New Season Comes at Just the Right Time

One of the wonderful things about the seasons of our Creator: each one comes at just the right time. I celebrated a 10-year season of working with The Human Capital Group in October.   When I joined in 2006, I had no idea just how much of a sweet spot it would be for me. Coaching and consulting have enabled me to use my gifts, skills and experience to make a real difference in the lives of others. HCG is a fabulous place to work and I have so enjoyed the journey. I am grateful for this deeply rewarding season of my life.

In 2012, I heard Sandra Hatcher, a retired Merrill Lynch executive, speak on personal finance. She shared her testimony about going from a ‘driven’ personality to a season of retirement, waiting patiently for projects that God brought to her attention. I was really intrigued her story, and met her for lunch to talk learn more. I thought it would be great one day to have enough margin in my life to do the same, but I also struggled with the idea of retirement. I just don’t see that concept in Scripture.

Fast-forward a few years, and I can now see such a season approaching. I am not using the word retiring, as I have clearly heard the Lord say that a new season of service is coming – one where I have the time and energy to say yes. My husband calls it “refiring” – the opportunity to step back, refresh and renew, and to respond when the Lord calls. I have no idea what opportunities to serve the Kingdom lie ahead, but that is part of the wonderful adventure of following Him. He always comes up with bigger ideas than I could ever dream of.

I will be leaving HCG as a senior consultant on December 10th for this new season in my life. Steve has requested that I stay on as an internal advisor. No phone number, email or work with outside clients, but I will be available to provide insight and guidance to the team, and I’m excited to have that opportunity.

I am delighted to be able to announce that Ginger Duncan will be joining The Human Capital Group as senior consultant and executive coach on January 1st. With over 20 years’ experience in leadership development, coaching, facilitation and training, plus 11 years leading the talent development function in a corporate setting, Ginger has extensive experience partnering with organizations to guide strategic business alignment. Ginger received two undergraduate degrees from University of Massachusetts Boston and two graduate degrees from Murray State University in Kentucky. She is certified as a Master Coach from the Behavioral Coaching Institute and is certified in numerous assessments. Ginger is a woman of integrity and faith and will be a true partner for anyone who wants to raise their level of leadership, strategy and effectiveness. You can reach her at

I would love to stay connected and will be blogging about my new season at My email will be

Finally, I want to share with you a quote from Dan Webster that has had a deep impact in my life.

 “Am I impacting people because they admire my leadership savvy and skills 

or are they impacted by my character and the beauty of my soul?”

I know this season in my life is coming at just His time. Grace and peace – Nancy

Do You Have The Rose Petal Touch?

French Lick Resort in Indiana has been chosen as the best Historic resort in the UScustomer service and they are well known for their customer service.  Great hotels and resorts do little things that say they care. I had the opportunity to stay there recently and was very impressed by my entire experience.  When my friend and I had dinner one evening at the 1875 Restaurant, we were delighted to each be given a long stemmed red rose. It turns out they do that for all women who dine in the restaurant. That’s a little thing that says “You’re special”.

As we left the restaurant, I noticed some red rose petals on a couch and the floor in the lobby near the restaurant. I assumed a child had played with Mom’s rose and left the petals behind. It was only as I walked around the lobby that I realized management had strategically place red rose petals in various places. As I sat in the lobby and talked to my husband by phone, I realized that the petals on the floor at my feet made me feel valued and special. I was blown away at that tiny choice by management to make my stay even more special.

They had “rose petal touch” customer service.

Here are “rose petal touches” I’ve experienced over the years:

  • The Blue Pearl emergency vet, who had to put our dog to sleep, sent us flowers and a donation in our name to the Humane Society.
  • The Staples copy employee who personally brought me my copies after a mistake was made in the completion time.
  • Costco gave me a no hassle refund when my printer went bad one week after the manufacturer’s warranty expired.
  • The 1875 Restaurant that gave me a long stemmed red rose – with the thorns removed.

What’s your “rose petal touch”? What small choices and actions do you take that say to your clients, customers, or patients they are valued and special?

3 Reasons We Don’t Fire Poor Performers

three wise monkeys

What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in the area of leading people?

The number one answer, according to a report by Ram Charan, Consultant and former Harvard Business School professor, is “waiting too long to remove a direct report who wasn’t matched to the job.”

I made that mistake as a first time manager at the YMCA. I had a swim instructor who was wonderful and got rave reviews from all the parents, but he had a reliability problem. The YMCA was in Bloomington, IN during the reign of Bobby Knight, and you could count on the fact that anytime there was a basketball game or a concert, he wouldn’t show up for lifeguarding shifts. I gave him lots of chances before I finally let him go. When I did, the other staff all thought my boss had prevented me from firing him. That wasn’t the case. The reluctance to fire him was my fault. I lacked the managerial courage to do what needed to be done.

There are three reasons that we justify not firing people who aren’t a fit.

  1. I can fix them. We rationalize that with enough coaching, or discussions, or encouragement, they’ll turn it around. While that is a noble approach, it soon becomes apparent when they can’t be “fixed”.
  2. Better the devil I know than the one I don’t. This was my reasoning. It was hard to find great instructors, so I lived with his faults until I got too frustrated. I was afraid I wouldn’t find anyone as good at teaching as he was. That fear should have been a clue – and has now become a sign that I need to step back and reflect on the situation.
  3. He/she isn’t really hurting the team. I can also own this one. I didn’t understand the negative impact his behavior and my failure to hold him accountable was having on my team. Once the young man was released, team morale improved over time. Staff began to trust that everyone would be held accountable – equally.

Leaders of integrity set high expectations, work with staff to achieve those expectations, and hold ALL staff accountable for their work. They also quickly move to replace people who aren’t a fit, and they hire someone who has a high level of competence, character, and interpersonal skills.

As a first time manager, that lesson about holding employees accountable was a powerful one and has paid huge benefits in every position I’ve held since then.

  • How’s your managerial courage?
  • Is there one or more of these three reasons holding you back from doing what you know must be done?

Saying NO to your iPhone


Technology Overload

Does this look like one of your workdays? You are at your desk, facing two computer screens. On one, the internet is open to do research, and the other screen has one of your four email accounts open (the other three notify you when a message arrives). You also have text messaging active, along with Google chat, in case someone at the office needs to connect. Around your neck is an LG Bluetooth stereo headset, ready for the next call that comes in on your iPhone; and iTunes is running in the background. Buried in the middle of all this technology is a project you are working on that’s due tomorrow. You’ve been working on it all week and just aren’t making the progress you thought you would, despite your skill in multi-tasking.

Turns out, research proves you can’t multi-task. John Medina writes, in Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, that we are “biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.”  Four steps must occur in your brain every time you switch from one task to another. It is time-consuming, and that’s why we find ourselves losing track of where we were and having to ‘start over.’ When you are interrupted, studies show that it takes 50% longer to complete a task, and you are likely to make up to 50% more errors.

I found myself experiencing real frustration over my work-life balance and technology in December of 2012. I was surviving instead of thriving.  That’s when I picked up Medina’s book and figured out I had to build some boundaries around technology. I wanted my life back.

Here are seven choices I made that helped me set strong boundaries.

  1. I turn off iTunes, notifications for email and messages, and Google chat whenever I have a project to complete, a blog to write, or a training to design. I now get it done in half the time.
  2. I don’t check email after 7 pm in the evening. Too many nights I’ve laid awake upset by an email that could have waited until morning.
  3. I only check email 2 – 3 times a day, and I have no email notifications of any kind operating on my iPhone. This enables to spend quality time on the person I’m with or project I’m designing.
  4. I say NO to my iPhone.  I usually don’t answer the phone when I’m with someone else, and I don’t use it in a checkout line. Face-to-face contact is precious.
  5. Sundays and vacations are days of rest from technology. I may talk to someone on the phone, but I rarely check or respond to email. This is huge, as it strengthens the other boundaries you’ve set around technology.
  6. I stopped trying to “do” Twitter. I have an account and enjoy tweeting to help a speaker or presenter; but, too many times, I found myself setting things up at 8 pm.
  7. When I first started blogging, I was told I had to do it 2 – 3 times a week in order to build a following. Now I write 5 – 6 times a year—and only when I think what I’m writing will benefit others.

Do you want your life back? Would you like to thrive in our 24/7 world?  I encourage you to start small and set 1 or 2 boundaries around the technology in your life. You’ll find your relationships become richer, your sleep more refreshing, and your free time will really be free.

Perspective Challenging Books

image showing alt text
I love to read, and usually alternate between business books and what I call “Nancy” books. Nancy books are fun—authors like Baldacci and Grisham—but rarely enlightening.   About 3 months into 2015, I realized a theme was emerging in the books I chose. The vast majority of the books gave me a glimpse into a world I knew almost nothing about. They challenged my perspective and increased my understanding of others. So, here are my favorite reads of 2015. I hope you find they challenge your perspective and deepen your respect for others.

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny, by Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is the daughter of the man chosen to be Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. Her story of growing up under Saddam’s tyranny and her attempt to escape that tyranny in America—only to find another form here—is heart wrenching and eye opening. Her courage in speaking out through this book is deeply moving and inspiring.

Slave Hunter: Freeing Victims of Human Trafficking, by Aaron Cohen and Christine Buckley

Aaron Cohen goes to some of the darkest places on our planet to expose traffickers and to free men and women who have been sold into sex slavery. How he went from rock star to slave hunter is an enthralling and painful story of perseverance and commitment.

Crossing the Tracks for Love: What to Do When You and Your Partner Grew Up in Different Worlds, by Ruby K. Payne

This is one of the most practical books that I read. Payne’s insights into the mindsets of economic class differences in the United States (poverty, middle class, wealthy) were fascinating—and ones I was able to apply. While written for someone who is contemplating marrying into another class, the principles and perspectives are applicable for teachers, coaches, business people, and others whose daily interactions cross economic classes.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, by Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin

Edith Beer’s peaceful early years were smashed to pieces when she was shipped to a slave labor camp as the Nazi’s rolled into her beloved Austria. From a hated Jewess, this story of her engagement and marriage to a Nazi officer in Munich is one of paralyzing fear, submission, and determination. You will be both repelled by the evil she was subjected to and drawn to this strong woman of courage.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, by Nabeel Quereshi

This beautifully written book is a powerful glimpse into a devout, loving Muslim home and the foundations of the Muslim faith. Quereshi grew up challenging the faith of Christians and finding no one who could answer his challenges. When he joined the debate team at Georgetown University, he met a fellow debate team student who could answer his challenges and engage in lively, deep theological discussions. This book will challenge your perspectives of both Islam and Christianity.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven, by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, with Bob DeMoss

This is an amazing story of hatred, terror, love, and forgiveness. Rebecca Nichols’ father accepted a position as pastor of a small church in North Carolina, only to encounter a man who wanted complete control of the church. When the man couldn’t get the power and control he desired, he terrorized the Nichols family in unimaginable ways. Despite the violence and hatred they endured, as well as the fear and dread they were constantly under, her parents chose to stay and love the community. And, although Rebecca’s life was shattered by the devil in Pew No. 7, her story of healing, forgiveness, and courage will bring tears to your eyes.

35 Days without Email


It’s said that over 400,000,000 vacation days are wasted annually. Combine that with the numbers of people who keep up with email on vacation, and something’s out of whack!

“I am on a 35-day trip celebrating our 35th anniversary. I will not be checking email or reading any email that comes in during that time. Please email me after August 17th, and I’ll connect with you then.”

I posted that out-of-office message on July 13th, this year, and that’s exactly what I did. I actually deleted my account from my iPhone and then deleted all emails that had come in while I was gone without reading them. I knew if I didn’t do that, I’d cheat and look at them while on vacation in order to avoid the hundreds that would be in my inbox. Our director of business operations was a contact in case of an emergency. I trusted her judgment completely on whether or not to contact me. The need never arose.

Going for 35 days without email had some wonderful benefits:

1) In really getting away from the daily flow of work, I slept better and had absolutely no physical symptoms of stress during the time away.

2) My husband and I had real quality time together, with deeper conversations and no sense of hurry or stress as we traveled.

3) I came back totally refreshed and ready to dive back into work. My ability to listen was strengthened, and my problem solving was much more effective.

4) I serve on the prayer team at church, and my prayers for others and myself were more energized and focused.

Was there a cost? Only one client chose to hire someone else rather than wait for my return. I’m okay with that, because the benefits I experienced far outweighed the costs.

Whenever I share doing this, I get two reactions—disbelief and envy. The envy comes from the wish they could do it, too; and the disbelief comes from the fact that they’re not sure it can really be done.

I’m here to testify that it can be done, and the ROI is great!

1 trip to Osh Kosh, Black Hills, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons—Lovely
5,000 miles in a Roadtrek—Cozy
1 formidable hailstorm—Scary
1.3 million motorcycles (Sturgis 75th rally)—Noisy
35 days without email—Priceless!

How’s Your Core of Excellence?

Apple no core

Have you ever heard a message that sounded great at the beginning, but as the message went on, you realized there was something wrong? A 28-minute video entitled A Spirit of Excellence was recently recommended to me.

The speaker’s audience was business people. His focus was the impact that a spirit of excellence can have on your life and on your business. Performing with excellence gives you influence that others don’t have. At this point, I was all in. But as the minutes ticked by, I sensed that something was missing. As he began to give illustrations of excellence and non-excellence, every single one was about how well you’re dressed, if your kids are messed up, if your store is clean, etc. I realized his message rang hollow because he was focusing on the outside—on image—while having a core of integrity was missing!

My grandfather owned an apple orchard, and I would often go visit on crisp, fall days and pick my very own red delicious apple from the tree. I would bite into it and experience a loud crunch as I bit into the apple and, then, the explosion of sweetness as the juices dribbled onto my tongue. It’s an excellent fruit and one of my favorites. But without the core of the apple, which contains the seeds, there would be no fruit. It’s the same with leadership.

After 35+ years in the workplace, I am an absolute believer in doing all you do with excellence. But excellence isn’t created unless you start at the core. As character and integrity grow, our choices to pursue excellence have greater and greater influence by planting seeds that produce more excellence.

Planting seeds of humility, wisdom, peace, mercy, justice, honesty, respect, and grace do more for the next generation of leaders than you can imagine. We need more leaders who have solid cores of integrity to plant seeds so that the fruit of excellence is evident in the next generation of leaders.

Take a moment to be deeply honest with yourself. Using the continuum below, diagnose the current level of your integrity by placing an X on the continuum.

Inconsistent words & actions                                                             Consistent words & actions

Focus on getting what I want                                                              Focus on mutual benefit

Win at all costs                                                                                   Inspire trust to produce results


How’s your core? Are you leading with integrity and planting seeds of excellence?

But as for me, I shall walk in integrity. Psalm 26:11

A Prerequisite for Exceptional Leaders

LIncoln internet

During the 2008 election, David Letterman took to the streets and interviewed voters.  He showed Obama supporters McCain’s positions and asked them if that’s why they were voting for Obama.  They said yes.  Then he showed McCain supporters Obama’s positions – and they too agreed that’s why they were voting for McCain.

That was a seminal moment for me.  I realized how the lack of critical thinking training and skills in this country was impacting our way of life.  Critical thinking improves the quality of your decisions and your integrity by enabling you to be informed by the thoughts of others, the evidence, and your core values. 

I taught a class on critical thinking at Belmont University as adjunct faculty for two years.  We looked at various issues in the US and applied CT skills.  Whether our classes revolved around the fight for civil rights, the power of voting, religious movements in the US, the influence of advertising, or choosing integrity, the discussions were lively and deep.  One student who went on to law school has stayed in touch and shared with me how much the class changed her perspective.

There aren’t any studies I can find that show how many people practice thinking critically.  My best estimate would be that 75-80 % of the population doesn’t practice it at any level   This is demonstrated by people who simply repeat what they’ve heard, or take a side without being able to defend their choice.  Have you ever received an email or seen a Facebook post that seems flat out wrong?  I once got one that pictured an Al Qaeda march in Michigan.  When I researched the photo, I found it was originally taken in Pakistan and then used by someone to foment fear and anger.  Those who simply forwarded it or shared it were failing to think for themselves and had a negative impact on others. 

That leaves 20-25% of the population who may be applying some critical thinking skills.  When done well, it includes researching and analyzing both sides of an issue, then looking for evidence you can observe that supports the side you think is strongest.  At the highest level, critical thinking then merges your analysis of the issues with your values and includes subjective thought.

Robert E. Lee practiced critical thinking in April1865 when he made a choice to defy President Jefferson Davis and commit what could be considered treason and insubordination when he surrendered to General Grant.  His letters gives us glimpses into his struggle between what was commanded vs. what was right. He analyzed both the arguments for surrender and for continuing the fight, looked at the evidence around him that supported both, merged his thinking with his faith, and choose to surrender.   His choice was the beginning of the end of our civil war.

As we face challenges in our companies and our country in the coming years, as leaders, we MUST learn to practice critical thinking in our own lives.  For those we work with and do life with, we must also teach and model it.  A prerequisite for exceptional leaders is encouraging discussions and debates of issues that are done with critical thinking, respect and dignity. 

Did you know Hitler won leadership over the Nazi party in 1923 by ONE vote?  How might that outcome have been different had one more person thought more deeply about his or her choice?  How could your life, your leadership, and your integrity be changed by critical thinking? 

5 Questions Lead to a Strong Business Mission Statement

JFKGuest blog by Joshua MacLeod , CEO, Riverbirch Industries

A mission helps you achieve your vision.  The following questions are designed as a guide to help you craft a mission statement for your business.

Mission Question 1 – What is your function to society: How do others classify your business?

The Apollo mission was a government program but her primary function was to boost business growth. The competition to create a better rocket inspired countless numbers of scientists and engineers to develop new technologies driving innovation and boosting the U.S. economy. The following lists may help categorize your business function.

A business might be formed around basic necessities such as:

  • Food, Water, Shelter, Clothes, Medicine, Justice

or cultural spheres such as:

  • Family, Religion, Education, Media communications. Celebration (Arts & Entertainment),, Economy (Innovation, Science, Technology, Productivity, Sales, Service)

Entrepreneurs need to be careful not to exaggerate the uniqueness of their product. Even if your product is building a rocket that goes to the moon and back, it still provides a basic function to society such as boosting business growth.

Mission Question 2 – Who is your target customer? Who is most deeply impacted by the goods or service you provide?

The race with the Soviet Union provided motivation for an entire generation of entrepreneurs to work hard, be creative and attempt great things for their countries. For President Kennedy however, this race had a target customer. Whereas putting a man on the moon was a big step for mankind, it was a giant leap for America. The program developed circuit board technology that would be later used in computers. It produced satellite technology that would later become GPS. America had a technological revolution. The U.S. invested ten times more into the space program than Russia and it paid off. Remembering your target customer will greatly boost your business.

Mission Question 3 – What problem does your mission solve?What is the need that your product or service addresses?

President Kennedy’s speech that cumulated in a quest for a lunar landing began with a rally for freedom. “These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom’s cause.” Mr. Kennedy painted a picture of growing hostility from the Soviet Union and the steps necessary to retain an economic and military edge. It’s always important to remind your customer of the problem before you offer a solution.

The space program was more than an adventure; it was a symbol of advancement. No one wanted a war. Here was an opportunity to show the resolve of the American people without a conflict. Reminding the American people of the problem created the synergy necessary to motivate the American people to buy into President Kennedy’s solution.

Mission Question 4 – What are your benefits? What makes your product or service unique and how does it improve your customer’s life?

It is often that case that a business owner will highlight the many features of his or her product rather than the benefits the features create. When the Apollo 11 sent a man to the moon and back, the American people were not talking about how the rocket contained a Saturn 5 liquid cooled three-stage launch vehicle; they were talking about how they beat the Russians. The features of your product are only interesting to a customer when they produce a helpful result. Being able to list a benefit for every feature of your product or service is an important step in growing your business.

Mission Question 5 – How do you measure results? Are you doing the right things? What are the tangible outcomes for your efforts?

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stuck an American flag in the moon, an estimated 600 million people watched on television. Mission accomplished! The symbol for freedom was complete and the world was watching. This event was one of the many ways that the American people would measure their accomplishment. Additional measurements would include financial growth in business and technology sectors.

One of the best management thinkers of our time Peter Drucker states: “What’s measured improves”. If a goal doesn’t have anything to measure it cannot be achieved. All businesses need to measure the result of their mission. 600 million people watching an American flag placed on the moon is not a bad return on investment.

What is your mission?

Once you consider these five questions you can begin working on your mission statement. A mission statement is simply a summary of your thoughts when considering these questions. Mission statements will look as different as the organizations they represent. They should reflect your function to society, your target customer, problems solved, benefits and how you measure results. Your mission statement should not be long. A good goal is to have your mission statement able to be written in 140 characters or less (something you can tweet).

Here is a template to get you started:

  • Our mission is to provide this function to society:
  • Benefiting this target customer:
  • Solving this problem:
  • Providing these benefits:
  • Toward this result:

A further helpful exercise is to develop a tag from your mission statement. A tag is an even shorter summary or slogan for your company that can be stated in 10 words or less.

If you have a completed mission statement for your business, please post in the comments of this blog with a link to your business.

In my next blog I will discuss creating value statements for your organization.You can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter by sending an email to

This article is designed to help you grow a creative, sustainable and impactful organization. I hope you find it helpful. If you want even better wisdom for your business, remember that wisdom has a source. James 1:5

Accomplish More by Doing Less – Part 2

Hare and Tortoise 001

When I wrote about my struggle to accomplish more by doing less last month, I struck a cord for a lot of you. One reader shared this: “I travel almost weekly. To catch flights I’m up many mornings around 4 am. Last night I arrived home at 10:30 pm. The easiest thing to give up is my “quiet time” for prayer, reading or meditation or exercise…all of which I need to stay healthy and productive.”

It is a hard struggle to shut down the years of a performance driven life and to willfully choose to live your life in a way that has greater benefits – for both yourself and for those you lead. So, if you’d like to accomplish more by doing less – here are the 4 choices I made that enabled me to live with margin in my life.

1) Determine your true north, figuring out what is most important to you. It forms your “rules of engagement” with the world. Check out my 2011 blog on that topic.  Finding Your ‘True North’

2) Once you define true north, do a cost benefit analysis of your current activities. It involves four questions to ask yourself before you say “YES”.  4 Prioritization Questions

3) Answer this question around focus. What good things will you not do so you can do great things? One of the best business books ever written is the Aesop fable “The Tortoise and The Hare”. The tortoise wins a race he should never have won by simply keeping his eye on the finish line.

4) Master your fears. As you start to focus and make intentional choices, fear (false expectations assumed real) will raise its ugly head. “What if” questions will start rattling around your brain.
• What if…clients see me as withdrawing (or even lazy)?
• What if…I focus on the wrong thing?
• What if… I fail?
• What if… what if…what if?
The truth is, fear is the great dream thief. If we let our fears govern our choices, we will never know what we could have done. I remember the day in 2006 when I decided to leave a 20-year career and go into business for myself. I was petrified and sure I’d fail. “What if” questions often swamped my mind. Now, almost 9 years later, I look back and see those fears for what they were – false expectations assumed real.

If we face fear, embrace fear, and master fear, we can do anything we want.

We can accomplish more by doing less.

We can live with integrity.