Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adaptive Change Webinar

Free webinar on adaptive change is based on a recent article by Dr. Carol Mase, published in Shift Magazine called The Adaptive Organization. It can be downloaded at

Dr. Carol Mase has an extensive education in medical and social sciences and has worked as an entrepreneur, global marketing executive, and organizational coach-consultant. She brings the "new sciences" of complexity, neuroscience, and systems thinking to organizations and leadership.

Free interactive webinar to introduce the adaptive change model are offered in April.

Tuesday April 14, 2009 4-5 pm EDT / 1-2 pm PT

Thursday April 23, 2009 12-1 pm EDT / 9-10 am PT

Tuesday April 28, 2009 4-5 pm EDT / 1-2 pm PT

Register by email at subject=Free WebinarRegistration specifying the day you would like to attend.

She says...

We are entering an unprecedented time of change and opportunity. It is a time of great uncertainty and challenge; the new language of business describes our situation as complex and chaordic and new ways of thinking emerge as old mental models from the industrial era fail and add to, rather than improve, the problems we face. As recently stated by Sumeet Banerji, CEO of Booze and Company, "Industry structure is fundamentally [being] reshaped by [today's] discontinuity." A level of discontinuity that challenges even the most sophisticated manager and leader, not to mention their organizations.

"Change agents continue to struggle with outmoded models, tools, and techniques - ones that were sufficient in slower and simpler times, but that are counterproductive when complex adaptation is the only viable survival strategy." - Edwin Olson and Glenda Eoyang, in Facilitating Organizational Change

Taking advantage of this moment in history provides coaches and consultants with the opportunity to move beyond our outdated tools, designed in the era of linear, mechanistic organizational structures. We have the chance today to design new dynamic tools that engage organizations, managers, and leaders in a new conversation - one that allows them to create a new paradigm for business.

"As long as human beings have inhabited the Planet Earth, we have existed in a self-organizing world. Quite probably the majority are simply unconscious of this fact, and their adjustment to the forces of self-organization are equally unconscious. Others are unwilling Wave Riders, who take deep umbrage at the uncontrollable forces at play, seeking their defeat and claiming to be in charge. ... There have also been more than a few who truly understood the situation, if only intuitively, and learned to ride the waves to their benefit and to the benefit of their fellow human beings." - Harrison Owen, Wave Rider

If this speaks to you, please join in the conversation. If you know of someone who might be interested in this conversation, please pass on the invitation. The format is to first introduce a concept, the Conceptual Phase, as a free one-hour webinar from the worldview of self-organizing systems. For those who are interested, a second Application Phase, Tools for New Times (TNT), is offered as 3-5 week webinar. Finally, an Amplification Phase exists as an on-line creative design group, Organizational Change Agents, generating and testing new tools.

We begin with a biomimetic model of change, because change is what we are obviously facing at this point in history. The adaptive model offers you a new way of thinking about and resolving the organizational and individual strain and tensions that emerge when complex systems interact with, and in, a volatile global environment. Integrating systems thinking, organizational theory, and the new sciences this model gives you a tool designed to provide the change agents you coach with a road map for traversing this new landscape.

Find Dr. Mase's blog at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Building Resiliency Through Acceptance

Radical Acceptance is a book by Tara Brach. In this book, she talks about how we can explore accepting things that we are resisting as a pathway to less suffering. She talks about suffering being a result of resistance and not the events that happen.

Someone told me recently that there is a saying that pain is unavoidable, but suffering is not. That resonated with me. Feeling pain, sadness, and grief about loss is a natural and healthy part of life. However, suffering is optional.

When we resist what is - we are putting energy into something with little return. In Keegan and Lahey's newest book The Immunity to Change, they talk about the result when we put energy into commitments to change and also competing commitments not to change. They give the example of putting one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake pedal. A lot of energy is being expended, but no movement is happening.

Every day we hear about budget cuts and layoffs. We hear about service cuts at the same time as increases in demand for services. How can we accept this? Not that we are saying this a good thing or we approve of it. But how can we be with it in a way that doesn't create suffering? It is challenging. If we can feel the sadness and at the same time feel the hope of what is possible - we can free up energy from resisting -- and direct it toward something more productive.

This does release energy and build resiliency. Sometimes at the raw moment of grief and loss we can only experience one side of this paradox, the what is now. This is natural. Eventually however if we can feel both sides - we feel lighter. Parker Palmer calls this paradox the tragic gap. There are several videos of him talking about it on you tube. Click here for one.

Cassandra at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Building Resiliency with Blessings

I recently bought the book To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue. This book contains dozens of blessings for all different situations, occasions, and transitions. I've been carrying it around with me and at meetings or on the phone - picking one to read. He talks about blessings as being lost, they were once a part of daily life. It is amazing how powerful it is to focus on a blessing, it connects us to energy and our resources. Here is one for broken trust.

For Broken Trust
Sometimes there is an invisible raven
That will fly low to pierce the shell of trust
When it has been brought near to ground.

When he strikes, he breaks the faith of years
That had built quietly through the seasons
In the rythm of tried and tested experience.

With one strike, the shelter is down
And the black yoke of truth turned false
Would poison the garden of memory.

Now the heart's dream turns to requiem,
Offering itself a poultice of tears
To cleanse from loss what cannot be lost.

Through all the raw and awkward days,
Dignity will hold the heart to grace
Lest it squander its dream on a ghost.

Often torn ground is ideal for seed
That can root disappointment deep enough
To yield a harvest that cannot wither:

A deeper light to anoint the eyes,
Passion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance:
The soul ready for its true other.

Cassandra at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Increasing Energy with Appreciative Questions

I love Appreciative Interviews. I use them with groups and individuals. You can craft Appreciative Questions on any topic or use the same ones over and over. We created an Appreciative Inquiry Guide on Lasting Change. We've used this more than any other one because isn't that what we all want? To create positive lasting change!

I feel that you can never do too many Appreciative Interviews. It makes me laugh when people say - oh we've done that already. Just because you've done an Appreciative Interview once doesn't mean there isn't value to doing one again. In fact, I think that if you did one once per week, that would be a great way to stay focused on what gives you energy and increase your energy.

I'm currently taking a teleclass with Sara Orem on Appreciative Coaching. As part of the class, we paired up with someone in the class and interviewed each other using the following questions. There are many different versions of Appreciative Questions and Appreciative Coaching Questions. I really like these. I did them at the end of the day Friday and it was such a great way to end the work week.

Question 1. What experiences am I proud of?

Question 2. How do these experiences highlight my strengths and talents?

Question 3. How could I leverage these strengths and talents to address current issues and future dreams?

Question 4. What actions can I begin experimenting with (to assure that my imagined state IS my future state)?

Suggestion: Ask someone to pair up with you so you can interview each other. See how much energy you feel. You can do this every week and talk about something different every time.

Hope you enjoy this. Cassandra at

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Praise of the Earth

The following is a blessing from John O'Donahue's book of blessings called To Bless the Space Between Us.

In Praise of the Earth

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed's self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

Hope you enjoyed this. Cassandra at

Facilitation Graphics Training

I attended a Facilitation Graphics training this past week in Phoenix. It was a great experience. I had taken my first training in May of 07. This training was a great experience for new learning, to refresh and practice my prior knowledge, and to learn with people who lived in Arizona that I could see again and maybe practice or work with. I used what I learned immediately when facilitating. I have posted a photo of what I created to capture the participant's expectations for the day. I've put in a link to future ICA graphic facilitation trainings.

Cassandra at

The Cost of Overemphasizing Measurement and Achievement

The Gifted Leaders March 2009 e-Newsletter by Jeff Thoren, DVM, ACC focuses on the unintended negative consequences of focusing too much on goals, measurable outcomes, and achievement. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately and loved this so much, I am passing it forward. Thanks Jeff.

Many educational and business environments emphasize the importance of performance, results, achievement, and success. All good things, right? But is it possible that when we focus so much on how well we're doing that we lose intrinsic interest in what we're doing?

