Decisive Moments

The French Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is widely considered the father of photojournalism, coined the phrase “the decisive moment.” This moment occurs when the visual and psychological elements of people in a real life scene spontaneously and briefly come together in perfect resonance to express the essence of that situation. This is not only true in superb photography but also in exceptional leadership. There are those decisive moments when the beliefs and psychological makeup of leaders are matched against difficult, gut-wrenching, and often consequential situations. It is at these moments that the legacy and impact of leaders come through. It is then that followers really get to know the leader and decide whether they will accept being led by them. Simply put, they are defining moments.

This is why there are many followers and managers but only a few who can truly occupy the leadership space. It is not enough to have beliefs, aspirations, photo ops, speeches, blogs, etc. These beliefs are impacting and dynamic if they are exhibited in decisions and actions. Every politician espouses a belief of serving his or her country. However, there are only a few like the senator from Alaska, Susan Malinowski, and the Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, that actually vocalize and vote their beliefs. The decisions made during decisive moments should be deeply personal and closely related to the values and beliefs of the leader. Once made and carried out, they set in motion precedents, legacies, and ripple effects that affect the lives and well beings of many. Here are some powerful examples of those that responded to these moments as leaders should and others who did not.

Decisive moment—Christi Shaw voluntarily stepped away from a high profile job at Novartis as President and US Country Head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Here is how the Fortune article of May 2016 by Eileen Daspen1 described it: 

“In April, Swiss pharma giant Novartis made an unexpected announcement. Christi Shaw, the company’s U.S. country head and president, was stepping down ‘for personal and family reasons.’

That phrase is often code for internal corporate strife, personnel clashes, or failure to perform. But in Shaw’s case, the explanation was as personal and familial as it gets. Her older sister, Sherry, 51, was suffering from multiple myeloma, or bone marrow cancer. Though Sherry’s condition had deteriorated since her 2013 diagnosis, in early April she had been accepted into a promising clinical study. A key criterion for admission was that she have a full-time caretaker during the three-month trial.

For Shaw, 49, one of the top-ranking women in the pharma industry, the decision to take on that caretaker role was an easy one. She deliberated just two days before submitting her resignation. What surprised her was the disbelief she encountered from friends, co-workers, and colleagues in the industry.”

For many at the time that may have been an unthinkable option. After all they may have thought “I have given my all to get to this position.  I love my sister and will find other ways including financial means to help.  But not this. I simply cannot walk away from my career.”

In the course of my career which now spans over 40 years I have either been employed or consultant for numerous life sciences organizations, including most if not all of the major ones. Almost all of them have values, mission statements, and care and dedication to patients as the North Star and the guiding light for all of their decisions. However, followers and the outside world judge leaders by their actions not their espoused beliefs. Legacies are made during these decisive moments. If a leader espouses care for patients as his or her core belief, does it not follow, under the circumstances that Christi found herself in, that they make a similar decision?  Does care of a patient in need not start with one’s own decisions and behaviors with close family? Hence Christi’s surprise to the reaction of others and how many leaders are still struggling with authentic leadership.  And of course, as karma would have it, Christi not only landed on her feet, but she landed in a big way with her previous employer Eli Lilly as Senior VP & President of Lilly Bio-Medicines. But even more importantly, to this day when I visit Novartis and talk to her former colleagues, the legacy of her decision still lives on and inspires many. She has opened up a window of courage, authenticity, and value-based leadership that inspires and motivates others to translate into their own lives. People are inspired by example.

Please view this video on Christie and ask yourself whether you feel she is authentic regarding her value to serve the patient. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OhJFu7EWcX4

Decisive Moment—My father, who built much of the education infrastructure in Iran during the Shah’s regime, was told to take bribes from foreign contractors so that the flow of future bribes to others in power was not affected. He dedicated his life to service and country. He did not hesitate. He refused, lost his job, was forced to take a job in the embassy in Washington to get him out of the way. He never regretted his decision. To this day his students, who are now top engineers and scientists in organizations such as Google, NASA, and the United Nations, get together to celebrate his life and legacy.

Decisive Moment—Nelson Mandela, after 27 years of prison at the hands of the Afrikaans, invited them in to form a rainbow coalition. He disenfranchised his wife, Winnie, who stood by him all those years but was found guilty of misusing her power.  He did so because at the highest level he served South Africa.

Decisive Moment—The leaders at Volkswagen knowingly decided to support technology to fool the emission standards tests in order to sell more vehicles.

Decisive Moment—The leaders at Wells Fargo encouraged sales and customer service representatives to practice an aggressive culture which resulted in them creating:

  • Deposit accounts and transferring funds without customer authorization, sometimes resulting in insufficient funds fees for customers
  • Credit card accounts in costumers’ names without their knowledge or consent. Customers were hit with annual fees, in addition to finance and interest charges and late fees for some consumers
  • Debit cards and PINs for customers, without their consent
  • Phony email addresses to enroll consumers in online banking services

Decisive Moment—The leaders of various life science organizations, prescribing doctors, and pharmacists aggressively oversupplying opioids to trusting patients in severe pain causing large scale addictions, psychological distress, and in many cases suicides

The central thesis in the bestselling book The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence by Dacher Keltner2 is that power is given and not taken and in the long term it is bestowed by followers to those who do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Having worked with numerous leaders I now believe that this journey is defined by decisive moments when constituencies determine whether the decisions and actions of their leaders are value-based, authentic, courageous, and as Keltner so ably illustrates, in the best interest of the people he is or she is serving.

  1. Daspin E. (2016, May 31) The Sad and Inspiring Reason This top Novartis Exec Stepped Down. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2016/05/31/christi-shaw-novartis-resignation/.
  2. Keltner D. (2016) The Power of Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence. New York: Penguin Random House.

Questions for Online Conversation

  • Do you recall your decisive moments?
  • If so, how are your decisions and actions aligned with your values and beliefs?
  • What lessons did you learn? How will you practice them in the future?
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Whose Life Are You Living?

When we start our work, I ask my coachees what motivates them. What drives them? Why do they spend the hours on a relentless and exhausting treadmill where new competitors are constantly raising the performance bar? Often they say things like, “I am serving the shareholders or the board that placed me in this position,” “I want to leave a legacy for my family and my employees,” “I am driven by success and accomplishment,” “I want to be a role model for other women,” “I want my family to be financially independent,” “It’s what I fell into,” etc.

The next question I ask is “What are you trading in, and what is the cost to you?” At this point, these articulate and well-rehearsed leaders usually pause and reflect. The first signs of a deeper and more insightful conversation start to reveal themselves. Admittedly, there are some who have done the work, and are in touch with their values and aligned to them. There are, however, many who are on “autopilot”.  They followed the path that was in front of them and through sheer work and perseverance have climbed the corporate ladder without asking fundamental questions about who they are, what their gifts are, and what opportunities they have missed by not being present. Many were domesticated by others into living someone else’s life. The sample answers that are voiced by this group of leaders include “I am not around my family that much, but they know that I am doing this for them,” “I don’t think that much about these types of questions, I am running around too hard and don’t have the time” or “I am not really spending much time on taking care of myself but I will have enough money to retire nicely and then I am going to more than make up for it.”

Of course, many of these statements are justifications for a life unexamined.  When leaders are not in flow with their gifts and deliver results through brute force and perseverance, they not only under-deliver on their potential but also the potential of the talented people that look to them to set the example and motivate them to reach for higher ground.  In my work over the past 40 years with numerous leaders, it has become abundantly clear that those who do not take the time to reflect and examine who they are and what their intuitive intelligence is pointing to, lead lives that are forced. It is possible to be financially successful. However, true happiness and fulfillment require work that will connect the leader to his or her soul and provides room for their authentic selves to lead the way. In addition, as so ably demonstrated in the book Resonant Leadership by Boyatzis and McKee1, leaders who don’t take care of their own physical and emotional wellness will not have the resonance to lead and motivate others. Think of the oxygen mask analogy in air travel.

In my case, I was being trained by a global multinational when the Iranian revolution occurred and my plans to go back to my country and culture were changed overnight. I had to try and adapt to being an employee of a Wall Street global insurance and financial services company. Being insecure about my future and desperately looking for a lifeline, I simply put my head down and for years trudged my way through the career tracks of large global enterprises. It never felt right. I was brought up in a culture where relationships were very important. One where you worked to live and not the other way around.  The idea of taking two weeks annually as vacation seemed absurd to me. I was not used to using four-letter words at work. Many of my colleagues would go out to lunch and drink alcohol and would be slurring their words after they came back. Never the less, I ignored and dismissed my inner voice. I thought by changing jobs and companies I would find something that was a better fit. This continued until my soul could no longer take the unnatural environments that I worked in and I literally sabotaged myself. I could no longer motivate myself at any cost. Through self-examination and deeper inner work, I realized that my values were routinely undermined in these organizations. My father was a Gandhi-like figure in Iran who had devoted himself to building his country and I had inherited two fundamental values – personal freedom and achievement or building something of value that benefited others. Many of my creative ideas and accomplishments were crushed through corporate politics and not invented here mindsets. In addition, others who felt they had a position power would micromanage my creativity and passion for making a difference.

It is when I finally built my own consulting firm, which I sold to Heidrick and Struggles two years ago, that I was able to self-actualize and experience flow. Heidrick has provided me with the space to honor my values.

Like me, most of you have personal stories, unique gifts, heritages, and experiences that point to your authentic destiny. A destination where you feel fulfilled from the inside out, one that feels natural and allows you to exhibit your gifts. When you occupy that space, you will naturally outperform others who are not in flow because your passion will have you fall in love with the work. When you fall in love it fills you with energy that is hard for others to imitate. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Roger Federer, and Princess Diana allowed the natural energy awaiting them to guide them by being present to it and focusing their efforts on its development. It takes work, discipline, a safe space, skilled professionals, and a belief system that lets go of ego and control and embraces curiosity and the joy and learning.

  1. Boyatzis R, McKee A. Resonant Leadership: Renewing Your Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion. Harvard Business School Publishing, 2005.

Questions for Online Conversations

  1. How much time do you spend reflecting on your purpose and destiny?
  2. What is your greatest fear in doing so and what is hard to let go of?
  3. How will you look back at your life and will there be regrets?

No Pain, No Gain

This phrase is used in many forms. Based on my experience working with numerous leaders, what distinguishes great leaders is their readiness to be present to pain and suffering and to the ensuing learning and growth. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Hamdi Ulukaya (CEO, Chobani Yogurt), and Victor Frankl and Candy Lightner (founders of MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving) all had this in common. They were present to their suffering and challenges as it was occurring, and through it, they learned to look for opportunities for learning and growth and then reinvented themselves in ways that touched the world. We have created a “happy pill” culture. We have come to expect fulfillment and happiness as a controllable outcome and when things don’t go according to plan, we get disappointed, anxious, jealous, angry, revengeful, threatened, insecure, and sometimes clinically depressed. 

As a leader, it is critical to understand that the mindset of entitled fulfillment and happiness is an artificial construct that is prevalent in the western world. Many cultures, such as the one I originate from, believe in the duality of the universe. In these cultures, good and bad, happy and sad, fulfillment and disappointment etc., are the natural rhythm of the cosmos. It is through experiencing these polarities that we, as humans, expand our emotional and intellectual range and are able to connect with others through understanding and empathy. Leaders who have not gone through the range of human emotions or are now insulating themselves from their emotions often exhibit behaviors and decisions that are not well-informed and are out of touch with the human fabric that is at the heart of their organization’s effectiveness. 

Numbing the pain results in each of us not exercising the muscles of resilience and learning that millions of years of evolution has bestowed upon the human race. It is through adversity that children learn important lessons about life. So why is it that we artificially sedate ourselves and our children to natural emotions? Suffering and pain, if properly processed, accelerates the rate of growth and development. They trigger a powerful wake up call, a time for reflection, and the motivation to mindfully change our decisions and actions. After all, there is now scientific evidence that the information sent from the heart to the brain is about 60 times more encompassing than the information that is sent from the brain to the body. So to ignore and downplay the importance of the emotive brain in decision-making and behavioral modification is foolish. Please see the link below for more:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6gTUWAvPFA

In order to reap the full benefits and growth, it is necessary that we persevere through the emotions that come with disappointment and sadness. It is not to ignore it, deny it, blame, rationalize, defend or force a different thought. Left unattended, the thoughts and feelings will fester and show up in multiple ways. For example, the way in which we get habitually triggered to make impulsive and reflexive decisions. If we learn to name these emotions, push through them by experiencing and observing them, and learn to have a conversation with them, we can turn an unfulfilling event into an important learning opportunity. 

One of the techniques that I use is to imagine that you are having a dinner party. You have invited your cynical and negative inner voices. Assign a name tag for each of your dinner guests. Names such as “impostor” for the voice that says you don’t deserve or are not qualified for this job, or “touchy feely” for when the cynic is instructing you to not honor your intuition or emotional intelligence when making decisions. The idea is to engage in a conversation with each voice, hear what they have to say, and then present the alternative perspectives and learning to the guest that is speaking. In doing so, it is imperative that you stay with the emotion that comes with each conversation and start to get familiar with the intensity, shape, and physical manifestations of it.  So for example, when engaging with the “impostor” it is important to notice the feelings and thoughts that come with being told you are an impostor. Once experienced, a retort may be “We have had this conversation often. Whenever I reach for higher ground you tell me I am an impostor. But when I look around the table I feel I am just as qualified as others since we all have strengths and areas for development. In addition, so far, my performance has shown that I am up to the task. Thank you for the advice. I know I have to learn a few new things but I am not an impostor I am deserving of this job…” Notice not only the words you are using but the feelings that are present when you talk back to the inner voice. Are you feeling positive energy? Are you feeling less trapped? Are you feeling frustrated by having to have the same talk with your inner voice? Are you not believing what you are saying? The answer to these questions are clues for the work ahead.

With repetition you will gain self-mastery. Rather than these voices controlling your emotions, thoughts, and actions, you will see them coming, know what they feel like and how to converse with them to use the voice productively to learn, and no longer be held hostage by them.

In my life I have gone through much adversity. My father was told by the Shah of Iran to take a job in the U.S at the Iranian Embassy because the Shah was threatened by his popularity. As a result, I was put in a middle school in the U.S without speaking a word of English. This was a time when English as a second language programs were rare. It was sink or swim and an age when children can be extremely cruel. My country was taken away from me through a revolution and I had to make a life in a foreign country, in Wall Street, and in organizations that espoused very different values and beliefs than those that I was taught. I have experienced two painful divorces. The last one resulted in the company I built over 16 years having to be sold and dissolved. And I am currently having to get emotionally ready for my ex-wife’s move to Virginia which will mean that my 8 year old son, whom I adore, will live over 300 miles away from me. All of these experiences were/are devastating. However, I would not be the person that I am without them. Each has accelerated my personal growth in its own way. I have experienced a wider range of human emotion and am able to better connect with others, improved my level of listening and presence, and I am more curious and I have slowed down my pace to reflect and take input before making decisions and acting. In addition, with each adversity, new doors and opportunities have surfaced when I have been present to them. Let me be clear, I am not discounting the pain and suffering that I have gone through. However, rather than surrendering to resentment, I have tried to see these events as natural markers and vistas in the lifelong journey towards self-awareness and learning.

I have discovered that regretting the past is futile. When I made the decisions that I made, I was a different person and those decisions served me at that time. I have also learned that comparing myself with others is not very helpful. Each of us occupies a unique body and is wired differently. The journey is intended for us to self-actualize in ways that are natural and accessible to us.

You are all fellow travelers in this journey and I welcome the chance to connect with you and share and explore the many twists and turns.

Questions for Online Conversation

  1. To what extent have you learned from your past challenges?
  2. What has helped and what has been blocking your learning?
  3. What is your way of addressing adversity?

What About Your Work Family?

What comes to mind when we think about our immediate family? For most of us, family means those we spend a great deal of time with. They are our last line of defense. The people we turn to when we are vulnerable, need support and empathy, and can team with us to get our family goals accomplished.  They welcome our strengths and work with us to address our flaws. A family is also the place where we show our leadership as fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. We understand that the goal is for our family to win as a unit. We try to love and care for our whole family and not pick favorites that are more like us. We try to get to know them and find out which interpersonal strategies are better placed to work with each family member. We do it because we have a mental model that says my family is my source of identity, validation, and fulfillment.

Many leaders draw a solid line between how they regard their immediate family versus their work family. On average we spend approximately 75% of our waking lives with our work family. Our professional success is, to a large extent, dependent on our ability to navigate productive and positive relationships with them.

Like our immediate family, we need a group of people at work who have our backs and will provide us honest and helpful feedback. Our family feels empowered to do so because the feedback is not meant to be mean or to put us down but given because they care and want to see us prosper. The origin of their feedback comes from the primitive part of the brain, the part of their body where pure emotions are generated. We listen for their intent and their message in its purest form, sometimes coming across as awkward and unpolished. We thank our family for providing us the feedback and work with them with equanimity on the delivery of the message.

But how can we get there?  How can we help infuse a family culture in our team? Here are some suggestions based on my work with leaders who have proven it is possible:

  1. Carry a mindset of goodwill and disqualify members by exception.
    Most of us want to work on a winning team where the members invest in the success of development of others on their team. Connecting, being cared for, and feeling like we belong is a basic human need at home and at work. When you start with trust and goodwill you usually get back engagement and support.

 

  1. Demonstrate your family mindset through your actions.
    How aware are you of the dinner conversations regarding your organization when your team members are at home? To what extent are you aware of their anxieties, aspirations, needs, and personal styles and preferences? At home, these would be minimum requirements for establishing a trusting and caring relationship. You probably would not be pleased if your family preferred to share these emotions with others and not you. What is your preference at work? Great leaders connect with team members in deep and meaningful ways so as to inspire and motivate them. Their team feels invited to engage and interact with them.

 

  1. Seek input and surrender to your vulnerabilities.
    Our home family would withdraw from us if we were free to tell them what they should be doing but never asked their advice or probed for how they felt. Or, if we showed up as the superhero who has no faults, is self-sufficient, and only involved them in areas where we felt they had unique expertise. What would be the reaction if we told our spouse they are not qualified to provide feedback on our work lives? Or, if we told our children they are not old enough to have a view on the remodeling of their house? What makes us think that the people in our teams would react differently?

 

  1. Speak the “we” language.
    When our family sees that we are proud of them and speak as a unit they get energized and feel included. They sense that they are part of our long-range plans and not there to just fill a temporary need. They start to see their welfare and ours aligned and know that at the right moment they will be recognized (another foundational human emotion and need).

 

  1. Enable and equip your family.
    Sometimes our families need guidance, training, outside expertise, and experiences. We provide personal advice and feedback, summer camps, schools, therapists/family counselors, piano teachers, sports coaches, etc. Often, not being fully skilled is confused with lack of motivation or intent. However, it may well be that our families will show their highest selves through the learning experiences we provide them.

 

  1. Work through the inertia and complacency.
    When we initiate new experiences and learning at home with our families, it is not unusual to get pushback or resistance. Convincing your spouse to enroll one of your children in summer math camp versus the usual “fun camp” might require patience, understanding, care, and creating a new vision. In addition, once a new routine is started, it takes process, discipline, and resilience to ensure that it will be sustained. Keeping to an agreed spending allowance for your children will require repeated reinforcement in the face of skilled operators who know how to pull at your heartstrings. The same is true at work.

 

Questions for Online Conversation

  • How often do you think of your team at work as part of your family? If seldom or never, what is in the way of it?
  • What are some principles and ideas that you can leverage from your home family to your work team?
  • How would you describe your work team to your family and vice versa?

Call with Mom

Yesterday I talked to my mother who is 100 years old and living in Iran. Her children have all emigrated and she has a handful of friends and family who are still in touch with her as she has outlived most. Due to the political situation, we rely on long distance phone and Skype calls to communicate. She is too old to relocate at this point. I was telling her about my work with leaders and she reminded me of lessons in leadership that my dad left behind.

My dad was a truly remarkable man. He was of the generation of men who put country and family first.  After his very rigorous education in Iran, he attended the Toulouse Polytechnic in France, the Berlin Polytechnic in Germany, and Perdue University. He graduated from all three with high distinction. He thought mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland as a diplomat in Washington during the Shah’s reign. His most significant contribution was to build the system of vocational education from high school through university level polytechnics in Iran. His belief was that a developing country needs the engineering and technical minds and skills to build its infrastructure. He made sure that his outstanding graduates got scholarships and went to the top European and American schools. He built over 150 such schools and his former students are top engineers at Microsoft, NASA, and other top government and private organizations around the world. Many of them get together annually from all corners of the world to honor his memory and to keep his fire going.

During his lifetime he was surrounded by men interested in lining their own pockets and serving their own agendas. He was in a system that was corrupt and rewarded complicity rather than transparency and honor.  However my father, under tremendous pressure from his superiors and colleagues, would never collude with them. His north star was to serve his country and nothing, not even his own family, got in the way of his mission. Since he would make the purchase decisions for huge projects, the foreign vendors were constantly offering him secret bank accounts in Switzerland, women, the high life, etc. He would always stand up and leave the meeting and disqualify the vendor on the spot. His peers and superiors were nervous and annoyed at having an honest civil servant with transformational ideas for the country in their mist. They were nervous that he might blow the whistle on them, turn off the sources of bribes, or simply get too popular as a national figure (which he did, and was one of the reasons the Shah sent him out of the country for a while to the embassy in Washington…).  The anxiety and paranoia of those who were complicit meant that my father experienced numerous difficulties in his life. These included being dismissed from his role, sent away, and humiliated publicly through press releases and planted rumors. After the revolution, he held his ground with the new regime and he was jailed for over a year in terrible conditions under false accusations that he was a spy for the regime of the Shah. Through it all, he persevered and never compromised on his values, vision, integrity, and sense of service. The last time I saw him, shortly after being freed from jail (his former students went en mass into the court room and demanded justice), he knew in his gut that he was saying good-bye. With tears in his eyes he kissed me and said the following:

“The thing I can give you at this point is what I believe should drive all human beings. Integrity and service. The day-to-day world will, if you allow it, strip you of yourself and fool you into thinking that you are more important than others. Don’t let it. You are nothing without others. Your job is to hold onto your values and do what is right. Don’t let ego, anger, lust, ambition, and what others do strip you of what you are meant to be. If I knew that my four boys carried this forward. I will die a happy man…”

As it turned out that was the last time I saw him as I could not travel safely back to Iran for his funeral.  There was a real danger to his family going back. Have I always been able to walk his path? No, not nearly. However, once I promised him, I would try to make it a goal to reach for and measure my actions against. During difficult times and decisions, I ask myself, what he would do?  It has helped in those moments when I wanted to tell people off, or to walk out, or to compromise my values for financial reasons, etc.

Naturally, many of us are not living in my father’s world nor have the same clear vision and burning passion. But we are leaders whose actions influence the lives of others and in turn, set off cascades of positive or negative energies. Leaders have to understand the special place they occupy. A place where their presence and actions can influence the development and lives of others. It is not a place for the light-hearted and thin-skinned. It is the arena that requires special people put their own agendas second to that of others.

Questions for Online Conversation

  1. Do you have examples of great leaders?
  2. How often to do you think about them and what they stood for?
  3. What are the lessons for you and your leadership?

 

Your 2017 Leadership Story

Many of us pay more attention to our new year’s resolutions than reflecting and writing our leadership story from the previous year. Reflection and storytelling are fundamental to learning and growth.  So in the spirit of my year-end reflection blogs, I thought this year I would share my own 2017 story with the hope that it might facilitate the way for some of you to write yours.

When I founded my company Philosophy IB in 2000, and up until 2016, it never crossed my mind I would transition from owner to employee again. My plan was to retire as founding partner of Philosophy IB.  However as life has it, due to circumstances beyond my immediate control, it became clear that the wise course of action was to tender the company which I loved and put everything I had up for auction. It was a bittersweet experience for me as we had entered one of the most difficult industries (management consulting) and in competition from many of the biggest names, built a model 50 person boutique practice with amazing talent, incredible products and services, and devoted clients.

We finally found a great suitor in Heidrick and Struggles. However, like many of you, I went through the cognitive and emotional change cycle. I had to adapt to a mindset of proving myself all over again in a new environment. I felt enormous responsibility in seeing our talented and loyal staff land safely in the new organization and helping them adjust to the culture in ways that allowed them to be present to opportunities for growth. I had to let go of clients, projects, and methodologies that I had invested enormous time and care in developing and adopt a new ones. I had to adjust to multiple people weighing in on decisions that I could make myself prior to the sale.

From the start, I declared these principles to follow:

  • Be kind to me. Recognize the challenge, do my best, and learn from it. Let the universe take care of the rest
  • Don’t allow workplace challenges to affect my personal relationships and take care of my physical wellbeing
  • Start with love and care. Assume positive intent and allow my new colleagues to respond in kind. Believe this to be right course of action even if some do not.  In so doing, try and follow the golden rule. What would it be like to be on the other side of my interactions and how would that feel?
  • Do not play politics and be transparent with my thoughts and motivations. Admit mistakes and take on feedback with gratitude
  • Believe that the universe has a plan uniquely designed for me and there is no one else that has my exact physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual composition
  • Pick a leader I highly admire. Put their picture in my office and regularly ask what he or she would do in a similar situation. For me by a large margin, that leader has always been Nelson Mandela (those who visit my office will notice a large portrait of him)

I firmly believe that any leader going through change should spend time to compose an aspirational set of principles and values. This does not mean that you will always follow them. There is no doubt that there were occasions in 2017 when I slipped. However, these principles are an effective way to measure your days and weeks, notice the gaps, reflect on barriers, and come up with ways to address these gaps.  For those of you who have executive coaches, this is a gift to them and their work.  Coaches love to work with your principles and values.

As I write this blog, I believe I have navigated the most challenging parts of the transition from being a co-owner of a successful boutique consulting firm to a partner in a global consulting organization. The work will obviously continue in 2018 and based on feedback to date there are a couple of areas that I need to focus on. However, I have found the mindset of non-attachment and surrender to be liberating and enriching.  These are the ingredients

  • What do I want really— if I was having a drink with myself?
  • Are there opportunities in the current environment that can be connected to my wants? Am I present to them?
  • What is it that I can control, and what is it that will only lead to frustration (at least for the foreseeable future)?
  • How much of my time and energy is spent on each?
  • Once I have done my best regarding above, to what extent can I let go and allow the universe to take care of me?
  • Who will I surround myself with to help me through this process?

I want to wish you all my incredible, amazing, generous, and wonderful readers the best that the universe has to offer in 2018.  I encourage you to allow the right side of your brain gain equal footing. Trust your creativity, trust your intuition, and trust those that come your way with a mission from the universe to help you achieve your destiny. These Gurus have unique cameo roles to play in your lives. Recognize it and allow it to happen.

With love and deep appreciation – Kaveh

 

Questions for Online Conversation

  1. What is your leadership story for 2017?
  2. What did you learn from it?
  3. How does it segway into your 2018 story?

A wonderful clip from Ray Dalio

Below is a wonderful clip from Ray Dalio, the founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund on radical transparency.  It is very consistent with the central message of my previous blog “Who is Your Counter Ego”

https://www.ted.com/talks/ray_dalio_how_to_build_a_company_where_the_best_ideas_win

Best, Kaveh