Sunday, March 11, 2012

Authentic Engagement

I ran across this video recently and find it so right on, not right on because I am some kind of left wing socialist nut, but because I know its truth and have used the science in creating CEO2. In fact, we have never had a failure to engage using this counter intuitive process. Much of what we believe to be true as CEOs is simply NOT. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why bother?

the world takes no notice
as I strap on my rusty armor
(that chafes at every joint)
and clamber up to sit upon
the skittish steed
that is my Purpose

the windmill takes no notice
as I lower my wobbly lance
and jab my spurs against the flanks
of my tired and wheezing mount
and point myself hell-bent toward the looming giant

the world may take no notice
or if it sees, not care
but for a moment or two
my Purpose is my Self

and for a moment or two
my Life is such
that I feel the wind upon my face

- G.E. Nordell

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Singularity

By Tom Voccola

According to the February 2011 issue of TIME Magazine, a group of accomplished scientists and futurists are predicting that mankind is rushing toward an event horizon called the Singularity, at which time they claim the human species will have the technological capacity to somehow merge with computers to literally become "immortal".

Lunacy? Maybe, but it looks as though many of us will be around to see whether it all pans out, since Singularity experts say it'll be a done deal by about 2045. Says Verner Vinge, author of the book
The Coming Technological Singularity, “Within 30 years we will have the means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”

Typical reactions to this type of pronouncement range from disbelief to visceral sensations of alarm. Who do these people think they are? Mad scientists run amuck? Super-sized egos playing God? Are they actively working to make humanity irrelevant, by replacing us with machines they believe are superior?

In my view, science is proceeding not because it should, but because it can. Researchers flatly declare that technology cannot be stopped; if they don’t advance these concepts on behalf of humanity, others with less benevolent intentions will. The thought of this kind of capability, in the hands of Ego, is quite frightening; the creation of Cylons, Terminators, Borgs and our worst nightmares could be just around the corner.

I would argue that a better approach to finally unleashing the full potential of humankind is not by using artificial means, but rather, through raising the consciousness of humanity itself and helping us to achieve our natural potential. To help human beings mature and gain the wisdom necessary to meet the great challenges of our time, we’ll need to not only survive, but to thrive and prosper. To succeed, it means that we must consciously decide, individually, as well as collectively, what we truly want for our lives, our children, and our future. And then
stay true to our word.

Sound easy? Then what stops us?

In my work with leaders, I've observed that, by far, the biggest obstacle to individuals and organizations achieving their goals is their inability to stay focused and follow through
on what they declare they want. Ironic, isn’t it, that the goals we say we want to reach, the dreams we dearly yearn to attain, are what we tend to self-sabotage the most.

Energy always follows focus. This is a universal truth. Yet individually and collectively, we human beings allow our energy to be dissipated by external and internal distractions to the point where we become ineffective in our lives, our relationships and our endeavors.

Think about it. As a Leader, what is your #1 goal, your heartfelt dream? Then consider. How much “noise” do you have in your life that distracts, delays and slowly, insidiously wiggles its way between what you hope to achieve and what you actually complete each day? How many shifting priorities come at you from all sides? Massive distractions like war, politics and economic instability cause disruption on a global scale. Lesser distractions derail us just as easily from within our immediate spheres, like workplace politics, interpersonal conflict, traffic delays or simply getting hooked by the next e-mail, text message, phone call or news broadcast. But the things that really paralyze us come from inside our own psyche, like feelings of overwhelm, fear, anger, depression, inadequacy and stress.

Experts say that the level of harmful stress that the average person lives with is growing exponentially; our fight or flight responses are now triggered primarily by imagined or internalized threats rather than genuine peril from our environment. In ages past, our ancestors had to run from dangerous predators. But today we are unconsciously running from intangibles every moment of every day, while supplements like caffeine help keep the adrenaline flowing constantly – interrupted briefly by inadequate periods of sleep.

Of course, lack of focus and follow-through is a stumbling block for all of humanity, not just Leaders. Our species, through its curious mix of politics, economics and greed, has led us to focus on the symptom rather than the cure. (After all, how much more economically viable do you think it is to treat a symptom than a cure? You get the picture.) So when faced with an issue, people are well conditioned to pile on more activities and layers of distraction in a futile attempt to make the symptoms go away. In this example, stress is a symptom – so why not sign up for classes and activities designed to provide stress relief? A calendar of unfulfilled commitments is a symptom, so let’s add a workshop and some audio CDs on time management. A life or career that is unfulfilling is a symptom, so let’s start looking into the next big network marketing idea that’s supposed to put us on the road to multiple streams of income.

Now, I don’t have anything against relaxation, time management or multiple streams of income — IF they are an integral part of you fulfilling your true Destiny and playing
your Game Worth Playing.

So let’s just skip the symptoms and start
there, with the cure. What is YOUR Purpose? Your Passion? Your Game Worth Playing? Articulate that, clearly and succinctly, and all other priorities and decisions fall much more easily into place. If you already have clarity on this foundational step, congratulations! You can advance to the next stage and focus on gaining personal Mastery, which will be my topic next month.

Very few of us are likely to change the course of human events by pioneering a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. But all of us can work toward unleashing humanity’s true potential the natural way, beginning with ourselves. We have the tools, the technology, the experience and the teachers to help us uncover and unleash our own Purpose and Passions in life.

So how many of you want to come along with me in ushering a kind of Singularity of our own? I believe, through clarity of Purpose and Self-Mastery, we can truly experience ourselves as powerful, effective, loving Humans Being fulfilled, not just Humans Doing the same things over and over again expecting a different outcome.

And that, my friends — a planet filled with humans Being their potential — is a future that machines can only dream of.

Yours on the Journey,

Tom Voccola

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are these 21 Business Limiting Beliefs Holding You Back?

One of the important exercises we take our clients through is uncovering the limiting beliefs that hold them back. There are literally hundreds of limiting beliefs, but each person and organization has their own unique set. You might ponder a few of these to see if you have them on your personal list or if they're alive and well in your company.
We call them limiting beliefs because they limit personal and organizational performance by sucking the energy out of people. For example, if we believe that firefighting is normal, we never do anything to put an end to it. We just work harder, faster and longer. This may be seen as heroic, but in fact, it just takes us away from building the company.

1. Fire Fighting is normal
2. People don't care
3. Working more hours will make a difference
4. Empowerment is the same as delegation, but with more rope
5. Managing is the same as leading
6. Bad communication is just the way things are
7. Being an entrepreneur or business owner makes you a CEO
8. The boss knows best
9. People just want to be told what to do
10. People don't change
11. Training is the same as transformation
12. Other CEOs know more than you do about your company
13. Emotions have no place in business
14. The customer is more important than your people
15. The customer knows what they want
16. Leadership always knows what to do
17. Business is separate from one's personal life
18. Performance and behavior can be managed
19. While business is about people, working with people, doing stuff, for people, the stuff is more important than the people
20. Profit is the main reason for a business
21. Education and past experience matter more than personality.

Limiting beliefs in an organization are invisible, destructive and persistent. They keep us disengaged. And the interesting thing is, the person or situation that caused the belief to begin with can be long gone, but the belief will live on until called into question. If you find you subscribe to some of these, well, great, awareness is the first step toward letting go of what no longer serves you.

