Four mindfulness case studies

“Mindful leadership is about using mindful processes in a mindful culture to see, name, and work with uncertainty.”

This is an interesting article from Ellen Langer on the impact that mindfulness can have when employed by the leaders of organisations.

The article identifies three key ways in which mindful leaders approach uncertainty differently, which directly impacts the quality of strategic decisions that they make, leading to a better quality of outcomes for that organisation. These are: recognizing new categories, responding to the emergence of new categories and processing new information.

The article also identifies a number of organisational practices that can be employed to achieve these ends, namely Peter Senge’s inquiry process, the framework of multiple stakeholders, scenario planning, double loop learning, story busting, and effective scorecard design.

What the article doesn’t explicitly explore is whether there is any connection between MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) type programmes, and the level of (strategic) mindfulness that leaders display. It would be interesting to explore whether there is a connection here. It may well be that one or both of the authors has explored this connection already, so I will be digging a little bit deeper to see if this is the case. If anyone out there already knows of such studies or articles, it would be great to hear from you.

Revisiting Appreciative Inquiry

appreciative inquiryI was struck during a coaching session today by the fact that I’m not all that sure of the origins or exact principles that underlie appreciative inquiry, so I did a quick google search and found this wikipedia article.

It gives a really nice summary of the key principles behind the theory, and some hints at how it could be applied in organisations. In summary: appreciative inquiry “advocates collective inquiry into the best of what is, in order to imagine what could be, followed by collective design of a desired future state that is compelling and thus, does not require the use of incentives, coercion or persuasion for planned change to occur.” (Bushe)

In other words, it’s about focussing less on problems, and more on what’s working well, and then building on that.

PS For the academics among you, here’s a link to the original article that introduced the concept.

Amazing free Theory U course on edX

A recent discovery of mine is edX – a joint initiative by some of the top universities in the US, offering free online courses. I haven’t taken any yet, but at first glance it looks like there are some high quality offerings and that a lot of work has gone into the production of the videos and other materials. Looks a cut above some of the other free online courses out there – i.e. it’s not just a collection of lecture videos.

In particular, I was fascinated to see that they are offering a free course on Theory U, starting in Jan 2015. The course will be facilitated by Otto Scharmer himself (among others) and looks to be highly engaging. Sign up now!

SAGRA release 2012 survey results

I recently attended the results presentation for the SA Graduate Recruitment Association (SAGRA) survey. There are two parts to the survey – one that goes out to employers of graduates, and one that goes out to graduates who have recently found employment with those companies. The intention of the survey is to get a snapshot of the state of graduate recruitment in South Africa.

There were a few interesting things that emerged. The survey confirmed that South Africa has this worrying twin problem of having a shortage of skills which leads to a war for talent – many companies all chasing the top talent pool, which is relatively small – as well as a large number of graduates who are unable to find work when they leave university. One of the most striking statistics was that there are on average 65 applications received for every graduate post available – meaning that 64 out of 65 graduates will be unsuccessful!

Another interesting statistic, and one that has been observed for a few years running now, is that ‘training & development offered by the company’ is the #1 most important reason graduates give for choosing whom to apply to, as well as whose offer of employment to accept. Obviously some of the training & development that they look for is technical training, but soft skills development is becoming increasingly important as well.

Retention of graduates is also largely driven by the training & development that they receive, as well as ‘visible career pathing’ – if graduates can see where there career is going, they are far more likely to stay.

Finally, it was interesting to note the growing role of social media in the graduate recruitment space. Facebook was the number 1 source that graduates used to get further information on companies, with Linkedin coming in at number 2. Graduates were perfectly happy for companies to use these social networking platforms for recruitment purposes.

A summary of the survey should be available on the SAGRA website shortly, whilst the full version is only available to those who take part in the survey, or at a fee from SAGRA.

Simon Sinek on the ‘why’ of leadership

I watched a great TED talk today by Simon Sinek, and it got me thinking about personal brand and authenticity. I know that I sometimes get caught up in thinking about personal brand and how I should be presenting myself in different situations. I like the way Sinek draws us back to the key question ‘why’ – why do you do what you do? Put another away, it is a move away from strategy, towards intention.

It reminds me of one of my favourite Rumi poems – one that sets a pretty high bar in terms of intention – here are the first few lines:

Forget the world, and so
command the world.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder
help someone’s soul to heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.

And here’s the Sinek talk:

Conscious Embodiment Workshop 11-12 May

There is a Conscious Embodiment Workshop happening next weekend in Cape Town, run by Karen White. It’s a two day affair – on the 11th and 12th May, and I highly recommend the work. Inspired by the amazing Wendy Palmer, a US Aikido master, it’s about exploring ways that we can work with our own bodies to react differently to life situations – particularly situations that involve interpersonal conflict. This is an introductory course, so is open to anyone who’s curious.

Find out more here.

Using Linkedin for sales purposes..

I’m looking into writing something about how to use Linkedin for generating leads and making sales. Here are two articles I found to get you started thinking about it, A Guide to Business Development 2.0 by Alex Iskold, and A Guide to Generating Leads on Linkedin by Ann Handley.

I guess the first important point to come out of these articles is that there are uses for Linkedin beyond job hunting. This wasn’t really much of an issue for me as I haven’t been job hunting for a while.

Next, they look to make points about Linkedin’s popularity (second after facebook of all websites), and of how it is perceived as more of a business than a social site. This is important for two reasons – one, you’re more likely to find the leads / contacts you’re looking for, and two, they’re more likely to being open to a business related approach on Linkedin.

Both make some good points about how to use the search functionality of the site to find potential leads – you can refine a search by company name, location, job title, etc. So if you know that you typically sell to, for example, HR managers, search by that title and then start combing through the names that come up.

The next important point is that Linkedin will show you how you are connected to the various people that come up in your searches – i.e. how many ‘degrees’ you are separated by, and who the linking people are in between the two of you. This allows you to make the next move, which is to approach that person, using the intermediate connections as reference points. For example, my preference is either to call the lead directly and mention that I found them through Linkedin, perhaps mentioning some of our mutual acquaintances, or to contact one of the intermediate people and ask them for an introduction. I’ve found this to be an incredibly powerful way of starting new business relationships, especially if you believe those who would claim that ‘cold calling’ is effectively dead and buried in the age of Web 2.0.

Of course, the proviso underlying all of this is that one has to be sensitive to not abuse relationships or trust. Play open cards is my advice. If in doubt, rather ask for permission to use someone’s name or make contact with one of their connections. In the long run, this online world is not that different from the offline one – if you lack scruples, word will get around and you’ll start to find it very difficult to form any new relationships.

Wear Sunscreen

I went to a memorial service for a friend the other day, and the ‘Sunscreen Song’ by Baz Luhrmann was one of the songs that was played during the service. I really enjoyed it (again), and so I went in search of it online. Interestingly, I found out that it wasn’t actually written by Baz Luhrmann, nor was it written by Kurt Vonnegut, to whom it is apparently often misattributed. It was actually written in 1997 by a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich – you can view the original article here.

The piece that I really enjoy goes like this: “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

There’s also the Baz Luhrmann version if you prefer that: