LEADERSHIP: “First, as a business leader, I am supposed to be ‘on the job’ all the time, pushing for more. I am not supposed to be sitting on fence lines, feeling my connectivity with the energy of all living things. The partial loss of my voice made me revisit this assumption; then, I learned the power of making room for others to lead. This led to a new goal of making the role of the traditional leader smaller, so that everyone’s voice could become stronger.”
EVOLUTIONARY ASTROLOGY: “As I walk through the terminal, my mind wanders back to last night’s startling dream. The image of losing control, nearing disaster and then safely landing, reminds me of the journey I have been on within my own tribe since my father died. It’s the same journey that cost me consistent access to my voice. Evolutionary astrology believes that souls carry ‘karmic wounds,’ not limited to a single lifetime. The Hindus call this samsara-–imprints left on the subconscious mind by dramatic experiences in this life or previous lives. In addition, souls can have relationships with each other across multiple incarnations, where patterns play out again and again until they are resolved and transcended. So, how might the ‘karmic dots’ of evolutionary astrology be connected in my case? Or, to say it differently, how might the story my natal chart reveals answer the original jewelry maker’s question, ‘What brings you here?’”
NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITIONS: “All the ingredients of a vision quest are present for me today. I am alone in the wilderness with no food, water, or material possessions. Furthermore, I have come to the land of Crazy Horse seeking, in search of deeper self-understanding. As I stand there motionless, watching the miraculous light filter through the strangest of trees, a vision comes to me. It is to be the first of four revelations I receive. The first message or vision is powerful in its simplicity. On one level, it is nothing more than an idea that comes to me. The timing, clarity, and power of the idea, however, give it the credentials of a vision.”
SPASMODIC DYSPHONIA: “I can’t help but see parallels between spasmodic dysphonia and Pine Ridge. I have lost my voice. My condition feels permanent. I have been told there is no cure. Drugs are the only source of relief. I am stuck in a difficult pattern, a circle, without end.”
PUTTING WORK BACK IN ITS PLACE: “For years prior to my first visit to Pine Ridge, Hancock Lumber had been pursuing valuable company efficiency initiatives such as, “lean” and “Six Sigma”. The problem with this traditional path, however, is that most companies simply use the extra capacity created to just do more work. This seemed mathematically powerful, but spiritually empty to me. Over time, a fresh vision materialized in my mind regarding how to better utilize the expanded human capacity that efficiency improvements create. I have since come to describe this vision as the “higher calling of lean”. This is a simple idea, a subtle shift in thinking. The essence of the notion is to use the benefits of productivity and accuracy improvements to do less, not more.”
LOCAL ECONOMIES: “Pine Ridge is one of the poorest places in America. It is not just poor by American standards; it is poor by reservation standards. Unemployment exceeds 80%. Only a small minority of people has a formal job. Pine Ridge is economically dependent upon its government. This dependence is rooted in the belief that the federal government must continue to honor the terms of its ‘final offer’. A deal is a deal no matter how old or dysfunctional. The economic rules at Pine Ridge are very different from the ones I grew up with in Maine. In Maine, most everyone works. Earning your own living through work is a value that is woven into the ethos of the state. Government is rarely discussed in terms of personal economic solutions. Those are things you earn for yourself. From the time you are a teenager in Maine you work. That’s just what everybody does. You don’t even really think about it, you just work.”
REFLECTION: “In the years that followed the partial loss of my voice, I began to see that my old management style was not optimal. It was just old. I began to see that there was a more powerful way to lead and manage, which involved restraint. The secret lay in doing less, not more. Spasmodic dysphonia made me listen. Yes, to others, but, even more importantly, to myself. In a circle of irony, it took losing my speaking voice to find my soul’s voice. Getting lost is the first step to being found. In my experience, this is what happens when a CEO loses consistent access to his or her voice:
- You listen more.
- You talk less.
- You ask more questions.
- You look at more data.
- You show more restraint.
- You let others run meetings.
- You don’t break the silence.
- You share responsibility for representing the organization.
- You trust and empower others more completely.
I have jokingly said that all CEOs should lose their voices.”