Monthly Archives: August 2014


sad-219722_640Nothing of worth can be accomplished without discipline.  Discipline is a necessary component of developing a good character.   Being disciplined does not come naturally because we usually want to do that which is the easiest or most fun.  It requires constant vigilance. 

I prefer the word “educating” to “disciplining” to describe what a parent does for a child.  I have found a loose/tight disciplining philosophy to be the most effective.  This means that there are times when we show flexibility, but we remain rigid when it comes to issues of consequence.  For example, a child might ignore a job that was assigned to her and we would give her another chance to complete the task without punishment.  However, if the child lies to us, there would be serious consequences.

This might be more important to me because we chose to have a large family, but I adopted a “swift justice” approach to discipline.  There isn’t time to try to reason with a 3 year old about whether he should wear his shoes when the family is trying to get somewhere on time.  There will be time for philosophical discussions of agency when he gets a little older.

We chose to bring children into this world.  We loved them and wanted them to be able to develop their own unique personalities, but I would not consciously allow my children to be an affliction to others.  For example, if they misbehaved in church, I would put them under my arm and immediately take them out of the meeting, often with my other hand over their mouth (but not their nose), so no would have to listen to them scream.  They were put on a chair outside of the chapel and told that they would sit there until they could “act decent.”

Corporal punishment at one time was one of the essentials of child rearing.  Now, it is considered by many to be a form a child abuse.  Maybe this is the reason for the increasing numbers of youth that are disrespectful and undisciplined.  No one should harm their child, but spanking does help children understand the seriousness of the situation.  Of course, there is no justification for spanking a baby and spanking becomes counter-productive as the child grows older.  My experience is that spanking before age 2 and after age 8 is rarely beneficial.  Sue always used the rule, “Never give more swats on the bottom than the age of the child.”

One of the methods of disciplining that seems to be popular now is counting to three before the parent acts.  The result seems to be that the child does not change his behavior until the parent has finished counting to two.  Nothing more.

Another faulty parenting technique is to give exaggerated ultimatums – “If you do that, you’re not going to live to see ten.”  Funny…but really?  Both the parents and the kids know that the threats are completely meaningless.  This teaches the kids that our words are nothing more than inconsequential blather.  There is a better way.  Either don’t give the kids an ultimatum or give an ultimatum and actually follow through.  (Not the one cited above, though.)

I don’t why I thought that I could create “a little bit of heaven on earth” by yelling, but that is how I tried to accomplish it.  I was more of a drill sergeant than a negotiator.  I don’t know how to organize a large family without yelling.  My wife is much mellower than I am but she would yell at the kids if they ignored her enough times, or at the wrong time.

I know that yelling is not the best way to communicate with children, but I don’t know how to eliminate it.  My best advice would be to try to keep it to a minimum.

Parents must be willing to accept the role of teacher and disciplinarian and not servant.  It is usually easier to do a job oneself than to teach a child what to do and make sure they do it correctly.  However, we are in the business of raising well-disciplined children instead of doing their jobs for them in order to avoid conflict.

Disciplined parents are essential in rearing responsible and disciplined children.  Model the behavior you expect, mean what you say, act instead of react and never give up.  And most importantly, always show them how much you love them.

The Persuasive Leader – A Summary

conflict-405744_640After reading each of the articles for the Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders, you might summarize the lessons for employees as follows, “Don’t be snarky, stupid or a slacker.”  For managers, the summary might be, “Don’t be a self-absorbed jerk.”

Actually, the true message of the Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders is not one of negativity.  It is, “Do your job in a way that helps everyone else do their job.  Be kind and be positive.  Be a persuasive leader.”

In his book, Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman, PhD, describes six different styles of leadership – Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting and Commanding.  He proposes that the most effective leaders easily move among these styles, adopting the one that meets the needs of the moment. 

Goleman’s international bestseller Emotional Intelligence teaches that emotional intelligence—how we handle ourselves and our relationships—matters more than IQ or technical skill.  In fact, all of Dr. Goleman’s writings advocate the use of interpersonal feelings and emotions to increase leadership effectiveness.

His findings corroborate the Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders.  Leadership is all about connecting with the people you lead.  Goleman’s six styles of leadership are more about leadership skills than styles.  There are essentially only two leadership styles – 1. Compulsory and 2. Persuasive.

The Compulsory Leader

The Compulsory Leader leads by force, criticism, micromanaging and threats.  He/she also leads with emotion but his/her emotional leadership is best expressed by Niccolo Machiavelli, “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

This leadership style is also known as authoritarian or autocratic, but the term compulsory is more indicative of how this leadership style is performed – by compulsion.  The compulsory style is only effective in emergency situations and only for short periods of time.

