It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Greetings. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, the revered American baseball player and accidental philosopher, died last week at the age of 90. Baseball fans will remember him for his remarkable career as a catcher for the New York Yankees during one of the sport’s golden eras…a career that included being named an All-Star 18 times and the American League’s Most Valuable Player three times, 14 World Series appearances, and 10 World Series titles. And many will say that on one of the greatest teams in sports history, and one packed with much bigger and more glamorous stars like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford, Berra was the real catalyst for the Yankees incredible success.

Yogi Berra

But baseball fans and non-fans will also remember him as an exceedingly likable guy with a rare gift for saying delightfully memorable phrases that rarely made sense and often spoke to the very nature of life and what it means to be human. Within the joyful absurdity of his “Yogi-isms” there seemed to lurk keen insight, not only for our personal lives but the lives of our companies and organizations.

Here are some of my favorites which I remembered fondly upon hearing of his passing:

It ain’t over till it’s over.

It’s like deja vu all over again.

The future ain’t what it use to be.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

You can observe a lot by just watching.

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.

It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.

Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.

Many of these have a valuable message for the challenges we often face in our collective work lives. And given the work that I do to help companies and teams explore and unlock genius in themselves and the world around them, I will always have a special connection with the notion that “You can observe a lot just by watching.” In fact, I am convinced that part of our challenge as adults and organizations is to do a better job of “watching,” paying attention, being present, and rediscovering how to be curious about all of the ideas, insights, and possibilities that we pass by every day but somehow fail to notice.

Words to live by from a slightly unusual business guru. And words that will hopefully be remembered for a long time to come. After all, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And that’s a long time into the future from now.

We win in business and in life when we try to not take ourselves too seriously. And when we find joy and inspiration in crazy ideas that are filled with wisdom.


Giving Everyone a Promotion

Greetings.  June is a month for moving forward.  A month of "graduations" from high school and college, "promotions" from middle school on to high school, and "moving up" ceremonies to mark the transition from elementary school to middle school.  It's also a time for the final concerts of the school year, music recitals that bear witness to another year of our artistic progress, and the end of the season for many sports teams.  A time to acknowledge and appreciate growth and progress, and to honor our arrival at another important stage on the journey that is life.  All made possible by our own hard work and the encouragement and support of our family and friends.  And culminating with their applause, smiles, tears of joy, and warm embraces.

June is also the beginning of a new stage.  A time to dream of future promise and potential.  And while these dreams are on hold temporarily by summer and the chance to recharge our batteries, in a few short months we'll be back at it–taking on new challenges, learning new skills, and continuing to find our way.  Ready to head toward our next "promotion." 

In companies and organizations the road to promotion isn't quite so common, shared, or perfect.  Sure some people get promoted, but they are typically the ones on the fast track, the ones who have paid their dues, or the ones who have "sucked up" (to use a French term) to the powers that be.  After all, promotion is not for everyone.

But why shouldn't it be?

Why shouldn't we promote everyone regularly?  To new roles and responsibilities. To new chances to find their unique groove.  To new opportunities to be energized and more fully engaged.  To new situations with new people that might just unlock their hidden passion and genius.  All accompanied by the applause, smiles, tears of joy, and warm embraces of family and friends.

We generally believe that promotion is a reward for a job well done.  But what if we viewed it as an investment in a job to be done well?  Maybe the granting of a prize before it is due, or the simple demonstration of our belief in what is possible, is the real key to unlocking the genius, innovation, and growth in everyone.


We win in business and in life when we see the upside in everyone. And when we see promotion as the natural order of things–not as a sacred prize held out to only a few.


Ideas Worth Thinking About

Greetings.  Today is the Martin Luther King holiday here in the U.S. and many schools and workplaces are closed in observance of Dr. King's life and legacy in creating a more just, caring, open, and hopeful society.  A society that values more fully the real genius in everyone and the power of diversity when viewed as more than simply a set of words and quotas in a press release, on a web page, or in an annual report.  While he wasn't focused specifically on the challenges we face today in our companies and organizations, many of his words should cause us to think–in more compelling ways–about our true potential as individuals, leaders, businesses, and communities.

And here are a few quotes that might strike at the heart of your vision, values, and hopes for the future…

"If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep the streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

"The time is always right to do what is right."

Martin luther king

We win in business and in life when we see the brilliance in everyone around us.  And when we pause to recall those who gave their energy and lives to the values we all hold dear.


Taking Your Company’s Census

Greetings.  The 2010 U.S. Census is underway and with it the chance to take stock of the more than 300 million people living in the United States.  Hopefully you've filled out your form already (if you happen to live here) and also stopped for a moment or two to think about the process and the importance of collecting this data every ten years.  But how many of you also stopped to think about the notion behind the Census and its critical importance to your company or organization? The simple idea that we seek to understand everyone we work with and the talents and interests they have.  That we count and more fully leverage all of our human assets as a key to reaching our full potential.

If we did this more often we would, in all likelihood, unlock an amazing amount of hidden genius.  Genius that could be used to create far greater innovation and deliver much greater value to the customers and citizens we have the privilege to serve.  Genius that could be used to figure out new ways to improve our products and services. Genius that could be used to reduce the cost of doing business or identify opportunities to improve teamwork and collaboration.  Simply by asking some basic questions and making sense of the answers.  

Questions like:

  • What are your strongest skills?
  • What are your greatest interests?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What are your "secret" talents that you've never shared here?
  • What ideas do you have for making us better?
  • What resources would you need to make those ideas come alive?
  • What opportunities or customer needs do you think we are missing?
  • What could we do to make our customers' lives easier?
  • What could we do to bring out more of the genius in all of our people?

In essence, taking a "census" of the people who show up each and every day.

Census Form 

We win in business and as nations when we seek to understand who we really are.  And when we use that knowledge to unlock our brilliance as individuals and organizations.


You Matter Because You Are Here

Greetings.  It's the start of a new year and, even though I can't figure out what to call it (i.e., is it "Two-thousand-ten" or "Twenty-ten" or "O-ten"?), I have a sense that it could be a year of real possibilities for you and your organization.  If you've read Surrounded by Geniuses and followed this blog during its initial few months, you know that I have a strong belief in the genius of people and teams at all levels of companies and organizations.  A belief that they have the ability, with the right leadership and support, to come up with new ideas that deliver value to customers and improve bottom-line performance.  Yet more often than not, most people come to work and leave each day without a real sense that they matter.  

So as you and your colleagues start this new year, why not make a resolution to let everyone you work with know that they do matter.  That we can't succeed without them.  That their unique skills, energy, interests, perspectives, ideas, and passion are essential to our business.  That we need them now, more than ever before, to be powerful engines of innovation.  Then commit to letting them know, each and every day, that they make a real difference–that they matter because they are here.

It's a simple enough thing to do, and yet most of us forget to do it.  But it's vital if we are truly committed to engaging employees and unlocking the best they have to give.

Office Workers 

We win in business and in life by showing our appreciation for those around us.  And, in doing so, by giving them the courage and the will to stretch, grow, and make a difference.  

Cheers and best wishes for the start of a new year filled with great promise!