Sunday, March 26, 2017

Finding Joy

I feel like I have had a blessed life. I have had some really interesting trips, travels, experiences - both really good and bad from a worldly point of view. I truly am grateful for all of those things because they help make me who I am. Still, most people only remember the person that they see, their first impression, and it isn't always me. I have heard a variety of things: multiple personalities, could talk to anyone, no boundaries, and smiling more. Everyone is a critic and people see those things as positive or negative depending on their various situations.

I don't think people are observant enough though. I feel like people need to listen more and watch people to begin to figure out who they really are. It takes more time than a cup of coffee or a walk in a park. Social media is simply false advertising - the highlight reel that we put up ourselves for the world to see. The short answer is people are complicated.

God has a plan for all of us to become more like Him. He isn't any Instagram celebrity. His highlight reel would be more like an inspirational YouTube playlist. The question most people have is how do we become more like Him. How do we begin to see people like He did? How do we love like Him? We learn that kind of patience and charity not by studying it out in books or being on an island. We learn it through being together - living and interacting and bumping shoulders with people that we wouldn't normally meet. We have to see every interaction or chance encounter as an opportunity.

The Spirit of God helps us learn the attributes of Christ. In Galatians we read about some of these attributes, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." I have always found it easy to connect with some of these feelings or fruits of the Spirit because they seemed natural. Others, I have struggled with for a while, like joy. I know the Plan of Salvation is also known as the Plan of Happiness and there are times I feel happy but I don't know if it is joy.

I have been studying this gift of the Spirit. The scriptures teach that you can find joy through forgiveness. It is one of the fruits of gratitude. The joy that comes from service. The joy that you can feel in the Temple or in God's presence. Joy comes from companionship or family. Joy in celebrating the blessings and success of others. There is the joy that missionaries feel when they bring people to the truth. I keep thinking about joy because I feel like it should be easier. "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."

We make choices in life and every one has an associated consequence. We may have been born into mortality and life is not easy but we were created so that we might have joy. We are here to be happy. If we choose God's path, we can find happiness in every step. Our surroundings may be clouded in temptation and trials but we can be a light unto the world and find happiness through our faith to press forward. We are not just asked to endure to the end but to endure it well. We can choose to be happy. Read your scriptures. Spend time getting to know people at church. Call a family member. Say a prayer. Ask God to bless you with joy. And when you find it, spread your joy because happiness and laughter are contagious and more enjoyable when they are shared.

Monday, March 20, 2017

What is the Point? Why Do You Do What You Do?

I have been more focused than usual on how motivations play a deeper role into what we do and why we do it recently. I don't know if it is the books I have been reading or my subconscious asking myself why in the world did I in an effort to get away from the calculator and cubicle lifestyle of engineering decided after business school to go into finance. Seems counter-intuitive if that was my end goal. In any case, it has been on my mind a lot lately and has been the filter that I have been looking through.

In my professional life, why does my branch feel the way that it does? Why does it feel like we are continually understaffed? It is because we are. The operations department is the expense and the consultants are the money makers. If the company as a whole is to make a profit, the consultants need to do as much business as possible and minimize the local costs as possible. Why are we not more helpful to more people? Why are we so focused on efficiency? What is the purpose behind the quantity and not quality approach? It is because from where I work, I don't see the quality. I am in the quantity role. The consultants will sit down with the high dollar customers and I have to get people from the front counter to their next location, whether that is out the door, into someone's calendar or into someone's office, as quickly as possible. We lose money on so many of our clients through free services and products because it is with a very small percentage of all of our clients where we get the chance to really make any money. Since I don't contribute to keeping the lights on, outside of being my charming self, I need to be as efficient as possible while looking for new opportunities for the money makers in my office.

The same can be true for the basic ideology behind financial planning. People hear about new products or new ways to invest but the basic principles are the same. As you save in the present for future expenses, you also need to save in ways to replace the income streams you will give up once you retire. Why do people talk about real estate investing or annuities or pensions? You no longer get a regular paycheck in retirement. You have to replace that somewhere and it needs to cover your basic expenses in retirement. How does social security play in? Have you covered what you need for medicare? You are spending less time earning money and more time spending it in retirement. Have you calculated your change in lifestyle expenses into your total savings as well? Do you have flexible investments that can be more aggressive that will also cover your flexible spending/expenses? People will invest in different ways and with different things but in the end the most important thing is that we help people to plan because it isn't about their money. It is about their goals.

No one really wants to invest and no one really wants to talk with us. They don't really want us to manage their money. All they really want us to do is help manage their stress. They want us to make sure that their fears and hopes and dreams and the same things for their children have been planned for. They want us to help their kids get to college. They want us to help them have time to spend with their children and grandchildren. They want to make sure that when they lose their health that they don't also lose their house to pay for it. People really don't lose sleep over the manner in which they get their returns as long as it meets their expectations. We help people manage those expectations and plan for the unexpected. We become shortsighted when we think the behaviors are as important as the motivations.

The same can be said for religious practices - the spirit of the law is more important than the letter. That being said, how often do we question or ask what is the point behind all the things we do in the name of religious obedience? Why do we go hometeaching? Why do we visit the poor, the sick, and the widows? Why are we asked to worship together or meet together at all? Isn't religion supposed to be about the personal relationship between you and God? Two weeks ago, I was in a elder's quorum meeting where the presidency asked what we as a quorum could do to increase attendance in our meetings? What could they do to help improve sacrament meeting worship in regards to passing the sacrament? The typical answers were given: make a rotation, make a map and have people patrol the hallways and ask people to get to class. This hadn't worked in the past so why continue to try something that has proven to fail? What would possibly produce a new outcome?

People are generally logical and we are driven by our emotions. Why not use the time we had in our meeting right then to fix some of the problems instead of using conjecture or waste time developing plans. Let's change the expectations right then! If there is an opportunity to serve, the correct behavior is to step up rather than look around. Let's be leaders instead of followers! The regular elders will fill most likely fill the empty seats but let's at least have someone passing and then we can perfect the process later on by asking new people to serve. With the lack of attendance in classes, this is again a question of expectations. What is expected of our teachers? What is expected by our students?

We always want to assume that our teachers have prepared a lesson beforehand. We don't want them simply reading from the manual. We enjoy a discussion or activities or any request for us to become engaged. Our expectations however are the boring lessons that we get every Sunday or the one we could have if we read the manual by ourselves from our own homes. We go to those classes despite our high expectations because of our sense of duty. Our hope is that we will have friends or family that will attend as well because it is a well known fact that misery likes company. So why do people not go to classes? It is because we don't want to. Our friends aren't in the classes. Our friends are in the halls. They are on our phones. They are in different places. They are everywhere but in that classroom. So how do we change that? Get to know the people that aren't there before they escape out into the parking lot. Introduce yourself before church starts!

Why do we ask people to hometeach one another? Why are we asked to become a Zion people? Most of these people I wouldn't normally associate with. I wouldn't pick them out of a crowd, nevertheless, work to become their friends. However, this is exactly the point. Many people don't have a friend at church. They don't have someone that hopes or checks to see if they are there so God adds that to someone's checklist. It becomes an assignment to work to become someone's friend. It isn't the lesson that is important or that we see them once a month. It is to learn to love them and care about them. It is through these relationships that we learn patience, charity and become more like Christ. Socializing and serving others is part of the process of refining us and smoothing out our rough edges. We will never make it back to God one-by-one. Salvation is a personal process but exaltation is a family affair. Heaven isn't really heaven if we were meant to be alone.

This brings me to tonight. I went to a missionary fireside. The missionaries were asking us to sum up the principles or doctrines for missionary work. People described talking about what we do with more detail or inviting people to activities. They talked about what we should discuss when we preach the restored gospel or how we have a duty or that we have been commanded to share the gospel. Again, they understand the letter of the law or the duty. They missed the whole purpose behind the gospel and the reason we have been asked to share it, even the way we ought to share it, which can be summed up in the commandment that Christ gave to love our neighbor.

People don't care about what you know until they know that you care. You can tell them that we have the restored gospel and that we have the fullness but why did you have to tell them in the first place? Why couldn't they see it? Why couldn't they feel it? Do you even know how much they already know? Do you know what they already believe? Shouldn't you ask? The most profound and long-lasting missionary moments occurred when I began by showing that I cared before I ever tried to correct someone else's behavior. How many people are surprised when their doctor tells them they ought to start considering a diet to lose weight? Most of the time, they already know that they need to change.

If you are trying to help someone, you don't need to identify their incorrect behaviors. You have to go deeper than the surface. You need to identify or help people recognize their latent or subconscious desires or fears. What is the point? Why do we do the things that we do? What truly motivates us? If you can figure that out, you will know how the gospel can help you discover true joy and happiness. If you want to change someone's life, help them discover that connection on their own.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Five Temptations of a CEO

Patrick Lencioni is a fantastic author. I don't know whether to classify him as relatively unknown or simply that he writes for a very specific target audience that not everyone is a part of. The main medium that he writes in are small business fables that are quick reads - this particular book is about 100 pages long. What I love is that they aren't so wordy and they smoothly walk you through from a character's point of view a business model and then at the end of the book he lays it all out in a very obvious manner. When he is playing author and not consultant, he does have a very good sense of humor. The first book I read by him was about power of vulnerability and authenticity. It was entitled, "Getting Naked." My parents could only guess what the true topic was for the short novel.

I don't want to ruin this book, "The Five Temptations of a CEO," so I will simply share the business model. It applies to all leaders in an organization, not just the one at the top. Companies are definitely like a tribe where it would be difficult if there were too many chiefs and not enough Indians. The major blessing or difference however is if there is a shared mission or purpose then having coworkers, employees or people that have enough passion about what they do will step up and lead without having to be asked. This is why companies look to hire leaders into all levels of their organization. More importantly is being the right kind of leader and knowing what that means.

I take no credit for the following as they come straight from the book but here is the model and the self-assessment that make up the five temptations of a CEO:

Temptation #1 - Choosing status over results

The most important principle that an executive must embrace is a desire to produce results. Most CEOs were results maniacs before reaching their ultimate jobs. Once they "arrive," though, many of them focus primarily on preserving their status. This occurs because their real purpose in life has always been personal gain. With nowhere to go but down, it almost makes sense that once they have achieved their ultimate status, they will do whatever they can to protect it.

This causes CEOs to make decisions that protect their ego or reputation or, worse yet, to avoid making decisions that might damage them. They reward people who contribute to their ego, instead of those who contribute to the results of the company. By focusing on results, they will ultimately achieve greater status and ego satisfaction but this requires a lot of work over a long period of time. It allows for too many risky episodes of status-loss along the way.

Advice: Make results the most important measure of personal success, or step down from the job. The future of the company you lead is too important for customers, employees, and stockholders to hold it hostage to your ego.

  • Do you personally consider it a professional failure when your organization fails to meet its objectives?
  • Do you often wonder, What's next? What will I do to top this in my career?
  • Would it bother you greatly if your company exceeded its objectives but you remained somewhat anonymous relative to your peers in the industry?


On a professional level, organizational success and personal-professional success are one and the same. Although it is healthy for any human being to separate his or her sense of self-esteem from success on the job, in the context of professional success these should not be divided. Too often, CEOs justify their own performance even when the organizations they lead are failing around them. CEOs must ultimately judge their personal-professional success by the results on the bottom line; only the CEO is ultimately responsible for the results of the company, and this must be his or her final measure.

Additionally, a pronounced concern for the "next step" in a person's career is a good sign of susceptibility to Temptation Number One because it is a possible indication that success is gauged in terms of career advancement rather than current performance. The most successful CEOs focus almost exclusively on their current jobs. Although human nature dictates that we hope for a just share of acknowledgement, it is a dangerous part of human nature to entertain. Those who eventually get that recognition are the CEOs who aren't distracted by the occasional slighting that an unscientific press is sure to give. Interestingly enough, they experience a low degree of satisfaction from such press. After all, they take larger personal satisfaction from achieving results.

