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Thanksgiving: Just In The Nick Of Time!

Thanksgiving: Just In The Nick Of Time!

In a couple of days, some of us will make a decision to spend time with family and friends. We’ll celebrate love and connection, share in good food, and to honor those in our lives with each other’s presence and kindness as we give thanks for so many blessings. In a couple of days, some of us will choose to avoid age-old traditions because members of our tribe feel differently than us. Emotions are raw, and there is too much at stake to just sit idly by, avoiding the elephant in the room. So, rather than engage in an argument, you will deem it best and more respectful to stay away. In a couple of days, some of us will show up at family gatherings, armed and ready to defend our positions, to share our feelings, to provide ample evidence to support our views. Alcohol will flow, tongues will wag, and wedges will be driven deeper into the cracks of already fragile relationships. And worse, each side will walk away triumphantly — always believing in the sanctity and validity of their position, proud of the verbal and intellectual blows they landed on their opponent, unaware (or perhaps, uncaring) about the damage left in the wake.   I don’t know what this Thanksgiving holds for you. But may I offer you an important reminder as you head off into this week? Acceptance is not agreement.  I need not agree with you to accept you or to love you. Jesus, Gandhi, MLK and many others have taught us that. We live in trying times — and for many, frightening times. This is true. But within...
Real Leadership Begins Now

Real Leadership Begins Now

…But not with those two. Not with our political leaders. Real leadership no longer resides in the candidates or our elected officials. They may have power, but let us not confuse power with leadership. They’ve done their damage to our nation’s discourse. And at some point this evening this election, hopefully, will be over, and if there is any grace in the universe, the results will be indisputable and decisive with no question and no ambiguity about who is the real winner. One thing is for sure, however: regardless of who wins, their opponent will go back to their wealthy, posh life and cease to be affected by the damage left in the wake of such hatred and meanness. We the citizens, on the other hand, will, in the morning, have to face our neighbors, our coworkers and our family members with whom we have disagreed these past two years, many with the same level of hatred and meanness demonstrated in the campaign. We will see them over the fence in our neighborhoods, In our churches and synagogues and mosques. We will face them across the table at Thanksgiving dinner. We will drive behind them on the road, their vehicles still adorned with stickers supporting views, values and visions we vehemently disagree with. We the citizens will have to live with each other and learn once more how to: Communicate Work together, Love together, Laugh together, Live together. We will cry together at the funerals of those we love regardless of our political affiliation, and in doing so will turn to each other and hug and console, forgetting for the moment that we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. We will cry...
What Do You Want Your Workplace To Look Like?

What Do You Want Your Workplace To Look Like?

Most companies, I find, are really one of two things: a Silo, or a Matrix. Not sure what I mean by that? Think about it this way: based on these definitions, which organization would you rather work for — and create? SILO: si·lo  ˈsīlō/  noun mid 19th Century from the Greek siros meaning “cornpit” 1. A tower or pit used to store grain for the purpose of compressing and storing grain as silage 2. An underground chamber in which a guided missile is stored and readied for firing 3. A system or process that operates in isolation from others MATRIX: ma·trix  ˈmātriks/  noun From the Lating meaning “breeding female,” later “womb” 1. A medium, structure or environment in which something develops 2. A mold in which something such as a printing type or phonograph is cast or shaped 3. Mathematics: A rectangular array of quantities or expression in rows and columns that is treated as a single entity See? We all can recognize traits of our own companies in one of those two. But who wants to work in an airtight container designed to compress grain into silage or fire guided missiles, when you could be operating in an environment designed to be a breeding ground for life and development? I know which I’d prefer. What about...
Your Team Is Your Muscle

