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

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

Word count this issue: 356

Estimated reading time:   2:15 minutes


Good morning from an overcast Vancouver. I’m excited my research for my forthcoming book, 5 Thrives for the Digital Revolution https://www.facebook.com/5thrives?fref=ts. In the midst of my research I found that  was neither a techno-pessimist, nor a techno-optimist; I do not see human kind going the way of the Terminator series of movies, nor do I see technology as bringing about peace and good will towards all humankind, as in the Star Trek series. I do see that if we are not conscious of the opportunities and risks in our use of technology the Terminator future is possible. More importantly though, if we are not self conscious, that is aware of who we are individually and collectively, then the Terminator future is very likely.


Being self-aware has always been the deep goal of maturity and praxis in philosophy, psychology, and spiritual development. Socrates, (470 - 399 BCE) is credited with the comment, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Carl Jung (1875 - 1961) said, “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas quotes Jesus of Nazareth, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” I wonder though that at this point in time, it is absolutely vital for us as a species that more and more of us, especially as leaders, become that much more self aware. Aware of our own strengths and limitations, aware of our gifts, and aware of our deepest fears. 



We are at the edge of a new age. Who we are in the next 10 years will have a profound effect on who our children and grandchildren will be. Now more than ever. I’m curious what are the tools you use to find out more about yourself? 


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

Word count this issue: 429

Estimated reading time:   2:45 minutes


We’ve just had the first long weekend of the ‘summer’ here in Canada. It was wonderful on the Coast. Sunny, and warming up. We gardened, visited and barbequed; a good rest. On the recommendation of a young friend, I also started reading the Harry Potter books. I’ve seen most of the movies, but unlike so many people, I had never read the books. I have devoured the first and am finishing the second since last week.


Among many things I’ve been enjoying is the journey of self discovery. The books are not just about a boy growing into adulthood, they are about three young people; Harry, Hermione and Ron, uncovering their very beings. It is one of the key elements of leadership that we each uncover our own beings; we become increasing self-aware and find out why we’re here.


At the end of The Philosopher’s Stone for example Ron, the scared young boy, who has spent his life under the shadows of his very successful and knowledgable older brothers, bullied incessantly for his station in life, acts in a most courageous way, sacrificing himself (at least to unconsciousness) on the living chess board to allow Harry and Hermione the opportunity to move to the next part of the challenge. He moves beyond the story he has told himself and allows others tell about him, to find his own courageous being. Harry of course finds a number of these moments, including finding out he is a natural quidditch seeker, simply by trying something new out. Hermione, the rule following young girl, becomes an ethicist halfway through the Chamber of Secrets; learning to balance the rules and justice, what is the right thing to do?


As leaders, becoming self-aware is key to our long term success; Like Ron, we need to learn that as much as our egos might say different, it really is about others and the bigger picture. Like Harry, more often than not you just have to go for it, step on to the flying broom to find our gifts. Like Hermione, the models we’ve grown up with need to be challenged and even pushed aside to allow us to grow into who we are called to be.


May this week be filled with growth for each and every one of us.



Join the conversation about the future and our roles in an emerging new world at https://www.facebook.com/5thrives 


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

Word count this issue: 637

Estimated reading time:   3:15 minutes


One of my favorite podcasts is the CBC show, “Spark, with Nora Young.” It is smart, interesting and has an almost musical rhythm to it. It explores tech trends and ideas from across the planet and brings them to your device simply and elegantly. 


A recent show, is a fine example; http://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/285-data-collection-cheering-up-the-internet-and-more-1.3061448  In the midst of this show is a fascinating piece on fighting depression on a social network (beginning at 14.36). With the usual qualifiers and ethical boundaries, the idea seems to make good sense. A network of individuals who support each other not by platitudes like “it’s just a passing phase”, or “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, but with tangible, real time suggestions to change our thinking patterns.


Now when I talk about mental health here, I like to think about the whole spectrum. In the same way I could go from having a cold through the flu, pneumonia and to a deadly chest infection, in terms of my mental health, I can have a tough moment (an unexplained sneeze), through a mental cold, pneumonia where I need some time away and some pharmacological support, through to a very, very serious illness. 


In the work place we can have unexplained sneezes and colds a lot, to continue the metaphor. For example, there is an old case study I’ve used on and off for years. Your boss says to you, “I have some feedback for you from a customer. Let’s connect this afternoon at 3 pm to discuss it in detail.” Then some hours later at 3 pm you arrive and she is on the phone with another manager, and she says, “come back tomorrow at 9, we really need to talk about this.”


How do feel? What would you do? What does your default thinking take you? (Do you feel a sneeze coming on?)


In a workshop, I’d let participants talk about their responses and then tell them that their boss simply wants to discuss a ‘GREAT’ feedback, and to explore with you how you can replicate what you did to get that feedback with the rest of the team.


Frankly, most of the participants in the hundreds of times I’ve run this and similar case studies default to negative thinking in the first part of the case, before we know it is good feedback. What has got me inspired from the “Spark” episode, is the social aspect of finding new ways of changing our thinking. For example, what would it look like if you had a good friend at work?(check out question 10 from the now famous Gallup Q12 http://home.ncifcrf.gov/SAICFTraining/2011_Gallup_Questions.pdf ) If, in a situation where your negative default was kicking in, what in coaching circles is known as a ‘gremlin’, you could go to this friend, tell them what was going on, how you were triggered, and you want help in changing your thinking. It’d be like them giving you a warm lemon tea or a kleenex.


Some general questions you and your friend might explore include:


  1. What do I know to be true and what is fiction in the situation?
  2. What are 4 different possible outcomes?
  3. If you were coaching someone in the same situation, what would you have them do right now?
  4. In the bigger scheme of things, how important is this?
  5. What will you think of this 5 years from now?


Clearly, we have opportunities as leaders to make a difference in each other’s lives. It may be that supporting people in the vital work of changing their minds is one of the great roles for each of us. 




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

Word count this issue: 470

Estimated reading time:   2.15 minutes 



To be very transparent, I have been convinced for sometime that long term, sustainable business success is driven by relationships. Your business might be financially successful for a short period of time by ignoring or damaging relationships, after all con artists thrive and then move on to the next mark. In the long term though, con artists fail.


I was pleased, to say the least, that Fast Company magazine http://www.fastcompany.com/3045453/hit-the-ground-running/how-the-wrong-people-get-promoted-and-how-to-change-it? agrees. This great article highlights data from Gallup who have been talking about the importance of relationships since the late 1990’s and the game changing research by Buckingham and Coffman http://www.amazon.ca/First-Break-All-The-Rules/dp/0743510119 


My own work on the 5 Thrives for the Digital (R)evolution includes the Gallup research, and more. Interestingly, while the Fast Company article notes that Gallup’s research shows five rare talents of great managers:


  • They motivate their employees.
  • They assert themselves to overcome obstacles.
  • They create a culture of accountability.
  • They build trusting relationships.
  • They make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and organization. 


Furthermore the research suggests that this “combination of innate talent  is so rare that it exists in about only one out of 10 people. They also believe another two out of 10 people have some of these five talents, and can become great managers with the right coaching and development.”


I believe that there are good managers potentially in far more of us, and that with the right coaching and development in the following “5 Thrives”, more of us can become good, if not great managers.

  1. Become more self-aware; know your strengths and your challenges. Know your triggers and work on building your self-reflection. That will help you become more accountable to yourself and build trusting relationships with others.
  2. Become more other-aware, using empathy and exploration with others you’ll be more successful in motivating your employees, creating a culture of accountability and building trusting relationships.
  3. Work on perseverance; putting one foot in front of the other even in difficult times so that you can overcome obstacles
  4. Learn, learn, learn, and keep learning in order to overcome obstacles, motivate yourself and others and make informed unbiased decisions for the good of the team and the organization.
  5. Find the courage to know more about yourself, to know more about others, to persevere and to learn, and you’ll grow yourself, your team and your organization.


The 5 Thrives are not easy, nor are they for the faint of heart. They are however the path to becoming a better manager, and a stronger person.





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

Word count this issue: 495

Estimated reading time:   2.20 minutes 



I’ve been thinking about the distinction between the outer life and the inner life. Riffing on Ken Wilbur’s distinction between stages and states http://www.kenwilber.com I think that the outer life (Wilbur’s stages) has to do with a person’s level of intellectual maturity. Most of us in our lifetimes have grown through a few stages, eventually seeing the limits of each previous stage and moving to the next.  So for example, I live in the 21st Century, as a straight white male in Canada, with a graduate degree. I am at getting to the top of my game as a facilitator, and well respected as a thinker and provocateur. I am a very different person compared to the person I was as teenager. That is my outer life.


My inner life (riffing on Wilbur’s state) is more about how much I live connected to self and others and the Whole? How much have I overcome my sense of separateness and superiority? How much do body, soul, and spirit work together as one? Have I moved beyond simply reacting? Can I act and think in pure inner freedom? Have I grown in my heart so that I can see beyond my own needs and desires, beyond simply making other people happy, or playing games, and towards a full and authentic sense of self and other. Not replacing my ego, but moving beyond simply ego.


Ideally outer and inner are balanced. The two will inform each other, but they are not always aligned. 


I believe inner life is about my leadership, outer life is about my management. You may have had a great boss who was a great leader; s/he walked the talk, had an authentic and deeply profound experience with other people, and seemed to be able to light up a room, simply by their presence. Or, you may have had a boss who was a great manager; s/he was smart, accurate, able to make decisions and problem solve very quickly and efficiently. They were well educated and had an authority based on their intellect. 


People who are adept in both state and stage are rare. The great leaders will often have great managers around them, and if not, soon whither on the vine as details (for example) start to get the better of them.  The great manager can be quick, smart and efficient but become stalled because the people around them soon realize it is all about them and their arrogance and self styled importance wears thin. 


In our journeys leading people, we need to be both good leaders and good managers. Check with yourself; where are you? Are you working on the outer work and leaving the inner work behind, or are you so thrilled with your inner learnings that the outer work is starting to stall? May this we start to find more balance.






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

Word count this issue: 633

Estimated reading time:   3.0 minutes 



During a wonderful conversation with my friend and colleague Dixie Black http://www.spiritualsobriety.com/Biography.html she was talking about how our expectations often limit what we see and experience. “If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”


Consider for example that if the world is a dark and dangerous place in your view, then what you see and experience will be dark and dangerous. If you see the world as a sometimes beautiful and sometimes scary place, you will find beauty sometimes and be scared others. 


Dixie’s point though was somewhat deeper. Our experiences, our learnings over the year are built by our neural pathways; we learn by identifying patterns. Our ancestors knew to be afraid of all large animals with big teeth; they didn’t have to work out the relative danger of each one. The shadow side of patterned learning is that we also then miss the elements that are not included in the pattern.


For example, the night of the last Federal Election here in Canada, just about 4 years ago, I went to bed here on the west coast assuming that the worst that would happen is that the Conservative Party would win a minority government. (For those of you outside Canada here’s what a ‘minority government’ means: http://canadaonline.about.com/od/elections/g/minority.htm ) I based this assumption on the pattern of my friends (including Facebook friends). most of whom would be voting New Democrat or Liberal. I was then gobsmacked the next morning when the Conservatives had won a majority government. How was this possible?! It was possible because I had not been looking beyond my own patterned learning. It was possible because I had not explored other possibilities, looked for instances and patterns that were different than the ones I was comfortable with.


As important as patterned learning is, we need to look beyond our own patterns. More often than not, we cannot do that alone; our own patterns, our own neural pathways have their own ‘gravitational’ pull. Here are some tips and questions to spark new neural pathways, to seek out new ways of perceiving:


  1. Become friends with people with different political, moral or theological perspectives. Don’t defend your positions, and don’t judge theirs. Listen and learn with each other.
  2. When planning for the future, look forward to at least two possible outcomes. For example, if you are applying for a new job always set up a positive outcome to think about alongside the positive outcome of getting the job. Maybe it is a trip, or getting something done on your bucket list.
  3. Stop watching news channels, and don’t use Facebook for your news source. Both news channels and Facebook are setting the news agenda for you, albeit in different ways. For an extreme example, Fox News in the US is very clearly aligned with certain political sensibilities. That means that other news sources are moving to fill the white space in other political perspectives. Each on their own way are giving news to fit certain patterned thinking.  Facebook meanwhile is giving you the news you are interested in by employing algorithms that look at the patterns of your searches, likes and comments. The patterns in our brains are being leveraged to give us what we like. To see things outside of these patterns then are that much more difficult. In short, go outside your usual patterns for news gathering, watch or listen to different voices. 
  4. Learn something new once a week. Try something new, a new taste, a new song, a new idea, anything, learn something new.


May this week be a week of creating new neural pathways for each of us.