It’s possible that this is something you might like to read. Or not.

Passive: “I was wondering if this was something you might like to read.”

Direct: “Will you please read this by 3:00pm today?”

Urgent: “You need to read this now!”

I’ve noticed that passive requests tend to become urgent requests. The lack of clarity from the outset leaves a void that only grows larger during the period of confusion and potential clarification. (And an unpleasant side-effect of this pattern is resentment, because I know you don’t enjoy my passivity turning into your urgency.)

It would be a whole lot easier if we were just direct with one another. (Hold on, that’s passive.)

Please make direct requests so your colleagues don’t have to guess what you want. (More direct. More clear.)

And, one last thing: If it’s urgent, don’t be shy. If it’s not, don’t say it is.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

 

 

Human. Resources.

“Human”

Merriam-Webster definition #3-b:  representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature (human kindness; human weakness).

“Resources”

Merriam-Webster definition #1-c a natural feature or phenomenon that enhances the quality of human life; and #1-e a source of information or expertise.

“Human Resources”

Merriam-Webster definition #1: personnel.

What? Personnel?

How did we get from words like “sympathies” and “frailties” (read tenderness, vulnerability, transparency…as in the real human experience) and “phenomenon,” “quality of life” and “sources of information and expertise” to personnel, a scraped from the bottom of the barrel word that fails in every way to describe who we are and what we’re made of?

It is, regrettably, an accurate characterization of the state of the “modern,” and so often dehumanizing, organization.

Let’s do better than that. Here’s a new definition for your consideration:

Human Resources (plural noun): (1) those living, breathing, dynamic and creative persons who cherish nothing more than to come together in support of a cause worth fighting for; (2) Any number of individual persons who collaborate with dignity, respect, safety and in a spirit of service to breathe life into an enterprise that is worthy of their presence. 


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Your Job or Your Work?

Are you a leader because of the role you play or are you a leader because of the work you do?

Put another way: you were hired to do a job. Is that really your work?

Put another way: what is so alive in you, so energizing to you that it is worth doing no matter how it turns out?

That sounds less like a job and more like work. Your good work.

And it sounds an awful like what we need right now.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

 

“No, my name is David.”

A knock at the door yesterday. I was upstairs and my wife was on the phone so we ignored it. But with a quick glance my wife noticed that the woman left a note for us.

I retrieved the note, a request on the back of her business card to “Please call me.” On the front of the card: Child Welfare Services, County of San Diego. Confused and curious, I walked out to the street to see if she was still nearby and, sure enough, I saw a woman driving out of our neighborhood.

I flashed the card as she passed by, taking a chance that it was her. She stopped right away, got out of the car and came over to talk with me.

With no introduction and no buildup she simply stated that “There has been a complaint about the welfare of your children. I cannot tell you who filed the complaint but the nature of it is that your home is not well-kept and that your children are often left home without supervision.”

You could have pushed me over with a feather.

I said, “That’s impossible…this must be a joke.”

But you know what I was really thinking?

“Yeah, this summer we’ve let the house get away from us a little bit. Those piles we need to sort through are still there. That garage clean-up is never ending. At least the dishes are done…that much I know.”

And then, this:

“Well, sure…don’t most people leave their teenage kids home alone? At least once in a while? Yes, they are young teenagers but they are more than mature enough to hang out for a few hours on their own.”

And then, this:

“Who in the world said this about us? Who would possibly think that about us? I can think of three families right now whose homes are kept in worse shape than ours.”

All in about three seconds.

And she said, “I know this can be very hard to hear. And I’m not overly concerned at this point but it is something I needed to follow-up on.”

I said, “No, really….this is a mistake. Are you sure you have the right house?”

And she confirmed the address. Our address.

And then she added, “And you are Steve?”

“No, my name is David.”

“Oh. This happens sometimes. I’m sorry about that. Do you know a ‘Steve’ in this neighborhood?”

I said, “I’m not thinking straight right now. Please give me a second.”

My heart was racing. My mind was racing. I was overwhelmed by the suggestion that the assertion was real and that it was made by someone who knew us.

But why would I even for a second doubt what I know to be true? How could I entertain even the slightest impulse that our lifestyle and parenting choices had descended to the level of government intervention?

I guess it’s because we’ve worked hard to create a living/working/learning/playing environment that is loving, positive, productive and inviting. Every day? Of course not! Most days, most of the time. And I don’t want to lose even a tiny piece. I only want to make it stronger and any suggestion to the contrary, that I or we may fail to do so? Well, there’s some defensiveness in there…some perfectionism, too.

An awkward mistake turned into a good reminder. I have a wonderful marriage and a terrific family. We have our struggles, just like everyone else. In the grand scheme of things those struggles, those problems, are small…very small. And there are many around us whose problems are big and scary and that’s painful to realize. Humbling, too.

So, a little more empathy today and a lot more gratitude. Also, a renewed commitment to get that garage cleaned up before my mother calls in another complaint!


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Consolation

I keep a book by the bedside called “The Way It Is: New and Collected Poems” by William Stafford.

I pick it up when I want to feel more grounded. I pick it up when I need the consolation of plainspoken sensibility.

More often than not that consolation comes from a return visit to this simple meditation on the progression of the day. Like a thread tied to a fingertip it tugs me into the recognition that every day is an entire life. I need not wonder or worry about then and there because here and now holds everything.

The Light By The Barn

The light by the barn that shines all night

pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.

A little breeze comes breathing the fields

from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.

The slow windmill sings the long day

about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.

The little breeze follows the slow windmill

and the chickens at work till the sun goes down—

Then the light by the barn again.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

The Ebb and Flow

The ocean is predictable…consistent.

You’re not going to go to sleep tonight worried about whether or not the waves will be coming to shore.

But I wonder, do you go to sleep feeling the same way about your boss?

Does he or she show up every day as you expect them to, as you need them to?

Do they have a “low tide”? A period when they give you the space to do what they hired you to do?

Do they have a “high tide”? A time when they get involved, providing direction and support as specifically as you need it?

The waves may not come onshore tonight. The ocean may not ebb and flow. But it probably will.

And your boss should, too.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

“We” vs “You”

If you regularly say “we” when you mean “you” that’s worth stopping to think about.

If you want something to happen but you would like someone else to take care of it, it’s best to just let them know.

This is active versus passive language. If you say “we” you are somehow cushioning the blow. Because if you say “you” and they say “no” you might have to do it yourself. And you might not want to. For a million reasons. But you don’t want the other person to feel that you don’t care.

But you do care. You care a lot!

Which means it’s time to practice owning what you care about by practicing direct language.

“We’ve agreed that this needs to happen and I don’t have the time/energy/resources to take care of it. Will you please make it happen?”

Or… “We’ve both agreed this needs to happen. Will you please take care of this part and I’ll take care of the other?”

Most people, most of the time prefer to know where you stand.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

You Get to Choose

Maybe you’re reading this on Saturday morning.

And maybe you’re still feeling the week you just had.

And maybe it’s not feeling great.

And maybe you are thinking about how he and her and they and them made you feel so frustrated…anxious…overwhelmed…intimidated…undervalued…isolated…exposed…irrelevant…on the spot…taken advantage of…

And maybe you briefly (just briefly) pause and remember that “they” have absolutely zero control over how you feel.

That your mind and your heart get to decide. And what you decide is this:

To get up, to move, to breathe…exhaling the week that was and inhaling the possibility of who you are…who you can be, in the context of what’s to come.

You get to choose how you feel and what you will do about what’s going on.

You get to choose.

What a privilege. What an opportunity. What a responsibility.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

How to Test Your Culture

If your company has a mission, vision and/or values and you are curious to find out if your employees are living them each day, there’s a simple way to find out.

And for the purpose of this post let’s say that one of your company’s values is integrity. To find out if integrity is practiced in the way that you have defined it, try this:

Invite a group of 5-10 employees to attend a meeting at which you ask them to respond to this request:

“Please tell a recent, truthful and specific story about a time you saw a colleague practice integrity.

Give them a few minutes to think about it and then sit back and listen.

Stories are the fastest way to the truth of what’s going on. If there’s a compelling story to be told, you have compelling evidence of the existence of that particular part of your cultural aspiration. If not, it doesn’t exist…or at least not how you hoped it might.

And that leads to your second request of the group:

“What ideas do you have about how to bring integrity alive in our organization.What would make it more likely that you would have more stories to tell?”

Repeat the conversation with another group and then another and another, until all leaders share the responsibility for being collectors of stories and facilitators of the ideas that will bring your culture to life.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

You Are Not Sisyphus

You do not have to push the rock up the hill. You are not Sisyphus, consigned to an eternity of pointless labor.

You will not convince the otherwise confirmed. Your cajoling will fall on deaf ears. If you feel otherwise you must be a martyr.

Do not labor in futility. Your self-righteousness is your least admirable quality.

Instead…instead! Start a small fire that attracts those who are sympathetic to your cause.

Demand of one another a rigorous testing of the clarity of your belief, the strength of your resolve. Then and only then, free of all shouted certainty and full of whispered humility must you share the better way.

Those who are ready will hear you.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.