Stillwater Speaks

connection creativity presence & courage for leaders and organizations

November 13, 2012
by Dave Ebenhoh
1 Comment

Changing & Growing

Changing ourselves is hard. Once we have the conscious awareness that we are doing something again and again that we want to change – which is no small feat in and of itself – it can be maddening to watch ourselves continue to do it over and over even when we are trying to change it. Whether we call them habits or patterns or auto-pilot settings, it doesn’t change the difficulty of changing them.

Over the years of watching myself and the many people that I have worked with, it seems to me that real change in ourselves takes place in much the same slow and gradual way regardless of what we are trying to change – and that it follows, more or less, the following sequence of internal shifts of awareness, leading to shifts in behavior.

Let’s use being overly judgmental as an example.

1. First, I have a realization that I’ve been overly judgmental for a long time and that is has affected many, if not all, of my relationships with the people that I work with and lead.

2. Gradually, as I start paying attention to it, the time delay from the moment I judge someone unfairly to the time that I realize it starts shrinking. Maybe, at this point, it takes me a week to realize it (as opposed to the years it took to get to Step 1).

3. Then it takes a few days…. then one day….. then I start realizing it later that same day.

4. Then I realize it just as an interaction ends – as the other person walks away.

5. Then I start realizing that it’s happening in the midst of an interaction – but I can’t stop myself.

6. Then I notice it happening in the midst of the interaction and I am able to redirect myself.

7. Then I notice that it is about to happen and I shift before I get there.

8. Finally, I notice – in hindsight – that it didn’t happen at all.

Note that this is not a list of the ‘8 Magic Steps to Change Your Life’, but simply shifts in your awareness that you might notice along the way – shifts that might help you know you are moving forward or backward. Also, note that you may stay at each step for a long time – i.e. you might be stuck for months noticing the thing you are trying to change the day after you do it. Then, suddenly, it shifts to the moment. There is no way to predict how long a person will take to go through the steps – only that they tend to move through them in order.

Some would say that this is the process for all growth – that it’s just the length of time that varies, from days to weeks to months to years depending on the person and the issue. In my own life, when I have been conscious of this process unfolding and conscious of asking for help along the way, it has sometimes felt almost effortless on my part – the gradually growing in-the-moment awareness unlocks the freedom to do something different.


November 9, 2012
by Dave Ebenhoh

The Power of Metaphors

Metaphors are powerful because they bridge the gap of language.

As we know, each person has a unique story that gives them a unique lens through which they interpret life, but we pay less attention to the fact that it works both ways: my unique story gives me a unique lens through which I interpret, but it also gives me a unique language through which I express myself. This is obviously not limited to speaking different languages of the world, but the countless different languages of life.

A metaphor crosses the gap between languages by focusing on common experience, not common language. It is analogous to me, as an English-speaker, trying to communicate and learn the language of someone who only speaks Russian. Until we have something in common – an experience, a relationship, an object – we have nothing to connect the different words we speak.

The leader who communicates with metaphors brings people together in ways that help them not only connect with the leader, but also with each other.

August 16, 2011
by Dave Ebenhoh

Executive Isolation

Again and again, I notice that top level executives in any organization experience a certain level of isolation – directly proportional to the size of the organization and how high they are on the organizational chart. That isolation seems heightened if they are truly thinking about their employees’ as whole people and trying to lead their company in a way that puts the people first, simply because there are not that many high level execs who think this way. So, they are not only isolated within their company, they are also isolated in the wider community of the business world. And finally, isolation almost always makes people start to doubt what it is that they believe in that makes them isolated in the first place – leaving them isolated within themselves.

These are the kinds of things I’m passionate about: helping leaders create organizations that value people and that can become places of growth and nourishment in the midst of financial success – and, really, not just in the midst of success, but finding success because of their foundation on valuing people.

August 5, 2011
by Dave Ebenhoh

Change – Two Approaches

Two approaches:

People aren’t doing what we want them to do.
How can we make them do it?
What incentives and punishments do we need to offer or threaten?

Approach #1 is driven by compliance – and leaves a ripple effect of fear.

Approach #2
People aren’t doing what we want them to do.
Why aren’t they doing it?
What do they want to be doing?
What else is trying to emerge?
How can we help them make that happen?

Approach #2 is driven by connection – and leaves a ripple effect of commitment.

August 3, 2011
by Dave Ebenhoh

Leadership in the Here and Now

Leadership is born in the Now –
in this one moment, in this one place,
with these gifts, and with these shortcomings
with these people before me.In this moment and in this place,
in this situation and with these issues,
what needs to be done or said?
What needs to be set aside
and what doorways need to be stepped through?
Where am I called forth
and where am I called to step aside?
Who needs to emerge?

These are the questions of leadership in the Now.

Do I have the courage, the vision, the heart –
and the hands and voice to move forward –
into the fire, into the center, into the light?

Will I step through the doorway
through which my old life will not fit?
What am I willing to leave behind?
Can I let go of all to receive all?
Can I become new?

Am I ready to be free?
To hold all of my self
and all of my life
with open hands?
Am I ready to be emptied by this moment
that I may be filled by it?

Am I ready to lead?
Am I ready for the Now?
Am I ready to let go of everything else so that I might fly?
Am I ready to step forward so that I can be carried beyond myself?
Am I ready to let the Power Beyond be made real in me?
Am I ready to be the leader I am called to be?

There is no other moment than the Now,
no other place but the Here,
no other person but Me.

It is time to find a new way.

August 2, 2011 by Dave Ebenhoh | 0 comments

The fire of the universe burns at the very center of who we are, filling us with the power our world needs and the peace that we seek. And yet, too often, something seems missing. That fire within us is too easily covered over and pushed aside in a world out of balance, and we lose touch with the wisdom, integrity, and depth that we need most.

It is time to find a new way – to find what’s missing.
Step deeper into the heart of life and the source of leadership.
Be the leader our world needs – the leader you are called to be.

Inside-Out Leadership

August 1, 2011 by Dave Ebenhoh | 0 comments

Leadership is an integrated adventure, finding its source in who we are and its expression in what we do. But this is no one-way relationship.

Like the mysterious Mobius strip that defies our attempts to define inside and outside, the internal and external aspects of leadership are simply two ways of looking at one truly integrated reality. Our internal thoughts, emotions, and values inform our external words, actions, and interactions just as the external informs the internal. The inside and the outside each lead seamlessly into the other until we see that they are simply one.

This rhythm of who we are and what we do becoming one is the foundation of our potential – and the heart of inside-out leadership.