Friday, April 29, 2016

Ric McIver, Dwight Ball and the Leadership Vacuum

Where there is no vision, there is no hope - George Washington Carver

Author note: On May 4th, Earl's restaurant reversed their decision regarding Canadian beef. See bottom of post for details.

As a long-time Wall St. strategy advisor, I am fascinated, excited, intrigued, worried, disappointed and terrified when I take the time to observe the behaviors of corporate and government leaders.

Since the quality of our Life results is entirely dependent on the quality of the leaders we select (or who are selected on our behalf), my personal belief is that we need to highlight and champion great leaders who are guiding our world towards a better future.

By the same token, I believe that we need to call out poor leadership behavior with the hope that either the behavior will be corrected or that we will have the courage to replace the defective leader.

I am reminded of the importance of the latter as I observed the behavior of certain politicians in Canada this week.

Ric McIver, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, stepped into a potential minefield this week when he took umbrage over the fact that Earl’s Restaurants, a Canadian-based restaurant chain, has decided to replace its current beef suppliers with ones that have the Certified Humane designation.  Their explanation can be found here.

In the same typical, knee-jerk reaction that he has exhibited in previous events, Mr. McIver had this observation on Twitter (click on the image for a larger version of it).

Personally, I didn’t think that a political leader was permitted to take a stand against a corporation in Canada that is making choices based on the free will that we enjoy in a democratic country that embraces capitalism and free-enterprise.

After all, Earl’s is not breaking any laws.  They are observing and participating in a worldwide trend to find better sources (more humane, more sustainable, etc.) for their products.

Mr. McIver, oblivious to this worldwide trend and the right for corporations to make decisions based on their corporate values, has decided that it is better to promote a boycott of this restaurant.

Unfortunately, if he were successful in punishing Earl’s to the point where they went out of business (unlikely, of course), there would be hundreds of Albertans who would be thrown out of work as a result, defying the rules of capitalism while potentially condemning Albertans instead of protecting them.

Does Mr. McIver represent all Albertans or just those that are wealthier, protecting beef ranchers over the far-less paid staff at Earl’s?

Is he embracing this event as another opportunistic political moment to encourage rhetoric-laden, fact-less, venomous dialog with the intention of harvesting points from the bandwagon of citizen unrest?

Or is he not strategically or tactically astute enough to do either and doesn’t realize that his knee-jerk reactions reveal a lack of leadership capability?

Only he knows.

Meanwhile, while Mr. McIver had much to say about Earl’s choices this week, PC Party Director-Elect Craig Chandler went on a rant about Earl’s as well, expressing opinions on various social media platforms that devolved into him accusing Earl’s of supporting halal practices and since supporters of halal practices are all terrorists (according to Chandler), then Earl’s is now a supporter of terrorism.

[Note: Mr. Chandler announced his resignation after this post was written as noted here.  Even though Mr. Chandler was forced to step down by the Party, Mr. McIver can dodge the difficulty of standing on principle by allowing Mr. Chandler to step down instead of publicly firing him, thus demonstrating another weakness in leadership as he never publicly condemned Chandler’s actions.  It is interesting that Mr. Chandler’s resignation also did not include any apology to Earl’s or to Muslims. This quote from him is also humorous - "My controversial past seems to be a distraction and everything I say seems to be misconstrued". Calling followers of halal practices "terrorists" doesn't leave room for misinterpretation.]

Two of Mr. Chandler’s observations are here (click on the images for larger versions):

Despite this ridiculous and outrageous insult against the Earl’s organization and against Muslims in Alberta, Mr. McIver was publicly silent as a member of his organization displayed a heightened level of cultural (and potentially legal) ignorance.

I also worry when PC Party insiders speak in hushed tones about how they want to see Mr. McIver removed for such acts of leadership ignorance and yet support him publicly, towing the Party line for the sake of “unity”.

As long as they do that, he will continue to do what he does best, however that is defined.

And the people influenced by such poor leadership will continue to suffer.

Meanwhile in Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Ball has decided to balance the books of the the heavily-burdened, financially-strapped Province on the backs of the people who suffer the most.

