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"If we could hang all our sorrows on pegs and were allowed to choose those we liked best, everyone of us would take back his own, for all the rest would seem even more difficult to bear."
Rabbi Nahum of Stepinesht

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

Word count this issue: 365

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes

 

 

Hello from a cold and clear winter’s day in Vancouver. I wrote last week that the emerging new world begins with us.  

 

“The best responses will come from within ourselves, individually and collectively, as we grow in self-awareness, connectivity with each other, courageous perseverance, learning and disruptive spirituality. Each and every one of us is a gift to each other, and together we can imagine and co-create a better world for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. It will begin with us.”

 

Importantly, the world will change without us as well. We do have a fundamental choice; we can choose compassion, caring and collaboration, or we can choose narcism, exclusion and force as our basic ethics. My friend and sometime collaborator Quanita Roberson http://www.nzuzu.com/our_team gave me a new insight into choice the other day. She was saying that ‘we too often think of such choice as a ‘Mama’s choice’; there’s an obviously right choice, and an obviously bad choice. The choice we are each given is not a Mama’s choice.’ 

 

The world will continue, for good or ill, regardless of our choice. What that world looks like however does depend on us. 

 

We went to see Rogue One last night, and I kept seeing this choice reflected in the film, and the word that kept appearing in the script about this choice was “hope.” The choices we make today will bring hope to our children and grandchildren or they will bring fear.

 

We humans are that much closer to curing many cancers. We humans are building economic strength in more and more places in the world. We humans are educating more of us each year. We humans are making such a positive difference in so many ways, there is hope. And, we are threatened by a rising “Mordor” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordor based on fear, self-centredness and greed. The world will continue, how it will continue is up to us.

 

 

What is your choice, and what is the first step you will take?

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

Word count this issue: 389

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes

 

Happy New Year!

 

One of the joys of my New Year’s is reading through the Economist magazine’s annual “The World in...” issue. This year’s “The World in 2017” was no slouch.  I find the magazine intelligent, well researched and as objective as can be in this strange time. 

 

One of the many pieces that stuck out for me is by Deputy Editor Tom Standage (and as it is a subscription, I cannot share a link, but you can find commentary on line).  The article, called “Apply Within” explores the jobs of the future using US Department of Labour numbers. The largest expected growth job in the next decade is forecasted “Wind Turbine Technician” followed by Occupational then Physical Therapy Assistants. Deacons, Priests and Bishops were conspicuous by their absence.

 

The article ends with a story about Standage’s 16 year old daughter. “Inspired by Isaac Asimov’s classic robot stories, my 16-year-old daughter wants to be a robopsychologist—a trouble-shooter who figures out why robots are misbehaving. “That job doesn’t exist,” complained her school’s career adviser. “True,” my daughter replied, “but it probably will in 2025.”

 

I think she is right; a fundamental challenge for us is that the economy is changing. Many of us, and our children and grandchildren will be working in jobs we have not even imagined yet in the coming decades. 

 

 

As leaders at this time, I believe we have a moral obligation to be clear with ourselves and the people with whom we work; the economy is changing, the jobs are changing, and so we must change. No heroes, political or otherwise, can change the fact that technology is changing our economies. The best responses in the midst of these changes will not come from such fantasy heroes (regardless of what they might think). The best responses will come from within ourselves, individually and collectively, as we grow in self-awareness, connectivity with each other, courageous perseverance, learning and disruptive spirituality. Each and every one of us is a gift to each other, and together we can imagine and co-create a better world for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. It will begin with us.

 

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

Word count this issue: 421

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes

 

Last week I introduced some of my thinking about connectivity saying that you may have thousands of followers on social media, but that does not mean that you are connected. To be truly connected to another person in the digital (r)evolution, we need to make some conscious choices about the the nature and quality of the connections we are making. And for all of our connections through media and devices, our brains are wired for face to face communication.

 

I then introduced the idea of Dunbar’s number where it appears that we can handle a maximum of about 150 people in our ‘in-group.’ For many of us though, the 150 people who are in our in-group look and sound like us. One of the challenges is that we can fall into a group think trap. If you want innovation and creativity, you need to have diversity.

 

I see the three main elements for strong in-group diversity; respect, safety and fairness. Last week we looked at respect, this week, let’s explore safety.

 

The very best leaders are the ones who open themselves and their teams to new ideas, and new people, especially those who are different from the status quo. By pushing our own and our teams comfort zones our confidence and sense of safety grow. This holiday season, many of you will be generously donating to charities that support the less fortunate in your communities. Great, well done. And writing a cheque or sending an e-payment or clicking on a “donate here” button are acts of safety; you do not have to actually face the people who are less fortunate, you simply send them money. To push your safety zone, take the money to the charity’s office, or better yet, see if they need a volunteer for a shift or two. Go and meet people who appear different. In other words, push your safety boundary. There you will see the power of diversity and creativity. The more I can find myself working with people who are not like me, the safer I will feel. 

 

May you push the boundaries of your comfort zone this week.

 

Leadership Notes will not be published between Christmas and New Year and will return on the first week of 2017.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours, and I wish you a healthy and happy New Year.

 

 

 

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

Word count this issue: 423

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes

 

Greetings from a cold and snowy Vancouver. We are shivering and sliding around today, as a pacific storm hits a cold front. That doesn't happen very often here, where having lived here for 30 years I can count on one hand the number of white Christmases. 

 

The weather has got me thinking about risk management, and old adages like ‘better safe than sorry.’ You may recall the family movie from a few years ago, The Croods https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fVCKy69zUY where a risk averse, “never leave the cave”, prehistoric family are thrust into wonderful and terrifying new world. 

 

There appears to be a tension within us somewhere between “never leave the cave” and “oh wow, that is really cool, I want a closer look.” Our brains are wired towards the former; likely for our own survival, but we are a curious species. One of the challenges we face though in the 21st Century is how “never leave the cave” becomes our only fear driven perspective. It leads to racism, to misogyny, to homophobia. And it leads to in and out groups within organizations. 

 

From a leadership perspective, in addition to the moral problems with exclusionary beliefs and actions, our brains do not work very well under threat. We move to narrow tunnel vision, mere compliance (rather than commitment) and the loss of creativity and innovation. I would hazard a guess, that somewhere in the strategic plan of your organization is some mention of a need to increase creativity and innovation. 

 

Here are three ways that you can increase creativity and innovation in your team.

 

Always discuss risk coupled with reward. Our brains will focus on what we are talking about and if we are only concerned with risk, that is where we will stay.

Put diverse people on teams. Mix up project teams by gender, age, and skin colour, as well as expertise. Diverse groups take longer to make decisions but their decisions, once made are always better.

Celebrate mistakes, sincerely.  Mistakes that have grown out of trying something new are signs of learning and creativity. It may not have worked, but at least we now know that. 

 

Our work in these times is about revolution; examining the assumptions we have had in the past, and turning them over as required. To live in a world where we cannot leave the cave, is to stagnate and die.

 

 

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

Word count this issue: 406

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes

 

Well the polar vortex is providing clear blue skies and cold temperatures here on the Sunshine Coast of BC. We are in the midst of projects with clients and getting the house set up for the Christmas break. I’ve been thinking recently about connectivity.

 

You may have thousands of followers on social media, but that does not mean that you are connected. To be truly connected to another person in the digital (r)evolution, we need to make some conscious choices about the the nature and quality of the connections we are making. And for all of our connections through media and devices, our brains are wired for face to face communication. Simply put the more face time you have with another person, the more likely the two of you will be in each other’s in-group. Think for example how easy it is to have a mean spirited “shouting match” with a total stranger on social media. In part, that is because they are not part of your “in group.”  The evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar suggests that we can ‘know’  (they are in our in-group) about 150 people. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks . You can manage that number up or down a bit, but it seems we are wired to max at about 150 people in our ‘tribe.’ After that we start to form break away groups and silos.

 

For many of us though, the 150 people who are in our in-group look and sound like us. One of the challenges is that we can fall into a group think trap. If you want innovation and creativity, you need to have diversity.

 

I see the three main elements for strong in-group diversity; respect, safety and fairness. We’ll look at each one over the next few weeks.

 

Respect

 

We all need to feel that we have value and are an integral part of the group. That value is exhibited in our mutual regard. Respect is entirely reciprocal; if you want respect from another person, you have to respect them first. See out common ground, look to the gifts they bring to the team, and to your work.

 

 

May you respect more and be respected more this week.

 

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

Word count this issue: 455

Estimated reading time:  3:00 minutes

 

Have you seen meme’s of people with confederate flags and saying, "you lost, get over it" recently on social media?

 

 

Yes, for many they are funny, even poignantly funny, but the interesting aspect for me is that they are great examples of how we can often see other people’s foibles, follies and biases, but we’re not so good with our own. As leaders, we must consistently be working on our own self-awareness. Trust me, while you have probably not been wearing a Confederate flag on your lapel and told people they lost, get over it, you (and I) have said or done something equally equally ironic, you (and I) have just not been aware of it. 

 

Pretty much anytime you think or say that the problem is the other person, you are not aware that your behaviour, your perspectives, your actions, are at least as responsible. For example, I have this happy little story that I am not racist. At a workshop on fighting racism, a fellow clergy person of colour told me that he would never join a group of white clergy people talking in a group together because he feared wouldn’t fit in the conversation. I realized that I could count on one hand the number of times I did not fit in because of the colour of my skin. I recalled how uncomfortable that had made me feel. And to think, that this person experienced that discomfort every day. My own happy little world that “colour doesn’t matter to me” was ignoring a fundamental experience of friends and colleagues. Every time I had said, I’m not racist, someone somewhere would be rolling their eyes. What had I ever done to ensure that this colleague of mine was welcome to join our circle? Hadn’t I even thought, oh, he’s got his own friends over there (the other clergy who were people of colour)?!

 

 

The very best leaders are the ones who open themselves and their teams to new ideas, and new people, especially those who are different from the status quo. The best leaders reach out across divisions of skin colour, socio-economics, gender and sexuality. They make others feel welcome, they inquire about other people’s experience. The best leaders push away from biases that assume that everyone’s experience of the world is like their own. And they learn from their mistakes and do their best to make amends, as I will be doing with my clergy colleagues who are people of colour. It took someone else’s experience and courage to point out what I couldn’t see in myself. I hope someone does that for you one day soon.