Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Move Things Forward, by Doug McVadon

Forwarding the Action means empowering others to succinctly address the matter at hand so the next thing can happen.

Fundamentally, forwarding the action often means knowing when to shut up. That is a “big ask” of the average human being!

I was going over a Vision document with Gary and Nancy, so they could critique it, add to it, and help me take it to the next draft.

When they suggested I take out a part or say it a different way, I reflexively began explaining why I did it that way to begin with.

“Well, what I had been thinking was...”

“I know, I just thought when I wrote this that...”         

I forgot that the purpose of the conversation was not to uncover my motives for writing it the way I did. It was nearly impossible for me to simply shut up about that, and get clear on the new suggestion or addition.

How much more useful to ask more about their suggestions than to defend what I had already written! In spite of how deeply satisfying it is to say what I already know, justifying my thought process makes no difference. 

Forwarding the action requires me to stop voting, stop approving/ disapproving, so I can bring open attention to the matter at hand. Anything else keeps things stuck.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Initiative Looks Like - When It's Missing, by Ginny Brien

In·i·ti·a·tive, noun
  1. the ability to assess and initiate things independently.
  2. the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

This week I got to distinguish initiative by observing its absence in myself.

The strategy team had a retreat scheduled for Thursday, and I marked my calendar “be available,” because Nancy told me they might want to pull me in sometime during the day. On Tuesday, I had a call scheduled with Doug, but before and after, I was thinking mostly about the big dog client interviews I’d promised to summarize this week, and was starting to worry about how much (or little) of them I’d understand, and thinking that I should have started on them earlier. I had a few marketing and sales calls with people on the team, and between the reorganization of the supply closets and the email transition, working at home seemed like a smart choice.

On Thursday morning, my phone rang at 9:00, just as I was settling in front of my computer to start my day. It was Nancy, asking, “Did you get my email?” and, “Can you come on the call?” But the real question was, "Why aren’t you already on the call, and why aren’t you prepared?"

We expect every person on our team to lead, from wherever they are, and I got to see several areas where I was content to “wait for orders” rather than bring my drive and intellect to the company. Here’s how my lack of leadership looked:

I didn’t check my work email or voicemail at the end of the day Wednesday. If I had, I would have read Nancy’s email, sent at 3:30, asking me to have documents ready to share with the strategy team at 9:00.

It didn’t occur to me to verify when the team might want my participation, or ask how to prepare, or spend time INVENTING how to prepare for the strategy meeting.

It did not occur to me to study the strategic documents we created at our company's December retreat: the "Picture of the Future," our brainstorm about client service excellence, or the list of immediate actions we aligned on. Yes, I captured the sales notes, but all the strategy we invested two days creating -- I treated those conversations like they were a “perk,” an exercise to give us an infusion of energy and attention. I definitely was not holding them like strategy that I am responsible for implementing and ensuring the success of.

I related to myself as responsible for a “piece” of the action, but not the whole action. And now I wonder -- is it possible to be responsible for a piece of something without constituting myself responsible for the whole of it?  I don’t think so.

To be fully responsible for sales (or any other “piece” of our business) I have to think about and care about my actions affect the whole. Otherwise, I’m no more invested than a temporary employee -- I have no real skin in the game.

This is not acceptable to me.

I am newly curious about what setting time aside to THINK could do for my leadership and for the company. This fits in with some of practices I’m creating for myself in the new year.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

drama. Drama. DRAMA!!!! by Gary Davis

We love drama. The TNT network knows this, Hollywood knows this, and the folks at barber shops and beauty shops all over America know it. Drama is fun, juicy, it just feels good, and when you are feeling put upon or wronged, it seems like a sweet elixir, but it's really snake oil. It makes us think we'll feel better, but usually leaves us still feeling upset, or even more upset.

And most drama, or at least the best drama, is just assessment and speculation. It is not the actual thing that is transpiring. It is the constellation of thoughts you have about the thing that happened, many of them fueled by the “being wronged-ness” of it all.

What is fact is that "she talked while you were talking." It's an interpretation that doing that was "rude," and further interpretation that "She is rude." And it is interpretation that "being rude is why she is ineffective," and it is interpretation that she's "ineffective." But it seems like I'm just describing the situation if I say, "Well you know how she is. You know how management thinks they're better than us." WHOA, how did this turn into a conversation about management?!

We think most of our talking is about “how it is” when almost all of our speaking reflects the noise in our heads.

For instance, last night I'm pumping gas and the young man in the car beside me leaves his car running with the stereo up on HIGH volume, and goes inside.

The noise in my head tells me that “He’s doing that to get me. He wants to control me. They all do that, probably mad about the election.”

When I stop to look, I can see that the noise is not "what's so," but it doesn't mean I don’t think it.

One way I try to interrupt the drama is to ask myself, "What am I committed to here?” From there, I'm more able to see what's really there. What's so" is we are both hearing his music. The rest, the reasons, the drama, all that was made up. 

I think about that, and when he returns, with his cornrows pulled out to the side and his new Timberline’s with no laces, I notice he is not smiling at me. I probably am not smiling either. At best I look indifferent, at worst annoyed.

I interrupt my automatic thoughts and smile broadly, “What are we listening to?”

He smiles back and says, "K Kamp, rapper out of Atlanta."

I asks if he's Jamaican, because I think I hear a reggae influence, and he happily tells me about K Kamp.

I get in the car and instead of giving my daughter a lesson in how to be racist by talking about how inconsiderate “they” are and blah blah blah, my daughter, who heard the whole thing said, “You are so crazy, Daddy.” Crazy because even she knows that it's normal to indulge in drama, and it takes something to stretch beyond the noise in our heads. 

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What's All the Hoo-Ha? by Laura Neff

My 27 year old nephew is staying with us for a few days, in between one chapter of his life and the next. Last night, the house was quiet, and for the first time in a long time, we flowed into a conversation about Life that was simply exploration -- seeing, sharing, and wondering about things together.

We talked about the evolution of technology, about artificial intelligence and virtual reality and how they might affect humanity in the years to come. And somehow we started laughing about how all the hoo-ha, the running around and busyness human beings create, starts to seem like what gives meaning to our existence. When really, even though we’re the only self-aware beings on the planet, what we need is simple: we need to eat, be safe and sheltered, and be in community. We love the hoo-ha, but it’s easy to forget that it’s not actually Everything.

And then I told him about how, at work, we're re-designing a course we call "Advanced Mastery." Amidst all the hoo-ha, it offers an experience of touching the simple richness of life through presence, attention, arts and creativity, communion and communication with one another and ourselves. It struck that after spending nearly 30 years developing organizations to work well for the world and the people in it, we’re taking a stand that, in part, "mastery" of ourselves and our leadership goes back to our senses -- color, attention to the power of language, listening, and present-moment awareness. “Slowing down to go faster,” is how we sometimes put it. And he got it. This young man who has never set foot inside a corporate environment could really see that.

Then we talked about complexity, and how we, as a culture, are basically dying of stress. We wondered if part of that is because what our bodies and minds are made for is not all the hoo-ha, but to do things like stick seeds in the ground in a spot that’s open to the sky, water them as we’re able, and only “stress” about things like leaf-eating bugs and weather patterns. Simple, straight forward, clear.

Coming back to the simplicity of this moment -- color, poetry, words, music, what’s happening in your eyes when I look over there… I love that simplicity is essential for Mastery. It’s a homecoming to who we fundamentally are.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

A New Day to Bring Your Leadership, by Gary Davis

As I took the trash out this morning in the dawn mist, I noticed it starting to rain.

My first thought, “Great, it’s raining, well isn’t this the perfect way to start the Trump era.” But then I thought, “Hmm, isn't that interesting how I have an automatic view of a rainy day just like I have an automatic view of a Trump presidency.” First that rainy days are bad, even though without them my grass dies and there is no food to eat. And my first thoughts about a Trump presidency are not that optimistic either. He wasn't my choice.

And yet, the role of a leader, if I want to be a leader, is not to go with whatever my automatic view is, just grousing and complaining about how things “are”, like a critic talking about a movie that he did not like. Rather, the role of a leader is to be the director of what happens, to start to think about how I can direct the conversations I have with others to have something emerge in the conversations. Something to which I am committed. And what I’m committed to is a united America. What I’m committed to is a United States of America, that works together, and sees what’s possible in whatever we have (in this case a president named Trump) versus being upset about how things are. How do I transform my view and actually bring leadership to my conversations? I could look at this election result and say to myself, “This is the best thing that could ever have happened to me, the United States and to the world.” Transformation would then mean doing to intellectual effort to ground such a claim. Where do I start?

Well, we’ve gone through some very difficult times as a nation and as an American I may not think I need to stand for America being great again. I may think it is great now. But I could just grab the part of the message that says "have America be great." I’m interested in that, very interested. So how can I get behind having America be great and be excited about having a President who’s interested in that, and start looking for how I can find common ground, find a place to stand for what he’s up to? 

I understand he’s interested in building infrastructure. Great. I think that that’s an amazing goal. I think that with the help of a Republican Congress and a Republican Senate, he probably will be able to move that forward, and we’ll see new bridges and new roads and infrastructure that Americans can be proud to use and that will provide safety to our nation.

He says he’s got some ideas about what to do in the economy. Well, let’s see, let me take a minute to give that some room, be curious about what he sees that others don’t see. Let’s assume best intent and come from a stand that he wants to make a difference. We could do that, right? 

Many very well informed and educated people were saying he couldn’t win the election, but then he won the election. So if now some of the same people are saying that his policies are ill-fated and will all lead to ruin, maybe or maybe not? I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen that way, but I do think that saying it’s going to go that way helps it to go that way. Whereas saying, “Let’s see what you’ve got and let’s try it, you’re in charge now, lead us, I’m interested in following”, could bring some amazing results.

I know that in our business, we work with a lot of leaders inside of organizations that have people under them in the organization that disagree with the things they want to do. And those disagreeing people sometimes think that just because they disagree with the things that the leader wants to do, that their “misalignment” is not really impacting the leader's intentions. We would argue that if you are not aligned with the leaders on what they’re doing, even if you disagree, you’re part of the reason that that policy or that idea fails, and that if you align with them and start to row in the same direction with them, something could happen that surprises you.

I think many people were surprised when we got up this morning. I think even some of the people that voted for Trump and really believed in Trump, had to, in some ways, be delighted but surprised that it went the way it went. Well, for those that chose the other candidate, let’s let Donald Trump surprise us again by having our country be great in ways we have never imagined. Let's dialogue with those that did chose him and let's get really curious about why they feel that way, see what we can embrace about them. We should hold him to account, continue to have our voice about what we think this country should be about, but at the same time, spend equal energy looking for ways to get behind the one we chose, whether you chose him or not.
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Everyday Miracles, by Jane Smith

On Tuesday Doug and I led the half day follow-up for one of the Transforming Leadership Intensives we have led this year to an operations team in the health sector. Many of the participants are hourly workers whose positions have them experience themselves as somewhat “less than.”

This group was lively, engaged and very much in the conversation to impact their own leadership and to contribute to the company. For example, one man in the group has definite opinions that he willingly expresses about their supervisor and he saw, in the two day, that there were different possible interpretations he could have, even in the face of a lot of agreement for their point of view.

On Tuesday he shared that he has been different with the supervisor, and he has seen a difference in how the supervisor is being with him. At one point during the afternoon he caught himself slipping back into his old way – he has an expressive face with includes a well-developed eye-roll – and said, “I really have to watch my face!”

We’re witnessing a miracle among members of the leadership team as well. Several of them come to all of the dinners after the first day of the program, and now to the lunches before the half-day, as well. Yesterday everyone, including Freida in her exquisite suit, helped arrange the tables for the lunch so we could sit together and not feel separate. There were six executives there all mixed in with people who don’t really know who they are.

Our work is very basic – know yourself as a human being and the particular self that you are, invent a new context in which to live, and do it well some times and not well others.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Between Me and My New Car, by Nancy Chek

It may seem like a small thing to many people, but it’s a miracle that I’ve finally discovered how to get Arial to be my default font, which saves me at least three key strokes (and a heavy groan) on every new Word document. There are things that I cannot change, such as my birthday odometer clicking over another number once a year, and there are things I can--like getting someone to repair the hole in my kitchen ceiling (done) or getting rid of that bloody Cambria font (done).
I am just waking up to the number of things I put up with--either because it is “so unfair” that I have to fix it (someone side-swiped my car while it was parked at BWI so the left mirror is hanging there like a broken wrist) or because it’s so much trouble in my mind to fix it or pay to have someone else fix it.
I have been carrying 10 old paint cans in my trunk for almost a year because I don’t want to take the time to go to the junkyard.  Every time I go over a speed bump I hear them make a half-hearted attempt to escape: Ka-whunk. Face it, China White, we’re never gettin’ outta here.
The unresolved items in my physical universe serve as a reproach, letting me know, in that insistent way things have, that I may think I’m the boss of them, but thinking carries no weight in that realm.
For example, I want a new car (one reason I keep putting off fixing the limp mirror). What I’m doing instead of buying one is telling everyone how much I dislike negotiations with dealers, watching movies instead of doing research, paying for vacation courses, eating out a couple times a week, putting off taking some other financial steps that would improve my income, etc.
I sort of love this: it takes all the mystery out of why something is or isn’t happening.
And suddenly I see that in a year I’ll have finished paying off my home repairs, and I can take my friend Vin to car dealers with me so he can do the obsessing part and I can be charmingly ruthless and make the car happen. WaHOOO!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Succession Planning and Leadership Transition: What it Really Takes, by Laura Neff

Doug McVadon (speaker, R) and Mike Watson speaking on Succession Planning at the
American Institute for Architects Young Architects Forum in Charlotte, NC on October 12, 2016.

Straight-talk about succession planning and leadership transition was on the docket at the American Institute for Architects (AIA) Young Architects Forum event last week in Charlotte, NC and the room was packed.

Associates in their 20s and 30s as well as more tenured firm principals were keen to know:
  • What does it take to be “picked” as a possible owner of a firm?
  • And how do current leaders lead that process well, for the people involved and the long term health of the company?
It’s not just a topic relegated to architecture. Healthy organizations across industries and around the world know that succession doesn’t happen accidentally, at least not succession that ensures the strongest future.

For two hours, Michael Watson (principal, Watson Tate Savory architecture) and Doug McVadon (president and consultant, Dorrier Underwood) shared openly what it took for Watson Tate Savory to cultivate clear ownership succession after an attempted merger dissolved after less than a year and a half.

Some may have expected conversation about processes and procedures, with graphs and charts and timelines. But as Michael and Doug delved into what really made the process successful, the key message was about the being, not the doing, of leadership.

First, the principals of Watson Tate Savory had to take a hard look at how they were being as leaders within the succession planning process:
  • Was their way of communicating inviting younger firm members to come forward?
  • Was their intended message being received differently?
  • Were they willing to create space for failure and breakdown, so the next generation of owners could learn?
Next, they looked to the members of the firm who expressed interest in ownership. “Succession isn’t just a skill set,” Doug said. “What does it look like to be a leader of something versus always checking with authority?”

The two associates ultimately identified as future owners engaged in a year-long leadership development process to transform themselves into leaders who will take the firm forward.
Doug identified three critical aspects of a successful leadership transition:
  1. Whoever you are in the process, attend to your way of being as a leader... how you communicate, and taking responsibility for the impact you create.
  2. If you’re an aspiring leader/owner, you must take a stand: “Yes! I want to be in leadership!” Take on the idea of ownership fully within yourself first, then speak with conviction, and let your commitment be known.
  3. As a leader/owner, you must be willing to be coached yourself and get feedback on how you are (or are not) empowering the next generation to step up.
When asked how someone would know which path was right for them, Michael shared his process of setting personal goals, clarifying his values and lifestyle preferences, and then looking to see which firms and opportunities matched up well.

“Look at your goals,” he said. “Find out what you really want professionally and personally, and think about how to put both together.”

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How Integrity Works … and Doesn’t, by Doug McVadon

We talk  a lot about the definition of integrity, practices for integrity and restoring integrity. One thing became clear for me this week: integrity is nothing more than workability.

It doesn’t have to exist in any specialized language.
We all know whether something works, or not--a conversation, a meeting, a paragraph--and we all know when, instead, it falls flat, misses the mark, fails to communicate.

Fred said he would call me, and we had scheduled the call for 5pm, weeks in advance.  It was in our calendars. I turned down two other requests from people: “Sorry, I have a call right at five.”

It was to be an important conversation, so I was trying to get clear in my own mind what I wanted to discuss, what I would listen for in his voice, what I might ask about, or ask to hear more about. What would Nancy and Jane ask me later that I would regret not finding out?

My day was organized around this last business appointment, which might take me until 6 pm.

I was ready, ear buds in place, and in a location with a good signal.
Nothing. No call. Did I have it wrong? I checked my calendar. No, it was today.

I found the email soon after, sent at 4:45:  “My apologies...” it started, and I was too disheartened to read it all, and it was short!

Back in my court.
He couldn’t make it.
Well, dammit, I could. But apparently that doesn’t count for anything.

And I suppose I’ll have to hear about the reason and feel bad about myself if it’s something like his kids are sick, since that makes me a heartless bastard just for being on time and with no personal problems to bring to today’s call.

When my blood pressure returned to normal, I could observe myself. Wow, that really did trigger me! And the email I got just beforehand is supposed to make it okay.

That is the difference between integrity as “doing what is required under the rules” versus integrity as “accounting for the cost of breaking OR revoking one’s word.”

He did what he was supposed to do when breaking one’s word: be in communication before your word is due. And he apologized.

It is the Concept of integrity versus the Experience of integrity.

Sure he told me, and he told me in time, before the call was to start. But it wasn’t the same as REACHING me, so I could hear the humanity over there and get connected. I saw that I wouldn't have minded if he’d called me right at 4:58 and spent five minutes with me to let me know something had come up and he had to reschedule. Anything but the email brushoff.

That impersonal communication didn’t address the unworkability of having an executive and business owner (me) count on something all day and then cancel with minutes to go until the meeting. I will never get that preparation time back--time I would have used it for something else. It made parts of my day unworkable, and it didn’t contribute to our relationship. An attempt to connect and speak live would have put the attention on what works.

We know it when we see it--integrity in action--and it requires few words.

Being on time (early)
Helping to host, prepare food, set tables, get out supplies
Providing what is needed without being asked
Looking out for the wellbeing of others
Being attentive to the contribution of others
Listening and saying “tell me more”

Keeping the “letter of the law” has the appearance of integrity (I let him know in advance!)
But a closer look reveals a lack of integrity there (not taking care of the other, not appreciating one’s impact on another, leaving it up the other person to follow up).

Integrity as lived is more than a cold concept. It only makes sense in being related. And without being related, it doesn’t work.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Is Left When We Leave the Room, by Nancy Dorrier

What is left of us when we leave the room, leave the call, leave the house, leave the party, and, of course, leave ultimately? 

Perhaps our conversations--what we talked about and what we listened to.

Plain and simple.

What were we building on those empty lots of time?

The weather was too hot and the traffic too much and parking places too hard to find. Were those worth the real estate they occupied?

We have this moment, this precious moment, so tell me what you love about your life, what you love about your work, and what matters to you.

Tell me about Billy Collins or Bruce Springsteen or Maya Angelou, who said, People don’t remember what you said; they remember who they were in your presence.

Do people get bigger and brighter or smaller and duller around you?

Make a list: Whom do you talk to and what you talk about? That’s the baseline.

Make a second list: What could you talk about with them that you aren’t now? And what could you ask them about?

Take a break and make another list:  To whom are you not now talking--including people you haven’t met--that you could talk to, and what would you talk to them about? And what would you ask them about?

People are relieved to let go of conversations about the traffic and weather.

They remember what you say about your projects and dreams and want to participate.

They want to share about their projects and dreams and see them become more real in your listening.

What will you leave behind?