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Archive for October, 2015

The following ‘Leader-Leadership Tap Roots’ are listed in no particular order. As a reminder, ‘Tap Roots’ are the dominant roots that nurture and sustain other roots and the organic entity itself.

THE TAP ROOTS:
Care for All: Consider that ‘Care for All’ includes, but is not limited to the following – Love, Compassion, Tolerance, Acceptance (always accepting the other as a person), Welcoming (Hospitality), Healing (healing wounds delivered and received & seeking to help all become ‘whole’ – to become fully human beings), and Growth (all develop more fully and become healthier).
Trusting Relationships: All are response-able and responsible and entrusted with the development of, nurturing of and sustaining of relationships rooted in trust. A goal is that people ‘lead with trust’ rather than with ‘suspicion.’
Skill-Talent-Ability-Capacity Development: Each person’s unique skills, talents, abilities and capacities will be identified and developed (or developed more fully) and then the Organization will seek to use the person’s skills, talents, abilities and capacities fully and wisely.
Continuous Learning: Today it is more important than ever that each person, each relationship (think team, department, division, etc.) and each organization must commit to being continuous learners. Given that the rate of change is continuing to increase it also means that in order to help ensure that the rate of learning is equal to or greater than the rate of change that ‘collaborative/collective’ learning must take precedence over individual learning (no individual is able to keep up with the rate of change and the resulting rate of learning that must occur). This is a challenge for our culture for we are rooted in the ‘individual as primary learner’ and ‘team/collaborative’ learning is not our strong suit.
Balancing Support & Accountability: If you are provided ‘support’ without accountability you might well become ‘arrogant’ and full of ‘hubris’ (the ‘pride’ that destroys). If you are held ‘accountable’ without receiving the support you need you might well become cynical, fear-full, mistrust-full, irresponsible, and, over time, you might well become resistant if not subversive. Individuals, relationships and organizations are more likely to become unconditionally response-able, appropriately responsive, appropriately reactive and unconditionally responsible if there is a commitment to balancing support and accountability.
A Commitment to High Achievement: High Achievement is rooted in an abundance model – there is more than enough for all to succeed. Competition is rooted in a scarcity model – there is not enough for all to succeed, thus there is only ‘one winner’ and many losers. High Achievers want their ‘competitors’ to succeed for if they do then the high achievers will be able to move to the next level (think Disney as a prime example of a high achiever; he needed Six Flags to succeed – indeed he helped them do so – for then he could go to the next level and develop Disney World). For example, ‘true professional superstars’ will help their counterparts improve for they know that if their counterparts/competitors improve then they will be able to move to the next level.

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Organizations of all types and sizes in our Culture have embraced and integrated a number of metaphors. These metaphors powerfully influence, if not powerfully direct, the organizational paths chosen. As entities, organizations came into their own during our Industrial Revolution and so it is not surprising that one of the initial organizational metaphors was the Mechanical Metaphor (even though we are no longer primarily an Industrial Nation the mechanical metaphor continues to influence and direct many organizations).

During WWI and WWII we integrated a ‘War Metaphor’ into our culture and many organizations followed suit. During the 1950s our culture fell deeply in love with sports and so we then integrated a ‘Sports Metaphor’ into our culture. During the following years we combined the War and Sports Metaphor so that today they are interchangeable; we use sports language and concepts to describe war and we use war language and concepts to describe sports. Beginning in the 1980s we integrated what has become our predominant cultural metaphor; this is the ‘Banking Metaphor.’

Again, organizations of all types and sizes have, in addition to the Mechanical Metaphor, also integrated the ‘War/Sports Metaphor’ and the ‘Banking Metaphor.’ These are ‘inorganic metaphors’ and the negative impact they have on human beings continues to multiply (the greatest negative impact is that they de-humanize we human beings). Fortunately there exists organic metaphors that nurture more than deplete we human beings (the inorganic metaphors tend to deplete more than nurture we human beings). I strive to help the leaders and the led embrace and integrate (that is, to live into and out of) organic metaphors with a commitment to ensure that the organic metaphor becomes ‘the primary’ metaphor.

Two organic metaphors can, at their best, serve well the human beings who are the organization (consider that organizations are individuals and relationships writ large). The ‘Community’ is one metaphor and the ‘Family’ is the other. I prefer a third organic metaphor, the ‘tree’ or more specifically the ‘Banyan Tree’ metaphor.

Organic metaphors involve growth and development. They involve ‘nurturance’ more than ‘depletion.’ They are committed to ‘healing’ – that is they are committed to the ‘healing of the wounds delivered and received’ that we humans inflict upon one another and they are committed to ‘making whole’ (another definition of ‘healing’) – that is, the ‘whole’ person is nurtured. Since the metaphor is an organic metaphor the organization itself is a living organism and thus it needs nurturance and healing as do the individuals and relationships that define the organization as a living organism.

During my next few postings (as of today I am not sure how many will emerge) I will be focusing on the ‘Tap Roots’ that feed, nurture and sustain over time the organization as a living organism. The living metaphor I have chosen is the ‘Banyan Tree’ for this tree contains many major tap roots. [NOTE: Tap Roots = the dominant roots that feed, nurture and sustain the other roots and the organic entity itself] I will be inviting us to consider the tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain the leader and the leader-led relationship (you might remember, gentle reader, that for me ‘Leadership’ is a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led).

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Effective Leadership (Leadership = a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led) continues to be as elusive as ever. Why? The continual increasing rate of change, plus the increased complexity of the problems, paradoxes, polarities and dilemmas that daily wash over the leader and the led like an angry tsunami, plus technology (new technology, more complex technology, more reliance upon technology, the intended and unintended consequences of being ‘tied’ to technology), plus lack of ‘preparation’ that both the leader and the led need, and are not getting, in order to engage all of these ‘pluses’ add up to more than a daunting leadership challenge.

Our anxiety rises. In response we seek relief from our anxieties. Relief is sought in the literature of the quick fix. Relief is sought by bringing in the expert who presents the latest six or seven or ten steps. Because we, as a culture, are addicted to speed we settle for a ‘shift’ rather than a ‘change’ and we avoid ‘transformation’ at all costs. Speaking of ‘costs.’ We are willing to spend millions upon millions of dollars in order to get anxiety relief. This is not new. In the early 1980s I had a conversation with a Senior Executive Vice-President (one of the top four folks in a large financial institution) whose anxiety was elevated because nine months prior to our conversation he had spent one million dollars on a ‘stress management program’ and as we spoke he noted that the stress was greater than ever. He was wondering what went wrong and he was willing to spend thousands more to find out so the ‘problem could be fixed.’ He was searching for a quick fix that would work (he had sought for one and didn’t get it but this did not seem to deter him from seeking another). In the 1980s there were many books and what seemed to be many ‘consultants’ that had the quick fix answers – during the next 35 years many more would follow.

Today the number of each is like the waves in the ocean; with each new wave a new fix and a new expert emerges (and like all waves they crash on the shore). Consultants are able to remain in demand because what they offer as ‘fixes’ don’t work (talk about both irony and paradox existing side-by-side). Of course, as one ‘famous’ consultant said to me many years ago: ‘What works’ means is that you won’t have to address this issue again for another year or two. There is no staying power; the fixes are not sustainable.

Because we cannot predict we rely upon what seems to have worked for others. How many ‘six step’ books have been written based upon ‘looking back’ at an organization? More than any of us could read in a life time, I think. The experts seek to identify the key ingredients that have contributed to an organizations being successful. They believe they can identify them and they work hard at doing so. They then simplify a few of them and offer them as ‘fixes’ for others. Leaders purchases the books or hire the author and the ‘fun’ begins. What happens when one of these ‘star’ organizations goes awry? No Worries! The expert simply writes another book or an article pointing out the many ways the organization ‘went too far,’ or ‘became arrogant,’ or ‘stopped learning,’ or ‘grew too fast,’ or ‘diversified too much’ (ah, the list is legion – and has been repeated by many experts many times).

Consider, gentle reader, that Leaders do not really know why one organization succeeds and another fails; or even why a one-time successful organization fails (check out all of the books and articles that have been written about Cisco Systems and you will read a great deal about one company’s success and failure – whether you learn anything is another matter). Excuse me, gentle reader, I have to do some more reading – a ‘you must read this’ paper touting a new organizational quick fix. Perhaps I will now have the answer.

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As a thought-partner one of the questions I offer for reflection is: When you make an important decision, what motivates you?

In 1996 I had the privilege of spending the day with Bill T. At that time Bill T. owned at least six companies. These companies were recognized as some of the best to work for. In addition to owning these companies, Bill T. and his wife had also begun a foundation. Their foundation only awarded grants to serving organizations or small businesses located within a specific region of our country. Bill and his wife wanted their foundation’s wealth to positively impact the local communities. For a number of reasons I was provided the opportunity to spend a day with Bill T. – we spent our time mostly in searching conversations.

We spent the morning sitting in his office which was located in a large remodeled barn. The barn also was home to a museum. The museum contained historical items from all of the current and past companies that Bill, his father, or his wife’s father had owned. It was one way Bill T. and his wife honored the many employees who had contributed –and were contributing – to the success of these companies. To put it simply, Bill T. was rich beyond rich. Money, yes, but so much more.

Bill T. and I had been in conversation for about two hours when I offered him the following question: ‘Bill, when you make a decision, what motivates you?’ Bill T. was a thought-full person and I had already experienced his rhythm of reflecting before speaking. However, he caught me off-guard for he smiled, his eyes moistened and he quickly responded with: ‘If my decision is not rooted in love then I don’t make it!’ Talk about giving one pause.

Bill T. continued. He told me that on his 34th birthday (he was now 75) he was shaving in the morning and as he was shaving he happened to look deeply into his own eyes. He said the following words came pouring out of his mouth: ‘Bill T. all you are is rich and greedy; isn’t there anything else to you?’ He then went on a two year journey inward. He emerged from his journey making a number of commitments – one of these was to always make a decision rooted in love and if it was not rooted in love he would not make it. After he told me this story he smiled again and said that as a result he was richer than ever (money, yes, but so much more).

Bill T. was happy not because of his money but because of his love. He had committed to love as his primary motivator. Love was the force that propelled him forward. Love was the force that drove him. Love was the force that called him to serve so that others grew in healthy ways.

A Buddhist name comes to my mind: ‘Anathapindika’ – the one who helps those who are poor, lonely, and destitute in body, mind, and spirit. Bill T. was full of loving kindness and compassion; he was ‘Anathapindika’. He had learned how to love and all who were touched by his love were richer (in so many ways) as a result. Bill T. was also loved by those he served. I experienced this first hand. Spontaneously, Bill T. picked up the phone and made a call. Within an hour we took a short walk to a large room that was set up for lunch. There were place settings for 14 folks.

Each of the six companies were sending two folks to join us for lunch. The folks who joined us represented all ‘levels’ of these organizations (only one person was an executive). Bill T. stood by the door and welcomed each person with a hug – and hugs were delivered by each person in return. Smiles and tears flowed freely. Bill T. welcomed each person by name and he asked specific questions of each person – often personal questions. Love permeated the room. After we had settled in and had been served lunch Bill announced that he had a question for each of us to reflect upon and if we so chose to respond to. He paused and smiled and asked: When you make a decision, what motivates you? He paused again, smiled broadly, and turned to me: We will begin with inviting Richard to reply first.

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Gentle reader, here is another ‘Organizational Question to Consider.’

THE QUESTION:

How do you identify and then engage the Problems, Polarities, Paradoxes and Dilemmas that present themselves to you? In our Culture (that is, in the United States) we pride ourselves in ‘getting things done.’ We believe we are great ‘Problem Solvers.’ I have never encountered an organization that did not strive to also be known as one that solves problems – that ‘gets things done.’ Unfortunately, today there are many more ‘Polarities,’ and ‘Paradoxes’ to be embraced and many more ‘Dilemmas’ to be resolved or dissolved than there are ‘Problems’ to be solved. If an organization has not developed its ability to discern, name and engage polarities, paradoxes and dilemmas (and many have not) it will then treat these as ‘problems to be solved.’ The result is that the ‘problem’ is not solved – mainly because there is no problem to be solved. Rather than discerning that what they are challenged by is not a ‘nail’ (that is, problem) an organization will spend resources, time and energy on finding a new hammer. Every year, if not more often, a ‘consultant’ or an ‘expert’ will declare that he/she has ‘the hammer’ that is needed. Organizations spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on the new hammer and then they pound away at an illusory nail.

Problems do exist, this is not the issue. Now, there are problems and then there are problems. What does this mean? Consider that there are three types of problems. I call them ‘First Order Problems,’ ‘Second Order Problems’ and ‘Third Order Problems.’ The least complex and most ‘concrete’ are First Order Problems. Second Order Problems are more complex and are less ‘concrete.’ Third Order Problems are highly complex (they are frequently evolutionary in nature), of a higher order and are initially experienced as being ‘abstract’ in nature (How do we ‘predict’ the future is a common Third Order Problem).

Polarities occur on a continuum. Here are a few common Organizational Polarities: Short Term-Long Term, Individual-Team, Justice-Mercy, and Response-React. In addressing a polarity we choose to emphasize one end of the continuum more than the other or we seek to follow Aristotle’s advice and strive to discern a ‘Golden Mean’ (not the ‘middle’) and engage the Golden Mean. Paradoxes are seeming contradictions and are often treated as Problems to be Solved because they are framed as ‘either-or’ rather than as ‘both-and’ (which they are). Because Paradoxes are ‘both-and’ we must embrace them together, simultaneously. Some common Organizational Paradoxes are: Short Term-Long Term, Individual-Team, Justice-Mercy, and Response-React. WAIT A MINUTE SPARKY!!

Aren’t Polarities and Paradoxes the same? Well, no, they are not. The difference is not quite subtle and it is significant. The challenge is to discern which is operative at a given moment in time (a polarity or a paradox) – this can be a daunting challenge. A guideline that can be helpful is: Do we need to address BOTH at the SAME TIME with equal energy, time and resources? If so, the organization is engaging a Paradox.
Dilemmas are the most disconcerting, challenging and leader-follower demanding. A ‘Dilemma’ is a ‘forced-choice’ challenge. There are two types of Dilemmas: A ‘Right-Right Dilemma’ and a ‘Harm-Harm’ Dilemma (by definition, ‘Right-Wrong’ Dilemmas do not exist). In a ‘Right-Right Dilemma’ no matter which of the two alternatives I choose – each is ‘right.’ Yet, given the context I must choose one over the other. In a ‘Harm-Harm Dilemma’ no matter which alternative I choose harm will occur (needless to say, this is the most anxiety producing and the most challenging for leaders and followers). There are times when a wise person or when the wisdom of the collective can avoid the forced choice by dissolving the dilemma.

Gentle reader, if you would like to explore more broadly and deeply this question please send me an email or leave me a comment (as a reminder, my email address is: searcherseeker@yahoo.com).

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