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The Importance of Understanding the Backstory – Wicked Important!

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After the World Business Forum 2010 I took advantage of being in New York City and went to see Wicked on Broadway.  All I can say is that the current cast is Amazing!  While I am enjoying the CD from the original cast, the voices of the current leads are even better.  My metaphorical hat and standing ovation to Mandy Gonzalez (Elphaba) and Katie Rose Clarke (Glinda).  Both their individual voices as well as the blend was superb.  Andy Karl’s (Fiyero) dancing and singing brought a smile to my face.

As I watched the story unfold I was amazed at the number of important messages embedded within the story itself.  It almost felt like a life lesson while watching the wonderful cast dance, sing, and entertain.  I’ve commited to my children to take them to see it soon.  I feel that not only would they enjoy the story but that there are life lessons they can observe.  It also gives us a platform for discussing situations and behaviors.

A few of the elements of the story include:

  • Being true to yourself and your beliefs
  • How people are measured and valued
  • Caring for, helping, and supporting others in need
  • Social pressures
  • Giving everyone a chance – recognizing them for who they are inside and not just outside
  • How the labels given to history and the “spin” change how we view things
  • The “spin” the Press does and the true power of that spin – to completely mislead and misrepresent
  • The value of working together – In one song Glinda and Elphaba sing about “…together we are unlimited…”

During the show I kept thinking over and over about the importance of understanding the “backstory.”  The true history of a situation.  Not what was fabricated by the press and those in power.

If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, you know that the Wicked Witch of the West is the “bad guy.”   You know this, absolutely know this for sure.

However, once you understand the backstory, the true history, you learn:

  • Elphaba, The Wicked, had a truly generous heart.  She was extremely loving and kind.
  • The Wizard isn’t actually kind and helpful.  He is actually a “bad guy” in many ways, working the system and manipulating others.
  • Glinda (formerly known as Galinda) begins the story as very egotistical and grows through her relationship with Elphaba. 
    • Glinda faces the choices she has made and accepts responsibility for them – changing herself in the process.
  • Glinda and Elphaba initally loath each other. 
    • They evolve into best friends by looking inside, understanding, and valuing each other as individuals.
  • Elphaba was painted as Wicked by the Wizard and the Press Secretary for trying to help others and standing up to injustice.
  • While Elphaba was persecued for being Being Lionhearted © she never gave up on doing the right thing, no matter the cost.  She accepts the “label” of The Wicked in the name of doing good.

So what does this tell us?

  • You need to look at the history, the drivers and motivations, not just the current situation.
  • You should challenge “labels” given to people and seek to truly understand, not just accept them at face value.
  • Look for the person inside, not just the outside they show the world.  They might be quite different.
  • Understanding the backstory is critical for understanding the truth of any current situation.

The truth is out there.  May you Stop, Look, and Listen to find it.  For those interested in knowing more about Wicked the Musical, here’s the description from USA Today. 

“So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.  Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the Land of Oz.  One – born with emerald green skin – is smart, fiery and misunderstood.  The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular.

How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete, and completely satisfying, new musical in a long time.”

Pictures from

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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.


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.

Are you trying to juggle the world in your hands?

Do you feel like you are trying to juggle the world in your hands?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a Change Agent. 

  • What does it really mean to be a Change Agent? 
  • What does it take to drive lasting change?
  • How much physical, mental, and emotional energy does it take to make changes and truly make them stick?

Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of energy to change.  It can be an enormous amount of energy, especially when you are trying to project positive energy into a group.  The more places in your life you are working to make changes, the more people you are trying to impact, the more energy it takes.  I’ve recently determined that I’ve been trying to be a Change Agent in too many places at once – juggling too many balls at once.  I had hit my personal “change fatigue” wall.  I had lost my energy and was feeling like a Zero (O).  (For more information about what I mean by a Zero, refer to my first blog, The Revolution of One).  I was concerned about my ability to remain upbeat and positive.  How had this happened?  I didn’t want to be a O.  Yikes!

After talking with a colleague the phrase “coming from a place of hope” suddenly ran through my mind.  What the heck?  I realized that I was feeling more optimistic than I had the last several days.  I started to analyze (what, me analyze something?):

  • How did I feel mentally, emotionally, and physically at that moment in time?
  • What did this phrase mean to me?
  • Why had it come to mind?

I realized that I had unexpectedly had a “state change”.  While I was still feeling tired and overwhelmed I was now a bit more optimistic.  Not the “light at the end of the tunnel”, rather from a glass half-full rather than half-empty perspective.  It’s the place I want to be.  I believe that we can add or subtract energy from others around us individually and in groups.  That how we feel and the emotions we project affect others.   As I talked with my colleague, I’d been talking about the business environment, my views on change, and my sincere desire to have a positive impact on those around me and on business at large.  There have been huge amounts of stress in the work environment this past year (and at home too) for almost everyone. 

I wasn’t trying to execute anything, just talk about my perspectives and beliefs.  I explained that if I have a personal mission to have a positive impact on others.  That I believe in cascading impacts.  That if I could positively impact one person, they could have a positive impact on someone else, so on and so forth.  That we could together have a large, positive impact on the business environment.  Our own Revolution of sorts.  I think we need it in the business world.

In describing my fundamental beliefs, I had found some new energy.  I remembered the “root reasons” (vs. root cause) that I am a Change Agent.  By simply talking with me and validating my thoughts and work, my friend had been a Change Agent for me – providing some much needed positive reinforcement and new energy. 

It can be hard being the person that rattles cages, raises red flags, and points out the elephants in the room.  Candidly, it’s stressful and exhausting.  I don’t enjoy raising the flags or talking about the elephants, but someone needs to in order to drive long-term, sustainable change.  

Talking about problems, challenges, and pink elephants often raises fear and worry in others.  This can take excessive amounts of emotional energy to help manage effectively.  It’s something that most people are afraid to do, but something that must be done to make real and lasting changes.  You can’t drive successful change if you aren’t willing to discuss problems and history.  If you are not honest and “real” about situations, there will simply be some head nodding in the room when you discuss new or desired behaviors.  When people leave, they will go back to their old behaviors – quicker than you might think.

What my friend had done for me was to validate that while I can’t please everyone and might feel personal stress about acting the “troublemaker,” what I was doing was important.  I had left the conversation with a renewed sense of purpose and personal hope.  “Coming from a place of hope” described how I was feeling at the moment.  It struck me that this too was a powerful thought.  That where there is hope, there are possibilities.  Where there are possibilities, change can happen.  That having a feeling of hope had actually helped counter my feeling of exhaustion (no, not all of it, but some). 

I stepped back from myself to acknowledge that I can’t be “on” all the time as I had been trying to do.  That it’s not realistic to think you can always be a One (1).  While I do want to drive a Revolution, (see The Revolution of One), there are times I might need to be a O, at least for a little while, so that I can go back to being a 1 later on.  That in the real world, unlike my technological metaphor, there are in-between states – ½, ¾, 5/6.  Those are also ok places to be. 

So I decided that for the next several days I’ll focus on the idea of hope, recognize the bumps in the road, acknowledge that there are day’s I might need to be less than a 1.  I’ll remind myself, work on feeling, and believe that I am coming from a place of hope and that’s good enough for now.  I’ll accept that it’s ok to be a ½, neither a O or a 1 for the time being.  I’ll be a ½ with hope for a better tomorrow and the belief that with some rest and sleep (not always the same thing) that I could go back to being the 1 that I want to be. 

So my personal lesson for today was to hold tight to hope and possibilities.  To accept that when you can’t be a whole (1) it’s ok to be a ½.  Give yourself partial credit. 

Change is hard.  Being the Change Agent can be even harder.  Change is tiring and never happens all at once. 

So my wish and hope for all of you is that you too find a piece of hope today and each day forward.  That you give yourself credit for what you have accomplished, rather than focusing on how far you still have to go.  That you find your own place of hope, piece of inspiration, and some renewed belief.  This can come from the smile of a colleague or a child, taking time to stop to look out a window at the flowers and trees (or the snow if it’s winter).  Find something in your environment around you that you can draw inspiration and hope from.  Stop, Look, and Listen not to understand others better, but to pause for yourself.  To give yourself a break and some personal recognition. 

I ask that you can continue to join me as we make our own Revolution at whatever level you can, one day at a time, one person at a time, one situation at a time.  For today, I’ll continue to focus on being a Change Agent-at-Large, even only at half-strength.  I’ll keep my hope for better tomorrow.  I absolutely believe that together we can change many things.  A little bit at a time isn’t simply good, it’s GREAT.

So here is my “true confession.”  I actually drafted this article several months ago.  Life (and all the winter flu varieties) simply got out of control and I never finalized this post.  Some days I felt a bit guilty, but I worked to remind myself that any forward progress was good and 1/2 was ok.  I asked myself if it really mattered if the story went up in October or in January.  You, the reader don’t really care do you?  As I start the New Year and seek to post articles and stories more actively, I pulled the draft of this article out and made the final edit.   

So what are the key messages I hope you take from this article?

  • Being a Change Agent is hard work.  It can be stressful and exhausting.  But if you don’t do it, who will?
  • It’s critical to rattle the cages, raise flags, and point out the elephants.  If you don’t talk about them and address them, it is unlikely that change with “stick”.  Again, if you don’t do it, who will?
  • There is a great level of stress that comes with always being “on”?  A simply analogy is a light bulb.  It gets hot and burns out quicker if it is always on.  When natural light is available or no one is around, shutting it off prolongs the life of the light bulb.  We need to do the same for ourselves.
  • Have you thought how “change fatigue” applies not just to change programs, but to yourself also? 
    • Are you planning appropriate breaks for yourself and within your change program? 
    • Are you taking care of yourself physically, recognizing how your health impacts your ability to create change?
    • Are you giving yourself appropriate mental breaks?
    • Are you giving yourself the credit that you should?
  • Are you recognizing that any forward progress is good, even if it took longer than you had initially planned or scheduled?
  • Are you familiar with the concept of diminishing returns? 
    • Can you recognize when you have reached that point? 
    • Can you tell yourself it is ok to step back and not work on something for a while?  Regain your energy and start again.  You will likely get farther.

A huge THANKS and virtual hug to my friend Ron for providing positive feedback in a time of need.  A shout out of THANKS to my spouse, Bruce, for his on-going support of my efforts big and small, including providing feedback on this blog.  He rocks.


The Revolution of One

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Wikipedia defines revolution as follows:

A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.

Amidst the corporate chaos and on-going organizational changes there lies a source of power, power for change. There are the People.

People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and viewpoints. There are many, many viewpoints. Sometimes it seems like too many. Have you heard the joke that if you ask 4 recruiters their opinion on a resume you will get 5 answers? If you’ve been looking for a job lately you know that this is not just a joke, often a reality.

Often the different viewpoints seem opposed and are a source of chaos, but if you seek to understand not just respond, they can be a great source of information and power. How often do you stop to try and truly understand another’s viewpoint and how they reached their own personal conclusions? What attitude do you bring to the interaction? Are you focused on listening to a different viewpoint or are you focused on winning an argument?

Each and every day we make a series of decisions regarding how we interact with each other. How actively do we listen? How thoughtful are our responses? Are we working together? Is it a “we” or a “me” moment? Are we focused on our part of the organization or the effectiveness of the organization as a whole? Are we trying to understand how the decisions we make today impact other areas of the business or organization? Are we focused on the past or on the future? Are we playing the “blame game” or are we expending our energy working to resolve a situation the best way possible?

When you interact with others today are you going to be a 0 (Off) or a 1 (On)?

Attitude truly does make a difference. The Beatles sang of One being the loneliest number yet in the Matrix we saw how significant the impact of “The One” could truly be. We can all be Agents of Change. The revolution starts with yourself and your attitude, not with others and theirs. We can influence others but we can only truly change ourselves.

Binary language focuses on Zero and One, Off and On. There are studies showing that when collaboration is involved, the sum can be greater than the individual parts. Where One + One + One = Four not Three. Where there is the addition of understanding and alignment of objectives vs. the subtraction of position and personal power plays.

When you interact with others today and make decisions related to your job, your department, your organization and programs, are you going to be a 0 (Off) or a 1 (On)?

Faith Fuqua-Purvis is the founder of Synergetic Solutions LLC, a consulting firm specializing in Strategic Change. She is a strategic thinker, a proactive leader and an experienced coach, helping business implement transformational changes by aligning people, organizational structures, and operational activities with business strategies. You can find her complete profile at LinkedIn.

Photo credit: clix    This article first appeared on The CIO Assistant’s Blog on July 1st.

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