Tag Archives: The Boss

Which Step Am I On?

image of question mark

Which Step Am I On?

Where am I in my current situation?

 An Art of the Question Blog

We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?

                                                                   –        Steve Jobs

Sorry I’ve been away so long. You see, I recently started a new job. But I am getting ahead of myself. Perhaps a bit of background is in order here.

I have worked in the wireless industry for nearly 20 years. From early in my career, I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to move into disciplines outside my initial area of expertise. For example, I was hired as part of the accounting group. From there I went on to manage the State level financial analysis team. Later, I managed customer operations and currently I am part of  the network engineering management team.

This movement has broadened my experience and expertise as a manager. It has also made me a stronger leader. It was a great way to give me a better understanding of the industry, the company and all its disciplines. At the same time, it gave the company good insight into my strengths and lesser strengths.

OK, now that we have that out of the way… recently I started a new job in yet another part of our company. As I have been working to get my arms around the new responsibilities, I was reminded about the Stairway to Competence.

In The Boss, I wrote about Dean, a young man who worked in a fast food joint. During his time there, he met The Boss, who became his mentor. The Boss taught him life lessons that revolutionized his thinking. Those lessons changed the way he looked at work. They changed the way he approached things that needed to be done. They changed how he interacted with other people. The time that Dean spent with The Boss put him on a new path that led to success in pretty much every area of his life.

One of the lessons Dean learned was the Stairway to Competence. The Boss taught Dean how a person grows when they start a new experience. The journey is defined in four steps: Confusion, Confirmation, Clarity and finally, Competence.

Confusion – When we begin a new job, a new hobby, a new process, a new – well, you get the picture – whenever we begin anything new, we start out on the first stair. It is called Confusion. In the Confusion stage, we don’t know what to do. We don’t know what questions to ask. We don’t even know all the things we don’t know! As we begin to understand the players, key points, actions, tasks, steps and other parts of the new assignment, we move to the next phase. That is the second step, called Confirmation.

Confirmation – As you can imagine, the first stair of Confusion is very humbling, especially if you have just left a job, situation or assignment in which you were at the top of your game. Maybe you have changed careers, or moved to a different role within your existing company. No matter what the reason, starting over is tough. That’s what makes this second level of Confirmation such a key part of the process.

In the Confirmation stage, be patient with yourself. As the “newbie”, you need frequent encouragement. When you do something right, it helps to have it affirmed. When you do something wrong, a gentle correction is in order.  (As a manager, a good rule of thumb if you are working with someone in this stage is to complement them when they do the right thing, and gently guide them if they make a mistake). When we are on this stair, we know what we don’t know because someone is telling us. The goal at this point is to build confidence to propel us to the next step. That stair is called Clarity.

Clarity– This is the stage where we begin to have a little spring in our step. We speak a little louder and with a little more confidence. We speak up in meetings. We offer input. We have begun to “connect the dots” and better understand the relationships between the things we are learning. Our growth at this point is accelerating.

In the Confusion stage we didn’t always recognize what we needed to know. In the Confirmation stage we began to learn, but often the knowledge was “piecemeal”, without a full context. It is in the Clarity stage that these disparate pieces of information begin to coalesce. We begin to put the puzzle together. Things become clearer and our confidence grows along with our understanding. We know what we know if we think about it.

 The Four Stairs





Competence– As the pieces come together in the Clarity stage, we fill in the gaps. Our knowledge increases and we move more fluidly through the task, the job or whatever we are doing. Ultimately we reach the top stair, the final stage of Competence. At this level, most of our responses are intuitive.

In the Confusion stage we lacked understanding, in the Confirmation stage we understood if someone gave us direction. In the Clarity stage we had a grasp on the knowledge, but still had to think carefully through the steps. But the Competence stage is intuitive knowledge. Our experience and familiarity help us to move more quickly and accurately through the decisions and actions necessary to do the job at hand.

Here is the challenge. During each stage we have to push to make it to the next stair. We can’t settle, can’t idle. If we aren’t growing, we are dying. An old German proverb says, “When I rest, I rust.”

