Saturday, November 26, 2011

On The Way


Today, my wife Joan and I saw the new movie "The Way" starring Martin Sheen, directed and written by his son Emilio Estevez. Can a movie be both incredibly gorgeous and spiritual at the same time? Apparently it can. Director Estevez has proved it with this inspiring road movie.

El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, is an ancient route from the Pyrenees in southern France, across northern Spain, through Galicia to the Atlantic Ocean. For over 1000 years, pilgrims have followed The Way, a route that passes through such places as Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon. The Way 'ends' at the tomb of the Apostle St. James the Greater located inside the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Field of Stars).

Martin Sheen plays a Dad whose son dies in the mountains while starting The Way. As Sheen's character decides to make the pilgrimage his son had begun, he meets others along the way. Each is searching for an answer to a dilemma. One wants to quit smoking. One wants to lose weight. One has writer's block. As we learn more about each person, we find that there are much deeper wounds and needs at work.

In Estevez' script, one of the characters says he is not much interested in religion. Another says in reply, "Religion has nothing to do with this. Nothing at all."

That was the 'moment of truth' for me in this wonderful movie. The Way is not religion. It's about waking up and finding out who we are. It's about living our lives mindfully, joyfully, and in the community of others.

St Francis of Assisi once said, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

Perhaps this is the real message of this film about love. It's not transformation. It's transcendence. It's realizing that we mean so much more than we realize.

I love that The Way brings you to The Field of Stars. What a destination.

Talk about poetry in motion.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday November 26, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thinking As One

Yesterday, the Villagers TheaterPlayers concluded a three week run of the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar." It was a spectacular triumph for all, the cast, crew, orchestra and everyone else involved. A great team effort.

For decades, researchers have studied teams --teams in sports, teams in healthcare, teams in space exploration, teams in entertainment, teams in emergency response, teams in the military-- and have tried to figure out what makes the most effective teams tick.

One of my favorite studies is the work by Larson and LaFasto where they identified eight characteristics of highly effective teams:
1 The team has a clear goal.
2 The team has a results-driven culture.
3 The team has capable team members.
4 The team has unified commitment.
5 The team has a supportive and collaborative climate.
6 The team has high standards of excellence.
7 The team has external support and encouragement.
8 The team has facilitative leadership.

In a recent team building class at a manufacturing company in New Jersey, a participant, one of the team leaders in Operations, made the point that effective teams "Think as one." I believe that Larson and LaFasto might say that is "unified commitment."

So I asked the class, How do you do that? How do you get people to think as one?

They said: A team must be on the same page. Care about one another. Have a common goal. Be fully committed.

That was certainly the case with the "Superstar" team at Villagers Theater.

It reminded me of what the great anthropologist Margaret Mead once said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world."

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanks and Giving


One way to appreciate a word that you've seen and used all your life is to view it in a new way.

My pastor Fr. Doug did that for me a couple years ago when he took the word Thanksgiving and broke it into pieces: Thanks and Giving.

When he said that, "the scales fell from my eyes," and I was able to re-appreciate the actions embedded in the idea of thanksgiving, namely:

~ that we should be thankful, and express thanks to those who have done something for us, and

~ that we should give abundantly, like there's no tomorrow: give of our time, our treasure, and most importantly our talents

As the day of Thanks and Giving approaches this week, I'm sending a message of gratitude and appreciation for all the angels (you know who you are!) who have been so supportive this year!

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday November 19, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Toward More Respectful Workplaces

With sexual harassment allegations, as well as sexual abuse, in the headlines again, managers would do well to revisit and reflect upon their affirmative duty to take steps each and every day to ensure that their workplaces are safe and free from all forms of harassment.

In a recent series of workshops, participants generated ideas on actions managers can take that will help to prevent harassment. Here are a few of those ideas:

- Listen actively and with empathy
- Be aware of what's going on it your environment
- Keep lines of communication open
- Educate everyone about the issue and your policy
- Lead by your example
- Be mindful of your own conduct
- Show respect to others
- Treat others as you would want to be treated
- Be a professional at all times
- Take these issues seriously
- Act promptly
- Express strong disapproval of behavior that crosses the line

Do you want to stop workplace harassment? If you are a manager, you've got to DARE to take the lead.

