Lessons In Time Management As Taught By The Movie, Groundhog Day (Season 2021, Episode 6)

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.

Not always.

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.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

A Conversation With High-Performing Leader Tommy Gonzalez, El Paso’s City Manager (Season 2021, Episode 5)

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.

Tommy had one book recommendation, Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews.

Enjoy the conversation. And take the advice Tommy’s dad gave to him – and fitting for each of us – “Don’t say it, do it!”

Here are some additional links you may want to check out. These demonstrate Tommy’s high-performing leadership results.

What It Takes to Improve City Government: A Leadership Perspective (from the official Baldrige blog)

Tommy received the Baldrige Foundation Leadership Award in 2019

Communities of Excellence: What It Is and Why It Matters by Tommy Gonzalez

The National Civic League’s post for making El Paso an All-American City finalist

In 2019 Texas Governor Abbott reappointed Tommy to the Risk Management Board

Tommy is also the chairman of the board of Quality Texas Foundation

City of El Paso Receives Texas Award for Performance Excellence

El Paso Independent School District earns Quality Texas Foundation awards

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

This May Be The Key To Being More Adaptive (Season 2021, Episode 4)

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.

To what?

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.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Are These 7 Things As Effective As I Think? (Season 2021, Episode 03)

I’m a solopreneur. In 1994 I read my first book (I think) about being a one-person business. It was a book by Terri Lonier entitled, Working Solo. I’m not even sure why I bought the book because I was leading a fairly sized company at the time. Working solo wasn’t even on my radar. At least consciously. Maybe I wondered what it might be like to not have employees. But for some reason, I bought the book, read it, and kept it. I still have it. In fact, thanks to Linkedin I connected with Terri recently after telling her about reading her book when it was first published. Today, she’s focused on innovation.

Here we are about 27 years later and I am working solo. In fact, I’ve been working solo for the past 12 years. As with most things, extended experience can alter your point-of-view. Not that I had very many preconceived ideas about it because I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Before going solo my entire career had been spent being part of a team, an organization. Forming, developing, and maintaining high-performing teams was something I’d done for years. Maybe that’s why working solo seemed tempting. No employees. No organization, at least as far as people were concerned. No assets (’cause I was focused on a professional services business model, which began as “roll-your-sleeves-up, get-your-hands-dirty” consulting, and thankfully it naturally morphed into coaching).

But it turns out “working solo” isn’t quite literally working solo. It takes a village and all that. Yes, it can be lonely. Incredibly so. The pandemic has shown lots of people how lonely it is to work solo, even if you’re digitally connected via Zoom. But true working solo is different because you have no cohorts. No actual teammates.

Instead, you have comrades, strategic partners, friends, collaborators, and others who have to fill in to be your support system. This brings me to the conversation which sparked today’s show.

I’m asked about working solo and what is required to pull it off. I jokingly tell my questioner, “I’m still not sure I am pulling it off, but I’m trying.” 😉

It was a good question and one I hadn’t spent much time considering. Well, that’s an understatement – or maybe overstatement. I’ve given it NO thought.

Here’s the good thing about growing older. You’ve got a fair amount of experience and know-how from which to draw. And those of us who are reasonably good on our feet can leverage that to come up with answers. And sometimes – just sometimes, mind you – our answers can be pretty solid. Yes, we often stand amazed at our own prowess, we older folks! 😀

I snapped to attention at the question and said I could think of 4 things off the top of my head (I meant that literally) that were likely required. And I was not claiming to have mastered one of them, much less all four. But I confessed I’m trying very hard. Still. After a dozen years.

I replied to my inquisitive guest that I could think of these four things and I think they belong in this order.





Let me explain.

Humility has more components than I’m able to name, but I know it’s vital to our ability to improve and increase our understanding. People who lack humility need no help, no advice, and no support. They only need minions. They have all the answers. They just need people who will acknowledge their prowess and say, “Thank you, sir. May I have another!”

I began with humility because from it stem so many positive things. And without it, there are countless negative things!

If there is one single character trait that ruins higher human performance it has to be arrogance, or whatever your favorite term is for a lack of humility.

Gratitude follows because hubris prevents it while humility fosters it. When we look at ourselves and all the circumstances of our lives with humility we’re compelled to focus on the many things for which we ought to be thankful.

For an exercise, try listing all the things for which you’re thankful. When you think you’ve exhausted the list…keep going! See how long you can make your list.

Optimism is fueled, in part, by gratitude. I mean, when you count your blessings and understand how benefited you are, how can you not be optimistic?

