Take the path of vulnerability

I hand out an assignment to my class. There are a list of options from which to choose, one of which is “Emotional Intelligence.” Perusing the list a student raises his hand and asks, “Will you please tell me what ‘Emotional Intelligence” is?

An act of vulnerability in service of learning.

A friend says to me, “I would like to get to know you better.”

An act of vulnerability in service of relationship.

A leader asks his team, “How can I be better for you?”

An act of vulnerability in service of…service.

Small acts that point to an essential truth: there is nothing we care about that won’t require us to make ourselves vulnerable. If we don’t care, we don’t bother.

The link below will take you to a 12 minute clip (which inspired this post) of one of my favorite teachers, David Whyte, speaking to the truth of vulnerability as the access point to real conversation.

David Whyte — Poetry from the On Being Gathering (Closing Words) https://onbeing.org/programs/david-whyte-poetry-from-the-on-being-gathering-closing-words-oct2018


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. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Something funny

One afternoon last spring, while waiting for class to begin, I clicked on a list of “stupid clean jokes.”  Somewhere mid-list I came across one – see below – that made me laugh out loud, and which kept me laughing for a while. I was so taken with it that I sent it to my wife, Theresa. The ensuing text exchange, in which I attempt to build the joke while she makes clear her disinterest, is one of my all time favorite exchanges with her, text or otherwise. It captures who we are individually and our relationship so precisely, so specifically, that I took a screen shot so I wouldn’t forget it.

I could make some interesting connection here about the necessity of surrounding ourselves with people who challenge us, push us and help us to grow. I could further discuss the benefits of “difference” vs. “same” or explore the needs and wants we all carry around, waiting for others to notice and satisfy.

Or I could just let you know that today I needed something funny, remembered this screen shot, and took a quick dip in its refreshing waters.

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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. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Make Room for Wonder

“Everything is explained now…sometimes I’d just as soon continue wondering.”
– Tom Waits –

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

I think about that every time I compulsively reach for my “phone” to look up the answer to the latest question that has shown up in conversation. I get consumed by the feeling that I “have to know!”

What if instead of reacting impulsively in that moment I could pause to simply state: “I wonder what it could be.” and then ask “What are the possible explanations?” and then take some time to consider them!

If the building is on fire I need to find the exit right now.

And since the building is rarely on fire, I might stop acting like needing to know is a matter of life or death. (I might.)

{Hat tip to Duncan Berry, who at 18 years old continues to ask questions as if he’s never of Google!}


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. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Waiting to be asked

The line of students was snaking from the front of the room, up the main aisle and out the back door.

I wondered what they were all sticking around for. I was confused.

Turns out, they were patiently waiting to sign a piece of paper – the one piece of paper I had provided – to indicate that they had participated in class that night. It’s an honor system thing, an experiment.

When I saw the line – so many of them – and that single pad of paper they were inching towards – I shooed them out of class, promising full credit for everyone and a better process next week.

That evening I sent a note to the class asking for their help. It said, “My idea was good but the execution was lousy. Sorry about that. I want to find a better way so please send me your ideas.”

And a number of thoughtful and creative responses came my way, responses that will be put into action this week. And do you know why? First, because it’s not their first rodeo. And second, because they are thoughtful and creative people.

Something tells me that this goes for support staff, service agents, sales reps, technicians, installers, packers, shippers, processors, recruiters, analysts, coordinators, planners, etc.

Most people are thoughtful and creative. Most people want to be helpful.

And most people are waiting to be asked.


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. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

 

“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

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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.