Archive for October, 2008

The Test For Leaders In Tough Times

What is the leadership test in tough times?

  1. To stay clear, cool and centered, and to focus on what matters most.
  2. To recognize and assimilate the situation you are in, without being overwhelmed.
  3. To free your people to engage in the most essential tasks and to help them create your organization’s future.
  4. To uphold your core values and principles, while being ready to adapt in a shape-shifting situation.
  5. To resist the downward spiral of diminishing returns and defeat.
  6. To identify and frame opportunities amid fear and uncertainty.
  7. To stay open minded and at the same time execute your strategy.
  8. To invest in creativity and innovation.
  9. To build confidence and trust.
  10. To create a vision that rallies all stake holders

© Aviv Shahar

Prepare For The Future – 10 Benefits

Anticipating the future has been a major preoccupation for people from the beginning of time. Creating scenarios as a way to anticipate the future has been popularized in recent decades. We engage in developing scenarios to increase awareness about possible outcomes and to understand the potential costs, benefits and consequences of any decision or action we may take.

In a business context, scenario-based planning is a creative, open-ended exploration of patterns that might emerge in your field. In our Future Scenarios Workshop we help executives anticipate and prepare for the future by exercising their ability to think about opportunities and challenges in context of what may happen in the next month, the next year, or in the longer term. It is a discovery process to help you evaluate uncertainties, triggers and the important forces that have the power to affect the future.

The value and benefits of developing your future scenarios for your organization are multiple:

1. You increase awareness to the range of plausible futures.
2. You challenge your assumptions.
3. You prepare and rehearse responses to specific scenarios.
4. You develop a framework for continued environmental scanning.
5. You create future options for your organization.
6. You identify specific decision points and triggers.
7. You cultivate in-depth understanding and insight about the inter-relationships of active forces in your eco-system.
8. You create a context with which to monitor and evaluate change.
9. You develop analytical tools to support strategic decisions.
10. You engage in a creative process that unleashes and forwards innovation.

© Aviv Shahar

Make Your Learning Compelling

Make your learning compelling. Make it compelling for you. You are the first listener and student of your teachings. When you listen well, the rest of the world wants to come and listen too.

A great Rabi once said “we tell stories to our children to put them to sleep. We tell stories to adults to wake them up.” In our leadership seminars and retreats we often practice the “From you I have learned” exercise.  Each participant tells a story about a person that has had a formative impression on them.  When they finish telling the story they end with saying – and so from (this person) I have learned about courage/ how to say no / how to pick myself up and have another go / how to forgive and let go, and so on.  People tell stories about a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, a manager or a friend.  It’s a powerful exercise because people learn to distill and articulate a specific learning from their experience. They learn even more from each other’s stories. As we work through this life-centering-stories exercise, people are surprised to see the value that lives inside the significant stories of their lives. They find new wisdom is available to them when they learn to reframe their experiences and bring them up to date and harvest a new meaning.

Make the learning interesting, inspiring, compelling. This is how you forward your experience into further development and growth. The radium is always buried deep in the pitchblende. Charisma joins you when you process enough pitchblende to find the radium inside you.

© Aviv Shahar

Managing Fear

I am often asked how to overcome fear. Fear is probably the strongest, most intense of all behavioral triggers. We conjure up fears and react to them. Fears govern behavior in relationships, in career choices, in trading and investment, and in the way people express their views and feelings.

There are four responses to fear:
1. Flight – fear reflex to run away
2. Fight – defense mechanism
3. Fright (Freeze) – fear reflex to stay frozen
4. Frame – Manage the fear reflex in context and make a calculated appraisal of options.

The first three have served humans since the beginning of time. They are wired into the reptilian brain and instinct. All creatures large and small have intrinsic knowledge to run away when faced by a stronger slower opponent. If immediate danger is posed, some of us will fight our way to safety. In other situations, both humans and animals are known to freeze either as a defense mechanism so as not to be seen, or out of inability to mobilize to the next action.  These reactions can be very useful in situations of physical danger. However, many of the fears we face as urban dwellers are quite different, where ancient hard-wired reptilian responses are not suitable or helpful.

The fourth response of framing your options and evaluating these inside a larger context involves later evolution of brain function and a different stratum of consciousness. Engaging higher brain function and levels of consciousness is at the center of personal growth and development. You started to practice overriding reactive circuitries at the age of four or five. Managing fear more effectively by framing options, evaluating pros and cons and making choices can be learned and practiced.

This fourth response is based in recognizing that you have a fundamental choice; that you can choose between:
1. Using fears to make you succeed
2. Allowing fears to hold you back

Here are 21 fears that govern people’s behavior, participation and response:

1. Fear of losing a position
2. Fear of losing social standing
3. Fear of losing income
4. Fear of losing another person’s positive view of you
5. Fear of losing your own positive self image
6. Fear of losing love
7. Fear of losing security
8. Fear of failure
9. Fear of criticism
10. Fear of rejection
11. Fear of humiliation
12. Fear of embarrassment
13. Fear of being left out
14. Fear of change and it’s consequences
15. Fear of being wrong
16. Fear of being caught out
17. Fear of being alone
18. Fear of pain
19. Fear of finding emptiness inside
20. Fear of death
21. Fear of fear

Then there are also:
22. Fear of taking full responsibility and having no excuses
23. Fear of success
24. Fear of realizing your true power


What can you do in the face of fear to bypass the flight/ fight/ fright reflex and frame a different response?

1. Ask: “what is the worst thing that can happen?” By framing it clearly in written or spoken words that are outside of you, it is no longer invisible or unspoken. The unspoken and the invisible often have a greater gripping power than the things that are seen and said.

2. Frame the fear in context; ask:
A. What is the best case scenario?
B. What are the probabilities of the worst and the best case?
C. What are likely scenarios in the middle?
D. What options do you have?
E. What are the possible risks and rewards in each option?

3. Find the greater fear that can keep you succeeding:
A. Fear of not realizing your potential
B. Fear of not living fully
C. Fear of forgetting what matters most
D. Fear of getting separated from your calling and purpose
E. Fear of not rising to your opportunities.

4. Make a wise decision. Take action.

© Aviv Shahar

Do Not Believe The Gray Myth

That’s right. Do not believe the gray myth of the Pacific Northwest. It is not just rain and gray here year round. Here are late October shots in Woodinville by the Sammamish River.  When you live amidst beauty, stop a moment to take notice.

© Aviv Shahar

Why I Disagree With Jack & Suzie Welch

In their BusinessWeek What Change Agents Are Made Of, Jack & Suzie Welch focus on four traits: power, vision, bravery, and support. The Welchway says that “…change is made by people with some sort of authority. It’s driven by managers who have a platform to advocate for a new direction and the ability to hire, promote, and reward those who embrace it. Change agents in business, in other words, have to be leaders.”

We agree that power, vision, bravery and support are key traits of change agents. We have three caveats.
First, authority is never the beginning of leadership power. Authority comes later, after you have been a leader without a title.

Second, being an adaptive learner is as critical as having vision and bravery. You have to be able to assimilate feedback, to change, course-correct and adapt.

Third, we need to redefine power. The greatest power in the world is not power over others – it is knowledge of self. True leaders and agents of change have deep self insight. They understand their strengths and vulnerabilities, and find their authentic voice. The foundation of power, charisma, vision, bravery, support and the ability to learn and adapt is the knowledge of self. It is also the key to renewal and the ability to see and lead oneself and others into a shape-shifting future.

© Aviv Shahar

The 90/10 Rule Of Investment

The 90/10 rule shows up in a variety of ways in all fields of life.

In money management and investment the 90/10 rule says that—over long periods of time (think your lifetime or 100 years) you will come out on top 90% of the time by following conventional wisdom, known also as the wisdom of the crowd. It follows that in the other 10% of the times you are better off going with the contrarians and against the crowd. The 90% represent periods when the trend is your friend. In the other 10% of the time, markets go through inflection points of trend reversals. Recent months represent just such an inflection point of trend reversal where the contrarian position is wiser and safer than the crowd.

Study your options. Explore a range of ideas and strategies. Make decisions that fit your situation. Position yourself with the 90/10 rule in mind.

© Aviv Shahar

Love Is 100 Times Better

Why do so many relationships hit a brick wall?

Too many people insist on holding onto frozen dreams instead of realizing that a relationship is a learning journey.  You work at it. You work at it hard and you work at it soft and you make discovery, learning and growing central to your relationship. You listen to each other and you listen to yourself. You learn to not “should” all over each other. You make space, you encourage and you try to take the higher roads. You live and let live and you then discover that it makes every year a bit better because you are able to take in more about life, more about each other and more about growing together.

