Guest contributions:

04.22.13  Uncommon Leadership 

04.02.15  Switch and Shift  

05.13.15  Better Practice Team Performance

05.29.15  Better Practice Team Performance

07.08.15  Switch and Shift 

07.14.15  Better Practice Team Performance

10.05.15  Switch and Shift 


Stacey's Reading List...

 

"Tribe of Mentors" by Timothy Ferriss

"Shortcut" by John Pollack 

"Seeing What Others Don't" by Gary Klein

"Several Short Sentences About Writing" by Verlyn Klinkenborg

"The Birkman Method - Your Personality at Work" by Sharon Birkman Fink and Stephanie Capparell

"Creative Intelligence" by Bruce Nussbaum 

"Improv Wisdom" by Patricia Ryan Madson

"Training To Imagine" by Kat Koppett

"Quiet" by Susan Cain

"Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson

"A Whole New Mind" by Daniel H. Pink

"Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman 

"Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson  

"The Leadership Pipeline" by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, James Noel  

"Life:  Selected Quotations" by Paulo Coelho 

"Deep Change" by Robert Quinn

"The Power of Full Engagement" by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz  

"The Way of the Shepherd" by Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak  

"Developing the Leader Within You" by John Maxwell  

"Mr. Peabody's Apples" by Madonna

"Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by Gordon MacKenzie

 

 

 

blog archive
Monday
Nov262018

Where the magic happens

I am a big fan of the sciences.  I’m an even bigger fan of the arts.  And I’m fanatic about the intersection of the two because that’s where the magic happens. 

Perhaps some context is needed. 

My background is in big business – I spent nearly 20 years at Walmart in the Logistics Division.  There, I devoured data and metrics and devised systems and processes.  While some people find that work tedious, I was exhilarated by it.  I still tend to become giddy about anything that involves a spreadsheet. 

My connection to the arts is more recent.  Nearly 10 years ago I signed up for an improv class in hopes of finding a way to deal with my aversion to change.  As I fondly tell others, I’m the female version of TV’s Sheldon Cooper – only not as hip.  Not only did improv help me more positively navigate the unprecedented amount of change coming at me in the world today, it offered me an entirely different perspective on understanding how others are wired (personality science) and what is absolutely essential in a collaborative environment. 

My immersion in this craft was a game changer that solidified my long-held belief that the best skill development is realized in a marriage of polar disciplines – a blended approach.  Ying and yang.  Duality.  Two disparate parts coming together to produce something far better than either could on their own. 

Focusing on technical disciplines will make you one kind of smart.  Immersing yourself in the arts (and humanities) will make you a different kind of smart.  And while being smart is essential, being differently smart is a force multiplier. 

With “disruption” being the new business-as-usual, it’s essential that individuals and organizations develop more holistic thinking.  Interconnectedness drives humanity, business platforms and globalization; ignoring that connection puts us all at peril.  Competencies such as creativity, innovation, collaboration and communication are more critical than ever in a world that depends on interconnectedness. 

Here’s how one facet of the arts (improvisation) intersects with a few highly desirable business imperatives:

Creativity and innovation:  Innovation does best in environments where ideas simply flow. It’s about the unencumbered asking of what if…how come…why not.  In improv, there are no wrong answers - there’s just stuff that didn’t go the way we thought it would.  These are the moments of absolute brilliance that you stumble upon while you’re busy making theater out of thin air.

Storytelling:  Storytelling is a nuanced art.  And it is quite possibly the center of the human experience.  There is almost a visceral sensation when you come to understand the world of someone else through his or her story.  Our personal perspectives often shift because these narratives change how we see the broader context of the worldIn improv work, I remind others that it’s never the what; it’s always the how.  In every scene you’re telling a story – how you tell it matters the most. 

Collaboration:  Collaboration is a horizontal construct that operates across business units throughout an entire enterprise to create seismic shifts in business thinking.  (Collaboration differs from teambuilding; teambuilding is a vertical concept because the handoffs occur up and down within a unit, operating in unison, and delivering contained value.)   The very essence of improv is collaboration.  Everyone on stage brings a brick, and together they build a cathedral.  

Speed:  There is an unprecedented rate of change rocking businesses today.  The pace of disruption is massive, rapid and turbulent.  Perhaps never before has the need to work from the very top of your intelligence been greater.  How fast can you think on your feet?  How well do you shift, morph, evolve?  These are the quintessential skills that improvisers learn to embrace.  Scenes are unscripted, unrehearsed and unexpected.  You endlessly practice responding to what you can’t predict.  You have no other choice but to become an expert at thinking faster and faster on your feet. 

