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Core Values

Core Values

15 posts in this category

Choosing Armstrong to Walk on the Moon

Category: Core Values

Source: NASA

This week I have enjoyed looking back 45 years to the first moon walk, which happened at 10:56 PM on Sunday, July 20, 1969. I was a camp counselor at Goshen Scout Camps in the hills of Virginia at the time. Being very interested in astronomy and space, I rigged-up the black and white television in the staff administrative building and watched the live feed with a few other interested counselors. I remember at the time wondering why Neil Armstrong got to go first.

Why Did Neil Armstrong Get to Walk First? There were three men on this Apollo 11 mission - Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Armstrong and Aldrin were the two astronauts who traveled down to the moon on the moon landing module, Eagle, while Collins remained with the command spacecraft revolving around the moon overhead.

Armstrong, who passed away in 2012, was the first person to walk on the moon. Most sources agree that NASA chose him for three reasons. First, he was in the best seat to exit once the craft was on the moon. Second, he was the mission Commander and most senior.

And, third, and more quietly reported, Armstrong had the more humble personality to best live with this honor over his lifetime. And now that I think about this, I rarely remember seeing Armstrong in the limelight. But Buzz Aldrin has loved the limelight, and is often seen on television, like Dancing with The Stars a few years ago.

Don’t forget Michael Collins. As I wrote in a prior blog, Astronaut Michael Collins is often forgotten. He was the command module pilot of this Apollo 11 mission. He was the one who piloted the command spacecraft and orbited the moon waiting for Armstrong and Aldrin to finish "playing" on the moon. He made 25 orbits around the moon and endured 45 minute communication blackouts each time the craft went dark on the opposite side of the moon. I think that, too, took courage.

The leadership stories that emerge from the first moon landing and walk are many. And these stories blossomed because of how NASA selected and determined the best roles for its astronauts. What have you read?

July 23, 2014 14:46
 

Boys in the Boat and Wells of Strength

Category: Core Values

Effective leaders know the emotional capabilities of their team members. They know their strengths and insecurities. They know when to push and went not to. One challenge is to understand how deep one’s well of strength is. This past week when we lost Maya Angelou I listened to an old interview in which she talked about her life, which had very difficult early years. If anyone had a deep well of strength, it was she.

I often wonder why some young people overcome early abuse and challenges and some don’t. And this brings me to Boys in the Boat.

I just finished reading Boys in the Boat. This is really two inspiring stories in one. The first is about the 8-man University of Washington crew that rowed for a gold metal in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. And while this is a great story about teamwork and how the “boys” in this crew prevailed in front of Hitler, it is the second story that really grabs your heart. That one is about one of their strongest members, Joe Rantz, who had a remarkable well of strength.

The Crew’s Success and Gold Metal. I really knew very little about rowing as a sport until I read this book. The Boys that won 1936 Olympics were in a boat with eight rowers and one coxswain. There are also races with single rowers, two rowers, and four rowers. It is mostly a team sport that requires strength, coordination, technique, stamina, and mental toughness.

The Boys, who rowed together most of their career and were all underclassman at Washington, spent most of their time in practice. Over their career together they would race only 28 miles, but row a total of 4,344 miles and 469,000 strokes or about 107 strokes per mile.

Their coach, Al Ulbrickson, who was very quiet, had great insight into human nature and was very skilled at matching the talents and strengths of rowers. Like syncronized swimming, rowers must be in complete sync to win. And Ulrickson knew how to sync the rowers on each boat.

The 1936 Olympic race was 2000 meters long (about 1.25 miles) and took 6 minutes and 25 seconds. These Olympics were in Berlin and were set-up by Hitler to try and fool the world about what a great and open country Germany was. The Germans tried to fix the race by placing the U.S. and British teams in lanes that had the worst wind and waves. But in the end, much to Hitler’s dismay, the Boys won by six-tenths of one second over Italy and one second over Germany (See photo of the finish to see how close the finish was.)

Joe Rantz – A Well of Strength. The real human interest story in this book is about Joe Rantz. Joe, who is standing second from the left in the team photograph, emerged as the strength of the team. Ulbrickson, at his retirement in 1959, recalled how when he put Rantz in the Olympic boat in 1936 he could see the boat “take-off.” What really captures our hearts, though, is to read about Joe’s life up to that point.

Here are just a few notes:

  1. His mother died when he was only four. His grief-stricken father, Harry, sent Joe from Washington to live with an eastern aunt, where he lived in an attic and contracted scarlett fever.
  2. When Joe is seven, his father re-emerges and re-marries, and Joe goes to live with them. They have three additional children. Faced with many domestic pressures of the time, the second wife tells Harry to choose between her or Joe. Harry chose her and arranged a deal with the local, one-room school headmaster for Joe to live at the school in exchange for chopping wood and maintaining the fire. To eat Joe had to work in a local kitchen in exchange for food. Joe was 10 years old.
  3. The family later reunited only for Joe to be abandoned again - this time the family drove away from a house they had built and left Joe sitting on the front steps. He was 15. He would remain there living on his own until he graduated from high school.

By the time Joe was in high school he had a true love, Joyce. She seemed to instill in Joe a life purpose and she was always supportive because she knew how often he had been abandoned. They both went on to the University of Washington and had to work their way through college (they didn’t have scholarships for sports then.) Joe lived in very poor conditions, but he was used to that.

During his rowing career, Joe’s boat won every race it entered including the Olympic Games in 1936 and the IRA Regatta in 1936 and 1937. He graduated with a degree in chemical-engineering in 1939 and married Joyce right afterwards. He later worked for Boeing, where he designed elements of the B-17 used in the war effort. Later in his career at Boeing he worked on numerous NASA projects. Joe Rantz died in 2007 at age 93.

When I finished the book I came to understand how Joe filled his well of strength. Why don’t you pick-up the book for a good summer read and share with me what you think!

June 05, 2014 11:14
 

Leadership Lesson From the Mega-Millions Lottery - Redux

Category: Core Values

A couple of years ago, when I first started this Blog, I wrote about a leadership lesson from the Lottery. I have taken a moment to update that posting to reflect more current statistics and information.

Okay, show of hands. How many of you are buying a ticket for this week’s Mega-Million Lottery that might bring a winner between $550 and $650 million? Unless you are holed-up in a cabin in northern Maine, I’m sure you have heard about this huge pot of money. Every media outlet is covering it, again. As I watch the hoopla and observe the record selling pace from a distance, I wonder, “why?” As I think about this question and why people feel incented to buy the tickets, I also wonder what this could teach me.

People Buy More Tickets as the Pot Grows. One of the things that fascinates me is hearing that millions of new people are buying Mega-Millions lottery ticket because the pot is growing. By “new people” I mean people who had not bought a ticket when the prior pool was around $300 million. Okay, so $300 million wasn’t enough, but $550 million, now that’s another story! The pot has grown because no one has won for 21 straight drawings since the odds were changed on October 1st.

Buyers know their odds of winning this lottery are small, but they don’t really know how small. Each drawing is the same – the odds are now 1 in 259 million (worse than the 1 in 176 million prior to October when the odds were changed to generate more money for government.) You are more than 4 times more likely to get killed by an asteroid strike than win the Lottery! Some people actually believe that as the money in the pot goes up, their odds of winning do too! Have you seen the lines of people waiting an hour to purchase tickets? I was just astonished to listen to a woman of average means say on television, “I think my time is now, I bought 100 tickets.” One thing is true, her odds of winning just increased 100 times.

Who Gets the Lottery’s Money? Most citizens know that governments (mostly state) are the real winners. Of the billions getting spent on this growing lottery, it is fair to say that over $1 billion will flow into state and federal coffers including the taxes on the winnings. In his article, “Could a Lottery Be the Answer to America’s Poor Savings Rate?” Stephen Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, writes that a lottery is often referred to as “a tax on stupid people.” This is because the lottery return is far worse than the regulated returns from casinos and Bingo halls. In his article, Dubner also introduces us to Prize-linked Savings (PLS) plans, which are very popular in Europe. These savings plans allow depositors to keep all of their weekly wages in a savings account, earn interest, and potentially win large money prizes in exchange for slightly lower interest rates. The depositors that participate act like a cooperative and the profits (interest and money prize payouts) only flow to the depositors, not the government. No wonder our state governments are reluctant to approve these!

A Lesson for Leaders. People really only buy lottery tickets for one reason – it’s fun! It’s fun to be in the action. It’s fun to talk about it with your friends. It’s fun to look forward to the drawing on Tuesday or Friday night. And it’s fun to dream – to dream of having real money and the pleasure that comes with it. This is the lesson for business leaders – remember the importance of having fun with your teams. When you do this effectively, your dreams for the team will come true.

December 16, 2013 17:19
 

Why Congress is Not Smarter than a 5th Grader

Category: Core Values
Open Circle

Did you know that many elementary school students are learning to do something our Congress has yet to learn – reduce bullying by building relational trust? And, not surprisingly, the program was developed by women. It is a program with communication lessons that can greatly improve organizational and business success.

And I’m hooked.

Open Circle. The elementary school program is called Open Circle and it was developed in 1987 by the Wellesley Centers for Women. It is a curriculum that teaches children from Kindergarten through Grade 5 how to build “relational trust.” And in schools that have adopted the program, there is less bullying and learning is up.

I was introduced to a few of its concepts by a friend of mine, who is a fifth grade teacher. She has been teaching her students these concepts for a few years and introduced them to me while we were working together in a local non-profit organization.

Although there is a different level of curriculum for each grade, each level teaches the children life-long lessons. The fifth grade curriculum teaches children how to create a cooperative classroom community, build positive relationships, and solve people problems. Lessons all adults need to learn, now.

While the program is having a positive impact on children, it is also having an impact on the teachers who teach them and the parents who raise them. There have been over 13,000 educators trained. So, in schools where the administrators and teachers embrace the Open Circle concepts, their trusting relationships provide a good example for the students. Students also take home one-page hand-outs for parents that are easy to read – so some adults at home might be learning too.

Trust-Building

Trust-Building is at the Core. At the core of Open Circle is trust building. If you are one of my loyal readers (thank you!) you will know that I have written about how trust or integrity is a recurring theme in leadership, team building, and employee development. Meredith Shaw, an Open Circle staff member, wrote an article called Trusting Adult Communities Improve Student Achievement in which she wrote, “Trust-building happens when people in the relationship meet or exceed the expectations of others and prove themselves.” Once again, personal responsibility and integrity mean everything.

Shaw went on to describe the four components of relational trust developed by Bryk and Schneider. This is how you can tell if your organization has relational trust:

  1. Respect – People remain respectful during all conversations including those where they disagree.
  2. Personal regard – People show a genuine level of caring for others and often go above and beyond their job description to help out.
  3. Competence in core responsibilities – People can be relied on to have the knowledge and practice the skills required of their positions. They have a desire to learn more.
  4. Personal integrity – People can be trusted to do what they say they will do and put the common interests of the group ahead of their own.

These are great lessons for all of us. Given over two million children have learned these lessons, do you think Congress is smarter than a 5th grader?

October 17, 2013 09:58
 

Your Mission is to Know Why Your Organization Exists! Do You Accept?

Category: Core Values
Simon Sinek

 

Unless you are the parent of a young child who has asked the question a million times, the one question we should be able to answer is “Why?” More specifically, “Why does our organization exist?”

I have been thinking about mission and vision and the future quite a bit recently. Because the external environment is so unstable, most of us are doing what we need to do to stay viable. We try to search for growth opportunities. We think about the products and services we offer, we might think about what our customer value proposition is, but we rarely think about “why” we exist.

Luckily I stumbled across Simon Sinek who appears to have made a living out of helping organizations answer this “why” question. What really got my attention was his 18 minute talk on Ted TV in which he teaches us about the power of knowing why our organization exists. He postulates that when we know the answer we will attract more customers and employees.

The Golden Circle. Sinek, who was first in the advertising business, uses several examples to teach us about what he calls the Golden Circle. He says it is the rare business that starts with the inside “why” question and moves outward to the “what” question.

The inner-most circle challenges us to answer “why” we exist or what we believe questions. The “how” circle is where the organization determines how they add value for their customer. The outer-most circle is where the business determines “what” product or service they will sell to customers.

He says most businesses start with the outside circle and move in - first make a product or design a service, then think about what the value proposition or differentiation strategy is. Then try to find a customer to buy it. Rarely, do they even talk about why they exist.

Sinek says that when you start with and understand what you believe in, it shows-up in your products or services. It resonates with your customers and potential employees. It provides you the foundation you need. Let’s look at Apple, which Sinek uses as a great example of a company that does this.

The Golden Circle

I have created an Exhibit here of Sinek’s Golden Circle with his Apple Computer example. He believes Apple and their late CEO, Steve Jobs, always began with the inner “why” circle and moved outward.

If you ask Sinek why Apple exists he says, “They believe in challenging the status quo and doing things differently.”

“How” Apple does this is by making products that are beautifully designed, unique, and easy for the customer to use.

After attending to these inner-most circles they present their products to customers. When we think about what Sinek says you can see how the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad flowed from an understanding of the inner-most circle.

Steve Jobs himself was someone who rejected the status quo and energized the growth and development of the “How” and “What” Apple did.

Wright Brothers vs. Samuel Pierpont Langley. Although I have read accounts of how both the Wright Brothers and Samuel Langley tried to build the first airplane, until listening to Sinek I hadn’t thought of the “why” question before. Langley, who was the head of the Smithsonian Institute, was leading a team of people trying to invent a flying aircraft. He had plenty of money and resources at his disposal. “Why” was he leading the project? For the fame and fortune that would surely follow. The Wright Brothers only had the money and parts from their Ohio bicycle shop. “Why” did they do it? Because they wanted to fly and do it as a team.

As soon as the success of the Wright Brothers flight got back to Langley, he quit the project. Clear to see he mostly believed in himself.

Sinek reminds us, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

What do you believe? The answer will lead you to the “why.”

February 22, 2013 09:30
 
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Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.
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Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.

 

Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer.
 

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