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

Word count this issue: 278

Estimated reading time:  1:30 minutes


Greetings from a warm and gorgeous Gibsons BC, where we have moved to our summer headquarters. I am very, very fortunate. 


Working with a coaching client earlier this week, and we were talking about creating one’s future. I misheard him and checking asked, “did you just say, curating your future?” He said “no, but I like it!” Curating your Future. What might that look like?


As you look forward in your life, I think there would be at least 3 elements to curating your future.


  1. Know the story you are trying to tell. Explore questions like “who am I”, what is my purpose? There is a beautiful image from American writer, Frederick Buechner http://www.frederickbuechner.com. He says our ‘vocation is where our heart’s gladness meets the world’s hunger.’  The answer is close to the story you are trying to tell.
  2. The past is important because of the lessons you learn. There is an old adage from Carl Jung, “I am not what happened to me, I am who I choose to become.” Importantly, my choice about who I choose to become needs to be at least in context of the lessons I have learned. 
  3. The future emerges from the small steps. What ever you are doing, even if it appears a small step, do it to the best of your ability at the time. The habits you build today will become strong cables, so make them good habits.



I’m sure there are other elements to curating your future, I’m curious about what you think they might be?

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

Word count this issue: 305

Estimated reading time:  1:50 minutes


Greetings from Toronto, where I am in the midst of a 3 day leadership development day with a client. It’s a larger group and I’ve been using music to call them back from breaks. One of the participants asked me if I had any ACDC in my music and I said, “of course.” Next break was called back with the assistance of “Thunderstruck.” And of course the whole group of them started head banging; I thought, I think I’ve found their rhythm.


We spoke later about Daniel Kahneman’s work on System 1 and System 2 thinking: http://bigthink.com/errors-we-live-by/kahnemans-mind-clarifying-biases. System 1 thinking is our fast, habitual, easy thinking and System 2 is our slower, more difficult, challenging and effortful thinking. We too often just use System 1 thinking because it is easier, and if we used our System 2 Thinking we’d get better results, but it is difficult and an effort to do so.


As I looked at my ACDC playlist I saw the song “Highway to Hell.” I thought, System 1 Thinking is like “Highway to Hell” and System 2 Thinking is like….wait for it…. “Stairway to Heaven”


System 1/Highway to Hell


  • Fast
  • Habits
  • Reactions
  • Frequent
  • Emotional
  • Stereotypic
  • Non-conscious


System 2/Stairway to Heaven


  • Slow
  • Thoughtful
  • Responses
  • Effortful
  • Infrequent
  • Logical
  • Conscious


You have a choice, you can use the easy highway, or you can use the more difficult, but more effective stairway.


And of course, here are some Youtube videos, just because…


ACDC,  Highway to Hell, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTPnzzcJA0g 


Ann and Nancy Wilson, Stairway to Heaven, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u-PjvRyr0I 





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

Word count this issue: 290

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


Hello from Vancouver, where summer is finally catching up to us. A warm and sunny day today and more to come tomorrow has us all a little brighter I feel.


I’ve been thinking recently about the importance of feedback. I’ll be teaching, once again, about feedback in Toronto next week, and having just received some myself, I’m curious about an idea that might help us all.


Here’s what we know about feedback, and I am indebted to the work of David Rock et al for these two points, https://hbr.org/2014/08/make-getting-feedback-less-stressful:


  1. Feedback given without permission never works, if the goal is to get someone to change their behaviour. At best the recipient will comply with an order, but they will not have any deep change from the feedback if there has not been permission given.
  2. All of us have biases, and so receiving feedback from a single point or source is not as helpful as asking a number of people for their feedback.


I’d like to add to this that receiving feedback is absolutely vital. It’s how we know how close to the target we are. And I use the target metaphor specifically. The English word “sin” (yes the word from the Bible),  is translated from the Greek word hamartia which meant missing the mark in archery. I wonder if we all thought of feedback as helping each other get closer to the bulls eye, we might be able to deliver and receive it much better.



May this week be filled with opportunities to hit the bulls eye more often.

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

Word count this issue: 226

Estimated reading time:  1:15 minutes


Greetings from a rainy, Sunshine Coast. A pacific storm has hit and the temperature has dropped to almost fireplace levels! I hope the weather is nicer where you are. 


I had the honour yesterday of being a small part of the State Funeral for Grace McCarthy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_McCarthy a long serving politician and one time Deputy Premier here in British Columbia. One of the speakers was Rabbi Yosef Wosk http://thebigidea.ecuad.ca/portfolio-item/yosef-wosk/ himself, quite a celebrity in this part of the world. Rabbi Wosk said a number of things that stuck with me, but one stands out for leaders. 


Eulogies, literally “good thinking” from the Greek, about our dead friends and loved ones are lovely, but should we not be giving them while the person is alive? 


We know that expressed gratitude and telling each other what the others’ presence has meant, even in small ways, solidify our social connections, strengthen our bonds and enhance trust. 


Why wait for a funeral, a retirement, a going away party, or an exit interview? Tell your team members what they are doing well and how much it means to you. You’ll be amazed at the results. 

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

Word count this issue: 283

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


Greetings from Regina where I’ve been working with a great group of leaders exploring tools to increase resiliency and accountability. I love my job!


I’ve been thinking about a conversation recently about “badges.” Badges were a big thing when I was a cub and scout. You earned them for gaining a competency in certain activities. There is a long history of badges designating us as part of this group, or having achieved a goal or commendation. There is even a famous American novel called The Red Badge of Courage that was often on high school reading lists. The badge in this case was a battle wound the protagonist is hungry for as he journeys from an act of cowardice in the face of battle. In short, a badge is most often an external symbol of something worthwhile achieved.


I’ve been wondering, what about giving ourselves badges for work well done? Giving yourself a badge for a project completed, a lesson learned, a skill acquired? Yes it is great to get those externally as well, but what about taking the time to give yourself credit, and a badge. 


To earn a badge:


  1. Set the criteria for yourself, and it should be a bit of a stretch goal
  2. Identify what the badge will be; a new piece of clothing, a small item of jewelry, a small gift for someone else. Whatever it is is should have meaning for you.
  3. Meet the criteria.
  4. Give yourself the badge.



I’ll be interested to read your ideas for badges and how you go on earning them.


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

Word count this issue: 302

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


We were watching Season 2 on Sense8 on Netflix a couple of weeks ago and an episode ended with the amazing Mozart’s Requiem in Dm. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_(Mozart) It is a stunning piece of work. I’ve been listening to it during walks and am listening to it now.


It has got me thinking about 2 things for us all as leaders.

  1. We all have the potential to be a Mozart; our brains are all unique so there will never be another Mozart in the same way, but believe it or not, the biggest barrier for each of us is fear of our own potential. Just imagine what the world would look like if each of us were working towards our own full potential. I need to be clear here, full potential is about creativity, possibility and growth, not about material success, getting the right grades, buying the right car. Your potential is yours to achieve, it is not to be prescribed by extrinsic forces. 
  2. This piece of music was completed posthumously. Mozart died leaving about 1/3 completed and the rest sketched out on scraps of paper. His widow, Constance, brought a couple of other composers in to help finish the work. In that sense, this amazing piece is a team effort. As much as we like to think that success is the result of individual effort, it is more often the result of collaboration and partnership. Especially in these VUCA (volatile, uncertain complex and ambiguous) times, we are at our best when we work together.


May this week then be one of exploring potential and working together to make the world a better place.