Pegasus Conference 2008

This years conference created some very interesting insights for me. I reconnected with friends that I had not seen since last years conference, engaged in numerous conversations, and participated in some outstanding learning sessions. I will certainly join the conference next year.

As I explore the field of systems thinking and learning organizations, I am often frustrated with my inability to capture and use all that I study. An insight that I gained in a conversation with Tom Hurley of The World Cafe jarred me into a new framework. I had been locked into a framework of seeking wisdom from others and Tom suggested that I should quit looking outside of myself for the answers and look inward. One of the things that I truly appreciate about the power of conversation is that you can gain so much from someone you trust if you only open your heart and listen. And that I did.

I have made some profound changes in the way that I study now. I am accepting that I have wisdom and am embracing my elderhood, a concept that I explored in a session with David Isaacs of The World Cafe. I now am going back through my texts and articles in the field of systems thinking and learning organizations and capturing key learings and concepts in a leadership journey journal which is helping me internalize what I need to know to become an expert in a field that I love. I am astounded with the depth of learning I am experiencing with this new learning method. I have already used new Theory U concepts to deliver a powerful healing session with my church leadership and pastor, driving deeper levels of conversation and creating a place for healing to take place. If I had continued down the road that I was on, I very well might have missed this critical opportunity. The answers are inside of me. I do have the wisdom and my confidence has greatly increased. Getting the feedback directly from Tom was a blessing and I am also grateful that he was willing to reach out and provide such direct and impactful feedback.

I feel that you have to be in conversation to experience deep learning as I did in my conversation with Tom. I also feel grateful that I was able to convene so many heart felt conversations at the conference and I hope to be able to do the same for others as my work unfolds in this extraordinary world of ours.

Keep up the conversations and thank you for visiting.

John

A post to a question on LinkedIn: Do people expect too much from the organisations in which they work?

Here is what I wrote in response to the question above:

Mary, you have hit a hot button for me on this.

Even though humans create performance, I often hear mangers talk about the humans on their teams as production machines, there to produce outcomes regardless of how they feel. If our team members come to us broken and damaged by the communities within which they have developed, and they do, why would we argue that it is inconvenient or not our role to create interactions that help them heal and become productive and healthy members of our enterprises? This is similar to managers that continuously attack team members as lazy or non-committed. I often hear, “I come to work and do not need to be rewarded and nurtured, therefore why should I do it for others?” My simple answer is because that is what you get paid to do as a leader. I see this attitude as a lack of accountability. I can hear it now, “The reason that I have poor performance, high attrition, high absenteeism, poor relations with my team members is because they have no work ethic and are not committed like I am. If recruiting would just hire quality team members I could be successful”

I ask a very hard question of the leaders that I serve and develop, “Who are you being that you are getting the results that you are getting?” If you do not like the results that you are getting, don’t blame your team and their unreasonable demands and poor work ethic, look to yourself and ask yourself what you are doing to create these results. High performance people create high performance enterprises. We do not lead robots. Humans have messy lives, emotions, relationships, and until we accept that this as so, we are going to pretend that this reality does not exist and drive performance down and team members out of our enterprises and destroy our ability to create loyal relationships with our customers. Of course we should be working with every individual in our enterprises to coach and develop them, and create the respectful relationships necessary for them to grow, feel productive, feel like they can be successful, and produce world class results for our enterprises and for the customers served.

The evidence for this? I have 44 teams within our building all focused on creating loyalty relationships with our customers. Without exception, those supervisors in our site that fully understand the Ying Yang of high performance, that relationship and performance improvement are inextricably combined, and care for and develop strong trust and rapport with their teams and coach them to high performance, have the lowest attrition and absenteeism in the site, have the highest morale on the site, and also have the highest performance on the site. They always reach out and nurture and develop their team members.

When team members feel disenfranchised, unconnected, uncared for, undeveloped, and feel like they cannot be successful in their role, they will fail, the team will fail, the manager will fail, and the company will fail. In the end the customer is the one who suffers. Talented leaders reach out and do what the rest of the managers out there will not do; they create high performance humans, who in turn create high performance for our enterprises and the customers that they serve.

To me the question posed is reactive vs. proactive. “Do people therefore project onto their organizations they work in an expectation that their employer will fulfill all their missing pieces?” A proactive approach is to believe that the organization should be proactively seeking to serve its employees. The organization should be seeking ways to create healthy, loyal, and committed team members rather than waiting for them to demand what they need. It becomes an ownership vs. victim mentality. I as a leader I own my role in creating high performance relationships and team members. I do not sit around complaining that these horrible team members are expecting way too much of me. This is a mentality that will get one nowhere fast.

Have wonderful conversations with your team members,
John

A Sea Change, wonderful work discovered through networking

Years ago, 43 to be exact, Barbara Ettinger and I were in school together in 5th, 6th, and 7th grades at Ford Country Day School in Los Altos Hills California. I have extraordinary memories of my experience at Ford. The owner, teachers, and experience turned my life around as I wrote in this memorial and thank you to Judy, our friend and wife to Brent the owner of the school.

So why does this have anything to do with conversations? Being in conversation with others is the only way that we can change the world. And it never ceases to amaze me how we end up connecting with others and creating those conversations. One such surprise happened to me only a couple of weeks ago. I had put a page up on my site, linked above, about Ford School hoping to reconnect with others that I went to school with. And to my surprise, Barbara found my site and connected with me. Not only is this very exciting after 43 years, but the work she is doing is world changing work and I wanted to make sure that others were introduced to her film making. I was so impressed to say the least.

Barbara is creating conversations around the world with her work and in no small way, we connected and are now creating another conversation. Amazing. So please go to her web site for her new film, A Sea Change, so that you can explore the work that she is doing to help heal this world of ours.

Keep up the conversations and help others see the possibilities.

John

Conversations and collaboration are the way forward…

if you are interested in creating a sustainable world. This is one of the core messages that I got out of reading Peter Senge’s new book, The Necessary Revolution. This book is a testament to the power of conversation and a must read for anyone interested in being a part of transforming our world. Please read the book review below that I wrote and posted on Amazon.com and on shelfari.com. My message to you? Buy the book and read it. Then act.

This long awaited book fulfills all of my expectations for a manual to help us create the conversations and collaboration necessary to reclaim our world’s health. Over the years there have been quite a few high impact books helping us understand the extent of the challenges we face as we look forward to create a sustainable world. “The Necessary Revolution” steps forward and outlines how to create the partnerships that are needed to unleash the pent up creativity that millions of team members across the world and in all enterprises have been holding back. Peter Senge and team from his organization Society for Organizational Learning come at the subject as world leaders in the austere world of business. It is going to be very difficult for business leaders across the world to read this work and write it off as rantings of an extremist. Peter is one of the top business minds in the world and I do not believe this work can be easily ignored.

For those of us who are disbursed across enterprises and feel like we have little impact on moving our enterprises towards a more sustainable future, this book provides outstanding case studies of work being done across the world by enterprises large and small. Some of the work and the visions of the leaders chronicled in this text are not only enlightening but surprising. After many chapters a “toolbox” is provided to help set the stage for the conversations and collaboration needed to move change forward. And of course, all of this work is set in a framework of systems thinking which is so necessary to be able to see beyond the silos so many are bound by.

“The Necessary Revolution” should be required reading for community leaders of all types, NGO, religious, Government, and corporate alike. As we start to create these critical partnerships and conversations focused on sustainability, I believe that we can quickly change the course that we are on. A must for every person who wants to see a change in our direction. Thank you Peter, Bryan, Nina, Joe, and Sara for this extraordinary work.

Keep up the conversations and let’s work to improve this speck of dust in space for our children and their children and the generations to come. They deserve it.

John

If you ever doubted the power of conversation, read…

Three Cups of Tea. What a life changing book. Not only is this book about a powerful strategy for healing the world, it is about what we should be doing, being in conversation with others in the world so that we can build bridges and schools rather that attack and demonize those who like us are simply trying to take care of their friends and families the best way they know how. What is absolutely clear to me is that the only way to understand others, to build relationships, is through conversation. As Margaret Wheatley says, “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.”

This is indeed the essence of leadership. Simple honest human conversation. When was the last time that you had a simple honest human conversation with your team members, your family, your friends, or those you simply do not understand? This is a question that we must all ask ourselves. Only through conversations will we ever connect and help others grow, learn, understand, and thrive as humans. This is our opportunity as humans. As I read Three Cups of Tea I was struck with not only Greg’s passion and abilities, but his willingness to open his heart and simply be in conversation with others. Because he was able to listen and learn, his heart and the hearts of those he hoped to help were opened to possibilities. He saw possibilities and greatness in the people of Northern Pakistan. What if we all saw possibilities in those from other cultures, faiths, and traditions? Then simply engaged with them in conversation. We too could change the world.

It has been a while since I felt like something was so important that I needed to write about it. So in this post I suggest a call to action. Not simply an intellectual exercise, but a commitment to contribute our knowledge, our time, our heart, and our dollars to support the efforts of the Central Asia Institute and its mission to build schools to educate girls in this part of the world. We can change the world, one child at a time, one school at a time.

Engage in conversations around questions that matter. And then act to help change the world.

Your friend in conversation,

John

“You can not give away what you don’t own…

…anymore than you can come from where you haven’t been.” This quote by Larry Wilson founder of Wilson Learning and Pecos River Learning is one of the foundation pieces to my work in conversational leadership. If we do not engage those who work for and with us in healthy respectful conversations, how can we ever expect them to do the same with others. It is really quite simple. With the hundreds of books written on leadership you might think that this field is extrememly complex. I just do not see it this way. If we expect our team members to show caring and compassion for our customers and other team members and we do not provide that same caring and compassion for them, we are deluded if we believe they can give away what they do not receive.

Sure some people will simply deliver because that is who they are but we can not expect everyone to have that level of inner peace. And playing the “they should…” game is of no use. Sure everyone “should” have a healthy and robust personal tool kit but just because we wish it were so, does not mean it will be. If we want to be leaders, we must first own our responsibility to those around us to help them grow and develop into the “greatness” they have inside of them. With that level of commitment, our conversations will shift from the “You should have…” to the “I see in you..”. But back to the quote, if we as a leaders have no compassion, no love, no caring, no empathy, no spirit of service, how on earth do we expect to deliver the same to those who depend on us. And for us then to expect these same people to deliver what we can not or will not deliver to them is most certainly demanding of a reality check.

So again this is all quite simple. We need to reach out and engage others in conversations based on compassion, caring, love, empathy, and a spirit of service and once we do so, we just might be given permission to provide insights on performance improvement helping others be successful and helping them help the enterprise fulfill its goals and objectives. This is what conversational leadership is all about. A balance that can only be achieved with a open heart and an open mind. I wish you the best and continue the wonderful conversations.

John.