Changing seasons and getting older

It’s Easter.
In Melbourne Easter traditionally marks the final end of summer regardless of what the weather is like. Sometimes we will get a warm Easter and sometimes it will be quite wintery. This Easter has been more wintery than warm. I started out with a long sleeved shirt on Good Friday but by early afternoon I had changed into shorts and a t-shirt. Then came the change. The temperature dropped many degrees and we had a heavy rain storm. Hard to imagine two more different weather conditions in one day.
Three weeks ago, we were walking along the banks of the Yarra River just before 8pm waiting for the Closing Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games to begin. We were wearing t-shirts and shorts and it was quite warm – almost hot for that time of day. A few days later the maximum temperature was about 13 and we all had overcoats on.
Winter came quickly this years. I love winter, but I hate its coming. Summer represents holidays and slowing down a bit. Everyone is a bit more relaxed about deadlines. I relax more. I love going to the beach. I love swimming and I love the spectacle of it with other people swimming, sunbaking, surfing, playing on the beach and yachting.
I’m always a bit sad when summer ends. It means all that is put away for another year and while business gets busy again, the world around slows down a little. In a way it marks the end of another year. I guess you could say the end of any season marks the end of a year, but for me as winter ends, there is the excitement of summer around the corner and summer holidays.
Winter seems more a time of solitude. After winter has set in I love it. I love sitting by an open fire when it is cold and pouring with rain outside. I love going for a brisk walk in the cold air. It’s nice that those oppressive hot nights have gone again for a while.
When winter comes, I’m never ready for the change from out summer sport – Cricket to our winter sport – Aussie Rules Football. As the football season progresses, I get really involved in it and often listen to or watch the my team’s games. I even watch other games just because they’re on. But at the start of the season, it takes me a while to get into it.
But underneath it all, I think for me, the coming of winter marks the marching of time. It means I am getting older. Also as I run my own business, it means I have to get serious about all those goals I set at the start of the year. It always takes time for things to happen but by the time winter comes, it’s a real test of whether they will or not. So I am getting older and have to question whether I am moving towards my life goals.
So by mid winter I am loving it. At the change of seasons, I have a lot to think about.

Betrayal is sometimes a good thing

In this Human Relations piece [subscription required] ISPSO associate James Krantz argues that

“betrayal is an essential element of leadership and organizational change.”

He suggests that during significant change “decisions that breach existing social, psychological and intrapsychic configurations” have dynamic reverbations and these “transgressions are often experienced as betrayal.”
This is an aspect of courageous leadership that I hadn’t really thought about as such before.

A different type of stakeholder

Although I haven’t followed his career closely Don
Argus
has always struck me as a deep and broad minded thinker. There
are other powerful CEOs and chairmen that don’t evoke the same confidence
in their ability to think beyond profit and power. A certain telecommunications
carrier comes to mind in that respect.

Don Argus came to my attention again this morning in this
article
[Subscription Required] in the Fin
Review
today. In this edited extract of a speech he gave yesterday
to the Australian Institute
of Company Directors
Argus argues that the narrow focus on shareholder
interest is misplaced. Certainly shareholders provide the financial capital
for the company to operate, but many (most?) have no long term commitment
to the company. However:

…should shareholders hold sway over strategy and operational implementation
which may force management to drastically change the fortunes of a particular
company. These same shareholders could be gone in the blink of an eye by
selling their shares the next day or even the next minute.

Others with no skin in the game (at least financially speaking) may demonstrate
much longer term commitment and interest (although as Argus points out in
the case of French activist José
Bové
that interest may be negative). Employees come to my
mind as a group that provide a certain type of capital without which the long
term growth of the company would be impossible. To expect that we can gain
the commitment we require from this group in return for salary and conditions
is, in my mind, naive.

Regardless, Argus goes on to argue that boards need to take into account,
and balance, the interests of a broad group of stakeholders. A fine balancing
act not doubt, but one that reflects the realities of modern corporate life
— telco CEO take note.

Tribute to Harold Bridger

I am sad to say that I have just caught up on the news that Harold Bridger died in May 2005.
I knew Bridger as the developer of what I came to know as the “Consultant Enquirer Model” which is the basis of the workshop I call Consultant Coaching Workshop.
I now know that Bridger was the last surviving founding member of the Tavistock Institute. His work has made a very significant contribution to our understanding of organisations and human relations.

What is happiness?

This BOSS
article
has turned my attention once again to Martin
Seligman
, author of


Authentic
Happiness

and


Learned
Optimism
.

We all seek to be happy, but how happy can we be and what can make us happy?
Seligman suggests there are three components to happiness. He calls them the
"hedonistic life" – searching for happiness through material
wealth, the "engaged life" – being absorbed in what your are
doing, and the "meaningful life" where you serve something bigger
than yourself.

According to Seligman

"the amount of meaning and engagement you have are vastly more important
than the amount of positive emotion you have."

and,

"there is reason to believe that productivity follows very similar
laws to life satisfaction. That is, it’s related to the amount of meaning
you have at work, to the amount of absorption and flow you have at work,
and to a lesser extent, the amount of positive emotion you have at work.
That means to me that if you’re a manager, you need to be attending very
carefully to how much meaning and purpose your employees have. You want
to be designing what they do every day to have more engagement, more flow,
more time-stopping. An you also wnat to think about how much positive emotion
there is on the job."

Look at the banner at the top of this page. Seligman’s words strike us as
reflecting our own beliefs and values. We have believed for a long time that
providing workers "meaning and purpose" in their jobs is a good
thing to do
for its own sake. If you value the dignity of human existence,
it follows that you will want to give people meaningful work. Work they can
engage in and be proud of.

