Friday, February 13, 2015

Presence at School: Co-Creating the Future of Education 02/12 by The Voice of Leadership | Business Podcasts

Have you ever been negatively impacted by a toxic leadership culture? Hierarchical command and control leadership is no longer serving organizations. We can do (much) better than this, and co-create a better future. And it's urgently needed!  The challenges leaders face today are more complex and thorny, more global and require more collaboration and creativity than ever before.  So, of course, it's time to think and work differently, and honestly, it's so much more fulfilling and humane!

I had the privilege of being interviewed this week with Jane Weber and Roelien Bokxem, my partners at PresenceAtWork and PresenceAtSchool. I am bringing their co-creation - Collective Leadership for intact exec and leadership teams - to the US, and also working to bring this incredible training to 17 - 24 year olds - our future leaders. 

To learn more about what makes this Leadership program special, listen in to understand both the genesis and essence of this highly experiential and transformative learning. It is not about making money (although we all need to sustain ourselves, of course!). And this comes through loudly and clearly in this internet radio program, in part due to the masterful interview with Linda Lombardo.

Presence at School: Co-Creating the Future of Education 02/12 by The Voice of Leadership | Business Podcasts

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Gratitude and Why I Work - Part 1

Erin (11), me (mom), Ryan (19), Kelsey (21) on Thanksgiving Day, 2014 at my parent's home where I grew up
In the US, we begin "the holiday season" with a day of Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday, because it is truly all about gratitude, family and centers around the tradition of "breaking bread" together.  Traditionally, this is a harvest meal, where everyone contributes, and then comes to celebrate and give thanks for a "bountiful harvest", and for all that enables us to be together once again, year after year.

This Thanksgiving, my family, including these 3 wonderful souls that I have the joy of calling "my children", gathered on a snowy day on Cuyler Hill, at my mom and dad's home. There were 36 of us this year, which is fairly typical, and we had 4 "little ones" under the age of 5, who bring their own special brand of noisy joy!

My 11 year old Erin just looked over my shoulder and said, "What does this have to do with why you work mom?".  And here's what I told her... "Because I work for you, so that we can continue to have a world where we can come together and share meals, and enjoy in the bounty of this beautiful natural world."  And she said, "Use the word therefore, it makes you sound sophisticated - that's what my student teacher told me."  Yep! That's why I work - part 1 anyway, in very simple terms!  It's about love.

I have always worked, since I was old enough to drive a tractor in 6th grade on this family farm where I grew up.  This is where I learned to love nature deeply, for the beauty of the earth. Mother Earth - inspiring music, poetry, hymns, prayers, art, dreams, and drawing us into her for hiking, biking, creekwalking, exploring, swimming, stargazing, horseback riding, skating, skiing, camping... and the list goes on.

Ryan, Erin and Kelsey on top of Black Bear Mountain
I began to share my love of nature with the kids, in small ways at first, just getting them outside, barefoot, in the backyard. Challenging them to hikes when they were young was a wonderful way to connect with each other and nature at the same time. And so hopefully their love of nature was also nurtured, grounding them in the hills and mountains of upstate NY, but also inspiring them to spread their wings.
Ryan on top of Marcy, overlooking Lake Placid

Therefore (thanks Erin) I work (part 1) because of my love for my children and for my love of nature. And I work in gratitude and homage to Mother Earth, who supports everything that we do, every breath that we take. 

So what is part 2? Well, I'll share more about that in my next post, but I'll leave you with a clue. It has to do with this thing called "purpose".  Why am I here in this place and time with this cast of characters and the world unfolding?  Love for my children and this world is ever present, and something I think most of us feel, and certainly being a mom is part of my purpose. But why me? In addition to being a mother, who am I and what is my purpose?  What am I here to give, and what am I here to learn?  What do I see that is calling for me to take action?  Ponder these questions for yourself... and please tell us - why do you work?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Practicing empathy and humility instead of judgment

Today, I will be leading a 2 hour interactive introduction to collective leadership for a group of local high school teachers and administrators. And I couldn't be more excited to work with this audience. And yet, last night, as I was doing my final prep with my internal sponsor, who is a career teacher in her early forties (I think?), she said "I know this is a bit of a step down for you, because you are used to working with corporate leaders, but I think this audience will really get value from what you are bringing".
My first reaction was to think that she didn't understand how challenging it could be to work with corporate leaders! But then I realized what an unfair statement that would have been. In fact, I ran two incredibly gratifying workshops with corporate leaders from two different industries this week, and met some incredible change leaders.
I realized I did not want to add to the current judgmental storyline that is pervasive now - a storyline about evil corporations - maligned as being "selfish, corrupt, profiteering, exploitive of humans and the environment" and "too big to fail". The judgment or bashing comes from many directions - but ultimately - it arises from individuals like you and me who state a public opinion about the moral values and activities of a company as if "it" has a mind of "it's own". And as if it has "one mind". And then, often, we will further aggregate the sins of one company to an entire industry (the evils of petroleum companies, of pharmaceutical companies, of the finance industry, of the automotive industry. Or we will villainize an entire profession, e.g. teachers.... "they have summers off, they get tenure and then we are stuck with lazy, burned out teachers that only care about their pension, they don't understand "real work" or the "real world", they never really left high school....".
Remember the song from The Osmonds?

One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl.
Oh, give it one more try before you give up on love.
One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch girl.
Oh, I don't care what they say,
I don't care what you heard.

I suggest that we STOP judging entire professions and industries and entities (shall we talk politics?), and start remembering that these entities are actually made up of human beings like me and you. Imperfect for sure - at least I am... But also full of dreams, aspirations, disappointments, fear, hope, purpose, apathy, and each and every person in these organizations was once a child.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is hard to feel empathy for a corporation. But we can certainly feel empathy for the individuals who work inside of the corporation, or in government, or in our schools. And if we can't quite connect emotionally enough to feel empathy, might we at take a stab at humility? While the Oxford dictionary defines humility as "a modest or low view of oneself", I prefer to think of it in this way - we don't know what we don't know.
“It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I have never been a teacher. I have never been a government official. I have never run for office. I have never worked for a petroleum company. But I know good people who have. I know them well. I've heard them talk passionately about their work, and why they chose their profession, why they chose their company, what they struggle with, and how they want to make their world better.
So, I can't wait to go work with these high school teachers and administrators today. They invited me in because they care deeply about their students and the future of education. I only hope that I can bring value and tools that will accelerate their success.