Archives For Leadership

Last night I was traveling for business and stayed in a lovely hotel. I was tired and ready for a great night’s sleep before my travels home. Alas, that was not to be because at 3am the fire alarm sounded. I was on my feet long before I awoke dancing around trying to hit whatever it was that was making the awful noise to get it to stop. Eventually the noise did stop and fortunately no one suffered anything other than the night cold while a minor problem was resolved.

Skip forwards an hour when my cell phone starts ringing. I had dropped it in my suitcase earlier when I was looking to silence the fire alarm and now it continued to ring as I sifted through my belongings in the dark. Panic struck as I saw my 18 year old daughter’s name appear on my call display – she is 5000km or 3100 miles away from home. “Hi” she says, “why are you breathing so hard?” Because you startled me awake. “Oh” she says “is the alarm on in the house?” My mind tries to process the odd question from her, given that neither one of us is near the house and I have just had one alarm settled. She proceeded to tell me that her friend wanted to break into our house to retrieve something. For various reasons I indicated that this would not be a good idea. Her response was “Well, that sucks. Ok, goodnight.” I then lay awake and attempted to understand what had just happened. This is when my mind shifted to leadership.

Have you been working hard and then believed you have reached a brief moment of quiet only to hear organizational alarm bells? What was your first reaction? Did you jump up and try to silence the alarm by any means including squashing something? Or did you stay still and assess what the alarm was warning you of?

What about competing and unrelated alarm bells sounding in a short period of time? What did that do to your senses?

How did you hear the organizational alarms – did someone sound them for you or did they come from your subconscious and your gut?

How did you filter the organizational noise?

Have you been working is such a noisy environment that the sound of the alarms is lost to you?

Have a listen to your workplace. See if there are external or internal alarms sounding about the organization’s health or your personal health. Assess whether you are dancing around trying to squash something or whether you are clearly listening to what is happening.

Find out what the commotion is all about before you hear someone else say…“Well, that sucks.” in relation to you or your organization. Find out if it is something you need to resolve by fixing the cause of the alarm or the alarm itself.

In my case, the cause of the first alarm was fixed. In the second it was the alarm that required resetting to better understand the criteria for a 4 am call because the urgent item sought in the potential break and enter was a favourite disposable razor.

Power Full Picture

February 18, 2011 — Leave a comment

Picture this…
It is a cold wintry day. The sky is overcast. Snow banks guide the car through the maze of streets like a bobsled run. Rush hour won’t start for about another hour and you are right on track for your day.
You turn from one major street onto another and find yourself at a full stop. Plumes of car exhaust rise from the tail of cars sitting waiting impatiently for the opportunity to move. Why the disturbance on this normally open road?

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Anticipation, is it making me late?

anticipation, reality, self-reflective leadership, emotion

Today is December 31, 2010, a day that I have been anticipating since April 8th of this past year. I am experiencing so many emotions about the closure of one part of my life and the opening of many new opportunities. I awoke early – I am not usually a morning person – to feel anticipation not for the closure this day represented for these many months but for the New Year and what is to come. Carly Simon’s Anticipation song lyrics were dancing through my head before the sun arose. “We can never know about the days to come but we think about them anyway.” So here I am thinking about the past and the future while Carly says I need to “stay right here cause these are the good old days.”

But isn’t this the time of year for past reflection and New Year’s resolutions? How do we balance past, future and present? As Carly says “Anticipation, anticipation Is makin’ me late Is keepin’ me waitin’.” Maybe anticipation of the future causes a denial of the present and procrastination of the future. Is anticipation a story we write for ourselves that has no bearing on reality? How do these thoughts relate to the need for plans either personal or business?

Fulmer, Gibbs, and Goldsmith suggested that in the development of leaders traditionally we focus on the past for business case reviews, on the present for best practice reviews, and on the future for leadership development. Is this what we do in our personal lives as well? Should I be sitting here considering what challenges lie ahead, what developments are unfolding in technology or in politics to just name two possible areas that could affect our world as we know it right this minute? We tend to write our stories of the future or forecasts based on the past. Yet, the past is a terrible predictor of the future. The article by Fulmer, Gibbs, and Goldsmith was published in the year 2000. I wonder if any of the leaders this study referred to, anticipated what would befall the world on September 11, 2001?

C. Otto Scharmer has a history as a lead planner for Royal Dutch Shell and yet he collaborated with his colleagues Peter Senge, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers to publish Presence: Human purpose and the field of the future, and to develop the Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. Presence and the present are related and are also related to the future. Scharmer proposes that people have blind spots that limit how they visualize the future. By using the presencing process, he suggests we can free potential futures and allow them to emerge by delving within and exploring our true selves. This appears to be somewhat of a paradox* because we can create a better future by focusing within now rather than focusing outward and into the future. More on this concept in later blog posts…

For now as the sun has risen on this last day of December 2010, I am going to stop anticipating this day and the future and embrace today to its fullest because I want Carly to be right “these are the good old days.”


Fulmer, R.M., Gibbs, P.A. & Goldsmith, M. (2000). Developing Leaders: How Winning Companies Keep On Winning. MIT Sloan Management Review, 42(1), 49-59. Retrieved December 31, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 63132678).

Scharmer, C. O. (2007). Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. Cambridge,
MA: The Society for Organizational Learning.

Senge, P. M., Scharmer, C. O., Jaworski, J., & Flowers, B. S. (2004). Presence: Human purpose and the field of the future. Cambridge, MA: The Society for Organizational Learning.

*you’ll discover if you return to read my blog that I love paradoxes