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Posts Tagged ‘conversations

What the world needs now

What do you think the world needs now?

That was the theme of TED Global 2010.

Leadership

I don’t normally bang on about the world needing more leadership.  We are all leaders.  That was the point being made at TED.

But I think the world needs less panic.  Because we are panicking, we are “brushing things under the carpet”.  We do that when we are in a panic, but it really doesn’t help.

But we also, always, have an area of our lives where, for some reason, whatever that is, we are not scared and everyone else is a jibbering wreck.  In this area, on this one thing, we are eerily calm.

We can host the conversation because in that area of our current jumbled-up and precarious existence, where everyone else is frightened, we are not.

What do you think the world needs now?

Our goal had gone walkabout

On my travels, I found myself teaching systems thinking in a university which broke a large course into 25 student groups. A few people determined the curriculum and an army of people taught students who wrote a common examination.

I was shocked by the examination papers. Students rambled on tossing in whatever thoughts came to mind.

We sensibly had an interim examiners meeting and I voiced my concerns. Well, it seems that I was the one to have misunderstood the curriculum.  The curriculum designers were trying to convey the idea that there are many perspectives on any issue. They didn’t see a common goal or direction as an essential part of any system.

I am cursed with an “open mind” so I hastened to the internet to double-check and the idea has hung around my mind ever since as unfinished business does.

3 misunderstandings about system goals

I’m afraid that systems do have common goals. That is entirely the point. But it seems that this is a point that is often misunderstood.

Some people think the system’s goal is their goal

No! There are still multiple perspectives. We can add the system as a virtual person and ask what is the system’s goal! We have the boss’ goal, we have the system, goal and we have each of our goals.

Some people think there is no common goal

It is true that the organization does not have a goal. An organization cannot think! When we say that the organization’s goal is X, we must ask who says that?

But we not only want to understand the multiplicity of goals but we also want to understand how the many goals come together and how the system goal morphs in response. We cannot ignore the system goal ~ or we do as a sailor might ignore the weather ~ at our peril.

Some people think goals are constant

They are ~ for a second. Goals morph as situations change. When we ignore the dynamic quality of goals, then we get mission creep. Conditions change and if we don’t stop to think about what we want, what we all want, we find ourselves doing too much of one thing and too little of another. A mess in other words. Goals are infinitely variable.

Articulating the morphing of goals in any group is what makes a leader

A leader understand the multiplicity of goals in a community and sees how are contradictions and conflicts, agreements and alliances come together to make us what we are – how the whole comes from the parts and affects them in turn.

A leader is a person who is able to articulate this dynamic mix so that we feel supported by the whole and essential to its well being. This is a tough call when a group is determined to quarrel or terrified by its destiny. The hall mark of a leader is that he or she looks for the common ground where we all belong and keeps looking.

Facilitating the agreement is the hallmark of the greatest leaders

Helping us find that common ground is the hallmark of the greatest leaders. We often doff our caps to leaders who were in the right place at the right time. They represent what is the best about ourselves and we throw them into the limelight to remind us of who we are and where we are going. In time, we choose a new leader because our direction has changed and we need new icon on our bows.

We remember these leaders because these were times that we felt great. The greatest leaders, though, help us identify the right questions. They know how to “bound” the group. They know how to focus our attention on the question that we must answer if we are to find the way forward and the place where we feel great.

That’s why it seems as if great leaders set goals. They set a boundary which focuses our attention on question-asking.

It is not the goal that is important, but our compulsion to find out how we should reach the goal.

Colin Powell once said “Leadership is about ‘Follow Me!. Even if it is only out of curiosity.”

Leadership is the art of engaging the imagination in the search for collective answers.

The system is important. With good leadership, we accept the system as a virtual person ~ a popular virtual person who we all want to look after and please.

A personal elevator speech

When I taught at the University of Canterbury, my colleague Peter Cammock, would ask our class of 900 or so students, whether they could stand up and state their life purpose in a 20 second elevator speech.

Elevator speeches are hard to write at the best of times. When they are yours too, they are really hard.

Crafting our elevator speech

There are perhaps 5 things that are helpful to understand about elevator speeches that help us in this task

  • Structure
  • Resonance with our deepest beliefs
  • The story of where we have come from and where we are going
  • Our immediate influences
  • And what we are still not sure about

Structure of an elevator speech

An elevator speech is a mini-business plan. Or a mini-operational order. It has five parts.

  • Situation – the story that is bigger than us
  • Mission – that part of the collective story that we will write
  • Execution – the chunks of our mission that can be fulfilled as sub-missions
  • Administration – the resources that we need
  • Communication – how will we know how well we are doing and who should we tell

[SMEAC]

Resonance with our deepest beliefs

Our elevator speech is not about what we must do, or what other people expect us to do. Duty wears us out and is sure to wear out anyone who is listening!

Our elevator speech is about those dearly held beliefs that are vital and engaging. Our elevator speech is about what brings us alive, what we quickens our pulse, and what brings a light to our eyes. If only we could see that!

The key to finding this magical place is to look at our relationship with others. What is that we love to to do and others love us to do?

We are likely to find this place in our our work, which even if solitary, like painting, is sociable ~ it is for others to use and enjoy.

Who are these others? What were we hoping when we started our work? How do we, or how do we hope to bring the light to other people’s eyes that we want in our own?

It is here, a unique place for each of us, where we feel totally at home. It is here that we live wholeheartedly and we don’t have to plan. It is here that “our deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets”!

Our story

The curious thing about our stories is that so much of our lives are disappointing. What would you feel if you were a graduate in today’s UK facing 20% unemployment and debts from your education?

How would you feel if you were like me? Your country gone. Your house gone. Your career gone. Your life in disarray.

Well, whatever we feel, we should not disown our stories. Our stories give us perspective and the more we have lost, the more perspective we have. As a noobe in the UK, my rich paste and perspective is a gift to people in my new home. My very disappointment is what I have to enrich the lives of others.

Our influences

As I arrived in a new country, I felt muddled. Any disruption ~ a new job, a new house, new friends ~ might have confused me. Losing a country is just an extreme mutation of a general theme!

Slowly, we begin to make sense of what we contribute through our interactions. I do a lot of work on the internet and I was helped on my way by reading the Chief Happiness Officer, Steve Roesler, and Barbara Sliter.

My mission is to be happy

From the Chief Happiness Officer, I learned that my job is to be happy. I felt a bit silly, I must tell you, until I realised that happiness isn’t my vision. My happiness isn’t the bigger story or the shared story. My happiness is my mission.

My happiness is how I contribute to the shared story because happiness is contagious. Because I am a noobe. Because I have a rich past and my perspective on what is good and true at this time and in this place helps people around me fulfil their missions, whatever those missions may be.

My vision is a world where we are confident of our countries

I learned my vision from Barbara Sliter.

“We are ready for more: more meaning, more challenge, better environments, interesting work, balance of life. We are ready to be co-creators”.

I want to contribute to the world where our search for meaning is more legitimate, easier, likelier, just fun. Less hassle and more fun.

My vision, which I think is widely shared, is a world where people wake up with curiosity about what the day holds and sure that their contribution today makes their country great and their community great, their workplaces, schools and colleges thrive, and their families happy and warm places to be.

The execution

And I learned how to execute my mission from Steve Roesler. Steve suggested that employees must start the conversation. I am a work psychologist, so this is important to me.

My specific task in the next year or so is to learn, with other people, how to have these conversations, what it means to have these conversations, what are our choices when we have these conversations, and ultimately of course, what we have learned from these conversations and how they have evolved.

My immediate task, or rule-of-thumb, is to attend to my own conversation with work and people I work with ~”The way we hold the conversation” as David Whyte says.

I am not going to worry about what other people are doing. I am going to ask: does the way I hold my conversation about my work make me happy?

And then I will ask, if changing the way I hold the conversation makes me happy, does the conversation become better, fuller, richer, for other people around me? Do I fullfil my mission of being contagiously happy?

Our uncertainties

Like most people, I don’t say aloud, or post, what is really important to me. I wrote this post a good 18 months ago and I didn’t post it! But it was still in my drafts. Thank goodness for blogging! I wish I had posted it though. This is how far I have come.

I have pursued the vision and mission OK but I didn’t follow through the execution in a focused way. Imagine where I would be now if I had done so? Of course, I can do that now! With a little bit of thought, I can add the steps to be executed to other work that I am doing now!

Elevator speeches in brief!

And there we have it. Elevator speeches have a standard structure. We find out who and what we are in conversations including our work. Some people help us pinpoint what we are doing and where we are going.

We bring in our own story ~ as it is. Often our very disappointments which give us the perspective that others find valuable.

And then we must be bold enough to say what we are doing aloud!

Possibly I should add a step under execution:

Find more places to say my elevator speech aloud so that it gets better and crisper, shorter and more relevant.

I want to bring a light to other people’s eyes.

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I am amazed by what I wrote months and months ago.  You really should keep a blog and write and write.  At the time, your posts may be rough, but they will clarify and when you reread them months late, you will be surprised by your insights.

It seems that some months ago, I jotted down some of my thoughts on using Twitter in classrooms.  In the course of the post, I jotted down three critical features of developing flourishing communities like thriving classrooms.

