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Get Out of Your Bubble, Now!

A friend, Drew Wade, who helped me edit my books, wrote this insightful piece on Bubbles. I thought it was very well put and wanted to share it with you. I agree wholeheartedly with him that being in a bubble is a dangerous place to be. Getting out of one’s comfort zone (bubble) is a key part to growing and prospering. Looking at all sides of a problem and figuring out what side of the issue you want to stand on is important. Important to building character…

getoutofyourbubbleGet Out of Your Bubble, Now!

Bubbles. Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about them on TV lately, specifically regarding the 2016 election. “The Democrats just couldn’t see what half of America wanted,” or “Hillary thought she would win because she was only listening to people who were getting their information from incorrect pollsters.” You also hear about bubbles regarding Facebook and Google, and how they’re handling their crisis with fake news stories that might have influenced the election.

Can we be honest for a second? Fake news wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem if people were at least getting it from two sides. It’s not a fake news problem; it’s a BUBBLE problem. People are willing to receive the most ridiculous fake news from one side if that fake news tells them exactly what they want to hear, even if it’s completely stupid. People would rather hear something comforting than hear something trustworthy.

People like the comfort of their bubbles. You see this everywhere, from the echo chambers of the big cities and the urban elites, to the lack of civility you encounter on social media if you so much as dare to disagree with one of your friends. (Seriously, though, this phenomenon of people “unfriending” their sometimes-lifelong friends if those friends say something they disagree with is not healthy for society.)

So, since we know that people like their bubbles and they like their comfort, we can deduce something potentially earth-shattering: You will have an advantage, in business or in life, if you recognize your tendency to stay in your bubble, and then you adjust accordingly. Knowing how to get out of your bubble—how to hear and receive things from the other side of an argument—is one of the most valuable skills you can possess.

But how do you get out of your bubble? I’ve already mentioned that you should make yourself listen to both sides of an argument. You should do this even—especially—if you naturally disagree strongly with one of the sides. Listening to both sides is not enough, however. You also have to think critically about the issues being discussed.

Here’s an example. I work with these two sweet women who were absolutely devastated by Hillary Clinton losing the election. I mean, they were inconsolable to the point where, the day after Hillary lost, they couldn’t even talk. About a week after the election, when things had settled down a little bit, we had a conversation about politics. They were both still very upset about what had happened, and they started calling Trump supporters racist, sexist, et cetera. I said, “Hold on—you mean to tell me you can’t imagine anyone voting for Trump because of legitimate issues?” (I’m from the rust belt, and the legitimate issue of NAFTA jumped to mind.) They couldn’t think of one.

I asked them where they got their news from. To my non-surprise, they mentioned CNN, MSNBC, Slate, Salon, and so on—and did not mention sources like Fox and Breitbart. When I asked them about Fox and Breitbart, they could barely conceal their disgust. “I can’t bring myself to read that crap,” said one. “What about hearing about a story from both sides?” I asked. “Some issues shouldn’t even have another side,” said one.

At that point, I realized I was dealing with bubbleheads.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a second and say that they had a point. Let’s say that some arguments should not have a legitimate counter viewpoint. It still pays to listen to the people who hold that illegitimate counter viewpoint.

Here’s why. Exposure to uncomfortable viewpoints makes you think deeply about why you disagree with said viewpoints. Once you start thinking deeply about opposing arguments, you start bringing that ability to other areas of life. Thinking deeply and thinking creatively go hand in hand. Both solve problems.

Perhaps you’ve heard about safe spaces on college campuses, or about trigger warnings for college students before controversial reading assignments, or about the ability to opt out if a college student doesn’t want to be exposed to a conflicting argument. These college students are going out into the world unprepared for life. (And, since I brought up unfriending before, let me say that I’ve had the trigger warning/safe space argument with friends on Facebook. I got unfriended by three out of four of the people I was arguing with.)

Look, just because you’re listening to both sides does not mean you have to believe both of them. Be incredulous. Put things through a rigorous test, even when they’re on your side. The plus side to this extreme vetting is that when a side passes your test often enough, it will develop a good reputation with you, and you will know it’s most likely trustworthy.

Here’s the brilliant thing: once we’ve started giving both sides a fair listen and started putting them through the ringer, it becomes an automatic process. We can find the time to take this critical thinking approach because it’s not something we add to our busy lives—it’s an entirely new way of thinking. It’s not a routine, it’s normal existence.

You’ve heard a lot of talk about the urban elites lately—you know, the ones who got the election wrong. They’re not the real elites. They might have the money, sure, but they don’t have the brainpower. The real elites are those who can rise above normal, everyday viewpoints. Henry David Thoreau said that… “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I say, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet mediocrity.”

For me, mediocrity means always wanting to be comfortable, never challenging yourself, always staying in the safe space of your own echo chamber. Getting above that comfort-oriented, never-hearing-anything-you-don’t-want-to-hear mindset is the way to break through mediocrity. It’s the way to begin training your mind for greatness.

Connecting the Dots….


For those of us who are old enough to remember, connect the dots was to me the simplest but most effective toy or puzzle we had when we were young. Wikipedia says, “Connect the dots (also known as dot to dot or join the dots) is a form of puzzle containing a sequence of numbered dots. When a line is drawn connecting the dots the outline of an object is revealed. The puzzles frequently contain simple line art to enhance the image created or to assist in rendering a complex section of the image. Connect the dots puzzles are generally created for children. The use of numbers can be replaced with letters or other symbols.”

In adult discourse the phrase “connect the dots” can be used as a metaphor to illustrate an ability (or inability) to associate one idea with another, to find the “big picture”, or salient feature, in a mass of data.

If I have had any success in my career, I attribute it to “Connect the Dots”. When I interview folks I always try to determine their ability to see the big picture. To understand just how does this problem really look to you and what ways you might attack it? Connect The Dots taught us how to anticipate where the next line was going to take you and to look ahead to see what shape things are taking in front of you. Just what you were drawing or just what problem are you solving? Were you going to end up where you thought you would be? Connect the dots prepared us for all of the business problems we’d be facing over the next forty years. It positioned us to look at things in solid form as well as abstract.

A lot is said in today’s business world about vision and the ability to navigate through problems, the ability to anticipate what could go wrong and the ability to tackle those problems. Those with a unique sense of vision can anticipate the problems and have the knowledge in their hip pocket just how to avoid disaster. Business problems to me are all the same. If you think you have a corner on the markets in the problem area, I would argue that you are dead wrong. I can’t but think how these simple toys helped prepare us for some of life’s complexities.

I was teaching my operations class the other night and last week I had taken the students on a tour of a small factory that made spaghetti and barbeque sauces. One of the students commented on how simple he thought the processes were in the factory. I asked him, “How do you make sauce at home? And he said the same way”. I said, then why does that plant or process surprise you? He seemed puzzled. I told him, had I taken you to NASA and we were building a rocket, I would expect you to be perplexed. Go back to thinking about connecting the dots. The processes are simple, one step after another produces wonderful sauce. Why do I know that? Because once upon a time I learned how to connect the dots.



Just happened to catch an interview with Alex Rodriguez, one of the most prolific baseball players of our time in which he said, “I tripped and fell a lot, but kept getting back up.” Interesting, how did A-Rod ever fail? Well I guess here are the facts:

  • In 16% of his major league at bats he struck out
  • Only 29.5% of the time he got a hit, which means 70% of the time he didn’t
  • Since 2011 he has really only played one full season

A major failure, of course not but Alex Rodriguez, the highest paid player in baseball knows things aren’t always up, sometimes they are down.

Years ago United Technologies ran an ad in the Wall Street Journal. I copied the ad and have it hanging on my wall in my home office. I would give credit to the author but it is impossible to find. Here goes…

“You have failed many times although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drown the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you? Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. R.H. Macy failed seven times before his New York store caught on. English novelist John Creasey got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books. Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times but he also hit 714 home runs. Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the changes you miss when you aren’t even trying.”

I taught a young protégé, many years ago to play racquetball. And after losing so many times, no one could remember, he finally beat me. He was proud as a peacock, bragging about his victory. I just looked at him and said, “Do you think your victory (my loss) bothers me? It doesn’t because I taught you how to play the game so it’s equally my victory. See the young protégé never realized it’s about the experience that enriches you; all of us have to fail sometime. And sometimes we fail most of the time but it is perseverance that keeps us in the game. See, we have to believe in ourselves in our ability to be successful and its drive and ambition as well as a heavy dose of perseverance that will drive our success.

