"The four most important words in any organization: 'what do you think?'"
Dave Wheeler

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A colleague on a conference call this morning asked me how I was doing today, you know in that kind of “getting started in a meeting kind of way” we ask such things. To her credit, her ears perked up when I replied, “I’m doing quite well, all things considered.” In a world fraught with pain and suffering, in the midst of life’s ups and downs I have come to understand one thing so far; I’m doing quite well, all things considered.
I have made mistakes. I have betrayed dearly loved friends. I’ve lied in the past. I have made bad choices. I have been, all in all, quite human. And I have made positive differences in people’s lives. I have loved dear friends. I have spoken my truth. I have made good choices. I have been, all in all quite human. And I’m only 51, so there’s ample opportunity to make mistakes, and make positive differences in people’s lives still to come! All of this to say, I’m learning not to punish my self too much for mistakes.
I’ve learned that one can view the baggage we carry through life, especially our mistakes, like a backpack. Every now and then, one needs to stop walking and rearrange the back pack because something from inside it, is sticking in your back. One of these sticking points in my backpack is shame. I carry it with me, and as I said in a private correspondence last night, for some mistakes, the associated shame “will mold my life.” Shame, in it’s positive sense helps us to make amends, to make a difference next time, but taken too far, it becomes debilitating. Rather than molding it becomes the central force in one’s life. The rearranging in my backpack has consisted of being accountable for the pain I have caused, feeling guilt and shame for that, and then working very hard within myself to “be ok with that.” I mess up, and I do well; it’s what makes me human. I still feel the guilt and shame, but I don’t let it rule my life, as I know that there is light and dark in each and every one of us.
As leaders it is absolutely vital that we be self-aware. In large part, that self-awareness is about taking the dark parts of us, and examining them, wondering about them, being curious about them. Asking ourselves; why do I do that? what prompts or pulls me in that particular direction? Leadership is a voyage of vulnerability; it requires us to face those dark parts of ourselves, always balanced with the light parts, and working to come to terms with our dark side. It is from within that voyage of vulnerability that we become stronger, more balanced, and wiser leaders. It is out of that journey we might more accurately say, “I’m doing quite well, all things considered.”
May we all find some time for a vulnerable voyage this week.  
Good afternoon from a sad and embarrassed Vancouver, where, as you probably know, the Vancouver Canucks lost in the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Boston Bruins. And then, a small group of young men, fuelled by alchohol, began to riot; burning cars, breaking windows and fighting with each other. The hundreds of thousands people packed into the downtown core to watch the game were trapped between police in riot gear and the young men. It was an awful night, with flames and smoke, mace and batons, and the constant sound of helicopters overhead. We live in a neighbourhood about a halfhour walk from the site of the riot, so were witness only to the smoke and helicopters. A number of our friends who live in the downtown core posted on Facebook last night, “Home safe.” We all breathed sighs of relief.
So, as sad and awful as last night was, what is the link to leading people and making a difference in organizations? Well, as easy as it may be to say; that’s just sports fans, or they’re just hooligans or criminals, the fact of the matter is that it was pretty regular people downtown last night. There were no masked anarchists, no evidence of gang members, no dangerous escaped criminals. These are not people society needs to be protected from. These are our sons. (There is little or no evidence of young women doing much more than flashing their breasts at cameras during the riot.) Many of these young men probably have jobs, or go to school, or ride on the subway with you and me. What happened here last night was despicable, and terrifying, all the more because it was not someone else, it was us.
I wonder if part of the issue is that we don’t really have a sense of eldership in our communities or organizations. There is a story about a group of elephants who terrorized a group of villages in western Africa. The experts noticed that the group were all adolescent males. Instead of shooting them, a small group of adult males were brought in and within a month, the adolescents had calmed down, and were behaving. When the elders for the young men of Vancouver fight, slash and break each other’s backs to get to the Stanley Cup, what would we expect their young male fans to do when they lost the game. And in our organizations, if the older adult males in your culture swear, slam doors, hit desks, threaten overtly or covertly, or generally push their way through decision making, what do we expect the younger men to do in response? And to be clear I’m not calling for a feminization of organizations, we need all genders and all the perspectives therein in our organizations to work at our best. But we need to take the creative and action oriented energies of masculinity and harness them to move our organizations and communities forward. The only way to do that is through modelling, mentorship and eldership between generations of men and women.
May we all make a difference in a younger person’s life this week.  
I’ve been struck by a wonderful creative energy in the past four or five days, literally bursting at the seams with possibilities and ideas. Of course, that challenge for me is to make these ideas concrete. Wonderfully, that has been happening. A planned trip to Australia is emerging as a kind of “walkabout” with a 6 day drive into the outback on my own; work on webinars on difficult interactions and coaching completed; and the outline of a book on peer coaching essentially written between Halifax and Vancouver on Saturday! It has been a great few days! And what has been most fascinating has been reading and re-reading Parker Palmer over the last few days, and thinking about how we know what we know, how we transfer knowledge and the impact on leadership.
Our culture largely assumes that knowledge is about objective facts and data. We all too often assume that leaders are then filled with that kind of knowledge; they are the “go to people” when we have questions, we seek their directives, we are easily impressed by people with data that has been neatly placed into a PowerPoint presentation. And at some level, we do need a certain level of expertise and knowledge in certain areas to have the “street cred” to be able to lead. What is most fascinating though as Parker Palmer reminds us, is that at a very deep level, knowledge and wisdom transfer are in fact all about relationships. I recall a history teacher in high school who was obviously very intelligent, could quote all the right facts and dates, but (from my perspective) was not able to relate to me and the other kids. I remember him lecturing us that the War of 1812 was actually fought between 1812 and 1814, rather than asking us to consider what it would look and feel like for the Americans when the Canadians and British burned Washington in that war. Or consider the very “knowledgable” colleague with whom I worked in a call centre years ago, who had a jar on her desk and would actually charge .25 per answer she had to give to new people. She was consistently surprised when she did not get the supervisory jobs she was applying for.
Both of these examples highlight the inextricable link between knowedge transfer and relationship.We live in a time when our organizations are dependent upon learning for their success. Arie de Geus of Royal Dutch Shell said, “Learning faster than your competitors is the only sustainable competitive advantage in an environment of rapid change and innovation.” And how do we learn most effectively? We learn together. We ask questions of each other, we challenge each other, we listen to each other, we attend to each other. Without relationship, I will just as soon disengage, and neither of us will learn.
And then, almost like icing on the cake, this afternoon I was reading a new publication by the Conference Board of Canada “It’s Not Just Your Children’s Facebook Anymore” By Kent Greenes, Diane Piktialis and Susan Stewart http://www.conferenceboard.ca/temp/1eeeab34-5b3d-493a-a733-a7830bfc687f/A-0351-11-EA.pdf where they note, using a metaphor of knowledge transfer as a shared meal: “as employees nosh on the knowledge that’s been prepared and disseminated through the tools of social media, they are connecting with each other… Social media both enables and necessitates personal interaction, bringing employees together…helping everyone get to the table faster, and giving them a customized and fortifying meal. When you enhance knowledge transfer with social media it’s a case of two plus two equaling five. Weak ties between employees …become as productive as stong ties, connections become collaborations and magic happens.” (Emphasis added)
As much as I appreciate the power of social media, I would add that some basic emotional intelligence around face to face relationships will create and maintain the same magic! The key here, face to face, or through social media is the vital power of the relationships.
May each of this week take the opportunity to work on a relationship, and thereby learn something new.
Good morning, from a sunny and much warmer Vancouver. It felt so good to walk into the office today with the sun on my face.
I was reminded yesterday, working with a client, of the words of Richard Rohr who said, “It’s not how they see the world, it’s how THEY see the world.” How often we miss the vital fact that each of us has our own vantage point. That vantage point is informed by our experiences, our successes, failures, loves, broken hearts, self awareness, self esteem, and innumerable other aspects that make up our lives.
A simple example will suffice. I use a short case study in some of my workshops where an employee is told by his/her manager at about 9 am to come and see the manager at 2 pm. When the employee shows up at the appointed time the manager is late, and then spends time on the phone before turning to talk to the employee. In the case study we are then asked to reflect on the feelings and thoughts that came up for us if we were this employee. Almost everyone has negative responses, including feelings of concern, apprehension, frustration and even anger about the waiting time between 9 am and 2 pm. I liken it to being called to the principal’s office in high school; most of our experiences of such authority are quite negative. The case study then adds a piece about the manager wanting to compliment the employee based on some very positive  feedback from a customer. We then debrief about what the manager could have done differently.
I think that Rohr’s words speak volume here. The manager in the case study may well have intended to pass on a compliment and thereby perhaps encourage and motivate the employee. However, because of how the employee “sees” the world, the best intentions of the manager may well lie tattered on the floor. Our actions are what our colleagues see, not our intentions. Our actions feed the vantage point of the employee, our actions fit into the story they have about themselves and about the world. And it is often the case that such stories and vantage points can be quite negative. By matching our actions with our intentions, when giving either positive or negative feedback, we are more likely to be understood.
May this week bring each of us ample opportunity to match our actions and intentions, and perhaps even to see the world through a colleague’s eyes.

Good morning from a very excited Vancouver! The local National Hockey League team has advanced to the finals, and the possibilities of the team drinking from Lord Stanley’s Cup are now very real indeed.

I must admit, I’m not the world’s biggest hocky fan, (I was watching the final episode of Glee, if the truth be known!) I really only know about how the team has fared due to the shouts of excitement or the groans of despair from the hundreds of apartment windows around our building. But there was a wonderful moment in last night’s game that has reminded me of an important facet of leadership; being able to respond to the unexpected.


Have a look at either of these clips, if you find yourself at an NHL page, the clip you’re looking for is called “seing is believing.”

The game is tied, this is the second period of overtime, and a Vancouver defenceman shoots the puck along the boards, every person but one, ‘follows’ the puck and given all of their expertise, their many years of experience, they look to where the puck should be. One player, number 3, Bieksa, is the only player on the ice to see that the puck has bounced back onto the ice surface, and he shoots it towards the net. Even the goalie is looking the other way, and before anyone else knows what’s happened, including the announcers, a goal is scored.

This amazing moment has struck a chord with me. First, how many of us are actually like most of the members of both these teams? We know what to do, we anticipate, we do our jobs very well and we “follow the puck.” But notice how every now and then, life bouces in a different way and most of us are left wondering what just happened?  Can we make the most of the unexpected bounce? Can we take the opportunity as it is presented even when no one else see’s what’s happening? Can we act indepently, especially when everyone on the team heads in a different direction? Can we be vulnerable enough to take a chance on a different way of seeing the world?

May this week give us each an opportunity to respond to life’s bounces in new and unexpected ways.

Good morning, there was a glimmer of sunshine this morning here in Vancouver, so there are signs of summer on the way!
I’ve been reflecting recently about a comment from a friend recently who said, “part of being adult is choosing to do the right thing, even when it goes against what we want.” As much as I hate being an adult sometimes, I have learned that choosing the right thing is much better for me in the medium and long term, than simply choosing what I want. And this is most especially true in helping build my praxis as a leader.
Choosing the right thing to do is a mark of leadership. In most cases as a leader, it is not about what I want, it’s about what’s right for the organization, what’s right for the people around me. Or, as another friend puts it, “the greatest good for all concerned.” Now that’s not to say that I must act as a martyr, saying things like “don’t worry about me, I’ll be ok over here while you do whatever it is you’re doing.” Choosing the right thing to do is about my own integrity, my own ability to live with myself, knowing that I have made a difference for the organization and for the people around me.
Now one of the challenges I submit is that it is almost easy to make decisions in the best interests of the organization, if not the people. What interests me is do we do the same in our personal lives? Do we live with the same level of integrity about doing what’s right, and not necessarily what we want? I’ve been learning that when we talk a good game at work, and then behave differently at home, we find ourselves in very deep trouble; hurting the very people we love the most, and slowly but surely eventually losing our credibility at work. We reach moments of deep inner crisis and are often lost and confused, all because we didn’t choose what was right, and tried to get what we wanted.
It is interesting to once again quote Mick Jagger here in “Leadership Notes”; “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need.”
May this week bring each of us another opportunity to choose what’s right.