"Learning faster than your competitors is the only sustainable competitive advantage in an environment of rapid change."
Arie deGues

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

Word count this issue: 400

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes



Good afternoon from Vancouver!


I’ve been reflecting on how our emotional state can affect not only ourselves, but those around us. Our emotions are, according to the peer reviewed research, contagious. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201606/emotions-are-contagious In short, if I am in a bad mood in the office, my team and colleagues will pick up on it, and it will spread. 


There are times when I do get frustrated, I am angry, or sad. I know I should not be pushing those away because they can fester inside me. And surely, a “happy, all is well in the world” perspective is a little too sweet. So, what are we to do?


Here are three elements to keep in mind:


  1. Because our emotions are contagious, it is important to experience our negative emotions as privately as possible. Live through them, but not in public. Go for a walk, take some deep breaths, call a confidante, but don’t take your “stuff” out into the office, or frankly, take it home to your family.
  2. Focus as much as possible on gratitude. For example, I have found that being grateful in airports can change my experience of security and airline personnel. I simply show up in the line up with gratitude for the amazing system that works so well, so often and for so many people, and suddenly my mindset changes and interestingly enough so does my experience with other people.
  3. Have compassion for yourself. If you are frustrated or sad, be ok with that. You have a right to your own experiences, and there is nothing wrong with your emotions. (Keeping point number 1 in mind). It might help for example to be curious about what the trigger was; sometimes it’s obvious, but other times we can be triggered without really knowing what happened. Ask yourself about what the trigger could have been? What it might have been caused by. And interestingly, by engaging the thinking part of our brain, the emotional responses will likely be calmed down.


May this week be one filled with alone time, gratitude, and compassion for self, to make us all that much more effective as leaders.



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


Word count this issue: 323

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes


Good morning from an overcast Vancouver. Thank you so much for all of your well-wishes and thoughtful notes about my Mum’s death. They were all appreciated. 


I’ve been thinking about rest recently. I mentioned today to a friend that I had 3 meetings cancel today due to the flu bug going around. She offered that perhaps the universe was telling me I needed to rest. She is a very wise woman indeed.


And I do need to find time to rest more, especially these days. I sleep very well, often getting 8 hours, and according to my wearable device, 4 - 5 hours of deep sleep. The emotional stress I am experiencing due to my grief is taking its toll though, and I find myself a little shorter with people, a little less patient. I know I need to rest. After a meeting later today about my Mum’s estate, I will do just that.


My reflection on this point for us as leaders is, beware of the “staying busy” syndrome. We may not be thinking consciously about the emotional stressor, whatever that might be, but we are processing. Our hearts and minds are hard at work, and they need us to rest to do their jobs properly. 


Here are three ways to build in more restful activities to your day:


Go outside and read for pleasure at lunch. (No, monthly reports do not count.)

Rather than coffee or tea, drink water in meetings. (I can do more if this for sure!)

Take a nap. Seriously, 20 minutes on a sofa will make the word of difference to your brain, especially when you are in the midst of a stressful time. 


May this week find you a little more rest than last week, for your sake and for those around you.


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


Word count this issue: 314

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes


Hello from Vancouver. I hope that wherever you are today, geographically, spiritually, physically or emotionally is good.


I am sorry to have missed last week’s Leadership Notes. My Mum died on the 25th of February, and I chose to leave it for a week. She was a remarkable woman with many gifts, and like all of us some wonderful quirks. I was in fact raised by Mrs. Doubtfire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fi_4ycnxRI 


There is line in the book of Genesis during the call of Avram, before he becomes Abraham, the ‘father’ of Judaism, and Islam. The Creator says, “...I will bless you and make you name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12:2) My mother was a blessing, and she instilled in each of the three of her children that we be blessings to the people we encounter. My brother and sister do that effortlessly, and I work hard at it. I have a model that helps me remember what this looks like at work. 


Some of you may recall that I have a background in improvisational comedy. There are few rules when improv actors play together on a stage, and one of them is that we are there to make the other person on the stage look good.  In other words, I am a blessing to the other actor, and they are a blessing to me. Imagine what our workplaces would look like if each of us were simply a blessing to our co-workers. If our one focus everyday was to make the other person look good.



You and I are blessed, and are called to be a blessing to others. May we have a week filled with blessings for others.


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


Word count this issue: 380

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes


Good morning from a warming Vancouver. The spring flowers are appearing and the temperature is in the low teens celsius! Summer is coming!


I’ve been caught off guard this week by my Mum’s declining health. She has been in a care home for 5 or so years now and we were sure she was going over a year ago. The medical team has put her on “active dying protocol” again this week, but 24 hours later she has awakened and is eating and chatting away. She is still bedridden and sleeps most of the time, and has been telling me that she thinks it is time to go. She turns 90 in May, and I won’t be surprised if she is still with us then, active dying protocol or not!


I was then working with a coaching client this morning talking about responsibilities. I am aware especially this week of my own responsibilities to family and home. I, like many of us I suppose, can get hung up on the work, the gigs, the day to day management of our team and business. Then, there are our responsibilities to and for the people we love, and the responsibilities to and for ourselves. There is an old rabbinic adage that says ‘a person who does not have a single hour each day to themselves is a slave.’  