Whenever I encounter a challenger to my optimism I often ask, “What’s the downside?” Mostly, people have no answer. Sometimes I’ll run into a smart aleck who’ll say, “You’ll be more disappointed.” To which I counter, “Well, you’re gonna be disappointed anyway!”

There is no downside to optimism. But until or unless you can embrace humility and gratitude, you’ll never be optimistic. Look at anybody who is a victim, or devoted to a “woe-is-me” life. These poor folks wrap themselves up in pessimism day after day. What a miserable life!

By this point, there’s no reason to not be confident about your ability to persevere, endure, or overcome.

Confidence is the missing ingredient for so many people who might otherwise grow great. Every week I encounter leaders, people who have achieved some success, who struggle with belief or confidence. Privately, they question themselves. They make declarations, “This won’t work.” If I didn’t see it firsthand regularly for the past dozen years I’d have a difficult time believing it. But we all have our struggles with it.

In my life, if I find myself challenged to be as confident as maybe I should…I can trace it all the way back to the beginning, humility. Or gratitude. Or optimism. And trying to shortcut it has never worked for me. That’s what we do whenever we try to front – pretend to be something we’re not. It’s what you see whenever you encounter some cocky, arrogant person.

Maybe you can fake it ’til you make it, but that seems pointless. Why not just be the real thing? Why not genuinely be humble, thankful, optimistic, and confident?

Can you imagine how impactful these 4 elements, put together in this order, might be for your life? When we think about the recipes for higher human performance, this has to be one of the better ones. I’d add two other components: curiosity and understanding. Whether the list is 4 or 6, all the others hinge on the foundation of just one. HUMILITY.

So maybe 6 is the ideal number, not 4. Maybe it should look something like this instead.

This list makes sense to me because our curiosity – the quest to seek understanding – is absolutely driven by humility. Leaders who think they’ve got all the answers lack any curiosity. They’re the smartest person in the room. Every room. Their hubris prevents them from being curious, which in turn, stymies their understanding. No matter. They think they understand and for them, that’s all that matters.

But before I wrap it up let’s insert the 7th component. It’s the one at the top of the pyramid. I intentionally put it there because the foundation may be among the toughest ones to create in our lives. And certainly one of the hardest to maintain. The cherry on top, the pinnacle of it all is equally difficult and never happens without intention, or understanding. It’s the one most lacking in our society, likely because the others are also missing.


Literally, it means “to suffer together.” It differs from empathy because compassion drives us to help. It compels us to take action beyond merely feeling whatever we’re feeling.

That’s important to the conversation because each of these 7 isn’t just words or components. They’re actions. You may be predisposed toward some of these, but if you’re going to incorporate all of them into your life — you’re going to have to work at it. You’ll have to intentional. Every day you’re going to have to think about them and do them. They can become good habits, but they’ll quickly slip the second you take them for granted. The good news is you can begin right now. The bad news is you can’t stop. Not if you want to be the most effective human possible.

Do you agree? Would you put them in a different order? Would you omit something? Did I leave something out? Hit me up on social media with your ideas or insights.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

This Is Always The Path To Improvement (Season 2021, Episode 02)

Yesterday’s Know-How May Not Answer Today’s Challenges. That was my original title for today’s show but I changed it.

I have the following quote on my About page…

Do not assume I’m going to take issue with the late, great Peter Drucker because I’m not. I believe he was right.

However, I’m not terribly anxious to speak in absolutes because life has taught me how dangerous it can be to think we know the answer only to realize we don’t fully understand the problem. So I’m careful, but I did use an absolute – ALWAYS – today. See if you agree.

Call it know-how, knowledge, or logic – it may not single-handedly give us the answers for which we’re searching. That doesn’t mean it’s useless. It just means we’re blitzed with new data points every hour (or every minute…maybe every second).

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is, according to Fortune one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders. He’s earned degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering from MIT and a degree in medicine (that’s right, he’s both kinds of doctors) from Harvard. He’s also the author of the book, The Future Is Faster Than You Think. This man has likely forgotten more than I’ve ever learned. When you encounter big-brained folks like him, you take notes. Me? I work hard to try to understand what they’re talking about.

Well, the good doctor has written three books and one of the things I most enjoy about his work is his optimism. He has a viewpoint that the world is largely better than you may think. As he dives into a variety of topics in this latest book, the title reveals the focal point that speed is – well, getting faster! But you knew that already. You feel it every day. Not just in your work, but in your personal life. What once was described as a hamster wheel more closely now resembles a bullet train or a rocket!

When Peter Drucker made that statement yesterday was a different concept. Today, “yesterday” could mean the last hour. Confused yet? Yeah, me, too.

I’m a speed freak meaning I like to figure things out quickly and I like to fix things fast, but…today’s challenges require a bit of time to process. And one of the biggest hurdles facing many of us is the self-imposed pressure we put on ourselves to get it done right now. Or the opposite. The pressure to wait, wait, wait, and wait some more.

Social media reveals how we’re all likely heavily influenced to behave with a knee-jerk reaction – proving that speed isn’t always the most effective component toward growth or improvement. Or wisdom.

Dr. Diamandis’ book reveals a big truth – things are happening so much faster than we even realize. And the shocker is, we all know things are happening blazingly fast. I suspect few of us have considered that we misjudging the speed by thinking it’s slower than reality.

As you know, I do a considerable amount of work in the city government sector. City managers and HR directors have battled keeping updated on this pandemic in order to ideally serve their communities. The vaccine has proven as challenging as any element of this pandemic. How many are we going to get? When will we get them? It’s the daily question vexing those tasked with serving towns and cities throughout America. That unknown contributes to the turbulence of our times. And that’s just one albeit a big component of our world in January 2021.

“Nothing is new,” he says to me.

I’m compelled to respond, “Maybe nothing is new, but the circumstances – the combinations – sure might be.”

Case in point, the extraordinarily low home mortgage rates, the negative impact of government/politics on business and a host of other factors (an unprecedented combination of circumstances) have contributed to driving real estate prices higher and higher making it hard for some to afford to buy a house. Some are predicting a widening of the gap between the have’s and the have not’s sparked by more banks requiring a 20% down payment (so they can protect themselves from foreclosures). The wealthiest people – and companies – are gobbling up real estate in what may be unprecedented fashion.

Speed. The unknown. But another part of turbulence is complexity. Nothing seems simple. I struggle to remember any time when things were even simpler – forget being “simple.” It may be among the reasons why you see more and more younger people embrace minimalism – something that I’ve always found intriguing. I’m a non-practicing minimalist. 😀 I love the idea of it and would happily embrace it. I just don’t want to put in the work required to do it. Yet!

We’ve all long known the fact that what got us here won’t necessarily get us there. So we keep on adding to our arsenal of knowledge, skill, and experience.

Today’s challenges seem to demand a new way of thinking though. A completely different approach.

Or do they?

Could it be that our existing know-how might not have been as ideal as we thought?

Well, of course, that’s possible. Nevermind that it worked for us at some level. Tyranny and foolishness can work. We all know people who have succeeded in spite of themselves. But it’s also possible that yesterday’s know-how worked even though it wasn’t ideal.

Growing up in retailing I quickly realized how lots of retailers in the 1970s practiced bait-and-switch. They’d advertise a low-end product at an attractive price and not have it, or have only one…then shoppers would be shown something at a bit higher price because it had a substantially higher profit margin. And this wasn’t an outlier behavior. It was commonplace. It worked.

But even being taught this in my earliest days of retailing I wondered how much more success might be had if retailers behaved with greater integrity. Would customers appreciate greater honestly? Would they be more drawn to a retailer they trusted more? I thought so.

Is that know-how or something else? Well, for our purposes today I’m rolling everything into know-how. Knowledge. Decision making. Philosophy. Approach. Perspective. Whatever else you’d like to include.

This brings me to the bottom line for today’s show – when it comes to leveraging the power of others, it’s ALWAYS the correct path to improvement. Always!

You cannot have a high-performing career, team, group, or culture alone.

You need the help – the skills, experiences, know-how, perspectives – of other people to fill in those gaps that exist in your life. You’ll find greater understanding, deeper learning, fewer blind spots and so much more when you stop trying to go it alone.

Think about any accomplishment in your life. Got one in mind?

Who helped you? Keep adding names to the list. I’m betting more than one person made a sizeable contribution to your ability to achieve it.

This past weekend I spent some time learning some web design things with the WordPress theme I’m using for this website. Like most website owners I was bored with this site. Rather than just diving in I went out the web and sought out YouTube videos, tutorials, and forums to learn from other people who already know more than me. I’m not a professional web designer, but many of these folks are. It compressed my learning curve substantially. By who knows how much? No, you don’t see a new design here, but I was doing it while watching NFL playoff games so I wasn’t quite as intentional as I might otherwise have been. But I know much more than I did before and it’s not because I’ve got mad dog skills or a big brain. It’s because I’ve got Dirty Harry Syndrome – “a man’s gotta know his limitations” (and I know mine).

Every high-performing career I know personally – including my own – AND every high-performing culture I know personally resulted from listening to frontline people. It included asking questions and listening to the answers. The people closest to the work seem to always have the best answers. Funny how that works. Go figure. You mean somebody who performs a task for 8 hours a day, week after week, year after year – they know more than me?

