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Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

In the late ?50's, folk legend Pete Seeger penned an important song of purpose and renewal based on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, called "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season)". The song's popularity skyrocketed in 1965 when the version covered by The Byrds went to #1 on the charts. If you are of a certain age, I'll bet even this reminder of the song brings a smile to your face. It does mine. It's an important message, rooted in the deepest wisdom from nature, reminding us that every act, and every season can, and does serve a valuable and needed purpose. Allow yourself a moment of grace from your multi-tasked life and consider wisdom from the seasons: ∑ Spring-the season of possibility, creativity and hope; a time of renewed energy, to draw on the lessons and resources from the previous year to plant new ideas. ∑ Summer-the season of growth in a fertile environment; the time for aggressive initiatives and energies. ∑ Autumn-the season of quiet and reflection, whose gift is to allow us to look at our choices and be open to learning in a way that will show up in our actions of subsequent Springs and Summers. ∑ Winter-the season of rest, renewal and recovery; the time of healing, restoration and deepening our roots in that which sustains us. "To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven." Do you give yourself, and those around you, the important gift of the wisdom of the seasons?

In the late ‘50's, folk legend Pete Seeger penned an important song of purpose and renewal based on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, called "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season)". The song's popularity skyrocketed in 1965 when the version covered by The Byrds went to #1 on the charts. If you are of a certain age, I'll bet even this reminder of the song brings a smile to your face. It does mine.

It's an important message, rooted in the deepest wisdom from nature, reminding us that every act, and every season can, and does serve a valuable and needed purpose.

Allow yourself a moment of grace from your multi-tasked life and consider wisdom from the seasons:

· Spring-the season of possibility, creativity and hope; a time of renewed energy, to draw on the lessons and resources from the previous year to plant new ideas.

· Summer-the season of growth in a fertile environment; the time for aggressive initiatives and energies.

· Autumn-the season of quiet and reflection, whose gift is to allow us to look at our choices and be open to learning in a way that will show up in our actions of subsequent Springs and Summers.

· Winter-the season of rest, renewal and recovery; the time of healing, restoration and deepening our roots in that which sustains us.

"To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven." Do you give yourself, and those around you, the important gift of the wisdom of the seasons?

7.15.14 0
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Cosmos and the Forgotten Power of Wonder

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

Were you one of the millions dazzled by the original Cosmos? Back in 1980, the late, great Carl Sagan took us on a journey through space and time, black holes and molecules. Recently, a marvelous reboot of Cosmos, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, reintroduced a new generation to the wonders of science, the universe...and wonder. Wonder. Awe. They're among the most primal, elevating human emotions. When we're kids, we have them in spades. We're easily stopped short by everything from a bloom of Fourth of July fireworks to a firefly in a jar. It's easy to take our breath away and make us stop and ask: Why? How? What if? School, adulthood and responsibility replace our wonder with a seen-it-all cynicism. Worse, in the Age of the Internet we think we really have seen it all. That does more than rob us of the capacity to be amazed and overjoyed by the humble. It shuts off our ability to live in the moment and to see the people around us in all their glory. Each of us is a form of magic. If we want to inspire each other to dream and create, perhaps part of our organizational strategy should be rekindling wonder. Go and binge-watch the new Cosmos on NetFlix. Better yet, go outside on a clear, moonless night and look at the stars. Really look. Be present, like a child. Ask "Why?" I think you'll find that wonder is still there, just beneath the surface, waiting to awaken. How do you cultivate wonder for your people?

Were you one of the millions dazzled by the original Cosmos? Back in 1980, the late, great Carl Sagan took us on a journey through space and time, black holes and molecules. Recently, a marvelous reboot of Cosmos, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, reintroduced a new generation to the wonders of science, the universe...and wonder.

Wonder. Awe. They're among the most primal, elevating human emotions. When we're kids, we have them in spades. We're easily stopped short by everything from a bloom of Fourth of July fireworks to a firefly in a jar. It's easy to take our breath away and make us stop and ask: Why? How? What if?

