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Successful Leaders Don’t Focus on All the Details

4 Sep

What if a leader’s job is to look at most things out of focus?Leaders Don't Focus on All the Details

Typically, we think leaders should have a strong vision, focus on that vision, and help others focus on that vision.

But what if a leader’s job is to keep most things slightly out of focus?

When we hear words like micromanagement, isn’t that an indication that the particular leader doing the micromanagement has gotten too focused on some particular details of the organization? This leader would better serve the organization by bringing a situation slightly more into focus but not making it crystal clear. She or he should keep most things at an arm’s length, slightly out of focus.

This does not mean that someone else in the organization shouldn’t be focused or even hyper-focused on any particular situation’s details. This is why you have many people serving in different roles in the organization. Everyone is paying attention to different details.

Key Differences between Successful and Unsuccessful Leaders

But leaders need to separate the details important to them from all the rest. Leaders need to become comfortable with letting others manage details in areas out of the leader’s focus.

I suspect this is a key difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders. Successful leaders focus on only the most important details and let others manage the rest. Successful leaders have mastered the art of being comfortable with viewing many parts of the organization slightly out of focus.

Management Philosophy: Things I Don’t Believe

6 Jun

My management philosophy?Management Philosophy- Things I DON't Believe
Here are some things I don’t believe:

I don’t believe in productivity, whether it’s demanding it or measuring it.

I don’t believe in yearly evaluations.

I don’t believe in excuses.

I don’t believe that people prepare well enough for most meetings and I don’t believe that most people treat meetings as if they are important.

I don’t believe in treating customers better than employees or providing better customer service to customers than employees.

I don’t believe that every meeting needs to stick to the exact agenda, especially if that becomes an easy way to avoid conflict or tough questions.

I don’t believe in skill sets.

I definitely don’t believe in skill sets.

I don’t believe age is an indicator of ability.

I don’t believe experience is necessary (though often helpful).

I don’t believe in hiding facts.

I don’t believe in ignoring facts.

I don’t believe that one person’s facts are enough to conclude the truth of the matter.

I don’t believe 100% is ever attainable, thus I don’t believe in launching when things are 100% ready.

I don’t believe in striving for less than 100%.

I don’t believe in management philosophies.

What don’t you believe?

The Wisdom of Not Knowing

17 Feb

What does knowing bring us?The Wisdom of Not Knowing

It often brings us comfort. We think that knowing gives us power, control, even wisdom.

But knowing is a false state of mind because what we know pales in comparison to what we don’t know.

What we don’t know is what makes life interesting. What we don’t know, especially about others, is what necessitates empathy.

The opinions we form based on what we know should forever change based on what we find out we didn’t know.

This is why we often think of God as infinite wisdom, this ability to know everything.

And yet we act as God, thinking that our limited knowledge gives us space to create absolutes.

Instead, we should live open, open to the unknown, open to the expansion of our knowledge.

This openness gives rise to wisdom. Not a wisdom of knowing everything, but a wisdom found in being open to living.

Be wise.
Be open.
Be alive.

Vision Creation Theory of Leadership

9 Feb
Vision Creation Theory of Leadership

Visions are created through a process of constant decision-making.

Leadership is often made synonymous with vision creation. Strong leaders are assumed to have a strong vision. But I don’t think that is quite right. Leaders may have strong boundaries on their vision, but that doesn’t mean they hold every detail in focus. Instead, strong leaders know they must trust the people carrying out the vision. They must trust these people because only through them is every detail attended to.

Leaders should focus on making the best decisions on questions within the scope of the vision they have broadly defined. This is an essential task of leadership: to determine what questions are within the realm of the vision. This doesn’t mean that leaders will answer every question. No, instead, they will rely on others with more knowledge of the details to make decisions.

How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day?

How many decisions does a person make in each day? We make at least 200 food decisions alone every day, on top of the thousands of other decisions. These daily decisions create the story of our life, whether we realize it or not.

So what about organizations? How many decisions does an organization make each day? If we assume 1,000 decisions per person per day and assume that maybe 1/3 of those decisions are work related (probably more), then we could take the number of employees times 333. For an organization of 100 people that would be over 33,000 decisions each day! No leader could handle making that many decisions. It is  obviously not realistic, desired, nor would it be productive.

Employees make thousands of decisions each day without the oversight of a leader. So how does vision creation work in this context?

Vision Creation Theory Diagram

This simple illustration gives an idea of how visions are created through leadership and the decision making processes.

Vision Creation Theory of Leadership

Though obviously more complex, decisions are broken into small and large decisions. Small decisions happen all the time and may or may not help better define the vision. Choosing which color pen to use will not affect the vision.

On the other hand, there are many other daily decisions that will affect the vision. Employees will handle many of these questions themselves. But there will be decisions that need more thought and this is where leaders often step in.

Six Key Roles of a Leader in the Vision Creation Process

Here are the roles of the leader in this model of vision creation. Leaders:

  1. Help create and refine the vision.
  2. Keep the scope of the vision in balance.
  3. Determine whether or not a decision is within the scope of the vision.
  4. Make decisions or give space to make decisions on important questions that the define the vision and scope of the vision.
  5. Listen – this topic is so important it warrants its own bullet points.
    1. Leaders listen to bring pieces of the vision into focus. Leaders also listen to help individuals place their contributions into the broader context of the vision.
    2. Leaders listen to better understand why the vision and pieces of the vision matter to people.
    3. Leaders listen to let other know that their participation and work within the vision matters.
  6. Delegate decisions to others so that the vision creation process is participatory and so that they can focus on only the most important decisions defining the vision.

None of this is to say that decisions that aren’t made by leaders are not important. Instead, I am suggesting that a leader’s most important work revolves around the constant vision creation process and the decision-making process used to get there.

What decisions have you made today? What visions are you creating?

What Is a Persistent Optimizer?

15 Oct

What Is a Persistent Optimizer?

Once I get a big question in my head, it doesn’t leave. I will drive in to work thinking about insights and answers, spend all day working on solutions, drive home thinking, and then spend my most productive evening hours working on solutions. I will read voraciously the best material I can find about the issue. I will find the experts on the issue, talk to them, and read what they have to say. I will start to zoom in on the large themes and connections I see and develop my own unique response to the question or problem at hand. Though intense, this is fun for me! Finding big answers to big questions is where I gain the most energy.

Persistent Optimization – A Story

In 2007, six months into my current job, I saw that our manual CRM and registration system was not adequate for the future. I saw the trend that people were going to increasingly register and purchase goods and services online. I spent an extra 100 hours outside of my normal work hours in the month of January 2007 analyzing our customer and staff needs, researching potential options, talking to experts, and eventually designing and developing a custom registration and CRM application, from scratch. This was a big and complex problem that was quite fun to solve. We went from 0% online registration to 70% in just one year. We increased our attendance over 30% in the next five years. I estimate that we saved 4-8% in personnel costs, and we drove our mailing costs down to $0 through the use of automated emails and CRM communication functions.

My Strengths

Deep understanding of how to bring value to an organization

I seek out root causes and hate to see surface solutions stall the discovery of root change. I also love data because it gives one important piece of the puzzle when determining whether or not some solution is successful. Data helps you focus on the right things. I know that value is best-measured with supporting data. I bring the highest value to any work because I revel in measuring the details. I design and implement human performance solutions and systems that solve root issues.

Focus on human performance and solutions

I pursued and completed graduate studies in leadership not to simply lead but to discover ways to allow people to perform at their highest levels. I discovered early on in my teaching career that the social and emotional  dimensions of people’s lives are just as important as the cognitive and pyschomotor components. I work to bring good change to people and organizations.

Instinctive ability to work at the highest level

I also love to learn myself and pursue topics of interest as deeply as possible. I am well read across diverse disciplines and am able to walk into any given organization and discern issues and areas of opportunity very quickly, by both observing processes in motion and by talking with leaders, workers, and customers. People want to work with me because they know I am trustworthy and support their success.

What is Organizational Leadership?

15 Oct

I completed a Master of Science degree in organizational leadership in 2011. I have been asked more than a few times, “What is your degree in?” I found that many elements distinguished my experience and I wanted to share what this study of leadership really meant to me.

The organizational leadership program focused a great deal on ethics. This was a program to learn not just to lead, but to lead in a way that was good, just, and right. These are lofty ideals, yes, but have an urgent importance. Organizational cultures are created by big decisions and influential events, but they are also created by the decisions people make all day, every day.

“Our Small Decisions as Leaders Have Great Effect on the Future”

Our job as leaders is to be conscious of the effect both our large and seemingly small decisions have on the people around us and the organizations we lead. It is easy to forget that today’s decision has effects far into the future. Double this with the short-term success pressures one often faces and it is even harder to make the right decision for long-term success.

One thing leaders can do to combat these pressures is to recognize their own tendencies, personality traits, and needs. What we do under pressure can be very different than what we might do in a less intense situation. Knowing what literally gets our blood boiling is very helpful. Recognizing the potential for a situation to upset us and bring out our fallback responses allows us to prepare better to make better decisions that reflect our better selves.

I also learned that leaders must recognize the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of those they lead. The situational leadership theory we studied was one of my favorite theories and suggested we give a great deal of attention to those we lead. We increase our reach as a leader by empowering others to do great work.

I covered these topics at various levels of detail and through various disciplines within the organizational leadership program. The program gave me the experience of looking critically at myself and reflecting on the decisions I make every day. It enabled me to recognize the important ways leaders affect those around them and how that affect helps bring success or failure.

See also, “The Three Leadership Essentials I’ve Learned”.

Persistent Optimizer, Tech Guy, Great Manager and Coworker, Won’t Rest Until Your Problems Are Solved

3 Oct

Persistent Optimizer, Tech Guy, Great Manager and Coworker, Won’t Rest Until Your Problems Are Solved


Strategic and creative leader and communicator, with 12+ years of innovative and successful program and organizational development, growth, and financial success. Creates climates of continuous improvement, analyzing data, and opening channels of communication to improve products, services, and programs. Recognized with awards based on community and program achievements. Thorough and detail-oriented problem-solver, creating custom CRMs, innovative and successful direct-mail campaigns, and well-executed strategic plans. Excellent communication skills, customer-focused, building long-term relationships with both constituents, staff, board and community members to provide organizational support and achieve success. Key areas of experience are:

Organizational leadership
Strategic brand planning and development
Research administration
Budget Development
Volunteer management
Customer relationship management
Customer service management
Data analysis
Database development
Development, fundraising, & grant writing
Market research
Marketing campaigns
Sales strategies
Event planning
Human resources development

Specialties: non-profit leadership and development, program development, family engagement, educating children, staff management, mentoring college students and recent college graduates, building collaborative efforts around the importance of local community, custom database designs for small to medium organizations, data analysis for recruitment and retention, communication strategies, proposal writing, grant writing, grant management, budget management.


Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center – Cincinnati, OH 2013-current

Financial Analyst II – September 2015 to current

Analyze, monitor, and manage over 35 grant accounts, the divisional research account, and the overall $4.5+ million research budget for the division of Emergency Medicine.

Oversee the monthly reporting and management of grant and research accounts.
Create budget projection models.
Develop grant budgets and manage grant subcontracts, submissions, post-award activities, progress reports, and grant closeouts.
Analyze grant and research budget variances and manage resolutions.
Develop and prepare the annual division research budget.
Manage staff, including Grant Specialist.

Special Projects
Co-developed Research Dashboard for senior divisional leadership to monitor research performance metrics.
Managed the redevelopment of the enrollment and effort tracking research application.

Financial Analyst I – December 2014 to September 2015

Special Projects
Manage pilot project implementing Dragon Medical 360 | Network Edition.
Managed the Division of Asthma Research’s submission of $5 million Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers (P50) through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ASSIST grant system.

Grant Specialist – March 2013 to December 2014

Facilitate the grant submissions of the Division of Emergency Medicine by identifying funding opportunities, gaining familiarity with funder requirements, loading grant submissions into internal grant management system, gathering all sub-contract materials, writing non-scientific portions of the grants, and editing grant narratives.

Serve as liaison between the division and CHRF Sponsored Research Programs Office in matters related to grant submissions. Serve as a liaison between principal investigators and divisions with which they collaborate to coordinate grant submission materials and approvals.

Collect and compile data, statistics, and background material necessary for external/internal reports, proposals, and budgets. Notify administrative support staff and grant personnel of institutional and external changes in funding issues, purchasing activities, accounting, etc.

Administrative support
Assist faculty with special projects, reports and assignments. Prepare scientific manuscripts, grant applications, and correspondence. Organize, maintain and assume custodial responsibility for files and record systems of the division, including grant materials.

Gorman Heritage Farm Foundation – Cincinnati, OH 2007- 2013

Program Director

Directed strategic development of camp brand, marketing strategy, and programming for educational programs.

  • Increased revenues 80% within 4 years by developing and directing a strategic personalization program based on in-depth data analysis processes.
  • Recruited and retained program participants. Hired, trained, and managed seasonal staff of 15, with customer satisfaction ratings over 95%.
  • Developed and maintained custom CRM applications to manage camp registrations, school group registrations, tour programs, and volunteer program, with over 70% of registrations coming online.
  • Built, populated, and maintained an intranet for the organization’s education department, streamlining the training process of volunteers.
  • Secured grants of $128,000+, researching, writing, and administering grant processes. Grants covered 5% of organizations budget for each of last 3 years.
  • Facilitated management meetings, decision-making processes, donor engagement strategies and strategic planning increasing program support by 20%.
  • Presented “Proving the Effectiveness of Your School Field Trip Programs” at the national Farm-Based Education Association Conference.
  • Nominated for the Merlin G. Pope, Jr. Diversity Leadership Award.
  • Designed and implemented online registration systems for 500+ program participants.
  • Managed multiple social media channels, developed Zoho Creator database applications, administrated Google Apps, increasing Gorman Heritage Farm Foundation web presence and internal productivity.

Saint Bartholomew Consolidated School – Cincinnati, OH 2004- 2007

Resurrection, St. Joseph, & Our Mother of Sorrows 2003- 2004


Taught K-8 general music classes, directed school-wide music groups, raised funds for programs.

  • Nominated for WGUC’s Classic for Kids “Applause Award”, recognizing excellent music teachers.
  • Developed curriculum for K-8 students, increasing musical experience and knowledge.
  • Developed and secured grants and directed successful fundraising efforts for music programs.


National Widower’s Organization (NWO) – Martha’s Vineyard, MA – February 2012-Current

Social Media, Web, & Communications Strategy Consultant

Developed and executed web, email and social media communication strategies.

  • Managed ebook launch, exceeding client expectations.
  • Developed email strategy and grew list by 78% in eleven months.
  • Built website on WordPress platform.

Farm-Based Education Association (FBEA) – Concord, MA – January 2009-Current

Social Media Coordinator/Online Membership Management Consultant

Developed and executed strategies of engagement for online community.

  • Grew community 200%+ within two years while managing online-membership process and engagement.
  • Co-presented for “Harvesting Knowledge and Networks” webinar for national FBEA.
  • Designed, facilitated, and presented “Summer Camp Review Web Workshop” for the FBEA.
  • Custom-coded CSS and HTML for website design optimization.
  • Developed and maintained online social network on platform to engage national network.
  • Served on the Farm-Based Education Association’s Communications Committee, planning national conference and online communication strategies.


  • $54,000+ – Google Grants Program – current recipient since 2009
  • $3,000 – General Mills Foundation – 2011
  • $2,700 – Co-wrote appeal letter to generate field trip funds for low-income schools – 2011
  • $1,500 – Community Leaders Institute Grant ($1,500 and six class training institute) through University of Cincinnati’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training – 2011
  • $10,000 – Stillson Foundation – 2010
  • $25,000 – Social Ventures Partners of Cincinnati -$12,500 yearly investment (renewable for 3-5 years) to establish an ongoing capacity building program at Gorman Farm-2009
  • $8,000 – Federal dollars through Bridges for a Just Community for a Public Ally – 2009
  • Ohio Environmental Education fund – Reviewed grants – 2009
  • $10,600, $1,000, & $200 Greater Cincinnati Foundation – 2008, 2005, 2006


  • Serve as a member of the Community Partners Council for the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training at the University of Cincinnati.
  • Coached youth soccer teams, basketball teams, and chess clubs.
  • Webmaster for Cincinnati Union Coop Initiative.


M.S. – Organizational Leadership – 4.0 GPA, College of Mount St Joseph – 2011

  • One of the top three nominees for the MSJ Distinguished Student Award, the College’s highest honor.

B.A. – Music, Xavier University – 2003

Visit my LinkedIn profile

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