Hiding in Plain Sight

“What is obscure we will eventually see;
what is obvious usually takes a little longer.”
{Edward R. Murrow}


Your team is hiding in plain sight. They are there, you can see them, they are working…all true.

But they are hiding, just the same.

What they are hiding is the depth of their creativity, their energy and their initiative because they do not (well, most of them, statistically speaking do not) feel engaged enough to do so.

In other words, most leaders of most workplaces haven’t earned the right to preserve, protect and defend the most important qualities of the human condition, those qualities that demonstrate who each of us is at our most open, and most vulnerable.

Knowing this as they do, they do not bring those best parts of themselves into the office. They leave them elsewhere for safe keeping…in the car, at home, online.

And the organization is impoverished for the lack of access to their best selves. Complex problems remain unsolved, possibilities remain unexplored, “craziness” remains unexpressed.

This is, technically speaking, a huge bummer.

But there is hope, here on a Tuesday, in the shape of you and your willingness to start a new kind of conversation in a brand new way. It goes like this:

“I would like to earn the right to get to know you at your most creative, energized and engaged. What would need to be true around here for that to happen?”


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.

Choose to Make it Better

“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.”
{Richard Rohr}


If you’re struggling in a poor work environment – not a toxic one, mind you but one that is marked by ineffectual leadership and uninspired co-workers – you can do one of three things:

  1. Leave
  2. Stay and join in the misery
  3. Make it better

Important to note that choosing #3 does not require you to make the whole thing better, just the three foot circle of it that surrounds you everywhere you go.

You could choose to have a radically positive and affirming attitude. You could choose to be on time in the morning, for all appointments and meetings and with your work as well. You could choose to compliment and recognize other’s contributions. You could choose to offer support when someone needs help. You could choose to abstain from complaining about what can’t be controlled and begin conversations about what can.

Your efforts may not yield the ripple effects necessary to shift the environment in a more favorable direction, but they might. And in the process, for as long as you choose to stay, you will feel better about yourself, most likely do better work, and be a light for others who are also trying to find a better way.


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 Did You Stay?

The only thing worse – and it’s much, much worse – than someone leaving your organization because they are disconnected, disenchanted and disengaged, is when someone feels that way but decides instead to quit and stay.

Even in a great job market like we are experiencing right now, it’s a major inconvenience to research, apply for, interview and negotiate the terms of a new job. That process is made even harder in a toxic situation because it’s all done behind the back of one’s current employer.

I am familiar with an organization that is going through a period of difficult transition. They have been leaderless for some time and into that vacuum have crept many individualistic survivalist tendencies among those who remain. It is dispiriting to see some people going through the motions, looking out for themselves and checking the boxes on their responsibilities.

It also happens to be an organization with a clear and noble purpose, one that is so clear and noble that it might actually seem too simple to make the embrace of it the core strategy for getting back on track.

My encouragement to anyone, regardless of level or role, who is in this situation, who is deciding between quitting and staying and who does not wish to “quit and stay” is to begin a conversation about that purpose. It’s too easy to get caught up in the leader’s failings or the team’s misgivings as a replacement for the more essential conversation.

That conversation, among those who are willing, contains some difficult and powerful questions:

  1. Starting with myself, what attracted me to our purpose in the first place? What did I come here to do?
  2. How invested am I in that purpose today? How much do I care if it is fulfilled?
  3. Whom do I serve? And what is it that they need most from me and from us right now? Does it still energize me to play a part in meeting those needs?
  4. Who among my colleagues is also in this place of frustration and is also open to an honest and reflective inquiry? What conversation might I have with them about how to navigate this moment in our experience?
  5. What’s a next step I can take to reframe my experience, to challenge myself to see what might be possible in staying that will not be possible once I go?

What’s clear is that most of these questions are at the level of the individual because until we have a personal confrontation with what is fundamental, and do so with integrity, we will remain unable to do so with others.

These questions and ensuing conversations are anything but an easy path to take, but it’s one that is worth walking if you are not ready to consign yourself to a daily existence of present but not present.

“At least I didn’t leave when times got tough!”

“Yes, but how did you stay?”


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.

Somebody is Always Watching

It’s easy to believe, in a world of increased devotion to personal devices and a status quo of extreme busyness, that nobody is paying attention to what we do and how we do it.

Somebody is always watching. Creepy though that may sound at one level, it is an imperative reminder that the quality of our engagement – the dedication (or lack thereof) and attention (or lack thereof) we bring to our work – is noticed and evaluated.

This is especially true for leaders who, by title alone, are appropriately under constant scrutiny. In the same way we might say of a child that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” we can notice employees who understandably (if sometimes regrettably) use their leader’s behavior as a guide.

I notice it in the classroom; students who arrive on time, students who sit upright or even forward in anticipation of what’s to come, students who expect to engage and be engaged.

I notice it in service situations; employees who make an effort to connect, to be genuine, to bring something personal to the interaction, and those who go through the motions, perhaps with a smile but one that is practiced, not pleasing.

At my best, I notice it in myself; when I am present and connected and when my energy and attention is flagging. When I do catch myself at anything other than my “best” I either correct it quickly or let others in on how I am feeling. I assume that they’ve already noticed.

An appealing practice that I think would do a lot of good without a ton of effort is to call people out when we notice their thoughtful engagement.

This happened to me once and it was an exceptional moment. I assumed the worst was coming, that I was going to be highlighted as a negative example, but it was just the opposite and it made an impression on me that I will never forget.


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.

Satisfaction ≠ Engagement

Measure satisfaction when you want to find out what people think about the food in the cafeteria or if the marketing team needs new furniture or if your employees would like to form a softball league.

Measure engagement when you want to find out if people’s hearts are in the work; if they are willing to spend their discretionary effort on your cause.

Remember, many people and many teams have changed the world fueled by lousy food, sitting on crummy furniture, and blissfully unaware of the company’s standing in the softball league.


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.

 

Another way to do it

Option A

Leader: “This is where we need to go, and here’s how we’re going to get there.”

Option B

Leader: “This is where we need to go. How do you think we should get there?”

Involvement, sincerely requested and respectfully considered, leads to real engagement in the work.


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 Right Equipment for the Job

I was almost done mowing the lawn last weekend when the front wheels of the mower fell off. This has happened once before and our mechanic was able to “make a part” to keep the wheels on. I should have considered myself on notice. When the problem occurred again a few days ago I was less surprised than impressed that the DIY solution lasted as long as it did. Slipping the wheels back into place not at all securely I slowly and carefully cut the last section of grass.

After that it was on to the edging and trimming. But the 15-year-old “weed whacker,” seemingly in solidarity with the mower, had had enough. When the “auto-feed” feature stopped working I had to stop every few feet to manually pull out some additional line. It was tedious and frustrating and I wasn’t able to finish the job.

It is a truism of the workplace that an employee’s level of engagement – her willingness to bring her creativity, energy and initiative to bear on her responsibilities – is positively correlated to her access to the right equipment for the job. Common sense, right?

If you are asked to take care of something important and then informed that even though most companies, most of the time would use “those tools” and we only have “these tools” you might find that to be (a) an opportunity for creative problem solving and/or (b) more than a little frustrating.

The challenge of doing your best with what you’ve got – being scrappy and efficient with a  “can-do” attitude – is fun for a while, maybe even a little exhilarating. But it’s not a long-term strategy for success. At some point you’ve got to invest in the right – maybe even the best – resources for the job.

I have always enjoyed doing yard work; the physical effort on a warm summer day and the pride of ownership bring a strong feeling of satisfaction. But that’s when my tools are functioning as they should. When they don’t, well, it’s really no fun at all.


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.