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the kindness of a tattooed lady

November 10, 2016

She wept alone but not unnoticed, surrounded by parents drinking coffee while their young families played in the morning sun and couples ate breakfast roti procured from the nearby market stalls.

I can’t say if it was the tattooed lady who first noticed her but she was the first to act. A simple act of inquiry. I was too far away to hear them but I imagine that the words “Are you ok?” accompanied the gentle touch on her shoulder.

It was embarrassment that came next, the shame. Thinking that other people now know that you are that person, the one who sits alone in a park beside the Sunday market crying into your latte. Composure quickly regained, assurances are offered

…yes I am fine and thank you no and really I will be ok there is just some stuff that I am dealing with at the moment

are you sure there isn’t anything I can do?

no thank you i will be fine but thank you …. thank you for asking. I’m fine…

The tattooed lady returns to her friends as unconvinced, I think, as I am that she is.

And I am at once overcome with despair and filled with hope and conflicted about what, if anything, I should do or not do. She is not ok, clearly. But that is ok, I think. There are plenty of things in this world that could easily see me sobbing in the street and many that should but that I don’t allow. Perhaps this woman is setting an example of crying into our coffee that we all should follow (though choosing perhaps a soy latte or long black if you are lactose intolerant. No need to create suffering unnecessarily!)

But then, I think, is it my reluctance to also offer myself and my concern about how that may be received that contributes to the current state of the world? I want to give her flowers, to buy her coffee, to invite her to sit with us a while and just be. But we are males and she is female and maybe that might be a cause of her sorrow and I may make it worse not better.

The tattooed lady has filled me with hope and maybe that is what I want for her. But she is crying again and I imagine that having been recognised for what it is by someone other than herself, the sorrow, or the grief or whatever it is that has overtaken her is now undeniable and has a depth and a density that she is no longer able to ignore.

And now I am struggling not to cry. I am discussing the complexities and frustrations of the electricity market in Australia with my brother and I can hear her sorrow rising up around through my words.

She has her head in her hands when the tattooed lady stops both our tears. She has bought the flowers I could not and again I am filled with despair and with hope. I want to believe that those flowers made enough of a difference, maybe not to ease the pain of living but to at least help make it bearable.

I hope they did.

Later as we were getting into the car to leave I saw the tattooed lady. I was clumsy and I think she might have thought for a minute that I meant her harm. Standing in her path all I could manage was to blurt at her an unexpectedly sudden “Thank you.”

“What for?” she asked. “For what you did back there” I replied and fled into my car.

***

losing momentum

November 4, 2016

Think about the last time you drove somewhere or took a taxi or an Uber.

How much time did you spend at a complete standstill? Stopped at a red light or in a line of vehicles at a stop sign? Waiting for the opportunity to turn across a line of steady traffic or just caught in peak hour grid-lock?

stopsignMy guess is quite a lot.

How much of that journey were you traveling under the speed limit not making as much progress towards your destination as you know is not just feasible but possible?

My guess is a significant proportion.

At those points in your journey how many times did you think to yourself “Wow, I have really lost momentum. I am not making any progress right now, maybe I am wasting my time and I should just give up and go back home?”

My guess is hardly ever.

 You know that red lights and waiting and traveling slower than you would like are a normal part of the journey. You accept that you will get to the destination if you keep on going.

Now think about the last time you took some action that was intended to move you towards a goal or different future.

How many times did you find yourself at a complete standstill, unable to move or just waiting for something that needs to happen?

My guess is quite a lot.

How much of that journey did you feel like were you traveling under your personal speed limit and not making as much progress towards your destination as you know is not just feasible but possible?

My guess is a significant proportion.

At those points in your journey how many times did you think to yourself “Wow, I have really lost momentum. I am not making any progress towards my dreams right now, maybe I am wasting my time and I should just give up and go back home?”

If you are like me, my guess is far too often.

Why is that?

You know that red lights and waiting and traveling slower than you would like are a normal part of the journey – so just accept it.

You will achieve your goals and dreams if you keep on going. So even if you are stopped, keep going.

***

My thanks to Maribel [at]  purplerunconsulting.com.au for creating the insights behind this post in me. She believes that engagement drives performance and innovation which is why all of the work Maribel does with organisations is directed towards creating the leadership and culture capabilities necessary for business excellence. Get in touch with her if you are looking for inspiration.

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

I didn’t know what to expect next at any time and this made for a creative and thought-provoking space.  The ‘having no control’ nature of the game whilst having to exercise a high level of control and self-awareness at all times was challenging on many levels and this would suit every member of a team […]

Selina

I had the privilege of participating in the Samurai Game facilitated by Paul Marshall. As a school principal I found the game exciting, challenging and fulfilling. The game allowed me to see leadership from a new perspective and to reflect on my strengths and challenges as a leader. It was a wonderful experience. Paul is […]

Rick Sheehan (School Principal)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

 

can you hear that?

October 26, 2016

I don’t want to be the one coming out in support of gender stereotypes, but…

it is true that there are certain things my wife can hear that I cannot. Like these things:

Puppies in a line

Middle of the night or middle of the day, middle of a storm – it doesn’t matter. If they so much as squeak she will hear them. The only time I am aware that they are making noise is usually preceded by her saying “can you hear that?”. I can’t but I am now wide awake and able to hear lots of other things. The result is the same though, neither of us can sleep.

In my defence there are things that I can hear that she seems unable to. Like this:

A dishwasher

The dishwasher is mostly my responsibility: filling it, emptying it and repairing it when it breaks. Has been for the last 15 years. To me there is a very clear difference between the ‘everything is operating correctly’ noise it makes and, for example, the sounds that come from it when a cutting board or piece of cutlery has stopped the arm from spinning. Day or night, rain or shine it doesn’t matter, my attention is drawn to it. Nobody else in the house hears it or seems to care.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Whether it is puppies or dishwashers or a request for everyone in the team to please make sure the paperwork is complete and filed correctly before closing out an order … we all hear those things. The sound waves do reach our ear drums but we often don’t listen to them – until we care.

The nights that my wife is not home and I am responsible for puppies I do not sleep well. It always seems they somehow know to be especially noisy on that one night over all others. They aren’t. It is just that on that night I care and I listen.

So if you are being kept awake at night because you are having trouble communicating with someone in your team don’t ask them “Can you hear what I am saying?” – they can. Don’t ask  them “What do I have to do to get you to listen?” – that is the wrong question. Ask “What can I do to help them to care about the things that I care about?” – once you have the answer you will be able to sleep like a baby. Unless you have a baby. Then you never sleep…

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

I didn’t know what to expect next at any time and this made for a creative and thought-provoking space.  The ‘having no control’ nature of the game whilst having to exercise a high level of control and self-awareness at all times was challenging on many levels and this would suit every member of a team […]

Selina

I had the privilege of participating in the Samurai Game facilitated by Paul Marshall. As a school principal I found the game exciting, challenging and fulfilling. The game allowed me to see leadership from a new perspective and to reflect on my strengths and challenges as a leader. It was a wonderful experience. Paul is […]

Rick Sheehan (School Principal)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

leadership expectations

October 19, 2016

Why is it that so many of us find it so hard to believe that other people might see in us something other than the incompetent imposters we convince ourselves we are?

In my last post I shared a story about Jim and how he created a lasting culture in his team even though he led it for a very short time. I wonder though if when you were reading that post you gave any thought to what it might have been like to be the person who had to step up and take his place?

It’s something that happens all the time. A leader that everyone admires moves on and someone else has to step in and take their place. Succession planning and smooth transitions are preferable but rarely achieved. Despite that, people will always have expectations.

Leah knew she was Jim’s second-in-command and that she could find herself thrust into the leadership role at any moment but she could never have known it would happen so quickly leaving her with  no control over the situation, no way of predicting the future and the added weight of delivering Jim’s vision for their team!

The moves that Leah made didn’t seem to bring the results that she was looking for. They were not “winning” so she thought that “losing” meant failure as a leader. The tighter she tried to hang on to something the more it got away from her. I think there came a time when, because she had no point of reference, no solid ground on which to stand, she could only be present to whatever was arising and respond from that place of not knowing. All she had was who she was and in her mind that was never going to be enough.

During the debrief Leah was reluctant to speak. She knew she was not the leader she thought she was and she was certain that everyone else knew so I guess there didn’t seem to be much point in saying it out loud. She certainly didn’t need to hear it from others. She was right.

And, she was wrong.

Leah was not the leader she thought she was. Her team started to tell her that and she didn’t want to hear it. But they felt she needed to hear it so they kept telling her.

At her heart Leah was a leader, it was just that her style of leadership was not what she thought it had to be. It wasn’t a chest-out-shoulders-back-barking-commands-tough-rouse-the-troops-out-in-front leadership and perhaps that is what she thought her team expected her to deliver. What she thought they required her to be.

But that wasn’t what her team was looking for or needed.

Leah’s what-can-I-do-to-support-you-being-your-best-are-you-ok-gentle-serving-behind-the-lines leadership was effective and supported the team in delivering the outcome they had agreed as a team they would. That is what they needed to tell her and they had to say it a couple of different times in a couple of different ways before Leah could start to hear them. Even then it seemed difficult for her. Understandable I guess when people want to tell you that who you are is enough.

Today, as I started writing the first draft of this piece we were informed that our eldest daughter will receive an award in one of the ceremonies that will bring to a close her time at high school. Neither we nor she knows what she is receiving the award for. After reviewing the criteria for each of the awards she might receive she told me she doesn’t see how she could be considered for any of them. This from someone who before leaving high school has established an export business with an enviable forward order book and has secured for herself multiple paid gigs for next year in a field that is incredibly competitive. As her parents our only real claim to contributing to her success to date is that we wised up relatively quickly just how incredible she is, stopped telling her what “she should do” and got out of her way.

But like Leah, she isn’t yet able to see in herself (or perhaps to accept) that which is clear to those around her. And here perhaps I can offer some advice for you if you find parts of Leah’s story resonate with you. Let go of who you think you are, stop judging yourself against what you think others want you to be and get out of your own way.  If you can do that you will exceed everyone’s expectations of you – especially your own.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

I didn’t know what to expect next at any time and this made for a creative and thought-provoking space.  The ‘having no control’ nature of the game whilst having to exercise a high level of control and self-awareness at all times was challenging on many levels and this would suit every member of a team […]

Selina

I had the privilege of participating in the Samurai Game facilitated by Paul Marshall. As a school principal I found the game exciting, challenging and fulfilling. The game allowed me to see leadership from a new perspective and to reflect on my strengths and challenges as a leader. It was a wonderful experience. Paul is […]

Rick Sheehan (School Principal)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

leadership above (and below) the line.

October 13, 2016

I have had the opportunity in recent weeks to reflect on the extent to which an individual can make a difference to an organization. It was prompted by a conversation with a friend who was sharing with me the changes they had observed in their organization since it had been placed under the leadership of a particular individual – let’s call him Dave.

The changes have been perceived almost universally as negative. Of the greatest concern was a declaration by Dave that what was required for the organisation’s success was “above the line thinking”. This was listened to by the team members as a prohibition by Dave and his leadership team against the expression of any views that might be seen as critical, pessimistic or negative. This is especially true for them when it is declared as “below the line thinking” and as such not consistent with the vision and aims of the organization. Dave communicates with the team regularly via email and reminds them of what is required if the organisation is to succeed.

Now I have nothing against using metaphors (like “above and below the line thinking” – whatever that is supposed to mean) to help people conceive of alternate futures, but silencing dissent in an organization doesn’t bode well for their long-term business sustainability. It isn’t difficult to imagine the effectiveness of, say, an audit and compliance function if you require the members of that team to only be supportive and positive in relation to the organisation’s activities.

Dave is certainly making a difference and is ‘leading’ that organization. The question is, to where? What is clear is that the beatings will continue until morale improves.

The kanji for bushido

Bu-shi-do

Contrast Dave’s leadership to that of Jim – a participant in a Samurai Game I recently facilitated in Singapore.

One of Jim’s earliest responsibilities as a leader was to share his vision for his team and how he wanted them to conduct themselves in the pursuit of that vision. I can’t tell you what he said or what metaphors he used. It is not that it is secret or confidential – I just didn’t hear anything of what he said to his team nor how he said it. I did however see the lasting impact of his words.

I think when he was appointed as their leader Jim would have been pretty happy to learn that there was someone in his team who had not only previous experience with the Samurai Game, but experience as a Ninja as well – and a fairly effective Ninja at that. (All you need to know about the role of a Ninja for now is that they do not have to play by any rules. While others are bound to participate according to Bushido and embody values like respect, honour, courage, integrity and honesty (nothing there about ‘above the line’ thinking…) – the Ninja do not. The only rule for the Ninja is that there are no rules.)

Whatever Jim’s words they resonated so strongly with the members of his team that it wasn’t until some time after his Ninja had voluntarily accepted the consequences for breaking the rules and taken himself out of the game that he remembered the rules didn’t apply to him!

Think about that for a minute.

Here is a role description that says sneakiness, deception, trickery and dishonesty are core competencies for the position. Yet, Jim managed to so inspire his team that when their was a slip in their concentration honesty and integrity became their default behaviours.

Now all of that sounds pretty impressive. You can imagine Jim, hands firmly clasped on the team rudder, watching the wind, issuing instructions and reminding his crew where they are headed and how he wants them to get there.

It is even more impressive when you know that Jim had handed the organizational rudder over to someone else just a few minutes after setting out his vision. He had led by example and accepted the consequences for a lapse in concentration in his own concentration that caused him to break one of the rules of the game.

During their debrief the team said it didn’t matter that Jim was not physically present as their leader for 95% of the experience. He had made his presence felt within their organization and it was a lasting presence that continued to guide their thoughts and actions until the game concluded.

Both Jim and Dave have left a legacy.

Jim created his in just a few principled and values driven minutes and his team worked to realise that vision despite his absence and the challenges that followed.

Dave? Well he has created his legacy as well. I wonder what will happen to his organization when the day comes for him to leave?

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

I didn’t know what to expect next at any time and this made for a creative and thought-provoking space.  The ‘having no control’ nature of the game whilst having to exercise a high level of control and self-awareness at all times was challenging on many levels and this would suit every member of a team […]

Selina

I had the privilege of participating in the Samurai Game facilitated by Paul Marshall. As a school principal I found the game exciting, challenging and fulfilling. The game allowed me to see leadership from a new perspective and to reflect on my strengths and challenges as a leader. It was a wonderful experience. Paul is […]

Rick Sheehan (School Principal)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

Um, I am not sure what to say….

September 28, 2016

“Um” and shuffling from one foot to the other as I spoke were two of my bugbears early on. Key thing (and it is paralleled in my advice to people who say they could never act in a play because they could never remember the lines) is that people can’t tell how nervous you are or what you are going to say, or supposed to say, next.

Acknowledgements to http://lifehacker.com/use-this-quick-reference-to-eliminate-um-s-from-your-s-1736896624 for the infographic below.

 

um

 

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

I didn’t know what to expect next at any time and this made for a creative and thought-provoking space.  The ‘having no control’ nature of the game whilst having to exercise a high level of control and self-awareness at all times was challenging on many levels and this would suit every member of a team […]

Selina

I had the privilege of participating in the Samurai Game facilitated by Paul Marshall. As a school principal I found the game exciting, challenging and fulfilling. The game allowed me to see leadership from a new perspective and to reflect on my strengths and challenges as a leader. It was a wonderful experience. Paul is […]

Rick Sheehan (School Principal)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

if you don’t have anything nice to say…

May 27, 2016

It has been a long time since I have posted anything here. For a while I told myself it was because I was busy – with work, with family, with all manner of things. But what I have come to realise is that I write when I think I have made sense of something and I believe that something is worth sharing.

The truth is that for much of 2016 I have struggled to make sense of what is going on around me. In my city, in my country and in my world. One thing I have either heard or read recently is that times of tumultuous change brings out the worst and the best in us.

What life looks like on the other side of that tumult depends on whether we choose to respond out of fear or out of hope.

That much makes sense to me and I believe that message is worth sharing.

How to do it? I haven’t figured that out yet. But I am hopeful.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

I didn’t know what to expect next at any time and this made for a creative and thought-provoking space.  The ‘having no control’ nature of the game whilst having to exercise a high level of control and self-awareness at all times was challenging on many levels and this would suit every member of a team […]

Selina

I had the privilege of participating in the Samurai Game facilitated by Paul Marshall. As a school principal I found the game exciting, challenging and fulfilling. The game allowed me to see leadership from a new perspective and to reflect on my strengths and challenges as a leader. It was a wonderful experience. Paul is […]

Rick Sheehan (School Principal)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

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