The Initiative Generation

On top of Max Patch

Leadership is a product of personal initiative.  

It is a decision, a thought process, an act of the will, and an expression of identity and personality.

However, for initiative to constitute leadership, it also demands that it produce change, a change that matters, a change that makes a difference, a change that advances toward a goal.

The context for change is almost always some group of people socially connected around an idea that matters to them.

This is a basic understanding of what leadership is becoming in the 21st century. It is different than in the past because it is not based on wealth, social class, educational credentials, national origin, religious preference, geographic location or organizational title, position or rank.  

This new sort of leadership is based on personal initiative, social connection and the desire to make a difference. As a result, it is a kind of leadership that anyone can do.

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that, 

Passive followership is over; Personal initiative for impact is in. 

The implications of this shift are significant. If you are the senior executive leader of an organization, it means that the game of recruiting talent is changing.

This is an ongoing conversation that I'm having with Gretchen Zucker, Executive Director of Ashoka's Youth Venture. Recently, she gave a presentation on Talent for the 21st Century. She, graciously, shared her presentation with me for this blog post.

Gretchen points out that

"8 million jobs have been lost since 2008 in the US; nonetheless, employers are still having difficulty filling jobs with the right talent." 

She quotes Robert Litan of the Kauffman Foundation.

Between 1980 and 2005, virtually all net new jobs created in the U.S.were created by firms that were 5 years old or less. That is about 40 million jobs.

Who is creating these new businesses and the jobs that follow?

People who take initiative, are socially connected, and have a clear purpose that drives their desires to make a difference.  The difference though is in the numbers.

While there may be a long history of small business in the US, entrepreneurism did not become the world changing movement that it is until about 30 years ago. 

This came clearly to mind recently as I sat across a work table in the office of a web designer, colleague and friend who is in his mid-20s. As he took a call and left the room for a moment, the difference hit me that when I was his age in the late 1970s, I did not have a single friend or acquaintance, in my age group, who had started their own business. I know entrepreneurs existed, but I didn't know any. Sitting in my friend's office, I realized that his circle of friends were creating a new culture of entrepreneurism in our community.  

According to Paul Reynolds, entrepreneurship scholar and creator of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor,

"by the time they reach their retirement years, half of all working men in the United States probably have a period of self-employment of one or more years; one in four may have engaged in self-employment for six or more years. Participating in a new business creation is a common activity among U.S. workers over the course of their careers."*

My own path to entrepreneurship began in the mid-1980's with the reading of Peter Drucker's Innovation and Entrepreneurship. My contact with people who had started their own businesses was very small. Not so today.

What this indicates to me is that there is a growing class of initiators whose leadership is changing not only the landscape of business, but of communities and nations worldwide.  

This is the point that Gretchen Zucker presents.

Gretchen's organization, Youth Venture is part of Ashoka, created by Bill Drayton, who coined the term social entrepreneur.  Ashoka and Youth Venture invest in people who are changemakers.  

Ashoka and Youth Venture are shaping an Everyone A Changemaker™ society: every individual will take initiative, develop solutions to social needs and drive positive impact.Every part of society will benefit from having more changemakers, from a company to a school to an entire country.

Ashoka and YV help ensure the success of any entity, region or field by finding the best new ideas, by cultivating the changemaker talent to act on those ideas, and by designing new ways to allow major change to happen.

Ashoka and Youth Venture are helping to nurture the people I describe above. Currently Ashoka is supporting 2,500 Changemakers in 60 countries. So you can see that as this trend continues, it not only changes the world within the proximity of each person who is a changemaker, but it also sets a standard by which their peers begin to understand themselves.  

This standard is appealing because it isn't based on someone else's idea about who they are, but their own. It is out of their passion and commitment that these Changemakers venture forward to change the world within their reach.

This is the world that is coming to schools, congregations, scout troops,  and businesses everywhere.  This is a societal change that is being led by children and young people. This is a grassroots, entrepreneurial movement that begins at an age young enough to care for the needs of the world that they can identify, even at six or eight years old.

Recently I asked Gretchen Zucker to respond to two questions.

What is the single greatest misperception that businesses have about the current generation of young people as employees?

Businesses need to realize that the current generation of young employees (Millennials) is very different from the last generation (GenX) or the generation before that (Baby Boomers).  Times have changed dramatically and Millennials reflect that accelerating change in a new information era.  Millennials are very purpose-driven, tech and information savvy, globally aware, highly engaged (volunteer at twice the rate as their parents), and struggling to come out from under the very broad wings of their parents.

