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"If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you."
Gordon McKenzie

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

Word count this issue: 491

Estimated reading time:  3:45 minutes

 

 

One of the fundamental challenges we face is our own bias to in-group vs. out-group in our minds. We tend to default in our thinking to giving too much credence and even forgiveness of foibles and follies to the people in our in-group and assign much deeper requirements of strengths and “goodness” to the people in our out-group. It is very difficult then for the people who are “out-group” to us to even be listened to, let alone appreciated. We tend then to look at these ‘other’ people as objects rather than subjects. People in our out-group are easily dismissed, or their actions or problems dismissed as ‘of their own making.’ People in our in-group are understood, or protected for doing the same thing; ‘it wasn’t their fault’, ‘they were forced into it,’ ‘they made a mistake.’ 

 

There are any number of examples of this kind of in-group and out-group thinking; for example, the responses of  wealthier people (many of whom might well have addictions to drugs like caffeine and alcohol), being quick to ignore the plight and tragedy of poorer people who are addicted to different stimulants or painkillers.  And it shows up in our workplaces with a striking frequency. The executive in-group, the labour in-group, the cliques that form within departments, sales sees production as the out-group, engineers see sales as the out-group. For the most part, we can live quite comfortably together, with little flareups occurring between the groups. However, we can begin, very quickly to turn people in the out-group into objects who need to be “dealt with” rather than fellow humans and colleagues with whom we work.

 

Here are three suggestions for staying focused on the ‘subjects’ with whom you work, even in other departments, or areas of your work:

 

  1. As much as possible use first names of individuals to describe your observations about people in other groups in your workplace; ‘Dave is doing xyz’ rather than ‘they are doing xyz’.
  2. Reach out and connect with people who are lower in the hierarchy than you. Extend your hand if you do not know them and say hello, with your name, even if they likely know it. 
  3. Listen carefully in meetings, even with the folks who are disagreeing. It means a lot to the whole group if you can respond to their comments by paraphrasing what they have just said, and acknowledge their point. For example, ‘thanks Jean, your point as I heard it is xyz. Thanks for naming it. We have chosen to go in a different direction, but we did consider your point in the our decision making.’ (Obviously you want to be telling the truth here.)

 

 

May this week be filled with mitigating out-group flare ups.

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

Word count this issue: 404

 

Estimated reading time:  3:30 minutes

 

One of the interesting tech developments over the past decade of course has been social media. The links we have been able to make and maintain over time and space because of Facebook and Instagram, to name only two, have been remarkable. And at the same time, the comments, especially about politics, religion, race, sexuality and gender under people’s posts appear to be from hecklers on steroids. 

 

There is a long tradition of heckling, especially from within a crowd protesting an unjust authority. In the Hunger Games saga, the Three Fingers Salute that individuals from within the crowds give Catniss, often at their own great peril, is a kind of heckling of President Snow and his cronies. It is a powerful and important protest. And heckling during theatre and arts events, including boo’s and jeers is also a way of showing displeasure with the act or the content. And these protests and jeers are from the relative safety of the audience. And there are various means of responding to hecklers that the participants in the show itself have, ranging from state sanctioned violence in the case of protesting a government, to insults and jeers right back at the heckler from the stage. I recall one particularly mean one from an actor back to a heckler, “obviously you’ve mistaken me for someone who gives a s@#$ about your opinion.” This lone shamed the heckler so much with the laughter from the audience that he slunk out of the theatre. 

 

Comments on social media, are often simply heckling.

 

I try to live by a rule that says comments on social media must enhance the other person, and never denigrate or hurt them. When we heckle each other on social media we too quickly fall into reciprocal shaming, like that I witnessed in that theatre. 

 

Two people, listening to each other, and advocating and inquiring about truth will be able to do far more, faster and more effectively than three or five or eight people heckling from the audience.

 

Protest is important, and it is most effective when it is public, and in person. For example, I look forward to the protests across North America from women marching together on Saturday. Perhaps we might see some Three Fingered Salutes! That will be great heckling. 

 

And in the meantime lets commit to less heckling on social media and more engagement on social media that enhances each of us.

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

Word count this issue: 365

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes

 

 

Hello from a cold and clear winter’s day in Vancouver. I wrote last week that the emerging new world begins with us.  

 

“The best responses will come from within ourselves, individually and collectively, as we grow in self-awareness, connectivity with each other, courageous perseverance, learning and disruptive spirituality. Each and every one of us is a gift to each other, and together we can imagine and co-create a better world for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. It will begin with us.”

 

Importantly, the world will change without us as well. We do have a fundamental choice; we can choose compassion, caring and collaboration, or we can choose narcism, exclusion and force as our basic ethics. My friend and sometime collaborator Quanita Roberson http://www.nzuzu.com/our_team gave me a new insight into choice the other day. She was saying that ‘we too often think of such choice as a ‘Mama’s choice’; there’s an obviously right choice, and an obviously bad choice. The choice we are each given is not a Mama’s choice.’ 

 

The world will continue, for good or ill, regardless of our choice. What that world looks like however does depend on us. 

 

We went to see Rogue One last night, and I kept seeing this choice reflected in the film, and the word that kept appearing in the script about this choice was “hope.” The choices we make today will bring hope to our children and grandchildren or they will bring fear.

