Archive for December, 2013

An Auspicious Year

Friday, December 27th, 2013

As we come to the end of another year, it is quite natural to start looking forward to the next. I typically find myself looking ahead fondly, and this year is no exception. I cannot help but believe that 2014 is going to be an auspicious year.

I know this because each new year is auspicious, especially as viewed at the end of the current year. But as we move into the beginning of the new year, the magic of the moment is usually ephemeral and wears off my mid-January. So I decided to use this post to look forward to the change I anticipate in my life in the upcoming year.

Debbie and I will officially be empty-nesters by September. Our daughter Hannah will be moving onto campus in the fall. Our son Josh will have launched himself by June, after building a war chest for his exodus into his grown up life. Hopefully we will be in the process of downsizing from our too-large suburban home. We plan a vacation celebration for Hannah’s high school graduation, as we did with our sons Dan and Josh. Finally, Debbie and I plan to do some much-anticipated car travel across these United States.

A pretty auspicious agenda. But I cannot help but heed the advice of one of my favorite expressions- “if you want to hear God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

So, God willing, I wish you all the best for an auspicious new year.

Leadership Litmus Test

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

There are too many essential leadership behaviors to delineate them all here. But current events have placed one of these behaviors squarely into view. Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to fire people.

Romney was pilloried in the last presidential election for his ill-advised “I like to fire people” quote. The outcry surrounding this comment would have been nil had he turned the phrase a bit differently, emphasizing when it is necessary to fire people, not how enjoyable it is.

On the other end of the spectrum is President Obama, who clearly doesn’t like to fire people, because he doesn’t, regardless of their ineptitude. Case in point, Kathleen Sebelius.

In my 30+ years as an executive, business owner and leadership coach, I have never seen such a high profile project with a four year lead time and a sky high price tag ($677M) so terribly mismanaged. When you add in the monolithic opposition of the Republican party and the skeptical nature of the American public, that at-stakeness for President Obama was and continues to be, sky high. Enter the inept Sebelius.

If not for Jeffery Zients and his obvious management and leadership acumen to the rescue, we would likely be using carbon paper and snail mail to enroll about ten people per month. The last time I looked, when you need to bring someone else in to rescue a project of this magnitude, it is always after the previous inept leader was terminated.

It is neither laudable nor appropriate that President Obama goes to the “buck stops with me” well. Of course it does. We all know that. But he is not responsible to manage every aspect of every activity in the federal government. This does not work. Those of us old enough know this fact by having watched Jimmy Carter try and fail to do so.

But he is responsible to put competent people into position, and move out those who are not. This is one of the most fundamental litmus tests for any leader. You don’t have to like it, but you need to be able to do it.