October 11, 2019 Message to Members

Recognizing Opportunity

For this week’s column, I’d like to share a story. This story sprang to mind as I prepared to spend time with PLD representatives this past weekend in workshops that dove into the integration of the Leadership Standards into BetterEducate. Here we go:

For the annual corporate conference and AGM of a company with 130,000 employees, 300 executives and their partners flew in from all over the world to spend four days in Boca Raton, Florida.

On the last day of the four-day conference, a team of people in the organization knew they had one shot at convincing their chief executives that the company had an incredible opportunity to capitalize on a new product – the Altos – and pulled out all the stops.

The presenters showed the senior team how the Altos could edit documents, draw bar charts, toggle between software programs, and pull up documents and drawings from stored memory. Using a mouse, they highlighted text on screen, remotely collaborated with others in other countries, completed expense forms electronically, forwarded them for processing, typed in foreign language characters, sent emails, and printed documents.

Their presentation was compelling, poignant and hands-on. They shared the rave reviews from employees. They literally had lists of offices who wanted to use the Altos. Despite a near perfect execution, the executives all but ignored the opportunity. The Altos was dead.

The executives didn’t see the need for ‘glorified typewriters’. They had no true appreciation for the experiences, roles or responsibilities of the majority of their employees. They lacked empathy, and the ability to put themselves in others’ shoes.

The year was 1977. The company was Xerox.

Imagine if those CEOs had growth mindsets, appreciated the opportunities presented by collaboration, and recognized the efficiencies. Imagine if those CEOs were versed in empathy, compassion and systems thinking.

Peter Senge, father of compassionate systems thinking, states that “Deep, shared reflection is a critical step in enabling groups of organizations and individuals to actually ‘hear’ a point of view different from their own, and to appreciate emotionally as well as cognitively each other’s reality. This is an essential doorway for building trust where distrust had prevailed and for fostering collective creativity.“

As leaders in the education system, it is critical that we recognize that we are part of this system. Our PLD representatives are a hub in this system. Last weekend was a brilliant opportunity to shine a light on how this interconnected system offers incredible opportunities for support and leadership capacity development.

Those representatives left the weekend sessions with new knowledge and skills, and with a refreshed awareness that they are connected to colleagues and have expertise that can be shared to help others grow. You’ll be hearing more from them.

By the way: seven years after the Altos presentation meeting, Apple released the MacIntosh.

Take Care,

David