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Persistence- Is It Always Good?
Labor Day Reflections
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Twitter Highlights
I send 15-20 tweets per week with links to useful links and research. Here are a few of my latest, including links:

"Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself." (Andre Gide)

Leadership & Governance influence reputation more than products, and drive buying behavior.

30% argue with co-workers at least once / mo - and practical ideas for managing office showdowns

'Disagree: J.P, Morgan's troubles aren't about rogue traders or inadequate regulatory oversight but the wrong culture

Evidence suggests that as more women rise to the top, organizations will be more ethical.

Lincoln Electric continues to serve as a model for how to do business for over 100 years -

Sailing and strategy: Those who can tack fastest and best, win!

If J.P. Morgan invested more in character, it could spend less on compliance & lawsuits -

7 Leadership Lessons From a Navy Seal Commander -

When executing talent management strategies, don't overlook integrity -

"Everything in moderation"... including virtues and excellence - "When Virtue Becomes Vice"

"Our opinion of people depends less upon what we see in them than upon what they make us see in ourselves." - Sarah Grand

Culture is a full-contact sport," and the value of "shameless honesty" -

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

"35 Questions That Will Change Your Life" -

How's your attitude? - How attitudes affect behavior, and the role of cognitive dissonance:

"What the mind doesn't understand it worships or fears." (Alice Walker)

Companies can follow Washington University's lead by making values and standards crystal clear:

Civility pays, & incivility is costly, including less engagement, higher turnover and reduced productivity -

Is there really that much "phonephobia" out there?

Getting clear about culture - 4 Lessons From Remarkable Companies:

Our body / mind connection - a whole new level of self-awareness and its benefits:

'Still hung up on the past? How time orientation influences our state of mind and happiness -

If you missed it, below is a copy of my last blog: Persistence - Is It Always Good?. The introduction to August's'article, Labor Day Reflections, follows; you can access the entire article by clicking the link at the end.  Be sure to enter the "Who Said This?" contest at the bottom of this newsletter to win an autographed copy of Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best.
Persistence - Is It Always Good?

I've been thinking about persistence a lot lately. It started in the middle of gathering firewood in the BWCA, sawing a downed log that was a tad large for my folding saw. I kept at it, and was eventually rewarded with enough wood to grill our freshly caught bass. Over dinner, conversation turned to Diana Nyad and her remarkable 53-hour non-stop swim from Cuba to Florida. Her successful swim that day was a crowning achievement following years of unsuccessful attempts; taken together they were a remarkable testament to persistence. Today I am celebrating Team Oracle's recent win in the America's Cup sailing race. The U. S. team trailed New Zealand's 8-0, then in one of the most stunning come-backs in sports history, proceeded to win the next 9 races and retain the Cup. Persistence.


Persistence is admirable; it has fueled most of the victories, inventions, rags-to-riches journeys, entrepreneurial successes, scientific advances, cures and worthwhile developments in recorded history. However there is a potential dark side to persistence. Persistence in excess, or the wrong kind of persistence, could be merely stubbornness in disguise, just like too much courage or the wrong kind of courage could be just recklessness or adrenalin. When is persistence a good thing and when isn't it? I think there are four main determinants:


Worthiness of a goal - It's a pretty easy call when survival is at stake - lives or livelihoods. If I'm starving I will keep searching for food, or if I'm freezing in the wild I will keep trying to light a fire until physically unable to. Peace in northern Ireland remained a worthy yet illusive goal for decades, and persistent diplomacy eventually prevailed; peace in the Middle East is still illusive, but a worthy enough goal to pursue indefinitely. For the vast majority of us, worthy stakes likely have more to do with winning or retaining an important account, achieving important personal or professional goals, keeping important relationships intact or perhaps maintaining solvency to keep doors open and jobs secure. How many beyond ourselves will benefit from achievement of a goal is a factor assessing its worthiness. Whether we are still inspired by a goal, and our level of energy and passion to achieve it, are additional important variables.


Realism of a goal - Each year the marketplace is littered with thousands of failed ventures that fall victim to unrealistic goals or inaccurate assessments of capacities required to achieve goals. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, vision without the capacity to execute the vision is mere hallucination. Some personality traits can play a role here. For example, excessive "Boldness" as measured by the Hogan Development Survey or inability to focus on details can contribute to underestimating a goal's difficulty.


Goal vs method-driven - You are probably familiar with the old maxim about insanity: "doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results." Key to Team Oracle's victory in the America's Cup race were rigging adjustments that they made after noticing how the New Zealand team consistently bested them upwind. They needed to set aside assumptions about what was and wasn't possible, and adopted their competitor's methods to win. When time after time something isn't going as expected or desired, it likely signals a need to examine not only what we are doing and why we are doing it, but what methods we are employing and what adjustments to make.


Adverse impact - We know that a sign of chemical dependency and other addictions is when they begin adversely impacting important dimensions of our lives like family, friends, work or health. When we become so carried away by a pursuit that has similar adverse effects, it is likely time to question our persistence. We can persist proving that we are right, but in the process sever a relationship. We might prevail after years of building a business, meanwhile losing meaningful connections to family and friends. Mountain climbers who are "hell bent" to reach the summit, regardless of bad weather or other dangers, are said to suffer from "summit fever." They often perish in the course of pursuing their goal to the end.


Leadership requires the capacity to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be. As Kenny Rodgers coached us in his song "The Gambler," we need to know "when to hold them, when to fold them and when to walk away." Persistence carries opportunity costs; persisting with one task often precludes devotion to others or exploration of options. If Bill Gates and Paul Allen had not walked away from their only modestly successful start-up Traf-O-Data, they would not have gone on to found today's behemoth Microsoft. Had Akio Morita persisted with perfecting and marketing his early rice cooker, Sony would likely not have become the electronics powerhouse it is known as today.


We owe it to ourselves, our associates and significant others to exercise this kind of discernment around our persistence:

  • Am I pursuing a worthwhile goal?
  • Am I passionate about it and energetic enough to pursue it?
  • Is my goal realistic?
  • Am I overly fixated on one way of accomplishing my goal?
  • Are the costs - to self, family, others - too high? Am I foregoing better opportunities?

And we should not trust only our own assessment, since we might be too consumed by our pursuits to be sufficiently objective. Ask friends, family, associates or coaches, and truly listen to what they say. If all systems are still "go," then by all means persist away! As Bill Bradley, basketball Hall of Famer and three-term senator reminded us: "Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you will arrive in."  


"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go."

William Feather


"Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance."

                                    Anthony J. D'Angelo



(photo credits: Economist Magazine, flickr/bobbyz95, flickr/Paxson Woelbar)


Labor Day Reflections

What does Labor Day mean to you? For many, it mainly marks the end of summer vacations, an extra long weekend, time for family cook-outs, great sales and the start of football season. I propose that this Labor Day we take some time to reflect on its origins and its meaning today.
Labor Day was declared an official U.S. national holiday in 1894, largely as a gesture in remembrance of workers killed by the U.S. military and  marshals during the Pullman strike. Hundreds of workers were killed in this country in the late 1800s and early 1900s over the right to unionize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. It is fitting that on Labor Day that we acknowledge the positive contributions that organized labor has made to working and living standards.
The work world is radically different than sixty years ago when a third of the American workforce was unionized (today about 7% is;) it is radically different than even ten years ago and continues to evolve rapidly. Here are a few of my observations about the world of work and items that might be worthy of reflection this Labor Day:
This is old news: traditional worker "contracts," essentially assuring job security and advancement in exchange for loyalty, are long gone; almost all of us are basically "employed at will."  Employers can pretty much release workers for whatever reason they see fit or for no reason.

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All the best,

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc.
ph: (612) 827-2363

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc