Category Archives: Problem solving

when leaders fail to lead

“I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.”
― Lao Tzu


Maybe you’ve seen it before, a callous remark by someone who has a role of leadership that says, “I’m more important than you!”.   Maybe you’ve felt those sentiments and asked yourself, “is this the place I want to work at.”   High performance organizations know how to engage the staff and find ways to inspire   their staff so they can excel, does yours?

What kind of organization do you work at?   What do the leaders say to you?  How to they encourage you to be your best?  How do you they encourage you to learn?

There is a distinct difference between leadership and management.  Managing is about getting specific results and in older models people used command and control to get those results.   Today work is far less about being told what to do, and rather more about inspiring people to commit their best.   Some leaders haven’t figured that out yet and believe that leadership is about controlling others.

Companies that enjoy great success often are led by people who inspire and engage all the staff in the company.    Effective leadership is often driven by engaging the positive emotions of the people that are being led.    Positive emotions can be leveraged to create the opportunity for desired change.

When was the last time you spoke with a leader in your organization where you were encouraged to excel?

What does leadership look like in your organization?

Examine your answers.  Determine what kind of organization you work for and what type of leadership is being exhibited.   Observe your emotions over the course of a day, or a week.  What sensations do you have?   How do you feel when you get home?   Energized, drained, indifferent?

One example of a company that is well led is Trilogy Health Care Services.  Take a look at their mission and vision.

In this video clip learn what Bob Davis has to say about leadership and what it takes to lead authentically.


4 Skills that really matter

“Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”
― Malcolm Gladwell


In his book The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner, co-director of the Change Leadership Group, Harvard School of Education,described seven key skills for getting a new job.  Among those seven areas are four skills that might be something that everyone whether a new job seeker or a veteran can bring to the table of employment.

In the new world of work, workers need to have in their tool box of experience and knowledge the following:

1. Agility and adaptability

2. Collaboration and leadership

3. Critical thinking and problem solving – to ask the right questions

4. Initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit

What does it mean to be adaptable and agile?    We know that the speed of change is creating more and more tension in the workforce and those who have difficulty modifying their work habits will be less and less satisfied in their work environment.   Being agile means moving quickly and not getting stuck in the past.

The collaborator, the team worker is going to be better equipped in a fast paced world.  Learning critical leadership skills, as in how to motivate from within, will be essential as more and more work is done globally.    Leading with the heart, from a perspective of empathy, understanding and humility will be part of the foundation of powerful leadership.

Having the ability to solve complex problems though rapid iteration and learning from failure (something most people are adverse to trying) is a critical asset to have.   Learning and achievement come from our ability to be resilient when we fail.  We learn more through failure than we do from success, if we take the lessons we learned and apply them in our new attempts.

Taking initiative and action are essential to increasing overall momentum.  Applying energy each and every day towards the generation of new outcomes is a valuable skill to have.  It is a skill that can be developed.  The entrepreneurial mindset is about creating new opportunities or grasping opportunity quickly and testing the value of that idea now.

We live in a world that “waiting” is no longer acceptable.  We live in the “instant” and holding back instead of acting will have a greater price than taking action and learning.   Learn quickly to grow exponentially.

Mastering today’s world will take adaptability, agility, collaboration,leadership, critical thinking, problem solving and taking initiative.    Start developing your skills in these areas and become the person that people want to hire.
Learn more about Tony Wagner’s desire to reshape our education system.

future thought

“He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.” Victor Hugo

To plan or not to plan that is the question.   Success follows on the heels of those who create plans and execute those plans.  Today with the many distractions that can enter each day the best of plans are often nothing more than crinkled up notes in a wastepaper basket.    After a few days of planning and watching those plans go awry it makes sense that planning would end up being a waste of time.

What interferes with the plans that were made in good conscience?   The internet, the smartphone, the unplanned activity, the emergency, the longer than expected time it took to complete the work or getting caught in other distractions.   The best intentions at the days beginning left in ruin and the feeling of disappointment and regret end the day when plans crumble.

We live in an era where more and more information is pushed against our thin skin creating pressure which is often relieved by getting caught in the web of internet distractions, email or something else that doesn’t produce results.

There is hope for those who find themselves trapped in the tool of technology.  Tools that help return focus to the right thing, which is moving your life forward on a success trajectory.

Success Tools:

1. Simpleology – provides resources to manage and balance your day.  Enter in your daily plan, focus and achieve.

2. EverNote –  link you to do lists and other goals

3. Cozi – create links, lists, and schedules.  Link them to others and have mobile to mobile accountability, great for families that want to track results.

There you go, three different tools to help you organize your day , your tasks and bring about better results.   You do want better results don’t you?

Try one of the tools and tell us how it worked for you.  See if you can get more out of each day.

“The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.”  Cecil B. DeMille

when will the pain go away …

“Pain can be endured and defeated only if it is embraced.  Denied or feared, it grows. ”  Dean Koontz,  Velocity

Pain can be endured, denied it grows.   So many people are enduring pain and it grows each day and life seems to be all about managing pain rather than living with happiness.   Some people only see pain and nothing much else.

Not long ago I had a conversation with a person who believed the world was totally against her.   Her friends weren’t being friends.   Her life was in shambles and everything looked hopeless.   There was no energy to change.  Misery felt like a safe place because the thought of change was even more miserable.   “What if I failed again”, might be the words that would be uttered.   “Who cares about me?” and “There is nothing for me here?” .

What is your world like?   What are you experiencing?   Are you looking at the world in a  hopeful positive way or is it a world that seems to be pushing in on your very being with relentless pressure.

Emotional pain is something everyone faces and it is a matter of  how that pain is dealt with that makes a difference.

Emotional pain can be seen in all facets of daily life, anger, violence, withdrawal, grief, sadness and living as a victim.

One of the tools for addressing emotional pain is EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques.   This is a simple, no cost method, of reducing or eliminating emotional suffering.   The method works with a variety of emotional issues.   It works for most people.  Those with severe emotional trauma the recommendation is to seek professional guidance before trying EFT.    EFT is something to look at if you have been dealing with emotional issues for a long time.

For parents with children with ADHD, EFT may offer a simple quick way of managing the ADHD symptoms.   While EFT isn’t a cure for ADHD it may prove effective when many other forms of ADHD management haven’t.

Where would you rate the emotional pain level in your life on scale of 1 – 10, 1 = none or very little to 10 = extreme?    If you are experiencing emotional pain above a 6 you may want to seek some help.   At the minimum consult with a professional and see if there are some techniques that will help you reduce your emotional burden.

How have you managed emotional pain?




in the box thinking …

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
Walt Disney

Boxes everywhere and everyone has a box, a box they can call their very own.  It is a box filled with assumptions and rules.  Rules that govern what can be done and can’t be done, what is real and what isn’t.  It is the box of life and thinking inside the box is what most people do,  and it is what most organizations do.  

The box is the set of limitations that an individual, organizational or culture imposes upon itself.   Seeing outside the box is difficult because of the rules that prevent the question like “what is outside the box?” , because that is a scary question.  Outside of the box is a place of the unknown and that is scary for most people.

The mind is in the box.   The emotions are inside the box.   The box is a safe place.  

The box protects people from having others peer inside to see what is really going on.   The box is a mask, a familiar mask that others see.  Occasionally someone gets to peer inside the box, but not too often.

Some people feel restricted by the box and want something new and something different but all they see is the walls of the box.   The higher they jump the higher the sides of the box grow.   So, they yell, “LET ME OUT OF HERE!”.    Most people are dealing with their own boxes and don’t have any new ideas on how to get out of a box.   

How do you get out of the box?

One way to start thinking outside of the box is to have someone who encourages you to think outside of the box.   What makes outside of the box thinking work is a place where non-judgmental thinking can take place.  In other words all ideas are safe and can be explored and built upon.   Too often ideas get judged and that pulls people right back into the box.   Thinking outside the box means that people are permitted to take risks with a thought, and idea or even an emotion.  

Thinking outside of the box leads to possibilities.  

Are you ready to think outside the box?



“Great dreams… never even get out of the box. It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, “How good or how bad am I?” That’s where courage comes in.”    Erma Bombeck

motivation – reward and punishment

Step back to 1949, to a lab where Rhesus monkeys were given some puzzles to solve.    Within a short time the monkeys had solved the puzzle which was very surprising to the experimenters.   Why would monkeys take upon a task and try to solve it when there was no punishment or reward mechanism in place to motivate them?

In the early 1900’s Fredrick Taylor was hired to measure human performance and as a result a rewards/punishment model has been the most popular model for motivating people.   Today scores of organizations roll out performance evaluations to gage how well the workers are doing.   Not doing so well may mean no raise or a quick departure from the organization.   The top performers are richly rewarded with opportunity, cash and even job security.   For routine work perhaps the model of reward and punishment is at best a workable solution.   For today’s service economy and the competitive need to stay ahead of the competition a new model must be put in place.

In 1949 Henry Harlow discovered that Rhesus monkeys were intrinsically motivated to solve the puzzle.  In fact when rewarded their performance (ability to solve the puzzle) decreased.   It is as if the reward became an expectation thereby reducing the creative potential of the monkey. 

People, creative people are motivated by the magnitude of the problem, the ability to make a difference and a personal desire to solve problems.   The management methods or reward and punishment models diminish the effectiveness of today’s working adult.   Top leaders should recognize the shift and change their methods of managing workers in the new economy.

What motivates you?   Are you motivated by rewards and punishment?

From Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.

Learned helplessness

“Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger

A winning team suddenly finds that losses are mounting and criticism rising and with loud critical chants the team is unable to find a way to win again.  Confidence declines along with momentum needed to be successful.

Losing sets in motion a feeling of being out of control which increases the sense of powerlessness.  A self-defeating attitude begins to reign and results decline.

In organizations the losing streak causes people to withdraw with the best ideas being left out of the conversation.   Secrecy starts to increase and managers retreat to their own turf to protect their concerns.   Individuals sense the shift in openness and pull back in fear that they will become the next scapegoat.   Organizational momentum declines further causing managers to take steps that cause people to retreat  even further in isolation.

Learned helplessness occurs when people in an organization believe there is nothing they can do to make a difference.   Performance spirals downward.   Communication and respect for others decreases and people fall back on primitive self-protection behaviors.  

Organizations start to fall into the losing loop when leaders become arrogant and overconfident and stop listening to the issues that are being surfaced.   Unreasonable expectations by management and the denying the issues that are being presented increase the rate of failure.  

To reverse learned helplessness organizational communications have to be open and more frequent.  It takes large doses of listening to break the negative spiral and a strong commitment to hear whatever is being said, not to just hear the words, but to acknowledge the issues that are brought up.  If fear cannot be quelled productivity and loss will continue to mount.

Where do you see fear in organizations?

Have you experienced learned helplessness?