. Tenemos tan solo una oportunidad a cualquiera que sea nuestro propósito y de repente, ya no estamos.

Al nivel de la gran escala de las cosas, nuestro tiempo limitado sobre este planeta es un blip que ni siquiera queda registrado en el contexto del tiempo del universo.

Sin embargo, este blip tiene u potencial enorme dentro del contexto de nuestras vidas y de las personas a nuestro alrededor.

Todos tenemos impactos diferentes en este planeta. Algunos llevamos vidas tranquilas e impactamos sobre pocas personas. Algunos impactan sobre muchas personas pero de forma silenciosa. Otros prefieren estar “ahí fuera”, usando sus dones de forma más notable.

Sea lo que sea lo que hagamos, debemos realizarlo con pasión.

Nuestra pasión tiene la capacidad de camiar nuestro resultado de bueno a excelente.

Es contagioso. Una pasión fuerte atrae a otras personas a tu circulo para ayudarte a conseguir aquello que estás intentando. Una carencia de pasión es igualmente contagiosa y puede acabar con proyectos e incluso, a veces, con personas.

Cuando la vida se pone difícil como suele ocurrir de vez en cuando, la pasión (junto con otras cosas) nos ayuda a seguir adelante.

A muca gente le da miedo la pasión. A mí me han dicho que mi pasión intimida.

Eso está bien, no hay que perder el tiempo intentando hacerles apasionados. Te quemarás y además se enfadarán contigo.

Debe encontrar a otros que son tan apasionados o más que tú. No siempre es fácil. Sin embargo, cuando se trata de encontrar a personas con pasión para que se comprometan, hay que recordar la ley de las 4 Sws....

Some will (algunos lo harán)

Some won’t (algunos no lo harán)

So what …. (¿y qué?)

Someone’s waiting. (alguien espera)

San Agustín escribió:

El fuego que deseas encender en otros debe arder dentro de ti

Debes encontrar tu propósito. Si no sabes como hacerlo, enviame un correo electrónico. Te ayudaré a encontrarlo.

¿Por qué haría yo eso?

Por qué el mundo necesita tu pasión para el éxito, la excelencia y tu contribución. Te necesita para que compartas tus talentos, conocimientos y fortalezas y hacelo con tanto entusiasmo como puedas aportar. También te necesita para que enciendas el fuego de la pasión en otros.

Un mundo de apatía e indiferencia es un mundo que tarde o temprano se derrumbará. Lee tus libros de historia: organizaciones y naciones han caído cuyos líderes no tenían pasión o cuya pasión estaba mal dirigida.

Earl Nightingale dijo en una ocasión:

La creatividad es una extensión natural de nuestro entusiasmo

Debes ser apasionado.

Relacionate con personas apasionadas.

Marca la diferencia en tu ida y en las vidas de aquellos a tu alrededor.

Hazlo lo mejor que puedas.

Aprovecha tu tiempo de la mejor manera posible.

Después de todo, respecto al tiempo:

· Nacemos con una cantidad de tiempo limitada

· No sabemos cuanto nos queda

· Una vez que se acaba, ya no hay más

Ahora, con su permiso, tengo prisa.

Otro paciente ha llegado y parece ser un caso grave de deficientia passio.

<<Veamos... necesito 10 ml de propósito, 20 ml de definición de legado y 30 ml de entusiasmo.... y traígan ese desfibrilador de pasión aquí, vamos, gente, deprisa, esta persona tiene problemas>>

Tuyo en el servicio y a tu servicio, con pasión


Traducción al español realizada por Robert Moore Bernardos.

To read this blog in English, please click here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

“The Catholic Vision For Leading Like Jesus” – A Book Review


“Each of us is not only called to be a leader, but we are all leaders by default – whether we like it or not.”

Thus opens one of the best books I have ever read on servant leadership and the most powerful book I have ever read on stewardship – the notion of contributing our time, talent and treasure to those who need it.

The author, Dr. Owen Phelps, is the Director of Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute.  He is a writer, college professor, master catechist and trainer – to say the least.  To see his impressive background, please go here.

First of all, I have to admit that despite my openness and acceptance of many things, I have become somewhat skeptical of a lot of books in the motivational / inspirational / personal growth genre.

Why is this?  It’s because many of them either say the same thing that others in the genre have already said or they promise much and deliver little.  For many authors, they are merely piggybacking on the great results produced by others.

Such is not the case with this book.

This book was inspired by the book “Lead Like Jesus”, co-authored by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.

First of all, Dr. Phelps explains that leadership is not about power or authority.  In fact, he explains this way:

Effective leadership is not about formal power or money.  It is about integrity.  Leadership begins in the heart.

The book goes on to address four powerful questions that many people find themselves pondering over.

The first three transcend people of all creeds, faiths and beliefs:

  1. Whom do I influence in big or small ways?
  2. How will I be remembered?  What is my legacy?
  3. What is the source of influence with others and how can I exert this influence?

The fourth question is one that many Christians who are passionate about service within their faith ask:

  1. How do I fit into Christ’s mission and message for the world?

Dr. Phelps answers these questions by introducing us to the concept of S3 leadership – the concept that we all act as Servant, Steward and Shepherd as we serve our fellow human beings.

Within the notion of servant leadership, Dr. Phelps explores the art of being the servant to others.  What he means by this is that as a servant, we seek to influence others and help others to grow and shine.  Our purpose is in the form of selfless giving to others instead of working towards our own gains and rewards as our first priority.

As a servant leader, the author suggests that when we act with our own priorities first and foremost, our ego places us in jeopardy as our sense of self-worth is based on pride-based or fear-based models.

When we move towards a servant-based leadership model , our modus operandi is transformed from being pride and fear-based to one that is based on humility and confidence in our purpose to serve and help others.

Such a model is transformational in concept and implementation and changes the very fundamental of human interaction.

The notion of steward as the second part of S3 is equally powerful.  If we accept that as a steward, we assume responsibility for taking care of things that do not belong to us, then we begin to feel compelled to make a difference in as many aspects of life as we can.  This responsibility covers a broad spectrum of things, ranging from the welfare of all living things on the planet to taking care of the planet itself.

The final element of S3, being the shepherd, is based on two very important concepts – the power of trust and and the power of unconditional love.  If we are unable to trust and love ourselves, our ability to work with others will be severely limited.  In turn, having accomplished this level of self-acceptance, it is critical to be able to establish trust and unconditional love with others in order to be able to offer help and to accept help if offered.

Just as the shepherd loves his sheep unconditionally and the sheep trust the shepherd through the shepherd’s actions, our ability to truly serve the needs of others will only manifest when we have the ability to love and serve others unconditionally and in a trustful way.

Dr. Phelps uses a quote from Scripture that summarizes the notion of S3 perfectly:

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

- 1 Peter 3:8 (NAB)

The workbook that is available for this book is equally powerful.  For stewardship groups that struggle with how to get their group or parish stewardship activities engaged on a higher level, the workbook is a powerful guide.

In fact, the workbook is the best guide to stewardship that I have seen in my many years of stewardship activities.  It’s flexible, insightful structure is an asset to beginning groups who need help with structure and execution and for advanced groups looking for fresh, new ideas to take their efforts to a higher level.

If you are an individual seeking to expand your stewardship activities or you represent a group looking to implement larger stewardship initiatives, this book and the accompanying workbook are a must-read.

If you are not faith-based or are Christian but not necessarily Roman Catholic but you seek to expand your leadership abilities and your ability to influence others, this book is also a must read for you.

Dr. Phelps closes his book with a quote from Scripture that I found to be powerful and made me stop and think before I closed the book:

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell.  Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

- 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NAB)

The book is available from your traditional book retailers and from the publishing company directly.  The publisher can also be found at

I wish you well on your exploration of servant leadership and your quest to help others.

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute review of “The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus" – A Book Review”, please click here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Authenticity – Those Who Live By the Sword …

To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Authenticity – Those Who Live By the Sword …”, please click here.

This week, the Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by another scandal with a member of its clergy.  Bishop Raymond Lahey of Atlantic Canada has been charged with importing and possessing child pornography.  Parishioners across Canada have been shocked, angered and saddened by this latest event in the saga of child abuse by a member of the cloth.

It is an unfortunate but poignant example of what happens when a leader chooses to be inauthentic, when s/he chooses to present a persona of themselves that doesn’t represent who they really are.

In the interests of due process, we cannot yet condemn Bishop Lahey.  He has not been found guilty despite the number and scope of the allegations against him.

However, it is notable that one man, with the mistakes that he may have made in his life, can rock an organization as large and as rich in history and tradition as the Roman Catholic Church.

When authenticity breaks down, it only takes one person to rock an entire organization and devastate other people for the rest of their lives.

The events of the current week demonstrate the importance of being authentic and the importance of an organization to hold all of its leaders accountable for authenticity.

As rumor swirls around the possibility that some people within the Church knew of the Bishop’s alleged issues over 20 years ago, we are reminded more than ever:

1. If we choose to be something other than that which we are, sooner or later the truth comes out.  The longer it takes to come out, the greater the damage that results.

2. If we know of a lack of authenticity within someone else, we must find a way to rectify it before greater damage is done to the organization or more importantly, the people that it serves.

3. A lot of damage and hurt can be avoided when we choose to hold ourselves and others to be authentic.

Authenticity goes hand-in-hand with transparency, accountability and trust.

Trust is built on the belief that someone else is being authentic.  Trust develops when each person in a relationship is open and clear about who they are and what they represent in the way of values, beliefs, needs and intentions.

Transparency ensures that authenticity is actually being embraced.

Accountability demands that we or someone overseeing us can vouch for our authenticity.  If an event occurs that demonstrates lack of authenticity, accountability demands that the event will be handled appropriately, quickly and transparently.

Without this, trust cannot be established or maintained and definitely cannot be restored if lost.

Many people assume that where there is smoke there is fire and that there are many ticking time bombs still within the Church in the form of pedophiles. Some claim proof of this.

Whatever the case, it is important for any organization, whether it be the Church or any other group, to step forward and own responsibility for the event and to be totally transparent.

This goes beyond saying “we are sorry, we are hurt or we are angry”.  Words are easy to come by.

It means that if there are other priests struggling with these demons, that someone has to remove them from their position of power, authority and leadership and get them the help they need.

Otherwise, the trust is dead and the damage to others continues.

A scattered event such as this catches us by surprise.

Repeated events suggest a deeper problem that warrants a transparent solution.

We all know what happens to organizations that garner no trust.  Some of the largest corporations in the world collapsed when trust in them from customers or shareholders failed.

As a Roman Catholic myself, I would like to see the Church embrace this moment to really come clean.

This would represent an authentic moment for many faithful and not faithful alike, whether Roman Catholic or not.

Teach us from the pulpit to be honest, truthful and respectful.  Teach us to demand the highest standards from ourselves and others.

And then:

Honor us and embrace us by leading by example and ferreting out those within who struggle with their own inner demons.

Many of you who go to church or once attended church will remember this from Matthew 18:7-11 (NIV):

"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

We are overdue for large organizations like the Church to cleanse themselves in the same way.

Otherwise, be honest with everyone and stop teaching everyone else to do this.

To not do so is to not be authentic as an organization committed to leading us morally, ethically and spiritually.

When one examines why many churches are losing parishioners, some suggest it is entirely based on a decline of faith in the 21st century.

However, more Bibles are being sold now than ever.  The self-help spirituality publication industry sells $5 billion a year in product.  Many people are clearly on a spiritual quest.

I would posit that it is a lack of trust – a model of “do as I say and not as I do”.

Many people say it is wrong to ask questions of the Church.  I once questioned a devout Catholic who told me that she believed that the abuse of the 50’s – 80’s was the fault of the children because they allowed it to happen.  When I questioned the sanity of such a remark, I was told that I was the anti-Christ if I dare question the Church.  My reply was that if this is the label that one gets when defending the rights of children, then I wear the label with pride.

I believe the faithful and others have every right to ask questions.  Any organization or leader grows stronger as a result of being challenged to learn and improve upon execution.

Trust is based on each of us being totally transparent and authentic with the other.

If dialog is ok ONLY if we don’t touch on the sensitive subjects, then we are not being totally transparent with each other.

If we can’t be transparent, there is no room for trust.

Without trust, each of us is an island unto ourselves.

Who wants to live that way?

In service and servanthood.


PS Here is an unfortunate example of a disconnect in authenticity.  Quoting Bishop Lahey from a couple of years ago:

“Sexual abuse, indeed any abuse, is wrong. It is a crime and it is a serious sin in the eyes of God. I want to assure you that for some time our diocese, like others throughout Canada, have been taking steps to protect children and youth,” Bishop Lahey told a news conference

As with many things, saying and doing are often difficult to reconcile.  We are all human, regardless of someone’s expectations to the contrary.

To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Authenticity – Those Who Live By the Sword …”, please click here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Entrepreneurs – A Long Distance Dedication

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Entrepreneurs – A Long Distance Dedication”, please click here.

I have been blessed to have been an entrepreneur for many years and many of my dearest friends are entrepreneurs.

When we get together we laugh, swear and weep over the world that we live in, a world that can only be appreciated by a fellow entrepreneur.

As we used to joke years ago in the software company that I co founded in New York - “Some day we will look back on this day and nervously change the subject” – and then we would laugh.

For any of you not familiar with Kasey Kasem and his long distance dedications, people in one part of the world would write a letter to Kasey that was directed towards a friend, parent, lost-love or some other person of importance.  Kasey would read this long distance dedication and would then play a requested song.

Before I send Kasey my long distance dedication, I would like to share some thoughts about the entrepreneurial world.  If you are an entrepreneur, you will identify with many of these.  If you are not, it will either entice you to join us or frighten you away.  :-)

As I think about the world of entrepreneurs, and speaking from one entrepreneur to another, do you remember when:

1. You were first seized by an idea that seemed ready to take on the world but no one else agreed?

You went ahead and followed your dream anyway.

2. You weren’t the first to come up with an idea but once you saw the potential of someone else’s idea, you were more passionate than the people who came up with the idea.

You stepped around their fear of “going for it” and created a dream.  Some may have accused you of stealing it, but they never had the guts to go for it anyway.

3. You struggled with balancing family and work, recognizing that both deserved 100% of your time.

You did your best to balance both, second-guessing yourself the whole way - “maybe I could have done ______ better”.  Some of you couldn’t balance both and one of them died.

4. You stood on your deck at 2:00 in the morning, looked up at the stars and asked the Universe for help with __________.  Maybe you wept as you did it.  Maybe you made heavy promises if favors were granted.  Maybe you sold your soul in exchange for success.

You look back at those moments now and remember them as pivotal moments, either taking you closer to success or convincing yourself that it was time to get out.

5. You spoke incessantly about your idea to everyone who would listen to you, like that first boyfriend or girlfriend years ago that the rest of us got tired of hearing about.

Your passion either branded you as crazy or inspirational. You didn’t really care because you knew that the people who matter cared for you and supported you, even if you were insane.

6. You wondered where the next payroll was coming from and lost many nights of sleep over it or perhaps chewed your fingernails off thinking about it.

You dug deep and pulled it from your personal line of credit, your friends, an investment round that closed at the 11th hour or by some other stroke of luck or brilliance.  You swear this will never happen again but for some reason, it does anyway.

7. You wanted to share your mental load with your team but you felt it would freak them out and so you shouldered the burden alone and in silence.

If you never got pushed right to the edge, it is a secret that is going with you to your grave.  If you did get pushed to the edge, you surprised yourself with your ability to write powerful, emotion-filled, transparent emails that really helped people understand the pressure you face as a leader.  Maybe you rallied around this and saved the day together.

8. You wanted to be a rah-rah guy but discovered that sometimes you have to make tough decisions that you fret about.

The decisions that you thought would ruin someone else’s life often turned out to be blessings in disguise for everyone and everything worked out in the end.  As Mark Twain once said (paraphrasing) – “I have discovered that most of the worst things in my life never happened”.

9. You wanted to offer more rewards to your team but the budget didn’t allow for what you thought they deserved.

You created what started out as small things that evolved into legendary corporate practices that people speak lovingly of as in “I was there when we created ______”.

10. You doubted yourself the whole way, wondering if you were good enough, smart enough, connected enough, passionate enough or had an idea that was good enough as you faced bankers, investors, customers and future employees.

The person on the other end of that conversation was wondering the same thing about themselves – you just didn’t know it.

11. You wanted or needed some high-priced talent to give you client contacts or credibility but you couldn’t afford them (or so you thought).

You ended up crafting a deal that worked for everyone and helped your company move closer to success.

12. Your creation felt like a living, breathing entity because that’s what it was to you.  If you heard me talking with my team over lunch, you would have assumed that we were talking lovingly about a member of the team and not “just” a piece of software.

13. You wondered why no one else had your passion to just throw worry to the wind and go for the big dream.

Maturity that came later taught you that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, even though it seems the most obvious and fulfilling thing in the world to be from your perspective.

14. You thought you knew it all but discovered quickly that you were indeed the student and not the master.

15. The person you met for coffee envied you and the life you lived as “your own person”.

As they heaped praise on you, your mind wandered to five customer proposals that needed to be done by Friday, two investor dinners next week, your son or daughter’s upcoming school play, three performance reviews that need to be done in the next week, etc. etc. etc. and you think – would you REALLY want my job?

And then you think – would I REALLY want to be doing anything else?

No way.  This is where you are meant to be.

This is how your passions come alive.  This is an expression and extension of you.

Of course, these things apply to the entrepreneur who eventually made their dream a success.

What about the ones that didn’t?

If you didn’t make your current dream a success, you didn’t fail.  You were merely offered an extraordinary set of life lessons.

The key lesson if you didn’t succeed the first time is:

Will  you get back up and try again?

Because in the end, that’s the real lesson of entrepreneurship.

Despite everything you will learn about networking, financing, execution, business plan writing, exit strategies, negotiation, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, HR rules, real estate, contracts, pipelines, lead generation, deal closing, reports and everything else, the real question is:

How badly do you want your purpose and passion to be fulfilled?

So my letter to Kasey Kasem would read:

Harry writes:

Dear Kasey.

I am a chronic entrepreneur who is sending words of support to all other entrepreneurs.  For the great obstacles they will either step over, around, go under or learn that they need to be doing something else, the world of the entrepreneur is filled with the greatest rewards.

They create friendships that last a lifetime.  Friends like RL, CDT, MdC, JP, NN and others will live in my heart forever.

Being an entrepreneur allows your purpose and your passion to manifest – to provide an opportunity for you to have a lasting impact on others.  It helps define your legacy – that marker that says “I was here”.

Being an entrepreneur is rarely easy.  In fact, many times it will knock you to your knees.  But we get back up, learn from our challenges and move forward.

In the end, we always win.  Sometimes the victory is obvious.  Sometimes, the lessons are not obvious until much later.

So, Kasey, for fantastic entrepreneurs out there, people like MP, AG, BJ, KC, MB, RM, HJ, GP, MC and all the other people who dare allow their purpose and passion to fly, could  you please play “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey?

Most sincerely,


Ok, Harry, here’s your long distance dedication.

To the entrepreneurs I have served with, I thank you – you have blessed my life tremendously and I owe you a lifetime of gratitude.  The lessons we have learned together are deep, broad and rich.

To all entrepreneurs, you are closer to your dreams than you realize. 

It all comes down to how badly you want it and what are you willing to do to make your dreams come true?

In service and servanthood.


PS I would be remiss in my duties if I neglected to write about the importance of family and friends.  While you may think that others don’t understand the world of entrepreneurs, they know more than you realize and they care more than you know.  One of the greatest lessons I learned despite all of my so-called confidence in my own abilities was the ability to be able to ask for help when I needed it and to be open to receiving help.  I have my friend Leonard to thank for this lesson.  When all is said and done, humility may carry you further than confidence.

In addition, if you are a person of faith, hold onto it, however you define it.  It will be an incredibly powerful, guiding, nurturing light when darkness seems all around you.

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Entrepreneurs – A Long Distance Dedication”, please click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Authentic Leadership – Looking the Part Versus Living It

It is with a mix of gratitude, amusement, disappointment and sometimes downright anger that many of us look at today’s leaders, whether they be in the community, corporate world, government, church or any other organization of influence.

What appears to attract the most press are the ones who either let us down or infuriate us with stories of how they acted in their own best interests at the expense of someone else.

Today’s leader faces many great challenges – the challenges of the world are broad, deep and complex.

What makes the challenge of today’s leaders even more complex is how we define and establish our leaders.

Think about we seek in a leader.  At a minimum, we expect them to be charismatic, passion-filled, visionary, connected, value-rich, idea-abundant, brilliant in statesmanship, powerful in negotiating skills and plentiful in morality and ethics.  Some of us expect even more than this.

In fact, many of us inadvertently or deliberately expect our leaders to be perfect, try as we might to deny this.

We put all of our hopes in them.  We overload them with expectations that no mortal man can live up to and when they don’t live up to our expectations, we crucify them.

By defining leaders as being beyond the handicap of human frailty and weakness, we inadvertently change how leaders are selected, often at the expense of all of us.

Many of today’s leaders are more focused on looking like leaders than they are acting like leaders.  Handlers, spinmeisters and PR wizards often have more power than a leader’s strategic advisors.

Many leaders embrace this model because they sense this is what we want to see in a leader.  How many times have we heard leaders tell their followers what they want to hear and not what they need to hear?

This makes the followers temporarily happy and hope-filled and gets the leader elected or promoted to the position they seek.

It unfortunately produces a slippery slope of deferring the inevitable of not living up to expectations – either self-imposed or as perceived by others.  It also allows unqualified leaders to be placed in positions of influence because they are masters of the self-promotion game and not the art of leadership.

It also creates an incredible structural tension for the leaders themselves.  It is extremely difficult to maintain the facade promoted to the public when it is more closely aligned with what the public wants to see than with who the leader really is.

As authors such as Ken Blanchard and Owen Phelps note, when this happens the leader gets drawn into a world filled with pride or fear.  Pride becomes the overwhelming force when the act of self promotion becomes the primary action of the leader.  Fear kicks in when one has to focus on protecting the facade that was presented to the people, for fear that someone may discover that the leader is human with all of the weaknesses that humans also possess.

Ken Blanchard and Owen Phelps posit that when we are true, authentic servant leaders, we can focus more on serving others and not hiding behind a facade of false pretenses.  This model allows the leader to serve with humility and confidence in answering the needs of those they serve and lead. 

Such a model produces a much more authentic, productive result.

That being said, the art of looking more like a leader than being like one falls back on one key challenge.

In a world that rewards people who embrace this model and then punishes them when they almost inevitably fail to live up to the expectations of others, who owns responsibility for these leaders?

Is it the fault of the people who erect a facade in order to obscure who they really are or is it the fault of the people who prefer to vote for a facade than someone who is truly authentic and transparent, even if the news is bad?

We all own the responsibility of choosing the type of leaders who attains a position of influence over us. 

Perhaps we should be less disappointed in the leaders that the system produces and be more cognizant of the type of system that causes leaders to have to be something other than that which they are.

We need to embrace a dialog built around transparency and authenticity and then perhaps we will find more opportunity to select strong leaders whom we can collaborate with to produce a better result.

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Authentic Leadership – Looking the Part Versus Living It”, please click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

“Saving The World at Work” – A Call To Action

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here.

I am a passionate person.  Anyone who has met me can attest to my passion – my passion to try to be the best I can be and to encourage others to be the best they can be.

In a beautiful world filled with potential, the need for each of us to be the best that we can be resonates more than ever.

Our world of unlimited beauty, potential and sustenance is being assailed by the challenges of war, hunger, disease, poverty and pollution.

Our phenomenal potential to create a world of unlimited health, peace and prosperity is in need of someone to step up to make that potential a reality.

Who of all of us can save our beautiful planet?

You can.

I can.

We can.

We must.

Perhaps many of us think this is too big.  How can one person possibly make a difference in this large, complex world?

As my friend Tim Sanders notes in his powerful book “Saving the World at Work”, one person can indeed have a profound impact on the world.

That person is YOU!

In his book, Tim tells the stories of individuals whose hearts are gripped by the need to do something, to do anything, to make a difference on this planet.

These people are seized by a passion for their community, their country and their planet.  Their hearts are gripped by the need to create momentum that is focused on reversing many of the negative trends that afflict our planet and to instead, create a positive legacy for the generations that come after us.

