Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

What will 2009 bring?

Will there be more economic suffering? Seems likely.

Terry The Training Wizard (an award I was given many years ago), in the photo to the left, holds a little blue crystal ball. Although one would gaze into such a ball to see glimpses of the future, I will offer a few wishes for 2009 instead:

- that job hunters find work

- that college graduates find jobs

- that small business owners find customers that have cash to spend

- that our new president translates his campaign of hope into true changes on the ground

- that the hungry find food

- that the fast slow down

- that those with much share with those with less

- that those making war on their neighbor stop

Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares;
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation;
And never again will they train for war
. (Micah 4:3)

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 31, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Change Happy

Thanks to my friend Loretta Donovan's posting on Facebook, I found Surinder Kahai's blog entry New Year Resolution: Be Happy at the Leading Virtually blog.

In this meditation on happiness, Kahai comes to an interesting insight:

~ "In our society we tend to think of happiness as an effect instead of a cause, but happiness as a cause is one of the oldest notions in religion and philosophy. We have simply forgotten the powerful impact of a positive mindset. What does all this mean at a practical level? Make a note of what what you would like to change. Also, figure out ways to be happy. Considering change from a mindset of happiness will help you think of possibilities that you not thought of before. You will think of creative goals and creative ways to change yourself. When you are happy, you are also likely to recommit yourself every day to achieving your goals and making change."

So, in a nutshell, happiness can drive change.

Seems like it's not too far off from the point David Cooperrider must have reached some years ago when he discovered the technology of appreciative inquiry.

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study of change agents to see how happy they are?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 27, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Loving Kindness

What the world needs now is love. Beautiful Jackie DeShannon on Shindig, singing Burt Bacharach's timeless classic song.

Enjoy.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santa Is Real


San Diego-based management consultant, and president of The KindExcellence Institute, Reut Schwartz-Hebron has asked some great questions on LinkedIn, many of which I have tried to answer. She has two going right now on the nature of truth, myth and Santa.

Let's start with Santa, then move on to myths.

The whole "Santa is real/Santa isn't real" rite of passage in our culture is part of the coming-of-age process that kids must go through.

Having gone through it, I still believe in Santa...whoever the heck he is.

The curious thing about Santa is that he may be a lot older than we think. Some scholars have traced him back to Yule and his great flying hunting party. Others suggest that Santa originated in mushroom (amanita muscaria) popping shamans in prehistoric Siberia and elsewhere, long before today's religions came along. Under the influence of hallucinogens, these proto Santas would "take flight" and experience a state of joyful ecstasy.

This meditation on the reality of Santa reminds me of a book I read many years ago, called The Symbolic and the Real: A New Psychological Approach to the Fuller Experience of Personal Existence, by Ira Progoff. It opened my mind to the possibility that what we call "real" may not be the end of the story.

Progoff was a major figure in the field of depth psychology. One of Progoff's principles was that each of us has within us everything we need to live a creative life. But because of distractions, we tend to lose contact with the resources of creativity that are contained within us. We live too much and too long on the surface of life. To access the depth of our inner reality, we need to find ways to move deeper, to go beneath the surface level, and to re-establish contact with our personal center and with resources for growth that are present, but which lay beyond our usual attention.

These depths of inner life can be explored using dreams, memories, imagery, poetry and intensive journal methods.

This depth psychology posits that there are connections between our inner life and our outer life. The more an individual increases awareness of the workings of their inner life, the more access he or she will have to their own inner materials, and the more resourceful, creative, integrated, and healthy they will be as a result.

Essentially Progoff was developing ways "to shed light" on one's inner truth, to help people journey within, to find their inner myths, and create personal meaning.

So, yes Santa is a myth, but why not enjoy him and all the other colorful pagan elements (tree worship, mistle toe, reindeer, flying sleighs, dwarves, elves, etc) that have survived millennia and live on in the depths of our imaginations.

For me, the idea of Santa represents some basic human values, such as Giving, Surprise, Joy, and Celebration.

Wouldn't it be great to take joyous flight, as Santa does each year?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spirit and Business

Arizona-based coach and HR trainer JP Stein has an interesting research project.

She wants to know "how spiritual principles are actually practiced on the job. What do people actually do? I'm trying to determine if there is a disconnect between what they do in their personal lives and what they do at work. What suggestions do you have regarding how to bridge that gap?"

I am attracted to this question because I am interested in the connection between our spiritual life and our work life.

I think that for most people there is a disconnect, and they leave their spiritual self at the door when they show up for work. This is one of the causes, I'm afraid, of much dissatisfaction with work, as well as unhappiness.

Here are four ideas for bridging the gap and reclaiming the spiritual side of work.

One way to begin to bridge the gap is to recognize that, no matter where we are --whether at home, at work, at play, at church, or at school-- we are spiritual beings, just as much as physical ones.

Next we need to develop an understanding of spirituality. Just as there is a body of knowledge around physical development (e.g. how to stay healthy and in good shape), there is a body of knowledge on the spiritual side too.

Just as there are doctors and trainers to help us with the physical side, there are spiritual guides and directors, some with formal credentials (e.g. rabbi, minister, priest), some that just appear in our lives at a time when we need them.

Third, I'd recommend, to anyone who wants to bridge this spiritual gap, that they find and read some good books that explore work and spirituality. There are many out there; I've listed a few below.

Finally, we need new models for managing and for organizations. For far too long, employees have been treated as assets, as pairs-of-hands, as costs. We need to raise our sights somehow, and recognize that our business organizations are filled with wonderful creations, people who are gifted and talented, worthy of honor and respect.

One of my favorite stories on this last point is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, where Marley's Ghost has this famous speech:

"Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Business needs to stand for something more than mere profit and return to shareholders.

Reading List:
The Inspired Organization by Ellen Hayakawa
Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken
Spiritual Capital by Danah Zohar
The Servant Leader by Robert Greenleaf
The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Change Management for Hard Times

Wall Street has faltered; the car makers are teetering. Food banks have empty shelves. Many thousands (myself included) have lost their jobs.

These are hard times indeed. Maybe not as hard as the Great Depression. But tough anyway.

Though the price of gasoline has dropped (thank God!), who can afford to go anywhere? The cost of living (especially in NJ) is still high. College costs (which I am intimately familiar with, having two sons at Rutgers) are soaring.

So . . . Here we are. Now what?

With the focus on the individual, here's my two cents:

1. Turn problems into opportunities - Attitude. It's all in how you look at it. One man's glass-half-empty, is another's glass-half-full. Every problem has within it a silver lining of opportunity, waiting to be exploited.

2. Be the solution - Gandhi once said, Be the change. In this economy, you need to be the solution. How will you help the organization ride out the storm? How will you help it survive and prosper?

3. Reach out to others - Don't withdraw. Don't go it alone. Connect with others. Join forces. Multiply.

4. Offer your gifts - Instead of asking, Who will help me? Ask, How can I help others? The need is growing daily. People need help. Your help. Your gifts. Don't hide your light. Speak up. Offer ideas. Take a risk.

Note: This blog entry was inspired by Fred Nickols.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 19, 2008

E Power

Legendary CEO Jack Welch is known for a number of his management concepts and practices, including the 4 E Model that talks about several key aspects of leaders:

Energy - Leaders have high energy
Energizers - Leaders know how to energize others to perform
Edge - Leaders have a competitive edge
Execute - Leaders can get stuff done

Interestingly, another E, engaging people, is not there. Maybe it's "in there" somewhere, perhaps under Energizers. But it's not on the top.

So if we were to fashion a leadership model, based on the power of engagement, what might it look like?

For me, the Engaging Manager is a leader who:

~ Educates and informs by openly sharing information about the business

~ Enables others to perform by training, coaching, and positive feedback

~ Excites others with possibilities about the future

~ Energizes others to take on challenges

~ Expresses genuine interest in each individual team member

~ Expresses sincere gratitude for the best efforts and contributions others make

~ Empowers others to use their best judgement to solve problems and make decisions

~ Expects the very best and does whatever it takes to create an environment conducive to excellence

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Generosity of Bloggers

Texas-based consultant and engagement blogger Tim Wright has generously featured one of my blog entries at his blog, Culture to Engage.

Thanks, Tim, for the spotlight.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 19, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Training's Effectiveness

Today I was in a meeting with a client, talking about training. It felt like deja vu all over again. For over 25 years, I've heard clients talk about how expensive (in time and money) training is, and how you never seem to know whether it did anything good for the organization.

Today, T&D blogger Don "Big Dog" Clark has hit the ball out of the park with his entry about Donald Kirkpatrick's legendary 4-levels of training evaluation.

Years ago, Kirkpatrick had a breakthrough when he coined the four levels for evaluating a training program:

Level 1 - Reaction to the training program, often using what many derisively call "smile sheets." Despite the criticism, Kirkpatrick has stood by the value of level one evals. These are customer surveys.

Level 2 - Learning: What did the trainees learn? How much did they learn? Typically level two is measured by some sort of testing.

Level 3 - Performance: Can the trainees perform the learned skills back on the job?

Level 4 - Results: What was the impact of the training on the business? Can we measure a return on investment?

In a brilliant flash, Don Clark says: Flip the 4 levels upside down. It becomes a planning tool!

By starting the training planning process with level four thinking, the T&D professionals and the client ask themselves, What business results do we want to affect by doing this training?

This amounts to a Return on Expectations approach to training.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Greta on CNN Layoffs

Fox News broadcaster Greta Van Susteren has blasted CNN at her website, for a mass layoff just before the Christmas holiday:

~ "They did it again! CNN fires people just in time for Christmas! Make you sick? People often ask why I left CNN. I didn’t like mean spirited selfish management that, despite not doing its job of efficiently running the company, lines it pockets. And then the topper? Because the management didn’t run the company well, CNN fires loyal people to meet some bottom line the management failed to meet."

You go, girl. Blast away!

Then Greta makes this excellent point:

~ "Frankly, in these tough economic times, there was a way NOT to have this happen at CNN. Think of how many CNN families could have a much different Christmas than they are now having if CNN had stopped talking about themselves in these ridiculous multi million dollar ad campaigns."

Unfortunately, CNN is not the only employer that uses this odious practice, of year-end layoffs, at a time of year when those with much should be looking out for those with little.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 16, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Got That? Got It.

In a job interview recently, I was struck by the interviewers use of the statement "Got it." The interviewer said it after almost everything I said.

I guess I was communicating pretty well, eh?

Reflecting on it afterwards, I wondered what the interviewer's frequent use of "Got it" really meant? Could it have been a Type A person's display of impatience with my lengthy, story-laden, answers?

How do we know what another person is "getting" anyway when we are trying to convey something important about ourselves to them? As David Berlo once famously said, Meanings are in people. In other words, what I am intending may or may not be what the other party is getting.

The little word "get" appears to be a very old one, going way back to German roots, meaning "to obtain." And it has many and varied uses (almost 60 in Webster's) in the English language, including:

- To receive, as in to get a gift

- To reach someone over a distance, as in to get him on the phone

- To kill, as in they got him with one shot

- To irritate, as in she gets to me

- To understand, as in I get the joke

As a Communication Guy, I love language and am fascinated by where words come from and how we use them to connect with others and create shared meanings.

Get it?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 14, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

OD to Obama

President-elect Barack Obama is getting a lot of input right now from many places around the world.

The other day on LinkedIn, I saw an interesting question, posed by OD consultant and executive coach Pamela Thompson Walker of Washington D.C.:

~ If the Organization Development Network were sending an open letter to President Elect Obama advising him on how to lead and implement the change he based his campaign on, what advice would you give him and why?

As an organization development guy, I'd offer Mr. Obama the following thoughts:

- You campaigned about change. People voted for you because they felt the need for change. Now be the change.

- Get the whole system in the room when addressing each change project.

- When making change, be careful not to lose what's working well.

- Remember the Change Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How to Search

Job hunters get (and give) a lot of advice about how to find a job. Much of this advice is good. If you follow it.

But a successful searcher needs more than the typical tools. She also needs sage wisdom.

Mulla Nasruddin is a legendary Sufi character whose many comical exploits feature him doing strange or funny things that seem illogical to others, but which often point to a higher truth.

In one of his most well-known adventures, he has lost his keys somewhere in his house. So what does he do? He goes outside and starts to look under a street lamp...where, he says, the light is better.

I love such tales! They are funny because they are nonsensical. But upon further reflection, they speak a deeper truth about how we search for meaning.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 9, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Contracting and Expanding

Thanks to Gaia blogger Jamie Walters, I found a piece written by New Age guru Deepak Chopra about our natural tendency to contract, like a turtle pulling its limbs into its shell, when a threat appears. We contract, retreating inwardly, and get smaller as a way to protect ourselves from danger.

Commenting on the economic catastrophe we are experiencing, Chopra offers an alternative:

~ "But as the economy contracts, we must resist our natural reflex to contract with it. Instead, we need to do the opposite. Expansion is the best way to survive any crisis. "

Expand in a crisis? That's certainly not what most companies are doing right now, as hundreds of thousands of workers are being laid off so that costs can be cut (and executive bonuses preserved).

He says:

~ "Relationship. Gratitude. Appreciation. Compassion. Mutual regard. Strong social connections. Love you can trust. I don't know why it takes a crisis to bring out those fundamental human qualities. But it often does."

So, while the swelling ranks of the unemployed are tightening their belts, Chopra's wisdom is: Don't tighten your heart, or your mind, or your spirit.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 8, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wakeful Tranquility

Listening to a show about tea on the radio the other day, I learned some things. For instance, there are three types of tea: white, green, and black.

My main takeaway from the show, however, concerned the effect of tea on the tea drinker. The calming effect, known by Buddhists as "wakeful tranquility," is a state of alertness combined with relaxation.

