How Can I Take Care of My Whole Self?

To take care of yourself you need to know yourself. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to find out more about yourself:

  • Intellectually, what information or learning do you need to achieve your goals? How will you get it?
  • Physically, what issues do you need to deal with? How can physical well-being help you deal with stress and stay flexible during times of change? Spiritual well-being means organized religion for some people. For others, it is being connected to the big picture in life, to nature and to noticing things, large and small, which allow us to experience the joy of being alive.
  • Emotionally, what issues do you need to deal with? Emotional well-being is grounded in having positive feelings and being able to release painful emotion.
  • Can you connect with others? Relationship well-being means building strong connections, which is a fundamental need for all humans. We need to connect with others, including friends, family and colleagues. We need to share our thinking in intelligent interchange with others and to know that another intelligent person is hearing us.

Set Short-Term Goals from a Long-Term Perspective

When realistically connected to a wide context and to our deepest motivations, goals express a vision of what we really want and lay out a plan for getting there. Goals help organize both thinking and action and provide a way to make rational decisions as situations change along the way. Setting goals is powerful. It is a way to deliberately shape our future.

STEP ONE. Look at your dreams at all levels, focusing on your biggest, longest-term dreams with the largest impact. Attempting to accomplish anything is difficult, no matter the size of the goal. Attempting something big will ensure that we achieve the goal. And more things often happen while we are on the road to achieving that goal.

STEP TWO. Look at intermediate goals. What needs to happen in the next 5-to-20 years for you to realize your dreams? What key issues and group of people do you want to be involved with?

STEP THREE. Look at immediate next steps over the coming year which will take you closer to your dreams. What needs to happen for you to realize your dreams: next year, next month, next week, tomorrow?

STEP FOUR. Taking leadership enables us to make our dreams come true. Seeing to it that things are right for everyone, then moving groups and individuals forward, shows how we care about people and the world around us. Which groups do you want to work with?

STEP FIVE. Set up support systems that will ensure you can carry out both short- and long-term goals. This means committing to activities and relationships that support you in every aspect of your life.

Make  Goals Chart

A goals chart can help anyone decide and remember the direction they want to go in. Create a grid with six sections along the top and six along the left side. Along the left side, list these six areas: for myself, for my family, for my community, for humankind, for all living things, for the universe. Along the top, list these six timeframes: next week, next month, in 1 year, in 5 years, in 20 years, for all time.

Next Week Next Month In 1 Year In 5 Years In 20 Years For All Time
For Myself
For My Family
For My Community
For Humankind
For Living Things
For the Universe

Goals created within this framework can be thought of as ever-widening circles, starting in the center with yourself. Then, goals for your family, your groups, your community. And then goals for the wider groups of which you are a part: all people, all living beings, and the universe.

Goals set this way are also expansive in time. Goal-setting is too often limited to the immediate future—tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. By looking beyond next year, toward years and decades of our lifetime and toward the next generations, short-term goals are better grounded and put into perspective. This can make them easier to accomplish.

Chart adapted from Fundamentals of Co-Counseling Manual, 3rd revised edition,
by Personal Counselors, Inc. (Seattle, WA: Rational Island Publishers, 2001)

What Kind of Superhero are You?

We love watching the adventures of superheroes — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman. They inspire us to change the world, to do the right thing, to save the day, to make things work again.

Superheroes didn’t ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’ They had a job to do, a mission to accomplish and they approached it with absolute conviction and focus.

What kind of superhero are you?

I know a few Superheroes. One colleague is great at identifying issues. She is Scanner, looking at a situation and helping people to identify where they are stuck. Another colleague is Transformer – enabling people to grow and reach their full potential.

What are your special gifts? What would it take for you to reach your full potential as a Superhero? What next step can you take today?

Which Movies Have Leadership Lessons?

Movies can be such compelling leadership stories in action. I find that movies and fiction can help me develop empathy with and deeper understanding of others. They allow me to enter deeply into awareness of another.

Some of my favorite movies have lessons for leaders. Some of the lessons are best practices. Some are cautionary tales about what not to do and what doesn’t work. Here are some of my favorites:

Apollo 13—(1995, director: Ron Howard). In 1970 NASA Mission Control works feverishly to bring three astronauts back to Earth alive after there is an explosion aboard the Apollo 13 spacecraft on its journey to the moon. A true story about the resourcefulness and creativity of a team under pressure. Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) leads the team of astronauts through the crisis. The crucial line: When someone in ground control says, “This could be our greatest failure”, the head of ground control (Ed Harris) corrects him and says, “I beg to differ. This could be our greatest triumph.” A gripping re-creation of a tragedy averted.

Big—(1988, director: Penny Marshall). A 13-year old boy gets his wish to grow “big” and is magically transformed into a 30-year-old (Tom Hanks), but inside he’s still a teenager. Now working in a toy company, he attends a meeting where managers make uninspiring presentations about a new product. As the group is about to approve it, Hanks asks: “What’s fun about that?” The lesson for business: Enable people to be authentic and run meetings which are not full of groupthink. (Groupthink is a concept identified by Irving Janus, where groups tend to focus on harmony in a decision-making group, minimizing conflict and reaching a consensus decision that is unrealistic because they haven’t made a critical evaluation of different ideas or views.)

The Candidate — (1972, director: Michael Ritchie). A young California lawyer (Robert Redford) is persuaded to run for senator. He struggles with whether it is more important to hold to principles (but lose battles) or to influence and persuade others (but be seen by some as “selling out.”) In succeeding, he alienates supporters and is vague about his real opinions.

The Godfather — (1972; Part II 1974; Part III 1990; director: Francis Ford Coppola). The immorality of this trilogy lies in the depiction of mobsters as family men. Vito Corleone practices a management approach of command and control. He builds paternal relationships. Sonny Corleone persistently employs a win-lose war of total destruction in which brute force is on his side. He builds relationships based on raw power and control. Michael Corleone attempts to become a legitimate businessman. He creates new market structures, going global and acting like a multi-national corporation, transforming the way business is done. He builds partnerships across diverse lines. In focusing on tasks he loses important relationships. Sonny and Michael pay an awful price for power.

Ikiru—(1952, director: Akira Kurosawa; in Japanese). Ikiru means “to live.” A low-level bureaucrat discovers he is dying of cancer. He searches for relationships and meaning. This is solemn, plain and everyday, but the realism is acutely conveyed by the performance of Takashi Shimura and the empathy of director Kurosawa. Absolutely authentic.

Invictus—(2009, director: Clint Eastwood). Nelson Mandela, newly elected as South Africa’s president, uses subtle and intricate leadership to bring about racial reconciliation between blacks and whites. François Pienaar, white captain of South Africa’s Springboks rugby team (at the outset a symbol of apartheid), is persuaded by Mandela to lead his initially unwilling teammates through a transformation to become leaders in racial understanding—and on to athletic triumph in the World Cup. Moving.

Jerry Maguire—(1996, director: Cameron Crowe). A successful sports agent loses his job in an idealistic moment. He becomes more ‘human’ through learning to care for others. Worker-as-shark versus worker-as-good-guy.

Shackleton—(2002, director: Charles Sturridge). Kenneth Branagh stars as the explorer during the 1914 journey in the Endurance to the South Pole. After their ship is destroyed in the pack ice, Shackleton heroically leads his 28-man team to safety, keeping them motivated and hopeful during their long struggle.

True Blue— (1996, director: Ferdinand Fairfax), retitled Miracle at Oxford for the US DVD. It follows the 1987 Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. Will the boat race change from being a gentleman’s contest to one where winning is everything? Coaches and rowers struggle for influence in the months prior to the race. Will the team be able to work together or will prima donnas break it up?

Twelve Angry Men—(1957, director: Sidney Lumet). And the Russian version, 12—(2007, director: Nikita Mikhalkov, in Russian). These films are intense dramas which demonstrate the dangers of groupthink. A murder case jury is about to vote the defendant guilty. One doubting juror takes a brave position against the majority in search of truth and justice. A classic.

The Wages of Fear—(1953, director: Henri-Georges Clouzot). Drivers are offered big money to take nitro-glycerin into the jungles of Central America to put out an oil well fire. How far will they go for money? Greatly suspenseful, a classic.

Do you have favorites you would like to share? Particularly movies that are not in English. Please let me know and I’ll share the best in another blog.

How Can I Overcome Panic Attacks?

Frank Lee had recently been promoted to VP of Greater China in The Thompson Enterprises. He had always been nervous about speaking in front of groups but, after the promotion, that nervousness grew into panic attacks. His heart pounded in his chest and his voice shook for the first five minutes of every presentation. After a day in which he had to interrupt his speech to the regional leaders and step out of the room to calm himself, he called his Thinking Partner.

Frank knew that public speaking is rated as something many people fear, sometimes more than death. But with his Thinking Partner, he talked also about personal experiences. He remembered that in elementary school when he was learning to read, the teacher asked students to come to the front of the room and read aloud. Frank remembered scrambling the words and being scolded by the teacher. He felt humiliated. Now he knows that he scrambles words because he has a mild form of dyslexia.

After recognizing some episodes in the past that had taught him to fear public speaking, Frank explored various options for changing his experience in the present and his Thinking Partner encouraged him with insightful questions. He found himself laughing with his Thinking Partner about some of his old fears and talked about how he could shift his attention away from fear during presentations. He considered his skills as a speaker, recognizing what he did well that had earned him the promotion. He also realized that he needed to think more about his audience. What did his audiences need to know? Why was he asked to speak? What did he appreciate about the audiences, and how could he connect more with these people?

What is a Thinking Partner?

Listening openly and genuinely to others is a practice that effective leaders often develop to a fine art. Being listened to themselves—confidentially, appropriately, and regularly—is sometimes harder. Busy leaders may feel they have neither time nor opportunity to cultivate a relationship focused on listening. It is often worthwhile for leaders in this position to find what I call a Thinking Partner, even if they need to hire a coach to fill this role. It must be a two-way relationship, with each person giving time to listen to the other.

An effective Thinking Partner is someone who:

  • Gives full attention to the person who is speaking.
  • Does not give advice or helpful hints (or does so sparingly).
  • Does not interrupt or ask questions to satisfy their own curiosity.
  • Asks insightful questions. These are questions that enable the speaker to think about his or her situation from different angles in order to understand issues more deeply. Insightful questions enable the speaker to think more broadly and creatively about possible courses of action.
  • Listens with appreciation. A Thinking Partner notices where the speaker is well functioning and fully capable. He/she values the speaker and often expresses this verbally. Even if the speaker is struggling in some areas of life, every success the speaker achieves is acknowledged and appreciated.
  • Allows the speaking partner to release stress. When people get appreciative, thoughtful attention, they sometimes laugh from embarrassment, sweat from fear, shake from nervousness, or even cry from sadness. Release of stress is part of natural healing and occurs when a person feels safe and well listened to.
  • Respects confidentiality. Respect, caring and the keeping of confidences are the foundation for trust.
  • Sometimes the Thinking Partner is outside the organization–a business colleague, a former classmate who can understand your situation, a person in a business or professional group.

How Do I Cultivate the Practice of Listening? (Part 2)

One-on-one meetings are valuable for getting to know one another. Dealing face-to-face with an individual brings very different dynamics into play than emailing or talking by phone or on a telecon. One-on-one, each person deals with the reality of a complex person and allows their own complexity to interact with the other. Each person sees many aspects of the other.

Leaders who understand the value of relationships can find ways to spend uninterrupted time with people they want to mentor or just get to know better.

  • Get together at breaks or mealtimes. Eating together is an important form of connection. Very few Asian employees are found eating lunch at the desk. They may eat breakfast or snacks while working, but lunch is the time to eat freshly made, warm food and connect with people.
  • Talk regularly with someone about things that matter to both of you. A leader can build relationships by talking and listening with another about things each person thinks are important. In such conversations, there is the sense that each person gets equal time. Share with one another around questions like:
    • What is your life like? What do you love about work? What are you doing well?
    • What is challenging? What was your greatest challenge and how did you meet it?
    • What are your greatest hopes and dreams? For yourself? For family? At work? For the community? For our planet?
    • Share about feelings, such as frustration or anxiety or feeling overwhelmed.
    • Share and delight in each other’s successes.

People can be encouraged to share further if you say “Tell me more” or ask “Why?” three or four times. This often leads people into expressing their deepest reasons for doing things.

Close relationships and feeling connected are the foundation of positive and productive workplaces. Many Western ideas about “professionalism” keep people in an organization separate. Yet organizational leaders hope their colleagues will support one another for the common good. When leaders learn to listen and encourage others to do the same, the power of connection and relationship can grow.

What Kind of Teambuilding Activities Work Best?

I don’t support “fun and games” team-building, the kind involving rope courses, outdoor activities and cooking together. Instead, I encourage leaders to provide a more supportive atmosphere at work, enable better team communication and offer flexible ways of working…every day, not just on designated team-building “fun days”.

I only deal with results-driven team development / team coaching programs, which, in my experience, do work. And I suggest that for fun groups go out for a meal, go bowling, hike or sing karaoke.

A recent survey carried out by Vodafone UK and YouGov polling more than 1,000 British employees found that over half didn’t think that having more ‘teambuilding sessions’ would help them work better with their colleagues. Instead, people placed more value on working in open, collaborative and flexible ways, each and every day. More and better communication between team members and with the team as a whole makes a difference. It’s a matter of getting the basics right.

Social events that were most effective were going out for a drink or a meal. That way people get to know one another well, building trust by relaxing together and seeing each other in a well-rounded way.

The survey also found that employees want to be able to work smarter. That means easier access to customers, colleagues and information, as well as development of skills that help them work better. The survey was reported in UK newspaper The Telegraph’s 7 April 2012 edition.

How Can I Deal With Ever Greater Challenges in the Organization?

When faced with complex issues in the organization, leaders sometimes feel they are wrestling with multiple problems alone, and this is hard. But leaders who recognize that they are connected to others know they do not have to work everything out by themselves. Confronting large (and even small) issues in the organization, they have allies.

Effective leaders are never alone. Leaders can build many close, elegant relationships at work. Those who take the time to build them know they can always ask for help. Leaders who cultivate strong relationships can talk and work with others to create fresh approaches to challenging tasks.

When people get discouraged they often feel powerless and isolated. These feelings are rooted in old patterns learned early in life. As adults, people in organizations are seldom truly alone and without power. Think of the relationships you have in your organization, with people who are good sounding boards and fellow travelers on the journey.

Why Don’t Western Interventions Work in Asia?

Western management and people-development practices often don’t work well in Asia. There are a number of areas to modify to fit better with local cultural practices and behavior when working in East Asia. I’ve outlined some generic areas for consideration. It’s also important to look at country-specific norms. Each country is different and each individual is also different.

  • Religion — Spiritual beliefs are central to the ways of doing things in many parts of Asia.
  • Pace of change – Slower in Asia. More time is needed to get people aligned.
  • Family – The family unit is the primary unit. The extended family, the clan, the language or dialect group are all important. Effective managers know about the personal lives of their team members and help each person to be successful in family life.
  • Learning style – More rote learning than ‘creative learning.’ In China, Japan and Korea, learning how to read and write characters inculcated a mastery of technical aspects prior to creativity.
  • Business, economic and political environment – Extremely varied in Asia. Each country is different and often localities are also different.


  • Collective – the group is more important than the individual. People norm to the group. Transformative potential is in the group.
  • Hierarchy – Seniors and elders are respected and their face is the face of the group. Seniors are expected to take care of juniors. Juniors norm to the views of seniors. Managers find it harder to ‘empower’ people and tend to want things to be done their way. Titles are important symbols and give people face.
  • Relationship orientation – People form relationships and through them accomplish tasks. Establishing group networks and reinforcing a sense of belonging to groups (the workgroup, a factory, alumni groups) motivates people. Position people when they are new to roles or are being introduced. Building trusting relationships is the foundation for success.
  • Consensus and harmony – it’s important for everyone to give input, understand and then norm to the prevailing view.
  • Face – give and maintain face. Find alternatives so that people can decline without saying ‘no.’ Don’t put anybody in a position where they might be in the wrong or look foolish in front of others.

Interventions that work, from projects to retention practices to learning and development initiatives, tend to take Asian values into account.