March 20, 2012

GUEST OPINION: In complex times, persevere

From the Des Moines Business Record:
3/16/2012 7:00:00 AM
GUEST OPINION: In complex times, persevere

Jann Freed
Jann Freed
By Jann Freed

“If a company is only as good as its people, companies today have much to worry about,” says Margaret “Meg” Wheatley, an internationally acclaimed writer, teacher and speaker.

As an author of several leadership books, Wheatley was one of the pioneers of “systems thinking,” viewing organizations as organic and living systems, as explained in her book “Leadership and the New Science.” In her work with organizations, communities and nations, she has encountered caring, intelligent and well-intentioned people who are finding it challenging to do what they know is best.

“We are being asked to work faster, more competitively, more selfishly, and to focus only on the short term,” Wheatley said. “These values cannot lead to anything healthy and sustainable, and they are alarmingly destructive. I believe we must learn quickly now how to work and live together in ways that bring us back to life.”

If what I have shared interests you, take advantage of the opportunity to attend Wheatley’s presentation at the State Historical Building on April 18, sponsored by the Chrysalis Foundation.

Wheatley’s conclusion that “companies have much to worry about” is based on her extensive work in large-systems change – helping organizations become more committed and productive, and with the full engagement of people at all levels.

She has witnessed how pressures on leaders have increased dramatically. Leaders no longer have time or flexibility. They feel caged and exhausted. The demand for quick results and pressure from boards of directors have left them no time for development or learning. Leaders have told her: “Forget about values, learning or participation. We just need to execute.”

Based on Wheatley’s consulting work, she concludes that leaders need to be fearless in order to tackle the complexities in today’s world. This emphasis on becoming fearless led her to write about the significance of perseverance for people at all levels so that we can each contribute to making things better for the people, places and issues about which we care the most.

Perseverance is the capacity to keep going long after the passion for our work has dissipated. It is a continuous choice not to give up, no matter how difficult the circumstances. It is a choice we make to be aware, to be awake, to take in all of the information needed to do our best work. Wheatley calls perseverance a “life-saving skill for this time.”

Drawing on wisdom, Wheatley will explain how to confront the dominant energies of our time – aggression, anxiety and fear – in a way that allows us to do good work, serve others and care for ourselves, even when exhausted and overwhelmed. Wheatley said she has repeatedly observed that in the midst of the greatest tragedies, when people are working together and feel their connectedness is when they discover true joy.

Her work complements the efforts being made in our community to practice civility at a time when so many issues are being polarized, often preventing people from working together effectively.

Jann Freed is a leadership development and change management consultant at The Genysys Group.

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March 13, 2012

Empowerment: to combat Violence Against Women

In celebrating women this month (Women’s History Month) and International Women’s Day, you might find the work of photographer Gillian Laub inspirational.  Her exhibition benefiting the Man Up Campaign opened yesterday in Manhattan to commemorate women.

Man Up is an initiative to motivate young people to prevent violence against women.  Founded by journalist Jimmie Briggs, the campaign flowed from his “burnout” in writing about such issues, and his desire to do more.  The campaign was launched in 2009 at the Clinton Global Initiative, and challenges everyone to “man up” and declare that violence against girls and women must end.  It intends to give youth a role in developing activities and events that truly dig into this issue.

The photography exhibit intentionally includes only photos that depict the photographers’ visions of empowerment.  There is no violence, war, blood, or weapons.  It celebrates the notion of empowerment in every image.

I believe the photos demonstrate the Chrysalis vision of empowerment, which is one of our key priorities for girls and women.  We work to put girls and women in control of their own future, which is the most empowering gift of all.

March 5, 2012

March is Women's History Month

As you may know, March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women's Day!  Here’s a bit of history on how this day came to be…

1908:  15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay and voting rights.

1909:  In conjunction with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on February 28.

1910:  At the 2nd International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, a woman named a Clara Zetkin proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day – to raise awareness and create change.

The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, unanimously approved the establishment of International Women's Day.

1911:  International Women's Day was recognized for the first time across the European continent, and more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office, and to end discrimination.

Less than a week after this rally, the tragic 'Triangle Fire' in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants, drawing significant attention to working conditions and labor legislation in the United States.

1913:  On the eve of World War I and campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913.  Also that year, International Women's Day was moved to March 8.
1975:  This year was designated as “International Women's Year” by the United Nations.

2010:  IWD is now an official holiday across the world, with a tradition of recognizing and honoring women.  In some countries, the day has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

Take a moment to celebrate the work of Chrysalis on International Women’s Day, and enjoy watching this wonderful history of how innovation by women have affected women in the workplace.  The video was created by Kronos, the company that created time clocks for the workplace: