How Do You Handle Conflict With Families…With Colleagues…With Siblings…With You Name It


Let’s face it conflict is part of life, we all hate it, not many of us are good at it and we would all rather avoid it.  But like it or not we MUST become better at it.  Here are some great guidelines from noted management and leadership expert John Maxwell:

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 8.59.01 AM“I love mankind – it’s people I can’t stand.” Charlie Brown, in Charles Schulz’ timeless comic strip, “Peanuts”

Charlie Brown had a point: relationships with other human beings are wonderful – in theory. In reality, they can be difficult and messy. But nothing determines our success in life as much as our ability to work with other people.

And nothing is more messy in relationships than dealing with conflict. But I believe there are both constructive and destructive ways to approach it. Here are my top ten responses:

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Death Cafe’s: Truth Stranger than fiction

As we continue into this 21st century world things seem to be reaching a point where we are unwilling to say something won’t happen.  Conversations about death and dying are becoming mainstream spontaneously.  Deathcare seems oblivious to this trend.  I think this is at our peril.  We need to be right at the center of it.

A relatively new concept known as a “death café” is growing in popularity. This article explains what happens at death cafés and their origin.

What is a Death Café?
Despite the off-putting name, many participants describe these events as life affirming, and even life changing, because a death café is a frank, unscripted, non-directed discussion about the subject of dying and death conducted at a “safe” location, such as a community center, church, coffee shop or, yes, even a café.

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Reinvention: It’s Counterintuitive–Don’t Focus on Your Best Customers

Disruptive innovation always comes in at the fringes.  In this article by Bill George, former CEO of Medtronics we learn that innovating for our best customers leads to increasingly complex products.  This is something I have continually warned about as we are overserving a shrinking part of our market and underserving the rest.

Christensen and Bower’s article offered the counterintuitive notion that great companies fail for the same reasons they initially experience success. They listen to their best customers — something we did religiously at Medtronic — making increasingly complex products to meet those customers’ most sophisticated needs. This process leaves companies vulnerable to competitors…More at The Idea That Led to 10 Years of Double-Digit Growth – Bill George

Want Breakthrough or Breakout Results? Set Unrealistic Goals!

It’s true.  Breakthrough results aren’t achieved by methodical planning and strategy.  That’s the kind of thinking that only preserves the past.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review, alluded to in this article, argued that unrealistic goals were what achieved real progress.

DeathCare is in the midst of a “New Normal” to which we have not yet started adjusting.  Maybe it’s time for unrealistic goals.


Take, for instance, JFK’s audacious goal in the early 1960s when the U.S. fell behind the Soviet Union in the technology race: “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Why does a statement like this produce breakthrough innovation? Performance is a function of expectations, since we rarely exceed our expectations or outperform our ambition. As humans, we are drawn to a bold, challenging, and unrealistic goal. Deep inside, we feel uplifted by the thought of climbing a mountain in a way we are not by the idea of scaling a molehill. JFK’s intent produced many breakthrough technologies.

In a similar way, “Strategic Intent” inspired me to think about mountains and not molehills as I shaped my research agenda around breakthrough innovation….More at The Timeless Strategic Value of Unrealistic Goals – Vijay

Want To Change? Be Transparent, Vulnerable and Authentic

DeathCare Practitioners are chained to a stumbling block that obstructs  the adaptability and agility that today’s markets demand…not request, demand! It’s called EGO.  And that ego is manifested in the maintenance of a self-styled persona that does not allow for the display of any imperfection.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the New Normal of society in the developed world will no longer accept anything less than transparency and authenticity.  Oddly, learn to be those things and it is incredibly liberating.  Better, because your learning ability is now open, your adaptability and agility skyrocket…and people like you more besides.

My motto:  Esse Quam Videri…Latin for–“To Be Rather Than To Seem”

The beliefs we are using to guide us are often a tacit thing — something we can’t see because we are so close to it that we actually can’t see it as a “thing”; it has become something “true”, an assumption that frames every decision. Chris Argyris wrote in 1992 that a major impediment to learning is that most organizations “store and use” information in tacit, versus explicit, forms.I’ve come to see that this is true for both personal and organizations situations. And without being able to name the thing, you can’t change the thing. But by naming it, any of us can and will see it as something we can question and only then can we unlearn it. When I unlearn that “perfection must rule on big stages”, I will return to connecting deeply. This carries a risk of course: It may turn out that I’m less “appropriate” in future talks, and my imperfections and flaws may not resonate. Yet, I have to trust — as all people need to — that they can and will learn and adjust and be flexible enough to adapt to ever-changing conditions.

If you’re learning to use calculus or to fly an airplane, you don’t want to have to start from scratch; you want to learn from others and follow the road already paved. But most of life is about learning to be ourselves, and to “learn to be” is about figuring out what we take as a truth — those ways we just “know”. To unlearn, we need to get good at seeing and naming those ways. Unlearning is harder than learning, but it’s crucial to do … because innovation and creativity are rarely about doing more of the same….More at What I Learned from My TED Talk – Nilofer Merchant – Harvard

Our Profit Is Unmoored From Our Purpose

Typical “Creedyesque” jargon, but somehow, in your gut, you feel it’s on target.  What does it mean.  In this article the writers discuss this issue and some of the things people are doing about it.


It was clear in 2003 that executives were confused about the interrelation of purpose and profits. The goals were considered to be mutually exclusive, even though research at both Harvard and Stanford revealed a significant fact: The most successful companies, both in profitability and longevity, are the ones who recognize the absolute necessity of profits as well as the equally high necessity of having a purpose beyond shareholder wealth.

…More at It’s Time to Balance Profits and Purpose – David K. Williams and

What I Would Do:
It was Peter Drucker who said the purpose of business is to: “Get and Keep Customers”.  In this broader context purpose and profits are not mutually exclusive.  It has been my outspoken belief that DeathCare makes a substantive contribution to society.  But many in our profession have lost their way or, at least, their voice.

There is an apocryphal story about a Russian priest on sabbatical.  One day on walk in a nearby forest he stumbles on an army encampment.  “Halt! Who are you? and Why are you here?”  Challenges the sentry.  Startled the priest pauses and then collects himself and responds with his own question: “How much do you earn?”  Now confused the sentry  responds “What does that have to do with anything? Who are you?  and Why are you here?”  The priest responds in turn: “Because I will pay you that for the rest of my life if you will ask me those two questions every day.”

Who are you?

Why are you here?

Innovation and You

Here is a simple phrase to open up creativity in your organization when it comes to innovation.

Min Basadur maintains that it’s common for companies to expend efforts asking the wrong questions and trying to solve the wrong problems. “Most business people have limited skills when it comes to ‘problem-finding’ or problem definition,” he says. “It’s not taught in MBA programs.” To fill that void, Basadur opened a consultancy, Basadur Applied Creativity, which developed its own “Simplex” process of creative problem-solving for business — with HMW questioning at the core of it….More at The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use – Warren Berger – Harvard

Something New Is Happening

When I was growing up there was a popular play on broadway entitled “Stop The World I Want To Get Off!”  The article here is part of my first attempt to explain something to you, dear reader, that I have only just begun understanding myself.  Our world has been turned upside down and inside out.

In the coming weeks and months I will be sharing more and more on this because It is now more than ever true that SIZE DOES NOT MATTER.  Except that it may now be that if you are the 800 pound gorilla in your market you are more vulnerable than you have ever been.  But this is not about vulnerability…this is about opportunity on a scale so vast that I am struggling with how to convey it.

So start reading it for yourself.  Yes, it will be difficult for you to connect the dots to DeathCare.  Trust me.  They connect very well.  My goal is to challenge and stimulate your thinking well this is going to be the test.

We’re at an inflection point where work and value creation can reach “scale” without having to be done by a large, single firm. We can see today that Social is more than tools, information-enabled efficiency, products, services, or processes. It is not that we have more ways to be social. It is that the cumulative difference of all these ways of being social allows for an entirely new way to scale — through and with connected individuals. The improvement in what is possible creates new economic effects that add up to a new way of doing business. Organizations that get this are changing the way they create, deliver, and capture value — in essence, creating entirely new business models….More at Our Obsession with Scale Is Failing Us – Nilofer Merchant – Harvard

Keeping It Simple…SO HARD…SOOO Important


I admire people who can articulate complex issues in simple ways like Warren Buffet.  As a writer I know how hard that can be.  Numerous drafts and rewrites.  Iterative edits to take out superfluous words.

As I have grown older I find the same concept applies to life in general. I wish I had known this when I was younger.  Of course, I would not have listened…or maybe I simply wasn’t wise enough to distinguish silly rabbit trails from the real trail.

Any way this article is an excellent short read on simplification through subtraction:

…by removing things one creates self-imposed constraints, but also clarity and a cleaner context for inspired innovation.

What sticks with me most about the conversation is the simple pragmatism and prescriptive nature of the word itself — subtraction. How much more direct can you get than to say you need to subtract something? In business, we often dance around the subject by using MBA-speak like “focus,” “alignment,” or “prioritization.” These words imply the need to edit, clarify, and rethink, but aren’t as direct as asking someone to subtract.

“Less is more,” the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe liked to say. You may or may not agree with this as a philosophy of architecture and design. But in the world of business it can be a remarkably effective approach. I owe this insight to my friend Richard Saul WurmanHere are five “laws of subtraction” for business leaders to consider:…More at The Power of Subtraction – Anthony Tjan – Harvard Business Review

What I would do:

As I get older simplification seems to become a more and more common theme.  In marketing I am convinced we need to narrow our focus.  In goal setting I am convinced we can execute on no more than three major goals a year.  In direct reports it has always been understood that 7 and maybe 10 is the absolute limit of effectiveness.

I have been thinking about this subtraction for a while.  One thing it has led me to is a clearer definition of the clients with whom I can succeed and those with whom I can’t.  I focus on the former and avoid the latter.

The Dirty Little Secret

An oft quoted phrase from “Alice in Wonderland” is: “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”  

What few people realize is that there is a step before knowing where you are going.


I love people who know who they are.  They are comfortable in their own skins.  They are relaxed and they are, typically, very competent.  But right now there is a lot of angst in deathcare as we THINK we have to struggle to find who we have to become.  I suspect that if we believed more in what we do we would find we already have that answer.

Unfortunately, I also suspect that many in our industry don’t really like who we are.  So they dress it up into something else.  But that’s another story for another time

When I’m in a mischievous mood, I will sometimes ask managers and workers in a company, “What does the CEO actually do?” It’s not unusual to get a panicked stare as my answer, followed by some trite response, like “Well, he sets the direction of the company.”

So, I ask, “What is the direction of the company?” We are inundated with direction and vision statements that would all serve as good examples of what my high school civics teacher called ‘glittering generalities.’ They are well-meaning, but often sound just like every other company’s vision statement. For these statements to become more than lovely aspirations something is missing.  To Read More…

What I would do:

The stakes are getting higher every day.  We, as an industry AND as a profession, are at a point and possibly past a point where we, as individuals, need to decide whether we should get in or get out.  The opportunity for our future is extraordinary.  But it will take commitment, it will take passion, it will take painful choices and it will take sacrifice.  The rewards won’t necessarily be priceless but they will be far greater than my generation experienced during its career.  What are those rewards?

  • Purpose
  • Meaningful career
  • Community respect
  • Impacting lives
  • And, oh yes, financial

So, if I were you I would start thinking about whether it was time for you to get in or get out.