Reduce Repeated Financial Losses in Your Business By Using The Experimental Method

I enjoy my work with people. Learning together with my clients is at the top of my list. My role as a coach is different from my client’s role running her business. My view is from the outside and her view is from the inside; and both are working to make the business better. A way to make the business better is testing ideas through measureable actions, in other words we experiment. This allows us to analyze the results of our actions, to stay the course, modify our direction and stay away from behavioral traps. I describe a behavioral trap as taking action without a clear purpose, without gathering measurable data and working harder pursuing the same unclear direction. An example of this scenario is a manager “trapped” hiring only people with experience. Who’s to say if the experience is beneficial, detrimental or somewhere between these two outlying points. Often people’s previous experience can be a hindrance to a new position, because they often have to “unlearn” unproductive previous habits. If we look at working people from a statistical perspective half of them are above the mean and half below.  How do you know if you are hiring people from the positive side or the negative side of the bell curve? So, most of time I see an ad for employment opportunities that highlights “experience needed” I question the operational skills of the employer.

Framing our actions in an experimental structure reduces wasted time, energy and expenses. Designing projects as experiments does not mean telling people how they “should” be running her organization or what’s right or what’s wrong. It does mean introducing processes and scientific principles assisting people in making better decisions.

Your goal is not to conduct an academic experiment. Your goal is to use a proven, organized method to test your business ideas, adjust them to make them better and grow your business with increased revenues. Let’s look at the component parts of this method and couch them in a business setting. My mother just passed away in her 96th year. She purchased long-term care insurance by paying significant annual premiums over a 25-year period. About 4 years prior to her death she required in-home care to live safely. The process to complete the necessary forms to receive the insurance payments provided through the long-term care policy required meticulous organization, bookkeeping, monitoring and follow-up. It was impossible for my mother to accomplish this insurance work in her condition. I learned long-term care insurance is a good idea, but collecting on it when you need it is another matter.

Caring for my mother over the years provided me with insights into the business of long-term care. In-homecare is a booming business, however the majority of the agencies are smaller businesses struggling with hiring, training, sales and profitability. Long-term care facilities understand the insurance game, work with the families to see if they have insurance and work with the insurance companies to collect payments for the care they provide. Many of the in-home care companies miss this opportunity for increasing their revenues and providing better service to their clients.

This market is a growth market, getting stronger everyday. How can these small businesses increase their value to their clients, grow their revenue and strengthen profits? The complexity of healthcare, the expense of in-home care and the work it takes to successfully manage these family life stages provides these businesses with opportunities for growth and profitability. Business and life in general, is chocked full of daily challenges. These challenges can easily lull us into focusing on firefighting at the expense of establishing strengthening processes resulting in additional profitability and health of the organization.

Managing is an active endeavor. There is nothing wrong with being in the middle of the action “doing.” In fact, it is important to be an active manager. The question is, “What are you doing?” An effective manager creates an environment for other people’s success. Unfortunately, we usually default to what we know, and most managers’ default is focused on what they learned as an individual contributor. An individual’s success is predicated on personal achievement, political acumen and luck - energy is primarily focused on oneself.

How do I create an environment for other people’s success? My success is now predicated on this one specific task! What do my teammates need and what do they want in order to increase the profitability of our business? When dealing with in-home health care we have an exploding market and we are often being squeezed, because of limited revenue sources. Our clients face the confusion of a sudden change in their lives caring for a loved one. The elderly person is no longer able to manage his household and finances. It is going to be expensive for the last years of your loved one’s life and what strategies can home healthcare businesses implement to solve customer problems, ease their pain and enrich their lives?

How can many of these smaller businesses providing in-home healthcare add more value to their communities and build more financial strength in order to prosper. I propose the leaders in each company get together to run an experiment.

  1. Discussion with you, local managers and staff regarding the Hypothesis: what do we want to test? In this case they decided, “Many clients struggle with completing the paperwork needed to collect long-term care insurance payments.”
     
  2. Plan the action steps, with the team, that we are going to use to run the experiment
    a.) The management team creates questions to ask current clients “What their experience has been dealing with long-term care insurance providers.”
         i. Completing daily forms
         ii. Submitting forms to insurance company
         iii. Tracking the progress of the forms
         iv. Resolving issues with forms
         v. Reconciliation of payments
    b.) The managers schedule meetings with clients. Asks clients which steps of the process create problems and how much money is it costing you?
    c.) Manager and staff people meet to review the data collected, determine if they require more information in order to test hypothesis. Next steps?
     
  3. Data collection: each one of the experimental actions generates measureable results. For example:
    a.) Who provided input to build the questionnaire?
         i. What was the process, who participated and what were the questions?
    b.) How many people/families did you interview? What were their answers? What questions did they ask that you didn’t anticipate?
    c.) Create a method to analyze the data you collected.
     
  4. Now use your data to support or refute your hypothesis.

The advantages of using this method are you always learn and get better. You structure a process so you can constantly measure your actions, identify areas of success/problems; and adjust your future actions based on data and stay away from unprofitable, self-centered judgments. As the management master Peter Drucker said,

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

A Gift From My Mother: Understanding Power and Strength

The title of this article portrays an either or scenario interwoven into society. The application of strength or power is associated with the masculine. The purpose of this article is to provide some understanding regarding the use of strength and power and some consequences based on your choices. In my 60 plus years of living and doing business in the United States I’ve come to view strength as a core principle to living a high quality life, and power as something that is used sparingly in high quality lives. I describe a person living a high quality life exhibiting behaviors of responsibility, accountability, life-long learning, excited about being with others, and most of all love (learning how to love oneself and others). In my experience living these principles allows a person to generate awareness of different results from applying strength and power in her life. I see power as something that is done to people, it is power over others and is usually detrimental to many and benefits a few. I experience strength as a feminine inspired phenomenon applied over long periods of time that benefits all. High performing teams are built on strength, families nurtured with strength, and people develop by practicing mental, emotional and physical strength-building exercises.

It is my argument that building better lives (businesses are a subset of living) is done through deeply understanding your personal relationship with power and strength. Women understand the impact of power more than men. Our society anoints males with power, embellishes the virtues of power, and embeds power in all of our organizations. Since men control the vast majority of our organizations, men control power and we are usually blinded by it. This is not an indictment against men, but a sociological fact: subordinates know much more about dominants than dominants understand about subordinates. After years of living and working in organizations I’ve defined leaders as people who, “Create an environment for other people’s success.” By definition this method of leadership demands a focus on others and a focus on oneself, too. This strength-based mindset—and accompanying behaviors—are not either/or, but rather a symbiotic relationship between oneself and other people. Leaders, using this philosophy, nourish themselves through the nourishment of others.

This does not mean that authoritarian, power-based men do not govern societies, companies and families, but rather, I am beyond grateful to be lucky enough not to live under this form of dictatorial rule.

Company owners, executives, team leaders, and parents are all saddled with power. Most people in these positions of power don’t understand their influence on people with whom they work. I suggest people turn to stories about military combat officers who deeply understand power both organizationally and personally. What they understand even deeper is giving love to the people under their command. Please refer to this story that brings tears of joy, respect, love and pride to me regarding General Krulak (and his wife Zandi) and General Mattis (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/25/how-mad-dog-mattis-got-his- christmas-cookies.html). General Krulak was the Commandant of the Marine Corps during this story. He holds one of the most powerful positions in the United States Military. This story is one of many, which could be told by men under the command of both of these generals. The stories are about the two generals awareness of his power, the ability to understand how to use power to exhibit the strength of love to his men. Zandi Krulak’s strength of love, I know, was channeled to the men and women under the General’s command, too.

I had the privilege of growing-up with parents who fought all of World War II and the Korean War. The story above is so emotional for me, because I lived similar stories. My mother had the strength to hold our family together, build our home, and do her duty supporting the men and women associated with my father’s commands. My father constantly risked his life and career to do what was right for the men and women under his command. Both of them lead through their actions, creating a bond of strength with the people with which they served.

Think of times in your life when you have actually heard someone tell you about the impact your position and your power have on them. This is very difficult for several reasons. (A) For you to actually listen to someone and hear what they are feeling/thinking (B) for the person in a position with less power to actually muster the courage to tell you what they are thinking. The next couple of paragraphs describe experiences that many of us have as children and as parents. I include these thoughts, because I think this “training” carries over into our adult experience in our workplaces.

In many homes dad works, earns money outside the house, sometimes eats dinner at home and sometime sleeps at home. Mom lives at home, shops for food, cooks food, washes the dishes, washes the clothes, cleans the house, meets with teachers, gets children to after school activities, carries children in her womb, births children, feeds children and often works to earn money too. Dad complains about his hard work and has little awareness of the immense strength mom needs to carryout the mind-blowing list of tasks she accomplishes.

The title of one of the early television shows, “Father Knows Best” illustrates the patriarchal culture of the 1950s and 1960s which is still very much alive today. For those of us that are parents, think how you react when your children say or do something with which you disagree. Many of us are blinded by our expectations for our children and blurt out some statement loaded with our own fear, ultimately hurting our child. Our expectations for our children are fortified by our power over our children. Some of us are lucky enough to learn that our power over our children has little positive influence and a lot of negative influence. If we are honest with ourselves we want our children to live out our expectations rather than discover her own.

The result of this kind of parental behavior leads children to abbreviate sharing difficult things with her parents. He can choose to rebel in a fashion that is often detrimental to his health and the mental well being of his parents. When we are children we think our parents have it easy. If we are lucky enough to grow our awareness as parents we realize life is a gift, but not easy, no matter what your age. Again, the major challenge we face as parents (leaders) is our lack of awareness regarding our own fear, the triggering of our fear, and our resulting behavior that can distance our children away rather than bring them closer. Most children grow-up as subordinates living in an environment where they experience power over them. Children learn early on, “It is not what a parent says, it is what he does that is important.”

