This photograph was taken sometime in 1982. Today’s episode is from the now unpublished archives. It was recorded on Friday, May 11, 2012. I resurrected it because recent client work went where it always seems to go sooner than later. Personal. Struggles. Sorrows. Challenges. Opportunities. It made me think about how we’re human, all of us. Sharing many similar feelings and emotions. It doesn’t matter if we’re high-performers or average-performers. That whole “check your personal problems at the door” nonsense is impractical and unrealistic. With that context, I bring you today’s show from 2012. Below are the original show notes to the episode. -Randy
Some time ago I was listening to a businessman explain his operation. Every industry has a language all its own. This man’s industry was wealth management. During the conversation, he used this phrase, “Guaranteed lifetime benefit.”
My mind wandered.
Wealth management? I muted myself on the phone (thankfully this conversation wasn’t face-to-face) in order to avoid having my chuckle heard. It struck me funny to think about a person who might have an opposite business model, poverty management. I think I could help a lot more people manage their poverty. Of course the problem is obvious. They wouldn’t be able to pay me.
But it was the other phrase that captivated me. And lingered on days after the conversation ended.
Guaranteed Lifetime Benefit
For days I considered that phrase. I thought, “What are the guaranteed lifetime benefits in my life?”
The question morphed into perhaps a better question that serves as the headline of these show notes, “Where are my guaranteed lifetime benefits?” Where are yours?
Days later. Miles later. Sleepless nights later. I realized my first answer was right all along.
Camille Neyhouser is the Owner and Founder of Repassionate Your Organization (RYO). Camille helps organizations revolutionize their vision, employee motivation & engagement, productivity, and income. She helps leaders build/rebuild their organizations with passion, purpose & inner power.
Prior to founding her own company, Camille had a 14-year career with the most reputable international development not-for-profit organizations. She has a double Master’s Degree in International Development and a Professional Doctorate in Public Health / Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management. She did her doctoral thesis on, Building A Learning Organization By Design, Not By Accident.
She’s French by origin, but a citizen of the world having lived and traveled extensively. Today she joins us from her home in Florence, Italy.
We had a lovely conversation about her work, why she got started in this work, and some insights from her work that can propel us forward in our own journey. You’ll find value because Camille is a high-value person. Enjoy.
In 2006 two of my favorite business management writers Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton published an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, Evidence-Based Management. Sheri’s work focuses on providing clients evidence upon which improvements can be not only measured but improved. Connect with her on Linkedin.
As we strive to accelerate our own human performance and those around us, it’s increasingly vital that we take advantage of the tools that can enable us to see more our outcomes more accurately. We all prefer to think that the things we’re doing are accomplishing the desired goals, but what if they’re not. In fact, what if they’re working against what we hope to accomplish?
You hear me say it often. We’re here to help you figure it out. Sheri’s company is focused on using hard science coupled with psychology and organizational behavior to help clients do exactly that.
Last Tuesday was February 2nd, 2021 – Groundhog Day. AMC played the movie staring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell on constant repeat all day that day. I know ’cause I watched it twice.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a 96% on the Tomatometer. Here’s how they summarize the movie, for you slackards who have never seen it:
Phil (Bill Murray), a weatherman, is out to cover the annual emergence of the groundhog from its hole. He gets caught in a blizzard that he didn’t predict and finds himself trapped in a time warp. He is doomed to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right.
It’s a classic and I have a tough time resisting whenever it’s on. True confession.
Phil, Bill Murray’s character, not the groundhog, starts off as a self-indulgent jerk TV weatherman. Rude, crude, and obnoxious, it takes repeating Groundhog Day over and over and over before it slowly dawns on him there’s a better way to spend his one day that’s stuck on repeat. The movie was one of the funniest movies of the 1990s, but when I first saw it I wondered – as many viewers did – how I might spend my time if I were stuck repeating one day over and over.
On February 10, 2014 Bill Murray was on The Charlie Rose Show where he was asked a question that prompted an answer you wouldn’t expect from a guy as funny as Bill. Bill’s answer speaks directly to the lessons in time management taught by the movie, Groundhog Day. The primary lesson being what Bill told Charlie Rose – being present. Being in the moment. For Bill’s character in the movie, it was drilled down further into thoughtfulness. Being helpful. And kind.
Those are the lessons I find most valuable in the movie. And yes, it seems to me they all – every single one of them – deal with time management because they address the questions:
What will I do with my time?
How will I spend my time?
Pull the covers back further and I think time management is really about what matters most to us. Not what should matter most. But what DOES matter most. Because that’s what we do with our time. We spend it or invest it where we want to.
I know, I know. I can hear you protesting, “I don’t have control of my time. I have a boss. I have other people who tell me what to do.” Let’s get something clear. We all have people and things that impose on our schedule. But we still have a choice.
Do you remember the TV show, The Wonder Years? IMDB says this about the show, “The series depicts the social and family life of a boy in a typical American suburban middle-class family from 1968 to 1973, covering the ages of 12 through 17.” It closely mirrors the years when I was in that age range. In season 2 the main character, Kevin, is in junior high. The Viet Nam war is raging and the student council decides they want to walk out of homeroom class one day and all go out to the football field of the school. The Assistant Principal finds out about the plan and warns them that students who walk out of class without authorization will be suspended and it will become part of their permanent record. He overly stresses the word “permanent” causing them to fear not being able to get a job or anything else…all because they walked out of a single class in junior high. Well, the teacher advising the student council neither pushes or prevents their decision. He simply asks them direct questions. As the Principal’s threats intensify, the advising teacher asks the students how important it is to them to stand against the Viet Nam war. In short, he asks, “Are you willing to suffer the consequences? Is it that important to you?” Turns out it is and every student in the school leaves homeroom, gathers on the football field where, in unison, they sing, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Nobody gets suspended.
What we choose to do is what we choose to do. Our time is still ours. It belongs exclusively to us. We can and often do choose to let others – like a boss or somebody in authority over us – impose on our time. In return, we’re good, productive employees. In return, we get paid and earn income. In return, we receive a number of positives. Else, why do it? It’s still our time and like those junior high kids protesting the Viet Nam war in their small way…we make up our mind to accept the consequences or rewards of spending our time on something we deem important.
It’s still up to us to set the priority – how we’ll spend our time.
168 hours a week. 24 hours a day.
Every human has exactly the same amount. It’s the one element of life where we’re all equal.
The one area where we’re not equal is our wisdom in how we spend our time. What’s important varies from person to person. The intensity of that importance also varies. “How much do you want it?” is a common refrain to illustrate focus or desire. Presumably, the higher the desire the higher the commitment, but you and I both know that life isn’t that simple. Or easy.
I’ve had desperate times in my life just like you. Think about a time – maybe right now – when you felt desperate. Desperate to achieve something. Desperate to improve something. So you try harder, right? Yeah, me too. I don’t know how that worked out for you, but it usually didn’t work out for me.
I’m a hockey fan and in hockey, a goal scorer, like a baseball hitter, can hit a slump. Game after game without scoring a goal. Add to it the pressure of the press, a fitting name, huh? Add to it the mental stress the player puts on himself because of the expectations…and the multi-million dollar contract. It happens regularly throughout the league – the National Hockey League – and you always hear the same thing. Namely, that the player is trying, pressing, and gripping his stick too tightly. It’s as though the harder the player tries, the deeper into the slump he goes. Attend the team practice and you’ll likely see that player putting in the work, but it seems nothing works. Some players feel as though they may never score another goal.
So much for the easy assumption that life rewards us when we devote the time, attention, and work to something.
It doesn’t mean focus is unimportant. It doesn’t mean hard work isn’t required. But we love binary conceptions. Do this, get that. Do this other thing, get that other result. Always. Every single time.
Sometimes I chuckle at the cultural depictions of entrepreneurship that dramatically conflict. The hustle culture on one hand. The life of leisure on the other. Two extremes. Work, work, work and sleep 4 hours a night. Spend the rest of your time building your career or business. Versus, work 4 hours a week and spend the rest of time enjoying yourself. Which is it? For most of us, it’s neither. It’s moments of running a full sprint with your hair on fire, followed by moments where you’re not even thinking of running. Or having your hair ablaze. So it goes.
Time. What’s our best use of it? How much of it do we devote to this or that? And what do we actually do when we’re focusing time on that thing?
These are the questions that always come up in my coaching engagements because they’re important questions each of us must figure out. I’m often asked, “What’s the difference between consulting and coaching?” One day I’ll do an entire show on that, but for now, I’ll tell you how I usually respond.
Consulting is mostly viewed as a “do it for you” kind of affair. Catch a man a fish sort of thing.
Coaching is typically viewed as a “teach a person” kind of affair. Teach a man to fish thing.
Personally, that’s not my approach because I haven’t found it helpful or successful in serving clients desperate for growth and improvement. We love the term, transformation. I get it. There have been times when I wanted to transform by losing 30 pounds. By the way, the more I seemed to focus on the weight I wanted to lose the harder it seemed to be. So much for that time and attention angle! But back to my personal view of effective coaching…
My single goal in every coaching engagement is to help my clients figure it out – whatever IT is. As for the consulting versus coaching discussion, I do my best to help clients figure out if they even like fish! That’s a big difference.
That’s important because it determines where to put the effort and what to do to move forward. Historically, slumping elite professional athletes have found that sometimes the most helpful thing is to stop trying. To step away from the game. To get their mind onto something completely different. To relax. Then to come back to the game with a freshness that the slump robbed them of. In these cases, more time and effort to conquer the problem often make the problem worse. But you and I know that feeling because like my pursuit of a 30-pound weight loss, we know all too well how that happens.
Bill Murray’s character in the movie resists humility for days as he relives this same day over and over. He goes from arrogance to anger. Realizing that nothing he does matters, he kills himself by dropping a toaster into his bath, stepping in front of a city bus, driving a pickup truck into a rock quarry, and jumping from a tower. He was angry and disgusted with life during those days. Slowly the movie shows him realize that the only path forward is humility with a focus on others, not himself. He only begins to make progress when he realizes he can spend each day building toward tomorrow. Because the quirk in the equation is that while he’s reliving the same day over and over he has the memory of each day. But nobody else does. That means the epiphany arrived when he humbled himself enough to realize he could leverage each day differently, even though the date was going to remain the same. So he begins to find out more about people. He takes an interest in others. He starts serving others. He learns to play the piano. You see him morph from an arrogant self-centered TV weatherman to a bitter, angry man stuck in time to a highly-energized person who has much to do. All in a single day!
The great lessons are that arrogance sticks us while humility frees us. Self-focus makes us miserable while focusing on others provides joy. Helping others, however small or big, can dominate our calendar, allowing us to have a more positive impact on our corner of the world – and our own life.
This brings me to the big elephant in the room when it comes to lessons taught by this movie – the why of our time is important. Murray’s character at the beginning of the movie is so self-absorbed he only has an interest in himself. As a result, he’s viewed by others as a miserable human being. No one likes him. He’s unkind and utterly oblivious to how affects others. Only when he starts looking at his actions as they impact others does his life turn toward giving him all the things he’s always wanted.
It’s not just a movie. It’s your life. It’s my life. It’s how our lives – all of our lives – work.
Tommy Gonzalez is an impressively high performing leader with a vast and varied experience that includes a 22-year career in military service where he was a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army. In 2014 he was appointed the City Manager of El Paso, Texas, the 21st largest city in America with an annual budget of about $1B, a roster of over 6,000 with about 500 leaders. Tommy has helped the city achieve award-winning performance by caring about his teammates and relentlessly pursuing the best outcomes possible.
You’ll enjoy this conversation, recorded last Thursday afternoon – January 28, 2021.
Being adaptive is innate in all of us. Human beings have power no other animal has – the ability to adapt quickly! Because of our brainpower, we can adjust and adapt fast! Faster than any creatures on the planet.
Humans have the ability to project and consider various outcomes. We’re able to think about what it might be like without ever having experienced it. As we think about it we’re able to feel things as though they’re real. It helps us figure things out. And pretty quickly.
Speed is relative. Up against Usain Bolt, I would prove the point. He’s a hare. I’m a tortoise. But up against my 97-year-old father with one bad knee, I’m a hare. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.
Science indicates our lives are largely 50/50 affairs with half of our being determined by genetics and the other half our ability to alter ourselves. But it’s not a binary thing where we can just blame our poor behavior on “that’s just how I am.” It speaks to our abilities and skills. Or about our capacity to learn and perform. Mostly, it speaks to our abilities to think our way to growth. Our thoughts provide a great opportunity to become more adaptive.
To what? To anything. To everything.
Becoming more adaptive is largely about our ability to figure it out – whatever it may be. And to go a step further by making whatever adjustments benefit us.
Being adaptive – and being more adaptive – is a worthwhile pursuit that every good leader embraces, but there’s a prerequisite, humility. Today, I’m going to call it something else though because I’ve learned this is a more descriptive term.
Hear me out. I know we love to make war and sports metaphors, but not today. Today, we’re focused on our humanity. Our individual and collective ability to understand, learn, improve and grow. It’s hard work – work that has nothing to do with winning or losing as in you’re either doing one or the other. It’s about progress. A never-ending process.
We may become fully grown physically based on our height, but our growth is never complete until we die. There are things to learn. Things to improve. Deeper understanding to be had. Blind spots to be eliminated.
Surrender? Never, some may say.
This is where it gets dicey in today’s culture.
“Do more of what makes you happy.”
“Do what pleases you. Drive others crazy!”
Social media posts like these preach a false gospel of self-centeredness and selfishness. They make us think we’re the focal point of the universe. They make us think more highly of ourselves than is healthy for us.
It sounds beneficial, but it’s extremely destructive. For us as individual people and for all of us, as a collective.
If I behave in a way that suits only me, without due consideration for others, then how am I made better? Watch an untethered child who is unrestrained in any way and I’ll show you not only a miserable child but very miserable parents. And I’ll also be able to show you friends and family who are equally miserable in the presence of that child. Worse yet, the child isn’t being trained to learn better. Thinking unrestrained is freedom we’ve somehow lost our way that freedom is found in the wisdom of restraints that serve us.
Let’s consider a leader, Dean.
Dean is very capable. He’s well-educated, has tons of experience, and has a sharp mind.
But Dean is pompous, arrogant, and filled with hubris. He seeks no outside opinions. Listens only when he has to. And largely behaves – his track record shows it – with his mind already made up.
Dean’s leadership team knows they’re mostly ignored, except in presenting verifiable facts. But even then they’ll tell you, “I don’t think he trusts anything I ever tell him.” More quickly, they’ll confess that they rarely trust anything he tells them.
Dean has proven he lacks the willingness or capacity to surrender. He won’t surrender his predetermined opinions. He won’t surrender his space in a meeting to speak. He won’t surrender what he most wants. He won’t surrender any power or authority. Dean is a winner whose motto is, “Take no prisoners!” Dean sees human interaction as warfare. It’s a zero-sum game where he must win.
Like many other leaders – excuse me, BOSSES – Dean hasn’t learned the value of surrender.
He’s never felt the high value of submitting to the insights, experiences, knowledge or skill of others. He’s never considered that giving the room to somebody else can be the path toward more deeply understanding the problem. Or the proposed solutions. He’s certainly not experienced the great benefit of surrendering his pride to the reality that he’s got some very smart, capable people around him. Or that they’d jump at the opportunity to serve better if given the chance.
The result? Dean is boss. And that’s what matters most to him.
But he’s not a high performer. In spite of the fact that he thinks he is.
Jennette is also a boss. And a leader. She has 14 direct reports and leads an organization that’s about 3 times larger than Dean. Some would argue that the size of her team (and her organization) determines the differences in how she operates and how Dean operates, but that misses the point. Jennette is whip-smart and has vast experience in everything from finance to marketing to data analytics. I’m not comparing her achievements to Dean by means of putting Dean down. I simply want you to see the difference humility makes. It’s extraordinary!
Jennette assembles her leadership team together – all of them – once a week for a 90-minute meeting. She’s done that for as long as she can remember. Like a good chairperson, she simply keeps the meeting moving. “My primary goal is to listen and foster questions so everybody in the room understands,” she says. Interview her team and they’ll readily tell you how she refuses to taint the well with any opinions until people have been heard. One of the more remarkable comments made by her CFO makes the point, “You wouldn’t know she’s officially at the head of the table (he means, you wouldn’t know she’s the boss) because she’s part of the team. She’s never behaved as though she was above us or superior to us and separate from us. We’re all in this together.”
Press these executives about Jennette’s questions and you hear these comments.
“She’s not aiming to put us on the spot or back us in a corner. She’s genuinely trying to understand herself and very focused on making sure the rest of us do, too.”
“She asks great questions. I think she’s mostly interested in making sure we’re all – including her – seeing things as clearly as possible.”
“I think we’d all tell you that she’s made us better at digging and asking questions to really get down to the nitty-gritty of the issue.”
Jennette is very submissive to her curiosity and the quest for the best understanding possible. Her 14 direct reports will happily tell you they feel heard and supported. “She is my biggest ally and strongest resource,” said the company’s HR leader. “Do your peers feel the same way?” I ask. “No doubt,” she responds without a second’s hesitation. “She makes all of us feel like she’s here only to help us be as successful as possible.”
High-performance cultures are determined by what we do and how we do it. In spite of the fact that some people want to think that what we do doesn’t determine who we are – it does. It absolutely does.
A junior high student would be able to tell us which leader – Dean or Jennette – is the most adaptive. Predicting which leader has higher success, greater achievement, and a higher-performance culture — that’s not terribly challenging to figure out.
I know I’m a broken record about humility, but that’s only because it is so vital to all this. Without it, all hope is lost.
Next week I’m going to release a city government leadership episode featuring a conversation with Tommy Gonzales, the City Manager for El Paso, Texas. I hope you’ll tune in for that.