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

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

Word count this issue: 302

Estimated reading time:  2:15

 

 

Good morning from a crisp Vancouver. The Fall chill is in the air in this part of the world. It feels like new years for me. And sad/good news this week as it was announced that a colleague of mine had accepted a job that takes her not only out of our workplace but out of the country.

 

While I am thrilled for her; this is an extraordinary opportunity for her, I am also very sad. She and I have shared work and laughs and tears over the last dozen or so years, and I will miss her.

 

In the days following the announcement, the reactions of people have been fascinating to watch. Some people have been quite mean to my friend, saying things like “I hate you for leaving.” In reflecting on these comments I wonder about a particular challenge for leaders; the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in our minds at much the same time.

 

I believe it is entirely possible. I am both very excited for my friend and grieving her moving away. I can also, for example, know that you are an amazing, creative and unique person and be disappointed in your work this week. One does not have to override the other.

 

 

The key here is choice. Where do I want to choose to focus my attention? I honour that I am sad, and that is not the defining feature of my day. As leaders we can find ourselves in these sometimes challenging situations where we may feel or think two things almost at once. Honour both and choose your focus; which of them will bring about the greatest good for all concerned?

 

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

Word count this issue: 376

Estimated reading time:  2:30

 

I had the great honour this week of working once again with a group of young leaders, this time in healthcare. Early in our work I offered this quote from Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s 1999 book, First Break All the Rules.http://www.gallup.com/press/176069/first-break-rules-world-greatest-managers-differently.aspx 

 

 “We had discovered that the manager – not pay, benefits, perks, or a charismatic corporate leader – was the critical player in building a strong workplace. The manager was the key….An employee may join Disney or GE or Time Warner because she is lured by their generous benefits package and their reputation for valuing employees. But it is her relationship with her immediate manager that will determine how long she stays and how productive she is while she is there.”

 

The book, and this conclusion, was based on over 1 million interviews over 25 years and it has been a go to idea for me for 15 years. I asked the group for their reflections on the idea that the key factor driving commitment and productivity was the relationship with the manager, here and now. The comments back included great questions like ‘what about current economy and people staying in jobs just to have a job?’ and “if the data goes back now to 40 years ago, what of the generational changes?’ ‘what about the tech changes?’ As one young leader asked, if I have an app that provides me with great data and ideas about how I can be a better manager, maybe the relationships change?’ Or, ‘how many of the jobs done by people interviewed over the study are now being done by bots?’

 

The question that stopped me in my tracks though was ‘do we define good management in a new way now?’ My own reflection since the question was asked, was no. I wonder though, might my own biases preclude me from seeing something new emerging? 

 

 

I’d love to hear from you, is how we define “good management” (healthy, engaged relationships, and focusing on other people’s growth) changing in the midst of the changing world? 

 

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

Word count this issue: 443

Estimated reading time:  3:00

 

I’ve been working with a couple of colleagues this week in hot and humid Toronto. We’ve been exploring story as part of our work. I was reminded today about the philosopher Mircea Eliade’s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mircea_Eliade) sacred story. 

 

‘During the Second World War, in a Nazi labour camp, the prisoners were organized into tents of a few hundred people each. Every morning, the prisoners would emerge to be marched for another day of hard labour. Upon return in the evening, only those who had worked were issued their day’s ration of thin soup and stale bread. Now of course with such sparse nutrition, prisoners would soon get sick. If a prisoner did not emerge from their tent for the days work, they did not get fed that evening, and soon he or she would die of starvation. The food was so sparse that an unwritten rule became the norm: The evening’s food was not be shared – it was everyone for him or herself. Each tent then experienced the steady rhythm of work, starvation and death. 

 

Now, the inhabitants of one tent were in the habit of listening to stories told by one old woman in their midst. Each night, the inhabitants huddled together protecting their meager rations listening to her stories. Then one horrible morning the tent awoke to find their storyteller sick. The inhabitants left her in the tent that morning, filled with apprehension, if not stark fear of what might happen while they were away. That night the people in this tent broke with the norm, and one by one broke a little piece of their own stale bread and a drop or two of their soup to share with the old story teller. And she told them stories. The next night, the same thing, they shared what little they had with the old story teller and she kept telling the life giving stories. Soon the inhabitants decided that she should not go out and work anymore. They would collectively guard her health by sharing their meagre food resources with her. From that day on, until the war’s end and that camp’s eventual liberation, there were no more deaths from starvation within that tent. Sure, people died, the horrors of a labour camp were not simply limited to starvation, but no more people in that tent died of starvation, and most of its inhabitants lived and survived the war.’

 

 

I wonder then what thoughts or ideas does this story prompt for you as a leader?

 

 

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

Word count this issue: 539

 

Estimated reading time:  3:40

 

My friend and colleague, David Gouthro http://www.theconsultingedge.com introduced me to Joshua Cooper Ramo’s fascinating new book “ The Seventh Sense.” https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B015ERLVBA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 

 

Ramo’s thesis is that we are in the midst of a revolution that is as massive, both positively and negatively, as the Industrial Revolution. This revolution might be called, the “network revolution.” All around us individual nodes are being connected and dramatically enhanced into networks; financial services, terrorists, and research are all dramatically enhanced by networks, and we are only at the beginning of a new epoch.

 

Here is a simple example; looking for a job. Any of us who have found ourselves unemployed in the past few years will have found the speed with which we have been able to get back into the workforce is predicated on the strength and reach of our network. The longer we are out of work, the less powerful our network and the less likely we can get back in. Hence the strength of LinkedIn. 

 

My own work on 5 Thrives for the Digital (R)evolution explores networks and connectivity, and so I am thrilled to read Ramos’ work. I commend to it to each of you.

 

Ramos’s work reminds me a little of the revolutionary thinking of a hero of mine, Marshall McLuhan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan  and his famous book, “The Medium is the Massage”. (The title of the book plays with his famous aphorism, the ‘medium is the message’). McLuhan’s basic point was that media were the big change agents in society, and not the content in the particular medium. For example, the mass printing of books had a much more important impact on European culture than did that content of any of the books that were printed. Or the fact that televisions were in virtually every home in North America by the mid 1960’s had a greater impact on our society than the content of any particular TV show or movie. And now today, as we are in the midst of a mobile digital revolution that significantly increases the creation and growth of networks is far more important than the data (content) moving across those networks. Once again it is the medium; mobile data devices facilitating networks, that is the message. 

 

So besides communications nerds like me, who might be interested in this brief look at Ramos and McLuhan, and a taste of my wondering? I think as leaders we need to be thinking about the networks we are connected into. Are they diverse enough? 

 

My work around “Connectivity” suggests not just that we are networked, but the danger of only being linked into like minded networks. In the same way that genetics requires that new genes enter into the system, networks need the same diversity to delay entropy and death. 

 

Take a few moments this week for three small shifts:

 

  1. Invite someone new into your network,
  2. Add yourself to a feed from a group that has a different political agenda than you,
  3. Take a different route home and use your senses to explore what’s different. 

 

You might just find a new perspective or gain a new insight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Word count this issue: 376

Estimated reading time:  2:40

 

I was standing on a commuter bus this morning heading into a series of in person coaching sessions. The woman seated to my left was reading a magazine with the following quote set out in the type:

 

“Freud said that psychoanalysis is a ‘cure through love’, and I think that is essentially correct. The love is conveyed not so much in the content as in the form: the rapt attention of someone who cares enough to interrogate you. The love stows away in the conversation.” (Gary Greenberg interviewed by Zander Sherman “Who are You Calling Crazy” The Sun, July 2016 Issue 487)

 

(I asked her permission to take a picture of it.)

 

I was struck by the idea of holding someone in “rapt attention.” From a leadership perspective I think “rapt attention” drives being a “servant leader.” (https://www.greenleaf.org) And as fortune would have it, one of my coaching clients and I spent a little bit of time exploring servant leadership this afternoon. Importantly, servant leadership is not “slave” leadership, or “roll over and play dead” leadership. We are instead serving people to be the best they can be. That may well mean that I cajole, challenge, provoke and push against a person, and I do that in service of their growth. And I know that too much cajoling, challenging, provoking and pushing will invariably be understood by the other person as a threat and when we are threatened too much, we stop being our best.

 

The idea of “rapt attention” focuses me on attending to the needs and potential of the other person. I am giving them “love”, even when I am saying no. 

 

Here are three boundaries (besides rapt attention paid to the other person) to ensure that your ‘no’ is from a servant leader perspective:

 

  1. The ‘no’ is focused on the other person’s growth 
  2. The reason for the ‘no’ is clear to all concerned
  3. You and the other person have a clear understanding that part of your role is to say ‘no’ from time to time.

 

 

May this week be one of rapt attention and saying no with love.

 

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

Word count this issue: 444 

Estimated reading time:  3:00

 

Greetings from Gibson’s BC where we’ve been ensconced for much of the summer, commuting as necessary. Last night, as I walked by an open window, I heard a rustle in the woods outside. It was a small black bear making its way down the steep side of the ravine. I was so excited. Other family have seen bears around the house on their way to the ravine we back on to, but this was my first in almost three years. 

 

It is one of the joys of this particular house; it sits on the edge of a ravine and we often see deer, coyotes, and even the odd owl outside our windows. There is a wonderful sense of living on the edge here, being ready for anything. (My sister and bother-in-law live in an apartment that overlooks Lake Ontario and while they don’t see the wildlife we do, there is a grand sense of seasonal change and an ever-changing landscape. They too seem to live on the edge, ready of anything).

 

And, lunch with a friend and sometime colleague earlier this week got me thinking about the importance of being ready for anything. He is an amateur historian and was telling me about a book about the US Constitution (1789). This famous document he said, was written with the future in mind. “The words were not to be locked in amber.”  

 

Moving quickly past any of the American political discussions this might ignite, I wonder then about our roles as leaders. Ron Heifetz at Harvard suggests, ‘management is about technical challenges; authority and getting things done efficiently and effectively, while leadership is about adaptive challenges; moving people through the difficult transitions of innovation and revolution.’ 

 

 

When we live and work in cities and suburbs we risk being locked in an amber of routine and similarity. We can fall into the culture trap of “we’ve always done it that way,” or a wistful dream of some imagined history a generation ago.  Transitions of innovation and revolution become much bigger threats. Spending as much time as I can on the edge of the ravine and forest gives me a sense of the size of the planet, and an understanding that while there is a place for amber, it is in the excitement of seeing new things, experiencing new adventure and new learning, that feeds our souls. It also means that I sometimes need to have the courage to go into the dark forest to grow as a person and a leader.