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: http://bit.ly/2bUoiIx 

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? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Hamilton's secret leadership skill, by Gary Davis

Elbows off the table, don’t talk with food in your mouth, don’t spit on the floor. Level one, but then level 20 might be, don’t stand up to leave until everyone has eaten, don’t interrupt others, don’t say “every time” and “never,” don’t always defend yourself when you are given feedback.


As a parent, I try to teach my kids manners, as I was taught by my parents, and I always saw this through a moral lens, like “You ought to do this, because it is right.”


More and more now as a parent I see it differently, that manners are not just “it is right” but they make it easier for me to produce what I am out to produce. Kids mostly don’t produce anything on a vacation. My wife and I pack, I drive, we make sure they get three meals, somewhere to sleep, somewhere to go to the restroom.

Mostly their job is to do nothing. But if they employ their best manners, it makes our jobs easier: I don’t have to attend to their fighting with each other, with their whining about what they don’t like about what's already decided. If they use manners, they become one less thing to “deal with” in a world of all the things which which there are to Deal.


I think that is true in organizations. If you are the CEO, you want healthy debate, but not backstabbing and in-fighting. You want straight assessments among the team but not gossip. You want what supports the vision, and you want everyone rowing the same direction, but as human beings you know your people are going to have different ideas of what oars to use, what stroke to use and even which way to row.

Manners make all that dissension more tolerable. You don’t want to do away with it, to have compliance without dissent, but you want the dissent to be about the idea or the project, not about the people. Manners have a way of keeping people cordial and related, while all the while being free to discuss their dissenting view.


As Alexander Hamilton said after roasting Aaron Burr in a letter, I have the honor to be your obedient servant, A. Ham.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Get up and dance, by Carol Orndorff

I’m one of those “shower singers.” I sing along in the car to songs that I love and don’t want others to hear, for fear of scaring them off.  Singing creates something in my body that matches my thoughts and emotions – all of it coming together.

When I heard Elise Witt was performing at Oakhurst Baptist, I knew Liz and I had to go.  Elise has a reputation for creating singing communities. What makes her so special is the way she engages the audience to join in so that everyone comes together as one voice.

Liz and I stumbled into her a couple of years ago at a concert where she was co-performing with another musician. I can’t remember the other performer’s name, but I sure remember Elise.  Singing with Elise made Liz and me want to get up and dance.  

And so it was again.  We danced to her new song, My Salsa Garden. There was a young schoolgirl who led us, quite spontaneously.  Hopping off her father’s lap, she took her place in the aisle and started moving, totally unencumbered and beautiful. Everyone around her joined in.

I love the lyrics to one of her new songs, “A Singer.”

A singer is a Circus
A singer is an Athlete
A singer is a Master Chef
A singer is a Painter
A singer is a Small Town Beauty Salon
A singer is a Volcano
A singer is a Chameleon
A singer is a Super Hero
A singer gets out of the way to let the song come through
Let the Song come through.

I love the connection between what moves me and what we do. Elise Witt has the skill and sensibility for bringing people together - individuals with a range of voices (talents and opinions) to make something beautiful happen.  And then do it the next day with a different audience, making something else happen.


As transformational consultants, that’s what we do, too.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Miracles, by Nancy Chek


Today I got that the only thing preventing miracles from flooding into my life at every moment is my commitment to being right—right about how sales is hard, or publishing has obstacles, or how this, that or the other thing is impossible.
It takes my breath away to realize how much of a controlling interest I have in the corporation “This Can’t Happen.” I also own 51% of the company “That’s Nice for You,” which recently merged with the famous “Never Mind. I’m Fine.”
I also got the inextricable link between miracles and integrity, meaning no integrity = no miracles.  I had been trying to get in touch with this woman, Tonya, for two weeks. I sent emails, I phoned (“This party’s voice-message system has not been activated”) —nothing. Today at a break during a meeting, the assignment on the break was to have a miracle.
Called Tonya again—again, nothing. And I was committed to doing the assignment and having a miracle anyway, so I didn’t give up and just go have a cup of coffee.  As I was leaving a message for someone else, I walk into . . . Tonya. Squeals and hugs. Cleared up the phone number mystery, handled my business with her, all in 5 minutes.
It’s not that I think God or the Universe won’t allow me miracles if my integrity is out (“Cut off miracles for the slimy girl with red hair!”).

I think if my integrity is out, I’m simply not awake enough to see the miraculous. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A broken agreement creates upset, by Nancy Chek

On the court, a broken agreement creates upset. For an agreement that has few immediate or known consequences, I might pretend there’s no upset because my pulse doesn’t race uncontrollably and I have no urge to smack whoever broke the agreement. I might convince myself that, indeed, I am taking it remarkably well, and after all there were probably extenuating circumstances, and so on and so forth.  Oh dear no.
On the court, a broken agreement creates upset. Period. Even if I have no physical reactions (or murderous ones), there is a small tear in the fabric of the relationship.  I promised Nancy I’d call someone today, and I didn’t. I not only didn’t call, I didn’t even notice I didn’t call until she said something.
My immediate reaction was that of a child—embarrassed, angry at myself and angry at being caught.  Knee-jerk, bloodstream chemical-jerk.
How long have I been investigating this? Forty years, give or take? Shouldn’t I be able to manage my reactions more effectively by now? It occurs to me that I have avoided practice, i.e, making tons of mistakes and cleaning them up. Instead, I’ve been trying to make no mistakes or at least have them undiscovered, which is very constraining and probably leads to weight gain.  (Think of Lucy Arnaz on the production line at the chocolate factory, unable to keep up with the speed of the conveyor belt and stuffing chocolates in her mouth.)
A couple of weekends ago at our leadership program, the speaker said that the physics of being a human is to break agreements—and to keep on doing that. She said integrity is a participation issue, not a morality issue. By not cleaning up broken agreements, we give up any power that comes from participating with others.
I’m beginning to see that acknowledging a broken agreement and taking action to repair anything that was broken in the process is not about the past but about the future. Is our relationship repaired so we can go forward and make things happen together?
The speaker's last word was: If broken agreements are handled punitively, people will not acknowledge them, and acknowledging them is the only way to repair the break in the relationship.
Sometimes there is significant upset—big upset. And when I’m gravely upset, I do not feel sweet and loveable about it.
Implied agreements seem to carry the most capacity to generate upset when they’re broken. It seems obvious to me that if a friend and I agree to meet outside a movie we are going to see together, we wait until the other shows up. My friend Cathy once went into the movie theatre without me (before I got there); I was not my usual half-hour early. This time I was only 15 minutes early because she had always been late, and I was tired of standing outside in the cold waiting for her. (See the remnants of justification for being mad?) This was before every person on the planet had a cell phone.
That time, I stood outside for 45 minutes and finally went home. Now that I think of it, I have stood outside quite a few theatres waiting for Cathy, who has showed up with a minute to go or late when there were no tickets left. She always blamed the parking. (Did she think I had magic powers that I was able to arrive 30 minutes early in the same neighborhood with the same parking opportunities?)
It was never about missing a movie. It was about never receiving an apology, even when I asked, and concluding how little our friendship meant to her. Then there’s the matter of trust. That’s the future aspect.

My upset has turned into something akin to despair.  Clearly it’s an integrity issue for me not to keep communicating until I get it complete.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why isn't everyone interested? by Nancy Chek

Living my life this week inside the question of innovation—what does it take? What environment allows for it? What ways of being argue for it? What is it correlated with? My last question is: Why isn’t everyone interested in it?
There’s a medical group in which a dozen or so of the 300 doctors have committed to innovation that produces better and cheaper patient outcomes. All I can wonder is:  Those 288 not committed--What is life like for them that they do what they do without caring about doing it better?  It comes down to I find that hard to believe.
That doesn’t mean it’s not so. I think of an engineer at a software company who’s been doing his job for 25 years and does it to the best of his ability as a matter of pride and a paycheck. He clearly states that he has no desire to invent anything new or even learn new skills. He’s satisfied. The 288 may be satisfied in the same way. I say it’s not my way, but hold on a minute, cowgirl. There are whole realms in which I lack any interest whatsoever in innovation. Refrigerators and lawnmowers come to mind. Perhaps not everyone is always looking for ways things can be improved.
That doesn’t mean customer feedback can’t be useful, if companies have a mind to take it into account. The day after getting a sun-damaged place on my face biopsied, I received a query from the dermatologist at Kaiser asking if everything was okay and if I had any suggestions. I emailed back saying as a matter of fact I did have a suggestion: I recommended that he ask biopsy patients (if they came in alone) to sit a few minutes in the waiting room afterwards to settle down before going out on shaky legs and (as I did) planting themselves face down in the snow.
Most doctors have never had the procedures they perform on others performed on themselves, so they have no idea what occurs for patients. I had never had a biopsy either, so I didn’t know shaky was something I should watch out for. If there had been no snow, I would have needed to turn around and go right back into Kaiser to get my hand and head bandaged (costing time, money and aggravation).
Most surgeons have never had surgery. I took the opportunity to tell one particularly personable surgeon what it was like (after a previous surgery) to be wide awake and completely unable to move or open my eyes and hear “This one’s not going to make it.” He went white. I told him I knew they weren’t talking about me, but at the same time I wondered if the poor guy they were talking about was as awake and immobile as I was. I suggested they use a code word instead. “Rutabaga” maybe. Or French. Anything.
It’s all well and good to pay attention to what doesn’t work, and I notice that is where the mind goes. At the same time, I wonder how much more might be gained by paying attention to what works unaccountably. My favorite science quote is Isaac Asimov’s: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny . . . .”
My second favorite is Erwin Schrödinger‘s: “The task is . . . not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”
I am not finished contemplating innovation. Even after coming up with a better way to do things, that’s only part of the job. The hardest part is having other people—who have been doing things the “old way” for years—be interested in doing them better.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Stepping up for leadership, by Jane Smith


Most people think that a leader is the one with a particular title or someone who has at least been anointed by a person with a title.  That may not be true.


This is the biggest dilemma I have always faced in my work life, how to TAKE leadership from the one who HAS leadership because of their position or circumstance, and I hear it from others in the companies with which we work.


This week one of my clients brought up the leadership question. He wanted to talk about what he has been seeing about his team, and then himself. We have been talking about what his team needs to really be a team. And they aren’t a team so much as a group of individuals who get together with concerns of their own, that they need to have and the organization needs them to have.  


And the ones who lead do so only when the issue is in their area. They easily take leadership when they have the most knowledge, not because leadership is needed and wanted.


My client told me about his own leadership journey as he started at his company. At one time, one of his direct reports was his peer, as were others who are now people he leads.  He stepped up and took leadership when it was wanted and needed. And he doesn’t understand why they don’t step up.


One of the things we distinguished was that he stepped up in an absence of leadership. There is no current absence of leadership on his team because he is there. To create the condition called “absence of leadership,” he will need to step back and let it happen. His strong leadership is in the way.