Talking past

The Blackberry wasn’t talking to the computer according to John Lee, the very helpful IT man at the Campus today. Apparently, it’s not uncommon he said – it’s like they’re both talking in broken English and bits of communication are going back and forth but the full meaning isn’t getting through.

In the movie Sarah’s Key you hear English, French, Italian and  German. It’s a holocaust story of the French sending 76000 Jews out of France to Germany and Poland in July 1942. We all know what happened to these people.

One little girl survived and this is the story of Sarah. Even though there was a lot of different languages, everyone seemed to understand what they needed to, including us at the theatre. Much greater issues were at play in this story, however, and we recoil in horror at the separation of mothers, fathers, children. What would we do now it was asked at one point ? “I’d probably just sit there and watch it on TV like I watch the bombings of civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan” volunteered one young man.

John managed to “force” the contacts back into the system so I haven’t lost them and when the Blackberry is back I’ll hopefully have them back on the phone. 

Communication is fundamental to leadership and at times I’ll either underdo to empower or overdo it to make sure it’s clear (or maybe I’m anxious about the result!). Clarifying the important communication to avoid doubt seems sensible.

Are we watching what’s happening around us? Watching the miscommunication and misunderstandings? Or maybe we’re forcing our language through, when we sense it’s not getting through.

Leading through clear and transparent communication. That’s a great way to start the day. And you never know what you might learn. Like that John Lee’s grandparent’s originated from southern China, and there was a connection to Malaysia when it was a British colony. That was probably happening at around the time of the sad story of Sarah. This wasn’t my purpose in writing this blog, but my mind has moved to thinking we really are quite fortunate in this country to be overall, pretty tolerant. Let’s keep it that way.

It’s a well shot movie, of a dark period in our human history.


What’s your story?

We have a story telling session this week which has kind of grabbed my attention in unexpected ways. Part of me thinks there’s lot to give out, and part of me thinks, it’s well, just what we do.

When I was out running this evening we talked about the Life in a Day movie project released at the Sundance Film Festival last month. One of our group wants to photograph some

Where does your story start?

of the hills we run on in the Waitakeres: “tell her about your video with Frosty on Scenic Drive” and so the brief story of a foggy but mild Saturday run last July where I filmed part of my contribution to Life in a Day began. and kept us going for a part of our run.

If you’re a regular reader here (remember to subscribe for free to this blog by next Tuesday 1 March and go into the draw to win a book of my choosing!), and even if you’re not, you’ll know that some of the important things we notice in our leaders are authenticity, telling the truth, being vulnerable, mindfulness, being present and vision.

I’ve been doing some reading about story telling (is that one word or two?) and I initially thought that we could use story telling as a valuable part of the leader’s toolbox. But then as I kept reading, deeper insights developed.

Filmmaker Peter Guber (Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple, Midnight Express) describes four truths of the Story teller:

  • Truth to the teller – authenticity and vulnerablity of the story teller is a critical component of the story.
  • Truth to the audience – once aroused, the audience’s expectations must be fulfilled.
  • Truth to the moment – no story is told the same, the storyteller responds to the context at that moment.
  • Truth to the mission – the story teller is committed to a vision beyond themselves.

So is it a good idea to learn some story telling techniques as a leader? Maybe it is. But I reckon we’ll find out at our story telling session that we’ll go deeper than learning about story telling. We’ll start with our own autheniticity and vulnerability to grow to yet another level. And those around us will say we’re great leaders. They’ll notice we are authentic and vulnerable and have a vision – they’ll hear it in the story.  And no wonder I love the movies. We all have a story. What’s yours?



I’ve just seen the movie “The Fighter”. It’s a true story about two brother boxers, one of whom once fought Sugar Ray Leonard and has been a crack addict ever since. I found the family intensely irritating – seven awful sisters lead by an equally unappealing mother. One thing the director sure got right was that no-one seemed to listen. Just talking out a whole pile of rubbish when the younger brother, played by Mark Wahlberg, tried to speak. He reminded me of many, often young people, who aren’t heard and give up trying to be, as those with supposedly superior wisdom and insights are the only ones heard.

What if – the mother in this case – was really full of garbage? Using her power and position to extrovert above all others, pushing everything her way, without regard to what could or couldn’t work.

Without even trying to understand.

Being understood is worth fighting for. But it’s not something you can always fight for. It can be incredibly tiring. If you’re in a team, or a family, or even a group of friends (great practice place) notice: do others hear you? do you hear others? do you take the time to enquire? or is your stuff always more important? why do you need to get your stuff out all the time?

Leadership is about hearing others, ensuring all the team is heard and they hear each other. Like properly. Not pretending to do it while you have your bit poised on the end of your tongue.

If you’re present, mindful and pro-active, you’ll know what I mean. Pro-active: my new world. I meant to write word and it came out as world and I realised it was perfect.

A pro-active world of mindful and present people. I’ll fight for that.


Can’t it be Christmas already?

Today, my friend Mahvash asked me if I had bought all the pressies I intended to. I responded that I had one left to purchase and asked her the same question. She explained that as a Muslim she doesn’t do Christmas, so I figured that actually the answer was, yes, she had done all the gifts she was intending, like none. Well she did ask me!

I’ve got a big list on my whiteboard, most of which have been completed enough for this year, and what’s not done, isn’t going to be and the sky won’t fall in come 2011 if they haven’t (lucky I don’t work in an ED).

When I blogged recently I commented on the traffic and today it’s even more manic.  Hot, humid, busy and a strong feeling of  rushing to complete. Completion can be satisfying and I’m sure my boys wouldn’t be too impressed if come the 25th I hadn’t got around to getting their gifts yet! But the sense that prevails at this moment is counter to happiness.  No, you don’t need to spend all your life in reflection, things need to be done of course, but how we react to the so-called Christmas rush can be telling of our balance and perspective.

The unnecessary purchases (Help! the shops will be closed on one whole day), the patience or otherwise in the store or carpark, the reckless abandonment of agreed purchasing limits! Yes I’ve been there, but this year I promised myself – only use the EFTPOS, no credit card and don’t buy anything for myself. It’ll be there on the 26th still.

These are only small nothings in the scheme of things and might not even be relevant to others, but what I’ve been trying to do is keep myself centered and authentic. I’m really looking forward to time for reading, running and resting.

And Christmas needn’t come too soon or too late. It’ll come whether you’re ready or not.  So don’t wish Christmas to be either delayed or here already. It’s an annual opportunity to be yourself and embrace a day with those that matter in a mindful, peaceful, but not too full I hope, way. Like Mahvash, some people don’t do it. And for them I wish them the same – a mindful day with loved ones.

Merry Christmas.