Our organizations should not be places where we are enslaved, either by their policies and expectations, or by our own actions driven by our own deep seated devices and desires. 


Here are 3 ways to build an hour for yourself each day.


  1. Play with your family. All to often we have family obligations, what about if you had family play time together? You playing and laughing will give you an hour of self.
  2. Exercise 30 minutes a day; take a walk early in the morning and listen as the birds awaken. Finding the next 30 minutes will be much easier once you’ve exercised.
  3. Move off social media; I guarantee you’ll find an hour a day there



Find that hour a day; your family and your work will appreciate it, and you.


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


Word count this issue: 493

Estimated reading time:  3:30 minutes


Hello from Vancouver. I hope that wherever you are today, geographically, spiritually, physically or emotionally is good.


I do not usually link my church land work with Leadership Notes, but I am scheduled to preach on March 5 at Christ Church Cathedral and the assigned readings include the story of Adam, Eve and the serpent. This story is among the most famous stories in the western world, and is in fact a far more complex story than we usually understand. The sermon will be posted at www.thecathedral.ca on the Monday of Tuesday of that week. In the meantime, I have been thinking a lot about it and how an element of the story speaks to leadership.


As you may know, G-d commands the first humans, ‘you can eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ And pretty soon they have eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and things start ago awry for them. Now there are hundreds of interpretations about this story. For our purposes, and the reason I have kept the narrative here so basic is that we humans are a curious species. If we think there is something new, or something hidden, we want to explore it. This is especially true of our youth, or when we are not inside the circle of power. If you imagine, for just a moment that God is the CEO, the circle of power, and the first humans are the staff in this organization called “Eden, Inc.” The CEO says magnanimously you can have all of these perks, but do not do this, what do you think is going to happen? Someone’s curiosity is going to be awakened. 


We need to have rules of the road in our organizations; none of them are paradisiacal Edens. And, remember that without explanation about why, simply saying to people you cannot do, have or be this often sets up a collision course. People will want to eat of what ever your “tree of knowledge and good and evil” is, most especially if accessing it is restricted.  The key here is to be as transparent as is possible.


Here are three keys to such transparency:


  1. Be clear about expectations; if people are not to know about something, be clear that there are restrictions
  2. Be clear about engaging; talk to people about what is accessible and what is not. 
  3. Be clear in your explanation about why there are restrictions; simply saying it is ‘above your pay grade’ is not a reasonable explanation. There are good reasons for many restrictions; personal privacy or strategic confidentiality. for example.


And the more accessible your trees of knowledge of good and evil are for the beginning, the less crisis management will be required.



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

Word count this issue: 560

Estimated reading time:  4:00 minutes



I had the great pleasure of being part of an impromptu conversation this week with theologian Richard Topping, (http://vst.edu/people/rev-dr-richard-topping ) on art and religion. In the midst of the conversation Richard referenced a Scientific American article that spoke of the relationship between Darwin’s ‘struggle for survival’ and what mathematician and evolutionary biologist Martin Nowack calls the “snuggle for survival.’”  


Dr. Nowack has presented a hypothesis, based on game theory that human evolution and development is as much due to cooperation and companionship as it is to competition.(https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-help/). I happen to know that similar hypotheses are being explored elsewhere; for example, Michael Tomasello’s 2009 book, Why we Cooperate, and Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer’s 2015 book, Friend and Foe. The conclusions of the research so far are intriguing; while competition is clearly evident, we are a social species for whom cooperation and companionship are vital. We need each other; there appears to be a biological  as well as social need for “snuggle.”


I believe that currently far too many of us believe in the ‘struggle’, and not the necessary snuggle. We laud and magnify the people who have ‘struggled’ and thrived (or who tell us that they have struggled and thrived). The messages of competition and zero sum; in sports, in reality TV, in politics, are consistent and clear; life is a struggle, there is a winner and there are losers. There is no other meaning, just winning or for most of us, losing. And sadly, it is often the losers themselves who get caught in this deadly thinking trap.


Quite frankly friends, this zero sum game we believe we are playing is very dangerous because it assumes that competition is the only important element in our lives. Income inequality, a lost middle class, a generation of well educated young people most of whom cannot find full and fulfilling employment, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism on the rise and the anxiety and fear driven by a real or imagined constant threat of terror are all signs of a very serious if not terminal illness. I submit that all of them are related to excessive competition, winners and losers.  We are instead to choose life. And that is the good news; that while competition can be important and healthy in many ways, cooperation and companionship is vital, it is the way of life.


Here are three ways to bring cooperation more fully into your life:


  1. Take time to reflect on all of the people who loved, supported, coached and challenged you in life, and give a prayer of thanksgiving for their contributions to your life.
  2. Be challenged by the call of wisdom a life of love and forgiveness, and that is not an easy life. To love and forgive is much more difficult than to compete and crush.
  3. Find ways of investing and participating in co-operative business models like credit unions and housing co-ops. They are amazing ways of bringing life and cooperation back into the economy. Check out Douglas Rushkoff’s 2016 book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus for more ideas.


May you find snuggling, co-operation and companionship in your work and life this week.