BFOs – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious

caution stairs Are you getting more than a little frustrated with the quality and value of Blog Posts on the Internet? Then why don’t we agree to do this: When you run across one of these posts, full of grammatical errors, too simplistic, stating the obvious, not adding much value, if any – make a comment, let them know “hey, watch your grammar, post something of value, don’t click-bait us” – whatever the issues are with the post. Yes, people have a right to Post, but we have a right to object to nonsense.

The world is full of voices. Voices are embedded inside Posts. My voice is embedded inside this Post. My voice is struggling to get out and be heard. There are loud voices, non-nonsensical voices, B.S. voices, voices that shout inane, moronic advice from the roof tops, voices that are out of tune, vitriolically filled voices, all kinds of voices.

Then there are voices of value. Sometimes, its really hard to hear the voices of value among the cacophonous voices that fill our airwaves, big screen TVs, print media, and blog pages. You have to wade through all the junk to get to the real valuable stuff. It’s kind of like going to a garage sale, and sifting though the junk, to find that one classic rare book, or vinyl record, or cameo brooch, or antique pearl handled buck knife that makes the effort all worthwhile. So here are some tips for wading through Blog Posts and their related voices:

1) Look at the background of the voice. Do they have a solid track record, with experience, and skills? When they give advice are they doing it purely to share their knowledge, and to leave the world a better place than how they found it? Or are they just talking to hear themselves talk?

2) Does the advice or point being made, make sense? Does it sound to good to be true? Is it so blatantly outright ridiculous, that you should be discounting it immediately? Is it so obvious, your 3 year old daughter has been saying it for weeks now? If so, quit reading, make a comment to the blogger, and move on!

3) Is the voice sharing something that makes you quickly come to the conclusion that you should in turn share it with family, friends, and acquaintances? Is it something you would be willing to link your name to?

Positive answers to these questions should give you a fairly good feeling that you have found a voice of value. Mark that voice down, and come back periodically. It will be good for your psyche, for your development, and for your soul. And it will become a haven and respite from that jungle of voices that continue to blare and shout, and to state Blinding Flashes of the Obvious.

I hope I was able to share a reasonable voice with you about this topic. As far as my voice being one of value, that will be totally up to you to decide!

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Walking the Talk – Are you “Followable”?

It is sometimes easy for Leaders to forget or overlook the impact they have on their followers.

In my experience, leaders cannot choose to lead people. It does not work that way. People choose to follow people who have exhibited a set of characteristics that make them “followable”. In my experience, there are three characteristics that makes you a “followable” leader.

  1.  Integrity – followable leaders have integrity. There is never a question as to their motives and whether they are ethical. You don’t find followable leaders looking for the loopholes, or walking the thin line or within the gray area. Followable leaders are consistent with their integrity and for them, it is black or it is white. A followable leader makes it very clear which kinds of behaviors are acceptable and which are not. And a followable leader enforces the established ethical practices completely and fairly. It is really hard to get in ethical trouble working for a followable leader. 
  2. Skills – followable leaders have skills. They can skillfully lead, skillfully hire, skillfully coach and develop, and skilfully steer their followers. They are competent in key areas of the business, and they hire competent people for those areas where they may lack skills required for the business. You will learn a lot from followable leaders because they are world class at coaching and developing.
  3. Accountability – Followable leaders hold themselves accountable, before they attempt to hold anyone else accountable. You will not find followable leaders passing the buck, or saying “not me”, “not my mistake”. They own up, woman up, fess up, and take full responsibility for what they say and what they do. And they do it, long before they expect anyone to do it as well. If you are accountable to yourself, you will thrive under a followable leader. Accountability is the cornerstone of organizational success and followable leaders talk it, walk it, expect it and reward it.

Of these three characteristics, Integrity is key. People won’t follow you for long if you are not competent, and may not follow you if you are not accountable, but only people who lack integrity themselves will follow a leader without it. And that is bad organizational mojo.

What about you? What kind of leader do you follow? Are they followable, or are you following someone lacking in any of these key areas? Your personal success and well being may depend on it.

I’d love to hear your comments! 



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3 Lessons Dad Taught Me

dad

My Dad is 90 years old. A crusty, proud, and feisty Cuban gentleman. He is all that and more. Mom died a couple of years ago, and Dad has never been the same. I think he actually thought he and Mom would live together forever, or at least until the day they would go to bed one night and both die in their sleep.

His kidneys recently failed, and we finally had to put him in a nursing care center. His long term memory is good, and he can still process most concepts and ideas, but I am starting to see the deterioration. However, he is doing remarkably well and is actually quite happy.

