Lesson From the Pope

Today Pope Francis spoke about trust and our interconnectedness.  He essentially said that the more we focus on ourselves as individuals, the more we are lost and alone.   I believe that is true as well.   We have lost something of ourselves in our social media.   When I was a child,  I knew the names of the people who owned local stores and they knew me.    We don’t talk to each other, we broadcast and in that mode of communication, we are losing our humanity.    It is very difficult to build trust today.   It is difficult to read and listen to each other because we are overwhelmed with information.   It is difficult to know which information is true or false and we get so much information that it disables us.

We are so connected that we are disconnected.  It is that simple.   The lesson that I took from the Pope during this visit was to look up over the phone, the tablet, the laptop, the book, the newspaper or whatever it is that has us distracted and find ways to be a connector.

Just one day before, Pope Francis was late on his trip to Philadelphia, we had the news on in the background and I was pouring a cup of coffee.   The Pope was stepping off the airplane and into his car for his drive over to Philly.   I heard one of the commentators ask why the car was stopping.   I looked up and walked towards the television to see what was happening.  The Pope had stopped his car and gotten out, he walked over to a boy in a wheelchair, he leaned over and he kissed his head.  He looked up and held the hands of the boys mother; she was full of tears and saying, “Thank you, thank you.”  I immediately started to tear up in appreciation for the true kindness and totality of this act.   The world was literally waiting for him (Pope Francis) but no one at that moment was more important to him over this family.    For the boy, maybe nothing, for the parents it is hope.   It is this recognition that we must have hope and that we must build trust and relationships beyond some social network construct.   We must practice good listening and empathy over broadcasting.  We must become “connectors.”

I recently read, Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski. This book is 20 years old, but speaks of both collective intelligence and our interconnectedness.  Awareness and belief that we are all connected is nothing new.  It is this knowledge that fundamentally drives us to a desired outcome of connectedness.  The challenge that we have is in our substitution of technologies as a replacement or placeholder for our actual human interaction.  The Pope demonstrated in his actions the other day his keen awareness of the spaces between.  It is no coincidence that change management starts with “awareness”

This brings me to the thinking about what I can actually do about this challenge.    I have to ask what being connected means?  I have to think about actions and activities that will help me be more connected but moreover, have better awareness.  I believe we must practice building trust by getting past the social network and building relationships with hand shakes and if you know me… hugs every so often.    To what end do we practice these behaviors and what do we aim to achieve? I think Joe Jaworski thought about this when he met with the physicist David Bohm.   They had a conversation around the connected universe, but Bohm boiled it down in some practical thinking as follows:

Dialogue: Collective Thinking and Listening

“From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle. They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader and everybody could participate. There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more ­ the older ones ­ but everybody could talk. The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do because they understood each other so well. They could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.” -David Bohm, “On Dialogue”.

Finally Peter Marino corporate trainer wrote on active listening… from Madelyn Burley-Allen and Michael Nichols respectively.

  • Taking in information from speakers, other people, or ourselves, while remaining nonjudgmental and empathetic.
  • Acknowledging the talker in a way that invites the communication to continue.
  • Providing limited, but encouraging input to the talker’s response, carrying the person’s idea one step forward.
    Listening is the art by which we use empathy to reach across the space between us. Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire and judgment, and for a few moments, at least, existing for the other person.


Religious or not, we can learn something from the actions of Pope Francis and this is coming from a Jewish kid from Co-op City in the Bronx.   We can work on a daily basis to find the space between and make ourselves aware in order to connect with others on a deeper level.  These connections will lend themselves to a more collective intelligence,  if we focus on people through our humanity and not through the lens of our IOS devices.

Job Hunting in Packs


It is easy to feel all alone in the world when looking for a job.  Just this week I was speaking with a friend (John) about his work with a large consulting firm vs. working in a large company as part of the organic workforce.  He has over 20 years working for one of the largest consulting and contracting firms and left to work for a large company about five years ago.   As a consultant, I felt that even though I felt very close to my clients, I was still a “guest club member” and I never really got to join the club.  There were times that I felt disconnected from my own company and disconnected from the client at the same time.   It was like walking a line in the space between organizations.  When I started to consider other work options, I wanted to be part of something and feel that I was in and part of something bigger.   I mentioned this to John and he laughed and said, “You get over that after a year.”    He went on to say, “At the end of the day, we are all just organizational mercenaries.”   

The reality is that as companies get bigger at some point people become their employee ID.  This started to get me thinking about “The Wolfpack.”  What I hadn’t considered before this conversation is that even though I wasn’t part of my client’s organization and I felt disconnected from my company, I always had a close team of trusted friends.  This team always extended outward as well.  My Lockheed Martin crew,  My Boozers,  JFCOM, Pentagon Team, Exis Net, I could go back as far as I can remember at work and I always had a pack.   In fact,  almost everyone from my Lockheed crew was hired as a result of JD from Exis Net.  I could literally go back 15+ years and know that the close connections built back then have resulted in jobs and connectivity for many people today.   Most of the old Lockheed gang is still together and the people that left are still connected in some way.  

We aren’t mercenaries and we shouldn’t feel this way.  We are people and our connections in and out of our organizations are real connections.   Now today you are looking for work and again it is easy to feel alone so what do you do?

Find your wolfpack…  When I started to consider other work options a few years ago one of the first things I did was reach out to my “network” and I was pretty surprised at first when I heard some chirps.  Over the years, I have grown a strong network and I have helped many people connect with others and find work.  At the time, I figured if I just send a note out that I was looking for work that someone would help me.   That wasn’t true.  I know that people cared about me, but my expectations exceeded their ability.   The reality is that people don’t have a lot of time for themselves no less helping others look for work.   I started to feel depressed and question myself.   

My friend David was considering other work for himself around the same time as I was looking.  I sent him a note and mentioned that I was looking for work.   He started to naturally look and consider work for me as he was thinking of himself.   I was working to help him as well.  Once we started working together, it wasn’t long before conversations with prospective employers were taking place.  In fact, he inspired me to write 99 Resumes Sat on a Wall.   

Is there a difference between tapping into your network and working with your wolfpack?

Yes, there is a difference.   Your network could be a mixture of weak and strong interlinking connections.   People you have met in passing and people that you have spent a lot of time with.  Chances are if you sent a blanket message to your connections it would come across as weird.   I did that once, when I read my email I immediately trashed it.

The wolfpack is a small group of trusted agents that you have a close proximity to.  They know you and you know them.  While you may not have common jobs or roles, you have the hunt in common.  They have the ability to advocate for you and you have the ability to advocate for them.

Is there a difference between a wolfpack and a networking group?

Networking groups and job groups are good and there is opportunity in these groups, but they are different than a wolfpack.   Building trusted relationships over time takes time.  Working with people in larger groups can build trusted relationships and opportunity, but the fidelity and amount of trust is limited to the time / interaction.  A wolfpack is small and there is more time to build trust and exchange information.  

There is no magic formula to building a wolfpack

In my experience,  I have always had great people around me that I could trust.  The problem for me in the past was that I didn’t ask for help.  I was embarrassed or I thought I could handle the situation myself.   I was also overconfident in the speed and ability of my network.   When I didn’t get the response I expected, I was surprised.    Now I know that working with 3-4 people with common interests of exploring new opportunities is literally a force multiplier.   The way to know if someone will work alongside you, is for you to ask.   Beyond asking, it is your responsibility to prove you are part of the pack by showing up when called, learning about the needs of others aside from yourself and advocating for them.   

When you are part of the pack, it isn’t only about you.. it is about us!

Reverse Interview (Get Your Dream Job)

Theft of Spirit

This image is from The Theft_of_the_Spirit by Carl A. Hammerschlag

Three Basic Questions

Taken directly from http://www.dalecallahan.com/reverse-interview-questions/

Three Questions to Ask During a Reverse Interview

  • Question #1 – How did you get to where you are today? (Or you might say “tell me your story.”) This question breaks open the floodgates. It instantly opens up the interviewee because you are asking them to talk about themselves, which is their favorite subject. So just be up front and ask them to tell you their story. Their answer will help you connect to them and them to you. You will learn a ton about how to get into the business they are in and what to do first. And, because you are asking an expert to talk about their favorite subject, this one question could take while.
  • Question #2 – What do you hate and love about your job?  This is also a question about how they feel. But now you get to hear some pros and cons from their view. You might also learn some things they hate doing in their job that you love. For instance, if interviewing a cake designer, you may find out they hate talking to customers. This information tells you some of their business needs, since this designer might be very willing to hire someone who loves cakes and who also loves talking to people. In other words, you might learn about a job opening they did not know about themselves.
  • Question #3 – What keeps you awake at night? (You can change the wording based on the conversation, perhaps to say something like “What is your greatest challenge?” or “What keeps you from making more profit?”) This question is literally a million dollar question. It has been used to find a niche in a market in which many a company were formed. Listen closely.  Some things to watch for with this final question: – If they struggle with this question and seem to not have a real clue about the business challenges they have, you might be talking to a middle manager or someone who is not the real decision maker. The true leader can usually tell you instantly where the challenges of the business lie. – As they tell you the answer, think about cost. How much financial pain does their problem bring? If you are talking to the true leader, they are likely to share this information with you. For instance, I had an occasion where someone told me their problem and it generated a $2.5 million risk. Another friend of mine was told of a problem which generated a loss of $5 million per month for his interviewee. We call these losses and risks pain. People will pay to make their greatest pain go away.

Why Do This?

This is the most effective way of find a new job.   Searching the job boards and sifting through recruiters alone will yield a low return on your investment of time.   Being thoughtful in your approach and targeting a company / industry that you are interested in will increase your chances of success.   When you reverse interview also known as an informational interview, you can find out a lot more information about the organization you are looking to join.  This will help you determine if the organization is a good fit.

I asked for an informational interview with a large company a few years ago and I met with one of the senior managers for their technology architectures.  He was willing to talk to me about his organization and his frustrations.  After I listened to him over a few cups of coffee, I realized that his company would not be a good fit for me.   Not long after, he was looking to relocate and leave his company, he reached out to me for some contacts (which I provided).   He found a new organization not long after and seems much happier today.    You never know who you will meet and how they could help you or how you could help them.   I have found over the years that I can help a lot of people as well as myself though these interviews.

How to Start

  1. I use services provided by the library.   For example, when I lived in Virginia Beach I used http://www.referenceusa.com/ as part of their services to look up information about companies.   Most library systems in the US offer similar services.   Big or small it is good to learn as much as you can about an organization before making a decision to ask for an interview.
  2. I will use search services to look up news articles about the companies and their history.    I also like to read about the CEO past and present or any mergers or buy outs.   It helps to provide a glimpse of the culture or maybe cultural challenges.
  3. I like to use services like http://www.theofficialboard.com/org-chart/amazon-com which can show some org chart information.  Chances are they are less than 100% accurate but you can use services like LinkedIn to figure out if the person is still part of the organization.
  4. I will also ask friends if they know people in the organization.  It is a small world and more often than not we are only 3 degrees away from someone that can help us.
  5. The number 1 most effective thing I have ever done relative to this kind of networking is take or give training.   This provides an opportunity to learn and demonstrate knowledge in a subject area.   The training itself was valuable but the opportunities through interaction where unbelievable.

There is a lot more that can be done but this is a good place to start.   If someone allows me to interview them I always follow up to thank them.   When people give me time, I look at it as a gift and I am thankful to them.   I have met with a lot people over the years and off hand cannot think of any time that I had a bad experience.

–Hope this helps you as it has helped me!

All the Answers

“Yes, the best part of the Super Bowl.”

Being Smart

Experts warn that global warming is damaging our planet.   These experts study our world, build models, use statistics and have proof that damage is occurring.  The public is aware of the danger but what are we to do?

Seabirds are eating plastic at an alarming rate but what can I do?

These very smart and very well informed people tell us that there is a problem but chances are based on history that the problem will not be resolved by us.  It is more likely that nature will fix itself and that we will be at the receiving end of that solution.

Smart doesn’t equate to being effective and this is something that we need to consider.   At the end of the day, we need to focus on what we do and the results of those activities.   I have found myself over the years with many brilliant people that were unable to convert their intelligence into something practical with an outcome of a desired effect or capability.  That is the point of this short post.

All the Answers

Google has all the answers but it never asks if they are right.   Just because someone has the answers doesn’t mean they are right.  We need to understand that our curiosity, our questions and our rivalry forces us to make better decisions.  It forces us to drive towards better questions.   The questions are the key, not the answers.

Simple Steps

As things seem to become more complicated and we strive to be more connected and gain more information, we need to work towards simplicity.   I am sharing here what has worked for me with the hope that some of this can work for you.

  1. Use the 5 whys (example https://open.bufferapp.com/5-whys-process)
  2. If I don’t know something, it is OK, I just ask to find someone that does know and then let them talk.
  3. Challenge everything but account for time and the patience of others.
  4. Recognize that smart does not = wise.
  5. Respect people and be kind .. always keeping in mind servant leadership.
  6. Always be practical.
  7. Always consider the outcome and be realistic about it.
  8. Always consider the greater good.

These are some .. simple practices.. I have worked hard to use these on a daily basis and make them part of my life and routine.   The key point is that problems need solutions, solutions shouldn’t seek problems.    This was part of my thinking today, thought I would share with a few friends!