"It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's the place in between that we fear ... it's like being in between trapezes. It's like Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to."
Marilyn Ferguson

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

Word count this issue: 352

Estimated reading time:  2.00 minutes



Re-imagine Vancouver is a project produced by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue asking the people who live work and play here to imagine the Vancouver of 2040. There are some interesting stories, including, at the risk of immodesty, one of mine. http://reimaginedowntown.com/your-stories-the-impact-of-digital-technology/content The exercise got me thinking, what do you imagine for yourself as a leader in 25 years? 


I believe we live in a revolutionary time. Digital technology is dramatically changing how we live and work. The first iPhone was announced in January, 2007. What would life be like without your smart phone today?


Digital technologies are changing the way we work as AI and Big Data change marketing and service industries. Bots are changing manufacturing, and IBM is teaching the technology that defeated the best Jeopardy champions in 2011 everything from business decision-making to cancer research. http://www.wired.com/2014/01/watson-cloud/  A revolution as dramatic and life changing as the Industrial Revolution was is happening right here, right now.


I believe the key question for us will be who are we to become as leaders in the next 25 years?


Leonard Nimoy, the actor known mostly for his role in Star Trek as Spock died in February. Through Nimoy’s Spock, we imagined a world of time and space travel, of great leaps that solve the seemingly intractable problems of today. Importantly, we loved Spock because he was an outsider, he was different, and he was included.


A simple contrast is to imagine a city in the Terminator series of films.


I see we have a choice. Are we simply autonomous beings out for our own ends, or are we at our best selves, collaborators, colleagues and friends of each other. As Spock said, “I am and always have been your friend.” That’s the kind of ethic I want to reimagine for us all.



I am curious, what do you think?

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

Word count this issue: 289

Estimated reading time:  1.45 minutes


At a function last evening, a friend mentioned the Dunning-Kruger effect. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect 


I had not heard of it before, but had experienced its implications. Simply put, the Dunning-Kruger effect observes that some of us are not able to see our own incompetence at something, and believe then that we are much more competent at the something than everyone else. 


Take driving, for example. How many of us are convinced that we are the best drivers on the road and that everyone else is the bad driver? 


For leaders, the Dunning Kruger effect is quite dangerous. I remember being told by a boss early on that the trick to managing was to exude confidence, even to the point of making things up. “You cannot ever show them that you don’t know,” he told me. Even then I knew that was questionable advice at best. Yes, being confident is important, but “making stuff up” will eventually cost you your credibility.


To prevent the Dunning-Kruger effect from messing with your leadership, consider the humility effect. You will be a much better leader by listening to people and then making your decisions. Listening requires a certain humility. You will be a much better leader by creating space for others to shine. Creating space for others to shine requires humility. You be a much better leader by being self-aware, knowing what your strengths and challenges are, and working to build your strengths and mitigate your challenges. Real self-awareness requires humility.



May this week be filled with listening, creating space and learning about ourselves.


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

Word count this issue: 263

Estimated reading time:  1.5 minutes


I was in a conversation with a friend and colleague, Olivia McIvor a couple of weeks ago. (www.oliviamcivor.com) We were talking about being entrepreneurs and I mentioned a phrase that another entrepreneur had shared with me: “eating what you kill.” The phrase refers to earning income from the work that you do, not someone else.


Olivia’s response was quick. She said, “I prefer ‘eating what I plant.’”


It struck me that her phrasing was far deeper and much closer to the work of leaders as well as entrepreneurs. Being a success at either leadership or owning your own business requires the patience of a farmer. While hunting also requires patience, the length of time between planting and harvest is much longer. Being a success as either leading or owning your own business requires the nurturing skills of a farmer, to know that what you plant requires care and protection if it is to grow in to its full potential. Being a success at either leadership or entrepreneurship requires the local knowledge of a farmer, caring for the environment in which you work; looking after the groundwork and the diversity of the area, including doing some weeding every now and then. You cannot expect to be successful by parachuting in, firing a couple of rounds, and heading back home! 


For this week, what seeds have you planted? Which require your attention, which can be left alone, and which are ready for harvest? 


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

Word count this issue: 286

Estimated reading time:  1.5 minutes


I had an interesting conversation with a client yesterday, discussing a strategic planning session next month. Like many, this organization is trapped between great financial results at the moment, and an unclear view of the future. Some senior elders see little reason to change, while the emerging leaders are asking important questions about how sustainable the current models actually are, given changing demographics, technology, access to resources and changing social behaviour. http://blogs.cfainstitute.org/investor/2015/04/28/a-view-to-the-future-changes-in-the-investment-industry/  


A fundamental question for senior leaders is, ‘how close are you to your customers?’ If there are layers of people between you and your customers, you need to pay very close attention to the people who are talking to your customers. In many established organizations, those will be people inside your organization who are much younger than you. These front line contacts may be face to face, or they may be derived from “big data” about your customers. If there is a meeting about the future of your organization and there is no one in the room with direct, first hand knowledge of the customer, the meeting is a waste of time. It may not be the way things were when you were young, but today and for the foreseeable future, learning about the business will involve 360 degree sharing, and not simply one direction from top to bottom, elder to youth. 


Next week, we’ll explore a fundamental question for emerging leaders.



The world is changing around us, and all of us, from every age range, will need to work together and learn together. 

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

Word count this issue: 232

Estimated reading time:  1.25 minutes


At the end of last week’s issue of Leadership Notes I promised a fundamental question for emerging leaders, after I had asked one of ‘senior leaders.’ Given that only 14 people looked at that article, I can only assume that I missed the mark with you! :)


A change in direction is then called for!


Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” This is not simply about making more money than last year, that’s a simple measure. Are you a better person, are you better parent, a better child, a better partner, a better colleague? This is about our ability to learn and adapt at any and all ages.


3 great questions to ask yourself as you learn and adapt are:


  • ‘What is amiss in trying to be the best person I can be?’ 
  • ‘What do I need to do to free the resources within me to be the best person I can be?
  • “What would I look like/who would I be if I were the best person I could be?



All three are designed to bring you deeper into yourself so that you are able to find the true nobility that lies within.


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

Word count this issue: 372

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes (+ a lifetime’s wondering)


Over the last decades, as technology has became more prevalent we believed that machines will never be able to do the things humans can do. As recently as 10 years ago, driving a car or truck was seen to be something so complex only a human could do it. Driverless trucks are already working in Australian mines and in the Oil Sands in Alberta, and driverless cars are going to be available within the next three years. In more recent years, humans have staked a claim on creativity as how we see ourselves as unique; we humans are creative, computers are not. Well, CBC’s Q had a fascinating interview with an Australian researcher this week, Oscar Shwartz http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-tuesday-july-28-1.3170526/bot-or-not-can-computers-write-convincingly-human-poetry-1.3170540 who has designed a Turing Test asking people to determine if a poem was written by another person or a computer called ‘bot or not.’ Guess what, it is very difficult for most of us to tell.  So, if technology can do more of the things we used to believe were uniquely human, how might we uniquely define ourselves now?  What does it mean to be a human being, if more of what humans do is more effectively and efficiently done by machines?


Now I appreciate this is a very big subject for a short leadership blog! I’d like to invite you into a continuing conversation. A conversation with each other, with your families and friends, and with people you don’t know yet. 


Three questions for the conversation. First, what if who we are as human beings is related to our ability to choose between right and wrong? Are we the ethical creature; homo ethicus?  Secondly, if we are the ethical creature, what ethics will we use in what is now, a ‘global village?’ Thirdly, what is the ethical role of leaders in the global village? 


Send me a note with your thoughts and feel free to share widely.