Episode 6: James Flaherty on How People Change and Where Excellence Lives

James Flaherty taught me how to coach, created the organization where I met my wife, and challenged me to grow myself as a person.

That’s quite an influence for one person, don’t you think?

In Episode 6 of The Amiel Show, I had the privilege to talk with James about some big stuff I’ve learned from him. We discussed:

  • 3:00 So much of our experience is an interpretation versus a fact “out there”
  • 8:20 Why self-observation is as important as 360 feedback
  • 13:30 Truly changing involves our bodies, social worlds, and language
  • 24:00 Excellence is evoked in relationship rather than something we create alone
  • 30:30 Aristotle’s notion of excellence, including all parts of ourselves
  • 35:45 What’s up with emotions in our culture
  • 43:00 Executive presence happens in the body
  • 51:50 What James is deliberately practicing to develop himself

Listen to the Podcast

Teaching Doctors How to Say “I’m Sorry”

Seven years ago, on a hill overlooking Portland, I taught fifteen medical students how to apologize. It wasn’t part of their curriculum. It wasn’t why I was invited to speak.

But life is about seizing opportunities. In this case, the opportunity was to transform the grief of losing a child into a teachable moment. Not by lecturing. Not even by telling a story. But by cajoling future doctors to say out loud the words I wished I had heard six months before.

What followed was a test case for the notion that you are what you say—and that what you say matters—a lot.

Sorry

The invitation came from an OB/GYN known in the community for being compassionate with patients, particularly those with difficult pregnancies. He wasn’t our physician, but he heard about us through the grapevine. And we knew him by reputation.

Regaining Center After The Bull Strikes

He came after me like a bull charging a matador.

“What’s your success rate? I need numbers. What percentage of your clients get promotions?”

These were fair questions for a prospective client interview, and I’d heard them before. But this man, an up-and-coming executive, delivered them with an intensity and ferocity that was surprising. He was testing not only my experience, but also my fortitude.

Bull attacking

“I’m not sure,” I stammered, suddenly feeling like a six-year-old boy facing the class bully in a far corner of the playground. “I, um, haven’t tracked that too closely.”

Six-year-olds don’t make good matadors. This bull tasted blood.

“Then what are you going to do for me? What…are…you…going…to…do…for…me?”

ASAP Is A Four-Letter Word

Want to get things done more smoothly and reduce the number of crossed wires in your life?

Then stop saying “As Soon As Possible” (ASAP). Today.

On the surface, ASAP is useful in conveying urgency. It says I’m in a hurry, so do this fast. It also rolls off the lips easily. The two syllables convey that you are serious and need results now.

ASAP sign

Unfortunately, as my first boss taught me twenty years ago, ASAP is one of the greatest sources of organizational conflict and suffering. Every time you say it, you triple the odds of misunderstanding, dropped balls, and disappointment. The reason is simple: ASAP means different things to different people—not sometimes, but all of the time. 

My Interview on Hispanic MPR

Hispanic MPR has posted an interview they did with me about my book, Practice Greatness.

This is my second interview about the book, and I am pleased by how well it went. Although I stumbled a bit early on, after about five minutes, I picked up my stride. We dug into some meaty questions, and I think he interviewer, Elena del Valle, did a really nice job.

To listen online or download the iTunes podcast, go to this web page

And please tell me what you think!

Trust Your Gut. Eat the Other Brownie

Sometimes it pays to trust your gut.

For example, many years ago I was at a Halloween party with friends, enjoying myself, when I came across two plates of brownies. One plate was labeled, “If you have nothing to do tomorrow.” The other said, “If you have something to do tomorrow.” In a festive spirit, I reached for a brownie on the first plate. It tasted good—rich and chewy, just the way I liked it.

Brownies

It was a small brownie, so I instinctively reached for another. And another. And another. After all, I thought, how much rum could they put in a little brownie?

After consuming five or six pieces, I stopped for a moment. “Why,” I said out loud, “are these pieces so darn small? It doesn’t make any sense.”

A guy next to me heard the question. “You’ll find out soon enough,” he said with a grin.