Ted Lasso: Life Lessons – Take 3

Oooh, I will miss him.

So sorry to see it going away.

Darn, I loved it so much.

These are the kind of remarks that fans of the Apple TV+ series, Ted Lasso, have expressed since the show’s final episode ran last month. Viewers loved the simple, uplifting spirit that Ted, an American football coach transported to London to coach an English football club, exuded. As played (and co-created ) by Jason Sudeikis, the series won loyal fans worldwide, including some at the White House, where the cast met in the Oval Office and later in the press briefing room.

And it’s easy to figure out why. First, the show is funny. Its characters are quirky. Its dark moments were sobering, but redemption lurked. What’s not to like about a lead character, the response to insults with smiles – an antidote to the vitriol so prevalent in our real lives? The series has inspired me to write about more than once.

My first post from 2020 focused on the effect of Ted’s open-hearted management style. My second post, which ran earlier this year, highlighted the sense of community that evolved from the team, its management, its coaches, and its fans. My conclusion for my third post is that the series’s secret is just that – community. We fans feel part of AFC Richmond; we all have become greyhounds (team mascot) at heart.

Shared community lessons

Community is what we all need now more than ever. Our world is upside down, and the future is unclear, but we all know deep down that we need one another. So we take comfort in the lessons of a fictional character (Lasso) who says, “If you care about someone, and you got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothing you can’t get through together.”

Community builds upon four principles.

Shared experience. Nothing binds people together more than experiencing hardship. We certainly experienced that feeling during lockdown due to the pandemic. Isolation grew, but so did connections, often fostered by video connections. Organizations that leverage what they have experienced build bonds that contribute to resilience as well as an ability to weather the next hardship.

Shared knowledge. Good communities are open about what they know and willingly share it. High-performing teams bring new members into the team through their rituals, some humorous, some strict, all important to team cohesion. Underlying is the practice of tacit knowledge, the way we do things here because we know they work.

Shared goals. So often, we hear that individuals from all walks of life need something bigger than themselves to believe in. We want to pull together to achieve an objective, a goal, or even a vision that gives us the feeling that what we do means something. It is purposeful.

Shared success. When a group works hard achieves what it has worked hard to achieve, individuals feel good about what they have accomplished. And as with hardship, it fuels them to face the next challenge.

On we go into the future

When experiences, knowledge, and goals are shared, people do come together. Not because they have to but because they want to. The takeaway lesson from Ted Lasso is that every character has a role to play – on the pitch, in the coaches’ office, or the stands – even in the pub. Of course, everyone wants Richmond to win, but more importantly, everyone wants to belong.

We will miss Ted Lasso, but the lessons remain. Trent Crim, the team’s beat reporter, once quipped, “If the Lasso way is wrong, it’s hard to imagine being right.”

Go Greyhounds!

First posted on Forbes.com 6.06.2023

A Lesson from Willie Nelson

There is a line in a Willie Nelson song that brought me up straight in my chair. In his tune, The Songwriters, Nelson sings about all the fun songwriters have crafting songs about breaking out of prison, shooting bad guys and hanging out with big stars.

But here’s the line that got me.

Teach lessons but don’t bother to learn ‘em.


How often do we teach others but fail to abide by those lessons? Why? Let Willie list the reasons – as they pertain to songwriters. And by extension to all of us.

We’re heroes, we’re schemers

We’re drunks and we’re dreamers

We’re lovers and sometimes we’re fighters

We’re the truth, we’re the lies.

We’re stupid, we’re wise.

We may not drink, we may not fight, but deep down we sometimes do not abide by the truth we hold true. After all, we are human – frail and failed. At the same time – and in the spirit can opposites can be true — we are strong, and wise and able to learn. If we allow ourselves to listen to the better angels of our nature.

Hope is on our side

There is, of course, hope for us. But hope cannot be a method. It can be what focuses our attention on what we need to do for others as well as ourselves. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden advised, focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot do.

Here’s Willie with the last word:

Remember the good times

They’re smaller in number and easier to recall

Don’t spend too much time on the bad times

Their staggering number will heavy as lead on your mind.

Amen, Willie.

Note: The Songwriters is included in his book Willie Nelson’s Letters to America.

