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Scott Eblin

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post called Can This Marriage (Customer, Team, Leader) Be Saved? in which I referenced a book called The 5 Love Languages and riffed a bit on how those might be applied at work.  A couple of days later, I got a nice email from Dr. Paul White letting me know that he was co-authoring a book with Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of Love Languages, on how they could be applied in the workplace. 

Book-chapman It’s out now and is called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.  I spent some time talking with Dr. White yesterday and, with his permission, recorded the call so you could listen in. He talks about what the research says about motivating through appreciation and the top ways in which most people want to be appreciated. Here’s the interview:


He was also nice enough to share his top ten easiest ways to show appreciation to almost anyone.  You can download that here

This stuff is easy to do and likely to make a difference, folks. Think about it:

  • What kind of difference does it make for you when your boss or a co-worker expresses their appreciation?
  • What kind of difference would it make for your team members if you expressed your appreciation in a way that works for them (hint:  something beyond the “great job everyone” email)?
  • What is your number one idea for anyone who wants to do a better job of showing appreciation to others at work?



Potus-tv There’s lots of speculation about what President Obama will say in his jobs creation strategy speech to Congress on Thursday night.  Will he be bold?  Will he be meek?  Will he seek compromise? Will he draw a line in the sand?

Perhaps the most important question is will he offer a viable strategy for creating jobs and reducing the unemployment rate? Lately, I’ve been reading a book that will help you and me answer that last question.  It’s called Good Strategy Bad Strategy  by UCLA business professor Richard Rumelt. Back in December 2008, Rumelt wrote in the McKinsey Quarterly  that the great recession was not the typical downturn, but a structural break that would require difficult fundamental changes to get the economy back on track. Almost three years later, it looks like he called it.

Since one of the basic jobs of leadership is to define a strategy that can lead to success, Thursday’s speech provides an opportunity for an evaluative case study.  In Good Strategy Bad Strategy, Rumelt says that there are three key elements that represent the kernel of any good strategy. Conversely, there are three signs of a bad strategy. 

So, building on what Rumelt offers, here’s your viewer’s guide to whether the President is offering a good jobs strategy or a bad jobs strategy on Thursday night. (The guide just might help you in your next strategy conversation as well.)


Long term readers of this blog may have noticed that I don’t write nearly as many posts as I used to that are based on politics. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, I try to keep this blog in the ballpark of leadership news you can use and there just aren’t that many good examples coming from our national political leaders. That leads to the second reason I’m not writing about them much anymore. What they’re doing is just flat out depressing.

So today’s post is a bit of a combo platter. On the one hand, it’s a cry of frustration. On the other, it’s one of those learn what to do by not doing what they’re doing posts.

Before Congress recessed for summer vacation and the President left for Martha’s Vineyard, the two sides (Why is it always about the two sides anymore anyway? Ah, but I digress.)  took each other and the country to the brink by locking horns over the debt ceiling. Historians may well look back on that fiasco as the tipping point into complete dysfunction. I guess it was too much to hope that as our leaders took some vacation that they would step back, reflect on what happened and come back ready to do things differently for the good of the country.

Yeah, that was too much to hope for apparently. In scheduling his much anticipated speech on jobs creation (the New York Times has the recap), the President asked for a joint session of Congress on the same night as the first Republican debate to have all of the current candidates in the field. Of course, the White House press office claimed that this was a mere coincidence and that they had never considered big footing the GOP. Not to worry, the Speaker of the House, in a historically unprecedented move, rejected the President’s request for a joint session. After an afternoon of naming, blaming and stare downs, the White House relented. The joint session speech is now scheduled for the next night, the start of the new season of the NFL. Great solution.

So, what’s the leadership lesson in all of this? There aren’t any good ones. So let’s look for the counterfactual lessons: 


Irene1 The turmoil and damage caused in the Northeast last weekend by Hurricane Irene is just the latest reminder of how much we rely on first responders like the U.S. Coast Guard in times of emergencies and natural disasters. There was some dramatic video released yesterday of a  Coast Guard helicopter rescue of a boater in distress off the Rhode Island coast during the storm. Military.com provides a nice summary of the Coast Guard’s Hurricane Irene operations in this article.

There’s definitely a lot of courage displayed by first responders in emergencies but there’s also a lot of preparation and training on display as well.  As I wrote here last week, I recently had the opportunity to spend the weekend at sea with the crew of the USCG Cutter Venturous. The patrol that I was on was the first time on board for about a third of the 80 person Venturous crew. The training started immediately upon departure. Once we were under way, a series of drills were executed to get the crew prepared for emergencies that might arise. First up was a man overboard drill. You can see some highlights from that in this video:

The first afternoon at sea ended with an abandon ship drill and the morning of day two started with a migrant onboarding drill. Members of the crew were given the opportunity to come up with a plan for rescuing migrants from a raft, bringing them on board, securing them, processing them and sheltering them.  Here are some video highlights of the drill:

Not surprisingly, because it was the first time doing this for many of the crew, there were some kinks and bottlenecks in the process. It was a very fortunate thing, however, that the crew had the chance to run and debrief the drill. Twenty minutes after it ended the commanding officer announced that he had just gotten word that the ship would be bringing 15 Cuban migrants on board in about three hours. He wasn’t joking. A drill had quickly turned into the real thing.

Next week, I’ll share a video of the crew preparing to bring the migrants on board but, for now, here are three things I learned about how the Coast Guard prepares for emergencies:


Stevejobs1 There’s been so much written about Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO this week. As an Apple fan and a student of business leaders, it’s hard to disagree with the many, many tribute articles that have sung the praises of Jobs. Anyone who changes multiple industries – computing with the Apple II, Lisa (remember that?) Mac and the iPad, music with iTunes, telecommunications with the iPhone, movies with Pixar – is a genius. When the history of innovation is written, Steve Jobs will be up there with Henry Ford and Walt Disney.  

There’s a lot of speculation that Apple will fade without Jobs on the scene. Is it possible, though, that the company might do even better in the future?

Based on a very limited amount of personal experience, I think it might be. Here’s the story.


Eathquake So, the big question on the East Coast yesterday evening was where were you when the earthquake hit? I was in a large conference room in Baltimore leading a group coaching session for rising leaders at a client company. They were working in small groups when I noticed the image on the screen jiggling crazily and saw the projectors hanging from the ceiling shaking back and forth.  We moved outside into the courtyard pretty quickly.  When the building was evacuated, we decided to call it a day. Definitely the first time I’ve ever ended a session early because of an earthquake.

What a great reminder that if you ever think you’re the one in control, you’re not.  In a way, that turned out to be the theme of the day. Just a half hour before the earthquake excitement, we had wrapped up a lunchtime conversation with a company executive who essentially said the same thing. She began her talk by holding up a sheet of paper with 75 names and pictures on it.  She told the group that this was all of the directors and above in that sector of the company in the year 2000.  “How many, she asked, do you think are still here?”  The answer was 23.  Then she showed a photo composite of the top 15 executives from 2004 and asked how many of them were still around.  The answer was one and he’s the current sector president. 

Her point was not one of those, “Look to your left and look to your right; one of you won’t be here,” kind of deals. Rather, she was making the point that there are so many things outside of your control in your career that you have to be prepared for change and make the most of the opportunities you have while remaining true to your values. In her case, that has meant:


Coastguard1 For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity each Fall to talk leadership with the newly promoted admirals of the U.S. Coast Guard and their Senior Executive Service counterparts from the Department of Homeland Security. I’ll be joining the group again this October and will be bringing a new perspective to the conversation. That perspective comes from a once in a lifetime opportunity I had last weekend patrolling the Florida Straits with the captain and crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Venturous.

