noun: delta; plural noun: deltas

1. the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet

2.  a code word representing the letter D, used in radio communication.


symbol: δ; symbol: Δ; symbol: delta

1. variation of a variable or function.

2.  a finite increment.

My partner is an ex Air Force guy.  When we first started working together, he would use the term “delta” the way it is used in the second set of definitions above.  He used it to describe the difference between where a client is and where they are going to be…from here to there.  I use it all the time now.

I got a super encouraging e-mail from a friend the other day.  Probably more of an inspirational guy that I barely know, but someone I would like to consider a friend.  He was talking about the journeys we are on as men and then said something really kind about himself and me…

“I have so much further to go, but I’m not who I once was.”

As in, I haven’t got it all figured out and I am not perfect, but I’ve come a really long way.

My kids immediately came to mind.  People say really nice things to me about who my kids are and the kind of men/women they are becoming.  I used to respond with a lot of false humility:

“Better to be lucky than good.”

“God has been really merciful with me.”

“Thank God I married a saint.”

“Somehow I didn’t screw it all up.”

Reality was that I didn’t know how to receive a compliment.  The delta between what I believed about myself and what they are implying was very wide.  In that awkward uncomfortableness, I deflected.

But now, when someone says those nice things about my children, I respond the same way every time...

Thank you.

I mean, I made a lot of mistakes and I didn’t have much in the way of experiential history or role models to pull from, but I’ve read a lot, been mentored by many, and I’ve worked really, really hard.  Having kids that are good people is kind of what we are going for as parents.

Thank you.

Turns out, this plays out powerfully in the work I do with leaders.  I was having lunch with a really good man the other day.  Most leaders I know feel very much the way I used to about parenting, but about their leadership.  I finally stopped at several attempts to honor him and what I had seen in his leadership.

I said: “That is the fourth time I tried to honor you and you deflected it every time.  What’s that about?”

He looked at me very surprised.  As if I had seen something deeply hidden that he didn’t know anyone else saw.

He said: “I’ve always wrestled with hearing nice things about myself.”

I told him the story about myself and my parenting.  I honored him a fifth time and this time he simply said, “Thank you.”  He knew that I meant it and his eyes told me that he received it, completely.  He has much further to go, but he is not who he once was.  Neither am I.


My telling him what I saw in him, honored him.

Him receiving it well, honored me.

We both benefited from that transaction.


That is a purchase I am trying to make sure I am involved in every day.  We all need a whole lot more of that.

  • How good are you at receiving a compliment?
  • What do you think that says about the delta between what you are hearing and what you really believe?
  • Are you complimenting and honoring others enough where you get to experience this kind of transaction on a regular basis?  As a leader, you should be.