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When Will We Ever Learn?

Stereotypes have a staccato feel to them; short, sharp and often deadly words that leave little room for exploring who or what is underneath. The other day I was researching how the media represents office life. Is it boring and silly? Is it fear driven and illness inducing? Is it a place of creativity and growth?   The usual few books, TV shows and movies kept coming up. Office Space, The Office, Mad Men, Executive Suite, Glengarry Glen Ross, 9 to 5, Gentlemen’s Agreement, Jerry Maguire, Wall Street, The Devil Wears Prada, and a few newer novels, Then We Came to the End, and Personal Days: A Novel.   Missing as I looked over the list, are modern day stories of transformation, of deep personal and organizational growth that could be models from which to learn. We rely on stereotypes to make sense out of the world. Bosses are bullies, techies are nerds, HR is petty, direct reports are demons, and on and on.   We blame, attack and judge. And then how do we change? How do we grow? What focus is important for leadership development? It is so much easier to scapegoat than look at our own behavior and how we are contributing to what is happening. I wish scapegoating really worked. It would make life so much easier.    In Biblical times the high priest would place his hand upon a goat’s head and transfer the sins of the community to the goat, which was then released into the desert where it would inevitably die. Then everyone would go back to business as usual until it...

Exchanging Hot Fudge for Celery

I want to do light hearted blogs that can give inspiration and motivation. Yet, every time I go in that direction something pushes me elsewhere. I want to tell managers that you can build your kick ass team by standing in a huddle and chanting “yes, yes, yes” or “yoh, yoh, yoh”. I want it to be easy and simple. Except I know that we are complex, multi-layered beings and we have many competing sides to ourselves that we need to harness.   I want to tell leaders that all they need to do is get the communications department to write uplifting, visionary speeches they can give at annual meetings or town halls and everyone will fall into line. I want leadership development to be an easy cook book of check lists. I want everyone to always be on the same page, sing from the same hymnal.  Except I know that for every employee who agrees with you there is someone to take the other side.   My grown children often say “Hey, mom, this time can we just be superficial and insignificant”? And much as I want to fulfill their request I end up talking about elephants and gorillas in the middle of the room, any room be it my own, or corporate, or government.   So I was relieved to see that Michael Haneke won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He won for a film, “The White Ribbon” with themes of communal guilt and distrust among residents of a German town as World War I. It is a film I await to see and...

Getting Tired of the Fluff

Yesterday we spent time with friends who have their pulse on the media. They are a gregarious couple with tons of varied interests. They are also filled with depth. At one point our conversation moved to the world of Twitter and collectively we wondered about the purpose of the quick little glances it gives into the lives of others.   Almost in chorus we looked at each other and said “What is the point?” If anyone reading this blog has a good answer we would all love to hear it.   Our discussion continued. And then we went to watch a video of our friend giving the commencement speech at Temple University last week. This very erudite and caring man talked to the graduating students from his heart. He challenged them to stay purposeful during these tough economic times. He guided them to express respect when he asked them to stand and acknowledge their parents and their teachers for helping them to this place of caps and gowns.   He has a strong sense of history and a strong sense of the underlying fact that we are all here to do better, to do our best,  to help each other do better, to help each other do their best.  There were a few times when the gravity of commencing, of beginning the next phase of life made his voice just a bit wobbly.   By the end he called for this graduating class to be life learners, to never stop questioning, never stop searching for the truth. This friend, Tyler Mathisen was the editor of Money Magazine and is...

Remembering on Memorial Day

When Danny stood at the grave site of his brother he was angry and still in shock. Neil had been a victim of a stray bullet. No he was not in uniform fighting for his country. He was a teen walking down the street in Chicago three months ago.   Alexa’s father cannot forgive. His daughter was killed by a drunk driver last year. The ugly crash that took his seven year old child’s life happened over Memorial weekend.   John and Jenny stand together in prayer at church. Her father will not meet his grandson soon to be born. The economic downturn was too much and a suicide note told the story of fear and depression.   Yes, Memorial Day is to remember those who have been our protectors during times of war. Yes, it is so important for us to remember, remember and honor.   It can also be a day for all of us to take a collective moment and honor all the dead that bring gentle tears and deep sighs to each of us. It is a day when we can permit ourselves to touch the emotions so often buried deep inside. Releasing our hidden emotions of grief, anger, and sadness can help us begin to open a place for a more creative expression of our pain.   So let us honor those who have fallen in battle. They deserve our respect. And, we can also remember all others near and dear who are no longer walking with us. One way to make this day special is to do one simple act of kindness. Tell...

Can One Person Make a Difference?

I want to talk more about my friend at Google, Chade-Meng Tan. When we first met and he greeted me with his bright smile I suspected he was certainly intelligent (everyone who works at Google is), and creative (everyone who works at Google is) and action oriented (everyone…you get the point).   What struck me as we spent the afternoon together was his keen sense of humor and his capacity to look beyond the obvious to what really matters in relationships. Here is what I mean.   There is a wall called “Meng’s Wall” in one of the Google buildings. On the wall are pictures of Meng with…Barack Obama, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Tom Brokaw, Madeleine Albright, Robin Williams, Jane Fonda, the Dalai Lama, and on and on.   I was curious. What did it mean to Meng to have his picture with so many dignitaries and celebrities?  I asked him to tell me who impressed him and why. He picked out several and with the swiftness of an expert surgeon went to the core of each person and the contribution they made. He was respectful yet real. He was able to use a few precise sentences to talk about the legacy of the person peering down from that vast wall of photographs. What we do and what we leave behind we agreed, makes each of us vital to the whole of humanity.   At the end of our time together we stood arms linked, smiling into a camera. I’m a bit nervous to ask Meng what he thought of...