Many years later a friend and I were talking about life, and I told him that I always likened myself to one of those blow up, life sized toys with the weight in the bottom that we all had when we were kids. You would punch it and it would come right back for more. That simple tool taught a lot of us baby boomers just how to persevere. Take the hit and keep coming back for more. Maybe that’s what Ruth and Rodriguez as well as Creasey and Macy are teaching us in their failures…isn’t it really all about life’s experiences that make us stronger.

So the next time life hits you in gut, bounce back up and drive forward and tell everyone just like A-Rod did, “I tripped and fell a lot, but kept getting back up.” The world is going to be better for it…believe me.

What would your wish be?

whatwouldyourwishbeMichael B. Ross –comments by Ron Emery

My good friend, Michael B. Ross, author, consultant and all-around spiritual up lifter recently posted this on LinkedIn. Once I read it I think it highlights the importance of relationships as well as personal missions and well being. In Michael’s books and teachings he focuses on character as an underpinning of all that is good. I happen to agree with that and believe with strong character anything is possible for the individual. I asked him if I could share it with all of you and he agreed. My comments will be in red so you can separate his comments from mine.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a magic genie grant you three wishes?

What would you wish for? Who would you help? What world problem would you eliminate? What would you do for yourself? The magic genie scenario is fun, but it also helps us keep focused on what we want most in life. Cornell University shows that 84 percent of people look back on their life with regret. We’ve all used the “I-wish-I-would’ve…” phrase when looking back. But what if we didn’t have to? What if we were our own magic genie and granted our own wishes?

Here are 7 common wishes we have control of:

  1. I wish I would live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me

This is the number one regret of the dying. Most people know deep down the life they want to live, but they allow the demands, expectations and busyness of life to rob them of that life. The second hardest thing in life is to identify and design the life you want to live. The hardest thing in life is to stay on course when the demands and expectations of others come. Being true to oneself is something most people can’t say. They sell out to the man or sell their soul to the devil. Wouldn’t it be great to be proud of what we accomplished and know we made a difference in this world? How great would that be?

  1. I wish I would spend more time with my family

In a fast-paced, action packed, smart world it is challenging to slow down, turn off the phone when you’re home, leave the office early (on days you can) and focus on your family. When people are older, you never hear them say they regret spending more time with their family, but you do hear the regret of not spending enough. No one ever said “I wished I would have spent more time at work.” Get to the kid’s soccer games, play catch with the football and baseball in the back yard, take a walk, go to the zoo, travel with your children and enjoy the fruits of your labor. It is important.

  1. I wish I would stay in touch with my old friends

The average person influences 15,000 people in a lifetime, but the average person only has 2-3 close friends. The average friendship lasts only 7 years and the reason is people don’t stay in touch. With all the advances in communication technology we should have no problems keeping in touch, but it requires a little discipline. We need to keep this quote in mind, “Discipline weighs ounces, regret weighs a ton.” To me with social media today, there is no reason to not stay in touch but many of us just don’t do it. Influence much but stay in touch much more to support all that need your support. Show your compassionate side. It will reward you many times over.

  1. I wish I would take care of my body better

This wish is especially true as people age and their joints begin to ache, blood pressure rises, and prescriptions increase. Our bodies are our life vehicles meant to help us reach our life vision, dreams, and destinations. The better we take care of our vehicle, the further we can travel. Change the oil, recharge, easier said than done but important nonetheless. Find an activity that lets you stay in touch with people and interact. It may be golf, tennis or racquetball but use it as a vehicle for your success.

  1. I wish I would be myself with people

Bitterness and unforgiveness are the killers of authenticity. Hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt by people. Everyone fears pain. We subconsciously avoid it and that causes us to be inauthentic. Pain is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to control us. Practicing forgiveness daily is like having body armor for relationships without having to lose authenticity. Practice humility, compassion and caring because that what you want the world to be. Think of the people who taught you that and just how they influenced who you are, what you became and what you are to be in the future.