Common sense suggests we should figure out what our goals are, then check in periodically to see how successful we have been at meeting them. Assessment thus would be an unobtrusive servant of our achievement. In education, assessment is employed in an attempt to motivate students (with grades used as carrots and sticks to coerce them into working harder) or, as with standardized testing, to sort students (the point being not to help everyone learn but to figure out who is better than whom).

If we are truly interested in collecting information that will enhance the quality of learning, then traditional report cards and standardized testing are destined to disappoint us. Grades by their very nature undermine learning. Too many students have been led to believe that getting A's, not learning, is the point of going to school. And standardized tests are associated with a whole host of consequences.

And as business leaders, we must also ask, "what price are we paying for our love affair with measuring results in the workplace?"

Here's this month's feature ...

The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement
By Alfie Kohn

School Administrator - November 1999

Highlights from the article:

There is a fundamental distinction between focusing on how well you're doing something and focusing on what you're doing. The two orientations aren't mutually exclusive, of course, but in practice they feel different and lead to different behaviors.

Consider a school or a business that constantly emphasizes the importance of performance! Results! Achievement! Success! A student or employee who has absorbed that message may find it difficult to get swept away with the process of creating or innovating (i.e. learning). He may be so concerned about the results that he's not all that engaged in the activity that produces those results.

Kohn presents five disturbing consequences that are likely to accompany the obsession with standards and achievement in an academic setting. If you are a manager or business owner who focuses a lot on setting goals and measuring results, where do you see these showing up in your workplace?

Students come to regard learning as a chore. When kids are encouraged constantly to think about how well they're doing in school, the first casualty is their attitude toward learning. As motivation to get good grades goes up, motivation to explore ideas tends to go down. Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation tend to be inversely related: the more people are rewarded for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.

Students try to avoid challenging tasks. If the point is to succeed rather than to stretch one's thinking or discover new ideas, then it is completely logical for a student to want to do whatever is easiest. That, after all, will maximize the probability of success - or at least minimize the probability of failure. It's convenient for us to assume that kids who cut corners are just being lazy because then it's the kids who have to be fixed. But perhaps they're just being rational. They have adapted to an environment where results, not intellectual exploration, are what count.

Students tend to think less deeply. The goal of some students is to acquire new skills, to find out about the world, to understand what they're doing. When they pick up a book, they're thinking about what they're reading, not about how well they're reading it. Paradoxically, these students who have put success out of their minds are likely to be successful. By contrast, students who have been led to focus on producing the right answer or scoring well on a test tend to think more superficially. One study after another shows that creativity and even long-term recall of facts are adversely affected by the use of traditional grades.

Students may fall apart when they fail. No one succeeds all the time, and no one can learn very effectively without making mistakes and bumping up against his or her limits. It's important, therefore, to encourage a healthy and resilient attitude toward failure. As a rule, that is exactly what students tend to have if their main goal is to learn: when they do something incorrectly, they see the result as useful information. They figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Not so for the kids who believe (often because they have been explicitly told) that the point is to succeed - or even to do better than everyone else. When the point isn't to figure things out but to prove how good you are, it's often hard to cope with being less than good.

Students value ability more than effort. When students are led to focus on how well they are performing in school, they tend to explain their performance not by how hard they tried but by how smart they are. And the more that teachers emphasize getting good grades, avoiding mistakes and keeping up with everyone else, the more students tend to attribute poor performance to factors they thought were outside their control, such as a lack of ability.

"An overemphasis on assessment can actually undermine the pursuit of excellence." - Martin Maehr and Carol Midgley at the University of Michigan

For the full text article, go to ...

Goals Gone Wild: How Goal Setting Can Lead to Disaster

Consider some recent findings on the consequences of overemphasizing achievement ...

New research by Wharton Business School professor Maurice Schweitzer and three colleagues documents the potential hazards of setting goals. In pursuit of corporate mandates, employees will sometimes ignore sound business practices, risk the company's reputation and violate ethical standards.

This lesson, however, has not been absorbed by corporate America. To the contrary, ambitious goal setting has become endemic in American business practice and scholarship over the last half-century. It's possible, though, that corporate goal setting can cause more harm than good.

Schweitzer believes the practice of goal setting is greatly overused. He argues that, "there are some contexts where goal setting is appropriate, such as when tasks are routine, easy to monitor and very easy to measure." In practice, there are a series of potential problems linked to the misuse of goal setting.

Goal setting may be unnecessary in many cases. Research has shown that employees have a stronger intrinsic motivation to do a good job than their managers tend to give them credit for. This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that says, "what gets measured, gets done."

Schweitzer and his colleagues advise, "Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for students of management, experts need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription-strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision."

Read more ...

Building Resiliency to Stay Up in Down Times

Bruce Elkin a coach, writer, and speaker talks about resiliency in his March 5 newsletter. See below a copy of this and a link to sign up for his eNewsletter. When you sign up you'll get a copy of his new ebook about this topic.

“Sign up for Bruce’s free eNewsletter and get a free copy of his Staying Up In Down Times ebook when it launches in late March -

Welcome to "SIMPLY SUSTAINABLE SUCCESS" - March 5, 2009:
Helping You Create What Matters MOST in Life and Work --
With Whatever Life Throws At You!
Bruce Elkin: Life/Work Design & Transitions Coach

> This Week: Building the Resilience To Stay Up In Down Times!

"The Beauty of Life surrounds me,
the Joy of Life uplifts me,
and the Resilience of Life protects me.
It is enough."
--Laura Teresa Marquez

Hi ,
Lovely spring day in Victoria. Clouds, sun, a spot of showers to brighten up the daffodils and crocuses--and that special renewal energy that only comes with the arrival of spring. Apologies to those of you still shoveling snow, or sweltering in record heat. I'm happy to live where I do!

I wasn't always this perky, spring or no spring. During a long and difficult period of my life I was down, depressed, feeling helpless and hopeless about my future. But, learning how to build resilience enabled me to overcome my learned pessimism and become realistically optimistic.
Things have gone much better for me ever since.

Two things helped me to develop that realistic optimism: the capacity to create results that matter to me, and resilience, the ability to bounce back quickly from losses and setbacks.

"Emotional resilience says stress counselor Elizabeth Scott, "refers to one's ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people are able to "roll with the punches" and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties; less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes, both major and minor.

"It's been found that those who deal with minor stresses more easily can also manage major crises with greater ease, so resilience has its benefits for daily life as well as for the rare major catastrophe."

Getting Back Up: Learning From Failure
"Suppose you have tried and failed again and again," said actress Mary Pickford. "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down."

Ms Pickford makes a distinction between the act of failing and the conclusions you draw about that act. Those who stay down judge that they have failed. They generalize from their act to the illogical conclusion, "I am a failure."

Worse, they may go even further, and generalize to, "I always fail."

Thus, they assume, there is no point in getting up. Viewing themselves as victims of circumstances, they stay down, don't act, and don't learn from their experience.

But making mistakes--and correcting them--is key to creating, and resilience. There is no failure in learning, only feedback. Fail fast; learn quickly.

Edison failed hundreds, even thousands of times, before he found a reliable filament for light bulbs. But did you know that giants such as Henry Ford and Walt Disney suffered multiple bankruptcies before they achieved lasting success.

Paralyzed from the waist down, "Man In Motion" Rick Hansen wheeled around the globe, raising millions for spinal cord research. Cyclist Lance Armstrong overcame major, mid-career cancer to win Le Tour de France seven times.

Daily, millions of people get up after being knocked down. Unwilling to adopt a victim story, they keep trying, and learning. They take power from adversity, and place it in their own hands, increasing their "sense of control."

Control, along with ownership of results, is key to building resilience. "Resilience," says Paul Stoltz, author of Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities, "is the single greatest factor in driving change, improvement, and results."

Owning The Results You Want to Create
Faced with adversity, don't blame yourself, circumstances, or other people. The origin of adversity is not nearly as important as owning the results you want to create--in spite of who or what caused the difficulty.

If you suffer a loss--physically, emotionally, or financially--focusing on that loss, how it happened, or who was responsible will make it harder for you to get beyond it, and create the results you want. "Experience," said Aldous Huxley, "is not what happens to you. Experience is what you do with what happens to you."

If you lose a job, don't focus on the injustice, or inconvenience. Focus on the kind and quality of job you most want. If you lose a friend or lover, don't just grieve the loss. Focus on improving friendships, or finding new friends. If you suffer a business loss, regroup, revsision your business, and focus on the results you truly want to create.

You won't be able to do so instantly. Even minor losses, such as losing your car keys, provoke a temporary sense of helplessness. But, with practice, you can shorten the helpless period. You can learn to grieve loss, accept the new reality, and move on.

Before I learned to respond effectively to adversity, I often got frustrated, angry, and quit if something did not go as I thought it should. As I learned to embrace adversity, own my results, and take action on what I could control, I created better results.

Once, for example, when hired to give a 90-minute keynote presentation to 1000 people at a prestigious conference, three difficulties threatened to overwhelm me.

First, the agenda drifted off schedule. Three times during the morning of my presentation, organizers asked me to shorten it: first to 60 minutes, then 45, and finally to 30. I agreed, but with each change I grew more edgy.

When I took the stage, my podium was at the side, but my overhead projector was in the middle. To talk and show my graphics--without trotting back and forth across the stage--I had to unfasten my mic from the podium, hold it in one hand, and my notes in the other. I spoke from beside the projector and changed slides with my third hand. (That's how it felt!) Not only did this frustrate me, it cut another five minutes off my talk.

Finally, when I started to speak, the sound system did not work. But the sound booth techs assured me I was "live." Each time I looked to the booth for help, the techs gave me a frustrated "you're live" sign. I was confused, and irritated. My 30-minute session had now shrunk to 20 minutes. A large part of me wanted to throw up my hands in frustration, and say, "What's the point?"

Instead, I visualized the results I wanted: an impactful, professional talk, an impressed audience, happy organizers, a reputation for being resilient, and my $1000 speaker's fee. Owing those results, I sucked it up and shouted the highlights of my talk. When the organizers announced lunch, I offered to stay and take questions. About half the audience crowded around the front of the stage, and we had a great Q&A session.

In the end, the audience was happy, the organizers were delighted, and I got paid. The techs apologized because they hadn't realized a TV crew had unplugged the feed to the auditorium. The best thing was, over the next couple of days, I got a myriad of compliments from audience members on how well I'd handled a difficult situation. And two new good-paying gigs!

Had I focused on what happened, why, and who was to blame, I would have walked off the stage in disgust--and suffered the consequences. But I owned my results, took control of what I could, and did a professional job--in spite of adversity.

Should you experience adversity and setbacks, don't focus on the adversity and/or why it happened. Instead, acknowledge and accept the reality, and then focus on the results you want to create. Own your results--in spite of the difficulties you face.

To focus, ask yourself these kinds of questions:
* What result do I want? Is it worth working for?
* Am I willing to do what it takes to create it?
* Where am I starting, and what do I have to work with?
* What actions can I take to bring my result into being?

Once you're clear about the answers to these questions, you'll be ready to take action, learn from your experience, build momentum, and move toward the results you want to create.

As you do, you'll build competence and resilience. You will feel up, energized, and confident that you can deal with whatever life throws at you.

Last week, Lynn Johnson of the "Living On Purpose" radio show in Nanaimo, BC did a lively 22-minute interview with me. We talked about Life Design, and shifting focus from problem solving to creating results that matters -- and how that applies to day-to-day life.

>To listen to the interview, go to:
[You may have to cut & paste this link into your browser. If you do, check to make sure there are not breaks (spaces) in the link.]

Hope you enjoyed this! Cassandra at

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Irony of Commitment

Starbucks is putting different quotes on their cups. I got this one last week and loved it.

The Way I See It # 76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Anne Morriss - Starbucks customer from New York City. She describes herself as an "organization builder, restless American citizen, optimist."

For more information got to

Cassandra at