To Paris’ helpers, with love

I wanted to share Heather’s blog with a wise piece of advice for all.
Thank you Heather.


When I heard about the attacks in Paris last night, my first thought was my friends. They come from all walks of life: journalists, musicians, authors, photographers. One is a tour guide; another is my underground muse. A couple are unemployed — and a couple more are retired. In spite of their diverse backgrounds, though, last night they all had something in common: They were in Paris, but I didn’t know where.

I spent hours sending emails and making phone calls, and grew more relieved with each response. By this morning everyone was accounted for, as the last of my Facebook friends checked in. (Although it makes me profoundly sad that Facebook even has this feature, I’m also profoundly grateful.)

Friends marked safe BLOG

Then the rest of it sunk in: How would Paris react to this horror? Would the city be paralyzed by fear? Would there be a backlash of scapegoating and…

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Who’s the Enemy?

Deeply anxious and afraid Republican primary voters express their deep outrage with their political leaders: maybe hatred best describes their generalized feelings towards the “establishment.”

They wrongly seek leaders who will take them back to a black and white world—to quote NY Times Columnist Thomas Friedman, “To the certainties and prosperity of the Cold War or post-Cold War eras—by sacking the traditional elites who got us here and by building walls against change…” (NY Times October 21, 2015).

Rigid black and white world views shatter in times of chaos and uncertainty. Stressed people and groups tend to regress in their maturity and goodness—see the Benghazi Committee. Fear and anxiety will do that. The inflexible want “parents” to take care of them, heroes to rescue them from dangers real and imagined and magicians to do the impossible. Judgement suffers and the either/or folks fall prey to false prophets: those who prey on their hopes and fears to advance themselves. Why do they listen over and over again to those who lie and use them?

The angrier they get the more demanding and inflexible they become. Poor leadership is not divorced from themselves: Republican extremists co-created the state of the Republican Party. Their leaders reflect them: the people who put the leaders in place (see the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives).

How do the majority of us who are not today’s Republican extremists avoid falling victim to regression?

Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant Leadership wrote:

Who is the enemy? Who holds back faster movement to a better world? Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions?” It’s not the evil, stupid, ignorant, or apathetic people. If the world is transformed there will still be evil, stupid, ignorant, and apathetic people. The enemy is indifference.

The Republican extremists are not indifferent. Fear driven and victims of a mechanistic world view, they are just wrong about so many things.

We cannot go back to an earlier time: life is complex, changes always and moves steadily into an unknown potential-filled future. Resistance to the need for change only causes more fear, pain and danger for all. We avoid regression when we step boldly into our unknown futures and adapt as we go.

Democrats are angry too: enraged with Republicans. Their anger should be redirected to getting people who support their causes out to vote.

Will the election of 2016 move America to a positive future? A renewed future for America and her citizens depends on the poor, the young, students, immigrants, minorities and the middle class: on those who want to heal our planet, educate our citizens, reform immigration, have a robust middle class, and evolve human rights for all people.

The tired migrants, the cynical students, the disillusioned minorities, the anxious middle-class and the desperate must awaken and vote for the future they want for themselves. So simple—go vote for your self-interest.

God will not save us. False prophets will fail to be great, heroic leaders cannot endure, parents cannot take care of us and the tricks of the magicians are illusions. We are responsible.

This is not a time for indifference.

The Dearth of Competency

The everyday headlines about the lack of competence in our schools, churches, government, and organizations and institutions shake our confidence and belief that anyone can get things done right. Our personal and national zest for greatness appears exhausted and almost everywhere we look we see decline threaten our democracy and way of life.

Incompetence surrounds us. I fought for excellence and against incompetence at all levels throughout my 18 year career at the Star Tribune newspaper. Organizations were designed to keep good people down and the design works well. But excellence can be achieved even in such an enterprise, exhausting as it is.

I left the newspaper industry in 1994 to join a movement to transform how we work and lead in organizations. For 13 years I continued my battle against mediocrity. I met many wonderful people. But few excellent leaders or supervisors. Disengaged employees intimidated good employees and made excellence a crime punishable by threats, ridicule, and rejection. Today, twenty years after I joined the transformation movement, leadership and management and workplace cultures are more primitive than ever. Our organizations and institutions are too large and responsibility diffuse. Few hold others accountable.

But not all we label incompetence is incompetence. We sometimes expect too much of people, especially when they are learning new skills and information and doing new things or implementing new projects. We want our fixes to be fast, easy, cheap, and painless. That is magical thinking and not possible.

Change and new projects have learning curves and their implementations are often messy, inefficient, and people make mistakes. In new environments people must plan, act, reflect, and adapt constantly. Sometimes we need to remember that the chaos we experience is normal and the chaos of newness comes to order and it does so quickly. We need the wisdom to know the difference between genuine incompetence and the mistakes of change and newness and cut people some slack and give them time to get things right in new and difficult circumstances.

We like to blame others for our incompetence: worker incompetence is the fault of leaders; incompetent students are the fault of teachers. The problems of government agencies are the fault of President Obama. But the continuum from incompetent to excellence is a personal choice not the fault of someone else. I am responsible for my mediocrity or excellence.

Excellence isn’t just about work. Each of us—whatever our age, talents, and place in life–can choose where we want to be on the continuum from incompetence to excellence and in what areas of our lives—physical, emotional, intellectual, occupational, or character, creativity, or relationship excellence, for example.

Those who strive for their unique excellence in life work hard. They do not look for magic, quick-fixes, rescues by heroes, or something for nothing. They take responsibility for themselves, exhibit tenacity and moral courage, follow their own paths, and create their own lives. They understand that happiness comes from the pursuit of noble goals. And they renew themselves and find new sources of energy and spirit many times over the course of a lifetime. We should honor people for the excellence they display, not for their job title. I respect an excellent plumber more than an incompetent publisher.

Those who choose continual growth, learning, and self-discovery in pursuit of the person they could be rise above the mediocrity that surrounds them despite the difficulty.

Don Tucker Interview Regarding Recent Troubles in the U.S. Secret Service

Don and I worked together on the Chicago Counterfeit Squad many years ago. We sat across from one another in the office and did some socializing together.

We reconnected a few years ago through our writing.

Don spent 25 years in the Secret Service and in Narcotics before that. He was one of the great undercover agents in both agencies. He finished his career at the agent in charge of the Phoenix, AZ field office and then served as U.S. Marshall  for Arizona. Don grew up in poverty and gang territory in south Chicago and played football at the University of Iowa.  He has written two books available at Amazon.

His television interview is worth watching.

Don Tucker Interview Regarding the Recent Problems in the U.S. Secret Service

The care and feeding of your introvert

An excellent and accurate piece by my friend Heide Munro.


“No way!”
“You’re full of it!”

That’s how acquaintances usually respond when I tell them I’m an introvert.

After all, I have no qualms about talking to random strangers. I do alright with public speaking. And I’m blessed to have many wonderful, cherished friends.

But the truth is that although I may greatly enjoy all these things, they still take tremendous energy and effort. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since a dear friend shared Dr. Carmella’s curious infographic:

Introvert part 1

At first glance I resented it, because it makes introverts sound a little freakish (I don’t live in a hamster ball, nor must I be treated like a terrified wild animal). But I did like the explanation that “[introverts] naturally find most interaction exhausting.”

I can’t tell you how terrible I’ve felt over the years — or how many friendships I’ve given up — because people…

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When I took over the business unit, the Teamsters were trying to organize a union in the Operations area. I met Bettye when I held the small group sessions in Operations. Our first impressions of one another were not positive. The Teamsters were organizing a union in her department, and my job was to defeat the union. I suspected her of being one of the leaders of the union effort.

The people who worked with Bettye were led poorly. The organizing effort was their cry for help. I began to understand Bettye. She was unhappy, and she worked in a demoralized department. Changes were being forced upon employees that made no sense to them, and the employees were not being listened to.

I got to know Bettye. She was a stately black woman with a loud voice and a great sense of humor. Bettye was down-to-earth, and she asked tough questions. She cared about people and was not intimidated by me. Soon my first impressions changed; I liked her.

After several months, the Teamsters gave up. Bettye’s department—Field Services—was redesigned, delayered, downsized, and the people operated as a self-managed team. The people in Bettye’s department, who led the organizing drive, were now leaders in our move to employee involvement and were involved in all aspects of these changes.

I asked Bettye to be part of a presentation on employee involvement to a small group of senior managers that would be held at a local hotel. When it was Bettye’s turn to speak, she stood up and said, “My name is Bettye, and my knees are shaking.” Five minutes later she was in total control of the room. I think this shift happened when she asked Bruce Gensmer what he did all day long. He was startled and began to laugh. Bettye voice grew stronger and her confidence grew. She began to have fun.

