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There are times when certain news stories touch me more than others. The same happens with scenes in some movies. I had a period where I’d be crying all the time when I saw these things, for a few years after my dad passed away. It took a long while to gain better control over some of those emotions.

Self-Other (Other Self[?])
London Permaculture via Compfight

I don’t know if I’m all that much different than a lot of men. I didn’t cry from the age of 9 until I was 43, when Dad passed. I was proud of that fact because it got me through a lot of different situations over the years. It’s amazing just how much not crying is valued in some places. Even with serious pain and disappointment, not crying, being able to put on a face of relative nonchalance, gives one respect from peers.

Truth be told, often I’ve had to hide feelings over the years as a leader. When you work with people on a daily basis you’re going to come across situations where those who you work with have issues that makes them lose control. People pass away; relationships break up; others get sick. And of course different types of disappointment affect people in different ways.

Even when I’ve been in positions to have to visibly hide my feelings, mainly in order to keep my own control, I have to admit that I’m basically a compassionate type of person. I may scoff here and there at some things that I don’t think warrant emotion but when I believe it’s something that’s expected, I’m right there with others.

I know a lot of people who aren’t able to be empathetic when it comes to the needs of others. I always figure that there was something in their background that has led them to learn how to suppress these feelings.

You can often tell when people aren’t empathetic by how they respond to certain events. For instance, weeks ago we had the incident in Paris where 12 people were killed. Most of the reactions I saw were outpourings of grief and anger that terrorists had the nerve to kill people for what amounted to cartoon caricatures, even if they were offensive. Many though believed that they got what was coming to them for being stupid.

Frankly, even though I’m someone who believes that consequences can come to people whose actions irritate someone, I felt for the families of those who had nothing to do with this magazine, especially the second day when terrorists captured more people and killed some of them because they wanted to go out as martyrs.

Part of me couldn’t understand how one couldn’t find compassion for something like that. The other part of me understood unfortunately. There are factions who say “it has nothing to do with me” or “I guess it was just their time to go.”

Fine; I don’t like that type of thinking but I understand how it goes. What I’m not sure of is how many of those people are leaders. If that’s a leader’s mindset, we’re all in trouble.

Some people think good leaders should never deal with personal issues. I think there are times when leaders have to worry more about the department than lingering personal issues; that’s why they’re being paid after all.

However, if someone in the department is in distress, being empathetic and compassionate to their needs is integral to good leadership. Maybe there’s nothing you can do about the situation. Maybe you as the leader needs to counsel an employee or a co-worker in some fashion. Not solve their issues if you can’t, but offer suggestions like taking time off, going to Employee Assistance, getting legal counsel… things like that.

Not only do they show that you care but it shows your department that you’re human, and people love working with and for those who act human. I was a fairly dispassionate leader most of the time. I felt that keeping an even keel was the best way to have a stable department. But when it was needed I’d let down those shields and embrace the pain of an employee, whether they worked for me or not.

Leaders aren’t automatons; they’re people. If you as a leader can’t show compassion when it’s needed, you’ll never be a great leader.

My opinion of course; what’s yours?

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I’m going to start this article with a strange admission, one that means nothing in the scope of things to anyone but myself. I have lots of scars on my legs and I have no idea where they come from.

Scott O’Dell via Compfight

Didn’t expect that did you? :-) It’s a strange thing to say, but it’s a strange thing to be occurring. Thing is, I never notice them until I’m either going to bed or waking up. My wife thinks I’m doing it unconsciously while I sleep, probably because my skin feels dry and I might be scratching myself. She also thinks I might be walking into things because I’m known to cut corners and not thinking about checking myself to see if I’m bleeding or not.

Truthfully, It’s probably more of the second than the first. When I was a teenager I played a lot of sports; I played hard. I always wanted to win at any legal cost. Sometimes that involved taking a physical pounding, which I dished out as well.

When I’d come home I was often in some kind of pain. Most of the time it was muscle pain. Sometimes I might have twisted a knee or an ankle. But often I’d find cuts in different places of my body that I couldn’t tell you when they happened. Often they’d dried up, which meant there was no point of putting a band aid on them, while other times a band aid kept it from rubbing against my clothes. That would become necessary because sometimes you didn’t recognize you were in discomfort until you saw it.

As bad as physical injuries are, mental injuries can be much worse. Physical injuries heal for the most part; they might not be perfect but the pain goes away, or you can do something about some of the pain quickly. Mental injuries can be so bad that they’ll affect every single thing a person tries to do, often for years.

If you’re the one who inflicted the injury, most of the time you won’t even know it. You might do something to hurt someone’s feelings in the moment but then it’s gone and you never think about it again. However, as studies have shown, people who were bullied as children never forget the pain, even as the bullies have grown up and changed (hopefully). And those events almost never are mentioned to the bully, as both parties may never see each other again.

It doesn’t work like that in business. There are some people who hesitate to show up at work daily for fear of being bullied. I had a friend who worked at a job for years where everyday the supervisor of the department would berate her and everyone else. The problems were that they were doing the supervisor’s work, thus she was hard on them for results because she was going to turn them in as her work, and these people were paid at a higher rate than they’d probably have gotten elsewhere without advanced degrees. Sometimes people feel trapped because of money; that’s not right but that’s how it goes.

I’ve always tried to go out of my way to avoid anyone feeling discomfort based on my actions in the workplace. There are times when I’ve had to apply pressure to get something done, but if we got to where we needed to get I’d always offer praise and thank them for their effort. I think most people knew that it was never personal with me; after all, it was work, and unless there was a direct attack on my person, I was never out to “get” anyone; just not my style.

That’s because I’m someone who’s had things happen in my life that I’ve never forgotten about. I’ll own up to a few mental scars. I’ll own up to never forgiving any of the people who used me for their own purposes and never apologized for it. I use those things as motivation to try to push forward and to succeed. The scars I remember were intentional things against me; it wasn’t supposed to be personal but it was.

Thus, I never wanted to do that to anyone else. I’ve never performed an unprovoked attack on anyone. If I was their leader, I certainly wasn’t going to be the one; I didn’t have the right.

Sometimes you can’t avoid scarring someone. If you have to talk to someone about bad performance or let them go for whatever the reason is that will stick with them, even if it doesn’t stick with you.

It should always be professionally done. There should be specific reasons, reasons that person already knew about and had an opportunity to fix. Or reasons that come from a person’s violation of company policy; once again, they should have already known those rules.

Never be the catalyst for someone’s scars because of business. You may forget it and move on, but you may have ruined someone’s life without ever knowing it. Now that I’ve made you think about it, you can’t say you didn’t know.

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As it’s the new year, like always I try to set a precedent for something to change in the coming year. It’s always based on a change I want in my life, something that helps me push forward in some way to address an issue I feel I have.

debate over a chip
Len Matthews via Compfight

The particular issue I feel I have these days is my internal reaction to things I see and then the subsequent nastiness associated with it. For instance, if you’ve read any online newspapers you’ll usually see commentary after almost every post. Local news is the worst because it seems the only people who comment are the ones trying to see who can out-nasty the next person. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you’ll rarely see a nice comment on a news story, even if it involves kids.

I used to let that type of thing bother me, so I resolved not to read the comments anymore. However, sometimes I’d still go down there unconsciously, to see if I was still seeing what I expected to see. I did, I’d get mad and then let it ruin a part of my day.

Then I came upon a novel idea. I would only visit news stories where I knew the site was at least monitoring comments to some degree. In other words, making people use their real names or else putting comments in their own section so the rest of us didn’t have to see them. When I started limiting myself to that as much as possible, I found that I was a happier person. I say as much as possible because there are some local stories I read because I like to stay informed as to what’s going on around town.

I’ve come to realize that even if I see these types of comments in other spaces, such as social media, that I don’t have to react to them. As a matter of fact, I can block them and I can block the people writing the stuff, and if I’m connected to someone who’s sharing stuff that’s going to get my heart pumping too much too often I can drop them also.

Here’s the thing. Throughout most of my adult life I haven’t had to deal with any of that stuff in person. I don’t see myself as threatening in any way but it seems that people who might feel they should have the right to say whatever they want to no matter where they are or who’s around them never say that stuff when I’m there.

Not that I always agree with what people have to say in person or that they always agree with me. Not even close! But people do temper themselves and alter their speech patterns when I’m around, and truthfully that’s all I’ve ever asked. I like to say that we teach people how to treat us; I guess I do a lot of that. It makes life more enjoyable when one can have reasonable discourse with someone else.

So, this year I’m resolving to bring way more peace to my life; at least in this regard. If I read stuff that irks me, I’ll ignore it. Responding to stuff that upsets you only pleases someone else; I don’t need to be the catalyst for my own mental demise.

If I see too much of it coming from one person I’ll just block them and move on with life. For that matter, even if it’s someone who I agree with in principle, if it gets to be too much I’ll block them as well; why get stirred up for a cause you can’t do anything about right?

We can’t hide from life; things happen that are terrible. I’m certainly not doing that, but I did stop watching TV news a couple of years ago and life started feeling a little bit better. I’m still informed because I get news alerts via text messages. But that’s a lot better than seeing everything and feeling manipulated into a mood I didn’t ask for.

What do you think? Is this something you feel you should do for yourself? Do you have other things you want to change for yourself in 2015?

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As another year comes to a close I can say that this was one for the ages. With all my travel and new experiences I can honestly say that if I had more of that for 2015 I wouldn’t complain in the least.

TheCameraGirls via Compfight

Still, I can look at 2014 and realize that I could have done more, and if I could have done more I can share how you can do more in 2015 as well. After all, I don’t write these blog posts only for myself. :-)

This is the next to the last post of 2014, and since I’m using my last post of the year to highlight some of my favorite posts of the year, I figured this one should at least attempt to be helpful. So, without further ado, 5 ways to make 2015 more productive for all of us.

1. 3×5 Index Cards.

Yes, you read that right, an old standard. This is an idea that comes from Brendan Burchard and his new book “The Motivation Manifesto.” He states that we all get ideas during the day, as well as think of something we want or need to do, and that as we get older we just don’t retain things as well as we did when we were younger.

His suggestion was to buy 3×5 index cards and carry them around with you to jot notes down. I’ve gone two steps further by buying a spiral bound 3×5 index card holder and buying one with multiple colors because… okay, I just like the colors. lol Technology is a wonderful thing but for quick simple things it might take too long to access.

2. Set aside one hour a day to work on something specifically for you.

Once again this isn’t my original idea. It comes from an ebook I purchased from a lady named Marelisa Fabrega, whom I interviewed years ago, titled The One Hour A Day Formula (that’s not an affiliate link so click on it & check it out). She talks about a lot of famous or rich people who worked on their craft or dreams by finding one hour a day to dedicate specifically to that and using the rest of their hours as they needed to. When all is said and done, if you can figure out how to find the time you create the equivalent of 9 weeks of working hours; imagine what you can accomplish!

3. Evernote and Dropbox.

Let’s talk about technology for a quick minute. It certainly has its place, and both of these programs can help you be more productive in many ways. Evernote lets you take notes, make lists, save certain types of files for quick access, create diaries, create shared folders of notes with others, etc. Dropbox lets you save and share files, but much bigger files with bigger capacity.

The beauty of both is that you can access them from anywhere and anything as long as you have an internet connection or some type of data connection. Thus, if you create your shopping list on Evernote, you never have to worry about leaving it at home if you have at least a smartphone. And if you have to give a presentation you can save your file to Dropbox and can open it using someone else’s computer or laptop or even a tablet if you forget to take it any other way. Both are free for limited capacity, which is enough for most people, but it’s not all that costly if you need to expand.

4. Planners.

Many people have either Google Calendar or Outlook for planning things. I don’t use either, though I do have a scheduler on my main computer. What I have instead is a Franklin Planner, old school “tech” that allows me to write lots of stuff down, decide what’s most important, and move on from there.

The thing is that studies have proven that writing things down helps us be more productive and actually helps put our minds at ease because we don’t have to remember everything. Also, I’ve found that adding motivational messages here and there, carrying long term projects from week to week or month to month all helps me stay truly focused, which of course means better productivity.

5. Thinking time.

I have to admit I’m bad at this when it comes to taking care of my own business and personal needs, but great at it when I’m working on projects for clients. We all need time to just sit and think because it helps us not only come up with solutions and processes but helps us put them in perspective and order so we’re not just jumping into things all willy-nilly (Who came up with that phrase anyway? Maybe this?) without direction, thus wasting time. Some of #2 can be devoted to this, but only the set up process; at least that’s how I see it.

There you go, some specific ways to help us all be more productive in 2015!

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How quickly things change. It was only 3 years ago that I was spending Christmas totally by myself. My wife was working out of town and couldn’t come home, my mother was sharing Christmas with others, and my grandmother had passed away months earlier. It was kind of a sad and lonely Christmas day, and yet not that much different than many other days I was having at the time.

Me and cup

Three years later and things are much different. I’ll be spending Christmas Eve with my mother and much of Christmas day, then spending the rest with my wife and some of her friends for dinner. I had a wild ride of a year with all my travels and, as I was looking back at some things last night, I realized that I’d had lots of travels in 2013 also.

What a year I had. I had one client where I did a lot of work with for the year and that was special. I had another client I did a little bit of work for, that has decided not to pay me for the last bit of it; won’t respond to letters or email… nada, zip. Not sure what I’m going to do with that but it doesn’t negate the other.

I had a breakthrough and finally finished the major edit of my second book, which I have people reading right now. It’s a compilation of my earliest newsletters on leadership and some of the early blog posts from here. Turns out I had to rewrite most of the early ones, some turning into two posts, which explains why it took so long to do. Still, it’s done and I have some people reading it to make sure it’s easy to understand.

And I met a lot of new people, almost all of them wonderful and grateful at the same time. I mean, last Christmas I was tipping almost everyone $20 for what some might consider mundane things, including fast food orders. Yeah, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but I wanted to show gratitude in my own way for people being so nice and helping to make my life more enjoyable.

At the office, even though I was in a different type of consulting mode, I still bought cakes for both the office and people at the hotel, and it was smiles all around.

Whether you’re in a leadership capacity, client yourself, friend or even a casual stranger, it never hurts to be nice to people, and when you have an opportunity to be even nicer, good things come to you in ways you’ll never imagine. For instance, by tipping this one guy $20 at a small restaurant in the airport in Washington D.C., every once in a while over the year of 2014 he’d see me, wave me over, and give me a small tub of chocolate gelato absolutely free; isn’t that nice?

Nice always goes a long way. I wish nothing but the best for everyone this holiday season, and I hope you give “nice” a try. You’ll be amazed! :-)

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I’ve been pretty quiet here about some of the things that have been going on lately regarding what I’ll term diversity issues. I don’t think I need to mention the names of any cities or any individuals or any of the particular actions for anyone to know what’s been going on.

Stop Police Brutality, No Justice No Peace
Thomas Hawk via Compfight

I have given my opinion and shared thoughts and information on other platforms, including one of my YouTube channels. Self expression during troubled times is a right of all of us and I’ve had some feelings I’ve needed to express. It’s that part of the diversity issue I want to address today because it’s relevant to business and leaders who might not know how to handle things with some employees right now.

The first thing to get out of the way is that when events like this occur, and it seems to involve race, religion, or any other thing that categorizes us, it’s not really an issue just for those groups of folks… it’s a “people” issue, which means it’s everyone’s issue. You can try to dodge the issue thinking it has nothing to do with you, or you might feel it’s only your issue and no one else can understand, and you might be right… but it’s not fully correct.

The thing with an issue like this is how people in general sometimes act when they assume positions of power, and how other people react when they have to view people in positions of power. Whereas the recent events all seem to point at one thing over another, truth be told this isn’t anything that hasn’t happened in the past, and it’s not anything that hasn’t happened to other groups of people.

All we have to do is look back at our history, and not even all that far back. The 60’s were replete with lots of civil action against authority, trying to get rights for people who’d been subjugated in some fashion. There were civil rights protests, protests against the war in Vietnam, protests against police brutality in Chicago and other cities… over and over these things happened. And it wasn’t just black people who were victims of the police; people of all religions and all racial backgrounds were beaten and arrested and killed.

This isn’t a condemnation of the police either. I acknowledge that they have a tough job to do overall. “Protect and serve” means that when people are in trouble, being robbed, being hurt or having to figure out what kind of action to take against someone who might be looking to make a larger statement of some kind, that we look towards law enforcement to come up with the solutions because they have the training and the background to take on the challenge; it’s their job.

What it is instead if a way of relating the problem with police to the problems of many leaders overall, that being the lack of proper training.

One of my laments about health care leadership is that most of the people who are promoted into positions of leadership often don’t have any real leadership training but lots of technical training. Having the ability to know the ins and outs of medical issues doesn’t immediately qualify someone for leadership.

The same goes for law enforcement and, indirectly, the military. Sure, those at the top get some leadership training many times, but leadership isn’t a trickle down process that someone take in by osmosis.

Without as much training in leadership and people skills as there is with skills with firearms or physical take downs we get people who are trained to kill without learning how to process situations like true leaders do so they can make proper decisions.

MLK - peace rally - gainesville, florida - corner of university and 13th
Therese Flanagan via Compfight

I know someone’s probably thinking “front line soldiers and police officers aren’t real leaders”; oh really? When there’s a situation and a cop arrives on the scene who’s leading at that moment? When a soldier kicks in a door and points a rifle at someone or many people who’s in the leadership at that time? In those types of situations wouldn’t it help if someone had some leadership training that could help them make proper decisions instead of rash decisions?

The problem with most of the situations we’ve seen lately is that none of these situations were critical when the incidents occurred. In only one incident has an officer said he felt like he was in danger, yet early on that particular officer, who, it turns out, had limited experience and, if protocol had been followed, shouldn’t have been out on call by himself, had no fear and wasn’t under any threat. If there’s no real threat doesn’t that mean evaluation skills were lacking? Isn’t that a byproduct of teaching someone leadership skills?

That all the recent victims have been of one race has led to protests and riots across the country has been distressing, and it’s easy to get caught up in that. But since it’s something that keeps happening, and has happened for multiple decades now, and has involved people of all ages and all backgrounds, isn’t it time to look for real solutions to try to stop these things? When all is said and done, isn’t all of this a leadership problem?

As a disclaimer I’ll admit that I had to work through some anger to come to this conclusion. I don’t want to hate the police; I don’t want to fear the police or mistrust the police. Instead of just castigating someone and ranting and raving on a continuous basis I thought it was time to discuss issues critically.

I recognize that something that’s this embedded and has been for so long requires first a potential answer, then a potential solution, and finally a potential process to push things towards more positive results.

I’ve started the first part. It’s hard to have a real dialogue unless people are ready for it. It’s hard to have a productive dialogue unless there are some people in the room with leadership skills, whether they’re in the lead position or not. It’s hard to affect change without leaders leading the way.

So it’s not simple, but I think it’s workable. Anyone agree?

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Almost everyone has heard the term “tough love”. It seems to mean different things to different people, and until you’ve gone through something where you have to perform it on someone, you never really get it right.

Bright Eyes
Creative Commons License Jose Roberto V Moraes
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Recently I’ve had to dole out a little bit of tough love. I’m not going into the details, but suffice is to say that I had to do a lot of soul searching and have some pretty serious conversations with my wife before I realized what had to be done. I think all the time I knew I had to take a stand, not only for my own mental comfort but, in my own way, to try to help the person who needed it.

Frankly, as I thought about it, tough love comes about because someone isn’t responding to the normal interactions you either used to have or should be having with someone. If they don’t listen to any advice you give them when they ask for it, or they’re asking you to do something they know you couldn’t possibly be comfortable with, or you realize that you can’t trust them alone in your house or even with you in the house or business, you have to take action of some kind; that’s what tough love is.

A lot of people have had to dole out tough love in their personal lives. This is my first time ever having to deal with it but my wife has dealt with it multiple times. Thus, she was a perfect person to talk to, and her advice helped me solidify my mindset. I have to tell you that it was as tough on me as it was on the person I had to administer it to, although that person would probably never see it that way. In the end though, it had to be done.

So, what about business tough love? Exactly what kind of incident, or behavior, would have to occur before one decided it was time to administer a bit of tough love?

Truthfully, I don’t think there’s any such thing as tough love in business, although I’m sure I’ll have some people disagree with me. What I think some people might be interpreting as tough love in business is actually a lack of true leadership skills.

In essence, a person who has to administer what they consider as tough love in business probably hasn’t been doing the things they should have been doing, and are unwilling to fully do what they need to do. They probably haven’t been monitoring an employee well over the course of time. They probably haven’t been giving performance appraisals more often than once a year. They have probably seen a change in behavior, know what’s behind it, but haven’t attempted to address it in any way and let things get so bad that they’re now forced to take action.

Felipe Morin via Compfight

What makes me say this? Because at least twice in my life as a director I took it upon myself to talk to someone I noticed had changed and knew they were going through something. Both times I addressed it within two weeks, feeling I had to give the person at least a little bit of time to come to grips with what was going on.

At the point where I knew I had to do something I did. I knew the person needed to be spoken to because I monitored everyone, and I talked to employees regularly. I paid attention because I didn’t want anything going on in a person’s personal life to alter the mood of everyone else in a negative way; our department, our business, just couldn’t work properly.

So I spoke to each person, told them what I saw, talked a bit about their issue (I never brought that part up but they wanted to talk) and, in my own way, helped each employee figure out the way to go to help them resolve their issue.

The thing is, I don’t consider any of that tough love; I didn’t then and I don’t now. Even though I cared, I didn’t have a personal stake in any of it. I did what I did because it was expected of me. I had a job to do that I was being paid for and I did it. After all, that’s what true leaders are supposed to do. I was kind though, and I cared how I spoke to them because I knew each person was hurting, and I knew why.

In my opinion (it’s important to stress it that way), there should never be any sort of tough love when it comes to employees. If you have to help them or let them go, that’s your job. You may be doing it to help them but in the long run you’re doing it to protect the interest of your department and your company.

That’s a far cry from doing to try to help someone you love.

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