Posted by: Susan | September 9, 2010

Service Above Self

The other day, I was attending a Rotary meeting, enjoying breakfast and the fellowship of my fellow Burke Rotary Club members, when I was reminded of one of the reasons I decided to join Rotary over a year ago.  Our guest speaker, Scott Mills, a fellow Rotarian (and wonderful person I might add) shared a story with us that really touched my heart.  I thought I would share it with you:

Jamal was still being carried in his mother’s arms when Rotarians came to his village to begin giving him the pink drops that would ensure he would never contract the crippling disease polio.  While his country has been certified “polio free,” isolated outbreaks occasionally still occur.   For Jamal and his playmates, however, a much more persistant and insidious killer stalks the small children of his village.  It’s harbored in the very life-sustaining water that their mothers carry to the village each morning on their heads from pools and streams several miles away.  Their source of clean water is scarce, and the water that IS available often is polluted by runoff from cattle or municipal waste.  Many days, Jamal, now almost three, plays in the streets of his village naked from the waist down because of the  persistent diarrhea that eventually may cause his wasting and death if his village doesn’t develop a clean, reliable source of water.  Hundeds of children in his village have already died.  It’s a situation we here in the U.S. should never tolerate, and neither would Jamal’s mother if she had any other options.

All over the world, more than 24,000 children will die today — most, like Jamal, are under age five.  One thousand children will die in the time it takes most of us to mow our lawns this week.  Yet, most of these deaths are entirely preventable.

Fortunately for Jamal and the other children of his village, hope is already on its way.  Two years ago, work began on a three-year, multi-phased Rotary Foundation-funded project to bring clean, mountain spring water to the village of Wum, Cameroon.  This project was spearheaded by a Charlottesville, VA Rotarian named Tom Dunnells with funding from the Rotary Foundation, using plans developed through an enterprising design contest by engineering students at the University of Virginia.  In one day, with the help of local Cameroon Rotarians, Jamal’s own mother and other village residents assisted in digging the trench from their village up the side of a mountain so that pipes for the gravity-fed water main can be installed to bring the clean water to Wam. 

This is just one example of what Rotarians do . . .we restore a sense of safety and security for people in need.  Through the volunteer work of the over 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide and their contributions to the Rotary Foundation, lives of people we will never see are changed for the better in hundreds of ways.  Hence, our motto:  Service Above Self.

Did you know?  The Rotary Foundation is distinguished from all other organizations because 100% of donations to the Annual Programs Fund supports the humanitarian and educational programs of Rotarians.  Donations to the Rotary Foundation go even further than most other non-profit organizations because they support projects that are administered by local Rotarian business and community leaders who put volunteer energies into the improvement of communities and the lives of people who live in them. 

Did you also know?  Independent evaluator, Charity Navigator, ranks The Rotary Foundation as No. 4 on its list of “10 Best Charities Everyone’s Heard Of,” saying “These 10 Charities became household names in part because of their exceptional financial management, no easy feat considering the scope and size of their operations.  Charitable givers should feel confident that these national institutions put their donations to good use.”

Service Above Self.  If you are looking for a way to bring some balance to your life, and help people in need at the same time, do what I did.  Attend a local Rotary meeting and see how you can help.  You’ll be glad you did.  For info on finding a Rotary Club near you, go to

Posted by: Susan | May 23, 2010

Company Struggling? Become Positively Deviant!

With so much downsizing in recent months, many companies are struggling with the negative effects it normally causes – conflict, backbiting, criticism and adversarial feelings,  to name a few.    Eventually, if left unchecked, these negative effects can actually slow or even prevent a company from recovering and getting back on its feet.  When things don’t improve, the employees and shareholders look to leadership to right the ship.  But how do you do that after some pretty deep layoffs, when morale and loyalty are low?   How do you put things back on track when your employees are cynical, angry and afraid of losing their jobs?   Much has been written on the subject, and there are a million “experts” out there that will give you their version of the magic formula.  Bottom line, there is no easy answer and there’s definitely no magic formula.  However, there is a strategy I think may help you if you’re facing this dilemma.   By the way, everyone is a “leader” when it comes to pulling an organization out of this kind of mess and here’s what everyone can do:   

Implement a company-wide, grass-roots campaign to emphasize what elevates people and systems, what’s going right in the organization, what is life-giving, and what is good and inspiring. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you ignore things that aren’t going so well or are problematic, it just means that you give the positive things at least as much attention.   Reach out to everyone in the organization, from the top down, empowering those who choose to, to adopt a culture of positively deviant leadership.   Notice I didn’t say devious, but rather deviant!    

Dr. Kim Cameron, out of the University of Michigan, wrote a fascinating book on the subject and in it, he cites an example of positively deviant leadership that occurred at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Connecticut.  It seems Griffin faced a crisis when the popular vice president of operations, Patrick Charmel, was forced to resign by the Board of Directors.  Most employees viewed him as the most innovative and effective administrator at the hospital, inspiring everyone with his positive energy and hope for the future.  His resignation threw the organization into turmoil.  Fear and low morale permeated the system.  Then, a group of employees appealed to the Board of Directors and he was re-instated.  Within six months of his return, though, the hospital faced millions of dollars in losses, and Charmel had to eliminate the jobs of some of the very people who had supported his return!  Yet, instead of those normal negative effects I mentioned earlier, the opposite occurred.  Charmel made a concerted effort to institutionalize and implement aspects of positively deviant leadership rather than merely manage the required change.  Here’s what he did:

  1. Fostered a positive climate rather than a negative one where relationships, communication, and meaningfulness of work were emphasized.
  2. Championed forgiveness, optimism, trust and integrity with daily stories of compassion, acts of kindness and virtue reported.

Employees reported that the personal and organizational damage done by the announced downsizing – friends losing jobs, budgets being cut – were, for the most part, forgiven.   Employees released grudges and resentment, and the workforce was instead led forward toward an optimistic future.  The language used throughout the organization frequently included words such as love, hope, compassion, forgiveness and humility.  I know, you might be thinking that this sounds like a bunch of pollyanna feel-good nonsense.  But get this:  The result was that Griffin Hospital has been listed in the top 25 Best Places to Work for more than 5 years and is ranked 12th in the Top 100 Quality Award! 

It all happened with great leaders and their role in enabling extraordinary positive performance using the strategies of positively deviant leadership

So, do I believe that positively deviant leadership is a magic wand that will wipe out ALL the negative effects of downsizing and change in an organization?  Absolutely not.  But I do believe that when you empower everyone in the organization – from the top down – to focus on what elevates people, what goes right, what is life-giving and what is inspiring, you will enjoy an environment that makes for a ‘best place to work.’  And in doing so, your customers will reap some pretty powerful benefits and your bottom line will improve too. 

For more on this topic, I recommend you read Positive Leadership – Strategies for Extraordinary Performance.  In it, Dr. Kim Cameron shows how to reach beyond ordinary success to achieve extraordinary effectiveness, spectacular results, and what he calls “positively deviant performance”—performance far above the norm.  Citing a wide range of research in organizational development and psychology as well as real-world examples, Cameron shows that to go from successful to exceptional, leaders must learn how to create a profoundly positive environment in the workplace. They must build on strengths rather than simply focus on weaknesses; foster positive emotions like compassion, optimism, gratitude, and forgiveness; encourage mutually supportive relationships at all levels; and provide employees with a deep sense of meaning and purpose. In this concise, inspiring, and practical guide, Cameron describes four specific positive leadership strategies, lays out a proven process for implementing them.

Posted by: Susan | April 9, 2010

The Magic of a Master Mind Group

I’ve been fortunate this past year.  I belong to a master mind group – it’s called the Master Coach Council – and we meet weekly for about an hour to help one another grow and manage our businesses.  In the process, we learn new techniques to serve our clients better, tap into business alliances we’d otherwise never have access to, and build powerful friendships along the way. 

Our mastermind meetings aren’t difficult to participate in.  But what happens as a result is almost magical and it’s something that successful people have been instinctively using for a very long time.  You see, it’s all about simple math:  basic multiplication.

“Why use one mind when two can do the job three times faster!”

Where did the concept of mastermind come from?  Way back in 1908 a guy named Napoleon Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie (then the richest man in the world) to interview the 504 most successful people of his day. The objective was to find what “success” had in common.

His book, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ finally came out in 1937 and outlined the ’13 Principles’ that Hill’s long years of research had identified as being common to every successful person.

One of those principles was that of the Master Mind Group.  Hill demonstrated that no successful person does it alone. All are surrounded by people who can help them, advise them, criticize them, encourage them, motivate them, inspire them and spark them to be better than they could ever be on their own.  

He goes even further to suggest that people with a master mind group around them can tap into an intelligence that is beyond themselves – that the coming together of two or more minds focused on a single purpose creates a fusion of intellect that can never be achieved by the individuals on their own.

Through my Master Coach Council, I can attest this concept really works.  So much so that I now have the honor of facilitating other master mind groups for my clients.

Associating with a master mind group is not meant as a means of letting others do your thinking for you, far from it. It’s meant to stimulate your own thinking through the association with other minds.  No one knows everything. The more sympathetic minds you get together – that is, minds working for a common purpose – the more related information is going to be available. Great ideas are a combination of related information.

If you decide to join a master mind group, pick your group with care. Make sure the members are people you respect and who are hard working and conscientious. You’ll have a lot of fun, you’ll reach your goals just that much sooner, and you may even create a little magic of your own!

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