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Growing @ the Speed of Change

Your Inspir-Actional How-To Guide for Leading Yourself and Others Through Change

Replace fear and uncertainty with focus and perspective


Jim Clemmer’s latest book, Growing @ the Speed of Change: Your Inspir-actional How-To Guide for Leading Yourself & Others through Constant Change is required reading for anyone dealing with the pressures brought about by constant change and uncertainty.

The world isn’t spinning any faster. But with the rapid pace of change, it often seems like it. New technologies and 24/7 connectedness make it harder and harder to keep up with demands at work and at home.

Today everyone has to live with, and find motivation in, a world of constant change. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react.

This practical guide, uses the tools of personal growth and development to help readers find balance and thrive in a world where the accelerating pace of change is the new normal. Instant Kindle preview

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Growing Forward

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.”
Jean Kerr (1922 – 2003), American author and playwright

The light dawned. I was in a meeting with my Achieve Group colleagues reviewing the rapid changes in our training and consulting business and sorting through our priorities for the coming quarter. We had doubled our already substantial business over the past 18 months. While the growth was exciting, it was also exhausting. We were piling on new programs, services, and organizational changes.

This was some time ago. I don’t recall anything from the meeting except a rich conversation that ensued after I said, “Once we get through this crazy period and things settle down again…” I stopped myself. “Haven’t we been saying that an awful lot lately?” I asked. Heads nodded around the room.

The descriptive phrase “hinge of history” coined by the futurist and writer Alvin Toffler sprang to mind. He presented strong evidence to show our world from the 1950s until roughly 2025 will be undergoing a seismic shift. Everything in our lives business, politics, economics, the environment and our social structures will change radically.

“I guess we – or at least I – have to get my head around the fact that this crazy period is normal and will be with us for many years to come,” I reflected aloud. This led to an animated conversation. We needed a seismic shift in our thinking. The right approach was not to just plow through change, because a future period of stability is now a myth. Instead we agreed that we need to see constant, unpredictable, and tumultuous times as a normal and ongoing part of our company’s life.

We need to thrive on and in our turbulent times.

As so often happens when you’re newly attuned to an issue, not long after that meeting I came across a highly relevant remark. It was from Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. (Ever since Warren said some very nice things about my book,  The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success, I cite him and his wisdom whenever I can).

Warren observed, “I can’t recall a period of time that was as volatile, complex, ambiguous and tumultuous.” He then quoted a top corporate leader of the day as observing, “If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on.”

Have you caught yourself saying things like, “Once we get the new position filled …the restructuring is complete … the project is finished … the new software is installed … I get organized, things will settle down again?” Do things ever settle down? Of course not. And they never will in our lifetime.

Thriving in Turbulent Times

“There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.”
John Keats (1795 – 1821), English poet. Letter, 13–19 Jan. 1818, to his brothers George and Thomas Keats

Turbulence means disorder, chaos, and instability. Turbulent times are unpredictable, disruptive, and confusing. Sound familiar? Yes. It sounds like life.

While it’s tempting to want stability, predictability and orderliness, be very careful what you wish for. Writer, academic, journalist and scholar of early modern English literature Germaine Greer warns, “Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life.”

Our greatest and most challenging turbulence comes with loss. That might include loss of a loved one, a job, health or mobility, a relationship, finances, certainty, or power and control. “Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight,” Emperor Augustus observed. Although we might like Nature to delight us more gently or less often, loss itself is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. How we deal with it determines whether it’s good or bad. We can become bitter or better. Turbulence can be the hallmark of the best of times or the worst of times. The choice is yours.

To thrive on turbulence is to be vibrantly alive. To avoid turbulence is to wish life away. We must find ways to harness this powerful energy force for positive change throughout our personal and professional lives.

That’s what Growing @ the Speed of Change is written to help you do.

What’s New? Wrong Question. What Matters is What Works

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832), German writer

If you’re looking for what’s trendy or “new” in dealing with change, growth, or personal leadership, this is not the book for you. During my decades of work in this field I’ve seen many new approaches burst on the scene only to fade away. I have dozens of studies in my database library showing the high failure rates of these “hot” programs. What’s most important when dealing with change and turbulence is not to be on the leading edge of thought or fashion, or spouting buzzwords and jargon that will be outdated within a few months. The key to effectiveness is simply implementing what works. And frankly, what works tends to be the tried, true and proven. But even that only works if you put it into action.

When we built The Achieve Group during the eighties and early nineties, our slogan was “when theory is not enough.” A core focus in our approach was “knowing isn’t doing.” We may know by doing, but we don’t always do by knowing. Since The CLEMMER Group began in 1994, our focus has been on practical applications of timeless leadership principles for personal, team, and organizational success. I’m sorry, but there are no shortcuts or quick and easy solutions that require little effort or personal change. There is only the hard work of building basic habits. The CLEMMER Group focuses on applying proven techniques and approaches. That’s what I’ve distilled for you in this book.

Shaped By Our Experience: Where I am Coming From

“It is on your own self-knowledge and experience that the knowledge of everything else depends.”
The Cloud of Unknowing, a spiritual guidebook believed to have been written in the 14th century by an English monk

An administrative assistant with no experience booking professional speakers was asked by her manager to call me about my availability and fee to deliver an opening keynote for their upcoming staff conference. When I gave her my fee, she replied, “For one hour….Wow! What a job! And you don’t even have to have sex!” I didn’t touch that one.
The fact is her company would really be paying for 30 years of study, experience, and practice summarized into one concentrated hour tailored to their needs. After the engagement, the admin assistant had a much better appreciation for the value I delivered to the audience in shifting perspectives on the roles everyone needs to play in leading at the speed of change. I certainly do feel very privileged to be well paid for my speaking, writing, consulting, facilitating, and training work.

I first experienced the transformational power of the personal growth and leadership principles that have since shaped my life and career – and form the key themes of this book – in a straight-commission sales job at Culligan Water Conditioning. I was 18.  Applying these principles led to a fairly meteoric rise into supervisory, coaching, and training roles.

After participating in and helping to teach Dale Carnegie Training courses, I briefly joined that company to sell training and help deliver their public speaking, sales, and management courses. That was in 1977. Later that year – right after Heather and I were married – Culligan re-hired me as a sales trainer and internal consultant. During the next few years, I coached salespeople and owner/dealers using these principles and approaches. Sales rose dramatically. At age 24, I was promoted to General Manager of Culligan Canada’s largest branch in Edmonton, Alberta. Again, these principles had a dramatic impact on the staff I was leading. During my 18 months in that position we increased revenues 35 percent.

In 1981, I left Culligan to co-lead The Achieve Group, a management training and consulting company started in Edmonton by Art McNeil. Shortly after that, Heather and I moved back to Southern Ontario and worked together to build Achieve’s Client base (we’ve always capitalized the most important people to our business) and start our family. Working with California-based training designer Zenger Miller throughout the 1980s, I hired and trained dozens of Achieve account executives, trainers, consultants, and support staff. We not only sold programs and services teaching these personal, team, and organization effectiveness principles; we built our own company around them. By 1990, The Achieve Group had become Canada’s largest training and consulting company.

In 1991, Achieve was purchased by Times Mirror and merged with Zenger Miller, Learning International, and Kaset to form AchieveGlobal. For the next few years, I was an executive team facilitator and coach traveling extensively across Canada and the U.S. I delivered keynote presentations and facilitated dozens of senior management team retreats and coaching sessions. Some of our Clients hired us because my new book, Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, was a top seller and caught the Total Quality Management wave (later this evolved to Lean Six Sigma techniques). The unsuccessful ones were jumping on a fad bandwagon and seeing limited results from their limited efforts. But most of our Clients diligently applied the team and organization principles and saw dramatic performance results –as well as greater personal success.

In 1994, Heather and I founded The CLEMMER Group. Building upon my third book, Pathways to Performance: A Guide to Transforming Yourself, Your Team, and Your Organization, I and a few associates started with a small number of customized workshops, keynote presentations, management retreats, consulting, coaching, and training programs. Our experiences and offerings have expanded exponentially with new books and related application guides and training materials.

My next book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success, became one of my most popular because of its broader application, unique “browser’s digest” format, and inspirational messages. With that book, I developed our Timeless Leadership Principles “Leadership Wheel” model that also formed the central structure of its companion book,  The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success. This model for leading ourselves and others became a central structure of The CLEMMER Group’s leadership development workshops and training materials.

For my next book, I studied the craft of storytelling through novels. Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work  was an “edutaining case study,” or work of fiction focused on Pete Leonard, a struggling manager. Pete’s story brought to life the core personal growth, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness principles detailed in my previous books.

All Aboard for the City Tour

“Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which others have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.”
Jesse Lee Bennett (1885 – 1931), American author

Heather and I love to travel. A great perk of my work is that I am invited to speak or lead workshops and retreats in some beautiful places around the world. Heather carefully selects which ones she joins me for. When we travel to a new city, we start our stay with a city tour. This gives us a broad overview of the area and helps us decide where we want to spend more time.

Growing @ the Speed of Change is like a city tour. It’s a broad overview of proven core principles for dealing with change, turbulence, and personal growth at home and at work. Here I offer you the keys that will unlock a happy and successful life. As you read or browse through Growing @ the Speed of Change, you’ll be able to jump off the bus, take a quick look around, snap a few photos, and then re-board for the next destination.

We could spend a lot more time at each stop in this book. I really had to work at condensing each chapter to its bare essence. After all, it’s encapsulating my books, workbooks full of dozens of assessments and exercises, hundreds of how-to action points, a monthly newsletter begun in 2003, and my blog. Yikes! So at the end of each chapter I have added a “To Keep You Growing” section to guide you to my other writings for more in-depth study, additional examples, further inspiration, and practical applications.

If you’re a reader of my books, blog, or newsletters, you’ll find Growing @ the Speed of Change complements and refreshes my core themes and approaches. If you are new to my writing, welcome aboard. Prepare to start Growing @ the Speed of Change.

What Sets This Book Apart

“Thousands of grapes are pressed to fill one jar with wine, and the grape skin and pulp are tossed to the birds. So it is with these grapes of wisdom from the ages. Much has been filtered and tossed to the wind. Only the pure truth lies distilled in the words to come.”
Og Mandino (1923 – 1996), The Greatest Salesman in the World

Some people like to build things with their hands. As Heather can attest, I was not blessed with the handyman gene. My farmer father and my cabinetmaker brother kept that gene to themselves. I like to build with words. My grandmother was a published poet in Elmira, Ontario, so it’s likely her set of genes that made me handier with a keyboard than with a hammer. (That’s not to say there aren’t times when I would like to use a hammer on the keyboard!)

Growing @ the Speed of Change is the culmination of over three decades of my study, personal application, and ongoing research and writing. This book also captures my coaching and training of thousands of consulting Clients and workshop participants who are dealing with tough changes and adversity. Growing @ the Speed of Change also draws from evolving research from emerging fields like quantum mechanics, consciousness, cognitive/positive psychology, happiness, and emotional intelligence.

With many quotations used throughout this book, I have shown birth/death dates of the author to set the observation in the context of its time. In many cases, older comments show just how timeless these issues really are, as we re-discover and re-apply them to our lives today. Dates for books and printed or published articles can be found in the end notes citing the source.

Growing @ the Speed of Change builds upon many of the personal growth and self-leadership concepts I first introduced in Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. As with Growing the Distance, I’ve added inspirational stories, personal and Client examples, fables, and humor to enliven and simplify what can be dry research or complex concepts. But what’s especially exciting and different about Growing @ the Speed of Change are the hundreds of practical action ideas I’ve added. I’ve attempted to make this book “inspir-actional.”

“Inspir-actional?” No, it’s not a typo. I’m aiming to inspire you, then give you the plans you need to take action. Those are the two main sections – and objectives – of this book.

Here are some other features I hope you’ll find make this book unique and a treasured addition to your library:

  • “Browser’s digest” or magazine-style format with three main streams:
  • Short sections of easily digested commentary, observations, and advice.
  • Condensed sidebars with stories, fables, “wise words,” or how-to points.
  • Classical or modern quotations summarizing or underscoring the key message of the section or sidebar.
  • “Edutaining” conversational style with liberal doses of humor and personal stories.
  • Dozens of how-to practical applications to move you from inspiration to application.
  • “To Keep You Growing” section at the end of each chapter links to dozens of my articles, books, workbooks, or website sections so you can dig deeper.
  • Over 150 footnotes of all quotations, studies, and references that can be used for further study.

These are all approaches designed to make Growing @ The Speed of Change a quick read, for our fast-moving society. Whether you keep this book in a boardroom or a bathroom I hope you keep it close at hand and that any page you flip to will offer you a practical quick hit. Wherever you skim it, you’ll be “flush” with success. Which leads us to….

Wit Happens

“Don’t take life too seriously. You’re never going to get out of it alive anyway.”
Herb True, author of Humor Power: How to Get It, Give It and Gain (1980)

Here’s where my kids would jump in with a warning about my Dad Jokes. When Chris, Jenn and Vanessa were teenagers and dating, they’d warn new boyfriends or girlfriends not to laugh at my wisecracks. “Don’t encourage him,” they’d caution, as I tried to stamp a HELLO! My Name Is sticker on the new visitor’s jacket. There really was quite a parade of them.

In my workshops and retreats I often kid about kidding and pledge to go easy on the Dad Jokes. After one session, a participant – a fellow Dad Joker – e-mailed me: “We have three children as well. They too groan at ‘Dad Jokes.’ In fact, a couple of years ago they and my wife implemented a house rule of only allowing me two Dad Jokes a night! Great stuff…keep it coming…and don’t give up the Dad jokes.”

I am assuming you, dear reader, are not on a humor-reduced diet. A sense of humor is critical in dealing with the nasty changes and dangerous turbulence that can violently shake our comfortable lives. If we take it all too seriously, it can scare the wit out of us.

Reviews and Feedback

Morgan Olson, Plant Superintendent at Boise Cascade, in Oregon bought copies of Growing @ the Speed of Change for his supervisors. He then assigned one section per week for them to read and brought them together to present their assigned section and discuss the material they studied and share their learning. When he asked for summary feedback on the book here are excerpts of what emerged:

“…the last 6 chapters were full of techniques and thoughts I can use all the time. I’ll re-read those sections a few more times before I put this book away.”
Dave Hoeflein

“Your book is packed with practical information; is easily digestible; has depth and is well researched. It takes it through the entire A to Z. “How to” spectrum of life. I can now understand why you are so passionate in sharing something that is so close but yet can seem so far in these modern times!! Your book has brought it a lot closer, at least for me.”
Maurice Rousseau, Edmonton

“…it was a good eye opener on the fact that things have always and will continue to change. It gave me many ideas of how to deal with and except change myself and to be able to communicate the need to deal with change to others. I wanted to think sometimes that I was too busy to have reading assignments but that was not the case. I just have not been used to doing much reading lately and it did me good to read material that could expand my supervisory/people skills. Your method of pulling the group together for thoughts and discussion about the reading was enjoyable and I liked hearing what others thought about the information.”
Bruce Greenough

“I enjoyed reading this book. It presented things to me in more of a real life type situation rather than a clinical way. I found this to be a lot easier to read and more of the information stuck with me. I also liked the book reviews that we did as a group, This made me make the time to read the book rather than keep putting it off.”
Jeff Nice

“I liked how Jim presented change as ‘the way it is.’  Change is always going to be a part of our lives/careers and how he presented some interesting ways of dealing with it and leading those people who can’t deal with it, i.e. those on the Bitter Bus or live in Pity City.  It was an interesting read and definitely will add value to my leadership skills.  Aren’t quantum mechanics cool? 🙂  Looking forward to our next read.”
Jason Simpson

“This was an excellent book…brought in examples from real life and real people which I think helps to make it more meaningful.”
Chad Hurliman

“An easy to read book. As I read portions of it, my mind would visualize how we produce the positive outcomes and kept me very interested. I got a lot of food for thought.”
Jim Dalton

“Full of very useful points. The book’s suggested outlook on life has many benefits I was previously un aware of.  My wife is about 3/4 through the book deciding to read it after I had mentioned several times.  So far she likes the book commenting how many of the behaviors of people are timeless. It’s a good book that offers some great life lessons.  Review process was very good, you did a great job of reviewing the important aspects of the book and covering things efficiently.”
Chris Castleman

“An easy book to read with great ideas and explanations on how we must respond to change if we are going to keep our sanity. I like your suggestion of offering this to all plant employees. Your going through the chapters brought out much discussion in the sessions I attended and I thank you for offering this to us.”
Steve Schlegel

“I enjoyed reading through this book.  I thought that Jim’s illustrations of how a person’s decision to use change as a tool to grow, as a positive, can be such a powerful tool.  I thought it was a good refresher for all of us, especially with the changes we have seen in the last few years with markets and run-time.  I also like how you broke up the book into sections, so it didn’t require us to sit down a read (and digest) the whole book at once.”
Shawn Grandeen

“Jim Clemmer’s latest book Growing @ The Speed of Change is arguably the most important book I have read on this topic, combining as it does our mental perception of what exactly ‘reality’ is, with solid practical advice on how to proceed in the so-called ‘real’ world. The book has a continuing thread as one reads through, but it is also cleverly constructed to allow selection of a chapter at random and extract pearls of wisdom that stand in their own right. Highly recommended, and a must-read for anyone involved in change in the workplace and in life – which surely includes everyone!”
Roy Green, B.Sc., MCQI, C. Eng (UK), CQP, Senior Member and Former Chair, Director and Senior Advisor of  the Toronto Chapter of the American Society for Quality.

“I know Jim to be a wonderful consultant and presenter. Now you can know him too. His work is a compelling (and humorous) reminder of what we know and what we often forget. A great gift to a new manager, a great reminder to those of us who have been around awhile.”
Valerie Atkin
Founder/President
WellsStreet.com

“Jim’s new book, Growing @The Speed of Change is one of the best books that I have read in some time. I just couldn’t put it down. Jim really hit home on a number of fronts from e-mail controlling us to the balance between our personal and professional life. The book delivers the message of leadership is action and not a position. The ‘browser’ format makes it easy to read. After a good friend of mine had a stroke last spring, I took it as a wakeup call to a healthier lifestyle. Jim’s insight has really helped with this approach.”
John Fine, Ontario Director, Bell Technical Solutions

“Jim, I just wanted to write to you today to let you know how much I enjoyed Growing @ The Speed of Change. This book inspires you into action to recalibrate your leadership style and its effectiveness, not only in the business world but in your home life also; leadership is an everyday action, in everything that we do, at work, at home and in our communities.

There are many great relevant examples that everyone can relate to, from taming the e-mail beast and better utilizing the electronic tools, to becoming more effective in multitasking. I am looking forward to applying the learning from this book to improve my everyday effectiveness.

As a Human Resources Professional, I can honestly say I had an edu-taining experience, and look forward to your next project; this book belongs in every organization’s Leadership Development tool box….

Canadian Leaders that apply the learning’s from this book/how-to guide will clearly make our country more competitive in our growing ever-changing global economy.

In my work I have often used the phrase “inspired into action”. You have coined it the best, I really like Inspir-actional.”
Steve Ilott, Alma, Ontario, Canada

“Growing @ the Speed of Change is another very valuable leadership tool to add to your arsenal…

(Jim’s) clear summation that change is with us to stay, makes it apparent that we need for find new tools (or brush off those we don’t use much) to deal with this constant ambiguity and confusion that most of us operate within. The comment that turbulence can be the hallmark of  the best of times or the worst of times, the choice is yours, is a very key thought to my mind. We now need to think about making good choices or to quote Jim ‘harness this powerful energy force for positive change throughout our personal and professional lives.'”
Read the full review here
Steven Bryce C.A.,
Vice President, Finance,
Metro Retail Supply Chain Solutions Inc.

“Growing@The Speed of Change is a must read. Wth applicable ‘historical’ quotes and sidebars to support/enhance the heading and contents in each chapter made quite an impact on this reader. This is quite an effective literary approach.  With very short chapters Clemmer speaks volumes on each topic. His conversational writing style doesn’t go over the head of the layman reader. It is energizing to read his emphasis and reiteration of navigating constant change and continually moving upward to leading self and others.”
Kamara Hennessey, Music Educator, B.Mus. RMT.,
Burlington, ON Canada

“I read Jim’s latest book Growing @ the Speed of Change and interviewed him for my radio show on the Wave 94.7fm. I really enjoyed Jim’s book because it is so practical. He relates the obstacles we all seem to be facing in this fast paced world and offers real solutions to the problems. I also really enjoyed interviewing Jim. He is very articulate and knows what he is talking about and is able to relate his knowledge in an understandable way. Which is very refreshing in today’s world of self-help guru double speak! For anyone facing real life challenges or those who would like to avoid facing real life challenges I highly recommend reading Growing @ the Speed of Change.”
Heather Buck
Wave 94.7FM

“I loved and was inspired by Growing @ the Speed of Change. Jim has once again outdone himself! His writing style is superb, and his words entertaining and thought-provoking as he is able to motivate the reader above and beyond themselves. Everyone needs to be able to cope. However, the formula is the missing link. Jim stylishly explains how to get results by changing your views. As a homecare provider to an elderly parent, coping is important for your own sanity. As a government employee, change is something we grow accustomed to – some of us thrive and others, well…

Jim outlines how we can learn to cope with the unknown changes in life and how to deal with negativity. He deals with growth, leadership, work, imagery and much more. Reading the book gets you in touch with yourself.”
Barbara A. Smith, Communications Coordinator, Manitoba Government

“Clemmer’s writing is packed with wonderful nuggets. He quotes Keats alongside FDR. He combs history, science, and culture to offer readers an eclectic, practical, and actionable set of worthwhile thoughts.

