Wednesday, June 13, 2018

In my Isolation

In my Isolation
I get drunk

For God and Country
I found War

When I Love
I found scarification

When I hate
I found punishment

When I am Happy
I found Nonconformity

When I am Sad
I found Rage

And in my sleep
I found dreams


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tired and his eyes are growing old

Father's Day May-20-2018

I got there this morning; he came down and opens the door. The dull smile on his face matches his sacking eyes coupled with dim and gray fuzzy silver hairs as he murmured while opening the door, “hi kepa.” He sat down on the couch as I sat by the table and asked, “Fefe hake?” He mentioned the ache and discomfort that he sometimes endured. Jokingly he said, “mahalo koe ha’u ia ‘a e kaume’a”—maybe it is death knocking.
We went to Church and were given leis by the ladies; he resisted, but thought better of it because he didn’t want to make the ladies feel unappreciated. The service was long; about an hour and half later, it was over, we were one of the first out the door.
Back from Church, he opened the door to the house as he whispered “namu lelei tama koe luu” He probably sat at church with his mind on the “Luu” he went up and change came back down and fixed him a luu; he bowed his head for a prayer; hummm, unusually long for a dinner prayer. As he ate—“ifo tama ki’i luu” We talked about family in Tonga, family around the US and his plan on going with ‘Ofa and Ngia to Tonga. He is looking forward to it; although he feels weak, he is determined to go and help his niece (Sesi).
On my way home, this song came on the radio. It is an old familiar song by Dan Forgelberg but some of the verses spoke to how my relationship and how I look up to my father.
The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band
I thank you for the music and your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough
And papa, I don't think I said I love you near enough
‘Ofa mo Ngia, malo ho’o mo tauhi

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Comfort Zone?

A team member and I were talking yesterday and it was mentioned that we cannot wait to have the 4 weeks straight with no change, no due dates, no new initiatives, no new technologies and just come to work on my time and be comfortable. Comfort certainly has its advantages – our comfy chair in the living room, on occasion-a comfortable routine at work, a comfortable relationship. With all the advantages of comfort, here are some things we should consider about the comfort zone.
The comfort zone is where most of life is played. It is certainly where most of sports is played. Consider a football field: 90 percent of the game is played between the 20-yard lines. That’s why they call anything outside that area the “Red-Zone” – it’s where the difference in the game is made. Hence, if we not in the Red-Zone pushing for the goal line, we will not have a chance to win.  
It’s pretty safe in the comfort zone. We know the boundaries, the landscape, and the other comfortable players. There is little or no risk; a misstep here or there is not very costly. But like the football team that’s trapped between the 20-yard lines, again, we cannot win in the comfort zone. Much like the, the Super Bowl Champion’s Philadelphia Eagles, they have the highest percentage of plays in the Red-Zone which led to the highest percentage of scoring from the Red-Zone.
If we make our comfort zone as big as our life, we not only lose our edge, we can even lose sight of the edge. We must ignite our own sense of adventure to explore the edge and see what the world has to offer us ... and what we have to offer our team and others. Hence, a self-center perspectives tend to fence us in the comfort Zone.
Learning and growth occur when we are uncomfortable. Think of the defining moments of learning and growth in your life. Were you hanging out in your comfort zone? No, you were hanging out near the edge. Lets Challenge ourselves and step into the Red-Zone—a chance to score will take the entire team playing in the Red-Zone.  
As Heraclitus reminds us: We could not step twice into the same river” It takes more energy to resist change than it does to embrace it.  So just jump in!

taken from

Friday, March 16, 2018

Who Am I?

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly, correctly.
I am easily managed – you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great people; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human being.
You may run me for a profit or turn me for ruin – it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet.
Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I?
I am habit.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Listen, Learn and Lead and How will things be different with your leadership?

Listen, learn and lead

By Matt Norquist on March 8, 2018 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to support the multitude of movements going on right now, like #MeToo and Time’s Up. Women are underrepresented at executive levels in organizations around the world—and this has big implications for us, for business and the world around us. There is ample data out there demonstrating that teams and organizations with an equal or greater proportion of women at the senior levels perform better. If we don’t get this right in our own organizations, we’re limiting our talent from achieving what’s possible—and ultimately, lengthening the road to gender parity.

There isn’t a simple fix. This is a complex, multifaceted issue that is bigger than you and me. And yet, we can take action and make a difference within our own areas of influence. I’m working to make sure that our organization has executive and organizational balance of men and women. In the last couple years, we’ve made remarkable progress—our executive team is nearly 50 percent female, and we went from 40 percent women in full-time positions to nearly to 60 percent.

But these indicators are not enough—we need to focus on actions and activities that will drive balanced outcomes. For example: We’ve differentially invested in the development of our women leaders here by offering internal training and learning opportunities in addition to supporting their attendance at conference and other learning events.

