Tag Archives: examples

Margret Thatcher is Leadership

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.  It is not a day when you lounged around doing nothing.  It’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”

Margaret Thatcher

No question, she had a lot of supremely satisfied days.  That quote has sat on my desk for years, and I  only wish I lived up to it more often.  Margaret Thatcher was an absolutely amazing leader.  While I will never say anyone was “the best ever”, I will say she sits squarely in any Top Ten List.

If there is one trait above all others Lady Thatcher had, it was conviction.  She had a vision, a plan, a mission, and she was absolutely committed.  Leadership means a great many things, but in the end it is the ability to inspire people to reach new heights, to take them beyond where they are and take them to a level previously unattained.  As Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher knew exactly the direction she wanted to go, she had a very specific vision of the world and her country, and she was without question committed to that vision.  She was The Iron Lady; it was a fitting moniker.

However, with that conviction went a very pragmatic side.  To her critics she was cold, unwilling to compromise, uncaring.  While she never wavered in her convictions, she was very pragmatic in meeting her goals.  She knew that relationships, working with others, bargaining and shared visions were the key to real, long-lasting change.  For all of her rhetoric and staunch committment as a “cold warrior”, when Gorbachev came onto the scene she realized she had a partner with whom she could work to truly bring about change.  Though her goals never changed, she was pragmatic in working with the Soviet leader to help bring an end to the Cold War.  Commitment without pragmatism is just being stubborn.  Not sacrificing the vision while working with others is real leadership.

Clear, concise and compelling.  Leaders are by nature great communicators, they are able to relate to an audience, to convey a message.  There is no question, Lady Thatcher was all that…just google some of her quotes…amazing.

Though there are many, many things I have always admired about Lady Thatcher, one of the most treasured leadership, and quite frankly life lessons, I have gleaned is that she never took things personally.  It seems so simple really, yet it is so terribly important.  The Falklands War put the “special” relationship with the United States and especially her friendship with President Reagan under extreme pressure.  She accepted that the United States, and even her personal friend, would not support her and the UK in their mission.  It was a bitter pill, yet she understood that it was not personal.  The Falklands War passed and the US/UK and Reagan/Thatcher relationship returned to normal.  There were no hurt feelings, no grudges, no recriminations.  It was just business.  It was not personal.  A leader has to put aside their own needs and even at times their own feelings, hurt or otherwise, and remain focused on the bigger picture.

Lastly, Lady Thatcher was just that, a lady.  She carried herself with a poise, a confidence, a grace; she had a presence that a great leader must posses.  She was clearly bright, witty and by many accounts warm.   She was able to utilize humor and direct language in such a way that made one see her as a leader first.  Obviously she was a woman in a male dominated profession, yet she never saw that as an issue.  The Lady had class…you could just tell.

In the final analysis, when you are compared to Winston Churchill, you must have done something right.  Take away the political, social, and economic policies and just look at the person, their accomplishments and their legacy; Margaret Thatcher certainly is in that category of great leaders.  She was ahead of her time in many ways, yet she was also the absolute right person, in the right place, at absolutely the right moment.  However, what made her such a great leader is truly timeless.  Her conviction, her vision, her ability to relate that vision, to give and take without ever sacrificing her convictions.  Those are the benchmarks of great leadership.

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Filed under Current affairs, leadership, Politics

Thanks to a Three-Legged Dog

Yes, I am a dog person; the disclaimer is on the table.  The fact of the matter remains, I have learned a lot from a “tripod” or two over the years. I was a kennel boy through high school and college – worked with and learned a lot of lessons from a lot of different dogs.  It might not be quite so PC anymore to use the phrase “tripod”, but it is one fitting and accurately descriptive term for a dog that is short a leg.

The other night we ran into Heidi, a dog we had not seen for a few months.  She had lost a leg as a result of a freak infection.  It was horrible to hear, and sad to see, yet there she was back out walking, happy as ever and full of life.  It was one hell of a reminder.

Now it is not just a lesson that is only taught by a three-legged, or even four-legged dog. In reality it is one of the greatest lessons from pets, or from the greater animal kingdom in general. So what is that lesson? Simple really – play the hand you are dealt.  Play it with grace, poise and yes even happiness. Never fret over what was, embrace what is and be grateful that there is a today and possibly a tomorrow.

Seriously, think about a time you have ever seen a dog wallowing in self-pity, worried about what others might think, or just not living in the moment? The other great visual is the “cone of shame”:

Humans would be mortified to wear that thing out in public. But to a dog, while it might be an annoyance and hindrance, it is not something that stops them from living life to the fullest. They never refuse to go for a walk because of how they look. They lose a leg, they figure it out and move on, happy to just be in the game. It is a hell of a lesson.

Granted, trauma is not a laughing matter, for anyone or any animal.  Be it physical, emotional, fiscal or whatever, the fact remains how we respond to hardship is the key.  There will be challenges in any journey, but the question is will we respond like the three-legged dog?  Thanks for the reminder Heidi.

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Who Dares Wins

Always liked the motto of the British Special Air Service, the SAS – they do tend to dare and win – always. As with all mottos and catch phrases, it sounds great, and sometimes can provide a bit of motivational boost, but in the end it is just a phrase.  However, when you see a motto applied in real life, see it exemplified by a very real action on a very real stage, in a situation we can understand, it just takes on a new level of meaning.

The following clip was forwarded along recently – it just seemed to capture so many of those nifty phrases we hear but rarely really see…

In the spirit of mottos and catch phrases, could not help but think “and that is why you never give up”. Sometimes a little visual reminder goes along way…

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Filed under Coaching, Sports

Conflict Resolution – Fundamental Lessons in Life

Theodore “Ted” Kheel – Labor Mediator and Arbitrator passed away at 96.  Granted that sort of opening line in the New York Times morning podcast does not typically grab my attention, but when I heard a clip of the man being interviewed, I was absolutely hooked.  Pure genius.  The video is well worth the two minutes, and the obituary is a quick and informative read.

Between the video and the obituary, there are two huge lessons in conflict resolution thanks to Mr. Kheel – want vs. why and bringing parties together…literally.

First, he brought the two parties together, in person, face-to-face. That is a very powerful insight…all possiblility of ambiguity, of misunderstanding, of hiding behind third parties, phones, video conferences or email is gone. Both sides had to tell him, in front of their opponent, exactly what it was they wanted. Simple yet so important.

Secondly, it was not about the why; it was about the what. As he says so pointedly in the video clip – simply tell me what you want. He did not want, or even care about the why. The why involves emotion. The what involves fact. Again, so simple. Take the emotion out of the conflict and a resolution is much easier to find.

Granted Mr. Kheel was known for his ability to resolve massive labor disputes, but his lessons apply to all of us in all facets of our life. In business, with our clients, our superiors, our teammates, or our team members.  In life, with our spouse, our children, our families, and even within ourselves. Air the issues openly and honestly, without emotion, and more often than not, a resolution can be reached.

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The Spirit of St. Louis…Success

Charles Lindbergh, Lucky Lindy, the Spirit of St. Louis. It seems more the stuff of myth than history.  Especially so in our world of instant communication, just in time inventory and air travel for the masses. However, in 1927 the very idea of flying over the Atlantic was fraught with danger.  It had never been done; was considered impossible by many. One man, alone, in a single engine plane did the impossible.  He did it with less than 6 months of planning.  He found financial backers in a midwest town.  Engaged an unknown firm to design and build the plane. Had little to no press coverage, a relatively minimal budget, and no marquee names involved.  It was an absolutely astonishing achievement and an outstanding lesson in business and life.

So what can we learn from a flight that was done over 80 years ago, from a book that was published almost 60 years ago?  Foremost, keep it simple.  Lindbergh’s project checklist was in effect 5 items – a reliable engine, enough gas to get there, a plane that could lift the engine and fuel, a course to steer, and financial backers. Done.  Incredible, and so telling. Think about bringing that thought process back. Everything is so over analyzed. Lindbergh kept it simple, focused on what really mattered, and quite literally scrapped the rest.  No extraneous noise, no distractions.

And the team – what a perfect group.  Lindbergh was the pilot – he dealt with all the plane stuff – make the decisions based on what was required to do the flight. The business leaders and backers in St. Louis, they raised the money and trusted in Lindbergh.  So amazingly simple and so effective.  Trust those on the team to do their job.   And contrast that with the other teams who were competing to be the first to fly the Atlantic.  They built behemoth albatrosses for planes and organizations that were highly political and driven by committees and egos who all fought for credit.  They all failed.

The Spirit of St. Louis” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and is considered a classic tale of aviation and adventure; that alone make it a must read.  However, it is above all a tale of what a person can achieve when they have a dream, a plan, a team, and focus.  It is a lesson for everyone in business, for anyone that has a project to manage, a team to lead, a goal to achieve.  In the end it is a reminder to keep it simple.  Focus on what matters.  Ignore the nay sayers and doubters, the so-called experts and their egos.  Surround yourself with good people – people you trust and who trust you.  Basic, simple, tried and true lessons – lessons for business and lessons for life.

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Yes, It Can Hurt Worse

Just ask Roger Clemens – indicted for lying to Congress.  Ouch, now that is some pain.  A few months back we pointed to the world of sports and performance enhancing drugs as an example of why admitting mistakes is a far better course of action than unfounded denial.  Thank you again Floyd Landis for the lesson.  And in the event anyone needed additional reinforcement, Mr. Clemens bubbles up in the news today.

Own It…Even When It Hurts seems to be almost naive at this point; folksy in a way.  It is bad enough when your reputation is in tatters and your legacy is tainted.  However couple that with a federal indictment and you have real pain.  As if anyone needed to have the lesson driven home; there is no way around the truth – admit, apologize and move on.  Alex Rodriquez came clean (relatively) once he was caught.  He is fine and his career continues – all is forgiven.  Roger Clemens painted himself into a corner and kept up the charade – he is in a real mess.  Liars pay in the end.  The form of payment might change, but the pain is always real.

Truth be told I fear for what might be coming in the world of sports and high-profile athletes.  There are some very damming accusations and innuendo being bantered about.  I just hope that if there is a truth to be told, the lesson of Roger Clemens is heeded.  It is obvious the Federal Government has taken an interest.  Unfortunately, it should not take the threat of jail to get to the truth, but that is the world in which we live.  Maybe these high-profile “falls from grace” will help bring back that folksy idea of owning it even when it hurts…maybe.

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Filed under Current affairs, Politics, Sports

Thank You Coach Wooden

There is nothing I can write that would be worthy of Coach John Wooden.  His achievements are quite literally and justifiably the stuff of legend.  What I will say is that if you have not done so, you owe it to yourself to learn more about the man.  There is no shortage of information out there.  Unfortunately there is more now than ever before…may he rest in peace.

I had heard the stories as a kid – he was retired by the time I was old enough to become really aware of things.  However, he was just one of those people you always would hear about – the championships, the winning streaks, the UCLA Basketball machine, the great players, the quotes, The Pyramid of Success.  The clean living example; the man of great wisdom.  However I never really knew just how much there was until I was fortunate enough several years ago to finally pick up the book They Call Me Coach.  Take the time – it is just one of those reads that will hit home on so many levels.

Lastly, thank you to ESPN.com for compiling some of the better “Woodenisms”.   Here are just a few – take some time and read more of the man – you will be better for it.

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

“I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”

“Ability is a poor man’s wealth.”

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

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Filed under Coaching, Current affairs, leadership, Sports

The Perfect Call

By now everyone has heard the story – the blown call on the final out of the perfect game. Armando Galarraga had faced and retired 26 batters. No walks, no hits. Perfection. Bottom of the ninth, 2 outs and a routine ground ball and a flip to first – it was done – only the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history.  Then First Base Umpire Jim Joyce made the call as he saw it – the runner was safe and the perfect game gone.

We live in a world of instant feedback, of constant information, of second guessing and 20/20 hindsight.  It is an instant replay world, and instant replay told the story Wednesday night – a young man had his perfect game taken from him.  Make no mistake, Jim Joyce blew it.  However, from that moment forward, we have seen the best of human nature in both Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce.

Neither denied what happened, nor did they shy away from the issue.  Armando Galarraga took the high road right off – he accepted the call and moved forward.  He retired the next batter and won the game.  No theatrics, no fits, no drama.  The Tigers won the game, Galarraga notched another victory and everyone moved forward.  He did not attack Jim Joyce for doing his job and making a call as he saw it.  He was mature and professional.  He was also disappointed, but never did he lose his composure.

Thank you Jim Joyce.  You stepped up, owned the call, and more importantly owned the mistake that was made.  Above all you did the hardest thing – you sought out Armando Galarraga and delivered your apology in person, with contrition and heartfelt sincerity.  Jim Joyce went from villan to hero in 24 hours.  There is a massive lesson there for all of us.

They have both been an example of perfection in an imperfect world.  Maybe the game will not go down as a perfect game, but rest assured the behaviour of Jim Joyce and Armando Galaraga will.


Filed under Coaching, Current affairs, Sports

From Have to Get

No one likes to be told what to do.  Being told we have to do something is almost as bad, or sometimes worse.  There are not many givens in this world, but if you want to see a kid shut down, tell them they have to do something.  However, you want to see a genius, I give you Tom Sawyer and his whitewashing of the fence.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticized the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

It is one of the great moments in American literature, and it is one of the best examples of how paradigm makes all the difference.  Tom had to whitewash the fence – he was miserable.  However when he “enabled” others to convince themselves that they might get to do it – they were ecstatic.  Tom helped them to shift their paradigm concerning the task.  No longer did Tom have to whitewash.  Now they would get to whitewash.

Changing perspective makes all the difference.  It seems so meaningless really – it is just changing one word.  “I have to change careers”, “We have to move”, “I have to find a job”, “The business is changing – we have to find new opportunities” are all laced with negatives, with fear, and with pressure.  “I get to change careers”, “We get to move”, “I get to find a new job”, “The business is changing – we get to find new opportunities” are all phrases dripping with optimism, with a sense of adventure, of new beginnings.

Everyone loves the idea of “getting to” vice “having to”.  It is a powerful thing; a game changer to go cliché.  Another interesting read is a recent column by Kristin Armstrong in Runners World.  It is the same idea, only applied to running and fitness.   Call it the power of positive thinking, a mantra, karma or whatever you wish, but there is no question that moving from “have to get” helps.  Besides, Tom Sawyer is a genius.


Filed under Coaching, Interviewing, leadership, Sports

The Student, The Grinder and The Natural

The Edge, Jack White, and Jimmy Page – the Student, the Grinder, and the Natural.  While watching the movie It Might Get Loud in which the 3 guitarist discuss the instrument and their experiences and techniques, the below clip is what stayed with me:

It is interesting, I keep thinking of those 3 as a textbook illustration of hiring in business.  The Edge is the classic technical/fundamental student of his craft.  Very gifted, but he is always working at it, studying and learning, using all of the latest technology and innovations.  Jack White is the grinder – able, but he makes it off of sheer force of will and effort.  Then there is Jimmy Page – an absolutely gifted genius in every respect.  He sees it, is a student of his craft, of its history, and simply  is just one of those special few that come along once in a very long while.

In the end it is all about fit – both for the candidate and the company.  What type of person – a student, a grinder or a natural is needed for the company and their role.  Conversely, a candidate must know what sort of person they are – a student, a grinder, or a natural and select the right roles and corporate cultures.  Typically any of the three are successful.  However, make no mistake, there are very few naturals out there – very few.  Just watch The Edge and Jack White – even the best know when they are in the presence of a natural – it is a special moment.

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