Saturday, 29 March 2014


Some time ago I wrote a short piece called “No Virtue in Being Busy.” My point was to say that I believe there is very little value in how busy we appear to be because our calendars and schedules are full to overflowing.  A follow up article published here recently was called “The Appearance of Productivity” and was based on an article by James Surowiecki in the January 27 issue of The New Yorker entitled “The Cult of Overwork.” His point was that our culture tends to put some kind of value on because we work so much, such long hours and seven days a week, that proves that our job is really worthwhile.    

Many of these observations on my part have come from watching the frenetic concern that so many seem to express about cramming as much as possible into a day, week, month or year.  The more you can demonstrate you can handle, the more competent, successful and high achieving you are.  Really?  Is that how you choose to spend your time and energy?  In working during the vast majority of your conscious, waking hours?  And, in most cases it seems to be justified because it is helping and serving others.  Someone said that few people at the end say, "I wish I had spent more time working."

If for some reason you had to eliminate about half of what is on your schedule, could you do it?  One-fourth? What would you keep and what could you jettison?   Let’s explore why that could be a good idea, or at least why considering that option as a possible choice might be a good exercise.  If you haven’t had to do it yet because of some kind of family crisis or emergency, there is a good chance that you will.  And if you did it, what happened to those things that you let go?  Either some one else took care of them or you followed up later, right?  Those things decreased quickly in order of importance in the face of more important needs.

I want to suggest here that you choose to take some time for yourself as a more important need.  Doing that means you will then be able to take care of others better, whether colleagues or family members.  You can choose to take time to reflect, renew, regenerate, recharge or maybe even get rid of the re part and generate, charge and think about what you’re doing and why. Focus on purpose as much as productivity. Consider how you and others value what it is that you are doing with all that time that you devote to your work.

On the Professional Development page at you will find four distinct opportunities that are designed with you in mind.  They are essentially about leadership and focused on you, the leader.  If you choose to take this time for yourself, I assure you that both you and those with whom you live and work will be the better for your having done that.  Pick the one that speaks to your needs and desires and sign up now if possible.  Some are already limited and others are open.  These opportunities are here for you to choose in response to your own personal and professional expectations and not those of anyone else.  Your choice, your time, just for you.

Monday, 17 March 2014


Thursday, March 21, will mark the vernal equinox this year, the time when night and day are very much the same length.   If you want to get precise about it, it will happen at 16:57 UTC or 12:57 PM EDT.  That’s when the tilt of Earth relative to the Sun is zero, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. However, the tilt of Earth relative to its plane of orbit, called the ecliptic plane, is always about 23.5 degrees. So much for the scientific side of the equation.
Vernal, which means literally fresh and young and youthful, refers to Spring.  This is true in the northern hemisphere where Winter is ending.  However, in the southern hemisphere, it is really the autumnal equinox and while the hours of daylight and nighttime are equal there as well, it is the ending and beginning of different seasons.  Those of us who live, work and play in the northern half sometimes forget the other half.  There’s a metaphor in there somewhere!
I am one of those who follow the sun’s path on the horizon, especially at sunrise and often at sunset.  It really does not travel north and south but that is how it appears and that’s good enough for me.  This week the sun will be halfway on its journey north and we will soon follow it north in real time as the temperatures warm up a bit more to our liking.  Right now, at 8:22 Monday morning, March 17, here in Key West, it is 75 degrees and the tropical breeze suits me just fine.
Find what you can in your world to celebrate the arrival of Spring.  For a long time, I associated Easter with Spring and then had that realization that it was biased toward the northern half.  Regardless, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox and whether or not you celebrate Easter or Passover (the origin of Easter) or Ostara or some other tradition in Buddhist or Hindu calendars, you might pay homage to your own gods or goddesses that bring so many blessings of the seasonal change. After all is said and done, one more time, it’s about change.  Embrace it!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


  Here is a brief summary of what leaders must deal with internally, almost all the time.
11-   Understanding the difference between your work and your job.
Work is your passion, what you care about the most whether reaching goals, accomplishing big projects or meaningful personal relationships with colleagues. Your job is what you have to do to get to your work, all of what I have called “administrivia” for many years.   For me, it’s the paper work, the myriad of details where the devil resides. Others, such as a top-notch assistant can be enormously helpful here in order for you to spend more time with your work and less time with the job.  We usually say going to work, not going to the job unless it’s a construction site, often known as a job site.  There may be some parallels here.
22-   Some expectations for top-level administrators (CEO's Division Heads, Directors, CFO's CIO's and others).
As the one in charge, you have overall responsibility for the institution or organization and you are expected to be decisive, supportive, intelligent, sensitive to the needs of others, communicative, positive, constructive, insightful, wise and available.  In fact, accessibility is often a key ingredient in the success of many leaders.  Other expectations are that you are the one who sets the tone and pace for others, and you must be capable of making difficult choices and persuading others to accept the outcome.  You must respond coolly and calmly in the face of an urgent and critical issue, and you need a handle on any board or governance matter.  
33-  The results of anxiety, stress and fatigue.
There is sufficient research that documents the negative effects of continuing and unresolved stress.  Illnesses of every variety from cancer to immune deficiencies to the common cold can often be traced to stress or one of its allies such as fatigue or anxiety.   Poor health habits that include lack of sleep and exercise, lousy nutrition, and no time for reflection and renewal all contribute to a stressed life out of control.
One of the keys to successful leadership is balancing the demands of the workplace with the personal needs of the individual.  It is apparent that when the latter are addressed in meaningful and productive ways, the former are met with a higher degree of confidence and energy.  Everyone experiences moments of doubt, frustration and discouragement.  But those down moments can be counterbalanced with times of insight, understanding, intelligent action, and positive outcomes.  Examine your priorities and include some for yourself!
44-    Choices, choices and more choices
Some of the better-known diversions for a CEO, head or director are a get-away or a conference that can fall under the heading of professional development.  Other official and approved “escapes” include travel to meetings with peers, visiting other places in conjunction with developing partnerships and other individuals and including an extra day on either end of a trip for some much needed R & R.  What should be clear is that in order to lead and serve others well, we must also take time to take care of our own needs, thus making it easier and much more possible to meet the demands and expectations of others with grace, dignity and style. 
55-   Qualities and characteristics of good leadership that can enlighten and energize.
Regardless what you think leadership is or should be, what is clear is that
good leaders know how to marshal the energy, talents and resources of others in order to accomplish certain stated goals and move closer toward fulfilling the mission and vision of their particular organization. Robert Greenleaf contends that one of the things that sets good leaders apart from ordinary ones is the gift or talent of foresight.   He calls it “a constantly running internal computer that deals with intersecting series and random inputs and is vastly more complicated than anything technology has produced…it means regarding the events of the instant moment and constantly comparing them with a series of projections made in the past and at the same time projecting future events- with diminishing certainty as projected time runs out into the indefinite future.”   That’s a lot to chew on and digest but it is a comprehensive yet concise view of what makes for a good leader.
(This short article is excerpted from a longer one entitled “Internal Perspectives on Leadership”, copies of which are available by request.)

Friday, 7 March 2014

Contrived, Corporate and Controlled – By Design

It took me several days to figure out what was bothering me and it was the same nagging feeling that arose 50 years ago in New York about an economy based on SPEND, BUY, WASTE, WANT, and BORROW.  I called it the cycle of the new economic imperatives and my conflict came about because of my early training in values that were based on SAVE, USE, KEEP, HAVE and GIVE.  For me, it is still more about what can you give rather than what can you get.  We are still in the process of downsizing and that may continue for awhile longer.

A week in Dizzyworld would not have been my first choice but due to a national conference being held at the Swan and Dolphin hotels, that’s where we were from February 23 through March 1.  We wouldn’t have had to be there that long but being mobile, we stayed in Ft. Wilderness, a far better choice for us than one of the hotels and a bit more reasonable as well.  As campgrounds go, it was more than adequate and fairly convenient too.

My observations of Disney however, took a slightly different turn.  After a couple of days, I concluded that their motive is not creativity and entertaining the masses but rather the same motive as Mc Donald’s, Starbucks, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and the Banks of America.  The bottom line is the bottom line and profit is the name of the game.  I am not against capitalism.  I am more concerned about people depending on external and somewhat artificial sources for internal satisfaction. Never mind the creation of Princesses and Pirates and all the crap that goes along with merchandising.

My wife made a comment that also left me a little disturbed and relieved when we drove away from Orlando.  She said that the Park, that is, the not so magic kingdom, reminded her of a military base!  Yep, it had everything except guns at the gates.  It really would be an easy conversion of the 23,000 acres and 6500 employees.  Now my question is, who would they keep there?  Oh, I get it.  They already have them, the thousands of American families who are captive in the contrived, corporate and controlled environment that is so much like one big movie set.  Fantasyland for sure!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

LENT 2014 Religious or Not, More Light: Reading the Signs

I have had a long and running conversation, mostly with myself, about these 40+ days that begin in the liturgical calendar with Ash Wednesday, just after Shrove or Fat Tuesday, and continue until just before Easter.  Historically this was a time of fasting and prayer in the organized church, a penitential season of spiritual preparation for one of the highest holy days in the Christian church.

In the northern hemisphere, the Easter season was most often associated with Spring.  But what about the southern half of the world?  What those of us who live up north can agree on is that Lent signals the lengthening of days and the longer hours of daylight are as much a harbinger of Spring as the first robin used to be in some places.  Sunrise is just a little earlier each day and sunset a little later. 

As I follow the sun and the seasons with more than passing interest, the vernal equinox reminds me of the continuing need to keep things in balance and to make the necessary adjustments in order to do so.  And because we are on the road a lot, I check the weather more frequently to know what lies ahead, both where we are as well as where we are going.  Now, take that as a metaphor for your work and see how you measure the vital signs of your own environment. 

One of my favorite weather web sites is weather underground which is really above ground but never mind that.  Here it is:  The other one, complete with maps, forecasts and real time radar is and all you need to do is put in your zip code or name of city to check out where you are or where you’re going.  We can now decide where or where not to go based on what lies ahead.  See how that might apply given where you are and what you are doing.

How do you read the signs along the way?  Need to make any adjustments?  Have a plan?