Too often “the sciences versus the arts” conversation is relegated to an either/or proposition.  It’s not an either/or question, it’s a both/and imperative.  We need the sciences.  We need the arts.  But what we need most is the genius that lives in their marriage.  Because that’s where the magic happens.

 

 
Monday
Oct292018

Replace judgment with curiosity

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (October 29, 2018)

Replace judgment with curiosity.  I don’t know if these words found me or if I found them, but they have transformed my life, my work, and my understanding of human-ness. 

I also don’t know if these words represent a quote, a statement, a rally cry, or serve as simple words of wisdom.  Perhaps it is all of those things.  I absolutely do know that they have proven time and time again to be foundational in conversations around personality science, coaching for perspective, and Applied Improvisation methodologies.  

These words are that powerful.  They are that simple.  They are that life changing. 

Living in the land of judgment is a place we all know well.  We hold court there everyday, subjecting our perceived superiority other others.  Don’t believe me…?  Think again. 

Take the simple act of sacking groceries at any big box store.  You have the option of going through the checkout process being assisted by a store clerk, or doing your own thing utilizing the self-checkout system.  Either way your items will get bagged.  I have a strong hunch though that you may not sack your items in the same fashion as the store clerk – for reasons that are unique to you.  Logical even.  Perhaps this is the exact reason why you tend to favor the self-checkout in the first place.  You like your process.  It serves you better. 

I know this to be true. I have been down this road myself.  What you have in this example is the same outcome – sacking groceries.  But we tend to justify our process as the better way (right way) of doing it and then judge the other way (that’s often code for the wrong way) of that same task when someone else does it. 

And this scenario plays out all day long.  In big and small ways.  And in important and trivial ways.  We don’t even know we’re doing it.  Until we stop doing it.

My grocery store story is trivial.  But extrapolate this mindset to business strategies, sports, and loved ones.  From the boardroom to the soccer field to our most coveted relationships, we justify our own behavior.  We judge the same behavior from others.

Judgment is a burden.  It’s heavy to hold, emotionally draining, and drenched in negativity.  It is also petty.  All characteristics that paint a pretty pitiful picture of how we operate from that point of view. 

Enter the freedom of curiosity.  Curiosity is, essentially, a state of mind.  Being curious is being joyful.  It is lighthearted, open and inviting, buoyed in positivity.  It is also closely tied to happiness as referenced in a slew of recent studies published in the field of positive psychology.   

I believe people are capable of great change.  I see it all the time.  In big and small ways.  And in important and trivial ways.  Humans have a great capacity to rise above that which is holding them back.  To change their mindsets.  To shift thinking patterns.  To see the world through a different lens.

Learning to replace judgment with curiosity is about shifting your perspective.  It’s about approaching a situation from a more positive and productive outlook.  A world of possibilities exists if we take the time to be more curious.  To ask a few more questions, to be a bit more thoughtful, to be open to more and different ways of thinking and being, and to be more generous with others.  More, more, more. 

Replace judgment with curiosity.  Shifting your perspective is that powerful.  It is that simple.  It is that life changing. 

We’ve all heard what curiosity may have done to the cat, but as it turns out, curiosity is a thriving state of mind for human beings. 

 

Thursday
Aug232018

Perspective matters...fortunately and unfortunately

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (August 20, 2018)


There’s an improv exercise I love called Fortunately / Unfortunately.  A handful of people stand in a circle and move a storyline forward by adding information as players alternate between fortunately and unfortunately mindset statements.  It might go something like this: 

(Player 1) Fortunately I won the lottery. 

(Player 2) Unfortunately it was only $1,000. 

(Player 3) Fortunately that was enough to throw a big birthday party. 

(Player 4) Unfortunately no one came. 

(Player 5) Fortunately I got to eat all the cake myself. 

(Player 6) Unfortunately it made me sick. 

You get the idea.  After several times around the circle and the story going off on wild tangents – as it always does – there is a fascinating discussion about which position you liked the best:  the fortunately or the unfortunately stance.  This inevitably leads to a broader conversation around how you tend to approach the world – as in more glass-half-full mindset (the fortunately folks) or more glass-half-empty mindset (the unfortunately folks).  Perspective (your unique point of view) tends to play a large role in this conversation.  

Perspective also tends to play a large role in the executive coaching conversations that I have.  Those of us who have done this work for years know that coaching is not about telling people what to do; it’s about giving them a change to examine what they are doing in light of their intentions.  That may sound like a straightforward statement, but I assure you that the act of examining your intentions is anything but straight.  Or forward. 

