Friday, November 28, 2014

November Book Review: Finding the Space to Lead

I went on a personal retreat of sorts back around Labor Day and the effects have worn off. Ugh.

It was one of the most inspiring, pensive, and soul searching experiences I have had, which is sad because it was only going away for a few days with the intention of being quiet and thinking. Sad because I had to go away to do that and sad that it took mountains, blue skies, and solitude to make it happen. Sad because it's the first time I have ever gone away on my own. Sad because I so wanted to stay and be a hermit (if only I could have my kids too…they really are cute and fun).

Anyway, the effects have worn off. Yep, gone. I was writing in a journal all day, taking deep breaths, not checking my phone, eating well, sleeping long, working out like those crazy cross fit folks. Not so much now. Get me a cheeseburger and hold the veggies. I have a sneaky suspicion that I am not alone. 

One of our biggest challenges is to find the space to be mindful and pay attention to what is actually going on in front of us without having to spend all the money to find some remote mountain top to do so. I've been following Janice Marturano on Twitter for some time now and really resonate with her thoughts on this subject especially as it resonates around leadership. How do leaders find the space to be mindful? When so much needs to be done, when time is going by faster and faster (how is it Thanksgiving already!), when technology seems to be adding to it instead of helping it, what are we to do?

I recommend you read Janice's book, Finding the Space to Lead, and I recommend you do one thing to help if you remotely feel the same. Take a walk over the holidays. Take a couple of them. Put on the big coat that isn't fashionable and get outside. Janice spends a whole chapter talking about doing just this. I'm not talking about a power walk, I'm talking about a "I've got no place to be any time soon" sort of walk. The holidays can be hectic and the urge to phone it in until January 2nd is strong.  

I also recommend you build an Adirondack chair. OK, maybe buy it. Then place it outside and sit in it. Leave the phone inside. Sit until your butt goes numb and let the mind unwind. A glass of wine has helped me, but it could be cup of tea as well. I've got to get back to that "mountain top" some way. I guess recognizing the problem is the first step, huh? 

In fact, I'm sure it is. Wishing you a mindful holiday season. You will be a better leader for it. You will be a better person for it. 

Now where is that journal of mine…


Monday, November 24, 2014

Thank You Notes

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William A. Ward

We believe, as many of you do, in the power of gratitude. A sincere and hearty “thanks” is good for those giving it and for those receiving it. At LeaderShape, we encourage this practice in different ways, one of which is during the national sessions of The LeaderShape Institute. We ask each participant to write a note of appreciation that also shares a bit about his or her experience at the Institute to a program donor.

This summer something different happened.

Each LeaderShape staff member received a note of gratitude from a participant from Florida State University’s session of the Institute. Beautiful, thoughtful, handwritten notes from LeaderShape graduates. Talk about a good mail day! These letters were a terrific reminder of the power of the program and of the work that we and the rest of our community is committed to. It is the people and their work that helps make it possible for participants like the ones who wrote to us from FSU, to engage and be challenged and learn and teach and grow during the six days of The LeaderShape Institute.

In the US it is the season of Thanksgiving. We so appreciate the kind words that were shared by Tatiana, Edwin, Marie-Claire, Caylin, and Kristin from FSU. We are also unbelievably thankful for the opportunity to do the work that we do with such wonderful and talented people.

We hope that you take a moment to share a bit of appreciation with someone who has helped you in some way, whether it has been through participation in a LeaderShape program, with your academic or professional endeavors, or in a matter that is personal in nature. Give thanks. Be generous with gratitude. And not just when there is a holiday focusing on it, but all year long.

Friday, November 7, 2014

#Day7: Lifelong Learning

We recently received an email from a 2010 LeaderShape Institute graduate. She was reaching out because she hadn’t written a thank you letter to a donor who helped provide a discount for her fee to attend the program and wondered if she could still send it along.

We don’t often get emails like this so it was a bit of a surprise. We either get the thank you letter shortly after the Institute or we don’t get it at all. This letter was going to be different and we were all curious and eager to read what it would say.

The opening line of the letter reads, “It has been about four years since I attended The LeaderShape Institute back in August of 2010. Although this letter is very long overdue, I feel that now, years later, I can truly express how this program benefited me.”

These words are a terrific demonstration of how the processes of learning, meaning-making, and sharing can continue beyond an actual experience. LeaderShape talks a lot about the importance of being a life-long learner. Often times this sentiment is talked about in the spirit of current, active learning.

Perhaps the concept of being a life-long learner can also represent being open to learning from past experiences as well.

Our perspectives change (and maybe even evolve or expand) as we are exposed to new people, ideas, and circumstances. As we move further away from an experience, our take on it may change as well. This shift can open up new or deeper lessons. It can expand how we view what we thought, how we behaved, and what we learned last week, last month, or, in this instance, years ago. We can continue to learn from something, even years later.

When we think about #Day7 - about staying in action even after the Institute has ended - a part of it is about this commitment to lifelong learning. 

Lifelong learning - from the past and in the present. We are onboard with this.

How are continuing to learn from experiences you’ve had in the past? Tell us about it in the comments below.