“I’m feeding the fish.”

You may have heard about the letter Mr. Rogers received from a young blind viewer expressing concern about his fish. Since she couldn’t see him feeding the fish she worried that they might be hungry. From that point forward Mr. Rogers made the effort to say out loud, “I’m feeding the fish.”

Every day in your organization your employees have questions and concerns about what’s going on, why it’s going on and where you/they will go from here.

And you know that they have these questions but you say to yourself “I’ve already told them SO MANY times!” and you feel frustrated and slightly insane. This is also known as being human.

I am not suggesting that you attempt to become “Super Human.” What I am suggesting is that there is a single, completely underrated and undervalued leadership behavior that can make or break your organization: redundancy.

You’ve said it and so you think they’ve heard it but they have not. And if there’s any component of that information that contains a threat, a risk or some other uncertainty, they absolutely haven’t fully heard you because they are also busily being human beings and are concerned about their personal and family welfare.  It’s just what we do.

Mr. Rogers thoughtful response to his blind viewer was an act of compassionate consideration born of his inherent wisdom that people – children and adults – do not attend to the present, do not attend to learning, if they are fearful or concerned.

Leadership then, is so much about responsiveness, as best you are able, and redundancy, as often as you can.

As often as you can…as often as you can…as often as you can.


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 Body Count

Othello doesn’t kill Desdemona because she has betrayed him. He kills her because he believes she has betrayed him.

Some basic investigation and direct communication would have resolved the matter quickly. Instead, the bodies pile up.

There will always be an Iago, sowing doubt and fear out of his own inadequacy. Paranoia is not the answer and neither is ignorance. Be watchful, be direct and do not play the fool.

Shakespeare was not writing for 16th century England but for the modern day corporation.


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.

Out of Your Head

Just because it makes sense in your head doesn’t mean it makes sense.

In fact, the moment when it makes sense in your head is the time to question if it makes sense at all.

Getting it – the conversation, the idea, the next sentence – from your head and out of your mouth or onto the page is another thing entirely.

And that’s the moment when you have to rely on others to help you explore, challenge and expand your new idea if you’re going to make any sense of it.

Your next “great thought” will not be fully formed. That’s as it should be.

Test it out with people who will make it better. Be committed to making it better.


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 First

img_5663

Wednesday was Manvinder’s first day driving for Lyft and I was his first customer.

When he picked me up he quickly let me know I was his first customer by motioning to his phone which I soon learned meant that he was in active conversation with a friend who was guiding him through how to handle his first assignment!

What became clear right away was that Manvinder did not know how to use the Lyft app to transition from “picking up the ride” to “getting the ride to his destination.” It kept telling him to go back to the hotel to get me. And I was already there.

As he continued to struggle and his colleague continued to “help,” I chimed in that I could direct him there myself. He remained intent on following the instruction provided by the app which meant that he kept trying to return to the hotel.

At this point it was clear that Manvinder was stressed! He had an app giving him bad information, a friend in his ear and a passenger in his car…who wouldn’t be?

So I attempted to break through the noise and said, “I can get you there…just turn right.” And he did. But I underestimated my opponent: a human passenger who knows where to go is a poor substitute for a device that does not.

Slowly, so slowly it seemed, I made progress: “left here…yes…stay in the middle lane…no, the MIDDLE lane.”

Which is when it hit me that if the app wasn’t working Manvinder wasn’t going to get paid. And I was not – the first, first passenger he would ever have – going to have that on my conscience.

So I said, “Please hand me your phone.” Which he did, right away. A few clicks and swipes later I got the app to the “Confirm David Pick-up” button which led to the “Begin David Trip” button. And just like that we were official.

It was a random and energizing way to start the day. Except that wasn’t all of it. What then struck me was that Manvinder was driving me, his first customer, to meet with my first client. In March of 2013 a former colleague recommended me to the leader I was on my way to meet. We began a relationship that has led to a very meaningful project with his team as well as additional, rewarding work in his organization.

It is a gift to be reminded of someone helping me to get started. It is a gift to have played that part for someone else.

And, having arrived safely at my destination, Manvinder and I celebrated the moment in the best way we know how: with a selfie.


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.

When Good Intentions Go to Waste

IMG_5661There’s an unopened container of mango salsa in our refrigerator.

It’s been in there for a while. It must have gone bad by now.

I imagine it seemed like a good idea in the store, that nicely packaged yellow and orange salsa quietly promising to complement some grilled salmon or brighten up a plain old cheese quesadilla. But I don’t know because I didn’t buy it. And I wouldn’t buy it, because it’s not what I want.

I prefer a traditional red salsa. Even a pico de gallo will do in a pinch. But at least twice these past couple of weeks I went to have chips and salsa only to find that the mango was the only option. What harm in trying it, I reasoned? At least you’ve got something…why not find out?

But, no. My salsa sensibilities remain unenlightened. And so it sits.

This happens with corporate training efforts and in coaching sometimes, too. That may seem like a bizarre jump to make but that little container of salsa reminds me that over-zealous organizations do this all the time. With good intentions the investment is made, and as enamored as the decision-maker might be about “this new approach” it remains unappreciated and unused unless others are brought to a place of joint commitment about its value and its promise.

Employees are engaged when they have the resources, communication and support to do the jobs they were hired to do. They disengage when any of that essential stuff gets interrupted because a well-intentioned person decides to “mix things up.”

If you really want to help them, find out what they want and need and then do the most obvious thing imaginable: get it for them.


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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Why do you lead?

Yesterday, I shared the leadership profile I use with my clients including this essential question: Why do you lead?

If I know why you lead I will be better equipped to follow you. I will know how to follow you. And I want to know how because that will make me – and you – more successful.

Without a personal and compelling response to this question your followers will still follow but only transactionally. And this might be enough for some leaders.

But for those looking to create meaningful impact and sustainable change, transactional followership will never be sufficient.

It’s the heart of your followers that you have to capture and this comes, in part, from a clear and unequivocal statement of why you lead.

One approach you might consider:

In a follow-up to his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek created a workbook called Discover Your Why. I recently used his methodology – personal storytelling that reveals themes of contribution and impact – for the first time with a client.

It worked really well, bringing to the surface an array of values, behaviors, strengths and interactions that made sense to my client as the defining pattern of his life. Discovering that pattern allowed him to name with purpose and clarity the core of his leadership point of view.

Being able to do that means that he can now provide his team access to what matters most to him in a concrete and usable way. And he is further equipped to continue that conversation as circumstances change and new challenges emerge.

“What” and “how” are critical questions to answer well but for deep commitment to a cause worth fighting for, “why” is everything.


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.

Unsaid and Undone

IMG_4307It matters to me to be good at things. Appearing competent is a hallmark of how I present myself to the world. And I am competent, very much so, in a lot of ways. And I’m not, really not, in a lot more ways.

Competence matters so much to me that I have a frustrating track record of not trying or starting things I don’t know I can be good at.

And then I deepen the dilemma by not asking for help. Because then I’d be admitting that I don’t know how to do it and, well, no thank you.

That said, I’m a lot better than I used to be. I’m not saying that asking for help is strength but I’ve come a long way. Still, there are times when the going feels particularly slow.

A recent sailing experience makes the point very well. After I had released a sail from the mast, as instructed by the captain, I left the slack of rope lying loosely on the deck. (I didn’t know what to do with it so instead of asking I just left it there. Great example so far, yes?) When the captain saw this he explained the importance of keeping the deck clear and showed me how to gather the rope, wrap it, tie it and hook it back on the mast.

Later on, working with that same piece of rope, I found myself in the same situation. With the rope lying at my feet I could not remember how to tie and wrap it so, you guessed it, I just left it there! What the hell was wrong with me???

A few minutes later, our captain saw this and asked me a much kinder version of “What the hell is wrong with you?” And, because I value competence SO MUCH I was ashamed of myself.

The captain, an enlightened and thoughtful leader, took some time to talk over what had happened between us and how it could have been prevented. We agreed that what I needed after his first demonstration of how to manage the rope was a chance to practice. We also agreed that I needed to take responsibility for asking for that, as in: “let me give that a try to be sure I’ve got it.” But since both of us were caught up in the pressure of the moment – high winds and a choppy sea – we neglected to take the next step. He didn’t make sure I had it, and I gave him no indication that he needed to! We were the perfect partners in crime.

Let me say that another way: we colluded to allow the conditions of our experience dictate more urgent behavior than was actually necessary. He didn’t know me well enough to understand my reluctance to ask for help and I was too deferential to his authority to ask for what I needed. If the boat was heading for the rocks, a loose rope on the deck wasn’t going to make much difference. No, this was a different brand of urgency, the kind that traps us into thinking we have to go faster than we really need to. As a result, we make small mistakes that eventually lead to much bigger problems.

Everything is not an emergency. You have more time than you think.

If you’re the captain, check for understanding.

If you’re on the crew, ask for help.

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.

“This is awesome! I’m so excited!” (Repeat)

We can do better.

In the post-liberal arts/humanities educational landscape it seems we can expect less and less diversity in our expressions of energy and enthusiasm. I was paying attention this week as speaker after speaker expressed their “excitement” at the “awesomeness” that was unfolding around them.

I don’t doubt their sincerity one bit. And, let me not be the pot calling the kettle black. I am as guilty as anyone I know. I’d just like to do better.

This isn’t about being a nitpicky language snob or a few discreet word choices in the moment just to mix it up. This is about conveying emotion, inviting others to share in our deeply held feelings about the significance of the moment. Words matter. And when we keep going back to the same old ones – especially when they are beyond overuse and no longer sufficient to capture our intentions – we lose the ability to have the impact we would like to have.

The good news? Help is just a keystroke away. Look what I found on the Google machine:

Synonyms for “awesome” – adj amazing: alarming, astonishing, awe-inspiring, awful, beautiful, breathtaking, dreadful, fearsome, formidable, frightening, horrible, horrifying, imposing, impressive, intimidating, magnificent, overwhelming, shocking, stunning, terrible, terrifying, wonderful, wondrous

Synonyms for “excited” – adj inspired; upset: agitated, annoyed, delighted, disturbed, eager, hysterical, nervous, passionate, thrilled, animated, aroused, awakened, charged, discomposed, disconcerted, inflamed, moved, piqued, provoked, roused, ruffled, stimulated, stirred, wired, aflame, beside oneself, feverish, fired up, frantic, high, hot, hot and bothered, hyperactive, in a tizzy, juiced up, jumpy, keyed up, on edge, on fire, overwrought, steamed up, tumultuous, wild, worked up, zipped up

While I’m not suggesting you start working phrases like “This is formidable! I’m so hot and bothered!” into your presentations, wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to stand up and say: “This is breathtaking…I’m thrilled to be with you today.” Or, “What an astonishing opportunity we have here…I’m feeling awake with possibility just being with all of you.” 

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always looking for something more oh, I don’t know….magnificent.

Yeah, I like the sound of that.

DAVID BERRY is the founder of RULE13 Learning. He writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world, especially the parts where he doesn’t handle it very well. If you enjoyed this post someone else might, too. Please pass it along.