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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Kudos to Emma Watson - inspiring and activating men and women to see gender bias more completely as a human rights issue that hurts both sexes

Inspiring and activating men and women to work together to end gender bias. This is a very thoughtful speech and movement (HeForShe - UN). Emma Watson talks about gender equality, for women and men. The issues are not only about equal rights for women globally, but about the negative impacts of gender profiling on both sexes. About equal pay for women, and for "strong" women to be viewed as strong not bossy, but also about the importance of accepting vulnerability as a human condition, that men can express their feelings without being viewed as "weak". To tie in the suicide rate of young men into this issue was not what I expected, and yet I do understand. We create gender based societal stereotypes and expectations that hurt both genders. And the UN is calling for a collective movement and commitment from all people, men and women, to change this.

This all shows up in the workplace as well of course. And there is a huge push for women to "break" the glass ceiling to rise above the "sticky floor" and to "lean in". I see this a bit differently - I see male and female leaders both that are collaborative and labelled as "not decisive". I see leaders that don't accept the status quo be labelled as "difficult to manage", when their intention is to drive innovation or improvement.

If we want to truly address these significant global challenges - like gender equality - we need to leverage the unique strengths of every person, regardless of race, sex, or any other "difference". We need to bring forth our most authentic selves, our unique strengths and voices, and to fully respect and call forth the authentic strengths of others. Our differences make us collectively STRONGER. Imagine a world where we all understand who we are at our best, and what we can most contribute to the world around us by the age of 20 or 25. And in that same world, where we are given the opportunity in high school, college and in our early careers to take turns "leaning in" to co-lead with our peers - who are equally clear about their own strengths. Where differences are cherished and leveraged, not just tolerated... I believe we are on a path to this future - and efforts like HeForShe will help us get there. And ultimately, it's up to each of us to do our part.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Calling "the crazy ones" - the ones who think they can change the world... (is that you??)

I received a framed version of this quote back in my IBM days, as an acknowledgement of the work we were doing with leaders at IBM, bringing in more of a coaching culture.

And it resonated deeply with me. And helped me to see things differently... Because, well, at least I knew that I wasn't alone in feeling like a square peg in a round hole! It gave me HOPE that maybe, just maybe, I could be a game changer or even a world changer! And so I continued to work passionately for what mattered to me at the time: on nurturing the health of my family (due to a health crisis at home) and at IBM by helping to leaders to extend their leadership styles to include coaching and "bigger game" thinking in order to create high performance teams that respected individual strengths and values.

As I continued to evolve in my own leadership journey, I was inspired by my kids to make sure I did my best to make the world a good place for future generations - I often found myself in the role of the "crazy one", or the "positive deviant", and I learned much about operating as an internal change agent, and the enablers and barriers of change. You might find more hope and inspiration here in this article from HBR about the role of positive deviance and unlikely innovators.
Today, I am inspired to see pioneers in every industry working hard to make positive change happen in different ways:
  • by making sustainability real - with meaningful action
  • by working to get healthy food into school cafeterias
  • by working on healthcare and insurance reform
  • by piloting new innovative alternative or integrated healthcare approaches
  • by building better buildings, transportation systems, manufacturing processes that consume less and produce less waste
  • etc... the list is endless and inspiring...
Society is a living organism, and has a need for all of us square pegs or "positive deviants". My current work is in bringing new solutions and methods to "the crazy ones" - the pioneering leaders that are committed to making the world (or some part of it!) better. And it is about working smarter - and leading in new ways. Instead of individual herculean efforts, leaders of change must leading collectively - leveraging the unique strengths of others who are aligned with their vision - to make change happen faster.
Which way is up? Seeing things differently and a view worth saving...
While so much of the world is focused on "the internet of things" and innovating with technology, my focus is on the human systems (you and me and our organizations and networks). And if you are one of the "crazy ones", know that you are not alone and there are solutions that can greatly accelerate your success! Solutions and methods like The Bigger Game and Collective Leadership - which I use with organizational leaders who are looking at amplifying their impact in their company, their industry, and their value chain.
I don't work alone (it's hard being crazy alone - and I've found out it's not really an effective way to bring about change!). I have been inspired to work with others, including the late Laura Whitworth, and the very alive Rick Tamlyn who co-created the Bigger Game model and have inspired a network of Bigger Game leaders and coaches. I have also been privileged to work closely with co-founders ofPresenceAtWork, Jane Weber and Roelien Bokxem - they are pioneers in bringing a new kind of leadership development into the world - and I am now certified to lead this work in the US.
What about you? Who are your most important allies? Have you looked in your toolbox lately? What can you share here - insights for others transformational leaders? Let's not "go it alone" - there's way too much good work to be done!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Daring to lift our gaze from our "smaller worlds"

It is easy to get on our daily treadmill and focus our attention on our smaller world of work, family, and friends. Surely, we can all do this and our plates will feel full. Our time and attention could be spent here easily. However, there is a bigger picture at play that is affecting all of our smaller worlds, and I urge you to continue to lift your gaze and shift your attention out to the broader space of the ecology of our planet, and the system of systems that enable our smaller worlds to be either stable or not so stable.
This article by Bill McKibben from the Guardian on April 3 points the finger strongly at Exxon Mobile - labeling them consummately arrogant. I won't judge the people of Exxon Mobile in that way, or even necessarily the entity, because I believe their behavior is a reflection (still) of their market. And who is their market? WE ARE. We buy the fuel that comes out of the ground, that transports our goods, that fuels the tractors that till the land to produce crops we eat, or that feed the animals that become protein on our dining room tables, or in the fast food lane. "They" are "us".
It is hard to imagine a world without fossil fuels. It is also hard to imagine a world where fossil fuel consumption has changed where we can live, what we can eat, and what wildlife remains to support us.
We can make choices now that will create a better, more stable future. Or we can stay on autopilot, and hope that others make the right decisions on our behalf. Or we can be in denial - and believe that none of this will ever impact us or our children's children.
And if you are in the climate change denier camp - and it seems that many still are - based on this April Fool's folly documented so well by Joel Makower at GreenBiz "Climate change is good for you! Wait: It's April 1st. Or is it?". He writes of a new "study" from the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" published by the right-wing Heartland Institute, claiming that the small amount of climate change that might be caused by humans is beneficial to plants and animals.
So climate change deniers, and climate change "undecideds" - what if climate change isn't real or isn't impacted by human behaviour? What if we "clean up our act" and switch to cleaner fuels, cleaner manufacturing processes, sustainable building processes, and live more in harmony with nature - only to find out we didn't really need to? Would that be so very bad? I don't think so... And imagine the innovation that will be unleashed in the process. Imagine a company workforce being revitalized because they are challenged to rethink everything! Imagine graduating from an engineering program, or a marketing program - with an awareness of ecological design and sustainability principles - and helping to reinvent and revitalize your profession!
You know, we can do this. Not all alone. But collectively. So lift your gaze, and imagine the possibilities...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Are you someone that is "Daring Greatly" in your life and work?

On Saturday morning I read a quote on the inside cover of a new book - Daring Greatly - by BrenĂ© Brown whose research on "wholehearted living, shame and resilience" was catapulted into mainstream after her first TED talk on vulnerability, followed by Oprah interviews. This quote by Theodore Roosevelt is quite profound:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points our how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails by daring greatly."  Theodore Roosevelt
So, I've think I've been "daring greatly" in this field of organizational transformation for quite some time, and I am currently marred by dust and sweat - as I work to launch the PresenceAtWork Collective Leadership Program from the Netherlands in the US on April 2 - 4 (the subject of my last three blogs!).  And frankly, I'm also daring greatly in my smart cities work inside of Schneider Electric too. 
Collective leadership is about maximizing the human systems potential around the table/room/globe to address challenges and drive opportunities within organizations and also across organizational boundaries. It is the subject of my last three blog entries - which include an overview of the Collective Leadership video overview with me and Roelien Bokxem, one of the two co-creators of this program.
If you are someone that "dares greatly" and you are passionate about the need for a new kind of leadership - consider playing a "Bigger Game", and investing in your personal capacity to lead that change -  in your chosen "field of play". 
One last personal note. 
  • Think about the nature of politics today in our government bodies and in our public and private organizations. 
  • Think about the average executive team, and the way they make decisions. 
  • And then think about the magnitude of the challenges we face across the globe today - challenges that ONLY can be addressed by a new level of COLLECTIVE leadership, and collaborative innovation at every level. 
Collective leadership is about capacity building - and we really do need you to help lead the way. Here is one resource from the Collective Leadership Institute where you can learn more - http://stakeholderdialogues.net/media/uploads/Collective_Leadership_Studies_Vol1-Shifting_the_Way_We_Co-create.pdf

And if you are looking for someone to help you take your game to the next level, reach out to me via LinkedIn for a free consultation - or to share your story!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Introduction to Collective Leadership by PresenceAtWork

From the heart: I have high hopes that we can harness the collective intelligence across multiple disciplines and industries to address some of the very big challenges we face across every industry - creating sustainable, resilient and restorative practices that contribute to a better future for our children.

The three principles of the Collective Leadership Allies Program are described in this video by Roelien Bokxem of PresenceAtWork and by me - a student, practitioner, and advocate of collective leadership.

Principle 1: Leading from your authentic core

Principle 2: Leading from the whole rather than from "The Rock"

Principle 3: Leading from the emerging future rather than leading from past history.

We also introduce a powerful body-based strengths model, and how these strengths contribute and inter-relate in a collective or human system. In particular, I can validate the importance of understanding the individual strengths and which strengths are most critical in each phase of a change or innovation initiative. This model brings value well beyond what I have ever learned from Myers-Briggs or other similar individual leadership type tools and methods.

I invite you to listen with curiousity, and to think of relevance in your own organization. We have much meaningful and important work ahead, and this is all about "sharpening the saw".

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What's love got to do with it? With leadership, change and innovation, that is...!

In 1996, John P. Kotter, Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at Harvard Business School wrote Leading Change. He outlined an 8 step linear process for effecting change inorganizations. And it was highly lauded by experts in leadership. 
Interestingly enough, Kotter supplemented his first book with a second book The Heart of Change, which revisited his model. In his own words:

"Our main finding, simply put, is that the central issue is never strategy, structure, culture or systems... the core of the matter is always about changing the
behavior of people, and behavior changes...mostly by speaking to people's
So it's appropriate to talk about human hearts and love stories in the context of change and leadership. For it's the deep, visceral hunger and emotion that gets us to step out of "business as usual", or our comfort zones. Out of the stands and onto the playing field...
Happy Valentine's Day and read on to learn about my "love story".... 

For me, it started with my daughter Kelsey... Back in June 2006, I decided to take my family to see An Inconvenient Truth. I had not seen it myself, but liked to stimulate conversation and thinking with my 13 year-old daughter Kelsey, and 10 year-old son Ryan. My daughter Erin was only 3 at the time, so we let her stay with a sitter. On the way out of the theater, I asked them what they thought about the movie. I'll never forget this response... from Kelsey.  She said, "Mom, I'm not sure I want to have kids."  You can imagine my reaction. And I said to her, "Kelsey, it's very early for you to think about that, and the good news is that a lot of very smart people are working on these challenges, including me."  (Melissa's Musings - my blog entry from June 29, 2006)

We are in a world of accelerating change, and our organizations require a new leadership capacity to remain relevant
4 hands square
Leading from the Emerging Future
You know and I know that every industry is reinventing itself (or needs to!) in order to compete on a global stage, with economic, political and environmental uncertainty. Organizations are under pressure to do more with less. To grow, become more sustainable, more resilient, often while relying on aging infrastructure, an aging workforce, and increasing costs for labor, healthcare, raw materials and energy. 

Human beings are AT the HEART of change - and we are both the biggest barriers and the biggest enablersWho else is going to address these challenges? While so much focus is given to emerging technology, cleantech, cloud solutions, internet of everything, smart everything, the bottom line is that you and I make change happen - within and across organizational boundaries. And we meet resistance daily, as well as limitations in well-intentioned people who have simply don't know how to step up and step into leadership. And we can do something about that. 

Collective Leadership is about leveraging the collective hearts and minds and the diverse strengths of the teams we are part of in order to accomplish our missionsIt sounds simple, but the reality is that more often than not - we are caught in our grandfather's leadership paradigm. Companies are organized as a hierarchy, and we are teaching leadership principles to individuals, but not teaching leaders how to work collectively.  In fact, in my 28 years of corporate experience, I have witnessed how sometimes "innovators" and "collaborative leaders" are unintentionally pushed aside, perhaps because they are "hard to manage" or don't fit the mold of a traditional leader. However, what got us here won't get us there.... as they say.

Collective Leadership can be learnedLike emotional intelligence and social intelligence, we can also develop relationship systems intelligence. And we can learn to connect to the broader systems around us to sense and lead based on what we see coming, not just based on where we've been.  

Research from the Center for Creative Leadership identifies the need for Collective Leadership training

Find about four Future Trends in Leadership Development in this paper by Nick Petrie, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership's Colorado Springs campus.

Learn face to face at the US Launch of Collective Leadership, starting April 2 - 4, 2013 in Buffalo NY.  I'll be co-leading this workshop series, which kicks off in April near Buffalo NY. It's easy to enroll - click here for more information.  Consider bringing one or two allies that are working with you for even greater impact.        
Free Web Event - Understanding the Need for Collective Leadership, and Intro to the Collective Leadership Allies Program in AprilI'm hosting a series of web conference calls over the next few weeks to give folks a chance to learn more, and assess how this program fits into your world right now - what concrete value can you and/or your organization gain from investing in this kind of program. Click here to register for a free Web Event - Understanding the Need for Collective Leadership.
SO will you share your "love story"? What compels you to do what you do? Don't forget to let your heart weigh in every now and then, especially if it feels like you've gotten yourself into a rut. Assess what MUST change, and let it be personal. You'll have a lot more energy to work with!