It is the gauntlet of life: our early years both as children and parents often repeats itself in the workplace. Culture is immensely influencing. We live in a culture where masculine power is promoted over feminine strength. It behooves all of us to become more aware of the power of our position. If you want to be a better leader in your business or family learn from the examples of feminine strength and use the energy of your life to promote your strength and foster strength­ building in others. This is difficult to accomplish if your decisions are based in fear, and it takes a tremendous amount of strength to embrace one’s fear.

My mother recently passed after living to the age of 96. People ask me about my feelings and missing her. I do miss her. I have the strength to cry, because I feel grateful and privileged to carry her lessons of strength inside of me. She was a wonderful human spirit and shared her strength with many people from all walks of life. Thank you Margery Churchill Adams for guiding my journey to honor my awareness of my power and strength. You helped me learn that life is about being human not about perfection and being a better human is harnessing one’s power in order to live through strength.

I find great joy in being able to write these articles and share them with the public! The greatest compliment to me is if you would pass this along or share it with others if you found my information helpful!

Celebrating Learning and Enjoyment For 2016

I remember when I was a young boy and the years seemed to last a decade. Adults would talk about a year speeding by and I would stare at them and wonder, “What are they thinking?” Little did I know I would age, my perception of time would change and I now watch the years speed past.

I enjoy reflecting on events whether it’s a golf game, a work project, a trip or anything where I’ve invested my time and energy. This reflection process is not a critique, but more of a celebration. I say celebration, because for many years of my life personal reflection was a critique, “What ‘should’ have gone better or what ‘should’ I have done better?” In recent years I’ve integrated a much richer reflective process, looking at “What did I enjoy and what did I learn from my experience?” This article is an opportunity to celebrate some of my experiences of this past year.

The overall theme for my year is acutely thinking about what is important to me in my life. The critical aspect of my thought process is taking action on what is important. What became apparent through this reflective process are relationships, learning and enjoying every day. Little did I know, at the start of the year, that my commitment to writing would open the doors to understanding much more about myself.

As a person who helps individuals and organizations with positive learning I’ve always written a lot, but this was the first time I really started to focus on me. What is important to Doug? I’ve come to learn that if I stray from writing from my heart, soul and other lived experience I get stuck. I spend lots of time at the computer, writing about what I’ve read, trying to make academic arguments and slowly learning I’m avoiding myself. In other words, I’m writing to “Be somebody” rather than writing for me, telling my stories.

Our son Kodiak is a Mass Communications major in college focusing on connecting with video, music and stories (with his eye on making Documentaries). When he came home for Thanksgiving he told me all about his final project for his Marketing class. The class was focused on understanding the deep purpose, the why. I was flabbergasted with Kodiak’s visceral understanding of the principle of “Why” and its foundational premise to organizational success.

Here I am 67 years old, Dr. Doug, been dealing with this material for 4 or 5 decades and our 21-year-old son and I are engaged in this profound discussion about the criticalness of “Why.” Then our conversation smoothly transitions to the worldwide connecting strength of stories. Kodiak goes on to tell me he is producing a video about one of his friends who has started a small clothing line. This will be his “final exam” for his course.

It was marvelous watching some of the video Kodiak shot with Will (the founder of the clothing line). Kodiak took Will and some of their friends to our Teapot property in Big Sur and shot video. The clips included interviews, majestic panoramas shot with Kodiak’s drone and the mind-blowing views of Big Sur/Pacific Ocean. It became even more special for me when Kodiak came home for the Holiday Break with an edited, three-minute video telling Will’s story. The scenery, the music, Will’s story and Kodiak’s passion (as a producer, interviewer and editor) rang through the project. I asked Kodiak, “What did your professor think?” He said, “He thought it was great.”

Seeing our son find faculty at Colorado Mesa University’s Mass Communication Department who thrive on promoting project-based learning for their students thrills me. I marvel at Kodiak’s passion for his Mass Communication classes and I am incredibly exited and thankful for the professors who understand project-based learning. What a celebration I’ve had this year watching Kodiak appreciate himself and be appreciated by others for his intelligence and hunger to learn.

Watching Patricia Qualls’ Studio sales blossom over the years is a thrill too. The past 10 years Patricia has often worked 7 days a week. She is the creative genius and creator of the art. She has lived project-based learning becoming an astonishing painter and she has learned how to sell her paintings. In my experience few artists have what it takes to create and sell art. A September 2015 article in Inc. Magazine“Why 96% of Businesses Fail Within 10 Years,” puts Patricia in rarified air. She flourished through this gauntlet. It is especially amazing, because she makes and sells her product. This year, Patricia invited me to take an active role in the management of the Studio with Katrina and Emerson.

It is wonderful to see Patricia realize her genius is painting and others can do the majority of the work outside of her creative genius. I marvel at the art she creates. I am proud of my wife for her willingness to delegate many of the responsibilities of her business and let others fill these roles. I’ve worked with many small businesses and many businesses fail, because the owner(s) don’t let go and let others grow. I am inspired by working with the folks at PAQ Studio, seeing others take responsibility for certain aspects and watching Patricia’s work get more and more exposure.

Our family has faced some additional hurdles of letting go. We sold our home in Carmel Valley, we are in the process of selling our family property in Big Sur and we have moved back to Carmel from Carmel Valley. My mother is 96 years old. We are fortunate to have a tremendous team of caregivers, so Mom will spend all her life at home. I have spent part of almost every day with her over the past couple of years and living with her during the last portion of her life is a blessing for me. Over the Holidays we had Kodiak, his friends, Patricia, Doug, and Mom all under one roof. It was a celebration for me!

Selling our Teapot in Big Sur has been something we have anticipated for a number of years. I am finally starting to realize I am 67 and not 27, it is time to enjoy aspects of our lives that we have not explored. The magnificence of relationships and asking for help played a major role in my ability to sell the Teapot. We always had the feeling that a certain family would appear that would be taken with the beauty and spiritual nature of our property in Big Sur. That family appeared early this December. Their wisdom, friendship and willingness to help, made for a remarkable end to 2016 and a grand start to 2017!

The year has been one of transitions. These transitions are guided by my relationships, learning and enjoyment. Sometimes things are difficult and enjoying the difficulty is made possible by my relationships and what I learn. The old axiom of “Looking at the glass as half-full,” immediately comes to my mind.

Patricia and I are going to celebrate this year by starting to explore some of our National Parks initially centered around visiting Kodiak in Colorado. We hope we will continue this privilege through the next several years. It is time to integrate more learning, enjoyment and relating to our gorgeous country.

Sending all of you my thoughts for a Joyous, Healthy and Prosperous 2017!

 

I find great joy in being able to write these articles and share them with the public! The greatest compliment to me is if you would pass this along or share it with others if you found my information helpful!

Don't Box Yourself In

Anybody who knows me knows my love of teams. Teams are about working together to create better outcomes than I could possibly create by myself. Teams are about relationships in the present that often continue in the future. Teams come in all shapes and sizes: husband and wife; father/mother and child; athletic teams; work teams and a myriad of others. The purpose of this article is to strengthen your relationships, decrease our tendency toward isolating and to make your life and work richer.

Being a positive teammate starts with giving love to yourself. If we don’t love ourselves who will? This is not about some maniacal ego trip. It is about being kind to yourself, taking care with yourself, nurturing your spirit, having fun and treating yourself as a wonderful human complete with foibles. Our human energy is in constant use as we search for meaning.

The only person who has control of creating personal energy is you. If we as individuals don’t learn how to energetically care for ourselves, we will struggle. Without daily conscious action, a constant leak is established in our well of energy. The following song sung by many a country star expresses our futile search outside of ourselves,

“I was lookin' for love in all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces” [1]

It makes no difference what kind of relationship you engage; your first responsibility is to open your heart to your own love. Actively do things that are about loving you. The possibilities are endless from the simplicity of loving a nice shower, a peaceful walk, having fun playing games, to the courage to express your love and appreciation to others. Remember, it is all about you. You are not seeking love; you are giving yourself your love.

Through my profession as an executive coach and consultant I see many of us pursue a path of perfectionism and this path is conceptual, impractical and a mental mirage. The concept of perfectionism is antithetical to being a human being. As a father, husband and son, I am often aware of my own tendencies toward these punishing, mental expectations. Many people don’t realize the magnitude of destruction this silent siren of perfectionism creates. If we don’t ground ourselves in our own love, we are destined to a life of “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.”

When we are able to give ourselves a steadier stream of love we open our hearts and minds to this marvel called positive, loving relationships (remember the number one relationship is with yourself). Without creating this loving aqueduct to our soul, people have a tendency to be more fearful leading toward isolation rather than positively relating. The conundrum lies in the fact that until we learn to open the flow of love to ourselves, from ourselves, we create a self-imposed sentence to wandering this barren desert.

This quest to learn how to love oneself is a life-long joy. It is a spiritual gift, a process, something that ebbs and flows second by second. Learning how to love and relate to oneself is the nucleus of life-long learning. Self-awareness is the captain of your journey. She steers your spiritual ship. She rebuilds your ship if you find yourself swept into rocky shoals and temporarily disabled. She provides you with tremendous strength. All she asks is that you open your soul to the rainbow of human emotion lead by love.

This rainbow of human emotion includes fear. However, our minds allow fear to poison our well of positive, human energy. The “Fear of Failure” is an erroneous concept that permeates our culture. Why not choose to re-frame this negative message with a different concept called, “Learning and Enjoyment?” Incentives are very powerful and we can choose to apply negative incentive messages or positive incentive messages in our lives. I encourage people to follow the path towards positively loving oneself, positively relating with others, positively enjoying learning and spurning negative messages. The following man suffered beyond the beyond and yet his life is about courage beyond the beyond. He provides millions of people (including me) with his lived experience that sobers me when I stray to negativity, fear or pity.

