Take four minutes and learn what Dan Pontefract’s third book, OPEN to THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, is all about with this insightful video by Dan himself.
Take four minutes and learn what Dan Pontefract’s third book, OPEN to THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, is all about with this insightful video by Dan himself.
From a dark, cold night, they would appear out of nowhere. Plying their trade in the dead of rainy Vancouver winters, these Swedish twins were always looking to make a play.
Sometimes it was in a corner. Often it was clandestine. No matter the situation these two individuals were total pros.
I am of course referring to two hockey players, perhaps the finest to ever have worn the Vancouver Canucks jersey.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin—twin brothers from Örnsköldsvik, Sweden—were drafted by the Canucks second and third overall in 1999 and played their entire careers for the blue, white and green. On Saturday, April 7th, 2018 they played their last NHL professional game in Edmonton.
Their chemistry on the ice was second to none. The puck seemed to be on a string when they played, leading to incredible goals with near perfect, sixth sense setups. What was also evident with the Sedin brothers, on the ice they cared deeply for one another and the teammates that played alongside them.
From a leadership perspective, there is much to learn from the Sedins both on and off the ice.
As their careers began in Vancouver, they were tormented. Be it the press, fans or rival players; the Sedins were mocked as being too soft, too meek, and at times, too Swedish. But they persevered. Blood was shed, and teeth were knocked out. During their early years of 2000-2005, both brothers demonstrated an incredible level of resilience. They just never gave up, be it on each other, or themselves.
What is also evident—looking back now over the span of their nearly two-decade careers—is their determination to get better. In the crosshairs of continually being ridiculed, the Sedins went to work and improved themselves so much, they both ended up winning the NHL’s scoring race and various MVP honors in later years.
As those early years of development shifted into years of dominance, it can be traced to these two aspects: resilience and the determination to get better. It makes me wonder how many up-and-coming employees who seek to be leaders are committing themselves to a lifetime of grit and self-development?
Some of us still believe tenure and experience are the reasons to be promoted into leadership roles. This type of thinking may not be the wisest strategy. When we commit ourselves to learning, to taking our knocks, to suffering from mistakes, and to putting in the time to get better, only then should we expect leadership roles (and success) to follow.
But what has impressed me the most about the Sedin twins is not their chemistry, on-ice play, leadership, resilience or commitment to get better. Usually, those characteristics would have me lauding anyone, let alone two hockey players.
The Sedins stand out for me because of what they have done over eighteen years “off” the ice. This is where their real legacy and leadership stands apart.
Very early on in their career, the Sedins made it known that Vancouver would become their home. While a trip to Sweden in the summer at the end of the hockey season was always scheduled, they became part of the fabric of the Vancouver community. I know, because I lived there for most of those years.
Living in an adopted sporting city is one thing as an athlete. But when you immerse yourself in the community, that’s when you have indeed become a selfless leader.
Imagine for a minute you are one of two star players in a city where the sport is under the microscope all day, every day. Hockey is to Vancouver as football is to Dallas or soccer is to Manchester. Now, imagine you are as recognizable as the Pope in that city. Wherever you go, people stop you for autographs, or to chat about last night’s loss, or that penalty you took in overtime.
The Sedins took everything in stride. I have seen the twins on the sidelines of soccer matches, at school, walking the neighborhood, where time and time again, they treated everyone with respect, friendliness, and energy.
It reminds me that leaders always ought to be aware of their impact. They cannot sulk, they cannot complain, and they must step above any current malaise that may be a part of their day. Throwing others under the bus, for example, is not the mark of leadership. It is the sign of an inexperienced individual.
But the Sedins went even further. When off the ice, a considerable portion of the Sedin’s time was devoted to community giving and philanthropy. Most of it went undocumented, for the twins did not want the spotlight. An inordinate amount of time was spent in hospitals and hospices, particularly those with children. There have been executives in those institutions who have shared with me legendary stories of their giving, their time, and their compassion.
When one can balance the need to get better and to perform, all the while giving back to those in need, it becomes the epitome of leadership.
For ten seasons I was fortunate to have season tickets to the Vancouver Canucks. I watched the Sedins mature into incredible hockey players, easily first ballot NHL Hall of Fame candidates.
