October 31st, 2014

Healthcare has a long way to go before it fully provides care for our health.  Wellness is our destination, but not all healthcare leads to wellness.  Some healthcare merely operates in servitude to the healthcare system, keeping practitioners trapped in a frustrating place, consciously or unconsciously, of being unable to provide genuine healthcare that leads to wellness.  Meghan O’Rourke summarizes it well (“Doctors Tell All—and It’s Bad” The Atlantic, October 14, 2014):

Health care in the United States operates predominantly on a fee-for-service basis, which rewards doctors for doing as much as possible, rather than for offering the best care possible.

Healthcare practitioners doing things does not guarantee wellness.  Exactly what they are doing, how they are doing it, and what their overall strategy is all determine whether wellness is attained.  If our healthcare system is truly going to live up to its name, then that means every healthcare practitioner needs to focus on delivering the best care possible.  If we do that, then and only then, will we move toward wellness.


October 30th, 2014

It is easy to become excited about what we do well as professionals, and we should.  Our leadership should manifest excitement because it derives from our confidence and pride in what we do.  We are excited about our abilities as professionals and that is positive and healthy.  On the other hand, we should always guard against that confidence and pride degenerating into arrogance.  We must maintain a sense of humility and servanthood.  Leadership without servanthood and humility is not true leadership.

One of the most significant illustrations of this truth is from Danielle Ofri’s book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine (Boston: Beacon Press, 2013) as summarized by Meghan O’Rourke:

One day [Ofri] had a class with an intimidating cardiothoracic surgeon.  To her surprise, he was as tender toward his wards as he was gruff toward his students, who, he insisted, should always seat themselves at the level of the patient or lower.  ‘They are the ones who are sick,’ he emphasized, ‘and they are the ones running this interview, not you.’


October 29th, 2014

The typical retail store today is as much a surveillance center as it is a shopping location.  Retailers increasingly depend on hidden cameras, motion detectors, and other devices to collect information on shoppers’ habits.  Given the pace of technology and the sales and marketing insights this data can provide, this is understandable.  However, I chuckle at some of the “profound” conclusions the data generates such as this one (Cristina Lindblad, ed., “Retail: Mining the Store” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/13/14–10/19/14, p. 54):

The data revealed that employee breaks and shift changes that coincide with peak shopping hours result in lost sales.

So I suppose this means it is smart to schedule our frontline employees to be fully on deck during anticipated high-traffic times.  Well, I never would have guessed it!

I love big data.


October 28th, 2014

Geoff Colvin did a fascinating interview recently with Dominic Barton who is the global managing director at McKinsey.  Colvin asked the industry guru about the top trends, worries, and business needs taking us into the future.  Among the top four items, Barton identifies geopolitics and cybersecurity (“Four Things That Worry Business” Fortune, October 27, 2014, p. 32):

Whether you’re in Russia, China, anywhere, the assumed stability that was there for the past 20 or so years—it’s not there.  . . . [and concerning] cybersecurity:  The amount of time and effort to protect systems and look at vulnerabilities is big.

Barton also cites the shift in economic power due to 2.2 billion new middle-class consumers entering the marketplace over the next 15 years as a major business challenge.  Having the right people in the right places has never been more important for any business.  Simultaneously, he emphasizes that:

technology . . . is moving two to three times faster than management.

With these kinds of global changes occurring and management not keeping up with technology, responsive organizational leadership is crucial.  Business disruptions are changing the landscape in irreversible ways.  For example, a company in the S&P 500 in 1935 had an average lifespan of 90 years, whereas we are now looking at average lifespans of 18 years.  Although the technology does more of the grunt work for us, without wise and discerning leadership, success will be elusive.  Leadership is the real need in this new global business arena:

You need leaders to help the machines figure out what questions you’re focusing on.  If you don’t understand the business issues or questions to ask, you can crunch all sorts of interesting things and it won’t deliver.  There are also judgment calls that need to be made.  Machines are getting smarter at analyzing masses of information, but in a world that’s more volatile, judgment is going to be at a premium.

Thus once again we see that regardless of how sleek and smooth our technology becomes, having leadership that knows how to direct it is the top priority.


