Friday, November 26, 2010

Premier Williams and His Legacy

Many people in Newfoundland and Labrador were stunned this week to discover that Premier Danny Williams is stepping out of politics effective December 3rd, in essence providing 8 days notice.

As he steps down, what is intriguing is the clamor around the legacy that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador claim the Premier is leaving.

The truth about analyzing someone’s legacy is that it can only be truly known in the future as people look back on the accomplishments of an individual. Today’s analysts have a bias one way or another and not all information needed to assess a legacy is available, therefore making it impossible to really know someone’s legacy when it is still being evaluated in the present.

The one unfortunate thing that Premier Williams has created is a vacuum in the leadership within his party.

One of a strong leader’s greatest responsibilities is to create the next generation of leaders; the next generation being smarter, more knowledgeable, more capable and able to take the current leader’s ideas further than the current leader ever envisioned.

Such leaders do not exist within the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.  That’s not to say that they can’t be groomed but they are not there yet.

There has been much conjecture around whether Premier Williams’ ego would allow him to create the next generation of leaders who would be perceived as stronger leaders than he.  There have been suggestions that he felt that he didn’t have enough to work with within the party to create such leaders.

The reasons for the lack of groomed leaders to take over from the Premier are irrelevant.  The fact remains that the leadership void is there and the PC Party is saddled with a staggering load of outstanding work.

And with that load, Premier William’s legacy may be tainted as the governing party struggles to get on top of this workload.

If they fail and the government collapses then this will be Mr. Williams’ ultimate legacy as he never prepared them for continued success.

Premier Williams’ sudden departure is also intriguing, given that someone who works in a donut shop should probably give at least two weeks’ notice. 

When someone leaves as quickly from politics as he is, oftentimes there may be a scandal that is about to break or perhaps there is a serious illness not yet known to the public.

I hope for Premier Williams’ sake that neither of these are the case.  He recently had heart surgery and I hope there are no complications from this. 

If it turns out that he left politics suddenly to seize another opportunity for his own personal gain, then personal greed will have encouraged him to abandon his party and the people when they needed him most.

Only the historians of tomorrow will be able to accurately assess Premier Williams’ legacy and whether the things he has accomplished are of long-lasting, positive impact for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Until then, it’s not worth arguing over.  There is much that needs to be accomplished in the province.  Fighting over what someone has accomplished as he is leaving won’t get the current to-do list finished any faster.

The people of the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador must keep moving forward to create the positive future they are capable of creating and worthy of harvesting.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: The story is that Premier Williams is leaving for private business interests.  To step aside from the role of Premier with only 8 days notice and to do so for personal gain is not the stuff that strong leaders are made of.  If a CEO guiding a Fortune 50 company did such a thing, we would be advocating a punishment of some type but in this case, the praise continues to pour in.  Such is the mystique of the unforgettable Premier Danny Williams.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

When Ego and Common Sense Collide ….

…. or ….

“The noise in your car will go away if you turn the radio up loud enough”.

This thought came to mind today as I spoke to a good friend and Wall St. client as we exchanged Thanksgiving pleasantries.

My friend, whom I will name “Frank”, is working on a project of considerable cost and complexity that, after starting and being cancelled three times mid-project, is now gaining traction for a fourth go-around.

As a strategy guy, I was intrigued by this and asked him what was different about this version of the project versus the previous incarnations that had gone down in flames.

Are the measurable outcomes different than before? –> No

Are the tools and processes being used different than before? –> No

Is the technology that it is built upon different than before? –> No

Are the regulatory influences different than before? –> No

Are there different people designing the solution? –> No

Are there different people implementing the solution? –> No

Is the solution being developed for a different group of users? –> No

Is there ANYTHING substantially different between this incarnation and the previous ones.

“Not that I can see.”

So, Frank, how do you know this one will be successful when the others failed?

“Well, Harry, there are no guarantees in life.  You do the best you can with what you have and hope for the best”.

Well, Frank, you are about to be burned by the Bread Recipe Rule (first coined by Gerald Weinberg) which states:

If you take the same baker, ingredients and recipe, you will always bake the same bread.

Frank paused and then acknowledged that given everything he could see, the fourth incarnation will probably end up being the same as the rest.

If you know this, Frank, why are you participating in the project?

In the conversation that ensued, Frank described a process where past project experiences could not be discussed. To do so was considered a negative practice and thus a distraction from the bright future they were manifesting.

He described a process where it was decided that to rethink a different way of doing things was deemed unnecessary.  After all, the best solution, process and team had already been created and so why should anyone waste time revisiting everything from the beginning?

For those on the project who had a sense that they were about to bake another loaf of the same bread, their voice of reason was drowned out in a cacophony of accusations of “not being a team player”, “being a pessimist”, or some other insult, most of which was encouraged by the project leadership and dutifully shared by the project team members.

Some people who strongly expressed their opinion that they were repeating history were transferred out of the project. 

Two were fired for being a negative influence on the project, for daring to suggest that the fourth incarnation will probably follow in the footsteps of the prior attempts.

Ego Overrules Common Sense

The ego of the team, particularly within the leadership of the project, is shouting so loudly that it is preventing them from seeing that they are repeating history – a very expensive history.

The killer for me was when I asked Frank, if he knew that what they were doing was wrong, then why he didn’t just find somewhere else to work.

His answer summed it up:

Do you know how much I would give up in stock and perks if I walk away from my employer?

His personal values, common sense and life experience, which told him that what they were doing was wrong, had been compromised by the extrinsic motivator of money.

The life experiences of the team’s leaders and how they viewed the knowledge of the team members were being compromised by their ego.

Common sense, like Elvis, had left the building.

I realized as we spoke that many of our corporate leaders still don’t get it, despite assurances to the public, to shareholders, etc. that bailouts, regulatory changes, a few rah-rah team building exercises and other things have produced a different way of doing business.

Key Element of Leadership – Influence and Values

They miss a key element of leadership.

You can regulate a business all you want.

You can offer incentives and punishments to organizations and the people within them all you want.

You can write corporate rah-rah statements that make people jump up and down with excitement.

You can hang those nifty motivational posters all over the office and feel smug that you have changed an entire culture with a couple of cute expressions.

However, if you forget that the demonstrated values of the leadership at the top of the organization grow and amplify as they move down through the rank and file, then the leadership has missed the whole point of leadership.

The point is that the leaders influence their entire organization through their actions and behaviors and that as they demonstrate their personal values on a daily basis, so will the people within the organization embrace and emulate those same values.

This is the power of strong leadership, good and bad.

And so when I see poor actions taking place within the bowels of a large organization, I don’t think that the core of the problem, the “thing” that needs to be fixed, is at that specific level of the organization.

Instead, I look at the leadership of the organization, the behavior of the leaders and the values that they demonstrate.

And when I do that, I can tell exactly what type of “bread” their organization will bake throughout the different levels of the organization.

Avoiding the Negative Impact of Excessive Ego

Many leaders use their ego to brazen and bully their way through many situations, ignoring or covering up the issues that are all around them.

So will the people who follow them.

The problem is that, as with a car that is making a bad noise , “turning up the radio” can provide you with an opportunity to ignore the problem.

But sooner or later, you end up broken down in the middle of nowhere – just as we were in the spring and summer of 2008.

The only way to avoid breaking down is to turn down the radio and honestly assess the problem.

With a focus on collaborating.

With a focus on acknowledging the respective skills, knowledge, talents and life experiences of others that may shed light on a better way of doing things.

With a focus on mutual respect and trust, in an environment where every opinion matters.

Without excessive ego.

Otherwise, the organization may be about to experience a significant problem.

It’s like car brakes that make a very loud screech when you apply them.

You can always turn up the radio.

And that makes everything ok.

Doesn’t it?

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “When Ego and Common Sense Collide”, please click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To Influence the Mind of Others ….

… you MUST touch their heart.

In order to touch the heart, you must KNOW  the individual you wish to influence.  You must know what turns them on and equally important, what turns them off.

And despite this, many people seek to influence others in a somewhat random way and are often disappointed with the results.

One of the things I learned in my many years on Wall St. is the importance of knowing who I am dealing with.

When I have a need to establish a relationship for the purpose of collaborating, I immediately research the other person to understand:

  • what they like and what they don’t like
  • what ignites their passion and what throws cold water on it
  • where they believe their sense of purpose is
  • how they prefer to execute
  • who their organization serves
  • what their organization does and how it does it
  • what my organization does and how it does it
  • what I bring to the table to enable the person whom I am establishing the relationship with
  • how the intersection of all of these areas produces the sweet spot for success for everyone involved.

People talk about establishing win/win relationships and yet they don’t know the person they are dealing with.

If someone doesn’t know what motivates another, how can one expect to influence them?

One may get lucky, but then again, who wants to rely on luck?

So, before attempting to influence someone else ask yourself two questions:

1. What do I REALLY know about the person I wish to influence and collaborate with?

2. Having learned as much as I can about them, how can I serve the needs of that person, in a manner that resonates with their own beliefs, values and execution style?

This is the age of knowledge, knowledge equally accessible by all.

Use it to your benefit and to the benefit of those whom you serve and collaborate with.

Some people think this is a lot of work.  Yes it is.  However, if you really want to produce positive results consistently, you will discover that it is definitely worth it.

Also, as you do this you will discover that in spending so much time learning about the other person that you are in fact making an investment in a very long-term relationship; the kind that produces true win/wins for many years to come.

Then again, you could rely on luck.

Which would you prefer?

In service and servanthood.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Pay Attention to the REAL Source of the Problem

It is interesting to watch some of the items at play within the American psyche these days when it comes to personal and national security.

On the southern border with Mexico, the US Government is focused on an “us versus them” mentality as it spends billions every year trying to keep the drug trade from sending drugs across the border into the US.  While the focus is on the cartels themselves, little is said about the millions of US citizens who fuel the drug trade with their ever-increasing taste for illegal drugs in the first place.

Waging a war against your own citizens doesn’t make a government very popular.  On the other hand, waging war against an external threat is ALWAYS valuable.

On the airline security front, there is great controversy over the full body scanners, whether in regards to alleged health concerns or, for those who don’t want to be submitted to the scanner, the full-body pat-down that results.  Despite all of the money (billions of dollars annually) and controversy behind the security measures, security can still be easily circumvented.

Some time ago when I was traveling through Toronto International Airport, I observed a cleaning lady with a large cleaning cart showing her ID and being waved around security.

I sent a note to CATSA, outlining my concern with this.  Assuming the cleaning lady is trustworthy, someone could distract her outside security while someone else plants something on the cart (she even left it unattended at one of the bathrooms).  Once the cart has passed uninspected through security, the process could be reversed.  Voila – an illegal object has been passed through security.

The response from CATSA was in essence that they were experts in security and I wasn’t, therefore I should mind my own business.

Another time flying from Newark, NJ to a point in Eastern Canada, I had a large package that could not fit in the x-ray machine in Newark.  TSA officials inspected the package, deemed it safe for carry-on and resealed it using TSA-labeled tape.

After I went through customs in Toronto, I found myself outside of the secure area and I had to re-enter the secure area in order to catch my domestic connection.  When I offered the package for inspection to CATSA, I was told it didn’t need to be inspected because it was sealed with the TSA tape (which looks like packing tape with a TSA logo on it).

All I could think was “the things you could do if you got your hands on a roll of that tape”.

Now, by writing this, I haven’t revealed anything brilliant to terrorists – anything we can think of, they have already thought of.

However, I look at these items, I see the billions being spent on them and I wonder:

Are we REALLY focused on the solution or are we just putting a band aid on the problem?

And if that’s the case …

Why aren’t we doing a better job of focusing on the true source of the challenges we face?

Only when we acknowledge the real source of the challenges we face and we focus on solutions collaboratively can we really eliminate the issues.

Of course, the experts in these areas know this.

Don’t they?

In service and servanthood,



1. Citing the billions invested in airline security as being the enabler to keeping people more relaxed about travel and thus keeping the economy moving doesn’t count. Smile

2. And on another note, let’s hope that terrorists don’t invent explosive thread or we will find air travel to be really exciting as we are asked to strip down prior to boarding. Smile

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Those Who Served

On November 11th, we remember those who serve and have served in various branches of the military, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy enjoy the freedoms that we cherish today.

The sacrifice they made, for a group of people they will never meet and for the generations that follow, is so great that it is sometimes overwhelming to consider that a complete stranger could give us such an incredible gift – the gift of Life itself.

With such an incredible gift that they gave us, there are three ways that we can honor them:

1. To never forget the incredible sacrifice they and their families made and for those who serve today, the sacrifices they and their families continue to make.

2. To strive to find more peace-filled ways to solve conflict.

3. To endeavor to do the best we can for ourselves, for our fellow man and for our planet.

On November 11th, we do indeed honor and remember them.

However, we would honor them much better if we embraced the Life for which they made the ultimate sacrifice for and we lived this Life to the fullest every day.

A Life where we embrace our freedom and show our gratitude for it.

A Life where we make choices that benefit as many people as possible.

A Life with opportunity for everyone to strive towards their dreams and an obligation to help others strive towards theirs.

And so as we honor those who have served and who serve, let us honor them every day by living as they would have wished us to live:

To be the best we can for ourselves, each other and our planet.

By doing so, we honor the most incredible gift these thousands of men and women gave us – the gift of their lives so that we might live ours.

Lest We Forget

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Answering the Call of Your Holy Discontent

I receive hundreds of emails a day with questions covering a broad spectrum of subjects, ranging from corporate strategy, technology architecture, leadership and everything in between.

However, one email this morning made me stop and think.

While it was quite lengthy, the person I will only identify as John in New York City asked me this:

Why do you do what you do and why do you do it with such passion and conviction?

John was referring to my passion for tackling things that needed to be addressed in the world instead of taking the safe, quiet road that many prefer to travel.  After all, he notes:

… with your strong belief in the unlimited good in the world, isn’t it more rewarding and easier to simply write about the good stuff than to be always be contemplating the stuff that needs to be fixed.

I agree with John that it is VERY important that we embrace the great things we see in the world and to promote the great people, results and events we see all around us.  By doing so, we take comfort in knowing that the world is a much more positive, inspiring place than the media would have us believe.

However, I see all of the great stuff as a teaser, as something to multiply in both effort and results.

So when I see 10 strong leaders who inspire organizations and people, I want to see 1,000 more just like them.

When I see us feed 10 hungry people, I’d like to fill the bellies of 10,000 more.

When I see technology used to enhance society, I want to see it amplified to enhance society all that much more.

While promoting great people and results is VERY important, oftentimes the only people who hear the message are the ones already achieving great results or the ones who would like to accomplish something similar but they believe they cannot.

In such instances, the ones who need to hear the message or need to be shown how to share their gift, whether it be one of hope, inspiration, knowledge, love or making a difference in the world will not receive what they need; that which allows them to share their gift in the greatest way possible.

When this happens, many of the hungry remain hungry.

Many of the corporations in need of stronger leadership continue to produce less than optimal results.

Society continues to not embrace technology as effectively as it should for the betterment of all.

Governments continue to lose sight of the fact that they exist for the people and not the other way around.

We all pay the price for this, which is why we need to own the solutions.

We need to shine a bright light on those who inspire us, who teach us and who encourage us to stretch ourselves constantly to make a difference in the world.

We need to thank them and honor them.  But we need to remember as we honor them at various functions that it’s like preaching to the converted.  Those present are already making a difference. We need to reach out to the unconverted, to help them see a better way also.

And so I wonder if the best way we can honor those who inspire us is to improve upon their execution and results - to make an even greater difference in the world with the gifts that we have.

If we rest on our laurels (or someone else’s), we can take comfort in the fact that someone has made a difference.  We can and should always be proud of what has been accomplished.

But we should remember that there are still many great things remaining to be accomplished, despite the message from many people that everything is “under control” and “your help is not needed”.

Passionate people executing with conviction often make people feel uncomfortable.  However, if we choose the comfortable route and don’t strive to stretch ourselves for the betterment of others, our greatest accomplishments will remain undiscovered.

And so, John in NYC, this is my Holy Discontent (as noted in the great book by Bill Hybels).

For all the things I have managed to accomplish with the help, inspiration and support of so many wonderful people, there are still so many people who need help. 

With this in mind, I believe that we need to:

  • passionately ask intelligent questions
  • challenge ideas that have room for improvement and growth
  • collaborate aggressively
  • share unconditionally.

We need to move forward with passion and conviction to make the greatest difference we can with the time we have remaining.

And remember this:


The results of everything we do become our ultimate legacy.

There is a quote incorrectly attributed to Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. patent office in the 19th century where he is alleged to have said "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

If we believe that everything that can be done to improve the world has been done, then we should stop trying to make a difference now.

However, I don't believe this is the case.

Do you?

In service and servanthood, passionately.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Answering Your Holy Discontent”, please click here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leaders Serve Others–Not Themselves

Another mid-term election has come and gone in the US and amongst all the celebration, lamentations over losses and talk of change, there is another dialogue that is less exciting to hear.

It is the dialogue focused around “We the insert party name here Party will focus on the next two years in preparation for the next election”.

They are focused on future events that are critical to their personal needs instead of focusing on the important tasks at hand that are key to the futures of those whom they serve.

Leaders, whether they be within corporations, governments or any other institution, exist to serve others and to exert appropriate levels of influence in the course of serving others.  They serve others in order to maximize the potential of their organization and the team members within the organization and in turn, to maximize the product or service that their organization provides.  They also exist to represent the needs of others.  In the case of the US, 330 million people cannot fit into the Capitol Building.

When a leader is more focused on the leadership position itself and not on the people they serve, then they are merely self-serving individuals who seek the position for their own gain at the detriment of others. 

After the mid-term election, the Democrats are expressing concern about President Obama’s chances for winning re-election in 2012.

What they should be focused on is the state that the country is in.  The US, a great nation with unlimited potential, is mired down with a number of challenges that are a millstone around its neck, preventing it from reaching it greatest potential.

To the Democrats, I say “show us that you care about the country and can put the country before your own personal needs”.

As I am an equal opportunity critic, Sen. Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, recently said: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

To the Republicans, I say “You’ve got a lot to address within the nation – focus on that and worry less about who you think should sit in the President’s chair”.

Neither side seems focused on what they should be focused on – serving the people.  It appears that they are focused on their own needs.

If a leader’s focus becomes entirely centered around the needs of the leader; attaining power, keeping it or getting it back if lost, then we need to find new leaders.

When it comes to attaining and retaining the title of “leader”, we must let their time in office be based on their actions on behalf of those whom they serve and not allow them to be focused on actions solely focused on retaining the title.

Let their actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what they are saying.

When this happens and they truly serve others, they win and so do we.

And so we support them as we should ….

…. as long as we see them serve the needs of those whom they exist to serve.

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Leaders Serve Others – Not Themselves”, please click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Strong Leaders Ignore The Small Stuff

I’ve been observing the goings-on in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Eastern Canada, specifically the actions of Premier Danny Williams as of late.

Premier Williams has been in the press a few times in the last week, commenting on an inappropriately worded e-mail to him from journalist (and now Liberal party mouthpiece) Craig Westcott who wondered whether some of the Premier’s actions were as a result of a mental illness or an STD.

Last week, volunteer Pamela Pardy Ghent made what could be interpreted as an inappropriate comment about the dimensions of the Premier’s privates.

In both situations, Premier Williams (or people acting on his behalf) responded swiftly and strongly, making the events very personal ones.

If I could offer Premier Williams a piece of advice, it would be this:

Don’t let them see you sweat.

There are professional who help us discover what lies beneath the surface of the earth by intentionally setting off explosive charges and studying the data that is captured as energy waves from the explosion travel through the earth.

By the same token, if I want to understand what makes up someone’s character, I might lob “explosive” comments to them to see how they react.

How they respond tells us a lot about their strengths and weaknesses.  Equipped with such knowledge, another political party can exploit the identified weaknesses for their own gain (if any are found).

If no information comes back as a result of the “explosion”, then one has no data to review and thus no insight regarding these strengths and weaknesses can be gleaned.

If a plethora of data is returned and the analyst doesn’t know how to read the information, then the opportunity to exploit these weaknesses is lost.

However, if an intelligent person receives a lot of data, then much can be gleaned for their own benefit.

So I don’t know what is more amusing to observe:

1. That Mr. Williams continues to reveal his leadership weaknesses by taking everything personal instead of allowing things to slide off him.

2. That the Liberals continue to miss opportunities laid before them in broad daylight.

Dear Mr. Premier – ignore the small stuff.  As a leader, you should be aware of this rule of leadership.

Dear Opposition Parties – you are missing phenomenal opportunities to exploit for your benefit.  It’s time to sit up and take notice.

Regardless of what side you are on, it’s good to see that the religion of politics is healthy in my home province.

In service and servanthood.


PS Gary Moore ( just made this interesting observation on Facebook (reprinted with permission):

I do disagree with his comment that "Regardless of what side you are on, it’s good to see that the religion of politics is healthy in my home province." I haven't seen this level of paranoia since the dying days of JRS's years in power.

My response:

Gary ... an interesting observation - thanks for sharing it. You make an interesting and valid point. :-)

I felt his response represented an interesting viewpoint that was worthy of sharing.

The Power of Trusting Your Instinct

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop and I happened to notice a presentation that a gentleman was working on.

This was a guy who was a regular in this coffee shop.  No matter what time I stopped by, he was always there, sitting in the same seat, working on various presentations.  Lots of people write presentations in coffee shops.  However, his presentation was different.

In his PowerPoint presentation, he was writing about how non-Muslims are cattle and don’t deserve to live.  He also wrote a number of other things about how to solve the problem of so much “cattle”. I was intrigued and concerned so I made it my business to keep peeking over his shoulder to see what he was doing. 

What he wrote is not important here although it was clearly disturbing.  It was also clearly not an academic paper or a piece of fiction – this man was filled with a lot of anger and was capturing it in a manner to be shared with others, to encourage anger in them as well.

Their intention and their desired outcome was not good at all.

I reflected on this as the events transpired – what should I do?

After all, we are taught that everyone has the right to freedom of expression.

We are taught that everyone has the right to privacy.

We are taught to not make an invalid assumption that could hurt someone.

We are taught to mind our own business.

However, as I watched what he was writing, I realized something else.

He was against our right to the various freedoms we enjoy in the western world.

And he was willing to commit or encourage acts of violence to impose his will over mine or someone else’s.

That was when my instinct told me what I needed to do and I contacted local police authorities.  I shared what I observed and left it at that.

Within a few days, he stopped showing up a the coffee shop.

Was he arrested?

Was he tipped off?

Did he decide to go to another coffee shop for specific reasons?

Or was it all coincidence?

I’ll probably never know.

However, I do know that my instinct was alerting me to the high probability that what I was witnessing wasn’t right.

It was calling me to take action, even if I didn’t know what the right action was.

So I followed my instinct and took action.

Many times in our personal or professional lives, we are often faced with opportunities to make difficult decisions and many times, we get tied up in over-analyzing what we should do.

When we over-analyze what we need to do, we often talk ourselves out of taking any action or we spend so much time analyzing the situation that irrevocable things happen while we are still deciding what we should do.

When this happens, events transpire that may cause us grief or regret that we didn’t take action sooner (or that we hadn’t taken any action at all).

However, when we learn to trust our instinct, we discover that it is a greater gift than we realize.

And who knows – maybe some day, following your instinct may save a project, a relationship or even a company.

It may even save a life.

You just have to give your instinct a chance to cultivate.

And give yourself a chance to trust it and to follow what it tells you.

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “The Power of Trusting Your Instinct”, please click here.