Archive for May, 2008

Earth Is Speaking Through Its People

You can hear a variety of voices that speak through people. Our Find Your Voice seminars provide opportunities to witness and learn more about this. The exciting part is when people begin to find their own voice. Every once in a while a discernable pattern shows up. When it does, it can be powerful and exhilarating to recognize it.

That is what happened in our seminar last week in Villa Rossa, a beautiful resort an hour away from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Participants explored and practiced a framework for effective communication – a template to Find Your Voice. The practice culminates with each creating a message they want to deliver. In most seminars about half the managers choose to focus their messages on their company, their team or on business issues. The other 50% of messages usually cover a range of topics including work-life balance, education, the environment and more personal messages too.

This week in Villa Rossa something quite unusual happened. The large majority of participants chose to focus their message on protecting planet Earth, preserving water, maintaining the environment and other related messages. At first, I thought it was just a coincidence. As the aggregated weight of these messages continued to build, it occurred to me that something else was going on. Earth was speaking through its people.

Brazil and its Amazon forests can be seen as the lungs of our struggling planet, and through the seminar, the Brazilians that I met are its guardians. In “Greendex 2008” – a recent National Geographic Society and GlobeScan survey, Brazil scored highest for overall consumer choices that are environmentally sustainable. Earth has a way of communicating through its keepers.

The exquisite power of the exercise was that as people began to find their own voice, the Earth’s voice found them and spoke through them.

© Aviv Shahar

Discover The Universe

The impulse to look at the stars and to study the universe – this ancient quest to unlock these mysteries is ultimately a deep curiosity about life and its origin and about us, humans. “Man and woman are made in the image of God”. Hence the idea, that to study the human we study the universe.

I am reminded of this impulse, watching Roy Gould and Curtis Wong presenting the World Wide Telescope project at TED. They ask, “How will our view of ourselves change with this holistic view of astronomy? We may be tiny but we are truly wonderfully significant.”

This WWT holographic journey reveals what we each discovered the first time we ever looked at the night sky. The dots of light are surrounded by great darkness. Darkness envelops and encapsulates light. Light is the part of the universe that was released into the manifested realm, where energy potential was transformed and expressed into action. This is the smaller part, 5 or 10 percent of the universe. The other 90 percent is dark energy in waiting. As are we humans. We are surrounded by potential, waiting to be realized.

How do we participate in this act? How do we help the universe transform the potential into the actual? In what way do we humans help co-create the emancipation of dark energy to be realized in the evolution of the universe?

New learning, new connections and conversations, new ideas, growth and innovation transform dark energy (potential) into light.

© Aviv Shahar

Your Engagement Benchmark

Time Magazine article, The Rage to Engage, says that “Engagement is an amorphous concept, but as anyone who ever worked on a team can tell you, it’s critical—the unengaged undermine—even if it’s tough to pin down.”

At the end of a recent “Blue Belt Top Talent” program we gathered with the management team for lunch. People exchanged impressions about their experience and learning and there was a lively feeling around. One of the participants stood up to tell the executives how much she valued the opportunity and what she learned through the program. She concluded by saying: “It is very inspiring to know that the organization in which I make a living is so committed to ensuring that I make a life.”

In a few short days we created a community of purpose, wherein people were energized and committed to act on their values in life and at work. The theory we have been successfully testing for many years with very consistent feedback is that reclaiming our humanness in the work place is good for business; that happier and healthier teams are more resilient and agile, faster to adapt to change and more effective in delivering on goals.  We continue to hear from participants, years after they complete the program, that it feels different to go to work and meet their colleagues, that they are more engaged.

Here are 15 points you can use to assess your own engagement and the engagement of your team. You can evaluate these 15 points to identify strengths and opportunity gaps in the Anatomy of Engagement as it applies to your team. Ask them to grade each of the 15 statements below on the scale from (1) to (10) — (10) representing “very much so” or “always” and (1) representing – “hardly” or “never”.

1. I enjoy open communication with my manager
2. I have a clear understanding of objectives – I know what success looks like
3. My activities are organized to support and deliver on the objectives
4. I see how my work helps the organizational strategy
5. We create trusting relationships at work
6. My job offers me opportunities to express my talent
7. There are great role models in our organization that I try to emulate
8. I am evaluated on how well I deliver on the objectives
9. I am incentivized to deliver great results
10. My job provides me opportunity to grow and learn new skills
11. I have the tools I need to support my work
12. I receive feedback on how my efforts and performance help the company achieve success
13. I value my team members and their individual contributions to our work
14. I am proud of the work we do and how we make the world a better place
15. I enjoy and get energized when I see the people I work with

Ask your team to respond to these statements. You can then discuss this engagement anatomy profile with each person independently or with the team as a whole if appropriate. Here are a few questions you can use to get the debriefing conversation going:
1. Which of the points above got the highest score? What can we learn from these?
2. Where are the lowest scores? What can we learn from these items?
3. What are the differences in how we see our organization and how can we bridge the engagement gaps?
4. What opportunities do we have to improve and cultivate an even greater engagement?
5. What other new ideas can we think about to help strengthen our own engagement as well as the engagement of other stakeholders?
6. If we focus and take one or two things into action – which will have the most impact?

© Aviv Shahar

The Seven Lucks

The 1st luck is to be healthy and able.
The 2nd luck is to have food on your table and a roof over your head; to not suffer cold and deprivation.
The 3rd luck is to be able to work, to be productive and to add value.
The 4th luck is to enjoy companionship and love, to know you are not alone.
The 5th luck is to have someone who believes in you completely and unreservedly. (Having this 5th luck at an early age shows up later as an adult with healthy self-esteem and confidence.)
The 6th luck is to have discovered your gift and your passion; to have found what exhilarates and energizes you.
The 7th luck is to discover why you are here, what causes you are meant to serve – to live on purpose, knowing that your life matters and is an expression of the divine reason for your being here.

© Aviv Shahar

“Opportunity Is Always Knocking” – A Conversation with Alan Weiss

I have recently interviewed Alan Weiss for his Thought Leader series. Here are a few golden nuggets Alan framed in this robust conversation:

Strategy and serendipity:

I asked Alan, how do you come up with your best ideas?
“Strategy is about being agile and nimble and light enough on your feet to take advantage of serendipity. If you look at the tried and true inventors like Edison, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Curie or Pasteur, any of these great minds in history, they did not single mindedly pursue something until they found it. They often found it by accident or they found it on the twelfth or the twentieth try. In our lives and in our businesses, it’s the same. Opportunity is always knocking but we don’t always hear the sound. It’s the recognition of a potential leap forward that really separates the all stars from the people that are just good.”


How did you discover the power of Reframing?
“I was really an outstanding schoolyard athlete. We used to play touch football on the streets. We went to these other kids’ neighborhood one day and they had this play design. Now our team was good, but they had this play design where someone would run the ball to the street between the cars and you couldn’t defend it because the cars were in the way. And we lost, which was rare for us. And I realized if you play on the other guys’ property, with their equipment and by their rules, you lose the game. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. And so later on when I reflected back on that, I realized you had to put people in your game, or reframe it so you were in a frame that you were comfortable with. And that’s what I began to do it. If somebody said to me “Oh, we have a very specialized need here to develop this skill in people, I would say all right. But it sounds to me as though what you’re saying is that you don’t have adequate success is planning here or you’re scrambling at the moment – is that right? And that’s how I reframe things so that I can put them into a context where the need is really met through my competencies.”

Intellectual firepower:
How do you come up with your insights?
“Almost always when I’m doing something, except when I want to lose myself in something, I’m thinking on three or four different levels. I’m thinking about the task at hand, I’m thinking about the process that is going on, I’m thinking about what other people think of it, I’m thinking about how I can improve it, I’m thinking at all these different levels which I can do simultaneously. And out of that multiplicity come insights…. I can do it… because, I don’t feel that the task at hand is life and death or earthshaking. Consequently I allow myself the latitude of looking at it in different ways. I’ve been in meetings with clients trying to decide whether to go forward on a six figure project and I find myself, while I’m interacting with the client, wondering if his wife helped him dress or not that day because of something he’s wearing that doesn’t make any sense. I’m always thinking on these different levels because, you know, worse case I get thrown out. There have been times when I’ve actually forgotten or not heard what was going on in front of me because I was engaged on these different levels. And I’ll say something, like I’m sorry but could you repeat that because I have two interpretations of what you’ve just said. I’ll say something like that because I’ve lost track of where we are. It happens all the time.”

Find a Mentor

What advice would you give to a young person just starting and hoping to have their own business?
“Become an apprentice, find a mentor, find someone you respect to help you avoid the mistakes the rest of us have made. That will shorten the learning cycle, and never, ever stop learning. Never stop experimenting, never stop taking on challenges, and always stretch yourself. Try for things you’re not sure you can do, if you fail in the attempt, you’ll still be better off.”

© Aviv Shahar

Resilience Or Perfection?

This post is dedicated to Jeremy a true Software champion.
Who do you want on your team? Which of these two kinds of individuals is more essential for your success?

A person who never makes a mistake or someone who is able to recover fast from a mistake?
Yes, if we’re talking about a brain surgeon or a structural engineer please give us a meticulous foolproof track record.  In most of life’s situations though, the ability to bounce back from a mistake is even more essential. Life is full of setbacks, twists and turns. Eight times out of ten, I will take resourcefulness, recoverability and resilience over pedantic or even infallible perfection.

© Aviv Shahar

Get The Innovation Edge – Lessons From Google’s Problem

Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, admits in his interview with Business Week that Goggle’s obstacle in continuing to innovate is – “that we have people in multiple sites. It’s a problem that everybody faces, but we’re going to face it bad. We have, like, 50 locations.”

Why would multiple locations be a problem? It is more than time zone differences.

Schmidt explains the spirit of innovation: “The story of innovation has not changed. It has always been a small team of people who have a new idea, typically not understood by people around them and their executives.”

What is the blind spot? What is the innovation secret that is hidden in these comments?

The innovation blind spot in a connected world with virtual teams is forgetting what happens when a small group of people get together in the same space. In fact, doing just that, getting the right people together in the same room can be the innovation edge, the competitive advantage that makes the difference.

True, it is not always practical; diverse perspectives and inputs are critical and multinationals are driven to move functions to lower cost regions. Yes, we are quickly becoming a “virtual competent” specie. But there is no innovation generator like getting the right people together in one physical space where they connect and activate in each other the bio-energetic, whole-brain, whole mind synergistic cycle of innovation.

The blind spot is in dismissing the power that gets unleashed when we meet face to face. To solve critical problems and for projects where accelerated ideation and creative intensity is needed,  there is simply no better way than getting people to share face2face presence.

There is an invisible energetic side to the process of excitation where our “collective neural brainpower firing for connection” leads to breakthrough ideas and quantum leaps. Think of an electrical storm where the atmosphere is crackling with potential and lightening that can strike in any direction.  That’s what Schmidt reveals and this is the reason we are able to generate stratospheric value for clients when getting virtual teams together in the same room for intense innovation and business transformation sessions. It’s the counter-trend, the novelty, but nothing activates the innovation DNA and potential like getting the right people, at the right time, inside a shared creative space. Never forget that most big things started when a few brilliant people got together in one room.

© Aviv Shahar

Coaching Dialogue: Red Lights On Your Dashboard

Here is a coaching dialogue excerpt that happened this week. P called and we started our conversation. It went like this:
Me: How are you?
P: Not so good today. I feel I am trying too hard to help too many people. I don’t feel too well. I am actually quite exhausted.
M: On a scale of one to ten, where ten is feeling absolutely amazing and one is feeling as if you are dying, where would you say you are?
P: Oh, probably 5.3
M: Well, that’s not good… 9 is being “in the zone”… 8 is a very good functional order… 7 is okay but not your best… 6 is right on the red line below which a bunch of red lights start blinking on your dashboard…  So you are clearly at that point of red lights blinking…
P: Yes, that is correct.
M: Well, step one is to notice it. Step two is to be diagnostic. Would you like to do that?
P: Sure, what do you mean by diagnostic?
M: Well, I can run a list of plausible reasons that could be impacting you and contributing to the way you feel. As I go through each of them, you can say “No” or you can say “Yes”. You can be even more specific and calibrate the responses in terms of how important that area is for you. You might say that’s a big factor or that’s a medium or a small factor. You will then be in a position to decide which one of them you deal with first and take on a remedial or corrective action.
P: Sounds good. I am ready.
M: Great. Here we go. You work too hard and try to help too many people because…?

1. You feel you are not good enough. You feel you need to prove something.
2. You take other people’s problems as your own.
3. You spend too much time thinking what other people think about you.
4. You carry a sense of guilt which you try to alleviate by what you do.
5. You are not ready to forgive yourself.
6. You are too distant from yourself, from your own voice as you are pulled in different directions.
7. You don’t know how to ask for help.
8. You don’t know how to receive help when it’s offered.
9. You feel tired and low in energy because of imbalanced nutrition.
10. You don’t know how to stop, relax and rest.
11. You mix with people that are not good for you.
12. You worry and obsess about things that are outside your control.
13. You’ve been disconnected from what you love to do for too long.
14. You have something urgent you actually have to do before anything else and you are not doing it.

P responded live, at the point as I listed each of these possible causes. In the end she had five relevant items that contributed to the way she felt – one big, two medium sized, and two small ones. We talked through the issues and we then moved on to step three – planning specific actions.

M: Great. As we do this let’s capture the steps so you can apply them to anything you need.
Step one: Notice – become aware of what is going on.
Step two: Diagnose – frame plausible reasons/causes, discern the relevant ones and grade them by weighted influence.
Step three: Plan – identify the action you are now ready to take. (There are many strategies in this step).
The coaching conversation continued into forwarding the action.

Since it all happened live and P enjoyed the discovery, she gave me permission to post this excerpt here.

© Aviv Shahar

The Greatest Act Of Generosity

Your living presence is the most precious thing you have. Take it away and you take life itself away. All the things you own won’t mean a thing when you are gone.

What then is the greatest act of generosity? It is offering your presence, unreservedly. Giving your mindful presence to another human being is the most precious gift you can give. Offering your full attention and presence is what lifts the conversation from everyday to sacred. Your full presence is the greatest act of generosity.

© Aviv Shahar

Do You Know Yourself?

On a recent flight the woman sitting next to my wife was telling her about her daughter. The daughter had finished seven years of study to become a chiropractor. After completing her studies and graduating she decided she did not want to practice. She discovered she doesn’t like touching other people.

It took seven years to find out that she doesn’t like touching people. This is not a unique story. There are many doctors, lawyers and other professionals who discover they don’t like the field that they studied and certified to practice in.

But why? Why would it take someone seven years to find out that they are directing their effort, time, money and dedication toward something that they will hate or at the very least, not enjoy doing? Why spend so much time to discover you don’t like touching people? Did the daughter study this field to satisfy her mother? Did she become a doctor against her own wishes, was there some underlying indoctrination or false projection about being a chiropractic doctor that didn’t match the reality?

In this particular situation, these are all guesses because we don’t know. What we do know is that people can be so distanced from themselves that they don’t know the first thing about what they are like, what their natural inclinations and talents are, what energizes them and what they would enjoy doing.

The journey of life is about finding out what we are like, discovering our talents, and learning about our gifts. The task we face is to be able to fast-forward this discovery process whenever we can, because we can then share more of our gifts in the precious little time we have here on Earth. This is the journey – find out what you love doing, what energizes you, what your purpose is; and then do it fully.

The challenge is to fast-forward the learning:
Are you where you ought to be? Are you learning and growing?
Do you feel distanced from yourself or do you feel in touch, true to your gifts?
Have you found what you are here to do, how you are here to make a difference?

Do not doubt for a second that you are here for a reason; that you are here to use your gifts to make a difference.

Here are some steps for you:
1. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing.
2. Trace everything you have ever excelled at doing. Think back to the beginning of your career, and earlier to school. What were you good at?
3. What are the things that you look forward to doing, what activities do you make a point of not missing?
4. Discover the convergence of 1 and 2 and 3.
5. Look for opportunities to express your talent and interest. These opportunities may be present inside what you already do. Look at what you do in a new way.
6. Give yourself a chance to try something new.

© Aviv Shahar

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