Victor Frankl, wrote his story based on living in the most horrific experience known to human beings. His life, his mind, his spirit and his humanness is a beacon to all regarding living a meaningful life.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love.[2]

The goodness of life comes from the goodness of individuals. The strength of teams comes from the strength of individuals. Strong individuals have strong relationships. Strong individuals are constantly aware of keeping the pipeline to her heart alive and open. He loves himself, by exercising his personal gift of love. I see my clients take loving actions toward themselves by courageously learning how to learn. Watching isolated men in positions of power learn the joy of enjoying heartily greeting others. Watching managers learn how to create environments for others to succeed. Watching an owner of a company express his passion about being passionate.

Writing this article is a version of my self-love. It takes courage to express my thoughts, feelings and experiences. This action of writing keeps the pipeline to my heart open helping me deepen what is meaningful to me. I think of the strength and love I find in my relationships with others. Finally, this is about choosing relating over isolating.

 

I find great joy in being able to write these articles and share them with the public! The greatest compliment to me is if you would pass this along or share it with others if you found my information helpful!

 

[1] SONGWRITERS BOB MORRISON, PATTI RYAN, WANDA MALLETTE

[2]Man's Search for Meaning, Part One, "Experiences in a Concentration Camp", Viktor Frankl, Pocket BooksISBN 978-0-671-02337-9 pp. 56–57

Leadership is Creating an Environment for Other's Success

In my last article, “Learn How to Learn” I introduced the fact that we all learn differently. Unfortunately, our educational systems have “experts” at the top telling students what they are going to be taught and the method is one size fits all.

Leaders of top organizations understand this educational culture will not be effective in business. Good leaders want higher performing organizations composed of life-long learners. A life-long learner is self-directed, searches for professional and personal growth, and is inspired going to work.

Leaders, I want to embrace, cherish building something greater than them. They create environments for other people’s success. Retired Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Charles Krulak, focused the Marines 11-week basic training on team projects that emphasized individual and team action. These training exercises took young men/women from all walks of life and put them in an action-oriented environment so they can learn internal locus of control. This means each Marine trains to understand that their action determines their future and their team’s future. The individual Marines generate trust and respect as they take personal responsibility to figure out how to complete the team-based experiments. The company commanders at Camp Pendleton gain the trust and respect of the new Marines by creating an environment for their success.

Leaders learn articulating and staying true to one’s purpose is the inner sanctum that guides all. Purpose is driven by one’s heart and soul. It is one’s meaning in work. It serves as your guide in order to understand what and how you want to do.

As Simon Sinek points out in his book, Start With Why, a clearly articulated purpose addresses the emotional aspect of our limbic portion of our brain. The emotion triggers our decision-making allowing facts and words to be heard. The following is my purpose.

“Freedom, joy and meaning through life-long learning.”

I’ve thought a lot about the articles I’ve written over the past months. First, I haven’t done it alone. I was smart enough to hire a Social Media Coach, Zach Bullett. Zach is a young, life-long learner, a recent Colorado Mesa University graduate and a leader. I say leader, because Zach and I have created an environment for each other’s success. His intelligent support breaks my isolation as a sole practitioner. His expertise in social media allows me to write, along with the freedom to create and publish. My expertise in coaching, what I write and our discussions deepen his new coaching reservoir. 

A number of wonderful events have happened as a result of writing articles. Publishing articles is a vehicle to share my purpose. Publishing my messages is a way to coordinate my thinking and my behavior. It is a way to trust and respect the freedom bestowed on me by my predecessors.

Writing about ways to make people’s lives better through positive learning strengthens freedom. Some of us have an easier path to freedom than others. All of us who have the freedom to learn have a duty to respect the sacrifices others have made on our behalf.

The poignant memories I have of my father are feeling his love and leadership. I will never forget steaming into New York harbor early on a July morning in 1958. My father spoke to me about his emotions of gratefulness returning from WWII on the Queen Mary (converted to a troop ship during WWII) and seeing the Statue of Liberty. I was privileged to share the experience with him 12 years later. Dad set the stage for me, advocating learning, creating a more enjoyable and successful life for me. My father’s leadership that early morning fashioned an environment where I viscerally experienced my meaning of freedom. He was brilliant and loving, because he didn’t try to teach me. He chose to create an environment so I could learn for myself!

A number of years ago dear friends of ours included us on a trip to Israel and Jordan. This loving couple exhibits marvelous leadership by organizing many trips to Israel so Americans, Israelis and Jordanians can learn. They organize the trips in a way that creates an environment for all of us to find more joy and meaning.

We were never taught or told what to think. We each had our own life-long learning which created more enjoyable and successful lives (for the Israelis, Jordanians and us). Deep learning sometimes comes with a certain amount of shock and awe, some pain, some uncertainty and that is why leaders “Hold the space for us to learn (Patricia Qualls, Ph.D.).”

My professional coaching is relegated to people leading and managing organizations. Whether my coaching sessions are via telephone or in-person it is all about, “Creating an environment for our success.” The main foundation to this successful relationship is learning.

This is a responsibility of both my client and myself. While our roles may be different our responsibilities are similar. My skills lie in helping my client understand that he/she holds the cards to positive learning, not me.

My challenge as the leader is “Holding the space for someone to learn” not telling them what to learn. We start each session with the question, “Please tell me what is going exceptionally well in your life?” I ask this question, because so many of us don’t focus on the good in our lives. The second question is, “What would you like to work on today?” Exploring these questions is all about becoming a leader in one’s own life.

 

I find great joy in being able to write these articles and share them with the public! The greatest compliment to me is if you would pass this along or share it with others if you found my information helpful!

Learning How to Learn

Why is the concept of “Learning How to Learn” so critical to building a better business, being a better father/mother, being a better community member or being better at anything?

Research shows over and over again that systems impact how an individual thinks and behaves. Research from high profile labs at MIT and UC Berkeley affirm top-down, authoritarian, 100 year old school systems hijack a child’s innate curiosity to explore and discover their world.”[1] Most of us in the United States are raised in school systems that are top down, authoritarian based and haven’t changed much in 100 years.

This past weekend I had the privilege of playing golf with three friends who went to Stanford University with me. Lane Nonnenberg and I were walking down the first fairway together and Lane said, “I heartily agree with what you wrote in your last article, regarding hiring the best, creating a clear purpose and senior management supporting teams to do the winning work.” Lane was an executive at HP for over 30 years, back in the day when David Packard and Bill Hewlett were actively involved. He said the successful managers at HP followed what I described in my article and the unsuccessful managers never could focus on team success instead of his/her individual success. The unsuccessful always wanted to teach/talk at people at the expense of listening and learning.  Our shared experience of top managers are antithetical to what we often experienced growing-up in our school years.

It is an environment where students are judged on their ability to imitate. Indeed, a theoretical "perfect score" on a written exam for some instructors is no more than a perfectly-reflected echo of the instructor's own understanding and knowledge of the content. In such an environment, it is no wonder that plagiarism is a problem, that students constantly and consistently ask, "But what do you want on this assignment?" This is the trap of a Teaching Environment. It is a focus on content and its delivery to learners. The model is based on the concept of modernism, a belief that knowledge resides in a specific location and is shared or transferred from the one who "knows" to the one who does not.[2]

 

Again, facing this kind of system for many years it takes an awakening of some sort to change. I often times find people who don’t change, just don’t know how to change.

We are easily stuck in biased emotional, cognitive and behavioral tunnels. Often people become victims and rail against the system, damaging themselves in the process while never discovering a constructive new way of thinking or behaving. The biases we develop in our thinking keep us, “Doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.”

So how do we rediscover our innate curiosity, ability to explore and discover our world? How do we shake off the anesthesia of thinking someone else has the answers. How do we wake-up to understand we still have our inner genius from birth and it is time to strip away the smothering aspects of life?

Learning is personal, because we all learn differently. In our culture our systems preach and teach success through a bias toward the quantitative aspects of life. Life is an art, not an income statement. Life is about doing, feeling, thinking and appreciating one’s innate gifts. Life is not an assembly line. The rich aspects of life, loving, painting, reading, listening, music, fly-fishing, sports, programming, mathematics, writing are all about connecting with one’s personal ingenuity, moving toward your vision, appreciating your present situation and learning to use all this information to move forward. It doesn’t mean that one throws away income statements; it does mean that one recognizes them as a tool, not as the purpose of life. Tools support the principles of living, they are not the principles.

One of the major principles of life is relating. When we listen to others and share our thoughts through relating we are using 95% to 100% of our intelligence. In other words we maximize learning through relating with others. Relating with others who have new and different ideas, help us to positively relate and appreciate life-long learning. I bet when you think of a “teacher, coach, or mentor” who positively impacted your life, she related with you. This may include suggesting new ways of doing things, using a new experiment to test new life principles, but most of the time it is the human connection that wins the day.

I had a miserable experience with trigonometry my senior year in high school. My mother found a UCSB math major, Jane Brashear, to work with me during the summer between my senior year of high school and my postgraduate year at prep school. I had been offered a football scholarship to Stanford and my future acceptance was contingent on getting certain grades improved and SAT scores improved. My first two weeks working with Jane were all about her ability to hold a safe space for me. This meant Jane was calm, considerate, encouraging and empathetic to my state.

My initial frustration was beyond the beyond. I was angry regarding my math failure and I was scared I couldn’t improve. I did have the courage to show-up and ask for help. It was Jane’s ability to relate to me that created the environment for my learning; in a way that was based on my needs…she was learner centric, not teacher centric. Jane was able to help me understand the value of W.

