Bette George & Associates, Inc.                                                                                                                        (703) 734-0101

May 2009               ---------------   Issue 19  ---------------     

"We must be brave enough to start a conversation that matters and trust that meaningful conversations can change your world."
Meg Wheatley

Welcome to Conversations on Leadership and Life, my newsletter that I hope will become a favorite of yours. In each issue, I will offer best practice tips and resources, innovative ideas and inspiration to help you begin to create the change you want to see in yourself, your workplace, and your community. My goal is to engage you in a meaningful conversation about what matters to you in your work and your life.  My hope is to make this a two-way conversation, so e-mail me at to share your ideas, success stories, favorite resources and anything else that inspires you to greatness.

Feature Article: Doing Good and Doing Well

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Edmund Burke

Poetry Corner

To be human
is to become visible
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others.
What shape waits in the seed
of you to grow
and spread
its branches
against a future sky?

From What To Remember When Waking by David Whyte


The Answer to How is Yes
 Peter Block

by Peter Block

Leadership: the Inner Side of Greatness
by Peter Koestenbaum

by William Isaacs

The Soul of Money
by Lynne Twist


The feature article about good work, done well and making the world a better place in the process was written by my husband, Vern George.   As I listened to Vern speak passionately about “doing good and doing well” to my friend and colleague, Kate Ebner, it occurred to me how timely this perspective is as we work to change direction in this country.

Will the last ethical, honest person please turn off the lights?  Bonuses for grievous failure.  Earmarks based on the constituents rather than the recovery.  TARP being used everywhere by recipient banks except to increase lending and save homes.  Congressional response on all issues being only based on partisanship. A zero sum game. Just keep the victorious Minnesota senator from sitting, and voting, as long as you can.  Doing everything in your power to make the other party’s President fail.  Clearly all these folk are hell bent on doing well—with little or no concern for anyone or anything outside of themselves.

Well, yes and no.  There are those primarily focused on doing well, as highlighted above; but there is also great opportunity for doing good.

Because, as discouraged as the daily news makes us all, the vast majority of Americans and citizens of the world remain thoroughly committed in their careers and in their lives to doing well, but seldom at the expense of doing good.   The two life strategies are totally consistent and lead to the kind of society which we all seek.  Let’s talk about it a minute--this doing good while you are doing well, and we would submit, building a sound financial underpinning for your life in the process.

Doing well is what most of us set as a major and most important objective in our careers and often in our lives, at least as doing well is required to meet the needs and the desires of ourselves and others close to us.  Education and experience, and yes, commitment, are essential tools we use to do well; and to steadily enhance the degree we do well. We often measure “well” in terms of financial resources and what they will buy.  Seeking, yes “worshiping,” doing well, seems to have become the credo for many.

For others, fortunately, their personal needs and desires are best being met by doing goodDoing good means a focus on making a major and sustained commitment to utilizing the full range of your personal energy resources to meet human individual and societal needs.  Greatest satisfaction comes in doing good when your actions cause a substantially greater level of achievement in meeting the needs and desires of others.  And what many of us have found in our lives is that the balanced strategy of doing good and doing well provides the most sound foundation for a productive and usual life.   

So what can we do to refocus and reinforce our generation and future generations commitment to a balanced life strategy of doing good and doing well; and that the balanced strategy will result in all of us living the full life for us, our children, our grandchildren and future generations to come?  We can continue to enhance and refine the skills, characteristics and energies which allow us to do well, and to apply much greater commitment to effectively applying those skills, characteristics and energies to do good.

Many of us run businesses, and although that is very challenging, we prevail and prosper.  But few of us can “find the time” to pass on those management and entrepreneurial skills to struggling small businesses or those attempting to start businesses.  When we look at recession impacted markets of the past we find that the chief source of recovery was less the big firms “coming back” than if was those furloughed in the downturn boot- strapping their way into new businesses, which struggled, yes, but grew and rebuilt the job base.  Think how much faster that could occur if those of us still doing well brought the greater balance to our lives of investing much more time and energy in doing good.

