Archive for Change Agents


Let’s talk about Courage and how to Find Your Lion: A conversation with Bill Treasurer

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The concept of courage has been front and center in my mind lately.  For those of you reading for a while, you may have observed that I have been building up to this.  There are connections, both directly and thematically in many of my blogs about driving change.  Most specifically within The Revolution of One, Stop, Look and Listen, Anatomy of a Change Agent, Penguin Leadership, and Being Lionhearted©.

I believe that we are at multiple crossroads.  I see the need for significant changes within businesses, within the political arena, and within social structures.  All three of these are connected in multiple ways across multiple dimensions.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t just need Change Agents, that we need Lionhearted Change Agents ©.  That to truly drive the changes we need, more people will need to step out of their comfort zones.  Many of us need to be more courageous more often.  We must be aware of “social norming” and combat it at the source.  Not just how we act, but also how we react.

After writing Being Lionhearted©, I posted the following question in Linked In.

What does courage cost? How is it rewarded or suppressed? It takes great courage to drive long term, sustainable change? What can be done to build courage in today’s environment?

I had several motivations for doing this.  Not the least of which was to generate a dialog within a group of individuals who should already be Change Agents.  To ask them to think further and deeper about courage.  To encourage and challenge them to become more courageous themselves.

One of the participates in the on-line dialog is Bill Treasurer.  Bill is founder and Chief Encouragement Officer at Giant Leap Consulting (GLC), a courage-building company.  Bill established this company in 2002 to help people and organizations live more courageously.  He is the author of Courage Goes to Work, a book about how to inspire more courageous behavior in workplace settings.  His first book, Right Risk, is about how to take smart risks.  It draws on Bill’s experiences as a daredevil athlete.  Personally, I can’t imagine diving off of 100 foot platforms like he did!  Yikes.  Talk about Courage.

I had a chance to speak voice-to-voice with Bill regarding his background and experiences.  Bill believes “…that with less fear and more courage, workers take on harder projects, deal better with change, and speak up more willingly about important issues.”  I agree wholeheartedly with him.

Bill’s view is “…that individually and organizationally, people can generally be divided into two camps: safety-seekers and opportunity-seekers.  During times of heightened anxiety or uncertainty, such as NOW, the Camp Safety swells with refugees.  There is a danger in this flight to safety.  Just when our organizations need us to provide ground-breaking (and tradition-defying) ideas, we are, instead, hunkering down underneath our desks.”

Below are some of Bill’s tips for helping you be more courageous at work.  This list was extracted from his latest article, The First Virtue.

  • “Be Mindful of the Risks of Not Risking. The risk of inaction is usually more perilous than the risk of action.  As you consider a risk, be clear about the dangers of not taking the risk, too.
  • Ask the Holy Question. Here are the four most important words you’ll ever learn in the English language: What do you want? Most people don’t take the time to answer that question with specificity.  Those who do, however, are in a much better position to figure out the actions they need to take in order to get what they want.
  • Have Something to Prove. Take on challenges that cause you to have to prove yourself to yourself.  When the going gets rough, having something to prove can be a source of energy and motivation.
  • Make Forward-Falling Mistakes. Making no mistakes is just as dangerous as making too many.  Have a “mistake ratio,” a good balance between not making enough mistakes and making too many.  As long as the mistakes you make are forward-falling, you’re making progress.
  • Harness Fear. Fear is a normal, natural and necessary part of the work experience.  While uncomfortable, fear has energy, and that energy can be useful when facing tough challenges.  Harness your fear by spending time with it.  The more you experience the thing that you’re afraid of, the more desensitized you become to it.
  • Jump First. The best way to encourage those around you to be more courageous is to be more courageous yourself … first!  Ask yourself, “When was the last time you did something courageous that probably left a favorable impression on the people you work with?”  In other words, when did you last jump first?”

You can learn more about Courage Goes to Work, Bill’s international bestseller, at  Bill’s newest courage material, Courageous Leadership: Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, comes out in early 2011.  It’s an off-the-shelf courage-building training program being published by Pfeiffer.  Personally, I can’t wait to see it.

My hope is that you can find a bit more courage within yourself.  That you not just Own Your Elephant , but that you Find Your Lion Inside.  That you take positive action rather than just observing or standing aside.  It takes time, courage, and energy.  I’m hoping that you can find a bit more inside yourself and join my Change Revolution.  Cheers.

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Do you see me?

Do you truly see me or do I simply look like all the rest? I stand alone in a crowd. Waiting for my uniqueness to be seen.

Recently a group of colleagues of mine, some really high caliber thinkers, shared a laugh about the attached penguin picture.  This is a group of individuals I met through Linked In.  Rather than posting in Linked In, we have found that we often turn to our small group.  We challenge each others’ thinking, share insights and observations, and talk about “what if.”  To me, one of the true and real benefits of social networking is having connected with these bright, insightful, and valuable colleagues.

This is a group of really great people who are forging their own paths.  They have small firms which provide unique insights and are trying to make a difference.  They all have a passion for people and have a high level of integrity.  These are individuals who “get it” at multiple levels.  They ask the hard questions.  They offer the less popular solutions.  They provide advice as to what they feel is truly needed, not just lip service.  They want to do the “right” thing rather than the “easy” thing. 

With the significant increase of individual Consultants and small businesses, it’s nice to see some truly qualified individuals out there with their own shingle.  Individuals with a real desire to make a difference.  Who want to help improve people, organizations, processes, and businesses not just in the short term, but in the long term.  Individuals who aren’t selling a “solution” but rather are willing to invest the time and mental energy in understanding and analyzing situations to determine what would be of the most impact or highest value to the individual or business.

It appears that certain types of individuals (often when they cannot find employment) simply hang out a shingle and call themselves a Consultant.  After all Consultants don’t do much or “real work” do they?  They just tell others what to do and make big bucks don’t they?  So the thinking goes.  

With the flood of “Consultants” who have appeared in the marketplace this past year or two, each of us had been feeling a bit like we were being viewed as one of the crowd – when we each were quite different.  We know this.  Not just because of our individual personal beliefs, but because our thinking has been validated by other, deep skilled professionals.  We know that we think and operate differently, but that we are often lost in a crowd. 

We were concerned with the number of individuals who are labeling themselves as “Consultants,” but that we don’t feel really “get it” or are selling bad solutions or the wrong answer.  Their work products, behaviors, and ethics have an impact on the perception of all Consulting professionals.  They do not demonstrate what we are truly capable of accomplishing.  

My concern isn’t that that these new shiny shingled Consultants don’t have content knowledge.  Frequently they are quite deep in one area or industry.  Rather it’s that they do not have critical consulting, strategic, and analytical skills.   It’s about whether they really understand what it means to be a Consultant. 

  • Do they know what a client really needs or are they following a checklist?  
  • Can they truly add long-term value to their clients? 
  • Can they see the connections across and within? 
  • Can they sense what is happening in the “whitespace” of an organization? 
    • Do they even know what that is? 
    • Do they know how to find it?
  • Will they walk away from a client when they know that they aren’t the best solution or even a reasonable one?

Good, genuine, insightful Consulting is hard.  Really, really hard.  Honestly, my head hurts and I am exhausted when I’ve been deeply focused on my clients needs.  When I’m doing some multi-dimensional systems thinking, often nested systems thinking. 

My observation is that often times these deep skilled individuals are not well rewarded.  They have chosen to take the path less traveled and less constrained.  They want to operate with integrity and truth in an environment where many don’t want to hear the truth or take the hard, but right road.  These individuals often work as much for intrinsic motivational reasons as extrinsic ones.  They want to make businesses better and to do the best that they can for clients, without folding to politics and useless rhetoric.

For me, it doesn’t take long to identify who truly “gets it.”  Those that can see in color and think multi-dimensionally as compared to (or contrasted against) those who only see things in black and white but are adept at using the “right” words.  Those that simply following a process, script, or methodology without taking the time to analyze what is truly needed.  

Imagine the penguin picture in black and white.  Would you see the Emperor penguin or would he/she look just like everyone else?  Much of the world views Consultants in black and white.  Apples to apples.  A Change Management professional is a Change Management professional, is a Change Management professional right?  Wrong.  Very wrong.

So here’s my big shout out to some special people – great thinkers and good people. 

YOU ARE UNIQUE and I APPRECIATE YOU.  While we have never met in person, I’d work any day of the week, in any country with you and count myself both lucky and happy to do so.

Gail Severini, CEO at Symphini Change Management Inc   Gail’s Blog

Luc Gallopin, Managing Director at Reply Management Consulting   Luc’s Blog 

Garrett Gitchell, President at Vision to Work   Garrett’s Blog 

Jim Markowsky, President of X-Factor Solutions LLC   Jim’s Blog  

You guys rock!  May our lone penguin not feel so alone.  May we find that Angel who will fund our time so we can stop worrying about the bills and take the time to write that Game Changer book.  If not Us, then Whom.  Both Me and You.

If you are reading this article and you happen to be willing to investment so that this group can pause their work long enough to write, let us know.  We have a new view or two.  In fact I know we do.


Ripple of Life

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One drop goes far...

One drop goes far...

I recently have been reflecting on the concepts of Systems Thinking and Systems Dynamics.  How so many things are interconnected.  How various choices I make are connected together and impact myself and others, both immediately and at a later time.  I’ve also been thinking about how things we learn as children often affect our behaviors as adults. 

For those unfamiliar with Systems Thinking, it is a style of thinking (and analyzing) that looks at a myrid of elements and how they affect each other.  It is a process of understanding how things influence one another within a defined “system.”  I often refer to this as holistic thinking or thinking holistically.  

If you are interested in learning more about this concept, you can go to the Systemswiki for more information (in addition to Wikipedia, of course).  You might also be interested in System Dynamics.

As I was reading in the wiki, the following came to mind.

Every choice I make,
Every action I take,
affects those around me.

I am both the stone and the ripple in the pond of life.

May I also be one with the pond.

I’d like to ask that you stop and reflect on a few things:

  • How your own behaviors and style of interaction affect others?
  • What it means if someone has a “positive vibe” or a “negative vibe”?
  • How the positive or negative energy of others can affect you?

Have you ever heard the following phrases?  Do you know what they mean?

  • They are an energy vampire.
  • They sucked the life right out of the room.

It is my hope that my actions have a positive influence not a negative one (a One not a Zero) as I continue on my quest for a revolution in the pond of life. 

Will you join me in creating positive ripples, not negative ones?  May we infuse others with energy, not drain them.

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

At this point you might be thinking authentic listening, what’s that?  No, your brain hasn’t failed you.  Nor is it something you are likely to find in a Dictionary or on Wikipedia.  It’s a term I use.   Authentic listening is not the same as “active” listening but does incorporate active listening.   According to Wikipedia,

Active listening is a communication technique.  Active listening requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.  The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding.

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively.  They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements).  Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the speaker.  Suspending one’s own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important to fully attend to the speaker.”

To me, to truly, genuinely, and authentically listen, you need to not only listen, but “hear” and process on multiple levels.  You need to look at the words used, the intent, the context, the emotional state of the speaker, the past history between individuals, etc.  You need to recognize, think through, and act upon (if appropriate) the underlying motivations, drivers, and expectations. 

Hidden desires and motivations often play a big part of what is said and how it is stated.  Do you really want to “hear” what someone else is saying – understand where the other person is coming from and why – or do you just want to make your point.

In addition to listening actively, being authentic in how you listen includes elements of reflective listening.   Again, from Wikipedia, reflective listening attempts to “…reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back…” 

Authentic listening includes listening actively, using reflection techniques, listening with an intent to “hear” the underlying messages, seeking to understand where another individual is coming from, processing across multiple dimensions, and being conscious of the underlying filters and motivations that you personally bring with you during a conversation. 

I believe true, authentic listening is a lost art.  It comes from a place of true caring – having an interest in others, their experiences, and their personal goals.

  • How well do you really listen? 
  • Do you use active listening?
  • Do you use reflective listening techniques?
  • Do you really listen and “hear” what is said or are you often working to prepare your response prior to the other person finishing?
  • What actions can you take to help ensure you listen more authentically? 
  • How would you feel if someone was really authentic when they listened to you?
  • Do you hear what I hear when we talk?

May your conversations not only be active and reflective but authentic too.   I hope you think that mine are.  I’m not perfect (no one is) but I do always seek to be authentic.  To me, life’s too short and complex enough already to be anything else.  Cheers.

How can you Fire up your Heart to help drive change?

How can you Fire up your Heart to help drive positive change?

I find it interesting to observe how “Change Agents” interact with each other.  How they listen (or not), whether they speak respectfully (or not), as well as their willingness to change themselves (or not).  One of the first steps we can take to help manage change is to manage ourselves and how we interact with others. 

A colleague of mine, Ron Leeman, posted the following description during on online discussion. 

  1. A clear mind that is not cluttered with unresolved issues, unexamined motives or pre-conceived ideas.
  2. Eyes that can see beyond today.
  3. Ears that can listen to other points of view. 
  4. A nose that can sense opportunities and timing.
  5. A mouth that can speak out with honesty and respect.
  6. A heart that can feel others’ pain and respond to it.
  7. A fire in the belly that provides passion and responsibility and makes you want to get up in the morning.
  8. Skillful hands that can do work as well as strategy.
  9. Light feet that can move swiftly when the timing is right.
  10. The soul of a warrior with a deep sense of honor, perseverance and along with a willingness to act decisively.

I found it a useful metaphor to reflect upon – to ponder how these traits can help me be a better Change Agent and a better person overall.  I would add to the above list:

  1. That the mind be active and continually seek to fill itself with knowledge and information.  That it focuses on the ability to synthesize and apply that knowledge.
  2. That the heart is open and honest, genuine and true both to itself and to others.  That it seeks to understand and is kind to others.  We all make mistakes and have “bad” days.
  3. That the soul feels like an “old soul,” with the ability to reflect on the past.  To appreciate where it currently is as well as where it is going.

As I continue on my personal and professional journey, I challenge you to join me.  To find ways to make improvements to all parts of yourself:  mental, physical, emotional, and psychological.  I ask you to join me in my on-going quest to drive a change revolution.   To help create an environment (both in and outside of the workplace) that brings engagement and involvement rather than frustration and discontent.  To foster a revolution of change 1+1+1 ad infinitum.  

One person at a time can truly make a difference.  I’m hoping that today that person can be you.

Thanks Ron, for seeking to make a difference as well as always sharing in a respectful and open manner.  Cheers.  May we have a chance to lift a physical toast not just a metaphorical one someday.

Are you trying to juggle the world in your hands?

Do you feel like you are trying to juggle the world in your hands?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a Change Agent. 

  • What does it really mean to be a Change Agent? 
  • What does it take to drive lasting change?
  • How much physical, mental, and emotional energy does it take to make changes and truly make them stick?

Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of energy to change.  It can be an enormous amount of energy, especially when you are trying to project positive energy into a group.  The more places in your life you are working to make changes, the more people you are trying to impact, the more energy it takes.  I’ve recently determined that I’ve been trying to be a Change Agent in too many places at once – juggling too many balls at once.  I had hit my personal “change fatigue” wall.  I had lost my energy and was feeling like a Zero (O).  (For more information about what I mean by a Zero, refer to my first blog, The Revolution of One).  I was concerned about my ability to remain upbeat and positive.  How had this happened?  I didn’t want to be a O.  Yikes!

After talking with a colleague the phrase “coming from a place of hope” suddenly ran through my mind.  What the heck?  I realized that I was feeling more optimistic than I had the last several days.  I started to analyze (what, me analyze something?):

  • How did I feel mentally, emotionally, and physically at that moment in time?
  • What did this phrase mean to me?
  • Why had it come to mind?

I realized that I had unexpectedly had a “state change”.  While I was still feeling tired and overwhelmed I was now a bit more optimistic.  Not the “light at the end of the tunnel”, rather from a glass half-full rather than half-empty perspective.  It’s the place I want to be.  I believe that we can add or subtract energy from others around us individually and in groups.  That how we feel and the emotions we project affect others.   As I talked with my colleague, I’d been talking about the business environment, my views on change, and my sincere desire to have a positive impact on those around me and on business at large.  There have been huge amounts of stress in the work environment this past year (and at home too) for almost everyone. 

I wasn’t trying to execute anything, just talk about my perspectives and beliefs.  I explained that if I have a personal mission to have a positive impact on others.  That I believe in cascading impacts.  That if I could positively impact one person, they could have a positive impact on someone else, so on and so forth.  That we could together have a large, positive impact on the business environment.  Our own Revolution of sorts.  I think we need it in the business world.

In describing my fundamental beliefs, I had found some new energy.  I remembered the “root reasons” (vs. root cause) that I am a Change Agent.  By simply talking with me and validating my thoughts and work, my friend had been a Change Agent for me – providing some much needed positive reinforcement and new energy. 

It can be hard being the person that rattles cages, raises red flags, and points out the elephants in the room.  Candidly, it’s stressful and exhausting.  I don’t enjoy raising the flags or talking about the elephants, but someone needs to in order to drive long-term, sustainable change.  

Talking about problems, challenges, and pink elephants often raises fear and worry in others.  This can take excessive amounts of emotional energy to help manage effectively.  It’s something that most people are afraid to do, but something that must be done to make real and lasting changes.  You can’t drive successful change if you aren’t willing to discuss problems and history.  If you are not honest and “real” about situations, there will simply be some head nodding in the room when you discuss new or desired behaviors.  When people leave, they will go back to their old behaviors – quicker than you might think.

What my friend had done for me was to validate that while I can’t please everyone and might feel personal stress about acting the “troublemaker,” what I was doing was important.  I had left the conversation with a renewed sense of purpose and personal hope.  “Coming from a place of hope” described how I was feeling at the moment.  It struck me that this too was a powerful thought.  That where there is hope, there are possibilities.  Where there are possibilities, change can happen.  That having a feeling of hope had actually helped counter my feeling of exhaustion (no, not all of it, but some). 

I stepped back from myself to acknowledge that I can’t be “on” all the time as I had been trying to do.  That it’s not realistic to think you can always be a One (1).  While I do want to drive a Revolution, (see The Revolution of One), there are times I might need to be a O, at least for a little while, so that I can go back to being a 1 later on.  That in the real world, unlike my technological metaphor, there are in-between states – ½, ¾, 5/6.  Those are also ok places to be. 

So I decided that for the next several days I’ll focus on the idea of hope, recognize the bumps in the road, acknowledge that there are day’s I might need to be less than a 1.  I’ll remind myself, work on feeling, and believe that I am coming from a place of hope and that’s good enough for now.  I’ll accept that it’s ok to be a ½, neither a O or a 1 for the time being.  I’ll be a ½ with hope for a better tomorrow and the belief that with some rest and sleep (not always the same thing) that I could go back to being the 1 that I want to be. 

So my personal lesson for today was to hold tight to hope and possibilities.  To accept that when you can’t be a whole (1) it’s ok to be a ½.  Give yourself partial credit. 

Change is hard.  Being the Change Agent can be even harder.  Change is tiring and never happens all at once. 

So my wish and hope for all of you is that you too find a piece of hope today and each day forward.  That you give yourself credit for what you have accomplished, rather than focusing on how far you still have to go.  That you find your own place of hope, piece of inspiration, and some renewed belief.  This can come from the smile of a colleague or a child, taking time to stop to look out a window at the flowers and trees (or the snow if it’s winter).  Find something in your environment around you that you can draw inspiration and hope from.  Stop, Look, and Listen not to understand others better, but to pause for yourself.  To give yourself a break and some personal recognition. 

I ask that you can continue to join me as we make our own Revolution at whatever level you can, one day at a time, one person at a time, one situation at a time.  For today, I’ll continue to focus on being a Change Agent-at-Large, even only at half-strength.  I’ll keep my hope for better tomorrow.  I absolutely believe that together we can change many things.  A little bit at a time isn’t simply good, it’s GREAT.

So here is my “true confession.”  I actually drafted this article several months ago.  Life (and all the winter flu varieties) simply got out of control and I never finalized this post.  Some days I felt a bit guilty, but I worked to remind myself that any forward progress was good and 1/2 was ok.  I asked myself if it really mattered if the story went up in October or in January.  You, the reader don’t really care do you?  As I start the New Year and seek to post articles and stories more actively, I pulled the draft of this article out and made the final edit.   

So what are the key messages I hope you take from this article?

  • Being a Change Agent is hard work.  It can be stressful and exhausting.  But if you don’t do it, who will?
  • It’s critical to rattle the cages, raise flags, and point out the elephants.  If you don’t talk about them and address them, it is unlikely that change with “stick”.  Again, if you don’t do it, who will?
  • There is a great level of stress that comes with always being “on”?  A simply analogy is a light bulb.  It gets hot and burns out quicker if it is always on.  When natural light is available or no one is around, shutting it off prolongs the life of the light bulb.  We need to do the same for ourselves.
  • Have you thought how “change fatigue” applies not just to change programs, but to yourself also? 
    • Are you planning appropriate breaks for yourself and within your change program? 
    • Are you taking care of yourself physically, recognizing how your health impacts your ability to create change?
    • Are you giving yourself appropriate mental breaks?
    • Are you giving yourself the credit that you should?
  • Are you recognizing that any forward progress is good, even if it took longer than you had initially planned or scheduled?
  • Are you familiar with the concept of diminishing returns? 
    • Can you recognize when you have reached that point? 
    • Can you tell yourself it is ok to step back and not work on something for a while?  Regain your energy and start again.  You will likely get farther.

A huge THANKS and virtual hug to my friend Ron for providing positive feedback in a time of need.  A shout out of THANKS to my spouse, Bruce, for his on-going support of my efforts big and small, including providing feedback on this blog.  He rocks.


The Revolution of One

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Wikipedia defines revolution as follows:

A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.

Amidst the corporate chaos and on-going organizational changes there lies a source of power, power for change. There are the People.

People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and viewpoints. There are many, many viewpoints. Sometimes it seems like too many. Have you heard the joke that if you ask 4 recruiters their opinion on a resume you will get 5 answers? If you’ve been looking for a job lately you know that this is not just a joke, often a reality.

Often the different viewpoints seem opposed and are a source of chaos, but if you seek to understand not just respond, they can be a great source of information and power. How often do you stop to try and truly understand another’s viewpoint and how they reached their own personal conclusions? What attitude do you bring to the interaction? Are you focused on listening to a different viewpoint or are you focused on winning an argument?

Each and every day we make a series of decisions regarding how we interact with each other. How actively do we listen? How thoughtful are our responses? Are we working together? Is it a “we” or a “me” moment? Are we focused on our part of the organization or the effectiveness of the organization as a whole? Are we trying to understand how the decisions we make today impact other areas of the business or organization? Are we focused on the past or on the future? Are we playing the “blame game” or are we expending our energy working to resolve a situation the best way possible?

When you interact with others today are you going to be a 0 (Off) or a 1 (On)?

Attitude truly does make a difference. The Beatles sang of One being the loneliest number yet in the Matrix we saw how significant the impact of “The One” could truly be. We can all be Agents of Change. The revolution starts with yourself and your attitude, not with others and theirs. We can influence others but we can only truly change ourselves.

Binary language focuses on Zero and One, Off and On. There are studies showing that when collaboration is involved, the sum can be greater than the individual parts. Where One + One + One = Four not Three. Where there is the addition of understanding and alignment of objectives vs. the subtraction of position and personal power plays.

When you interact with others today and make decisions related to your job, your department, your organization and programs, are you going to be a 0 (Off) or a 1 (On)?

Faith Fuqua-Purvis is the founder of Synergetic Solutions LLC, a consulting firm specializing in Strategic Change. She is a strategic thinker, a proactive leader and an experienced coach, helping business implement transformational changes by aligning people, organizational structures, and operational activities with business strategies. You can find her complete profile at LinkedIn.

Photo credit: clix    This article first appeared on The CIO Assistant’s Blog on July 1st.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes