“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.

So, you’ve declared your independence…

Today’s the day to declare your dependence.

It’s an incredible act to become your own authority.

It’s even more extraordinary to build and strengthen your relationships with the people who will help you sustain it.

“Going it alone” is a fantasy. The real work is doing it together.

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.

Just Do Something

A friend once complained that since he didn’t have time to do his “full” workout he wasn’t going to bother going to the gym.

He knew that a quick walk around the block would make him feel better – would be a good use of the time he did have – but his benchmark for “workout” wouldn’t allow it.

Or have you ever been in conversation with a colleague and said, “Well, I don’t have time to go into that right now” and then gone into it anyway and found that “that” only took a few minutes?

It wasn’t the expression itself that needed much time but the buildup – perhaps the anxiety – you felt about it that made it feel that way.

Or is it even possible that you knew that once you expressed it you would have let the air out of that particular balloon, the stretched surface of which had provided a particular kind of self-righteousness. Once expressed – once normalized – that feeling no longer quite fit the situation and had to be let go.

I’m convinced that leaders regularly avoid career conversations, development conversations and even routine feedback conversations with their employees because they have a story in their head that a “big” conversation requires a big expense of time and energy when all they’ve got is the equivalent of a walk around the block.

The big investments – relationships, fitness, education – require some effort every day. Drip by drip that effort accumulates into something stable, sustainable and reliable.

Heavy rains tend to do more harm than good.

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 a circle, not a line


There’s a great moment in the movie “Contact” when Jodie Foster’s character – and pretty much every scientist and engineer on the planet -is trying to figure out how to read the design plans for a transportation device that has been broadcast to earth by an alien species.

Attempting to read the plans in a linear manner – in the same way we would read any text – proves impossible. The images and symbols simply don’t line up using the tried and true approach. Finally, Foster is tipped off that the “documents” themselves are actually multi-dimensional and once connected on three sides they become usable. This changes everything.

I had an insight recently that feels a lot like that.

My work with leaders and teams is centered on three interconnected principles, the application of which is the best “equipment” for building resilience and adaptability that I have learned to apply. But I’ve been thinking of it too narrowly, a victim of the same “tried and true” thinking described above.

These principles are the bedrock of my work, the centerpiece of every conversation:

  1. All change starts within. That is, we must develop a deep self-awareness, a fully literate self-understanding if we are to be sufficiently rooted to withstand the winds of change. That self-awareness creates an extraordinary byproduct known as empathy. When we know ourselves we begin to understand the depth to which others can be known and our curiosity leads us directly to…
  2. Deeper connection and stronger relationships. A single rooted tree does not make a forest. It is a collection of rooted trees, co-mingling there roots beneath the surface that makes a forest, an ecosystem within which shelter can be found, diversity can flourish and possibility begins too emerge.
  3. From that place of deep personal awareness and committed connection to one another we become open to the new. We know we must keep learning and exploring if we are going to survive and even thrive in the face of change. We also know that it’s far easier to peer into the unknown – to stand at the edge of the proverbial cliff – when we’re inextricably linked to others, our fears and doubts made tolerable by their presence and encouragement.

But then what?

And here’s the insight, something so obvious that I haven’t taken the time to understand and consider it an explicit way.

What happens after the cliff edge is that we walk the circle again.

 What I learn about myself at the cliff edge becomes the next layer of my self-awareness.

What we learn about one another through that shared experience becomes the next layer of empathy and trust in our relationship.

And it is that accumulation, that layering of self and relational knowledge, that equips us to courageously ask the inevitable question: what’s next?

We walk the circle again. And now, a little bit more faithful, a little bit more thoughtful and a little bit more prepared, we go even further.

Our ability to adapt and grow in the face of change is only limited by our willingness to walk the circle, to not break the chain from self to others to learning.

To keep walking. That 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.

The Messy Human Real Thing

“There is always an easy solution to every human problem: neat, plausible and wrong.”  – H.L. Mencken –

The journey from the age of machines to the age of meaning is proving to be a bumpy one. It’s telling, and not at all surprising, that the more complicated and pervasive technology becomes the more people seem to want to get out of the “cloud” and back on the ground. Our collective cognitive dissonance suggests that we believe we can get the meaning and connection we seek if only our technology continues to offer better, faster means of doing so. As that dissonance festers our only choice is to resolve it by either letting go of our need for authentic connection or reconsidering the role and purpose of technology. That’s not much of a choice.

In the age of machines people are treated like machines in order to build machines. In the age of meaning people are treated like people who are brought together by the common cause of creating something of value, machine or otherwise. There is a shared human need to connect to something larger than ourselves and while technological solutions can provide tools to aid that connection, to assist in that creation, it’s time to stop confusing that assistance as an end unto itself. It is, in fact, a terrible substitute for the real thing.

But the real thing – the messy human real thing – is precisely why we keep turning to technology. The clean landscape of ones and zeros tempts us to believe we can manufacture a more Disney-like version of the human experience. For too long we’ve been trying to outsmart ourselves and it’s time to get real about that. Despite our clever ability to build an even better mousetrap at some point we must learn that the path to freedom demands a humble reckoning with what has been denied: each heart’s deep longing to be seen, heard and understood.

When the organization becomes a place where that can be expressed freely, openly and with a strategic understanding of its relevance to the bottom line, the age of meaning will have arrived.