Boyle-ing likeSimon Cowell

If you have an internet connection, you have undoubtedly heard about and even seen the Susan Boyle episode of Britain’s Got Talent on YouTube.   But did you catch the real lesson behind Simon and the frumpy spinster from a small UK village, who walked on stage to snickers and doubt, and walked off a super star?


The audience and judges could not contain their awe merely 3 words into the song.  But as the audience sat down again and the cheers and beaming faces quieted down for judges commentary, conviction of something ugly in each of us set in.

“Biggest surprise” 

“Everyone was laughing at you”.

“We were very cynical.”

What these words really acknowledged was prejudice.  The audience and judges had pre-judged Susan Boyle based on her brief walk onto the stage and the few words she spoke before she started her song.

“Boyle-ing like Simon Cowell”.

I did it recently.  I reviewed a resume and wrote it off.  Not because of lack of relevant skills and experiences, but because of some common background with prior hires who did not turn out.  Urged by the phone screener to do a personal interview despite my reservations, I found I almost rejected a highly qualified and experienced candidate that was a great fit for our need. 

It might have happened again If had seen another gentleman across the room rather than joining him in a group discussion.  Going below the surface that some may have considered socially awkward, revealed  a deeply thoughtful, passionate and generous man that some will never get to know.

Transitioning from obscurity to instant worldwide fame on YouTube, Susan Boyle now conquers the world stage with her record smashing debut album titled after her song on Britain’s Got Talent, “I Dreamed A Dream”.

Susan Boyle edged out established chart topping mainstays such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Norah Jones to dominate the number 1 spot on Billboard 200.  While serial chart buster Barbra Streisand debuts her number 1 album with a sales volume of 180,000 recently, Susan Boyle makes a statement with 701,000 albums solid in her first week.  A sales volume never achieved by any other female solo artist. Ever.

While some of the sales are certainly the curious, Susan Boyle shows even greater talent on this album that we saw on YouTube.  She demonstrates she can hold her own and even trump superstars of the genre with her renditions of some terrific classics. 

She is no one-hit wonder.  Susan Boyle did not become a superstar.  She always was a superstar but finally got to step onto the stage and bless us with her gift.

It might have never happened.

How many Susan Boyle’s are not at our companies, on our teams, in our classrooms, galleries, and on our bookshelves, are not volunteering with us, preaching, teaching, caring because of the prejudice of the gatekeepers. 

We have to scratch below the surface and take off the filters.

What has Susan Boyle taught you?

6 Facets of the Servant Leadership Diamond

In his November 17, 2009 Mike Henry Sr. writes a wonderful succinct piece on the essence of “Servant Leadership”.  Many have heard the term, even strive to be one, but do we know what it really means?DiamondMike Henry Sr. drives it home so nicely by breaking down the phrase “Servant Leaders serve people in pursuit of a goal”, I will just refer you to his original post:

6 Facets of the Servant Leadership Diamond


Leave a Comment:  Which of the 6 Facets do you need to polish?


Book references

For those who want to dive deeper into the subject of Servant Leadership there are many terrific books on the subject.  These are my favorites:

Related Posts

 Do We Deserve Our A-Players

Too Busy for Our Mission

Servant Leaders and the Tribe by Mike Henry Sr.

Leadership 2.0 by Michael Hyatt

Precious Time

Hands holding back arms of a clock

Precious time.

Time to go to bed.  What, already?

Time to get up.  What, already?

Snooze just a little longer.

“Quiet time” with God.

I need to exercise more.

Time to blog.

A bite on the fly.

Drop the kids.

Get to work.

The meeting ran long.


Running behind.


The report needs a little more time.

Research takes time. 

The project is due!

Time to tweet.

The tweets don’t stop.

Time for lunch?

No time for lunch!

Calls take time.

Email never stops.


Staff needs time.

What time is it?

Do you have time?

Do I have time?

How much time will it take?

It will take some time!

Time to go home.

Just a little more time.

Do I have enough time?

I’ll be there shortly.


Gotta go!

Get to the game.

Hi, honey.  I’m home.

Her love language is “Quality Time”.

“The kids will remember the time you spent with them.”

Friendships take time.

Relationships take time.


Practice makes perfect. Invest the time.

Volunteer time.


Time to get the kids to bed.


The bills are due!


I need to read.


Just a little more time.

Time to go to bed.  What, already?




“Be still….”

– Psalms 46:10 –

Related Posts

Too Busy for our Mission

What Happened to Relationships

Priority Management – by Steve Scanlon on Reality & Hope Blog

Too Busy for Our Mission

Busyness has turned into an epidemic.   At home, at work, at church even in down time.  The most common response I get when inquiring with friends and business associates is “I’ve been so busy!”   The constant change, doing more with less, a deluge of projects, running kids around to activities and even our leisure time activities cause us to be too darned busy.   And yet, whether as an individual or as an organizations, we all have a unique, specific and important mission to accomplish. 

Blurred Busy People

Have become too busy for our mission?

People and organizations exist to accomplish a specific mission.  Whether it is our personal life or at work, it is so easy to get entangled in the urgent stuff that keeps us busy and neglect the important stuff that really matters.

At Church I lead a couple of different teams in our “Connections Ministry”, whose mission it is to ensure our attendees and guest feel warmly welcomed and well served during their time at church on Sundays.   On Communion Sundays we have a bit more on our minds than other Sundays.  Before the first service starts a team prepare over 600 cups of wine and communion crackers, place them around the sanctuary at different stations before the people arrive.  At the same time a team of Ushers prepare the worship center and man 4 sets of doors to hand out bulletins while greeters welcome people arriving in 2 wings of the building.  It takes more than 30 volunteers to serve in just this aspect of the service.  Then we do it all over again before the second service starts half an hour after the first ends.  This time just a little bigger.  We reset the worship center, clean up spills, refill more trays with more than 800 cups, placed at more stations and more than 20 of the 30 plus volunteers are different than the first service. 

On one of these Sundays I was checking on our greeters in the lobby between services after confirming the preparation of the communion elements was on track.  While scanning the lobby for arriving volunteers, a good friend approached me to introduce their brother to me, who had come to visit our church as a guest that day. 

In life and work it’s all about the people and all about relationships.  That’s typically why we do that we do.  On this Sunday, I blew it.  I was too busy for my mission. 

I gave this friend and their guest only half my attention and a half minded greeting I regretted the minute it spilled out of my mouth.  My mind was busy with the busy things, as I glossed over the important thing that really mattered.  I failed to “connect” and make this guest feel warmly welcomed and important.  Rather than coming to a “sanctuary” he saw the same crazy world he sees all week.

This happens every day in the work place too.  How many of us crave to work on strategic, game changing stuff as we grind it out each day with mundane tactics?  While sometimes we can’t choose our assignments, we can choose to make what we do count by focusing on that which will make an impact and connects to the strategically significant.  But yet we get sucked into running ragged in the “thick of thin things” as Stephen Covey calls is.

We need our “Covey Quadrant” front and center every day.  With all we do, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I doing the urgent and unimportant, or am I focused on what matters?  Am I working on my ‘Big Rocks’ or am I chasing grains of sand?”  Hint.  More often than not, when people and relationships are involved, the important is not far off. 

Time has become our most precious commodity.  It flows.  Its constantly on the move.   Deliberately directed activities, even in small increments, cause us to march with determination to accomplish the important and significant.  Left to itself, time seeps away while we feverishly chase after activities that keep us busy but won’t lead to the accomplishment of our mission.

Do you know your mission (business & personal)?

Are taking deliberate small steps daily to accomplish your mission?

Book References

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Related Posts

What Happened To Relationships

Precious Time

Priority Management  by Steve Scanlon

The Not-To-Do List by Michael Hyatt

What Happened to Relationships?

My wife volunteers for our neighborhood associations.  Twice a year it issues a newsletter and the key activities it sponsors are a neighborhood garage sale, a Halloween parade and a holiday luminaries event.  The driving purpose behind the association is stimulation relationships between neighbors.

As we took an evening stroll we started to ponder whether the association is really serving its purpose any longer and whether it even can.Senior woman friendly handshake

We used to have “Street Reps” for each segment of the neighborhood who would hand deliver the newsletters so that they could make connections as they dropped them off.  I said “used to” because the “old guard” who remember the time when neighbors were neighbors have no one to pass the torch to.  People are just too busy.

Many of the newsletter were left on the doorstep last year, because nobody is home anymore.  Both parents are working, taxiing kids between activities and dinners are eaten on the run.  Even on weekends it’s rare to catch someone for a chat at the door.  Actually, some of the remaining “Street Reps” prefer it that way.  They too are busy, I mean,  there are projects to get done, errands to run and to-do lists to check off. 

Yet people crave relationships.  We were made relationships, for interdependence rather than independence.  Cancel a neighborhood or church event because there were no volunteers to organize it and brace yourself for the outcry.  People have the need to relate, but don’t want to invest the time to reap the reward.

What happened to relationships?

Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything is more true today than when James Gleick wrote the book 8 years ago.  We are so busy we take they buy-out option on the box of fundraiser candy rather than have the kids sell the candy bars.  We go to activities but rarely arrive on time and leave early because we need to be somewhere else.  Mom shuttles one kid to one event while dad is at the other with the second one.  Parents are on cell phones on the sidelines and if a sibling does in fact make it, they are in another world on the game console or music player because we aren’t modeling relationships any more.

