"Lord, grant that we may always be right, for thou knowest we will never change our minds."
Old Scottish Prayer

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

Word count this issue: 367

Estimated reading time:  2.45 minutes


I had a great lunch last week with a friend and sometime colleague, who is a former nurse. We were talking about old habits we have with people and how we can fall right back into them. For example, when you go home for the holidays and find yourself falling into the same routines with your siblings and parents; the same roles (and fights) get played out.


This also happens in work places, especially when people have been working together for a few years; our assumptions and stories about each other and ourselves put us into the same ruts, the same paths.


Part of the issue is related to how our brains work. A way of thinking about our brains is to think of them as having two systems, the first is the fastest, and includes all our emotions, our learned behaviours, our unconscious and our habits. My friend likens this to old logging roads. Even though the forest may have grown over them after a time, they are still there, and can be put into use at the drop of a hat. (Or at the drop of a comment by a parent or sibling, or longtime co-worker)


The second system, and the more expensive in terms of energy, is where our rational, creative, insights and ideas are germinated. This system can over ride the first and faster thinking, but we have to be aware, to make a conscious choice to us it. We have to choose to use this second system. It might help to think of it as a chair lift that goes up perhaps a different route than the logging road. It’s expensive to build (a few lessons learned for example and and few new connections made), and there is a cost in energy and conscious choice to get on the chair lift. But when the comment from a parent, a sibling or a longtime co-worker comes up, we can choose the chair lift rather than the old logging road.



May this week be filled with new insights and possibilities.

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

Word count this issue: 285

Estimated reading time:  2.15 minutes


One of the great joys of my work is working with emerging leaders. I learn much more from them, than they learn from me I am sure. I was in a conversation with one such person a couple of days ago, and he was talking about a discipline that he called “custody of my mouth.”


We were speaking about his learning over the last couple of weeks and he spoke of watching another leader being careful with his words. The emerging leader said, “he is so good at having custody of his mouth.”


I asked him about it and he explained that it was his way of reminding himself that people pay attention to his words simply because of his role. The words that come out of his mouth carry weight and he is responsible for them. All of us as leaders need to keep custody of our mouths; we are responsible for what comes out of them.


Here are three ways you can keep custody of your mouth more effectively:


  1. Always match what is in your heart with what comes out of your mouth. Or put another way, don’t lie. 
  2. Remember the adage; is it true? is it necessary? is it kind? If you answer ‘no’ to any of those questions, why speak?
  3. The first thing that comes to mind is more often than not your habitual thinking. Give yourself time to hear other people, to see different perspectives and gain new insights before you speak.



May this week be filled with opportunities for us all to have custody of our mouths.

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

Word count this issue: 533

Estimated reading time:  3.45 minutes


“Time is on my side” The old Stones tune has been rattling around my brain for a couple of days. Heading to a meeting I stopped in at a Starbucks and using my app to pay for my tea, the barista mentioned that I can now order from my app and it will be ready for pick up when I arrive. The instructions card is titled “No time? No Line.”


If you do not have time to get a coffee or a snack, you’re not thinking. Seriously, if you are that busy, or that late, your brain is reacting, not thinking. 


We are learning from neuroscience research that our brains might be described as having two systems, known by many as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is the fast system. It is associative, automatic and unconscious. It is the system that holds your habits, holds your quick responses, your ability to react and even to drive and talk at the same time. It is the default system that kicks in when we are stressed, when we are under threat, like when we are late, and too much to do to wait in line for a coffee. System 2 thinking is the slow system, that appears to be distinctively human. It is controlled and controlling and conscious. System 1 looks after the default, the day to day, while System 2 is where we think, where we create, where we navigate the complexities of the world we live in. System 2 is also directly related to our vital social needs like self-regulation, impulse control and will power. System 2 is where we think.


In the ‘knowledge economy’ we are paid to think. If you are so busy you can’t think…. well there’s a problem.


Here are three suggestions to help keep your slower but more valuable System 2 on line:


  1. Use line ups as times for quiet mindfulness; just focus on your breathing, don't let yourself go to “monkey mind” (Do the same thing sitting in a dentist chair, or waiting for medical appointments.)
  2. Book quiet time, even just 10 minutes every morning in your calendar, and treat it like an appointment with yourself, to think about who and what your are grateful for
  3. Stop watching the news and reading the paper every day, go to 4 days a week. The news is a product, with a rhythm for every story that triggers System 1, it compels us to react, not to think. Listen to music, read a novel, talk with your family, instead of watching the news for at least 3 days a week. 


The key to success in the knowledge economy is to think. And to do that we need to get our thinking brains, our System 2, in gear. For that, “Time is on my side.”





My apologies for missing last week. My Mum had a bad episode and so I was focused on family.  It was good for her, and for our family. I am so thankful to have had the chance to engage so fully.

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

Word count this issue: 276

Estimated reading time:  2.15 minutes


As some readers will know, a substantial part of my work hovers around the intersection of spirituality and leadership. What does it mean, for example,  to be a leader informed by spiritual practice and discipline? 


I was struck by my friend and colleague Peter Elliott’s sermon from this past Sunday, and how parts of it were very clearly helpful for leaders. http://thecathedral.ca/sermons/dean-peter-elliott-3/ The second half of the sermon explores the scene where John the Baptizer, a kind of prequel guy to Jesus of Nazareth is speaking to a crowd gathered on the banks of the Jordan. Essentially John is saying, “you don’t get it, there is another way of living.” He then says, “listen, if you want to bring about change, share, be fair and don’t bully other people.” Share, be fair and don’t bully.


Imagine what your organization or team would look like if everyone shared knowledge, compassion and ideas. Imagine what your organization or team would look like if everyone on the team were treated and treated each other fairly. And imagine what your organization or team would look like if there was no bullying. Just imagine.


This is possible for your team or organization, and it starts with you. Share your knowledge, compassion and ideas. Be fair, including engaging with people, setting and living up to expectations and giving clear explanations about your thinking and decisions. And don’t bully; No shouting, no humiliation (even in jest), no public reprimands. It starts with you.


If you want change towards an even healthier workplace, think about how you can share more, be more fair and lead, don’t bully.



This will be the final Leadership Notes for 2015. We’ll start the conversation again in the first week of January 2016. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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

Word count this issue: 326

Estimated reading time:  2.45 minutes


Happy New Year, and I wish us all a healthy and prosperous 2016.


I’ve had a very busy few weeks. My 87 year old Mum broke her hip. She’s back in her residence and is recovering, but the old girl has taken quite a hit with the break, the surgery and the drugs. A new program with the Neuroleadership Institute is occupying much of my time in learning. Family time was stretched thin, sometimes but we managed, and of course the joyful madness of Christmas at Christ Church Cathedral and 4,000 folks in 24 hours! All of this has got me thinking about rest. 


The science is clear, we need rest and down time. http://www.davidrock.net/files/02_The_Healthy_Mind_Platter_US.pdf While small numbers of us require more or less, the average person needs about 8 hours of sleep in 24, including naps. We also need down time, that is time for daydreaming, and just ‘chilling’ on a regular basis for our brains to work most effectively. In the midst of heightened busyness in business this is a very important challenge to the status quo. When was the last time you responded to the question, ‘how are you doing?’ with the words, ‘just chillin’’? Most likely you’ve at least felt compelled to provide a narrative about how busy you are. (See the first paragraph!)


You see, I also went for walks. I slept in, often. I chilled. And it was good.


Here are three things you can do, starting right now to help your brain do the required processing during sleep and down time.


  1. Don’t look at a screen for at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. 
  2. Leave your devices in another room at night. 
  3. Use a timer on a device to give yourself a few 1 - 2  minute breaks where you can day dream, or simply explore your own breathing.


And remember, your family probably appreciates the gifts that your hard work produces, but they (and you) are far more interested in your presence and engagement with them.



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

Word count this issue: 342

Estimated reading time:  2.45 minutes


I’ve been thinking a lot about learning recently. What are my learnings this year? What are some of the ways we can enhance the learning of our selves and our teams during this challenging economy and the emerging one we are already experiencing?


One way is to make the learning as visceral as possible. The idea of visceral learning is simple. In the words of a great teacher of mine, Juanita Brown, “the collected wisdom of any given room is exponentially greater than the wisdom of the person standing next to the PowerPoints.” Learning styles vary from person to person, each of us want to learn in our own style, and on your own terms. More often than not, though group learning is a key to success. That is not to say that people with the knowledge already in hand are not useful; but rather than standing at the front of the room telling us what to do next, the appropriate role is standing/sitting within the group, guiding and coaching. Watch a group of kids learn to skip rope, or play a game of street hockey. The wisdom is already in the group; there may be an older sister or brother who explains the basics, and corrects and guides, but it is the kids themselves, immersed and in the group who actually play the game; and with practice become very adept at it. The worst thing the older sister or brother could do would be to line all the kids up in a row, wheel in a data projector and give a 1 hour lecture on skipping rope or playing street hockey. So why on earth would we expect that education, training and learning in our networks or teams would work any differently?


I wonder then, what have been the best learning experiences for you this year, and how can you be more visceral in your learning next year?