No Perfect Game

Accountability Personal leadership


Hi Characters:

Remember my “Do we know how to apologize” blog? Well maybe the best reinforcement on the positives of power and forgiveness is captured in a recent major league baseball story.

There have been only 18 perfect games pitched since 1900. So you might imagine the huge disappointment and frustration for Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga, when on June 2nd, one out away from perfection, the opportunity was lost due to a mistaken call by first base umpire Jim Joyce.

After the pandemonium of heckling and boos Joyce, retired to the umpire’s clubhouse to watch the replay. It was obvious from the video that Joyce was wrong. What did he do? He immediately sincerely apologized publicly and privately to all; most importantly to Galarraga, the pitcher. Joyce was grief stricken and one can only imagine how Armando felt. 

And what did Galarraga do? Instead of righteous indignation and anger, he graciously accepted and embraced Joyce with understanding and forgiveness. He went to Joyce personally and embraced him. 

Now that’s an example of self accountability, respect and abundant behavior in one replay of life.

Lesson for work and us? If we make a bad call… step up and apologize. If we get a bad call and someone acknowledges it… forgive and move on.

Thank you Joyce and Galarraga for acting with Character. You are the first twosome in the Character Hall of Fame.

with Character,


Three Cups of Tea, You and Me



My wife Kathleen and I were at Village Books in 2007, a wonderful independent bookstore in Bellingham, Washington, listening to Greg Mortenson talk about his experiences that inspired the writing of Three Cups of Tea with journalist David Oliver Relin.  Mortenson was slogging his way through a book tour, engaging with small groups and trying to build momentum. His book at that point was unremarkable, having achieved only modest sales and little critical acclaim.

Today Mortenson, 52, who once lived in his car outside of Berkeley, California and began this remarkable story after losing his way on a mountaineering exhibition, is advising the U.S. military in Afghanistan. The book has now sold over 4 million copies after the paperback went viral.

One of the last things (according to the July 18 NYT front page article) that General Stanley McChrystal did prior to getting fired by President Obama, was to reach out to Mortenson, encouraging his ongoing help in building support on the ground with the local Afghans.

So Mortenson was once sleeping in his car. And sometimes many of us feel the same; we are sleeping in that metaphorical car at work. The way out is to look for purpose in what we’re doing; however trivial the “job” may be. When we give and add value, somewhere along the way it brings results for us and others. Every Mortenson story is a reference point for being abundant in our actions. It is part belief and part action; both in our control.

with Character,


Moving Forward Beyond Adversity

Abundance Accountability


Self accountability and abundance combine to form such a powerful alliance. I was reading about Bob Moore, the Founder and CEO of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods in Milwaukie, Oregon. Bob is 81 years old and decided to give his company to the employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. He has had many offers to sell to other institutions but chose to share the value of Red Mill with the people who helped him build it.

When you dig more into Bob’s background his story outlines the difference between letting obstacles and victim thinking defeat forward movement. His folks died early, he went broke when his kids were young, an arsonist burned the mill down when Bob was 60, and more. There were lots of reasons to “give up.”

So in our everyday lives, not all of us are going to build a natural food company but we are going to have plenty of adversity and how we choose to react is mostly in our control.

At work: accept the daily adversity in our jobs and lousy things surrounding it. Find a way to move forward and build something of value in what we do. Give something of ourselves to others. We can build our own “Red Mill” story. What’s yours going to be?

with Character,


Forgiveness: The Ed Thomas Story

Accountability Community Courage


Ed Thomas was the high school football coach of the Aplington-Parkersburg (Iowa) Falcons. In 2008, Coach Thomas rallied the town of 1800 to overcome a devastating tornado that ripped through the community that June. They played football in the Fall of 2008, against all odds, and went 11 and 1. The Falcons were a conduit for the Aplington-Parkersburg area moving forward to rebuild. Coach Thomas was a key leader in making it happen.

On June 14, 2010 at the ESPY awards, the Thomas family received the Arthur Ashe award for courage. Why? On June 24, 2009, a psychologically disturbed ex-player shot and killed Coach Ed Thomas. This tragedy tore at the fabric of the community. Yet due to the lifetime belief and example of forgiveness set by Ed, the Thomas family led by wife Jan forgave the killer and his family first.  She then used the power of forgiveness to move forward. The entire story is very much worth reading.

In this case ordinary people were dragged into an extraordinary situation. But when you learn about Ed Thomas and family, you realize their faith and belief in forgiveness is extraordinary.

If the Thomas family can forgive a man and his family for the killing of their patriarch, can we forgive under less daunting and extreme cases? I think we can. Forgiving is an act of abundance. It is the total opposite of scarcity.

Now to bring it to the workplace: do we have the ability to forgive transgressions that are not about life or death at work? The obvious answer must be yes.  So, let’s all work to forgive that one person we’ve been mad at. It is normally an uplifting experience for the forgiver and forgiven.    Let’s start now.

And if we want to be inspired about the power of forgiveness, listen to Ed and Jan’s son Aaron Thomas’ acceptance speech at the ESPY Awards. Forgive now. We all win.

Ed Thomas family – first family in the Character Hall of Fame.

with Character,


Deafness Teaches Us to Listen

Communication Empathy Respect


Effective listening is a core foundation for treating each other with respect. Dame Evelyn Glennie is a deaf percussionist and highly accomplished musician. But her most powerful impact and legacy will likely be teaching us how to really listen. Her video on is 32 minutes long but as described by TED viewers: “jaw dropping.”

Glennie teaches us to listen with our whole bodies and not to judge on the basis of shallow perception. Effectively listening to music and people requires us to FEEL the underlying vibrations. This involves patience, openness, and a genuine interest in receiving the melody and beat.

So, whether one enjoys Evelyn’s music or not, the act of listening with depth and real sensitivity is a powerful lesson for us all. We need to pause and ask ourselves what is the underlying vibration and message? This means being present and concentrating on the dialogue. An exchange of words is only part of the communication.

At work it helps to ask more questions in every interaction. Starting tomorrow, commit to genuinely asking for more understanding during every meeting or phone call.  The more we can model that behavior the better listeners we become.

Effective listening is a lifetime of practice and we have the newest member of the Character Hall of Fame to teach us: Evelyn Glennie.

with Character,


Who Should Get More Respect? Me, You or that Ivy League Grad?

Authenticity Kindness Respect


It was interesting that Elena Kagan, during the recent Senate Judiciary Hearings for appointment to the Supreme Court, toned down any hint of superior intellectualism (although she has a bit of a reputation for coming across that way). This Supreme Court nominee’s best strategy seemed to be reflected in her down to earth humor where she quipped about, “…likely needing to get her hair done more often…” if successful in getting elected to the country’s highest court.

 Most of us don’t like “uppity” condescending behavior regardless of how smart people are. We normally know when people are “smarter” and/or have superior credentials (like Kagan). But, the concept of respect is a matter of equality.

My point is that the value of respect, one of the core tenants of the Character Triangle, involves people treating each other with consistent decency regardless of differences, intellectual or otherwise. Let’s face it; some people just are smarter than others. That’s a fact. However we all expect to be treated at an interpersonal level with dignity regardless of I.Q. (You may recall how well the Chairman of BP was received when he referred to many of us Americans as the “little people.”) When I hire someone, I want to go and have dinner with them. How do they treat the wait staff? How do they treat the receptionist? How do they carry on a dinner conversation? Describing themselves in the 3rd person is a bit of a concern too. 🙂  Any hint of superiority or arrogance, regardless of how great the resume is, and I pass. 

Smart people who can get great results are sought after. Choose the same kind of people who get there by stepping on top of others? No thanks!  And by the way it works both ways. Super smart people with all the intellectual credentials shouldn’t have to dumb it down. When it involves how we treat each other, it’s not about smarts …it’s about respect.  We are all “Ivy League” when it comes to working together.

with Character,