Not all black and white

When Mum and Dad were married, the end of WWII was just seven years earlier. That’s like it had ended at the end of 2011, looking back from now. Or, if we look at the Armistice for WWI, the 100th year of which we commemorated yesterday, that was thirty-four years prior, say 1984 from today’s lens.

Photographs from that era were all black and white and the first one included in this blog is the “meet the parents” trip taken outside 125 Queen Street, Auckland.  Until recently this was the Bank of New Zealand building, the bank that Mum and Dad have been with for all that time! (although I’m pretty sure Mum has some funds hidden away elsewhere).  The photograph was taken by a street photographer and collected from the store an hour or so later on payment of a small fee.

Mum and Dad 1952.jpgIt’s tempting to look at a long marriage as a specific time period and consider it a great achievement (which it is), or a good effort (perhaps like a prison sentence – “hey it’s more than David Bain did and he was innocent!”), or assume what is there today is what was there all along.

Here’s the wedding day  – them on the right with one of Dad’s brothers as best man with the bridesmaid.

Mum and Dad Wedding

Unlike the photographs it’s not all black and white. Mum and Dad are quite colourful actually – check out the recent photograph below. They’re parents, grandparents, great grandparents, brother and sister, uncle, aunty, cousin and friends to many.

So on this day it’s a celebration of a couple who have lived together as an example of love, persistence, humour, faith and actually, the most important thing of all: just doing good. Some of that even washed onto me!

Nice. Congratulations. You’re a legendary couple.

Stephen

ps 66 years!

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Grab it!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about micro-moments. Those moments in leadership when we have to make a call or react to circumstances. When our EQ is truly put to test. And our leadership defined by others. Harsh, but true.

But there are other micro moments too. Those moments when to do nothing might not be noticed, but to do something could make a big difference to others and our leadership. When we need to grab the moment. I’ll call this the Leadership Grab (kind of grabs me!).

We had some of these moments on the Authentic Leadership Programme today when the participants sat with senior leaders in a series of leadership conversations. Rich and empowering stuff for all concerned. There were Leadership Grabs up on offer.

I’m pretty sure I’ll have one or two on offer later this week when I facilitate an internal session on leadership and culture. Even so, I’m doing some planning.

iStock-640287942.jpgBut what to do to prepare for the unexpected Leadership Grab? I’ll be trying as best I can to use some wise leadership and tools that go with it – my ethical compass, appreciative inquiry, stories, coaching and vision – and ignoring the ordinary voice in the head that tries to tell me to not step forward.

It needn’t and shouldn’t be loud or confronting. Just an authentic act of leadership delivered calmly and firmly to empower others and grow yourself.

Will you be ready for your next Leadership Grab?

Stephen

 

Joy

noun a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

It’s a word that’s been top of mind lately. As authentic leaders we strive to provide an environment where those we lead can perform, grow and reach their purpose, or meaning.

I have had an internal debate about whether I look for purpose or meaning. Whichever one it is I strive for, lately I’ve noticed that unless something brings joy, I’m hesitating.

A colleague and I engaged in a coaching conversation today. We challenged each other on blocks that people have to finding joy. It is the nature of the work? Is it too much work? Or is it just a mindset.

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Work won’t always bring us joy. Sometimes it’s just hard. Our personal objectives won’t always bring us joy. Getting there can be hard.

But on the way through I reckon we should be finding some joy. Not just from reaching a purpose, finding a meaning, or even reaching a goal. But on the way through.

Reminding ourselves “these are the good old days“.  Making it a daily challenge to find the mindset that brings joy to us is not easy, but worth a try for our own sense of purpose or meaning, and our teams.

 

Stephen

Would you do that?

We visited the Erebus memorial at Waikumete Cemetery yesterday on the Authentic Leadership Programme. Then we travelled back to Waitakere Estate through the beautiful Scenic Drive and watched a powerful movie of corporate greed and fraud.

Our natural instincts are that we wouldn’t get involved in that sort of activity – we wouldn’t cover up the mishandling of the flight path that might have caused a plane crash – we wouldn’t sacrifice our values and integrity for money, would we?

We’d hope not. But circumstances can make people do things that they wouldn’t think they are capable of. I know, I’ve seen it in multiple fraud cases over the years. When I was at the Serious Fraud Office, most of the people we prosecuted didn’t start out as crooks. But a combinations of circumstances (pressure or greed), opportunity (no one can see) and justification (I deserve it or it’s mine) can turn ordinary, honest men and women into criminals.

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So what to do about it? I think of my values as my valuables – I try not to leave them lying around, I protect them and I know where they are at all times. Of course there’s a lot more to it but that’s a good start.

We should also pay attention to our lies. Sound confronting? Wise leaders are intentionally clear about their communication and don’t use weasel words that allow for mis-interpretation.

As I write this the leaders on the Programme are recording those five ethical considerations that they won’t allow to be compromised. Then they’re drafting a legacy.

One goes with the other.

Stephen

A different perspective

There’s a lot going on at work right now. Probably too much and I’m sure the team agrees.

So when I booked an afternoon in another city to work and connect with others it seemed a good idea, but not so good this morning.

Nowadays a lot of work can be done anywhere – have laptop and phone – location matters less and less (more on this another day).

After a conference call which sounded like an echo chamber in the airport lounge, I was off. The man next to me was reading the flight manual for the Boeing 777.  Maybe he should have had the aisle seat.

The air was crisp and the sky blue on arrival. Bluer (is that a word?) than home.  It felt quite productive for me although I may have fired off one or two many emails with ideas, thoughts and instructions.

Then some conversations.  Different conversations giving me a different lens on issues and challenges.

IMG_1833.jpgWhen I boarded I realised I had just slightly more perspective than yesterday. A different place, different views on a vexing issue, and some introverted thinking time.  I needed that. You might too.

 

Stephen

 

Not going to plan

I thought it was the overworked muscles from the gym workout. On Tuesday I hobbled a bit, Wednesday was much better and by the time we started Module two of the Authentic Leadership Programme on Thursday the pain had gone from the legs. But it had moved. Something didn’t feel right though. But I had to keep going – stepping in, in fact – as my co-facilitator was rapidly going downhill with a virus!

By the time I got to the Doctor after the first day it was obvious that neither of us were going to make day 2.

So what to do? What will the participants think about this? And the client? What about all the plans and bookings for the next day?

iStock-639359406.jpgDoing experiential leadership development requires context. We use locations, draw on our and the participants’ experiences, and let it flow.

As in all leadership, sometimes it doesn’t go to plan and you need to be ready to move on. Fast. And make the most of what follows.

We’ll find out in a week  whether a new location and different exercises will work.

I’m pretty sure it will, especially if we don’t try too hard and be open to what flows.

Stephen

 

 

Finding peace in tragedy

I was recently honoured to be asked to read at a funeral. The death was an untimely tragedy. The reading selected by the family was an adaptation from Plato and I thought I would share it here.  Thanks for reading.

Stephen.

iStock-914867858.jpgLet us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good, for one of two things: – either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another.

Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain.

For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams; and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life; and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say (just) a private man, but even the great king, will not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others.

Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night.

But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, O my friends can be greater than this? If indeed when the pilgrim arrives, he is delivered to this (new) world, and finds this true. Above all, I shall be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in that: I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not. What would not a man give to be able to examine the leaders and numberless others, men and women too! What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions! For besides being happier in that world than in this, they will be immortal, if what is said is true.

Wherefore, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth – that no evil can happen to a good man (or woman), either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods.  But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me.