Sunday, June 24, 2012

When the Individual Merges with the Group

Ultraviolet Andromeda (NASA)
I've spent the bulk of my life immersed in Western culture--which insists on individualism. However much the individual would like to take credit for individual successes, it's an unhealthy practice in an organization.  Oddly enough when we are looking at the bigger picture we understand the individual must combine with the group. NASA superimposed 330 images to create this single image of the Andromeda Galaxy.

The required text, The Leader's Guide to Storytelling, does a wonderful job of disassembling the groan heard around the world over introducing "teamwork in a traditional organization" which the author claims is because "most people have been subjected to large quantities of fake collaboration."  Of course most people are in an organization together for a reason and over time that reason seems like a distant star is a galaxy far, far away.  From my experience I can also assume people who are thrust together to accomplish a task are often not guided by a warm hearted leader who cares much about the happiness of the team. Also, if the focus is on the bottom line then if there is teamwork it is often thwarted by the cutthroat members of the organization.

Isn't there a way to introduce people into teams where there are grins, not groans?  Denning quotes The Wisdom of Teams authors:
"What sets apart high-performance the degree of commitment, particularly how deeply committed the members are to one another. Such commitments go well beyond civility and teamwork. Each genuinely helps the others to achieve both personal and professional goals."
He further describes aligning people to collaborate rests on shared values. I don't think many traditional organizations are capable of pulling this off, yet I also feel that any leader worth her or his salt should be treating everyone on their team with the care and concern mentioned above. Is it the leader on the team who should introduce this concept to the group? I think the first step a No Excuses leader should consider is merging herself or himself into the group.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Internal Dialogue: What Stories Am I Telling Myself?

Front Cover
Despite writing in both my first blog post and the one year reflection post explaining that I go inward to draw strength I am absolutely baffled on how to capture this process on demand. As I regain my footing in this arena, one source which I find helpful comes from a text in the Leadership and Imagination class: Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life. The book is written in short, powerful chapters. I have been re-listening to it on audio as it feels like walking meditation to me.

The title chapter reminds us that in the grand scheme of things the grass is not greener on the other side because the commonality of the situation is you. Hence the need to look inward. "There is always something to dislike. So why not let go and admit that you might be home wherever you are? Right in that moment, you touch the core of your being and invite mindfulness to enter and heal."  So instead of blaming externals I have been examining the stories I am telling myself. Maybe it's time to retell those stories.

Kabat-Zinn provides me with one way to do this: "There can be no resolution leading to growth until the present situation has been faced completely and you have opened to it with mindfulness, allowing the roughness of the situation itself to sand down your own rough edges." Is this not what developed leaders do? Listen to all sides of the story before (ideally) jointly crafting any change in direction?


In the last several months I have become more dedicated to meditation. It can be incredibly challenging to come home after work and begin the second shift: school work. I have found a half hour meditation practice creates a gentle transition into studying--and I enjoy the feeling of calmness and a settled mind from an accepting-what-is practice. Meditation further helps me develop mindfulness. And mindfulness assures me I am telling the right story.

Kabat-Zinn is one teacher with many stories on mindfulness. His explanations are a bit like a diving board. It's there if you need to generate the momentum, but the dive and the results of the dive are up to you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You Want to Know About Me?

Storyteller : Illustration of Kids Listening to a Story Stock Photo
I love stories! In my earlier years I tried to play a book on tape while I cleaned house. The next thing I knew I heard a snap and when I reconnected to the present I found myself sitting cross-legged and about two inches from the cassette player, side A over--house uncleaned.

For summer credit and to wrap up my final elective in the program I decided to enroll in Leadership and Storytelling. This class held a three day intensive on-campus session followed by online course work. I think it's safe to say I never know what to expect when I take a class in this program.  The timing is right for this class as it is unbelievably an internal exploration--the perfect segue to build on my leadership develop program from Leadership, Justice and Forgiveness.

Storyteller : Three colorful arrow signs reading Comedy, Drama and Tragedy representing the contrasting types of stage and theatre productions and how life stories are the intersection of all three types of fiction  Stock Photo
Story Direction
My time in class showed me stories are most effective when they are personal. The people in class came to know each other by their stories. It is an amazing tool to transfer knowledge. However when I sat down to figure out who I am--I realized there are no easy answers. So how can I expect, as a leader, anyone to know who I am, unless I tell them? The focus is authentic leadership. The great concept in storytelling is I am the guide--I get to tell my story. Of course there are guide posts, but I get to be completely responsible for my story.  This notion alone is a powerful way to reframe myself as a leader. So, you want to know about me? Well so do I. Let the exploration begin!