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Virginia Leadership Summit 2012

This past Saturday, Senator Mark Warner hosted a gathering of leaders from across the state and I was fortunate to attend.  The subtitle for the event was Shaping the Future for Virginia.  The Senator and former Republican Congressman Tom Davis spoke of working together for the benefit of all.  The need to invest in our infrastructure and to get a handle on the national debt.

Former Governor Baliles spoke of leading through periods of change.

U of R  President Ed Ayers, spoke of the value of a liberal arts education and what an extraordinary resource we have in the University of Richmond.

Economist Dr. Chris Chmura and education consultant and Time columnist Andy Rotherman shared some daunting statistics about Virginia’s education system and its impact upon our economy past, present and future.

The skills of a workforce are the magnet for industry.  What defines a high skilled workforce?  Workforce planning on the part of government and educators and life long learning on the part of citizens.

Virginia Business publisher, Bernie Niemieir and AOL founder and serial entrepreneur, Steve Case took the stage for an informal “fireside chat” about leadership and innovation.

Mr. Case reiterated the need for attracting and retaining capable people from all over the world.  The US has

been winning the global battle for talent.  Entrepreneurs have created 40 million new jobs over the last three decades and 40% of those job creating entrepreneurs have been 1st or 2nd generation immigrants.  He described current immigration policies as analogous of recruiting Chinese nationals to attend the US Naval Academy and upon graduation deporting them to join the Chinese navy.  Currently, we train scientists and business people and then we send them abroad to compete against us.

Barry DuVal, President of the Virginia Chamber spoke of the Council on Virginia’s Future as an opportunity for those present to work together to build a blueprint for Virginia’s Vision for 2025.
We all walked away with renewed belief in the need for post secondary education, whether attained through the community colleges, four year institutions or vocational training.President Ayers closed out the day reminding us that “without our history we are without direction.”

With the high cost of education today, many wrestled with the question of training for the present and education for the future.  And while there may be pride in Virginia being 7th in the country in terms of citizens with Bachelors, no one is happy about our low percentage of high school graduates.  And while we know this a national problem; this is not one of those cases where misery finding comfort in company.

I took a lot more notes and Dr. Chmura and Mr. Rotherman were both kind enough to distribute their PowerPoint decks.  I’m sure I’ll write more about what I learned there, but for now let me leave you with Senator Warner’s belief that we are the future of Virginia and the world.

You often hear us at Catch Your Limit quoting Peter Drucker and I will do so again, “The only way to predict the future is to create it.”  So go forth, lead, do something. Do something to make this world a better place.


><(("> Gayle Turner

Gayle is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a consulting firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Business, Change, Innovation, Leadership.

Strategic Decisions at the Crossroads

Strategic decisions are about what you’re
going to do, not how.  They are decisions about what direction we’re headed.  Directly ahead?  Charge!  Move back?  Sound the retreat!!  Move around our obstacles?  Hit and run?

Most of us engage in some sort of planning.   We look at our current situation, we perceive opportunity and we set course.  We expect to succeed.  We see a path and we intend to proceed down that path overcoming whatever gets in our way.  We will think of new ways to deal with new obstacles as we encounter them.

And then we come to an intersection, a crossroads.  Do we drive on through, continuing toward our original destination?  Do we turn left or right?  Or do we stop and look to see just what’s traveling along this new path?

These intersections represent the greatest opportunities for success and failure simply because the variables are exponential in the intersections compared to our current path or on the intersecting path.  It’s in the intersections where ideas collide.  It’s in the intersections where “common sense” is questioned.  It’s in the intersections where what we’ve always known to be true may no longer be so.

Stepping into the intersections requires curiosity.  “What if?”  It requires passion.  “I really want to know.”  And it requires courage.  “I know the unknown is scary, but I’m going to take the risk.”

It’s a strategic decision either way.  Do we continue on our path or do we decide to do something different?  It takes curiosity, passion and courage to make either decision.

The only difference is there are many more variables in the intersection.

Only you can decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Either way the choice, the strategic decision, is yours.

><(("> Gayle Turner

Gayle is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a consulting firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Business, Change, Leadership, Strategic Planning, Strategy.

Talented Leaders, Actors and Perfect People

There’s no such thing as perfect people, only talented actors. – Jamie Foxx, Facebook Post

There are three reasons why I wrote this post:

  1. To see if I could build traffic to our blog by featuring a quote from one of my favorite, talented actors, Jamie Foxx.
  2. Jamie’s quote somehow made me think about leaders and I want to share my thoughts with you.
  3. I would love your take on my take. Who knows, you may be the next person I quote.

How often do we let our titles, egos and roles get in the way of who we really are as leaders?

How often do we, like talented actors, play the role of a perfect person  to perfection?

How often do we play the role so effectively that we start believing it ourselves.

This is when the Director, the conscience in your head, should yell, “Cut!”

This is when you should go straight to your dressing room, take off your costume and makeup, and look in the mirror.

Who do you see? A talented actor, or the real you … complete with wrinkles and weaknesses to go along with your leader-like looks and strengths, challenges and to go along with your victories, mistakes and failures to go along with your successes.

All of this adds up to the real you, not the role you. You are after all, a human, just like the rest of us.

But, the question you should ask the mirror image of yourself is how often do your forget?

I must admit, it is easy to forget and here are a few reasons that come to mind. I invite you to add yours.

When we come equipped with aides, PR folks, scripted bios, writers, directors,  entourage, employees and fans (folks who want to or have to believe in you) it can easily go to our heads. We are living the great life. This leadership stuff isn’t easy, but it has its perks, and most of all it can make you bigger than life … and that’s the problem.

Bigger than life means you can do things mere mortals can’t do …. you are able to leap tall building in a single bound.

Bigger than life means you can be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, and even if it’s considered wrong, you won’t get caught, because you are bigger than life. Who is to question you. After all, you are the perfect person.


It’s time to turn off the klieg lights. Fire the script writers. Get rid of the entourage and come on back down to earth. You are a leader and it’s not an act, it’s real and there is a lot at stake.

Be you. Share your vulnerabilities. Ask for help and guidance when you need it. Say you don’t know when you don’t. Ask for help when it comes to leaping those tall buildings. Admit you don’t have all the answers. Be transparent. Recognize you can’t get away with any more than the rest of us can.

The best role you can play is yourself. Be a human. Be a leader with passion, purpose, and a-do-whatever-it-takes-to-move-forward attitude, but do it with a great deal of humility.

If you do this with all of your heart and soul, you might just have Jamie Foxx playing you one day. After all, he is a talented actor!

PS – This blog is not a movie. You are welcome and encouraged to participate and help make it worth all of our while. And, Jamie, you can play, too!   


><(("> Tom Laughon
Tom is affectionately known as BIG ><(("> at Catch Your Limit

Catch Your Limit
Management Guides & Fish Cleaning Services
><(("> Camps in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia
To learn more, visit

Posted in Inspiration, Leadership.

Tagged with , , , , .

A Leader’s Flag & What It Means

Businesses exist to create customers.

With that in mind understanding and being able to clearly communicate the value proposition a leader’s business offers is critical to success.

Your value proposition is the central operating principle upon which the business is built.

It’s the promise your people tell the world to get them in the door.

It’s the promise that creates your customers’ expectations.

It’s the promise that when fulfilled brings people back.

Another word for your “value proposition”, for that “promise” is “brand.”

Don’t confuse your business’ logo with its brand.

The logo is a symbol that represents the promise.

When raised atop the mast of a ship, the skull & cross bones signifies warning to all who see it, no prisoners will be taken.

When the folks at Apple were developing the original Macintosh computer they flew the Jolly Roger outside the skunkworks.

It signified a “take no prisoners” attitude about creativity and innovation.

In either case, the message was clear to the crew and those they met.

What “flag” are you waving?

What does it mean to your employees?

If you’re not clear, how can they be?

What does it mean to your customers?

Branding is a discipline.  One with phenomenal potential rewards.

Great leaders value not just their flag, but what it stands for.

Like anything of value it requires care.

Ask your people what they believe your “flag” stands for.

What you hear may surprise you.





><(("> Gayle Turner

Gayle is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a consulting firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Brand, Business, Creativity, Creativity/Innovation, Leadership.

We’ve Got to Quit Meeting Like This!

Back in my marketing days I had a nice roster of clients in New York City, and the bigger they were (number of employees, revenue, global reach, etc.), the more formal their boardrooms or conference rooms seemed to be.

I always wondered what came first, the big boardroom or the big organization. Was it a springboard for success or a symbol that success had come?

I loved being the first to be escorted into a boardroom like this and to wait for the other players to enter the inner sanctum. I would swivel (these leather chairs were always on swivels) one of the chairs a few degrees to the left or right, sit back in mine, and wait for the fun to begin.

Nine times out of ten the first person to enter the room would see the chair that was askew, go straight to it, swivel it back to the “correct” position and, only then, walk over to extend a formal welcome along with a right hand for proper shaking.

It was really hard for me to hold back the laugh track, much less suppress a smile. I just wanted to jump on the table and sing, “Shake it up, baby, now (shake it up baby), twist and shout (twist and shout), come on, come on, come on, baby, now (come on baby), work it on out (work it on out) …”

Somehow, I got the feeling this wasn’t the room for letting your hair down, no-holds-barred brainstorming, looking at things differently or leaving titles or experience (longevity) out in the hall.

Words like stodgy, formal, stifling, intimidating and “old boys school” came to mind. I would call it the “Rubber Stamp Room” or the “Brain Drain Room”.

These rooms may have been opulent, but where was the room to breath, to spread out, to spin around in those swivel based chairs, to spill a Coke (if Coke was even allowed in the first place) on the table without fear of being fired … room to think … room to create … room to fail … room to learn … room to grow.

Sing it with me: Shake it up, baby, now! Stop the madness. We have got to quit meeting like this!

Here’s my idea of a shake it up, baby, place, a perfect place to let your inhibitions go and mind flow, and you only have to walk a few blocks from  ><((“> HQ to get here.

It’s called the Pipeline Rapids Walkway and it is located on Virginia’s Main Stream, the River James, that roars right through downtown Richmond.

“Our room” is as big as all outdoors!

In fact, it is outdoors! It is right under the train trestle on the left hand side of the picture above.

It is our “Detox Room”, our “Romper Room” and our “Catch Your Limit Room”. It’s where we bring our friends and our clients to get to know each other, share ideas, conversations and points of you. We create, we innovate, we collaborate and we have a ball doing all of the above.

The only things off limits are smart phones, hidden agendas, closed minds, absolutes and making excuses.

Guest are always welcome, like our blue herons, their babies, river critters and fish.  Included in the river critters category are the kyakers who brave the Class 4 and 5 rapids below us. The really good ones can keep their course, smile and wave to us at the same time. Speaking of waving, it doesn’t take much to coax a wave out of the engineers in the trains above us.

It is kinetic, chaotic, stimulating and awe inspiring. It’s waters hold the past, present and future and somehow, you know a drop or two of that future will be yours.

I have been in plenty of conference rooms and boardrooms and I would match ours against most any of them, even without the swivel based leather chairs. The best thing about this room is you never know what’s going to come out of it.

The rapids provide the perfect rhythm, beat and sound to shake it up, baby (shake it up baby) … the perfect environment for coming together or getting it together … with plenty of room to jump up and down and make joyful contributions to our world!

Where do you shake it up, baby? Where do you go to get away from the maddening crowd? Where is the place that inspires you, calms you, challenges you, allows your mind to go for a walk in the wilderness are through the world of possibilities or swim the oceans of the universe?  How often do you go there? Do you bring others?

Just know you are always welcome to join us in “our room”.

It has plenty of room for all of us, including our hearts, minds and souls.

><(("> Tom Laughon
Tom is affectionately known as BIG ><(("> at Catch Your Limit

Catch Your Limit
Management Guides & Fish Cleaning Services
><(("> Camps in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia
To learn more, visit

Posted in Business, Change, Creativity, Innovation, Inspiration, Leadership.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , .