Category Archives: Blog

A Lesson from Children on Values-Based Leadership and Spirituality

I often reflect on how unfortunate it is that people in many situations focus on the differences in our spiritual beliefs rather than focusing on the many things the great majority of us share in common: Treating one another the way we want to be treated (the “golden rule”), giving one another the benefit of the doubt, forgiving one another when we make mistakes, making the world a better place for our children, etc.

However, being an optimist, I believe firmly that we have the capacity to do better, and I believe that heart-warming stories like the following one attest to this fact:

As you may know, today Muslims worldwide celebrated “Eid-ul-Fitr”, the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. During the past month, Muslims fasted during the whole day (as they do every Ramadan) — which means no food or drinks (including water!) between sunrise and sunset — as a way to purify themselves and achieve a higher level of spirituality. For Muslims, Ramadan is intended to help teach self-discipline, self-restraint, and generosity and serves as a reminder of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well. Each evening, Muslims break their fast with a meal called “Iftar”, which is a time to give thanks and celebrate with family and friends. Typically, neighbors also share Iftar dishes with each other. The following photo shows the children of a Muslim friend of mine making such an “Iftar delivery” a week or so ago to one of their neighbors in Philadelphia.

But here’s the fantastic part of the story: These neighbors aren’t even Muslim — they’re Jewish!

Notice that there is a poster on the neighbor’s gate that says “Hate has no home here.” The statement is repeated in several languages, including Urdu, Arabic, Spanish, and Hebrew.

My Muslim friend said it best: “My family and I felt it was so nice of our Jewish neighbors to publicly condemn hate that we stopped by and introduced ourselves earlier this year and decided to share an Iftar platter with them this Ramadan. I feel the picture of our children delivering Iftar to this neighbor is so powerful: Two Muslim children delivering Iftar to Jewish neighbors who have made a poignant, public declaration in support of love and humanity.”

I get excited to think of how different the world could be for all of us and our children if we all acted in this way, focusing on what we all share in common rather than exaggerating the differences. We clearly can learn much from such acts of generosity and kindness.

College Reunion Weekend

I had the opportunity this past weekend to attend my Lawrence University college reunion in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was a fantastic opportunity to spend time with classmates and professors that I had not seen in many years. It was a wonderful experience!!!!

One impact of the experience was to cause me to SELF REFLECT (yes, I know you are thinking: “What else is new with Harry?” 😀). But this experience really did cause me to self reflect…..40TH COLLEGE REUNION!!!! How could it possibly be my 40th college reunion if I am only 39 years old????? Hmmmm… I guess graduating from Lawrence in 1977 as well as having a daughter who is almost 30 and a son who was also at Lawrence this weekend celebrating his 5th college reunion may be possible evidence that I am no longer 39 years old…! 💡

Freshman Roommates

I had the opportunity on Friday evening to get together with several of the guys I roomed with on the 4th floor of our Colman Hall dormitory when we were 18-year-old freshman in the Fall of 1973!! Walking by the field where we played touch football 🏈 the day we arrived on campus in September 1973, we found the “field” is now full of 50-foot-tall trees. As we all stared at the “field”, one of my classmates declared, “Well, guys, it was 44 years ago!!” Wow!

While we were having dinner that evening several folks mentioned that they really didn’t feel any different than when they really were 39 years old. Nonetheless, we discussed the importance of being thankful for every day we are given. This thought was reinforced when we attended the reception that evening for our 40th reunion class. At the entrance to the room was a large white board with pictures of 26 classmates (out of our class of 320) who are no longer with us…great people including roommates and teammates whom I hope to meet again at the “end of the story”.

Please don’t think I look at these things in a negative or pessimistic way. I don’t. Rather, it reminds me that we all have limited time to make a difference in the world, so let’s get going!! As I have mentioned in earlier blog posts, we can talk about all of the challenges in the world and assume some magical group of people called “THOSE GUYS” will solve them, or we can realize that WE are “THOSE GUYS”…the men and women who can make a difference.

Okay, one final thought on “self reflection”. A student asked me how one would feel if they were “truly self reflective.” (I love this question!!) I asked him to consider the following: You feel completely healthy, but your doctor walks up to you and informs you that you have three days left to live (and no chance to change the diagnosis). How do you react? Do you go crazy, running around, shocked, surprised 😳😢? Or, in a calm, reflective manner do you realize the obvious, which is: We all eventually have three days left — we just don’t know when that three-day countdown begins. So why wouldn’t we live our lives and treat every person with whom we come in contact as if it really was “our last three days?”😀👍

Well, that’s all for now. Have a great (self reflective) week!! 😀

Top 12 ‘End of Quarter’ Thoughts

I always get a little (or maybe a lot) SELF REFLECTIVE at the end of each academic quarter of my Northwestern Kellogg classes. The ten weeks of my Values-Based Leadership and Leading a Global Company classes always seem to fly by.

Last week, one of my students asked if I would compile some “words of wisdom” for the last class. I wasn’t sure if I had any “wisdom”, but I did compile some thoughts and some of my favorite quotes and stories. I hope you enjoy them!

Congratulations to all of the graduates, and have a great summer!

Warm regards,

Harry

TOP 12 FINAL THOUGHTS FOR THE QUARTER

  1. Take the time for self reflection (this is where your values are established and your leadership starts)
  2. Never forget or postpone LIFE BALANCE (this is not “work/life balance” but “life balance”…This is the key to a life worth living)
  3. Make sure you get from the ROOTS to the TREES to the FOREST…..put everything in perspective….think globally and holistically)
  4. Build (and constantly revise) your Leadership Action Plan (we can improve every day we are given on this earth)
  5. Read, read, read…..as many different topics and perspectives as possible (never stop learning)
  6. Build and develop an amazing network…..be a GIVER, not a TAKER
  7. Always “pay it forward”
  8. Read the poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis (a great way to start the self reflection process)
  9. Read the speech “The Man in the Arena” by Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the U.S. Here’s my favorite part of the speech that he presented at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910:
    The Man in the Arena
    Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910:
     
    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
  10. Read the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. Here it is:
    If
    by Rudyard Kipling
     
    If you can keep your head when all about you
        Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
        But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
        Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
        And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
     
    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
        If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
        And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
        Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
        And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
     
    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
        And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
        And never breathe a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
        To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
        Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
     
    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
        Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
        If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
        With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
        And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
     
    Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)
  11. Read the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote:
    To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
     
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Philosopher, Poet, Author, Essayist
  12. Read the story “Rocks, Pebbles, Sand” (anonymous)

    “Rocks, Pebbles, Sand”

    A philosophy professor stood before his class and picked up a large, empty mayonnaise jar which he proceeded to fill with rocks. He asked his students if the jar was full.

     

    They agreed that it was, so the professor picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.

    He shook the jar lightly and the pebbles rolled into open areas between the rocks. He asked again if the jar was full.

     

    They agreed it was. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it in and the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.

     

    The students responded with a unanimous yes.

     

    “Now,” said the professor, “This jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children–things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

    The pebbles are the other things that matter…like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else, the really small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks.

    The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important.

    Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

    AND A FINAL THOUGHT…the professor produced two cans of beer and poured them into the jar, filling the empty space between the sand. The Professor then said, “No matter how full your life is, there is always room for a few beers.” 😉

Values-Based Leadership in Action!

One thing I enjoy tremendously is seeing values-based leadership in action. Over the years I have had the opportunity to witness many such instances, and I frequently share these “Real World” examples with my students and executives who attend my leadership talks and seminars. Often, I hear some great examples from my friends, colleagues, and students…and now I have an amazing example to share!!!

I received the below note, a true story, from one of my former Kellogg students. As you read the note, I would like to ask you to focus on a few questions:

  • Am I self reflective enough to even consider doing what this person did? (What are my values and what kind of impact do I want to make in the world during my life?)
  • Do I let the actions of others determine how I will react, or do I have a balanced perspective that enables me to determine how I will respond? (Am I proactive or reactive?)
  • Do I have the TRUE self confidence of this individual, enabling myself to be an example to others of what it really means to be a values-based leader? (Or am I overly concerned of what others would think of my actions?)
  • What does this story teach me about the power of GENUINE humility? (Isn’t it amazing the impact we can have on others when it is not “all about me”?)

I have read this story several times today…and I am more impacted by the words and message each time I read it!!!! To my student, thanks so much for sharing!!!


Defusing Anger with Kindness

The man stepped into the line for coffee right in front of me.

“Excuse me,” I said, “the line is behind me.” He didn’t turn or respond. I noticed that he was wearing headphones; he must not have heard me. I tapped him on his arm and repeated, “Excuse me, the line is behind me.”

“I know there is a line!” he turned and snapped angrily.

“Just making sure you knew,” I replied calmly.

“I know what a line is, you F**K!” he yelled, loudly enough for everyone in the cafe to hear.

“No need to cuss,” I chided gently.

Seething, the man got in the line two spots behind me, and we waited for our turn to order. After several minutes of waiting, my turn came. I ordered my usual latte. The baristas took the orders for the woman behind me, as well as the man who I had the confrontation with. By the time my turn to pay came, I had made up my mind:

“Yes, one latte,” I declared. “And I’m going to cover my friend there as well,” I added, pointing at the man. I paid for both of us. As I turned to walk away, I glanced at the man, and he said to me rather tersely,

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know,” I said, “but it seemed like you were having a bad day.”

We shook hands, and I walked over to the side to wait for my latte. I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the guy who had been in line right in front of me. “That was classy, man,” he said. I nodded my thanks.

********

I share this story, professor, not to make myself appear noble or to win accolades. Rather, my intent is to use it as a portal to get into the mindset, the internal deliberations, that led to this outcome, and share my takeaways regarding the importance of cultivating certain attributes.

As I see it, this was essentially all about genuine humility and true self-confidence. I ask myself: Why did I not fly off the handle when the man swore at me? Alternatively, why did I not shrink into myself, embarrassed at being berated in public in such a manner? My answer is genuine humility and true self-confidence. A lack of humility can make people’s sense of pride overly sensitive to injury.  A large ego gets wounded easily: How DARE he swear at me?! This can lead quickly to anger and potentially an uncontrolled reaction. At the same time, I have to be truly self-confident to realize that the angry statements of a complete stranger cannot hurt or embarrass me. I remain calm and collected, recognizing that the issue is not with me, but with the gentleman who has decided to yell out abusive language in a public setting at a complete stranger. Therefore, I am able to remain in control of myself, and consequently, I am able to control the situation.

Staying calm and recognizing that I am in control then allows me to think beyond myself. Why did this man have an outburst? Is he having a bad morning? Is he simply a jerk? Or is he racist, his anger sparked by the sight of my brown skin? (This may seem like a ludicrous possibility to those who haven’t experienced racism, but I have.) Probably a multitude of other possibilities, but I am able to quickly get to an answer for myself: Regardless of the man’s motive, I have an opportunity to defuse his hate/anger with an act of generosity, of kindness, by buying his coffee for him. Not only is it a “nice thing to do”, it’s also extremely empowering. It leaves me feeling strong and grounded in the “courage of my convictions.”

It is my core belief that it’s the small actions that build one’s character. Pay attention to yourself — how you think, how you behave — when dealing with the seemingly small and insignificant events of daily life, and push yourself to do the “right thing” and be a change agent, no matter how uncomfortable it is.  Inevitably, you will find yourself muscled up and more prepared to do the heavy lifting when the big events occur. And if I can do it, anyone can do it.


Have a great weekend, all!

“Welcome to the Future, Dad… We’ve All Been Waiting for You!”

I loved my Blackberry. I purchased my “BB” twelve years ago, and it quickly became one of my best friends. I liked the size of the phone and absolutely LOVED the keyboard. Since I usually receive 300 to 400 emails a day, the keyboard was my lifeline. I decided that there was no way I would EVER give up my BB keyboard… those “touchscreen smartphone devices” would NOT enter my life. I recognized that there was a likely possibility that I could end up becoming the last person on Earth using a Blackberry, and that was absolutely fine with me.

Julie and my five children (each with his/her own smartphone) constantly teased me about my Blackberry on many topics:

“Dad, you cannot get ‘apps’ on that thing.”  (I decided that I didn’t need ‘apps’; I just did emails.)

“Dad, the pictures on your BB are terrible!”  (I only took about one picture a month, and the pictures looked fine to me!)

“Dad, it’s much easier to text on a smartphone.”  (I prefer email or actually speaking to someone on the phone 😉 )

“Dad, I cannot ‘Facetime’ you.”  (Not sure what that is, but you can always call me.)

“Dad, I cannot “SnapChat” you.  (Wasn’t really sure what that was either and didn’t give it much thought — until I learned the company went public earlier this month at a $24 BILLION market capitalization!!!)

Whenever I mentioned to my friend and HarryKraemer.org colleague, Khalid Ali, that I really had no need for a smartphone, he always smiled and softly responded, “Harry, we really need to talk.” 😉

So, what happened last week!?!?!?!?!?! As you can see in the picture below, yes, it happened. I actually turned off my beloved BB and purchased an iPhone:

My daughter Shannon’s immediate reaction said it all: “Welcome to the FUTURE, Dad…we’ve all been waiting for you!!!”

I admit that this change will take a while to get used to. For example, I learned that I can now insert cartoons into my emails. (The children were quick to point out: “No, dad, those aren’t cartoons. They are ’emojis’.” Who came up with that word anyway?!)

So why did I give in and change to an iPhone? Some might say I had no choice. All of my colleagues at Madison Dearborn had made the switch, and my friends in IT let me know they were “pulling the plug” soon, which to me meant they were about to turn off my oxygen. If I was going to continue to receive emails, it wouldn’t be on my BB. Also, Khalid told me he would stop working with me if I didn’t dispose of my BB.

But I need to come clean and admit that I finally did see the value in making the change. Three examples immediately come to mind:

  1. Khalid’s urging that I could communicate much more effectively with my students and colleagues using iPhone apps for Facebook, LinkedIn, and maybe even Twitter.
  2. Using GPS is a lot more convenient than running into gas stations to ask for directions (you can imagine the awkward looks I’ve gotten doing that in this day and age!).
  3. After a recent dinner with 40 colleagues in San Francisco, everyone pulled out their smartphones and jetted out on Uber rides… while I waited a half hour for a cab!

So, yes, it was time.

Reading this many of you may be thinking: “Wow, Harry really has joined the future! No more ancient technology for this hip guy!” But not quite so fast…! Let me introduce you to my other favorite device, one that may be alien to many of my younger students and the older ones may not realize this technology still exists. I keep it a secret that not many folks know about (until now). No, not my BB. The device I am describing is very small, very convenient, can easily slip into a very small pocket, and needs very little battery charging. I can use it to make calls at the same time as I am reviewing emails and documents on my new iPhone. It’s called a Motorola flip phone:

I intend to keep this beauty with me ALWAYS.  So, maybe we should really call my transition “Back to the Future” 😉

 

Here’s wishing all of you a great Spring!!!

So How About Some Examples of Values-Based Leaders!

In my Northwestern Kellogg classes and executive presentations I am often asked for specific examples of “values-based leaders”. After I explain the importance of the four leadership principles (self reflection, balance, true self confidence, and genuine humility) a common question is…”Okay, so who are ‘those guys’?”  Yes, I do tell them that we are all “those guys” (for more on that check out my previous blog post regarding #IAmThoseGuys), but a fair response is “So how about some examples of values-based leaders!”

Well, I was fortunate to be exposed to four values-based leaders this week in four very different occupations: a successful CEO, a phenomenal president of a not-for-profit, an NBA basketball coach, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve! Here’s a brief summary:

Scott Brown

1) Scott Brown is the President and CEO Emeritus of Sage Products, a leading healthcare company that is now part of Stryker. Scott was a guest speaker for my values-based leadership class last week and did a great job sharing his perspectives on leadership. I loved his comments regarding a story where he had to make a tough decision and someone said: “Well, it’s not personal”, to which he responded, “YES, it is always personal!!!” He summarized his commitment to “keeping it personal” as follows:

  • Keep it personal with our people (provide support for personal growth and professional development)
  • Keep it personal with our customer (develop, produce, and maintain the highest quality products)
  • Keep it personal with our leadership (demonstrate high visibility and accessibility)
  • Keep it personal with our community (remain visible and active leaders within our community)

A few more “Scott Brown highlights”:

  • First, make it all about the customer
  • Second, realize how many customers you really have
  • Third, never forget everyone is smarter than you about something

Art Mollenhauer

2) Art Mollenhauer is the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Chicago (BBBS). I was fortunate to have Art as a colleague at Baxter International for more than 20 years. When he stepped down from his role as one of Baxter’s senior executives ten years ago, he said he wanted to work with a dedicated team to make a real difference in the world.  And that is exactly what he is doing at BBBS. He leads BBBS and has a board that is as professional as any for-profit company I have come across. He is a fantastic example of someone who loves each of the four principles of values-based leadership!!!

3) At Art’s BBBS conference this week, his guest speaker was Steve Kerr, the former Chicago Bulls player and now coach of the Golden State Warriors. I was extremely impressed both by his comments, and in the Q&A discussion, the number of times he referenced concepts right in line with values-based leadership. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • When you take over a new leadership position, don’t tear

    Steve Kerr and the gang

    down your predecessor; build off where they are and take it to the next level

  • Great teams form an “unbreakable bond”…the key is the ability to relate to every person on the team
  • Key to leadership is a combination of BOTH self confidence and humility (YES!!!….that really made me smile) 😉
  • I know what I am doing. but I am not afraid to ask others, ‘What do you think?’
  • Steve’s four key areas of focus for his team: joyful, compassionate, competitive, mindfulness

Janet Yellin

4) If that wasn’t enough, I had the opportunity to end the week attending an Executive Club of Chicago event featuring Fed chairman Janet Yellin. Her ability to explain the mission of the Federal Reserve, and what the Fed’s role has been year by year since the 2008 financial crisis, was extremely well done. It was clear that her key focus is BALANCE; scaling back the “financial accommodation” that has been key to the recovery without igniting inflation and gradually increasing interest rates. Her ability to take complicated topics and simplify them into their core components was fantastic, a true sign of a values-based leader. It is clear she is a very reflective person, especially when you realize that every single word she says is under the microscope!!

I hope I have the opportunity to spend time with more VBLs this coming week!

Have a great week!!

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