 

We humans are that much closer to curing many cancers. We humans are building economic strength in more and more places in the world. We humans are educating more of us each year. We humans are making such a positive difference in so many ways, there is hope. And, we are threatened by a rising “Mordor” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordor based on fear, self-centredness and greed. The world will continue, how it will continue is up to us.

 

 

What is your choice, and what is the first step you will take?

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

Word count this issue: 421

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes

 

Last week I introduced some of my thinking about connectivity saying that you may have thousands of followers on social media, but that does not mean that you are connected. To be truly connected to another person in the digital (r)evolution, we need to make some conscious choices about the the nature and quality of the connections we are making. And for all of our connections through media and devices, our brains are wired for face to face communication.

 

I then introduced the idea of Dunbar’s number where it appears that we can handle a maximum of about 150 people in our ‘in-group.’ For many of us though, the 150 people who are in our in-group look and sound like us. One of the challenges is that we can fall into a group think trap. If you want innovation and creativity, you need to have diversity.

 

I see the three main elements for strong in-group diversity; respect, safety and fairness. Last week we looked at respect, this week, let’s explore safety.

 

The very best leaders are the ones who open themselves and their teams to new ideas, and new people, especially those who are different from the status quo. By pushing our own and our teams comfort zones our confidence and sense of safety grow. This holiday season, many of you will be generously donating to charities that support the less fortunate in your communities. Great, well done. And writing a cheque or sending an e-payment or clicking on a “donate here” button are acts of safety; you do not have to actually face the people who are less fortunate, you simply send them money. To push your safety zone, take the money to the charity’s office, or better yet, see if they need a volunteer for a shift or two. Go and meet people who appear different. In other words, push your safety boundary. There you will see the power of diversity and creativity. The more I can find myself working with people who are not like me, the safer I will feel. 

 

May you push the boundaries of your comfort zone this week.

 

Leadership Notes will not be published between Christmas and New Year and will return on the first week of 2017.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours, and I wish you a healthy and happy New Year.

 

 

 

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

Word count this issue: 389

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes

 

Happy New Year!

 

One of the joys of my New Year’s is reading through the Economist magazine’s annual “The World in...” issue. This year’s “The World in 2017” was no slouch.  I find the magazine intelligent, well researched and as objective as can be in this strange time. 

 

One of the many pieces that stuck out for me is by Deputy Editor Tom Standage (and as it is a subscription, I cannot share a link, but you can find commentary on line).  The article, called “Apply Within” explores the jobs of the future using US Department of Labour numbers. The largest expected growth job in the next decade is forecasted “Wind Turbine Technician” followed by Occupational then Physical Therapy Assistants. Deacons, Priests and Bishops were conspicuous by their absence.

 

The article ends with a story about Standage’s 16 year old daughter. “Inspired by Isaac Asimov’s classic robot stories, my 16-year-old daughter wants to be a robopsychologist—a trouble-shooter who figures out why robots are misbehaving. “That job doesn’t exist,” complained her school’s career adviser. “True,” my daughter replied, “but it probably will in 2025.”

 

I think she is right; a fundamental challenge for us is that the economy is changing. Many of us, and our children and grandchildren will be working in jobs we have not even imagined yet in the coming decades. 

 

 

As leaders at this time, I believe we have a moral obligation to be clear with ourselves and the people with whom we work; the economy is changing, the jobs are changing, and so we must change. No heroes, political or otherwise, can change the fact that technology is changing our economies. The best responses in the midst of these changes will not come from such fantasy heroes (regardless of what they might think). The best responses will come from within ourselves, individually and collectively, as we grow in self-awareness, connectivity with each other, courageous perseverance, learning and disruptive spirituality. Each and every one of us is a gift to each other, and together we can imagine and co-create a better world for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. It will begin with us.

 

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

Word count this issue: 406

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes

 

Well the polar vortex is providing clear blue skies and cold temperatures here on the Sunshine Coast of BC. We are in the midst of projects with clients and getting the house set up for the Christmas break. I’ve been thinking recently about connectivity.

 

You may have thousands of followers on social media, but that does not mean that you are connected. To be truly connected to another person in the digital (r)evolution, we need to make some conscious choices about the the nature and quality of the connections we are making. And for all of our connections through media and devices, our brains are wired for face to face communication. Simply put the more face time you have with another person, the more likely the two of you will be in each other’s in-group. Think for example how easy it is to have a mean spirited “shouting match” with a total stranger on social media. In part, that is because they are not part of your “in group.”  The evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar suggests that we can ‘know’  (they are in our in-group) about 150 people. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks . You can manage that number up or down a bit, but it seems we are wired to max at about 150 people in our ‘tribe.’ After that we start to form break away groups and silos.

 

For many of us though, the 150 people who are in our in-group look and sound like us. One of the challenges is that we can fall into a group think trap. If you want innovation and creativity, you need to have diversity.

 

I see the three main elements for strong in-group diversity; respect, safety and fairness. We’ll look at each one over the next few weeks.

 

Respect

 

We all need to feel that we have value and are an integral part of the group. That value is exhibited in our mutual regard. Respect is entirely reciprocal; if you want respect from another person, you have to respect them first. See out common ground, look to the gifts they bring to the team, and to your work.

 

 

May you respect more and be respected more this week.