"It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent; it is the species that is most responsive to change."
Sir Charles Darwin

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

Word count this issue: 374

Estimated reading time:  2:15 minutes


Hello from Vancouver. I’m preparing for medical tests (nothing sinister, we’re just doing middle aged man tests!). I’m on a clear liquid diet and was walking by a bakery on an errand this morning and oh boy am I looking forward to real food sometime on Friday!


It got me thinking about inputs. What do we as leaders allow in to our hearts and minds, and what is the impact of those inputs? Might we for example go an a “clear liquid diet” for our hearts and minds? What might such a diet look like?


Of course, you will have to make up your own mindful diet based on the people and the issues with whom you work. But here are three suggestions:


  1. Gossip is like sugar, it tastes good, and in small quantities is helpful, but there’s a clear limit. The adage, ‘before you speak ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind’ is a good way to fight off the sugary gossip temptation.
  2. White bread is not only boring, it turns to gas pretty quickly. The “we’ve always done it that way” thinking is too “white bread.” Try something new, a dark rye may be difficult to find at your local chain restaurant, you have to go and look for it, off the beaten track.
  3. Desserts are meant to be shared. If you sat at a table and someone ate most of the apple pie, you’d be pretty shocked. When things are great, when you are able to celebrate with something special, involve as many people as you can in the celebration. As hard as you worked, others on your team were there as well. Share the pie with them.


And remember, exercise is always key. Don’t allow your brain to remain in habit mode too long, stretch it, challenge it, engage it in places you might feel uncomfortable.


You’ll find your a better leader by developing your own mindful diet. 


I can also recommend the work of David Rock and Daniel Siegle and their “Healthy Mind Platter: http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/healthy_mind_platter/ 


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

Word count this issue: 405

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes


Hello from Whistler! I’m attending a clergy conference with my colleagues from the Diocese of New Westminster. The sun is shining, the air is warm and we are so very fortunate to be able to enjoy this spectacular place so close to home.


Our work this week has been lead by the theologian, Richard Topping http://vst.edu/people/rev-dr-richard-topping. Richard spoke eloquently about the dangers of suspicion. We live, he argues, in a time where intelligent people pride themselves on their suspicion and ability to criticize. We are separate ourselves from the ‘fools’ who don’t see the folly of their ways as clearly as we do. We find ourselves detaching and disengaging on the assumption that by separating ourselves we are more objective and able to “see” the truth. We set up a kind barbed wire of criticism. 


This plays out for us as leaders in any number of ways; our focus on the ‘real world’ bottom line at the expense of fluffy and ‘soft HR issues’, our focus on analysis that can override creativity and imagination, or our focus on negative feedback, speaking only to our reports when there is a problem.


That is not to say that we return to a supposedly happy time of naiveté and unfiltered reception. Rather, Richard is calling us to a renewal, a recognition of the power of imagination, the power of a group of people willing to dive into both difficult and amazing work together. To tear down the ‘barbed wire’ of criticism and be friends with each other. Friends are the people who have our permission to both challenge us and affirm us. Friends do not simply endure each other, but rather are refreshed in each others’ company. That is a very different way of seeing how the people in our organizations might work together. It is a call not to be friends with everyone (that would be impossible), but to work together through networks of friends, people who I trust to affirm and challenge me and vice versa, and through the various degrees of separation. We might then be able to build very powerful networks of people who are not able to simply do together, but who are able to do the much more difficult work of being together.



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

Word count this issue: 514

Estimated reading time:  3.15 minutes


Greetings from AC 212 enroute to work for the next couple of days with young leaders in Alberta’s credit union system. I’m looking forward to the work. And I have been thinking too about elders. This Sunday is the amazing Sun Run in Vancouver where me and about 60,000 of my closest friends will run, walk or wheel 10km in what I think is the largest community based 10km in Canada if not North America. The cathedral team is the largest ever but we’re down a member this year. George Fuller died at the age of 87 in January of this year. Last year, George walked the 10k at the age of 86 in his slow, plodding way. Our team captain waited for George to finish, which he did. Her waiting for George last year said more about how we should be living and working together than anything I have written or said on the subject. And then, just this morning I ran into an old boss of mine in the Air Canada lounge. He and his wife were in transit from Pheonix to visit her ailing mother. Both are in their early 70’s now, and they are dealing with a cancer as well. There is then in my excitement about the work with the young leaders this week, a poignancy. 


Whether you are as old as George, or even bit younger like my old boss, or if you are one of the 30 somethings I’ll be working with this week, you and I are called to look out for one another. Sure, you  can challenge yourself, you can constantly improve, and be a success in life, (what ever that means!). And at the end of the day, remember that you wouldn’t be here without other people. People who loved you, people who pushed you, people who believed in you, even when you did not believe in yourself. As much as you are you, you are also the result of a whole bunch of others. And you contribute every day to other people, both positively and negatively. We are interconnected and interdependent in ways we are only now beginning to understand. 



I believe that our collective work is about it’s about building a better, just and peaceful world for all people, starting right here and right now. That is the work to which George Fuller dedicated his life. Was he perfect? Not on your life. But in the same way he slowly walked the full 10km, he lived his life, making a difference one person at a time. It is the work my former boss and his wife dedicated their lives to. Are they perfect? Not at all. And they are working, one step at a time to make the world even a little better. It is the work that each and everyone of us is called to. To slowly and gradually be making a positive difference, one person at a time. 


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

Word count this issue: 370

Estimated reading time:  2.15 minutes


Good afternoon from a sunny and warm Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. I’ve had a couple of days of writing (between coaching calls) and am excited about some emerging thoughts. 


One thought has to do with patience. Comedian Lewis CK tells a great story about a fellow passenger’s vocal frustration when the internet access goes down on an airplane.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFsOUbZ0Lr0   CK’s punchline,  ”How quickly the world owes him something he only knew existed 10 seconds ago!” and that gets a huge laugh because we all recognize in our selves increased expectations of speed and corresponding decline in patience. 


One of the most difficult places for patience is in our work of leading. We all fall into this trap at times. A couple of weeks ago during a training session with some middle managers, we had divided the group into triads to do some rehearsal conversations between manager and employee. You know the kind of thing, we used to call them role plays. I was sitting next to one group and the person playing the employee was brilliant in the role. And they were enjoying themselves undercutting the person trying to practice the new learning. After a couple of minutes, I lost my patience and said to the person bravely playing the manager, “can I show you how you might work through this?” She said “yes” gratefully. And so very quickly the person playing the employee had met her match as it were. And all the while I kept thinking to myself, “I should not be doing, I should be coaching!” As long as it would have taken the person playing the manager to get there, that would have been a great investment in her time. By “showing” her I stole her struggle, where she would have learned far more than by watching me. 


The key here is that leadership requires patience. In the midst of a world of instant gratification, we need to remember that key to learning is struggle. 



May this week be one of patience and struggle for us all.

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

Word count this issue: 391

Estimated reading time:  2.30 minutes



This past week we enjoyed a wonderful and fascinating experience at a restaurant in Vancouver called “Dark Table”. All of the servers are visually impaired and the restaurant itself is pitch dark inside. You cannot see the table, your dinner companions or the meal. In fact, both the appetizer and dessert were surprises and we ate them up trying to determine what the tastes in fact were.


This got me thinking about the “other.” In philosophical circles, the “other” represents that which is different from us; outside our experience. Men are “other” to women, for example. We can intellectually try to understand, but we cannot completely understand, emotionally, physically and psychically. For example, a transgendered woman I know, in the midst of her journey from male to female was thrilled to note one day, “chocolate does taste different as a woman!”


To spend even a few hours then experiencing conversation, mobility, eating and navigating a social situation without my sight was a powerful experience of “other.” I will likely never completely know what it is like to live without sight, but I did taste it. I was surprised for example how difficult it is to use a fork when you can’t see your food. I would periodically put my fork in my mouth to find there was in fact nothing on it. Or trying to find the last piece of vegetable on an otherwise empty plate. And from a leadership perspective I was reminded of how important it is to shift perspectives when ever possible, especially to try to “see” the world through an other’s eyes.


A key to this perspective shifting is to avoid making the very common error of assuming that your perspective is ‘normal’ or even normative. Remember, apparently chocolate does taste different to different people. 


Here are three deceptively simple practices that will support you in gaining different perspectives:


  1. Ask people about what they see, what their experience tells them, rather than jumping to your own conclusions 
  2. In meetings you regularly attend, sit in a different chair each meeting.
  3. Break a habit; even one as innocuous as listening to the same radio station in the morning. You will be creating new wiring in your brain. New wiring can lead to new perspectives.



May this week be filled with new perspectives and learning about the “other”


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

Word count this issue: 388

Estimated reading time:  2.15 minutes


Good morning from AC 131 enroute home from New York, via Toronto. I’ve had an exciting couple of days working with leaders from two continents and the NeuroLeadership Institute. We were reviewing content and exploring methodologies for delivering the NLI content. Smart people, great content and wonderful dialogue; it has been a good week so far.


A fundamental question for us all is, how do we engage people, asking us all to perform at our best, more often? To paraphrase one of my colleagues from yesterday, “what got us here, won’t get us there.” It appears to me (and I am open to conversation about this as you know,) that we are in the midst of a revolution as massive as the Industrial Revolution of circa 1750 - 1850. The working world is changing around us, due in large part to the digital (and perhaps even the Cloud) revolution. And we are still trying to lead and manage using almost Feudal models of power, control and authority.


The key to survive times a turbulent as these is to change our selves. ‘What got us here, won;t get us there.” We need to change our own thinking about leadership and what that very deep word might mean in the coming 10 years. Rather than giving what I think what leadership will look like in 10 years time, I invite you into a thought experiment you can do yourself. Take some reflection time to consider the following questions.

  1. What will your organization/industry look like in10 years time? What will it look like, feel like, and act like?
  2. Who will be the people your organization will be hiring (or partnering with) in 10 years time? (Don’t just include demographics here, but think about competencies as well?
  3. Whom do you see yourself becoming in the next 10 years? (Try to steer away from roles here, and think about what people will depend upon you for?)
  4. What then are the competencies you need to work on (both technical and behavioural competencies and your strengths and challenges) to be the best leader you can be 10 years from now?



Feel free to send me some of your thinking. I am curious.