"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
Mark Twain

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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.

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: 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.



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

Word count this issue: 447

Estimated reading time:  3.00 minutes


Good morning from a sunny and warm(ish Vancouver. I’ve been reflecting while writing my book about how we live in a binary time. We are stuck in binary thinking about ecology or economy, liberal or conservative ideals, old school or new school. I believe there is a different way forward. A challenging and difficult way forward, but a better way forward.


The reason we may have not been able to ‘solve’ the daily problems of working with each other is because all too often we fall in to the binary trap or either or, this or that, right way, wrong way.


If we look at the world and our actions in it in a more quantum perspective, we see other possibilities. Here’s a link to the Canadian Prime Minister describing quantum computing: http://globalnews.ca/news/2641108/pm-justin-trudeau-gives-reporter-quick-lesson-on-quantum-computing-during-visit-to-waterloo/ to give you a brief overview of how quantum thinking works. And yes, this is a political explaining quantum computing!


As you’ll see in the link, binary thinking is 1’s and 0’s; everything is either yes or no. While there are many aspects of life that can be addressed by yes or no, anyone who has worked with other people knows there is much grey between yes and know, 1 and 0.


I’ve been working on leadership thinking that is more quantum, that is thinking that seeks to include that which is between the yes and no, and around the yes and no; the information between and around the 1 and the 0.


Here are three ideas to increase your quantum thinking as a leader:


  1. Reach out to people you likely disagree with and rather than debating, work at understanding their point, you’ll expand your own thinking more.
  2. Avoid asking “what’s the bottom line” too early. That kind of thinking is reductionist and forces you and others into smaller and likely binary thinking. 
  3. The first thoughts you have on a subject in a meeting are likely coming to your mind from habit, from experience. To expand your thinking, and your team’s give your people quiet time in the meeting to write down their answers, and to think for themselves before hearing from everyone. That way ideas and thoughts that are different, and not our of habit will come to the fore more often. The collection of those ideas, especially in a diverse group of people will be more quantum. 


May this week be filled with quantum thinking for us all.






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.


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

Word count this issue: 351

Estimated reading time:  2:15 minutes


Good morning from sunny Saskatoon. I’ve been moderating and facilitating at the national credit union conference here, and having a wonderful time reconnecting with long time colleagues and making new connections.


Our work has been inspiring and provocative, and in the shadow of a collective disbelief here in Canada as the city of Fort McMurray has been devastated by wildfires. Famous as the epicentre of Canada’s oil sands production, Ft. Mac is home to some 88,000 people, all of whom have been evacuated. Coming on the heels of the drop in oil prices last year, this is a tough blow to the many families who have now lost homes.


In the midst of such catastrophic news, there are calls to leadership from every corner. Heaven forbid you ever find yourself in such awful situations, but if you do, keep three things in mind as a leader.


  1. A first question to ask yourself is, “who do I want to be in this situation?” Exploring this question will engage the thinking part of your brain and mitigate the power of the emotional triggers going on around you.
  2. Get connected; collective effort is always more effective in challenging times. As tempted as you may be to “be a hero”, the real power is in the group working and learning together through the challenges. You may have the final say, but always be connected with others who can engage and explore alternatives with you.
  3. It is vital that you find at least a few minutes of quiet time every few hours. Go inside yourself and check; am I being who I want to be here? Am I working with others or trying to be the hero? What do I want to have happen here, what are the goals and are we working towards them?


Using these three ideas will help you lead people in the midst of very challenging times.



Please keep the people of Fort McMurray in your thoughts and prayers.