‘What?’ instead of ‘Why?’ A better question to ask


By John E. Trombley, MMgt
The Village Business Institute

Every once in a while I find myself staring in the mirror trying to comprehend what has just transpired, attempting to make sense of it all. Sometimes the answer is painfully clear while other times the answer remains clouded in mystery. When those times of self-doubt or introspection come about, I am often transported to a place in time when I was challenged to ask a different question from what I had usually asked before.

I’d like to say that I figured it out on my own, that somehow I was so in-tune with myself and so astute that outside intervention was not necessary, but then I wouldn’t be fooling anybody. I can’t remember who is responsible for my sudden surge of wisdom, but I am grateful for the encounter and would sing that person’s praises from the rooftops if I could. For me, it was that big of a deal though I realize that for others, it will not be. And that’s okay with me.

So what was this great and powerful new question I was encouraged to ask of myself? Before I answer that, it might be helpful to share what I usually asked when things would happen that were often unforeseen and unpleasant. The question was, “Why?” as in, “Why did this happen to me?” (which kind of sounds like, “Poor me, it isn’t fair and I don’t deserve this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”. Yep; that’s five ‘blahs’).

Sometimes the answer was obvious, but other times I found myself being held hostage to the situation and without realizing it, asking the “Why?” question would often be the beginning of a death spiral. Then one day someone suggested I ask the question, “What?” as in “What am I supposed to learn from this? What can I do differently next time to produce a different, more desirable result?” Asking “What?” put me on a path to discovery and freedom. It put me in charge of determining my destination rather than being a victim of the circumstances that were often of my own making. Victor versus Victim. Not a bad change for deciding to ask a little different question, I’d say.

Here’s the 30-day challenge, then: Resolve to ask yourself “What?” the next time you find yourself in one of those situations when you are unpleasantly surprised, frustrated, overwhelmed or perplexed. Then write down the answers to the question, reflecting on those things even if they seem intrinsically obvious to you. Finally, pay attention to how it makes you feel and where the answers lead you.

Best wishes on your journey of discovery and good riddance to death spirals!

_______________

Visit The Village Business Institute for information on resources for your business and employees. 

 

For What It’s Worth



Three and one-half months ago, my wife Debbie and I moved into our newly-built home, a perfect combination for a “country boy” and a “city girl.” We say “we built it” because we initiated the process and were involved in so many aspects of building our home “from soup to nuts.” If you’ve ever been in that position, you can identify with all the little decisions that have to be made that finally come together to create an intricate masterpiece. And by the way, while the whole process is exciting, it is also stressful. I didn’t know there were so many colors of “tan,” “taupe,” or whatever, and I surely didn’t realize that “white” siding isn’t the same as “white” garage doors. Jeez. It’s enough to make you crazy. Fortunately, we had a superior builder and they walked us through the process one day and one step at a time. So while we proclaim that “we” built our house, in reality we owe our thanks to the skilled workmen and women who put the hard work in day after day to meet and even exceed our expectations.

Without the expert coaching from the builder and his hand-picked vendors along the way, we’d still be looking at a hole in the ground wondering what to do next. Instead, we had the wonderful experience of celebrating a successful end to the project with some of those who made it all possible. On the day of closing and taking possession of the keys, the builder and support staff all joined with us in their conference room to toast the transition from our being vagabonds to new home owners. Later, we invited the whole staff over for a gourmet blackened Alaskan salmon lunch that Debbie and I prepared, during which I was surprised – and saddened – to hear that many other clients have promised such a thing after building with them, but that only one other client before us actually did so. I was touched by their genuine thankfulness for being remembered, and it got me to thinking about how we often forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, forgetting that if it were not for their commitment, dedication, hard work and perseverance, we would not be where we are today.

