Crucial Conversations

There are a few defining moments in our lives that make all the difference. Many of these moments come from crucial or breakthrough conversations with important people in emotionally charged situations where the decisions made take us down one of several roads, each of which leads us to an entirely different destination. When a challenge in life is met by a response that is equal to it you have success.
Just as the world is changing at a frightening speed, so have the stresses and pressures we experience. This makes it all the more imperative that we nourish our relationships, and develop tools, skills and enhanced capacity to find new and better solutions to our problems.

25 years of research with 20,000 people and hundreds of organizations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switler have proven that individuals who are the most influential, who can get things done and at the same time build on relationships are those who master their crucial conversations.

Crucial conversations create an entirely new level of bonding. They transform people and relationships. Not a compromise between two opposites but a higher middle way, like the apex of a triangle. Because two or more people have created something new from genuine dialogue, bonding takes place just like the bonding that takes place in a family when a new child is created. When you produce something with another person that is truly creative it’s one of the most powerful forms of bonding there is.

Crucial conversations are interactions that happen to everyone. They’re the day-to-day conversations that affect your life. What makes one of the conversations crucial as opposed to one that is not?
1. OPINIONS VARY
2. STAKES ARE HIGH
3. EMOTIONS RUN STRONG

What makes each of these conversations crucial?
It’s that the results could have a huge impact on the quality of your life.
By definition, crucial conversations are about tough issues and were masters at avoiding tough conversations.

For example:
1. coworkers send an email to each other when they should walk down the hall and talk turkey
2. bosses leave a voicemail in lieu of meeting with her direct reports
3. family members change the subject when a shoe gets too risky
4. a friend who learns through a voicemail message that his wife was divorcing him

We use all kinds of tactics to dodge touchy issues
If you know how to handle and even master crucial conversations, you can step up and effectively hold tough conversations about virtually any topic.

2014 – Let’s Consider Our Legacy…..Again

2014

In a post I did on January 2nd 2013 entitled Your Legacy I challenged us all to;

  1. Be thankful
  2. Change our input
  3. Determine our Legacy

If you haven’t been able to determine what you want that legacy to be for you, perhaps I can give you a perspective you may not have thought of, or some insight into a legacy beyond yourself. That is you know what legacy’s are really all about….what we did for others or what we did for mankind.

 In this excerpt of a recent article on the Legacy of 2013  by Oliver DeMille are some facts and thoughts on where America is headed. For you maybe this article can give you some ideas as to what you want your legacy to be.

During 2013 state governments in the United States passed over 40,000 new laws.

That’s not a typo. It’s 40,000 new laws — which means five times that many regulations when all the agencies of government write these laws into agency policies. It’s even more if you add the new federal laws.

Taken together, these signal a serious period of decline for America. We are a nation being overtaken by our biggest competitor (some would say future enemy) China, and simultaneously mired in skyrocketing levels of regulation.

Governments, federal and state, now seem determined to regulate and overregulate every facet of our lives — private and business. Many entrepreneurs, who were already reeling from reams of Obamacare regulations, are now facing more government red tape from every flank.

The free enterprise economy is literally under siege. Those who think this is exaggerated should try to open a significant new business in the United States. Most of the biggest entrepreneurs and corporations who have attempted this recently have decided to build in China or some other economy instead. The U.S. government has become generally hostile to business.

This is a strange reality for the land of the free and the home of the brave. Long considered the bastion of world freedom and economic opportunity, America is consistently less appealing to many businesses and investors.

The December 31, 2013 issue of USA Today summarized this overarching trend by saying that “aristocracy” is now “in” in America.

Aristocracy, really? That’s a bold statement. Yet it is increasingly true. The lower classes are more dependent on government, and the middle classes only survive by using debt. Only the upper class, the elites, are financially flourishing — and many of them rely on international investment that is growing in foreign economies.

Anyone relying on the U.S. economy right now is concerned. What will the escalating rollout of Obamacare bring? How many more government regulations will come in 2014, and how will this further weaken the economy?

The experts are finally taking notice of sharply rising levels of regulation, even if Washington isn’t.

For example, Francis Fukuyama called our time “The Great Unravelling” (The American Interest, Jan/Feb 2014) and Steven M. Teles called it “Kludgeocracy in America” (National Affairs, Fall 2013). We have become a Kludgeocracy indeed, with more business-killing regulation every week.

In The Discovery of Freedom, Rose Wilder Lane said that,

“Men in Government who imagine that they are controlling a planned economy must prevent economic progress—as, in the past, they have always done.”

What is her definition of a planned economy? Answer: modern France, Britain, and the United States. She quoted Henry Thomas Buckle, who wrote:

“In every quarter, and at every moment, the hand of government was felt. Duties on importation, and on exportation; bounties to raise up a losing trade, and taxes to pull down a remunerative one; this branch of industry forbidden, and that branch of industry encouraged; one article of commerce must not be grown because it was grown in the colonies, another article might be grown and bought, but not sold again, while a third article might be bought and sold, but not leave the country.

“Then, too, we find laws to regulate wages; laws to regulate prices; laws to regulate the interest of money…The ports swarmed with [government officials], whose sole business was to inspect nearly every process of domestic industry, to peer into every package, and tax every article…”

This was written about France, just before it lost its place as the world’s most powerful nation, and it was published as a warning to Britain, just before it lost it’s superpower status. This quote applies perfectly to America today.

Great nations in decline need innovation and entrepreneurialism, but instead they choose anti-innovation and anti-entrepreneurial regulation. It’s amazing how every nation repeats this well-known but addictive path of self-destruction.

As Lane Kenworthy argues in Foreign Affairs, opponents of bigger government “are fighting a losing battle.” In the near future, he says,

“More Americans will work in jobs with low pay, will lose a job more than once during their careers, and will reach retirement age with little savings.”

But this will be offset, he suggests, by more vacation days, less working hours each week, and more government programs that pay for many of these people’s needs.

Many of the experts agree — he U.S. economy isn’t going to boom anytime soon, but this will be balanced for investors by significant economic successes in Mexico, South Korea, Poland, Turkey, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, among other places.

All of this adds up to an America on the verge of what Paul Kennedy called the “fall of great powers”: overreach in international affairs that spends much of the nation’s prosperity, and simultaneously too much government regulation at home — shutting down a nation’s innovative/entrepreneurial class at the same time that the government taxes and spends more and more.

This same pattern brought down the top leader status of Spain, France, Britain and the Soviet Union. Before these, it brought down Athens, Rome, and the Ottoman Empire. Unless the United States changes course, it is following this same blueprint for decline.

When historians look back on 2013, they may well see it as the tipping point to a rapid American downturn. Partisan conflicts, government spying on its own people, drastic government spending, constantly increasing regulation, the rapid rise of China — any of these could fuel real decline. Together they may be insurmountable.

But one thing stands out: In a nation desperately in need of innovation and entrepreneurial initiative, the government is handing out innovation-blocking regulations at a breakneck pace.

The good news in all this is that entrepreneurs don’t give up easily. Tenacity is part of their DNA. The future will be determined by this race between politicians (increasing regulations) and entrepreneurs (innovation and prosperity).

Whoever wins will lead the 21st Century.

Our future as a nation, as well as our children and grandchildren’s future depend on who wins. Perhaps the role you could play in helping to develop a stronger and freer America might be your legacy. So look at the last year and determine what you will do differently this year, then look beyond this year and determine when you get to the end of your life what you want your Legacy to be. Perhaps it will be one that changes the course of history for the benefit of all freedom loving people.

Be aware of the magnitude of YOUR significance and remember;

  1. Be Thankful – YOU are alive today to play a role
  2. Change YOUR Input – educate and develop yourself
  3. Determine YOUR Legacy – only YOU can

Do We Need a New Definition of Austerity? Or a New Definition of Leader?

Austerity to Blame? But Where’s the Austerity? an article I first read in Forbes by Paul Roderick Gregory is a fabulous essay written that challenges the concept that governments of this world are really cutting their spending.

In economicsausterity describes policies used by governments to reduce budget deficits during adverse economic conditions according to the definition provided in Wikipedia.

Paul Gregory is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He holds an endowed professorship in the Department of Economics at the University of Houston, Texas. Mr. Gregory is a research professor at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, and is chair of the International Advisory Board of the Kiev School of Economics.

Here is Mr Gregory’s article:

Keynesian Economic thinkers complain that the world’s economies are drowning in austerity. They argue we need more government spending and stimulus, not spending cuts. Northern Europe should bail out its less-fortunate neighbors to the South so they can pay their teachers, public employees and continue generous transfers to the poor and unemployed. If not, Europe’s South will remain mired in recession. In America, Keynesians entreat the skinflint Republicans to loosen the purse strings so we can escape sub par growth. They advise Japan to spend itself out of permanent stagnation and welcome recent steps in this direction.

The stimulationists complain that they have been overwhelmed by the defeatist austerity crowd, lead by the un-neighborly Germans and the obstructionist Republicans.  If only Germany would shift its economy into high gear while transferring its tax revenues to ailing Southern Europe, and the rascally Republicans drop the sequester cuts, we would be sailing along to a healthy worldwide recovery. We don’t need spending restraint. Instead, we need stimulus, stimulus, and more stimulus to revive economic growth. We’ll deal with the growing deficits later, the stimulation crowd tells us, but we must first get our economies growing again.

The Keynesian stimulus crowd blames austerity for the world’s economic woes without bothering to examine facts.

Take the PIIGS of Europe (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) have supposedly been devastated by cutbacks in public spending.  The official figures show that PIIGS governments embarked on massive spending sprees between 2000 and 2008. During this period, their combined general government expenditures rose from 775 billion Euros to 1.3 trillion – a 75 percent increase. Ireland had the largest percentage increase (130 percent), and Italy the smallest (40 percent). These spending binges gave public sector workers generous salaries and benefits, paid for bridges to nowhere, and financed a gold-plated transfer state. What the state gave has proven hard to take away as the riots in Southern Europe show.

Then in 2008, the financial crisis hit. No one wanted to lend to the insolvent PIIGS, and, according to the Keynesian narrative, the PIIGS were forced into extreme austerity by their miserly neighbors to the north. Instead of the stimulus they desperately needed, the PIIGS economies were wrecked by austerity.

Not so according to the official European statistics. Between the onset of the crisis in 2008 and 2011, PIIGS government spending increased by six percent from an already high plateau.  Eurostat’s projections (which make the unlikely assumption that the PIIGS will honor the fiscal discipline promised their creditors) still show the PIIGS spending more in 2014 than at the end of their spending binge in 2008.

As  Erber wryly notes: “Austerity is everywhere but in the statistics.”

The PIIGS remind me of the patient whose doctor orders him to lose weight by eating less. The patient responds by doubling his calorie intake. He later cuts back by ten percent and wonders why he is not losing weight. The PIIGS went on a spending binge from which they do not want to retreat. They then blame their problems on austerity and the lack of charity of others.

There is another message in these figures: the insolvent PIIGS cannot finance their deficits on their own in credit markets. They can keep on spending only with loans from international organizations and the European Central Bank. That PIIGS have continued to spend unabated means that their “miserly” neighbors have continued to bail them out, largely out of public sight.

So much for the scourge of austerity in Southern Europe. The facts show it simply does not exist.

Which leads us to the austerity that is supposedly underway in the United States (Remember that radical sequester that was supposed to ruin the economy?) Our figures tell exactly the same story as the PIIGS  – a binge of public spending that has not been reversed. Between 2000 and 2008, both federal and state and local spending increased by almost two thirds. Despite budget cliff hangers, sequestration, and Republican intransience (so claim the Democrats), the federal government today is spending 16 percent more than at the peak of its binge spending in 2008.  State and local governments, which cannot borrow as freely as the Feds, are spending a modest 11 percent more.

Instead of “where’s the beef?” we should ask “where’s the austerity?”

Perhaps you can show me in the chart below where the spending has been cut, because I just don’t see it.

US_National_Debt_Chart_2010

If those who control the spending of our tax dollars are going to make an effective change in the long term stability of our nation(s) they are going to need a new definition of austerity. Perhaps WE need a New Definition of Leader, because the current “leaders” of the nations of this world are doing a very poor job of leading, not just here in the United States but around the globe. When we compare ourselves to other nations and say we are doing comparatively well, reminds me of the phrase “pigs don’t know pigs stink” (not to be confused with the PIIGS Mr. Gregory speaks of in his article).

