Sunday, February 18th, 2018

What I Love About My Work


I had a good job and good work and II want to go on record about how much I loved my work and how good it was for me and to me. Large companies are so vilified now and everyone loves to hate corporate America when they talk to me as if I am a demented ambassador of all corporations on earth. What can I say? It may have been a Camelot moment but it lasted twenty-five years. And I’m thinking about emerging from retirement to help anyone who wants to lead well and create a company culture that is prosperous and healthy. It is not impossible. Although we do need some modern leaders.That too.

Anyway, here is what I loved about my work as an executive doing organizational and leadership development.

What Makes Work, Work

—I laughed a lot every day. Big belly laughs with colleagues about absolutely anything and everything—work, goofy retail stories, major mistakes and the foible of one another. Did I put laughter first? I did.

—I liked food retailing. It did not put on airs. It attracted extroverted, get it done people.The profit margin was tight. Deadlines were sacrosanct and people were—well, kind of jolly.

—I loved creating things that mattered and were high impact whether is was curriculum or a large international leadership retreat. I liked to add a little surprise and fun to all of it.

—I liked being challenged and introducing a new discipline to a company that had never heard of organizational development and called it “unproductive time” in its budgeting process.

—I liked the urgency and action of the culture. It may have had peak moments during acquisitions or new ventures but the “push” was always present

—I liked my teams. We did darn good, bold work together. Of course we gossiped about one another and had some rough relationships but we pulled it together to do very high level work together.

—I loved to sense an idea based on organizational need and make it real and highlighted and then to sell it and groom it and massage it into being something new whether it was same sex benefits or a leadership college.

—I loved strategy and business discussions and was glad to be a part of them. I enjoyed being part of big decisions about whether to sell a business or let a top executive go. It was interesting and nuanced and, in the end, highly intuitive.

—I loved seeing people placed in the right role and begin to flourish. I liked seeing potential and helping it grow. I loved raw talent to see what it could do.

—I liked intervening when needed to double check on fairness and legality of decisions and to make sure of a good safe place to work with immediate remedy when needed. I laugh (good thing) to think of the sexual harassment training that was done thirty years ago. Skits!! But the training got done and the message got out there long before it was legitimate in the world at large.

—I liked the leaders I worked with. The CEO’s I worked with were very different in their skill and talent. All had their flaws. Some were great. Some were not cut out for the role. I liked them all as people. How to put this? There were no —– jerks. I (You do know what I wanted to say, right?”

—I liked that my talent was seen even though my style might have been slightly maverick. I had new challenges and new direct reports and promotions that meant I did not get bored and did not feel overlooked. I might have been. Some people thought I was. Probably, my pay was a little off. But my pay and development were good enough to keep me and I did look around periodically.

—I liked being loyal to one company, to know its history and its major moments. I liked the goofy gear and enthusiasm. It was not dumb to be loyal at the time I was in the company and I want to see every company earn loyalty by being exceptional.

—I liked making work matter to people. It should. Love and work are primary motivators in a life. I liked creating policy and conditions that made work good. I liked solving problems and knocking down barriers that got in the way of every job being important.

—And oh I love the stories of all we did, all the hysterically funny mistakes, all the moments of grand achievement and all the personal stories of the ups and downs of life that we shared in the cafeteria and restrooms. I loved the community of my work.

I wish good work and good jobs  for people. It’s as simple as that.


Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Modern Leader Needs to Be——-


Modern leaders will be different. I worked with over twenty-five CEO’s in my role as EVP of The Delhaize Group, as a colleague and as a support for their development as leaders. I experienced many styles and strengths and blind spots of power as they led large companies. They evolved from the previous generation of leaders. They led differently, less command and control, more focus on talent development and more active engagement of associates with the business. So naturally, I now think about the next generation of leaders and what they will need to be.

MODERN LEADERS  will need to be :

—CLEAR—This means the ability to create a very sharp edge to the business strategy, knowing the market and cutting away all that does not contribute to serving a very knowledgeable consumer. AND it means clarity about the values the company uses to guide action and comfort with disclosing how decisions are made.

—CONNECTING—The modern leader is the ultimate connector aligning associates with goals and profit, combining the right people on teams and projects, relating to the outside world, and communicating authentically with individuals. The modern leader designs the internet within the business that makes the business work.

—COLLABORATIVE—The modern leader needs to know how to create and encourage collaboration. There will be more and more groups, projects, partnerships that will form and unform. There will be a blurred line between in and out of the company. Knowing how to keep collaboration productive and focused while maintaining the value of working together is a very modern skill.

—CAPABLE—Modern leaders need to prove their worth. There have been too many top leaders whose people didn’t think they knew how to do the job. The new leaders will have to demonstrate their ability, fitness and qualities to do the job. Followers need to know their effort is given to someone who is capable. Do not underestimate the power of a leader who shows she or her are capable.

—CONTROL LITE—The demand for clarity with allow for a form of control that is less burdensome and awkward for associates. New generation associates won’t stand for it. Sharp clarity on goals and freedom to find a way to achieve them will be needed. Learning how to maintain touch with the work of the company without punitive power will be essential

—CONFLICT COMFORTABLE—With demand high, the environment changing, and work being more collaborative with teams connecting and disconnecting, there will be more overt conflict. Get people used to the idea, trained in working well while there are conflicts and realizing that this kind of conflict is not going away.

—CASUAL and COMPANIONABLE—Working in an informal, comfortable environment makes the high demand world we work in more tolerable. It does not mean sloppy or crude or out of control. It does not mean never spiffing up for the right occasion. It means keeping foolish rules out of the way of getting work done and allowing for some fun and restoration of energy.

—CULTURALLY ADEPT—Modern leaders will have to understand and work with and encourage every kind of difference with no bias. That means everything from race to creative types to different functions to different countries to the quirk of their own team to religion to hair style. Modern leaders need every bit of talent they can get their hands on. It is the talent that needs to be seen and used not differences.

—CREATIIVE—Modern leaders are re-designing work and what constitutes a workplace and an employee. Imagination and original ideas are needed. They have to nourish and encourage ideas. This takes giving leeway and allowing more ease in the system. The modern leader needs to be creative or be very patient with those who are.

—COMMANDING—Given the chaotic speedy environment combined with more flexibility and necessary collaboration, and high anxiety in the workplace, the modern leader needs to have the ability to carry authority in many ways other than command and control. It may be a needed voice of wisdom. It may be a demand for an accountability. It may be inspiration to galvanize the company, but the presence of the toleader needs to be strong and able to be modulated to the circumstance.

—CLEVER—The new generation in the workforce is clever. They respect “clever” and they want it in a leader. Clever means “quick to understand, learn, and devise or apply ideas”. I put this near the top of the list because this is a quality that supports, high demand, constant change, new ways of working and serving the consumer. Clever matters.

—CONDUCTOR OF CHANGE—The metaphor I like for modern leaders is the orchestra conductor.There is a “score” that pulls together all the possible sounds into a unique creation that satisfies or transforms the audience. Modern leaders are the conductor of change, following strategy, combining differences and effort, modulating speed and intensity and leading the company to a grand finish—after which comes another performance.The completion of a piece of work or strategy and celebrating it, is not well understood in business. It is motivating, refreshing and helps to face the next performance.

—CONSTANT—The constancy of the modern leader will be an important element of keeping the company steady in confused seas. It will involve having guiding principles to steer the work even when the work itself may be changing. It means a steady hand on the rudder. It means constant guiding without abrupt turns. It means the modern leader must be exceedingly grounded in the core of the business, it’s model for prospering and the values that will sustain it’s health.

—CHARACTER PROOF—Associates have been disengaged and slightly depressed with low energy due to disillusionment with the character of their leaders. Being a leader of character simply means you have a good reputation in and out of the company. There is a moral awareness that guides work and a self awareness of personal impact.

—COURAGEOUS—Most top leaders want to be there. They have learned to live with pressure and being constantly observed and evaluated. They have learned how to make big big mistakes and survive them and move on.They have a tough hide. The courage modern leaders have to have is the guts to be vulnerable for moments of doing the right thing in the face of Wall Street demands, firing a close colleague when necessary, standing up to the Board in defense of a policy that don’t like or aren’t ready for, owning up to disappointing results and leaning into the foundation of character.

I wonder is this asking too much of the modern leader?

I think not.

But, just maybe the modern leader most needs to be–a woman.









Monday, February 5th, 2018

People Are Multi-Faceted: Don’t Let Tight Focus Kill New Possibility

People Are Multi-Faceted

I am too.

I am a former Executive Vice President for the Delhaize Group.
I loved my work and it’s not often that my background of Organizational Development gets recognized as a value adding function that sits at the top table of the company. So I’m proud of Delhaize for seeing the contribution and proud of my work.
Great. I say this to show I have some expertise and experience in business.

AND I have also written a book on prayer and my ambivalence about organized religion and the tendency for all religions to think they are ‘right’. The title is I PRAY ANYWAY: Devotions for the Ambivalent. I am well read in religions and theology. I read it for fun. And I pray my way, anyway,

I have not formally released the book but soon I will. It is available on Amazon and got a good review by Kirkus.  I have a website soon ready to go live. It will carry my three blogs and other fun writing. They have separate themes but one voice. Mine.

Must You Choose?

I am now coming to the point.
I have been told by many marketers (some excellent) that I can’t write on both topics. (Make that three topics and more to come.) I have to have clear market channels.I shouldn’t water down my authority. Keep the two separate. Well, I can’t. I won’t. I hate to be fenced in.

And I smile at this past week and my business meetings. I met with a man wanting to begin to do corporate OD and T work with companies. We met for 90 minutes. We talked business for 30. The rest of the time was spent on The Quran and how it is numerically constructed in a highly complex way that indicates its authentic. He is a submitted Muslim. We had a subset conversation about my interest in learning how to discuss when there is no wiggle room (no learning no listening) because all parties have absolute certitude.

I met with an HR executive and we did spend most of the time on the work I was going to do with his team but we also talked about heaven and hell. He had a goofy and brilliant and interesting theory that they both exist. It had to do with time and the experience of the brain.


I rest my case. People are multi-faceted. Connections are where new thought come through that can cause change and creativity and production and profit. Don’t make your marketing channel so strict that new ideas can’t get in, instead allow for some blurring to allow for the unexpected opportunity.


Sunday, January 28th, 2018

What Great CEOS Do Differently

I am working from Mexico as I do every Winter. Mail comes when it wants to. My husband and I had some mail that came after we left last year, so I wasn’t surprised to open the May-June 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review in January 2018. I was about to toss it into the pile of old magazines, when I saw the cover story –WHAT GREAT CEOS DO DIFFERENTLY.

I write this blog,, based only on my experience. I love research and academic thoughts on leadership, but was too busy as EVP of Organizational Development for the Delhaize Group to indulge in much pure study. For fun, I decided to write my own observations on what behaviors set the best leaders apart BEFORE reading The HBR article.

What Great CEOs do Differently

Here are the behaviors I chose about what great CEO’S do differently.

Great CEOS:

understand the industry they lead and the mega business cycle it operates in.

— are curious and driven as experiential learners especially about the business. They are willing to scan and explore and invest in pragmatic research and development.

— know when to make a decision and have good timing on making the call.

choose talent well for their team, not based on personal connection but on the contribution the person can make

value learning and teaching for everyone in the organization. They use every opportunity to teach about the strategy and the business whenever possible

— have multiple ways of staying in touch with the people of the company at all levels with both formal and informal levels

protect core values about fairness and safety in the organization through policy and decisions. They could do real time streaming about big decisions across the company and keep their integrity

— make people feel their presence and imprint so that associates can lean into their work with the sense that things are managed well and are heading in a good direction

— ring true at home, at work, in good times, and in crisis. The same person shows up.

— keep the company focused on the customer/consumer even during re-branding, strategy change, logistics realignment and whatever other big project that could consume the company

— are concerned about the company being a good place to work (compensation, policies, development) so all can prosper.

— keep a steady hand on the tiller no matter if the seas of the business are confused.

stay visible to all in the company as an inspiration, a galvanizer and someone to respect

— create a stable company culture that can produce steady results over time and are in the role long enough to do so


Here are the behaviors from the Harvard Business Review article written by Elena Lytkina Botelho, Kim Rosenkoetter Powell, Stephen Kincaid and Dina Wang. (See article for more depth)

The Four Behaviors That Set Great CEOS Apart are: (Envelope please)

—They are more decisive–earlier, faster, and with great conviction to make decisions

—They engage for impact—gathering all constituents to move together for results and take the time and effort to do this extensively.

—They adapt proactively when unpredictable events occur and they sense intuitively when new is coming because they stay connected to the world outside the company as well.

—They deliver reliably which involves realistic expectations, systems for execution and having the right team working under them

I grew up in Hannaford Bros Co, a food retailer, that was well run, decent and prospered. I spoke to Wall Street Analysts about my work in innovation such as self- managed teams. After my presentation, several analysts came up to talk to me to say, “Don’t let Hannaford Bros get too innovative. We love how dull and consistent they are every single quarter. Hannaford Bros tell us ‘this is what we are going to do’ and then they do it. That’s the formula we like.”

Compare my quick notes to the findings of the research. Most of my experience folds into the findings. Why? Because I worked with quite a few great CEOS and I observed them up close what they did—and didn’t. Lucky me and all else who worked for them.