First posted on my LinkedIn Live newsletter. 5.21.2023

Sweet Talk Your Way to Harmony

If you are seeking to persuade someone with whom you disagree, make certain you don’t insult them. Seems obvious, but so often ignored.

It is a lesson that Lyndon Johnson – the Master Persuader himself – applied his entire adult life.

As historian Jon Meacham writes in The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, Johnson had been invited to speak at his presidential library at the University of Texas in Austin. The night before he had been very ill, battling as he did with chronic heart disease. Lady Bird Johnson urged him not to make the trip, and so too did his doctors. Worse, bad weather had set in with snow and ice covering the roads from his home in Johnson City to Austin. Johnson, of course, would not be dissuaded and on the way even took the wheel of the car from his driver who in Johnson’s opinion was not driving quickly enough.

Johnson gave an eloquent speech, the last of his life and he even closed with the words he had closed his presidential address to Congress on Civil Rights in 1964 “We shall overcome.” What came next is the persuasion part. Some hecklers in the audience called for President Nixon to be denounced by the committee. Johnson strode to the dais once again.

“Let’s try to get our folks reasoning together,” Johnson said. “And you don’t need to start off by saying [Nixon’s] terrible because he doesn’t think he is terrible. Start talking about how you believe that he wants to do what’s right and how you believe this is right, and you’ll be surprised how many who want to do what’s right will try to help you.”

Five weeks later in January 1973, Johnson died.

Lift up

Rather than criticize the man, it’s better to speak about what you can do together. It was advice Johnson had applied to mentors such as Sam Rayburn and Richard Russell as well as adversaries and allies alike. The Johnson Treatment often had the coating of honey before the dousing of vinegar, if necessary.

Such is good advice, especially now when public discourse is resonates more with defamation than dignity. Reality says that you seldom, if ever, persuade people by belittling them. Better to find common ground.

Experts who work in negotiations find solutions by following these steps.

One, affirm the person’s integrity. This may require biting your tongue. When you disagree with an individual, it’s easy to employ animus. Bad move. Keep the discussion on an even keel. Look at the argument, not the individual. Each side can advocate for their ideas but not impugn the motives of the other.

Two, find common ground. Often people who disagree may share a single idea – make things better. Their approach, however, is oppositional. One may want to spend; the other may want to save. Look for the reasoning behind the strategy. Therein may lie the common purpose, e.g., ensure the future of the organization.

Three, look for one solution. Once you understand each other, look for win-win opportunities. For the saver, identify things that could be eliminated. For the spender, find items that require investment. Split the difference, if need be. Most important, keep talking.

Then do a little dreaming. This technique was a specialty of Johnson. As Meacham writes, when President Johnson met with Governor George Wallace of Alabama in the White House in 1965 he asked him how he wanted to be remembered. He noted that Wallace had begun his career as a “liberal” working for the common man. Johnson challenged Wallace to think about the future, not 1968 but 1988. Would he be recalled as a man of hate or a man who sought to make things better for all men?

The art of persuasion is founded on the understanding that good ideas can become better ones if you are willing to work with people with whom you initially disagree.

First posted on Forbes.com 5.17.2023

Steven Spielberg and John Williams: The Art and Magic of Collaboration

People who work together often coordinate activities and cooperate to get things done. Ideally, however, performance improves when individuals begin to collaborate and share ideas that compound exponentially. That is 1 + 1 = 5 or 50.

Such is the case with director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams. The two first met in 1972. Shortly after, Williams scored Spielberg’s first theatrical release, The Sugarland Express. After that, it was off to the races with films such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, and most recently, The Fabelmans, Spielberg’s most personal film.

Big question

The two sat down with Late Show’s Stephen Colbert for an interview about their efforts. First, Colbert askedWilliams a simple question: “What’s your job?”

“It’s a wonderful question. It’s very simple. I don’t know if I can give you a simple answer. I think the first answer I can give you is to inform and improve the process of storytelling through music, if I Can. Describe the characters. Describe the atmosphere, the ambiance of what the story requires. My job is to be a collaborator with the director in achieving all these things the atmospherics, emotional content, and so on.”

