By Gordon Grant (guest writer) “Last month I spent a week motorcycling back-country roads in Oregon, California and Washington. Unfortunately one of my friends had an accident that broke a few parts on both the bike and the rider. The trip was over for them. The morning after the accident,…
I’ve heard it said that relationships give us a mirror to see ourselves, and boy was that true for me last week at my regular Sunday drop-in volleyball group in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Here’s what happened.
Some years back while teaching English in Japan, I found myself speeding along on a bullet train down to Nagasaki to visit a friend whom, I’ll admit, I had a bit of a crush on. While there, my friend introduced me to one of her buddies: a successful, local architect who shared with me an intriguing tenet of his design philosophy: “Always include something inconvenient.” It didn’t take long for me to understand what he was talking about.
Back in 2000, the Kevin Space movie Pay it Forward popularized the idea that giving can be viral. In the film, young Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osmont) receives a school assignment to somehow “change the world”. In response, Trevor comes up with an innovative plan: to encourage people to pay a favor forward…not just once, but three times. The rules of his scheme are:
#1 It (the good deed) has to be something that really helps people.
#2 It must be something they can’t do by themselves.
#3 I (the giver) will do it for them, then they will do a similar deed for three other people.
Although I found the movie at times a bit too saccharine for my taste, I certainly appreciated the sentiment: Giving not only feels good, but it can jump start a contagion of philanthropic behavior.
I first met today’s guest writer, New York jazzman Tim Armacost, in college almost 30 years ago, at a time when both of us were grappling not only with what kind of careers we wanted to pursue, but also with what kind of adults we wanted to become. While I eventually chose team development, training and coaching, Tim has been traveling the globe these last 25 years, pursuing a career as a professional tenor saxophonist — living in such exotic locations as Amsterdam, Delhi, and Tokyo. His CDs, including Live at Smalls, The Wishing Well, and Brightly Dark, have received high praise from the Washington Post and the Jazz Times. Fluent in Japanese, Tim is also a longtime student of Zen Buddhism; his meditation practice infuses his music and contributes strongly to his relaxed yet passionate performance style.
Today I asked Tim to share a few of his thoughts on team leadership from a jazz improv perspective. Here are his insightful comments:
“You’re either a mistake maker or a life learner.”
Given that over 120 million viewers were watching the end of Super Bowl XLIX this past Sunday, the chances are fairly good that at least some (if not most) of you witnessed the puzzling play calling from Seattle Seahawks’ coach, Pete Carroll. Here was the situation. Down by four points with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks have possession of the ball with one yard separating them from the end zone and, most likely, their second consecutive Super Bowl victory. The common-sense call is to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch, a bowling ball of a human being with the nickname “Beast Mode”. Lynch who, on the previous play, pounded ahead for four yards, has already run for over 100 yards in the game, demonstrating time and again that the Patriots can’t mount much resistance when a short gain is required of him. Everyone in the stadium (including this writer) is expecting a safe, off-tackle plunge from Lynch. But then something remarkable happens; the Seahawks’ brilliant young quarterback, Russell Wilson, unexpectedly drops back for a pass and slings the ball over the middle in the direction of wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, knifing towards the goal line. Against all odds, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler steps in front of Lockette and intercepts the ball, essentially ending the game and handing New
England their 4th Super Bowl victory.
What could Pete Carroll have been thinking?
A noted samurai general in old Japan visits a venerable Zen master at his temple in imperial Kyoto. Says the samurai: “Master, I have spent my entire adult life waging war after war with my enemies. I am ready now to turn my attention to my salvation.
The Zen master — bald, 70 years old, with wisdom lines twinkling around his eyes — famed throughout the country for his sage teachings, responds: “Visit me again in one month. During that time, meditate 90 minutes a day.”
As many of you probably know from reading my articles and blogs over the years, I’m a long-time volleyball player. Not that I’m an “A+” player, mind you… At 5’9”, I’m not exactly spiking the ball over people. But whatever the outcome, I do love getting out there and running around with my Sunday group of drop-in volleyballers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Over my 20 years of v-ball Sundays, I’ve been repeatedly astonished by how uncannily the game parallels life and, most particularly, the psycho-social dynamics in the workplace.
Ask most any Canadian and they’ll confirm that Montreal hosts some of the most aggressive drivers in the world. But let me tell you, my Uncle Stan has them all beat.
In spite of anything you’ve heard to the contrary, you ARE a “leader” in your “organization”. There’s just no denying it.
“But wait just a second,” you say. “I’m only an admin…or a mid-level manager…or a soccer mom. I’m no leader.”
This is an understandable reaction, to be sure – and yet completely inaccurate. Leadership is much more than the title you hold or the position you maintain in the company pecking order. Leadership, in fact, is how you interact with everyone, including yourself.