Tag Archives: relationships

Supreme Friends- Scalia and Ginsburg

There is a wonderful Looney Tunes cartoon with a sheep dog and a coyote, walking to “work”, being friends, having a chat, and then being polar opposites at work.  Yet, at the end of the day, when the whistle sounds, they head home as friends.  Civility, in the context of a cartoon.  Mutual Respect.  Admiration.  Professional Colleagues.  Friends.


Things were never quite as good as they are remembered, but it does seem the earlier generations were a bit more adapt at maintaining a balance.  Of keeping “work at work”, of “being friends after 6”, or simply just knowing a difference of opinion does not preclude friendship.  It was a different time, but the stories of the friendship, the mutual respect of Tip O’Neal and Ted Kennedy for Ronald Reagan, after 6 p.m., were legendary.  They were able to communicate, to work together, to learn from each other, to find common ground, and maybe along the way learn a bit about themselves and others.  You know, that stuff that makes everyone just a little bit better of a person.

It is refreshing to hear the stories of the Supreme Court’s most outspoken liberal and staunchly conservative member being friends.  Sharing a love of opera, vacationing together, sharing family time, meals, and respecting and admiring the other’s legal and professional acumen.  Who knows, maybe they learned a bit more about other people, another person’s point of view, the life experiences of others.  To call someone “your best buddy” is pretty darn special.

The entire “campaign season” seems to be highlighting how resolute, absolutely righteous and completely uncompromising our potential political “leaders” are.  It is all so terribly sad, but we know at least two people still understood and believed, practiced and abided by the timeless lesson – relationships matter.  Your friends do not have to be like you.  Actually we are all probably better off if they are not just like us, if we have a whole world of relationships full of different people, with different thoughts and beliefs.

Ralph and Sam, Ruth and Antonin.  Thanks for the example.


Leave a comment

February 17, 2016 · 10:04 pm


Defending is a bit strong. In support of, or just being a fan of – also too much.  The better phrase might actually be chapeau! Look, I am no “Facebooker” (okay, this blog is linked to Facebook) but as we continue hearing stories about the Facebook IPO debacle, its plummeting share value, and all the other tales of the evils of Facebook, I found myself reflecting on the impact of Facebook over the last decade.

Yes, I completely understand, it is a time suck, a silly distraction, and there are countless stories of “Facebook bullying”, “stalking”, “Farmville”, and other completely useless things that go with Facebook.  And of course the privacy issues…based on what one chooses to disclose of course.  And let us not forget to mention that for a CEO and visionary, Mark Zuckerberg has to be one of the most publicly unlikable guys of the last decade. I have never met the man, have zero first hand, or even second or third hand knowledge of him, but “warm and fuzzy” is not a phrase that springs to mind when one thinks of Mr. Zuckerberg.

And of course there is the ongoing stream of “Facebook IPO” stories…overvalued, over-hyped, insiders made all the money, and on and on.  I have no dog in this fight, but seriously, if the flipping founder and CEO says anything but “we are focused on making money”, it is probably NOT a wise investment.  That would be a wonderful charity, but not necessarily a wise investment.

All of the above said, here is why I decided to pause and give a tip of the hat to Facebook:

– No question, we are all more connected.  For good or bad, it has brought a sizeable chunk of the world closer together.

– Guerilla marketing and small business.  The ability to “bootstrap” businesses, to reach out to potential and existing clients – absolutely unbelievable.  Facebook has empowered the launch and expansion of a host of small businesses.  Think about it…Facebook has absolutely pulverized barriers to entry when it comes to getting the message out there.

– On that topic of “getting the message out there” – fund-raising, charities, bake sales, community service drives, church or social functions – it is amazing the instant communication and the reach…for good.

– “The Social Network” effect.  Extended family, long ago friendships renewed, classmates found, family photos, the grandparents actually being able to literally see their grandchildren growing up half a world away.  It is incredible…it really is just flat amazing.

– Revolution, messages, communication, and connectivity.  From “the Arab Spring”, to the Obama Campaign of 2008, to the ongoing ability of Peoples across the world to “get the word out”, the idea of shutting off a people or country from the rest of the world is so last century.  Facebook and Twitter are banned and feared by totalitarian regimes…that is amazing when you think about it.

– It is free!  Literally, it costs nothing to use.  Zero.

All of the above said, the tipping point for me was when a 17-year-old said last week  “no one is on Facebook anymore”.  I realized then the shine truly was off Facebook.  Who knows what the future might hold, and if Mr. Zuckerberg would like to shoot me a note, I have some ideas on how he can increase revenue, but it was time to remember what was before the explosion of that silly website and app.

In complete candor, the other day was my birthday.  Say what you will, but hearing from a lot of old friends, extended family, close friends, colleagues, and just those who have impacted you along the way, well, it is pretty flipping amazing really.  Chapeau Facebook!


Filed under Business, Current affairs

You Are Who Your Friends Are

Have to admit, I hated that phrase when I was a kid. My parents hammered that drum when we were young, and really “got in our business” about our friends. Well, like all things, with age comes the realization of just how wise they were. The wisdom was not just about our social life – it applies to our business life as well.

Pedigree, past history, former companies – call it what you will, but there is no denying that to many “who you associate with” matters in the business world. Sophistication, polish, “understanding our level”, career progression, or just being “with the right firms” are all phrases we have heard from clients over the years.  Evaluating talent is not just limited to skills, achievements or actual job performance.  It is a total package issue, and where you have been and who you have worked with and for does matter.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it is foolish to assume it is not considered.

There are countless reasons to take a new job, but one of the quiet factors that is often overlooked is the “who” part of the equation.  It is not a big company, small company, established or start-up issue.  Rather, it is a question of how the companies do their business, with whom they do it, and above all how they do it.  Granted there are scenarios where things are not quite what they appeared to be in the interview process.  Everyone understands that – things happen.  However, patterns can emerge, and rest assured the savvy evaluator of talent is considering your history and associations.

It does matter.  There is no other way to put it.  You might be able to stay above and removed from the reputation of your previous employers or associates, but it will lead to questions.  Who you hang out with says a great deal about you…it speaks to your judgement, your decision-making, and in the end it is a reflection of you.   Yet again, parents seem to get wiser as we get older…strange how that happens.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Interviewing

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Current affairs, leadership

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

The Cost of the Contrarian Cowboy

Winning cures all ills.  Then there is the unspoken part of that statement…for a while.  As with anything, eventually there comes a day of reckoning. Case in point, the recently fired Mike Leach and Texas Tech.  Just last year he was praised as a football genius, profiled on 60 Minutes. He was heralded as a gifted coach, rewarded with massive contracts.  And yes, he won – a lot. However, being the contrarian comes at a price.  You burn bridges, sacrifice goodwill, hurt feelings, alienate peers, subordinates and superiors, and just generally become annoying.  And for a while it can all be overlooked.

It is called many things – “not playing politics”, “being a cowboy”, or “going against the grain” – and often times it is necessary, fitting, and plain effective.  But as with all things, moderation is the key.  Being contrarian is often the very thing that allows the mold to be broken, for the paradigm to shift, for breakthroughs and advancements to be made.  Leaders are often the “cowboys” who are able to overcome group think; who can get the team out of the rut; who can take them to the next level.  Being contrarian has a place, a time, and a finite life span.

However, being a contrarian leader all the time eventually becomes ones normal behaviour.  And in the case of contrarian behaviour, eventually organizational, societal, and social norms will demand a day of reckoning.  More simply put – you cannot just always be a jerk.  No matter how good the results, eventually the schtick wears thin.  One would think Coach Leach would have paid a touch more attention to that other contrarian coach on campus.  Eventually everybody tired of Bobby Knight, and he did much more than just win championships – much more.

Regardless of how good you are, how good the results, how often you win, no one can be a jerk forever.  Being a leader by its nature will require contrarian behaviour to some degree.  Being a “cowboy” is not a bad thing.  But being that way all the time is not effective.  It becomes counter productive.  You sacrifice goodwill, you no longer have the benefit of the doubt, you lose your supporters, your advocates, and your protectors.  In the end, there is a cost and it will have to be paid.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, leadership, Sports

Wingmen – The Spirit of the Season

Tis the Season, or so goes the saying.  In our hypersensitive world, far too much time is spent “debating” what to call the season.  Is it Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, a pagan ritual of the tree, or nothing at all.  Thankfully one thing most do agree on is that the overall spirit of “this time of year” is that of giving, of being with family and friends, and just generally doing more for others.  It is a sort of end of year scramble; the opportunity to make up for being self-centered the previous 11 months.  The Spirit of the Season if you will.

It is ironic, or maybe it is done purposely, but there seems to be a flood of new books released on December 1st.  Call it that other “Spirit of the Season” – consumerism.  However there is one that has risen above the clutter.  Never Fly Solo has hit both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller lists. It is the first release by Rob “Waldo” Waldman, a former Air Force fighter pilot and successful business owner and keynote speaker.  The theme of Never Fly Solo is to support and trust those around you.  To quote the author:

“Trust.  That’s what this book is about.  It’s not about combat or how to apply jet-fighter tactics to beat your competition.  It is, above all else, about building trust in yourself and then building trusting relationships with other.  These trusted partners are your wingmen.”

In short, you cannot go it alone.  It takes a team to support you in your mission, and it takes others to help you see what you are missing.  In fighter pilot lingo, someone else has to “check your 6”.   In the lingo of Waldo – you need to have wingmen – trusted partners in business and in life.

I have been fortunate to have known Waldo for many years.  I have truly seen the evolution of the “Wingman“, of his business, his career, and of course his book.   However one thing has been clear since I met Waldo all those years ago – he is an above-board class act.  With the release of Never Fly Solo everything came full circle.  The message is clear, we all knew it, but it took a guy like Waldo to put it into words.  Support and trust others.  The support you receive in return will be 10 fold what you give.  In short, be a wingman – Tis the Season.

