"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I donÕt know."
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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 462

Estimated reading time:   3:19

Video: No Video this week 




Good morning from a sunny Edmonton. I’m here MCing a credit union conference and having a wonderful time. I was thinking recently about metaphors and recalled the brilliant old  Monty Python sketch about flying sheep. An interviewer is asking a shepherd what all of those sheep are doing in the trees.


“They’re perchin’”


“Why are they perching?”


“Because of Harold.”


“Who is Harold?”


“Harold is that most dangerous of creatures, a sheep with brains. He’s realized that a sheep’s life consists of standin’ aroun’ for a bit, and then bein’ eaten. Not a ‘appy prospect for an ambitious sheep.”


As it turns out, Harold has persuaded the other sheep that if they can learn to perch in trees, they can learn to fly. And throughout the sketch, in the background we hear, ‘baaa, thud’. as fail in their flying endeavours.


The reporter asks, “Why don’t you just get rid of Harold?”


“Because of the tremendous economic possibilities of ovine aviation.”


The amazing metaphor is how easily you and I herd, even when logically the activity we are herding on makes no sense.


As much as we might think of ourselves as, ambitious, and independent Harolds (to use the Python image), the science is telling us that we are far more inter-connected than we sometimes like to think. That connection is a good thing in terms of our ability to emphathize and to collaborate.


The sheep metaphor and the sketch mirrors the fact that we are individuals as well as a collaborative species. We live in the tension between the individual and the group, the tension between individual rights and collective rights, the tension between standing on your own two feet and working together towards the common good.


And so, your work as leaders is all about you as an individual. You are Harold. You may not always get it right, but you are a wonderfully unique and amazing creature. You are that most dangerous of creatures, a sheep with brains. And, and this is a very big ‘and’ it is us, we are all in this together; we are a social species, we love to herd. 


May we all be individual Harolds as leaders, leading into uncharted and sometimes even mistaken adventures. And may we all collectively work together, cheering each other on. If you see someone slip, help them up, when you pass someone send them a little wave of encouragement, even a silent “good job.” It is you out there, and it is us out there. We are in the end interconnected individuals, dependent on each other, for success, and for the common good.



Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 325

Estimated reading time:   2:19

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG_TaCHJpkk 


Greetings from yet another rainy day here in Vancouver!


I’ve spent much of the week in Oakville Ontario working with a client. One of the participants in the Leadership Development workshop I was co-facilitating had worked with me on earlier module in the series last year. He approached me on the morning of the first day and reminded me of a conversation he and I had in that earlier module. 


Our work the last time had included exploring how to build trust and he had argued that there was a limit to trust in business. I well remembered the discussion, and wondered aloud where he was on the subject now. He said that a week after our conversation, he was watching the film The Italian Job, where early in the film Donald Sutherland’s character says, “I trust everyone. I just don’t trust the devil inside them.” https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/e1868c72-6b42-4e76-a1b7-8f00ad27e8ef  


And I got it! Finally, a year later, I got his point. As humans we are all good and bad. My mother’s favourite Scottish adage was: 


“There is so much good in the worst of us, 

and so much bad in the best of us, 

that it ill behooves any one of us, 

to find fault with the rest of us.”


The challenge I suggested for us, for business, for leadership, for friendship, for peace in our families, communities, and nations is to seek the good in each of us. To move past the ‘devil’ inside of me, and the ‘devil’ inside of you, to trust, to connect to the good, to seek the best in the other.



Far from easy work, but perhaps the most important work; to work towards seeking and trusting the good in each of us. I wonder what you think.


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 397

Estimated reading time:   3:10




Good morning from another soggy day in Vancouver; the cherry blossoms are looking rather limp today. 


In my coaching and teaching practices I’ve been reflecting on the words, efficient and effective. In may Dad’s day (back in the paleozoic era) business decisions used both factors; what was most effective, and what was most efficient. Over time, the two became conflated with efficiency apparently resulting in effectiveness. 


Take decision making for example. The most efficient way to make a decision is to have the one person make the decision and the many people then carry it out. In emergency situations, like there is a fire in the building and we all must leave, it makes no sense to open the decision up for discussion; as a leader I am after only your compliance. In such situations efficiency may well be more effective. However, where commitment (buy in) is much more important, efficiency can become the antithesis of effectiveness. For example in a decision about what our corporate values are, what we want the team culture to be, or what the parameters of a project will be, it makes much less sense to be simply efficient in that decision making. We need to invest the time to have a more inclusive and therefore effective decision making process. 


Ask yourself two questions; on a scale of 1 - 10 how important is the team’s commitment? and on a scale of 1 - 10 how much time do we have to make the decision.  The higher the two numbers are, the more likely you need to invest that time to make sure you are being more effective. If the time question is answered with a low number, and the commitment question is answered with a high number, “there be monsters.” The need to efficiency will prove ineffective. Can you find the time to make it more effective a process? And where the answer to the time question is a high number and the commitment question is a low number, be efficient and make the decision, don’t bring people in to the process for show.


And so may all your decisions in the coming weeks not only be efficient but effective too.



Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 468

Estimated reading time:   3:20

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3pE0MmGIhM 


Greetings from the Sunshine Coast of BC, where a Pacific front is dropping much rain. Spring is coming, but I am glad of the roaring fire.


I’m thrilled to have been invited into a fascinating project exploring Canadian Values. http://canadianvaluesconversations.com  i invite you to take the survey, it is quite fascinating. We’ll also be having one of a series of Values Cafes in Vancouver. (If you live in the Lower Mainland and would like to attend, please complete the survey, and register for the Cafe on May 1st here. https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/vancouver-values-cafe-tickets-44147653821 


And even if you are not in this part of the world, getting clear about your values is a vital part of becoming a better leader. Values though, are often given short shrift. All too often we think they are really simply  ‘check the box, I’ve done my values, let’s get on with the good stuff!’ 


Values drive behaviour and therefore are the skeleton around which culture is built.  So, we need to be very clear for ourselves and for our organizations what we value. And here is where it gets tricky; values do shift as we grow. I recall some years ago doing a session on values and suggesting that young people need to do some exploring on their own to get clear about their own values. A parent in the room took offence arguing that he had ‘spent much of his time as a parent instilling certain values in his children and by heaven they were going to keep those values!’


Part of our development as humans is to uncover and shine our own values. I was certainly influenced by may parents who modelled love, hard work, and independent thinking, but how those manifested in me, and how they mapped to my values of love, forgiveness and learning, well, that was up to me. 


Values can be shifted by heartbreak, serious illness and family break up. And they should also shift as we mature. What is important to me as a wise elder (perhaps, one day) may well be different from what was important to me as a young man. What is important to me as grandparent is different from what was important to me when I was single. 


Do some reflection every 7 - 10 years about your values, or after a significant change in your life. How have your values changed? What is the impact on you when they do change, and what is the impact on the team you lead? Remember, the key is that we all need to be growing and learning, becoming the person we are called to be.



Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 255

Estimated reading time:   2:29

Video: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=vJwdrTxfbGk 



Good morning from a soggy Vancouver.  This weekend is holy for Christians. The remembrance journey from The Last Supper on Thursday night, to Jesus’ execution on Good Friday, the solemn silence of Saturday and the joy of Easter Sunday have been central to Christians for over 2,000 years.


And, as deeply spiritual and theological as the weekend is, it is also a great reminder for all of us of the leadership journey. Our role is to lead through endings, sadness, confusion, silence and reflection as well as celebration and joy. As a coaching client once said, “its not all lollipops and roses!”


The first key is to know that in the big picture, you cannot have Good Friday without Easter, nor can you have Easter without Good Friday. In other words, there will always be both challenge and opportunity, fear and hope. 


The second key is to know, that in the big picture, you are creating or enhancing good. That even in the dark times, the work is about moving yourself and your team to being great people even more than being great employees. Moving yourself and your team to doing the right thing, more often. And moving yourself and your team to making a positive difference for each other and for the people and communities we serve.



May this weekend, whatever your tradition be, a reminder that love always conquers fear. 


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 306

Estimated reading time:   2.35

Video: https://www.youtube.com/my_videos?o=U


Greetings from a warming Vancouver BC.  This is a favourite time of year for many people; as we awaken from the cold dark of winter. And, as leaders, there is much to learn from the natural world.


For example, the universe seems wired to change from within. Buds appear on tress from within, flowers start popping up from within, the hibernators emerge, infant birds come out of shells, and it is light and warmth that so often call this new life out. 


As leaders, first for ourselves and then for the people whom we serve, it is important to remember that change comes from within, most effectively called out by warmth and caring. The more I berate myself, the colder I am to myself, the more difficult it will be for the emerging me to appear. The more I try and force you, berate you, the colder I am to you, the less likely you will change. I might be able to get you to comply with my wishes, but commitment comes only from within you.  


Quite frankly the more I want you to freeze in place, the more fear I need to put in your heart. And the more I am committed to individual and corporate/community growth, the more warmth I need to bring to the conversation.


We can generate warmth in our conversations in many ways, and here are three:


  1. Be vulnerable, share stories about your own journey and mistakes
  2. Be interested in the other person’s struggle and successes
  3. Bring shared laughter to work; not laughing at people, but laughing with them



May this week and this season bring warmth to your conversations, and bring forth an emerging you from within.