Seventh of seven blog posts--using this space to give voice to what it took to run Design Group International for more than 20 years. I left the CEO role more than five years ago while continuing to chair the partnership for Design Group International -- the Community of Practice now led by Lon Swartzentruber, and the Society for Process Consulting led by Kim Stezala. As of this month, I'm moving to advisory status with this wonderful community of colleagues. I have a lot of enjoyable work ahead of me as an Executive Advisor, podcaster, and facilitator for Maestro-level leaders.
These seven articles intended a two-fold benefit: a repository for successors, as well as an inspiration to you the reader should you be facing your exit or are stepping in as a successor. In just a few weeks, we will compile these posts into a single article available over on LinkedIn.
Some of my daughters are super sensors. Perhaps you know someone like this. One daughter experiences sound and scent with an exceptional sensitivity--to the point those senses can temporarily interrupt the capacity to process other information. Another daughter has a strong sense of taste and discerns all of a dish's ingredients and how they interact. I can't do any of this! I admire these gifts and benefit from their helping me perceive what they cannot overlook.
I have a highly developed sense also--my sense of time's flow. Each grain of sand dropped into the lower chamber of life's hourglass bong-gongs in my head. I've met a few others with this gift—only a few, though.
This profound sense of the fleeting nature of time gives those so gifted a strong drive to make their moments meaningful. Taking action helps the noise of the time stream abate for that moment. The sensitivity to time makes people like me look as if we rush pell-mell through life. Our perception differs, however. We might tend to a belief that others waste their ripe moments. For me, the time is always ripe because that next grain in the hourglass is already loudly dropping.
I only recently learned that this gift is a subjective neurological construction born from a combination of proprioception, interception, and vestibular systems. These systems form our sixth, seventh, and eighth senses--the sensations of our limbs and joints that give us the ability to move and keep balance, the interaction between our physical systems and our brain, and how our brain moves in space.
All of my life, I had thought the movement of time an objective reality. I can instantly see how to construct a project or an agenda to a deadline. No matter how many time zones I jump, an alarm clock is unneeded. My ability to wrap up a talk 30 seconds before the allotted time expires is widely known. My belief that time was an objective reality contributed to my frustration with how people wasted time and did not get after what was necessary. I also frustrated colleagues, perhaps you, when I interrupted your calm competence with what I felt was an urgent matter. Learning that this construct* is something few others share to the same degree took me far too long to learn. What I did not know or understand is regrettable. Yes, time ticks on, but the way I sense it is not how others perceive it, and it cannot solely define how we perceive it together. I so wish I'd known this earlier!
It is easy to feel conflicted before, during, or even following the handoff of one's leadership baton. I can do all the retrospective I want: blaming myself, defending myself, contesting our current reality against what shoulda, coulda, and woulda been--but my flawed part of our race is over. My contribution is made. It is time for me to stand at the side of the track and cheer for you as you run your imperfect stage.
From here, I choose not to be a competitor with this business I helped to birth. Instead, I will do what I can to supplement and build the field of Process Consulting overall. I believe I've got a good decade or more in front of me to keep growing into:
- A wise and insightful advisor for accomplished senior executives
- An artful facilitator for complex decision-making scenarios
- A creative presenter of what I'm learning about that intersection where executive and organizational development come together
I hope we find each other at the places where all three of these converge. If so, I'll be glad to see you. If not, I wish you well
If you are uncertain about my meaning, let me make it plain. I love you. I love what we built. I love the mission of transformational change when transformational change is not just a slogan on a leadership poster in a break room but something done every day among the Clients we also love. Now it is for you to love what you are building and to love the mission as you articulate it. It is your call to decide how you will do it and with whom you will do it. If there is a role for those who went before, it is up to you to make the invitation. And it is up to us to have a life to go to so we are not hangers-on.
I've built and continue to create such a life. Call, and I will happily answer. I'll likely not be calling you. I'd rather risk the perception of having disappeared than be thought of as a pest. Time is too short, and the remaining weeks of life are too few to live looking backward. My profound sense of time's flow is better managed this way.
My understanding of Stoicism helps me manage the time noise better than when I was younger. The dropping of each grain of sand in the hourglass lands more quietly when I keep a conscious discipline. When the noise gets loud, I reset myself by acknowledging that I honestly only have this moment, as do you. I agree with the ancient Marcus Aurelius that we all have the same amount of time.
I only have now--and then even that is gone. Our "now" is each grain of noisy sand. Rather than hearing each one drop from a distance, I want to be in them. More and more, I want my "now" to be an oscillation of contemplation and study matched up with meaningful conversations. By doing this, I can enter the "now" of senior executives, walking alongside the track of their running.
*You can read more about this sense here if that is of interest.
Tags:Process consultation and design, kim stezala, leadership succession, Mark L. Vincent, Design Group International, business success, lon swartzentruber, society for process consulting, succession planning, Maestro-level Leaders, The Third Turn Podcast, Kristin Evenson, Third Turn Blog, Linda Milwanowski-Westdorp
January 12, 2023