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Two Mules

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

A prospector walked his old mule into the dusty Western town, tied it to a hitching post outside of the local saloon, and went inside for a drink. A few minutes later, another prospector walked his mule to the hitching post, tied it up, and went inside. The first mule noticed that the second mule was so laden with heavy gear that its back was bowed; its belly nearly dragged on the ground. Finally, the first mule said to the second, "Pardon me, but how do you handle carrying that load?" The second mule blinked and replied, "What load?" In our lives, it's easy to take on so many responsibilities and tasks that we become bent under the weight. We lose the ability to notice how burdened we have become. While we may realize that we're constantly exhausted and that we're not thinking with the same acuity as we did in the past, we don't clearly understand why. Blaming our age or circumstance is a common, and mostly ineffective scapegoat for this lack of awareness. Building in and honoring rest stops in your routine, much like we do when we're taking a long drive, allows you step to away from the journey and gain some perspective. With this gift of perspective, you can see more clearly if you have taken on more than you should-the emotional burdens of team members, the responsibilities of direct-report colleagues-and if so, the effect it's having on you. Only when you see the load you're carrying can you make provisions to manage it, shed some of it, or even take on more if the situation calls for it. Are you aware of the load you're carrying? How would a dose of "load management" affect your leadership and your life?

A prospector walked his old mule into the dusty Western town, tied it to a hitching post outside of the local saloon, and went inside for a drink. A few minutes later, another prospector walked his mule to the hitching post, tied it up, and went inside. The first mule noticed that the second mule was so laden with heavy gear that its back was bowed; its belly nearly dragged on the ground.

Finally, the first mule said to the second, "Pardon me, but how do you handle carrying that load?"

The second mule blinked and replied, "What load?"

In our lives, it's easy to take on so many responsibilities and tasks that we become bent under the weight. We lose the ability to notice how burdened we have become. While we may realize that we're constantly exhausted and that we're not thinking with the same acuity as we did in the past, we don't clearly understand why. Blaming our age or circumstance is a common, and mostly ineffective scapegoat for this lack of awareness.

Building in and honoring rest stops in your routine, much like we do when we're taking a long drive, allows you step to away from the journey and gain some perspective. With this gift of perspective, you can see more clearly if you have taken on more than you should-the emotional burdens of team members, the responsibilities of direct-report colleagues-and if so, the effect it's having on you. Only when you see the load you're carrying can you make provisions to manage it, shed some of it, or even take on more if the situation calls for it.

Are you aware of the load you're carrying? How would a dose of "load management" affect your leadership and your life?

8.26.13 0
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200 Words for Choice

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

It is said that the indigenous tribes in the Artic Circle have over 200 words for the concept of snow. To an outsider, that seems a little excessive at best, and confusing at worst. But, the value of an important concept in any culture is almost never accurately determined from the outside. Culture is defined as "...the traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting shared by a society which help it address its challenges." Think about culture as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that define who we are. Culture is important because, while it doesn't necessary determine what happens to us, it heavily shapes the meaning we place on those events, and whether they empower or cripple us. It's not hard for anyone to understand that snow, and all its permutations have very real implications on people in the Arctic regions. Therefore, their culture promotes a deep understanding of, and sensitivity to weather and its nuances of snow. You know what I'd like to see? Our business organizations have placed so much value in the concepts of human development and consciousness (read as "awakenness"), like choice, presence and intentionality that we have 200 words to cover their many aspects and nuances. In many well-intentioned organizations today, uttering those three words get you branded softheaded, naÔve or worse. Wise leaders know otherwise and act accordingly. What is possible when a culture honors and values qualities attributed to the full performance of its people? What do you value through your words and actions?

It is said that the indigenous tribes in the Artic Circle have over 200 words for the concept of snow. To an outsider, that seems a little excessive at best, and confusing at worst. But, the value of an important concept in any culture is almost never accurately determined from the outside.

Culture is defined as "...the traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting shared by a society which help it address its challenges." Think about culture as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that define who we are. Culture is important because, while it doesn't necessary determine what happens to us, it heavily shapes the meaning we place on those events, and whether they empower or cripple us.

It's not hard for anyone to understand that snow, and all its permutations have very real implications on people in the Arctic regions. Therefore, their culture promotes a deep understanding of, and sensitivity to weather and its nuances of snow.

You know what I'd like to see? Our business organizations have placed so much value in the concepts of human development and consciousness (read as "awakenness"), like choice, presence and intentionality that we have 200 words to cover their many aspects and nuances. In many well-intentioned organizations today, uttering those three words get you branded softheaded, naïve or worse. Wise leaders know otherwise and act accordingly.

What is possible when a culture honors and values qualities attributed to the full performance of its people? What do you value through your words and actions?

8.19.13 0
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Culture Rules

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

Head due north from Verona, Italy on the A22 Autostrada (think the Italian version of Germany's famous Autobahn) toward the Italian Alps and you'll soon pass through countryside so idyllic you'll think you've been transported to the Sound of Music soundstage. It's all there but Julie Andrews - villages perched on beautiful, green hillsides backed by rugged, snow capped mountains and every house with the ubiquitous flower boxes in every window. You know what else? The infrastructure - roads, bridges, signs - is suddenly pristine also, somehow unlike most of the rest of Italy. Something is different here in South Tyrol. History informs that this region has been fought over since before World War I, and that each subsequent treaty has brought it closer to Italian rule, despite a large predominance of the population that identifies itself with Austria, Italy's neighbor to the north. The last treaty concerning governance was signed over 40 years ago, yet generations of these Italians still don't consider Italian their native language or identity. Roads and bridges look so good here because the Italian government allows this region to keep up to 90% of its tax revenues in an attempt appease the region's inhabitants. Even road signs come in two languages, German and Italian. The lesson for leaders? Culture endures, and trumps almost everything else. Culture is defined as a society's traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting to resolve its issues over time. Experience tells us that culture outlives leaders, their pet initiatives, and in this case, even national boundaries. Yet it is seldom effectively addressed through conflict, appeasement, or indifference. Culture is always a factor in leading change, and can only be bridged through respect, understanding and one thing more - clarity to all parties of how a new culture benefits. Leaving culture unaddressed is often a fatal flaw in failed change efforts. Are you building road signs in two languages, or finding ways to bridges differences through understanding?

Head due north from Verona, Italy on the A22 Autostrada (think the Italian version of Germany's famous Autobahn) toward the Italian Alps and you'll soon pass through countryside so idyllic you'll think you've been transported to the Sound of Music soundstage. It's all there but Julie Andrews - villages perched on beautiful, green hillsides backed by rugged, snow capped mountains and every house with the ubiquitous flower boxes in every window. You know what else? The infrastructure - roads, bridges, signs - is suddenly pristine also, somehow unlike most of the rest of Italy. Something is different here in South Tyrol.

History informs that this region has been fought over since before World War I, and that each subsequent treaty has brought it closer to Italian rule, despite a large predominance of the population that identifies itself with Austria, Italy's neighbor to the north. The last treaty concerning governance was signed over 40 years ago, yet generations of these Italians still don't consider Italian their native language or identity. Roads and bridges look so good here because the Italian government allows this region to keep up to 90% of its tax revenues in an attempt appease the region's inhabitants. Even road signs come in two languages, German and Italian.

The lesson for leaders? Culture endures, and trumps almost everything else. Culture is defined as a society's traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting to resolve its issues over time. Experience tells us that culture outlives leaders, their pet initiatives, and in this case, even national boundaries. Yet it is seldom effectively addressed through conflict, appeasement, or indifference.

Culture is always a factor in leading change, and can only be bridged through respect, understanding and one thing more - clarity to all parties of how a new culture benefits. Leaving culture unaddressed is often a fatal flaw in failed change efforts.

Are you building road signs in two languages, or finding ways to bridges differences through understanding?

8.12.13 8
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Being a Winning Team Doesnít Mean Never Losing

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

This Fall, my partner Matt Brubaker and I will be working in earnest on our new book about high performing teams, The Wave. One of the most challenging demands we'll face is to is contradict what most believe it means to be a successful team. You see, we don't agree with the traditional dogma that a winning team can't ever lose. However, we can't logically make that claim without first redefining some key principles. As we'll detail in the new book, one of the frames through which we must look at successful teams is sustainability. Your team should not be able to sustain a high level of performance for one month or one quarter. It should be able to do so for several years...and beyond. With that as a touchstone, the idea that any team must trend upward forever becomes ridiculous. People aren't machines. Markets aren't static. Economies evolve. Innovations disrupt. Seen in this way, a winning team becomes that group that can sustain excellence in all areas-strategy, finance, communication, personal growth, mission and meaning-through the natural, inevitable ups and downs that affect any organization. The reframing that must occur is to understand setbacks are an important part of the normal course of events. That means realizing that no matter how good your team is, you won't always achieve your objective, and not doing so doesn't mean you break up the team and court chaos. It means reframing failures and missed goals as what they really are: lessons, and often, blessings in disguise. What failures in your life have propelled extraordinary growth and excellence? How could you reframe losses to make your team more effective?

This Fall, my partner Matt Brubaker and I will be working in earnest on our new book about high performing teams, The Wave. One of the most challenging demands we'll face is to contradict what most believe it means to be a successful team. You see, we don't agree with the traditional dogma that a winning team can't ever lose. However, we can't logically make that claim without first redefining some key principles.

As we'll detail in the new book, one of the frames through which we must look at successful teams is sustainability. Your team should not be able to sustain a high level of performance for one month or one quarter. It should be able to do so for several years...and beyond. With that as a touchstone, the idea that any team must trend upward forever becomes ridiculous. People aren't machines. Markets aren't static. Economies evolve. Innovations disrupt.

Seen in this way, a winning team becomes the group that can sustain excellence in all areas-strategy, finance, communication, personal growth, mission and meaning-through the natural, inevitable ups and downs that affect any organization. The reframing that must occur is to understand setbacks are an important part of the normal course of events. That means realizing that no matter how good your team is, you won't always achieve your objective, and not doing so doesn't mean you break up the team and court chaos. It means reframing failures and missed goals as what they really are: lessons, and often, blessings in disguise.

What failures in your life have propelled extraordinary growth and excellence? How could you reframe losses to make your team more effective?

8.5.13 0
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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