Be Consistent

Be consistent. Phillip Kane's blog
An original meme by author, Phillip Kane

February 26, 2021

Last week marked the one-month anniversary of the new administration in Washington. For me, the most entertaining part of a change in the White House from one party to another, Democrat to Republican or as we’re being treated to now, Republican to Democrat, is to watch how quickly people change their positions on matters that propelled them into office. It’s not just this new president. They all do it. What may have changed, in this more polarized climate, is the willingness of many to overlook it.  But still for a great deal of Americans consistency still matters. What one says and what one actually does should be the same.

And that’s the point for the week.

One of the most valued traits in a leader is consistency. People expect that what a leader does or says today will match up with what they do or say tomorrow. This isn’t a lot to ask for. It’s generally considered a matter of personal integrity, on a par with keeping one’s word. People consider it a binary trait in their leaders – that is, either they have it or they don’t. Either they are consistent, or they aren’t. Either they have integrity, or they don’t.

With consistency comes trust, the foundational prerequisite to any healthy leader-follower relationship. Without trust, there can be no assurance of any productive future interaction between two people. Period.

So, why then do these people behave this way? They do so for the same reason so many politicians exist within American corporations today. Because these holdovers from the last century mistake approval of policy for approval of them personally.  They confuse like for what they say with charisma. What they fail to grasp is that people have memories. That they have an ability to recall what was said before. And that they certainly can keep track of whether promises made become promises kept.

Telling people what they want to hear does not constitute charisma, no more than making grand promises does. Charisma is neither defined by one’s smile nor their stature nor their appearance. Charisma is, though, defined by the degree to which one can be relied upon to do what they say they are going to do. Charisma is likewise earned by behaving consistently, regardless of the personal costs involved.

When leaders act with consistency, they tell others without saying a word that they can be relied upon. They provide assurance against surprises, drama and other distractions that result from erratic out of left field behavior. They enable greater and more predictable successes. Best of all, the organizations led by these people attract better talent, better customers, better suppliers and better investors – because winners associate with winners, leaving the inconsistent promise breakers to their own unpredictable devices.

So, build your reputation on consistency.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE

General Leadership Process

Talk About It Afterwards

True leaders talk about it afterwards.

February 24, 2021

Having a nearly adult son is a blast. It’s an opportunity to watch him make all the same mistakes I made but with absolutely none of the personal implications. Plus, I get to say things to him my dad said to me, which he finds every bit as annoying as I did, which is just an added bonus.

But most of the time, like in each episode of the Flintstones, there are hidden life lessons to be found as well. Take his latest brush with “the law.”

Last Sunday, Will was supposed to attend Mass with his girlfriend. Of course, like many 17 year old boys, Will made a purely unconscious decision to sleep through Mass. Later that morning, his girlfriend of two years, Madie, arrived, steamed and out for blood. Predictably, she wanted to talk about what happened. She wanted to be sure that it didn’t occur again. Just as predictably, Will did not want to talk about it.

All I could do was sit there and smile. Having been on the business end of many, “Let’s talk about it” conversations, I knew better than to “help.”

It did occur to me though, that I was watching a sort of After Action Review unfold – one with exactly the same objective as those that go on each day in the business world.

What Madie was attempting to ensure was that the next time there was a mission to St. Hilary, that it went better than this one. After Action Reviews are intended to do just that. We should learn from the last exercise so that future endeavors go off even better.

And that’s the point for the week.

Whether After Action Reviews were the invention of the US Army or angry girlfriends, they work. They are intended to distill all we know about a just concluded exercise into learnings we can use to make future runs even better.  They teach us what we should stop doing (e.g. sleeping in), start doing (waking up when the alarm goes off) and continue doing (having constructive AARs).

For AARs to work, they must be candid, transparent and, like Will’s and Madie’s, happen as close as possible to the conclusion of the just held event. They should include as many involved parties as possible, including customers, vendors and other aligned parties whenever appropriate. And they should be 100% free of recrimination; those in attendance must be free to say whatever is necessary about whomever is necessary to yield future improvements.

AARs can be conducted for any exercise – big or small. They are not reserved for major initiatives or undertakings. What’s more, in time, AARs for recurring projects can actually drive BARs, enabling us to conduct reviews BEFORE events, using information gleaned from prior AARs, helping to improve events that haven’t even happened yet.

Best of all, AARs help build trust, camaraderie and knowledge of interpersonal work habits which create stronger organizations and even better future operations.

So, the next time your kid sleeps through a date with his girlfriend, just keep in mind that the AAR that’s sure to follow is actually a good thing.

So, implement After Action Reviews.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE

Courage General Leadership

Confront Your Schoolyard Bullies

True, caring leaders believe you should confront your schoolyard bullies. Phillip Kane

Image credit: American Broadcasting Company

February 20, 2021

The ongoing quarantine lends itself perfectly to binge streaming of favorite family television shows. For us, one of them is Modern Family. 

In seemingly every episode of the hit series, one of the main characters does battle with a broken step. In many cases one trips, both going up and coming down. In others, he or she remembers the defective tread just in time to wildly contort his path around it. In still others, temporary repairs are made that never quite hold. 

Rather than fix the step, the show’s protagonist simply manages the situation – but only when he remembers to do it. On TV, this sort of thing is funny. We’d miss the broken step routine if it were corrected. But in real life, managing problems rather than fixing them isn’t the laugh riot it is in make-believe. 

When we manage a problem, it’s still a problem. 

And that’s the point for the week. 

None among us is immune to problems. We all have them – here, at home, and in our communities.

I learned, from a favorite leader of mine, to call these schoolyard bullies. Like the fictional step, it’s a fitting metaphor for issues we chronically avoid. Ongoing problems are like bullies. We have three basic choices in dealing with them. We can avoid them, say by taking another way to school. We can postpone our beating, by giving away our lunch money a little at a time. Or we can fix them, by confronting the issue head-on and putting an end to it. When we fix problems, they go away. 

 Trying to manage a problem doesn’t fix anything. It only hides it for a little while and only if we remember to manage it. Often, unattended issues get bigger. Folks get hurt – and not just physically. We waste time and money on the bad cost of temporary solutions. Worst of all, we send a message to others that fixing what’s broken is not important. 

The better way – the winning way – is found in fixing what’s broken, not walking around it, paying it off, or pretending it isn’t an issue. 

When we courageously deal with our broken steps – our schoolyard bullies – we’ll save time, money, and aggravation. We won’t have to keep track of what’s broken and isn’t because what’s broken gets fixed. We’ll better protect those we care about. We’ll let others know by our actions that fixing what’s broken matters, that they matter, and that there is nothing we can’t overcome – together. 

Don’t manage problems. Fix them. 

Confront your schoolyard bullies.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE

General Leadership Truth

Tell it Like it Happened

True, caring leaders tell it like it happened. Phillip Kane's blog

February 17, 2021

This week, my son, Will, who is 17, had an opportunity to give his accounting of an event in an honor code case at his high school.  At issue was the fact that Will’s report was starkly different than a teacher’s version of things.  It was an event his mother and I were familiar with as well. Instead of choosing the far easier path of affirming the teacher’s story, Will shared the truth, creating discomfort for himself.  In the end, the teacher revised his prior position.  This happened because Will simply told it like it happened.  While not always easy, popular, or expedient, telling the truth is never the wrong choice. 

And that’s the point for the week. 

Every day of our lives, we will be presented with the opportunity to choose between the truth and something else. It is those moments that separate true leaders from everyone else, from the posers, the want to bes, and those who buy their own “World’s Best Boss” merchandise. 

Some who trade in fiction like to dress up their dishonesty by providing cute names for their moral vapidity, calling what they do fibs, half-truths or white lies. Others justify their behavior by contending that they lied for some greater good. Still others contend that the truth is a competitive disadvantage; everyone lies they say, so why shouldn’t they?

The trouble with any of this sordid logic is that the truth is binary. Things are true or they aren’t. 

And often the truth is already known. So efforts to escape it or to make oneself look better by telling a falsehood merely serve to compound the original sin.  

The truth about the truth is this: people will follow people who make mistakes and who own up to them. In fact such displays of  honest vulnerability often make them more likely to do so. But people won’t willingly follow liars. They know that a man or woman who is dishonest in one situation will be dishonest in a thousand more. So, they stick it out with these liars for as long as they have to, bolting at the first good opportunity. 

But leaders who build relationships on a foundation of honesty build trust. When they tell things like they happened, they are almost always simply telling others what they already know. But in the process, they are cementing bonds with those people that are not easily broken and that can not only withstand any downturn or disruption but that moreover serve to propel organizations led by these people to heights once unheard of. Simply because they choose to tell the truth. Such that a rare commodity it is nowadays. 

So tell it like it happened. 

And win. 

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE


Go After the Rest of the Pie

True leaders go after the rest of the pie.
An original meme by author, Phillip Kane

February 12, 2021

Over the course of the last several weeks, the trade associations for a number of industries have been releasing final sales figures for 2020.  Some have been hyperbolic in their characterizations: “Tanked,” “Worst results since 1950s” and “Levels not seen since great recession.”  At the same time public corporations have been releasing their results for the same period.  It has been interesting to compare the results of companies in each sector to the overall results of the sectors themselves.  While the overall pie was smaller in almost every case, some participants clearly struggled more than others.  But it would follow.  See, how one thinks about adversity will generally determine how one fares through adversity.

And that’s the point for the week.

I have always contended that markets rarely go to zero.  As long as they don’t, there is plenty left to compete for.  A market down 20% still leaves 80% to be wrestled over.  Companies that go after the remaining 80% on their front foot will always fare better than those who immediately engage in massive cost cutting and retrenchment exercises.  It’s a simple matter of fact. It’s being borne out this earnings season.  While some of the cutters are exceeding estimates, they are lagging their competitors and, worse, are ill positioned to take advantage of the developing turnaround in the economy.  With many of them running their plants wide open now and still losing share, it’s only going to get worse.  Not only that, but one can imagine that morale in these organizations, which have been gutted of all but executive overhead, is approaching an all time low.

See, every shift in circumstance is an opportunity to renegotiate one’s position relative to the rest of the market; to get more of something beneficial for your customers, your associates, your shareholders, or all three.  Any market event will create disruption and a chance to reimagine one’s present circumstance.  Like anything else in life, it’s a choice.  A choice between taking share or giving it away.  A choice between investment or retrenchment.  A choice between pouncing or slinking away. A choice between harder, less-traveled roads or easy, unimaginative and gutless choices. A choice to go after the rest of the pie or to watch it go away.

Those who aggressively take charge of their own circumstance win more often.  They do so because they control the field of play.  They do so because their teams remain engaged and redouble their efforts to create successful outcomes.  They do so because trust manifests itself factorially across teams that resist the lazy temptation to cut heads.  And they do so, because the market gravitates to them, seeking an end to embarrassing ties to a losing cause in want of a new association with a winner.

Winners win because they choose to win.  And because they do, decisively, competently, and with focus and integrity, their organizations thrive – on trust, mutual respect, and a shared faith in the attainment of a better point B.

So, choose investment over retrenchment.  Go after the rest of the pie.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE


New Meme Page Added

New meme page added to All memes by author, Phillip Kane

A new meme page has been added to, under the menu, where we are publishing author, Phillip Kane’s memes. Each week, Phillip creates and posts several original memes on sites like Twitter, Instagram, FaceBook, and LinkedIn. These memes make simple but impactful leadership lessons using words and pictures. Sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, these memes always have a story to tell about a kinder, better way to lead and often give a glimpse into Phillip’s dry, quick wit. We are now including this content here to add to your total leadership experience. Enjoy.

You can follow Phillip on Twitter at ThePhillipKane, on Instagram at phillip_m_kane or on Facebook at PhillipMatthewKane.

If you like the blog, you’ll love the book! More than 85 of Phillip’s story backed lessons from his time in business have been assembled in one place for the first time along with clear lessons for leaders looking for an alternative to the toxic, narcissistic, and autocratic management style of the last decade which has, unfortunately remained far too prevalent today. If you believe, like Phillip, that there should be no reason to choose between winning and caring for others, you can purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, now. To do so, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE

General Leadership

Healthy Tension Isn’t Healthy

Healthy tension isn't healthy. Phillip Kane

February 4, 2021

I read an article this week about Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.  It was a bit of a retrospective on his first full year in office, the pandemic, and the abbreviated 2020 football season.  In the interview, Warren referred to “healthy tension” several times in regard to the outright conflict between he and the University of Nebraska football community.  Warren posits that passion is a primary contributor to healthy tension and is to be encouraged.  I wondered to myself if Warren had lived through the same situation that the rest of us had observed.  Warren and the Big 10 were on the receiving end of a lawsuit brought by 8 Nebraska players over his initial decision to cancel Big 10 football for the 2020 season.  In Warren’s mind, a lawsuit is the beneficial work product of passion-fueled healthy tension.  Call it tone deaf.  Or chalk it up to the fact that he’s convinced himself, like scores of HR and other business leaders have, that tension is actually a good thing.  The man was sued.  That’s not healthy.  Healthy tension is simply a term used by people who have given up trying to create truly healthy relationships in their organizations.

And that’s the point for the week.

There is no such thing as healthy tension.  It’s simply a way of saying, “our people have no ability to work together constructively.”  It’s an admission that bully culture is alive and well.  It’s code for hurt feelings are OK as long as the right people get their way.  Used in an interview, it tells candidates, prepare to go along and get along.

I once saw a diagram for this absurdity.  It featured three stick figures pulling ropes tied to an inverted pyramid which hovered over an impossibly small circle.  The circle was defined as “Healthy Tension.”  Apparently, the goal is for the team to accept any outcome as long as the point of the pyramid never leaves the boundary of the circle.  Never mind that the optimal solution might lie outside the circle.  That would be, well, unhealthy, I suppose.

I have an idea.  How about hiring leaders capable of encouraging grown adults to work together to achieve outcomes that are in the best interest of the whole?  What about no longer tolerating bullies?  How about building compensation and other incentives that motivate entire teams to chase a single outcome?  Why not make it clear to people that if you are not capable of working constructively with others, you can no longer work here?

To me, those simple ideas and others eliminate tension and encourage associates to optimize outcomes even when resource constraints and other tradeoffs are present.  It happens because every single associate shares a common vision, a common, goal, and a common understanding that when that goal is achieved, the lives of every person there will improve.

True, caring leaders don’t make excuses for dysfunction by inventing absurd names for it.  They don’t tolerate it in the first place.  It’s why the organizations they have the privilege to lead achieve heights that the “healthy tension” crowd never even dreamed of.

So, reject buzzwords for dysfunction.  Work together constructively.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE


Repeat Yourself

Repeat yourself - a leadership story. Phillip Kane's blog
Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

February 2, 2012

Today is Groundhog Day.  Groundhog Day always makes me think about Groundhog Day.  The movie.  You know, the one with Bill Murray.  The one where he’s in Punxsutawney, PA and living the idiom, waking up day after day in Punxsutawney at precisely 6:00 on February 2.  I love the movie, for a whole lot of reasons.  One of them applies to life in business.

As the film goes on, Murray’s character, Phil Connors, begins to anticipate certain events each day having repeated them already several times.  Scenes where Phil, aided by repetition, avoids a slush hole, calls a stranger by name, or orders Andie McDowell’s character her favorite drink adds to the humor of the movie for sure.  But without the aid of repetition, such a heightened level of preparedness would not be possible.

And that’s the point for the week. 

Repetition is particularly important in matters of communication.  See, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that by saying something once, we’re done.  Too often, we labor under the misapprehension that having hit the send button on an email or having mentioned something a single time, we are somehow indemnified against further follow-up or, worse, the likelihood of inaction.  We’re not. 

Traction in any circumstance is the result of repetition. The more we repeat ourselves, the more the message takes hold. As a result, the teams we lead – at work, at home, and in our communities – accomplish more. 

See, our goal is not simply to communicate. The real object of the game in sharing information is to influence the behavior or thought of others.  It’s why were we’re taught the same lessons again and again in school, or for some of us, asked to write something on a chalkboard 200 times. The more we are exposed to a message, the greater its impact on us and our forward action. 

Repetition yields adoption, confidence and alignment.  Then comes repetition of action.  It reinforces the permanence of your message, dispelling the notions that skeptics can outlast you or that what you’re trying to accomplish is just the flavor of the day. With repetition of communication and action, you’ll achieve a consistent trajectory and an ever-increasing rate of speed as those you lead urgently seek their place on your moving train, then add to the force that propels it. 

Best of all, by creating alignment around any issue, we incidentally create something that each individual on your team holds in common, cares about, and will fight for.  These shared interests catalyze intellectual and emotional bonds between human beings – connections that quite easily withstand bad days, down markets and the inevitable assaults from the cynics, the naysayers, and those who wish to see you fail. 

So, say it until you’re tired of hearing the sound of your own voice. Then say it again. And again. And again. Until others start saying it too, then begin acting on it, together, again and again and again – forming an ever-expanding chorus of disciples who talk incessantly about a better place and tirelessly lead others to reach it. 

Repeat yourself. 

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE