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…
December 21, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Here are some reflections on Alice’s story from the last post. I hope you will add your own reflections to the discussion in the comments.
To me, the main point is that Alice didn’t try to shift the people in her team. She didn’t hand out copies of an article on being a team player for everyone to read. Rather she shifted the environment the people were in, with flowers and food, and then the environment shifted the people for her. Her approach was not directive. It was cultural.
She didn’t propose team-building exercises or other made-up activities. Her flowers and food were real, and had the power of real things.
She used this power of real things to cut a space in the stuckness of the situation. Her gift of flowers woke people up for a moment and paused the momentum of negativity. In this space there was a possibility for something new to arise.
She took her time. She applied her technique in stages, allowing its influence to accumulate. When one of the men asked for his favourite cookie she offered instead her first command, “Maybe you’d like to bring some next time.” It was a command that could be obeyed. It might have backfired, the man responding, “I don’t bring cookies. That’s your job, isn’t it?” But things had already progressed to the point that such a response was no longer necessary. Read more…
December 19, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Alice worked in a company where her team had weekly all-team meetings. They were hellish occasions, thick with territoriality and blame, a regular weekly gut-shot to morale, creativity and effectiveness. They were also male-dominated and hierarchical, with an entrenched and fearful leadership. Alice, in a new position at the bottom of the ladder, hardly said anything, and what she did say was dismissed.
Alice really didn’t want to get sucked into this culture, which everyone else seemed resigned to as the norm, but she felt powerless to address it. To introduce some softness into this inhospitable environment, she began bringing small flower arrangements to put on her desk. Finally one week, she took her flowers and put them on the side table against the wall in the meeting room before people came in. Read more…
December 12, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Jim Collins wrote a wonderful article about including with our To Do List a Stop Doing List that may in fact be the more important of the two. The To Do List is a powerful force in shaping our accomplishments. But Jim’s article inspired me to reflect that the list is just as powerful in limiting our accomplishments. When we set outcomes in advance, we are ruled by expectation and we rule out possibility.
As leaders and teachers, we are usually expected to establish clear outcomes and demonstrate that we have met them. But if leadership is creating conditions that allow others to grow and prosper, then outcomes may not be that helpful.
This lesson was brought home to me in a painful way near the middle of a Nova Scotia Sea School voyage (see post “The Oars Take Command” ) when the teenage 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 voyages and I expected them to accomplish big things. Read more…
November 28, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Have you ever slept on a row of oars? No? Really never? Well you should try it. Oars are excellent teachers.
At the Nova Scotia Sea School crews of ten teenagers and two instructors sail the Nova Scotia coast in 30-foot open boats with no engines, no cabins, no electronics. The boats have two masts with sails, and eight 13-foot-long oars. Those are the engine. We anchor at night in some protected cove, but we live in the boat, sleeping on the oars under a tarp. The teenagers learn to take command of the boat, and of their lives, but we accept that the boat is really the one in command. Read more…
November 13, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
“The Sage Commander starts with himself. Thus his first question is not what to do, but how to be. Simply being oneself brings about a power that is often lost in the rush to be something else.” (The Art of War)
There have been some interesting comments on the Intro Page of this blog about the need for a path of practice to follow to make any of these leadership ideas real. Here’s one thought about such a practice. I hope if you read this that you’ll add your own. Read more…
October 31, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
When we’re attacked head on, it’s possible to deflect and redirect the attack in a way that protects both us and the attacker. This is one of the traditional teachings of the martial art Aikido, and it’s true in daily life as well as on the mat. We can learn to defeat the aggression but protect the aggressor, and turn a battle into a win-win situation.
This is what I learned from Wendy Palmer last week at a three-day workshop in Conscious Embodiment at Windhorse Farm, one of the best places in Nova Scotia. Wendy is a sixth-degree black belt Aikido master,who teaches a series of “techniques that help you to recognize how your mind and body habitually react to pressure, and to access more skillful and unified responses.” Read more…
October 25, 2010 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.” (Lao Tzu)
Of the leaders and teachers I have met, the most effective have the attitude that their job is to create the conditions that allow others to grow and prosper. Then their organizations, and their society, can grow and prosper with them. Read more…