Your Team Is Your Muscle

Huh?!  My team is what?! Think about it this way: When you go to the gym and sweat like a maniac doing a 40-minute routine that would kill an elephant, is that what builds your muscles? No, that’s what tears your muscles. They grow stronger during the resting period.  Your team works the same way. NO ONE can run, push, work at 100%, 100% of the time. When we are so busy ‘doing,’ there is no room for learning! The learning happens in the downtime, when you can review, assess, analyze, question, absorb, rest, distract, make room for new ideas…when you can get better. To build muscles: Exercise, Rest, Enjoy, Repeat. To build teams: Work, Rest, Fun, Repeat. If there’s no fun, no resting, no downtime to process, you won’t be able to achieve your full...
It’s Time For A Better Question

It’s Time For A Better Question

The wise, omnipotent computer in HItchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, gave the answer to life, the universe, and everything as “42.”  When the humans, confused by the answer, asked for more clarification, Deep Thought (the name of the computer) responded by saying the answer was confusing because they didn’t really know the question.   What is the real question, the better question for us to be asking now, in the wake of the election? I know half the nation is asking “What went wrong?” and “How could this happen?”  Fair questions, but the better question is:   What is leadership? Both sides in our country seem convinced their candidate is/was the ideal example of great leadership, but they aren’t.  Unfortunately, we have become a nation of agendas, parties and opposing sides doggedly determined to cancel out the other. That’s not leadership. Anyone can lead those with whom they agree.  But deriving success from the ability to denigrate one’s opponents, cultivate divisions or instill deep rooted fear is not leadership. Real leadership — the kind that ends civil wars, changes history for the good, and rebuilds nations after national tragedies, world wars and great depressions — Great leadership works with their opponents, recognizing they are not the enemy. Rather, they are the opportunity.  Leaders build coalitions among rivals and seek a greater good for everyone they lead.  Real leadership builds trust and is measured by how you achieve great things while engaging, respecting and leading those with whom you disagree. So ask that question:  What is leadership? Then ask, how will you step up and be the leader you seek? Here’s one way it can look in the real world. And if that’s not enough, here’s a little 70’s cheesiness to remind us that United...
Hip, Hip, Hooray For Doubt!

Hip, Hip, Hooray For Doubt!

Give yourself permission to be in doubt for as long as you need to — but then take steps to change it.   Some folks will read that sentence as another way to describe the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy, which can leave us feeling hollow or disingenuous. I’m not quite suggesting that.  What I am suggesting is this: doubt can be a powerful motivator and a brilliant lens. You see, what I usually find is that people who doubt do so because they can’t see the path–not because they can’t see the end. In fact, I would argue that the only way to have doubt is to see the end. Otherwise, what are you doubting? Everything? Many people confuse the two–the ‘path’ vs. the ‘end’–or simply assume these are one and the same.  But they are absolutely not. The path is a thousand little steps, most of which can’t be seen until the previous 1, 10, 100, 997 have already been taken. And as MLK once famously said, “We need not see the whole staircase to take the first step.” Our path from doubt to confidence doesn’t live in the elimination of the doubt, it lives in the string of successes found in every little step we take.It lives in action. You take enough of those steps and the little successes add up. Get enough success, no matter how small the win, and doubt starts to feel outnumbered.  Doubt, fear, weakness, whatever you want to call it–that isn’t your enemy.  Inaction is.  Doubt can’t live long in action, but inaction will give doubt...
The Spiral Of Life

The Spiral Of Life

Conventional wisdom claims that life is a circle, but in truth? It’s more like a spiral.  We continually rise and fall from leader to learner and back again, but we never really circle back to where we started. We are always ahead of where we were before, like a spiral spinning forward, even though the falls might feel like recession. We learn, we grow, we even rise to become the best–which leads us to new experiences and new opportunities for more learning, more growing, and more humility. There, we slide into the unknowing of that learning. It can even feel like we’re going backwards, but that’s only temporary–soon, we’re rising up and regaining a new competence. We get stronger, smarter and wiser, and find ourselves back on top speeding towards the next opportunity–where, of course, we’ll learn all over again, and be the student once more! The spiral goes on and on, advancing us upward and forward in the ebb and flow of becoming the person we are meant to be.  A wheel goes round and round, it’s true, but it’s only in those rotations that it makes any forward progress. And while we, at times, may feel dizzy as we experience the constant rotation of life, notice that when you look back, the wheel leaves behind a line: not always straight, but always...
It’s Action Time!

It’s Action Time!

They say success is moving from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. I guess I get that, but wouldn’t success be far better if you were able to move from success to success with a growing level of enthusiasm? We’ve talked in the past  about letting your team take the time to process changeand how it’s an essential process for health and growth. But what about when it’s time for forward action? After all, the transition of change can’t last forever. Soon it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for: beginning that new opportunity.  In business, some of these answers may be provided for you based on the circumstances. There’s rules, there’s procedures, blah, blah, blah. But for most people, the details in those procedures will be lacking. And, as they say, the devil is in the details. So take control and build in the enthusiasm! Design the beginning of the new ‘normal’ together. Get involvement, ask more than you tell, get clear on what is possible, and know as a leader how new fears will be addressed. Remember the old cliche’ WIIFM: What’s In It For Me. How will your team’s needs be accommodated in this new situation, and do they know and understand that? What this time is calling for is the opportunity to move not from failure to failure, but from success to success, seeing change and transition as a powerful, empowering, engaging and desirable process.   Now wouldn’t THAT be...
The Path of Least Resistance

The Path of Least Resistance

The path of least resistance isn’t always what you think. If you think in terms of nature, it’s pretty obvious: water moving down a mountain takes the path of least resistance, flowing around rocks, under branches, wearing a groove that’s virtually never a straight line. But when we say this about our lives, I think we’re often misusing the phrase. Recently, a client of mine — let’s call him “Sean” — was thrown into a management job. Sean has limited management experience, and literally no experience in this field. And now his responsibility in this new position is to implement change. As is often the case in such circumstances, his efforts are being met with great resistance, by one employee in particular. This employee is very aggressively against Sean’s work; he’s made it clear that Sean is not welcome and believes that he should have gotten Sean’s job. And Sean, for his part, keeps trying to create change by being a ‘nice’ guy, rather than confronting this employee. “I’m conflict-averse,” Sean told me. “I’ll avoid conflict at all costs. I don’t want that fight; I’d rather follow ‘the path of least resistance.’ ” It’s funny–we so often we think the path of least resistance is to simply acquiesce in the face of conflict. But is that really the case? By avoiding the conflict, all you’re doing is prolonging the challenge. Instead of going around it, you keep running into it, and instead of facing it, you just keep running into it, doing the same thing over and over again. Is it possible that the path of least resistance is actually facing the conflict? Is it possible that, though the conflict looks hard, certainly more difficult that avoiding...
Our Past Self Needs Our Patience

Our Past Self Needs Our Patience

Last week we talked about how sometimes, it can be easy to look at the struggles of others and assume they should not be having a difficult time. After all, their challenge would be easy for us. But it’s also easy to make the same judgmental mistake when we look at our past selves. We can easily remember a poor decision we’ve made and think “How could I have been so stupid?” We forget that we have certain knowledge now that we didn’t have before. We simply cannot judge our decisions of yesterday with our knowledge of today. Today we know something we didn’t know then–like, for example, the outcome of the decision! And what? Now we’re going to judge it with experience we didn’t have back then? That’s not fair. The goal isn’t condemnation for the error, it’s the analytical analysis of what lead to the decision: how we made it, why we made it, what were our triggers, and what can we learn from it. In the same way we can’t judge other people’s difficulties or challenges with our experiences, we can’t judge our decisions on what we didn’t know. It debilitates us and distracts us when, as a leader, we most need to keep our head in the game, to keep our wits about us and to focus on the next step. You can never win a game by re-taking a shot that you missed. You only win by maintaining the courage and composure to keep shooting on the goal. Have grace with your past self, and have grace with your team. Wouldn’t you want the...

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