Life Lesson

One of the most important lessons in life is to understand that the special people in your life are those who are there for you when you need them and that you don’t forget them when you don’t

Are you evolving as a leader?

As a human being no one is expecting you to achieve the unattainable status of perfect, however, if you are the leader of a team you are expected to show up every day and try your very best.

Here are some tips on how to be an effective leader:

  • Hold a positive attitude
  • Admit your faults
  • Acknowledge your team members hard work and dedication
  • Encourage creativity
  • Remain timely in your requests and correspondence
  • Designate time for your team to connect outside of meetings
  • Be courageous and assertive
  • Remember that a little humility goes a long way
  • Always try new things

What tips would you add to the list?

Personal Growth impacts Leadership Development

One cannot lead effectively if they are not well. Take the time to tend to your Mind, Body, and Soul. Through Personal Growth, you inherently develop better skills of a leader. One cannot give from an empty cup. By ensuring your cup is full you are able to lead by example and inspire those around you to better themselves in all areas of their life, in turn igniting their fire for their career should it be one they find purpose in.

Leadership Lessons from Dad

My dad’s unit, 2d Armored 66th medical detachment, landed in Omaha Beach on D-Day +3 or June 9th. In honor of his 75th anniversary date, I wanted to share some leadership lessons he taught me along the way:

  • Keep your nose to the grindstone 
  • Integrity is everything
  • De gustibus non est disputandum
  • Pursue your passions throughout your career; do what you love
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees 
  • Love your country and your fellow man and be thankful for your freedom 

Leave Your Ego At The Door

Roles of Leadership

Leadership, Inspiration, Teamwork, Vision with flow chart

To be a great leader, one must leave their ego at the door. Lead by example. Have humility when acknowledging your mistakes. Have grace when acknowledging the mistakes of others. Aim to teach what you know versus telling what you know and above all listen.

Listen to your team with extreme attention to detail. By continuously learning from their successes and struggles you will be able to pave the path to success.


Leadership Reflection: The Book and the Life of John Wooden

As is written in Wikipedia:

John Wooden (October 14, 1910 – June 4, 2010) was an American basketball player and coach. Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” as head coach at UCLA he won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including an unprecedented seven in a row. Within this period, his teams won a men’s basketball-record 88 consecutive games. Wooden’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA Championships is even more remarkable and impressive because to this day no other coach or school has won the tournament more than two consecutive years.  Wooden was named national coach of the year six times.

As a 5′ 10″ guard, Wooden was the first to be named basketball All-American three times.   Wooden was named a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (inducted in 1961) and as a coach (in 1973), the first person ever enshrined in both categories. Only Lenny Wilkens, Bill Sharman, and Tommy Heinsohn have since been accorded the same honors.

One of the most revered coaches in the history of sports, Wooden was beloved by his former players, among them Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (originally Lew Alcindor) and Bill Walton. Wooden was renowned for his short, simple inspirational messages to his players, including his “Pyramid of Success”. These often were directed at how to be a success in life as well as in basketball.

One of John’s books, “Wooden, A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” is a terrific read.  The book is broken into four parts; in total, there are about 214 individual passages spread over 195 pages. So, it’s the kind of book you can put on your nightstand or throw into a briefcase for a trip and really pick up just about anywhere you want whenever you want.  

The end of the book contains a number of his favorite “maxims” including:

  • “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
  • “Be most interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.”
  • “Much can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.”
  • “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
  • “Make sure the team members know they are working with you, not for you.”

The book and the life of John Wooden have much to offer us.  

Try Feedforward Instead of Feedback

by: Marshall Goldsmith

Providing feedback has long been considered to be an essential skill for leaders. As they strive to achieve the goals of the organization, employees need to know how they are doing. They need to know if their performance is in line with what their leaders expect. They need to learn what they have done well and what they need to change. Traditionally, this information has been communicated in the form of “downward feedback” from leaders to their employees. Just as employees need feedback from leaders, leaders can benefit from feedback from their employees. Employees can provide useful input on the effectiveness of procedures and processes and as well as input to managers on their leadership effectiveness. This “upward feedback” has become increasingly common with the advent of 360 degree multi-rater assessments.

But there is a fundamental problem with all types of feedback: it focuses on the past, on what has already occurred—not on the infinite variety of opportunities that can happen in the future. As such, feedback can be limited and static, as opposed to expansive and dynamic.

Over the past several years, I have observed more than thirty thousand leaders as they participated in a fascinating experiential exercise. In the exercise, participants are each asked to play two roles. In one role, they are asked to provide feedforward —that is, to give someone else suggestions for the future and help as much as they can. In the second role, they are asked to accept feedforward—that is, to listen to the suggestions for the future and learn as much as they can. The exercise typically lasts for 10-15 minutes, and the average participant has 6-7 dialogue sessions. In the exercise participants are asked to: 

• Pick one behavior that they would like to change. Change in this behavior should make a significant, positive difference in their lives.

• Describe this behavior to randomly selected fellow participants. This is done in one-on-one dialogues. It can be done quite simply, such as, “I want to be a better listener.”

• Ask for feedforward—for two suggestions for the future that might help them achieve a positive change in their selected behavior. If participants have worked together in the past, they are not allowed to give ANY feedback about the past. They are only allowed to give ideas for the future. 

• Listen attentively to the suggestions and take notes. Participants are not allowed to comment on the suggestions in any way. They are not allowed to critique the suggestions or even to make positive judgmental statements, such as, “That’s a good idea.” 

• Thank the other participants for their suggestions.

• Ask the other persons what they would like to change.

• Provide feedforward – two suggestions aimed at helping the other person change.

• Say, “You are welcome.” when thanked for the suggestions. The entire process of both giving and receiving feedforward usually takes about two minutes.

• Find another participant and keep repeating the process until the exercise is stopped.

When the exercise is finished, I ask participants to provide one word that best describes their reaction to this experience. I ask them to complete the sentence, “This exercise was …”. The words provided are almost always extremely positive, such as “great”, “energizing”, “useful”, or “helpful.” One of the most commonly-mentioned words is “fun!”

What is the last word that comes to mind when we consider any feedback activity? Fun!

Eleven Reasons to Try FeedForward

Participants are then asked why this exercise is seen as fun and helpful as opposed to painful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable. Their answers provide a great explanation of why feedforward can often be more useful than feedback as a developmental tool.

1. We can change the future. We can’t change the past. Feedforward helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. Athletes are often trained using feedforward. Racecar drivers are taught to, “Look at the road ahead, not at the wall.” Basketball players are taught to envision the ball going in the hoop and to imagine the perfect shot. By giving people ideas on how they can be even more successful (as opposed to visualizing a failed past), we can increase their chances of achieving this success in the future.

2. It can be more productive to help people learn to be “right,” than prove they were “wrong.” Negative feedback often becomes an exercise in “let me prove you were wrong.” This tends to produce defensiveness on the part of the receiver and discomfort on the part of the sender. Even constructively delivered feedback is often seen as negative as it necessarily involves a discussion of mistakes, shortfalls, and problems. Feedforward, on the other hand, is almost always seen as positive because it focuses on solutions – not problems.

3. Feedforward is especially suited to successful people. Successful people like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them achieve their goals. They tend to resist negative judgment. We all tend to accept feedback that is consistent with the way we see ourselves. We also tend to reject or deny feedback that is inconsistent with the way we see ourselves. Successful people tend to have a very positive self-image. I have observed many successful executives respond to (and even enjoy) feedforward. I am not sure that these same people would have had such a positive reaction to feedback. 

4. Feedforward can come from anyone who knows about the task. It does not require personal experience with the individual. One very common positive reaction to the previously described exercise is that participants are amazed by how much they can learn from people that they don’t know! For example, if you want to be a better listener, almost any fellow leader can give you ideas on how you can improve. They don’t have to know you. Feedback requires knowing about the person. Feedforward just requires having good ideas for achieving the task.

