Walking with the elephants: remembering Galba Bright

Galba Bright

Many of you will remember Galba Bright. The British Sierra Leonian migrant to Jamaica who built a successful emotional intelligence website in less than a year.  He died very suddenly and many of us miss him.

Shortly before he died, Galba set me a challenging questions. Do “in tune” people reflect?

When Galba died, I had two unfinished posts on my computer.  They’ve stayed here for quite a while and a Twitter poll urged me to publish them in tribute to a man who many of us found inspiring.

This is the draft that I find the more inspiring.

Walking with Elephants

zimbabwe_hwange_national_park-compressed.jpg

Galba Bright of TuneUpYourEQ asked me to expand my comment that people who are tuned into the world don’t reflect much.  I thought this picture of Paul Van R bicycling in Zimbabwe illustrates the point I wanted to make.

Of course, we laugh at first.  Then we may wonder whether Paul was being slightly reckless.  We question his good sense and  wonder if he knows what he is doing.

If he does know what he is doing, if he understands elephants, if he knows when they are likely to walk on the road, if he knows how they will react when they see him, then he is not necessarily reckless at all.

Moreover, if he meets an elephant and the meeting is cordial, if the the elephant was allowed to be an elephant and do elephantly things in an elephantly way, then that evening Paul is likely to relax with some fond and pleasant memories.

Of course, if he doesn’t know much about elephants and he reacts to any elephants he meets in a ways that elephants don’t much like, he might spend the evening in a whole different form of reflection.

We could flesh out this question quite a lot more.  I thought it would be fun though to think about elephants.

I think my point is that when we are “in tune” with the world, we don’t reflect very much. We are connected. We are in touch.  We are enjoying the world and ‘dancing’ with its rhythms.

When we are not “in tune” with the world, then it is time to reflect. Then it is time to focus on where we are in touch, where we feel vital and alive, and what to follow and do more of.

And as most days are not blissful rides through Africa on a hot, sultry day, some time spent each evening in reflection and when we awake in the morning, helps keep us in touch with what keeps us in touch.  Some reflection calms down our fretful helter-skelter rush into stressful activity that is poor replacement for what we love.

We miss you, Galba.

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Respects for the late Galba Bright

View of Montego Bay from the hillslide overloo...

In Fond and Grateful Memory

I learned today with considerable sadness that Galba Bright died suddenly in his office in Montego Bay in Jamaica two weeks’ ago.  Galba is known to all of us through Tune Up Your EQ. Born in Sierra Leone and  educated in the UK, Galba moved to the UK with Sandra who is of Jamaican descent.

The Tune Up You EQ website is only a year old and was already recognized as the reference site for handy, practical advice on emotional intelligence.  Galba was inviting, supportive, welcoming, inclusive, considerate and reliably cheerful.  We are going to miss his kind words drawing us into the discussion of emotionally intelligent lives and leadership.

I was so so sorry to hear the news.   My heart goes out to his wife, Sandra, and all his family and friends who will miss him dearly.

Nothing is so strong as gentleness
and
nothing is so gentle as real strength.

-Ralph W. Sockman

Aloha coaching: 3 points for conversations

I have just rediscovered Aloha Coaching and found their post on conversations:

Bronze is earned from listening to our own voice.

Silver is earned from incomplete conversations.

Gold is earned from voices that are struggling to be heard.

And how do we do this?

In addition to aiming for gold: to hear the voice struggling to be heard,

2.  Be patient with silence.

1.  Still our own inner voice

Have you seen Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED lecture on her “stroke of insight”?

Jill is a brain scientist who had a stroke quite young.  She describes what it felt like to lose the left side of her brain which governs our serial processing – our inner voice.  She cries when describes what it was like to be fully aware of the world via the right parallel processing side of her brain.  I think they were tears of wonder (though I am sure it was pretty scary too).

I think implicitly she was advocating the idea that we put far too much emphasis on our left brain, serial processing, “I”, “to do” list brain, and not enough attention to what is happening almost imperceptibly around us.

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho advocates similar idea.  I have found the idea of looking towards the horizon quite useful and particularly of listening to sounds as far as I can hear.

Galba Bright of TuneupyourEQ has been talking about reflection.

In my experience, some people who are very in tune with the world don’t reflect much.  I think that those of us who are have strong serial processors need to make time to relax, reflect and recreate.  In the hurly-burly of the world, we can become increasingly inefficient otherwise.

Does stilling our inner voice reduce our own motivation?

I don’t think so.  Indeed the opposite.  It allows us to hear ourselves too.

Our serial ‘doing’ brain is important.  It is what we use during “flow”, I think.  Maybe a neuro-scientist could comment on that.  When we are in the flow of action, we aren’t listening to anything outside that activity

We need both – action and stillness.

The big dilemma is when we get caught in one or the other!

I am just finishing a sabbatical and have the most awful resistance to getting going again.  I know from experience that the adrenaline high of action will take me away from the peace of reflection, and when I am in that place, I will resist coming down.

Have you experienced anything like that?

ReadWriteWeb has come alive . . .

. . . with great and interesting posts every day.

Today Alex wrote on the recession, which is worrying lots of people. I’m a Zimbo so I am going, ahh! this ain’t so hard. Forgive me. This is what I have to say.

1. I have never worked with a lazy person, ever.

I have worked with people who were thoroughly disengaged and very unhappy. I have worked with people who I thought were misdirected (yes I thought, they didn’t).