#1 Conversations

Talk to someone.  Work with someone.  If there is no one else, feel the ground under your feet.  Listen to the birds.  Pay attention!  As we pay attention to the world, we ourselves come alive and the world pays attention to us.

Managers & designers:  Start the conversation. Provide tools and opportunities for people to talk to each other. Watch the range of conversations and help people join in.  Also watch the content of conversations and help people extend their conversations – to more people in and outside the organization.

#2 Community

Be positive. I don’t mean gushy and airy-fairy.  I mean talk to the facts, including your own negative emotions, but don’t exclude other stories.  We should own our negative experience but not think they are the whole story.  Keep a gratitude diary because if you don’t, with the best will in the world, when shit-happens, and it does, you might find you cannot see the good with the bad.

Managers & designers: Set up “positive” procedures – which are procedures that allow us to recognize negative events, which ensure that we never disrespect anyone by ignoring how events impact on them, yet which acknowledge what is good and true and that we want to do more of.  Abandoning the negative art of “gap management” takes thought and disciplined work.  Falling out of love with our own tempers takes practice and like-minded friends.  But unless and until we can achieve positivity : negativity ratios of 5:1 when things are going badly, we will not predictably sustain communities where we will flourish.  The key to flourishing communities begins with us and our loyalty to our members.

#3  Meta-cognition (talking about)

As people settle in, watch out for discussion of the “rules of engagement” and the purpose of our existence.  Everyone will have an idea and they need to be heard. We need to listen to others to allow them to hear themselves and to help them relax sufficiently to hear others.  We need to be patient because this takes time and some people aren’t good at it.  Once advocacy is balanced with curiosity, the group might begin to thrive as a group.  Blogging, of course, as a form of talking-about – of putting our experiences into words and making sense of them.

Managers & designers: Help the group move through the five stages of group formation (forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning) and move as fast or as slow as they do extending the conversations appropriately but listening to the relevant concerns that people have at each stage though, quite rightly, these concerns are very different from yours.  People move on faster when they are allowed to complete each stage to their satisfaction.

Leading takes work. No doubt about that!  It is not as glamorous as it looks.

If you have read this far, you’ll have noticed that I am making little distinction between classrooms, businesses and for that matter, my own life.  I don’t.  I think the three points

  • talk to others
  • keep faith with others (even when it taxes your patience)
  • and put into words what we are thinking and experience

these three simple points are guides to building any community that you care enough to build.


 

Creeping into our shells

Some people are already having a hard time in the recession.  I can see it on their faces in the village.  And I’m sure there are also many others who are having worse, and who are at home, deeply worried.

If you are one of them, and arrived at this post this weekend, I hope I might persuade you to think back to when you were a kid in the school yard.  What you really hated were the times when other kids wouldn’t play with you.  It was in these times, that we creep into our shell.

But not so, when the teacher took our ball away.  We didn’t go home, or shrink back.  Not at all.  We thought up another game.  And we stuck together.

Solidarity

Sticking together, or solidarity, is the key to surviving bad times, and enjoying them too!

Two poems

If you are still reading, I have two poems for you.  The first is called Wild Geese, and it is by Mary Oliver.   In short, it tells you not to beat yourself up, and to come back out to the yard to play.

The second, I stumbled on the web last night.  It is a love poem, by Nizar Qabbani, and though written by a man for a woman, it reminds us, that togetherness and belonging come from commitment.

Back in those school yard days, there was always one kid, who kept us together and suggested other games.

Come with me

Reach out to someone this weekend?

It does not need to be expensive.  A smile for people in the shops.  A chat over the fence with your neighbour.  A walk with a friend.  A companionable cup of tea.

You may not know whom, but somone may need your solidarity very badly.

Here are the two poems.  I hope they give you comfort and inspiration.

+++++

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

+++++++

Love Compared

by Nizar Qabbani

I do not resemble your other lovers, my lady
should another give you a cloud
I give you rain
Should he give you a lantern, I
will give you the moon
Should he give you a branch
I will give you the trees
And if another gives you a ship
I shall give you the journey.

+++++

P.S.  If you own the copyright for either poem, please do let me know.  And to the authors, I thank you.

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Greater London

 

Image via Wikipedia

What’s morale like where you live?

During the last week, I have seen person-after-person say they are exhausted, catch a cold, and just slump, sometimes close to tears.

My favorite radio programme, Any Questions, (here on Fridays 1900 GMT) is normally my laughter medicine for the week.  This week it was sombre.  Jokes ran to not moving the capital because we don’t want to live with banker, politicians and the press.

What is the most cheerful story you heard this week?

But all is not sombre.  On Twitter, one lively entrepreneur opened two new businesses in the last month.  This being the beginning of the academic year in UK, people are starting new courses, making new friends and enjoying themselves.

On another erratically running train, overfull with two lots of passengers (those for our service and the previous service that had also broken down), I opened a conversation with someone carrying a book on classical music.  He has an interesting story.

So what has opera singing to do with hands-on farming?

He introduced himself as an opera singer.  I found it interesting that he l lived so far from London.  Oh, he said I am also a farmer.  And my father sang well, but for fun.  I sing professionally and run my farm of 150 acres.  By day, I work the farm, and then I go by train to London (2.5 hour journey) to sing and return home to midnight (another 2.5 hours).  Often the only sleep I get is on the train.

He had a shock of immaculately coiffered gray hair as you expect from someone appearing on the stage.  And with a happy smile on his face, he said, his son also sang, but he was a dancer.  His son was off working professionally in Europe. (This is Britain – country undefined – just vaguely over there!)

My happy informant was both proud and embarrassed by his double career.   He is lucky to have two jobs he loves but he is not sure which supports which.

I readily reassured him a business school would say he has a wise portfolio of investments.  When one business is down, the other business is up – which is true it seems.

What is your most outrageous combination?

So remembering that the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness, what are your passions?  What interesting passions are you combining?

And PS What do farming and opera singing have in common?

Apparently, you must be calm in both – calm to sing and calm to handle livestock.

What’s your brand of magic?

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Positive communities are important in learning

I’ve taught in colleges and universities for 25 years.  One thing I am reasonably certain about teaching is that a good class has a strong sense of community.  It is common sense that a good social atmosphere will be more attractive than a cold, totally clinical atmosphere.  There is also a clutch of professional ideas explaining the impact of group norms, collective efficacy, belonging, system boundaries, and so on.

Why, though, do we so much prefer a 500 person auditorium to a pod cast?

What I’ve not been able to put my finger on, until today, is a tight model explaining why communities are so important – why for example we prefer to listen to a lecture in an anonymous 500 person auditorium than on a podcast.

Today my Google Alert flashed up this article on Twittering in Education.  A US College Professor set up a class channel on Twitter.  Twittering lead to more discussion between students and ultimately to writing a book “online” with completely voluntary help from students as far afield as China.

The post also describes the mechanism.

Meta-cognition & meaning

Conversations lead to community (And v.v.  We know it is important to seed a social media channel with conversations.)  The conversations lead to ‘meta-cognition’ – talking about the course.  And talking about the course helps us understand why and how the course and the material fits into our lives.  Greater clarity and shared understandings leads to more community, and more community to better conversations.

Do we get phase states?

Though the article does not say, I suspect that at some stage, the energy moving between conversations, community and meta-cognition (talking about) reaches a tipping point and we see greater levels of learning and action.  So we move from the struggling, to the satisfactory, to the spectacular.

I rather suspect that this is a fractal model, such as we see with Happiness.  The three characteristics of the class – conversations, community and ‘talking about’ – interplay.  When this interplay is healthy, it moves through the broad swathe of emotional space.  When we have done well, we celebrate, for example, ultimately ending with someone suggesting we get back to work.  When things do not go well, we grieve, ultimately ending with someone suggesting it is time to start living again.

My thoughts on this glittering sunny day in autumn in rural England are to ask:

  • are these the three critical variables: conversations, community, and meta-cognition?
  • do they interplay with each other in a self-correcting manner going from positive to negative and back again as the need dictates?
  • is it right to use a phase state model where we look for the tipping points which take this energy system from the doldrums to OK and then to fantastic?
  • do the three variables co-affect each other through a set of Lorenz equations, and if not, how do they inter-relate?
  • how can we explore these variables in a field study?

Enough for now.  The sun calls.  I would love to hear from anyone interested in building communities with or without social media like Twitter.

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Positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, Positive Organizational Scholarship, & Positive HR

Almost a year ago, I put together a set of slides to illustrate the concepts and process in Positive Organizational Design. If you are beginning to read around the field of positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, positive organizational scholarship, or positive HR, you may find them useful.

They are five slides, each with quotations, beginning with

  • David Cooperrider on Appreciative Inquiry
  • The link between appreciating your own unique contribution and possibilities emerging in the world around us
  • Conversations about strategy, affirmations of hope, and recognition of the possibilities in the present
  • Nonaka’s Ba and designing organizational spaces
  • Rilke’s Swan as a metaphor of the rightness of what emerges.

I am standing on the shoulders of giants here. The quotations are referenced but not my sources. Please do google the quotations to dig deeper into the original works.

I would welcome any feedback or elaborations.

When do we have cross-generational conversations?  And how do they go?

Steve Roesler blogged a few days ago about prevailing concerns about developing generational differences.  Steve was asked “what do we have in common?”

This led me to ponder when we have cross-generational conversations?   And whether they are conversations at all?

  • When was the last time you spoke in depth about something of mutual concern with someone in another generation?
  • Was the younger person able to access the older person’s experience and compare how things were done at different times?
  • Was the older person able to listen to the younger person’s experience and acquire insight into their existence?

And what, if anything, did we do to promote and support the conversation?

Is there anyone out there writing on cross-generational conversations?

The Flame Lily, national flower of ZimbabweImage via Wikipedia

 

The eminent social scientist Karl Weick once said that social problems are often defined in ways that prevent us doing anything about them.

I have been watching the Zimbabwean elections closely.  As facts emerge, I have been listing them on a “secondary” blog.

The situation in Zimbabwe is as dire any conflict in history.  Can we move here?  Can we move there?  It seems the ultimate Catch 22.  Whatever we do may create more damage.

I believe however that much of our hopelessness comes from our own representation of what is happening.  Could we not, instead, look at difficult objective conditions that require resolution?

Today, people are starting close in, as the poet David Whyte would say.

Today, we are going to do something positive.  Today we are going to say thank you.  Today we are going to say we are with you.  Today we are going to send emails to the President of Zambia who is the current chairman of SADC.  Today, we are going to take 3 minutes to write a short, brief, courteous email saying,

Dear President Mwanawasa,

I write to thank you and the leaders of  SADC sincerely for convening the extraordinary meeting concerning Zimbabwe and to extend my support and goodwill for a resolution that is satisfactory to all the people of Zimbabwe and her neighbours.

Sincerely,

I am patching in a long excerpt of a post from Sokwanele that gives the email addresses of SADC.   Zimbabwe for a positive future.

TAKE ACTION

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has called an emergency meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to discuss the Zimbabwean presidential poll delay. This is the first move by Zimbabwe’s regional neighbours to intervene since the elections on 29th March 2008. President Mwanawasa is the current Chairman of the 14-nation South African Development Community. This is what he said yesterday:

I wish to take this opportunity to commend the people of Zimbabwe for the calm and peaceful manner in which the elections were conducted.

Similarly, I appeal to them to maintain the same spirit of calmness which they exhibited during the elections as they await the results of the presidential elections.

However, given developments immediately following the elections, I have decided, as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to call an extraordinary summit on Saturday 12th April, 2008 to discuss ways and means of assisting the people of Zimbabwe with the current impasse as well as adopt a co-ordinated approach to the situation in that country.

Both President Morgan Tsvangirai and opposition leader Robert Mugabe will be attending the emergency meeting.

Support our democratically elected leader and take action.

What YOU can do

You can voice your feelings and SHOUT OUT for FREEDOM. Communicate with key SADC people attending the meeting.

Tell them that Zimbabweans have the right to live in a democratic, free and peaceful country. Tell them your personal experiences and why you want change. Make them understand what it is like to be in Zimbabwe today. Tell them we voted for change, we got change, and we want change now. Speak the TRUTH.

HOW you can do it

Email, fax or phone using the details provided below. Keep your messages real and honest but also short and to the point. Remember: thousands of us will be doing this so they will have a lot to read. Let’s make sure they can read and hear it all!

Be polite at all times. People don’t pay attention to angry messages (look at us: Mugabe has been angry with the people for many years now and we just ignored him and voted him out anyway). Anger does not work.

1. Call or fax or email the Zambian State House with a message for President Levy Mwanawasa:

  • Tel: +260 1 266147 or 262094
  • Fax: +260 1 266092
  • Send an email to Mr John Musukuma, Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations: johnmu@nkwazi.gov.zm

2. Call or fax a message to President Thabo Mbeki – President of South Africa

  • Tel: +27 (0)12 300 5200 and +27 (0)21 464 2100
  • Fax: +27 (0)12 323 8246 and +27 (0)21 462 2838
  • Send an email to Mr Mukoni Ratshitanga Thabo Mbeki’s Presidential Spokesperson: mukoni@po.gov.za

3. Call or email Lieutenant Colonel Tanki Mothae – Director of Politics, Defence and Security Affairs at SADC

4. Copy all your emails to this general SADC email address:

5. If you want to attach images to your emails, you can download copies of the photographs at the top of this mailing from the Sokwanele flickr account here:

6. Forward this email to everyone you know and ask them to take action too.

7. Be positive, stay strong, and never forget that we have won.


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