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It's Fall in Tasmania

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

The globe is a fascinating thing. Consider the International Date Line, which makes it possible to fly over the Pacific Ocean from Tokyo to Los Angeles and arrive before you left (that's really something they should mention on the in-flight safety card).Consider also the "joy" of time zones which invisibly yet powerfully affect our energy and equilibrium. Finally, there's the equator. Right now it's the beginning of spring in North America. Flowers are budding, people are putting heavy coats into storage and summer is on the way. But south of the equator, the seasons flip-flop like a senator running for re-election. In the Southern Hemisphere, it's fall. In Sydney and Santiago, leaves are turning and the weather is getting cooler. My point? No matter how things are going for you, they're not the same for everyone. It's easy to sequester ourselves in our own little world of timelines and goals and forget that just across the hall, the season might be completely different. And this doesn't just apply between teams but within them: the leader's weather might be balmy June while two or three key people are buried in January blizzards due to family troubles, medical issues or just plain burnout. With awareness, we can act with empathy and wisdom. We don't assume that the solutions to our problems are the solutions to everybody's problems. What season is it in your organization?

The globe is a fascinating thing. Consider the International Date Line, which makes it possible to fly over the Pacific Ocean from Tokyo to Los Angeles and arrive before you left (that's really something they should mention on the in-flight safety card).Consider also the "joy" of time zones which invisibly yet powerfully affect our energy and equilibrium.

Finally, there's the equator. Right now it's the beginning of spring in North America. Flowers are budding, people are putting heavy coats into storage and summer is on the way. But south of the equator, the seasons flip-flop like a senator running for re-election. In the Southern Hemisphere, it's fall. In Sydney and Santiago, leaves are turning and the weather is getting cooler.

My point? No matter how things are going for you, they're not the same for everyone. It's easy to sequester ourselves in our own little world of timelines and goals and forget that just across the hall, the season might be completely different. And this doesn't just apply between teams but within them: the leader's weather might be balmy June while two or three key people are buried in January blizzards due to family troubles, medical issues or just plain burnout.

With awareness, we can act with empathy and wisdom. We don't assume that the solutions to our problems are the solutions to everybody's problems.

What season is it in your organization?

3.25.13 0
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Gerrymandering Your Organization

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

It's no secret that Congress is dysfunctional. Its futility is a product of the polarization that comes from tampering with population center boundaries of to create favorable voter rolls-a process known as "gerrymandering." When you gerrymander a political district to populate it with more Republicans or Democrats, you're stocking it with folks who agree with you. That's great if you're trying to win an election. But it's terrible if you're starved for the kinds of honest, intelligent, dissenting views that expand perspective and increase wisdom. We gerrymander our organizations, too. I've seen companies stacked with people who laugh at the leaders' jokes and tell them only what they want to hear. Those are diseased organizations. Gerrymandering snuffs out candor, rigorous discourse and tough scrutiny of new ideas. If "steel sharpens steel," then visionary leaders should be seeking out people of robust intellects and varied backgrounds who disagree with them. The resulting metal-on-metal clashes will produce not only sparks, but light. Is your organization gerrymandered? What is the impact?

It's no secret that Congress is dysfunctional. Its futility is a product of the polarization that comes from tampering with population center boundaries of to create favorable voter rolls-a process known as "gerrymandering."

When you gerrymander a political district to populate it with more Republicans or Democrats, you're stocking it with folks who agree with you. That's great if you're trying to win an election. But it's terrible if you're starved for the kinds of honest, intelligent, dissenting views that expand perspective and increase wisdom.

We gerrymander our organizations, too. I've seen companies stacked with people who laugh at the leaders' jokes and tell them only what they want to hear. Those are diseased organizations. Gerrymandering snuffs out candor, rigorous discourse and tough scrutiny of new ideas.

If "steel sharpens steel," then visionary leaders should be seeking out people of robust intellects and varied backgrounds who disagree with them. The resulting metal-on-metal clashes will produce not only sparks, but light.

Is your organization gerrymandered? What is the impact?

3.11.13 0
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The Power of Distraction

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

In business, we treasure the stereotype of the grinder, the guy (or gal) who puts in the 14-hour days to get the job done. That's virtuous, we say. Sitting at your desk, mainlining coffee and not going home until the job is done is supposedly what makes millionaires and geniuses. People who can't stomach that sort of work style are labeled slackers or ADHD cases. But what if the slackers were actually the geniuses? New research from Florida State University reveals that people are actually at their most productive when they work in 90-minute intervals, take breaks, and typically work about four-and-a-half hours a day. That's heresy to your typical "push ?em until they break" CEO, but who cares if it gets results? Part of wisdom is embracing what produces the greatest sustainable performance, whether or not it feels like something they would teach at the Wharton School. Maybe it's time we started encouraging "creative distraction" instead of "creative destruction." Encouraging people to work in the way that best suits their mind and temperament appears to work wonders. What value are you putting on rest and restoration?

In business, we treasure the stereotype of the grinder, the guy (or gal) who puts in the 14-hour days to get the job done. That's virtuous, we say. Sitting at your desk, mainlining coffee and not going home until the job is done is supposedly what makes millionaires and geniuses. People who can't stomach that sort of work style are labeled slackers or ADHD cases.

But what if the slackers were actually the geniuses?

New research from Florida State University reveals that people are actually at their most productive when they work in 90-minute intervals, take breaks, and typically work about four-and-a-half hours a day. That's heresy to your typical "push ‘em until they break" CEO, but who cares if it gets results? Part of wisdom is embracing what produces the greatest sustainable performance, whether or not it feels like something they would teach at the Wharton School.

Maybe it's time we started encouraging "creative distraction" instead of "creative destruction." Encouraging people to work in the way that best suits their mind and temperament appears to work wonders.

What value are you putting on rest and restoration?

2.25.13 0
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Are We Rewarding Behavior That's Damaging Teams?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

In my next book, one of the things I'll be discussing is the idea that our traditional metrics of team success are outdated and even ignorant of the realities of how people function within the structure that we call a team. For example, in the team context we tend to reward extreme behavior: working endless hours, pushing people to meet near-impossible deadlines, and demanding that sales and productivity figures forever scale upward. More often than not, the people who get the bonuses and promotions are those drive teams to meet unsustainable performance goals, exhausting and alienating team members and denying an essential truth: The performance of our organizations, our teams and ourselves naturally rises and falls over time, no matter how hard we work to change that dynamic. If our goal is to create thriving organizations that operate according to principles of wisdom, we must redefine what we mean by sustainability. Is it the endless, punishing push to sell more and beat the other guy? Or is it a holistic process that rewards sustainable behaviors and values humor, rest, play and wisdom as much as drive, endurance and ruthlessness? Which behaviors are being rewarded by your organization?

In my next book, one of the things I'll be discussing is the idea that our traditional metrics of team success are outdated and even ignorant of the realities of how people function within the structure that we call a team.

For example, in the team context we tend to reward extreme behavior: working endless hours, pushing people to meet near-impossible deadlines, and demanding that sales and productivity figures forever scale upward. More often than not, the people who get the bonuses and promotions are those drive teams to meet unsustainable performance goals, exhausting and alienating team members and denying an essential truth:

The performance of our organizations, our teams and ourselves naturally rises
and falls over time, no matter how hard we work to change that dynamic.

If our goal is to create thriving organizations that operate according to principles of wisdom, we must redefine what we mean by sustainability. Is it the endless, punishing push to sell more and beat the other guy? Or is it a holistic process that rewards sustainable behaviors and values humor, rest, play and wisdom as much as drive, endurance and ruthlessness?

Which behaviors are being rewarded by your organization?

2.18.13 0
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We Hold These Things to be Self-Evident

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, History, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

This week, the story dominating the news here in Southern California is a dreadful one: a rogue ex-LAPD officer on a deadly vendetta against his former law enforcement colleagues. His ongoing tale got me thinking about the unspoken assumptions we all make about one another. For example, in the case of the fraternity of peace officers to which this deranged, violent individual once belonged, the unspoken, self-evident truth has always been, "We have each other's backs." That's why it's so shocking and terrifying when a cop turns against his own: it makes that assumed, reassuring truth out to be a lie. That's also why I think creating an environment that nurtures wisdom includes creating a safe space where unspoken assumptions can be expressed and confirmed...or contradicted. There are unspoken assumptions running through all our lives. We assume that our spouses are faithful, our teachers noble, our doctors dedicated and our public servants ethical. Allowing such assumed truths to go unquestioned might seem like an act of trust, but in reality we can set ourselves up for brutal wake-up calls when people fail to uphold the standards we've set for them-as human beings often do. The result is a cynicism that corrodes trust. I believe that it is far better for an organization to encourage its people to examine the truths they hold dear, even if the result is that some of those assumptions are discarded. Uncomfortable truths are better than reassuring myths. What unspoken assumptions can be found in your organization?

This week, the story dominating the news here in Southern California is a dreadful one: a rogue ex-LAPD officer on a deadly vendetta against his former law enforcement colleagues. His ongoing tale got me thinking about the unspoken assumptions we all make about one another.

For example, in the case of the fraternity of peace officers to which this deranged, violent individual once belonged, the unspoken, self-evident truth has always been, "We have each other's backs." That's why it's so shocking and terrifying when a cop turns against his own: it makes that assumed, reassuring truth out to be a lie. That's also why I think creating an environment that nurtures wisdom includes creating a safe space where unspoken assumptions can be expressed and confirmed...or contradicted.

There are unspoken assumptions running through all our lives. We assume that our spouses are faithful, our teachers noble, our doctors dedicated and our public servants ethical. Allowing such assumed truths to go unquestioned might seem like an act of trust, but in reality we can set ourselves up for brutal wake-up calls when people fail to uphold the standards we've set for them-as human beings often do. The result is a cynicism that corrodes trust.

I believe that it is far better for an organization to encourage its people to examine the truths they hold dear, even if the result is that some of those assumptions are discarded. Uncomfortable truths are better than reassuring myths.

What unspoken assumptions can be found in your organization?

2.11.13 0
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Fifty Shades of Gray

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

There are many sides to every issue. Said differently, reality comes in at least 50 shades of gray. Our views are colored by our experiences, morality and sense of ethics, and differ from those of others. Understanding this is a fundamental tenet of wisdom. Understanding this allows us to respect nuanced arguments and take diverse points of view into account before making decisions. Unfortunately, some in our culture approach discourse as extremists. Extremists see all things in black and white. Either you are with them or against them. If you don't love President Obama, you're a right-wing redneck. If you support gun control, you hate the Constitution. Extremist thinking breeds hardened fanatics who can't and won't compromise. We see its effects daily in the Middle East and in the U.S. Congress, but it's also a common phenomenon in organizations. When a leader's strongly held position is challenged by contradictory evidence or opposing preferences, the result can be anger, punitive action or chaos. Here's why. Extreme views are often camouflage for strong emotions, including (and especially) fear. An effective leader welcomes multiple points of view on a topic not only because s/he's not threatened by them but because s/he may actually be empowered by them. Conversely, extremists' deepest fear is that not only are their beliefs might be wrong, but that their very sense of self-worth is diminished if they are. They cloak that insecurity behind often boisterous irrationality and anger. One path toward cultivating wisdom is recognizing when your anger is a primitive reaction to one of your beliefs being questioned. A wise leader is constantly questioning his/her own views and inviting others to challenge them as well. Unlike the loud voice, it's the true sign of strength. I'm guessing you're up to the challenge. What are you doing to create an environment where all beliefs are openly, respectfully questioned?

There are many sides to every issue. Said differently, reality comes in at least 50 shades of gray. Our views are colored by our experiences, morality and sense of ethics, and differ from those of others. Understanding this is a fundamental tenet of wisdom. Understanding this allows us to respect nuanced arguments and take diverse points of view into account before making decisions.

Unfortunately, some in our culture approach discourse as extremists. Extremists see all things in black and white. Either you are with them or against them. If you don't love President Obama, you're a right-wing redneck. If you support gun control, you hate the Constitution.

Extremist thinking breeds hardened fanatics who can't and won't compromise. We see its effects daily in the Middle East and in the U.S. Congress, but it's also a common phenomenon in organizations. When a leader's strongly held position is challenged by contradictory evidence or opposing preferences, the result can be anger, punitive action or chaos.

Here's why. Extreme views are often camouflage for strong emotions, including (and especially) fear. An effective leader welcomes multiple points of view on a topic not only because s/he's not threatened by them but because s/he may actually be empowered by them. Conversely, extremists' deepest fear is that not only are their beliefs might be wrong, but that their very sense of self-worth is diminished if they are. They cloak that insecurity behind often boisterous irrationality and anger.

One path toward cultivating wisdom is recognizing when your anger is a primitive reaction to one of your beliefs being questioned. A wise leader is constantly questioning his/her own views and inviting others to challenge them as well. Unlike the loud voice, it's the true sign of strength. I'm guessing you're up to the challenge.

What are you doing to create an environment where all beliefs are openly, respectfully questioned?

1.28.13 0
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Teams of Leaders, Leaders of Teams

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Leading others powerfully isn't a solo sport. I know. There's a lot of hyperbole (e.g., exaggeration) attached to leadership conversations that state otherwise. In fact, there's about a half century devoted to extoling the "great man" myth; that is, that leadership is a heroic endeavor successfully journeyed by only the strong, intelligent, confident, handsome. The reality is that in today's complex world, few accomplishments are made outside a collective effort. Even Michelangelo, commonly credited with being the solo genius behind the painting of the Sistine Chapel, employed a team of 300 talented artists to create virtually every image seen today. It seems only natural then that the focus for future Weekly Wisdoms, while still emphasizing thoughts of mindfulness, presence, wisdom and life, expand to include considerations of collective efforts - of teams and groups. After all, a leadership team is often a team of leaders, rife with egos and power and strong opinions. How does that work best? My partner, Matt Brubaker, and I are writing a new book that I believe will transform how organizations perceive team performance and their growth dynamics. In the coming weeks, we'll share some of our most provocative ideas. Even Michelangelo needed to engage a collective effort. How does your personal "genius" impact your ability to team with others?

Leading others powerfully isn't a solo sport.

I know. There's a lot of hyperbole (e.g., exaggeration) attached to leadership conversations that state otherwise. In fact, there's about a half century devoted to extoling the "great man" myth; that is, that leadership is a heroic endeavor successfully journeyed by only the strong, intelligent, confident, handsome.

The reality is that in today's complex world, few accomplishments are made outside a collective effort. Even Michelangelo, commonly credited with being the solo genius behind the painting of the Sistine Chapel, employed a team of 300 talented artists to create virtually every image seen today.

It seems only natural then that the focus for future Weekly Wisdoms, while still emphasizing thoughts of mindfulness, presence, wisdom and life, expand to include considerations of collective efforts - of teams and groups. After all, a leadership team is often a team of leaders, rife with egos and power and strong opinions. How does that work best?

My partner, Matt Brubaker, and I are writing a new book that I believe will transform how organizations perceive team performance and their growth dynamics. In the coming weeks, we'll share some of our most provocative ideas.

Even Michelangelo needed to engage a collective effort. How does your personal "genius" impact your ability to team with others?

1.7.13 0
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Rising Above it All

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Q: What hopes for the future will give your team lift over the obstacles of the present? Looking out of an airplane window is a remarkable way to see the world. That lofty vantage allows us to gain a different perspective. Just as an airplane lifts us to a different vantage point, leaders can provide a measure of lift for others to see things differently too. It's easy to allow obstacles in the present - a tough meeting, a tense relationship, wanting to take back something said in anger - to actually become an obstacle to seeing our way to the future. Being confronted by obstacles, both real and perceived, is pretty much the daily reality of most. Lift, the act of increasing airflow over a curved wing, calls leaders to keep minds and hearts, yours and theirs, focused on possibilities for the future - not just staring at obstacles in our paths.
Q: What hopes for the future will give your team lift over the obstacles of the present?

Looking out of an airplane window is a remarkable way to see the world.  That lofty vantage allows us to gain a different perspective.
 
Just as an airplane lifts us to a different vantage point, leaders can provide a measure of lift for others to see things differently too.  It's easy to allow obstacles in the present - a tough meeting, a tense relationship, wanting to take back something said in anger - to actually become an obstacle to seeing our way to the future.  Being confronted by obstacles, both real and perceived, is pretty much the daily reality of most.

Lift, the act of increasing airflow over a curved wing, calls leaders to keep minds and hearts, yours and theirs, focused on possibilities for the future - not just staring at obstacles in our paths.  

5.21.12 0
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Showing up Receptively

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Education, History, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Q: Where would you go if your world were bigger? Years ago a small group of designers and engineers thought everyone should have their own loom to make their own fabric. Most of their colleagues insisted that even if they could make it, nobody would want one. Looms are machines for big business, not individuals. Nevertheless, this small affiliation of creators kept making prototypes until people started actually buying them. Eventually most of America had one. Of course, all this is true except for the loom part. Instead of the loom the personal computer is the real invention. But, the struggle was the same, and the critics weren't wrong. There was no market for a home-based computer. Gates, Jobs, and others who created the personal computer market had what we call a Receptive Worldview. Where most saw no market they saw opportunity; where most saw walls they saw break through. Having a Receptive Worldview means releasing your judgments and limits on situations and people. It feels risky, but with out it we may never really break though.
Q: Where would you go if your world were bigger?

Years ago a small group of designers and engineers thought everyone should have their own loom to make their own fabric.

Most of their colleagues insisted that even if they could make it, nobody would want one.  Looms are machines for big business, not individuals.  Nevertheless, this small affiliation of creators kept making prototypes until people started actually buying them.  Eventually most of America had one.

Of course, all this is true except for the loom part. Instead of the loom the personal computer is the real invention.  But, the struggle was the same, and the critics weren't wrong.  There was no market for a home-based computer.

Gates, Jobs, and others who created the personal computer market had what we call a Receptive Worldview.  Where most saw no market they saw opportunity; where most saw walls they saw break through.

Having a Receptive Worldview means releasing your judgments and limits on situations and people.  It feels risky, but without it we may never really break though.

 

4.9.12 0
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The Act of Being: Mindful Presence

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Q: What could change if you broke free of your thin ropes? In the old days of the circus, trainers had a way of conditioning elephants to stay put that involved nothing more than a thin rope. A rope tied to nothing. When the elephants were babies, their trainers would tie one of their legs to a heavy post. Being so small this worked to keep them in place. Eventually, the elephants became conditioned to knowing they could not move with the rope around their leg. As the elephants grew, their conditioning remained. With a rope around their leg the elephants thought they were immobilized, even if they were tied to nothing. These powerful animals no longer had a mindful presence of their true strength and freedom. As people, we often fall into similar conditioning. We react and limit ourselves out of fear, resignation, habit, and close-mindedness. However, if we create an accurate awareness about our true situation, we may find that we're not tethered to those limits. Simply being mindfully present will help us break through.
Q: What could change if you broke free of your thin ropes?

In the old days of the circus, trainers had a way of conditioning elephants to stay put that involved nothing more than a thin rope. A rope tied to nothing.

When the elephants were babies, their trainers would tie one of their legs to a heavy post. Being so small this worked to keep them in place. Eventually, the elephants became conditioned to knowing they could not move with the rope around their leg.

As the elephants grew, their conditioning remained. With a rope around their leg the elephants thought they were immobilized, even if they were tied to nothing. These powerful animals no longer had a mindful presence of their true strength and freedom.

As people, we often fall into similar conditioning. We react and limit ourselves out of fear, resignation, habit, and close-mindedness. However, if we create an accurate awareness about our true situation, we may find that we're not tethered to those limits. Simply being mindfully present will help us break through.

3.26.12 0
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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