Monday, April 30, 2007


Who are your friends? Do you know? Who lives under your roof or works at your place of business or in your town … and roots for you? Really?

Who knows you well enough to listen to your faults, and has room to understand because maybe similar faults reside within their own organization or mind-body system? In other words … they really understand? Who stands with and accepts you as just you are? Without judgment? Who sees the powerful person you have it within yourself to be? Who encourages you to step beyond your self-imposed limitations into your constructive potential? Who doesn’t rush you in your decision-making processes for the sake of some fad or for the sake of pressing you to develop a sense of urgency? Who encourages you to take basic and fundamental one-day-at-a-time steps? Who makes room for your failures and rejoices in your wins?

And who, if they were asked today, would say that they count you among those who will do the above same things for them?

This morning I decided to walk to Petaluma’s Apple Box restaurant, sit and write this month’s newsletter. It’s a sunny day, the river’s high, a slight northwest breeze is blowing – perfect springtime weather in northern California’s wine country. Lots of stuff has been happening that could be the grist for this month’s article. A few days ago Lisa Ludwigsen, Founder of The School Garden Company and I provided a unique team building program for the Petaluma branch of Frank Howard Allen Realtors. We’re still riding the buzz from that because it was such a success for the organization. You know … the kind of success when a client’s discovery exceeds their own expectations and they want you to come back to work with them again. Additionally, the previous six weeks have provided abundant experiences– four extensive trips supporting: Krakowskie Stowarzyszenie Aikido in Krakow, Poland Top Human Technologies Ltd in Shenzhen and Shanghai, China the University of Nevada undergraduate L.E.A.D. program in Las Vegas; DeSai Learning in Hartford, Connecticut. Plus Allied Ronin hosted a special team effectiveness program for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria here in northern California. On top of it all, a bundle of recently uncovered source material arrived for study and application including: George Leonard’s The Warrior (Esquire 1986) and Don Levin’s The Liberal Arts and the Martial Arts (Association of American Colleges, 1984) and Somatic Elements In Social Conflict (Blackwell Publishing/The Sociological Review, 2007).

So the walk to Petaluma’s Apple Box was awash with thought: what to draw from and how to organize it. I mapped out my plan, settled into it, ordered tea, turned on the computer, and got serious about what to write. Then … things changed.

While I sat gazing out the window, tea in hand, laptop buzzing, and preparing to write, I was unaware that Peter Welker, friend and world-class musician was sneaking up behind me – until his tap hit my shoulder and his familiar greeting sounded in my ears, “Hey man, can I buy you a pastry?”

There is no need to go through the details of our discussion. It is all far too personal to write about at this time, though we spent a good half hour catching up on the past few months of life. Our relationship goes back ten years to the evening when he (a strange face stepping out of a local bookstore) stopped me on the street, introduced himself and said he would be attending a Samurai Game® that I was scheduled to facilitate. I had no idea then who he was nor the caliber of artists he associated with. I had no idea regarding the challenges he was facing or what was going on in his life; and he had no idea regarding similar things about me. But this I will say … his life is much different today – it’s richer, fuller and more alive with bigger and better challenges. And so is mine. I’d like to believe that the event I facilitated helped his life. He’s told me many times it has. But he’s a gracious guy and who knows, maybe he’s just being nice. I do know this though … the times I’ve spent with him over the past ten years has truly helped me – whether it’s been chatting about kids and relationships, or playing chess together or just talking about life’s idiosyncrasies Peter Welker has made a positive difference in my life. So I said, “Sure, I’ll take a poppy-seed muffin.”

Near the end of our talk today, Peter tells me, “Hey man, check this out. I’ve invited Fred Lipsius to play with me June 8th and he’s going to be staying at my place. We’re going to turn the town, maybe the county, upside down with people” I looked at him puzzled. “You don’t know who Fred Lipsius is!,” he laughs … and then pulls a flyer off The Apple Box counter and hands it to me. “Look here … Fred Lipsius … multi Grammy Award winner … former leader of Blood, Sweat and Tears. He wrote the huge hit Spinning Wheel.” I had to grin BIG. First, because the song Spinning Wheel has always been one of my favorites. Second, because I didn’t know until that moment who wrote it or who Fred Lipsius was/is. And third, because Welker – at this stage in his life with all of the challenges of his past - continues to grow and expand and live his dream and play his horn and make thousands of people happy.

When we wrapped up our conversation and he got ready to leave for an appointment, he said, “Hey man, I gotta tell you something else … I’m getting married!” My BIG grin spread completely across my face. Then he added … “You know what else … you’re doing some great things in the world and I’m rooting for you.” I couldn’t say much to that, it was as unexpected as the touch on my shoulder a half hour earlier. But I felt I had to write about it.

True friends. They make all the difference in our world. They show up when least expected, and they don’t quit on you. Who are yours? Do you know? Who roots for you in the quiet moments? Really?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Notes On Listening

Adapted from “On Principled Leadership: It’s Person, Not the Title” by Lance Giroux, published September 2002, in the University of San Francisco Graduate Business Journal*

Do you truly hear what other people are saying, or do you just catch the words and wait to put forward your own opinion? When you are listening to others, what are your agreement patterns? Are you aware of the foundations upon which you base these agreements? What pattern does your automatic disagreement take? Do you hastily disagree out of a need to be heard or to be right?

As you become aware of your quick responses, give yourself permission to go deeper. Listen deeply, with all of your faculties, to what is going on, and in those moments, suspend your judgment of self and others. Step aside from your automatic responses and honestly ask yourself: “What is the basis for my reactions whenever I hear something I like or something I dislike? How long have I been doing this? When did it start for me? What price do I pay for this approach? What does it really get me? What do my actions and reactions produce in the lives of other people?”

This practice of self reflection is fundamental for those who want to grow in their ability to practice the art of leadership and for organizations that want to practice the art of teamwork.

To simplify consider this … there are basically three ways we can listen. Most people spend most of their time doing unproductive listening. Few people practice productive listening. How about you?

Listening Way #1. Believe everything that other people say.

When do you do this? You are listening to someone talking (or you observe them doing something) and you get caught up in their story, and soon without awareness you automatically find yourself agreeing with everything comes out of their mouth. Why? Because, what they are saying fits your past patterns of acceptability. Maybe they remind you of someone you once met that you liked. What ever it is your head starts to bob up and down, your mouth smiles, you relax

Listening Way #2. Be skeptical about everything that other people say.

When do you do this? You are listening to someone talking (or you observe them doing something) and you start resisting what they are saying, and soon without awareness you automatically find yourself disagreeing with whatever comes out of their mouth. Why? Because, what they are saying fits your past patterns of unacceptability. Maybe they remind you of someone you once met that you distained. Whatever it is, your head starts to shake from side to side, your teeth start to grind, your hands get tight and you get tense.

Both these ways … Listening Way #1 and Listening Way #2 … are unproductive, because they involve no self reflection.

Listening Way #3. Self Examination.

It goes like this.

Hear what someone says (or observe what they do).

Notice your own internal and external responses. Do you find yourself agreeing? Do you find yourself relaxing? Are you drawn closer to that person? Do you hear past voices in your own thinking that sound similar? Do you find yourself disagreeing? Do you find yourself mentally arguing? Do you find yourself getting physically tense? OR … are you bored?

However it is that you find yourself responding is OK … because it gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself.

WHAT TO DO … Imagine that you can step outside your body, and look back at yourself. Then imagine that you can poke that person (your other self) in the arm. Then imagine that you can ask that person (your other self):




When you do this, your mind will begin to dish up some answers. If you are calm and can wait and wade through things it will tell you about yourself, what it is about you that has formed opinions about what your are hearing. From this you can learn and take productive action in a responsible fashion.

Simply put, the art of Listening The Third Way hinges on one’s ability to BE HERE NOW.

©Lance Giroux, 2006

*note: to request and obtain a pdf file of the complete article
“On Principled Leadership, It’s the Person, Not the Title”
send email to

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Today's Thought.

