One Fact And One Idea



HarperThe CEO said to me last week: “If people are so unhappy, why don’t they leave?”

I shrugged. Because I don’t know why people stay in jobs that are wrong for them. In work environments that are toxic. In places they don’t grow.

(For that matter, I don’t know why people stay in neighborhoods they hate married to people they loathe driving a car that makes them crazy, either.)

I am here to tell you - in general, people tolerate way too much.

And it’s weird.

Maybe we tolerate way too much every single damn day because down deep we think we’re not powerful enough to change things.

Or we’re not sure we’re really so unhappy. We worry that maybe we’re misinterpreting things. Or maybe we’re the whining and complaining crybabies our big brothers always said we were.

And then there’s “this economy”, which always seems to be spoken of in an anchorman’s voice, like some gigantic warning of looming danger.

But maybe it’s really because we’re terrified of change. What if we do go through all the trouble to do something different and… it’s worse!

These are the big fears people share with me.

I’d like to give you one fact and one idea to consider if there’s something you’re putting up with day after grueling day, and can’t seem to find the heart to do anything about.

Fact: The economy has changed. Where in 2009, US unemployment stood at a staggering ten percent, it’s even more amazing that right now in my home state it’s at 4.5%.

That means now is the best time in years to find a new job.

(It also means that now is the best time in years to ask for a raise because brass will have to pay more to retain the best talent.)

(If they haven’t gotten this message yet, they will as soon as they can’t fill a key position.)

(Just sayin’.)

Now for that idea I was telling you about.

Idea: Professional baseball players suit up for a game in the uniform of the team they play for. Whether they’re a National or a Diamondback or a Mariner, they wear the colors and play for the team – knowing full well that even in the middle of the game they can get a call saying they’ve been traded to another team.

And the next day, even though it might be hard, they suit up in an entirely new uniform and play for the new team.

For these professionals, it’s less about the team and more about the position they play. They know they can – and will – be a great first baseman for any team.

This is what you need to understand. 

Rather than consider your employment as a lifetime commitment you cannot break, think about it as a baseball team. As long as you play for them, you’re going to hustle and do a good job. But you can – and will – do an equally good job for any other team.

Because you are a very good first baseman.

When you need a change, make a change.

There is no need to tolerate a sick workplace. There is no need to fear something new.

There is only opportunity in the economy right now.

It’s time to get in the game.


The Journey Of A Lifetime


the close-up human eye imageOnce, I traveled to a mountain top to seek out wisdom.

It was a long, arduous journey full of peril. Finally, at the summit, I met the person who could help me understand. I sat and waited.

The wise woman said, “Sometimes you must be utterly quiet to really be able to hear.

“It takes stillness to make any progress.

“You must find introspection to be able to live in the world.

“And when you take the time to get quiet, still and introspective, it’s possible to find understanding.”

I waited. There must be more. Had to be more!

“Is it possible,” I started, “to live a life that matters in a world that is fast and noisy? Where there is no time to think? It doesn’t seem possible.”

The wise woman smiled with kindness, nodded her head and said, “Oh, yes, it is possible. And I will reveal to you exactly how to do it. These are the principles which support a long, happy meaningful life. Pay attention – some are harder to achieve than you might think.”

And these are the words she said to me that day:

Live gratitude.

Be kind.

Love yourself.

Accept that how others live is their choice, and they are entitled to their own choices.

Honor your self-ness and the self-ness of others.


Ask questions with no agenda.

Your most awesome power is your power to create.

Set goals and be prepared to let go of them if the situation changes.

Be the friend you’d want to have.

Do not pass suffering along.

Day turned to night and night to day as I pondered these revelations. Could it be that these principles were all I needed to live a life that matters?

Finally, it all made sense to me. I took a deep breath and pledged to move forward living as she suggested and I rose to thank the woman for her help, her guidance and her wisdom.

And the reflection in my mirror smiled and nodded her gratitude back to me.



The Fierce Velocity of Living


Dust on the notesLife comes at us with a certain fierce velocity these days.

Due dates, deadlines, status updates, pressure – the pace is frenetic and the intensity is off the charts.

And that’s for parents of pre-schoolers.

Your life is pretty daggone intense and fast, too.

Even your favorite executive coach feels the pressures of workload, but fortunately I have plenty of tactics and skills to bring to bear when the speed gets to be a little too…overwhelming.

First thing I do?

Take a break.

I know, I know – “bear down, get through it, push, shoulder to the wheel” – but, really, no. Taking a small stop when things are hectic is a sure way to prevent errors.

Like, let’s say you’re using a crane to lift a piano out of a third floor apartment, so you pause right at the window to make sure you’re at the precisely correct angle. Just a pause before you go forward. Before you scrape the entire left side or, heaven forbid, totally shatter the instrument.

You take a minute and you check.

So that’s why I haven’t written in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been taking a wee pause to make sure:

- I want to keep writing

- I know what it is I want to say

- I understand how it is I want to write

And, it occurs to me that I could use your perspective.

You see, since 2005, when I started a monthly newsletter (and a special shout out to the 52 of you who read that first issue – I have a list, I know who you are, and I really appreciate your continued steadfastness), I have written with an eye toward what you, the reader, would like to hear. To find a topic, I’ve often thought, “Two of my readers are having coffee today… What are they talking about?”

I think of you.

What you need, and what you want, matters to me. So I’d appreciate it if you would take 90 seconds to answer five simple questions for me:

That way, I can put your feedback into the mix of what I’ve been thinking and come out with even more clarity around what I do.

And it will make our time together than much more rewarding, and fun.

Thank you.

All Together Now



Sometimes, vector seamless pattern with a large group of men and women. flawhen tough decisions need to be made, you need to go back to basics.

I was talking with a woman the other day who was facing a thorny decision in her work. Should she or shouldn’t she? Worrying, ruminating and floundering, she turned to me and said, “What do I do?”

Shoot, I didn’t know. But I did ask one question, “At this point in your life, what’s your biggest priority?”

And she paused.

A longish pause.

Then she started to laugh. “No one has asked me that through this whole thing. I haven’t even asked myself that!”

And just like that, the path forward opened up. She knew what she was going to do – which wasn’t going to be easy, but it certainly was very clear.

I tend to ask clients-in-crisis like this to think about their priorities and their values. What’s important? What do they value the most?

It used to surprise me that nearly every person used the same words to describe at least one of their top values – words like Connection, Belongingness, Together, To Be With, Team.

I’ve learned that for so many of us it’s the connection with others that really gives our lives a sense of meaning.

And yet so many of these same people tell me that the workplace is the last place they can expect to find real, authentic belongingness.

Last week I spoke with a senior guy at a huge multi-national company. Part of our work together has been deciphering the world-class, sharp-elbowed office politics played within the organization.

Now, the higher up the leadership pyramid you go, the more intense the office politics get in most organizations – elbows are much pointier and jabbier.

My senior guy was telling me how the people one level above him act at meetings. “They never participate,” he said. “They just sit there with their fingers templed in front of them and say, ‘Thank you for your input. We will be getting back to you.’ Where’s the collaboration? The connection? The sharing of information? I feel like a sitting duck because I never know if I’ve made a good presentation or not. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing because I don’t have all the information! Are we working for the same company, or not?”

Ah, Grasshopper, what you see here is a blatant power play. What you observe is information hoarding. And – I’ll go even further - it’s bullying.

Last summer I led a webinar for the Harvard Business Review on bullies and jerks in the workplace. It turned out to be one of the most popular webinars HBR has ever offered – which is great and at the same time, very sad.

In that webinar, I defined a bully as someone who tries to keep you from being able to do your job and/or tries to crush your sense of self.

My guy’s senior colleagues with their templed fingers think they are playing politics but in reality they are blocking collaboration, making things harder than they have to be and killing the efficiency of the group. They have learned to be bullies.

Perhaps they do this under the mistaken belief that powerful people behave a certain way. It’s a bit of John Wayne with a smidge of Clint Eastwood and just a soupçon of The Donald. You know who I’m talking about – a solo contributor with power, who leaves people trembling in his wake. Who has no time for other people unless they’re passing him ammo or a whiskey bottle.

You know the guy. And this archetype may have worked in a different day and age, with a different generation. But, today, it’s in direct opposition to what most people crave in their work.

They want togetherness. They want feedback on their impact, reflected in their connection with friends and colleagues – probably because formal feedback processes aren’t really working.

The best leaders today know this.

They know that there’s a new yardstick for measuring leadership effectiveness, and it’s not how many people stand up when you walk into a room. And it’s not about how much information  you hoard.

It’s about how well the people who work for you perform.

It’s about what they accomplish.

It’s about their efficiency and their impact.

It’s about how they collaborate, belong and connect.

So if you are a leader in an organization and you have a tendency to hoard information, to temple your fingers, to be a lone wolf?

You’ve gotta knock that off.

Start collaborating. Share. Ask questions. Listen. Seek advice.

Provide an environment where your people can connect and belong. Give them a way to find meaning.

And if you do, here’s the promise: You will have more productive people, better teams, greater impact and more success.

Together, connected, with, belonging – those are the words, and the only way we’re all going to move forward.


Time To Play Hooky



relax footI know how stressed you are. I really do.

I know how completely you throw yourself into everything you do and how chaotic things can get.

Let’s face it, friend. You’re exhausted.

Putting one heavy foot in front of the other,  day after frazzled day in a frenzied, numbing march toward something you’re not even sure about any more – that’s you.

So. There’s really only one thing I can recommend.

It’s a little thing and, at the same time, it’s a really big thing.

Take a day off.


One day off. You don’t do it enough, do you?

(Do you do it ever?)

Yes, what I’m talking about is playing hooky.

As odd as it may seem to all of us Type-A, hard chargers, when you play hooky, you don’t do any work.

Don’t do laundry.

Don’t shop for groceries.

Don’t drive anyone anywhere.

Don’t do anything that needs to be done.

Instead, you take a whole day. Off.

(The very idea of it feels so free and “can I really get away it it?”-ish, doesn’t it?)

OK, maybe it’s been so long since you’ve played hooky that you can’t remember what to do with a whole day to yourself. So let me give you some suggestions:

Turn off your phone and leave your computer un-booted.

Take a walk and don’t pay any attention to how many steps you’re getting in.

Read a book cover-to-cover.

Wade barefoot in a creek.

Hit golf balls at the driving range – not to work on your game, but just to watch the way the balls arc through the air.

Give a dog’s belly a thorough rub.

Take a nap.

Take two naps, even.

Eat a ripe peach over the sink and let the juice dribble down your chin.

Call a friend you haven’t talked with in a while and catch up.



Take deep breaths.

And, really and truly relax.

I promise you that everything on your to-do list will be there tomorrow. The world won’t end if you take a day for yourself.

I’ll bet you, in fact, that you come back to your to-do list with a renewed sense of energy and purpose, simply because you’re not so flipping exhausted.

One day. Just one.

Twenty-four hours for you to do… nothing.

If that doesn’t sound like bliss, I don’t know what does.

So, what do you say? How about tomorrow?