Later Spielberg added that his efforts could bring an audience to feel emotions, but Williams’s scores take them over the edge. “I can get an audience to the brink of crying, but Johnny’s music makes the tears fall. He takes it the rest of the way without being sentimental about it. Without being maudlin or mawkish.”

Two films dissected

Their second collaboration was Jaws. The score is based on two notes (E and F, with a D, added later). The music became, as Spielberg said, a “character in the film.” It created a sense of anxiety that heightened the tension of an approaching shark. As Williams explains, “Another big issue with us was that if you play this very softly and slowly, you advertise or you advance the thoughts. The shock is there just by hearing the music. There is no shark nearby, but if it speeds up and comes closer to you and gets louder and louder… You’ve got an actor that you can’t see and a threat that by some primordial instinct you are threatened by, as we should be by a great predator.”

And it worked exceptionally well. The mechanical shark, nicknamed Bruce, was often in the shop being repaired. “Johnny sort of saved the movie because he became the shark, and then music substituted for the absent shark, which made it a hell of a lot scarier and more suspenseful than had I had the shark working perfectly,” Spielberg says.

Williams employed a fuller palate of notes — five — for their next effort — Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These became the ones used to communicate with the alien spaceship that arrives on screen at the film’s climax. Spielberg said that he either could have used math or music to communicate. “Music is math in that sense. I didn’t want them putting complicated equations on a blackboard so that music would be the quickest way to the heart of the audience to get them to understand this sort of first contact between an extraordinary extraterrestrial civilization, advanced civilization.”

Relationship at work

It is easy to discern their respect and love for each other when they converse. Spielberg is in his mid-seventies, and Williams is in his early nineties. Yet, watching their conversation, with Colbert there to guide them, you see sparks of creativity fly. They are collaborating the sharing their stories in real-time.

Collaboration is rooted in trust; when you work closely together for decades, trust becomes the bond that holds the relationship together and brings stories to life in ways that entertain, charm, and enlighten.

“I have never not liked something that John has written for one of my movies,” says Spielberg about the 29 films they have done together. “I’ve never said, ‘Oh, I don’t feel that’s right for my movie.’ Or ‘I don’t think we should use this piece of music at this point.’ everything johnny has written has fit like a glove. There’s never been bumps about my disagreeing with something that he has composed. Ever.”

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.2023

Why Do Leaders Need to Learn the Art of Reconciliation?

When people disagree, they do so for various reasons – ego, rivalry, and even orneriness. When agreement is found, tensions do not always disappear. They linger. What one party regards as correct may conflict with the “rights” and beliefs of the other. Resentments develop and fester. 

What is needed is a reconciliation, a coming together to resolve differences. Solving issues is often a dilemma, so the new book by Justin Welby, The Power of Reconciliation, is a welcome resource. Welby knows his topic well. He began his oil business career chiefly in sub-Saharan Africa. After a decade, he felt a calling and became an Anglican priest after being rejected initially. Welby then worked on and studied reconciliation issues throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Welby is now Archbishop Canterbury, the leading cleric of the Church of England.

What is reconciliation?

His background, both civic and cleric, gives him a grounding in personal differences that fester. In conclusion to his book, he offers four perspectives on reconciliation that, while based on his faith, are grounded in the reality of human behavior. “Reconciliation is the transformation of destructive conflict into disagreeing well,” Welby writes. “The impact of disagreeing may continue to be disagreement… even a state of well-contained hostility.” But its outcome is “new possibilities of mitigating the harm.” No namby-pamby here. Stop fighting as a means of alleviating harm. 

Welby continues by writing, “Reconciliation offers the possibility of forgiveness, of the victim being liberated from the perpetrator’s control.” Furthermore, Welby argues that “reconciliation is a way of hope because it requires the stronger party to make the sacrifice of choosing to live with the weaker, and not to control, dominate and rule them.” Finally, “reconciliation opens the way to justice and truth. When sacrifice is made, then truth can be told.” And when that happens, “justice and mercy can meet and can be seen to be real.”

What emerges from Welby’s argument are vital concepts relevant to leadership:  stop the harm through forgiveness, sacrifice, and mercy. Justice emerges from these elements. However, implementing these concepts can take time and effort. The challenge is to take the long view. What matters now is less important than what occurs in the future.

