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We live in a time of sizzle and dazzle, quips and giggles. It’s not a time to do deep dives into any subject.

How do I know?

I’ve fool-hardheartedly been following the Presidential election soaps on television and twitter.

I’ve been wondering why and when we turned from substance to slander and superficiality.

I want someone to blame. I want something to blame.

Ah, technology did it. Or maybe it’s because we have free reign to get guns and shoot them whenever we want. I know, it’s because we did not build enough walls to keep “them out” or to keep “those in.”

I got it!

It’s my parents fault. They were too busy making a living to really live. Busy, busy, busy all the time. Ah, that’s how I learned that life is about stuffing ourselves with stuff.

And that leads me to the social narcissism I see that is clogging our relationship system today.

I have a warning: STOP and listen. STOP and question. STOP and say NO.

Social narcissists are taking over.

They are everywhere.

They make promises they absolutely never intend to keep. Over-promise and under-deliver is their core value. Oh, they never say it. What they say is “You are amazing and I can help you fulfill your dreamiest dream.” What they do is tell you “I know the smartest, more influential people and I can get you on the fast track from here to there.”

Did you ever hear the warning, “Careful, it’s too good to be true” Yes, of course you’ve heard that!

So why is it when you are promised perfect health and untold wealth you re-frame the thought to “Well, this time it really is good enough to be true.” You forget the warning and you buy in.

You are seduced into believing you can lose all that excess weight in 10 days with this one little pill. You can find your fortune with three simple phone calls. You can ride into the sunset with your princess or prince and live happily ever after with just one lunch date.

You want easy and you want instant and so you buy in.

Totally.

Let me give you the warning signs and then, well you are on your own. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!!!!

I will just name one person who won the Social Narcissist top award several years ago. And the Oscar goes to…Bernie Madoff. Google him if you don’t remember.

Here is what to look for.

Social narcissists are engaging, beguiling, charismatic and they have all the answers. They do a quick scan of what you desire and appeal to your yearnings with smooth, sweet talk.

It works.

They appear as high achievers on the fast track and amazingly never get tired. They have the stamina of a herd of elephants and they will show YOU how to get where they are.

These folks, male and female, are also compassionate and filled with empathy. They can mirror your emotions and take you up past your fears and stressors to envision a better you, a better way, a better world.

They inspire, ignite and invigorate.

They will make you and the world great again.

Until…

Until you say No thanks. Until you do a background check Until you find out that what they sell is smoke. Until all you have is the sizzle with no steak on the grill. Or until you look at your bank account and you see the vast amount of money transferred from you to them. Until you give them your intellectual capital and now they have the book, song, project you shared with such abandon and trust.

We live in an instant world. Or so we think. It’s a lot of bull! Mastery takes time and diligence. However brilliant mixed messages and empty promises are the products of the social narcissist.

Let me end with what Cinderella learned after she married the Prince. He was having an affair and when she confronted him, took charge of her own life, she said “If this is the way you behave as a Prince what kind of a King will you be?”

He responded “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”

OK, you’ve been warned.

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Yes, we live in a fast paced world. Yes, we are often at tipping points of stress. Yes, we can do better.

“We are all in it together and no one wins unless we all do.” This mantra sounds good, however, for most of us it sounds naïve. Sometimes the world seems to be spinning out of control and the issues are too big and a single individual, a mere speck in the universe, is too small to make a dent in the issues.

The trinity of today’s extremes are:

Poverty
Climate
Violence
As I listened to the speakers at the Clinton Global initiative I was bouncing between hope, anger and depression.

Hope won.

It was the guiding force of the individuals who spoke, not just spoke, for those of us who listened. There were so many from around the world who have been working quietly, sleeves rolled up to make a dent in issues that impact all of us. There is nowhere to hide and if we look deeply, there are more who care and want to help than there are those who hinder and want to hurt.

Hope is contagious.

As I sat listening it brought back a moment some years ago when I went to Ghana to help Catherine Afeku, a graduate of our Total Leadership Connections™ Program, fulfill her dream to become a member of Parliament. It seemed an impossible dream and my husband Herb and I went to campaign with her for two weeks.

Catherine is a true #PatternPioneer.

We met her in New York at a leadership conference and invited her to participate in our program in Pennsylvania, that was starting a new four session series the following week. She was able to stay in the states and so our journey with Catherine began.

Fate has a way of helping move ideas into action; a way to help hope win.

In her town of Axim, we met with Catherine’s “Home Club” based on the theme from The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” During our three hours together we talked about leadership, intention, responsibility and accountability.

One main issue in the town was about trash collection. There was none. The town was littered with plastic bottles and paper, there were no stationary receptacles and no one to remove the refuse.

“Everything costs too much money” was the hopeless answer to trash cans. This was the same answer to many of the local concerns. However, we kept the conversation going and Catherine, a GUTSY woman and force to be reckoned with kept painting the vision of what could transpire if everyone helped to make the changes together.

Not sure how some of our experiential processes would be accepted, we decided to go for the gold. We showed them the power of moving from using the word “try” to the word “do.” It sparked hope. Maybe, just maybe, they could become partners with Catherine to change old patterns.

You can do this experiment too. You need one other person to be with you. Hold your arms out in front of you. Have someone push to make your arms go down to your side. Now arms out say “I will resist you with all my might” and resist. You should be able to keep your arms in front of you.

Now say “I will try to resist you with all my might.” Notice the difference.

For starters to help hope win, make sure you eliminate the word ‘TRY” from your vocabulary. As Yoda says, “there is do or not do.”

Once The Home Club “got it” they were on fire. It’s the small changes in thinking and believing that can begin a revolution of change.

We returned to the U.S. wondering if what we had any real impact.

Result 1: one week later, armed with trash bags, the Home Club organized a weekend end town clean up and got everyone involved. The children stopped kicking their soccer balls around to help. The email we received said “the town sparkled.”

Result 2: Catherine became one of the 29 women in Parliament with 375 men. She is an advocate for health, sanitation and women’s rights. She is presently campaigning again and elections will be held in December.

I know she will win. She knows she will win.

Hope wins. Let it win for you too.

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Got on the bus. Waited. Got on another bus. Waited even longer.

Had a bad feeling this paid in advance tour was going to disappoint.

And it did.

Almost.

Tours to that revered site in Rome, the Vatican are expensive and seemingly necessary. Otherwise the lines can be hours long.

The Vatican is a must see in Rome. Regardless of religious background or preference there is a majesty to being in the presence of some of the most amazing art and sculpture the world has to offer. And looking up at the Blessing Window where the Pope stands and then pivoting around to observe what it must be like to look out at huge numbers of appreciative and reverent individuals is a stunning moment.

However, that is not where the memorable magic happened for me.

Let me take you on the tour with me.

We were hustled past hoards if individuals waiting in line.

“So far so good” I murmured to my husband.

Then not so good.

Our tour was distinct, we had really pretty green scarves, not so bad actually. We followed our attractive Italian guide who carried a beige umbrella as our point of reference in this sea of humanity. It was a beautiful moving feast of shapes, sizes, sounds and occasionally smells.

Basically all I could decipher as Francesca talked with the speed of a gazelle. was “Here’s a stature, there’s a tapestry, here’s a map, there’s a map, and of course Michelangelo’s name came up every so often as we headed to the Sistine Chapel.

Did you know he died as a very old man (by Renaissance times at least)? He was 89. However, no info about who he was as a man, just lots of mumbo-jumbo dates and statistics with no context.

This marathon kept becoming more intense. We were in a race. We were not in a race to win, it was a race to get as many souls into and out of the Vatican as possible. There were the kindly guards who smiled and said with determination “Keep moving.”

I began to think I was in a never ending TSA line that would not have the benefit of a plane to board at the end.

I rebelled.

I simply stopped.

I didn’t care if I lost my tour group. We had not bonded in a meaningful way other than to complain that pretty Francesca talked too fast and walked even faster. We also agree that she had little choice, those were her marching orders.

Finally, the Sistine Chapel.

The colors of the rainbow. The story of man and woman. The beauty could not be denied.

A guard smiled and pointed to the edge of a marble bench and motioned for others to move a bit as he gently pushed me down.

I sat.

The noise and the constant movement stopped, at least for just a few moments as I was imagined that determined artist on his back figuring out where to put the next dab of paint. I thought I heard him murmuring to himself.

The tour, my husband, who knows. All I knew was I was not moving out of this mystical place so fast.

And then someone said something in Italian and then the magic.

Monks, albeit recorded, monks chanting from ancient times filled the chapel.

Did you ever listen to Gregorian chanting? If not get on Amazon and find a DVD. Then set some time aside, close your eyes and listen.

This is magic.

And here I was, in the one and only Sistine Chapel sitting on a slice of marble, in a room with hundreds of my fellow humans. We all fell silent, even the children, as we sat, out of time and space, in the realm of magic and wonder. The sounds echoed up to the vaulted ceiling and came down on us like a gentle rain to weary pilgrims.

Time stopped. Finally, the chanting ceased.

The modern world reentered. The marathon was back on. I found my tour and had to accept the dirty looks of disapproval from Francesca.

All worth it.

My suggestion. Get a Gregorian chant DVD. Look up info about Michelangelo or if you love to read grab a copy of the story of this incredible man by Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy (also a film).

With your new knowledge and the amazing music, you then need to take time (I call it a radical sabbatical). Sit in silence for half hour looking at photos of this brilliant art and listen.

This is magic.

And then I heard Marc Zuckerberg was there just at the same time having an audience with the Pope. Oh, well, my time at the Vatican was still amazing.

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The quality of your life, personally and professionally, is based on how you make decisions.

There is the old way and the new way: hint, the new way is actually older than the old way. The indigenous cultures all knew and still know that everything is connected. Somewhere along the way as we became “sophisticated intellectuals” and “rugged individualists” the idea of inter-connection became old-fashioned.

Take business decisions.

Most companies use a variation of the Gap Analysis. First you are supposed to look at where you are; then where you envision you want to be; and finally create a plan to get from here to there. Simple. It’s like: think, vision, execute.

However, there is a missing piece.

It’s about the invisible patterns of behavior that have a nasty habit of repeating and repeating unless a light is focused to see why decisions always end up causing the same headaches and financial issues time after time.

YOU MAKE BETTER DECISIONS WHEN YOU ARE PATTERN AWARE.

In making decisions you are in a better place when you think long range and ask yourself and each other more effective open ended questions that take into account not only what you decide, also how it will have impact into the future.

Take plastic for example.

There is a great scene in the classic film The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman is not sure of where he wants to use his newly minted business skills. At a party one of his father’s friends pulls him aside and smugly says “plastics.” Yup, that’s it. There is money to be made with plastic. And that has proven to be true.

Except now, decades later, we are paying a vast price for the linear rather than systems thinking that was never done.

SYSTEMS THINKING IS NEEDED RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW

Systems thinking, the native Americans knew, meant that we are all in it together with Father Sky and Mother Earth. They taught respect for all living beings including the one-leggeds (the trees) and the four leggeds (the animals).

We went astray and are now at a critical juncture to re-learn what has been forgotten.

George Lakoff, PhD and Professor at UC Berkeley states that systems thinking is not innate, it has to be taught. What is innate is sorting, putting into separate categories of right or wrong, good or bad, like or not like, etc.

Here’s a great recent example of systems thinking: as I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio I was struck by the brilliance of the creative directors to offer a powerful visual of how all is connected, systems thinking in action.

Rather than the usual opening ceremony, like the one in London in 2012 where they went about showing how “mod” and cool they are in the UK; or the Chinese spectacular with over the top precision and perfection; the one in Brazil tackled vital issues affecting us around the world today.

In Rio you saw the living conditions in the favelas, the slums that are only five miles from the Olympic Stadium. This is not ordinary stuff of media events.

Not only was poverty front and center. So was the strangling of some of the earth’s major resources in the Amazon rain forest.

I don’t want to be doom and gloom.

However, we need to find a way OUT of the extreme weather we have all participated in creating and the seemingly endless generations of poverty and crime that abound all over this planet. Help to change the patterns that no longer work. Join us to renew the depth of systems thinking. Learn a new way.

The #PatternPioneers movement is gaining traction. It means that each one of us will commit to the way OUT: Observe, Understand and Transform our personal behavior patterns and decide to think long term about what we will leave for next generations.

Commit to one act of change each day. Just one. This will become a new pattern and as we all decide to decide differently, maybe we can save ourselves and this beautiful planet we all need to nourish.

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I hear this plaintive cry from executives and middle managers all the time. I hear it from superintendents to elementary school teachers for at least ten months out of the year.

Getting along is what we all want. Right? So, why does it seem almost impossible to get through even a few days without feeling that blood boiling moment of “Not THAT again!” or “Can’t they just zip it?”

I would like to boil this down to some basics for you to think about.

Relationships are hard work.

You can’t learn how to be your best you by reading something that gives you 5 quick tips for happiness.

It’s just not that simple.

Here are some ideas to think about and please, if you have questions or comments, the first ten people who respond will get a copy of my e-book, Five Leadership Lessons.

Ideas to ponder: Few things seem more different than the worlds of work and home. We talk about “work-life balance” as if work and life were chunks of matter on opposite sides of a balance scale.

Some of us take refuge at work because it’s easier than dealing with family issues. Others can’t wait to get home where they feel safe and appreciated after a day “on the battle field.”

From the standpoint of relationships, however, work and home are not so different as they seem at first blush. Work teams and families both constitute systems of relationships among individuals. There are, of course, important differences such as the one we all know and talk about, especially when we are annoyed at home. “You can’t choose your family (drat!!),” whereas you may be lucky enough to choose your work team.

Think about it this way for a minute: You can have an “ex-boss” or an “ex-direct report.” You can even have an “ex-spouse.” However, sorry to report for those of you who have parents who really bother you, you can’t have an “ex-mother” or an “ex-father.” You can only have parents you don’t see very often, or at all.

Families and work groups are structurally similar, and the day-to-day workings of these groups are pretty much the same. Our task in each area is to become more autonomous, to become more capable, to, let’s say it clearly, to become more of an adult.

Ah, what that means, to be an adult in more than just chronological age, is the challenge for everyone and it continues all the time.

We go to school and we can gain knowledge. Where and how do we grow up to learn to be wise?

I hate to be the bearer of the next sentence: it all begins with the family.

That is where you first learned how to exist in relation to others, our original organization.

If you want to get a handle on the part of your behavior you are not super aware of, take the pattern aware quiz and learn about the role you played in the family and may still be playing at work. One point when you take the quiz: It’s weighted to get underneath your analytical thinking and there may be questions you think you would not answer the way they are phrased. Just go ahead and pick the first one you would answer if you simply HAD to answer.

I promise it will give you a clear direction when you find the pattern that shows up as one that I call, sticky, that in essence has your name on it.

Like the woman who called us with a major upset that she was put in the wrong category, her top pattern was as an avoider. She was angry. When asked when she took the test her response revealed it all “I did it about 3 months ago and was just not ready to call you and complain.” BINGO!

Learn about who you are and where you need to grow beyond where you are. It takes some time, not years, just some time, to see the connection between home and work.

You will be the better for it at both places.

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