I was witness to a series of presentations this week that had me spellbound. It was not because of the brilliance of their oratory, or the slides they used, which some might argue were middling to average.
These presenters weren’t industry veterans; on the contrary, they were young folks often dismissed by the corporate machinery with epithets such as “naive” or “green”. The depth of their understanding of the subject, and the fresh perspective they brought to the discussion was refreshing.
What got me hooked was their authenticity and the humility with which they made their case. They stated the problem they were tackling, where the wanted to be, and how they anticipated getting there. I noticed this pattern after hearing change practitioner & “thinking partner” Alan Arnett articulate it in his TED Talk titled Sensemaking.
My parents work meant that they’d be transferred every so often & we’d move. The first memory is as a student who kept changing schools, & being picked on by every new group of classmates. It would take a while until I had somehow become one of them, at which point it was time to change schools. Again.
The other was much more fun: meeting new kids who lived nearby, making friends, getting into all sorts of mischief. Some of them are still in touch.
Connecting with other humans has seemingly come easily to me. The Internet has made it even easier to do so. It gives me great pleasure, knowing fully well that while they’re not deep friendships, they’re not superficial either. I remember things about people* I don’t find it hard to reconnect when something relevant to the person comes to my attention either.
There’s no big reveal here for you, if you’re reading (thank you if you are). It’s just becoming apparent to me that a lot of people struggle with reaching out, even to their friends. Lockdowns are making it even harder to do so.
I’m grateful for this little big gift of easy connection, & for the wonderful conversations I have had today with three – until a few hours ago – strangers.
*It might be a superpower, and sometimes it does feel strange that I do remember little things, as a good friend told me recently!
Today I heard someone use the phrase “Guide on the side, not a sage on the stage” to describe their leader.
Over the course of the last decade, I’ve seen so many of the latter: their flamboyant style of “leadership” supposed to “lift up the troops & march boldly ahead to success”. Work is not war, & I have come to loathe that language.
Occasionally, I have had the privilege of being around good leaders, to learn from them. Of course I fail awfully, but if only 1 in 10 of the ideas become part of me, the compounding effects have been invaluable.
Like many others, Ethan Bernstein and Ben Waber question the value of the open office in this article in the HBR from 2019. It’s particularly relevant when several companies are nudging their employees to return to the office, ostensibly for ‘collaboration‘ or ‘valuable human interaction‘:
When employees do want to interact, they choose the channel: face-to-face, video conference, phone, social media, email, messaging, and so on. Someone initiating an exchange decides how long it should last and whether it should be synchronous (a meeting or a huddle) or asynchronous (a message or a post). The recipient of, say, an email, a Slack message, or a text decides whether to respond immediately, down the road, or never.
Interestingly, the article also has this nugget, months before the pandemic driven remote-working enforcement:
If team members need to interact to achieve project milestones on time, you don’t want them working remotely.