Episode 75: Stomping the Blues, Reimagining American Identity with Greg Thomas [The Amiel Show]

Fasten your seatbelts. This week, we’re going on a rollicking, rhythmic, high-minded, and heartfelt ride through the core of the American experience.

Greg Thomas, our guide through the True but Partial Challenge on race, joins me again to steer us through this week’s journey.

Or should I say: journeys?

That’s how much territory we cover. Greg even coaxes me to steer out of my “interviewer lane” and riff on my own experience stomping the blues.

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The focus of our conversation is Albert Murray, the great 20th century American writer and close colleague of Ralph Ellison.

Haven’t heard of him? Neither had I until a few months ago.

But since when did lack of fame mean anything about a person’s wisdom?

Like me, you will learn to take Albert Murray seriously. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison does. She wrote, “Murray’s perceptions are firmly based in the blues idiom, and it is black music no less than literary criticism and historical analysis that gives his work its authenticity, its emotional vigor, and its tenacious hold on the intellect.”

Like me, you will get mesmerized by the ideas in Murray’s first book, The Omni-Americans. Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates wrote in his New Yorker profile of Murray (“The King of Cats”) that the book was “so pissed-off, jaw-jutting, and unapologetic that it demanded to be taken seriously.”

Highlights

  • 6:00 Albert Murray’s influence on American culture and art
  • 13:30 American identity synthesizes multiple roots
  • 20:00 Murray’s devastating critique of “ghettoologists” and “safari technicians”
  • 35:00 Decoding ancient fairy tales and applying them to life today
  • 39:00 The blues idiom as life compass
  • 43:00 The hero’s journey in American cultures, e.g. Harriet Tubman
  • 46:00 Hero’s journey is an alternative orientation from Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Baldwin
  • 55:30 We fear difference and are attracted to it. Can we integrate this into ourselves?
  • 59:00 The Jazz Leadership Project
  • 1:10:00 Apprentice, journeyman, and master

 

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Next Tuesday we’ll stomp the blues

Allow me to entice you.

Next Tuesday at 10am PST, the second to last day of Black History Month, check your email inbox.

I’ll give you an interview about the most important American writer on culture you’ve probably never heard of.

Unless your name is Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of Harvard, who called this writer “The King of Cats.”

Or Toni Morrison, who said, “Murray’s perceptions are firmly based in the blues idiom, and it is black music no less than literary criticism and historical analysis that gives his work its authenticity, its emotional vigor, and its tenacious hold on the intellect.”

  • Name: Albert Murray
  • Focus: Hero’s journey, stomping the blues, critiquing “ghettologists,” appreciating that black culture is central to American culture
  • Quote: “The blues idiom is an attitude of affirmation in the face of difficulty, of improvisation in the face of challenge. It means that you acknowledge life is a low down dirty shame yet confront that fact with perseverance, with humor, and above all, with elegance.”
  • Our guide: Greg Thomas, former jazz columnist for the New York Daily News

Tuesday at 10am. It will lift you up.

Episode 74: Whites’ Self-Interest In Opposing Racism With Diane Woods [The Amiel Show]

You support Black Lives Matter and oppose racial discrimination because you want to help black people. If you have light skin, you can’t get much more noble than that, right?

Not quite. According to this week’s guest, leadership coach and retired executive Diane Woods, the idea that white people need to be altruistic toward blacks is itself a racist idea.

Huh?

Yes, you read that correctly.

In fact, as Diane explains, white folks have an intelligent self-interest in opposing racist ideas and embracing all of us as equally capable and worthy human beings.

I’ve known Diane for almost two decades. She hosted a book club I joined. Back then, I saw her as a fountain of wisdom and curiosity, and over time, those qualities have only grown.

Please join me in this second episode in my new series on the American experience with race. If you enjoyed my conversation last week with Greg Thomas—or, heck, even if you haven’t yet—you’ll want to tune into this one.

Please share with friends and colleagues so we can carry Diane’s voice far into the conversation around race and culture.

Highlights

  • 5:00 Why Ta-Nehisi Coates and Diane weren’t surprised by white supremacists marching
  • 9:00 Diane’s spiritual teacher’s blind spot around race
  • 15:00 Evolution of race work over 50 years
  • 20:00 Crafting herself to look good for white corporate America
  • 31:00 Despite injustice, my inner life is mine and I will defend it
  • 35:00 “They just don’t want us here”
  • 41:00 “I may say racist things but I’m pure on the inside”
  • 49:00 Racism is corrosive for white people
  • 1:02:00 Whites freeing themselves from the burden of racism
  • 1:05:00 Countering racism is in whites’ intelligent self-interest

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The Year Ahead [New Post]

Thank you all for listening to my podcast, reading my posts, and sending kudos, queries, and quirky questions. As we close out 2017 and step into 2018, I want to share a few words about what you can expect from staying in conversation with me.

  • Growing as a leader and human being in organizations. This remains the primary focus of my podcast, blog, and client work. What can we learn about this process from different teachers, studies, experts, traditions, and organizations?
  • In-depth interviews. I’m committed to providing high-quality, in-depth interviews that make you think. I pick guests whose work I admire and ask them to dive deeply. These folks have a lot to say, so I give them the spotlight and challenge them to stretch their own thinking an extra inch.
  • Accomplishing work together by managing promises. My clients are reporting a great deal of benefit from an approach to collaborative work that I call “managing promises.” I’m using it with teams and individuals to produce better results with fewer headaches. (If you’d like to talk about using this with your team, send me a note). You may recognize this theme from past interviews with Elizabeth Doty about making only promises you can keep, Bob Dunham on listening for commitment and executives’ new promises, and Chris Chittenden on real accountability. Why do so many handoffs between people go awry? Why is it frustrating when people don’t give you what you ask for and yet so challenging to talk with them about this in a way that improves future results? What happens when you make more powerful offers in your organization, and what specific steps are needed to do this? How can you raise the performance of your entire team by learning the real anatomy of action? I’ve taken many of these ideas (originally from Fernando Flores’s “conversation for action”) and fleshed them out into a comprehensive model called the “promise cycle”. I’ve written a short yet fairly technical playbook about this called Reliable Results. In the coming year, I’ll be doing more interviews and Jedi Leadership Tricks on this topic, posting more diagrams like Fuzzy Promises, Fuzzy Mittens, and continuing to share it with teams. I think there is great potential to do for managing promises with others what David Allen has done with managing agreements with yourself.
  • The American experience with race—a new series. Most conversation about race in the United States is simplistic, polemical, and poorly grounded in history. We are arguing past each other rather than listening to each other, focusing only on the latest outrages, and not sufficiently integrating different perspectives. To me, it’s a huge leadership topic, something that can inform how we understand ourselves and the people we work with even when the topic at hand is not about race. That’s because to talk with wisdom about race is to talk about what it means to be human beings in all our beautiful complexity. I’ll be asking podcast guests to explore this topic with me in an integral way. We’ll delve into individual beliefs and behaviors, culture, and societal structures.
  • Synthesizing key concepts. Several listeners have recently challenged me to share my own understanding on the many ideas I explore with guests. To synthesize and illuminate what I’ve been learning. Expect to see at least a couple forays in this direction in the coming year.

Once again, thank you for walking with me on this journey. Anything in this note strike you as particularly important? Have any other suggestions for me. I welcome your emails!

 

Episode 71: Biology of Power & Sexual Harassment With Janet Crawford [The Amiel Show]

This week on the podcast, I welcome back Janet Crawford to discuss sexual harassment as an expression of high and low power tactics rooted in human biology. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and experimental psychology and her own professional and personal experience, Janet brings to light many subtle dynamics overlooked in the public debate about this charged topic.

Janet is a highly regarded executive coach and public speaker based in the Bay Area.

Janet and I previously spoke about leaders’ brains, emotional literacy and power and, more recently, about being a good guy and breaking with the Bro Code.

Highlights

  • 3:00 Biology of power. High and low power tactics.
  • 9:00 Why do many high power men not harass?
  • 16:00 Why women wait to come forward—a big list
  • 22:00 Why are women coming forward now?
  • 30:00 Professional harm versus sexual harm
  • 37:00 Women walk a tightrope based on how high power people will evaluate them
  • 40:00 Women’s backlash against women. Men’s backlash against men
  • 52:00 Men get an “aha” when they see how power works
  • 1:00:00 A young Janet’s harrowing episode—and how she grew from it
  • 1:18:00 How to stop harassment at low level insinuations
  • 1:26:00 Janet uses humor to respond to a power challenge

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Episode 70: Later Stages Of Leadership Maturity With Susanne Cook-Greuter [The Amiel Show]

This week on the podcast, I welcome back adult development expert, Susanne Cook-Greuter, to discuss the most advanced stages of leadership maturity. Each of these stages is both increasingly complex—bringing new capacities and new challenges—and increasingly rare. We discuss:

  • Self-actualizing or Strategist stage
  • Construct-aware/Ego-aware or Alchemist stage
  • Unitive or Ironist stage

Susanne and I previously spoke in episode 36 about the how vertical development works and what’s common between all developmental models.

In episode 37 we explored how developmental theory helps us reframe two everyday challenges: work/career and pivotal conversations.

In both episodes, we focused on the development stages where 80 percent of adults in the West live. But what about the stages beyond that? What is it like to live there?

That is the focus of this episode.

Our conversation was a genuine “wow.” My mind got a vigorous calisthenic workout, and we teamed up to investigate common confusions about these later stages.

Have a seat, go for a walk, get on a plane, and take a listen. This is one you’ll want to share with friends!

Highlights

  • 8:50 Self-Actualizing/Strategist stage (5-6% of adults in West)
  • 19:00 Capacity to take a stand on ideals
  • 26:00 When growth first really matters to us
  • 30:30 Tempted to take an early retirement package from development?
  • 35:00 “Look how much I know about myself!”
  • 36:00 Construct Aware/Ego Aware/Alchemist stage (<1% of adults in West)
  • 41:00 “Am I nuts?”
  • 44:00 The limits of mapmaking and trying to get beyond the ego
  • 47:00 Unitive or Ironist stage
  • 51:30 Experiencing the wonder of things—consistently
  • 1:00:00 The virtues of hanging out at—and acting from—Self-Actualizing/Strategist

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