“I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, do solemnly swear . . .”
as I am running with my children headed toward Eleanor and dinner awaiting us at our summer home in Canada.
Later in the evening after dinner, I am not feeling well and retire to bed for the evening. I will never walk again without leg braces. I am privileged to descend into a crucible – an unspeakable mystery –
“that I will faithfully execute the office of the President”
Floating in a pool of healing water in Warm Springs, Georgia, on a lovely spring day – opening my eyes, I can see white puffy clouds set in a vibrant blue sky. I can hear screams of play and laughter of children, touched by polio as my life has. We are all experiencing the grace of weightlessness – no up, nor down; no left, nor right.
I once held positions as New York State Senator as well as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the war to end all wars.
Now I show these children how to face polio and all its likely shame and terror. Right here at Warm Springs, we travel together, as I did years earlier, to find a way to freedom through nature, work, humor, and love. The power I have come to know from the bitter journey from lifeless paralysis and hiding in humiliation to courageously overcoming infirmity through ecstasy and love. Heavenly as floating may be as a regular citizen . . .
“. . . of the United States of America . . .”
I choose to return to my former occupation as a political leader, knowing well the slings and arrows of grave misfortune that befall men of prominence and stature. I will wholeheartedly . . .
“and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. . .”
in a time of unfathomable darkness – 25% of workers unemployed, all banks closed in almost all the states, and much of our national wealth evaporated in a devastating financial crash.
Yet the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
“So help me God.”
C.G. Jung wrote: “Only those people who really can touch bottom can truly be human.”
Please watch this video by creative writing professor, Nils Peterson, on the two secrets of writing poetry:
“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.” Thomas Merton
Our world is changing ever faster. Facebook, the iPhone, YouTube, the WiFi internet, Twitter, and Instagram give us a connected world with lots of instant information available. These and other changes complicate our lives in many ways. We may be busier than ever. Our children often are doing homework later into the night. The family structure is breaking down, and we see changes in marriage and sexuality. The values that we assumed made us unified are changing because of the great diversity we see in not only America, but throughout the world. As we cope with the impact of these changes and many more, we encounter stress in our bodies.
In the middle of all these changes globally, we still face the challenges of adult development. Frederick Hudson writes: “Most grown-ups know very little about the territory of their (later) adult years.”
This becomes more important as our life expectancy grows. The changes in lifestyle and medicine enables us to live much longer. We often waste our most valuable resource – citizens over fifty year of age. Corporations too often want to eliminate older workers. Our cultural assumption – in the United States – is that aging is bad and as we age we lose much more than we gain. Robert Lifton says, “There is a special quality of life-power available only to those seasoned by struggles of four or more decades. . . . The life-power of this stage can be especially profound.”
Carl Jung viewed the second half of life as a time of immense growth and development. It is a time for personal introspection, reevaluation of our lives, and dynamic spiritual discovery. We may assume that we need to decide on our work and marital partner by our late 20’s. Wow, that is a lot of pressure! Most of us are engaged in several different types of jobs in our working lives. Sometimes this happens by our choice. And there are times when someone chooses for us, saying: “You are fired.”
As our income changes, we need to reassess our lifestyle and adjust our spending. Our assumption that we would simply continue to earn more money endlessly may have been false. The larger world economy also affects us all as we learned in 2008 with the financial crash.
“For centuries, it was the understanding that when people became adults, they stopped growing and became fixed as predictable, responsible persons the rest of their lives,” writes Frederick Hudson. “Growing was over. The adult years were shaped by the personality and experiences of the child.”
Our lives are a heroic adventure. Life after fifty can be rich in many ways. Robert Epperly wrote his very personal and open book, “Growing Up After Fifty: From Exxon Executive to Spiritual Seeker,” about his journey after midlife. Please enjoy this video about his book:
Do you know your business?
The organizations where we work have a character like the people in our lives. There is a pattern to the way a company or other type of institution operates. Even separate departments of an organization have a way of doing things. This organizational character can either refer to an entire company or to just part of the organization, like the Marketing department.
William Bridges asserts that certain factors contribute to the character of an organization. The person or people who founded the organization have a big influence over the character of an organization. The industry within which the organization does business influences the way it operates. A hospital has a very different corporate culture from an accounting firm. The product or service offered from organization to customers will influence the character of the organization. The predominant profession of the organization is another influence. A law firm tends to operate very differently from a hair salon.
The fact that the organization is a business influences the nature of the business. The employees that are hired is another factor that determines the culture of the organization. The leaders that come after the founder have an influence over the organization. The history of the organization also is an important factor influencing the character of the organization. If the organization faces bankruptcy, then this historical fact is part of how people make decisions and relate to each other in the organization in the future.
Whether the organization is a hospital, school, business or non-profit, like Habitat for Humanity, it has life cycle. I live in the Santa Clara Valley where ambitious people found start-up organizations. These organizations emerge from the dreams of its founders. Over time, organizations develop the structures and procedures to make the business more routine and efficient. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer in a garage. A couple miles from my office is the Apple Computer building which is the main office of one of the most financially valuable organizations in the world.
Organizations also have an emotional climate, and it can be measured. The Work Environment Scale can measure the dynamics of the work environment. The emotion intelligence of a work environment determines the performance of a work team. Organizations, like individual people, can be more or less mature. Understanding the work environment in which you work has a big impact on your effectiveness in the organization. You have to know your business is an old expression. This is more relevant than ever.
Learning how to manage the person for whom you work is an important set of skills to achieve success in an organization. Please watch this video by Bob Epperly on how to manage up:
Career development is a significant aspect of human life. Our career development begins at an early age with imagination and play. As we grow, hopefully we are learning the skills to do work that we love most. Career Development is defined as the lifelong process of managing your work experience or your employee’s work experience within or between organizations.
In 1988 when I graduated from San Jose State University in San Jose, California, USA, I wanted to earn a living as a writer. I needed to get a job, so I chose another interest area in which to develop skills. I had my Bachelor of Arts Degree with Great Distinction in Political Science. I enjoyed the subject of politics, so I worked on for a political campaign in the summer and fall of 1988. I quickly learned that working in politics was incongruent with my values. I wanted to change the world, making it a better place. Manipulating people to vote for my candidate seemed to just be adding to the poor state of the world. I was interested in collaborating with people in community to build a just world.
In order to earn a living, I began working in government – the County Assessor’s Office, Registrar of Voters, Family Court, the Department of Drugs and Alcohol, and the county hospital (Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital Services). These government agencies had cultures that were different than my values. It was difficult for me to work in these organizations. In 1991, I decided to apply to graduate school in Counseling Psychology. I had read many books about psychology and attended lectures so I knew that counseling was an area of interest.
I had been so self-conscious about my anxiety that I feared taking a psychology class as an undergraduate student in college. It was a courageous choice for me to pursue a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling at Santa Clara University. It was a terrifying gauntlet to face my fears about how I appeared to others. Even though I had spent 5 years in psychotherapy and worked hard to become healthy, I feared that I was too flawed psychologically to ever be an effective marriage counselor. What I came to believe was that in order to be effective as a counselor, I needed to be objective – not perfect psychologically. I also learned that my challenges can give me empathy for the challenges of my clients.
After I graduated from Santa Clara University with my Master’s Degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, I went to work at the publisher of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as a corporate trainer. I began teaching a psychology course at Heald Colleges and continued to work as a counseling intern at Almaden Valley Counseling Service. I was making much more money that I ever had. I was very busy working about 50 hours a week as well as commuting to 5 locations. At Consulting Psychology Press, I was advising psychiatrists, psychologists, corporate trainers, and career counselors from all over the world on leadership development, team building, and career development. I was enjoying doing my Work – my Soul Work.
Over time and with patience, I was able to develop my skills in areas congruent with my personality, interests, and values. It made all the difference. Even though I had my challenges and complaints, I was able to do work that was meaningful and satisfying. When we are able to build skills directly related to our Soul Work, we feel differently about our work. With a direction to our career path, we add meaning to our work. We are not just getting a paycheck, but getting paid to learn things our Soul longs to gain. And even after doing counseling for over 20 years, I am still learning everyday how to get better.
When you are out of work or seeking to move to a new employer, it is critical to know more about yourself than you know about the job market. Most people who are making a change in their job think that searching online for jobs listed, reading and responding to classified ads, taking various types of career tests, or talking to a career consultant of some sort will help them find a job. Yet in reality, these actions are helpful only if you invest the time and energy to learn about yourself and develop a plan for your career. Most people buying a car or home invest a substantial amount of time. Isn’t the work you will be doing for years just as important?
If you have interest in career development for yourself or others, please read “What Color is Your Parachute” from Richard Nelson Bolles. The work you put into building the skills to do work congruent with who you are will bring you a higher quality of life and satisfaction.
Career Development is also important for managers. Please watch this video by Bob Epperly on Career Development and its role in managing employees:
Growing Up After Fifty
Managing Difficult Subordinates
Reporting To Difficult Bosses
Being Self-Responsible At Work
The Importance of Career Development For A Leader
“Leadership is anything that helps the organization achieve its purpose or improve its ability to achieve its purpose.” Gervase Bushe
“The highest performing managers show more warmth and fondness toward others then do the bottom 25 percent. They get closer to people, they are significantly more open in sharing thoughts and feelings then their low-performing counterparts. . . All things being equal, we will work harder and more effectively for people we like. And we like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Pozner
Leadership is both formal and informal. Every member of an organization can provide leadership by showing up, being observant, and offering their ideas constructively. Those who chose to take on a formal role of manager, often take on stress that exceeds the additional pay. Yet managing is one of the most important jobs because a manager’s attitude and choices affect her or his employees and by extension their family and friends.
The tasks of leadership is made more difficult by the confusion of organizational life. Often we hide things as employees of organizations. We carefully concern the faults of our own work as we criticize the performance of others. I say that it is your fault that my work is not do well, even when I know that some of the fault is my own.
Of course, these lies are part of human life at work and at home. We can live our entire life and never honestly see and accept who we are in actuality. In Leo Tolstoy’s short story, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” the main character asks at the end of his life: “What if my whole life has been wrong?”
We can live our life in a fog, not realizing so much of who we are. The saddest part of this reality is that we do not see the immensity of our own potential as a human being. As a result, our families and organizations are typically filled with inaccurate and confusing communication. Gervase Bush writes that most discussions, especially at work, are “best described as two or more people having different experiences while making up stories about what is going on in each other’s minds: stories that are never checked out.”
Our perception is limited as human beings. We only see and hear so much. Our mind is left guessing, filling in the blanks. We are usually not taught the skills of self-awareness in school or home. The basic tasks of the mind are to monitor and modify. We are forming maps of reality based on our assumptions. Most people do not talk about their assumptions or their mental maps with anyone, but especially at work. Leaders have a tough job, making decisions with a great deal at stake with poor information to base it upon.
Each person has different maps of reality. These maps have different types of scripts. One map is a world where I fear being abandoned. From this perspective, I manage others in order to calm my anxiety. Operating from this point of view, I have poor boundaries and do not distinguish the differences between myself and others.
Another map of reality is one of distrust. I separate myself from others, because I have a fear of being swallowed up if I get too close to anyone. Therefore, I chose extreme individuality and chose not to connect to others. With this world view, I have rigid boundaries. Little information passes in or out of my boundaries. All information will be given on a need to know basis.
The optimal position is called differentiation. This point of view perceives it to be safe to be closely connected to others as well as being unique as an individual. A person operating from this point of view has clear boundaries. I am clear about what my experience is – my thoughts, feelings, and sensations. I can tell the difference between my personal experience and your experience. I look at and examine my assumptions.
Bushe writes that self-awareness has three parts. The first skill is being able to know your experience moment to moment. The second skill is being able to use words to describe your experience. Another part of this second skill is being able to use words to distinguish your experience from others’ experience. The last skill is the ability to know the how my view of reality (also called mental maps) is different from reality itself. An analogy is an actual road map. Road maps are not exact, but approximation of the streets and highways of the area depicted. There remains a difference between a map and reality. So it is within us as well.
Bushe recommends working on being aware of oneself, improving the accuracy of communication, increasing ones curiosity in others, and increasing appreciation of others. These qualities enable leaders to be more effective. Bob Epperly, former Exxon Vice-President, and an expert in alternative energy as he discusses the specific challenges with managing a difficult subordinate. Please watch this video as Bob explores with you the evolution of leadership: