WISDOM LEADING: The Conversation

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Archives ~ April 2013 Entries

Your search for "all posts in April 2013" returned 5 results.

Fish Story

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Not long ago, my partner Matt Brubaker was running on the beach in La Jolla, California. He spotted a young seal on the beach waving its flippers and bobbing its head to get attention from passersby, hoping they would give it food. This struck Matt as funny, because the seal had its back to an ocean full of fish. All it had to do was turn around and dive! In our organizations, it's easy to become so caught up in the pursuit of one objective that we completely overlook the abundance that's all around us. For example, while corporations like Microsoft and Apple spend billions to develop the Next Big Thing, tiny software app companies like Uber and BabelVerse have been tapping into the vast untapped resources of the mobile economy. Uber leverages limo drivers' considerable downtime by letting customers call for high-class rides from their smart phones, while BabelVerse turns foreign language speakers around the world into an army of on-demand interpreters, also accessible via a smart phone app. That's brilliant. As we try to infuse our organizations with wisdom, it's important to step back from time to time, lift our noses from the grindstone and look around. We might see new opportunities, new customers, new markets and new ways of doing things. Are you choosing from abundance or sitting with your back to the ocean?

Not long ago, my partner Matt Brubaker was running on the beach in La Jolla, California. He spotted a young seal on the beach waving its flippers and bobbing its head to get attention from passersby, hoping they would give it food. This struck Matt as funny, because the seal had its back to an ocean full of fish. All it had to do was turn around and dive!

In our organizations, it's easy to become so caught up in the pursuit of one objective that we completely overlook the abundance that's all around us. For example, while corporations like Microsoft and Apple spend billions to develop the Next Big Thing, tiny software app companies like Uber and BabelVerse have been tapping into the vast untapped resources of the mobile economy. Uber leverages limo drivers' considerable downtime by letting customers call for high-class rides from their smart phones, while BabelVerse turns foreign language speakers around the world into an army of on-demand interpreters, also accessible via a smart phone app. That's brilliant.

As we try to infuse our organizations with wisdom, it's important to step back from time to time, lift our noses from the grindstone and look around. We might see new opportunities, new customers, new markets and new ways of doing things.

Are you choosing from abundance or sitting with your back to the ocean?

4.29.13 2
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We have met our ally, and he is us

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, History, Wisdom Leading

The famous line from the Pogo comic strip goes, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." The above variation seems apt only a few days after the terrible bombing at the Boston Marathon. This awful event has left many people shaken and angered. But where they see fear, I see cause for hope. Terrorism is unique among the tactics of war in that it doesn't seek to destroy the enemy directly. Instead, it seeks to sow fear, panic, paranoia and hysteria in its victims and make them destroy themselves. In a terrorist's mind, a perfect attack would lead to riots, arrests of suspicious individuals, economic collapse and the breakdown of civil society. That's not what happened after Boston. If you watch the footage, dozens of people ran toward the explosion-toward harm-to help those caught in the blast. Runners who had just run 26 miles ran two more to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood. All over the city, people rushed to get back to their lives even as they sent leads to authorities and showed support for the victims. That's the opposite of panic and hysterical violence. That's courage, reason, restraint and love at work. Part of wisdom lies in knowing that we have the capacity to be both our own worst enemies and best allies-and to be aware of the times when we're on the verge of letting fear take over. In our organizations as well as our communities, we can react to adverse events either with panic and rage or with calm and compassion. Which we choose determines much about whether we succeed or fail. Is your organization more prone to panic or positive action?

The famous line from the Pogo comic strip goes, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." The above variation seems apt only a few days after the terrible bombing at the Boston Marathon. This awful event has left many people shaken and angered. But where they see fear, I see cause for hope.

Terrorism is unique among the tactics of war in that it doesn't seek to destroy the enemy directly. Instead, it seeks to sow fear, panic, paranoia and hysteria in its victims and make them destroy themselves. In a terrorist's mind, a perfect attack would lead to riots, arrests of suspicious individuals, economic collapse and the breakdown of civil society.

That's not what happened after Boston. If you watch the footage, dozens of people ran toward the explosion-toward harm-to help those caught in the blast. Runners who had just run 26 miles ran two more to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood. All over the city, people rushed to get back to their lives even as they sent leads to authorities and showed support for the victims. That's the opposite of panic and hysterical violence. That's courage, reason, restraint and love at work.

Part of wisdom lies in knowing that we have the capacity to be both our own worst enemies and best allies-and to be aware of the times when we're on the verge of letting fear take over. In our organizations as well as our communities, we can react to adverse events either with panic and rage or with calm and compassion. Which we choose determines much about whether we succeed or fail.

Is your organization more prone to panic or positive action?

4.22.13 0
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It's 11:59 p.m. on April 15?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

...do you know where your tax return is? Today is annual tax filing day and like clockwork, tens of thousands of people around the country will wait until the last second and then rush to their local Post Office to get their returns postmarked just before the midnight deadline. It's a ritual. Human beings crave ritual. Rituals have always been ways to create meaning, promote a sense of order in a chaotic world, and establish community through shared experience. Understanding the meaning they convey however can be a little tricky. When we observe the behavior or individuals and groups, observing their rituals can be an important window into that understanding. But observation alone isn't wisdom - it's simply noticing. We could observe the lines of late filers, and the slew of anti-tax posts on FB this morning and conclude the vast majority of our citizens are filing at the last minute to protest government spending. Or... Wisdom involves seeking to understand motives and behaviors, the "whys behind the what" and not just noticing and acting. It could be that this April 15th ritual means that people are busy, or that completing tax forms is complicated and challenging for most, or that we hate giving away anything we earn to anyone, government or vendor. Maybe all of the above and other things as well. Yet, until we get a little deeper and ask why people behave the way they do, we can't understand their motives and values, and therefore can't lead most effectively. Wise leaders understand the power of rituals, and seek understanding of their true meaning before acting. What rituals do you notice in your people, and what wisdom do they offer you about what they value?

...do you know where your tax return is? Today is annual tax filing day and like clockwork, tens of thousands of people around the country will wait until the last second and then rush to their local Post Office to get their returns postmarked just before the midnight deadline. It's a ritual.

Human beings crave ritual. Rituals have always been ways to create meaning, promote a sense of order in a chaotic world, and establish community through shared experience. Understanding the meaning they convey however can be a little tricky.

When we observe the behavior or individuals and groups, observing their rituals can be an important window into that understanding. But observation alone isn't wisdom - it's simply noticing. We could observe the lines of late filers, and the slew of anti-tax posts on FB this morning and conclude the vast majority of our citizens are filing at the last minute to protest government spending. Or...

Wisdom involves seeking to understand motives and behaviors, the "whys behind the what" and not just noticing and acting. It could be that this April 15th ritual means that people are busy, or that completing tax forms is complicated and challenging for most, or that we hate giving away anything we earn to anyone, government or vendor. Maybe all of the above and other things as well. Yet, until we get a little deeper and ask why people behave the way they do, we can't understand their motives and values, and therefore can't lead most effectively.

Wise leaders understand the power of rituals, and seek understanding of their true meaning before acting.

What rituals do you notice in your people, and what wisdom do they offer you about what they value?

4.15.13 0
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"Whatever is Happening..."

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

The headline quote by Susan Sontag (full quote is "Whatever is happening, something else is always going on."), remains one of the more illuminating bits of wisdom I have ever read. It means that whatever we may feel we know about a situation on the surface, there are hidden layers that we know nothing about. Keeping this truth in mind can change how we relate to and understand the people with whom we work. Take the example of a web developer that my writing partner, Tim, told me about. This gentleman, who had previously been as reliable as the tide, was driving his employer to distraction with his erratic performance on a project. He missed deadlines, did substandard work and seemed lost. Rather than come down on him, his supervisor asked him if there was anything wrong that he needed to talk about. It turned out that in recent weeks the developer had not only been dealing with his father having a painful and risky surgery, but had been undergoing tests for a possibly deadly form of cancer. By keeping in mind the "something else is always going on" rule, his boss avoided disciplining a valued team member who really needed support. An increased understanding gave this leader greater options for leading in a personally challenging time. Every person has a backstory, and no leader-no matter how perceptive-can claim to have read every word of it. Better we should keep Ms. Sontag's wise words close at hand. How would greater awareness and sensitivity to those around you change how you lead?

The headline quote by Susan Sontag (full quote is "Whatever is happening, something else is always going on."), remains one of the more illuminating bits of wisdom I have ever read. It means that whatever we may feel we know about a situation on the surface, there are hidden layers that we know nothing about.

Keeping this truth in mind can change how we relate to and understand the people with whom we work. Take the example of a web developer that my writing partner, Tim, told me about. This gentleman, who had previously been as reliable as the tide, was driving his employer to distraction with his erratic performance on a project. He missed deadlines, did substandard work and seemed lost. Rather than come down on him, his supervisor asked him if there was anything wrong that he needed to talk about.

It turned out that in recent weeks the developer had not only been dealing with his father having a painful and risky surgery, but had been undergoing tests for a possibly deadly form of cancer. By keeping in mind the "something else is always going on" rule, his boss avoided disciplining a valued team member who really needed support. An increased understanding gave this leader greater options for leading in a personally challenging time.

Every person has a backstory, and no leader-no matter how perceptive-can claim to have read every word of it. Better we should keep Ms. Sontag's wise words close at hand.

How would greater awareness and sensitivity to those around you change how you lead?

4.8.13 0
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Two CEOs Walk into a Bar...

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

According to a new study conducted by the Wharton School, leadership effectiveness and height are correlated. In other words, the taller you are, the better leader you'll be. Just kidding. Today is April 1st, also known as April Fool's Day. That's got me reflecting on the role of humor in leading. As a rule, business is often serious business: we're dealing with lives and livelihoods, health and safety, and powerful technologies. And, we need to lighten up once in a while. I'm not suggesting that Boeing workers be allowed to throw pies in each other's faces while they're assembling the components of the 787 Dreamliner. I am suggesting that encouraging humor can help people defuse the tension that comes with Very Important Work. After all, as Bertrand Russell said, "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important." Some leaders discourage humor in the workplace because they see it as a coded challenge to their authority or don't understand its value to worker engagement. But what if humor could be open and intentional? What if the boss was the first one to share a joke each morning? Instead of being a means to express grievances and mock authority, humor can be a means to build camaraderie and bring teams together. In your organization, are you the initiator of humor or the butt of the jokes?

According to a new study conducted by the Wharton School, leadership effectiveness and height are correlated. In other words, the taller you are, the better leader you'll be.

Just kidding.

Today is April 1st, also known as April Fool's Day. That's got me reflecting on the role of humor in leading. As a rule, business is often serious business: we're dealing with lives and livelihoods, health and safety, and powerful technologies. And, we need to lighten up once in a while.

I'm not suggesting that Boeing workers be allowed to throw pies in each other's faces while they're assembling the components of the 787 Dreamliner. I am suggesting that encouraging humor can help people defuse the tension that comes with Very Important Work. After all, as Bertrand Russell said, "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."

Some leaders discourage humor in the workplace because they see it as a coded challenge to their authority or don't understand its value to worker engagement. But what if humor could be open and intentional? What if the boss was the first one to share a joke each morning? Instead of being a means to express grievances and mock authority, humor can be a means to build camaraderie and bring teams together.

In your organization, are you the initiator of humor or the butt of the jokes?

4.1.13 1
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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams