"The longest journey is the journey inwards."
Dag Hammarskold

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 339

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes


Greetings from AC8570, enroute to Regina. This is my last trip of the year, and the last Leadership Notes for 2017.


I’d like to thank each and everyone of you for your continued support and engagement with these notes. 2018 promises a new format as I’ll add an audio version (assuming all goes well in the pilots) so that you can take a few minutes to listen, or read Leadership Notes. I’m looking forward to your feedback and ideas as I roll that out early in 2018.


For this week’s wonderings, I was inspired by my coach and spiritual director. In a session he noted that there was an interesting twist in the translation (and you know how I love words!) of the word ‘meek’ ancient texts like The Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 5-7) The line “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”,(matt 5:5) is an example. The word in Greek that we translate as ‘meek’ is praus. This word usually refers to ‘power under control’, like a light wind, or a slow moving river. Both the wind and the river have great power, but in their quieter formats they have are compelling and comfortable. We know they have power, but it is under control and safe.


What do you think? We have this sense of ‘meek’ as quiet and almost afraid, but in its original sense it was anything but afraid. Rather it was power under control. I’d love to know what connections you make about the exercise of power in leadership. Can you think of leaders who manifest power under control and those who manifest power out of control? Who would you rather work with? Which one are you?



Happy Holidays to each of you and to your families and friends. May 2018 bring much joy, and power under control into your practice and life as leaders.

Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 417

Estimated reading time:  3:00 minutes


Good morning from foggy Vancouver. I was driving back into Vancouver from our home on the Sunshine Coast earlier this week and was listening to Garth Brooks. In a short clip Brooks spoke of a hero of his who had taught him the importance of being ‘authentically me';  a kind of this is who I am, take it or leave it. 


It is an ethic that shouts about the importance of the individual, and it is very common in our society.  Baby, I was born this way! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl0N7JM3wZk 


As amazing and freeing as the idea is, I’d like to offer that there is a shadow side to it as well. Saying “I am who I am , take it or leave it” can lock us into stagnation as people. We humans are wired to grow and develop; as infants into toddlers, as toddlers into ‘little kids’, into pre adolescents, adolescents, young adults, and adults. And then, we are still wired to keep growing, to keep becoming! I may well have said “I am who I am” at the age of 38, but I know that I am not the same ‘I am’ at 58, and I hope that I will not be the same ‘I am’ at 68, or 78, or 88.  


Perhaps rather saying “I am who I am”, we might say, “I am who I am becoming.” Becoming is so much more than being. Becoming implies growth, learning and developing into the people we can be.


And there is an interesting link here to how we think about a Higher Power. In the famous story from Exodus as Moses encounters the Divine in the Burning Bush, Moses asks the Divine, ‘what shall I call you?’ The answer in Hebrew (with English letters) is YHWH, which is most often translated as “I am” or perhaps a little more accurately,  “I am who I am” An equally valid translation is interestingly , “I am who I will be.” So even in our western thinking about Divinity over the last 4000 years, we’ve been working between “I am who I am,” and “I am who I will be.” 



Perhaps it is a bit of both; today I am, and I am ok with that, and tomorrow, I will be perhaps a little more grown up and I’m ok with that too.


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 430

Estimated reading time:  3:00 minutes


Good morning from the Sunshine Coast, where the winter rains are settled in and the fire is humming in the corner of the living room. 


We’ve moved our “headquarters” back here for the season, and between phone meetings, coaching sessions and webinars, I’ll be getting the house in order while my ‘significant other’ is working in far flung parts of the continent for the next couple of weeks. All of this has got me thinking about the coming year.


I wonder what you are planning to learn this coming year?


All too often when invited to think about the future, we go right to our planned accomplishments and results. Interestingly, the psychological and neuroscience research is pointing to the importance of learning. We are invited to engage with life from a growth mindset. https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve  


Now each of us fall on a continuum between a fixed and a growth mindset, and we move back and forth, depending on the situation. When we are in a fixed mindset, we hear ourselves say things like, “I can’t do that”, “I’m no good at math”, “I’ve never been good with people” or, “I can’t sing.” We believe that talent and intelligence are fixed and we are, in the immortal words of Lady Gaga, “born this way.” At the other end of the continuum (recall that we are all somewhere on the continuum and we move back and forth depending on the situation), is when we are in a growth mindset. In a growth mindset, we hear ourselves say things like “I know this will be tough, but I’ll try”, “With some effort, I could learn math”, “I’d like to be better with people” or “I’m going to learn to sing.” 


Two key elements here; first, we can consciously choose a growth mindset. We can recognize in our own language and particularly the self talk we hear inside when we are in a fixed mindset, and ask ourselves, “what would it look and sound like if I had a growth mindset here?” And secondly, it’s about progress, not performance. I am learning guitar, I am not yet a maestro. I am learning forgiveness, I am not yet a master. I am learning love, I am not yet the love expert. 



So, as the winter rains and snow begin, what are you planning to learn in the coming year?


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 424

Estimated reading time:  3:00 minutes


Last month, I referenced the book, An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. I was enjoying listening to it, as I drove from Brandon to Winnipeg Another trip this past week brought me back to a prairie drive and I was listening to it again, and then a conversation with a coaching client the other day reminded me of their thinking. 


Kegan and Laskow Lahey describe three plateaus of adult mental development. In our early adult years (and these vary from person to person, but mostly in our 20s and 30s), we live with a ‘socialized mind.’ We are team players, faithful followers who seek direction. We show up and do the job. As we mature, perhaps into our 40s and 50s (remember we are all individuals so this may be different for you), we move into a ‘self-authoring mind.’ We have our own agendas, we learn about leadership as opposed to being driven by someone else’s agenda. We learn about getting things done through people, and we have our own compass and time frames. In our later years, we move into a ‘self-transforming mind’, where we find ourselves recognizing our common interdependence. We are more easily able to hold contradictions and view the world through multiple frames.


Each of these plateaus is distinct, representing a different way of seeing the world. While most adults will live within a ‘socialized mind’ plateau, fewer of us mature to being self-authors and fewer still mature into self-transforming minds. 


I believe that the wisdom we need in the coming decade is strongly related to to this third plateau: many more of us need to move more quickly towards self-transforming minds. Such self-transforming wisdom comes from the inner journey. Such self-transforming wisdom comes from connections with each other and from

having the courage to persevere in the midst of challenging and difficult times. Such self transforming wisdom comes from having the humility to keep learning and from recognizing and living into the deep interconnectedness of the universe. 

The amazing thing is that by working together, by learning together, by exploring together, looking at the quantum points between elder and young, male and female, black and white, science and art, socialized, self-authoring and self-transforming minds, we can plug into and build our collective wisdom. 


I wonder what you think?


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 323

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes


Hello from Winnipeg, where I am working with a client on a strategic planning session. Good work, great people and making a difference; I am very grateful.


I had the great honour of attending the retirement party for my brother-in-law, Paul Alofs, of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. It was a wonderful evening, for an amazing leader. Paul and his team over the last 14 years have raised a phenomenal $1.28 billion for cancer research and made the Princess Margaret Hospital one of the Top 5 cancer research hospitals in the world. It was an honour to be there to help he and my sister celebrate.


And as I said to another guest, I keep wondering why we wait for retirement parties and funerals to say such nice things about each other. (And I hope people have said nice things about Paul before Monday evening!) I also hope that people have said nice things about you this week as well. And if they haven’t they should! And I wonder have you said nice things about the people with whom you work this week? Have you said them to their face?


Three things are important to remember here:


  1. If you don’t tell me what I’m doing well, I do not know what to keep doing well.
  2. If all I ever hear from you is negative, I will begin to treat you as a foe, and pretty soon not pay any attention to what you are trying to tell me.
  3. People need to be assured, complimented, and feel seen by people whom they respect. You can make a big difference by simply seeing people and thanking them specifically for what they have done and learned over the last week.



Gratitude is vital for us, let’s make it more common in our workplaces.

Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 517

Estimated reading time:  3:30 minutes


Greetings from Lakeview Resort on Hecla Island, Manitoba. It is crisp, clear and cold today, and an eagle just flew by. It is a good day.


Here in Canada, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day. It is 100 years ago this month that the Battle of Paschendale ended, with casualties on both sides numbering around 600,000, in the 4.5 month long battle. Violence continues to this day, in work places, in homes, on the street, in lands far away, and in small churches in Texas. 


And I’ve been wondering then about this idea of Remembrance Day. Why do we call is Remembrance, as opposed to Remembering Day? Is it just the syntax? I think in fact Remembrance is exactly the word we are after here. There is a Greek word that clergy learn in the first year of seminary. It is anamnesis. And the closest English word is “remembrance.” It is the word heard in most Communion Prayers in the Christian tradition, “do this in remembrance of me.” It is often linked with the ancient Hebrew word, zrk, a way of remembering that gives us insight into the present and the future, by making the past present.


And it is this sense of zrk, this sense of anamnesis, that I believe Remembrance Day is really all about. We are not to simply remember, not simply give platitudes. We are not simply to stand silently and offer prayers, or think about what someone did to you at work yesterday, or whatever it is we do in those two minutes of silence.  We are to learn and make a better future. Pay attention to the guns as they fire, they are bringing the past forward, they are bringing the terror into our cities and towns. And those guns and the silence is calling you and I to learn from those mistakes. Those guns and the silence are calling us to bring the past present so that we might learn the consequence of violence, the consequence of retribution and revenge, the consequence of betrayal and fear.


And so as leaders in our workplaces, what control to we have to prevent violence, prevent bullying, prevent fear from becoming the cultural norm? We have the power of modelling, of being leaders who care, who stand up for the victim, who are compassionate, and who hold each other accountable for not only the results, but how we get those results. We have the power of instilling cultures of kindness and mutual respect. And in doing so, we are building communities of kindness and mutual respect, and then countries where one day we might just be able to…


beat [our] swords into ploughshares,
    and [our] spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall [we] learn war any more;
4 but [we] shall all sit under [our] own vines and under [our] own fig trees,
    and no one shall make [us]  afraid; (Micah 4:3)