Seligman’s point here accords with another deep belief of mine
providing meaning and purpose in work increases workers’ productivity.

In recent days I have come to believe that not only is their productivity
increased but it, and that of the organisation they belong to, is applied
in a fundamentally better direction. A direction that resonates with the needs
of the world at large.

This is something I hope to develop more in future articles.

Latham the flawed leader

One of my daughters bought me The Latham Diaries for Christmas. I read a chunk of the book each night over my holiday.
I am struck by the leadership lessons in this book, but first some background.
Mark Latham was elected leader of the Australian Labor Party and hence federal opposition leader in December 2003 by a narrow margin in the caucus vote. At the time several leading commentators (eg Michelle Grattan) described the decision as a radical experiment and a choice by the party to follow Latham in a wild roller coaster ride.
Latham had been a crude critic of the American Alliance and even harsher critic of George W Bush.
I had a roller coaster ride in my view of Latham’s performance. I was glad to see his early wins against what I saw as a tired and power hungry incumbent government. But then there were times when Latham seemed to “go missing”. His interest in the job seemed to wax and wane.
In the end he lost the 2004 Election convincingly with a net loss of seats to the government and for the first time in its term giving control of the Senate to the government.
I was disappointed with Latham’s response to the loss. Publicly he seemed to lack any real ability to analyse what happened and where fault was to be found, he found it in others. In my mind I decided he could no longer continue as leader. He was a spent force.
Reading his diaries has given me more insight than I could have imagined. Historians, political analysts, students of leadership and the general public owe him a great debt.
One the one hand he gives us a wide open look into the operation of a modern Australian political party (not that he would claim it was very modern). He holds little hope for the future of the Labor Party seeing it as been riddled with and under the complete control of ‘machine men’ whose only interest is their own power base with zero regard for the greater good of the party. Who knows how much of his analysis is correct. I am convinced that a great deal of it is and it has changed my view of modern Australian politics. I am almost convinced that party politics is in its death throws.
More interesting though is the insight into the mind of a leader. Mark Latham was a loner. From the start to the finish of the book he sees fault, with the exception of a very small group of supporters and friends, with everyone with whom he has ever worked. His analysis of them is powerful and incisive. What he lacks is any ability whatsoever to see his own contribution to the malaise he sees around him. He is a member of the part of which he became leader. But he regards himself as completely separate from its history and evolution into the organisation it is today. In failed working relationships, he sees the fault of the other but none of his own.
What he fails to see is the ordinariness of his experience. We all live and work in organisations of which we can find what we believe to be fatal flaws. We all see the unethical and self serving behaviour of others whilst finding it hard to see it in ourselves. Latham is a good writer so he documented it lucidly. Good but not good enough for a man of his talent.
The leader’s role is to rise above such a simple understanding of events around themself. The leader must reflect on their own contribution to the events which shape their organisation.
Sadly, so few who c all themselves leaders are able to find this most basic understanding of themselves. Sadly, Latham failed, first and foremost because of this failure.

Presence

Presence by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers, has just been posted to the Bookshelf.

Different Personalities

Another fine day in Anglesea.

It was overcast with a few sunny breaks this morning when we woke up. So
many times I’ve been down here and woken up to an overcast sky and wondered
what it was going to do. I always live in hope that it will burn off to a
fine sunny aternoon. But most times it doesn’t. It was a bit hopeful today
because the sunny breaks kept appearing and it had an air of warmth about
it. But when we got to the beach around 3:30, it was still quite cool when
the sun went behind a clound and the inland sky was quite overcast. It was
pleasant enough so we decided to stay. The tide fairly high and running in.

Between 5 and 5:30, the tide turned and the sky became completely clear.
There is a change to the sound of the waves after the tide turned. It becomes
gentler and subtly quiter. Combined with the clear sky and drop in the wind
it had an overall feeling of gentleness. A feeling that the day was coming
to an end and was winding down.

It all made me think how the personality of the beach changes during the
day and from day to day. There is nothing like the beach down here when the
tide is a low ebb. It has a lazy feel to it. Especially if it is also sunny.
The tide turning in late afternoon has a different feeling. Perhaps there
is a subconscious fear that the advancing tide will keep coming. When it turns,
there is relief. Nature is still in control and its patterns are still reliable.
She has protected rather than harming us.

The Power of Commitment

More from Synchronicity:

Until one is committed there is hesitance, The chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creations, there is on elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A wh ole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meeting and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

— W.N. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

Do you want the time or the money?

Robert Fogel has some deep insight into values in modern western society – particularly as they relate to the world of work and the implications these shifts have for employers
In this BOSS interview he argues that today’s workers value their time more than money. Fogel describes how industrialisation in agriculture is the source of today’s affluence. In the US in the 1850s, he points out that it took four people on the land to support one person living in a city. Today, the figures are reversed across the western world. Globally about 45% of the population is urbanised.
The same trend is evident in personal income. Whereas in the early 1800s the vast majority of personal income was required just to provide daily food, we now have relatively enormous disposable income.
The final part of this trend is time. With increased affluence we can afford to spend much more on health care. We live longer and now need to spend no more than about half of our lives in paid work to provide all our needs. This leads to a far greater proportion of our time spent both in leisure and contemplation of our purpose in life.
Fogel draws the implication that employers can no longer rely on undivided loyalty created by necessity to work and work will have to fit much more into employees’ purpose.