Reflecting on the Journey’s Past as a Path to the Future

“True gentleness is founded on a sense of what we owe to him who made us and to the common nature which we all share. It arises from reflection on our own failings and wants, and from just views of the condition and duty of man. It is native feeling heightened and improved by principle.” – Hugh Blair

As we come to the end of another year, it is natural that we find ourselves feeling reflective on the experiences of the past. We might ponder hard-fought battles won and lost. But at what price – time from our families and missed memories? Perhaps treasure? We might reminisce on loved ones in our lives arrived or departed. Or we might contemplate our business successes and disappointments.

If you had one “do-over”, what would it be? How would you have recognized the opportunity and taken advantage of it? Or, how could you have foreseen the risk and avoided it? Remember, you only have one “do-over”.

By nature, I am an extreme optimist. I usually pounce on every opportunity. And the more exotic the opportunity, the more likely I am to pounce. It also means that I tend to pursue a course even in the face of increasing – and arguably insurmountable resistance. Herein lies a conflict, and a risk, between “faith” and “hope”. “Faith” is based in reason and belief, whereas “hope” is the relinquishing of involvement and responsibility in exchange for pure luck. It is where your “faith” in an endeavor gives way to “hope” that doom cannot be far behind.

So it is with people with whom I work and with whom I have worked, where I have sometime let my “faith” in someone becoming a team player, give way to “hope”. If I had one “do-over” for the year, it would be to act decisively when someone who works with me gets the idea that they are “indispensable”. Being in business for over twenty years, you can imagine that I have had a few such Prima-Dona’s working for me. It’s not that the “bragging rights” might not have been earned to a certain extent – and I am not saying that some bravado is not a healthy thing. But it’s when the bravado reaches a toxic level that decisive action must be immediately taken.

My father was a lead engineer at IBM Federal Systems in Owego, New York. In the 1990’s he took an early retirement package. When I asked if he would be missed, he responded, “Joe, I am like a fist in a bucket of water; the hole I leave behind is how fast they will fill my position”.

That message has stuck with me ever since. I make it a point that nobody who works with me is indispensable – not even myself. And I counsel others regarding their business in the same way. How can one build a value in the business beyond its tangible assets if the value is contained in an individual?

So, my resolution for 2008 is to be decisive when someone who works for me gets the idea in their head that they are indispensable. I vow that the very moment someone has that belief; it will be tested immediately by me releasing them. No exceptions. The people that I work with may be “stars”, but there are many countless stars in the universe. We may look to the blanket of stars in the sky that are the heavens for guidance and solace, but we live our lives on the ethereal plane.

Trying to keep these employees as members of a team consumes an incredible amount of resources and energy, and yet the results will be disappointing and lackluster. To get a sense of what I am speaking, just look to the US Team’s abysmal performance in the Ryder Cup, or our Olympic Basketball and Hockey teams. We have the best individual players at our disposal, but they all have it in their mind that they are “stars” and cannot perform well with others as a team.

And in the end, such people are going to leave you, of their own volition, anyway. So it might as well be on your terms and timelines.

I do hope that you have enjoyed our monthly eNewsletters as much as we have enjoyed producing them and that you have gained from investing your time in reading them. It has been a great pleasure to be a part of your lives and I thank you all for your time, consideration and support over the years.

And so it is with a rebuilding spirit that we look with great anticipation to what lay before us in the coming year. And, most importantly, we look to reconnect over the next few weeks with our families and closest friends.

So as the Irish cheer goes, “May the best of your 2007 be the worst of your 2008.”

Happy Holidays to All of You from All of Us…


Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence. 

He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 25,000 members.

For more information on Paris, please check his Linked-In Profile at:

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