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Quotable Quotes: Simon Wiesenthal

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

hateFor those of you too young to know, Simon Wiesenthal was an Austrian-Jewish architectural engineer until the advent of Hitler. He survived three death camps in a four year period and became a world renowned, or reviled depending on your sympathies, Nazi hunter.

Wiesenthal’s words may have their roots in the Holocaust, but they apply equally well to today’s geopolitical situation, as well as more mundane stuff like work. You might think I’m exaggerating, but if you tone down the power of his words you’ll find a reflection of the office bully; the pointy haired manager; and other situations you face on a daily basis.

If you know from history the danger, then part of the danger is over because it may not take you by surprise as it did your ancestors.

Ancestors aside, tracking the historical actions of the people in your world protects you from being taken unaware.

Violence is like a weed – it does not die even in the greatest drought.

There are many kinds of violence and not all of them involve bodily harm; psyches are gossamer; abuse exists in many contexts.

What connects two thousand years of genocide? Too much power in too few hands.

Think this doesn’t apply to business? Think of the lives destroyed by Enron, the banking crisis, Bernard Madoff—there are many kinds of death and the destruction of dreams and hope is a type that often goes unacknowledged.

For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.

True since time began, but good men and women often do nothing in and out of the business world.

Technology without hatred can be a blessing. Technology with hatred is always a disaster.

Technology covers a great deal of ground; in itself it is benign, but, like a car, it can maim and kill when mixed with anger, fear, hate or carelessness.

Freedom is not a gift of heaven, you have to fight for it every day,

Your personal fight is against whatever enslaves or endangers you, no matter the source. Just be sure in fighting that you don’t inflict the same damage on your foes.

Humour is the weapon of unarmed people: it helps people who are oppressed to smile at the situation that pains them.

And it is humor that wreaks the most havoc on your foes in the business world.

Human rights is the only ideology that deserves to survive,

Ideology has cost our world its peace, prosperity and maybe its future. Ideology eliminates rationality; I honestly believe that the minute people start thinking ‘yours is wrong, mine is right’ the trouble begins—and usually escalates.

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Image credit: Liz Henry on flickr

Third Time The Charm: New Tag Line

Friday, November 13th, 2009

winnerMost of you probably don’t remember, but a while ago I asked readers for help coming up with a new tag line. That was actually the second time I tried tapping my readership for help.

During the time I’ve been mulling your responses and advice (thanks Dave!) my blog was totally redesigned—no more road.

Today, for whatever reason, the tag has been boiling, instead of at a low simmer on the back burner, and what popped into my head was YOUR leadership breakthrough, which, while not terrible, didn’t really light fires, although it goes well with the new design.

I kept re-reading what you all said, especially Dave Crain’s advice, which I knew, but needed to hear again.

I think ultimately, you are the one that needs to come up with the tagline, if you want one. We can give you ideas, maybe even inspiration, but I think the “flash of inspiration” has to come from you. Only you have the passion and the insight uniquely individual to you.

I kept thinking about what I write (and rant) constantly, that leadership isn’t positional; anybody with initiative has the potential to be a ‘leader in the instance’—there when they see the need.

And that’s when it finally happened; I had an epiphany.

YOU + initiative = leadership

What do you think?

As to the winner, although all your input helped and he didn’t come up with the exact phrase, it was Dave’s words that drove me, so I’m declaring him the winner. I hope he enjoys The Three Laws Of Performance.

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Image credit: hisks on sxc.hu

Amaze Yourself

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

TCBheader_3Sometimes we amaze ourselves. Not because someone else says something, but because we revisit something we did a week or a month or longer in the past and we see it from the outside—and we are amazed.

We look at it and marvel; the quality and execution impresses; the inherent value surprises; and we revel in the fact that it is our creation.

It doesn’t matter what it is, big or small; whether it was produced at work or elsewhere; it doesn’t even matter if anyone else will ever see it.

We look and we are amazed.

This happens to me when I read something I wrote a month, a year, a decade ago. Not everything, but more than I would expect.

It doesn’t matter if anyone else agrees or says anything, although it’s great when they do, but I read and am amazed.

Today I want to share my amazement with you.

A few months ago I received an email from the editor of The Conference Board Review inviting me to submit an article for the next issue.

The Conference Board Review is the quarterly magazine of The Conference Board, the world’s preeminent business membership and research organization. Founded in 1976, TCB Review is a magazine of ideas and opinion that raises tough questions about leading-edge issues at the intersection of business and society.

And not just for the online version, but to appear in the actual magazine.

When I opened the hard copy and read my article that is when the real amazement hit.

The article is called Management vs. Leadership and is the second of four articles on leadership. I hope you’ll take time to read them all, then come back and comment.

One more thing, just for the thrill of it, review things you did in the past and be amazed.

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Image credit: The Conference Board

Leadership's Future: Education For Performance

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

On September 25, 1957, 300 United States Army troops escorted nine black children to Central High School in Little Rock after unruly white crowds had forced them to withdraw.

In 1976, the shooting of a 13-year-old sparked a children’s uprising against apartheid that spread across the country to Cape Town, where students from a mixed-race high school, Salt River, marched in solidarity with black schoolchildren.

September 15, 2009, Seattle schools plan to lower the passing grade from C to D, partly match the rest of the state’s districts and partly to keep their funding by keeping kids in school.

On September 24, 2009, thousands of South African children peacefully marched to City Hall demanding better schools, libraries and librarians.

September 2009 a debate at Answers.com is hosting a wiki debate on the value of homework. (Read it and weep at the language skills that dominate the anti-homework crowd who are your future employees.)

Finally, I just received an email (thanks Sunie!) with this picture and comments on the spelling of “bokay.” Many florists use this spelling in their marketing, but one of the comments made me cringe, “I thought is was spelled bowkay” and the writer seemed serious.

I wonder what would happen if

  • school became a right that could only be earned by the child’s effort, not by the parent’s efforts or their money;
  • student performance, not attendance, was the criterion for funding;
  • being a ‘tough’ teacher by demanding performance was encouraged;
  • kids had to work at whatever menial job they could find when they chose not to perform in school

None of this will ever happen, but it is interesting conjecture.

What do you think?

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Image credit: Facebook

Win A Copy Of "The Three Laws Of Performance" For A Tag Line.

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Oh for the memory of youth; not memories, but the ability to remember what I’m doing.

Last July I started looking for a new tagline. Even though I’m stuck committed to the blog’s name I want something that reflects my take on leadership as opposed to the generally accepted view.

Like any blogger I asked my then readers what they thought, received some interesting suggestions and promptly forgot about it.

The subject recently came up again, so I looked up the post and here are what I think are the best from those suggestions.

Eric Eggertson, who used to write CommonSensePR, gave me a number of suggestions, among them Seize the future and Inspire and achieve;

I came up with Seize the initiative;

Luke suggested Miki Tells You How It Is;

Phil Gerbyshak took Luke’s idea and came up with No Spin, Just Straight Talk.

Darth Sidious suggested The Drive to thrive and also said my writings have enhanced he and his friends’ Sith philosophy! Hmm, I wonder if George Lucas is aware of that.

Back to the tag line.

What do you think? Do you like one of these or do you have a better idea that reflects the tone and philosophy of my Leadership Turn?

Leave a comment to with a new tagline or vote for one already suggested by October 1 and win a copy of The Three Laws Of Performance. If I end up using one of the above tags I’ll use Ramdom.org to decide the winner.

Enter as many times as you like; previous suggestions are automatically entered.

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Image credit: The Three Laws Of Performance

Standards Are Relative

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I love it when readers call me (360.335.8054), even when the caller is irate, as happened yesterday.

“Sue” called because she was extremely upset that I agreed with Dan Erwin’s comment that he raised his kids using the concept of ‘covenants’ as opposed to ‘standards’, because covenants can be renegotiated whereas standards are set.

Sue said that no society could function without some kind of absolute rules, the kind that gave continuity, and that if they changed at everyone’s convenience there would be chaos.

My response was that I disagreed with the absolute rules, but agreed with the second part of her premise.

After talking for awhile, Sue ended the discussion by saying that I wouldn’t have the nerve to put my opinions here, because if I did I’d lose all my readers.

I said that I doubted that, since I’ve never made my attitudes a secret and that she should come back today (Friday) and see for herself.

Foremost, I’ve never believed that homo sapiens are capable of speaking in absolutes, such as always and never. There will be millions of changes, both societal and evolutionarily, between now and forever.

Life changes, society changes, attitude changes.

In absolute terms, murder has always been wrong, but people have been renegotiating the definition of murder for centuries—and they still are.

When one part of a society decides a standard needs to change, they often (usually?) fight a war with the opposing side that doesn’t want to change—think North vs. South.

The wars aren’t always formal, gun-toting fights. Slavery may have been abolished in the South, but integration is still an upward battle.

Obviously, changes aren’t done by individuals, but with the agreement of a significant segment of the society, otherwise, as Sue said, there would be chaos.

But even when a significant number move for the change chaos may result. It often erupts and can be clearly seen, for example, in the generational shifts so beloved by the media.

If I hadn’t seen so many standards change during my life I might be less on the side of Relativism, but, as I said at the start, humans just don’t seem capable of absolutes.

If any other readers are upset, have great arguments in support of absolutes, agree with me more or less or just want to explain why I’m nuts click here and share your thoughts.

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Image credit: slavin fpo on flickr ideal standard

Ego And Web 2.0

Monday, June 15th, 2009

I had (what to me) was amazing news this weekend.

Leadership Turn is listed as one of Strategic Strategist’s 2009 Top Business Blogs. It not only made the list, but is number 16, just two places behind Guy Kawasaki.

I’m unfamiliar with Strategic Strategist and have no idea what, if anything, this means, but still! So I told some friends and my b5 cohorts and received some very nice congratulatory emails telling me that I deserved it, etc. Fun!

But it got me to thinking once again that I just don’t have the ego for the networked, self-promoted, memememe world I live in.

It’s not that I don’t believe I have a lot to offer.

I think I’m a hell of a writer and that what I say has value, whether it’s of direct use or stimulates new thought paths.

To be honest, I’m often blown away when I read old posts here or at MAPping Company Success and realize I wrote them. The same goes for my book, The Swamp & the Alligators: a slightly irreverent guide to career planning and the search process. It’s 16 years old now and it’s still on Amazon.

I know my coaching is valuable and that it’s unique; it takes a different approach from much of the other coaching available.

But I’m always a bit amazed when others see its value.

Believe me, it’s not humility or any of those supposedly noble feelings. It’s just that it surprises me when the outside world agrees with me.

As my readers know, I’m very opinionated, but that doesn’t mean I assume or expect anyone else to agree—in spite of the law of averages saying that some will.

I’m lousy at “working the room,” whether in the real or cyber world.

Back when I attended parties I would hang out helping in the kitchen and over the course of the evening most of the interesting people would wander in and end up staying for the kind of conversation you can sink your teeth into (I’ve always been lousy at small talk).

I seem to do cyberspace the same way.

And, I’m grateful to say, the interesting people keep wandering in and staying to talk.

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Image credit: Daniel F. Pigatto on flickr

Time To Get Off Your Ass And Lead (Yourself)

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

There are many lessons to be learned from the current economic crisis, but one of the most important is that we the people should stop following and start leading ourselves.

In other words, we each need to take responsibility for our own actions and think critically about the words and actions of those in positional leadership roles.

In business, we need to rid ourselves of the idea that positional leaders don’t need management skills or that managers don’t lead.

Jim Stroup points out in numerous posts that “No one has proven that leadership is different from management, much less that it is a characteristic inherent in individuals independently of the context in which those individuals operate, one that they carry with them from one organization to another and which they then instill into groups otherwise bereft of it.”

We need to stop defining leaders based on their vision and skill at influencing people to follow them.

A comment left on a Washington Post column by Steve Pearlstein regarding the leadership failure that led to the current economic crisis neatly sums up the problem with that definition.

“What a great summary of the economic problem. However this was not a lack of leadership. Defining leadership as influencing people to move in a specific direction, the financial and economic elite successfully led the country into the economic disaster. The problem was a lack of management that failed to identify the signs of the pending disaster.”

Mike Chitty’s team approach is an unlikely solution since you can’t mandate that whichever [leader or manager] is superior will listen to or act on the ideas of the subordinate, while making them equals is rarely successful.

We need to lead ourselves and stop waiting for someone else to show us how, tell us why or lead our actions. 99% of us know what’s good—not just for ourselves, but for the world.

We especially need to stop

  • putting ideology ahead of success;
  • avoiding accountability by citing all those whose lead we followed;
  • excusing our own unethical behavior on the basis that others do the same thing; or
  • believing that [whatever] is OK, because our religion forgives our actions.

Everyone cleaning up their own back yard will alleviate a large part of the problem, and then we can work together for the good of everyone, not just “people like us.”

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Image credit: flickr

Leadership's Future: The Evolving Brain

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I received a call from a reader, I’ll call him Doug, (I love calls, you may reach me at 866.335.8054, 9 AM to11 PM Pacific time.) who wanted to know why I kept harping on the need for long-term this and long-term that. He said that he’s 26 and part of “the online generation” and used to “instant gratification.”

We talked for quite awhile and I found him to be intelligent, well-spoken and, in his own way despite what he said, thoughtful—but also impatient.

Influencing others is always stressed as a major trait of leadership—maybe the most important trait. But to lead on any level requires an understanding of the larger picture, along with strategic understanding of what’s coming down the road.

Neither one of those offers much instant anything.

I’m not saying Doug speaks for his entire generation, but in a post last summer I linked to several books and articles discussing changes occurring in brain functions as a result of the digital world.

One of the links is to an essay in the Atlantic Monthly by author Nicholas Carr in which he says, “the net is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation”. He cited other high-powered thinkers and online commentators: what if the way I THINK has changed? asked one. “I’ve lost the capacity to read War and Peace any more,” said another, whose current best effort was to stay with a three or four-paragraph weblog entry.”

Another article talks about Dr. Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of a new book, iBrain, “who cites a Stanford University study that for every hour a person spends on a computer, personal interaction with others drops by 30 minutes.

“With the weakening of the brain’s neural circuitry controlling human contact,” Dr. Small writes, “our social interactions may become awkward, and we tend to misinterpret, and even miss, subtle, non-verbal messages.”

You can think of it along the scale of Asperger’s syndrome, which is a mild form of it, where there’s not social connectiveness and difficulties with eye contact.”

And this isn’t just about the so-called digital generation, “Scans of the more practised internet users [55-78] during those search tasks showed increased activity in the front of the brain, where reasoning, complex decision-making, short-term memory and the processing of sensations and thoughts all originate. … Within five days though, the digital newcomers were showing the same neural activity.”

Along with greed, is it possible that this new style brain affected the people who ran the banks, hedge funds, and other businesses that played fast and loose with your money?

How will these new brains lead as they move into the workforce and the world?

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Image credit: sxc.hu

Wordless Wednesday: The World Today

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008


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