Livin’ for the moment . . .

Living for the moment

I’m just livin’ for the moment . . .

How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said that?

One of the definitions that I found for this phrase is as follows:

“To live or act without worrying about the future.”

So, I could say that I am living for the moment[.] – Period. Full stop.

To live in the moment, or to live in the now, means being conscious, aware and in the present with all of your senses. It means not dwelling on the past, nor being anxious or worrying about the future.

When we concentrate our attention on the present we focus on the task at hand. We give our full attention to what we are doing and we let go of outcomes.

Seizing each moment in life allows us to prolong its value and make it more meaningful. Rather than seeking quantity of time, when we live in the moment we enjoy and savor every minute. We don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

I am fully onboard with the sentiment expressed in these thoughts. As long as we don’t overdo them with psychobabble that no one really understands. In fact, I can embrace the sentiment. Living in the moment allows me to focus on what is before me. My wife, my children, my grandchildren. The thrust of this is to put away the distractions and focus on what is present and not what has happened or may happen.

Or, I could say that I am living for the moment [. . . ] – Ellipsis. To show an unfinished thought.

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The Business of Ethics

MM - Ethics

I am sure there has been much written about ethics in leadership but I wanted to share some insights recently revealed to me.

I had a visit with some dear friends who have been in leadership positions and one is currently writing a book on “ethics in the university”. He is a retired professor and is a dear friend so, jokingly, I asked him if he had discovered any, to which there was a resounding NO.

The chats usually go with the state of our country then circles around to business models and ethics.

First, I’m not sure why we call it “business ethics”.

Is the place we learn business ethics, in business, or is it too late then?  Our conversation had me asking that question, “Where do we learn” ethics?

Well, I got the standard business answer we all should expect and the one you are thinking. We teach them in college and have training classes and seminars. Which isn’t bad, I might add!

As you may guess at this point in the conversation, I still had plenty of questions. So, one immediate question was; at what age do we start to teach ethics?

Where and when do “we” learn ethics?

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What Happens When You Put a Bunch of Leaders in One Room?

Group of leaders

I had the pleasure (No, really, I did!) of joining with a group of local leaders and entrepreneurs today for lunch. A very dear friend and trusted advisor invited me to participate and it was a lot of fun.

It is interesting to watch the various leadership styles and personality types interact with one another. Some are very far along the entrepreneurial path and are running successful ventures. Some haven’t taken the plunge fully. Some are completely confident and at ease in that setting. Some . . . not so much.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was that there will be a little more structure in the upcoming meetings. Each of us will have an opportunity to speak to the entire organization about our companies. It was suggested that we take a few minutes to discuss our venture. We would take a few minutes to discuss a success. And we would take a few minutes to discuss a challenge that we are facing. I think that is an excellent idea.

It is an excellent idea because it will cause us to hone our “pitch.” One person said that in reality we are each really salespeople trying to sell the public on why they need our product, our service, or our message. But more importantly than than refining our “pitch” is that it refines our core message. Each time we speak about who we are and what we do we will get better and more succinct.

What is the leadership lesson here?

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Happy Thanksgiving 2014

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.

Thanksgiving 2014

You all know by now how much I love a good quote.  And this one is from the final Thanksgiving Proclamation of President John F. Kennedy.

But what does this one mean?

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Passive Leadership


Passive Leadership - 1I am currently involved in a men’s study at my church and I have been having a hard time engaging with the group. It is because, honestly, it’s boring. I had committed to a friend and Pastor that I would be involved and engaged. But the leader, as great a person as he is, is difficult to listen to. I had expressed these issues to my wife recently and she thought I needed to be more open minded about it. I was willing to give it another chance and I was sitting in there the other night and heard someone on the video say, “The biggest issue with men and their Christianity is passivity.”

I will have to admit it took me a few days for that to sink in, and what I have come up with is this. They are right. As our passivity grows, so does our acceptance of passivity. So as I thought about this over the weekend this is what came to me.

I researched “Passive Leadership” and I found the term “passive patriot”. It spoke to me. A passive patriot is a citizen who fails to combine knowledge and action to maintain democracy. The research behind this is expansive and certainly beyond the focus of this blog. However, what I couldn’t shake from my mind is the parallel to the current state of leadership in our organizations and in our country.

Passive Leadership - 2We have too many passive leaders failing to shift away from applying 20th century leadership practices to 21st century problems. Such problems cannot be solved relying on the familiar. Regardless of whether it be hierarchy, too much work, not enough time, or not enough resources, we need active leaders. The lull of passive leadership is convincing and believable.

Yet the level of inaction at the leadership level to tackle such problems is weakening organizations. In the 21st century, knowledge, and the application of it to create value for customers, is king. Underlying this reality is the acceptance that people create the profit. Without knowledgeable, enthused people, we will suffer.

Will you or your team be lulled to sleep by passive leadership and erode your value in the marketplace? Will you chase away talented employees? Will you create committed followers or customers?

We need today more leaders willing to act first and then figure out what’s next and not accept failure or misunderstanding. You can be one of them. Perhaps you already are. Many of the big problems facing businesses will simply expand in complexity the longer they are ignored or accepted.

