November 8, 2019

Last week we talked about a terrible, awful thing called the Contractive Cycle. Being in a contractive state is the number one cause of being miserable at work.

But happily, there’s also something called an Expansive Cycle. It looks something like this:

When we’re in an expansive state, we’re grounded in core values, but open to new ideas, situations and people. From here, we experience heightened creativity, energy and joy.

Sound good?

Excellent. It’s time to rumble with our needs for certainty and significance. Let’s do this.

Make Friends With Fear

The first think we need to know about certainty is that our need for it largely comes from a primitive part of our brain, the neo-mammalian part, also known as the limbic system. It’s where our emotions reside. And fear is the emotion it likes best.


November 1, 2019

Okay, maybe you’re happy at work. But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, a lot of the people around you aren’t. In fact, about 80% of my clients tell me in their first session that they feel they’re in the wrong job. Being in the wrong job was also the number cause of stuckness expressed to me by interviewees in The Unstuck Project.

So, it seems a great many of us miserable at work.

You’ve got to wonder; what’s going on?

In my experience, nine times out of ten, it’s a question of personal values and integrity.

But first, let’s look at a few stats. In the Unstuck Project, the average age of onset for a person’s first incidence of major stuckness was 38. Interestingly, this is consistent with loads of academic research. The most quoted study, published in 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences, reve...

October 23, 2019

For all my talk about values and purpose and complex adaptive systems, none of it matters, and you will remain irretrievably stuck, if you’re unable to do this one simple thing: Let. Go.

Letting go seems counter intuitive. Common wisdom dictates that leaders must not let go because letting go is lazy and irresponsible. The leader must maintain control. She must aim for stability. Stability is what makes companies successful over time.

Right? It turns out, not so much.

Stability is enticing because it soothes our need for certainty. When things are stable, we know what’s going to happen next, and that gives us confidence.

The problem with stability is that it’s rigid. Stuck leaders mistake rigidity for solidity. It feels like solid ground. It feels comfortable. But in reality, rigidity and the...

October 17, 2019

We have a habit of looking at organizations as machines that simply take input and transform it into output. But of course, that’s not what’s really going on. What’s really going on is much more complex. Modern organizations of the knowledge era are living systems of interconnected ingredients, processes and interactions.

In Other Words, They’re Complex Systems.

When academics talk about complex systems, they like to show you things like this (and then they wonder why system leadership theory isn’t really taking off in the real world).

I take a slightly different approach. I prefer to show you this.

This cake is the product of a complex system of interconnected ingredients, processes and interactions. The thing about complexity, is that we can’t deconstruct it into component parts. It is...

October 10, 2019

Last week, we talked about complex adaptive systems and the amazing creativity and solutions that emerge from them - if that is, we let them emerge. Allowing emergence to happen requires leaders to be generative in nature. Generative leadership is simply the act of nurturing healthy complex adaptive systems so emergence can arise.

How do Unstuck Leaders nurture these systems? Well, they structure the organization in a way that optimizes the conditions for them. That means lots of cross-pollination and inter-functionality. It means encouraging discussion upward, downward, sideways, inside and outside the organization. And it means Unstuck Leaders dedicate a substantial amount of their time to listening, observing and connecting.

In their book, Leading from the Emerging Future,...

October 3, 2019

Hi there! Please note that this week's post is a follow-up to last week's post on co-creation. You can read it here.

Before we can understand the nature of emergence, we have to understand the nature and behavior of complex adaptive systems.

You already know what complex adaptive systems are, even if you don’t know you know. You’ve seen them in practice. You’ve watched teams self-organize to address a problem. You’ve watched cross-functional interactions resulting in product or service changes. You’ve watched companies adapt to new situations or environments.

Complex adaptive systems are informal groups that arise to solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity. They are the result of the interconnectedness of people and ideas both inside and outside of the organization. They are unpredict...

September 26, 2019

How did we all get onto this notion that leaders must be the single supreme creative force behind their organizations? Was it Steve Jobs? Henry Ford? Cornelius Vanderbilt?

Let’s give it a rethink shall we?

Co-creation isn’t about rolling up our sleeves and leading a team of creative people. It’s about creating an environment where co-creation happens around us, in spite of us and occasionally, through us. It’s about eliminating the separation of planning and doing.

This of course, requires us to grapple with our needs for certainty and significance. We like the certainty of knowing we’re in charge and we attach ourselves to the notion that because we’re in charge, things will unfold as we want them to. And, we like the significance of being the person with all the answers and all the authorit...

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