Freewriting – a leadership tool

If you’re a professional writer, freewriting frequently means not getting paid. The other form of freewriting is to let your mind spill out on the page. I discovered freewriting (the second form) many years ago and have used it to teach creative writing, business writing, and leadership. You may already use a form of freewriting when you take time to ponder problems. Chances are you don’t take the time to write these ponderings down.

Let me introduce you to freewriting as a leadership tool. When you finish reading this blog, pick up a pen or pencil and find some paper. Or, if you prefer, just sit at your computer and start the process. Many purists will say it has to be actually writing with pen and paper, I find it works both ways.

Next, sit for a moment or two and take a few deep breaths. It helps to clear the mind and free the mind. When you’re ready, start writing … whatever comes to your mind. If it’s your grocery list, let it flow. Chances are in a short time something of importance will rise to the surface. A few years ago a colleague of mine took my writing course and had harsh words for me after the first freewrite. The conversation was something like this: “I hate you.” To which I deftly replied, “Pardon me.” He went on to explain that he’d been writing articles for two years for a particular magazine and had slaved over every one of them. My introduction of the freewriting process had killed that. He wrote the first draft of an article in 20-minutes. Four years later he is still using the process to turn out great articles.

As a leader have you ever had a problem, plan or situation you needed to solve and the answers just wouldn’t come? Try the freewriting process and you’ll be surprised at the answers that wait in your head to be discovered.

For a couple of great resources, check out: Writing With Power by Peter Elbow; The Artists Way by Julia Cameron

Garth Roberts

Whine on the plane

I was sipping my red wine and enjoying the journey from a leadership session in Toronto to home in Calgary. Around me were sleeping passengers, folks watching in-flight programs, children being entertained by their parents, and a couple of people who really should just stay home.

The whine actually started in the terminal with an “I really hate the flight home. It seems too long.” Well, actually it approximately the same time both directions. I know that. You know that. So prepare for the flight so it’s a productive time. Bring your blankie and snuggle up or buy a good book.

The whine on the plane is really a drag. Anyone within earshot hears the negative comments and it’s just plain boring. The airlines get paid to provide us with transportation from one spot to another and if we don’t like the journey, don’t take it.

When I hear such a whine it makes me wonder, what’s this person like in the office, or at home? Is this negative pitch the same everywhere? I used to work with someone who had a negative cloud over her head and I learned to avoid her. She had great potential to be a nice person but made the choice to see dark when anyone else chose to see light.

How about it? Will you join me is requesting complementary parachutes for anything other than good wine on a plane?

Garth Roberts

Planning – the forgotten art

“Garth, you don’t understand our business. There’s so much happening and it’s happening so fast, we can only react. We don’t have time to plan. (pause) But we do have time to do it over again tomorrow.”

I’m happy to say there was a smile on the Supervisor’s face when he made the above statement. Although he was being serious in one sense, he did have enough smarts to know planning wasn’t happening on a regular basis.

Every time I work with a leadership group I’m still surprised by the “deer in the headlight” looks I get when I mention planning. It seems we’re too busy “doing” to actually take time to plan. Or, if we do plan, we don’t take time to include others in our work groups, consequently it’s not a common plan. React is still the order of the day.

A few months ago, when the economy was on fire, you could almost understand the concern about stopping, taking time, and planning. After all, if we stopped our clients would think we weren’t working and they’d go to our competition. Consider this, maybe if there’d been a bit more planning we wouldn’t be in the current economic mess.

Consider something else, if planning and included ethics instead of greed, several million people wouldn’t be out of work today.

Garth Roberts