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"For all that has been, thanks

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.

 

Good afternoon, and I hope the school year has begun with excitement and  nervousness, and for those of you in BC, that the learning for all of us continues in earnest while the government and the Teachers Federation work towards a settlement.
I had the great pleasure of seeing Douglas Coupland’s exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery on the weekend; it was amazing. One of the ideas behind the exhibition was how Coupland, born in the 20th Century, saw a 21st Century mind. For example, a very powerful part of the exhibition included large prints of what appeared to be black dots standing vertically up and down a large white canvass with a couple of smudges on them. If, however you looked through the lens of a camera in a phone the images became one of the  World Trade Centre towers, and the smudges became bodies falling. Much of the 21st Century mind receives it’s visual messages via a screen of some sort; it’s how sense is made of the world.
Now from a leadership perspective, there are any number of implications of this 21st Century mind. Do our management styles change? How do we engage people not just now in 2014, but looking forward, towards the next decades. What will the implications be for leadership and management in the next 20 years? Of course, some things will not change; we are still deep down small groups of people huddled around a campfire hungry for a good story. But how that story gets told, who is involved with the authoring of it, and how it gets disseminated will likely be very different. And if Marshall MacLuhan was right and the medium is the message, then we’re in for a rather adventurous time.
One word that keeps coming up for me as I reflect with a 20th century brain on the 21st century is ‘options’. Options in how I get my stories, options in how I tell my story, options in audience for my story, options in who I see as authority. As leaders and managers then, I see us working away from the one “right” way; towards options in our workplaces. Command and control will work for short periods, for emergencies and for some teaching, but largely, we are called to explore options with each other. This one shift, I believe will have a profound effect on our efficiency models, dependent as they are on command and control and one right way. ‘Options’ based leadership will lead to more collaboration, more cooperation and more creativity.
So may this week be a week of discovering the options available to you and your team, and finding not the right way, but the best way forward for the time being.
   

 

Good morning, the last week of summer holidays here in Canada, and the back to school rush is in full swing. My advice, if you don’t have kids, don’t go shopping this week! And  of course for parents, students and teachers here in BC, our hopes are for a settlement in this frustrating work stoppage.
I have a friend named Bob. Bob sells the “Megaphone”, a ‘street newspaper’ in front of my local grocery store. http://www.megaphonemagazine.com/ I buy copies periodically, especially if there is an interesting article. The most recent article has a very interesting article called “Battling the War on Drugs; Inside Canada’s Overdose Crisis” that I highly recommend. But what got me thinking about leadership was in my horoscope on the last page Yes, my horoscope. Megaphone’s Horoscopes are periodically just quirky enough to stop me in my tracks. Virgo’s sign reads “A creative rut has taken hold. Art tip: reignite your childlike wonder by asking, at dinner parties, what would you rather have: a dragon or a beard?”
I think it is a great question; it’s big enough, it’s ambiguous, it’s the kind of question that comes out of left field and stops us mid thought. And I’m sure it would be a lot of fun at a dinner party.  And it is a great indicator of the source of creativity in our work. I suggest creativity is derived from questions, not answers. All too often we are expected to attend meetings with answers and not questions; that old school line ‘don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions’ comes to mind. The key, as we’ve learned from folks like Peter Senge and Peter Block, lies in the crafting of  good questions.
Specifically, avoid questions like, ‘here is our problem, what does everybody think?’ That’s a sure way to invite crickets into the meeting room. Rather, how about (stealing from Peter Block) what is the crossroads at which we find ourselves here? Or, (stealing from Juanita Brown) ‘if our success were completely guaranteed, what bold steps might we take here?’ These and other questions are often called “Powerful Questions” in the language of Co-Active Coaching. Here’s a list of good ones; http://www.thecoaches.com/docs/resources/toolkit/pdfs/31-Powerful-Questions.pdf
As you go through your week, spend as much time asking questions as you can, and you’ll find that the creativity in your team will begin to increase. And the more ambiguous the question the better; and let me know, what would you rather be, a dragon or a beard and why?

 

Good afternoon, and I hope you’ve have a wonderful couple of weeks! While the summer is still in full swing, the sounds of September are clearly being heard.
Yesterday, I was visiting a friend and her daughter in the ICU and Childrens’ Hospital in Vancouver. As I was washing my hands before entering the daughter’s room, I noticed a monitor screen with an interesting image. It read “Good healthcare begins with good communication. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Share any concerns that you have with the team.”
I was struck by how simple and profound the statements were. And wouldn’t every team be that much more successful, if we asked questions and listened to the answers! One of the challenges I think is endemic in business, in communities, in politics, in families is that we might ask questions, but we all too often answer the question ourselves with our own narrative and plot twists.
Sometime ago I was managing a small team. I had been around a bit, but was new to this team.  The folks reporting to me had some tenure in their jobs, but there were some questions about real competency for one of them; you know where someone knows 80% of the job,  but not the full 100%. On a couple of occasions, this person asked me a direct question about something in the 20%. My reply was met with a sigh and downcast eyes, because it meant they needed to do some more work; they clearly did not like my answer. A couple of days later, I’d observe that the task was not done, and that in fact it was still sitting on their desk. I approached and asked about it. They said, well, it was something that the previous supervisor had done, and that they felt that I was treating them unfairly, and that ‘everyone in the office agreed with them…’ You get the picture.
My colleague had asked a question, but clearly was not paying attention to my answer. They had their own narrative about things would progress, and how the workload would unfold. Does this sound familiar?
Now the key here is not simply that my answer is always correct, nor that you should only ask a question once, and if the answer is not satisfactory, for ever hold your peace. The key is found in the third statement above; “share any concerns with the team (or the parents in this case)” Don’t make stuff up. Successful communications is about asking questions, listening to the answers and carrying on the conversation if you don’t like the answer. You may still not like the answer, but perhaps you might understand the logic behind the answer.
May this week be one filled with real dialogue and conversation; questions, answers and exploration. And remember, don’t make stuff up.


