Education at Election Time

It is election time here in Victoria with Steady Steve and Big Ted fighting out to see who will govern our state for the next four years.
On just about our favourite topic of all time — Education — it’s heartbreaking to see the two main political parties treating the future of our children as a political football. Their philosophy seems totally dependent on whatever will win a few votes on Saturday: “many mourn the passing of technical schools, let’s bring them back”; “selective schools have popular appeal, we’ll have more of them”.
Imagine a minister for education who spent all their energy on, and instilled in every member of their department, one single-minded goal devoid of ideology: improving the quality of education for every child in the state. Forget polls. Forget federal-state fiefdoms. Forget short-term political appeal. Just ensure that every teacher and every school administrator does whatever it takes and uses every ounce of imagination and creativity to give every child their right.
For one brief foolish moment, I had hoped that Ted Baillieu might, just might, be the leader to bring such passion to education. How deluded I was.

Wounds to the Soul

I wonder if you are carrying a wounded soul?

We start out with such ideals — entrepreneurs in particular, if
you class yourself in that category. But life has a way of presenting us with
such huge dilemmas.

I was moved to think about this after reading Ian Mitroff this
morning. In the course of his research, Mitroff interviewed a number of CEOs.
He tells the story of

Charles (not his real name) is a typical CEO of a midsize, highly
successful manufacturing business on the East Coast [of the USA]. In his early
fifties, in good physical shape, and happily married with three "great kids."
he has an enormous zeal for living and for life in general. He is quite prous
of the entrepreneurial skills that enabled the creation of his business and
tha have kept it fresh, exciting, and highly competitive over the years. Nonetheless,
it didn’t take long in the interview for a deep wound in his soul to surface.

"A few years ago, I had an epiphany, I realized — or better yet, I could
no longer deny — that the chemicals I was using to manufacture and treat
the furniture I was making were highly toxic. They were extremely dangerous
to the environment. To my dismay, I realised that I had become an unwitting
agent of evil, Needless to say, this does not sit well with my self-concept."

What do we do with such dilemmas?

Being Still

My apologies for the absence here for such a long time. It is over a month
since I posted. How can that be? How time flies.

I’ve been thinking about standing still.

Well perhaps not standing still in the pejorative sense, perhaps more being
still. Being still long enough to know what is happening around me.

C Otto Scharmer calls it Co-sensing.
If you are moved to look at his model, you will see this corrresponds to the
left hand side of the ‘U’. (It may not surprise you that I like to think of
this as a spiral rather than a ‘U’. On the spiral path you start where you
are now and be still. Then you move both inwards and outwards on the spiral.
But Ottto uses a ‘U’, so let’s stick with that for the moment.)

Otto describes this process as

‘Downloading’
(images of the past)

‘Suspending’

‘Seeing’ (with fresh eyes)

‘Sensing’ (from the field).

‘letting-go’

To get into the left hand side of the ‘U’ we need to stop and be still.

It’s not easy to find time to be still in our busy lives. But it is when we
are busy we most need to find the time to be still.

If you follow Otto’s ‘U’, you will see that it leads to ‘Co-presencing’ (connecting
with ‘Who is my Self?’ and ‘What is my Work?’) at the bottom through to ‘Performing’
(achieving results) on the right. I like to expand this a bit with ‘acheiving
powerful results connected to our my true self and my true work.’ But that
is running ahead of ourselves for the moment.

Remember where we started today. Being still. Try it for 10 minutes to start
with. Be still and be aware of what is around you. Don’t rush ahead. I’ll come
back to the other parts of the process. For the moment, just be still and be
aware, remembering that this is the beginning of powerful action.

Creating Shareholder Value

We are fascinated with this month’s lead article in Harvard Business Review Ten
Ways to Create Shareholder Value
(subscription required for full article
but you can get the abstract here or contact
me
for more details.)

In one way, we really wonder how ‘shareholder value’ became such unchallengeable
corporate orthodoxy. We wonder how people working in corpotations can ever
be motivated with the goal of making money for someone else. But that’s what
we expect them to do. We expect them to turn up at work every day and think
to themselves "how can I make more money for shareholders today." We expect
them to be over the moon with this prospect. Everything else they may put their
heart and soul into is expendable in the service to shareholder value. Even
their own jobs are expendable to this purpose. Then we treat them with disdain
because they are lazy and they don’t have any commitment to the corporation.

On the other hand we know how this came to be — see Agency Theory and Shareholder Value.

Given all that at least Harvard Business Review turns the emphasis from short
term to long term value. A small step. A step nevertheless.

Easy Answers

Perhaps the most fundamental quest in human history has been to find ‘the
path to a fulfilled life.’ Throughout time, men and women  have
sought to address this question at various levels of depth. For some it has
been a shallow ‘tell me everything I need to know in five minutes’ while
for others it has truly been a life’s work. For many this search has
been expressed through a religious journey, some through exploration of the
natural universe, some through personal conquest, and increasingly today many
find expression in the world of business. (Indeed we have heard it said that
business has replaced religion as the source for meaning in people’s
lives.) People in this category may attempt to find fulfilment through building
huge organisations, by amassing personal wealth or perhaps creating something
of enduring worth.

Hand in hand with the individual quest, have been those who offer to provide
either “the answer” or guidance along the path. In the field of
religion we have priests, rabbis, mullahs and teachers. We also have heretics.
In personal health we have doctors and medical practitioners of all varieties.
We also have quacks and snake oil salesmen. In business we have consultants
on the one hand and charlatans on the other (See Thomas
Szasz
). Somewhere in that mix, and across all fields of endeavour we have ‘gurus’.

A few years ago Spiral Path worked for a one of the Big Five professional services
firms in Melbourne. It was an eye opening experience. we could see in the
eyes and hear in the words of our clients two very different perceptions
of us. One the one hand there was a deep distrust. Our fees were higher than
anyone else in town and they knew, or suspected, that we were looking for
ways to broaden the engagement (and hence charge more fees) in almost every
conversation. In short, they felt we were out to ‘screw them’.

On the other hand, they engaged us because our fees were so high. Our fees
must be the highest because we must be the best. When they came to a presentation
in our offices, they met us at the hallowed thirteenth floor. There was a hush
when the lift opened. We did everything we could to make them feel it was their
privilege to be invited to come here. We provided them with a magnificent view
of Melbourne (a metaphor for our omniscience), the meeting was attended by
waiters who would serve tea, coffee and biscuits individually and when they
went to the bathroom they were regaled with marble walls stone floors and gold
fittings.

Throughout all this, Spiral Path felt they entertained (and we encouraged)
one abiding fantasy about us. Yes they could come to Level 13. But there
were parts of the building only staff were allowed. Surely there was, somewhere
higher in the building that they could only dream of where only the most
devout staff could go. A place where there was a huge book laid out on an
alter. In the book were all the possible scenarios that could face a business.
More importantly, next to each scenario was “the answer” — what
the business needed to do to solve the problems it faced or to obliterate
its competition. In their heart of hearts, Spiral Path believes this is what
they hoped they were paying for.

Spiral Path keeps this experience in mind whenever a new book, article or theory
comes across our desk. When we evaluate any leadership theory, the most fundamental
question we need to address is to what extent it provides practical and useful
direction in the art of leading and to what it extent it feeds our fantasy that
it is a shortcut that will enable us to lead and be successful without doing
the hard work of being a leader.

Fate vs Destiny

We were at the AHRI dinner the other night. A gala event by any standard and
we were delighted to make the acquaintence of Colin and Patrina.

During the course of the conversation we started discussing the difference
between Fate and Destiny.

Just semantics perhaps, but for some reason Spiral Path felt there was a difference.

Fate, we associate with fatalism. A feeling that there are things we can’t
do anything about. We don’t understand them but they happen anyway. We associate
fate with things we don’t want to happen. Of course literature is replete
with counter examples – for example "that fateful moment" may refer to the
one were two lives first intersected and from which a lifelong partenership
arose. Regardless, we feel we had no control over what happened. The meeting
was determined by something outside of us.

Destiny on the other hand Spiral Path believes is something we partner with. In
the strict sense of the word it sounds like, and probably is, from the same
derivation as ‘destination’. Destiny though feels to us as it is something
or some path, that we were designed for. When we spoke about it the other night
we used the expression "you might miss your destiny." Perhaps it is something
we feel in ourselves. It is our path. We of course would say it is our Spiral
Path.

Hmmm. We wonder what you think?

Love at Work

We’ve just been reading World Vision Australia CEO, Tim Costello’s chapter in the recent Australian Institute of Management publication, Love @ Work.

It looks like we’ve been reading pretty much the same books as Tim over the
last five years. Well, that’s probably an unfair comparison. Reading the chapter
we think Tim may have read many more books than we have in that time. But let’s
say we’ve read most of the books he refers to.

We started with the last chapter and haven’t looked at the others yet but
we can say it is compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in "leading
with heart".

Tim reviews social movements through the ages and looks at what motivates
people like William
Wilberforce
. We hadn’t know that 45 years elapsed between the time Wilberforce

first presented evidence to a committee of the Privy Council in 17888
at the age of 29…until the final Commons reading on 26 July 1833 abolishing
slavery in all British colonies. [and that] Wilberforce died three days later.

For all that, this is no sentimental soft motivational piece. Costello carefully,
painstakingly and forcefully constructs his argument and finds room for critiques
of many modern movements.

We rather like his calling of so called "Gurus" and consultants
as charlatans. (Of course the latter title does not apply to ourselves.) Mission
statements such as Exxon’s “The
customer comes first” get revealed for what they are — platitudes designed
to hide the truth that senior executives come first (thanks to a reference
to
Art Kleiner ).

Tim uses culture change "guru"
Ed Schein’s willingness
to compare his methods to those used against POWs in communist prison camps
as one example of how the latest "spirituality at work" movement
may in fact be just another method to bleed employees dry of not only their
physical and emotional health but of their souls as well.

We have quite some respect for the group Costello regards we think positively
but with caution — Senge,
Kahane, Jaworski Kleiner
and Danah Zohar :

Their books have a complex mixture of personal narrative, management theory,
tribal wisdom and New Age views on particle physics and human nature.

Through all this he builds a dilemma around spirituality at work. On the one
had it may satisfy the need to find fulfillment at work and bring more of ourselves
to creative solution making. On the other hand is the ever present danger of
misuse and abuse.

Tim quite beautifully creates the argument that perhaps the solution to this
dilemma is not to think about spirituality so much as think about Love.

Some have wondered whether such altruistic love that transcends ordinary
human limits might require and inflow of love from a higher source. But whatever
faith background one does or does not come from, altruistic love is at the
core of what makes individuals, families and societies whole, The very fabric
of society is held together by those people and associations who work for
the common good and not their self-interest alone.

We hope you buy the book.

BOSS True Leaders list

August means leaders for AFR
BOSS.

Each year in August BOSS publishes its True Leaders List.
This year is the sixth edition of the list. One of the things it does
for Spiral Path is to make us stop and think about how our feelings
about leadership have developed over the last 12 months.

BOSS editor Helen
Trinca
wrote this year’s piece. We think she adds an air of experience
and ever so slightly deeper style than last year’s author, Catherine
Fox
.

This year’s piece nicely teases out the changes in perception of leadership
over the last 12 months. Certainly, the panel believes the hero CEO
is dead. We’re not sure they’re right about that, but it’s nice to
hear them say it.

The usual suspects are along with perhaps some surprises in Greg
Combet
and Noel
Pearson
.

Having shared some experiences with him more than a decade ago, we
were very pleased to see quiet achiever Craig
Winkler
included in the top 25.

So how has Spiral Path’s thinking about leadership changed over 12
months? Perhaps the greatest change is that we are less likely to think
of leadership as a quality that some people have and others don’t.
We are more likely to think of leadership as something some people
do in the situation they are in at the time and perhaps won’t be able
to in another situation. We think of David
Loader
, a visionary, inspiring and loved principal at Melbourne’s Methodist
Ladies’ College
. His experience at Wesley
College
was reported to be quite different.

We think True Leaders is useful in getting each of to think
about what parts of ourselves we bring to our role as leaders. This,
we believe, is the real work of a leader. Not useful, we think, is
looking for qualities in other leaders that seem to make them ‘successful’
and then trying to emulate them.

Sex at work

Friday’s Financial Review carried an article entitled “Sex Case: It was friendly”*

The article is about a sexual harassment case brought by a partner in one of Australia’s (and the world’s) largest companies “alleging ‘a culture of discrimination, harassment and bullying’, claiming numerous male partners sexually harassed her while management failed to adequately adress her complaints.”

Regular readers will know that Spiral Path has regularly become passionate about the elimination of all forms of sexual harassment. The AFR article goes on to say:

“[The company] admits that at a young leader’s conference in 2004, a video was shown including a woman sunbathing topless after which a partner asked: ‘Christina, is that you sunbathing on the beach?'”

We know a lot of men would complain about Christina’s reaction. We can hear
them complaining “You can’t say anything anymore.” But what was the subtext
of the partner’s comment? What he was really saying was “I would like to see
your breasts.” Put that way it was clearly an offensive comment.

But we wonder what the subtext to the subtext was. Why do we men make comments like that? Our guess is it is because we really want to say “I find you attractive” or “I think you are quite beautiful.” But that would put us in a vulnerable position. We have expressed our inner selves and face rebuttal. To say either of these things is not to say “I’ve fallen in love with you.” It’s not an advance. It’s just stating how we feel. The problem is that we fear your response. So to protect ourselves we put you down and try to make you feel powerless. That’s because from the time we first began to notice girls, we have never had (or made) the opportunity to talk about how we feel. So we have no language to talk about how we feel about you.

Spiral Path believes we need to find that language. We men need to learn to express our attraction with dignity and respect.

*I can’t post a link to this article because AFR requires payment even to get to the link now. If you would like a copy of the article, contact me and I will send it to you.

The Doomsday Scenario

As a teenager in 1969, I was on holiday in Perth
with my family staying with
my father’s parents in their old home. One morning something happened
that I remember vividly but I think I have never spoken of before.

I was thinking about waking up and drifting in and out of sleep. Then I heard
the most powerful rumbling whole being shaking sound. I don’t know if it
was a dream or a vision but no one else spoke about it so I have always believed
it was a private experience.

The sound seemed to continue for a minute or so although it may have been less.
My thought at the time was that I was in the midst of a nuclear explosion. The
Third (and surely final) World War had started and soon it would all be over.

I woke up to the most surreal scene. Nothing had changed. Everything was just
as it had been the night before. Everyone was carrying on as normal. It was as
though the war had happened but had left everything looking the same. I hadn’t
heard about neutron bombs
at that stage but if I had, I would have thought that
the war had been fought with some new weapon. Something that left everything
looking the same on the outside but hollow on the inside.

Surprisingly the experience didn’t frighten me but it did take me into
an altered state for much of the rest of the day. Eventually I came to realise
that my experience had not been part of the physical world, but to this day I
am left believing it was real nevertheless. I do not often stop to ponder what
it meant but from time to time I do.

I relate this story here because it tells something of the similarity of the
world we now live in and that of the sixties.

As a teenager, we lived with the Cold War with a constant threat of massive nuclear destruction.
We all knew the acronyms ICBM and MAD and
the tension between the Soviet Union and the USA
was constant news. The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in my lifetime although I was too young to know much
about it when it was news.

Then in 1967 the Six Day War between
Israel and the Arab nations started. Seeing
the first news of the attacks and Israel’s march into Egypt on TV, my father
remarked “I guess we’re about due for another world war.

The later part of the sixties was a time of hope in the midst of extreme fear.
The sixties saw the sexual revolution and we saw the ‘Flower Power’ movement
in San Francisco. All this took place in the real knowledge that the world could
end tomorrow.

But the world did not end. We survived. The threat of all out nuclear war receded
and a new age seemed to be dawning with the amazing events in Berlin, Moscow
and South Africa. At breathtaking speed the Iron Curtain had fallen and Apartheid
was gone. The threats to world peace that had hovered over us all my life were
gone.

But it was a brief interlude. Any final illusions we had that interruptions to
peace were the death movements of a dying animal were shattered on September
11, 2001
.

People growing up today are living with the same constant fear that lead to my
dream in 1969, but there seems much less hope. There is no sexual revolution
and no flower power.

The threat of terrorism is a constant in our lives with the news of a new threat
to blow up planes on transatlantic flights from Britain
breaking as I write this.

World demand for oil has caught up with the limits of our ability to produce
it with Chinese and Indian demand only starting to kick in. The free run given
to the West from cheap imports from China and cheap services from India is coming
to an end.

The doomsday clock is ticking.

The doomsday scenario is important for us. Not only is it a real potential scenario
that maybe we can’t or won’t do anything to avoid but, more importantly,
I believe that only by looking this scenario in the face and tracing out the
shadow of its hand do our minds become fully open to alternative scenarios.

The alternative scenarios I am thinking of range from groundbreaking new inventions
(such as new sources of energy or radically more efficient ways of using the
energy sources we have available) to the next social revolution.

Regardless of the type of changes that we need to adopt as a society, at the
core of those changes must surely be the need to bring more ourselves and our
creative ability to the task of creating alternative scenarios. And our most
influential social institutions — corporations — must surely play
a central role in bring more of our creative ability to social and industrial
change.

The twentieth century saw the development of the modern corporation. By its end,
opportunities for organic growth had become limited by the sheer size to which
corporations had grown. The immergence of the junk bond market enabled growth
by acquisition to continue for a few more decades.  Lazonick & O’Sulllivan
suggest this has been achieved at the expense of reinvestment in our commercial
enterprise with the consequent destruction of long term productivity. (Lazonick
and O’Sullivan 2000). Corporations themselves are not only facing the doomsday
scenario through external pressure, but also by becoming empty on the inside.

Individually, I believe bringing more of ourselves to creating the future is
about bring our soul to work.

In similar fashion. corporate survival is dependant on corporations, like the
tin man in The Wizard of Oz, finding their soul.