  1. I wish I would make more money

For those living in a capitalistic society this is a simple fix. You look for opportunity, find the one you like, put yourself in the right position, dedicate yourself to serving others, and stick it out until you succeed. Money has no feelings. It doesn’t care who gets it, but it is constantly flowing like an ocean. If you position yourself properly and serve others, more money will flow your way. The decisions we make daily control how much money we make however, money should not be the key. Leading a fulfilling life is far more important than money. Fulfill yourself by giving yourself away. Realize that you are a gift (in most cases anyway).

  1. I wish I was smarter

We live in the Information Age. Scores of information comes our way in a multitude of mediums. We process information at an amazing rate. The problem with most people is they don’t think. Statistics show that 80 percent of people don’t think for themselves. If people would critically think about the information they are bombarded with, they would feel empowered, and smarter. Listen and learn. Practice your listening skills and you might hear things and uncover things you have never heard or understood before.

Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish for things to be easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for a better wind, wish for the wisdom to set a better sail.” It’s so easy to get caught up in regret and wish Doc would bring us a time traveling DeLorean to change things around. We can’t change what was. But we can look at what we wish for, position ourselves properly, be mindful of the demands and expectations of others, and set our sails to take us wherever we want to go.

Be your own magic genie and continually ask yourself, “What do you wish?”

Great keys to making oneself better and like Jim Rohn says above be better. Every day, you get up ask yourself how you will be better today? Great job Michael B. Ross and thanks for letting me embellish and post.



I was at a family reunion over the weekend and on the drive up I got to thinking about my grandmothers. Both have earned their final reward of peace now. I was blessed. I had two exceptionally strong but caring women as my grandmothers. Now, neither one developed a cure for cancer or left their mark on this world any other way but by being a great grandmother however but they left their mark nonetheless. I especially recognized their greatness. Grandmothers are caring, loving beings who probably treat their grandchildren far better than they ever treated their kids. See they have had many more years to practice. Or maybe by the time they are grandmothers they are just worn out from dealing with their children.

My paternal grandmother was always excited to see us and spend all her time listening and talking to us kids. She made us feel like we were the most important people in the world. She baked and always had a meal ready for us. Simple food, but great all the same. She cooked with the same love that she showed all of us. She was always full of hugs and kisses and always listening even though there were quite a few clamoring for her attention. One thing I learned from her was her compassion. There was never a concern for her but she always put us first. A simple woman she was never stern or mean and even though my father said she was a fighter, I don’t believe I ever heard her raise her voice even with the house she was in she could have many, many times. I am sure I don’t know all of the stories. I miss her laughter even today. She had a great sense of humor.

As we would leave she would sit in the front window and wave goodbye to all of us. I remember seeing her cherubic face as we piled in the car and left for home. What a sweetheart she was….

My maternal grandmother was of course another gem. She grew up a German and a strict Lutheran and she was an outcast from some of her family when she married my grandfather, an Irish Catholic. That I suppose made her stronger and far more independent because of her family’s treatment when she became a Catholic. A stronger willed woman you never meet. Katie was tough and she did everything the tough way. On wash day she would wash the clothes than take them out on the clothesline to let them dry in the warm summer sun. She would sit down and reward herself with a beer, only one, to refresh herself, and the German in her, never more than that for this lady. Gram loved to get down on her knees and scrub and wax the floors, maybe that was an excuse for another beer. I used to help her scrub the floor in the garage. I did not know too many folks who scrubbed their garage floor with Spic and Span but she did. We’d hose down the garage and use the broom as a scrub brush until the floor was clean as can be. Then we would wash the car, her and I so we could put only a clean car in a clean garage. When I got older I cut her lawn every week and she would give me one dollar but she would always be cooking a couple hamburgers when I got done so I could sit down and have lunch with her. Those were rewarding times with my grandmother and they were fun as well listening to how they grew up and about Christmases many years past when they would go to the German Hall and get an apple for Christmas. Not an iphone but an actual apple. Had to throw that comment in….

