Shopping for a Boat

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? At least close to 400, the length of this post.

Andrea ChilcoteToday I saw a cartoon drawing on LinkedIn that stopped me in my tracks. In one box, labeled “your plan,” there was a bicyclist starting up a moderate incline, with a checkered flag at the top. A box below it was labeled “reality.” Along the road there was a pile of boulders, a washed out hole with a precarious bridge covering it, a deep body of water requiring a boat, and the requisite stormy skies. The checkered flag was missing.

Not being a pessimist, at first it was tempting to scoff. But the depiction got me thinking about an idea I’ve been kicking around lately with anyone who will listen. We need a new way of looking at change – in organizations and in our lives.

For many years, change gurus have been helping people manage through it by defining change as “transition.” The idea is that that change is a process not an event, and that there is a common psychological path we follow as we move though ending the old, shifting into neutral, then eventually embracing new beginnings.

My insight is that it seems that today there are no real new beginnings, at least not in the traditional sense. Rarely do things “stabilize” as we settle in. In the organizations I work with, change is usually a prelude to more change. It’s certainly true in families – births, deaths, unions and divorces are just events that precipitate more disruption in the status quo.

So maybe we need a shift in our thinking. Maybe the second cartoon drawing need not represent a series of inevitable negative events, but rather a “reality” that honestly depicts the truth of a complex and dynamic world. We can choose to view changes as obstacles, or we can choose to put one foot in front of the other and even enjoy the experience. Build a bridge, buy a boat. It’s my opinion that those who learn to do this with open hearts and minds vs. fear and resentment are the ones who possess the resilience essential for life as we know it.

Maybe the change gurus will come up with a new model for coping. Meanwhile, I’m shopping for a boat.

“…the measure of success is how we cope with the disappointment…”

—Evelyn Greenslade, character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

Connections (2014)

Connections, Andrea Chilcote, Kairos ChilcoteBy Andrea Chilcote

Do you ever find yourself trying to explain what you do at work each day after being met with a blank stare when you share your role or title? What is it that you really do?

Here’s what I really do. I help people build relationships – all kinds of relationships. The common denominator that defines my work is the connections we have or seek: with ourselves, with other people, with the natural world, and with the minute-by-minute opportunities afforded us by the grand existence called being a human.

Connection is a primal need. That’s why there’s so much distress in organizations when personal agendas and misplaced hierarchical boundaries trump inclusion and collaboration. It’s why, in one-on-one relationships, we seek to be heard and understood first and foremost. The basis of trust is the feeling that one is safe with the other — and trust is required for engagement of any kind. Perhaps most important is a connection with ourselves; an eyes-wide-open type of awareness that stems from honest self-examination. This leads to two things: a state of being called “settled in self” as well as on-purpose action.

Many of my posts build upon the relationship we have with ourselves, with key others, and our animal companions. And, that oh-so-important relationship we have with time – the moment at hand, as that is where the magic begins.

As you relate to my posts, I invite you to begin a dialogue. Share your own stories and reflections to spread the connections among all of us. I’ll start by posing a question: What is it that you do?

Step Up! We All Must Lead

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

I’m feeling very hopeful.     Step Up_Gen Y

For more than 20 years I’ve been helping organizations cultivate cultures that are more participative, respectful, and learning-focused, where dialogue, development and learning are valued over hierarchy, and, ummm … leaders’ egos. There are leagues of people like me out there – and some days I wonder, “Why, if we’re making progress, are we all still in business?”  The need is still so great despite the efforts being made.

If you’ve ever worked for a company, and if you’ve ever had a boss, you probably know what a paternalistic, controlling management style looks like. Chances are you’ve experienced it, observed it – or maybe even acted in that manner. But this style of so-called leading is not limited to companies. It’s also played out in families, communities and social venues.

Now, the universe is conspiring to help, in a few big ways.

Some new teachers have arrived on the scene, the generation of our future, Gen Y. They’re an optimistic, success focused, confident and self-reliant bunch. And guess what? They don’t respond well to command and control. Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed by Ladan Nikraven of Chief Learning Officer Magazine for their online feature, Ask a Gen Y.  I suggested that the irony is that we have been trying for many years to promote the kind of corporate cultures in which Gen Y thrives, and along they come to help us walk our talk.

Economic realities and technological capabilities have converged to enable (or force) organizations to create what we call, in my world, “matrix” structures. People live and work in locations far from customers and team members, have more than one boss, and must influence peers in the organization without any direct authority over them. All of this means they have to collaborate, share information, and build an uncommon degree of trust.

Some individuals are responding to the changes I describe by breathing a little easier, because it simply feels more authentic. Some organizations are models for the shift. In fact, a client company has adopted Robert Greenleaf‘s “servant leadership model”  as a guidepost for employee behavior. And they mean it.

Others are fighting change. But a tipping point just might have been reached.

Why is this important for you? Because we are all leaders. If you’ve given your power to some person or organization, there’s never been a better time to take it back.

Several years ago, a participant in a workshop I was conducting lamented that she would never be promoted to a leadership position because she wasn’t allowed to lead in her current role, and thus was unable to demonstrate she had the potential. Upon further discussion, it turns out she defined “leadership” as having the position authority one gains from a title – the ability to unilaterally direct others and have them comply.

While that may seem naive to some of you, how many times have you failed to lead because you weren’t officially sanctioned to do so?

Personal development guru Martha Beck writes: “Part of the transformation of human consciousness is understanding that we can lead from any social or economic position, if we access our power to direct our own thinking, make our own choices, and respond to our own sense of right and wrong.”

Step up. We all must lead.