You mean if the rookie employee seeks out the top performer in that same position she might more quickly learn what it takes to succeed?

I know it’s a novel idea for some, but it’s so obvious it’s often overlooked. It’s certainly underappreciated. And I suspect I know why.

It’s too simple. It seems too easy.

Our world is more complex requiring complex and sophisticated solutions.

Or is it?

Don’t let the American political scene drive you to knee-jerk reactions, stopped up ears, and an open mouth. That’s not the path to improvement or growth. And I don’t care if you’re blue or red. I’m pro-small business and anti-big government. So there’s my bias. I’m happy to confess it. I’ve just seen it play out too many times – and you have, too – where our lives are enhanced, improved, and made better in every way by working together to figure out what ails us and how to fix it.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Two Important Questions Every Leader Must Ask & Answer (Season 2021, Episode 01)

During the early stages of morphing yourself into a high-performing culture, you can embrace a new level of creativity (aka innovation) when you commit to taking a harder look at what you’re doing. That means you individually and you collectively. Being too close to things is problematic because it robs us of the ability to see things as accurately as we might. Assumptions sort of automatically take over. We stop questioning what we’re doing because it’s become such a repetitive auto-pilot kind of thing. Enter the power of the pause.

Hit the pause button on the work. This doesn’t have to be the complete cessation of work, but it does require you to stop long enough to ask and answer two critical questions that can determine whether you’ll succeed in elevating performance.

For you and every other individual person in the organization: “Why am I doing this?”

For the collective: “Why are we doing this?”

For you and every other individual person in the organization: “Why am I doing it this way?”

For the collective: “Why are we doing it this way?”

The courage is unearthed not by asking the question, but by taking the time to answer it. So how courageous are you willing to be?

As you look at the first two questions, which are really the same question – just one is focused on the individual YOU and the other on the collective YOU begin by emphasizing the first word of the question, “Why?”

Concentrate your attention on trying to discover the value of what’s being done. And yes, I’m talking about everything that is done by you and others inside the organization. There must be a valid reason for everything that’s done. If not, then how foolish do you feel?

Is everything being done important? Does everything being done impact success? Know why it’s being done.

Then emphasize the pronoun of the questions, “I” or “We.”

As you examine the work being done focus on who is doing that work. Should it really be you? Should it really be the person currently tasked with doing it? Is somebody else better suited to do it? Who else could do it, perhaps better? What are the current costs associated with you or somebody else doing it versus having somebody different doing it?

Then emphasize the thing being done, “This.”

Now we’re down to the brass tacks of the thing being done – this! Is it the most important thing to do right now? What else might be important – or more so – and going undone because of it?

Now moving onto the second pair of questions whose aim is to dive into the how of it all, we’re provoked to ask more clarifying questions.

Is there a better way to do it? Is there a faster way? Is there a way that will result in higher success?

I talk quite a lot here and with clients about the importance of humility and curiosity leading to greater understanding. It’s because in our humility – our ability to wonder about what we don’t see or what we don’t yet know – our curiosity stirs us to ask questions so we can better understand.

There are days where I feel like a pestering 2-year-old because I’m asking question after question after question. Usually, that’s because of one of two things. Either the other person isn’t being very forthcoming or the topic is so fascinating to me I can wait to learn more. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. And sometimes it’s because my eagerness to understand is much higher than the other person’s eagerness to help me understand. 😉

But questions stimulate us. They foster deeper curiosity. These 2 questions aren’t sophisticated. They seem rather basic because they are. But high performing cultures aren’t nearly as sophisticated as we often think. In fact, sometimes – perhaps more often than not – we overthink it. We spend money diving into things that won’t have any lasting impact on our career, team or organization. We neglect to invest in some simple, but profound things that can make all the difference in the world.

Consultants often enter an organization with the intent to dazzle the client with volumes of reading material whose aim is to justify the high price tag of their service. But at the end of the day, it’s just a lot of words on a page. You don’t have to pay anybody anything to ask these questions. Not me. Not anybody else.

Hit the pause button sometime today and start asking these questions. Get everybody in your organization to ask them, too. Then stay paused long enough to do the hard part – LISTEN. Make note of the answers. Let me leave you today with two quotes.

“Being willing is not enough. We must do.” -Leonardo da Vinci


“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

You must act on the answers. Else, it’s just an exercise in futility – taking up time in everybody’s life. The purpose of establishing and sustaining a high performance culture is efficiency and effectiveness. It’s the pursuit of greater success.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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