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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Judge Mint

Chocolate or Vanilla. F-150 or Silverado. Ginger or Mary Ann. Every day at work and at home, life is a continuous stream of choices… and each one has some degree of impact on what follows afterward.

Hit the alarm snooze button one too many times and you’re 10 minutes late for that early morning meeting. Eat smaller portions and skip that frequent glass of wine for 30 days and you drop 10 lbs. Take a different path home one evening and you discover later a serious accident occurred on your regular route that could have involved you.

Since there are so many things you can’t control – the price you pay at the pump, whether Social Security remains solvent when you reach retirement age, what happens at the end of the final episode of Game of Thrones – it makes sense to be intentional about those things you are able to influence.

Teenage daughter going to prom on Saturday night with someone you don’t know? Be at your front door to greet her date… and ask a lot of questions.

New employee starting on Monday? Make time in your schedule to spend with him over the next several weeks to ensure he’s getting everything needed to be successful.

Driving in heavy traffic? Put the cell phone away and stop surfing all around the radio dial.

So many choices. So little time. Yet, so many opportunities to impact outcomes by focusing on the most important things.

Which brings me to… chocolate, F-150 and Mary Ann.

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Worthy Servant

We buried my father-in-law last week. He was 87.

The first time I met him was the day I asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Kathy had a black and white picture of her parents as young newlyweds on her apartment refrigerator. Then he was a strapping 20-something Navy pilot with a big moustache. It surprised me that the man I shook hands with that day 30 years ago didn’t look the same at age 57.

Carl Dean Lott, Cdr, US Navy (ret.), served this country for nearly three decades. Six months of the year he lived aboard aircraft carriers as an F-4 pilot. The other six he was home working on a base – in Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, California, and to his final appointment at NAS Corpus Christi. Kathy’s mother, Margaret, served as a loyal military wife, relocating wherever and whenever duty called… raising two children alone half the time.

After retiring, Carl spent a decade teaching new pilots to fly in simulators – driving to the base early each morning to prepare the next generation. Surprisingly for a Navy fighter pilot, he drove as slowly as anyone on the road… almost unsafely. When, Kathy’s brother Mike had to take away the keys three years ago, it was not a welcomed action. ‘Old soldiers…’

His military rank meant little to me until the time he took us to the base to see the Blue Angels. When we approached the guard gate in his car, two servicemen saluted Carl and I thought, ‘Maybe he’s important.’ Then another seated us on the first row. Yep, he’s important.

Following a brief funeral service during which the Navy chaplain reminded us to celebrate Carl’s achievements and life well-lived, we walked 50 yards to his final resting place and military honors. A bugler played Taps, two young enlisted folded the flag, then one kneeled next to Margaret’s wheel chair and offered condolences on behalf of the United States Navy.

Afterward, the family gathered for lunch at the hospice care facility where Carl and Margaret lived. Near the entrance was a table with a pair of opened folders. Pictures of the two residents who died last week – both veterans – and personal messages from the staff. Carl’s private care nurse had written: “Goodbye sweet, sweet man. God’s new angel.”

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