Reach

photo-6In these few weeks post Lost Boy I’ve been writing thank you letters and sending Kickstarter rewards to the many people who donated to the campaign. I am humbled by the number of people who stepped forward to lend a hand, offer resources (financial and otherwise), and/or heap us with the moral support necessary to produce the play.

The Reminder: no one does anything alone. All creative acts, all things that are useful in this world, all triumphs that seem on the surface to be an individual achievement, are, in truth, a group effort. Life is a team sport. Quarterbacks are nothing without a front line, a coaching staff, a back office, a marketing machine spinning the tale. They also had mothers that for years drove them to practice, families that stood in the cold to watch them play little league, and a host of friends who told them that they could do it if the only kept going. Artists are no different. Even the loneliest painter has a rolling lifetime team whether they recognize it or not. Consider this simple basic: a painting is never complete until someone other than the artist engages with it. A play is never complete until an audience arrives. The whole point is to make or accept an offer to/from an other.

We, the people of these United States, place the accent of our existence on the achievement of the individual and that sometimes makes us blind to the obvious truth of our existence. We do nothing of worth on this earth without the support and participation of others; relationship is at the core of anything worth doing.

from the 2015 Racine snow carving contest. I'm sorry I did not capture the artists names!

from the 2015 Racine snow carving contest. I’m sorry I did not capture the artists names!

Once, many years ago, I lived in Los Angeles. I did not know my neighbors. I had no idea or desire to know who was living in the houses next to me. One night the earthquake came and our illusion of independence was stripped bare. With no power, no water, no heat, and compromised housing, the first thing we did was to reach to each other. When the illusions of comfort and security are stripped, our real need (each other) becomes glaringly apparent.

I wrote this play, The Lost Boy, because someone dear to me, over a decade ago, asked me for help. I was grateful that he asked – it meant I got to spend time with him and return some of the attention and love that he had invested in me. When the metaphoric earthquake hit – when Tom died – I had no recourse but to reach out to others; I produced this play when I realized that I was not alone and all I need do was ask for help. Legacy, like story or life, is an infinite loop of relationships.

Choose Your Path

A watercolor I call, "House On Fire." It's an unusual piece for me...

A watercolor I call, “House On Fire.” It’s an unusual piece for me…

I am still unpacking from my move. My sketchbooks and journals have been bound in plastic wrap since I hauled them across the country and then brought them into the house from the Budget truck in October. I cut the wrap this morning because I was looking for a sketch to give as a gift and during my hunt I found an old work journal. It was a gold mine!

I’m preparing to facilitate a workshop on The Art of Team and the notes I found were from a team I worked with a few years ago. This organization had a history of abusive leadership. There was a serious lack of trust within the group. It was a classic case of “everyone else is to blame and nothing is my fault.” Everything was territory that needed to be guarded and protected, especially personal value. Their individual worth as human beings was always in question.

Here are notes from our world-class conversation. This is what the team discovered as it waded into the swamp of its dysfunction:

The path of power splits, there is a fork in the road of power:

One path leads to the creation of power with others.

The other path leads to power over others; a path of taking from others.

The fork is defined by where each individual seeks their worth:

Seeking your worth based on others responses will take you down the path of needing power over others.

Finding your worth within yourself will open your way to creating power with others.

Here’s the point: it is impossible to change the group dynamic and create a cohesive team until you change yourself. Every dysfunction in a team can be traced back to this root.

In this sense, people never have problems, they have patterns (This is the first recognition from my book, The Seer):

Seeking your worth from others is a pattern.

Finding your worth within yourself is a pattern.

Seeking your worth from others patterns you to orient according to what you get from others.

Finding your worth within yourself patterns you to orient according to what you bring to others.

If you desire a functional team, cease seeking to solve your problem (seeking your worth in others eyes) and begin establishing a new pattern (find your worth within yourself).

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for hard copies.

 

Serve

A painting from my archives. This one  sold in 2007.

A painting from my archives. This one was 4′ x 4′ and sold in 2007.

Jim asked a world-class question: When did customer service become a firewall against serving customers? If you’ve had to call about a mistake on a bill or to try to get some support from your insurance provider you’ll appreciate his question. How many buttons do you have to push to get to a person? How many levels of supervisor do you need to ascend to get to the person who has the authority to serve you?

What does it meant to serve?

Quinn once told me that the world was ruined with the advent of the salad bar. He was far sighted (and funny) and recognized that it might at first be attractive to build a salad your own way but the trade-off, the loss, would be much greater than the free-will-illusion that the salad bar provided. Service would become equated with efficiency; it would become a cost saving strategy. Quinn suggested that the “salad bar concept” would forever redefine the essential relationship of the business; it would reduce the word “customer” to something consumable for the business. In other words, it would no longer matter whether or not a customer was happy because there would always be someone else to sidle up to the salad bar. In a salad bar world, the word “service” would forever be subject to a strange ongoing cost/benefit analysis. The society would shift the emphasis from service to others to service to self. Do you remember, after the introduction of the ATM, having to pay a fee to your bank if you needed to talk to a teller? Serve yourself. Save time. Do you remember when the airlines started charging travelers for bringing luggage? Or recall the introduction of extra fees for extra legroom? It may seem as if we have product choice but Quinn would tell us that we are forever standing at a salad bar.

What does it mean to serve others?

Martin Prechtel writes that transcending self-interest to put your life in service to the greater communal interest is called maturity. In order for the community to thrive, to grow and renew, the members must be oriented toward serving something greater than their own individual need. Without this necessity of service the society descends to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy.

What does it mean to serve something greater than you own self-interest?

I’m preparing to go over seas and do a workshop on “team,” so I’m asking many questions of people who are trying to facilitate teams in organizations. “What’s the greatest challenge you face?” I ask. The response is universal: trying to get employees invested in something other than their own personal gain. In my mind I can hear Quinn laughing; he’d call this  salad-bar-blowback. When customers become consumable, employees also become consumable. The essential relationship in business, the one it has with its customers, is merely a reflection of the relationship it has within itself. Vested action is not something that can be manufactured. One must care in order to be invested. Vested action is the blossom of service to others.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for hard copies.

Be A Team

can you see the team boosting the child? I have many of these and will soon begin intentionally pursuing this form

can you see the team boosting the child? I have many of these and will soon begin intentionally pursuing this form

Many years ago Judy gave me a book by African writer Malidoma Some. He wrote that, in the village where he grew up, there were no locks on the doors. In fact, there were no doors. The people of the community respected the possessions and privacy of others. Locks were not necessary. The community cared for the health of its members so its members cared for the health of the community. From his point of view, a society that needs locks on the doors is a sick society. Locks are sign of communal breakdown.

I’ve been thinking much about sickness and the need for locks as I prepare to do a workshop for organizations about effective teams. I’ve done too many of these workshops not to recognize that the need to build teams is a sure sign of an unhealthy community. In Malidoma Some’s community, people were aware of and acted from a consideration of the health of the whole. Loyalty begets loyalty. “Acting for the good of the whole” is a great working definition for a team. It’s all you need to know to nurture great teams: make sure everyone in the organization, from the top to the bottom, is caring for the health of all the members. Make sure the choices are made for the good of the whole.

An organization that needs to team build is like a society that needs locks: most organizational systems support a philosophy of “every man and woman for themselves” while the executive suite needs cooperation and compliance to get the job done. No amount of team building can transcend compensation for individual merit. Once, a CEO asked me, “How do I get them to do what I want them to do?”

The short answer: you don’t.

A healthy team, just like a healthy community, requires no leveraging to act. It requires no policing. A team is a not a “thing.” A team is a relationship and just like a sports team or a theatre troupe, everyone needs to feel safe to really bring their game. They have to know the team cares for them as much as they care for the team. Many years ago, while sitting in a jury pool, the judge asked us, “Why do people resent being called to serve?” A lovely older woman raised her hand and replied, “The government offices are inaccessible and unhelpful when I need information or support. Why should I be happy to serve a system that wants nothing to do with me until it needs my money or someone to sit on a jury.” The rest of the jury pool applauded. When loyalty is a two-way street, teams form naturally. When loyalty is a given, people quite naturally offer their service to something greater than themselves.

There are a few other elementary things necessary for the relationship known as, “team,” like a common story (a common center) and a clear intention, but they are not possible when the metaphoric doors need locks. “Team” is something we are, not something we build or do.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for hard copies.