"Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms
to choose one's own attitude in any set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

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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: 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.




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

Word count this issue: 379


Estimated reading time:  2:30


I've been working on my book as this summer gets rolling. I'm thinking about how important it is for us to change our thinking, before it gets changed for us. Historically, technology replaced physical labour. Just as the plow, the wheel, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, all extended us physically, so too, smart phones, tablets, AI and Big Data are extending us intellectually. Like the industrial revolution of 1750 - 1850 radically changed Europe, this digital (r)evolution will radically change both the so-called developing and developed world.  While physical labour changed in the industrial revolution, the Digital revolution will change thinking labour; medical practitioners, lawyers, accountants, scientists, truck drivers, artists, algorithms can do at least part of these jobs already, and they are getting better at them every day.  Blue collar, white collar and pink collar,  jobs will change, somehow.  


The changes also appear, so far at least, to have a deeper impact than simply economics. Empathy scores are dropping in university students and some employers are anecdotally reporting difficulty finding staff who are able to read face to face customer complaints.  There are some interesting questions about dormant internal neural maps as more and more of us use tech to locate ourselves and for directions. In the same way that my hands are soft and weak compared to those of my factory working grandfather and his farmer grandfather, what will my grandchild’s brain be like, and his grandchild’s?


This is not to say that the digital (r)evolution is all doom and gloom, rather that we as a species need to live through it with 5 conscious domains; the 5 Thrives. Importantly, we do not need a new ‘how to’ book, but rather, it is time for a ‘who to’ book. We need to be more self aware so that we can see our own responsibilities and rights in the emerging world. We need a deeper connectivity with other people so that we might make better ethical decisions for ourselves and with our families and communities. We need to be open to become a learning species. We need to be more courageous so that we can both inquire and advocate within the difficult challenges of this planet. We need to welcome a disruptive spirituality that challenges our assumptions and habits. By exploring these 5 Thrives, we will be a stronger and better species and that much more prepared for the revolution that follows this one.


May this week be one of changing our thinking.


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: 139

Estimated reading time:  2:15 (including 1:43 video clip)


In Canada and the US we are heading into our national holidays, on July 1 and July 4 respectively. In the midst of xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and racism rampant in so much public discourse, I wonder what you and I as leaders might do to bring more sense, reflection and wisdom to our teams, organizations and communities.


Yesterday, President Barak Obama spoke to both Houses of the Canadian Parliament. Here is is brief clip of that speech. Perhaps we might all learn from his presence, wisdom and clarity as we celebrate our respective national days.





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.