 

The June 2014 issue of Fast Company has a great piece about the 100 Most Creative People in Business. I was leafing through the magazine again this morning and caught an interview with Jerry Seinfeld (#26 on the list.) He was asked why he chose to work on his new offering, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee  http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/ ? He replied, “The only thing that appeals to me is getting shot into an unknown universe…. The most fun game is one you’ve never played and you’re inventing as you go along.”
Boy oh boy, do I love the sound of that! And as I’ve been remarking on over the past number of weeks, our world is changing dramatically. We are all being shot into an unknown universe and are inventing the game as we go along. And paradoxically, the old world, the safe world, is still holding us by the heels. The same structures, the same old economics, the same old business models seem to make so much sense to us. In the financial world for example, the regulatory environment that saved so much of Canada from the real ravages of the last recession is telling us all to be afraid, focus on risk, and for heaven’s sake don’t move outside the usual way we’ve always done things. And you know what, they are doing a wonderful job, they are safeguarding the deposits of Canadians, and they raising the bar for directors and boards. We need them to be doing that, and they are gripping our heels. We need a balance, and we need the courage to move forward. And it’s not just regulators, it’s boards, it’s executives, and it’s you and I in sectors and businesses across the economy. The world is changing and we’re still stuck in old ways, in large part because of fear.
We need to look beyond the way things have worked in the past. We need a collective shot into an unknown universe. And to prepare us, we need to focus on trying new things. Each and every day, try something you haven’t done. Try a different food, take a different way home from work, change the furniture arrangement in your home, do a different circuit in the gym, say yes to an idea at work, the list is endless. We have all sorts of ways and means of trying new things. The more we do, the more we will change ourselves. And the more we change ourselves, the more courageous we will be. Because the worst thing that has happened for us in the past 20 years is that we are now more afraid. And fear filled people do not make good decisions.
Try something new this week, and find the courage inside to make a difference for yourself and for each other.


 

Good morning and I hope your world is a beautiful as the weather is here in Vancouver this week.

It’s Pride Week in Vancouver. Like cities in the rest of Canada, Vancouver ranks as one of the most inclusive cities on the planet. 10's of thousands of people will line the streets in the West End on Sunday for the Pride Parade. And this week's festivities were ceremoniously opened by Mayor Gregor Robertson at City Hall on Monday. Politicians from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the city were on hand, all wanting to get pictures with each other!

Deep down, I see Pride Week as evidence of transformation. A transformation of a whole city. People point to various moments in the life of this amazing city as pivotal in our journey towards inclusiveness; the shameful  Komagata Maru incident 100 years ago this year when a ship full of Sikh men was refused entry to the port after a perilous journey from India, the internment of Japanese families during the 2nd World War, the ‘hippies’ camped at Coal Harbour, the AIDS crisis, EXPO '86, and even more recently, the 2010 Winter Olympics.

I suggest a different metaphor. We ‘wrestle’ with inclusiveness in our social and corporate lives. It is not because of a specific moment in history, rather it is a constant wrestling match between our selfish egos and the other. This week in Vancouver we celebrate the inclusion in our social networks, of our Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Two Spirit, Questioning sisters and brothers. And we now wrestle with how we might move to a broader and then healthier city that values everybody, regardless of their income or their mental or physical health. Or in organizations, how do we include the outside thinker, the person who does not want to go on the company picnic, or who challenges the status quo ideas? How do we open ourselves to including those who would have us change, would have us transform? We have come a long way, and the road is long.

In this month’s BC Business http://www.bcbusiness.ca/ in the “Visual Learning” section, there are some very funny lines about ‘Creating a Company Vision’. One really struck my eye; “Gather the oldest, whitest males from the company, put them in a boardroom and let the magic fly.” And I thought, ‘hmmm, I’m in my mid-fifties, I’m white, I facilitate these things, often with men who are older than me in board rooms. What is this saying to me?” Inclusiveness is difficult in the workplace. We may see and hear ideas that don’t make sense to us. We may get defensive (always dangerous). We may say, ‘well that may be fine in your happy little hipster world, but here in the real world…” We may say or do any number of things to edit the ideas into something we think is palatable. And we may be exactly right in doing or saying any one of these things. Or we could be completely wrong. Inclusiveness is vital for creativity and innovation. It is the way we learn, it is the way we grow, it is the way new possibilities emerge. It is through inclusiveness that we grow up.

Just like each and every one of us, as we face life's difficulties, and as this city has learned over the last 125 or so years, we grow, we change, we become different. Our selfish egos wrestle with ideas and possibilities in the other and become bigger, stronger more inclusive minds and hearts. May that growth  continue for each and every one of us.