Category Archives: Articles

Sustainable Momentum Requires the Big Why

You started out with an unimaginably exciting idea, made a plan that you’ve started, and now you’re down in the trenches. It’s not flowing as easily as you had hoped, and some days it’s not even fun anymore.

What happened?

Any new venture involves six basic stages of development: imagining, clarifying, aligning, planning, executing and adapting.

Understanding this sequence is important, but it all gets rather dry without the inspiration of your Big Why. Why are you called to invest time, energy and money in this new idea, this new venture, this new solution to big challenges you are ready to face?

Are you letting yourself be guided by small why’s or your Big Why?

Glowing question mark with sparks

Small why’s come from survival needs and the wound-driven phase of our lives. There is nothing wrong with small why’s; they serve a very important function. When we were young we learned certain strategies to please our caregivers and make it to adulthood. For example, you may work really long hours to please the inner critic who worried that you never did things well enough to please Dad, which gave you the discipline you needed to succeed in business.

However, since small why’s are always old why’s, they can get dry as toast when navigating something more difficult than you’ve faced before. And if you consider yourself a changemaker, you’ll be tackling challenges no one has solved before!

That’s why you need to know and stay in touch with your Big Why, in order to stay inspired long enough to make a difference in the world.

Your Big Why is your passionate purpose, something that calls you from deep within.

How do you stay in contact with your passionate purpose?

The simplest way is to write it down and post it where you can see it every day where you work. For example, “My purpose is to inspire others to awaken through creative self-expression.” or “My mission is to help develop sustainable energy sources for the world.”

Yet even that, a statement or three on a piece of paper, can get stale, because it is not dynamically alive the way you are.

The best way to stay in touch with your Big Why is to grow an ongoing two-way relationship with your own inner guidance. This allows you to have an evolving understanding of your purpose as well as clarity on the best path for executing it.

Don’t let yourself get so caught up in the “getting-it-done” part of social entrepreneurship that you lose sight of why it matters to you.

A healthy relationship with your inner wisdom requires the same kind of time and attention as any relationship.  It could happen through meditating, journaling, or contemplating in nature. The most important element is commitment to regular contact, and the structures and possible instruction that will allow you the most effective means of making contact.

What steps do you need to take to sustain your connection with your passionate purpose?

It’s April, Let’s JAM (Jazz Appreciation Month)

If it is April, it must be Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM)! Even though I cannot read music, carry a tune, or have rhythm – this has not diminished my love for Jazz, or music in general. Frank Barrett, a professor of management at the Naval Postgraduate School in California – who is also a jazz pianist, believes change agents can learn a lot from Jazz such as the art of improvisation, continuous learning, and permission to experiment. (You can read Forbes’ article, Leadership Lessons From the Geniuses of Jazz where Barrett bridges Jazz to leadership).

Barrett’s phrase, “say yes to the mess” rings true for many trainers, consultants and facilitators I know. No intervention is every the same. Connecting Appreciative Inquiry to Jazz has been a learning journey for me. It really is a case of being curious and open that began my journey into the connection between Jazz, Appreciative Inquiry and Leadership.  What I have learned is the connection goes far beyond. We can look at parenting, teachers, police officers and being human and see that the threads of Jazz are woven into life.  In fact, one of our Certified AI Facilitators wrote an outstanding article Cooking, Jazz and the Art of Improvisation 

This quote by the great Herbie Hancock brings it all together for me “The spirit of Jazz is the spirit of openness.”  We are living Jazz “When we are open, truly open that we are nurturing spontaneity, creativity, experimentation, and dynamic synchronization.” Frank Barrett so clearly makes the connection and presents a call for leadership in another article, this time in Fast Company titled, If Miles Davis Taught Your Office to Improvise.

You can find out more about JAM at the Smithsonian Website.

A Lesson to Be Learned from Canadian Geese

This morning, a rather warm morning  I stepped out of doors to run an errand.  Upon leaving the building I heard a familiar sound.  The sound emanated from a flock of Canadian Geese,  flying rather low, headed South. The call of the Canadian Geese was very familiar as I was reminded of my experiences while working or visiting my Aunt and Uncle on their working ranch.  It was a beautiful sight and a treat to hear their call or honk.

Did you know that a flock of Canadian Geese will fly, at times,  1,500 miles in a twenty-four hour time period.  A Canadian Goose is a social bird remaining in their flock throughout the year.   The V formation while in flight is well known.  There is a lead “honker” with the others following or drafting behind.  Eventually, the honker flying “point” will wait for the others to pass him falling to last in line for a rest.

I pictured this as a metaphor,  an example of  a strong social behavior, teamwork,  flying  in formation with the intent of not only drafting but disciplined in supporting the flock.   How often do we as individuals or organizations practice this type of behavior?  A behavior that is supportive, organized and disciplined in the best interest of the flock.

We as beings can do the same.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign, each October to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?”  We are proud to support this campaign. Learn more at www.dol.gov/odep/

Company of Experts had the distinct honor of working with Disability Rights Nebraska for the past few years.  Working with DRN has been a personal highlight for us. An outstanding organization who have a deep love and commitment to creating a just and equal community. We have so much to celebrate as our communities have changed for the good over the years in structure, processes and culture through awareness.  This is from the DRN Website:

Our vision for the future is clear: All people with mental or physical disabilities are valued in their community, have control over their own lives, and have the necessary resources to live a life of quality.

That vision is captured in three words: dignity, equality and empowerment.

We start the first year of our new Five Year Strategic Plan this coming year. Our strategic plan was developed using a process called Appreciative Inquiry.

Appreciative Inquiry grounded by: 1) What you see, you find more of – the more positive and inspiring the strategy development, the more innovative ideas will be created and possibilities that can be explored, and 2) People commit to what they help create – the more participative the plan development, the more committed people will be to the success of the plan.

The process was focused on what our organization would look like if it were designed to maximize and preserve the themes lifted from those we interviewed – our internal partners and external allies.

Six priority areas emerged that captured the possibility of hope that was discovered from the interviews. These priority areas will be the framework for our efforts during the next five years:

  • Protecting and Advocating for Human and Legal Rights

Seeking justice for people with disabilities; ensuring safety, personal integrity, self-determination

  • Leading Change within the Community

Working with people with disabilities to create meaningful, authentic inclusion in communities of choice

  • Empowering Others to Achieve Full Participation

Always mindful of the motto: “Nothing about us without us”; really listening to others, acting with compassion, and building trusting relationships; supporting people’s hopes, dreams and things not yet imagine

  • Building Relationships in the Community

Maintaining our integrity through respectful, honest communication and teamwork; valuing connections with community partners

  • Valuing and Appreciating Diversity

Respecting the strength of difference and diversity Valuing the energy, creativity and enthusiasm others bring to achieving our shared vision

  • Cultivating Opportunities

Engaging in potent, relevant, effective, and expansive advocacy

 From the DRN website: http://www.disabilityrightsnebraska.org/about_us/strategicplan.html

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Last October I shared in this newsletter “This will be the first time I will say “yes” on any a family medical history when asked about Breast Cancer. My sister was diagnosed with Breast cancer this year”. Update: Still cancer free, my sister is thriving. Our family is appreciative for the early detection and treatment that contributes to her continued health.  We cannot be more grateful to those who have contributed in the past and encourage you to visit the Breast Cancer Awareness site and see how you might join in any way possible to raise awareness. Most importantly outreach about the importance of early detection to those in your life. To learn more:  http://www.nbcam.org/

School District Engages 4,300 in Creating Future Through Appreciative Inquiry

The Macon Miracle initiative to be shared during global AI conference

Participants at the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAIC) will have the opportunity to learn about the largest known face-to-face Appreciative Inquiry summit held in a school district in Macon, Georgia.

Called the Macon Miracle, the Bibb County School District used Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to bring together 4,300 people in creating its strategic plan.

Dr. Romain Dallemand, superintendent of the district, championed the effort. He was hired in February, 2011, and wanted to design a new educational system with the community’s collaborative efforts.

The strategic plan was intended to guide change and improvements for the next five years. These changes are centred on ensuring all children receive high-quality education to prepare them to be competitive and successful in a global economy.

Judy Godfrey, Bibb County School District director of professional learning, was involved with the whole process and says she was “totally” new to AI.

The first thing she noticed about the strengths-based approach to organizational development was how it helped ensure communication was thorough and timely, she says, which is an important part of any change initiative. Read Full Article>>

Join the Conversation: AI in Schools

Our proposal for the 2012 WAIC was accepted. Next stop, Belgium. 

The Center for Appreciative Inquiry, a branch of the Company of Experts, is pleased to announce that its proposal, “The Macon Miracle: Connecting Strengths, Reinventing Education, and Helping Children Flourish”, was accepted for the 2012 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in Ghent, Belgium.

This year’s World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAIC) emphasizes Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as “a theory and practice of connecting people and generating new possibilities”. In 2011, we had the opportunity to work with Bibb County School District in Macon, Georgia. The Macon Centreplax Arena was filled to near capacity with almost 4,500 people in attendance. Participants consisted of internal and external stakeholders, such as: teachers, janitorial staff, bus divers, parents, community members, and city and state officials. This is the largest AI Summit to date!

Superintendent Dr. Romain Dallemand’s mission was to design a new educational system with the collaborative efforts of the community at large. “Our District and community must decide where it wants to be 20 and 50 years from now, and that journey begins with building a new education system that meets the need of all children,” says Dr. Dallemand. “The new system will be built with the engagement of our entire community because that is the only way in which it will be successful.”

Using Appreciative Inquiry as our tool, we facilitated large and small group sessions to discuss the future of the District and community, as well as to begin identifying the goals, ideas, and strategies that would define “The Macon Miracle.” Our workshop proposal for WAIC noted that workshop participants will learn how the large-scale summit was organized, what emerged from the two days, and where the school district is headed next. In addition, workshop participants will engage in conversation around AI and strength-based schools, positive school culture, and innovative practices in teaching and learning from around the world. We invite those attending to join us in these exciting discussions.

We will keep you updated on the time and location of our presentation as details unfold.

Learn more about the ‘Macon Miracle’:
Visit the Macon Miracle landing page.
View videos from the Core Team and Summit here.
View pictures from Day 1 Summit here.
View pictures from Day 2 Summit here.

Average is Over

Source: New York Times
January 24, 2012

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.
Read Full Article>>

Your Resume Versus Oblivion

Source: Wall Street Journal
January 24, 2012

Many job seekers have long suspected their online employment applications disappear into a black hole, never to be seen again. Their fears may not be far off the mark, as more companies rely on technology to winnow out less-qualified candidates.

Recruiters and hiring managers are overwhelmed by the volume of résumés pouring in, thanks to the weak job market and new tools that let applicants apply for a job with as little as one mouse click. The professional networking website LinkedIn recently introduced an “apply now” button on its job postings that sends the data in a job seeker’s profile directly to a potential employer.
Read Full Article>>

The Price is Right – Or Is It?

Source: Inc.com
January 23, 2012

Setting the right price for products and services is often one of the more challenging decisions any business faces. Price too low and you can leave significant profits on the table. Price too high and you may see declining sales as your most price-sensitive customers desert you. There are pitfalls on either side of the narrow line on pricing.
Read Full Article>>