Getting Rid of Great People

Why would you do that?

Why would you exit a passionate, contributing, well-liked, roll-up-your-sleeves professional who is recognized as and depended upon for providing necessary organizational glue?

The same reason you would uproot and transplant a well-established, thriving, nutrient-producing anchor plant.  The deeply entrenched, solid, stable, far-reaching root system of the anchor plant defines the garden bed. It is its strength.

When fundamentally changing the organizational landscape, the gardener must start anew.  To transform the bed, the soil must be deeply tilled and aerated to give space for new and different plantings.

The anchor plant has contributed greatly.  It has provided critical foundation, definition and protection.  And it deserves to find an enriching new location as it allows its original bed to undergo the earth-moving preparation for what’s to come.


The Gender Divide…Really?

I have to say I was a little aggravated.  When I saw the results of the research, it irked me.  It irked me that there was a difference.

I have to confess I was a little taken aback.  When I heard from no fewer than three separate executive level male leaders over the course of no more than three months, that each had a problem working with women.

I have to admit, though, that there is something to this.  And I am moved – as usual – to encourage an open discussion.  A discussion about the existence and ramifications of the difference between men and women in the workplace.

It doesn’t help anyone – or any relationship – or any organization – to deny it.  A bridge isn’t built until it is joined in the middle. And the fact of the matter is, one of the 50% of us has to work productively with the other 50% of us in order to create good work and good lives.

So here’s the deal.  Recent research shows that the motivation factors (the driving forces that compel us to act or not act in certain ways) of men and women are different.  The differences are not surprising.  In fact they are quite typical – even archetypal.  That’s what aggravated me.  And things that aggravate, irritate and itch usually do so because they represent at least a grain of sand of truth.

There is more than a grain of sand of truth in this case.  If you’ve read this far, you know it too.  If you hit the “back” button in dismissive disgust at the topic, you know it too.  So we must stop pretending that those differences don’t exist. We can do better. We can all do a better job of understanding our own motivators and leveraging those of others.  Ostriches don’t make good leaders in the long term.

Seats are limited

I’m hosting Helle Bundgaard next Wednesday, June 6 at the Center for Meaningful Work to present this research and discuss the implications of these findings.  I hope you’ll join us!  (The great common motivators – beer, pretzels, wine and cheese – will be served)

In Honor…

A dear friend just sent along this poem, “Fairy Tales” by Chester Swor.  I share it in honor of those who lost their lives this week in Boston. In honor of those who have lost someone dear.  In honor of those who ran toward the danger to touch someone, help someone, save someone.  In honor of all those who have touched, helped and saved me when I needed it.  This is for you.

“Fairy Tales” by Chester Swor

It seems wherever I go
People come into my life or go out of it
Touching me where I feel
Then leaving me only a memory
Like the Gossamer fairy tales of children –
Easily forgotten
And I wasn’t through knowing them.

How do I know
Who I am seeing for the last time?
How do you halt your life to gather and keep all
Those around you that you’ve ever known?
And how do you keep fairy tales from losing their magic?

So come
Brush against the walls of my life
And stay long enough for us to know each other
Even though we’ll have to part sometime
And we both know
The longer you stay
The more I’ll want you when you are gone.

But come anyway
For fairy tales are the happiest stories we read
And great books are made of little chapters.

Bestselling Author and Career Coach TAMA KIEVES

Dear Uncommon Readers,
I am so excited to be hosting Tama Kieves on April 24th for “Inspired and Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!” and, by way of introduction and to provide a bit of background on who she is and how she created her own Inspired, Unstoppable and Wild Success…here is an excerpt from Tama’s latest book:

Book excerpt by Tama Kieves

At the most dramatic turning point of my life, I left my career as an overworked attorney to follow my soul’s haunting desire to become a writer. I had graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and worked in the litigation department of a huge, elite law firm. While there, I traded my life for societal slaps on the back, more money, and more grinding work assignments. I made partnership track. But I was desperate to be free, exhausted in my good, safe job, dying of meaninglessness, suffocating the life out of my creative soul. Finally, a friend asked me a vital question:

“If you’re this successful doing work you don’t love,

what could you do with work you do love?”

 I decided to answer that question with my life. I left the practice of law to undergo the art, practice, and baptism of listening to myself in this lifetime. I wrote about this amazing journey of transition in my first book, This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love.

A bit about the new book: “Inspired & Unstoppable”
This book is about wildly succeeding in your life’s work: taking what you came here to do to the next level. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want to just “follow my bliss.” I wanted to follow my bliss, say to a bank, or to a bestseller list, or to some kind of explosive expression in the world. It had never been my dream to leave my law practice to end up as an incompetent entrepreneur or a starving artist. But I also didn’t leave one falsely successful life, only to turn myself into a sock puppet again, swallow my spirit, and “get with the program” so I could “make it in the big time.”

I was going for the holy grail of wild success, the deluxe spirit package, passion, sweetness, and inspired prosperity. I wanted creative independence and security, worldly fanfare and peace of mind and the experience that abundance came from doing the work I came to do, the way I came to do it. The only problem was, I could name my desires until the cows came home—and kicked back with Netflix, cud, and apple martinis—but I wasn’t sure how to create this “everything comes together” life.

Yes, I’d practiced law and maybe I should have known how to project business goals in the “real world.” But, truth is, I have a poet-philosopher’s heart and tend to process life in metaphors and fires-in-the-belly, more than data and numbers. While I’m ambitious and logical, I’m also part rebel, gypsy, and lightning-bolt bearer. That means, for instance, that when well-meaning folks suggested conventional means like business plans, I tried not to start speaking in tongues or bite them.

Still, I craved commercial success, recognition, and reach, so I turned to marketing advice, success books and popular titles in the business, self-help, and motivational world. But the more I read, the more disillusioned I felt. I had finally found a dream that gave me life—but everything I read about succeeding in it felt soul-numbing. I just knew I had the mojo, but “the getting it out there,” the pipelines to income and opportunities, seemed to be governed by a mechanical, harsh, or clannishly linear world. It didn’t matter if I had twelve thousand diamonds; the jewelers wore blindfolds. Everything made it clear that real success required what I didn’t have, and without a “mind meld” with Anthony Robbins, Donald Trump or, say, “The Terminator” would never have.

Like so many of us, I didn’t realize that I already possessed an inspired way to succeed. It hadn’t dawned on me yet that the electricity that inspires our dreams also inspires the means.

But this is the truth I know now: taking what you love into the world has little to do with conventional techniques, established reality, or the formulas of the marketplace. Following your true desire or calling is an initiation of soul. It’s a rite of passage. It’s a whole new game board with exciting new rules. Bring your diamonds. (Read on for more from Tama…)

How to be Successful

I hate to break it to you but there is no one sure recipe for how to be successful.

There are actually hundreds of thousands  – perhaps millions – of ways to become successful.  And each and every one depends on you.

Your definition of success, your willingness to work hard, your willingness to trust, your willingness to dream, your willingness to let go, to love, to hope, to change and to take action.

It’s not about “able”.  We’re all able.  It’s about willingness.  It’s about being open.  It’s about letting go and trying a new approach.  It’s about being you and being real.  And this is the hardest part.

We are wired for safety, security, status, certainty and status quo.  We can’t sell the house, we can’t move the kids out of school, we can’t speak up against senior management, we can’t lose our benefits.

Yes.  You can.  But are you willing?  Are you willing to define success – YOUR version success – and take stock of where you are against it?  Are you willing to relax and play with possibility?  Are you willing to consider – really consider – that this is not the best you can do, the most you can be, that this is not all there is?

I hope so.  Come play.  I have some possibilities.

One fabulous opportunity to play is coming up later this month.  The Center for Meaningful Work is hosting Tama Kieves – best-selling author, inspirational speaker and career coach – for a workshop that will move you to action.  Join us!

Goal to Hell

We’ve all heard that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I can’t think of a more appropriate saying to sum up how so many people come to regard their work and life.

We do well in first grade to get into second grade.  Must pass grades in 7th to get to 8th.  Do well on our SATs to get into a good college so we can get a good job with good benefits.  Scrabble around the corporate ladder to get a bigger office, better salary, nicer title.  And then wake up and realize we are in hell.

It’s the moment we realize that our goals to:

  1. Increase sales by 20%
  2. Expand into 30% more territory and
  3. Cut expenses by 15%

actually translate to:

  1. Be 20% more dreadful
  2. Ignore family 18% more
  3. Decrease soul by 22%*

It’s the moment you realize that “this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing”.

It’s the moment you realize “I should have been a helicopter pilot”.

This moment can be a galling, pit of your stomach realization that you took a “right” turn when you should have hung a left.  It can cause a deep, sinking feeling of resignation with a sad back up chorus of altos singing “Why bother now?  It’s too late”.

But it’s not.  There’s still time. And the consequences of not trying are really quite damning…

“Definition of Hell: The last day you have on Earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” – Anonymous

Don’t let this happen to you.  Suffer less.  Soar more.

And join us at the Center for Meaningful Work on April 24th to enjoy an energizing, inspiring, mojo-inducing workshop with bestselling author and career coach, Tama Kieves.

*Hat tip to DAK

Crabs in a Bucket

Have you heard of crab mentality?  The analogy comes from the apparent habit of crabs in a bucket to hinder the escape of any one crab.  Alone in a bucket, any one crab can make his or her getaway but in a bucket full of crabs they grab at one another and pull the potential escapee back down.

If you’re like me – and the many folks I’ve mentioned this analogy to – your reaction may be along the lines of “YES! That’s exactly what happens!”.  And you may not be referring to your own personal experience with crabs in a bucket but instead, alas, of your own work and life experience.

Like crabs – or any living thing – we are wired for survival.  I don’t believe crabs – crabby as they have a reputation to be – are necessarily plotting to thwart a colleague’s success. From a crab’s perspective, survival is “out” and back where she belongs. Alone in a bucket she’ll grab on to any crab hold to make it over the lid.  In a bucket full of crabs, she’ll do the same – even if it happens to be the shapely leg of a fellow crab.  Dashed hopes for all involved.

Lessons from the crab bucket:
1. To get out of a bucket, you may have to have the tenacity to shake off more than a few fellow crabs.
2. When a fellow crab is making an escape, resist the urge to grab and pull – it helps no one and can have disastrous consequences.
3. Consider that we tend to measure and value ourselves in relation to our fellow crabs.  There are other buckets out there.  Better yet, there is a big blue free sea.  Consider that the biggest obstacle to your own escape, just might the value you place on you.

Tips for Escaping Buckets

  • Awareness of the bucket is the first step.  Take stock of your work and life.  Good bucket? Or no?
  • Evaluate your current vs ideal relationship to the bucket
  • Establish a goal
    • Option 1: Celebrate and nurture a good bucket
    • Option 2: Plan your escape
    • Option 3: Commit to helping others escape if the bucket is not their bag
  • Commit to your goal with a clear vision of success
  • Execute your plan with milestones, support and expert advice
  • Follow through, don’t peek back into the bucket, head forward
  • Pass it on



How to Make a Suffering Bastard

Mix high stress levels with low resilience and add a handful of the following ingredients to taste:
misaligned expectations
lack of feedback
blocked progress
boring tasks
inability to set and defend boundaries
lack of communication
uninspired purpose
lack of confidence

Shake vigorously and place in a dysfunctional culture to allow the mixture to rise.

For those of you looking for the drink.  Please see below:

Original Recipe

From Joe Scialom’s private papers, and published in Beachbum Berry Remixed by Jeff Berry, 2010

Shake everything, except ginger beer, with ice. Stir in ginger beer and pour into a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with orange slice and sprig of mint.


What if

What if you could get promoted? What if you could quit? What if you could stand up to that bully in marketing? What if you could just get your team on the same page?

What if you got all A’s in school? What if you got into a good college? What if you still have no idea what to do with your life? What if you never traveled?

What if you reached that one sullen kid? What if you said no to the tests? What if you did what was warranted? What if you said yes?

What if you said what you really meant? What if you decided? What if you listened? Really listened.

What if?

Is your world ending? Shouldn’t it?

It’s November 21st and, according to the folks at this website, the end of the world may be upon us just one month from today. If you are a student of Nostradamus or the Mayan administrative assistant who quit work before finishing the calendar project, you may be stockpiling canned goods as we speak.

But for those of us not on the 12212012 bandwagon yet, perhaps we should take notice.

Are you strong and healthy?  Are your relationships supportive and mutually satisfying? Is your work gratifying and meaningful to you?  Do you experience moments of joy?  Are you living a purposeful life?

If not, perhaps you should end your world as you know it.

I work with folks who are stuck.  Stuck in a soul-sucking job.  Stuck feeling unmotivated, unengaged and unappreciated.  Stuck in a battle they are fighting on the way up the down escalator.  The first step is to want something better.

Augusten Burroughs, author of “This Is How”, wrote about contemplating suicide.  When he explored what he wanted to accomplish through his death, he writes: “I realized something. It wasn’t that I wanted to kill myself. What I really wanted was to end my life.”

Each of us is accountable in this way.  Not only for acknowledging where we are today but where we want to go, who we want to be.

Take stock of where you are. What’s working?  What’s not?  Envision what you want.  Know you can have it.  Ask for help.  Make a change.  Take the leap.

When Rick and I were married twenty two years ago we chose for our wedding song: “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” by R.E.M..  It was.  End your world and begin anew.  It’s scary, but it’s worth it.  And you can do it again and again until you get it right.