"It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent; it is the species that is most responsive to change."
Sir Charles Darwin

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

Word count this issue: 345

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes


Greetings from the Air Canada lounge in Edmonton, in transit home to Vancouver. I’ve had a most interesting couple of days with an agricultural association, mapping strategy for the next three years. 


One of the conversations that came up a couple of times was about sheep. One participant, a sheep farmer, told a story about her teenage daughter reaching an insight about the number of sheep references in the ancient texts for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In fact, knowing what she knew about sheep, she realized that comparing humans to sheep was not a great compliment to us humans!


It reminded me of the images of “shepherds” in those same texts. Interestingly, one of the reasons the ‘Angels’ appear to the shepherds first in Luke’s version of the story, is that shepherds were the people of the edge. In an increasingly urban world, people who spent their days on the slopes and pastures around the cities were outsiders to say the least. This is a metaphor that some of the best and most innovative ideas appear on the margins of the organization, far from the power and control of the centre. Tom Peters calls this phenomenon “The Sri Lanka Effect” http://axiomnews.com/user/456.


There are people in the hinterlands of your business or team. It is there that the ideas for the next possibilities for your organization or team are going to come from. Here are three ways to support these shepherds on your team:


  1. Ask their opinion, engage with them with ‘asks’ not ‘tells’.
  2. Give them boundaries, they do need to play by the rules, but too many restrictions will shut them down.
  3. Give them credit when and where it is due, remember the best ideas are likely going from them originally, not from the people in your immediate circle 


May this week be one of celebrating the shepherds in your team and the outsider/shepherd with each of us.



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

Word count this issue: 353

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes


Greetings from a rainy Toronto. I’m working with a group of leaders from the Salvation Army, and we’re having fun working hard. During a workout here I was listening to a couple of great podcasts from the CBC, and Nora Young’s show Spark http://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/312-growth-and-the-start-up-economy-twitter-bot-art-and-more-1.3471294/would-you-trust-a-robot-in-an-emergency-1.3475216 , http://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/312-growth-and-the-start-up-economy-twitter-bot-art-and-more-1.3471294/how-to-empower-patients-with-medical-data-1.3471340 


One of the questions explored is the difference between data and information. Data are the facts, the 1’s and 0’s of life, information is the data interpreted, the various meanings derived from the 1’s and 0’s. This is an important distinction because of the huge number of possible meanings derived from particular streams of data. As leaders in organizations we need to ensure that we are not only exploring data, but more importantly, exploring the information. Our brains are wired to remember small amounts of data, but we can remember information and meaning in much greater amounts and over longer periods of time.


Here are three ways to ensure that people are focused on information, not just data:


  1. Tell stories about the data, explore questions about what it means for us, and what it means for individuals and their jobs.
  2. When sending out information to a large group, use people’s supervisors (ensuring they have bought in and are on message), to carry the message, as people will usually trust their immediate supervisor over senior management.
  3. Ask questions about impact and meaning for other people? Remember there will be various meanings attached to the data, and it is important to know about where alternative streams of information may be interfering with your message.


In the midst of a data filled world, may this week give us each new perspectives on information.




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

Word count this issue: 340

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes


Hello from a cloudy but surprisingly warm Vancouver. A huge blast of rain came through last night, and spring is certainly in the air. I spent the day yesterday on a retreat with my staff colleagues at Christ Church Cathedral. One of the items we discussed were the all important relationships in any organization between strategy, process, people, structure, leadership, dynamics, culture and the environment in which the organization operates. All too often we try and “fix” one area, say a process, and then are surprised to find that something else pops up as a ‘bug’ in the system. That is because of the all important relationships between the elements. Rather than discrete elements, they are all inter-connected. Like a mobile in a child’s room, if you pull on one element, the others are affected.


I found this child’s mobile to be a compelling image. It helps us think about the whole and not the parts. Too often we have been trained to break things down to their constituent parts and to focus on making the micro work. A useful as that can be, the risk is that we miss the whole. Here are three ways to stay focused on the whole mobile.


  1. Ask yourself, if we zoomed out to 30,000 feet, what would we see?
  2. Keep an symbol or icon on your desk or desktop, perhaps a picture of the earth from space or even a picture of a child’s mobile.
  3. Invest the time in .5 day or all day staff retreats to look at the big picture. For example, analyze the flow of an item from start to finish. 



We do need to focus on the small details to move ahead, but we also need to invest the time to look at the big picture, the child’s mobile to ensure that we are moving forward and not simply hopping up and down in one place.


Greetings from a wet and dark day here in Vancouver. I’ve been working on various projects today, and while preparing for a session next month in New York, came upon this great TED Talk from Carol Dweck.



Carol Dweck asks about our children. Are we raising them for now, instead of yet? Are we saying, “perhaps you just don’t have a math brain,” (now) or “wow this is a difficult problem, but with some effort, you’ll get it. Where do you think you should start?” (yet) When we praise or negate our children for their present intelligence,  present skills or beauty we (even) unconsciously set them up for a fixed mindset. However, when we praise or challenge our children about “yet, or not yet;” for their improvement, progress, or effort, we are helping to create a “growth mindset.” This is vital for healthy children as kids with growth mindsets are able to keep learning and growing, skills we need in abundance in adulthood.


I started to wonder then about us as leaders. Are we leading and managing based only on ‘now’ and missing out the tremendous possibilities of ‘yet.’ Are we assuming (a fixed mindset activity) that just because I cannot seem to do it now, I won’t be able to do it later? For example, I’m learning the guitar. I cannot play “Another Saturday Night”, the Sam Cooke song that was a hit for Cat Stevens, yet. That is very different from saying I cannot play the song. As difficult as it is to get my fingers to move from “A” to a “G7” right now, I will play the song, yet.


You see the amazing thing is that even a fixed mindset of many years, can be moved to a growth mindset. We know from the research (David Rock’s, book Quiet Leadership for example) that while it is practically impossible to deconstruct old wiring in the brain, it is easy for us to create new wiring. What that means is that we can change our minds. We can learn. We just have to see the power of growth, the positive power of yet, over the negative drain of now. 


Here are three suggestions to support you in creating a growth mindset in your team or organization:


  1. Start with yourself; work on your own language about yourself, especially when you make mistakes. When you change your self talk about your own mistakes into learning moments, you’ll find it far easier with to do that with individuals with whom you work.
  2. Praise wisely. Do not talk about a person’s talents or even gifts; praise them for their work and effort, the process and progress they have made.
  3. Support people in the change of mindset. Show people the data, play this TED Talk for them, or introduce them to David Rock’s work to show them that new ways and means are possible. The science is clear, our abilities are capable of great growth, at any age.



May this week be a week of learning and “yet.”

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

Word count this issue: 668

Estimated reading time:  4.0 minutes (including poem)


In early November of 2015, a new baby came into my girlfriend's family. His grandmother and I are presently 56 years old. When he is 56 it will be the year 2071. 2071?! This little boy will be growing up in the most amazing time. Rapid and radical technological changes occurring right now are impacting our time’s zeitgeist, politics, economics, and society. This new baby’s world could be like Star Trek; with a moral code that includes a ‘Prime Directive’, amazing medical advances, clean energy, an economy and society that honours every person’s gifts and a world that balances science, technology, ethics and art equally. Or, he could have a world that looks like The Terminator series of movies; a few violent humans clinging to an environmental disaster of a planet terrorized by binary machines. 


I want to challenge each of us, established leaders and emerging leaders to co-create  a world that is safe for all people. This is a call to co-create new ways of living sustainable and healthy lives for people, and the other inhabitants of this small blue planet. Tech systems are getting better all the time while the rest of us are playing games and watching Netflix! We need to be learning together, not just being entertained together. If we are to thrive in this new age, we must be better humans, for ourselves and for each other.


The fundamental questions for all of us are, who am I and who am I becoming? Remember, you are not what happened to you, instead, you are what you choose to become.


In 1895, the poet Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about growing up.




If you can keep your head when all about you

  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

  But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

  And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:


If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

  And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spokenFa

  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

  And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

  To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

  Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

  Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

  If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

  With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

  And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.



The obvious Victorian sexism noted, this poem calls all of us to the same questions “who am I and whom am I becoming? All of the leadership, management and technical skills you might have learned or practice are simply scratching at the surface of these fundamental questions. There is one thing I am sure of, the answers to these questions are not found by a Google search. They are found by challenging and hard work.


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

Word count this issue: 382

Estimated reading time:  2.45 minutes



A friend sent me this link to a BBC piece about “What Bosses are Really Made Of”



It’s a good read, and one theme is clear; we are all human and that apparently is surprising. I can attest, having worked with C-Suite people for the last 20 years, we are all human. Regardless of your position in an organization, you and everyone with whom you work is a human being. That may sound obvious, but when I think about it, the more I realize how often I fall into one of two traps in my thinking about the people with whom I work. I wonder if either of these, or others resonate with you?


One trap is that the people with whom I work are closer to objects than subjects. Words like ‘stakeholders’, ‘participants’ and even ‘human resources’ can lead me into this trap. Or, dividing groups into ‘us’ and ‘them’ frameworks, like production and sales, or management and staff, can lead me into objectifying the people in the other group.


The other trap for me is thinking that because we are all human, you must think and be like me. And of course when I think about it, I realize how absurd that statement is. And I know that I have all sorts of examples from my life. For example, thinking that people have similar family lives, or that they have come from similar life experience. Whenever someone says, “I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say…” they are making a huge assumption.



We know that no two brains are alike; each of us have different neural pathways, different ways of seeing and understanding. And no two of us have the same heart, the same values, the same belief systems guiding our behaviours and actions. It is in the varied diversity that collective creativity grows. We do not want to be, nor should we be the same. And we are all still humans, and need to be honoured and respected as such. Even if we are the CEO who made a dumb mistake in someone else’s opinion.