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Monday, August 30, 2010

It's about the people

We had a full weekend. It was my wife's birthday, I had a leadership retreat at church, and then there was the regular stuff you do when you're not working.

Then, there was an extra event at church on Sunday night. It was called "Just Duet" where people who did't usually perform together, collaborated and provided entertainment for the gathering (there was ice cream).

It's not my cup of tea. I'm not one who typically sits around and watches others perform musical arrangements. I had a good excuse. I asked Lisa if she would be upset if I didn't go with her (she likes sitting and listening to music like this). She said, "no, of course not". Instead, I was going to hang out with our son, who was over for the weekend.

Then, at some point before the program, it hit me. The point of the program wasn't the music. The point (including these 2 sub-points) were 1) get people, who didn't know each other very well, to work together and make something pretty and 2) to get people together to spend time and a nutshell, the point was about building relationships.

That's when I changed my mind and decided to attend. The music was great, but that's not why I was there.

It was about the people.

Checking in

It's been a long time since I've written -- about 5 months. I posted pretty much every day for the 9 months before that. At first, I wrote because I had things I wanted to say and it was therapeutic for me, especially when I was between jobs. Then, I wrote because I'd made a commitment to do so. Finally, I was writing more posts than I had ideas to write about.

Really, how many times can you say the same thing about leadership and service? Sure, you can come at ideas from different directions, but at some point you run out of angles. There were other blogs I read pretty regularly, blogs by people much more talented and prolific than me. I even saw them struggling to write worthwhile pieces that would speak to others.

I think if I'd ever had any regular kind of following, I might have continued to write. If people had come to me for advice (and a few did), I might have kept it up.

No, I just ran out of steam.

Even though my blog never took off, there are some pretty good posts in these pages. I'm proud of them. Maybe, some day, someone who hasn't heard all these ideas from my perspective, will find a few useful.

At any rate, there's never a shortage of need for good leaders or servants. We can never study or practice enough in these areas. That's where I'm trying to go with my life...and I'm finding opportunities.

Hopefully, you will, too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Heart of Giving

What do our hearts have to do with giving? Don't we decide when we'll give of ourselves, of our possessions? Don't we also decide where and to whom we will give? Don't we decide with our brains or does this question have more to do with decisions made with emotion versus reason?

I once heard a speaker say that we decide with our hearts -- our emotions -- and then we rationalize those decisions with our brains. I think he was saying that most of our decisions are emotional ones. I don't know if that's true or not.

Could examining the heart of giving relate more to being active rather than passive with our giving? Could the heart of giving be more about looking for opportunities to give rather than waiting for opportunities to present themselves?

There are plenty of opportunities to help others and to give. Should we wait for those opportunities to fall in our laps or should we seek out those in need?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reasoning: Listen to Abe

Abraham Lincoln said, "When I'm getting ready to reason with a man, I spend 1/3 of my time thinking about myself and what I'm going to say, and 2/3 thinking about him and what he's going to say."

On the surface, he could have been referring merely to active listening. You know, to get the most out of a conversation, you need to set your ideas aside, keep your mouth shut and let the other person talk.

That answer is a fine one. I wonder, too, if we should focus on the word, "reasoning" to capitalize on President Lincoln's deeper point. I think he means "reasoning" in the sense of talking with or persuading another person logically and persuasively.

One might conclude that, in order to be the most successful in reasoning with another individual, we need to understand the ideas that the other person holds true. We need to endeavor to glean the point of view and be open to discussing it.

The way we can best do this is to actively listen and try to exhibit an empathetic spirit, even if (especially if) we don't agree with the point or points the other person is embracing.

How can we expect to persuade another to our point of view if we're not willing to be open to discussion and understanding? How can we be effective with our ideas if we don't understand the background and contexts? It can be extremely uncomfortable, yet very effective.

What do you think?

The worst evils

"The worst evils in the world aren't done by evil people. They're done by good people who don't know they're not doing good." ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Let's think about that. There are countless examples of good people who've caused great damage to other human beings, to themselves, and to the world. Wars fit into this category. Things now thought of as "crazy" in the medical or scientific worlds, have done great damage. So much of the damage is caused by ignorant, good people.

Now, let's think about it again, but after filtering out people:

1. who we know of today, but who aren't close to us.
2. who lived before us and who we know about through history.

Who does that leave? It leaves us.

Now, since we're fallible humans, there's no way to ever rid ourselves of committing "the worst evils." They're going to happen.

