It’s been a shocking week, with several organisations apologising for shameful incidents that violate the dignity and rights of women, members of ethnic minorities, indigenous groups and homosexuals. The events have been so degrading that even the most cynical would have trouble denying the line was crossed and the boundaries of decency pushed beyond their limits.
In my last blog I wrote about the challenges of identity. In particular, the ways in which identity encourages us to focus on particular facets of our experience at the expense of others. This is as true of organisations as it is of individuals.
Organisations develop blind spots. Those blind spots render companies susceptible to waking with a jolt to discover black holes in their budget or scandals that damage not only reputation and morale, but people.
Recently I went to the Camberwell market in Melbourne. It’s a fabulous place, full of old discarded bric-a-brac, furniture, records and clothing deemed to be of little value to the original owner. The same items can prove to be treasure for those who discover them. All it takes is a little imagination and know-how to put them to good use.
As I wandered down the aisles, rummaging through trestle tables and peering into car boots, it struck me that coaching in many ways is like going to a jumble sale. A good coach has the knack of helping people to spot what’s needed in a situation. Sometimes that involves reclaiming talents, traits and characteristics we abandoned years ago.
In his inauguration speech Obama articulates a bold and progressive vision, which may take generations to achieve. While many are relieved to hear the agenda he sets out, there are others who just plain disagree with him. Reactions to his speech seem to fall into two main camps. Those who’ve been hurt by empty promises are cynical. Others are energised by signals of change.
My own interest lies in how we grapple with the tension between our need for hope and a direction we can believe in on one hand and the risks that it will all amount to nothing.
Are you finding it a challenge to settle back into work as the holiday season draws to a close?
Years ago my uncle, a family man and responsible corporate citizen, brought a Harley Davidson and headed into the desert. I remember it as somewhat of a scandal. Everyone thought he’d gone mad. Whether or not he’d return was the subject of great speculation.
As I watched the New Year’s fireworks this year, it was hard to celebrate. Talk of plans for 2013 seemed far away. My dear friend and colleague Chris Walton had been killed two days before Christmas when a structurally unsound awning fell on him. Chris who had grown up on construction sites heard the crack and pushed three people to safety before the impact hit. He was 54 years old.
What is it that makes Woody Allen so jumpy? Why do we laugh? What is it we recognise about ourselves in his crazy and illogical antics?
Woody Allen or at least the characters he portrays is a little afraid of his own shadow. Just as he is about to act he pulls himself back. Whilst he poses questions he rarely answers them. I think we love his characters so much because we recognise something of ourselves in him.
The status quo is seductive. When we take it for granted, we find ourselves under its spell, often without knowing it. When change comes along we resist it, acting as if life or work as we have known it is our right.
Former US National Security Advisor Colin Powell recalls his reaction when Mikhail Gorbachev advised him that he would need to find a new enemy. Powell didn’t want a new opponent. He had committed twenty-eight years to the one he had. After an initial struggle with his ego, Powell detached from his investment in the Cold War. As Gorbachev’s message sank in he realised not only that America’s relationship with the USSR was in transition, but that the nature of war itself was changing.
Leadership is an act, as much as it is a role. While popular notions of leadership emphasise the position of CEO, politician or chairperson, our obsession with positional power clouds our capacity to notice and learn from many ordinary and extraordinary moments of leadership - and potential leadership.
Sadly, our reliance on the identified office of the leader, causes us to overlook important leadership opportunities that lie within reach for each of us.
In my view leaders are people who see a problem, a need or an opportunity and choose to speak and act in service of what they believe to be right.
The Grit In The Oyster is an exploration of the challenges in organisational life that most of us find testing.
These challenges range from so-called negative experiences such as conflict, complaints, dealing with staffing issues or the spectre of failure, to more tantalising endeavours such as achieving our organisational vision or connecting deeply with our mission, bringing the best out in our staff and realising our own personal potential.