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.

I told him about a course we’ve designed amidst all the hoo-ha, that offers, in many senses, an experience of touching the simple richness of life through presence, attention, arts and creativity, communion and communication with one another and ourselves.

After spending nearly 30 years developing organizations to work well for the world and the people in it, we’re putting our attention on our senses -- color, word play, listening, and present-moment awareness. “Slowing down to go faster,” is how we sometimes put it.

Then my nephew and I 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? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

“But Enough About Me…” How & Why to Be In Another’s World, by Nancy Chek

When my friend Carla and I visited a friend in New Jersey for the first time, we walked into her apartment and immediately began emptying ashtrays, collecting trash and cleaning the cat box, even while chatting amiably. We were so taken over by the sensory assault that we never paused to consider how our efforts might occur to our hostess.

We’ve all been there. Something triggers us, and we dive into action without even thinking about the impact. Trouble is, that kind of knee-jerk action can kick off a whole host of relationship issues: hurt feelings, confusion, disconnection, defensiveness, blame, smoldering resentment, gossip, and on it goes. And in the workplace, when there are big goals to accomplish through people and collaboration, those are road blocks we can’t afford to let block our way.

There are myriad ways to work on not letting our first impulse be the one that gets to come out and play. One of those is what we call “being in another’s world.”

What does that take?

First is being able to focus on someone else. And what does that take? Being able to set side my own concerns for a minute. And what does that take? Being in a non-threatened state—free of an all-consuming focus—for one thing. For instance, I imagine if I’m drowning, my world of too much water and not enough air might demand all my attention.

Taken over” is a good expression for being unavailable to be in another’s world.  I’ve been taken over by fear of not fitting in at social gatherings (which, of course, only makes fitting in more difficult). I’ve been taken over by what I’m writing (please do not bother me), by wondering where the nearest Starbucks is, by wanting to just get out of some place and kick my shoes off and have a Coke, by worrying about how I look. For the record, wondering what other people think of me is not being in their world. There’s that old Bette Midler joke: But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”

So being free, being available, is one thing. Then being willing to be in another’s world is another. It’s not like being in another’s world means you have to move in and take out a mortgage. It’s a visit. And what does it take beyond being willing? I’m going to say being curious, being interested. We human beings seem to be naturally interested in each other, curious about each other, some more than others. Though one man confessed to me once that his interest was strictly limited to what use someone could be to him in his real estate business.

Another thing that’s required to be in another’s world is giving up judgment. Giving up the right to judge, the lure of making oneself superior, basically making oneself separate. A few years after Nixon resigned, I was in conversation with someone and found this outrageous statement coming out of my mouth: Haldeman and Erlichman probably didn’t think they were bad either.”

The thought shocked me. Of course, to be able to even have the thought, I had to dip a toe into their world. Up until then, they were just two sleazy political goons who went to jail for their misdeeds.  Since then, I’ve experimented with even more outrageous thoughts: Did Hitler think he was bad? Attila the Hun? Stalin? Can I even entertain such thoughts?

Perhaps something to do with identity hinders our being in another’s world.  Holding on to a limited and highly selective notion of self is like saying, I am a fixed entity, with fixed characteristics. Whatever you’ve got, don’t get any on me.” As if seeing and examining the color blue might give me cyanosis.

So what does it take to be in another’s world?

Being present.
Being open and curious and interested.
Being humble and respectful.
Being willing to be all of it, all possibilities, just for a second.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Allison Perkins, Executive Director of Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Dorrier Underwood clients represent a wide range of industries: education, manufacturing, the arts, and more. But one non-negotiable they have in common is the drive to create an extraordinary future

It's a vision bigger than anything they've ever thought of before and is one around which the leaders can rally. It pulls them forward, causing them to take unprecedented action and, perhaps most importantly, create outcomes together beyond what they ever could have dreamed of individually.

Curious about what those results look like in real life, for a real organization? 

Take a moment to read this recent Winston Salem Journal article on Allison Perkins, Executive Director of Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC: 

We're proud to be partners with Allison and her team on their strategic journey toward the future. Congratulations to all for this excellent recognition!

The Truth About Eavesdropping, by Ken Cecil

The rain lashed the dock, wave after wave of it, while I remained safely moored in a covered slip. It is during these enforced moments of solitude that I enjoy tinkering with my boat, reading and dozing.   

And that’s when I heard a couple--a man and a woman--two slips down from me.  He was directing her in no uncertain terms on how he wanted things done on the boat. And to hear him tell it, she was not listening very well.  The force of the rain in their exposed slip added pressure on this couple to cover up their boat quickly. 

Even so, I thought the man’s language was insulting.  In the world of fair-weather boaters, unfortunately, men all too often show up as domineering know-it-alls.  And all too often the object of their unpleasantness is women 

As I listened I thought, “This is a great example of a ‘background of relatedness’ disconnect!  He’s shouting and calling names and making demands, and she’s not responding and just pressing on as if he weren’t even in the same county.” 

In that moment, I happily recalled how Penny and I had boated together as a team in seamless partnership and perfect alignment.  And then I came to my senses.  Of course I have been and will again be the same type of human as the one I was judging so harshly just a few feet away from the safe confines of my dry seat. 

These two people were obviously related. How they should be related was not something that could be voted on by outsiders. There was no right or wrong or perfect way for one human to relate to another.   

Achieving a background of relatedness requires work and a commitment to the work.  A commitment to listen and inquire and then test.  Retry some things and build agreements--implicit as they might be--to go deeperAll to become more and more related. 

Later in the day the weather lifted and gave us all a few hours to go out on the water. 

I arrived back to the mooring before the next storm and wondered if I would again witness another painful interaction when the couple docked to button up their ship. 

The rain began again as they returned. 

How different it all was!  I did not hear him offer a single cross word or critique.  He even complimented her on how well she was performing as first mate. 
 Wow, could it be I was listening for them as related this time?  Working to suspend my vote?