Wishing you a happy holiday season and happy new year!

As we approach the end of another great year, I want to thank all of you for reading my blogs. For those of you who took the time to express your appreciation and suggestions I want to extend a special gratitude.

I wish all of you and your loved ones a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous year in 2015.

My next post will be on January 9th, 2015.

I am excited about continuing to write every Thursday in 2015, staying in touch with all of you and adding the most value I can.

Thank you for 2014.


Completing another great year in a meaningful way.

I can’t believe 2014 is almost over. What an amazing year.

As we enter the holiday season and end of the year it seems appropriate and timely to write something about “completing the year.” There are some powerful and useful distinctions associated with completion that have greatly benefitted me over the years. I want to share some of these with you in this blog.

Completing a phase, period, initiative or task effectively is just as powerful and rewarding as starting or executing these effectively. However, it seems as if most people tend to focus more on the starting and executing part. We underestimate the power and value of completing things effectively, not merely finishing or ending them.

Completing a phase, period, initiative or task is very different than finishing or ending it.

We don’t have to do anything for something to end. It is the nature of the world. Things begin, go through their cycle and end. A year, a project or a lifetime, it’s all the same. But, in order to complete things – or more accurately to be complete with things we need to apply a deliberate and mindful focus and awareness.

Let’s look at 2014:

When most of us take stock of the year’s events without the distinction completion in mind we tend to focus on the cold facts of what actually happened. In that context we tend to ask ourselves things like: “What did we and didn’t we do?” and “What results were achieved?” While some people find intellectual stimulation and value in trying to represent past events in the most factual, objective and accurate way, this information does not empower or uplift our spirit and soul.

In contrast, if we look at 2014 through the lens of completion we are compelled to push our thinking and reflection beyond the cold facts of what happened to the meaning of things. We explicitly focus on, and own our relationship to what happened.

In this space we tend to ask ourselves questions such as “What did we accomplish?” “What did we learn?” “Where and how did we grow?” “How are we better, stronger and more prepared for the future?” and “Are we satisfied and complete?”

In fact, the concept of success and failure is completely an interpretation, not a fact. We can emerge feeling victorious and successful even when we don’t explicitly meet our goals. And, we can feel defeated and like failures when we did meet our goals. The feeling of success or failure is determined by the completion conversation.

Completing the past enables us to put things in the right perspective and place. It helps us to put the past in the past so we can be free to focus on the future with a clean slate. When we see the past as complete we are always left feeling stronger and more empowered and excited about the future.

However, when we leave things incomplete, past incompletions tend to haunt us and cloud our thoughts, plans and aspirations for the future. We tend to become more hesitant because of past failures and/or blindly confident because of past successes. In both cases, we are reacting to our past and that is sub-optimal and de-energizing.

The good news is that we all have the ability to bring completion to the past at any moment of our journey, no matter what happened and what we are dealing with. We just need to take stock of the past, draw empowering conclusions from its events and then declare the past complete. It requires taking a stand. And, this takes courage. But, we can all do it if we want to empower ourselves.

As we are ending 2014, I am inviting you to reflect on your year. First, make the list of what happened. It’s useful to start there. But don’t end there. Ask yourself:

  1. What did I accomplish?
  2. What did I learn?
  3. Where and how did I grow and improve in the areas I care about?
  4. How did I forward my bigger personal and professional vision and purpose?
  5. What am I most grateful for?
  6. Who do I want to acknowledge, recognize or thank? (Make sure you tell them.)

Once you declare 2014 complete, you will feel a sense of peace, emptiness, calmness, centeredness and focus. In that space you can powerfully start creating next year to be your best year ever.

Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season and happy new year!

Why most teams are not strong at making decisions and sticking to them

How many times have you experienced the following scenario?

The team discusses an important challenge or opportunity that is critical to the organization’s future. The conversation goes on and on without resolution, as different people have divergent opinions about the best course of action. When the team tries to bring it to a conclusion, they are no closer to alignment. They leave the meeting “agreeing to disagree.”

Such meetings are worse than a waste of time: they actually damage the team, which is no closer to making the necessary decisions and assuming responsibility for them. Unfortunately, people have stayed within their comfort zones at the expense of moving the organization forward in new and dynamic ways.

Many times, this happens because leaders and managers either lack the courage to take a stand or they don’t understand their role as leaders. Often, people simply don’t know how to effectively manage conversations.

People seem to be so attached to their opinions and points of view that they simply don’t listen or can’t hear what their colleagues are saying. As a result, they can’t tell the difference between what is essential to moving the conversation forward and what is merely a matter of preference, form or cosmetic.

They want others to view and express things the way they do. But, in diverse teams that is not going to happen, and quite frankly it shouldn’t. In fact, one of the strengths of a diverse team is the ability of its members to look at things from multiple angles and points of view in order reach a richer and more complete conclusion.

But, reaching a conclusion is the key. And, this is what most teams don’t do well.

I often see team members arguing about important details even though they actually agree with each other on the principle or direction.  Instead of building upon each other, they react too quickly with “I disagree” only to say the same thing in their own words. This slows the discussion to a snail’s pace and makes everyone mentally and physically exhausted.

Another ailment: people opine endlessly about things without ever saying “therefore I propose” and moving the discussion forward toward a decision.

Discussions that spin in a directionless manner suck the energy out of the team. Although people remain seated around the table, they begin to silently give up and mentally disengage. This fuels negative underground chatter and background noise, as well as cynicism about meetings. In most organizations, the general sentiments about meetings are “too many” and “most are a waste of time”.

But it gets worse! When teams make decisions based on compromise and lack of alignment, people say all the right things – just to get the tortuous meeting over – but they leave the discussions not genuinely owning its conclusion, outcome and decision. When circumstances press, people have no problem paying lip service to the decisions.

Reflect on your own experience – have you ever looked back after these meetings and felt the frustrating feeling: “we just spent hours discussing and agreeing to something important, and people still go off and do what they want regardless of the decision?”

That dynamic is more damaging to the team and organization than if you didn’t make a decision in the first place.

Effective leaders and managers know how important it is to have an open debate with honest, respectful listening because there is rarely a single right answer to any dilemma or question. They always look for ways to encourage their people to set aside their personal egos, agendas, and preferences in order to align with the collective wisdom of the group.

They instill in their teams a commitment to the type of conversation that leads to making choices, aligning behind those choices, and taking responsibility together. This requires courage.

There is never a justification to leave a conversation “agreeing to disagree”. It is always a cop-out.

Of course, some topics are complex and may require a number of meetings and conversations to gather the necessary input and to digest it as a group. But, paralysis by analysis is always an excuse to avoid taking a stand.

Organizations that achieve 100 percent alignment behind a goal that is 80 percent right have a much greater chance of success than those where people are 80 percent aligned behind a goal that is 100 percent right. How motivated are those who are not aligned to work towards the success of a goal they have not endorsed? They are the ones watching and waiting to say: “I told you so.”

Obviously, it is scary to step up to the plate and take full responsibility for a goal or direction that is uncertain, controversial, difficult to achieve, or politically incorrect. But, when team members find the courage to make the tough choices, they are immediately more powerful. They are able to apply their energy towards proving their choices right rather than wasting energy on proving others wrong.

If an entire team is behind one direction – even if it is only 80 percent correct – if they truly align, commit, and have each other’s backs, it is astounding what can be accomplished.

Do you know where you really live? It could change your life.

Often, people do not pay enough attention to what they say—both publicly and privately. Whether positive or negative, people don’t seem to understand the immense consequences of what they say or think.

I believe most people would agree that positive, optimistic and encouraging conversations uplift and empower their spirits and psyches, whereas negative, cynical conversations have the opposite effect.

However, there is more to the story. What we say and think also have significant repercussions on our overall wellbeing. Certain conversations give us energy while others suck the energy out of us. Have you noticed that some days you are tired at 10am in the morning and other days you are full of energy at 10pm at night?

That is not a coincidence.

Most of the time, our level of energy is not a function of how many hours we slept the night before…or even how hard we worked during the day. In fact, some mornings we jump out of bed full of vitality even when we only slept a few hours. And, some nights we are wide awake even after a long day of hard work.

Our energy, mood and spirit are all shaped by the conversations and thoughts we entertain and dwell in. In fact, we live more in our conversational environment then in our physical environments.

Let me illustrate:

Have you ever been on a conference call while commuting to or from work on the highway and suddenly had a shocking realization that for the previous 20 minutes you were completely not present to what was occurring on the road in front of you?

Have you even taken time off with the intention and desire to fully disengage from work and rejuvenate, but you just couldn’t relax and let go because some issue or interaction at work was still irritating, upsetting and consuming your attention and soul?

We don’t litter, trash or neglect our physical environment because we know that we live in it. But, we do tend to litter, trash and neglect our conversational habitat.

If you accept this premise, you should be more inclined to better care for and manage your conversational environment. You dwell in your conversations so make sure that the conversations you surround yourself with are positive and empowering. Make sure they support, represent and honor who you are.

Here are a few practical things you could do immediately to achieve this:

  1. Don’t participate or initiate gossip, especially when their focus is trashing other people that have a part in your life. Gossip may be valid, but it NEVER makes a difference.
  2. Have the courage to address issues with people quickly, directly and productively. Don’t let issues fester.
  3. Make requests and ask for things instead of complaining about things.
  4. Apologize and clean up your mess when you misbehave. Swallow your pride and don’t let your ego get in the way.
  5. Always have something to look forward to; a goal, project, milestone or event that you are working on that excites you in the present.
  6. Express gratitude, acknowledge and thank people around you every day, especially the people in your personal and professional environment that you respect and love. Don’t be lazy or stingy about that.
  7. Be thankful and count your blessings every day.