I have the privilege of teaching at a number of top business schools around the world.  Last week I gave classes at Harvard and at MIT.  This is a video from IEEM Business School in Montevideo, Uruguay where I spend a week each October teaching on their MBA and Executive Leadership programs.

The video is a good short (90 seconds) description of what I want participants to learn through my Leadership Communications program.

The 4 Keys to Great Communication

  1. Have something to say
  2. Say it well
  3. Say it with intensity
  4. Connect with the audience

Check out the video

and here’s a gratuitous photo of me at Harvard last week…

The mission of the IESE Business School, where I teach about 1,000 EMBA, MBA and Senior Management participants each year, is to “develop leaders who aspire to have a deep, lasting and positive impact on people, firms and society” and I have spent a lot of the last 13 years attempting to find a way to achieve this mission.

A leadership decision will always look wrong from somebody’s perspective.  Leadership decisions are always difficult because they play off between values.  We learn from Homer’s great hero Odysseus is that a leadership decision is always a decision between two bad outcomes.  If one path led to a good outcome, then the decision is an excel spreadsheet decision…  not a leadership decision.  Leadership will always be hard because you can never be right from all perspectives.

What stops someone developing as a leader?  What is the single greatest obstacle we face in developing Leaders?

Self-Delusion.

We are born aware of how we view others, but unaware of how others view us.

Some learn quickly to see how others see them.

Some never learn.

Some face an insurmountable challenge (psychologists call this a “boundary experience”) and realise that it is they themselves that must change.  It is they themselves that act in ways that make their goals unachievable.  It is only a major failure in their life that forces them to reflect and see that they are responsible for the behaviours that are causing failure.

Overcoming Self-Delusion

How do those institutions that develop leaders open human beings up to the nature of their self-delusion?  How do I as a teacher help someone realise that they don’t know everything?

I was reading “Return on Character”, a book by Fred Kiel this week – it is a 10 year study into the financial impact of having a leader who behaves with 4 “leadership character qualities”.  He worked with many CEOs.  He surveyed the CEOs, and he surveyed the direct reports of CEOs.

  • Great CEOs think they behave well 80% of the time, and their direct reports say 80%.
  • Poor CEOs think they behave well 80% of the time, and their direct reports say 50%.

Every one of his CEOs think they show these 4 categories of behaviour over 80% of the time…

  • Integrity – clear sense of right & wrong; tells the truth; seeks the truth
  • Responsibility – self control; fixes own mistakes
  • Forgiveness – cooperation; conflict resolution
  • Compassion – empathy; builds attachments; shows and receives affection

And, by the way, the answer was yes, leadership character matters to direct reports.  In a big way.

The Challenge of Self-Delusion

An individual is delusional about their qualities as a leader.  

This is the teaching challenge – students do not believe that they have poor behaviours around integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion. 

How do you get people to realise that they are not as good as they think they are?  (how to get them to actually listen to direct reports and to team mates feedback?)  Now… that is our teaching challenge.

“There is magic in front of us… if we pay attention.” Mariano Torrente

This is the first video released by the TED organisation from the recent TEDxIESEBarcelona event. Mariano Torrente is a magician who will graduate with the MBA class of 2016.  (Watch it here.)

Where Amazing Happens

Amazing things happen right in front of us every day, but human beings have lost the capability to become inspired by the little things. Mariano uses magic to show us that everyone has the ability to cultivate awe and wonder from their daily lives.

Mariano was born in Huesca, a small town in the North of Spain, and moved to Madrid when he was 18. He is a professional business person with a twinkle in his eye; his experience is in consulting, and his passion is in magic and the art of Illusion. Mariano’s capability of mixing those two world in his daily life is truly inspiring, and he takes the TEDxIESEBarcelona stage at IESE Business School in Barcelona, to describe the lens through which he views life.

cagekentThis was posted at Maria Popova’s blog Brainpickings back in 2012.  I’m not a big fan of John Cage as a composer (he is most famous for over 4 minutes of silence…) but he was an inspiration for (and promoter of) these 10 rules:

10 Rules for Students and Teachers

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

sistercoritarules1
poster version 😉

The list, commonly titled Some Rules for Students and Teachers, is often attributed to John Cage. The list, however, originates from celebrated artist and educator Sister Corita Kent and was created as part of a project for a class she taught in 1967-1968.

For more of John Cage’s insights, check out Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists.

The basic freedom we have in life is the freedom to make mistakes.  If we can’t make (reasonable) mistakes and learn from them, what freedom do we really have?

“The first time it is an accident, the second time it is a decision.”

My girlfriend likes to say: “The first time it is an accident, the second time it is a decision.”

My daughter is 8.  She is starting to develop the ability to be guilty about something, and expresses anxieties about the world like never before.  I assume this is a normal part of the growing up.  She has a powerful creative imagination and it can develop some pretty powerful scary future scenarios.  She hears about a plane crash and imagines her family on that plane.  She hears about a boat sinking and imagines her family on that boat.  She does something that hurts her friend (accidentally) and now spends 15 minutes feeling guilty and wallowing in the sadness.

Slaves to Guilt?

The limit on our freedom in most western societies has nothing to do with rules or laws or police.  It has to do with guilt, and imagined potential guilt.  Animals have a freedom in that they don’t lay awake at night painfully reliving their mistakes of the day and reliving the crap in a self-destructive guilty wallowing.

The first time you try anything, you should not be able to feel guilty.  I am able to feel guilty about certain things when just imagining them… and then feeling guilty that I even imagined it.  This then puts me in a crappy mood and I give up all efforts to be a better version of myself.

Sometimes it would be good to fall sleep with the guiltless calm of a dog or a cat.  A deer watches another deer being caught by lions without dwelling on the idea: “it could be me.”

Accident or Benefit?

I wonder whether guilt and anxiety are evolutionary advantages or they are accidents that came with the enlarged frontal cortex?  Our ability to imagine the future and plan how we will meet challenges is no doubt a powerful survival advantage.  The agonising feelings of anxiety, of low self worth, of being “bad”, of guilt – do they help?  Maybe they help us survive, but they do not help us thrive.

With my daughter, I don’t try to tell her to not feel the anxiety or the guilt.  What she feels is real.  I loved a conversation she had with a wise 11 year old.  My daughter asked “what is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?”  The older girl replied “I don’t find that a good thing to think about…  I prefer to ask what is the best thing that has happened.”  The older girl has a great imagination but has learnt to direct her imagination towards the positive.  It doesn’t mean that she ignores reality, but it does mean that she doesn’t wallow in the negative feelings of what could go wrong.

Life can be scary and bad things do happen.  We cannot pretend that this is not the case.

We can cultivate the belief that we are resourceful and when we face challenges we will do the best that we can do – but we don’t have to spend our hours, days and years preparing for every horrific potential scenario.

Are you a parent who has seen a child face anxieties and feelings of guilt?  How have you helped them deal with these uncomfortable feelings?

 

Creative Indifference

DSCN3223
My daughter checking the roses in my parent’s garden

A good gardener creates the conditions for growth of a garden, but cannot force the flowers to grow in an exact way.  The good gardener creates the conditions and accepts what arises.

The bad gardener fights what arises.  The bad gardener hacks and chops and fights against the natural growth of nature.

The good gardener changes the conditions and different plant shapes and varieties arise.

In each case the attitude of the gardener is “Interesting!  I wouldn’t have expected that.”  Creative indifference as a gardener is a deep curiosity, and an openness to delight in the million and one ways that nature can arise.

Good Teaching as Good Gardening

I want to teach more as a gardener than as a sculptor.

Up to now I often find that I am trying to remake a participant into my image of what she could be – I am metaphorically hacking off bits of stone and adding bits of paint.

A good gardener allows the plant to grow in its own unique way.  Nature is difference.  Nature is no straight lines, no leaf exactly like any other leaf, no flower exactly like any other flower.

I want to focus more on creating the conditions for growth in the classroom, during the breaks, during the lunches… that would allow the participants to grow in their own individual way – and have less fixed ideas about how each individual will use those conditions.  I want to be willing to allow the person to become who he is to become, rather than my ideal of what he could be.

I came across a wonderful series of explanation videos on youtube this morning (sometimes random internet clicking has its benefits!).  Kurz Gesagt, a Munich based design studio founded by Philipp Dettmer & Stephan Rether in 2013 creates 5 minute animated explanations on some of the most complex topics there are.  Here are 4 of my favourites – on Iraq & ISIS, on Banking, on Fracking and on Time itself!

Iraq Explained — ISIS, Syria and War

Banking Explained – Money and Credit

Fracking explained: opportunity or danger

On Time

Watch More Great Explanations

These videos are all produced by the design studio Kurz Gesagt and take up to 200 hours each to create.  You can subscribe to their youtube channel here

 

If life’s journey is like a bus ride: there are drivers, and there are passengers.

(there are also conductors, there are navigators, there are engineers…)

There are a lot more passengers on the bus than drivers.

What does it take to be a driver?

The drivers are people that passengers can believe in.  Who do we believe in?  I am reminded of the Trust Equation.  Trust is made up of 4 elements – credibility, reliability, intimacy and other-orientation.

Sometimes I am a passenger on the journey: I am seeking validation of my ideas, my projects and my life.

Great teachers know how to balance enough validation with enough allowance for the development of self-validation capacity.  The best teachers are mature enough to avoid giving me the explicit validation that I think I want, but they know that if they give it, I will become an addict to their validation, not to building my own inner capacity to self-validate.

…and my next question for today:

Whats the difference between a rockstar and a guy with a guitar in his bedroom?

Answers below…  What do you think?

David William wrote this post at Lifehack, but I find that I have gone back a couple of times now to find these questions.  I was on a bike ride along Tibidabo mountain last night with my daughter (8) and I asked her a couple of these questions.  I get some profound answers.

Jim Collins says that we should be constantly increasing our Questions to Answers ratio.  A question means I am open and curious and learning.  An answer is saying what I already know.

Here are the 15 questions that David shared:

15 Questions that Create Profound Discussions with my Daughter

  1. 4026524974_829edb326f_oWhat five words do you think best describe you?
  2. What do you love doing that makes you feel happiest?
  3. What do you know how to do that you can teach others?
  4. What is the most wonderful/worst thing that ever happened to you?
  5. What did you learn from the best/worst thing that’s happened to you?
  6. Of all the things you are learning, what do you think will be the most useful when you are an adult?
  7. If you could travel back in time three years and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
  8. What are you most grateful for?
  9. What do you think that person feels?
  10. What do you think your life will be like in the future?
  11. Which of your friends do you think I’d like the most? Why?
  12. If you could grow up to be famous, what would you want to be famous for?
  13. How would you change the world if you could?
  14. How can you help someone today?
  15. If you could make one rule that everyone in the world had to follow, what rule would you make? Why?

More on The Art of Good Questions

This list was shared via email by my Dad today:

Bertrand Russell’s ten laws of teaching

"Russell in 1938" by Unknown - http://www.personal.kent.edu/~rmuhamma/Philosophy/Russellimages/br-images.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russell_in_1938.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Russell_in_1938.jpg
Bertrand Russell in 1938; Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

About Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell was a Nobel prize-winning, British, anti-war, analytical philosopher who lived from 1872 to 1970. Russell argued for a “scientific society”, where war would be abolished, population growth limited, and prosperity shared.  Read more at wikipedia.