Passion without Principles

Napoleon Bonaparte once said:

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.

Passion can be a great thing.  It provides drive to accomplish things.  It is an inner energy for something.  It fuels a love for someone or something.  Passion is that attribute of leadership that can accomplish great works, generate great excitement, and inspire others to accomplish even more.  However, without principles to guide it, passion can drive very bad actions as easily as it can very good actions.  Consider the table below:

Passion can drive…Good Actions

Passion can drive…Bad Actions

·       Drive exceptional results

·       Help an employee develop in their career, expand skills, or stretch their capabilities

·       Expand or grow our business

·       Deliver on ambitious objectives previously believed impossible to achieve

·       Create opportunities from challenges

·       Make a difference in the life of a coworker or another individual

·       Compromising standards to meet a project deadline

·       Violating the rights of an individual to meet a deadline or fulfill an urgent request

·       Cheat

·       Compromise values that should guide our behavior and actions

·       Take unnecessary risks that could yield undesirable results

·       A poor decision that incurs long-term negative results

What is that one thing that defines whether passion will be used for good actions or bad actions?  I would argue that it is the principles by which we live, act, and operate.  If we value the principles of compliance, treating others how we want to be treated, achieving success with integrity, doing what we say we will do, and adding value to our company/patients/customers, then our passion will accomplish those positive actions, not the negative.

How can you ensure that your passion (and actions) will always be based on positive principles?  What can we do to drive positive behaviors in our teammates?  How can we emphasize positive use of our passions?  I believe there are three key things that we can do to help ensure we properly channel our passions:

  1. Determine in advance the principles by which we will liveMy wife and I always taught our three kids that the best thing they could do to ensure that they made good decisions under pressure was to decide in advance what boundaries they had.  For instance, if they made a firm commitment in advance that there were no circumstances in which they would experiment with drugs, alcohol, or anything else illegal or immoral, then it would be easier when pressure was applied to say, “No.”  If you wait until you are pressed for an immediate decision, it is much harder to make positive, principled decisions.
  2. Model principled behaviorsYou cannot very easily lead when you say, “do what I say, not what I do.”  There is no credibility in that at all.  So, you need, as a leader, to “walk the talk.”
  3. Reward principled decisionsThe best way to motivate others to retain their passion, but do so in a principled way is to recognize and reward individuals that do so.  Highlighting those actions we consider “good” will re-enforce those behaviors and encourage more of it.

Good leaders demonstrate passion, but they do so in a principled, controlled manner.  How does this speak to you today?

Have a fabulous day!

Expectations without Encouragement lead to a lack of motivation

I was raised in a home where my parents placed high expectations on me and my siblings.  These expectations were reasonable and re-enforced regularly.  For example, though no one on either side of our family had ever completed college, that was an expectation for me as early as I can remember.  Behaving well at school was an expectation.  I was one of those told often, “If you ever get in trouble at school and get spanked, you can expect the same thing when you get home, no questions asked.”  As teenagers, we were expected to find work to earn spending money.  We were expected to be home by the curfew time.  We were expected to do what we would say we would do (or were told to do) and do it well.

In short, there were a number of expectations on me from my parents.  Did I feel these were unreasonable or burdensome?  No, of course not.  And, I think the reason I understood, believed, and accepted these expectations was that my parents were also encouraging to us.  They encouraged us to do well in school.  They attended our school, band, and sporting events to encourage us — not just occasionally, but all of them!  They encouraged us to do more than is expected.  They encouraged us to stretch to expand our abilities or to see just how far we could go.  They supported our teachers.  They encouraged us to choose our friends wisely.  I had friends that did not have parents that provided as much encouragement and it is apparent now that they did not perform as well.  Their efforts were lacking and they simply felt that just getting by was good enough.

I see a number of parallels in our work.  All leaders have certain expectations for us.  They expect us to do our jobs well, do more than the minimum, and work diligently to help the company succeed.  However, the GOOD leaders do much more than establish expectations.  They also provide encouragement.  They follow-up.  They ensure we have the tools and resources needed.  They help us understand the importance of what we are doing.  They recognize us for our efforts though praise, both private and public.  They support us and those working with us.  And, they expect us to do our jobs with minimal interference from them.  Bottom line…  the very BEST leaders use encouragement and support to motivate us to perform much better than we ever would without it.  They elevate our performance by encouraging and motivating us.

As a leader of people, how are you doing in the area of encouragement.  Are you an encouraging parent?  Are you an encouraging coworker?  Are you a consistent encourager of those you work around?  Having expectations without providing a steady and consistent stream of encouragement leads a lack of motivation and, as a result, lesser performance and satisfaction.

Have a wonderful, safe, and productive day!

What exciting thing will happen to you today?

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.  “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.  “It’s the same thing,” he said.”

  • A. Milne (from Winnie the Pooh)


Do you approach each new day with dread, wondering what trials you will endure that day?  Or, do you awake with the excitement of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet?  Each day is a gift with which we can choose to do something honorable, exciting, helpful, courageous, fun, or kind.  Or, we can let the day and its events drag us to a new low.  Someone once said,

“Today is so important that I am giving up a day of my life for it – one which I can never get back.”

So, are you choosing to make today something new and exciting or do you plan to do the same things in the same way and ignore the same people that irritate you in the same way as always?  Today’s challenge is to make this day special… if not for you, do it for someone else.  Add value to someone’s life today.  Do something today that makes a difference for someone else.

The wisdom of Pooh and Piglet apply to us, as well.  Something exciting will probably happen… if we will only open our eyes and look for it.  Have a splendid day!


Anything is possible… if you don’t have to do it yourself

Aspirations without Accountability leads to blame and finger pointing

My wife sometimes calls me a dreamer.  Typically, this is right after I describe some outlandish idea I have about creating a backyard that would make the designers at HGTV drool.  Or, she might say that after my idea of taking all seven of our grandchildren on a trip to every baseball stadium in America next summer.  She has that knack of quickly pulling me back to earth with her practicality.  A simple, “Can you tell me a little bit more about exactly how we would make that happen and who would do it?”  Her simple question of accountability puts an arrow in the heart of my aspirational dream.

Aspirations are easy.  It is easy to declare, “By this time next year, I/we will be the best at ____________.”  Or, “Your goal for this year will be zero downtime and zero material loss.”  OK, easy to say, but nearly impossible to do.  One of my personal favorite quotes is:

Anything is possible if you don’t have to do it yourself.

However, when an aspiration is given without accountability (that is, without resources, budget, support, leadership, technology, etc.), the end result is not usually very pretty.  An aspiration without accountability typically leads to someone asking, “Why didn’t you achieve my aspiration?  Who is to blame or is at fault?  Didn’t you understand what I requested?  What is the root cause for your failure?”  You get the picture.  It is easy to set a high bar of achievement, but we must be practical about what it will take to attain it.  There must be buy in or joint accountability for the result.

So, it is great to be a dreamer as an individual, but you need a dose of practicality lest you make a mess of your backyard.  And, as a leader, establishing aspirational goals is terrific… provided you include yourself and the resources you can bring to the table as partners in the effort.

Have a terrific day!

No, you cannot say “yes” to everyone

Today on The Porch, we look at another of Aesop’s Fables.  This one is called “The Man and His Two Wives.”  Look for the moral of the story as you read:

                                 The Man and His Two Wives: An Aesop Fable

In the old days, when men were allowed to have many wives, a middle-aged man had one wife that was old and one that was young: each loved him very much, and desired to see him like herself.  Now, the man’s hair was turning grey, which the young wife did not like, as it made him look too old for her husband.  So, every night, she used to comb his hair and pick out the white ones.  But, the elder wife saw her husband growing grey with great pleasure, for she did not like to be mistaken for his mother.  So, every morning, she used to arrange his hair and pick out as many of the black ones as she could.  The consequence was the man soon found himself entirely bald. 

So, what is the moral of the story?  According to Aesop, the moral is, “Yield to all and you will soon have nothing left to yield.”

What does this have to do with us?  I think it applies very well to our role as guardians of excellence in our company.  Though we desire to be collaborative and cooperative and “team players”, there is a time when we simply cannot please everyone.  There is a day that we must take a stand for what is right, what is best, or what makes most sense for our company.  We cannot please everyone all the time.  We cannot always meet every desire of every person.  We cannot satisfy the competing demands that often face us.   We cannot say,  “Yes” to one group when we know that our response will create a significant issue in another.

Likewise, we should not always say, “Yes,” to management.  That’s right, you read correctly.  If we always said yes to everything our management wanted or asked, they would not need us.  We need to have enough courage to give our opinion, even in the face of opposition.  We need to tell is “straight” to our manager, even if we think she/he might want to hear something else.  Our companies need individuals with enough courage and confidence to ensure that all sides are considered.

So, if you yield to all, you’ll soon have nothing left to yield.  Good advice for us all!

Have an excellent day!  Thanks for all you do.

The best advice I ever received

I’m sure that we have all be given advice at some time in our lives.  Some advice was probably good (“Don’t drink, smoke, or chew — or go with girls that do.”) and some probably not so good (“Stay away from that Apple stock — those Mac computers are only for teachers.  Compaq is the company I would invest in.).  Some advice has probably helped us through some hard times, while other may have gotten us into trouble.  In the work arena, we, hopefully, sort out the good advice from bad advice and use it to make us better or more productive.  So, today’s question for you is this:

         What is the best advice you’ve ever been given and how did it make a difference to you?

Here are some of the best advice I have ever been given (only a dozen for today – perhaps more in a future edition):

  1. Start meetings on time and end when you’re done – no need to go an hour just because that is what is scheduled and no need to reward those late for the meeting when others arrived on time.
  2. If you aren’t making a positive difference for others, then you are not fulfilling your real purpose.
  3. Silence is often golden.  (Early in my pharmaceutical career, my boss and an FDA investigator sat in silence looking at each other for a full 30 minutes before the investigator gave up hoping he would say something that would support his contention of wrong-doing.  Saying nothing is always better than putting your foot in your mouth.)
  4. Assuming that a PowerPoint presentation is necessary, never create 10 slides when 3 would tell the story just fine.
  5. A great day is not defined by what happens, but by how you respond to what happens.  Therefore, you are in complete control of your attitude.
  6. “You can’t have a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”  (This advice came to me within the last year – I ran across this quote by John Wooden and it just keeps rolling around in my head every time I think my day is going pretty well.)
  7. You don’t know if today will be your last day, so leave people with positive and happy memories of you — just in case!
  8. As a QA professional, remember that anyone can do the job when everything is black and white.  You earn your pay helping others get comfortable in the many shades of gray that we actually live in.
  9. You’re doing no one a favor by failing to develop your replacement and strong bench strength across the organization.
  10. McDonald’s ice cream cones!
  11. Everything can be boiled down to a maximum of three key points – what are they?  Forget the rest.
  12. Someone needs to be thanked today for what they are doing – identify that person and tell them.

Have a terrific and productive day!  Think about the best advice you have ever received and how you can re-apply that advice today.



Nothing cannot happen today

Earlier, we featured a few quotes on The Porch from the American writer, philosopher, and humorist, Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens).  Twain’s words were primarily intended to inject humor into matters of everyday life.  However, much of what he said also applies to us and what we go through in our everyday lives.   Take a read below and see if you agree:

  1. Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – We are all aging, like it or not.  And, as we age, our body parts begin wearing out.  Trust me, I know first-hand.  I think it is important for us to ensure that we treat everyone equally, though, despite their age.  I have seen situations in another company where an individual was completely discounted for an opportunity because he was “past his prime.”  But we need to be careful about even subtle references to age.  For example, we need to avoid tendencies to “assume” we know whether an individual will retire in 3 years or whether that individual might not want to relocate away from her children or grandchildren.  Let’s do our best to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to serve.
  2. Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest. – Have you ever heard anyone say something like, “I expected you would do the right thing, but it still surprises me when I see it these days.”  Yes, others are watching you, but the real value in “doing the right thing” comes to you internally… just knowing that you maintained your integrity in the face of a temptation to cut a corner.   Yes, it may astonish some, but I am gratified knowing that most people will always do the right thing and for the right reasons.
  3. Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today. – Anything can still happen today!  There is still a chance!  We need to believe that we can do amazing this.  If you feel defeated, you are defeated.  If you believe you can do more than anyone expects, there is a good chance you will do it.  Don’t give up on today too quickly.  There is still time to finish that big project, make that important decision, or make an impact on someone that is experiencing a challenging time in their life.  Give it a try!
  4. A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. – Experience is certainly the best teacher we could ever have.  I have often said, “Unless you have worked in one of our manufacturing plants, you have no idea what it takes to accomplish what seems to be simple.  And, unless you have worked in a corporate environment, you have no idea what it takes to reach a consensus on seemingly simple initiatives.”  It is important to remember that only by carrying the cat by the tail, can you speak from experience of what that is like.  And, you probably have the scars to prove it!

Consider Twain’s comments as you go about business today.  Put yourself in the shoes of others.  Keep your integrity.  Believe that today could be an amazing day!  And, rely upon those around you with experience.  Thanks for all you do.  Have a super day!

About my “Best Day Yet” at work

Certainly, the concept of “Best Day Yet” has been discussed a number of times and is referred to frequently in this blog.  Someone recently asked me a couple questions about my thoughts and experiences and I thought it might be valuable to someone else.

Question: “Have you ever had a ‘worst day yet’ at work?  Can you tell about it?”

Yes, I have had some very difficult days at work.  No one day comes to mind as my single ‘worst day’.  However, let me share some of those.  One time, I had just heard from a good friend that his grandson had died.  I just felt an overwhelming sense of loss for my friend, especially so, given that I have been blessed with seven healthy, happy grandchildren.  I have deeply saddened when I have lost a friend, or loved ones, or when colleagues have lost loved ones.  A number of these challenging days have occurred even within the last year.  I have been saddened with the departure of colleagues or when I personally left good friends behind.  I was saddened when good friends experienced great difficulty at a former employer.

Yes, I have difficult days.  But, you notice… none of these ‘worst days’ have been directly related to work.  Though work challenges do sometimes demotivate me or challenge my ability to work through these issues, those personal hurts that affected me directly or those I care about have impacted me much more that things related to work issues.  Sure, work disappointments do occur, but it is important that they be balanced against personal, positive events in my life.

Question: “What has been your ‘Best Day Yet’ at work?  Can you share specifics?”

Again, I can’t really think of a single ‘best day.’  However, I can name a few possibilities, such as days when individuals that have been in my organization or that I have worked with closely are promoted into key positions – those, to me, are some of my best days!  And, I have been blessed to experience a number of these days in the last year or two.  I hope to have many more of these.  Days when the ‘fruit of our labor’ are harvested are best days – I think of successful projects after we have worked diligently for months to execute, or days when key projects are finalized or “go live” – all great days!  Days when personal events have occurred are great days – for example, days when my grandchildren have been born, or started school, or days when my own kids have had successes, or days when my wife and I celebrate anniversaries or highlights – these are ‘best days.’  Days when our company has great successes or days when personal highlights have occurred are always days to remember.

Best days are almost always shared with others, you’ll notice.  I would guess that this is true for you, as well.  Days we remember are not usually days when we accomplished something alone or that we did not share.  Even when we receive an award or are recognized with a promotion, we cannot help but think of those that helped us achieve that accomplishment. 


You can never know when a ‘best day’ or ‘worst day’ might occur.  Typically, for me, these have occurred on days that seemed like ordinary, common days.  I come into my office just like every other day and leave that evening a different person… a person impacted, perhaps permanently, by something good or bad that happened that day.  Cherish those good days, celebrate those highlights, and never take for granted those things and people that make an ordinary day a “best day yet.”

Thanks to all of you that make a positive difference in my life!  Have a terrific, “best day!”


Tips for making excellent hiring decisions

I have often been asked the question, “Given a choice, would you choose the best quality systems in the world or the best people in the world to manage critical quality operations?”  To me, though it is very important to have good quality systems, my choice would be having the very best people.  Even the best quality systems cannot prevent poor judgment, drive for continuous improvement, and ensure that we will work collaboratively with others.  So, how do you choose (or, manage for top performance) those very best employees?  Today, I would like to offer a few tips that I have used for employee selection:

  1. Ability to manage under stress – First of all, the very best employees will have demonstrated an ability to manage not only the routine issues that come before us, but have demonstrated the ability to keep their cool and manage well through a crisis.  It is nearly impossible to know how someone will react in a crisis unless they have gone through one.  A prospective employee that has experienced a crisis in work and walked away with learnings from that experience brings a lot to the table.
  2. Evidence on how the candidate would treat others – To gauge how the prospective employee might treat others, I often ask myself, “Would I want to work for this individual?  Would I want my wife, or son, or daughter to work for this person?”  When you honestly ask this question, you can often quickly make a selection decision.
  3. Ability to add value – I also like to answer this question, “If every employee was exactly like this person, what kind of company would we have?”  In short, you should assess the potential value the individual could add to the company and your team.  When your answer is something other than “terrific”, you might consider whether this is the right individual.
  4. How they represent my values – When I hire an individual, they will be representing not only our company, but me personally.  Thus, I want individuals I hire to represent the values I have, the approach to quality/leadership that I have, and be an individual that you feel certain will act professionally in every situation.
  5. Ambition and energy – The very best employees will also have a drive to improve, exceed expectations, and learn much more than the specific job might offer.  Ambition is an important indicator of future success.  Certainly, this ambition cannot be solely individual ambition.  The ambition I seek is the kind that seeks the very best, is not satisfied with a so-so result, and is excited about achieving something new and excellent.  If you don’t see this during an interview, you probably won’t see it on the job.
  6. Ability to work well with others – Finally, I want to hire individuals that are personable.  Because working with others is so important to quality organizations, individuals in our groups must care for others and honestly want to develop relationships.  These individuals also seek to add value to the lives of others.  Look for these characteristics.

All of us struggle to make those perfect hiring decisions and occasionally fail to hit a home run.  However, by applying these six elements to your search for both internal and external candidates, your chances of make a great decision are much better.

Have a truly quality day.  And, don’t forget to let someone know how you feel about them.  Tell someone that you appreciate them and what they do.

The best team doesn’t always have the most talent

Teams without trust lead to poor performance

How many times have you seen sporting events in which the team with the most talent did not win?  I have seen this situation in nearly every sport.  The team that everyone assumed would win because their talent was superior to everyone else did not win.  Conversely, the best “team” can win even when its talent is possibly less than anyone else.  This past October, there was a celebration in Kansas City for the baseball World Series Champion Royals.  One of the players spoke at the event and said the Royals did not have the best pitcher in the league, they did not have the best overall player in the league, they did not have the best rookie in the league, or the best defense in the league.  But, he said, the Royals had the best, most cohesive “team” in the league and that’s why they are the world champions.

It is well known that trust is a key element in team success.  If you cannot trust your teammates, you tend to feel that you have to do key tasks yourself.  And, if everyone feels that same lack of trust, the members do not believe in others and, eventually, that lack of trust results in unexpectedly poor performance of the team.  Imagine a situation in which a team of high performers was chosen to execute a highly complex and important activity for the company.  If the members fail to trust each other, members attempt to work individually, not believing that others are capable of doing the job adequately.  If everyone starts working individually, communication fails, the best ideas are not openly discussed, and the overall quantity and quality of work is inadequate.  And, along the way, the team members end up working longer and harder to overcome the poor performance of the team.  So, you can see that trust is essential for a high-performing team.

What does trust look like on a high-performing team?  Below are a few attributes that come to mind:

  1. In a trusting team environment, everyone believes that each teammate is capable of doing work to the same level of quality, quantity, and timeliness as the individual.  Thus, members can each focus on doing their best work with their piece of the effort without feeling the need to double-check everyone else.
  2. In a trusting team environment, everyone believes that the sum total of the team’s work is better than anything any individual could do alone.
  3. In a trusting team environment, the work is shared.  Thus, no one individual must shoulder an inordinate burden of the work.
  4. In a trusting team environment, no one must be told what to do.  Members naturally see the gaps and jump in to ensure the success of the team.
  5. In a trusting team environment, members believe that every other member is motivated to seek the very best for the team and its individual members — not seek individual attention, glory, or recognition.
  6. In a trusting team environment, members believe in each other, celebrate successes together, and share equally in the challenges faces and the victories that come.  In other words, team members win together as a team or they lose together as a team.  No one stands alone either way.

Indeed, trust is critical and must be nurtured, grown, sought, and encouraged.  Are we intentionally growing trust on our teams?  Can you identify teams that perform less than anticipated as a result of mistrust?  Consider how you and your teams can do this more and better.  Have a fantastic day!