“Fill ‘Er Up” …

Service Station“A motorist saw a sign “Bob’s Service Station –  Last Chance for Seventy-Cent Gas –  State Line One Mile Ahead”.

He stopped and had his tank fillled, then asked “How much is gas across the state line?”.

Answered the attendant “Sixty-five cents”

Source:  Anonymous and from memory

Okay, this probably apocryphal story is obviously set in a time long ago, which remains now only in some of our memories. 

Gas prices under a dollar a gallon?

… had his tank filled …” as in not self-service?

The trip was not planned using MapQuest, Google, and all the other fascinating apps we have now to help us do just about everything?

Sigh …Grandpa, tell me again about the olden days …

While we may not be rooked into paying more for gas now, we still tend to make the larger thinking errors indicated by this quaint and slightly dated story.  

I am going to make three useful observations about this little story that still help us in today’s much more expensive , volatile, and highly political world.  Whether you are entering the work force, in the middle of your career, contemplating the new “retirement”, or just trying to get along every day, remember these things to engage your critical thinking skills:

1)  Be careful about what you read and react to … sometimes it’s not what is said, but what is not said.

Notice that the sign contained NO misleading or incorrect information.  The thinking errors occured in the driver’s mind, not in the communication they received.

We judge others based on superficial aspects, such as appearance, voice, culture, and setting, and not do the hard work of getting to know the person.  This results in massive misuse or simple non-use of potential in our teams, organizations, and society.

2)  Do not assume, which we have all heard before and yet still fall into doing on a regular basis. 

Making assumptions is hard to avoid in this world, especially given the sophistication of technologically-driven mass communication, the dizzying speed of social and organizational change, and just the sheer volume of information with which we are “pelted” every single day.

Our bias for action encourages us to make assumptions, fed by well-meaning folks who forget Cheryl Bachelder’s caution to us that “Action does NOT equal results” in every case.  We do not always insist on having the time to not rely on assumptions.

3)  Whether considering where to  stop for gas or what career move to make, you always need to ask questions.

Questions, well-phrased and intentional, are golden arrows which fly to the heart of our goals and objectives.

When you ask the right question to the right person at the right time … well, things just seem to go more smoothly then, don’t they:).

Think about all this next time you fill up the old Hupmobile or family truckster.

Meanwhile, I am giving thanks that I have a car for which I pay outrageous gas prices to keep it filled in the Heartland ….



Image:  Wikipedia page on “service stations”

“The unchanging self …”

John Smith:

A little Zen for your afternoon …

Originally posted on Zen Flash:


“When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine many things with a confused mind, you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. But when you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that there is nothing that has unchanging self.”

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I’m Just Saying … Sure You Are …

Just SayingProbably one of the most overused and misinterpreted phrases in our language these days …

One hears this phrase everywhere these days.  At least, it seems so to this one.  I often hear and somewhat less frequently read “I‘m just saying …” in connection with all matter of comments and critiques of individual taste, behavior, decision-making, and so on.

I am particularly unfond of those under a certain age who utter this, along with other oblique references in response to almost every effort to engage in meaningful and civil discourse.
I’m just saying …” is a deceptivly simple phrase, which appears on the surface to be exactly what it says … Someone is just saying something … nothing more, nothing less.

However, a deeper examination reveals some issues.

For example, consider these two sentences:

Straight-forward:  “I’m just saying that your shirt does not match your jacket.”

Passive-Aggressive:  “Your shirt does not match your jacket.  I’m just saying …”

The context changes …

In the first instance, the intent seems to me to be that the speaker is clarifying that they are making an observation about a phenomena.  This is designed to be a declarative sentence indicating an opinion on the part of the sender.

No further discussion will occur and no particular judgment is involved.

In the second case, I perceive a strong desire to tell the the other person how wrong their choice is in a particular situation, but without taking the risk of actually doing so.  I know I have never really finished talking when I end a sentence with “just saying …”. 

Much more remains to be either guessed by the recipient or added at a later time, after emotions have become more volatile.

Note the addition of ellipses at the end of the second sentence, which reflects how one often hears this phrase … as incomplete.  Much has been left unsaid, which I suppose might be a great example of using fewer words to say what you mean, but in these cases, I don’t think so.

My experience is that when someone ends a sentence with “just saying …” to me, they are not just saying.  This is simply the first volley in a struggle of wills.

So, what to do about all this?

I have several suggestions:

1)  Stop saying “Just saying …”

2) Describe what you perceive to be the situation, with the outcomes or effects of the person’s action or behavior.

3)  Add a sentence explaining why you see either the current behavior or possible results as negative.

4)  Offer an alternative to the person, if appropriate.  If not appropriate, resist the impulse or desire to offer one anyway.

5)  Always end with a clarifying question, such as “Is this how you see this?” or “Do you understand why I am asking you to do this?”.

6) After asking your clarifying question, stop talking and listen actively and intently to their response. 

Repeat as needed.

This is a very generic template for moving away from trite or passive-aggressive language toward more effective communication … just saying …

Trying to replace some poor habits with more thoughtful ones in the Heartland ….



“It’s Not Easy Being Green …”

St. Patrick's Day

Warning:  Not an ” Éirinn go Brách ” St. Patrick’s Day message:

Well, it’s here again … one of my least favorite holidays of the year.  

Do not misunderstand … I love to see little kids dressed up in green.  I have a deep appreciation for the heritage and history of the Emerald Isle.  Its many fine sons and daughters have brought and continue to bring to our planet admirable attributes and beautiful music, whether traditional in nature or the more recent offerings.  

I even enjoy the occasional dish of corned beef and cabbage washed down by one or two green-dyed beers, which I would gladly pass by on any other day of the year.

I respect and learn from Irish wisdom, as exemplified by this fine traditional advice:

             As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.

Source: Irish Central

What bugs me is what I see as lack of understanding or even motivation on the part of some to find out what we are all celebrating on what is sometimes called the “most global national holiday“.

Especially in the United States, we seem to have co-opted a historical and cultural celebration for yet another excuse to “party until we puke green“, as an acquaintance once said.  This is not celebrating, but rather rationalization of our desire to drink to excess with the guise of a social sanction.

The addictions therapist in me comes out on days like today, because these are days when people with serious problems receive reinforcement for their mistaken belief that they do not really have those problems.

St. PatrickIt also concerns me that a celebration of religious events appears to have lost much of its religious flavor over the years.  The name “St. Patrick” ought to remind us that this person is famous because of his actions around preaching and evangelism.  Nothing in the history books about green hair, green noses, or green beer.

I think when we lose sight of the core meaning and reason for an activity, that we trivialize that activity, whether we truly mean to do so.

However, so as not to come across as just another old grump, railing against ignorance and overindulgence, here’s one of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day jokes:

Never iron a four-leaf clover. You don’t want to press your luck.
Source: Irish Central

Enjoy this day with learning and self-restraint in the increasingly green Heartland ….



Additional reading and learning links:

The History Channel:  Facts and Figures

St. Patrick on Wikipedia

Status as a GLOBAL holiday:  How It Happened

Irish Jokes (Some NSWP)

Celtic Music on Pandora

 Images:  From Wikipedia page on St. Patrick’s Day

Three Mistakes With Talent Mindset …

promo_02“The people you surround yourself with in your organization make or break your success.” 

You know the book is good when my inclination is to simply and literally reproduce as much of it as I can in a blog post and say “First, read this excerpt … Second, buy the book and read some more … Third, Go live out what you have read.”

Yes, Talent Mindset: The Business Owner’s Guide to Building Bench Strength by Dr. Stacy Feiner is just that well-written and useful.  For starters, I found seven PAGES of useful quotes from this book as I read it.  The ability to clearly and directly explain concepts is not a natural state for all authors, but Dr. Feiner has the gift.

“Self-awareness is a critical first step to launching Strategic Talent Management – we’re talking about the capacity to acknowledge your impact and influence on others and the environment.”

Early on, Dr. Feiner nails the business owner by emphasizing the importance of self-awareness.  Owners and leaders who believe they can influence from afar or remain aloof from the machinery of their business will be challenged to think differently about how they impact employees and the business.  Even a decision to be “hands-off” has impact.

The book is organized so that you first get a good feel for the entire process of Talent Management. The point is made early on that Talent Management has nine distinct, but interlocked elements which Stacy describes as Centers of Excellence, which she organizes carefully into three “corridors”:  Acquisition, Development, and Deployment. 

I have not experienced a clearer description of the people management process …

Dr. Feiner then goes into rich detail, not about how to actually do each element, but what we should be trying to achieve in those elements and how it all fits together.   Her examples are carefully chosen, not to be duplicated, but to illustrate the points she makes about the goals for each element.

“Training is an enterprise-wide campaign that sets the tone for your expectations of employees’ performance … creating an environment where interactive, progressive learning happens.”

Sharing what ought to drive our decisions at each point is more valuable to most of us than the prescriptive approach taken by some other business titles, where we are told to do what apparently worked at another organization, usually a much bigger one.  

My experience is that even the best ideas have to be adapted somewhat to your unique organizational situation.  The trick is to do so without surrendering to the current culture, which will resist change.  Dr. Feiner gives us powerful help to accomplish this.

I made three big mistakes while reading this book:

1) I assumed that, since the subtitle aims directly at business owners, I would find little value in the pages.  I was wrong …

This is a book about how to do every important element in the people process for a business.   While it aims at middle-sized companies and their owners/leaders, I believe that even very small and very large businesses will learn valuable perspectives and practices which they can use. 

2)  I thought this book was just about the process of finding and developing people.  I was wrong …

Talent Mindset does cover the process of Talent Development very well, but goes on to outline a business leader philosophy which goes way beyond just talent.  Like other truly valuable titles, this one looks at the topic from a strategic viewpoint and moves from being a “How To” to a “Why Do This” approach.

3)  I focused on the Talent Development section, since I live in the world of Training, Performance Management, and Leadership Development, while assuming the other sections would be of little nterest to me.  I was wrong …

Based on a quick skim, I would have been just as pleased with the other two major sections on Selection and Employee Engagement.  Probably little in this book is really new to those of us who have worked in organizations, but Dr. Feiner clearly shows us how the process can work and the connections between those nine centers as we gain, grow, and help employees succeed 

Bonus Point:

Coaching is integral to the Leadership Development process because we need the foundation and beams from a practiced professional to rise up.  Coaching is also crucial to this Center of Excellence, and the entire Strategic Talent Management continuum, because the process requires such deep, personal reflection that we can’t expect to do this in an honest fashion without some outside perspective.  It requires a coach; someone who will rigorously challenge the status quo, provoke self-examination, and provide the business analysis tools to create a stronger, more sustainable culture that becomes a breeding ground for uncommon talent.  (p. 120)

This book emphasizes coaching throughout for the business owner and leader, but especially in the area of leadership development.  That one point alone is enough to convince me that once again, a book can provide value and help you grow as a leader.

Bottom Line:

“The Strategic Talent Management process is not complicated, but it does require sweat equity.” 

If you care about making your Talent Management system drive the business success of your organization while also meeting employee needs and addressing core business challenges, you will read and use Talent Mindset to make your desires into reality.

Loving this addition to my working library in the Heartland ….


Disclaimer:  Received preview copy of this book.  Loved it anyway.


promo_01Dr. Stacy Feiner is an executive coach for the middle market. Stacy brings psychological strategies to business owners helping them improve their performance, advance their organizations, and achieve the success they want and deserve.

Stacy addresses complex dynamics within owner-operated companies, family businesses, management teams and boards. Her methodology solves people problems, clearing the way for driving strategy, growing profitability, and eventually transitioning to the next generation.

Dr. Feiner earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School for Professional Psychology, MS from Northeastern University, and BA from Hobart & William Smith Colleges. Stacy is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, author and national speaker.