Quantity trumps quality, convenience trumps purpose, efficiency trumps authenticity, and busyness trumps relationships.  Yesterday John C Maxwell profoundly tweeted “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” ( 

A while back I was having lunch with my wife at a Panera Bread  store and a family of five arrived.  They picked 2 separate table so that each of them had room to open their laptops.  I kid you not, mom, dad, two daughters and a son, each had their own laptop open while the family had lunch “together”.

So how are you doing? 

Are you making time for relationships?

Do you know your neighbor 3 or 4 doors down and the other side of the street?

How many times each week do you sit down for dinner with every family?

Related Posts

Too Busy for our Mission

Precious Time

Do We Deserve Our “A-Players”?

To build a great team, we are told, we need to hire the best, or as Mark Suster put it in his terrific post last week: “In my experience B players hire C people.  A begets A,  B begets C. Don’t go there.”  We have also learned through surveys like this one to “hire good people, not skills”, and we have learned that “behavioral interview questions” about the past will help us better predict future performance as we recruit.  We have become pretty good at acquiring top talent.

Three Business People on Mountain Peak

But do we deserve the “A-Players” we have acquired? 

Are we fulfilling our responsibilities to them?

As leaders we have many responsibilities to the people we lead.  While these are common to all our staff, I believe there are 4 Essential Responsibilities to A-Players that we must keep front and center for these high performers.

1.)  Understand Their Expectations – What makes this a “Win” for them?

While our expectations for staff are generally clearly defined in vision & mission statements, job descriptions, employee manuals, bonus plans etc…, their expectations of us aren’t always so clear.

Top talent is typically highly ambitious, mobile, and have a plan for a specific journey.  How does working for your team or organization fit into that plan and journey?  Can you really meet their expectations and will you get what you need from the relationship during your leg of their journey?  Is this going to be a “Win – Win” for them and you?

2.) Don’t Hire Over-Qualified Candidates – Help them find their “Win”

We need to acquire people who want “the job” and not just “a job”.  While I want top talent for my teams, I will actively help sell over-qualified candidates that I find too good to pass up, to other parts of the organization.  If no opportunities exist internally, I will help them get connected with the right opportunities outside the organization. 

Over-qualified people are settling for less for some temporal reason, and you are doing neither them nor yourself a favor by hiring them.  Their heart will be yearning for “the thing I really want”, they won’t be focused on your side of the value equation, and they will disappear on you at the most inopportune time.

3.)  Watch Both Sides of the Value Equation – Manage the “Win – Win”  

Our job is to develop team members towards their full potential and give them a platform to prepare for bigger and better things, while doing the things our team needs to get done.  Our investment in them is not completely selfless, because it prepares them to return a superior value to us for an acceptable period of time.  Both you and your team members must be committed to balancing both sides of the value equation.

While this post touches on many of the questions that crave a positive response according to “First Break All the Rules”, the emphasis here is on positively answering the question: “Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?”

Many a corporate culture has run afoul because employees feel the company owes them.  You will experience no greater loyalty, dedication and quality of work, than from someone who feels a greater indebtedness to you as a result of your authentic care.

4.)  Set Them Free – Let them pursue a new “Win”

If you do the first three right, you will maximize the time the high performers will commit to you.  They become your most valuable and productive team members.  They make you look good and get things done, and you come to rely on them to pull your toughest challenges out of the fire and they help share your load. 

The time will come when you have given them all the assignments that stretch them and allow them to shine brightly. You will have given them all the professional and personal development opportunities you can, and cheered them on as they grew from tactical executers to strategic thinkers and progressed from individual contributors to leaders. 

Even when we do everything right in a healthy culture and growing organization, at some point some of our A-Players will outgrow us and the opportunities we can make available to them.  We can no longer fulfill our responsibility for keeping their side of the value equation a “Win”. 

Before it turns into a “Win – Lose” relationship, we need to do the difficult and unnatural thing, and willingly release them and maybe even give them a nudge. 

It’s time to Look with satisfaction and pride at the journey behind us, and bless them and look forward with joy and anticipation to the journey that lies ahead for them. 

With the relationship in tact, our paths will cross and again and maybe even intertwine.

Am I missing something? 

Please reply with your thoughts and experiences.

Book References

There are three books that I have discovered invaluable in honing my own staff management style, and that  I regularly recommend to others.  While the post is based on my experiences, it is also influenced by the relational core principles in these books.

The best book I know on the topic of negotiating is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.The book shifts the paradigm from the traditional self centered “Win-Lose” or “Win-I Don’t Care” approach to a creative and relational approach focused on meeting the essential interests of all the parties, (way beyond a dollar for widget exchange).  The famous and critical “Win – Win”.  Also central to this post are the relational aspects discussed in the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently  and The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People (the book on staff management.  Deserves a dedicated post). 

Related Posts

Common Traits of A-Players  by Auren Hoffman

Shouting Louder

Communication is a critical responsibility of every leader, one typically exercised on a daily basis.  T. Boone Pickens during his Keynote address at the the Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Congress in Orlando this week confirmed what so many of us know to be true.  “There is no such thing as over communication”.  Yet, so often leaders, even very effective communicators who hone and exercise their skill, are caught by surprise when they discover that some of their messages are not received as intended. Make yourself heard

While frequent repetition can reinforce a critical communication, doing so with a message that wasn’t received as intended is analogous to repeating your directions for the subway station at twice the volume to the hand gesturing, guide book toting  tourist.

Are you “shouting louder” when your message isn’t getting through?

Maybe your message recipients aren’t deaf.  Maybe the hours spent determining content and choosing the appropriate form and medium for delivering the message was not all that was necessary to ensure you are communicating.

Frequent and Varied is Not Enough

I have the pleasure of working for a 7,000 person geographically dispersed organization that is more committed to communication than any other I have been a part of to date.  Here is a sampling of very recent communications:

  • Earlier this month Senior divisional leadership stopped by each of the sites to spend time with their staff in “Town Hall” meetings.  A small and intimate forum with a short agenda and the bulk of the time dedicated to face-time for staff directed straight-shooting Q&A on any topic.
  • Each month every staff member receives an update on our progress towards divisional Goals & Objectives.
  • Each Wednesday the divisional communication coordinator launches an email newsletter to our email inboxes, with 5 critical sub-reports on tactical accomplishments, issues and speaking points our top Executive will carry up his chain of command.
  • Earlier this week we received a detailed update on our largest most strategic corporate initiative  
  • Tuesday morning, as each week, I meet with the CIO and several peers for a comprehensive status discussions. 
  • This past Thursday evening I attended our regional Management Development Association event.  A significant part of the evening was dedicated to a Q&A panel of three Senior Vice Presidents.
  • Friday was our monthly extended IT leadership team off-site where 100+ key IT leaders got to hear another Senior Vice President share his divisional strategy. 
  • Before Friday was done everyone had a video message in their  inbox from our Chairman & CEO with a key message.   This is the same CEO who makes a point of meeting with 20 randomly selected employees every other month for candid conversations about whatever is on their minds. 

This and more is normal every day, every week fare that is rooted in a phenomenal commitment to communication.   Form and content is varied and tuned to the audience, our live communicators are passionate, dynamic, transparent, and highly relational.

While most of our communication serves us well most of the time, it apparently was not working for the communication of the very critical Corporate Strategy.

Transmission Does Not Ensure Communication

Communication is not just about preparing great content and delivering it via the best medium in a dynamic way.  We failed to verify that the transmitted message was received by our staff as intended, until we noticed expected behavior changes were not occurring.

We launched a survey to assess understanding of the key strategy concepts.  The survey confirmed that 40% of our staff were not communicated to, despite receiving the message.

Verification is the Missing Key

While this is built into electronic transmission protocols, too often we fail to verify the message we sent is actually received and understood as intended.  If the message is not received as intended, communication did not occur.

While live communication forums lend themselves better to instant verification than say an e-mail blast or webcast, communicators must be intentional to verify all forms and medium as close to the communication event, and then adapt to what they discover.  Even live forms of communication can become a one directional information push if intentional verification isn’t planned in.

When our verification highlighted our shortcoming in communicating the Corporate Strategy, we launched the “Making the Connection” campaign.   Staff supervisors will learn how to communicate the strategy by interactively guiding their staff to co-create the message and group understanding.  Rather than pushing content, the group will participate in putting the strategy into context of business drivers, and connect it to “How does what I do every day connect to the corporate strategy?” in a highly interactive small group forum.

Staff supervisors will focus on intentionally seeking verification of understanding and adapt to lead all members to understanding through active participation.

The Bottom Line

One directional information push is not communication.  Communication requires the interaction between the transmitter and the recipient of the message.

  • First do everything else right
    • Great Content
    • Dynamic Delivery
    • Appropriate Medium
  • During the communication delivery or shortly after, intentionally verify that the message is received as intended and understood
  • Adapt if necessary

The responsibility for ensuring the audience understood the message through intentional verification, rests solely with the communicator of the message.

Only upon verification can we say communication truly occurred.

How recent was your latest e-mail blast from a senior leader and what do you remember of it’s substance?

What communication techniques work best for you?