It’s Complicated: Why You Do What You Do

February 26th, 2018

“What a jerk,” you remark to yourself as you walk away from your latest disagreement with That Guy. ‘Pretty safe to say he is thinking the same thing about you. You might even move from thinking about his behavior to wondering, “What is with that guy?”

Why do we do what we do? If we can gain some insights into this seemingly simple question, perhaps we can be a better leader, coworker, or spouse. The good news is those insights are available and make sense when you start looking.

How about a test? Is there a test we can give someone to determine why they do what they do? Consider, for a moment, going to the doctor for your annual physical. What test would they run to determine your health? Of course, there is no single test: height and weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, EKG, EEG and the list goes on. The tests depend on what you want to know and when you want to know it. It is a very similar concept when we try to answer why you do what you do. There are many psychometric assessments that can give some insights. Psycho what? Psychometric tests are designed to measure someone’s personality characteristics and aptitude (or natural abilities). They identify the extent to which personality and natural abilities compare to others. Ideally, when hiring, we would match people with the right abilities to the right position.

Myers-Briggs, DiSC, FIRO, Human Patterns, Emotional Intelligence, and many others might be part of the equation that explains why you do what you do. And, like at your annual physical, some tests tell more than others, depending on the situation. In fact, anytime someone asks you to take a test/assessment, you are entitled to know what they are looking for, its relevance to the situation, and its statistical validity. This last part is especially important. You want an assessment that has been widely validated, to insure the results are accurate. The one that some consultant created on a spreadsheet and gave to fifty-two people on Survey Monkey is not the one you want. Sure, it’s a great revenue stream for him. But it’s absolute schlock for you.

Assessments can point to your skills, competencies, preferences, aptitudes, etc. (depending on what we are looking for), but they don’t tell us why you are the way you are. For that, we need to think about a bullseye. In the middle is that black spot, the ten ring, the bull. Then, there are concentric circles. You are the way you are because of two things at the center of the bullseye: your DNA and your upbringing. To use a computer example, DNA is your hardware. Your upbringing is your software. In ways we don’t even know yet, DNA combines to form the incredibly unique creature called a human being. I have two kids. They are as different as night and day. ‘Same DNA, but one is male, one female; one is introverted, the other, extraverted. One is a sensitive artist; the other, a loud, brash football player.

The software is the programming you received from your environment. Some was intentional, such as how you were raised and educated as a child. Some unintentional, such as how you learned about relationships by the way the parents communicated (or didn’t). Other programming comes from what society has told you is right or wrong, possible or impossible. In the words of Dr. Lanny Hass, PhD, “You didn’t grow up in my mama’s house…and I didn’t grow up in your mama’s house.”

Let’s take the programming analogy further. Lanny grew up on a farm in Iredell County, North Carolina. I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. That geographic contrast alone has given us different perspectives on economics, politics, race, perspective, hobbies, and so much more.

But the programming doesn’t end there. Lanny and I are both Baby Boomers. Our kids aren’t. This brings on the whole “Generations in the Workplace” conversation. Maybe throw in some Birth Order, too. As you can see, this is complicated. But it isn’t a mystery. You can measure some of these hardware and software aspects. You can certainly think about them and begin to connect the dots.

And, in connecting those dots, we begin to move out from the center of the bullseye. In the next ring is what we think and believe. It is where we begin to identify motivations and desires. The problem with this ring, though, is I cannot see it. All I see from you is your behavior. And behavior is the outermost ring on our bullseye. This is where we started this conversation, with you wondering why That Guy is behaving like a jerk. At this point, I don’t know. But upon further thought, investigation, and getting to know him, we may find out that he grew up in a hostile, conflict-ridden environment. He learned to relate to people in a fight-or-flight manner; to attack before they attack him. So, when you ping, he pongs. It is a natural response, developed and practiced over decades, and it worked for him back then. With this understanding of his programming, we now have options and “being a jerk back” is only one of them.

