Stories Are Telling!

March 3, 2011

“I’m having a hard time getting support, buy-in and commitment because people don’t understand what I’m trying to do!”

If this is a familiar story line, you may be one of the many who have not yet realized that your communications have not been effective and that providing data is not really communicating.  Perhaps now is the time to abandon your familiar “story” and start telling a real story!

We know that telling your story is an effective and fun way to inform others and get the support, buy-in and commitment you truly desire.  Because story telling is PERSONAL, it is easy to ENGAGE and to be ENGAGED.  Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick speak to the power of stories in providing simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act) and how the “right stories” make people act.

Stories are important because they:

  • Help people grasp the bigger picture – the “Whys and Hows”
  • Make it easier to expand the breadth and depth of discussion
  • Simplify complex ideas and information
  • Help shift perspectives
  • Connect people from diverse backgrounds around shared purpose and meaning
  • Create community

What is the story you can tell that will really WORK for you?



February 7, 2011

Think of a time you said “NO” and did not take action to try something new because you were afraid.  “Afraid I’ll fail.  Afraid I’ll look silly.  or Afraid of the unknown” may have been some of the reasons that allowed you to talk yourself out of it.  Knowing you’re not alone (everyone has a “fright-flight“ experience!), think about what might have been different if you stepped over your fear into the YES!  As author Paulo Coelho said “The magic moment is when a “YES” or “NO” can change the whole of our existence.”

If we consider FEAR as “False Expectations Appearing Real” it may be easier to let go of what we THINK may be high risk and/or inevitable in terms of failure, embarrassment et al to experience the magic moment where innovation IS possible.

So for the sake of “keeping innovation alive,” know that the REAL FEAR is NOT meeting a challenge, taking a risk, or taking action and that NOW may be the perfect time to say YES!

by Natasha Tong

Shifting Mindsets: The Choice is Up to YOU!

September 10, 2010

What do you get with “YEH.. BUT”?

A FIXED mindset

…and sense you have some CONTROL (an illusion) in order to protect YOUR IMPORTANT PERSPECTIVE for the sake of LOOKING GOOD and PLAYING IT SAFE to maintain CONTROL (an illusion)….

Unless you’re on a mega roller coaster, HOLDING TIGHT is not usually all that productive.  The more you try to hold on, the more INFLEXIBLE you may become, which could lead to the perception that your perspective is actually RIGID and way too predictable if not limited and LIMITING.

Bottom line, “YEH…BUT” is a FEAR-based perspective which leads to “more of the same” (aka THE STATUS QUO).


An OPEN or GROWTH mindset

…a place of TRUST where DISCOVERY is a core value and we find ourselves asking each other to “Say more about that…” especially in situations where we may totally disagree.  Because of our “YES…AND!” mindset we are natural collaborators who believe there is strength our connection and that together we truly are better!

CREATIVITY abounds as we find it EASY to LET GO and to CHALLENGE each other for the sake of achieving our COLLECTIVE VISION.  Our FLEXIBILITY allows us to create an INCLUSIVE context for working, learning and growing together where everyone feels VALUED and able to CONTRIBUTE their gifts and talents.

NO FEAR is our motto because we have learned to TRUST ourselves and each other as we COLLABORATE  for the greater good.  Bottom line…we are all HAPPIER and way more productive!

The choice is up to you:  “YEH…BUT” or “YES…AND!” – What will it be?

by Jackie Levin

Reflection on The Human Side of Enterprise III

April 13, 2010

In this post we continue to explore “The Assumptions of Theory Y,” provided by Douglas McGregor in his seminal book, The Human Side of Enterprise.

Assumption 3:  Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement.  The most significant of such rewards, e.g., the satisfaction of ego and self-actualization needs, can be direct products of effort directed toward organizational objectives.

maslows hierarchy of needs

In his article, A Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow defines self-actualization as the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for the individual to become actualized in what he is potentially. A basic definition from a typical college text book defines self-actualization according to Maslow simply as “the full realization of one’s potential.”  People who have reached self-actualization tend to be spontaneous, interested in solving problems and accepting of themselves and others.

So, if commitment to objectives is more likely when rewarded by satisfaction of self-actualization needs, and self actualization can be direct products of effort directed toward organizational objectives, what are the conditions that make this most likely to occur?  Considering the ideas below, which ones would be on your list?  How would you rate these conditions on a scale from 1 to 5 where 5 = strong presence and 1 = weak presence? What else would you add?

  • Alignment exists between my core values and the organizational objectives (see Assumption 2).
  • The leadership in the organization values collaboration.
  • I feel some degree of creative freedom and flexibility in my work.
  • I feel valued for my strengths, gifts and talents by management and my co-workers.
  • There is a commitment of resources for my professional development.
  • I work in a culture of innovation.
  • I have a Chief Culture Officer.

Reflection on The Human Side of Enterprise II

November 5, 2009

The-Human-SideIn this post we continue to explore “The Assumptions of Theory Y,” provided by Douglas McGregor in his seminal book, The Human Side of Enterprise.

Assumption 2:  External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing about effort toward organizational objectives.  Man (woman) will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he (she) is committed. 

The act of “committing” typically involves agreeing or pledging to do something in the future and also implies a state of being obligated or emotionally impelled, as in commitment to a cause.  In a work setting it is easier to be committed to tasks and assignments that align with our values and/or require our strengths, gifts and talents. 

For example, if a core value is service to others and the company produces assistive technology, there would seem to be an alignment at some level with core values.  If your natural gift and talent is connecting people, and you are asked to be the community liason, there may be a high level of commitment in that assignment.

Another way to look at commitment is how fully you are able to “show up,” with 100% representing full commitment.  In a strong collaborative work environment, ideally every team member is showing up 100%, fully committed to the task at hand.  At 100% commitment among all employees, we may assume there is maximum productive effort toward organizational objectives (assuming they are clearly defined).

When commitment is low, the question to explore is “Where is the disconnect and/or misalignment?” and “How can I see and/or reframe this situation to be more fully committed?”  In this way, finding connections between what matters to us on a personal level with the organizational objectives, creates a natural state of alignment which promotes commitment.  It makes sense that people would be motivated to act in service of objectives to which they can align to.

Sometimes the connections are not obvious and it takes deeper probing to see the links.  Sometimes there is a disconnect between what the company is focusing on and what the market needs.  Sometimes, lack of alignment (clear vision and clear roles) is the bottom line issue. 


  • Where do you feel the greatest amount of commitment in your work?  …the least amount of commitment?
  • What are your core values and how well do they align with the outcomes of your organization and/or your work?
  • Where may there be disconnects and/or misalignment that keep you from being fully committed.
  • How might you see and/or reframe the situation so you may be more fully committed?

by Jackie Levin

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Reflection on The Human Side of Enterprise

September 1, 2009

The-Human-SideExploring  “The Assumptions of Theory Y,” provided by Douglas McGregor in his seminal book, The Human Side of Enterprise,  is an opportunity to challenge the assumptions that keep us from more fully engaging in “work life” and “life work” endeavors.  Over the next six entries, I’ll share McGregor’s six Assumptions of Theory Y along with personal insights that are creating opportunities for innovation in my own life:  specifically new ideas + action that will create the value I can bring into the world.

Assumption 1: The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest.  The average human being does not inherently dislike work.  Depending upon controllable conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction (and will be voluntarily performed) or a source of punishment (and will be avoided if possible). 1

Consider the two key words:  CONTROLLABLE and SATISFACTION. Recognizing that the satisfaction I experience at work is related to controllable conditions, I am reminded that:

I am/can be “in choice” and, therefore, I can directly impact work as a source of satisfaction.

This awareness immediately takes me out of a victim mentality.  Of course, the “Yeh butter” will always say, “In a work environment there are always conditions beyond your control that will create dissatisfaction.”  My response would be “Yes, that is true”…and, because that assertion is also an assumption we know that it could be untrue, partially true or only true for you.  This brings me back to a deeper reflection on the original insight: 

My source of satisfaction is related to controllable conditions, many of which are under my control.

One thing that is always under my control is my attitude.  When I feel manipulated, I can choose to be curious “Tell me more about what you’re thinking.”  When I feel overwhelmed with the tasks at hand, I can choose to set priorities, balance work with fun breaks or ask for help.  When I’m feeling unmotivated I can choose to re-engage my passion, gifts and talents and consider how to make the task at hand more engaging for me.  Simply being open to new possibilities creates a “new condition” which often creates a noticeable and positive shift in my experience.


  • How satisfied are you with your current condition (at work) on a scale from 1 to 5 where 1 = extremely dissatisfied and 5 = extremely satisfied?
  • In your opinion what conditions can you control that will allow you to increase your rating?
  • What conditions do you assume you cannot control that keep you from being able to increase your rating?
  • What new ideas do you have for being able to move at least one condition from the “can’t control” to the “can control” list?

by Jackie Levin

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1 McGregor, D., The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill, 1985.  Heralded as one of the most important pieces of management literature ever written, a touchstone for scholars and a handbook for practitioners, The Human Side of Enterprise continues to receive the highest accolades nearly half a century after its initial publication.  Douglas McGregor was president of Antioch College and a founding faculty member of MIT’s Sloan School of Management.  The Human Side of Enterprise was originally published in 1960 but it still on the list of top 100 management books in the U.S.

More resources:

Employee Motivation, the Organizational Environment and Productivity
Douglas McGregor’s XY Theory
Net MBA: Theory X and Theory Y

The Call to Leadership

August 18, 2009

call-to-leadershipLeadership is a call to each and every one of us; a call to listen to what’s really needed in our own lives, families, organizations and communities.  Leadership is about service to ourselves for the sake of being the best we can be; to each other for the sake of supporting and sustaining strong, productive and healthy relationships; and to our community and organizations for the sake of building and sustaining health, wholeness, productivity and fulfillment.

The Leadership Journey is both personal and interpersonal and requires that we understand and are able to answer three fundamental questions:

  • What is leadership?
  • Who are the leaders in your community?
  • What is the call to leadership?

What is Leadership?

Leadership starts with self.

Strong leaders know who they are, and are grounded in their values and beliefs.  Strong leaders act with integrity because they are able to say what they mean and do what they say. 

Leaders see possibilities and can align their actions with a common vision that supports the highest good of the stakeholders in their community – whether an individual, family or organization. 

Leadership is a strong “I” and a strong “We.” 

A strong sense of self (a strong “I”) helps make a strong community (a strong “WE”).  When people who are grounded and committed can come together for a common purpose, everything is possible!


  • What is your leadership role in your own life?
  • What really matters in your life and your community that you are ready to say YES! to?

Who are the Leaders in Your Community?

Everyone is a leader in your community.

Everyone has the potential at any point in time to step into leadership and be their strong “I.”  We do this by claiming and utilizing our natural gifts and talents. 

In all of recorded history there is no one else exactly like you.

Therefore, if you hold back, the world will not have your gifts – what you came here to be and do.  Author Paulo Coelho says, “The magic moment is that in which a YES or a NO may change the whole of our existence.” So, what if Rosa Parks would have said ‘no’ to her inner voice that demanded she not give up her place on the bus!


  • The world needs your leadership.  What are your natural gifts and talents that you’re ready to give?
  • Where do you hold back and how will you challenge yourself to step into leadership for the sake of a better self, a better life or a better world?

What is the Call to Leadership?

The call to leadership is living your strong “I” and cultivating a strong WE.”

The world needs each and everyone of us to be able to be who we truly are everyday.  My one goal in life has always been to “Be who I am, do what I love in the place I belong.”  The strong WE of leadership is a call to look into our lives, our community, and our organization to see what is really needed – then to take positive actions that create value in the world. 


  • What is it that your heart cries out to contribute?
  • What is the difference you’ve been longing to make?….What you’ve been tolerating in the world? 
  • What is one positive action you might take today that will create value for yourself, your family, organization or community?

by Jackie Levin

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