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Archives ~ January 2014 Entries

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Secrets of Snow

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables

It never snows (and rarely rains) here in Southern California, but many of you are dealing with the snowy aftermath of the infamous Polar Vortex. One of the great curiosities of snow - beyond its amazing ability to turn grown adults into eight-year-olds - is its ability to camouflage the ugly and inconvenient. How often have you headed into winter's first serious snow with piles of fallen leaves still unraked from autumn? And how often have you blessed the snow for hiding those leaves from view...that is, until the snow melted and you were faced with the same unsightly piles of brown litter that you'd hoped would magically vanish? It's an apt metaphor for our enthusiasm for covering up deep, fundamental troubles in a team or organization with an attractive window dressing. Rather than address the problem, we camouflage it with a new hire, a revised mission statement, or the latest update of Salesforce. But eventually the snow melts and the problem is still there. Wouldn't it be better to brave the cold and rake up the leaves in the first place? What are you hoping will vanish under a layer of snow?

It never snows (and rarely rains) here in Southern California, but many of you are dealing with the snowy aftermath of the infamous Polar Vortex. One of the great curiosities of snow - beyond its amazing ability to turn grown adults into eight-year-olds - is its ability to camouflage the ugly and inconvenient.

How often have you headed into winter's first serious snow with piles of fallen leaves still unraked from autumn? And how often have you blessed the snow for hiding those leaves from view...that is, until the snow melted and you were faced with the same unsightly piles of brown litter that you'd hoped would magically vanish?

It's an apt metaphor for our enthusiasm for covering up deep, fundamental troubles in a team or organization with an attractive window dressing. Rather than address the problem, we camouflage it with a new hire, a revised mission statement, or the latest update of Salesforce. But eventually the snow melts and the problem is still there. Wouldn't it be better to brave the cold and rake up the leaves in the first place?

What are you hoping will vanish under a layer of snow?

1.27.14 0
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Nelson Mandela's Mercedes

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

During a week when we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems appropriate to talk about one of his spiritual brothers and a fellow crusader for human rights, the late Nelson Mandela. One of my favorite stories about Mandela also relates to the wisdom of how we motivate others. Back in 1990, when Mandela was released from South Africa's Victor Verster Prison after 27 years behind bars, many in the country saw fit to give their hero a gift. The workers at Mercedes-Benz South Africa's East London plant (Daimler-Benz was a liberal corporation and the first automaker in the country to recognize the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) thought that it would be appropriate to give Mandela a custom-built, top-of-the-line 500SE. Up to that time, the Mercedes plant had been plagued with errors, slow production and unhappy workers. But when presented with the chance to build a car for their national freedom fighter, the workers were energized. In just four days, working mostly unpaid overtime hours, they built Mandela's red Mercedes by hand, dancing and singing in celebration as they worked. It was an astonishing example of how giving people a purpose that touches their emotions and means something to them can move mountains-and transform organizations. On a day dedicated to change, how can we find ways to touch the hearts of the people we work with and inspire them to do miracles? What's your "Mandela's Mercedes" moment?

During a week when we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems appropriate to talk about one of his spiritual brothers and a fellow crusader for human rights, the late Nelson Mandela.

One of my favorite stories about Mandela also relates to the wisdom of how we motivate others. Back in 1990, when Mandela was released from South Africa's Victor Verster Prison after 27 years behind bars, many in the country saw fit to give their hero a gift. The workers at Mercedes-Benz South Africa's East London plant (Daimler-Benz was a liberal corporation and the first automaker in the country to recognize the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) thought that it would be appropriate to give Mandela a custom-built, top-of-the-line 500SE.

Up to that time, the Mercedes plant had been plagued with errors, slow production and unhappy workers. But when presented with the chance to build a car for their national freedom fighter, the workers were energized. In just four days, working mostly unpaid overtime hours, they built Mandela's red Mercedes by hand, dancing and singing in celebration as they worked.

It was an astonishing example of how giving people a purpose that touches their emotions and means something to them can move mountains-and transform organizations. On a day dedicated to change, how can we find ways to touch the hearts of the people we work with and inspire them to do miracles?

What's your "Mandela's Mercedes" moment?

1.20.14 0
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Rebooting Your Operating System

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

About Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor says: "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Silly? Not so much. Research says that most of us feel the same way about ourselves. Work by psychologists Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia suggests that we tend to believe that we are much better looking than we actually are. Beliefs are powerful, reality-shifting things. Think about your mind as a four-layered mechanism. On the top, most visible, are your choices-your imperatives to action. Below that are thoughts, your analytical processes. Below that are your emotions, which drive your thoughts more often than you might like to admit. Below emotions, running invisibly like the code of a computer operating system, are your unconscious beliefs. Beliefs are frequently ingrained from early life, and they're the foundation for all manner of automatic assumptions. From your religious faith to your racial consciousness to your belief in people's trustworthiness, beliefs are always running in the background, shaping every response, emotion, thought and action. Wisdom comes when we question our beliefs-when we acknowledge that while they might represent truth for us, they don't necessarily represent truth for everyone. Thoughtlessly applying closely held beliefs to everyone can alienate; applying gentle self-skepticism to those beliefs can make us more compassionate and open to the experiences and beliefs of others. Have you skeptically questioned your own beliefs? What did you discover?

About Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor says: "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Silly? Not so much. Research says that most of us feel the same way about ourselves. Work by psychologists Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia suggests that we tend to believe that we are much better looking than we actually are.

Beliefs are powerful, reality-shifting things. Think about your mind as a four-layered mechanism. On the top, most visible, are your choices-your imperatives to action. Below that are thoughts, your analytical processes. Below that are your emotions, which drive your thoughts more often than you might like to admit. Below emotions, running invisibly like the code of a computer operating system, are your unconscious beliefs.

Beliefs are frequently ingrained from early life, and they're the foundation for all manner of automatic assumptions. From your religious faith to your racial consciousness to your belief in people's trustworthiness, beliefs are always running in the background, shaping every response, emotion, thought and action.

Wisdom comes when we question our beliefs-when we acknowledge that while they might represent truth for us, they don't necessarily represent truth for everyone. Thoughtlessly applying closely held beliefs to everyone can alienate; applying gentle self-skepticism to those beliefs can make us more compassionate and open to the experiences and beliefs of others.

Have you skeptically questioned your own beliefs? What did you discover?

1.13.14 0
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Pope Francis and the Shock of Heartfelt Change

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

You may have noticed that the new pope, Francis I, has been saying some "radical" things: the rich should help the poor, money isn't the answer to one's personal value, and so on. It's the same stuff religious leaders have been saying for thousands of years. But it's gotten some of today's world movers and shakers in a tizzy. Some of the rich and powerful, including the CEO of one of the world's largest retailers, have stated that unless Francis dials back his populist comments, they'll stop giving to charity. What is it about someone else having a genuine change of heart that throws us for such a loop? An unfortunate byproduct of today's world is our comfort with cynical, manipulative shifts in thinking and speech - think about how often we hear the "PR backpedal." Those don't seem to challenge us. But when someone we respect has a genuine change of heart that leads to a change in behavior-adopting or abandoning a religion, voting for the other party-we react with fear and anger. Genuine shifts in thinking hold up the mirror to our own beliefs and behavior, and we're afraid that we might not like what we see. Instead of lashing out or fleeing, wouldn't it be better to use those reversals as opportunities to examine our own deeply held attitudes and biases? How do you react to changes of heart in others? What do your reactions reveal about you?

You may have noticed that the new pope, Francis I, has been saying some "radical" things: the rich should help the poor, money isn't the answer to one's personal value, and so on. It's the same stuff religious leaders have been saying for thousands of years. But it's gotten some of today's world movers and shakers in a tizzy.

Some of the rich and powerful, including the CEO of one of the world's largest retailers, have stated that unless Francis dials back his populist comments, they'll stop giving to charity. What is it about someone else having a genuine change of heart that throws us for such a loop?

An unfortunate byproduct of today's world is our comfort with cynical, manipulative shifts in thinking and speech - think about how often we hear the "PR backpedal." Those don't seem to challenge us. But when someone we respect has a genuine change of heart that leads to a change in behavior-adopting or abandoning a religion, voting for the other party-we react with fear and anger.

Genuine shifts in thinking hold up the mirror to our own beliefs and behavior, and we're afraid that we might not like what we see. Instead of lashing out or fleeing, wouldn't it be better to use those reversals as opportunities to examine our own deeply held attitudes and biases?

How do you react to changes of heart in others? What do your reactions reveal about you?

1.6.14 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