"Cuando el caballo esta muerto, dejalo. [When your horse is dead, get off it.]"

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

Word count this issue: 318

Estimated reading time:  2:00 minutes


Greetings from the beautiful Sunshine Coast where we are ensconced, for a few weeks. A bit of travel back and forth to Vancouver and a couple of trips, but largely we’ll be here in Gibsons.


And today, between work assignments, I began to work on the chores. This first one is removing the caulking from around the shower in the small bathroom. It got me thinking about changing cultures. (And yes, I do see some strange connections in my mind!) All too often we presume that changing the culture on a team or in an organization can be done with some fancy words, some, platitudes and an all staff meeting. That is like simply applying the new caulking on the old in a shower. It might look great for a bit, but the old caulking, with the grime and even mould seeps through and soon enough the old supplants the new.


Changing the culture on a team or in an organization takes time, and early on some digging, getting the old embedded ideas and practices out and into the light of day. Only then can you begin to apply the new on a clean and dry surface.



One of the challenges with this metaphor is that you might infer I’m recommending ‘digging people out.’ That may be necessary in some instances for some individuals, but the real work is taking the existing team and leading them on a journey of self discovery, where they themselves make the changes, as opposed to have the changes happen to them. This requires that we recognize that each and every person on your team is a creative, smart, unique and talented human being. It takes time, but we can create cultures that look and feel brand new, to everyone. 

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

Word count this issue: 216

Estimated reading time:  1:15 minutes


Greetings from beautiful Victoria, BC.  We’re here for a clergy conference, and the sunshine and cool breezes are steep competition to the conference! Part of me is hoping for rain tomorrow! :)


Working with my coach this week, uncovered an interesting bit of language. When we speak about coaching or leadership presence, what are we talking about? My coach, and these are his words, offered; “boundaries and clarity, no drama and deep compassion.”


As a leader, I am most present when all of us involved in the conversation are clear about the boundaries, we are not being triggered by our own ‘stuff’ in the conversation, or slipping into the drama about the problem, and we are recognizing that everyone, including the most apparently successful people in our workplaces, have deep wounds inside them. 


Many of our challenges as leaders occur when we are not present. They occur when we have not been clear about boundaries. They occur when we get triggered into drama, or when we are judging others, instead of listening and honouring them.


Boundaries and clarity, no drama and deep compassion. Sounds like some good work here for me. How about you?





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

Word count this issue: 296

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


Good evening from Hillsboro, Oregon. We’re doing a little work, and a little vacation on either end of the gig here in the Portland area. It is a wonderful part of the world, and the people are just wonderful. Friendly, gracious hospitality abounds, and there is a sense of fun and quirkiness that makes us feel right at home.


For example at dinner last night, we saw a sign that said, “You cannot make everyone happy. You’re not a pizza.”


This simple statement is a profound lesson for all leaders, especially those who are relatively new to the role. There is a deep need in all of us to be liked, to be part of an in-group, even if your group is a group that eschews being liked, or being part of an in-group! We learn that the best managers are more interested in respecting and being respected than liking and being liked.


And it goes deeper than that; we are each responsible for our own joy, our own sense of what in French is joie de vivre; a zest, a joy for life. We are not responsible for other people’s happiness, even when they think we are. Now, part of Joy is to be found in companionship and mutual love and regard, but only part. Joy is also about self-respect, self reflection and self awareness. The most joyful moments may be in the company of others, but they are not dependant on others. 



So as people who work together, let’s remember that “you cannot make everyone happy. You are not a pizza.” You are though perhaps, your own pizza!  

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

Word count this issue: 278

Estimated reading time:  1:30 minutes


Greetings from a warm and gorgeous Gibsons BC, where we have moved to our summer headquarters. I am very, very fortunate. 


Working with a coaching client earlier this week, and we were talking about creating one’s future. I misheard him and checking asked, “did you just say, curating your future?” He said “no, but I like it!” Curating your Future. What might that look like?


As you look forward in your life, I think there would be at least 3 elements to curating your future.


  1. Know the story you are trying to tell. Explore questions like “who am I”, what is my purpose? There is a beautiful image from American writer, Frederick Buechner http://www.frederickbuechner.com. He says our ‘vocation is where our heart’s gladness meets the world’s hunger.’  The answer is close to the story you are trying to tell.
  2. The past is important because of the lessons you learn. There is an old adage from Carl Jung, “I am not what happened to me, I am who I choose to become.” Importantly, my choice about who I choose to become needs to be at least in context of the lessons I have learned. 
  3. The future emerges from the small steps. What ever you are doing, even if it appears a small step, do it to the best of your ability at the time. The habits you build today will become strong cables, so make them good habits.



I’m sure there are other elements to curating your future, I’m curious about what you think they might be?

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

Word count this issue: 293

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes


How clear are your messages? Do we know what you are saying quickly enough?


I see on a friend’s Facebook pages that Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood have been in Edmonton this week on a Habitat for Humanity build. I have a confession to make. While I knew of songs like Rodeo and Friends in Low Places, I did not know much about Mr. Brooks, nor of Ms. Yearwood, until I discovered the Garth Channel on Sirius Radio.


It was on the Garth Channel that we heard about Mr. Brook’s advice to song writers. He notes that the first two songs of a lyric, (take, for example, “Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots” from Friends in Low Places) should tell you the key message of the song.


It got me thinking about clarity in conversations. How clear are you with your messages? Would everyone get the message you were trying to send if they read the first two sentences of an email?



I was reminded of a teacher of mine in grad school, who said that the worst words you could hear at a function were, “Rabbi, could you say a few words?” Those of us who have responsibility to “say a few words” from time to time, in a group, or one-on-one with our reports and peers must work very heard at clarity, and that requires that we be prepared, we take the time to craft our message very carefully. And might it be helpful to have a guideline that says, everyone will know the key message in the first two sentences? 


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

Word count this issue: 305

Estimated reading time:  1:50 minutes


Greetings from Toronto, where I am in the midst of a 3 day leadership development day with a client. It’s a larger group and I’ve been using music to call them back from breaks. One of the participants asked me if I had any ACDC in my music and I said, “of course.” Next break was called back with the assistance of “Thunderstruck.” And of course the whole group of them started head banging; I thought, I think I’ve found their rhythm.


We spoke later about Daniel Kahneman’s work on System 1 and System 2 thinking: http://bigthink.com/errors-we-live-by/kahnemans-mind-clarifying-biases. System 1 thinking is our fast, habitual, easy thinking and System 2 is our slower, more difficult, challenging and effortful thinking. We too often just use System 1 thinking because it is easier, and if we used our System 2 Thinking we’d get better results, but it is difficult and an effort to do so.


As I looked at my ACDC playlist I saw the song “Highway to Hell.” I thought, System 1 Thinking is like “Highway to Hell” and System 2 Thinking is like….wait for it…. “Stairway to Heaven”


System 1/Highway to Hell


  • Fast
  • Habits
  • Reactions
  • Frequent
  • Emotional
  • Stereotypic
  • Non-conscious


System 2/Stairway to Heaven


  • Slow
  • Thoughtful
  • Responses
  • Effortful
  • Infrequent
  • Logical
  • Conscious


You have a choice, you can use the easy highway, or you can use the more difficult, but more effective stairway.


And of course, here are some Youtube videos, just because…


ACDC,  Highway to Hell, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTPnzzcJA0g 


Ann and Nancy Wilson, Stairway to Heaven, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u-PjvRyr0I