Teams, Teamwork and Teambuilding

Team is a group of people brought together to accomplish a common purpose

Wikipedia describes Teamwork as “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole”

Teambuilding improves performance of Teams by enhancing Teamwork.

Wikipedia describes “The overall goals of team building are to increase the teams understanding of team dynamics and improve how the team works together. Unlike working as a group, working as a team incorporates group accountability rather than individual accountability and results in a collective work product.Team building encourages the team approach to working on a project.”

Being part of a Team has many benefits, just two of which is the camaraderie and the amount of fun you can have. Here is a funny video to help you enjoy the Team experience.

Since we are closing in on the end of March Madness and coming down to the Final Four, I thought I would share a few good basketball coaches (as well as football, corporate, and Life Coaches) with not only some amazing teams and records but also some sound advice for you and I to build our own Teams whether in sports, business or right at home.

A few resources to help you build your Teams can be found in the LIFE business. Here are just a few books to help you develop your teams; Team Begins at Home, The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player, Good To Great, Leading with the Heart, Success is a Choice.

Educating the Populace

In my ongoing discussion about education and the value of college degrees I came across a video posting of Dr Ben Carson on an expanded discussion after his National Prayer Breakfast speech. In this interview he mentions that one of the most important things we can do to re-direct the course of America is that “we have to get our populace educated” Given the fact we have more college educated adults today than in the history of our country one would have to question the value of those college educations. Given Dr. Carson’s comment certainly one would assume that having a nation with so many college graduates we would not have the problems we have as a nation. It questions the validity of the many college degrees that have been granted. Listen to Dr. Ben Carson as he is interviewed by a number of guests and discusses possible solutions to America’s challenges. As Dr. Carson speaks about solutions by educating ourselves ask yourself  are we educating our populace or are we just selling degrees? The LIFE community has an objective to lead people to truth i.e. to educate the masses.

The Serving Leader

Serving Leader

Everyone loves a good story. Even better is a story that can be personal to you, where parts of the story are really parts of your story. Add to that story lessons that we can learn, that can move us to apply those lessons that are taught. That is what this book does, through a story of a father and son who have little it common or so it seems. How many of us have parents who we can’t seem to please, or who don’t recognize or acknowledge our efforts or accomplishments? This is a story of a father and son who are worlds apart but through tragedy come back together.

This book comes with some pretty powerful contributors with Forwards by Leadership experts Ken Blanchard and Orrin Woodward. Ken Blanchard best known for his book The One Minute Manager, and Whale Done is a legend in the leadership world. Orrin Woodward is the international best-selling author of Resolved and co-author of the NY Times Best Seller; Launching a Leadership Revolution. He is founder of The LIFE company and Independent Association of Business “Leader of the Year”.

The authors of The Serving Leader Ken Jennings Ph.D. and John Stahl-Wert, D. Min. both have extensive education, and a wealth of experience leading and teaching. Mr. Jennings is a past co-director of the Global Leadership in Healthcare Program at University of Michigan Business School, and has a Bachelors in Behavioral Science from the Air Force Academy, and was an adjunct professor at Columbia University Business School. John Stahl-Wert is President and CEO of Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation and on the faculty of Geneva College’s Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership.

“Five Powerful Actions that will Transform your Team, your Business and Your Community” That’s the tag line just below the title describing how this book, The Serving Leader, can impact us.

This book delivers. Read it, then give me your feedback.

I’d love to hear if this book impacted you the way it did me.

I’d love to hear your story.

Forbes Thought Of The Day

“ Take the tools in hand and carve your own best life. ”

— Douglas Lurton

Whatever your profession this thought alone could change your life.

Are you using the tools of your trade?

Are you using the resources at your fingertips?

What do you have access to that could be used as a tool to carve your own best life?

A friend, a mentor, a spouse, a teacher, a seminar, a book,  CD, or DVD, a blog?

Tools are everywhere, seek them out, and Seize the Day (Carpe Diem)!!

Carpe Diem