Now, let's take this to the next level; how many limiting beliefs do you have about yourself, your family, your clients? And how are those limiting beliefs holding you back?

Friday, October 1, 2010

To be a 21st Century Leader, be You!

I remember the first time my grandson Chai came aboard Sea Fever. He was so excited that after just an hour of watching me handle the boat, he sat on my lap and asked if he could steer. I explained that the correct way to ask for the helm was, “Permission to take the helm, Captain?” He quickly asked me using his new language and I returned his request with, “Permission granted, Chai.” and stepped out of the way.
Chai turned out to be a great student, but more than just learning the vocabulary of sailing, he had an intuitive sense of it – a unique ability. As he stood at the helm I watched him over-steer a few times but he quickly fell into the rhythm of the boat as it reacted to the wind and the waves to keep Sea Fever on its intended course. It was simply amazing to see a 7 year old, standing on the seat so he could see over the cabin top, handle a 50 foot boat with such determination and confidence. And boy could he keep a course. Much better that some of my long time sailing partners.

What I taught Chai certainly helped him with the mechanics of sailing, but who he is made him a sailor. In other words, he had what he needed already to be a sailor. He had, for example, a sense of rhythm, a sense of well being on the sea, and an internal confidence to stand up to what many adults have told me is an intimidating sport. He also never got seasick. For Chai to be a great captain, he simply needed the opportunity.

To be a 21st Century Leader, be you.

Not a Ronald Reagan clone. Not a Jack Welsch clone. Not a "Good to Great" clone. They were unique. You are unique. You cannot be exactly like anyone else any more than they can be exactly like you. And that's true for companies, organizations and countries as well. Each is a unique entity based upon their purpose, passion, culture, unique abilities and core values. Iraq will never be America any more that you will ever be Bill Gates.

Yes, we all need to be taught the mechanics of sailing, and that’s true of business as well. But who we are as a human being will determine how well we sail and what kind of leader we will be.

We write and read about successful leaders with the hope of being able to model their behaviors. The idea here is that if we do what they did then we will have similar success. And if you think about it, that's what most business and history books do, they describe behaviors as observed from the outside. If we can see the 25 traits of Good to Great leaders then, it is thought, if we follow every one of them, well, maybe we can build a Great company as well. Tom Peters is always finding the 85 things you must absolutely do right now or die. And oh, if you don't do all 85 of them just the way he says, you’re gonna die! Nonsense.

I am not saying the 85 things aren't smart, aren't good things to consider, but you will never, in a million years, do them exactly like the person or company that originated them did, and so you will never, in a million years, be successful exactly like they have been. One person's best practice can be another's disaster.

As a student and practitioner of NLP (NuroLinguistic Programming) I am well aware of the effect self-talk and language has on behavior and subsequent performance. I also know that modeling is a legitimate technology that one can employ to move a person or an organization forward. Sort of fake it until you make it. But there is one question every self help guru asks themselves sooner or later: Why won't they just do what I tell them to do? Why isn't every one of Robert Allen's students a real estate mogul like he is? Why isn't every one of T. Harv Eker's students wealthy beyond belief like he is?

There is no silver bullet. You cannot be someone else, so stop it.

Begin at the beginning. Who are you? Why are you here? What are you uniquely capable of? Answer these questions and you will be as unique and as valuable as any in the world. And you will have a sense of confidence in yourself no one outside of you can ever give you.

According to Patricia Aburdene's recent book, Megatrends 2010, in which she says, and boy do I ever agree with her, "The cornerstone of effective leadership is self-mastery. But that's exactly what's missing in business today." After working with over three hundred leaders across six different cultures, this has been my experience and contention for over 20 years now. The 21st Century leader must begin with self-mastery before he can ever hope to master the power of empathy and relationships much less the ability to then create a game worth playing.

Be yourself, Captain.

Sail On.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Letting Go

Every ten years I take a sabbatical for a year. This one was different. In November of 2009 my wife Frances and I made the decision to leave our home of almost 30 years in Thousand Oaks, California and move to Garden City, Idaho. We live on a farm. An old piece of family property that was no longer being used for anything other than to store a life time's worth of memories for my 86 year old father-in-law. The 1937 F-12 FarmAll Tractor (above, right) only a small part of his memories. The three barns (he calls them sheds) contain the rest.

As I come up toward the end of my sabbatical in November, I am going to be sharing some of the lessons I learned living in an unfamiliar place, a place out of the mainstream, a place that is full of peace, happiness and unexpected challenges to my previous experiences.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Right People on the Bus?

Part 9 of a continuing series on CEOing

I intended to talk about the five keys to building a growing and sustainable company this month but instead, I want to focus on just one: the problem with buses and people.

I'm working with an amazing company and, as buttoned up as they appear from the outside (they are an undisputed industry leader in their field), they are fraught with chaos and dysfunction on the inside. This, in my experience, is quite normal. Why is that so? I believe a good part of it has to do with misplaced assumptions.

Misplaced Employee Assumptions
As employees, we expect that management knows what it is supposed to do. We assume they know more than we do about the primary ingredients of enterprise: people, process and technology and how they are supposed to work together. As employees we believe they have the answers to life's unanswered questions and that they have only our best interests in mind. As it so often turns out, they do not.

Misplaced Management Assumptions.
As leaders, well, we assume our people will know what to do when they land the job. After all, they wowed us during the hiring process and they've held other jobs, after all, some with bigger companies, and of course, in addition to their on the job experience, many of them also have impressive degrees. So why don't they seem to know how to do their jobs, run their departments or interface with customers without lots of supervision and hand holding?

In my experience, the average person in the workplace is really smart and capable, but knows little about growing themselves or the enterprise, and that extends to many in leadership positions as well. Couple that truth with recent research which indicates that up to 75% of us could be in the wrong jobs for our personality type (Source: BUPA, the UK's leading independent health care provider). It's no wonder most workplaces are dysfunctional: we don't know how to grow ourselves or our organizations and, even if we did, we probably have the wrong personality for our current role to do it.

Rather than fight it, I propose that we do something about it. So where to start? Well, awareness that something is not working the way we want it to is the first step. The second is the desire to change the situation, even if we don't know exactly how to do it in the moment.

So, where are we now, and, more importantly, where do we want to go?

Where are we are now? The bus as a metaphor.
Ever since Jim Collins and Jerry Porras' ground breaking book "Built to Last - Successful Habits of Visionary Companies", most CEOs have talked about getting "the right people" on the bus. And while I agree it's a GREAT idea, let's take a close look at the reality of what's really happening in the world.

First of all, we assume the bus has a driver who knows where he wants to go. In my experience when the driver doesn't already have a "route" to follow, he will be too busy focusing on the back of the bus quelling car sick passengers and dodging oncoming traffic to worry about creating a new Vision. In fact, 97% of our buses crash.

Next, the people who get on the bus are, by definition, passengers and we assume they want to go where the bus is going. Some leaders also expect the passengers to be able to drive the bus as well. But do they? Can they?

Most people get on the proverbial bus because it is going somewhere -- anywhere. And very few, no matter how well trained in engineering, accounting or product development, will every want to or be able to drive the bus. Think about this for a moment.

I want to make this very personal!

There you are looking for a job and you send your resume out to 50 different companies and then, if you're lucky, a few of your prospects call you. If you are like most people, you go with the one that makes you the best offer (sometimes it's the first bus to pull up). In other words, the job chooses you, you don't choose the job.

You may have cared less about where the bus was going than that it was going somewhere other than where you were - standing on the corner without a job. Look around you, how many people in your workplace would be there if they didn't need the money? Would you?

How many times have we heard Wall Street CEOs talk about "driving" profitability or "driving" results or "driving" people to some new level or another. No wonder so many CEOs feel exhausted. And believe me, no one likes being driven like so many cattle from place to place either. More CEOs than you would believe want to fire everyone and start over. And, by the way, employees unabashedly suggest the same for their CEOs.

So I am left with two questions: How do we fulfill the leader's Vision, if indeed he or she has one that is worth fulfilling; and how do we honor and transition the people currently on the bus in some compassionate way that just doesn't play musical seats. After all, this is not a new problem, it is the problem. We are all engaged in it. And, in my view, we must all work through it together.

So, that said, we need a bigger idea, one that will engage all of us currently on the bus to nowhere, to get off the bus. The bus is dead.

Where do we want to go? A new Paradigm Shift.

Imagine a time when every person entering the workplace has the ability to move themselves and their teams ahead without a lot of drama. Imagine a time when people have the right personality for the work they perform. Imagine a time when the majority of people are fully engaged in their work. When their work is an expression of who they really are.

Next month: Exploring a bigger idea.

Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Guide, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom is the co-founder and past Chairman of the Los Angeles area CEO Round Table for the American Electronics Association, and the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Creating A Game Worth Playing

Part 8 of a continuing series on CEOing by Tom Voccola, Author, The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose

Last month we were talking about the universal belief in the workplace that says:

• All bosses are idiots

• All employees are helpless and hopeless

So what kind of feelings do you think this kind of belief is going to generate?

It triggers anger, resentment, fear and survival, and, according Naomi Eisenberfer, a leading social neuroscience researcher at UCLA, “when a leader creates a stressful workplace, employees unconsciously slip into a state of fear and survival. This sets up a threat response [in the individual employee] which is both mentally taxing and deadly to the productivity of a person. Because this response uses up oxygen and glucose from the blood, they are diverted from other parts of the brain, including working memory function, which processes new information and ideas. This impairs analytical thinking, creative insight and problem solving: in other words, just when people most need their sophisticated mental capabilities, the brain’s internal resources are taken away from them.”

There is a case to be made for positive leadership. And that happens when you are feeling clear and confident about the future yourself. Which brings us to the third CEOing Principle.

To be Powerful in the World, you must learn to Co-create and Master a Game Worth Playing.

To engage people, you are going to have to provide a picture of the future they can feel good about. I call it A Game Worth Playing. You need to inspire them, challenge them and call them forth to be the best they can be. You don’t do that by judging them. You do that by understanding that, as Deming said, “Nobody gives a hoot about profits.” What they care about is doing a good job!

So your company must be consciously designed to foster the emotional engagement one feels when they are part of something meaningful, feel challenged with respect and appreciated for their contribution. When people feel that kind of engagement they have no problem taking personal responsibility for the outcome, and doing a good job

You must do this for the employees as people! Not for the company or the bosses, not for the customer or for the shareholders, but for the employees so they feel connected with and in alignment with your dream, so they feel they are making a difference and a contribution.

Again, Naomi Eisenberfer from the UCLA neuroscience study, “…when leaders make people feel good about themselves, clearly communicate their expectations, give employees latitude to make decisions, support people’s efforts to build good relationships, and treat the whole organization fairly, it prompts a reward response [in the brain]. People become more effective, more open to ideas, and more creative.”

This is what W. Edwards Deming meant when he said “innovation comes from people who take joy in their work.” It’s your job to create the circumstances within which joy can occur.

Now there is a very practical and selfish reason why you want to do this.

In short, as a business owner you will face two possibilities:

• You can work for the business, or,

• Your business can work for you.

If you truly intend to be a successful entrepreneur, you will learn to work "on" the business not "in" the business as soon as you can. And that means being able to empower and trust people. (By this time you must have read the E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber. If not, I'm sure you can find a copy at your local library.)

The idea is to turn your employees into “colleagues” and your business into a cash machine that works whether you are there or not. If your business works without you, you have choice, you have freedom. You can keep it. You can sell it. You can grow it. You can do something else.

Next month, The Right People on the Bus


Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Guide, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom is the co-founder and past Chairman of the Los Angeles area CEO Round Table for the American Electronics Association, and the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Relationships: To Control or Engage?

Part 7 of a continuing series on CEOing

As soon as you begin to think about having any kind of relationships in your life, you will be faced with the choice to control or engage others. This is true for your friends, family and of course, your employees.

Controlling things is a natural human tendency to keep things predictable. No one likes surprises, especially on the job, and so some owners, entrepreneurs and managers can be pretty insistent on having it done “their way” or, well, you know, something about the highway. The thought here, I suppose, is to frighten people into performance. Yet according to The Gallup Organization, a research firm that has tracked good and bad engagement practices for the past decade, these kinds of ego driven approaches have resulted in 74% of our managers being disengaged: not growing themselves, their people or their company.

Now I have nothing against firing people for non-performance. But as leaders our charge is to grow and engage people, and so far there has been precious little in the management conversation about how to actually do it. So let’s take a closer look at what it takes to engage people and let’s begin with a basic definition of what it means to be engaged.

Engage – v 1. to employ or hire

Well that’s not very engaging! It says people are engaged if they are simply employed or hired. Is there a more empowering definition of engagement? Yes, there is. Here’s our definition of engaged after asking over 3000 people what it meant to them to be engaged. See if you can relate to what they told us.

To be engaged is to feel…

• Part of something meaningful
• Challenged with respect
• Appreciated for my contribution
• Responsible for the outcome

The key to being engaged is how we feel about what we are doing. Given what we learned in the BEAR Model, (Beliefs > Emotions > Actions > Results) we know that how we feel depends upon what we believe. So what does the average employee believe about the workplace, exactly?

The work force currently believes: (Source: Dilbert Comic Strip)

• Bosses are idiots
• Employees are helpless and hopeless

Now these beliefs are not universally true, of course, but not being true has nothing to do with whether it’s believed or not or that it won’t affect performance. As leaders, knowing exactly how to uncover and then shift limiting beliefs into empowering ones is critical to begin the journey to a fully engaged workforce. Stay tuned as we explore how to uncover what’s really driving your people and your clients.

Next month:
Creating a Game worth Playing.
Copyright 2009 Thomas A. Voccola All rights reserved

Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Guide, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom is the co-founder and past Chairman of the Los Angeles area CEO Round Table for the American Electronics Association, and the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mastering Relationships

Part 6 of a continuing series on CEOing

In Part 3 of this series I asked:

• What if you suddenly realized that you are here to do something magnificent?

• What if you suddenly found out that you are actually here to change the world for the better in your life time?

Well here’s a flash, even if you knew, you couldn’t get past the first step without being able to build great relationships. And like everything human, great relationships can seem difficult to come by. Yet, they don’t have to be.

What if there was a Universal Formula for Creating Great Relationships?

Well, there is, and it works like this.

Establish Common Ground
There is an old saying, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible) I believe this is true for individuals, relationships and groups. History has shown over and over again that relationships work best when parties perceive a meaningful reason for them to exist.

Great leaders and people with great relationships know that energy follows focus so they strive to create and maintain common ground. Their ever expanding conversations serve to grow and stretch each another and deepen their relationships. Great relationships are a gift, even the bumpy ones, because they cause us to question and examine our own thoughts and reactions to life. It’s been said that we are never angry or upset at another person, but rather, we are angry or upset with the disowned part of ourselves that we perceive in the other person.

Know What’s Expected
For those of you that are married and have kids, have you ever sat with your spouse and children to share your vision for your family? Within that context, have you had a discussion about expectations? What they expect of you and yes, what you expect of them? Perhaps if you began to view your family as a dynasty, one that’s committed to making a difference in the world, rather than simply survive it, that would help. As you begin to think about this you will naturally be faced with a critical question: do I seek to control them or engage them? Just be with the questions for now, we will discuss it more next month. Of course this can be done with your friends, staff and clients as well.

Know Where You Stand
The only way to know where you stand is to first know what’s expected, and then arrange a reoccurring time and place to get the appropriate feedback. My wife Frances and I for example, have a Friday night dinner ritual where we give our relationship a simple numerical rating of 1-10 based on five key areas. This way we are never far away from knowing where we stand. I’ve worked my way from unconscious knucklehead to best husband in the Universe using this technique. Believe me, it works.

Have the Courage to Engage
It takes a lot of courage to be able to ask someone else to give you feedback based upon how they feel, especially in the beginning. And that’s where the common ground comes in. Frances and I are committed to one another’s growth and development. This assures a safe space for expression and creates an eagerness to give and receive feedback about our behavior and beliefs.

Next month: To Control or Engage?

Copyright 2009 Thomas A. Voccola All rights reserved

Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Coach, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom is the co-founder and past Chairman of the Los Angeles area CEO Round Table for the American Electronics Association, and the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Being Powerful with Others

Part 5 of a continuing series on CEOing

Your number one job as a CEO - and if you do this you will be an amazing CEO - is to unleash the pent-up creativity and innovation in both customers and employees in service to their dreams. (Yes, I did say their dreams) Turning this attitude into action is at the heart of working “on” your company by fully engaging your employees in the success of the enterprise because they see themselves as an integral part of it. But it is one thing to be aware of this, and altogether another to be able to do it.

In Parts 3 and 4 of this series, I tried to leave you with a powerful insight and understanding into the invisible forces driving you. Now I want to help you leverage that understanding by introducing you to the second law of CEOing…

To be Powerful in with others, you must first
Understand Humanity and learn to Master Relationships

Understanding Humanity

When you come to understand and appreciate the untapped power within yourself, you will have an opening to understanding the massive untapped potential of others – if you have it, so do they!

The $64 million question is:

How do you tap into this power?

The first step is to appreciate that it’s not easy being human. Have you noticed that? Life is a constant struggle because - living into the expectations of others -we are trying to be someone other than who we really are. And we don’t even see that we are doing it! To tap into the authentic power of people, you must help them identify with something bigger, something more meaningful than simply the roles they play. You have to engage them in a game worth playing.

What kinds of real-world results can you expect from unleashing the power of people? In our work with organizations we consistently see:

1. A critical mass of aligned & engaged employees at every level in the organization. Up from the national level of 26% to over 80% within 90 days as measured by survey and improved performance against client specified mission critical goals and objectives
2. Measurable improvements in throughput and capacity
3. A dramatic reduction in fire fighting, wasted energy and overtime
4. Measurable gains in productivity and innovation yielding a minimum 10x R.O.I.
5. Employee teams reviewing and re engineering organizational processes
6. A dramatic growth in team led project centered growth initiatives at every level
7. Measurable relationship improvement with customers, vendors and co-workers
8. A culture of support and empowerment rather than one of command and control
9. More fun and meaning in work
10. An empowered CEO

So how do you go about unleashing this power?

There is one universal human limiting belief that must be forever undone: That people are not good enough. It’s a deep seated belief that has been seared into our collective consciousness from birth by every religion, government institution and news organization on earth and keeps us from exploring the brilliance in people. And, it has morphed into the way business occurs in the world as well.

The major difference between management and leadership is the difference between controlling people and liberating them. We control when we do not trust. We liberate when we have faith.

We have been trying for millennia to control people because we didn’t know any better. Leaders would knowingly focus people on what they didn’t want in their lives, sewing fear, uncertainty, doubt. When there was sufficient fear among the populace, they would offer safety and security in return for money or other valuable resource - many times for actual human freedoms. This approach is and has been a criminal waste of human energy.

Yet during this same time we all have seen instances of great leaders who have inspired ordinary people to achieve more than they ever thought they could. Martin Luther King comes to mind. He focused us on our own greatness and asked us to dig deep within ourselves and see our own power. He gave an entire generation hope and a way forward through non-violence. His leadership speaks for itself.

The latter approach, this kind of leadership is what CEOing is all about. Focusing your clients, and yes, your employees and strategic partners on what they really desire and want for themselves, their families and ultimately, their legacy, and then, giving them a clear way forward through your game worth playing.

Sometimes, I hear business people say, “Hope is not a Strategy!” I disagree. Hope is the most powerful Strategy in the world. In a world of not good enough, the leader that brings hope into people’s lives and engages them in a way forward will capture the hearts, minds and trust of a great many. Just step into their shoes. How would you rather live your life: Out of fear and despair; or confidence and possibility? Your answer will determine your degree of lasting success and yes, happiness.

Next Month: Mastering Relationships

Copyright 2009 Thomas A. Voccola

Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Coach, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom is the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our Creative Identity

Part 4 of a continuing series on CEOing

Last time we explored our reactive identity, so now I want to introduce you to that part of you that has been missing all these years. That part of you that was always meant to work with your reactive self and bring you to a different, more fulfilling outcome. Meet your Creative Identity. My thesis is that we are each born with more than just a reactive Ego and its obedient Personality. We are also born with a unique Passion and Purpose, a unique set of Core Values to guide us, and a set of Unique Abilities, including our Personality, to serve us.

Okay, let’s define these new players that I call our Creative Identity. Parts of us we suspected were there all along, but were never really identified or appreciated in our reactive, fear driven world, but are mission critical if we ever want to shift to a creative, purpose driven life, business, world.

Our Creative Identity

Passion: Passion is the Why of your life. This is what you are giving your life for and when you work or do anything in alignment with your passion time stands still. You experience great joy because you are fulfilling the meaning of YOUR life. When you know what you are giving your life for, and act out of that, you may experience fear, but you will rarely act out of fear. My Passion is "People at Peace with Themselves and Others." This is what I am giving my life for. It's who I am in my professional life and, it's who I am in my personal life.

Purpose: Purpose is the How of your life. This is how you engage the world and what you bring to life simply by being in it. You could say it's your mission. When you are living your life in alignment with who you really are there is little stress. My purpose, for example, is Through intimacy and sharing, I help myself and others appreciate our pasts, be courageously present in the moment and be clear and excited about our futures. I know who I am and what to do every moment of my life.

Core Values: Core Values, along with some learned behaviors, are the guide posts of our lives and are very important to our successful delivery of our Purpose and Passion. Two of my core values are intimacy and sharing, for example. And each of these values has a unique definition as well.

Unique Abilities: All the things in life we may be able to engage in break down into four categories: Those that we are incompetent in; those that we are competent in; those that we are excellent in; and those in which we have a unique ability.

Here is what I believe to be a very powerful, supportive belief: that we are not one or the other, we are all of it. And the more that we appreciate our reactive self and embrace the untapped power of our creative self, the more access we will have to the power of creativity, innovation and manifestation we have been looking for in ourselves and our organizations.

If you look at the words Reactive and Creative, notice the placement of the letter “C”. My partner, Frances Fujii, says, “Our ability to “C” who we really are is buried in the middle of all the reaction in our lives. And when we bring our ability to “C” what’s really happening up front, we suddenly gain access to our Creative selves.”

There is no doubt that you are so much more than you ever realized!
I have given you a clear and expanded picture of a more complete human model. I have given you a map of the territory. But how you fill it in will be uniquely you. Begin the journey now. Do it now. Because the faster you find out about your true Self the faster you will realize what every great leader has known: If it is true for you, then it is also true for every other person in the world.

How the entire model looks is

One of the questions this expanded model raises is when does free choice occur? For example, if you were designed with both a reactive and creative identity, but are only operating out of your reactive side, do you have free choice? In my experience, when the creative self is fully appreciated as a reality, beliefs are questioned and resolved and behavior changes without a lot of pain and drama. This is true for people. This is true for organizations.

Now, why would knowing yourself be important to you as an entrepreneur? The key is belief. Have you ever had someone believe in you? If so you know exactly what I mean. When someone believes in you that last thing you want to do is let them down. Conversely, have you ever been around someone that thought you were an idiot? How did that make you feel? Well now you have access to a piece of information about yourself, and therefore, about everyone else on the planet that few ever realize:

No one goes to work to do a bad job.

Your number one job as an entrepreneur - and if you do this you will be an amazing CEO, one who creates extraordinary organizations - is to unleash all the pent up creativity and innovation in your people in the service of your dream. This is the quintessential way to work “on” your organization. But it is one thing to be aware of this, and altogether another to be able to do it. I've given you an insight that you can now leverage by understanding and engage the second principle of leadership: To be powerful with others, you must first understand humanity and master relationships. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Reactive Identity

By Tom Voccola

Part 3 of a continuing series on CEOing

Photo at right: The Shadow

Today I am going to help you see the invisible forces that have, for your entire life, been running you. Some call it the shadow. Now I want you to get this, because if you get this then you will know what all Powerful Leaders know - if you truly understand yourself, you will profoundly understand humanity - because we are all run by the exact same forces.

This can be notoriously difficult to explain so I am going to actually draw you a picture.

But before I do I want you to consider something. What if you have been living your entire life with access to only half the resources you were born with? I mean, what if you have an entire set of invisible powers you knew nothing about? What if you suddenly realized that you are here to do something magnificent? What if you suddenly found out that you are actually here to change the world for the better in your life time? Would you do it?

Now before you say yes, there are already some things at work within you. First of all, while you’ve always suspected that it might be true - I mean 98% of people, when asked if they felt they have a purpose in life, say yes – part of you may becoming very skeptical. That’s okay. Not to worry, just thank that part of you for sharing and read on.

Over the past 18 years, working with over 300 CEOs and 15,000 managers and employees, not one person has failed to articulate, in black and white, on a piece of paper, exactly who they are in the world. And each and every one of them realized that they were here to serve others in a way that is uniquely suited to them.

Ok, here is the first part of a two part picture I promised. I call this view of the current human model, our Reactive Identity and its simply made up of a few words. Now just look at the words I've listed. I suspect you know something about them. You see, these words pretty much describe the way the world runs today - the way almost every person, relationship, organization, business and country works. But to better understand how and, more importantly, why, let me share my definition of each word with you.

Ego: Our ego is that reptilian part of us that is meant to protect our physical and psychological selves. Its primary function is to scan the horizon and react to danger. It lives in a world of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Everything and everybody is a potential threat. This is the eye-for-an eye part of us. Our ego is an interesting character in our little play, and is pretty much recognized as the most powerful entity on the planet so far. In our quest for survival, our ego has developed us into a species of master reactors that live from the past. This is where our instinct to fight, flight or freeze resides. In fact, it is just that, an automatic, unconscious survival instinct.

Personality: Our personality gives voice to the ego. Whether you fight, flight or freeze in a fearful situation depends upon the personality you were born with. The personality allows the ego to express itself in the world. Some say that who we are is our personality. I believe that not to be the case. I say that our personality is simply the perfect tool box for expressing what we are here to do. I believe it is underutilized and misrepresented and, as we will see later, perfectly suited for much more than we yet realize. Personality is generally represented by four representations: Degree of Dominance; Sociability; Patience and Independence. There are many other aspects of personality of course, but these are the ones that dominate the business jargon. Personality is extremely easy to identify and measure. DISC, McQuaig and Myers Briggs are three instruments you can use to determine personality. If you want to know more about your personality (for FREE!), you can take a Myers Briggs survey here.

You do not have to register so the results are entirely confidential. Just take the survey and it will instantly give you your results in the form of four letters with some numbers below them. Write the letters and corresponding numbers down. The letters refer to aspects of your personality and the numbers refer to the degree of preference you have. Mine is ENFP, for example. When you have recorded your results, go here.

At the bottom of the (wikipedia) page there is an empty box. Enter your four letter results (not the numbers) into the box and you will be taken to a page that explains your particular personality profile. Have fun with this! It is all part of the journey. Again, your personality is not who you are, but it is a powerful tool you use to begin to understand how you engage the world (when you finally understand the full context of your life).

Beliefs: Given our reactive environment and outlook, when something happens to us we “make up our mind” about things pretty quickly. Mostly we do this unconsciously. Beliefs occur within us two ways; we are born into them, or as our reaction to life around us. An important distinction about beliefs is that they are not necessarily true or false. Scientists have determined that well over 90% of what humans believe to be true, is not. Beliefs are convenient constructs, sort of like short hand for the mind. Beliefs can be sorted into two types: empowering beliefs or limiting beliefs. It’s the limiting beliefs that cause so much pain in the world and in our lives. Being invisible until called into question, our beliefs lie dormant until something sparks them, causing us to react in a prescribed way. More about that later.

Experiences: Our ego, as expressed through our personality, and guided through our beliefs, has experiences. We may have big, bold, jumping out of an airplane experiences, and we may have more subtle, day-to-day kinds of experiences that shape us over time and everything in between. No matter what, stuff happens in our lives and we react our way through it. In fact, it could be said, as far as the human animal is concerned, we are master reactors. Our experiences are always colored by the beliefs we hold. For example, if we believe that employees are helpless and hopeless, we will seek out evidence to support that belief. This, by the way, is humanities biggest blind spot. We actually believe our beliefs are true.

Behaviors: For the most part, our beliefs are invisible until called into question, but when called into question we automatically react with key emotions which guide our behaviors. Behaviors are the automatic outcome of our beliefs. At issue is not so much the beliefs, but the automatic outcome they engender without any thought on our part.

So, to wrap this up as neatly as I can: all of the above points to a:

Universal Formula for Reaction

It's called the BEAR formula. In other words, everyone on the planet behaves this way. How it works is whenever something happens in our lives, our invisible beliefs (B) cause an automatic emotion (E) which triggers a (re)action (A) that leads to the results (R) we experience in our lives. (> = cause) This is the basis of cause and effect. Something happens, then…

Beliefs > Emotions > (re)Action > Results

This is how humanity occurs in the world. What runs us, what runs you and me, are a set of invisible beliefs, most of which we were born into, that we rarely question, and when we do, there is usually a violent re-action associated with that event…revolutions even!

This is the perfect model to explain the current environment of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the world and in our companies. When you are afraid all the time you are on guard all the time. And when you are on guard all the time you focus on survival at all costs. Not a bad thing, it’s just that there is so much more that we are capable of. You know this to be true because you are much less cautious than others. You are, after all, an entrepreneur. Here are some key points to remember about our reactive identity.

Our Reactive Identity is:
Unconscious, automatic, reactive, operates from the past, is driven by fear, uncertainty and doube, focused on what’s wrong and what we don’t want, is colored by our experience & beliefs, is closed and rigid to new ideas, requires tremendous amounts of our physical energy, craves perfection, fosters complaint, requires trust, resists change, separates through fear, strives to keep status quo, is at the affect of the world, requires control, and is the primary reason for management, government, laws and religion.

Since we are told by our culture to be like others, we spend precious little time seeking to be our selves. As a consequence we unknowingly give up the most satisfying part of life. And so do our families, employees, customers, etc. How can knowing this change your relationship with others? Think compassion. It's not easy being human.

Next month I will introduce you to that part of you that has been missing all these years. That part of you that was always meant to work with your reactive self and bring you to a different, more satisfying outcome. Next month you will meet your creative identity. You do not want to miss this!

Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Coach, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom is the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Who you really are, and why you've been so hard to find...

Part 2 of a continuing series on CEOing.

In just about every leadership or management book, course or seminar you’ve ever taken, somewhere within the first few chapters of the book or hours in the seminar, you will see or hear the familiar phrase: “know thyself!” And then the book, course or seminar will quickly move on to management tips and techniques on how to manipulate and control things.

Now don’t get me wrong, knowing how to manipulate and control the right things is of immense importance, but attempting to manipulate and control the people who are controlling the right things is a monumental waste of your time and energy. There is a more powerful way. And it begins with you.

If you’re reading this you probably think of yourself as an entrepreneur. Maybe not.. Being an entrepreneur is a role you play, no different than being a friend, a parent or an financial planner. That you are playing one role in particular has more to do with your ability to play the role, which has to do with certain aspects of your personality, which we will talk about in another post.

Who you really are is what you bring to the roles you play in your life.

You are a complex being, yet, if you stand back far enough, you are still very predictable. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. The truth is you just don’t know what you don’t know. And why would you when your entire life you have been told to be like someone else – and so has (almost) everyone else.

As you succeed in building a successful business, your first task will be to lead and manage people – staff and clients – who are trying to be somebody else! No wonder leading people has been describes as herding cats! The fact is you and just about everyone you know has been brought up in a culture that says for you to be valuable - for you to be happy, rich, thin you name it – you have to be like someone else. Think about it. Every book you’ve ever read (except mine of course) has told you that to be successful in life you need to be like someone else. Still don’t believe me: think In Search of Excellence, think Good to Great, think The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. Each ends up with a list of things that you absolutely must do to be like the people or the organizations featured in the stories. The fact is while you may be able to do or be like some of these people or companies for a time, it’s not sustainable. It will just totally exhaust you. To give you a concrete example: You will never, ever, no matter how hard you try, be Bill Gates. There is only one Bill Gates. And again, this is also good news, because no matter how much money and power Bill Gates amasses, he will never, ever be able to BE YOU!

So what I am saying is this: If you want to be powerful in your life, you must first understand and master yourself. Yet the majority of people define who they are by the roles they play and the expectaions of others and that has been the natural order of things for millions of years.

Who you really are, is what you bring to life simply by being in it! You may have been hard to find because you’ve been hiding behind the mask of other people’s expectations. To create a growing, sustainable company, you’re going to have to come out from behind that mask and be authentically you.

Let me say more about this last point. Who you really are is what you bring to the roles you are playing in life. Who you are is what you bring to being a parent during those moments when you find yourself being a great parent. Who you are is what you bring to being a CEO when you find yourself being a great CEO. Who you are is what you bring to being a friend when you find yourself being a great friend. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

It’s easy to be you. It’s very natural. It’s only hard when you try to be someone else! It’s only hard when you constantly struggle to live into the expectations of others. Yet we spend our lives doing this. What I am saying here is be your SELF and help others do the same. There will be less stress, less struggle and less violence in your life.

Now before you think that’s selfish, nothing could be further from the truth. Who you really are is a contribution – a magnificent contribution! You have always known it – why do you think you want to lead others? We are about to find that part of you that has been lost for a long time.

There may have been times in your life, if you were very lucky, when you felt like time stood still, when what you were doing was effortless, and you actually felt joy. You may have been sailing a boat, looking into someone’s eyes, or being on a team or project. This may have been with the family, at work or in the military. Can you find a moment or time in your life when you were actually joyous? If you can I want to tell you something that no one else will tell you: This is how you were meant to live. You were, during those moments of joy, being authentically YOU! And when you are being authentically YOU, you light up the room. People find you irresistible! They want more of you and your ideas and your friendship. Wouldn’t you want to tap into more of that?

The reason you have been so hard to find is that you have been buried in all the reaction of life and have not had access to the creation in life. Now pay attention here, because this is all about to change for you. I am going to help you see the invisible forces that have, for your entire life, been running you and everyone you know. Now I want you to get this, because if you get this then you will know what all Powerful Leaders know - if you truly understand yourself, you will profoundly understand humanity – because we are all run by the exact same forces.

Next month: Our Reactive Identity.

Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Coach, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get your FREE copy of The Accidental CEO

If you manage or lead people in any capacity, if you are a CEO, entrepreneur, business owner, executive or manager, for a limited time, you can go to and download my book, The Accidental CEO - A Leader's Journey from Ego to Purpose absolutely FREE.

Jim Russell, award winning creator of National Public Radio's MARKETPLACE,the nations premier business program says, "This is one of the most compelling, authentic, honest business books I've ever read. It grabs you where you live -- you see and hear yourself in the struggle, and more importantly, in the victories of this book. Do yourself a favor -- believe that YOU can do this too."

Why am I doing this? We are going through a total sea change. The old rules no longer apply. What has to happen next has never been done before. It's all new. Find out exactly how to survive and thrive in the new markets to come. Learn how to create a sustainable, extraordinary enterprise where everyone in the organization is engaged in your game worth playing, a game that can bring both wealth and joy to your life, organization and community.

Go to right now and grab your FREE download of The Accidental CEO - A Leader's Journey from Ego to Purpose before this offer ends.

If you prefer to have the actual book, it can be purchased at, and www.Barnes& 50% of the proceeds goes to

Let me know how it makes a difference.

