Reaching Across End Zones

Reaching Across End Zones

Though I don’t claim to be someone that watches a ton of football, the events of the past few weekends have caught my eye; here’s my take:

We all have opinions and a myriad of places to express those opinions. The safety we feel as American people to freely express those opinions is, unarguably, one of the things that make our country great. When our opinions are expressed, at best they can lead to conversations and learning; at worst they lead to division and rifts between us. It might sound idealistic, but I think we are capable of the best case scenario. I think we can learn from each other and let our differing opinions start a conversation.


When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee last year, President Obama stated, “I want (the protesters) to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing. But I also want people to think about the pain he (Kaepernick) may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.” I think this gets at the heart of the issue. We have to take a step back from our own biases and narratives we live in and be willing to see the issue from another person’s side. This openness challenges us, grows us, and makes us better.


When I think of this debate and the narrative from both sides, I just want to have a conversation. I want to sit down and talk to my friends who see things differently than me, to hear how this situation touches their mind and heart. I think we can all take a step and listen to each other and have honest conversations. I don’t think this kind of situation gets solved from a Facebook rant, I think it starts with a cup of coffee, a trusted colleague, and an open mind.

Lessons from the NFL

Lessons from the NFL

Last year one NFL player chose to sit rather than stand for the National Anthem before a game. Later, he began to kneel for the Anthem and was joined by a handful of other players. President Trump weighed in on Friday at a political rally and in a series of tweets. The NFL commissioner called him divisive, ignoring the divisive action that started this in the first place. The President responded, and things escalated.


On Sunday, over 200 players took a knee for the National Anthem. Others locked arms in solidarity, while other teams decided to stay in the locker room for the Anthem. Players were booed by some, cheered by others.


The league is in a tough spot. They have been maneuvered, or put themselves, into a difficult situation. If they support their players they risk further alienating a significant portion of their fans. President Trump has called for a boycott of the NFL. Overnight ratings from Sunday’s prime-time game were down 8% from the previous week, which were down 17% from the season opener. It is undeniable that ratings are down. Is this because of the player protests or are other factors in play? Only time will tell.


If the league supports the fans that are boycotting or outraged at the player protests they risk alienating their players. What happens if the league orders the players to stand and they choose not to play? The league has chosen not to enforce its own rules.


The rules regarding the anthem are found on pages A62-63 of the league’s game operational manual:


“The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.


During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area or respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”


So, what can our organizations learn from the NFL? Two things stand out for me.


First, at the height of his career, Michael Jordan was asked to publicly to endorse a Democrat for the Senate race in North Carolina. Jordan refused to do so, reportedly saying, “Republicans buy shoes, too.” Whether Jordan actually said this is in some doubt, but the sentiment is correct. The NFL has allowed a situation to develop that has alienated a number of their customers. The damage may be permanent.

Second, the NFL had a rule in place that addressed this very action. They could have intervened the first time a player sat or kneeled. They chose to act in a manner inconsistent with their own stated policy and the protests escalated. The argument can be made that the policy itself was wrong. If so, the league should have determined that the policy was not in keeping with their values and changed the policy, but they didn’t. Now they have to deal with the consequences of their choices. It is almost impossible for the league to now enforce a policy that chose to ignore. Changing the policy now is also fraught with difficulty.


The NFL is facing a number of disruptions to its business model, from CTE concerns, to cord cutting, declining attendance, and now a portion of their customer base who have tuned out. Boycotts rarely last, but I believe this is different. I always saw the NFL as a diversion, a time on Sunday afternoon to cheer for my team and enjoy time free of thoughts of work, politics, and the everyday stresses of life. I stopped watching because it isn’t fun anymore.


Taking controversial decisions may be the right thing for our organizations or for each of us individually. It is important to understand that freedom of speech, and positions or causes we support are not without consequences. When we take positions that alienate our employees or our customers we have to be ready to deal with the fallout from our positions. Sometimes right is right, regardless of the consequences, but that does not insulate us or our organizations from negative outcomes.


This is why I believe in values-based leadership. It gives us a framework or a moral compass to guide us when we make decisions on what causes to support, how to treat our teammates, and how we interact with our external stakeholders. Values provide a guide to aid our actions. Values give us a rock on which to stand. Using the NFL’s situation as a cautionary tale for all of us, I encourage you to review your stated values. Are they what you really believe? Are they what you are willing to stand for regardless of the consequences? Do your policies and actions align with your values? When our values drive our behavior we have confidence in our actions.

When Helping Hurts Book Review

When Helping Hurts Book Review

I have been blessed to travel around the world on short term mission trips with various organizations. One specific trip to Malawi in 2015 truly changed my heart, perspective, and future plans. On this trip, I worked with a company that sells products made by women in a specific village partnership. My eyes were opened to how for-profit companies can be leveraged to create lasting impact. I dove head first into learning all I could about corporate social responsibility.

During this process, I reached out to people I respected and asked how I could learn more. Consistently a book called, When Helping Hurts was recommended. It became an incredibly valuable resource for me and has to continued to be to this day.

When Helping Hurts looks at the best approach for alleviating poverty. Unfortunately, so often the tactics used for helping the poor end up adding to the negative cycle that hurts the recipient and the giver. Written by Steve Corbet and Brian Fikkert, the book presents many examples of how even with the best intentions, it is easy to get a vastly different outcome than what the donor intended. Corbet and Fikkert provide a new way of looking at impoverished situations and offer a fresh perspective for how to go about delivering developmental aid.

This book has been crucial in how I examine our potential charitable partners here at Artistry. I highly recommend it. Feel free to pick up your copy here.

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Recently we relaunched with a new more focused approach. This got me thinking about new beginnings. I realized that our lives are all about new beginnings. From learning to walk, going to school for the first time, first date, first apartment, marriage, new job, first child, etc. It is also about moving on after the loss of a partner, parent, child, business, or dream. Life is a series of new beginnings.


I’ve become focused on being intentional around each new beginning. This starts by asking myself and our team, “what does this make possible?” This changes my focus from overly excited about positive beginnings or dwelling in how things used to be and orients my mind to make the most of a new beginning.


For example, when my former partner and I unexpectedly had to sell our self-storage company a few years ago it allowed me to take some time and plan the next chapter of my life. It wasn’t what we wanted. It wasn’t the plan, but our financial partners wanted to take a different path. Our plan was interrupted. That new beginning led to the development of a plan that resulted in the founding of Artistry Hotels. I figured out how to spend more time with my family, especially my wife. I created a plan to finish my doctorate (I’m still working on that one). A new beginning that we didn’t want, made a new path possible. In this case, one that is challenging professionally and rewarding personally.


New beginning can be an act of intentionality. We don’t have to stay where we are. We may not be able to affect change overnight, but we can change our story. It may be corny, but it is true, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.


New beginnings can come from serendipity. Intentionality is important, but leaving enough margin in our lives for serendipity is too! I’m working on that balance. I hope you are too.


New beginnings are all around us. What does your new beginning make possible?