"Conservatism is the worship of dead revolutions."
Clinton Rossiter

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

Word count this issue: 444 

Estimated reading time:  3:00


Greetings from Gibson’s BC where we’ve been ensconced for much of the summer, commuting as necessary. Last night, as I walked by an open window, I heard a rustle in the woods outside. It was a small black bear making its way down the steep side of the ravine. I was so excited. Other family have seen bears around the house on their way to the ravine we back on to, but this was my first in almost three years. 


It is one of the joys of this particular house; it sits on the edge of a ravine and we often see deer, coyotes, and even the odd owl outside our windows. There is a wonderful sense of living on the edge here, being ready for anything. (My sister and bother-in-law live in an apartment that overlooks Lake Ontario and while they don’t see the wildlife we do, there is a grand sense of seasonal change and an ever-changing landscape. They too seem to live on the edge, ready of anything).


And, lunch with a friend and sometime colleague earlier this week got me thinking about the importance of being ready for anything. He is an amateur historian and was telling me about a book about the US Constitution (1789). This famous document he said, was written with the future in mind. “The words were not to be locked in amber.”  


Moving quickly past any of the American political discussions this might ignite, I wonder then about our roles as leaders. Ron Heifetz at Harvard suggests, ‘management is about technical challenges; authority and getting things done efficiently and effectively, while leadership is about adaptive challenges; moving people through the difficult transitions of innovation and revolution.’ 



When we live and work in cities and suburbs we risk being locked in an amber of routine and similarity. We can fall into the culture trap of “we’ve always done it that way,” or a wistful dream of some imagined history a generation ago.  Transitions of innovation and revolution become much bigger threats. Spending as much time as I can on the edge of the ravine and forest gives me a sense of the size of the planet, and an understanding that while there is a place for amber, it is in the excitement of seeing new things, experiencing new adventure and new learning, that feeds our souls. It also means that I sometimes need to have the courage to go into the dark forest to grow as a person and a leader.


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


Word count this issue: 455


Estimated reading time:  3:00


I have been researching, writing and facilitating dialogues about the future (the “new”) extensively over the past couple of years. I keep running into the “old”. For example, iTunes and Spotify are essentially gigantic juke boxes you can plug into using a portable device. Netflix is TV with a gigantic catalogue of reruns you can all up on demand. Peer to peer lenders are essentially credit unions and regardless of how cool your car is, it is still measured in horsepower and airplanes are stage coaches with business class.


The huge shift we are experiencing is really about mobile devices, smart phones. We are still nomads walking across the steppe, but now we are always connected to something or someone. We are still always seeking the next green pasture, the next opportunity, but we can talk about it with each other over vast distances. We might put our roots down for a time, but even then we are always searching across the horizon, what is next, what is new, what promises a better life, a richer life, a more fulfilled life? Our mobile devices are in this sense both a leash to keep us tethered to our group of nomads and telescopes that we can use to peer into a desired collective future that we can dream about and talk about amongst our tribe. They also allow us to glimpse the other tribes, and especially the tribes we don’t like. And with 7 billion humans and about 4.5 billion smart phones dispersed among us, there’s a lot of opportunity to talk about what we see and especially about the other tribes of nomads. We are nomads on a crowded steppe.


We need to ensure that we are speaking with the other tribes of nomads, not about the other tribes. The more connected we are with each other in our own tribes, the more we set up in group and out group barriers. 


Think about your team and your organization. As we on board people from different parts of the world (and even from down the street) we need to find ways of breaking down those barriers sooner so that we can leverage the brains and perspectives of everyone. Here are three ways to break them down sooner:


1. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this person, as opposed to what can I teach this person?

2. Sit beside the newest person in the room, it raises their status and signals that they are ok to the rest of the team.

3. Pronounce names the way the person pronounces their name, and it is ok to ask.


Remember, at one level we are simply still nomads on a crowded steppe. Collaboration is the way forward for all of us. 


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


Word count this issue: 147



Estimated reading time:  1:15


Good morning, the sea is calm and the sky is grey; a good morning for introspection. 


I was working with a coaching client last week, (I have their permission to mention this), and they used an evocative phrase about leadership:


“The leader’s perfume [cologne] should not hang around too long 

after they leave the room.”


I wonder what that phrase brings to mind for you?


For me, there are at least 3 points:


  • Don’t micro-manage,
  • Leverage the diversity of your team’s brains,
  • Your presence will last for a while even after you leave a room, what scent do you want to leave? Distasteful, overpowering, stifling or welcoming, supporting, and encouraging. 



I’d love to hear your thoughts about what this phrase evokes in you about leadership.

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

Word count this issue: 429


Estimated reading time:  3:00


Good morning from sunny Vancouver. I’m working this week as a learner in an organizational development course. We’re learning about models and tools to support the work of teams and organizations as they seek solutions. I have particularly enjoyed learning about data gathering tools, and how the interpretation of the data is vital. 


One exercise had us break into small groups to analyze survey data. Each group had exactly the same survey and ancillary information.  Each of us was to develop 3 recommendations on next steps for the organization based on the data we had. We went away for an hour, and each group came back with different recommendations.


Even accounting for the fact that many of us were not data analysts and therefore would not necessarily know what to look for, there was enough expertise in the room that one could imagine some common recommendations to come from each group. What surprised me was how dispersed the recommendations were. In fact I wondered if some of us were even looking at the same data! And as we were hearing back from the groups one fellow learning, not from my group leaned over and said, “nobody has mentioned ‘x’!” And when I looked back at the data I thought, “wow, she’s right!” It looks like we had all missed it, even her, until that moment.


From a leadership perspective I wonder then about how we too often interpret data. A survey comes across our desk and we pour over it, often alone. I’ve learned, get the data out there, facilitate a dialogue among a group of people about what the data may mean for them, both the good news and challenging news. Yes, some expertise will help point people in certain directions, and people are smarter collectively than individually, tap that collective power. 



This observation reminds me of a moment in grad school when I was studying under a rabbi. The rabbi explained to us that a rabbi would never say, “I will teach you this text.” S/he would always say, “let us study this text together.” When you have raw data coming into your area or team, work with the team to discover the meaning of the data for the team; study the text together. It will give them ownership and increase their status and autonomy, and give you a far clearer understanding of the data than sitting alone in your office scratching your head.


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

Word count this issue: 287


Estimated reading time:  2:15


Hello from a sunny and warm Vancouver! It is Pride Week here and festivities are in full swing. 


One of the big lessons I have learned from my LGBTQ siblings and niblings is the amazing power of the question, “who am I?” I have learned how exploring and celebrating who I am and whom I am becoming (appreciating that there are many levels to these questions), is a cornerstone of my own growth and development as a person. For me then, Pride Week celebrates self-awareness, and the call for all people, of every colour, creed, physical and mind ability, gender and sexuality to be able to appear in public without shame. 


It is a lesson for all of us. You are amazing, creative and beautiful. You are loved, just for being you.  You do not have to fit into someone else’s box, or hide from yourself and others in any closets.  And beautifully, you are continually growing. 


We face many dangers and perils in our lives. There is a fearsome wave building even now as so many of us are triggered to fight, flight, or freeze. The Foundation of the Universe keeps reminding us, “fear not.” The more self-aware, the more comfortable I am in my self, the less pushed and pulled by the waves of fear and hate I will be. I can stand firm knowing that as long as my actions are based in love, I will fear not. 



I have seen that loving courage in so many LGBTQ people. For teaching me this, I am eternally grateful. And Happy Pride.


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

Word count this issue: 285


Estimated reading time:  2:00



Greetings from the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia where I am safely ensconced  in our home here writing and coaching. I have been keenly aware of the fragility of our bodies. A family member had surgery last week and is mobile for short periods with walker or crutches. It has been a week or so of small but profound lessons for us. This is very frustrating for them, as puttering about the garden or going for a walk into the village are simple joys denied them at the moment. One of the comments I heard this week as they sought to pull themselves out of a chair was, “I wish they had given direction in preparing for the operation to work on our cores.”  


Work on our cores. 


Our cores are our centres: physical, emotional and spiritual. We need to be strengthening them, keeping them in shape. Often we are good at one, maybe two of them, but not a third. We are at our best as leaders, and as people, when we we are working on all three. 


Physical core strength is found through exercise. Yoga works well for me. Work with a teacher at first.


Emotional core strength is found through deepening self awareness. Working with a coach and or therapist works very well.


Spiritual core strength is found through contemplation and reflection. Working with a spiritual teacher or director/guide is key here too. Someone who challenges your assumptions and disrupts your comfort.


May this week, and the rest of our lives bring us strength to all three cores.