Bet You Can’t Read This Blog Without Getting Distracted!

Accountability Growth mindset Productivity


The HBR McKinsey Awards (est. 1959) are judged by an independent panel of business and academic leaders, and commend outstanding articles published each year in the Harvard Business Review. The first place winner in 2013 was Daniel Goleman‘s The Focused Leader.

Key Point: It ticks me off. I watch executives at meetings who can’t concentrate for five minutes on the conversation. At the first pocket buzz (most are smart enough to turn off their ringer) they desperately grab their phone and drift to the latest text or email. How effective are they at these meetings? They are often the worst contributors.

Geez! Let’s face facts: Attention has come under siege, largely by mobility platforms and applications like email, texts, search, etc. While all these technologies have tremendous advantages, the data suggests we have to learn and relearn to be more intentional about FOCUS!

One of the world’s best known psychologists, Daniel Goleman, looks at how effective leaders shepherd their most valuable resource: Their own attention. Goleman is co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University and his latest book is entitled Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. He describes three fundamental elements, what he dubs TRIPLE FOCUS:

“Inner” focus refers to self-awareness and self-management: How well we can tune in to our guiding values, for instance, or know our strengths and limits – which in turn gives us a realistic sense of self-confidence—and also handle our distressing emotions so they don’t interfere with getting things done, marshal our positive emotions to stay motivated in working toward out goals, and bounce back from setbacks.

“Other” focus describes how well we attune to people: our empathy, which allows us to understand how people perceive things, how they feel, and what we can do to help them be at their best. And tuning in to others this way provides the basis for skill in competencies like motivating employees, persuasion and influence, negotiation and conflict resolution, and — increasingly important – teamwork and collaboration.

“Outer” focus has to do with how well we can sense the large forces that shape our world – whether organizational dynamics, like whose opinion matters most for a decision, or economic forces such as how a new technology will roil a market, or environmental trends like the new value placed on lower-carbon processes. Outer awareness allows a leader, for example, to formulate a winning strategy.

How good are you at all three? Does your command of Triple Focus drive excellence? Are you seeing the results?

Character Moves:

  1. Develop your “Triple Focus” Skills: Antennae up! It’s a bit of a paradox but FOCUS for excellence requires our ability to develop “triple focus” skills. Knowing how to focus on our inner thoughts and feelings, to be present and empathic with other people and to pay attention to larger systems and societal trends are essential components of success today. This requires intense presence and attention. Know how to recognize and embrace all three!
  2. Be mindful, intentional and use “smart practices” to increase Triple Focus. You choose! Don’t let a buzz, chime, click, and/or anything else take you off course. Learn how to use smart practices like meditation and breath control to bring you back to focus. At the same time, remember that intentional focus is key when we’re learning new things but consider the baseball batter who overthinks his swing. There are certain areas of our life we should put on autopilot (everyday habitual activities) to free up mind space for creative thinking. However, remember that multitasking is usually a sucker punch. The research is there: Science tells us we are less productive and even accident-prone when we multitask, (e.g. Did the last guy you politely flipped off while driving have one ear to a cell phone?) Be present! As renowned philosopher Eckhart Tolle points out: Your mind is not you. Control it, not the other way around.
  3. Be intentional about “day dreaming.” Thank goodness for the shower! Where would creative breakthroughs and unexpected insights come from if it were not for future projections, self‐reflection, innovative brainstorming and reframing memories? When you intentionally allow your mind to wander guilt free, creativity often flourishes. The other paradox… Focus on not focusing to help you focus.
  4. Fight attention fatigue.
 I was reminded of this last week during my short vacation: Take a rest! Find a completely different but immersive activity to engage in such as exercising, connecting with a trusted friend, taking a day off or a vacation. Also learn that there are times in life when we feel overloaded and overwhelmed where we would be better off subtracting than adding to our workload. We are all able to better focus upon returning after a rest and/or after simplifying and de-cluttering.

Triple Focus in The Triangle,



Wisdom and What if You Could Only Have One Car?

