Author Archives: Alexandra Levin
Author Archives: Alexandra Levin
“Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.”
– Abraham Lincoln
What are you REALLY committed to?
A clue to answering this question can come from seeing what you are experiencing in life. A wise man once said “If you want to know what you are committed to, look at what you’ve got.”
Are you more committed to being right than having fulfilling relationships? Are you more committed to looking good than trying things on and being willing to fail? Are you more committed to being in control than having an empowered and inspired team?
Of course, we proclaim that we are committed to all the “good stuff.” But do our actions and results validate and support that claim?
As leaders, it’s always a good idea to review and revisit our commitments. Even a better idea to look under the covers of what we say on the surface.
In revisiting your commitments, here is a great one to consider. Are you committed to creating and leading a conscious organization? And, are you willing to have your actions support this commitment, even if it gets uncomfortable, outside your comfort zone, and unpredictable?
I recently discussed this particular subject with Sharon Rich of ThinkBusinessGrowth. I’ll share with you a few highlights from our conversation.
One way to significantly impact your organization’s leadership consciousness is to become genuinely and wondrously curious about each leader’s vision for the future, their authenticity as a leader, their role (vs. title or position) in the organization, and their relationship with the leadership team as a whole and the people they are leading.
A disconnect between what the leader says they are committed to and the level of consciousness actually expressed in the organization is common. Good intentions, talent, and hard work abound, but leaders have limited awareness of their impact on others and exactly how to inspire conscious collaboration between individuals to produce results.
Expanding individual consciousness takes intention, effort, and work. Yet, it’s worth it. As leaders expand their awareness and consciousness, it becomes game-changing for them personally…which translates into the impact they have on their teams and the entire organization.
Once the organization makes a commitment to up-leveling consciousness, appropriate challenges arise. Organizational Development leaders often report these types of challenges.
One organization reports working through agreements between the BOD and leadership team, including strategy and alignment around translating the vision into corporate goals. Everyone understands the vision; the question to be answered is, how that vision translates into reality. Yet, this is a higher-level problem coming about only within a consciousness-focused organization.
Being at the gateway of transformation means stepping outside of what we already know, being uncomfortable, not knowing all the answers in advance, and doing things differently than we did before. Who are we as an organization? The space to answer this question begins to open up vs some pre-fab or past-based easy answer. Now, the organization gets to write their own story in the present. What is it going to be?
You may know of a monumental bestseller “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
In a similar vein, Sharon Rich is bringing out her own book “Your Hidden Game – Eight Invisible Agreements that Control Your Business” (available this Fall). Sharon identifies the eight most important agreements that people in organizations make with each other unconsciously: without any awareness that we’ve made them. Lacking awareness, these agreements unconsciously run our business.
Once we as leaders become aware and start making intentional agreements, our work, our results, and the difference we are making transforms.
Here, Sharon shares three of the eight agreements.
It is time for us as committed and conscious leaders to start letting go of old ways and unconscious agreements. Let’s begin to make intentional agreements about how we work together at each, every and any level.
What agreements and commitments will empower your leadership right now?
Are you in? Yes, these are trained professionals, and yet DO try this at home!
What is a conscious organization? I hear that question all the time.
Merriam-Webster defines “conscious” as “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.”
Therefore, one might extrapolate that same definition to a “conscious organization”, with “oneself” being the whole of the parts.
For ages philosophers have struggled to understand what consciousness really is. Individual consciousness is a hefty enough subject, and when we start to look at organizational consciousness, eyes begin to glaze.
How do you wrap all of that individual consciousness into a bigger whole of consciousness? Well, that question circles back to the idea of consciousness itself being a non-localized phenomena, something expressed through yet bigger than the sum of its outlets.
As described by John Renesch “the Conscious Organization is one that is continually examining itself, committed to becoming as self-aware and responsible as it can at any given time in its life.”
For sure, organizational consciousness means different things to different people. Yet, as we engage in the inquiry as to what it is, ideas and direction begin to form.
I recently had an opportunity to chat with Bryan Ungard from The Decurion Corp. Harvard Business Review published an article in 2014 (see it here) naming The Decurion Corporation a “deliberately developmental organization.”
Bryan brought up what he believes is the pre-requisite of building a conscious organization. In his view, it is making a deliberate choice to come from the mindset that there is no tradeoff in being a high performing organization producing high returns while also being an excellent place to work, committed to providing people a place to flourish.
According to Bryan, flourishing includes several aspects.
The Decurion Corporation is a rare organization where doing intense and deep personal work – that means work on the whole of the person, not just their job – is not only encouraged but required.
We all have opinions on how the world works – based on our individual wisdom and life experiences. And yet, those views and opinions are based on our perceptions, not “the truth.” Letting go of the way we think the world works, old ways of being in how we interact with people, and old ways of taking action to produce results can be very challenging…and there’s no way of knowing that you will succeed. And yet, that is the only path to real growth.
At the Decurion Corporation, daily activities of getting work done are used as a “training ground” to create consciousness. The idea is to have the entire organization operate on the foundation of mindfulness, consciousness and being present, and thus to enable the individuals in the workplace to do the same.
What if we take that one piece of advice and make it inherent in how we lead? My bet is that this alone is sure to set us on the course to produce some truly amazing results, and thereby building truly amazing – and conscious – organizations.
What if development of people became our organizational raison d’être?
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
What is the purpose of business?
Milton Friedman, a Nobel-prize winning economist, wrote that the purpose of business is maximizing profit for the shareholders.
Peter F. Drucker said that “the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer” and “the purpose of an organization is to enable common men to do uncommon things.”
Blaine Bartlett, bestselling author of “Compassionate Capitalism” says that “the purpose of business is to uplift the quality of life on this planet.”
This is my personal favorite:
“Business is where you practice your human skills. It’s where you grow.” Andrew Cherng, Co-Founder and Visionary, Panda Restaurant Group, Forbes’ 2015 America’s Best Employer.
Part of Panda’s expressed mission is “becoming a world leader in people development.” According to Vipul H. Shah, Regional Director of Operations at Panda Restaurant Group, “Panda exists to better the lives of people, and we build an organization to allow that to happen. How we do this is selling American Chinese food.”
Andrew Cherng has more to say about that: “I’m talking about everyone who works at Panda. They’re inspired to better their own lives. We’re not really selling Chinese food, you know. Our real purpose is about developing people. You have to grow! You grow as a person, and then you will grow in business.”
Why would we, as leaders and visionaries in Conscious Organizations, want to make development of people our raison d’être?
8 Why’s To Have People Development as Priority 1:
This sounds like an organization I want to be a part of!
Bottom line is this: if we make development of people the purpose of our business, all other purposes fall into place:
How could this apply to your organization?
Let’s say you are an enlightened leader and I just proclaimed my undying commitment to Organizational Development and Conscious Organizations.
(Who knows, it could happen.)
As I dive into the OD world, question upon question arises. I resolve one, and two more show up.
Here is today’s sample of OD dilemmas you might be dealing with:
If you are looking for “THE ANSWER” to these questions, it does not exist.
Yes, that’s right – lots of questions and no ready solution. The appropriate answers will be somewhat different for every organization.
If you are looking for an answer, you’re out of luck.
But if you approach the very process of inquiry with a sense of curiosity and wonder, it may provide the needed awareness upon which your individual organization’s answers can be built.
Here are some insights from Carrington Mortgage Holdings – an organization expressly committed to creating a culture of growth and learning.
According to Claudia E. Mino, VP of Organizational Development, several things make a big difference:
At the end of the day, Claudia says, “For us, it doesn’t matter where you are as a leader. It is our job to help you be successful, and we will do whatever it takes to help you do that.”
Your turn. If you begin your inquiry into the development of a conscious organization where you are – inside of the spirit of curiosity and wonder – what do you see?
The VP sitting in my office is distressed and embarrassed as he is telling me about his recent conversation with a talented engineer. “Dave, this is great news!” I say excitedly, and he stares at me as if I went off the deep end.
My favorite definitions of consciousness are “the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world” and “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.”
Creating organizational consciousness takes practice and the adoption of consciousness-building habits. Here is the first installment of “6 Habits of Conscious Organizations” to support you in creating conscious work environments.
First things first, and that means awareness.
Why was I so excited by Dave’s statement you ask? Consciousness begins with awareness. Awareness leads to taking appropriate actions as illuminated by the newly found awareness.
Dave (a highly gifted engineer himself) was widely known to be rude and offensive at the office, without realizing the pervasiveness of his behavior or its impact on others. Once he became aware – and able to see himself “being a jerk” – changing his behavior became a much easier task.
John Renesch defines conscious organization as “one that is continually examining itself, committed to becoming as self-aware and responsible as it can at any given time in its life. Becoming conscious is becoming aware of something, then acting responsibly in light of the new awareness.”
According to Thomas Merton, “compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.”
When I am making choices grounded in the awareness that we are all connected, the impact of my business decisions moves beyond the shareholders, stakeholders, customers, suppliers, or employees. I start looking at it from the holistic point of view – what is the impact of my choices on my community and the world.
Blaine Bartlett, CEO of Avatar Resources Inc., speaks of compassion as the distillery of choices that has the potential to change the nature of how we conduct business.
Compassion is predicated on the notion that everything is connected. So trade-offs – where we make a business decision in favor of a certain stakeholder group at the cost of another stakeholder group – are not an option.
To raise consciousness, we have to alter our way of speaking and communicating so that everybody feels safe to communicate authentically, and everybody gets heard. Once we become truly aware of the differences in peoples’ mindsets, approaches to life and beliefs, we can actually begin to appreciate how similar we are in our deepest needs and desires. Seeing those commonalities allows the development of deep trust and kinship. This enables the kind of authentic and courageous communications which cause conscious leadership and conscious organizations.
In the regular course of business, knowledge transfer does not often happen in organizations. Busy supervisors don’t take the time to create organizations of learning, discovery, and understanding. That’s where mentoring comes in.
Mentoring accelerates and develops cultural assimilation. Through developing ongoing relationships with their mentors, everyone in the organization more fully understands and embraces company values and culture.
As mentors and mentees spend time together, they build a network of strong relationships between people in different segments of the organization…and discover leaders in the organization they can count on for support.
Mentoring provides a unique opportunity for employees to build a bond with senior leaders they otherwise would not have even met, and benefit from their wisdom. This builds alignment, camaraderie, and an experience of common purpose. Both mentors and mentees become more self-aware and better versions of themselves.
Mentoring supports mentors and company leaders to have a finger on the pulse of the organization, and be more connected to the organization as a whole. As we teach, we learn.
Being a victim is not allowed. Neither is being defensive and placing blame. Everyone takes 100% ownership of the situation.
This is my favorite definition of responsibility:
“Responsibility begins with the willingness to take the stand that one is cause in the matter of one’s life. It is … a context from which one chooses to live. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. … Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are.”
— Werner Erhard
A few more words from the wise:
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of…”
— Jim Rohn
“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you.”
— Wayne Dyer
“The price of greatness is responsibility.”
— Winston Churchill
“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility… in the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have… is the ability to take on responsibility.”
— Michael Korda
Working smart increases velocity, produces synergy, and creates exponential growth.
It allows us to move through our day with more focus, awareness, and purpose. See Work Smart. Work Consciously. for ideas for working smart. Try them on and see what fits best.
A few last words about creating conscious organizations.
Claudia E. Mino, Ph.D., VP of Organizational Development at Carrington Mortgage Holdings, notices a strong correlation between the health of the environment you work in and the wellness of people’s personal lives, health of their families, and their general life satisfaction.
A conscious environment absolutely translates into better family life and better personal life. Provide a happy environment so people thrive and you’ll see conversation at home and at happy hour change from complaining to empowering.
That alone, and in turn, translates into more effective, productive, successful, and empowered people producing extraordinary results.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Conscious Leadership causes Conscious Teams. Conscious Teams empower Conscious Leadership.
Together they provide the makings for a truly Conscious Organization, committed to The Back Forty™ organizational future of vision and purpose.
In a truly Conscious Organization, there are no boundaries between leadership and teams.
What then, are the makings of a truly Conscious Team?
Sports provide a wealth of great examples for studying teamwork.
We’ve seen numerous examples of tremendous talent brought together in a sports team, yet they perform poorly.
On the other hand, in 1980 the US Olympic Hockey team made up of amateur and collegiate players defeated the Soviet team, who were considered to be the best hockey team in the world at the time. No one could name the individual players of that team. Why did they win? Clearly, not because the team was made up of stars.
Also, what was missing for the other team, which happened to be made up of big names and famous players?
Your guess is as good as mine…but one thing is clear: getting a group of highly talented people together will not necessarily lead them to produce extraordinary results.
Scientific discoveries about geese flying in V-formation provide many insights into the study of teams.
According to Dr. Robert McNeish:
“Remember: upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”
– Alexander the Great
Here are the 9 most important elements I found that contribute to the formation of Conscious Teams.
What will take to create Conscious Teams right where you are – in your organization, family, and community?
We all talk about working smarter not harder. Working smart is working consciously. Working consciously moves us closer to building a Conscious Organization.
Working smart increases velocity, produces synergy, and creates exponential growth. It allows us to move through our day with more focus, awareness, and purpose.
Here are some ideas for working smart. Try them on and see what fits best.
Our brains can focus for a maximum of 90 minutes at a time. By taking a short break every 90 minutes, we allow our body and mind to rest and refresh. Taking breaks makes us more effective.
According to Steven Covey, “sharpen the saw” means preserving and enhancing you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of our life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Choose one day when you don’t work. Sounds crazy, I know. Do it anyway. Take a day off to relax, refresh, disconnect from the ongoing stream of work, and do the things that bring you joy. It’s good for your soul and mind, and will make you more focused, effective, and productive in the long run.
Spending time in nature allows our mind to fully relax and unwind and helps us focus better when we return to work.
This one is a classic from UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Read it. Make it your own. Find your own meaning. If it does not make sense to you, ponder it until it does.
This is a timeless suggestion from Tom Peters. Make a list of useless tasks, meetings, projects and conversations that you should not waste your time on. Have it with you at all times. Know it by heart. Stick to it.
You can impact the rest of your day by making mindful choices when you first wake up. Your creative mind is at its best in the early hours. Take this time to connect with your soul and create how your day is going to go.
Here are a few of my favorites. Try one or more, or create your own.
When I answer emails while on a conference call while having lunch, I get more done in less time, right?
As soon as I move attention from the conference call to the email, I will miss something important. Or I will hear my name following a question – and I will have missed the question. All while consuming my food without noticing the tastes, flavors and eating way more than I need. (Side note: we eat more when we eat mindlessly without paying attention to our food).
When I am multitasking, I am not actually doing more than one thing at a time. I am diverting my attention between several tasks, therefore not fully focusing on anything, getting distracted from all, and needing more time to do everything.
According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.”
Switching between several tasks wastes time and productivity, because our time and attention are used for the activity of switching gears. In addition, we don’t experience being fully “in the zone” and the amplified results it can bring.
A UCSF study found that multitasking negatively affects short-term, or “working,” memory, which is the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for a period of time. That, in turn, affects our creativity.
Switching from task to task while multitasking does not save time. It actually takes more time. In fact, it reduces productivity by as much as 40% and increases the likelihood of errors.
If you are multitasking between two different things, it will take more time to accomplish both than if you did them one at a time.
All in all, multitasking is a bad idea… unless you are interested in increasing your errors and reducing productivity and creative thinking.
“Instead of looking for a great leader, we are in an era where each of us needs to find the great leader within ourselves.”
– Werner Erhard
How then will you and I find or create a great leader within? What will make you and me great Conscious Leaders committed to the future of Conscious Organizations?
Conscious Leadership comes from an authentic commitment to creating a future for ourselves and others that is both inspiring and tangible.
Leaders don’t dwell in the world of predictability; we look into the future, through the lens of our vision, and create the future we envision. We are self-aware and in tune with our internal world. Being a conscious leader requires passion, commitment, courage, and authenticity.
Conscious Leadership requires overcoming resistance to change and managing our own egos and ambitions so that we inspire and empower those around us toward something bigger than our individual selves.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
– Winston Churchill
According to Burge Smith-Lyons of www.essenceofbeing.com, who teaches The Essence of Courageous Leadership, lifting the veil of filters through which we all live, lead, and approach situations creates awareness that allows for courageous leadership.
To raise consciousness, we have to alter our way of speaking and communicating so that everybody feels safe to communicate authentically, and everybody gets heard. Once we become truly aware of the differences in peoples’ mindsets, approaches to life and beliefs, we can actually begin to appreciate how similar we are in our deepest needs and desires. Seeing those commonalities allows the development of deep trust and kinship. This enables the kind of authentic and courageous communications which cause conscious leadership and organizations.
Burge offers an insightful approach to working consciously within an organization. She says: “I look at an organization as a family – it brings out the same kinds of subconscious beliefs and thoughts that a family does, because we project our family onto everyone we work with. And if you are projecting something onto your boss or direct reports, you are then reacting to your projections, not to the people. So we need to become aware of those subconscious thoughts, and their impact on how we conduct ourselves in a work environment.”
“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”
– Tom Peters
Dee Elliott of www.DECMentoring.com, offers the following acrostic for LEADERSHIP:
What does leadership mean to you, and how will you create your great leader within?
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”
Individual benefits of having a mentor – and being one – are wide-ranging and far-reaching, no matter where you are in your career.
For the organization, these benefits are multiplied:
Through developing ongoing relationships with their mentors, mentees more fully understand and embrace company values and culture.
No one questions the immense value of mentoring.
Why then, given how valuable mentoring is, are we not seeing more and more mentoring happening in the workplace?
Here are three ideas you (or your organization) can implement to start mentoring now.
The right match is key and will establish a “make it or break it” difference. A mentor could be an executive or senior employee at your company. A mentor should be several “levels” up, and someone who is both respected and interested in contributing.
Or, you might find a mentor in your industry but outside your employer, as you meet experts through alumni groups or trade associations.
To be successful, you – the mentee – will need to take full responsibility for the mentoring relationship, including being clear on what you want to accomplish, being willing to learn, and accepting guidance.
I personally learn a great deal from a 20-something I work with very closely – including new technologies, expanding social media audiences and presence, new creative ideas and ways to approach projects, and added awareness of things I did not even know existed. I am also continuously amazed at what my 20-something daughters can do or teach me.
What could having a reverse mentor do for you?
According to Dee Elliott, President of DECMentoring, mentoring programs create organizations of learning, discovery, and understanding. DECMentoring uses proprietary technology to match mentors and mentees who engage in a 9-month mentoring relationship, including one-on-one meetings and group training sessions.
In the process, everyone (the mentee, the mentor, and the organization) become better versions of themselves, while improving awareness, confidence, leadership, listening, communications, and effectiveness.
Everyone needs a mentor. Who will be yours?