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Three classic questions

John's reflections, leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

Dwight Eisenhower, the famous World War II general who would later become president of the United States, used to say that in battle he found plans to be useless, but that planning was indispensable. I could make a similar observation about writing a blog, at least in my case. At any point in time, I find it useful to plan things out in my head, but it is more for the thought process than for the plan itself.  So, every now and then I like to sit down and plot out my direction for the weeks or months ahead, even knowing full well that there is a good chance I will not stick to it. … Continue reading

The art of reframing any type of work

John's reflections, leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

When we have a certain framework running around in our heads, it tends to shape the way we look at just about everything. As will come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading this blog, one of the frameworks in my mind these days has to do with seeing the work of the entire world on three levels. When I watch someone laboring at anything, I cannot help but observe the clues that help discern whether the individual’s mindset is that of a stone breaker, a wall maker, or a cathedral builder.  Even in my leisure time, I seem to ask myself this type of question although I am not at all … Continue reading

Crafting stories of purpose

John's reflections, leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

In the last post, we ended with the thought that any kind of work can be reframed, placed in a context that helps participants view it with a heightened sense of importance and purpose.  Of course, it would be naive to think that every type of job can be turned into a “save the world” or even a “building a cathedral” type of task. Many of the functions in our organizations simply lack the potential and scope to impact the world on a grand scale.   Nevertheless, my contention is that it is not at all unrealistic to think that we can reframe a job to imbue it with higher levels of meaning. A significant part of … Continue reading

Stories of purpose

John's reflections, leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

We ended last time with the notion that managers should take the time to think about “building their own cathedral stories”. My work and study of the past two decades have shown me that the most effective managers are able to create narratives that inspire their team members—even those who perform the most mundane and tedious of tasks, such as breaking rocks in a field.   In the example of the cathedral, it is the story in the worker’s mind, a vision of contributing to a noteworthy and enduring endeavor, that allows a man breaking the rocks to see, and to believe in, the broader significance of his strenuous assignment. He is not merely carving … Continue reading

Narratives of engagement

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In the mid 1980s, I read Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, the book that started me thinking about the power of narrative and how one could use it in a business context. What struck me most was MacIntyre’s assertion that an individual’s views of self, sense of worth, and sense of what matters in life comes above all else from answering the question, “Of what stories do I find myself a part?”  For me, it was a moment of revelation, what some people call an “Aha moment”; I thought, of course that is true. The collection of stories in which we participate make up our lives. Quite simply, they define “who we are”.   Eventually, … Continue reading

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