For me, Fall always feels like a new beginning. I run faster, breath deeper, and my energy rises with the cooler air and changing colours, even as urgent client demands and exciting new work and learning opportunities start to crowd my inbox. So this is also the time of year when ideas from books and articles on productivity, personal ecology, focusing and habit formation feel especially useful. Rick Hansen’s wonderful blog was particularly timely today. With ease and simplicity, he describes three ways to focus one’s life energy from week to week and day to day on what matters most: know your purpose; clarify your priorities; and take care of yourself. So simple! Here’s a summary, but read the whole thing, it’s worth it:
Know your purpose in life. Actually write it down. Make sure it’s short, simple, and focused on what you’re for, not what you’re against. Recommit to it daily, even moment to momen – and it can become a source of both energy and discernment. This is a core piece of the work we also teach at the Rockwood Leadership Institute.
Clarify your priorities. Identify the big goals in your life. They might relate to the “buckets” or categories of life you’ve identified on a coaching wheel (eg. community service; high performance at work; joyful parenting). Figure out what matters most, then rank each in order of priority. Like your purpose, a short, visible list of your key life priorities can serve as guides for continual discernment and course correction as you navigate what can feel like an avalanche of demands and interests every day.
Take care of yourself. At Rockwood this connects well to much of our work around Personal Ecology. Ensure you have the right nourishment – emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually – to support staying clear, focused and centered on what really matters to you. Then you can truly be of service, and present, to others.
“Hire slow, fire fast” may be a well-used management cliche, but it deserves repetition. Vu Le’s excellent post today lays out why many managers avoid or delay firing under-performing staff – and why it’s almost never worth it.
West coast facilitators and meeting mavens: The uber talented Stina Brown is offering another of her popular facilitation trainings on using visuals to design generative, productive and deeply democratic conversations! May 21-22; sign up here soon as seats fill quickly!
Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them is hands-down the most useful, accessible book I’ve read on strategies for achieving deep, enduring racial equity at the personal, organizational and community level. Shakil Choudhury writes with the friendly ease and accessibility of Malcolm Gladwell, mixing compelling stories with cutting edge research, ranging from neuroscience to political theory.
It is simply not possible to be an effective leader without not only emotional intelligence, but what Julie Diamond refers to as “Power Intelligence“. Choudhury sets out a clear map for getting there, and welcomes us all to take the journey. He sets out a four-part framework (emotions; implicit bias; tribes; and power) for understanding and overcoming the devastating effects of racism and marginalization, bolstered by abundant research and his own decades of work as an international leadership trainer, teacher and consultant.
Once we have the awareness of how both unconscious bias and racism play out within ourselves and in the world (yes, racism exists, and it is everywhere; yes, all human brains are hard-wired to both see and respond to difference in ways that are unconscious and instantaneous; and yes, our emotions – not our heads – drive our actual behavior), coupled with the intention to change, Choudhury offers a set of 7 inner skills for shifting our own habits of thinking and becoming potentially powerful change-makers:
- Self-awareness – become aware of our own blind spots, unconscious bias, emotions, body language and body signals
- Mindfulness – through practice, developing our ability to witness and interrupt unhelpful habits of thinking and replace them with new habits
- Self-regulation – develop the inner power and skillfulness to master our own emotional responses, to return from a state of being reactive and brittle (or ‘triggered’) to one of emotional resilience
- Empathy – tapping into the human power of empathy to build bridges of understanding, kindness to enlarge the ‘circle of we’
- Self-education – actively seeking out stories, data and facts directly, blasting out of well-worn assumptions or reliance on ‘conventional wisdom’ from the dominant culture
- Relationship – actively enlarging that circle, personally and professionally
- Conflict skills – developing our skills, comfort and ease with conflict – an inevitable by-product of working across difference – so that we can lean in rather than contract or withdraw
Master these skills – and be a brilliant, compassionate and effective leader in any field – a leader that can help unleash the massive collective power and wisdom of diverse teams, organizations and communities.
‘Deep Diversity” is available at most bookstores, through the publisher, or via Amazon.
The most effective leaders and healthiest organizational systems work skillfully and mindfully with the ever-present dynamics around power, rank and privilege. To help us all on the journey, the team at Racial Equity Tools has just released another wave of outstanding resources, this time from a growing body of work around implicit bias. As they describe it:
Implicit bias is a concept based on an emerging body of cognitive and neural research. It identifies ways in which unconscious patterns people inevitably develop in their brains to organize information actually “affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves.”
The research confirms what many have known or suspected – that years of exposure to structural and cultural racialization and privilege have embedded stereotypes and biases in our individual psyches and the broader culture. And because of the link among cultural stereotypes and narratives, and systemic policies, practices and behaviors, implicit bias is one part of the system of inequity that serves to justify inequitable polices, practices and behaviors – part of the complex cycle people are trying to disrupt.
Current research on implicit bias offers at least two pieces of good news. One is that individual neural associations can be changed through specific practices (debiasing). And, if those biases can be changed at the individual level, by definition they can be changed at the societal level given sufficient will and investment. Work around debiasing can contribute to slowing down or stopping a rapid, almost automatic response, including in very stressful situations. For those reasons, some practitioners are embedding work on implicit bias in training with law enforcement, teachers, health care providers and juries. Early evidence indicates doing that can spark behavioral change, a very positive result. The other is that making people aware of the concept of implicit bias seems to open them up to discussions about structural racialization and privilege in new ways. This seems to be a particularly useful way of engaging with people reluctant to participate in those discussions.
This is a powerful training and community… 5 days that can change your life.