Archive for November, 2007

Knights Of The South Bronx

“Knights of the South Bronx” is a transformational story. In every transformational journey there is this first step when someone makes a move. It’s the moment of stepping into the unknown to accept guidance. In the movie Knights of the South Bronx this moment takes place in the park when Jimmie, whose young life is on the precipice, steps up to the chess board to arrange the pieces even though he does not know how to play the game. He is saying: I want to learn, I want to play the game. Will you teach me master?
Here are a few of the inspirational teachings of the movie:
Teaching One: “The world you are ruling is in your head. Everything starts with how you think.”
Teaching Two: “Imagine!”
Teaching Three: “It’s not about what you have. It’s about the game you play.”
Teaching Four: “A loss is nothing but an opportunity – an opportunity to get better and to learn something new.”
Teaching Five: “You are going to have to find your Ninja, your secret worrier, the one that lives inside your heart. You have to look inside you at that thing that scares you, because inside what scares you is what saves you every time. Find it, have it, let it teach you how to play.”
Teaching Six: “When you get angry, people play you out of a position.”
Teaching Seven: “Some days you wake up just knowing something wonderful will happen. Most of the time it doesn’t, but when it does, it does for real.”

© Aviv Shahar

Conversations That Matter: Thanksgiving Message

This was originally published for my 2004 Thanksgiving Message.

Let me share a thanksgiving story with you. Last week I visited the Leadership Class of Woodinville High School. My son Edan participates in the class and his teacher, Mr. Vixie, invited me to conduct a self-leadership workshop with this group of young leaders.
Ecology is always important, so I came early to arrange the chairs in a circle and make the classroom as conducive as possible to our meeting. They walked in one after the other and soon we were ready to begin. “I am not here to teach you, I came here to have a conversation with you,” I began as I addressed these 30 bright young men and women.
“When I was in my senior year, 28 years ago (1976), I felt vibrantly alive. Looking around then I felt scared because of what I saw in the adults around me. I did not want to end up like them. It seemed as if something in them got shut down or dimmed. I felt like that because the really important stuff was not talked about. The big questions, about meaning and inner struggles and transitions of life, were not discussed.
“‘But they must have all felt the same when they were 17 and 18,’ I thought, ‘It means they forgot.’ So I made a vow to myself to not forget and to remember to remember. And because I remember I am here today to invite you into a conversation that matters.” Now I knew that I got their attention, because they were looking at me with big eyes and with suspended quietness.
I was holding a sycamore stick in my hand and I said: “This stick has magic power. When you hold this stick, imagine it can give you the power to change one thing in this world. Take a few moments to think what would you choose if you had the power of this stick and could change one thing in this world?”
For a few moments they quietly wrote their answers. For the next two hours the stick had moved from one hand to another. Each young person said, “I have the power of the stick and the one thing I would change in this world is….” They spoke of their visions, concerns and dreams, and I inquired deeper: “What do you mean when you say that? Why is this change important for you? What do you think will have to change first in order to allow the change you want?” And so on. We all listened intently. As we did, I understood that we were fulfilling a request expressed by a young man named Dalton.
Let me explain. Earlier that year a few of my son’s friends came for a visit. We were sitting in a circle in the living room. A similar question had been posed: “If you could change one thing in this world, what would that be?” When Dalton spoke, he said: “The one thing I would change in our world is that I would make there to be a better understanding between the generations. I would make real conversations that matter, when we really listen to each other.”
“It is such a waste,” he said. “My grandfather must have had so much experience and understanding about life and relationships and about what is important, and my parents, too, but we have never talked about it. I want to know from them more about how they really think and what they really feel, but we don’t have such conversations. Mostly we talk about what I should or shouldn’t do.”
His voice was breaking a bit and his candid courage stirred something in the room. He then added, “It doesn’t make sense. Every generation starts almost from the same point. Yes, technology is different. But in the really important things, like relationships, love, living and other important questions of life, experience is not transferred. We don’t seem to learn and every generation seems to repeat the same mistakes.”
We all knew something very real just happened because the atmosphere was tender and electrifying. It was clear Dalton was expressing a bigger cry. His request for change could not be answered or pacified on the spot. It was a message to take home and to reflect on. He was asking us to imagine with him how different our world could be when we start to have conversations that matter with each other; when we have conversations that matter with our children and grandchildren.
Dalton helped me to remember my own vow to never forget. If Dalton’s message touches you as it touched me, you might have an opportunity during this Thanksgiving holiday to have a conversation that matters with someone. That someone may be your son or daughter or someone else. What Dalton was saying is that your experience – what you have learned in your life – is important and meaningful. His message was that when the moment is right, you have an obligation to share what you have learned through your journey, so your precious experience is not wasted, and we can all be a bit better by learning from you, from each other.
I have discovered that when I listen carefully and intently to another person I learn so much. And then, after I have listened intently and purposefully, I often find in the other person a true interest to listen and hear from me. Dalton’s message was that one of the most special ways we can give thanks is by listening to each other and by appreciating and sharing with others what we learned. Through learning and appreciating we offer thanks together to all that supports and nourishes us.
I wish you a special and replenishing holiday.

© Aviv Shahar

Jeff Bezos Strategy Retreat

Jeff Bezos hopes to “outbook the book” with Kindle – Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device. If you are involved in the cutting edge of technology and business you would want to watch Bezos conversation with Charlie Rose (posted here below) for the following four reasons:
1. Bezos’ narrative about where we are in the Internet revolution says we are clearly only in its early days. He points out that like electricity in the early 20th century, the Internet is still talked about as “vertical phenomena” instead of realizing that it is, like electricity was, a “horizontal enabling technology.” It is a “word-of-mouth-accelerator that benefits all things.” I suggest that you take notes while watching this conversation and ask yourself: how will these ideas and trends impact the business I am in?
2. The second reason is Bezos 70-30 rule: “In the old world you might have put 30% of your energy, dollars and time into building a great product or service and then you would put 70% of your energy, dollars and time into shouting about that service. In the new world that inverts. You better put the bulk of your time, energy and dollars into building great a service.” In a transparent world quality shines through!
3. Third, watch Bezos energy and excitement and passion for what he does and for his customers’ experience. He clearly is having a lot of fun (I made this same observation about Jeffery Immelt).
4. Fourth, pay attention to Bezos work practices. Specifically, he takes quarterly retreats where he isolates himself and locks himself away from everything for two-three days to reflect on what’s on the cutting edge. This allows Bezos to be creative and come up with new strategic themes and directions, which he writes up as a memo for himself. These themes and ideas guide his next conversations with the executive team at Amazon. Some of the important developments at Amazon resulted from Bezos quarterly strategic retreats.

Bill Gates has a similar practice where he takes his now-famous twice yearly week-long retreats to think, read and reflect “and not do email.” During these times of reflection Gates has come to some of his most important realizations and revelations, including the need to focus Microsoft on the Internet (he almost missed the boat), making the shift to refocus on security and trustworthy computing, and then his decision to focus more on the Gates Foundation.

It is evident from these stories that time for reflection is an essential part of success. However, Most people are not disciplined enough to engage in reflection on their own; they don’t know how to design their retreat, frame the right questions or start a practice of reflection. Few executives could design for themselves an effective strategic retreat. This is why we are seeing the return of facilitated leadership retreats and strategy summits.

© Aviv Shahar

Priests & Firefighters – What Do They Have In Common

Questions: What do Priests and Firefighters have in common?
Answer: They both deal in matters of higher intervention, and they both rush in where angels fear to tread.  Priests try to light a fire in the house and firefighters try to put it out. Well, perhaps.
The right answer though is that they both made the top of TIME’s list of the happiest people by occupation.
You could say they are both in the business of saving people’s lives. Their job is connected to a mission and perhaps therein lies a clue to their happiness.
The top happiest occupations of firefighters and priests were followed by these jobs: Reservation and Ticket Agents and Architects. These professions don’t deal in higher intervention but they facilitate people’s dreams and aspirations.

Humor aside, we are not surprised by the conclusion of the TIME’s survey that says: “For the most part Happiness isn’t about money… …Nobody has put a price on happiness yet.” We said so ourselves in the KEY: “Happiness Matters.”
Isn’t it time, the TIME’s started reading the KEY…

© Aviv Shahar

32 Benefits Of Coaching

“Coaching is a collaborative process dedicated to help and inspire an individual or team to achieve a desired result.”
Here are some of the benefits of coaching I have experienced and witnessed both in being coached and in coaching executives.
The coaching process unfolds through discovery, expanded awareness and insight and leads to designing a strategy of action. It is intuitive, energizing, challenging, sometimes painful and always interesting. If it is not stimulating and interesting then the coaching process is not on. Coaching value is generated on the foundation of trust and authentic conversation.

Here are 32 Benefits you can find through Coaching. You can…
1. Increase self-awareness
2. Clarify situations and reduce complexity
3. Identify opportunities
4. Evaluate threats
5. Explore options and choose the optimal path
6. Remove obstacles
7. Improve communication effectiveness
8. Prioritize goals
9. Articulate values and purpose
10. Refocus on the vital few most important things
11. Let go of the unimportant
12. Role play an upcoming situation and improve readiness
13. Learn to ask powerful questions
14. Examine beliefs to overcome personal limitations
15. Develop a strategy for career advancement
16. Develop a personal and business vision
17. Download new ideas and frameworks
18. Get feedback and feed-forward on personal strengths and style
19. Update your self-view and presentation
20. Align short and long terms objectives
21. Free up time and resources
22. Manage chaos and ambiguity
23. Resolve conflicts and pacify emotionally charged situations
24. Change your inner state and practice new ways and approach
25. Gain confidence and fluency
26. Practice and optimize influencing skills
27. Create a strategy to develop your team
28. Rebalance work and personal life and family
29. Learn to coach individuals and teams for breakthrough results
30. Overcome a career setback or other significant disappointment
31. Clear your space and environment
32. Set a course of action and build support system and accountability

© Aviv Shahar

Why Do People Stop Dreaming?

This post was triggered after reading the Cool Friend interview with Matthew Kelly on Tom Peters! I found Kelly’s reply to the question of why people stop dreaming incomplete and posted a comment. Upon further reflection I found my own comment also incomplete and added the following:

“A person without a dream is like a bird without wings”.
“Take a man away from his dreams and he begins to die slowly”.

It is natural to envision new development and possibilities, to dream of new attainment and capabilities. We are wired to dream of what can be. To wake up in the morning without a dream, a purpose to endeavor toward is to abdicate the charge of living.

Why do people stop dreaming?

People stop dreaming because…

  1. They are afraid of the disappointment of not reaching their dreams.
  2. They achieved one dream and have not found a way to rejuvenate into the next new dream.
  3. Working towards a dream earlier in their life took a heavy toll. Now they are hurt and disillusioned.
  4. Material dreams they did achieve left them feeling empty on the inside and they have yet to see the need for a new sustaining dream which might make their life feel more significant.
  5. They have been ridiculed and criticized and have internalized the idea that they can’t achieve.
  6. They are afraid of the power of having a dream and the responsibility it brings.
  7. They have internalized the idea that growing up means to stop dreaming.
  8. They don’t believe they are worthy of their dream.
  9. They are missing that one person who will believe in them and give them the power to believe in themselves.
  10. They don’t believe their own lives are significant enough, important enough to work towards a dream.

Then there is more. The journey to realizing a dream is not a linear process. As you progress you need to let go and transcend the mindset you had when you started the journey. And then once you realize your dream you may need to give up control as it gains its own life. Most people are afraid to not be in control even for a short period of time. Dreams require trust and faith.

Whatever the case is, let’s do away with excuses. Daring to dream is for the mind what breathing is for the lungs. Here is a question: what is your dream? Yes, I mean this for real – what is your dream?
Here is another way to rekindle this. What would you start dreaming today if you knew you couldn’t fail?

One more dream: who will you help to find their dream today?

© Aviv Shahar

How Does Jeff Immelt, The CEO Of GE, Spend His Time?

Jeff Immelt runs the third largest company in the world, a company that generates revenue of 175 billion dollars (55% of it outside the US). In his interview this week with Charlie Rose, Jeff Immelt responded to the question of how he divides his time in this way:

30% of his time is spent on people – coaching talent, choosing and nurturing the best people. Immelt says “People is where we create differentiation”.
30% is spent on financial operations – focusing on businesses that need attention, making financial decisions, where to build things, where to expand markets, what to sell.
30% is spent on growing the company – meeting customers, making deals, developing ideas and opportunities such as GE’s Eco-imagination strategy.
10% on governance – working with the board, investors…

Immelt’s other preoccupation is his promise to GE employees to be in the front seat of history. He keeps a great antenna open to constantly absorb the changes in the world, to grow breadth, to pick up trends, to appreciate context and to think about what’s next.

How would you translate this learning and mindset to yourself? Whether you are a one person business, leading a team or running an organization?
First, invest in people and develop talent – develop your own talent and strengths as well as coach and develop the people around you. When you provide development opportunity and growth value for people, you will never be out of work, you will never not be valuable, you will never be bored and you will never be isolated.
Second, understand your business, take an interest in it and take care of it. Know how it works, manage risk and take full responsibility for your finances
Third, engage with new growth, with new opportunities, develop what you do, don’t do the same thing this year as you did last year, push your envelope into new territories.
Fourth, keep your house in good order.
And then, stay open and continue to learn new things. Be alert to perceive the trends around you and the greater context of the times in which you live.

Finally, Immelt clearly enjoys what he does and is excited about it. You can too. You don’t have to be the CEO of GE to live an exciting and enjoyable life. Start getting excited about your own strengths and about being the CEO of your own life and enterprise. In the end it’s the only enterprise you really have. How about making it a great one?

© Aviv Shahar

The Discovery Journey of K: Episode 4 – Intuition Killers

(The Discovery Journey is dedicated to the young people of the world. To read previous episodes in The Discovery Journey of K visit here).

“Why am I often still deaf to the voice of intuition and guidance?” K asked herself one quiet Saturday morning. She had been on her journey for awhile now and had made a few important discoveries. She felt she was progressing and was getting a much better sense of herself and her strengths. It was a joy to find pathways into her creative zone. Still, K seemed to have setbacks she did not understand. They were days when everything seemed to go haywire and out of control. These were followed by days of confusion and sadness. She began to recognize that there were times when she felt specially enhanced states of well being, peace and creativity and yet she was not able to sustain these experiences as a permanent feature or even create them at will. These moments of greater awareness and serenity came and went and were not completely in her control. She felt she was being pulled in opposite directions. Part of her wanted to retreat away from people to relax, read, meditate and make her journal entries. But another more gregarious side of her loved to be out there with people socially and even at work, where she could excel through her creative and artistic talents and contributions.

Thinking these thoughts, K wrote: “I have to allow these two parts of me to live happily together in the same zip code, in the same home inside me. They are both a part of who I am. I have to nourish both. If I nourish only one part the other side gets grumpy and upset. The art of living is to know when to attend to the one and when to be with the other. Understanding this and practicing listening to guidance and intuition will help me.” K stopped and thought for a moment. She loved to create lists and frameworks so she began to list the intuition killers, things she recognized as distancing her from being able to listen in to guidance. K wrote –

“Intuition killers:

  1. Getting too over crowded
  2. Needing to please
  3. Inferiority reflex
  4. Obsessive perfectionism
  5. Low self-esteem
  6. Guilt and shame
  7. Addictive behaviors
  8. Bitterness and resentment
  9. Being rushed
  10. Group pressure”

“When I am distant from myself, I can’t hear the voice of my intuition. My intuition is quick but it cannot find me in these circumstances because there is no one home. Let me begin the practice of being present, living here and now, in the moment and in guidance.”

© Aviv Shahar

High On Value, Low On Ego

Greatness appears in many forms. It’s attractive, it has presence and power. It sharpens your senses and makes you focus. It’s too precious to miss. I experienced such alertness when I interviewed a successful executive this week. Here is what he told me in response to the question: “how were you able to overcome and remediate the ‘blame culture’ you inherited along with many other organizational challenges and lead your organization through such rapid growth and breakthrough achievements?”

“We cultivated a simple management mindset: the business is first, our people are second and we, the managers, are last. We are here as managers to facilitate the business, to enable our teams do the job we ask them to do, and to respond to what the business demands. We are high on value and results and low on ego. The environment that I like to work in is one where if I say something stupid you should be prepared to tell me so. Don’t let the business suffer because I happen to have a title. You can influence and lead without a title. The need of the business is the leader.”

He added: “When I came in I had two options: to do it right or to do it right now. I have chosen to do it right. It has taken time. As managers, all we do is align action. We align that action through communication. Excellence is in how we communicate, how we make ourselves understood, how we provide feedback and reveal disconnects. We have chosen to put the business first, to be high on value, low on ego.”

Greatness is always nearby, it is inside you and in the person next to you, if you can identify it.

© Aviv Shahar

When To Pray

People most often pray when they need something. This is understandable, we want health mostly when it begins to fail; we want friendship when we are lonely, and money becomes much more important when you don’t have it.

But praying from absence is not the most effective way to pray. It is much better to pray for something from within its presence. The best time to pray for good health is when you feel most vital. You can then pray to forward the vitality and strength you feel towards the future, for days when you will need this strength to re-find you.

The best time to pray for fulfilling relationships is in the presence of it, when you are most appreciative of the richness you have. You can then pray to store up some of these good memories to accompany you in days when you may be lonely.

The best time to pray for you to have clients is when you serve a client, when you appreciate the opportunity of serving others with your talent. The best time to pray to find work opportunities that will improve your financial situation is when you are already grateful and enjoy your work for the opportunities it is now providing for you.

Abundance creates greater abundance.
Absence perpetuates wanting.
Presence grows presence.

When To Pray – Part Two
© Aviv Shahar

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