Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Beer vs Wine

In the eternal struggle against the ever-expanding middle-aged waistline, many have switched from beer to wine, thinking that the fruit of the vine is the more healthy choice.

Not so, says researcher Charles Bamforth, chairman of the food science department at the University of California at Davis and an Anheuser-Busch endowed professor, who claims that beer is as healthy—if not more healthy—than wine.

Who knew? Pass me another Yuengling.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/28/06

Friday, June 23, 2006

Yes, We Are Aging, But So Are They

My friend Greg Deatz, an IT Guy and connoisseur of Scotch, has a blog called The Information Dirt Road (great name!) where a recent entry, on how our population is aging, provides some global food for thought.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/23/06

Thursday, June 22, 2006

On Happiness

Happiness is pretty important, right? Even the American Declaration of Independence starts off with these famous words:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Why would anyone in an organization (OD, HR, or a CEO) want to make employees happy? And even if you wanted to do this, could it be done?

And what do we mean by "happy" anyhow?

As a fan of what Herb Kelleher created at Southwest Airlines, I think that "happy" was a by-product of a culture that was built, maintained, and enhanced over the years there.

Some years ago, I visited SA on a benchmarking trip (focusing on their practices in creating a learning organization) and what I beheld there was truly memorable.

Were they "happy?" Yes, it seemed so. But I would describe them as psyched, energized, enthusiastic, proud, and fearless. Herb called it "the warrior spirit."

Now in the post-Kelleher era, that spirit lives on. Check out their blog and especially this entry by Colleen Barrett, formerly the head of HR and now the President.


Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/22/06

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Brainstorming in the news

Here is a news story about a study of the usefulness of brainstorming.

I am struck by the negativity in this article, e.g.

- "...such sessions, intended to harvest good ideas, are often the source of bad ones."

- self-consciousness of participants

- "...brainstorming sessions come in handy to distribute blame in the event of failure."

- "... most often someone hijacks the topic at hand, tries to prove everyone else wrong, works to impress the superiors who are present, or just plain blathers for his own enjoyment."

- "...the majority of brainstorming sessions arrive at obvious conclusions, or worse."

Hasn't anyone ever heard of facilitation???

Here another blogger responds.


Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/20/06

Monday, June 19, 2006

Unconferences

Rick at Breakthrough eLearning writes about the excruciating torture of some conferences that he has attended. Maybe there is a better way. Here is an article on "unconferences"

Excerpt:

"Welcome to the weird world of unconferences, a trend that is shaking up the $122 billion conference industry. These inexpensive, informal gatherings - like BarCamp, BrainJams, and Foo Camp – are conceived as little as weeks in advance. All were started in the past few years by Valley types bored with the usual calendar of confabs.

"We figured there was much more expertise in the audience than there possibly could be onstage," says BarCamp co-founder Ryan King.

Unconferences break the barrier between the two. Attendees write topics they're interested in on boards, consolidate the topics, and then break into discussion groups.

At traditional conferences, the most productive moments often occur in the corridor between meetings; at unconferences, attendees like to say, it's all corridor.

HOW TO HOST AN UNCONFERENCE:

1) Create a wiki - a Web-based tool for knowledge sharing - so attendees can sign up and discuss proposed topics. See BarCamp.org and BrainJams.org for help with wiki setup.

2) Find sponsors that are willing to assist without interfering. Unconference sponsors have donated everything from lunch to the venue itself.

3) Post author Harrison Owen's Law of Two Feet: Any person neither learning from nor contributing to a group discussion must walk to another one"


Intriguing, eh?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/19/06

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Leadership Development in the Blogosphere

Via Bloglines, I have been keeping an eye on the topic "leadership development" for over a year. Some of the really interesting stuff that shows up is from faith-based bloggers, for instance here , here and here .

One other data point of interest: At a blog called Leading Thoughts, they noticed that in 2006 there has been a marked increase in searches on the phrase "leadership development."

I sense that there is a search for leadership going on in the world right now, a hunger and thirst for leadership. Leadership that is authentic, that can be counted on. Leadership that is caring and positive, that builds up rather than destroys. Leadership that is rooted in deep values that cut across the human family. Leadership that is spiritual.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/18/06

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Facilitating Wisdom, Channeling Spirit

When I return home from the monthly Community Leadership Meetings (CLM) at my church, I sometimes wonder, What did we accomplish?

The CLM is around 75 people who comprise the Pastoral Council, the parish Staff, and the five Commissions of our parish: Administration, Liturgy, Formation, Social Concerns, and Community Life. I co-chair the last of these commissions.

Our job, as the community leadership team of the parish, is visioning, which includes:

- providing counsel to the pastor
- thinking long-term
- sensing the pulse of the parish
- identifying needs
- planning and setting goals
- calling others to minister
- forming others in our faith
- developing leadership capability across the parish

We utilize a group process model called Shared Wisdom which helps us to be attuned to the Holy Spirit in order to listen more deeply to one another and reach decisions that we feel are in the best interest of our large and growing congregation.

In my prior blog entry, Beyond Agendas, one of the P's is PRODUCT. At the CLM, our product is wisdom shared while discerning the calling of the Spirit.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/14/06

Monday, June 12, 2006

Beyond Agendas

If the agenda is not the meeting, then what is?

A meeting is about:

- the PEOPLE

- gathered in a PLACE

- for some PURPOSE

- following a PATHWAY or PROCESS

- toward some PRODUCT

As facilitators, we are all about the P's.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/12/06

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I Am, Therefore I . . . ?

When you are at a party, and someone says to you, "So what kind of work do you do?" what do you say?

I had a professor at Rutgers (circa 1975) who taught communication theory. Once, he made the point that our language (the way we speak) revealed our underlying thinking.

He said, "You say you are a writer. I would say that I write articles for the newspaper. Or you say you are a teacher. I would say that I teach communication theory at Rutgers."

He added, "You think of yourself as being something while I think of myself as doing something."
While I tried to grasp the distinction he was making, I remember feeling angry with him at that time. He had a knack for this sort of thing. On one other occasion he said, "You go to the movies for ideas while I go to be entertained." Man, he had a way of getting under my skin.

Recently I encountered another sage, a career coach, who drove the same point home with me. He said that he advises his clients to focus on Why an Employer Should Pay Your Salary.

Employers are looking for people who can produce results. So when an employer interviews applicants, the employer is trying to determine which of them can deliver the goods.

So rather than say, I am a computer programmer, trainer, accountant, chemist or whatever, the career coach advised that you describe yourself in terms of What You Do and the Results You Deliver.

So, for example:

- I design reliable networks for healthcare systems.

- I advise pre-retirees on how to save money for retirement.

- I solve quality problems for pharmaceutical operations.

This is what my professor meant. He said that the difference between him and his students was that he defined himself by What He Did while we defined ourselves as Who We Are.

I guess some people are Who We Are types, and some are What We Do types. This still bugs me, 30 years later. But I think I am starting to get it.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/10/06

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Un-Learning Organization

Lean expert and blogger Bill Waddell, at Evolving Excellence (great blog name), has a post on the challenges of un-learning.

He says: "The problem with learning comes when we have to replace something we already know with something new. Unlearning that which we know and believe in order to replace it with something new is hard for all of us, and virtually impossible for many of us."

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/05/06
The Da Vinci Code Hubbub

The book The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was an entertaining page-turner of a thriller that proposed some fascinating ideas about Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Catholic Church (actually Brown lifted the ideas from an earlier book called Holy Blood Holy Grail). And the movie, lamely directed by Ron Howard and weakly acted by star Tom Hanks, is making millions around the world.

So why all the hubbub?

I think that Brown is a lucky fella. He happened to tap into something in our culture at just the right moment in time.

That something I would call the yearning for truth.

Maybe it's a boomer thing? Since the Sixties, when popular president John Kennedy, and beloved civil rights leader Martin Luther King, were killed, people have wanted answers. They have wanted the truth.

People feel that the truth is "out there," and that the full disclosure is being withheld. They want answers from the big institutions of society such as government. And the Church.

Who was the real Jesus?
What happened in his life that formed him?
What was his original message?
What was his relationship with God?
What did he intend his disciples to do?

Fearing that its sheep will be lead astray by dangerous fictions like Brown's book, the Church has responded with a massive communication and education campaign, from the top on down to the local levels.

Trouble is, however, that the Church's answers will not satisfy this thirst, this yearning for the truth. As interesting as it is to hear an expert speaker retell the early Church history of how Athanasius battled Arius back in the 4th century over the nature of Jesus' divinity, I suspect that many will continue to be attracted to stuff like The Da Vinci Code.

Early church history is dusty, dry, and irrelevant. It's the postscript to the story we really want to know.

In John's Gospel, Jesus says of himself, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Who was Jesus really? People want to know.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/05/06

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Age of Discovering

I love headlines like New technology probes ancient manuscript (about the high-tech translation work being done on some old burnt shreds of papyrus).

From our exploration of Mars to our exploration of the human genome, we are living in an age of discovering. Every day, it seems, we are finding out more about our world. Just the other day, a cave was found in Israel with several new types of tiny creatures never before seen.

What else is waiting out there to be discovered? Whoever said "there is nothing new under the sun" could not have been more wrong.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/03/06

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Essence of Leadership

Leadership is about community (We are...)

Leadership is about purpose (We are here because...)

Leadership is about vision (We are going in this direction...)

Leadership is about mobilizing (OK let's go...)

Looking at organizational leadership then, we can ask: to what extent are all parts of the organization:

- in sync? pulling together?

- clear about the goals?

- clear about roles and accountabilities?

- excited? energized?

Implications for leadership development include building capability in:

- stewardship

- creating community

- clarifying and communicating purpose

- visioning

- engaging people

- mobilizing

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/01/06
Rediscovering Our Music

Blogger and consultant Don Blohowiak has a great entry about us baby-boomers, retirement, and music.

One of the things about parenthood that I have been continually amazed by is how my sons (now 19 and 17) have taken to music of my generation (such as Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Queen) and even older stuff (Sinatra, Torme, Bennett, Coltrane for example) as well.

Just last week, I picked up a cd of 1960's song-writer Jimmy Webb singing ten of his own pieces such as Witchita Lineman, Galveston, The Worst That Could Happen, and MacArthur Park. My sons love it!

Of course, their musical tastes have affected me as well, for instance The Gorillaz, The White Stripes, Gnarls Barkley, Jill Scott, Eva Cassidy, and Ben Folds.

Yes, we boomers are aging, but I think Don is right in suggesting that we are far from done. As he said:

"We’re about to rediscover our music. And ourselves."

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/01/06