Abundance Personal leadership Purpose


Key Point: The incredible accomplishments of the 83-year-old Oracle of Omaha, investor Warren Buffett, are well documented. He is revered by millions of people world wide for reasons well beyond becoming the third richest man in the world and turning many Berkshire Hathaway investors into multi-millionaires. Buffett, who by his very nature might modestly resist the following assessment, is perhaps most admired because he personifies the essence of PERSONAL WISDOM. What is wisdom?

Ursula M. Staudinger is a life span psychologist/professor at Columbia University and long time researcher on “wisdom.” She distinguishes between general wisdom, the kind that involves understanding life from an observer’s point of view (for example, as an advice giver), and personal wisdom, which involves deep insight into one’s own life. Buffett certainly has been a man symbolizing general wisdom though his proclivity for sage investment advice. However real PERSONAL WISDOM, according to Staudinger, involves the following:

1. Self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth.

2. Self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history.

3. Understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute.

4. An awareness of life’s ambiguities.

The example that Buffett is demonstrating on achieving personal wisdom in his life and openly sharing it with all of us might be his greatest legacy. He exudes and defines equanimity. Do a search on the web and you will find evidence that Buffett exemplifies personal wisdom in every area defined by Staudinger. But there may be an additional and complimentary element in achieving deep personal wisdom?

Daniel Goleman, author of “Focus” and “Emotional Intelligence,” was quoted in this New York Times article stating: “One aspect of wisdom is having a very wide horizon which doesn’t center on ourselves, or even on our group or organization. Goleman notes that an important sign of wisdom is “generativity,” a term used by the psychologist Erik Erikson, who developed an influential theory on stages of the human life span. Generativity means giving back without needing anything in return. The form of giving back can be creative, social, personal or financial.” Goleman goes on to emphasize that the wisest people are abundant in a way that doesn’t see their lifetime as limiting when this generative behavior might happen. Buffett’s financial philanthropy is legendary, but his generativity is pervasive. He openly gives his ideas, time, energy and uses over every available channel. During a recent interview on Mike and Mike, the popular ESPN sports talk show, he challenged millions of listeners (in addition to providing everyone an opportunity to win one billion dollars) with a simple reflection about personal health: “What if you could have only one car your entire life? How would you treat that car? Why don’t we treat our bodies and minds with that prospect in mind?” That accessible and insightful analogy will likely inspire many people to think and hopefully act differently… You can mark me down as one of those people.

Character Moves:

  1. Be intentional about achieving personal wisdom. Deep personal insight AND living with abundance gives us a directional roadmap. Finding personal wisdom is a long walk on a continuum and not something that automatically shows up with your old age pension. To accelerate your journey, understand the definition and behavior associated with two words: Equanimity and Generativity. Where are you relative to each definition?
  2. Be a relentless student. To accelerate your path to greater wisdom, seek out people who you can learn from. The adage that the “teacher arrives when the student is ready ” is profound. Be ready. This student mindset is more inspirationally active than simply networking, finding sponsorship and/or having mentors.
  3. Own “one lifetime car.” So that personal wisdom can show up in a vessel that is in shape to sail for a long time, think of treating your body and mind as THE only car you’ll ever have. I bet if you embrace that Buffett challenge, you will be more diligent about an “oil change” and “tune up.” It certainly made me wish I embraced that philosophy earlier in my life.

BTW… I loved the last 10 day break. Definitely an oil change, if not a full tune up.

Finding wisdom in the Triangle,



Mindful of Everyday Leadership Moments!

Accountability Authenticity Communication


Key Point: Every day presents new “old” leadership moments. Our daily life provides you and me with opportunities that may be “old” by routine but “new” if we’re mindful of the unique leadership opportunities they provide. Are you mindful and present enough to take advantage?

An interview with Ellen Langer (a professor of psychology at Harvard University who has studied the illusion of control, decision making, aging and mindfulness theory), by Harvard Business Review contributor, Alison Beard, notes the following :

“Over nearly four decades, Ellen Langer’s research on mindfulness has greatly influenced thinking across a range of fields, from behavioral economics to positive psychology. It reveals that by paying attention to what’s going on around us, instead of operating on auto-pilot, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity, and boost performance. Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting—all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them. We all seek stability. We want to hold things still, thinking that if we do, we can control them. But since everything is always changing, that doesn’t work. Actually, it causes you to lose control.”

