Who are we becoming?

“When you see something, say something” applies to all areas of our life.  How we respond to what we see defines who we are—we continually assess what is right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair and true or false.  There’s no escaping it: as human beings we constantly filter, and we choose who we are in each moment.  Now, in the swirl of issues in the news, I wonder who are we becoming. For example,

  • After his three-year-old son was taken from him at the border, a detained Honduran man committed suicide. Border patrol agents actually have a technical term for his action: “suicide in custody.”
  • Each day, 67 children, including nursing infants, are taken from their families and warehoused in tents and formerly abandoned buildings—detention centers in the United States of America? As of May 29, over 10,000children are in U.S. custody.  And what happens to them?  If placed in foster homes, what is the likelihood of them being 
    abused?  Is this OK?
  • At home, women and children who live in subsidized public housing face a different peril. Ben Carson at HUD has announced that rents will triple which means that one million children  are a risk of homelessness.

The typical household affected by the minimum rent increase would be a single mother of two, earning a median income of $2,400 a year — or $200 a month, Sard said. After paying $150 for rent, that would leave just $50 to stretch for the month for diapers, toiletries, bus fare and other necessities not covered by food stamps.

And, remember that this housing initiative is being driven by a man who in his first week in office compared African slaves to immigrants seeking a better life.  Is this who we are?

Is this what we want?  Has our moral compass gone haywire?  When we know that the working poor in this country live pay check to pay check and that an unexpected $500 medical bill, car repair, or refrigerator replacement will send their lives into a tailspin.  Although the recent tax “relief” policy was billed as helping the middle class and the poor, the fact is that it benefits the rich and will leave our children and grandchildren witha mountain of debt.

There are countless examples that cause me to ask “who are we becoming?” and I am certain that you have your own hot button issues that cause you to go apoplectic.  Examples can be found in the actions, policies and rhetoric of almost every government agency, the judiciary and Congress.  They can also be found in the actions and inactions of business leaders. Why are they silent?    Where is the leadership?

All I can say is, thank God for the 300 Roman Catholic bishops.  They note a rift in our moral fabric and they don’t like who we are becoming.  The bishops, like Pope Francis, have stepped in to fill the leadership vacuum. They are making their voices heard:

“Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral,” and it must stop.  “The United States is now openly before the world using children as pawns to enforce a hostile immigration policy…. This strategy is morally unacceptable and denies the clear danger weighing upon those seeking our assistance.”

The archbishop of Chicago declared that “This is a new moment” and I wholeheartedly agree.  And, I applaud Senator Joe Kennedy and marching to protest the in humanity of separating children from their parents. Joe Kennedy seized the moment and now it is up to us. It is the moment — to true-up our moral compass.



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225th Blog— Time to redirect

Dear Readers,

I have to pinch myself—each week for 225 weeks I have written and posted a weekly blog.  What began as an effort to invite you to a coaching conversation with me about your professional development has turned into an exploration of the issues that hit us —- ready or not— as we navigate our careers and our lives,   Thank you for being in a dialogue with me for almost 52 months.

52 months is almost four years a good time press the pause button and redirect.  How?  I am filling my life with new experiences:  My motto—say “yes” to invitations—jump  in, engage, experiment, and explore.  When I look out at the world I see that there is so much to see, do and contribute.    I think “Oh the places I will go”. I am open and filled with curiosity and wonder.

As you know, getting there and staying there doesn’t mean staying put or sticking with the status quo—continue to be aware of the dynamics of your world and adjust and align accordingly. OK?   So, keep up the good work.

Join me and take a bold step.  I will post blogs once each month to stay in touch.

Peace be with you,



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What if you were $500.00 away from debt?

Gaps by class –wealthy, middle and low, economic opportunity and well-being are growing wider in our country and indeed in the world.  Yes, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer and you don’t have to take a political stance to appreciate this trend.   

Fifty-seven percent of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $500 unexpected expense   

“If you have a car, a house or apartment, a pet, or a kid – if you’re a member of the human race – something that costs money is bound to go wrong

Imagine being $500.00 away from disaster when an unexpected event occurred. The reality is that most of us cannot and we wonder why someone could end up in such a situation—they need to work harder, save more, spend less.

However, if you could imagine being in such a situation you  can probably see how stressful it is to worry that when the  refrigerator stops working you won’t have the money to fix it.   A constant state of stress, worry and fear with the ripple effect:  not able to pay your rent, borrowing from friends/family knowing you will not be able to pay it back or going deeper into credit card debt.  And with these actions comes shame and isolation:  don’t tell anyone.

I wonder if the real divisiveness we are experiencing is between these new categories of have and have-nots who are both connected and isolated in various social media.    We feel for some and not for others; we reach out a hand, shake a finger, or close our fist to some. 

 In his book The Empathy Gap:  Building Bridges to the Good Life and the Good Society, J.D. Trout begins by offering the following definition: 

Empathy is the capacity to accurately understand the position of others—to feel that “this could happen me”.

If you are going about your daily routines, dropping $500.00 on a shopping outing or much more on vacation you are likely to be far from “this could happen to me”.  We think that we are far  from the person hoovering near debt.  But, think again.  Think about the people around you—especially the ones providing a service:  I think about my shoe salesman at Lord & Taylor as I shop the year end sales for my favorite brand — Stuart Weitzman’s .  I noticed that his shoes are well worn, he could use a new heel—a new pair.  I wonder, what does he earn per hour?  Could he purchase these sale item shoes that I am looking at for his wife? 

There is a gap:  for the most part we ignore it.  A simple action is required:    we can fill it with understanding, kindness, generosity, compassion and our empathy. 

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Empathy and fear don’t mix

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And a child shall lead them

We’re children,” he said. “You guys are the adults.”

“We’re angry, we’re pissed, we’re ready for action” … “We are ready to make ourselves be heard.”

On Valentine’s Day the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School students lost their innocence – their hearts broke as they ran for their lives, hid in closets and under desks or barricaded themselves in their classrooms.  Code Red.  Lock down. It had been drilled into them.  They knew what to do but a drill didn’t prepare them for the fear that engulfed them as they texted their moms and dads, their cell phones a lifeline, a modern day umbilical cord.

In the midst of all of this, student journalist David Hogg began interviewing his fellow students—not only the common sense thing for a journalist to do, but also a courageous action to use social media to speak out and “go live.”  He asked a fellow student what she wanted to say and she replied, “You see us hiding and should know that this shouldn’t be happening any more.” Seventeen lives lost.

Valentine’s Day.  The whole world watched as the second most deadly school shooting unfolded with voices, video and fear shared in real time not by the news media but by a student’s—the students were speaking out during the shooting.

This was different—the event was not disintermediated—it was not told by a third party. And the clear, apolitical voice of the students came through.

We’re children,” … “You guys are the adults.”

“We’re angry, we’re pissed, we’re ready for action,” …. “We are ready to make ourselves be heard.”


We are going to be the last mass shooting.  March 14:  National School Walk Out.  

March 24, 2018.  March for our lives.  The time is now.

On Valentine’s Day the students became activist.   They have become radicalized—in a good way—they are provocateurs, leaders and true agents of change, and as result, their call for “no more BS” is changing all of us.  They know how to capture and hold our attention:  We see them and we hear them—no more BS. 

 If my mother were alive to witness these actions she would say that the Parkland students remind her of the courageousness of the school children in Soweto, South Africa.  And, she would quote Isaiah 11.6 to describe the future that awaits.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them 


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Let’s put the president back into presidents day

It seems ironic that in order to create more three-day weekends on the federal calendar that Abe Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays have moved from their actual dates of February 12 and 22 to today –the third Monday in February.  As a former government employee, I looked forward to this Monday off especially in such a dreary, wintry month.  However, it reminds me of the changes they made to the old Cambridge burying ground—all the tombstones were put in a more linear pattern so that mowing the lawn could be accomplished with ease.

Yes, it is easier to mow and to walk through the cemetery but I always wonder—did they move the coffins, too? When they “moved” Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, celebrating both on the third Monday, the result was to separate the individual Presidents from the day and effectively celebrate neither. The new holiday has stretched to a weekend filled with sales, sales and more sales.

Today is Presidents Day and we celebrate not only past presidents but also the office of the President. Being president is an honor and a burden;  it is a life altering experience held only by forty four Americans.  We have high hopes and (until recently) trust that the President will take action to make the country and our future more secure.   We celebrate and have gratitude for  the quality of life our Presidents envisioned, advocated and fought for that determines the quality of the life we now live. 

The words of John F. Kennedy during his third state of the union embody the weight and the promise of the Office:

 The choices we make, for good or ill, will affect the welfare of generations yet unborn. ….., The incidence of mental retardation in this country is three times as high as that of Sweden, for example–and that figure can and must be reduced

.–And the most precious and powerful right in the world, the right to vote in a free American election, must not be denied to any citizen on grounds of his race or color. I wish that all qualified Americans permitted to vote were willing to vote, but surely in this centennial year of Emancipation all those who are willing to vote should always be permitted.

Today is a good day to pause in our busy lives to remember all the men (so far, just men!) who have carried this awesome responsibility, who do so now, and who will in the years to come.

Now consider the following questions:

  • What President do you most admire?  Why?
  •  What is their legacy?
  •  How do you describe their leadership style? Values? Ethics?
  • How did they inspire our country? 
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Leadership and likeability

Q: When I took over the group, I inherited the most unlikeable person. Firing this person is not an option because morale is already low and retention is a problem.  How do I make this group a team?  

A:  You can’t lead someone if you don’t like them and the opposite is true, they won’t follow you if they don’t like you.  Leading and following is based on relate-ability and being related is based on likeability.  Sounds simple, but many clients initially reject this reality and say,  “I am good at hiding my feelings, they don’t know how I feel about them.” 

Of course, that is not true.  To test this belief, think about a time you were with a person and you knew they didn’t like you.  So, if you can tell how someone feels, why do you think that they can’t tell?  We almost always get the message.   No hiding your feelings.  So, step back – clear the slate– and take another look at this person:

  • What does this person do that you value?
  • Does this individual have specific expertise or competency that you need for the group’s success?
  • What are the strengths and value of this individual’s social network or professional connections?
  • What is this person’s professional ambition? Aspirations?
  • Who does this person get along with? What are the qualities that others see that you may have overlooked?

You will have to suspend judgement to give this relationship a second chance.  And it will be up to you to do the work—don’t expect the other person to change:  The leader always sets the tone for the group.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, go ahead and give it a try:  some of the strongest relationships emerge from the most unlikely beginnings. 




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Time to up your game?

Q:  My sales goals this year are a hurdle, not a stretch!  I have to hit metrics that no one else had to hit for their promotion—why me?

A: When clients ask “why me?” I remind them that it isn’t personal—it isn’t about you.  “Faster, higher, cheaper and better” is the mantra that drives actions and expectations.  We raise the bar and set new goals.  It is easy to get caught up in it as we watch the twist and turns of the Dow on its way to breaking 27,000 and then  plunging 1,000 points.  

With the Olympics on this week I think about the fact that snowboarder phenome Shaun White—AKA “The Flying Tomato”—scored a perfect 100 in the half pipe.  No one expected skaters to perform a quadruple and now Nathan Chen landed five quads to secure his place on the team.   Erin Jackson breaks expectations as the first African American woman on the long-track speed skating team and her place on the team is even more extraordinary in that she transformed her success in roller blading to success on the ice in only four months.  She joins seventeen-year-old Maame Biney—also black– who will skate the short track.  

And, if the Olympics are not your cup of tea, remember that Roger Federer smashed expectations by winning his 20th Grand Slam.

Federer, like Serena Williams, has redefined the limits. After going nearly five years without a major, he has now won three of the last five Grand Slam tournaments.

Records are being broken in every profession and we collectively expect higher, faster, better.   It’s unavoidable and the name of the game:  Set a high bar with the intention of leaving the competition behind.  Choosing complacency is not an option.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the folks at the top of their game don’t wait for or rely on external competition, they set their own goals.  For example, Elon Musk’s audacious promise to move Tesla’s valuation to $650B by 2028:

To put it in context, only three companies had a market value of more than $650bn at the end of 2017: Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google’s parent). GM’s market capitalisation is $61.5bn and Ford is worth $41bn. 

According to Tesla:  The new scheme is modelled on an earlier arrangement, which required Tesla’s market value to rise in $4bn increments, with testing targets set against the Model X SUV and the Model 3, …Tesla said these targets were seen as “testing” at the time. But nine out of 10 were hit.

I hope that these examples encourage you to view your 2018 performance goals not as a hurdle but an opportunity to take your game to a new level.  Few of us have the courage of Elon Musk.  So, face the fact that the bar is always going to be raised higher; either you can raise it or someone else will. Consider the following: 

  • Are you in the game or sidelined?
  • How quickly will you respond?
  • What do you need to be successful?
  • How will you make the new metrics your choice?

And as we turn our attention to Pyeongchang, remember that the Olympic motto is  “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” 

Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony 2/9

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It’s time to punt

Q:  I feel like I’m being forced to have some “fun” I’d much rather skip. The Global Head invited our group to a Super Bowl Party — significant others are welcome.   For years, I’ve had a tradition of watching at home with my friends. Folks at the office are all excited and I’m feeling the pressure to go.  How do I get out of it? 

A:  You should not have to break long-standing traditions for work obligations.  I wonder if poor communications are at the root of your current situation.  I can’t imagine that a senior manager would come up with the idea for a Super Bowl party one week before the event without the group’s buy in.   So, let’s call a flag on the play and ask:  

  • On what date did the Global Head extend this invitation?
  • How did the idea come up for a Super Bowl Party? Were other options discussed?
  • Did you participate in the discussion? Yes or no?
  • When did you know you had a conflict?
  • Did you let tell the group that you would not be able to attend? Yes or no?
  • Did anyone else voice concerns?
  • Did you go along to get along?
  • Does the Global Head believe that s/he has 100% buy in?

If the awful truth is that you sat silently, then I immediately wonder why someone at your level would feel the pressure to conform.

  • Are you on shaky ground in your role? Results? Relationships?

I don’t need to remind you that one week before an event is no time to bow out or to make excuses.  My advice is to enjoy the day.  No sulking, no leaving early and no wishing you were someplace else:  Put yourself on the field and in the game with your colleagues and Global Head and use the time to deepen relationships.  Have fun.

To ensure that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation in the future, remember that time with friends and family is sacred.  It is up to you to hold fast to your time and to not pretend that you can be in two places at once, or that you can make it work, or that you will get out of the situation somehow.  Make your life stress-free—answer with a clear yes or no as soon as the invitation is extended. 

As for me:  Go Patriots!  


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Have you scheduled your future?

Q:  Lean staff and long hours, I don’t know how I am going to get through this year.  It’s only January and I am swamped.  Help.

A:  It is easy to feel swamped when you are mired in demanding activities without a clear sight line to a future. Without the hope of a different future we typically narrow our focus, dig in and start ticking off items one by one.  Most of us end up with our heads down and our dreams on hold.  We end up counting down the hours to the end of the day, and the days to the end of week or marking the number of months to year end and in the process life dips from joy to drudgery; from ½ full to ½ empty.  Ugh.

Why?  The answer is simple, we human beings need a future to live into which is more meaningful and rewarding than today.  Without a future; no hope.  Remember that a future is more than goal setting so think broadly about the quality of your life and the realization of your aspirations. OK?

  • What is your ambition?  
  • What is missing in your work life?
  • Do you have a career or do you have a job?
  • What are the skills, knowledge and capacities that you will enhance in your current role?
  • How will success in this role prepare you for your next two steps?
  • Are you on track?

Of course, your future isn’t limited to work, work, work.  Don’t forget to schedule your friends, families, special occasions, time to chill out, and opportunities to expand in your calendar.  You may think that scheduling family/personal time will make it less fun but consider the alternative:  if it isn’t scheduled it is not going to happen.  

Now, you have a choice stay in the swamp or climb out. Why not begin by scheduling your 2018 vacation and stay-cations? Just thinking about a trip to the South America, Europe or 
a no-agenda, no responsibility weekend at home will give you the oomph you need to manage and be successful in your current environment. 


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