Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Finding your calling (cont): Taking on your heart-break


Ask, “What does the world need from us now?”


Excerpted from Great Work

That said, how your calling manifests in the world tends to change over time. The world changes and what it needs from you will change as well. At least once a decade, Marsha and I had to reinvent our business. It would usually take a year or more to explore the question, What does the world need from us now? For a decade we tried to make workplaces more humane through empowerment and organizational democracy methods like self-directed work teams, but we could see that trend waning and I got the sustainability ‘bug.’ So we switched to sustainability for the next decade, until we realized they were really two sides of the same coin. Empowerment was social sustainability inside an organization. I had been working on sustainability all along; I just didn’t know it.

If I look at the mass I will never act.
If I look at the one, I will.

—Mother Teresa, Saint and the founder of the

Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor



In 2013, after over 23 years in business, I felt as if sustainability in organizations had reached a tipping point. The Wall Street Journal was talking about it; the largest businesses in the world were pursuing sustainability at least to the extent of publishing sustainability reports. They were now pushing on their suppliers. Research was showing that companies focusing on sustainability had better stock prices. The traditional interests in profits were aligning with the needs of the world. It was time to find another leverage point in the system.

So now I’m focusing on getting sustainability embedded into the school system, a field called Education for Sustainability. Again, I had to struggle with my role. I wasn’t a schoolteacher; I didn’t even have my own children. I wasn’t well positioned to influence the public school system. But after a year of poking around, I have found a way. So now I’m onto Sustainability Calling 3.0 after gathering around me compatriots who fill in my weaknesses.

So this is what it may be for you. Find something you care deeply about and poke around until you find your role in solving that problem. I promise you, it’s there.



We [the Chinese] would be outraged if people were killing our pandas,
we should be just as upset with
what’s happening to rhinos and elephants in Africa.

—Yao Ming, former basketball star,

now WildAid Ambassador fighting poaching[i]



You don’t have to be an adult to do this inner work. Angela Maiers, educator and founder of the burgeoning Choose2Matter movement, has her students map their “heart-break.” She instructs them:

Do not follow your heart to find your passion and purpose. Instead follow your heartbreak . . . Finding your passion; surrendering to your heartbreak is really about finding what really moves you.[ii]

This thinking has led to a string of inspiring stories about children that have been highlighted in such media as NBC Nightly News and Parenting Magazine:


  • Christian Golczynski, a teenager still grieving the loss of his father during the Iraq war, started A Soldier’s Child Foundation that gives out holiday and birthday gifts to other children who lost parents during active duty.[iii]
  • Vanessa Segaline, while a Girl Scout, started a food bank for pets.
  • Ten-year-old Abigail Lupi discovered many elderly in nursing homes don’t get visitors so she serenades them with her lovely voice.[iv]
  • And of course, Malala Yousafzai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17, puts her life on the line to support the rights of Pakistani girls, and then of all children around the world, to go to school.



If kids can take on their ‘heart-break’ and make a difference, perhaps more of us grown-ups should too.




[i] Ming, Yao (4 September 2012) Yao Ming Blog: Yao’s Journey to Africa. WildAid. Retrieved from http://yaomingblog.com/



[ii] Davis, Vicki (November 11, 2014) “Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers” Edutopia.



[iii] NBC Nightly News () Making a difference. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40153870/#53886439



[iv] Cooper, Andrea (n.d.) “8 Amazing Kids Who Make a Difference. Parenting Magazine. http://www.parenting.com/gallery/kids-who-make-difference

Friday, August 7, 2015

The most common mistake managers make when forming a team

Vagueness isn't empowerment 

[This is excerpted from Great Work

Freedigitalphoto.net stock photo
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen managers form a team without a clear understanding of what they are asking for. Out of ignorance or laziness, they ask for recommendations, not decisions. And because they weren’t clear at the outset about the criteria their recommendations should meet, the teams spend hours going down rabbit holes and then when they present their best ideas to the manager, the manager says, ‘You can’t do that!’ It’s no wonder employees tend to be suspicious of these teams.
The solution to this is for the manager (or group that is chartering the team) to spend a significant amount of time beforehand, clarifying what they need and expect. Some managers think that this is disempowering, but it is exactly the opposite. Constraints promote creativity. Clear boundaries promote innovation. 

Answer these questions before launching any new team

When I facilitated this Team Launch process with managers, I would ask them to set aside four hours. They were always shocked that I would ask for that much time but usually at the end, they would be surprised to see how little they understood about the task they were requesting.
Answer these questions in this order:

Why: Why are you forming this team? What’s in it for the organization and for the members themselves?

What: What do you need them to do? What would success look like? Create a set of boundary conditions; if they come up with a solution that fits inside that ‘box,’ that they can decide, not just recommend.

Who: Who needs to be on the team for this to be successful? Don’t forget to think of people outside the organization. If this is a one-off project, it may be wise to hire a facilitator who has a process for completing this work.

When and Where: What are milestones and deadlines when they should communicate with you. Is this during work hours? What is the scope of the work (eg, just your building or the whole division)? Where can they meet?

How: What tools or resources are available to them? Do you have a set of steps or a process that you would like them to follow? 

Probably the most important element of this whole process is the boundary conditions. The team will then know what they have the power to decide and what they need to ask for permission to do.
Once you have these answers in writing, call the first team meeting and go over them with the team members. So often, I’ve heard team members say, ‘This was great! We should start all new teams this way.’