It’s All Personal

by Sandy Nelson on September 23, 2014

Noticed my absence? Thanks, if you have! Understood, if not.

Sixteen months ago my world was turned upside down. My bride and business partner decided to pursue life and career separate from me and, eventually, Aperio. Surprised, devastated, reeling in pain and obsessed with regret for all the things I wish I had done differently/better as a husband, partner and father, I found myself consumed by the energy it took to simply put one foot in front of the other for what felt like an endless period of soul searching and basic survival. Delving progressively deeper into a revelatory period of personal archeology, I quickly came to marvel at how deeply I had had my head buried in the sand for years.

Focused on adding value for treasured clients and translating a passion and vision into a growing business, I lost touch with the cherished loved ones that supported and fueled my quest. There is no way around this. I own it. 

Such is the human condition. To pursue any dream is to risk failure. To learn is to fail. And, I did.


But, where there is darkness, there is also light.  

During those dark months of gazing in the mirror of life, I found, as is so often the case, a certain richness within the blackness of pain. The process of healing is not pretty—there are realities to be faced, intense emotions to experience and far too many sleepless nights to count. Yet, the very act of continuing to engage with and contribute to others while facing personal demons, cycling through emotional turmoil and finding ways to make it through just one more day, brings with it invaluable insights.

In my case, the insight that I take away from the failure of my marriage and partnership, the reflections of these past months, and the many conversations and situations I’ve been part of with leaders on the firing line during the same period of time is this:



As you may recall, my work is helping individuals, teams and the organizations they serve achieve and sustain peak performance. Over the years, my partner, colleagues and I developed a proven, replicable and scalable system and methodology for bridging the gap between current and full potential performance by optimizing the human, or soft side variables, that drive value creation and accretion.

From the outset, we knew that performance was and is driven by intangibles. In fact, 80-90% of the market cap of publicly traded companies is attributable to intangibles—the market’s confidence in the ability of the talent of a given company to learn, adapt and innovate ahead of the competition to the consistent surprise and delight of customers. Performance and value are not about engineering or re-engineering. Human being cannot be engineered.

We also knew and continue to understand that technology and related systems are important. No doubt, the right technologies and business systems certainly support and facilitate efficiency and accelerate creativity.

Getting strategies, priorities, technologies and systems right does not assure peak performance. Execution of strategy is human. The character and quality of collaboration among members of your team will determine success far more than the right strategies or priorities—though all are essential. 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the path to success lies in transforming customers—internal as well as external—into passionate advocates.

As a consumer, I will choose to advocate for your products, services and brand only if I am consistently surprised and delighted as I engage with your offerings and interact with your team. I characterize my experience by noticing and articulating the feelings I experience when I engage and interact with you. Feelings are the outcome of experience. Experience, by its’ very nature, is personal. Advocacy is personal. 

As an employee, I choose to actively advocate for the company I devote my time and contribute to only if my personal experience inspires and evokes me to do so. Yes, I want you to pay me well and offer me certain financial incentives. But, I also know that in the marketplace of the second decade of the Twenty-first Century talent is the core differentiator among competitors. 

So, while I want and expect to be appropriately compensated, if I am to continue to join forces with you, I mostly want you to see me, hear me and treat me with dignity as you offer me the opportunity to fully engage my creativity for the sake of having impact. At the end of the day, incentive, inspiration, commitment, efficiency and productivity are human and very, very personal. When I am seen, heard, creatively engaged and feel as if I am contributing value day-in and day-out, I will be focused, efficient, productive—I will perform. Performance is personal.

Get the soft side variables of the business equation right—the sky is the limit. Forget or compromise the human—breathe the dust of competitors as they pass you by.

In business today, It’s All Personal.


Sandy Nelson, September 23, 2014

P.S. Jo Anne is now Executive Vice President and Chief Quality Officer of the District of Columbia Hospital Association. She has my admiration and confidence. Please join me in sending her best wishes for continued success.

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