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Archives ~ May 2014 Entries

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Get Your Hands in the Dirt

Dr. Foster Mobley // Wisdom Leading

There's something primal and satisfying to me about digging in the soil. It's low-tech and meditative, strenuous and healthy. Moreover, the acts involved with gardening - preparing, tilling, amending, nurturing, harvesting - are all wonderful, if overused metaphors for leading. Think about it. How I prepare the soil is an apt description of laying the foundation for future performance through talent selection, onboarding, training, goal-setting and the like. Tilling speaks strongly to mid-course corrections with talent and plans to insure ultimate performance. One thing the gardening metaphor doesn't address is the parts of growing that lie outside the control of the gardener. Many leaders believe in a deterministic world, in which they control all the variables. Neither business, nor life are so predictable. The best we can ever hope to do is put the odds in our favor for a great outcome. We can plant the right seeds in the right time of year, water carefully, fertilize, provide protection from pests and do all the right things, but we can't make plants grow. Gardening and leadership are both lessons in diligence and humility. Our jobs as gardeners and leaders is to prepare appropriately, do the right things, follow our best practices, be as diligent as we can be-and at some point trust our team members will grow and flourish. We can't make a teammate rise up, any more than we can make a tomato appear. How are you tending the garden that is your work? How about the one that is your life?

There's something primal and satisfying to me about digging in the soil. It's low-tech and meditative, strenuous and healthy. Moreover, the acts involved with gardening - preparing, tilling, amending, nurturing, harvesting - are all wonderful, if overused metaphors for leading. Think about it. How I prepare the soil is an apt description of laying the foundation for future performance through talent selection, onboarding, training, goal-setting and the like. Tilling speaks strongly to mid-course corrections with talent and plans to insure ultimate performance.

One thing the gardening metaphor doesn't address is the parts of growing that lie outside the control of the gardener. Many leaders believe in a deterministic world, in which they control all the variables. Neither business, nor life are so predictable. The best we can ever hope to do is put the odds in our favor for a great outcome. We can plant the right seeds in the right time of year, water carefully, fertilize, provide protection from pests and do all the right things, but we can't make plants grow.

Gardening and leadership are both lessons in diligence and humility. Our jobs as gardeners and leaders is to prepare appropriately, do the right things, follow our best practices, be as diligent as we can be-and at some point trust our team members will grow and flourish. We can't make a teammate rise up, any more than we can make a tomato appear.

How are you tending the garden that is your work? How about the one that is your life?

5.28.14 0
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Our Thoughts ? Prison or Pathway?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

In a recent interview with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and best-selling author Ron Suskind, he shared the background of his most recent book Life, Animated, a beautiful and touching story of a family dealing with autism. A gifted writer with an important and personal story, for sure. During the interview, Ron introduced the notion of autism, a complex brain disorder as a "prison or pathway." As so much of my life and practice deals with mastering mental processes, I thought it appropriate to borrow this phrase as an appropriate reflection for each of us. Consider that our thoughts, invited and uninvited, are our constant companions. We can't control their volume or timing, but we control their influence on us - on our emotions, on our perceptions and on our actions. According to don Miguel Ruiz, our minds, hearts and senses perceive things as they truly are, but our thoughts filter, distort and interpret them to suit our needs. In this interpretive dance, occurring in a nanosecond behind an invisible curtain in our consciousness, the result can be a "prison or pathway". My thoughts are a prison when rooted in my worries, unresolved issues, fears or expectations. They imprison me as they lock me into a limited view of myself and are most acute when I'm not present, living out the day on autopilot. My thoughts are a pathway when rooted in my passions, my possibilities, my best self. These are most accessible when I'm clear, present and intentional. Alive, to me, is synonymous with "enlivened" - the sensation I have when my thoughts are working for me. When your daily thoughts imprison you, what can you do to elevate and enliven?

In a recent interview with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and best-selling author Ron Suskind, he shared the background of his most recent book Life, Animated, a beautiful and touching story of a family dealing with autism. A gifted writer with an important and personal story, for sure.

During the interview, Ron introduced the notion of autism, a complex brain disorder as a "prison or pathway." As so much of my life and practice deals with mastering mental processes, I thought it appropriate to borrow this phrase as an appropriate reflection for each of us.

Consider that our thoughts, invited and uninvited, are our constant companions. We can't control their volume or timing, but we control their influence on us - on our emotions, on our perceptions and on our actions. According to don Miguel Ruiz, our minds, hearts and senses perceive things as they truly are, but our thoughts filter, distort and interpret them to suit our needs. In this interpretive dance, occurring in a nanosecond behind an invisible curtain in our consciousness, the result can be a "prison or pathway".

My thoughts are a prison when rooted in my worries, unresolved issues, fears or expectations. They imprison me as they lock me into a limited view of myself and are most acute when I'm not present, living out the day on autopilot. My thoughts are a pathway when rooted in my passions, my possibilities, my best self. These are most accessible when I'm clear, present and intentional. Alive, to me, is synonymous with "enlivened" - the sensation I have when my thoughts are working for me.

When your daily thoughts imprison you, what can you do to elevate and enliven?

5.20.14 0
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Patience in the Midst of Storms

Dr. Foster Mobley // Wisdom Leading

Author E'yen A. Gardner has written, "Patience is produced in the midst of storms; it blossoms under the intense pressures of the storms." If true, what determines those who thrive and those who squander these teachable moments? Think carefully about your most recent "storm." Ours? A Mother's Day surprise that abruptly forced my youngest daughter to deal with the loss of a college student's most-valued belongings - computer, iPad, backpack and wallet containing all forms of identification, cash and credit cards. This storm immediately jolted all of us into "awakeness" (as in "I'm here, pay attention to me NOW") and drove my wife and daughter to the phones to cancel credit cards, review bogus charges and work with police. I tell this story for two reasons: first, to acknowledge my daughter and wife for how they handled themselves throughout this storm; and second, to share an observation about their patience in handling it. Despite the frustrations of the moment, neither allowed their emotions to be hijacked. While frustrated and angry, they patiently handled those things in their control and didn't waste effort, or worry, or tears over those thing outside their control. Cliché I know, but the saying goes that while we can't control the direction of the wind, we can adjust the sails. Patience is a learned choice that helps us adjust the sails when the waves are crashing over the boat. It's the ultimate act of wisdom, and is available to us all. While being action-focused is a great attribute of many leaders, so is knowing when to lean in and when to lean back. What's available to you in your life with an extra dose of patience?

Author E'yen A. Gardner has written, "Patience is produced in the midst of storms; it blossoms under the intense pressures of the storms." If true, what determines those who thrive and those who squander these teachable moments?

Think carefully about your most recent "storm." Ours? A Mother's Day surprise that abruptly forced my youngest daughter to deal with the loss of a college student's most-valued belongings - computer, iPad, backpack and wallet containing all forms of identification, cash and credit cards. This storm immediately jolted all of us into "awakeness" (as in "I'm here, pay attention to me NOW") and drove my wife and daughter to the phones to cancel credit cards, review bogus charges and work with police. I tell this story for two reasons: first, to acknowledge my daughter and wife for how they handled themselves throughout this storm; and second, to share an observation about their patience in handling it.

Despite the frustrations of the moment, neither allowed their emotions to be hijacked. While frustrated and angry, they patiently handled those things in their control and didn't waste effort, or worry, or tears over those thing outside their control. Cliché I know, but the saying goes that while we can't control the direction of the wind, we can adjust the sails.

Patience is a learned choice that helps us adjust the sails when the waves are crashing over the boat. It's the ultimate act of wisdom, and is available to us all. While being action-focused is a great attribute of many leaders, so is knowing when to lean in and when to lean back.

What's available to you in your life with an extra dose of patience?

5.12.14 0
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Action Blindness

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

When I was much younger, before the advent of cell phones or pagers, I had an experience shared by many at the time - the experience of trying to meet up with family or friends in a crowded place like an airport or amusement park. Looking back, it was epic in its comedy and predictability. Both parties wandered around to where we each guessed the other would be, probably passing each other in the crowd and getting frustrated. It was only when one side stayed put and waited patiently that we all connected with the people we were looking for. Humans don't do patience very well. Leaders certainly don't. We prefer to be assertive, to force the action and make things happen. It's what we are trained to do, in fact. We want our teams to have "first mover advantage." If we can't always be smarter than the competition, we'll at least work harder and often take the first steps. A bias to act is an important part of a leader's tool kit, but it's a bias best tempered with patience. Said another way, assertive action with a purpose is part of effective leading; action for its own sake is foolish. Wise leaders know that sometimes, you simply have to stop walking frantically, sit down, and look for the opportunities in whatever finds you. Are you solely biased to action? What opportunities have you missed by being impatient?

When I was much younger, before the advent of cell phones or pagers, I had an experience shared by many at the time - the experience of trying to meet up with family or friends in a crowded place like an airport or amusement park. Looking back, it was epic in its comedy and predictability. Both parties wandered around to where we each guessed the other would be, probably passing each other in the crowd and getting frustrated. It was only when one side stayed put and waited patiently that we all connected with the people we were looking for.

Humans don't do patience very well. Leaders certainly don't. We prefer to be assertive, to force the action and make things happen. It's what we are trained to do, in fact. We want our teams to have "first mover advantage." If we can't always be smarter than the competition, we'll at least work harder and often take the first steps.

A bias to act is an important part of a leader's tool kit, but it's a bias best tempered with patience. Said another way, assertive action with a purpose is part of effective leading; action for its own sake is foolish. Wise leaders know that sometimes, you simply have to stop walking frantically, sit down, and look for the opportunities in whatever finds you.

Are you solely biased to action? What opportunities have you missed by being impatient?

5.5.14 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