He hit a home run and didn’t even realize it

“You hold back only to realize there is nothing keeping you back, except yourself” – Rachel Wolchin

One of my favorite books – subsequently turned in to a movie – is Moneyball. It is the story of Billy Beane (then the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team), and how he transformed baseball using a revolutionary approach to assessing, drafting, and ultimately fielding players based on a complex formula of statistics. The approach, called sabermetrics, had only hereto been used by a small following of fans for fantasy and similar tracking of player performance. Billy was the first Manager in professional baseball to embrace the approach and use it as a primary factor in his decision on which players he kept on his team and the order in which he had them bat. Today most professional baseball teams use this approach – and in many respects this is behind the recent success of the current world champion Houston Astros.

Back to Billy – his achievement is even more profound when you consider the circumstances. At the time, the Oakland Athletics were a second-tier professional market with an extremely limited budget to match. Most of the more successful franchises were spending 2 to 3 times more than the Athletics, allowing them to field the best talent in the league, and in return, consistently outperform other teams. Continue reading

What your Ch’i says about you…

“Your energy introduces you even before you speak”


Recently I was visiting one of my branch operations when a team member made an interesting comment to me.  “Are you OK?” she asked.  “Yes, why?” I responded.  “Because I’m sensing a vibe with you right now that suggests otherwise”.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  A vibe?  What kind of a vibe?  What in the world was she talking about?  Heck, I came in to the office clean shaven and sharply dressed.  I was composed, professional – like I always am.  And I didn’t think I had any type of scowl or frown on my face.

And yet she sensed a vibe.  She sensed a negative energy that stood out clearly in me.  My energy introduced me well before I even spoke a word.  And had I not been given the feedback or a chance to reframe, I would have left a completely different impression than the one I hoped to leave with my fellow team members.

So when I saw this quote pinned to the branch leader’s wall in this very same office, I had to take note and reflect on its importance.

“Your energy introduces you even before you speak…

In the study of martial arts, many of the disciplines emanating from the Asian continent speak of a term called “ch’i”.  Ch’I (or qi) is described as an individuals “life force”.  Other ancient cultures have a similar concept – “ki” in Japanese, “prana” in India, and “Great Spirit” in Native America.  It is an energy within us that differentiates a corpse from a living body.  This energy de and is as real as the physical bones and muscles we can touch and feel.

What these cultures also believe is that this energy can be channeled to create a healthy mind and body, or if left unmanaged, can lead to unhealthy outcomes.  The ancients believed so fiercely in this that many rituals and practices were tailored to nurture and channel ones Ch’i.

You have no doubt seen examples of small framed men and women with less than impressive physiques breaking boards, bricks, or other hard surfaces with their bare hands – and left with no damage to their bones or muscles.  They achieve these feats by channeling their Ch’i – their life energy.

Now, this is not a message designed to encourage you all to become martial artists.  Rather, the reference is designed to help illustrate both the importance and power of the energy we all carry in us.  Our life force.

In leadership, and in our own pursuit for personal success, this same energy can be used.  It can be channeled and controlled as long as we have an awareness of its existence and a willingness to feed it.  And as they say, what goes in, must come out.  Positive energy channeled within exudes positive vibes to others.  No doubt you have heard the term “he/she lights up a room”.  How?  Well, in many respects, its their energy level.  Its their output.  Their energy introduces them before they speak.

So, what does your energy say?

Climbing Mt. Everest

“Sometimes we think that progress must occur in one direction. But that’s not really true. Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward.”  –  Alison Levine – Lead the first all-woman US expeditionary team to climb Mt Everest

Several years ago I had the privilege of hearing Alison Levine present as a keynote speaker at technology industry symposium. An accomplished mountain climber, she is one only a handful of females who have climbed Mt Everest, and may be the only one to have traversed all 7 of the highest summits in the world. If you’ve not had the chance to hear her speak, it’s worth exploring her website to get a sense for her accomplishments and her passion for leadership (http://www.alisonlevine.com). The way she translates them in to something each of us can appreciate is a talent in itself.

Such was the case when I saw her speak about her journey to the top of Mt. Everest. Her story was riveting, and the implications for both business and leadership have left an impression with me for years. In fact, her story inspired me to do a little research on climbing Mt. Everest, and led to a few of my own observations on its relevance to leadership. I’d like to share a few of those with you today. Continue reading

Purpose Matters in Business

“Lean in to Purpose”  – Jonathan Mildenhall

I was recently at a conference where Jonathan Mildenhall was a key note speaker. For those of you who don’t know Jonathan (and I don’t expect you to), he was previously the Chief Marketing Officer at Coca Cola and is now the Chief Marketing Officer at AirBnB. His marketing pedigree is not the topic of this message, but his passion for building “purpose driven companies” is.

His presentation was fantastic. In fact, as he took us through a journey of his career and some of the hallmark marketing campaigns he has overseen with Coca Cola and AirBnB, you could clearly see the impact that purpose has on those two organizations. And its not that these two companies are charities – far from that. But their commitment to purpose helped drive both to notable growth and brand success. Consider the following elements of Purpose from each of these companies:

• Coca Cola: To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
• AirBnB: Creating real connections/friendships between likeminded people

Continue reading

The Meaning of Life

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve always thought Nietzsche was an interesting study. A German (Prussian) philosopher born in the mid 1800s, his writings are both profound and controversial. His beliefs centered around the concept of good and evil, struggle and survival, an assessment of humanity as incomplete, and its need to evolve to a new set of values (as knowledge destabilizes old values). And to be clear, I don’t necessarily agree with all his writings or his beliefs. But taken in parts, his writings can often be very thought provoking.

Such is the case with this quote. I heard it recited by an American veteran recently in a documentary on the causes and outcomes of the Vietnam war. For those of you who are students of history, you know that war was one of tremendous suffering – for all sides involved. And the trauma it left for those involved has taken decades to heal (if at all). But this is not a story on the lessons of Vietnam. Rather, it’s a testament to the profound nature of the words of Nietzsche. Continue reading

Persist and Overcome

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it” – Margaret Thatcher

How does that saying go? “Two steps forward and one step back”, or something like that. If only it were true. Problem is, the adage implies a measure of progress. Two forward, one back – that means you have at least seen a net movement forward of one step, right? For most of us this just isn’t true. “Two steps forward, two steps back” is more appropriate. Or maybe even “One step forward, two steps back”. Either way, we all face this challenge from time to time, where every measure of progress forward seems to be met with setbacks, and we find ourselves back to square one working to regain ground we previously held, then lost.

I recall a humorous story I’ve told before about my time building a global contingent workforce management (otherwise known as MSP) business at TAPFIN. At the time, we had developed a fantastic business model in North America and in key countries in Northern Europe, and the mandate was to expand in to other key markets – in this case, France. The growth of the MSP model was just beginning to take shape, and Europe was the new frontier. We had a base of business in the UK, Belgium, and The Netherlands, but France was by far the largest staffing market in Europe. And we wanted our piece of the pie. Continue reading

Actions Speak More Loudly Than Words

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about that quote for a moment – “What you do speaks SO LOUDLY I cannot hear what you say”. Simple yet prophetic. Truer words have never been spoken.

While researching quotes specifically for this leadership message, I thumbed through dozens, but this one struck a chord. An artist with a pen, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a master at communicating thought. A poet, lecturer, and essayist – his writings often centered around key ideas such as individuality, self-determination, self-reliance, and the capacity of the individual.

That’s why this quote caught my eye. I, too, believe in the capacity of the individual & our ability to achieve great things, when we put our mind to it. I believe both in the importance of self-determination and self-reliance. But, I also believe in something more – our ability to influence the action and behavior of others (both positively and negatively), and the significant responsibility it accompanies. Continue reading

No Substitute for Hard Work

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi

I’ve been pondering this message for some time – writing about the importance of hard work. It seems so cliché these days to write about the obvious benefits of hard work – and even more cliché to start a leadership blog with such well-used quotes as those from Vince Lombardi. What’s more, I’ve worried about whether my message will offend those who might interpret this message as an affront to their work ethic.

But this message is important. It’s time to put the softer elements of leadership aside and speak to the heart of the matter – and quite simply it is this…most people don’t put forth the effort that is truly required to be successful in their life pursuits. Whether that’s at work, with family, with friendships, or in our hobbies, too many of us think that we can shortcut that process and still succeed.

Newsflash! Nothing in life comes easy. More importantly, nothing in life is worth having if it isn’t earned. “No pain, no gain” – isn’t that how the saying goes? Why then do so many people long for success (professional, financial, etc) but fail to put in the effort required for that achievement? Continue reading