"Do not try to do the great things; do the little things with love."
Mother Teresa

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Word count this issue: 450

Estimated reading time:  3.0 minutes


Good morning, I trust this edition of Leadership Notes finds you hale and hearty. 


I was saddened to hear of the death of Leonard Nimoy last week. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they go on the long journey of grief together. I was also intrigued by the response on social media. As a young friend said, it was a cross generational outpouring. Meme’s started almost immediately, including one of my favorites with a comic book Batman slapping Robin who has just mentioned the blue or gold dress with the words “Spock is Dead!” Or the image of the remnants of a ‘transporter’ signal after a transport with the dates 1931 - 2015 underneath.


I was thinking that Nimoy’s death struck us on one level because of his role as Spock. The TV series Star Trek and it’s descendants presented a world of future possibility. A world that was to some degree utopian; disease was largely eradicated, economic disparity and even ethnic divisions had been put to rest in the world of Spock and his fellow crew members. Spock, even more than Captain Kirk held our love because he was an outsider, he was different, and he was included. Like Ohura , or Checkov or Sulu, he was visibly different, but he was also different at a deeper level, and he was still included. 


The technology on Star Trek was at worst benign and largely helpful. (Here’s a fun 4.5 minute video on the 10 techs we use now that showed up first on Star Trek and its descendants). Contrast Star Trek with say “The Terminator” series of films to see how we imagine a contrasting possible future world. Through Nimoy’s Spock, we imagined a world of time and space travel, of great leaps that solve the seemingly intractable problems of today, and an ethic that included “The Prime Directive”. And through him we saw our own wrestling with the balance between the logical and the emotional worlds we each inhabit. The world was indeed “fascinating” when explored through his eyes.


As leaders and others, we do have a choice. We can choose to build a future world of peace, justice and collaboration, using technology to further humans and the planet. Or we can choose to fight it out with the machines. The choice comes down to very human ethical choices; are we simply autonomous beings out for our own ends, or are we at our most authentic selves, collaborators, colleagues and friends of each other. As Spock said, “I am and always have been your friend.”: Perhaps in the end that is the ethic of leadership.





Word count this issue: 454

Estimated reading time:  3.0 minutes

Good morning, I hope this finds you well and that the cold days are drawing to a close for those of you (like me) north of the equator.

I'm working on a book about how, as leaders and others, we might thrive in the midst of the “digital revolution”. This work has been inspired by our work here in Leadership Notes over the last year, and beyond.

When we use the phrase ‘digital revolution’, we’re generally referring to 4 groupings of technology:

  • Digital technologies (mobile and computer systems)
  • Biotechnologies (genetics and bioengineering)
  • Nanotechnologies (technologies that operate at the atomic level, linked presently most often to biotechnologies but becoming a a separate technology itself)
  • Neuroscience technologies (leveraging the rapidly emerging understandings of how our brains and nervous systems work) 

You may be thinking, well that is interesting, but what do these have to do with me managing or leading a team? Well consider what neuroscience research tells us about performance management.  http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00275?pg=all  We know now that if you are using numbers in your performance planning discussions with employees, the lizard part of the human brain will hijack the mind, even with your best of intentions to have a “learning discussion.” If you tell me I am a ‘3’, out of ‘4’, my brain will be triggered to think of social status for example, and not about how I will work harder to be better next year. In fact, it appears that the rest of the conversation after the numbers is wasted. Instead, we will respond much more effectively when we are engaged in a structured dialogue that involves my participation in the process. Setting up a semi-annual or annual performance planning conversation to cover some of the following questions to be explored by both parties will involve my mind far more effectively. And remember, no numbers.

  • what did you see as your greatest contribution to our work?
  • what is the one area that you would have done differently last year?
  • what is it that you count on me for?
  • what is it that I can do differently?
  • where do you think we could do better in our service to members/customers?
  • where do you think we could do better in our service to each other?

The research is clear, numerical ranking may make it easier for us to work out the bonus structure, but it does nothing to help us learn collectively or individually. 

Our ideas about how management and especially people management is done will be challenged in the coming 10 - 15 years. I’d love your comments or stories about how the digital revolution is impacting you.






Word count this issue: 368

Estimated reading time:   2.10 minutes 


Good morning from an absolutely stunning Vancouver. As friends and colleagues across Canada dig out after Sunday’s storm on the Atlantic Coast and frigid temperatures, we are basking in Spring temperatures and cherry blossoms. The signs of new life always inspire me.

I am however, sometimes a victim of things that inspire me. I can become fascinated about something that actually takes me off my charted course for the day. There are pros and cons for this part of me that can make me lose focus. Then, I heard late last week about a book called “Essentialism; The Disciplined Pursuit of Doing Less” http://www.forbes.com/sites/lawtonursrey/2014/04/17/the-art-of-essentialism/ by Greg McKeown. 

In part the book is talking to people whose time is not their own; the vast majority of those who work for other people. It is a kind of Time Management, the Next Generation book. And as I got deeper into Greg’s thinking, I saw links to our work as Leaders. The world is a very fast paced place, as we’ve been exploring in, different ways, the last three Leadership Notes, and others before them. This speed has some benefits, but at great costs. We have little opportunity for reflection, for learning from past decisions, or for re-creation and innovation. Greg’s thinking provides some very helpful changes to our mindset:

  • be clear about what’s important
  • learn to say “I’ll think about it”, and then think about it as opposed to an automatic yes
  • be consumed by the essentials; not the nice to do’s. 

I was reminded of the old Stephen Covey quadrant exploring those aspects of our work that are urgent/not urgent, and important/not important. http://www.usgs.gov/humancapital/documents/TimeManagementGrid.pdf 

As leaders we need to remember that people count on us to do the important and not urgent work of planning, health and vocation so that all of us are able to work smarter and more effectively. There are many opportunities to be interrupted, even by inspiring and good stimuli. We are however at our best when we can remember that people count on us to be focused on the essentials. I wonder, what are the essentials for you this week?







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

Word count this issue: 510

Estimated reading time:   3.0 minutes 


Good morning from a grey Vancouver. The snowdrops are coming out of the ground, so spring is coming, rest assured.


Last week i was moving a small piece of furniture to make room for my morning yoga practice and heard a small pop in my back. Thus began 4 days of forced quiet. I couldn’t write because I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t find a comfortable way to lie down to read. The stabbing pain in my lower back precluded concentration. Netflix movies were about all I could handle. 


I have learned over the years that our bodies will tell us what we need. We may not listen to them, but they eventually will tell us. I liken it to a parent saying no repeatedly to a child, increasing their volume a little bit as the child continues to behave inappropriately, until the parent uses the voice that the child knows is ‘the voice’, and they stop their behaviour. The ‘pop’ in my back was ‘the voice’ telling me now, it is time to stop, I need to rest.


We fall into these non-stop behaviours largely unconsciously I think, but they are dangerous. There is an old rabbinic adage that says ‘a person who does not have a single hour to themselves each day is a slave.’ I find myself working, working, working, and telling myself that it is good. It is good in moderation; I need to house, feed and clothe myself. I might even be able to put away a little for a rainy day, make a contribution to my community and have some fun with friends and family. But if all my waking hours are about work, if all I do is work, then I become a ‘slave.’ 


Our bodies seem not only to know, but to be able to tell us, slow down, rest, stop. And if we don’t they will stop us.


Three small ways of slowing down:


  1. Go for a walk at lunch time, and if you go with others, don’t talk about work
  2. Take a weekly art/dance/drama/yoga class; something that gets you out of your comfort zone
  3. Have a weekly games/family/story/book evening with friends or family. Notice I did not say movie night, this evening should be about connecting with family/friends, and not sitting passively in front of a screen.


Finally, I have always loved the late Stephen Covey’s word play with the word recreation. Say it aloud by making the first syllable a longer ‘e’, rhyming with ‘see’, and then do the same with the second syllable, again rhyming with ‘see’. The word becomes re-creation. By taking time to rest, to be with ourselves and with family and friends we move from being human doings, to human beings and thus the amazing creative beings we all are.


May this week be one where we start to find some time for ourselves.




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

Word count this issue: 391

Estimated reading time:   2.15 minutes 


On a coaching call with a client recently, I asked her to tell me about a time where she was the leader she knew she could be. It was a wonderful conversation. As she spoke about this time in her career, she said, very clearly and confidently, “I felt in charge of me.”


I had shivers when she said it. We explored her statement some more, and she spoke of how she was aware of her strengths, as well as her weaknesses. She was confident in her strengths and skills, and had put people around her, with complimentary strengths and skills. And she was giving responsibility to others and they developed themselves. She said, “it was a good time.”


I was reminded of an old Rabbinic story that I might have mentioned before, but like any good story, always bears repeating. 


The Czar’s army is being reviewed by the Czar himself, prior to going into battle. They have surrounded an enemy stronghold and the Czar on his horse is trotting down the front line. A soldier in his army sees an enemy archer on the ramparts of the stronghold, take aim and release his arrow. It is heading straight for the Czar. The soldier breaks out of his rank and jumps in front of the Czar’s horse, which rears up. The arrow then misses the Czar and lodges itself, ‘thrump’ harmlessly into the ground. 


The Czar immediately recognizes what the soldier has done and thanking him says, “ask for whatever you would like, and it shall be yours.”


The soldier thinks for a moment and says, “I would like a new sergeant. The one we have is mean, bad and we have no respect for him.”


The Czar looks down at the soldier and says, “Why not be your own sergeant?”



Why not indeed? The power inherent in being in charge of ourselves, being our own sergeant is a deep foundation of great leadership. The ability to know oneself, to have confidence in one’s own strengths and the humility to know one’s challenges. To empower others to be the best they can be. That is the kind of leadership we can all have and be in our organizations.

Good afternoon from an overcast Vancouver. Friends and relations are digging out after storms in other parts  of the continent. 


I'm thinking about the expression 'digging out', and am reminded of a Buddhist Parable...


4 monks are walking to a town some distance away. As they approach a river they need to ford, they see that not only is the river raging, but their are people drowning. Lots of people. True to their vows they dive into the torrent and start hauling people out one by one. ! hour, 2 hours, 3, 4, then 8 hours have gone by and the four monks work tirelessly hauling the drowning people out, one by one. As they approached 9  hour of this, one of their number pulled out another person, but instead of diving back into the torrent, he began to trudge up river. 


His companions called out after him, "Hey, where are you going? We still have work here! We have many more people to pull from the river!" 


The monk turned back towards them and said, "I'm going to go and see who is throwing them into the river in the first place."


As we think about digging out after storms, we might ask ourselves where are we digging out in our workplaces and might there be some work we need to do 'up stream'? Remember too that up stream work may be more difficult because it might ask us to change our own behaviour and assumptions. As good as we may feel about pulling people out of the torrent, we might find that up stream it is another part of our own organization throwing them in.



May this week be one of trudging up stream a bit.