Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category


We are in a situation where those who are paying attention are terrified and those who are not are resistant to change and even in denial about what the future holds. As humans it is very hard to see something that is not within your experience. That is why they say, “You can only teach what people already know.” That does not mean that what cannot be seen is not real, only that the framework for seeing and understanding the new and extraordinary has not yet been built.

When a young child is found wandering in the street, we yank it out of the street, we don’t engage on a program to teach it about cars and the effect of an impact. You can’t do this with adults, especially adults who think: they already know what they need to know; that they are right; that they are too embarrassed to admit that they don’t know. Add to that the timetable for change that the planet has versus the timetable it takes to educate learning phobic adults, and you have some understanding of the issues we face.

I’m part of the ‘yes we can’ crowd and I’ve spent years learning the subtleties of natural systems, so I have some grasp on the crisis we are facing, enough to be very daunted by the task at hand. I vacillate between committed enthusiasm and dejected despair. The task of rebalancing the planets natural systems so that we can return to the regular and comfortable environment we have lived in for the past 65,000 years, appears to be impossible now. It still appears that we may have the ability to slow down the shift and re-balance those systems at a slightly higher temperature range than we have experienced in the past. This is a hope and desire, I’m not sure exactly how real it is, but assuming that we can do that, the implications for the rest of the life on this planet is not at all clear.

Most life forms (us included) live within a fairly narrow temperature range. We are already seeing the migration of birds and animals and in a few cases plants toward the cooler regions of the globe. There are now robins in the arctic. The Eskimos do not have a name for the bird. We may be looking at a decimation of life at the equator as life pushes toward the polar-regions. The impacts on farming and our ability to produce enough food are at particular risk. What to do?

As Dylan Thomas said, I do not expect to ‘go gently into that good night’ but to rage, rage on. It is to that end that I write this book.

Systems thinking is the ability to see patterns, the dynamics formed by the interaction of wholes with each other. We are trained to see only parts and pieces of things. We see ourselves as separate and distinct objects with little or no connection to anything else. Yet we claim to be ‘all one’ and we claim to be a part of a species (humanity) that appear to have some similarities between all of the various objects we call human. We float in and out of wholes and parts when we think about people, or the environment, but for the most part it is pieces we pay attention to. This is very misleading. Because we do not see connections, dynamics or patterns, we are often surprised by our experiences. There is no place where that is truer than in the realm of ethics and values.

What I see most needed at this time in our existence is a love of Life. We are so caught up in fear, or in trying to ‘get it right’ or in ‘success’ that we have forgotten the why. Why are we here? Why do we even care about anything? It seems to me that everything is screaming for love. Everything is seeking love, but we are looking in all the wrong places.

When I look at how we have managed to understand ethics and morality, most of our approaches have been anchored in fear. Fear of others, fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of punishment, fear of appearing silly or unimportant or…. You cannot be in fear and still love Life. In fear you rationalize behavior under the pretext of becoming ‘safe.’ Love is letting go of fear. Christ very famously said, “You can’t serve two masters” and that is true. We cannot serve the ‘master’ of fear and still serve the ‘master’ of love. The only ethic that serves love of Life is the same ethic that nature uses to develop more and more complex life. It is an ethic that makes more important the relationships between life forms, than the life of the individual life forms themselves. The health of the whole is more important than any small part or piece. It is through the health of the whole that the pieces and parts find their health and well-being.


number-of-major-wild-fires-by-continent-and-decade-since-_951Seeing values as systems is an unusual approach to ethics. This piece is the introduction to my new book, the Evolution of Values. If exploring ethics and values form this fresh and provocative pain of view interests you, then join me. If you would like to help me write by offering feedback as I write, then join me. If you are interested in reading this book as it takes shape and form, being among the very first to engage with these ideas, then join me!   Sign up here and let’s get started!


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In our rush to ‘rethink’ our world we must not forget to think! Robert Reich is making several insightful statements about where we are going and where we may end up if we don’t think ahead. Entrepreneurs and young folks, in general, don’t think about being sick, old, or at the effect of a shifting economy – mostly because it is outside of their experience. The trouble is that all of these will be in their experience, at some time in the future, but if accommodations are not made now they won’t be available then.

The ‘sharing economy’ was construed to create work, which it does. But the deeper ramifications have not been thought through. The rise of both Uber and Airnib have made it clear that there is a dark side to some of these new business models. Designed for young singles or retired folks they are huge traps for anyone trying to create a life! By removing all the support frameworks, as Reich points out, they undermine the very life’s they are purporting to support. We are growing without building the infrastructure that will support that growth over the long-term. This leads to collapse and is unsustainable!

We need to rethink growth, in any case. The issue is NOT about getting bigger, but about getting better, and a large part of better is the creation and maintenance of a sustainable foundation and infrastructure. Innovation is GREAT, but let’s not let greed interfere or undermine our ability to create the world we to live in!

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On Amazon – Culture Values & Unintended Consequences: A Workbook

Knowing what to do and knowing why are two very different things. With ethics, for most of human existence, we have been focusing on the what. Ethics has become a rulebook, often codified into laws that have attempted to provide us with all of the ‘right’ things to do and the consequences for the ‘wrong’ things. Has that approach worked? Certainly the Ten Commandments are part of that approach, and we seem to have some difficulty dealing effectively with only ten rules let alone the myriads of rules we currently live under.

Conflating ethics with rules and laws with ethical behavior leaves much to be desired. Not only is it not possible to codify all behavior (the army has tried), who has time to read them and that doesn’t help in the throes of a crisis or in the heat of decision-making. Simply put the what doesn’t tell us why so that we can act coherently in new and unusual situations. Why do we want to be ‘good’ as an inherent part of our nature? No child is born wanting to be ‘bad,’ bad is a strategy.

If humans are an integral and inherent part of nature, then, perhaps, the answer can be found there. Is nature inherently ‘good?’ Janine Benyus of biomimicry fame stated that in nature all actions create the conditions that support Life. This, for me, is a very clear, and even easy to apply what. It seats us into the natural web of life and provides us with a clear mission and direction for how we contribute to the health of the planet. What could be more ethical than that? This value is one of the key values in the Sustainable Values Set®, and a useful way to think about creating culture. It doesn’t address the deeper why, however.

Closely allied with ethics is integrity. When I look up integrity I get: truthfulness, honor, veracity, reliability, uprightness. Veracity means; reality, actuality, authenticity, genuineness, trueness. When I ask students about integrity they usually settle on reliability. This has always bothered me, because Hitler was reliable, but we would not call him ethical and would be hard put to say he had integrity, so there seems to be more to the word than just being reliable.

Veracity comes closer to the deeper meaning of integrity, I think. What makes something have trueness or reality? Why is being authentic important? The answers to these questions can be found, I believe, in nature. In nature, what is true and authentic supports the integrity of the entire system. Nature is NOT about parts and pieces, the world in which humans seem to live so comfortably. Nature is about the larger system, always. It is by keeping that healthy, intact, working well that all of the ‘parts’ (us included) can function well. Health is intrinsic to nature. Sickness happens only when the system is out of wack. The natural state of Life, is health.

Look at your company culture. Would you say it is healthy? Is it vibrant and robust? It is creative and responsive, resilient in the face of challenges? Can you name the people in your organization that you would say have integrity? Who holds the entire organization as the focus for decision-making? Who can extend that concern into the community and the environment? Who is responsible for your organizations integrity? How does your organization contribute to the health and integrity of your community, of the planet?

I’m going to challenge you again. Send me examples of thorny ethical questions and let’s see if looking at the health and integrity of the larger system offers up solutions. I will share your questions and my thoughts on solutions I future articles, so send them in!

Walking your talk is not easy – that’s why working with a coach/mentor is helpful! Check out my Coaching with Kathryn website, and let’s talk!

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When we make laws or contest the making of those laws, when we speak philosophically, we often forget that we are talking about human beings. There are three current news stories that make this point. The first is the hubris of Elliot Roger. People are wondering if being half Asian and half white drove him to kill. People are wondering if his class/status drove his to kill. Posh, his arrogance (tied to both of these) and his unwillingness to look into the mirror are see what an arrogant B****rd he was, is what allowed him to think he had the right to kill.

The second story has to do with the Open Carry Texas (OCT) brazen act of going, en mass, into a local burrito store carrying big guns across their chests and assuming that they had the right and privilege to scare everyone else. Their willingness to provoke everyone else in order to justify their behavior was simply hubris.

The third story has to do with Amazon and the tactics it is using to derail sales of the books published by Hachette. By ensuring that their books take 2-3 weeks to get to the purchaser, that there are no pre-order buy buttons, that their books cost more etc. They are trying to force that publisher to meet Amazon’s lower pricing demands. Andrew Leonard, in his Salon article about this makes a strong comparison with Walmart. When the true cost of any product is artificially manipulated, then the true costs are deflected onto others parts of the system and/or the quality suffers. This is a lose lose scenario – a race to the bottom. The whole situation stems from the fact that Amazon now controls the publishing industry because they control book selling. While it appears to help the consumer (cheaper books, etc.) it has the potential to destroy the publishing industry and majorly reduce the quality of the books that do get published (we are already seeing that). Amazon is doing this because it can, because Jim Bezos wants to be the winner in this contest of wills.

