January 2011

The New Year starts out, for me, with a number of new ventures and adventures. As many of you are already aware, I recently completed a unique learning project with two friends and colleagues – Frank Sarr and John Stout. Frank and John are the two principals of Training Implementation Services, in Granby, CT. Frank has developed a training delivery system which, I believe, will become, in fairly short order, the dominant learning technology in information driven cultures. It employs the internet, without a mind numbing webinar. It employs interactive, personal coaching, without the expense and interruptions of the traditional model. And most significantly, from my perspective, it is built on the overriding premise that training and learning is only of value if it is usable and actually used by the learner. TIS insures this through the use of their certification session – a one-on-one telephonic interaction that requires the learner to organize and prioritize the salient material and demonstrate its utility in their real-life professional roles.

My first partnership with TIS has revolved around the material I’ve developed on recruiting and selection. In particular, it focuses on identifying people who have the greatest chance of bringing value to 21st century enterprises, and on an interviewing methodology that zeros in on who the candidate is, and not simply what they’ve done. This “deep dive” interview eliminates ambivalence and leaves both interviewer and candidate with a certainty about their decisions.

The program is called “Picking Winners and Keepers” and is six weeks in length. The only things that are scheduled are the four coaching calls and the certification session. No one has to travel anywhere, and all that the participants need is a computer and a phone. Frank, John, and myself (along with TIS’s amazing instructional designers) worked on the program for the greater part of last year, and I’m very proud of the finished product. The following links will take you to a brief video summary of the program and give you details on how to sign up for it:



The other venture has an element of déjà vu about it. I’ve established a relationship with the MBA program at the University of Montana and have become a member of the adjunct faculty. (My first real “job”, forty-four years ago, was as a college teacher at Drake University.) I’ve already taught one course and enjoyed it thoroughly. In addition, I’m working with the Business School to expand its offerings in executive education. We’ve designed a unique experience for the summer of 2011 (mid-June) that will involve a heavy-duty, interactive learning component (facilitated by yours truly) and an immersion in Montana’s fantastic recreational opportunities (riding, rafting, fly-fishing, hiking, and exploring the area.) We’ll be using the facilities of the University, as well as those of a nearby ranch.

The program is designed for people with real-life work experience (3-5 years, minimum), preferably in a managerial or executive role, who want to significantly raise the bar and take their career to the next level. This will not be your typical continuing education course. You will learn how to become an exceptional leader, in your own life, and in the lives of those around you. As soon as all the details are nailed down, I’ll get them to you.

The third initiative for the year is a new book. I’m very pleased to be collaborating with a great friend and colleague – Scott Martineau – on a provocative, no BS, work that will clear out the clutter and nonsense surrounding the prevailing “wisdom” of how people achieve success. Scott is an experienced business person, a coach and mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, a bestselling author (of “The Power of You”), and the founder and CEO of ConsciousOne.com, one of the best and largest personal growth and development websites in the world.

The premise of the book is simple and straightforward: The only thing that is going to cure the economic malaise we find ourselves in is an infusion and proliferation of entrepreneurial, highly successful business people. Government, at all levels, is clueless. Intellectuals have no experience at running any real world enterprise. And traditional corporate types are freaked out by the unpredictability and ubiquitous instability of the new global economy. The problem, however, is that the information about how to become successful is riddled with nonsense, mythology, and 30,000 foot slogans that no one knows how to implement.

The book is tentatively titled, “The Ten Great Lies of Success”, and is focused on those myths that derail people the most and do the greatest damage. I’ll keep you in the loop as the book takes shape and reaches fruition.

“Resist The Urge To Be Ordinary”

As I indicated in last November’s newsletter, all the sections of this year’s newsletter will be shorter. A whole myriad of reasons dictates this: Feedback from readers; my involvement in a number of new ventures (detailed above); and my frustration at giving away long and exhaustive chunks of intellectual property for nothing. When I figure out how to monetize the latter (and get more comfortable with the new ventures), I may return to the old format.

Business Tips

“Recruiting Is Back”

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the gains realized from the additional productivity of the post-meltdown workforce have been maxed-out. In addition, the culture as a whole has begun to adapt to a smaller and less acquisitive lifestyle and, consequently, the consumer is coming out of the closet, albeit somewhat battered and traumatized, but ready to risk spending again. The combination of these forces is creating a demand for more workers, and for better run, more efficient, more focused, and more competitive businesses. As you look to add more people to your organization, keep the following in mind:

> You will need to recruit people who are capable of doing more than working hard, following orders, and being loyal, in the traditional sense.
> You will need to identify people who like to learn; who are attracted to growth; and who are willing to be developed, personally and professionally.
> Your assessment process will need to be radically transformed and re-done. It will need to focus on who the candidates are; not simply what they’ve done.
> The fulcrum of this new process is the “Deep Dive” interview that zeros in on feeling data, not task data.
> The “Deep Dive” interview is designed to be highly interactive, rich with real-time feedback, challenging, and uncomfortable.
> There will be plenty of people to interview. Most of them will not interest you, primarily because they ceased to interest their former employers.
> We are now living in an “American Idolized” culture. Everyone is a performer and has developed the ability to look good and have the “right” answers. If you don’t drill down, you’ll get snookered (no pun intended).
> You are now interviewing for values match and for specific personal characteristics.
> The traditional behavioral interview, as well as standardized testing, is of very limited value. They lack the challenge, the feedback, and the evocation of bottom-line feelings that give you the data you need to make a decision.
> Don’t tolerate being stonewalled. If most of the answers to your questions are “conversation killers” (monosyllabic, short, clipped responses), confront it right away. Either it changes, or the interview is over.
> Don’t ask open-ended questions. It rewards wandering and undermines your credibility.
> No note-taking during an interview. Neither you nor the candidate. Write down your strongest impressions after the candidate leaves. If you don’t remember anything significant, you either have your answer, or you’re struggling with early dementia.
> Don’t ever let “throw-away” remarks go (i.e. “You know how bosses are …”). They always represent a statement about one’s core values.
> Don’t sell the opportunity. Your style of interviewing should either compel or repel the candidate. Either way, you both win.
> Pay a lot of attention to whether or not the candidate answers the questions you asked. If not, deal with it right there.
> Conducting an interview is like riding an emotional roller coaster. Pay attention to your tummy. Were there more ups or more downs?
> Know your own triggers. What kind of response is likely to cause you to overreact and reach a conclusion that has more to do with you than with the candidate?
> Risk early. Nothing creates trust quicker than honest feelings and feedback from the interviewer, right from the start.

Political and Cultural Observations

“The Tragedy In Tucson”

The horrendous shooting in Arizona brought out the usual cries for pre-emptive detention and gun control. What was interesting to me, was the muted tone of the ideological and political debate, and the quite heated (and, at times, hysterical) quality of the blame-game around who incited a demented lunatic to murder innocent people who were in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

I think, in fact, the blame-game surrounding the killer’s motivation was a convenient distraction from a very troubling issue which has been crystallized by the debate over Obamacare. The debate is making it clearer and clearer that Federal intervention and centralized “solutions” to societal problems come at a very high price – the least of which is financial. What is dawning on people is the realization that the overriding question is not, can we provide healthcare (or other “solutions” to human needs and problems) to everyone; but, what’s the cost, non-monetarily, of doing so? It is sobering and stunning to realize that we have reached the point, in our political evolution, wherein the Federal government has subsumed the right and the power to force individuals to buy something they may or may not want or need. This is the quintessential example of the expansion of rights to one group, coming at the expense of other groups. This is the slipperiest of slopes, and has rarely, if ever, led to a salutary outcome.

Pain and madness come with freedom. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, this is still news to many folks. There was, and there is, absolutely no way of preventing the Loughner’s of the world from wantonly killing and maiming perfectly innocent people – without destroying the very freedoms that underpin and distinguish our culture. One of the hallmarks of our society is the privilege and ability to think, speak, and act as bizarrely and crazily as you like, as long as you fail to breach the criminal code. Most Americans are unaware of how unique this is to our country, and are often surprised to hear that one of our fellow Western democracies (like the UK) has banned someone from entering the country, or detained someone within the country, for fear of what they’ve said, or could say.

Early in my clinical career, I (along with a number of other therapists) fought to re-write the involuntary commitment laws. Up until that point, the mental health bureaucracy and the “mental hospitals” were nothing more than extensions of the criminal justice system, without the benefit of constitutional protections against false imprisonment. You could be committed with the flimsiest of “evidence” and you could be kept there for a very long time. All it took was for you to act sufficiently disturbing and upset the people around you. So when people ask why Loughner was not detained and “treated”, they have no idea of the implications of what they’re suggesting, and what a nightmarish Pandora’s box they’d be opening, again.

One more point about pain and freedom. If you’ve encountered and dealt with madness, as I have in my clinical career and my extensive travels, you learn something early on. It is irrelevant, to a madman, what instruments of violence are available. If we’ve learned anything from Islamo-Facist Terrorists, we’ve seen that as soon as we cut off access to one instrument of terrorism and violence, they create another one. If Loughner had no access to a handgun, he would have stabbed people. If he couldn’t get a knife (or it wouldn’t allow him to do as much damage as he planned), he’d strap dynamite to his body, and on and on and on.

What we are left grappling with is the elemental and primal question of our time. Is freedom the most important value of our culture; and is it worth the pain and madness that can accompany it? This is the question we all need to answer.

Personal Notes

“What Happened To Deep Introspection?”

As I get older, I’m aware of experiencing nostalgia; but not for the typical things that I hear my peers talk about. I have no desire to live in the way I did growing up. Living with 50 relatives around all the time was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t miss Chicago, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, or England. I learned a lot in those places, but no place felt like home, until we got to Montana. And as much as I bitch and complain about technology, I love how it’s enhanced my life. Every time I get in my car, I am blown away by what a kick it is to drive and work everything it does. I am additionally, acutely aware, that without the airline industry (with whom I have a classical love-hate relationship), I would not have had the career I have loved and valued for the past three decades.

What I do miss is how people work on themselves, these days. When Arleah and I were getting our psychotherapy training and beginning our practices, most of the people we knew, personally and professionally, were in some form of therapy. And of those people, it was rare for anyone to be seeing their therapist less than once a week. Many people had twice weekly sessions, and a number of colleagues and friends were in four days a week psychoanalysis. When I decided that I had gained everything I was going to get from my psychoanalytic therapy and moved on to Primal Therapy, I would go to two or three groups a week, when I was not traveling. (Primal utilized an atypical model, involving scheduled groups that allow you to work on issues in a self-regulating manner.)

Frequency, though, is not the fundamental difference that I miss. What has most significantly changed is the role that personal work, growth, and development plays in people’s lives, and the depth to which it is pursued. The culture we grew up in, at work and at home, was certainly concerned with results and goals; but clearly in a secondary role. What people talked about and shared a lot, was their journey – what they were learning about themselves, their interpersonal history, and how their past was shaping and influencing their present and their future. We had the time and the opportunity to do this – we lived in a much less competitive culture, and we had profoundly less information to manage and impact us. We wanted to accomplish things and get somewhere in our lives, but the assumption we operated on, was quite different than now. Our goals didn’t have to be met tomorrow, and they would be met best, if we thoroughly understood how and why we were getting there.

The internet, specifically, and the explosion of information, generally, changed everything. They have created superheated competition, a busier and more demanding personal life (often more frenetic), and a bottom-line orientation to all facets of our lives. I don’t particularly bemoan or resent this. I like aspects of it, and I find other parts of it emotionally empty and without meaning. But be that as it may, it has changed our personal and professional lives.

By and large, the people that Arleah and I work with want to know what to do differently. They are not terribly interested in why they currently do what they do, and what internal obstacles they face in making needed changes. It is a fair and reasonable question, and we can certainly answer it. For most of them, the answer will help them, and will make some changes in their work and personal lives. Will it make all the changes it could, and at a very deep level? Probably not. But that’s our issue, not theirs.

Both Arleah and I have made some significant adaptations to our “bottom-line” culture. As Arleah puts it, we have shifted from a society of human beings, to a society of human doings. At times, we have struggled with the shift, and at other times, it’s been perfectly fine. For me, I have no problem telling people what to do. I grew up with it, and I think it’s a part of my DNA. I’ve also learned a lot about being more structured, which, I have no doubt, has been of benefit to many of my clients. (My son, David, has been instrumental in helping me along this path.)

Finally, I think that what I’ve been through, in managing these profound changes in my life, have given me an appreciation for the humongous changes that people all around me have been going through. It keeps me current and prepared for what’s yet to come.


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