For example, the Province that is dead-last in Canada in terms of literacy rates has learned that there will be a new 10% tax on books and that half of the libraries in the Province will be permanently closed. This cartoon says it all (click on the image to see a larger version - I am trying to find the owner of this powerful cartoon to give them full credit):

Congratulations, Mr. Premier.  Such moves will be very helpful in helping the people of the Province find a way to better themselves.  Such a strategy will also be a useful component to building an allegedly brighter future (which you haven’t been able to define as of yet).

And just as PC Party insiders tell me and others privately about how their leadership has to change while saying the exact opposite in public, Liberal Ministers in the Newfoundland and Labrador Government text myself and others complaining about Dwight Ball’s leadership, Finance Minister Cathy Bennett’s style and abilities, etc.

And yet, they also fall in line when it comes to making a public stand, blindly following their leaders in order to serve their personal needs or in demonstration of their inability to stand on their values …. or their lack of courage to do so.

Meanwhile in BC as Premier Christy Clark is condemned for taking a $50,000 stipend from her political party in addition to her Premier’s salary ….

…. enough already.

You get the point.

Our world, whether it be at the community, city, provincial or national level, becomes a better place when we champion and support great leaders while simultaneously calling out leaders who are unqualified for their role or ignorant of the people they claim to serve.

When we don’t take actions to correct abhorrent leadership behavior, we get the exact type of leadership we deserve …. and the abhorrent results that they produce.

Ironically, there were riots in California this morning as hundreds of people who oppose Donald Trump for his alleged ignorance, bully-like behavior, lack of acceptance of others, etc. demonstrated that words and actions don’t always easily come together as they overturned police cars, set fires and committed other egregious acts in protest of Mr. Trump’s poor behavior.

So while saying nothing doesn’t serve anything or anyone, burning everything to the ground as a substitute for dialog around solutions doesn’t help much either.

Sometimes calling out ignorance reveals it in other places that might surprise or disappoint us.

The Bottom Line

The world is rapidly heading towards an “interesting” climactic point.

This climatic point will either be one of phenomenal beauty and potential or terrifying hopelessness and disaster.

The world we are creating depends on the leaders we select and the manner in which we participate in the selection (and replacement, if necessary) of those leaders.

We need leaders now who understand the impact of their choices and intentions and people who can rationally discuss and debate issues with those leaders, using knowledge and dialog instead of rhetoric, intimidation, violence … and yes, stupidity.

Are you either one of these because if you are, the world needs your talents now.

The world is waiting for such people.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum - Earl's Changes Its Mind - May 4th, 2016

Earl's announced this morning that it has changed its position on Alberta / Canadian beef and will work with producers to find more sources within Canada. The news item that they tweeted can be found here.

It is an intriguing reversal. Were they intimidated into making a move they don't agree with regarding the reversal, did they make an honest mistake and need to correct it or do they see this as a marketing opportunity to look like a hero? Only Earl's knows the answer to this question.

It prompted the resignation of a PC Party Director-elect and generated a lot of hatred on social media, demonstrating that an action taken, even reversed, leaves a long-standing impact.

It should be a warning for anyone making difficult decisions to do so carefully and to fully understand the effect before pulling the trigger on execution.

It also sends a warning to business - does free enterprise exist anymore in the age of social media?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Newfoundland Government: Defying My Rituals of Optimism

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. - John Adams

To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge. - Benjamin Disraeli

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. - Aldous Huxley

In the difficult world of complex, high-end strategy where I live professionally, I have developed a daily ritual with three key components that help my mind to stay focused, structured and optimistic.

My day begins with Quiet Hour, an hour of reflection, reading and learning (I have referenced this process many times in my blog as noted in these search results).  It takes place before I look at emails, SMS, news or any other distractions and I use it to frame my day in a positive manner.  After Quiet Hour, I scan the news and social media for items of interest.  My brain is absorbing but not yet analyzing.

The second ritual in my day is my morning shave.  While many guys are in a hurry to scrape their face with a lousy disposable cartridge and a can of propane and chemicals, I take my time.  My shaving brush soaks in distilled water as I shower.  After showering, I methodically lather my Castle Forbes shaving cream in my shaving mug, perform a four-pass shave with a beautiful razor like a Merkur Futur (or other one depending on my mood), rub my alum block over my face and then finish up with a luxurious balm such as the Castle Forbes 1445.

For those who like a 5-minute shave, this 30-minute ritual would seem like madness to them.  To a cerebral person, it is gold.  My brain is now in planning mode, prioritizing work for the day, mentally writing emails (or blogs), rehearsing presentations, playing out phone calls and such. 

Too many people are in a hurry to just execute randomly, haphazardly, reactively or without thought.

That is not my way.

And so as I executed my rituals this morning, my thoughts were on the Newfoundland and Labrador government, its recent budget and the great people the Government claims to serve.  A lot of people have been reaching out to me publicly and privately to get my thoughts on the budget but as in most things, I think about things in my own time and not based on someone else’s schedules and demands.

I smiled with bemusement as the dangerously sharp, double-edged blade slid across my throat and the Newfoundland government came to mind at the same moment. 

“Coincidence?”, I wondered.

The province of my youth has always been a great conundrum for me.

It is a place of unrivalled natural beauty.

Its 500+ year-old culture is rich, broad and deep.

Its people are rugged, hard-working, resilient, intelligent people who are known the world over for their work ethic and their humor (and for older generations, their wonderful accent).

And yet, the budget of 2016 demonstrates that another disaster is unfolding for this storied place.

Why is this?

Should this become the new slogan for the Province?

Hope: May not be warranted at this point.

Where Does One Begin?

I could ask why the great people of the Province spend more time complaining on call-in shows and in the local coffee shops than becoming informed voters about the complexities of government operations and the ignorance, incompetence and greed of many (not all) of those who run for office.

I could ask whether the merchant mentality that kept most of the Province financially oppressed for hundreds of years, rewarding the upper echelons of society, was still alive and well.  Observe who is still doing well in the Province – the answer will become obvious.

I could ask why projects like Muskrat Falls can go on for so long with budgets and timelines out of control while at the same time, the details of the project are withheld from the people by the Government who claims to work for the people and answer to them.  I’m not suggesting that the Muskrat Falls project is wrong – I’m saying that the execution of it is miserably abhorrent and thus demands transparent, intelligent attention immediately.  Heads should roll until competent people are “driving the bus” for the benefit of the people.

I could ask why analysis of the afore-mentioned project by a well known firm could cost $1.6 million dollars and yet produce a 20-page (15 pages if one removes the cover page and such) document that actually says nothing – Life on the government tit is profitable for those of you who haven’t experienced its incredible benefits.

I could ask why we allow people who are “as stunned as me arse” (to use a Newfoundland expression) to become ministers when the law allows the Government to select brilliant, competent, proven, unelected people to fill these ministerial slots.  Unfortunately, Newfoundlanders often don’t realize the benefits of this process and become suspicious when it is tried, believing that unelected officials are trying to rob them.

I could ask why many people who come into office promising unlimited abundance to the people leave the province worse off but yet, find their own world has just exploded in unlimited economic potential because of their time in government.  If one questions this too loudly, those same people intimidate “naysayers” using SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suits to silence their critics.

I could ask why the cost of Newfoundland’s public sector is so high for the 500,000+ people who live there, with benefits and pensions that the people of the Province couldn’t dare dream of.  Unfortunately, merely asking such questions raises the ire of the loud and ignorant who shout down the people who dare to ask for dialog around solutions that make more financial sense for the Province.

I could laugh at the MHAs who reach out to me to criticize others while we both know that I have enough dirt on them to sink them.  Ego often blinds us to our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

I could ask why the Government wilfully lies to the people, ignoring the data of various industries when they wrap their financial viability around a few volatile industries such as oil and gas, calculate forecasts based on data-less projections (despite the advice of many of us in those industries) and then act surprised when things don’t work out.  Candy-coated denial is easier to sell than painful, transparent reality.

I could ask why governments have been predicting for decades that paradise is literally around the corner but yet it never materializes except for many of the government officials who move on to discover paradise in their post-government lives.

I could ask why voters always complain about these things, why they accept the same stale, recycled promises from every politician, why they fall for the same lines during every election and yet still lament when the same abuses are repeated by every generation of politicians. Voters believe that salvation is always just an election away and yet they are continuously and constantly disappointed when they fail to learn from their own history.

