November 20, 2013 by Crane Wood Stookey
As leaders we need to know, in any situation, what is needed and what is not needed. We have also been taught that anger is to be avoided, that it’s destructive and egotistical to vent our anger at people when things go wrong. But what if anger is actually what a particular situation needs? What if things are so stuck in a counterproductive state that they can be dislodged and moved forward only by the sharpness of loosing patience with them? Read more…
August 27, 2013 by Crane Wood Stookey
What does it take for your business to be a great place to work? Progress Magazine recently published a list of the Best Places to Work in Atlantic Canada, and the leaders of the workplaces on that list have figured this question out, each in their own way. And it’s exactly the each-in-their-own-way part that is the key to leading an award-winning workplace.
There’s no formula for being a great place to work, no 5 Easy Steps. There are however two principles we see reflected in businesses that boast low turnover, few sick days, high internal promotion, few grievances and high individual initiative; all good measures of a workplace’s health.
The first principle is, work is personal. We often say, “Don’t take it personally, it’s just business,” but really we want people to take their work personally, to feel that their work is worth their personal best. Getting people to bring their personal best to work is the holy grail of leadership. If we want to lead people to bring their personal best to work, we have to get personal. Read more…
June 28, 2013 by Crane Wood Stookey
A famous English scholar of Asian studies visiting Japan managed to get himself invited to attend a traditional tea ceremony conducted by one of the greatest living tea masters. The scholar considered himself an expert on the history of the tea traditions, and viewed attending the ceremony as an element of his research.
The guest at a tea ceremony is expected to follow certain ceremonial protocols, which the scholar knew well and executed flawlessly. He was very pleased knowing he was doing everything right. When the master began to pour out the tea, he filled the scholar’s cup with great care, and kept on filling it, until it overflowed onto the table and then onto the floor. The scholar cried out, “Stop! Can’t you see the cup is full? There’s no room for more tea.” The master kept pouring, and replied, “Yes, like your mind, so full you can receive nothing.”
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned from being in positions of leadership over the years is how to proceed on the basis that I don’t know. This approach has opened innumerable doors for me that a need for knowing would have kept closed. I have found this to be true of my work with Read more…
May 9, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
“The bad leader is hated and feared.
The good leader is loved and praised.
The great leader, when their work is done,
The people say, “We did this ourselves.”“
I too aspire to be the leader that Lao Tzu describes, to make my leadership not about me. But generous leadership, selfless leadership, is hard to give. I crave love and praise as much as the next guy. And I often find that in the pressure of the moment, in the rush to get things done or under the weight of my responsibility, I fall back into the small, fearful, controlling view of making it all about me. But when I succeed in leading generously, the results always exceed my expectations.
November 26, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Captain Jan Miles has been captain of the PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II for over 25 years, and I sailed with him on PRIDE as one of the Mates on a nine-month voyage from Baltimore up the Atlantic coast into the Great Lakes and back. The PRIDE is a Tall Ship, a 157’ square-topsail schooner carrying over 9,000 square feet of sail, and she sails all over the world as goodwill ambassador for Baltimore and the State of Maryland.
On our way back from Chicago we were approaching Mackinac Island at the northern tip of Michigan. It was late evening, getting dark, with a moderate breeze from the northwest. Mackinac harbour is formed by rock breakwaters, and the widest part inside where PRIDE could anchor is only about eight times the length of the ship. Cruising boats at anchor are scattered throughout, and a lane has to be left open for the ferry. For a ship the size of PRIDE, it’s a crowded spot. Read more…
November 17, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
I once sailed with a young woman named Stephanie on the brigantine CORWITH CRAMER. We sailed from Key West on a two-month voyage to the Dominican Republic, the Cayman Islands and back to Key West, taking a somewhat circuitous route to collect scientific marine samples.
The CRAMER is a modern steel sailing research vessel that takes students to sea for semesters of oceanographic science and seamanship training. We were looking for the extent and condition of Sargasso seaweed (the Sargasso Sea is vanishing), the distribution of plastic debris and so on. We anchored on Silver Bank, seventy miles off the north coast of the Dominican Republic but only sixty feet deep. It’s where the humpback whales come to breed. We lowered a hydrophone over the side with a speaker on deck and listened to the songs of the whales all night. In the morning one of the whales followed close behind the ship for several miles as we sailed away. Read more…
May 9, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Our state of mind is generally pretty fickle, easily influenced by whatever we encounter. If we walk into a room full of little gilt chairs with white cloth covers tied over their backs, or into a room of stacking plastic chairs, or a room with random cushions and bean bags spread around, we feel different in each room as soon as we walk in. The chairs alone have the ability to influence our state of mind. When we try to create conditions that engage the people we want to work with, we miss an opportunity if we ignore the chairs.
One person who understood the importance of chairs was Nelson Mandela.
Mandela needed to make peace with General Viljoen, an Afrikaner who led the militant white resistance to change in South Africa. After some work through intermediaries, the general was willing to meet and talk. He expected this meeting to be with himself and his aides on one side of a conference table, Mandela and his aides on the other, Read more…
February 9, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Near the middle of a ten-day Nova Scotia Sea School voyage, when the crew was starting to get good at handling the boat, two boys, Peter and Jay, were in command for the day. They were both veterans of other Sea School voyages and I expected big things from them.
Coming into a narrow, tricky harbour entrance I said, “You two are in charge, I won’t say anything unless I have to.” They decided to make a cautious approach, organizing the crew to take down the sails and make ready to get the oars out and row in.
But I thought, with the experience they had, that they should be up to sailing in, tricky as it might be, and I interrupted. “Wait a minute. You’re not sailing in?” Read more…
January 15, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
What is the proper way to change the name of a blog?
For a boat, changing the name is considered very bad luck. This is because at the christening we ask Neptune to protect her and all who sail in her. If Neptune agrees (he can be a bit inscrutable so you don’t always know), and then you change the name, and you’re playing bait and switch with Neptune. Bad idea.
So what to do? Read more…
December 31, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
This is an invitation to you to please tell a success story of being in command, or being commanded, in a useful way. A generous way. An effective way.
Perhaps it’s your own story, perhaps it’s about something you experienced with someone else.
Please share your story in the comments, so we can all be inspired by each other.