We need a wholesome discipline to ensure we are grounded. We need rest and relaxation. We need emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual balance. As Solomon put it, to everything there is a season. The foundation provided by our balance will help propel us to the next level.

Steve Jobs urged the team at Apple to “put a dent in the universe”. That is good advice for each of us. Remember, no matter what step you are currently on, the next one is there waiting. Over the course of our career and our life we climb many stairs. The process repeats itself over and over as we move to new jobs, new relationships, new companies and even new careers. Each thing we learn is a stepping stone to the next thing we need to know. Each stair we climb brings us closer to fulfilling our dreams and our destiny.

So go make your dent.



For more information on The Boss, visit terrynewberry.com.



Almost There

almost_there_covert psalm/one press is pleased to announce the upcoming release of the newest book by author Terry D. Newberry – Almost There.

It’s almost here!

I received the galley proof of my new book, Almost There, this week.

Pretty unbelievable.

Writing is an amazing art form. The process of seeing something in my mind’s eye and then trying to make it visible to the reader is a tricky business, filled with potholes. It involves countless hours spent thinking and researching and dreaming. It involves late nights spent hunched over a keyboard in a dark room, weaving letters into words. Those words become the tapestry of the tale in my mind. And then I have to somehow capture it all in a few hundred pages.

Words are fragile things, you know? The frailty of words can never describe the truth of where we’ve been.

Almost There contains 39,653 words. I typed every one of them, some of them more than once, my mind brimming with questions. A lot of questions.

What words should I use? How long should the sentences be? How about the paragraphs? How can I hold the interest of the reader? How can I bring the characters and lessons to life?

What can I leave with the reader in return for their investment of time, attention and money? How can these words leave them in a place that is happier, wiser, and maybe more spiritual than they were before? How can I create a tale that is entertaining, thought-provoking and inspiring?

How can I create a work that affects someone’s life in a positive way?

How indeed?

I wish I could tell you honestly that I knew all the answers to my questions. But the simple truth is that I don’t.

But with those questions as my guide, I put on paper those 39,653 words, one word at a time. And then I deleted. I backspaced. I read and reread. I crossed out and penciled in. I looked up definitions and synonyms and checked spelling. I looked for errors in grammar. I looked for those pesky run-on sentences. I gave the manuscript to a trusted friend who is a writing genius, to read and offer corrections, which she did with grace and good humor. I gave it to another friend, also a genius, and he did the same.

I made changes and updates. I put the manuscript in a drawer and let it age. I pulled it out again and started the entire process over. I read and re-read it dozens of times.

And along the way, a story began to emerge. It has its roots in a true story from when I was a kid. One day it snowed, which was a big deal in my little southern home town. I got it in my head that I needed to go see my friend Rory, a journey of a few miles by bicycle, which was my singular form of transportation.

Somewhere along the way as I pedaled the snowy streets I began to think about how cold I was, followed by how wet I was, followed by how miserable I was. Soon my thoughts turned into a focus. Soon my focus turned into an obsession. Clearly I was too cold, too wet and generally too miserable to finish my trip.

So about seven or eight miles into the journey, I turned around and headed back home. Two miles from the finish line, so to speak, I gave up, I quit, finito, kaput, done. I abandoned ship. I was too focused on the misery of my situation to complete the final two miles of the trip. Instead, I decided to turn around and ride eight miles back to my house.

Nuts, right?

It didn’t occur to me until years later how often that happened in my life. Quitting was the pattern. Quitting was the legacy, the gift bestowed, passed down from father to son over many generations. Quitting was easy.

I was defined by limitations set by others, boundaries and histories and tendencies sketched out by my father, and his father before him. But I knew those places and had no desire to be an inmate of such prisons. I wanted to be different but had no idea of how to go about the overwhelming task of becoming a different me. To paraphrase Pat Conroy, I struggled with all my might not to become the man I was destined to be.

It seemed that often I gave up just before the big break came. Time and time again I was turned away from the finish line by the ghosts of those I had met only briefly, if at all.

So I decided to try an experiment. I made a deal with myself – whenever I was tempted to give up, I would stay focused just a little bit longer to see what happened. And the result changed my world.

I was astounded at how many times I realized my goal by hanging in there “just a little bit longer.” Slowly I began to understand that my future was not preset. The past held no power over me, its shackles could not withstand the force of faith. It was a wide – open place filled with all the possibility that I could ever dream of.

One day I was teaching a seminar and shared the story of my doomed bicycle journey. The telling planted a small seed of possibility in my life.

I began to think about all the times I had quit just the tiniest bit too soon. I thought about the countless people who had shared their stories of regret and “Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda” disease. I thought about all those I had met who suffered from “If-Only” syndrome.

How many of us give up just before we are poised for amazing breakthroughs? How many of us spend our time turned around backward in the seat, looking at missed opportunities or bungled relationships or fumbled decisions and, in doing so, miss the awesome opportunity which lies before us like a field ready for harvest?

So I picked up my pen and began to write.

Shortly into the process, the book took on a life of its own. I found myself, as I often do, scrambling to keep up with the story that was busily unfolding of its own accord. It played on the screen of my mind at its own frenetic pace and cared little that I was struggling to keep up. My fingers did their best to translate the images I saw into letters and words and punctuation – word pictures – that would somehow help you, dear reader, to see the images I saw, just as they revealed themselves to me.

I have tried to share their stories in the pages of Almost There; how they overcame tremendous obstacles, setbacks, disappointments and even tragedy. But unlike me, they didn’t give up too soon. Somehow they kept going in spite of the skinned knees and the bumped noses and the bruised hearts and the loneliness of failure. They kept going despite the jeers, catcalls and abuse heaped on them by DreamStealers.

They just kept on. They refused to be locked in the outpost of failure. Because somewhere in their heart and soul, in a place that is lit only by the sometimes meager light of I-think-I-can, they knew that certain success lay just around the bend, just over the next hill, just beyond the next sunrise.

They knew they were almost there.

The story begins when Dean awakes one winter morning to a magical snow-covered landscape and sets out to visit his friend, Rory. But little does he know that he has embarked on a journey that is not of this world; it is an odyssey that will change his life.

On a day filled with magic, he encounters those who have experienced everything life has to offer and have found themselves face-to-face with the ultimate decision – will they allow fear, disappointment, and set-backs to destroy their dreams? Or will they find within themselves the strength and courage to press on, to embrace a life beyond anything they ever imagined?

Travel with Dean on this tale of unforgettable experiences and characters; a wandering filled with the unknown and the inexplicable as he discovers the ultimate price each of us must pay for our dreams.


Here is an excerpt from Almost There:

“Dean-san,” he said softly, “we are who we are because of the path we walk. Along the way, there are twists and turns that we cannot foresee. Sometimes we walk along a smooth path, sometimes we stumble on a path filled with obstacles and hidden snares. And at other times, tragedy befalls us.” His voice trailed away softly as he turned his face slightly, presenting to Dean the grisly reminder of such a tragedy.

“Sometimes we follow the footpath of our choosing, at other times we are carried down a road that we did not choose. No matter, either way the path is ours to navigate.

“And there are times when we do not follow the path at all but instead forge our own passage. We cut a way through a wilderness where none existed before, and leave a trail that others may follow.

“That is where you are now. The way before you has not yet been traveled, thus there are no easy answers or clear directions. You must follow your heart and choose the way whispered to you by your dreams and the Spirit within you. This is your path, it belongs to no other.”

Advance orders are now being accepted for an April 1 release date! Go to terrynewberry.com and click the page for Almost There. Available in softcover, hardcover and audiobook!

Order your copy today! terrynewberry.com

I’m Their Leader – Which Way Did They Go?

I’m Their Leader – Which Way Did They Go?

How can I insure my team is fully engaged?

An Art of the Question Blog

At our company picnic one year, we got together to buy our boss a new hat. It was a spiffy thing, a brilliant white baseball cap with deep blue accents and a matching bill – actually two bills. One pointed one way, the other pointed a different way. And engraved on the front was the humorous legend reading  I’m Their Boss – Which Way Did They Go?

I say humorous, because our boss was a great leader and we followed his vision and direction willingly. But that experience is seemingly rare for many workers.

I have received so many responses from readers who have finished The Boss.  Along with the wonderfully kind words and encouragement, there have been comments like, “I can understand why you wrote this book about him – what an amazing man!” and “Wow! I never knew a manager like that even existed!”

But perhaps the most telling comment of all was this one: “I wish I could have known The Boss”.

There seems to be a deep sense of longing within many of us to connect with our leadership. We want them to see us, know us, believe in us, support us, and help us grow.  Most of us would love to work for someone like The Boss.

But there are not many like him around, which is part of the problem. Research tells us that many people don’t quit their jobs – they quit their boss! Poor people management is at the core of a significant portion of employee turnover.  Poor communication, staffing issues, lack of challenge, lack of empowerment, feeling as though they aren’t cared for… the list for why we leave our job is long and ugly, and to a degree, debatable.

But there is one thing that is not debatable – the cost of turnover. NFI Research reports that 81% of senior executives say it is more difficult to recruit new employees than to retain valued existing employees. The Wall Street Journal reported that it can cost upwards of two times an employee’s annual salary to find, interview, hire and train a new team member.  Wow!

Those are the direct costs. Add to that the indirect impact of employee churn such as morale of those left behind, workload spread, slippage on projects, and customer service issues and the impact to the business really mounts up.

So, enough of the experts and the research – most of us know all that stuff. But between those findings, and the plaintive “I wish I had known The Boss” we find a bit of magic. It is the best kind of magic – the win/win kind. The company wins, the team member wins – everyone wins. So what is the secret behind the magic?

Glad you asked. It can be summed up in one sentence. The Boss cared.

He cared about the business. He cared about the customer and the customer experience. He cared about the profitability of the enterprise. But running through all that, like a thread stitching the entire thing together, was how much he cared for his team.

He showed it in many ways. Here are a few:

He was engaged – he practiced management by walking around – “earning his MBWA” is how he put it. And his wanderings yielded a lot of good information about how the business was performing, how the customers were reacting, and how his team was doing.

The Boss’s Life Lesson: Every good manager has to earn his or her MBWA

He listened – he found out what was important to his team, personally and professionally. He was able to coach and help them because he had a good understanding of where they were on the learning curve as well as in their personal lives.

The Boss’s Life Lesson: The benefit of helping others outweighs the cost every time

He cared – I know, it sounds trite. But this is arguably the most critical factor in any manager’s success, the most valuable tool in the toolbox.  The Boss understood this. When he noticed Dean’s lack of shoes, and took the time to buy him a new pair, he left an impression that can never be erased.  Here is the principle – when we take the time to know our team members and their life outside the cubicle, they reward our investment with an investment of their own.  We tap into their hearts, not just into their brain.

The Boss’s Life Lesson: Treat Your Team Like Family

He asked questions – The Art of the Question is a powerful way to learn and instruct at the same time. The Boss understood by asking the right questions, he could find out where the gap was in his team’s knowledge and lead them to the right answer. By asking questions instead of barking orders, he created an atmosphere of interest and engagement within the team.

The Boss’s Life Lesson: A good manager can lead someone to the right answer by asking the right question

He challenged – Most employees want to feel challenged in their work. The Boss kept the team challenged through subtle competition within the team.

The Boss’s Life Lesson: When you generate healthy, good-natured competition, everyone wins.       

The stakes are enormous. CNN Money warns businesses, “Your employees can’t wait to quit”. The article goes on to say that according to ManPower, 84% of employees planned to look for a new position last year. The number of employees who planned to look for a new job grew 40% in one year!

Think about the impact of losing a key member of your team. Consider the costs – financial and otherwise. And ask yourself this question: What can I learn from The Boss?


The Boss is available in softcover, hardback, and audiobook. For more information on The Boss, go to terrynewberry.com.

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