Thursday, January 31, 2019

Principles vs Decisions

The best leaders in dual-purpose organizations consider their high-level principles sacrosanct but their ground-level decisions provisional. 

Harvard Business Review, “How Companies Can Balance Social Impact and Financial Goals,” January 2019

The benefit of Agile and agility is the flexibility to maneuver based on what is in front of you.

What typically gets lost is the high-level principles in our drive to “be agile.”

Which star are you navigating?

What principles are you using to guide your decisions?

Are those principles strong enough to overcome short-term challenges and pressures?

It’s easy to forget the high-level, long-term principles when faced with short-term challenges that, frequently, surface issues around money and security.

As the authors of the Harvard Business Review article point out, it’s a strategic paradox that needs to be recognized and addressed. Sometimes we have to make choices between our higher purpose and bringing in enough money to pay our bills. I wish that wasn’t the case, but that’s today’s reality.

The things that bring in the most money and gain the most rewards aren’t necessarily (and frequently aren’t) for the highest good. Or YOUR highest good.

The authors recommend putting guardrails in place to help you with decision-making. These guardrails help you keep the long-term, highest good goals and the short-term survival needs in focus.

The process of establishing guardrails invites you to combine seemingly disparate objectives.

How can you continue pursuing what you love while keeping a roof over your head?

Where can you compromise and where is compromise unacceptable?

It requires getting creative. Brainstorming.

Getting very clear on what is important to you and what isn’t.

The guardrails allow you to be more agile. You gain a framework that helps you make decisions as opportunities present themselves and as your environment changes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Evolution Happens – How You Can Work With It

How is your life different from last year?

How is your life different from 5 years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Since you left college (or high school)?

How has your life evolved over time?

Is it an orderly progression of steps towards mastery?

Is it a series of plateaus punctuated by periods of change and confusion?

Are you where you thought you would be?

Did everything go according to plan?

Did you find challenges you didn’t expect?

We continue growing and developing as we age.

We’re not stuck with our initial decisions around “what we’re going to be when we grow up.”

We learn new things through experience – especially if we allow ourselves time to reflect on that experience.

If we manage to get some clarity around what we want our life to look like in the future, we’re able to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

We don’t have to wait for a wrenching event outside of our control to move towards our desired future.

We may be able to evolve more gently.

How can you ease into your future?

Can you combine what you are doing now and leverage your existing skills and experience with what you want in your future?

Can you set aside some time to make future-building a priority? Are there particular skills you will need that requires more concentration than combination will allow?

As you ease into your future, what will you ultimately need to let go of?

What will you need to prepare to say “no” to?

What obligations and contracts will you need to break?

What relationships need to change? What relationships may need to be abandoned?

In an ideal world, we are all doing this evolution mindfully.

We are taking responsibility for our experience of life and for what our life looks like.

Often, we’re reacting to what life throws at us. That’s OK. We can’t predict all-the-things and we control very little.

The best we can do is take one more step towards our desired future.

Look around and see whether an opportunity has surfaced that helps us along the way.

Occasionally discard things from the pack that weigh us down.

And continually check to make sure we are still going in the direction of our dreams.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Approaching Major Change

I was chatting with a friend a few weeks back. We started talking about how to handle conflicting major goals.

As I reflected on the conversation, I realized that in my life, I’ve handled major (somewhat planned) change using these three approaches:

  1. Combination.  Can I combine goals or activitie?
    • Example: If one goal is “Live in New Zealand for a few years” and another goal is “Become an herbalist” – maybe I can combine the goals “Study Maori traditional medicine in New Zealand.”
  2. Periodization.  This is the approach cited by those (like myself) who are big fans of focus and prioritization.  I find it works best for goals I can chunk into small steps and can tackle separately. 
    • Example: If a goal is to change careers to be able to spend more time with family: I can focus one period on getting clear on the transition, the next period on any necessary schooling (maybe further breaking that process down into the various skills required), the next period on working with a mentor to practice these new skills, the period after that practicing something specific, etc.
  3. Evolution. This is the process of combining old and new and is often done accidentally. 
    • Example: When I transitioned from History to IT, this was done via evolution (albeit not very planned). I had teaching skills I picked up when I served as a History Graduate Assistant and moved those to a new context (IT and corporate work). I let go of the old History context.  As my career evolved and opportunities arose, I would pick things up (e.g. project management) and let things go (e.g. eLearning development). 

I’m going to talk about each of these approaches and how they might combine over the next few posts.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Status Report – Change Planning January

Cross-posted to Medium.

I’ve been writing, but it’s been a slog.

The cookie-monster bathrobe came back with a vengeance, this time lined in lead. I must be onto something big — I don’t remember the resistance being this strong before.

I am ridiculously grateful for my family, partner, friends, and therapist. They’ve been awesome about holding space for me and reminding me that the voices in my head aren’t objectively true.

I’m also grateful that the discussion around mental health is starting to remove the shame around anxiety, depression, and any emotion that isn’t “happy.”

I have a LOT of thoughts about emotions, how they are manipulated, how certain ones are acceptable and others are not, how some expect us to take their emotional burdens, how others want to control how we feel, how we want others to take our emotional burdens.

It’s been good to pause and ask “How do I REALLY feel about [X]?” “What is triggering [Y] feelings? Are these really mine?”

These questions have a lot to do with the day-to-day of execution. Much of December, for me, was spent getting clear on MY answers to these questions and the importance of asking.

Writing this book has been quite a growth experience for me.

Stepping back and looking at last month (really, the whole of 2018), I made a lot more progress than I had been giving myself credit for.

We’ve crossed the 100-page mark!

Current status:

  • Introduction — 12 pages full draft. (No change)
  • Chapter 1 (Theory) –7 pages partial draft.
  • Chapter 2 (Vision and Values) –24 pages full draft. I am incorporating feedback from the pre-order group and clients regarding Values.
  • Chapter 3 (Roadmapping) — 7 pages full draft.
  • Chapter 4 (Focus and Prioritization) — 27 pages full draft.
  • Chapter 5 (Change Planning Model) — 12 pages full draft
  • Chapter 6 (Planning) — 7 pages full draft, 7 pages partial draft
  • Chapter 7 (Execution) — 14 pages full draft
  • Appendix — Goals Workbook. Sent to the pre-order group for review.

Full draft = Something you can read. Looks like part of a book.

Partial draft = Sentence/paragraph snippets, outlines, personal notes, sources I need to look at or revisit.


  • I will be putting up the whole book (minus exercises) on PubPub once they are in full draft. The review period will be March 1 — May 1.
  • The chapters are shaping up to be approximately 30 pages per. The introduction and appendices (however many there will be) will each be about 10 pages per. Bibliography and notes will likely be about 20–30 pages.

For January— the things I didn’t get done in December…

  • Get the Change Planning Exercise out to the pre-order group
  • Begin outreach to the Publishizer publishers/book publishing services who expressed interest during the campaign.

Thursday, January 03, 2019


In response to my Top 5 Skills for 2019 post, a mentor of mine asked, “What about Empathy?”

I found myself resisting. Hard.

We all have Empathy. 

  • Some of us squelch it – partially by training, partially out of self-preservation.
  • Some of us overdo it – inappropriately taking on the emotional labor of others.
  • Some of us (raises hand) swing wildly between the two extremes.

After sitting on this, I realized that my discomfort with Empathy as a skill (particularly for this year) is based in a feeling that I’m not the right person to talk about this. 

I struggle with empathy.  Either too much or too little – depending on my mood and situation.  

I haven’t found the middle ground that serves myself, or others, yet.

I haven’t found a way to guide people on this topic yet because I struggle to live this in healthy ways right now. It seems disingenuous to give advice on something I don’t do well.

My suspicion is that the “skill” is in being empathic in healthy ways – for you AND others. 

  • What is the therapeutic dose of empathy? Not too little, not too much?
  • How can I be present and truly “see” the other person without being lost in that other person or taking on their emotions?
  • Am I able to sit with uncomfortable emotions, mine AND theirs, and do so in a way that helps both of us?

I suspect that I’m going to get more opportunities to explore my relationship with Empathy over the next year. 

Maybe I’ll be ready to add it to my Top Skills list in 2020.

Jamie Good is doing some great work in the workplace wellness space.  He is VERY focused on empathy skills and reducing the stigma around mental wellness in the workplace.

I had a chance to look at an early copy of his Empathy Journal and can’t wait to see the final result!  (No pressure, Jamie!) I don’t know whether he has a release date yet – but I will update you once the Journal comes out.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019


Definitions of presence (noun) – according to Google

  • The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Synonym: existence.
  • A person or thing that exists or is present in a place, but is not seen. Synonym: spirit, specter, ghost
  • A group of people, especially soldiers or police, stationed in a particular place.
  • The impressive manner or appearance of a person. Synonym: charisma

Interestingly, “the state of being right here, right now” is not a definition recognized by Merriam-Webster. Look in the Urban Dictionary.

I’m not sure what it says about our culture that presence as “charisma” is “officially” recognized and presence as “right here, right now” is not.

“We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one’s preconceptions and historical ways of making sense.” 

Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers, – Presence
  • What is happening right now?
  • What biases and assumptions am I bringing to this obsevation?
  • How do I choose to respond to this?

This definition speaks to the relationship between self and the environment. 

Senge and Co.’s definition of presence includes two of the three pillars of mindful training (as defined by Daniel Siegel): focused attention, open awareness, and kind intention.

  • What am I paying attention to?
  • What else is there?  Is there a different way to frame this?
  • How can I frame this with kind intention? Mine and others?

Presence, to me, is the skill that underlies the ability to listen, ask questions, and make change.

It’s also the most challenging skill (for me) to practice.

There are so many distractions.

We are encouraged to evaluate the past, plan the future, and be anywhere but right here, right now.

Looking at lessons learned is good, in its place.  Planning for the future is good, in its place. Escapism can be useful, in its place.

I’m learning that I need to bias the right here, right now. Be more focused on who or what is right in front of me. Be more open to what surfaces. Approach it all through the framework of kind intent and assume kind intent in others (since that has been true in my life at least 75% of the time).

I’m more adaptive and agile if I am present and not looking so far ahead or hewing so closely to my plan.

My relationships improve when I am present – focused and open to the other.

Presence makes practicing the other 5 skills easier and more effective.