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November 2009 | Volume 3, Issue #5

In This Issue
The Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
Douglas College Appointment
What I've Been Writing
Who's Been Interviewing Me
What are People Saying about Me
What I'm Doing in November
The Cellar Jazz Club
Quick Links
In a recent survey by The Business Source, 94.7% of the 1044 respondents said their primary leadership challenge was to communicate better, especially in tough situations.  A close second (92%) was keeping their teams motivated and focused.  The two are closely connected and both rely on the quality of conversations leaders initiate with their colleagues. 
We too often think of communicating as a monologue.  We want to communicate something that we are convinced someone "needs" to know.  We want to make sure our "spin" is heard and accepted.  And we want our way of doing things to "win" in the discussion or debate.  (The latter was my most toxic behaviour and remains a temptation to manage carefully.)  We tell and command, at times even yell and coerce.  So, as many of my coaching colleagues ask at some point in a conversation, "How's it working for you?"  Probably not terribly well, eh?
If we look at the richness of meaning that communicate holds, a more positive and productive picture of motivating and focusing teams through communication emerges.  The roots of the word have to do with things held in common, things that are shared, things that are exchanged, participation with each other, and being joined or connected.  To recover these root meanings of communicate, we would show up better thinking dialogue rather than monologue.  The purpose of great communication is to surface, align, and mobilize the wisdom and passion of the whole group involved.  That will get you through tough situations and keep your team motivated.  That will keep your team focused on what you value in common.  That will generate the innovation to move beyond the problems to realize positive possibilities.
There are three core attitudes to practice deliberately in these kinds of conversations:
  1. Being calm in your heart with a focus on the quality of relationships you want to nurture long-term in the conversations;
  2. Being curious in your mind with a focus on the quality of questions that will draw people into an lasting alliance; and
  3. Being appreciative in your listening with a focus on what can be learned from everyone on the team, individually and collectively, to co-create the kind of innovation that will meet the challenges in a sustainable way.
More caring and thoughtful conversations hold the greatest potential in meeting the leadership challenges identified in The Business Source survey.


Brian Fraser
The Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
Carolyn BohlerMany of you know that I remain a practicing Presbyterian minister in addition to my other portfolios of speaking, facilitating, coaching, and consulting.  On the last Sunday in November, I will begin working part-time with Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Burnaby, BC, as their interim minister for a two-year term. 
Doug Todd, an award-winning journalist for the Vancouver Sun, wrote a review this month of Carolyn Jane Bohler'sGod the What? What Our Metaphors for God Reveal about Our Beliefs in God (2008).  The metaphor that caught my attention was God as a Jazz Band Leader who elicits the best music from us.  Whatever your understanding may be of a higher power in your life, I think this metaphor is suggestive about its dynamic and flow.  Here's part of what Bohler has to say:
   "The Jazz Band Leader God helps me enjoy life with others as we improvise our way forward, with God making meaningful music alongside of us, and maybe, too, within us. ...
   This metaphor fits my belief about God's power and responsibility in relation to ours.  The Jazz Band Leader cares deeply, pays enormous attention to the band members, and plays alongside the members, but is truly guiding - never sitting out.  The Jazz Band Leader, while having the most power and wisdom in the band, cannot make the drummer stop if the drummer keeps going.  The Jazz Band Leader cannot coax a bashful saxophonist to play a riff she does not believe she can.  This metaphor implies genuine human freedom."  
Douglas College Appointment

I am honoured to have been appointed chair of the Advisory Committee for the Community & Workplace Leadership Program at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC. Click here to discover more about the program. 

What I've Been Writing
"Governing Like a Jazz Group: Govern Like a Jazz Group: A Core Chart for Optimal Flow in Nonprofit Governance," Charity Channel Nonprofit Board and Governance Review, October 7, 2009.  Click here for access to the article.
Who's Been Interviewing Me
Debbie Chow is a communications specialist who writes for the BCODN Newsletter.  She interviewed Deb Forney and me for an article on the centrality of conversations in creating a healthy and attractive workplace.  Click here to read the interview.
What are People Saying about Me
Bunnie Riedel writes a great blog for nonprofits.  She's based in Columbia, MD.  This month she picked up my article on governing like a jazz group in Charity Channel.  Here's her introduction to the reprint.
Does it get any better than this? Many of us spend plenty of time looking for good analogies or strong metaphors that connect to enhance our communication and really express our feelings. Brian Fraser, of Jazzthink, really hit the nail on the head with this article. It's not something that you can necessarily quantify, but we all know (because we feel it) when the rhythms are working and everyone is in harmony. Conversely, we also instinctively know when they're not. Love this article, take it to your next board meeting! 
Click here to connect to Bunnie Riedel's Nonprofit Conversation blog and read the reprint.
What I'm Doing in November
Offering a webinar, "The Power of Coaching in Capacity Building" for the Alliance for Nonprofit Management on November 18, 2009 from 2-3:30PM EST (11-12:30PM PST).  To get further information and register for this webinar, click here
Conducting a board development workshop for the Filipino Social Workers Association of British Columbia on November 14, 2009.
Joining with Nick Nissley, Executive Director of Leadership Development at the Banff Centre, to offer 'Finding Your Leadership Groove' at The Cellar Restaurant/Jazz Club, 3611 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC, on November 30, 2009, from 7-9PM.  The event will feature the Jazzthink Trio, along with Nick and I, exploring lessons in leadership from jazz. Click here to find out more and register.  

Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver 

The Cellar Logo

 "Vancouver's answer to the Village Vanguard, this small (70-seat) club/restaurant presents the best local jazz, as well as some touring acts.  Great sound, which has been used to enhance the club's record label, Cellar Live."
- Down Beat magazine's list of 100 best jazz clubs in the February 2009 issue