Want to listen in on a conversation with people who built a remarkable company and changed a city?
Kate and Sandy Dodge (The NP Dodge Company) are two of the most amazing people with whom I have ever conversed.
The above will link you directly with the audio, but it is also available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, etc.
Sandy is a quiet and thoughtful man so he can be a little tough to hear at times, but the little bit of extra attention required is worth it to glean his wisdom. Kate is brilliant and has a voice that resonates so she is pretty easy to hear.
Together they offer an extraordinary amount of virtual mentoring to anyone interested in growing as a leader…and quite frankly, as a human.
Give this podcast a listen and check out the rest of the season.
As always, please subscribe to the blog and/or connect on Facebook.
How do you get a street named after you when you weren’t a city “father”, a major philanthropist, a company founder, a celebrity, or the person who once lived on the developed land?
Put another way, how does an “ordinary” man get a street named after him (and another street named after his grandson)?
I am becoming obsessed with the stories of people who aren’t famous but make a significant impact on people and communities. Fortunately for me, I grew up with an uncle who was just such an “ordinary” man.
This is a story of Denny Darnold, a not-so-ordinary man, and four lessons we can learn from the way he lived his remarkable life.
Until a couple years back when you Googled “Darnold”, you didn’t get many results…the Darnolds aren’t exactly the Rockefellers or Kardashians (thank God). Of course, distant cousin Sam recently elevated our Google prominence and taught people how to pronounce our name.
We Darnolds aren’t generally headline seekers, we are more folks who sit on the end of docks with our grandchildren. Thanks to Uncle Denny (and of course my Father), I understand the beauty and power in a humble strength approach to living though their example.
Lessons on Living From Denny Darnold
1. Live With Great Integrity
While eulogizing my Uncle the Mayor of Hudson Wisconsin listed Denny’s many accomplishment and awards (see a nice story about Denny’s accomplishments here). However he also emphasized one word, integrity. I think he said it ten times. And for good reason…integrity, and care for family, were the values most enacted in Denny’s life.
The Mayor told a story about a man who interacted with Denny on a regular basis professionally. That man told the Mayor upon my Uncle’s recent retirement that he was happy Denny was retiring because he could now buy Denny a beer.
He was a city planner and he wouldn’t allow vendors, contractors, etc to even buy him a beer because he feared it would mar his reputation for integrity!!!
The Mayor also told a story about the only time he saw my Uncle lose his temper. You guessed it, someone challenged Denny’s integrity.
Denny understood that in his role, one of public service, he must never be seen as beholden to anyone but the citizens. He knew that if his loyalty to the people was clear he could be effective for them and that he and his family would never be embarrassed by some negative story that would come to light.
“A Man of Integrity”
I believe we are all called to live with great integrity. Claim the right values and align your actions with those claimed values!
2. Value Function Over Form
I drive a Honda Accord because of my uncles (Tom factored in here as well) and I probably will until Honda messes up their value proposition.
In my opinion, the only reason to own something is because it meets a need (broadly defined). If an attribute of a thing doesn’t cause it to better meet a need, why pay for it. The logo doesn’t add tangible value…only symbolic value. Some needs are met by symbolic value…not very many of mine.
Denny modeled this for me at an early age.
Buy Function Not Form
I remember when Denny first saw me pull up in my Accord. He was proud! At the time I found this strange. Now I believe he saw this as a sign that I had grown into a man who valued the important things. In his view (and mine), Honda Accords have the features you need and they function efficiently…they just run. The things that are important in a conveyance for an office worker.
Honda has become the symbol for me – contradiction intended – of valuing function over form.
3. Have and Share Personal Passions
Denny was a man of many passions.
Denny was a childhood athletic prodigy in a tiny town in Southwest Iowa. He loved the communal nature of sports. He played golf almost literally until the day he died. Many golf buddies came to his funeral and were some of the most sorrow filled non-family members in attendance.
He used his passions as means to build relationships. He was on the shy side so I believe that having connections to people through common interests was especially important to him.
Denny and I both went to Iowa State and he loved to follow Creighton basketball as well. He and I connected through these common interests. But more importantly, we connected early in my life through golf. This is odd because I don’t think we played more than a few rounds together in my entire life. I only remember one.
We connected because he brought me along as a caddy. I went to visit him for about a week most every summer and he would take me along to some tournament. I did nothing but hurt his chances of winning. I know for a fact that he was distracted because of me during a match play final (match play is where two players are going head to head). However, he never got angry with me and had me caddy for him again the next year and the next.
I loved this in real time and in hindsight this was amazing! I learned so much about how to relate to people at these tournaments and I bonded with my Uncle.
I wasn’t the only one who experienced this.
Denny bonded with his in-laws by becoming a huge Packers fan when he moved to Wisconsin.
Denny bonded with his father in-law through fishing.
And most importantly, he bonded with his children through their interests. He coached their youth sports and shared his love of art most especially with his son.
Don’t be selfish about your passions. Use the energy they provide to build relationships and influence others.
4. Be a Person of Few Words
Meaning > Multitude
I am still trying to live this lesson.
My Uncle lived with a humble strength that allowed him to make an huge difference in the world.
The people of Hudson valued the way he lived his life as much or more than the zoning decisions he recommended.
I believe humble strength is how an “ordinary” man gets a street named after him whether it be literal or metaphorical.
I think we all need to be mentored by these “ordinary” people through their stories. I aim to tell these stories in a way that helps others grow. I wrote about my Grandfather in “My First Minimalist Management Mentor” and I am proud and humbled to pay tribute to my Uncle Denny in this post. He was a remarkable man!
He is one of the many additional people I should have discussed in my TedX talk if it weren’t for that pesky time limitation.
Who are your “ordinary people” and what life lessons can you learn from them?
I love it because it is rapid fire. Seven speakers, seven minutes each, seven unique leadership focused subjects.
I thought it would be helpful to share some of my take aways from this powerful evening. My take aways are not specifically attributable to any one speaker, they are themes that emerged across speakers.
1. Context Matters
A theme that emerged across nearly every speaker was that context matters. First, you as a leader need to find or create a context for yourself where you can utilize your strengths…you need to find fit. If not, finding success will be especially difficult. It is already difficult enough to lead (a bonus theme/take away).
Second, you need to create a context for your people where they can find success. They need to understand what winning means for your organization (e.g. business, not-for-profit, family, team) and need to know how to help the organization win.
2. How You Communicate Matters
It appears to me that many people believe that simply sharing information equals communicating well…not so.
You need to communicate for effect. What is the outcome you desire from your communication? What do you want people to take away? What is the headline you would want to read in the morning regarding your situation?
You need to communicate with the proper tone. Sometimes you need to be dead serious, sometimes humor is appropriate. However, when you use humor you must be thoughtful about it. What is the goal of the humor? Will humor help or harm?
3. Authenticity Matters
Be authentic and allow your people to do the same.
“Covering” at work is very harmful to self and to employees! The act of covering up your true self is exhausting and will lead to under performance and burnout. You need to hire great people and let them bring their whole self to work. You as a leader need to do the same. If not, you will suffer and eventually your people will see through the act.
4. A Learning Orientation Matters
Learning occurs in many ways, the key is that you strive to learn.
You learn through research. You dig until you understand the truth of the matter and the root cause. In doing so you can fix the true problem and avoid reoccurrence.
You learn through experience. Be ambitious, take risks, don’t be afraid to try new things so you can learn and grow.
You learn by seeking and listening to feedback. You need to utilize your strengths, but you also need to understand your areas for future growth. What news tools do you need to acquire?
5. Connections Matter
Leaders need to see and create connections.
You need to understand how the work gets done through your people. Who works with whom to create value. You need to help those folks set aside their self interests so that your organization can flourish.
You also need to understand who should be connected in order to create or seize new opportunity. Understand the people in your world so you can introduce those who will work well together.
6. Nurturing Talent Matters
Great leaders nurture talent.
You need to understand how to best pour into your people. You need to help them develop skills that will benefit the organization, but you also need to enable people to develop and live out their passions (family, community, hobbies) beyond your organization.
That said, you must also fill your own cup. What do you need to grow? What interest do you need to pursue? Which loved one do you need to spend time with? Your cup must remain full in order to be able to pour into other’s cups.
7. Community Matters Can Be Organizational Matters
You need not sacrifice organizational outcomes to help the community. Find the intersection of interests. How can you meet an organizational goal while also meeting a community need?
Understanding the needs of those around you is the key. When you understand people’s true needs you will know how to effectively help and can determine how to align organizational interests.
In the end, by connecting community and organization both those you lead and the community will benefit.
It was a fantastic event and I hope this post conveys a bit of the wisdom that was shared. Make sure to check it out in person next year!
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I find that back to school season is a great time to reflect. Mostly because I can’t think until my kids are back in school. Heading into this particular summer break I felt particularly fried. I was busy all summer, but didn’t feel productive. Maybe you can relate.
When the kids headed back to school I reflected on the summer. I tried to make sense of my lack of measurable output. I barely wrote at all. I kept the balls in the air at work, but didn’t really score many goals.
I truly came to terms with the fact that my progress stalled. I bet you have felt this way a time or two.
I realized I never really took a summer break this year. We took some long weekends that were sandwiched between work travel, the daily grind, and youth sports, but I never really took the time I needed to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.
That was a big mistake!
I came to realize that the sprint I made in the spring left me empty in many ways. I was submitting manuscripts, recording a podcast, trying serve my team, teaching a new course, and delivering a TEDx talk. In many ways last spring culminated in a mountain top moment for me. But we all know the problem with being on a mountain top…
My metaphorical finals week left me drained despite earning good grades.
For those of us who are parents, teachers, coaches, etc we can all see this in the children and young adults around us. They lose focus, their tempers get shorter, they make more mistakes…just like all of us when we run out of juice. If you can’t relate, congratulations, you are super human.
I needed a summer vacation to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.
At the beginning of any good summer vacation – whether it is a week, a month, or the whole summer – you just need to relax. Kids need to swim, run through sprinklers, play games, watch movies, and eat ice cream with their friends.
I personally need some serious kayak time, preferably with fishing involved. I need a few good camp fires with my wife and friends…and of course a few beverages help the cause.
What do you need to relax?
Unless you give yourself some time to decompress you won’t release the pressure that has built up. This will eventually lead to an explosion!
However, summer break cannot just be about decompressing if we are going to use it as a time of growth and refreshment. We can’t live on ice cream alone…some of you might debate me on this point.
As we begin to release pressure we need to take time to strengthen ourselves through nutrition and exercise in order to thrive in our next. Many of us, myself included, can get into some bad eating habits when we are stretched too thin. Don’t even get me started on my exercise routine when I am in the worst phases of the grind.
Kids eat and exercise naturally as long as we provide a conducive environment. The key for them and us is the conducive environment.
Breaks allow us the opportunity to focus on what we need to strengthen our bodies and to reclaim healthy habits.
What habit do you need to reclaim/start to strengthen your body? What needs to change in your environment to keep your body strong?
Physical nourishment isn’t all we need refresh, recharge, and refocus.
At the end of my last sprint my mind was a pile of goo suited for little more than Candy Crush and running errands…
Fortunately breaks allow us time to feed our minds what they need to grow. Our brains are especially receptive when not cluttered with the day to day.
What do you need to learn? Do you need inspiration? Do you need to dream?
Books, documentaries, the theatre, lectures, podcasts, and conversations with thought partners can all provide what we need. We must use our breaks to learn and grow as thinkers and dreamers.
I find that campfires are catalysts for great conversations.
As a Jesus follower I also need breaks to help me get back in touch with my creator and God’s creation. I need time to reconnect with Jesus and to reflect on what he wants for my life.
I often neglect prayer, study, and reflection when I get busy. Although busyness is not an excuse, once I am out of the habit I need time to get refocused. Without reconnecting, refreshing, and refocusing spiritually I don’t feel well directed to move forward.
What do you need to do to reconnect and refresh your soul?
We all need breaks to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus, but then we need to return.
Refueling is a waste if you aren’t going to burn that fuel. By the end of summer I can always tell that it is time for my kids to go back to school. They are stir crazy, bouncing off the walls, focusing their energy poorly…it is time for them to get back to work.
The same is true for us. I believe we are all called to work while on this earth. We should refresh, recharge, and refocus with the aim of returning to serve our people.
If you want to understand Minimalist Management living and leading, this blog, and to a large degree…me… give this a quick watch. I hope it is helpful to you. The key themes are purpose, mentorship, self-reflection, faith, gratitude, wisdom, leadership and of course minimalism. I am honored to have shared the TEDx stage with so many amazing people. Check out tedxcreightonu.com!
I don’t know about you but I get drained. When the battery is running low I lose my focus on my purpose and I am more likely to do things out of line with my values. We all need energy to move forward.
At the conclusion of a recent work trip I had my Uber driver drop me off at a favorite spot on my way from my hotel to the airport. I was there for about an hour and a half, then headed to the airport. It made all the difference in the world…battery was charged and (or because) I connected with God through God’s creation.
I would encourage you to try to replicate this. Find an hour to stop, reflect, and recharge. You might not be going right by LaJolla. But I bet there is a great park near your path home. Give it a try. I bet you will find it helpful.
Don’t pretend you have it all together. Others will learn from your humanity. Be open to letting others learn from your weaknesses. Let people learn along with you.
People who know Father well, myself included, were astonished and blessed by his openness in this video. We grew.
This is what elevated him to hero status for me. I have many heroes and he is now among the people who have shown me God in a way that sets them apart.
Recognize God’s Presence In Daily Life
See God in all things…and all people. Treat all things and people as God’s creations. When you live this way you can’t help but strive to love other people for who they are and you can’t help but strive to treat God’s earth and its creatures with respect.
You catch a glimpse in this video, but I, and thousands of others, are blessed to see him live this out daily.
Live Like You Won’t Die, But Knowing You Will
Live life in love for one another and don’t worry about the afterlife. Love this life and live it to its fullest in service to God. Do this by finding your purpose and striving to live it out.
But remember, while service to God in this life is how we are called to live…it is only the beginning. The fullness of the gospel is living well on earth and remembering our eternity in Christ.
Thank you God for letting me live for a while around Father Hauser. I know you will enjoy your time with him when he arrives home.
I believe it is high time that we managers have something we can point to when we are feeling violated and that those we manage can throw in our face when we are not living up to our duty to help our people flourish.
I believe that these “Rights” are applicable in most any context whether it be work, home, play, or service. While I suspect I will not be an originalist when it comes to this Bill of Rights…meaning it will likely change some over time, RIP Justice Scalia…, I certainly believe that these Rights are important because substantial evidence suggests that when respected these Rights lead to motivation and satisfaction. If these rights are respected I believe fantastic things will happen for Minimalist Managers and their people.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to strive toward something personally meaningful.
Everyone deserves to have clarity of task and purpose.
Everyone deserves to believe that they can successfully complete their work.
Everyone deserves to have their efforts recognized.
Everyone deserves to receive both positive and constructive task focused feedback.
Everyone deserves to have the resources they need to complete their work.
Everyone deserves to work with people of integrity.
Everyone deserves to work with people who stimulate them.
Everyone deserves to work with people who support their personal and/or professional growth.
Everyone deserves to have the actions and attitudes that affect them guided by evidence verses bias and tradition.
I will do my best to help those who strive to be Minimalist Managers live up to this Bill of Rights by providing support for these Rights. In particular, I aim to help people with Right 10 by providing research evidence that will help people live and manage in line with the The Minimalist Management Manifesto and this Bill of Rights.
What did I miss? I would love to engage in conversation around this Bill of Rights!
In order to better manage ourselves and others information is often helpful.
Let’s get this out of the way up front, I am obsessed with Chef’s Table. It feeds my soul! I suspect this post is simply the first course of many in the meal that is “Ingredients For Success From Great Chefs”. All puns intended, but I will try to limit them from this point forward.
Introduction To The Series
Many world class chef’s are amazing people, many are jerks. I am going to try to write about the one’s who I believe are amazing people that add more to the world than they subtract. Obviously their cuisine adds value or they wouldn’t be believed to be great chefs, but I want to look deeper. I want to try to see what we can learn from the chefs who create amazing experiences for BOTH their patrons and their kitchen.
Why look at chefs in the context of a minimalism themed blog? Chefs, while their recipes are complex, have a clear purpose…create experiences around food that feed body, mind, and in some cases, soul.
Learning about Grant Achatz has been a mind blowing experience. Grant was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, has won essentially every culinary award, and appears to have made a lot of money. He is clearly a success by any normal standard. But if you have been following this blog, you know that is not what The Minimalist Manager is all about. I am writing about Chef Achatz because I believe he is truly inspiring others with his purpose driven work and is empowering his team to do the same.
In watching the Chef’s Table and reading about Achatz, three lessons emerged regarding success.
There Will Be Pain
In Chef Achatz’s life the pain was both quite real, life threatening in fact, as well as figurative. Grant didn’t graduate from culinary school and immediately start a world class restaurant. In fact, his first big opportunity was a flop. When he landed a position cooking under Charlie Trotter (a world class chef who I will never feature) he learned from an anti-mentor about how not to run a kitchen. He saw a cut throat environment that was all about individual rather than team pursuits…he was miserable and did not last long. Painful learning experience. Grant thought about hanging up his apron. The culinary world is obviously glad he didn’t.
We can all learn from this experience. Most great success does not come easy, there is usually failure along the way that causes people to consider what they really want. Purpose is called into question! Sometimes this leads people to understand that they are truly off track and need to make a major change. Other times it simply clarifies what people truly want and better illuminates how they need to move forward.
The literal pain came as Chef Achatz and Alinea where hitting their stride. Chef Achatz was diagnosed with stage four tongue cancer…yep, a world class chef with tongue cancer (you can read the amazing details of his treatment and recovery elsewhere). He lost his sense of taste for a time, but actually used this to his advantage. This trial led him to a greater intellectual understanding of what made great food and to a greater trust and use of his team…breakthrough stuff in the world of fine dining.
We all have trials, most less dramatic than his. What can we learn from our trials that will make us better moving forward?
To fully understand the degree to which Grant’s team thinks about experience you will need to dine at the restaurant (I have not but would love to if someone would like to take me), but through Chef’s Table you get a sense. Every decision is made toward the goal of blowing the guest’s mind. Foods are made to look like other foods, restaurant decor is turned into food before the guest’s eyes, and foods literally float. Even the way patrons enter the restaurant is viewed as part of the dining experience. Notice I didn’t highlight the flavor of the food. It obviously tastes amazing, but that is simply the start.
Chef Achatz is also curating a work environment that maximizes the creativity of himself and his team so they can continue to create these amazing experiences anew. Team members are given voice and encouraged to create. Achatz has also created a cuisine skunk works where he and his team experiment until innovation is achieved. He believes that innovation is more a product of hard work than flashes of brilliance.
What is your singular goal? Your team’s? What experiences are you curating for your clients/customers/patrons and team that lead toward execution of your goal?
Find and Be an Amazing Mentor
After Grant’s painful experience in Charlie Trotter’ kitchen. He found his way to Northern California and The French Laundry. When he walked in to inquire about a job he found a man sweeping the floor only to learn that the man was Thomas Keller. In short he found a mentor who ran a world class restaurant in an empowering way. A leader who created a culture of continuous growth and creativity. Grant’s understanding of his purpose was clarified through this relationship. He was given the opportunity to learn to create for himself. When Achatz created his first signature dish Keller asked Grant if he was ok with his creation forever being known as a French Laundry/Keller dish or whether he would like to save it for himself. Grant gave back to his mentor.
Fast forward several years and you find a culture at Alinea that is reminiscent of French Laundry and a cook being mentored by Chef Achatz who has figured out how to make sugar float…yep. Grant of course asked his protégé, “are you ok with this dish forever being known as an Alinea/Achatz dish?” Protégé again gave back to mentor.
Greatness begets greatness!
Who should you be learning from? Who should you be mentoring?
Chef Achatz is an inspiration. Time for me to do some imagining about how to better curate experiences in my context! I wonder if Chef Achatz would mentor me?
Wisdom is a misunderstood concept. When thinking of wisdom many people imagine an old man stroking his white beard, or a Tibetan monk type who spends most of his time praying in seclusion. While folks that fit this description might well be wise, these are not helpful images for a leader to have in mind.
In my way of thinking, which is based heavily on the book of James*, one cannot be wise unless one acts wise. To twist the phrase from Forrest Gump…
Wise Is As Wise Does
Anyone can be wise, facial hair or not. Wisdom is seen through the lens of action. Leaders who are wise will be seen as:
Gentle: Leaders who are gentle do not seek harm for others. This isn’t just about physical harm. This relates to how we speak to others, how we speak about others, and whether we consider the impact our actions indirectly have on others.
Willing to yield: Leaders who are willing to yield are not stubborn. They listen, will admit when someone else has a point, and will change.
Merciful: Leaders who are merciful are kind and forgiving even when they have every right to treat someone harshly.
Showing no favoritism: Leaders cannot show favoritism. Nothing good comes from having in-groups and out-groups. Everyone has to feel they are a part of the team in order for them to strive toward a common goal.
Sincere: Leaders who are sincere have integrity. They value the right things and they genuinely live out those values.
Leading wisely yields peace amongst the team! This peace creates a culture where people feel safe, and thus are willing to put themselves out there on behalf of the team. Isn’t this what we all want?
Leaders must also check their motives. Only people motivated toward the good of others are engaging in wise action. People who are motivated by jealousy and/or selfish ambition will not act wisely. Jealous people are acting either out of envy or the need to try to protect what they perceive to be theirs. They are not thinking about how to create the best outcome for the team. Similarly, while ambition is not a bad thing, ambition that is simply about self promotion isn’t wise. Over time followers will see through selfish leaders. A selfish leader’s actions will give her/him away and people will begin to sense disorder. Ultimately, this will ruin any chance for peace and safety. Thanks for playing selfish leader…Game Over!!!
*True Wisdom Comes from God
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.