The Spontaneous

Memorize
The spontaneous
Like the unexpected kiss
From your ten year old
As she puts her arms
Around your neck
Draws your head
Level with her face
As if to say
Look at me as I do this
As I tell you how much
You mean to me
My little heart is full
Right this moment
Or I may forget
The very next minute

You who are so busy
Running away
With phone calls
And laundry lists
Your presence is still
Filled with hollow absence.

Hold that thought
That moment infused
With untainted love
Let it refill you again and again
During the day
During the rest of the week
In the months that follow
And the years to come.

When you are thirsty
Parched for meaning
That thought will hold you
And it will possibly save you
Like a blanket enfolds you
To give you a reason
As to why we come here
To live this life
This life that meanders
This roller coaster of seasons
Of highs and lows
And an unending flow

—Shaku Selvakumar July 2013

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On leadership and presence: An interview with Liz Keever

Liz Keever, Executive Coach, The Oration Group

One of my course modules for my Leadership Development Program at IBM was Phone Presence and I remember being very impressed by Liz Keever’s style of leadership.  I had made a mental note to interview her.  Liz is the founder and principal of the Oration Group and has 27 years of experience.  She has designed, delivered and sold leadership development programs and executive coaching.

Liz, so glad we could make this interview happen.  You have worked on many leadership programs, have coached business leaders and you have a strong focus on cross cultural communication skills.  Can you tell me more about the challenges we face in such a diverse global business stage?

Assumptions are the big challenge.  Making assumptions about people in our global business environment can be treacherous.  We seem to have a tendency to assume that our way is the right way.  We may also assume that we know about someone’s culture but we need to be careful.  Culture is complex.  We are all members of various cultures.   We should do our research about cultures but then we should tuck that away so we can stay open, curious and fully present with the situation that is currently before us. 

Your client roster is varied.  I see you have worked with companies from IBM to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the Central Intelligence Agency.  Each of these companies have their own corporate culture. 

How do you prepare your program?

I prepare by asking lots of questions, in-person, of as many people as I possibly can and then, similar to the answer above, I improvise in the moment.   I prepare and then just let go, listen closely and serve the needs of that unique group.  Although there are significant differences between organizations, we are all human beings seeking the same things in our lives.

Since the theme of this blog is about change.  Tell me more about your practice around the effective management of change.  How do you see leadership and presence evolving during an unpredictable economy and a hyper competitive market?

I interpret the word to mean focus–unwavering and undistracted focus on what is important.  A leader must be focused on the act of motivating and inspiring others.  We have a crisis of focus today.  Our world today has made complete focus challenging and we are impressed when we see people who maintain focus.  It is challenging to stay focused on what is important in a world of multi-tasking and constant change.   We admire people who are courageous and steady in their focus and generous by giving their undivided attention.  Leaders who cultivate a “leadership presence” are those who are clear on what is truly important.  They live their values and stay focused on them. 

 Tell me more about your thoughts on Presence

Presence is Proactive.  A leader is not passive and not reactionary.  To be proactive means making choices and working “on purpose.”  The next question becomes:  “On what do we base our action?” The answer is: Values.  A leader with presence acts on values.  Decisions are based on values. 

Let’s relate that to learning in the workplace.  An important value that is shared by all leaders is continuous improvement and that means learning.  In the past, we saw too many passive learners.  The old model of workplace learner certainly encouraged it.  Learners were sent to a workshop and told to sit and learn—not much room for proactivity there.  Today, learning is even more important in our fast-paced world and can happen in so many different ways through the use of technology.

Leaders who take the bull by the horns and act on that value of continuous improvement by being a proactive learner will inspire others to do the same.

Love that! As you touched upon learning, I am quite intrigued by the Guided Learning Experience℠ (GLE) that you developed for workplace learning.  Can you tell us more?

The Guided Learning Experience℠ (GLE) is a workplace learning program that spans time and divides content into digestible chunks.   It is a designed leadership development program that provides enough freedom and flexibility for the learner to do customization.  We use various media, work in groups and do 1×1 coaching.  Throughout, learners are expected to reflect on their learning in a journal.  We build in accountability at the end so learners are expected to “teach back” what they learned.  The one I do for IBM spans one month.  I just completed one for a global insurance company that lasted 3 months and one for a national consulting firm that lasted 9 months.  I’m passionate about learning and am very enthusiastic about the GLE. 

On a personal note, you are the founder of The Oration Group and change is no stranger to you.  What has kept you awake at night and what has kept you going? 

I fear stagnation—doing things because that’s “just what we’ve always done.”   I enjoy change, discovery and growth.  Learning and growing is a blessing!

What keeps me going is helping leaders be fully present and focus on values in this complex world.  Then they can empower others to act on them. 

To wrap up, what would you say would be your top three tips on managing personal change

  1. Know what YOU want.  Be proactive.  Create your own vision and move toward it.
  2. Find your power.  Act on what is within your control and release the things that are not.
  3. Always be able to detach from a situation that no longer serves you.  Be the master of your own ship.

Liz, thank you for taking the time.  One of my mantras is that we never stop learning from each other.  I look forward to reading your blog and following you on Twitter.

Signing off with a great Youtube video from Liz on “how to use your voice to speak well.”