Success is Peace of Mind

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For many of you, the name of Coach John Wooden will sound familiar. For others, like me, it was a very recent discovery I made thanks to my friend Isaac Getz. Wooden UCLA basketball team coach has one of the most remarkable trackrecord of the history of sport. Yes, of sport. Not just basketball. Just have a look : 10 March Madness national championship in 12 years, 7 national championships in a row, an 88-game winning streak, a 38-game winning streak in national championship tounament play. But such an unequaled (palmares) is not the fruit of chance. It has been built day after day by an industrious and learning mind connected with the heart.

When most leaders would define leadership as the capacity to bring a team – or a company, or a city – to victory, Coach Wooden has found something greater than winning. And he calls it success. Now, many of us may think that success is just another name for winning. Not for Wooden. Everything starts with his novel definition of success :

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result
of self-satisfaction in knowing that you made the effort
to become the best you are capable of becoming.

Three observations :

  1. Though he was evolving in a highly competitive environement, Wooden does not mention others in his definition. This means that the measurment standard for performance is not an external but an inner one. Peace of mind and self satisfaction both come from inside. Effort is not a ranking. And the best you are capable of becoming does not necessarily mean becoming #1.
  2. Wooden’s definition is open : making the effort is a process, and a never-ending one. When external competition is no more the final judge of what your are, then what is left is the ongoing process of improvement. There is no surprise in seeing Wooden put “Industriousness” as one cornerstone of his Leadership pyramid. People who worked with him recall that his training sessions were extremely well prepared and with high intensity.
  3. If you shorten the definition to the extreme, you can possibly say that “Success is peace of mind”. This is what Wooden has taught again and again to young athletes – full of desires to win, to make a great career, to have their names in the Hall of fame, to earn a lot of money, etc… Was “peace of mind” something appealing to them ? Well, in the context of long and tough competitions like US University basketball championships, peace of mind is a key condition to win. “Winning becomes a by-product of how well prepared you are mentally, physically” says Mike Warren a former player of UCLA Varsity, quoting what Wooden would say to his team. I would say that this is a key mental preparation for winning : being able to be sufficiently detached from the end result so that you focus not on the result itself but on giving your best. Peacefully.

Discovering Wooden’s life and philosophy (mainly through the book The Essential Wooden) has opened my eyes on my limits as a team coach. It helped me particularly in pointing out the big mistake I have made when I coached a team of young entrepreneurs at Team Academy, here in France. I was so much focussed on the results that the team should have produced, that I disregarded the effort that the teamsters were doing to become the best that they could be. When results were not there, even if they made the effort, they could see disappointment in my eyes. instead of building confidence in their capacity to give their best, this has created many times discouragement and drop of self-confidence, instead of enthusiasm and willingness to improve.
Becoming a better team coach is a lifetime effort. Reading about Wooden’s style and principles has empowered me. I strongly recommend you to study his work… and try to practice it !

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Teams at the Top > 3 Insights from the Field

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In January, I have been given the opportunity to work three top teams of 10.000+ people companies. Though in very different businesses (telecom, agrobusiness and services), I could sense similarities in the way that the members of these teams behave and interact. I want to share here three insights.

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Your Enemy Has a Heart Too

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Six months ago, I read a remarkable book about Mandela’s leadership : Mandela’s Way, written by Richard Stengel. The thing that most impressed me in Madiba’s life is the fact that, when he was in jail, he learned Afrikaans, the language of his enemies, the Apartheid rulers. When asked why he did that, his answer was : “When you speak Afrikaans, you know, you go straight to their hearts” (p. 135)
This is really amazing. The purpose was not primarily to gain an advantage on  his enemies – for instance, in negociation – but to open the possibility of a dialogue where the heart is involved. This means :

  1. that he believed in such a possibility, which implies that he had done the journey to see the heart hidden behind the enemy
  2. that he knew that nothing would be possible without hearts meeting.

For us, whoever are our enemies, there is a true calling : are we ready to learn our opponents’ language ? are we willing to speak to their hearts ? and, may be more difficult, do we dare to listen to their hearts ?

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Three Articles on Pope Francis Leadership (in French)

For French readers, a series of 3 articles I published in Les Echos Le Cercle about the leadership of Pope Francis

  1. François leader dès les premières minutes (11/20/13)
  2. François, un leadership simple et direct (11/24/13)
  3. François ou gouverner sur l’essentiel (12/2/13)

 

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Dare to Depend on Others !

As a leader, one of the biggest errors you can make is to believe that you can be self-sufficient. In a world where it seems that the highest virtue is to be independant, this can appear as a paradox. Nevertheless, if a great leader is often someone with a strong personal vision, she or he is also a master in relating to others.

A leader is a high-quality relationships gardener

Why would people follow you ? This is the key question that needs to be answered by any leader. So, if you do not have a high-quality relationship with your followers, how can you lead ? Great leadership author Jagdish Parikh reminds us that we have to manage our relationships with “detached involvement“. This means that we always incur the risk of being too attached to people (or to objects, to events, and of course to ourselves). At the same time, no leadership is possible if it is felt as distant or superior.

You may be an exceptional achiever, a great visionary or the most respected expert in your field, it makes no difference : to get results, you will need to rely on the motivation and performance of many others – especially in the highly complex environment we are living in today. In his recent book, Humble Inquiry, The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, MIT Profesor Edgar Schein is making a neat and… humble point about the tendancy we have to believe that a leader is the one who has answers.  One common characteristic of large-scale failures (such as the disaster of Space Shuttle Discovery) is the absence of a climate for subordinates to surface big issues as they show up. Creating such a climate is one of the roles of the leader, which implies a very deep consciousness of his dependency on others for the success of any endeavour. Asking authentic questions that surface his own ignorance is a key habit to develop such a climate, since it indicates clearly that there is no problem in NOT having all the answers.

A leader takes the risk of the other

One of the biggest problems of our times is the fragmentation of people in society or in organizations. It is often very strange to hear some executives complain about the silos or the lack of collaboration that exist in their companies, when all the systems they have put in place (from budgeting to compensation) are mainly constructed on individual (or fragmented) contributions. It is as if the large bureaucratic organization was trying through its processes to reunify separate and independant units.

The origins of this tendancy come from very far, and probably from the economic theory linked to the Enlightment views that promoted the advent of the individual, emancipated from holistic societies. I think that our challenge is to develop again a shared commitment (of employees, of citizens,…) towards what belongs to us – and not to me, or to any individual. Italian economist Luigino Bruni wrote a beautiful book, The Wound and the Blessing, around the proposal that we can only meet that challenge through the acceptance of the Other – as a potential blessing, but also as a potential wound. This means that we must not dream of a society that has eliminated all the frictions inherent to the fact of living together (the wounds). An authentic leader risks to be wounded by the world around her, by the people she meets. This is the fundamental condition for receiving the blessings that people can bring to the cause or the enterprise she his fighting for.

TraitBas2For you – leader or follower (and you know that we cannot be good leaders if we are not able to be good followers) – three questions can help you improve your capacity to relate to others :

  1. Do the persons who follow you feel that you are with them even if you are not totally melted with them ?
  2. Do you practice often the gentle art of asking instead of just telling ?
  3. Are you willing to let others bless you or are you just preventing yourself from the wounds that you can get from them ?
Posted in Change Management, Coaching, Freedom companies, Leadership, Management 3.0, Organizational Learning, Schein | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Never Forget Lateral Learning

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In a recent session with teams of Intrapreneurs from Group Poult (European leader in Private Label biscuits), we asked to some participants to illustrate through their experience what co-creation with customers really meant. The result was brilliant. We first heard about the new relationship between a factory in Brittany with United Biscuits, and then about the way Poult has helped Michel & Augustin (a French young and “crazy” company) in its development. I was supposed to give a short presentation on co-creation, but it proved totally useless. So I did not give it. Once again, I had been totally impressed by the power of what I call Lateral Learning – i.e. learning from your peers.

In contrast to that, I took part last week in the preparation of a learning event for the top 120 people of a large well-known company. The whole meeting was about “filling” the program with more and more experts or speakers. At one point, I asked if it was not possible to leverage the knowledge, wisdom and experience of the participants. The idea was finally accepted, but why did we need so much time to have it appear in our conversation ?

I guess it is because we have been educated in a system where knowledge is transmitted hierarchically from someone “who knows” to others “who don’t know”. It is considered mainly as an asset, seldom as a flow. For some of the best researchers, knowledge creation is social and happens between people. We cannot control this process. At best, we can create conditions for it to happen.

If you want to understand the profound meaning of this shift of point of view, you can watch this video made by the World Bank, that I discovered recently. It explains very clearly  the philosophy of a program called South-South Learning which differs from traditional ones where Western experts would tell to developing countries practitioners what they should do.

In my experience (as a learner or as a designer), a ‘learning from your peers’ approach has ALWAYS worked. At Team Academy, lecturing is considered as a very powerful tool, so we use it with moderation (no more than 5% of the training session time). If we want to use Lateral Learning much more, we need to really believe in people’s ability to self-manage their work*. And that’s pretty difficult !

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* This expression comes from M. Weisbord and S. Janoff remarkable book on Future Search.

Posted in Education, Education 21st Century, Freedom companies, Knowledge, knowledge creation, Learning, Organizational Learning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Prejudices – Three Ways to Alter Them

Last week, I have been struck by how prejudice could bring someone to misleading judgements about another person. In what was supposed to be a learning journey, a top executive of the visiting company totally invalidated the person of the welcoming CEO. In a private conversation with his team after the visit, this leader attributed to the CEO illegitimate reasons for his efforts to free up his organization. “He is only interested in money” was more or less the tone of his critique. And that was it. Having worked for years with that particular CEO, this came really as a shock to me, since I had been able to testify in many occasions the authentic commitment he has towards people. How can someone form so fast such a radical judgement ? Can this be avoided ?

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My TEDxStrasbourgUniversité Talk

Only for French speakers, sorry !

Posted in Education 21st Century, Freedom companies, Learning, management innovation, Organizational Learning, social entrepreneurs, Transformation, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

Social and Emotional Skills – A Video from Edutopia

Look at this video, it is just great !

It comes from Edutopia, the George Lucas Educational Video. (this is my first “advertising” post…)

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The Times, They Are A-Changing ?

Last week, I had a look at this video against gas fracking near New York City made by Yoko Ono, her son Sean Lennon and others. I could not help thinking about a recent documentary I saw about the last years of John Lennon, from the moment he settled in NYC. The tone of  Ono and Lennon’s video and that of some memorable protest songs in the 70′s are so close… Are the times really changing, or is it just – 40 years later – the same state of things… ?

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