90% of product leadership involves communication.  Leadership skills that motivate people to reach both business and professional goals are critical to organizational and personal success.



21.10 20180

Dignity for All…

Most of us are aware of the growing incidence of bullying in schools and the tragic consequences that ensue from letting those behaviors go unchecked. When my children were just starting school, I purchased a book called “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander…” by Barbara Coloroso.  The book addresses the issues of bullying head-on, talking about that it is not just the bullies involvement that allows the situation to fester, but it is an interaction of multiple parties – the bullies who terrorize; the bullied, who are afraid to tell; the bystanders who watch; and the adults who see the incidents as a normal part of childhood. Where do these types of behaviors come from?  They come from adult behavior that has been witnessed by children. Bullying is not just a topic for schools, but also a topic for work groups and should not be considered a normal part of a work environment.  Experts studying peer harassment have noted that when the dignity and safety of an individual is assaulted, then the dignity and fabric of the group as a whole is diminished.  If we want to have productive and safe work environments, then it is the responsibility of every group member to ensure that dignity is maintained for all. Leadership means taking a stand others might not follow.  After the Columbine shooting incident, a group of Nashville students wrote this pledge: “As a part of my community and my school, I WILL:

  • Pledge to be a part of the solution
  • Eliminate taunting from my own behavior
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Do my part to make my community a safe place by being more sensitive to others
  • Set the example of a caring individual
  • Eliminate profanity toward others from my language
  • Not let my words or actions hurt others…
… And if others won’t become a part of the solution, I WILL.” I think it was very brave of these students to make this pledge.  I think it would be very brave of each of us as members of society to also make this pledge.  Martin Luther King Jr. stated:  “Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?  Expediency asks the question, is it popular?  But conscience asks the question:  is it right?  And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it because it’s right.”  It is right to set a good example for our children with our own behavior.  It is right to make our society a better place with our actions in all of the groups of which we are a part to ensure that dignity is maintained for all.

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07.08 20170

Thanks for the Fish

I was talking to a colleague the other day about the science fiction novel entitled “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.” The book is a part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series written by Douglas Adams.   The colleague was explaining that the title is a message left by the dolphins when they departed Planet Earth before it was destroyed to build a hyperspace bypass.   He was telling me that in the novel the dolphins were sent to the earth to warn the earth about its impending destruction; however, humans did not try to understand the dolphins’ communication because the humans thought that the dolphins were inferior beings only meant for entertainment. Instead of listening to the dolphins’ message, humans rewarded the dolphins with fish each time they did a trick. As the enemy invaders came to destroy the earth, the dolphins left because they were unable to fulfill their purpose. Since humans refused to listen to the dolphins, all the dolphins could say as they left and the earth, along with the humans, was being destroyed is "so long and thanks for all the fish." So many times people come to our teams with extra-ordinary talents and wisdom, but they are minimalized, marginalized and underutilized to our own detriment. The lack of open dialogue and open minds creates situations where these teammates have to withdraw instead of providing their intended benefit. It is commonly known that people do not leave organizations, but rather they leave leaders. What are the ways that we can create more openness to all that team members have to offer? The critical success factor is learning to lead with trust. Trust can only be identified in the positive…when it is present, not when it is not present. What does trust feel like?  Trust feels like a person can take risks without fear of extreme negative consequences. Trust feels like when a mistake is made that the person can learn from the mistake and push on towards success with supportive encouragement. Trust feels like information for decisions is widely known because information is freely available and transparent. Both the individual and the group benefit from trusting environments. Individuals do not have to choose between themselves and the others with whom they are working. Sharing among the group is commonplace because there is no fear that information shared will boomerang back to the individual. My research regarding leadership trust indicated that movement towards creating environments of trust includes…

  • promoting face to face conversations among all levels within an organization
  • improving timely and efficient communication regarding decisions
  • acknowledging each employee for contributions made toward the success of the organization regardless of the level in the organization
  • creating space for each employee to have a voice to raise concerns and promote improvement ideas
  • sharing information freely through training
  • engaging people outside the normal work environment and getting to know them personally
  • being open because openness is a two way street; you cannot receive what you do not give
  • respecting confidences shared to ensure personal and group safety
  • maintaining relationships of reciprocal learning; knowing that you must learn from your employees as much as they will learn from you
  To make the most of your most valuable asset – your organization’s people, you must be open to them. Openness takes time… it requires organic growth and must be authentic.

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10.06 20170


It’s the golden anniversary of Aretha Franklin’s gold single --- RESPECT. The queen of soul powerfully demanded … R-E-S-P-E-C-T -- find out what it means to me. The song found meaning for those needing empowerment in not only personal relationships but also in political movements. Fifty years later, what does respect mean in today’s workplace? Respect is a frequently stated workplace value. It is many times lauded in corporate visions and mission statements, but do we truly live up to our stated values? I had a couple of conversations recently about respect that got me thinking. Some people overlook respect issues in a work environment due to fear of losing their livelihood, but I feel strongly that if respect issues on teams are not timely addressed, then there is a risk of total deterioration of the productivity of the team. I believe respect is essential to success for all parties involved in a situation. If you do not receive respect, then your ability to respect yourself suffers. If you do not respect yourself, then your ability to respect others suffers. Tolerating a disrespectful situation creates a vicious circular cycle of lies, fear and anger. Bill Bradley stated, “Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it. No destructive lies. No ridiculous fears. No debilitating anger.” What does this mean … Fair Treatment – treat others courteously with empathy and the golden rule in mind no matter if they are customers, vendors, or employees. Honest Disagreement – promote transparency by eliminating the fear of opposing others views; however, remember that you are disagreeing with the ideas, not the person. Enjoyment of Friendship – foster trusting work relationships. A large part of life is spent with those with whom we work. To have a good life, we must foster the relationships with the people in it. Candid Exploration of Thoughts – be open to discussions of ideas that are very different than the current situation. Innovation can only come when we break free of what it is that we are doing today. If we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we are getting. Work Towards a Common Goal – make honest promises. Have a vision to strive for and be honest about where you are as a group in achieving it. Helping One Another – a greater height and an enhanced range of vision are achieved by lifting others up to stand on our shoulders. As an agile coach, I work with teams promoting the agile values -- Individuals and Interactions, Customer Focus, Working Product, Openness to Change. In order to build high performing teams, we promote the pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. There are no limits to what can be accomplished by a focused group of like-minded people situated in a friendly, fair, respectful environment -- unafraid to disagree, explore new ideas and help one another. Annie Gottlieb stated, “Respect… is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.” In order to truly appreciate others’ uniqueness, first seek understanding and then to be understood. In your environment… Stop, Look and Listen. Each person you encounter comes to the situation with their own set of unique individual capabilities. The best and most creative solutions will harness the capabilities of the individuals of a group to create positive interactions that allow for the creation of new experiences for the whole. Integrate the strengths of the group to benefit the whole by respecting unique individual contributions. John W. Gardner said, “If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them become better than they are.” In agile coaching our goal is always continuous improvement… to become better than we are today. However, don’t just focus on changing what you think is wrong… focus on making the most of what is right. In order to advance any cause, we must first inventory our team for their strengths, respect their capabilities and use those capabilities as a launching place to create a better situation by growing together from a position of strength. R-E-S-P-E-C-T… this is what respect means to me.

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26.12 20160

Season’s Greetings — Keeping It Real

By: michelemuse Categories:Uncategorized

Since childhood I always have loved Christmas.  It has been a magical time for me. In chIldhood, Santa would come and leave gifts for my sister, my brother and me for being good.  Usually,  we were not exceptionally good, but he would leave gifts anyway.

As I grew older "balloon poppers" wanted to tell me that Santa was not real, but I held tight to my belief.  Who would want to let go of the idea that such goodness exists in the world?  It is such grace to receive gifts from an unknown person expecting no return other than we try to follow the example of his goodness.  Even when I came to understand that my parents played the role of Santa, I still believed in the Christmas spirit...selfless love and the pursuit of goodness.

As an adult I stopped receiving gifts from Santa, but  I grew into the role of becoming Santa for my own children...of passing on to them the magic of Christmas... anonymous, selfless giving and the pursuit of goodness, even knowing that we can never be perfectly worthy of the gift.  As a parent, there comes a point when our children ask us if Santa is real.   My answer is yes; I don't want to let go of that goodness... Santa is real; the magic is real; the selfless love is real.  That magic, love and goodness continues on in the hearts of every child who eventually turns into Santa themselves.  There are those who say Santa is a lie, but I refute such a pessimistic notion in that lies do not produce such beautiful outcomes.  Through Santa, the goodness in the world grows exponentially.

My answer to the question, "Is Santa real?"  is "yes."  Santa and the spirit of Christmas is real.   In one of my favorite  children's classic books, The Velveteen Rabbit, the stuffed bunny in the book asks how to become real, and the answer offered is to be loved.  The Christmas answer of how to stay real is to give love.

The holiday season is a time when we pause in our day to day lives to proactively think of others.  May the Christmas spirit of receiving and giving love stay with you throughout the year in all your interactions and all that you do.  Take forward the idea of giving selflessly of yourself and watch the exponential growth of goodness take hold around you in all your endeavors.

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