He walks into the room full of energy. He bounces along, coffee in hand, with a big smile, “Good Morning, how are you doing?” and “What did you do over the weekend?” A few colleagues respond with the same good cheer and stories of weekend adventures and the energy builds in the room. Yet, there is often someone who does not respond with a “Good Morning” and rarely talks about the weekend. This person may work right through this “chatter”. Positive has just met deliberative and the communication chess game has begun. [Read more…]
Sue Monk Kidd writes “quick and easy are magical words with enormous seductive powers. Advertisers know that if they put them on a product it sells better.” New Year’s resolutions abound with quick and easy approaches. How many times have you seen articles on “quick ways to lose weight”. And for those of you stuck in traffic jams, it’s time you learn about the zipper merge, the key to quick merging.
We are all about efficiency and speed. Kidd illustrates this with her quote “pole vaulting is so much more alluring than crawling.” Yet, are there times when we need to build our skills in the art of waiting?
There are clearly times when choosing the easier, less time consuming approach is best. For example, zipper merges are now being recommended in many congested traffic areas.Yet, they are complicated because of our feelings about the polite vs rude driver label. Does this sound familiar? You are driving along in the center lane on a traffic-filled highway, and the left lane is ending in a few hundred yards, due to construction. Some “polite” drivers in that left lane put their blinkers on right away, and move over as soon as someone lets them in. The “rude” drivers zip to the end of their lane–passing you and many other drivers in the center lane. Then they merge in as soon as they can, effectively cutting in front of you and other center-lane drivers in the process. Growls, fists, and fingers emerge as the “polite” drivers curse the rude drivers. However, in a recent study, the majority of drivers won’t use the zipper approach because they don’t want to be labeled the rude driver.
Efficiency is part of our work and home lives. And, as the zipper lane demonstrates, there are times where perhaps self reflection uncovers something critical about the art of waiting. [Read more…]
Do you have a big idea that is swirling in your head and you just can’t pull it together? Have you sat looking at your screen trying to work on the big idea and things just do not synthesize? Perhaps, try taking a walk and watch your creativity soar. I had an idea incubating but it just was not coming together. A friend who knows that I do my best thinking when walking said…”Why don’t you take your big idea for a walk in the redwoods?”
Each day for a week, I took my idea on a different trail through redwoods. In sun, mist, rain, I gave my idea time to incubate. The first day I just walked and waited to clear my head and get clear on my goal. I let the redwoods center my mind around my big idea. Then, the ideas started to come together. Each bend in the trail and each grove of redwoods inspired me with creative clarity.
My big idea is to take teams on walks in redwood forests to discover their strengths and to learn how to develop a strengths based culture in their organization. My big idea needed time in the trees for the leadership metaphors of the redwoods to turn into professional development outcomes.
Imagine taking your team for a hike in the redwoods to discover ways to apply their collective strengths to specific goals. What’s possible? [Read more…]
The promotion read…“Join Us for an epic day of creating large scale art on the beach!” I have marveled at Andres Amador’s art and here was invitation to create art with his team on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. It certainly sparked my curiosity.
Sand Art is a dance of geometry in motion.We rake away the top layers of sand in long curves, spirals and circles watching our Mandala images emerge. Amador writes, “…there is an esoteric fractal quality of being within the pattern that is being made- it feels to have relevance in other aspects of my life, of building a larger pattern from the inside, not fully knowing what is resulting. And I enjoy wowing people with the creations, of bringing wonder and beauty into the world. “
It takes courage to be “I”. Poet e.e. cummings wrote “may I be I is the only prayer–not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong“. Poet Laura Riding wrote–“To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting…” These are important constructs for our time. Where does this focus on “I” shift to being called a narcissist?
In our communities, the news, and workplaces we hear about “narcissists”. Amanda Chan wrote an intriguing piece on 18 Ways to Spot a Narcissist. Yet, can you spot someone who has the courage to be I? How would you describe the outcomes of narcissist and someone being true to self, or “I be I.”
A leading college success nonprofit in California, 10,000 Degrees® helps students from low-income backgrounds get to and through college. One of their mottos is “We Help Make College Dreams Come True”. Volunteer mentors, corporate partners, high schools and 10,000 Degree alumni become one degree of change by supporting each student enrolled in 10,000 degrees.
One-hundred percent of the students in the program are low income backgrounds. 85% are first in family to attend college. 83% are students who are people of color. And, thanks to comprehensive personal support, college advising, and financial aid management, over 80% of 10,000 Degrees four-year college students earn bachelor’s degrees, compared to 31% nationally. The staff know that starting a college mindset begins early so they begin work in elementary and middle schools to nurture love of learning and help young students envision a path to college.
Margaret Wheatley published an article titled “Who Do You Choose to Be? An Invitation to the Nobility of Leadership”. She asked the question “Are you willing to use whatever power and influence you have to create islands of sanity?” It is a powerful question and one worth exploring as a leader but also as a community member.
Wheatley calls on us to rely on our “best human qualities to create, relate and perservere”. She invites us to create islands of sanity amidst an ocean of challenges. She admits that the challenges of climate change, hunger, political upheaval and violence are overwhelming. The US Military uses the acronym VUCA to name theses types of challenges facing the world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.Yet, Wheatley invites us to “be warriors for the human spirit, leaders willing to defend and support people. Leaders who remember and value what humans are capable of creating together.”
As a naturalist, you are trained to watch for “teachable moments“. You train your eye to look for the unexpected and then help others to see their landscape with fresh eyes. I was recently on a hike with my husband and was wildly enthusiastic about the view, the birds, the color of the sky, the crashing of the waves, and the sprouting green hills after a recent rain. I turned to my husband with a big smile and said “Isn’t it just amazing that we live in such a beautiful place!” He looked back at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Yes, and you have a sense of wonder for two”.
Socrates said “wonder is the beginning of wisdom”. Rachel Carson wrote A Sense of Wonder and gave us a simple guide to the power of discovery. As a child and then as a naturalist, I trained my eye to look with wonder. I now see that a sense of wonder is a key skill for teachers, parents, managers, coaches and trainers.
Wonder begins with walking around and looking for the unexpected. In the management world we call it MBWA (Management By Walking Around). The basic idea is to get up from your desk, walk around, check in on your team, engage in conversations and listen deeply. This can be an ideal opportunity to look at your office with fresh eyes, seek teachable moments, and increase your sense of wonder.
We walk, we amble, we wander, and we think. One wonderful way to capture this concept is through the phrase “Solvitur Ambulando,” Latin for “it is solved by walking”.
John Muir and Henry David Thoreau have long been known as the writers who advocated for walking. Muir wrote: “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” Thoreau wrote, “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
Now Stanford University and others have conducted studies on the values of walking. Stanford researchers explored creativity and walking. They write “we’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo, but it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.”
We walked to Grace Cathedral and Fort Mason in San Francisco. We wove our lives together and let the light shine through us on an urban hike that became a pilgrimage.
We climbed to the top of Nob Hill up hidden stairwells in the city. We then entered Grace Cathedral. The morning light streamed through the stained glass windows illuminating sections of the AIDS quilt. Colors, names, dates, and images lined the cathedral. We stood in silence and wonder as the memories of the AIDS epidemic washed through us. We wove our lives with the lives of those who had died from AIDS.
We continued down the hill and entered Fort Mason Chapel, a small, rustic wooden building. We removed our shoes and stepped in to a room of prayer rugs illuminated by the afternoon light. Each rug represented an artist’s interpretation of the word “sanctuary”. We allowed our hands and toes to explore the threads and messages of each carefully woven rug. We stood in silence, inspiration, and respect for all those seeking sanctuary.
Two very different places yet the light that shown through the images wove us together. We felt awe, wonder, inspiration, and gratitude for this powerful day. [Read more…]