June 30, 2009
I said in an earlier post (One Book, Two Months), I continue to be interested in the evolution of communities and organizations – how to increase collaboration and to reduce feelings of isolation. Today’s post was sparked by connections among:
- A whispered negative comment at a community meeting, “Did you hear that the Smith’s are leaving?”
- An uplifting positive email from a former colleague mentioning that a mutual colleague, who had worked for me, was a panelist at a recent career seminar and had said very complimentary things about how I explained the details of his position during recruitment, how I had piqued his interest enough to accept the job, and how I had been a good coach/mentor later after he was hired.
- And, continued thinking on my last post, Applied to Soccer.
What these three things have in common are the ebb and flow that exists in every community and organization, which occurs like the ebb and flow of the flock of birds in this estuary photo. My three examples differ in tone and timing: negative, positive, arriving (hiring), participating, and departing. Organizations and communities evolve (grow and adapt to external change) as people depart and others arrive, so it is important to prevent stagnation, but there is no need to be negative.
Arrivals are recruited to perform specific functions (in organizations) and are assessed to ensure fit to the organization or community through shared goals, values, and vision. With each arrival the community/organization is infused with the new, the fresh, and dreams. Arrivals generate hope for the future.
Departures, on the other hand, are subdued, because there is loss. The losses come in many flavors: a valued contributor choosing to go elsewhere, a respected contributor departing under organizational contraction, and/or the loss of an aspiration because goodness-of-fit was not achieved (or outgrown).
Managing arrivals is easy because they are naturally positive – hope is good. Conversely, managing departure can be hard. The key to success in managing departure is to ensure shared goals during participation and dignity in departure.
Dignity is infused when leadership conversations are respectful and there is a history of communication around expectations and goals (positives are reinforced and negatives are identified and corrected early). Although it takes more effort to stay positive and to over-communicate, that extra effort nurtures joy, enthusiasm, and loyalty. Thus, the long view advice is to lead with dignity upon arrival, during participation, and upon departure.
Are you infusing your community/organization with dignity?
March 25, 2009
Wyo was a regal dark chocolate (almost black) Morgan horse. He had a massive neck, a muscular stature, and the sweetest disposition that a horse could have. Today Wyo was laid to rest after two years of suffering from equine COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted a horse, but even though dad was an experienced and able horseman it just was not to be. As time passed, I became more urban, less rural, and I did not think much about horses after college. Imagine my surprise when my parents retired to a ranch and (finally) bought me a horse!
I met Wyo when he was a gangly 2-year-old still in training. It was love at first sight! I immediately hired a trainer to teach me to ride, to tack, to muck, to groom, and be safe around horses. Although I could only see Wyo occasionally, my trips to visit him were always joyful learning experiences.
There is an old proverb that says, “When you are ready, your teacher will come.” It might be surprising, but Wyo was one of my best teachers. He taught technology leadership from a horses’ point-of-view. His lessons were few, but important:
- Build a relationship before you ask to lead. He led me to develop a deep and lasting bond that enabled me to confidently give commands and him to accept them.
- Be present. He taught me the importance of paying attention to the trail, to the beauty of the mountains that we traveled, to the possible dangers (rattlesnakes), and to the unexpected (a flock of startled pheasant).
- Overcommunicate. He taught me the importance of making sure that we understood each other when working together. We learned to open a gate without dismount and could easily move cattle between pastures. Although I spoke and he did not, the position of his ears and his breathing told me everything.
- Take the lead when others cannot. He demonstrated confidence to other horses when they shied from crossing streams. He stepped confidently into the water and escorted other horses to the other side, crossing as many times as was needed.
I miss his powerful stride under my saddle and the wind in my face, but I can still feel the reins in my hands. Rest in peace my friend and teacher. Your memory lives with me. You were loved.