The New Era Begins

November 12th, 2016

Color me as surprised as anyone by Donald Trump’s convincing electoral victory over Hillary Clinton. In the closest thing to a “Dewey defeats Truman” moment, the analytics people got the election fantastically wrong. Score one for the anti-geeks.

I am perhaps even more surprised by the fact that I am pleasantly surprised thus far with President-elect Trump. Moving Chris Christie out in favor of Mike Pence was the kind of move that someone who is beholding to no one would make. Preserving the key elements of Obamacare- no denial for pre-exisiting conditions and children on until 26, are the only parts of Obamacare worth saving. The funding mechanism needs dramatically re-thought. And Dodd-Frank protections around rating agency transparency and prohibition of complex derivatives are rumored to stay as well.

This type of flexibility is cause for great optimism about who President Trump will choose to be. But it does bring us back to one of the earliest questions about Donald trump- who is he really? Of course, only time will tell, but the early indicators look positive.

The chasm between campaigning and governing could feel overwhelming to a novice executive branch with a fully loaded Republican Congress ready to do its bidding. So many promises in the face of budget deficit realities. But this is a moment for an expert business leader to be at his best. Or more to say, not the same person we saw all too painfully up close on the campaign trail.

It feels like the country can finally be unified by a competent President-elect partnering with a willing congress. People seem willing, if not hopeful to embrace change that the country desires. Let’s hope that Donald J. Trump is up to this task.

Lilly’s Leadership

August 9th, 2016

In this never-ending political season, we get treated to a steady diet of what I call “three B’s,” bombast, bloviation and BS. Prevarication, empty promises and false bravado are spewed daily by our illustrious candidates for President of the United States. You would think that the two individuals who have been selected to run for the most powerful position in the world would know and do better. Alas, they do not.

Maybe they can learn from a 19 year old.

Lilly King is the current Olympic swimmer engaged in a controversy over her remarks about Russian competitor Yulia Efimova. After winning their respective semi-finals in the 100 meter breaststroke at the Olympics in Rio, they engaged in a finger wagging contest, initiated after Lilly raised her finger in her earlier win, only to be replicated by Efimova after her later victory. The finger wagging by her rival struck a sour chord with Lilly, based on the fact that Efimova failed a doping test earlier in the year (after serving a 16 month suspension for a previous failed test).

Lilly was outspoken about her disdain for a competitor who she believed should never have been allowed to compete, based on her serial doping test failures. She was forceful and unequivocal. But that did not impress me as much as what happened next.

She backed up her words with action. Racing alongside of one-another in lanes 4 and 5, Lilly proceeded to beat her rival by a little more than half a second in the 100 meter breaststroke final last night. In an interview afterwards, she extolled the virtues of competing clean. Her obvious elation with being the best in the world was heightened by the satisfaction of doing it the right way.

Now reasonable people can disagree as to whether Lilly’s tussle with Efimova was in good form or not. But there is no disagreement about her conviction to live into her words. They were not empty to her. They were everything.

Just think how much easier it would be for us to decide on a president if we could be assured that they did the same. Is that too much to ask?

Thank You Melania

July 21st, 2016

An interesting thing happened during Melania Trump’s convention speech a few days ago. She channeled Michele Obama, verbatim from her 2008 speech to the Democratic convention. Well, at least the speech writer selected material germane to the circumstances.

Then a surprise happened. It blew up into a big deal, precisely because of how the campaign chose to handle it, or more appropriately, not to handle it.

Okay, so it was a stupid and egregious oversight that the speech wasn’t vetted thoroughly and redundantly. But the negativity could have been mitigated if the campaign had simply stood up and fessed up. A mistake was made. Simple message. But instead of coming clean, they engaged in a series of indignant denials by various players, each of which sounded more absurd in the face of the nearly perfect word-for-word matching video segments from the respective speeches.

Nearly two days later, the campaign came clean. Blamed it on a staffer. Almost immediately, the story lost much of its steam, again reinforcing the power of disclosure. Which raises a question. How can a presidential campaign, ostensibly staffed by the best and brightest get it so wrong? Look no further than the undisciplined temptation to deny, deny, deny. Easy, but dumb mistake to make.

So I want to thank Melania for providing a learning moment for us all. By all objective standards, she did a very nice job, by the way. To make a live speech in a giant, noisy venue with millions of people watching, is nerve racking for the most polished of presenters. Melania was very poised. But still, she did use some of Michele Obama’s words.

So thank you Melania, for helping us to see that while it is easy to rush to denial, honesty again proves to be the best policy. As I often share in my executive coaching, do not fall prey to the “easy no” when the “hard yes” is the better choice.

It’s The Crazy Time Again

July 20th, 2016

Well I wish I could say that it snuck up on me, but unfortunately its been going on for two years already. The Presidential Campaign. With the conventions underway (or soon to be), crazy time is squarely upon us. It makes me envious of the British Parliamentary approach, one whereby they can replace the prime minister in the time it takes to vote on a referendum, Brexit stage right.

I remember writing in this blog in 2008 with great anticipation on the election of Barack Obama. Our country had just elected a black man with a Muslim name who spoke forcefully and inspirationally about change. Because he looked and sounded so different than all who came before him, it was not naivete that led so many of us to believe that the change was just around the corner.

I, like so many others am still waiting.

It is not completely Obama’s fault that so little of the change he promised actually arrived in the way he promised it. We have a ridiculously broken and partisan political system, with our elected officials more concerned about re-election, and thus endless fund-raising, than governing. Much of the civility is gone, and it seemed to get worse with Obama as President, which I can’t help but think comes back to that being different thing I mentioned. Still, he was either unwilling or unable to do anything to make it better.

Adding to this gridlock is our two party system and the primary processes where the hard core of the respective parties carry disproportionate influence, resulting in the choice of candidates like we have in this go-around. Donald and Hillary. Really?

I can’t think of a single parent that I know, present or past, that would allow their children to speak to others the way that Trump has over the last two years. Yet each time he did so, seemingly sinking to new depths, he won another primary contest. He served up the red meat in big chunks and the dogs ate it up.

Contrasted with Hillary. So measured. So calculating. So political. So hated on the right. So why does it feel like nothing is going to change. Again.

So it’s six months and counting. Another opportunity for the people to speak…through the Electoral College. Another opportunity for our country to come closer to living into the ideals it promises. Another opportunity for change. You holding your breath?

When You Hear the Call

July 7th, 2015

Now that I am fully engaged in retirement, I am unencumbered by the need to have a business based “so what” to my blog posts. As much as I enjoyed my career as a business executive and owner, I am enjoying the new found freedom, born of retirement markedly more. I am not bound by concerns of what my clients or potential clients might think, especially as relates to issues of society, self, relationships and spirituality. Not surprisingly, to anyone who knows me, I have views in all of these areas.

One of the most meaningful challenges we all face at some point in our lives, but likely do not recognize, is discerning and then responding when we are called. These calls usually occur when a significant aspect of our life is about to change, yet we are so awash in the busyness of life that we barely recognize them, let alone give them the consideration they deserve. I believe these calls, at least the ones that matter, come from a higher power. The beauty of the calls is that they use multiple modalities in an attempt to get our attention away from the “important things” like emails from our job, Netflix, ESPN and twitter. I am reminded of a particularly poignant time when I stubbornly resisted the call, only to succumb and then experience one of the most beautiful events of my life. Allow me to elaborate.

Eleven years ago last spring, I was fully engaged in an executive leadership role at my Fortune 500 employer. It was an all-consuming job, which I thought I loved. It was everything I had worked for up to that point in my life- high salary, Board of Directors level, big organization, lots of prestige. The problem was, I hated it. It consumed my full attention and sucked the life out of me. At the same time, my beloved father was afflicted with Alzheimer’s and was a 5 hour plane fight away, in Las Vegas of all places. I was angry with him. Angry for his having that awful disease, angry that he refused to move closer when we offered to buy him a home here in Lancaster, angry that he was not available to give me the great career advice he always had, angry that he was no longer the dad I knew and loved. Angry that I had not seen him in six months…six months that really mattered, and that my schedule made such a visit impossible.

That is when the call came. Sharing this story with dear and close friends, they stopped me mid-rant and advised me, in calm and soothing tones, that I needed to get on an airplane within the next day and go to visit my father. “You’re crazy, I protested. I can not possibly get away that quickly. I have an important job with important responsibilities. No way. No how.” Still they insisted. Wes, Phyllis and Lynn. “You need to get on a plane and visit your dad.” I was flabbergasted. But I listened, reflected, prayed and then went. I heeded the call. To this day, I am not sure why.

When I arrived I discovered that my dad had taken an unforeseen turn for the worse and was advised to be placed into hospice care. I spent the first evening with him, up all night, talking, laughing, praying. Sometimes he was almost lucid, mostly he was not. The next day I helped move the gurney from his house into the ambulance for transport to hospice. The day after that I held his hand and stared into his eyes as he passed away. I was honored to be there for Dad. To show up for him the way he had for me on so many occasions. These were perhaps the most meaningful 72 hours of my life and I would have completely missed had I not heeded the call.

Now a dear friend of mine is facing such a call. I pray for his sake that he heeds it. Just as I encourage you to be attentive to the call, whenever it comes and however it is made. Have the courage to push aside ephemeral things and you just might be rewarded in ways you have never dreamed possible. Answer the call.