The truth is, I don’t think about those people often enough myself and I realize I have come to take them for granted. Like many others, I sometimes fall into the trap of believing that I am where I am because of my own hard work and effort. Sure, unless I put in the time, effort and hard work, and unless I am willing to step out and take a risk, nothing is likely to happen – at least nothing I would hope for. But the greater reality is that I can do nothing on my own. By the grace of God alone am I even able to take a single breath, so I am persuaded to look around myself and consider all that I can yet do by working closely with the giants who have plowed new ground before me. And who knows? Maybe in doing so, I will get to join with them to create something new and exciting in the future.

So the word for today is: relationships. Everything we are or ever hope to be is wrapped up in this idea of relationships. It is at the very center of the Universe itself. Everything and everyone exists in relationship to something or someone else. When we attend to our relationships, when we honor and nurture those relationships, we become greater than ourselves, stronger than ourselves, and more enduring than ourselves alone. And one day, others will stand on our shoulders as they strive to achieve greater things than we and just maybe they will remember us in the process. But whether they do or do not does neither enhance nor diminish the value of the lessons we’ve learned and the people we have become in the process. Relationships: they’re worth fighting for.

About the blogger:

About the blogger:
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Institute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 16 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.

Keep Moving!

“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968),
Civil Rights Activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner

 Dr. King was an eloquent speaker whose passion for seeing America live up to its self-proclaimed standards of freedom and dignity for all citizens resounds still today. For the next few minutes, I would like to focus on the last two words of King’s quote, “keep moving.”

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? You know… the exhortation that screams at us, “Don’t just stand there; do something!” Movement is a vital part of being alive. In fact, that which doesn’t move any longer when it once did, we may deem to be dead, kaput, deceased, worthless, broken. “Doing something” seems to imply life and thoughtful action, perhaps even action toward accomplishing a specific goal. Come to think of it, moving anything anywhere is about arriving somewhere else.

Accomplishing or achieving something of some value to us is the ultimate purpose of movement, even if that movement is just shifting our weight in our seat, running in a marathon, or making that last sales call before the end of the day. We often take movement for granted, and don’t give much thought to it when we do it so naturally. But imagine the physical act of moving is no longer an option to you and suddenly it becomes the most important thing in your life. You gotta keep moving…

I believe it is important for each person to have a goal – or several goals – that inspire them to keep moving. Goals and goal-setting is in the purview of the human experience in ways that produce a deep sense of commitment, passion, persistence, perseverance and dedication that instinct cannot account for. Without worthwhile, meaningful, inspiring goals, life begins to become dull and listless, sucking the life out of us as we set about trudging from one meaningless task to the next, from one day to the next, until the days stretch into weeks, then months, then years. That’s not my idea of a fun time, thank you.

If that’s where you find yourself today, I have good news for you: you don’t have to stay there! But you are the only one who has the power to choose for yourself. You gotta keep moving…

You might want to get a little help from an interested but unbiased third party in order to objectively explore where you have traveled and how you came to this place. Depending on your particular circumstances, you might want to talk to a trusted friend, a life coach, or a licensed counselor. Those are distinctly different approaches and it’s important to understand that talking to a friend is not coaching or counseling. For that matter, coaching is not counseling and counseling is not coaching, either. But that’s for another day. The point is, when you are in a funk, you may truly benefit from having a conversation with someone who can really hear you but not get pulled into the story, so to speak.

But let’s say you don’t feel a need to go there with either a coach or a counselor. That’s fine. But you have to start somewhere, right? So my suggestion is simply this: think back to a point in time where you felt energetic or even challenged and excited to accomplish and succeed at something. What was the thing that gave you energy and joy? What were you doing? Where were you going? What were you attempting to accomplish? What was the feeling you had when you DID IT?

Do you have that in mind? Then write it down and think on another time, and another, and another.

Chances are you’ll begin to see a pattern emerging where certain activities and goals energized you. Find out where the light entered your life and begin to cultivate a thirst and a hunger for more of those days in the future. Be in the present, live each day alive and on purpose, and soon the passion and energy to move will overtake you once again. When you move, move toward those things that bring your life meaning and purpose, satisfaction and energy. Write your goals down and chronicle the journey. Keep reminding yourself of what you have accomplished in the past and that having done so before, you can do so again – and more. Don’t give up. Keep moving.

About the blogger
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Insitute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 16 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.

Choose Marty’s Path

Last weekend I attended the district conference for Rotary clubs that stretch from Thunder Bay, Canada westward 1700 miles to Dickinson, N.D., the largest district in the world of Rotary International. The keynote speaker Saturday evening was V.J. Smith, a university professor from Brookings, S.D., who authored the book, The Richest Man in Town. Smith self-published his book until it came across Mac Anderson’s desk at Simple Truths, LLC. Now the world has the opportunity to read about Aaron “Marty” Martinson, and how one person has the power to positively impact the world.

Marty didn’t have power in the sense of position, title, education, income or any of those things we often believe necessary to be influential or rich. Marty impacted and changed the world from the checkout counter at his local Wal-Mart store. You need to read the book… I can’t do it or Marty justice here, but his story got me to thinking…

When we look around at the increasing and senseless violence and chaos in the world, it’s easy to fall into a descending spiral of despair and hopelessness. All of us are subject to it, of course, but if you are one of those people who measures who you are by the life-giving influence you have with other people—rather than basing your self-identity on size of your paycheck, the cars you drive, the house you live in, or the titles you hold—then you are not as likely to get stuck in the death spiral of negative thinking.

Comedian Ken Davis remembers the advice his mother gave him whenever terrible events were portrayed on the TV news. “Look for the helpers,” his mother would tell him. Look for the people who run towards the danger to help people in need, not the ones who run away. It is the helper who reminds us of who we are. The helper is the one who shows us what it means to be human in the very best sense of the word.  These are the true heroes. They are worthy of the accolades we heap on those whose acts of bravery set them apart from the rest of us. Why?

Because we recognize there is something different about them.

At least in that moment and for that time, there is something different about them; something we admire and want to emulate. Unfortunately, we tend to reserve the title “hero” for those who step into harm’s way and onto the six o’clock news. In reality acts of heroism happen all around us every day, and we don’t see them for what they are.

For instance, it takes real courage for a supervisor to have a non-judgmental, constructive confrontation conversation with an employee whose work performance is falling short of expectations—a conversation that turns that person around while simultaneously having a positive impact on the entire work team. It takes real courage to do what’s right when no one is looking, even when it costs you to do so. It takes a hero who, though their plate is full, reaches out to a struggling coworker to help them through a tough time in their life.

“But what does this have to do with this ‘Marty’ guy, or even me,” you ask?

Good question, so I’ll answer it with a few questions of my own.

What if you and I decided today that our universe will consist only of the person we are with at the time? What if we determined that we will be present and in the moment with each person we meet? What if we make it a point to connect with people one-at-a-time in a way that says to them, “You are important to me. You have value. You are all that matters at this moment”? What would happen if we slowed down long enough to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us after all, and that our lives really aren’t meant to be all about us, but rather about reaching out and touching the lives of other people in positive, meaningful ways? What if we each determined to be that person we always looked up to, not because of the things they had, but because of who they were and what they did for other people? What if you and I simply choose today to be the kind of person the family dog already believes us to be? What if?

Look… you don’t have to take it from me. Read Marty’s story for yourself. He was a true hero. He impacted the world one person at a time and enriched the people around him.  The beauty of the story is that you and I can choose the same path. It’s only a decision away.

 

Rumors, Assumptions, and What-ifs

I’m sitting at the gate waiting to board my plane for Chicago—except there is no plane to board. I have joined a throng of humanity all scheduled to depart from the same gate on three different flights. I’m a late-comer to the gang in that I’ve been here for only an hour while some have clearly been here long enough to get past their frustrations and are well on the way to Boredom. You know – that place where your mind is numbed by the lack of stimulating interaction.

You’d think you could find some solace on the electronic flight departure log conveniently located in the gate area—some bit of useful information. Apparently somebody somewhere is busy doing other things more exciting and more important than updating flight status information. Hey, I get it. Chicago is digging out of a snow storm and they had to re-fit the jets with snow plows in order to move down the taxiways. And as it turns out, all three incoming flights originate from The Windy City. At best, we’re looking at a two to three hour delay. You’d never know it from the departure log or even by visiting the airline’s Website, however. The information isn’t there so we are left guessing.

So what’s my point? Communication, communication, communication.

As noted lecturer and management consultant James A. Autry once said, “No one ever did a worse job for having too much information.” As of right now, we’re a half hour past departure time for my flight and finally–finally–a brave gate agent just made the announcement that our jet is broken in Chicago and they haven’t yet found a replacement. So much for using jets to plow taxiways, right? Still, you have to wonder why it took so took so long for that information to make its way to us, the folks who paid good money for this entertainment.

When people don’t have enough information, a number of interesting things happen. First, people begin to earn advanced degrees in M-S-U; they begin to “Make Stuff Up.” Hence, the birth of the rumor mill. Second, they get frustrated because they don’t know what is going on, which leads to irritation and eventually anger.

Does your workplace have an active rumor mill? Are people frustrated, irritated, or angry because they feel left in the dark? If so, it may be because they lack the necessary information they believe they need to do their job. Not always, of course, but at least sometimes. After all, some people just love to start the ball rolling to see how far it goes. So how do you stop the ball?

  1. Challenge the “facts.” It is amazing how many times we humans decry our opinions as though they are fact. “If I believe it, it must be true!” So ask the person to recount for you the factual background of the information they are sharing. If the story begins to fall apart, work to trace it back to the source and deal with it there.
  2. Ask the person to stop spreading their unfounded or fact-bare story with other people, and encourage them challenge others as well.
  3. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the rumor mill—seems like this should go without saying, but it’s worth mentioning. We’re all human and we are all subject to the same temptations. Just sayin’…
  4. “Prevention is the best medicine.” That age-old axiom fits well right here. If you are a supervisor or a manager, tell your direct reports and team members everything you can about the work to be done and anything that might affect it. Certainly there are some things that wisdom dictates you withhold, like those of a personal or proprietary nature, or things that must be shared only in certain forums. But too many people withhold information as a means of displaying power or establishing dominance. At the end of the day withholding information really is counter-productive and actually reduces your power and influence rather than expands it.

At the airport, time goes on and the clock keeps ticking. So far, two of those delayed jets have arrived, to the delight of two thirds of the people waiting here at the gate. The electronic board says my flight is now scheduled for a 9 p.m. departure. It seems they must have fixed the broken jet, or they wouldn’t post a departure time, right?

Hmmm. As cell phones start ringing and emails popping all around me, we learn our flight has been cancelled after all, and the airline is resorting to notifying us electronically. Maybe the gate agent sensed danger and decided not to come back. Of course, we don’t know because there are so many gaps in this communication process.

One by one, we all rise and trundle back to the ticket counter to stand in line for another two hours as the agents sort out flight itineraries, issue hotel vouchers, suffer the abuse of tired and frustrated would-be travelers, and so forth. As for me, my purpose for travel has now evaporated. I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight and reschedule this trip for a future date when there is no threat of winter storm delays. I hope. Somehow these things always have a way of working themselves out, but it would be nice to know what’s going on in the meantime. Maybe you and your team feel the same way.

Happy trails and safe travels to you.

About the blogger
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Insitute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 14 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.

Have a Safe Landing

It seems that the faster I go, the behinder I get. I know that’s not a “real” word, but it works for me. It just seems that with every passing day, there is less of a margin left over with which to truly relax and rejuvenate myself. The work keeps coming. Clients have needs to be met, coworkers go on vacation and their work has to be spread among those available, and the busy-ness of business continues to cry out for attention. Constantly. And trouble never takes a vacation, right?

What’s a person to do?

I am reminded of something I learned back in my Air Force pilot training days when a flight instructor once talked about handling the stress of the moment when you first become aware of a serious in-flight malfunction. The natural tendency is to jump right into the emergency procedures. It has been about 35 years since those days, but what I remember is this: he instructed us to literally wind our watches (that was before the digital age), scan the situation in front of us, and then once we had a clear understanding of the bigger picture, then take the appropriate, coordinated action to address the conflict and resolve the emergency. Clearly the idea was to calm down, regain perspective, and then respond to the emergency rather than react to it.

Increase your margin by keeping things in perspective and then calmly deal with what is in front of you. Get up from your desk. Walk around the building for a few minutes. Take some deep, cleansing breaths. Hit the water cooler for a quick “cold one.” Find something to be thankful for every day and tell someone about it. Don’t get trapped in the minutia and lose your perspective and the joy of the journey.

In the end, I think you’ll have a safe landing.

Keep the pointy-end forward and the rubber-side down and have a safe and productive new year.

 

Building a Legacy

Today is a good time to think about the future, because if for no other reason than that is where we will all live someday. And today I’d like to talk about the past, the present, and the future using the metaphor of a coin.

If the coin is our individual lives, let’s say that the “tail” side of the coin is the past and the “head” is the future. The “here and the now” (or present) is the edge of the coin which serves as a bridge between those two formidable sides. The possible metaphors here, though not endless, are at least intriguing and are probably best left for another day, but for now I would like to share a quick story about something from the “tail” side.

Back in the year 1900, an attorney by the name of Paul Harris was practicing law in Chicago when he met a fellow attorney, Bob Frank. Frank had developed several wonderful relationships with Chicago businessmen and enjoyed a camaraderie with them that can only exist among friends who have an honest, mutual respect, and concern for each other. For the next five years, an idea germinated in Paul Harris’ mind and heart until in 1905 the world’s first service organization was birthed among Chicago’s businessmen. It was called “Rotary” for lack of a better name, based on the practice of rotating the group’s meetings among their various offices.

In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test, a code of ethics which was officially adopted by Rotary 11 years later, right in the middle of World War II. This code of ethics defined and embodied Rotary’s Core Values, and those values have served to create a powerful culture among the current 1.2 million members whose 34,000 different clubs serve over 200 nations today.

The Four-Way Test challenges Rotarians to think, say, and do things differently in answer to these four questions:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

You don’t have to be a Rotarian to adopt and practice the Four-Way Test, nor do you have to be a businessperson. You don’t have to be an adult, you don’t have to have a degree, and you don’t have to be rich or famous, either. All you have to do is decide today the kind of legacy you want to leave for others who will follow after you.

Paul Harris had an idea and he shared it with a few other friends and acquaintances. From that seemingly small idea, a world-wide organization was spawned which has, for example, played a major role in the nearly complete eradication of polio world-wide.

I’ve often wondered since becoming a Rotarian 7-1/2 years ago what our world would be like if all of us, great and small alike, were to adopt Rotary’s Four-Way Test? What would our homes and families look like? What would our businesses and organizations look like? What would our cities look like? What would our politics look like? Indeed, what would the world look like?

It’s not rocket-science, but it is hard work to make daily decisions based on such high and enduring values. We may not always test out at 100%, but I have to believe that if we tried, we would all enjoy a great deal more satisfaction, success, and peace in our lives.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave? Today is a good time to think about the future.

About the blogger

John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Insitute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 14 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.

A Day to Remember

September 3, 1976: I don’t remember a whole lot about the temperature that day or which way the wind was blowing. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast, lunch, or supper. I couldn’t begin to tell you what the headlines were or what else was going on in the world that day. What I do remember is where I was and what I was doing that day when my life changed direction.

It happened in the evening after a long week of 10 – 12 hour days. The location was Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, a U.S. Air Force pilot training base. A place where a young man’s dreams were turned into reality by converting jet fuel into noise, speed, power, and G-forces that could snap your head back against the headrest and press you down into your ejection seat; a time and place where being on the edge and flying warp-snort with your hair on fire was not only commonplace, it was expected and demanded. It was a Friday. Not unlike any other day of the week, really. From the pictures taken of the event, it was obviously a pleasant, sunny day. It was also the Friday before the Labor Day weekend. I remember people were thinking of getting away to enjoy the three-day break and do all the things people do over a holiday weekend. I remember that I had more hair and less belt-line that day as well, but that is fodder for another day. I know I was looking forward to the long weekend. There was even an air of excitement about it. Life was good and full of promise and expectation, and the future unwritten.

