NOTE: The May blog posts will not be updated this month, but check back soon for new updates.

  • Are Your Dreams Inevitable?

    Last month, we were able to celebrate with the board of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute for achieving a land lease that will enable the market vendors to set down roots; and, secure a commercial selling locale for the first time in 35 years! The presidents of the board, along with other Santa Fe natives, have realized a dream that not only serves a diverse community, but also provides organic produce and drug free meats for nutritious consumption.  How do you hold onto a dream for 35 years or a lifetime?

    First, let’s define what dreams really are.  Dreams are not just wild fancies or hope; and, not just goal achievement.  Dreams are not the exclusive property of any gender, culture, financial standing, or public image.  They are deep aspirations, inner callings for fulfillment and personal triumph, sometimes in the service of others, as in the Farmers Market.

    Where do dreams come from?  Artists, athletes, and dancers will tell you that they were born with their dream.  Their vision was realized at any early age and deepened with each subsequent year.  Their ultimate success was not dependent on luck; plus, they will tell you that they rarely consider their journey to success as having been easy.  Others will tell you that a collection of events or a specific experience led them to their dream.  As a social activist told us, “It seemed that lightning struck my landscape and everything became so clear to me in that moment.  I knew what my dream was and how it would fulfill my happiness as well as the children’s health program I was serving.”

    Dreams require determination and perseverance as well as talent.  When highway construction  forced the closure of Colonel Sanders’ tiny restaurant inside a gas station, he drove around the southern states to other restaurants to cook chicken for them.  Ultimately, news of the quality of the chicken spread to other restaurants enabling the Colonel to begin franchising, well after he was 40 years of age!  In his early career, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for his lack of creative ideas for stories.  Also, Disney went bankrupt several times before he built the original Disneyland in California.  Henry Ford had the global vision of cars mass-produced on an assembly line.  He failed and was financially broke 5 times before he finally realized his dream of an affordable car for hard working families.

    Dreams are held onto, indefinitely, when core beliefs tell you that life will not be worth living if you don’t pursue them.  Or that life for a specific family, community, or nation will be enhanced or quality of life improved by the pursuit of a dream.  The element that accompanies belief is resolve.  With resolve, no settlement is possible.  And for those that have had a ‘dig in’ moment, resolve brought a sense of acceptance or inner peace.  What appeared to be impossible odds or overwhelming tasks, seemed to fall into a logical order for victory.  It’s crucial that you listen to the inner voice that calls you and pay attention to the people who seem to re-appear every time you become despondent.  These folks are your support network, summoned over the airwaves to help you when your energies are low and seek motivation.

    If you think you can’t make your dreams a reality, ask yourself:

    • What will change for you, your family, or your community, if you begin the process in realizing your dream?  Who else will you inspire, even start a movement, by publicly declaring you are in pursuit of your dream?
    • What fears or uncertainty do you hold that keep you immobilized in your current space?  And, how can you address each of them so that you can establish a plan to achieve your aspirations?
    • What permission do you need to give yourself to stimulate innovative thinking about achieving your dream?
    • If your dream is a humanities ‘calling’ such as, organic food harvesting or companion service to shut-ins, what is unique about your contribution that no one else can duplicate?
    • Are you suffering guilt over ‘breaking out’ of the family or social practices in pursuing your life’s dream?   What would be the benefits and consequences of pursuing your direction when it breaks out of the family’s or your generally accepted peer group?  What invisible rules do you need to discard now?
    • What options have you ruled out that others have told you will not work?  How are you settling for someone else’s conclusions when your heart is telling you that those are wrong for you?

    What are the outside challenges that jeopardize the progression of your dream such as, once the trash is removed from the city park who will maintain the trash-free environment?

    “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable; and then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”         — Christopher Reeve

