The Open Borders Crowd

Sunset May 3How many of you favor having an open border with Mexico? I suspect many of you would take offense if I called you an open borders advocate. Yet, the vast majority of us practice open borders every day. We do it every day in our workplaces and homes.

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his best-selling Boundaries for Leaders, makes a statement that drives this home.  He uses boundaries to describe the behaviors that leaders allow in their organization. After researching and working with hundreds of organizations and studying behavior and the workings of the brain, Dr. Cloud’s conclusion fits right into the current immigration debate.  “Leaders always get what they create and what they allow.”  You may create a vision of a legal immigration system, but if you allow anyone to come in, regardless of status, how long will that vision last?

Most organizations believe they do an above average job in creating a vision. Dr. Cloud would disagree and provide some suggestions on how to communicate in the way our brains work.  The more interesting part of Boundaries for Leaders deals with what happens when we try to implement the vision. Whether a company or a home, we develop a plan to move toward the vision and rules to help us negotiate situations that arise.   So why don’t all visions or family dreams come true?

Most of us start with the plan and fail because we start making exception to the rules.  You know the exception dance: “just this one time”, “this wasn’t anticipated”, “this is a special case”, or “he/she is someone we need to make an exception for.” Each time a part of the boundary (or border) comes down. Before long, the borders around the company, the culture, and the plan’s strategic advantage are completely down.  People see these exceptions and they start to stress over what is allowed and what isn’t. When the brain experiences increased uncertainty, it slows down. Worse yet, if you are unsure of what is allowed or not allowed, the safest option is DO NOTHING. Ask the border patrol, or the middle manager in an organization with high executive level turnover.

Studies with children and borders suggest this is just common sense. When playgrounds have fences, children will play anywhere. When fences are removed, children stay close to the building and effectively cut their playgrounds in half. Doesn’t it make sense that when boundaries are inconsistent, your productivity decreases as uncertainty and anxiety increase?


So spend some time this summer reviewing your employee manual and business plans. Focus on listing every exception you have to each policy or directive. This is not easy but will be worth it. Then ask yourself, “If I saw this rule and knew of the exceptions to this rule (but not the reason), how would I react?” Then either change the rule or change the exception.


Either way, your employee playground will grow.

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2015 in review

Thanks for those who clicked on my blog. 2015 was spent developing vlogs on my Pro356 Consulting/Rick Miller YouTube site. 2016 will be my best year ever. Blessings,


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Pareto and Lap Swimming in the Work Pool

lap swimmingHow do lap swimming, the Pareto Principle, and professional development relate?

Lap swimming is great exercise but can be boring (especially if you are old and slow). One of the best ways to break up a swim is to throw in a set of intervals. I have a 1000 yard set that takes 20 minutes and usually reminds me of my age and shoulder ailments. Yet when I throw it into the swim, I always exit the pool mentally refreshed for having pushed myself and knowing I have stretched my aerobic threshold one more day. All good.

Listening to my buddy, Chris Klinger’s Minutespiration vlog on the Pareto Principle, Do You Pareto?, I noticed how my interval was a small part of my workout, but it makes all the difference in my performance. So why not apply it a 20% interval into my work day and see if I get an 80% return?

Here’s what I did and recommend you try:

Pick a part of your work that you love to avoid because (you fill in the reason) and:

  • Spend some time doing your normal routine (WARM UP).
  • Schedule 30 minutes of DND time ( turn off phone, take no calls, close your door, tell your coworkers and boss you need 30 minutes of uninterrupted time)
  • Set your clock and work focused and hard on the project/activity (INTERVAL).
  • When the mental excuses drift in, keep going and push on.
  • When the 30 minute buzzer hits, spend 15 minutes wrapping up at your regular pace (WARM DOWN).
  • Repeat weekly and when you get the hang of it, add more time to the morning 30 or throw in an afternoon session.

These conscious, short bursts of effort produce the Pareto impact on our job. While painful to start, such efforts produce a mental high and improve the efficiency of your laps up and down the work pool.

Next time: Why flip turns matter:)!

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The Path of No Resistance and The Mind Like Water

mind like waterImagine that you had no control over your thoughts, no control over your responses, and no control over your emotions.  One of these is true. Can you guess which one?

Garrett Kramer got me thinking about not thinking. His latest book, The Path of No Resistance, is a powerful argument for inside-out thinking. He argues that your thinking creates your feeling and not vice versa. He believes that we have all kinds of thoughts, some great, some not so great, and some even crazy. The key, according to Kramer, is recognizing which thoughts are worth acting upon. You thoughts may be random but your response is not. Asking, “Why?” before choosing, “What?” is the strategy that precedes my responses, at least sometimes.

When your thinking is unclear, read a bad mood, the best thing to do is nothing. Just carry on until the clarity returns. This runs counter to the natural response of, “I just need to think more positive.” More thinking doesn’t create better thinking, just more mental anxiety.

This ties in nicely to my world view. We agree that we are endowed by our creator with innate clarity and wisdom. We agree that as a man thinketh, so is he. I sort of agree that when you feel a gut level tension around a thought, your inner wisdom is signaling, that your thinking is not clear.

The freedom of his thesis is profound. Your thinking and not your circumstances determine your outlook. Elle Wiesel demonstrated this by his response to the brutality and inhumanity of his Nazi concentration camp surroundings and existence.

Kramer believes that when we allow our thoughts to settle, our inner wisdom will lead us to the appropriate response and action. This is not to say we just stop and meditate every 20 minutes. Rather, this suggests that when our moods are not one of love, we look inward and examine our thinking at the moment rather than let our mood drive our response.

His “mind like water” analogy works for me. Wisdom resides in the quiet waters. Combining a settled mind with the internal clarity that the Holy Spirit provides me, I see and act more Christ like, not more Rick like.

I see every situation as a discretionary opportunity. Just like zero based budgeting makes all things discretionary. Now if our government would drop this dangerous farce of “NON” discretionary expenditures, my mind would definitely settle like water.

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Why you need John Wooden and Stephen Covey!

Stephen Covey
“Things turn out best for people who make the best out of how things turn out.” – John Wooden
John Wooden shared this gem in his book, Wooden. These sixteen words sum up the reason for developing a positive attitude and a contingency plan. It’s not enough to have one or the other. You need both.
My Internet went out last night. After an hour on the phone with an Indian technical support rep and numerous remote repair attempts, we agreed to an 8:30 – 12:30 repair window appointment this morning. So I planned my day accordingly. At 8:28 am AT&T (that master of interpersonal communication…NOT) sent me a text showing my appointment would be between 1-4 pm. Ten minutes of following the text to their appointment website left me more frustrated as there was nowhere to change the time, just the problem. After ten minutes on the phone with another “I am SO sorry for your inconvenience” Indian support rep, the appointment was changed back to the original time.
So what do you do when your computer isn’t working, and your day has been thrown a loop? I decided to use this time to research alternatives to AT&T and call several business contacts that I hadn’t touched base with for a few months. Stephen Covey calls such activities IMPORTANT BUT NOT URGENT. Relationship building and planning always yield a more productive future.
Without the positive attitude, I would have called these folks and immediately launched into my Internet service problem. Just what they needed! Without my plan D, I would have forgotten to look for a better use of my time than many of the UNIMPORTANT NON URGENT activities that computer access allows us to choose.
So thank you John Wooden and Stephen Covey for reminding me “Things turn out best for people who make the best of how things turn out!”
PS – Blogging works pretty well too:)!
PSS – At 12:02 I got a call from AT&T asking if I wanted to reschedule. I had spent the morning upstairs waiting for the service technician and the caller told me their rep came by and couldn’t get access. All doors and the garage were open, and I never received the 15-minute advance text or call. So now I am sitting here hoping to get on the next 4-hour block and re-reading this blog to help me regain my Wooden/Covey form!!
PSSS – 4:45pm – The service tech arrived and in 10 minutes determined it was an outside AT&T line problem. “If you could have scheduled your appointment this morning, we could have fixed the problem by now. If ‘they’ don’t respond by noon day after tomorrow (Saturday), you need to call again.”
I just smiled. It’s time for a nice long bike ride!

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Why we should all remain two year olds!

“He has been here for 20 years; but it more like he’s been here a year and just repeated the first year twenty times.”

Does this fit anyone you know?
Gallup’s Engagement Q12 – In the last year, I have had the opportunity at work to learn and grow – seems like a no brainer. Yet only 50% of today’s workforce strongly agree. Ironically, 100% of two year olds strongly agree! As my two year old grandson says, “What happened, Diddy?”

Here’s a short video on the subject with a couple of suggestions.

Disclaimer: Gallup and Q12 are registered trademarks of Gallup Inc. All opinions expressed are mine and do not represent Gallup’s opinions. Information quoted is from published Gallup research.

Closing Tip of the Series:

Thank you for going through this engagement series with me. If you missed any of the 12 and want to see it, send me an email.

If I can be of service to you in this area, please let me know.

Here are some additional resources that my help you focus on raising your team’s engagement (and profitability):


12: The Elements of Great – By Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter

StrengthsFinder 2.0 – By Tom Rath

Now, Go Break All the Rules – By Marcus Buckinghamfitability) level:


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If you don’t know your next performance review results today, READ THIS:)

A “deer in the headlights” look was the response I got? What was the question?

I asked an employee, who was about to go into his annual performance review, how he expected it to go.

Funny thing, I understood the response because I felt the same way many times in my career.

Gallup Employee Engagement Q11- In the last six months, someone at the company has talked to me about my progress – suggests that reviews should be a formality. If you hold frequent conversations on progress, any review will be just a summation of all those conversations.

Here’s a video to reinforce the need for tying progress to strengths. And check out my suggestions on how to work this into your team.

Have a great conversation TODAY!

Disclaimer: Gallup and Q12 are registered trademarks of Gallup Inc. All opinions expressed are mine and do not represent Gallup’s opinions. Information quoted is from published Gallup research.

Closing Tip of the Week:

At your next team meeting, have each person write his/her name on a sheet. Then pass the sheets around and have everyone lists the strengths of each person. When everyone has their sheet back, read aloud the strengths.

Then ask the team, “How can we utilize our strengths better as a team?” You’ll be glad you started this conversation!



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