And the opportunity is just as great on the non-profit side.  While the long days are the same, the unmet needs are even greater and a much greater share of those needs can be met if those with the skills and contacts to succeed in those fields invest their time and contacts to help others to form and operate individual, small group and emerging major players in this public side. The need is beyond private folks giving more to public.  It requires all folks to take what they know and the resources which they have to give themselves the satisfaction of doing good. The same could certainly be said for those of us in government; from the top to the bottom. 

I mention those of us in the financial community, and quickly duck for cover. But think of the good which could be done if all those with extremely effective financial skills, and that is most of the folks who go to work every day on that small island near the Statue of Liberty, applied those skills to leverage the relatively limited public funding for doing good to achieve an amount many times as great to more closely meet the total need.

Yes we can!

“Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth.”

Leadership Lessons: YES is the right question!

A life that matters is captured in the word YES. YES affirms the value of participation, of being a player instead of a spectator to our own experience. YES affirms the existence of a destination beyond material gain--for organizations as well as individuals.

“HOW?” we ask. How can I contribute to the greater good?  What can I possibly do? The problems in my organization, my town, the world are just too big and complex for me to know where to start? How do we get there from here?” How can we be sure it will work? And on and on and on we go. We look for certainty, frustrated that in the area of human endeavors there is never is certainty.

Peter Block, Margaret Wheatley and other thought leaders suggest that our pragmatic focus on what works (the HOW) leads us to avoid questions of purpose, of what truly matters to us as citizens, leaders, members of the global community. Instead, we must take the time to think carefully about the questions then take the time to dig deep, engage in dialogue with ourselves and others, treating the conversation itself as action.

Problems that count need to be respected before they will reveal themselves to us. Peter Block points out that the focus on tools, answers, and problem solving keeps them in hiding because we will just revert to the solutions which are more easily implemented. The push for concrete action is exactly what sidetracks our dreams and postpones until tomorrow what needs to be addressed today. 

Raise the question of what do we want to create together, even for an established institution.  Making money and serving a constituency is too small.  We must raise questions about social responsibility, equity, and the meaning the institution has for the community.  Do What Matters.     

“Character in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” Theodore Roosevelt

TIPS, TOOLS AND PRACTICES: Change Your Questions from HOW to YES


There is nothing so practical as a good question. Good questions work on us…not the other way around. 

How Question One: How do you do it?  
 Yes Question One:  What refusal am I postponing? 
If we can’t say no, then our yes means nothing.

How Question Two: How long will it take? 
Yes Question Two:  What commitment am I willing to make?
This question recognizes that if change is to occur, it will come from my own free choice, not from the investment of the institution or the transformation of others.

How Question Three: How much does it cost?   
Yes Question Three:  What is the price I am willing to pay?
There’s a cost to pursuing what matters for we are leaning against the culture and may disappoint those around us who are used to us being a different way.  There is often little support because we don’t have the answers to “how?” at the outset.

How Question Four: How do you get those people to change? 
Yes Question Four: What is my contribution to the problem I am concerned with?
This question affirms that we have had a role in creating the world we live in.

How Question Five: How do we measure it?   
Yes Question Five: What is the crossroad at which I find myself at this point in my life/work? 
This question affirms the idea that it is the challenge and complexity of life and work that gives it meaning.

How Question Six: How are other people doing it successfully?
Yes Question Six:  What do we want to create together?
Individually and collectively, we have the wisdom to get our desired results.  We need to act on that wisdom.

 (from Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes)                          

© 2009 Bette George & Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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Conversations on Leadership and Life is an e-newsletter written by Bette George of Bette George & Associates.  In each issue, Bette offers best practice tips and resources, innovative ideas and inspiration to help you begin to create the change you want to see in yourself, your workplace, your community.

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