• Recent Posts

  • Topics

    Book Review (4)
    Communication (2)
    Corporate Culture (7)
    Faith (4)
    Health Care (2)
    Leadership (9)
    Musing (12)
    People Skills (8)
    Politics (2)
    Project Management (3)
    Recruiting (2)
    Relationship (6)
    Sales (1)
    Startup (1)
    Strategy (1)

    WP Cumulus Flash tag cloud by Roy Tanck and Luke Morton requires Flash Player 9 or better.

  • Archives

Hiking in Heaven

I believe God speaks to us and in my case He does so with a picture snapshot.  As I start to talk about the the picture, the story it has to tell starts to unfold.  The image is persistent and the story is always encouraging.

Female Hiker Standing On Toe With Man

Today we laid to rest Margaret Weagley, mother of four and grandmother to two generations that include my wife and kids.  She was also a dear grandmother to me.

Grandma grew up in faith from a young age, and I believe she accepted Jesus as her savior and lived in an enduring relationship with Him.   While the testimonies of all who knew her will attest to an easy going, kind, and loving woman who left the people and the world she touched better for her presence, “the only way to the Father is through His Son Jesus Christ”.  The snapshot that kept coming back to sooth my grief this week was of her arrival in heaven.

Jesus came running to her and called her by name, “Welcome home, good and faithful Margaret”.  They embraced and they worshiped God together.  But I saw something over Jesus’ left shoulder.

Grandma’s lifelong love of the outdoors, camping, and exploring featured prominently in the stories that were shared these past few days.  As walking became more difficult in her later years, a ride through the countryside, often with no particular destination,  was a coveted escape.  The love of the outdoors was an indelible part of who she was and a legacy that will persist in her kids, grandkids, great grandkids and beyond.

Over Jesus’ shoulder I saw a handsome man , and dangling over his shoulder were a pair of leather hiking boots tied together at the laces.   He was shifting on his feet and bouncing on his toes, eagerly waiting to steal Grandma away.

When it was his turn he knelt down, helped her put on the boots and said, “We have so much to explore.”  And Grandma took off with her Bill and with a skip in their step they went hiking in heaven.   “There is ice cream at the top!”, he said.  And in heaven that may actually be true.

Dude! Are you wearing bracelets?

Kinda.  They are Bajan bangles and they remind me of a country and a people that I will love forever and that have inspired and shaped me from a very young age.

Wrist with silver bangles

In 1966 the nation of Barbados was born as it peacfully established it’s independence from England.  My parents, still child-free, thought it an adventurous gamble to vacation in this brand new island nation.  It was love at first sight and we would spend all but a couple of summers there over the next 20+ years.  We got to know the place like no tourist could, every nook and cranny of its mere 166 square miles, it’s wonderful people and vibrant culture, history and folklore, often spending a month or two there at a time.  Each year reconnecting with the people we got to know and love, from beach peddlers to government officials, authors and artists,  shop keepers and our favorite restauranteurs.  Barbados became a second home of sorts, more of a constant than the homes and countries we lived in the rest of the year over that same period of my life.

Bangles are a beautiful reminder of an ugly past.   As they gently jangle on a wrist they are a reminder of the shackles that bound the slaves working the sugar cane plantations for their British masters.   But Barbados is a place of joy and optimism, courage and empowerment.  Instead of rusty steel, bangles are silver.  Instead of one on each arm, two are worn on one.  Bangles are a celebration of freedom as they represent open handcuffs that not longer bind a free people.

I proudly wore my first bangles home but the innocence of a 2nd grader did not anticipate the ridicule he would face from his peers.  Luckily at that age attention spans were short but that wouldn’t be the case much longer.  My first of many moves to come, saw me face off anew as I entered 3rd grade in a new country and a new school.

Raf towered over me and my peers and was the well established king of the playground and fearsome bully.  He had coined a phrase he would use to incite regular group chants to torment me about my bangles.

When I was tempted to take off my bangles after months of ridicule, my father taught me a critical and formative life lesson.  “If something is important to you, ignore what others think, take a stance and persevere.”

Things came to a head between Raf I one day when we each each lead opposing teams in a capture the flag-like game.   An unrelated argument quickly shifted to me and my girly bangles.  A scene ensued not very different from the “Farkus Affair” in “A Christmas Story”, me playing the role of Ralphie.  When all was said and done I had taken my stance, Raf was dethroned as bully, and no one made fun of my bangles again.  Until…I changed school in 5th grade, and again in 6th grade and many more times to come.

Each time I faced it I became more determined and stronger and with each victory more self-confident.   Drawing on those experiences I have become an individualist in many ways and have become unwavering when it comes to integrity.  My bangles became a part of my identify, shaped me and gave me an experience to draw on for the rest of my life.

I wore them until my early 20s.  I was a software programming desk jockey now and in this new season of life at a keyboard, they just weren’t practical anymore.

A few weeks ago my wife found my bangles tucked away with some memorabilia.  I put them on. “Maybe just for the weekend”, I thought.  But I haven’t taken them off yet and I am not sure I will.  20 years of life has a way of  dinging your armor.   While my past pales in comparison,  just like the Bajans, I can use a reminder of my freedom to refuel  my joy and optimism, courage and empowerment.

What nuggets from your life’s journey do you have that still spur you on each day?

Jockeys Don’t Play Basketball

This weekend we hosted some friends for a few days that we hadn’t seen in 2 years. When their 15 year old son walked in and surprised us with his now towering 6’2 height, “Do you play basketball?” quickly rolled off someone’s lips. Obviously not all tall people play basketball, but this young man did indeed and got me thinking.

Wilt Chamberlain & Willy Shoemaker leaning back to back in white dress suits

Tall people play basketball, jockeys are short featherweights, and the sherpas of the himalayas with their unique oxygen processing physiology truck up and down Mount Everest like a porter does the steps of the Trump Plaza.

We all want to experience success and naturally gravitate to our areas of strength, which is why jockeys race high performance horses and don’t play world class basketball. Could Wilt Chamberlain be taught how to race a horse? Sure. Could Willy Shoemaker have been a passionate and capable basketball player? Of course. Would either top athlete be able to perform at the pinnacle of the other’s sport given the same passion, training and focus on skills development they applied to their own? Highly improbable.

There is a broader concept at play here than physical stature that applies to all of our jobs and roles. Gallup Management Journal describes the “Do What I Do Best” concept from the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently as follows, “Full human potential is realized only when people are in a position to use their talents and strengths. Great performance is found when an individual’s natural talents fit his or her role.”

To experience success and fulfillment and to deliver high value peak performance on a sustained basis to our organizations, we must have the opportunity to “Do What We Do Best” most of the time. Many a staff management training corroborates this as they exhort us to focus on drawing out people’s strengths rather than trying to train out people’s weaknesses.

Based on extensive research the book found that mismatching people and roles is the rule rather than the exception. This means many among us are experiencing the frustration of expending inordinate amount of unproductive effort, not experiencing fulfillment nor adding the value they could at their full potential in the right role.

Are things just not clicking? Does it feel like you are constantly swimming upstream? Are you frustrated and burned out?

In Failing ForwardJohn C. Maxwell stresses that failing does not make you a failure but provides you with a valuable learning opportunity.

If you don’t jump out of bed each day, energized by what you are doing then maybe you are a jockey trying to do a lay-up or maybe you need to switch your horse for a basketball court?

How are you doing?

Book References

Moved and rebuilt!

Sorry about the extended absence. In June 2010 I changed jobs and while headed for and ramping up on this new adventure I lost some traction and then my blog was irrecoverably corrupted. The clock had been ticking on my “friend hosted” model, so things were really conspiring to move my blog. To add insult to injury, my domain expired in the midst of all this and I had quite the challenge getting it transferred back to me.

But the stars have aligned and with a couple of late nights and reorienting me in my CSS customizations, I have humpty dumpty cobbled together again. Unfortunately I lost a bunch of the later posts I wrote and all comments, but here’s a new beginning.

Thank you for your patience. Watch for a new post soon.

A Ticket to Ride

This is a guest post I wrote on my Pastor’s blog for the teaching series “New Thru 30”.

There is a wonderful Gospel song performed by Cissy Houston on the Divas of Gospel album called "Glory Train" (Spooner/Penn).

railway engine

"All aboard the Glory Train
Step forth, don’t remain
Don’t stand there shackled by your sin
Just get on board and let the Glory begin"

"All Aboard" reminds me of those black and white movies, where dramatic scenes play out between a handsome man in a tweed suit and fedora and an beautiful young lady with silk gloves and elegant hat.  A cloud of steam billowing from the locomotive, while the whistle and the conductor’s final call amplifies the drama with time pressure.

"All aboard the Glory Train
There’s a journey ensuing, so much to gain
You’re standing at the crossroads, will you turn back
Or will you ride the Saviors train down the Glory track"

There’s drama playing out in each of our lives that has eternal implications, with time pressure pushing us to the decision point.  When Jesus gave his life for us at Calvary we were each handed a ticket to ride with Him for eternity. 

"The Holy Spirit, conductor of souls
Just follow Him, if you’re ready to go
You qualify, so come as you are
Get onboard, the Glory car"

He didn’t call a select few, He said "ALL Aboard".    We all qualify because we have that ticket in our pocket.  We don’t need to clean up and look the part like the actors from those black and white movies of yore to ride this train.  You have a ticket, so come as you are.

Just as the conductor won’t chase you down the platform and drag you onto the train, our Lord is waiting for you to use the ticket He gave you at Calvary.  He is waiting for your knock and eager to see you walk through the door. (2 Peter 3:9)   

Are you standing on the platform watching the train?  Waiting?  For what?  The whistle has blown and the final call went out.  Time is running out and you need to act. (Psalm 39:4)  The Conductor doesn’t want to see anyone left on the platform with a ticket for His train when it leaves the station.  

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ or aren’t sure, go to the Conductor of Souls and hand Him your ticket today.  He desperately wants to welcome you aboard.  Will you use your ticket today? (Romans 3:22-24) 

"Get onboard the love express
turn your back on your past, it’s time to confess
Whatever you do, you gotta lay down your pride
Let the Lord God take you on a real good ride"

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
Matthew 7:7-8 (NASB)

Ask, seek, knock.  Receive, find, enter. 

Take action today. (Joshua 24:15)

Not Unemployed

Recently I irreverently joked that my recent job change has left me temporarily “unemployed”.  Conviction came knocking on my conscious.

iStock_000008193624XSmall I have not felt the rejection of the losing lot in a lay-off.

I have not experienced the humility of learning I was not all that I thought I was cracked up to be.

I have not had to process the consequences of political fall-out or suffered the injustice only the scapegoat knows.

I made a choice!

I do not have to get up each morning searching, calling, writing, striving.

I do not have to face the mailbox, inbox and voicemail each day.

I do not have to work up new hope that today is the day.

I have a new start date!

I do not have to worry about paying the bills, putting food on the table, getting sick, or losing the house.

I have not had to wipe out my savings accounts and retirement nest egg.

I do not have to humble myself to ask for help and don’t have to say “no” to my wife and kids.

In 3 weeks there will be a check!

I do not have to accept “anything that pays the bills” or look “below grade” and prove myself again.

The new job is good!

If you are unemployed, I can not begin to compare my temporary-unpaid-vacation-by-choice to your hardship.  I stand amazed at your get-up-and-go, your strength, your courage and your perseverance.   I pray for God’s generous provision for your needs while He prepares you and the job He will bless you with in His time.

Next Level Presentations

It is easy to create boring, unimaginative and ineffective presentations.  Just do a quick Google search and you will find a plethora of advice, resources and great blog posts on improving your presentation skills.

Snoozer_426x282In this post I wanted to collect a few of my favorite resources in one place for both myself and others to reference.

MS Powerpoint

This is the favorite go-to presentation tool of many.  Feel free to Google on this one but definitely check out these three articles:

As you will quickly see, Michael Hyatts is one of my favorite bloggers on presentation tips, (and other topics like leadership).  Check out his post on How Not to Use Powerpoint.

Maybe not everyone will agree with all of Seth Godin’s whitepaper conclusions called “Really Bad Power Point” but it’s a great read to get you thinking about your presentations.

Alternatives to MS Powerpoint

Michael Hyatt is a raving Mac fan and his post My Current Presentation Tools focuses on Mac tools.  It’s an interesting post for non-Mac users too, as it shows how professional, effective and creative presentations involve more that just a few bullets in a slideshow tool.

Check out Prezi for very neat non-linear presentation tool with a definite wow factor.  Make sure you check out some of the sample presentations.

Other Great Resources

Another great post by Michael Hyatt is My Favorite Presentation Resources.  It contains some of the same resources in this post and many more on everything related to presenting.  Make sure you check out the Presentation Zen web site he and many others on this topic refer to.

Don’t forget about the site http://www.slideshare.net/ a free web site that allows you to share MS Powerpoint, MS Word and Adobe PDF documents with geographically dispersed meeting attendees.

I am a great fan of Microsoft Visio for creating certain graphical elements to include in presentations.  It’s not the greatest tool, but I have become adept with it and it is a standard tool available on most business laptops.

Tools like The Brain and Tinderbox are other interesting tools for non-linear thought organization.  They can be used for presentation but are not as snazzy as Prezi and are not as focused on presentation as they are for organization and documentation.  These are more powerful and creative variations and expand on the more traditional Mindmapping tools like FreeMind, MindJet and Buzan’s own iMindMap.


Three excellent books on how to go from boring and traditional to a more creative and effective presentation level:

If you really want to go off the deep end on visual thinking, design thinking, the brain, etc…, check out a few of the selections on Dave Gray’s Reading list.

Now Get Going

Grab some of these new resources and get going on your next more engaging, more creative, and more effective presentation.

To get your creative juices flowing on out of the box thinking when you present, check out Roy Disney’s Org Chart.

Do you have any great resources that are not listed or reference?  Please share them in a comment.

Politicians Think You Are an Idiot!

Ok.  Me too.  They think you and I are idiots.

As local and state leaders respond to the budgetary impact of the economy induced tax base erosion, their opinion of their constituents intellect is becoming abundantly clear.Idiot_300x400 Here is the politicians favorite budget plan being exercised across the country right now:

  1. Propose draconian cuts to non-negotiables
  2. Let fear, uncertainty & doubt stew a while
  3. Wait until they [the idiots] beg for raised taxes to save their precious programs
  4. Preserve their [the politicians] precious programs & lack of accountability

Case in point.  Listening to my favorite news radio station  WHAM 1180 the other day, I heard that because Kindergarden is not a part of the state’s minimal education requirement, it was being recommended that this would be a good place to cut costs.

Outrage?  No.  It’s a trick!  Part of the “favorite budget plan”.  

Personal safety – another great fear trigger.  Put police departments on the target list.  I think threats to baby seals, fuzzy kittens, cute dolphins and of course the whales are on the list too.  That’ll surely get some public passion behind the “No, not that! Please tax me instead!” strategy.

Reggea band Steele Pulse in one of their songs aptly refers to politicians as “Politricksters”!

What about the obvious?  Like, spending less than your make.  Why is that never a part of the repertoire?

Interesting discovery #1 -  When our senior leadership team goes to a full day off-site, email traffic (a.k.a work for the troops) slows to a trickle.  Not just e-mails from the attendees at the off-site, but from everyone else below the top of the work generation pyramid.  I call it the multiplication effect

Interesting observation #2 -  Give someone 6 weeks to do something and they will take 6 weeks.  Give someone 3 weeks to do the same task and most of the time they will find a way to still get it done without significant compromise in the end result including quality.   Constraints spur creativity and efficiency.

So lets demand that our government leaders do more with less and get creative, nimble and efficient.  Don’t give them the easy way out by letting them trick us out of more of our hard earned cash to cover their inefficient bureaucratic status quo.

Here’s a cost savings initiative voter on both sides of the aisle can get behind:

Redesign the government to operate with 33% fewer politicians (and related administrators, staff, capital and operational expense that comes with them), while delivering the same services.

Don’t tell us all the reasons why it won’t work!  Tell us what it will take to make it work! 

Watch the multiplication effect when they get out of their own way and are forced to focus on output rather than input.

It’s possible and besides, who ever thought “we need more politicians” any way? 

Watch out for the Politricksters.

Don’t let them shift the burden of fixing the problems they create and perpetuate to you!

Soft Project Management

Project Managers are in great demand.  According to the World Bank, projects account for 20% of the Worlds GDP, and according to the Economist Intelligence Unit the most critical capability to company’s success in the next 5 years are key staff that can lead and implement strategic change initiatives, a.k.a Project Managers.

This voracious appetite for Project Managers is fed by a vast industry of books, webinars, training, certification organizations and even advanced degree programs.  All across the world well trained and certified men and women equipped with technical Project Management skills and industry specialization pour over their GANTT charts and task lists each day and direct project teams to follow schedules to accomplish scope and mitigate risks.


Despite all this specialized training, business acumen and experience, studies show that 35%-80% of projects continue to fail to deliver the expected scope or business value on-time, and on budget.

What is going on?

Having spent 20 years in and around Project Management discipline, I am painfully aware of the conspicuous imbalance between hard and soft skills resources for Project Management development. 

The vast majority of the tough challenges facing Project Managers each day, draw on their soft skills.  The difficult problems involve people and culture and managing change.  The business and technical project challenges are not the hard part of the job.

My staff and I have been looking forward to this week for some time.  The Rochester PMI® Chapter brought Roeder Consulting to town to deliver their absolutely outstanding “Sixth Sense Buy-In” program, which is the basis for the content of this post.

Roeder confirmed that project success hinges on the a balanced application of critical 3 elements:

  • Technical Skills
  • Business Acumen, and
  • “Sixth Sense skills” (the people stuff)

Drawing on extensive academic research and professional experiences, Roeder explains that 40 years of Project Management doctrine has largely ignored the soft skills, while today we have overwhelming evidence this is exactly where the difference between project success and failure hangs in the balance.

Roeder elaborates in a well organized, engaging and entertaining full day session on:

The “Sixth Sense Disciplines”:

  • Awareness
  • Whole Body Decisions™
  • Clear Communication
  • Adaptability
  • Diplomacy
  • Persistence 

Drawing on science, physiology, psychology, and various academic studies without getting dry, and even teaching techniques used by law enforcement,  Roeder delivers great insight and practical tools and techniques Project Managers can apply to get at the root of soft issues inhibiting project success.

It takes being aware of little things, thinking about thinking and understanding our decision process.  We need to understand what and how we and others are really communicating and we need to understand the process of generating buy-in from others by doing many small things right at an interpersonal level.  This is where Roeder fills in the critical gap that remains after a Project Manager has nailed the hard skills and the business acumen.

This seminar leaves me craving for more.  I believe Project Managers are better served by equipping themselves with soft skill training such as this, than continuing on a quest to refine their technical project management skills or even business expertise. 

While it is hard to find, this kind of training is the stuff that will help Project Managers navigate the really difficult project challenges.


What soft skills areas do you want to develop?

The Cadillac, Minivan and Chevette

Yesterday President Obama compelled Democratic leaders to drop their opposition to imposing the so-called “Cadillac Tax” on higher end insurance plans to help pay for the near $1 Trillion healthcare reform bill.  By his own admission he finds these plans pay too rich a benefit and cost too much, so why not tax them too.

Is it really a "Cadillac"?

47Cadilllace_425x282 I have lived in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Sweden.  I know a little something about socialism, public health care and high taxes.  By the way, I now live in America!

Here is how it really works.

  1. Your payroll is taxed in the 45% – 60% range depending on the degree of socialism so that the government can pay for all their programs and entitlements.  Oh, and you also pay 15% – 20% “Value Added Tax”/ “Consumption Tax” on everything you buy with your after tax income.  More on some things like gasoline and liquor.
  2. You get the basic state sponsored health care coverage that does NOT provide you the service level you need or want.
  3. You then go to a “private” insurance company to purchase supplemental policy with your after tax income to get access to the health care services you really want and need.  Things like:
    • Private / semi-private room vs a bed on the ward
    • No-line /No waiting at a private clinic vs 6 month or 1 year+ waiting list
    • Top specialist vs public doctor the government could afford

If the things on the left seem more like your basic expectation for health care service level than the things on the right, then maybe this “Cadillac” is really a “Minivan” and the government  is talking about a “Chevette”.

You are going to want one of these so-called “Cadillacs” and you won’t want a "luxury tax" on them, because they are really just the functional and pragmatic “Minivan” you want and need.

Do you think the government should tax things that they define as excessive?


Related Posts