Must be present to win

black and white blank challenge connect

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The longer I think about it, practice it and teach it, my philosophy of effective leadership gets simpler and simpler.

A deep commitment to self-awareness, a wholehearted approach to relationships, a lifelong pursuit of learning; these are all hallmarks of great leaders.

And none of that matters if the leader isn’t present in the first place.

Step one: you must show up.

You can’t “phone it in.” You can’t commit in words and not in actions.

This is stupidly obvious and self-evident and, yet, the absent leader – the “leader” in name only – remains a reliable cause of organizational failure.

 

Poem for a Sunday Morning

You are you and I am me.
To be that – just that – as fully as possible, is what we are here for.
Do that, then. As will I.


As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Invitation

The way I’d like to go on living in this world wouldn’t hurt anything, I’d just go on walking uphill and downhill, looking around, and so what if half the time I don’t know what for —

{Mary Oliver, excerpt from “1945-1985: Poem for the Anniversary” from Dream Work}


Maybe today a little more wandering, a little less doing. A little more imagining, a little less producing. A little more “just because” and a little less “have to.”

Maybe today you will stop watching your scoreboard, just for a few moments, and instead watch the way the sunlight fragments through the window or the birds search the grass for something hidden.

Maybe today you will stretch your legs, and notice how your feet and legs work together to keep you in motion. Maybe today you will remove the headphones and listen instead to the buzz of life around you.

Maybe today a little more daydreaming, the slightest space for the birth of a new thought, a reconsideration of something once settled.

Maybe today a quiet invitation to the divine to enter in and have its way with 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.

Poem for a Sunday Morning

TICKET

This is the ticket
I failed to spend.
It is still in my pocket
at the fair’s end.
It is not only
suffering or grief
or even boredom
of which we are
offered more than
enough.

{from Say Uncle, by Kay Ryan}


For as simple as it is, this poem packs a punch. It’s a punch thrown by my bigger self and it’s trying to wake me up.

How much time do I spend counting what is not, rather than what is? How many moments do I let slip by because I am distracted by nostalgia for those that have come and gone; by anticipation for those not yet arrived?

How to be present to the present and make the very most of it? How to remember to ride the ride, right now?

This moment, is it enough?


 

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 Afterglow

There’s always a day after the big event or celebration.

That day usually includes a heavy dose of afterglow; what we did, how we did it, what it meant, what we think.

That day can also be thought of as “today,” with a heavy dose of right now; what we will do, how and why.

I understand and appreciate a romantic view of the past, even the immediate past, but I am less patient with it now.

I am interested in today. What will we do with who we’ve become, what we’ve gathered, what we’ve learned?

What will we do with all of that today?


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.

Just Because

When the highlight of your family outing is a full-group admiration of the mesmerizing qualities of large floating bubbles; and when that admiration turns into a spontaneous chase to capture, propel and pop those bubbles, all the while encouraging their maker to make another good batch, you remember the genius of children who don’t think too hard about ‘why’ but revel instead in this moment, just because.

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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.

On Solid Ground

My friend and thought partner, Molly Davis, published a great piece on Monday in which she talks about the earth beneath our feet as the best source material we could ask for to live lives of hopeful expectation. She writes:

“That sense of the solid ground upon which to stand is the place from which we can dare to hope. And we can dare to hope because it isn’t our feet firmly planted that hold us up, but the holy ground upon which we stand.”

The imagery conjured up by her writing took me back to a talk I gave a couple of weeks ago. I was invited to keynote a gathering of undergraduate students who were assembled for an academic competition and convocation.

During the Q&A that followed I was asked about my preparation for a talk like the one I had just given. These students were going to stand in front of a room of judges the following day to deliver their prepared findings so effective presentation-making was very much on their minds.

I suggested to them that once the rituals of preparation and planning are complete; once you have done your research and your homework, collaborated with your partners on a design and gone through as many rehearsals and critiques as you can stand, that once all of that is done the final and most important thing you can do is to get out of your head and back into your body.

To have cognitive awareness of what you will present is the starting point, but to have somatic awareness is the place from which you can truly deliver the goods. Until you feel it in your body, what you present will just be a collection of words coming from your head.

I suggested a few things to help them get into this more robust kind of physical presence. First, that it is important ahead of time to spend some time in the space where you will be speaking. I told them that the reason I was already in the room when they arrived was because I was getting a feel for the space. It was not a room largely different from those I have presented in before but I had not presented in that particular room and wanted to build up my awareness of what it felt like. (Incidentally, I noticed a strong and very pleasing floral aroma in the room, as if the janitorial staff had used the greatest cleaning products ever made! This contributed to my sense of positive affect and energy. It was a perfect support system for my physical awareness.) 

Second, I suggested that it is important to just feel your feet on the floor, on the ground, on the earth. This kind of intentional inhabiting of space creates in me a grounded and humble confidence. It reminds me that “I am right here.” It reminds me that “I am supposed to be right here, right now with these two feet on this ground in this room.” It reminds me that “There are no mistakes or coincidences but only the truth that I am here and ready to share readily and generously with those kind enough to listen.”

Third, I suggested that it is important to feel your body. Amy Cuddy advocates for the “power stance,” hands boldly on the hips or raised high in victory formation. Others recommend scrunching the shoulders up to the ears and holding them there before a big, vigorous release and shake down of your entire bodily form. All of this physical effort is designed to join your head to your body, your head to your heart, more importantly. It’s a physical way to trick yourself into a “ready” position, a place the rest of us will experience as presence.

Finally, to bring it all the way back round to Molly’s contribution today, this work of physical readiness for real presence is the only stance from which it is possible to be the ideas, the possibilities, the hopefulness you are trying to convey. You want us to believe you, to believe in you. We want to believe you, to believe in you. You’ll get us part way there with your thoughtful preparation and articulate delivery. You’ll bring us all the way home when you convey the power that can only be made real when you start with two feet on solid ground.


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.

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.

A Runner’s Mantra

Friday Morning Run

This road that I’m running is not good or bad. It’s not right or wrong.

It just is.

And if I keep running I’ll be onto a new road very soon.

……

This road that I’m running is not good or bad. It’s not right or wrong.

It just is.

And if I keep running I’ll be onto a new road very soon.

……

This road that I’m running is not good or bad. It’s not right or wrong.

It just is.

And if I keep running I’ll be onto a new road very soon.

 

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 a Right Turn Isn’t

right turn

This is the first in an occasional series of guest postings by people whom I admire for the leadership they offer to a complex and changing world. I hope you enjoy learning from them as much as I do.

My wife, young daughter and I had the fortunate experience to spend the past two years living in São Paulo, Brazil. As natives of Southern California we had never visited South America and it was a grand adventure in every way imaginable. What I was not expecting was that the experience would test my judgments and preconceptions but once I realized that was happening, I tried hard to embrace it.

It started small. Summer is winter. The metric system. The 24-hour clock. Celsius. A four or six-hour time difference (there’s no “spring forward”). I was always thinking and converting. No unconsciousness allowed.

One difference that completely surprised me in a “2+2 doesn’t equal 4” kind of way involved cars making right turns. As we are taught in the US, when approaching an intersection, you put your right blinker on, look left, maybe stop, and then turn right. It’s an easy image to conjure. That simple act, however, is more for the people behind you who can see the action unfolding and should, arguably, be prepared for it.

Compare that to cars coming from the opposing direction. What you are doing to them is not turning right but merging left. So, a left turn signal would be more appropriate. This is what they do in Brazil and I could never get used to it.

I’ve never questioned the act of the right turn before. I had no reason to. And it got me thinking about how my judgments – my assumptions – may prevent me from seeing what’s really happening. Here are a few things I came up with (with some questions to consider included):

  1. It’s not just about taking things for granted. At times, we should actively question foundational items and actions. What assumptions do you make that should be questioned? Re-evaluated?
  2. Take “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” to a whole new level. Start small. Find something truly broken and look at it from a completely different perspective. Then move to a functioning product or process and repeat.
  3. Perspective matters. Are you considering everything? A 360° view can be healthy, necessary or just plain safe.

My experience south of the equator taught me to test my assumptions, to question the basis for my decisions, actions, and even the delivery of products and services. In a more profound way I see the importance of sound evaluation, considered from diverse points of view and re-evaluated appropriately and objectively. While this is not a simple thing to do, “simple” is not what leaders sign up for, right?

From now on, whenever I feel like I’ve got it all figured out, I remember myself at an intersection in Brazil helplessly trying to figure out which blinker to use. Take nothing for granted. There’s always another way to see the situation you’re in.

Joel Stern has 16+ years of full life cycle recruitment experience within professional and financial services. Throughout his career, Joel has developed and enhanced recruitment solutions (people, process, technology) to help create efficient and well run Talent Acquisition functions. At Opening, Joel’s focus includes building relationships with experts to create a library of evaluations, bringing best practices in talent acquisition and holding the team accountable to Opening’s value proposition: taking the guesswork out of the hiring process and helping employers build high-performing teams.