But what I witnessed directly and indirectly off the ice is what I will likely remember more.
During their last game in Edmonton, as the seconds ticked off and as it eventually turned into a shootout, several young children were seen on the Vancouver Canucks bench. It was the Sedin’s children. It was an extraordinary moment.
Whether on the ice or off of it, the Sedins taught us to not only be better leaders but to be better human beings.
Thank you, Hank and Danny. Vancouver and the entire province of British Columbia are blessed to have known you for all these years.
March is one of those months for me when I’m in need of a boost. I reside in an area of the world where between November and March an average of 400 millimeters of rain falls every year. If you prefer, that’s roughly 16 inches or 2 1/3 feet of rain.
I’m not kidding. It’s partially why I decided to shave my head. I was sick of having “frizzy” hair.
However, I’d rather shovel rain than snow, but that’s an entirely different story for another day.
My playlist for March 2018 is a focus on boosting the soul. The rain is mostly done and it’s time to shake off the drops in favour of some vibrant jams.
Available here on Apple Music / iTunes.
Dog Days Are Over
Florence + The Machine
Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand
Primitive Radio Gods
Spirit in the Sky
Peanut Butter Jelly
About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All
Janelle Monáe (David Bowie cover, original 1977)
Eddie Vedder (Gordon Petersen cover, original 1989)
Miss Sarajevo (Single Radio Edit)
U2 with Luciano Pavarotti
5 Years Time
Noah & The Whale
Miss You Now
Congratulations! You’ve made it to this new column of mine. You are a rare breed.
I am not being vain or trying to be cheeky either. I never expect there to be thousands of views. Views or hits related to my writing are not of interest or what motivates me.
You have taken the time to stop by and read my thoughts. The key word is time. Perhaps it was due to the title of the column. Maybe we have met before, and you have an interest in my latest thinking. It might have been something entirely different.
Whatever the case, you have chosen to invest the time in yourself to read these words. Thanks for doing that, too.
Many are wasting away their time. We have become so busy in our lives and at work that we have completely forgotten how important it is to protect our time, to use it wisely. The consequences are beginning to pile up.
We try to cram more into our calendars than is humanly possible. We think multitasking will fix any situation in which we need to get two deadlines accomplished. Distracted driving injuries and accidents now outpace those that occur via impaired driving. When was the last time you saw strangers talking to one another, saying hello even, in an elevator or bus stop? Not when there is work to accomplish on a mobile phone.
Technology is merely the catalyst. What I have seen over the last few years is an adverse behaviour change of epic proportions. It has invaded our entire society.
Time has become a four-letter swear word.
Our once normal behaviour has become erratic, frenetic, stressed and frantic. In the 21st century era of “do more with less” we have displaced a time-conscious and patient behaviour for one of nonsensical, always-on busyness.
This disdain for patience complemented by an addiction to busyness is going to catch up with us.
In 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report titled The Future of Jobs. To craft the research and get to its findings, WEF worked with leading experts from academia, international organizations, and professional service firms as well as with the heads of human resources of major organizations. One of their significant discoveries frightened me to bits.
WEF outlined a list of Top 10 skills that society needs to embrace (and improve upon) by 2020 if we are to combat what is coined the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the mega-trend family of innovation consisting of artificial intelligence, machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, genetics, and biotechnology.
It’s the top 3 skills from the WEF list that frightens me the most:
Outlining these missing skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is one thing. I argue that at the rate we are going we might never hit a critical mass of people who possess these skills. Future-proofing ourselves for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is akin to walking before we know how to crawl. And we’ve forgotten or ignored how to crawl!
Because of time. We have lost the importance of protecting our time, of balancing our time, of adequately using our time.
We are time bankrupt.
Indeed, it is going to cost us.
On September 11, 2018, my next book, OPEN to THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively and Make Better Decisions, publishes. It explores the vanishing act of time.
Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking are vital pieces of the “Open Thinking” model and mindset that I have formulated in the book. You cannot be an Open Thinker unless you can return to the place where problem-solving, creative thinking, critical thinking, and decision-making are balanced and thoroughly used.
The manner in which to get back to such a place is to, in part, remember how valuable our time is to our thinking.
Lao Tzu once wrote, “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,‘ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
Do you want to win back your time? Do you want to become an Open Thinker?
More to come in OPEN to THINK. You can pre-order it now. Click on the links below to do so.
To the dreamer
the shadow of failure,
I am excited, delighted and proud to let you know my third book is now available for pre-orders.
It releases on September 11, 2018.
More details can be found on the OPEN to THINK book site, including all sorts of special offers such as:
I’ve also unleashed a short two-minute whiteboard animation to roll out the book’s background and front cover.
Music is a large part of my life. I cycle and run to it, write with it in the background, dance to it, cook to it, fly thousands of miles with it, and I often read with it humming overhead. I don’t know how I’d survive without my tunes.
Genres are far and wide. Bluegrass and opera might be interspersed with good ole rock or late 1980’s hip-hop. I can line up a relatively unknown acoustic cover version of one song followed by a mash-up of another succeeded by a 12″ remix single. There may be some obscure indie Canadian band leading into the Rolling Stones followed by Edith Piaf ending with an upbeat track from Buddha Bar. Eclectic may be the best way to describe my music tastes.
When we host dinner parties, I will frequently spend time in advance selecting a mix. There is usually some method to my madness whether based on a theme, the meal, time of year, and so on. Some friends that invite us over for dinner or celebrations even ask me to play “DJ” for the night. Sonos, wifi, an iPhone and Apple Music or Spotify indeed come in handy on those occasions. Booze doesn’t hurt either.
In 1995 I handed a piece of paper to a hired DJ with an entire list of songs to play in sequence. A large bag of CDs accompanied it. The list contained not only the recommended order, but tangential song choices should the mood require it.
It was my wedding.
This past weekend at one of those dinner parties, someone asked me why I wasn’t publishing a monthly playlist.
Truth is I had never thought of it.
Consider that oversight remedied. This is going to be fun.
On a monthly basis and until some unforeseeable future date, I will be posting a monthly playlist of songs in this space. I’m not certain how it will look or change from month to month in terms of themes and styles, but it will be limited to 10 songs only. Arguably that’s the perfect album length.
I might add a personal note or two to a song or I might not. I will add the year each song was first published and if it’s a cover, the year the cover came out, too.
I still buy albums, CDs, and digital albums as I see fit, but I also have an Apple Music membership. As such, each playlist can be viewed online as a public share on Apple Music. (Apologies if you are a Spotify member.)
So, without further adieu, here is my first playlist, the February 2018 version.
No real inspiration, per se, for this first playlist. Just a few songs that may not have a threaded mood but they are definitely moody.
Available here on Apple Music / iTunes.
Until the Day Is Done
Sick of Losing Soulmates
Requiem Mass: Dies irae
By Giuseppe Verdi – Rome Opera Chorus, Rome Opera Orchestra & Tullio Serafin
House of Cards
The Souljazz Orchestra
Time After Time (With Cyndi Lauper)
Sarah McLachlan & Cyndi Lauper
Life Goes On
Far Away and Blurred
Love is not an illusion but an intrusion
Of the soul, the heart and the mind.
Love is not for sale but to set sail
To unknown ports with someone so kind.
Love is not the answer but the beginning
Of mistakes, of questions and of hilarity.
Love is not a sentence but an endless book
Full of tragedy, hope, success and charity.
Love is not solely one to one but one to many
For love is a state of mind in all that you are.
Love is not hiding but begging to be seen
In the shadows, the light, the near and the far.
Love is not a secret but a truth to uphold
By its most important ally of days anew.
Love is not in flight if you somehow forget
That love is only love when you finally love you.
<For my children, the goats>
Image courtesy Johan Hansson
In my line of work, on a fairly regular basis, I get to meet disengaged employees. The factors for their disengagement are often varied, never the same.
But there are unquestionably a few disengagement themes.
Take, for example, Shannon.
She joined her new organization about a year ago. It’s a high-tech company and she’s in a product marketing role.
To lure her over to the firm, Shannon’s boss waxed lyrical about this super cool initiative that was taking flight. There was flowery praise about her diverse background and 10+ years of experience. Shannon was an all-star in her previous roles and companies. Her “fit” would be a natural in the new confines.
Upon her arrival, Shannon could expect to be knee deep in creativity, decision-making, and action, the hallmarks of an Open Thinking organization. Her new boss promised she’d love the existing team—and other teams she would be working with across the business unit—as they progressed the super cool product marketing project. After all, it was a project that was to reshape the company’s product roadmap and future.
A year later, in essence, Shannon has lost her mojo. Her purpose of self is in question, and she most definitely has fallen into the job mindset at work. “What the heck is the point,” she mutters to herself.
Why is this happening?
For starters, Shannon had no idea about the fiefdoms and silos that were already running rampant in the organization she joined. The “teams” she was to be working with keep to themselves, refuse to share information or ideas, and view her as an annoyance. (If they have noticed her at all.)
Put differently, Shannon is a wee bit lost. She is fed scraps of information and has little to no idea what others are doing in the project. Even after repeated attempts to insert herself into aspects of the project she remains in the dark. Shannon spends a lot of her time not only playing catch-up, she often tries to make sense of what she is supposed to be doing. The subway ride home each day has become arduous and painful as she thinks about what’s going wrong with her life.
Her boss is somewhat oblivious to the situation as well. Empathy is not his strong suit. Worse, he and other leaders at his level have fallen into a deep coma of bureaucratic approval requirements. While the leaders talk up a good game about trust, in fact, their actions are speaking louder than words. When Shannon does have an idea or finishes a task of some sort, the levels of approvals are nightmarish. She waits, and waits, and waits for something—anything—to be approved. Surfing the job boards and playing Words with Friends is not how she envisioned this role.
When Shannon’s boss does involve her in something, it’s as though she has been miscast. Think about tennis great Martina Navratilova playing quarterback for the New York Jets. Martina is a legend, but something just isn’t right.
The misuse of Shannon’s experience was palpable. Her talent was overlooked, forcing her to wither away surfing those job boards. Hired for the 10+ years of experience and what she could bring to this super cool initiative was the original plan. Instead, she waits, and waits, and waits to have her talents adequately utilized. Ultimately, this is not what she signed up for nor the dream job she envisioned.
Let’s break down Shannon’s situation.
She was so excited to join the company and to take part in the development of something awesome.
Within the first few weeks, she noticed things were going awry. I believe it boils down to two key aspects:
She was unable to create any value.
She did not feel valued.
When an employee is not able to create any value, a downward spiral is inevitable. Whether held up by bureaucracy, impeded by command and control leadership or prevented by entrenched hoarding of information through existing silos, any employee is going to become disengaged if there is no purpose to their role. If there is no (or little) opportunity to create value you can rest assured the employee will become disengaged. Yes, like Shannon.
The real tire fire of disengagement happens when the employee does not feel valued in their role. Like a tire fire, you can smell this from miles away. It’s the state in which the employee “checks out” for their boss, team and other peer groups see no need to involve them in the state of affairs.
When we become invisible at work, feelings of inadequateness loom large.
When we lack self-worth in our roles, emptiness is imminent.
There are far too many Shannon’s out there. Yes, she has a responsibility to take ownership and action to right her ship.
But Shannon wasn’t disengaged when she started her new role. In fact, she was a highly engaged, motivated and self-assured professional.
You might say she was once invaluable.
Now she questions her sense of self, purpose, and abilities.
This story is a classic example of how an engaged employee can quickly turn into a disengaged employee, spurred on by the environment she joined.
Photo credit: Neil Moralee CC
A recent reflection of mine, specific to those that have tried to sell technology to organizations.
Organizations are missing out on a glorious opportunity to improve employee engagement. It’s time to bring a modified version of the so-called Gig Economy to employees.
The Oxford English dictionary describes the Gig Economy as follows:
A way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer.
Most of us are familiar with popular Gig Economy examples such as Uber, Lyft, Etsy and Airbnb. Let’s table these types for a moment. I’m not concerned with selling your artwork or sharing out your car or condo.
What interests me is the hidden skills possessed by employees sitting inside our organizations. These are the people who are already participating in the Gig Economy often unknown to many organizational leaders.
Perhaps you are familiar with other Gig Economy platform examples outside of the popular ones mentioned above. Perhaps not. Have you come across Fiverr or Upwork, for example? These are but two Gig Economy platforms that match a person’s skills with required work posted by those in need of said talent.
In other words, it’s a talent-gig relationship. It’s a heavenly marriage if you’re a talented individual and someone in need of getting a project completed. It’s potentially a marriage from hell if you’re a leader in today’s disengaged and culture killing organizations.
Let’s say, for example, a sales leader we’ll refer to as Beth wants a short video to be produced for an upcoming client meeting. She thinks it should be short, punchy, and less than two minutes in length. There isn’t a media team in the firm and her video skills are non-existent. It’s needed in two days. What to do?
Beth heads on over to Fiverr or Upwork and effortlessly posts the details online. In less time than it takes to say Gig Economy she has received multiple recommendations of freelancers to choose from. Two days later, Beth has her video and the client meeting becomes something more than PowerPoint slides. Win-win. A heavenly marriage for Beth and the Gig Economy freelancer she hired.
Imagine the person who took on that short video project was employed by the same firm as Beth. It’s an organization, however, that suffers from horrible employee engagement, in the low 30’s. The employee who took on the gig is named Sue. The company has all sorts of issues not the least of which is a culture where employees are boxed into their role, their job description. There is no deviation allowed. Stay in your lane, get your work done, and you may not get fired. It happens in many organizations around the globe. It’s a root cause of disengagement.
Sue needs the steady paycheck so she plods on as a customer service rep, taking side gigs at night from her freelancing on Fiverr and Upwork to help fill the void she feels at her “real gig.”
To be fair, Sue knows the gig she took on to create the client video was from her own company. But, due to the state of affairs in her organization, she chooses not to divulge her employment. Why dump oil on a burning fire.
The more an organization remains (or becomes) disengaged, the more likely it is that an employee decides it’s just not worth it anymore. Put succinctly, the employee remains in their role (getting paid by the organization) but is more interested and thus engaged in the side “gigs” that they have on the go.
It’s potentially a nightmare situation, just like with our example with Sue and Beth and in particular the organization on the whole. There is effectively no chance for Sue to become engaged at work. It will always remain just a job. It is very likely she ends up leaving when the time is right. And Beth has no idea that Sue possesses such talent. What a waste.
But what if Beth could have posted the gig inside her organization through some version of an internal Fiverr or Upwork system? What if the organization had a mechanism in which to tap into the hidden talent that exists among the people it already employs?
No, it may not increase Sue’s paycheck but I can assure you it will go a long way toward improving her engagement, her sense of purpose at work, and arguably something I’ve previously written about in this column, “Workplace Actualization.”
There is a treasure trove of hidden talent inside our organizations. If we were to tap into it through an internal “Gig Economy” platform—giving employees the chance to dedicate 10-20% of their time toward in-house gigs—I am certain you would see improvements in factors such as:
It may even be the vehicle in which true job rotations might finally happen. At a minimum, it can introduce talent to other parts of the organization possibly acting as the vehicle for cross-departmental movement.
An internal “Gig Economy” platform is only one arrow in the quiver of creating an engaged organization but it could be one of its most important.
N.B. a version of this was originally published to Forbes.
I recently spent three weeks touring the coastlines of Australia. Between the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Manly Beach, Sorrento and Adelaide I devoured some wicked surf and sand in the land Down Under. (Not to mention fantastic beer and wine.) Someone needs to hire me so I can move there.
I managed to plow through a few books when I wasn’t in the water. Three, in particular, delivered a rather unusual troika of goodness, thus I’m recommending you place them on your 2018 reading list. In particular, all three books provide an incredible amount of guidance to improve your self-awareness, albeit each book tackles a different nuance.
The books are:
In Merchant’s third book, The Power of Onlyness, she tackles the importance of our ideas. They must make a dent, they must find a way to bubble up. Our ideas are one thing and clearly important, but the how of an idea’s journey is equally so. This is where the rubber meets the road of Onlyness.
The book argues that connectivity allows the potential for your ideas to be leveraged for greater good more than ever before. Merchant provides practical means and poignant stories that help you shape your ideas (purposeful, meaning driven, etc.) as well as the ways in which you might connect your idea to others to watch it really take shape, if not take off.
My favorite story detailed Leo Bretholz, an escapee of an SNCF train from Paris set for Auschwitz and “how an extended purposeful community formed around an idea to move the world.” It was an idea to have SNCF compensate victims/survivors of those train rides from Paris to Auschwitz decades after the atrocities. That idea sparked others to get involved–including the use of and employees of Change.org–and eventually, over a few years, a $60 million settlement came to fruition.
I reached out to Merchant to discuss the notion of teams, networks, and ideas. She said: “We have the idea of teams, and we have the idea of people being badass but we lack the language for how those things connect. It’s why the lexicon of Onlyness matters.” Indeed, the book will certainly help you crystallize your ideas whilst showing you ways in which to connect them to others. Merchant’s Onlyness theorem will increase your self-awareness of making a dent in the world through your ideas and the connections needed to truly make an impact.
In Creating Great Choices, Roger L. Martin teams up with long-time colleague, Jennifer Riel, to revisit his 2007 book, The Opposable Mind. Specifically, the book investigates the use of–and makes improvements to–Martin’s now world-famous strategy model, Integrative Thinking.
The key components of Integrative Thinking remain:
Chock full of stories, graphics and perhaps most importantly templates–where the reader can practice or try out what you’ve just read–the book is a wonderful follow-up from the original manuscript. It’s practical as an Integrative Thinking guide, easily approachable and can be put to use immediately. Being a Canadian, I appreciated that there were several Canadian stories such as Tennis Canada, Toronto International Film Festival and a teacher from Hamilton, Ontario. (My hometown!)
But my most relished story actually opens the book. A brilliant example is laid out by Riel and Martin regarding the creation of The LEGO Movie, one of our family’s favorites. LEGO CEO at the time (and now Executive Chairman) Jørgen Vig Knudstorp insisted that in order to make a great film, LEGO would have to cede creative control to producers, directors, and screenwriters at Warner Bros., but that any personnel involved had to spend time at LEGO and with so-called superfans. LEGO could have done it on its own, or it could have outsourced the entire movie to a studio. Instead, it’s an excellent example of articulating opposing models, examining the good and not-so-good, then exploring and assessing what to do instead.
The self-awareness factor of this book encourages you to look at every problem as not one problem, but potentially two, and perhaps finding a way to improve your decision in a more practical and even economical way.
I was pleased to see that in Daniel Pink’s sixth book, When, he opened it by paying homage to the work of Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan, a legend in the field of circadian rhythms. Essentially it’s our biological backbeat, our internal clock. The book goes on to explore this notion of our internal clocks in many different and often enlightening ways. As Pink often does in his books, there are helpful tips and insightful solutions to help you, too.
Type-Task-Time, is one of those. Determine your chronotype, determine what you need to do, and then find the optimal time of day to then take on a task, make an impression or make a decision. Pink provides quite a useful, simple, and practical tool. There are many found throughout the book, including a sly reference to the Beastie Boys, one of my favorite hip-hop artists. (There are also some neat “When” goodies found on his website.)
But it’s not only about how we can handle our “When,” it’s how to avoid other people’s “When.” There are some weird if not alarming pieces of research Pink includes supporting his argument. Try to avoid hospitals altogether in July, it seems, as there is a greater chance you might come into contact with an intern who will cause more harm to your body than a more seasoned medical practitioner.
Furthermore, you may want to avoid accepting a scheduled surgery time in the afternoon and push back for one in the morning. The data suggests it is four times more likely that something might go wrong (or not picked up by the doctors) in the afternoon slots versus the morning.
How does When help your self-awareness? Pink masterfully captures it in one of the books final passages:
Three great reads to put to the front of your pile come from Merchant, Riel/Martin and Pink. While each addresses a different topic–ideas/connections, thinking and timing–put together they become a wonderful enhancement to your self-awareness progress in 2018.
I am better for it. As a bonus, they got me out of the water and sun enough while in Australia not to burn too crisply either.
<Originally posted to Forbes>