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Leadership

Seeking Sky

I am walking one of my favourite trails in Vancouver. It weaves along the bluffs of Spanish Banks, before either dipping down to the sea of veering south toward the university campus. On this particular day, in early September, I am strolling. When I walk, especially in nature, ideas come to me that would not ordinarily arrive, and I am always delighted when a certain breeze or vista offers up the gift of a metaphor and carries me away. Today it is a tree, an odd slender cedar with a tenacious urge to see the sun. The tree has bent itself over, growing parallel to the ground, before pushing itself upright again, some 8 feet later. The s-curve makes something of bench for those inclined to seize the moment and take a seat. Despite having walked by this particular tree many times, today it encourages me to think about how we are all seeking the light; literally, as a necessary life force, but also figuratively, in our lives, with our families, and in our organizations. I began to wonder about the ways I have contorted my own life, working my way around things, over things, and through things in search of my sky. I think all of us are searching for the sun light of our true nature and that search takes us and shapes us in all sorts of ways- good and bad.¬† I carried on along the trail, reflecting on the work I do as a coach, and how so much of it is about helping people determine and head for their own light. And I was comforted by the idea that, like the tree, even our most twisted turns, can be […]

Emerging Future Strategy

I am reading Otto Scharmer’s book U Theory: Leading from the Future as It Emerges….and i am loving it!!! Just a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about strategic planning and how organizations approach it as a means to ensure ongoing organizational relevancy, profitability, growth and success. This is all fine and dandy, but I don’t think it’s enough. Not in the context of globalization and the need for a true shift in consciousness. I began to imagine a world where leaders would approach strategic planning first and formost from a place of global stewardship. Thereby making their businesses¬† active agents in the reversal of catastrophic environmental and social trends and pioneers in the persuit of a future truly worth persuing.

100 Things To Do

A few weeks ago, in the late quiet of a winter night, I found myself thumbing through a journal that I had kept a couple of years ago. The journal, one of those moleskin notebooks, was filled with anguish, longing and uncertainty. While I was happily occupied with loving my daughter, coaching and consulting, being a foster parent, and singing with The Shirleys, I was simultaneously living in a state of acute fear and sadness, i had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was still undergoing treatment and was trying to make my way out of a wretchedly doomed love affair. Amidst the pages of despair I found this:

100 THINGS I WANT TO DO BEFORE I DIE.

Have you ever written a list like that? Your own little bucket list? I remember it took me a good long while. I was really reaching for ideas by the time i hit the 80’s but i pressed on to a 100. At the time that i wrote the list, I am not sure how confident I was that i would actually live to do even half the things on it. And some of the things on it seem utterly ridiculous now. I mean for some reason I wanted to get on Charlie Rose. I also wanted to build something beautiful out of wood. I found that comforting and true though i am not sure it would make the list today. Reviewing the list was fascinating. I couldn’t help but wonder how the final tally might have differed had I not been under such emotional pressure. But the real delight was in finding that I had completed- or was close to completing- a good number of the things […]

Mind the Matter

Three pounds of gelatinous pudding, that’s how Jeffrey Schwartz refers to the brain in his book The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. My interest in the brain has grown directly out of my work as a coach. I am keenly interested in how we develop and change, and what factors are likely to contribute to a successful transformation ( click here for a link to a very interesting article on neuroplasticity and leadership). Recent research in neuroscience and brain plasticity has turned conventional assumptions about the brain upside-down. Insatiably hungry, intriguingly opportunistic, paradoxically stubborn and adventuresome, beguilingly brilliant and seriously under-estimated, these are just some of the ways we might think to describe the human brain. I wont even attempt to try and summarize the amazing research; what I will do is tell you that the stories and research presented are positively fascinating and for that reason I encourage you to pick up the above mentioned book or perhaps the recently published The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. This book inspired the recent PBS Brain Fitness Program and mentions a number of interesting resources, one of which you can visit by clicking here. Besides providing the reader with an acrobatic reading experience -the brain studying itself- it is sure to fire up your motivation for persuing everything and anything that interests you while at the same time offering some reassurance for people such as myself who fear their memory might be weakening or for those recovering from brain injuries or struggling with learning disabilities or obsessive compulsive disorders.

No Stick For Me

Dan and Chip Heath are the brothers that brought you the New York Times bestseller Made To Stick. They have also landed themselves a nice monthly column in Fast Company. In April they featured a story called “Your Boss is a Monkey-Managing up using the tricks of exotic-animal training”. The gist of the article is that our reactions to inappropriate behaviors are either reinforcing or neutralizing. If we don’t like what others are doing we are advised to IGNORE IT. Not the person per se, but the behavior. Eventually this will lead the person to adopt new, more appropriate strategies for getting what they want in the circus ring of life. There is only one problem with this theory, it is unrealistic and difficult to practice. Perhaps with a two year old we can do it, but a tyrannical boss or a long-winded but respected colleague will be incensed or bewildered by your odd “Vulcan” demeanor. Instead try this:

Focus on what you want more of and when you see it blow on it.¬† The best way to change a person (or a culture) is to recognize the inherent positive intent in others. That positive intent (however poorly conveyed ) is alive and well in some manner – it is up to you to blow on the delicate embers of more appropriate behavior. Acknowledge the behaviour you want more of whenever you see it, even it it is just a pale glimmer of what you long to see. In organizations we are quick to point out what bothers us about others, what we don’t like and don’t want. But if we adopt the principles of appreciative inquiry and appreciative leadership we start […]