Mattress Mack and TQM

(2023-3)

Now that I’m retired, I still find links to my career.  Sometimes this happens at an odd moment.  A recent event occurred around Game Six of the 2022 World Series.  My daughter sent the family a text that said that Jim McIngvale, a.k.a. “Mattress Mack” from Houston, would be throwing out the first ball of Game Six.  Mattress Mack is an icon of Houston.  He gained fame from his corny commercials about his furniture store (“Gallery Furniture SAVES YOU MONEY!”).  Early on, he dressed up for some commercials in a mattress costume (hence “Mattress Mack”).  When I got this text, I remembered many Mattress Mack stories, but most dear to me was a conversation I had with him in his store in the early ‘90s.  This got me thinking about Total Quality Management (TQM) which took American business and management by storm in the late ‘80s and ‘90s in the USA.

This text made me wonder what ever became of the TQM movement.  Some things don’t necessarily go away.  This is true for the systems and philosophies that yield results.  After the Astros won the World Series, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mattress Mack, TQM, and W. Edwards Deming.

Who was W. Edwards Deming?  He was the reason I met Jim McIngvale and held a conversation with him in his store with my family.

I became a student of TQM and QI (Quality Improvement) in the early ‘90s.  There were two big TQM “gurus” at the time – W. Edwards Deming and Philip Crosby.  Chevron was adopting TQM and gave their business units latitude to select the philosophy to follow.  My group picked the Deming philosophy.  I trained in this philosophy and even attended a four-day session with Dr. Deming in February of 1993.

My family lived in Houston between 1990-1994, so I was familiar with McIngvale’s Gallery Furniture.  One evening my wife and I took our two daughters to Gallery Furniture to shop.  Walking around the store, I noticed quite a few Deming quotes.  Mack was in the store, so I approached him to talk Deming and TQM.  He was all-in for Deming’s philosophy and was transforming his management style as a result.

Gallery Furniture experienced rapid growth in the ‘90s.  (For more information on Mack’s business sense, see https://www.businessinsider.com/mattress-mack-jim-mcingvale-net-worth-career-furniture-promotions-sports-bets?op=1#gallery-furnitures-sales-soared-during-its-first-year-of-business-as-americans-moved-to-houston-to-work-in-the-citys-booming-auto-oil-and-steel-industries-and-needed-to-purchase-furniture-for-their-new-homes-6 for a good recap.)  Mack has attributed the growth to his adoption of Deming’s philosophy.

[As a quick aside, I used my experience with Deming to contradict one of my MBA professors in 1999.  This professor, who shall remain unnamed, was talking about TQM and how he was good friends with Deming.  I blurted out in class “Deming’s dead!”  I told him that his “friend” had been dead for six years.  Not one of my finer moments!]

Jim McIngvale not only threw out the first ball of Game Six, but he also made news winning a record $75 million by betting $10 million on the Houston Astros to win the World Series.  He made this bet to hedge his promotion on sales of mattress sleep sets ( see https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/world-series-2022-jim-mattress-mack-mcingvale-wins-record-75m-betting-payout-as-astros-capture-title/ for the details).

While it was fun seeing the Astros win the World Series and remembering my Mattress Mack stories, I also got a chance to revisit my history with TQM after many years.  I still believe TQM works, especially if it is consistently applied.  Jim McIngvale used it to make a step-change in his business and has reaped the rewards.  He didn’t brag on his success, he just continued to serve his customers using TQM.  He is an excellent example of living a philosophy that works.

Living the TQM philosophy consistently and constantly is much better than “tooting your horn.”  Jim McIngvale didn’t apply for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award (MBNQA).  The MBNQA was an attempt by the U.S. government to showcase companies who applied TQM.  Unfortunately, this award was more detrimental to the winners in the long run.  This isn’t only my opinion.  See the editorial “Time to kill the Malcolm Baldridge Award” from Design World magazine to find out what the Executive Editor of Design World had to say in early 2021 (see https://www.designworldonline.com/time-to-kill-the-malcolm-baldrige-award/ for the digital version).

It strikes me that almost every management fad ultimately fizzled.  Constancy of purpose and methods wins the day, if a spirit of continuous improvement is included.  What I learned from TQM substantially influenced my management style.

Did you experience TQM?  What was your experience with it?  Do you believe it was a management fad that disappeared? If you have a positive experience and integrated TQM philosophy into your leadership style, I’d love to connect with you and share stories.

How Did I Do in 2022?

(2023-2)

Last year I wrote a post entitled “No More New Year’s Resolutions!” (See https://mrhensonllc.com/no-more-new-years-resolutions/ for the full post).  As part of my 2022 goal review, I reread that post.  I thought to revisit it and share how I did without any New Year’s resolutions in 2022.

In mid-December I sat down and evaluated what happened in 2022.  I followed the standard four-step process of an “after action review.”  The four steps include:

  1. What did I want to happen?
  2. Acknowledge what really happened
  3. What did I learn from the experience?
  4. Adjust my behavior

I will follow these four steps in reporting what happened in 2022.

What did I want to happen?

The core of my plan at the start of 2022 was to achieve all my annual goals.  At the end of 2021, I developed ten key goals to drive my action in 2022.  I set achievable, actionable goals.  I set goals in all my key life areas.  I also set a mix of achievement vs. habit goals.

I also followed the lessons I learned from reading Michael Hyatt’s “Your Best Year Ever” book.  This was the book I read before developing my initial goals.

I was motivated and inspired to start the year – yet I didn’t achieve my ten goals.  When I looked back on the year, I knew it wasn’t my best year ever.  In fact, it was one of my worst for goal achievement.

Acknowledge what really happened.

I fully completed five of the ten goals I laid out for the year.  In looking back, it dawned on me that two life events took me “out of the game” for over three months of the year.  I’ve written about both events.  My three-week rafting trip down the Grand Canyon sidetracked me for five to six weeks (planning, preparing, rafting, and recovery).  My Dad’s health issues and resultant death put my plan on hold for quite some time.  I’m still trying to fully resolve Dad’s estate.

I didn’t plan for the unexpected (does anyone really?).  I have learned to give myself a little grace when setting goals.  I review my goals regularly and with the planner I use I re-write them quarterly.  I’ve decided to be more flexible this year.

I also set overly ambitious goals in 2022.  Setting ambitious goals is fine, but I learned I shouldn’t have set so many ambitious goals.

What did I learn from the experience?

I could tell heading into the fourth quarter of 2022 that it was going to be one of my worst years recently (as far as goal achievement).  I decided to begin my year-end review much earlier in 2022, starting the week after Thanksgiving.  I also started setting up my first quarter 2023 planner much earlier.  I decided to review earlier and look forward earlier.  I like how this is working so far.  I find I’m not beating myself up over missed goals like I have in the past.  Giving yourself grace is healthy.

I shared my 2022 goals only with my wife, which was one thing I learned earlier in the year.  This worked well.  I should probably expand the number of people a bit but plan to be judicious about who they are.

I also started setting my 2023 goals much earlier this year.  I completed my first draft on December 5, 2022.  I finalized this version on January 9, 2023.

I didn’t have any resolutions in 2022 and don’t plan to have any in 2023.  I will stick with my goal setting process with the tweaks I’ve instituted since my 2022 review.

Adjust my behavior.

A lot of my behavior adjustments were stated in the previous section.  To me, the biggest behavior changes have included:

  • Earlier after-action review
  • Earlier goal setting
  • Scheduling routine goal reviews (I started a weekly review of goals in November of 2022.  I plan to continue that weekly review through 2023)

How did you do in 2022?  If you set resolutions, how did that turn out for you?  Have you decided to do anything differently in 2023?  Can I add value to your process?  Let me know, I’d like to help.

You Did What?

(2023-1)

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I took a 21-day rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon last year.  This trip was truly a life-changing event and a special experience.  There are roughly only 22,000 people a year who raft down the Grand Canyon.

This trip was quite a step out of my comfort zone.  I had not camped out in decades.  My idea of roughing it is no TV!  I had three weeks to plan for this trip.  I was a last-minute addition to a trip a high school friend was arranging.  That preparation was well worth the experience on the water!  I learned a lot and observed a few important lessons in leadership and life.

Our noncommercial trip was made up of 16 people using six rafts.  The team leader was Tony, my friend since tenth grade in high school and a college roommate.  Out of the 16 people, I knew only Tony.  There were a handful of people in this group who had not rafted down the Grand Canyon, but I was the only one who had never been whitewater rafting!

I got sick on the second day, which caused Tony some concern.  Once you put into the river at Lees Ferry (outside Marble Canyon, AZ), the only way out is via a helicopter rescue.  My appearance troubled Tony and my boatmate Sarah so much that Tony seriously considered calling the Park Service to get me airlifted out of the park.  Tony and Sarah are both volunteer EMTs.  Additionally, there was another volunteer EMT and a paramedic.  On the second night, those four discussed my status.  The paramedic suggested we wait one more night before calling it in.  Fortunately for me, I woke up feeling myself again!  Turns out I had altitude sickness.  I am glad I wasn’t sent home.

The 21 days were remarkable.  The views of the Grand Canyon were amazing.  I would go to sleep at night thinking it can’t get any better than this.  It consistently got better for 21 days straight!  The skies were clear, which made the stars an incredible sight.

As a student of leadership, I watch for leadership lessons and can find them almost anywhere.  There were two key leadership lessons I observed on my trip:

