The Consolation of Completion (Redux)

Some further thoughts on yesterday’s post, The Consolation of Completion:

Many of our workplaces create an ethos of task completion and goal achievement at any cost. This habituation to the measurable allows us to feel good about ourselves at the end of the day but it fails to take into account the fact that most of what is happening in any given workplace on any given day is abstract, dynamic and immeasurable.

That is to say, human beings at work – or in any setting – are not easily quantified by the checking of boxes.

Leaders need not be paralyzed by this reality, though many are. Nor should they ignore the necessity of task completion and turn themselves into full-time coaches and counselors. That is neither a realistic nor a sustainable approach.

A thoughtful awareness – an acknowledgement, a making room for – of the messiness of the human condition at work, not to solve or fix it, but simply to be someone with the capacity to accept its presence, leads to another ethos entirely.

This is an ethos of integration, one in which the efficiency of doing and the messiness of being coexist because both are recognized as vital to the elevation of the human experience at work.


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A Brief Q&A

Q: How do you build a motivated team?
A: Hire people who are already motivated.

Q: How do you build an energized and creative accounting firm?
A: Hire energized and creative accountants.

Q: How do you create a dynamic and responsive customer service team?
A: Hire dynamic and responsive customer service professionals.


Recruiting and hiring is everything. There are no examples I know of where the wrong people ended up creating the best thing.

Yes, there are times when you can’t hire the level of experience you want. But you can always train for competence. What you can’t do is motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated or expect people to be energized, creative, responsive and dynamic when they have demonstrated none of those qualities in their interview.

I believe in development as much as anyone. And I have learned first-hand that investing in development is a decision to play a long game. If you don’t start with the right ingredients you will be waiting forever.

And you don’t have that kind of time.


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Playful

“We have no empirical evidence that being more serious leads to greater insight into the human condition than being playful. There is, however, growing empirical evidence that being playful opens toward the ever-elusive, supple heart.”
John Paul Lederach


There is only one thing I miss…that I truly miss…from going to work every day at an organization, from being an employee, on a team, responsible to deliver what’s been promised.

That thing? The fun of it. The playfulness, the messing around, the good humor, the connection and camaraderie. Enjoying myself at work – playing at work – is something I never got tired of and that I miss very much.

As a “sole practitioner” I have to work very hard to create the kind of playfulness that, inside the walls of the company – in the right conditions, of course – happens organically. I have regular and irregular phone calls and email/text exchanges with friends and colleagues that help me keep perspective, have a laugh and enjoy the experience of my day-to-day work. And that’s essential because I can take my work much too seriously on far too many days.

I am reminded today that the intensity of my furrowed brow suits my work only insofar as it moves me toward lightness and freedom. I realize that I can measure this by checking whether I am inching myself closer to the playground than to the principal’s office.

That the seriousness of my endeavor can be for the purpose of creating more playfulness – rather than just more work “product” – seemed an irreconcilable difference to me for far too long. That my work is and always needs to be playful, given all of the best effort I can muster, is what makes it worth doing. And what makes those on the receiving end much more appreciative of what I offer.

I love my work. Some days I love it so much that I squeeze the life right out of it. Some days, better days, I hold it lightly…so lightly that it just starts to float away. And I can sit back and smile as I watch it go.


This is for my friend, Alia.

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You Are Not a Falling Tree

IMG_4703Can you imagine being present on the day when a massive, shallow-rooted redwood tree came crashing to the earth, splintering into enormous jagged shards of timber?

Can you imagine the sound, the grotesque violence, the shredding and grating of the collision as one falling tree snapped over the back of one that had previously fallen?

Can you imagine one member of a silent forest slowly toppling over and remaking everything in its downward path?

Can you imagine what would happen if we collectively realized and acted upon the fact that there are people in our workplaces – in our communities and families – who feel that same kind of chaos within themselves every day?

We cannot and should not rely on our leaders alone to recognize and prevent our coworkers from struggling with significant, debilitating challenges. We can and should expect our leaders to work with us to cultivate environments where it is possible to intervene, support, protect and account for the very real human needs that every one of our teammates brings with them to the workplace each day.

Our workplaces, just like our forests, will always bear the marks of the very real challenges that occur there. Unlike our forests, however, our workplaces can and must be places where the falling are caught, loved and brought back to wholeness however possible.


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.

Be the Drop in the Ocean

“Let’s instead remember that the people in our daily lives are hurting too. Comfort comes in many forms, some of them small moments of kindness. Mother Teresa said, ‘We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.'”

– Patti Davis – October 28, 2018 – The Washington Post


Our workplaces are communities. Each day people come to them, bringing all of their experiences, feelings, joys and losses. They come to them because they must, of course. They come to them to fulfill responsibilities, obligations, to earn a living.

They also come, over and over again they come, to be a part of something larger than themselves. They come to belong to a community of people who work to bring about something worth making or doing or providing.

They come for the celebration of shared accomplishment and for the consolation needed when life turns to disappointment or tragedy. Our workplaces, where so much time and energy is spent; where people are in an eternal conversation about the competing demands of full and challenging lives, are the places where we are first to know, first to learn and first to experience so much of what life has to offer.

There is so much we can do for one another in our workplaces. There is so much we can provide with a simple “hello,” with a sincere “how are you?” and the thoughtful listening that must follow.

This week, today, let’s remember “that the people in our daily lives are hurting too.”

We need one another. We need one another more than any of us cares to admit. Our workplaces are a conduit for those needs, a channel through which they flow, seeking to be met on the other end with graciousness, patience and love.

This week, especially this week, let’s do that for one another. Each day this week, let’s be the people who greet one another in the spirit of graciousness, patience and love.


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.

Your attention, please

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.” – from “Everything is waiting for you” by David Whyte


Perhaps the idea of cultivating and expressing love in the workplace doesn’t sit well with you. It is a freighted word, full of complex associations. Many would suggest it has no place in any conversation about colleagues, teams, camaraderie and esprit de corps.

I can appreciate that. And I’d like to suggest that all of that love “baggage” prevents us from remembering what is most fundamental to its genuine expression.

For that, I offer this brief, gentle reminder from the film Lady Bird:

Sister Sarah Joan: You clearly love Sacramento.

Lady Bird: I do?

Sister Sarah Joan: You write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care.

Lady Bird: I was just describing it.

Sister Sarah Joan: Well it comes across as love.

Lady Bird : Sure, I guess I pay attention.

Sister Sarah Joan: Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?


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.

It’s four letters and it starts with “L”

I attended a wedding on Monday afternoon.

Monday afternoon is not a typical “wedding day.” Monday afternoon is the time when most of us are at work, the time when we have shaken off the weekend and placed our noses firmly, if not reluctantly back to the grindstone. But there we were, on a Monday afternoon, in a church, at a wedding.

And it was peaceful and intimate. It was sincere and lovely. In fact, it was the expression and experience of love itself.

In that church on Monday afternoon, feeling displaced by the difference between a “typical” Monday and this particular Monday I started to wonder why we work so hard to separate feelings and experiences that are more powerful when joined together.

Why do we work so hard to separate love and work? Our workplaces can and often do facilitate deep and extraordinary relationships between people gathered together in common cause. These are relationships of trust and dependence, of mutual respect and concern, of help and collaboration. We should be celebrating this for what it is (LOVE) rather than euphemistically calling it “teamwork” or “partnership” or, and it pains me to write it, “synergy.”

But that’s what we do because it’s “appropriate” and “conventional” and allows us to forego the hard work of expanding our definition of “love” beyond our present and limited understanding. (The Ancient Greek’s had six words for love – it’s a good place to start!)

And as I continued my reflection I realized that we have begun to wrestle with this question in contemporary terms. I remembered Tim Sander’s 2003 book, Love is the Killer App. I remembered Herb Kelleher, the visionary founder of Southwest Airlines saying, “A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.” And I remembered this piece from Virgin.com, Does love have a place in business?

And I thought, there should be more Monday weddings! And Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday weddings as well. We need more reminders that a workplace – and a church – that is filled with love is vibrant, alive and full of possibility. And one that is not is just another building.


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.