You Gotta Know When to Fold ’em…


Dear Readers,

I’ve attempted to write this post a number of times but somehow always became stuck. Perhaps I wasn’t ready then. I think I am now.

I have been writing this blog since 2009. It started because I had something to say about organizations and how they are led. I wanted to make some kind of contribution toward making not-so-good workplaces somehow better for people. And, I believe good workplaces always start with good leadership, the kind that puts value on the potential of people’s willingness to do their best work in environments of trust and mutual respect.

I surprised myself by having quite a lot to say on the subject, certainly between 2009 and 2013. In 2014, I mostly repeated myself, (a habit, I’m told that comes with age). Nonetheless, you managed to see something worth reading, something worth discussing and also passing along. That kind of surprised me too, but only in the best of ways. I am both grateful and delighted by your response to something that started out as this woman’s somewhat hesitant voice in the Cosmos.

But, here’s the thing. Just about everything has a beginning and an end. And “You’re Not the Boss of Me” has reached its end place. I‘m a bit sad about that. But I also believe that once you have said what you have to say, the best strategy is to simply shut up and listen to somebody else.

I have learned much from so many of you. I have come to know that there is a multitude of fine people who share my view of what is needed to build an effective, satisfying and profitable workplace in the 21st Century. These are leaders who are in the thick of it, leaders who see a vision for the future that includes all kinds of people; a vision that excites them, challenges them and rewards them generously for their efforts.

Leadership in organizations is not a spectator sport. It is, after all, not what we say but what we do that matters. And so, simply writing about it is not enough.   I have been out of the workforce for some time now and in the years I have been writing this blog, have drawn on my past experience, on my own stories and other peoples’ and on current events. However, without actually being in the fray, there comes a time when one simply runs out of useful things to say.

It’s been fun. It has allowed me to make acquaintance with some really remarkable people whose passion for good leadership is unmatched.

You may be familiar with some of these very accomplished and dedicated people but just in case you aren’t, I’d like to point you in the direction of some of my favourites. Please follow them, read them, and learn from them. I have, and have become more enlightened because of it.


Mary Jo Asmus is a highly successful executive coach, writer and consultant with (at least in my observation) a kind of spidy sense when it comes to accurately assessing human behaviour. She and I have often written about very similar things and shared our ideas with each other on more than one occasion. I have always benefitted from these exchanges. Given the opportunity, so would you.

More about Mary Jo here:

Follow Mary Jo onTwitter: @mjasmus


Wally Bock: If you want to really understand what it takes to lead others, reading Wally’s blog is a must. His writing is refreshingly honest and full of lessons he learned himself, sometimes painfully. And if you want to learn to be a better writer, Wally can help you with that too.

More about Wally here:

And here:

Follow Wally onTwitter: @WallyBock


Dorothy Dalton is an impressive woman to say the least. She is an International talent management strategist and coach. She is also CEO of 3PlusInternational, an online company she founded together with Dr Anne Perschel in 2010.

More about Dorothy and 3Plus International here:

Follow Dorothy on Twitter: @DorothyDalton


Lolly Daskal is Founder and President of “Lead From Within”. She teaches us the importance of bringing all of ourselves to leadership… to lead from the heart, and is a particularly successful coach, consultant, facilitator and author

More about Lolly here:

Follow Lolly onTwitter: @LollyDaskal


Karen Hurt is Founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. In my observation, Karin’s common sense approach to leadership and her practical leadership experience in business earns her well-deserved attention. If you appreciate a ‘no BS ‘approach to leadership, you won’t go wrong by becoming a regular reader of her blog.

More About Karin Here: ~

Follow Karin on Twitter: @Letsgrowleaders


Susan Mazza was the first person to engage with me on this blog. Her words were encouraging and her ideas are always insightful. Susan not only has tons of business and leadership experience but a deep intuition about human beings and what makes us tick. I think that’s a powerful combination.

More about Susan here:

Follow Susan on Twitter: @SusanMazza


Tanveer Naseer is a fellow Canuck. He is also a scientist, writer, and consultant who can expertly examine complex human and business situations and make sense of them. I’d say we could all use the kind of insights he shares regularly on his blog.

More about Tanveer Here:

Follow Tanveer on Twitter: @TanveerNaseer


Jane Perdue: ~ There are many reasons you should consider reading what Jane has to say. If you’re looking for just one thing though, here it is. She believes in leading big and in challenging stereotypes and the status quo. If we are going to effect change in the way we lead, we need all the Jane Perdues we can get.

More about Jane here:

Follow Jane on Twitter: @thehrgoddess


Anne Perschel: ~ I have to declare that Anne is a particular favourite of mine, both as a highly accomplished leadership and organizational psychologist and as a person. She is passionate about helping executives create workplaces that meet the needs of a 21st Century global marketplace. And, she is an especially strong advocate for women, co-founding 3Plus International with Dorothy Dalton.

More about Anne here:

Follow Anne on Twitter: @bizshrink


Art Petty is a very classy guy. He was also one of the first people to give this blog, and me, some encouragement when I first started writing. He is an author, a teacher and a highly skilled executive coach. And, he is a gentleman of the first order.

More About Art here:

Follow Art on Twitter: @artpetty


Jesse Lyn Stoner appears last on this list only as an unfortunate outcome of being further along in the alphabet than anyone else here. In all other ways, she gets an “A” from me. Jesse is a leadership consultant and best-selling author who champions the power that comes from developing organizational vision and collaborating with those affected by it in building effective, practical and actionable strategies.

More about Jesse here:

Follow Jesse on Twitter: @JesseLynStoner


If this list leaves you wanting more, there is a wealth of knowledge at the Leadchange Group  Site founded by Mike Henry Sr. (@mikehenrysr) and now under the capable leadership of Becky Robinson (@beckyrbnsn) as a division of her company, Weaving Influence.


As for me, I still plan to show up on Twitter and perhaps, from time to time, someone will allow me the privilege of writing as a guest on his or her blog.   You never know, I might not be as “done” as I think I am.  In fact, I may begin a whole new blog on an entirely different subject. Who knows?

Thank you so much for spending time here with me. It has meant a lot. Oh, and keep up the great work. The World needs you.




Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development

Arrogance…Something to Leave Behind

arrogantI’ve come to understand that each time we say ‘yes’ to something, we are saying ‘no’ to something else. It’s the way things get balanced out, I suppose. This kind of balancing act almost always comes up at the beginning of a New Year when so many of us make promises to ourselves about what we want to change. Usually the promises are about personal things, habits or attitudes we’d like to leave behind in favour of something new, better and more progressive.

But, organizations would do well to take this kind of inventory from time to time too.   After all, it is attitude and habit that dictates, if not what gets done, certainly how it’s carried out. So a kind of organizational culture check every so often would not go amiss, if only to keep an eye on values alignment.   Values “drift” can happen easily in the busyness of the day and give way to less useful behaviours.

In particular, I’m thinking about arrogance… the great time waster.

We are all guilty of taking positions of arrogance. It does not discriminate. When it shows up, it has a way of impeding real progress; of serving only the few at the expense of the many; and of making fools of those who put their own importance ahead of everything else.

Witness this exchange.

*It is an actual radio conversation between a U.S. naval ship and Canadian authorities, off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995.


Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision

Americans: This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again. You divert YOUR course.


Canadians: This is a Lighthouse. It’s your call.


There you have it folks, a prime example of arrogance at work.

So, as we approach another new year, my wish for organizations and people everywhere, including me, is that we strive to leave behind our arrogance to make room for more productive values and perhaps a more peaceful existence.

It couldn’t hurt. What say you?


*Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations, 10/10/95





Filed under Leadership, Leadership Values, organizational culture, Organizational Effectiveness

Giving at the Office…A Leader’s Best Gifts

christmasgiftboxGot your Christmas shopping done yet? That’s a common question at this time of year and one that usually causes my eyes to roll up in my head because procrastination is my middle name. Actually my middle name is Mary but you know what I mean. Anyway, the Christmas shopping question tends to push my “get moving” button before I’m actually ready to er, get moving.

Nonetheless, once in gear, I manage to rise to the occasion long enough to consider things that might delight my loved ones and please my friends. After all, it is not the gift itself that is the reward. It is the happiness element that comes with it that makes gift -giving so much fun.

I like the idea of happiness being the real gift and I think it translates well too, when it comes to exchanging gifts at work. Of course, it is always a little more challenging to give meaningful gifts to people at work, but here are a few ideas to consider. They cost nothing. They can have lasting effects. And, to the best of my knowledge, they aren’t fattening.

The Gift of Attention

Give a few minutes of your undivided attention to each of the people you lead, each day.

That means spending the time listening, being curious about their interests, thoughts and opinions and suspending judgment long enough to learn something about them that you might otherwise miss.

The Gift of Inclusion

Take a little time to remind those you lead, why you come to work everyday. Give them the big picture (even if you’ve done it before) and show them how they fit into it as individuals. Yes, I know, it’s the old vision thing again. But, believe me, when people can see where they are going and that there is a place for them on the proverbial bus, that creates some happiness.

The Gift of Challenge

Consider those you lead and give each a challenge for the New Year that will allow them to stretch, grow, and learn more about themselves and what they can do.

I hazard to say that everyone likes a challenge. It gets the juices flowing and allows us to test our boundaries. Giving the gift of challenge suggests faith in each person’s capability and potential. And, its value is that much greater at times when the individual doubts or fears his or her own possibilities.

The Gift of Encouragement

Of course challenge on its own can become onerous if not accompanied by encouragement and the support that goes with it. So, with each gift of challenge, include whatever each person might need to accomplish it, including resources, education, training or a friendly ear. That will ensure, I think, the highest possible opportunity for success and resulting happiness.

The Gift of Truth

Find ways to convey to those you lead that you will always be straight with them no matter what the circumstances. And then make sure you follow through.

Leaders who are truthful, both in good times and bad also give the gift of useful information. Useful information allows people to make good decisions for themselves. Being Truthful with them acknowledges their capability to respond as adults. It is respectful. And, even if the news is not good, it gives them their best opportunity to work through it and find satisfying resolutions.

This of course is not an exhaustive list. They are only the gifts that first come to mind for me. What gifts do you have in mind for those you lead? Please feel free to add to the list!


Note: Originally published in December 2009


Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values

Creating Stability in the Midst of Uncertainty

cairn-468185_640As we near the end of 2014, my mind wanders to the inevitable predictions that come with a new year. The seers and prophesiers among us will be at the ready to let us know what we can expect in 2015 and beyond. Some forecasts will be based on reasonable analyses of the World landscape and some will be rubbish. As always, it will be up to each of us to choose what to believe, what to throw away and how much it’s going to matter to us.

Having said that, there is value in taking time to reflect on what might be coming next. After all, there is always something happening, changing, interfering with, or otherwise upsetting our equilibrium.  In fact, we have come to know that just at the moment we begin to feel steady, things are going to change. It’s the way of the world.

To me, all this suggests that a leader’s job, (at least one of them), is to create a platform for stability, often where none exists, because in a world of constant change and increased complexity, people need to feel anchored to something they can count on.

The question is, how might this be accomplished? The answer is…well I’m not sure.  But I have some ideas and here they are:

  1. Be Purposeful

Knowing our organizational purpose is a great beginning to creating stability. After all, while change affects the way we go about fulfilling the purpose, the purpose itself, more often than not remains the same.

  1. Extend the purpose beyond the confines of organizational boundaries.

Most organizations support charities or causes of some kind.  Just as the causes can vary, so can the motivation for supporting them. To me though, doing good works that align with the organizational purpose helps the company grow roots and contribute to the creation of stable communities, both inside and outside corporate boundaries.

  1. Keep Learning

Broadening our knowledge base creates a more stable environment.  In other words, the more we know and understand the less there is to fear.  So giving true value and support to learning, not just training, will build a company of people who are confident, resilient and eager to see and experience what comes around the corner

  1. Be Guided by a set of strongly held values

World events, economic instability and a constant feed of both useful and useless information contribute to a dizzying existence for most people.  Sometimes we just need to stop and remember what’s important and what we stand for.   It’s kind of like being out in rough seas.  When we can’t see the shore and the boat is tossing us around mercilessly, our values serve as the lighthouse beacon that gives us the promise of solid ground.

  1. Take Blame out of the Equation

When things go wrong, and they do, it’s easy to panic.  When we panic we look to place blame.  Blame is the enemy of stability.  It rattles people and often for the wrong reasons.  Blame is not about accountability it is about passing a hot potato and making sure it lands in someone else’s lap.

Taking blame out of the organizational culture and replacing it with a more solution oriented demeanor allows more people the confidence to participate in solving problems as they arise rather than spending time looking for ways to take cover.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?


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Knowing & Becoming Known…A Challenge for the New Boss

new_boss_tshirt-p235578270226180427qj9t_152It’s never comfortable being the newcomer. This is especially true when we start a new job, and even more so if that job involves leading an organization or taking charge of an already established team.

Three words come to mind when I think about this: Culture, Trust and Change. These are big issues and huge, if you happen to be a new boss. How you address them will often make the difference between a reasonably smooth leadership transition and a very shaky one.

For instance, inserting oneself into an already established culture requires some delicacy and some time spent in learning how people think; what they value; and the assumptions they operate from.

As well, most organizations work from a platform of earned trust rather than assumed trust. As such, if you are an unknown commodity, there will be skepticism about your motives, and the effect your presence will have on the status quo. While we like to think people will readily embrace change, we know that it just isn’t that easy. But, the reality is that change comes with every new leader and the immediate challenge is to find ways to send the message that this is a good thing…or at least, the right thing.

All this needs time and work. The point is, in this world of speed and technology, we have to find ways of accomplishing things faster. That includes expediting the process of knowing and becoming known. The question is, how?

Well, it’s a tricky one…but like most things, not impossible

There is, for instance, the New Manager Assimilation Process, which is a structured way of speeding up your collective orientation. Specifically, it is designed to help new managers quickly establish positive working relationships with their direct reports while also building a solid foundation for the future.

But, whether you decide to use this kind of formal process or a less informal one, know that the first few days, weeks and months as leader, will lay the foundation for how you will work and be perceived in the future.

When I think about inserting myself, as leader, into an established group, these are some things that come up:


People like to know they are being heard. As a new manager this is particularly important. There will be things they will want me to know about them. There will be other things they will want me to know as well, like what they are proud of, or what worries them. And, they will have ideas to share that will help shape how we move forward together.

Respect what went before

As the new one in town, there will be things that were established before I arrived that will have a lot of value. Rather than take a ‘new broom sweeps clean’ approach to my new role, I would take some time to learn what is good about the way things are.

Be clear about my vision and purpose

As an unknown, people will be curious (and possibly anxious) about what I see as my role; what I want to accomplish and; how my personal beliefs and values align with their own. In short, they will want to be able to see themselves in the picture I create. The more often and consistently I communicate these things, the quicker I will become known.

Be accessible

This is not just about keeping my office door open. It’s also about making myself emotionally available and showing my humanness. I would want to give people an opportunity to know me as a person as well as a boss.

Ask for help

It doesn’t matter what I bring to the new organization, there will always be things I’m simply not going to know. Asking for help gives me the opportunity to learn… and others the chance to show me what they know.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?


Note: This post was originally published in November, 2011

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Shift, Leading Teams, Organizational Effectiveness

The Importance of Being Care-full

I often like to make a distinction between caring and care-taking when it comes to leading others. This post, from 2011, gets more specific about what it means to care and why it’s important.


hands-heartBenjamin Franklin once said, “Want of care does more damage than want of knowledge”

Never is that more true than in the workplace. Of course, there are those who continue to believe that caring for the people we lead is unimportant or a sign of weakness. After all, they would never accomplish anything if they had to spend all of their time worrying about everybody who works there. And others are often heard to say, and quite proudly too, that they take care of their people, which is a totally different thing.

The flaw in this kind of thinking is that caring for those under our charge isn’t about parenting. It is about inviting people to bring all of themselves to work every day and helping them give their best effort willingly to something that matters both to them and to the organization. I think it safe to say that engaging people in this way gets results. That makes it pretty important.

So, what does caring for people look like from a leader’s vantage point? Well, I have some thoughts about that. Here they are:

Judicious leaders care enough to…

Be interested in each person’s skills, talents and ambitions

This is a good place to start and is not dissimilar to taking inventory. You have to know what, and who, you’ve got before you can decide how you are going to help them use it and grow it for both individual and organizational benefit.

Be clear about their expectations:

No one can produce desired results if they are working with a murky set of expectations. So it is incumbent upon the leader who cares to be able to state what s/he expects, as simply and succinctly as possible and to ensure that the person to whom s/he is speaking understands those expectations in the way they were meant.

Tell hard truths

We are all familiar with times when it is easier to avoid the truth than to confront it. But, when someone is not performing well, it is essential for the leader to address it. This often requires some pretty uncomfortable discussions, and can result in equally painful decisions. Caring sometimes means helping others step up… or step off to something else.

Hold people accountable

So you’ve had the conversation. You and your colleague have come to an agreement about what s/he will accomplish and how you will support him/her. It sounds good and you both leave the room feeling good.

Caring leaders know that it doesn’t end there. Follow-up is necessary, first, because those under their charge may need some help. Second, they may need some encouragement. And finally, they may need some reminding about the commitments they’ve made. Holding people accountable for doing what they say they are going to do sends the message that their efforts matter to the success of the whole.

Risk their own vulnerability

Relationships, even those that are forged for professional reasons, are two-way propositions. Leaders who care and want to build strong connections with others are willing to share their own stories, something of themselves that makes them human. No one is a super-hero. If we try to be that, we don’t have time to concentrate on much else

Challenge people to stretch

Sometimes people are capable of going beyond what they have agreed to do, and yet, haven’t. Or, they are assigned something they believe to be too challenging for them, and don’t think they can do it. In either case, the leader who cares will provide a needed nudge, will challenge, cajole, encourage and inspire that extra effort that brings them over the top and helps them win.

Clear the way

Leaders who care will anticipate and provide needed resources. And, they will address obstacles that get in the way of success.

Let go

So by now you’ve made a heavy investment in someone’s development to the extent that s/he is now a top performer. It is natural to want to hang onto that person. After all, s/he is making a huge contribution to your results.

Letting go is hard but it’s also an important part of organizational, and personal, development. Those who go on to greater things will appreciate that you cared. Those who feel held back will quickly forget that you did. Besides in letting go, you get to….

Start Again

This may be good or bad news from a leadership perspective but the truth is that people come and people go. I like to believe that the person who has built a good reputation as a leader who cares attracts those who are willing to learn and to meet him or her halfway.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

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Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development

Listen Here!

listening“Pardon?” I say.

“I didn’t hear you.”

“Well,” he says.

“That’s because you weren’t listening.”

I expect that, for most of us, this is a pretty common conversation. And yet, if we were to ask any number of people to rate the significance of listening in being a good leader; building good relationships; or doing good business, the ability to listen well would be among the most important.

So why are we not better at doing it?

Well for one thing, there is a possibility that we assume, because we come equipped with two ears, listening is something that will naturally follow. However, while hearing may come naturally, listening certainly does not. And yet, little attention has been paid to teaching us how to use our ears for the purposes of actually absorbing what is being said.

Think about it. When we were little children we were taught to read and write. In high school we might have learned how to debate effectively or write a coherent essay. And, Later on, we might have had instruction on effective presentation techniques, or business writing. We recognize these as developed skills. In comparison, there is little such instruction on the topic of listening because we tend to believe that hearing and listening are synonymous.

The truth is, most people can hear. Listening on the other hand involves engaging, not only the ears, but also the brain, in the process of receiving new information and assimilating it in the way in which it was intended.  Fewer people are good at that.

So, the question is, how do we get to a place where we  listen more?

I have a few thoughts on that and here they are:

1. Make Understanding the Goal

Just to be clear, understanding is not the same as agreeing. Often, when someone is speaking, we allow our own values and judgments to intervene prematurely and evaluate. Because of this (and just as often) we fail to understand what is really being said. Making understanding the goal means getting past our own biases and making space for someone else’s perspective.

2. Be Quiet

This seems simple enough. But is requires some practice. It’s hard to take in what someone is saying if we have crowded our heads with inner chatter; are waiting for our turn to speak; or thinking about what we are going to have for dinner. Taking a little time to achieve some sense of quiet and focus on the person talking will help to achieve the understanding we need to engage in a meaningful exchange of information or opinion.

3. Use the Inquiring Mind

Let’s face it. Even with the best of intentions, we aren’t always going to get to the intended meaning of every conversation easily. And, when we don’t, it is tempting to pretend we do if only to advance the conversation and move onto something else. But of course doing that takes us further away from the goal. So it’s not something we would want to make a habit of. Asking questions for clarity however, is a great habit to get into. It lets people know we are listening and it keeps the conversation on the right track too.

4. Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is another good habit to develop when listening to someone speak. This, by the way, is not about repeating word for word what we hear. Instead, paraphrasing asks us to summarize in our own words what we have heard, without judgment. If we are able to repeat what we understand the speaker to have said and the speaker confirms it as being what he meant, we have listened successfully.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?


Note: this is a refreshed version of a post originally written in 2010

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Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development