Little Things

Do Unusual Things

Do unusual things. Phillip Kane's blog.
Image credit: Jametlene Reskp |

Saturday, December 25, 2021 | The Merry Christmas Week

Today is Christmas. For years, this year, being no different, I have made a tradition of finding an unusual gift for each of my three children. They are never extravagant things – sometimes they make them laugh, other times they cause them to think, still other times they find them useful. Truth be told, I get more joy from finding then giving these trinkets each year than my children get even from opening them. But they remain a highlight of each Christmas morning. So much so that these little gifts are often the first to be opened each year. I can’t remember exactly when it started, but the why has always been pretty clear: I’ve wanted them to be things they remember, that cause them to think about Christmas and, of love, and the joy of giving.

This year, as I watched them open their gifts from father, it occurred to me that, for those of us who believe, the present we celebrate today, what St. Paul called an “indescribable gift,” was itself an unordinary gift from Our Father. That He would have given to us his only begotten son, as an infant, would have been, by any account, unusual. And to me, it’s what makes this day so special, and the joy we feel beyond words. For the more unusual the gift, the more it seems to mean to us.

And that’s the point for the week.

When things are expected, they are, well, expected. The value and memorability of things seem to be inversely proportional to the degree to which they’ve been counted on. It’s why random and genuine recognition means so much to people. Doubt it? Write someone a handwritten note of gratitude … I can assure you that in most cases, the recipient will still have it years later. Because people treasure that which they least expect.

Leaders who understand this make a lasting and unforgettable impact on those who follow them. They do so, because they never tire of surprising others, of lifting them up, and of doing things to show them that they are loved and cared for. And in so doing, they build trust by the armload, without which, no organization can succeed.

Doing the unexpected for others isn’t hard to do, but it requires a nearly incalculable personal investment – to be present in the lives of others, to understand them individually and personally, and to put their interests and needs before one’s own. Like that cold, December morning in Bethlehem 2,000 some-odd years ago, when the unthinkable occurred … when the light of the world came to dwell amongst us.

Do unusual things for others.

And win.

Peace on Earth.

For more about Phillip Kane, please click HERE.

To pre-order Phillip’s new book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, please follow this LINK.

Image credit: Jametlene Reskp |

General Leadership

Don’t Coast

Don't coast. Phillip Kane's blog.
Image credit: Finn IJspeert |

Friday, December 17, 2021

This week, Red Bull Racing driver, Max Verstappen, won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 2021 F1 World Drivers’ Championship … doing so on the race’s last lap and edging out rival, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by just over 2 seconds and 8 points respectively.

On lap one of the race, Hamilton used a run-off area to avoid a pass by Verstappen and, being permitted by race stewards to keep his position, kept his lead, then, and for nearly the entire balance of the race, stretching his advantage, at times, to more than 10 seconds over Verstappen. 

Article 15.3 e) of the 2021 Formula One Sporting Regulations states that:

15.3 The clerk of the course shall work in permanent consultation with the Race Director. The Race Director shall have overriding authority in the following matters and the clerk of the course may give orders in respect of them only with his express agreement:

e) The use of the safety car.

Remember that. It will become important later. 

With six laps remaining, driver Nicholas Latifi crashed in turn 14 causing a yellow flag and bringing out the safety car. 

Red Bull immediately brought Verstappen in for new, soft (most aggressive) tires. Hamilton stayed out. Toto Wolff, Mercedes Manager and part-owner of the team, had calculated that the race would either end under caution or that Verstappen would need to contend with the lapped cars between him and Hamilton, making a Red Bull challenge impossible. With just two laps to go, it looked as if Wolff was right and that Hamilton would coast to a win under yellow. 

But then, Race Control announced both that, the lapped cars would go through – putting Verstappen directly behind Hamilton – and that the safety car would leave the track, with one lap to go. 

Five turns into the final lap, Max Verstappen easily passed now Sir Lewis Hamilton going on to win. 

Now, any can debate the merits of Race Director, Michael Masi’s, decision to invoke 15.3e to make changes at the end of the race to ensure competition and that the race would end under green flag racing, just as many might debate the lap one call. There are Race Control decisions from the entire year, Silverstone maybe, that could be second-guessed. But to let one’s entire fate rest in the hands of others and meanwhile coast along while your competition is making moves to cut your throat, that’s a tremendously bad idea.

And that’s the point for the week.

Mercedes didn’t lose because of Michael Masi, no more than Red Bull won because of him. Mercedes lost because Toto Wolff made a decision to continue coasting along, leaving Hamilton out, when he could have brought him in for new, soft tires of his own. Instead, Red Bull, as they had done all day, all season, in fact, was the one to make the decisions and moves to put themselves in the best position to win should the opportunity present itself. And it did.

Those who coast along are headed for a fall. It is never a matter of if, but always a matter of when. The junk pile of history is littered with big, important names – those who believed that they were too big to fail, too mighty to be beaten, too far ahead to ever be caught. But caught they were, like Hamilton, eaten and moved on from.

Are you out there coasting? Just turning laps … Believing you have the best infrastructure? Thinking, maybe wrongly, that you have the best people? Believing that you have built such a lead over your rivals that you can never be caught? Ask Mary Barra of GM how that’s working out for them, or the U.S. tire makers. Those who coast lose. It’s a simple fact.

Conversely, those who best understand their surroundings and who are best prepared to capitalize on more potential outcomes will win more often.

They do so almost entirely because they employ brighter people – because these are the sort of places that bright people want to work and stay at. Places that move quickly, accept mistakes, encourage fun and celebrate victories instead of expecting them. 

I say almost, because I believe the biggest difference of all is that people who haven’t learned to coast still remember what losing feels like; and what motivates them is less a desire to never feel that way again themselves but moreover to never see those they care about go through it ever again.

