Jim Clemmer's Leader Letter

MARCH 2009, Issue 72
Leading @ the Speed of Change: Navigating Turbulent Times
Range of Reality: Choosing the Best or the Worst of Times
Lead, Follow, or Wallow
We Need Lots More Innovation
Don't Let the Nattering Nabobs of Negativism Get You Down
Archived Internet Interview
True Leadership Values Shine Clearest in Tough Times
New Affiliate Program
Thoughts that Make You Go Hmmmm...on Optimism
Consulting Corner: Behaviors to Support Your Desired Culture
Most Popular February Improvement Points
Feedback and Follow-Up

Permission to Reprint

You may reprint any items from The Leader Letter in your own printed publication or e-newsletter as long as you include this paragraph:

"Reprinted with permission from The Leader Letter, Jim Clemmer's free e-newsletter. For over twenty-five years, Jim's 2,000 + practical leadership presentations and workshops/retreats, six bestselling books, columns, and newsletters have been helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. His web site is www.jimclemmer.com."


March 2009, Issue 72

Work on my new book (working title is Thriving in Turbulent Times) is coming along very well. I am about 60% finished with the first draft. When I start a new book I have a vision of key themes or messages I want to convey and a detailed outline of sections and chapters. But it's only when I start writing that the book truly comes alive and either follows the path I originally wanted it to take or blazes along some new routes. I'm happy to report that I'm seeing a nice blend of both. If you want background on the book, see "Having a Blast Working on my Latest Book" on my blog. This month's Leader Letter has a few short sections from the emerging manuscript.

I'm excited about how this book and our ongoing Client workshop customization and in-house deliveries are rapidly evolving our materials. My June Leading @ the Speed of Change workshop will reflect a large amount of these new approaches, updated models, freshened examples, latest research, and deepened content. The first item in this issue provides more details on the upcoming session.

This is the second month in our new process of integrating my blog postings with The Leader Letter. Rather than sitting down for a full day each month to write The Leader Letter, I'm posting items to my blog every Tuesday and Thursday. These blog entries, and possible discussions from readers, now form the core of every issue of The Leader Letter. Go to http://jimclemmer.com/blog to read previous posts and sign up to get e-mail notifications or subscribe to the RSS feeds and read postings as they appear. Of course you can also read most of them in the The Leader Letter each month.

"Leading @ the Speed of Change: Navigating Turbulent Times"

"Leading @ the Speed of Change: Navigating Turbulent Times" on June 2 and 3, 2009 is a very rare two-day public workshop designed to help individuals and management teams address  challenging issues and successfully navigate the choppy waters of uncertainty. This is my only date for open or public versions of this workshop in 2009. No others are planned. If you're in Southern Ontario or the Greater Toronto Area this is a unique opportunity to bring your team to one of my sessions (if you have more than six team members, we should talk about an in-house session customized to your organization). The Kitchener Holiday Inn is only forty-five minutes from Toronto's international airport.

For everyone outside of Ontario or Canada, June is a beautiful time to visit our wonderful little piece of heaven here on earth. Niagara Falls is only ninety minutes away and many other tourist attractions are even closer. Of course, you can always go further north and look for our famous moose!

Click here for our agenda, outcomes you can expect, pricing, and other information.

Range of Reality: Choosing the Best or the Worst of Times

Here's a condensed snippet from a chapter of my new book on choosing our reality. It's especially important to remind ourselves about choosing our reality during these challenging times:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…"
Charles Dickens, opening lines in A Tale of Two Cities an historical novel set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution

With these opening lines Dickens contrasts the two ends of what I call the Range of Reality. These are the glasses we put on to look at every aspect of our lives all day long. These are the borders we use to look at each situation. These are the focal points for the perspective we bring to every thought and action hundreds of times throughout our day.

