Welcome! The Good Question is the communication link for Vince Corsaro and a cadre of leadership resource people committed to stimulating personal and professional growth. We support business, education, and social sector leaders who share a common desire for authentic relationships, vibrant community, and stellar results. If you don't find what you're looking for, drop a note to help@theprincipalsforum.org.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

What Do You Make That Mean?

And then he said, "I've given into the notion that I am going to drink on New Years."

"Okay," I said. "You've talked about your commitments to limit alcohol. So, what do you make that mean? The drinking on New Years."

"Well, it means I won't have to let everyone know that I struggle with drinking."

"Not buying it."

"What?"

"I'm not buying it. I don't think this is about you not wanting people to know you struggle with drinking. What are you really making it mean?"

"Hmm. Well, it's my job to make sure everyone has a good time. So, in a sense it means I'm doing my job."

"What do you think of people that don't do their job?"

"Losers."

"Ah. So you're a loser if you don't drink on New Years. It sounds like that's what you make it mean. It also sounds like you believe no one will have a good time if you're not drinking. Is that a responsibility you want to take on?"

"Hmm. And, no. Thanks."

"My pleasure. What's your plan?"

"To take responsibilty for me on New Years, and not everyone else. I may drink, but it will be because I want to. And, only because I want to and choose to. I will weigh that choice against my other commitments."

Cool. Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Notice Your Tears

What is it about tears that freaks us out? Who wrote the rule that says... "apologize if tears show up."?

It seems to me that tears are the best indicator of life. They mean that your heart and your head are connected on the same body!

"What do your tears mean?" is a great question when someone is in their emotional aliveness. It is surprising how often we don't know until we stop to take a breath and reflect for a minute... Am I sad? Joyful? Angry? Fearful? It could be anything!

I look forward to the day when tears are a natural and welcomed part of our lives... business and personal! To me, it will mean that we have embraced the notion that emotions simply are... and are not to be avoided. Allowing the gentle flow of tears moves us closer to being able to talk about our emotions as opposed to being driven by them.

Onward!

V

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where are you right now?

“If you ask people to imagine winning the lottery,” Dr. Gilbert says, “they typically talk about the things they would do — ‘I’d go to Italy, I’d buy a boat, I’d lay on the beach’ — and they rarely mention the things they would think. But the data suggest that the location of the body is much less important than the location of the mind, and that the former has surprisingly little influence on the latter. The heart goes where the head takes it, and neither cares much about the whereabouts of the feet.”

So, where are you right now? Or better said, "Where are your thoughts right now?"

The study that produced the above quote found that those people who focused their minds on what they were doing in the moment were happier than those whose minds wandered. And, we live at a time where we have been acculturated to mind wandering... to your phone, laptop, TV screen, to the unfinished conversation or the difficult conversation that hasn't occurred yet.

I notice when I am mountain biking down a steep hill that it requires 100% of my concentration. Same with a challenging mogul run. And, there is nothing better in the world! For me, "rest" often has more to do with "giving my mind a rest" than "giving my body a rest". And, when I am in an activity that requires 100% concentration, regardless of the physical exertion, I come away feeling rested. And, happy.

So, where are your thoughts right now? What do you do that requires 100% presence?

Onward!

V

Click to read the full New York Times article.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"If Meg wants to do that, I'll be glad to do that."

In the week before the California Governor's election, a campaign typified by particularly bruising negative attacks, both candidates for governor were appearing together and asked if they would take down their negative ads.

Jerry Brown, the former governor who was ultimately elected said, "If Meg wants to do that, I'll be glad to do that."

And Meg said, "I will take down any ads that could be even remotely construed as a personal attack, but I don't think we can take down ads that talk about where Gov. Brown stands on the issues."

So, who gets the gold star for clear communication today?

Sadly, not re-elected Jerry. While Meg got booed for her remark, Jerry was lauded with praise. But what did he really say? Look carefully.

He said nothing!

He played a classic move of political non-speak. He could have said, "I want to take down the negative ads." Or better yet, "I will take down all negative ads. Meg, will you agree to that?" But he didn't say that. he said, "If Meg wants to..."

My desire is for leaders to speak their wants clearly, recognizing that we don't always get what we want. I want leaders to propose solutions. Alternatives. I want leaders to seek clean agreements.

And, sometimes I don't get what I want.

Onward!

V

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

MAN SAVED FROM HIMSELF

"A Metro-area area man was rescued this past fall from himself. Sources close to the incident said that a business executive was buried alive in his own past for decades. Astonshingly he didn't even recognize it until recently. A near crisis situation was avoided when an unidentified California man known only as "The Guy" assisted in providing a shovel that allowed the man to dig his way out. The executive is recovering nicely and expected to make a full recovery by finding his own life."
What would be the headline for your life today? What would the one paragraph summary have to say?

Onward!

V

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Road to Peace

Over the entryway of the Jerusalem YMCA is a quote of storied and uncertain origin, often referred to as "The Peace Saying"..."In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." The YMCA has served as a beacon of peace in this divided community for generations and earned a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for the role it has played. My sense is that one of the reasons for its success in this area has been the ability to discern the difference between essentials and non-essentials.

When I let go of my need to be right, or when I open myself up to the possibility of differing points of view, I create peace... peace with God, with myself, with others. I open myself up to the path of curiosity and wonder... "What are the essentials here?"

Onward!

V

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

DK Squared

I love the moment when I am confronted with something I didn't know I didn't know (DK Squared for short).

It happened today while sitting in on a design innovation workshop. Now, I consider myself a somewhat savvy development/design guy... I spend a fair amount of time with folks designing outcomes and strategies and all the rest. But, today I was confronted with a really cool perspective on prototyping and piloting. I've always lumped the two together, but today some new lights went off. I became aware of an area where I could embark on some new learning... In other words, I became aware enough to know something I don't know.

The really cool part when I discover that I am DK Squared is how it sets me off on a new journey of discovery. I'm motivated to new learning and can't wait to see what I can uncover.

When was the last time you were DK Squared? Where in your life is it possible that you are? Who in your life has permission to help you know?

Onward!

V

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Who am I in This Scene?

It's a great line in the climactic ending scene of 2009's "The Stepfather". Dylan Walsh's character has a nasty habit of changing identities to enter the lives of vulnerable unmarried women and then off them and their families when something goes awry. So, when Sela Ward's character begins to unravel his story and confronts him with his string of lies... he trips on his own "current name" and in an almost humorous way asks himself... "Who am I in this scene?"

And, I think the question applies to all of us!

Who am I in this scene? With these employees? With this partner? With my kids? In this relationship? Or, in this moment?

Am I the southern California surf dude? Am I the quiet and studious one? The outdoor guru? The reflective asker of good questions? The stern father? The compassionate friend? The kick-em-in-the butt leader?

Who knows!?! And, really... Who cares!?!

Well... I think it's important to recognize that we all fall into characters as a way of protecting ourselves from the "bad-thing-that-might-happen"... those personas that we adopted as kids, in school, away at college... they all become a cast of characters that are all riding on our bus. And sometimes, they are characters we don't necessarily like! And, sometimes those unruly characters jump into the driver's seat!

To me, the first step then is to recognize when the road is getting a little bumpy and I am moving into character. The sooner I can catch myself, take a breath... ask "Who am I in this scene?" and "What's really going on here?"... the sooner I can step into the mature posture of simply being me. Again.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do We Have an Agreement?

It may seem like a simple question... "Do we have an agreement?"... yet it is powerful . It promotes clarity. It defines desire. When answered, it means we're on the same page.

The simple task of setting a meeting time is fertile ground for unclear agreements. Is "We will meet at 10am" a clear agreement? Well, maybe. But, maybe not.

What does "meet at 10am" mean? Does it mean that's what time I get up from my desk and move toward the meeting space? Does it mean that's what time I arrive to fill up my coffee cup and get something to eat? Or does it mean that I'm in my seat, ready to work? Yep. Could be all of those. Not very clear.

Or, how about... "Will you be at the meeting on Friday?" where the response is "I'll try." In my world, the definition of "try" is often looking to get credit for something you have no intention of actually doing. So, "try" doesn't create an agreement.

"Do we have an agreement?" is binary. Response choices are "yes" or "no". If there isn't a clear "yes", we have work to do. Bring it on.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mirror or Map?

A couple years ago Tyler Gilbert went on a journey to visit 21 countries for his 21st birthday. In his published travel journal, he shares a profound thought...

"There are two kinds of travelers... those who look at maps, and those who look in mirrors. Those looking at maps are heading out. Those looking at mirrors are heading home."

Am I looking outward, to the adventure of action, to the unknown, to the possibility? Or, am I looking inward, at the change, the depth of purpose, the sense of personal awareness, of who I am?

It's the classic tension of "doing" and "being", isn't it? And, it's not a right or wrong question, but simply a recognition that we are both "human doings" and "human beings". Sometimes we are focused on the action at hand, the doing, and sometimes we are focused on who we are, the being.

Thanks Tyler.

Click here to check out his book on amazon.com

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's Budget Time

I must be getting old. Because when I was cutting my teeth as a frontline operator, part of my job was to produce a balanced operating budget and then perform to it. The CEO doled out the expectation of 'balanced' (and whatever that meant) and we the operators got to work figuring it out.

Today, I hear more and more from both CEO's and front line folks that the CFO is writing and balancing the budget. Hmm. How'd that happen?

I don't know. But I'm here to get out my soapbox and stand on it.

The CFO's job is to report what has happened. And, to forecast what will happen if the present course is kept or the proposed course of action is taken. That's it.

The writing of a budget is a financial expression of a plan. The responsibility for the plan is between the CEO and the people responsible for generating the resources to execute the plan. And, that's not the CFO. If it is in your organization, than your CFO is really the COO and has lost the objectivity required of a good CFO function. I'd like to see the CFO take a vacation for the two weeks that a balanced operating plan is being developed.

Okay. I feel better. Now, all you CEO's and Frontline Operators... go write your own plans and budgets!

Good questions here...
  • "Whose job is it and why?"
  • "Whose decision is it?"
  • "What principles will guide our decision?"
Onward!

V

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How is that working for you?

Rejection. Yuck. Picked last for the team, or not picked at all. Friends that have faded away as fascades melt and real-life unfolds. Voted off the island during a corporate re-structure.

Often , it is the fear of rejection that blocks me from revealing the truth of what is going on inside. It's an old tape... "If you share the truth, you will be rejected and hurt."

So, the other night I was having dinner with an out-of-town friend and shared some of what was going on in my life. He asked... "So, how is that working for you in your work?" To which I responded... "It hasn't affected it at all."

"Really?" he asked. "I would have thought your work might have gotten better. Stronger. Deeper."

And I smiled.

"You went to rejection didn't you? You thought what I asked was 'Have you been rejected?' in your work."

He was right. I went to focusing on the bad thing that might have happened, instead of the good things that have happened. Because, in truth, these last few months have produced better, stronger, and deeper work for me.

It's a familiar struggle... will I focus on the bad thing that might happen if I step out, speak my truth, expose a vulnerability... or will I focus on the good thing. Fear or appreciation.

I choose appreciation. And you?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Saying the Darndest Things

Art Linkletter passed away today. Anyone over 50 might remember his 1960's TV "House Party". Bill Cosby did a version of the show in the 90's. Art was a great question asker.


And, I was one of those kids on the show. I remember loading up in a car with some other kids from my preschool and heading to the CBS studios in LA where we would be filmed. I also remember sitting on the toilet while some production assistant frantically coaxed me to get going. And I remember the little girl next to me getting out of her seat to come over and kiss me on the cheek while on camera. Perhaps she was going to marry me. I don't remember. I do remember having no idea how to answer the inevitable "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question. "Fireman" was my best answer.


So, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Ha! Now, that's a great question.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First to Fall

A while back I was having a conversation with a young man attending a conference with his dad. Over the course of the two or three days, I noticed a certain discomfort or awkwardness between the two.

I began to craft the story that both the father and son were waiting for something to happen in their relationship. Perhaps they were waiting for the other to do something, to take some sort of step forward toward the other. It was like I was watching this unspoken game of “who will be the first to fall?” being played out.

“First to fall?” You know, the first to go vulnerable. To speak their truth. To state a desire in the relationship. Without a stated desire on the table it was just a game of wait and see. Of looking to the other person to take responsibility for the relationship.

“What would it look like for you to take 100% responsibility for your part in this relationship? “ I asked him.

“Well, I’d have to get clear on what I want first. Then I suppose I could take responsibility for that.”

Huh.