Though the science isn't totally proven yet, it seems to be the result of the interaction between tea's chemical ingredients (including a form of caffeine and various anti-oxidants) and the specific practices of brewing the tea.

In other words, the effect depends on how you make your cup of tea. The key is to go slow. The longer you steep the tea in hot water, the more chance the chemical molecules in the leaves have to enter the drink.

The lesson: You can't rush a good cup of tea.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 7, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Cheese" Is King!

According to Time magazine, the popular business parable Who Moved My Cheese is the number one best-selling business book of all time, 22 million copies in the ten years since its publication. It is ahead of both Jim Collins' Good to Great and Tom Peters' In Search of Excellence.

I first encountered it in 1998 when Teleport was being acquired by AT&T. Since then, many a change management initiative has included the distribution, study, and discussion of this little book in the organizations affected by transition to change.

Who Moved My Cheese is now the leading example of a genre of business and management books that started with the prolific Ken Blanchard's legendary The One Minute Manager, co-written with Dr. Spencer Johnson, published in 1982. Other popular examples include The Fred Factor, The Dream Manager, Our Iceberg is Melting, Zapp! and FISH!

Congratulations to Dr. Spencer Johnson who authored "Cheese," a brief yet memorable tale of mice who are unexpectedly forced to find a new supply of cheese.

Note to all those who lost their jobs in November and all other job hunters: Read this little book. It couldn't hurt. And it might help.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 6, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

Do You TAZ?

One thing that was so great (at least to me) about studying Human Communication as an undergrad (Rutgers 1973-77) was the cool stuff we were exposed to, such as Karl Weick's concept of sensemaking, an idea I have been pondering ever since.

Fast forward, now my sons are studying Communication at Rutgers, and I love hearing about what they are learning. For example, my son Dave has told me about Hakim Bey's concept of "temporary autonomous zones." Dave says:

~ Places where a new social context is created by its participants. These zones are devoid of social control, outside the influence of regular society. Should the place be named, or its presence become publically known, the autonomous zone quickly disappears. It can later reappear under different conditions determined by its participants.

Think of a criminal hideout such as a pirate's den on some uncharted islands.

If you take out the aspect of deviance or illegal activity, you could say that that there are many forms of temporary autonomous zones in our lives, for instance job search teams that gradually evaporate as the members land jobs, ad hoc virtual teams, or communities of interest that form ephemerally on the internet.

One of Hakim Bey's notions is that temporary autonomous zones, being free from social control, have the effect of liberating empowerment and creativity. I like that a lot. And I think there may be applications of this idea for establishment organizations that are looking for ways to achieve true breakthroughs in innovation.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 5, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Be A Start-Up

Blogger Chris Spagnuolo, at EdgeHopper, has a great entry called "Act Like A Start-up," where he talks about the corporate culture of a start-up company:

~ "Vision, focused vision. Energy, lots of energy. Small teams. No rules. The Beginner’s Mind. The Art of the Possible."

I love it! That's the way it was at Teleport, a feisty local phone company where I worked back in the 90's. We were hungry. Action-oriented. Fearless.

Then Spagnuolo asks, Can an established company act like a start-up? This is a vital question. And not just because a company may need new products. But, even more importantly in today's difficult economy, to survive.

There are significant barriers facing an established company that is entertaining the thought of acting like a start-up, including:

- "that's not how we do things here"

- "we already tried that and it did not work for us"

There are many excuses for stepping back from the edge. Most come down to fear.

Two critical points that I'll add to Spagnuolo's excellent blog entry.

1. For Organizations: Look at the banks and the car makers. If you are standing on a burning latform, you've got to galvanize. That means taking risks.

2. For Job Hunters: Read Spagnuolo's entry, but put yourself into the spotlight. What would it take for You to Act Like a Start-Up?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sticky Downsizing

These are very trying times for business organizations and their members.

I was downsized a month ago. In the past four weeks, I have had half a dozen new product ideas for my former employer. Having no voice there anymore, there is no channel (other than my informal contacts that still work there) for bringing them forward.

So these ideas will go unheard. Ideas that could help that organization, as well as help me.

Unfortunately, the way that downsizing is traditionally conducted, there's no channel for the ex-employee to contribute. The way it's done today, you are told to leave the building. You are not to come back. You can't get your severance unless you sign a several page document where you promise not to sue. A chilly wall comes down between you and the organization.

So...Imagine if, instead of this stone-cold downsizing, there was another way . . .

A way where an employer could get smaller and thereby save costs, but where the people who are being shed are somehow still part of a larger community, still heard, and still eligible to be compensated for their valued inputs.

Today I came across a Fast Company piece about companies that "downsize but stay connected."

The writer calls it "creative downsizing." I'd call it sticky downsizing.

I think it's an idea worth much more discussion.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 1,2008