Leave a comment

Filed under leadership, NMS

An Even, Steady Strain

The excitement of the crowd – the very large and animated crowd – was infectious.  There were bands, people in costume, casual fans and zealots.  There was even the classic “devil” running along the course, complete with cape and pitch fork.  The riders were quite literally caked in mud, riding over hills, running up stairs, leaping over barricades, jumping over curbs, slipping, sliding and wrecking along a wet, icy and technical course.  They were generally putting themselves and their machines through every sort of physical stress possible with reckless abandon and unbridled passion.  It was a sight to behold, and one full of lessons in leadership, business, life and relationships.  It was the Cyclocross National Championships in Bend Oregon.

It became clear as we watched multiple races throughout the weekend – chains would break and components would fail.  Make no mistake, these bikes and components are built to withstand an incredible amount of pressure and force.  They literally can go for tens of thousands of miles under the most demanding situations and never fail.  However, when the chain and components are placed under excessive AND abrupt strain, there were failures.  Dramatic, entertaining, and glorious failures with riders and bikes strewn about the course.

It is easy to spot the person with a broken chain – they are running along the course with their bike hanging over their shoulder.  Riders zipping past and one person running along looking less than happy.  It seemed to always happen at points where the course became very technical and physically demanding, but was preceded by a section where the rider had been able to relax, for the chain to go slack.  A point where maximum force was harshly applied to the drive train.  If things were not aligned properly and slack not taken out of the chain evenly, the system would quite often fail.

Abrupt, harsh, excessive strain will quite often overload the best system.  Teams, people, software, processes, relationships or the drive train on a cyclocross bike – too much demand applied too quickly is never good.  Sometimes the system can take it, but called on too often to perform in extremis, failure often results.  Steady strain on the chain is clearly a key to success in bike racing.  Those who won the races never had mechanical failures.  They raced the course in an aggressive and focused manner, always mindful of their equipment.  Always aware that a well-maintained and prepared machine can withstand a steady strain, but too harsh of a demand can result in catastrophic failures.

And so it is with teams and processes, leadership and relationships.  Ask for too much too quickly without thinking about the consequences, and even the best system can and will fail.  Allowing the system or team, relationship or process to build up too much slack is never wise.  Maintenance and nurturing, focusing and thinking ahead – it avoids putting yourself and others in extremis.  Cyclocross racing and broken chains – a lesson in the value of an even, steady strain.  Besides, who wants to run several miles with their bike, though the fans clearly appreciate the effort.  Especially the guy in the devil costume.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, leadership, Sports

The Return of Service?

If there is one thing I do not do, it is shop. Browsing, perusing, or otherwise embracing the retail experience is just not me. Never has been, and I am quite confident saying it never will be. However, the realities of life dictate that on rare occasions we all need to wade into the pool of American consumerism – we all need the basics. And much to my chagrin, my recent foray was an enlightening and almost enjoyable experience. Service is clearly back in vogue.

Just a small sampling from a few stops over the past weekend at Home Depot, Best Buy, Target and the like.  Clearly not a definitive study, but enough of an experience to reinforce that invaluable lesson in business and life:  Service Matters.  For the first time in years the retail experience was highlighted by such things as real customer service, actual warmth and assistance from the staff on the floor, and a very palatable and demonstrated desire by the associates to quite simply “go above and beyond” to make the shopping experience positive.  I was stunned.  Grateful, but also stunned.

While I sincerely appreciated the warmth of the staff and their clear focus on me and my needs, I found myself wondering where had this been, and where was it coming from now.  Then it struck me – they need the customers.  They value our business, or rather they now really need our business.  Obviously they always need customers, but now they realize it and have taken steps to improve the overall shopping experience.

The lesson in this is simply the basic question – are you valuing your relationships with your clients, with your customers, with your family, with your friends?  Have you told them so, have you shown them?  Are you going out-of-the-way to “go above and beyond”, to exceed their expectations, to put their needs ahead of your own?  Now for the tough question – did you do it when times were good, when business was easy?  While we all know service matters, it is critical to remember that service always matters – in good times and in times of challenge.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Current affairs

Living in the Moment – How I Spent My Saturday

A perfect fall day, great people doing something they love; for the sheer joy of it. No expectations, no timeline, no phones, no emails, no talk of work, no worrying about the kid’s soccer games, the office, house hold chores, the schedule or even time.  None of the myriad of issues we allow to dictate and dominate our lives. There just are not many better ways to be reminded of the timeless lessons in life – live in the moment.  Unload the baggage just for a few hours – you will be better for it.


No one spoke of stressful issues.  Nothing about work, what anyone does for a living, politics, religion, kid’s sports, the economy (well a couple typical jokes), or even training or races.  It was all fun banter – chatting about bikes, about trips on bikes, about family and mutual friends.  It was 80 miles of time spent with others enjoying the moment, enjoying the day, enjoying the ride, and sprinting for a few signs and racing up a few climbs.  It was not about a destination, it was about a journey.  So simple really, enjoying the journey and actually appreciating where we are, who we are with, and what we are doing.

So we chose to ride bikes. It is not the bike that made the day, it was the time spent with others doing what you love – doing something you have loved since youth. And for one special fall day we were reminded yet again why youth is wasted on the young. As adults and professionals, parents and spouses, these sorts of opportunities to “live in the moment” do not come along too often – you better be ready to embrace them.


Filed under Coaching, Sports