Loyal To A Fault


Pledging Allegiance - Wikipedia Public Domain“Purpose is the recognition of the ‘loyalty of life’ … We receive from life what we are loyal to.” (p. 14 in The Power of Purpose)

When I encounter the word “loyalty”, I immediately remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a very young citizen of this country.  Loyalty seems to evoke images like the one above … a group of people earnestly promising to do and support things in a particular way.

As an adult, I have come to realize that loyalty has very little, if anything, to do with reciting oaths and making promises.  Sometimes your loyalty is to an ideal, which means that you resist the outward symbols and take issue with what is asked of you.  But that’s a post for another day …

The type of loyalty referred to in the quotation above is a much more personal type of loyalty. Continue reading

Resistance is Futile … But People Do It Anyway


The following is an edited version of my response to a question about experiencing the value of systems in an organization.  You can read the original post and my full response HERE.

Clutter - Veronidae on WikipediaI have repeatedly experienced the impact of well-designed systems on work flow, collaboration, and business outcomes, but one experience always sticks out.

A national social services organization implemented a comprehensive and standardized work flow and data organization system which included what some called a “micro-manager” approach to how people structured their work days and how they retained or deleted/threw away information generated in the course of business.

The goal was to standardize our work, get on top of data curation, and to become a more agile and flexible organization. After the inital design and training by a consultant, I and one other person had to actually implement the system, first in our corporate office and with regional staff, then later in field units.

The resistance was fierce from some quarters and usually focused on one or more of the three issues below.  As I worked with these main types of resistance for over four years, I came to some realizations:

You are treating us like children by forcing us to file everything the same way”

Standardization is often seen as a threat or, at best, an inconvenience.  Most folks do not like to be arbitrarily required to do the same thing as everyone else. Continue reading

Invitation To A Field Trip …


School Bus - Morguefile.comOne of my favorite school events as a child involved sporadically crowding into a rusty old yellow school bus for a field trip …

I grew up in a rural area with limited cultural and social activities.   When you live on a farm, outside a small town, far from any large population areas, life has a very stable and consistent sameness for the most part.  This meant that field trips were valued, not just for whatever lay at the other end of the trip, but for the social aspects of getting out of the classroom and going somewhere. 

Something has to happen to feed our inquisitive young minds and introduce us to the larger and more complex world …

So I and those connected to me by age and geography would pile into a creaky old yellow school bus and off we would go.  Our destinations varied, but always involved going somewhere we did not live, to see, hear, taste, and touch things we did not usually experience.   Then we would talk about what we had experienced.  

Some trips were short, maybe a couple of hours and we would be back in the classroom, while others might start very early in the day, cover many miles, and end after dark as we wound our way home, physically exhausted, but mentally stimulated by the larger world outside our small rural community.

As I grew to adolescence, field trips only became more desirable, and not just as a break from the daily routine.  The social aspect became huge … How else was I to meet strange and exotic girls from far-away places like Kirksville, Hannibal, Ottumwa, or Keokuk? 

I began to rate the value of a field trip by the possibility provided to connect with someone somewhere else.  The more possibilities, the better the trip …

It was all about connections then and it is still all about connections for me today …

Today’s field trip is not THAT kind of field trip, although you may receive some of the same benefits of connection with others.  “About Breaking The Rules” is my guest post published today over at the Lead Change Group and I invite you to journey there to read my thoughts about the challenges in Under New Management, a fascinating and very useful new book by David Burkus, who is now officially one of my favorite authors.

While you are visiting the Lead Change Group blog, I invite you to look around at the other posts from a wide assortment of strong and articulate leadership development thinkers.  You might learn a thing or two, and even make some new friends.

After all, isn’t that what field trips are all about?:) …

Remembering the best parts of some very long bus rides in the Heartland ….

John

 

Image:  Morguefile.com/bus

“Wall Heroes” …


 

Wall Heroes - Wikipedia

I used to hang my heroes on my wall …

 When I was young, I proudly displayed pictures of various actors and famous people, first on my bedroom wall at home and later on various dorm room walls.   Being a Boomer, the list included such luminaries as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Milton Berle, although not all at the same time and definitely not for the same reasons.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped posting pictures of those I admired and instead opted for pretty models, exciting products, mystical sayings, and esoteric art.  I wonder why …

WALL HEROES RECALLED …

A group in our church is reading and discussing America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis , a fascinating but often difficult to read review of our country’s history of racial injustice from colonial times to right now.  I recommend it to anyone who is willing to struggle with complex challenges in our society and who is interested in building a society which more closely lives up to our country’s stated ideals.

In chapter six, Wallis mentions several people, including Clarence Jordon and William Stringfellow, who conducted bold experiments in creating truly multi-cultural communities.  Wallis uses the term “Wall Heroes” to tell us that portraits of these folks who he considers personal heroes and inspiration hang on the wall of his office to provide daily reminders and inspiration about what can be done when one dares to do it.  

A HERO BY ANY OTHER NAME …

Of course, thinking about this immediately lead me to consider what I mean when I use the term “hero”.

At the risk of going against the current trends, while I think many people should be honored and rewarded for the work they do, such as serving in the military, providing emergency response, or just being a policeman or fireman, without calling each of them heroes.  For example, I served in the military as did many others, but in no way qualify as a hero.

Heroes, at least in my mind, are individuals who have made a large contribution to something positive, often while experiencing great sacrifice or risk for doing so.

Heroes are individuals for the most part, to my thinking.  While the hero influences and motivates others to act with or support something, the hero usually goes first and alone, leading the way and setting the example for others.

One notable exception to this is like that represented by Band of Brothers, the book and television series about a highly trained and accomplished military unit during World War 11.  In the interviews with the actual people portrayed in the film, one of the actors cites one of the veterans:

Richard D. Winters: [real life interview with Winters where he quotes Mike Ranney on how Ranney answered a question his grandson once asked him] I treasure my remark to my grandson who asked, Grandpa, were you a hero in the war? Grandpa said, No… but I served in a company of heroes“. (via IMDB)

I highly recommend viewing the excellent film to anyone who wants to more completely understand what some soldiers experienced during this conflict.  

CONTEXT MATTERS, AS IT ALWAYS DOES … 

Heroes are not all of one type, nor do they all operate in one environment.   We assign different virtues to heroes in the context in which they are found:  military, political, social, community.  In one place, we look for personal bravery, while in another, restraint and mercy might be more heroic in our eyes.

The montage I chose to illustrate this little post shows five individuals who came readily to mind as I thought about who I might hang on my wall now:

Fred Rogers (upper left):  He gave me a model for being a man that was distinctly different from anything else I was getting, one which included gentleness, inclusion, acceptance, and kindness.

Viktor Frankl (upper right):  He created a theory of human behavior which continues to quietly impact our thinking, so much so that he continues to show up regularly on lists of highly influential authors and people in the business world, as well as psychology.

Abraham Lincoln (center):  Simply one of the most impactful and important presidents of our history, who showed both courage and compassion during one of our most difficult times as a struggling young nation.

George Washington (lower right):  The first in a long line of national chief executives who helped create our country and shape our national heritage.  Being the first president of a brand new country meant going through truly uncharted waters.

Martin Luther King (lower left):  Perhaps the most courageous person on the wall, who dared to confront racially-based hatred at great personal risk and to do so with passion, but a firm non-violent approach during the tumultuous Civil Rights era.

MY QUICK ANALYSIS …

These candidates for my wall were chosen quickly and I continue to ponder whether I should add some lesser-known but equally impactful folks.  I notice several things as I consider my wall:

I have NO women on my wall … (this really hit home as an example of implicit bias)

Most of my heroes are from earlier periods of history and all are dead now …

My social sciences background is showing … no business or cultural leaders on the list

Little controversy would probably exist around any of my “safe” choices …

Maybe I need to consider further and think more deeply about what a hero might look and sound like, within varying contexts in our society and our world.

Some heroes are not well-known or historical names or appreciated fully in their own lives.   Many heroes are not members of the social or cultural majority in their environment.  Heroism may look, feel, and sound very different at one time versus another. 

HOW DO YOU DEFINE A HERO?

WHO IS HANGING ON YOUR HERO WALL?

Revising my list of heroes as I continue to ponder all this in the Heartland ….

John

Images:  All from Wikipedia

Out of The Office …


Lead Change Group February blog screen shot

Happy February 29th

Not sure of the significance of this additional day to our year, but it certainly gets more than its share of Facebook memes and a massive commercial celebration in every store I see, so I guess that is something.

Meanwhile, some of my thoughts about certainty and uncertainty are featured today over at the Lead Change Group blog.  In this post, I say absolutely nothing about Leap Year or February 29, but you might find my observations about how we view uncertainty interesting.

Please check out Lead Change Group for consistently interesting and useful leadership and personal development thinking … not mine so much, but everyone else is really thoughtful and articulate:)

“Please Clap” Department:   If you find value in what I or any of the other posters offer, please feel free to share our work with your connections, leave a comment or question for us, challenge us if you disagree, and otherwise engage with the content and the creators.  It makes writing more enjoyable and valuable for both of us:)   

You can click the image above or HERE to visit their blog, but then poke around for much, much more.

By the way … “NO!“, that is not a selfie above … it is one of many unusual and interesting images available from Gratisography.com.

Trying to make good use of my extra 24 hours in the Heartland ….

John

Image:  Gratisography.com