Author Archive

Omne trium perfectum

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

see-no-hear-no-etcOmne whuh?

This Latin phrase expresses a truism we know internally, even if we aren’t aware of it consciously: everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete.

That’s because our brains are wired to think in patterns*, and three is the smallest number of elements needed to produce a pattern.

The so-called Rule of Three can apply in many contexts:

  1. Rule of Thirds in art and design (dividing visuals into three parts)
  2. Every story has a beginning, middle and end (as you already know, y’know, from me)
  3. Case studies are presented as problem, solution and outcome

Similarly, Latin has another term for how this applies to writing – hendiatris, or using three words to express one idea. Examples:

  1. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll
  2. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
  3. Reduce, reuse, recycle

This is one of the reasons why people seem to respond positively, often with vigorous head-nods, to my concept of the “recognition trifecta”:

  1. Win an award
  2. Speak at a conference
  3. Publish a thought leadership article

Achieving all three is desirable. Remembering and pursuing the ones that make the most sense for the individual is just as important.

More to come on this.


*For more on pattern recognition than you likely care to know, see this bit on Prägnanz.

What’s in a Zipper?

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Supporting Grassroots Refugee Efforts in Calais, France

Calais-Map of Jungle

Map of the Jungle, settled by country of origin.

I’m not a humanitarian aid worker. I don’t work for the Red Cross or the UN. And yet I and Joe Schmoes like me are the ones on the front lines of the European refugee crisis. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs on so many levels.

When Greek Islanders are nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for their work rescuing migrants from sinking boats, there is something very wrong with the world. Why housewives and fishermen and not armies and governments?

In December 2015 I spent a week in Calais, on France’s northern coast.

With a ferry port to Dover and a nearby Eurotunnel entrance, it has attracted several thousand migrants hoping to seek asylum in the UK. They want to join family or friends there, and/or speak English, or just believe (true or not) that the UK will give them the best shot at a new life. Unfortunately, the UK and French governments have responded with a fairly single-minded effort: keep them out.

France has not invited the Red Cross or UN to help – that would have implications, financial and otherwise, that they’re not interested in. Like other European countries they may also harbor the interesting illusion that ignoring a problem of historical proportions will make it go away (here’s the Economist’s take on what the EU should do.)

So about 5,000 people (mostly men either without families or who plan to send for their families after getting settled) are living in a muddy field. They are mainly from Sudan and Eritrea but also Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and, more recently, Syria.

Conditions in “the Jungle,” as residents have named it, were so bad that in November several non-profits sued the French government to make improvements such as more water access points and toilets (one for every 20 people, the standard, vs. one for every 75, the reality then). They won.

Who’s keeping the residents clothed, fed and sheltered?

Makeshift kitchen run by chefs from London. With four other kitchens they try to feed all residents at least one hot meal a day.

Makeshift kitchen run by chefs from London. With four other kitchens they try to feed all residents at least one hot meal a day.

Small non-profits and grassroots efforts similar to those that have sprung up across Europe to fill the vacuum left by those in charge. Care4Calais, Calais Kitchens and Caravans for Calais are just a few of the mostly UK-based groups doing absolutely incredible work.

I volunteered with a joint effort of UK-based Help Refugees and French L’Auberge D’Migrants, based in a large warehouse that accepts, sorts and distributes donations. Mountains of donations. Clothing, bedding, tents, sheets, blankets, sleeping bags, towels, toiletries, medicine, toys, shoes, tarps, food – you name it. It is a monumental effort run entirely by volunteers.

My contribution to the refugee crisis?

Sorting clothes, which is both more important and more satisfying than it may sound. Note that I was promoted to manager on Day 2 – which means I have a modicum of common sense and am willing to tell people what to do.

Here’s where the zippers come in. When the young woman in charge of the warehouse briefed my group and me on how to sort through the bags and boxes and suitcases of clothing, she spoke emphatically about checking the zippers. “We are here to try to protect the dignity of the refugees,” she said in her loud, clear voice.

Imagine you’ve left behind everything you had and knew, possibly running for your life. You are living in terrible conditions and must rely on others for daily survival. French riot police and right-wing townies threaten or perpetrate violence regularly. You stand on line for an hour during “pants distribution day.” You take your donated pants back to your tent or rough shelter, put them on…and the zipper doesn’t work.

When it was my turn to “train” the new volunteers (who arrived throughout the day), I implored them: “a broken zipper is a broken heart.” And Lord, if there’s anything I don’t want to do, it’s further break the heart of someone in that hellhole.

An uncertain future awaits.

The local French government has, in stages, been evacuating areas of the Jungle. Surely they believe that if the migrants move elsewhere, then the problem will go away. Or at least it will go away from them.

My experiences in Calais exposed me to the worst and the best of humanity. The suffering of innocent people, the indifference and callousness toward the suffering, the xenophobia, the hatred and hard-heartedness – it is overwhelming.

A mother-daughter dynamic duo who drove a van full of donations to Calais from their home in Scotland.

A mother-daughter dynamic duo who drove a van full of donations to Calais from their home in Scotland.

But I’ve also been moved to tears by the beautiful generosity, goodness and selflessness shown by the volunteers in Calais, throughout Europe and yes, by the housewives and fisherman of Lesbos and other Greek Islands. I was awed by the resilience of the Jungle residents who opened shops and restaurants, a school, an outdoor art garden, churches and mosques (Sunni and Shiite, right across from each other with no conflict) with only their ingenuity and perseverance.

I grow more distressed and concerned as time marches on and no real solutions are even being discussed by the leaders whose continent has been inundated with more than one million migrants in 2015 alone.

I wish I could sound an optimistic note.

I cannot. I can only ask that you look inside your heart and ask what you might do to alleviate suffering in the world, regardless of where or who or how or how much. Just take action. Don’t wait. You don’t have to travel to Calais to make a difference – just do something.

This final video sums it up: there is so much more to do.

Thank you.

Celebrating Life

Monday, December 7th, 2015

CAS logoSupporting Ireland-based Cycle Against Suicide

The title and subheader of this post may seem incongruent – celebration and fighting suicide? But this seeming contradiction is, in my view, one of the reasons why Cycle Against Suicide (CAS), a two-week bike ride around the island of Ireland and related events, has been such a tremendous success.

Founded in 2013 by Irish entrepreneur Jim Breen — whom I met at a training conference in October — CAS was the outgrowth of one man confronting his struggle with depression and dedicating himself to helping others to do the same. The mission of CAS is “to raise awareness of the considerable help and supports that are available for anyone battling depression, self harm, at risk of suicide or those bereaved by suicide.”

Speaking as someone who’s lost a dear one to suicide and who inherited chronic depression (and who strongly believes that combating both requires talking about them as they are – a normal part of everyday life for one in five of us), what’s magical about this organization is that it’s not doom and gloom. It’s not darkness and shame and whispers.

It’s bright orange cycling jerseys, balloons, face paint, you name it. It’s upbeat music. It’s community and openness, acceptance and understanding. It’s helping young people to talk about how they’re feeling and to be aware of friends who might be having a hard time.

Their slogan, “It’s OK not to feel OK, and it’s absolutely OK to ask for help,” is simple and brilliant. OK not to feel ok

I was fortunate to become involved with CAS through Jim, supporting his TEDx Talk in Northern Ireland pro bono. And since I’m hands-on and love to travel, I just had to be there. That enabled me to attend two CAS school events and the first Orange Tie Ball.

Throughout, I met amazing people fighting the good fight to reduce stigma and the terrible isolation that can accompany depression, and can make losing someone to suicide all the more painful. It was inspiring and fortifying, and I got back far more than I gave.

CAS beachThank you to Jim and your vast orange army of volunteers. You make this fight a true celebration of life and hope.



Formula for Behavior Change

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Understanding the Holy Grail of Training (and of a Lot of Other Stuff)

Sometimes I just want to share useful information I’ve come across. And this fits the bill.

The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge simultaneously to cause behavior change: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. No behavior change? At least one of the three is missing.


The model was developed by Dr. BJ Fogg, who founded the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. He studies and develops innovations focused on using technology to change behaviors in positive ways.

Have you ever used his model? If not, how might you apply this thinking to your work?


Spring Ahead

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

UW cherry blossomsWill we tune into, and turn into, the promise?

There’s something about spring that’s so optimistic and energetic.

Something inside us wants to imitate the flowers and buds and trees – to burst forth, to BE the life we see around us.

So will we? And if not, why not?


Do You Know the Four Fundamentals?

Monday, February 16th, 2015

There’s something that all my award winners have in common.

Four somethings, actually. I sent out a video BRAINSNACKS a few months ago describing what I’ve identified as the four ingredients common to winning award submissions I’ve developed and contributed to –

four fundamentals video

  • Alignment: Does your corporate initiative align with your corporate strategies? Pretty straightforward. Another part of alignment is how tuned into, and involved with, your initiative the C-Suite and/or other senior stakeholders are. Their support is a key indication that what you’ve been up to matters and is making an impact.
  • Intelligence: This has two meanings. The first is what kind of sleuthing you did to figure out what the problem was (no problem? no need for a solution) and then how you leveraged the smartest stuff out there to make your solution shine.
  • Innovation: It’s hard to win an award for doing things the same way as everyone else. Not impossible, but truly there should be a spark of newness and “wow!” that makes judges sit up and take notice.
  • Impact: Winning awards is all about measurable outcomes. You have to prove that you made a difference. That’s why individuals, teams and companies deserve to be recognized for their efforts – because they irrefutably had the intended effect.

To learn more about how you can use these four fundamentals to determine the award-readiness of your best initiatives, contact me about a tailored assessment, my latest award resource.

Thanks and go be awesome!


Change Your Job…with Your Mind!

Monday, December 8th, 2014

For real.

OK, so I kind of have a thing for “job crafting.” It was the topic of my last BRAINSNACKS newsletter and also makes a guest appearance in my 2014 holiday greeting video.

Job crafting is a concept developed by two business school professors. It centers around cognitively changing your job by altering how you perceive it: e.g., a hospital janitor who sees his work as helping staff and sick patients vs. simply cleaning.

This is an earth-shattering notion! That we can all find higher purpose in what we do if we simply put our minds to it.

And it worked for me. As explained in the (serious part of the) holiday video, I reexamined what it is that I “do” for a living. Yes, I help companies win awards (hip-hip-hooray for my 2014 win rate of 100% and my 60+ client wins to date!).

But there’s more to it than that. By helping companies win industry recognition, what I’m doing on a deeper level is to:

  • Shine a light on greatness
  • Share best practices that other companies can benefit from
  • Celebrate unsung heroes who are doing amazing things but have not yet been recognized for it (I get a special joy from doing this)
  • Achieve recognition for thought leaders and innovators so they can keep making an impact doing what they love

Perhaps most importantly, though, I make people happy.

I make people happy. For a living.

People are thrilled and excited and feel affirmed and motivated–and have their careers boosted–when they win industry recognition. And they win because they do great work that makes an impact so it’s all well deserved.

Now, I already liked my work before I started “crafting” it, but it’s a tremendous thing to discover new purpose and meaning in one’s livelihood without changing anything but the way you see it.

How much else in life could we transform this way? A thought for the new year.



Why I Do What I Do

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

OK, one of the many reasons I help companies win awards.

(Hint – It’s because I help PEOPLE win awards.)

Today I tuned into the Webinar that serves as the virtual Brandon Hall Awards “ceremony.” I was thrilled to see many current and recent clients winning big (whether or not I helped them with the actual application, though especially when I did).

I emailed folks right away to congratulate them, including someone I’d worked with to write up a very impressive program for a prestigious global ranking award. She and her team had independently applied for and won TWO gold awards, so of course I wanted to wish her well.

The reply I got to my short note makes me beam ear to ear and really underscores a part of my work that I love.

What a pleasant surprise to hear from you and what synchronicity…I was thinking about you as I listened to the awards announcement.

The credit for encouraging me to apply for awards for [Program X] goes entirely to you (as you wrote the [Program X] case study for [Global Ranking Award]). And I will always remember that with gratitude. The entire team had done an outstanding job; we knew that before and now it’s recognized in the industry.

Thank you so much for your warm wishes. 

Technically, I help companies win awards. In reality, I help propagate great learning and development concepts and initiatives by earning L&D rock stars recognition for their efforts. By doing so, I make people feel great about their important work and their accomplishments.

And earning a living by making people feel great is a pretty fantastic way to spend my time.




That Pesky Status Quo

Monday, July 7th, 2014

To drive change, first create discomfort.

I read an excellent blog post today and immediately wanted to share it. OK, first I wanted to read it, and THEN I wanted to share it.

Why the attraction?

Its awesome title: “What Just About Every Speaker Does Wrong.”

Now, who’s not gonna read that? (People who never have to speak? Or listen to speakers?)

But what made me want to share it is…its author, Nick Morgan, “one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches,” AGREES with ME. Yes. There. I’ve said it.

Actually, he agrees with Beckhard’s change equation, which I blogged about a few years ago. Beckhard’s formula posits that in order to effect change, you must first create dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Morgan writes about this in the context of his domain, public speaking. What most speakers do wrong, he suggests, is to forget about selling the problem before selling the solution.

But you’d never do that. Right? Right.




All Rise

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

I would be remiss if I, like so many others, did not pay tribute to the inspirational Maya Angelou. Below is her famed poem, and rightly so.

But I also recommend watching her recite it. So wise, so powerfully truthful, sassy, funny and fearless.

A favorite Angelou quote: “When we find someone who is brave, fun, intelligent, and loving, we have to thank the universe.”

I thank the universe for this great lady.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Learning Program and Team Awards 2009-2014


ASTD Excellence in Practice

Technical Training Award
Training Management Citation (for new programs)
Learning Technology Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Leadership Development (x2) Award, Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Onboarding Citation
Sales Enablement Citation

Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning

Best Custom Content Gold
Best in Learning Strategy and Governance Gold
Best Leadership Development Program Gold
Best Innovation in Learning Technology Silver
Best Leadership Sales Training Silver
Best Integration of Learning and Talent Management Bronze
Best Use of Games for Learning Bronze

Brandon Hall Technology Excellence

Best Advance in Social Learning Technology Gold

CLO Magazine Learning in Practice

Technology Innovation Gold, Division 1
Innovation Gold, Division 1
Business Impact Gold, Division 2
Business Impact Bronze, Division 2


Learning Organization Ranking Awards


American Society for Training & Development

ASTD BEST #1 (up from #32 in one year)
#2 (up from #37 in two years)

ELearning! Media Group

Learning! 100 #1 (first year on list)

Chief Learning Officer Magazine

LearningElite #1, #4

Training Magazine

 Training Top 125 #1, #2 (up from #41 in one year)