- Differences

In today's increasingly diverse workplaces, it's becoming harder to figure people out. Our diversity can be a great advantage if we learn to appreciate differences. If not, our differences will be a source of confusion, conflict, and discord. The answer? Get to know others better, especially those who are different from you.

- Act

Detecting harassment in your workplace? Nip it in the bud. Take action on the problem fast, rather than ignoring, or sweeping it under a rug, or telling yourself that someone else will take care of it. Harassment can be stopped dead in its tracks if someone will dare to confront it with clear, direct, and specific communication. It takes courage sometimes to face a harasser. But remember: If no one objects to the behavior, it will continue. And maybe even get worse.

- Respect

Can workplace harassment be prevented? While there is no foolproof way to prevent it from ever occuring, you can build a culture of respect and consideration for others. One where everyone follows the Golden Rule, treating others the way they would want to be treated. Ask yourself, Would I want my daughter (or son) to be treated like that? Spoken to that way?

- Expect

The other strong step you can take to prevent workplace harassment is to have clear expectations that people will behave professionally at all times. Make sure your anti-harassment policy is written, published, communicated to all, and frequently discussed and reinforced.

No one should ever have to suffer the pain and humiliation of workplace harassment. It's up to You. Real leaders look out for their people. What kind of workplace are you creating?

Do the right thing.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Goes the Fight?

After attending a funeral service this morning, I walked across the windswept parking lot and briefly spoke to a friend. His greeting was, "How goes the fight?"

He was referring to the challenge of the job market. For job hunters, every day is a fight in a war that seems to have no end.

If you are seeking a job, or know someone who is searching, the big question is: How are you surviving and thriving in today's difficult job market?

Back in 2008 and 2009 when this Great Recession blew in like an arctic storm, freezing millions out of work, the story of Charles Pixley stood out like a beacon. A courageous soul, Pixley did something quite creative. I had to blog about it. Here is that entry, from November of 2009, re-posted:

In getting ready to teach job hunters how to make the most of LinkedIn as a tool in their job search, I came across the article about Charles Pixley. He's the investment banker who, after losing his job in the recession, decided to market himself by wearing a sandwich board and standing at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street until he got an offer.

Pixley said: "Believe in yourself, improve yourself, put yourself out there. Have yourself seen. You resume will go into a pile. It's just another resume, just more words. There's no color. These posters provided my soul. It says everything in one lump page."

Take a close look at his poster. It says in part: "Investment Banker. 30+ years. Enlightened Leadership. Mission Driven."

Wow. What a great elevator pitch in visual form. Tenacious Pixley shows us how to put yourself out there and be more visible to employers and business partners.


Since then, in working with job hunters, I have often retold the Pixley story and conveyed his three points. Even now, as 2011 is drawing to a close, with 14 million still out of work, we need his example, and his three points.

Last year, in 2010, Doug Shaw, a UK-based consultant that I met via The Employee Engagement Network, asked, What are you doing to survive and thrive? He gave three points of his own, and then invited others to weigh in. You can read the entire wise compilation here.

Here are a few nuggets that I want to highlight because I believe they might be helpful to anyone who is struggling to find work.

Craig Althof said: "Re-assess yourself on a regular basis. Set your priorities, act on them. Surviving and thriving will follow."

Bill Lamphear said: "Every day is a gift. Keep learning. Be a friend and mentor."

Hilary Jeanes said: "Reduce your stress. Identify what causes you stress and how to alleviate it. You will be in a better place to cope with whatever life throws your way."

Karen Drury said: "Take comfort in friends."

Ian Sutherland said: "Accept what has happened. Face your fears. Live your dreams."

Shereen Qutob Cabral said: "It take a whole lot of patience and faith."

And finally, Doug Shaw's three points are worth highlighting: "Love your network. Focus on the future. Be positive."

Amen, brother.

Addendum: So we had a very engaging session of the St. Matthias Employment Ministry this Saturday morning. On the question about Surviving and Thriving in today's job market, the group offered much wisdom:
- Be positive
- Assess yourself
- Let go/ Accept and release the past
- Don't let the "shoulds" hold you back
- Don't let negative people get you down
- Follow what you enjoy most
- Laugh/Keep your sense of humor
- Be creative
- Reduce expenses
- Join meet-up groups
- Be social
- Love your network
- Go to professional gatherings
- Volunteer
- Do pro bono work
- Be optimistic
- Love your librarian
- Don't give up
- Take a breather
- Be disciplined
- Distinguish yourself
- Reinvent yourself
- Be open to doing something different, new

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tiramisu for the Soul

For many, the time in between services at your house of worship is a long soul-less period of working, chores, deadlines, and worries. Wouldn't it be wonderful if, during the week, you had a "pick me up" for your soul?

There is a wonderful dessert that you'll find on the menu of most Italian restaurants, called tiramisu, which loosely translated means "pick me up." Called by some "heaven in the mouth," tiramisu is a delicious way to end a meal.

For me, a faith sharing group meeting is like tiramisu. It's a spiritual "pick me up" that refreshes you during the week.

At my parish, St. Matthias in Somerset, NJ, we encourage the formation of small groups that gather in someone's home, once a week for six weeks. Each week there is a theme, a reading from scripture, and a discussion. The aim of the gathering is to connect the scripture to our lives and share our faith journeys with one another. Small scale, simple to carry out, yet profound in its effects.

Another type of spiritual pick-me-up I recently started is t'ai chi chih, or "joy through movement," based on the style developed by Justin Stone. His approach to this ancient art of movement is slow, soft, and effortless, like a flowing meditation. The intent of this t'ai chi is to circulate and balance the chi, the vital force that flows through the universe . . . and through us.

Why not treat yourself to a spiritual pick-me-up? You deserve it.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday November 10, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Leading With the Heart

So much of what is written about leadership is "in the head," meaning that the competencies highlighted include planning, organizing, strategizing, decision making, problem solving, analyzing, improving, and the like. All good and useful to be sure.

But really leading effectively involves being "in the heart" too. So here are some additional competencies that the well balanced leader will take the time to ponder and develop.

Helping: In my leadership classes, I always ask the participants to tell stories about leaders they admire. I encourage them to say what makes these leaders so memorable and effective. One answer that comes up time after time is, Leaders that help. Leaders that are there for you. That you can count on. That pitch in and get their hands dirty. Who back you, and go to bat for you.

Engaging: We often say that the best leaders are ones who "lead by their example." But what example are we talking about? What would be included in this? One suggestion I'd offer is Leaders that engage. Just as the word implies, such a leader is "in gear" with his job, his mission, his sense of purpose, and his organization. This leader's palpable engagement will surely influence his followers to get engaged too.

Appreciating: Leading with the heart involves some very basic human emotions, such as appreciating others for who they are and what they bring to the job, to the team, and to the organization. Leaders that appreciate each person create a positive, affirming environment where people feel good about themselves.

Recognizing: In much the same spirit as appreciating, Leaders that recognize make people feel good about themselves and inspire people to give more of themselves.

Teaching: Another characteristic of effective leaders that is often mentioned by the participants in my leadership classes is Leaders that teach. Leaders that take the time to help you grow and become more knowledgeable, more capable, and more valuable.

Leadership involves not only using our heads, but leading with our hearts too.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday November 8, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

Together Everyone Achieves More

When my sons were young kids, they swam on a local swim team. Every swimmer was given a t-shirt with the slogan "TEAM means Together Everyone Achieves More" printed on the back.

Are you part of a team? Or a team leader? Or a manager responsible for teams in your organization? If so, here is a way to turn this slogan into an operating model for your team.

For each word in the TEAM acronym, I offer some questions that you and your team can use to discover resources to improve your team's performance.

Together - How well is the team working together?

Everyone - Is everyone on the same page? Is everyone pulling in the same direction? Can everyone be counted on?

Achieves - How well is the team achieving its goals? What is working? What could be improved?

More - What more could the team do to work more effectively as one?

The legendary baseball player Babe Ruth said it well: "The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."

He was right. Teamwork doesn't happen automatically. It's something you build. (That's where the term team building comes in.)

What is keeping your team from reaching its full potential?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday November 7, 2011