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Stay Fresh

We all have habits. Habits make many things easier. We manage to drive home from the office without much thought, automatically turning here and there as required. You have a favorite area or even seat in an auditorium that you automatically aim for upon entering. Watching a good bartender make a complex drink without measuring a single thing always intrigues me. Their body has learned exactly how long to pour this or how big a shake of that make the perfect drink. To make it easier for your favorite bartender, you might have a drink you always order.

Habit also have the unfortunate effect of locking us in, making us comfortable, stopping us from exploring new things and ideas. New things, things that might be better that what we’ve become habituated to. New things that might lead to improved operations or decreased costs. New ideas that might lead to a new product or service.

Paloma Picasso recently said in WSJ Magazine that she resists habit. Her method? Travel. As she says “travel has always been a way of stepping out of habit. If you’re in a different place, you do things differently.” She goes on to mention that her father Pablo Picasso never did anything geared to habit.

In the same article Michael Kors, the fashion designer says his most consistent habit is contradiction. Iced tea is a constant in his hand, he often travels to the same places, and he sketches with the same tools he’s use since he was a teenager. But, he has the attention span of a gnat that leads him to want to balance the habits with the cutting edge new. The habits to get the work done with great skill but the cutting edge new for the ideas and inspiration.

The problem for many is that they have the habits but never look for the cutting edge new. They are stuck in place with habits running their life and never manage to find a different place where they are required to do things differently.

The rut wins out over the peak.

From the same WSJ Magazine article, tennis star Maria Sharapova mentions that responsiveness to change is what sets the great players apart. Success comes from adaptation, actually, not only from being able to adapt but from being able to anticipate the need to adapt. Habit drives the basic moves but responsiveness and adaptation are what make a good player great.

And so it is in business. Many are good at what they do. Few are exceptional. Many let habit guide the way their business operates, the way they make management decisions. Few see everything they do as an opportunity to improve things. How many times have you heard…or said…”that’s the way we do things here”? Habit run amok even in the face of mediocrity, or even failure.

Stay fresh. Listen to Paloma Picasso, Michael Kors, Maria Sharapova. Use your habits wisely but don’t let them run your life, or your business. Travel widely, search out cutting edge new, be responsive and adaptive.

Surprise your bartender. Ask for something different.

bar drinks


On Stage

A few days ago I spent half a day in front of a video camera. Three cameras to be exact. Behind the cameras were their operators, the script editor, the producer, and a few hangers on. An interviewer sat next to me to guide my stories down the right paths.

When first asked to create a video channel, I wanted nothing to do with it. A little creative pressure and appeals to my ego leavened with explaining how much fun this will be brought me around. The final convincer was telling me that not only would I wind up with new business but perhaps I’d even be able to raise the fees.

Fun, more business, higher fees. How could I resist?

They didn’t tell me about how much work it is. Getting started involved an amazing process of interviewing me…more like psychotherapy actually…and then extracting interesting and amusing stories from these interviews, the multitudes of things I’ve written, and whatever else I remembered to share. All this went into a rough script. Rough because the script was really just a collection of bullet points to remind me of things I wanted to share. Most importantly, everything needed to carry a message with it somehow related to improving leadership, management, and business success.

What intrigues me the most is the personal value I’ve received so far. Being guided through a one on one conversational process of delving deeply into what you believe, why you do things, what you know, what you do, what your actions lead to, and how this all impacts both people and business was enlightening. All was structured in a business context but clearly surfaced things that guide all aspects of all my interactions with others.

Most interesting was how it clarified what I’ve often said, everything I do runs together. Business experience feeds life outside of business and life outside of business fees business experience. To the extent you are able to bring all parts of your life together you wind up expanding your abilities and being better at all you do.

I didn’t realize how the process would help get my thinking in order, remind me of events and ideas I wanted to share, improve my stage presence, and lead to my becoming much better at subtlely and not so subtlely incorporating the points I wanted to make into stories about events I’ve experienced in my extensive travels, with my clients around the world, during my Wharton adventures, and from my random activities outside of business.

The initial video is now going into editing. We are working on formatting the channel and doing the multitude of things necessary for the launch (right after New Year) to be spectacular. I’m talking to clients about their sharing a story, thinking about capturing my future travels, and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

I’m feeling a bit re-energized (those of you who know me probably wonder why I would ever need more energy) and am convinced my neural pathways have changed for the better.

All because I was willing to agree to do something that I initially thought was silly and too time consuming. I broke through my mindset and tried something different. And am all the better for it. It reminds me of the wisdom of the saying we’ve all heard many times: try it, you’ll like it.


Be Adorable

Yesterday someone called me adorable. During a business conversation.

My immediate reaction was to be both quite pleased and taken aback. Quite pleased because it’s always fun when a wonderful woman says such things to me. Taken aback because it was during a business meeting. Even more taken aback because me…adorable? I think of puppies and small children as being adorable.

After a few seconds of reflection I asked her what she meant by adorable as I couldn’t remember anyone ever calling me adorable, even my mother when I was a small child. Certainly not in a business context. It was intriguing as I began to understand what she meant by adorable. It reinforced my belief that too often we jump to the wrong conclusion due to cultural misunderstanding.

Language, or more directly the meaning of the words, flows from cultural background. Different cultural background, different meaning. Different meaning, misunderstanding. Misunderstanding…need I go further?

As we talked about adorable I discovered she meant something that I would never have put in the adorable box. Adorable was her word for describing something she had noticed about me. It is her way of describing my ability to connect with a variety of people with wildly different backgrounds, experiences, and education. Most impressive to her is my ability to travel the world and fit in wherever I find myself.

We went on to discuss how this comes about. Observation and listening, modeling behavior, openness and friendliness, helping out. Stepping into their world rather than expecting them to step into yours.

It got us thinking about the importance of being adorable. The importance of being open to others coupled with the flexibility to really hear their them and understand their world while staying true to yourself and always walking your talk. Quite a difficult thing for many. It’s so much easier to stay in your bubble and expect others to adjust.

Soon we were sharing stories of the value of this skill in business, and other, interactions. We talk about how odd it is that so many don’t understand the power of connecting on a personal level and the good things that come from it. Conversely, we shared stories of the leaders we know who don’t have a clue how poor they are at really knowing what their people are thinking. They completely miss the power of adorableness.

I am technologically incompetent. I mention this so you will understand why immediately following talking about adorableness we used her computer to do a call with AT&T. Part of the reason for our meeting was for her to order me a new iPhone Super and do a whole collection of things I don’t understand including ensuring I could keep my grandfathered unlimited data plan. We huddled around the computer in a loud Wegman’s, her doing the talking, me kibitzing since I have no idea what the two of them were talking about.

We wind up with a perky AT&T lady who keeps laughing at our side dialogue while she does whatever she is doing to make all this work. We have one problem after another including that AT&T has no way to ship the phone to an address that includes C/O as in care of someone not me since they won’t ship it to my post office box and UPS is unwilling to stop leaving packages sitting in my driveway which doesn’t seem the best place to have my new iPhone sitting…especially if I am away for a few days. (customer service in both these cases is a story for another post)

Finally they get it all straightened out. We are ending the call with everything done successfully. I am relieved and amazed. As she says goodbye Ms AT&T is laughing as she says… “you two are just so adorable'”.

Be Adorable

Pay Attention • Add Value • Have Fun


I have a friend who is supposed to be carrying innovation forward in a large corporation. As you read further you’ll understand why I say “supposed to be.” To quote her, “I can’t let the Borg ship know I smuggle.”

Natalie Sweeney is an innovation genius stifled by the very leadership that asks her to be creative, innovative, and generally drive them forward in quantum leaps rather than tiny steps. We’ve been talking about a paper she wrote describing her experience exploring the disconnect between words and action. You all remember my thoughts on this: it’s the walk, not the talk.

Many of you are caught in the disconnect, thinking you want innovative and disruptive action while really hoping nothing much changes and upsets your world. Too bad. The world is more and more disruptive no matter what it does to your comfort level. Will the waves drown you in the undertow or will you ride them to greater success?

Natalie has an interesting way of describing innovators in large corporations: smugglers. Smugglers since they have to be clever and hide in the cracks while carefully advancing new ideas in subtle ways that sneak up on executives rather than smacking them in the face. With patience perhaps the smuggler succeeds in introducing an innovative idea that winds up being accepted and utilized. Perhaps not.

As Smuggler says ” The corporate machine likes conformity, trade secrets, efficiency, and matching results to forecasts. The innovative machine is fueled by non-conformity, breaking the rules, transparency and collaboration, and recognizing that unexpected results are sometimes the most valuable outcomes.”

Where do you fit? In actions, not words. How brave are you at allowing the disruption to occur? Are you willing to live in the future or trying to keep your current comfort forever?


  • Create an underground resistance to the “same old same old” because they believe in the need to change to be competitive
  • Minimize the fear of the new
  • Seed thoughts of hope, in different places, so that when others get together they share in the same vision
  • Make new ideas popular, with a smile and encouragement that it’s cool to back the idea
  • Suffer the obstinacy of those who aren’t capable of connecting the dots
  • Tell the right part of the story to the right person at the right time
  • Give unconditionally in an un-giving culture
  • Collaborate with those who will collaborate, and team together to advance solutions
  • Are willing to be vulnerable and admit when they don’t know the answers
  • Are lonely in their view of the world
  • Are convinced that what they bring to the table will make a significant impact on the business and for the good of the world.

And the language and actions of the Business Conformist:

  • No
  • It will never be a priority
  • I don’t have resources
  • That’s not the way we do things here
  • The VP will never approve this
  • I struggle to understand why we would do this
  • Welcome to (fill in your company name here)”


Be brave. Reach for the treasure.

Donor Don’ts

Last week I shared some Do’s from a short paper called “Hard Truths about Fundraising from the Donor Perspective: Uncensored Advice on What Does and Does Not Work.” I mentioned they aren’t too different than reaching out to anyone. Turns our the Don’ts are the same…good advice when reaching out to anyone.

– One major don’t: we’re not fans of pre-packaged PowerPoint presentations. We much prefer an engaging dialogue which gives us a better feel and enables us to drill down to the questions we really want answered.

– If you never disagree with anything I say, that’s a problem. I want a critical dialogue where you’re willing to tell me when I’m wrong.

– Don’t bother sending any solicitation that is not personalized.

– Lot’s of jargon is not helpful. Tons of buzzwords makes it hard to figure out what you really do.

– If you can’t clearly articulate what you do, I won’t believe you can offer me anything worth having.

– Don’t underestimate the influence or power of a staff person or assistant. Don’t try to go around them or speak negatively about them. They can be your greatest ally

– If you really care, ask me where my passions lie.

– Don’t be afraid. Tell me what you really believe and give me your best, not what you think I want to hear. The worst that will happen is I’ll say no.


Donor Do’s

Some time ago someone sent me a short paper called “Hard Truths about Fundraising from the Donor Perspective: Uncensored Advice on What Does and Does Not Work.” Unfortunately I printed it out so I could pencil some notes on it during a flight to Chile and find that I can’t remember where it came from and it has absolutely no attribution so I will sadly be unable to give credit.

As I read it I was astonished to discover that the Do’s and Don’ts of reaching out to prospective donors aren’t too different than reaching out to anyone. Change the idea that you’re asking for a donation to the idea that you want to connect with someone for any reason, and it fits quite well. Today I offer some of the Do’s. Next week the Don’ts.

– If you can’t explain it to me like you would to a 12 year old, it means you’re either hiding something or you’re not clear.

– Be honest about your intent when asking for a meeting. People are always saying the want “to pick my brain” or “provide an update” when they really want something specific. Just say it. I’m not stupid and know what you’re doing.

– Start the conversation with the “why” not the “what” and “how”. Share the passion behind the idea. If you’re not excited, you won’t get me excited.

– Frame your conversation around the beneficiary and how they are being helped. It’s not about you, it’s about how you’re doing something that helps people or the organization.

– If you want to reach out to me directly, send a short note with the point of what you’re looking for. Be specific.

– Make me feel like a partner with regular updates. Once a year newsletters or completing forgetting to thank me and let me know what’s going on with what we discussed is likely to lead to my not being interested in speaking with you next time.

– If things go wrong, tell me right away. Do not blindside me.

– Before a meeting map out what you want to cover. Always start and end on time.

– Figure out how to engage me and follow my wishes.

– If you manage to convince me to join you for breakfast or lunch…pay. It’s your party.

So many people don’t get it. It’s not the talk, it’s the walk. Again and again we see the consequences of bad walk after good talk. And yet, so many in leadership positions still don’t get it.

Most recently it was President Obama. He gave a strong, determined, serious press conference about the beheading of journalist James Foley. Those in attendance treated the news and the press conference with the anger and seriousness it deserved. It seemed Obama did the same.

Next thing you know, he’s off playing golf and pictures of him smiling away with his golf buddies, including the basketball star Alonzo Mourning, surfaced all over the internet. As you’d expect, the media, and most thinking people, had a field day discussing how insane this was. In full disaster control mode, Obama’s people gave all kinds of explanations…to no avail.

By the time you need lots of people explaining that what people saw wasn’t really what was happening, it’s too late. The damage is done.

Meanwhile David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, rushed back from his vacation after one day to show how seriously he took this barbarous act. The contrast spoke volumes.

To be clear, I have no doubt that Obama was serious in his words of disgust and anger. My wonder is how could such an intelligent man be so oblivious to what people would take away from his rushing off from the microphone to get out of his suit, into his golf clothes, hop into a golf cart, and spend the afternoon enjoying himself while James Foley’s parents were shown in all their agony.

The main job of a leader is to lead. To be strong in the face of adversity and show people he is working to address the situation. To guide the organization and show the path forward. And to walk the path.

Clearly this is as extreme an example as it’s possible to imagine but the same applies daily to those in leadership positions whatever they lead. It’s not the talk…it’s the walk.

People take the message from what they see you do, not what you say. And these days, everything becomes public sooner or later. Many politicians, business leaders, and countless others have learned this to their dismay.

Don’t be the next one. Act as though everything you do is visible because…it is. Match your actions to your words. Show them you believe what you say.

It’s not the talk…it’s the walk.

Everyone needs a break now and then.

Even me. Even you.

A real break.

Completely out of touch.

Or, per Lucy Kellaway, Memo: don’t look at messages on holiday.

Ebey Landing view 2

Show Up

Last posting I had just returned to Birchrunville from a few days in Chile. When you received the missive I was already traveling again although just driving to Washington DC for a 2 day visit. I’m pleased to report that as you read this I am in the middle of a whole 10 days when I will be sleeping in my own bed.

At the end of this week I do a Sunday day trip to Washington DC to meet a client passing through from Africa and Switzerland, than 2 crazy client days before I’m off to Guatemala to meet a Wharton Global Consulting Praciticum client (I overseen Africa and South American for GCP) about another project. I have an extra day or so here to take the client up on his interest in showing me Guatemala, whatever that means. Then 2 days back filled with Benari client meetings before I fly off to Detroit for dinner followed by a full EOS meeting day. That evening off to Seattle where I arrive at 1:32 in the morning. A day with a Benari client and then back to Birchrunville on the redeye to arrive the morning of the beginning of the Labor Day holiday.

Somewhere in there I have a number of prospect calls, managed to moderate an interesting panel discussion which featured both human resource experts and entrepreneurs fighting it out over how they connect, wrote a blog I ghost write for a client CEO, visited a few people to stay in touch, and, of course, wrote this.

Although many of you are cringing at my schedule others understand – it’s all about showing up.

It used to be that showing up meant physically showing up, and in many situations it does. Hence my travels. These days it also means staying front of mind through various internet activities…like this. Both have to happen. Without detracting from your ability to keep on top of existing clients and prospects. It is overwhelming.

Overwhelming but necessary. For those in small organizations it is particularly daunting since you need to stay on top of it yourself. For those in large organizations you also need to stay on top of it although you have others to do the heavy lifting. But in both cases…you need to stay on top of it.

You can’t delegate the accountability for showing up. It’s part of what it means to be the head of an organization or a senior executive or manager. For it’s not just the showing up but the way your organization is presented when you appear. The message, the visual, the emotion, the gestalt you present.

It’s the accountability of the person at the top and the senior team to ensure it’s right, it’s consistent, it grabs all who see or hear or read and it doesn’t let go. Showing up keeps you front of mind, then it’s up to you to ensure front of mind turns into want more.

Want more. No better emotion to leave with everyone you touch.





Koudelka Time

I just returned from a brief trip to Chile. During my visit I met with the CEOs of a number of companies ranging in size from a few billion dollars with international reach to market leaders in Chile with little business across borders. In each case I was there to discuss projects they are considering for significant international expansion. Since they were located all around the greater Santiago area, visiting them gave me an opportunity to see much of the city and speak to a wide variety of people in addition to the CEOs.

As usual, I started conversations with everyone and wandered around carefully observing what was going on. From several hotel staff I learned about the state of business and tourism travel and it’s implications for the economy. Packed restaurants led me to believe that people are feeling comfortable about spending money on dining out. Huge office buildings going up everywhere showed how the economy is booming and businesses are growing.

I talked to taxi drivers who asked me about where I came from and what I thought of Chile and shared their favorite places I should try and visit. I watched the people on the street and the way the traffic worked. And was intrigued by the architecture and the backdrop of the snowcapped Andes mountains right next to the city while I walked around in pleasant weather without even a light jacket.

The CEOs shared a bit of history of their businesses. On the flights home it occurred to me that I had heard different versions of the same story, each piece described from the perspective of their industry…agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, beverages. Each shared his vision for the company and where he thought I could help him.

As I heard their stories I had immediate ideas on how to help them, ideas I could share to get them thinking about ways to address their issues. I freely shared my thoughts and found they leaned forward and started asking questions and encouraging me to keep talking. they oh so cleverly picked my brain and got me to lay out the projects.

On the flights home I got thinking about my visit. I came alone and spent most of my time alone and in spite of talking to many mostly was alone with my thoughts. It occurred to me that my experience was enhanced and my thoughts crisper from the leisurely pace due to the way the meetings wound up scheduled. I had plenty of free time to quietly wander and observe.

I arrived Sunday morning and spent the afternoon walking around the neighborhood of Bellavista, an old neighborhood now filled with restaurants and shops nestled right up against Cerro San Cristobal, a medium sized peak with the Virgin of Santiago standing on the top. I spent a couple of hours climbing up and much less time on the way down. It was a mind expanding experience between the exercise of the climb, the wonderful and every changing view of Santiago and the Andes, and the riot of people in the neighborhood and on the path on the mountain.

It prepared me to listen well to the CEOs and cleared out the clutter in my head for the clear thought and creative ideas required in the meetings. It must have worked as several of them asked if I would continue to be involved should the projects go forward.

An odd kind of clarity break since it went on for a few days and was interspersed with business meetings requiring intense concentration. In between the meetings, more time on my own. And then on to the next meeting.

When I returned I noticed a quote I had pulled out of the Wall Street Journal sitting on my desk. “I don’t pretend to be an intellectual or a philosopher. I just look.” Josef Koudelka, a well known Czech photographer. Just now, for the first time, I looked up his bio and found he also said, “When I photograph, I do not think much.”

Without my knowing it, my time in Santiago was Koudelka Time. Time when you observe without thinking and allow the underlying creativity and vision to come forth.







Have a minute? Of course you don’t. None of us do. We’ve become obsessed with knowing more, doing more, having more. The internet, smart phones, 24 hour everything, and the ability to know exactly what is happening in the smallest village in the most remote place have all conspired against us.

The one thing none of us can get more of is time. It’s a finite resource. Luckily we have alarm clocks and alarms on our smart phones and hotel wake up calls so we can cut sleep time to the bare minimum. The one thing we need more of and which is critical to functioning at our best turns out to be the one thing we continually try to do less of.

The result is stress, mistakes, accidents, and even poor health. The amazing thing is how so many brag about their addiction to more and how every single minute of their day is scheduled. Once we allowed children completely free time to wander around with their friends and explore the world. No more. Even play time has deteriorated into play dates.

What many seem to have forgotten is the value of free time. The value of decompressing, of letting your mind and body rest, of having space between activities and not worrying about absolutely everything that happens in the world. We’ve lost the ability to differentiate the essential from the who cares so everything becomes equally important. We’ve lost our perspective.

Take back your life! Here are a few things to do to get you started:

  • Start off by leaning how to say no. Say no to even good opportunities.
  • Schedule a new activity in your calendar every week called “do nothing”. And during this time, nap, think, take a walk. Anything but planned activities or work.
  • Set end dates on things. And when the date arrives, move on.
  • Do less so you can do what you do better. You can’t do everything well and the more you try the worse you get.
  • Take a day every month to go off and think about what is really important to you and what you are doing because you forgot to say no. Each time you do this eliminate some things that really aren’t that important and focus on what is essential.
  • Brag about all the time your have for yourself instead of how much you have to do.
  • And most important: disconnect from the internet often.

Now go off and break free.





The July 12 issue of The Economist includes an article with an interesting perspective on the rampant corruption and venal behavior practiced by so many who get into positions of political power. In “Because we’re worth it” they speculate on the reasons leaders can present themselves as representing moralistic causes and ethical leadership while simultaneously exhibiting amazing kleptocratic and corrupt practices. How is it that the polity puts up with such hypocrisy?

They propose a number of ideas for why this occurs, my favorite being that citizens expect their officials to be corrupt and mostly out for personal gain rather than the good of the country and so are unsurprised when they act this way. Ultimately the question seems to be “whether the corruptioneers improve the people’s living standards.” If living standards improve, people will put up with a lot of mischief on the part of the leaders.

The article got me thinking about leaders in other organizations and how the same self interested behavior occurs at the expense of everyone else. In the religious realm, the stories are legion of those at the top raking off donations to pay for huge houses, Rolls Royces, and private airplanes while many of those making donations can barely pay the rent. CEOs have become famous for proclaiming how they really do deserve annual compensation in the tens of millions while laying off thousands of employees and cutting the benefits of those who remain.

Power so often leads to an entitlement mentality, a belief that you really are somehow smarter and more deserving than other people. I have nothing against people making lots of money or being richly rewarded for their successful efforts in whatever realm they inhabit. I myself would be happy to have a salary of a few million a year.

What I do find abhorrent is the entitlement mentality, the belief that they deserve more than anyone else, and most despicable is the idea that they never have enough so are willing to do whatever it takes to get more…including actions that violate both law and ethical behavior.

Which brings us to an apposite Turkish proverb shared by the exceptional writer Elif Shafak: “He who holds the honey is bound to lick his fingers.”

Be a good example. Don’t lick your fingers.





Work takes me to Africa quite a bit. Mostly I spent my time in places that aren’t on the tourist trail: Uganda where it joins South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin just about anywhere, Ghana, rural villages in South Africa, Katatura – the township that butts up to Windhoek Namibia, Rwanda, northern Botswana, and the Namibia/Angola border.

I’ve notice they all have something in common that catches my attention and yet is hard to describe. Wherever I go there is a kind of entrepreneurial innovation at work. People are creating all kinds of business ventures with minimal resources. I’ve talked about it many times as I’ve noticed how different this entrepreneurial activity in the lean world is from that of the fat countries.

Now I have a name for it: Kanju. In her book The Bright Continent Dayo Olopadean takes a ground level view of the energy, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit thriving throughout Africa. As I read the book I realized it is a guide for leaders everywhere for shifting your thinking not just about Africa but about the power of people unleashed to solve their problems themselves…with whatever resources are at hand.

The book starts with a quote from E F Shumacher that captures the problem faced by so many: “A man who uses an imaginary map thinking that it is a true one is likely to be worse off than someone with no map at all.”

So many are following imaginary maps and treating them as thought they are depicting reality. Kanju is based in reality not fantasy. In Yoruba, a Nigerian language, kanju literally means “rush or make haste”. As used colloquially it means “hustle” or “make due”.

The fat world often is run under formality bias. Formality bias: the inability to notice that informal ways are as good as and often better than the structured and formal. The inability to notice that informal arrangements and ways of doing things lead to better results.

Formality bias: an inability to put aside your biases about structure and order and let people create what solves their problems and fills their needs. Overcome formality bias, encourage kanju, unlease the power so many have bubbling within.



Words affect performance. What you say and how you say it can lead to someone performing at their best or failing to achieve their potential. Performance tends to conform to the expectations you set for it.

Stereotype Threat: when you’re told that expectations for someone like you are low, you tend to perform poorly. Just mention to a young woman about to take a difficult math test that girls are bad with numbers and she is liable to do worse than if you’d said nothing at all.

The name comes from research done on students taking the Graduate Record Exam at Stanford. When the test was represented as measuring intelligence, black students did worse than equally qualified white students. When the test was presented as a way for researchers to observe problem solving, equally qualified black and white students scored the same.

The old and incorrect stereotype that blacks are less intelligent that whites affects results when mentioned even with such subtlety. Merely mentioning stereotypes leads to them being fulfilled. Keeping your prejudices to yourself allows true ability to come through.

Think of the impact on results if you banish such ways of speaking and replace them with words of encouragement. Think about the different result you’ll get if instead of mentioning how girls are bad with numbers you mention how wonderful it is that women are such great mathematicians and are doing so well in fields requiring these skills.

Express your satisfaction at seeing how everyone in the company is exceptional in their skills and able to successful complete the most difficult tasks. Share your expectations of superior performance from everyone. Improve your organization’s performance. Leave everyone you touch better off and confident they will succeed.


Spend a very long flight in the front of the plane followed by a much shorter flight in steerage and you can’t help thinking about the way spaces affect you. My recent twelve hour flight to Doha in Business was somehow much shorter than my one hour flight from there to Dubai in Economy.

During my time in Dubai and Sharjah my awareness of the impact of spaces on emotion, energy, and perception continued as I sat at dinner in amazing halls, wandered out into the vast desert, and was packed into a dark and claustrophobic club. I had business meetings in tight quarters barely able to contain the table and a few chairs, in a vast cavern of an industrial building, and in the lobbies, bars, and restaurants of various hotels.

On my return flights I pondered the way these different spaces all were participants in the meetings or meals even though mostly below the consciousness of those within them. In some cases the space enhanced the dialogue while in others it boxed it in. I watched as people entered different spaces. Some spaces led to awe and smiling, energized gazes while others led to hunched shoulders with nary a smile in sight.

Spaces, the place we spend all our time.

All too often office and other business spaces are designed without much thought about the way they impact their inhabitants. Yet, the mental state spaces create often has an immense impact on the quality of the work performed within them.

The space is designed without any input from those who use it. People with no knowledge of the way the work actually gets done design space that turns out to inhibit rather than facilitate exceptional results.

The idea that the form of the spaces should follow the function of the activities that fill them is not considered or perhaps just ignored. Using spaces to exemplify, accentuate and be fully aligned with the values the organization supposedly lives by is never considered. All too often the space has exactly the opposite result, exposing the hypocrisy of the values expressed.

The value of designing the space to  encourage collaboration and involvement across functions and specialties is missed. The latest trend in designing spaces is followed whether it makes sense for the organization or not. The lemming model is followed instead of designing what leads to optimum results irrespective of what others are doing.

Ease of design and construction and minimization of cost is picked for short term gain over increasing shareholder value through building an environment that best fits the needs and sensibilities of those who with the best resources will build an exceptional and successful company.

Visit Dubai. Notice how just walking around looking at the exteriors of the towers leads to your thoughts soaring. With such emotional excitement and openness of mind who knows what creative and innovative ideas might emerge to drive your organization further than you ever imagined possible.








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