Archive for August, 2010

Size Doesn’t Matter

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Here’s a picture for you—seventeen sweaty, liver-spotted old men trundling into a gang shower at 11:00 in the morning—just thinking about it and I’m reaching for the nausea meds! You could use that picture to make your kids behave—“eat your broccoli or I’ll show you the picture of the old men again!” Now that would have totally worked on me!

Well, in truth, twice a week during the winter this less than uplifting scene passes before my eyes  and I am, as matter of fact, often part of the action—the time honored, towel snapping ritual known as the post hockey shower.

Yes boys and girls, even at my advanced age, I still play hockey. “Geezer Hockey,” as my grandson calls it, brings us old guys together to skate, shoot, pass, talk about our various ailments and operations (sort of an organ recital if you like), and lie to each other about how good we once were and how good we would’ve been  if we had only chosen different parents!

My parents—they’re responsible for  my being vertically challenged, having a weak chin and a  waist that expands exponentially with each passing year! If only I had chosen better parents I would have been square jawed, taller, better looking and wired at birth for success—I would have all the natural gifts and talents needed to become a world class athlete, a top rated CEO, an incredible musician, an outstanding scholar, a financial genius or maybe, just maybe, Ed Stelmach! ( I’m only kidding abut that last one!)

But we don’t get to choose our parents. However, I  do know many people who wish it were so– folks who cling to the notion that if they only had better DNA, their genetically determined talent and targeted gifts would have guaranteed fame and riches and the world would be their oyster!

Well sorry folks, it just doesn’t work that way–the bad news is that we really don’t have any natural talents or gifts—they simply do not exist. We are not born with a natural gift or predisposition for a particular job or role.

The good news is that lack of natural talent or a genetic gift matters not at all. At the end of the day, research into greatness tells us that we can make ourselves great. The bad news is that it takes an enormous amount of experience and practice –experience and practice that can be both demanding and painful.

“Hmmmm” might say—“that describes my life perfectly—demanding and painful. Look,  I already work hard, have lots of experience and practice. So why am I not great?”

Well, according to the research, it’s the way we work and how we practice that makes the difference. The best people in any field; athletes, musicians, writers, investors, are those who engage in what is know as “deliberate practice”—practice aimed at achieving beyond current competence and is characterized by high levels of repetition, attention to feedback on results, and consistency—practicing the same amount every day, seven days a week. In the end, more deliberate practice equals better performance and tons of it brings great performance.

“Makes sense for athletes and others” you might say, “but how does this fit with day to day performance at work—mine and those with whom I work? I mean, what’s to practice—I come in and do my job—in fact I do it pretty well—so what’s the point?”

Well, from both operational/tactical and strategic perspectives, there are many elements of business that lend themselves to deliberate practice—think managing performance, negotiation, decision making, problem solving, making presentations, interpreting financial statements—the list is practically endless. Think about what you are already doing and then change the way you come at those things. Instead of working simply to get things done, set a goal to get better at each thing that you do. Anything that you do, from the most basic task to the most complex, is improvable.

So how do you make this happen for you or those with whom you work? Well, as the guy on television says, “That’s worth a talk.” If you’re interested, give me a call or drop me a note.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things to think about—Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, Calgary Flames forward Curtis Glencross was not good enough to play triple A hockey, and look what happened to Tiger when he stopped practicing (or maybe he was simply trying to get really good at something else!).

Speaking of golf, I think you might enjoy this.

Also, if you have a minute, check out my book Don’t Die With your Helmet On at

Have a great day–Dr Tom

Papa’s Got a Brand New Blog

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Ah—summertime and, aside from storms and floods of biblical proportions, windstorms that uproot trees, expensive repairs to scow that passes for the Olson pleasure craft,  the living is easy!

Even a bad summer is great I think—summer gives us time to slow down a bit, enjoy the company of good friends, drink the odd glass of wine, burn a steak or two and reflect on the big questions of life like “How does the HST really make things better?”

Summer also gives me pause to reflect on the past year and how to make the best of the year to come. Will I continue to work—of course! Work for me is just too much fun and, as an added bonus, I get paid! (I do have enough money to last the rest of my life—I just have to die next Tuesday). Also, as some of you know, my next book “Don’t Retire/Reinvent”, extols the virtues of repositioning and trying new things. So what new things am I going to do this year—well, aside from developing and delivering some new product s and services, I plan to be more creative in the ways I communicate with my clients, suppliers, contractors and friends. This blog is the first step in that effort. At the end of the day I hope this, along with a couple of other initiatives, will provide information on work, life and  relationships that informs, inspires, motivates and entertains while, at the same time, opens easy to use, effective communication channels that will help us to work together more effectively. This blog is really for those of you who read it—I would really appreciate feedback about what sorts of things will make reading it a valuable experience for you—don’t hesitate to jump in and offer your thoughts and opinions.

Because I’m somewhat technologically challenged and this is my first real attempt at blogging, there will definitely be the odd rough spot until I get it all sorted.  Please be gentle with me—in the fullness of time, I will get it right.

So this first effort will be pretty straightforward—I’d like to bring you up to date on the inner workings of the Olson Empire and provide links to a couple of articles that you might find interesting. Onward!

Last year was filled with interesting stuff.  I conducted four employee engagement surveys including one administered in two languages to people on four continents! The last two surveys recorded response rates of almost 93%, which was slightly above our usual 85% return rate.

I was also involved in a lot of 360° feedback activity. In addition to providing feedback to a number of executive, senior manager and employee groups, I administered approximately 130 multi-source assessments for the United Nations—that brought me into contact with thousands of people in countries all over the world!

On the training side, Decision Making and the Business of Critical Thinking, DISC, Situational Leadership, and some our other team development efforts kept us busy—one of the highlights was the delivery of Lost Dutchman’s Gold to a large group of employees from Credit Union Central in Saskatchewan—one of my oldest clients. I also developed and delivered a Progressive Discipline program for a large international oil interest.

My executive and management coaching activities continued apace and last year even included a foray into outplacement work—all enjoyable, rewarding stuff!

Finally, I cemented a partnership with Bob Lane and his consulting group in Regina—a former vice president at CUETS (Bank of America).  Bob is great guy who also happens to be incredibly skilled at organizational review.

What’s coming? More of the same along with a few new training wrinkles including a resurrection of my Manager as Coach program (which now includes the capability to run employee assessments) and two new programs: Some Of The Worst Things In My Life Never Happened!: The Road to Resilience and, in collaboration with Jim Francis of Wavemaker consulting, C-Suite, a team development experience for groups of any size.

And of course, my book “Don’t Die With Your Helmet On” continues to sell well!

If you’d like to know more about any of this please get in touch with me.

I enjoyed the article linked to below–it’s especially valuable for those times when you really need to avoid kicking the dog after a stressful day.

And from Marshall Goldsmith–one of my personal heroes– on who is your best career coach

Enjoy–and let me know what you think!

Dr. Tom