  1. Surround yourself with the right kind of people.  Tony was the trip leader on the permit.  As such, he was considered the “Responsible Party” by the National Park Service.  This was the third time Tony had rafted down the Grand Canyon (the previous two he was not the trip leader).  Tony was deliberate in selecting people to go on the trip (with one notable exception – me!).  He asked a friend of his (Bob) to go who had been down the Grand Canyon 8 or 9 times.  Tony designated Bob’s boat as the lead boat.  Additionally, he brought along the EMTs and paramedic I mentioned.  One of the EMTs (Katie) was going to become a full-time river guide after this trip.  Tony designated Katie as the safety leader.  Katie’s initial safety orientation was on point.  With the high caliber and experience of these key people, our trip was a success.  I find that leadership in any position is best served by taking this action.  Select people who know more than you do in order to compensate for your blind spots.  I learned this early on in my career and it served me well.  I’m glad Tony was secure enough in his position to follow those on the trip who were more knowledgeable than him.
  2. Act promptly on issues as you see them arise.  For the most part, this 21-day trip was free of pettiness and bickering.  In any situation where you have 16 people this close together for so long, personalities are bound to clash.  Early in the trip, a minor conflict surfaced.  The affected parties never talked about the controversy, but there were many conversations around the campfire and on the boats.  The issue wasn’t addressed directly, and eventually broke the surface in a very visible, vocal way.  I learned once again that I should address the “elephant in the room” as soon as it’s noticed.  I was guilty of not bringing this up on the trip.  I’m trying to address issues more quickly.  It’s a work-in-progress for me.

In addition to leadership lessons, I also witnessed two life lessons:

  1. True friends are a gem!  I have known Tony since I was 16.  In addition to being a friend in high school, Tony and I were roommates for a semester in college.  We shared a three-bedroom with another person we met the previous year.  The three of us guys were a good match.  At the end of the semester, I told the landlord that we were moving, and gave them the appropriate written notice.  I was the one who signed the lease.  A few months after leaving, I was served with a notice of a civil suit by the landlord.  Tony split the legal costs with me and met in person with our attorney.  Tony stayed with me through the end of this ordeal (we got the suit thrown out).  Over 45 years later, our friendship was strong enough to weather a 21-day rafting adventure.
  2. There is a special bonding through shared experiences.  While I knew only Tony going into this trip, by the end I feel I have 14 new friends.  You do indeed bond through shared experiences.  I feel this bonding can be stronger if the experience is dangerous.  While a 21-day whitewater rafting trip may sound like a great time away from it all (and it is), there were quite a few close calls.

I continue to reflect on this trip.  It was truly life-changing.  I learned my physical limitations and vowed personally to do better about staying in shape.  Despite eating three big meals per day for 21 days (more than I am used to eating), I lost four pounds.  It was a strenuous time.

I am so glad I took this trip.  I would willingly do it again if given the opportunity.  How about you?  If you were given this type of opportunity (one that takes you way out of your comfort zone), would you take it?  What would you fear about doing something like this?

As a leader, is there something you need to do in order to step out of your comfort zone and stay relevant?

I’d love to hear your comments.  Let me know if you’d like to discuss personally.

What’s Your Calling?

(2022-15)

One thing I say often is “work is a four-letter word.”  While this is corny, it reflects my view about holding a job.  My career of over 40 years was mostly a means to an end – I went to work to provide for my family.  I enjoyed some of my jobs at Chevron more than others.  I tried to have fun at all of them though.  I believe that having fun at a place where I spend more than 40 hours per week is a necessity.  I also believe that when I am enjoying my work and the people I work with, I get better results.

How about you – do go to work solely to get a paycheck?  Is this the right approach?  Early this summer, I witnessed a few people who caused me to rethink my view of work.

During Dad’s health crisis (see my previous posts “Life Happens” and “Bittersweet Transitions”) I got to see quite a few healthcare professionals in action as they cared for my father.  The ones who stood out were the ones who treated him with dignity and respect.  They exhibited an inspired approach to their job, which manifested as sincere care for Dad.

One of the prime examples was Melissa, Dad’s hospice nurse at his assisted living facility.  Melissa was a relatively young nurse who showed a high degree of compassion, patience, and devotion.  One day, I asked her how long she had been a hospice nurse.  She then told me her story of going to nursing school to help people.  Her first role was ER nurse, which she did for a couple of years.  She got burned out and really did not like that job.  She switched to hospice nursing and told me she knew she had found her calling.  She seemed truly happy in her job and it showed in the way she treated Dad and his family members.  I quickly came to truly appreciate any healthcare professional who purposely chooses hospice care as their specialty.

I also got to see in action how leadership sets the tone in Dad’s assisted living facility.  The family (including Dad) selected Sunrise Senior Living in Frisco, Texas and are still convinced this was the absolute best place for Dad.  Tisha, their Executive Director, and I had a few conversations about the facility and the quality of the staff.  I asked her how she got such high-quality people.  She said she purposefully selected compassionate people to work there.  It showed!  Tisha set the tone for the entire organization.  There was not a person who did not live up to the facility’s mission – “To champion quality of life for all seniors.” 

Sunrise Frisco was a refreshing change from the small-town hospital where Dad was originally treated.  The staff there was in it only for a paycheck (except for one person – Dad’s physical therapist, who is a very compassionate person).  The difference between the two organizations was striking.

Another thing I noticed during this time is that compassionate leaders support their people in times of personal stress and difficulties.  My very first boss was amazing in this regard.  Very early in my Chevron career, my sister-in-law died in a car wreck.  My boss knew I was really close to her and told me I could take whatever time I needed to deal with things.  This was a tremendous relief to me and made me very devoted to this boss.

In contrast to this, one of my family members was treated poorly by their boss during Dad’s illness and death.  Their boss basically hounded them mercilessly, did not read emails that shared status, and was extremely self-centered.  It demoralized my family member.

How about you?  Are you in a job just for the paycheck, or are you pursuing your calling?  It is now my opinion that you should determine your passion and find a job that allows you to follow it.  Your passion will become a calling.  Mine is for coaching and developing people.  I got great positive reinforcement watching them grow based on my coaching.  It truly became a calling for me.

As a leader, what tone are you setting?  If you don’t know, ask your team members.  They will tell you.  If you are not setting the tone you want, take steps to change it.  This will take time, but the first step is recognizing where change needs to occur.

How do you treat your employees?  Do your employees work only for the paycheck, or are you helping them find their calling?  How do you support them when they are going through rough times?  Remember that your approach during difficult times can attract or repel good people.  Choose to attract! I would like to hear your comments, struggles, and experience.  Let me know if you would like to discuss this further and I will schedule a call or meeting.

Bittersweet Transition

(2022-14)

Dictionary.com defines the term bittersweet as “both pleasant and painful or regretful.”  I’ve gone through many transitions in my life and career, most of which match this definition.  Are all transitions bittersweet?  When you look back at a significant change in your life or career, can you see both good and bad things about it?  Earlier this summer, I worked through a transition with Dad and my family.  While the end turned out well, there were several low points along the way.

If you have read many of my posts, you will know I had a great relationship with Dad.  He went through a tough health episode in late May that started him (and the rest of his family) on a significant transition.

I have a wonderful niece (Kathryn) who for at least nine months was spending each Saturday with Dad.  She helped him with meals and organized his life for him.  Their close relationship developed even stronger bonds as a result.  One weekend in June, Dad exhibited symptoms of a stroke.  Two separate episodes prompted Kathryn to take Dad to the local ER that Sunday.

Dad was subjected to a large battery of tests.  The following Thursday I drove from New Orleans to north Texas.  The next couple of days were intense – life for Dad in the hospital was not good.  However, I did have some good visiting time with Dad, my niece, and my two sisters.

According to the attending physicians, there was no indication of long-term damage that would indicate a stroke.  Dad’s primary care physician gave us the diagnosis that Dad had suffered a couple of TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attack, also called a “mini-stroke”).

The family agreed the time had come that Dad could no longer live alone.  Dad had lived alone for the past six years after Mom died.  He had expressed to all of us his desire to stay in his house by himself, so we expected him to resist any change.  One week after the TIAs, we (my sisters, my niece, and I) started a selection process to find an assisted living place that was closer to family.  Hesitantly, we shared thoughts and suggestions with Dad.

The response was unexpected.  Instead of disagreeing or pushing back, Dad confessed his thoughts about making a significant change for some time.  Everyone was not only relieved, but we were excited for the change to occur.

Ten days after the ER visit and admission into the small-town hospital, Dad was discharged.  A rehabilitation hospital was found that was close to the selected assisted living facility, and was much closer to family.  Unfortunately, we had a two-day gap between discharge at the local hospital and admission into the rehabilitation hospital.  Despite this gap, Dad remained upbeat and positive about leaving his home of almost 30 years.  He repeatedly said it was time for a change.

Dad was ready for the change, even waking my oldest sister up VERY early in the morning of his admission to the rehabilitation hospital!  We had enough time to take Dad to see his new “apartment” at the assisted living facility.  He seemed to enjoy the visit, and made numerous positive comments.

The rehabilitation hospital was quite a step up from the small-town hospital.  Dad’s rehab regimen was intense – three hours of therapy per day!  After seven days of this, Dad was discharged to his new apartment.  Once there, Dad adapted quite well.  Quickly, he won the hearts and minds of many of the staff and other residents.  In 2-3 visits to the group bingo party, he won $225 in “bingo bucks.”

Unfortunately, Dad did not enjoy his new residence for very long.  He fell which brought more complications and ultimately, he passed away after a few weeks.

As I have stated in many of my previous posts, I learned a lot from Dad.  This transition from living alone to moving into an assisted living facility showed me that at 92 years old, he was still ready and willing to make a change.  I feel convicted by this and have committed to continually evaluate my life and embrace the need for change in order to improve.

I also learned from Dad to listen to trusted family and friends.  Sometimes, we are blinded by our own perceptions.  It is important to have accountability with others.  It’s also important to build a culture of openness, so those close to you can share their concerns.

How about you?  Do you know what blind spots you have that may inhibit you from progressing?  Do you have a circle of friends and family that will share those “hard truths” with you?  In other words, how do you ensure you are on the right path?

Let me know what you think.  If you would like to discuss, let me know and we’ll get together.  I like to add value to others.

Remembering Dad

(2022-13)

When I posted my last post (see https://mrhensonllc.com/life-happens-2022-12/), I talked about Dad passing away.  He died on July 20, 2022, one week after his 92nd birthday.  We (his family) decided to wait a while for the memorial service, due to the extreme heat in north Texas.  We scheduled his service and funeral for Friday, September 2, 2022.  We picked that date not only because it was on the Labor Day weekend, but it would have been Mom and Dad’s 72nd wedding anniversary.