The best place to start is to think about you. Self-awareness is one of the hallmarks of great leadership. You probably aren’t a jerk. But do you hold people as accountable as you might? Maybe you are reluctant to fire someone because you remember how rough it was in your house when your dad got fired. It’s a complicated jigsaw puzzle. You will not solve the puzzle until you take the pieces out of the box, and look at them one at a time. When you do, you may have some frustrations. But you will have breakthroughs, too. It’s worth it.

Olympic Lessons

February 26th, 2018

HERE COMES DIGGINS…HERE COMES DIGGINS!!”…..and with that call, the US Women’s Cross-Country Ski team notched its first medal in 30 years—and even more shocking, it was gold! In other words, it wasn’t supposed to happen.

Over on the alpine slopes, it was a different story. Mikaela Shiffren was to go for five golds, and Lindsey Vonn was to easily claim the gold in downhill. Neither of these things happened. Such is life; such is sport. That’s the Olympics.

What if Diggins was your project manager? Solid, but never elite. Would you keep her on? Or in that continuous search for better talent, would you let her go? Maybe she’s not an A Player, but she’s certainly a strong B. We need B players. And as you can see, B players can turn in A performances.

What if Vonn was your superintendent? Has always done excellent work, but stumbled on the last few project? You wonder if something is wrong. You know she’s costing you money, so you cut your losses, thinking she just doesn’t have it anymore.

In our Advanced Leadership Program we often have sixteen students. Good class size for maximum interaction and peer coaching. Often we hear a client say I am not sure about this sixteenth guy. I am sure about the fifteen but this one, not so sure. Then the US Mens Curling Team shows up and wins gold. Not supposed to happen. But that questionable sixteenth student, when given some extra attention and training turns into a star. We have seen this many times. People who were perceived as B Minus players emerging as A players. And yes, sometimes those slam dunk students turn out to be pretty mediocre when put under the development spotlight.

The commentators and analysts who study sports were so wrong in their predictions on the performances noted above. How can you be so sure you are right, when you’re not an expert on people? I am often asked for advice on how to handle “people situations.” When I offer some ideas, my clients say, “Hmm… I never thought of that.” This isn’t about me being right; it’s about certainty and range.

It’s helpful to remember that we can never truly be certain when it comes to people. (After all, Lindsey was “supposed to” win the downhill.) But we can be pretty sure. We can make decisions based on track record and history, but we can’t really know for sure. In fact, certainty is a problem because we begin to think we’ve got it figured out, and we make decisions that are not as good as they could be. We don’t allow for other options. We don’t see how a situation might be, only how we want it to be. We might even get complacent.

By range, I mean flexibility of response. Good leaders have good range; great leaders have great range. But increasing your range isn’t easy. You are successful. You know what works and what doesn’t work. Increasing your range might increase your risks as you try things you haven’t tried before. And at first, some of those efforts might not go smoothly, thereby nudging back into your smaller range. Not a good move.

The variability you face on the job today is greater than you have ever faced. Diversity, new means and methods, customer demands, and technology all conspire to challenge you as you have never been challenged before. To succeed into the future, you must increase your range and that means you must prepare yourself. One of the best ways you can prepare is to know that you don’t know. Uncertainty is unsettling. You need people to work through it. This means you need to lead people. How will you do that better tomorrow than you did yesterday? You may be an excellent leader, but what are you doing to remain excellent? Do nothing, and you will slowly lose ground. Do something and it might not go well–at first. But remember these wise words: anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. With effort and time, you almost can’t help but improve! Strive to become a black belt in people.

Every couple of years we watch the Olympics, and we see examples of excellence and despair. Don’t wait for the Olympics. Every single day, there are people working with you and for you who are reaching for excellence. Some days they make it. Some days they don’t. Some days are filled with despair. Don’t be a spectator. Be a leader who helps them excel and supports them when they’re down. You may not win a gold medal, but your team will sprint towards the finish, just like Diggins. Then again, you just may win gold.

In One Word…

January 4th, 2018

“Describe your 2017 in one word.”

As 2017 rolled to an end, I saw a post on Facebook asking that very thing. The answers were predictably upbeat and encouraging for the most part. Of course, that is part of the problem with Facebook–people posting about their vacation, and the great meal they cooked or the fun date they went on, but not much about the fight with their kids and the challenge of paying bills. So, Rule #1 with Facebook asking you to describe your 2017 in one word is: don’t fall for it.

But I fell for it. I wondered what my word would be. No deaths in my immediate family so that was a win. On the plus side, we had one child graduate high school and start college. Another child made straight A’s while playing football. On the minus side, there was my continued personal challenge to lose weight and we needed to buy a new car. Then again, we started with a nice vacation! And so my assessment of 2017 went. I looked at it from all angles. A record year for the business! On the one hand I was disappointed, on the other hand I was pretty pleased and overall it was….normal. I loved, I laughed, I cried, I worried. It was a normal year.

I am guessing yours was, well, normal, also. That is the nature of life and the danger of comparisons. We too easily look at what others have, and envy rises in us. We look at those less fortunate, and don’t take the time to fully appreciate what we have. Facebook is not the real world. All those smiling faces are part of the real world–just as the sad stories of loss and challenge that we don’t see on social media are part of the real world. The real world is where life happens in all its splendor and squalor. I have always been amazed at the fascination with reality television, as people watch the unscripted but heavily-edited, made-for-mass consumption packages while missing the fascination in their own lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying challenges don’t happen or that reality doesn’t suck sometimes. But that is what being normal is all about, and why using “one word” to describe 2017 is such a trap. You are too complex. Life has too many layers. It is not possible for most of us to describe a year in one word, and to attempt to do so trivializes the day-to-day frustrations and achievements that make up our existence. Okay, if you cure cancer and win the Nobel Prize while celebrating your 40th wedding anniversary, etc., etc., that might rate an Excellent. Then again, those things would probably not qualify as “normal.” And still, you would be overlooking the negative things that happened.

One of the best things you can to do help make 2018 a good year is to cultivate gratitude. I am confident that, at the end of each day, you can tally up your pluses and minuses, and find things to be thankful for. By the way, in doing this you are rewiring your brain to enable positivity and optimism. At first, this might be difficult. For me, most of my days are…you guessed it… normal. But I have learned to appreciate an on-time flight and no traffic on my way home. I appreciate the health care we have as we make almost-weekly visits to the orthopedist during football season.

There are plenty of things I want to make happen in 2018. You probably feel the same. But we must remember to live along the way–to enjoy the big (and small) when we can, and to face the bad when we must. I hope 2018 is normal for me. Maybe even normal plus. I hope yours is too.

What Do You Do for a Living?

October 27th, 2017

It has been quite some time… my daughter was in first grade and I was often able to be in the classroom to help out. It was me and the moms! Midway through the year, her teacher approached me with a request: could she ask a personal question. Of course.


“Mr. Adamchik, what do you do for a living??” I smiled and gave the easy answer, “I am a professional speaker. Why?”


She replied that I was often the only dad at daytime school events. And when she asked my daughter about my job, the answer she got was, “He talks.”


Funny, I get the same question from folks today. To be clear: I speak and consult on leadership and leadership-related issues in the construction industry and in industries that support construction. There you have it, but that might still leave some blanks to fill in. So, to clarify:


·        I do keynote speeches for annual meetings and conventions.

·        I conduct longer workshops and trainings for firms and associations.

·        I work with companies to create multi-day leadership training. These are aimed at the front line as well as emerging leader/ executive level. For the highest level, I collaborate with some really smart folks—Ph.Ds, from NC State.

·        I deliver one-on-one executive coaching.

·        I facilitate team planning sessions.

·        I conduct job benchmarking to create optimal hiring profiles

·        I consult on human capital issues

·        I offer virtual, online interactive leadership learning

·        I have written two books and am always writing articles. You can use these in your publications, newsletters, etc.

·        I have a great team who supports on all these.

·        Etc!!


In other words, there are a full range of services and offerings available to you from FireStarter Speaking and Consulting. If you are curious, or if you think I might be able to help, contact me and we can talk it over. If I can’t support you, maybe I know someone who can. Spending 99% of my time in the construction world for nearly the past twenty years enables me to fully understand your challenges and work with you to solve them.


The Giants are 0-5

October 27th, 2017

As I write this, the NFL’s NY Giants are winless with five losses. ESPN sportswriter Bill Barnwell cites a number of reasons for their poor performance. You may not run a football franchise, but any business can learn from these reasons:


Drafting DisasterThe problems for the Giants start with one number. Of the 2016 playoff teams ranked by the number of players they drafted between 2009 and 2013 who were on their roster for at least one snap last season, the Giants were dead last with a mere four players. Barnwell points out that the Green Bay Packers lead the league in quality drafting over this period with 13 players still on the roster. They are followed by the Steelers with 12, and Patriots with 11. (The Raiders–with 6–are in the cellar with the Giants.)

Quality recruiting is key to organizational success. The US Marines are successful because of the high standard of their recruiting effort. They take people who want to be Marines, because that makes it easier to make them Marines. There is a proven process for this. Turnover rates are fairly well publicized. You can calculate yours and make the comparison. Of course, then you might have to face the fact that you are not as good as you think you are.


The Wheel of Cash To fill out his roster, General Manager Reese did what desperate teams do: He spent oodles of money in free agency. First, he pursued a bevy of mid-tier free agents with limited success, paying premiums to add replacement-level players. ‘Sound familiar? I cannot tell you how often I hear employees lament that, to get a pay raise, you need to leave the organization and then come back. We throw money at poorly-screened market hires, thinking they are the solution, even the salvation. But all too often, they don’t work out.

Your profitable growth is based on long-term employees who understand what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. They know the policies, procedures and values. Yes, you should always be looking to upgrade, and a market hire can be a great asset. But you don’t build greatness for the long term with free agents. And when you spend, you hit the P&L, leaving little room for other investments in people and equipment.


The False Hope of 2016 – The Giants got really lucky in a bunch of games last year. Much of their improvement between 2015 and 2016 came down to their performance in games decided by seven points or fewer. Both the 2015 and 2016 Giants were 3-2 in games decided by eight or more points, but the 2015 Giants were 3-8 in the close contests, while the 2016 Giants went 8-3. There was no reason to think they would continue to win nearly 75 percent of their close games on an annual basis. This year, they are 0-3 in one-score games.

Construction projects are subject to huge positive and negative variances across cost codes and activities. Somehow, they usually net to a percent or two positive or negative, and it all works out. But sometimes, firms simply fail to look more closely at critical activities, and they incur risk in doing so. Maybe you aren’t as good as you think you are at a certain activity because costs are being put in the wrong place. I just watched a presentation from a project manager on the real cost of punch list work, and it opened a lot of eyes in that firm. How closely are you willing to look at historical costs and the way you really do business?


What to Learn – Barnwell said it best: The biggest lesson from the Giants’ fall from grace is simple: If you’re a coach or an executive, be honest with yourself when you evaluate your team. If the metrics disagree about your team, as is the case with these Giants, you might want to re-evaluate whether you’re actually as good as your record says you are. The most common mistake fans make in evaluating their teams before the season is to count on everything that went right a year ago to stay right while all the problems get fixed. Organizations make the same mistakes sometimes, too.


          Benjamin Franklin summed it up this way: “One of the greatest tragedies in life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts’. He could write for ESPN today. Could he be writing about you?


Look ‘Em in the Eye

October 27th, 2017

I learned a lot in the Marines. One of the things I learned was the importance of people. I also learned how important it is to pause from time to time and thank people for their contribution. And then there are the times when we need to do more than pause; we need to stop. Gene Duncan is a former Marine who wrote several books about his time in the Corps. His books are a collection of funny, sad, and poignant “letters” relating the experiences of two professional Marines, truthfully telling it like it was in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. As a young Officer of Marines, I learned from reading “Dunc.” Like you, I continue to learn from reading. Consider that you are reading this issue and I hope you will learn from it too.

He wrote about the importance of letting people know you cared. In fact, taking care of people is a chapter in my first book, No Yelling: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win In Business. He cited Thanksgiving and Christmas as two times that deserved special attention. His advice was to form up your platoon and put the Marines “at ease.” Then walk through the ranks, talking to each Marine, asking about their holiday plans, making sure they were taken care of. Finally, he advised, look them square in the eye while shaking their hand, and say, “Thank you for your valuable contribution.” The first time I did this, it felt a little awkward–but it felt good also. It felt good because I could feel the connection with my Marines and I knew they appreciated my action. This appreciation leads to higher performance and deeper loyalty. The kinds of things that differentiate your business and make it succeed.

I realize you’re not going to put your people into platoon formation, but I do know that you can visit them in their workspaces or on the jobsite and extend the same courtesy and respect that I did when I talked to my Marines. You’ll be amazed at the impact this will have. You may decide, Christmas being so close to Thanksgiving, that you’d prefer to “spread out” your thanks. That’s fine; choose another important holiday when people will be away from work, spending time with family and friends. The day you select should be special to the members of your team. In our multi-cultural society there are other options. Your recognition on this occasion will make a positive impact on them.

A word of caution: don’t do this if you don’t believe it. If you are the type of leader who really does value your people and views them as important peers in the process of creating your product or service, then this will be well-received. If you view people as expendable production assets, and use this advice as a technique to motivate them, forget it–they will see right through you. Last year a client of mine did this for Christmas and he could not stop talking to me later about what a positive experience it was.

In closing, I want to look you in the eye and thank you for reading. I can’t set you up in platoon formation, but please accept my gratitude for your trust and confidence in me. Best Wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2018.

Speak UP

October 23rd, 2014

You need to communicate more. The people you work with and the ones who work for you want information, they want feedback. They don’t want to be left in the dark. No news is not good news, it is an opportunity for rumor and second-guessing. Over time a lack of communication and feedback can lead to indifference, apathy, and animosity. None of which are very sound motivational strategies! The solution to this lack of communication is to, well, communicate. Too bad that is a lot harder than it sounds. A lot harder!

First of all the construction world is not one of relationships. It is one of tasks. Getting things done is what creates value, not having conversations. But how else will you build capacity in your organization for the future if you are not having developmental conversations with people. I am working with a client and we have identified this as being an important issue. Nine months ago we identified the importance of giving feedback and having developmental conversations. We trained the senior leaders on how to do it. Nothing happened. I then did one on one coaching conversations with each of them to help them learn how to do it. They still delayed. We all agreed that it was still important. No action. More one on ones and finally these leaders are starting to have the conversations. Why so long to do such a simple thing?

We already identified the task nature of the industry as one reason. Another is lack of practice leads to lack of proficiency and that leads to inaction. Who wants to do something they are not good at? The remedy to this is to follow the mandate of Nike and Just Do It. No, you may not be perfect but the only way you can begin to get better at communication is to do it. One of the best books on the subject is Crucial Conversations. We teach a multi-day workshop based on the book but you don’t need to attend that to read a book. Another fine book is the The Lost Art of Listening. If you want to be a better communicator you can start by reading those books. Short of reading a book you can tell yourself to listen. Put away the technology, focus on the person. Listen for content and for meaning. Pause, paraphrase and repeat back what you heard. These are all simple and highly effective techniques to enhance communication.

Today in a planning session with a leadership team the subject came up again. The leadership team told the President of the firm they wanted feedback. I then asked how much feedback they gave to their people. Silence. How ironic that these people were saying they wanted feedback but weren’t giving it. So, we start from scratch and outline the expectation that communication is an important part of employee development, then we train and follow-up that the developmental conversations are happening.

Our human ability to communicate is a blessing and a curse. A blessing when employed well. A curse when we get it wrong. Any effort you make to be a better communicator is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

What you Must learn from my summer vacation

July 9th, 2014

‘Remember in our youth the standard return-to-school “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay? This summer has given me several lessons that have value for you today.
The story begins with a local police officer knocking on my door at 9:00 one night, asking me about my brother, Billy. Of course, you know what happens next–I find out that Billy died in a motorcycle accident a few hours earlier. He was 57, divorced, with no children. He was a floor layer, a regular ordinary guy. Like you and your team members.
First lesson: we are in a business of relationships. Don’t let corporate purchasing and hard bid tactics make you forget this. While price is part of the purchase consideration, the quality of your work and the relationships you foster with your clients, customers, and co-workers are paramount. I first realized this as word about Billy spread through the grapevine and I received numerous calls, emails, and cards of condolence from across the country. These were unexpected and much appreciated.
I saw it again at his wake. Having worked his trade in the New York area for over 30 years, my brother was well-known. On that Memorial Day weekend, we were visited by many of his associates. Not just tile guys, but the Foreman from the Laborers, and a superintendent from a General Contractor, to name a few. There were even guys who had worked with our father in the business—and some even remembered when I had helped out on a few jobs, way back when! Connections between people—that’s what it’s about.
Next lesson: how is your health? Construction is hard work, yeah. But it isn’t a substitute for quality exercise and eating. Billy wasn’t in bad shape, but he wasn’t in good shape, either. He loved to eat; cooking was his hobby. He didn’t exercise. And he had coronary artery disease. In fact, he may have had a health crisis that triggered the crash. We don’t know for sure. But we do know that he was not taking care of himself and now, he’s gone. Are you taking care of yourself? (If not for yourself, then for those who love you.)
“Divorced with no kids” sounds like an easy estate to deal with, right? Well, it would be if
1) there had been a will (there wasn’t)
2) there had been up-to-date beneficiaries on his life insurance policy (his ex-wife is still listed, although that wasn’t his wish; he just “never got around to” changing beneficiaries even though they’d been divorced for several years), and
3) all his records had been kept in one place (not even close).

Looking through files and folders is never easy, but having to weed through pay stubs from 1986 makes the process even harder. I realized that my finances and directives are in a similar state of disorganization. I am currently creating what I call the Red Envelope, where all of that information is being placed to make the process easier for whoever needs to deal with it. We need to do this for the benefit of those around us. If you are a business owner or the head of a household, this becomes even more important.
By now, you may be fed up with my personal ramblings. But remember what my brother did for a living. He was a regular guy, he was just like you and the guys who work for you and with you. I am hoping you can learn from him so your team is better off.

Where have all the graduates gone?

December 4th, 2013

The Washington Post recently reported that a growing number of colleges nationwide are scrambling to fill classes. This trend is driven by a declining number of high school graduates and rising concern about the price of education. While the elite universities continue to prosper, despite their nosebleed level costs, most all other institutions are feeling the pain. The number of new high school grads peaked in 2011 after 17 years of growth. That number will not reach a new high until 2024. The impacts of this are many. From people dropping out of the workforce to unfilled positions to unskilled workers these issues are real and demand new answers.

For the employers reading this we come back to the need to create a great place to work. The research on the payoff for that effort is consistent and compelling. The money invested in these sustained efforts goes to the bottom-line. Yet I regularly encounter people who don’t get it. The annual training event simply isn’t enough nor is the generic and low cost of living increase. People want real solutions. They want to be developed and they want to be recognized along the way. When is the last time you did a real pat on the back? When is the last time you offered compelling training that people look forward to? I get frustrated because the excuses are many. I get it. Times are tough but that is not an excuse. Heck, that is a reason to invest. That is why the new virtual training system from FireStarter,, is gaining fans. It provides users an educational experience that is not painful. It gives managers a tool to track, measure and monitor employee participation and engagement. The on demand interactive platform is bringing education to people who are traditionally overlooked. The platform is cost effective and user friendly. It is not the solution but it is part of the solution for developing your workforce.

In an environment where people are not going to college but looking for a career and for development the employer who provides education and opportunity is the one who will win the war for talent. The labor shortages of the past decade will look like a minor inconvenience in the coming years as boomers retire but there are not enough qualified people to step in. The problem is not going away. What new solutions are you applying?

Deny your past, risk your future; Share your past, insure your future

November 25th, 2013

We all have relationships in our life that run out of gas. Sometimes there is a clear break and other times we just move on to different things and the relationship atrophies and goes away. We can all think of people we used to call best friends who today we have no idea where they are in the world. I just returned from watching the Notre Dame – BYU football game with my son and it occurs to me that the same thing happened for me with Notre Dame. I talked with some folks about it and they confess to a similar atrophy. I wonder where you stand on this.

For those of you who don’t know me that well, I am a graduate of Notre Dame. In fact, I was the mascot, the Leprechaun, in my senior year. So, by some accounts, I didn’t just go to ND, I was ND, to some people for a time. It was a wonderful time and then life goes on. I did a similar thing with my Marine experience. After I got out I worked to move on from that. I was out, period, and it was history. I was all about the future and that was my past. Writing my first book, NO YELLING: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win Business (which was selected as one of the best business books of the year by Entrepreneur magazine!) got me reconnected to the Corps. It got me a column with, it got me a position as a non-resident fellow at Marine Corps University, and it started an annual tradition at our house to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday with an open house featuring the traditional cake cutting with sword. The neighborhood kids love it, the sword and the cake! The adults love the cake, the food and the beer. I don’t wear my Marine Corps experience on my sleeve but I don’t diminish it either. It has found the right place in my life in the right proportion.

What happened to Notre Dame then? I guess it was a similar thing. I was about the future and that was in the past. I didn’t want to be one of THOSE fans who live and die with every win and loss. Go the watch a game watch for any major university at the local sports bar and you will know exactly what I mean. In the past decade I had visited three times the campus. Once to speak, once to do a book signing at the book store on a football Saturday (think WalMart on black Friday) and to take my daughter to the game, and then once to take my son to a game four years ago. I have season tickets to football but those are more for clients than for me. This time was different. My son is eleven. He is old enough to learn about the place and what it means to me (I was the first in my family to go to college). I took him to the Grotto and I prayed (ND aspires to be a force for peace as a preeminent Catholic University). I lit a candle, although I am not Catholic and had to explain why I did that and why it brought tears to my eyes (for a Marine I flew with who committed suicide). As we walked across that frosty campus our conversation even touched on the three part nature of our Christian God just as we came upon the mural of touchdown Jesus!

I feel the same emotions every time I return to campus but I don’t return often enough to sustain those emotions. Those emotions matter because they help me remember the values of my parents who helped me attend, the values of the university and, ultimately,  the person I am called to be. Most of you reading this did not attend the University of Notre Dame. That is not the point. As a business consultant I started this with the end in mind of calling upon business leaders to tell the story of their firm to their people. To have those celebrations, to tell about the bad times and the successes, about the people and the characters who have made the firm what it is. I am encouraging you to give people something to connect to and commit to. Why is your place of work any different that the one down the road? If you do not tell the story and give people a reason to stay then they will surely find reasons to leave. You have to work to create a connection. You as a leader must tell the story and cast the vision. It need not be grandiose but it need BE. Employees may connect to you personally because of your effort or they may connect to the larger organization if the story is well told. Certainly my connection to the Marines and to Notre Dame are not about a person.

I know there are some of you reading this who directly relate to the loss of connection with an institution that matters to you. As I said, I started this with my business readers in mind but I recognized the message was bigger than business. This message of remaining connected with the things and people that impacted us is vital for anyone. If you have read this far you already know what you need to do, who you need to call, where you need to go. Get it on your calendar, find a way to connect.

Go Irish…Semper Fidelis…Peace…

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“Wally has lots of energy, is passionate, and keeps your attention.”

Christy Kovac
Sheridan Construction