Monthly Archives: May 2010

Stop for a moment

“Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer the goal.”  Elbert Hubbard

Some days you just have to sit back and stare into the sky.     Take notice of the beauty that surrounds you when the day has not been the day you wish to live over.   Take a look and wonder, wonder at the beauty, the peace, the tranquility of the sky.   The painting that shifts moment to moment and where the brillance of color grows as the sun disappears over the horizon.   Stop and take a look. 

Time to quit …

A recent report shows that people in large numbers are preparing to leave their current job.   People who feel they are working in oppressive or less satisfying jobs are starting to look for something better.   For employers it may mean substantial costs of hiring and training replacement employees.   Just as companies are getting their bottom line shored up from a prolonged recession the potential for herds of employees leaving may weaken that margin organizations had hoped for.

Retaining employees may be cheaper than letting them go.

Tap dance on the piano keys of your life

The days are long.  The nights are short.   Your life seems to be coming apart at the seams.  You’re tired of running through life doing what you think you should do rather than doing what you love to do.   Your feet are heavy and they drag over the cobblestoned road you travel each day with a bit more weariness than the day before.    What would it feel like to be able to live and work in your strengths rather than working for the sake of working?

Imagine for a moment that you are unencumbered from the straight-jacket of your life as it is today and that you have a  chance to live the life you have dreamed of since you were a child, what would it look like, feel like, and smell like?

Live the empowered life, a life that is filled with the kind of freedom that allows you to create the future you desire.   So many people wish for the life they have never had a chance to live.  There was always something that put a brake on living the life of desire something that replaced living the life of dreams.  Perhaps it was having a family, having a job that paid the bills, or living somewhere because that was what was expected.   Perhaps it was fear that pushed you to the place you now inhabit physically and mentally and it is just too hard to break free of the chains that hold you in the corner.

From Les Miserables is the song “I dreamed a dream” and this captures the essence of so many shattered dreams today.

“I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame.”

It is a story of a dream that was torn apart when hope disappeared.   It is story that is lived out every day by millions of people.  It is a story that can be changed.    The dreams can come back.  The dreams can be lived if the desire exists to make it so.

What is your dream?    When will you start living it?  It is your turn to tap dance on the piano keys of life.

Simple steps to overcome fear …

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Frank Herbert, Dune – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

How do you handle fear?    What things in your life generate fear?

I’ve written a short e-book called “What would I do if I knew I wouldn’t fail?” that is available for download.   Just sign up and in the comments mention that you want the free e-book and I’ll send it to you.

Live authentically

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”  Steve Jobs

Living true to your values is to live authentically.   To live authentically is a rare dream for many.  How many people who appear to have everything (materially) suffer immensely inside?

What does your life look like?  Are you living the authentic life that you were meant to live or are you living a tired worn out life?

Many people become trapped and live in a world where performance and results are the only things that matter and when they wake up from that nightmare they realize that the best part of life has passed.   How many people have told stories from their deathbed saying that they had wished that they had spent more time with their families and building relationships with others?   Are you one of those people who is going through life at 100 miles per hour striving for more and leaving behind those that really do matter?

What would your authentic life look like if you could live it out?

What needs to change to live your authentic life?

Systems thinking and leadership

“A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.”  Stephen R. Covey

Often individuals in an organization are being held responsible for the failure of systems or processes and this leads to downward spiral in productivity, morale, and commitment.   At the core of organizational output are systems and processes.   At the core of systems and processes is the purpose, “what is the reason for ___________?”     Knowing the purpose of a system or process is the first step in understanding how to make the system work better.

When systems don’t work well and don’t deliver the results in many cases the flawed assumption is that the people are responsible.  In reality people are only trying to implement the system the best that they know how.   Leaders without substantial belief in systems will fault the people.   When people experience negative motivation, punishment will follow the lack of results, the desired results never appear.  

Leaders that believe people are reason for poor results are often thinking reflexively and that limits potential solutions to the problem and often leads to even poorer results.   

What can be done?

  1. Understand the purpose, understand what and why is to be done.
    1. What is the problem that needs to be solved?
    2. Why does a solution need to exist?
    3. Find out what the customer needs.
    4. Find out what output will create the right result.
    5. Find out what process will create the intended result.

If the process doesn’t produce the intended result then appropriate actions should be taken to correct the process.  

open the door


“In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself. ”                 Jiddu Krishnamurti

What is the door that you seek to open?   What stops you from opening the door to your next adventure?

What if you could change one thing in your life what would it be?  

Knock, knock on the door that may be the answer to your questions.

Learned helplessness

“Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger

A winning team suddenly finds that losses are mounting and criticism rising and with loud critical chants the team is unable to find a way to win again.  Confidence declines along with momentum needed to be successful.

Losing sets in motion a feeling of being out of control which increases the sense of powerlessness.  A self-defeating attitude begins to reign and results decline.

In organizations the losing streak causes people to withdraw with the best ideas being left out of the conversation.   Secrecy starts to increase and managers retreat to their own turf to protect their concerns.   Individuals sense the shift in openness and pull back in fear that they will become the next scapegoat.   Organizational momentum declines further causing managers to take steps that cause people to retreat  even further in isolation.

Learned helplessness occurs when people in an organization believe there is nothing they can do to make a difference.   Performance spirals downward.   Communication and respect for others decreases and people fall back on primitive self-protection behaviors.  

Organizations start to fall into the losing loop when leaders become arrogant and overconfident and stop listening to the issues that are being surfaced.   Unreasonable expectations by management and the denying the issues that are being presented increase the rate of failure.  

To reverse learned helplessness organizational communications have to be open and more frequent.  It takes large doses of listening to break the negative spiral and a strong commitment to hear whatever is being said, not to just hear the words, but to acknowledge the issues that are brought up.  If fear cannot be quelled productivity and loss will continue to mount.

Where do you see fear in organizations?

Have you experienced learned helplessness?

Levels of communication

Communication it either works for you or against you.  In most of our daily conversations our words and the depth of our conversations don’t really go very deep.   We spend much of our conversational time in a high level of conversation, superficial conversation, for the most part.   Maybe it is a talk about the weather, or how the kids performed in the soccer game, or how many potholes are in the road.  Conversations that don’t involve a shift of ideological concept remain pretty superficial; these conversations are tame and safe for the most part.

One level below superficial conversation are interactions that may contain debate or challenges to a position that is deeply held.   When conversations are at the debate level there can be strong disagreements where deeply held values are challenged but not relinquished.   Conversations at this level can erupt into misunderstanding, conflict, anger or in extreme cases violence.  

A level 3 conversation is what happens when someone is willing to listen, to step outside of their comfort zone and let a new idea challenge their own values or beliefs.   This doesn’t mean that a value or belief is changed it just means that one person is willing to listen to the points being made that are different than their own strongly held ideas.   When there is openness to new ideas and constructs that gives all participants in the conversation the ability to bring up new ideas and at least have an honest review of the ideas and concepts without having to defend the position. 

The final level in this model is a conversation that is without judgment where ideas, opinions, concepts can be talked about freely.   It takes maturity on part of all the participants to enter into a conversation at this level.  The goal is to build up ideas and add to thoughts without being critical of any idea or position.   This is additive conversation, a place where new insights are born and created.   Sometimes brainstorming enters this level of communication, especially if there is generative feedback rather than critical feedback.  At this level energy continues to rise and the best ideas and thoughts continue to grow.  This level is a place where creativity flourishes and would be considered an advanced form of communication.


Note:  The communication construct is based on ideas promoted by C. Otto Scharmer and Theory U.

What is a leader?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  John Quincy Adams

I am leading when ________________________________

What do you think of yourself as a leader?  

What style of leadership do you use?

What are the most important qualities of a leader?

Everyone is a leader.  Some would argue that you need followers in order to be a leader.  Why is that necessary?

A leader is a person who can influence someone else, that is all a leader really does.  Some leaders do it on a grand scale, with a vision that penetrates the hearts of millions and others lead on a much more subtle scale.

Leadership and what makes a leader are continually being debated with nearly every person having their own opinion of what leadership is.  The qualities of a leader and what character traits are important provide are fodder for lengthy discussions.  

The best leader it seems  can create an intention, a powerful vision and step back and let those who embrace the vision take it on and shape it and make it happen. 

What do you think a leader is?