Making Organizations Awesome

Leadership lessons from a motivational listener

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Offer to lead, even when you’re not sure

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I took some time over the December holidays to immerse myself in Twitter, start this blog, and generally soak in the Palmolive of social web 2.0-ness or whatever it’s called. (How old does someone have to be to get a Palmolive reference anyway?)

My primary motivations have been curiosity and fun. I’m experimenting with giving those two forces a more important place at my decision-making table.  As a result of my online explorations and conversations, I have now offered to lead two processes that I don’t know very much about.

I expect to learn a lot and meet some great people. And probably make some mistakes along the way. Stepping up to lead amidst ambiguity felt like a chance to take some of the advice I’m always giving my clients. And a chance to embody the coaching of my best mentor, Richard Strozzi Heckler, who advises his clients to make bold offers.

Offer #1 – Leading a session at BILConference. I’ve always wanted to go to an Open Space or “unconference” event. The attendees are the presenters, and anyone can propose a session on anything. After that people vote on the sessions or just go to the ones that sound interesting.

Most of the other presentations are about interesting technologies to improve human sustainability on our little planet (handy idea, right?), or about the future of technology itself. Into this heady mix I have profered the following:

Oh yeah, it’s the People – The Key Ingredient to Making Stuff Happen

Have you ever seen an awesome idea die because the people working on it couldn’t get along? Or maybe they couldn’t influence those who were supposed to benefit from using their idea, so nothing changed and the status quo just dragged on and on?

Or maybe you work somewhere that frustrates the daylights out of you because it COULD be so fantastic, but people go all knuckle-headed when they get into a group meeting or a personal disagreement. It’s like the normally sane, cool people we know outside of work transform into some mentally/emotionally amputated version of themselves at work.

This fascinates me. And frustrates me. And motivates me. I think one of the biggest bottlenecks to making a better world happen is the way we relate to each other 1-1 and in small groups. Whether you want to fix the organization you work in, be more effective in swaying people to get behind your great idea, or just laugh at how preposterously insane we can be when we have to deal with Those Damned Other People Who Are Doin It Wrong, I hope you’ll join me and others for this session.

[Newsflash: Somebody signed up to participate in the session! Please join me in a short round of gleeful jumping up and down.]

Offer #2

Some fantastic people have dreamt up “Twestivals,” a worldwide series of events on the same day to bring Twitter users together and raise money for a charity. I am not sure exactly what happens at a Twestival. But it sounds fun. So I signed up to lead preparation for the one in the small town where I live, Los Angeles. I am not really sure what that will entail. I don’t know what happens at these events, how long they last, or, really, anything more about them than the introductory sentence in this paragraph.

Most of my career I have been a coach and consultant. On the rare occasions where I am leading a team, the results have been better in recent years but I’m still haunted by the embarassing controlling tendencies that I had when I lead teams of volunteers in college.

I’m not really sure what “leadership” will look like for a Twestival. Do the kind of people who create and attend a Twestival want leaders, or will I be a lightening rod for everyone’s authority issues? How can I strike the balance between enough initiative and direction to be helpful combined with enough openness and humility to let leadership emerge from many according to what makes sense? (Ugh, even that way I put that sounds so horribly pretentious :/ The grandiose part of me is already measuring the drapes in the Twestival L.A. Palace, I can’t hide it!)

Anyway, we shall see. As I say, I’m forever advising my clients to take risks and be willing to fail in the pursuit of something worthy. And if there is anything worthy that I have discovered from spending way too much time on Twitter over the holidays, it is that a new movement of authenticity and “doing stuff for ourselves” is a-rising. I figured it might be fun to muck in.

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