Monthly Archives: January 2012

What can Winne the Pooh Teach us About Leadership?

REPOSTED FROM, April, 2010. I just like this post, so I thought I’d share it on this frigid Michigan Monday.

I just finished The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. If you havn’t read this classic, I highly recommend it.

The book teaches Taoist principles through the story of The House at Pooh Corner. Hoff concludes by writing,

“Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore, and a Pooh. For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplishes nothing. If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls to us with the voice of a child’s mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.”

Leading others can feel like being lost in a forest full of snares, obstacles, and challenges. Conventional thinking teaches that to survive we must be knowledgeable (like Owl), cunning (like Rabbit), and fearless (like Tigger). But these approaches often fail or, at best, promote mediocre results. When this happens we complain, blame, and become deeply unsatisfied perpetuating negativity (like Eeyore). What a drag!

Thankfully, there is another way to lead, which involves building a positive relationship with yourself and with your followers. The Pooh Way embodies many of the principles of positive leadership, which are well-supported by scientific data.

  • The Pooh Way teaches us to be appreciative, embrace change, and recognize the good in people (especially if they come bearing jars of honey).
  • The Pooh Way teaches us to be who we are. You can’t be the best you if you are busy trying to be an Owl or a Rabbit. Just do who you are, believe in yourself, and others will follow.
  • The Pooh Way teaches us to work with situations rather than against them. Listen to your intuition. Get a feel for the situation. Trust your instincts—these are the things that good leaders do.
  • The Pooh Way teaches us that success is defined less by fighting and winning and more by learning and growing. True growth and development involves changing inside and adapting, which hard-headed go-getters (Rabbits) and false sages (Owls) are reluctant to do for fear of appearing weak.
  • The Pooh Way teaches us to recognize our value and use it. Pessimists play it safe and don’t take risks because they don’t have confidence in their ability to change the situation around them. The Pooh Way teaches us to believe in ourselves and take action without fear of failure.

The Pooh metaphor might seem overdone, but the principles and science behind the story are time tested and empirically valid. If you’re lost in the forest, consider seeking a trusted partner, coach, or mentor.


A Single Step (and every one thereafter)

Lao Tzu, the 6th Century BC Chinese Sage, is quoted as having said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Positive change, be it in your personal life, team, or organization, can feel like a journey of a thousand miles–and sometimes feels like many more! All positive change is a journey, but changing mindset and behavior can sometimes feel like a really looooonnnngggg one that has no end in sight. In fact, this journey may not have an end.

As the “Old Master’s” wisdom teaches, the journey of positive change begins with a single step. A single action. Maybe a single conversation.

But what happens after you take the first step toward positively transforming yourself and others? What compels you take take the second step? And then then third? And the next after that?

Anyone can take a single step toward positive change. This might look like a single visit or a week’s worth of going to the gym. A month of eating well. A semester of disciplined study. And, as many working toward personal mastery will attest, the steps following the first one are often the hardest take.

These are the steps after the journey has begun–the steps thereafter. These steps encompass the real “stuff” of positive change:

Discipline, commitment, desire, purpose, inner strength, and will. These characteristics do not boil down to personal motivation; at their core is love of self and love of others. Love helps one push through the blisters of each step, the set backs, and the uncertainty of progress made.

Every step on a journey of a thousand miles requires love.

5 Ways to Enable Someone

Knowledge refers to facts, awareness, and skills acquired through education or experience.

Ability, however, is the capacity to put facts, awareness, and skill to use to change something.

As Kurt Lewin, a noted 20th century American pragmatist, said, there is nothing so practical as a good theory. Although theory and knowledge can be practical, they require ability in order to promote change.

Enablement is key to change on the personal, relational, group, or organizational level. Therefore, in order to become a catalyst for change, you must get good at enabling yourself and others.

How do you enable someone?

1. Find out what they want,

2. Observe their work or life situation,

3. Ask them good questions that help them see beyond their current limitations,

4. Help them remove barriers for themselves or remove the barriers yourself, if you have the power,

5. Reinforce the positive changes when they occur.

Today, we are flush with knowledge. In order to make positive change happen, we must become merchants of ability.

7 Strategies for Becoming a Change Sponsor

Positive organizational change begins and ends with sponsorship.

Sponsorship is a process, not a role.

Unfortunately, according to industry research, the majority of change sponsors don’t know what they are supposed to do.This poses serious threats to the success of change because sponsorship is the #1 predictor of successful change.

Here are seven strategies for helping others become good change sponsors:

1. Allocate resources for project management, change leadership, coaching, learning, and communication;

2. Be active and visible throughout the change (not just at the beginning);

3. Listen to what managers, employees, and customers are saying about the change;

4. Create desire and commitment among those affected  by the change;

5. Recognize, reinforce, and celebrate small wins and BIG ones too!;

6. Demonstrate that you value the people-side of change;

7. Build relationships and coalitions with change-critical stakeholders.


Keeping in Touch

Keeping in touch is a positive, relationship-enhancing behavior. As we keep in touch with friends and family, so too should we keep in touch with clients and customers.


image source:

A personalized email to say, “Hey, what’s going on in your world? Here’s a brief update on mine.”

An unexpected phone call to say, “What’s up? I’m going to forward you an article that I found that I think might be useful to your business.”

A handwritten card to say, “Hi, it’s me and I appreciate the difference that you/your company is making.”

These small, sincere acts of keeping in touch are rare in our increasingly data-driven lives, AND they play a BIG role in strengthening relationships. Try making a positive difference in someone’s day this week by keeping in touch.

Designed to Thrive: 7 Principles for Better Practice

Thriving individuals are not born that way, they design their lives to promote vitality and learning.

As noted in a previous post, Thriving = Vitality + Learning.

A design mindset empowers individuals with a philosophy and methods for bringing energy (vitality) and growth (learning) into their practice of positive change.

Here are 7 principles of the design mindset that can help consultants, leaders, and coaches promote individual and organizational thriving.

1. Everyone’s life position is unique, including challenges, opportunities, and strengths;

2. Focus on purpose and ideal solutions–strip away everything that is non-essential to learning and vitality;

3. Use systems thinking to increase self-awareness about personal strengths, passion, and vitality;

4. Create and uncover knowledge that enables positive action;

5. Accept that all understanding is partial, temporary, and contextual;

6. Discourse and human dialogue are primary means of positive change;

7. Practice pragmatic experimentation–what design choices are you currently making? What happens to your energy and learning when you make different choices?

These principles can be paired with a variety of methods of consulting and coaching to help individuals and organizations increase thriving. Try them out. Riff on them. Let me know what happens.

Source of Truth: Romme, Georges L. (2003). Making a Difference: Organization as Design, Organization Science, 14(5), 558-573.