Compulsory leaders can be successful if they are very talented or intelligent and no one else in the organization is inclined to challenge their decisions.  The problem is that compulsory leaders are never as successful as they could be or for as long as they should be, and they are prone to catastrophic mistakes because there is no one to temper them.

Compulsory leaders are most likely to use these practices:

10 Practices of Compulsory Leaders

  1. Do whatever gets the desired result
  2. Be forceful
  3. Let people know that making you happy is their number one job.
  4. Allow contention in your workforce to sort out the weakest employees
  5. Create a work environment that emphasizes work above all else
  6. Train just enough to get the job done
  7. Get all you can out of your employees at the lowest possible cost
  8. Focus on cutting costs rather than increasing revenue
  9. Create a workplace that is safe enough not to get penalized
  10. Discipline often and in the most public way to show who is in control

There are compulsory leaders that use less compulsion but still maintain absolute control. They see themselves as benevolent monarchs.  These compulsory leaders treat people more kindly but do not solicit nor heed the counsel of others.  They create a less toxic but equally stifling work environment. 

The Persuasive Leader

The Persuasive Leader is one who shows by his/her actions, attitude and speech that the employees are people and not objects to be exploited nor ignored.  Employees are treated as the most valuable resource of the company. 

This leadership style also includes participative, collaborative, delegative and Laissez-faire styles.  The term persuasive is more indicative of how this leadership style is performed – by persuading other team members and allowing other team members to persuade the leader. The participative, collaborative, delegative and Laissez-faire styles are all slightly different but persuasion is at the root of all of them since there is always more than one person that needs to agree on the final solution.

The basic premise of persuasive leadership is that all opinions are heard, fully vetted and a decision is made that is satisfactory to all or most participants.

The Persuasive Leader uses these practices:

10 Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders

  1. Do what is right
  2. Be positive
  3. Keep your ego in check
  4. Eliminate contention in your workforce
  5. Promote a fertile work environment
  6. Train employees and encourage learning
  7. Nurture your employees
  8. Reward your employees fairly
  9. Create a safe and pleasant workplace
  10. Discipline with clarity and compassion

Most organizations have both types of leaders.  The compulsory style is the easiest and the one that most people naturally tend towards.  It strokes our pride and ego.  The organizations that have the most compulsory leaders in the executive suite are those that are the most toxic.

It is much more difficult to be a Persuasive Leader.  It requires a constant effort to regard everyone as a person who is worthy of consideration.  It requires treating others as we would like to be treated.  It requires self-control and overcoming pride.  It is difficult, but the results are worth it.

Consider how different it feels to be the employee of a persuasive boss as opposed to a compulsory boss.  Now use that feeling to commit to Persuasive Leadership.

A version of this article, specifically targeting CPAs, was published by Accounting Today here.


20111126-_DSC0324[1]Self-confidence is one of the attributes that will help our kids to be successful in life.  That does not mean that we encourage our kids to be cocky, precocious, or conceited.   We want them to know that they are of great worth but not to be arrogant.

We can increase their confidence by allowing them to use their abilities whenever we can.  This includes dressing themselves, doing dishes, mowing the lawn, etc.  When our children became young adults both they and I noticed that I did not have all the answers anymore.  They were more knowledgeable than I was in many areas.  My sons are also more mechanical than I am.  My daughters are very sensitive to the needs of others and have wonderful leadership skills.  

All of my children are much more technologically savvy than I am.  I have learned to rely on them to help me in all my weak areas.  This helped me and built their confidence as they became successful adults.   

I know that there are some who feel worthless.  I really don’t know how to relate to that feeling since I felt loved and nurtured by my parents, extended family members and kind teachers and church members. Our children will be much more able to understand that their Heavenly Father loves them if they are certain that their earthly father does.

Every child needs a firm foundation of confidence upon which they build their life.  They must know that they are a child of God and have limitless potential.  Our responsibility as parents is to teach them about their potential and help them gain the confidence to pursue that potential. 

X. Discipline with Clarity and Compassion

moraleJust because you can fire someone with a smile on your face and without raising your voice, doesn’t mean that you know how to properly discipline your workforce.  “The Wizard of Westwood” said, “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”  Those are words one of the best coaches of all time, John Wooden.  John Wooden won 10 NCAA national championships and is the former UCLA faculty member that I admire most, and I don’t even enjoy watching basketball.  

Discipline is a requirement for success in every business.  The definitions of discipline include both “punishment” and “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”  The latter of the two definitions is the one that seems to most accurately reflect what a good coach does in order to create a winning team.  A good coach in both business and athletics is focused on improving the team member in order to contribute to the success of the organization in a manner that inspires, rather than punishes, the team member.

Some would call Sir Alex Ferguson the greatest coach in history.  Before retiring in May 2013, Ferguson spent 26 seasons as the manager of Manchester United, the English soccer club that ranks among the most successful and valuable franchises in sports. During that time, the club won 13 English league titles and 25 other domestic and international trophies—giving him a success rate nearly double that of the next-most-successful English soccer club manager.  

In 2012, Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Anita Elberse examined Ferguson’s management approach and developed an HBS case study around it.  These are the key philosophies that Elberse documented.  (The quoted comments are those of Sir Alex Ferguson.)   

  1. Start with the foundation – You must build a team from the ground up with competent team members, and foster a sense of family among them.
  2. Dare to rebuild your team – Always look to the future, which includes cutting players that are not contributing to the benefit of the organization.
  3. Set high standards and hold everyone to them – Inspire team members to do better and to never give up.  It’s all about quality, hard work and focus.
  4. Never, ever cede control – Respond forcefully and quickly to problems.  Never allow anyone to undermine the team’s performance, instead, let them go, even if they are a super-star.
  5. Match the message to the moment – “You can’t always come in shouting and screaming.  That doesn’t work.”  “No one likes to be criticized.  Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement instead.”
  6. Prepare to win – “Don’t panic.  Just concentrate on getting the job done.”
  7. Rely on the power of observation – “I don’t think many people fully understand the value of observing.  The ability to see things is key – or, more specifically, the ability to see things you don’t expect to see.”
  8. Never stop adapting – “I believe that you control change by accepting it.  That also means having confidence in the people you hire.  If you micromanage and tell people what to do, there is no point in hiring them.  The most important thing is to not stagnate.”

There are times when “cutting players that are not contributing to the benefit of the organization” is necessary.  Terminating an employee is difficult for the one being terminated, and often for the employer.  Company policies and employment law must be followed, but it must be done humanely. 

The most important concept to remember is that termination is not the final judgment of the employee as a person or a worker.  It must be viewed as time for the employee to find a different job where he or she is better suited.  Compassion on the part of the manager is always appropriate.  Avoid “horriblizing” the terminated employee by blaming them for all of the problems in their organization.  Finally, keep your focus on how to help them move on to a position where they can succeed.

Whenever dealing with issues of employee performance, it is of utmost importance to get your facts straight, discuss the problems rather than accuse and attack, be very clear in what you expect, and really listen to the employee.  A fundamental principle of employee discipline is expressed by Robert A. Eckert, the former CEO of Mattel, in these words, “Punish in private; praise in public.  Make the public praise timely and specific.”

A successful business must be a team effort.  Discipline – “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” must be an integral part of making the team successful.  Be a good coach, not a bully nor a prima donna, if you want your organization to achieve its potential.


help_640Compassion is one of the great virtues of all major religious of the world.  Even non-religious associations typically embrace compassion because compassion is basic to being a fully-developed human being.

Parents have a responsibility to teach compassion to their children, not only to perpetuate a civilized society, but also so their children will be able to enjoy the society of others and be happy.  Compassion is an active form of love that is expressed by being aware of the needs of others and doing what you can to meet those needs. 

The following are the critical concepts of compassion:

 1.  Acts of compassion make us feel good

“Happiness and peace will come to earth only as the light of love and human compassion enter the souls of men.” – David O. McKay

Shawn Achor, winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University and author of The Happiness Advantage states, “A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health”

We really don’t need empirical research to know that doing good makes us feel good.  It is intuitive and everyone who does it knows it.

2.  Compassion helps us connect with other humans

“Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy.” – Chogyam Trungpa

We all know people who show kindness and compassion to those around them.  These people are universally liked and admired.  We are drawn to these people because of how they make us feel. 

3.  Compassion is the basis of civilized society

“I can do no other than be reverent before everything that is called life. I can do no other than to have compassion for all that is called life. That is the beginning and the foundation of all ethics.” – Albert Schweitzer

Wherever groups of people live together in a community, compassion must exist in order create an attitude of cooperation.  Since tragedy is a normal part of the human condition, demonstrations of compassion bond people in the society to one another.  Even the rich and powerful have need of compassion.

The more civilized the society, the more compassion is shown for the weak and those who are unlike the norm.  The most advanced societies are those that take care of their own and then reach out to all that need help.  Although not perfect, the United States of America has typically been one of those societies.

Compassion and tolerance, however, do not mean an acceptance of evil or anti-social behavior. We must teach our children to love all people, while abhorring evil, wherever it manifests itself.

4.  Compassion must be expressed

“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.” – Dalai Lama

We all appreciate an act of kindness, a supportive comment, or even just a kind smile.  It is impossible to be compassionate and ignore others.   Those who “Remember the little things” really understand compassion.