Last year, I wrote a similar post to today’s titled What I Learned on an Aircraft Carrier. Some of the lessons from the Venturous are in the same ballpark, but there are a number of new ones.  I attribute the dichotomies to the difference in scale (The USS Harry S Truman has 3,000 to 5,000 crew members and is 1,092 feet long.  The USCGC Venturous has 80 crew members and is 220 feet long.) and mission. As they patrol the Straits of Florida and the Caribbean, the crew of the Venturous may be intercepting drug runners one day, rescuing boaters the next and picking up Cuban migrants the next.  I was only with them two days and, by the end of the second day, the crew had picked up a raft full of Cubans. I was in email correspondence with the executive officer, LCDMR Blake Novak,  a few days ago and he wrote that by the end of the week that started with my stay onboard  the Venturous had picked up a total of 80 migrants. For Coasties, it’s all about being prepared and adapting to the current reality.

In today’s post, I’m sharing a few of my high level lessons learned and this overview video of my time with the crew of the Venturous.

In the days and weeks to come, I’ll post more videos of specific tasks (or, as the Coast Guard calls them, evolutions) and additional reflections on what I learned onboard. For now, here are the headlines on some of my leadership takeaways from Venturous Commanding Officer Troy Hosmer, XO Novak and their crew:


The Lost Art of Killing Time

by Scott Eblin on August 16, 2011 11:30am

in The Next Level

Keywest1 This past weekend, I had the great opportunity to spend a couple of days with the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Venturous on patrol in the Florida Straits.  I’m organizing my thoughts, pictures and videos from the trip and will have more to share on that in the days and weeks to come.

Today, I’m writing about the end of the trip. For operational reasons, the Captain needed to drop me off in Key West early Sunday morning about 10 hours earlier than the original plan of late afternoon. I stowed my bags at the Coast Guard station and set out for the day with my wallet, my cell phone and absolutely no plan whatsoever. 

By the end of the day, I had:


Caddies If you’re a sports fan (guilty as charged), you’ve likely heard by now about golf caddie Stevie Williams’ interview after his new boss, Adam Scott, won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last weekend.  It’s the talk of the sports world this week.

Williams, in case you don’t know, was Tiger Woods’ caddie for 13 years and carried his bag for most of the professional wins he had before Woods’ career and life imploded a few years ago. Woods fired Williams a couple of weeks ago and pointedly ignored him on the Bridgestone practice tee early in the week. It was an interesting scenario, then,  when Williams’ new ride won the tournament in which Tiger finished 37th.

Williams made it that much more interesting when he – the caddie! – gave an interview to CBS on the 18th green.    In an interview with David Feherty, Williams said,  “I’ve caddied for 33 years — 145 wins now — and that’s the best win I’ve ever had.”  That was on Sunday. On Monday, he apologized for going “over the top” in the interview.

Still, it was great TV. Mainly, because most of us can relate to the fantasy of sticking it back to someone who stuck it to us. The fantasy and the reality, however, are two different things. Williams needed to recognize that winning with Scott was a good time to shut up. That can be hard to do when emotions are running high.  Here are three signs that it’s a good time to shut up. Steve Williams missed them. Maybe they’ll help you avoid sticking your foot in your mouth.


A Strength When Overused

by Scott Eblin on August 8, 2011 9:30am

in The Next Level

Bicep1 One of the great truisms in leadership coaching is that a strength when overused becomes a weakness. For example, the strength of confidence, when overused, looks like arrogance. The overconfident leader is so convinced of his or her world view that they quit questioning, listening or observing anything that might challenge it.

This idea is on my mind this morning for a couple of reasons. First, like many Americans and people around the world, I’ve watched dumbfounded these past few weeks as overconfident politicians were willing to take our economy to the brink in service of a worldview. The second reason is a New York Times book review I read over the weekend on The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy.

If you’re mathematically inclined, you’ll enjoy the review. I’m not, but I did anyway. Here’s my big my take away from the review by John Allen Paulos. Paulos writes that Bayes’ theorem comes down to three questions:

  • “How confident am I in the truth of my initial belief?

  • On the assumption that my original belief is true, how confident am I that the new evidence is accurate?

  • And whether or not my original belief is true, how confident am I that the new evidence is accurate?”

Those seems like three very good questions for leaders to regularly ask themselves.  What difference would it make to the quality of your decisions and the impact of your leadership if you and your team asked those questions on a regular basis? What other questions should you be asking yourself to make sure your strength of confidence is not tipping into arrogance?


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