If I am going to waste time, I may as well do it in whole sentences.

Board Walk Sneak by zayzayem via FlickrSome of us count; some of us write

I’ve always been better with numbers than words, far better.  I like organizing things. I like getting answers.  But here’s an interesting thing.

But counting is evidently not enough

When I work on long number-crunching projects, I doodle.  I cover pages and pages of scrap paper with odd words effectively just practising my hand-writing.

And I write with both hands.  My left hand is almost as good as my right.

I don’t do this when I am writing a lot.  Perhaps I worry then that I am reading too much, but I don’t doodle.

Counting cuts us off from the conversation

Another dreary thing is that when I am number-crunching, I have nothing to write about.  In so far as writing is a conversation, at least with a fictitious other, we have nothing to say when we are crunching numbers on confidential data on a project that will take weeks.

So I doodle.

Talk I must.  It’s human.

And now I write. Because if I am going to waste time, I may as well do it in whole sentences.

Let the energy drip into your heart

Sometimes my heart feels like a solid rock.

Time to step back and ask if I am going in the wrong direction?  Life shouldn’t be this hard.

“The world is made to be free in.”  David Whyte

Only this time, let the world look at you. I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

Why have managers ignored the poets for so long?

Contemporary English poet David Whyte

David Whyte uses contemporary language to talk about the essential ontological question of management, work, organizations and successful business.

When he takes his ball home, the universe takes its ball home too .  .  .

Far too often, our remedies for this world involve sulking.  Like an aggrieved child in a playground, we pick up our ball and go home.  We don’t address the lack of respect that sent us into a spin.

Persian poet, Khalil Gibran

Poets through the ages tell us that we find meaning and satisfaction through action, not inaction.  Through engagement, not withdrawal.

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt on self-knowledge from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.  He says it too.

We don’t find our bliss by staying in.  We find our bliss by setting out on a path.  And on that path we don’t meet our soul.  We meet the soul.

It also matters little which path we follow.  Many lead paths to the soul. What matters is that we travel the path.  What matters is that we set out. What matters is that we adventure a path.

We will recognize the soul on the way because it will recognize us.  And we recognize ourselves, we acquire self-knowledge, when the soul says good day.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Similar lines were said in the iconic movie, Goodbye Mr Chips, by the German teacher to the gawky, awkward Englishman.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Only this time, let the world look at you.  I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

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In darkness and frustration, belonging matters

I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
enough
to truly consecrate the hour.

I am much too small in this world, yet not small
enough
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.

I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.

I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.

I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everyday jug,
like my mother’s face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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Are their eyes shining? The only question to ask when we lead others

Who am I being that my children’s eyes are not shining?

“It’s the same for parents. If their eyes are shining, you know you are doing it. If they’re not, you’ve got to ask a question – who am I being that my children’s eyes are not shining?”

Ben Zander

And if their eyes are not shining?

Maybe the wisdom of Tony de Mello will help.  Are you trying to make them do your bidding?  Could we put equal energy into developing a deep relationship between ourselves and others?

The greatest leaders spark curiosity about the system

Our goal had gone walkabout

On my travels, I found myself teaching systems thinking in a university which broke a large course into 25 student groups. A few people determined the curriculum and an army of people taught students who wrote a common examination.

I was shocked by the examination papers. Students rambled on tossing in whatever thoughts came to mind.

We sensibly had an interim examiners meeting and I voiced my concerns. Well, it seems that I was the one to have misunderstood the curriculum.  The curriculum designers were trying to convey the idea that there are many perspectives on any issue. They didn’t see a common goal or direction as an essential part of any system.

I am cursed with an “open mind” so I hastened to the internet to double-check and the idea has hung around my mind ever since as unfinished business does.

3 misunderstandings about system goals

I’m afraid that systems do have common goals. That is entirely the point. But it seems that this is a point that is often misunderstood.

Some people think the system’s goal is their goal

No! There are still multiple perspectives. We can add the system as a virtual person and ask what is the system’s goal! We have the boss’ goal, we have the system, goal and we have each of our goals.

Some people think there is no common goal

It is true that the organization does not have a goal. An organization cannot think! When we say that the organization’s goal is X, we must ask who says that?

But we not only want to understand the multiplicity of goals but we also want to understand how the many goals come together and how the system goal morphs in response. We cannot ignore the system goal ~ or we do as a sailor might ignore the weather ~ at our peril.

Some people think goals are constant

They are ~ for a second. Goals morph as situations change. When we ignore the dynamic quality of goals, then we get mission creep. Conditions change and if we don’t stop to think about what we want, what we all want, we find ourselves doing too much of one thing and too little of another. A mess in other words. Goals are infinitely variable.

Articulating the morphing of goals in any group is what makes a leader

A leader understand the multiplicity of goals in a community and sees how are contradictions and conflicts, agreements and alliances come together to make us what we are – how the whole comes from the parts and affects them in turn.

A leader is a person who is able to articulate this dynamic mix so that we feel supported by the whole and essential to its well being. This is a tough call when a group is determined to quarrel or terrified by its destiny. The hall mark of a leader is that he or she looks for the common ground where we all belong and keeps looking.

Facilitating the agreement is the hallmark of the greatest leaders

Helping us find that common ground is the hallmark of the greatest leaders. We often doff our caps to leaders who were in the right place at the right time. They represent what is the best about ourselves and we throw them into the limelight to remind us of who we are and where we are going. In time, we choose a new leader because our direction has changed and we need new icon on our bows.

We remember these leaders because these were times that we felt great. The greatest leaders, though, help us identify the right questions. They know how to “bound” the group. They know how to focus our attention on the question that we must answer if we are to find the way forward and the place where we feel great.

That’s why it seems as if great leaders set goals. They set a boundary which focuses our attention on question-asking.

It is not the goal that is important, but our compulsion to find out how we should reach the goal.

Colin Powell once said “Leadership is about ‘Follow Me!. Even if it is only out of curiosity.”

Leadership is the art of engaging the imagination in the search for collective answers.

The system is important. With good leadership, we accept the system as a virtual person ~ a popular virtual person who we all want to look after and please.

Misunderstandings are so informative!

We are what we say and do

When your eyes are tired, no part of the world can find you  . . .”  so says poet, David Whyte.  David Whyte doesn’t blog, but he has unwittingly captured the essence of the blogging and the inature of the internet age courtesy of Larry and Sergei at Google.

This was a massive insight prior to the Google search engine.  In today’s world, anything & everything we do leaves a trace – a picture, a comment, a blog post.

That worries many people. And sometimes it should. Just because Google says “first do no evil”, does not mean that there is no evil out ther.e

But if we don’t do, if we sit at home talking to no one, then there is no one and nothing to be found.

People looking for ideas, explanation, activity, colloboration – even things – only discover us if we have left a trace.

The search words that bring you to my blog tell me a lot about you .  .  . and me

The search words that bring people to our blogs bring that home.  People search for strange things.  Many people want to take a test to find out if they are good looking.  This sentence may draw them to this post.

Simply, people don’t discover us for what we think we said.  They discover us for what they think we said. And if we didn’t say it, there is nothing to discover.  We are don’t exist. We are simply not there!

We have two choices:

  • Be silent and be, well not ignored, but not known at all.
  • Be misunderstood and be noticed.

Surely the latter is better.  When someone has noticed, then we can can engage in a conversation.  And they way they misunderstand us tells us heaps about them.

Misunderstandings are so informative!

Enjoy.  Maybe we should keep a curiosity diary.  What really surprised me today and what I should ask some more questions about?

 

The not-so Artful Dodgers! Networking in post-Thatcher Britain

Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, the...
Image via Wikipedia

In brisk, post-Thatcher Britain, we go to a lot of networking gigs

Post-Thatcher Britain, you may know, is an elbows-out sort-of-place.  Everyone is touting their wares like a scene out Dickensian Britain.  Do you remember the song “Who will buy?” from Oliver.  Well, it is like that. Except, people don’t sing so well.