I could ask these and many more questions.

But my thinking ritual of the morning is only 30 minutes long and I ran out of time.

It reminds me of the joke where a doctor tells his patient that he has good news and bad news.  The patient asks for the bad news first and the doctor replies that the patient has only 6 months to live.  The patient reacts with alarm and demands to know what the good news could be if that is the bad news.  The doctor replies, “Did you see that cute receptionist outside my office?  I’m having sex with her.”

Both the Province and the Doctor have something in common – there is little good news for the people that they claim to be serving but there is plenty of personal good news.

Sadly, there is nothing funny for the people that either are serving.

The question is:

Is the Life of the Province about to be cut short by a terminal disease or is there some hope left that a cure remains for a better future?

The Bottom Line

I am an eternal optimist but I am also an informed, realistic one.

To the people who say that to point out issues or to question things is pessimistic, I point out to those people that to deny reality is ignorant.  If one is to fix the things that are broken in order to move towards a better future, a realistic outlook of where one stands is essential, otherwise the actions taken will be inappropriate or insufficient. Many misinformed, uninformed, ignorant people who point the finger of pessimism at others are in fact doing so to prevent a closer examination of the issues that are present (many of which are the responsibility of the people who accuse others of being pessimists).

Optimism is an essential belief structure but it has to be based on data, knowledge, wisdom and reality.  It must be based on solid strategic and tactical intentions that are wielded by self-less, transparent, competent, intelligent officials who serve the people.

Sadly, my strong optimism is fading for the Province that I proudly call home and believe me, it takes a lot to break my optimism for any given situation.

For all of the people I have spoken to inside Government over the years, almost none of them can use data to prove to me that they know how to fix the woes that the Province struggles with financially.  They won’t share all of the data but instead, use feel-good phrases to demonstrate that they “just know things will get better” and that they “know what they are doing”.  Such tactics are not only great at deflecting people away from seeing the problems and the inability for the problem owners to solve the problems but they are also very useful to get elected.

When I ask for proof to back their feel-good phrases (and to circumvent their deflection tactics), I am accused of being a pessimist.

To those people, I apologize.

I am a transparent realist who serves the people around me.

Many of the elected officials in government are not and that’s why things are not getting fixed and will never be fixed until either the people who run the government change or a Great Correction forces a change.

The former is much less painful.

The latter is much more painful but sadly is also much more likely.

If you disagree with me, spare me your opinions.

Send me your data and prove your point respectfully and intelligently.

Then we will have something to chew on to help the Province move towards a better future that benefits all the people and not just the people who claim to serve them.

In the meantime, we can all watch the Government consistently miss its over-opportunistic, idealistic forecasts designed to placate and not to inform, we can watch its public sector and public spending costs rise continuously and unnecessarily and we can watch the Government attempt to draw blood out of a stone as it raises taxes in an economy where the unemployment rate is more than 14% and is already overtaxed. Raising taxes for the overtaxed is short-sighted, not strategically or tactically astute and lacks ingenuity or creativity but it seems easy enough to do for those who can't think of anything better.

The upside is that the future does in fact have some good news that is constantly proven to be true. Unfortunately, it is for the few who govern and not the many who are governed.

As for my rituals, I mentioned 2 of my 3 daily rituals.

My third ritual is to close my day with quiet Scripture reading and with prayers for those who struggle. While some cultures around the world prefer human sacrifice as being more appropriate and effective than prayer in situations such as this, it is fortunate for some that our culture tends to look down on such ways as being too barbaric.

I’d pray for Newfoundland and Labrador, but as they say, the Lord helps those who help themselves.

Are the great people of that great Province willing and able to demand better from those who claim to serve them?

I’m not sure.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum - Another Opinion

Russell Wangersky wrote a powerful article about the budget for The Telegram, a newspaper in St. John's, Newfoundland. It speaks volumes, sadly.

The article is here - Get Out If You Can.

For fun, take a listen to then-Premier Danny Williams slam "pessimists" as he describes the paradise that will exist in 20 years.

Addendum 2 - A Liberal Insider Speaks ... and Resigns - April 20, 2016

Barry Wheeler, former President of the Humber-Bay of Islands Liberal Association in Newfoundland, made this observation yesterday:

Why did we have to increase spending by 12 per cent when it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that we've had a spending problem — and we've had a spending problem for the last 10 years?

He is 100% right but sadly, his comments will fall on deaf ears. The resignation of a passionate, insightful, committed member of the Liberal Party should send shock waves through the Party in the Province but as with many warnings, his warning will also go unnoticed and unheeded.

More news on his observations and resignation can be found here - Humber-Bay of Islands Liberal association president quits in disgust over budget (CBC).

Addendum 3 - Final Thoughts - April 28, 2016

As details of the budget become public, including closing half the libraries in the Province, adding a 10% tax to books, reducing some classrooms to multi-grade classrooms with no guidance or instruction to teachers as to the best way to accomplish it, etc., I have asked a number of MHAs to explain how a budget that negatively targets knowledge and education is supposed to be an investment in the future.

The few who have responded have demonstrated that they are not worthy of governing and in fact, have little understanding of practically anything.

How can the great people of such a great Province have any hope at all with such leadership (or demonstrated lack thereof)?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Wanted: A Few Smart Terrorists

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.

Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

Tom sat in silence in the crowded, stuffy community hall, carefully observing what was going on around him.  He had answered an ad the week before, asking for people who were angry and ticked off with their government to meet here tonight so that the disenfranchised could implement plans to destroy their government.

He was attending the meeting on the recommendation of his boss at Homeland Security to see if there was any merit to this little get-together.  He had accepted his orders easily, joking with his boss about the stereotypical, conspiracy-laden people he had expected to meet.

The only thing was that he wasn’t laughing any more.  In fact, some of the ideas being presented and developed here were not funny at all.  His stomach turned over as he realized that many of the ideas being considered were a real problem to the security of the nation.

He observed the leader of the group.  He was a fairly nondescript person in all aspects except for three – he was very tall, he was very skilful in drawing thoughts out of people and his eyes were dark, glittering and piercing.

“And”, thought Tom, “he doesn’t smile much.”

The two-hour meeting went by quickly and as the attendees filed out of the room chattering excitedly, Tom decided that he needed to get to know the facilitator a little better.

He walked up to the front of the hall and feigning excitement, thrust out his hand.  “Hi”, Tom said, “My name is Charlie.  That was a pretty cool meeting tonight.  It’s about time someone sticks it to those bastards.”

The facilitator looked at Tom’s extended hand uncertainly, ignored it and smiled thinly.  “My name is Gabriel”, he said, “Thank you.  We felt it was time to do something more impactful.”

“I think it will be very impactful”, replied Tom, slipping into the role of an anti-government conspiracist, “I’m glad I came tonight.”

“Glad to hear it”, Gabriel replied, staring into Tom’s eyes.  Tom suddenly felt uncomfortable as Gabriel’s dark eyes appeared to examine him at a very deep level.

“Will you be back next week?”, asked Gabriel, “This is a three-night exercise leading up to execution of the best ideas.”

“You better believe it”, Tom said, projecting a facade of enthusiasm.

“Good”, said Gabriel as he returned to putting his material away.

Tom interpreted the silence as a good night and began to walk towards the door.

“Charlie?”, Gabriel asked as Tom walked out.

“Yes?”, asked Tom as he turned towards Gabriel.

“Remember this”, replied Gabriel, “Things are not always what they seem.”

With that, he returned to putting his material away.

Tom frowned and walked out the door in silence.

As he got in his car, something struck Tom.

“He said “we” felt it was time”, thought Tom, “Who are “we”?”

The subsequent meetings over the next two weeks took place as scheduled.  The one thing that struck him was how deep and broad the ideas ranged in impact, ingenuity and yet, simplicity.  “We’ve been spending billions of dollars and we’ve missed almost all of these”, thought Tom with a shiver.

As Gabriel closed the final meeting, he thanked all of the attendees and promised them that significant action was coming very soon.

As in the first meeting, Tom waited for the other attendees to file out before approaching Gabriel.

Gabriel looked up and stared him with the same intense, soul-examining stare.  “Are you ready?” Gabriel asked.

“I think so”, Tom replied.

“We’ll see”, replied Gabriel, “The time to act is upon you.  Good evening.”

Tom muttered a “good evening” and walked out, mulling over Gabriel’s comment.  “The time is upon me to act?”, he thought to himself, “Why isn’t it upon all of us?”

The next morning, Tom found himself debriefing his colleagues and superiors about the meetings he had been attending.  He explained how thorough the facilitator named Gabriel had been in extracting ideas from the attendees as he outlined the significant threat that many of these ideas represented.  At the end of his presentation, he was dismissed and left the boardroom, his stomach still churning over the havoc that this group could create.

As he approached his office, his personal assistant stopped him.  “You have a visitor”, she said, “He is waiting in your office.”

Tom frowned, started to ask her why she allowed a visitor to enter his office unattended, thought better of it and proceeded into his office.

His visitor was standing at the window, staring out over the parking lot.

Before Tom could speak, his visitor spoke quietly.

“You didn’t look like a Charlie to me”, he said.

Gabriel turned to face Tom and smiled thinly, his dark eyes glittering as they once more burrowed deeply into Tom’s soul.

Tom could feel anger rising up in him and began to speak but Gabriel silenced him with a raised hand.

Gabriel walked over and sat in Tom’s executive chair and gestured for Tom to sit down.

Tom sat silently, feeling confused at being made a guest in his own office.

Gabriel tossed two file folders onto the desk in front of him.

“In the first file”, Gabriel began, “You will find the names, addresses and other particulars of every person who attended my meetings.  Please do with that as you will.  I would suggest that you not take too long worrying about their rights.”

Tom frowned and began to speak but again, Gabriel silenced him with an upraised hand.

“In the other file”, Gabriel continued, “You will find detailed plans that threaten your nation.  You would be well-advised to read them, analyze them and initiate action to nullify or refute them.  Again, I suggest that you do this with a sense of urgency.”

“May I?”, asked Tom, pointing at the second file.

“Please”, acknowledged Gabriel.

Tom picked up the file and thumbed through it, feeling excited and nauseated simultaneously at the level of detail contained within the folder.

“I don’t understand”, stammered Tom, “Who are you?  Why are you doing this?”

“Who I am matters not”, replied Gabriel, “As for why we are doing this, we felt that your efforts to fight terror were inadequate and lacked a sense of urgency so we thought we would help you along.  Sometimes the best way to light a fire under someone to figure out what their greatest problems and threats are is to find people who have the creativity and desire to undermine or destroy them and to invite those people to create strategies and tactics to that end.  They are often blinded with hate and with nothing to lose, they unleash creativity that is often missing or lost in bureaucracy or invisible to people who are too close to their problems and thus blinded to the solutions needed.  We felt that we could tap this “nothing to lose”, unbridled hatred to identify problems that you hadn’t anticipated and to present them to you.  All you need to do is to find the answers to the problems presented in that folder and you will be much further ahead than you are now.”

Tom frowned but said nothing as he mulled over more references to “we”.

“It’s an easy concept to grasp”, continued Gabriel, “It works well almost anywhere, in business, in relationships, in governments and yes, even in national security.  Many people spend too much time, energy and money trying to identify the right things to do or the highest priority issues to solve and because of a number of factors, often miss the most important things that require attention.  Oftentimes, the easiest and best thing to do is to find motivated people who are very good at identifying ways to threaten you and encourage them to do what they enjoy doing most of all.  The rest is fairly easy.”

Tom cleared his throat, stared at Gabriel intently and said “This will need to be vetted with my superiors.  I will need you to ….”

Gabriel interrupted him again.

“We’ve done enough for you for now”, he said tersely as he stood up.

“Good luck, Tom”, he continued, “Remember that we often only get one chance to get things right once the answers have been placed before us.”

Gabriel then strode past Tom and out of his office.

Tom jumped up and ran towards the office door but as he stepped outside his office, Gabriel was nowhere to be seen.

His personal assistant looked up quizzically.

“Where is he?”, demanded Tom.

“Where is who?”, she asked.

Tom shook his head and was about to respond when his phone rang.

“One sec”, he said as he turned to answer the phone.

“Hello?”, he said, picking up the phone receiver.

Tom listened in silence for 10 minutes as the voice on the other end of the phone spoke quickly and urgently.

“You say his name was Gabriel and you just spoke to him?”, asked Tom, suddenly feeling confused and weak with a need to sit down.

To be continued.

© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


The problem solving technique described in this post is actually a useful one, using the minds of people who are motivated to destroy you to come up with ideas and plans to undermine your weaknesses in strategy, tactics, product design, deployment, service offering or any other issue found within government, business or other relationships.

Solving those issues should likely be your highest priority as they potentially represent the greatest threat to your success.

It can produce startling results that contrast sharply with the boring, often useless idea generation exercises too-often adopted by too many organizations.  It produces an interesting, useful result with a sense of urgency too often missing in organizations.

As for the story I wrapped around it, it’s just “fiction” to make a point.

Isn’t it?

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

For The Love of God, Please Shut Up … Just For a Little Bit

Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time. - George W. Bush

Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right. - Jane Goodall

When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die. - Lillian Smith

It’s been a phenomenally (translation: staggeringly) busy year for me and for this reason, I haven’t had much to say on my blog this year.

That’s what I tell a lot of people who have been following my musings for years and who ask me why I am not writing much these days.

Well, in the spirit of true confession, I have been extremely busy but that’s not why my writing output has dropped significantly this year.

It’s because I am listening.

One of the things I have been known for for years (according to colleagues) is my ability to own a boardroom.  People have told me and others that they have shown up for meetings that I am in just because they wanted to see what I was going to say or do in a meeting, especially the complicated or politically loaded meetings (or to hear my impersonation of Zig Ziglar as I note here In Memory of Zig Ziglar–Building a Legacy).

However, some of those same people, if they didn’t know me well (or at all) have gone to some meetings and were disappointed that I said little if anything.

What disabled my active (sometimes overactive) mouth?

Whenever I meet a group of people for the first time, unless it’s my meeting, I have little to say.  I say little (or nothing) because I am listening to what people have to say, how they say it and hopefully, why they say it.  My philosophy is that if I don’t know who the participants are, what they have to contribute, how they contribute it and what motivates them, then I will have little of value to offer to either supplement their ideas or to correct them.

It’s a style opposite that which is embraced by many people in this connected world – people who feel that there is a competition to be the first or the loudest but where the competition for who is right or impactful in a positive, meaningful way contains a much smaller field.

Once I understand the dynamics and intentions for the meeting and its participants, then I usually have a lot to say.  That’s why people who make trouble for others don’t like it when I go quiet … because I am thinking and they may be the subject of my mental gymnastics. :-)

As my professional world rolls along at its usual hectic pace, I always keep an eye on the “stuff” going on in the world, “stuff” such as:

  • The impact of the Syrian situation, both the war and the refugees, and the potential long term impact on world stability.
  • The impact (or not) of terrorism in general.
  • The concerns over the security of our technology, especially in the areas of protecting our infrastructure from attack.
  • The general preparedness of citizens in case trouble should arrive in society from any one of a number of sources.
  • The fight over global climate change, the fuss over whose data to use, whether it’s real or not and who is to blame (while few wonder how to survive it).
  • The insanity of the US political scene, the raging disconnect between citizens and politicians in general, and the impact on the world as a result.
  • The ability for political correctness to sweep over us to the point where we are so delicate and sensitive that a simple “good morning” might offend us (or launch a lawsuit).
  • The LGBTQ dialog and the sides who are vehemently for and against it with few caring to understand what is happening as a result of this shift.
  • The impact of social media and its ability to actually break down our ability to communicate and be social and respectful to and with each other.
  • The conversion of news media into tools of political and corporate manipulation as well as a source of demeaning entertainment.
  • General conversations that are driven by emotion and intimidation instead of data, respect and collaboration.
  • Why a woman is allowed to abort a baby (even late term) in some places and that is ok and yet in those same places, a person who kills that same pregnant woman is charged with a double homicide (only explainable by the bureaucrats that created this paradox).
  • The inevitable accounting that is coming in our global financial system for not doing the right things for decades (or centuries).
  • Our inability to be honest about aviation security, financial system security and the like.

The list goes on – my apologies for having left out what matters to you.

Do I have opinions on this stuff?

Of course …. who doesn’t?

But would expressing my opinion change things or make a difference?

I’m not sure and so if I can’t be sure of making a positive impact, then I don’t say anything at all, otherwise I’m just contributing more noise to a very noisy world, a world where more people are talking and fewer are listening (and thinking / acting using appropriate data).

However and more importantly, as a long time Wall St. strategy guy, I know that events and the intention of the people behind those events are guiding us towards something either very good or very bad.

And unless we spend more time observing and listening to those events (and the people behind them), we are less likely to have an opportunity to anticipate where those people and events are taking us, thereby reducing our ability to either amplify a great future or reduce or eliminate a bad one.

The dilemma is that is if you don’t wilfully create a future, then one is created for you.

Are you willing to bet on the notion that a good future can be created by accident?

The Bottom Line

People write a lot about terrorism but it continues to disrupt people’s brains and lives.  Meanwhile, we can’t seem to have any dialog around whether it is as big a threat as politicians and the media tell us it is.

People lecture us about the importance of protecting human Life and then take it to prove their point.

We talk about how we are safer than ever from the devastation of war but last year, we set a global record with military spending exceeding $1.7 trillion.

Other people talk about protecting their “minority status” because it is the respectful thing to do and then disrespect others in order to protect their status.

Some people write a lot about how to communicate effectively, respectfully and collaboratively and yet many people are finding it easier to use modern technology to shout others down or intimidate them into not participating in a global dialog.

Politicians lecture us about how they will make a difference and then create careers (with our support) that accomplish little if anything of value to the people they represent (and not even close to what was promised at election time).  We get angry and then elect the next generation of politicians who do the same thing.

We look to entertainers to create our opinions on politics, business, economics and the like, ignoring the fact that they know little or nothing about the subject (have you ever been lectured to someone citing The View as their source?).

Even with something as mundane as weight loss, we have so many experts offering us tomes explaining how to live healthier and yet we are not making a dent in our health as obesity and the diseases related to it continue to overwhelm us.

The list goes on.

The reality is that with billions of smart people talking, we are not solving many important things commensurate with the number of opinions being expressed and the cacophony of noise created by the majority of those opinions.

That’s not to say that our world is ugly nor am I saying that we are short of smart people.

In fact, it is a beautiful world, filled with natural and man-made creations that are stunning in their awe-inspiring construct, impact and potential and many brilliant people walk this beautiful earth.

But we can only continue to have a beautiful world if we work harder to keep it that way and we allow the intelligent words of the brilliant to rise above the noise created by the uninformed, the misinformed and the ignorant.

And that’s why I wonder if we need to pause for a moment, listen a little more attentively, think a little more strategically and then take actions that are more intelligently thought out and less of a reflexive kneejerk nature.

What do you think?

Or are you are too busy preparing to tell me that I am wrong.

After all, too many of us listen with intent to reply rather than to learn, to understand and to make a positive impact on the world around us.

Why and how do you listen to others?

Are you sure?

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to shut up and listen a little bit more.

How about you? :-)

In service and servanthood,


Addendum and a Long Distance Dedication

A kind reader strongly refuted my remarks by sending me a lengthy email with a number of motivational poster shots and quotes from famous people. Unfortunately, he did not add any personal content outside of writing his own subject line. It made me laugh and I felt that I needed to respond with a little fun.

Warning: There is no original content in my response either as I share some of the work by the great folks at :-).

Create a great day for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience!

Cluelessness: There are no stupid questions but there are a LOT of inquisitive idiots.

Ineptitude: If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Planning: Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress.

Preservation: Action will be taken to prevent the next disaster as soon as possible after it has occurred.

Pretension: The downside of being better than everyone else is that people tend to assume your pretentious.

Pride: The art of calling faith in yourself "self esteem" while calling it "conceit" when you see it in others.

Recognition: Having your moment in the sun isn't always a good thing.

Recognition: The more you reward the most trivial of achievements, the more you produce the most trivial of people.

Reliabilithy: It's not really that helpful if all you do is blow up every hour.

Social Media: If the unexamined Life is not worth living, it's certainly not worth broadcasting online 24 hours a day.

Wisdom: Sometimes the only different between a budding genius and a blooming idiot is where they choose to take a stand.