Timothy Gallwey’s (Inner Game of Tennis) brilliant thinking, “What did you learn and what did you enjoy about that shot?” In this case it was about doing trigonometry, not playing tennis and Gallwey’s principle was equally relevant to both experiences.

A few years later Len Rohde graced my life and encouraged me to learn how to learn (again). Len played left offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers from 1960 to 1974 and was a perennial All-Pro. For two years, during spring football practice at Stanford, I had the privilege of Len volunteering his time to work with us. His demeanor was quiet, assured, supportive and enthusiastic. What an honor to have this perennial All-Pro support me.

Here I was a struggling college lineman playing against some of the best defensive linemen in the country and Len was helping me. Len always used his calm voice, maybe when something went really well his voice would rise in a deep tone of excitement, but he never screamed at me in frustration. He was always excited for my progress, my learning and he made this violent sport mentally enjoyable for me. He modeled being an antidote for fear. When I think of great managers, I think of Len’s genius. His genius being he was one of the best, he never had to tell you and he used his talents to create an environment for my learning. He projected the love of learning to me. Not surprisingly, Len went on to be very successful in the business world after retiring from the NFL.

 

Learning how to learn is a life-long pursuit. It is both a solo journey and a relationship journey. It requires courage to seek relationships with people. It requires individual commitment to learning how to learn. When you are in positions of power it is important to use your position to create environments for other’s success. Relate with others and take the time to quietly reflect on your journey to create more richness in your life.

 

If you found this information useful in any way, please share with your friends!

You can find more information at Dougadams.com



 

[1] Kerry McDonald, “Teaching versus Learning”http://www.wholefamilylearning.com/2016/05/teaching-versus-learning.html (May 4, 2016)

[2] Dave Rogers, “Teaching versus Learning Environments.” http://faculty.valenciacollege.edu/drogers/essays/teachvlearn.html

Reflecting on a Mentor

When it comes to growing as a manager and leader my experience tells me, “It’s not an academic exercise, it is a lived experience over a significant period of time.” I am dedicated to building teams to run businesses, not authoritarian structures. A successful team is a group of people who commit to personal and team goals. Their duty includes the personal fortitude to improve individually and a willingness to learn how to play the game with others in order to achieve a greater good.

Over the past decade I’ve taken more time to reflect on meaningful experiences in my life. Who made a difference to me? What fosters positive learning in my life? And, how do I take what I learn, apply it to make my life, family, clients, community and our world a little bit better?

When I entered Stanford University in the fall of 1968 I couldn’t imagine all that I would learn from our Head Football Coach, John Ralston. He made an everlasting impression on me that shaped my philosophy and business exhibited through my almost 25 years running Leadership Resources, LLC. Here are a few of the business principles I learned from Coach Ralston:

  • Hire the best possible people and coaches, many of his assistant coaches went on to Head Coaching jobs at major universities and the NFL;
  • Recruit intelligent and skilled players;
  • Provide learning/training environments that make good players better;
  • Learn from and listen to the people he hired;
  • Trust them to run their departments in order to create a stronger team;
  • Working together the coaching staff created a leading edge strategy that enabled us to be two-time Rose Bowl Champions and the foundation for the very successful Denver Bronco NFL franchise;
  • And all of us associated with these teams have a sense of camaraderie to last a lifetime;

 

For all of us that had the privilege of playing during these years, his formula created a business model that makes being associated with Stanford football very attractive. Observing the behavior of the current Head Coach at Stanford, David Shaw, I would say he uses many of the same principles Coach Ralston introduced 40 some years ago.

This highly successful formula allowed Coach Ralston to let the Assistants coach and the players play. He created a decision-making environment that used the intelligence of his whole staff and players. He earned his position as the boss by the manner in which he behaved toward his staff, coaches and players.

My experience is that successful CEO's are usually in alignment with Coach Ralston’s philosophy. Managers who are overly challenged at the higher positions are often guilty of micro-managing, have lower self-esteem, are afraid to surround themselves with people they fear are “better than them,” are poor listeners and exhibit other behaviors that undermine team success/profits.

The vast majority of our experience is with small or mid-sized companies. The attractiveness of working in these companies is often the magnetic allure of effective leadership. Companies that are having problems usually have behavior being exhibited by senior managers/leaders that aren’t supporting the stated principles of the organization.

We are usually called upon when someone in senior management realizes they are out of alignment. Most of our relationships are long-term 10-20 years. Organizations are living organisms, “They are never fixed, they either grow or shrivel and never stay the same.” We enrich the hiring and developmental results of the companies. Here is what we do, initiated by what I learned from playing football under Coach Ralston.

Recruit and Hire the Best

o  Have an attractive culture, what you offer someone must be in sync with their values

o  Know what you value, not what you think you value

o  Have an assessment process to understand what is underneath the mask of the interview

§ Generate pertinent interview questions based on the data retrieved from the completed assessments

o  Have a program of training and positive learning that helps people hire more effectively

Build Managers Who Are Good Coaches

o  Managers who want to learn how to coach a team

o  Managers who realize his success from the team’s success

o  Managers who listen well, provide clear structure and a manner in which each team member can measure their progress

Create an Internal Culture of Applied Learning

o  Often business people are in environments that are so busy, people don’t have positive learning opportunities

o  People have new policies and procedures thrust upon them from above

o  People are focused on the quantitative aspects of management, accounting, legal, products, services and building these products/services

o  The organization pays little attention to communication, relationships and human processes which bind things together (or not)

o  Many organizations say, “When we finish this initiative we will have time to integrate more positive learning into our organization.” What we fail to recognize is that running a business never stops. There is never the “right” time.

 

A dear friend of mine always reminds me, “You can do whatever you want and you just can’t do everything.”

From the infinite possibilities in our world, I chose helping people learn how to learn and play as a team. Most of the direction toward my field came from my four years with Coach Ralston, his staff and my teammates. My experience with him solidified what I valued, what I wanted to do and it took time to apply what I learned from him. In fact, it took me until my early forties to create the vehicle called Leadership Resources, LLC to bring his principles to fruition.

In my experience, people who understand these principles, adopt them to fit the new culture, and work with them to make them even better which in turn will generate successful ventures. I believe these principles help me do my best and make the world a little bit better.

Lessons Learned Living with a Wildfire

Since the morning of July 22, 2016 we in Carmel Valley, Carmel Highlands and Big Sur area have been living with a wildfire. To date it has burned 70,000 acres and is estimated to burn around 150,000 acres.

As I live through this fire I often find myself thinking about what can be learned from this experience. This stressful time allows me to wake-up a bit more, catch myself playing a victim role/feeling sorry for myself and impresses upon me the importance of giving myself daily doses of love. Writing this article is an act of personal love, the privilege to share with others and the opportunity to devote my time to gaining more clarity about my life.

Fortunately, most of the burn area is wilderness and fire is part of the natural cycle. Although humans setting fires is not part of the natural cycle. We have an army of 5,500 courageous firefighters, over 100 dozer crews, helicopter pilots, and 6 retardant bombers working hard to keep people’s houses and businesses safe.

To date we have lost 57 houses and no businesses. The Fire Command thinks they will have the fire under control by August 31, 2016. Under control means surrounded by barriers so that the fire won’t “jump.” The fire will continue to burn within these safe perimeters.

Our family is lucky (at least to date) that our house in Carmel Valley is safe, my mother’s house is also safe and our family home "The Teapot" in Big Sur is currently in good standings (we are however still under evacuation warning, because the fire is still active on the Eastern slope of our Big Sur Valley).

This event has led me to write some lessons about what I have observed over the past weeks.

Lesson One – Americans are courageous, empathetic people especially when facing a crisis. The firefighters come from all over the West, many living in tent camps and working in the most difficult terrain possible. The 57 families who lost their homes are in all kinds of different situations. Some are able to rent furnished homes, some are living with friends, some are in temporary shelters and all are courageous. So far, we have one fatality, a young dozer operator who leaves behind his wife and two young daughters. Our communities are flooded with hand-painted signs expressing love and appreciation for the firefighters, as well funds being raised for the family of the man who perished and for families who need to rebuild.

Business/Organization Corollary #1 – living is about doing your best and it takes courage to do one’s best. Doing your greatest work involves awareness of living in present time and being empathetic toward yourself. I stress being empathetic for yourself and doing your best, because we must take care of ourselves if we are to truly care for others.

 

Lesson Two – We assign ourselves risk for the reward of living in this beautiful area. We own homes in areas that burn. We’ve had 3 fires since 2008. Two of the three were man made and all three fires took homes.

Business/Organization Corollary #2 – we face risk and reward in our work too. It is important to be aware of the risk and reward factor, because work can overwhelm one’s life.  Too many fires in one’s life can sap all your energy. Insurance is important!

 

Lesson Three – the action of one or a few can create terrible loss (or gain) for many. An illegal campfire lit in an area suffering from drought over the past five years started this horrendous wildfire.

Business/Organization Corollary #3 – respect and appreciate your environment (both immediate and global). We have tremendous power and can easily do great harm. Exhibit your strength on a daily basis and use power sparingly. Unfortunately, as men we often abuse power and women save us with their strength. Do you have the strength to help people learn or do you default to the power of telling them what to do?

 

Lesson Four – prolonged threats, smoke and risk create stress. Many of us struggle with acknowledging stress and it impacts our behavior in negative ways.

Business/Organization Corollary #4 – stress is always lurking, many of us are numb to it and suffer the consequences. Stay alert and practice empathy toward yourself. Stress is exhibiting by, “Shoulding on oneself.” As a leader in the workplace, please don’t “should” on yourself or others.

 

Lesson Five – we don’t control our environment. We can plan, organize and operationalize our plans, but we aren’t in control. Given Clint Eastwood has property impacted by the fire, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” are going to happen. The only thing we control is our own mind-set and behavior given the situations we face.

Business/Organization Corollary #5 – Professor Emeritus at the Graziadio Business School at Pepperdine University always told us, “Doing business is like playing pool on an undulated pool table, ever changing and never the same.” Planning is important and it is imperative to remember that you are planning a game in an ever-changing field. Remember 85-90% of doing business is about making the best decision at that point in time. Business, like life, is very much about operating in present time.

Always remember that doing one’s best is not about being super-human. It is about being human. I would love to hear from each of you about what being human means to you.

An Antidote for Shame, Giving Yourself Love

What the heck does “Shame” or “Giving Yourself Love” have to do with running an organization? In my decades of experience, love and shame touch everyone thus every organization. These two words are rarely discussed in organizations, but always lurk beneath the surface. Sometimes in some very healthy settings the concepts are discussed and exhibited. We all hunger for love and we all carry shame.

I grew-up quietly hungry for love, but being told that someone who loved themselves had an emotional disorder called “Narcissism.” Adults would preach, “It is more important to give to others than to oneself.” Most of the activities I faced in school and sports were competitive, meaning a person won and a person lost. In my youth I was confused, by what adults were telling me versus my young, lived experience. 

I struggled in school and felt ashamed. I excelled on the playing fields and saw others struggle, overtaken by shame. If I brought-up this dichotomy to adults they would hush me, by saying something like, “You will understand when you get older” or “That’s a silly question!”

Love was not nearly as ever present as shame. In fact, I grew-up at the United States Military Academy where a cadet exhibiting a “public display of affection” and being caught, faced punishment. Again, I privately would hear about the importance of being affectionate and loving people, but saw first hand where people were punished for any kind of overt actions. As young men we were shamed if we cried and praised for heart wrenching stoicism.

Young women were in the same environment that fostered detachment and punishment for expressing love. They too felt the shame of school grades, physical appearance and social status (just to name a few).

I’ve gravitated toward others who appreciate other people, toward situations where learning is encouraged. I've moved toward coaching and helping people of all ages understand the importance of being responsible and accountable.

The decades of experience have brought me to daily discussions of love in all of my coaching relationships. I think my years of living have shown me how to appreciate and notice the love around me. It is a blessing in my life to feel love whether it is walking a golf course, petting a dog, being with dear friends, the intimacy of our family as well as a myriad of other situations. It is opening our hearts to feel love that is a marvelous antidote to our shame.

One of my business coaching services, provide clients the tools and processes to hire more effectively. Part of my service is helping the person(s) doing the hiring, understand what biases the candidate has in their thinking and how to evaluate current behavior.

When a person moves from the position of candidate to employee, I begin a debriefing session. Starting this process can be a bit anxiety provoking for the individual, but as the debrief moves forward, most people get more and more comfortable. I’ve read hundreds of profiles which posit it is easier to give others love than give love to ourselves. Over 80% of the profiles I read carry this theme.  

The debrief is an opportunity to look at what they may want to do differently as they move forward in their new position. Shame is at the root of some of the themes the profiles highlight.

For example, perfectionism, over promising, and “shoulding on oneself” all are products of shame.  These patterns cloud decision-making, exhaust someone mentally and continue the punishment of failing to give ourselves love.  As Waylon Jennings sang, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Our shame is real, it is not just a concept, it is an emotion that gnaws away inside of us. We act out our shame in so many fashions and it is a drain on our energy and emotional intelligence.

So, if we all carry shame, what can we do to exorcise the demon?

What I have discovered is to make a daily practice of learning how to give love to ourselves. These are simple activities like saying hello to people, smiling, going for walks, cooking a meal, hugging someone, writing a report instead of procrastinating, talking strait with a teammate who needs your help and learning how to be kind to oneself.

Above is what you often see at college football games. I recommend people get one of these, tape their name over the college name and slogan and hang it in a prominent place in their office. This is a great reminder that you are #1.

I am closing with a Doug Adams’ quote, “The deeper you learn to love yourself, the deeper you will love others.” Make your life richer, career stronger, your leadership better and your business more profitable by giving yourself daily doses of love.

Hiring is Key to Success

Quality hiring practices are a key component in any great organization. Many organizations struggle with the “silo syndrome” meaning key functions within the organization don’t communicate well. Hiring is an HR function or a stand-alone event.

You don’t find too many top executives touring the country running mini-camps like Jim Harbaugh is doing. He’s constantly experimenting, breaking standard norms, in order to attract better players for the business of Michigan football. He understands better players gives him the opportunity to have a better business. He takes a creative, systemic approach to recruiting and landing top players. Elon Musk at Space X and Tesla is another CEO who is actively involved in the recruiting and hiring of top talent. These two businesses are in the midst of revolutionizing two of the most stayed industries in the world.

Why is effective hiring so challenging? One of the main reasons is our mindset. The act of offering someone a job is a binary decision-making process. The prospective employer decides whether to offer or not offer the position to the candidate and the candidate decides to accept or not accept the position.

In my almost 5 decades of running businesses and consulting for businesses, this good/bad, win/lose and go/no go mindset permeates the entire process.  The key word is process, because a process is not a binary decision. A process is a series of events with intuitive, emotional and practical decision points throughout each event. It is complex, not a simple good/bad decision.

An article in Forbes magazine shows that firing someone generally costs:

  • Entry level employees 30-50% of their annual salary to replace them
  • Mid-level employees, up to 150% of their annual salary
  • High level, specialized employees up to 400% of their annual salary[1]

 

Hiring poor candidates, letting people go or firing them is a very expensive game. This suggests hiring process is a critical operational investment. So why do we spend so much money to hire and fire people while reducing the process to a good/bad or yes/no decision-making event?

Attribution theory[2] is a good place to start looking. This means people have a tendency to attribute “when one errs to the external attribution (the other person’s fault, the market or any kind of excuse outside of yourself). “The person I hired was great when he started, but then something changed and we had to fire him.”

When things go well we have a tendency to attribute the “brilliant” results internally. “I am so smart to have hired this very capable person and look at all the good work he/she accomplishes.” This kind of thinking on the part of management is brutally expensive, leads to poor overall operational performance and restricts the positive learning to make the team, department or company more profitable.

Doing a good job of hiring people and retaining them is hard work. The fact that it is so expensive to replace people means that strong hiring practices must have a much longer tail than the pre-hire and hiring decision itself. I often hear from disappointed employers, “I don’t know why I hired that person?” Or, “I hired the person to solve problems, not create more problems.”

The quotes are endless expressing disappointment about the performance of people. My experience tells me management that constantly complains about difficulty hiring good people is unaware of the deeper issues depleting their organization.

The psychology of the candidate and the employer are often quite similar. Many employers are anxiously excited to hire people and the candidate is anxiously excited about finding a job. The key theme is anxiously excited.

The hiring process becomes a dance about finding the “right” job and the “right” employee. This dance is stressful for both. I’m a coach who helps managers hire more effectively. I see frustration and disappointment from the management side when employees don’t meet management’s expectations.

The person who was hired with all this hope and promise now depletes the energy from the formerly hopeful manager. The manager avoids talking with the now “problem employee” and the manager (and other employees) suffer with poor performance and declining moral. Another scenario is more direct, but not any better. The manager tells the “problem employee” they are not doing the job well and gives an ultimatum, “Improve or else!”

Usually in both these situations people are fired or quit. Management blames the employees and the employees blame management. Management returns to the hiring process to find Mr. or Ms. Right and the dance continues.

Management in more successful organizations understand that hiring is a systemic process that involves the whole organization:

  • Recruiting, including clear written expectations regarding the responsibilities of the job;
  • Assessments that provide insights in order to ask meaningful, individualized questions pertinent to the work responsibilities;
  • A simple system to keep score regarding the opinion of the hiring manager during the hiring process and the opinion of a person’s performance after being hired;[3]
  • Mentoring, adult learning opportunities, teamwork and advancement;
  • And an organizational system, which promotes individual responsibility, emotional rewards and monetary awards commensurate with your performance.

 

Top organizations understand that the above principles make them more attractive, help them develop quality people and build stronger profits. Hiring is far from the simple act of saying yes/no. It is all about having a mindset and culture that understands it is about “Creating an environment for success.” It starts with welcoming a good person to the company and the company works in concert with each person to grow stronger. Strong businesses emulate the focused work of strong teams.

 

 

[1] Cameron Keng, “Employees That Stay in Companies Longer Thank Two Years Get Paid 50% Less,” http://www.forbes.com, (June 22, 2014)

2 Saul McCleod, “Attribution Theory,” www.simpleypsychology.org, (2010)

3 Ben Dattner, “A Scorecard For Making Better Hiring Decisions,” www.hbr.org, (February 4, 2016)

Are You Attractive?

This question may make you feel uncomfortable; so let me clarify a bit. I’m not talking about what you think about your physical appearance. I’m talking about what you value and the resulting actions fortifying what you value. My coaching experience leads me to measure a businessperson’s attractiveness by the thoughts and actions of one’s customers. I’m talking about your internal customers and external customers.

Being attractive means being clear on what you value, the purpose of your organization, what kind of behavior you expect from people who work with you and most importantly what kind of behavior you choose to exhibit.

I recently watched an interview with Warren Buffett, Lloyd Blankfein, Michael Bloomberg and Jack Dorsey. Lloyd Blankfein the Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs facilitated the discussion as part of a Graduation Ceremony for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses graduation.

  • Warren Buffett emphasized “Delighting Your Customers” not just satisfying them, but Delighting them. Obviously, this includes the internal and external customers.

 

  • Michael Bloomberg’s advice is “Tear Down the Walls” in your company. Integrate yourself with your team. He has done this with his company (20,000 employees) and his 12 years as Mayor of New York City. His statement about the design of the workplace is in concert with facilitating better communication and teamwork. He echoes this mantra when people ask him, “What makes you successful?”

 

  • Jack Dorsey (co-founder and CEO of Twitter) talked specifically about attracting the right people to your business. As founder of a number of companies he says it is key to:
    • Be clear on the purpose of your venture
    • Be able to clearly articulate your purpose to people
    • Find people who are passionate about the purpose of your company…you can teach skills, but you can’t teach passion.
    • If you have someone on your team who is not in alignment with your purpose, make the difficult decision and part ways.

 

All three of these world-class business leaders were extremely clear about the purpose of the person leading the business or team. They all spoke about the leaders providing the resources for the team members to do one’s work as an individual and as a team member.

As I tell my clients, “Your job is to create an environment for your team members success.” This is often about learning new skills and behaving in a different fashion from what you did to gain the leadership position. I grew-up listening to my father (one of the founding fathers of the 82nd Airborne Division who fought 6 years of war), “The troops always eat first.” Talk about providing an environment for success!

In my 25 years of business coaching, attractive leaders are emotionally intelligent and passionate about their purpose. They are extremely clear on the purpose of the business, focused on making the business teams work more efficiently, providing the resources for success and rewarding people for profitable work.

A few months ago I had the privilege of attending the annual manager’s meeting for Crowne Partners, Inc., a high-end apartment builder and operator headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. Crowne Partners, Inc. is a long-time client of ours.

Alan Engel, a Principal (along with his Partner Alan Levow) at Crowne Partners, Inc. gave a talk to sum-up the two-day event. Alan Engel shared his thoughts about passion as the driving force for success at whatever you do in life.  Be passionate about what you choose to do in life, be it parenting, gardening, working or just plain living.

Make your business more attractive by hiring people with passion, clearly articulate your purpose and weed out the people who choose not to align with your mission and principles.

Please Don't Should On Yourself

 I am biased to the incredible light of our American West. We have a family cabin in Big Sur, California. It sits about 1000 feet above the Pacific Ocean and my late father always said, “You can see all the way to Maui.”

 The light, sounds, winds and peace of our cabin, we call The Teapot, is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of magnificence. When Patricia (my wife) and I retreat to the Teapot, we spend our first 24 hours decompressing and unwinding from the pace of two self-employed, working adults.

 This gradual period of decreasing the pressure allows us to begin to really think and feel the world with a serene sense of clarity, the clarity of being in “Present Time.” There are no “shoulds” in present time. Present time is all about the moment and the excitement of sensing all that is occurring right then and there.

 Over the years I’ve observed many of my clients and myself living life in the past. Most of us are completely unaware of having our present life experience distorted by thoughts/images of the past. In previous articles I’ve talked about the critical thought process we call awareness and how without being aware of our behavior we continue to repeat unwanted patterns over and over again.

 Early on in my coaching assignments, whether it’s a team, an individual or both, the concept of “should” comes to the forefront. My clients are successful people but they become better when they realize the multitude of times and situations in which they, “should on themselves.” All of my clients are leaders in their organizations, therefore when they should on themselves, they are most likely shoulding on others, too.

Here are some examples of “shoulding on yourself:”

  • A successful person gets a compliment on an action they have taken. They immediately think, “I should have done better;”
  • A parent sees their child’s report card which has 4 As and one B, the parent suddenly thinks "Our child should have had straight As;"
  • A successful sales executive has a record setting quarter, they then say, “We should have had better margins;”
  • A golfer shoots the best score of their life and responds by thinking, “I should have played two shots better.”

 

 The list is endless, because people who influence us growing-up rarely live in present time. Coaches, teachers, and parents consistently tell young people things like, “Never be satisfied with what you achieve, always strive to do better!” The message young people receive is, “You should have done better.”

 There is no respect for present time. We are conditioned to avoid being present and be anxious.  When I’m working with clients and we talk about “doing one’s best” the thought process reverts to reflecting on a past moment. When they reflect on a past moment the brain rises the, “I should have done better” phrase to the surface.

 As we’re working through these cloudy waters, people have a tough time seeing “Doing one’s best” is an activity in the present, not a reflection of the past.

 Here lies the opportunity for people to make immediate improvements in one’s life and business. The solutions for living in the present are simple, however not always easy.  Initiating these two behaviors will make an immediate, positive impact on one’s effort to find freedom from, “shoulding on oneself.”

  • Be constantly alert for uttering the word, “Should.” When you catch yourself, stop and get your thoughts and words back to the present.
  • Live life as an experiment. Do your best to frame your actions using a simple experimental method.
    • What actions are you taking?
    • What do you think will be the outcomes?
    • Process the various outcomes.
    • Take new actions based on what was learned.
    • Repeat the process.

 

 Living life as an experiment offers the advantage of living in present time. It doesn’t mean that we always prove our “hypothesis,” but if we maintain our learning we always move in a positive direction. The experimental method guards against the “shoulds.”

 Team leaders can dramatically increase effectiveness by being aware of all team members eliminating shoulds (starting with him/herself). Focus on doing one’s best, enjoying the experience and learning from one’s actions.

Over Promise Under Deliver

 Life is full of marvelous things and has its share of challenges too. In my 25 plus years of coaching people in all sorts of organizations, the theme of over promising and under delivering often thrives. Successful people often have enormous expectations for themselves. On top of that, we can honestly see almost a religious like worship of “over-achievers” in our country.

Our school systems, family systems and organizational systems project human beings into these roles of unbelievable achievement. It takes grand vision, hard work, intelligence and being in the right place at the right time to succeed. I’m not debating this premise.

What I’m saying is we are indoctrinated to have expectations, which wildly exaggerate reality. Whether it’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos, all are visionaries. Some of these men may or may not over promise in their lives.

When we’re younger we idolize people we often don’t know, great figures like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Abe Lincoln, or a myriad of other people who have achieved much in his/her lives.

Many of us become what Dr. Robert K. Smith has termed, “The Responsible Perfectionist.” Our minds build a conceptual model of perfection for ourselves and we ignore the practical aspect of second-to-second reality. These biases in our thinking often leave us with this grinding, debilitating mantra, “It is never good enough.”

Perhaps through our high school years we are unaware of our enormous expectations. Many of us can continue to have success using this overly demanding thought process, because it is our reality. We don’t know anything else.

Marriage, climbing the management ladder and other relationship-oriented life pursuits start to challenge us. The more our success is based on relationships, this secure foundation starts to crumble.

For most of us don’t understand what is happening. Why aren’t “my people” doing their jobs as well as I expect? Why is my child not getting straight A’s, captain of his/her sports teams and president of the student council? Why doesn’t my spouse see that my view of the world is correct? We can go on and on with questions based on our biases in our thinking.

The driving force of personal competition, unrealistic expectations of ourselves and the personal kudos we receive for plowing blindly ahead, start to debilitate our effectiveness in leading people.

Often my clients find themselves in a situation where they are overly stressed, they can’t figure out why people won’t do what they expect and then finally hit-the-wall.

Usually, it comes about from an external force, your boss suggests that you need to take a different tack with people. Your spouse files for divorce. Your children rebel against you. You are fired.

Rarely, does someone discover his/her major foibles without a drastic event impacting his/her life. Sadly many people don’t get the message the first time and repeat the process.

Over promising to yourself and then feeling like you are constantly under delivering can lead you to isolate from your family and work colleagues. Your loved ones and coworkers bear the brunt of your anger, generated by nothing ever being right or good enough. Usually people with this syndrome become micro-managers, telling employees and family members how everything “should” be accomplished.

I have learned as a father, an executive, a manager and a coach it is about creating an environment where others can be successful. It is a different path than the path of individual success. In order to be successful one must encourage others to chart his/her path toward your common vision.

You are responsible for being clear about the purpose of your organization and give people the tools to help their lives get a bit better. Your life getting better is now about creating an environment for other’s success. This requires a shift in your mindset from one unrealistic demand (over promising) to give yourself permission to begin altering some of your personal expectations.

Remember, when you over promise to yourself you are creating a breeding ground for a false sense of self. You are abandoning your human gifts chasing a concept called perfection and life becomes more and more isolating as you pedal harder and harder.

Are You Winning With Purpose?

We’ve talked about goals in one of my previous articles, “The Genius Behind Your Daily Questions,” and now it’s important to look at a follow up question, “What is your purpose?”

Purpose gives you a clear direction and path to pursue, while goals are a way to clarify your daily actions. Purpose and goals link together when effectively implemented. One can spend all day focused on individual goals, but without a clear purpose toward an actual goal activity, it may be taking them in a wrong direction. Our purpose is the “Big Picture." 

I learned about building a Purpose Statement from Charlie Krone (1929-2015). When Charlie was an internal consultant with the Proctor and Gamble Corporation, he was instrumental in fostering a management system at P&G’s Lima, Ohio plant, that out performed every other soap plant in the company. In my work with Charlie, he helped me think more precisely and his Purpose Statement was a gift I treasure. So, if you don’t know where you are going, how in the heck do you expect to get there?

Let’s look at a real life example of the Purpose Statement in action. Here is an example of some of my coaching work with a manager:

 This particular manager struggles with micro-managing and continuously sets expectations that everyone should work just like he does, over critiquing every move they make. This coaching assignment is a distant learning project. He is on the east coast and I am on the west coast. I suggested we have a morning meeting for his team to include the General Manager, so that the entire system gets a chance to learn from top to bottom. At 9am EDT and 6am PDT we meet via phone, with their team gathered together in their conference room in North Carolina and me in my office in California. The first line of business in the meeting is the introduction, which allows everyone to share one thing that is going exceptionally well in his/her life. The next item of business is to review the Purpose Statement, because why have a meeting if we don’t understand the purpose?

The Purpose Statement contains four parts:

  • What actions are we taking;
  • What are the values we are using;
  • What is our objective(s);
  • How are we measuring whether we are moving toward our objective(s) or away from them?

Here is a draft of the Purpose Statement we are using for these daily meetings in North Carolina.

  • Action Statement, To give the manager a new, practical way to learn how to manage himself and other teammates;
  • Values, In a way that allows each person to become responsible for his/her actions;
  • Objectives, So that work is more enjoyable, productive and profitable;
  • Measurements, As measured by what each person learns, his/her attitude and the quality/timeliness of his/her work.

 

It is crucial we check our purpose prior to every meeting so that participants have a chance to voice questions about the direction. Work is constantly changing, so adjusting the purpose can be crucial. Remember if you want to have a better life, consistently check your purpose. Make sure you are headed in the direction you want and adjust your direction when you find yourself off-track. This is especially important for team leaders, because if you and your teammates are clear on your purpose, you will create marvelous products/services, profits and human energy. If you are not clear on your purpose you will waste lots of time, money and human spirit.

How to Lead a Winning Meeting

 The other day I had the privilege of playing golf on the Monterey Peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with two former Stanford Golf Team members who graduated in 1975. Dave Baskins, Senior Partner with Baskins/Hoetger Wealth Management, and Lane Nonnenberg, a retired Executive with Hewlett-Packard, who is now a faculty member at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. After our round, Lane and I chatted about his experience in the business world and his new role in teaching undergraduate and MBA students. A theme that Lane reiterated is how managers/executives are more facilitators than teachers. Both of us talked about the manager/executive’s job in meetings is to “hold the space” for knowledge and experience to be shared. Both of us concluded the role of a facilitator is different than what many business people are conditioned to envision.

 Research concludes that executives feel 50% of meetings are a waste of time.[1]World-class CEOs such as, Andy Grove and Alan Mulally, see their management team meetings as a major link-pin to operational success. What causes the discrepancy with so many executives? Why do half of the executives see meetings as a waste of time? In my experience, I find two key elements that must be present in order to lead a winning meeting. First, is the leader’s world-view, in how he/she sees their role; the second is more mechanical, the actual internal components of the meeting.  The leader/facilitators experience and values are blended with the component parts to create a top notch business experience.

 Here are some of the key components to an effective meeting.

  • Start with an engaging question, the one I always use is, “What is going exceedingly well in your life today?” All participants answer.
  • Facilitator presents the draft purpose for the meeting and the participants edit it if needed.
  • Facilitator then presents the draft agenda and participants make changes if needed…this includes a clear start time and ending time.
  • Agenda items are all about making decisions, carried out with measureable actions, with certain participant(s) being accountable and responsible for taking action and reporting results (these decisions, actions and accountable people are all recorded in writing).
  • Meeting closes with each participant talking about what he/she learned during the meeting today.

 The facilitator’s role is a lot trickier, because it deals with both one’s experience and emotional intelligence. You are the team-leader, the person with the power and the person who controls the effectiveness of the meeting. A strong leader/facilitator understands the basic purpose of his/her team is to: 

  • Have a clear structure for running the meeting and adhere to it (see above).
  • Be clear with each member of the team that they are responsible for their own individual actions, and the impact of their actions will reflect the success of the team.
  • Understand the best decisions will be made through the intelligence of the whole team, not by the facilitator.
  • Hold each team member accountable and responsible for the action items that fall on his/her shoulders.
  • Be disciplined and skilled at crafting questions to make the decision-making process engaging.

Leading an organization is not a conceptual or theoretical exercise but a practical experience. We learn in business by doing. Learning to create winning meetings is an on-going action-based experiment. The basic principles outlined above will assist the people involved in the meeting by helping them steer clear from the definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”

 Meetings run by authoritarians are a major reason why 50% of the meetings are deemed a waste of time. Why have a meeting to tell people what to do? If you want to experiment with creating winning meetings, experiment with developing yourself as a facilitator and follow the structured principles outlined in the article. In my 25-year experience of executive coaching, winning meetings lead to increased profitability.

 

[1] A network MCI Conferencing White Paper. Meetings in America: A study of trends, costs and attitudes toward business travel, teleconferencing, and their impact on productivity (Greenwich, CT: INFOCOMM, 1998), 3.

An Executive Competitive Advantage

In my experience, profitable organizations have cultures that support adults who are hungry to learn. I build numbers of “distant learning courses” for my clients. Many organizational cultures fail to understand how to maximize learning and stay mired in the limiting model of pedagogical teaching. Leaders who want to get the most from their teams, are well served by using the principles of adult learning that support the motivation and bliss of adult learners.

 I spent a number of years working with Malcolm Knowles, known as the father of adult learning and an author of a myriad of books, including his classic, The Adult Learner. Malcolm graduated from Harvard University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He was a pioneer and torchbearer, helping the world start to understand the difference between pedagogical and andragogical learning. The following chart looks at the differences between the two philosophies.

[1] Whitby, Tom. “Pedagogy vs. Andragogy.” Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. https://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/pedagogy-vs-andragog/te (March 22, 2016)

 It’s challenging to unlearn years of controlling habits in order to adopt a world of andragogical learning. My clients learn how to reap the benefits of using adult learning principles by their practical usage of it in meetings, and making team based decisions on the courses they lead. More effective business people often have significant emotional intelligence. They structure environments for learning that demand clear principles and use their emotional intelligence to “Hold the space” for people on the team to learn. Ask yourself the question, “Based on the preceding chart, which culture, do I want to foster with my team(s)?”

 Bryce G. Hoffman’s book, American Icon, is a magnificent account of Alan Mulally’s accomplishments as the CEO of Ford Motor Company. A major tenant of his leadership skills is his ability to create a responsible learning environment for his executive team. He was able to create a team oriented culture and guide his teammates to make decisions that brought the Ford Motor Company from the brink of bankruptcy, back to a strong industry leader.

 Business people who are unaware that they are operating from myths versus valid learning theory, will minimize success and invite business failure. The practical understanding and application of the principles of adult learning, serves a crucial role in operating a profitable business. Executives and managers who are more successful, learn to understand and work with tested principles. The successful executive is aware of his/her biases, is a voracious learner and is focused on the success of the team and the individual team members.

The Genius Behind Tracking Your Goals

I’ve been working with the concept of goals for over 50 years. I can recall being 12 year’s old and wanting to inherit Freddy Tiller’s paper route and succeeding (much to my chagrin, because I took it over in the fall/winter in upstate New York, walked about 3 miles through the snow everyday and had to collect from people in order to be paid…some people didn’t pay). As a youngster, many of my thoughts came to fruition. I don’t remember if I framed them as goals, but they certainly matched the description I now hold. Here are principles I’ve learned through my years of experience:

  • Write down specific behavioral goals and they are more likely to get your attention.
  • Written goals often lose there effectiveness, because we forget them.
  • Behavioral based goals are like any kind of development, they take persistent and consistent practice.
  • Tracking the effort you expend toward your behavioral based goals generates lots of valuable data.
  • Tracking your efforts keeps your goals in the forefront of your mind and behavior.
  • Tracking your efforts is a great way to actualize success, “Doing what you love and being happy about it (The Achievement Habit, Bernie Roth).

Marshall Goldsmith in his book Triggers, coordinates active, daily questions and tracks them via a spreadsheet. I’ve adopted these ideas and started using them with my clients as well as myself. His daughter actually brought-up the benefits of active questions like, “Did I do my best to exercise?” Which I’ve found by tracking my thoughts on a scale from 0-10 I am able to learn all sorts of things about myself in these moments of reflection. I am quite diligent about tracking my thoughts regarding my daily questions. I keep a daily reminder in my calendar. There is no downside to this exercise other than failing to take the 2-5 minutes of reflection and recording on a daily basis (I probably average about 5 days a week of reflection and recording). A young client of mine recently put his spreadsheet on his phone, making it more convenient than the laptop.

After a few weeks you can see patterns develop regarding your commitment and the importance of your goals represented by the numbers you’ve assigned regarding your dialing efforts. Great stuff! Why stick with something where you are averaging a 4, trash that goal, experiment with a new goal and see if the new goal has more meaning represented by your effort. Remember let’s actualize success by doing what you love and being happy about it!

The following spreadsheet is an example to use for your Daily Questions.

  • Copy your daily questions in place of the existing examples.
  • Take a few minutes to reflect while giving yourself a score from 0-10 regarding your effort on each of your questions.
  • The bottom figure represents the sum of your dialing scores and the end figure on each row of questions represents your average daily score.
  • Demonstrate self love by reflecting, scoring and reflecting on your questions.

I’ve worked with hundreds of coaching clients and profiled thousands of people over the past 25 years. Almost all of these people (including myself) find it much easier to give love and empathy to others, rather than to themselves. Remember, you are Number One. If you don’t love yourself, how in the heck do you expect to love others?

Part Three: Awareness and the Art of Life-Long Learning

I had always thought about life as a quest to “get somewhere, and be somebody.” The constant thought that this life of winning would lead to me to eternal happiness. Failing to find this place I would immediately turn on myself for being a loser. Of course, all of this was a mute play. My spirit and soul cried silently in agony with little awareness on my part other than searing pain that needed anesthetic. Now I had made the decision to live, plotted a course to help myself and others learn, blessed with a wonderful wife and child, learning to be a father and husband and most of all learning to be me.

Dr. Gates McKibbin was a wonderful help to me during my discovery of being me. She introduced me to numbers of books, but one has always stuck with me, The Hunger for More, by Laurence Shames. Many aspects of the book resonated with me. The first was how my life had been, “Never good enough even when winning.” The second is the concept of liminality, the space between where you’ve been and where you are going. This was a space that I had little awareness of other than it scared me. Once I was aware of this threshold, I learned how to tolerate my anxiety as I moved through this space. It is a natural space between planes. I think change efforts often fail, because people cannot tolerate this space of the unknown. The higher we climb in the world of management the less control. We have power. When senior people learn to tolerate this space called liminality, they get much better at learning how to give his/her best and create environments for other peoples’ success.

Awareness, the gift that keeps on giving, and for many years of my life I operated with only an awareness of winning and losing. Life was reduced to this. Today, I could say it is hard to imagine living within that framework, by I would not be telling my truth. My truth, today, is I am much more aware of my thoughts and feelings. When I feel afraid, which may happen numbers of times per day, I find myself back in that space of win/lose. It is a dark, scary and depleting place. An exciting aspect of myself is that I usually become aware I’m feeling fear (False Evidence Appearing Real). Rarely am I truly threatened by anything or anybody other than myself. It is awareness that offers me freedom. It is not that I’ve tried to eliminate “bad feelings;” I’ve continued to nurture my awareness so I can live in present time and be aware of the things going extremely well in my life at that moment.

I love golf. Fred Shoemaker, a wonderful coach, leads people through golf experiences that help participants increase their awareness. Golf is a game I’ve cherished since I first caddied for the Army golf team at West Point when I was nine. It combines the beauty of being outside, tremendous walks, persistent learning, the challenge of living in present time and the constant lesson that life has nothing to do with perfection. The list is infinite.

One of Fred’s classic statements is, “What was enjoyable about that shot and what did you learn.” For a number of years our company, Leadership Resources, LLC, invited friends and clients to participate in private workshops with Fred. When you’ve just missed an eighteen-inch putt, ask yourself, “What was enjoyable about that and what did I learn?” My experience tells me you may first utter a profanity, look at the statement as crazy or silently stew, ready to lash out at any moment. Now ask the same question to a person who just made a 20-foot putt. The person is absolutely loquacious; you can’t shut them-up, he is God’s new putting expert and feels tremendous. Once again, the competitive mind-set of winning and losing raises its ugly head.

Golf is spiritual practice for me, because it allows me the beautiful temples of nature, camaraderie, absolute joy, fear, the fact that I struggle to live in present time. It offers shot by shot opportunities to become more aware and learn, and the constant reminder of “It is not about winning or losing, but how you play the game.”

John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches in history, felt the definition of success was a person making his/her best effort. He went on to say if you won, but didn’t make your best effort you should be challenged; if you lost and gave your best effort you should be lauded. Remember, as a leader in your organization everyone is looking at your behavior, not what you espouse. Lead with your best effort and you will inspire others to do the same.

Part Two: A Near Fatal Crash and Learning to Heal

Leaving the restaurant business and trying to rebound, without addressing the foundational issues, ate away at me for a long time. My flight away from the labyrinth was not an escape, because I was running from myself. I was running from the myth of perfection, the myth of who I “should” be and running from my soul’s excruciating screams. These screams were cries for me to embrace my soul, not run. My tragedy lay in my feelings that being, Douglas Churchill Adams, was never good enough. I had to be perfect and even then I doubted my ability to reach a state of satisfaction. The syndrome was never ending.

My flight took me higher and higher. And, like Icarus, I came crashing down into the sea. I was however more fortunate than Icarus. While thrashing in the sea and feeling all alone, trying to determine if I wanted to live or die, I spied a floating piece of timber. I grabbed onto the timber and began treading the water for a couple of years, just kicking my feet through the current to survive. I was living with shame, learning to feel, understanding that I was just human, with attributes, flaws and frailties.

While paddling in the sea, I spied land. This land gave me the opportunity to find people. Many of the people were looking for me. I had to muster the courage to recognize the raw me as good enough. I had to ask for help, accept help, and plot a new course based on making myself learn and celebrate who I am, not some fictitious character.

In my mid-thirties I went to Pepperdine University Presidential/Key Executive MBA program. This is where the armor that encased my heart and soul was attacked. I use the word attacked, because my world at that time was win or lose. I was attracted to the world of organizational behavior and I was the epitome of the guarded dysfunctional man. Why would I put myself in the cauldron of this emphasis? Why not stick to finance, strategy, or other logical pursuits avoiding the confrontation with myself.

My business school adviser, Sherman Kingsbury, suggested I attend an 11-day human development lab at the National Training Labs (NTL) in Bethel, Maine. This was the first of many positive developmental experiences as I weaned myself from the negativity. I went on to jump in the deep-end of the pool getting a PhD. in Human and Organizational Systems at the Fielding Graduate University, spending four years with many of the exemplars of the world of organizational behavior. The title of my dissertation is, “The Phenomenology of Competition.” I spent two years digging deep into this experience that had ruled so much of my life. A few of my personal conclusions are the world is not a binary experience, my life is not a binary experience and I can love myself learning how to give my best effort at this point in time. 

Years of deep self-exploration, and the support of so many wonderful people, helped my armor gradually shed. My soul was raw for a good while, but it healed and I’ve been strengthening my spirit ever since. The strengthening regimen reminds me of my athletic days, how my mind and body were so very tired, but my pride and resilience only made me stronger. I am much more aware of what I am feeling, and can make better decisions while spending most of my time being me, not searching for superman.

 Life is different from my early years. I no longer push myself to injury, surgery, recovery, pushing again to another injury, surgery, etc., etc. Other human beings helped me learn to love myself. I am no longer isolated by the fear and shame created by a mindset of winning or losing. Giving my best effort generates much more meaningful achievement than my past ideological, fear-based win at all costs mentality. I am in control of my effort. I am not in control of the outcomes.

Developing as a Leader: A Trilogy

While writing this article I reached out to a colleague, Hilleary Hoskinson, and he affirmed my intuition regarding having too many themes in one article. As I reflect on his intelligence, I am drawn to the Greek Myths which all contain wisdom, excitement, humanness, privilege, sorrow, deep learning and the opportunity for one’s soul to grow. I’ve divided the article into three short vignettes, all telling stories containing learning and values, which provide the foundation and framework for my coaching practice. 

My years have been filled with the privilege of being a father and cause me to reflect on how many sons out there have a challenge when it comes to crafting their own identity and forging their own path. The shadow of one’s father includes many loving attributes but it also requires separation, finding one’s own self. This finding one’s self is not about measuring-up to one’s father. It is about discovering your dreams, not the dreams you think you are “obligated” to fulfill. It’s simple, but not easy. It’s a journey. I will now provide a very brief look into my own story.

Part One: A Privileged Youth and Its Challenges

Growing-up as the son of an Army Colonel and the grandson of an Army General, my mind was painted by adventurous exploits by two men that I deemed larger than life. I was deeply loved by both of them. My dad was one of the founding fathers of the 82nd Airborne Division, a West Point football player, a commando and fought all of WWII and the Korean War as a combat officer with General Ridgway. My grandfather was an orphan, went to college at 13, graduated when he was 17, ran off to the Spanish American War and became the second highest ranking General in the US Army. His father and President Roosevelt signed my father’s diploma from West Point, Class of 1940.

I had the privilege of spending my formative years, ages 9-14 living at West Point where my father served as the Athletic Director. During these years I met many historic people. I sat with President Kennedy at the Army/Navy football game and questioned him, “Why are you sitting on the Army side, weren’t you a Naval officer?” He answered me, “Doug, I am sitting on the Army side, because it is required of me as President, don’t worry, I will move to the Navy side at halftime.” This was a thrill visiting with the President and it was part of being my father’s son. My father and I would also visit the Waldorf Towers where we would visit with General McArthur, where his first question to me was always the same, “How is your grandfather?” I was immersed in a life of military service, devotion to country, competition as the underlying girder and interacting with men who most people read about in history books. To this day I am deeply and emotionally moved, watching fellow Americans interact with their emotions when they visitWest Point…Duty, Honor, Country. 

I soon went off to college, where I attended Stanford University. I took pride in leadership roles, becoming the president of my fraternity, one of the founding fathers of the Stanford Ice Hockey Club, playing on two Championship Rose Bowl football teams, while also trying to excel academically. I was deep in a world-view based on competition. Glory was attached to winning and shame was attached to losing. Unbeknownst to me I was living my life trying to be somebody. Deep in my psyche I felt ashamed that I wasn’t good enough. I am very dyslexic and the academic world of “memorize and regurgitate” was a constant reminder of not being good enough. I am a very slow reader and can’t remember much of what I read, so sometimes I felt as though I was drowning under waves of overwhelming text, from the countless amount of books and articles I had to analyze. I am however extremely intuitive and during those undergraduate years I was drawn to how people learn. While I really wanted to be a teacher, I knew I wouldn’t last a month in a traditional school system, because of my “revolutionary” views about helping people “learn how to learn” rather than simply being taught. 

During my senior year at Stanford, I met two wonderful guys, Mike Clark and Mike McClellan, working as a bartender in one of their restaurants. They backed/mentored me in business and helped feed my voracious appetite for the practical learning of all aspects, real estate, the construction of restaurants and as well as operations.

By 24 I became a business owner, and craved any fragment of knowledge I could get my hands on, that contained vital details concerning any thing business related. More victories! I was also briefly married in my mid-twenties. However, my framework of perfection and my walled-off feelings contributed heavily to going our separate ways. Again, this binary perspective allowed little to no reflection regarding the complexity of my emotions. If my emotions challenged my being, I ran from them.

 Life began to change; I didn’t realize things were changing until I was around 30. The recession hit, the restaurants struggled and I thought the businesses declining meant I was a bad person, a failure and a loser. I ran from these feelings and numbed the feelings as much as possible. The shame of failure felt like death. I was Icarus flying higher and higher trying to defy the realities of the sun.