So, the hunger that drives a preparedness to win is more about care than anything else. Doubt it? Just watch a better prepared team and a coaster when they lose; tell me which one hugs and consoles and which one throws their equipment.

It is really, like all else in life, a simple choice. To coast off into oblivion or to care enough to put yourself in a position to pass those who do. 

And win.

Afterword: After several disputes, appeals and vows to fight the result in court, Mercedes the race team, possibly under pressure from Mercedes AG (who realized, I think, that losing car sales as a result of already largely disliked Toto Wolff’s childish and meritless fit was a bad idea) dropped their case earlier this week and Max Verstappen was formally crowned the F1 WDC in Paris on Thursday.

For more about the author, please click HERE.

To pre-order Phillip’s new book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, please follow this LINK.


Respect Freely

Respect freely. Phillip Kane's blog.
Image: Alex Adelman/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News | License Paid

Saturday, December 11, 2021

This week, one of the few remaining members of the Greatest Generation and a giant of the United States Senate, Robert J. Dole, died at the age of 98. Dole served in World War 2 where he, having been hit by enemy fire while carrying a fellow soldier to safety, was wounded, subsequently losing most of the use of his right arm. Dole returned from military service and after a near-four year recovery, entered the public service that would mark the balance of his life: first as a public prosecutor, then a state representative, U.S. congressman and finally a U.S. Senator – a position he held for 27 years, resigning in 1995 to run for President against Bill Clinton in 1996. In 2018, Dole became only the eighth United States Senator to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress.

But apart from everything accomplished by Bob Dole during his more than 50-year public career, I will always remember him for two incredible demonstrations of respect he displayed: first at the funeral of fellow Senator and veteran Daniel Inouye, then at the memorial service for President George H.W. Bush. On both occasions, the by then wheelchair-bound Dole, struggled to his feet to properly salute his fallen brothers – doing so at great physical cost and strain. In those moments, like many less pronounced in his life, Bob Dole taught me by his own example that respect is a thing freely given, with little expectation for anything in return, and a thing that says far more about the giver than the receiver.

And that’s the point(s) for the week.

Bob Dole could almost always be counted on to show respect, because he somehow seemed to reject the oft-quoted notion that respect is something to be earned. For Bob Dole, respect was, as it should be, freely given.

Respect is not the same as admiration or awe. It’s certainly not acceptance; showing respect for someone does not require agreement with who one is, or the things they believe in. Nor is respect about reverence. Respect, in its simplest terms, is a showing of simple kindness, and a regard for the basic dignity of another human being.

Respect is not something that should be bartered, bought, earned or demanded. It’s not right to say that I will respect you only when you respect me or when you deserve it. Respect cannot be beaten out of another human being or somehow purchased. The best in life that we can hope for is to give respect freely, in the hope that it is likewise returned. But the absence of reciprocation is never an excuse to withdraw the gift of respect ourselves.

Those who freely respect others attract more followers and win more often. They do so because they engender trust from those they lead. They create helpful, supportive environments where people feel free to be themselves and to offer new ideas. Their workplaces are marred by less conflict, stress and politics. But above all, they teach others, by their own actions that it’s OK to go first, to be like Bob … to offer respect unreservedly, and without expectation of anything in return.

So, respect freely.

And win.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE.

To pre-order Phillip’s new book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, Alresford, UK, please follow this LINK.


Build a Self-Eject Mechanism

Build a Self-Eject Mechanism. Phillip Kane’s blog.
Patel Anoshin |

Friday, December 3, 2021

The week before last, during the maiden operational deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first in the latest class of Great Britain’s new carrier group and the Fleet Flagship of the Royal Navy, one of its F-35B Lightning aircraft crashed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Prior to the wreck, the pilot was able to safely eject from the plane. So despite the loss of the equipment, there was no human casualty. The ejection system functioned exactly as it was designed to. It’s why they exist; so that once the occupant determines a situation to be terminal, they are able to self-select out of it. The most successful businesses have similar mechanisms in place. 

And that’s the point for the week. 

While almost none of us is likely to ever encounter the need to eject from a compromised airplane as it hurtles toward the earth below, most of us can relate to the want or need to exit an unhealthy situation. At a minimum, we all either know someone or have watched someone struggle in a work situation that is clearly not for them. There are few things worse than a lack of cultural fit between an associate and their place of employment. Where this lack of alignment exists, the impact can be severe – on the associate’s own mental health and home life, their relationships with co-workers and, principally, on the performance of the organization. Allowed to continue, these situations are absolutely destructive. 

Good organizations take steps promptly and actively to eliminate cultural mis-fits. Great organizations – 

those  with exceedingly positive and durable cultures –  develop strong self-eject mechanisms which exist to encourage those who don’t want to fit in to depart on their own.

Those who leave do so because they conclude that what they value and what makes them happy (which is typically to make other people miserable) is not going to be found or tolerated there. 

This happens because negative behavior that runs counter to the culture results in organ rejection, no invites to play in reindeer games, and ostracism from the herd. Performance ratings, promotionS and merit pay are heavily dependent on cultural affiliation. Those who demonstrate the values of the organization are routinely and visibly recognized while those who do not are ignored. No one wants to be where they are not welcome or where their advancement and income are constrained. Sooner than later, they leave, in search of more accepting surroundings. 

True, caring leaders do not fret these departures but celebrate them while publicly recognizing the system for working. 

Teams with strong self-eject mechanisms are significantly more successful than those who don’t. They are because they spend less of their own time effecting distracting HR actions and more time on what actually moves the business forward – including, and most importantly, the people who demonstrate by their actions that they truly want to be there. 

So, develop a strong self-eject function. 

And win. 

To learn more about the author please click HERE.

To pre-order the author’s new book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, please follow this LINK.