Leonard Cohen, the musician, philosopher and poet

Leonard CohenI have always been an ardent admirer of Leonard Cohen as a musician, a philosopher and a poet and I get tears in my eyes and love in my heart when I listen again and again to a recording of my granddaughter singing “Hallelujah” as a solo at her school concert when she was 10.

So his recent death saddened me and rekindled my interest in this remarkable man.

Here are two paragraphs from my recent reading about him:

He was born in 1934 and ordained as a Buddhist monk.  He wrote songs partway between philosophy and prayer – songs radiating the kind of prayerfulness which Simone Weil celebrated as “the rarest and purest form of generosity”.

One of his most beloved lines from the song “Anthem”, which took him a decade to write, remains what is perhaps the most meaningful for our troubled and troubling times:

“There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in”.

It springs from a central concern of Cohen’s life and work, one in which he revisited in various guises across various songs – including in “Suzanne” where he writes “look among the garbage and the flowers / there are heroes in the seaweed”, and in the iconic “Hallelujah” with the words “there’s a blaze of light / in every word / it doesn’t matter which you heard / the holy or the broken Hallelujah”.

Profound!

And then even more telling for me at age 78 is this piece of his own writing, especially when I realise that he was only 4 years older than me!

“I always had a sense of being in this for keeps, if your health lasts you.  And you’re fortunate enough to have the days at your disposal so you can keep on doing this.  I never had the sense that there was an end.  That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot”.

Today I look around and see the mess the world is in.  The awful behaviour of humans to one another and towards our blessed Planet, which is the only one we have.  And I could throw up my hands in despair and give up our Energy teaching – but for the inspiring words of Leonard Cohen.

“There’s a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in”.

So, roll on next week …. and the next …. and let the light in!

Thank you Leonard Cohen.

Leading confidently in a Quantum World

Colin was engaged by Henley Business School to facilitate a Session for the SABMiller Management Development Programme.

Colin’s Session was entitled “Leading confidently in a Quantum World”.

The crux of his Session was that HIGH ENERGY individuals and teams co-create with others, using earned TRUST and sharing relevant INFORMATION.

Scrabble:

scrabble1Concentrating on SCRABBLE played without the usual rules!  How does the team maximise its limited resources?  By working with one another, or against one another?

 

scrabble3

Is that Colin helping the other team to come up with a word worth
1.4 million points?!  That is possible if you think out of the box.

 

Blindfold exercise:

blindfold3The leader must EARN the trust of his follower in this blindfold exercise.
And stretching your follower to think and act for himself is part of the
exercise.  But this is REALLY stretching the follower!

 

 

 

blindfold1

Stretching followers to think and act on their own is the job of good
leaders. But good leaders give plenty of support too.

 

 

 

 

Discussion and Learning:

Discussion and learning amongst peers.

Discussion and learning1Discussion and learning2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Boards:

Breaking a wooden board with bare hands.

breaking boards4This exercise demonstrates that it takes COURAGE to make behaviour changes within a team; but it also demonstrates that the WHOLE team must become involved in the change.  TEAM ENERGY gets the job done.

breaking boards6

SUCCESS. Hold steady Colin!

breaking boards7

Knights of the Week

The school my son attends in Johannesburg has a wonderful ritual and tradition of rewarding outstanding behavior, or exhibitions of leadership, or demonstrations of sincere humanity. They call it “knight of the week”, and it could be awarded from a show of honesty, bravery, courage, discipline, giving, forgiving, empathy, helpfulness or Leadership.

The reward is simply a recognition, and most people respond well to some form of recognition. But there is a catch. As the recipient of such a reward, one is not supposed to know the real reason for its awarding. The point is, that you don’t do something just to get a reward, you do it simply because it is the right thing to do.

Now I have only been a parent there for nearly six years, but I can’t remember if anyone other than a pupil has received “Knight of the week.” It is with this in mind that I write this reflection.

For every day of the past six years we have been greeted with warmth from the Pridwin ground staff. They have waved us in with open arms and lit up the way with their smiles. They have ushered our most precious treasures safely across the roads and have helped them carry their bags if necessary. They have turned school drop off from a chore to a pleasure, and they have always tried to make it as efficient and convenient as possible.

And yet, often their reward is a blank stare, or even a frustrated glare when drivers are asked to be patient as someone else’s treasure is ushered safely and lovingly to the safe side of the lot. I have seen parents park where they like, as even in gym kit, the thought of walking ten extra meters seems deplorable, or a ten second wait for a car to pull out means that some suit has lost out today on their race to the top. I pitied what the energy might be like in the ivory towers on these days.

But my beef here is not with the parents – we are all guilty of various forms of ignorance or abuse, however light. My fillet is with the staff. And particularly today.

On the coldest and most miserable day of the year (so far!), the troops were out in full force. The smiles were even brighter and through the driving icy rain, the orchestra of parking attendants were waving their arms and conducting the flow of traffic. Some had brollies, others didn’t. Some had rain suits, others had beanies, but despite a lack of resources and horrible conditions, they were out there doing their very best, and doing it with humour and with warmth.

Is there a better lesson for our boys to learn than this? Is there a better example of resilience and responsibility? That when things are tough there is still work to be done, and when there is work to be done, we might as well do it properly despite the poor taste of the passing traffic.

In the race to the South Pole, Amundsen marched and Scott blamed the weather. The rest is history, and today that story stands tall in a pile of analogies and examples of Leadership.

Whilst it may have felt a bit like the South Pole today, thankfully we didn’t have to go there on a school outing debited to our accounts to learn a few lessons.

They were right there in the school parking lot – being handed out for free by unsung heroes.

They are my Knights of the week.

Every week.

Steve Hall

LUX* RESORTS & HOTELS ON AN ENERGY JOURNEY

delegatesconf roomscrabbleboardsColin and Steve recently facilitated a two day workshop for LUX Resorts and Hotels in Mauritius.

This is a newsletter sent to the employees by their CEO:

Dear Colleagues,
We were honoured two weeks ago to welcome in Mauritius two exceptional consultants, Colin Hall and his son Steven from “Learning to Lead” based in South Africa.

We were delighted that 105 leadership Team Members were able to participate in the a 2-day workshop de-livered by Colin and Steven at the Trianon Convention Centre.

This was an introduction to the first steps in our energy journey and through numerous activities, inspirational stories, experience sharing sessions and a lot of introspection, we were made aware of the effect our energy can have on the people around us.

We learnt that our energy is the key to all our outcomes. When our energy is high our outcomes improve. But when our energy is low (or worse, negative) our outcomes slump.

Our energy affects each other….positively and sadly, often negatively.

All our energy comes from relationships. If we play to enhance our Power, we hurt people. If we play to enhance Energy, they yield Energy. These are the Energy Behaviours and Power Behaviours and Colin calls them BLUE and RED…easier to remember!

Playing more BLUE than RED requires courage and a sincere intention to improve the quality of life for everyone around us. We all have the opportunity to exercise a choice and if we frequently make the choice to “PLAY Blue,” relationships in all spheres of life improve.
To put this knowledge into practice throughout LUX*; we have developed an internal team of 28 Energy Coaches and more will be trained for Reunion and Maldives.

Our Energy Coaches went through a further 3-day learning session with Colin and Steven and have emerged fully committed and passionate to get us all energized to bring our best self wherever we go.

Thank you to Tony and his wonderful team for hosting the training for the Energy Coaches.

With abundant BLUE energy at the heart of everything we do, I can see it creating a beautiful ripple effect reaching every new destination where LUX* will welcome guests to experience our unique hospitality with a wonderful touch of our personal energy.

In fact this program is so important and vital to enable all our Team Members to “HELP PEOPLE CELEBRATE LIFE.” That is compulsory for ALL our leaders to follow the full program.

I invite you all to join in with our Energy Coaches and make this the start of a magnificent journey for all of us. It’s time to be fully alive!

Sincerely Always,
Paul Jones

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

If ever there was a place to stop and reflect on the true meaning of “Ubuholi Nobuntu” – leading with humanity, then this must surely be that place. For it was on this very ground where perhaps the greatest of all such leaders walked, worked and worshipped.

Born on the 2nd October 1869 Mohandas K Gandhi became known in later years as Mahatma, a name said to have been given to him by Rabindranath Tagore – the first non European winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1913. The name  and its meaning “Great Soul” however did not rest well with him and according to his autobiography, he was often pained by it.

Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 – he was 24 years old and he spent 21 years in this country. It was here where he developed his political views, ethics and political skills, and it was here where he realised his disconnection to the enormous complexities of religious and cultural life in India. He started his journey of leadership through humanity by leading Indians in South Africa who at the time were divided primarily by religion but also by economics.
He had firsthand experience of the discrimination policies of the time. Being thrown off trains in Pietermaritzburg, beaten for refusing to make room for a European traveller, barred from several hotels and berated by a magistrate for wearing his turban in a Durban courtroom were just some of the indignities he faced. These only served to strengthen his resolve, and had he had a branch of the buffalo thorn to reflect on, would no doubt have seen these all as turning points along his life from which to make significant choices.

Perhaps one of those significant choices was to establish the “Indian Opinion” newspaper in 1903. In 1904 Gandhi relocated it to his settlement in Phoenix, close to Durban. The press workers here were governed by a new work ethic, where they would all have a share in the land – there were over 100 acres here in those days. They would also share the profits if there were any, they would grow crops to sustain themselves, and they would work jointly to produce the newspaper. This was never without its risks as of the first six editors five of them spent time in jail. Gandhi himself commented that :- “Satyagraha (Insistence on Truth) would have been impossible without Indian Opinion.” It was this ‘insistence on truth’ philosophy and practice which translated directly into the movement of non-violent resistance and resulted in the Independence of India from British colonial rule on the 15th August 1947.

Gandhi himself never lived to see the formation of the Republic of India on the 26th January 1950. He was assassinated on his way to address a prayer meeting on the 30th January 1948. Prime Minister Nehru addressed the nation through radio :- “Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.”

Well, maybe there is still some of his light which shines in this place. We invite you to lap it up as Millions before you including Mandela, King, Biko, Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi have done as an inspiration to their own causes, and indeed there are many who believe that South Africa’s transformation was all about Mandela completing what Gandhi had started. Gandhi never won a Nobel Peace prize, but he was nominated five times. This would probably never have bothered him, what might have been of interest to him was how many Nobel Prizes he inspired. When asked to give a message to the people, he would respond :- “My life is my message.”

To quote another Nobel Laureate, himself an inventor of note :- “Mahatma Gandhi has invented a completely new and humane means for the liberation war of an oppressed country and practiced it with greatest energy and devotion.”

          Albert Einstein

Later on he continues:-

“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.”

So walk this same place a bit, enjoy the same vegetarian meal, and breathe in some of the same air with the light, love and energy where this great soul spent so many formative years of his life practicing the art of leading with humanity.

Playing dare with the world around us

The biggest most awful threats we face and our richest and most precious experiences are all around us in Earth’s environment.  A sunrise full of hope and warmth – a sunset fiery in its final goodbye for today and promise for tomorrow.  Birds that sing, trees that breathe, bees making honey while they cross-pollinate.  Fossil fuels exhausted, a shrinking ozone shield, poverty, pollution, global warming!

Yet the human race is constantly playing dare with its own survival!  Why?

We constantly rob the systems of which we are part of their essential and amazing energy.  We distort, disturb and destroy the natural flow of energy.  We pollute, waste, plunder and steal energy from one another and from the natural and human systems of which we are a privileged part.

And then we constantly replace energy, natural healthy energy, with power.  Power over one another, power in hierarchies, government power, corporate power, the power of the despot, the autocrat and the bully.  Why?

We know that power works – we have seen it, felt it and used it … often.  But have we truly reckoned its cost?  Sir Isaac Newton, hundreds of years ago, wrote the cost formula in his Third Law of Motion.  “Every force generates an equal and opposite force”!  So over time we self-destruct – one power play is matched by another.

But joyfully we see signs all over our planet of wonderful hope – humans as individuals, in groups and in communities who choose to buck the trend and who foster energy, free its flow and spiral it up.

By our definition these people are true leaders who have found the crucial balance between effectiveness and energy and who create the conditions in which high energy effective teams of high energy effective individuals do their miracle work on a sustainable basis.

Teaching this kind of leadership is what we do best.

David Livingstone

David Livingstone embarked upon a series of journeys to understand Africa and his mission was to civilize it and tell England what he had discovered about what was largely an unknown continent.

His journeys were relatively inefficient and cost him his life. His mission as a Christian was unsuccessful. His “360º” view would have been a disapproving one indeed! But he did help the West to see Africa quite differently and to engage with it. He did more perhaps than anyone to see that the trade in slaves was the ultimate horror of the power of the powerful over the powerless.

What is the purpose of our journey some 150 years later? It is to learn all that Africa and Nature, so vital and proximate in Africa, can teach us about leadership – about how leaders create the conditions in which high energy effective teams of high energy effective individuals in high energy effective relationships make magic …. on a sustainable basis.

The introduction to Tim Jeals book – “Livingstone“, – puts the man and his journeys into an interesting perspective. His memorial was what the West did differently as a consequence of his life’s work.

What we do differently could be our “ Livingstone legacy”.

Sinking deeper into mediocrity

Professor-Jonathan-Jansen
Jonathan Jansen | 23 February, 2011

I have in front of me the 2010 “Statement of Results” for the National Senior Certificate statement of a youngster who demands to study at university.

They are: Afrikaans 43, English 39, mathematical literacy 38, life orientation 78, business studies 41, computer applications technology 31, life sciences 28

At the bottom of the certificate is this unbelievable statement: “The candidate qualifies for the national senior certificate and fulfils the minimum requirements for admission to higher education.”

Understandably, this young woman takes these words literally, and correctly demands a seat in any place of higher learning. With the young woman’s claim to study I have no problem. With the society that sets the bar for performance so low, I have serious problems.

Slowly, slowly we are digging our collective graves as we fall into a sinkhole of mediocrity from which we are unlikely to emerge.

We make excellence sound like a white thing. Behind a massive wave of populism, and in the misguided name of regstelling (setting right the past), we open access to resources and universities to young people without the hard work necessary to achieve those gifts and to succeed once there. Of course, you’re a racist if you question this kind of mindlessness; how else do you, as a politician, defend yourself against the critics of mediocrity in an election year?

I miss Steve Biko. In the thinking of black consciousness, he would have railed against the low standards we set for black achievement, in the language of the 1970s.

This young (incidentally black) person did not achieve anything above 50% in her Senior Certificate results for any exam subject, but we tell her she can proceed to higher studies. What are we saying? That black students are somehow less capable and therefore need these pathetic results to access higher education? No, I am sorry, but today I am angry about the messages we send our children.

I saw black parents and students squirm the other night when I addressed a racially diverse group of parents and students and made this point clear: “If a black student requires from you different treatment and lower academic demands because of an argument about disadvantage, tell them to take a hike.” (Okay, I used stronger language.)

I saw white teachers squirm when I made the other important point: “If you have lower academic expectations of black children because of what they look like, or where they come from, that is the worst kind of racism.”

Our society, schools and universities have adjusted expectations downwards, especially in relation to black students, and that is dangerous in a country with so much promise for excellence.

As stories come rolling in from across the country for our Great South African Teachers book, I am struck by one thing. That many black professionals who are chartered accountants, medical scientists or corporate lawyers tell of attending ordinary public schools under apartheid, often in rural areas, and having teachers at the time who, despite the desperate poverty and inequality, held high expectations of their learners. There was no compromising on academic standards; there was homework every day; there was punishment for low performance; and there was constant motivation to rise above your circumstances.

Not today. Mathematical literacy is a cop-out, a way of compensating for poor maths teaching in the mainstream. Parents of Grade 9 children, listen carefully – do not let your school force your child into mathematical literacy because they will struggle to find access to academic degree studies at serious universities. Insist your child does mathematics in Grade 10 for that important choice determines what your child writes in Grade 12.

It is not, of course, mathematical literacy that I am concerned about; there are good teachers of the subject. It is about the message we send: that children can’t do maths.

In other words, a message again communicated of low expectations. Do not buy into this culture of mediocrity in the way your child makes subject choices. Also, tell your child not to take life orientation seriously; as you can see in the above results, there is no positive relationship between high marks in academic subjects and this thing called life orientation.

Small wonder young people with better results than those above are without work. The marketplace, and serious universities, know this child will not succeed with these kinds of results, even if Umalusi does not “get it”.

See: The basic education case

Read the founding papers in the court case in which the government is sued by Jean Pease and the Progressive Principals Association to secure delivery of the right to basic education. The case focuses on the promotion of early childhood development, the professionalization of teachers, securing delivery of textbooks and other learning materials on time, in classrooms, in the right quantities and languages; the need for mother tongue education in the foundational phase is also tackled.

What is a coach?

Len and Joshua on Kilimanjaro.

A good friend, Len, joined a group of his friends to climb Kilimanjaro. He got to the summit, and his story made me think about the current debate about what “makes a coach a coach”.

Len would never have survived or made it to the summit without Joshua. Joshua knows every step, every loose rock, every gully and every crevasse on the route. Joshua has been there and done it, many times.

But Joshua let Len take every step of the way up. It was Len’s victory, painful as each step became.

And Joshua knew the dangers of altitude sickness, nursed Len through it, and literally yanked him off the peak when he was starting to succumb and could have died. Three others in another party did. So, coming down was Joshua’s triumph.

More than that Joshua stopped Len often, long enough to see an African sun rising red above the clouds. He stopped Len long enough to allow him to turn around and see and reflect.

Was Joshua Len’s coach? Or Len’s mentor? Or Len’s mountain consultant? Or just a mountain guide who earned US$6 a day? Or was Joshua all four, and more?

Why all the fuss? The important aspects about helping another on his or her journey is to be absolutely clear about what value you can add, and what role the client expects you to play.

Len was happy to pay Joshua way above his rate and Joshua can rest happy because he met and exceeded his side of the deal. Len calls Joshua his “mountain angel”!

Does Joshua need to go to a university to get his coaching qualifications formalised?

And are there many qualified coaches who are seen as “angels”?

Strategies of the Serengeti

One of the best books I have read recently is Strategies of the Serengeti by Stephen Berry.

In his review he writes:

“In the 1980s we went in search of ‘excellence’. Today, many of the companies heralded as excellent have floundered or died. In the 1990s we looked for businesses
which were ‘built to last’. Many have not lasted. By contrast, the ecosystem of the African Serengeti has thrived for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of years. It has lasted. The animals of these great grass plains are supremely adapted for excellence in their highly competitive environment. Their strategies have outlived the fads and fashions of business schools. They have survived the recessions of drought and the dynamism of their competitive environment. Their strategies work – they have stood the test of time, having been in operation for more years than any of our companies or organisations.

Some animals use speed, others use stealth. Some take advantage of great vision, some use co-ordination, and others use raw power. The key to strategic success in the
Serengeti is using the right strategy at the right time. Each animal has something to teach us in business.”

He concludes:

“If businesses get their strategies wrong, the executives merely update their CVs and go job hunting. If academics get their strategies wrong, they just write another paper. If the animals of the Serengeti get their strategies wrong, they are extinct. For a few millennia, their track record beats any business, university or consultancy. As in many aspects of business, perhaps the best advice is to heed the advice of the experts – the ones with a long track record of success.”

When we researched leadership to create our Learning To Lead Programs we spent a great deal of time looking at what nature has to teach us, and we incorporated its timeless wisdom into what we share. It is part of the reason why we are different, and it explains quite simply what we do best.