As Tim describes in his collection of phenomenal stories of individual strength and vision, these people are so gripped by their passion and purpose that they seek to find ways to influence the organizations they belong to so that they can embrace a new way of thinking towards a more sustainable Earth. 

This new way of thinking encourages all of us as individuals and organizations to be cognizant of every decision we make and to proactively make choices that make a positive impact on the earth.

His book is a powerful call to action.

It gives us real examples of how each one of us can make a phenomenal impact on the Earth.  A small idea, coupled with passion and purpose, can amplify and have a profound impact on how our organizations view their ability to create a positive legacy for the planet.

When Tim was looking for stories of people whose passion influenced the direction of large corporations, I was proud to be able to connect Tim with Joan Krajewski, a member of the Microsoft Personal Empowerment Group that I incubated with a number of friends at Microsoft.

Tim tells Joan’s story of one person’s dream to move a company the size of Microsoft in a direction that is more socially aware of its impact on the earth.

Here is Tim describing Joan’s passion and her impact.


As Joan and others like her can attest, if our purpose is clearly identified and our passion is fueled, we CAN make a huge difference.

Dan Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind” said this about “Saving the World at Work

“With intelligence and passion, Tim Sanders reveals the new competitive logic of business: Being great now depends on being good.  Whether you're in the boardroom or the mailroom, you owe it to yourself to read Saving The World at Work and to begin putting into practice its powerful lessons."

Many of us witness incredible changes in the world and we wonder “how can I help make this a better place for all of us, especially for our children?”.

Tim’s book offers us hope and examples of how each one of us can do what we thought to be the unthinkable – each one of us can leverage our vision, our purpose and our passion within the organizations that we work with to have a profound impact on the planet.

That is an incredible thought, isn’t it?

Check out Tim’s book “Saving the World at Work” and his website here.  It has links for where to find the book, including free goodies such as DVDs, that you can read and watch; to inspire you and the people  you know and convince you that YOU can make a difference.

The earth is calling.

The world that we are leaving to our children is calling.

The legacy that we leave to our children is calling.

What are we waiting for?

Let’s get engaged and make the difference we are capable of and called to create.

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here

Friday, September 11, 2009

Authenticity – A Personal Assessment 8 Years After 9/11

Today, many of us honor those lost during the attack on 9/11.  Regardless of what terrorist theory, conspiracy theory or anything else people subscribe to, what is important today is to honor those who were lost and to offer love and support to those they left behind.

I have some poignant memories of that day and the days that followed that are as fresh in my mind today as they were eight years ago.

A few of the really vivid ones:

  • Watching the ash fall outside my office window – falling like snow and watching people walk through it with their umbrellas up.
  • Telling my team to get home any way they could.  Manhattan had been temporarily sealed off and people were not allowed to enter or leave the island.  We all separated, not knowing what else could potentially happen to us as we made our way home in shock and disbelief.
  • Calling my parents in Canada from the train to tell them I was ok and as I did so, I saw a man sitting on the train – alone – covered from head to toe in white dust.  He was shaking uncontrollably and yet no one spoke to him- we didn’t know what to say.
  • The smell of the fire that burned for days afterward.  My house was 45 miles away and yet the smell filled the neighborhood.
  • The families of the lost who gathered at the National Guard Armory which had been set up as a temporary morgue.  The outside wall was covered with photos of the lost.  Complete strangers would walk up to you as you walked by, would grab you, hold a photo up and look into your eyes as they asked “Have you seen ….?”.  I stopped going by – my heart wasn’t strong enough when I saw the pain these people were in.
  • The memories of the 15 friends I lost in the Trade Center, most specifically:

Eric Bennett – a great friend who worked for Alliance Consulting and only a few days before had been nagging me to go to a Yankees game in his company's box. He was on one of the top floors and couldn't get out.

Narender Nath - my quality assurance guy for the software company that I cofounded in NYC. He was on the impact floor and never had a chance.  He was fascinated by advertising on American TV.  He preferred to watch the ads and would get up to get snacks when the regular programming came on.

Stephen Fiorelli – a dedicated family man and community contributor who worked for the Port Authority and stayed behind to help the fireman with floor plans of the building. He and his team decided at the last minute to evacuate and were in the stairwell when the building collapsed on them. His team survived.

Eight years later, I wonder how we as a society have grown since those people were taken from us.

Greed, apathy, indifference and lack of foresight have allowed us to create one of the greatest financial collapses in history.  The governments tell us that it is near an end.  Tell that to the many who lost everything.

Our appetite for toys grows unabated, even if the toys are destroying the environment.  Many are more consumed by the features of the next gadget than they are about their health, the health of others or the health of the planet.

Disease, hunger and poverty continue to kill millions every year, including 29,000 children under the age of 5 every day for lack of clean drinking water.

Wars continue for the standard reason – primarily political agendas that kill our young people to satisfy the need of some administration or dictatorship.

Now I’m an optimist – perhaps fatally.

Despite all of the things that continue to go on in the world, I believe that we can solve all of these problems.

I also know there are a lot of great optimists in the world striving to solve the world’s challenges.  They need our help to make solutions a reality.

We won’t solve them by simply pretending the world is all good (as in the rose-colored glasses optimist) and assume this will make it so.

We won’t solve it with positive thinking alone although belief in our ability to solve these things is essential.

We won’t solve it by prayer alone although for many, it brings strength.

We definitely won’t solve it by refusing to collaborate with others.  I see too many examples today where people’s egos are so strong, they would rather try and fail than to acknowledge that with some help, they could produce staggering result.

We won’t solve it by expecting something for nothing.  The challenges before us require a LOT of effort and strategic investment of knowledge, collaboration, cooperation, human resources and financial capital.

We can only solve it when we return to a place of authenticity.

The place that says:

  1. The challenges in the world require everyone’s participation to solve them.  In some way directly or indirectly, I contribute to the good and the bad on the planet.  I prefer to amplify the positive impact I have and minimize the negative.
  2. I hold myself accountable for the results I produce.  Maybe I won’t get them done as fast as someone else would like, but I will get them done.
  3. I encourage you to be accountable to  yourself and others, to help you produce the results that you expect of yourself and that others expect of you.
  4. We support each other – offering help and asking for help in order to help us achieve our collective and individual goals
  5. What I say is what I do.  If I can’t deliver, I will tell you why. I will expect the same of you.  We will communicate more openly and with more respect and focus on the outcome and not the ego.
  6. I will hold you accountable for proper results if you are a person in a place of influence, whether it be government, corporation, not-for-profit, education or any group that has significant influence over others.
  7. If I do something wrong, I want you to tell me.
  8. If you do something wrong, I will tell you.
  9. We are all connected and in this together.  Ego must be demoted to allow us to reach our greatest potential.

We have to start naming the elephants in the room when it comes to personal accountability and responsibility.  We must do it with respect and with an eye towards collectively solving the great challenges in the world.

We can’t just name the elephant and say “my job is done”.  Once we name it, we need to play an active role in deciding what to do with it.

If we choose apathy and let people do as they choose, even when we know it is wrong ….

If we choose fear and decide not to speak up for fear of repercussions ….

If we choose compliance and participate in something that we know is wrong ….

If we choose silence and accept that what we are told by this person, that organization, etc. is a load of you-know-what but we say nothing ….

If we choose to believe the PR spin of “everything is close to being solved” or “everything is lost – give up now” …..

Then we choose to allow the world to continue to evolve the way it is evolving – a world of ever-increasing pressure, violence, hunger, pollution and disease.

Then we choose to allow the world to develop without the benefit of the gifts we bring to the table – our knowledge, our talents, our strengths, our passion, our sense of fulfillment and our love for others.

Then we choose to allow our children to deal with the complexities of our mistakes.

Then we choose to allow our phenomenal potential to love, create, cure, share and solve problems to take a backseat to the very things we wish to avoid.

When we choose this, we choose not to be authentic to ourselves or to others.

I know that we all prefer to envision a world of unlimited potential.

I know that my friends Eric, Narender and Stephen believed in this also.

Let’s not delay releasing our fullest potential to make this world a better place.

Let’s do it now.

Isn’t that the best way to honor those who are lost?

Is that not the greatest legacy we can leave to the next generation?

Yours in service and servanthood and in dedication to those who were lost and those who grieve their loss.


To see the Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Authenticity – A Personal Assessment”, please click here.