Monthly Archives: August 2023

August 29, 2023

Learning from Failure (Episode # 439)

Should you create a culture that has a high tolerance for failure? What are the reasons to embrace failure? How do you best respond in a failure situation? In this episode, Dr. Karen presents research from Dr. Amy Edmondson’s book, “The Right Kind of Wrong: Learning to Fail Well.” Dr. Karen answers the proposed questions and more to strengthen your organization’s mindset about learning from failure.

Ready to learn from failure in your organization?
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August 22, 2023

Brian Smith, Founder of UGG Boots: The Journey from Vision and Infancy to Billions (Episode # 438)

Brian Smith, The Founder of UGG Boots has charted his own course to become one of the great entrepreneurial success stories of our time. As a native Australian, his vision in 1978 was to put a pair of UGG sheepskin boots on every American. In each of the past five years, sales of UGG products have exceeded a billion dollars.

Brian calls his book, “The Birth of a Brand,” an entrepreneurial road map. Today, on The Voice of Leadership, Brian speaks with Dr. Karen about growing his company from vision to infancy, the toddler years, and beyond. In this insightful interview Brian shares important lessons on sales and marketing, raising capital, financial forecasting, manufacturing, competition, and how to ride the entrepreneurial waves to a billion dollar company. No matter where you are in your executive leadership journey, these insights are for you.

Book Brian Smith for Keynote speaking at;

Get his book, “The Birth of a Brand” at all major outlets

August 15, 2023

Why Every Organization Needs Troublemakers? (Episode # 437)

Did you know that “troublemakers” bring an essential decision-making ingredient to their companies? And what does that assertion have to do with blue fish and red fish? In this episode, Dr. Karen shares research based perspectives from psychologist colleague Dr. Charlan Nemeth as well as her own insights and experiences about the pitfalls of consensus thinking.

Contact Dr. Karen to take your organizational thinking and actions to new heights:

August 8, 2023

Peter Christian: What I Learned at Crayola and Beyond (Episode # 436)

Peter H. Christian served as an executive for Crayola Corporation. After 17 years with Crayola, he then became a founding partner of espi, Enterprise Systems Partners, Inc. The author of two Amazon best-selling books, “What About the Vermin Problem?” and “Influences and Influencers” Pete has worked with more than 300 clients to realize millions of dollars in cost reductions and profit improvements in multiple areas such as business development, operations, IS selection and implementation, supply chain, and Project Management.

Today, with unusual candor and vulnerability Pete talks to Dr. Karen about what he has learned and how his Christian values have helped him to navigate corporate culture and organizational politics. He also shares how to exit a company on the best of terms even in challenging circumstances.

Reach Pete at;

August 7, 2023

Peter Christian: What I Learned At Crayola And Beyond (Episode # 436)

The Voice of Leadership | Peter Christian | Crayola

The Voice of Leadership | Peter Christian | Crayola


Peter H. Christian served as an executive for Crayola Corporation. After 17 years with Crayola, he then became a founding partner of espi, Enterprise Systems Partners, Inc. The author of two Amazon best-selling books, “What About the Vermin Problem?” and “Influences and Influencers” Pete has worked with more than 300 clients to realize millions of dollars in cost reductions and profit improvements in multiple areas such as business development, operations, IS selection and implementation, supply chain, and Project Management.


Today, with unusual candor and vulnerability Pete talks to Dr. Karen about what he has learned and how his Christian values have helped him to navigate corporate culture and organizational politics. He also shares how to exit a company on the best of terms even in challenging circumstances.


Reach Pete at;


The post Peter Christian: What I Learned at Crayola and Beyond (Episode # 436) first appeared on TRANSLEADERSHIP, INC®

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Peter Christian: What I Learned At Crayola And Beyond

Have you ever wondered how to know if a corporate culture is right for you? How do you evaluate the goodness of fit between you and a prospective corporate employer? How do you exit a company and leave even if there are questionable elements influencing your departure? Today’s guest has information, experience, and perspective on these challenging issues. Let me tell you about Peter H. Christian.

Peter H. Christian’s corporate career includes serving as an executive with Crayola Corporation. In his seventeen exciting years at Crayola, he learned about corporate culture, innovation, and corporate politics. After Crayola, he became a founding partner and president of Enterprise Systems Partners Inc. also known as SB, a business consulting firm in northeastern Pennsylvania. He has worked with more than 300 clients in business development, profit improvement, operations, information system selection and implementation, and project management.

He also has more than 40 years of experience in strategic and facility planning, continuous improvement, lean, and supply chain. His clients have realized millions of dollars and cost reductions and profit improvements while adding and retaining thousands of jobs. Peter is also the author of two Amazon bestselling business books What About The Vermin Problem? and Influences and Influencers.

A variety of professional magazines have also published his articles. Peter says his Christian faith has always been important to him as he treats people with respect and honor, operates with integrity, and prioritizes his family. Peter, welcome to The Voice of Leadership and to Dr. Karen Speaks Leadership.

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

I’m delighted to have you and I know you’ve got a fun and interesting story to unpack. I’m going to jump right in if that’s okay with you.

Go right ahead.

Working At Crayola

I want to ask you because very few people that others know personally, let’s say, have the opportunity to work at the Crayola Corporation. Let’s talk about that. What did you like about the Crayola Corporation that influenced you to stay there for seventeen years?

Probably a dream to be able to still participate in my childhood growing up with Crayola, but to work for the company that produced those childhood memories and to be able to pass that along to other people, particularly the young folks who know crayons and markers and love them and appreciate them and and use them on a regular basis. It was a very fun place to work and I had a lot of good people that I worked with in that time.

They not only made crayons, they had fun with them at the same time.

Yes, we did. On our occasion, we wrote memos and yes, so we’ll get that out of the way. People always ask me how many memos I wrote with crayons.

Quite a few. You’re talking about what it’s like to work for what I call a strong legacy brand and a brand that has products that people love, that they remember, and that they think about. If you think about the day-to-day at Crayola, what was exciting and fun for you personally while being there?

There were always challenges as you can imagine in any business enterprise. We continue to expand our operations. We got into the large stores like the Walmarts in the Targets. They certainly had their challenges and making them happy and getting the goods to them on time. We also work with school districts throughout the country. That had a series of challenges to it as well because that was a different type of setup and dealing in the commercial space with stores.

We did some international sales, which was interesting as well. Most of the sales were in the United States, but we did do foreign sales as well. I got to deal and some foreign enterprise as well. There were a lot of challenges. Everyone thinks it’s only crayons or it’s only markers. There’s a lot of complexity to the art market and the children’s art market and it was always a challenge. Every day was a challenge for sure.

Like any other business, you had to step up to the plate every day to hit the ball pretty far and head in the right direction because of some of those challenges. One of the things I know that made a difference was the attitude and the experience of innovation in the company. You had some jobs that were aligned with innovation. Tell us a little bit about what you did for the company on the innovative side and how Innovation was important to stay on the right track.

As I said, growing was certainly a challenge. What also made it interesting was we were pretty much the preeminent company when it came to crayons, markers, and so forth. If you look back now, you probably have a difficult time thinking of other companies that provided that. At some point, we had a different challenge in that children got into a lot more leisure time activities, girls got into sports, boys got into song and dance, and then this little thing called the internet and video games came along which certainly took a lot of children’s time.

We had to compete with all of that and we did successfully. We re-looked at who are target market was and decided that it was children 4 to 12 who were in the development years. We focused on them and providing products to them to keep them interested. With all those other things, the one thing that still lacking a little bit is imagination. There’s nothing like giving a child a piece of paper and a box of crayons and saying, “Draw whatever it is you want to draw. Tell me about what you’re doing and what you like and so forth,” and letting them go wild with that.

We played on that and because of that, we didn’t lose business. We maintained and grew our business. In addition, as you said innovation, we defined what washable meant. At the time, washable meant that things stayed permanent. You wash your clothes and the color stays the same and so forth.

We came out with products that were washable which were completely opposite of that, which meant if the child messed up and got paint or marker or crayon or whatever on something they weren’t supposed to, you could wash it out so it was washable. We gave a new definition to the term washable and started a whole new line of products. It was still crayons, but now washable crayons where you could get rid of the mess if you wanted to. It was always interesting the different things that we got into and what we had to deal with.

It sounds like one of the watchwords I’d say was agility and a certain nimbleness so that you didn’t just say, “We’re a legacy organization. We’ve always done it this way. We’re going to continue to do it this way.” You looked around and what was happening in the world. You had to adjust to those new events and create ways forward that may have been different than what you had done in the past. It sounds like it was important to think of your distinctiveness and reinvent it periodically is what I’m hearing.

What you hit on is a key thing and I practiced agility. I was associated with Lehigh University where agility was discovered not invented because they did studies and found out that the top companies were agile and won the predominant thing was the ability to change with what was happening in the business world and to adapt your business to that. I think we were excellent at doing that with Crayola.

We were able to, as I said, deal with a competitor that you would never imagine. You always thought about dealing with other companies that made markers and crayons and paints and so forth. Now you’re dealing with a completely different type of industry, computer games, the computer itself, the internet, and so forth. We were able to do that successfully because we staked out where we belonged and where we felt we were strongest, and then we focused on that.

That is such an important concept for any company that wants to be successful for the long term. It’s to be thinking about where is your greatest opportunity for success and to focus there. You mentioned the 4 to 12-year-olds and thinking about the creativity that those children still need as they’re developing. What’s an example of something that you came up with as a company for that 4 to 12-year-old that maybe you hadn’t had before and yet you were challenged to come up with because of the competition so to speak?

Washable products certainly was a big thing because that’s the age where kids tend to make lots of messes while they’re being creative. Washable was a big thing. That took off when it hit. Another one was into colored pencils. We were not in the color pencil market. Lots and lots of companies were. We did a survey and about a third of the people swore that they had bought colored pencils at some time. We had never sold one of them.

We decided that maybe it was time to get into the color pencil market, and so we did. That was geared towards slightly older children because younger kids don’t tend to be so much into pencils, crayons, and markers. Older kids certainly are graduating and we’re using colored pencils. We were in it and we became the largest seller of children’s colored pencils in the country from nothing to taking off. That is a big thing. We were paying attention to what people wanted and what they thought we should have even if we didn’t have it and then going ahead and doing it.

I love the whole notion that you’re paying attention to what the people in your marketplace were saying, what they wanted, and the opportunity. It didn’t matter that you had never made colored pencils before. They thought you were making a big buck they were buying them. It turned out that was a good business decision to go in that direction. I think that’s powerful. Sometimes we can assume some things that aren’t accurate and we do have to ask the customer.

When somebody tells you you’re doing something, you might as well do it because they already think you are anyway. They think you’re doing well, so why not go for it?

That became another revenue stream.

A big one.

It took you to some older children too. That was a good thing as well.

That got us out of that 12-year-old maybe into the teenage years and so forth. We still touch them too, but the focus was 4 to 12 mostly.

Company Culture

When you think about the culture of the company, I know you had an earlier job where you were in another corporation. You didn’t stay very long there. One of the reasons you left had to do with the corporate culture. What was that company’s culture like and how would you contrast it with what you’ve ran into when you got to Crayola and why you stayed so long at Crayola?

It was a very different industry. It was industrial. They made chemicals and industrial products that separated the air into various components, oxygen and nitrogen, and so forth. I worked on the equipment side doing quotations in order to get work on whether to build an airplane or some type of equipment that held the air. We’re still very well at it. I was working with folks that I got along with very very well. Somehow I found out that while I was doing that, there were other folks in the company that we’re interested in talking to me about possibly working in their organizations.

I think any good manager doesn’t try to hold his or her people back. They try to groom them for bigger and better things. It’s a badge of honor if you move on and do well somewhere else because that speaks well of what you did in managing that person. Unfortunately, I found out my manager was preventing me from talking to these other folks. He was telling them I wasn’t interested or he wouldn’t allow it.

When I found out, I was a little disturbed by that because I thought that was blocking what could be a progression for me. When I went to the human resource department to complain, they took the manager’s side. I thought that’s not the kind of place I want to be. I want to have the ability and the opportunity if it presents itself and certainly when people are interested, where I can talk to them and possibly move into a new job, a stronger job, a better job, or whatever the case may be. I thought if they’re going to restrict that and they’re going to back it up through human resources, maybe this isn’t the place for me. That’s when I started to look and found Crayola Corporation and wound up going to work for them then.

This is such an interesting story about that prior company because there are a lot of leaders today who think that somehow they’re retaining talent when they prevent opportunities when it’s the opposite. If you want to attract and retain talent, you’re continually offering development opportunities. It’s a way to stretch, grow, and learn, and new jobs produce that for people so they were in a sense hoarding if you will. They were increasing the likelihood that they were going to lose a very useful resource.

When I got to be a manager, I was continually asking the folks who were under my direction, “What is it that you want to do? What is it that interests you?” If they tell me that they love what they are doing, fine. “Is there anything I can do to enhance or make it better,” or “Is there something else that you would like to look at or some other experiences that you’re not getting right now? If so, we can look at that and provide those opportunities.”

I think that’s the mark of a good manager to do that with his or her people because it’s all about personal development. Trying to hold on to somebody, you’re going to lose them in the end. If they want to stay with you, they like what you’re doing, and you provide the opportunities, that’s great. If they find a different opportunity within the same company, it’s so much better because it’s not just about you and your organization. It’s about the company in total. I had lots of opportunities working at Crayola. I think in 17 years, I had 12 or 14 different jobs. I have plenty of opportunities to expand and to do things.

One of the things I love is that when you release someone to go elsewhere in the corporation, you’re making the corporation smarter because each person is gaining more knowledge, more wisdom, and more experience that they bring back to the corporation from wherever they are at that time. That is significant too.

I would like to think so. I would think that is what makes companies stronger. It is the ability to groom their people and give them different opportunities to show their strengths.

What makes companies stronger is the ability to groom their people and give them different opportunities to show their strengths. Click To Tweet

When you were in Crayola, you had all those many jobs and that’s a lot. Think about a time you moved to take me to a new role or new job, and the foundation of what you learned in the prior roles assisted you in showing up in a greater and better way for the corporation.

In virtually every job that I took, I started as an engineer and I learned from that. I was on the factory floor and I got to deal with lots of folks on the factory floor and learned tons of stuff from them. When I was given a new assignment, which was to start to create some strategy in regard to operations and so forth, I was able to use the information that I had. I also had a good foundation. I knew why things were done the way they were done, and how they got to that point, and then started to try to figure out the next logical step to take.

Not to get rid of everything because they’re things that are being done very well, but to build upon them and to expand upon them and to make them a little bit better. You would talk about continuous improvement being one of the things I was involved in. We were doing continuous improvement before we knew what Improvement was called. We just did it.

That was another great thing about Crayola. They were always looking and encouraging people to make things a little bit better day by day. That’s great because it challenges your folks. The job doesn’t become that humdrum same old day after day. It gets you thinking, “How can I do this a little bit better and make it a little bit better not just for me but for the company as well?”

I would think that having broader experience is one of the elements that allows a person to understand more about what the company is doing and why, and to walk a little bit in somebody else’s shoes to understand what they might need. When you’re in a different department or part of the business, “I understand why these people have these requirements down there because this is what’s going on down there,” as opposed to if you just stayed in a siloed functional area and never got to see anything outside.

Those people are important to me because what I did and the change that I made had an impact on them. I wanted to understand where they were coming from, and then I would go back to explain to them what we were doing and why we were doing it so they had an understanding. That wasn’t a change for the sake of change. I always hated that. I had that once when a boss accused me of resisting change. I said, “No, if it makes sense and if there’s a positive aspect to it.” Changes for the sake of change to me is not the right thing because you can get into some big troubles, and we did on occasion because somebody wanted to do something different even though it didn’t have necessarily a good end result to it.

Changes for the sake of change is not the right thing because you can get into some big troubles. Click To Tweet

Understanding why to do something or why not to do something is critical. If you’re resisting making a change, either the change is not good for the company or someone hasn’t clearly articulated the why that makes sense.

In my consulting experience, I typically asked the client when we were working on a project how this was going to impact their strategic plan and their long-term plans. The good folks would be able to tell me that. The ones that hadn’t thought about it would give you that look like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” and then we would have to get into, “Where are you headed?” If you make a change and you don’t know where you’re headed, is it going to be a good change or not so good change?

Not all changes are positive. You want to make sure that it flows with where you want the company to head and that it makes sense because why do something contrary to where you want the company to be, and then you’re going to have to undo it and redo it? That doesn’t make sense. It’s a waste of time, money, and effort. I got a lot of cases that after a while, I decided to start with that rather than get into the project, and then found out later that maybe we were not heading in the right direction. They weren’t heading in the right direction. They didn’t know what it was that they wanted.

That is so wise. Keeping in view where you’re going right from the beginning. Think about driving from one state to the next. You have an end destination in mind. If you don’t, you could end up anywhere. It’s so important to ask, is this what we’re planning to do now? How likely is this to get us to the end destination? Is it the most effective way to get there? You’re right. People have to think I’ll say a multiple chest moves down the board about what they’re doing to be doing the right things.

I know we’re going to wind up in a place we want to wind up. That’s the most important. There’s that old saying that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. It will never be truer than in business. Sometimes the road you take may get you to a place you didn’t anticipate being and you may not want to be there. As you said, driving and you find out you’re in a completely different place than you thought you were going to be. It’s better to think about it first.

Think about it first and maybe consult the map a little bit and see what’s going on with those roads leading to where you want to go.

A lot of knee-jerk reactions, unfortunately. Let’s clean this up and not worry about it. Clean-up can have some not-so-good implications to it as well if you don’t do it right.

What’s an example of that? I know you’ve seen a lot in your consulting work. Without naming a name, what’s an example where someone thought, “Clean up is what we need,” and then it wasn’t?

The one example I like to use is a lack of communication where a company wanted to look at expanding whether it was in the current operation and building or getting into a new one. We did all sorts of studies on it and determined that probably the best move at the time was to expand the current building and operation but move things around. When we went to make the presentation on it, they said, “We have this issue that you didn’t address,” because we didn’t know about it, which is that they had some Vermin in their facility that were causing problems.

They thought that what we were coming up with was not the best solution. If you don’t know what the problem is, it was never discussed in its entirety, and you can’t take it into account, then it proposes a problem. They thought it was going to cause a problem. We didn’t think it was, but they were the client. They had a different opinion. They were paying the bills. The project didn’t work out the way we thought it was because we thought we had a pretty elegant solution. It turned out that they didn’t think it was a very elegant solution.

That’s one thing you don’t want to have happen when you’re dealing with a client. You want to satisfy them. You want to give them the best advice possible. To do that, you have to have the right information and then go from there. I’d say that was a big one that certainly sticks out. Another one was when I worked with a company where we came up with a number of improvement solutions that they seemed to like. We even said to them, “Can you put a dollar figure on these when they were implemented?” They didn’t. It was a half million dollars.

When you're dealing with a client, you want to satisfy them. You want to give them the best advice possible. In order to do that, you have to have the right information and then go from there. Click To Tweet

They were about $5 million company or so. Half a million dollars is a pretty good return. We said, “Once we got all done, we’ll help you to implement it. They said, “We have it. Don’t worry about it.” About a year later, somebody called me up and said, “The companies were very unhappy. They’re not getting any of the benefits that you said there were.”

I was taken aback and said, “What did they implement?” The fellow said, “They didn’t implement anything,” and I was further taken aback and said, “How do you expect to get improvements if you don’t make the changes that are necessary?” I got that dead silence and it was like, “Why are we having this conversation? That’s crazy to think that you’re going to get improvements if you don’t make the changes that you said you were going to make.” Sometimes you wonder what goes through people’s minds and why they do or don’t do some of the things that they’re supposed to do, and then have different expectations in the end.

It almost seems like that phone call should have been, “We thought we could implement this on our own and what we’ve discovered is that we haven’t been very good at it. We need to talk to you about that offer you had last time about helping us with the implementation.”

You would hope so but again, I’m not a psychologist. I don’t want to be a psychologist, but you wonder sometimes what goes through people’s minds and what causes them to do some of the things that they do and say some of the things that they say. It’s truly astounding.

When you’re working in partnership with someone, whether it’s an outside consultant or wherever it may be, you have to remember that in that partnership, sharing of information, sharing of goals and objectives, co-creating together the end game and what’s next, and how we’re going to do this are all important to success. If you withhold information, it’s going to change the value of what you get back.

Also, make things up that aren’t true just to provide an answer. I have that every now and again. People will be embarrassed. Instead of saying, “I don’t know so we need to find out,” they’ll tell you something wrong. You go on that premise because you want to trust the people that you’re dealing with and then you find out that it’s not true. I’ve learned through experience that when somebody tells me something, there’s that old saying trust, but verify. I’ve learned to trust but verify because, in some instances, they’re not doing or saying what they should be. It can cause problems down the road. We don’t want to have that.

Office Politics And Leaving A Company

It sounds like you’re consulting careers quite robust and are going well and the companies that you’ve come alongside to facilitate their success and so on. Let’s go back a little bit. Weren’t you planning originally to retire perhaps from Crayola?

Yes. Nowadays, I think it’s a little bit different. I think the average lifespan on a job is five years, and then people move to other companies for a variety of different reasons. I pretty well thought that I could end my career at Crayola. It was a great place to work. I had a lot of friends. The work was always interesting. The company was interesting, but as they say, things don’t always work out the way you plan and changes have to occur. Unfortunately, that happened with me in Crayola as well and I didn’t end my career there.

Let’s talk about that a little bit. In general terms, what happened because this is the part I would refer to as corporate politics? Without using any names or throwing anyone under the bus specifically, in general, what occurred to you? Tell us about that.

It was a time when I was in charge of quality. I have to be honest. I was given that job and I didn’t want it. I never saw quality as a place I wanted to wind up, but they decided to the powers that be that I was the right fit and I should run quality. I said, “Okay, then I will do the best job that I can until the next opportunity comes along.” In that, we had policies and procedures and the right ways to develop products and so forth.

By and large, people did what they were supposed to, but there was one product manager who felt that he was above all that and smarter than everybody else and he didn’t follow the policies and the procedures. He had caused some problems and I was getting a lot of flocks from people. I went to my boss who was a vice president and said, “This fellow was causing problems and we need to do something about it because people on the factory floor are very unhappy about this too. He’s going against what we consider quality guidelines.”

He said, “Why don’t you draft a letter for me and explain what it is, then I’ll take it from there and I’ll address it.” I did. I went out on vacation. I came back. I’m going through my voice messages on my telephone and the fellow who was the problem left me a message that was very salty and accused me of everything under the sun of undermining him and so forth and I had no idea what he was talking about. I went through my papers and I found out that what my boss had done was taken the letter I had written to him and put his copy on top, some type of note, and sent it out not only to this fellow but basically to the world.

Everybody had seen what this guy was doing. He had been unmasked and he wasn’t happy about it. I called the fellow up and we had a conversation. I didn’t apologize for the letter other than the fact that I didn’t intend for it to go out that way. We had an understanding and we left it at such. That day, I was having lunch with his boss who was the Executive Vice President of the company. We did not have the most pleasant of lunches because he told me that I had messed with his person and I should never do it again or it would be bad news for me.

Ever since that time, I and that vice president did not get along very well, even though I did a lot of things for him on a personal basis not only on a business basis. When the time came because ultimately I wound up under his jurisdiction, still reporting to my current boss who reported to him, he said, “Time for you to let Pete go.” He was not happy with me. That was part of the office politics and that led to the demise of me leaving Crayola. I knew it was coming. You get that sense even though people won’t tell you, but I had that feeling for a while.

When it came, it wasn’t a big surprise to me, but it was very interesting if you don’t mind I can spend a couple more minutes. It was one of the most interesting partings that I think a person has ever had at a company. My boss didn’t outright tell me that I needed to leave. He called me in and he said, “You might want to consider other career options.” Again, a good boss. The options were within Crayola. He says, “Why don’t you go back into engineering? You could head up engineering? I think you can do a great job.”

I said, “Okay,” so we left. I got a call from Human Resources a couple of days later and the person said to me, “Did you and your boss have to talk?” “Yeah, we did.” “When are you leaving?” I said, “I’m not leaving. We didn’t have that kind of talk.” She said, “He was supposed to have that talk with you.” I said, “We did.” I told her what we discussed. She said, “I’ll get back to you.” She got back to me in a week and she said, “We’ve decided that you’ve got three more months here, then you’ll go on whatever you’re termination stuff is.” Three months.

Did you ever hear somebody who was being let go by a company where they said, “You’re still going to hang around for three months? You are still going to do your job, and you still going to meetings every day.” I had stuff and my kids were Crayola users at the time so my office was full of their artwork. I’m taking their artwork home. I’m taking some of my personal stuff home. I’m taking a pencil here or there at home and I’m saying to my boss, “Do you want to see what I’m taking out?” There’s, “Not a problem.”

Again, you hear that where somebody gets let go and they don’t escort them out, and then bring them back and stand there and watch what they’re taking. For three months, I continued to work at Crayola. I continue to do my job. People calling me on the phone and going, “I thought you were leaving?” “I am in a couple of months.” They’re having lunches for me and they’re taking me out and they’re telling me how much they’re going to miss me.

It was the strangest parting I think a person has ever had with the company. Within I would say six months after I left, I was back consulting with them. You tell me about getting let go by a company and having a terrible time and having it earth-shaking. It actually wasn’t too bad. It was pleasant. I got a year’s payout of it, got to get into consulting and all sorts of other stuff, and all is good. I still have nice things to say about Crayola. It’s just that this Executive Vice President that I didn’t get along and I was on the wrong side of politics. That’s life, unfortunately.

