Building Bridges Leadership Blog

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“Thanksgiving Leadership,” Revisited

This week – Thanksgiving week here in the US – seemed an appropriate time to revisit the ideas of Banquet Leadership, Potluck Leadership, and the hybrid model we call Thanksgiving Leadership. If you’ve been reading the Building Bridges Leadership blog for a while, you may be familiar with our distinction between Banquet and Potluck models of leadership. In short, Banquet…

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How Have the People Around You Made You Better?

When was the last time a group of people let you know the difference you’ve made in their lives? Or showered you in praise while pointing out the particular contributions you’ve made to them? Most of us only experience that when leaving a job after a long time, and/or at our funeral when there’s no…

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Team Creativity in Times of Challenge

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell has often talked about how the challenges she has faced throughout her life have contributed to her lyrics and music; most notably her struggle with mental health and the value that years of therapy has provided for her. Not coincidentally, the cover art of her 1994 album ‘Turbulent Indigo‘ is a self-portrait…

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Micro-Mentoring – What it is, and How to Make it Work at Work

Do you ever marvel at a colleague’s work and think to yourself “I could never do that?” Have you ever been amazed by someone else’s slideshow presentation and then felt clueless when creating your own? Has a friend at work ever casually walked you through the steps of how to do something you’ve never understood…

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Partnering for a Change in Perspectives

In your line of work, how often do you work in partnership with someone else? Do you have a regular partner, or partnership team? When was the last time you partnered with someone new on a project or initiative? If it’s been a long time, is that by choice? In my work as a facilitator,…

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When Did You Last Say “I Was Wrong?”

Think of a time you’ve been in a position of authority. A common feeling in those circumstances is feeling like you were expected to know it all, worrying when you don’t, and faking it to show strength and stability for those you are managing. Faking it can work well in a lot of situations, but…

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“It’s All in the Debrief”

What comes to mind when you hear the word “debrief”? If you watch spy movies, it might be James Bond passing by Miss Moneypenny on the way to let M know what transpired on his latest mission. In your work environment, it may look more like a closed-door meeting following the end of a project…

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Poison Ivy Privilege, Revisited

In New England, where I live now, poison ivy is commonplace. But in the UK, where I grew up, there is none. So unlike many New Englanders, I didn’t grow up with regular exposure to poison ivy; nor did I grow up looking out for it, or being able to identify it with a “leaves…

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Who’s In Your “Human Library”?

In her TEDx Talk “What Does My Headscarf Mean To You?“, mechanical engineer, writer and activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied notes that people are often surprised to learn that she designed race cars and ran her university’s racing team. They’re equally surprised to learn that she trained as a boxer for five years. Both break the stereotype…

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“Everything is a Remix” – What are You Remixing?

The process of creation has been fascinating to me for decades. I’m someone who loves listening to demo recordings of my favorite music while reading about the influences behind its creation and the recording sessions themselves. I’m someone who enjoys seeing concept art for movies, or hearing a creator talk about how they made choices…

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Workplace Empathy in the New Academic Year

If you have children of any age – or if you are a student or an educator yourself – the beginning of a new academic year always brings a new schedule, which itself brings new challenges, for the student and everyone else in your household. For many households, this is the first time a student…

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The Benefits and Challenges of Mirroring & Matching

How often have you been with a close friend or family member and noticed after a while that you are sitting with the same posture, and matching each other’s tone as you talk? Do you notice this in others when you see best friends getting coffee together? Such behavior is often simply thought of as…

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Creating a Sense of Belonging in Your Physical Workspace

Before COVID-19 created a seismic shift in how large companies work, many of those same companies were investing heavily in creating more engaging and playful workspaces. Gyms in workspaces had become more common, but there was an increasing trend for workplaces to include amenities like pinball machines, ping pong tables, outdoor lounge areas and more. These…

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“What If…?” – Seeking Nuance and Kicking the Tires

“What if…?” has become a powerful and oft-used question over the last pandemic era – perhaps more than at any point in our lifetimes, as we’ve pondered the many changes that COVID could bring. I recently heard about a March 2020 article discussing our collective cultural responses to the pandemic in three terms: a blizzard (our initial short-term ‘stay…

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What’s Your Team’s ‘Closing Ceremony?’

How often do you reach the end of a team or solo project that has taken hours, weeks, or even months, and move straight on to the next thing? If this is common for you, is this invigorating and motivating? For some of us, it is – we get momentum and forward motion that kick-starts…

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The Fosbury Flop and Raising the Bar for Gold

Watching the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, I have been struck over and over again by the way these games intersect with our everyday lives in the workplace and in our communities. Chief among these, of course, are the important conversations taking place about mental health and self-care, and the disproportionate pressure placed on female athletes of color to perform…

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The Olympics and MI Theory

A few weeks ago I referred to the Good Work Project and the work of Harvard professor Howard Gardner. The work for which Gardner is most known – the Theory of Multiple Intelligences – is always worth taking a look at, and seems particularly relevant during the Olympics. The Olympics provides a dazzling display of athletes using a mixture of natural…

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Using People-First Language for Dignity and Respect

Academia and business are different worlds, with different goals and day-to-day work. And yet, after working at Harvard for 15 years, I find that a lot of the work that resonates with clients most comes from the academic world. Recently I was reminded of the concept of “people-first language” by a Black student, who posted…

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What Does “Good Work” Mean Anyway?

You may have seen some of the recent articles about the ‘giant game of musical chairs’. Huge numbers of workers are leaving/changing their jobs as workplaces around the US are reopening. Perhaps you’re even one of those people who’ve chosen a new job or a whole new career path. While we’re living our day-to-day reality we don’t…

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Fireworks and Your Team

If you live in the United States or Canada, you’ll have had the chance to see fireworks at some point recently – in person or on a broadcast. If you’re anything like me, your experience might be a mix of enjoyment and of sensory overwhelm (though no other display will ever quite compare to the…

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Being A Signal Booster – Amplifying Others’ Voices

How often have you read or heard about inequality, marginalization, or hate crimes against an identity group of which you are not a part, and been left wondering “but what can I do?” If your own life experiences are different than those experiencing these acts, it can be easy to miss the full context and scope; to…

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“CW” & “TW” – What They Mean and How You Might Use Them

When last week’s Building Bridges Leadership email arrived in your inbox and you wondered what the “CW” meant in the preview text, you aren’t alone. Or you may have noticed a growing number of articles and social media posts using “CW” or “TW” at the beginning, followed by a brief phrase describing trauma of some…

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Juneteenth, Black Wall Street, and Honoring Complicated History

A few weeks ago – May 31 and June 1 – brought the centennial of the Tulsa race massacre, one of the worst single incidents of racial violence in American history. Mobs of White residents, many of them deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked Black residents and destroyed homes and businesses in 35 square…

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Mountain Climbing Guides, Caddies, and You

Last month, Kami Rita Sherpa broke his own record for the most ascents of Mount Everest, summiting for the 25th time, during Everest’s first climb of the year. As his name implies, Kami Rita is a member of the Sherpa Tibetan ethnic group living in Nepal. Many Sherpas are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts…

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On the Lookout for Moments of Iteration

The difference between intention and impact has been on my mind a lot in recent months. I have been an observer – and a participant – in a number of interactions where someone’s words were unintentionally hurtful to others. But their good intentions didn’t make the impact any less hurtful to the people affected. These interactions can leave both…

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How Can You “Grow a Row” This Week?

My wife is an excellent gardener, and tends to our vegetable garden, growing a good portion of our food over the Summer months and beyond. This year, from twin desires of getting more connected with our local community and making a small contribution to address local food insecurity, she signed us up to join our…

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Using Optical Illusions to Challenge Our Biases

Are you familiar with the Ames Window Illusion? If not, you might want to take a few minutes to watch this recent video explaining the phenomenon, wherein a rotating trapezoid looks like it is instead wavering back and forth. This optical illusion, like so many others, tricks our brain into seeing something that isn’t accurate. But how does it…

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Inclusion in the ‘Next Stage’

Now that COVID vaccinations are becoming more widespread, how many conversations have you been part of recently revolving around the ‘next stage?’ Whether personal gatherings, community meetings, or ongoing work, you may have been involved in a number of ‘what does this mean for us?’ brainstorms about how to step out of the Zoom window…

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Racial Affinity Groups… for White People?

Are you aware of identity-based affinity groups in your workplace? Or in your faith community? Or other communities of which you’re a part? If you’re a person of color or a member of another marginalized community, the value of such a group may seem obvious to you – such groups can be a chance to engage with…

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Interrupting Muscle Memory

Where are you reading this email? In your designated workspace? On your phone while making breakfast? On your phone while hanging out with your kids? Sometimes the choices we make are conscious. But increasingly, they’re not. And the same things that make smartphones a revolutionary tool for the modern work world also make it harder…

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Sitting In The Tension Of “Both / And”

“Do you think [politician or leader X] is a racist?” How often have you heard versions of this question in interviews, political debates, or press conferences? If you’re like me, the question results in an eye roll. Of course that person is a racist. We are all racist. But that in itself is not the complete story. I’ve been in…

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Is Divisiveness Inevitable?

Have you ever found yourself showing support for something or someone, followed by backlash that makes you question your choice to show support in the first place? Even if you still have the same feeling of support, others’ responses might have shown you that the situation is much more complicated and nuanced than you’d previously…

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What’s Your Origin Story?

Super heroes aren’t the only ones with an origin story. Chances are if you work in an established organization, you’re familiar with its own story – who the organization’s founders were, what was the idea that sparked it all… Often it’s an idea written on the back of a napkin, which may even be framed…

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Combat Bias By… Sleeping?

How have you been sleeping this month? Do you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the new day? Or is your day affected by challenging sleep? With so many of us working from home over the last year, the lines between work and home life have blurred significantly. But even before that, the advent…

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Fighting Bias, Building Inclusion And Chopping Firewood

I spent much of the weekend chainsawing dead trees, then splitting the logs with axes and wedges, and stacking it for firewood. We’ve tapped a few maple trees around our house, and used much of the wood on a fire to boil down a sap to make maple syrup. But much of the wood will…

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Identifying And Working With Physical Manifestations Of Stress

How do you experience stress and worry? For many people, the experience of stress is stressful in itself – the mind races as it jumps from item to item, thinking of all that needs to get done, or of worst case scenarios. This often occurs in the middle of the night, interrupting sleep and only…

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Honoring Your Team’s “Anniversary Reactions” (And Your Own!)

Coronavirus cases first appeared around the world in late 2019. For many readers of this email, however, the most direct impacts began in March 2020 – perhaps even a year ago this week. Changes that started with the hope of short-term impacts have, for most of us, continued to this day. Along the way, many…

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Is It Possible To Be “Uninterruptable” By Slack And Email?

Do you remember a time when email was new and exciting? Perhaps you remember it back in the recesses of time, or perhaps email has never been that way for you. Either way, the chances are that that’s not how you think of email these days. The same may be true for Slack, Microsoft Teams,…

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Remember To Remember The Forgetting Curve

How often have you been to a workshop or presentation – perhaps even on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion – and soaked in all sorts of great information and tips, leaving motivated and empowered to make a change… only to realize a few days later that you could only remember one or two…

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Being Real In A Virtual World

Over the last week I have been part of a number of conversations in which people lamented that decisions were being made in their workplace – decisions that affected them directly – without any clarity about why. And the people saying this to me are long-time employees in relatively senior positions themselves, but they were each…

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“The Power Of Yet” And The Growth Mindset

What skills and interests have you developed over the last year? Perhaps some that have laid dormant for many years, and perhaps some that are, in essence, brand new for you. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been tested in ways none of us could have ever expected. So many things that…

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Being A “Student Of…” (Not An “Expert In…”)

Have you ever started a conversation with a friend or family member about a topic you rarely think about, only to find out that the person you’re talking to clearly knows more about this topic than 99.9% of people in the world? Maybe you saw them light up as they got a chance to talk…

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Team Meetings In A Time Of Distraction

How often are you in (or leading) a meeting but finding it hard to concentrate because of something happening in the wider world? How often have you noticed someone else in the meeting suddenly disappear – mentally, if not physically. “Breaking news” pop-ups have become commonplace as the business of news seeks our attention, and…

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Let’s Talk About The Elephant In The Room…

While last week’s attack on The Capital was still taking place, writer Saladin Ahmed – whose work I admire – tweeted “next week some middle aged white man is still gonna get paid for a column about how we need to build bridges.” Mr. Ahmed doesn’t know me, but as a middle aged white man with a…

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How To Make Your Bed At Work

You’ve probably heard axioms along the lines of “success starts with making your bed.” You may have even seen the popular 2014 University of Texas at Austin Commencement address by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven, which has inspired thousands of people to make their beds each morning when they first wake up. But whether or not you…

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Completing 2020 & Moving On To 2021

As we reach the end of an undeniably challenging year, many of us are looking for ways to bring closure to the year and recharge for the new year. But even if you’re able to take a break, preparing for this can bring stress, long hours, and a pile of incomplete items that hang over…

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Work From Home Or Work From *Anywhere?*

The work world – along with almost ever other aspect of our lives – has changed dramatically in 2020. While many industries and job functions cannot be done remotely, those that can have switched to a new way of doing things. As COVID-19 vaccines come closer to being a reality, and organizations begin to plan…

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The Social Identity Wheel

How do you describe yourself? What parts of your identity do you choose to include, and which do you miss out? More than likely, your answer depends on the context – you may answer differently on a dating app than in a job interview, both of which are very different from how you think about…

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What Does “Thanksgiving Leadership” Look Like?

If you’ve been reading Building Bridges Leadership emails for a while, you may be familiar with our distinction between Banquet and Potluck models of leadership. In short, Banquet Leadership takes the form of top-down direction; a clear path to follow, wherein your team follows through on assigned tasks. This is efficient and effective in getting things done. Potluck Leadership takes the form of…

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Outsmarting Our Own Human Biases

A new UK study suggests that working from home could lead to an increase in racism and other forms of prejudice. The study suggests that these workplace friendships are a key to breaking down misconceptions in our thinking, and building our own understanding of community. Siloed and isolated as many of us are in our home workspaces, we…

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Unity In The Midst Of Uniqueness

Regardless of your political leanings, the US election last week resulted in some noteworthy firsts. Included, of course, is Kamala Harris, who became the first woman to be elected Vice-President, as well as the first Black person and first person of South Asian descent to be elected as Vice-President. (You may be surprised to learn –…

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How the “Liminal Space” Of Election Day Can Help Your Team Flourish

On this Election Day in the US, you might experience similar feelings to those seemingly-endless moments following the slow climb of a roller coaster – a mixture of terror, anxiety and guarded excitement as you wonder what’s going to happen next. Regardless of whether you live in the US or not, you might be experiencing…

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3 Tips To Avoid Othering In A Divisive Environment

My kids and I have always enjoyed super hero comic books. The idea I’ve always bristled against, though, is the idea of a “bad guy.” In well-developed fictional worlds, knowing a villain’s own story from their perspective can change how you think of them. You may still see their decisions as selfish, dangerous, or harmful,…

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What Do Mail-In Ballots Have To Do With Your Teams?

When our mail-in ballots for the 2020 state and presidential election arrived a week or two ago, my wife and I independently had the same reaction. We both try to be informed voters who spend time learning about the candidates and ballot questions before heading to the polls, and we already knew what our options…

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How a Digital Detox Could Benefit You

Every Sunday morning, my phone vibrates and pops up a notification to show me how much “screen time” I’ve spent on my phone over the past week. Every week I think with some dismay, “that can’t be right.” But then when I think about how much time I’ve also spent in front of a laptop…

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Banquets & Potlucks In Your Workplace (And In The 2020 Elections!)

Remember the days of large gatherings of people, and sharing food with one another in an enclosed space? Those days may feel like a long time ago, but banquets and potlucks can help us to understand our workplace, and even our larger society. A large proportion of Building Bridges Leadership’s consulting and workshops focuses on…

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The Power Of Open-Ended Questions

Bring to mind a recent conversation – in the workplace or elsewhere – that didn’t go as well as you would have liked; that left you, or others, feeling misunderstood, undervalued, or unacknowledged. What kinds of questions (if any!) did you and your conversation partners use? Now bring to mind a conversation that went well;…

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Poison Ivy And Privilege

In New England, where I live now, poison ivy is commonplace. But in the UK, where I grew up, there is none. So unlike many New Englanders, I didn’t grow up with regular exposure to poison ivy; nor did I grow up looking out for it, or being able to identify it with a “leaves…

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