In 1991, Gram passed but before she left us she pulled me close to her and told me, “You know those clothespin cookies, I used to keep in a shoebox in the freezer. I knew it was you who used to come over and eat them.” When I had the surprised look on my face she said, “That is why I baked them over and over again”. I thought I was getting away with something but on her death bed she called me out on it. That is love and compassion at its finest. Those are the stories we can tell about our grandmothers. They made us who we are today. They taught us love and how to care. They taught us what we know today as people. They were not scholars they were grandmothers.

As I sit and look at my sweet little granddaughter I wonder if she will have stories like this of her grandmother and grandfather and just what we taught her. I sure do hope so…

That darned post it note again….

Years ago I had a young man, who by the way has become very successful, working for me and we were about to embark on his annual performance review. Jeff (not his real name) had worked for me about 10-12 months and I gave him a little post it note with the following written on it…very stubborn, hard headed, inflexible and very idealistic and I told him to think about these concepts when we did his review later in the week.

Jeff took the post it note home and I am sure was quite surprised receiving it and quite taken back as to where I was going with those not so fine attributes. Anyway he promptly took the post it note to his Dad, who proclaimed, “How does Ron know you so well in such a short period of time?” When doing a review for someone I always thought it best to provoke some intense discussion, not to create animosity but to really help the individual improve and focus on what is really important. You see, I realized what a gem Jeff was as an employee, I realized just what and where he could go if he had the right support and focus in his career so I wanted him to think of these negative comments and where it might hold him back from achieving his potential. I also think annual reviews in many cases are too generic and not very well thought out. How many times would you just like to get it out of the way? The important part of the review was the time you get to spend together discussing the plusses and minuses of someone’s performance. Remember, plusses and minuses not just the negatives. It seems these days that people (bosses, in particular) forget about the fact that in order to keep you around and gainfully employed you must be doing some things right and they focus on the negative. It cannot be a constructive conversation when you only focus on the negative.

The really funny part of this story was years later I met Jeff in Switzerland. I was flying into town from the US and I asked him to meet me at the train station for a beer and to get caught up. Here he comes down the street in his Bally shoes and his Hugo Boss suit all decked out with his leather portfolio by his side, he sits down at the table and says, “I have something to show you…” Inside his portfolio was the post it note I had written years before on those attributes that were not so becoming. He said, “There is not a day that goes by when I don’t look at those words and think of how you saw me and what I must appear like to others, so I think about it when I interact with others.” Talk about being floored with making an impression. Ten years later he called me when he was cleaning out his desk for another move up the corporate ladder and found the post it note again. Both of us had gotten a lot of mileage out of that post it note and story but it makes me think of how it’s the little things we do in other lives that are most meaningful to them and just how are we all connected in those endeavors.

As I was doing some research on my new book, I started to really study millennials. They really think like Jeff. They are looking for mentors and guidance and want to do the right things and learn. Their expectations are a little different and it scares most of us baby boomers. If we apply the principles of mentoring and coaching and have open dialogue with them about the successes and failures, the plusses and minuses how rewarding that relationship can be. Keep in mind your employees want your time, input and most importantly your thought within their reviews as well as mentorship.

Thoughts on Millennials…

I spend my days now running a small manufacturing operation that has a substantial millennial population. Every day, I am challenged by how I need to think and react based on those team members. In my recent book, “Growing Comes from Planting Seeds”, I talked about millennials and their expectations of the workplace.

… if we don’t try and think the way our new generation of future workers thinks, we will lose the battle and the war. Millennials think very differently, and we can probably learn a lot from them. We manage today thinking about Baby Boomers and Generation X, but don’t Millennials have a very different way of looking at the same problems? (Remember they are what the future is going to look like, and we have to prepare our organizations for this upcoming group of workers.) How do Millennials look at mentoring and coaching? Do they have a sense of entitlement about it? How are we as an organization prepared to look at this in the future?

Karl Moore and Sienna Zampino, in an article for Forbes, entitled “The Modern Mentor in a Millennial Workplace,” say that:

Millennials have a bad reputation. They are seen as spoiled, lazy, and having high expectations. Put simply, they’re considered immature, but we think otherwise. Based on our research, we believe that Boomers and Gen Xers have important roles to play in mentoring Millennials and helping them harness their valuable talent.

They say in their article that this new group of workers is more intent on finding mentors to help them navigate the waters of the workplace than previous generations who might have insisted on finding those pitfalls on their own. The managers of today need to embrace that within the new workforce and adapt. Moore and Zampino tell us that:

Millennials acknowledge, albeit not out loud, that they have certain limitations. They are aware that they lack some crucial elements in order to move forward. They view mentors as meaningful contributors to their personal growth. Millennials consider them confidantes; wiser individuals who can provide guidance. At times, Millennials’ topics of interest can be controversial, requiring feedback prior to official discussion. Annual salary increases, for example, are best addressed with prior consultation. Mentors serve as fountains of knowledge for these kinds of topics.

When searching for mentors, Millennials do not limit themselves to their work settings. After all, they are active in many different forums, the world of LinkedIn, for example, which provides immediate access to industry professionals from around the world. In the case of Millennials, users are able to quickly connect and contact influential people. Don’t be surprised if you notice that your LinkedIn profile is being viewed by unknown faces.

I, in fact, reach out to many younger people, simply because if I am looking to build a sustainable business, these are the leaders of tomorrow. Moore and Zampino go on to say, “Millennials are naturally curious. They want to learn more about your academic background and personal career path. Knowing this contributes to their overall understanding of how to move forward in a career.” This is a very different way of learning and engaging than the previous generations. While researching information for this book, I ran across a very telling graph created by Jeanne C. Meister and Kalie Willyerd in The Harvard Business Review, entitled “Mentoring Millennials.” They write:

Millennials often look at mentoring as a two-way street, an opportunity to learn as well as share exactly what they have learned through their advanced use of social media, as well as their view of today’s marketplace, buyers, consumers and users of products. They look at this as their value-added contribution to the company that has hired them. They have expectations from their bosses that they will provide direction and a solid career path for them. They believe that the company they work for will provide them challenges and opportunities for them to learn and grow, while allowing them the opportunity to blend work with the rest of their lives. They also believe that they have the opportunity to learn and grow while developing skills that they know need honing and developing, while giving new concepts and ideas back to the organization. This provides the millennial with a two-way street of learning and support. They lack the industry-specific knowledge that the older workers’ may have, but this is their opportunity to learn and grow.

In short, Millennials are well connected, multi-taskers, and very technologically savvy, which is what we all want on our teams—but remember, this comes with the caveats of having transparency (I have found this the most difficult trait for a business to have, especially in the corporate world), as well as instant gratification and rewards (remember, they grew up in the technology era, where everything is instant). They believe their career paths will be collaborative and they will be part of that plan, as well as have a work life balance that will give them other opportunities to pursue their dreams.

Embrace the change and think how exciting it will be to adapt and just how rewarding success will be with the millenials.

My friend, John Merrell, we will all miss you…

John Merrell passed away this June 30th. The world will miss him. When I wrote my book “Growing Comes from Planting Seeds”, I said the following about what lessons John had taught me in my life…

Years ago I met an older gentleman (about twenty-five years my senior) who ran a small company out of Indianapolis. Even though I was a seasoned executive of forty, I learned quite a bit from John. John was a polished senior executive who shared many stories, which, once I absorbed and understood them, made me a far better leader than any leadership program I could have attended.

John was a successful entrepreneur who told me that sometimes his reps (manufacturers’ representatives) made more money in a year than he did. Think about it—here was an entrepreneur and eventually a business owner who was paying the rep group more than he was making. Why, you might ask? He valued the relationship with the rep. Yes, he was the one who had to worry constantly about cash flow, reinvestment in the business, sales forecasts, employee issues, market penetration, and all of the things a business owner lies awake at night thinking about. But remember, he had made a commitment, and like we spoke of earlier, life is based on character and integrity, and he was not going back on his word. Eventually his business grew, and through the help of his reps, he didn’t have to worry about that situation again, because he took care of them and they took care of him. That is the way life works when you build a life of character and integrity. It is where I learned the most about character and integrity, and I bet that he didn’t even realize that he was teaching it.

See, the best teachers are the ones who don’t realize they are teaching us. They teach us through their actions and words, not in a classroom. Think about that, and think about what business relationships have taught you, and how they are not just useful in your business life, but in your personal life as well. Now, I can tell you many stories of John like that, but you get the point.

John taught me to make anything, whether it was dinner, lunch, or just a cup of coffee, into an event. He taught me how to engage the waitress, waiter, or restaurant owner in conversation, which led to superior service and eventually into another relationship that could be fostered. I remember taking him to a great little Italian restaurant in my home town, and he always ordered the veal chop. I remember him telling the owner that it was the best veal chop between New York and Chicago, which made the owner glow with pride. Now, I am sure it was a damn good veal chop, but did it classify as “the best”? Who knows, but it did guarantee us a great meal and superior service, and the owners always looked forward to us returning. Not only did he leave the host a nice tip, he left them with a sense of pride and accomplishment for having served us. Cool. It makes me wonder today what his employees felt about him, and just how much compassion he had for the folks that worked for him. See, to John, this was genuine. This was not a show—it was who he was.

John taught me that you always grab the check and you never let anyone else pay for dinner—I learned that it’s a small token to pay for loyalty and building the relationship. Even today, I tell friends who say they want to pick up the tab that they have to negotiate that in advance with me, because I automatically pick up the check. I could tell you many a story about John, but the main point is that we had a strong business relationship based on trust, and he taught me so much about how to be polished, professional, and known for your trusting character. John is retired today and living in Florida, so whenever I go to Florida for spring training, time willing, I try to see him and his wife, and he still beats me at grabbing the check.

It is what we learn and glean from others that are important in establishing just who we are as a person, boss, or leader. So next time you are in a social setting, pick up on the little things that you notice and ask yourself why people do what they do. Think back on John and how he led by example…how he created a learning environment when there was not learning environment established. We were not in school, yet we were being schooled. Isn’t it better to be educated in the way things should be done and why they should be done that way?

So there are ways to turn a business relationship into a mentoring experience for the protégé, but just like the old saying goes, “The teacher will appear when the student is ready to learn.” You have to be open and recognize opportunities to learn from great teachers as well, even when they don’t realize they are teaching.

Little did I know that I would not see John again, hear his bellowing voice and fight for the lunch check? I did not lose a mentor and a friend but the world lost something on that June 30th day and the world will be poorer for it. I just hope that I can keep John’s memory going with the things I do that he left me with. John, we will miss you.

Growing Comes from Planting Seeds

I have written and am in the process of releasing my second book which is called,

“Growing Comes from Planting Seeds—A guide to mentoring, coaching and developing relationships that will last a lifetime.” It will be available on Amazon shortly. The inspiration for writing this book came from some of you that read my blog and I have built relationships with over the years. Please tell me what you think of it. My next project, which is called ‘Maslow Debunked’ which will build on leading a fulfilling life, will be out later this year. Hopefully you find them inspiring and meaningful to you in your everyday lives.

Today you can’t simply rely on your leadership skills to be effective, as you have to hone your skills at providing effective mentoring and coaching to develop an effective team. Both are processes that help your team live up to its full potential, and both lead to bottom line results. Even in the boardroom there is a clamor for business coaches and mentors to help executives get through tough and trying times. Many new coaches and mentors are becoming certified as this need expands. This field can be an expanding career path for many individuals or a career extender for many retired or misplaced executives who have the ability to truly understand people and team dynamics. Understand just why mentoring and coaching are the hottest buzzwords in business today. Just think of the growth a protégé can have when a mentor can take them under their wings selflessly and show them the way. It leads to a dynamic that is not so prevalent in today’s cut throat business environment. Think of what kind of dynamic organization you can build with this kind of empowering culture. It is not easily done unless you have right people, processes and culture with an understanding leader at the helm. Special skills are required.

How does one distinguish personal mentorship from an organizational objective and learn to apply it individually? What are the differences between mentoring and coaching? What should you look for in a mentor and a coach, or for that matter, any business relationship, and how do you distinguish one from the other? Learn how individuals are attracted to the individual they perceive to have “the golden keys” to success. Read true examples of success and how they happened. Learn how you might be able to apply these techniques to enhance your skills and quite possibly develop new ones that allow you to be fulfilled. What does it take to be a mentor? What is expected in the relationship between mentor and protégé? What are you required to offer and how do you deliver it? What can a coach do for you? How can a coach manage to do what is best for his team? Try to apply these skills with your team in small empowering doses and see just what you get. The local entrepreneurs group I am part of consistently struggle with how to get their employees to perform at an optimal level. Just think if we can take an employee who is teetering on the edge of non-performance or even being terminated and turn them into a high contributing valuable piece of the business. Think if you can now make that employee and example as a change agent and just how that will positively affect your business culture. Isn’t that what we talk about when we talk leadership? You have effectively taking an human capital asset and increased its value to the business tremendously and how likely is that employee, knowing what happened to him or her, likely to inspire other non performing employees?

How can you take tried-and-true techniques and apply them to your organization for success? What are the benefits of a mentor and coaching relationship? If you are trying to develop a world class organization, these principles should be important to you. If you master these principles, you can drive your team to unimaginable results. Every chapter in Growing has learning points at the end as well as simple exercises you can do to make yourself more effective at mentoring, coaching or leading.

Are organizations as successful as they can be today in putting the right kind of framework together to support both mentoring and coaching programs? What might they forget to tell you about these relationships? How can businesses make sure they are effective and benefit the organization and the individuals involved long term? How do you talk to your team about legacies and why are legacies so important? These are the questions I attempt to answer in my new book…please take a look.

What is Mentoring

A mentor is a person who can be a sounding board, someone of experience who can listen and help development, while not losing sight of reality. Mentorship is actually rarer than we think but true mentorship is a beautiful thing. “Mentors should keep their protégés’ feet grounded, and support and stretch them to succeed personally and professionally,” says Debbee Dale in “How to Set up a Mentoring Scheme.” I think that is a perfect description. It is slightly more than just business in the fact it is a selfless relationship on the side of the mentor. It is a giving of one’s advice and counsel, and the mentor is not upset or hurt if the protégé chooses a different path. Mentoring does require a skill that is not necessarily in everyone’s demeanor. Jealousy often gets in the way of mentorship and probably is the biggest reason these relationships fail. “Mentoring is an intentional, developmental relationship in which a more experienced and more knowledgeable person nurtures the professional and personal life of a less experienced, less knowledgeable person,” according to Wayne Hart in “What is Mentoring?”

Hart also says:

The primary focus of a mentor is development of an individual with an eye to organizational outcomes as well as personal outcomes; the capacity of the mentor to influence rests heavily on his or her ability to relate in a nonauthoritative way while, paradoxically, guiding the mentee or the protégé from the perspective of a superior position and expertise.

Many of these relationships, which may start out in a professional way, really turn out to be close personal friendships as the relationship continues. Mentors must pull and push their protégés. Mentoring requires strength in two different but complementary behaviors. First, mentors must lead by guiding interaction with their protégés. Mentors invest themselves in their protégés and uplift them, providing not only support, but empowerment. Secondly, Mentors must support protégés. Mentors push their protégés to become their best by encouraging development in areas of expressed need in their inventory. The protégé actually responds by not wanting to disappoint the mentor, which helps the protégé mature immensely. Mentoring is a spontaneous endeavor and in most cases cannot be planned, as the activity of coaching can.

So take time to think about your influencers and just how they affected who you have become and if it has been a positive influence, tell your influencers. Make their day; show them what they have done to help you. A while back I happened to run into an old college professor I had when doing my undergraduate studies and I told him what an impact he had on my life. I told him how he got me to look at things differently and how he still influences what I do today. He looked surprised. It is not that often that someone tells us we made a difference in their lives, but it is a great feeling when they do. I have often said that 10% of the folks we have touched will tell us that we have touched them, but we have touched so many others who have not told us. Many teachers realize that. Teachers by the very nature of their jobs touch hundreds of lives per year but only a few relationships come back to them later in life and they are rewarded with knowing they truly made a difference in their student’s lives. Think about how many times we did make a difference and no one told us that we did. Tell someone you made a difference and this is how you did it. You will not regret doing that. If you wait, time may pass you by and you will regret never having that conversation. It is a powerful conversation to have. For those faint of heart, bring the tissues.