School, adulthood and responsibility replace our wonder with a seen-it-all cynicism. Worse, in the Age of the Internet we think we really have seen it all. That does more than rob us of the capacity to be amazed and overjoyed by the humble. It shuts off our ability to live in the moment and to see the people around us in all their glory. Each of us is a form of magic. If we want to inspire each other to dream and create, perhaps part of our organizational strategy should be rekindling wonder.

Go and binge-watch the new Cosmos on NetFlix. Better yet, go outside on a clear, moonless night and look at the stars. Really look. Be present, like a child. Ask "Why?" I think you'll find that wonder is still there, just beneath the surface, waiting to awaken.

How do you cultivate wonder for your people?

7.7.14 0
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June 28th, 1914

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

This year, Americans will commemorate the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which sent much of the world into World War I. I'm not going to explore the geopolitical consequences of the Great War. Instead, I'll address the nature of conflict. One of the myths about the assassination is that it was the cause of the war. It wasn't. It was merely the match that lit the bonfire. Tensions between the Kaiser's Germany and the rest of Europe had been high since the turn of the century, with both sides jockeying for position and allies. The overt conflict may have kicked off in 1914, but the covert conflict simmered under the surface for years. Conflict between individuals, teams and departments is the same way. It can bubble quietly, unseen, for a long while before it breaks out in the form of heated argument or angry ultimatum. But all the while, it breeds resentments, robs us of our ability to be present, and blocks our streams. Conflict in an organization is nothing to fear; disagreement can be a source of vibrant, sustainable energy and air-clearing communication that shakes us free of complacency. But only when it's addressed and properly harnessed before it turns into war. In your organization, is conflict a source of tension or positive change?

This year, Americans will commemorate the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which sent much of the world into World War I. I'm not going to explore the geopolitical consequences of the Great War. Instead, I'll address the nature of conflict.

One of the myths about the assassination is that it was the cause of the war. It wasn't. It was merely the match that lit the bonfire. Tensions between the Kaiser's Germany and the rest of Europe had been high since the turn of the century, with both sides jockeying for position and allies. The overt conflict may have kicked off in 1914, but the covert conflict simmered under the surface for years.

Conflict between individuals, teams and departments is the same way. It can bubble quietly, unseen, for a long while before it breaks out in the form of heated argument or angry ultimatum. But all the while, it breeds resentments, robs us of our ability to be present, and blocks our streams. Conflict in an organization is nothing to fear; disagreement can be a source of vibrant, sustainable energy and air-clearing communication that shakes us free of complacency. But only when it's addressed and properly harnessed before it turns into war.

In your organization, is conflict a source of tension or positive change?

6.23.14 0
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Hallmark Holidays

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

I simply couldn't resist this topic. Maybe not for the reason you think. Sunday was another of the "Hallmark Holidays," a contrived time of reflection and acknowledgement of a loved one. The origin of this slang term derived from a clever marketing tactic perfected by the greeting card company, Hallmark Cards, whose sole purpose was to (wait for it)... sell more cards. I'll admit to minor cynicism, in times past, over such contrivances. Don't get me wrong - I love acknowledgements as much as the next person. My distrust and dislike stemmed from the fact that Hallmark was agnostic as to what the day was and who it was calling out - mother, father, co-worker, babysitter. They simply wanted to sell more cards. So, they invented days, provoking my ire. This year, however, I've taken a different stance. This past weekend, as I read at the countless, heartfelt acknowledgements of fathers on Facebook, staring at dated and cherished Kodak photos, I started to view each one as a prayer, rather than a boast; a moment of presence in a world so void of presence. Each post became a chance, for that fleeting moment to pause, reflect, honor, feel something. Those are good things, things I say I like, so why would I feel otherwise? Like the daily childhood ritual of reciting, often sleepily, the Pledge of Allegiance or the Buddhist cymbal that lightly rings us into presence, perhaps the occurrence of these invented days is a simple, gentle reminder of the value of reflection and acknowledgement. I'd like to take it one step further. Why not every day? Do you recall the concept of "un-birthdays" from Lewis Carroll's classic "Through the Looking-Glass?" It's like that; every day not our birthday is cause for celebration. While we have Father's Day once each year, every day is an un-Father's Day (on un-Mother's Day, or...) and still a cause for honoring and acknowledging important people in our lives. What would a daily ritual of reflection and celebration make possible in your life?