The best thing a manager can do to maximize the productivity of young employees is to encourage and enable them to be changemakers.  They are craving this!  Don’t be threatened.  They will amaze you with their creativity, drive and ability to mobilize teams to get things done.  

I've seen this trend grow over the past twenty years. A tipping point is approaching that will mark a shift that is of historic proportions. This point will be when a critical mass of people worldwide decides that they are going to take personal initiative to make a difference, and do so within a social context of shared responsibility and commitment.  When they do, they will no longer look to institutions to take care of them, as in the past. They will join together to take care of each other and their communities. 

I asked Gretchen, 

"Where do businesses go to find people like Ashoka’s Changemakers?"

Any employer (businesses included) needs to look upstream to figure out how to get far more changemaker talent (entrepreneurial problem-solvers with strong team, leadership and empathy skills), as the proportion of our society who are changemakers today is only 2-3 percent, making the “war for talent” as fierce as it’s ever been.  By enabling and supporting dramatically more people – in particular at a young, formative age – become changemakers through actually experiencing taking initiative to address a social need and leading change. 

Once a young person experiences the power of entrepreneurship, teamwork, empathy and leadership, he/she will forever carry the mindset and skill set with him/her in all aspects of life.  As change accelerates and employers must stay ahead of that change, the single greatest factor of success will be the proportion of their community (staff, stakeholders) who are changemakers.  

So, you can see how monumental is this shift for organizations.

No more passive followers who care little about their company. No more disgruntled employees who only care about how well the company compensates them for the sacrifice of personal time and the personal inconvenience they must go through to be away from the things they do care about. Strangely, it means that owners and managers will have to respond to a higher form of expectation for how their organizations function.

The cause of poor morale in the workplace isn't the external realities that affect the business. Rather, the internal ones. Morale is not some mysterious human social phenomenon, but rather an outcome of organizational design and management. It is an indicator of uncertainty, and produces a passive aggressive followership which is antithetical to the genuine leadership of personal initiative. The talented and self-motivated will leave or force change.

Regardless, organizational leaders have a choice to make. To resist the emergence of a generation of leadership initiators and watch their organizations decline, or to embrace them as a beneficial movement by accommodating their energy, ideas and influence to create new opportunities.

What, then, must a business person do to create an environment that is most conducive to attracting the young men and women that Ashoka and Youth Venture support?

First, envision the possible.

See it in this illustration from Gretchen Zucker.

What if this was your typical employee?

"I saw a problem with our operations and so I got our team together to devise a solution, which we’re now working on implementing with the involvement of other colleagues. I just wanted to make sure with you that I’m moving in the right direction. Is this okay?"

Second, invest in people.

Read my post Return on Initiative: ROI for the 21st Century. You can take a regressive cost/benefit approach to the development of people. It isn't a zero-sum game. Instead, it is a game of survival. Every business' survival is dependent upon creating an environment that accommodates and nurtures the kind of social entrepreneurial initiative that Ashoka and Youth Venture are developing in people worldwide.

This shift changes the talent recruitment game from a race to hire the best credentialed person to the one who has demonstrated that they are a Changemaker.  

Third, understand what motivates people to take initiative to make a difference that matters. 

No one asks people to initiate. It comes from an inner desire to make the world a better place. Ancient philosopher Aristotle saw this motivation as a function of the purpose of every individual. Something inside points to something outside that connects the two together and creates what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia which is happiness or human flourishing.

In simple terms, this desire for happiness, that is a kind of completeness, can be seen in three goals that I observe in people.  These goals are active reflections of their inner purpose. This is what people want from their life and work.

Life that is Personally Meaningful

Relationships that are Socially Fulfilling

Work that Makes a Difference that Matters

The children and young people that come to RandomKid** have these goals, as do those who work with Youth Venture. The people with whom you work, play golf, and share the subway have these goals. Each person's expression of them is unique. Yet, we are the same at a very fundamental level.

We look for social and organizational settings where these goals may be pursued. This is why children and young people are coming to RandomKid.

RandomKid's mission is to provide staff and services to youth, of all backgrounds and abilities, for the development, management and accomplishment of their goals to help others.

We educate, mobilize, unify and empower youth to directly impact local and global needs. By helping kids to become innovative and successful world problem-solvers, we are securing a better fate for our world now, and into the future. We don’t ask you to be a part of us; we become a part of you (emphasis mine).

In this sense, RandomKid provides an organizational structure for these young leaders to take initiative by creating projects that make a difference that matters to them. As Anne Ginther, RandomKid Co-Founder recently commented,

"What is most important to remember is that our mission is to help KIDS help others. It’s about empowering youth to make a difference. It’s about building the change-makers of tomorrow."

Dana Leman, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President tells me that they have learned that kids want ownership, fun and measurable impact from their projects.

There is a parallelism between what I observe in people and what RandomKid has identified in their project leaders.

Personally Meaningful = Ownership

Socially Fulfilling = Fun

Make a Difference that Matters = Measurable Impact

There is no dividing line between the child and the adult in this regard. Their goals are one and the same, just expressed differently.

This is the environment that initiators and Changemakers want. This is not the business environment of the 20th century. It is of the 21st century. 

Dana Leman commented to me recently about what she sees in the kids who take on a RandomKid project. 

Today's kids are not about trying to fit their ideas into standard business models. They are trying to develop business models that fit their ideas. They think about process as an afterthought and tend to engage in a more organic and responsive approach to today's emerging markets.

This is why so many young people in their 20s and 30s are starting their own businesses. Because they don't see themselves fitting in the institutional setting of the last century. And what organizational leaders must understand is that their competition for talent is not within their industry, but rather between the business structures of the past and the future. Either accomodate or become irrelevant is the reality that we face.

I started this post with the following manifesto.

Leadership is a product of personal initiative. 

It is a decision, a thought process, an act of the will, and an expression of identity and personality.

However, for initiative to constitute leadership, it also demands that it produce change, a change that matters, a change that makes a difference, a change the advances toward a goal.

The context for change is almost always some group of people socially connected around an idea that matters to them.

This is the future of leadership. And its future can be seen in the 10 year olds, the 14 year olds, the 18 year olds and the twenty and thirty somethings who are taking initiative to follow their passion to make a difference in the world.

Sixteen year old RandomKid Co-Founder and CEO Talia Leman speaks of her organization's mission as 

Leveraging the power of kids worldwide to drive an economy of positive change.

This is the purpose they share with Ashoka's Changemakers and Youth Venturers. This is the 21st century talent pool that stands apart from the rest. 

If you want these young people to work for you, then you must become like them. You must become an agent of change by encouraging and equipping the people in your business to take initiative to create an environment that can make the difference that matters. 

This may seem to be one of many options for the course of organizations and businesses. I'm convinced that this is the future that is fast approaching.  It isn't an option.  

When Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom in their book The Starfish and the Spider write about "leaderless" organizations, they are advocating for a leader-filled organization.

In a traditional sense, it could be said that organizations like Ashoka, Youth Venture and RandomKid are developing the next generation of organizational leaders.  In reality, these kids are already leading random organizations of social connection that are making a difference in local communities across the globe. The future is now, not tomorrow or next year.

This new future may seem filled with ambiguity and doubt. The reality is that as you accommodate your organizations to the ingenuity and 21st century leadership skills of these young people, a level of impact that your organization has never known will emerge. I'm convince that our best years are ahead of us, and they are going to be fun.  Because the children who are leading us today would not have it any other way. 

The Initiative Generation is here. Welcome them with openness, support their initiatives, and celebrate the difference they are making now.

*Wikipedia: Entrepreneurship-

** Disclaimer: I am the Board Chair of RandomKid.

The Moral Component

When we are young, the world is an open book.

There is nothing like being 11 years old with a vivid imagination and absolutely no sense of barriers in life. Then adolescence hits, and we realize that there are some limitations.  Some people are more popular, cooler, smarter; some more troubled and broken. Others are destined for success, happiness or a life of hardship and toil.

Then the hard work of finding just how open and limitless one's opportunities are begins. It may start at 15 or at 21. It may not become important until we are 30 or even 45, and when we do, we realize that our life needs to count for something. When we discover, not just our interest or passion, but our purpose, our destiny, then life changes. Forever.

When we discover the difference our lives should make, our options are immediately reduced, narrowed, defined. We find out that life has limitations, all of a sudden, there is an end point, way out there, when we can say, "I'm done."  At least, that is what we think.

At some point, we may also discover that the pursuit of our destiny is more than just achieving something, more than simply a destination. There is something embedded in the middle of that pursuit that when we were young we could not see, maybe only feel. It was always there, but it wasn't clear to us. Then at some moment, a line is crossed, and we discover that there is a moral component to this quest to fulfill our destiny. We realize that it is no longer about just about destiny, but the journey that leads there.

