January 8, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
Michael Scott was for many years CEO of Precision BioLogic, a medium-sized medical products company rated one of the Top Ten Best Places to Work in Canada. He’s now Executive Chair.
For a few years now Michael has been pushing the chairs back against the boardroom table whenever he sees that they’re out of place. He makes sure the chairs are evenly spaced and neat. He’ll do this at the end of any meeting he’s in, after people have left or as he’s talking to someone who stayed behind. If he walks by the open door to the room and sees another group has left the chairs in disarray, he’ll go in and arrange them, and whoever might be walking with him has to follow him in.
His employees began by thinking this was odd, Read more…
January 4, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
Do you ever feel psyched out, stuck in worried preoccupation, or just completely disengaged and wanting to be somewhere else? What do you do when you’re caught up in an unproductive state of mind and you’re having trouble getting out of it? Do you have practices that help you ground yourself again, so you can proceed at your best?
Here’s a technique that works for me when I need to re-engage myself; when I need to change my mind, in the moment, on the spot. I feel these kinds of things are good to remind myself of at the start of a new year.
These techniques have to be simple and readily available. This one’s called Doorknob Practice.
A doorknob has a shape, a texture, a temperature, a quality of movement, a sound as it operates. It has a feel in your hand. It has a feel in your mind.
When you handle a doorknob, you can use that moment as a small but complete self-engagement practice for yourself. First, let the doorknob hold your attention. Let it hold the participation of all your senses for the moment you touch it. Read more…
January 30, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Talk about a jam-packed adventure… On a Nova Scotia Sea School voyage, 13 people live in a boat that is 30′ long and 7′ wide, for 5 days or longer. We are all literally on top of each other all the time; cooking and eating, getting at our gear, changing clothes, squeezing between each other to sleep, everybody talking at once. It can be an intensely claustrophobic experience.
But we’re also out along the magical Nova Scotia coast, with remote islands and rocky shores on one side, the ocean and horizon on the other, the spreading sky above. We are surrounded by vast space.
The choice between claustrophobia and space depends on which way we look.
So as a practice of shifting our attention from claustrophobia to space, Read more…
January 11, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
A sailing ship near shore is a nervous thing. We may think that being near land offers refuge if we need it, but harbour entrances can be narrow and treacherous, and the rest of the shore is made of rocks and reefs and sandbars all waiting to take the hull out from under us. They demand constant vigilance. Keeping to the coast is false comfort.
What a ship needs is sea room, deep open water. The ocean may seem vast and unknown, but vastness has its own safety. It’s the safety of being unimpeded and unbounded, free from reference points, free to see as far as the horizon and have the horizon mirror back to us what we know is true. 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…
October 31, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
My friend and colleague Richard Leckenby talks about the “vapour trail of preoccupations” that he tows around with him all day. What seems like focus is actually a fog that obscures his effectiveness. But there are practices that can let this vapour trail dissipate.
The easiest practice is simply stopping. When we can get ourselves to stop, even for a moment, we can remember a more panoramic state of mind; a state of mind that can let us see more clearly what should happen next. We tend to mistake our whirl of activity for effectiveness. What the whirl really does is narrow our focus and constrain our energy so that we put a lid on our creativity, or lose track of the bigger things that matter most, or just have the feeling that we’re not fully there. Read more…