I often hear from people….”I’m a perfectionist…and I view it as a strength and weakness”. So many people in leadership roles self identify as having strong leanings towards perfectionism. Yet, what does that really mean? What are the milestones of perfectionism? Is it..Every item on the check list is completed every day? All plans are polished and delivered on time? Meetings are run efficiently?… It is hard to measure success when perfectionism is a driver. There is always another level of improvement knocking at your door. This week, I challenge you to reframe your perfectionist milestones. [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. “
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…]
Governor Jerry Brown of California spoke at the Vatican on November 4 at a symposium on the environment. He stated that “faith must join technical, scientific and political approaches to limit environmental devastation.” He expanded his thinking by saying “going forward, we’re going to have to find the pathway to awaken the world, to get done what needs to be done,” he said. “We’re not going to get there with just science and technology. There’s no technical fix adequate to the challenge we face.”
“No technical fix adequate to fix the challenge we face”; now there is a invitation to think differently. Certainly, there are areas where technical fixes will solve challenges. Yet for climate change, Brown challenges us to take a different path than “technical fixes”. He invites us to look at it through the adaptive challenge lens. He encourages us to take a path where we tap into the best thinking from the worlds of faith, politics, science, and technology.
His persuasive and well informed speech, is also an invitation to think differently about other community, organizational and regional challenges.
Thirty years ago, William Penn Mott Jr. brought forth a big idea. As a leader in the National and California State Parks he envisioned a 550-mile ridge trail that would unite the ridges around San Francisco Bay watershed. The first section of trail was dedicated in May 1989. Today, 375 miles are open and ready to explore either by foot, bike or horseback. The vision of the Bay Area Ridge Trails is to link people, parks and open space for today and future generations. November 4 was Ridge Trail Day where 100’s of volunteers gathered to work on new and existing sections of the trail. Imagine, a 550-mile trail through wilderness and urban areas built by volunteers. Anything is possible.
The vision includes trails from Mt. St. Helen to Oakland to San Jose to San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge to the ridges of Marin and Sonoma County. Over five hundred miles of trails is slowly being connected by a grassroots effort of volunteer trail builders, collaborative partnerships, and visionary leaders. Download the regional map and you’ll get a sense of the scope of this vision.
Roberta was sitting in her beach chair in Florida when she realized her two children were missing. She looked out and saw them caught in the rip tide. Instincts kicked in and she ran into the water to save them. Eventually, ten people had gone in to try to save the children They were all caught in the riptide; all in danger of drowning. What happened next is a lesson from ants.
A bystander remembered something he’d seen on television that some ants link their bodies into bridges so they can cross water. He started yelling, “Grab arms,” and he and about five other people held hands to make a human chain. Eventually, 70 people linked arms to rescue the ten in the rip current. One person broke from the chain to pass a boogie board to the ten who were clearly in danger of drowning. Then through determination, the chain of people started pulling each drowning person back to shore. Ten people were rescued by 70 strangers who locked arms. A lesson from ants.