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Mark Twain

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

Word count this issue: 638

Estimated reading time:   3.5 minutes


Periodically in my work I find myself on long flights like I have this week. Facilitating a planning session on Cape Breton Island Sunday, Monday Tueaday and then doing a organizational culture workshop on Bowen Island in BC on Wedneaday, meant a 6000 kilometre journey on Tuesday evening.


The gift of being able to move almost effortlessly between two sides of this country coupled with smart phone technology means I have the opportunity to be learning, almost constantly while I travel. Podcasts, audio books, online magazines not to mention interesting links shared on social media offer us an amazing array of learning.


It is clear that learning is one of the 5 Thrives for the Digital (R)evolution. There is an old adult education model that describes the fundamental challenge for us all. 


We are all unconsciously incompetent about most of the world and its wonders. When we become aware of something new, we become consciously incompetent. As we learn more about this new thing, we become consciously competent and finally after some practice we become unconsciously competent



In the Digital (R)evolution, every single one of us will be move from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence on a regular basis.  Interestingly, our ability to learn is in large part related to status. Years ago, one of my first projects as a brand new Training Officer was the learning and development side of a migration from WordPerfect 5.0 to Word 6. (Yes, that long ago!) The process we used was rather simple, two or three employees would meet with me for half a day, in the morning. I would show them the ropes in Word 6, and meanwhile the IT folks were literally removing WordPerfect 5.0 from their desktop and installing Word 6, so that by the time they returned to their station after lunch, they had to use Word 6.  An Executive Assistant (EA) who worked along side a very senior leader in the network, and had for many years, kept canceling her training sessions with me. She was ‘too busy’, she had ‘a vital report’, she had ‘a doctor’s appointment’, the list of excuses became quite long.   I wondered if it was a question of status for her. She was a ‘go to’ person on all sorts of levels, she worked with the most senior people in the network and beyond. She was famous for her attention to detail and expectations of perfection. I walked into her office one day and asked her if she’d like a special training session, just her, no one else. I could show her the basics, and leave her alone for a half hour to practice by herself, and then come back to show her some more stuff. She sighed and said, yes, that would be good. We set it up for the very next day, I showed up, we worked our plan, and I let her play with the mouse and make mistakes privately, and supported her every half an hour or so. It took her until about 2 pm that day, but she was ready to go back to work on Word 6. And she did. The lesson I learned was that sometimes we have to work around status, we have to honour that for some of us right now, and for all of us at one point or another in this (R)evolution, we will find ourselves in a place of conscious incompetence, that is we know that we don’t know, and that is a very uncomfortable place. It is however the place that learning begins.


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

Word count this issue: 376

Estimated reading time:   2:30 minutes


 “It is comforting to remember that perseverance is the story of humankind. We all come from ancestors who persevered. We wouldn’t be here without them. It's our turn now.” 


Margaret Wheatley


Good morning from a sunny and warm Gibsons BC. My forthcoming book, 5 Thrives for the Digital Revolution explores the implications for emerging leaders as the world changes. A vital ‘thrive’, a vital competency, my research points to is increasing our ability to persevere.


A few years ago my mother had a fall. Thankfully, she was in hospital, and so help was very close at hand. However, she did fall flat on her face, and had broken her cheekbone, poor dear. What was amazing though, was the story we heard from the nurse who came to her aid. Mum was on her way to the bathroom to brush her teeth after dinner. The nurse found her on the floor, blood coming from her nose and mouth, trying to pull herself up on her walker, toothpaste and toothbrush still in hand, still trying to get to the bathroom to brush her teeth! 


Those who know me and my siblings will immediately recognize our stubborn side. I believe stubbornness to be simply the shadow side of perseverance. And when held in the light, this stubbornness means that we will stand our ground when called, we will fight for an ideal or a good we believe in, and we will stand by our friends.  Living and working in the midst the Digital (R)evolution, requires perseverance. There is a great deal of fear in the world, and we need to persevere against the fear, persevere against the troubles, persevere against the dangers. We must persevere with health and strength, and persevere with a soulful confidence. And perhaps most importantly, we must persevere against the petty, the sharp and the short within ourselves.


Every time I feel like giving up, I recall the image of my then 84 year old mother, hurt and frustrated, pulling herself up, and staying focused on the work at hand.


What is the work in your life that requires your perseverance?




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

Word count this issue: 588

Estimated reading time:   3:45 minutes


Good morning from an overcast Gibsons BC. My forthcoming book, 5 Thrives for the Digital Revolution https://www.facebook.com/5thrives?fref=ts, explores the implications for all of us as the world changes. A vital ‘thrive’, a vital competency, my research points to is increasing our ability to be ‘Others Aware’, that is to place ourselves in the shoes of other people.


A fundamental challenge for us, especially living in the West, is the “Legend of the Lone Person.” Hollywood is constantly telling and retelling the “Legend of the Lone Person.” Westerns in the 40’s and 50’s told and retold how one (usually) man saved the town. Gritty crime dramas in the 60’s and 70’s told and retold how one (usually) man stood against the system. Even as Luke Skywalker uses “The Force”, (a great collective power), it is still he as a lone person who destroys the death star. Trinity and Morpheus wait for ‘The One’ they find in Neo Anderson. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is part of a group, but we the audience know who calls the shots. Salt is completely on her own, through out the film of the same name. Much beloved Harry Potter stands alone against Voldemort.


The Legend of the Lone Person though is not actually what happens, as much as we might like to think. The thinker, writer and education activist Parker Palmer writes "…scholars now understand that knowing is a profoundly communal act. Nothing could possibly be known by the solitary self, since the self is inherently communal in nature.".   


Others Awareness is absolutely vital. The day of the Lone Person is now over. The day of the Collaborative Person is now upon us.


Here in Canada this week, we are hearing the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. http://aptn.ca/news/2015/06/02/read-94-recommendations/ We have a great opportunity as Canadians, all of us, to move forward together based on “Others Awareness”.


In the organizations we lead, Others Awareness is as important. We need, for example to increase our interpersonal literacy. In conflict situations, this is especially true.The healthiest relationships include conflict, but managed, honoured and respected conflict. 


I was sitting in an airport lounge recently and the TV was tuned to a news channel. The show had two pundits, one right wing and the other left wing, shouting at each other about various points around taxation, elections and various other issues. Ironically, I had spent the previous two days working with a great group of managers., talking about the importance of strong relationships between people.  


If television is any reflection at all of our culture, it seems that the way people are to behave in conflict is to win at any cost, to combat, to fight, to argue, to keep harping on a position until by attrition, volume or exhaustion, a winner is declared. These  “world wrestling federation” models of relationships are not accurate, nor healthy models for us to use.


Engaging in conflict is one of the key ways that we learn from each other. And the key to such learning is humility; approaching a conflict with a position, fair enough, but recognizing in most situations, I may not have all the answers, and there may be more here for me to learn. 



May this week be filled with such learning opportunities for each of us.

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

Word count this issue: 429

Estimated reading time:   2:45 minutes


We’ve just had the first long weekend of the ‘summer’ here in Canada. It was wonderful on the Coast. Sunny, and warming up. We gardened, visited and barbequed; a good rest. On the recommendation of a young friend, I also started reading the Harry Potter books. I’ve seen most of the movies, but unlike so many people, I had never read the books. I have devoured the first and am finishing the second since last week.


Among many things I’ve been enjoying is the journey of self discovery. The books are not just about a boy growing into adulthood, they are about three young people; Harry, Hermione and Ron, uncovering their very beings. It is one of the key elements of leadership that we each uncover our own beings; we become increasing self-aware and find out why we’re here.


At the end of The Philosopher’s Stone for example Ron, the scared young boy, who has spent his life under the shadows of his very successful and knowledgable older brothers, bullied incessantly for his station in life, acts in a most courageous way, sacrificing himself (at least to unconsciousness) on the living chess board to allow Harry and Hermione the opportunity to move to the next part of the challenge. He moves beyond the story he has told himself and allows others tell about him, to find his own courageous being. Harry of course finds a number of these moments, including finding out he is a natural quidditch seeker, simply by trying something new out. Hermione, the rule following young girl, becomes an ethicist halfway through the Chamber of Secrets; learning to balance the rules and justice, what is the right thing to do?


As leaders, becoming self-aware is key to our long term success; Like Ron, we need to learn that as much as our egos might say different, it really is about others and the bigger picture. Like Harry, more often than not you just have to go for it, step on to the flying broom to find our gifts. Like Hermione, the models we’ve grown up with need to be challenged and even pushed aside to allow us to grow into who we are called to be.


May this week be filled with growth for each and every one of us.



Join the conversation about the future and our roles in an emerging new world at https://www.facebook.com/5thrives 


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

Word count this issue: 356

Estimated reading time:   2:15 minutes


Good morning from an overcast Vancouver. I’m excited my research for my forthcoming book, 5 Thrives for the Digital Revolution https://www.facebook.com/5thrives?fref=ts. In the midst of my research I found that  was neither a techno-pessimist, nor a techno-optimist; I do not see human kind going the way of the Terminator series of movies, nor do I see technology as bringing about peace and good will towards all humankind, as in the Star Trek series. I do see that if we are not conscious of the opportunities and risks in our use of technology the Terminator future is possible. More importantly though, if we are not self conscious, that is aware of who we are individually and collectively, then the Terminator future is very likely.


Being self-aware has always been the deep goal of maturity and praxis in philosophy, psychology, and spiritual development. Socrates, (470 - 399 BCE) is credited with the comment, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Carl Jung (1875 - 1961) said, “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas quotes Jesus of Nazareth, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” I wonder though that at this point in time, it is absolutely vital for us as a species that more and more of us, especially as leaders, become that much more self aware. Aware of our own strengths and limitations, aware of our gifts, and aware of our deepest fears. 



We are at the edge of a new age. Who we are in the next 10 years will have a profound effect on who our children and grandchildren will be. Now more than ever. I’m curious what are the tools you use to find out more about yourself? 


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

Word count this issue: 637

Estimated reading time:   3:15 minutes


One of my favorite podcasts is the CBC show, “Spark, with Nora Young.” It is smart, interesting and has an almost musical rhythm to it. It explores tech trends and ideas from across the planet and brings them to your device simply and elegantly. 


A recent show, is a fine example; http://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/285-data-collection-cheering-up-the-internet-and-more-1.3061448  In the midst of this show is a fascinating piece on fighting depression on a social network (beginning at 14.36). With the usual qualifiers and ethical boundaries, the idea seems to make good sense. A network of individuals who support each other not by platitudes like “it’s just a passing phase”, or “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, but with tangible, real time suggestions to change our thinking patterns.


Now when I talk about mental health here, I like to think about the whole spectrum. In the same way I could go from having a cold through the flu, pneumonia and to a deadly chest infection, in terms of my mental health, I can have a tough moment (an unexplained sneeze), through a mental cold, pneumonia where I need some time away and some pharmacological support, through to a very, very serious illness. 


In the work place we can have unexplained sneezes and colds a lot, to continue the metaphor. For example, there is an old case study I’ve used on and off for years. Your boss says to you, “I have some feedback for you from a customer. Let’s connect this afternoon at 3 pm to discuss it in detail.” Then some hours later at 3 pm you arrive and she is on the phone with another manager, and she says, “come back tomorrow at 9, we really need to talk about this.”


How do feel? What would you do? What does your default thinking take you? (Do you feel a sneeze coming on?)


In a workshop, I’d let participants talk about their responses and then tell them that their boss simply wants to discuss a ‘GREAT’ feedback, and to explore with you how you can replicate what you did to get that feedback with the rest of the team.


Frankly, most of the participants in the hundreds of times I’ve run this and similar case studies default to negative thinking in the first part of the case, before we know it is good feedback. What has got me inspired from the “Spark” episode, is the social aspect of finding new ways of changing our thinking. For example, what would it look like if you had a good friend at work?(check out question 10 from the now famous Gallup Q12 http://home.ncifcrf.gov/SAICFTraining/2011_Gallup_Questions.pdf ) If, in a situation where your negative default was kicking in, what in coaching circles is known as a ‘gremlin’, you could go to this friend, tell them what was going on, how you were triggered, and you want help in changing your thinking. It’d be like them giving you a warm lemon tea or a kleenex.


Some general questions you and your friend might explore include:


  1. What do I know to be true and what is fiction in the situation?
  2. What are 4 different possible outcomes?
  3. If you were coaching someone in the same situation, what would you have them do right now?
  4. In the bigger scheme of things, how important is this?
  5. What will you think of this 5 years from now?


Clearly, we have opportunities as leaders to make a difference in each other’s lives. It may be that supporting people in the vital work of changing their minds is one of the great roles for each of us.