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Archives ~ March 2014 Entries

Your search for "all posts in March 2014" returned 5 results.

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

Recently, we had an earthquake here in Southern California. Here, that's normally not a big deal. They happen all the time and we become pretty blasť about them. In fact, it's a source of native pride that while visitors dive under tables, lifelong Angelenos take in the shaking, shrug, and start speculating as to the magnitude of the temblor. This last one was a bit different, however. A 5.1 quake based in the small town of La Habra, it lasted for 30 seconds - an eternity by earthquake standards. It did some damage. It shook people - as well as their dishes, pictures, chimneys and gas lines - up a bit. Overall, the damage was minor and there were few injuries. But it reminded me about the topic of complacency, and how easy it is to become complacent over many parts of our lives. We who live in Southern California live atop a web of seismic faults that could rupture at any time, causing a devastating quake. Somehow, most of us have let ourselves become complacent about that. Of course, it's unwise to live in terror of such an unlikely event. But when a quake happens, we often act shocked, like such a thing has no right to happen. How dare the ground do that? Complacency blunts our ability to prepare, both mentally and physically, for what could happen. Since preparation for the unlikely is a crucial aspect of leadership, so is avoiding complacent, blasť, indifferent attitudes toward possible hazards. How can we be ready and vigilant without being anxious and fearful? Where could one more conversation about, or plan to address possible scenarios, free you to be more powerfully present? How are you preparing yourself, and your team for the next "quake"?

Recently, we had an earthquake here in Southern California. Here, that's normally not a big deal. They happen all the time and we become pretty blasé about them. In fact, it's a source of native pride that while visitors dive under tables, lifelong Angelenos take in the shaking, shrug, and start speculating as to the magnitude of the temblor. This last one was a bit different, however. A 5.1 quake based in the small town of La Habra, it lasted for 30 seconds - an eternity by earthquake standards. It did some damage. It shook people - as well as their dishes, pictures, chimneys and gas lines - up a bit.

Overall, the damage was minor and there were few injuries. But it reminded me about the topic of complacency, and how easy it is to become complacent over many parts of our lives. We who live in Southern California live atop a web of seismic faults that could rupture at any time, causing a devastating quake. Somehow, most of us have let ourselves become complacent about that. Of course, it's unwise to live in terror of such an unlikely event. But when a quake happens, we often act shocked, like such a thing has no right to happen. How dare the ground do that?

Complacency blunts our ability to prepare, both mentally and physically, for what could happen. Since preparation for the unlikely is a crucial aspect of leadership, so is avoiding complacent, blasé, indifferent attitudes toward possible hazards. How can we be ready and vigilant without being anxious and fearful? Where could one more conversation about, or plan to address possible scenarios, free you to be more powerfully present?

How are you preparing yourself, and your team for the next "quake"?

3.31.14 0
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Brackets or Possibilities?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Sports, Wisdom Leading

The last soldier has fallen. The last perfect NCAA Men's College Basketball tournament bracket-at least, the last to enter Warren Buffett's contest that offered one billion dollars to anyone who could pick every March Madness winner-went belly-up yesterday when Syracuse lost to Dayton. It's not really a big deal; the odds of having a flawless bracket are, according to Harvard mathematicians, about 9.2 quintillion to one (that's 9.2 followed by eighteen zeros). You have a better chance of winning Powerball six weeks in a row.

What's more interesting is the question of whether or not the NCAA Tournament is more or less enjoyable when we have a vested interest. On one hand, being invested in something makes us pay closer attention to details and outcomes. On the other, it's precisely the possibility of a college like Dayton beating powerhouse Syracuse that makes March Madness so thrilling. The games aren't played on bracket charts, and a top seed guarantees nothing. You've got to go out and put the ball through the hoop.

In our organizations, we're confronted with the same question: how do we balance predictability and control with the potential for exciting surprises? More to the point, how do we, as leaders, keep letting our assumptions about anyone's abilities limit their potential to do great things? Dayton was a number eleven seed; odds makers gave them little chance against Syracuse. But they won. We owe it to our people and ourselves to keep searching for that delicate balance between safe structure and unpredictable possibility that can produce a Cinderella story.

Who in your organization has Cinderella potential?

3.24.14 0
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Catch Me If You Can

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

The 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can" is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars' worth of checks out of people while posing as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and prosecuting attorney. It's an incredibly cinematic, American cowboy story, immortalized in not just a movie, but also in a book and Broadway musical. I believe this story is alluring because it's a chance for us to observe someone clearly pretending he's something he's not. It's callous and gutsy. Who does that? Short answer - we all do. As alluring as it may be to think Frank's behavior is rare, pretense is actually a part of the daily behavior of every one of us. While seldom as overt as Frank, nonetheless we often pretend we're okay when we're not, or fake confidence through a task or situation when we're not feeling it. Pretense is exhausting and it often leaves damage in its wake. It's a house of cards built by the coward in each of us. How much braver it is to own up to our weaknesses, our fears and our shortcomings-to be as human as the people who follow and trust us? Maybe, just maybe, they'll respect us more for admitting that we're just muddling through, trying to figure things out as we go, trying hard to be the best people we can be. Where does your pretense show up? What is it costing you in your relationships?

The 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can" is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars' worth of checks out of people while posing as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and prosecuting attorney. It's an incredibly cinematic, American cowboy story, immortalized in not just a movie, but also in a book and Broadway musical.

I believe this story is alluring because it's a chance for us to observe someone clearly pretending he's something he's not. It's callous and gutsy. Who does that?

Short answer - we all do. As alluring as it may be to think Frank's behavior is rare, pretense is actually a part of the daily behavior of every one of us. While seldom as overt as Frank, nonetheless we often pretend we're okay when we're not, or fake confidence through a task or situation when we're not feeling it.

Pretense is exhausting and it often leaves damage in its wake. It's a house of cards built by the coward in each of us. How much braver it is to own up to our weaknesses, our fears and our shortcomings-to be as human as the people who follow and trust us? Maybe, just maybe, they'll respect us more for admitting that we're just muddling through, trying to figure things out as we go, trying hard to be the best people we can be.

Where does your pretense show up? What is it costing you in your relationships?

3.17.14 0
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The Two-Buck Chuck Problem

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Wisdom Leading

Back in 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted an experiment at the University of Bordeaux. He got 54 oenology (the science of wine) students in a room and had them taste two red wines. One, he told them, was a cheap table wine. The other, he told them, was very expensive. The students described the expensive wine as "complex and rounded" while calling the cheap wine swill. The wine in both bottles was the same cheap wine. So, did the students lie? Not really. Brain scans of wine tasters have shown that the expectation of tasting something exquisite can change how the brain's sensory circuits respond to taste. In other words, expectations can fool us. But I also think that many of the students were exhibiting a natural human need to be part of the elite. Nobody wanted to be the one to say that the cheap wine in the expensive bottle tasted like mouthwash; to do so would mean division from the group. What if nobody else agreed? It was more rewarding to insist, along with everyone else, that this particular emperor was wearing fine robes instead of rags. We're all guilty of pretending to like something that we don't in order to be part of the cool crowd. I can't imagine that everyone who raved about Trader Joe's famous "Two-Buck Chuck" (a $2.99 bottle of Charles Shaw cabernet that became a national bestseller a few years back) actually liked it. But while wine tasting is innocuous, conforming to the masses actually has consequences in a company. Quality can suffer, bad strategies can be enacted, laws can be broken. It seems to me that as leaders, we're charged with creating environments where speaking up, standing out, disagreeing, shouting that the emperor is in the buff, is not only safe but rewarded. I don't know about you, but I'll drink to that idea. Where are your people free to dissent and speak their truth? Where aren't they?

Back in 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted an experiment at the University of Bordeaux. He got 54 oenology (the science of wine) students in a room and had them taste two red wines. One, he told them, was a cheap table wine. The other, he told them, was very expensive. The students described the expensive wine as "complex and rounded" while calling the cheap wine swill.

The wine in both bottles was the same cheap wine.

So, did the students lie? Not really. Brain scans of wine tasters have shown that the expectation of tasting something exquisite can change how the brain's sensory circuits respond to taste. In other words, expectations can fool us. But I also think that many of the students were exhibiting a natural human need to be part of the elite. Nobody wanted to be the one to say that the cheap wine in the expensive bottle tasted like mouthwash; to do so would mean division from the group. What if nobody else agreed? It was more rewarding to insist, along with everyone else, that this particular emperor was wearing fine robes instead of rags.

We're all guilty of pretending to like something that we don't in order to be part of the cool crowd. I can't imagine that everyone who raved about Trader Joe's famous "Two-Buck Chuck" (a $2.99 bottle of Charles Shaw cabernet that became a national bestseller a few years back) actually liked it. But while wine tasting is innocuous, conforming to the masses actually has consequences in a company. Quality can suffer, bad strategies can be enacted, laws can be broken.

It seems to me that as leaders, we're charged with creating environments where speaking up, standing out, disagreeing, shouting that the emperor is in the buff, is not only safe but rewarded. I don't know about you, but I'll drink to that idea.

Where are your people free to dissent and speak their truth? Where aren't they?

3.10.14 1
Comments

Beard Transplants

Dr. Foster Mobley // Wisdom Leading

You read the headline correctly. In case you didn't see the story going around the interweb, smooth-cheeked young men in cities like New York and San Francisco have been getting hair transplanted from other parts of their bodies onto their chins. The goal, it seems, is to emulate hipster culture in which the beard plays a central role. I have no idea if such surgery makes a guy crave flannels and Pabst Blue Ribbon. What I do know is that it perfectly captures our belief that by adopting the outer trappings of who we'd like to be, we somehow transform internally as well. The $100,000 midlife crisis hot rod, the breast enlargement, the ankle tattoo... they're all part of this fragile hope that outward change will trigger instant inward change. I see it all the time in leaders at all levels. Their beard transplants are subtler: new titles, new suits, new offices, new branding, new themes. But they reflect the same faulty thinking: the new trappings mean I'm a new person. A leader. But titles, degrees and corner suites don't make you a leader any more than a Harley makes you a Hell's Angel. If the inner transformation hasn't happened, you're just wrapping the same old package in a different way. Why do we feel the need to do this? Is it because real, inward change is challenging and potentially painful? How can we encourage a diminished emphasis on appearances and work to develop the true qualities of leading: wisdom, presence, clarity and humility? What's been your equivalent of a beard transplant? How has that served your leadership, your life?

You read the headline correctly. In case you didn't see the story going around the interweb, smooth-cheeked young men in cities like New York and San Francisco have been getting hair transplanted from other parts of their bodies onto their chins. The goal, it seems, is to emulate hipster culture in which the beard plays a central role.

I have no idea if such surgery makes a guy crave flannels and Pabst Blue Ribbon. What I do know is that it perfectly captures our belief that by adopting the outer trappings of who we'd like to be, we somehow transform internally as well. The $100,000 midlife crisis hot rod, the breast enlargement, the ankle tattoo... they're all part of this fragile hope that outward change will trigger instant inward change.

I see it all the time in leaders at all levels. Their beard transplants are subtler: new titles, new suits, new offices, new branding, new themes. But they reflect the same faulty thinking: the new trappings mean I'm a new person. A leader. But titles, degrees and corner suites don't make you a leader any more than a Harley makes you a Hell's Angel. If the inner transformation hasn't happened, you're just wrapping the same old package in a different way.

Why do we feel the need to do this? Is it because real, inward change is challenging and potentially painful? How can we encourage a diminished emphasis on appearances and work to develop the true qualities of leading: wisdom, presence, clarity and humility?

What's been your equivalent of a beard transplant? How has that served your leadership, your life?

3.3.14 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