This wasn’t just another Friday. It is one that will be forever etched into my memory because it changed my life’s speed and direction forever. You know what I’m talking about. All of us can look back and see how one day had such profound impact on us that suddenly everything was different and we found ourselves on a new pathway. As I look back over the 36 years since that life-changing day, I can’t imagine what life would have been like had that day not progressed as it did. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. That is the day when Deborah LaHaie became Debbie Trombley and Chapter One of one of the world’s greatest love stories was written. The book isn’t finished.

Life is full of dates and times that simply blur together as one day follows another. The routine of daily activity sets in and we march along without giving much thought to our steps along the way. One seems like another. The trash goes out every Friday morning; grocery shopping is every Saturday morning; the laundry has to be done again and again and again. The bills keep coming. Stuff happens. Boring sets in.

Then one day we note a slight change in the air; a cooling breeze, a colored leaf on the tree outside our window. We take note of these things briefly and silently return to what we are doing. It’s just another day just like yesterday until the years have passed and we suddenly look up from watching our footsteps as we plod along a well-beaten path, look around and wonder, “How did I come to be in this place? Somehow, life should be more exciting than this,” we muse. “Is this all there is?” we ask.

Life isn’t supposed to be boring, meaningless or purposeless; there should be more days to remember for the joy and happiness they bring to our lives and those of the people around us than what most of us seem to experience. But we have to choose to make those memories. We have to choose to live every day to its fullest. Do something different. Give of yourself when you don’t feel like it. Make someone else’s day by being a friend, or simply lend a listening ear to that “extra-grace-required” person who makes you uncomfortable or whose sad life story makes you want to run in the other direction. Maybe you won’t remember it as a special day that serves to change a life’s direction, but maybe someone else will.

The message is simple: be there for someone else today. Make a difference for someone else, and when you string a bunch of those little days together, you will have created a life to remember so when you get to the end, you’ll be able to look back and say, “This is what it was meant to be!”

About the blogger
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Insitute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 14 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.

“There’s gold in them thar hills!”

The Yukon gold rush of the 1880s and 1890s was on. Today while the price of gold continues to stagger the mind and jelly the knees, chances are most of us will not become rich as gold prospectors. At least not in that way. But riches still await those who are willing to seek them out.

We recently heard the news that Dr. Stephen R. Covey, noted author and gifted thinker left this world–a world that is a richer place for his having been here. For those familiar with his classic, enduring work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his untimely death will cause us to open those yellow, dog-eared pages and re-read his transformational words, seeking out the gold that lies among those seven principles in the hopes of mining them for their great value.

It is one thing to feel “warm and fuzzy” as we read from Covey and find ourselves imagining the “what-ifs.” What if I were more pro-active? What if I actually begin a project with the end in mind? What if I put first things first, think win-win, or seek first to understand? It’s an entirely different thing, however, to actually live those principles out on a consistent basis. Pretty soon, we forget to remember as we focus on one spinning plate and then another. As life, work, family, friends, societal problems and personal needs all seem to pull on us at the same time, it is easy to lose sight of the “big picture” as we zero in on a pressing concern or need. That is the nature of our limitations as humans. But that doesn’t provide us with an adequate excuse to stop trying. It simply provides the context within which we strive and struggle to keep all those plates spinning at the same time.

Therefore, we need to increase our Production Capacity by proactively embracing a thirst for more knowledge and a deeper understanding, not only in and of our respective areas of expertise, but also in disparate areas of interest as well. When we are experts in our chosen fields, people will seek us out for our knowledge. But when we hitch our expertise to a wagon that is full of broader perspectives and the studied understanding of many other things, we will also be given the opportunity to expand our influence across organizational boundaries and have a part in creating a more enduring legacy for those who follow.

So for all of you Stephen Covey fans out there, let me encourage you to sharpen the saw and create synergy in all you do.

Rest well, Stephen; you left a lot of gold for the rest of us to grow rich upon.

About the blogger
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Insitute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 14 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.

A Self-Limiting Practice

Harry S. Truman, the 32nd President of the United States (1945-1953) once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” When I read that quote recently, I was struck by the deep and underlying, yet simple, truth of it. Picture this; President Truman, perhaps the most powerful man in the world at that time, recognized how our individual natural propensity for self-aggrandizement actually serves to undermine our productivity, effectiveness, and by extrapolation, that of our companies, organizations, agencies, and associations. Hubris (which is pride and arrogance) forms the foundation for every self-serving thought, attitude or action we will ever take.

You and I see this played out on life’s stage all the time. Take for instance the “professional” athlete who deliberately commits a foul because he is bent on revenge and could care less about how his actions are about to lead to his team’s loss of the game; the manager who presents an employee’s idea to her supervisor as though it were her own and as a result destroys any possible semblance of trust that might have existed between she and her direct reports; the citizen who demands that he is entitled to something – anything – because someone else got it at some point before him, and he “deserves it, too”; the mother-in-law who just happens to “forget” to include an ingredient in her favorite recipe’ that she passes on to her daughter-in-law because “nobody cooks like Mom;” or the guy you went to high school with who, after 20 years, still has to be the big shot at the class reunion and bores people to tears with inflated stories of his past glory days on the football team.

There are no shortages of real-life, every day examples that highlight how human pride has resulted in the downfall, destruction, or derailment of many “good” people. People just like you and me. My guess is that every single one of us has recognized pride’s ugly head raised up in our own lives. I know I have battled it all my life, and while I may subdue it for a while, with a little inattention or feeling of insecurity, it makes its way back to front-and-center, forcing me to have to apologize for the same things once again, to the same people, once again.

How do you break the cycle?

The opposite of pride and arrogance is humility. Not the false humility which is just pride looking for an audience, but rather the behavior and attitude that typifies the unpretentious sharing or even giving away of the limelight. Humble people know their weaknesses all too well, and know that any success they might enjoy comes by learning to lean on others to shore them up in areas where they themselves are weak. Where pride shouts “Look at me!” humility simply and quietly says, “Without you, none of this could have happened.”

Humble people also know the strengths and unique attributes that allow them to leverage their influence in a way to maximize their human potential. For these people, doing good for others is more satisfying, more exhilarating, more engaging and more life-giving than being on the list of Who’s Who in America, being inducted into a Hall of Fame, or winning the contest to see who dies with the most toys. While those accomplishments are nice and even appreciated, they are a far cry from being able to look back on one’s life to see that the race was run well and that an enduring legacy has been left for others to follow.

Pride comes naturally. It takes no effort to be prideful. It takes no special gift to be arrogant. It takes no energy to focus only on what the self wants.

A humble spirit does not come naturally. It requires discipline to look deep inside to uncover the hidden secrets and expose them to the light. It takes determined effort to see the good and the potential in others and then to elevate them to greater achievement without regard for who gets the credit. It takes personal sacrifice to forego comfort and security in order to forge a new trail that others can follow. It takes a deaf ear to resist those whose goal it is to drag others back to a life of entitlement and mediocrity because misery loves company. And it takes knees bent in prayer to acknowledge that the Maker of the Universe has given you these short, few years to walk on this planet to make a difference, and that He deserves the honor and the accolades for the gifts given to you and I to run that race.

The key, then, seems to be in cultivating an outward focus. Look around. See what great and insurmountable things there are to be accomplished. Then take the little that you have in your hand, whatever it might be, and dedicate it to making a positive difference in your part of the world. Perhaps one day I might be allowed to join you at the top of the mountain, look back with you and say, “We ran the race well. Look at all that has been done.”

Indeed, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

John E. Trombley, MMgt
Organization Development Consultant
The Village Business Institute
www.thevbi.com