WISDOM LEADING: The Conversation

Weekly Wisdoms Blog

Patience in the Midst of Storms

Dr. Foster Mobley // Wisdom Leading

Author E'yen A. Gardner has written, "Patience is produced in the midst of storms; it blossoms under the intense pressures of the storms." If true, what determines those who thrive and those who squander these teachable moments? Think carefully about your most recent "storm." Ours? A Mother's Day surprise that abruptly forced my youngest daughter to deal with the loss of a college student's most-valued belongings - computer, iPad, backpack and wallet containing all forms of identification, cash and credit cards. This storm immediately jolted all of us into "awakeness" (as in "I'm here, pay attention to me NOW") and drove my wife and daughter to the phones to cancel credit cards, review bogus charges and work with police. I tell this story for two reasons: first, to acknowledge my daughter and wife for how they handled themselves throughout this storm; and second, to share an observation about their patience in handling it. Despite the frustrations of the moment, neither allowed their emotions to be hijacked. While frustrated and angry, they patiently handled those things in their control and didn't waste effort, or worry, or tears over those thing outside their control. Cliché I know, but the saying goes that while we can't control the direction of the wind, we can adjust the sails. Patience is a learned choice that helps us adjust the sails when the waves are crashing over the boat. It's the ultimate act of wisdom, and is available to us all. While being action-focused is a great attribute of many leaders, so is knowing when to lean in and when to lean back. What's available to you in your life with an extra dose of patience?

Author E'yen A. Gardner has written, "Patience is produced in the midst of storms; it blossoms under the intense pressures of the storms." If true, what determines those who thrive and those who squander these teachable moments?

Think carefully about your most recent "storm." Ours? A Mother's Day surprise that abruptly forced my youngest daughter to deal with the loss of a college student's most-valued belongings - computer, iPad, backpack and wallet containing all forms of identification, cash and credit cards. This storm immediately jolted all of us into "awakeness" (as in "I'm here, pay attention to me NOW") and drove my wife and daughter to the phones to cancel credit cards, review bogus charges and work with police. I tell this story for two reasons: first, to acknowledge my daughter and wife for how they handled themselves throughout this storm; and second, to share an observation about their patience in handling it.

Despite the frustrations of the moment, neither allowed their emotions to be hijacked. While frustrated and angry, they patiently handled those things in their control and didn't waste effort, or worry, or tears over those thing outside their control. Cliché I know, but the saying goes that while we can't control the direction of the wind, we can adjust the sails.

Patience is a learned choice that helps us adjust the sails when the waves are crashing over the boat. It's the ultimate act of wisdom, and is available to us all. While being action-focused is a great attribute of many leaders, so is knowing when to lean in and when to lean back.

What's available to you in your life with an extra dose of patience?

5.12.14 0
Comments

Action Blindness

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

When I was much younger, before the advent of cell phones or pagers, I had an experience shared by many at the time - the experience of trying to meet up with family or friends in a crowded place like an airport or amusement park. Looking back, it was epic in its comedy and predictability. Both parties wandered around to where we each guessed the other would be, probably passing each other in the crowd and getting frustrated. It was only when one side stayed put and waited patiently that we all connected with the people we were looking for. Humans don't do patience very well. Leaders certainly don't. We prefer to be assertive, to force the action and make things happen. It's what we are trained to do, in fact. We want our teams to have "first mover advantage." If we can't always be smarter than the competition, we'll at least work harder and often take the first steps. A bias to act is an important part of a leader's tool kit, but it's a bias best tempered with patience. Said another way, assertive action with a purpose is part of effective leading; action for its own sake is foolish. Wise leaders know that sometimes, you simply have to stop walking frantically, sit down, and look for the opportunities in whatever finds you. Are you solely biased to action? What opportunities have you missed by being impatient?

When I was much younger, before the advent of cell phones or pagers, I had an experience shared by many at the time - the experience of trying to meet up with family or friends in a crowded place like an airport or amusement park. Looking back, it was epic in its comedy and predictability. Both parties wandered around to where we each guessed the other would be, probably passing each other in the crowd and getting frustrated. It was only when one side stayed put and waited patiently that we all connected with the people we were looking for.

Humans don't do patience very well. Leaders certainly don't. We prefer to be assertive, to force the action and make things happen. It's what we are trained to do, in fact. We want our teams to have "first mover advantage." If we can't always be smarter than the competition, we'll at least work harder and often take the first steps.

A bias to act is an important part of a leader's tool kit, but it's a bias best tempered with patience. Said another way, assertive action with a purpose is part of effective leading; action for its own sake is foolish. Wise leaders know that sometimes, you simply have to stop walking frantically, sit down, and look for the opportunities in whatever finds you.

Are you solely biased to action? What opportunities have you missed by being impatient?

5.5.14 0
Comments

The Better Angels of Our Nature

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Sports, Wisdom Leading

This weekend, it was revealed that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been taped recently making horrifyingly racist statements to his girlfriend. Let's leave retribution to the National Basketball Association or the fans, because I want to use this opportunity to talk about what may be the leader's greatest responsibility. It's been said that leaders don't get a day off-that we have to show up prepared to lead. What does that really mean? It means that as leaders, it's our duty to demonstrate the qualities of character and behavior that we want our people to aspire to for themselves. We can't just talk about presence, clarity, calm and trust; we have to live them, to embody them every single day. The led always mirror the leader. If we want our people to reach their full potential, our most important task is to reach our full potential and make sure those qualities permeate everything we say and do. That's how we inspire others to bring forth, as Lincoln called them, "the better angels of our nature." Doing that isn't easy. We're not machines. Sometimes we fall short. Sterling fell far short, and showed that while he may be the team's owner, he's not its leader. His disgrace reminds us that money, titles and executive authority have nothing to do with leadership. Character does. How does your behavior, even in quiet moments, reveal your character and commitment to greatness?

This weekend, it was revealed that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been taped recently making horrifyingly racist statements to his girlfriend. Let's leave retribution to the National Basketball Association or the fans, because I want to use this opportunity to talk about what may be the leader's greatest responsibility.

It's been said that leaders don't get a day off-that we have to show up prepared to lead. What does that really mean? It means that as leaders, it's our duty to demonstrate the qualities of character and behavior that we want our people to aspire to for themselves. We can't just talk about presence, clarity, calm and trust; we have to live them, to embody them every single day.

The led always mirror the leader. If we want our people to reach their full potential, our most important task is to reach our full potential and make sure those qualities permeate everything we say and do. That's how we inspire others to bring forth, as Lincoln called them, "the better angels of our nature."

Doing that isn't easy. We're not machines. Sometimes we fall short. Sterling fell far short, and showed that while he may be the team's owner, he's not its leader. His disgrace reminds us that money, titles and executive authority have nothing to do with leadership. Character does.

How does your behavior, even in quiet moments, reveal your character and commitment to greatness? 

4.28.14 1
Comments

What If Inspiring Others is a Fool’s Chore?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Sports, Wisdom Leading

A default value is a setting automatically assigned to a piece of software or electronic device so that, if someone like me makes a dumb choice, it resets to the way it's supposed to work. Sadly, the default value of many leaders dealing with underperformance is a cult-like devotion to the concept of motivation - that is, how do we better motivate others (or inspire, convince, tease out the next level of potential) we believe are capable of more? Want proof? How about the millions of acres of forests stripped of trees to make the countless number of books on the topic, or the tens of thousands of hours of motivational speakers in front of audiences, talking to them about personal power and changing their lives? Virtually no one has been immune. With all that, shouldn't everybody's life be changed by now? Shouldn't we all be leaping tall buildings in a single bound? I'm a sucker for every Rudy movie too, but in my opinion, that "superman" description doesn't explain how most of us behave. Motivation is important, vital in fact. But the prime directive* of human behavior is purpose, not words shouted from the outside of us. Meb Keflexighi, yesterday's winner of the Boston Marathon, didn't need much "pumping up" from a vocal leader. His winning drive came from within himself, from his strong will to win and his passion to honor the victims of the 2013 bombing whose names he had written on his race bib. Each of us has passions and visions and dreams. They may be a little dusty, or small, but they are there. Wise leaders help others reconnect to what's important to them (and possibly forgotten). The "inspirational leader" to me is someone who helps others remove things that are obscuring their own visions and purpose, not someone standing on the outside providing the perfect words to pump them up. What's in your way of full passion and performance? What role can you play in helping others reconnect to theirs? * Prime directive = the most important rule or law, which must be obeyed above all others.

A default value is a setting automatically assigned to a piece of software or electronic device so that, if someone like me makes a dumb choice, it resets to the way it's supposed to work. Sadly, the default value of many leaders dealing with underperformance is a cult-like devotion to the concept of motivation - that is, how do we better motivate others (or inspire, convince, tease out the next level of potential) we believe are capable of more?

Want proof? How about the millions of acres of forests stripped of trees to make the countless number of books on the topic, or the tens of thousands of hours of motivational speakers in front of audiences, talking to them about personal power and changing their lives? Virtually no one has been immune. With all that, shouldn't everybody's life be changed by now? Shouldn't we all be leaping tall buildings in a single bound?

I'm a sucker for every Rudy movie too, but in my opinion, that "superman" description doesn't explain how most of us behave.

Motivation is important, vital in fact. But the prime directive* of human behavior is purpose, not words shouted from the outside of us. Meb Keflexighi, yesterday's winner of the Boston Marathon, didn't need much "pumping up" from a vocal leader. His winning drive came from within himself, from his strong will to win and his passion to honor the victims of the 2013 bombing whose names he had written on his race bib.

Each of us has passions and visions and dreams. They may be a little dusty, or small, but they are there. Wise leaders help others reconnect to what's important to them (and possibly forgotten). The "inspirational leader" to me is someone who helps others remove things that are obscuring their own visions and purpose, not someone standing on the outside providing the perfect words to pump them up.

What's in your way of full passion and performance? What role can you play in helping others reconnect to theirs?

* Prime directive = the most important rule or law, which must be obeyed above all others.

4.22.14 2
Comments

Climbing Trees

Dr. Foster Mobley // Sports, Wisdom Leading

According to that sage source for all things Spring, HGTV, it's now tree climbing season around the country. After a rough winter, the cold weather is finally receding and children are taking to the trees in their backyards, schoolyards and parks. But why do children love to climb trees? Part of it is the daring risk of a fall; the adrenaline of dangling eight feet off the grass, pretending to be a monkey, that gives them a thrill. But it's also the ability to view the world from a different perspective. Children are generally looking up on the adults who rule their world, but in a tree, they become taller. They look down on us, on rooftops, on cars, on everything. Every time you change the point from which you view the world, you change your perspective on what you're seeing. When was the last time you climbed a tree? More to the point, when was the last time you got a radically different perspective on your world? We can all use one from time to time; we're prone to believing that our way of seeing things is the only way. It's not, and standing taller or looking around from a different angle can change everything. If you haven't tried it, try it. Last time you looked at the world from a different point of view, what did you learn?

According to that sage source for all things Spring, HGTV, it's now tree climbing season around the country. After a rough winter, the cold weather is finally receding and children are taking to the trees in their backyards, schoolyards and parks.

But why do children love to climb trees? Part of it is the daring risk of a fall; the adrenaline of dangling eight feet off the grass, pretending to be a monkey, that gives them a thrill. But it's also the ability to view the world from a different perspective. Children are generally looking up on the adults who rule their world, but in a tree, they become taller. They look down on us, on rooftops, on cars, on everything. Every time you change the point from which you view the world, you change your perspective on what you're seeing.

When was the last time you climbed a tree? More to the point, when was the last time you got a radically different perspective on your world? We can all use one from time to time; we're prone to believing that our way of seeing things is the only way. It's not, and standing taller or looking around from a different angle can change everything. If you haven't tried it, try it.

Last time you looked at the world from a different point of view, what did you learn?

4.14.14 0
Comments

How Should a Leader Dance?

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

If you haven't seen him already, Google "Matt Harding dancing." You won't be able to stop smiling. In 2008, Harding became famous for traveling around the world and doing a goofy dance in front of important landmarks in cities from Lima to Lagos. Word got out and hundreds of people started showing up when Harding arrived in their town, so later videos often show him dancing with huge, joyous crowds. It's silly and utterly wonderful. It's also a vivid commentary on leadership styles. As leaders, we're deeply conscious of how we come across to others. Often, we think that being a leader means being Very Serious. Ponderous, even. Certainly, we can't be silly, lighthearted or have fun, right? Right? Matt Harding's example proves that idea to be wrong. His dance is dorky and his grin is awkward, yet his delight is palpable, and that's what draws hundreds and thousands of strangers to dance with him on camera. He proves that being serious, severe or stoic doesn't make a leader more likely to draw followers; inspiring people does. Whether you inspire them with your passion, your sense of humor, your empathy or your ideas, it doesn't matter. The point is, one size does not fit all. As long as you're not afraid to be authentic and honest, you can be a leader. How do you dance and how do your people respond?

If you haven't seen him already, Google "Matt Harding dancing." You won't be able to stop smiling. In 2008, Harding became famous for traveling around the world and doing a goofy dance in front of important landmarks in cities from Lima to Lagos. Word got out and hundreds of people started showing up when Harding arrived in their town, so later videos often show him dancing with huge, joyous crowds. It's silly and utterly wonderful. It's also a vivid commentary on leadership styles.

As leaders, we're deeply conscious of how we come across to others. Often, we think that being a leader means being Very Serious. Ponderous, even. Certainly, we can't be silly, lighthearted or have fun, right? Right?

Matt Harding's example proves that idea to be wrong. His dance is dorky and his grin is awkward, yet his delight is palpable, and that's what draws hundreds and thousands of strangers to dance with him on camera. He proves that being serious, severe or stoic doesn't make a leader more likely to draw followers; inspiring people does. Whether you inspire them with your passion, your sense of humor, your empathy or your ideas, it doesn't matter. The point is, one size does not fit all. As long as you're not afraid to be authentic and honest, you can be a leader.

How do you dance and how do your people respond?

4.8.14 0
Comments

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

Recently, we had an earthquake here in Southern California. Here, that's normally not a big deal. They happen all the time and we become pretty blasé about them. In fact, it's a source of native pride that while visitors dive under tables, lifelong Angelenos take in the shaking, shrug, and start speculating as to the magnitude of the temblor. This last one was a bit different, however. A 5.1 quake based in the small town of La Habra, it lasted for 30 seconds - an eternity by earthquake standards. It did some damage. It shook people - as well as their dishes, pictures, chimneys and gas lines - up a bit. Overall, the damage was minor and there were few injuries. But it reminded me about the topic of complacency, and how easy it is to become complacent over many parts of our lives. We who live in Southern California live atop a web of seismic faults that could rupture at any time, causing a devastating quake. Somehow, most of us have let ourselves become complacent about that. Of course, it's unwise to live in terror of such an unlikely event. But when a quake happens, we often act shocked, like such a thing has no right to happen. How dare the ground do that? Complacency blunts our ability to prepare, both mentally and physically, for what could happen. Since preparation for the unlikely is a crucial aspect of leadership, so is avoiding complacent, blasé, indifferent attitudes toward possible hazards. How can we be ready and vigilant without being anxious and fearful? Where could one more conversation about, or plan to address possible scenarios, free you to be more powerfully present? How are you preparing yourself, and your team for the next "quake"?

Recently, we had an earthquake here in Southern California. Here, that's normally not a big deal. They happen all the time and we become pretty blasé about them. In fact, it's a source of native pride that while visitors dive under tables, lifelong Angelenos take in the shaking, shrug, and start speculating as to the magnitude of the temblor. This last one was a bit different, however. A 5.1 quake based in the small town of La Habra, it lasted for 30 seconds - an eternity by earthquake standards. It did some damage. It shook people - as well as their dishes, pictures, chimneys and gas lines - up a bit.

Overall, the damage was minor and there were few injuries. But it reminded me about the topic of complacency, and how easy it is to become complacent over many parts of our lives. We who live in Southern California live atop a web of seismic faults that could rupture at any time, causing a devastating quake. Somehow, most of us have let ourselves become complacent about that. Of course, it's unwise to live in terror of such an unlikely event. But when a quake happens, we often act shocked, like such a thing has no right to happen. How dare the ground do that?

Complacency blunts our ability to prepare, both mentally and physically, for what could happen. Since preparation for the unlikely is a crucial aspect of leadership, so is avoiding complacent, blasé, indifferent attitudes toward possible hazards. How can we be ready and vigilant without being anxious and fearful? Where could one more conversation about, or plan to address possible scenarios, free you to be more powerfully present?

How are you preparing yourself, and your team for the next "quake"?

3.31.14 0
Comments

Brackets or Possibilities?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Sports, Wisdom Leading

The last soldier has fallen. The last perfect NCAA Men's College Basketball tournament bracket-at least, the last to enter Warren Buffett's contest that offered one billion dollars to anyone who could pick every March Madness winner-went belly-up yesterday when Syracuse lost to Dayton. It's not really a big deal; the odds of having a flawless bracket are, according to Harvard mathematicians, about 9.2 quintillion to one (that's 9.2 followed by eighteen zeros). You have a better chance of winning Powerball six weeks in a row.

What's more interesting is the question of whether or not the NCAA Tournament is more or less enjoyable when we have a vested interest. On one hand, being invested in something makes us pay closer attention to details and outcomes. On the other, it's precisely the possibility of a college like Dayton beating powerhouse Syracuse that makes March Madness so thrilling. The games aren't played on bracket charts, and a top seed guarantees nothing. You've got to go out and put the ball through the hoop.

In our organizations, we're confronted with the same question: how do we balance predictability and control with the potential for exciting surprises? More to the point, how do we, as leaders, keep letting our assumptions about anyone's abilities limit their potential to do great things? Dayton was a number eleven seed; odds makers gave them little chance against Syracuse. But they won. We owe it to our people and ourselves to keep searching for that delicate balance between safe structure and unpredictable possibility that can produce a Cinderella story.

Who in your organization has Cinderella potential?

3.24.14 0
Comments

Catch Me If You Can

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

The 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can" is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars' worth of checks out of people while posing as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and prosecuting attorney. It's an incredibly cinematic, American cowboy story, immortalized in not just a movie, but also in a book and Broadway musical. I believe this story is alluring because it's a chance for us to observe someone clearly pretending he's something he's not. It's callous and gutsy. Who does that? Short answer - we all do. As alluring as it may be to think Frank's behavior is rare, pretense is actually a part of the daily behavior of every one of us. While seldom as overt as Frank, nonetheless we often pretend we're okay when we're not, or fake confidence through a task or situation when we're not feeling it. Pretense is exhausting and it often leaves damage in its wake. It's a house of cards built by the coward in each of us. How much braver it is to own up to our weaknesses, our fears and our shortcomings-to be as human as the people who follow and trust us? Maybe, just maybe, they'll respect us more for admitting that we're just muddling through, trying to figure things out as we go, trying hard to be the best people we can be. Where does your pretense show up? What is it costing you in your relationships?

The 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can" is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars' worth of checks out of people while posing as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and prosecuting attorney. It's an incredibly cinematic, American cowboy story, immortalized in not just a movie, but also in a book and Broadway musical.

I believe this story is alluring because it's a chance for us to observe someone clearly pretending he's something he's not. It's callous and gutsy. Who does that?

Short answer - we all do. As alluring as it may be to think Frank's behavior is rare, pretense is actually a part of the daily behavior of every one of us. While seldom as overt as Frank, nonetheless we often pretend we're okay when we're not, or fake confidence through a task or situation when we're not feeling it.

Pretense is exhausting and it often leaves damage in its wake. It's a house of cards built by the coward in each of us. How much braver it is to own up to our weaknesses, our fears and our shortcomings-to be as human as the people who follow and trust us? Maybe, just maybe, they'll respect us more for admitting that we're just muddling through, trying to figure things out as we go, trying hard to be the best people we can be.

Where does your pretense show up? What is it costing you in your relationships?

3.17.14 0
Comments

The Two-Buck Chuck Problem

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Wisdom Leading

Back in 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted an experiment at the University of Bordeaux. He got 54 oenology (the science of wine) students in a room and had them taste two red wines. One, he told them, was a cheap table wine. The other, he told them, was very expensive. The students described the expensive wine as "complex and rounded" while calling the cheap wine swill. The wine in both bottles was the same cheap wine. So, did the students lie? Not really. Brain scans of wine tasters have shown that the expectation of tasting something exquisite can change how the brain's sensory circuits respond to taste. In other words, expectations can fool us. But I also think that many of the students were exhibiting a natural human need to be part of the elite. Nobody wanted to be the one to say that the cheap wine in the expensive bottle tasted like mouthwash; to do so would mean division from the group. What if nobody else agreed? It was more rewarding to insist, along with everyone else, that this particular emperor was wearing fine robes instead of rags. We're all guilty of pretending to like something that we don't in order to be part of the cool crowd. I can't imagine that everyone who raved about Trader Joe's famous "Two-Buck Chuck" (a $2.99 bottle of Charles Shaw cabernet that became a national bestseller a few years back) actually liked it. But while wine tasting is innocuous, conforming to the masses actually has consequences in a company. Quality can suffer, bad strategies can be enacted, laws can be broken. It seems to me that as leaders, we're charged with creating environments where speaking up, standing out, disagreeing, shouting that the emperor is in the buff, is not only safe but rewarded. I don't know about you, but I'll drink to that idea. Where are your people free to dissent and speak their truth? Where aren't they?

Back in 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted an experiment at the University of Bordeaux. He got 54 oenology (the science of wine) students in a room and had them taste two red wines. One, he told them, was a cheap table wine. The other, he told them, was very expensive. The students described the expensive wine as "complex and rounded" while calling the cheap wine swill.

The wine in both bottles was the same cheap wine.

So, did the students lie? Not really. Brain scans of wine tasters have shown that the expectation of tasting something exquisite can change how the brain's sensory circuits respond to taste. In other words, expectations can fool us. But I also think that many of the students were exhibiting a natural human need to be part of the elite. Nobody wanted to be the one to say that the cheap wine in the expensive bottle tasted like mouthwash; to do so would mean division from the group. What if nobody else agreed? It was more rewarding to insist, along with everyone else, that this particular emperor was wearing fine robes instead of rags.

We're all guilty of pretending to like something that we don't in order to be part of the cool crowd. I can't imagine that everyone who raved about Trader Joe's famous "Two-Buck Chuck" (a $2.99 bottle of Charles Shaw cabernet that became a national bestseller a few years back) actually liked it. But while wine tasting is innocuous, conforming to the masses actually has consequences in a company. Quality can suffer, bad strategies can be enacted, laws can be broken.

It seems to me that as leaders, we're charged with creating environments where speaking up, standing out, disagreeing, shouting that the emperor is in the buff, is not only safe but rewarded. I don't know about you, but I'll drink to that idea.

Where are your people free to dissent and speak their truth? Where aren't they?

3.10.14 1
Comments

Search The Blog

Recent Posts

Summer HiatusSpring, Summer, Fall and WinterCosmos and the Forgotten Power of WonderAmazon’s Fire Phone and the Death of ConnectionJune 28th, 1914

Categories

BusinessEducationHistoryQuotablesSportsWisdom Leading

Archives

August 2014July 2014June 2014May 2014April 2014March 2014February 2014January 2014December 2013November 2013October 2013September 2013August 2013July 2013June 2013May 2013April 2013March 2013February 2013January 2013December 2012November 2012October 2012September 2012August 2012July 2012June 2012May 2012April 2012March 2012February 2012January 2012December 2011November 2011October 2011
Return to Blog
Dr. Foster Mobley Blog RSS Feed
 

Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams