Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bats in the Bedroom, by Laura Neff

It was about 11:00 p.m. when I heard my husband Robert hollar, “WOAH!!!” from the bedroom.

I could tell this was a hollar that signaled, “HELP NEEDED, NOW,” versus an exclamation produced by seeing something cool on his iPad. Sure enough, as I leapt down the stairs two at a time, I heard, “THERE’S A BIRD IN HERE. CAN YOU PLEASE HELP?”

In the home we share with two dogs and three indoor/outdoor young cats, we have an agreement: if a critter is alive and in the house, it’s my job to catch and release. If it’s dead, Robert’s on clean-up duty. This was clearly an “alive” situation, and realizing that, I took a deep breath as my feet touched the first floor, steadying my energy to interact calmly with our frightened feathered guest.

As I skidded to a halt in the bedroom door, I could see something whirling fast around the room in absolutely perfect circles, flying at a level just under the whirring ceiling fan, not touching a thing. As I looked closer, I noticed an umbrella-like outline on its wings. Our visitor was a large bat!

This wasn’t the first time we’ve had an extra-unexpected wild visitor in our home. As such, we’ve both learned that moments like this are a true choice point.

The machinery that we humans walk/talk/breathe within has an instinct for fight or flight when confronted with an unexpected wild visitor, and in our experience, it definitely leans toward panic.

But our mutual love of Nature, our mutual stand for experiencing it fully, and our mutual delight and awe in such rare interactions with it (despite our racing hearts) has, time and again, had us both be able to get on top of our machinery, get present to what’s happening, and appreciate the incredible thing we’re witnessing.

Our bat friend zoomed out of the bedroom and started flying in laps around the open intricacies of our downstairs layout, perfectly navigating around pillars, walls, a staircase, and a pot rack. We quickly and quietly turned off lights and opened doors and windows, then hunched down in the dark to watch its racing shadow. And then just like that, it was gone.

We still spoke in hushed voices for the next few minutes, marveling at its sonar and deftness and speed and silence. It was an experience neither of us will forget.

No matter what’s happening, the ability to climb up on top of our machinery’s instincts always creates a wider landscape of possibility and choice in the moment. From there, we can see and remember who we are, what we stand for, and what we’re cultivating in this life of ours. Meditation, prayer, any stillness practice creates greater access in the moments when it counts.

And that’s good, because those moments almost always come unexpectedly!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Case of the Missing Tomato (AKA Fact vs Interpretation), by Kimberly Chatak-Nelson

It’s a mystery to me!  I looked outside and the first, the one-and-only tomato, on one of our two tomato plants, was gone.  It hadn’t quite ripened and I was going to give it one more day and then pick it.  I had thought about bringing it in a day early and letting it ripen inside, but I felt like if it ripened on the vine it would be tastier.

Now, it’s gone.  

I asked Cliff if he picked it.  He said, “No.”

We both looked at each other.  He said, “Did you pick it?” (I am not sure if he was serious or teasing.)

Now the “What’s happened.” is “The tomato is gone.”

The story that we tell about it is actually stories plural.  

  • An animal picked it.
  • A squirrel took it.
  • I’ve seen big rabbits around. A rabbit ate it.
  • A neighborhood child stole it.
  • Neighborhood kids have been canvassing our tiny deck garden for years, looking forward to taking that one-and-only, prized-by-me tomato.
And Cliff had another story: “Kimberly picked it, forgot she picked it, and ate it. Her memory isn’t what it used to be.”

There are so many different stories surrounding this “Happening”.  Ultimately, what’s “Fact” is that the tomato is gone. Simple.

This reinforces Fact vs. Interpretation, for me. I come up with stories about everything in my life.  I do that to feel complete about what I’ve experienced.  To solve the mystery. The story-making makes me feel better, gives me a sense of comfort in most cases, as I pick the story I’m going to promote to myself. There’s no comfort in thinking the neighborhood kids took it.  There’s comfort in thinking that a squirrel or a rabbit took it.  So, I develop a story around the “What happened.” so that I can feel better about it.  

