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Month: December 2007

Can we manage without managers?

Quotations from Gary Hamel’s The Future of Management.

“My guess is that the most bruising skirmishes in the new millennium won’t be fought
along the battle lines that separate one competitor, ecosystem or economic bloc from
another. Rather, they will be fought along the lines that separate those who seek to
defend the prerogatives, power and prestige of their bureaucratic caste from those who
hope to build less structured, less tightly managed organizations that elicit and merit
the very best that human beings have to give.”

“Not surprisingly, most managers believe you can’t manage without managers. This is
the mother of all management orthodoxies”

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Priorities and goals

Middle management sucks

I’ve always thought that one of the best kept secrets of management theory is that middle management sucks.  Have you every noticed that there are very few movies about middle management? And whenever there is a story about middle management, it is about a submarine or boat where the “business unit manager” is far enough away from the “strategic leaders” to do some leadership? Or we see the middle manager bailing out and rediscovering life as in Jerry Maguire.

Middle management sucks because it is all urgent and important

Middle management sucks because it is all management.  It is all about “to do” lists.  Being a housewife is similar.  “To do lists” take up too much of our attention.  It is a percentage thing.  While everything on the the list is important, we should never allow our lives to be overtaken by what is urgent and important.  Urgent and important should be allowed, how much do you think?  1%?  If you have a day of urgent and important tasks, don’t you think you really have another 99 days of tasks that you are not doing?

Can you live without a day of urgent and important tasks?

If we could live without urgent and important tasks, I wonder whether we would?

Isn’t it true, as David Whyte says, that we make another “to do list” because we are scared that we are nothing and nobody without one.

It becomes very interesting when our “to do” lists vanish.  If we are suddenly ill,  or when we change jobs and nobody knows who we are.  When we don’t get email and our phone doesn’t ring.  It is quite disconcerting.  We much prefer to be dominated by urgent and important tasks even if they are dreary. Don’t we prefer to have “to do” lists that are larger than ourselves and our dreams?

To do lists make us miserable

For the last 10 years, as a displaced person/migrant, I’ve oscillated between frenetic completion of lists of commercial tasks like residence permits, bank accounts, etc. etc. – things I hate to do at the best of times – and silence.  I think this is why migration is so miserable.  Not dealing with bankers and government officials – they are people too.  Not taking boring jobs.  The jobs are important in their own right.  Migration is miserable because we make the mistake of allowing the “to do list” and the silences that surround them be all that it is.

We have to allow the “to do” work and accompanying silences fit into space around our dreams, not be our only space.

We really have to resolve to re-engineer our lives around a dream, to live around what we love to do and to relax into doing what others love us to do because we do it so well.  We have to allow the “to do” work and silences fit in to that space, not be our only space. We are letting priorities become goals and constrict our spaces until we cannot breathe anymore – rather literally for some.

A hack to start the dreaming

Take a a piece of paper (or junk mail envelope).  Draw a little circle for our little life as a migrant, or as a housewife, or as a middle manager (those scare me more than being a migrant).  Around that little circle, draw a giant circle representing our horizons and dreams.  And stare at the empty space between the two.  Pretty scary.

I feel my chest constrict.  I want to walk away.  I mustn’t.   I must start defining the points on the horizon.  The points I love and I am drawn to.  And then start filling in any points between me and there, any point at all, useful or not.   I need to take the first step and to put down the first point.

Can we leave the tight center of tedium?

It is hard when immediate pressures are upon us.  We won’t start dreaming instantly.  We keep looking nervously at that tight center of tedium. How can we take our eye off all these pressures?

Crisscross over.  Promise yourself you will be back to watch that tight center like you watch a pot on the stove or a sick child.  But branch out in each direction to see how far you can see.  It is only a piece of paper after all. Just add a point.  See if you can.

See if you dare to live a full life even on the back of an envelope

See if you dare lie a life when priorities take up 1% of your existence and are priorities, not limits and constraints.

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The art of living in the present

Does the value of gratitude and forgiveness come from living in the present?

I think much of the value of gratitude and forgiveness is in ability to live in the present: to be clear what is happening now, to listen to the “voices” or essential nature of what is happening, to list our choices for action, to take action.  When we ruminate, we are anywhere but here.

Why do we “mentally travel” away from where we are right now?

aaron(at)todayisthatday(dot)com describes the ho’oponopono that treats self and other and past, present and future holistically – a central idea in quantum physics and in many indigenous cultures such as Hawaii (what is the adjective) and their relatives the Maori of New Zealand.

Can we accept a challenge just to accept things like the weather, just the way they are?

Here is the challenge.  Can we can accept responsibility for bad weather? In our hands, that question smacks of superstition.    Of course, we did not make the weather.  Of course,  we cannot change the weather.  Of course, we may have predicted it better.  And of course, it is so silly to complain about the weather.  What we can do is note the weather, understand the weather, review what we want from the day, list our choices, and act.

Our emotions are part of now.  We see that when we grieve.

There are times, though, when hardship is severe.  Acting during a tsunami under the influence of adrenalin is probably easier than coping with loss and devastation after wards.  Maybe then to grieve, and to grieve fully,  is the correct action.