Clemmer adroitly blends the inspirational, the philosophical, and the actionable. How many management gurus quote new age spiritual guru Eckart Tolle alongside Mark Twain and Nietzche, before then asking the reader to fill out survey gauging their organization’s attitude toward conflict?”
Zach Clayon
http://www.threeshipsmedia.com

“Clemmer continually reminds readers that ‘leadership is an action, not a position.’ Even in the opening pages when he’s recounting his own growth path, you learn the value of focus, consistency, and vision. Jim uses his own history and mixes it with pertinent leadership insights.” Read the whole review here.
Garth Roberts, CSP
7 Keys to Inspired Leadership
Making Meetings Move
http://www.garthroberts.com

“Growing @ the Speed of Change is full of lots of valuable information for me to use personally and professionally. I like the layout of the book and the style in which it was written. The quotes from various sources, some modern, some not so modern, were well chosen and fit the chapters they were associated with perfectly. Throughout the reading of the book I kept tying back the discussion to my work as well as to my family, and life in general. It is a very practical book that will benefit anyone reading it.”
Doug Pringle, Claims Centre Manager, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

“Growing at the Speed of Change is timely advice and appropriate for today’s fast paced environment. In my busyness, I rarely get the time to read through a book in short order. However, Growing at the Speed of Change gives me the opportunity to take a gem from each page and apply it in my every day changing environment. I provided copies for my business partners, City Councilors, and City Department Heads, and have received many appreciative comments about the book! From business executive to the everyday employee, this book will give the extra initiative to change with the times rather than resist it!”
Martin Harder, Mayor of City of Winkler, and business owner

“This book is brimming with practical advice and abundant wisdom.  For those embarked on transforming organizations there couldn’t be a more useful tool to inspire and outline the leadership behaviors needed across all levels and positions.”
Jack Zenger, CEO of Zenger Folkman, and co-author of the best-selling The Extraordinary Leader and The Inspiring Leader

““The world is changing rapidly and successful people need to adapt. This is an excellent handbook to prepare people to thrive through change. I love the chapter on ‘I don’t have authority.’ The gist of that message is even though people don’t specifically have the authority, there are lots of things they can do to still bring about change. One thing I love about Jim Clemmer’s books is his liberal use of quotations… this book could be characterized as a positive thinking book, but it acknowledges that it requires a lot of action to get things done. At the same time, he provides a lot of tools on how to think and be positive to your advantage. It was an enjoyable read.””
Jim Estill, Technology CEO and Board Member of Blackberry maker, Research in Motion (RIM)

“Change is here to stay! Learn how to successfully handle it with this practical and enjoyable guide.”
Marshall Goldsmith – million selling author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Succession: Are You Ready? and the upcoming MOJO.

“There is no doubt, change is a constant. However, what we need today is transformational change — change that produces profound personal, organizational, and even global results. Jim Clemmer’s newest book “Growing @ the Speed of Change” can help both individuals and organizations achieve the level of remarkable change they desire. This book chalk full of helpful advice, proven theory, and practical application. In a world in need of transformational change agents, Jim is your guide, and this book is your roadmap to a better future.”
Mark Rodgers, PhD Habitat for Humanity Canada, Vice-President

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…. and Dickens was talking about the times of the French Revolution when you could see things as awful or wonderful and it is really from your own perspective. Jim Clemmer uses this type of example and takes it to the next level, keeping you entertained as he teaches you how to lead. I would use brilliant but I would prefer to say this is the type of book to keep handy in the office and to read snippets to keep energized and leading in the best way possible. So I’m off the pity bus and heading for Winner’s Circle.”
Jacoline Loewen, Managing Director, Loewen & Partners Inc.

“I read a lot of business books but what I liked about this one is that it was full of quotations which brought the writing to life…the book was witty, yet made me search my soul and think about how I lived my life and what I wanted for my life. This is a real easy read and a must for anyone wanting to make sense of this changing world!”
Anna Farmery, The Engaging Brand

“In keeping with his tendency toward excellence in writing, Jim Clemmer has produced another outstanding book that educates and motivates the reader. Also, as usual, he manages to elegantly combine essential ideas on change, performance, leadership and personal growth into a single cohesive package. He takes what might otherwise seem like only tangentially-related pieces of a huge life-puzzle and styles them, explains them and compacts them into a very related, smoothly flowing whole. And, as you read, you’ll find he has the additional magic gift of entertaining you while teaching you.

In Growing@ the Speed of Change, you will learn how to cope with change and unpredictability. How to think about reality. How to deal with negativity — your own and others’. How to choose positivity. How optimism and happiness is easily within your grasp. How to make your life and work full of purpose and value. How and why to be a leader. Compassion. Connection. Courage. Flexibility. Adaptability. Good humor. More.

As with his prior book, Growing The Distance, Jim Clemmer has written something that you can’t read straight through, no matter how much you want to try. And you do want to try to keep reading, because each section is so compelling you don’t want to stop. Nevertheless, every section is so densely packed with ideas, anecdotes and examples that you are forced to stop and reflect upon what you are reading by the time you’ve finished only a few pages.

Furthermore, the exceptional formating of his content works to assure you will stop and think and perhaps even take some action. The book is almost a collection of related articles. Almost a magazine. Almost a training manual. Almost a series of tutorials. All of these in one. And more. Where you need to break and think, what direction you need to take, what more relates to the current content and why it’s all so important — all are connected by and obtain their flow through the formatting. The book’s underlying structure is also rather like a well-formed college-level class syllabus (if professors presented syllabi so stylishly.)

Perhaps when you finish the book, you’ll feel as if you have obtained a diploma in personal and professional change management.”
C.S. Clarke, Ph.D, http://superperformance.com/

“This was quite readable with a great flow. The short chapters were each about the length of a magazine article which made them great for reading a little at a time. The double column format was a bit distracting initially, but it grew on me. Overall it was positive and amusing and even had a nice, well described section on quantum physics! The nice personal anecdotes really helped to illustrate the personal and professional application of the tools. I found it to be very much like The Secret for business.”
Beth’s Book Review Blog, http://bethsbookreviewblog.blogspot.com/

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Growing Forward 1
Thriving in Turbulent Times 4
What’s New? Wrong Question.
What Matters Is What Works 5
Shaped by our Experience:
Where I Am Coming From 6
All Aboard for the City Tour 9
What Sets This Book Apart 10
Wit Happens 12
Part One Shift Happens 14

I Winds of Change: Life Blows On 15

The Change Paradox: Deja Vu All Over Again 18
Blowing or Growing in the Winds of Change 21
I Predict…More Unpredictability 23
Life Isn’t Fair 28
Thrive on Turbulence by Growing for It 30
Part Two The “Real” of Life 33

II Reality Check 34

Quantum Mechanics: Now What’s the Real World? 38
Playing Our Strings 42
Life is an Optical Illusion 45
Range of Reality: Choosing the
Best or the Worst of Times 48
Part Three Real Choices 54

III Wallow, Follow, or Lead 55

WFL: Which Framing Level? 58
WFL Model: Which Framing
Level? 60
Payoffs of Taking the Lead 64
Cognitive Psychology: Choosing
Our Reality 66
Explanatory Style: Don’t P and
Should Yourself 69
Positive Psychology and Happiness 72
Hardiness and Resilience: When Giving in Can Give Us a Lift 76

IV Bogged Down: When We Wallow

in the Swamp 79
Deadly Diseases: Victimitis Virus and Pessimism Plague 83
The Fear Factor: Dark Energy from the Dark Side 86

V Wallow Words: The Tempting Ten 90

I Am Not a Born Leader 91
I Don’t Have the Authority 93
I Am Overloaded and
Overwhelmed 94
I Am Avoiding the Moose-on-the-Table 96
The Bad News Is Getting
Me Down 99
I Want More Stuff 100
I Am Too Busy to Learn 102
I Can’t Let Anyone See My Mistakes 103
I Carry Anger and Resentment 104
We Don’t Communicate 106
Part Four Lead to Succeed 108

VI We All Need to Lead: Leadership Is Action: Not a Position 109

My Great Kidney Adventure 112
Emotional Intelligence: The
Leading Edge 114
Emotional Competence
Framework 118

VII For the L of It: Living and Leading

Above the Line 121
Possibility Thinking: Spreading
Hope and Optimism 122
Encouraging, Supporting, and
Helping 123
Reflecting, Renewing, and
Refocusing 125
Three Questions at Our
Leadership Core 126
Smartening Up: Boosting Emotional Intelligence 128
Living in the Leadership
Gray Zone 130

Introduction

 If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.
Jean Kerr (1922 – 2003), American author and playwright

The light dawned. I was in a meeting with my Achieve Group colleagues reviewing the rapid changes in our training and consulting business and sorting through our priorities for the coming quarter. We had doubled our already substantial business over the past 18 months. While the growth was exciting, it was also exhausting. We were piling on new programs, services, and organizational changes.

This was some time ago. I don’t recall anything from the meeting except a rich conversation that ensued after I said, “Once we get through this crazy period and things settle down again…” I stopped myself. “Haven’t we been saying that an awful lot lately?” I asked. Heads nodded around the room.

The descriptive phrase “hinge of history” coined by the futurist and writer Alvin Toffler sprang to mind. He presented strong evidence to show our world from the 1950s until roughly 2025 will be undergoing a seismic shift. Everything in our lives business, politics, economics, the environment and our social structures will change radically.

“I guess we – or at least I – have to get my head around the fact that this crazy period is normal and will be with us for many years to come,” I reflected aloud. This led to an animated conversation. We needed a seismic shift in our thinking. The right approach was not to just plow through change, because a future period of stability is now a myth. Instead we agreed that we need to see constant, unpredictable, and tumultuous times as a normal and ongoing part of our company’s life.

We need to thrive on and in our turbulent times.

As so often happens when you’re newly attuned to an issue, not long after that meeting I came across a highly relevant remark. It was from Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. (Ever since Warren said some very nice things about my book, The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success, I cite him and his wisdom whenever I can).

Warren observed, “I can’t recall a period of time that was as volatile, complex, ambiguous and tumultuous.” He then quoted a top corporate leader of the day as observing, “If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on.”

Have you caught yourself saying things like, “Once we get the new position filled …the restructuring is complete … the project is finished … the new software is installed … I get organized, things will settle down again?” Do things ever settle down? Of course not. And they never will in our lifetime.

There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.
John Keats (1795 – 1821), English poet. Letter, 13–19 Jan. 1818, to his brothers George and Thomas Keats

Turbulence means disorder, chaos, and instability. Turbulent times are unpredictable, disruptive, and confusing. Sound familiar? Yes. It sounds like life.

While it’s tempting to want stability, predictability and orderliness, be very careful what you wish for. Writer, academic, journalist and scholar of early modern English literature Germaine Greer warns, “Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life.”

Our greatest and most challenging turbulence comes with loss. That might include loss of a loved one, a job, health or mobility, a relationship, finances, certainty, or power and control. “Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight,” Emperor Augustus observed. Although we might like Nature to delight us more gently or less often, loss itself is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. How we deal with it determines whether it’s good or bad. We can become bitter or better. Turbulence can be the hallmark of the best of times or the worst of times. The choice is yours.

To thrive on turbulence is to be vibrantly alive. To avoid turbulence is to wish life away. We must find ways to harness this powerful energy force for positive change throughout our personal and professional lives.

That’s what Growing @ the Speed of Change is written to help you do.

Core Models and Framework (Chapter Three)

Chapter Three: Wallow, Follow, Lead

“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.”
John Donne (1572–1631), English metaphysical poet

My wife Heather broke her ankle slipping on the ice in our driveway while taking the recycling bins to the curb for pickup. No one heard her cries for help as she lay in excruciating pain. The snow banks prevented any of our neighbors or people driving by from noticing her plight. She resolutely dragged herself back up the frozen driveway to the side door steps. She was yelling for me or our teenage kids, but we couldn’t hear her. We were inside the house with the doors and windows sealed tight against the winter deep freeze. She resorted to throwing snowballs and chunks of ice at the door to get someone’s attention.

When no one responded, Heather dragged her pain-racked and nearly hypothermic body up the porch stairs and managed to open the door. With more yelling (it’s a wonder she could muster the strength), she finally got our attention. Chris and I tried to help her stand up but her pain was too intense. After being rushed to the hospital by ambulance, she had emergency surgery to repair her shattered ankle. She was off work for weeks and took months to fully recuperate.

With her leg in a cast propped up on a chair, she retold her story numerous times to family members and friends during the Christmas holidays. She’d always end by sincerely reflecting on how lucky she was. “I could have easily hit my head on the big rock in the garden beside the driveway and seriously hurt or killed myself,” Heather would say. “Or I could have smashed my wrist or broken my arm, too. I was just lucky it happened before everyone went to school or work or the house would have been empty.” She often spoke compassionately about how other people in the surgical recovery ward at the hospital were in much worse shape. During her stay, she tried to cheer them up.

Rick broke his leg falling off a ladder when he leaned over too far putting Christmas lights on his house. He lay in agonizing pain among the low shrubs near his front porch. He alternately swore and yelled for help. No one heard him. He threw twigs and snow at the front window but could not get a response. When he tried to move, the extreme pain caused him to faint. He awoke and proceeded to yell and curse himself hoarse. He finally lay back in the snow, growing colder and colder. About two hours later his wife came looking for him. Rick had just enough voice left to scream at her for not getting her butt out there sooner.

At the hospital, Rick complained bitterly about the twenty minutes he had to wait for his diagnosis that surgery would be required. During his recovery, Rick was angry about the food, nurses who didn’t respond immediately to his every whim, the other “jerks” in his ward, and the weeks of work he’d miss. He bitterly pronounced that this was “some kind of Christmas present.” He reserved his fiercest fury for his wife and kids for not hearing him calling them after his fall. “It figures! You never listen to me.”

During his convalescence, friends or family visiting during Christmas holidays repeatedly heard Rick decry the unfairness of his situation. “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,” he complained. “And, of course, it’s my right foot. So I can’t even drive the car. But what else would you expect?” He’d provide the litany of activities he was missing out on during the holidays and at work. “And it will take months for me to recover.” The only thing that cheered him up was his plan to sue the ladder manufacturer.

Groaning or Growing

blogleadfollowwallow

Chapter Three: WFL: Which Framing Level?

“The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in our attitude towards them.”
Antoine de Saint Exupery (1900–1944), French writer and aviator

A central theme in my decades of attempting to understand, apply, synthesize, and teach leader­ship skills is that leadership is an action, not a position. Leadership is determined by what we do, not the role we play. Whether or not we’re truly a leader is determined by what we consistently think and do.

All too many people in leadership roles don’t act like leaders. Conversely, many people who haven’t been given formal leadership authority are nonetheless very strong leaders. We all need to be leaders — in our personal lives or taking a leading role in our family, communities, profession, relationships, or workplace. Leaders are inspired and inspire others. Leaders take action. Leaders are all about inspir-action.

Whether we choose to be leaders or not shines through most clearly when we face turbulence, adversity, or unwanted change. Those trying times often involve suffering or loss. That could be loss of a loved one, our health or physical mobility, a relationship, a job, money, autonomy, control, or status.

During these times we can lead, we can follow, or we can wallow.

We decide which glasses we will put on to view our situation. When we choose how to look at the challenge we’re hit with — often unexpectedly — we choose the frame to put around it. That frame makes our situation appear larger or smaller or brighter or darker. These choices create our reality. Bit by bit, these choices accumulate to create our life. They determine our personal health and happiness as well as our team and organization success.

Chapter Three: WFL Model: Which Framing Level?

Following

The midpoint — and largest section of this diagram — shows that when faced with a setback, major change, or difficulty, many people sit “on the line” in following mode. Followers may be shocked or stunned. Followers are often waiting to see what else might happen. Followers are looking to others for direction. They may not jump right on the Bitter Bus, but they are at the front of the line to get a good seat. They don’t see the glass as half full or half empty but see both sides — or twice as much glass as is required. Typical comments from followers are, “Somebody should do something about this,” “I am not sure what to do next,” or, “I am just lying low, keeping my head down.”

Followers at the right end of the Following spectrum are skeptical but hopeful. They could be wisely analyzing the situation to understand what happened and what their options might be in dealing with it. To avoid being on the “bleeding edge” of change or jumping in too quickly with a ready-fire-aim approach, they could be weighing how to respond. With the right encouragement or positive influence, they’re close to stepping up to deal with the situation.

At the left or cynical end of the Following scale, followers are feeling helpless and cynical. With a slight push or just a bit more negative influence, they’ll start to slide down the slippery slope of cynical pessimism.

Wallowing

The greasy downgrade of negativity and cynicism can very quickly skid over a cliff into the swamp of despair and helplessness. Wallowers take a bad situation and make it worse. Wallowers “blamestorm” rather than brainstorm in their search for someone to point the finger at. Wallowers crave certainty and long for the “good old days” — which they used to complain about incessantly and would resent actually returning to. Wallowers hate “now” and want to be anywhere other than in the present moment. Wallowers are overwhelmed by the problem and narrow their field of vision to few or no options.

Wallowers live in a world of hurt and worry. In positions
of power, they use fear to “motivate” and manipulate. Wallowers believe most people are incompetent and can’t be trusted; they focus on weaknesses and gaps. Wallowers use punishment, criticism, and threats to shove others toward higher performance. Bullies are usually wallowers. Wallowers set up destructive magnetic energy fields of negative vibrations.

Wallowers often play the victim. Their world is full of conspiracies with lots of “they” talk; “They are out to get us”; “They don’t understand”; “They never listen to us.” Wallowers routinely ride the Bitter Bus down Helpless Highway through Frown Town past Pessimism Place, Whining Way, and Dead End Drive into Pity City. Many wallowers drive the Bitter Bus and actively recruit fence-sitting followers to join them.

Leading

Taking the leadership stairs is the way to rise above and master the situation. Leaders take the initiative to make the best of the bad hand that’s been dealt. Leaders often live with ambiguity and paradox while exploring and creating a broad array of options. Leaders try to live in the moment while building for the future. Leaders believe most people are competent and trust­worthy until proven otherwise. Leaders assume good intent. Leaders look for the best in people and focus on reinforcing and leveraging everyone’s strengths.

Leaders face tough times squarely. They don’t sugarcoat things or flee from difficult situations or touchy conversations. Leaders bring hope by focusing beyond what is to what could be. Leaders are self-aware and build disciplined habits of continuous improvement. Leaders are grateful and look for opportunities to celebrate and recognize progress. Leaders praise and encourage others on to higher performance. Leaders set up affirmative magnetic energy fields of positive vibrations. Leaders are “inspir-actional.”

Leaders are navigators and say, “I am going to do something about this”; “How can we capitalize on this change?”; “We’ve overcome problems before and we can do it again.” Leaders drive the Success Express and recruit followers to hop on board the Better Bus as they cruise on Positive Parkway through Joyful Junction and Happy Hamlet past Peak Performance Place, past Winner’s Circle, and into Pretty City.

Okay; I can tell you’ve had enough Dad Jokes in this section!

Chapter Three: Payoffs of Taking the Lead

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
(Anna) Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), American diplomat, writer, U.S. First Lady

It’s been said that we can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails. The wallower curses the wind, the follower waits for it to change, and the leader adjusts the sails. A rapidly multiplying body of research proves that the payoffs of choosing to adjust ourselves and lead above the line are massive. Here’s just the tip of a very deep iceberg:

  • “An upbeat environment fosters mental efficiency, making people better at taking in and understanding information, at using decision rules in complex judgements, and at being flexible in their thinking.”
  • “Teaching ten-year-old children the skills of optimistic thinking and action cuts their rate of depression in half when they go through puberty.”
  • “A study of insurance salespeople (shows) a 56 percent sales advantage among the optimists.”
  • “Optimistic managers are more likely to be engaged managers who are more likely to engage employees; engaged employees, in turn, are more optimistic and productive than disengaged employees, and their increased productivity increases profitability.”
  • “Of the fifty-four couples, sixteen divorced or separated over the four years, and the more positive their explanations (Ed. note: explanations about/for their partner, i.e., “he was tired” vs. “he was in a bad mood”), the more likely they were to stay together. The upshot of this is straightforward. Optimism helps marriage.”
  • Optimists report a higher level of physical and mental functioning than pessimists, according to Mayo Clinic researchers. “The wellness of being is not just physical but attitudinal,” says Dr. Toshihiko Maruta.
  • “…optimists had 19 percent greater longevity, in terms of their expected life span, compared to that of the pessimists.”
  • “Men with high levels of optimism had less than half the risk for combined fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction and for angina pectoris. The greater their optimism, the lower the risk for cardiac incidents.”
  • “Managers who got sick or who sank to low performance displayed a sense of alienation: they felt externally controlled, often overwhelmed or helpless, and tried to find security by regressing and turning situations back to the way they were.”

Chapter Three: Cognitive Psychology, Choosing Our Reality

“Cognition: The process of knowing and, more precisely, the process of being aware, knowing, thinking, learning, and judging.”
MedicineNet.com

Back in the mideighties when I was leading The Achieve Group (now part of AchieveGlobal), Peter Strickland introduced me to the work of Martin Seligman. I was working on my first book, The VIP Strategy: Leadership Skills for Exceptional Performance with Achieve cofounder, Art McNeil. We had just hired Peter to head up the trainer-training part of our business associated with Zenger Miller’s programs (also now part of AchieveGlobal). Peter knew I was looking for credible research on the links between self-determination, optimism, and leadership.

I became an avid follower of Seligman’s leading-edge work at the University of Pennsylvania. He began his distinguished psychology career in the late sixties studying pessimism, learned helplessness, and depression. In 1990 Seligman released his seminal book, Learned Optimism. It is loaded with extensive and solid research from the rapidly expanding field of cognitive therapy — within the larger field of cognitive behavioral therapies. Learned Optimism proved that “optimism is essential for a good and successful life.” This very practical book is an excellent introduction to the power of cognitive therapy and provides very useful self-assessment tools followed by plenty of suggestions for building optimism at work, as parents with our kids, in schools, in sports, in organizations, and for our own health.

For most of the nineties, Learned Optimism was my favorite book on personal growth and self-leadership. Here are a few of its key points that are relevant to how we choose the frames that create our reality:

  • Pessimistic prophecies are self-fulfilling and create a downward spiral — often into depression.
  • Depression is a symptom of conscious negative thinking and does not come from underlying disorders, unresolved issues, unconscious anger, or brain chemistry.
  • Pessimism is not fixed and unchangeable. Anyone can become optimistic by learning a new set of cognitive skills.
  • Our thoughts aren’t just reactions to events; they often change what causes or follows those events.
  • Self-direction rather than outside forces explains our actions and gives us control over our lives.
  • For the first time in history, a large number of people have a significant amount of choice — societal rights, in fact — and personal control over their lives.
  • During a time of dramatic increases in material wealth, severe depression is ten times worse in North America than 50 years ago.
  • We all have automatic thoughts or styles of explanation that we try to impose on others for the good and bad events in our lives.
  • Our explanatory style develops in childhood and determines whether we’re pessimistic or optimistic (wallowing, following, or leading ourselves and others).
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy can permanently reset our explanatory style to optimism, with a low relapse rate.
  • Attitude, motivation, and optimism are key predictors of future success.
  • Sports teams with optimistic explanatory styles perform better.
  • Optimistic U.S. presidential candidates win more elections.

 

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