Over the next few months, Bettye and I developed a good relationship. One day I invited her to lunch and told her about some problem I had with my plan for a vacation. This vacation problem was the big issue in my life at the time. She listened with interest and then told me how she was raising four children without a father in south Minneapolis. She described how she tried to protect her children from gang influence and how she raised them to value work, education, and concern for others. I felt about two inches tall. How could I work one hundred and fifty feet from someone and have no idea what her life was like? How could I assume that she could relate to my vacation problem or that I could relate to her life? How could I be so oblivious to the challenges my co-workers faced?

Several months later at Christmas time, Bettye and I went to lunch again. She told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that she and her children had a monthly roundtable where they discussed issues and made decisions. The discussion that past month was whether to use their available money to either get their car fixed or to buy Christmas presents. The younger kids wanted Christmas presents. The older kids realized the importance of a car in the wintertime and reminded the younger ones of how cold winter was. The consensus was to get the car fixed.

Bettye described how the last time the car broke down she had traveled by bus to take the kids to the babysitter and to get to work. That reminded me of the story of a senior executive who rushed into a 9:00 a.m. meeting, out of breath, and exclaimed, “I’m sorry I’m late. The nanny was sick, and I had to get the kids ready for school.” He realized his audience, looked up and said, “I’m sorry, all of you have to do that every day.”

I was paid four or five times more than Bettye. David Cox was paid five or six times more than me. I sat about one hundred and fifty feet from Bettye. David Cox sat about one hundred and fifty feet above me. I wondered if his world was as far away from mine as mine was from Bettye’s. I wondered if he was as unaware of the differences between his life and mine as I was of Bettye’s and mine.

This is excerpted from my e-book, Value Driven Leadership: A Story of Personal and Organizational Transformation available at

My New Book: Value Driven Leadership

I am happy to announce the publication of my second e-book: Value Driven Leadership: A Story of Personal and Organizational Transformation at 

You may not be interested in leadership and organizations or in a more than 20-year-old story but stick with me for a moment.

Some times in life we have an unexpected experience that dramatically alters the trajectory of our life forever.

This book is about one of those experiences in my life.

I didn’t set out to be a change agent at the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, MN. I needed a job. On my first day, the union steward told me what the rules were: dress down, cheat on expenses and overtime, and don’t make other union guys look bad.

I wasn’t going to conform to mediocrity or let someone else decide the course of my life. I set out to change the place. About 15 years later, a vice president told me that I was making others mad by leading change in the culture of the company. I continued to do what I was doing.

In between those sickening moments, I led change in the work, culture, and performance of the company through nine promotions and steps on the organizational chart.

Sometimes people come together and create something special and when that happens, it is mystical.

Challenged by a Teamster’s Union organizing effort and revenue shortfalls in the newspaper industry, we had to cut millions of dollars from the budget and defeat the union. We decided to do something different. We defined Value Driven Leadership for ourselves and choose to live true to our values. We created a vision for our work lives. We got everyone involved. We made sure everyone felt valued, involved, and informed.

Fifteen months later, we were a national success story. We melded employee engagement with values and respect for people and brought forth phenomenal business results. Business guru, Tom Peters, wrote about us. We spoke at conferences around the country. People came to visit and see our work. The CEO said out work would change the company forever. Of course there was a dark side to all of this, and I write about that too.

While we did this ground-breaking work, the newspaper industry sat on the edge of a precipice that threatened its very life: The Internet and its impending impact on newspaper readership and advertising revenue.

Soon the industry was in a free-fall decline. The Star Tribune went bankrupt. What happened to our industry-leading work that might help renew an industry?

You may not be interested in leadership, organizations, or newspapers. This story is about much more than those things: the newspaper setting is only the container for a larger story about how life works and can work in all aspects of our lives if we pay attention and learn about the deeper dynamics of life and how to utilize those underlying forces to create a high-energy life filled with aliveness.

My first e-book, Learning to Live: Essays on Life & Leadership tells the story of how my life changed based on the experiences in my new book.

I’d be grateful if you would help me spread the word. Thanks!

The Secret of Genius

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Gaiman:

If everyone had the luxury to pursue a life of exactly what they love, we would all be ranked as visionary and brilliant. … If you got to spend every day of your life doing what you love, you can’t help but be the best in the world at that. And you get to smile every day for doing so. And you’ll be working at it almost to the exclusion of personal hygiene, and your friends are knocking on your door, saying, “Don’t you need a vacation?!,” and you don’t even know what the word “vacation” means because what you’re doing is what you want to do and a vacation from that is anything but a vacation — that’s the state of mind of somebody who’s doing what others might call visionary and brilliant.

From Brain Pickings