Yours on the Journey,


Monday, March 23, 2009


There are so many details to starting and running a business, but the key responsibility of a leader is to remember that business, at its core, is about people, working with people, doing stuff, for people.

Eighty to ninety percent of every issue you face as the CEO of a highly successful company will be about the people – suppliers, staff, strategic partners and clients – not the stuff. Burn this formula into your brain right now. Business is about people, working with people, doing stuff, for people. The stuff, while important, is always secondary.

B = P + P > S > P

Now, many of your peers will lament and ignore this fact because they believe that people don’t matter as long as the forms are filled out right, the reports are done on time and the product is shipped or service deployed. Heck, you can do that with technology, can’t you? They will believe that it is inherently too difficult to deal with people because they seem so unpredictable and so they will not spend the time necessary to master what is necessary.

You will want to be different.

People are actually very predictable, and if you spend a little time to understand what makes YOU tick, engaging them in your Vision of the future will be an amazingly rewarding experience. I am going to help you see what you haven’t seen before.

This is good news for those of you take what I am about to share seriously as it will give you access to great power. You see, all the power in an enterprise is in the relationships it creates. No amount of technology or product will ever trump the power of a trusting relationship.

It is my intention, then, within this column, to give you a useful context that can help you create and sustain one of the top firms in your industry. Why aim for less?

My experience as an entrepreneur, a three time CEO, and as a Chief Executive consultant who has worked with over 300 CEOs and their organizations has brought me to discover, appreciate and articulate three little known laws of success. These laws are essential to your becoming a credible leader capable of profitably growing a sustainable enterprise. These three universal laws of success are:

1.To be Powerful in Your Life, you must first Understand & Master Yourself.

2.To be Powerful with Others, you must first Understand Humanity and Master Relationships

3.To be Powerful in the World, you must first learn to Co-create and Master a Game worth Playing.

On the face of it you may find yourself saying “I know that!” I mean you may even look at these three powerful laws and actually hear yourself thinking, “Well that’s just simple common sense!” I wish they were, but the fact is The Three Laws are almost universally ignored in today’s global business environment as being “too soft”. And therein lays a tremendous untapped power for those of you who adopt them as your own. You see the magic is not in knowing the laws; the magic is in being them.

Next week: Who you really are, and why you have been so hard to find.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change of Command

As I watched the inauguration of Barack Obama, I was truly amazed. Mr. Obama graciously thanked President Bush for his service to our country and then, with the simple act of taking an oath, the nation moved from fear to hope, from control to freedom, from apathy to wide spread public engagement.

As business leaders, we have much to learn from how the President not only ran his campaign, but how he is Creating a Game worth Playing for his administration, the Congress and the American people.

He is leaving no one out. He is inviting us all to participate.

In spite of our country being in its worst economic condition since the Great Depression, President Obama is creating an atmosphere of hope, optimism and possibility.

Works for me.

Sail on,


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making the Invisible Visible

Last night I was on a Southwest Airlines flight coming back from a week in Houston. I was tired. I put my head back and just closed my eyes. After I heard the clunk of wheels up, I looked over to see who I was sitting next to. He was a young man, maybe about 25 or so -- handsome kid. I found out later that he was from Thailand, going to school at UCLA. Anyway, he was typing furiously on his Apple Computer. I couldn’t help staring because everything on his screen was moving incredibly fast yet taking perfect form. It looked like he was writing a book, with charts, graphs and pictures. In fact, some of the charts, graphs and pictures seemed to have motion to them. “Interesting,” I thought.

“Are you writing a book? I asked.

"No,” he said, “I’m just putting in my notes from today’s meetings.”

“Interesting notes,” I said, motioning to the screen with the moving images.

“Yes, I’m working on a project that allows me to visualize virus particles.”

"Like I said, interesting."

"I'm working with a biologist at a Houston hospital. Would you like to see what virus particles look like?”

“Absolutely,” I said.

He turned the screen toward me and I watched, fascinated, as he continued to type in machine code of some sort. After a moment or two there was a visual of what looked like a smudge on the screen.

“Watch this,” he said with a smile on his face. He hit a key and the smudge turned into a donut-looking thing that had spinning particles, each distinct from one another, but held tightly within the donut. It looked like a miniature universe.

“With a special algorithm I am able to see these invisible particles on my computer screen. Cool, huh?”

“Very cool,” I said.

“My name is Peter,” he said, putting his hand out, “I’m a Ph.D. candidate in Physics at UCLA."

“Well, Peter, pleased to meet you, my name is Tom Voccola and it looks like we are in the same business.”

“Are you a physicist,” he asked.

“No,” I said, “but we’re both involved in making the invisible visible.” I don’t know why I said it, but there it was.

“Really, what things are you making visible?” he asked, closing his computer and shifting toward me with an air of curiosity.

All I had to do was recall the past few days in Houston and I said, “I work in business, Peter. I work with human beliefs, values, thoughts, visions, desires and emotions, to name just a few. These things are invisible to us until called into question, yet they operate in the world just as surely as a hammer when it hits a nail. We’re not aware of what these invisible human programs are going to be or when they will appear, but they do. And when they do they manifest themselves as human behaviors that affect the world just as surely as a virus does.”

“Fascinating,” he said. “Can you give me an example?”

“Perception is not reality.” I said.

“Pardon me; isn’t it supposed to be 'perception is reality'?”

“Yes, it is, but that’s precisely why we have so many problems in the world. We accept our perceptions, usually from our five senses, as reality. Before you guys in science began making the invisible visible we had no idea that there were germs or viruses. But now we know better. And now that we know these germs and viruses are real, people like you are trying to see more clearly how they operate and once you understand, well, I assume you will begin using nanotechnology to influence how they operate.”

“Exactly,” he said, “think of all the lives we can save?”

“I do,” I said, "and I truly appreciate it."

I am glad there are people like Peter in the world. His curiosity, talent and drive may save the world one day.

As leaders, the first step in being able to influence our lives, businesses and our families is to accept that there are indeed invisible forces at work – as essential as the food we eat -- yet with the same power and devastation as a bomb. What are the empowering beliefs or limiting beliefs, for example, that are running your business? With the awareness that our human internal operating system runs on beliefs comes the ability to see, to notice, and to observe them more clearly. Only then can you hope to consciously influence the outcome.

"Like I said, Peter, we're in the same business you and I. And it's good to know there are others engaged in changing the world by making the invisible visible."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Stay on your path

Never give up - the road may be long and twisted, but there is always beauty on the journey. My last two blog postings have nothing to do with sailing, but they are this sailors favorite two quotes.

"It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

Never give up on yourself, never give up on your dream.


The Vision

If you haven't yet created your Vision and Intention for 2009 there is a powerful reason to take the next few minutes and do that for yourself.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Geothe

Sail on, (or in this case, climb on)


Saturday, December 20, 2008

A New Horizon

Day 365. We have reached yet another horizon. What lies on the other side of the horizon is always a mystery, but we will all eventually get there. In the old days the maps and sea charts were marked with the admonition "There be Monsters Here". Of course we now know there are none. That we can see, anyway. With storms the sea gets churned up and with it, much comes to the surface. With our current economic crisis much is coming to the surface. Like no one really knows what to do. Yet we rush to again put laws and regulations on the books after the fact. Again with the control. Again with punishing the wrong people. Again creating a cynical and frightened community.

From where I sit this is nothing new. But there can be a different outcome. There can be a new awareness of what has been missing, the presence of which can make all the difference? What really works? What really matters?

The next leg of our journey will require more than just this one lonely boat, it will require an armada of like minded sailors going in the same direction toward the promise of a new land. An armada that can leverage the strength of the one into the power of many.

Look around. Who can you leverage? And who can leverage you?

See you on the other side.

Sail on.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Surviving The Perfect Storm

A sailor is not a real sailor until he's been in a storm at sea. He's not a real sailor until he's puked his guts out, been scared shitless, held on for dear life and prayed to God for his very survival.

I've had such an experience. And it looked like this: (Click on image below)

It happened in September, 1983, on a cruise from Greenwich, Connecticut to Bermuda. It was my first time on Sea Fever, a Bill Tripp designed 44 Mercer Sloop. I was a last minute crew replacement. I had never ocean sailed before and was not prepared for what was to come.

On day three we ran into the storm. It was called tropical storm Dean. There were 10-12 foot seas, driving rain and winds gusting to 50+ knots. I was so scared, disoriented and seasick that I was unable to function. After we finally arrived at St. George's harbor and cleared customs, I got off the boat, went to the airport and flew straight home.

A few months later, I ran across an article in Sail magazine about the adventure of another boat that had been caught in the same storm. This inspired me to take a course in heavy weather sailing. For the next six months, every time the clouds came in and the wind came up, we went out. We practiced what we were being taught in real time. I was seasick a lot! But I was no longer afraid. I knew what to expect. I knew how to handle the boat. It was no longer dangerous, it was simply heavy weather sailing.

That was 25 years ago. And as I look out to starboard now, its clear to me that my training will come in handy yet again. We are not going to be able to outrun this storm. I calmly run down the essentials with my first mate, Brett. There are only three things on my list.

1. Inform and ready the crew for what is about to happen.
2. Take care of the ship and make sure nothing breaks loose.
3. Take care of the crew, conserve their energy and keep morale high.

Not knowing what the future holds causes fear and anxiety. Not knowing what to do can cause us to freeze at a critical moment, or to panic and blame others for our fate.

But not this time. This time we are prepared. The crew knows exactly what can happen and what they must do when the time comes. We follow our checklist. We take nothing for granted. We don our foul weather gear, our life vests and run the life lines. We make the ship ready.

There is healthy anticipation, a sense of adventure, and the ship is secured quickly.

Sandwiches are made and the coffee is all set to perk. Hand pumps are positioned as back ups. Batteries are charged, Sails are reefed and Brett and I agree at what point we will heave-to. We set the watch schedule and the crew secures their gear.

At 20:00 hrs the wind reaches 40 knots. It's pitch black on deck and the rain is stinging and cold. The seas are running 6-8 feet. I take a fix and, having plenty of running room, order us to heave-to. Heaving-to allows the boat to stay in place and bob like a cork. But more importantly, it allows the crew to rest and conserve energy.

Brett hands me a cup of freshly brewed coffee as I come down the ladder to the galley. He shoots me a knowing smile. We're not in survival, we're simply heavy weather sailing.

The world has entered what many are calling the perfect economic storm. We have not been able to outrun it. As leaders, here is what we need to be conscious of, in order to make it through: Keep our heads. Realize that this is an important opportunity to stretch ourselves, challenge our crew, and focus the energy as we go through this together. Learn from this experience. Savor it. Look for the silver lining, the hidden opportunities, and the chance to develop mastery and greatness in yourself and others. Because as surely as this storm will pass, there will be others.


Sail on.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


When I'm at sea, I look forward to listening in on what the rest of the world is doing while I'm away. Yesterday morning, my first mate Brett and I were below enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast when one of our crew tuned the short wave radio to the BBC. A half hour later, we were back in the cockpit with our feet up enjoying our second cup of coffee in the cool morning breeze. It was great. Until we found ourselves talking about what we had heard on the radio. Well, not really talking.

The U.S. Presidential elections again proved to me how easy it is to get distracted from what's truly important. Lipstick on a Pig, no matter how entertaining, will never get us to a World that Works. The issues are much bigger than the minutia political machines and entertainment centered news media keep pointing us to. I'd thought I was smarter than that. I'd prided myself in noticing the man behind the curtain. Yet, there I was raising my voice in anger at my best friend. Not a good example for the crew when the Captain goes nuts on his first mate.

If you run an organization, or ever aspire to, there are important lessons here. How many times have you been distracted from what you really want, from what is really important, to the point of forgetting why you took on the job of leadership to begin with?

Leadership is about taking other people on an extraordinary journey. One where we and our crew feel challenged, appreciated, and part of something meaningful. One where the crew willingly takes responsibility for the safety of the ship. It's about a journey toward fulfillment, and to reach our destination, it requires all of us, not just some of us.

As leaders, we need to point higher, think higher, be higher.

I was really angry with Brett's seeming non-supportive position. He wasn't agreeing with me just because I was the Captain. He questioned everything and his beliefs made no sense to me.

Fortunately, when I recognized how angry I was, I began to get above the anger and question what I was believing, consciously or unconsciously, that was causing my violent reaction. It wasn't immediately apparent - to me at least.

I had to work backward from the situation I found myself in: I was angry at my best friend, Brett, and I really didn't want to be around him. And on a 44 foot sailboat in the middle of the Pacific ocean, that's not a good thing.

When I looked inside myself, I realized that I was feeling powerless to affect the political situation back home. This unconscious limiting belief that I was Powerless put me automatically into survival, which brought me to the most primal instinct of all: fight or flight. I could go to attack or retreat. In that moment, I unconsciously chose attack. Many choose retreat or resignation.

Just as Lipstick on a Pig unconsciously triggers the conclusion in some that "This candidate is (you fill in the limiting belief)", Powerless led me to "I don't want to be around my best friend, Brett." It happened in an instant and it had nothing whatsoever to do with Brett, but he was the recipient of my anger.

How many of us go directly to anger or despair and never question why?

Fortunately, my anger, along with my good friend's patient listening, gave me the space to notice my situation and get back in touch with what really matters to me: People at Peace. Clearly I was not at Peace with myself in that moment. I was not at peace with the politics at home and so I was fearful of the outcome. Fortunately, I was able to recognize that I was acting out of fear and was able to switch to being hopeful. You see, when I put my ego in check and looked at the situation clearly, I was able to appreciate that there are millions of us all over the world who are re-thinking what's important, and that includes my friend, Brett.

A World that Works because Business Works can only happen when more of us in business remember that the reason for our journey is not just the money, the exit strategy, the let-me-get-mine-and-get-out mentality. Business offers us the opportunity to bring people together on a great journey of our own creation. A great journey that can change the world for the better in our lifetime. One that can secure our children's future. Business can be the engine that perfects relationships, grows people, solves real problems and brings communities, nations and the world to a better place. This is not Pollyanna. There are millions of us all over the world on this quest. And yes, sometimes we get distracted.

This is not a time for distractions.

"Helmsman," I found myself saying, "stand by to change course."

It's our time to point higher, think higher, be higher.

Today is day 264. Thanks, Brett. I'm back.

Sail on.