We’ve also continued to focus on expanding our point of view and have partnered with other organizations invested in advancing women. We’ve applied a lot of this thinking into trainings on inclusive leadership, bias, and harassment for our own talent. Also top of mind is finding the best talent for every position—looking inside and outside of the organization and ensuring that we have a gender balanced mix of talent to consider to make the best hiring decision.

What can I do?
All of this said, it’s incumbent upon each of us to think about how we show up for our teams each and every day. I’ve worked on developing greater awareness for how my own interactions—the way I’m communicating various issues—impacts my team. The way we communicate with one another is nearly as important as the decisions that we make.

Think about reframing your communications to be more inclusive by listening, inviting feedback, and acknowledging what you could do differently—in the moment and down the road. For example, in a recent strategic decision that we made, a few members of my team gave me feedback that it fell flat and unilateral—which allowed us to open up a dialogue and shift both of the actual outcomes, as well as the way we make decisions.

I’ve also come to realize that I have the unique privilege of working with leaders at dozens of organizations globally who are committed to advancing women into senior leadership positions. Participating in conversations and ideating with leaders who are tackling this very issue every day is a great learning opportunity.

An interesting conversation with a client recently got me thinking about inclusion and what it means to lead from a place where we are truly listening to all of our employees—becoming curious in ways that invite creativity, innovation and engagement. How can we make getting curious the cool thing to do? How can we catch people doing great things (instead of focusing on mistakes) and celebrate greatness in every individual?

Take, for example, Maureen MacInnis, the CHRO of Dentsply Sirona. Our team is partnering with her organization to create a more inclusive culture and build a pipeline of women in senior leadership positions. We were talking the other day about framing this effort as Listen, Learn and Lead. It starts with listening to the people around you, learning from what they have to say, and leading yourself, your team, and your organization differently—more inclusively.
Using this framework, we’re also trying to tackle the bigger issue of how to make inclusion and advancing women go viral inside of their organization. Said differently: How can we make doing the right thing go viral?

When we make a conscious effort to lead inclusively, we incorporate diverse experiences, opinions and perspectives into our decision making. This is the starting point to achieving gender parity in leadership. Today, as we recognize International Women’s Day, I’m reminded of all of the remarkable women leaders in my life and the profound impact that they’ve had on me personally and professionally. I’m also reminded that we have a long way to go to reach gender equality.

I’m thankful that we’ve made this topic an organizational priority and I encourage you to do the same—regardless of where you sit in your organization. Think about what you can do personally, within your sphere of influence, that will make a difference. What would our world look like if we each took the time to listen, learn and lead differently—starting today?

How will things be different with your leadership?

By Mark Hannum on March 5, 2018

Most leaders didn’t start out to become leaders; they started out trying to make a difference in something. In my last blog, I explored how we can create greater impact by maximizing our “podium.” Wait, isn’t leadership about getting the job done—and generating results? Yes, and not just status quo results or more of the same. Not just results with a small r, but Results that happen because the performances of many people are amplified over time to create a cascade of change. Taking all of this into account, the real question in my mind is: “How will things be different with your leadership?”

Vision matters
Your vision is foundational to making a difference. When you look around your organization right now, where does it need to go? Can you articulate a very clear change that needs to be made? Can you engage the right people to get behind it? Can you target a very clear innovation that needs to happen to make that change come to fruition? Can you organize a group of people to achieve that change?

Vision is key to leadership, and vision starts by understanding context, your organization, and yourself.  It’s important to understand who you are. Why do you want a leadership role? What about you is going to create that cascade of people doing the right things to achieve something bigger than themselves?

Well, first of all, it isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, I would argue that you need to go slowly in order to go fast. When you spend time putting the vision, the right resources, the change required for the vision, and the right organizational structure in place, you will ultimately go faster.

Why, you ask? Because leadership begins with self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-efficacy. Do you understand enough about your internal vision to articulate what you want to have happen? What difference needs to be made to make things more positive? Can you clearly articulate that difference? Can you say it in a way that inspires others to think, “Hey, I want to achieve that too!”
Leadership is not about perks and rewards for oneself. Leadership is about others.

One of my favorite stories of leadership is about a small-town automobile mechanic with three children. He saw a need for the town to build a playground. As he worked on customer’s cars, he talked to them, one by one, about his vision for a town playground. He asked for their help. He asked for their votes. He asked for their money. He got a pretty good segment of the community excited about a town playground. Together, that small army of people excited the rest of the town into building a first class playground for “their kids.”

Your purpose is your vision
The dictionary defines vision as “the power of anticipating that which will or may come to be.”  Articulating a clear, simple, inclusive vision has to start with an understanding of what you want to contribute to your team, your function, your organization, your community, your world. And remember, it’s not about you. It just starts with you!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

30 Quotes by Aristotle

Aristotle was an Ancient Greek philosopher who lived from 384-322 B.C.E. One of the most influential philosophers, Aristotle's work was the foundational building blocks of all Western philosophy to follow.

Courtesy of translator Giles LaurĂ©n, author of The Stoic's Biblehere is a list of 30 quotations from Aristotle from his Nicomachean Ethics. Some of these may seem like noble goals to live by. Others may make you think twice, especially if you don't consider yourself a philosopher, but are just looking for age-tested ideas on how to live a better life.

Aristotle on Politics
  1. Politics appears to be the master art for it includes so many others and its purpose is the good of man. While it is worthy to perfect one man, it is finer and more godlike to perfect a nation.
  2. There are three prominent types of life: pleasure, political and contemplative. The mass of mankind is slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts; they have some ground for this view since they are imitating many of those in high places. People of superior refinement identify happiness with honour, or virtue, and generally the political life.
  1. Political science spends most of its pains on forming its citizens to be of good character and capable of noble acts.
Aristotle on Goodness
  1. Every art and every inquiry and similarly every action and pursuit is thought to aim at some good, and for this reason the good has been declared to be that at which all things aim.
  2. If there is some end in the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the chief good. Knowing this will have a great influence on how we live our lives.
  1. If things are good in themselves, the good will appear as something identical in them all, but the accounts of the goodness in honour, wisdom, and pleasure are diverse. The good therefore is not some common element answering to one Idea.
  2. Even if there be one good which is universally predictable or is capable of independent existence, it could not be attained by man.
  1. If we consider the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity of the soul implying a rational principle, and the function of a good man to be the noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the appropriate principle; if this is the case, human good turns out to be activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.
Aristotle on Happiness
  1. Men generally agree that the highest good attainable by action is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with happiness.
  2. The self-sufficient we define as that which when isolated makes life desirable and complete, and such we think happiness to be. It cannot be exceeded and is therefore the end of action.
  3. Some identify Happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophical wisdom, others add or exclude pleasure and yet others include prosperity. We agree with those who identify happiness with virtue, for virtue belongs with virtuous behaviour and virtue is only known by its acts.
  4. Is happiness to be acquired by learning, by habit, or some other form of training? It seems to come as a result of virtue and some process of learning and to be among the godlike things since its end is godlike and blessed.
  1. No happy man can become miserable, for he will never do acts that are hateful and mean.
Aristotle on Education
  1. It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of thing in so far as its nature admits.
  2. Moral excellence is concerned with pleasure and pain; because of pleasure we do bad things and for fear of pain we avoid noble ones. For this reason we ought to be trained from youth, as Plato says: to find pleasure and pain where we ought; this is the purpose of education.
Aristotle on Wealth
  1. The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion since wealth is not the good we are seeking and is merely useful for the sake of something else.
Aristotle on Virtue
  1. Knowledge is not necessary for the possession of the virtues, whereas the habits which result from doing just and temperate acts count for all. By doing just acts the just man is produced, by doing temperate acts, the temperate man; without acting well no one can become good. Most people avoid good acts and take refuge in theory and think that by becoming philosophers they will become good.
  1. If the virtues are neither passions nor facilities, all that remains is that they should be states of character.
  2. Virtue is a state of character concerned with choice, being determined by rational principle as determined by the moderate man of practical wisdom.
  3. The end being what we wish for, the means what we deliberate about and we choose our actions voluntarily. The exercise of virtues is concerned with means and therefore both virtue and vice are in our power.
Aristotle on Responsibility
  1. It is absurd to make external circumstances responsible and not oneself, and to make oneself responsible for noble acts and pleasant objects responsible for base ones.
  2. We punish a man for his ignorance if he is thought to be responsible for his ignorance.
  3. Everything done by reason of ignorance is involuntary. The man who has acted in ignorance has not acted voluntarily since he did not know what he was doing. Not every wicked man is ignorant of what he ought to do and what he ought to abstain from; by such errors men become unjust and bad.
Aristotle on Death
  1. Death is the most terrible of all things, for it is the end, and nothing is thought to be either good or bad for the dead.
Aristotle on Truth
  1. He must be open in his hate and in his love, for to conceal one's feelings is to care less for truth than for what people think and that is the coward's part. He must speak and act openly because it is his to speak the truth.
  2. Each man speaks and acts and lives according to his character. Falsehood is mean and culpable and truth noble and worthy of praise. The man who is truthful where nothing is at stake will be still more truthful where something is at stake.
Aristotle on Economic Means
  1. All men agree that a just distribution must be according to merit in some sense; they do not all specify the same sort of merit, but democrats identify if with freemen, supporters of oligarchy with wealth (or noble birth), and supporters of aristocracy with excellence.
  2. When a distribution is made from the common funds of a partnership it will be according to the same ratio which the funds were put into the business by the partners and any violation of this kind of justice would be injustice.
  3. People are different and unequal and yet must be somehow equated. This is why all things that are exchanged must be comparable and to this end money has been introduced as an intermediate for it measures all things. In truth, demand holds things together and without it there would be no exchange.
Aristotle on Government Structure
  1. There are three kinds of constitution: monarchy, aristocracy, and that based on property, timocratic. The best is monarchy, the worst timocracy. Monarchy deviates to tyranny; the king looks to his people's interest; the tyrant looks to his own. Aristocracy passes over to oligarchy by the badness of its rulers who distribute contrary to equity what belongs to the city; most of the good things go to themselves and office always to the same people, paying most regard to wealth; thus the rulers are few and are bad men instead of the most worthy. Timocracy passes over to democracy since both are ruled by the majority.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Learning to Speak Up When You’re from a Culture of Deference

JULY 07, 2014


Many of us are uncomfortable speaking with people of higher status. We can feel self-conscious, unsure of what to say, and afraid what we’re going to say — or what we’re saying — is the wrong thing. After these conversations, we often replay in our heads what we said, analyze what we shouldn’t have said, or realize what we should have said but didn’t.
But imagine what communicating up the hierarchy is like for people from countries and cultures where notions of hierarchy are much deeper and much more ingrained than ours. Where even as a small child you are taught to speak only when spoken to, and that in the presence of authority figures, like your parents, your teachers, or your boss, you should remain quiet, put your head down, do solid work, and hope to be noticed.

I teach and work with people from such cultures on a daily basis, and I can tell you that it is extremely challenging to learn how to function outside your cultural comfort zone when interacting with authority figures in different cultures, especially in cultures where the rules are much more lax and you are actually expected to voice your opinions, be assertive, and even establish relationships with these taboo figures. I call this the liability of deference: the fact that people from deferential and polite cultures often struggle quite significantly trying to make their way in less hierarchical cultures. This problem can be debilitating to the individuals and their careers, and it also hampers their organizations’ capacity to leverage the human capital that they have worked so hard to select, train, and cultivate.

The problem is a pervasive one. It manifests itself in the classroom, where students from cultures where participation is not a typical feature of classroom dynamics are forced to participate in the U.S. and some other cultures, and they struggle to make the cultural switch. Here, for example, are the words of a former MBA student from Vietnam who struggled with the difficulties of classroom discussion: “I know participating in the U.S. is required to get good grades but somehow deep inside I felt like I was doing something very wrong. I was trembling, sweating. I just couldn’t look at the professor or my classmates in the eyes. I felt guilty.”
This same issue also manifests itself during the job search process. The following is a quote from one of my former MBA students from Nigeria about the challenges of overcoming the liability of deference at networking events:

It felt very uncomfortable and artificial to be expected to participate in an informal conversation with this senior person. Thoughts going through my head were, “What can I possibly have to say to this man who has much more experience than I do?” The values that were instilled in me were to “speak when spoken to” and “children are to be seen and not heard.”
Finally, this liability of deference also impacts people at work. They can struggle to participate in meetings, can avoid calling senior partners by first names (and, as a result, can appear quiet or standoffish), and can struggle to cultivate rapport and relationships with senior colleagues, which is critical for their advancement.

So what can organizations and particularly leaders of organizations do to lessen the brunt of this liability of deference for their employees from other cultures?

The first critical thing is to educate themselves and their employees about these differences, and to develop a solid level of empathy for the challenges that their employees may face — especially those from hierarchically-oriented cultures — in adapting to the American workplace.
Sensitizing managers to these differences is critical for them to be able to make accurate attributions for their employees’ behavior. For example, if an employee doesn’t speak up in a meeting, it may not be because the employee doesn’t have anything to say. Or if an employee offers to take on a new assignment, but without the unbridled, “go-getter” type of enthusiasm the manager is used to from his American employees, this may just be a difference in communication style instead of a difference in motivation to do the work.

On the employee side, companies should develop robust training and mentoring programs to help their employees take the leap and learn to act outside their cultural comfort zone. Such programs should of course highlight the cultural differences that employees face in adapting their behavior to a new cultural environment. But to be successful, they must go beyond that, helping employees actually take this knowledge of cultural differences and then go the next step, learning to translate it into effective behavior in a new cultural setting.

Employees need to have opportunities to practice and hone their new skills, make mistakes in a forgiving environment as they work on customizing a style for interacting with authority figures that is effective and feels authentic, and then, having cultivated a new style, have opportunities to practice that new approach in realistic and challenging situations, ideally with feedback from a mentor or cultural coach. Intellectual understanding of differences and the capacity to develop global dexterity and actually shift their behavior are two very different challenges and skill sets. Training and education should follow accordingly.

For organizations to thrive in a global economy, everyone needs to pitch in. But when pitching in means speaking out, don’t forget the liability of deference