Courage — to serve?

Ever reach out to connect or collaborate with someone, thinking it was all about a “project” to find yourself trying to comprehend the quality of the person you were reaching out to; how separate from convention, how extra-ordinary they truly were? I did, and I am still processing it.

arrows on white background. Isolated 3D image

As many of you will know, I have recently completed the draft writing of a new book: Resilience; How culture enabled the rebirth of Ford Motor Company (iBooks). Writing a book is the easy part, I hear, and promoting it is where the real work begins. So I have committed to engaging the process, so as to be true to the message. I thought it would be helpful to get an endorsement from Ford, and so I set out to see if this was possible. In the end, I did get the endorsement, but the experience of encountering Alan Mulally (President and CEO of Ford Motor Company) in the process of achieving it, was a greater gift; far more moving than  Please Continue Reading …

Enabling Joy Through Alignment

I have been training for a back country hike in Yoho. I am not concerned that I will not do well on the hike, but I know that the better prepared I am physically, the more likely I will be to en-ABLED to en-JOY the whole experience, physically, mentally and spiritually as well.


The picture above was taken during this past summer’s hike to Siyeh Pass in Glacier National park. I have vision, and am well motivated for my upcoming trip!

As I have been training, I have been carrying a pack on my back, and gradually increasing the weight of it as I also increase the length and elevations of my routes. One thing I note in doing this is the importance of alignment. There are many adjustments  Please Continue Reading …

Culture: an elite athlete perspective

I received permission to share an email (below) that one of my clients circulated among the staff of his organization…the day after an intensive culture workshop I facilitated. So often it seems that leaders are looking for a light switch process to “turn on” culture improvement…rather than go through the process. However, it is the process that works the depth of true transformation…painful though it may be.

At the start of a person’s journey from inactivity to elite athlete they have to expend high levels of their energy to do relatively little because they are not in very good shape. At the same time, they make big improvements in their fitness and ability to achieve in their sport.

As they get more fit, that same level of energy expenditure does quite a lot more and they improve noticeably. It’s a nice linear progression and as long as you only want to be good at the sport you can work reasonably hard and be in quite good shape.

However, if the goal is to be an elite athlete then moving from the 90th percentile to the 92nd percentile doesn’t take just 2% more energy, it takes almost as much energy as was expended to get from 0 – 90%. Getting a tiny bit better takes high levels of intense energy and focus. The work to go from 10th best in the world to on the podium is massive.

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Balconey View – Going “deeper” amidst conflict

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Henry Kissinger

It is easy to get frustrated as we lead/work with people. Especially when we encounter negative feedback or resistance to partnership as we journey together. In the midst of the conflict it is important to remember that conflict gives us the opportunity to see what lies beneath the surface…which would otherwise have remained unseen.

Example: An employee/partner may approach you and suggest that they are disappointed with how they are being treated, how they are being paid, or something like. Your mind goes to the defense…”Have you any idea how hard I…” and so on…

This path leads to the cycle of crazies.

Stepping back and taking a balcony view brings fresh perspective. Why does the employee/partner feel this way? What has/has not be communicated in regards to their feelings? This is the first level of questioning…

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Understanding Leadership

As I write about understanding the leader’s call, it occurred to me that I should highlight an article that I had published in SaskBusiness this past January, “What Defines Leadership; It begins with personal character“(PDF).

What Defines Leadership: It begins with personal character

“Our business leaders must stop seeking to be the best in the world, and start being the best for the world.”
– Richard Barrett, The New Leadership Paradigm

It may initially sound noble to desire to be the best in the world at what we do. We all know that it takes thousands of hours to master a skill, to hone a craft into a finely tuned art form. To rise to levels of excellence in any vocation, one must be dedicated and diligent in discipline and practice.

To be a great golfer, one must move beyond hitting every shot once in a while, to only missing a shot once in a while. To be a great hockey player, one must understand the strategy of the game, have mastery of personal skill and learn how to move to where the puck is going to be, as Wayne Gretzky puts it.

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Challenge Values

I know that I need to value fitness. In some regards I do, for I try to maintain healthy eating habits, and get myself out for 2 or 3 hikes a week during winter…road biking in summer is easier for me.

There is a tension that comes with holding a value wherein, when we reflect on our behaviors, we can detect incongruence. We can know that it is a necessary value for sustainability (exercise keeps a heart healthy) and high performance (exercise keeps energy capacity up)…but yet we can see times when we are not behaving as if we “value” the value at all.

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Sustainable High Performance Formula

Here’s a logic stream for you to consider…

1. Sustainable high performance is 50% dependent on the team (the other half is sound strategy/Structure/process…which by the way are developed best through a healthy team)
2. Team performance is dependent on culture
3. Culture is leadership behaviour
4. Leadership behaviour is determined by values lived out

So, question: Can we really change anyone else…or if we focused on personal mastery, aligning our personal behaviours with positive values…would the rest follow?

Dependence seems to be Maturity

From our cultural perspective…where we are all about self-help, advancement, promotion, and excellence…it may appear to be ridiculous to make a statement such as the one I have made in the title of this blog entry.

I first wrote this phrase into a song several years ago in the context of victory over destructive habits. You may now wonder why in the world I am writing it into the context of a business blog…

In short, I find myself to be tiring of the thinly veiled arrogance that is so much a part of our organizational culture. We can justify much in the pursuit of excellence…and betray the core of our purpose in the process. We can purport to be an advocate for people, and step on people through our advocacy. We can take up a mission of charity, and extort or belittle all who frustrate us.  We aspire to integrity, but constantly betray our values in fear of consequence, or lust for more.

Vocational efforts should be less about our advancement, and more about our role within creation…our service to people and planet. Everyone has a part to play, and all parts are needed. Not one of us is an island unto themselves.

When we begin in our vocational roles, we often charge forward with passion to change the world. As we mature we should at some stage come to an awareness that we need others to collaborate, and therefore we should arrive at a perspective of value and appreciation for others. A deepening of maturity from this point should lead us to set aside arrogance, as we begin to see how much of our life…personal, vocational and organizational…is outside of our control.

On a personal level, explain to me how you keep your own heart beating, or how you jump-started it in the first place. On a vocational level, explain to me how you came to possess the aptitude to acquire the skills and experience that you possess. On an organizational level, explain to me how you could accomplish the mission alone.

An amazing thing happens when we arrive at the place where we become aware of our utter dependence…we become more willing to embrace it. We find ourselves more willing to extend grace, for we will require the same. We find ourselves developing a posture of humility, as we realize how little of our “success” is truly of our own making. We find ourselves in a posture of peace and contentment, less driven and less fearful.

I have had a few encounters recently, with people who have continued in arrogance well on into the senior years of life. Their thinly veiled arrogance blinded them from what they could otherwise have seen. It also pointed to a root of deep personal insecurity. I don’t find myself angry with them…but they serve as an example for what I do not want to become…how I do not want to treat others. In the end, this is all I can control…the surrender of my own pride and fear…to be vulnerable in my dependence…along with the rest of creation.

Purpose Value

“When you examine the lives of the most influential people who have ever walked among us, you discover one thread that winds through them all. They have been aligned first with their spiritual nature and only then with their physical selves.” Albert Einstein

I am not trying to peddle religion with this quote…so stop twitching!

The issue that this brings up for me? I wonder why it takes us so long to come to the realization that a purposeless life is a unproductive life.

We can be busy, but not necessarily effective. We can be occupied, but not necessarily fulfilled.If the corporate mission (what we do), values (how we do it) and vision (what success looks like) are not articulated clearly, and connected to individual department and job workplans, and innovations…well, it should be obvious. We have no idea when we hit the mark, therefore how could we be fulfilled?

Take this a step further…if we have not articulated our life mission (purpose), values and vision, and have not connected with how we are personally wired (physically, spiritually and emotionally),  we stand disconnected from what we do vocationally, and…well, it should be obvious. We have no idea when we hit the mark, therefore how could we be fulfilled?

Corporate organizations are simply an assembly of individuals…how can we expect success while ignoring  these basic human (individual) components?

Solution? It will take work, but assigning task for discovery of the above sets any organization on a firm foundation for fulfilling its mission…with fulfilled individuals.