American Heritage Dictionary provides sharp distinctions for the opposing ends of the Range of Reality:


    • A tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable or to take the gloomiest possible view.
    • The doctrine or belief that this is the worst of all possible worlds and that all things ultimately tend toward evil.
    • The doctrine or belief that the evil in the world outweighs the good.


    • A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.
    • The doctrine that this world is the best of all possible worlds.
    • The belief that the universe is improving and that good will ultimately triumph over evil.
Range of Reality quality



Negative energy
Tuned into bad vibrations
Impossibility thinking
See the worst in people
Problem focused

Positive energy
Tuned into good vibrations
Possibility thinking
Find the best in people
Solution focused

What's your reality? Where do you choose to spend most of your day on the Range of Reality? These are vital questions for your health, happiness, success, and well-being.

Lead, Follow, or Wallow

A central theme in my decades of trying to understand, apply, and teach leadership skills is that leadership is an action, not a position. Leadership is what we do, not who we are. Who we become is determined by what we repeatedly think and do. Too many people in leadership roles don't act like leaders. And there are many people who haven't been given formal leadership authority but are very strong leaders. We all need to be leaders – in our personal lives or taking a leading role in our family, communities, profession, relationships, or workplace.

Whether we choose to be leaders or not shines clearest when we face tough turbulence, nasty adversity, or unpleasant change in any part of life. Those trying times often involve suffering or loss. That could be loss of a loved one, our health or physical mobility, a relationship, a job, money, autonomy, control, or status. During these times we can lead, we can follow, or we can wallow.

The choices we make are the glasses we put on to view our situation. When we choose how to look at the challenge we're hit with – often unexpectedly – we choose the frame to put around it. That frame makes our situation appear larger or smaller or brighter or darker. These choices create our reality. Bit by bit these choices accumulate to create our life. And they determine our personal health and happiness, as well as our team and organizational success.

We Need Lots More Innovation

Like the weather, many people talk about innovation but few managers do much about it. Unlike the weather, there is a lot managers can and must do about innovation – especially in difficult times. Innovation often falls into the same trap as strategic planning, economic forecasting, and change management. There is no orderly path that can be planned in advance. The best new products, services, or methods often come from the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons.

Rick Spence is a Toronto-based writer, speaker, and marketing consultant who writes a column for Profit magazine. He and I had a stimulating discussion about innovation that he turned into an excellent column entitled "Innovation: Kick up a stink." He especially focused on "skunkworks" a highly underutilized approach to experiment, pilot, and find new and better ways to make things and deliver services. To read Rick's column click here.

Don't Let the Nattering Nabobs of Negativism Get You Down

"Nattering nabobs of negativism" was a phrase originally written by speechwriter William Safire for U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew to describe the media who opposed the Nixon administration's policies. It's an apt phrase for  professional pessimists in the media – especially these days. What's considered "news" or reported as "reality" is overwhelmingly what's wrong, not what's right. "If it bleeds it leads" is an old truism in the newspaper business. Random acts of violence are reported in great detail while random acts of kindness go unnoticed. Unemployment rates are reported as reaching 8, 10 or 12 percent rather than employment rates of 88, 90, or 92 percent. Forty percent chance of rain we're told rather than 60 percent chance of sunshine.

Will Rogers, the Cherokee-American cowboy, humorist, and social commentator, once said "I hope we never live to see the day when a thing is as bad as some of our newspapers make it." In his book, Is Progress Speeding Up?: Our Multiplying Multitudes of Blessings, highly successful investor (Sir) John Templeton writes, "…people today, on the average, are better fed, better clothed, better housed, and better educated than at any previous time.  Fewer and fewer people live under the weight of tyranny. In most parts of the world, people are enjoying longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives."

I read a few news web sites daily and scan about a dozen others throughout the week. I am interested in what's happening around the world. I also look for research and examples to file in my electronic database – and use in my work. Through years of training and habit-building I've worked hard to look beyond the sensationally negative headlines to find examples of all the good, positive progress we're making.

Archived Internet Interview

I was on the Liquid Lunch show last month. I don't know where that name came from, but I didn't imbibe! You can access the archived interview at http://www.thatchannel.com/liquidlunch. ThatRadio.com is "Canada's Number 1 Internet radio station, broadcasting to Toronto and the world since 2004." Their mission is to "make a difference and have as much fun as possible – not necessarily in that order." I hope to have some fun and share thoughts on my work that might make a difference.


Last month's Super Bowl featured a great moose-on-the-desk commercial. You can view it at http://ca.video.yahoo.com/watch/4409213/11824220. This could easily be Doug Drake in the plush front office with poor Pete Leonard working in the back. If you haven't read my newest book, Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work, that last sentence refers to the central character and his boss. Get more information at www.mooseonthetable.com.

True Leadership Values Shine Clearest in Tough Times

A web site visitor described an all too common occurrence today:

Our company treats firings and layoff exactly the same. The person being laid off or fired is called to the HR department, given their pink slip, escorted back to their station with an HR person, a hand truck, and  boxes. Thirty minutes later they are on the street with their life dramatically changed.

I just watched this happen to a senior supervisor after working nearly ten years in our company. While employed he was given responsibility for multi-million dollar contracts and assets.

Funny that they give all of that responsibility to a trustworthy person who, while employed, has every opportunity to really shaft the company. They somehow think they will turn into a monster and have no character. Weird! What are they afraid of?

During times of high stress and adversity a manager's true values shine through. In better times, it's fairly easy to spout motherhood statements about caring for people, teamwork, respect, etc. But when tough cost cutting moves are called for, many managers revert back to their core beliefs that employees are really just assets with skin (not human beings), can't be trusted so must be "snoopervised" every step of the way, and everyone is only out for themselves. By believing and behaving that way, they encourage that behavior in return. When they see those values mirrored back to them in negative behaviors, their own negative beliefs are reinforced. "See, I told you they were like that!"

These values issues are coming from a core focus of management and not leadership. There's a series of my articles on Management versus Leadership at this link, click here.

It's tough to know exactly where fear like she described comes from. I urged her to take steps to keep herself "above the line" in navigating the tough environment she – and so many others – are clearly in today. There's a series of my articles written to help readers keep your own attitude and outlook on track at this link.

New Affiliate Program

As most readers of this newsletter know, you can purchase all my materials online through my online bookstore. Over the years I've sold thousands of books and audios to people and organizations all over the world.

From time to time I'm approached by a webmaster, or even a company, about selling my materials on their site. So earlier this month our webmaster created a new affiliate program where folks can earn a 15% commission on all sales generated through a referral from their site.

This is a great opportunity for:

  • Company Intranets
  • Professional Speakers
  • Management Consultants
  • Bloggers
  • E-newsletter distributors

To learn more about this program or to sign up click here.

Put MY Blog on YOUR Site

If you are a subscriber to my blog then you already know that it's updated twice a week with practical leadership information that is appropriate for staff at any level in most organizations.

Now you can have my blog postings appear on your web site by simply cutting and pasting a bit of code into your web page. It's a quick and easy way to a practical leadership resource to those who need it most.

Click here to see how it works and get the appropriate code.


Thoughts that Make You Go Hmmmm...on Optimism

"Everything works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end."
- Unknown (our daughter, Vanessa's, favorite saying)

"The Green Bay Packers never lost a football game. They just ran out of time."
- Vincent Thomas Lombardi (1913-70), American football coach

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968), American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement

"This is the art of courage: to see things as they are and still believe that the victory lies not with those who avoid the bad, but those who taste, in living awareness, every drop of the good."
- Victoria Lincoln (1905 – 1981), "The Art of Courage," Vogue

"Never think of the consequences of failing, you will always think of negative results. Think only positive thoughts and your mind will gravitate towards those thoughts!"
- Michael Jordon, retired athlete called by the National Basketball Association "the greatest basketball player of all time." He failed to make his high school varsity basketball team in his sophomore year but after vigorous training made the team the next year.

"Optimism (is)…an inner resource - the ability to believe that times may be rough but that, with renewed effort, they'll improve, that failure and success are to a great degree states of mind."
- Steven J. Stein and Howard E. Book, The EQ Edge. Emotional Intelligence and Your Success

Consulting Corner: Behaviors to Support Your Desired Culture

Part Four in a Series
Culture change has become a highly popular topic as organizations work to increase their performance – and really live their values. In his fourth installment of the series, "Behaviors to Support Your Desired Culture", our Senior Vice President of Consulting and Training, Scott Schweyer, outlines what he and his group of specialists and experts have found is key to success. Click here to read the article.

In all my years leading The Achieve Group/Zenger Miller and now The CLEMMER Group, I have worked with dozens of consultants. Scott is exceptionally strong in his intuitive ability to help Clients make the changes that need to happen in order to dramatically shift their culture toward higher effectiveness.
Read Scott's previous articles in this series:

Steps to Culture Change

What Impacts an Organization's Culture?

Business Practices to Support Your Desired Culture

Most Popular February Improvement Points

Improvement Points is a no-charge service to bring timely and inspirational quotes from my articles to subscribers three times a week. Built around our new topic index, Improvement Points are crafted to help you become a better leader of yourself, your team and your organization. Each Improvement Point links directly to a full article on our web site. If you'd like to read more about the point being made in that day's Improvement Point, you simply click on the "Read the full article now" link below each IP to read the full article. Many subscribers circulate especially relevant Improvement Points articles to their team, Clients, or colleagues for further discussion or action.

Here are the three most popular Improvement Points we sent out in February:

"We can't build a team or organization that's different from us. We can't make them into something we're not. Failing to follow this principle is the single biggest reason that so many team and organization change and improvement efforts flounder or fail. The changes and improvements we try to make to others must ring true to the changes and improvements we're also trying to make to ourselves."
- from Jim Clemmer's article, "A Checklist for Changing Me to Change Them"
Read the full article now!

"The president of a major retailing chain kept talking about integrity and trust. At the same time, he expressed frustration that store managers weren't 'entrepreneurial enough' to keep extra merchandise that was shipped in error by external suppliers. 'After all', he explained, 'these companies are always jerking us around'."
- from Jim Clemmer's article, "Bridging the Rhetoric-Reality Values Gap"

Read the full article now!

"As we challenged this "Pity City" victim thinking in our discussions, the group began to change its tone and started to talk about what could be ("let's get off the Bitter Bus at Frown Town and head back toward navigating our way through the challenges"). We began sorting out what issues and ideas could be directly controlled, couldn't be controlled at all, and what could be influenced. We brainstormed, clustered ideas together, set priorities, debated alternatives, and agreed on action plans. We got on with it. Two years later, acting on these plans, the municipality had made huge strides forward in changing and improving their organization despite the obstacles, handicaps, and problems. It's called leadership."
- from Jim Clemmer's article, "Bridging the Council-Staff Gap"
Read the full article now!

Feedback and Follow-Up

I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at Jim.Clemmer@Clemmer.net.

Keep learning, laughing, loving, and leading - living life just for the L of it!!



10 Pioneer Drive, Suite 105,
Kitchener, ON N2P 2A4
Phone: (519) 748-1044
Fax: (519) 748-5813
E-mail: service@clemmer.net

Please post or forward this newsletter to colleagues, Clients, or associates you think might be interested - or on a 'need-to-grow' basis. If you received this newsletter from someone else, and would like to subscribe, click on the link below: www.jimclemmer.com/newsletter

10 Pioneer Drive, Suite 105, Kitchener  ON  N2P 2A4
Phone: (519) 748-1044 ~ Fax: (519) 748-5813
E-mail: service@clemmer.net

Copyright 2009 © Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group