Temptation #2 - Choosing popularity over accountability

Wanting to be well liked by peers is understandable, but dangerous, problem for CEOs. Being at the top of an organization is lonely. There are very few people in a company with whom CEOs spend considerable time, aside from their direct reports. Most CEOs become friends with their reports and commiserate about the constant needs and shortfalls of employees. They develop a sense of camaraderie around their overwhelming responsibilities. It is no surprise, the, that when it comes time for a CEO to tell these same people that they are not meeting expectations, they balk.

Empirical evidence of this phenomenon is that CEOs conduct performance reviews for their direct reports far less diligently then do managers at other levels. Why? It isn't because they are too busy or lazy, but because they don't want to deal with the prospect of upsetting one of their peers. Ironically, those same CEOs will not hesitate to ultimately fire a direct report when his or her performance problem becomes too costly, thereby severing the relationship completely. But they often fail to provide constructive or negative feedback along the way.

Advice: Work for the long-term respect of your direct reports, not for their affection. Don't view them as a support group, but as key employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is to produce predictable results. And remember, your people aren't going to like you anyway if they ultimately fail.

  • Do you consider yourself to be a close friend of your direct reports?
  • Does it bother you to the point of distraction if they are unhappy with you?
  • Do you often find yourself reluctant to give negative feedback to your direct reports? Do you water down negative feedback to make it more palatable?
  • Do you often vent to them about issues in the organization? For example, do you refer to your staff as "we" and other employees as "they"?


It is wonderful for CEOs to care about direct reports as people, so long as they can separate the success of those relationships from their sense of self-esteem and personal happiness. This is difficult because most of us try to avoid major disagreements with close friends, and it is impossible not to be concerned about a deep rift with one of them. If those close friends are your direct reports, the accountability within the organization can be threatened. The slightest reluctance to hold someone accountable for their behaviors and results can cause an avalanche of negative reaction from others who perceive even the slightest hint of unfairness or favoritism.

Those CEOs who are able to make close friendships with direct reports and still avoid a sense of favoritism often find it easy to use those reports as their personal "venting boards." All executives need people they can vent to about challenges they face in the organization, but CEOs must resist the desire to use direct reports for this service. It can lead to politics among the executive team, and more importantly, it can undermine the team's objective understanding of their own actions by creating an atmosphere of self-victimizing groupthink. Often this manifests itself during executive staff meetings in comments such as "When will these people stop questioning us and start understanding what we are trying to do?"

Temptation #3 - Choosing certainty over clarity

CEOs are sometimes unwilling to hold their direct reports accountable because they don't think it's fair. This is because they haven't made it clear what those direct reports are accountable for doing. Why don't they make these things clear? Because they give in to yet another temptation: the need to make "correct" decisions, to achieve certainty.

Many CEOs, especially highly analytical ones, want to ensure that their decisions are correct, which is impossible in a world of imperfect information and uncertainty. Still, executives with a need for precision and correctness often postpone decisions and fail to make their people's deliverables clear. They provide vague and hesitant direction to their direct reports and hope that they figure out the right answers along the way. The chances that they will produce the results CEOs eventually decide they want are slim.

Advice: Make clarity more important than accuracy. Remember that your people will learn more if you take decisive action than if you always wait for more information. And if the decisions you make in the spirit of creating clarity turn out to be wrong when more information becomes available, change plans and explain why. It is your job to risk being wrong. The only real cost to you of being wrong is loss of pride. The cost of your company of not taking the risk of being wrong is paralysis.

  • Do you pride yourself on being intellectually precise?
  • Do you prefer to wait for more information rather than make a decision without all of the facts?
  • Do you enjoy debating details with your direct reports during meetings?


Intellectual precision alone is not the problem but when it manifests itself during staff meetings in terms of unnecessary debates over minutiae, it is a sign of real trouble. It is no surprise that many CEOs take a great deal of pride in their analytical and intellectual acumen. Unable to realize that their success as an executive usually has less to do with intellectual skills than it does with personal and behavioral discipline, they spend too much time debating the finer points of decision making.

Those debates are problematic for two reasons. First, they eat up valuable time that can be spent discussing larger issues, which often receive just a few minutes at the end of the staff meeting agenda. Second, and more important, they create a climate of excessive analysis and overintellectualization of tactical issues. If there is one person in an organization who cannot afford to be overly precise, it is the CEO.

Temptation #4 - Choosing harmony over productive conflict

CEOs fail to feel comfortable with the decisions they make because they don't benefit from the best sources of information that are available to them: their direct reports. Most people, including CEOs, believe that it is better for people to agree and get along than disagree and conflict with one another. That is how they were raised. However, harmony sometimes restricts "productive ideological conflict," the passionate interchange of opinions around an issue.

Without this kind of conflict, decisions are often suboptimal. The best decisions are made only after all knowledge and perspectives are out on the table. Not every person's perspective and opinion can be agreed with, but they can be considered. When all available knowledge is considered, the chances of optimal decisions are greater - not to mention the likelihood of confidence in those decisions, which is just as important.

Advice: Tolerate discord. Encourage your direct reports to air their ideological differences, and with passion. Tumultuous meetings are often signs of progress. Tame ones are often signs of leaving important issues off the table. Guard against personal attacks, but not to the point of stifling important interchanges of ideas.

  • Do you prefer your meetings to be pleasant and enjoyable?
  • Are your meetings often boring?
  • Do you get uncomfortable at meetings if your direct reports argue?
  • Do you often make peace or try to reconcile direct reports who are at odds with one another?


Lots of people complain about meetings taking up time that is needed for "real work." This is a sign that those meetings are not as difficult (or productive) as they should be. Executive staff meetings should be exhausting inasmuch as they are passionate, critical discussions. Pleasant or boring meetings are indications that there is not a proper level of overt, constructive, ideological conflict taking place.

Every meeting has conflict so don't be deceived. Some people sweep that conflict under the table and let employees deeper in the organization sort it out. This doesn't happen by accident. The tone of meetings is set by the leader that is conducting it and after a CEO squelches any potential passion for peace, this sends a message. Boredom and agreeable meetings set in and executives start lamenting the real work that they could be doing instead.

Temptation #5 - Choosing invulnerability over trust

Asking for productive conflict does not always achieve it because people may not feel like their input is important or valuable. CEOs are relatively powerful people. Being vulnerable with their peers and reports is not a comfortable prospect. They mistakenly believe that they lose credibility if their people feel too comfortable challenging their ideas.

People are unwilling to enter the fray of productive conflict if it doesn't feel safe. As a result, those reports position themselves around the inferred opinion of the CEO and conflict with one another only when it is politically expedient. Instead of creating a culture of creativity, trust and open dialogue for sharing important information, it is an atmosphere of "yes men."

Advice: Actively encourage your people to challenge your ideas. Trust them with your reputation and your ego. As a CEO, this is the greatest level of trust that you can give. They will return it with respect and honesty, and with a desire to be vulnerable among their peers.

  • Do you have a hard time admitting when you're wrong?
  • Do you fear that your direct reports want your job?
  • Do you try to keep your greatest weaknesses secret from your direct reports?


No one loves to admit being wrong, but some people hate it. Great CEOs don't lose face in the slightest when they are wrong, because they know who they are, they know why they are the CEO, and they realize that the organization's results, not the appearance of being smart, are their ultimate measure of success. They know that the best way to get results is to put their weaknesses on the table and invite people to help them minimize those weaknesses. CEOs who understand this concept intellectually but cannot behavioralize it sometimes make the mistake of finding symbolic moments to admit mistakes and weaknesses. This only serves to reinforce the notion that the CEO is unwilling to put real weaknesses on the table. Overcoming this temptation requires a degree of fear and pain that many CEOs are unwilling to tolerate.


Instilling trust gives executives the confidence to have productive conflict. Fostering conflict gives executives confidence to create clarity. Clarity gives executives the confidence to hold people accountable. Accountability gives executives confidence in expected results. And results are a CEO's ultimate measure of long-term success.

CEOs who follow this model still fail but mostly if they are thwarted by competitive and market pressures that are largely out of their control. Leadership and management are not the same thing. We can manage people and manage problems. Leaders need to expect to make mistakes and be able to change at a moment's notice. They need to rely on others and accept and acknowledge that they aren't the one with all the answers in the room. They have to take risks. Leaders need to act and can't settle for the same but require constant improvement. Good managers produce quantity but good leaders produce quality.

Great leaders find a way to produce both.