Showing posts from April, 2012

Chicago Bound

On an overcast Monday we're Chicago bound this morning.  One of the many benefits of living in St. Joseph, Michigan is the access to transportation.  Sitting at the crossroads of I-96 and I-94 in Berrien County on Lake Michigan the cities of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo in Michigan as well as Chicago are but an hour's drive.   South Bend is only a half an hour.   Besides the two highways the active harbor and port in St. Joseph and the fun of Amtrak are also available, though neither fits today's trip.
     So as I prepare for a day and evening full of meetings with great anticipation for productive meaningful work, enjoy this moment with Colour Club, a group I used to play on the air when I had a jazz show on WHFB AM years ago.

And if you've never seen this project by Status Creative shot in downtown Grand that's approaching 5 million views on YouTube, here's your chance.
Happy Monday.

Grateful Admiration

Around 18 months ago we hosted a going away party for our oldest son before he embarked on service to our country in Iraq and Kuwait.  He returned home early last September and began a long battle with the State of Michigan much harder than getting shot at in the Middle East.
     While overseas, he'd managed to buy a jeep from a dealership in Wayland, and last fall paid to take two classes at Lake Michigan College not on the GI Bill, but with his own money.   As a combat engineer in the Army National Guard, he had regular Guard trainings til now, but being honest with potential employers that he was shipping to Afghanistan with his younger brother this spring, employment opportunities were not forthcoming.
     So when eligible he applied to Unemployment Insurance Agency for unemployment.  He went to Michigan Works and filled out the appropriate paperwork.  Almost immediately he received a letter saying he was eligible, and that his password to log in would be coming separa…

Saturday & Sunday

Probably not too surprising that when one follows the trend well-being in the United States there's a decrease Monday through Friday (going back years) and a spike upward Saturday and Sunday.   Memorial day we were 90 degrees here and beautiful, but followed by 50 degrees and cold rain the past two days.  It's a beautiful weekend in Southwest Michigan though with sunshine and 70 degrees in the forecast.  So join Chicago in singing "Will you help him change the world?".   Here's to any day in the park:

Of course Another Park Another Sunday from the Doobie Brothers works quite well for me as well.

May your weekend be one of restoration, hope, peace and joy.

Zealous or Zealot? A-Z Blogging Challenge

An interesting conundrum struck me yesterday as I contemplated the letter Z ahead of schedule in the Blogging Challenge.  You see, according to 1986 Webster's dictionary at my desk we have these two definitions:
Zealous: full of, characterized by, or showing zeal; ardently devoted to purpose; enthusiastic.Zealot: a person who is zealous to an extreme or excessive degree, fanatic. I'd like to think I'm ardently devoted to purpose and enthusiastic in several veins.  My wife and three sons. Helping others discover new knowledge and capabilities, then walk in them.  Self-sacrifice, leadership, and vision.  Life long learning, innovation and adaptability.  Helping develop teams, organizations and communities in ways that lift up the majority of the citizens instead of a select few.  Being open to hearing the Voice of God in my faith without condemning others (because that's not my job).  Facilitating constructive conflict in ways that help others reach agreement and act…

You & I: A-Z Blogging Challenge

One of the more magical moments in my life (of many) was before digital cameras and smartphones at Fort Lamar in Lamar Park, Wyoming Michigan.   I became a fan of Yes by the age of 15, along with early Genesis, Marillion, Camel, Porcupine Tree (recently), and I suppose even some of Gino Vanelli's early work. Their ability to take you places through music, or music and lyrics, particularly with big headphones on or a quadrophonic stereo.The progressive rock movement for me is an extension of my love of Tolkien and Lewis as a child.
    You and I may never meet in person.  Yet we are still connected in so many ways beyond this life's existence on the same planet in this time frame and the various atoms and molecules that make up our physical structures.  That you would take a few moments of your time to spend here connects us by spirit.  And for me, regardless of your beliefs, philosophy or theology, we are connected by His spirit as well.
    The outdoor facility, which is…

Why?: Because.

"Why" is for me the most underused and incorrectly answered question of the standards (who, what, where, when, how).  It started in early childhood or adolescence for most of us when we asked why and were told by parents "Because I said so," or just "because."   Which then of course inhibits understanding and growth of the young learner and leaves the older giver frustrated as well (why can't they just do what I say?).  Eventually if not corrected along the emotional and intellectual development this leads us to do the same with our children, and it still occurs in much of our organizational lives as well.

     The core truth is that there really is a reason why, but we're uncomfortable discussing it, or are too busy to want to invest in fully explaining because it's not on the agenda or today's task list. That's the beginning of relationship fractures, a diminishing of trust, and a detrimental increase of dissatisfaction, rebell…

Leading strangers

Choosing a word that begins with the letter x in the blogging challenge took less than two minutes thanks to the speed of search engines and this internet connection.   I will confess that xenagogue isn't in my daily vocabulary, though the definition certainly is by activity. 

"From Greek, to lead, leading; bring, take; plus a “guest” or stranger. A reference to someone who  conducts strangers or foreigners; a tour guide."
       In fact, even knowing the definition I still wouldn't use it.  It does however describe part of my life philosophy. I wonder how often in the unending list of tasks we have to accomplish we miss opportunities to have a positive impact on someone's life through simple gestures.  The internal nature of our thinking leaves us mostly oblivious to the external conditions and needs of those we pass on the sidewalk, in the halls of our organizations, or out in the community.

We're aware enough to answer the obligatory surface of &q…

Variety: A-Z Blogging Challenge

There is a scene in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman where a young child, never having seen a black man before asks:  "Did God paint you?"  Freeman replies "Did God paint me?, why yes."  "Why" asks the boy.  "Because Allah loves wondrous variety," Freeman responds.
     Allah simply means "The God" in Arabic, so I hope that doesn't offend anyone.  One only needs to look at their back yard, or at the stars at night to understand that God does indeed love wondrous variety.   If we even ponder the jungle regions of this planet or the many unexplored portions of the oceans the beauty, variety, and uniqueness of life around us is not only inspirational but not close to being completely cataloged by science.
    When one looks at genetics the differences between human beings across the planet are so small as to be inconsequential.   Now I'm not a geneticist, but long ago, particul…

Understanding: A-Z Blogging Challenge

The more I know the less I understand, which is why I've resolved to admit my ignorance.  If I were to approach our conversation with the knowledge I've gained from being a voracious reader, superb mentors and years of failure and success, my position of "knowing" inhibits me from giving you the attention you deserve.  I can't understand you, because I'm too busy formulating my next demonstration of expertise to really listen.
     You'll know it too, because you can see in the eyes that the listener isn't home at the moment while searching the synapses for an electrical impulse of a connection between previously unconnected neurons.
     The more studying I do in the wide variety of subjects that keep me reading when I should be sleeping or some other menial task, the more I clearly and completely understand that there is more existent knowledge than I can possibly hope to gain in a lifetime. Which is why we're meeting in the first place, b…

Toy Matinee: A-Z Blogging Challenge

Another one of my favorite artists that made their mark on the music industry working with other artists rather than their own releases is Toy Matinee.  Patrick Leonard produced for Madonna, Elton John, and Jewel while Kevin Gilbert  was a Grammy-winning songwriter for Sheryl Crow among other projects until his untimely death.   Kevin and Patrick released one self-titled album in 1990 which is filled with great hooks and stories.  Here's a couple of tracks from YouTube.

Always love when musicians sound live like the release.
 And remembering those who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan:
"Yea we've got dogs and Valvoline, it's a pretty damn good time."

Live thirsty my friends.

Service: A-Z Blogging Challenge

A number of years ago I belonged to Lakeshore Rotary.   The growth in my business and service on other boards led me in different directions with limited time so I had to resign. The mentorship from many servant leaders during that period helped shape who I am today, profoundly.
     Rotarians world wide believe in "Service above Self."  So do millions of other human beings who aren't members of any service organization.  Rotary, Lions, Masons and many other networking clubs with higher purposes  have accomplished amazing life change in this world, but struggle in this era with membership growth.

   My sons have grown up watching their father serve in many ways; in church, community; family and more.  My wife and I have rarely had a period during our 23 year marriage that someone we know, going through divorce or some other crisis hasn't lived with us.   There was five years where we essentially had a fourth son whose parents where divorced and those complicati…

Restore: A-Z Blogging

My Organizational Behavior class yesterday morning covered the final chapter where the authors discussed both organizational change and stress.  The pace of global change is only increasing.  Where human knowledge used to double in, say 50 years, in some fields it doubles in less than a year.  For those of us who grew up without cell phones, downloadable music, 300+ television channels (most with nothing productive or of real value), computers or tablets, and instant communication, it is a far different world.
     That doesn't bother me, in part because I'm fairly adept (not competent, just adept) at technology and have learned to embrace and lead change as opposed to fighting it.  Which doesn't mean we need to change without purpose or plans.  I'm a firm believer in Howard Gardner's Changing Minds (Reason, Research, Resonance, Rediscriptions, Resources/Rewards, Real World Events, and Resistances) and Five Minds For The Future (Disciplinary, Synthesizing, Cr…

The Department of Why

One of my graduate school professors in discussions emphasized asking "why" around five times for every question in an effort to get well below the surface level of the topic.   I rather like the concept.  Peter Drucker has volumes of quotes but in particular (paraphrased): "We don't fail from making bad decisions, we fail because we asked the wrong questions."

     It's hard for me to avoid Daniel Pink because his work has so much potential impact on our organizations, or at least it should, but in the Flip-Manifesto rule number 11 is establishing a Department of Why?  We become so entwined in the habits of both ourselves and our organizations that rarely do we make time to step away and ask "Why are we doing this?".
Margaret Wheatley in a 2006 presentation in Halifax called "A Call to Fearlessness for Gentle Leaders," asked these key questions:

How do you call yourself? How do you identify yourself? And have you chosen a name for yo…

Purpose: A-Z Blogging Challenge

Whether or not you've read Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, or Daniel Pink's Drive, there is
something inside all of us which encourages us to excel at something.   Not the standard "time to go to work" or school, or take care of the kids, whatever it is that tends to occupy most of our daily lives.   No, it's something stronger, deeper, and much more powerful within each of us that we're supposed to be doing with what time, talent and treasure we've been given. 

     Some of us pursue our purposes in our spare time and some of us are fortunate enough to actually do that for a living.  Given the research showing nearly 80% of Americans wish we were working somewhere other than where we are, and over 70% of us are either not engaged or completely disengaged from our work lives, I suspect that the majority haven't found it yet.

     So why not start?  I don't mean quit your job.  I mean taking time, making time to figure out what your pur…

Optimistic: A-Z Blogging

By nature most of the time I am an optimist.  Which is probably why it doesn't bother to spend time watching the news as it does some I know.  "It's so depressing, can we watch something else?".  Having been in a variety of despairs over my near 50 years, as well as some extraordinary opportunities and heights, I know that whatever confronts me today is minimal in comparison to the plight of many on earth, our country, state and even in my community or neighborhood.
     I have a poster in the office.  One of those "successories" kind of things.  It looks like a long par five with sand traps running the entire length of the fairway, water on the left and a dog-leg right.  It's got an Arthur C. Clarke underneath:  "The only way to know the limits of the possible is to go beyond them to the impossible."  I do believe he was right.   From deep within me is a predilection to push the boundaries, stretch the intellect, the vision, the hope an…

Nature: A-Z Blogging Challenge

If we read a biography of Friedrich Nietzsche we find a difficult life where inspiration came from spending time in nature.  As Nietzsche wrote in The Wanderer and His Shadow:
In many places in nature we discover ourselves again... How fortunate the one who can have the experience right here, in this constantly sunlit October air, in this happy and mischievous play of the breezes from morning till night, in this purest daylight and temperate coolness, in the totally graceful and genuine character of the hills, lakes, and forests of this high plateau... how fortunate the one who can say: There is surely much that is grander and more beautiful in nature, but this is intimately familiar to me, related by blood, and even more.       We were incredibly blessed to live for five years in a home with a three tiered landscaped garden that we helped restore.   The peace of the space, resting with the lively discussions of the birds, the often visits by squirrels, rabbits, the neighbor…

Marillion & Metheny: A-Z Blogging Challenge

It's Saturday and I've been serious enough for this week so let's interlude with two of my favorite artists.  One I'll never see in their original incarnation which is Marillion.  The other I've seen live more times than anyone else except Santana: Pat Metheny.
This track in particular is after Fish had left the band and Steve Hogarth came in as lead singer but the spirit is so strong throughout I can't help but be carried away when I hear it:  Easter, heal the pain.  Time for the blind to see.  Easter, surely now, let all of your hearts, go free.

I miss the days of albums that flow from beginning to end without interruption with amazing key or chord changes like most of Marillion's earlier work with Fish.  
As for Pat Metheny, the performance at Fountain Street church in Grand Rapids is indelibly etched in my soul as one of the most amazing concerts I've ever seen. His work continues to be superb and a source of creative energy for me.

Have a glori…

Leadership: A-Z Blogging Challenge

As my master's thesis was on Transformational Culture Leadership I just couldn't pass up the chance to share some favorite thoughts.  Then again, I rarely have trouble sharing thoughts.  It's not holding them back that often gets me in trouble.  I'm a servant-leader by the way, which is also transformational.  The graphic below was the basis of my research: that when we combine organizational learning and transformational leadership with an understanding of organizational culture, we get dramatically improved organizational citizenship behavior that leads to adaptability, productivity and sustainability.  All of which improves profitability of course, but that's an outcome of  serving a greater purpose.

     “Leadership is the inspiration and mobilization of others to undertake collective action in pursuit of the common good.” Crosby & Bryson, 2005
     “Leaders’ influence will turn on their own qualities of character, expertise, prestige, intelligence, c…

Kyrie: A-Z Blogging Challenge

Kyrie was a simple choice for me today.  Those who remember the 80's may recall the two #1 hits for Mr. Mister, Kyrie and Broken Wings.  One of the many benefits of working at LAV-FM 97 in Grand Rapids during that era was getting introduced to a lot music far before, or in many cases that never became popular.  So I was very familiar with their first album I Wear the Face (1984) and loved it before Welcome to the Real World (1985) came out with those two hits.
     Kýrie, eléison very simply means "Lord have mercy".  Their third album Go On (1987) was simply phenomenal for me and in particular the first song below was nominated for a Grammy.  As is the case so often though, musical tastes in the country shifted and the success for band members came from working with other artists rather than their own band.  Interestingly, lead singer Richard Page turned down offers to join Toto and Chicago as their lead vocalists and declined to form Mr. Mister..
Enjoy Thursday'…

Joy - A-Z Blogging Challenge

Last fall I was having a conversation at church with a friend who had recently gone through a divorce and discussing some of the difficulties we were facing as a family.  He responded with "but don't you deserve to be happy?"  To which I chuckled.   Tell me where in the bible, or whichever philosophy/theology you ascribe to, where happiness is promised?  The U.S. Constitution?  That reads "pursuit of happiness", not a guarantee of achieving it.
     Counting on a spouse or any other human being for one's  happiness or "joy" seems to me to be a recipe for disappointment and failure.  As with yesterday's post, I don't know any perfect humans. So honestly, when a team member or family member fails my expectations, I don't get angry, because a) everyone makes mistakes, and b) I probably didn't clearly communicate or provide the tools necessary for them to succeed.
     My joy comes from two places.  Internally from a relationship …

Imperfect: A-Z Blogging Challenge

I cried Sunday morning, which isn't really unusual on Easter but it was before church so that wasn't the reason.  I really enjoy Charles Osgood in any media form.   His manner, the tone of his voice, his appreciate for beauty and noticing or drawing attention to the small things that make a difference in this life.   CBS Sunday morning ran a story about Michigan native and former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott who has a new book out called:  Imperfect: An Improbable Life.
     For those who don't know Jim was born without a right hand, but that didn't stop him from becoming a college baseball player for the University of Michigan, winning a gold medal as the starting pitcher in the Olympics, or pitching a no-hitter for the New York Yankees as a professional baseball player.   He continues to be a force for good well beyond the example he set in those accomplishments.
    You see, I'm of the firm belief that we're all imperfect. Not to slight in any way those who …

Business Design Rule of Thumb

As we move through the A-Z Blogging Challenge, today's word is Heuristic, drawn from the bookThe Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage from the Dean of the Rottman School of Business, Roger Martin.

     For those unfamiliar with the term, heuristic means "to use experience based problem solving, learning and discovery.   In simpler terms we might refer to it as common sense, rule of thumb, or an educated guess.  It's one of the reasons for example that when stuck trying to find the right solution, we might draw a graphic, or play with the abstract to draw out what we can't always find the right words for.
     This rather slim read is really a must for anyone interested in organization design, or simply improving performance in their small business.  Had I the opportunity to use it when I taught Organizational Design, Development and Change in the graduate college last semester instead of the assigned volume, I would have.   I …


G is for Genesis today in a moment of reflection from what is certainly one of my top five albums of all time.  I have the humble and wise Aris Hampers to thank for introducing me to Genesis, who very early in their career actually played Grand Valley State.   This is a musical era for me where songwriting was amazing; you could clearly understand the lyrics; and artists told stories that took you places far beyond the moment. 
"The face from the water looks up.
She smiles as if to say,
The bluebirds have all gone away.
Sail away, away.
Ripples never come back.
They've gone to the other side."
What ripples are you making in the world today while marching to the promised land?

Take the full eight minutes for this journey, close your eyes, and soar with me, will you?


The fact that yesterday was Good Friday, an odd name for remembering Christ's crucifixion is only coincidental.   I can still remember my years of living, if one could call it that, without faith and can't imagine getting through a day now without my firm foundation in God. I have seen to many miraculous events in my life and in many other lives not to believe.  Though to be fair, I also consider every morning I wake up with the ability to breath, walk, think and grow a miracle in itself.

     Through the many turmoils and valleys of my near 50 years, always caused by my wanderings and occasionally by others who took advantage of my generous nature, there absolutely have been times where I wanted to just walk away.  To quit, the circumstances, the individuals, and many times the organizations, which I did either directly or by behaving in ways that got me that result.  For many years of worldly success as some would measure it, I was still wandering away from who I was a…

Employee Engagement

As I continue to catch up on the A-Z's, E is for Employee Engagement.  I previously mentioned Gallup's work in this field. Last October at the Midwest Academy of Management conference in Omaha I had the opportunity to listen to and then speak briefly with Dr. James. K. Harter, co-author of 12: The Elements of Great Managing.  His work with Gallup on the Well-Being index should be an eye opener for both employers and employees in America.
During his talk at the conference, Dr. Harter pointed out that in the U.S. in particular where the Well-Being data is gathered daily, there's a pattern of decreasing wellness Monday through Friday and an in increase on Saturday and Sunday.  What you may ask, does Well-Being have to do with Employee Engagement?  The fact is that the majority of American workers are not engaged in their jobs.  Research shows an even higher percentage of Americans would leave their current employer if they could or when the economy recovers. It shoul…

Daniel's Revolution

In the A-Z blogging challenge D is for Daniel.  I know, you think I'm I was going Old Testament and there's a leadership, vision and faith story.  The second half would be correct though.  I'm in love with Daniel Pink and look forward to his new book the is fall.  His work and his story are absolutely worth paying considerable attention to.   If you haven't read A Whole New Mind or Drive, or seen the videos on YouTube, you need to.  Today.  There's one below.

     I had hoped to get Mr. Pink (not to be confused in any sense with Reservoir Dogs) on the morning talk show recently when I filled in for Pat Moody at WSJM but he's in the midst of writing his next book.  In the fall he promised as schedules allow.

     Hopefully when it's out later this summer or early fall I will then. The Drivevideo (below) in particular by RSA Animate is tremendously helpful because they do such a cool job of white boarding his talk, doubling (or more) the impact on our co…

Changing the World

Wow did I get overwhelmed and behind in the daily A-Z blog.   It's good to have work to do though.  With the letter C, several things came to mind; compassion, college; and clarity all came to mind, but I feel a tug towards change.   Maybe in part because I teach Organizational Design, Development and Change in the graduate program for Siena Heights University.  Maybe because there has been so much change in my life over the past eight years in particular. Certainly because guiding organizational and individual change is so much of my life's work to date.
     I love Peter Drucker and a couple of his thoughts in particular.  "One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it." And "The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different."
      Howard Gardner in Five Minds for the Future talks about how we must not only develop expertise in one specific area of study or endeavor, but how we must also extend horizontally into other fiel…