I decided to speak at Dad’s memorial service and share with everyone what he was to me and what I learned from him.  I put together an outline, and practiced by myself for 3-4 days ahead of the service.  This turned out to be the hardest public speaking I’ve ever done (and I’ve been in some tough situations for a speaker).  I followed my niece who wrote and read a letter to Dad.  I was quite touched by what she expressed. 

I didn’t do well, choking up numerous times.  It was harder than I thought, both because I was speaking to many members of my family, and because a picture of Dad was projected on the back wall of the church!  I thought I’d write down what I wanted to say and share it with you.

Who He Was to Me

  • Father:  according to dictionary.com, “father” is a male parent.  Almost any male can be a father.
  • Dad:  this is a special subset of the classification of “fathers.”  It takes a special father to become known as “Dad” or “Daddy.”  Doyle Henson was Dad to me!  In the past few years, whenever Dad left me a voicemail, he’d start with “Mike, this is your ol’ Dad.”  I treasure that and confess I’ve kept a few of his voicemails so I’ll remember his voice.
  • Hero: Dad was my very first hero and remains my main hero.  Many fathers and dads are heroes to their children.  I looked up to him so much as a child and continued to admire him in my adult life.
  • Mentor: I learned a lot from Dad and viewed him as my longest-running mentor to me in so many areas of life.  He helped me to be a better man, husband, father, employee, manager, leader, and Christian.
  • Role Model:  I can’t think of a better role model for the areas he mentored me.  Late in Mom’s life, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Dad was her primary caregiver for the rest of her life.  He was an amazing husband to Mom and truly exhibited sacrificial love.
  • Friend: I enjoyed talking to Dad and just spending time with him.  One of my fondest memories was from 2020, when I spent three weeks with him (see https://mrhensonllc.com/time-with-dad/). 
  • Cheerleader: not only did Dad always tell me he loved me, but he told me he was proud of me.  That gave me strength to persevere.
  • Best Man: I asked Dad to be my best man when I married Julie in 1978.  It’s rare that a groom will choose his father to be his best man.  I couldn’t have picked a better one!

What I Learned from Him

  • Leadership:  I learned many aspects of leadership from him.  So many that one of my posts is all about the leadership lessons I learned from Dad (see https://mrhensonllc.com/leadership-lessons-from-dad/).
  • The Power of Connection:  Ann Landers once said that there are two types of people and you can tell them apart when they walk into a crowded room.  The first type walks in and says “Here I am,” while the second type walks in and says “There you are!”  Dad was the latter type of person.  He taught me that everyone is important, regardless of their role in your life.  I don’t believe Dad ever met anyone without spending time understanding their life story.  One of my favorite John Maxwell books is “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.”  Dad was a connecter.  He wanted to know what was going on in your life, no matter who you were.  I learned how to do this, which helped me in my professional life.  What Dad taught me was to connect with intentionality and honesty.  He was a master.
  • The Value of Hard Work:  Dad was a hard worker, both on the job and at home.  He took pride in his work.  After he retired, he worked hard at maintaining his yard and growing a garden.  He taught me that yard work can be therapeutic.  I’ll admit that there were a couple of things taught that didn’t stick.  One was shining shoes.  Dad shined his shoes well – it must have been his Army training.  I found a good shoe shine person instead.  He also took great pride in maintaining and washing his cars.  I chose to go to a car wash and find a good mechanic.
  • The Power of Stories:  Dad had many stories and he loved to tell them.  For family members and friends, we understand that he wanted us to remember the stories because he repeated them often!  ?

Closing

The past few years, Dad had a saying that his biggest problem was three letters:  A-G-E.  He told me he still felt very young mentally, but not physically.  I recently read a quote from Clint Eastwood that made me think of Dad – “You’re as young as you feel. As young as you want to be. There’s an old saying I heard from a friend of mine. People ask him, “Why do you look so good at your age?” He’ll say, “Because I never let the old man in.” And there’s truth to that. It’s in your mind, how far you let him come in.”  I don’t think Dad let the old man come in until the last week of his life.

I recently read a book by Bob Goff entitled “Undistracted.”  One of the quotes struck me – “It will not be the height of the family tree that matters, but the depth of its roots.”  To the family of Doyle Henson, I say WE HAVE STRONG ROOTS!  We the family are his legacy.

Postscript

I learned a lot from Dad and revered him.  What type of a person are you?  Are you a “Here I am” person or a “There you are” type of person.  I choose to be a “There you are” person. I’d be interested in your comments.

Life Happens

(2022-12)

One of my favorite quotes about life is actually a lyric from a John Lennon song – “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”  While this quote is a lyric, I recently learned that it was actually used in 1957 in an issue of Reader’s Digest by a man named Allen Saunders (see https://www.fastjetperformance.com/blog/life-is-what-happens-to-you-while-youre-busy-making-other-plans-death-on-the-roads for reference).

I recently took a roughly two-month break from my “normal” retired life (and writing my blog posts) in the second quarter of 2022.  There were two key reasons to pull me away for the past couple of months.  The first was caused by a visit from a friend I’ve known for over 45 years.  He asked me to join a 21-day whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  My buddy told me that this is a life-changing event.  He had done it twice as a participant, and was the official trip leader (per his National Park Service permit) for this private rafting trip.  After a bit of soul-searching, I checked with my family members to see what they thought.  It was unanimously agreed I should accept this invitation.  So, I decided to go for it and told my friend I was all in.

A little side note.  I hadn’t been camping in 40+ years, and had never been whitewater rafting.  I spent a couple of weeks researching, making travel reservations, planning, and packing.  All told, this trip took me away from my “normal” responsibility of childcare provider to grandchildren for over a month.  My wife had to handle all of the childcare duties as well as 100% of our household affairs during my absence.

I’m still coming to grips with the impact this trip has made on me personally (physically, mentally, and emotionally).  I can easily say that my buddy’s life-changing description was accurate.  One of the biggest changes has been my outlook on life.  I’m much more relaxed.  Instead of saying “whatever” or “no big deal,” I’ve started saying “I’m upright and on the boat.”  I can deal with most things with a much more confident mindset.  I guess that happens when you successfully survive multiple rapids!

There are a few lessons I learned on this trip.  I plan on sharing them in detail in future posts.  Some of them include:

  • The impact of true friendship has no expiration date (there are indeed friends for life)
  • Surround yourself with the right people
  • Tremendous bonding happens when you go through traumatic experiences with others and survive
  • Address little issues when you notice them or they’ll grow and fester

The second reason involved my then 91-year-old father.  Over the Memorial Day weekend, Dad had a couple of TIAs (transient ischemic attacks, also referred to as a mini-stroke) over a single weekend.  The first one occurred on a Saturday.  When a second one occurred the next day, Dad was taken to the local emergency room.  A few days later, I drove to north Texas to be with Dad, my two sisters, and a niece while we sought answers and direction.

Dad was given a battery of tests.  The results of these tests were positive.  There were no signs of brain damage, which indicated there was no stroke.  This was such a scary time for us all.  We mutually agreed that Dad no longer could live alone in a small town distant from family.  Small town health care was not ideal for improving Dad’s health.  After ten days in the hospital, Dad was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital.

The family (and Dad as well) agreed this was a time to change things.  We did a lot of investigating and found a good assisted-living facility that was much closer to family.  I will go into detail about this decision and the transition itself in a separate post.  I was surprised, pleased, and humbled by Dad’s acceptance and embrace of this big change.

I can tell you that neither of these two big events were part of my annual plan for 2022.  I know that I wouldn’t have been as well prepared for Dad’s health issues if I hadn’t rafted the Grand Canyon.  That 21-day adventure prepared me (mentally and emotionally) for dealing with Dad’s health.

When I looked up the John Lennon lyric I referred to at the start of this post, I came across the following quote from Cesare Parese – “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”  For this two-month deviation from my so-called “normal” life, there were many moments I’ll treasure forever.

How do you deal with unforeseen events in your life?  Is your plan flexible enough to adapt?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Revenge or Forgiveness? (2022-11)

If you had a magic wand, would you choose revenge or forgiveness?  I must admit, I’m very tempted by revenge.  I have enjoyed Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer movies.  There’s also the classic revenge movie – Death Wish.  I remember watching this many years ago.  There’s a certain level of satisfaction when “justice is served” to people who deserve it.

There are a few issues with revenge.  First and foremost, it usually flies in the face of legality and morality.  Also, who determines what is just?  Is justice the same for me as it is for you?  Is there a case for choosing forgiveness from the start?

I admit that I fall for desiring revenge often.  I usually don’t act on this desire, primarily because of my Christian value system.  I was taught that forgiveness should be our primary response to being wronged.  I struggle with that some times.

I recently listened to a great audiobook entitled “The Dead Drink First.”  This book was primarily about the search for the remains of a soldier who died on the island of Okinawa in World War Two.  The story is also about traumatic brain injury, and how it impacts people’s personality.  The father of the author was on Okinawa and sustained a significant brain injury.  This changed his personality, making him abusive and subject to raging anger.  This altered personality had a profound impact on his two sons.  One of them (the author’s younger brother, who bore the brunt of the father’s abuse) was interviewed at the conclusion of the story.  While both sons never had the chance to reconcile with their father before he died, the younger one told how he forgave his father anyway.  He said he had to forgive his father in order to work on his own issues.  This struck me, and I decided to research the power of forgiveness.

I found many articles that supported the Biblical view on forgiveness, which didn’t surprise me.  The Bible is full of many teachings and examples of forgiveness.  I wanted to see if there were other, secular sources that validated why forgiveness should be our default instead of revenge.

I found four interesting articles from various sources.  These sources included Psychreg (published by Psychreg Ltd, a media company based in London, United Kingdom), Harvard Health Publishing, Huffpost, and John Hopkins Medicine.  None of these four sources would be deemed “Biblical” in their approach, so I took a deeper look.

In Psychreg’s post “The Power of Forgiveness” (https://www.psychreg.org/power-of-forgiveness ), the author shared three reasons why forgiveness is hard to do:

  1. There is too much anger involved
  2. Believing that the person who wronged you deserves punishment
  3. Fear of getting hurt again

While forgiveness is hard and painful, this article shared the results of studies that say that forgiveness is powerful, and has both health benefits as well as social and emotional benefits.

Harvard Health Publishing’s “The Power of Forgiveness” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-power-of-forgiveness) talked about the long-term effects of forgiveness.  “Forgiving a person who has wronged you is never easy, but dwelling on those events and reliving them over and over can fill your mind with negative thoughts and suppressed anger,” says Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Yet, when you learn to forgive, you are no longer trapped by the past actions of others and can finally feel free.”

They also stated that there are two types of forgiveness: decisional and emotional and gave a formula for approaching and executing forgiveness.  “Forgiveness is not erasure,” says Dr. VanderWeele. “Rather, it’s about changing your reaction to those memories.”

Huffpost’s “The Power of Forgiveness” (a blog by Dr. Randy Kamen, which can be found at https://www.huffpost.com/entry/forgiveness_b_2006882) details powerful health benefits of forgiveness.  There were two quotes from this article that resonated with me:

  • “Forgiveness is something different, which is to say, I am not going to have these negative emotions consume me. That’s how I view it. And so forgiveness isn’t so much about the other person as your own process of saying, I’m moving forward.”
  • “Forgiveness training is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques, but the goal is the same: Identify the problem, give it time and get objective input.”

As I completed my quick review of the power of forgiveness, I came to realize that there are numerous secular and Biblical reasons to forgive.  In addition to the moral reasons, there are documented health benefits to forgiveness.  The result of forgiveness is a liberation from the wrongs and grudges so easily held onto.

I’ve experienced this liberation numerous times.  By letting go of the wrongs done to me (even if they are only my perceptions), I’ve freed myself from an amazing flood of negative emotions.  After reviewing the scientific research available, I appreciate the validation of others that forgiveness is the better approach, and has positive benefits to the forgiver.

I find that sometimes the toughest person to forgive is myself.  As a leader, I always am harder on myself than I am on others.  I now realize that the first person I need to forgive is usually myself!  I find it hard to forgive others if I’m not letting go of the mistakes I’ve made.

I’d love to add value to you by sharing my journey of forgiveness, and how I’ve liberated myself and coached others to achieve greater things.  Are you holding a grudge against someone that you just can’t seem to let go?  I challenge you to read the four articles I’ve mentioned in this post.  Perhaps they can help you as they’ve helped me.

Have you experienced the liberating power of forgiveness?  How did you progress from that point?  Let me know in your comments and replies to this article.  Contact me at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss in private.

The Power of a Simple Vision (2022-10)

When you hear vision statements, what comes to mind?  Can you remember your favorite vision statement?  Can you describe your least favorite vision statement?  Or, do you really just think a vision statement is hokey – some form of “Dilbert-speak” or something a management consultant would put together and charge you a lot of money for?

I used to think vision statements were worthless (at best).  Then, I got in a job facilitating a form of Hoshin planning.  This was a particularly popular strategic planning process in the mid to late 1990s.  The form we used at work started with identifying a team’s vision statement – where they wanted to be in 10+ years.

In this job, I facilitated sessions around the U.S.  I was also asked to facilitate seven teams’ sessions in Singapore.  I really enjoyed all these sessions.  They helped me to learn so much about the business areas our teams were involved in.

Getting prepared to facilitate so many sessions prompted me to do a lot of reading on vision, mission, and strategy.  One of my colleagues recommended a book entitled “Be an Orange” by Larry Taylor.  I found this book rather valuable in helping teams craft solid vision and mission statements.  I still believe in the power of a strong vision, largely due to this book’s influence.

In his book, Larry Taylor says “a vision should be symbolic, worth the sacrifice and strategic.  The vision statement should be no more than three to five words.”  He shares a few examples of visions statements that follow his guidelines.  Taylor’s consulting firm’s vision statement is “Be an Orange.”  They wanted to avoid apples-to-apples comparison.  This vision aided them to stand out.  Federal Express’ (now FedEx) vision statement was simply “Get it there.”  In hindsight, that one definitely worked!

I used this book a lot in coaching and leading teams.  Sometimes it was to facilitate a group vision from the team.  Other times, it was to cast my vision for the team.  When I took over leadership of a new team, I usually gave myself 90 days to develop and cast the vision.  That would give me the time necessary to get the lay of the land and understand the challenges the team faced.

One particular time, I had to come up with a vision based on first impressions.  I assumed a disparate team of facilities that were intensively competitive.  During our first in-person meeting, the temporary leader asked me what my vision for the team was on the second day of our meeting.  I believe I had been in the job for two or three weeks.  I drew on my logistics and network planning experience and education and came up with “One network, nine nodes.”  While the team was competitive, they were competing against each other, and had little view of our external industry position.  I gave them my first impression and challenged them to rally together to beat our true competition.  I believe it stunned some, because they were silent for quite a while.

They eventually rallied behind this vision, and did it just in time.  Within three months, we were faced with three unprecedented supply chain disruptions.  The team had to work together to pool resources when Hurricane Rita knocked out our largest facility.  I saw this disparate team rally together to help the group mitigate the impact of these disruptions.  We met these three challenges in ways that had never been done before in this group.

I have come to agree with Larry Taylor’s three characteristics for a vision statement:

  • It should be symbolic.  Showing a group of supply chain professionals that they were all part of one network was the right approach.  It spoke to them, and gave a rallying cry to the team.
  • It should be worth the sacrifice.  Each person had to give up their rivalry with each other.  As a result, they learned a better form of trial – besting our industry competitors.  They could easily see that the sacrifice yielded positive results for the company.
  • It should be strategic.  I can’t imagine the level of failure we would have had in facing the three major supply chain disruptions as a group of nine disparate facilities.  When the largest went down, it would have affected all of us.  This was the right thing to do.

I also agree with short vision statements.  They are easy to remember, and you don’t need to print up a bunch of vision cards for everyone.  They’re also good discussion starters, because people will ask what those few words mean.  This gives a great opportunity to showcase the team’s purpose and direction.

What are your favorite vision statements?  Have you heard any that made you laugh?  For the vision statement you liked the best, what made it so good in your opinion?

Have you worked with a team that doesn’t have a vision?  Do you lead a team without a vision?  I believe it’s one of the leader’s highest priorities to determine and cast the vision.  What leader has done that particularly well in your experience?

I’d love to have your comments and hear your answers to some of these questions.  If you are a leader who needs to develop a vision statement, let me know.  I can help, and would love to add value.

Feed Your Mind

Albert Einstein once said, “If you feed your mind as often as you feed your stomach, then you’ll never have to worry about feeding your stomach or a roof over your head or clothes on your back.”  I read this recently and it prompted me to consider its implications for success.  Does my daily mental input affect my productivity, performance, and success?

I found a couple of other quotes that intrigued me:

  • “Life consists of what a man is thinking about all day.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” James Allen

I generally try to have a positive attitude.  I believe that has helped me in my life and career.  I have been blessed with exposure to some tremendous people in my life.  When I was in high school, I read “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.  I even took my high school girlfriend (who became my wife) to see and hear Dr. Peale in person.  I read all his books.  I also had the opportunity to meet Zig Ziglar in person.  I worked for a company that published two of his books.  These two authors had a profound influence on me and my philosophy toward success.

I decided to do a little research and see if there is an impact on what we listen to or feed on mentally.  It appears that it’s not just some personal development hype.  There are profound positive consequences, even physically. 

There were quite a few research articles published on the web about the benefits of positive thinking on personal health.  The Mayo Clinic published an article on positive and negative thinking (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950) and stated “Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health.  Practice overcoming negative self-talk with examples provided.”  I recommend reviewing this article.  It lists ten health benefits of positive thinking, identifies negative thinking, and has suggestions for putting positive thinking into practice.

Johns Hopkins Medical School released the results of positive and negative thinking and outlooks on heart disease.  The report stated “People with a family history of heart disease who also had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more negative outlook.

I even noticed that a diet book my wife and I just read (Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet) even had an entire chapter devoted to helping you develop a positive mind set to lose and keep pounds off!

One of the best summaries of the impact of feeding your mind is this quote from Jac Vanec – “You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you spend time with, the conversations you engage in. Choose wisely what you feed your mind.

I have dealt a lot with negative self-talk.  I know from personal experience that it can immobilize you and put you in a very dark place.  I found out early (in high school primarily) that reading or listening to positive people like Norman Vincent Peale, Zig Ziglar, and John Maxwell leaves me in a much better place.  I find myself inspired, motivated, and excited as a result.

The leader sets the tone for his/her organization.  It is my opinion that the leader needs to set the tone with themself first.  How does the leader do this?  I am still learning, but I can share four areas I’m applying in my life:

  1. Recognize that the struggle is real and constant.  Be aware there are both positive and negative influences in and around you every day.  Prepare yourself for the struggle.
  2. Build routines in your daily life that will add or preserve positive inputs and influences in your life.  For me, I do the following:
    • Quiet Time:  I start my day with prayer, Bible reading, and journaling.  This works for me.
    • Daily Dozen:  I have a list of twelve quotes and thoughts I try to read daily to start my day.  These quotes are from wide and varying sources.  Start gathering your Daily Dozen.  Just the act of searching for twelve positive or uplifting quotes or thoughts will add positive influence in your life.
    • Affirmations:  I also have a list of affirmations that I read.  I started to read these daily, and admit I’ve struggled with this recently.  I’m trying to re-energize this.
    • Reading:  I watch what I read.  I don’t look at the news in the morning until I’ve done my quiet time.  I also read a lot of books.  I ensure I have a few personal development, motivational, or self-help books in the mix
  3. Check your attitude.  I have to remember to do this daily, sometimes multiple times in a single day.  I remember one course I took that taught that you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it.  The course even called that response-ability.
  4. Build in accountability.  In psychology, you’ll learn that peer reinforcement is one of the strongest influences.  I have an accountability partner that I connect with weekly.  We also are available for each other if something comes up in between our calls.  I also share my struggles and goals with my wife.  She knows what I’m trying to work on and will remind me when I stray off the path.

Do you believe what you feed your mind impacts your chances of success, your outlook on life, and your health?  I do.  Do you have daily routines that help (or hurt)?  How do you ensure you have positive inputs and influences in your life?

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.  Let me know what you think.