These days, I think about all the things he taught me, all the things he would say when I was younger. The things I never listened to when I was too busy thinking that I had all the answers. How is it that Dad got so smart in between the time I was 16 to the time I turned 30? It’s a miracle!

As we in life march towards the inevitable we all must face with our parents, I wanted to share three things that stand out from my Dad’s constant urging and teachings throughout the years.

  1.  If you are going to be dumb, you’ve got to be tough
    Dad was always telling us that it was a heck of a lot easier to go through life having thought through things and having taken the time to get some education on whatever it was you were going to engage in. But if you couldn’t or wouldn’t get educated, well, toughen up, because it was going to be a rough ride. Deal with it.
  2. Don’t ever lie. Ever. Face the music, tell the truth, stand up and face what you have done head on
    I made a huge tragic mistake while in my 50s, when I had been flying high at the top of my game. But I stood up, told the truth, and though it cost me dearly to this day, I have never regretted it. I slept better from the day I admitted my mistake, and paid my dues.

  3. Have compassion for people and don’t judge people who have made an honest mistake
    I remember sneaking in to the house late one night when I was 17, while he and Mom were out. I had been drinking (a lot). My Grandmother told Dad when he got home that I was inebriated. I was lying in bed, the room doing a great impression of a run away merry go round. Dad opened the door and asked me what was going on. I looked up at him, one foot firmly planted on the floor in an effort to stop the room from breaking away from the rest of the house. I told him I had been drinking, a lot, and I felt like I was going to die. Dad closed the door. I could hear my Grandmother asking him if he was going to punish me. To which Dad said that we must have compassion on me because I was suffering and had already been punished enough.

Dad is one smart guy, even though he never made it past 6th grade. I only hope I am half as smart when it comes to sharing the wisdom of the world with my children.

I bet you have many Dad and Mom stories just like this!

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3 Lessons Learned from a Random Act of Kindness

It was Saturday morning, about 10 AM. I had just run several errands, and had stopped at a little hole in the wall cafeteria in Hialeah, near the nursing home where my Dad lives. These are restaurants with an open window to the sidewalk, where you can purchase all kinds of things, but primarily cafe (coffee), made in various and sundry ways, while still standing on the sidewalk.

I was on my way to see my Dad, and had promised when I saw him the day before, that I would bring him some cafe con leche and tostadas (cuban coffee with milk, lots of sugar, and Cuban bread with butter). His all time favorite.

I was catching a flight later that evening, and as usual, was trying to cram a week’s worth of stuff into this day, after having spent 2 weeks working out of my Miami office.

I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was having cafe cubano (expresso) himself, while my Dad’s coffee and toast were being made. While we were talking, I took out my debit card, and was absentmindedly tapping it on the counter. As we talked, the waitress put the styrofoam cup of cafe con leche on the counter, looked at my tapping card in hand, and said, “we can’t take your card, your purchase is not enough”. I asked her how much the purchase had to be, and she said $10, and that the cafe and toast were only $1.75. I had no cash, so I looked at the menu board above her head, and began to order enough to make up the rest of the $10. You see, I had NO cash, and I was not leaving without my Dad’s all time favorite. You do not show up to see a 90 year old in a nursing home without his cafe con leche and tostadas.

All of a sudden, the guy I was talking to says, “you are not going to buy all that stuff you don’t need. Here”, and he whips out 2 bucks and puts them on the counter. I was flabbergasted, and at the same time felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. I thanked him profusely, shook his hand, and walked to my car in wonder and amazement.

Here are the lessons that I learned that Saturday morning:

1) Kindness is everywhere. Look for it. When you need it most, it will find you.

2) People are by nature, good and kind hearted. Yes there is ugliness in this world, no denying that. But there is an immense amount of kindness and goodness too. Let’s not forget that.

3) Just like that guy did not hesitate one second to show me kindness, we should not hesitate when the opportunity presents itself.

My Dad really enjoyed that cafe con leche and tostadas, and I don’t think I have ever enjoyed watching him enjoy, any more than I did that Saturday morning.

Are you paying it forward?

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I’m Having a Bad Day!

badday

The alarm goes off, and I realize I set it for 7 AM instead of 6 AM. I cut myself shaving. I jump in the shower and after I’m wet, realize there is no shampoo. I stub my toe in the dark, looking for my shoes. Traffic is EASILY, 3 times as bad as it usually is. 5 people cut me off on the way to work, versus the normal 3. Slowpokes are out in force, cruising down the avenue. Burger King is out of French Toast Sticks. There is a brown out at work as I am booting up. And finally, to take the cake, I fish my glasses out of my backpack, and the frame is broken. You get the picture. A really BAD day.

So here’s what I do:

1) Take a deep breath and count to ten while exhaling (this really does help folks!)

2) Peruse my To Do list, grab the three easiest tasks, and knock them out immediately. This helps to focus me on doing something useful, and gets me a sense of accomplishment right away. It steers me away from the bad stuff that I have already experienced and into a Can Do, Good Day mood.

3) I grab the grungiest task from my list and dive right into it. Even if I can’t finish it, I make some significant progress, and I feel good about that.

Poof! Bad Day is gone. It works for me. What kinds of things do you do when you are experiencing a bad day, besides throwing the covers over your head and going back to sleep?

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Change – The A.W.A.R.E. Process

While reflecting back, I thought this post of mine for several years ago might be useful to some of you.

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The Daunting Task of My First LinkedIn Publish

paralysis

When I got the message from Linked In that I was invited to publish content, I quickly and eagerly clicked on the Get Started link, and then…

I hate to admit that the appearance of a blank page was quite a shock. What was I going to write about? Who would read it? Who would care? Why would anyone be interested in what I had to say? What made me think I could and should really do this?

So for the next several months, I kept coming back to the blank page, and kept having all of these negative thoughts. I allowed the fear of failure to absolutely paralyze me.

Then one day (today actually!) I came back to that blank page, and a few thoughts entered my head (maybe it was the quiet Friday afternoon in my home office).

Who cares about all of those negative things? What gives me the right to decide for others what they will read, what they will value and what they would be interested in? I don’t have that right. Its not up to me to make that judgment. My right, is to write! My obligation, to myself, is to think about the world, think about things, contemplate the reality of what is going on around and within me, and then, when you stop and think about it, offer a perspective that is really unique.

It’s MY perspective. It’s a perspective that has value, because of my skills, my experiences, and because of all of the collective qualities and characteristics that I bring to the table. Only I bring that collective to the table. Someone else would bring their collective, which includes their skills, experiences and qualities, which would make them unique, but not at all like me.

So I quit “thinking” (and internally whining) about all the reasons why I shouldn’t and what would happen if I did. And I just started typing, in this particular case, about this very topic.

My conclusion, even as I write these words, is that it is not as hard as I thought it would be (after all, I’ve written before, just not to such a potentially large audience), and also that it is much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Why? Because I am writing for the sheer joy of writing, and only to please myself. That fact, in and of itself removed all of the self-imposed pressure.

So, a few words of advice (yes, this is the self help part of today’s program) for those of you that are paralyzed and inhibiting yourself from doing something that deep down inside you really WANT to do.

1) Stop over-thinking it. Boil it down to the simplest of ideas and concepts, and just start. Cold water does not get any warmer as you stand in it knee deep. Dive in.

2) Don’t prejudge how it will be received and then have that paralyze you as well. It will be received however it will be received.Do your best and let it happen. You miss 100% of the shots you DON’T take.

3) Please yourself. Be happy with the output, the outcome, with the result. Produce it to the highest standard you can conceive of, for yourself. You are the best judge of you.

4) If it turns out it isn’t as well received as you may have desired, so be it. Learn from it, and remember that as with any other thing you have mastered in life, you get better as you go along. Early mistakes, can actually make you MUCH better down the line. Practice may not make you perfect, but it improves you a whole bunch.

That’s it. It’s as simple as that.

The Daunting Task of My First Linked In Publish is over! Thanks for reading. Tell me what you think? Was it obvious all along? Was this at all helpful?

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5 Steps to Finding Your Voice

‘I’ve got no voice. I don’t know how to write like me,’ ~ Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary

yourvoicespkr

For me, finding my voice, and learning how to write like “me”, was key to being able to blog, and to get important points across to an audience. Writing like “me”, means to be able to tell a story, to share your thoughts and ideas just as if you are having a face to face conversation with someone. All the while, you are keeping the “person” you are communicating with engaged and interested and connected to you.

So how do you find your voice? How do you write like you? Here are five ways I have found that continue to work for me.

1) Pay attention to the way you converse with people. This is your natural voice. Although you won’t exactly write the way you speak, the closer you can get to a natural conversation in your writing, the more natural it will come across to others.

2) Take your time, and focus your writing in themes and sub-themes. Then try and complete the main ideas in the themes, or sub-themes, in one sitting, if possible. For example, if your theme is your last vacation, then your sub-themes are the specific things you did during your vacation. So pretend you are sitting across from your friend at Starbucks, and in one sitting, tell your friend one of the things you did during your vacation. This helps you flow the story and keep it exciting and interesting.

3) Take frequent steps back, to look at your work, much like you would do if you were painting a wall (or a portrait!), or waxing your car, to make sure you haven’t missed any spots, and to ensure that the work accurately reflects things the way you want them to be. I use WordPress, and it has a Preview feature, so periodically, as I am going along, I preview what I have written. This helps me make sure it still sounds like “me”, that it flows, and represents the way I want my story to come across, and doesn’t sound like some other person has stepped into and taken over my writing.

4) Keep the fancy words and phrases out. Be careful with your sentences and paragraphs. Don’t let them run on, keep then relevant, short, and to the point. Write in a natural speaking tone and your listener (reader) will stick around and continue to pay attention.

5) Write about things you are passionate or feel strongly about. Stay away from “lukewarm” topics and only choose things you would feel comfortable AND excited talking to someone about.

Finding your true voice is one of the most important things you can do to engage people you want to write to. Once you find your voice, you will find yourself naturally writing like you and you will have an engaged audience!

I’d be really interested in knowing if these 5 ideas helped you to find your natural writing voice. Please let me know!

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What My Custom-Made Blue Suit Heard and Saw

I had a suit custom made about 13 years ago. “Bespoke” is the way the British say it. Business Blue. “IBM” blue.  I had 2 others made at the same time, beige and gray. But BLUE was THE suit. 2 pairs of pants to go with it. Suspender buttons sewn in. The jacket had a label on the inside left pocket, that read, “Expressly Made for Henry P. Fiallo”. It fit like a glove. It should have, after 3 fittings. The tailor picked out 3 ties to go with it, 2 blue, 1 red. I was all set. I had BLUE!

Detail of a suit and a tie

Blue – The Classic Suit

I had BLUE made because I had been appointed to take a subsidiary of a parent company public. I would be leading the company, calling on major customers, taking the company story on a 2 week IPO road show, pitching the company to financial analysts, hedge funds and investment bankers, and then, taking it public on the New York Stock Exchange. I did all that, and more.  I named the company, picked the stock symbol and logo, hired staff, and made a multitude of organizational, financial, product and marketing decisions. It was a whirlwind time in my life.

As it turns out, BLUE was with me (actually, on me) during four pivotal events in my life. I’d like to tell you about those four life changing events.

  1. BLUE was there on August 6, 2001 when I rang the opening bell on the first day of trading for our new company. What a day! BLUE and I were at the center of attention. I shook a lot of hands, took a lot of back slaps, performed (played the congas!)  outside the NYSE on stage with Felix Cavalieri and the New Rascals, and was interviewed by the likes of CNN and Bloomberg. I had arrived at the top of the business world, the pinnacle of a 25 year business career, a truly defining moment. And BLUE had been with me every step of the way.
  2. BLUE was there when I crashed and burned. Since going public, the company (my company) began to run into difficulties. Arguably, I performed inadequately as a CEO, and in fact, broke Federal laws in a futile effort to “make the numbers”. On September 15, 2004, after several gut wrenching weeks filled with SEC and Justice Department lawyers, and FBI agents, BLUE was on me when I plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud.
  3. On November 22, 2007, BLUE was there when Chief U.S. District Federal Judge Stephen J. McAuliffe sentenced me to serve 48 months in a Federal Prison. BLUE caught my wife’s tears as she sat next to me in the court room. We had the worst Thanksgiving holiday I can ever remember. I hung Blue up in the closet, since obviously, I was not going to need him for quite a while.  On January 4, 2008, at 2 PM, I voluntarily surrendered myself at the Federal Correctional Facility in Miami, Florida.
  4. Finally, I took BLUE out of the closet, and wore him on stage January 11, 2013, several years after leaving Federal prison, as I addressed 600 employees of an internationally recognized music technology company at their world-wide sales conference.

Blue heard me tell my story to that audience. A story of a meteoric rise from humble beginnings, to a devastating crash for someone who was raised and taught to know better than to take short cuts, and to play with the definition of right and wrong. I told that audience about the 10 mistakes leaders should avoid at all costs (read it here on Michael Hyatt‘s blog). I told the story of a lack of humility, and a failure to hold myself accountable. For the first time, while wearing Blue, I told a story of untruth, lack of integrity, irresponsibility, arrogance, and avoidance. And I shared with them the hard-learned lessons that I came to acquire after I had my freedom taken from me. That fourth time wearing Blue, was cathartic for me, and by far, the most rewarding speech I have ever given.

Blue is close to retirement age. He is somewhat shiny and well worn in many places. Will I replace him? Sure. Everyone needs a good blue suit. But when I do, rest assured that NEW Blue will not have to watch me experience the self-inflicted pain and agony that my last blue suit experienced. And as far as OLD Blue is concerned, he  will keep hanging in my closet, a constant reminder of what I did, and in the end, how I persevered.

What have been your proudest, most rewarding moments? And by contrast, what have you experienced that has left you devastated and broken? How did you recover, and in the end, how did you persevere? I’d love to know!

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7 Leadership Lessons from Iron Man

Leadership lessons are everywhere, if we would just open our eyes and ears. Sometimes they come from the most unlikely sources. While watching the film Iron Man with my family for the second time, I sat in amazement while the leadership lessons I had not noticed the first time, unfolded before my eyes. I share the 7 Leadership Lessons from Iron Man with you now.

Photo Credit: http://www.icanbecreative.com

1) Learn from Your Mistakes – Leaders will make mistakes, but they learn something from every one. Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Tony Stark, is a genius, but he makes mistakes, as we all do. When he is captured by a terrorist group he is shocked into analyzing his predicament, and begins to learn from the mistakes he has made throughout his life. The lesson for us is that we will make mistakes throughout our life, especially as we strive and stretch a little further than we can reach. It allows us to grow, but we become more prone to make mistakes once in a while. When leaders make mistakes, they analyze what they did, learn from it, and move on.

2) Develop Your Sense of Social Responsibility – Tony Stark thought he had a sense of social responsibility. His rationale was that his company had to produce weapons so that the “bad guys” could be kept at bay. The ordeal he went through caused him to realize that this false sense of social responsibility was a result of  justifying an illogical position. When he saw that the weapons he produced were falling into the wrong hands, he finally came to his senses and to the unpopular decision to stop producing weapons, a true social responsibility. Good and thoughtful leaders develop a solid sense of social responsibility as they realize that they and the organizations they lead, are part of a much larger whole.

3) Don’t Allow People to Filter what You Need to Hearif you allow it, some people will try to filter what you should hear. Tony Stark was “filtered” by his supposed right hand man, Obadiah Stane, who did not have Stark’s best interests at heart. A good leader plugs into the organization at various levels to make sure that they get unfiltered communication and feedback. In this manner, they are in tune with what is really going on, and they make better decisions.

4) Don’t Engage in Spin Doctoring – Obadiah Stane was a spin doctor. When Tony Stark announced that he was shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of his company, Stane jumped to the podium and declared to the press, “What we should take away from this is that Tony’s back! And he’s healthier than ever. We’re going to have a little internal discussion and we’ll get back to you with the follow-up”. This is classic spin doctoring (I know because I am not proud to say that I did it a lot in my past).  Rather than tell the truth, and face the facts, Obadiah “spun” an answer. Good leaders don’t spin. Instead, they face the music, tell the truth, pull no punches and meet the issues head on.

5) Let Down Your Facade and Really Communicate - one of the most difficult things I had to learn as a leader, was to get off my high horse, come back down to earth, and communicate. Big words, sophisticated phrasing, complex concepts, and boring analogies and cliches just don´t come across as straightforward and honest. When Tony Stark sat down on the floor at the press conference and just plain talked to people, he was able to communicate his true beliefs and feelings, and to come across credibly. That is what great leaders do, strip away all of the fancy stuff, and just, plain, talk.

6) Develop and Follow Your Noble Cause - you can´t lead unless people are willing to follow. But how do you get people to follow you? Dave Logan, of Tribal Leadership fame tells us that it´s a noble cause that attracts people to a leader, and keeps them engaged and involved. Tony Stark´s first cause, supplying the war machine with weapons, isn´t very noble. But when he develops and talks about his real noble cause, those that have been profiting from the first cause run for the hills, and the true admirers line up solidly behind him. Good leaders have integrity and great skills, as Chris Widener tells us, but great leaders also develop and communicate a noble cause that they follow, and that is what draws followers to them.

7) Never Give Up on What You Believe In - in The Crisis, Thomas Paine described how the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot would “shrink from the service of their country” when the going got tough. It´s only the resilient souls who would stand against the hard blowing winds for what they believe in. Even though he is ultra rich, and has it all and could easily walk away from the fight, Tony Stark doesn’t give in, and doesn’t give up.  Great leaders work through the tough times and stand up for what they believe in, even when it is unpopular. They never give up.

When I took a closer look at Iron Man, I saw these leadership lessons I had missed before. It has reminded me to keep my eyes and ears open, because one never knows where a leadership lesson may be lurking.

What about you? What leadership lessons have you encountered in some unlikely mediums? Share them with us!

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