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.)





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?

Peak Performance Considerations Even If You’re “Settled In”

Hard work in a focused and intentional way is, in the end, what distinguishes those who achieve remarkable results.

Gary Pulsipher Joplin portrait

Gary Pulsipher is a true “Tar” of industry, a friend, and a life-long learner. Gary and I have had many meaningful conversations about leadership and personal growth and his humble way of engaging those he leads prompted my request for his help in blogging.  He currently leads the Mercy Joplin Health ministry in SW Missouri and Kansas.

I’ve had the opportunity recently to review two books on the topic of ‘peak’ performance. Peak by Anders Ericsson; and Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin discuss and challenge whether some people are born with innate talents, while the rest of us are left to struggle.

Conclusions reached by two well-regarded authors show that while some people certainly  appear to have strong skills and abilities, those who truly excel are the ones who engage in deliberate practice over a period of  many years.

Hard work in a focused and intentional way is, in the end, what distinguishes those who achieve remarkable results.

Further, most truly exceptional performers start from a very young age to practice and perfect their crafts.  Examples include Tiger Woods and Mozart.  It seems that while the brain and body are developing in the young, tremendous progress can be made.

However, researchers have also proven that people of all ages, when engaged in a focused improvement plan with intentional practice and feedback, achieve amazing results.  So there’s hope – even for those of us who are aging and somewhat set in our ways.

One of my favorite Edwin Markham poems:

We are blind until we see, that in the human plan

Nothing is worth the making, if it does not make the man

Why build these cities glorious, if man un-builded goes,

In vain we build the world unless the builder also grows. 

So the challenge, as we age and become comfortable, is to continue to push for growth and development.


I would be interested in hearing from you:

Have you found any good ways to make sure you’re growing in your own excellence at work?

“Super Trouper isn’t a Person”



Of the three great motivations: coping, validating my identity, or other-centeredness; which one are you?

Kudos to a great mentor, friend and psychotherapist, Joe Gross.  He was a huge fan of following the “why”. Dr. Gross would often explain that if we understand the motivation then we can deal with the energy behind it.

When the idea that “what’s in it for me?” is expanded to include my need to be respected as a contributor, essential to someone else’s life, or valued as a person then our purpose for being energized into society becomes wrought with pathways toward becoming useful to others.

But here is an even deeper truth.  The greatest paradigm of this thought is unexperienced even in the validation of one’s own self-worth.  What if our “why” reached beyond the stars and into an aspect of value that permeates relationships?  Being validated as a good speaker on the public stage pales to being a portion of a process that succeeds in giving a modest hope for life to a desperately poor or ill individual, or advocating for change from a quiet place in the universe where we are not in the spotlight but still remain essential to the greater good.

We will never succeed in promoting every life to the place of honor at the figurative table – it is a perfectly failed proposition.  What we can do is give in to the ideal that leaders who hold perceived positions of prestige are propped up by the sinew, bone and spirit of the true sowers of the harvest.  If you have a culture that holds success to be the Super Trouper brand spotlight moment our parents told us all that we deserve then you are growing a large group of disenfranchised employees.

A leader’s truest function is connecting the success of their people with reason and purpose associated with the greater good of the community we serve. Being the figurative Super Trouper is actually doing just that – shining light on other people.

Do you spend time connecting people with their why?  Do you have a good vision of your own reason for working? 

May I Call the Sun a Space Heater?



In 2006 Pluto became a “dwarf planet”.  It just sat there, completely voiceless and flat out became something different than millions of Earthlings previously believed it to be.  The new reality did not change Pluto but in many ways it served to disrupt the normal thinking about what many of us took for granted regarding what we used to believed that we all knew together.

A big part of how we experience social safety is having common understanding about what we call things.  Changing the way a thing is called isn’t always bad but it is almost always met with resistance when it changes the meaning. It must have been an odd evolution of thinking that finally integrated huge conceptual shifts of mind like gravity or the idea of a spherical Earth into the normal world of safe, common truth.  Many people did not survive it.

This proposition could proffer a moment to ponder.  In a world where renaming things seems to be a rampant solution to every small cultural incongruence, are there some things that are best left sacred (i.e. off limits for change)?  Can we just rename, re-catagorize, and reconfigure old ideas into new meanings because we want to?

So, for instance, are there things you might prefer that people recognize about you that are not available for creative interpretations in meaning? What? Are we safer in community when some things are sacred?






Sit By Me


What are your best memories of being affirmed?  Can you easily recreate these memories today?

I  imagine we all share a childhood memory of walking into a room full of other children, all of whom are already engaged in laughing and learning, not knowing if we belonged, where we should go, what we should do;  and then, hearing a redeeming voice of hope penetrating the chaos with, “Hey! Sit by me!”

To this day it is still one of the most basic affirmations I receive from my friends, or even from just the friendliest person in the room.  These three words when spoken into the fear and mystery of the unknown can convey acceptance, safety, freedom, power, trust and a whole bucket of good things that are shared in acceptance.

It is one of the relaxed and simple joys of married life that I always have a person who will sit beside me.

Beside me.

Relationship skills and group success are finding a renewed interest in many recent studies.  There is strong focus on how to create healthy relationships at work because we can now validate that groups which trust and feel safe with each other do better work, faster.  Being inspired among people who are accepting and willing to add their creativity to yours without the fear of stealing ideas, or being hyper-critical is the most productive type of group we can encourage. Leaders who spend their time thinking about how to quickly create safe teams are the leaders of our future.

It would be awesome if our personal understanding of our need for inclusion in others’ lives drove our behavior.  What if our longing for relationships shaped how we make it easier for others to relate to us?   How can we simplify safety in meetings? How can we provide for and nurture the necessarily intense moments where we must discern creative pathways of growth for our teams?  Positive affirmations and safety sit hopefully at the front of each of these conversations.  Hope that your mind can be freely open to mine is the essential building block for the greater conscience that proffers brilliance.

Nowadays I’m taken to almost always saying, “Sit by me” when we have a board meeting or any large group.  Try it. It’s an easy and humorous first step to reconnecting to your safe, inner child.