Wednesday, November 27

A Day of Thanks-Giving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday—it’s about living in gratitude for what you’ve been given.  It’s not religious, war-related, or commercial.  It can be celebrated without spending a cent, going anywhere special, or even dressing up.  Once you start counting your blessings, you realize how many every day miracles you take for granted—the crisp blue autumn air, greetings from strangers on the street, being able to walk, having access to nutritious food and a safe place to sleep, to name a few.  Beyond that, there are the many people who have contributed to you being who you are—from you past and in your present—people who help you better understand yourself and the world, people who challenge you to think in new or different ways, and people from whom you learn.  I am so fortunate to have a life filled with loving friends and caring clients. Every interaction with another person is an exchange of gifts—and, whether or not you recognize it at the time, you have been given a gift from that exchange that has the potential to help you.  Take a moment to soak in all the textures, flavors, personalities, and opportunities that give you depth, strength, humor, and wisdom.  Welcome more of the same into your life by making every day a day of thanks-giving.

Wednesday, November 20

Humor Me - Part II

As I mentioned in my recent blog video, the recent Cocktails & Conversation event at the Schiller Center focused on humor.  Our featured guest was my longtime friend and colleague, Andrea Fuller. Andrea is a strategic and business planning consultant and founder and CEO of MindFarm, a placement firm with the motto “Life is short. Work with good people.”  Did I mention that Andrea is a stand-up comedian?  Consequently, it was no surprise that we attracted a great group, who thoroughly enjoyed Andrea’s hilarious take on the rampant hypocracies in the DC metro area.  Letting loose, lightening up, and laughing at ourselves was fun that evening.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy in the workplace. 

But do we really need to have humor at work?  Do we need to laugh and cut loose?  The answer for most organizations is a resounding YES.  In fact, I believe the health of an organization is often directly related to whether or not the employees are having fun.  Not only is it important for employees to be able to laugh and have fun in order for them to enjoy work, to stay healthy and relaxed, and to be able to produce their best work, but humor itself can also stimulate a valuable type of creativity and innovation that is otherwise hard to come by. 

Over my many years working with all different types of organizations, I have frequently observed that when a person or team is experiencing “ha-has”, they spontaneously trigger “ah-has”.  Humor, or “ha-has” are created when you are thinking along a path and then veer off; the punch line is unexpected.  New discoveries, or “ah has” happen when someone is thinking along an anticipated course, then takes a sudden unexpected turn.  Because “ah has” are structurally parallel to “ha has,” creative breakthroughs often come in environments that are playful.  

One interesting note is that the more “experts” you have in a group, the longer it takes to get to either ha-has or ah-has.  For instance, ask a group of bird watchers to brainstorm the names of birds, and they can list hundreds—all very serious, with their brains in “recall” mode.  But ask a group who are not experts on birds to brainstorm the names of birds, and it isn’t long before they’re coming up with “Firebird, Larry Bird, Big Bird, the Cardinals”—and laughing at their breakthroughs, as their minds search for items that might be categorized as birds.  This has serious consequences if you want creativity from a group, but have one or more “experts” in the mix!

Thursday, November 14

Have you seen this video? Wow!

In my regular course of working with many international clients and non-profit leaders, I encounter a myriad of social issues that make me pause and think about the world in a different light.  But then there are the issues that weigh so heavily on my conscience that I cannot stop turning the new information over in my head at night.  This video explores one such topic.  Have you seen it?

We have heard the term "99%-ers" so often in the media that we may have already become numb to what it really means.  Did you know that the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the United States own over 40% of the nation's wealth?  Did you know that their share has tripled in the last 30 years?  These numbers are staggering, almost incomprehensible.  Watch the video again and really try to grasp the significance.

What I find most challenging about this issue is the many implications this has for day-to-day life for everyone in our society.  Do you have an adult son or daughter who cannot afford to move into his/her own home?  How is that impacting your plans to be an empty-nester?  Or are you someone who is now faced with the daunting task of paying for your elderly parents, who once thought they would rely on their pension or other savings during retirement? Or are you a 1%-er who is struggling to raise normal, motivated children in a reality where they don't actually have to work hard, be independent or learn the value of money in order to do well, as Malcolm Gladwell describes in his new book David and Goliath? Are you nervous that your great success will be their downfall?

In my work, I am a problem-identifier but also a problem-solver, which may be why I can't move on from this issue.  It is hard to imagine a solution to the problem given the rapid trajectory of the disparity.  (That's not to say that some aren't trying radical approaches, like paying being people to be alive.). Yet, what I have found with some of my toughest clients is that often, just opening up a meaningful dialogue, bringing issues to the simultaneous attention of the charismatic decision-makers and the introverted strategic thinkers, and allowing the weaker voices a chance to articulate their concerns and demonstrate the impact on the entire organization, is the key to generating meaningful change.  It is my hope through sharing this video to get you to start thinking and talking about this issue with your own friends, family and colleagues and realizing how the impact of wealth disparity runs both wide and deep.  

Tuesday, November 12

Test my Hypothesis about "Communications Issues"

Have you ever heard someone complain of “communications issues” with a colleague?  Have you ever thought about all that the term implies, beyond just a lack of communication?  In my work, I hear this term regularly and it has long been my contention that when people in a work setting report they have a “communications issue,” it is usually a code for “the real issue is that we don’t TRUST one another.”  I have found this to hold true over many years and in all sorts of industries. When people trust one another, there are rarely communications issues.  
It’s my intention with my blog audience, including friends and colleagues, to test this observation in a broader range of situations.  I am asking you to keep your eyes and ears open and report what you learn, as I am eager to test in other situations this belief I have about “communications issues” in the workplace. Please keep alert to when and where you hear people talking about having communications issues (for example, in their marriage, in personal business transactions, and in broad family circles) and then try to discern if this is in fact a safer way of describing trust issues.  I’d love to hear what you learn, and how you determined if in fact there might be underlying trust issues.  I will report back in a few months what I hear from friends and colleagues, so please share your observations.