How Do You Look at Opportunity?

Abhor, Ignore, or Explore

The decision to accept a new opportunity can be difficult. You may react to opportunities in one of three ways; abhor, ignore or explore.

Let’s call this a Decision Wheel. Whether it’s a new product, a new idea, or a new way of doing something, are you quick to react by jumping into one of these modes?


In order for you to have the most fulfilling success in work, life or faith, you must be aware of your natural, go-to mode when confronted with something new.

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The Uncommon Commodity : Common Sense Guide for New Managers (Charleston, SC: Palmetto Publishing, 2016)

I know Doug. He speaks with a servant’s heart and from an authentic manager’s real-world point of view.  A superb combination!
The Uncommon Commodity: A Common Sense Guide for New Managers” is your foot up against the competition. Step up. Now.

Rick Gillis
Careers Expert, Speaker, Author “PROMOTE!” & “JOB!

Cover-2I wrote The Uncommon Commoditybecause I believe new managers need to know that they are not alone. The challenge of taking on a management and leadership role for the first time is possibly the biggest career move anyone can make. Whether you were groomed for it or just thrust into the seat, nothing can be a bigger test than taking on this responsibility. After over 30 years in business management and entrepreneurship, I can promise you many of the answers come from pure common sense. Yet so many get tangled up in fancy program language that they fail to realize how easy some solutions can be found. In this book I use a story telling approach to guide you through common issues.


Doug has developed mastery in the field of management and leadership through years of hands-on experience supplemented by a desire to understand the best practices in these fields. With this book he is opening the vault of his own experience and insight so that others can benefit for what he has learned.  Take this guide and put it to work at once!

Cathy Nunnally
Nunnally & Company


I am so impressed by Doug Thorpe and the valuable service he provides. Watching him work, it is immediately clear that his broad array of business and interpersonal skills have come together beautifully to create an excellent product for those he serves. If you are looking for a coach to help you navigate the difficult waters of searching for new employment, Doug is definitely the person you should call!

Wes Avants
Executive Director, Physician Leadership Institute






Why Didn’t You Become You?

Continuing my Tuesday/Thursday series of guest posts, here are some wise words to ponder.

Brought to you by David Harder, Founder & President of Inspired Work

There troublesome aspects of change. Many people believe they cannot change. Or, they are so afraid of changing themselves they won’t take meaningful action. Finally, many people want to change but they don’t know how.

These seeming dilemmas are natural as we lay to rest a world where all that we did with are lives was spelled out for us.

The industrial revolution built a work world and a culture that was fixated on predictability and survival. For 300 years this is what we sold within most recruitment pitches. Predictability and survival is what many of our parents told us to pursue. In that world, change was a bad thing. We changed reluctantly when we got laid off.

I happen to have a unique vantage point that has given me the awareness that all of us can change for the better. All of us have the capacity to transform our lives. These are not new age ramblings, my viewpoint comes from observing thousands of people change in valuable and positive ways.

I began to experience the human capacity for change right after we launched Inspired Work in 1990. In our second month of business, one of the nation’s largest banks became a client.

After years of success and stability, the CEO was looking for ways to manipulate more value into the shareholder’s pockets. That plan backfired and the bank no longer exists. Thousands of their ex-workers came through our programs. Most of these employees had what they believed were “jobs for life.” Many of them came in wearing blue suits and stickpins with the bank’s logo.

Before the participants found new lives and renewed purpose, they had to navigate through the shock of having ten to thirty years of employment come to a swift (and often bitter), end.

Something happens in the program that moves me as much today as it did at the beginning. We continue to find that when someone sees how to move into their right path, that sweet spot that will bring them emotional, practical and spiritual wholeness, they go there.

One participant was a young man who had become a senior finance executive. He had grown up in a family of migrant workers and was the first child to go onto college. He had become wildly successful at the bank but now on that seemingly melancholy day, the truth came out. He had never felt passion about climbing a corporate ladder. He had always been in love with being out in the fields.

At one point he whispered,

“All I ever wanted to do was to grow things.”

Now, he was a role model in his community. How could he let them down? You see, when we start peering into our best life, the way forward actually appears like we have to go back. But, we cannot. The way forward is about taking all that we have learned and applying that to our best life.

I engaged our friend in a dialogue. He had been working in the real estate side of the bank. He had become something of a financial wizard. That conversation was the moment where he began merging his passion with all that he learned.

Today, he is a wealthy farmer growing premium lettuce for gourmet restaurants across the western seaboard. Not only does he “grow things,” he is a wonderfully sensitive employer and looks out, every day, at the life he is meant to lead.

Every single one of us has that kind of sweet spot and we either live it or live with the alternative.

In the years since, I have run into so many people who get laid off and they are too frightened to raise their standards. They come to me and request, “Get me another job, just like the one that paid the bills.”

We have our reasons for going there. Once again, we fear that moving forward is about going back. We fear that our responsibilities will not be fulfilled. But, the truth is that going forward is about becoming the person we really are, the person we are meant to be and the person that we have come to be. And, there is always a practical solution.

In the end, finding our right path is about finding the practical purpose of our souls.

Recently, we lost the Holocaust survivor and great philosopher Elie Wiesel. He once said,

“When you die and go to heaven, our maker is not going to ask, ‘Why didn’t you discover the cure for such and such? Why didn’t you become the Messiah?’ The only question we will be asked in that precious moment is, 

‘Why didn’t you become you?'”


Brought to you by David Harder, Founder & President of Inspired Work

Ways to Explore the Power of Your Mind’s Attention and Your Heart’s Affection

Find This Balance - Find Great Success

Nothing can be more powerful than the exact moment you harness the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection.

Projects, life changes, new directions, and many other parts of our life can become monumental successes when these two dynamics come into perfect alignment.


“Have you realized that today is the tomorrow you talked about yesterday? It is your responsibility to change your life for the better.”
Jaachynma N.E. Agu, The Prince and the Pauper

Let’s break it down.

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Where and What Holds Your Faith

Your Source of Leadership Strength

Faith is a delicate subject these days. There is so much debate being derived from the religious extremists’ assertions of faith.

I want to dial it down a bit. I want to get more basic. I want to talk with you about faith as an essential element of effective leadership.



Here is my argument.

We all exercise faith every day. We have faith that the chair we are about to sit upon will hold. We have faith our car will start. We have faith the air conditioning will work. We have faith the lights will turn on when we flip the switch.

If we work for a larger company, we have faith the paychecks will not bounce each payday. Faith tells us we can do certain things without fear of failure; crossing at the light, taking a bath in clean water, finding food at our grocery stores, etc.

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The Only True Leadership Is Values-Based Leadership

From time to time I find articles that are just too good to try to paraphrase or boil down. This is one such article.

Reprinted by permission from Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr.

My students told me time and again, “You should write a book!” Finally one of them handed me a transcript of my lectures that he had done and suggested I use it as a start.

As a clinical professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, I’ve been privileged to engage in many thoughtful discussions with my students about values-based leadership, and I saw that a book could take this crucial topic to a bigger and broader audience. And so I wrote From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.

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Why Great Leaders Tell Stories

In recent weeks I have been receiving questions about storytelling for managers and leaders. The input came from a dialogue I began with the top 10% of my most avid followers. These are the professionals who have shared the most feedback within my tribe.

Sure enough, one of the recurring topics was the Art of Storytelling. There was a groundswell of interest in talking about the ability to tell stories.

52721047 - man hand writing storytelling with black marker on visual screen. isolated on background. business, technology, internet concept. stock photo

52721047 – Courtesy

From the feedback, I saw these common threads:

1. Storytelling at work is recognized as being vital to effective leadership. Great leaders use it very well, while not so great ones struggle at spinning a pertinent story.

2. Not everyone is naturally gifted at storytelling. How do you get there?

3. What are some do’s and don’t’s about storytelling at work?

Using this inspiration, I began compiling some ideas about improving your ability to tell stories to enhance your leadership style. First, some psychology:

The gift of storytelling may be one of life’s most powerful—and envied—skills. A story well told can make us laugh, weep, swell with pride, or rise with indignation. A story poorly told can be not just boring or uncomfortable, but positively painful to experience. Humans seem to be fundamentally hard-wired for stories—they’re how we record both the monumental events of life and the small, everyday moments.

Professor Hannah B. Harvey, Ph.D.

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Why Leadership Can Be So Darn Hard

Here’s a confession. I am a millennial is a boomer body. How’s that for stark contrast?

Why do I say this? My chronological age says I’m a boomer. But my corporate and professional history says otherwise. I have spent my whole career bucking trends, adapting technologies, and believing I can make a difference. I love working independently of cubical mazes. Nine to five is a cliche to me.


When it comes to technology, I love the stuff. Introduce me to anything new. Once I master its use, if I see a benefit, I’m in. Waste my time with a lame idea or an even more poorly developed tech solution and I am gone. I got my first mobile phone in 1987. I brought server based networking to a large, formerly mainframe business in 1990. My LinkedIn profile has been alive since 2004.

My attention span has always been pretty short. OK not ADHD short, but brief. Boredom haunts me regularly. I like seeing things started, handed off, and then I’m ready for the next good thing.

Because of these and many other reasons, I laugh at the raging debates about the merits of this generation or that. OK, people are struggling trying to connect in the workplace. I get it.

The Big So What

My big “so what” is that managers and leaders must navigate personalities and behavioral patterns in the workplace regardless of the socio-scientific tags put on a person.

At the core of a leader’s challenge is the reality that people come to work with a mixed bag of personal issues influencing their ability to dive right in. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs still rules. While people report for work operating at varying levels of the hierarchy, the ways in which leadership applies their skills to guide and direct forward progress must adapt.


In true leadership, there is no one-size-fits all. The old “my way or the highway” style is very unappealing to the modern workforce (whoever you are).

My Conundrum

My situation highlights the notion that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Inner thinking, value structure, opinions, insights, worldviews, and other key drivers of behavior in the workplace can come in so many varieties. If you tried to do the math on the infinite combinations of these characteristics, well, you’d need another computer to help your smart phone.

Leaders today face a daunting challenge to create a workplace that can thrive. I’m a big fan of common sense solutions. Using Maslow’s hierarchy to understand potential drivers within each employee will go a long way to explain behaviors and build understanding.

book-banne-600x150One point of clarification though. While I advocate a broadened sensitivity to knowing where your people are coming from, there is still the overarching obligation to make things happen at work; i.e. ‘deliver the goods’. Anyone who is simply having a bad day must knuckle down and get the work done. Being a manager in that situation requires the ability to connect with the person who may be having the bad day and get them to understand the need to press forward.

The Conclusion?

How can we continue as business leaders to try to press people into convenient boxes from which we decide the style and approach with which to lead them? Yes, the occasional broad brush can work. For instance you have a whole group of trainees who need to be given material about a particular subject. The subject may be something vital to the core principles of operation for your business. That’s OK.

However, when day-to-day operation and execution are the task, then the significance of the individual personality enters into the equation. Learning your people and knowing something about their individual views of the mission can be a big step toward better performance.

Leaders must realize this and make the effort to learn their team, understand the influences that impact the people, and make decisions accordingly.

Independence Day Has Other Meaning Too

Today is July 4th. In the U.S. we call it Independence Day.



I love this picture showing the dawning of a new day. When we declare independence, there is a new day dawning. Regardless of the force or factors from which you are claiming that independence, the stage is set for a new day.

As my pastor says, “There’s a story on every pew.” People all around us face challenges to release themselves from something.

  • Bad habits
  • Bad relationships
  • Poor choices
  • Health problems
  • Financial problems
  • Bad bosses
  • And the list goes on . . .

Helping others overcome tough odds is a noble and honored effort. Countless numbers of good neighbors do that in communities large and small every day. Each victory is deserving of a celebration.

Yet, I think the toughest challenge most people face is driving change for themselves; overcoming those things that hold us back. Yes, joining a community or a tribe of like-minded souls who themselves are trying to make a change can be a big help, but at the end of the day, the ultimate change is up to you and you alone.

For those of us who hold dear to a deep faith, we have God to hold onto while we fight to claim our independence. He is an unending source of power and courage through the fight.

What is your fight today? Have you made progress to overcome your foe(s)? What strength will you choose?

Happy Independence Day! One day your fight will be won.

Leadership Succession Planning at Its Best

You have to have heart

In any organization, senior leadership fails if there is no succession plan. Whether a large international conglomerate or a simple mom and pop venture, passing the torch is vital to long term staying power.

12295180 - passing the baton


Part of succession planning is not merely naming those next in line, but it involves grooming and nurturing for handing off control. There is a spirit that goes with the best intended succession plan. “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole does a good job of capturing that spirit.

An old man going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been nothing to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

If you are in a leadership role, have you identified the next in line? Has the process begun to tutor, groom, and develop the people in succession?

Here are five key things to include in the process for developing the next generation of leadership.

1. Get the right people on the bus – Jim Collins, in his work “Good to Great, defined this concept. The right people have to be recruited and on-board before a succession selection can happen. This is the foundation; finding people who have the right heart and soul for what your mission is about.

Perhaps you may need to thin the crop. Maybe your current staff is not fully committed to doing the right things for your company. You must get all of the right people aligned so that moving in the same direction is less of a problem. Making the tough calls now about the team on hand will help smooth the transition for the successor.

2. Identify core competencies – Before any personalities are introduced to the selection process, lock down on the vital characteristics needed for succession. Write a definition of skill sets and attributes that are deemed most important for the position to hold. This is not so much a job descriptor as it is a framework for success.

Make this a collaborative process. Get input from various sources both in and out of the company.

3. Create a shortlist – Make a list of possible candidates that fit the criteria from step 2. Vet this list with multiple sources too. While past performance with the company or within the industry is highly valued, the other attributes should be carefully weighed. Past performance should never be the only selection criterion.

4. Begin the grooming – Candidates selected for succession roles should be subjected to a more formalized development plan. Are there areas of the company they don’t know yet? Get them exposed to those. Are there special considerations (contractual or otherwise) that must be understood?

Not all candidates will meet 100% of the core competencies. What can you do now to strengthen the parts that are lacking?

5. Establish the timing – Succession plans sometimes fail because the named successor is forced to wait too long. In the Bible, David was told he’d be King, but had to wait 14 years. Who in today’s market would accept a deal like that? The timing of revealing succession must be carefully orchestrated so that the outgoing leader is truly ready to go while the incoming successor is ready.

Often larger companies will mitigate this challenge by establishing a high-potential pool of talent. These are mid-level management and technicians who meet the core competencies, but for whom there is no specific role above. As vacancies open, these “hi-pots” are tapped for promotion. The hi-pot programs serve to groom while building an inventory of possible succession candidates.


I said there is a spirit for maximum effectiveness of succession. All too often I hear of an “us versus them” mentality when it comes to succession. That kind of thinking is void of the spirit. The spirit needs to be just like that of the bridge builder in the poem; having a heart that says I came this way and fought the chasm. Now I want to bridge the gap for the younger person who will come behind me.

All of his hard work to build something can go away in a flash if the next generation is not given the chance, when the timing is right, to move forward.

Question: How do you see succession planning where you work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.