Monday, December 29, 2008

Clear and Clean?

We’re born with an innate connection between desire and action. We want something and we act to get it. Clear desire (food). Clean action (cry).

So, what changes?

Along the way, we learn things. We feel things. We get hurt. We hear messages and believe them… “you don’t really want that…” or “you really aren’t good enough for that…”. We then learn to do things that appear to avoid the hurt as we seek to get what we want. Then, we learn that we don’t always get what we want, and sometimes that turns into not knowing what we want so that we won’t be hurt and disappointed if we don’t get it. Sound at all familiar?

My sense is that our thoughts (or beliefs, opinions, judgments) and our feelings (anger, sadness, joy, fear) over time begin to cloud the circuit, or the path, between clear desire and clean action. So what we end up with is a confusing mass of false beliefs and unresolved emotions that have been stored up over the years invading the clarity of the present moment. We avoid situations out of fear, we over-react out of past hurts, our short-fused anger bludgeons a loved one over spilt milk, or we delude or medicate ourselves into a Pollyanna sense of perpetual happiness.

So, if it’s working for you, keep it. And, if you’re at a point where it’s not working then… “What do you want to have happen?” and then, “What’s the risk for you to have that happen?”

Because, if there wasn’t a risk involved, then you would have likely gotten it long ago.

When you decide the risks are worth it… ask for help. There is no reason to go it alone… and the simple process of asking for the help of a trusted guide may be just the dose of vulnerability that is needed to begin the journey.



Sunday, December 28, 2008

What would Vince say?

A friend is stepping up to the principal position at a school where she has taught for many years. She’s acutely aware of the wide assortment of dysfunctional and unproductive behaviors in the team and is anxious to jump in.

In a note, she said, “I’ve been thinking, I need Vince to come give an in-service and start the ball rolling in the right direction. Then I remember that I have been to the school of Vince and I have already started the ball rolling.”

Tough for business, but how cool is that?

I’ve talked before about the “LA Times Test”… as in… “Would you want the thing you’re about to do published on the front page?” Now, we’ve got the “Vince Test”… as in… “What would be the next step in moving us to a more authentic and clean relationship?”

I can live with that.



Monday, December 22, 2008

The Empty Chair

In a small group, an empty chair is a symbol of openness to the possibility of a new member. It can also mean that the group is “holding space” for an absent member.

There is something too about the picture of the empty chair… in a place of incredible beauty… that draws me in… and says… "Come, sit here. Be at home. Rest."

Yesterday, the girls and I had some friends over for brunch at the beach. It was a photo-perfect day of California blue sky sunshine. After everyone left and the dishes were done, I rested in this chair for a bit and simply breathed in the joyful feeling of the moment. The joy of good friends, family, and food. The joy of a brief pause in the midst of all the chaos of life. The joy of creation.

May you find peace and joy in your heart today.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Two Hour Vacation

I was filling in for a COO on maternity leave and her staff were complaining about the loss of personal time, fun, playfulness, and enjoyment in their lives. I encouraged them to take a 2-hour vacation. Later, I heard back from their boss that I had told them all to leave work at 3:00pm every day. Oh well. Actually, it would probably improve productivity the rest of the week.

So, what’s your 2-hour vacation?

Try wearing your favorite clothes (nicest, most stylish, comfortable, the ones that make you feel good), to do something recreational (artistic, playful, adventurous, fun, explorational, out-of-the-ordinary) at a place you’ve never been (or at least don’t go to very often), with yourself or those you like to be with.

I was a recreation major back in the day. And, over the years I have buried that under “Executive”, “Director”, “Dad”, and all kinds of other labels in life. What I’ve come to learn is the world needs more people who know how to recreate well! I’ve been practicing the last couple of years, learned a lot, and it’s time to put it out there for the benefit of others.

All of us are worth the good stuff. It is how we connect with our Creator. We are wired to be joyful. Not just happy in the moment, but full of joy no matter what the circumstances. And, as we experience joy, we bring that to the world in ways that serve all.

Our joy comes when we connect to our genius or essence… that moment when we say to ourselves and the world “This is me and it’s good!”… When I was learning how to lead games or construct tournament ladders who knew that what I was really learning was that as we were created joyfully, we can and will be re-created as we experience joy. So, take two hours and get playful. Recreate and bring joy… Joy to the World.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

If it’s Working For You… Keep it.

People find me when they want change. When something isn't working. They've tried perhaps, and found that change is hard work. If it wasn’t, they would have changed long ago.

I also find that while we say we want change, there is something about the way things are that serves us. Again, if there wasn't, we would have changed long ago.

Change requires conquering the gravitational pull of "same". Change often comes when we aren't looking, or when everyone around us has stopped telling us to change. It comes when we feel safe enough to embrace what it is we really want and open ourselves up to the possibility that it might really be achievable... that we have the competence, the capacity, the autonomy and the guts frankly, for change to happen.

A friend recently sent me this 60-second video clip. It didn’t surprise me that he did... because he is one of those guys who embraces change and what it means to make the world a better place. I hope it will inspire you to ponder what it is that you are striving for in this world. What is the ultimate difference you will make for having consumed more than your fair share of the resources of our planet?

By the way… defining the difference you want is called VISION. So, a simpler question might be… “What is your vision?”



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When Good People Stay

Something happens in forums, groups, and work teams when we up the game to a higher level of authenticity and clear communication. Toxic people leave. And, other people thrive.

I suppose that’s how we want it. And, in the short run, it can be chaotic and highly charged. Is it okay that these people left?

… the longtimer when cleanly confronted with some controlling behaviors views the confrontation as an attack, and storms out with threats of lawsuits and recriminations…

… the member who “keeps it on the surface” and puts down anyone with shortcomings, in a group that exists to support members through the muck and mire of real life…

…the moody genius, accustomed to all bowing to his emotional whims…

As tough as it is in the moment, the long term results bear out the truth. Toxic people drain energy and reduce productivity of the group. In their own pain they hurt others. Their addictions unduly influence decisions. They rarely accept responsibility for their part.

No one can afford to carry dead weight… let alone tug boats pushing the wrong direction.

Toxic people... those who drain, hurt, and abuse... require professional intervention or the firmest of boundaries. Most groups are not equipped to provide this kind of structure and support, and waste valuable resources trying to accomodate or rescue the individual.

The most productive teams… the ones where good people stay and thrive… are those that share not only a common vision and purpose, but also a commitment to candor and curiosity… an individual willingness to own my part in the system, to speak my truth, and to hold myself accountable for results.

If the level of relational authenticity and interaction is working, then keep it. If not though, the good question might be... So, what do you want to have happen?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hollywood and Vine

The other night I was camping with a buddy at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine in the Anza Borrego desert. It was a quick one-night turnaround with a couple nice rides on our mountain bikes, a soak at the Agua Caliente Hot Springs, a bottle of wine watching the stars come out and of course a dose of waxing philosophic. Quite enjoyable.

There’s something about getting out and having fun in the desert that brings me closer to me. Maybe it’s the lack of distraction, the warmth, the bigness of the expanse, the simple living. I like it.

I spend a lot of time with people and organizations wanting to get closer to themselves. Closer to their essence. Their genius. That thing that they were created for. Not just what they were created TO DO, but the thing they were CREATED FOR.

Several years ago I was doing some soul searching (what a shock!) and asked a few colleagues “So, what do you think my purpose is?” Brian, a good friend on the east coast, responded back, “Your purpose is to remind us of our purpose.” I liked that.

Finding our essential purpose, our reason for being, our “WHY DO I EXIST?” is one of "The Three Big Questions Everyone Asks Sooner or Later", according to my friend Dave Phillips who wrote the book by that name.

And, I believe one of the ways we connect with our sense of “creation” is through “RE-creation”… or more simply stated… having fun. There’s a lot more to it (perhaps), but just as we were uniquely created, I believe that we reconnect by being re-created… by stripping away the “must-do” list, the entertainments and electronics, and all the other distractions and simply enjoying ourselves. For an organization this might look like celebration or taking a deep breath to reflect and take in the good, as opposed to solely focusing on the challenging.

There’s a lot more to this. Books have been written in fact! But for today… a good question might be “Why do you exist?”



Permission to Paint

Driving I-5 to San Onofre for an afternoon surf session with a friend stuck in the midst of some marital challenges. Heck. Marital meltdown.

I asked him, “So, before you try to re-connect with your wife, how about if you re-connect with yourself? When do you simply enjoy being you?”

Silence. (Very common. Guys typically don’t have a clue with this one). And then, “You know, I used to love to paint.”

Ah Ha! “Get off the freeway at the next exit!”

Just off the I-5 at Pico in San Clemente is a cool Art Center that sells good quality watercolor materials. We spent under $30 and set him up with a paint board, some nice paper, decent paints, and a selection of brushes. And once again, he was a painter.

A few days later, I got a call. “I just spent a couple hours painting and can’t tell you how good it feels. I know it seems simple, but it feels like… like… somehow taking the few minutes to do something for me opened up some room for me to serve my wife. Thanks.”

Well said.

Monday, December 1, 2008

When Emotion Shows Up Tactical Work Stops

I spend a lot of time coaching people on navigating emotion. And, it always cracks me up when I find myself doing something I teach others to do.

So, last winter, I was in a well-known sporting goods store buying a new pair of ski boots. I had demo’d a pair and was ready to buy. At the cash register, the price rang up as $35 more than the “sticker”. “What’s up with that?” I asked.

“It’s for the special footbed we put in the boot.”

“Huh. That’s interesting, because it wasn’t disclosed that the boot I demo’d was a different price.”

“We’ll take out the footbed then.”

“But that wouldn’t be the boot I demo’d then, would it?”

At this point, the guy launched on me and began a tirade along the lines of me trying to steal something from the store. I noticed my own Italian blood starting to get hot and I took a breath. And then, I followed my own advice… “when emotion shows up… tactical work stops.”

“Huh. I notice that I am starting to feel angry right now and that you seem very agitated to me.”

“You’re damn right I’m agitated! And blah blah blah.”

I stood silently watching him unload. You see, by noticing my own emotion, and then noticing him, I was able to detach and become an observer of the scene. And, I was very clear that I was only going to buy the boots for the listed price, and that the footbeds would be included as demo’d.

Once he had worked himself down, I asked “So, where are we?”

“Alright. You can have them for the listed price.”

Thank you.

Where’d You Learn That?

Glenn is one of those guys who is just fun to be with. I feel special when I am with him. He’s a New Yorker with a flair for good food and a good joke. And, he’s a great skier. He’s also a developer and coach. We were talking the other day.

He says to me, “Just ‘Name the Shame’… You know… the part of you that you think is broken.” Sounds simple.

“I have this sense that I am too self-centered. “

“Oh really? Where’d you learn that?”

Well, that stopped me in my tracks. What a great question! “Where’d you learn that?”

Just try it! Think of something bothersome that you believe about yourself. And then, ponder on where you learned that belief. Because, guess what? It’s probably FALSE. Or at the very least, it’s based on some old paradigm, some old identity, some old stuff. When I look at my old tapes, one of the things I see is times that “taking care of me” landed in my universe as “you’re being self-centered” and worse yet, “you don’t love well.” As I re-frame that today, I can see that taking care of me is what empowers me to fully love others.

When I get hold of where I learned a false belief, I can put it into proper perspective and then choose a new belief. And, I learned that from Glenn.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Story and I’m Sticking To it

I recently presented the results of an Employee Satisfaction Survey to a 75 member leadership team. 50% of the Managers themselves had responded to the survey. Before presenting any results from the survey, I asked… “What does it mean that 50% of you in this room completed the survey?”

“Those who didn’t respond didn’t think it would make a difference.”
“They were busy with other duties.”
“They didn’t think anything would change as a result.”
“They didn’t care.”

In truth, we don’t know what it means. All we really know... from the data… is that 50% responded. Everything else is only what it means to me! And, that’s my story… or my opinion, my assessment, my judgment.

Important? I think so. The ability to recognize and articulate the difference between DATA… “50% responded”… and STORY… “The others were busy” is the mark of a clean and clear communicator.

You see, data is just data. It’s what a video camera can record. Dragnet’s Joe Friday “Just the facts Ma’am”. It’s the only thing we need agree on in most discussions. And, everything else is my story, my feelings, my desires… my stuff. I can own all my stuff. I can’t own data. So, the mature, effective, clear communicating leader separates data from everything else.

“The facts are that 50% responded. The story I make up from that data is that others didn’t respond for a number of reasons… competing priorities, lack of care, apathy. What are your thoughts?”

What is the story you’re making up from the data in your life?

This Has No Place in the Work Place

Early in a recent retreat, while teaching Clear Talk and Issues Clearing…two tools that are part and parcel of virtually everything I do… a high-powered CEO stated “This is all well and good here at this retreat, but it has no place in the work place.”

My response… “Interesting comment. Are you willing to own that as your opinion… your judgment?”

Ha! “If I were an employee of his, I would have just been fired…” was the story I started to make up. It was clear that he was unaccustomed to being challenged in this way.

Unfortunately, my experience with too many CEO’s is that the “un-owned assertion” is to be viewed as Truth (with a capital “T”) if it comes from their position at the top of the food chain. Hmm. I don’t buy it.

In truth, it was his opinion. And, I respect it as such. Just his opinion at that moment in time. After an initial sputter, he came back with a clear “yes” to my question. We moved on.

Interestingly, he called me three days after the conclusion of the retreat. “I was wrong”, he said. “I came back and first thing Monday morning shared the Issues Clearing Model with my team. It was a hit. Thanks for pushing back and asking me to own my judgment. It gave me the space to become curious and consider a different point of view.”

“I was wrong…” Maybe that’s one reason he’s worth millions.

What judgments do you make that you might want to own as simply your judgments?

Surf's Up, Dude

At the conclusion of a Forum retreat, the Moderator offered to give me a ride to the airport. It gave us a few minutes to casually debrief.

“You know,” he said, “you wear your laid back southern California surfer persona pretty well.”

Yikes! My surfer persona?!? Pray tell.

“It comes up when you feel pressured to perform, perhaps because we were a new group with you, or perhaps because you were afraid we were going somewhere you didn’t want to go. It’s a cool character.”

Now, I teach that mature leaders treasure feedback whenever and wherever they can get it, regardless of how it is delivered. But, this was a challenge. I guess I really am subject to the same stuff as everyone else! When I begin to feel afraid of something, my personas show up. I step into drama. I just hadn’t been introduced quite so clearly to my “surf dude.”

Thanks, I said. I appreciate you noticing that, and more than just noticing, I appreciate you sharing it with me. I began to wonder about what was really going on when surf dude shows up. And with that curiosity I began to step out of drama and into the maturity of simply being me.

Who is showing up on your stage?

The Emotional Journey

My journey these days is often about being quiet, listening in the stillness, and becoming more and more aware of the emotions inside of me. And, sometimes I’m explosive and angry, or playful, and sometimes I am in the pure joy of the moment. A great friend once tried to explain to me that “emotions aren’t linear and will not be figured out…” It’s taken a while for that one to sink in. There is no such thing as a “bad” emotion. I celebrate anytime I feel anything- because it means I’m not severed off at the neck. It means I’m alive.

It’s interesting to me how many people struggle over feeling emotion- and especially feeling anger. We’re taught to be nice, and dutiful, and civil, and all the rest but not really taught how to be angry. And for those who work in ministry or other service the challenge is great- the challenge to find appropriate places and ways to explode and blow off steam. Over the years, I’ve taken to the batting cages as a physical expression of explosion. It’s pretty clean- no one gets hurt. It’s was a necessary starting point for me to connect with what was going on inside amidst all the chaos. Getting in touch with the anger inside and working it out was important to me- because it came out one way or another anyway. My goal now is to stay in touch with however I feel. If I’m down today, then I’ll feel down. If I’m up today, then I’ll feel up. Either way, my desire is to celebrate the moment, feel it, surrender it, and know that I won’t always feel this way.

What emotions do you allow in your life? What emotions do you avoid?

Holding Rope

My good friend Jake knows that the worst moment for me rock climbing is the rappel down. He knows I turn in to a whimpering baby when faced with inching out to the edge of the precipice and resting into the rope. He always set up our climbs so the first thing I had to do was rappel.

So, there I was not too long ago. Playing out my ritual of hugging rock, clinging to the edge, breaking into a sweat trying to take deep breaths and be calm, looking desperately for a way down that would allow me to hold on to control a little bit longer. My hands sweat just thinking about it.

Eventually, the moment came where I eased into the rope, transferring the weight from my control. And, with each step down the side of the rock, my confidence grew, the calm became real. The beauty of the setting became more apparent.

A few minutes later, I was back on the rock, only going up this time. The climb was pretty interesting. A few little surprises, a couple of cool moves. A Holiday Inn ledge halfway up.

But then it was time to release the rock and let Jake lower me down. Another moment to release control. Give up the security of my hold to the insecurity of a rope. Let go of control and place my life in the hands of a friend to hold the rope and lower me down safely to terra firma.

Trusting the rope holder. How thankful I am to have a friend to hold the rope. How thankful I am that we are designed to connect and hold the rope for one another. To live in fellowship, in community. Not in isolation.

Whose rope are you holding today? Who is holding your rope?

Am I Listening?

A while back, someone said to me, “Wow, Vince, you’re such a good listener!”  It made me wonder what it’s like to be a bad listener!  So, I ...