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  • Learning From Failure

    Most entrepreneurs and company founders will affirm that they have had their share of mistakes, faulty decisions, and just plain failures. In highly innovative company cultures, the idea of not only learning from failure, but the experiences of failure, can be all-encompassing. Encouraging the readiness to take risks, as well as the possibility of failure, has provided society with advancements such as, the light bulb, a radiofrequency medical treatment for spine injuries, the Mini-Bot mobility device for disabled children, and the iPhone.
    As long as we are not possessed by ‘success mania’, failure can be a valuable growth experience. Having the freedom to fail helps us to sharpen our competencies much better than only success. According to Craig Weatherup, retired chairman of Pepsi, “Leaders function at their highest when they constantly expand their life experiences, both on and off the job. It’s all about breadth of experiences, which is something only acquired through risk. I acquired breadth of experience by taking small and sometimes big risks, going into the unknown. You will be uncomfortable. You will understand that you just don’t know the answer, and you need to find it.”
    What are the key pieces to assess for learning from a failed event? Employ these:
    • Persistence. James Dyson, learned to take risks, make mistakes and used frustration as fuel for his creativity and problem solving. It took 15 years of perseverance and over 5,000 prototypes for him to finally launch the Dyson vacuum cleaner. James stated, “There’s a misconception that invention is about having a great idea, tinkering with it in the tool shed for a few days, and then appearing with the finished design. In fact, it’s usually for a longer and iterative process—trying something over and over, changing one small variable at a time. Trial and error. I wanted to give up almost every day. A lot of people give up when the worlds seems to be against them, but that’s the point when you should push a little harder. Often, just around the corner, the solution will happen.”
    o James Dyson’s determination is an excellent of resolve. He had a product idea that he knew, internally, would make an impact on the total design of cleaners; as well as, impact the end-user. He used tenacity to focus his energies through all those years of design changes. An important aspect of this period is he used the miscalculations as a personal education process, not those tradationally accepted such as, from Stanford. He did not display overconfidence, but endured the experimentation process to empower critical thinking on continued work.
    • Let moods of disappointment or resignation fully dissipate before you examine the facts surrounding a failed project or unanticipated outcome. Decisions can be influenced by moods. No matter where we are and no matter what we are doing, we humans are persistently in a mood. Before you evaluate the data, time period spent, or how the competition won over you, concentrate on putting yourself in an optimistic or positive mood. This can be done alone or with the team mates that went through the process with you. One exercise is to create a ‘failure wall’. Hang a blank banner on a wall, provide markers or acrylic paints and ask the team to write observations, known mistakes, or inspirational quotes that will help empty out the emotionalism that all may be holding. There should be no fear of reprisals, just a release mechanism to discharge pent up feelings.
    • Study each failure. With each failure you learn a priceless knowledge that will help you become successful in the future. Reassess what software or hardware tools, delivery vehicles, or advisors that were not correct for the project or personal goal. Discard what was not really useful. Even giants such as, Apple and Coke learned valuable lessons about their products in the last two years. According to Paul J. H. Schoemaker, CEO of Decision Strategies International Inc., “People may fear failure, but they fear the consequences of it even more. The performance culture really is in deep conflict with the learning culture. It’s an unusual leader who can balance these.” Be that leader.
    • Gather the experts. Oftentimes, it is enlightening to have someone that is successful, to help you examine what went askew; and, what can be done in another way next time. Having an expert give you advice will assist you to identify things that you may not have realized in the midst of the fury. Remember that replication of a previously engineered product or service is not innovative, only copy cat behavior. Bringing in outsiders who are unattached to a project’s past, or your individual aspirations, can help you shape the coming strategy for success. Don’t let pride stop you from attaining future success.

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  • Client Success with Multi-cultural Integration

    Our challenge was this: The client owns and administers a statewide suite of independent, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities. In all of their locations, they had a mix of cultural groups serving past generations of residents that were principally complaining that the staff did not listen to their requests or respect them. Consequently, a large portion of the residents chose to move to other community living facilities; and, key staff was also departing at alarming rates.
    Read on to find out our approach and final outcome: Client Success with Multi-cultural Integration

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  • Developing Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is a mental process of solving problems giving proper consideration to the current evidence, the entire context in which the problem exists; and, the relevant methods or techniques for forming a new judgment.  These elements also happen to be the key defining characteristics of professional fields and scholastic disciplines.  This is why critical thinking can occur within a given subject field, industry, social community; and in all those realms where humans need to interact and make final conclusions.

    What are the attributes of a refined critical thinker?  These thinkers use many of the following elements:

    • Raise vital questions, uncertainties, topics for debate, formulating all of these clearly and
      precisely for discussion
    • Gather and assess relevant information, testing the information against relevant criteria and any standards in place
    • Assesses opposing statements and current standing arguments 
    • Are able to admit a lack of understanding or comprehension of subject matter
    • Are genuinely interested in finding new and unprecedented solutions 
    • Are willing to suspend personal beliefs, organizational assumptions, subsequently weigh them against facts 
    • Listen carefully to others and give constructive feedback 
    • Look for all evidence, internal and external, to support pending assumptions 
    • Are able to adjust assumptions when new facts are found 
    • Look for proof without judgment of others involved in problem resolution
    • Maintain a commitment to overcome native ego-centrism and socio-centrism
    • Communicate effectively & in a timely manner with all others in determining new solutions to complex situations

    When you need to develop ‘critical thinking’, ask yourself:

    • What other resources do I/ we need to really address this problem; and, can I/we enlist these resources without the risk of violating company policies?     
    • Are we educated enough to know what it is we don’t know about this problem, project, or company matter?  What other resources do we truly need to make this decision effective in the competitive industry space?
    • What current conditions exists that keep you or your colleagues from solving the current problem with rationality, reasonability, and empathy for all others assigned as resources?  How will you change those conditions?

    As always, great to hear your comments and practices around critical thinking.

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  • Developing the Next Leaders

    Leadership development is not merely acquiring knowledge from reading books or attaining an MBA.  Leadership is the transition from talented or technical individual contributors to those that can clarify aspirations, not just deliver the assessments of the company’s current reality.  The process of becoming a true ‘leader’ is a journey that mandates commitment, discipline, passion, competency; and, an awareness of social relationships, personally and professionally.  It is not a one-time retreat or rally building weekend.

    As companies develop their own leadership cultivation programs, here are key factors to remember:

    • Leadership is not the property of individuals or departments.  Most programs require the participants to be away from their current job for a period of time, attending structured classes, participating in projects to polish expertise, or to be on some form of revolving assignment for growth.
    • Leaders introduce levels of change that can be uncomfortable for colleagues.  Returning leaders validate older conversations that worked in the past; but, can now identify where they need to go forward in creating new domains for conversations.  They may bring in new vocabulary or expressions that peers may not have previously heard.

    As you develop your next generation of leaders, ask yourself:

    • How will you design your leadership’s social system to honor a mix of values eliminating the ‘one value-one strategy’ approach in any new programs?
    • What is the plan for a continued shared future as markets and economics may change?  Will there be quarterly meeting or annual retreats between the leaders and their direct reports?
    • How are you assessing the capabilities of the rising managers for flexibility and adaptability in the coming future?

    Great too hear your thoughts and comments on this one.


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