"Today and tomorrow, the successful leader is the one who leads the process of learning."
Sir Douglas Hague

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

Word count this issue: 495

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes


Since last week’s tragic murders in Orlando, and the reactions on line and in person have been fascinating to observe. Whichever side of ‘life or gun’ debate you are on, or quite frankly any of the issues centred, binary choices we engage in, we fall into a trap. As an example, examine how I framed the gun issue; as a binary choice, you support life, or you support guns. I frame it as a choice and off we go, defining and defending our positions. These binary choices are all around us; right or left, conservative or liberal, politician x or politician y. And these binary choices serve to define us as on one team or another. What frustrates me, and I’m curious about your thoughts, is that my experience is that all of these “issues” are far more complex than simple choice x or y. You and I as humans are far more complex than such binary notions give us credit for.


My colleagues at the Neuroleadership Institute hold that the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the part of the brain that holds our conscious reasoning and logic is about equivalent to a cubic meter of processing power. Meanwhile, the non-conscious brain, that is responsible for everything else we do, is equivalent to the Milky Way galaxy. We are indeed far more complex than we often give ourselves or others credit for.


As leaders especially we need to be very careful about falling into the binary trap. And the most effective way to stay out of the trap is to ask yourself and your team questions like; what do we want to have happen? who do we want to be?  A focus on an envisioned future will help identify desires and opportunities rather than fears and problems. My friend and sometime colleague Avril Orloff, a great graphic facilitator http://outsidethelines.ca tells her clients, “I can’t draw what you don’t want.” I have come to realize her statement is perfect for moving us out of binary traps. If we are simply saying ’no’ to each other and our positions, we will never be able to imagine a new and better alternative to the the status quo. We keep digging our trenches deeper and deeper and sniping and dropping bombs on each other. A pretty dismal drawing of stalemate and disaster. However if we can start to collectively imagine what we want in the situation, in our family, in our community, in our organization, then we our brains will rise to the occasion and the processing power of all of the milky way galaxies on your team will be engaged. Therein lies the magic of creativity and insight. 



And it is in facilitating and creating space for the team to be creative and to have insights that is fundamentally the role of the leader. 


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

Word count this issue: 631

Estimated reading time:  3:00 minutes


A couple of days ago someone walked into a gay club in Orlando and started shooting This awful hate crime has struck me to my core. Many of my friends and colleagues are LGBTQ and I am grieving their loss of brothers and sisters. 


I was reminded of another such hate crime in Montreal in 1989 when a man walked in to the Ecole Politechnique, separated the men and women and began killing the women.  


I realize as a straight white male, I do not need safe zones, places where I can just be myself without fear of taunts, hassle, or much, much worse as the murders in Orlando and Montreal show.


What I can do though is make sure that any and all places where I have responsibility are safe for all people. I can make the link for example between a joke that "others" a person who is different from me opens a door to fear and mistrust.


If anyone on your team has to work through a sense of fear or mistrust, they are not working at their best. they are not able to bring their whole self to the workplace, to engage their creativity and intelligence into the team. 


We have lost 50 brilliant young men and women on Saturday night.  Acts of hatred and mistrust are happening all around us. It is up to us to stop them. Not through more violence but by taking a stand against bullying, taking a stand against harassment, taking a stand against behaviours in our workplaces the "other" people. 


Teams at their best honour diversity. May our teams be at their best. 


Please take a moment and read the names of these men and women who lost their lives on the weekend, simply because they were different from the mainstream. 


Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old



May they rest in peace. And may they inspire us to build a more peaceful world. 

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

Word count this issue: 284

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


Greetings from a lovely sunny Vancouver! One of the joys of my work is the delicate balance between my work as a facilitator, and my work as a minister in “church land.” The two are actually much more closely aligned than many people at first might imagine. Both are really simply groups of people trying to make the world a better place. Different languages are spoken in the various circles in which I operate, but the circles are really venn diagrams, and not discrete and separate.


And importantly the work in “church land” fundamentally informs my work elsewhere. This week is a prime example. I was sitting with a person with stage 4 breast cancer, who says that the big lesson for her was that prior to her diagnosis, life was a “big long to-do list.” Now, she said, life is about relationships. One of the things I’ve learned in “church land” is the importance of such wisdom. We cut through the “crap” when we’re sick, we focus on what is important, not necessarily the items that seem urgent in our working lives.



As leaders, the tasks are important, and they may in fact be urgent at times. What is vital for us though are relationships, without which we may be successful for a short time, but in the long run, we wind up feeling alone and afraid. What is a key to being the best leader you can be? Building strong relationships with other people. A simple, profound lesson from someone who sees life through wisdom coloured lenses.

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

Word count this issue: 488

Estimated reading time:  3:15 minutes


I’ve been working recently on the chapter in my book on “self awareness.” I do not think that many of us are as ‘self-aware’ as we like to think. Far too many of us, for example have mistaken ‘self awareness’ with fitting in. Making sure that we wear the right clothes, do the right kind of work, have the right social connections to ensure we are recognized as a member of a particular brand tribe. A couple of years ago I was doing some political work and appearing at a rally. I was carrying a Starbucks cup containing my tea. Suddenly, one of my team walked up to me, took the cup out of my hand and walked away. I was startled and wondered ‘why did she steal my tea?’ She then caught my eye and mouthed the word “cameras” at me. Sure enough she had seen that the media cameras had turned in my direction, and me carrying a “Starbucks” cup would signify I was part of one brand tribe and would exclude me from other brand tribes. I was not very ‘self-aware’ in one of the more common understandings of self-awareness. 

The work of deepening self-awareness required for the digital (r)evolution is much more  complex than worrying about the brand of cup I carry.  Self Awareness is the continuous asking “who am I becoming?”  The journey is one of constant seeking for your deeper self. Carl Jung’s famous line sums it up nicely; ‘I am not what happened to me, I am who I choose to become.’ 


The question of “who am I becoming” is most often understood as a question of middle age. We spend our 20’s and 30’s normally focused on external trappings, pleasing our hungry ego with signs of material success. Our 40’s and 50’s are when we begin to wrestle with deeper questions of who we are below the surface of our ego. I believe the emerging generation are ready for these deeper questions and given the speed of change in the midst of the (r)evolution, they’ll need to be seeking their own answers to the question “who am I becoming” sooner than previous generations.


So here are three questions to get you started on this deeper journey of self-awareness:


  1. Ask yourself, “who am I?” and you cannot limit your answer to roles. You cannot therefore answer with, mother, brother, leader, lawyer, daughter etc.
  2. What do other people count on me for? What do they believe they cannot count on me for? 
  3. What are the stories about my self that I’d like to hear at my own funeral?


The journey begins with a single step. May this week be one of even small steps to uncovering your deepest self.



Greetings from New York, where it is summer. Not humid yet, but getting warm.

Working with my colleagues at the Neuroleadership Institute this week and loving every second of it. 

I'm sitting in an Italian restaurant and looking towards the front door, anticipating Michael Corleone's arrival. Yes it is that stereotypical in this restaurant. 

One of the most interesting insights about the brain is that no two brains are alike. For example while I see a scene from the Godfather movies here, you would like see something very different, sitting in my seat.

Three implications have come to mind for me.

1. I CANNOT know what you are thinking. We must always guard against "doing inventory" on our teammates.  If you are wondering what's going on for someone, the only option is to ask them.

2. We are far smarter together than as individuals. The collective power of the diverse minds in your team is immense. Got a problem? Gather these amazing minds together and facilitate their   collective work. You'll be amazed by the results.

3. Your route towards a desired outcome is just that; your route. When working with your team, focus on outcomes and results, rather than particular specific tasks. (Appreciating that there are regulatory requirements in some industries). As much as possible provide individuals the autonomy to work on the how, while you focus on results.

May this week be filled with moments of diverse brain power.

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

Word count this issue: 368

Estimated reading time:  2.30 minutes


Good morning, I hope this finds you well. There’s been a death in the family and I have been thinking about grief and our ability to think clearly. Once more I see more evidence of the fact that social threats are as powerful and can be more powerful than physical threats. We remember the pain of a broken heart longer than the pain of a broken bone.


And yet, in our working lives all too often we respond more appropriately to physical challenges and pain in our colleagues and co-workers than we do to the emotional challenges and pain in our colleagues and co-workers. How often do we think, and even say, “get over it”, or “give yourself a few days and you’ll be right as rain,” when faced with another’s emotional pain.


Here are three “don’ts’ to keep in mind when confronted with someone else's emotional challenge or pain.


  1. Don’t just do something, sit there. Sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing, except be present. Don’t say anything, don’t move around, just sit and be present with them.
  2. Don’t ask them “what happened”, or try other ways to get the story. As much as you think they need to talk about it, you are more likely asking for your own entertainment, even non-consciously. Instead, ask them how they are today, and listen carefully to the answer. 
  3. Don’t tell other people about another’s emotional pain. That is their story to telling in their own time, to people they choose. If someone for example is off work, just say they taking time off. In fact, I suggest using that or similar language in every case of someone being away from the office; don’t divide the absences publicly into “Jane is off with the flu” and “Alisdair is off…. well he’s taking time off…. I can’t really say why….” Instead, “Jane is taking some time off” and “Alisdair is taking some time off.”  



May this week be a week of being the best we can be with everyone who needs some time off.