Monday, November 29, 2010

Diversity is Key to Creative Teams

One of my best lessons learned was when I was speaking to a client of mine who was looking at moving to a different position in the federal government. He wanted to expand his horizons and learn new skills. As the government looks to be an increasingly diverse public service, one can identify themselves as a visible minority. I asked my client "Would you identify yourself as a visible minority?" to which he replied "Donna, I'm brown. Haven't you noticed?" and continued..."You are colour blind. That's great from one perspective but at the same time, remember we shouldn't ignore differences and make everyone 'the same', we should celebrate the difference and bring them all to the table."

I have never forgotten that conversation. I look at each person as someone unique who brings a specific flavour, unique skill set and perspective to the table. I also know, that diversity brings a richness to the conversation that can't exist in an organization or team that is a sea of sameness.

In his article Why Diversity is the Mother of Creativity, Jeffrey Baumgartner talks about "The best thing you can do is to diversify your thinking" and "It is essential that your people are diverse in background, education, knowledge and experience".

Sameness just doesn't cut it.This really does bring home how we're 'better with, not better than".

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holidays in Out of Awareness Places

Yesterday I loved reading about my friends' Thanksgiving celebrations on Facebook and Twitter. Some of what was shared was so vivid I almost felt as if I was invited into their homes to share the laughter, conversation and myriad of culinary favorites. Last night on the news I watched Missions and helping organizations serve dinner to those who are struggling so they could have a bit of Thanksgiving celebration. Then I wondered why no one was sharing the in-between stories of celebrations in places you might not know of. Not hospitals, missions, or nursing homes. Those we hear about. I'm talking about places like Ronald McDonald Houses.

For many years we spent most holidays in Ronald McDonald House in Norfolk, Virginia. As we tried to schedule as many surgeries and pre and post surgical appointments for my son over school breaks, usually that meant Xmas, often Thanksgiving, summer breaks and most other holidays when he would miss as little school as possible. Most of our holidays over about 17 years were shared with other families living at the House at that time.

No matter where you live and might see a Ronald McDonald House, as they're in many parts of the world, from outside you see a building that has something to do with sick kids and a place to stay. Walk through the doors and you'll see it's much more than that. The people inside, the staff, House mother, and other families become your family for the time you're there. It's a place where we gathered, talked about our challenges and fears, and shared what we learned with other parents and kids. From visit to visit, we'd continue the conversations as if we'd never been away. The moment we walked through the door it was into open arms for a giant hug and welcome.

If we were there over a holiday, no matter for what religion, we helped decorate the House. Xmas time at RMH was magical. Every square inch of the place was decorated, animated and glowing with light. Donations of food would come from all over, sometimes filling the fridges and freezers to overflowing so the families could come back from the hospital to a meal ready to be warmed. We shared family stories with the others and watched the kids play as if there was nothing wrong in their worlds. I remember all the holidays we spent there and many of the people we met, some whom I worked with over time.

I will never forget how at home they made us feel and how loved and supported we were no matter what we were going through nor will I ever forget the little munchkins who would crawl all over my lap while they played. I know they're looking down on us from some better (for them) place.

Now that Xmas is about a month away, I'll ask you to think of this....

If you can't figure out what to get someone who seems to have everything, places like Ronald McDonald Houses always has a wish list; everything from towels to food. Do as I do and for clients, make donations in their names. If you have a House in your neck of the woods, call them and see what you might buy for the House that won't break your bank but that will make a difference. Remember that there are many, just as we did, who are spending their holidays away from home, family and friends. It's not paying it forward, it's giving forward.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Great Day

So my friend and working partner in crime John sent me a video of The Black Eyed Peas live in Chicago from September 2009. Now I love the song they sing on the video but what caught my eye was the crowd. I observe people for a living and something was different here. I leave it to you to check it out so you understand what I mean.

Thing is, after watching something like this, how could it not be a great day? This is contagious. Forward it to many so they can experience the energy and 'attitude' of this huge crowd in downtown Chicago. 

May your day be great and to all of you south of the border, Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Planet as 'a Limited Condition'

I was watching Carter Emmart's 3D atlas of the universe on for the umpteenth time. Something about it, other than the obvious, keeps me coming back to watch it again and again. He speaks about understanding out planet as a limited condition. We have finite resources available to us and yet, in many instances, we have to be told how to use them wisely as we haven't yet figured out that they will run out soon enough. 

Looking at this video what comes to mind is how small a speck in the universe each of us is and yet, one person can change the world even one person at a time. Collectively we are powerful. One person saying "Who am I to change the world?" can also impact others if them in turn step back and let other people do what has to be done to ensure a sustainable world. People are our most valuable resource. If we lead through a sense of humanity, we will thrive and if we lead trying to have power over others, we won't. This video is a reminder that even though the world is so much bigger than each of us, it's what houses and nourishes us all both as a physical planet and by the people who inhabit it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Power of our Beliefs

I love working with university students and lately, I especially love working with students in business programs. Why? Because their minds are bombarded by so much external information they're not even aware of how limiting that can be, and how these beliefs shape our personal operating systems. They are absorbing everything around them. They look at savvy marketing specialists, advertising, the bottom line financials, business models and so on.  What they don't look at is how much of this creates an environment that promotes limiting beliefs.

When they start to understand what beliefs are limiting and which beliefs help them fly in their careers, they begin to 'get it'. Even those who have a sense of what their operating systems and beliefs are, rarely look at their implications. That's where coaching these groups of students and having conversations with them (rather than speaking at them) builds greater awareness. Once they start recognizing the power of their beliefs, what supports them and what holds them back they will start creating something unique to them and have a much better chance of leaving the program heads above the crowd. That's the best part of my job; supporting students to evolve into their level of excellence.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Light and the Shadow

Everything we experience in life has a light and a shadow. If life only handed us wonderful experiences, we wouldn't be able to look at them in wonder as there would be no opposite, nothing dark to measure them against. With that, we would no longer look at our experiences as anything other than commonplace. It's all about balance.

My friend, Dave Lent shared a video of Bill Moyers Journal with me; his last show where he interviews Barry Lopez. It's an extraordinary interview, one I've already watched three times in order to absorb it fully. In it he speaks of technology and says, "I believe that there is a way for people to communicate with each other that they have never known before. It's never, I mean, part of this electronic world we live in, you know? It's got its darkness as well as its light.

But for people all over the world, in small groups, to be in touch with each other about what is welling up in every country, among every group of people, which is a desire for justice. You know, there-- I'm trying to remember the story. I don't remember the philosopher, the Greek philosopher who told the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Which really stuck when I first heard it, is that Zeus said to Prometheus, "Okay, you stole fire. Great for you. Now your people have technology. Wonderful. But here's something you don't know. You lack two things. And if you don't take these two things that I will give you, this will be a failure. Technology, you know, fire, all your magic, it will fail completely. It will be your undoing. And the two things that you need to make it work are justice and reverence. And if you have these two things, you won't get in trouble with this third thing that you thought was the be all and the end all."

We have the ability to connect with and touch more people than ever before. The question is, once we do, what is our message and how powerful an impact can it and will it have? Will it be positive or negative?

I invite you to listen to the rest.

And I thank Dave for sharing it so I can with you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Scheduling Life

Life doesn't unfold in consecutive and determined chunks of time that we can plan and schedule. Life happens as it happens and concurrently.

You can't leave your personal life behind completely when you go to work and you can't park all that you do or think about doing with regards to work until you walk back into the office the following day. Life isn't scheduled. Choices are.

If you choose to take on more than is humanly possible to do in a day, then you'll deal with the consequences tomorrow. And if a monkey wrench gets thrown into the equation if you get a flat tire or someone, yourself included, gets sick. You'll have to deal with that too. Either let life happen and choose a path along the way or, at the very least, learn to schedule in your emergencies. Life will still happen regardless.

Gift of a Gift

I just received a gift of the book Gift from the Sea. Just by reading the introduction I've already fallen in love with this book and know I will be reading it more than once. To quote the intro "The book makes it possible to quiet down and rest in the present, no matter what the circumstances might be. ....Even the sway and flow of language and cadence seem to me to make reference to the easy, inevitable movements of the sea."

I love being by the water, whether a lake, river or ocean. It's powerful while at the same time, mesmerising and helps me maintain my center and a sense of calm.

I often ask my clients to think of a place in nature that they can visualize when in the middle of a crisis or challenge. By closing their eyes even for a few moments and thinking of that special place, they find their center, breathe differently and after a minute or so can re-enter the chaos in a more reflective and responsive way.

I just ordered 5 more to give to the special women in my life. Gift From the Sea was a gift in more ways than one: Firstly that a dear friend thought of me to send it, the gift of the book itself, and one that I can pass on others to enjoy as well.


Monday, November 08, 2010

You're a Manager...Now What?

People in positions of leadership aren't necessarily great leaders. Many are promoted into high level positions and they're not sure they can do the job. Many think if they refuse a promotion it's a career-ender. So they take a breath, take the job and then ask "Now what?"

I just read an article from the Wall Street Journal "Bosses Overestimate Their Managing Skills". Many never questioned their ability to lead others in their first year as a manager. In my experience Shadow Coaching clients to help them integrate into their new role, many don't question their ability to lead because they're afraid of looking at what comes up in the answers.

People don't necessarily have blind spot about where they're weak. They do have fears about others seeing weakness which is why they rarely shine a light on them. Thing is, most people will say they respect a leader who admits to not having all the answers, especially when they listern, learn and co-create with their peers and staff.

What do you think?