"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
Mother Teresa

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

Word count this issue: 313

Estimated reading time:  2:15 minutes


Greetings from YVR, where I am enroute to Winnipeg for a session with a credit union client. It’s been about 6 weeks since I was here at the airport, and I was reminded of why summer travel can be so frustrating; long lines, kids, and tired parents trying to navigate a strange space.


I feel for them. And wonder about the metaphor of a family moving through a strange airport as the early days of a team adopting a new system or process.


There is the oblivious kid, tripping over their own back pack. The cranky kid, who just wants to get there. The bored teenager, far more interested in what is going on back at home than on the new adventure. And then the parents, the one who cannot believe that this is as difficult as it has been. The other parent who, thinking under their breath, “I told you so” about the other parent, is trying to keep the family moving forward, into the crowd, and hoping they’re all headed to the right gate.


Each of these characters, and others show up at the beginning of every change initiative. As exciting as the outcome might be, the journey can be exhausting. 


The strong choices we make drive the difference between a great trip and a “never again” one.


  1. Keep people focused on where we are going — the end result
  2. Keep the team together, and engaged — we all have jobs on the journey, and hold them accountable
  3. Don't lose your cool; we can put people into threat state very easily


As we move into the busyness of Fall, enjoy these last days of summer, and have fun with your friends and family, even the ones who keep tripping up.



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

Word count this issue: 510

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes


A couple of months ago I wrote about some initial thinking I’ve been doing about “Friendship Leadership.”


I wrote in  part, "Servant Leadership is a model initially explored by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970’s and 80’s. https://www.greenleaf.org/about-us/robert-k-greenleaf-biography/ "Greenleaf proposed that the best leaders were servants first, and the key tools for a servant-leader included listening, persuasion, access to intuition and foresight, use of language, and pragmatic measurements of outcomes.” ….Greenleaf’s work is seminal in my own thinking about leadership as supporting people in the vital work of becoming the person each of us are called to be.  [However], what if the next generation leadership model is actually "friendship leadership" where we are less servants of each other and more friends of each other. We have each others’ backs. We speak the truth about and to each other. We are accountable to and with each other. We stand together for the common good. We do need to make decisions in organizations, and move in directions that not everybody desires, but we can still be friends with each other, seeing for example that to everything there is a season, and sometimes the season calls for us to part ways.”


Since then I’ve been doing some more thinking and am curious about the connections you may be making.


  1. Unfortunately servanthood still has a hierarchical barrier that separates the leader from the lead. In Friendship Leadership, we are on the same journey, you may lead for this part, I may lead for another.
  2. In Friendship Leadership we speak well of each other. To use an antithetical example from the popular media at the moment, Mr. Trump is vilified as stupid and an idiot (and worse) by many of my news feeds. His supporters and the media they follow see the rest of us as stupid and idiotic (and worse) ourselves. These are not the words of friends. As a ‘friend’ of Mr. Trump who disagrees with many of his political actions and apparent motives, I can be clear and respectful about our disagreements, but I can never be personally rude. (I need to work on this.) The same thing can happen within an organization, for example across silos; ‘accounting are a bunch of idiots’, or ‘sales are just stupid’ are not the words of friends. Again, I can be clear and respectful about disagreements, but I must never be personally rude.
  3. Friendship Leadership takes time, largely because it is so fundamentally built on trust. This is exacerbated by our default to imagine that strangers are foes, unless there is a clear symbol of friendship evident. You and I are able to shorten that curve by consciously choosing to trust new people, choose to forgive old wounds and make amends for the wounds you have caused. 



I’m still thinking, and would love to hear about the connections you are making. 

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

Word count this issue: 318

Estimated reading time:  2:00 minutes


Greetings from the beautiful Sunshine Coast where we are ensconced, for a few weeks. A bit of travel back and forth to Vancouver and a couple of trips, but largely we’ll be here in Gibsons.


And today, between work assignments, I began to work on the chores. This first one is removing the caulking from around the shower in the small bathroom. It got me thinking about changing cultures. (And yes, I do see some strange connections in my mind!) All too often we presume that changing the culture on a team or in an organization can be done with some fancy words, some, platitudes and an all staff meeting. That is like simply applying the new caulking on the old in a shower. It might look great for a bit, but the old caulking, with the grime and even mould seeps through and soon enough the old supplants the new.


Changing the culture on a team or in an organization takes time, and early on some digging, getting the old embedded ideas and practices out and into the light of day. Only then can you begin to apply the new on a clean and dry surface.



One of the challenges with this metaphor is that you might infer I’m recommending ‘digging people out.’ That may be necessary in some instances for some individuals, but the real work is taking the existing team and leading them on a journey of self discovery, where they themselves make the changes, as opposed to have the changes happen to them. This requires that we recognize that each and every person on your team is a creative, smart, unique and talented human being. It takes time, but we can create cultures that look and feel brand new, to everyone. 

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

Word count this issue: 296

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


Good evening from Hillsboro, Oregon. We’re doing a little work, and a little vacation on either end of the gig here in the Portland area. It is a wonderful part of the world, and the people are just wonderful. Friendly, gracious hospitality abounds, and there is a sense of fun and quirkiness that makes us feel right at home.


For example at dinner last night, we saw a sign that said, “You cannot make everyone happy. You’re not a pizza.”


This simple statement is a profound lesson for all leaders, especially those who are relatively new to the role. There is a deep need in all of us to be liked, to be part of an in-group, even if your group is a group that eschews being liked, or being part of an in-group! We learn that the best managers are more interested in respecting and being respected than liking and being liked.


And it goes deeper than that; we are each responsible for our own joy, our own sense of what in French is joie de vivre; a zest, a joy for life. We are not responsible for other people’s happiness, even when they think we are. Now, part of Joy is to be found in companionship and mutual love and regard, but only part. Joy is also about self-respect, self reflection and self awareness. The most joyful moments may be in the company of others, but they are not dependant on others. 



So as people who work together, let’s remember that “you cannot make everyone happy. You are not a pizza.” You are though perhaps, your own pizza!  

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

Word count this issue: 216

Estimated reading time:  1:15 minutes


Greetings from beautiful Victoria, BC.  We’re here for a clergy conference, and the sunshine and cool breezes are steep competition to the conference! Part of me is hoping for rain tomorrow! :)


Working with my coach this week, uncovered an interesting bit of language. When we speak about coaching or leadership presence, what are we talking about? My coach, and these are his words, offered; “boundaries and clarity, no drama and deep compassion.”


As a leader, I am most present when all of us involved in the conversation are clear about the boundaries, we are not being triggered by our own ‘stuff’ in the conversation, or slipping into the drama about the problem, and we are recognizing that everyone, including the most apparently successful people in our workplaces, have deep wounds inside them. 


Many of our challenges as leaders occur when we are not present. They occur when we have not been clear about boundaries. They occur when we get triggered into drama, or when we are judging others, instead of listening and honouring them.


Boundaries and clarity, no drama and deep compassion. Sounds like some good work here for me. How about you?





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

Word count this issue: 293

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


How clear are your messages? Do we know what you are saying quickly enough?


I see on a friend’s Facebook pages that Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood have been in Edmonton this week on a Habitat for Humanity build. I have a confession to make. While I knew of songs like Rodeo and Friends in Low Places, I did not know much about Mr. Brooks, nor of Ms. Yearwood, until I discovered the Garth Channel on Sirius Radio.


It was on the Garth Channel that we heard about Mr. Brook’s advice to song writers. He notes that the first two songs of a lyric, (take, for example, “Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots” from Friends in Low Places) should tell you the key message of the song.


It got me thinking about clarity in conversations. How clear are you with your messages? Would everyone get the message you were trying to send if they read the first two sentences of an email?



I was reminded of a teacher of mine in grad school, who said that the worst words you could hear at a function were, “Rabbi, could you say a few words?” Those of us who have responsibility to “say a few words” from time to time, in a group, or one-on-one with our reports and peers must work very heard at clarity, and that requires that we be prepared, we take the time to craft our message very carefully. And might it be helpful to have a guideline that says, everyone will know the key message in the first two sentences?