I simply couldn't resist this topic. Maybe not for the reason you think.

Sunday was another of the "Hallmark Holidays," a contrived time of reflection and acknowledgement of a loved one. The origin of this slang term derived from a clever marketing tactic perfected by the greeting card company, Hallmark Cards, whose sole purpose was to (wait for it)... sell more cards.

I'll admit to minor cynicism, in times past, over such contrivances. Don't get me wrong - I love acknowledgements as much as the next person. My distrust and dislike stemmed from the fact that Hallmark was agnostic as to what the day was and who it was calling out - mother, father, co-worker, babysitter. They simply wanted to sell more cards. So, they invented days, provoking my ire.

This year, however, I've taken a different stance.

This past weekend, as I read at the countless, heartfelt acknowledgements of fathers on Facebook, staring at dated and cherished Kodak photos, I started to view each one as a prayer, rather than a boast; a moment of presence in a world so void of presence. Each post became a chance, for that fleeting moment to pause, reflect, honor, feel something. Those are good things, things I say I like, so why would I feel otherwise?

Like the daily childhood ritual of reciting, often sleepily, the Pledge of Allegiance or the Buddhist cymbal that lightly rings us into presence, perhaps the occurrence of these invented days is a simple, gentle reminder of the value of reflection and acknowledgement. I'd like to take it one step further. Why not every day? Do you recall the concept of "un-birthdays" from Lewis Carroll's classic "Through the Looking-Glass?" It's like that; every day not our birthday is cause for celebration. While we have Father's Day once each year, every day is an un-Father's Day (on un-Mother's Day, or...) and still a cause for honoring and acknowledging important people in our lives.

What would a daily ritual of reflection and celebration make possible in your life?

6.17.14 0
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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
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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 0
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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
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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 blasť 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, blasť, 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
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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
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Without Vision, The People Perish

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

On this President's Day, I leave it to you to debate the wisdom of commemorating mediocrities like Millard Fillmore and Chester A. Arthur. While some media outlets have chosen to use this day to present their lists of the worst U.S. presidents, I'd like to spend our few minutes together discussing what made our best presidents great. I'm talking about vision. Most people use the word without a clear idea of its meaning. Vision is a concept of a future that not only does not exist but is unlikely ever to exist; it's seeing something that 99 percent of people are literally unable to imagine. Jefferson had a vision of a nation built around the consent of the people, an idea that no other nation had embraced to that point. Lincoln had a vision of a union that remained united despite the fierce desire of part of that nation to break away. Kennedy had a vision of man walking on the moon, something that even most engineers thought was impossible. The power of vision is that it stirs the heart and fires the passions; people may disagree with your vision and even think it's madness, but they won't remain neutral about it. Expressing a bold vision for the future can spark debate and argument that in turn generate new ideas -new visions- that unite teams, organizations and even countries. What's your vision for yourself, your team and your organization? What future can you see that might seem impossible today?

On this President's Day, I leave it to you to debate the wisdom of commemorating mediocrities like Millard Fillmore and Chester A. Arthur. While some media outlets have chosen to use this day to present their lists of the worst U.S. presidents, I'd like to spend our few minutes together discussing what made our best presidents great. I'm talking about vision.

 Most people use the word without a clear idea of its meaning. Vision is a concept of a future that not only does not exist but is unlikely ever to exist; it's seeing something that 99 percent of people are literally unable to imagine. Jefferson had a vision of a nation built around the consent of the people, an idea that no other nation had embraced to that point. Lincoln had a vision of a union that remained united despite the fierce desire of part of that nation to break away. Kennedy had a vision of man walking on the moon, something that even most engineers thought was impossible.

The power of vision is that it stirs the heart and fires the passions; people may disagree with your vision and even think it's madness, but they won't remain neutral about it. Expressing a bold vision for the future can spark debate and argument that in turn generate new ideas -new visions- that unite teams, organizations and even countries.

What's your vision for yourself, your team and your organization? What future can you see that might seem impossible today?

2.17.14 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