Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chapter one is now finished......

image from behavioradvisor.com
Chapter one of the MBA journey is now complete. Five chapters to go!

Last night, we had our final class in the first leadership series and we took our economics final exam.  Amazing that 15 weeks have flown by so quickly!

Our time in leadership concluded with another world cafe.  As people shared their ideas, I was enjoying listening to those that normally do not speak up in class.  I was amazed at the vulnerability, transparency and authenticity from which people spoke - sharing part of their journey or just sharing what they're wrestling with right now.  Last night's class time began with four learning teams, but I felt that by the end of our class time, we were finally one big cohort team.

image from winterpark.gov
This journey we're all on together has challenged me to intentionally pause during the day and attempt to consider different approaches to my day, challenges, encounters, relationships, etc.  We all find ourselves in the weeds of our work, the tyranny of the urgent, or just in the moment all too often.  But during the intentional pauses of my day, I'm visualizing getting on a hot air balloon to rise above the madness into the peaceful and quiet solitude of the heights.  From there, I am finding clarity of thought, reminders of purpose, renewal of energy, and new perspectives.

We also concluded our economics class with our final exam.  Afterwards, some had gathered just down the hall from the class to talk.  Matt and Ramon convinced us to go to undergraduates' end of year "Midnight Madness" where they served free breakfast to all the students.  It was great just hanging out with others from our cohort as we end this first semester.

So, chapter one is closed.  I know the elements of chapter two, but what will ultimately be written in this next chapter is yet to be seen.  The thought of that is both scary and exciting, but I'm ready to turn the page and keep reading!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Week 14: The Umbrella of Trust....

Just when one thinks it doesn't get any better than this - it does.  Our team has crested, yet another summit.  We've climbed the mountain of "Journey" this week and found TRUST at the top.

This week, we were individually assigned the task of comparing our journey to a movie of our choosing.  We were then asked to meet within our teams and openly share those journeys with one another while taking the time to really pause and reflect on each one's journey.  Our team met on Saturday for dinner and spent 6.5 hours on this exercise.  Each one's journey was truly unique.  There was intentional vulnerability in the discussion - from the sharing of the journey, the ensuing discussion, and insight from the team.  I continue to learn more about each person - and I am amazed and blessed by their journey.

Humor me for a moment and imagine that our team has just climbed Mount Journey and reached Trust Summit.  We're experiencing a new beginning of a new day together as the fog of self (ego, fear, control) is burnt off by the morning sunrise (vulnerability).  There's this brisk air of excitement of the new day....clarity, hope, inspiration, openness, respect.

Last night in our leadership class, each team was asked to summarize what we've learned so far in this leadership series with respect to living out our values, faith and ethics in leadership.  Our team came up with "The Umbrella of Trust" - see picture to the left.

We all have the umbrella, but we also have to be intentional in its use.  When the rain comes, we can either do nothing and get drenched and soggy with the elements of the storm or we can make the choice to open the umbrella and experience covering.  The elements we depicted in the picture were elements of self and of others - ego, fear, "in the box", conflict, etc....  We viewed the umbrella of trust as enabling each of us to navigate the storm - not necessarily get out of the storm.  When the umbrella of trust is open, the catalyst or enabler of the benefits of trust is intentional vulnerability.  Trust and vulnerability enable openness to feedback, respect, reconciliation, inspiration....all of the list in the picture above.  This whole concept is still forming in our minds....who knows, there may be more to come on this.

In our Economics class, it was a night of critique and rebuttal presentations.  Each team's SWOT analysis was given to another team to be critiqued.  That critique was provided back to the original team so that they could put together a rebuttal.  Last night, each team was responsible for two presentations - 1) Critique of another team's paper and 2) Rebuttal of the critique on their own paper.  Similar to the night we had marketing presentations, I enjoyed watching each team present as it gave people who normally do not speak up in class a chance to talk.

All of the presentations were good.  The exercise provided the opportunities to give constructive criticism and feedback to another team while receiving similar criticism and feedback on your own paper.  Some winced, squirmed and showed forced smiles as they fought back the temptation to defend themselves, while others graciously nodded their heads with understanding.  It is always hard to hear criticism, but I believe, as a whole (not just our team), our cohort is developing a trust for one another that we ultimately understand that we're all trying to help each other.  We're not here to try to make someone else look bad, but rather, we are encouraging each other to finish strong in this MBA marathon.

Thank you team #2 for graciously receiving our critique and thank you team #3 for taking the time to read and critique our paper.  I had to open my umbrella of trust many times during the evening, but I'm so glad I understood my choice to do so.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week 13: Passionography and Critique

I left very early last Tuesday morning to drive to MS to visit with my mother.  About an hour into the journey I discovered that I had left my computer at home, so I was not able to get a jump start on my leadership assignment.  This week we had to list our strengths, values, skills, and enlist others to provide us with a list of what our top 5 things they most important to us.  Before I left for MS, I sent out my requests to friends, family, and employees for their feedback on those top 5 things and also requested a short paragraph on how they view my leadership. More on that shortly.

Normal vision
Same view with macular degeneration
Forgetting my computer was at first irritating, but in some ways liberating, as it helped me to spend much more time with Mom on this trip.  This was a tough trip for me as I could tell that my mother has declined since my last visit.  She has dementia and macular degeneration.  The short-term memory loss, declination of her eyesight, and recent changes in her medications have made her more anxious - which is understandable.  It's hard to understand what a person sees with macular degeneration, but I found a good example that helps me understand it better as shown in these pictures from Wikipedia.  In the past, Mom relied heavily on my father to keep her medications straight, to help her navigate when in public, and even cover up her memory issues.  With Dad's passing, my brother keeps her medications straight, but she is not wanting to leave her home much because of her sight and her memory issues.  Thankfully, I was able to convince her to go out to dinner one evening and on another day to visit with her sisters (one of whom has advanced Alzheimer's).  All in all, I'm glad I was able to make the trip and have some quality time with her.  Time went by so fast that I missed visiting her sweet sweet neighbors that are the same as family to us, so I'll have to be more intentional on my next visit.

While in MS, Thursday evening, I had a conference call with my learning team where we discussed our Economics assignment.  We had to critique another learning team's paper and be prepared to turn in that critique this Monday night.  We struggled collectively with the balance of not wanting to be too critical of the other team's paper, while making sure that we were objectively holding them accountable to the criteria that we all had to write our papers.  It was a very productive call and I felt compelled to share with the team just how much I genuinely appreciated them.  For the next few minutes, the rest of the team was sharing with each other their same sentiments.  It was a very nice ending to our phone call that evening.

From: kamyabology.com
Upon my return to Austin, I had to catch up on the work that I couldn't do without my computer.  As I began to read through all of the feedback that others had provided for the passionography assignment, I was humbled and appreciative by what I read.  I found this assignment to be one of the more difficult papers that I've had to write so far.  My main struggle was making sure that I would be true to myself and write exactly how I felt and thought in the paper rather than what I would think is expected.  After mulling this over for almost 5 hours (yes, seriously), I came to realization that there were no expectations on this assignment (except to complete it).  I, then committed to write straight from my heart and see where the paper goes.  After all, this class isn't intended to mold us into any one particular shape, but rather, to allow us to discover who we really are individually and then free us to live it out loud.  An hour and half later, the paper was finished.

This evening's leadership class was quite introspective.  We were put into groups of three with other team members and that allowed us to get to know a couple other people that we don't normally interact with regularly.  We took the time to write out specific milestones in our life that were pivotal moments for us on our leadership journey.  I was astounded and inspired by the transparency the two people in my group.  We each ran out of time while telling our pivotal moment, so I hope to hear the rest of their story soon.  As exhausted as I was physically going into this evening, I find that I really come to life in this class.  I absolutely love this class!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Week 12: Friction....the good kind

Image from school-for-champions.com
 What's the bear's problem in the picture? 
He didn't read or heed the warning sign.
This is the pivotal moment that I feel that I'm at right now.  All of the reading that we're doing for the leadership series class is really causing several paradigm shifts and basically creating a lot of friction inside.  I've got two choices: 1) Ignore the warning signs that appear on the billboard of my mind - warning me of the dangers of status quo; or 2) Listen, embrace, explore, evaluate, and adjust what my current realities are regarding my strengths, leadership, and general approach to dealing with people.

I choose #2.

Because of that choice, two words that keep challenging me this week.  The first word is "intentional".  It has been a theme in conversations with friends this week and was the theme within the bible study group that I participate.  I can choose #2 from the choices above all day long, but I have to be intentional about it.  I can't just take an intellectual journey, but need to be intentional about digging deeper and looking for opportunities to change and/or apply what I've learned into my daily walk.

The second word is "friction".  As I try to embrace the things that I'm learning, it is causing growing pains.  Lots of friction inside, as I begin to remodel this metaphorical house.  It's a good friction though, not the typical friction that would connotate conflict with others, but rather it is conflict within myself as I confront the reality of who I am versus who I REALLY am.  This has lit a fire inside, that is a purging fire - transformational.  Deep, yes, I know.  But, that's the best I can do for this week to explain it, so chew on that a while.

This week's reading assignments have been about "calling", "vocation", and "self-deception".  During the week, we read Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer.  The writer is very poetic, deep, and transparent.  I didn't love the book, but was definitely challenged by some of the content.  We complemented that reading with chapter 38 from the book, Business Leadership: A Josey-Bass Reader, Joan Gallos (editor).  But, the book that has really captured my attention and is causing the most friction inside and resulting in noticeable change outside, is the book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, Arbinger Institute.  I can't seem to put that book down.  It is well written in the same type of style of The Goal by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt.  I have typically considered myself diplomatic, easy to work with, open to criticism, and having a genuine concern for people.  This book has made me reexamine myself and challenge me to completely embrace the concept of living "out of the box".  Read the book!!

I hope that I am not conveying, in any way, that this is an easy process.  Because, it is not.  However, I am absolutely loving this journey and would not trade it for the world!