For Strength, Character and Resilience, just add Heat!

A leader’s life is filled with a barrage of external challenge of adversity, change and crisis, as well as with personal failures and lapses in judgment or will power. As leaders, we all want to finish well, but at times we may be tempted to quit.


American author and Presidential advisor Napoleon Hill once said, “Character is to man what carbon is to steel.”
Steel is forged in fire. The evidence of resilience in any great leader will be forged in the fires of daily life, and it is the very heat of the challenge that forms the strength of character that makes us resilient. Though carbon is used for steel, it is also used for pencil lead. As such it is soft and smudges easily on paper. This would be our character, and our resilience, without the fire of challenge. Please Continue Reading …

Myth: People don’t like change…

If you do a search on LinkedIn you will note the rise in demand for people to apply for positions labelled (in some varied configuration) as “Change Manager”. As of today there were 2047 job openings by this description. Not that long ago the position did not even exist. Someone out there somewhere suggested that people do not like to change, and/or that people are overwhelmed with change – and many are buying in — enough to hire people to become change managers!

Old 1950s bakelite dial telephone isolated on white with clipping path

I think that this perspective may be missing the mark, and the hiring of a change manager may not be the silver bullet that leaders are hoping for. However, all is not lost. The fact is, people change all the time – and they even enjoy it! Please Continue Reading …

Being, Doing, Becoming…

I have written often to exhort leaders to slow down, emphasizing that we are not human doings, but rather human beings. I have sought to remind leadership within our often imbalanced culture that we work to live, not the other way around. I have pointed out that many seek power, fame and glory, only to lose the family, friends, and sometimes even their self.

I do not wish to recant any of this, for I believe what I have written to be true. Having said that, I am finding that it is not enough to relax back to “being” alone. True, we hold the beauty of the miraculous gift of life in our being, and we ought not to lose sight of this in pursuing our doing… Please Continue Reading …

Lessons from the Dragon Boat – Part 1

This is an article I wrote for my column “Calibration” which is published in SaskBusiness Magazine.

It was a windy day on the South Saskatchewan. Tension crept into muscles, making them tight with anticipation as six boats drifted towards the start line, paddlers leaning forward at the ready. “Boat 3 – paddle forward, boat 6 – hold your position!” Crack! The gun went off, and the silence was interrupted by the churning sound of wood stabbing and throwing water, and the exhortative shouts of paddlers spurring teammates forward.

Within a few seconds, I began to long for the race to be over. My legs were awkwardly bent back under my seat, and my lower spine was beginning a lobby effort to cease and desist as whole muscle groups began to wage war against each other. Perseverance, however, is the key to fitness and competition, so I determined to finish well and spend myself for the cause. I could do this! I would not be one of the “cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat”! I would press on!

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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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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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Trusted Foundations

In “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team” Patrick Lencioni identifies TRUST as the foundational requirement for all teams. Whatever the context / mission of the team, it is likely that this holds true for all.

Merriam-Webster defines Trust as a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone…

It is not about predictability, but more a matter of reliability of character, ability, strength…TRUTH of someone.

TRUST is hardwired to TRUTH.

As a trustworthy leader we need to be worthy of confidence. This is not about perfection, (for no one among us could ever be that) but more a matter of “knowing”. We are who we are in truth. We are consistent in this…a congruence pervades our life; an integral match between our stated/implied values, beliefs and behaviors.

I recently asked a friend to tell me what it was that made her feel that I was trustworthy. One part of her reply was that, “If you were to fall, I would likely understand that you had come up against something difficult to overcome…but not that I would think that I had not truly known you.”

Authentic transparency is part of this then, but so too is honesty, and selfless humility.

As a trustworthy leader we are open and teachable, and do not fear our weakness, but rather acknowledge it, confront it, and commit to maturity for the sake of all.

Sustainable High Performance Formula

Here’s a logic stream for you to consider…

1. Sustainable high performance is 50% dependent on the team (the other half is sound strategy/Structure/process…which by the way are developed best through a healthy team)
2. Team performance is dependent on culture
3. Culture is leadership behaviour
4. Leadership behaviour is determined by values lived out

So, question: Can we really change anyone else…or if we focused on personal mastery, aligning our personal behaviours with positive values…would the rest follow?