I love this story because you are telling a story about what it looks like to leave a company well. When you left, you didn’t burn bridges. You still had relationships. You were able to consult back to the company, which if you had blown the place up, that certainly wouldn’t have happened. You also were opening up a new door of possibilities in your life for this consulting work.

I want you to talk a little bit about that because it goes back to the beginning of your career when you considered consulting, but now you’re coming back to it. I think there is something powerful in leaving with integrity. Before we talk about the opportunity where you were going, talk a little bit about your faith walk because as a Christian man, there are some commitments that you have, there are some upbringing you had that probably if you didn’t have that as a background, you might have wallowed in anger and bitterness.

I was raised Christian in the Lutheran faith. My parents were quite religious. My grandparents were also. Faith was a big part of my upbringing and my life story. I took it to be true that you treat every person with respect unless they somehow violate that, no matter what they do, no matter who they are, and no matter where they come from because we are all created by the same Creator. That’s my belief.

Treat every person with respect no matter who they are, no matter where they come from because we are all created by the same Creator. Click To Tweet

We only have a limited time on this Earth to do whatever we’re going to do. Hopefully, we’re going to do good and we’re going to leave it a little better than we found it when we were born. The only way to do that is to work with people, to enjoy them, to respect them, to cherish them, and to give them the opportunities that they can. You can’t force them to do things. You can’t force them to be a Christian. I didn’t preach to them about it. I tried to lead through my example, treating them with courtesy, treating them with respect, giving them opportunities, and listening to them.

There are so many people who aren’t listened to and want somebody to listen to what they’re saying and to hear what they have to say because it is important. I tried to give that opportunity to the people that I dealt with in all shapes and forms. I probably had a better relationship with people on the factory floor than I did in the office because they were more genuine. They were more real. They told me what I believed to be the truth. They didn’t hold anything back. They were thorough about it. They were appreciative that somebody listened to them and then did things in regard to that and what they said.

My faith I think has been very important throughout my business career. I hope that I have done a good job. I know I could always do a better job as we all could, but I have no problem that when my day comes and I have to answer for what I did I can answer well and say I live as well as I could being a human being and doing what I could. I truly love my fellow man.

That’s an important word, loving your fellow man. As it turns out, even though you weren’t planning to depart at that time. By the way, there must have been tremendous trust and respect for you because as you say, very often people get escorted out with the security guards on the same day and all of this. They weren’t worried about you stealing things from the corporation. They weren’t worried about you poisoning the well. You stayed for three months. You continue to work, which speaks to your character and how you were viewed by the powers to be. Otherwise, they would have operated in a different way.

I showed up every day. When you’re told you’re leaving in three months, you can mess around all you want and take advantage of the company. Show up whenever you want and leave whenever you want. I didn’t do that. I still had an obligation. They still were giving me a paycheck. I still needed to earn that. I still had an obligation and I had a lot of things going on. I was looking for who am I handing this off to and who am I handing that off to and so forth.

When I left, I think I left things in good shape. I think that’s an obligation on people’s part. It’s terrible when you have a terrible dismissal. One side hates the other and you hate them. I don’t to this day. They gave me great opportunities. It’s a wonderful company. They continue to thrive. I wish them all the best in the world. I’m not part of it anymore and I got to do other things and that’s okay. I made sure that that happened. I made lemonade out of my lemons.

How did you see this as an opportunity? A lot of times people are so stuck in anger over what’s happened. They don’t walk forward into the opportunity piece. How did you have your mindset focus on opportunity?

One of the things that they gave me in addition to severance and a nice departure and all that was a counselor that I worked with on looking for other job opportunities. When we sat down, she said to me, “You should consider going into consulting because whether you realize it or not, that’s what you’ve been, an internal consultant to this company.” I hadn’t thought about it. Actually, I had because of coming out of college, I had an opportunity to become a consultant, but I didn’t feel that I was ready for it at the time.

I deferred and now I thought it was time. I’ve had almost twenty years in the industry. I’ve done a bunch of different things and I think I can talk to the executives because I have twenty years and I wasn’t an executive. When I speak, I think they’ll listen to me now. I thought it was the right time to do it. I pursued that then, and it worked out great. As you mentioned, I worked with over 300 companies and got to deal with lots of people and lots of Industries and lots of places and so forth. It worked out well. At the time, you don’t think so. It’s like, “What am I going to do with myself next?” I followed my thoughts and my heart and it all worked out well for me.

I think this is something to be said for honoring your values no matter what is going on in your life, parting well, and so on. At the end of the day, the bottom line is that our lives are in the hands of God. If he opens doors and closes doors, it’s for our benefit no matter what. The people who think they’re doing something to us or whatever are not as powerful as they think they are because they can only do what God allows.

God has a plan for all of us. We don’t know necessarily what it is. He’ll give us clues, but we leave it to us to figure it out and hopefully, we do. We follow through with that. You feel it. You know it when it’s right and you do it. It’s twenty years before I got into consulting but it was my time to do it. God said at that time, “It’s not your time to be a consultant,” but after Crayola, he said, “Pete, now is your time.” He didn’t directly say that to me. I looked at it and went, “Now is the time.” I had a good run with that. It’s a successful career. I started an organization. It’s still going strong even after I’m gone. What more can you ask for?

That’s the truth. Sometimes God’s preparation takes longer. I’m thinking about King David and we know that from the time he was anointed king until he became king was at least fifteen years. The oil pours on his head and says, “You’re the next king of Israel,” but he doesn’t step right into that role right away. It takes some time of preparation. As a brief parenthetical, what ultimately happened to that Executive Vice President who did all this stuff to you?

He thought he was going to become president at Crayola. That didn’t happen because Crayola had been bought by Hallmark Corporation. It’s still owned by Hallmark Corporation. They did not particularly like him so they let him go at some point. He bounced around to some other companies. It’s funny, when you become an executive, companies tend to give you deference and will hire you whether you are a good executive or not. He got a couple of other opportunities and then he went into politics. What a surprise. He never got what it was that he thought he was going to get. He thought he was going to be the next president. It turned out that he wasn’t.

Here’s what I would say about that. I’m thinking about the Bible verse that talks about how we reap what we sow something. You might seem to get away in the short term in terms of how you treat people, but in the long run, all of this that we do ultimately catches up with us.

We had some great conversations. Even after we had that incident where he told me not to mess with that guy and his people. I did a lot of things for him. He came to me with a lot of problems. One of the other things was when I was still in quality, we were having a discussion one time and he said to me, “I understand that you’re at war with the plant manager.” They’re one of those, “What do you mean at war?” The plant manager who had been the head of quality before, and that was the plant manager, he was messing around doing some things.

What would happen is I wanted to be in quality assurance. There’s a big difference in quality control. In quality control, you take what somebody did. He inspects it and you tell them if they did it right or not. If they did it wrong, what they did wrong? I didn’t want that. I wanted quality assurance where you worked up front, you checked on the materials before they got to the plant, and you put the processes in place so that if people followed them, they would have success and all. That’s what I wanted to do.

Unfortunately, this plant manager who claimed that he was doing quality control wasn’t and his people were messing around. The product managers would come to me and my people and say, “We need you to go out and find out what’s going on because we don’t trust him.” The vice president happened to be out in the plant and they were complaining to him. I said, “My people are out there doing that because your people are calling us and asking us to. Would you like me to stop doing that and leave it to the plant? Do you want me to respond to what your people are asking me to do, me and my folks?”

He gave me that look and said, “Of course, I want you to.” I said, “I’m not having a war. You should go talk to the plant manager and tell him to get his act together and he should do quality control because I don’t want to do it quite honestly. I want to do quality assurance.” We would have some very frank conversations about stuff but yet at the end of the day, he still was not happy with me. I was not one of his folks and that’s the way it is.

Challenger Leaders Currently Face

Sometimes that is the way it is. We’re not liked by everybody. Everybody is not going to be happy with us and all of that and it’s how it turns out. You’ve had this long career, extensive career, including your years in consulting. We should look around the world today with the lens of seeing the rear or seeing what’s going on at the moment. What would you say are some of the biggest challenges or biggest issues for leaders to deal with and face in today’s climate?

First of all, start listening to each other. We aren’t. Too many of us have our viewpoints and we’re stuck to it. We don’t care what anybody else says particularly if it’s of an opposing viewpoint. Whatever happened to civil discussion and differences of opinion and coming to resolutions about stuff? I see so much incivility. It’s horrible. How do you get things done? Nobody ever gets 100% of what they want. If you get 80% of what you want, you’ve done well. That’s through compromise and negotiation and understanding the other person’s viewpoint.

Nobody ever gets 100% of what they want. If you get 80% of what you want, you've done really well and that's through compromise and negotiation and understanding the other person's viewpoint. Click To Tweet

We’re not doing a lot of that right now. It’s getting worse and it’s getting worse, and it should be getting better. We’re supposed to be getting better at what we do and we’re not. I think we’re getting worse at it and that bothers me. Until we get to that point, either things aren’t going to happen or you’re going to get the extremes that are going to push their viewpoints, and it’s going to get worse and worse. I think that needs to happen both in business and in our everyday lives as well. Also valuing people and listening to them.

There are a lot of smart people out there that we don’t ask what their opinion is and get information from. We need to do more and more of that. The person who’s doing the job every day is the expert because they’re doing it every day. You’re not. Particularly as a consultant, you go in and you’re learning from the people. You get a short smidgeon of what they’re doing and you’ve got to make decisions from that. You better get a pretty good accurate viewpoint of what’s going on and why things are happening the way they are.

You got to listen to people and then you got to sit out the good and the not so good and all that stuff. You got to find out what’s going on and then you got to deal with it. I saw a quote from Steve Jobs today, “Understanding a problem goes a long way to solving it.” How true that is? If you don’t understand what the problem is, how are you going to solve it? It’s like the instance I have given you before about we came up with this new layout and then they said, “We have this problem.” We didn’t know about the problem, so how are you supposed to deal with it if you don’t know about it? That type of thing.

Those are some biggies and I think communication. With all the ways we have to communicate with each other, cell phones, the internet, telephones, and on and on, I think we do a pretty poor job of communicating with each other. That needs to improve too. It goes to listening, but then also goes to making sure that people understand what it is you’re talking about and that you’ve come to an agreement on what needs to be done and move ahead with it. You can have all the mechanisms in the world and all the technology, but if you don’t do that, it goes down to basic skills again, you’re not going to communicate well.

This is the bottom line of everything we’ve been talking about. It is about communication. It’s about valuing people. It’s about listening to people and hearing and implementing their ideas and so on because they are on the front lines and they have a line of sight. Oftentimes, we don’t have when we’re at the executive level or even an outside consultant perspective at times as well. This is important what you’re saying. With all the sophisticated tools that we have, we haven’t always gotten better at civility in our communication or valuing and caring about people at a high level if you will.

Peter’s Books

Let me roll something else. You have these two books, What About The Vermin Problem? and Influences and Influencers. What did you include in those books, I know you’ve got wisdom from all of these experiences. For somebody who gets them and who’s going to read it, tell us what they’re going to get out of it.

Let’s go to the second one first, which is probably the first book I should have written, Influences and Influencers. In our lives, there are things that impact us, whether it’s people, things, experiences, or whatever the case may be. Through those individuals and experiences and so forth, we shape how we do things, why we do things, what we’re about, and how we make decisions. What I did in that book was to bring out people that I thought had an impact on my life both positive and negative, what that is, and why I think and act the way I do.

That’s what Influences and Influencers is about. We all have that. We should recognize it and we should give thanks to the people who had a positive impact and make sure that they know that they’re appreciated for what they’ve done for us. The other book What About The Vermin Problem? which probably should have been book number two, but wasn’t, was experiences that I had both working at Crayola and also working in consulting where I had clients or individuals that I work with that either made very good decisions and had very positive outcomes, or very poor decisions and had some not so good outcomes from it.

That goes back to The Influences and Influencers. What causes them to make the decisions that they do that have an impact on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it? The two of them not only deal with business and people and things that you come across, but they deal with life in general because we have that throughout our lives. People impact us and help to influence us and help us make decisions good, bad, and different, and what the outcomes are. If you read the two together as a set, I think you’ll do very well. They’re both fast good reads, but they get to the point and a lot of people have told me, “I can relate to that. That’s exactly what I’ve gone through in the past. I wish I had that twenty years earlier so I would have had that as a guideline.”

That’s phenomenal. One of the things you said is something I think is important. That is truth and wisdom are applicable to both business and life in general. That’s an important component there. How can people get a hold of you if they want to get a hold of you?

Three ways. I’m on LinkedIn. Look up Peter Christian, adjunct professor, speaker, writer, and consultant. You’ll find me. You can send out a thing that you would like to hook up and converse and so forth. That’s number one. Number two, I have a website which is It has a place in there where you can send me a message. You can read all sorts of articles that I’ve written so forth, but you can write to me and say, “I would like to talk,” and do whatever. The third way is my email, which is my initials Any one of those three, LinkedIn, my website, or my email address.

People can get your books also on your website.

You can order them. You can read about them, but then order them through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any of the major distributors for books. You can get them. I think I’m in 15 or 20 different places.

That’s great as well. As we’re wrapping up, tell us maybe some closing comment or your words of wisdom that you want to leave for my community of corporate executives, something that either wraps up what you’ve already said or that you haven’t said yet.

Be True

I would say believe in yourself. Be true to yourself. Be true to the people you deal with. Be open and honest with them, granted that not everything you can say, but by and large, as honest as you can be and as open as you can be with them. Trust other people and when you find out that you can’t trust them, then you deal with them as you have to deal with them. Some people we have to deal with even though they may not be the greatest in the world. That’s the way life is.

Always have confidence in yourself. Whatever decision you make, hopefully, it’s the right decision at the time and never look back because it’s done. You look at where you go from here and what you can do better because we always can do better and you move on but stop looking backwards. They always said, “Looking in the rearview mirror never gets you to where you want to be. It’s looking through that windshield straight ahead. That’s where you’re headed and where you’re going to be.”

Looking in the rearview mirror never gets you to where you want to be. It's looking through that windshield straight ahead to where you're headed and where you're going to be. Click To Tweet

I love that. Thank you so much for the orientation that we’re going forward. We need to look through the windshield. Thank you for your transparency and honesty in talking about what can be some difficult topics and subjects in our show. I appreciate having you here, Pete.

I appreciate you having me. I enjoyed it.

We’re going to close out with a scripture reading that I think is relevant to what Pete has experienced and what he did, navigating some of those challenges. This comes from 1 Peter 3:8. It says, “Finally all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another. Love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing, knowing that you were called to this that you inherit a blessing. For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

We can certainly see in this episode and speaking with Pete Christian that the eyes of the Lord were upon him and his career. No matter what happens, he still emerges successful. The same is true for us when we live according to the values that we hold dear and that we espouse. Have a blessed day and thank you for being here.


Important Links

August 1, 2023

7 Ways to Prepare Leaders for Their First Executive Roles (Episode # 435)

To learn how to operate as an executive, leaders need to be around, interact with, and build relationships with executives. “Executives in Development” also need opportunities to make strategic decisions, to “test drive” the executive role, and to get feedback on their strategic thoughts and ideas. Dr. Karen outlines 7 critical actions to successfully groom your next generation of executive leaders.

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