"It is impossible to learn and look good at the same time"
Julia Cameron

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

Word count this issue: 372

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes (+ a lifetime’s wondering)


Over the last decades, as technology has became more prevalent we believed that machines will never be able to do the things humans can do. As recently as 10 years ago, driving a car or truck was seen to be something so complex only a human could do it. Driverless trucks are already working in Australian mines and in the Oil Sands in Alberta, and driverless cars are going to be available within the next three years. In more recent years, humans have staked a claim on creativity as how we see ourselves as unique; we humans are creative, computers are not. Well, CBC’s Q had a fascinating interview with an Australian researcher this week, Oscar Shwartz http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-tuesday-july-28-1.3170526/bot-or-not-can-computers-write-convincingly-human-poetry-1.3170540 who has designed a Turing Test asking people to determine if a poem was written by another person or a computer called ‘bot or not.’ Guess what, it is very difficult for most of us to tell.  So, if technology can do more of the things we used to believe were uniquely human, how might we uniquely define ourselves now?  What does it mean to be a human being, if more of what humans do is more effectively and efficiently done by machines?


Now I appreciate this is a very big subject for a short leadership blog! I’d like to invite you into a continuing conversation. A conversation with each other, with your families and friends, and with people you don’t know yet. 


Three questions for the conversation. First, what if who we are as human beings is related to our ability to choose between right and wrong? Are we the ethical creature; homo ethicus?  Secondly, if we are the ethical creature, what ethics will we use in what is now, a ‘global village?’ Thirdly, what is the ethical role of leaders in the global village? 


Send me a note with your thoughts and feel free to share widely.


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

Word count this issue: 394

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes


I am doing some research for a piece I’m writing for my ‘church land’ work.  The Hebrew Bible story I am working with is one of the Bible’s more disturbing, and painfully human stories. It is also a fascinating look at ethics and leadership. http://bible.oremus.org/?version=nrsv&passage=2+Samuel+11:1-15 


David, the King, sees a woman, Bathsheba, bathing on the roof. (Yes that is the scene to which Leonard Cohen’s song Halleluia alludes. Here’s a link to kd lang’s live version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE ) David and Bathsheba “lay” together and she conceives. Now they have a problem, because Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, is at war for David and so cannot possibly be the father of the child. David then tries and fails to get Uriah to sleep with his wife, but the dutiful soldier refuses. Finally David sends word to his General, Joab, via Uriah himself in an agonizing irony, to send Uriah to the front lines and to leave him vulnerable to the enemy’s archers. In short, David orders Joab to kill Uriah.


This story is human because of the place of power, sexuality, action and consequence. It asks us all very deep questions.  It asks equally deep questions for us as leaders.


I often use this story in retreats.  I ask the participants to reflect on a number of questions, including, ‘which character in the story resonates the most with you, at this time?’ One of the most interesting answers was when an elder in a group said, “Joab.”  He then said, “I have been ordered by my bosses to do things to other people I did not want to do.” 


There was a long silence in the group.


I wonder, as you think about your work as a leader, have you found yourself having to follow through on actions that pushed against your own ethics? Have you ordered others to do things that crossed your own, or their ethical boundaries? How did you respond? What lessons did you learn? If you had to do it over, what, if anything would you do differently? 


To explore more, as these questions may get you thinking, just email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  



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

Word count this issue: 366

Estimated reading time:  1.55 minutes


Greetings from another beautiful day on Canada's west coast.


I've been working hard with my editor on my book, and we're getting very good traction. I've been reflecting through the process about the importance of candour and feedback.


Many of the emerging leaders with whom I work (and those who have been managing and leading for some time) talk of the challenges of giving feedback; I don't want to hurt the person, they don't listen, they just get upset for no reason, they should know, and a host of other experiences that wind up hindering honest, clear feedback. 


There are some good suggestions on how to deliver feedback in the business literature, including for example 'the no sandwich' where the manager gives the negative feedback between two slices of positive feedback.


The best in my experience is to think of the issue as a monkey on the back of the employee, getting in the way of them performing at their best. His helps distinguish between the person and the issue or behaviour; the monkey is the problem, not the person.


The trick is to get the monkey off the persons back and onto the table in front of the two of you to explore. One of the worst things you can do is to simply take the monkey off the person's back and put it on your own; remember you have your own!


To get the monkey from the person's back into the table requires a little finesse, discovered best through practice. There are though three basic principles for dealing with monkeys of this type:


1. Start early, a small monkey is easier to move than a chimpanzee or gorilla.


2. Ask questions about the impact of the monkey on the person, we usually buy in more quickly to seeing monkeys when we see the impact they have on us.


3. Appreciate the person for dealing with the monkey, a pat on the shoulder, a quiet word, or a thumbs up and a thank you will go a long way to keeping that monkey from returning.


By focusing on the monkey, not the person, you will find it much easier to offer important and useful feedback.


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

Word count this issue: 269

Estimated reading time:   1.5 minutes


I was working with my editor recently, and in the conversation we were exploring the question ‘who am I.’ This is an ancient and deep question for leaders. For example, in the Hebrew Bible, Moses meets the “Burning Bush” Moses asks ‘who are you?’. The reply from within the bush is YHWH or Yahweh. And here’s the really interesting part, YHWH can be translated into English as “I am who I am” or, “I am who I will be.” 


A challenge for us as leaders is what do we mean by our own answer to the question, ‘who are you?’ Does our answer imply a certain static stability when you say, ‘this is who I am?’ It might even be ‘this is who I  am, take it or leave it.’  Might it be better for all of us as leaders to be ‘becoming’, in a way, our own “I am who I will be?” To recognize, especially in the midst of a dramatically changing economic and social landscape, that we are becoming, rejuvenating, re-creating, emerging all of the time. To recognize that the leader you are in 6 months will be that much better, that much more experienced than the leader you are today?



I’d love to hear your thoughts to the questions, who are you? Are you being, or becoming? In the meantime, may this week, be filled with learning so that you and I might each be that much better as leaders next week.


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

Word count this issue: 335

Estimated reading time:  1.45 minutes


Good morning from a smokey south coast of British Columbia. 


Two conversations with mentors this week struck me. The first, walking down the street Sunday, I mentioned reconnecting with someone with whom we both have worked. My mentor said, quietly, 'oh, so and so is so ticked off with me. I said no to a request they made.' Then he paused and said, 'actually these days, he's not alone, there are a few people ticked off with me.'  We then both chuckled when I said, 'yeah, welcome to leadership!'


The second conversation, with another mentor involved him quoting a mentor of his, 'if you want to be able respond responsibly to a given situation, do not let self pity and blame get in the way.'


Three things have got me thinking after these two amazing conversations.


1. The importance and power of mentors, we all need a Dumbledore or a Morpheus in our lives! If you don't have one, invite one into your life. I'm so fortunate to have a couple. I also honour their mentors, whose voices I hear echoed down to me.


2. Real leadership is not about being liked, it is about being respected. This is one of the most difficult lessons we learn as emerging leaders. People will be ticked off, and you need to be able to chuckle and know that they are confusing being ticked off with you with actually being ticked off with the decision you made. 


3. Then, you need to get on with the work at hand; self pity and blame are ways of deflecting reality away from ourselves. While they may work for a short period to help us through a dark time, real healing happens when we can move beyond them and see our own responsibility in the given situation.



May this week be filled with mentor moments for all of us.


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

Word count this issue: 563

Estimated reading time:   3.0 minutes


In the Veronica Roth’s novel Allegiant, Tobias “Four” Eaton says, “There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”


We, individually and collectively, need to be courageous in themidst of the dramatic changes occurring all around us in the midst of the Digital (R)evolution. We need to look beyond the way things have worked in the past.  We need to focus on gritting our teeth and trying new things. Each and every day, try something you haven’t done. Try a different food, take a different way home from work, change the furniture arrangement in your home, do a different circuit in the gym, say yes to an idea at work. If you are normally optimistic, spend a week thinking about risks, if you are normally pessimistic, spend a week thinking about possibilities. In Myers Briggs terms, if you are an ENFJ for example, try to be more introverted, dig into yourself for answers. Think more about facts than your intuition.  Be more spontaneous than planning. We have all sorts of ways and means of trying new things. The more we do, the more we will change ourselves. The more we change ourselves, the more courageous we will be. Because perhaps the worst thing that has happened for us in the past 20 years is that we are now more afraid.  Fear filled people do not make good decisions.


Finding the courage to change our thinking is vital, and although difficult, we are able to do it. The science of changing your thinking is often linked to neuro plasticity. This is the brain's ability to reorganize itself. In short it allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to adjust themselves in response to new situations, changes in their environment, disease or injury. One way of thinking about how neuro plasticity works in our lives is thinking about a healthy breaking up of lovers. Our brains create neural pathways about each other. Our favorite walks, favorite restaurants, the things we do together, the songs we listen to, the food we ate, as well as the jokes and laughter we share. The sounds of each other's voices and the names we have for each other, are carved into these neural pathways. It takes courage at the end of a love affair to create new neural pathways; we keep running into people who knew “us”, we find ourselves in the same restaurants, or hearing songs that remind us of the other. Our default towards sameness and routine that lies deep within our brain holds on for a long time, and we need to consciously and courageously decide to do new things, to metaphorically and literally go down a different road.


May this week be one of different roads and new discoveries for each of us.