May: From Conflict to Collaboration


Nobody likes conflict, and we’ll often do all we can to avoid it. The problem is that agreeing too much is just as dangerous. It’s possible to end up with the unpleasant situation that management expert Jerry B. Harvey calls the Abilene Paradox, where everyone agrees to a course of action that nobody really wanted. It happens when everyone just ‘goes along’ with an idea because they wanted to please the group, and causes a lot of resentment and blame-shifting.

But it’s inevitable that we will disagree with someone in our family, on our team, in our community, online, on the bus, at the supermarket, and especially with people who don’t share our values. What do we do then? Continue reading

April: Future Visions, Current Actions


The first three challenges for the year focused on identifying our strengths, tracing how personal history shapes our sense of self and values, and how to use these insights to clarify what we do, who we do it for, and how to leverage our personal networks of power.

The next three challenges revolve around leading and working with a team. While there are countless resources out there, it can all feel a little overwhelming. Where do you even start? How do you manage the delicate balance between leading and managing, macro-visions and micro-tasks, or present operations and future visions? Continue reading

March: Calibrating your compass


The first challenge for this year was to consider our strengths – who we are and how we function when we are at our best. The second challenge involved mapping out how significant life events, as well as our socio-political networks more generally, have shaped our sense of self. This month’s challenge incorporates those insights in gaining clarity in terms of why we do what we do, and who we do it for. You’ve probably read a lot about the power of storytelling, and these two elements are key to crafting the story you can tell yourself when you need to calibrate your personal compass. Continue reading

February: Signposting and Mapping


This month’s challenge has two parts: reflecting on your life as it is being lived out (i.e. your personal identity), and then digging deeper to take historical, cultural, and political factors into consideration (i.e. your social identity). If the first part is about identifying the signposts on your life-path, the second is about seeing that path winding through the map of its cultural and political context. All links are included at the end of this article to reduce distraction while still providing rabbit-holes (and citations).

Part 1: Developing your ‘life narrative’

This exercise draws directly from an article in The Leadership Quarterly we read in my MIT class ‘Leading Creative Teams’. It talks about different types of leadership (we’ll get more into that in upcoming months), asserting that one trait common to all outstanding leaders is how they respond to crises. Continue reading

January: Identifying My Strengths


Last year, I took a class at MIT called ‘Leading Creative Teams’ and one of the major assignments was to complete a version of the Reflected Best Self (RBS) Portrait. The RBS is a feedback-seeking exercise developed by researchers at Harvard and Michigan that I found to be really insightful for three reasons:

Firstly, it focuses on identifying strengths rather than areas for improvement. As a perfectionist trained to spot errors, glitches, lapses, contradictions, mistakes, anomalies (you get my drift) it was refreshing to seek out, for once, what absolutely shines. The RBS reoriented how I evaluate myself. Continue reading

Experiments in finding clarity: 2017 edition

As 2016 draws to a close, I am grateful that I can look back on a year that was often overwhelming and exhausting with a sense of clarity. I can see when I said ‘yes’ too often, when my efforts to attain perfection were misplaced, when I could have jettisoned activities without guilt, and – most importantly – how I will fill my life with in the new year.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such a sense of calm or joy in anticipation of a new year.

This feeling is certainly influenced by a Building Bridges planning session with co-conspirators Irfadha Muzammil and Amalini de Sayrah this morning, and the monster spring (winter?) cleaning session I undertook in anticipation of my impending move to Stanford for the first half of 2017, but that’s not all it is. Continue reading