Our individual intentions are convoluted and messy and based on belief systems years in the making.  And it is those belief systems that create your unique mindset – which is the lens through which you perceive the world.  And the world is a mighty big place.  Or I guess it could be small.  That too depends on your perspective.   

The heart of any coaching engagement lives in the art of that conversation around perspective.  The rich dialogue that draws the mindset to the surface so it can be examined from multiple angles allowing for a more robust understanding. Perspective takes us far beyond the simple dichotomy of “I see it this way” and “you see it that way”.  It introduces the notion that between two ends of a scale, there is a spectrum of understanding.  And scattered all along this continuum are points of view that may not have been previously considered.  We tend to forget that our perspective is just that – ours.  Others have equally important perspectives – which of course is theirs.  It’s the coaching conversation that tends to give all of these points of view the airtime that they need.

If I’ve learned anything over the years in thousands of hours in coaching conversations, it is this:  all humans face the same issues, just in varying magnitudes and in different sequencing.  I know this to be true because at some point in every coaching conversation I will be asked:  "am I the only one that (fill in the blank)…?"  And the answer is always "no".  No, you’re not the only one.  And that response appears to be equally comforting and shocking.  I’m continually reminded that we are all far more alike than we are different. 

But what is not the same for all humans – and not by a long shot - is what it sounds like when we move through these conversations.  Each narrative is incredibly personal, every emotion is nuanced, and epiphanies are unique to that individual alone.  Every life has a distinctive soundtrack.  Every recording is vocalized from a singular vantage point. 

The conversation creates the place to reconcile a perspective.  And perspective matters, fortunately and unfortunately. 


Tuesday
May152018

Still, I am learning...  

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (May 14, 2018)

 

I believe that life has a way of turning out the way it is supposed to.  “What is” is what’s supposed to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be. 

I never put myself in a state of anguish wondering what might have been…could have been…should have been. Rather I think about the lessons I’ve learned that have shaped me and placed me exactly where I’m supposed to be.  Doing the exact work I’m supposed to be doing. 

But if I could go back and tell myself the lessons that will define the shape of my life and identity - that would be incredible.   Not to mention incredibly comforting during the most trying of times.   

Be weird.  Find out who you are and do it on purpose.  And then let your weird light shine bright so the other weirdos know where to find you. 

Life’s unfair.  Spoiler alert – life is unfair.  And the sooner you make peace with that notion, the sooner life will open up for you in completely unexpected ways.   

Believe harder.  Society works really hard at making you believe you are continually coming up short.  That is a lie.  No one can make you feel (insert negative word) without your consent.  Don’t give away your personal power.

Embrace fears.  You have to make peace with your fears.  Walk towards what scares you and embrace it.  If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. 

Be curious.  People see things differently, and they see different things.  And you will too once you learn to replace judgment with curiosity. 

Step back.  The problem is not the problem.  The way you see the problem is the problem.  And once you’re reframed it, the impossible suddenly becomes possible.

Yes, and.  Positivity beats negatively hands down.  It’s also contagious, collaborative, and curious.  And the “and” part takes positivity to the highest level.  It’s a foundational principle of improvisation and it’s a foundational principle of a happy life.  

Stay connected.  Hang on to everyone’s phone number.  You’ll likely need them one day.  The universe operates on the power of human connection.   

Be kind.  There is a certain amount of civility that makes the world go round.  Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. 

Favor simplicity.  Not everything is rocket science.  Plain, simple, elegant – that’s what works. 

Say no.  “No” can be a complete sentence.  Really.  You can only say yes to the right stuff by saying no to the wrong stuff.  Say it.  Mean it.  Own it.     

Move forward.  When bad things happen in your life, you can either let them destroy you, define you, or develop you.  Development is the only choice that moves you forward.

Stop worrying.  There are things that you can control.  There are things that you can influence.  But the rest – give it to the universe.  Karma is real. 

Lighten up.  When the punitive arbitrary rules you’ve created for your life no longer serve you well – change the rules.  Being serious and structured will serve you well.  So will being spontaneous and playing hooky.  Life is push and pull, so push and pull on life. 

Never done.  Stop trying to get it all done.  There is no place called “done”. 

 

(Still, I am learning)

 

 

Monday
Dec182017

Improve Thru Improv® | new experiences and fear

 

 

If there's one thing I know, it's that people are apprehensive about experiencing Applied Improvisation - at least initially. 

So I like what Seth Godin has to say about new experiences and fear:

 

"The only way to have the experience is to have the experience."