Saturday, December 31, 2011

Memories, Intentions and Wishes

"The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind."  - Thalassa Cruso

I love this time of year when, after a fresh snowfall, the trees sparkle in the sunlight and our boots make that squeaky crunching sound. Last year I wrote about scent-triggered memories of our time in the country. I make a point of revisiting it, as a reminder of what is so precious in our lives…the gift of time to create these kinds of memories. So many of these traditions are carried on in our home today.

We still bake and cook up a storm as family and friends come in for the holidays. Meals and stories are shared, as is laughter and happy tears in the telling of them. Some of the mental snapshots are brought back by the scent of the snow-covered pines that wrap around the house, the smell of cinnamon and chocolate, slow-cooked stews and spiced orange cakes fill the house with the scent of home, present and past. A new puzzle is ready to go so anyone coming into the house can find that piece we'd been looking for for what seemed like hours. Music, well, music is always a part of our home as we listen to oldies, hum as we putter, and all in all, create the space we need to enjoy, share and make new memories to share in the future.

As the new year dawns, it's time for me to set some intentions.  I've been thinking long and hard on what they need to be in order to craft a great year and here is what I came up with...

I intend:
·    to remember that life is not black or white, all or nothing;
·    to do what really matters and make smart choices for how to use my time and money in the best possible way;
·    to mentor more…teach more;
·    to ask people to share their stories and learn more about life and living through their experiences;
·    to continuously learn; and
·    to protect and cherish the "space" I create in my life to live and enjoy life with those I love so we can create new wonderful memories in the making.

So for the year to come, I encourage you to look at everyday moments as extraordinary. Celebrate the small things as much as the huge ones, let people celebrate you, give to you and pamper you even just a little…then a little more and remember to reciprocate. Pay attention to who's around you, what's around you and what you surround yourself with (thoughts, feelings, people and experiences), for those choices will create what your life will be. 

Question things. Recognise you might not always get the answer and might have to live in the questions, but that's OK too. I wish you a fresh, sparkling new year filled with joy, a newfound awareness of yourself and others, good health and the realization of your deepest and innermost dreams.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

15 Tips to Live 2012 Intentionally

Many of my clients talk to me about making New Year's resolutions to bring about change in their lives, professionally and personally. I don't think we can separate the two. We live life by intention, either actively or passively. Intentions = results. It's not about resolutions that might get left by the's about what do you intend to do about how you hold yourself, make choices and interrelate that will create the shifts you want to see happen? Here are (in my book) 15 absolutes. If you adopt even some of them, shifts will occur. If you adopt all of them, the shifts will be dramatic.

  1. If you make a commitment, keep it.  If you can't honor it, then don't make it in the first place. That means considering what you have the capacity to do before committing. Which leads to...
  2. Don't take something on unless you can do it fully. It will not only negatively impact your reputation for excellence but take time, focus, energy and money away from what you could be doing really well.
  3. Let go of what others can do as well or better than you. Stick to what you're masterful at. Why be one of a million when you can be one in a million?
  4. Figure out what you have to let go of in order to free up space for opportunities. Too many opportunities are missed because they're put on the back burner for when you "have time". Too many opportunities are missed because you're so bogged down you didn't see them in the first place.
  5. Get out of your realm. See what other people are doing and living. Yes, hone your skills by being a continuous learner but check in with those you impact by the work you do. That's the best way to know what shifts you have to make to serve them better and, in turn, you'll be better for it. That's the road to mastery.
  6. Try something new every day…a food, another genre of music, speak to someone you've never spoken to before…..then reflect on the experience and learning.
  7. Say thank you.
  8. Ask someone to share their story. 
  9. Book at least 15 minutes a day for reflective thought. 30 minutes is better.
  10. Figure out what limiting belief (one at a time) is holding you back. Then figure out what you have to do to let go of it. If you need help with that, get it. Holding on to limiting beliefs won't serve you. Period.
  11. Whatever you do for others, do it from choice not obligation. Both of you will know the difference.
  12. Do what really matters. Don't do what doesn't.
  13. Simplify. Just because life might be complex, it doesn't mean it has to be overly complicated.
  14. Give the gift of presence. If you're with someone, be with them.
  15. Take risks.  Playing it safe isn't playing at all.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shared Learning....and What's Next

2011 was filled with learning in every realm of my world and my life. There were so many shifts for me. I not only wanted to share what the learning is and was but acknowledge those who were instrumental in creating those shifts.

I continue to learn that it's possible to grow older without growing old from my parents. They are more with-it, energetic, insightful, and up to the minute than pretty much anyone else I know. I'm constantly learning what new leadership looks like from my son and daughter-in-law. It's not about off with the old and on with the new. They integrate what they learned from those before them with what works for them for their present and future.  I learned from Ray what it means to disconnect and enjoy life, (although what I do is as much who I am as my profession but he's really good about putting up with me. He makes it so easy for me to be me). 

I learned the art of sharing knowledge, time, energy and expertise graciously and selflessly from Renee Freedman and  John Spence. 

I learned you can have the difficult, courageous conversations with a friend and still remain a true friend. I consistently learn from my friends who are my family by choice what authentic friendship means and from others what friendship isn't and make my choices accordingly.

I learned how to dive in and (as Seth Godin would say) know it's time to say "Ship it". 

I learned a lot from Seth this year. I'm waffling between saying thank you and saying "Seth, get out of my head" …but as his words of wisdom were not only timely but a great 2 x 4 to the side of my head reality check, and because of them, I made a lot of changes in how I do what I do, whether coaching, writing, teaching or living…. "Thank you" wins hands down.  And I've learned that pretty much anything he publishes, either his work or someone else's is something I WILL learn from, tangible or intangible. It might push every button I have and then some, but the learning curve will be HUGE!

I experienced the differences between having a book published and publishing a book... when to draw the line and acknowledge that delays are more damaging than the odd typo….and not to wait until 100 people think it might be good enough before getting it out. I learned who I could work with and who I couldn't, what conferences I'd attend and which ones I won't any more. It's time to see what people are living in realms outside of coaching. I need to learn more about people and what they're living in order to work best with them from their perspective, not coaches'. I continue to learn how to shift my view of the world and my place in it. 

I learned that we learn from stories and how we connect our stories with those of others'. It's personal that way. We learn better and remember  the lessons longer when a story connects to who we are or who we want to be. I learned from my clients everything from turbulence and chaos to success and accomplishment and that sometimes the latter is harder for them to deal with than the former. 

I learned from the TED Fellows that everything I didn't think was possible…is possible.  Thank you Jessica, Dominic, Adital, Su, John, Jon, Cesar, Naomi, Katie, Zubaida, Colleen, Kellee, Rachel, Eric, for opening my eyes to your worlds and inviting me in.

I learned from Ron Kitchens and Ruth Ann Harnisch that it's not about giving just to support….it's about giving to support greatness, growth, innovation and learning. It's about giving so those they give to get stronger and are independent.  They are Human-Based Leaders in more ways than I can list here.

Through this year's experiences, not to mention through Laurier LaPierre, I was reminded of how proud I am to be Canadian. I love travelling and working all over the world but really love coming home. I am continuously reminded that, although we are similar to other countries, we are unique as a people and a country. We're just quieter about it. We have to be more vocal about it. 

I learned from everyone in my book Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words.  They shared their lives with me above and beyond anything I knew before. Thank you to John, the two Rons, Ruth Ann, Joe, Laurier, JD, Rick, Tom, Barry, Frank and Robert and all the others who shared their words of wisdom. Even though it's my book and I've read it 1000 times, I learn something new every time I read or share a passage from it. 

Everyone has a story and I can't wait to hear them all. Everyone knows something I don't know about life and living and through their stories, I'll continue to learn about them, their worlds and myself. 

For next year, there is a ton in the works. In addition to client work, I'll be doing more team and team dynamics work, part of that will be working with clients on putting in place a reverse mentoring program in their organizations and coaching what emerges through those conversations. I'll be speaking at Catalyst University in Kalamazoo. Talk about an innovative, community-growing initiative! I will be collaborating with client and friend Tuuli Sauren from INSPIRIT International Communications on a workshop for sustainable design to take place in Milan, Italy and partnering with friend and colleague David Drake as we bring Shadow and Narrative Coaching together for the first (but I'm sure not last) time in Toronto early next year. I'll be continuing my work with the TED Fellows which is such a gift to me, wearing my Dean hat with the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations, and teaching more with MBAs, university students and even doing some guest teaching at the high school level which I'm very excited about. 

There will be another book in the works….maybe two. What form that'll take is still to be determined.  Stay tuned!

I'm continuing to learn how to better use Social Media and am thankful for the amazing people I've met through it who I wouldn't have connected with any other way.  

There's more but I don't want to clue you in on everything just yet. 

Suffice it to say, I'm hoping from reading this you'll reflect on your learning this year. The easy lessons and the hard, the life lessons and professional ones. I know I want to learn at least as much or more from the up-and-comings than from the leaders who are about to retire. I want to continue to believe that nothing is impossible. It just hasn't been invented yet and even then, the TED Fellows are showing me otherwise.

I'm sure there will be challenges in 2012 but I know the year will be extraordinary nevertheless. With people like this touching my life, how could it be anything else? If you see that I've missed something or someone, then let me know. Tell me your stories, share your dreams and aspirations and maybe I'll be able to point you in a direction. We all have a definitive amount of time to make our presence felt. Choose what you do with it wisely… who you spend your time with, learn from and what sandbox you're going to play in. Make whatever changes in life you need to make to be the best, the happiest, and the most fulfilled person you can be.

Begin now and in doing so, remember to take risks. Opportunities and people don't stay around forever. Live life to the fullest extent, don't just exist from day to day. Share your dreams with others, as if you keep them silent they will eventually die away. Help them help you make them happen. And may 2012 be great in every way.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011


John Spence, Human-Based Leader, bar none (Chapter 1 in Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words) wrote this amazing list called "What Should You Give"? in The Jungle of Life. With his permission, I'm re-posting it and asking you, what would YOU add to this list?

"A Damn: “Life is a dar­ing adven­ture – or noth­ing at all” ~ Helen Keller

Help: to any­one you can offer it to.

LOVE: to your­self first… then to as many oth­ers as pos­si­ble – you have an end­less      sup­ply!

Respect: because EVERYONE is wor­thy of it.

Hugs: as long as HR does not have a rule against it – ugh!

Freely of your best ideas: the future will be unlocked through col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­ativ­ity.

Advice: when it is asked for… and then… care­fully!

Advice: some­times – only some­times – when it is NOT asked for… and then even MORE care­fully!!

Men­tor­ing: help oth­ers to avoid some of the mis­take you have made.

Gen­er­ously: to a char­ity you are truly pas­sion­ate about.

Time: to peo­ple who will not waste it.

Wis­dom: to those who love you and will lis­ten.

Your­self a break: you are not sup­posed to be per­fect – let that go.

Praise and thanks: to every­one – often!!

100% of your per­sonal effort: life is not a dress rehearsal.

A smile: pass along some warmth and joy to oth­ers.

Under­stand­ing: remem­ber that every­one you meet is fight­ing a mighty bat­tle.

Give, give, give and give some more. Embrace an abun­dance men­tal­ity by under­stand­ing deeply that if you just help enough other peo­ple get what they need – you will get every­thing you need.

I promise this works – I GIVE you my word!"

One that I added was Presence. Be present with the person or people you’re with. Pay attention to them, which means stop doing three other things when you’re with someone. Listen, learn from them, hear who they are and what they’re saying (and what they’re not saying out loud).

What would you want to give?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Journey and Birth of "Leaders"

Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words finally launched this past Wednesday. Through recent months we tossed around ideas for the launch, where it would be, and what we wanted to do. For those who come to book signings and launches, show up at a book store, stand in line to have your purchased book personalized, and perhaps have a few seconds with the author, it's a fleeting, impersonal experience that you might remember when you pick up the book to read it.

We wanted something more personal, a celebration of sorts. The launch was that and so much more...but I'll get back to that in a moment. Surprisingly, many of the people who attended asked me about the journey of writing this book, the around the edges story behind the book of stories. I wasn't expecting that.

Was it an easy journey? 

Was it a memorable, lessons-learned one?
Definitely. So much so, that it almost warrants a book on its own to take you through the journey and birth of "Leaders". Bottom line is, I learned it's not only alright to ask for what you want rather than have to live with what you think you can get when you publish but it's mandatory. A book takes a lot of time, focus, energy and commitment. It might not be the most perfect book but it's an expression of you and what you want to bring to light to the rest of the world. It's your voice in print. I know I will do this differently the next time around.

It was a journey of twists and turns, roadblocks and delays, missed deadlines, commitments not honoured, celebrating milestones, and heated debates - the full spectrum of highs and lows. I had to stand firm with my first publisher on the language that was used as these were conversations in our words, not a series of crafted, perfectly constructed sentences which were always grammatically correct. Let's face it. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone and worried about sentence structure and punctuation?

I also stood firm on the spelling, which probably drove my copy-editor batty as I insisted if I were speaking, and speaking to a Canadian leader, the spelling had to be in Canadian English and when speaking to an American, my words had to be in Canadian spelling and theirs in US. The spell check on the computer lit up like fireworks. Honouring cultures is critical to me and in my work. This is a small fraction of how that manifests itself. There were many heated discussions about terminology. Where I grew up in Montreal, we often use words that are direct translations from French, although I'm an Anglophone. So you might hear me say "Open (or close) the lights" rather than turn them on or off and other terms such as "Go to the cash" to pay for something. I'm still not sure how others say it but I insisted I leave it in as that was what I said in the conversation. I constantly found myself telling my editor / publisher "These are our words, not yours." Too often I found the magic of the conversations compromised for the sake of ensuring perfect grammar or sentence structure. I had to fight to protect it.

Finally, due to delays and capacity issues my publisher was dealing with, it was time to sever that working relationship and move on. Was the book going to go to print? This labour of love was in jeopardy. I had to make some tough decisions not to mention do rewrites and design changes if this book would ever get out.

Well it did. After more than 2 actually closer to 3 years of delays and unmet commitments, many lessons learned, some, thanks to Seth Godin's reality check questions around delivering, shipping, commitments, what are we willing to put up with etc., it was ready to go. Now what? I called my son who pointed me in a direction of Copper Canary editing (they are a gift), another suggestion from a colleague to call CreateSpace (Amazon) to self-publish and within 48 hours turnaround time, this book, with its new cover, layout, and edits was being reviewed. Another 36 hours later, a proof arrived at my door. A few more edits and format changes and off it went to print.

A mere week later it was out on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and this book was born.

Like many births, this one wasn't easy but oh, was it worth it!

We celebrated. The location was perfect...even its name "Play" reflected the atmosphere we wanted to create for the event. We talked, ate, reminisced, shared....clients met other clients, and family and friends got a taste of what it is I do through the words of a short reading and through the others who spoke.

So what's next? I'll continue having these conversations. Everyone has a story all their own which shapes who they are today. I'll be using the book to work with high school students in leadership programs to help them see their leadership through the eyes of these incredible stories. I'll be speaking at Catalyst University in Michigan in January on sustainable leadership, how to pay your success forward,and group coaching some of the community's identified rising stars. I'll be guest lecturing at the post graduate level and speaking at conferences and workshops to bring Human-Based Leadership perspectives to the business, government and technology worlds...arenas which often struggle with the human or soft skills aspect of leadership. And I am pondering over what to write next.

What form that writing will take is yet to be determined. I prefer conversations with people rather than lecturing or speaking at them. So let's talk. Tell me your stories and through them, let's see your Human-Based Leadership emerge.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Book Launch With a Twist

Untitled 1

Maybe in some ways I'm old school. Yes, I know digital book sales are going through the roof while print sales continue to decline and yet there is something so perfect about the feel of a real, live physical book.

There's also something deeply gratifying about sharing a book with someone I respect and care about. We all buy books for ourselves and yet when someone says "I chose this for you" and gives it to you, well… that has a whole other level of meaning.

So I decided, with my new book Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words, I wanted to be able to reclaim that experience for you. Not just the giving part, but the gathering part. It's my hope that in sharing this book with others, you'll get people talking about Human-Based Leadership so they act on a radically different level. Bring people together and who knows what will emerge? So I spent a lot of time brainstorming ways to inspire people to order not one but two copies of the book. One to keep, one to share.

I wanted to do something different for you...

To that end, we decided to hold the launch in my home town and not in a mega-urban centre (as was requested). We also decided to hold it at the locally-owned Play, food & wine and not a book store, so it can be a gathering and celebration of Human-Based Leaders; both you and those you've identified as HB Leaders.

I decided that I needed to be giving away more than I was getting. Not only did I want to share these amazing stories with you but wanted you to be able to share them with someone you greatly respect. Which is why, when you buy 2 books, you're getting them at our cost. Add edgy conversations you can sink your teeth into and delicious food for you to do the same at one of Ottawa's most highly-rated spots, and we have a recipe for an evening to remember.

Click here to check it all out in detail and register and feel free to share this with anyone you feel would enjoy not only the book, but the experience.  

For those of you who can't attend the live event, we'd love to hear your stories about Human-Based Leaders. Share a story with us along with your name and email address and we'll not only send you a discount code for the book but possibly choose your story for publishing on the web.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nelson Mandela's Lessons of Leadership

Nelson Mandela, now 90 years old, continues to stir the pot and stand tall in the world's eyes as a leader. Recently, Richard Stengel asked him about leadership and compiled these either points of leadership according to Nelson Mandela. As Richard says "They are mostly practical. Many of them stem directly from his personal experience. All of them are calibrated to cause the best kind of trouble: the trouble that forces us to ask how we can make the world a better place."

Click here to read on...

We must continue to have the courageous conversations to upset much of the status quo, stand for those who don't have a voice, especially in a world where we're so virtually connected and have a voice.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Powerful Women vs. Powerful Men

Powerful women are viewed as arrogant but have a hard time being viewed as Human-Based Leaders (when it applies) as they feel they're labeled as weak.

Powerful men are viewed as focused and effective leaders but have no problem being viewed as Human-Based Leaders (when it applies).

The playbook isn't the same. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reality = Real People Doing Real Things

A great post by Max Mckeown about Strategy for the Real World. Ties in beautifully with the perspectives of a Human-Based Leader™. Real issues, real people, real impact and so on. Max says "Organizations are (often) incapable of carrying out the sophisticated strategies they have developed. Strategy planning takes place in a fantasy world. Action takes place in the real world. Strategy planning (too often) happens on away days and in board rooms. Strategy is the thing that senior managers do. It’s the thing that huge consultancies do behind closed doors. Reality is about real people doing real things."

The real world is about growing people or demolishing them, supporting them or using them as your ladder to get to the top. It's about choice and how you decide you're going to treat people and hold yourself when it comes to your leadership.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Digital Leadership

Recently, as Dean of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organization's Symposium in Chicago, Illinois, we explored what it meant to "Grow (and strengthen) Leaders in an Increasingly Virtual Work Environment." 

As we continuously explore the proficiencies and styles of effective leadership from an organizational perspective, we now have the added dimension of having to help evolve the leaders of the future in a disbursed, de-centralized work environment. When face-to-face interaction brings so much depth to connection and relationship, what do we need to look at when it comes to growing the human-based leaders of the future, especially if we may not ever meet them in person and work with them in real time? Ralph Mercer, charged with the Modernization of Non-Commisioned Member Professional Development System and Professional Military Education Program for the Canadian Military, highlights some of the key points we have to pay attention to, a point of view we considered and used in our contextual framework at the symposium.

Digital leadership - Ralph Mercer

Early in my career I was taught 10 basic principles of leadership.. while the words have changed over the years to reflect contemporary language and changing culture.. these below still hold true.

●    Know your job
●    Know your strengths and limitations
●    Always seek self-improvement
●    Lead by example and be consistent
●    Make sure your team knows your intent and then lead them to accomplishment
●    Know your people and take care of them before yourself
●    Develop the leadership potential in your people
●    Make sound and timely decisions
●    Train your people as a team and challenge them to their fullest potential
●    Keep your people informed,
●    Provide clear vision and make your orders understood

We practiced Social Networking in a way, back then, in the form of "O" groups, gathering everyone into a circle, sharing issues and the days directions, accepting feedback and re-explaining the mission until everyone understood the intent and goal.  Leadership then, as is now was about people and communication and that is why I’m a SM advocate. It too is about people and communication. No matter where you are or who you are with, if you practice these simple tenets you will be the leader... online or face to face it’s that simple (and that hard).

So is there a difference in leading virtually? Yes.  You are not present, so the cues that come with physical presence are missing… the ability to look into their eyes and read fear, confusion and clarity of purpose, read their body language, to have that quiet word to motivate when needed, and to just shake their hand. But before we run off and design whole new leadership paradigms to compensate, we need to provide a little context. This is not new, we have provided leadership via, messenger, telegraph, radio and telephone and have been successful.

The virtual environment is the latest evolution of communication and we are adapting to it. It is a lot more work to lead from a distance or virtually; clarity is key in everything you post or send, it must be clear in intent and message. There is the lack of context you provide by your presence, so it must be compensated for in the virtual environment. But that's not to say there aren't some ways to ensure that virtual and digital leadership is executed and used properly: When I talk about digital leadership I promote these principles;

New-ish leadership principles for the digital age
●    Empower your team
●    Connect them socially (wired and organic)
●    Establish a credible feedback loop, (you must answer promptly)
●    Own the culture (build a network of trust)
●    Articulate a Clear vision (build common purpose)
●    Be transparent but be THE leader
●    Create your vision.. Always move towards it
●    Focus on what matters
●    Know your people, take care of them first, challenge them
●    Listen and set the example
●    Always learn from your team

One thing I have noticed (not to my surprise), is that leaders who are poor in person are still lousy leaders in the digital environment.

Virtual leadership is more collaborative and therefore relies more on trust while in the physical, your presence and confidence can balance the trust requirement. There is also a danger in the connected world for leaders to want too much information and not make timely decisions. Instead, we wait for that next piece of information, (I call it information blindness, like a snow storm where each flake is small but enough of them will stop you from seeing the path). We only need about 50-70% of the required information to make informed decisions, the connected world gets that info to us faster.

I also think we forget that leadership is about people and communications, not technology. Even virtually, it must remain a human experience, even if it is not physical. One of the cool things about digital leadership, is the reach of your vision. In the physical room I can effect only those that can hear me and see me; online that distance become irrelevant.

Follow Ralph on Twitter @ralphmercer

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Calling an End to Youth Homelessness

When I first met Rick some years ago at a conference in California, he spoke about his passion, StandUp For Kids, a program committed to the rescue of homeless and street kids. The first thing that struck me was "Why didn't I know any of this?" and the second was "I have to get to know this man better…talk to him and find out how I could support him, even from Canada." He touched me in a deeply profound way. One way was, I could spread the word to my blog readers, my colleagues and friends. Another way was to publish a subsequent conversation we had years later so readers everywhere could truly understand what Rick and StandUp For Kids was all about. Now, I ask you to join me in supporting Rick through all the connections we have on social media and beyond.

"This isn't about money; it’s about caring! What we've accomplished has no price tag. We know we've made a difference in the lives of thousands of kids. I would have paid that price for one! What we do really helps. You see kids get off the streets, and this work provides me with meaning and purpose.” - Rick Koca (from Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words)

In Rick's words, "Alex Petrou, from Australia, is Riding Across America to raise awareness about homeless and street youth in our country. Alex is making the 3,000 journey from Los Angeles to Washington, DC to help us raise funds to support our programs.

Alex has challenged me to raise more funds for our homeless youth than he can for Australia's homeless youth. So, you up for helping me win this challenge? Ask your friends and co-workers to match your donation."

"Each week our programs reach out to more than 1,000 kids to help feed, clothe, provide hygiene products, and assist in any way we can. That means that there are still more than 1.2 million kids that we're not helping.

We're 99% volunteers, and have in the past 22 years, became the largest organization in the USA to help homeless and street youth. We know, these past few years have been difficult on us all, and as we head into 2012, we need your help more than ever. Shamefully, with the economy the way it is, more kids are ending up on the streets.
We have several wonderful things happening through the end of the year; LeAnn Rimes with her new single "Give", the band Switchfoot, who has been supporting us for many years, with their new single "Dark Horses", and a national event called "The Big Purple Couch". All of this to raise awareness and support for America's more than 1.3 million homeless and street youth. Visit our web site, get involved, make a difference, check it "

Thank you!
Rick Koca
Founder, StandUp For Kids

Blog it, Tweet it, and Facebook it....share it with everyone you know and say "Enough! We're going to call an end to youth homelessness!"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wisdom vs. Knowledge Continued...

I recently played the role of Dean of Symposia for our International Consortium for Coaching in Organization's Symposium in Chicago. The theme was "Growing (Strengthening) Leaders in an Increasingly Virtual Work Environment. What remained in my mind was something I heard a few years ago at another conference which was, “Learning is more than gathering information”. Add to that, how we're now working across borders, and taking into account the dynamics of global organizations, time zones, leadership dispersed in the field and the varying cultures at play, how we gather and share information and, in my mind, integrate it into what we do and  operate is key.

In a world where we look at the difference between knowledge and wisdom and were asked “How many people have you met who have an immense amount of knowledge, are like walking encyclopedias but aren’t very wise? And how many people are very simple and don’t have a wealth of knowledge or information but are very, very wise?” reminds me of the reality check  questions I ask which are: "Why am I reading this?" and "I am doing this (spending my time, energy, attention) for the sake of what exactly?"

In an era where a vast amount of knowledge is immediately available, the world is increasingly becoming an even playing field when it comes to sharing information. Social media creates a platform where everyone can weigh in no matter what their title or position. Everyone now has a voice and an opinion. How we experience and share what we learn brings wisdom.

I quoted Brian Solis' words of wisdom in my book where he says "The socialization of content creation, consumption, and participation is hastening the metamorphosis that transforms everyday people into participants of a powerful and valuable media-literate society.

In social media, influence has taken center stage. With the spotlight perfectly fixed on the ‘me’ in social media, a large shadow is now cast over the ‘we’ that defines the social web. As individuals begin to realize the possibilities and benefits that surface as a result of building connected social graphs, a very public exploration to find the balance between influence and popularity unfolds.

What do you think?

Other's Views of Human-Based Leadership

Recently, Will Lukang wrote about Authentic Leaders and stated "Authentic leaders have integrity and lead with compassion for their people.  Like all other leaders they have the vision, insight, influence and followers.  But the difference between a regular and authentic leader is that the authentic leaders care.  They truly care about their constituents"....."The world is changing and competition is all around us.  The need for authentic leaders is more important than ever.  If you’re in position of authority, ask yourself the question: Is doing the right thing your way of doing things?  Are you there to serve or be served?  Hopefully your answers are doing the right thing and to serve your constituents." Read on...

And Dan Rockwell writes:"How do you want others to feel when they are around you?
  • Like you are smart or like they are smart?
  • Like they have great ideas or like you have great ideas?
  • Like they are stars or like you are a star?"
Be intentional is his overall theme. Read on...

The bottom line is people take jobs because of people and they leave jobs because of people and that applies right across the board.

In Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words, John Spence speaks to just that when he says "When I was hired, my first boss was mean and aggressive and paranoid. I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. I was absolutely enthralled with the work I was doing. But I would get up every morning, shaking as I put my clothes on, and drive home from work crying every day because my boss, my “leader,” was so tyrannical that it was just painful. 

I learned a huge lesson about the impact leaders have on other people’s lives. Whether you lead two people or 20,000 people, you have a huge obligation, responsibility, and incredible impact on the joy, the balance, the love, and the fun in people’s lives. You can either make their work exciting and fun or make their lives a living hell."

It's all about choice; Human-Based Leader or Power-Based, command and obey leader.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Seth's Blog: That buzzing in my ear didn't mean I was about to die

Today is End Malaria Day

Right this minute, right now, please do three things:

  1. Buy two copies of End Malaria, an astonishing new book by more than sixty of your favorite authors. In a minute, I will explain why this might be the most important book you buy this year (not the best book, of course, just the most important one). You should buy one in paperback too so you can evangelize a copy to a colleague.
  2. Tweet or like this post, or email it to ten friends (It only takes a second.)
  3. And, visit the End Malaria Day website and share it as well.

What would happen if you did that? What would happen if you stepped up and spent a few dollars?

Here's what would happen: someone wouldn't die. Read on...  Seth's Blog: That buzzing in my ear didn't mean I was about to die

To quote Michael Bungay Stanier, "What if a book didn’t just talk about saving lives – but did it?"

This book does just that.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Change Agent

Robert Zitz (Chapter 12 of Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words) is retiring from the public service after more than 32 years of dedicated government service to his country. He held key positions as Deputy Director, Mission Support Directorate, The National Reconnaissance Office,  Deputy Associate Director at the United States Secret Service, and Deputy Under Secretary of Preparedness and National Protection & Programs at Department of Homeland Security to name a few.

In the book, we discussed what's next for him and, as he's retiring from government (but not retiring completely), our conversation will continue. Stay tuned...

In the article that was written about his retirement, (got goeint - Chronicling the future of geospacial intelligence, USGIF President Keith Masback said "With all of that said, there seemed to be universal agreement during the ceremony and in the discussion afterwards, that Rob’s most critical lasting legacy may well be his devotion to developing the next generation of Intelligence Community leaders. He continuously mentored and developed young minds and inspired everyone he has come in contact with. Rob Zitz is truly a leader among leaders in the GEOINT community."

Rob has joined the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in the company's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Group as Senior Vice President and Chief Systems Architect. In this role, Zitz will help shape the group's solutions in airborne, maritime, national security space, and ground ISR programs, along with associated processing, exploitation, and dissemination  systems.  

He is a change agent in every sense of the word. In our conversation he spoke about what that means... "One of the lessons of a successful change agent is you've got to be good at visioning. You've got to be able to foresee the future and understand what the possibilities are. Visioning involves understanding the strategic changes that will irrevocably change your customers’ operating environment. These changes include threats, geopolitical shifts, economic trends, health issues, climate change, etc."

When I asked him what was next, Rob said "I'm talking now to the leadership of the intelligence community to see how I can continue to contribute. I expect to work on transformation, meaning helping to connect the dots inside the Intelligence community, the military community, the Homeland Security community, and law enforcement community. I expect I will continue to be in a position to help integrate and share information up, down, back and forth, and sideways." 

We look forward to seeing how Rob writes this next chapter in his life.

SAIC is a FORTUNE 500® scientific, engineering, and technology applications company that uses its deep domain knowledge to solve problems of vital importance to the nation and the world, in national security, energy and the environment, critical infrastructure, and health.  The company's approximately 41,000 employees serve customers in the U.S. Department of Defense, the intelligence community, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, other U.S. Government civil agencies and selected commercial markets.  It is headquartered in McLean, Va. (PR Newswire)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


"I start where the last man left off" - Thomas Edison

Now isn't that what collaboration is all about? When Ron Worton (Chapter 6 Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words) was head of one of the top genetics labs in the world and, with his team, discovered the gene for Muscular Dystrophy, he spoke about the journey towards that moment of discovery. Researchers and geneticists around the world came together towards a common goal - to discover the gene so they could work on a cure.

How powerful is it when people can set aside ego and recognize they have power with people, not power over people. Great minds coming together....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jack Layton: Human-Based Leader to the End

Just a mere two days before Jack Layton passed away, he wrote this letter to share with Canadians. The full letter can be found here. For now, I share this snippet which says so much. You might not have agreed with his politics but in his letter there can be no doubt how much he loved Canada and Canadians. 

...."As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future."

Jack, your legacy lives on. You will be missed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Worrying is Way Too Over-Rated

The other day while I was working with one of my clients, something was telling me I should ask him how everything was - life, living, vacation planning - all the non-work-related things. He shared something that was going on in his personal life that was weighing on him greatly. After he shared what was happening, he ended it by saying "Don't worry about me".

My answer was "I'm not going to worry about you. Worrying won't help you. What will change if I worried? No. I am here to support you through this." 

There are people in our lives who will worry about us, give us unsolicited advice and, although they mean well, give advice which stems from emotion, not necessarily common sense. People in our lives want us to feel better so might tell us what they think we want to hear. Instead, how about just listening and asking the non-judgmental questions that will help give them clarity? And how about trusting that they know what is right for them? Even if they don't, they'll know you're there to support them throughout.

Coaches (or as Ruth Ann Harnisch says, GREAT coaches) understand that it's OK to let clients live in the questions. We're not there to give them answers. We're there to help them think differently, clarify, and simplify.

GREAT leaders understand they can lead from a sense of humanness without being pushovers. They don't hand you anything on a silver platter; they support you to grow into your level of excellence. They understand that everyone has different talents and strengths and different ways of doing things and create an environment within which you find out just what that is.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shaping a Culture

Shaping a corporate culture is something that has to be done consciously. It requires purpose, aligning with values and ethics and the active engagement and participation of everyone involved. One of the things that struck me when in conversations with some of the leaders of Lockheed Martin was how important behavioral standards were, for their staff, leaders, suppliers and consultants. For a predominantly military and engineer-based organization, this focus was (for me) unexpected and one I applaud.

Hearing J.D. McFarlan's story and the insights of the FLiTE Team (Future Leaders in Training Experience) further cemented my opinion of how this company is run. I'm proud to have their stories shared in my book (Chapter 7: The Sky's The Limit).

In it J.D speaks about their roadmap to guide all leaders to develop the skills to be the type of
leader they want everyone to be. "We normally measure leadership in terms of what the numbers were and how they performed at delivering results. This balances that with how we want leaders to exhibit strong leadership behaviors. We have a set of Full-Spectrum Leadership imperatives:

• Number one is shape the future;
• Number two is build effective relationships;
• Number three is energize the team;
• Number four is deliver results; and
• Number five is model personal excellence, integrity and accountability.

It's about building effective relationships, being socially aware of how you interact with people, and understanding how people see you."

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Power of Peers

I'm thinking about the lessons Barry Libert shares as I reread Chapter 10 of Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words. It makes me wonder,"How can I utilize the power of my networks to give me the information, insights and perspectives I need to support my clients?"

Barry says "We'd really like to talk to our peers [leaders of other companies] to learn what the best are doing and how we can do something similar.

The question that has stuck with me is, "How can I learn from my peers to improve my performance and make better decisions?" Even today, I have friends who work at large management consulting firms and they still say the same thing: that their clients want to talk to their peers. Large companies and their leaders are not unique:

  • Kids want to talk to their peers before they talk to their parents.
  • Customers want to talk to their peers before they talk to the company.
  • Sick people want to talk to their peers before they talk to doctors.
  • Employees want to talk to their peers before they talk to their bosses.
  • People want to download music from their peers before they buy a song."
Who do you talk to before making a decision?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"The American Dream Embodied in a Journalism Professor"

"Award-winning educator Saltzman embodies "the American Dream" - Alex Boekelheide

Joe Saltzman (Chapter 3 in Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words), faculty member at USC for over 44 years, accepted the Scripps Howard Foundation's award for Journalism and Mass Communication last night. Scripps Howard's National Journalism Awards are considered among the most prestigious awards in American journalism. "Saltzman is the American dream embodied in a journalism professor," the Scripps Howard judges wrote in their citation. Read on....

Once I decided to dive in and write my book, I immediately contacted Joe Saltzman and asked if he would agree to be interviewed, and he accepted. When we first met, through his wife Barbara, one of the things I noticed about Joe was how humble he is. Ironically, our first in-person meeting happened when he came to Toronto to receive one of his many awards. And here he is being honored yet again for his extraordinary work. He defines Human-Based Leadership.

There is so much learning in his piece. One comment he made that really stays with me and serves as a guide when I'm speaking is "I tell my students, “We can teach you how to do things. We can give you the techniques and the knowledge to create good journalism, but it is up to you to bring the passion, the concern, the caring to the job. We can’t teach you that.”" 

The same applies for leaders. They can give you the training, the tools, the resources to do things but it's up to you to bring the passion, drive, caring and human values to the job.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Courage To Lead from a Human-Based Perspective

This morning in John Spence's blog he says "Although I am a great fan of heroic courage and know that in many situations that is exactly what is called for, what I believe we need from our leaders right now is the ability to show an even more powerful level of courage… the courage of vulnerability."  (Click here to read on).

In Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words, Chapter 1, John and I discuss the virtues of a Human-Based Leader and how it has nothing whatsoever to do with circumstances. It's who they are and how they live by their values. 

He says "High-achieving self-actualizers are not a slave to the good or bad opinions of other people. They’ve got a deeply held set of values. They have a clear vision of the life they want to lead, the legacy they want to leave, are really clear about the kind of person they want to be. They’re open to feedback and input, but not really swayed by what other people think about them."

"Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down."

— Eleanor Roosevelt
You Learn By Living (1960)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

You Become What You Focus On

""You become what you focus on" and "You become like the people you surround yourself with." Whatever you think about, whatever you study, whatever your brain is filled with — TV, books, CDs, DVDs, audio books, networking, and those you surround yourself with — are what determines what your life will turn out like. "" John Spence.

"Driven by an insatiable curiosity to understand the fundamental aspects of what it takes to achieve and sustain excellence in business and life, John Spence has earned a reputation as a leading authority in the areas of Strategic Thinking, High-Performance Teams, Advanced Leadership Development, and Delivering Consistently Superior Customer Service, making him one of the most highly sought after executive educators and professional speakers in America." (
John Spence is an extraordinary man, leader, teacher and speaker and I am honored to have him grace the pages of my book (Chapter 1, Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words).

"Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand." — General Colin Powell. Or as John says, ...."making the complex awesomely simple."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

I Will Never...

This morning Seth Godin writes about "Delivering on Never" such as I will never miss a deadline, I will never fail to warn you about a possible pitfall.

Human-Based Leaders add a few more to the equation...

HB Leaders will never treat you as a second class citizen. They recognize they have power with people, not over them.
HB Leaders will never lead by fear. They lead by humanness.
HB Leaders will never demolish you. They'll evolve you.

Seth continues to say "There are lots of sorts of never you can deliver to a customer." I'd like to add there are all sorts of nevers you can deliver to people at home, at work, to strangers, to everyone. They can become your mantra, your way of being. That will definitely set you above the rest. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Lee Iacocca and His 9Cs of Leadership

A few years ago, Lee Iacocca wrote about the 9 C's of Leadership and asked "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?"

To that end he created a 9C's scorecard  asking us all to spread the word. We'll I'm spreading as this is a perfect illustration of a Human-Based Leader.

What are the 9 Cs? They're Common Sense, Communication, Creativity, Conviction, Competence, Courage, Character, Charisma, and Curiosity. They're a road map for people to choose leaders. Use them for all areas of your life. Share them with you friends, family, peers, bosses....and let us know what you've come up with.

Lee Iacocca had a rich life and shares it beautifully in his blog. One day I would be honored to have a conversation with him to hear more about how he evolved into his leadership. But for now, click here to read more about this amazing and powerful man.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Productive Ripple Effects

One of the questions I've been asking my clients is "What is the by-product or productive ripple effect of what you're doing?" If you're working on a project, what is happening on the periphery that might be of benefit to someone else's project? To a colleague or peer?

If you're looking for funding to get something off the ground, how much easier would it be if you could tell potential investors that not only would they be investing in your project or program but in another project indirectly? Double bang for their bucks.

HB Leaders take this into consideration. They not only grow the leaders of the future but help them see beyond their own story. There are implications upon implications. If you pay attention and work with them in a generative way, a little money can go a whole lot further.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Wisdom vs. Knowledge Revisited

Since my original post about wisdom vs. knowledge, I continue to discover that learning really is more than just gathering information. Learning is integrating that knowledge in some way to grow, shift, evolve and respond. We can memorize everything we read and store it for future reference, however if it sits there and isn't used, did we learn or just memorize? Are we wise if we share what we memorized or are we if we synthesize and contextualize it?

Who do I consider wise? One who continually looks at the status quo and sees whether or not things can be better. People who know they don't know everything about any one thing. And one who continually asks the important questions around what can be better and how can we be the best for the world rather than the best in the world?

In these filled up days where so much information is readily available, the world is fast become an even playing field. There is way too much information bombarding us at the speed of light.We can look for guidance from those who have a wealth of wisdom because they see context, relevance and impact. Wisdom is priceless.

Do you consider yourself wise or knowledgeable?

I know many people with post graduate degrees who can’t find a job. Why? Because they’re scholastically overqualified but don’t have the savvy, the perception and perspectives needed in a fast paced, competitive world. They get lost in their knowledge and get stuck on research but don’t integrate it and use it as needed to move themselves and organizations forward. They consider facts and forget people.

When I chose my research and development team I didn’t look at their degrees as much as experience, impact, awareness factor and openness to grow, learn and create. Knowledge can hold you back in the realm of what was already studied and documented. My team looks at possibility. I'm seeing the same trends occur in the corporate world. Who do you think would serve your organization better?