Wise Leadership at the UMKC School of Nursing

Friday I did a training session for PhD nursing students at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Nursing.

UMKC School of Nursing

The session was successful and I think I have a satisfied client. But what I’d like to talk about today is my admiration for the leadership at UMKC School of Nursing. When I walked in and made contact with the receptionist, she was very positive, upbeat and helpful. That gave me a clue that there was a good workplace culture there. Before the day was over I understood why.

Shortly before my session with the students was to begin, my contact asked me if it would be ok to include staff in the session. “Of course,” I replied. Shortly staff members began filing into the room. One of them was a very elegant, professional looking woman.

“You’re not a student, are you?” I asked.

“No,” She replied, “I’m the Dean.”

Wow. Before long all of us, students, faculty, staff (including the dean) and yours truly were laughing and learning together. In that classroom we were equals.

That kind of leadership explains why staff are so cheerful and productive.

Congratulations Dean Lacey-Haun, and Associate Dean Patricia Kelly.


Celebrate Failure

In almost every training we do at laugh2learn the opportunity arises to celebrate failure. Usually it’s when someone says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand,” or something similar. At that point we interrupt whatever we are doing to talk just a bit about failure and why it is so destructive to be ashamed of it. If you haven’t failed, you’re not trying enough new things.

We then get into a circle and I invite participants to step forward and announce their failures and we all cheer. I am amazed that almost always at least two-thirds of the participants want to announce a failure. At a recent training at an academic institution where  students and faculty were participating together, a professor stepped forward and announced that he had submitted many articles that were never published. We all cheered, and I think the students really appreciated hearing of a professor’s failure.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Hear what Michael Jordan had to say about failure:

 “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So, be bold. Take a risk. Take the shot. Sometimes you will fail. Celebrate that. It means you were trying.

Validate Me

A few years ago I heard Dr. Rich Handley say that all human beings are like little antennae sending out a constant signal: “Validate me! Validate me!” I believe he is right. On more than one occasion I have admired someone from a distance; someone so self assured, so confident, so talented, who when I got to know them, confessed self doubt and a need to be validated.

We almost never tell people we value them. We can work side by side with someone we admire and they will never know how we feel about them. At Laugh2learn we have several creative play exercises designed to help people let their co-workers know they are valued. One of my favorites is “Good Gossip,” an exercise I almost always use to close a session. I divide the participants into groups of three and have them sit in chairs arranged like an arrowhead, two behind, one in front all facing forward. Once they are settled, I ask the two in back to talk out loud about the one in front for 30 seconds. The rule is they may only say positive things that are true. After 30 seconds I have them rotate so that a different person is in front and repeat the exercise, then rotate again, so that each person gets to listen to 30 seconds of positive information. It is amazing, and joyful to stand at the front of the room and watch the expression on the faces of the participants in the front chairs. Everyone leaves feeling good about themselves, and I leave with the knowledge that I have facilitated that.

You may want to try this exercise at the conclusion of your next staff meeting.

Whether you do or not, here is a challenge to all of you: Today, validate someone. Tell someone you know something positive about them. They will feel better, and so will you. If you get any feedback, let me know.

How I Went From Obese to Oveweight in One Day

Every day – – well almost every day — I work out on my Wii Fit. For those of  you who have never used it, the Wii asks you questions about your age, height, etc and then when you step on the balance board to weigh in it tells you whether you’re  “obese,” “overweight,”” healthy” or “underweight.” It makes these determinations based on your Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI is a very crude measurement that is used because it is cheap. Using BMI, most professional athletes are scored as either “overweight,” or “obese.”

Does this look obese to you?

I am not a professional athlete, and my body fat percentage is not the healthiest,but because of my build, the damn Wii told me “That’s obese.” everytime I weighed in.

I found a way to go from “obese” to “overweight” in just a few minutes. I opened my profile and changed my height from 6’0″ to 6’4″. Now when I weigh in it just says, “That’s overweight.”

Ya gotta be smarter than the machine.

Work Like A Dog!

At the recent Applied Improvisation Network conference in Baltimore, I had the privilege of meeting Matt Weinstein, and heard him elaborate a bit on his book, Work Like Your Dog. One of the things that impressed me most is that dogs don’t distinguish between work and play. It made me think about a recent visit to Alaska where we watched training Alaskan Huskies. I was amazed by the absolute joy they displayed at the sight of the harness.

Sled Dogs

They were literally leaping for joy! Can you imagine what it would feel like to approach work with that attitude? Can you imagine working with colleagues that had that attitude? If you take another look at Matt’s book, you may find some ways to at least come close.

My Dog, Rufus, Listening

Matt also noted that dogs have many other desirable characteristics. For example, they listen intently, even when they don’t understand a word you say.

At laugh2learn, I have developed a new improv based game to help people learn to listen like a dog. If you’d like more information, let me know.

Finally, I’d like to hear from you. What other canine traits should we humans try to emulate? Do you think we can, or are there some ways dogs will always be superior?


After I posted my Leon Panetta post, I got to thinking more about aging and what it means. In that post I suggested that one way to remain young in spirit is to keep you focus on the future and not the past. Today, I’m thinking that young people have another characteristic we can emulate; young people play. Playing will keep you young.

As a matter of fact, play is an important part of the life for all of us, and not just for we humans. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Stuart Brown has made the study of play his life work, and at least one of his books is available on-line for free.

At Laugh2Learn we believe in the power of play, and that is why we offer play based training at very reasonable prices.

Come, let’s play together.

Me and Leon Panetta

Or is it Leon Panetta and I? It doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. The reason I’mwriting about Leon Panetta is that he is older than me! And he’s the Secretary of Defense. Frankly, I get a little disturbed when people say, “You don’t look 70.” as though looking 70 is supposed to be bad or something. Does Leon Panetta look 72? Yes! He is just as accurate an image of 72 as anyone else that age. And I’m as typical of 70 as anyone.

If you want to look and feel youthful, act youthful. Think about the young people you know. One characteristic almost all of them share is a forward-looking perspective. You don’t see high school students dreaming wistfully about their middle school days. No. They are looking forward. I’m convinced that the key to being a youthful septuagenarian is in attitude. Leon is not looking back to what he used to be, he is looking forward to doing his new job well. 

Me too. I’m spending my time and energy building Laugh2Learn. I’m learning new skills and developing new products. When you see me congratulate me on my energy and optimism. Applaud my courage in offering a money back guarantee on all of my products. Don’t tell me I don’t look 70.

I might attend my next high school reunion, but I hope I’ll be too busy.

You too Leon?