Archive for February, 2012

What’s Your Soundtrack for 2012?

“For next lesson, pick a few songs that have some meaning for you, and speak to your focus in the next year – a soundtrack for 2012.”

For over 30 years, growing up in BC, I sang – in choirs and bands, and summer stock theatre. While I wasn’t big on hymns, I’d carol at Christmas, and I even wrote a song or two.

Then I fell in love with Ann, joined her family in Midwestern USA, and life so filled and crowded and rushed with consulting and raising kids and caring for parents and teaching and volunteering. While I started the decade in song, by the end I had elbowed singing into the shower, where I’d occasionally hum a few bars and snatch a passing fragment of lyrics from memory’s mists.

Thinking back, I came to see singing and many forms of joyful expression incompatible with the “serious, credible” pursuit of business and consulting and organizational transformation. In many (not all) of the business settings I worked in across North America, including my hometown on the decidedly New Age west coast, suggestions of opening up and expressing and connecting more deeply were not usually well–received. “Now all together, let’s join hands and sing Kumbaya!” someone would scoff, and, well, that was that and it was time for something more productive.

I know my experience is not unique, and that many are coming to view this “us” and “them”; this disciplined corporate compartmentalization of mind and intellect and power and ambition from heart and doubt and expression and vulnerability – from the generative spirit – as unworkable for the complexities we face in the decades ahead. Without question, much has been accomplished, both great and terrible, with such a mindset, and we owe the majority of our today to it. I just wish very much we hadn’t borrowed so heavily from our future, and from our kids’ future to pay for our today.

The fundamental shift facing anyone who has modeled their leadership on predominant patterns of prior centuries is one Richard Barrett captures so eloquently in a phrase from his paper: The New Leadership Paradigm – A Response to the Global Leadership Crisis’ “…the shift from being the best in the world to being the best for the world.”

It was at my blackest, lowest point in my relationship with my chosen craft of catalyzing organizational transformation for the greater good that I realized my own complicity in reinforcing old roles – patriarchal models that would not serve our future. I discovered it through my work with First Nations clients in Canada, through my interactions with my closest colleagues, friends and family, and even in my act of exiling my heartfelt musical expression to the shower!

So imagine my hair-blown-back surprise at rediscovering music and song during a corporate engagement where I was introduced to two new colleagues. These alchemists of corporate culture who, in addition to wit and wisdom and insight, brought their extraordinary gifts as  musician / composer and singer / songwriter, respectively, into the corporate arena.

Did I get what these two remarkable beings were offering? Was I humbled by their vision and courage? Did I immediately see the error of my ways and re-integrate? Heck, no! First, I scoffed to our team lead and said: “Like THIS is going to fly with the client. Now all together, let’s join hands and sing Kumbaya!”

This was not my proudest moment.

A couple of years later, with the love and candor of my family, friends and colleagues, a good deal of stumbling, soul searching (soul–scraping?), and a stubborn determination to learn in support of my aspirations (thanks, dad!), I’m told I’m making good progress. I now sing with real COMMITMENT in the shower!

I also might be better prepared to join the community putting their hearts and minds and backs to the impossible but worthy task of finding and amplifying what’s right with the world, and shaping the future we want to live into.

I study with my singer / songwriter friend when I get the chance, and it was she who in January suggested I select, with clear intent, songs that fit the coming year. While many I chose have been favorites for years, one in particular hit me as I was driving home after receiving my assignment, listening to a cappella groups on internet radio. The King’s Singers were rendering a truly beautiful, straight-up version of “The Rose”, by Amanda McBroom. The second verse:

It’s the heart, afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying
That never learns to live

What will you choose for your soundtrack in 2012?

– Gary Ralston
February 11, 2012

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 Article Archive, Leadership, Main Page, Values Comments Off on What’s Your Soundtrack for 2012?

We Believe… (part 2)

In Part 1, after watching a TEDTalk video featuring Simon Sinek, Ann and I decided to re-write the way we tell the story of Ralston Consulting Inc. following the approach in the presentation.

Sinek observes that everyone in an organization knows What they do, some know How they do it, and yet fewer know Why they do what they do. His insight is that great companies, and great leaders reverse the order of the message: Why, then How, and then What. Sinek maintains: “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.

We decided to test it out with you. Here’s a draft of our new message:


We believe the world urgently needs leaders of heart, of conscience and of long vision, who today undertake enterprise that also benefits our children’s children. It is these leaders we are interested in walking with.

We do so as partners in thought and action, co-inventing sustainable and generative ways forward where convention doesn’t cut it, the past has failed the future, and the alternatives are unclear.

We offer leading-edge tools and ideas for strategic foresight and business innovation, for lean startup and sustainable growth, for creating communities of change, and for developing our next generations of leadership.

Walk with us and tell us what you envision. Let’s create a better way forward…

What do you think and feel about it? We’d love to hear from you, and we want it all. We need the straight goods if we are to make it better.

If you’re moved to share your thoughts, either post a comment here, or email us.

Thanks very much!

Ann and Gary

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 Article Archive, Business Insights, Corporate Social Responsibility, Main Page, Marketing, Sustainability Comments Off on We Believe… (part 2)

We believe… (part 1)

A TEDx video featuring Simon Sinek, author of the book: Start with Why, came to my attention as we were scanning for engaging pre-session material for a client project. From

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers …

In essence, he observed that while most will tell you first WHAT they do, HOW they do it, and then WHY, great leaders reverse the order. He asserts this works because our brains evolved that way. While I’m not all the way on board with that part of his theory, Simon is a great storyteller – upbeat, interesting and thought-provoking. Really, really thought-provoking.

After taking the video in, Ann and I set out to re-draft the story of our company, starting with Why, and were surprised at the result. We hope you enjoy the video, and then invite you to part two, where we share our latest draft message and ask you for candid feedback!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 Article Archive, Business Insights, Main Page, Marketing Comments Off on We believe… (part 1)

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