Leading

The orchestral conductor, Benjamin Zander, is a frequent business speaker and famous for his TED talk. now viewed by more than eight million people.  Conductors are sometimes viewed as the last of the great dictators.  Zander is different.  He had an epiphany some years ago when he realized that the conductor of an orchestra plays a different role.

The insight transformed his conducting and his orchestral musicians immediately noticed the difference.  Now he’s a leader who asks for input in the form of written comments at every rehearsal.  He understands that the musicians’ skills and experience enhance his own.

His gifts as a teacher are remarkable too and they are now shared through masterclasses for all of us on YouTube.  The students perform with technical brilliance before he enters in with a consistent message –  it is time to relax and let go of the kind of competitive excellence their preparatory training has provided and instead relate to their audience.  Transformation happens before our own shining eyes.  (This sample and others are well worth watching now or at a later time. To enjoy it to advantage if your time or tolerance is limited, listen a bit to the beginning and move the arrow to 9:00 minutes and watch some hair pulling – not a conventional teaching technique – but see how effectively it works in creating a totally different kind of performer).

Zander’s passion is for introducing classical music to those unfamiliar with it and he does so with incredible skill and experience in making audiences and performers connect.  It’s a worthwhile example of how a leader inspires and transforms performance.

PPT and Zerox

Remember when photocopying was referred to as Zeroxing – because of my advanced years, I can even remember when photocopying machines entered schools – and suddenly we were freed from the dreaded purple Ditto copies which faded almost as soon as they were run.  The new copiers were so popular that every classroom teacher was reproducing documents at such a fast pace we were all put on a paper diet.  The name of the first photocopying machine became a verb or the process – in the same way that Kleenex now means paper tissue – and everyone knows how to ask for one from toddlerhood.

So it’s interesting that one – but only one Microsoft software program – has reached the same iconic status.  I’ve just received an invitation to a meeting where I am told there will be a PowerPoint presentation.  That is more than enough to keep me away – but do you notice that a presentation still must be preceded by PowerPoint.  At the same meeting there may be some documents or spreadsheets distributed but they don’t need the imprimatur of Word or Excel as prefixes to give them credence.  There is still some reverence for PPT in spite of the fact that it nearly always displays a canned document – not an engaging screen.  So even if you like the software – which I actually do – for heaven sake start with a blank page, an image and a maximum of about six words. Otherwise Death by PowerPoint will still hold sway.

 

 

LENGTHS TO GO TO

I’m probably violating the rules above, but this is worth thinking about when you are writing.  Hats off to Kevan Lee for providing it.

 

 

Fund Raising Campaign Wrap-up

pledge

I put out a request for availability today to wrap up a fundraising campaign that took the better part of the last year.  I’ve also spent several days assembling a hard copy of all the documentation for the next team – as well as creating a digital backup.  It’s a good and necessary way to see where we have been and start to evaluate the results.

Past lives have meant working my way through several such campaigns.  Because I know and understand the process, that has worked well for me but also created problems.

These things were good about it:

  • We started well in advance with a schedule and assigned dates
  • We kept to the schedule
  • The materials were prepared well in advance, carefully reviewed and they went out on time
  • We approached team leaders to follow up and got good acceptance from our invitation
  • Many responded quickly and and contributed well.
  • Personal messages by commited members of the organization were well received and reached a wider audience through social media
  • Our campaign ran concurrently with one for refugee support; the same people responded to both with generosity
  • Several new people came aboard.

These things could be improved going forward:

  • By working in pairs with team members, I limited the involvement of the whole group. Doing the work is the best motivator and builds commitment of the fundraising team.
  • The kick off event was too tame.  It needs to be exciting.  The closing event was better but also too cautious.  These things need to be fun.
  • While not holding too many meetings at the beginning was an advantage, we should have met regularly during the campaign itself to keep the energy level higher.
  • Keeping a firm check on follow up might have produced better results.
  • There was much “preaching to the choir”.  It’s more demanding to make the case for what the money does in terms of changed lives.  We need more and better stories.

These are just my own observations.  I look forward to hearing from the others.

MY PERSONAL TOOL BOX

My personal tool box

Over the years I’ve always had a tool box in the closet like the big one pictured above.  It’s pretty basic – a screwdriver with a variety of heads, a hammer, some picture wire, some duct tape.  Any heavy jobs require assistance from a family member or professional.

But my personal organizational tool box contains some good ones which vary as I acquire more and more digital technology.  The contents here really makes a difference.

First of all – paper journals – even though paper sounds out of date.  Recently I recycled about 25 from past lives pondered and agonized about.  If I were a novelist they might have been fodder for a set of future neurotics , but dipping into them revealed somebody who was self-absorbed and rather silly. No doubt the journal I am filling now will seem the same way later.  But I do find it essential to record what’s on my mind.  A journal gets the ideas and problems out there from inside.  It can be reviewed, laughed at or cried over later when I have better perspectives.  I keep these hand written journals for a while – but not forever.  Sometimes I have a look and copy the best notes from reading or personal insight into another one and those journals are longer keepers.

In addition to the big journal – usually black – and Moleskine or a comparable cheaper brand with a bookmark and an elastic –  I have a couple of other books.  One is for ideas for blogs and things get written down if and when they come to me – (it contained the suggestion of this article among other things).  The third one is a notebook for taking notes at meetings or seminars.  I prefer to do this by hand – and try to capture the main ideas with verbatim phrases or even mind maps.  I’ll later transfer the contents to a report if they are something like minutes and meant to be shared.  Generally people who take notes during meetings capture nearly everything but don’t take the additional step of reflecting on what matters in the content.

Second – Synchronized stuff.  We move between laptops, tablets and smart phones and we need to have it all in hand and as portable as possible.  If I need reference material for a meeting, I’ll want to have it available when and where I need it.  A recent meeting had an advance portfolio of over 500 pages.  I had the option of reading it onsite on a tablet by either using wi-fi or a previously uploaded copy. In another situation I needed the combination to open a safe.  It was in a Gmail folder in message saved to a folder three months earlier.

Third – Mind Mapping.  I’ve been a mind mapper since a son responded in the early nineties by giving me Tony Buzan’s The Mind Map Book for Christmas.  He had heard me complain about a client‘s proposal.  As an arts consultant at the time I was helping plan a major civic arts facility housing performing, visual and media arts.  There was a lot of blue sky thinking and it was our role to introduce a few clouds.  Suddenly there was talk of taking one of the three components out of the plan without understanding the financial effect on operating revenue.  “If only there were a way to show how one change affects everything else – but on one page,”  I wailed.

Mind mapping does that.  I later went down to Palm Beach and became a Buzan certified trainer, but you can actually learn mind mapping in 10 minutes here. Hand maps can be visually beautiful and works of art.  Digital maps have the advantage of reordering and restructuring with ease.  Either technique organizes and structures your thinking.  That’s how this article started and got organized in a very few minutes using Mind mapping software called VisiMap.

Fourth – Graphic Tools.  For any long term plan or project, you have to use something to see the big picture as well as the details.  Most of us think both logically and intuitively and have a preference for one or the other.  We’re exposed to a growing number of messages and an infinite number of words.  When someone says, “Do I have to draw you a picture?” out of frustration, they may be indeed on the right track.  There are many examples of digital canvasses and some of these like Canvanizer are now available for collaborative use.  They are a simple way of uniting those with different ways to think because they combine the textual and the visual and relationships among the components are easier to see.

I also invented a hand written to-do format combining Robert Fritz‘s calendar idea and post-it notes.  In one of his books Fritz  he suggests ranges  for things that have to be done in columns – within one day, two days, three days, five days and two weeks.  It helps see life in a bigger frame and you can even do some stuff earlier if you have time.  Very small post-its are great to write the tasks – and I keep those that tend to repeat – like “pay credit card’ or “prepare meeting agenda” – I just throw the one-time ones away and it feels even better than stroking them off a list.

Fifth – Password Savers.  My current password count is 86. The list might be missing a few or have some that should be deleted.  I still have a small paper book where I wrote these down and had to look them up frequently – until I discovered that there is software that stores all of them securely and can access any of them. Basically all I have to remember now is one – which will allow me to keep all the others on file and synchronize them to my other devices.  It’s really fun to see them automatically open anything from bank accounts to online courseware – and that pause even gives a few seconds to relax and reflect.

Sixth – for now – because there will always be more to explore – Subscription Collectors.  We sign up for things all the time – and then forget about them.  Suddenly our mail boxes are jammed with incoming distractions.  Suddenly an hour has past and we forget what we came to the in-box for in the first place.  We don’t want to give subscriptions up entirely – but we have met the enemy – and it is us.  I used to put incoming ones in a Gmail folder called @Parking-lot with the intention of looking at them on Friday afternoon.  I would usually forget to look – and then after a month there were more than 100 things to read and I tended to delete the whole lot of them –  time saved perhaps, but also opportunities lost to learn anything.  Then I discovered an app called unroll.me which first checks out what I have subscribed to – all 87 of them –  and allows me to clean out my list.  Then it asks me when I would like to look at incoming mail – morning, afternoon or evening.  After that, it lets me choose a list or a graphic format for all the entries and sends me the whole lot once a day at my preferred time.  This allows a better balance between attending to what has to be done – and still exploring new things at an appropriate time.

These serve me well and I’ll keep using them for now.  What’s in your tool-box?

 

 

Deconstruction and Construction

Sent this one to MEDIUM TODAY

Workplace diary

NOISE

collage2On June 27

I work from home — that is, I do stuff that is work even though it is voluntary and done for love rather than money. I was awakened that morning by the sound of something falling nearby with loud plops. A look out the apartment window revealed a large yellow tube leading from the fifth floor of the building next door to a large red dumpster. What was falling through it was a mix of drywall and now unnecessary debris from the company’s former executive suite. Its head office had recently vacated, the building had been sold; and rumour has it that it is to be converted to a condo.

The noise wasn’t so oppressive — but watching the lone worker on the ground moving waste matter around was a contrast to my ieisurely start and enjoyment of my morning coffee. We seldom get so up close and personal to the variety of work that is part of the modern world. Sitting in front of screens and reading about CEO annual increases of millions doesn’t quite jibe with this man’s day — living among modern waste in more ways than one.

DECONSTRUCTION

On July 4

The plops continue. We are now on the fourth large container and the contents have changed from plaster and insulation to metal strips. For six days four or five men have laboured and it will be interesting to see whether the entire fifth floor has been completed. Clouds of dust from falling plaster have given way to cleaner debris — for which I am thankful. At least I can leave windows on my side of the building open rather than watch the dresser beside the window become covered with white dust.

No one else in the apartment building seems much interested in this deconstruction phenomena — but I received word this morning that my next door neighbour next door is reading my blog posts about this. It used to be that people actually talked about local happenings in person rather than reading about them online. C’est la vie. But what about the participants in this deconstruction? Do they have time to ponder the meaning of life in the process?

CONSTRUCTION!

On July 18

I shared the news of deconstruction with two grandsons who were visiting for the weekend. “Don’t be surprised if you are awakened with a big bang in the morning”, I commented. But they hardly skipped a beat as they constructed new buildings of their own while playing Minecraft online on the Ipad and PC for several hours — just surfacing once to ask for a new Skin Editor. As an old style grandmother who thought kids should go outside, I called for a break. We tried a walk in the park and a Frisbee toss, but the heat soon drove us to the ice cream store and a very hot walk home.

Taking a cue from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, I encouraged the kids to go Analog for a while, giving each a large sheet of paper and encouraging them to use the whole page by fill it with anything they liked, using a variety of my art supplies. The older one started on a really good drawing of a dinosaur. The younger tried his own version, seemed dissatisfied with it and retreated to return shortly to show me his own version of how to complete the use of the entire page.

On August 1

REFLECTION

It’s now been more than a month of daily deconstruction. My life has changed. I go to bed much earlier to avoid being awakened by a daily dumpster crash outside my window at 6:45 am. Four full dumpsters leave most days. During these comings and goings I have filed reports for one of my volunteer organizations, prepared agendas and chaired meetings, planned a fall campaign, worked on a wonderful community day where we hoped to draw 100 and got 200, designed a quick website for a project that is just about to happen, — in other words, dumped a whole bunch of activities into my own calendar dumpster. But I have also realized that all this busyness has replaced some of the other things that I actually intended to do this summer — like writing. And I haven’t added the time spent in feckless pursuits like online crosswords, or surfing Facebook to find the odd interesting thing that wasn’t cat related.

Dumpsters, when it comes right down to it, are just containers. They are kind of like my Gmail inbox which I have trained myself to keep quite lean and to clear out as often as possible. The easiest thing to do is to transfer everything read to specific folders and one of my volunteer ones has over a thousand threads of items that are basically dumped. In counting I note that I have 23 active folders full of suchconversations. Most of these can head for deconstruction.

But returning to thinking about deconstruction/construction — the best things of the month have reallycome from going analog — hanging out with family, friends, and colleagues, reading books rather than reading stuff online, trying new recipes, sitting and just thinking — and even watching dumpsters. The huge orange box next door will disappear eventually — and probably be replaced by daily deliveries of stuff for reconstruction — just like my Gmail Inbox. The big challenge will be sorting what comes in and becoming less distracted by stuff that deserves throwing out from the get-go.

 

A mentor gone

Robert Genn – artist and writer whose twice weekly articles died yesterday.  I shall miss him for his humor, wisdom and practical tips – not just about art but about creating.  Rest in peace, Robert.  Your legacy is in your writing and example.