Monday, November 28, 2011

Confidence to Lead Differently

I am a person who believes the system or establishment is sometimes unfair. If we - the kind, sensitive and thoughtful people - were in charge, running the team, the department or our country, we believe that things would be very different.

I have led volunteer organizations and corporate departments. When I lead, I produce the planned or desired results and my colleagues have a lot of fun (most of the time).

I believe many women (and a few good men) "lead differently", and I want to provide help and support for people to lead in new ways.

We can learn to follow our hearts, to support each other and - sometimes - ignore bosses, corporate procedures, business gurus and business school text books.

I believe that if we put the needs of our family first and the needs and welfare of our community of colleagues and clients at the heart of our daily activities, we will make choices that best serve the world.

Recently I heard Christine Lagarde interviewed on Sixty Minutes. The interviewer said she takes her work seriously, but not herself. For me, her most memorable part of the interview was near the end when she said "When my father passed away and then when later on I gave birth, those are sort of ground-breaking experiences that put everything else into perspective. You know, when I sit in meetings and things are very tense and people take things extremely seriously and they invest a lot of their ego, I sometimes think to myself, 'Come on, you know, there's life and there's death and there is love.' And all of that ego business is nonsense compared to that." http//

Christine Lagarde has the courage to lead differently, and if she can maybe we can too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Designing new rules for the "new normal"

Many of us, especially my age, are waiting for things to get back to normal. It is possible they never will.

Many magazines are featuring articles that are suggesting that we are all already living in the "new normal". From my observation, men and women seem be equal players in the new normal so I am going to propose some new ground rules for the new normal:

1. Leadership can be easy (if you relax and have the right team).

2. Leadership is fun.

3. Help each other and encourage others to lead. The world has a shortage of fair and visionary leaders. Visionaries are often shy.

4. Praise in public, criticize in private. (If you can't say something nice, better to say nothing at all.)

5. Speak confidently and invest your love where it matters.

6. Flaunt your natural assets (be bold).

7. Your boss should think you walk on water. (If s/he doesn't, find a new boss.)

8. Don't wait until people are dead (or gone) to acknowledge them and tell them how much you value them and their contributions.

9. Keep your private life private.

10. One way to think about leadership is being velvet for the jewels around you.

11. Always begin new projects and new teams by discussing and agreeing on team ground rules.

This is only the beginning of the list. Isn't it great to be the one writing the rules! Please add more rules as they come up and I will do the same.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Generating Passionate Relationships we feel about other people and how they feel about us....are so important, yet so difficult to express. It is an area of communication that seems to defy language. Somehow putting our feelings, especially positive feelings, into words feels inadequate, inappropriate, off-limits, scary and taboo.

Somehow we sense that letting someone else know how we feel about them may scare them away. They might think we are stupid, needy, clingy, a stalker. Somehow, if we let down our defences, the loved or admired object of our affection will take advantage of us, not respect us, or even run away, never to be seen again.

After confessing or professing our love, how can we ever face them again?

One intuitive sense of mine is that people may engage in inappropriate intimacy because the desire to express what seems and feels inexpressible with words alone is so compelling. Our hearts and bodies seem to tell us that physical contact will convey the strength of our emotions, that the way we touch another will be an expression of the true feelings in our hearts. Maybe we could reduce jealosy, divorce and extra-maritial affairs if we could only find the words to talk about our feelings.

What if we could find words that do express the many faces of love AND we could actually say them....and everything would be OK? We could stay married, keep our jobs, not hurt any ones feelings, or feel we had simply crossed the boundries of appropriate behavior.

I am not claiming that I have figured out how to do this, but I would like to try. One way to start would be to have a variety of expressions of love be part of our everyday vocabulary.

And maybe there are other ways to express our feelings. I remember that in elementary school in the 1950s, we all had our own mailboxes to hold valentines from our friends and secret admirers. I used to be sooo excited to recieve, savor and count my valentines. Knowing I had so many friends and admirers gave me a real rush of energy. This is the type of energy that can move mountains.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Productive Relationships

The happiest and saddest days of my life were experienced because of a change in my relationship to others.

New relationships can be interesting, exciting, unexpected, make your heart sing, make you feel like skipping. And reconnecting with someone you care about can produce the same feelings.

Loss or change in a relationship you count on makes your heart sink. The thought of losing this type of relationship creates a ball of tension in the pit of your stomach.

Relationships make us both happy and sad and many of us go through life blind to the impact we are having on the emotions, mood and self confidence of those around us.

My exploration is to see how I can make all of my exchanges with others make life a little more joyful and pleasant. And, even when I need to convey bad news, I believe it is possible to deliver the message in a way that lets the person know I still hold her or him in high regard.

If every exchange can be empowering for both people, work will be effortless and collaboration a way of life.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

When Wall Street's House of Cards Comes Crashing Down, Time to Rebuild on a Solid Foundation

Having ideas become real through building is a routine experience for architects, contractors, masons and others in the steel-and-concrete building business. They find this close-to-miraculous occurrence barely worth talking about. You dream it, you draw it, you build it, you move on to the next project.

Building, both literally and metaphorically, has held an important place in human development from early cave-people days. As humans, we have the power to build up or tear down theories, reputations, confidence, organizations, buildings, cities, or cultures. Almost everything we do falls in the building up or tearing down category.

After food, finding - or building - shelter is one of our most primal instincts. And as civilization evolved, building together was the source of community bonding and pride. The pyramids of Egypt, the Acropolis in Greece, and Cathedrals of the Roman Empire all required thousands of people building together over multiple decades, if not centuries, to complete.

Rene Descartes, the sixteenth century French philosopher associated with the Scientific Revolution and often cited as the Father of Philosophy as well as the Father of Mathematics, uses the building metaphor throughout his “Discourse on Method”. At the magical moment he questions everything he has known as “truth”, Descartes uses the building metaphor to explain how he is able to “deconstruct” the out-dated and dogmatic “foundation” of his formal educational experience, and on an “open plain” construct new theories based on the foundations of a “universal knowledge” of morality.

In “Metaphors We Live By”, contemporary linguist George Lakoff explains that knowledge is based on a system of metaphors, and the foundational metaphors influence how our “towers of knowledge” are constructed. Foundational metaphors are usually invisible, yet they have profound impact on our abilities to see beyond constraints. For example, the metaphor “time is money” is a foundational metaphor which impacts business culture. It made sense in the era of the assembly line. The metaphor “time is how we show what matters” creates a completely different context for creating common-sense work practices.

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY allows us to share our ideas in a symbolic, three-dimensional language which provides direct communication. After we build, we can experiment with a variety of metaphors until we find one that resonates with universal agreement. By building together, we give shape to our aspirations, construct fears and barriers to success, and collectively build and assign language to solid solutions on firm foundations.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Its all a question of your point of view

Is the glass is half full, or half empty?

From where I stand now, nothing is clear cut, absolute. Everything under the sun has good parts and less desirable parts. It is all a question of which side of the coin you choose to focus on.

And this is most applicable in the world of humans. We all have ideas, views, opinions, interests, strengths, weaknesses, physical characteristics that are similar to others, and just as long a list, if not longer, that make us different from others.

My sense is that when we are young and ambitious, we spend a lot of time an energy proving to others that we are better qualified, smarter, harder working than the next "guy", but as we age, somehow proving how much better we are feels more and more like a waste of time. Somehow it feels like there are more important dragons to slay.

My dreams, now, are focused on how we can all work from our common strengths to weave together our differences into a tapestry that will make work exciting, productive and fun for all of us. Work does not have to be ruthless and cut-throat. Work can be about providing goods and services for a fair price to people who need or want them. Work could be about enjoying the companionship of our colleagues, family and friends, and behaving in a way that lifts their spirits and lightens their burdens.

Friday, November 16, 2007

In design the process can be as important as the end product

When I began my quest to "level the playing field", and give every team member an equal voice, one of my first connections was Turid Horgan. Turid is a Norwegian architect, and when we first connected, she was a research associate at MIT. Turid had come to MIT on a Fulbright fellowship to explore and advance "process architecture". When Turid practiced in Norway, she used "process architecture" in her work. Her projects ranged from community planning to work space planning and she carefully designed a process that would engage all stakeholders. Stakeholer group interaction was focused on a series of staged design games.

Turid's host and collaborator at MIT was Don Schon, one of the more accomplished and most published among MIT's wide spectrum of internationally acclaimed faculty. During the later stages of his career, Schon observed and documented a number of creative processes, such as composing music. It was a synergistic match, a process designer and a highly respected process aficionado. Together, Horgan and Schon began to dissect, document and apply process architecture in a number of settings. Their work together is described in the book, "Excellence by Design, Transforming Work Places and Work Processes".

Fast forward four years. We have been testing and developing our ideas about optimizing team performance, and exploring a number of ways to fund our work. I presented our interest in optimizing team work to the National Science Foundation, and they put me in touch with Dr. Robert Knecht at Colorado School of Mines, who has completed some foundational work in team performance. Bob Knecht has measured team performance in his project-based freshman design studio for a number of years. The teams producing the highest quality projects are teams who are facile twelve skills, six project-based skills and six relationship-based or "process" skills. This link back to the design process felt as if I looped back to where I began, wiser and with a deeper foundation.

In Bob Knechts pilot projects, applications of each of the twelve skills were counted by team observers.

For people who are interested, the task functions Bob Knecht "counted" were initiating, information seeking, information giving, clarifying or elaborating, summarizing, and consensus testing. The six process skills are encouraging, harmonizing, modifying, gate keeping, expressing group feelings and evaluating.