Monday, April 27, 2009

The Heart of Meaningful Work

I recently started a new social network on ning called The Heart of Meaningful Work. I envision it as a cousin to the Employee Engagement Network.

The economic downturn we are still experiencing has caused many people to question and explore the meaning of work in their lives. Is it enough to work to live, to pay the bills, and put the kids through college? Maybe it is, for now. But do we work for another reason? Is there a higher purpose to our work?

~ Can our work be a source of joy in our lives?

~ Can our work be a path to spiritual development?

~ Can our work make this world a better place for others?

~ How can we discover our calling in life?

It's questions like these that I'm hoping to raise, share, and discuss at The Heart of Meaningful Work. If you find this interesting, you are invited to join. I look forward to seeing you there.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 27, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Riding On Turtles


Driving Joan to church this morning at 7:00 AM, there wasn't much traffic on Easton Avenue or JFK Boulevard. Perfect time to cross the road . . . especially for a turtle.

I didn't even see it as I drove to church. But on the way back, it caught my eye. There it was, in the middle of the road, waiting patiently before proceeding.

Recently, having seen the movie The Golden Compass (where people have a "daemon," an animal as spiritual guide and companion), Joan and I were talking about what sort of animals we might have as daemons. She said a rabbit. I immediately said a turtle.

I've always liked turtles. With their slow gait, their ornate shells, and their dinosaurian skin and claws, I've been fascinated by these reptiles.

In a way, turtles seem to me to be distant cousins of dragons. Maybe turtles are their descendants?

Over at Dick Richards new blog, Riding On Dragons, Dick quotes poet Robert Bly:

~ "In ancient times, in the “time of inspiration,” the poet flew from one world to another, “riding on dragons,” as the Chinese said."

How about the lowly turtle?

According to feng shui, it's good to have a metal or stone turtle in your home. Turtles represent long life and good fortune. According to this site, a black metal turtle will bring good career fortune.

I think it's time I got one.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 26, 2009
Thanks for reading my blog. Please leave a comment.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Good Weather. No Job. Life's Good.

A friend of mine sent this tweet this morning:

~ "Good Weather. No Job. Life's Good."

I love it. What a great philosophy. And a terrific attitude.

She has a sense of balance about her life that helps me find the right balance in mine.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Transparency

One of the new buzzwords of the Obama Era is "transparency." According to wikipedia:

~ Transparency, when used in a social context, implies openness, communication, and accountability. Transparent procedures include open meetings, financial disclosure statements, the freedom of information legislation, etc.

In government, then, transparency means "that the business of government and state administration should be opened at all levels to effective public scrutiny and oversight."

Seems like a good idea to me.

Thanks to consultant Stephen Gill at the Employee Engagement Network, I came across a podcast about transparency in a corporate context.

It's an interview with Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was facing a huge problem, a $20 million dollar deficit. He could have solved this problem by firing 600 people. But he did something else.

He openly shared the problem with his entire organization, inviting all employees to engage with the problem and submit ideas.

As Gill wrote: "Being transparent with employees and involving them in solving the problem resulted in being able to dramatically reduce the number of layoffs that he had initially anticipated."

Here is a true model of 21st century leadership.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's Systemic

A word I've been hearing recently is "systemic." For example:

~ "Pakistan stands on the brink of systemic failure."

~ "The government's Troubled Asset Relief Program was meant to maintain systemic financial market stability and spur lending."

~ "Systemic problems existed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where U.S. troops abused Iraqi prisoners."

Interesting, eh?

I recently conducted a management training program on Problem Solving where we looked at different kinds of problems. One type of problem, that the quotes above seem to be talking about, is systemic problems. Problems at the system level.

What is a problem at the system level?

Apparently, such a problem is one where, if not solved, the system itself --whether a political system, a banking system or a prison system-- would be in danger of collapse.

Who is prepared (i.e, educated and trained) to handle such problems?

The only people I can think of are OD (Organization Development) professionals, especially those steeped in General Systems theory and systems thinking.

Maybe it's time more OD people ran for political office?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Please Leave A Comment

To My Readers:

Please leave a comment when you visit.

It's like visiting a place where there is a guest book by the front door. Before you exit, you sign it to leave a note about your experience of the place.

I know that people are visiting by virtue of site meter, but almost no one leaves a comment.

If you are in a hurry (and who isn't these days?), just leave a "tweet," a few words will do it.

Thanks

Terry

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 15, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Learning From Beauty

India-based consultant Gautam Ghosh has a good blog entry called "Developing Yourself in the Downturn," where he asks, How do you keep your skills sharp when your employer has tightened the budget on training?

It's a good question for those still working. It's also a good one for those in transition.

Some of Gautam's ideas include:

- Read a book
- Read some blogs

I like the emphasis on reading. Very simple, very accessible.

In a comment, I added:

- Talk to an expert. Take one out for coffee or lunch and ask questions. Then listen. And learn.

Yesterday, I did that, via the computer. And I picked up another idea for continual personal growth, from an unlikely place.

For Easter, a friend suggested I listen to a podcast on radio show called Speaking of Faith with host Krista Tippett. It's an interview with Armenian Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian where he talks about "restoring the senses" through spiritual living. Two of Guroian's practices seem germane to Gautam's question:

- Go for a walk: Guroian's Orthodox theology says that God gave us two scriptures: the one that is written, and one that is all around us: the sky, the earth, the water, the trees, and all that surrounds us in nature. We need to dwell in both scriptures in order to deepen our understanding, and grow closer to God.

- Raise a garden: Guroian finds that there is nothing quite like the disciplines and the rhythms of weeding and planting a garden to find the beauty in this world.

Both of these activities help to "restore the senses," especially our seeing, our hearing, and our smelling. And in restoring our senses, we deepen our appreciation for the beauty of creation.

He points out that the phrase in the creation story in Genesis where it says "And God saw that it was good," can also be translated "And God saw that it was beautiful."

For the Orthodox, God's handiwork is the creation of beauty.

Our task is to preserve and continue that work.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Easter Sunday 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Poor Workman Blames His Tools

Today I read an article in the February issue of The Academy of Management Perspectives journal called "Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Overprescribing Goal Setting," jointly written by four PhD's from four prestigious universities.

[Side note: The reason I have only now gotten to read this article is that my copy of the magazine must have gotten stuck in a US Post Office machine of some kind. It arrived, in yesterday's mail, looking like it had been torn out of the clenched teeth of a rabid dog. No note of apology, about the savaged condition of the item, from the Post Office either.]

When this article came out in February, I remember hearing about it. It caused a bit of a stir.

The gist of the piece is that the well-researched and long-established management practice of setting goals may have inadvertently contributed to many of the corporate debacles (e.g. Enron) and social ills that have caused the economic catastrophe we are now experiencing.

In the same issue of the AOM journal, professors Gary Latham and Edwin Locke, both recognized as the foremost authorities on goal setting, fired back, in an article called "Has Goal Setting Gone Wild, or Have Its Attackers Abandoned Good Scholarship?"

Latham was quoted in an article in the Boston Globe. "You know how Shakespeare wrote that the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves?" asks Latham, a professor at the University of Toronto. "Well, the fault is not in our goals but in our values."

I side with Latham. I'm reminded of an old proverb that says "It's a poor workman who blames his tools" for his poor quality output and his failed results.

Let's not blame the goals for our screw-ups. Goals are tools. Instead, leaders should take a good, long, honest look in the mirror.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 8, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Monk Looks at Change

Today, consultants Mary Key and Kenny Moore gave a rich webinar called Professional, Personal and Spiritual Wisdom for Managing Change in Turbulent Times with Kenny Moore. Long title, but an excellent hour of sage advice for these difficult times.

Mary (co-author of CEO Road Rules) provided some good material on transitions and change, drawing upon her own work with executives, as well as the writings of William Bridges and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Kenny (co-author of The CEO and the Monk), being a former monk, provided a monastic view of change that I find quite refreshing. Here are just a few of his many wise points:

Show up - As Woody Allen once said, 80% of success in life is showing up. You gotta show up, in person, and online. For job hunters, this means networking, volunteering, attending meetings, and joining job search support groups.

Mystery - The word "mystery" originally meant "to close the lips." Since much of the change we are experiencing, such as job loss, has no neat and obvious solution, we are really in a predicament, characterized by ambiguity. Moore says we are in the presence of mystery. So close the mouth . . . and listen.

Questions - And when it comes time to lead others, ask questions. And not small, narrow ones. Rather, Kenny says, ask engaging questions. Questions that expand, inspire and motivate people to rise to the challenge.

Stories - I've seen Kenny teach several times in the past couple years and I've noticed that he prefers to tell stories. Even in today's webinar, he told several stories of real people wrestling with change. Stories are great ways to help guide others to a deeper understanding of life.

Mary and Kenny are planning to offer this webinar again before the end of the month, so stay tuned to their websites:

~ Mary Key = http://www.keyassociatesinc.com/

~ Kenny Moore = http://kennythemonk.typepad.com/

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 6, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Follow Your Passion

Thanks to a tweet (I can't believe I just wrote "tweet") on facebook from Michael VanDervort, I learned about a social networking site called My Spirit World, which led me to an article by Peter Bregman called "Spirituality, Your Job, and the Recession."

It's a good piece, with a number of things to think about, including following your passion.

Writing about an executive he knows, Bregman says: "What would her life look like -- in every dimension she values -- if she decided to pursue her passion full time? She needs to consider the contribution she'd make. The relationships she'd foster. The fun she'd have. The feelings she'd carry with her throughout the day. Her engagement in her work. In short, what her life would mean."

By coincidence, I heard from a friend of mine today, a financial executive in the corporate world, who has left it behind in order to do something in the non-profit space.

She writes: "I have been doing volunteer work for a hospice, and just recently a community action program that provides social services to the greater area. I have decided that I no longer want to work in the for-profit sector and these service organizations are absolutely thrilled to have someone with my skills. In return, I am learning non profit skills, (as well as) the Spanish language."

She is following her passion.

Bregman recognizes that following one's passion can feel risky: "Most people are afraid to (follow their passion). Afraid of the risk. Afraid of the gap in their resume. They try to cover it up. Find ways to explain it away."

But he makes a very interesting point: "Employers want to hire someone who is naturally driven. Self-motivated. Successful people are passionate, obsessed. And obsession isn't motivated by money. It's deeper than that. Find your obsession. Let it loose. You'll work at your obsession all the time because you want to. And that kind of persistence, that kind of focus, is worth a lot of money."

So, the question is: What is your passion?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, April 5, 2009