The Dow Soars (So, is that a good thing?)

The Dow soared amid reports of another rate cut coming in December. In fact it soared 300 points. The news media calls this a "good day." But, with the Dow's roller coaster behavior over the last months, why is such a jump a good thing? When do too many extreme changes in the Dow mean something else is wrong? I'm not talking here about the sub-prime issue as the "something" that is wrong. I'm talking about the psyche of the investor, I suppose. Hmmm...

The Dow Soars (So, is that a good thing?)2007-11-28T12:53:05-05:00

Attention to both the big and the small (Small things that can make a big difference–part two)

I've been reminded lately just important little things are to significant success. So, occasionally I'll be musing on these small but critical practices that can make a big difference. You can read the first one here.

Small thing number two that can make a big difference: Attention to both the big and the small

The following story appears in, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. It is worth the read and makes the point better than I ever could about the value of attention to big  and small things. Apply as you see fit to your personal life, your work, your relationships, your "whatever."

A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for 40 days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.

Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention.

The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours.

“Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something”, said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill”.

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.

“Well”, asked the wise man, “Did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“Then go back and observe the marvels of my world”, said the wise man. “You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house”.

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man. Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you”, said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon”.

Attention to both the big and the small (Small things that can make a big difference–part two)2007-11-27T10:11:45-05:00

Obama and the “Inevitables” Of Life

Here is an interesting article on Barak Obama's campaign. He's discovering that being above the fray is not always possible. He was set, early in his campaign, on not attacking his opponents and simply staying on his message. He's discovered that the situation, the culture, if you will, of presidential campaigning doesn't always allow for that.

Obama is discovering what we all find out about life and work. Sometimes the ideal and the real clash. The point when the two--the real and ideal--clash is not to give up, but determine how we will respond creatively. Life and work and leadership are not as we would always like it. We can do our best and end up asking, "How the heck did we get here?"

What is in our grasp is our response--something Obama--and all of us--have to come to terms with throughout life.

Obama and the “Inevitables” Of Life2007-11-26T07:57:18-05:00

The Explorer can teach us something important about organizational navigation

The story of the sinking of the Explorer has lessons for organizations.

Ironically, the ship's course took it on the same route as that of adventurer Earnest Shakelton. It was ice that doomed the Explorer, not unlike the woes of Shakelton and his men. Ice not only slices a boat up, but then grips it with such force that it can move.

OK, so you know the question that's coming....

What's the ice (metaphorically speaking) that will slice and grip your organization? And, how do you steer clear from it?

The fate of the Explorer reminds us that reflection on the above questions just might allow for better navigation in tricky organizational waters.

The Explorer can teach us something important about organizational navigation2007-11-24T08:46:49-05:00

Set yourself apart by simply following through (part one)

Recently in my work with clients, I've been reminded of little things that make a big difference. Occasionally, in the days ahead, I will muse on these little things that can make a huge difference in your ability to be successful in any and all your endeavors.

Small thing number one that can make a big difference: Follow through

We live in a hurried, and often over stuffed world. We try to do to much and end up not doing anything all that well. Or, we convince ourselves that we are so busy (even if we're not) that we must hurry on to the next thing. Either way, the result is the same: poor follow through.

Poor follow through is so common, that simple follow through now makes one look like a hero at work, or in life. Returning important emails, phone calls, important requests and critical actions sets you apart in the workplace and in life.

Here are a few things that can increase your follow through:

1) Slow down: Learning to slow down internally allows you to see what needs your follow through. Slowing also changes your inner dialogue. Instead of telling yourself that you "can't do this" or you "have no time for that," slowing allows you to silence the hurried voice in you and listen more to the "you" that knows there is plenty of time to do what is important and to do it well.

2) Close loops: Simply asking yourself, "When I look at this project or situation are there any loops that need to be closed?

3) Ask, "What would bring joy?" When it comes to your clients or friends or family (and follow through), think about what would bring them joy. Chances are part of what will make your clients or teammates joyful will, in some fashion, include following through on something important to them. In fact, it will probably include following through with a little extra "something" that makes them surprised by your attention--and hence joyful.

The small act of following through can make a huge difference. It's worth the effort required.

Set yourself apart by simply following through (part one)2007-11-23T13:43:42-05:00

Celebrating Gratefulness

Tomorrow we celebrate thankfulness. I like to think of Thanksgiving not just as a time to celebrate the "things" that we are thankful for, but also a celebration of gratitude itself. Gratitude is more than an emotion. It's an inner disposition; a kind of awareness of all that is good in life. Gratitude changes the way I see things, situations and people. When I have a deep appreciation for life, I become a more energized and flexible person. I am able to handle difficulty with greater grace and opportunities with greater creativity. Gratitude reshapes the inner terrain of my life so that I can then shape the outer terrain in powerful ways.

So today and tomorrow (and everyday), be thankful for gratitude.

Celebrating Gratefulness2007-11-21T06:08:12-05:00

A follow up to my thoughts on Hillary and Emotional Intelligence

So the Democratic Presidential race seems to be closing between Obama and Clinton. A new poll puts Obama in the lead.

The more visible reason for polling like this is the way in which a candidate lands on "issues." Many view Hillary's views on the war as a major sticking point. However, I'm a firm believer that the emotional intelligence of a candidate has far more to do with electability than we think. As I mentioned in my post on Hillary and E.I., this could be the downfall in her campaign. It's also the downfall for many leaders who are not able to connect with people when criticism is flying.

It will be interesting to see what Iowans do in a couple of months.

A follow up to my thoughts on Hillary and Emotional Intelligence2007-11-20T09:10:37-05:00

Hillary Gets In Her Own Way (Connecting with People–Part II)

You may want to read the post right below (Connecting with People Matters) before reading this one.


There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton has a fair measure of emotional intelligence. She connects with people, inspires them, knows how to build organizations and bolster confidence. All that is good, very good. Yet, she has a major emotional intelligence flaw. It's so glaring that it could jeopardize her run in the same way Howard Dean's "scream" unraveled him.

Simply put, Hillary's emotional intelligence goes flying out the window when she is criticized or roundly challenged. It's so obvious that it's scary. Her body posture, facial expressions and vocal tones change quickly and leave her vulnerable. It appears, but of course I have no way to substantiate this, that she's incredulous that another human being would challenge her. I mean she is Hillary Clinton.

I could easily see her "losing it" because of this emotional intelligence soft spot.

Equally is troublesome for Hillary could be a staff that doesn't tell her the truth. The question for someone like her, and the beginnings of antidote for this type of leadership issue are questions like:

Do I have group of people I trust who will tell me the truth?

More importantly, will I listen?

Am I willing to be wrong?

Am I willing to change?

Hillary's E.I. trouble spot is quite common. Leaders, as them "move up" often become isolated from criticism that actually can make a difference. Oh sure, they hear criticism. But, it's so easily dismissed as ridiculous that it really never has a chance of being digested or bringing meaningful change to the leader.

If you are a "reactor" like Hillary, there is hope. But, it will require some painful time in front of a mirror and in front of people who care enough to tell you things you don't want to hear. It also means re-framing challenges as a way for you to sharpen or morph your ideas and make them even better.

Hillary Gets In Her Own Way (Connecting with People–Part II)2007-11-18T05:40:57-05:00

Connecting With People Matters

A couple of nights ago, I watched yet another Presidential debate. This time the Democratic candidates were on the dock in Las Vegas. Each candidate was announced, prior to the start of the debate, like an NBA basketball star before the tip-off of a game. Although, as they entered the arena, the candidates didn’t give each other “high five;s or slap each other on the butt.

All the usual topics were part of the evening’s debate. But it wasn’t the topics that caught my attention. It was the “connection” or lack thereof each candidate found (or didn’t find) with the audience. Studies on emotional intelligence tell us that certain people have an innate ability to connect with individuals, teams and groups of people. Their persona’s seem warm and confident and their words resonate with the longings inside the group. Simply, they supply and evoke inspiration in those around them.

Barak Obama does that.

Joe Biden does it a lot.

John Edwards, yep—quite a bit of the time.

Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson also connected at times, but not as much.

Dennis Kosanovich connects to a certain group more around his ideas more than his persona.

Hilary? Well, she’s interesting. She has the ability to connect, but she also—as is the case with so many leaders—gets in her own way.

I’ll explain how she gets in her way in the next post.

Connecting With People Matters2007-11-17T09:09:59-05:00