People like working. The great trick is integrating people. And I will be the first to say that can be hard. I always take the view that we hired someone because they are good. If we are falling out, the responsibility is mutual and we should help the person (typically with the least power) move on to a better place – where they are highly valued, better paid, etc. And if we are so far down the road of conflict we can’t see the good anymore, we should back off and let someone else manage the relationship. I want to kiss goodbye (with relief as right now we are on a path to hating each other) and recover our friendship in due course. We both mismanaged our relationship. It is time for us to recover and make good.

2. I don’t want to work in a place where some pigs are more equal than others . . .

I’m a conventional HR-based psychologist. I do selection – you know those awful tests and reports telling you who you are. I can run up a comp-and-benefit scheme explaining who gets more money and why. I predict labor demand within organizations and match supply (to make sure we don’t suffer too much when you leave). I run the hello and goodbye programs. And I bollock anyone who gets into a disciplinary scenario because of the paper work they make for us all.

But I don’t want to work in a place where one person is more important than anyone else.

Everyone is important otherwise why did we hire them? Floors are not cleaned as a luxury. Clean floors are essential to the smooth running of our business, etc. etc.

I hate the idea that we look after the top 10% of people.  Why do I select people, then, I hear you say? Because we have the technology to identify the matches that will never work – the extreme cases. Let’s make ourselves useful, folks. I am also happy when my deli refuses to sell me something because what I intend to do with their food is just plain horrible. There is nothing wrong with someone who knows, leaning over to someone who doesn’t, and saying, if you want to achieve X, do it like Y.  What a wonderful expression of goodwill. I am saved disappointment and I feel great that someone cared enough to tell me.

3. Can organizations be egalitarian? Don’t we need leaders?

I discovered Barbara Sliter’s blog Creatorship – courtesy of Galba Bright. Thank you so much.

I have stopped believing in leadership. I believe we thrust up people to represent us. It is a dynamic process, as we are seeing the States right now. The answer is not given, and the person who most respects the dynamic will win, by definition.

On a daily basis, in my conventional role as a work psychologist, leadership is shared. I deliver data, collected professionally and organized to inform action in the circumstances we are in. Our understanding of the situation evolves during discussions, as mine does. And “leadership” shifts with the part of the situation we are considering. The “leader”, be it the senior line manager present, or any one else, leads by representing our collective and considered view to us and to others.

Sometimes the senior line person is so much more experienced than the rest of us, they add an overview we all recognize immediately as bringing us together. Mostly, they are sufficiently experienced, in our line of work and in leadership roles (they probably started practicing at pre-school!) and recognize when we are reaching agreement which they sum up effectively so that we can move forward with full confidence in each other.

Often, they find the group view is very much at odds with their own, but they represent our view effectively anyway. They value their people. We are on the team for a reason. Together we will make good decisions. We won’t always be right. And sometimes we will be right, but won’t win.

But we will put our best foot forward! They know that.

Barbara Sliter puts this so much better than I do. People who haven’t had the privilege of working in professional, collegial settings are ready. Ready to co-create meaning at work.

What I can do, is add the stories and the robust HR technologies for the pay systems, etc. I’ve seen places where the “least senior” person chairs the meeting. It works. And why not? They will be the least opinionated after all!

4. Recessions offer opportunity too.

Go back to Zimbabwe I hear you say. Maybe I will. I haven’t heard that for a while – at least 6 months. I must be keeping good company.

What counts in life is finding opportunity in what looks like a negative space. A 3% downturn is not trouble, believe me! But it is disconcerting. The firms that sit down, and openly talk about what is opening up for them, will thrive.

To refer to the American elections again, I deliberately engaged with Obama-skeptics to find out their objections. They don’t want universal health insurance, presumably because it may cost them a little. My scampering mind screams OPPORTUNITY! Where is Melissa Clark-Reynolds? I don’t know if you are Kiwi, Alex, but Richard will know whom I mean.

Whomever asks the best questions under frustration wins! I’ve also just found Galba Bright’s blog. He has posted today a great heuristic for managing meetings and particularly tricky meetings. I am going to look at that more closely today.

Thanks, Alex. I liked your post. It is closer to the egalitarian world I like (provided I am in charge of course!). I like working with knowledge workers. And BTW, Gen Y really get this. I had a conversation late last night with a colleague’s son who had been deputed by his father to help me with a website. At one point the young man said to me: tell me a little more about your skill set so I know what you will be contributing. Yep, indeed. They hold their own!

We are ready for more . . .

Don’t blog in a vacuum – comment on other people’s blogs

Any “coldie” as I have heard people from the 1.0 or cold-war era called, will hesitate to take part in online discussions, and is amazed that “post-coldies” do, and quite happily. Do! Do take part!

I have just discovered Barbara Sliter’s site Creatorship and I discovered it in inimitable 2.0 style. I went to the Chief Happiness Officer blog. Alex was doing something with snow (pardon me I’m from Africa); Steve Roesler was guesting; Galba Bright joined the discussion of one of Steve’s posts; he had a look at one of my blog’s and said you will enjoy . . . You are right. Thank you. I do.

Thanks Galba, Steve, Alex and not least, Barbara. If you are interested in leadership, personal development and real-world applications of complexity theory, you should have Creatorship on your feed reader.

The promise of the 21st century

I know a lot of people my age who are rather gloomy about the way the world is going. Change is certainly in the air. Whether we see it as good or bad, depends on the meaning we perceive and more so, on our intuitions about how we will be connected in the new order of things.

That is why I love Barbara Sliter’s site. She has the gift of pointing to a horizon that welcomes everyone, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, from your country and mine.

One excerpt:

“we’re ready for more: more meaning, more challenge, better environments, interesting work, balance in life. We’re ready to be co-creators”