Passive Leadership - 3You don’t need a CEO, executive, or a director to inspire you to get into action and do something to address the company’s problems. You can decide today to lead locally: lead your team to figure out what problems are limiting the value you create for your customers. And then find a solution.

Getting your hand slapped is a requirement in leadership. It’s a full contact sport. It’s standing for something bigger than you. Tackling 21st century leadership problems is worth getting your hand slapped over. It’s worth finding and using your voice.

It begins with looking at where your passive leadership is holding you back and deciding where you can turn up the volume in your leadership. Stop accepting excuses for failure. Get in the trenches with your people and lead from the front.

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Failure is a Reality



“There’s nothing funnier than someone else getting hurt,” I heard a comedian say.  “As long as you know they are not hurt permanently,” he continued.  “And as long as you know it hurts a lot.”  He concluded by adding: “Like when someone cracks their shin on the coffee table.”

In some ways that’s true.  On YouTube an entire channel entitled FAILARMY is devoted to showing clips of individuals failing in some task, stunt, or activity.  Usually, it comes at the expense of the individual and the cost is usually broken bones, face plants, and lots of dental work.  I can waste many hours just mindlessly watching, laughing, and grimacing at the many unfortunate souls in the videos.  I’m mostly laughing.

In society, we shun failure.  We heard it said-“Failure is not an option.”  It is usually said in some action movie or when your boss failed to plan and you are assigned the clean-up and the fire drill is on you.  I argue that failure is reality.  Failure is needed in life to set the standard for success.   Or we can just mindlessly accept participation awards and live vicariously unchallenged lives.  Failure is needed.  Failure allows us to enjoy the successes in life.

Failure is a great teaching tool.  Learning from one’s mistakes is the best pathway to future success.  As leaders, we must find ways to teach others how to succeed after failure.

I know a father whose child became so distraught because he received a 98 instead of a perfect 100 for making a capitalization error on a worksheet.  Okay.  The child failed.  The child is in second grade.  The father was alerted of this major setback through a text from his wife begging him to be easy on their child.    It was a humorous text but the underlying inexcusable error was devastating to the child.  The text served another simple but ominous request to the father to be sensitive. (NOTE-the Father complied.  He’s a good father.)

I argued that it was a teachable moment to the Father.  I explained the grade was a small failure that can easily be brushed off.  Because the error the error was made not out of ignorance or on purpose.  I advised the parent that this was a way for his child to not put so much emphasis on what others thought and understand that mistakes are very real and are a part of everyday life.

Instead, the father argued with me that he and his family strive for excellence in all that they do.  Harvard and West Point only seek the best and most excellent.  I argued that maybe the standard has shifted in recent years and that a grade of 98 if his son did everything he could to get a perfect grade was more than sufficient and adequate in the second grade and that should be celebrated.  Instead of trying to talk the boy off the ledge every time he makes a grammatical error.

With my boys-I’m okay with good grades as long as you can say to yourself you did everything you could possibly do to get that grade and that is the best you could do.  Every time my boys realize they could have done more to earn a great grade instead of settling for a good one.  Their grades are inevitably better the next time around.  (Aside-Harvard is begging for my High School Senior to visit.)

I challenged the Father to let his child fail and brush it off based on the severity of the failure.  Let the boy understand to accept short comings and not be devastated when things don’t go his way. But then I realized I failed at one major point-Never tell others how to raise their children.

I failed.  Epic Fail.


Four Characteristics of Good Crisis Leaders

Four Characteristics of Crisis Leaders - 1

Thirteen years ago today, on September 11, 2001, we witnessed both the destructive power of evil leadership and the resilient power of heroic leadership.   We saw heroic leadership in the first responders and private citizens who ran toward the burning towers, cornfield and the Pentagon.  But among those heroes, one figure stands tall as an example of effective leadership during the crisis as it unfolded and in the days following.  That person is former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.   Regardless of your current political leanings, his confident leadership during the 9/11 tragedies is something that you and I and leaders from all walks of life can learn from.

Rudy GiulianiGiuliani writes the following in his book, Leadership, published in 2002, “It is in times of crisis that good leaders emerge.”

Giuliani goes on to write in his book that during these times of crisis, good leaders must do certain things to be effective during those trying times.   He writes that good leaders in crisis situations must be highly visible, they must be composed, they must be vocal, and they must be resilient.

Good Leaders are Visible in a Crisis — Giuliani writes, “I made it my policy to see every crisis so I could evaluate it firsthand.”

During a crisis, leaders must be out front rather than running and hiding. They must go to the disaster and stand front and center, to assess the situation as well as show their concern, while also demonstrating confidence that the group will persevere.  Rather than hide from the chaos and confusion, be sure to step in to sort things out and find a solution.

Four Characteristics of Crisis Leaders - 3Again, political preferences aside, the importance of being visible during a crisis can also be learned from George W. Bush’s presidency. Like Giuliani, Americans rallied around President Bush when he went to Ground Zero and grabbed a bullhorn amid the rubble to reassure the nation.  Contrast that with President Bush’s lack of a timely response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush was noticeably absent during the first days of the crisis and his poll numbers took a big hit.

What is the leadership lesson? Step up during a crisis to survey the scene and be there for your people.

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