What we can do is always try to think. We've got to think about our actions -- with our families, with our friends, with those at work (especially when we're leaders) -- and do our best to make thoughtful, instead of thoughtless decisions.

I think we can all agree that we don't want to commit one more of those worst evils if there's any way we can avoid it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


What do you tolerate from yourself and those on your team?

So many leaders talk about how busy they are and how much work they have to do. They don't seem to be able to get ahead, working in crisis mode all the time.

Is it that there's too much to do? That's possible. Companies are asking bosses to do more with fewer bodies almost as a matter of course these days.

On the other hand, the problem could be that leaders are not effectively managing.

How about you, as the leader? Do you communicate well? Do those on your team know what's expected of them? Are each of your team members pulling their own weight? Is the work equitably distributed?

Are there some "weak sisters" on the team? If so, why are you tolerating less from them?

Why is that? Why do you tolerate some or all of your people getting by instead of fully contributing? Is it that:
  1. She's the owner's sister or daughter?
  2. He's scary and intimidating either physically or verbally?
  3. She "has something" on you that you don't want known?
  4. He is your friend...someone you grew up with or maybe even owe a favor to?
  5. You feel sorry for her because she has had a rough life and you just can't stand to be "mean"?
  6. No one else knows how to do what he does? Is it that he has successfully undermined your efforts to have anyone else learn how to perform his critical tasks?

Regardless, if you don't stand up and act like a leader, any of these situations can cripple your tenure as the boss and definitely keep you from being effective. Other than #1, above, where the owner may tell you the problem person is a friend or relative and consequently untouchable, you have a choice.

Do you tolerate poor performance like this from your people? MORE IMPORTANTLY, do you tolerate this poor leadership performance from yourself?

Think about it...and then act.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Passion for your work

I have a friend who once told me that she looked forward to going to work every day.

What?!? I thought she was crazy or just plain lying to me...

I had never felt anything like that. It's not that I haven't liked many of my jobs. I've had some pretty good ones over the years. Still, I can't ever remember looking forward to going to work.

I started a new job on March 1. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. I feel so strongly aligned to that position and what it is designed to accomplish, that I feel really passionate about work for the first time in my life.

This is very strange for me. I was once an Army officer. I was very proud of what I did and extremely proud of serving with some really great people. I felt we were true public servants. Later in my careers, I had a job that provided the opportunity to help improve the physical quality of peoples' lives and that was very rewarding. I was happy to be a part of these organizations.

I didn't love going to work. I didn't look forward to it...even when I liked what I did.

Let me return to the idea of passion. From my current position, looking back, what I think has been missing is the sheer passion I now feel for what I'm doing and where I am.

I was speaking to a young man today who told me what he was passionate about and then said he wasn't sure he was going to follow that passion. I cautioned him to not end up like me, just finding my passion at the age of 50. I tried not to do that...I tried to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. I just couldn't. I hope he didn't mind too much.

If you know what you're truly passionate about, don't let it pass you by. Don't waste years messing around. Grab on to your passion and make the most of it that you can.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Everybody has a story

I don't know if you remember the segment that reporter Steve Hartman used to have on the CBS Evening News called, "Everybody has a story". The segment was just that. "To prove his point, Hartman would toss a dart over his shoulder at a map of the United States, and then travel with his cameraman, Les Rose, to wherever the dart landed." Steve would then find a phonebook in that town and choose a name at random, hoping the person would share his or her "story" with him.

Sometimes Steve uncovered rare talent. Occasionally, he found out some pretty odd hobbies or habits. Other times Steve heard some sage words of wisdom. Always, he found out something interesting.

I've thought about that lately as I've had the opportunity to talk with a lot of new people in my life. Everybody has a story...if you just bother to ask and are interested enough to listen.

Think about the people at your work, in your social groups, in your places of worship, and ask yourself some questions. How well do you know those people? Do you have any idea about their "stories"?

If the answer is that you don't really know them and their stories, then maybe you might consider mustering up the interest and the inclination to try and find out. It could be very enlightening and very rewarding.

After all...everybody has a story.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


At the end of the book, "Monday Morning Leadership", there is a list of Synergy principles. One of the principles is The Principle of Optimism that states "Results improve in proportion to the self-esteem and attitude of the leader."

What do you think that means? I think it means that just like the idea that success breeds success so optimism breeds optimism.

One strong way to help your team act positive and optimistic is to exhibit a positive attitude about:

1. The mission -- you don't have to think the mission will be easy, but you're positive the team can make it happen.
2. The team -- everyone is of value and has something to contribute.
3. Yourself -- you are worthwhile as a team member and a leader.

We have to keep remembering that our team members are constantly watching us and they take their cues, both positive and negative, by what we do and say...and by what we don't do or say.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


It's natural...bosses typically have a team member they regularly "favor" and someone who's on their "list". You see it time and again. It's not fair and it's often not right, but it happens.

The best boss I ever had in my entire career thought I was great while one of my colleagues got on his last nerve regularly.

So what is it about favorites? Do we play favorites with people who have common likes and dislikes? Is it about ideas and ideals where team members who think like us get more of our positive attention?

And what about the one (hopefully it's only one) who just irritates the snot out of us? Is it the flip side of our favorites, above? Is it that what we find so unappealing in others are the same traits that we hate the most in ourselves?

Regardless, it's our job, as leaders, to be fair, "bend over backwards" fair. Remember a time when you felt someone else was being favored over you and how it kind of stunk.

While worry isn't always that positive an activity, it's OK to worry about being fair...because it's that important.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too Many Chiefs

I attended a volunteer group meeting last night for a local charity. Our team leader is a very capable man who did his best to build consensus and still move us in a direction.

The biggest challenge I think this team leader had was to manage team members who were used to being in charge. He did fine.

It reminded me, though, since I was there, I'm used to being in charge, and I was just another team member in the meeting, that I was part of the challenge.

I reflected afterwards that I didn't want to be a problem. I wanted to be considered a helper and supporter.

What we all need to remember, when we find ourselves in situations like this, is to work towards heightened sensitivity and situational awareness. It doesn't mean that if we're not in charge, then we need to shut up and be submissive. It does mean that we need to allow ourselves to be led.

Good leaders are good followers...we just have to keep reminding ourselves.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"No Problem is Unique to you"

I've been working through Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell for a 2nd time.

On page 19 Tony, the mentor in the story, tells his new "mentee", "When it comes to leading people, there is no problem that is unique to you."

I know there are a few readers out there who are not leaders or managers and some say that what I write about doesn't apply to them because they don't hold one of those positions.

OK, so let me change the quote: "When it comes to relationships with other people, there is no problem that is unique to you." Does that make all of us feel better now?

The point is that human beings are the same the world over. We all have issues with communication, with perceptions, and with sensitivities/sensibilities.

When we have problems with others, whether in leadership or in any kind of relationship (maybe it's with a spouse or with a boss), they are not unique to us.

We can take solace in that. We can hold our heads up high, even when we face problems, because we know we are not alone...and there's probably someone out in our world who we know and who can relate to what we're experiencing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ends Justify the Means...Do They?

Man, this is tough. I was asked to write about this topic a few weeks ago and I'm just getting around to it. Partially, it's been because I had easier topics and partially, because I'm not sure what to say.

"The ends justify the means". It's a very famous quote. It's also an endless struggle for most of us. Does it matter how we do something that will benefit us, or perhaps many, as long as we get the results desired...the results we want?

I can write a big, long post about the ends justifying the means when it comes to national or international politics, relationships, power, etc. I could cover subjects like right to life, capital punishment, welfare or some other social crises. I'm not going to do that.

There are enough issues relating to to this idea in our everyday lives. What this post will touch on is a bit of the struggle this idea causes when it comes to relationships, leadership, business, and our personal lives.

BEFORE I START: There's a big difference between making tough business decisions and treating other people poorly to help ourselves. I just wanted that to be said.

Do the ends justify the means? YES, they do...sometimes. Then again NO, they don't...sometimes.

Look at these examples and think about when the end might justify the means. Then read the examples again and think about when the end might not justify the means:

Is it OK:
~ to lie in order to make people feel better about themselves?
~ to lie in order to make other people like you better?
~ to lay one person off in order to keep everyone else employed?
~ to cut everybody's pay in order to not lay anyone off?
~ to manipulate a boss to do what you think he or she should be doing because that's the way you think the boss should act?
~ to manipulate a team member into believing an idea was his or hers in order to help them feel more engaged about the idea?

Where do the examples end? They don't. They go on forever.

Here's a little advice:

  • 1. Remember the golden and/or platinum rules:
  • GOLD: treat others like YOU want to be treated
  • PLATINUM: treat others like THEY want to be treated (not how you think they should)
  • 2. Applying integrity to situations based on #1.

  • Other than that, we need to weigh the options/outcomes in any decision, do a cost-benefit analysis, and ensure that whatever decisions we make are not being made for personal reasons or personal gain.

    So, do the ends justify the means? I really don't have a clue. I could go either way, depending....

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Your boss doesn't want bad news

    Nobody does.

    What can you do? Not tell him? That would be bad.

    So what can you do? You make the news as easy to take as possible:

    1. Tell them early: bad news isn't like fine doesn't get better with age.

    2. Give them all the facts: going in with only some of the details almost makes it worse...keeping #1 in mind, gather as much info as you can and then let the boss know.

    3. Give them a plan or options to fix the problem: just dumping a problem in the boss's lap isn't that helpful and won't be very appreciated.

    Bad news is going to have to be shared eventually, but it doesn't have to be overly painful. Take a proactive approach, keep as positive a demeanor as possible, and be honest.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Bloom where you're planted

    A long, long time a far away place...I was given some very sage advice. I was a young Army officer who wasn't getting the breaks like I had hoped or expected. I could give you a list, but I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that I never got my first choice of anything...and that was frustrating when I'd see some folks around me who got theirs.

    OK...the advice. I was sharing my above frustration with a very kind soul who I really didn't know and have only a vague memory of today. He was some Major or Colonel and he was listening. What I do remember was that he quietly heard what I had to say and then said something like, "Let me give you some advice. Life's too short and most of us never get all the breaks we're looking for. Bloom where you're planted. That's what you can do. That's what you can control."

    Bloom where you're planted.

    You may have heard this saying before. I hadn't ever heard it before this gentleman shared it with me. I guess, to me, it means we can't control everything. We can't always get everything we want. We can't always end up with the job or position that we would like or think we deserve. Decisions like these typically belong to someone else.

    What we can do is be our VERY BEST with whatever job we have, in whatever place we are, working with whatever people are on our team. For some of us, it means quitting our whining and bellyaching and just doing what needs to be done.

    This is what we can control and this is where we can excel.

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    "Life's not all Beer and Skittles"

    Note: The "Skittles" from the quote was a game that was a precursor to bowling, not the candy by that name. In the 19th century, it was considered a great pastime to hang out at the tavern playing skittles and drinking beer. The quote is from Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays, 1857.

    We've got it all figured out. We're going to do X, Y, and Z. Our plan is in place. We've got it all wrapped up and tied with a bow.

    Then life throws us a curve (or probably several and sometimes at the same time). Maybe it's health issues. Perhaps it's employment problems. Is it relationship troubles? It could be that life just isn't turning out the way we had expected or dreamed.

    So what is there to do about it?

    I guess we have a few choices:

    • We can grouse and complain. We can pitch fits because life's not fair, because it's not how it's supposed to be. Where do you think that will get us?
    • We can work to fix the issues and problems and make life more like we had hoped.
    • We can roll with the unforeseen events, making the best of the lives that we have.
    Regardless of what we choose, we can't hope to completely control our lives. What we can hopefully do is be mature enough to adapt and keep a positive attitude as much as possible.

    Let's face it. We're supposedly grown-ups and life's not all beer and skittles.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    What are your strengths?

    I was recently helping a woman work on interviewing skills so she could find a job.

    When I asked her what her strengths were, she said "I don't have any, I guess." She didn't see what value she could bring to a company. As I started asking questions, we determined that she did have some strengths that would be of value to most employers.

    What about you? Whether you have a job or not, do you understand what your strengths are? Do you know what value you can bring to a job or organization?

    Even if you don't have much work experience in a particular field, you may have some core attributes that make you attractive to bosses. These attributes relate much more to who you are than what you know:
    • Do you have a positive attitude, in general?
    • Do you do what you say you will do?
    • Are you dependable?
    • Do you follow-up?
    • Do you show up for work and arrive on time?
    • Are you trustworthy?
    These strengths may sound too basic to you. I can honestly tell you that bosses need these attributes more than any teachable skill.

    Employers can teach skills...they can't teach attitude.

    Take a look at yourself and think about what you have to offer.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Do You Support DOUBLE STANDARDS On Your Team?

    Back in November, I wrote a post about Double Standards and the impact managers "doing as I say, not as I do" has on team morale (see post here).

    I want to revisit the subject of Double Standards. It appears that some of the leaders who say that Double Standards have no place in their organization need to do a reality check.