The New Zealand Maori concept of mana is an example of holistic thinking

I always  felt so silly in New Zealand teaching western ideas of management and leadership.  My apologies for the curriculum were always met with knowing nods from Maori and Pacific Island students.  The concept of mana, schizophrenically adopted by New Zealanders of recent arrivals but not included in the management curriculum, includes status and influence as a bundled idea, leadership and followership in one.  You have mana as teacher and you acquire mana from being a good teacher. So if something is going wrong in the classroom, one does not get emotional. One acts in appropriate ways to restore the  dignity of the classroom for all concerned.  That’s all.

Why do we separate ourselves from society and the present from the past and the future?

I wonder the philosophical origins of our need to separate self from society and the present from the past and the future.

Why not just accept the ground beneath our feet as what is there and what is right to be there?

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Does your dream bring you alive?

Which is easier?  To make the interesting feasible or the feasible interesting?

Or I might say, how do you choose to live your life?

The Steve Jobs way?

Do you have a dream that you would like to come alive?  Do you want to make the interesting feasible?

Or do you fight a losing battle trying  to make the feasible interesting?

Why won’t you take the Steve Jobs way?

So many people won’t take the Steve Jobs route because they fear, if not know, deep down, that their dreams are not worth pursuing. It is not really anything to do with whether the dream is feasible, though that is the excuse.  They just aren’t very good at dreaming!

Could you become a better dreamer?

If you are a bad dreamer, could you be better?  We get better at most things with practice.  Perhaps we can practice taking a small dream and bringing it alive.

When we get good at bringing small dreams alive, then that we might agree, deep down with Frank Boyd of Unexpected Media, that it is easier to make the interesting feasible than the feasible interesting.

Dreaming little dreams is the essence of creativity

In his address to the Creativity: Innovation & Industry Conference in Leicester last week, Frank Boyd also spoke of pitching: a process of testing dreams by speaking them aloud and shaping them as we go.

Pitching and rapid prototyping.  Every week, inventors and designer stand up and spend 5 minutes describing their idea ~ and the get feedback.  A simple format for their presentation is nABC ~ need, Audience, Benefit, Competition.  Easy to say, hard to do; brilliant when we get feedback from others.

When our eyes light up .  .  .

I’ve used this in the inverse of pitching during coaching.

Rather than spend hours with psychological tests, I’ve asked youngsters to page through the newspaper and point out who they would like to be like.

I watch their eyes.  When they light up, I know we are close to what they truly want and I cna help them take small steps to shape and pursue their dream.

Bring a small dream alive, today, and everyday!

And become very good at making the interesting feasible!

And here is a small poem to remind you that the beginning of every dream is right here, exactly were we stand!

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Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford

If you have never read Steve Jobs’ commencement address, here is a link.  This is Steve Job’s story from dropping out to college to surviving his first life threatening illness.  Read his philosophy of life.

I’ve not read the original before.  Here it is.

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Everything 2.0

Look here for a very, very comprehensive listing of 2.0 sites. There isn’t a category for coaching, spirituality, personal development, etc. but sites like Inpowr are listed. An excellent place to find what you have missed!

UPDATE:  I’ve been around Web2.0 for a while now and I rely on information coming to me.  On looking at this site again, it was a surprise to find many applications I hadn’t seen before and that some favorites had gone out of business.

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How our training as psychologists inhibits our ability to understand generative, positive and appreciative psychology

The way psychologists were taught to think

I suspect that the most interesting concept in positive psychology, if you are a psychologist, is the relationship between the past, the present, and the future.

Our training is based predominantly on on linear models. We are trained to think that if we are X today, we will be Y tomorrow. Most of our tuition taught us to define and measure X’s and Y’s and took for granted that today and tomorrow are independent.

The way psychologists will be taught to think

Positive psychology is based on recursive models. The past does not predict the future; it is part of the future. Mathematically, we predict the value of X in the future, rather than the value of Y in the future.

Is the future a separate place?

David Whyte’s Midlife and the Great Unknown begins by addressing the relationship between future, present and past. To feel well, to feel vital, to feel alive, we need to be active, to be acting our future in the context of the present. In other words, always to be doing now what we want for the future, without the future being a separate place.

Everyone’s story is unique

I particularly like David Whyte’s idea that we are all unique – well of course we know that, but do we act that way? Do we look at all our relationships with people, with events, with places and even with things and see a unique story that is unfolding and interesting in itself?

Mindfulness as experiencing being present

Related is the concept of mindfulness – to be fully present in events, not to experience their beauty or their ghastliness (ghastliness is real) but to experience being present.

It is a hard concept for we psychologists!

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Active listening

For fear of ever losing it, I must quote The Bumble Bee word-for-word here.

“Imagine you are the leader of a new team or network.

How can you quickly find out what each team member’s number one concern is about working in this scenario?

Dr Lewis recommends you get each of them to repeat the following 5 words out loud without thinking about it too much:

“We can’t do that here”

Listen carefully to which of the five words they stress – if it’s:

  1. We – they are worried about their identity
  2. Can’t – they are worried about their beliefs and values
  3. Do – they are worried about their skills
  4. That – they are worried about their behavior
  5. Here – they are worried about the environment”

UPDATE:  This heuristic is quite sophisticated listening, yet it is needed.  Even IT people struggle with comments like : We can’t do that here.  What exactly does someone mean when they say that.

Can we separate out the ideas a little more?

1  We – what will my friends and significant others think of me?

2  Can’t – that doesn’t make sense with the other things we think and do

3  Do – we don’t know how to do that, or manage that

4 That – we can do it another way but not like that

5 Here – what you suggest will harm this place

This is highly nuanced listening which helps to find a person’s underlying objection.