Already dead…until decisions count

I retold a story in July/August (upcoming) Calibration column of SaskBusiness magazine, about a time where I had a very difficult, veritable life or death decision to make. The tipping point in the decision came when I remember that the company was “already dead”…not literally of course…but in such a state that, without deep change, it would not survive.

Sometimes we are at junctures in our life individually much like I was corporately. We may be in a vocation, relationship or situation that we know is toxic to our soul, and while we lack the courage or resolve to change, we may know that death awaits if we do not step into the great unknown.

“Man protests against death, for he is not content with a postponement of the execution.” Henri Nouwen

It is not just that we want to avoid metaphoric death…in truth we protest our imminent departure from this earth. We all WILL die. Some sooner, some later…but ultimately our date with death is unavoidable…and the years pass faster than we realize…until we look back.

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Vision: Fuel for Passion

Seasons come and go, and in them we ebb and flow…and that’s the end of poetry for this blog article.  🙂

I had a friend recently describe how she was lacking passion for anything of late. She described a season of “going through the motions” with little motivation. I found myself instantly pointing to vision as the culprit.

Vision leads to passion…or not. It depends on what we see. If we go to our work with a (even subconscious) view of having little change through our efforts, then why would we need passion?However, if we see great things happening as a result of our involvement, passion flows powerfully.

Let me mix in a metaphor: Boxing. Apparently if a boxer is to be successful, he/she must punch “through” the target…not simply hit it. They must see past the surface, and punch through for power and impact.

Maybe this is where we get hung up with passion. We see the surface of what we are dealing with, and it looks like not much changes. We need eyes to see past the surface to the depth of the change that could be…and aim for that. If we can get a glimpse of that level of impact, we can sense achievement (in boxing: victory!)…which lifts our passion to engage!

This principle does not just end with us as individuals. As we lead others, we must also be aware of opportunities to help them see the impact of what they are doing…the change that is happening below the surface, otherwise they suffer as we do in depleting passion.

What would it take to discover what you do not presently see? How might it feel to live with greater passion for your day?


Inspirational Conversations

I had the privilege of interviewing W. Brett Wilson (Formerly of Dragons’ Den) this past week for an article on entrepreneurship, which will run in the July/August publication of SaskBusiness Magazine. Through my research preparation for the interview I had developed a high level of resonance with Brett’s perspective of business, and I came to a place of expecting a great interview. I was hoping to meet a guy that demonstrated congruency of honesty and integrity throughout the various areas of his life…I was not disappointed.

Brett lives entrepreneurship, but he also seems to have learned key lessons of balance, priority and principle through the battles of business and life. His confidence is obvious, but not as arrogance…just a steadfast tenacity / determination to thrive. Further to this, the thriving seems to be for the purpose of making the world a better place for others to achieve their dreams.

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Communication…Developing the Will to Understand

Communication between two people, departments, companies, stakeholders…is always a challenge. (maybe even solo…as I think my multiple personalities have trouble communicating within my singular being!)


Well, there are the many varied components, such as sender, receiver, message and mode of transmission. Then there are the mystical factors…such as the condition of the sender’s heart, the condition of the receiver’s heart, and the tone of delivery.

Then there is the issue of language, interpretation, clarity and interference or distraction.

It’s just plain amazing to me that we ever effectively communicate!

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Ford: Cultural change takes time

Leaders and employees both must be accountable

There is a better way to do business. A way that encourages every employee to become all they can become. A way that allows people to bring their deepest values to work and have them celebrated. A way that puts re-engineering into a transformational framework (emphasis added), refocusing it as a tool for health maintenance rather than radical surgery. A way that welcomes diversity as a pathway to innovation…
– Richard Barrett, “Liberating the Corporate Soul; Building a Visionary Organization”)

ONE Ford CardFord Motor Company’s plan may appear to be “radical surgery.” However, while One Ford contains the articulation of Ford’s vision and plan in relation to current reality, the accompanying list of expected behaviours sets One Ford up for ongoing “health maintenance,” and the accommodation of future realities.

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Ford: Walking the talk

Engaging employees takes a dedicated effort

It is widely known that the North American automotive sector needed to go through massive change to avoid extinction in 2008. In case you have forgotten the intensity of this point in time, here are a couple of perspectives:

“In late 2008, our nation’s economy – and the auto industry in particular – entered its deepest crisis since the Great Depression. Almost overnight, demand for new automobiles fell from an annual rate of over 17 million units to an annual rate under 10 million units.” (UAW Solidarity, May-June 2010)

“Should all of the Detroit Three’s U.S. operations cease in 2009, the first year total employment impact would be a loss of nearly three million jobs in the U.S. economy…Lost tax revenue between 2009 and 2011 would be an estimated $156.4 billion (U.S. dollars).” (The Center for Auto Research , USA – PDF)

Ford was one of the Detroit Three, and as such, a big ship to turn around. The magnitude of this change would necessitate complete employee engagement. Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, knew this.

Many of us will not be confronted with the magnitude of change required to turn Ford around, but employee engagement is a critical issue in all businesses.

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Poverty, Excess and Leadership

If you are like me, you have wrestled from time to time with the question of “what am I to do with my winnings that I have inherited as a result of the birth lottery?”

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Understanding Leadership

As I write about understanding the leader’s call, it occurred to me that I should highlight an article that I had published in SaskBusiness this past January, “What Defines Leadership; It begins with personal character“(PDF).

What Defines Leadership: It begins with personal character

“Our business leaders must stop seeking to be the best in the world, and start being the best for the world.”
– Richard Barrett, The New Leadership Paradigm

It may initially sound noble to desire to be the best in the world at what we do. We all know that it takes thousands of hours to master a skill, to hone a craft into a finely tuned art form. To rise to levels of excellence in any vocation, one must be dedicated and diligent in discipline and practice.

To be a great golfer, one must move beyond hitting every shot once in a while, to only missing a shot once in a while. To be a great hockey player, one must understand the strategy of the game, have mastery of personal skill and learn how to move to where the puck is going to be, as Wayne Gretzky puts it.

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The Leader’s Call

I recently was the benefactor of a 360 degree Leadership Development Review (LDR). I sent an invitation to 20 people I was either presently working with or serving, or had worked with within the past 10 years. The goal of the LDR was to assess the correlation/alignment of my desired values with the values that others recognized, and separately, the values they would like to see in me.

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Synergy: Safety

“The pool of shared meaning is the birthplace of synergy” (Kerry Patterson, Crucial Conversations)

Shared meaning can be missed, suppressed, blown up, or ignored for a variety of reasons. If the mission (purpose / what) is unclear it is harder to join in. If the vision (why) is unclear, we may join in effort, but in the wrong direction. If the values (how) are unclear we may be working against each other within the purpose / vision.

Possibly one of the most subtle yet damaging ways to blow up synergy is through intimidation.


NASA – The spaceship Columbia disaster could have been avoided if NASA engineers had been listened to, and their concerns addressed. Instead, senior managers ignored and suppressed the information and did not delay the launch.

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