Walk with me into your daily workplace setting:

1. You see the receptionist or first team member you run into… What do you say? How do you say it?

2. Your first email… How do you respond?

3. Your first meeting… How do you contribute? How do you add value to others? The agenda?

4. How you choose to spend the time for the rest of the day? Are you making a valuable, positive difference?

Our day is filled with nothing but moments. Your leadership call to action is this: BE a leader by being mindful of the instants around you and making them matter!

Professor Langer profoundly goes on to say: “It’s going to sound corny, but I believe it fully: Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that. So if you make the moment matter, it all matters. You can be mindful, you can be mindless. you can win, you can lose. The worst case is to be mindless and lose. So when you’re doing anything, be mindful, notice new things, make it meaningful to you, and you’ll prosper.”

Character Moves: (Leveraging Ellen Langer’s 40 years of research).

  1. Remind yourself that life consists of moments… Nothing more. Take advantage of them all.
  2. Be PRESENT and MINDFUL. You are in control of your leadership contribution if you are PRESENT and MINDFUL of those moments. Make them matter!
  3. Notice the new things! Everyday moments have something new to offer. Notice what’s NEW! Recognize the new and be mindful of the implications.
  4. Remember that everyday you walk into your workplace provides new and unique considerations to leverage as a leader. Be PRESENT. Be MINDFUL. Be a LEADER!

Mindful moments in The Triangle,



Names Matter. Do You Care?

Communication Kindness Respect


Key Point: So much about effective leadership involves demonstrating that you sincerely care about others. A simple but important part of caring is how we treat someone’s name. Who doesn’t like when someone knows our name, remembers it, and ideally spells and pronounces it correctly? Our name matters. Little kids are often most clear about emphasizing the importance of getting names right because their verbal filters are (thankfully) not fully developed. I remember when our daughter KEELY was 5 years old. She was so exasperated by people assuming her name was KELLY, that I can still picture her putting her hands on her hips and firmly pointing out to another who mispronounced it… “Excuse me… It’s Keely… K.E.E.L.Y!!” A 4-year-old daughter of another family member was overheard pretending to talk on a toy cell phone, stridently stating to the imaginary receiver…”It’s Millar… That’s ‘a r’ not ‘e r.’”

As I was doing some quick research on the importance of knowing and properly pronouncing people’s names, I found this post from the perspective of people from cultures different than ones we are familiar with:

“I have known how it feels for one’s name to be mispronounced all my life, but I understand. I am African and we use words differently, we are more expressive which can be too much for people with different backgrounds. Some names are popular thus; people have some mastery over how it is pronounced.

I just correct you if you seem interested or spare you if you’re not… I also have found that I want to pronounce peoples names appropriately.”

Posted by:

Sanjo Ogunseye

July 25, 2012 6:16 PM

Consciously knowing, pronouncing and spelling other people’s names is a sign of personal respect, and intentional care. It requires us to be mindful, thoughtful and to develop a “personal name process” that works.

At a recent team meeting involving about 60 people, I introduced a guest and completely messed up her name. I even rehearsed and practiced it in advance… Not enough apparently. When it was “game time,” microphone in hand, I flubbed it completely. Ironically, her topic of discussion was diversity and inclusion… Geez… (Can you see my red cheeks)? She kindly corrected me and was exceptionally savvy and gracious, saving me from even more embarrassment. I was disappointed in my stumble because she and her audience deserved my care and respect by getting it right the first time. Everyone understood my intention was on point, and yet it was a poignant, somewhat painful reminder of the extreme importance of that very first step in establishing a relationship… One’s name.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn to be good at remembering, pronouncing and spelling names correctly because it is important to you and others. It takes ongoing rehearsal and practice. Even after you prepare, you will likely not be perfect. Keep at it. There are numerous techniques for remembering. Mostly it’s a conscious investment and commitment to develop a personal “name process.” Read the following for additional insight. 
  2. Help somebody out if it is obvious they don’t remember your name by telling them. It is often clear that they have forgotten. Be considerate of people who have an obligation to remember many people’s names. Kindly correct them if they mispronounce or misspell. It’s a matter of mutual respect.
  3. Be savvy enough to help colleagues out regarding remembering names. One of the great helplines thrown out to me is… “Lorne, you remember ___.” Phew, I just want to high five that helping hand. I don’t always need the help but I like that they gave me a bridge just in case.
  4. Do not buy into the excuse that “I’m just not good at names.” It may be true but it’s a cop out. Intentionally practice. It matters whether you think so or not!
  5. Forgive yourself if you mess up. People are enormously accepting if they know you care and/or are sincerely trying. For some reason there will be some names you will likely always struggle with. Have the right intent and relentlessly work to get it right. You eventually will, they will notice and care that you care.

Knowing names in The Triangle,



Applying Gratitude Leadership Nano Tools… Huh?

Abundance Gratitude Happiness


Key Point: Learn how to discover and use Nano Tools for accellerating a happiness and gratitude culture. Nano Tools are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader.

I’m going to share Nano Tools relative to the impact of workplace positivity below. The following is from a great Wharton blog on this topic

The happiness advantage grows from the fact that “positivity,” (the cultivation of happiness or positive emotions), has a direct relationship with the productivity and success of individuals and teams. Positivity includes GRATITUDE and APPRECIATION for others as well as favorable self-regard, and can be fostered by both thoughts purposeful activity, such as exercise and use of signature strengths. Research shows that workplace positivity has many measurable benefits:

• 3x more creativity.

• 31 percent higher productivity.

• 23 percent fewer fatigue symptoms.

• 37 percent greater sales.

• 40 percent more likely to get a promotion.

• 10x more engagement.

The findings help explain why companies like Google, Yahoo!, and Virgin cultivate work environments that help their employees experience positive emotions on a regular basis.

Positivity drives results and gratitude helps drive positivity! More than a decade of empirical studies has proven the profound effect that GRATITUDE has on the way our brains are wired — even if it sounds simplistic or hokey. Actually, in Matthew McConaughey’s inspirational Academy Award acceptance speech for his Best Actor Oscar, he said “it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates.” Here’s one example: 

• In a survey by Shawn Achor in partnership with Training Magazine, 400 HR and learning and development leaders were asked to keep a positive habit (write three “gratitudes” per day, write a positive two-minute email to someone at work, or journal about a positive experience for two minutes). Two weeks later they were tested again. Those who successfully created the positive habit showed a 20 percent decrease in stress, had 12 percent more energy, and were twice as likely to rate themselves as higher on the happiness measure.

Smart companies are putting gratitude into action. A team at American Express encouraged their employees to set a Microsoft Outlook alert for 11:00 a.m. every day to remind themselves to write down three things they are grateful for. At Mattress Firm, VP of Learning and Development Cory Ludens encourages his company to write their gratitude before checking their e-mail in the morning. The COO and President of Nationwide Insurance, Mark Pizzi, often shares his gratitude with his company on Yammer, an internal social platform. Additional research shows that the act of writing gratitude leads to greater levels of optimism and that optimism results in greater levels of sales and productivity.

Character Moves (Nano Tools):

Use Microsoft Outlook and schedule this.

  1. Take five minutes and list three gratitudes daily. I know this sounds overly simple, but the data behind gratitude journaling is compelling. Follow the practice used in several top companies by setting aside a specific time each day to keep a Gratitude List. You’re training your brain to tune into the positives and opportunities around you.
  2. Take two seconds to write two words: “Thank You,” daily… Pretty easy and straightforward, right? Then take a minute longer to write down specifically why you’re thanking that person. Now send the thank you out accordingly.
  3. Do the above for 30 days and see if these gratitude and appreciation nano tools and habit system makes a difference to you and others. What have you got to lose?

Nano gratitude and appreciation in The Triangle,


P.S. if you’re looking for more Nano Tool references, check out this comprehensive list