Three Ingredients to Leadership Success

Late night TV is like the Superbowl: The show that’s on? Sure, it’s mildly interesting. But, the commercials? Those are the real entertainment! (Disclaimer…it has been a long time since I’ve watched either the Superbowl or late night TV. Feel free to tell me if something has changed!)

Some of my favorite commercials are the ones with a sculpted model with single digit body fat “working away the pounds in just minutes a day!” This is frequently accomplished with an “ab machine” that is based off of a rocking chair.

The other ones I enjoy are the miracle pills that help you lose all your holiday weight in just weeks – no workout or diet required! Before? Chubby, pale middle-aged man or woman with slouched shoulders, bad lighting and a slightly depressed look on their face. After? Muscular, tanned man or woman, standing straight and proud, fantastic lighting, hair done, make-up polished and a look of confidence. ... READ MORE »

Guiding the Invisible

Years ago, I worked with a client organization that demonstrated two fantastic qualities: high dedication to their mission and long staff tenures.

They also demonstrated two negative qualities: chronic, low level conflicts and management avoidance of problem behavior within staff.

A year or so later, I was hired by a different department within the same organization. This department was completely different, in terms of the nature of its work; however, it shared identical positive and negative qualities. ... READ MORE »

Attitude and Success

By some measures, I’ve been successful as a leader. I’ve started businesses, non-profits and schools in war-torn countries. I worked with orphans, created jobs, and rebuilt economies after natural disasters. I’ve worked on projects with UN agencies, various militaries, state and local governments in the US and abroad.

Despite this, several years ago, I felt deeply frustrated. I wasn’t sure that I was accomplishing what I wanted. Personally, I was just barely making it financially. I frequently felt stressed and overwhelmed. My relationships suffered as a result. I felt the incongruence between the services I provided and the reality that I lived. I was frequently critical of others. I operated from an attitude of scarcity.

I got tired of it. ... READ MORE »

The Story Behind the Name: Vantage Consulting

The Inupiat Eskimo tradition of the blanket toss, or nalukataq, is an image that strongly resonates with me. While brainstorming names and logos for Vantage Consulting, the nalukataq was an image that came to mind. If you aren’t familiar with it, the contemporary blanket toss is most often related to as feat of skill and a part of Inupiat celebrations. However, originally, it was a tool for hunting and providing for the community.

Hunters or whalers would gather around a blanket sewn of skins. One would climb onto the blanket. The group would quickly snap the blanket tight, flinging the spotter up into the air. While airborne, the spotter could scout over sea ice and terrain for whales or caribou.

The image featured alongside this article was captured by Alaskan Bill Hess. ... READ MORE »

Are You Designing Failure?

Someone should create and produce a TV series about traffic engineers. Really. It would involve lots of money, fast cars, untimely deaths and, if screened carefully, a group of good-looking people saying intelligent things that no one understands.

Perhaps, you think I’m joking. I’m not. Effective transportation departments probably save more lives than your average emergency room.

Our city has recently communicated their intention to redesign a road that I travel regularly. They’ve discovered that there is a higher than acceptable number of accidents on it. This particular road has been a major artery for our community for 60-70 years. ... READ MORE »

When Goals Get in the Way of Success

The end of the year approaches. This is a time when many of us take a moment to reflect back on, and “take stock of”, our progress professionally and personally.

Many of us also look forward and set goals regarding where we would like to be next year.

Of course, some of us avoid either activity! ... READ MORE »

How Conflict Builds Trust

One of my closest friends, Kris, is a contractor. Years ago, he needed some quick help on a commercial remodel. I have extensive ‘go-fer’ experience and agreed to help him for a day. The job was about 45 minutes away in another town. He picked me up early in the morning and we drove there together.

Around midday, I received an urgent personal call. I ducked into a quiet room to talk for about an hour.

When I returned and began working, I could tell Kris was upset. At first, he fumed a little. Then he erupted, accusing me of not asking permission to leave the job site and for expecting to get paid after not working. ... READ MORE »

What Conflict Will Tell You If You Listen

Years ago, I got into an argument with someone I deeply respect and view as a mentor. Both of us were slowly ratcheting up. I didn’t like arguing with him; but I also wanted to hold my ground. So, I strapped myself onto my “emotional rocket” and was ready to go. Just as I was beginning launch, and commit whole-heartedly to the dispute, he suddenly stopped.

He looked at me and said, “I don’t know why I’m responding the way I am right now. It’s out of proportion to what we’re talking about. I need to reflect on what is going on in me and get back with you on the topic. Excuse me.”

I was stunned. I thought everyone (where conflict wasn’t avoided) jumped on their “emotional rockets” and just took off. I had never seen anyone stop, mid-launch, and say, “Nope, that’s not the right direction.” ... READ MORE »

Of Rats and Men

(and women, children, employees, students and, of course...rats.)

As happens in the hallowed halls of Harvard, two sets of students were given two different groups of rats to run through a maze.

Dr. Robert Rosenthal, who supervised the experiment, informed the students that one set of the rats were "Bright" - smart and good at running mazes. The other set of rats were introduced as "Dull" – slow and easily confused in a maze. ... READ MORE »

Why Conflict is Good

Conflict. It’s good. It’s an opportunity. It’s a pivot point from which new understanding can emerge and new strengths are developed. Embrace it.

Some conflicts aren’t good (I lied a little bit, above, for effect.) When aliens attack – that’s not good. When the crazy person sues for no good reason – that’s not good. When your employer isn’t making the choices they need to make to stay competitive or fund your position – that may not be good.

However, most conflicts that occur at work are good. Or, at least, they are opportunities from which good can be created. Many of those opportunities are so rich with possibility that you may actually be better off for having the conflict to begin with. ... READ MORE »