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Archives ~ February 2014 Entries

Your search for "all posts in February 2014" returned 4 results.

Papering Over a Rotting Wall

Dr. Foster Mobley // Wisdom Leading

Writer and director Jane Wagner has said, "Our ability to delude ourselves may be an important survival tool." I understand what she's saying: that sometimes, pretending we're better or stronger than we might actually be can help us get through tough times. But in general, self-delusion - going by the gentler name pretense - is a dangerous, often destructive force, particularly within organizations. I'm going to spend the next few Weekly Wisdoms exploring the faces of pretense. Pretense is literally the act of pretending, of willfully ignoring uncomfortable reality in favor of comfortable illusion. The trouble with pretense is that our uncomfortable realities - failures, shortcomings, fears - need our attention in order to improve. They need to be held up to the light, and pretense hides them from the light. Like papering over a rotting wall, holding on to comforting illusions about who we are and what we're capable of simply prevents us from taking positive action, allowing us to ignore fatal flaws until things collapse around us. Organizations cannot function based on pretense, in part because everybody's flaws quickly become apparent to everyone else, no matter how hard each of us tries to conceal them. Everyone knows which member of the team has a problem with confrontation, which is terrified of risks, and which feels inadequate due to her lack of higher education. It's the leader's job to create a safe space where pretense isn't necessary and where owning up to our shortcomings becomes not frightening but empowering. What pretense are you maintaining? How does it impact your team?

Writer and director Jane Wagner has said, "Our ability to delude ourselves may be an important survival tool." I understand what she's saying: that sometimes, pretending we're better or stronger than we might actually be can help us get through tough times. But in general, self-delusion - going by the gentler name pretense - is a dangerous, often destructive force, particularly within organizations. I'm going to spend the next few Weekly Wisdoms exploring the faces of pretense.

Pretense is literally the act of pretending, of willfully ignoring uncomfortable reality in favor of comfortable illusion. The trouble with pretense is that our uncomfortable realities - failures, shortcomings, fears - need our attention in order to improve. They need to be held up to the light, and pretense hides them from the light. Like papering over a rotting wall, holding on to comforting illusions about who we are and what we're capable of simply prevents us from taking positive action, allowing us to ignore fatal flaws until things collapse around us.

Organizations cannot function based on pretense, in part because everybody's flaws quickly become apparent to everyone else, no matter how hard each of us tries to conceal them. Everyone knows which member of the team has a problem with confrontation, which is terrified of risks, and which feels inadequate due to her lack of higher education. It's the leader's job to create a safe space where pretense isn't necessary and where owning up to our shortcomings becomes not frightening but empowering.

What pretense are you maintaining? How does it impact your team?

2.24.14 0
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Without Vision, The People Perish

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

On this President's Day, I leave it to you to debate the wisdom of commemorating mediocrities like Millard Fillmore and Chester A. Arthur. While some media outlets have chosen to use this day to present their lists of the worst U.S. presidents, I'd like to spend our few minutes together discussing what made our best presidents great. I'm talking about vision. Most people use the word without a clear idea of its meaning. Vision is a concept of a future that not only does not exist but is unlikely ever to exist; it's seeing something that 99 percent of people are literally unable to imagine. Jefferson had a vision of a nation built around the consent of the people, an idea that no other nation had embraced to that point. Lincoln had a vision of a union that remained united despite the fierce desire of part of that nation to break away. Kennedy had a vision of man walking on the moon, something that even most engineers thought was impossible. The power of vision is that it stirs the heart and fires the passions; people may disagree with your vision and even think it's madness, but they won't remain neutral about it. Expressing a bold vision for the future can spark debate and argument that in turn generate new ideas -new visions- that unite teams, organizations and even countries. What's your vision for yourself, your team and your organization? What future can you see that might seem impossible today?

On this President's Day, I leave it to you to debate the wisdom of commemorating mediocrities like Millard Fillmore and Chester A. Arthur. While some media outlets have chosen to use this day to present their lists of the worst U.S. presidents, I'd like to spend our few minutes together discussing what made our best presidents great. I'm talking about vision.

 Most people use the word without a clear idea of its meaning. Vision is a concept of a future that not only does not exist but is unlikely ever to exist; it's seeing something that 99 percent of people are literally unable to imagine. Jefferson had a vision of a nation built around the consent of the people, an idea that no other nation had embraced to that point. Lincoln had a vision of a union that remained united despite the fierce desire of part of that nation to break away. Kennedy had a vision of man walking on the moon, something that even most engineers thought was impossible.

The power of vision is that it stirs the heart and fires the passions; people may disagree with your vision and even think it's madness, but they won't remain neutral about it. Expressing a bold vision for the future can spark debate and argument that in turn generate new ideas -new visions- that unite teams, organizations and even countries.

What's your vision for yourself, your team and your organization? What future can you see that might seem impossible today?

2.17.14 0
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Valentine's Day: A Manufactured Holiday With Real Meaning

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

The origins of the Feast of St. Valentine as a romantic holiday are obscure. We know that there was no romance associated with St. Valentine until Chaucer wrote his poem Parlement of Foules, and that the practice of sending paper cards to loved ones didnít begin until the 18th century. But the billion-dollar Valentine industry? Thatís a modern invention. Does it really matter? We often attach greater meaning to customs that come about organically than we do to those that are deliberately manufactured, but should we? Is an expression of love or appreciation less meaningful because someone invented and commercialized it? We deliberately create rituals for a purpose: to lend meaning to our lives and to get usójust for a momentóto step outside the rush and hustle of our lives and remember whatís most important. What rituals do you follow in your organization? What small celebrations do you have in place to remind yourself and those working with you to value and recognize one another? If you donít have any, create some. After all, every ritual was created by someone. How are you expressing your appreciation to those whoíve made a difference for you?

The origins of the Feast of St. Valentine as a romantic holiday are obscure. We know that there was no romance associated with St. Valentine until Chaucer wrote his poem Parlement of Foules, and that the practice of sending paper cards to loved ones didn’t begin until the 18th century. But the billion-dollar Valentine industry? That’s a modern invention.

Does it really matter? We often attach greater meaning to customs that come about organically than we do to those that are deliberately manufactured, but should we? Is an expression of love or appreciation less meaningful because someone invented and commercialized it? We deliberately create rituals for a purpose: to lend meaning to our lives and to get us—just for a moment—to step outside the rush and hustle of our lives and remember what’s most important.

What rituals do you follow in your organization? What small celebrations do you have in place to remind yourself and those working with you to value and recognize one another? If you don’t have any, create some. After all, every ritual was created by someone.

How are you expressing your appreciation to those who’ve made a difference for you?

2.10.14 0
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Groundhog Day

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

Yesterday was dedicated to a rodent who can supposedly see his shadow, so it's an opportune time to talk about our devotion to routine. I'm sure you know the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray is condemned to repeat the same day over and over again until he stops being a self-absorbed, misanthropic jerk. The movie is only partially a fantasy. In many ways, each of us repeats the same day over and over. How often do you go through the same routine-get up, clean up, have breakfast, get dressed, check email, commute to work-without a thought about what you're doing or why? Are you mentally present as that routine plays out, or are you just robotically going through a series of rote tasks? Think about how often we all exhibit that same mindless, repetitive behavior in our organizations. Consider your recurring meetings. Do you ever question the need for each of them, or do you just go? What would happen if you stepped out of the routine and asked of each one, "Is this meeting really necessary?" More importantly, what would happen if you stepped back from your routine several times each day and asked hard questions: "Is this activity productive?", "How can we do this better?", "Is this really the highest and best use of my talents?" Groundhog Day was fiction. Your work isn't. If you find yourself repeating the same day again and again, maybe it's time to stop and look around. Maybe you'll see your shadow. Take a moment and step away from your routine. What opportunities do you now see?

Yesterday was dedicated to a rodent who can supposedly see his shadow, so it's an opportune time to talk about our devotion to routine. I'm sure you know the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray is condemned to repeat the same day over and over again until he stops being a self-absorbed, misanthropic jerk.

The movie is only partially a fantasy. In many ways, each of us repeats the same day over and over. How often do you go through the same routine-get up, clean up, have breakfast, get dressed, check email, commute to work-without a thought about what you're doing or why? Are you mentally present as that routine plays out, or are you just robotically going through a series of rote tasks?

Think about how often we all exhibit that same mindless, repetitive behavior in our organizations. Consider your recurring meetings. Do you ever question the need for each of them, or do you just go? What would happen if you stepped out of the routine and asked of each one, "Is this meeting really necessary?" More importantly, what would happen if you stepped back from your routine several times each day and asked hard questions: "Is this activity productive?", "How can we do this better?", "Is this really the highest and best use of my talents?"

Groundhog Day was fiction. Your work isn't. If you find yourself repeating the same day again and again, maybe it's time to stop and look around. Maybe you'll see your shadow.

Take a moment and step away from your routine. What opportunities do you now see?

2.3.14 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