Posts Tagged ‘opportunity’

Seize Opportunity

October 29, 2014

Oppty

What leaders know is that  justice and fairness exist only when we and our colleagues work very hard to make it happen.

A Natural Tendency

Studies done at the Yale Mind & Research Lab suggest that most people tend to ignore this because of a rationalizing bias. Whether an atheist or a religious person, a majority of people think life events (like births, deaths, illnesses, love matches) were purposely designed. Even young children show this bias, that things happen to “teach a lesson” or “send a sign.” Yale researchers indicate this is about our powerful drive to reason, make sense and align our external environment with our own goals, intentions or ambitions. Obviously, these attitudes can bring comfort and reassurance. And, those feelings are an important reinforcement for the bias.

But then, how do we explain the very ugly consequences of structural racism, sexism, and other abuses of power? Our world is full of injustice, brutal and unfair behavior that deeply injures individuals, communities and organizations. Intentional actions cause fear, oppression, disappointments, and serious wounds.

Wise Perspective

A sage family friend always softly responded to the common inquiry, “How are you?” with “Better than I deserve.” He embraced gratitude as a primary perspective because he had lived a rough and tumble life but was able to acknowledge chance. Many people don’t get what they deserve.

None of us live in an absolute meritocracy. Yale professor Paul Bloom suggests life is not a fundamentally fair place with goodness rewarded and badness punished. Logic recognizes that we cannot blame those who suffer from disease, victims of crimes and maintain a bias for the status quo. This view requires us to affirm poverty, inequality and oppression are all part of some great big intentional plan. It isn’t.

Michelle Munson, CEO of Aspera, says: “Respecting an opportunity means embracing it and dedicating yourself to making the most of it. I am infuriated by people who waste the opportunity.” Clearly she understands opportunity cost, that is, the implications of missing the obligation to create value and progress. Not surprising, Munson hires staff for two fundamentals: a high degree of competence and character. She defines character as desire, drive, responsibility, honesty and genuineness. Munson exhorts: “Nothing, nothing, nothing replaces being competent in what you’re doing…”

Great Choices

So, what’s the leadership message and mental model? I think it’s opportunity. It is the choice we each have to turn away from self interest and work diligently to create a fair and just society, community or organization. Leaders courageously tackle the status quo. They take responsibility for change and progress. Bloom’s research encourages us to resist the natural urge to cite our good fortune as fate. Prosperity, equality, freedom and hope occur because we purposely construct those conditions

What will you do and how will you guide others in opportunities today?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Tackling Persistent Myths

March 17, 2012

Our minds create associations very quickly. Great communicators, especially marketers, exploit this to anchor or promote an idea that may or may not be true.

So, beer and car commercials make heavy use of culturally attractive females to help male viewers link “hot” women with cold drinks or costly cars. The sequence in these promotions goes like this: if you buy this beer or car, then you will attract more, better women.

Common Pairs

In our workplace and communities other myths are in play. They can be obstacles for progress. Sometimes it is a matter of intentional marketing and other times it is the big leap to a faulty conclusion. I’ve listed several common myth combinations here:

Access   = Use

Spoken   = Understood

Information = Answers

Busy = Results

Taught = Learned

Bigger = Better

Articulate = Capable

Logical = Practical

Proven = Strategic 

Untangling Myths

Are any of these myths evident in your workplace?

In the list of above, the first and last pairs are ones we hear frequently. However, access use and proven strategic. For example:

When you purchase an office suite of software you get a bundle of programs – many that are never (or rarely) used. At the new year start, when we resolve to get “fit,” we join a gym. But this doesn’t guarantee participation in classes and use of the pool or equipment. In both cases, after access, there are many steps that must happen before use occurs. There is a mental leap from access to use.

Consider the “proven equals strategic” myth. We know a second language is a good idea for children. In fact, second language acquisition is proven to have influence in other cognitive achievements.  However, it may not be the most strategic choice in the context of child well being. Perhaps immunizations, nutritional support or preschool are inaccessible, more valuable and thus more strategic. The point: anything effective isn’t always the best action.

 Obstacles and Progress

Intentionally and unintentionally we pair up concepts that seem to be useful – but are not necessarily true. It’s vital we’re on guard for these pairings. They need to be challenged for validity. Unless your organization (or town) is perfect – myths exist.  Myths can be part of culture which props up the status quo. They can also generate limiting beliefs that get in the way of results.

Dig  a little deeper when you hear (or think) simple, glib associations. To create change we all need to be myth-busters.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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