Three Thoughts for Thursday – September 2020

Photo by John Tower

Here in the Pacific Northwest, as fall approaches, we typically welcome back the fog and rain.  This year, it is hard to separate the moisture in the air, the fog, and the smoke that has blanketed our world.  We are surrounded by devastating fires in California, Oregon, and Eastern Washington, and weather patterns out of the ordinary have created a unique situation that has kept the smoke from these other places trapped in the Puget Sound area.  Leave it to 2020 to hand us another challenge.  As I drove across Lake Washington yesterday, the smoke was so thick, I couldn’t even see the water I knew was next to and beneath me on the bridge. I couldn’t see the city, the familiar Space Needle, but rather I was enveloped, only able to see the necessary amount ahead to safely proceed. 

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been wrestling with the lessons of 2020 – Coronavirus, racial tensions, political mess, and now natural disaster.  In some ways, I feel isolated, and yet in other ways I feel more connected on a human level as we are seemingly being brought to our knees, rocked to the core of our humanity.  I have felt humbled by the complete lack of control. With no end in sight and no guarantees that 2021 will miraculously bring with it and end to our problems, I keep thinking about the lessons.  I keep thinking about humility and asking what it is we need to learn; what it is I can learn.  I keep thinking about the smoke and the way it has further obscured my view of the future and necessitated my trust and faith in knowing what exists beyond my sight yet, knowing like yesterday I can see only what I need to see, only the road in front of me.

I’ve been reminded of something important and valuable I learned from both a course on emotional intelligence and through the evidence-based coaching program I completed – this idea of getting humble and allowing humility to inspire sincere curiosity.  I have been inspired to strive to meet people where they are and to see through their lens. I have been challenged to build bridges without seeing the other side first and to trust in the core of our humanity to connect us.

As we are being stripped of our past ways of being, what does it mean to let go and be humbled?  How do we make the most of the life we are living right now?  How do we accept our limited view and stop trying to plan too far into the future? What do we already know that will guide us in this time of uncertainty?  This year, 2020, seems intent on slowing us down, on humbling us and reminding us of our past missteps.  The bridge is there, just as it was yesterday when I made my way blindly into Seattle. We simply need to take one careful, deliberate step at a time.  How might we allow humility to help us proceed with care and to create wiser, more intentional bridges and paths forward?  How do we embrace the destruction and slow breaking, and thoughtfully, carefully grow something new, nourished by the ashes of the past?

Photo by Daniel Plan

Poem I am sitting with, pondering, and finding inspiration in:

By Nic Askew

We are fragile. You and me.

Though we act strong,
our lives are
held together with
thoughts of where
we might be tomorrow.
And of disappointed

At any moment we might shatter.
We might fall to our knees
weighed down by the terror
of being so far from
our own control.

Dare we look up, we’d not know
where to go or what to do.

We are fragile. You and me.

If we turn to each other,
we might see the whole world
on their knees.
Hurting, and seemingly

But none of us are.

We are fragile together.

Podcast I’m Listening to:

Coaching for Leaders with Dave Stachowiak

Dave Stachowiak founded Coaching for Leaders in 2011. He was named in Forbes as one of the 25 Professional Networking Experts to Watch in 2015 and has also been featured in U.S. News & World Report. He notes that he found himself at the intersection of business and education throughout his career.

Previously he served as Senior Vice President with Dale Carnegie of Southern Los Angeles and led training programs for top organizations like the Northrop Grumman Corporation, The United States Air Force, the Boeing Company, and the University of California system.

During his tenure at Dale Carnegie, he was recognized multiple times with international business awards. His credentials include a doctoral degree in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University, certification as a facilitator with Dale Carnegie, and a certification as Coach U graduate. He has taught years of graduate courses in leadership and education at Vanguard University and serves on the board of the Global Center for Women & Justice. Additionally, he also co-hosts the Ending Human Trafficking podcast with friend, Sandie Morgan.

Dave has also been passed up for promotions, failed at launching his first business, and still fights through an occasional fear of speaking to people.  He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.

Episode #488: Leadership Means You Go First, with Keith Ferrazzi

Don’t be deterred by the title as it seems to go against the idea promoted by Simon Sinek that leaders should “eat last”, at least that was my husband’s first reaction when I shared the title of the podcast I’d found inspiring.  Keith Ferrazzi offers insight into creating an environment of authenticity and psychological safety by walking the talk as a leader, by meeting others where they are rather than expecting them to meet you halfway.  By having the humility to take the first step, going first, and choosing to be a leader who is authentic and transparent, you set the tone and create the container for those around you to show up the same way.  Another insight that struck me and is still sitting with me is that “fear and scarcity breed perfectionism.” This helped me to think more deeply about my own penchant for perfectionism and the drivers behind my efforts.  In order to change, one must first see what lies beneath.  I have been inspired by the new lens, and hope you find some inspiration and new awareness through this podcast, too.

Keith Ferrazzi is the founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a management consulting and team coaching company that works with many of the world’s biggest corporations. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Keith rose to become the youngest CMO of a Fortune 500 company during his career at Deloitte, and later became CMO if Starwood Hotels.

Keith is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fortune, and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who’s Got Your Back, and Never Eat Alone. He’s the author of the new book, Leading without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration.

In this conversation, Keith and Dave discuss the importance of co-elevation in leadership. They also explore the six deadly sins that leaders should avoid and discuss why it’s not all on you, especially at the start.

Photo by Cristofer Jeschke

Book I am Reading and Reflecting Upon:

What caught my attention about this book was the idea humility and trust are key to adaptability and successfully navigating change – key to our success in this current environment of global change.  Also, these themes of creating psychological safety, embracing diverse workforces, and collaborative problem solving all seem essential in our world as we know it.

Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness and Trust by Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein

Bestselling author and father of organizational culture studies, Edgar Schein and Peter Schein trail-blaze with a creative perspective on leadership that encourages vulnerability and empathy as a form of strength.

The more traditional forms of leadership that are based on static hierarchies and professional distance between leaders and followers are growing increasingly outdated and ineffective. As organizations face more complex interdependent tasks, leadership must become more personal in order to ensure open trusting communication that will make more collaborative problem solving and innovation possible. Without open and trusting communications throughout organizations, they will continue to face the productivity and quality problems that result from reward systems that emphasize individual competition and “climbing the corporate ladder”. Authors Edgar Schein and Peter Schein recognize this reality and call for a reimagined form of leadership that coincides with emerging trends of relationship building, complex group work, diverse workforces, and cultures in which everyone feels psychologically safe. Humble Leadership calls for “here and now” humility based on a deeper understanding of the constantly evolving complexities of interpersonal, group and intergroup relationships that require shifting our focus towards the process of group dynamics and collaboration. Humble Leadership at all levels and in all working groups will be the key to achieving the creativity, adaptiveness, and agility that organizations will need to survive and grow.

Photo by Joanne Francis

Please check out my latest blog posts on Lessons from the Run, Part 1: Mile 18 – Endurance, and Lessons from the Run, Part 2: Resilience, and stay tuned for the next addition Lessons of the Run, Part 3: Rest, as well as my upcoming blog post on My Vision: The Power of EQ to Create Change!  If you missed my August edition of Three Thoughts for Thursday, you can find it here, on my blog as well. As always, thank you for your continued support and readership! Stay strong, stay brave, stay true to you!