Wannabe Artful Dodgers

There are wannabe Artful Dodgers at every gig.  They are not up to making-off with your wallet and silk handkerchief.  But you can see that is why they joined such a convenient crowd!

Fagin will be unhappy

When they get home, they will be in trouble with Fagin, their conscience, who asks them the wrong questions.

  • How many business cards did you give out?
  • How many business cards did you collect?
  • How much free food and drink did you score?
  • Did you find someone to give you some work?

They need to get a better conscience and a better Fagin to ask them these questions:

#1  Did they promise at least 5 favors to at least 5 different people?

If there weren’t at least 5 people at the gig who needed something they could do with their littte finger, they are sooo at the wrong gig, or soooo under-qualified to eat and drink with those people

If they were the Artful Dodger, they would pick a neighborhood better suited to their skills, or start to behave like the people in the neighborhood they’d chosen.

Or, they were so obsessed with themselves, they found out nothing about the other people there.

If they were the Artful Dodger, they would start to watch the crowd while Oliver stood in the shadows, singing mournful songs!

#2  Did 5 different people offer them 5 different favors?

Hmm, did they look at a lot of gift-horses in the mouth?  Maybe they talk too much and not give the other person even a few seconds to chip in and some assistance?

Oliver got help from all over because he was cute and un-pushy.  The Artful Dodger was admired but never got help from  anyone.

Had he washed his face, people may have helped him.  But then he wouldn’t be the Artful Dodger!

I suppose we really have to decide whether we want to work sooo hard or whether want to let luck find us!

#3  Did the person they help, or the person who took their card, write to say thank you?

Did they just hand out their cards like a free newspaper and walk away?  Or did they stay with the conversation to the point that they could offer to do something specific for the other person? Or ask them to do something specific and useful? Did they take the conversation through the stages of forming, storming, norming to performing?  Or. did they jump from forming to adjourning?

The Artful Dodger knew the endpoint – to hand his pickings over to Fagin.  But he didn’t jump there in one fell swoop. He watched, he followed, he ducked, he dived.  He fell into the other person’s rhythm.  Then he cleanly picked the other pocket and moved the contents smoothly to his own!

#4  Did they write to thank people who gave them their card?

Did they have anything at all to say to the people with whom they spent an evening?  Did they waste more time by sending an automated message when they got home?  Or did they talk to people in sufficient depth to remember them and be remembered?  Does their note reflect something they ‘did’ together?

The Artful Dodger would remember the people he met -more clearly than they would remember him.  He would know exactly how many pockets in each person’s suit, and exactly what is in them!

Which is your next networking event?

Maybe I will see you there!  I hope I remember you and you me!

I wonder what we have in common and what we could do for in each other, right there, in the few moments we share together!

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3 secrets about goal clarity that I didn’t know I knew

Front-loading washer machine.
Image via Wikipedia

I’ll be the last person so say that setting goals is easy – my life over the last 10 years has been as tumultuous as the life of a sock in a half-empty washing machine.

When we have to take a major turn in life – when we leave school, when we change career midstream, when we move countries – it is easy to feel utterly disoriented.

But it is undeniable that the day we stop dithering, the day we stop saying “I could do this, or I could do that”, when the humming and hawing ends, we lurch forward, taking ourselves, most of all, by surprise.

So how do we get from confusion to this state of goal clarity?

Shame – bad news – by hard work.

But take heart from my story of setting goals which dovetails oddly with positive psychology.

A long time ago, in my university lecturing days, in more stable and optimistic times, I was asked by a major multinational, whom you all make profitable on a regular basis, to be on a panel interviewing students for scholarships.

The company executive, who chaired the panel, asked every applicant the same question: what are the three things that you want out of life?

After the 10th candidate or so, I answered the question for myself:

  • I like to achieve.
  • I like to belong to something bigger than myself.
  • I like to have some comfort and style but I will sacrifice this for the other two.

So, I was somewhat amazed, some twenty years later, when my life had taken on the semblance of a sock in a half-empty washing machine, to learn that this is the scaffolding Martin Seligman suggests for positive psychology.

  • An engaged life.
  • A meaningful life.
  • A pleasurable life.

Seligman seems to think that most people waste too much time pursuing a surfeit of pleasure. I am not sure we do. I am not sure we spend most of our time pursuing pleasure, or do it very well.   But that is another story.

When we need to shrug off goal confusion and achieve goal clarity

It’s best to cut our goals down to 3, or at most 5, because that is all we can remember without looking up a list.

This three-fold schema is a good starting point.

  • The order of importance will be yours – there are 6 possible orders.
  • The weighting you give to each ‘life’ will vary – whether you go stark raving mad without it, or you would give it up for the others.
  • And the content will vary.

I’ve had to do some hard work rethinking what I want out of life in entirely new circumstances.

  • The order changed for me.  Meaning went up to No 1.  Pleasure went up to No 2.  And Engagement came in at No 3.
  • The weighting changed for each too. Order and weighting are intertwined a little.
  • The content changed slightly.  More on finding your content another day.

Achieving goal clarity for yourself

If you find yourself ‘humming and hawing’ and don’t have that sense of forward movement that comes of goal clarity, begin here.

  • What do you think about the three types of life?

And help me out a little:  Is it possible to think about these three lives beginning from the abstract principle?

That would be helpful for me to know, as I already thought that way before I heard the abstract principles.

More another day – probably on Wednesday!

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The essence of leadership is follow me

Even if it is only out of curiosity

Now who said that? Colin Powell, I believe, speaking to HR managers in the UK.

Culture, attitudes, behavior

My friend Steve Roesler at AllThingsWorkplace posted today on workplace culture, and how hard it is to change behavior. This is a central topic in social and organizational psychology. Can we change an attitude without changing behavior? Can we change behavior without changing culture? What sustains culture?

Earlier today I read a similar article in TimesOnLine on whether politicians can change British drinking culture by decree.

David Aaronvitch used a neat phrase:

“Fashion, popular culture, whatever you call it, found a way round authority, because it didn’t depend upon authority, or even upon establishment approval.”

This is the same phenomenon that Steve is talking about: informal culture and power. Should we despair as the TimesOnLine suggests? Brits are drunks – live with it and laugh at politicians nannying us again? Can cultures be modified?

How do we change patterns?

My social media friends will phrase this differently: can we organize viral campaigns?

I think we often put the cart before the horse.

Change effects tend to be spiral, or recursive. In other words, the change creates the change. And a forward change can cause a backward effect, necessary for the forward change.

So why the cart before the horse? We want the cart to be moving along with the horse following.

To get change, we have to join in. We have to be there in other words. We have put ourselves out there and be changed in the process. We have to believe that cart is worth pulling. We have to notice when it starts to roll back and judge whether to roll with it or dig our heels in.  We have to believe in it enough to feel the harness rubbing . . .

It is the linkage that is critical.

Being a player

In organizations, it is the willingness to be a player: to really put our money on the table. Willingness to win and to lose with everyone else.

  • Are we willing to sit at the table and make tough choices? And be accountable for the consequences?
  • Do we believe in our people enough to be accountable on the bad days?
  • Can we have the courageous conversations about what is truly rotten?
  • Can we accept the challenge about how we have treated people?
  • Can we do all of this will only one end in mind – keeping the group there for its members?

We don’t want to be talked at.  We want to talk with people who are also vulnerable in that their pride, future, pleasure, is also at stake.  We want to talk seriously with people about why we are doing this, whatever this is, and authentically discuss what is at stake for everyone.

Can we link our our futures to that cart?

Leading from within

This is the competency that HR Managers struggle with.

This is the competency that I hope social media managers will learn early ~ to be a player.

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