5. People do not take feedforward as personally as feedback. In theory, constructive feedback is supposed to “focus on the performance, not the person”. In practice, almost all feedback is taken personally (no matter how it is delivered). Successful people’s sense of identity is highly connected with their work. The more successful people are, the more this tends to be true. It is hard to give dedicated professional feedback that is not taken personally. Feedforward cannot involve a personal critique since it is discussing something that has not yet happened! Positive suggestions tend to be seen as objective advice – personal critiques are often viewed as personal attacks.

6. Feedback can reinforce personal stereotyping and negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Feedforward can reinforce the possibility of change. Feedback can reinforce the feeling of failure. How many of us have been “helped” by a spouse, significant other, or friend, who seems to have a near-photographic memory of our previous “sins” that they share with us in order to point out the history of our shortcomings. Negative feedback can be used to reinforce the message, “this is just the way you are”. Feedforward is based on the assumption that the receiver of suggestions can make positive changes in the future.

7. Face it! Most of us hate getting negative feedback, and we don’t like to give it.  I have reviewed summary 360-degree feedback reports for over 50 companies. The items “provides developmental feedback in a timely manner” and “encourages and accepts constructive criticism” both always score near the bottom on co-worker satisfaction with leaders. Traditional training does not seem to make a great deal of difference. If leaders got better at providing feedback every time the performance appraisal forms were “improved”, most should be perfect by now! Leaders are not very good at giving or receiving negative feedback. It is unlikely that this will change in the near future.

8. Feedforward can cover almost all of the same “material” as feedback. Imagine that you have just made a terrible presentation in front of the executive committee. Your manager is in the room. Rather than make you “relive” this humiliating experience, your manager might help you prepare for future presentations by giving you suggestions for the future. These suggestions can be very specific and still delivered in a positive way. In this way, your manager can “cover the same points” without feeling embarrassed and without making you feel even more humiliated.

9. Feedforward tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback. An excellent technique for giving ideas to successful people is to say, “Here are four ideas for the future. Please accept these in the positive spirit that they are given. If you can only use two of the ideas, you are still two ahead. Just ignore what doesn’t make sense for you.” With this approach, almost no time gets wasted on judging the quality of the ideas or “proving that the ideas are wrong”. This “debate” time is usually negative; it can take up a lot of time, and it is often not very productive. By eliminating judgment of the ideas, the process becomes much more positive for the sender, as well as the receiver. Successful people tend to have a high need for self-determination and will tend to accept ideas that they “buy” while rejecting ideas that feel “forced” upon them.

10. Feedforward can be a useful tool to apply with managers, peers, and team members. Rightly or wrongly, feedback is associated with judgment. This can lead to very negative – or even career-limiting – unintended consequences when applied to managers or peers. Feedforward does not imply the superiority of judgment. It is more focused on being a helpful “fellow traveler” than an “expert”. As such it can be easier to hear from a person who is not in a position of power or authority. An excellent team building exercise is to have each team member ask, “How can I better help our team in the future?” and listen to feedforward from fellow team members (in one-on-one dialogues.) 

11. People tend to listen more attentively to feedforward than feedback. One participant is the feedforward exercise noted, “I think that I listened more effectively in this exercise than I ever do at work!” When asked why, he responded, “Normally when others are speaking, I am so busy composing a reply that will make sure that I sound smart – that I am not fully listening to what the other person is saying I am just composing my response. In feedforward, the only reply that I am allowed to make is ‘thank you’. Since I don’t have to worry about composing a clever reply – I can focus all of my energy on listening to the other person!”

In summary, the intent of this article is not to imply that leaders should never give feedback or that performance appraisals should be abandoned. The intent is to show how feedforward can often be preferable to feedback in day-to-day interactions. Aside from its effectiveness and efficiency, feedforward can make life a lot more enjoyable. When managers are asked, “How did you feel the last time you received feedback?” their most common responses are very negative. When managers are asked how they felt after receiving feedforward, they reply that feedforward was not only useful, it was also fun!

Quality communication—between and among people at all levels and every department and division—is the glue that holds organizations together. By using feedforward—and by encouraging others to use it—leaders can dramatically improve the quality of communication in their organizations, ensuring that the right message is conveyed and that those who receive it are receptive to its content. The result is a much more dynamic, much more open organization—one whose employees focus on the promise of the future rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past. 

Marshall Goldsmith is the million-selling author of the New York Times bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – the Harold Longman Award winner for Business Book of the Year.

You Cannot Fast Track Experience and Exposure

Early in my career with Abbott Laboratories (1990/1991), I met with the head of human resources for the Hospital Products Division (HPD), which is now known as Hospira, to discuss how to advance at Abbott.  Tim Ring was the head of H.R. at the time and among other things he gave me the book, “The Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop on the Job.”  That book changed my life and taught me the true lessons of experience….seek out diverse, challenging and turn around (risky) situations, opportunities and experiences.

Art Briles is the Coach of the Estra Guelfi Firenze American Football Team located in Florence, Italy. Briles was the head coach of the Houston Cougars from 2002 to 2007 and the Baylor Bears from 2008 to 2015. He is also the author of Beating Goliath: My Story of Football and Faith (2014).  I really like his quote, “I don’t care if you have all the money in the world, you cannot buy (personal) experience.”

Linda McCauley, a good friend and the current Dean of the Nursing School at Emory University once said in a meeting:  “You cannot fast track experience and exposure.”

In many instances, the question one should be asking is not where and how do I get promoted from where I am today but rather what experiences do I have and what experiences do I lack and how can I get those experiences so one day I will be ready to do more. And, one should also ask, have I gotten everything I can get out of my current role?

By the way, Tim Ring went on to be the General Manager of an international operation at Abbott which led him to an international position with C.R. Bard…..he has been CEO there for some 16 years.

Heroic Leadership

Undoubtedly much has been written about heroes, leaders, and I am sure, heroic leaders.  When I think about heroic leadership, I am particularly drawn to a book by Chris Lowney, entitled “Heroic Leadership”.  

The following is from Chris’ website where his book is discussed:

“Chris Lowney’s landmark first book, Heroic Leadership… has been translated into eleven languages. Used widely in corporations and charitable organizations, it has also become a staple of business school and college curricula. The book challenges our assumptions and stereotypes about leadership and invites each reader to embrace his or her own leadership opportunity and responsibility.

“Drawing on Chris’s unique background as a one-time Jesuit seminarian who later served as a Managing Director of JP Morgan & Co, Heroic Leadership paints a refreshing new vision of who leaders are and how they live. Specifically, Chris articulates four pillars of great leadership: leaders are self-aware, heroic, ingenious, and loving. That is, they know themselves deeply, live for “heroic” purposes greater than self, adapt confidently to a rapidly changing world, and respect the dignity and potential of those around them.

“Chris illustrates these four pillars through fascinating vignettes from the history of a 450-year-old company that changed the world. That unlikely company? The Jesuits.”

From my perspective, Heroic Leadership is a fascinating book not only about the Jesuits but also about leadership. As Chris writes in the book, “Founded in 1540 by 10 men with no capital and no business plan, the Jesuits built, within one generation, the world’s most influential company of its kind. They built the world’s largest higher education network … by the late 18th century, by one estimate, the Jesuits were educating nearly 20% of all Europeans pursuing a classical education and had more than 700 secondary schools and colleges sprawled across five continents”.

To me, it’s fascinating to see what the Jesuits accomplished with just 10 people who had a burning passion and deep desire to make a difference in the world.  Much the same I am sure can be said of the inspirational and heroic work of Mother Emilie Gamelin, who founded the Sisters of Providence in 1843.

I think that we sometimes underestimate the impact that just one person or a few people can have.  There is no question that each of you can have a great impact on helping our organization achieve the mission and vision for Providence Health & Services.

For your information, Chris Lowney was previously the board chair of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) which like Providence Health & Services is one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the United States.

Heroic leadership efforts are underway here each and every day. The work that you do makes a difference and I want to thank you for what you do.

All the best,