Archive for Leadership

Dec
08

Self-Awareness: Do You Know the Color of Your Lens (or Lenses)?

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Does your lens distort what you see?

I’d like to begin by asking you to reflect on this famous quote by philosopher and mathematician René Descartes.

  • “I think, therefore I am.”

I expect that most of you have heard this phrase before, but have you stopped to think about what it might mean?  Both what Descartes intended as well as other ways it might be interpreted?  What did this phrase bring to mind for you?  If you would like to read more about René Descartes and the origins of this phrase, click here.

I’d like to now pose another question.

  • What’s the value of self awareness?

For some of you, your first reaction might be “what is self awareness.”  To me, self awareness is simply being aware of yourself – your thought patterns, your motivations, your typical as well as atypical behaviors.  It’s about knowing who you are, what you believe, and how you operate.  

We are always interpreting things.  Always and forever, we cannot help it.  What has come before, the past, influences how we presently see things.  What we are currently thinking about, recent experiences, our current emotional states, as well as our intended outcomes affects how we perceive things in both small and large ways.  Are you conscious or unconscious of this?  

Another way you might think about self-awareness is as the ability to step outside of yourself to observe yourself.  In this manner, you become both the actor and the observer.  The more self-aware you are, the more innately you do this – both consciously and unconsciously. 

Everything we do is viewed through our personal filters and lenses.  I personally prefer to focus on lenses, as this implies that I can both recognize it and have the ability to remove it.  Filters, while useful to notice, are more difficult to impact directly.  As a side note regarding self awareness, my preference for lenses over filters could be considered a filter/lens itself… 

When self awareness is very low, the outcome is frequently a distortion – of events, of emotions, and of statements made by others.  As self awareness goes down, our bias and skewing of information, data, intentions, and people goes up.  Conversely, the more self aware you are, the more you can reduce the filters and/or lenses that you apply and see with clarity. 

As we become more conscious of ourselves and these elements, I believe that we are better able to “remove” what I refer to as the various “lenses that we place over our eyes.”  We gain the ability to question your own thoughts and reactions.  As a result, we are able to become more objective in our evaluations and interpretations.

The more self aware we are, the closer we automatically align our outward behaviors with our inner standards.  We become better able to observe when they are not in sync. 

With this new context, I’d like you to once again think about this question for just a moment.

  • What’s the value of self awareness?

Now let me pose a series of questions to you:

  • What’s the value of your own self awareness? 
  • What’s the value of interacting with another individual who is self aware?
  • What would be the value of higher self awareness in general, in all people?

Now some more questions – none of them trick questions, just reflection questions, I promise.

  • What frame of reference were you using for the initial question?  Yourself, someone else, in general?
  • How did thoughts/reactions to the first question compare to the next three? 
  • Did you have yet another viewpoint than the three I mentioned?  If so, what triggered that viewpoint?

Let’s now take it a step further…

  • What’s the value of a manager who is self-aware?
  • What’s the value of a leader who is self-aware?

I don’t know about you, but those questions give me some serious food for thought.  I can see real changes happening if the level of self awareness went up.

Wondering why I mentioned “Color” in the title?  A “tip of the hat” to the old saying about “wearing rose colored glasses”.  No, I don’t want, nor do I wear rose colored glasses.  That being said, I do believe that a little pink hue is better than the dreary old grey I see too much of these days.  My hope is that we can all find ways to make our lenses a bit more clear.  To remove those various layers of color, one at a time.  To see ourselves and others with better clarity.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to read two prior articles, Stop, Look, and Listen and A Matter of Perspective, Experience, and Imagination.  Why you ask…because they might just help you with your own self-awareness and awareness of the world around you.  And that my reader, is the entire point of this article.   Cheers.

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Good-to-great

Are you taking steps to build Greatness?

The opening speaker at the World Business Forum 2010  was Jim Collins.  What an opening! 

The following article written by my colleague Maureen Metcalf of Metcalf & Associates.  While I tweeted away during the event, she focused on writing blog articles.  Rather than reinvent the wheel so to speak, I will be posting the series of articles that she wrote.  Here’s the first of Maureen’s articles.

“Mr. Collins spoke about the syntheses of Good to Great, Built to Last, and how the Mighty Fall.  Sustaining Great Results What does a Level 5 Leaders do?

1.  Combat Hubris through ruthless self examination.  Level 5 Leaders are committed to the truth over the image they have of themselves and their companies.  They understand that only through rigor and discipline in thinking and action will the success continue long term.  They have the courage to ask the tough questions about their companies and themselves that enable them to face changing times.

2.   Combat the desire for too much too quickly. Level 5 Leaders understand the “right pace” for long term sustainable growth.  If a leader is building an organization that will last for 25 years and even 100 years, what does he/she need to do today to move forward 1 step today?  Great leaders build the team who can execute on goals and values impeccably then expand.  They regroup and recharge and plan before each next step to ensure successful implementation.

3.   Face the Brutal Facts and Act – Level 5 Leaders are willing to face the brutal facts and take the difficult action.  With a 25 year vision, clear values and principles, they make the tough decisions that will produce long term sustainable progress because it is what needs to be done.  This can mean making major changes to projects or products they value and may have created.

4.  Commit to Discipline and Rigor – Level 5 Leaders know that there are no quick fixes or short cuts to greatness.  Daily discipline and right action from all employees creates great results.  These results are not immediately visible.  Success is a combination of quick wins and long term daily actions aligned with the organizations’ goals and principles.

5.  Commit to Creating Value – Level 5 Leaders meet a need in the community that is not being filled by others.  They are driven by passion and commitment to improve the world – not for fame. They do what they do because at their core they are doing what they are called to do.   By responding to a larger purpose, the leader is able to make the tough calls at times with high personal cost.  They are able to make the toughest of calls.

Level 5 Leaders create long term value for their companies, employees, communities and the world by taking these actions.”

Faith here again – If you are interested in building Level 5 Leaders, I highly recommend talking with Maureen as business is building Level 5 Leaders.  You can visit her web-site for more information both about Level 5 Leaders and her companies services.

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Are you Being Lionhearted © or are you just one of the crowd?

The second day of the World Business Forum 2010 is complete.  The speakers today talked about economics, the environment, politics, culture, product selection, survival, and the film industry to name a few.  One theme that emerged for me was the need for courage. 

This is something that I have been pondering for a while.  The courage that it will take from many individuals, both on their own and working together to drive true, lasting, sustainable change.

Do you have the courage to:

  • Focus on the Long-term, not just the Short-term? 
  • Change the way you make decisions?
  • Make the less “popular” choices?
  • Make the choices for sustainability?
  • Speak the truth, not just what sounds good?
  • Dig into the details, not just the sound bits?
  • Be a Leader, not just a Manager or Executive?’
  • Talk about the Elephants in the room?
  • Change yourself?

Courage comes from many places and many sources.  But must come from within to be sustained.  Are you courageous?  I’m working on my Lion’s heart.  Come join me.

More to come about Being Lionhearted:  The Courage to Change © soon.  In the interim, see the WBF Bloggers Hub for comments and questions about being courageous.

Book to come – ebook or other tbd. 

In the interim, visit the Ponders & Insights over the next weeks and months for more on this topic. 

I would love to hear back from you about how you are courageous, when and where you have had the courage to change, and what you feel it takes to stand up and go against the crowd to do what you feel is right. 

Do you have stories about having the courage to change yourself and to be an example to others?  If so, I would love to hear them.

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Are you putting all the pieces of what you learned together? Will you talk about what you see and the Elephants in the room?

The first day of the World Business Forum 2010 is complete.  The speakers entertaining and educating. 

The questions for me are:

  • Was the audience really enlightened? 
  • Did they truly listen to the messages, not just the words?
  • Will they truly take the core messages back to their businesses? To think about what it means to truly lead, not command and control?

While World Business Forum 2010 Day 1 is gone, the content it not?  When you do as Collins suggests, stopping one day for every two weeks of booked time (come on, try it), I encourage you to ponder, think, reflect, and visit or revisit the Bloggers Hub.  You’ll learn something new, provoke your thinking, and challenge yourself.  I promise!  I do every time I go back. 

Articles related to what was learned, shared, discussed, and reflected on during the World Business Forum are forthcoming over the next weeks and months.  My thanks to all the great bloggers, guests, and speakers who challenged my thinking and helped me to continue to drive myself and my thinking forward.  Cheers all.

Elephant #1:  We don’t truly value stopping to think, to reflect, to ponder. 

We tend to value action much more than reflection.  Doing over creating.  I’d like you to stop and think about that.  I’ll talk more about the motivation, drivers, and factors that drive this in a future blog.

I’m willing to talk about the Elephants in the room.  The truth of what it takes to change a company, to change a culture, to change yourself.  To be the Elephant Whisper.  Are you willing to talk with me?

Elephant Whisperer:  Strait talk about the Elephants in the Room ©

Book – ebook or hard copy tbd.  Look for a series of blogs/articles on this topic in the interim. 

Would love to hear back from you about the elephants that you see, how people deal with them (or not), and your personal stories.

Do you see me?

Do you truly see me or do I simply look like all the rest? I stand alone in a crowd. Waiting for my uniqueness to be seen.

Recently a group of colleagues of mine, some really high caliber thinkers, shared a laugh about the attached penguin picture.  This is a group of individuals I met through Linked In.  Rather than posting in Linked In, we have found that we often turn to our small group.  We challenge each others’ thinking, share insights and observations, and talk about “what if.”  To me, one of the true and real benefits of social networking is having connected with these bright, insightful, and valuable colleagues.

This is a group of really great people who are forging their own paths.  They have small firms which provide unique insights and are trying to make a difference.  They all have a passion for people and have a high level of integrity.  These are individuals who “get it” at multiple levels.  They ask the hard questions.  They offer the less popular solutions.  They provide advice as to what they feel is truly needed, not just lip service.  They want to do the “right” thing rather than the “easy” thing. 

With the significant increase of individual Consultants and small businesses, it’s nice to see some truly qualified individuals out there with their own shingle.  Individuals with a real desire to make a difference.  Who want to help improve people, organizations, processes, and businesses not just in the short term, but in the long term.  Individuals who aren’t selling a “solution” but rather are willing to invest the time and mental energy in understanding and analyzing situations to determine what would be of the most impact or highest value to the individual or business.

It appears that certain types of individuals (often when they cannot find employment) simply hang out a shingle and call themselves a Consultant.  After all Consultants don’t do much or “real work” do they?  They just tell others what to do and make big bucks don’t they?  So the thinking goes.  

With the flood of “Consultants” who have appeared in the marketplace this past year or two, each of us had been feeling a bit like we were being viewed as one of the crowd – when we each were quite different.  We know this.  Not just because of our individual personal beliefs, but because our thinking has been validated by other, deep skilled professionals.  We know that we think and operate differently, but that we are often lost in a crowd. 

We were concerned with the number of individuals who are labeling themselves as “Consultants,” but that we don’t feel really “get it” or are selling bad solutions or the wrong answer.  Their work products, behaviors, and ethics have an impact on the perception of all Consulting professionals.  They do not demonstrate what we are truly capable of accomplishing.  

My concern isn’t that that these new shiny shingled Consultants don’t have content knowledge.  Frequently they are quite deep in one area or industry.  Rather it’s that they do not have critical consulting, strategic, and analytical skills.   It’s about whether they really understand what it means to be a Consultant. 

  • Do they know what a client really needs or are they following a checklist?  
  • Can they truly add long-term value to their clients? 
  • Can they see the connections across and within? 
  • Can they sense what is happening in the “whitespace” of an organization? 
    • Do they even know what that is? 
    • Do they know how to find it?
  • Will they walk away from a client when they know that they aren’t the best solution or even a reasonable one?

Good, genuine, insightful Consulting is hard.  Really, really hard.  Honestly, my head hurts and I am exhausted when I’ve been deeply focused on my clients needs.  When I’m doing some multi-dimensional systems thinking, often nested systems thinking. 

My observation is that often times these deep skilled individuals are not well rewarded.  They have chosen to take the path less traveled and less constrained.  They want to operate with integrity and truth in an environment where many don’t want to hear the truth or take the hard, but right road.  These individuals often work as much for intrinsic motivational reasons as extrinsic ones.  They want to make businesses better and to do the best that they can for clients, without folding to politics and useless rhetoric.

For me, it doesn’t take long to identify who truly “gets it.”  Those that can see in color and think multi-dimensionally as compared to (or contrasted against) those who only see things in black and white but are adept at using the “right” words.  Those that simply following a process, script, or methodology without taking the time to analyze what is truly needed.  

Imagine the penguin picture in black and white.  Would you see the Emperor penguin or would he/she look just like everyone else?  Much of the world views Consultants in black and white.  Apples to apples.  A Change Management professional is a Change Management professional, is a Change Management professional right?  Wrong.  Very wrong.

So here’s my big shout out to some special people – great thinkers and good people. 

YOU ARE UNIQUE and I APPRECIATE YOU.  While we have never met in person, I’d work any day of the week, in any country with you and count myself both lucky and happy to do so.

Gail Severini, CEO at Symphini Change Management Inc   Gail’s Blog

Luc Gallopin, Managing Director at Reply Management Consulting   Luc’s Blog 

Garrett Gitchell, President at Vision to Work   Garrett’s Blog 

Jim Markowsky, President of X-Factor Solutions LLC   Jim’s Blog  

You guys rock!  May our lone penguin not feel so alone.  May we find that Angel who will fund our time so we can stop worrying about the bills and take the time to write that Game Changer book.  If not Us, then Whom.  Both Me and You.

If you are reading this article and you happen to be willing to investment so that this group can pause their work long enough to write, let us know.  We have a new view or two.  In fact I know we do.

Waterfall

Does the business, like the water, flow the same direction?

A recent Linked In group discussion revolved around how coaching does/does not fit in the Enterprise Architecture (EA) world.  Hum?  What do you think? 

I found it an interesting idea to ponder.  For this article, I’ve extracted the question and a portion of the responses.  

Defining Enterprise Architecture

At this point I would typically point you to Wikipedia for a good definition to provide some framing.  However, I found the Wikipedia content both lacking and under revision.  When I stepped back, I realized this shouldn’t be so surprising given the somewhat diverse views of EA.  To me, EA breaks down into two camps.

  1. IT-centric Enterprise Architecture.  I personally view this as Tech Arch, though there are many who will argue about this.
  2. Business focused Enterprise Architecture.  This broader, more holistic viewpoint is more in alignment with my personal view. 

The Initial Question, Thoughts & Ideas

James Lapalme •Should coaching being an element of enterprise architecture?  I completed a 1 week intensive life/professional coaching course last week.  The final course assignment was to coach a total stranger.  It was an amazing feeling to help a person with a topic which was dear to them.  The person I coached truly appreciated the experience.  People seem to really appreciate having someone to listen to them, and to help them sort out their thoughts.

Corporations would probably benefit from having coaching as an organizational component of their hierarchical structure.  They spend a lot of time on action, and put almost no emphasis on reflection.  Should this type of reflection be part of the enterprise architecture?

Faith Fuqua-Purvis • I cannot speak to whether it should be part of enterprise architecture, only to the value of coaching as well as some organizational observations and challenges.  My sense is that it would be difficult to gain acceptance of Coaching as a formal part of enterprise architecture across the board but that it might be accepted at some organizations.

  • It is often difficult to individuals to fully grasp the value of coaching until they experience it directly. 
    • This can be through a formal program such as you attended, a 1:1 coach, or through indirect coaching.  
  • I’ve observed that coaching is often associated with Mentoring.  While they are similar, I do believe that they are often executed in different manners with different motivators and drivers.
  • There has been a subtle perception/belief that Mentoring is to help move someone up the ladder to be more successful, while Coaching is more about “fixing” an issue or “bad behavior.” 
  • The skill set required to be a good coach is undervalued.  
  • Just like with consultants, there are good, very good, and “less good” coaches. 
    • I hesitate to say “bad coaches” as I don’t believe that anyone would label themselves as a coach without a minimum level of true coaching skills.

A good coach would listen in an authentic manner and seek ways to guide self revelations and self awareness.  There is a great difference in acceptance rates between telling someone something and allowing them to discover it for themselves.

To be a good coach you have to make a calculated choice as to when and how often to deliver a difficult message.  You need to weigh the balance of the objectives and desired outcomes of the interactions with the risks and potential land minds when talking about the metaphorical elephant in the room, overtly identifying and discussing the underlying motivations and drivers.  We all are challenged to really look in the mirror some days and truly see ourselves.  The image shown changes over time and should be revisited periodically.

Coaches can be hired or they can simply be people you work with or know, that help you gain a better understanding of yourself, how you operate, and how you interact with others.  The desired outcome being an improvement in how you are feeling about what you are doing and the ability to operate more effectively.

Ron Thiessen • I think that one of the most intriguing dynamics I have observed over the last 10 years or so is that we have invented numerous “time-saving” gadgets that have succeeded in monopolizing our time beyond all sane measure.  What this seems to have created is a rush toward initiation, progression, and completion of projects to the exclusion of thought-provoking analysis of pros and cons.  In the drive to the bottom line, most corporations do not have TIME to designate to the think tank.  And the type of reflection you refer to (I think) could become pretty scary because an individual might have to justify in his/her own mind why they are attempting to move at such a frenetic pace to reach…….what? 

The number of clients I see who are “burned out” as a result of work stress is mounting almost daily.  Invariably, one of the secrets of moving from stress to sanity is intensive self-reflection, bringing the sufferer back to the basics of existence and their Life Purpose.  If corporations understood the power of key employees who are at peace with their world, they would run, not walk, their employees to the nearest conference, seminar, life coach, or psychologist.

Ari Tikka • I second Ron. Run you fools… :)  I aim at making my every client a peer coach.  Think of a team with every member taking responsibility of leadership and peer coaching.  Sadly, the current disempowering management norm is weeding this kind of development away.  Short term wins.

Doug McDavid • This brings the human element into a topic (EA) that too often focuses on the technology, or, when human social systems are considered, they are in such abstract form that the person is lost.  Here’s the kind of problem that could be addressed by the right kind of coaching. 

Systems developers are motivated by the desire to do something helpful for the part of the business they are closely associated with.  After hundreds or thousands of well-intentioned efforts have proceeded, the bigger, enterprise-wide system of systems can be a big mess.  Enterprise architecture, with its attendant governance, tries to bring coherence to this mess, but apparently with a loss of autonomy of individual development efforts.  Coaching can help all parties to see other points of view, and achieve a balance of big picture and immediate practicalities.

James Lapalme • For me EA is about helping the organization to align all its dimensions (people, process and technology) in order to meet organizational visions and objectives.  These dimensions encompass elements such as organizational structure, capital expense models, IT, performance management, knowledge management, process design, etc.”

If you agree with my definition then you would probably agree that EA is basically strategic business planning.  In this context, my question becomes “Does coaching have a role in strategic business planning (especially when working with CxOs and senior executives)? 

And the discussion went on…. 

Defining Enterprise Architecture – Take Two

Let’s just say that I like James’s definition and leave it at that.

Some Closing Thoughts

So what are the takeaways?  What do I hope you will stop and ponder for a moment?

  • What does the term Enterprise Architecture mean to you? 
    • Do you think at the Enterprise Architecture level?
    • Is there a group focused on Enterprise Architecture at your organization?  If not, why not?
  • What is your personal view of the role of a Coach?
    • How might you personally or someone you know benefit from a Coach
    • Have you observed resistence to the concept of Coaching in your organization?  If so, what and why?
  • If you think coaching is valuable, how might you help your organization understand the value?
    • Do you feel that you could ask for a Coach?
  • Is there someone you could swap Coaching with?  You Coach them and they Coach you?
    • What are the challenges with this?
    • What might be the unique benefits?
  • What might be contributing to your own personal burnout?   
    • If you aren’t feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or a little crispy – Congratulations and share the secret!
  • Are you using Social Networking tools to engage in thought provoking dialogs? 
    • If not, why not?
    • Might this relate to part of what Ron touches upon?

The Challenge

Get yourself a Coach!  If you can’t afford to hire a professional Coach, I encourage you to actively seek out a friend or colleague who can act as a personal Coach.  It’s important to remember that this is not the same role as a mentor.  The person you ask needs to have a good level of empathy, interpersonal skills, understand psychological issues, and be willing to make the time investment to help you. 

The web is full of tools (some free, some not) that can help you conduct your own personality and behavioral analysis.   Its important to agree about what you want as an outcome and that both parties be committed to the process.  Good luck to both you and your Coach, should you decide to take on this Coaching Challenge!

Note:  These are only extracts 5 of the 16 posts in this discussion.  Discussions like this are a good way to challenge your and other’s thinking on a topic.  Edits did not include wordsmithing, rather deletion of content not relevant to this article.

116848_pondering

Do You Hear What I Hear?

At this point you might be thinking authentic listening, what’s that?  No, your brain hasn’t failed you.  Nor is it something you are likely to find in a Dictionary or on Wikipedia.  It’s a term I use.   Authentic listening is not the same as “active” listening but does incorporate active listening.   According to Wikipedia,

Active listening is a communication technique.  Active listening requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.  The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding.

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively.  They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements).  Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the speaker.  Suspending one’s own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important to fully attend to the speaker.”

To me, to truly, genuinely, and authentically listen, you need to not only listen, but “hear” and process on multiple levels.  You need to look at the words used, the intent, the context, the emotional state of the speaker, the past history between individuals, etc.  You need to recognize, think through, and act upon (if appropriate) the underlying motivations, drivers, and expectations. 

Hidden desires and motivations often play a big part of what is said and how it is stated.  Do you really want to “hear” what someone else is saying – understand where the other person is coming from and why – or do you just want to make your point.

In addition to listening actively, being authentic in how you listen includes elements of reflective listening.   Again, from Wikipedia, reflective listening attempts to “…reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back…” 

Authentic listening includes listening actively, using reflection techniques, listening with an intent to “hear” the underlying messages, seeking to understand where another individual is coming from, processing across multiple dimensions, and being conscious of the underlying filters and motivations that you personally bring with you during a conversation. 

I believe true, authentic listening is a lost art.  It comes from a place of true caring – having an interest in others, their experiences, and their personal goals.

  • How well do you really listen? 
  • Do you use active listening?
  • Do you use reflective listening techniques?
  • Do you really listen and “hear” what is said or are you often working to prepare your response prior to the other person finishing?
  • What actions can you take to help ensure you listen more authentically? 
  • How would you feel if someone was really authentic when they listened to you?
  • Do you hear what I hear when we talk?

May your conversations not only be active and reflective but authentic too.   I hope you think that mine are.  I’m not perfect (no one is) but I do always seek to be authentic.  To me, life’s too short and complex enough already to be anything else.  Cheers.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes