"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof."
John Kenneth Galbraith

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

Word count this issue: 488

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes


I’ve been working recently on the chapter in my book on “self awareness.” I do not think that many of us are as ‘self-aware’ as we like to think. Far too many of us, for example have mistaken ‘self awareness’ with fitting in. Making sure that we wear the right clothes, do the right kind of work, have the right social connections to ensure we are recognized as a member of a particular brand tribe. A couple of years ago I was doing some political work and appearing at a rally. I was carrying a Starbucks cup containing my tea. Suddenly, one of my team walked up to me, took the cup out of my hand and walked away. I was startled and wondered ‘why did she steal my tea?’ She then caught my eye and mouthed the word “cameras” at me. Sure enough she had seen that the media cameras had turned in my direction, and me carrying a “Starbucks” cup would signify I was part of one brand tribe and would exclude me from other brand tribes. I was not very ‘self-aware’ in one of the more common understandings of self-awareness. 

The work of deepening self-awareness required for the digital (r)evolution is much more  complex than worrying about the brand of cup I carry.  Self Awareness is the continuous asking “who am I becoming?”  The journey is one of constant seeking for your deeper self. Carl Jung’s famous line sums it up nicely; ‘I am not what happened to me, I am who I choose to become.’ 


The question of “who am I becoming” is most often understood as a question of middle age. We spend our 20’s and 30’s normally focused on external trappings, pleasing our hungry ego with signs of material success. Our 40’s and 50’s are when we begin to wrestle with deeper questions of who we are below the surface of our ego. I believe the emerging generation are ready for these deeper questions and given the speed of change in the midst of the (r)evolution, they’ll need to be seeking their own answers to the question “who am I becoming” sooner than previous generations.


So here are three questions to get you started on this deeper journey of self-awareness:


  1. Ask yourself, “who am I?” and you cannot limit your answer to roles. You cannot therefore answer with, mother, brother, leader, lawyer, daughter etc.
  2. What do other people count on me for? What do they believe they cannot count on me for? 
  3. What are the stories about my self that I’d like to hear at my own funeral?


The journey begins with a single step. May this week be one of even small steps to uncovering your deepest self.



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

Word count this issue: 368

Estimated reading time:  2.30 minutes


Good morning, I hope this finds you well. There’s been a death in the family and I have been thinking about grief and our ability to think clearly. Once more I see more evidence of the fact that social threats are as powerful and can be more powerful than physical threats. We remember the pain of a broken heart longer than the pain of a broken bone.


And yet, in our working lives all too often we respond more appropriately to physical challenges and pain in our colleagues and co-workers than we do to the emotional challenges and pain in our colleagues and co-workers. How often do we think, and even say, “get over it”, or “give yourself a few days and you’ll be right as rain,” when faced with another’s emotional pain.


Here are three “don’ts’ to keep in mind when confronted with someone else's emotional challenge or pain.


  1. Don’t just do something, sit there. Sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing, except be present. Don’t say anything, don’t move around, just sit and be present with them.
  2. Don’t ask them “what happened”, or try other ways to get the story. As much as you think they need to talk about it, you are more likely asking for your own entertainment, even non-consciously. Instead, ask them how they are today, and listen carefully to the answer. 
  3. Don’t tell other people about another’s emotional pain. That is their story to telling in their own time, to people they choose. If someone for example is off work, just say they taking time off. In fact, I suggest using that or similar language in every case of someone being away from the office; don’t divide the absences publicly into “Jane is off with the flu” and “Alisdair is off…. well he’s taking time off…. I can’t really say why….” Instead, “Jane is taking some time off” and “Alisdair is taking some time off.”  



May this week be a week of being the best we can be with everyone who needs some time off.


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

Word count this issue: 447

Estimated reading time:  3.00 minutes


Good morning from a sunny and warm(ish Vancouver. I’ve been reflecting while writing my book about how we live in a binary time. We are stuck in binary thinking about ecology or economy, liberal or conservative ideals, old school or new school. I believe there is a different way forward. A challenging and difficult way forward, but a better way forward.


The reason we may have not been able to ‘solve’ the daily problems of working with each other is because all too often we fall in to the binary trap or either or, this or that, right way, wrong way.


If we look at the world and our actions in it in a more quantum perspective, we see other possibilities. Here’s a link to the Canadian Prime Minister describing quantum computing: http://globalnews.ca/news/2641108/pm-justin-trudeau-gives-reporter-quick-lesson-on-quantum-computing-during-visit-to-waterloo/ to give you a brief overview of how quantum thinking works. And yes, this is a political explaining quantum computing!


As you’ll see in the link, binary thinking is 1’s and 0’s; everything is either yes or no. While there are many aspects of life that can be addressed by yes or no, anyone who has worked with other people knows there is much grey between yes and know, 1 and 0.


I’ve been working on leadership thinking that is more quantum, that is thinking that seeks to include that which is between the yes and no, and around the yes and no; the information between and around the 1 and the 0.


Here are three ideas to increase your quantum thinking as a leader:


  1. Reach out to people you likely disagree with and rather than debating, work at understanding their point, you’ll expand your own thinking more.
  2. Avoid asking “what’s the bottom line” too early. That kind of thinking is reductionist and forces you and others into smaller and likely binary thinking. 
  3. The first thoughts you have on a subject in a meeting are likely coming to your mind from habit, from experience. To expand your thinking, and your team’s give your people quiet time in the meeting to write down their answers, and to think for themselves before hearing from everyone. That way ideas and thoughts that are different, and not our of habit will come to the fore more often. The collection of those ideas, especially in a diverse group of people will be more quantum. 


May this week be filled with quantum thinking for us all.






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

Word count this issue: 374

Estimated reading time:  2:15 minutes


Hello from Vancouver. I’m preparing for medical tests (nothing sinister, we’re just doing middle aged man tests!). I’m on a clear liquid diet and was walking by a bakery on an errand this morning and oh boy am I looking forward to real food sometime on Friday!


It got me thinking about inputs. What do we as leaders allow in to our hearts and minds, and what is the impact of those inputs? Might we for example go an a “clear liquid diet” for our hearts and minds? What might such a diet look like?


Of course, you will have to make up your own mindful diet based on the people and the issues with whom you work. But here are three suggestions:


  1. Gossip is like sugar, it tastes good, and in small quantities is helpful, but there’s a clear limit. The adage, ‘before you speak ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind’ is a good way to fight off the sugary gossip temptation.
  2. White bread is not only boring, it turns to gas pretty quickly. The “we’ve always done it that way” thinking is too “white bread.” Try something new, a dark rye may be difficult to find at your local chain restaurant, you have to go and look for it, off the beaten track.
  3. Desserts are meant to be shared. If you sat at a table and someone ate most of the apple pie, you’d be pretty shocked. When things are great, when you are able to celebrate with something special, involve as many people as you can in the celebration. As hard as you worked, others on your team were there as well. Share the pie with them.


And remember, exercise is always key. Don’t allow your brain to remain in habit mode too long, stretch it, challenge it, engage it in places you might feel uncomfortable.


You’ll find your a better leader by developing your own mindful diet. 


I can also recommend the work of David Rock and Daniel Siegle and their “Healthy Mind Platter: http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/healthy_mind_platter/ 


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

Word count this issue: 351

Estimated reading time:  2:15 minutes


Good morning from sunny Saskatoon. I’ve been moderating and facilitating at the national credit union conference here, and having a wonderful time reconnecting with long time colleagues and making new connections.


Our work has been inspiring and provocative, and in the shadow of a collective disbelief here in Canada as the city of Fort McMurray has been devastated by wildfires. Famous as the epicentre of Canada’s oil sands production, Ft. Mac is home to some 88,000 people, all of whom have been evacuated. Coming on the heels of the drop in oil prices last year, this is a tough blow to the many families who have now lost homes.


In the midst of such catastrophic news, there are calls to leadership from every corner. Heaven forbid you ever find yourself in such awful situations, but if you do, keep three things in mind as a leader.


  1. A first question to ask yourself is, “who do I want to be in this situation?” Exploring this question will engage the thinking part of your brain and mitigate the power of the emotional triggers going on around you.
  2. Get connected; collective effort is always more effective in challenging times. As tempted as you may be to “be a hero”, the real power is in the group working and learning together through the challenges. You may have the final say, but always be connected with others who can engage and explore alternatives with you.
  3. It is vital that you find at least a few minutes of quiet time every few hours. Go inside yourself and check; am I being who I want to be here? Am I working with others or trying to be the hero? What do I want to have happen here, what are the goals and are we working towards them?


Using these three ideas will help you lead people in the midst of very challenging times.



Please keep the people of Fort McMurray in your thoughts and prayers. 

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

Word count this issue: 405

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes


Hello from Whistler! I’m attending a clergy conference with my colleagues from the Diocese of New Westminster. The sun is shining, the air is warm and we are so very fortunate to be able to enjoy this spectacular place so close to home.


Our work this week has been lead by the theologian, Richard Topping http://vst.edu/people/rev-dr-richard-topping. Richard spoke eloquently about the dangers of suspicion. We live, he argues, in a time where intelligent people pride themselves on their suspicion and ability to criticize. We are separate ourselves from the ‘fools’ who don’t see the folly of their ways as clearly as we do. We find ourselves detaching and disengaging on the assumption that by separating ourselves we are more objective and able to “see” the truth. We set up a kind barbed wire of criticism. 


This plays out for us as leaders in any number of ways; our focus on the ‘real world’ bottom line at the expense of fluffy and ‘soft HR issues’, our focus on analysis that can override creativity and imagination, or our focus on negative feedback, speaking only to our reports when there is a problem.


That is not to say that we return to a supposedly happy time of naiveté and unfiltered reception. Rather, Richard is calling us to a renewal, a recognition of the power of imagination, the power of a group of people willing to dive into both difficult and amazing work together. To tear down the ‘barbed wire’ of criticism and be friends with each other. Friends are the people who have our permission to both challenge us and affirm us. Friends do not simply endure each other, but rather are refreshed in each others’ company. That is a very different way of seeing how the people in our organizations might work together. It is a call not to be friends with everyone (that would be impossible), but to work together through networks of friends, people who I trust to affirm and challenge me and vice versa, and through the various degrees of separation. We might then be able to build very powerful networks of people who are not able to simply do together, but who are able to do the much more difficult work of being together.