Tag: humble

5/16/11 “Giving Back”

Good day, team.

A few weeks ago, Portland lost one of its leading citizens: Harold Schnitzer. This man, along with his wife Arlene, impacted our city in so many positive ways that I couldn’t possibly list them all. They have funded the arts, our medical community and our schools. They have served on boards, helped organize charitable events and made huge efforts through their philanthropic foundation to important causes.

Harold was a humble man who was an extremely successful businessman. He had a strong set of values centered on the idea that people who are fortunate should give back to their communities. Herein lies this week’s challenge. How do we serve others? What are we doing to help support our communities, our team members and our social structures?

When I first moved to Portland in 1998, I met Harold Schnitzer on an airplane. He was with his son Jordan and some business associates. We were flying from Sacramento to Portland, and our flight was unable to land in the deep layer of fog that had descended over Portland. We were rerouted to Tacoma where they would put us on a bigger airplane that could land in such weather. All of this took awhile and everyone in the group was not too happy — except Harold. He took it all in stride. In fact, I think he took a nap on the Portland to Tacoma leg, while everyone else in his group fussed and complained about airline inefficiencies.

When we landed in Tacoma, we were told that our new airplane was being prepared and we would probably be flying out in another hour. As we deplaned, Harold could see that I was alone and asked if I would like to join them for a burger. Having not had dinner, I was glad for the invite. We began to talk, and I soon learned that Harold and my father had both gone to MIT and were actually there at the same time. We chatted like old friends, and I thought, what a lovely man. Of course, having only lived in Portland a few months, I had no idea who the Schnitzers were or what they meant to Portland.

At one point, when Harold went to buy a magazine, one of his business associates pulled me aside and said, “Do you know who these people are? I mean, they are the Schnitzers!” To which I replied, “Oh, you mean like Schnizerdoodle?” Little did I know that Harold and Jordan had overheard my comment and laughed and laughed. I realized that Harold thought it was great that I didn’t know who they were. I was treating them like normal people, which was exactly what Harold liked. For all the work he did to support the community and for all the fortune he had made, Harold Schnitzer knew that he was a human being like anyone else. He knew that having a lot of money didn’t make him special. When I asked him naively if he knew of any volunteer work I might be able to do in Portland, he chuckled and said, “I might be able to think of something that would be good for you.”

It was Harold who suggested that I read for SMART, a volunteer reading program that gives you the opportunity to read to young children once a week during the school year. Honestly, that program saved my emotional life. At a time when I was starting over and needed more love in my life, the SMART program allowed me to receive the unconditional love of some wonderful children. For the next four years, I reveled in that.

This is the kind of impact that Harold had on our community. And, now that he is no longer here, it occurs to me that it is up to us to follow in his footsteps. We may not have a fortune to spend or a philanthropic organization to fund major projects, but each of us can do one small thing to make a difference in our communities.

This week, look to see if you have included ways to give back in your life. Perhaps you can spend a day working at a local food bank or sign up to be a big brother or sister. You could volunteer at a local community center, hospital or care center. I have one client who volunteers at a hospice center once a week, and my mother-in-law still works as a volunteer at the front desk of one of our hospitals. She’s been there 15 years and, at the age of 90, still goes to work a few days a week to give back. She is one of my heroes.

Whatever it is, find ways to give back. We all have such abundance, and so many people are not as fortunate. One small act of kindness can change not just their lives but your own.

As Harold said, “I feel we each have a mission in life, so to speak. Decide what you want to do to help others, and if you’re fortunate like we have been, move ahead and do it. I’m very pleased with what we have done. I feel that’s what we’re here to do.”

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

4/12/10 “Different Leadership Styles”

Good day, team,

This week, David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, reminded me again how different leadership styles can be successful in his editorial “The Humble Hound.”

We all know typical maverick leaders who aggressively hit for the home run each time: They are aggressive, charismatic and super-confident. But we also know how risky that kind of leadership can be. If you go for the home run every time, you’ll more often strike out; these kinds of leaders often produce volatile corporate results.

In his editorial, Brooks refers to Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great” and “How the Mighty Fall.” In researching his books, Collins found that many of the reliably successful leaders combine “extreme personal humility with intense professional will.”

Brooks calls this kind of leader the humble hound (I appreciate that Brooks refers to the leader as she rather than he in the article).

“She thinks less about her mental strengths than about her weaknesses. She knows her performance slips when she has to handle more than one problem at a time, so she turns off her phone and e-mail while making decisions. She knows she has a bias for caution, so she writes a memo advocating the more daring option before writing another advocating the most safe. She knows she is bad at prediction, so she follows Peter Drucker’s old advice: After each decision, she writes a memo about what she expects to happen. Nine months later, she’ll read it to discover how far off she was.

“In short, she spends a lot of time on metacognition—thinking about her thinking—and then building external scaffolding devices to compensate for her weaknesses.

“She knows the world is too complex and irregular to be known, so life is about navigating uncertainty. She understands she is too quick to grasp at pseudo-objective models and confident projections that give the illusion of control.

“She spends more time seeing than analyzing. Analytic skills differ modestly from person to person, but perceptual skills vary enormously. Anybody can analyze, but the valuable people can pick out the impermanent but crucial elements of a moment or effectively grasp a context. This sort of perception takes modesty; strong personalities distort the information field around them.

“Because of her limitations, she tries to construct thinking teams. In one study, groups and individuals were given a complicated card game. Seventy-five percent of the groups solved it, but only 14 percent of individuals did.

“She tries not to fall for the seductions that Collins says make failing organizations: the belief that one magic move will change everything; the faith in perpetual restructuring; the tendency to replace questions with statements at meetings.”

Brooks refers to the “ethos of stagehands who work behind the scenes. Being out when the applause is ringing doesn’t feel important to them. The important things are the communal work, the contribution to the whole production and the esprit de corps.”

This week, take a look at your leadership style. Are you acting like a lion or a humble hound? Are you quick to change things and expect your team members to always be on their toes by responding with a sense of urgency? Do you pride yourself on having the reputation of being aggressive, daring and self-assured? Are you being overly analytical by challenging everyone’s thinking, including your own, and missing what’s right in front of you in the moment? Would people describe you as humble and patient or as being bullish in your thoughts and actions? When was the last time you said to a subordinate, “I really need your help”?

Whatever type of leader, manager or supervisor you are, try to see the value in being versatile in your leadership style. This week, experiment with different styles. If you usually lead meetings and are often vocal in them, try letting someone else lead the meeting and staying quiet so you can listen. Take Drucker’s suggestion and write down your decisions, reviewing them months later to see how good they turned out to be. Maybe you experiment by being more active and aggressive if you normally are not. It might be a good surprise for people around you to see you behave differently. They will be less apt to make assumptions about who you are if you don’t fit the same picture they’ve already painted of you.

Good leadership requires authenticity and consistency as much as it benefits from versatility in thought and behavior. Try exercising that versatility this week and see what the results turn out to be.

Have a good week.


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

* The coach will be out of town the weekend of 4/17/10. The next challenge will be sent out 4/27/10.