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"It is possible that people need to believe that they are unmanaged if they are to be managed effectively."
John Kenneth Galbraith

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Good afternoon, it's still cold here on the west coast, but I remain confident that summer is coming. Of that I am sure. I am less sure of most other things in my life. And I'm becoming less and less confident that "leaders" in the American financial services sector can be called leaders.

If leadership is about helping navigate people through difficult times, the senior executives at AIG would be dismal failures. Cornered by fear and greed they appear to have developed a bunker mentality that says, we'll protect our own, at the cost of their credibility, and their integrity. They have fallen into the trap of legalism around the employment contracts that they appear almost desperate to honour, while not honouring the fact that such incompetence, carelessness and poor decision making in most other environments would result in terminations.

Let's then take a look at ourselves and our organizations. Are we so loyal to some in our organization that we would not terminate them? Does our corporate culture honour integrity as well as financial performance? If our organization made some fundamental errors, what would we do?

I trust that such events never happen in your organization, but let's make sure that we take lessons, even from such terrible operators.

I hope you have a wonderful and creative week.

I had the great pleasure of facilitating a learning lab for about 120 physicians from all over North America this morning. I not only had fun, I learned a lot about some of the thinking in healthcare around relationships and how best to serve patients.  One common subject is the question of measurement and what gets included and what is not included in measurements and guidelines. One quote, from an anonymous Ontario Ministry of Health official caught my attention:  “Data is a campfire around which organizations huddle for heat and light. The irony is in the fact that neither the heat nor the light yield a solution. The solution emerges out of the huddling.”  My question for us all is how much huddling are we doing? Are the metrics we use telling us what we really need to know, and if we are not huddling with our teams, what data are we not including? I wish you a wonderful and provocative week, with lots of huddling!

Good evening from a cold and rainy Vancouver. My heart though is warmed by a day of good connections with people.

I've been thinking recently about the impact we have on people's lives, and how often we don't know how deep, or how profound the impact is. And yet, how fleeting these impacts can be in organizations. A colleague told me today about how, now that he has chosen to wind his business up, and move into retirement, many clients are taking him aside and saying how great he has been and how much of a presence he has been in their lives. He said, "I wish someone had told me this when I was 25!" And also today I heard how another colleague had built a large department from scratch, moved out of the organization and six months later arrived back at the department for a meeting. A well meaning staff person asked who he was? Quite humbling!

As leaders we do make a difference; we mentor, we give hope, we help people develop themselves, we build relationships that have real meaning. And we move on, and others take our place. What we can do is ensure that the work we do while we are here is the best we can make it, and to leave a legacy of commitment, courage and hope for those who follow us.

May this week be filled with meaning, purpose and some humility thrown in for good measure.

Good evening,

The Easter weekend is just about over and it has been a deep and touching one for me. It began last Thursday with the ancient liturgy of foot washing.

In the Christian texts, it is told that Jesus washed his disciples' feet at the Last Supper. This image of the rabbi washing his students' feet is important for us today on many levels, not the least being how we behave towards the people with whom we work.

I believe that much of the message in these ancient texts about servant leadership, and what is more servant leader-like than washing of people's feet, is missed. These ancient texts are not saying the I need to wash another's feet, rather that we are to wash one another's feet. We are to serve and to be served. We are to serve our neighbour and she or he is to serve us. Imagine what your workplace would look like if this reciprocal service was the norm?

This week, I hope that you are able to serve another person, and to be served by someone else. And to notice your response to them both. For it is by mutual and reciprocal service that we move forward, and keep learning and developing ourselves.

Have a great week.

Good evening to all. it has been a lovely day here on the west coast; the cherry trees have begun to blossom and that always heralds warmth and sunshine.

This week is Holy Week in the western Christian calendar, a time of contemplation and preparation for that most sacred human journey of death and life, of suffering and hope, as we move into the terror of Good Friday, the bleakness of Holy Saturday and the joy of Easter.

From a leadership perspective, this journey presents an important lesson, that from within death and endings, new life and possibilities emerge. And most importantly, both death and life are absolutely necessary. In short, parts of our organizations, and in some cases, our whole organizations, will have to die, in order for new life to emerge.

Philosopher Sallie McFague writes of this, talking about walking through the forests of coastal British Columbia;

"I've learned a thing or two in these forests about life and death, about the way they intertwine and depend on each other. I've learned this by paying close attention to huge ancient red cedars and Douglas firs lying on the forest floor. These so called dead trees are, in fact, far from dead, for they will live several hundred more years as 'nurse' trees to countless forms of life, including sapling trees. The new life will use them as a base for their own early tenuous grasp at existence, for the nurse trees are warmer and have more nutrients than the earth. The fallen trees will eventually decompose into the forest floor to become yet another form of matter to support yet more life. It is not actually at all clear what is dead and what is alive in these forests, or more accurately, death and life are not absolute categories as they are for most of us most of the time." 

Our organizations are organic in this sense, and as such parts, if not the whole die. And the role of leader is one of caregiver both for the dying and the always emerging new life.

I hope your week gives you an opportunity to see and care for the saplings of new life even in the endings you may encounter.

Good afternoon, I trust this finds you well. It is a wonderful day here on the west coast, and I am reveling in the weather and the fact that I ran my best time ever in a 10 k race yesterday. The Vancouver Sun Run is a municipal institution now, and over 50,000 people ran, walked or wheeled 10 k through the streets of downtown Vancouver. (56:36 was my time.)

Meeting with a friend for a walk and breakfast this morning, he too ran the race, and suggested that it was a "spirit run." I think what he was suggesting was that the times for many people didn't matter, it was really about getting out with thousands of others into a lovely spring day and just getting some exercise together. It was therefore about the health of the community.

I have been thinking then for the rest of the day about those times in organizations where it is important, just to do something for the health of the organization. It's not just about income and overhead, it's about the health of the organization, and sometimes you just need to let loose for a day or so! Stephen Covey talks about the importance of re-creation, instead of recreation, and I think he's talking about the same thing. What is it that you can do individually and collectively in your organization to help the re-creation of people and the team.

On that note, I'll be taking the next 3 Mondays off, and enjoying some re-creation on a Greek island! I'll come back at the end of May with stories, and I hope some new insights.

I hope each of you finds some down time in the next three weeks to share good times with family and friends.