Often we will see someone having difficulty and say to ourselves, “I wish there was something I could do, but I don’t know that person very well”, or “Someone else is taking care of their needs” or, “I don’t want to bother them at this time because they are already so busy.”  So, we do nothing.   Consider Proverbs 3:27, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”

5.  Compassion requires sacrifice

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” – Daniel Goleman

It isn’t easy to be compassionate because it requires effort on our part.  Passivity and compassion are not good companions.  My wife is a wonderful example of service.  Even while raising our nine children, she would consistently look for opportunities to help someone in need by delivering a home cooked meal, making a phone call or sending a note of appreciation and encouragement.

Parents can use these five concepts to help teach their children about compassion, thus bringing joy to their children, to their entire family and to the society where their family lives.  However, when parents also model compassionate behavior, their children are much more likely to learn this essential virtue.   


This article was also published on

IX. Create a safe & pleasant workplace

sign-44436_640When our adult children return to their homes after visiting us, I always like to get a call or text so that I know that they are home, safe and sound.  “Home safe and sound’ is the same phrase my parents taught me.  Our workplaces should ensure that employees return to their homes every night, safe and sound.

In his book, Prescription for Excellence, Joseph Michelli, Ph.D, describes how the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center became one of the top hospitals in the US.  He states, “Fundamentally, safety must come before everything else for companies to even have a chance to serve customers or sustain success.”  He goes on to explain how Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs requires a safe environment before higher-level objectives can be achieved.

Remember, accident prevention reduces human suffering and is good for business.  With those two incredible benefits, prioritizing safety in the workplace should be a no-brainer, but it isn’t.  Ask any workers compensation insurance claims adjuster.  Having worked in oil refining, power generation, milling operations, construction and health care, I can recommend these ten best practices to establish a safe work environment.

Ten Best Practices of Workplace Safety

  1. Know the rules.  Since not all workplaces are alike, you must be certain that you know or can determine the safety laws and rules that apply to your unique workplace. 
  2. Establish safety policy. Based on knowledge of the first Best Practice of Workplace Safety, policy must be established to prevent accidents and comply with law.   All accidents are preventable.  That is not to say that all accidents will be prevented but if the workplace adopts the attitude that all accidents are preventable, the number of accidents will decrease.
  3. Model the behavior.  The example set by management will set the tone for how important safety is in your workplace.  Compliance with rules increases when you model the safe behavior you expect.  Examples; always wear your hardhat in the work zone, use gloves when dealing with bodily fluids, and sit up straight at your desk when typing.
  4. Train.  Employees can only comply with policy that they have been taught.  Training must be done so well that employees understand the policies and the consequences of non-compliance.  Employees must also understand and accept his/her individual responsibility for safety.  Managers must only allow those who have demonstrated competency to do certain tasks.
  5. Listen.  Encourage employees to discuss the hazards of their work with you.  Managers must establish a blame-free environment where employees are confident in openly discussing any mistakes that they make.
  6. Assess.  Stop and think about what might happen in the workplace.  Analyze even the smallest accident.  Track, review and research the safety data.  Set safety targets and monitor safety improvement.
  7. Fix problems immediately.  Managers and employees must adopt an attitude of fixing any potential safety hazards as soon as they are found.  If the solution is going to take time, tag the area with caution notices.  Establish ever-vigilant good housekeeping standards.
  8. Be consistent.  Safety rules must be consistently applied across the company and across time.  Don’t allow yourself to get lax.
  9. Be insistent.  Insist on safety every time, in every location, with everyone.
  10. Be persistent.  Follow-up, follow-up and follow-up.  If you don’t, safety will decrease over time.  It is human nature.

In addition to safety, the physical working environment must be conducive to work and as comfortable as the work area permits.  I recently worked with a company that moved from old, cramped quarters to a new building that was beautifully decorated.  The impact on staff and customers alike was remarkable.  This is not always possible in construction or heavy manufacturing but there are many improvements that can be made in all workplaces.  The result will be better productivity and less employee turnover, which equals increased profitability. 

The next ten practices are equally important to boost productivity even further.

Ten Best Practices for a Pleasant Workplace

  1. Improve any areas of poor lighting.  This is more than just a safety issue.
  2. Decrease loud background noise, such as music, traffic noise, or unnecessary conversation.
  3. Replace chairs, desks or equipment that causes discomfort or repetitive strain.
  4. Clean-up unhealthy air, such as air pollution, smoke, or unpleasant smells.
  5. Avoid overcrowding and workstations in close proximity to others.
  6. Maintain comfortable climate conditions, such as heating, cooling and humidity.
  7. Allow for each employee to have an adequate rest period, which may be more than the law requires.
  8. Provide the best quality and functional tools possible.
  9. Beautify, clean and unclutter the workplace.
  10. Provide opportunity for exercise and healthy snacks.

When leaders focus on improving safety and workplace environment, employees have concrete evidence that the company cares for them.  Valued employees are more productive employees.  Productive employees increase company profits. 

You have made a significant investment in your employees.  Make sure those employees get home safe and sound.