Leadership Lessons – through Art?

I had a moment where I was reminded how my perspective on things is not the only perspective.  I was at Art Prize 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I was looking at the picture shown here.  It is made out of 520 tiny cups that are 12 different shades of grey and the artist is James Freeman.  So here is the trick with this picture – when you stand close to it all you see is grey cups, with just a faint image that there is a face in these cups.  The farther you move away, the clearer the face becomes.  For me, even moving away the image was never really all that clear.

How did I figure out this was a face?  Well, my 7-year-old took a picture of it and announced to me “Daddy look – it is a face!”  It turns out when take a picture from any distance the face appears.  Apparently the artist created an image that exposes some of the limits to our minds ability to process the different shades of grey and be able to see the REAL image.

So where is the leadership lesson here?  First, a gentle reminder that we often need help in seeing the real truth in anything – whether it is developing personal awareness of strengths/weaknesses/passions, finding the best solution to a problem, or becoming better leaders by knowing and dealing with our own constraints.  Looking through our own eyes have some natural limitations.

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a 7-year-old along to look at things a little differently.  Or having a friend take a picture of us (have you taped one of your speeches lately?).  Art reminds us that there are different ways of seeing the same thing, and having the courage to first ask the question “What do you see when you look at this?” is the first step.  The second is waiting to hear the answer or answers, then giving time to consider the possibilities that differ from your own.

I initially just saw a bunch of grey cups.  Thankfully someone else saw the art.  Kudos to James Freeman for the leadership lesson in art. –www.jamesfreemanstudio.com

Mastery – Does it matter? Part 1 of 3

All this talk of Mastery – Initial Thoughts . . .

I watched a 10 minute YouTube video from Daniel Pink and I was blown away.  He shares the portion of his book (DRIVE) that shares the research based finding that the knowledge worker is motivated by three main things:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

What caught my attention was the word Mastery, which has become a familiar word for me recently.  The dictionary defines it as the possession of a consummate skill or the full command of some subject of study.  Now it is being heralded as a key to motivation for many workers.  Is this a surprise?

As a father of four I have had several more experienced men tell me that adolescence is easier if your child finds what they are good at doing.  This makes sense, but I am surprised that suddenly, in the adult world, this becomes newsworthy.  This is not intended to be an attack on someone making money for stating the obvious, but a recognition that we should view these new lessons for what they are – a reminder that many of the things we have learned in life still apply.

So how does this change how we manage our careers?  How does this change how we lead?  If Mastery is about being good at something, what has the most recent recession done to motivation if people are in one of two states – overloaded doing the work of 1+ people or trying to look overloaded by keeping their head down and staying in constant motion doing something.

Whether your people are in either of these states, I would offer to leaders that the  first step is sitting down and starting some dialogue by asking “What % of your job do you enjoy and want to get better at doing?”.  Then come up with a plan for increasing that by 5% over the next month.   Mastery starts with focus – and focus starts with leadership, from the inside and the outside.  A leader has the chance to bring focus from the outside by helping to define some targets/goals for the individuals.   We all have a chance to build focus from the inside by trusting, relaxing, and working at resuming our journey to Mastery.  After all, it is our journey and it is important.  Pink reminds us of that.  Where are you on your journey to Mastery?

There is more to be said on this topic.  Watch Daniel Pink’s take on this at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc.