Peace Offering

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

The first sentence of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, a series of 13 pamphlets – think of them as 18th century blog posts – published soon after the Declaration of Independence. During periods of prosperity those eight words rest in quiet slumber. Then when the next disruption arises, they awaken to remind us to remain strong.

The War of 1812. The Civil War. World War I. The Great Depression. World War II. Vietnam. Watergate. October 1987 crash. September 11. The Great Recession. Traumatic events in our history. Yet, we made it through these darkest of days.

Now we’re faced with the uncertainty of the Coronavirus. People are sick and dying. The stock market is in Bear territory. The Saudis and Russia engaged in a standoff that sent oil prices plunging. A global recession could be on the horizon.

While it’s time to take smart health and financial action, it is not time to lose hope. Talk with your customers and employees. Adjust where you need. Keep the faith.

And consider the next sentence of Paine’s first missive… one you may have never heard: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

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Mine Games

This month I traveled to Louisiana to work for a day with the U.S. Director of five salt mines. This person grew up in France, lives in Montreal, and spends 48 weeks a year on the road.

These are three lessons learned during my visit:

1) This leader stepped in a while ago on an interim basis as GM of the plant. Twice he brought in someone… and it didn’t work out, yet he avoided the temptation to rush. Sixteen months and a lot of 18-hour days later, the right person appeared. The day after I departed, the leader went back to his ‘regular’ job.

2) I’ve worked for several years with leaders in the Canadian oil sands. That’s heavy-duty stuff. This was my first journey to a salt mine. I interviewed my client’s direct reports for feedback on his leadership style. After three of those I realized ‘mining is mining.’ Safety is placed above all else – including profit. As one person told me: “I’ve worked in 24 mines the past 30 years. This is my first salt mine. The only difference is the product leaves on a conveyor belt instead of a pipeline.” He was a fourth-generation miner and his two boys are now in the industry.

3) King Cakes purchased in Lafayette just before Mardi Gras taste a lot different than the ones we usually get at Kroger.

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Naive Realism

Debating the ‘Mount Rushmore of’ a talented field is a great form of entertainment when hanging out with others. Of course, that #4 position is usually a tough call:

MR of Muppets? Kermit, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and _____

MR of exercise? Running, Swimming, Biking and _____

MR of quarterbacks? Brady, Montana, Unitas and _____

MR of 60’s cars? Corvette, Mustang, GTO and _____

MR of laptops? Apple, Dell, Surface and _____

MR of rock bands? Beatles, Stones, U2 and _____

MR of colleges? Harvard, Yale, Stanford and _____

MR of romantic cities? Venice, Paris, Rome and _____

MR of desserts? Bread Pudding, Pecan Pie, Ice Cream and _____

MR of board games? Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk and _____

While you likely disagree with many of my Top 3 above, chances are you’re not going to get upset with my opinion. Instead, you’ll counter with a few different thoughts, we’ll politely discuss the ‘why’ and conclude by acknowledging there is more than one way to view things.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could approach politics, religion and social issues that currently divide our world in a similar manner? You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m entitled to mine. We both seek a clearer understanding of our different viewpoints to learn from each other.

Seems that would be a much better approach than one where people are set staunchly in their beliefs and – whether from fear, firmness or frustration – aren’t open to anything that differs from their own.

Here’s a suggestion for a starting point toward change:

MR of manners? Show Respect, Listen, No Judging and _____

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Daily Views

This month I started doing something at the end of each day that seems to be having a nice impact on my personal development. In a brief reflection – usually just minutes before I share it with my ‘accountabilibuddy’ – I identify one thing I did really well.

These ‘that was a good moment’ recognitions might come from a coaching session (“I met the client right where they are”) or how I responded to a customer service rep (“I was polite and patient”) or that I focused for a longer than usual amount of time without getting distracted (“I didn’t go down any bunny trails”).

These first few weeks I’ve found I don’t have to go searching. The ‘one thing’ readily bubbles up for me. If I remember to do this 200 days a year, that will be a big leap in getting better… one small step at a time.

I think today’s ‘I did really well’ will be writing this blog and sharing my new approach with you.

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Difference Maker

Sitting in a conference room with an HR leader and my client – an executive of a major hospital in Houston – we awaited the arrival of one more person. As our casual conversation hit a lull, I took a deep breath and said, “May I share an observation?” They nodded, so I said:

“There are signs in your nine-story parking garage that say ‘5 MPH,’ yet I saw a lot of people just now taking corners really fast. In fact, one of them nearly hit me. That seems to be inconsistent with the values of one of the nation’s leading health care providers.”

They both laughed and one of them said, “I guess those are only guidelines.”

Right then the third person opened the door and that conversation ended – and I thought clearly my input doesn’t matter.

Two weeks later, I had a coaching session with my client… and as she walked me to the elevator afterward, she said: “There’s something I thought you’d want to know. The day after our last meeting, an email went out to all of our thousands of employees: ‘You are expected to drive safely and obey the signage in all of our parking areas. If you see someone not abiding by this, you have a responsibility to report them.’”

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