New Attitude, Same Latitude

Once again, our yearly or thereabouts sojourn to Florida provided the inspiration for this article. Last year’s message was about First Impressions, and this year’s is a related theme: attitude.

We’ve grown attached over the years to a favorite “Jimmy Buffet”-type bar and marina in Englewood, Florida: Stump Pass Marina. Jimmy Buffet’s tune “Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes” might have inspired it, but I couldn’t help noticing a large sign that greeted us this year: “New Attitude, Same Latitude!” As it turns out, the marina is under new ownership since our last visit, and it shows.

Had we not enjoyed so many positive experiences at Stump Pass Marina’s adjoining tiki bar (under different management) in prior years, an encounter with the marina manager Stump Pass 4 sunset 0312last year might have dissuaded us from returning as often. To shorten the story, suffice it to say that he had a very bad attitude – a rude, unwelcoming attitude that made me question how he could even be working there let alone manage the marina. This year, I biked to the marina early one morning to poke around and check out the “new attitude.” Wow, what a difference! Despite busyness pulling boats and stocking fishermen for the day, I was greeted by Steven, the new manager, with a warm “Welcome; ‘coffee’s on the house!” I had no intention of buying anything upon my arrival, but purchased a chart of the local waters and a beverage holder printed with “New Attitude, Same Latitude!”

Attitude matters, a great deal. How many times has the attitude of a company’s representative – clerk, server or senior professional – determined whether you chose to do business there, or even reengaged? Rich Daly, owner of Consatech, entrepreneur and member of Minnesota’s Technology Hall of Fame, knows what a difference attitude makes. Leaving a voice-mail for Rich recently, I was greeted by Consatech’s “attitude hot line” message of the week: “Ability determines what we can do, motivation determines what we choose to do, and attitude determines how well we do it.” It also determines how well we are received, the quality of our personal and professional relationships, whether others choose to do business with us and even our health. Research has demonstrated, for example, that a positive or optimistic attitude correlates with resilience and longevity.

Changing attitudes, our own or others’, usually isn’t easy; here are some guidelines:

  • Start with our own.  Attitudes are contagious, and if our attitude is showing, for better or worse, it is likely to impact others’.
  • Psychologists talk about the “ABCs” of attitudes: their Affective, Behavioral and Cognitive components, which influence one another. There are days when I feel Attitude Maxwell quote(Affective) lousy, and if I don’t manage that will likely display a lousy attitude. I’m not always successful, but if I can manage to act (Behavior) like things aren’t lousy, pretty soon my attitude lightens up. (Some might claim this isn’t “authentic,” but I’ve come to believe that authenticity is being our best selves vs. exactly how we feel at the moment.) Improving the Cognitive component is often about reframing; I try to remember that “an inconvenience can be an adventure wrongly understood, and an adventure is an inconvenience rightly understood.” (G. K. Chesterton) If I think things will go well, there is a higher chance that they actually will than if I think things will go poorly.
  • Keep basic “EQ” principles in mind, especially self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy. Awareness that our attitude might be showing is a first step; than we can focus on practices to adjust our attitude or at least our behaviors.  Empathy helps; realizing that others might just be having a bad day and cutting them some slack lessens the likelihood of worsening their mood or of getting hooked by it.
  • Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” No matter how bad off I think I am, simply reflecting on what’s gone right and what I’m grateful for is a game-changer.
  • Do attitude checks. On our same Florida excursion this year, we dropped by two neighboring shops to find bedspreads. The first shop didn’t stock what we needed, but the clerk was friendly and helpful, suggesting several neighboring shops to try; just as at Stump Pass Marina we lingered long enough that we made another purchase we hadn’t planned to. Next door, the reception was entirely different; an intimidating looking clerk with a scowl on her face that honestly resembled an over-sized bridge troll bellowed “Yes?” I often wonder when greeted by company clerks, receptionists or personnel if owners ever conduct checks to gauge how attitudes affect business and their brand.
  • Keep the end in mind. Taking a few moments to reflect on our purpose or intentions can remedy bad attitudes, or at least their manifestations. “Why am I here?” What are the outcomes I want from this transaction?” “How do I want this to affect our relationship?” are some good questions to ask ourselves.
  • Reinforce positivity. In addition to modeling constructive attitudes, recognize and reinforce others who do; while not as tangible as some other contributions, Attitude cartoon imgion.comknow that they play a significant role shaping winning cultures. Conversely, help those who may be unaware of unconstructive attitudes reshape theirs.  Don’t discount the importance of attitude when it comes to selection and promotion decisions. According to research by Mark Murphy of Leadership IQ, some variation of attitude accounts for all but 11% of the 46% of new hires that fail within 18 months.

A good friend’s mother, Betty, passed away not long ago. Greg shared a favorite expression of his mom’s, and her customary conclusion to a phone call or visit: not the usual “Have a great day,” but  “Make it a great day!” We have more control than we think over the quality of our and others’ days, and attitude is often the determining factor, so “Make it a great day!”


The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.

Viktor E. Frankl

There is no menial work, only menial attitudes.

William J. Brennan, Jr.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

Maya Angelou

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Authenticity Is Two-Faced

There’s been a lot of talk about “authenticity;” we want authentic products, authentic experiences, and authentic leaders.  We seek originality; we desire products and services, as well as leaders and organizations that are what they claim to be.  Most of the attention has been focused on those variations of authenticity – “inside-out authenticity:” products, services, leaders and organizations that are true to their origins, principles, intentions and claims. They are real; there is no disparity between what they are on the inside and what they are on the outside.

There is another side of authenticity that is equally important for leaders and organizations – what I’ve come to view as “outside-in authenticity.” Authenticity is fundamentally about being “real.” There is the reality of being on the outside what we claim or believe to be on the inside – “inside-out authenticity;” there is also the reality of accurately seeing and attending to what is true on the outside – “outside-in authenticity.”

Leaders and organizations have failed for lack of both inside-out and outside-in authenticity. Lack of authenticity regularly ranks high on the list of factors contributing to disengagement from organizations and disillusionment with leaders; that’s about shortages of inside-out authenticity. Radio Shack is only the latest of many organizations that failed for lack of outside-in authenticity; they and their leaders either didn’t see or denied the realities taking shape around them. Reality in all cases was distorted or misinterpreted.

Janus is the two-faced god of Roman antiquity that presided over Janusbeginnings, endings, transitions and passages. Perhaps we would benefit from a comparable guide to preside over inner and outer realities – half to help us accurately see and interpret outside realties, and half to help us be on the outside what we claim or hope to be on the inside. Meanwhile, here are some guidelines for managing both faces of authenticity:

Outside-in authenticity

  • Reality is a team sport. The economist and futurist Robert Theobald’s advice is useful when facilitating strategic planning with clients: “When we view reality through the largest number of lenses, it is unlikely that some new reality will appear without being aware of it at all.” In more cases than we think, reality truly is in the eye of the beholder. It is precisely when we are most sure of what we think we see that we need new eyes and interpretations.
  • Seeing is not always believing. In his excellent book Denial, Richard Tedlow relays example after example of personal and organizational disasters stemming from seeing but denying Reality 2 wired.comreality. When Ford lost market share to General Motors early in the 20th century, Henry Ford Sr. discounted massive market intelligence indicating that consumers were eager for autos other than black in color or without extras.  Sigmund Freud was well aware that cigar-smoking correlated highly with oral cancer; nevertheless he smoked several cigars a day until he died prematurely of oral cancer.
  • Check assumptions. Entire rationales for pursuing one business strategy over others often depend on assumptions that we make – about our markets, competitors or environments; too much is at stake if those are wrong. Relationships, too, can be harmed by inaccurate assumptions; what we say or do next after a perceived slight is largely dependent on our assumptions about others’ motives.
  • Cultivate truth-telling and dialog.  Others seeing or understanding what we do not is no guarantee that we will benefit from that. We need to be approachable, open to contrary or unpopular opinions and to cultivate truth-telling relationships and cultures. Voicing different assumptions, opinions and rationale in the spirit of true dialog yields what’s likely closest to truth.
  • Know ourselves. What we see and how we interpret what we see are products of our unique natures. Self-awareness, others’ feedback and valid personality measures can help us manage and compensate for biases, blind spots and limitations that we all have. For example, as reflected by the Meyers-Briggs I am a naturally very strong intuitive and not as attentive to facts and details; I know that I will have to work harder attending to facts and details than others who have different strengths will need to.
  • Do all of this fast! The speed of business is leaving us less and less time to accurately assess changes in our environment and markets. The better and quicker we cultivate self-awareness, truth-telling, engagement and dialog, the more likely and quickly we can accurately read external realities. Trust is an accelerator, and that brings us to “inside-out authenticity.”

Inside-out authenticity

  • Be clear about our “3 Ps” – purpose, principles and priorities. It will be as difficult to be perceived as an authentic leader when we are unclear about our 3 Ps as it would be for a ship to reach its destination without a rudder. We need to first be clear ourselves about our 3 Ps, then to clearly communicate them.
  • As we’ve heard many times, “Walk the talk.” There is nothing that screams “inauthentic,” for leaders and organizations, as Reality 6 kendranicole.netmuch as saying one thing but doing something different; people don’t listen to what we speak as much as they watch our feet. Sometimes the disconnect is unintentional; for example inTEgro’s Organizational Integrity Survey occasionally surfaces unintentional contradictions between stated organization values and hiring, promotion or performance management practices.
  • Be firm and flexible. We can go too far “standing our ground,” “speaking our peace,” being transparent or sticking with what we know. As “The Authenticity Paradox” (Harvard Business Review, February 2015) points out, we can lose the very trust and confidence that we seek from others by “just being ourselves” or over-disclosing. We can also lose out on growth opportunities by being too consistent and not adapting to new realities.

In our efforts to become or find authentic, or real, leaders and organizations, let’s not neglect either inside-out or outside-in authenticity.  A shortage of either will prevent us and our organizations from living up to our promise and potential.


What steps will you take to help yourself or your organization operate more authentically from the “inside-out?”

What steps will you take to help yourself and your organization operate more authentically from the “outside-in?”


“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

Ayn Rand

“A leader’s first job is to define reality.”

                                                      Warren Bennis

“The pursuit of truth is like picking raspberries. You miss a lot if you approach it from only one angle.”

Randal Marlin

“The most exhausting thing you can do is to be inauthentic.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Explore inTEgro’s Great Quotes at


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Step Up!

Where do your ideas, solutions and inspirations come from? If you’re like me, sometimes they originate unexpectedly, from sources that have no direct connection to any challenge or topic at hand. If you’ve read my articles before you know that I find sailing and wilderness camping especially fruitful venues for leadership and teamwork insights. Surprisingly, earlier this a tennis court served up some valuable lessons.

I am returning to tennis after a long absence, due primarily to shoulder surgery a few years ago. After a few friendly games, I signed up for a series of tennis clinics, a chance to learn from a pro what bad habits I’ve retained and how to step up my game. Before long, the drill instructor noticed how when approaching a shot I was often tentative and even back away some. I haven’t told him yet how his next words of advice resonated far beyond the court that day or even tennis: “Step up and into the shot, Al; good things happen when we step up, and bad things happen when we don’t.” There it was! A valuable insight that not only pays dividends for tennis, but for leadership and life: “Good things happen when we step up; bad things happen when we don’t!”

What does “stepping up” look like? For tennis, leadership and life, here are some fundamentals:

  • Motivation. In general we are motivated by firmly held values, the prospect of something we deeply desire or something we wish to avoid; the greater their significance, the greater the motivation. We need to have a “why;” what is your “why?
  • Visualization. Any performers at the top of their game know to rehearse or visualize their best performance and intended outcomes in their minds. In the words of Napoleon Hill: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Do you have a clear picture of what you are striving for?
  • Focus. Synchronously, about the same time as my return to tennis I happened to be reading “Way of the Seal, ” a retired Focus valorebooks.comU.S. Navy Seal’s lessons as a Seal applied to life and leadership. (A book I heartily recommend; see the sidebar.) He talks about the importance of “front sight focus,” in SEAL usage “keeping your eye on the front sight of your weapon, and the front sight of your weapon on your target;” For tennis, of course, that translates to “keep your eye on the ball!”

Focus, in tennis, life or leadership requires concentration and elimination of distractions, including worries about how we look or what others will think, non value-added “gadgetry” or activities, and other distractions that detract from accomplishing our goals. Focus is different than myopia or tunnel vision. Our field of view needs to encompass not only what is obvious that could impact success, but what may not be readily discernable.

  • Commitment. Yoda, the Star Wars sensei, was right: “Do or do not; there is no ‘try’.” “Stepping up and into the ball” means no half-measures. In tennis, bad things happen if we’re caught mid-court as the ball lands at our feet; in tennis, life and leadership, good things happen when we confidently execute our intentions, build momentum and follow through; bad things happen when we don’t.
  • Persistence. Commitment requires not giving up in the face of adversity or when not initially successful. Most worthwhile goals are accompanied by adversity and obstacles or require Persistence tralfaz.orgrepeated attempts, learning from our experience. Cleaning up some files recently, I found the copy of a letter I wrote to the Personnel office (yes, that’s what they called it then) of a major employer after graduating from college; I had previously applied, written and called on several occasions about the same position and been rejected. I learned after they eventually offered me the job that they decided to interview me only out of curiosity about who would be so persistent.

An increasing number of colleges are de-emphasizing ACT, SAT and other traditional academic screens for admission and indicators of college success in favor of personality assessments. They are finding that chief among the personality traits that signal likelihood of college success is persistence.

  • Discipline. “Discipline” and “disciple” share the same root that means “follower.” Achieving challenging goals or replacing unproductive habits with good ones requires following s set of practices, protocols or precepts to keep us on track. The whole nature of tennis drills, repetitive exercises with supervision and coaching, is repetition to ingrain better habits and reactions. Sometimes a simple repetitive message or “mantra” will do the job; one of mine this year, on the tennis court and off, will be “Step up!”

In addition to checking out Divine’s book The Way of the Seal, take in the movies “Unbroken,”  “The Imitation Game”, “The Theory of Everything” and “Selma” if you can; they are also powerful sources of inspiration for stepping up.

My revelation about “stepping up” on the tennis court and its implications was well timed. As we start a new year, it is serving as a reflection and catalyst for how I will step up in other arenas of life and work.

It’s true, “when we step up, good things happen; when we don’t, they don’t. How will you be “stepping up” this year?


Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.

Winston Churchill


Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.

W. Clement Stone


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


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Coming Out

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, made news recently by publicly acknowledging his sexual preference; hats off to Mr. Cook and others like him who exercise that kind of courage.  I’ve been thinking that there are other ways of “coming out” as well, and am hopeful that Mr. Cook’s actions serve to encourage allTim Cook of its forms. “Coming out of our shell,” voicing unpopular opinions, tapping dormant potential or in other ways following a path less traveled, especially when risky, are all forms of coming out; they also constitute much of what we mean by “authenticity.” If we are unable to do these things we will fall short of living up to our promise and potential; we will be robbing ourselves, our organizations, families and communities of what only we can offer.

Common to any form of coming out, of course, is fear – fear of not being accepted or loved, fear of rejection, fear of failure or fear of physically harmful consequences. Sadly, fears of physically harmful consequences can be well-founded. Coming out as followers of a particular faith has been tantamount to a death sentence in parts of the world. Coming out for equal rights carried severe consequences in this country not long ago. Malala Yusafzai, a 13 year-old Pakistani girl and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was  nearly assassinated for “coming out” in favor of girls’ education.  And let’s Thoreau quote 1not forget Matthew Shepard. Fortunately, none of us is likely to face those kinds of consequences for coming out by taking unpopular stands, speaking our truth or following our own path. Yes, there will likely be discomfort and potentially unfavorable consequences, but so too will there be for not coming out. I suspect those consequences are in line with Henry David Thoreau’s sentiment that “most men (and women) live lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with their song still in them.”

Here are common situations that pose invitations for “coming out” in a broader sense; what would you do?

  • In a meeting, our boss or organization’s leader proposes a direction or action that you have serious reservations about. She seeks consensus or agreement, and after everyone else in the meeting voices approval, she asks you what you think.
  • You are aware of accounting irregularities in your organization or unit that escaped your auditor’s attention, but that later could derail the organization and result in legal action. There are no means to anonymously report what you know.
  • Someone on your team is likeable enough, perhaps even your friend, but consistently doesn’t follow through with assignments that the team depends on. You are concerned about a defensive reaction if you bring it up, and about how it would impact your relationship.
  • You are with a group of friends or co-workers who are all united in their stand against an unpopular policy or decision, and whenever together complain loudly about it while disparaging its source. Privately, you actually think the decision or policy was a good idea and believe it should be supported.
  • For dozens of years your place of worship has been affiliated with a larger group that is a source of financial and other critical support. The larger group has taken a strong stand against acceptance or any leadership roles for members of the LGBT community, which runs contrary to your and your place of worship’s strong convictions. The larger group has also made it clear that it will expel and withdraw support from any member church that does not abide by its policy. (My church by the way, Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis.)
  • You’ve always been drawn to art and design, as a kid thinking that you’d like to be a famous architect. Your parents and common sense prevailed, however, so in college you studied business and became an accountant. Twenty years later, bored with work, you still wonder how architecture would have turned out.

In each case there is an easier and harder choice. The easier choice, at least for the time being, is along the lines of “going with the flow” or not “rocking the boat.” The harder choice sacrifices shorter-term gains, including security, for the sake of staying true to a larger purpose, our principles, who we aspire to be and the life that we envision.

Allan McDonald, Morton Thiokol’s Solid Rocket Motor project director for NASA’s 1986 Challenger space shuttle launch, came out by refusing to sign off on Challenger’s launch, citing safety concerns. The launch proceeded CHALLENGER EXPLOSIONnevertheless, and the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lift-off, killing all seven crew members. Sharon Watkins and the Colleen Rowley were named Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” for speaking truth to power, attempting to warn Enron’s CEO of accounting irregularities before it imploded and documenting the FBI’s mishandling of 9-11 related information respectively. When they have our organization’s and its constituents’ best interests at heart, we need to honor and protect those who come out by challenging prevailing truths or popular opinions.

About what injustice, wrong or concern are you considering “coming out?” Don’t wait too long; your conviction and courage could very well turn the tide.

What passion, forgotten dreams or hidden talents of yours need to “come out?” Do not “hide your light under a bushel basket” and rob your organization or community of your unique gifts.

What idea, proposal or perspective of yours, unpopular or far-fetched as it might initially seem, needs to come out? If it doesn’t, you, your community and organization may never realize its potential.

What are you waiting for?


“No one can, for any considerable time, wear one face privately, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne


“If you call forth what is in you, it will save you. If you do not call forth what is in you, it will destroy you.”

Gospel of Saint Thomas


“You got to be who you are when you are.”

“Snoop Dog”

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The Right Crew In The Right Boat

With only a few notable exceptions, I’ve been fortunate to sail with very compatible crews. All were interested in the same destination (or no destination in particular,) shared duties (pleasant and unpleasant,) enjoyed each other’s company and gamely faced whatever interesting challenges came our way. The very few exceptions were a drag, especially on long or difficult hauls with no opportunities to let others off the boat. (Since “walking the plank” has long fell out of favor.)

Jim Collins (Good To Great) emphasized that an organization’s or leader’s first task should be “getting the right people on the bus.” My take, of course, is Boat crew flickr Nathan Hobdayto get the right people in the boat; in addition to being nautically inclined, I can stretch the analogy further.  Buses are customarily for shorter rides, and their routes more predictable; sailing can be days without sight of land, with constant course adjustments. Bus drivers drive; boat captains take their turns at the wheel, but bear added responsibility for everything associated with a successful voyage, seaworthiness of a boat, safety and crew morale. Buses occasionally encounter rain and snow storms, but none where buses and passengers disappear forever. I could go on; the point is to emphasize the critical importance of getting hiring and retention right in our organizations.

I was struck by a Silicon Valley CEO’s remarks recently: that a new company’s culture is determined by its first 10 or 12 hires. So not only is it important to get the right people in your “boat,” but to be very selective about those you take on first. You first hires / “crew” will for better or worse set the tone and direct “the way things are done around here;” you will want to make sure the right messages get conveyed.

Not long after hearing the CEO’s remarks, I saw research comparing primary hiring criteria of higher vs. lower performing organizations. (“The People Profit Chain,” Institute for Corporate Productivity.) At the top of the list for higher performing companies were “passion for the work” and “positive attitudes towards peers and customers;” “intelligence” and “technical job skills” were much lower. For lower-performing organizations, the ranking of hiring criteria was reversed. The same study identified “shared values” as one of five key high performance indicators (along with perception of the company as a good place to work, receptiveness to change and readiness to meet new challenges.) Actually, these factors come close to my criteria for whom to sail with; get the right people in the boat.

Here are some guidelines for getting the right people in your “boat,” keeping the right ones in your boat and getting the wrong ones out of your boat:

  • Be clear about your values and the culture that you want to shape; translate those to criteria for use selecting your “crew.”
  • Keep communicating your values and culture aspirations – how you want to reach your destination together – and most importantly, model them.
  • Reinforce your values and culture aspirations by aligning hiring, onboarding, training, performance management, promotions and recognition / pay with them.
  • Be very selective when hiring and careful when promoting. You will pay later by filling a role prematurely and neglecting to hire for values-fit vs. just technical skills.
  • Audit your organizations’ systems and practices regularly to assure they are consistent with your values and desired culture. You can learn more about tools for that purpose at
  • Be diligent about getting the wrong people off the boat; they can do immeasurable harm. My advice to a physician practice once was toRub-a-dub cartoon buy a partner out who regularly mistreated staff and sewed seeds of discontent everywhere. Distracted by his high surgery volume and revenue, they couldn’t pull the trigger; after a few more years of poisoning the well and driving away staff the physician left on his own for a competitor. I’ve witnessed more self-described “collegial” organizations imploding from the inside by not expelling “dissemblers” than those succumbing to external competition.

We want to make sure that we’re in the right boat, too, and not on one headed where we don’t want to go or with a crew whose values are incompatible with ours. A good friend and very experienced sailor delivers owners’ boats across the Great Lakes. One owner wanted to accompany my friend on delivery of the owner’s boat from New York to Duluth. The owner was a micromanager about things he didn’t know about, and in additional ways made the voyage so unpleasant that my friend disembarked and left the owner to his own devices halfway to Duluth. ‘Better to part company then before heading out to the open sea when stakes are higher. (See “Is It Time To Part Company?” for ten signs of employers not to sign on with or that you might want to leave:)

Guidelines for assuring that we’re in the right boat parallel those for getting the right people in our boat:

  • Be clear about your “3 Ps:” purpose, principles and priorities. As John Adams put it: “If we don’t know where we stand we’ll fall for anything.”
  • Interview prospective employers to learn about their aspirations and values-in-practice (vs. just espoused values.) Just as employers need to practice behavioral interviewing, look for signs and ask for examples in employer interviews to determine if they practice what they preach. Check references by talking with current and former employees.
  • Organizations and cultures change, especially after reorganizations, mergers or acquisitions. Be diligent about signals that your “ship” may be headed in a different direction or for unfavorable waters. Signals include who gets hired or promoted, recognition, pay and whether behaviors match espoused principles and priorities.
  • Even if we’re happy with the “boat” and crew we have, circumstances change. Keep your options open and an eye out for situations that might be a better fit if time comes to “jump ship.”

Boat crew 3

As “captain” or crew, are you clear about your destination, values and expectations so you find yourself in the right boat with the right crew?

Are you prepared and courageous enough to make a change if you find yourself in the wrong boat or with the wrong crew?


To Laurence J. Peter’s: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else,” I add this corollary: If you don’t agree on where you’re going, you will all end up somewhere different.

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Why You Want A “EEE” Rating

We are conditioned to wanting a Standard and Poor’s “AAA” or Moody’s “Aaa” rating, those agencies’ highest level of confidence that organizations can repay their debt. Those traditional ratings are lagging indicators, however, after-the-fact reflections of what organizations have or have not done to earn them. I encourage you to strive for “EEE” ratings, indicators that you are effective (achieve your goals,) engaging (a desirable place to work) and ethical (high integrity, and a good community citizen.) “EEE” ratings are leading indicators of overall organizational health and excellent predictors of traditional rating agencies’ scores. Logically, organizations that achieve their strategic and financial goals are better positioned to repay debt, there is adequate evidence that high engagement scores correlate with profitability, and we have certainly witnessed our share of organizations that failed on account of ethical shortcuts.

How does an organization earn a triple-E rating? The good news is that a handful of high-leverage practices will boost all three “Es:” organization effectiveness, worker engagement and ethical cultures. My research and experience working with dozens of organizations over three decades yielded four sets of practices that distinguish Triple-E organizations:

IDENTITY – Triple-E organizations know who they are, what they value and where they are going; they are clear about their “3 Ps:”

  • They know their purpose, and their purpose resonates with employees and customers.
  • They know what they stand for; in words and more importantly deeds, they are committed to their principles.
  • They are clear about their priorities; organization members understand their strategy and priority goals.

They are also keenly aware of their strengths and their vulnerabilities; they leverage their strengths and are less likely to fail on account of weaknesses that they’ve overlooked.

AUTHENTICITY – They are “true,” truth-telling and transparent.

  • They remain true to their purpose, principles and priorities; members and stakeholders don’t hear one thing but see different behavior.
  • They are well-attuned to marketplace and organizational realities, and are straight communicators.
  • Information is readily accessible by those who need it; financial statements are clear and easily understandable.

ALIGNMENT – There is tight fit of organizational systems and practices with purpose, principles and priorities, balanced by adaptability.

  • Structure, systems, people and practices reinforce the organization’s purpose, principles and priorities.
  • There is a general sense of unity and “fit;” organizational parts compose a coherent whole.
  • Unity is not confused with sameness, and alignment does not get in the way of constructive change and growth.

ACCOUNTABILITY – We can count on them to keep their promises, they measure what matters, and exercise responsible stewardship.

  • As big as brand promises and strategic objectives, or as small as returning calls when promised, we can count on them to honor their commitments.
  • They keep track of what counts; measures are useful and balanced, reflecting impact on profit, people and planet.
  • They are responsible stewards of resources near and far.

Organizations and leaders that exhibit these characteristics attract the best talent, have what it takes to succeed in the marketplace long-term, and are least likely to become ethically compromised. As you scan the list above you can likely make direct connections between each characteristic and how it drives effective, engaging or ethical cultures, or all three simultaneously. Consider IDENTITY’s “3 Ps,” for example for example. We will likely be more engaged affiliated with an organization and doing work with a meaningful purpose. If that organization clearly communicates its strategy and priority goals, there is a higher likelihood that we will execute the strategy, achieve priority goals and succeed in the marketplace. Ethical failures are often the result of organizations or leaders that are not clear about their principles. Failures in all four dimensions that comprise the triple-e framework drove our latest and great recession, and impacted all three “Es.”

Integrity Model color sans capabilities

Webster’s first definitions for “integrity” are about being whole, complete and unbroken – essentially what the triple-e framework and ratings add up to. Triple-e organizations and leaders are complete because they are attuned to all three dimensions of what Howard Gardner calls “Good Work” in his book by that same name; they pay attention to the whole picture. Think of a three-legged stool; organizations and leaders with a missing or weak “leg” are sure to fail sooner than later.

“EEEs” four dimensions constitute inTEgro’s Leadership and Organizational Integrity Model and the main themes in my book Navigating Integrity – Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best. Consistent with ACCOUNTABILITY’s “measuring what matters,” inTEgro offers the Organizational Integrity Survey – a 40-item survey to help organizations get a fix on where they are with each dimension, and the Leadership Integrity Survey – a 40-item self-survey for individual leaders to do the same. More information on both surveys can be found at

I would like to hear how this perspective squares with your experience of what constitutes organizational and leadership excellence. The first three who respond will receive a signed copy of my book Navigating Integrity . . . as well as a code for taking the Leadership Integrity Survey free online.

Best wishes in your efforts to earn a EEE rating!


“Be really whole and all things will come to you.”



“Integrity is the cornerstone of free enterprise, and all leaders need a clear teachable point of view on it.”

Noel Tichy

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Environmental Stewardship and Organization Effectiveness

(July’s guest blog post is by Stephanie Klein, PhD. I met Stephanie at a gathering of Minnesota Professionals for Psychology Applied to Work (MPPAW,) and I was happy to learn about her interest in the connection of environmental stewardship to organization effectiveness. – Al Watts)

by Stephanie Klein, PhD

Organizations employ many tools for crafting cultures that are effective, engaging and ethical; the goal of this article is to highlight the role that environmental sustainability can play. You may even discover that your organization has already established a foundation ready to build upon.

Many of you are familiar with the triple bottom line framework: People, Planet, Profit. Most organizations recognize the importance of people Stewardship PPP (employees, community) and profit (even non-profits pursue financial health and stability), and monitor those diligently. Progressive organizations have also embedded positive sustainability-related change into their processes, recognizing not only their role as community stewards, but how environmental sustainability positively impacts organizational effectiveness and employee engagement.

Efforts to improve organizational effectiveness are typically focused on reducing wasted resources and improving efficiency. Attention to environmental factors is a natural extension of efforts along those lines, expanding perspectives on ways to conserve resources. Without consideration of environmental factors, some efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness might in the long run actually waste resources and have a negative or neutral impact. Consideration of environmental factors expands our field of view for ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness by reducing consumption of natural resources and/or generation of pollutants. Consideration of environmental impact also resonates with a growing sentiment among workers and consumers who want to associate with those kinds of organizations.

The intent here is not to encourage anyone to step outside the boundaries of their professional arena. Measuring parts-per-million of pollutants in the wastewater, or calculating specific energy efficiencies, remains squarely in the domain of experts. Yet those of us advising organizations or working within organizations, especially if we play a role in strategic decision-making, are very well-positioned to guide sustainability-related change.

We may be designing programs ourselves, providing guidance, or have decision-making authority or influence. In all of these cases, the intent is typically to design programs or initiatives to achieve certain goals. And if the program is well-designed, we typically define those desired outcomes, and ideally plan to gather metrics for determining the extent that outcomes have been achieved. This article is about expanding our definition of “outcomes”to explicitly consider relevant environmental sustainability outcomes. Here are two examples:

Example One:
An organization initiated video-based interviewing for the second round of candidate interviews, typically the top 10 remaining after an initial phone conversation. The purpose of this shift in the recruiting process was two-fold: to improve recruiting process efficiencies and to reduce costs; both objectives were achieved. First, process efficiencies were realized because the recruiter Sustainability jembatantiga.comno longer needed to coordinate multiple interviewers being onsite on the same day as a candidate visit, and top candidates were less likely to be lost due to excessive delays in scheduling. Second, cost savings were significant; the company now funds travel for only the final two or three candidates to interview onsite. Though unanticipated, environmental impacts were also favorable, including a 70% reduction in the number of airline and car trips per open position, with a corresponding reduction in fuel consumed and CO2 emissions produced. The organization implemented the new interview approach to make the recruiting process more efficient and less costly, but this does not mean that it should deny itself credit for the resulting reduction in its carbon footprint.

Example Two:
An organization redesigned its inventory management process to reduce costs related to waste (damaged and expired goods) and shipping (expensive last-minute delivery to deal with unexpected shortages). The process redesign succeeded by significantly reducing the number of discarded items and overnight orders, and reducing costs as intended. As in Example One, there were also positive environmental impacts. First, fewer discarded goods become trash, and raw materials and energy required to create replacements for the wasted goods are not required. Second, land transportation (train and truck) has less negative environmental impact than air transport, which is needed for overnight orders.

Estimates of environmental impact for initiatives like the examples above can be calculated using online tools such as

There are likely any number of similar opportunities in your own organization for becoming even better stewards while improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness. The proposal here is not to  focus on environmentalStewardship sustainability to the exclusion of other decision criteria, or even to give it priority against other strategic and logistical factors. Rather, you are encouraged to simply keep sustainability-related outcomes on the list of considerations when making decisions about which proposed process improvements or strategic initiatives to prioritize for investment, and to measure environmental impacts of decisions.

Over time, incremental changes in an organization’s environmental impact in aggregate will yield significant, measurable reductions in an organization’s carbon footprint. Meanwhile, organizations that focus on the environmental impact of their decisions and actions will embed stewardship as an enduring value of their culture, while earning the loyalty of customers and employees who increasingly seek it.

(Stephanie Klein, PhD, is an industrial-organizational psychologist specializing in organizational effectiveness and making strategy happen. Her recent publications include Green Organizations: Driving Change with I-O Psychology (available on Amazon, or use code IRK71 for a 20% discount on the publisher’s website), and “Organizational Responsibility,” an article in the Management topic of Oxford Bibliographies Online. Stephanie can be contacted via LinkedIn  or email, srklein42(at)hotmail(dot)com


The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

George Burns

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Are Your Values Scalable?

Recently a friend working in a rapidly-growing Twin Cities based company lamented how much had changed in his organization the last few years: “It just isn’t the same place. . . People don’t feel as loyal or energized. . . We’re not feeling the same sense of purpose. . .” When I asked him how long things had seemed that way (I felt like a doctor evaluating symptoms,) the time coincided with the company’s IPO a few years earlier. His prognosis (and his organization’s) was becoming clearer; they were likely both victims of a condition that is unfortunately too common among rapidly growing organizations, and that is aggravated by going public. Too often, successful Grinch heart Dr. Karin Smithsonrapidly growing companies concern themselves mainly with scalability of their business models, giving little consideration to scalability of their core purpose and values. Images of “the Grinch who stole Christmas” come to mind: a too-big body with a too-small heart. Or, going back to our medical analogy, a heart that is insufficiently developed and too immature to support a growing body.

Whatever the cause, when an organization loses focus on its sense of purpose and principles that made it distinctive and special in the first place, trouble is usually around the corner. The usual scenario is that excitement about excellent and novel products or services, passion for customers, dedication to communities served or genuine values of founding leaders get usurped by strictly utilitarian and financial considerations. Do not get me wrong; scalability of business models and profit (for corporations) or margin (for public or non-profit entities) is essential, just as the air that we breath is essential for survival. We get into trouble, however, when those become the sole, or even primary considerations. Unless dedication to our core purpose and values grows commensurately with profit or margin considerations, profit overcomes purpose and margin overtakes mission.

In 2007, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schulz lamented the loss of what had made Starbucks special in the course of its relentless international growth march. Product excellence, customer service and intimate coffee drinking experiences had been unintentionally sacrificed in exchange for growth and profitability targets to meet analysts’ and stockholders’ expectations. Before long neither the Starbucks coffee experience or shareholder returns were meeting expectations; Starbucks’ popularity and profitability rebounded only after a disciplined renewal of its traditional values and commitment to making its coffee experience special again. Krispy Kreme experienced a similar reversal of fortune when the pace of its expansion outgrew what had made its fresh doughnut experience exceptional since 1937. Three years after its IPO in 2000, Krispy Kreme’s stock rose 840%; about that same time I began noticing stale-looking packaged Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the end racks at big-box retailers; not long after that its stock price began a steep descent, recovering some only after attending to the scars of its rapid growth trajectory.

Goldman Sachs partners voted to go public in 1998, over the objections of some partners who considered selling to be a violation of a 129-year “sacred trust.” Throughout its history the Goldman Sachs culture had been characterized by always putting clients’ best interests first, smart yet conservative investing that steadily grew wealth, and careful selection and Goldman Sachs Smith bookgrooming of partners who served as guardians of the firm’s culture. Many believe that Goldman Sach’s contribution to Wall Street’s 2008 melt-down can be traced to the erosion of its traditional values, overtaken eventually by a culture devoted to maximization of returns for shareholders over clients’ best interests. Greg Smith was a senior Goldman Sachs manager when he wrote Why I Quit Goldman Sachs in 2012 and described the deleterious effect of Goldman’s eroded culture on customers and employees.

It is a challenge for any significant organization, especially if publicly held, to grow in the spirit of its core purpose, principles and what made it distinctive originally. Minnesota-based Medtronic has rightfully prided itself over the years as a mission-driven, values based corporation; no doubt part of its deliberation evaluating its recent Covidien acquisition and movement of operations to Dublin was how that squared with its commitment to corporate citizenship. Educational institutions of all stripes are finding it difficult to grow by the formulas that originally earned their academic distinction. A recent editorial in the Star Tribune by an early Metropolitan State University alum encouraged the University to grow by embracing its original values and history of “breaking the rules” to advance learning.

So how do we grow without losing what makes us great?

  • First be clear about what makes you special – commitment to a cause or vital purpose, foundational principles, valued cultural norms and other distinctive characteristics. Determine the non-negotiables – those aspects of who you are and how you operate that should not change.
  • Imbed those distinctive characteristics into your culture, systems and practices. Tell stories that reinforce what makes you special, hire and promote to reinforce those distinctive qualities, and make sure that what gets measured and rewarded reinforces your desired “DNA.” In their excellent book Scaling Up Excellence*, authors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao describe how those best at scaling up cultivate a strong organizational “mindset.” One such tool employed by Facebook is their “boot camp,” where new hires are thoroughly oriented to what is desirable and what is undesirable.
  • Use what makes you special as a “litmus” test for potential avenues of growth. For example, will an acquisition or merger provide opportunities to extend your purpose and desired culture or endanger them? Don’t overestimate your ability to scale up your values and desired culture while plotting overly optimistic growth trajectories. Michael Depatie, CEO of highly successful Kimpton Hotels, is wary of how the “Kimpton magic” would translate to new markets. Speaking of his reluctance to expand more quickly or into overseas markets, he says “I’ve got a golden goose here, but it can lay only so many eggs so quickly.”
  • Don’t confuse preservation of your truly distinctive qualities that add value with doing everything the same. Growth requires doing some things differently and no longer doing some things altogether. As the authors of Scaling Up Excellence put it: “Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.” They liken unnecessary rules, roles and rituals to barnacles on the bottom of a ship that only impede progress.
  • Stay connected. Increasing complexity, multiple sites and expanding headcount create additional challenges for keeping the troops engaged and on the same page. All-employee meetings lose their effect when we swell from fifty to five hundred employees, but thatFacebook 1 only makes the need for quality communication even greater. “Leading by walking around,” live and virtual “town hall” meetings, conference calls, interactive intranet sites and additional tools for staying connected grow in importance when scaling up. As numbers become too great for one all-hands meeting with a founder or CEO, department, work unit and team meetings can serve well – assuming that meeting leaders represent the desired culture well and possess the required communication capability.
  • Don’t mistake getting bigger with getting better. Some organizations may be able to grow quality without growing quantity; boutique retail and professional services firms are examples. Be clear about your vision and “end game.” Can you accomplish what you desire and defend against competitors by staying local, for example? Are you building an organization that can be passed on to your next generation, is your goal to sell it, or will you go public?

It is possible to scale up our organization with losing its soul, but not easy. I hope that these guidelines are useful helping you plan for growth.

* Sutton, Robert I. and Rao, Hayagreeva. Scaling Up For Excellence – Getting To More Without Settling For Less; Crown Publishing Group, New York, NY. 2014



The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the idea of real growth, which means leaving things inside us.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Photo credits: Google Images – Dr. Karin Smithson,,

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Is Your Top Team A Top Team?

Likely nowhere in an organization is teamwork more important than at the top. Executive leadership teams can be a potent force charting a sustainable competitive course, communicating direction, crafting winning cultures, and aligning their organizations around strategic priorities. Yet too few executive teams operate at the top of their game; here are some guidelines for how they can:

  • Do top team members own a common purpose that contributes distinct value?

Each member of an executive team already plays a significant leadership role heading a business unit or function with its own distinct purpose and set of goals. Executive team members share a vital collective responsibility, however, that goes beyond their individual functional leadership roles. It is worthwhile for executive teams to articulate their distinct shared purpose  and the collective value they contribute that no other entity can. Here is how one executive team client defined its unique value-added role:

“Leverage our collective perspectives and resources to serve (name of organization) by anticipating challenges and opportunities, crafting strategic direction and speaking with one voice to engage internal and external stakeholders.”

As with most efforts to define collective purpose, the process is almost more important than the product; it answers the all-important “why are we here?” question and serves as an important team development experience in its own right.

  • What goals are executive team members mutually accountable for? Along with a common purpose or mission, mutual goals are the teamwork-final-piecefoundation for any team, including executive teams; no goals, no team. For a group of senior executives to function as a true team, there must be shared goals that require collaboration and collective contributions. Too often as one experienced senior leader shared, a crisis becomes the executive team’s only shared goal.

Common goals can be a challenge for senior teams, composed of strong leaders who all have their own challenging functional unit goals. In some cases those sets of goals can conflict; challenging individual goals combined with rich incentives to achieve them they can take precedence over collaborating on mutual goals.

Common c-suite goals often reflect the most important dimensions and operations of an organization that do not fall neatly into any particular function. Beyond traditional measures like revenue growth, profitability and share price for publicly held corporations, examples include health of the organization’s culture, customer service, ethics and reputation. Of course to compete fairly for executive teams members’ attention alongside their individual functional objectives, compensation and bonuses need to be aligned with shared goals.

  • Have executive team members articulated mutual expectations or norms for working together, and do they hold each other accountable Teamwork google myspeedoftrust.comfor those? Any team’s members can have different styles and expectations for working together; that is especially the case when teams are composed of members from different organizations and cultures. Conversation early in the game and periodic check-ins about meeting formats, communication preferences, “rules of the road” and other mutual expectations saves time later and lays a foundation for greater trust.

Ideally mutual expectations include authentic communication and speaking with one voice. Authentic communication assures the kind of respectful disagreement and dialog required for making the best decisions. When that has been the case, executive team members need to hold themselves accountable for speaking with one voice about decisions and direction. One of the biggest detractors from healthy cultures and execution is lack of unified communication; examples include publicly second-guessing executive team decisions that have already been made or unintentional misrepresentation of decisions or direction.

Decision-making protocols are also important to clarify. When and how will voting or consensus be used? If one person decides in the end, will there be circumstances when that isn’t the executive team leader or CEO? Which decisions are an executive team’s or its leader’s call, and which are a board’s?

When top teams need a “tune up,” here are some suggestions:

  • Basic navigation principles apply: before knowing where to go, senior teams need to know where they are. In that regard, I conduct interviews with all senior team members before team development engagements; I summarize responses anonymously to reflect perceived team strengths, limitations, opportunities and dynamics. I usually supplement that with a commercial senior team survey or one that I design.
  • There may not be an “I” in team, but there is a “me.” Senior teams are composed of individuals; if we want strong teams we need to invest in development of team members, especially its leader. A 2008 Hay study of executive teams revealed that an executive team leader’s leadership style accounts for 70% of the team’s climate; further, that climate accounts for 30% of the variance in executive team contributions. Senior team development is best accompanied or preceded by team member coaching, including survey-feedback.
  • The best senior team development is in the context of their real work, including strategic planning, critical decisions to make, conflicts about direction or dysfunctions to address. Senior teams are often more inclined to invest in team development with the prospect of simultaneously achieving other critical tasks.
  • My senior team work always ends with commitments – collective and individual commitments about what will be done, how team members will work together and individual roles. Commitments are shared, and agreements made about measuring progress and how team members will be mutually accountable for following through. A time should be set for a formal facilitated review by the team of progress on goals and commitments.


The health and effectiveness of top teams are too important to leave to chance; I hope that these are useful guidelines for assuring that your top team is at the top of its game. Teamwork crew

Yet with a culture of individual accountability and self-reliance pervading executive suites, few senior executive groups ever function as real teams.

                     Jon R. Katzenbach, Teams at the Top


“You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

                             Babe Ruth

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Back To School!

After a few decades, Bowling Green State University recently readmitted me for completion of my master’s degree in Organization Development; the degree will be official this August. (No excuses, but somehow I never got around to finishing my thesis long ago after two job changes, a divorce, re-marriage, kids and a few moves.) Returning to grad school after many years in the profession has been a rewarding experience, offering more learning opportunities than reflected in BGSU’s course catalog; let me share a few:

Step into the unknown. Whatever the experience, if we haven’t done it before or it’s a little unnerving, give it a go. Visiting a foreign country, learning a new language, trying a new sport or merely altering our routines stretches our minds and capabilities. The mere act of stretching our minds and capabilities with one endeavor increases our ability to do so with others.

Stay fresh. It’s easier, especially at a certain stage in one’s career, to rely on what we’ve learned to that point and what’s worked for us before. When asked for parting words of advice, one of our guest speakers at the last residency, a senior internal OD practitioner, said: “Don’t count on what worked last time working next time;” how true. Even if we aren’t changing, the world around us is. As retired U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki put it: “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”

Age and experience cut both ways. How could everyone attending BGSU now be so much younger than when I first attended? Of course Education Michelangelo quote flickr Anne Davis they are not; after a while I guess our minds just play tricks on us. I’d like to think that after a few years in this business I can offer lessons learned and some wisdom. At the same time, if I am not open to the different perspectives and skill sets that another generation and those in different career stages offer, I’ll miss the boat. I am regularly impressed by class project team mates who see things with new eyes, introduce fresh thinking or methods and suggest better approaches than I would think of on my own.

Humility helps. Age and experience can be a disadvantage if accompanied by the assumption that we should know it all by now, or that others will think that we should. Giving ourselves permission to say “I don’t know,” “I forgot,” “That’s new for me; thank you,” or “I don’t understand” is genuine and opens the door to learning; it will contribute rather than distract from our credibility.

Make friends with technology. I thought I was getting pretty good using technology for work; restarting at BGSU was an awakening. BGSU’s Master’s in Organization Development is a blended program, with two full weekend residencies per class and the balance online. That required new software, applications and climbing a steep learning curve. I’m grateful that it all seems second nature for class teammates and for their patience as I get up to speed. I am not only completing my Master’s in OD, but receiving a secondary education in the technology that increasingly affects all of our work.

Sometimes it’s not just what we sign up to learn, but what we need to learn to get there that pays dividends. Just as becoming a proficient sailor required learning about weather, navigation and mechanical repairs, those secondary learning opportunities yield additional benefits.

Be open and be curious. It’s true that “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Much of that readiness involves the ability to set Education flickr Giulia Forsythaside, at least for a time, what we thought to be true before. Any new learning is often accompanied by some unlearning, or at least understanding that an answer can be “both / and” instead of “either / or.” I’ve been aware a few times upon returning to BGSU that what I thought to be true, or the way I was accustomed to thinking about things, got in the way of understanding new concepts or learning new methods.

It’s an adventure! I always liked the definition that I heard for “adventure: An experience where outcomes are uncertain but the possibility of great rewards exists.” Beyond the outcome of receiving my graduate degree, I am already seeing new possibilities and new opportunities that I couldn’t have foreseen unless willing to venture some into the unknown. Any worthwhile adventure involves some element of risk and unknowns; those are downpayments. And there are more investments required: money, time, opportunity costs and inconvenience to name a few. That brings to mind another truism: “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly understood; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly understood.” “No pain, no gain” as they say.

I hope that these observations are useful for you on your own learning journey, Education Skinner quotewhether or not that involves formal education. What form our learning journey takes is likely not as important as our mindset on the journey.

Let me close with two book recommendations, both of which you can find on the inTEgro’s recommended reading site: “Life Reimagined” by Richard Leider, and “Stepping Stones To Success” by Steve Cady. Both of them are inspirational and practical guides for expanding our horizons and charting new courses, whatever forms they take.


The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.

Carl Rogers

An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.

Anatole France

(Picture credits: Bowling Green State University, flickr – Anne Davis, Giulia Forsyth and waldec)

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