It's Wednesday, April 11th, and it's a sunshine day at Shanghai's Pudon Airport, but smoggy nonetheless. Thick gray air has been the standard or over a week now, and maybe prior to my arrival. This is what I've been used to the last few visits to China. I'm beginning to believe it's just the way things are permanently. Sad. Where in China is the air clean and the sky blue?

Today is the day for my 20 hour journey home. My thoughts before getting on Dragon Air #803 are of last night's conversations over dinner and along the walk in The Bund - the "old Shanghai side" just off HuangPu River. I was met by Adam, Evian and Wing - all of the Top Human organization the focus of my support for this trip, first in Shenzhen and then in HaiNing. We enjoyed "everything duck" for our meal and then our stroll along the people-filled walk where one is struck by the differences between what once were European embassies (now high end fashion stores) to our left and the enormous expanse of
towers, high-rises, and skyscrapers to our right ... nonexistent eleven years ago. China is changing.

Over dinner I was asked my opinion about the current state of affairs in the US, vis-a-vis attitudes toward the situation in the Middle East. This led to an expanded discussion of relations between China and Taiwan ... and on individual leadership in both countries at the highest levels. I'm still processing much of the discussion, but one of the more striking things we noticed is how driven by fear (or controlled by it) people often are. If we operate from fear and look to negativity and constriction we will fail to see opening and constructive possibility.

Taking a macro perspective this little band of colleagues curious-about-each-other's -countries, agreed that if we allow the drum beat of fear to be the basis of our understandings (and
misunderstandings) then the costs, no matter what we do, will be too high. We're all smart enough and old enough to know and understand the results -- provided we learn from history and move forward accordingly. We cannot afford to live mesmerized and in denial.

Monday, April 02, 2007

An Interview with Gene Barton, PhD, Paradigm Systems

Gene Barton graduated in 1972 from the US Military Academy at West Point . He received his Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Fairleigh Dickenson, and his Ph.D. in Computer Architecture from the University of Texas. He served with the U.S. Army for 22 years before retiring as a Colonel and forming Paradigm Systems, Inc.

Gene has over 30 years of experience in the analysis and design of computer architectures and the development of associated applications. He has been a pioneer in the development of innovative software applications in a variety of fields, including unique products to support leadership development, e.g. SBPT™ 360-degree profile, and PulseCheck™ survey. (see

He is an expert in computer systems, project management, processes analysis, and control systems, with knowledge encompassing all aspects. He has built systems literally from the transistor through the operating system level. His ability to understand and solve problems has breadth as well as depth. Gene is frequently called upon to assess and design systems. His analyses and predictions are accurate, provably correct and understandable to management.

Recently I asked Gene if he would be willing to be interviewed for the Allied Ronin News letter. He agreed.

AR: Gene, you had a long career as an Army officer. Looking back on it now what were some of the most important leadership lessons you experienced that you feel would serve today's leaders, managers and organizations?

GB: Leaders who take a "can-do" attitude, and not give up will find that the attitude will spread through the organization. Against conventional expectations, this is more likely to move up than down. That is, a leader who takes initiative will often find his boss taking on the same attitude. In other words, Leadership stands on its own, and it is surprisingly easy and effective to "lead from below."

AR: As a West Point graduate what were some of the lessons learned at the Academy that you wish you would have seen more of once you arrived into what has sometimes been referred to as "the real Army" ... and how is this mirrored in today's business and government environments where good leadership is so important?

GB: There is a tendency to have tunnel vision. At West Point, the emphasis was on "the big picture", perhaps even too much. However, in both the Army and in the private sector, focusing on the immediate job at hand, while laudable, can be carried to extremes. Too often, a perfect job is done on the wrong task. That is, by not stepping back, or making the effort to see what is going on around oneself, it is often the case that good work is wasted on something that does not fit, is duplicative, or has become irrelevant, to the detriment of morale as well as the loss of opportunity. Leaders should seek to be informed and ensure that others are aware of the "big picture".

AR: From the perspective of the benefit provided to leaders and organizations, what was your purpose in creating Paradigm Systems?

GB: While organizations profess to have the leaders' interests and betterment as their goal, in practice the tools available hurt more than they help. Indefensible metrics that attempt to quantify subjective values invite gamesmanship at best, and subterfuge at worst. Even good metrics are inherently judgmental. A tool that provides confidential, irrefutable feedback was needed.

AR: Why is feedback important to leaders?

GB: There are plenty of resources available to leaders to learn what to do. What they lack is a tool to measure their effectiveness without prejudice. Every manager wonders how he is doing, but has no good way of finding out without penalty. Self-Boss-Peer-Team was developed to meet that need. It does not presume to measure the leader, but to tell him how he is perceived.

AR: Can you give an example where feedback has assisted a leader you know to turn the organization to a new and more effective direction?

GB: One major client found that annual management training was considered a waste of time by the participants, and an unnecessary distraction from their daily work. When SBPT was introduced, they discovered that they had shortcomings of which they were unaware. Now the management training became an opportunity to improve under the guise of a scheduled session. Overnight, managers began to look forward to the training, and were making suggestions as to what should be included.

AR: How about an example where feedback was needed but the leader (or leaders) refused to seek it out, and either they or their organization suffered as a result?

GB: Another client implemented SBPT feedback throughout the organization. One leader insisted on requiring his subordinates to perform their ratings on him with his oversight. This was the most glaring example of his micro-management and refusal to trust others. If he had accepted the feedback, he may have come to understand how much he was hurting others and himself. Not surprisingly, he was eventually terminated.

AR: A number of years ago when you first introduced me to the Self-Boss-Peer-Team 360 Degree Feedback Program that you have developed you spoke of its potential value if it could replace the Army's Officer Efficiency Reporting (OER) system. Explain your thinking, and what you felt the value would be to the Army in general and the individuals themselves.

GB: The OER could be an excellent tool. As implemented, it purports to give the leader a comprehensive feedback of his skills. The competencies it covers are good ones, yet it fails in major ways. First, it only captures the boss's opinion. Peers and team members have no way to provide input. Unless absolute anonymity can be guaranteed, such input would be detrimental to morale and discipline. That leads to the second failure. There is no privacy. The report can be viewed by anyone. Indeed, it is a public record. Even in its generation and handling, it is seen by dozens of people. That leads to the third failure. While pretending to be a feedback mechanism, it is in fact a report card. As such, it becomes hopelessly inflated. If it contains even the slightest hint of feedback, it ruins the officer’s career.

AR: In your work with your clients and other organizations what do you find are the most important things they face today when it comes to effectiveness with people and influence?

GB: The most important problem is that organizations have no way to measure effectiveness, so they concentrate on efficiency, which can be measured, and use it to claim effectiveness. Thus, effectiveness with respect to clients is incorrectly measured by sales. Effectiveness within the organization is measured by budget, turnover, ROI, etc, which are measures of efficiency, not effectiveness.

AR: What is PulseCheck and for what purpose was it developed?

GB: SBPT was developed to provide feedback to an individual, but organizations, too, need feedback. PulseCheck provides a mechanism for an organization to din out how it is perceived, both internally and externally, and to see how that perception differs across demographics.

AR: What trends to you see that young emerging leaders will have to deal with over the next five to ten years?

GB: Emerging leaders will have to deal with an emerging workforce. That workforce is technically savvy, but tends to be narcissistic, selfish, and unaccustomed to working as part of a team. The challenge will be to satisfy individual goals while providing tools for collaboration that will coax individuals into interaction in a non-threatening way.

AR: What do you see as the future for Paradigm Systems?

GB: Paradigm Systems will continue to offer to its clients exceptional service, either through existing tools, or through rapid development of customized tools. The ability to respond to clients in days, rather than months, and the "no excuses" unconditional guarantee are unique in the industry. Our approach of "Give us three days at no charge, and then we'll talk," continues to work well as the only marketing we need to do. That lets us pick clients and tasks that enrich our workforce as well as our clients. We do not want to grow large, we just want to take on a limited number of interesting tasks in partnership with visionary clients.