What I Learned at the Convention …

It really is true – if it isn’t at Walmart; you didn’t need it, anyway.


What I observed at the convention:

  • Mobile phones are not essential.
  • It really is true – if it isn’t at Walmart; you don’t need it

Here’s your nugget:

Patients/people/we/YOU are smart.

They know what we are doing and even why.  They know when you are honest and when you are stressed.  They know when you’re not getting along with your peers.  And, NOTHING will ever replace a confident gaze and an honest, accepting smile that is aimed precisely, and uninterruptedly at you (…. actually, I’m pretty sure it’s the most powerful weapon in our arsenal for building relationships.)





Perfect positive regard . . .

“If you can’t sit across from someone and say to yourself in all honesty, ‘I have perfect positive regard for you.’ – you’re never going to do that person any good.  Just walk away.”



He left home at a young age to work on a fishing boat in California with our uncle.  Later, he went to Vietnam with what was then a little known government group called the NSA.  He exhausted his GI bill on every ounce of education he could get and remains a life long learner.  As life passed he became a seasoned sea captain able to sail ships of all sizes and shapes.  Then he met a redheaded wonder who he could not walk away from and they married late in life, turning Mike into a land bound counselor of some of the toughest young kids in the Bronx.

As life’s poetry would have it he is precisely where he is needed.  The kids he counsels are tough people who are sometimes tough to love.  The secret Mike shares is that they don’t need to be placated with nice gestures and professionalism.  They each need to be seen as a person who counts for something.

It probably is not fully possible to absolutely always have perfect positive regard for every single person whom you encounter, but I propose to you that the more you try the more you find high regard.

Being in caregiving means that we move into people’s lives at a speedy pace while just the opposite is true for our patients – everything is in slow motion.

Tell someone that you hold them in high regard and see what happens.  Find out why it is true for you to say, “I hold you in perfect positive regard.”


And with passion he said, “PASSION!”


Dear Friends,

Last night I had the amazing privilege of having dinner with Lou Holtz (yes, the coach from Notre Dame).

Having no ability to control myself I commenced to ply him with questions about leadership and growing talent.  I asked, “Given that in your career you’ve walked into at least 5 major teams – full of talent but not winning games – what would you say is the MOST important thing to look for first in creating a team of winners?”

Almost before I could finish the sentence, and well before he’d finished chewing what was in his mouth he loudly spit out, “PASSION!!”  “I look for passionate people who want to take the whole team into a new place.  Passion!”

He went on to describe how having passion was the absolute, fundamental, essential trait that he looked for from his first group and that as freshmen became juniors and seniors he said, “by then, they better ALL be leaders”.

His strategy was to assign a junior and a senior leader to each one of his new freshmen.  Their job was to instill courage and passion.

Reminiscing, he cited a common thematic obstacle that arose in first year players – “quitting”.

“Quitting is a quick, long term solution to what is almost always a short term problem”; “The leader’s job is to tell them to stick it out”

Throughout the evening he kept saying simple axioms like:

“I’ve never told anyone what to do; just the way that I did it. So, I’d say, ‘when I did it this way it didn’t work. When I did it that way it worked. You do what you want to.’”

Humble guy.

Great leader.

Coach Holtz never claimed great wisdom, extraordinary intellect, or anything special that makes him different than anyone else.  Just that he’d survived to say “what worked”.

Had to pass this great experience on to you because of who you are and what I’m asking you to do with the mentoring program.  What we are doing is simple – not brilliant.  Working alongside others to embolden the good and subdue doubt and fear is an old strategy – very ancient  . . . and wise.

Stay simple and survive, my friends.


It’s been a while . . .

A couple of weeks before my mother passed away she held her youngest great-granddaughter for the first time.

IMG_1734. . . since we’ve talked.

Few things give greater witness to my shortcomings more than the confusing speed of time passing.  During the past months I have been pursuing education and other distractions and failed to post regularly.

Intentions mostly give way to time passed by as my goals seem to be in a perpetual state of amendment.  Nonetheless, here is a new goal.  To write to you more often.

In coping with my lapses of “doing” I project onto each of you that you are like me.  So, since we are the same then it must be true that you have good intentions too; and, you would like to talk more, take more time in pause, and still have time left for family after work.

A physician friend recently reminded me of the difference between seeking excellence and perfectionism.  She said that excellence is the insight that you will never know or be completely perfect but in the humble state of hope you push toward a goal that will never be achieved and the walk becomes a prayer.  Perfectionism is the disease that we pursue a goal from a sense of failure, or competition not realizing that it cannot be achieved by any of us and this walk is haunted with angst.

A gift to you, time knowing that we all wish we could do more and be more and simply will not get it all done.

“Walk humbly before God”.


The Price of “Wow”

…the flawless moment was the one that took me perfectly by surprise and probably cost Disney about $1.

round-window-stone-frame-detail-4738561420 plus years ago, when my children were 5 and 7 we traveled to Walt Disney World. Breakfast with Mickey, the Electric Light Parade, the fireworks and the whole shebang – we did it all. But hands down, the most flawless moment of entertainment was the one that took me perfectly by surprise and probably cost Disney about $1.

It happened when my daughter’s shoe came untied just inside the entrance into Cinderella’s castle. Bored and easily distracted I started looking around at the crowds and amazing architecture when I noticed a window in the second level of the castle.  As I was thinking about how elaborate it was to build a prop with that much detail the curtain started to move.

It was the WITCH! From her perch inside the castle she leeringly locked eyes with me.  Me, standing there frozen and not believing that this extraordinary event was happening for only me.  I was breathless!

Standing dumbstruck I was afraid to look away for fear of losing the moment to eternity when I finally broke away and yelled to my wife,


“THERE! In the window!!!”

Where?  What? She replied.

I looked back and she was gone.

We stood there another 10 minutes waiting for her to return.  The kids kept wanting to go and I wouldn’t let them leave this newly claimed holy ground.  It HAD to happen again, soon.

It didn’t.

I had to rectify my want for more with the solace that it was uniquely and wonderfully only ever going to happen for me, once.  That Disney.  They’re freakin’ awesome!!  Don’t you love being surprised when you think you can’t?

Making a moment of “wow” doesn’t mean spending $50,000 a day on fireworks displays.  It means creating the unexpected perfection of a personal treat.

Psychological Safety in Teams


Almost a year ago Google published its research on how to build the Perfect Team.  Not only did the research show that people who work in teams are happier, spot problems faster, and produce solutions much more quickly; it showed that the relationships between team members matters, too.

Most of us have memories of being stifled in a group that was highly competitive and even feeling as though contributing to the group might be personally harmful from the risk of being wrong or even ridiculed.

The key to making groups tick ends up being about values and norms among peers – some of us call it culture.  If we can understand and impact the motivations and normative expectations of the group, then teams can improve dramatically.  What the article coined as “psychological safety” is the ability of a team to relax socially and without the potential fear of being a failure.  These groups stood out as the constant winners in productivity and creativity.

It certainly seems that this type of research endorses an age-old theme of supporting each other’s dignity.  Since the future of our work will almost certainly require being a part of a winning team we should spend time understanding how the quickest and most satisfying road to success demands the development of relationships.

Do you feel safe to be the most creative person that you can be?  Are you called as a leader to sponsor safety for others?  How do you do it?