Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Time for a Change -- October 30, 2013

When we move clocks back and forth, which we do twice a year in almost all of the U.S. it reminds me that once again, we are often manipulated by outside forces over which we have little or no control.  One option, not possible for most people, is to ignore the watches and clocks and create our own time cycles, perhaps more in rhythm with nature, the seasons, sunrise and sunset, the moon and the stars.  This history of the daylight savings phenomenon is rather interesting should you care to investigate further.

I have been a follower of the sun for many years and seasons as it moves, or seems to move, north and south along the horizon and I find ways to celebrate summer and winter solstices along with the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.  I don’t go as far as dancing with the local coven in the moonlight, although I participate enthusiastically in seasonal celebrations of harvest and home, Halloween and Thanksgiving, this month and next. 

Calendars and clocks are good for measuring, for planning, for anticipating, for meetings, for looking ahead and looking back, for marking special occasions and for remembering anniversaries, birthdays, beginnings and endings.  My calendars are often in sync, sometimes not, and that’s OK.
I got a new watch recently (a Timex Expedition) and remembered the comment about why would I have something that did only one thing, to which I replied that my watch also has the date on it.  The problem is that today is October 30 and my watch date says 20!  However, it does keep the right time because I don’t have to do anything to insure that.  Seems that a lot of people use their phones to tell what time it is.  I say, whatever works.

Earlier today, while contemplating and musing about this and that, it occurred to me that most of life is about change and growth and thus about transitions, not unlike Fall to Winter to Spring and to Summer again. How easily and beautifully she does that, most often gradually, but marked by a date in time.  Perhaps the lesson for us is to be more gradual and allow the change to percolate up or down more slowly and not be so eager to just get to whatever is next.  Sit with the change for awhile, immerse yourself in it and enjoy the transition by shifting gears a little more slowly, intentionally and consciously.   You can make of it what you will.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

FALL 2013 - Timeless Lessons to Learn and Enjoy

About a year ago I wrote the following blog that attracted a fair amount of interest so I am reposting it here, slightly revised for your enjoyment.  It's that time of year again here in northern New Mexico when the cottonwoods are the most golden hues imaginable.  It gets one to thinking about being blessed with such a riot of color in this brilliant sunshine today and most days here.

Photosynthesis is as natural to plants as eating is to humans.  In fact, there are some similarities with several significant exceptions.  One is that plants seldom overeat.  They take what they need, water from the ground through their roots, CO2 from the air and sunlight to turn water and CO2 into oxygen and glucose.  The way they do this is called photosynthesis which means literally “putting together with light.”   
Chlorophyll helps make it all happen and is what gives deciduous tree leaves their green color in the summer.  During winter, there is not enough light or water and the trees will rest and live off the food they stored during the summer.  As they begin the transition, as one who lives where I see this magnificent color change into yellow and orange, I am amazed and delighted every year, this year just as much as ever.
Plants and trees are very smart.  As plants grow, they shed older leaves and grow new ones. This is important because the leaves become damaged over time by insects, disease and weather. The shedding and replacement continues all the time.  We do the same, we let go of the old and grow something new for that which we leave behind.
Right now the leaves on our hundreds of cottonwoods are this most brilliant orange. The brightest colors are seen when late summer is dry, and these Fall days are bright, sunny, and cool (low 40's Fahrenheit) nights. Then trees make a lot of anthocyanin pigments.  The frost and freeze will hasten this process, the daylight diminishes, the leaves will turn brown, fall off the trees and most of the plant activity we will not see for it is going on underground.
Lessons from nature abound.  The rhythm and dance continue in this annual display that offer us some lessons to consider.
1      Eat what you need to sustain your vitality.
2      Save resources for leaner times.
3      Add some color to your life.
4      Figure out what you don’t need and let it go.
5      Prepare well for the next season.
6      Wait and don’t try to rush the process.  Let it work.
7      Embrace and celebrate inevitable change.
8   Know that what is not seen is often more important than what is seen.
9   Stay warm, dry and safe.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir, River House Press, 2013

This memoir highlights some personal and significant learning experiences over the past seventy years, lifting these moments from each decade beginning in the 1940's. From World War II right up through the most recent decade, I describe some of the experiences that have influenced, shaped and changed me. As an educator devoted to the pursuit and practice of lifelong learning, I am still at work, helping others to pursue their own learning and development, whether as leaders of schools, or as teachers, parents or community activists.

As someone committed to organizational development and school reform, I am a big proponent of planned change. I believe that one of the critical variables in the success equation is a "purposeful shared vision." It is evident to me that the Biblical precept in the Book of Proverbs had it right. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." For individuals and institutions to succeed and thrive over time, change is not only a prerequisite, it is an essential characteristic. Change is inevitable. The question is what kind of change would you like? What can you learn that will enable and empower the kind of change you want and who will you be as a result? "Our journey as lifelong learners reveals who we are as human beings, not simply human doings. When we speak of passion and purpose beyond ourselves, we need to know what the implications are and how we can realize more of our humanity, our own individual and collective purpose. I believe that this realization has enormous power to effect growth the is real and lasting." Preface p. vii

This small volume, (98 pgs) published September 30, 2013, is a quick read, inexpensive and available now by clicking here: 
Or you can order a copy directly from me but I have to charge a bit more for shipping and handling.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Shifting Models in Leadership Development

Leadership development has most often been based on an externalized approach.   People take courses or go to workshops that instruct them on the desirable characteristics, or qualities, of leaders and how they should act. Moreover, training has relied to some extent on old assumptions about leadership. In particular, the “heroic” approach to leadership (i.e., the strong individual leader) still prevails in many areas of leadership development.  It’s the old model of problem solving and decision making, the executive functioning of the CEO.
It is only recently that a growing portion of the literature is concentrating on leadership development from the inside out. That is to say, getting people in formal or informal leadership positions to take a hard look at themselves. “Who am I as a leader? Why do I behave as I do?” are questions that we need to periodically ask ourselves. When we pose these questions, it takes us to a deeper level of inquiry and reflection.
The Santa Fe Leadership Center has, for the past four years, focused its approach more on the internal than the external aspects of leadership development.  It is my belief that E.Q. trumps I.Q. any day of the week.  Not that intelligence is any less needed, because working smarter instead of harder is still much to be desired.
The recent, rather extensive research conducted by IBM that looked at some 1700 CEO’s in 64 different countries representing 18 different industries shows some interesting trends.  The major challenge of these executives used to be managing change.  That has shifted to managing complexity.  One of the more striking findings to me was that these executives did not feel prepared to deal with the enormous changes in the world as they are experiencing it.
Just as important is the way these leaders engage with their employees and the organizational attributes they focus on to draw out the best in their workforce.  Those attributes are ethics and values (65%), a collaborative environment (63%) and purpose and mission (58%). 
According to the 2012 study, it seems that productivity in almost any organization is now more rooted in empowering employees through values rather than through quotas or some other quantifiable measure, through engaging constituents (customers) as individuals rather than as numbers and amplifying innovation through partnerships rather than going it alone.
The question is how are you getting the best from your colleagues in your own work place?  What are you focused on?  Are you satisfied with the results?  If not, why not and what can you change to get a different outcome.  If you are satisfied, how long do you think you can sustain that level of satisfaction and how do you plan to do it?