October 27th, 2014

Different people have different perspectives on writing.  At one time or another, everyone is a reluctant writer.  The work is too hard, the subject too difficult, or the ideas too scarce.  This all underscores the ultimate need for every writer to be disciplined, as David McDonald affirms (Jessica Strawser, compiler, “Plan Your Own Write-a-Thon: 30 Tips, Resources and Strategies for Writing a Book in 30 Days” Writers Digest, November/December 2014, pp. 23–29):

Passion will get you started, but discipline will see you through.” (p. 25)

As with any serious craft, let there never be any doubt, writing demands discipline.  The passion may be the prerequisite, but it is the discipline that will sustain you throughout the task.  As Marie Millard humorously considers, perhaps we should study the subject of which we write:

I should know more about science if I am going to set my story on another planet.” (p. 28)

Part of the reason that discipline is so important is due to the arena of the writing.  It originates in your head and that can be a lonely place.  What makes this so challenging is that we have all been warned about how to handle the voices in our heads!  Emily Echols reflects on these dynamics:

So often this writing stuff can just feel pretend.  It exists in solitude.  Some of it exists only in my head.  The only thing I have to show for years of work is a huge Word document.  Sometimes when I do try to share it with people I feel crazy.” (p. 25)

Ah, yes!  The loneliness of the writing can cause us to question our sanity.

Finally, Himani Shah reminds us that not everything is neat and tidy when we are under deadlines:

Forcing yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days is a bit like putting paint into a shotgun and pointing at a blank canvass.  Something will stick, but there’ll be a lot of clean-up.” (p. 26)

These are powerful writing truths and they are transferable to other fields.  Passion is your prerequisite.  You will need discipline.  You will wrestle with internal demons.  You will clean up messes.

Happy writing!


October 24th, 2014

Are you brave enough to face your blind spots?  That is a very good question.  Some people claim that they are, but then run like a coward when the opportunity presents itself.  That strategy will allow your blind spots to continue to rule you.  It also guarantees that you will not maximize your leadership.

Not everyone is brave enough to face their blind spots.  For those who can summon that bravery, they will create a better future.  No pain, no gain, remains true.

Whatever you do, please don’t worry.  As long as you are not committed to leadership development and as long as you are not committed to personal and professional growth, then you don’t need any bravery.


October 23rd, 2014

The subtle yet powerful thing about blind spots is that we do not know we have them.  It is the classic situation of we do not know what we do not know.  It is one thing to have an awareness of your ignorance.  At least in that situation you know the subject of which you claim ignorance.  It is another matter entirely to be ignorant yet not have any awareness of the subject of your ignorance.

Blind spots’ deception is powerful precisely because of the subtlety.  Blind spots don’t even have to sneak up on you.  They are just there.  This is what makes them so challenging.

If you want to conquer your blind spots, then I admire your commitment to personal and professional growth.  I for one am constantly aware that I have blind spots.  That is why I am constantly open to new insights and ideas for battling my blind spots.  It is only when we understand the theater of war that we can engage the enemy.  And blind spots are our universal enemy.


October 22nd, 2014

We can have blind spots in any area of our lives.  If we are serious about leadership growth and development, then we must seek blind spots wherever they may be found.  The goal is to identify our blind spots, eliminate them where possible, and compensate for the ones that we cannot eliminate completely.  Here are key dimensions of our lives that we should target:

Colleague Relationships.  Periodic feedback sessions can help you to assess blind spots you might be experiencing with your colleagues.  Not only can colleagues help you to understand your blind spots, but the honest sharing often opens the door to a mutual blind spot assessment for everyone’s benefit.

Family.  Your family knows you better than anyone.  By maintaining healthy, positive family relationships, you automatically have a free sounding board.  That sounding board can be a valuable source of insight into your blind spots.

Career Planning.  Career planning is a lifelong challenge.  That is totally understandable when you consider the constantly changing nature of training, college, career choices, industries, the workplace, and the economy.  If you do not have all the facts or if you are missing a key piece of the career-planning puzzle, then you might have a blind spot.  Research, reading, and seeking expert opinions will enable you to eliminate or compensate for those blind spots.

Worldview.  Your worldview encompasses your philosophy of life, your overall spiritual or religious convictions, and your fundamental basis for how you relate to people.  While you certainly prefer not to think that you have any blind spots in your worldview, by definition, your worldview is too important to accept blindly.  Your worldview should be hardy enough to withstand scrutiny.  Should you discover flaws within your worldview, then that means it is time to change your worldview.  I have seen people make radical positive changes in their lives due to a worldview adjustment.

Blind spots might befall us in colleague relationships, family, career planning, or worldview.  Seeking to identify those blind spots will give us the opportunity to make these four areas better.  That will only help our personal and professional growth.


October 21st, 2014

Just as we have insect control and pest control, if we are serious about leadership growth and development, then we must have blind spot control.  Blind spots, by definition, tend to sneak up on us.  I cannot see my own blind spots but they are usually visible to others.  Likewise, I seem to be very gifted at seeing other people’s blind spots.  Here are a few simple yet powerful guidelines that can protect us from our own blind spots:

1—Be open to feedback from others.  You will not necessarily always enjoy the feedback and you might even disagree with it.  However, that is not the purpose of feedback.  The purpose of feedback is to pass along another person’s perspective or observation with the potential opportunity for your growth.  Instead of summarily dismissing it, the wise person learns to welcome it and actively explore it.  Perhaps you will gain a new insight about a blind spot.  If so, you are well on your way to additional leadership growth.

2—Never assume that you know it all.  The moment you assume that you know it all, you will have closed the door to new insights.  Your blind spots will remain invisible.  Discipline yourself to ask questions of others, even when you think you know the answers already.  Learn to be open to input from virtually any source.  You never can know exactly where the next great idea or brilliant insight will originate.  Assuming that you know it all will definitely kill that opportunity.

3—Spend time in self-assessment.  Taking the time to examine your life can pay rich dividends.  Make it a point periodically to review all aspects of your leadership, your communication style, and your interpersonal skills.  Look for any red flags or areas that may need improvement.  Sometimes this strategy can be augmented by taking various skills inventories, psychological profiles, and other quizzes.

4—Tap your inner circle.  Think about the individuals with whom you work or communicate most closely.  These would be your closest colleagues, confidants, friends, and mentors.  Seek their input about your blind spots.  They can be a powerful source of insight.  Additionally, they can provide strategies for correcting blind spots where possible or compensating for them as much as possible.

As long as we are human, blind spots will befall us.  The good news is that an active strategy of blind spot control will help us continually to grow personally and professionally.


October 20th, 2014

One of the most important prerequisites for leadership growth is beating your blind spots.  Perfect people do not have any blind spots.  Therefore, if you are a perfect person, then this material will not apply to you.  Read no further.

You are still reading.  That is a good sign because it means you—like me—recognize that we are not perfect.  We all have blind spots.  We have come to understand that the question is not whether we have blind spots, but rather what are we doing to eliminate them where possible and compensate for the ones we cannot completely eliminate?  Blind spot awareness is something that tends to grow over time if we are personally and professionally committed to growth.

Blind spot awareness directly correlates with a willingness to learn.  When a person is new in a certain industry or position, it is easy to be overconfident after acquiring a nominal knowledge of that new world.  However, when that occurs, then that person will tend to have many blind spots and not even know they exist.  Additional learning is usually the key to conquering those blind spots.

Blind spot awareness correlates with humility.  An arrogant or prideful person will have difficulty recognizing his or her blind spots.  However, amazing things can happen when that same person shifts to a humble attitude.  Opportunities will abound for gaining insights into blind spots and how to conquer them.

Blind spot awareness correlates with a willingness to receive feedback from other people.  I am certain that you have observed a certain person manifesting a serious fault or flaw in some aspect of leadership or performance.  You probably looked at that person and could not believe that she did not see what was happening.  Turn the tables on this.  Is it possible you have ever been that certain person?  We all have.  That is why continuously demonstrating an approachable persona is extremely important.

The worst thing about blind spots is that they enable us to do damage ignorantly.  That is why recognizing blind spots is crucial so that we can correct them or compensate for them.