And then … I take it a step further. I plan actions based on my favorite story.  

  • I’ll pick the tomato sooner, and let it ripen in the house, if we ever get another tomato.
  • If we ever get another tomato, I will put a tomato cage around the poor, sad plant.
  • If we ever get another tomato, I’ll eat it when it’s green.  

All these actions, that I’m going to take, are based on the stories I’ve come up with about the tomato. None of my actions may work if the tomato was taken by an omniscient, omnipresent fairy godmother who likes tomatoes, of any color and ripeness, and who is tiny enough to zip in and out of a tomato cage at any time of the day.  

It’s still a mystery to me.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Integrity, Principles, Points of View, Stories to Follow

Integrity, what is it?

Doing what works, doing what you say you will do, and on time.

Integrity, Principles, stories to follow...

Being related and integrity are the source of results, and that is it.

Look there strategically.
Are you building relationships?
Are you being true to your word? To your strategy?

Being true to your values
Being true to your standards and ideas
Being true to who you have said your self to be

Guilt and shame is not integrity
They are internal states. You are loyal to your internal state (how you feel)
At the cost of being out here Related in the world

You are dancing with disempowering conversations

You could give your word not to do that
When you notice a disempowering conversation
When you notice being loyal to how you feel about it
Unless you are lit up and empowered by how you feel, but mostly regarding not keeping
your word, you are ashamed, guilty and embarrassed

All of which are internal states

Just don't buy into it and entertain the disempowering conversations as true

You could meditate, pray
Call a friend who won't coddle you or buy in,
Take a hot bath
Take a walk
Have a good cry
Get or give a hug or both
Have some good hot soup
Tell someone you love him or her
Tell someone you are sorry
Ask someone what you can do for him or her

All that is good and healing

And all that, even the bath or long walk,

Is the practice of someone working on their integrity and authenticity and their leadership
power and mastery

By distinguishing being out of integrity and restoring it and building it and the same for autheticity. Distinguish it as missing, and then bring it present by sharing where you have been pretending and separate and the impact that has on others and clean it up

With your partner, commit to having an honest and supportive and friendly and spiritual relationship each responsible for in what ways you don't make it work by being separate and not following through on what you know works

Doing what you know to do whether you promised to or not

Doing what you promised

Being and doing

Thursday, June 29, 2017

How Transformation Lasts, by Nancy Dorrier

Making transformation last or letting it go and then starting over

An opening for love was present in Congress after the shooting at the baseball field where Republican Congress people and staff were practicing for their game against the Democrats.  At the Capitol and at the White House, there was a somber mood, preceded by shock, then condolences and love and a commitment to harmony and affinity in the midst of disagreement about policy.

Compromise and coming to decisions for our country--that's the job of leadership.

At first I was thinking I could write about making transformation last, but it doesn’t, just like everything else: objects, political parties in the majority, good moods, bad moods, marital bliss.

Transformation exists over time by our continuing to create it.  We create it in conversations for a new human being, a new relationship, making new vows and promises. We create it and recreate it.  We apologize for where we fell short of our commitment, and will fall again, to be the kind of human being we want to be.

In AA where the slogan for sobriety is “one day at a time,” my friend with 35 years of sobriety has 12,775 days at a time.  That is how transformation exists over time. Working it out, reinventing it every day.

I heard very few expressions of blame over the few days after the shooting--none of the usual, “It is this way because of those people,” or “They are wrong.” Mostly I heard, "Let’s work together,” and “This is either nobody’s fault, or all of our fault."

We are the leaders we have been waiting for.  If Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi called us today and said, “Will you help us have and sustain a transformation?” What would we do? Where would we begin?

Ask David Brooks to be our journalist to document the process.  Ask to meet with Fox News and MSNBC to engage their leaders in the possibility of this project and the newspapers too.

Have people sign up to participate and be the ones, even devote their careers to this transformation.  Create mindfulness practices.  Create listening practices.  Create practices for “truth and reconciliation” and deep apology.  Have gratitude practices.  Begin and end each meeting with expressions of gratitude for each other’s service.

Create vows for partnership and having each other’s back and for having respect. Develop the skill to disagree and respect at the same time.  Bring church leaders, Muslim leaders, Jewish leaders together to pray and preach and ask their congregations to get engaged in giving up dinner table gossip about "the other side" and how wrong they are.  Bring corporate CEOs to the table to do the same.

There is no reason for this discord other than maybe it is the nature and cycle of humanity. Rome fell and we can too. Maybe this is a natural phenomenon.

Or maybe this is an opportunity to invent or create what has never happened before--create a world based on love, taking lessons from Bhutan on building our Gross National Happiness.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Transparency, by Carol Orndorff

I often hear from people on the leadership team of one client that their boss (call him “Fred”) is not very “transparent” with them.  Lack of transparency is easy to complain about when people feel like they don’t know what’s going on or they’re concerned that they are being left “out of the loop.” People expect and even demand transparency of others, and yet as leaders we can easily overlook our own tendency to be vague or even unintelligible with the people who depend on our leadership.

Merriam Webster defines transparency as the quality or state of being transparent, and then goes on to define the root word as:
  1.  free from pretense or deceit:  frank
  2.  easily detected or seen through:  obvious
  3.  readily understood
  4.  characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.

I’ve made it a practice to have Fred open all of our team sessions, welcoming his people and confirming his commitment to the work we are doing with his division.  Prior to any sessions we have, I meet with Fred to find out what he has been dealing with, and then coach him on what I think his team needs to hear from him.

On the one hand, Fred is quite pleased with the ways in which his team has stepped up and taken on leadership roles with their internal meetings and client presentations.  He likes to observe and watch from a distance.  On the other hand, he forgets that they look to him as their leader.  He has been traveling for most of the past two months, and the team wants to know what he has been working on and what feedback he has on their progress.

Said another way, Fred is often missing from the team, and it’s missing for Fred that he’s been missing.

After Fred and I talked about that, he made a powerful presentation to his team at the start of yesterday’s session.  He was very much himself, and at the same time a bit sheepish as he acknowledged his absence, appreciated the team’s accomplishments while he was away, and proposed areas for further development.

Observing the listening in the room, I saw that he doesn’t normally begin meetings this way.  After a period of wide-eyed silence, one team member looked down across the table and said somewhat shyly, “You are our leader, and we really do miss you, so thank you for that.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Raising the Bar, by Ginny Brien

Having a big vision is a mixed blessing. For one thing, the bigger the vision, the more likely Integrity is on its way out.

Growing up, I heard a lot about "doing business on a handshake," which meant honorable people kept their word to each other even without a signed document.

It was understood that “forgetting about" the agreement cemented by that handshake—or waffling on it—would  damage one’s reputation in the community.

A promise does not exist in isolation. The issue of integrity is not a personal issue. There is always somebody else involved—or many somebodies.

My first thought when I'm not going to make a deadline is that I'm bad. It takes effort to set aside "showing how sorry I am," so I can remember the strategic purpose that my promise serves.

It also takes compassion (on the part of the person who made the promise and the person to whom something has been promised) to let go of blame, so we can focus clearly on what needs to happen now (if a promise has been revoked or broken) and what it's going to get back on track.

Developing ourselves as leaders requires scheduling time regularly to handle thinking as well as implementation. We're training each other to speak up as soon as we realize we're not going to get something complete by the time we promise it, and failure is part of the process. If we don't speak up until the day before something's due, it seriously hampers our ability to put corrections in place.

Constituting ourselves as leaders means pulling out all the stops to make sure what we promised -- whatever piece of the puzzle that is -- gets completed on time. That can mean rethinking priorities, deferring other actions, and asking for help. And almost always it involves getting over ourselves so that we have  something bigger at stake than our pride.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

It's Brain Science, Not Rocket Science, by Nancy Chek

"I am thinking about how I was great in high school Marching Band. I could play my instrument and do all kinds of tricks on the football field. But if I had to march today, I’d be more than rusty. I’d be petrified … in several meanings of that word!"
~ Kimberly Chatak-Nelson

Used by as a distinction

What does it mean to be “used by” something, when the something becomes so much a part of you that you don’t even have to think about it any more--the way Heidegger says you don’t use a language so much as the language uses you? 

You don’t think it; it thinks you.

Talking about this with our office manager, Kimberly, I said I’m completely “used by” not only English but English grammar as well. The correct usage for lie/lay, that/which, the “if clauses”--no thought necessary. It can’t have always been that way for me, but, at 73 years of age, I can’t remember when it was any other way.  French is another matter.

Kimberly said she remembers when motherhood was one of those somethings she was not “used by,” when she was terrified of making a mistake: “I was so intense you could have peeled me off a wall! I cried the first time I had to give Taylor meds, because the enormous responsibility was overwhelming.” Now, she says, she has motherhood “down pat.” 

She said that in high school she was so “used by” the distinction marching band that she could do all sorts of tricks on the football field at halftime without even worrying about missing a beat on her Glockenspiel.  And she also remembers when that was not the case, when trying to do two things at once when she couldn’t even count on knowing a flank left from a flank right was paralyzing.

That was when I realized that if we are committed to being lifelong learners, as we at Dorrier Underwood say we are, then messing up and marching the wrong way down the field is going to be part of that. We are going to look foolish and feel foolish from time to time. I can see that that is guaranteed. It’s part of the package. Otherwise, how can there be any opportunities for growth, for development, or for creating something new?

I once embarrassed myself at a butcher shop in the Rhone Valley by forgetting the phrase for “leg of lamb” and having to order “un jambe de baaaa” (much to the amusement of a couple of French housewives). You can bet that le gigot d’agneau became a permanent part of my vocabulary after that.

Since we support people in business to develop their capacity for resilience, for creativity and for meeting new problems powerfully head-on, part of our job is to demonstrate that the fear of looking foolish only holds us all back.

Just to offset the reference to Heidegger with a more down-home quote: The late great Jerry Garcia once said, “Impromptu improvisation depends on not being afraid to be wrong.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

If it Weren’t for Other People, I Could Get a Lot Done! by Laura Neff

It’s the irony, right? None of us can make our company’s vision or team goals come to life on our own, but it can so often seem that it’s all those other people who get in the way of doing our part.

Thanks to my colleague Gary, I recently had a revelation about dealing with that very thing.

It was lunchtime on the second day of a three-day program he and I were co-leading. As we drove to Jason’s Deli, we talked about where we should dig in deeper with participants and where things were going well and with whom.

And then Gary said, “Well, all that aside, how are you doing?”

As soon as he asked, I realized my body felt like dead weight and I could have taken a nap right then and there. “I’m tired,” I said, “which doesn’t make any sense, because I slept really well last night.”

There are some kinds of tired that don’t have anything to do with the physical mechanics of our body. They’re the kind brought on by mental/emotional “stuff.” As I let myself slow down and feel the fatigue in my internal system, I also realized how foggy my mind felt.

And out of nowhere, I found myself blurting, “I’m kind of ‘on it’ with Sue.” (Not her real name.)

When someone on our team says they’re “on it” about something or someone, we mean we’re triggered, or mentally/emotionally hooked, and it’s getting in the way of what we’re there to do and what’s possible.

Without missing a beat, Gary said, “Well, you just love on Sue. Just love her.”

Of course, he meant “love” in the sense of, “She’s human. Instead of allowing yourself to be hooked and have walls up, choose to lean in. Love her despite whatever it is she’s doing or not doing. Don’t let a little humanity get in the way of being fully committed to her growth in this program. Step past whatever’s got you, and get back out there with her.”

That was it. There wasn’t any big exploration of why I was on it with Sue, or any colluding about what it was that had me be on it with her. There was just the pointing: LOVE HER.

I could feel a part of me wanting to resist the coaching, wanting to dish about Sue and what she’d said and her reactions to things we were presenting. But the bigger part of me was curious about Gary’s blunt suggestion. So I exhaled a little, letting myself reconnect to the bigger picture of what we were up to.

And by golly, it worked.

Over lunch, I could feel my mood shift. By the time we got back to the program room, I had forgotten all about being tired. And while my being “on it” reared its head a time or two again over the remaining day and a half, I kept remembering Gary’s coaching: Just love her.  

In a world of instant fixes AND big goals for our businesses and lives, I can’t think of a better “shortcut” for getting things done with others.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Caring as a Business Strategy, by Nancy Dorrier

Doug came out in the hall from the lunch buffet at the fancy hotel where we were leading a program and said, “I have to tell you something.”  He had tears in his eyes.  He had been tearing up already while leading this program for “Acme Manufacturing” executives.  Before we met the participants, we thought they were big-dogs, but then we found out they were people. We always tear up when we start loving people, finding they are no longer strangers.

“I need to tell you something. I want you to know that I have never been so taken care of:  lozenges, water, your getting the flip charts up on the wall, managing the hotel personnel. Susie wants to come talk theory on the breaks and instead of talking, you’re listening to what I need, leading from the back. I am so moved. I don’t have to be the only one watching out for my well-being. You have my back. I want all of our consultants to have this kind of support from the back of the room. I want you to write up how to do what you are doing. I want you to teach people how to look.”

I remembered Lila once saying, “I am a better program leader because of your being quiet, sitting there, tracking what is happening, being a kind of space.”

Mary, leading a retreat one weekend several years ago, said the same thing and started asking me what she should cover next as I was washing her grapes.

Happily and naturally.

I learned it from my mother. I learned it from watching her take care of my father and he her.  Looking at the whole of a party.  Seeing when someone’s water glass is empty.  Offering another serving.  Passing the bread on to the next person, not just saying no thank you and not passing it.  We were taught that basic attention to others when we were six years old.  Don’t just serve yourself first; serve the other first.  Don’t start eating until we are all served.  Hold the door.  Say yes ma’am and yes sir. And no thank you.  I am so glad to be here and so glad to meet you.  Thank you for inviting me.  We learned to say it whether we meant it or not.

I loved Doug in that moment.  For giving me the distinction of service that I was blind to.  I was just doing it.

A week later, at dinner, I told Gary and Laura that that was the best acknowledgement I could get-- not necessarily the thank you, but noting the difference service makes and distinguishing that it works, really works, for us to take care of people, to care for people. 

The Acme team went to Joe’s house for dinner and raised their glasses to each other. They stood up on the big coffee table and said who they were as leaders.

Joe went first and said, “Who I am as a leader is the possibility of trust, respect, service, learning and continuous improvement at Acme. I am responsible for the values of Acme being alive and well. Now I want to appreciate Anshu.”  Then he said 10 things he loved about her, and she grinned and blushed under her brown Indian skin.  Then, with a hand from Joe, Anshu got up on the coffee table and said “Who I am as a leader is a revolutionary who challenges the status quo,” and made a toast to another, who then got up. And it went on and on.

Joe’s wife turned to me and said, “I could do this all night.”

When people feel cared for, when they know someone has their back, it gives them the freedom to care--about their companies, about the people they work with, about people who don’t have to be strangers. 

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Podcast: Doug McVadon on "Integrity" as the Foundation for Leadership

Spend time with anyone from Dorrier Underwood and you're sure to hear the word integrity come up quickly. We believe integrity is central to empowered, inspiring leadership and are constantly on the lookout for where it might be missing, whether individually or collectively, so we can true ourselves up.

Dorrier Underwood president Doug McVadon recently had the opportunity to talk about it on The Sage Advice podcast with Ed Kless.

Listen in for an inspiring 10-minute conversation about the link between integrity and success: