"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Martin Niemoller

Get Leadership Notes by Email

I've just run the sea wall here in Vancouver for the first time in 5 weeks, due to inclement weather and the closure of the wall due to landslides. As I ran, I was reflecting on how important practice is for our work.

As good as it felt to be out there running, and it was beautiful, the sea calm and the sun warm, I was feeling muscles that hadn't been working for that length of run in a while. I did it, but I was very conscious of the muscles working.

The same is true of our work with people. Staying looped in, coaching, listening, guiding and mentoring, to name only a few, are practices, not simply tasks. If we don't get to practice, or we let up on ourselves and find other tasks to do, we fall out of our game, even just a bit.

Now, recall I ran the sea wall, and I wasn't much slower than I was 5 weeks ago, so obviously I wasn't too much off my game. But I was aware nonetheless of being out of practice.

In my coaching practice, I've realized a similar process, the first meeting or call after I've been doing other things for a week or two, goes well, but I realize I'm out of practice.

It may help for you to think of your role as coach, guide or mentor as a practice that requires attention. Perhaps its a commitment to yourself that you'll have a conscious coaching, guiding or mentoring conversation everyday, or that you'll get out from behind your desk, everyday and find one person in your organization to engage with that you haven't spoken with in the last week.

I hope that you'll find a way to make a positive difference in another's life this week.
There is an almost palpable feeling this evening, as so many friends and colleagues of mine join in anticipation of tomorrow's inauguration of Barack Obama as the President of The United States.

I urge you to find a way of watching his speech tomorrow, not only to hear the good news (hopefully) of the closure of the Gauntanamo Bay prison camp, and the end of torture as means of gaining information in US facilities. His speech will be an important lesson for those of us who need to inspire people in difficult times.

I anticipate a speech about vision, about mission, values, and a deeper purpose. I also expect a speech that describes the current reality, and then proposes a new possible reality, a dream for Americans to live and work towards. It is vital for the American people that this speech provide hope and possibility, especially after so much fear and sadness.

I also urge us all to then pay attention to this new president's next steps, his first hundred days, as the small victories he can earn will be extremely important. Leadership is not just being able to communicate, although that it is important, it is about implementation, getting things done.

Watch this man work, and consider what you might learn from him for your own leadership skills. And keep him in your thoughts and prayers as he embarks on a journey that will impact us all.

My brother, a very wise man indeed, tells of a lesson he learned from a mentor about the juggling act that many leaders engage with everyday. The lesson adds an important twist to the image of juggling many balls. It asks, simply, which of the balls you are juggling is glass?

Which of these balls then would you never allow to drop? Which one is so precious that you would drop every other ball but this one?

This is an important question for all of us in these trying and challenging times, what, when all is said and done, is most important for me? And with all due respect, it more than likely won't be your job. I'm reminded of Tom Peters' line that you can scour the graveyards of the world and you'll never see an epitaph that reads, "s/he made budget."

In your journey, keep juggling those balls, but be very clear in your own mind, which one is glass.

Have a wonderful week, and I hope you change your mind at least once.
Merry Christmas to all from a snowy and slushy Vancouver!

This time of year of course is a challenge for some. We sometimes forget that heartbreak, illness, grief and terror grip many people's hearts at this time, as with any other time of year. It may be a white Christmas, but darkness and fear are still present. Please remember these people in the midst of the joy you may be experiencing.

And remember, Christmas is about hope, it is about new possibilities, new life. My Bishop, will bless the community with the following words on Christmas eve, and I hope that you find some measure of inspiration in them:

" Return now to the place where God has given you responsibility. Remember the peace and love we have celebrated and do not fail to show to all people the new life that is already among us. Have courage. Hold on to what is good. Return no one evil for evil. Strengthen those who fail. Support the weak and honour all life. "

Merry Christmas to you and to all those whom are important to you.

A new year dawns, and many of you I'm sure, have been reflective over the past few days. I had a wonderful family holiday in San Francisco and came home to news of the surprise marriage of two dear friends, the full recovery of a friend in hospital and some new ideas for gigs this year. It's all good!

I also heard, through Peter Elliott, of the thinking of Rachel Remen. (You'll find the reference in Peter's sermon of the 4th of January at www.cathedral.vancouver.bc.ca) Dr. Remen asks a number of very important questions, to which Peter alludes, and one in particular struck me. She asks us to consider which star do we steer our boats by -- what star do we follow? I submit this is a critical question for leaders.

Related questions are where are we going? What is our deeper purpose? Dr. Remen would ask us if the star we are following is one of greed and fear? Or are we following a star of wholeness, of creativity, of compassion, of justice? These questions then are not just about us, but about the organizations for which we work and lead. Is our corporate vision one that inspires positive change, and brings about a healthy planet and communities?

This question, what star do we follow, is reflected too, in the Christian traditions. This week, tomorrow in fact, is the Feast of the Epiphany, where tradition holds the celebration of the gifts of the Magi, the kings from "the east," who followed a star to the birthplace of Jesus.

What is the star that will guide you this coming year? Will it bring about new ways of being for you personally and as a leader? Will it challenge you to make a difference in your life, in your family and in you community. I hope that it does.