It seems to me that there is 200% responsibility in every relationship. I own 100% responsibility for my part and you own 100% responsibility for your part. I can’t own your part and I can’t control you… all I can do is own 100% of my part in the relationship.

When I look to someone else to define or create the relationship I desire, I give up the power to own and define my own life. Better to get clear and ask for what I want… recognizing that I don’t always get what I want. And, sometimes, I do.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nine Friends

"Sometimes you don't know you're thirsty until you find water," he said.

"Tell me more," I replied.

"Well, our forum has been together for eight years. We've run the course of business issues and for the last year it's been kind of flat. I know there are issues in our lives that we're not addressing... sense of purpose, empty nesting, aging parents, a couple kids falling off the rails... we've wanted to go there, but haven't known how."

"So, What do you want to have happen?"

"Well, your book opened up a path and provides a toolkit for getting us to a new level of interaction. It's about coming together as whole people... not just business leaders."

"Hmm. Is that what you want?"

"Ha! Sometimes you do get what you want! And, it's a little uncomfortable. And, it's what we want."

Cool.


"Nine Friends: Maximizing Your Forum" is now available through my website http://www.vincecorsaro.com/ or at http://www.lulu.com/ and will soon be available from any major book retailer. Pretty cool.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mountain Driving

We were driving down from Mount Baldy a million years ago in a snow storm. The road was white and we didn't have chains on. My buddy had forgotten gloves and we were both miserable. My car was front wheel drive and I was starting to slide and he said... "keep power in the wheels and look toward where you want to go... because, if you look toward where you don't want to go, you will go there."

Where am I looking today? Which way are you looking?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Old Meets New

In 1970 my family stayed at the brand new Sierra Nevada Inn in Mammoth Lakes California. Our next door neighbors were part of an original investor pool and I think we stayed for free. In the 80's I stayed as a newlywed. In the 90's I stayed with my kids. And I'm staying here tonite for the second time in a month while grabbing a couple days skiing. So, what's the question?

Well, the old Inn has now become the "Sierra Nevada Lodge". It's going through a re-birth. A family in LA decided to pour a bit of themselves into the place and they've done a great job of creating an "old meets new" vibe.

And, I'm a developer at heart. I look at things as they are and can't help but envision what they could be. My wiring just screams... "what's the current condition?" and "what's the desired condition?" And then, "What are the action steps to get there?"

With the Inn I can see evidence that all kinds of good marketing questions have been asked and answered...
  • Who is our target market?
  • What is important to them?
  • What are we attracting them from?
  • What is our unique value proposition?

But I can also see how a team of people have come together to climb a big mountain. This place was tired. And they've poured themselves into it. I've talked with their sales staff, the front desk staff, the housekeeping staff and to a person they own this place. They may be employees to the outside observer, but inside, they are owners. Kudos to all the new owners.

Sometimes it may seem easier to tear it all down and start over. Wouldn't we all like to do that with our lives sometimes? Harder to re-define, re-purpose and re-create ourselves into who we want to be.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Scenic Route


"For fast acting relief, try slowing down." Lily Tomlin

In 1964 my 32-year old mom loaded up her five kids into the Oldsmobile Station Wagon and drove Route 66 from Los Angeles to her Aunt Irene's in Springfield, Illinois. I was five and only remember a few moments which have become ingrained in the family story... leaving my older brother behind at a gas station ("Really Mom, Rick isn't here!"), trying to pay for a motel with an out-of-state check ("Lady, here's a stack of out of state checks returned by the bank. We accept cash."), and celebrating another brother's birthday with a candle on a glazed donut.

There is a current relevance to my musing. A friend just drove my car from LA to Chicago on Route 66 and I will be driving it home in a couple weeks. His purpose in making the trip was to get off the superhighway... both actually and metaphorically... and slow down a bit, take in the sights, breathe the desert air, and perhaps find a part of himself in the process.

I don't have quite the esoteric motivation. I just like a good road trip... but it's worth the question... "What is it I want to have happen?"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How Does It Serve Me?

A few years ago I was surfing at an unfamiliar break- Pacific Beach in San Diego- and while paddling into a wave became concerned that it was too big and that I didn’t have the capability to ride it well. By the time I made the decision to pull back I was too far in and ended up getting “sucked over the falls” and slammed on to the shallow sandy bottom. I knew immediately that things weren’t right and managed to get myself out of the water. I was stunned and disoriented but not enough to warrant medical attention on the spot.

The funny thing is that I would have likely gone uninjured if I had stayed the course and gone with it. Note to self: sometimes the risk or downside of pulling back is more then the downside of riding it out. But in the end, I had two compression fractures and my back has never been the same.

I've been to physical therapy and chiropractic. I've had folks suggest glucosomene and other pills. I do exercises and stretches. I hydrate well. But if stress is going to show up in my body, it goes straight to my back. And it's a pain.

Sometimes I wonder... how does this pain serve me? Because if it didn't serve me somehow, I would have likely dealt with it more effectively over the years. Is it possible that the pain in my back is some sort of reminder, a caution, a penance for some guilt perhaps? I don't know. I wonder if the path toward wellness is to let go of my hold on the pain. Let go of whatever it is that the pain represents. This could get a little woo-woo... but perhaps I haven't learned the lesson that the pain has for me.

No solid answer tonite. Just the question... how does holdng on to this thing... this un-changing pain in my life... serve me?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Coopetition?


Is it possible to be in an authentic relationship with a competitor? What are the risks? What are the rewards?

There are examples aplenty of trade groups and professional associations where folks that compete in the marketplace band together for the benefit of all... but these do not have authenticity as the target. My experience in these groups is a high degree of protection over our dirty laundry.

So, I'm listening to a friend talk about his group of CEO's that are all in the same business, they are similarly sized, and they have some level of "geographic boundary" but are still competing for the same customer. And, they've formed a group with the stated desire of "coopetition"... that is, to compete cooperatively. They have agreed upon norms around expected behaviors. Confidentiality is key. Not raiding each others' employees is part of their agreement. They are openly sharing business and life issues and there is a synergy occuring between their various strengths and skills. It seems to be working for the benefit of all in that there is tremendous growth occuring in their respective businesses.

It made me curious. Am I just living in an old paradigm by thinking this is unusual? What do you think? How does this kind of competitive-cooperative thinking show up in your world?

Be well,

V

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is the Best Question?

And then he offered, "The value people like you bring to our table is not only asking good questions, but helping us ask the right questions. And, I've noticed that the questions I want to ask as CEO of a big organization are quite different then the questions I asked as I was moving up through the ranks. And sometimes, I forget that and fall into old scripts."

Give me an example, I asked.

"Well, when I check in with a tactical question... "is the report completed?" for example, I get a tactical response- yes or no. Not very high value. If I ask a strategic question... "how will this report move us toward our desired outcomes?" I get a higher level response. And the home run is when I ask a generative question... "what's the story we're making up about the data in this report?" That's when I get the best from my people."

So, what's the best question for you to be asking today?

Onward!

V

Friday, February 19, 2010

What's the Good Thing That Might Happen?

When I notice fear or resistance toward doing something or facing a difficult situation it is easy to go to the question... "What's the bad thing that might happen?" to get to the root of the fear.

The follow up question that I often forget to ask though is... "What's the good thing that might happen?"

It's the classic tension between fear and love... fear of the bad thing against the possibility of experiencing the joyful love in the good thing. We set our lives up to avoid the bad but then never get the good.

The fun part comes when we are willing to take the risk of the bad thing happening in order to pursue the good thing... and notice that the fear of the bad thing was all in our head anyway.

Go figure.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What do you Want?

"I want to be more fit!"
"I want to eat less!"
"I want more time for fun!"


Getting clear on what I want is a big step toward getting it. But, figuring out what I want is sometimes not all that easy. Because if I knew what I wanted I probably would have already gotten it.

Wants describe a desired future. But often our wants are rooted in the past... and keep us anchored to the past. Let me explain...

When I state a want as a "more" or "less" I am anchoring myself to the past because the starting point being described is now. And by tomorrow, now is yesterday. Better to describe my want as a statement anchored to the point in the future where I have achieved it:

"My want is to be fit to pursue the activities I enjoy."
"My want is to eat well."


Sometimes a want can be stated as if it has already been accomplished, as in:

"I do something I enjoy every day."

These kinds of positively stated wants give direction to my life and provide a simple tool for evaluating every action. "My want is to eat well. How does the triple fudge brownie cake with ice cream on top align with that want?"

What do you want?