The biggest mistake people make is to turn around at age 45 or 55 and say we don’t love each other the way we did at 25, it doesn’t feel the same. Well, of course not. What both of you were at 25 is frozen in time. You are now 45 or 55 – who says it’s supposed to feel the same? You are different; your partner is different. You have experience, wisdom, perspective and you have managed to overcome adversity. You are more set in some of your ways and at the same time you can grow and evolve in other ways. If you listen to each other’s growth and pay attention to your own—love at 45 and 55 is deeper, more interesting and fascinating and 100 times better than it was at 25, and it helps both of you to continue to evolve.

Have you noticed the two thirds of EVOLVE is love? Does that not tell us that love is the inner propulsion of growth, development and evolution?

© Aviv Shahar

The Greatest Tax Increase

The greatest tax increase is neither in McCain’s programs, nor in Obama’s plans.

The greatest tax increase is in the breakdown of communication and civil discourse, the breakdown of trust and the ability to work through differences to find optimal solutions. Breakdown of trust and leadership is going to cost individuals, families, organizations and the economy as a whole, and the consequences will be greater than any tax change we will see under either presidential candidate.

The arts of conversation, of trust building, of open collaboration and of true leadership bring the greatest gains. These are the kind of gains the government cannot penalize. Developing the Three Pillars of Trust and collaboration is the ultimate leverage – it produces dividends that cannot be taxed.

© Aviv Shahar

Blue Belt Morning Brief

To the Toronto Blue Belt Top Talent participants – Thank you for the opportunity to work together and be on this discovery journey with you. Here are my notes from our last mornings briefing:

1. You are the most important person in this world! The people you serve and work for, the people you support and help, the people to whom you bring a smile and who you make laugh, your loved ones – they can all only have the benefits of your time, energy, talent and wisdom because of who you are!  Your good health, knowledge, experience and wisdom provides you with something to give. What you do and bring to them, the way you help, serve and give are extensions of what you are – of your being.

2. Always seek to be in your optimal zone! You are always better, more efficient and to the point when you come out of optimal energy. When you drop below your “90V” you are less effective and less productive. When you drop below “70V” you tend to be ineffective and produce negative results. Below “60V” you are susceptible to illness. (You can find more about how this works in our Emerald Keys.)

3. Practice learn-ability! Develop and practice the ability to learn from every situation and experience. Learn-ability is your top competency in times of rapid change. Debrief, harvest and apply your learning.

4. Develop communication and framing skills! Your second critical skill is the ability to frame ideas and the communication and influencing frameworks and skill-set we practiced at the Blue Belt. By practicing these regularly you get one percent better every day – the compounding result of which is getting 100% better in 70 days!

5. Separate “musts” from “wants”! Be clear about the difference between “Musts” and “Wants”. Do not confuse “I want this” for “I must have this”. Be clear about your priorities. Let top priorities guide your actions.

6. Align short and long terms! Work on your long-term aims and goals with a practical and pragmatic mindset by creating step by step progress. Bring to your short-term endeavors the energy and conviction of your long term intentionality.

7. Invest in your growth and development! Along with your career goals, set internal goals for yourself. Never work solely for an outer goal. Balance and complete the outer goal together with an internal goal. Your internal goals are not about what you will have or what you will do – they are about the person you are becoming and what you will be. Develop a “Being” goal for every “Having” and “Doing” one.
Examples for “Being” goals:
A. “I am becoming a more patient and understanding leader.”
B. “To be happy and grateful.”
C. “I am clear in mind and conscience.”
D. “I develop an energized presence.”

8. Be a tool maker! Go beyond problem solving and into tool making. Be the tool maker of progress, growth and innovation.

9.  Be confident! Everything big started small. Do not be intimated by others however brilliant they may be. You are brilliant in your own way. Be sure and confident about the contribution you can make. Success is not about perfection, it is about always taking the next step forward. Take the next step confidently.

10. Find glory in the inglorious! Find the little noticed or ordinary places and attend to them with special care. Give yourself and those around you small moments of recognition when it’s least expected. Allow for quiet moments of peace inside a crowded life. Look to make something right even when no one else sees or knows what you did, simply for it to be right. Find glory in the inglorious!

© Aviv Shahar

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