From Charleston – Better Days

Friday, a kind colleague wrote that he wished us here in Charleston “better days soon.”

I wrote back, “Better days are here, already.”

This city, hurt as it is, has been amazing.
The effort and affinity, the love and support, the money and time have come forward in remarkable abundance.


At the prayer vigil Thursday, at Morris Browne AME, one speaker powerfully said: “He Picked The Wrong Town.”
I believe that to be true.

Charleston is fortunate to be a place where many WANT to be.
There is a positive and long-standing belief in this place and what it has been and can be.

It is my deep hope, and something I plan to work for, that this town will use this tragedy, to transform not only itself, but this Nation on these issues.

Charleston has “started” many things…not all of them good.
This time….it will be good…it already is.We will act.

In both honorable memory, and with hope, WE will deal with the intertwined issues that lead to this.

Undoing that knot will take time.
Time Nine others no longer have.
Time that I and many more here and elsewhere will gladly give.

Thank you for your support. Your thoughts. Your prayers. Your high hopes.
Don’t stop. Please. Don’t Stop.

The work has only just begun…

Morris Brown AME Prayer Vigil

Mother Emanual


Being Ready to Go Forward

Over lunch the other day, I was asked, “How do you help people be ready to use the Three Points Forward model? What can we do to use it before a situation gets difficult?”

It is a great question and I have been thinking about it since.

Here is my answer: Positive and excited stillness.

Let me show you what positive, excited stillness looks like through the examples of three remarkable people.

A benefit of my work for the last 25 years is teaming with some outstanding leaders. These three in particular were skilled at finding just the right message. Each had developed an “unconscious competence” an internalized expertise that helped them successfully communicate.

•The first, a Government Administrator who saved his agency from being zeroed out in the federal budget, at a time when his party was out of power and offering no help.
•The second, a General Counsel for a Fortune 500 company, who led his company’s recovery from a major scandal and then helped the company responsibly manage a difficult reorganization.
•And finally, the congenial Am-Law 100 firm Managing Partner who advised dozens of banks and boards to deal with every kind of difficulty and who I knew best as a deep-water yacht racer.

Now, I realize all three had a similar demeanor. Externally, each appeared calm, a certain type of serene. But if you paid attention, you could sense an internal, virtual humming of energy, a consistent, highly enthused state. This polarity, I believe, allowed them to be prepared, ready, and responsible (response-able) at the highest level. They were poised, relaxed and could therefore draw on the right concept or the key phrase whenever needed.

One more thing I recall— all three smiled, a lot. Not a beaming, tooth-filled grin; but a polite and utterly sincere smile. Even when hearing something negative or unpleasant, they smiled, maintaining an external calm, while the inner-workings revved at a high speed.

Each also offered some of the best examples of living the three waypoints.

The Government Administrator, an expert on evidence-based medicine, always had clarity about his interests and intentions. He knew what he wanted to have happen and how he wanted to make it happen. He was comfortable sharing these with anyone, including members of the President’s Cabinet or senators of opposing views. He also knew to ask about and work with the interests of others.

The General Counsel appreciates and invests in relationships. He reaches out deftly and respectfully connects with employees, vendors, opposing counsel, and even competing companies, in order make good things happen.

And the Lawyer | Skipper? He was relentlessly and positively, future-oriented. In the midst of the worst storm I have ever sailed through, he calmly steered through crashing waves while chatting happily about how he looked forward to meeting his wife for dinner at his favorite restaurant in the port where we were headed. It might sound like a small thing, but it relaxed all of us, which kept us safer.

Of course these three people spent years becoming “unconsciously competent.” It takes time and effort to pass through the developmental stages to become “masterful” at communicating.

Having these examples, seeing how they embodied the three waypoints, helped me advance my own abilities. Now this can help you.

So next time, I’ll tell my lunch partner that positive, excited stillness is the way to be ready to put the Three Points Forward model to use. Here’s how:
1. Stay externally calm, even still, to appreciate what is happening around you;
2. Keep both your mind and your heart fully engaged and highly active so your knowledge, skills, experience and feelings are primed to inform you; and
3. Smile— because that gesture invokes a positivism that will help you, and others, find the best way forward.

Three Points Forward – The Way Ahead…

While just two points can define a line, defining a locale requires three points. i.e. your location on a map. Three points also suggest a direction, or the way ahead.

We all need to locate ourselves and find a way forward at times like when we experience disagreements, challenges, or conflicts. It happens all the time and it can be unsettling.

I know. It has happened to me, very recently. Even with an advanced degree in conflict management and 25 years of focused professional experience and observation in the arena. Still at times, this powerful, reoccurring force impacts me. But now, I work with this force to find the benefits in any situation.

In my work, I repeatedly observe well intentioned individuals, teams and organizations lose their way due to conflict, which  in early stages usually takes the form of disagreement.

That is the reason for this 3 Points Forward blog: To provide practical and actionable ideas in an easily accessible form for those who want to do better with disagreement and conflicts, whether their own or helping others.

My plan for this blog is to author, find + share and stimulate the best thinking and questions. I want to provoke readers to new thoughts, feelings and actions.

On 4.15.15 at TEDxCharleston I will do this in my talk, Navigating From Storm to Agreement. Check back next week to learn three pragmatic steps (the 3 points forward) to navigate torward the benefits available in any issue or conflict. (The talk will be posted here and on TEDxCharleston in late May.)

You and your contributions will be a key element of this blog. Your stories of successes secured using the original three points, or other methods, will provide examples. The challenges still present will create learning moments for us all. And your questions and comments, will add focus and impetus keeping us all involved in the dialogue. I look forward to hearing from you.

The world is filled with complex problems to address. My strong belief is that we have to start with ourselves and work inside out. If you and I get better at the day-to-day challenges we will make a positive difference, for ourselves and for those with whom we interact. We will forge more engaging, sustainable, creative and enjoyable relationships. Working from the inside out, lets together discover how to skillfully and artfully manage the issues we have at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

That’s how we will change the world.