This moral component is not some abstract, philosophical concept that stands as a branded idea for your life. There are plenty of people who brand their morality, wearing it on their shirt sleeve, and capitalizing on it by capitalizing it.  That is not the moral component that I see.

This moral component is something simple, deep, and intangible. It is the quality or rather the virtue that makes a difference in how we live out our purpose. It is something about who we are as individuals, about our life, work and impact.

Martin Luther King had that moral component. So did Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Abraham Lincoln. Each of them was their own person, standing strong as the world around them went a different direction. That is the strength that comes from the moral component.  It isn't ego that made them strong, though they probably had strong egos.

The moral component is something else. It transcends our circumstances, our place in history and the singular importance of us as individuals. It is that indelible quality that links us with others through time, and gives our destiny and purpose its meaning, and the reason our commitment and resilience matters.

Even if I live another 40 years, given my family's genetics, I see that I have now passed some indecipherable midpoint in my career.  My options are fewer now than they were just five years ago. I see it, and find peace in that. It makes things more simple, and to an extent clearer.

When you are young, there is anxiety about what your life will become, and the difference you'll make, and whether it will truly count in the end.  There are thousands of options, choices, directions to go in. Everyone tells you that you can do anything you want. However, in the back of your mind, you know it isn't true. You just want to know what that one thing is that is your destiny.

I no longer worry about that. I find that as life proceeds, the moral component grows in importance because at the end of life, it is that which is our true legacy. 

A friend said during a group conversation that he wanted his legacy to be that he was a good man, a good husband and father, and ran his business well.  The moral component for him was becoming more clear, and knowing him well, I see it in the life choices that he has made over the years. 

Philosophers and historians speak of the moral component in many ways. One of those is the difference between a naive and reflective view of history.

A naive perspective refers to a lack of self-consciousness about the values that inform our lives. There is a sense of not seeing it at all because it is so much a part of one's life, like breathing air or water to fish, we don't notice it.  There is an innocence about this approach. This experience of the moral component in life is such that we see it as continuous through time, across the generations and the foundation upon which we understand the meaning of life. It is unself-conscious because we do not hold these moral values in any objective sense. They are highly subjective and personal, quite possibly never defined in any specific sense. Yet they exist, and we tend to begin to see them when they are under threat.  They are who we are in a real sense, and this even more so as we consistently live them out in a purposeful, intentional way.

A reflective approach stands apart from the moral component, and attempts to view it objectively. Yet this is impossible in any pure, scientific sense because what brings us to this relationship with the moral component is awareness of the connection between the idea and our own lives. We become aware that we lacked objectivity in our formerly naive view of life.  We may speak of this change of perspective as a loss of innocence or coming of age or quite possibly of becoming a cynic. We experience a disjunction or disconnection between our values and the social and organizational environments where we live and work, and stand apart viewing the moral component, trying to understand how it fits in the situation we are in. 

The moral component viewed from these two perspectives is a very complex phenomenon in our lives. We may find that we want to be both naive and reflective at the same time. We want to believe in our values, seeing them as universal, transcending time, space and culture, the way life ought to be, bring purpose, peace and fulfillment.  We may see that these values are rarely lived to their fullest, that some of the greatest proponents of these values were crooks and charlatans, and that there are other philosophies or perspectives that are compelling and valid in their own right.

Where this leads for some people is to confusion and for some to an abandonment of their hope for fulfillment of their destiny. For others, they embrace the moral component as a guide to create a life of goodness and difference that matters.

The people I mentioned earlier are these people. They held to their values in a changing world where their values were not normative. We remember them as much for their courage as for the values they believed in.

As I have reflected upon this picture over the past few months, I began to see that the moral component of life and leadership matters in ways that have been lost. For many people, their naive view of the way leaders should behave and function in their roles has experienced a loss of innocence. With that loss has come cynicism. And what must come next, is a recovery of a more sober, realistic understanding of the moral component in leadership being that which brings credibility and respect to them.

Making a difference that matters, making our lives count, creating a legacy of leadership and goodness comes from recognizing and developing the moral component in our life and work.

This means that we are aware of the values that matter to us, and that we must live according to them. To stand when everyone else is running away or in cynical denial of their own loss of innocence is to live by a moral code than is more than a brand or an inspiring-idea-of-the-month. In the end, this is what separates the moralists from those who truly lead.  This is the legacy that is possible for us all if we choose.

After 15 years, this I've learned.

The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide

Earlier this week, I quietly celebrated the 15th anniversary of the beginning my consulting business, Community of Leadership, LLC. There was no time for celebration or fanfare, just another day of trying to make a difference that matters.  However, a road trip this week gave me time to reflect on the past 15 years.

Here's some of what I've learned.

1. You don't know what you don't know, and if you did, you'd be so overwhelmed by it, you'd never act.

I was young and naive when I began my consulting practice in 1995. I started with a desire to help leaders develop their organizations and communities. That purpose still remains. What I didn't know then is just how ill-prepared I was to go into business on my own. If you remain open to learning, to trying new things and fixing what is broken, you can make it. But it isn't necessarily easy. The Five Questions That Everyone Must Ask that is a part of my Circle of Impact model developed from my experience and that of others, especially #5.

2. What you THINK you are doing, and what you ARE doing aren't always the same. The difference you think you are making, and the actual difference you are making are not always the same either.

Focus is a good thing. However, if it is practiced too rigidly, you can miss what is right in front of you. While relationships have always been important and central to what I do, I'm not really selling a relationship. Instead it is a process of discovery and development where the relationship is integral to that process. At the end of the day, real progress often comes from the conversation that takes place within relationship.

The actual project, while beneficial, is often a secondary benefit compared to what happens in the relationship. The project deals with an immediate or current need. The development of the relationship prepares us for the future. The lesson, therefore, is to realize that nothing is ever exactly like you think it is or want it to be. The task for us is to be aware of the peripheral or ancillary processes that are taking place, recognize their value and give them attention.

3. Work is a context for personal growth. As a result, everyday we can afflict ourselves on our loved ones because we are not the person whom we or they think we are, not always living up to what we say we believe or are committed to doing.

My family has lived through my many personal transitions over the past 25 years. It has not always been easy for them. The old joke of asking "... when is Dad going to grow up and get a real job" is a familiar refrain in many homes. There are two sides to this situation which are important to address with our loved ones.

If you remain the same person over the course of your lifetime, you may never reach your potential. Growth has it price, and often that price is in our relationships. If your family expects you to remain the same person you were when you married or before you began a dramatic growth curve, then there can be conflict.

What I've seen in too many situations are families where the structure of the family is what is important, and not the actual relationships. And when Dad or Mom begins to change, it creates conflict, because what we are used to, what is comfortable, secure and predictable, is no longer there. Ambiguity and change get thrust into an already volatile cultural social environment.  As a result, families grow apart, members go looking for support and intimacy in other places. So, if you are growing into being a new person with a new focus and purpose for your life, then know that it has its effects upon your loved ones and you need to address it openly and with genuine humility.

One of the ways that I've seen these situations addressed is an appeal to balance between life and work. I'm not sure that balance is achievable. It assumes that we can compartmentalize our lives into the personal and public or work and measure out our time and attention in proportion to our priorities. I've concluded that alignment is a better approach. We create alignment by elevating the importance of living out our purpose and values, and allowing for the social settings and organizational environments where we live and work to adapt to our core beliefs. In other words, be willing to change what you do so that you can become the person you are destined to be.  Again, this is not necessarily an easy path to take.

If your life's trajectory is taking you through many stages of personal growth so that you are becoming a different person at 40 than you were at 25, or different person at 55 than you were at 40, then it is very important that your family grow with you, and you with them. If your growth happens too dramatically, too radically, over too short of time, without their input or support, you'll find yourself becoming estranged from them. The lesson is that every transition we go through in our lives is filled with opportunity and challenge. How we meet both determines what comes next. As you change, care for the people who matter most to you. Keep them close, so they understand and can support you as change happens. If they genuinely love you, then you'll make it through the hardships of change.

4. After 15 years, my original purpose and the values that sustain the vision for my work remain the same. The structure of my work has constantly changed.

This is not just a good lesson for personal growth. It is a lesson for businesses and organizations develop. I find the reverse to be often the case, where the social and organizational structures dictate to us what our purpose and values are. Purpose and values are internal strengths. Structure is an external form that provides a context for living out our purpose and values. People whose security is in the external world of things and order, often find themselves frustrated because it is impossible to control their social and organizational contexts. Those who rely on the internal world of their purpose, values and a vision for impact, find these ideas provide them the strength to manage the chaos of change in the external world. As a result, when your personal strength is internal, you can move into a wide variety of contexts and make a difference that matters. You remain the same person regardless of who you are with, and what you are doing. This is what we mean by integrity and authenticity. This is why it so important to know what you purpose is and what you value. They are foundation of sustainability and opportunity in life and work.

5. Opportunities may abound. However, not all opportunities are equal. We usually don't know this until we are half way into the project. Then, we realize that it isn't going to work out or there is something better that we didn't initially see.

While I'm not an advocate for quitting, I have learned that ending something sooner than later is usually better. Know what you want from life and work. Know what you are committed to giving to a particular situation, and don't forget it. Often the reason why these opportunities don't work is that there is not sufficient follow through and effective execution of the plan. In addition, I've learned that what someone says is the opportunity or the problem is probably only part of the story. You'll find it out soon enough, and that is when you'll know whether you should increase your participation or quit.

Life will teach you lessons that you can then turn into growth and benefit for yourself and others. If you let it. Personally, I'm looking to another 15 years of work before I retire. I feel that everything up to this point is just preparing me for the main act which is coming. In other words, if you have a plan for your whole life, make sure that you leave open the possibilities of changing your plan so that at the end of your life your legacy is clear and secure. Your legacy may come in the last half of the last chapter. So, be committed to staying true to your purpose and values through the end of your life.

I look forward to collaborating with many of you in the future. All the best.  Thank you very much.

Orienteering through Organizational Change


It occurred to me the other day that managing organizational change is like orienteering in the back  country.

Orienteering is a how hikers go from one place to another using a compass and a topographical map.

The map is like a vision for where we want to be. The compass serves as all those conceptual connections like a mission, values and a vision that keeps us oriented in going in the right direction.

Orienteering in the back country is simple, yet requires focused concentration. It allows you to leave the trail, chart your own course, and arrive at your destination. It is quite likely that you know where you are going, but do not know what lies between you and your destination. Particularly, if you are off the trail, you need to pay careful attention to the map and compass in order not to get off track.

Here's how to do it. Identify your destination on the map and then orient the map to the north. There is true north and there is magnetic north. The difference is called declination. It is the number of degrees difference between the two. What this means is that you hold the map in front of you, and turn it until the map until it is facing north according to the compass reading. Identify where you are on the map, and turn until you are facing the direction of your destination. Make sure the map is oriented north. You may be facing south, or southwest.  This will be the direction that you walk.

You look out from the map and find an object that stands along the line that extends to your destination. You walk to it. You look for another object along the path, check your compass and your map, and you proceed forward. You continue to do this until you reach your destination.

Look at this topo map section that I've posted here. This is the topo section covering the ridge line in the banner photo above and the picture in this post. Banner image left is at the top of the map, the foreground of the other picture is off the map at the top. The saddle is Farlow Gap, followed by Sassafrass Knob and then Pilot Mountain, which is in the center of the map image. Pilot Mtn Sassafrass Knob topo

The trail outlined here is the Art Loeb trail. For illustration purposes, let's say you wanted to go directly west (to the left) from Deep Gap to the intersection of Bear Branch and FS Rd140A, you'd need a map and compass to do so, It may look like a short distance, but it is straight down.The closer the elevation lines the steeper the grade. In order to reach your destination, you'd need to make many side turns in order to arrive where you want to be.  To do so requires staying oriented to the north and being clear at all times where you are in relation to where you want to be.

I see this as a great way to understand how leaders manage organizational change.   We need to see that the path we take from where we stand to our envisioned destination is largely unknown. Other people may have gone this way before, and left us a trail to follow. However, we still may not know what obstacles have occurred in the intervening period. It is therefore important that we have a plan that allows for change. This plan allows for detours and side trips in order to find the advantage we need to get where we are going.

My friend Tom Morris talks about how we proceed in towards goals like we are hiking up a mountain. We get to the top and realize that the peak we are on, which required so much effort is really just a little knoll. Out in the distance is a higher peak.  In order to get there, we must go down in order to go up. We must go down to learn new things, jettison certain practices, in order to be prepared to climb to a higher destination.

This scenario played out here on a topo map is a kin to what Lewis & Clark experienced in the their expedition two hundred years ago. Their first year on the trail was up the Missouri River to the Mandan villages.They follow a path known by European trappers. From that point to the coast of the Oregon, they were off the map. Each day they had to make decisions about where they were. The critical juncture came at the Marias Confluence. Here they had to decide which river led them to their destination.  They chose correctly, and within days came another confluence of rivers at Three Forks. It was only on their return that they learned that of a short cut west of Great Falls that would have saved them several weeks.

Managing change, moving into the future along an unknown path, requires us to remain open to what is before us. We constantly must orient ourselves to what we see before us. And make our best decisions about what we must do. For this reason, it is important that we are clear on our desired destination, that our team is unifying around a set of values that will carry through hard times, and that we are passionate about the outcome so that the hardships are worth the investment.

It is one thing to know your destination. It is another to know how to get there each step fo the way. What orienteering has taught me is that we take a step at a time, staying focused on our destination, and by patience and clear thought, we'll figure out how to overcome the obstacles that stand in our way.

This is what I do everyday with my clients, and myself.

Quick Takes: The Great Johnny Bunko Challenge

A couple weeks ago, I hosted a Bunko Breakfast (actually afternoon tea) with the Roan Scholars at East Tennessee State University.  We had a great time discussing the six lessons that Johnny Bunko learns in Dan Pink's book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need. We also discussed The Great Johnny Bunko Challenge.  Here watch the video. It will explain everything.

The Great Johnny Bunko Challenge from DHP on Vimeo.

I'm submitted mine 7th lesson. I'll share it with you sometime in a blog post and Real Life Leadership column. It is an important completion to the six lessons.

The Roan Scholars meet Johnny Bunko

The Roan Scholars are a group of students from East Tennessee State University. On Wednesday, October 15, we held a Bunko Breakfast, named for the character in Daniel Pink's recent book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career You'll Ever Need.Johnny_bunko_dan_pink

If you haven't read Johnny Bunko, you should, regardless of where you are in your career. The lessons, there are six of them, are timeless and universal.  Not many books can you say that the message is timeless and universal. This is one of the few, and it is also written a contemporary style that communicates its message in a very creative way. So, if you haven't read it, do so, then share it with your friends.

I got to know these students last spring when Tom Morris and I conducted a leadership retreat for them.  In essence, I used the opportunity to hold a Bunko Breakfast to catch up with these stellar students of leadership.

None of them had read the book, so we talked about the six lessons.

1. There is no plan.
2. Think strengths, not weaknesses
3. It’s not about you.
4. Persistence trumps talent.
5. Make excellent mistakes
6. Leave an imprint.

We spent a lot of time talking about #1, There is No Plan. As with many highly motivated students, the 094 thought they are not to plan is difficult for them to grasp. However, that is not what #1 is about. It is rather about not following someone's preconceived notion of what is right for them.  As we went through the list, we discussed how to identify strengths - consensus was that friends are the key to learning what our strengths are. Some of the students had taken the MBTI. I suggested that they also track down the StrengthsFinder books.

One student commented that in order for #3 - It's not about you- to work, that you need balance in your life.  We discussed situations where people made the task about them, and it became an unpleasant situation.

Another insightful comment made during our brief 75 minute session was the idea that if there isn't a plan, but rather a path, that it is achieved through # 5, making excellent mistakes.  One of the students pointed out that in the film, Meet The Robinson's that a similar idea - Make Beautiful Mistakes - can be found.

We discussed the idea that #6 - Leaving an imprint - is not about replacing yourself, but helping other to find themselves in the role that you have had.

We conclude talking about them taking the initiative that after they read the book, that they should submit a #7 for consideration in Dan Pink's contest. We'll see what happens.

Real Life Leadership: Book provides 6 important lessons to college grads seeking career advice

This week's Real Life Leadership column -  Book provides 6 important lessons to college grads seeking career advice- features Daniel Pink's new book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need.

Dan Pink is promoting his book by encouraging readers to host Bunko Breakfasts. My column is to introduce this idea to the Asheville public, and to see if anyone will show up. So, if you are in Ashevillle on Tuesday, September 2, come by Bruegger's Bagels in Biltmore at 7:30 and will talk about Johnny Bunko.

I've written about the book here and hereHere's a printer ready copy of the column.

Quick Takes: Dan Pink 'Johnny Bunko' free teleconversation

Daniel Pink is going to be doing a free teleconversation (conference call) Friday, June 6 at 12Noon EDT. He is going to be talking about his new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, that I reviewed here. It is open to 500 people, so move quickly. Here's where to register.

If you aren't familiar with his book, here is Garr Reynold's review presentation.

UPDATE: Dan Pink's hour-long conversation was fantastic. It will be available online, and when it is, I'll follow-up with a discussion of it.

Daniel Pink's The Adventures of Johnny Bunko - A Review

When I was in college, I had a hard time deciding on a major. I liked too many things. As a result, twoJohnny_bunko_dan_pink_2 things happened. One, I spent a lot of time hanging out with a wide variety of friends. Two, I became an American Studies major.

I know, really opens up the career opportunities. Over the next 30+ years, I've followed a similar trajectory. I've followed my curiosity, and as it happened, my interests are in two areas: relationships and leadership. So, when I graduated from college in 1975, I had no idea how I'd end up career-wise. A lot of this is immediately relevant as I'm engaged in helping my oldest son prepare for his post-college life.

With this background in mind, it was a great joy when I came across Dan Pink's new book - The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Need. Pink is the author of two other acclaimed books that are extremely insightful - Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind. I wrote about A Whole New Mind here .

Pink presents six life/career lessons, illustrated in the Japanese manga style, by a narrative centered around a young corporate accountant named Johnny Bunko. Read chapter one and be introduced to Johnny and his career counselor, Diana. She's a bit different. She has a unique way of making her point.

Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen has produced a fantastic slide show on the book. The two demonstrate  how to be creative in presenting a set of ideas.  Here it is.

I have told people over the years not to follow my career path. It has been hard, still is hard, because it has been created the hard way. One step at a time. I'm not following some formula or plan. I'm following the logic of my interests and abilities.  It feels like I'm following a narrow string that extends into the future with no idea where it is going. Think you could handle the ambiguity?

I'm following a sense of call that doesn't fit into any one career category.  Johnny Bunko's story is not my story. But his experience is similar. And I know a lot of Johnny Bunko's who find that late in life that they made choices just like Johnny.

Is it ever too late to change your life? No, I don't think so. There are certain limitations that are imposed upon us by age. But those are marginal, in my estimation. I'm better as a 54 years old than I ever was at 46, 30 or 23.  So, Johnny Bunko is not just for 22 year old college graduates. It is for anyone who feels that they have not reached their potential in life. Your potential has parameters, but no limits, at least no limits that you'll ever reach in this lifetime.

Here are some my thoughts about life and career after having read Johnny Bunko.

1. Be curious, and follow the opportunities that result.
2. Career sustainability is related to what you love and what you can do well.
3. Serving is more fulfilling than being served.
4. Quiting is failure. Change isn't failure; it's learning.
5. Ask questions, constantly.
6. Try new things.
7. Converse, listen, connect.
8. Integrate interests, skills, values, and fun with relationships and organizational structure.
9. Make a difference. Create impact.  Not once. Daily.
10. Say, "Thanks" everyday.

Read the book. Visit the website and Dan Pink's Facebook site. Share it will family, friends, and colleagues. Talk about it.

If you want to transition to the next level, then ...

Transition through Time

... you have to make change a strategic part of your life and work.

We all experience change. We experience it as a transition from one stage of life or development to another.  Yet, for some reason, we fight it. We want to believe that we can resist change, and still find success. Without change, there is no growth, fulfillment or success. As a result, change is a constant reality, and is marked as a transition through time.

I use the above image as a tool to illustrate a few points about life and work transitions.  It is part of a set of diagrams in my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides

1. Transition as Intensified Change

While we may always be in transition, the process becomes more critical at certain points. These transitions points are noted for their intensified experience of change.  Look at the 12 Transition Points diagram in the Life & Work Transitions set. Each one of those transitions are points in time where things are not exactly where we'd like them.

2. Transition is more than tweaking the system

This graphic also points to these transition points as historic markers of choices that we make about the future. You can try to "improve" enough to stem the tide of decline.  Sit with a group of organizational leaders in a meeting addressing their transition point, and what you will hear are brainstorming ideas about "tweaking" the system.  Tweaking won't take you to the next level.  Neither will random brainstorming.

3. Transition is about human interaction

If your organization is going to successfully make the transition to the next level, the place to concentrate is on the development of people, and in particular their ability to communicate with one another.

There is a growing emphasis on talent recruitment, training and retention in business.  The talent is wasted if you cannot create human interactive processes that overcome many of the emotional barriers that people have to change and to simple human interaction.

Integrating a Transition perspective

Many of the valid brainstorming ideas that are shared in planning meetings are also masks to that person's real feelings about change. These expressions of thought are often diversions from the real issues of changes that need to be made.

Change is often frightening because creates a sense of a loss of control. It seems natural to resist change because it takes us out of our comfort zone.  Life and work transitions often require us to change our external circumstances in order to feel comfortable again. Accepting the challenge of change and transition makes it possible  personal growth to increase our capacity to leader our organizations to greater impact and success.

If your organization is in transition, you can only go so far as your people will allow you. If you are the team leader, or the CEO, or the Executive Director, this personal change process begins with you.  You have to be the change that you want others to acquire.  It can't be forced. It can only be led. And if you can't then you need to find someone who can.