Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Action … or Just Musing About It

Bill Hybels in his wonderful book “Holy Discontent” talks about the things that we observe in the world that burn in our soul so strongly that we feel we MUST do something about them or be consumed by this inner fire.

I’ve been struggling with a holy discontent of my own these days.

My holy discontent is around people in business who will do anything it takes to make their business successful ….. except put ego aside and take collaborative action.

My holy discontent is around people who talk about the power of relationships …. as long as the flow of information, ideas and rewards is one-way (their way).

My holy discontent is around people in the arena of serving the needs of others and who will do whatever it takes to help others …. as long as it fits within their definition of who needs help and how they should be helped (which is so narrow that nobody is being helped).

My holy discontent is around …… <<ah shucks … let’s leave it there.>>  :-)

I have received a lot of advice from people indicating that others will take care of the things that need to be fixed in the world, the things in the world aren’t as bad as people think, we just need to pray about the problems and they will go away, I should mind my own business, I should respect the processes in places (which are not producing any result), etc.

With deepest respect to all of these well-intentioned folks, I disagree with all of this and have often been criticized for standing up to excuses for not getting stuff done.

I do ask difficult questions, after all.

I have been doing a poor job of explaining to them why their explanations don’t sit right with me and then I remembered a quote from Henri Nouwen.

I couldn’t explain it any better than he and his co-authors and so I share it with you.

“Honest, direct confrontation is a true expression of compassion. As Christians, we are in the world without being of it. It is precisely this position that renders confrontation both possible and necessary. The illusion of power must be unmasked, idolatry must be undone, oppression and exploitation must be fought. This is compassion.

We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty. We cannot set the captives free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys. We cannot profess solidarity with those who are oppressed when we are unwilling to confront the oppressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly into fruitless sentimental commiseration.

But if confrontation is to be an expression of patient action it must be humble.  Our constant temptation is to fall into self-righteous revenge or self-serving condemnation.  The danger here is that our own witness can blind us.  When confrontation is blinded by desire for attention, need for revenge or greed for power, it can easily become self-serving and cease to be compassionate.”

-Henri Nouwen et al, "Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life"


We all have a holy discontent that burns within us.

Are we willing to do what it takes, to collaborate as much as it takes and to take action with every fiber of our being to address our holy discontent?

If so, then good for us.  We are potential role models that the rest of the world might emulate.  We create opportunity to make a difference in the world.

If we are not willing to do this ….

Then it is not a holy discontent.  It is a source of irritation for people who do get things done and who grow weary of hearing us talk about it incessantly without taking action.

If we are not willing to do this ….

We are just creating lots of noise around solutions without really creating a solution.  People, business and the world suffer as a result.

If we are not willing to do this ….

We may be allowing people to control agendas and results based on their own ego-centric reasons.  In this case, we may not be reaching our fullest potential.

If we are not willing to do this ….

It may produce frustration in us as we wonder why we are not making the impact we feel we are capable of making or why the impact we describe to others is not the one we are achieving.  This creates additional internal burdens that may further impact our ability to make a difference.

It is important that we not let this happen to us and not let it be done to us either.

We need to truly embrace our holy discontent and embrace the belief that we are willing to do whatever it takes to address it.

We know we are more than capable.

Our gifts and talents are incredible.

We each have a passion for something.  Not everyone believes this but it is true.

In a world where many people will choose to be indifferent or actively attempt to prevent us from making a difference, we may get discouraged about who can help us.

In such situations, we must remember the rule of the 4 SWs:

Some will, some won’t, so what … someone’s waiting.

People are out there waiting to help each of us.

So …..

How strong is our will to see our vision and our personal mission come to fruition and to help others realize the same within their own lives?

The answer to that question not only impacts the sense of purpose in our own lives but in fact, impacts the level of positive results that are achieved in the world.

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Taking Action …. or Just Musing About It”, please go here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eastern Health – Leadership in Crisis

I almost NEVER post my political thoughts on the web.

However, in the case of watching Eastern Health (in Newfoundland, Canada) melt down over shortcomings in leadership, I couldn’t help but write this letter to the key stakeholders within the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

If you want additional specifics, feel free to Google them.  The details are too complex to summarize in my blog but a number of people wanted to see this letter and for this reason, I have posted this on my blog.

My letter follows – comments are welcome.


Monday – March 15, 2010

Good day, Honorable Premier, Honorable Minister of Health, Ms. Jones and Ms. Michael.

As a strategy advisor and leadership incubator on Wall St. for many years, I find the current series of events at Eastern Health interesting and disturbing.

Ms. Kaminski’s claims of ignorance or helplessness regarding the things that are going on in Eastern Health may appear to her to give her a free pass; that all of this is happening without her knowledge and is beyond her control.  Her recent public statements which are more suggestive of a bully and not a leader are not helpful either.

Most leaders know that to admit things are happening without their knowledge or beyond their control is not just symptomatic of problems lower down in the organization.  It is in fact, symptomatic of issues within the leadership itself.  In these situations, there is no limit to how high up the chain one must go in order to find and correct these issues.

The constant cover-ups, misrepresentations, he said / she said accusations, resignations that are stated to be for one reason and then are found to not be related, etc., suggests an organization in crisis and of leadership in crisis.

In addition, the current manner in which this is being debated in public is horrific, unprofessional, unproductive and if anything, continues to erode the confidence of the people.

What makes matters of greater concern is that the devil is not in what we know – it’s in what we don’t know.

I would suspect that if so many leaks in the “Eastern Health boat” have come to light, there is a good chance that there is much more amiss inside the Eastern Health ship that we cannot see.

Just as the dangerous part of an iceberg is mostly out of sight, I wonder if there are many more challenges within Eastern Health that are out of sight, waiting for an inopportune moment to manifest and potentially take the lives of people unnecessarily.

What we see being demonstrated in public could hardly convince us otherwise.

You are all leaders of strong background and high intelligence with a history of service to the people of the Province and a commitment to do the right things for the Province.

Please work together to bring your intelligence, your passion to do the right thing and your commitment for excellence to bear to bring this back under control – not only what we see but what we don’t see also.

To do anything else is to not serve the people of the Province.

Yours most respectfully,

Harry Tucker


Addendum – March 19th, 2010:

Some folks may be interested in this earlier blog entry that referenced Eastern Health.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stewardship – Do Unto Others…..

Almost every one of us can think of a moment in our lives when we really needed help and the right person arrived at the right moment. Maybe that person was a teacher who took extra time for us when we struggled. Maybe it was someone at work who took the time to teach us a new skill or who gave us a break when we really needed it. Perhaps it was a compliment that gave us the self confidence to complete a task. It might have been something as simple as the complete stranger who gave us a smile in the middle of a bad day. Perhaps it wasn’t something done to us directly but a story that was shared with us that inspired us to do something for someone else.

We have many people to be grateful for for all that we have in Life. Think of where we would be without them.

There are many people out there right now who are in need of the same gifts that we have received. While we acknowledge this, we all struggle with the complexities of life, with so many things competing for our time, our talent and our treasure that perhaps prevent us from giving as much as we would like to others.

The truth is that, as in our own lives, oftentimes the most profound and impactful gifts we can give are the simplest and easiest to give. These are the gifts that show others that they are important, that they matter and that others care about them. Often this knowledge alone can have a profound impact on others, an impact that they in turn pass on to others. As it is written in 1 Peter 4:10 - "As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace."

Bob Pierce defined the term "The Great Compassion" as meaning "Let my heart be broken by that which breaks the heart of God".

What things in the world do you believe break the heart of God? These are the areas where He calls you to help. It is not the size of the act that matters. What matters is whether you take action or leave it as an intention.

We all perform acts of stewardship every day. However, there is always room for more.

Where would you be if someone had chosen to be too busy rather than to help?

Someone is waiting for you. How would you like to help?

"Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. " - 1 Peter 3:8

In service and servanthood.


My Musings-in-a-Minute entry for this blog entry is the same, but if you would like to see my Musings-in-a-Minute musings, please go here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going …

… any road will take you there.

So Lewis Carroll wrote in Through the Looking Glass.

Many know him as an enlightened author but I wonder if he was in fact, a brilliant strategist.

To support my theory, I offer this snippet from a recent dialogue I had with a Canadian politician.

Me: “What do you think needs to be done to get the Canadian economy back on track?”

Politician: “The zauberflot will align perfectly when we coalesce the galactic framazam with the streamazoid”.

Me: “I see – but what does that really mean in terms of the things that need to be done to accomplish this.”

Politician: “As I said, the key is extrapolating the necessary nanoids from the mimsy while factoring in self-incubating neutrinos”.

Me: “That doesn’t answer my question about what needs to be done to actually accomplish this.”

Politician: “Confused you are, my youngling.  The day will come when enlightened you are, like me.”

What was really said

Of course the politician didn’t say that.  Here is what was really said.

Me: “What do you think needs to be done to get the Canadian economy back on track?”

Politician: “Clearly jobs are important and the economy will be fixed when we create more jobs”.

Me: “I see – but what does that really mean in terms of the things that need to be done to accomplish this.”

Politician: “As I said, the key is creating more jobs”.

Me: “That doesn’t answer my question about what needs to be done to actually accomplish this.”

Politician: “I don’t know why – it all seems pretty straight forward to me”.

Not to leave US politicians out, I took this to a high ranking member of one of the two dominant parties in the US and laughingly said “Can you believe this is their answer?”

Her response: “I think their plan looks very complete to me.  What parts of it do you not understand?”

When I pressed that perhaps a little strategy, tactical planning, measurable milestones or measurable outcomes would be useful to get us from where we are to the desired end-state, her brain deactivated for its daily recharge.

Not Everything is Measurable

Many things in life are not measurable and there isn’t a magical, guaranteed plan that, when put into play, guarantees a successful outcome every time.

That being said, if I want to win a hockey game, I don’t show up with a baseball bat.

Unless, of course, my intention is to beat the other team with the bat until they capitulate and when they all put up their hands and say “enough”, I can smile and say “Looks like another victory for the good guys”.  When someone exclaims “but that is not how we play hockey”, I hold up the bat and smile, causing the protest to die down quickly.  I’ve just changed the rules forever.

Big business and big government are too big and complex to finesse and tip toe their way through the difficulties of life and we have regulations that prevent them from brute-forcing their way through many things.

However, let’s not use this as an excuse to avoid attempting to be somewhat intelligent about what we are doing instead of just randomly trying “stuff” belligerently or subtly. 

Let’s also hold people accountable when we observe them driving their own personal agenda under the guise of solving our problems.

Many paths that we choose (or allow others to choose on our behalf) are benign and when we realize we are on the wrong path, we can retrace our steps and choose a better one.  Hopefully we are better for the experience anyway, we reason.

However, many paths are VERY long, VERY expensive to travel and many have road mines that when tripped, impact our ability to continue down ANY path.

A Better Way

Isn’t it better to take some time to stop, look at the landscape and explore the territory before venturing out?  I know people want to be first in proving that they have the answer and this inflicts them with an embarrassing case of premature-execution.

However, there seems to be a great need to return to respectful dialog using all the information at our disposal.

We loudly trumpet how we have more information now than ever.

That’s wonderful.  However, it is only truly valuable when it is used.

The choices we make as a result of sharper, focused dialogue and enhanced accountability may not guarantee the desired result, but it will give us a better chance of avoiding the stuff that sets us back further and further.

Or do we prefer to do as one senior person in a well known Fortune 25 company that I worked with once told me when I expressed concern that he wasn’t making his numbers:

I don’t have time to be strategic – I just need to make money.

By the way, he missed his mark totally and then got promoted so that he could amplify his results.

The economic, corporate, societal and ecological states of the world do not have much room left for continued random execution with the hope of accidentally finding something that works.

We don’t have much room for turning a blind eye towards personal agendas either.

We need to encourage people to be more responsible and accountable about how they choose the road that they travel.  Remember that we all travel these roads together.  The road they choose is the one that we end up on.

Do you think we are travelling down the best road?

How do you know?

What are you going to do about it?

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going …” please click here.