    I'd like to help with that. Therefore, I have a few questions for managers to help them determine if Double Standards (no matter how small they seem) might actually exist in their offices:

    Do you have a policy or rule stating that:

    1. Team members must park in less convenient parking spaces so customers have the best ones...but then you end up parking right up front because you're busy and you have to run out a lot and you're only there for a minute (or hour or day)?

    2. Lunch is exactly one hour, but you habitually take longer even when the lunches aren't business related...because you work more than 40 hours a week and so the rule wasn't really meant for you?

    3. No food and/or drink are allowed at the desks because it looks unprofessional to customers...but you actually have an office and a door so your office looks like a small convenience store? After all, the customers don't go in there.

    4. Snacks and/or drinks are provided only for the customers so you make staff members bring their own snacks and drinks...but you're so busy that you didn't get to take lunch or you have to work late and so you deserve to get free snacks from the company.

    5. Staff must greet or, at least, acknowledge customers within 3-5 seconds of them entering your establishment or the team members get in trouble...but you don't directly work with customers so you can go so far as ignore them. I mean, it's not really your job, is it?

    And, the list goes on...

    If you don't think your team members notice such small, little things, you are probably smoking something illegal.

    You want to help morale in your office? Then make sure you follow your own rules. Nothing hurts team attitudes more than bosses who apply one set of rules for the team and then have a "special" set for themselves.

    Do you have any other examples of rule breaking like above?

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Evolve, Adapt, Persevere

    I'm one of those CAN DO people, and you know many of us, who are people of action. When we see problems that need solutions, we're ready with the answers. When we see people who have issues, we try to fix the problems. That's what we do...we fix things.

    We're used to having the resources necessary to do the jobs that we think need to get done. We're used to facing up to obstacles and blowing through them or slinging them out of the way.

    That was, of course, when we still had resources...when we still had money and people. With the economy the way it is, organizations have had to take very hard looks at their budgets and their resources. They've cut back, but the missions have typically remained the same, haven't they?

    There are some of us who have the mindset that "if I can't do it 100%, then it's not worth my investment and I can't be a part of it." Of course, like we said, the missions don't stop. I even know some people who, when the resources don't fit into their "criteria of acceptable", just throw their hands up in the air and give up. "I can't work like this!" they cry.

    Some of us need to do a serious reality check.

    Those of us who work with people like this need to be willing to stand up and preach Evolve, Adapt, Persevere!

    Certainly, most of us would like our realities to go back and be like they were when the economy was good. We can't go back in time. We can't change the past. We can reasonably hope that things will get better eventually.

    What we can do is put our heads down and work. What we can do is look at the mission with fresh eyes. Instead of saying "we can't do it", we can say "how can we get it done?" in the context of current reality.

    What we can do is listen to the words that Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

    Don't be afraid to embrace it. Don't be afraid to say it. Don't be afraid to champion it.

    As leaders, can we afford to do less?

    Thursday, January 14, 2010


    Let me tell you about my day.

    I turned 50 years old.

    I laid in bed until 7:00 and then I got up and went to the gym.

    I opened birthday cards and replied to birthday emails from friends and family.

    And I thought...a lot.

    People say, "Oh, doesn't being 50 bother you?" "Don't you hate getting old?" "I can't believe you're that old!"

    My 50th birthday does not bother me from an aging perspective. I'm one day older than yesterday. There are a lot of ways that I'm better at 50 than I ever was at 25.

    What bothers me about being 50 is the amount of time and money I've wasted focusing on me. I live and have lived a blessed life. I've had a lot of opportunities that other folks haven't had.

    I'm reminded of some of the times I've said to myself that I should have gotten more involved, that I should have stopped and taken the time to help someone else out, that I should have thought more about being the type of servant I preach about.

    No, when I look at myself at 50, I don't see "old", I see wasted opportunity.

    I'm a person who loves the idea of a clean slate, of an opportunity to start fresh. My 50th birthday gives me another chance to do that. My goal, for the next 50 years (Halls don't die young...we hang around irritating people), is to focus and refocus every day on the needs of others around me -- people I know and others who I will never meet.

    God put us on this earth to serve our fellow human beings and I am re-dedicating myself to those efforts. Hopefully, I'll do better for the next 50.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Threats and Alliances

    It’s not uncommon, in business, to talk about threats. It certainly makes sense when you’re looking at threats outside your business. There’s even a matrix that’s often used called a SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Some of the threats referred to here are ones that come at you from political, economic, social, and/or technological areas. Some organizations also look at internal threats to business like poor leadership, financial problems, etc.

    People also look at threats personally. “Who is a threat to me and my position?” “Who can threaten my security?” I have worked with people who definitely looked at particular coworkers as threats or enemies. To combat these threats, they looked to make alliances…yes, alliances like countries do. That’s some kind of teamwork, huh? Yeah, right.

    If you are currently working in an environment, or someday find yourself in a work environment that makes you start thinking about threats and alliances, you have a few choices:

      1. Start making those alliances with people who can help you fight back your threats.
      2. Leave. Get the heck out of Dodge. Try to find an organization where the team culture is positive.
      3. Look at yourself and see why someone might legitimately be a threat to your work “well being”. If someone is doing a better job than you, is that the other person’s fault or yours?

    I think #1 is just plain bad. #2 should be a last resort. I recommend #3.

    The whole idea of personal threats at work is most often a red herring. The real problem is often us, ourselves. Think about how you can best contribute and work to be the most outstanding employee, leader, and teammate you can be. Then you shouldn't have to worry about anyone else.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Contributing, 2010

    Warning! Warning! Meaning of Life post coming up!

    It's another year. I've heard and read many sentiments about how people are really glad that 2009 is over. 2009 was definitely a challenging and life-changing year for me (as if they all aren't, but this one even more so).

    You know what was different though, between 12/31/09 and 1/1/10? There was just a difference in one day between them. Life goes on, we all get older, rich people keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

    We have responsibilities. We have responsibilities to our families, our jobs, to our country and, hopefully, to God.

    If we are responsible people, in general, we also have a responsibility to our fellow human beings. There are plenty of people around us who are struggling in life. No matter how bad we have things, there are always people who are struggling more.

    We can help. It doesn't matter how much. One of my relatives writes personal cards to people who are alone, hurting, or struggling, letting them know others care about them. Another relative works in a "closet" where people can donate items and needy people can come and get clothes or other items they need. I have a friend who opened her home to a foster child and is most assuredly giving the child the most stable life he's ever experienced. I know people who volunteer their time in a number of charitable organizations.

    I have just started volunteering, myself. You can, too. You don't have to look very hard. There are opportunities available for small investments of time or for regular, larger commitments. You can give money, and that is always appreciated, but you can give your time...our most precious commodity of all.

    Let's move on from 2009, one day at a time, and make a difference in 2010.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Who's to blame?

    We had the underwear bomber try to attack us in America on Christmas Day. It shouldn't have happened. There were lots of signs now that the picture has been put together. Information was available in bits and pieces, but nothing was clear at the time.

    No person or group in our government is taking responsibility for our failures because doing so means career or "reputational" (is that a word?) suicide. So, we blame.

    Have you ever seen an obviously guilty person try to blame another so the attention will be moved away from him or her? One might argue that this is what we, as a government, are doing now.

    Hold on a minute. This is NOT "government-bashing". This problem of blame seems to be, unfortunately, culturally driven. We have a problem with this culture in America, in the whole world, and in humanity, itself.

    It's easier to look at the mistakes others make than to look at the ones we make ourselves. It always has been and, sadly, probably always will be...unless we make a concerted effort to change. We've got to move away from blame and move toward learning. Blame is NOT a tool for learning. Blame only helps people be afraid to stand up and say what didn't go right and what could go better. Blame helps us feel better because, like I said above, when we point the finger at others, we're hoping no one is looking at us.

    The healthy and smart thing to do is ask ourselves (and I when I say "ourselves" it can mean the government, it can mean people in business, it can mean charity organizations, and it can mean us, in our personal lives) what role WE had to play in what didn't go right. We all have to stand up and be counted and we shouldn't be allowed to blame anyone else.

    I'm happy that our president is pulling all the heads of the intelligence organizations together to try to get to the bottom of our problems fighting terror organizations. Instead of inter-service rivalries, the leaders need to see what role their teams had to play or could have played to ensure our country's safety. These leaders need to get over themselves and think about the people they serve.

    I don't really expect much. I'd like to say I'm cautiously optimistic, but that might be a stretch.

    OK, so instead of just railing against territorial agencies and their leaders in our government, what can we do to help change the human culture, to change our culture here in the US? We can start by trying to live, work, and play in a NO-BLAME ZONE. When we encounter an outcome that we don't like or we know is bad, we can look inside ourselves and ask what role we had to play. We can ask ourselves what we could have done, directly or indirectly, to keep the bad from happening and to make the good materialize.

    It's up to each of us. Yes, it's hard. It's a life's work. It can be done.