header
"It is easier to get forgiveness than it is to secure permission."
Jesuit Principle

With most Canadians this weekend, we enjoyed a dinner to celebrate gratitude. And, true to form, I spent at least part of the long weekend reading. I happened upon the October 4-10 edition of The Economist, and the special report on "Technology and the World Economy", and read it voraciously.http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21621156-first-two-industrial-revolutions-inflicted-plenty-pain-ultimately-benefited And then, driving this morning into my office, I heard part of the interview on CBC's show 'Q' with Nicholas Carr about his book "The Glass Cage" http://www.nicholascarr.com/?page_id=18 which is a warning of sorts about automation and us as people and as participants in the economy. Here's a challenging video called Humans Need Not Apply that raises some of the same questions I heard Mr. Carr asking, http://youtu.be/7Pq-S557XQU

We are in the midst of a dramatic transition. A transition, according to the Economist that is as dramatic and life changing for all of us as the Industrial Revolution was for our ancestors. Automation will be changing our jobs. All of our jobs. Medical practitioners, lawyers, accountants, scientists, truck drivers, wake up! Algorithms can do your job, or at least so much of your job that there will not be much for you to do, in the current ways we do them.

Seriously. You and I need to know that no job will be unchanged in the next 10 years.

So what as do we need to be doing? Who as leaders do we need to be in the midst of this revolution?

We need to keep learning. Read, challenge, critique and engage yourself and your people. Increase your budgets for learning, not just for training. Watch TED talks, learn from your kids. Keep Learning.

We need to get collaborative. Our biology does in fact default to collaboration and not, as our contemporary western myths often suggest, towards the individual. What is important to us is more important in the future than what is important to me. What are new ways of working together? New ways of managing and governing that focus on health for all, not just the few.

We need to be willing to break open the sacred ideas and models we've been holding onto. We as leaders all too often believe that we need to know everything. That is a myth. No one does, no one will. Assume that you are ignorant, not stupid, ignorant. Assume that you can learn, assume that how you earn your living now, will not be the same in 10 years. Avoid expertism. And know that you'll be ok.

This will be a most exciting 10 years, and there will be pain and discomfort, but deep down, we are a resilient and adaptable species. And you are an amazing, creative creature. And so are the people around you.

I for one, am excited about this revolution. I hope you are too.

Sometime ago, learning from John McKnight http://www.abcdinstitute.org/faculty/McKnight/ I began to understand the simple and profound idea that we are citizens, not simply consumers. In Dr. McKnight’s language, consumers don’t rebuild after natural disasters, citizens do that. Citizen, not consumer has become a mantra for me.

I like it because it is counter-culture. And I like it because of its deep truth, there is an inherent wisdom to it.  And I like it because it raises the bar; it demands action from me.

I’ve been wondering about something similar in our workplaces. Those of us who work in organizations, large and small, generally operate in hierarchies. The higher on the hierarchy, the more power I have and the more ‘airtime’ I’m usually granted at meetings for example. The lower I am in the hierarchy, the less power I have and the less ‘airtime’ I have. Back in the day for example, the only airtime I might have would be through the ‘suggestion box’, that was usually linked directly to the wastepaper can. (Not even to recycling!) But times have changed; the organizations we work in are a lot flatter, and with changes to technology driving so much of the changes to the way work gets done, there is a new power balancing act at play. Our businesses are slowly but surely becoming ‘wikis’ where rather than a small group of people write the encyclopedia and then publish it for the rest of us to read, more and more of the learning, more and more of the content of who we are, how we operate and what we do, is being written by a much broader spectrum of people in the organization. For example, boards are inviting staff at different levels to strategic planning sessions, intra company sites and forums are the norm, and broad based idea generation are the norm in most design companies. The new Blackberry Passport apparently was an idea being played with a few years ago in the middle of the design teams.

All of this to say, we are not simply ‘personnel’ or ‘assets’, we are the hearts and minds of the organization we work for, and that is not only a power, it is a responsibility. We are citizens, not employees. We are contributors, not cogs. As leaders, we need to recognize this emerging trend, and in the words often attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, “there go my people, I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

May this week find us all leading and following.

 

I’ve been thinking about loyalty recently; how we have a story in credit union land about how our founders, and the generation or two that came after them were loyal to the credit union. The common story is that ‘the credit union was there when we didn’t have much and now that we are successful, we stay ‘loyal’ to the credit union.’ In a business sense it is a compelling story; it’s about a shared experience that keeps bringing people back. There’s a quality of ‘home’ to the story, and for many of us, home is worthy of loyalty.
And in more recent years, the financial services business has become a commodity. Virtually everyone in Canada has access to credit, and so, the story of having a financial institution ‘being there’ when we didn’t have much is more broadly based. As long as I meet certain criteria, they will be there, and in fact they may in fact be competing against each other for my business. My loyalty can be bought in that sense.
But a new phenomenon is appearing. Loyalty based on ease. For all of the ‘cool’ factor associated with Apple, the simple fact that it is ‘easy’ is a big loyalty driver. My phone talks seamlessly to my tablet with talks seamlessly to my laptop, which talks seamlessly with iCloud. My pictures are never lost, my music moves with me, and I can even have Apple TV if I want the joy of a bigger screen. But bigger than all of that? I turn the thing on, I put in my id and it works. It works. I am of an age where I remember having to allow about an hour to set a TV up, with the stereo, all the wires, the cable, the speakers… I plug my Apple ID into a gadget and it works. And so as I look at what my new phone is going to be? Who do you think I will talk to first.
But there is a danger here. And I’m not talking only about how much info about me that Apple now has, including my credit card. I’m talking about a business environment where easy is king (or queen as the case may be). You see, as cool as an Apple product might be, it is not a human being. You and I are complex organisms and while some of our behaviours may be predictable and common, we are inherently complex. As leaders we know that only too well. There is no, “Apple ID” that magically links your team together as a team. The individual variances in thinking, in emoting, in articulating are the places that creativity and innovation seed and grow. Technology is binary, humans are, well, human.
As our technical work is simplified and commodified, honour the complexities in yourself and the people with whom you work. Assuming that they are simple too, can only result in failure and frustration.
May this week find us relishing our own complexity, even if we enjoy some simple entertainment.


 

Happy first day of fall! I was chuckling with a colleague today about how the rain has returned to Vancouver on this first autumn day after a sunny and warm last day of summer. Nature’s timing is sometimes impeccable.

Speaking of time, my late father used to say, “there are only 24 hours in a day.” He usually said it when he was frustrated about my time management on a chore or homework! I always thought though that there was something deeper in the phrase. And then on Friday, a friend and colleague gave me a great image about time that gave me a clue. This friend has a disability and so she uses a model of ‘coupons’ for herself. She only has so many ‘coupons’ with which to work each day in terms of her own energy level. She very clearly has to say, ‘I can do this, I can do that, etc. but that will have to wait until tomorrow for another ‘coupon.’ It actually sounds like a very healthy way of budgeting time.

And then I was thinking about my time; how do I use my ‘coupons?’ Like many of us, there is lots of work to do and, “there are only 24 hours in a day.” (Thanks Dad, I think I finally go it!) And besides work, there are family and friends, there’s re-creation, there’s my physical health, my mental health, my spiritual health. There is an old Rabbinic admonishment that says, ‘a human who does not have a single hour to him/herself every day is enslaved.’ So the ‘coupons’ are not just for work; they are coupons for budgeting my time for life. And we all have these coupons; each member of your team has coupons. Are they taking the time to spend their coupons on life or are they (or you) enslaved to the current project or chore at work? We are, after all, human beings, not human doings.

So may this week spend our coupons appropriately.

Good afternoon, the clouds have returned to the west coast and while the flowers are still blooming, the first of the leaves are turning colour. Fall, as it always does, is returning.
We saw Bill Cain’s play Equivocation last week, http://www.bardonthebeach.org/2014/equivocation . My friend Tim Elliott, http://www.timelliott.ca/biography.html who as it turned out was at the same show, said that he had two experiences of theatre; one was he enjoyed a show and went home. The second was that he wasn’t really sure what to think and the show kept coming back into his mind, challenging his thinking. He said that Equivocation was the latter kind of show. And I agree. For me, the final lines of the show, spoken by Judith, William Shakespeare’s daughter as she leaves the stage having washed her father’s body, struck deeply. “I didn’t even know I had a story until he wrote it.”
At some level, she was describing Shakespeare’s radical inclusion of our humanity, the sense that we all could imagine ourselves a Hamlet or Ophelia, a MacBeth or a Juliet. The characters he wrote about were real human beings, not cartoon characters or god like heroes or villains. They are us and we are them. Each of us is royal and each of us a peasant. Each of us is as brave as Romeo, as dastardly as Richard III and as funny as Puck . And so, Shakespeare gave us, in some way, an insight into the power of our own stories.
And, there is something I see in Judith’s line about our own legacy and authority as leaders. I see leadership as about creating space not only for our own voice, but for the voices of those with whom we work. At the most engaging workplaces, we are not creating our story, we are creating a story, a common story, with all of our individual strands weaving their way in and out of the common story. As leaders we may find ourselves speaking on behalf of our team, or describing our common story, but our work is really about listening to the individual voices and stories to find the common ground. And when people begin to realize that they themselves have a story, a compelling, interesting and powerful story, they cannot be stopped. And they never forget the leaders who first gave their voices room.
So may this week we give room to the voices and stories that surround us.


 

Good morning, and welcome to the future. Regular readers will perhaps have noticed a theme in Leadership Notes in recent months. It is increasingly evident to me that technology is dramatically changing the landscape in which we live and work. That was brought home again this week with Apple’s announcement about the new iPhone 6, Apple Pay and the iWatch. http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/apple-watch-iphone-6-models-apple-pay-unveiled-1.2759617 For those of you who are in credit unions and other financial institutions, Apple Pay is huge! They have between 500 and 800 million credit cards sitting in iTunes. Those apps you see people using at Starbucks are now so 2013; imagine paying for pretty much everything with a tap; do I need a cash machine, let alone a branch network?! And the iWatch could change much of how we work and play as well; stay tuned I say for iWatch 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the next few years.
And so I return to my overarching question this year, what does leadership look like in the midst of an increasingly networked workforce? Obviously we are still humans, but we are still evolving as a species. There is a really great piece in this month’s National Geographic  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/evolution-of-diet/ called the “Evolution of Diet” where geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania says, “are humans still evolving? Yes!” Now, I don’t mean of course that we’re going to see dramatic differences in the next couple of years; generally evolutionary change takes thousands of years and generations. Our jaws for example have slowly gotten smaller in the last 10,000 years since we first started agriculture. But the speed of change in our cultural environment will have an impact on how we learn, how we communicate (remember actually talking on a phone instead of texting?!), and how we work together. The image I learned about a couple of years ago uses a lake and a river as a metaphor. Those of us who are older learned by storing as much information as possible in our memories; so that whether we were memorising which plants were good and which were poisonous, or learning to memorize pages of text so we could recite it accurately, or how to bake bread or build an internal combustion engine, we used our minds like a lake of data into which we swam around to operate in the environment. Those of us who are born much later, and looking at the kids born from now on, much of the information they will need will be stored somewhere else, and accessed when they need it through some kind of device, like dipping into a river full of data when we need it.  Here’s Trinity in The Matrix, learning to fly a helicopter; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AOpomu9V6Q for example. We may become experts in how to find out, not experts in a particular thing.
One implication I see will be the increase use of the phrase, “I don’t know, and I’ll find out.” Managers and leaders will be less expected to be the fountains of technical knowledge we have been in the past. Rather I think our greatest asset will be our ability to leverage our wisdom. Wisdom is not created by the number of birthdays, but by the number of experiences. So, I may not know how to fly a helicopter, I can learn that. However, how to use one most effectively (as opposed to simply escaping ‘bad guys’), how to fly one in difficult circumstances, or even when to fly an airplane instead is a matter of wisdom and experience. It will be that wisdom that will mark us as leaders in the coming years.
So may this week be a week of experiences that build wisdom.