Observations from a Sabbatical in the Southern Hemisphere

IMG_1748I never envisioned taking a sabbatical. If it were not for my wife pushing and then seizing the initiative, I doubt I ever would have considered much less acted on taking more than a month away from my work.

With stubborn reluctance, I pushed away from my desk, packed my Macbook Air (for pictures of course), grabbed some clothes and embarked upon a journey that would take us to Australia, New Zealand, and a number of the French Polynesian Islands, followed by a week in Hawaii with family to recover from the first month of travels. It turns out the experience was remarkable on many levels.

Instead of sharing a few thousand digital images (anyone remember when the use of film required us to be much more discriminating with our choice of images?), here are some insights and observations from our travels.

Insights and Observations from a Month Spent Traveling:

-Perspective is the Key to Understanding. I am an absolute addict for museums of any sort. Both in Australia and New Zealand, the museums are outstanding in presentation and information. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about both the foundations of these countries and the historic and geologic histories and indigenous populations of the lands. While we all intuitively grasp that where you come from shapes your view on the world, the differences become meaningful when you study the roots of other cultures.

-Perspective, Part 2: It may come as a shock to many, but the world does not see things through American eyes. People in every country view world events and challenges through their own cultural and personal filters. It behooves all of us in business and life to take time to ask questions and listen and learn to understand how and why people see situations before striving to impose our own views on them.

-Commitment to Honoring Heroes. In both Australia and New Zealand I observed and sensed an intense high regard for those who have sacrificed or placed themselves in harm’s way for their countries. While every nation does this to some degree, the commitment to IMG_1290honoring and maintaining the collective memory of the sacrifices of others seemed to be at a uniquely high level in these countries. The Australian War Memorial was both somber and remarkable and the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand is home to a staggeringly powerful exhibit of the Gallipoli Campaign—a major event and disaster in the stories of these nations.

-New Zealand is practically pest free. And no, I am not talking about that person playing music through his earphones loud enough for everyone on the train to hear and sing along with, but rather, the creepy crawly, biting kind. The big controversy around Picton, New Zealand is how to wipe out the invasive species of pine trees that we would all admire here in the Midwest. Each of these unwelcome trees are carefully monitored with their own GPS location as local authorities monitor initiatives to eradicate the trees with a slow acting and carefully controlled poison.

-Coming to Grips with Painful Past Mistakes. A bit more serious than the absence of flying and crawling creatures in New Zealand is the work in Australia to educate citizens about the historic mistreatment of indigenous peoples. The museums have elevated the education and preservation of native cultures to the level of mission. While I do not have insight into whether the efforts are meaningful or impactful for current day indigenous citizens, the education efforts are visible almost everywhere you turn.

IMG_1382-Sydney, Australia is Truly One of the World’s Great Cities. From the stunning harbor to the remarkable architecture to the clean streets of this city, it looks on the surface to be a model of effective civil government. While I heard undercurrents of the challenges with politics, bureaucrats and taxes, our short immersion suggests this may be the modern city that works, supplanting my own hometown of Chicago, which used to work. Today, Chicago is a city in complete and utter turmoil characterized by armed conflict and a runaway financial disaster. It was refreshing to remember what a great city feels and acts like.

-Yes the World is Fascinated with American Political Theater. The typical question within the first 60-seconds of meeting someone in a different country was: “Is it possible that Donald Trump could win?”  Everyone is watching this ultimate reality show—all with fascination, some with excitement and a few watching closely in horror.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

I am back, refreshed, recharged and forever changed just a bit by the exposure to other people and places. And yes, once again, I learned that my better half is always right.

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Art Petty is a coach and keynote speaker/workshop presenter helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

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Art’s Writing and Week in Review for February 20, 2016

goodnewsbadnewssmallThe work this week ranged from mentoring first-time managers, and building trust on your team to thoughts on building accountability, turning stress into performance and leveraging the insights of those brilliant management thinkers, the videogame designers.

Enjoy!

A Few Thoughts on the Week Just Past:

While the cessation of serving cookies daily at GlassDoor.com (as reported in the WSJ) hardly counts as big news, one cannot help but feel just a twinge of pain for the suddenly sugar and carb deprived citizens of this firm dedicated to letting people tell it like it is or as it was with past and present employers. Nonetheless, the cookies are gone. And while aging rock musicians everywhere breathed a sigh of relief as they navigated the week still breathing, we did lose Supreme Court Justice Scalia, a vocal voice in those chambers for almost 30 years.

The political environment continued to unfold like a multi-car crash in an ice-storm on the Pennsylvania turnpike. One candidate took on the Pope, while most of the candidates worked hard to describe why their opponents are morally unfit to hold the office of president. The softer, gentler side of one candidate is increasingly visible as Ohio Governor, John Kasich, hugs his way through the electorate.

Your retirement funds rebounded a bit with a rare positive week in the markets. Meanwhile, Britain debates over whether to “Brexit” the EU and bankers and borrowers everywhere contemplate the meaning and potential impact of negative interest rates in a world with nearly free oil.

Interesting times indeed.

Have a great weekend!

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NEW PROGRAM: Monthly Group Coaching Call. Join me with a small number of other motivated professionals on a monthly hour-long call where we will discuss common leadership challenges and engage in spotlight coaching and live q/a. It’s a great way to explore distance coaching; gain some real-time help and extend your professional network. Enrollment is limited. Investment is $125 for 10 calls (one per month). All calls are recorded in case you have a conflict. Learn more or e-mail me with your questions. First call tentatively in mid-March.

New Monthly Leadership Coaching Call Offering from Art

feedbackNEW PROGRAM: Monthly Group Coaching Call.

Join me and a small number of other motivated professionals on a monthly hour-long group call where we will discuss common leadership challenges and solutions and engage in spotlight coaching and live q/a.

It’s a great way to explore distance coaching; gain some real-time help and extend your professional network. Enrollment is limited, although I am happy to set up multiple small groups.

Investment is $125 for 10 calls (one per month). All calls are recorded in case you have a conflict.

Learn more or e-mail me with your questions. Our program will kick-off in mid-March, 2016.

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Art’s Writing and Week in Review for February 13, 2016

put it in contextYou could not have scripted a more fascinating reality show than the one unfolding in front of us thus far in 2016. The current tumult in the world of politics, geopolitical stress and economics finds me and I suspect many of you pining for quieter times. Nonetheless, these are our times and the issues are serious. Now is not the time to stay in the background.

While Sanders and Clinton and Trump, Cruz, Rubio and maybe Kasich are dominating the news, the real issue last week was the confirmation of the existence of gravity waves. Physicists have been searching for confirmation of these waves posited by Einstein in the early decades of the last century, and they finally did it! While the discovery will not change the current state of affairs in the world or cure our bi-polar stock market, it does potentially get us closer to understanding more about the fabric and origins of the universe. Three cheers for the physicists!

Here’s the writing recap and one new coaching offering!

Leadership and Management Writing Recap:

How to Handle the Brilliant but Toxic Employee. This challenging dilemma offers ample opportunities for mistakes. Here are some hard-won perspectives on getting it right. 

Respect and trust (two attributes seemingly missing from our political scene) were on display as well.

15 Power Tips to Build Trust with Your New Team

5 Communication Practices to Help You Earn the Respect of Your Team

and finally, my new Mid-Week Leadership Caffeine Newsletter offered a variety of quotes and links to help you energize and sustain. Subscribe here to make certain you see this short, quick e-news blast of energy each week.

NEW PROGRAM: Monthly Group Coaching Call. Join me with a small number of other motivated professionals on a monthly hour-long call where we will discuss common leadership challenges and engage in spotlight coaching and live q/a. It’s a great way to explore distance coaching; gain some real-time help and extend your professional network. Enrollment is limited. Investment is $125 for 10 calls (one per month). All calls are recorded in case you have a conflict. Learn more or e-mail me with your questions. First call tentatively in mid-March.

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend!

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Art’s Writing and Week in Review for February 6, 2016

what is next?Yes, I Remember the  21st of September!

I suspect I am speaking for more than just myself when I say that I’m looking forward to a week this year where we don’t lose another icon from the world of music. The sounds of the 70’s faded a bit more with the passing of Maurice White, the founder of Earth, Wind and Fire. I still recall ripping out the a.m. radio in my ’71 Oldsmobile Cutlass and replacing it with an AM/FM stereo radio and 8-track player, and driving around with the windows down and EWF blaring from the speakers.

The political scene entertained with Cruz edging Trump and Rubio while Hillary and Bernie were almost too close to call. Our time-until-retirement continues to elongate with the declining stock market, while gasoline spurred on by a glut of crude oil and slowing global industrial demand edges dangerously and deliciously closer to 1970’s era pricing. Time to plan a summer road-trip?!

In the world of leadership and management writing last week, I once again cast a wide-net with topics ranging from opening communication lines with your team to warning people about the realities and headaches of managing others.

Here’s the quick recap:

In Other News from the World of Leadership Caffeine:

  • I kicked-off a new, subscriber-only publication: the Mid-Week Leadership Caffeine e-news. It’s 5, quick shots of leadership espresso to help you sustain and succeed during the rest of your week. I would love to include you on the distribution!
  • My “Jump-Start” coaching programs are just about filled and I expect to close the doors to new enrollment by the end of next week. If you’re below the executive level but aspire to moving in that direction, check out this very limited run opportunity at a great price. Just don’t wait too long.
  • The Leadership Caffeine Facebook page is growing quickly, and I would love to see you there. I offer daily updates, quotes and love to share ideas with my readers. Stop by and please show some love with a “like!”

That’s it for now. Have a great weekend. May your team win in the big game!

Yours in great leadership and career health,

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See more posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.