10 Little Ideas that Improve Civility and Make Life Better!

The greater good – seems by reading the news these days that many of our leaders aren’t interested in the greater good, and it is hard to hold the line of self-discipline against what benefits you and what serves the greater good, especially when we are faced with so much bad behavior. Our challenges these days are multilayered and complex, but here are ten things that are not, and that can immediately improve our sense of community.

  1. Turn Signals – and as many other forms of basic courtesy as possible.
  2. Letting someone get in front of you in the grocery store (we are all in a hurry, always.)
  3. Smiling at your coworkers.
  4. Taking one beat before speaking out in irritation; a short pause before reacting.
  5. Just…Listen.
  6. Ask questions – don’t assume.
  7. If you do assume, assume good intent.
  8. Be willing to follow intelligently and gracefully and appropriately (not sheep like).
  9. Be willing to interact with those around you (put the flat thing down).
  10. Practice kindness. This makes you stronger, not weaker.

And by the way, when you begin with an intent to improve or influence an outcome for the greater good, no matter how seemingly small…that is leadership and it is no small thing.


The Wound

The Wound
I took myself off Facebook yesterday, just for the day, and I had such improved focus and clarity. There is so much angry noise, and I don’t have a problem with anger or noise, but much of this is picking at a wound. All sides feel this wound. Wounds need time and air to heal, and sometimes bandages. But the skin is still active, things are happening, the bandages temporary.  The skin and body supporting it need nourishment, rest, recovery.

Paradoxical thinking
The ability to hold two conflicting ideas in our mind at the same time reflects a certain sophistication of thought. Your “right” doesn’t win over (shall we say, trump) my “left.”  We are conditioned for the “either/or choice”, but often we need a “both/and” approach. Our amazing, beautiful, conflicted, difficult, still young, experimental democracy could benefit from some paradoxical thinking at every level. But first, listen. Sit down and break bread with someone you don’t agree with, and be willing to listen. When your blood begins to boil, seek to understand. Use the ground rules of building a relationship and find some common ground. We are all just people, trying to do the best for our families. If you can’t yet bear to hear, take some time.

Borrowing Trouble
Can we not borrow trouble right now? We have enough. Eyes open, but also looking out and up?

Creating a Life Purpose Statement



Much of our Executive Leadership coursework revolved around the idea of self-leadership as being step one in the leadership readiness arsenal.   To this end, we did a lot of work on our personal and professional leadership point of view.

An excerpt from my journal, July 2014:

Life Purpose Statement

I have spent a lot of time over the past few years learning from a variety of difficult and painful life lessons as well as experiencing many joyous, inspiring and beautiful moments. From these experiences I believe my life purpose to be this:

  • Love deeply and fully and without fear
  • Lead an interesting life with rich experiences
  • Be clear in my purpose and encourage others to define theirs as well
  • Advance my expertise in Culture, Leadership and Organizational Development
  • Write about what matters most to me
  • Develop and build skills in myself and others
  • Create calm and peace in our busy world
  • Teach my child well
  • Continuously learn and have fun in the process
  • Advance the understanding of what is enough for a satisfying life
  • Celebrate what I already have and have achieved

This didn’t just roll out of my head on to the paper. This took thought, reflection, courage, patience, and an iterative mindset.  It takes many months and a willingness to refine and revise.  One question to jumpstart your thinking:  When you are at the end of your life, what do you want to not have regrets about?  What will you want to say you’ve achieved? You can start crafting yours today…you will know when you’ve gotten to the essence of what your life purpose is. At that time, you are done…until your perspective changes and you decide to edit further.  Keep it handy to review regularly.  This creates a life-long practice of staying clear on what matters most to you, at whatever stage of life you are in. Enjoy!


Service Failure

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who was talking about his experience at a respected hotel in Beverly Hills. He was there for an auction and upon arrival, wasn’t able to check in even though he had a reservation and it was well after 3:00.  The hotel management was appropriately apologetic and was offering drinks, dinner, etc., but that wasn’t what he needed.   He was experiencing a service failure.   What he needed was the room.  My colleague expressed this to them and explained the reasons why and after a time, eventually got into his room.  That was all he wanted.  Not a huge crisis, but still.

There is a mentality today in our culture that when there is a service failure, be it a hair in your salad or your room not ready, that management will throw freebies at the problem. This started out as a kindness that was offered a customer, a way of saying “I’m sorry.”  I respect the sentiment behind these hospitable gestures.  What has evolved, however, is an unintended cultural consequence in which consumers now feel entitled to something free every time a mistake occurs.  Now, I understand that compensation for a serious problem is a way of proving that you recognize an error, but I think it should be used more judiciously than it is, and customers shouldn’t be “working” the system just because they ordered their steak wrong.

So what constitutes true hospitality?

I have been thinking about this a lot over the course of my career. Restaurants and hotels and other service providers teach it, and they often teach it in a way that can miss the mark.  In my opinion, hospitality must be individualized to be authentic, but if there is one common denominator it would be to truly LISTEN to what your customer is saying with their words, their tone, and their body language and find the solution that best suits them.  You can hear it when you ask a customer how they like their food, and they say “fine” in a way that makes you probe a little more because the verbal response doesn’t match the tone or physical statement.  You can feel the unsaid “but” when you present an idea to co-workers that they don’t respond to.  It is harder to uncover the nuances with those you don’t know, but I find that that people who are tuned into to the social cues AND truly want to be hospitable are able to discern the less obvious dissatisfaction, and can then identify a problem and find a solution.    So hospitality…requires the willingness to read and respond to social cues in addition to understanding what solutions are possible; a graceful temerity in the face of potential conflict, and a true and authentic desire to help.

And leadership?

I have often hesitated at a restaurant in telling a server or manager about a problem because I know they are going to try to “fix” it by giving me something free. It can be so difficult to make a profit at a restaurant, and most people working in restaurants are hard workers in an often unrewarding environment.  I don’t want or need free.  What I really want is to let them know of the problem so that they can fix it and tell the chef, clean the restroom, take the chipped glass.   I don’t need a free dessert or drink.  I am not trying to get anything and what concerns me the most is that often, “hospitality” training gets in the way of true hospitality.  So, when this happens next time, I have vowed to try to lead by quietly explaining this and not shying away from expressing what it is I really want.  I know these are small issues in the grand scope of things, but we live in this world, and can contribute to more kindness, quiet leadership, and authentic hospitality.

On Culture…SOB, Facebook and PC guilt


Friday night and I’m completely riled up from this amazing, foot stomping, hand clapping tune that will likely result in my getting a speeding ticket. When it played on KPRI this evening I was stuck on the 5, heading north after the merge, and it was killing me that I couldn’t floor it. Even Mookie (the DJ) wanted to play it again, it’s that good. SOB by Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats has me jacked up. So I decided to post it on Facebook. As I did, I struggled a bit, because the song is about a guy trying to kick alcohol, and decides not to. Like most people, there are people in my life that struggle with alcohol and substance abuse, and they may take offense. The struggle: share for others enjoyment or not share to avoid rocking anyone’s boat? And while the bigger worry is that somehow I am hurting someone, there is also a piece of me that doesn’t want to be exposed to negative comments on my post.

Big deal, right? Why even bother worrying? Well, aside from the fact that one of my values is to be kind and respectful of others, I am interested in this problem as it manifests across our broader culture. We are very quick to judge and take offense. We also tend to believe that our opinions carry more weight than those of others, and this is simply not true. When we are offended, we ask others to pull back from their opinions and quite often we are very mean about it. Is this really for the best?

Apparently I am not the only person to feel this way. While searching for an image to complement this post, I searched the term politically correct, and retrieved a ridiculous number of images that demonstrate the range of emotion that the PC movement has generated. Where do we draw the line between free speech and discrimination?   I don’t have the answer, but it lies somewhere in the gray area of live and let live, don’t sweat the small stuff, and be your own advocate.

So, in the spirit of Friday night, a great tune, sensitivity and balance…listen to SOB, or not.