What is the leader’s role?

The leader’s role is to illuminate the way by setting direction and bringing people together. Simple, except that you are dealing with people, each of whom may have their ideas of how to do things based on their personal experience. And when things have gone wrong, and people get hurt, achieving unity is much harder. 

Leaders can facilitate reconciliation by making it clear that the power for healing lies within the disagreeing parties. Listen carefully to each party, separately and together. Invite both parties to have a discussion. Underscore the challenges and make no promises. Confirm that only the parties themselves can find a reckoning. Thank them for their willingness to listen. These steps are easy to state but may take a long time if ever, to implement.

The recognition that it may be impossible is not comforting, but it is reality. Addressing reality is a leader’s responsibility. Directly and conclusively. However, recognizing that some things are beyond us does not mean we do not try. On the contrary, it means we need to make an effort, if not for ourselves, but for those who come after us.

Peace through sacrifice and trust

Justice and peace can come about. President Bill Clinton, who was instrumental in instigating the Good Friday peace accords that ended sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, described his perspective in an op-ed for the Washington Post marking the 25th anniversary of their signing. 

“First, the process was driven by the people. They’d grown weary of the killing and the arbitrary tragedies of nonlethal political violence, and weary of the economic deprivation born of the divisions.” Political leaders, too, put their lives and careers on the line. “Trust was built slowly but surely through years of confidence-building measures, such as prisoner releases and cease-fires.”

 “Though power-sharing has at times yielded frustration and even gridlock,” writes Clinton, “it has given each side the opportunity to make its concerns heard and work toward consensus.”

Justice comes only with acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Reconciliation supersedes justice because it embraces the notion of forgiveness and mercy. Justice is institutional; forgiveness and mercy are personal choices. Both are easy and may never occur. Yet, as Welby argues, we must try to reconcile. Doing so can bring peace to the heart and soul, even if pain and suffering remain. And it is in the suffering that we learn our strengths, what we can take, what we can endure, and what we cannot. Reconciliation, therefore, is the embracing of our humanity.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 4.18.23

Leading with a Spirit of Abundance

What does it mean to lead with grace? 

That’s a question that I have been exploring for the last couple of years, and likely longer, as I write and teach what grace means to us as individually and culturally. My definition of grace is that it is the catalyst for the greater good. Such a definition complements what leaders do because their role is as one who works to do what’s best for the whole. In doing such it involves stepping back in order to allow others to step forward. A true leader does not relinquish authority; she shares it, reserving for herself only the biggest and toughest decisions that only she, and she alone, can make.

Thinking more deeply, however, I think leading with grace comes down to something more basic. It is how you view the outside world, with an open mind and heart, or with fear and trepidation. Big chasm, yes, and while open hearted leaders can, and should, feel fear, they do not let it dictate how they interact with others and more importantly how they lead.

What is abundance?

More basically, you can sum up the duality as abundance versus scarcity. Abundance is a way of looking at the world as bountiful. Scarcity is an approach that focuses on lack of resources. Abundance encourages generosity; scarcity leads to hoarding.

Abundance is an embracing as well as bracing philosophy. It embraces the goodness of others, but it also makes demands upon us to share. It challenges our notions of what it means to be human as well as what it means to lead. As a human we must look at others as kindred spirits, not others. As leaders, we must look at employees as contributors.

Leaders who act with grace believe that in a country as rich as resourceful as the United States there must be resources for the most disadvantaged. They applied a vision of abundance to address a problem of scarcity.

While abundance versus scarcity is a dichotomy. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Abundant leadership should not be an excuse for profligacy, speaking of resources. The servant school of leadership teaches us to husband our resources and to be good stewards of what we have, who we are, and what we want to accomplish. Leaders in business cannot give away the store, otherwise there will be no more business, and consequently they will put people on the street without jobs. There must always be prudence in leadership.

Similarly, those who live with a scarcity mindset need to ease up, too. Rigidity to one belief or another leads to a tunnel vision that blocks influences from the outside world. Leaders can never divorce what they do from reality; doing so leads to assumptions that are based more on gut instinct than data. You need both good instincts as well as good command of data to lead effectively.

Applying resources properly

Organizationally there are at least two kinds of resources, capital and human. Capital includes assets; human includes people, of course. Capital resources may never be fully abundant but capital resources can be. That is, while you may not have enough funds to build another factory or store, you do have the right people in the right places to conduct business in ways that enrich stakeholders. Those with an abundance mindset place more emphasis on human capital rather than financial. That does not mean they ignore finances. It is that they believe that people are the true edge in determining organization success, not just finances.

Leaders who lead with abundance are those who look at employees as contributors. They assume the people have the best intentions until proven otherwise. They lead with a spirit of grace in that they view their role as one whose job it is to make things better. They also demand that everyone in the organization do likewise. Values of respect and compassion underscore a commitment to ethics and integrity.

Leading with abundance is to lead with head and heart, a head to ensure proper guidance and a heart to insure people come first.

This post reflects themes explored in my newest book, Grace Under Pressure: Leading Through Change and Crisis by John Baldoni Savio Republic 2023

First posted on SmartBrief.com 4.24.2023

Ted Lasso: Leadership Lessons Take 2

Seldom can we say that watching a television show will help you gain insights into what it means to lead better, but in the case of Ted Lasso, Season 2, it is true. In 2022,  I wrote a post about the management lessons gained from Season 1, and now I find that the sequel season is even richer. The characters have matured, their frailties more pronounced, and their strengths deepened. 

Chief among them, of course, is the lead character, Ted Lasso (played by Jason Sudeikis, who co-created the Apple+ series). In his second season as manager of AFC Richmond, an English football team, we find that his often cheery attitude and never say quit demeanor stems partly from a loss suffered as a teenager. This fact gives his character a richer dimension that makes exploration of his journey and that of his colleagues all the more compelling.

Community at work

Standing back a bit, the series depicts community – among the team, the organization, and the fans themselves. What unites each is a commitment to one another and a greater goal of doing their best. They embody Ted’s mantra, “Believe,” symbolized by the hand-painted sign posted in the locker room.

Here are a few key aspects worthy of consideration.

Trust. Fundamental to leadership is belief. For a leader, trust is earned by showing respect for others, understanding their needs, and doing what is necessary to bring people together. Trust takes much work and patience, as Ted quietly and repeatedly shows in his interactions with others. Hard work, yes, but so necessary.

Difference. The key characters in the show all have their own agendas, which is good for comedy and drama because it gives us a compelling reason to pay attention. Their differences, however, underscore their sense of community. They disagree, argue, and even fight, but they are bound to one another by – and yes, there’s that word – belief in the greater good – the team.

Mentorship. There is a lovely scene where Keeley speaks to Higgins, the team president, about her future. Higgins replies with a beautiful quote about mentorship. “A good mentor hopes you move on. A great mentor knows you will.”In other words, mentorship is about enabling the mentee to achieve their goals, not the mentors.

Grace. The series is a celebration of kindness. Ted is the embodiment of a kind person who lives his creed. Never is this true when Ted discovers that he has been betrayed. He embodies what it means to lead with grace under pressure. He keeps his cool, harbors no ill will, and moves forward. Notably, after working with team therapist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, how show himself some grace, and in doing so provides a valuable lesson in self-care.

Stronger for being together

All of these factors – trust, difference, mentorship, and grace – come together to strengthen the AFC Richmond community. Players, coaches, staff, owners, and fans believe in the team. They embody the words of singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, “I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” The team is their community, a community that accepts them for who they are quirks and all

The lessons of Ted Lasso embody a dictum of the legendary Hollywood director Billy Wilder. “Never bore people. And if you have something important to say, wrap it in chocolate.” And that’s precisely what the Ted Lasso series does. It is out loud, funny, as well as piercingly poignant. Characters win and lose, and most come out the better for their struggles, like life.

First posted on Forbes.com 02.00.2023

Mercy Most Merciful

“Mercy and cruelty intertwine in war. Acts of compassion may coexist with pitiless depravity within just a few yards.” 

The notion of mercy or humanity in war seems like an oxymoron. Still, as Cathal J. Nolan reveals in the above quote taken from his new book, Mercy: Humanity in War, there is quite a bit of kindness and compassion in wartime. Not enough to offset massive property losses and lives lost but enough to remind us that we are still human.

Approaching history differently

Nolan is a historian by trade, but as he told me in an interview, he approaches his subjects, often war, from the viewpoint of humanity and culture. Nolan, who teaches at Boston University, told me, “I wrote this book the way I teach. My courses are not traditional history courses or traditional military history courses. I think of them as courses in the human condition.” And for that reason, what he writes and teaches has relevance to organizational culture. Nolan explores the moral code that binds us together. 

What makes mercy compelling are the stories. Some of the stories, like that of Hugh Thompson, the helicopter pilot who inserted his aircraft between the soldiers and the villagers of My Lai to stop the brutality, are well-known. Others, like the one of Lieutenant Fredrich Lengfeld, who sacrificed his life to save a dying American soldier in the Hurtgen Forest in December 1944, are not. 

Each of these tales took on added life long after the incidents. Thompson returned to My Lai decades later and met survivors of the massacre. In 1994 American veterans traveled to a German military cemetery to unveil a monument to the memory of Lengfeld. 

Moral code expressed

These stories give life to the moral code exerted in wartime, typically by combatants on both sides of the conflict. For example, during the awful trench warfare of World War I, there would be temporary truces. They were “frequently initiated, but not always by medical officers on one side and agreed to by medical officers on the other,” says Nolan. “And that’s to go out and collect each other’s wounded. So you have this bizarre moral circumstance where we’re trying to maim and kill you. And then we will pause this kind of mutual return to decency for a set period of time. We go out and recover the wounded, and often we’ll carry your wounded to you, and you’ll help carry our wounded back and forth. And then we resume try[ing] to kill and main you.” Absurdist, yes, but it happened. 

Technology has made killing in war easier. As Nolan explained, warfare was up close and personal for most of human history. When soldiers engaged in combat, they would be splattered in the blood and flesh of their victims. (Think of the TV series Vikings.) Now warfare can be conducted from great distances. Yet, Nolan says, the morality of war has yet to evolve. We are still human, after all.

The concept of mercy exists deep within the human psyche. And in times of adversity, when inhumanity prevails, it reminds us that we are human. Therefore, we can act for the better good, even in the face of evil.

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.2023

Note: Click here to see my full LinkedIn Live interview with Cathal J. Nolan.

How Writing Your Obituary Can Help You NOW

“Talking about sex doesn’t make you pregnant, and talking about death doesn’t make you dead.” 

So said a funeral director to James R. Hagerty, the only full-time obituary writer for the Wall Street Journal, and the author of a new book, Yours Truly: An Obituary’s Writer’s Guide to Telling Your Story

Morbid, not in the least. Hagerty’s motto is: “If obituaries can’t be fun, what’s the point of dying?” And his book, packed with some of the more delightful and funny obituaries, is a tribute to the human condition. As a reporter and best-selling author, Bob Greene wrote in a book jacket endorsement, “No one understands the treasures to be found in life stories better than James. R. Hagerty.”

Hagerty’s forte is writing about people most of us do not know. He brings their stories to life in a way that is engaging, sometimes humorous, and always interesting. And therein lies the reason we should think about our end, that is, how we wish to be remembered.

Hagerty imbues his obituaries with more than a chronology of achievements or underachievements. Instead, he embellishes them with anecdotes that bring out the humanity of the person now deceased.

Stories matter

When I asked Hagerty in a recent interview what he says to people who do not think much of their life story, he said, “Think harder.” In business, this can be essential. “It’s important for business leaders to have stories because I think that’s a way to instantly connect with people, and they are looking for some kind of a life story when they meet you.” Connection is essential to fostering understanding and establishing trust.

When you create your story – or obituary — “You are giving your family and friends a gift, and it’s a gift that only you can give. And if you don’t give it, it’s just gone. Cause we can’t retrieve it after you’re gone.”

Three questions

Yours Truly offers a step-by-step guide to how to craft one. But, in addition, it lays out a blueprint for something more – how to craft the story of the life you want to lead now before your final reckoning. So borrowing that theme, here are some suggestions – converted to present tense.

What are you trying to achieve with your life? Get perspective on where you are now.

Why is this important to you? First, ask if what you are doing is aligned with your purpose and gives you the fulfillment you seek.

And how are things working out now? It is always good to take stock. It is always possible to make improvements.

These three questions – what, why, and how — illuminate where you are now. Consider them coaching questions that you can ask yourself regularly. Answers to them will tell you if you are doing what you want to do or need to adjust course.

Laugh, too

Humor is essential to obituaries, as it is in life. “If you go to a funeral, you know, there are eulogies, and the best moments in those eulogies are when some friend, friend or family member remembers some of the quirks or odd things about the deceased. And that makes everybody laugh.” Hagerty adds that such stories keep us in touch with the memory of the deceased. “I think that’s reassuring and comforting.”

Life is meant to be lived. Assuming the position of looking backward, if only momentarily, casts a light on how you want to be remembered and by whom. 

An obituary is an affirmation of life, yours. So make it memorable.

Note: Click here to see the LinkedIn Live full interview with James R. Hagerty.

First posted on Forbes.com 2.21.2023

Tom Peters: Excellence By Design

So what do you do after you have written 19 books and reached the age of 80?

If you are Tom Peters, you do the twentieth book and call it Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence. The word “excellence” harkens to Peters’ first book, co-authored with Robert Waterman, In Search of Excellence. The first book was a research-based study of how the best companies succeed and why. The new book, (based largely on Peters’ previous book, Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism) does the same, in a way, but with a different approach – the power of design.

Nancye Green, a noted designer, is Tom’s co-author. As Peters says, the content of this book is design. Design communicates in ways we may not always describe, but we know it when we see it because it feels right. And so it is with this book. The left-side pages contain the headers, with the right-side pages featuring insights, statistics, and quotes – plenty of them from authors like Peter Drucker, Edgar Schein, Jay Chiat, and philosophers such as John Stuart Mill.

Treating people right

The message of the book, as Peters writes in his introduction, is:

“It is my conclusion that ‘Extreme Humanism’ – putting people really first and helping them prepare for a rocky future, vigorously and passionately supporting our communities, providing products and services that stun our clientele with their excellence and verve, serving our ailing planet – is, perhaps counterintuitively, the best path forward.”

Organizations are all in the people business. If we do not recruit the right people, put them into roles where they can succeed, develop them, listen to their needs, and treat them with kindness, then we sabotage the future of our enterprise.

In a recent interview with me, Peters addressed the importance of front-line leaders. “Because the data hard-nosed, well-researched data is clear…. The correlation between variables [such as retention, quality, productivity, employee satisfaction] and the quality of the first line manager is just intimate.” 

Leadership on a personal level

Peters’ connection to the front-line manager is rooted in his experience as a Navy ensign in the Seabees during the Vietnam War. There he learned the truth of the old saying about the military, “The sergeants run the Army, the chief petty officers run the Navy.” His commanding officer told Tom and his fellow junior officers, “’Now boys, I want you to have a truly superior deployment.’ And he said, ‘I’m going to tell you how to do that. You are going to have a superior deployment if you do precisely what the hell your chiefs tell you to do.’” 

The key to valuing people is listening to them. “Superior listening is the number one contributor to organizational effectiveness, leadership effectiveness, and so on.” Peters told me that listening “is not about hearing the other person. It’s about empowering the other person.” A key to empowering others via listening is to do it actively, aggressively, or, more aptly, fiercely. That is focusing on the individual speaking without interrupting them, a fault plaguing many people in positions of authority.

Make kindness felt

Kindness is an essential theme of this book. “Three things in human life are important,” wrote Henry James. “The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Peters told me, “Being thoughtful, and caring is a great motivator. It’s a great productivity tool. It’s a great customer satisfier. And far more important, it makes you a better human being.”

Kindness complements grace, and in the book, Peters quotes the designer Celeste Cooper who said, “My favorite word is grace – whether it’s ‘amazing grace,’ ‘saving grace,’ ‘grace under fire, Grace Kelly.’ How we live contributes to beauty – whether it’s how we treat other people or how we treat the environment.”

Peters’ message, carried throughout the book, provides a roadmap for a way forward that enables people to do their best because their bosses have their backs and treat them as contributors.

Note: You can watch my full interview with Tom Peters here.

First posted on Forbes.com 1.02.2023