R.I.P Steve Jobs, You’re Creativity Will Be Missed

As I look around our house and realize from Pixar DVD’s to the ipods to the iMac, our family works, relaxes, and plays differently because of what Steve Jobs helped create. And like my own father, who also died at 56, it feels the world has lost another great human being a bit prematurely. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

(Thank you to Jonathan Mak for creating such a great image.)

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Civility, Diversity & Discomfort

Learning to be civil is one of the critical steps to getting what’s best out of diversity.


Because as Tami Winfrey Harris correctly states:

“Diversity done correctly is almost always uncomfortable–at least a little. Living or socializing or working around people who are different–racially, ethnically, politically, religiously, etc.–requires compromise, requires empathy, requires withholding judgement, requires being open to learning…The discomfort of diversity yields better people and better communities.”

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Veneer of Politeness

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading the book, Talent is Overrated. While the books focus is on how do we as individuals and organizations achieve uncommon results, a line from the book hit home on the topic of civility.

Too often people mistake civility with politeness and when this happens in a corporate culture we tend to see people who are unwilling to deal with the “elephant in the room.” As David Nadler puts it, “There’s a veneer of politeness.”

But a veneer of anything is the antithesis of true civility, because real civility enables us to be genuine, to deal with difficult issues passionately but respectfully.

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He likes to hear himself talk

Dear Joseph,

I once overheard someone say, “He likes to hear himself talk.”

Truth be told; that someone was referring to me. A major OUCH to say the least.

While I don’t think that person ever intended for me to hear that brutally honest feedback, the situation provided me an important life learning lesson: you don’t need to answer every question.

For awhile I went completely in the opposite direction where I wouldn’t say anything or make a comment at all. It was a bit of an over-reaction, but my silence forced me paying more attention to how often the urge to comment came along and then ask the question of whether I felt that my comments could really add value or perspective that wasn’t already being shared.

As a father, it has been interesting to watch how you and your siblings respond in similar situations. I have particularly learned a lot from watching you.

Hannah and David are more like me. They want to answer every question even when they don’t have an answer. But as I watch you I can see the wheels turning and when you do answer, I am always amazed at the depth of your thinking.

It makes me hope that I can be more like you someday.


Rule 25: If you are going to make a comment, try not to ramble on, get off topic, or say the same thing ten different ways.

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Flattery & Butter

Dear Joseph,

“Are you trying to butter me up?”

That was the question my grandpa Bankhead would ask when one of us started to use lots of “nice words” to get something we wanted from him. When I was your age, we used a different phrase: for called kids who “buttered” up the teacher or coach: brown-nosers.

Like most things in our life where our heart and intent is makes the difference between the real and the fake. When it came to buttering up grandpa, what we were saying about him had real truth to it. It’s just that in our case, as kids, we were praising grandpa because we wanted something from him.

A true compliment is given, because it is deserved. We don’t think about what it gets us in the end.


Rule 24: Avoid flattery, and be careful not to have fun at the expense of another.

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The Civility Experiment – Central Park

Great lesson on what happens when we truly get to know people.


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I Hate Waiting

Dear Joseph,

One of my favorite movies growing up was the Princess Bride. My friends and I could practically recite the movie line for line.

In one of the scenes, the character, Inigo Montoya, is supposed to fight the man with the black mask, but must wait while the man in the black mask slowly makes his way up the face of some rocky cliffs. Inigo leans over the edge to tell the man in black to hurry up, but is told he must be patient because climbing the Cliffs of Insanity is “much harder than it looks.” After a brief pause, Inigo mutters, “I hate waiting,” and sends some rope down to expedite the process.

And what is Inigo’s reward for his lack of patience? The man in black quickly beats Inigo in a duel.

One of the things that civility has helped me learn is patience – the ability to wait. I am by no means perfect, but I’ve found that by focusing a bit more on being civil, I am more able to control that urge to jump in, to interrupt, to rush to conclusion or to ignore an inconvenient request.

And often, just that little bit of extra patience saves me from in front of those initial urges to act in ways that get me the exact opposite of what I truly want.


Rule 22: In the midst of discourse ask not of what one treats, but if you perceive any stop because of your coming, you may well entreat him gently to proceed. If a person of quality comes in while you’re conversing, civility asks us to repeat what was said before.

Rule 23. The gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.

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The Two Sides of Incivility

Last week I attended a course called Crucial Conversations, which is based on the NY Times Best Selling book of the same name. It was a great training and worth the time investment.

As I took some time to go back through the material this week, it really came home to me how their concept of communication styles under stress provides a great way to describe the two sides of incivility.

At the very beginning of the training, we spent some time talking about how we typically respond to crucial conversations. On one hand you have silence, on the other violence. Incivility really works the same way. There are those violent acts of incivility, like the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona. I would also add the loud outbursts of political shouting that we have seen occur at town hall meetings, rallies, and on the radio. These acts are easy to see and often grab the headlines.

But then there is the other side of incivility, the silent side. The withholding of information; the lack of respect for another human being; people acting in bad faith in business, politics, marriage, etc.; promises made with no intent keep them; or promises made without the ability to keep them. These acts of incivility are just as damaging to our society because the undermine the kind of trust that is necessary for a civil society to thrive.

In Crucial Conversations, I believe we’ve found a great new way to further the discussion about “Political Civility” really is and how we might go about reaching such a lofty, but important goal.

Silence or Violence – which one describes you?

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You’re Not Going Out In That Are You?

Dear Joseph,

My mom had a unique way of getting us to think about what we where wearing.

When I would be heading out the door to some event, she would give me a look over and then say, “You’re not going out in that are you?” Translation, you should really think about changing into something else more appropriate.

At the time, I wondered why it was so important to my mom to “dress for success.” But as I look back on it, her challenge to me was more less about me looking good than it was about me taking time to think about how I could be my best around others and appropriate for the occasion.

I think she was trying to help me grow from trying to get away with as much as possible, to trying to raise my level of behavior and be an example for others to do the same.

Sometimes it was easier than at other times.  But in the end, it was a lesson that paid big dividends…It helped me catch your mom.


Rule 21: Good manners adapt to the type of place and people you are around. You do not act the same with a clown and with a prince.

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The Phone Can Wait

Dear Joseph,

We have a lot of cool toys today thanks to technology.

From texting (which your sister loves), to iChat, to internet on airplanes, there is almost no place where you can’t connect with someone.  But this immediacy makes things seem more urgent and important than they really are.

I remember that my dad rarely answered his cell phone. I once asked him why he had a cell phone if he wasn’t going to use it. He said that he didn’t want a phone interfering with other conversations he was in the middle of or planning to have. The person he was speaking to deserved his best attention.

You’ve probably noticed that your mom and I have started ignoring the phone during dinner. I think my attitude toward those phone calls came because of the example set by my dad. You kids deserve my best attention.

The phone can wait.


Rule 19: Read no letter, books, or texts in company, but when there is a necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave; come not near the books or writings of another so as to read them unless desired, or give your opinion of them unasked. Also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.

Rule 20: If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately, and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.

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