The Situation
Once upon a time there was an bright talented young woman. She went to work for a global organization and did very well indeed. She went to work and did her job. Efficient, effective, likable, team-player… the list of stellar adjectives go on and on.

The Wake-Up
During a leadership workshop, exercise after exercise brought insights and an emotional connection awakening something within. At the very end of the 2 days an exercise gave this young woman feedback on just how many of her peers saw her as a leader.

The Surprise
The surprise to me is that this was news to this young woman. It had never crossed her mind because it wasn’t included in her title or job description. How delightful that she was finally seen for all that she is and for her potential. I wonder how this will affect her aspirations and the way she approaches her work. What will she want to do now considering this new information? Will questions of her own leadership stance arise for her?

A Possibility
Leading Full Circle is a two day multigenerational leadership program for women. Having women of all generations in mutual mentoring conversations provides more insight and inspiration than relying on a content driven curriculum. The 20 year olds in the spring program brought something special to everyone present – one of the participants referred to the hope for the future that she came away with from her interactions. At the same time the younger women were pleased to see that the questions that confronted them could be viewed as a source of growth and enlightenment. Seeing in the older women the fact that questions didn’t go away but changed tone and direction over time was reassuring and increased their willingness and capacity for asking the hard questions.

Category : Leadership | Blog

ET - Someone has to decide

One study of 26,477 persons in a Leadership Development Program at the Center for Creative Leadership, reported the following percentage frequencies:

1. ISTJ 18.2%

2. ESTJ 16.0%

3. ENTJ 13.1%

4. INTJ 10.5%

All types can be effective leaders. And conversely all types can be ineffective. There are certain types that predominate and this study illustrates the tendency to see the Thinking preference in leaders profiles. Even though these MBTI profiles or preferences are not an indication of capacity or capability, many of us have been predisposed to turn to those who make quick decisions when we are looking for leadership.

A recent study Psychometrics Canada interviewed HR professionals:

When asked to rate the importance of various leadership skills to success, 90% reported that communication is critically important, followed by dealing with change (52.6%), managing people (48.2%), setting goals (37.5%), solving problems (30.3%) and project management (12%).

We are recognizing the importance of reflection and developing strong relationships and ultimately expanding our view of leadership beyond decision making.

If the cartoon is not visible see it here.

Category : Decision making | Doodles | Leadership | Blog

Over the years I have combined my coaching hat with my artist’s beret by introducing drawing, sketching and painting as a way to enter into new and important conversations.

On a very simple level using painting combined with collage to kick-start, augment or crystallize a visioning process works in often stellar ways. The most objective elaborate strategic plan can be brought to life when images amplify the story into full colour.

Solo-preneurs, professionals and individuals in management and leadership positions have used a day of creative exploration to reflect, re-imagine futures and reconnect with passion and purpose. People have returned annually using the opportunity for creative self-expression as part of their overall strategy to keep their engagement to their work true to their original passion and intent.

I have seen how art levels the playing field in intact teams and cross-functional situations. There is also a kind of magic that happens as the occasional reluctant participant realizes the shift in thinking that occurs when the brain is informed with images as well as language. This is not the same old output that discussion alone typically produces.

Leading Full Circle is a two day intergenerational leadership event for women that fully integrates arts-based experiences into the program design. One of the participants describes this program:

Leading Full Circle invites you into: conversations that uncover the thoughts and emotions that are guiding you, individual reflection that makes it easier to hear your inner voice, artistic practice that opens your imagination to the future, kinesthetic exercises that cultivate a more powerful presence, and self-assessment that helps you identify practical next steps.

The women who attended were from all sectors, interests, ages and types. Some of the descriptors used in describing the impact of artistic practices include:

revealing, freeing, re-connecting, immensely helpful, powerful

Injecting an artist into your next workshop, training or meeting may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Drawing, sketching and painting experiences can shift conversations from endless problem solving loops to making connections that deepen meaning and harness inspiration. Action that arises from this level of awareness flows out of alignment with a larger purpose. And that is powerful indeed.

Category : creativity | Leadership | Blog

There is a shift in what Canadians say they want in a leader from what we have experienced as the archetypal ‘in charge” leader to a more people focused approach. A recent survey by Psychometrics Canada identified what current leadership looks like by temperament and then compares that to what people indicate as the profile of their optimal choice.

Current leadership profile:

  • 40 % SJ Temperament – “someone who is thorough and orderly, and focuses on organizational stability and consolidating systems”
  • 30% NT Temperament – “someone who is pragmatic and analytical, and focuses on creating far-reaching and comprehensive plans”

Survey results for “ideal leader”

  • 67% NF Temperament – “someone who is democratic and involved, and focuses on working with and through people”

The article in Psychometrics Quarterly newsletter goes on to say

The other three temperament groups were selected much less frequently. NT leaders, who adopt a strategic, long-range focus, were seen as the ideal leader by 13% of respondents. SP leaders, who like to tackle problems resourcefully and have a timely cleverness, were seen as ideal by 11% of respondents. Leaders with an SJ temperament, who tend to be traditional and act as a stabilizing force on their organization, were seen as ideal by 7% of those who completed the survey.

What challenge does this really indicate to current leadership? I wonder if influences such as the internet have had a democratizing effect that demands a different approach everywhere in the workplace, in parenting and in politics. No matter what your temperament type, it is not sufficient to give lip-service to the people factor. Are we really ready to create the kinds of structures, systems and leadership models that allow people to risk contributing freely?

Category : Leadership | Blog

Challenging assumptions is a good thing. Keeping leaders engaged in learning and expanding perceptions is more than good…it is critical. Context Consulting has been host to a five star resource for leaders in the twice yearly Remarkable Leadership Series.

This April Mary Stacey and Bill Torbert marry Torbert’s developmental model “The Seven Transformations of Leadership” with inquiry and application to give individuals the key to unlocking change in their organizations.

Mary and Bill have teamed up on previous occasions to deliver this program which is anchored both in research and “hands on” experience in the workplace. The response has been not only positive but people have expressed gratitude for the shift in their perceptions and the approach they were able to implement.

My personal experience with this work is limited to a one day event plus reference to the material in day to day interactions with colleagues at Context Consulting. Even with this brief exposure to the material, I was left with the huge AHHHA of how embedded I am (and how many organizational structures are) in holding the EXPERT stage in reverential regard. This level of development is but one in Torbert’s model, and is often seen as the end point totally missing the limitations of this narrow view of the world. In levels beyond EXPERT the leader is able to see and appreciate where others are in their own developmental path, and and understand how to work with them to encourage development rather than imposing their expert opinion on others. The approach of the expert often shuts down open communication and limits possibilities and real innovation.

If you are seriously interested in your development as a leader, this series offers not only rich content and learning opportunities, but a community of people from across North America who are thought leaders in business.

This is not an ordinary offering. If you are restless and ready, here is something to take you to places you haven’t yet imagined.

Category : Consulting/ training | Leadership | Blog

“Values in Action” – now there’s a phrase you don’t hear every day but the reality is that these underpin our moment to moment activities.

The last two days I co-facilitated with two masterful coaches/consultants Sara Thompson and Elaine Maxwell. Sara and Elaine had worked with this group previously and during that time they had introduced and used Seligman’s “Signature Strengths”. From time to time during this session either Sara or Elaine would observe how a person was speaking from their strengths. As the two days unfolded it was fascinating to see how the combination of a person’s top 5 strengths and the influence of their bottom strengths shaped their perspective and their behaviours.

The twenty-four strengths are explored in Seligman’s book “Authentic Happiness” and there is also an on-line assessment available at http://www.authentichappiness.com Of course at the end of day one, I had to dig out my copy to refresh my memory about my own top five signature strengths:

  • Appreciation of Beauty
  • Ingenuity
  • Curiosity
  • Judgment
  • Love of Learning

Almost sounds like a recipe for an artist/coach who has just spent the last year learning all about Social media, blogging and WordPress – don’t you think?.

The one thing that stood out for me watching how Sara and Elaine coached around these strengths, is how if any are overused they can also become a source of problem area for the person. Hmmmm – a personal lesson here maybe? Perhaps instead of continually following my almost insatiable desire for what’s new, what’s next I could stop and follow through with what I have already learned and stay with executing and getting results from all that learning and exploration… Food for thought.

Category : Leadership | Other Assessments | Blog

An article by this title (Why Introverts Can Make the Best Leaders) was posted at Forbes.com. Jennifer B. Kahnweiler author of a book on how Introverts can leverage their strengths to become great leaders gives five valuable considerations in her article. They include the value Introverts provide in

  1. how they think before talking,
  2. how they are drawn to deeper more meaningful conversation,
  3. how the reassuring calm that is natural to them helps others,
  4. how they readily make use of the power of the written word, and
  5. how they take time to refuel their thinking, creativity and decision making.

It is a short article that is a teaser for what looks like a very worthwhile book. The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength It is well worth 3 minutes of your time in popping over to read this article in full.

A mention I made of this article on Facebook sparked a conversation about the “below the radar” aspect of the power and strengths of many with a preference for Introversion in organizations. A couple of coaching/consulting colleagues shared their experience about the number of clients they had who they recognized as being quiet “stars”. The question then is how to work with your preferences to let your light shine. Kahweiler’s article at one point talks about the use of Social Media tools to make the strengths of the Introvert more visible to others. Creative, inspiring and practical approaches to help make use of all ones gifts and talents in the workplace – now that sounds like a winner to me.

I am curious to read what gems lie between the covers of this book.

(Aside – There is a metaphor in the last sentence I would love to flog without seeming schmaltzy – get it – Introverts = gems between book covers)

(Aside #2 – This painting of Introversion below captures the calm and stillness and ability to stay in the deeper conversation. Some say the monotone is depressing and inaccurate, but the person whose sketch I based this on had the deeper meanings in mind.)

Introversion- One of 4 MBTI (Myers Briggs) preference pairs

Category : Leadership | MBTI Facts | Blog


Poetry is subversive. It dives in and plays deep in territory we haven’t stepped into before, asking questions we dare not ask.

Poet David Whyte, speaking at the Remarkable Leadership series, considers the bigger questions.

He weaves poetry with story and observation to offer keys to help us consider how the particular aspects of our work and passions connects to a much larger reality that is quite invisible to us. We also come to see that if we limit our perception of self, work and relationship to the superficial, we miss the way these everyday items and events can open us to the deeper purpose supporting our work and to the wellspring of our creativity.

David tells the Sufi teaching story of Mullah Nasruddin. Nasruddin traveled each day from Saudi Arabia to Egypt with his donkey loaded with many packs, and each day the border officials would search his packs to see what he was smuggling in. They never found anything suspicious. For four years, the border officials were determined to catch this smuggler. They watched him become increasingly wealthier until he finally stopped crossing the border every day. Later the chief border official also retired and he happens to meet meet Nasruddin. The official said, “Now that we are both retired, you are not in any danger. For my own sense of curiosity, please tell me what is was that you were smuggling.” Nasruddin answers, “Donkeys.”

The focus on the minutia caused the officials to miss seeing what was happening. The smuggling was about a different donkey every day for four years.

Assessment tools such as the MBTI, Enneagram, Reiss and DiSC look at parts of a whole to shine a light on aspects of a person’s preferences, worldview, motivation and strengths. We understand that this is not who we are but rather that these tools provide a way of reflecting back to ourselves ways we might be in the world. They open the door for inspection and discussion so that we can understand who we are and make sense of how others may be different.

If we get distracted or lost in the details of these tools we miss the whole. Indeed we miss the person.

In addition, if we focus all of our attention on the superficial aspects of the person and their work we miss the larger territory below the surface and all that that can contribute to finding deeper meaning and to our well-being.

Category : creativity | Leadership | Uncategorized | Blog

This past week poet, author, corporate magician David Whyte wove his spell as part of the Remarkable Leadership Series held twice a year in Toronto. People came from across the US and Canada to immerse in something they were seeking but could not name.

David quickly dove below the surface of everyday busyness and habitual conversation to take the 42 participants to the core of the matter. He named the exhaustion that leaders experience from trying to hold together some ill-conceived idea of “work/life balance.”

What we all need is to connect with a more reflective way in that doesn’t rely on the directionality of the strategic mind. Our almost total engagement in a business context in the extraverted world rarely, if ever, invites room for reflection. David’s focus in these two days was on “The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship” Central to this theme is the idea that all three of these realms can be seen as “separate yet interwoven threads” and that how we typically hold them sets them up to be in exhausting competition with each other.

Some of the impact of this incubator-esque experience is hard to articulate. I was speaking to a man whose eyes were sparkling and dancing at the end of day two. That was the norm not the exception. The reconnect to the self through immersing in the fierce conversation demanded by the poetic showed on the faces of all the attendees- enlivening eyes and erasing worn frowns. People were prepared to enter the external world from an entirely new place that was shaped from the inside out.

My thought was that having a mechanism for reflection such attending this twice yearly series was worth it’s weight in gold.

Category : Leadership | Blog

Pam Fox Rollin of Idea Shape hits the nail on the head when she says that

What looks like someone’s blind spot can be simply their way of being in the world

The approach that Pam modeled in working with blind spots was based on looking at the person not the blind spot. Her emphasis was more on building trust, being respectful of what matters to the individual and helping them achieve their goals through using tools such as developing non-judgmental tools of observation.

Pam points to a study that determined that when we observe ourselves we do not make use of all the available behavioural information that a neutral observe uses. She quotes Bob Sutton of Work Matters who sums things up

Others perceptions of your actions are probably a lot more accurate than your own

Everyone may be reeling from the wake someone leaves behind but don’t expect that anyone will rush to “thank you” if you point out their blind spots to them. Sometimes timing matters. In her presentation for TypeLabs “Type Practitioner Blueprint series” Pam presented some clear and concise case studies that illustrated why knowing your blind spots matters, what triggered the need for the individual to explore their blind spots and the resulting outcomes of having a new awareness.

These stories included the whole spectrum of blind spots from the person who was proud of his drill sergeant style which wasn’t challenged until the time he sought a management position to the person who was blind to their capability and was stopping their career before it had a chance to gain momentum.

Pam points out that people may have heard feedback about their blind spots before but often don’t take action until it costs them. That’s when they finally understand the consequences that being embedded in this behaviour has to their well being. This new awareness is not always an easy pill to swallow and it may, in fact, threaten a person’s self perception. Often they can hear the words but simply don’t know what do do about it.

Assessment tools such as the MBTI, Enneagram or DISC can help the coach and client develop hypothesis of blind spots. These models provide an array of typical issues for a type. Pam suggests following the lead of the client and using whatever assessment tool the client is familiar with and/or what the coach knows best. The coachee can then observe and test to see what if any behaviour resulting from a blind spot holds true for them.

Having a coach as insightful and skilled as Pam resulted in the fellow with the drill sergeant mode of operation revealing that the best part of his new awareness and shift in style came when his young son said that he wasn’t afraid of him any longer.

Knowing your blind spots may not be such a transformational experience for everyone but if we are not aware of the impact of our behaviour we are surely not able to do anything differently.

Category : Coaching | Leadership | Blog