Can you see the thread that ties all of these stories together? Try arrogance and ego and an incredible indifference to the impact of the chosen behavior on anyone else. Try a sense of superiority and entitlement – a feeling of being “special” with no need to be accountable or respectful of anyone else. This, my friends, is what power does to human nature. Is anyone immune? I doubt it. The bigger question is how do we, as a society handle it? There was a time in our history when both religion and community could bring some pressure to bear in these kinds of situations. That is why we used to have checks and balances in our governmental structure – to counterbalance this tendency. That is the claim made for the ‘free’ market 9a whole other article) and the seduction of many other utopian dreams. If only, if only people didn’t have egos, if only power didn’t corrupt – but it does!

Today the true counterbalance is massive public indignation. That too, seems to be disappearing. We are feeling less powerful not more, we are too busy trying survive to turn our attention to anything outside of our own survival. We are too much in debt to take the risks we need to take to ensure that the system works. We are tired and scared and choose distraction and entertainment to the hard work of change. We can, however, look into our own mirrors and see our own entitlements and deal with those. If we do not, then we will co-conspire with others who won’t and rationalize that it was race, class, or greed that caused them to act that way, tisk, tisk, tisk. That allows us to continue to go on feeling good about ourselves, feeling sure that we are different and maybe just a little bit special.

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Ecological Thinking.

Here’s a short video on one of the shifts in thinking that are necessary to become sustainable. Remember the old saw that doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. Hummm, how often do I do that?

One trick is slowing down a tad and actually thinking about things that I have a kneejerk reaction for. That quick response is habit and that habit isn’t going to get me a new result. It’s painful to slow down, and sometimes it makes me cranky…but when I do and I get to a new place it’s VERY worth it!

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This recent article in the Economist gives that old argument new meaning. Japanese scientists have been working to find a genetic link between people and their profession and their satisfaction with their profession. This has come about as scientists have finally discovered that genes don’t act alone, but can be influenced by the environment – well duh!

Our propensity to think of anything as somehow separate for everything else is endemic and responsible for more of the worlds issues than I have time to list. If only we would assume a connection and then look for it instead of the other way around we would be spared considerable pain.

There is a brief discussion of the ethics of all of this.

The third ethical qualm involves the thorny issue of fairness. Ought employers to use genetic testing to select their workers? Will this not lead down a slippery slope to genetic segregation of the sort depicted in the genetic dystopias beloved of science-fiction?

This pass, however, has already been sold. Workers are already sometimes hired on the basis of personality tests that try to tease out the very genetic predispositions that biologists are looking for. The difference is that the hiring methods do this indirectly, and probably clumsily. Moreover, in a rare example of legislative foresight, politicians in many countries have anticipated the problem. In 2008, for example, America’s Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, banning the use of genetic information in job recruitment. Similar measures had previously been adopted in several European countries, including Denmark, Finland, France and Sweden.

The desire to save ourselves from our self is one we have to monitor all the time. The article concludes with this:

There is one other group of critics. These are those who worry that applying biology to business is dangerous not because it is powerful, but because it isn’t. To the extent they are genetic at all, behavioural outcomes are probably the result of the interaction of myriad genes in ways that are decades from being fully understood. That applies as much to business-related behaviour as to behaviour in any other facet of life.

This understanding is closer to the truth, I believe. From a systems perspective the interconnections are at the heart and those are both hard to see and understand and hard to trace and manage. It is one neat way to pass the time , however.

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We are moving into a new time that requires new leadership skills. In my last Enlightened Business radio show I talked about Feminine Leadership, what it is, why it’s different and how it compliments masculine leadership. The quest to mimic nature by business has one key piece that is very different from any other shift in business practices that have happened in the past 15-20 years.

The “Prime Directive” of nature is that she always creates the conditions that support life! Always! This is what business must also do and to be effective at that you must care. This is heart work. It’s not soft and it’s not optional. We need to care about the planet and all the life that is on it. We need to care about each other and ourselves. If we do not want to have our species disappear, then we also need to care about Life.

At its core sustainability is all about relationships; internal to the company and external to the company. Understanding those relationships and being able to respond to the subtle nuances in each of them is something that women are particularly good at. Men need to learn this too and not just abdicate this strength to women, but the model remains feminine.

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