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"We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery."
H.G. Wells

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Good morning, and a Happy Canada Day this week. A speaker I heard once said that if you were born in Canada, you had won the only lottery worth winning! I'd add, if you immigrated here, you've shared in the winnings! 

I attended my second retirement party late last week; a rite of passage for those of a certain age.  One speaker found a memo the retiree had sent in 1987 that had challenged and provoked him. The two had been working in a large newspaper, and the retiree had been concerned about the calibre of the stories written by the team of reporters. He argued that taking the time to think was what was missing. It struck me that part of leadership was the responsibility to think before acting.

The memo had related that when fire fighters arrived at a fire, with all of the speed required and the importance of a fast response, most of the personnel and equipment hung back, and the most senior fire fighter donned a mask and went around and even into the burning building to decide on the best tactics for the particular fire. The memo ended with the caution, if fire fighters can take the time to think before acting, especially when faced with crisis, so can we.

I hope this week finds you thinking in the face of crisis. Your people are depending on it.


 

Good morning, and I hope this edition of Leadership Notes finds you well.

Preparing for a sermon for this past Sunday, I was reminded of the words of writer Frederick Beuchner, "vocation is where your hearts gladness meets the world's hunger." A lovely phrase, to be sure, and is often the case, a surface of simplicity belies the deeper complexity.

Trying to find your heart's gladness is often fruitless, because, in the words of Jungian thinker James Hollis, "our vocation finds us." To be sure, our vocation is not about what our parents wanted us to do, not about what our cultural history appears to demand. Our vocation is not to be found in the eyes or the heart of another, nor is it to be found in the size of our paycheques. It is to be found in the deepest parts of us.

Here are some questions to help you start the journey to identify your heart's gladness: where are you at your happiest on your own? What brings meaning to your life? What talent/gift do you have that you chose to put aside in your youth? The answers will bring you closer to uncovering the vocation that has found you.

May this week be a week of discovery for all of us.

Good afternoon from AC 457 Ottawa to Toronto. I hope this note finds you well and working on what you are passionate about.

I'm enroute to Accra, Ghana to do some work with the credit unions there, and I'm so very excited about the adventure. I'm realizing that this will be a trip of firsts for me; first time in Africa, first time in a so-called developing country, and first time on an international project
I'm committed to making this trip about as many firsts as I can. I hope that it will then be trip of renewal and revitalization. Preparing for my meetings for today here in Ottawa, I thought of a first for me and ran around Parliament Hill from my hotel, once last night, and again this morning. I realized that the firsts, can be small or large, as long as they are firsts.

I commend this process to you. Try to find something, each day if possible, that is a first for you, and check in with yourself next week: how do you feel?, any new insights about your work, your family, or your inner self?

I'll check in next week, and let you know how I've done on my trip of firsts! (If it helps, feel free to email me to let me know how you've done on your week of firsts!)

Good afternoon. We have enjoyed a long weekend here on the west coast, celebrating BC day yesterday. I hope your weekend was as good as mine was.

I've been wondering this weekend about family. I am admittedly attracted to the notion, common in gay and lesbian circles, of "family of choice." The notion, born out of necessity where so many young men and women are shunned by their birth family, they create a new family of choice.

There is something unconscious that happens with birth family. We fall into the traps of complexity where a glance, or a word carries with it so much meaning that no one else understands. To find oneself at dinner with the in-laws for example, is to often find oneself scratching one's head in wonder as the conversation digresses into argument or silence. A complex trap has been sprung, and because you're not the child of the house, you've been blind sided by it.

Of course, this raises the important question, asked only half facetiously, do you want your organization to be like a family? Do you really want your organization to have the same kind of complex traps that a birth family inherently does?

I wonder if there is something though to the notion of a family of choice as a model for a close knit organization or team. For example, the word 'choice' denotes that all participants have a choice about staying or leaving. The word 'family' denotes commitment, honesty and safety. When I find myself, safe, committed and in an honest environment, my productivity increases. And if I no longer feel that security or commitment, I can leave, knowing that I have made a difference. Of course, perhaps we might just suggest that family is family and organizations are organizations, and we would be wise not to confuse the two!

I hope that this week finds you safe and loved within the bonds of a healthy family, either your family of origin, or your family of choice. And that your work in that family is productive for all concerned.

 

Good morning from Frankfurt!

I'm sorry I missed sending out a Leadership Notes last week, but the internet connections in Ghana were at best intermittent. If you recall two weeks ago I mentioned doing things for the first time as an exercise of leadership. I wonder how that worked for you.

My firsts included the amazing, seeing elephants in the wild and touching a live crocodile, and the mundane, buying a rice dish from a roadside market, and running along an African beach in my bare feet for exercise. I hope your firsts were as invigorating.

One of the many lessons I learned, was just this past Saturday. During a tour of a slave trade castle in Cape Coast, the guide talked of how the first Anglican church in Western Africa was built in the walls of the castle, directly above one of the dungeons. There was even a spy hole about 3 feet square that opened up next to the front door of the church. The smell alone of 1000 people held in close quarters, in tropical heat for weeks at a time would have been overpowering as people went to church above. This got me wondering about our blind spots. What are we ignoring in our organizations that is in fact rotten, as indeed the slave trade was? What are we accustomed to that we assume is 'normal' because 'we've always done it that way?'

Often the only way to see in our blind spots is to listen very carefully to our critics. To pay close attention to those who don't necessarily think we're on the right track. They're very possibly pointing to one of our blind spots.

May this week be a week of uncovering blind spots for us all.


 

Good afternoon, and I hope that the ides of September find you well.

A confluence of ideas and adventures arose for me this past week; 50th birthday party, seeing my brother and his son, being touched by love and humility and of course, deep and profound conversations. One of those prompted this thought, that one of the key elements of leadership is self-awareness, and most especially the questions, what am I doing right now, and who am I being right now?

This is most especially the case in difficult and challenging times. These questions challenge us to recognize that the people we work with look to our behaviours and our integrity far more than they listen to our words.

What am I doing right now? Who am I being right now? May the answers to these questions bring you strength and courage this week.