Is Our Embellishing Culture About To End?

Lee Trevino, the colorful professional golfer of the 60s and 70s, often said, “The older I get, the better I used to be.” He was not unique among the many former great sportspeople and show people who entertained us with their experiences and humorous anecdotes on talk shows or as keynoters on the meetings and convention circuits. Few in the audience were surprised if their stories were embellished or even outright fabrications. They were trying to entertain or teach a lesson with their story.

Casey Stengle, Hall of Fame baseball manager was a master of the embellishment. He often told reporters, “you can look it up,” when they appeared skeptical. Back in the day, there was little likelihood that the average listener, even a sports reporter would “look it up.” It was not that easy and it really didn’t matter. The recent Brian Williams’ revelations and modern media’s instantaneous ability to communicate and verify may well dampen many conferences, conventions, and interviews into sheer boredom.

My wide-ranging career life presented me with countless opportunities to listen to speeches, presentations, and interviews. Embellishment short of the bald-faced lie was accepted. It’s hard for me to recall an event speaker who did not embellish his or her past experiences. Call me jaded but I expected it.

An early mentor of mine taught me the “grain of salt” caution. He was a scientist and was trying to teach me the healthy skepticism of good science. Take this with “a grain of salt” to me meant: “Mike, you are solely responsible for what you choose to believe.” I saw it as my responsibility to decide what to do with information when I receive it. Maybe, I would feel differently if I had not been raised in New York City. Part of the Big City culture was developing a nose for truth and good sensor for BS.

Will the Williams misfortune change the culture of embellishing? Or is this situation different because Williams is a reporter, news editor, and news anchor? We shall see. If it does change the culture, will politicians have to abide?

What’s your take?

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Teamwork is a value!

Teamwork is important within any organization but it’s also critical to have a “team mentality” in dealing with organizations outside your own. The principles of team apply to both types of relationships. Each organization has to be skilled in what they do and they have to have the right people doing it.

Teamwork requires communication. Communication can be verbal, in oral conversation or in writing, but communication can also be nonverbal, through visual signs and signals and through body language, whether intentional or unintentional. Good communication requires understanding in the Stephan Covey context of “striving to understand before trying to be understood.” Great team members work hard at understanding themselves and understanding the others on the team.

Great organizations frequently recognize teamwork as a core value and express the concept of teamwork in their guiding principles. Just look at the strategic plans of great organizations. The organization’s leaders often define teamwork in words similar to these: “We will accomplish our mission through cooperative partnering in order to achieve mutual goals. We recognize the importance of each group of stakeholders, inside and outside our organization, in assuring our mutual success.”

CEOs and other leaders should assess where external teamwork falls on the spectrum of values in their organization. Defining a well-focused mission and expressing and SHARING a clear vision for the 5 to 10 year future are the drivers of teamwork. Teamwork is not likely to thrive in an organization that is not clear on what it is supposed to be doing and where it is supposed to be going.

What are your thoughts on teamwork?

Posted in General Business Today, Leadership Skills, Strategic Leadership, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Team Building Mentor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time and Perspective

Where do you live, past, present, future? If you are truly strategic, you live in all three modes.

Mary Arlington / MMCC, Inc.BLOG

Now, yesterday, and tomorrow words on blackboard, Time concept.Look around your company and think about life in this perspective:  What time zone or time warp is everybody living in? I don’t mean geographically. I’m speaking of knowing what perspective is witnessed and experienced based on job duties.

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Leaders, Here’s A Process For Solving Problems.

Confession: The study of leadership is one of my real passions. The US was involved in World War II and the Korean Conflict during more than half of my pre-teen years. Stories of leadership success and mistakes were hot topics during that formative time. Radio, movies, and later TV brought those leadership stories to life for me.

Later, I studied leaders in High School and College. In fact, my college thesis was about the impact of General George S. Patton’s Personal Leadership on the Battle of the Bulge and the shortening of the war in Europe. As a career Army officer, the study of leadership was not only required, it was essential, especially as you moved up the career ladder.

Army officers of my vintage spent a lot of time in formal classes and seminars studying our trade, the principal function of which was leading others. I calculate that I spent almost four full academic years as a student. My career was even more unique because I had the benefit of an additional nine and a half years as a faculty member, teaching Leadership, in those schools. Now I spend my time helping leaders get better at their leadership skills. Here is some information on a critical leadership skill.

If you are a leader, you are solving problems. In many cases the problems are simple and the solutions are obvious. However, some problems need more attention and sometimes the solution is not obvious. My personal experience and my research into the experiences of others confirm that as leaders grow in responsibility, the problems they face become complex with less obvious solutions.

If you are looking for a SIMPLE process for problem solving, try this one. I stole from the Army and used throughout my twenty-five year civilian staff and CEO career. As I often note, SIMPLE doesn’t mean EASY.
The steps of problem solving Army style:
1. Identify the problem.
2. Gather information.
3. Develop criteria
4. Generate possible solutions
5. Analyze possible solutions
6. Compare possible solutions
7. Make and implement the decision

Again, if you want to know more, just comment or contact me by email.

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Improve Your Performance Drivers!

What drives you? What drives your organization, business, or team? Sometimes it’s worth a few minutes to look at what others have found to be drivers. The very best learn from others.  They copy the good things and avoid the mistakes.

Are the right drivers at work in your business or team?  Do you need to make adjustments? Most will find that they need to do some adjusting.  Read on and decide what you can and can’t use to adjust the drivers in your business?

Researchers, recently, contended that there were more than 100 drivers of performance.  Ten were performance generators and 90 were performance blockers. The ten Performance Generators in their study were:

  • Corporate Decisiveness
  • Acknowledgment of Work
  • Vision Communicated
  • Corporate Assertiveness
  • Profit Orientation
  • Personal Accountability
  • Cooperation
  • Tolerance for Risk
  • Innovation
  • Customer Orientation

I will let you imagine what all 90 “Blockers” of Performance were.  Some stand out, however, because they tend to emerge over time in almost every group.

  • Fear of conflict (The Abilene Paradox)
  • Lack of trust (The toughest issue for small business?)
  • Dissonance within management – (leaders can’t afford to grumble!)
  • Tolerance of incompetence – (but he is such a nice guy)
  • Bureaucracy – (BTTWWADI – Because that’s they way we’ve always done it.)

What Performance Blockers are standing in your team’s way? Comment, please. If you honestly identify them you can rid yourself of them or, at least, mitigate them. Most important about this study is that you, the leader at any level, can make a few changes to the drivers and your team’s performance will get a lot better. 

Focus on strengths, the drivers, not the blockers.  Work on making your positive performance drivers even better. Doing that will gain more for you and the team than wasting your energy trying to overcome the performance blockers or weaknesses. Do well and the weaknesses will be overlooked.

It doesn’t take much to set the direction.  Keeping the team on course requires constant attention.  As a business owner-friend told me just yesterday, “people don’t leave organizations, they leave bad leaders.”  Agree?

Let’s hear from you via comment, email, or phone 703-395-6409.

Posted in Business Coach, General Business Today, Personal Motivator, Professional Competence, Strategic Leadership, Strategy, Team Building Mentor, Thinking Partner | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What does the word, “windows,” bring to your mind?

Microsoft? Makes sense!  Even though Apple had been using the concept of windows before Microsoft and for a long time, windows was actually an extension of MS DOS, Windows has become synonymous with Microsoft.  How about windows that affect our ability to lead, however?  Let’s leave the Mac lovers and Microsoft admirers to fight that windows battle while we investigate lesser known windows.

Ever heard of the JoHari window? Psychologists, team-building facilitators, and personal coaches have fun with, and make good use of, this window.  Created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955, the JoHari window helps people better understand their relationships with themselves and others. It is is a tool for self-awareness.


The JoHari window has four panes.  Each represents what you know or don’t know about yourself and what others know or don’t know about you. Often given names like 1. The Arena (Known Knowns to self and others), 2. The Facade (Known to self but not to others), 3. The Blind Spot (Known to others but unknown to self), and 4. The Unknown (Unknown to both self and others). Not knowing is not the worst condition.  Not knowing that you don’t know is worse.  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld often referred to knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns in his press conferences early in the war on terror.  In business as in battle, the winners know more about what they know but it is equally important that they know what they don’t know.

Are you more familiar with Stephen Covey’s window for time management and strategic thinking?  Covey’s window also has four panes.  The panes represent the interaction among the four factors:  Important, Not Important, Urgent, and Not Urgent.  Covey named them quadrants.  Quadrant I is Urgent and Important.  Quadrant II is Not Urgent and Important.  Quadrant III is Urgent and Not Important. Quadrant IV is Not Urgent and Not Important.


Truly strategic thinkers spend most of their time in Quadrant II, dealing with important issues before they become urgent.  Many of us spend too much time in Quadrant I.  That’s because we don’t plan and we allow the important to become urgent.  Much too many of us waste a lot of time dealing with the unimportant.

The worst cases are unimportant items that present themselves as urgent in Quadrant III. Often, leaders allow members of their team to bring them urgent items that the team-member incorrectly assesses to be important.  The natural inclination is to deal with the issue before assessing its importance.  Usually, that’s a misguided attempt to save time.  It is almost always worth taking a few minutes to assess importance.  Experience assures me you will save time in the long run.

Are these the kinds of windows you can use?  They might create or enhance opportunities.  What say you?

Posted in Business Coach, Professional Competence, Strategic Leadership, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Team Building Mentor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are You Chasing B.S.O.s? Another Study Says, “Don’t!”

Has extremism taken over North America? Have you left the pier with the others?  Seems like almost nobody wants to be balanced any more.  Radicals, those way over what was once the top, get the 24-hour news cycle’s attention.

Is the same true for executives and managers?  Not too long ago, seeking the B.S.O. (Bright Shiny Object), “magic pill,” the newest, quick solution, was confined to novice naive executives.  The establishment faulted them for their idle quests of the quick fix that they hoped would take care of their issues and bring success to them and their organizations.

Now, both the novice and the experienced are ignoring the hard work of setting up and improving processes.  Almost all seem to be prone to go off on excursions that chase the newest, brightest, shiniest, most radical fix.  Are they allowing themselves to become so busy with the problems immediately at hand that they dare not step back and look at the bigger picture?  Are today’s leaders shirking the fundamental responsibility of leadership: to describe their organizations in terms of where they have been, where they are in the bigger context of their total environment, and where they want to be in 3, 5, 7, or even 10 years?  Many are.

Yet study after study validates the amazing advantages of taking a strategic view.   A few days ago, an HBR Blog by Dr. Robert Kabacoff caught my attention.  Dr. Kabacoff wrote that his company, Management Research Group (MRG), completed a large-scale global study addressing this issue in 2013.  “We found that a strategic approach to leadership was, on average, 10 times more important to the perception of effectiveness than other behaviors studied. It was twice as important as communication (the second most important behavior) and almost 50 times more important than hands-on tactical behaviors. (This doesn’t mean that tactical behaviors aren’t important, but they don’t differentiate the highly effective leaders from everyone else.)”

It may seem counter-intuitive.  “Don’t just stand there, do something!” has long been a mandate for our culture.  That remains valid.  The key is what to do.  Leaders are more effective when they step back and take a strategic view.  Problems don’t arise in isolation.  They have causes and the actions we take to solve them have consequences.  Those who act precipitously are prone to discover a lot more unintended consequences than those who put themselves ahead of the problem by employing strategic thinking and planning processes.

Organizations led by strategic thinkers operate more consistently, more efficiently, and more effectively.  How many more studies do you need to convince you to quit chasing the B.S.O.s and develop a strategic mind-set?

It can be done.  Contact us.

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