A Letter to Mr. Churchill: “You Are Not So Kind as You Used to Be”

Guest post by Garza Baldwin, www.baldwindavis.com

Below is a nugget that may interest students of leadership. It comes in the form of a letter to Winston Churchill written by
his wife Clementine in June 1940, just after her husband became Prime Minister. Speaking truth to power, she makes some observations that we all might wish to preserve in our Emotional Intelligence files. I have excerpted portions of the original post and Mrs. Churchill’s letter, and those interested in the original post can read the full Churchill article here and other letters on the delightful blog called lettersofnote.com.

Full Post Source: lettersofnote.com

It’s difficult to imagine the stress experienced by Winston Churchill in June of 1940, as WWII gathered pace just a couple of months after he first became Prime Minister. Behind the scenes, however, the weight on his shoulders was noticed and
felt by all those around him , so much so that on the 27th of the month, his wife, Clementine, wrote him the following superb letter and essentially advised him to calm down and be kind to his staff.

(Source: Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills, via Mark Anderson)

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To Complain or Not to Complain

In coaching, one of the ways to help clients to achieve greater peace is to work to help them reduce the proportion of their day they are occupied with negative emotions, and one of the regular sources of negative emotion is complaining, especially complaining about particular others.

What is a Complaint?

What is a complaint? Merriam Webster gives the following definitions:

  1. expression of grief, pain, or dissatisfaction
  2. (a) something that is the cause or subject of protest or outcry (b) a bodily ailment or disease
  3.  a formal allegation against a party

The first sense of the term is the usual one in everyday usage, particularly the sense ofexpression of dissatisfaction.  To complain is to express dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and to lodge a complaint against a person is to express dissatisfaction with something they have done (or not done) or the way in which they have done it.

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Three Habits at Three Levels for Improved Engineering Education

Students in advanced economies today want to become anything but engineers (A.B.E.) and often choose to become lawyers, physicians, or businesspeople instead. Even those who do study engineering sometimes leave because (1) they are unable to align their aspirations with the subject matter as taught, and (2) a hostile, dismissive, or indifferent educational culture discourages the young people it is charged with educating.

Changing these things isn’t easy, but to use New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg’s phrase, we can use the power of habit at three different levels — at the personal, organizational, and system levels — to bring about change that attracts and retains bright young people to become the engineers our planet needs.

Habit #1: Noticing, Listening, & Questioning (NLQ). A keystone habit that could change education profoundly is the triple of noticing, listening, and questioning (NLQ) for both faculty and students. In his book The Power of Habit, Duhigg recalls the story of Alcoa Aluminum and how CEO Paul O’Neill returned the corporation to profitability by instilling the habit of safety. At the time, company observers thought this was a bad move, as they couldn’t see how safety would ever flow to the bottom line. But O’Neill believed that a focus on safety would bring about the needed individual changes that would align personal behavior with organizational needs, and time proved him to be correct.

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Urgency-Importance Revisited or the Covey-Rotter Quad

In The Entrepreneurial Engineer I talk about Julian Rotter’s work on the distinction between those with internal versus external motivation. In Stephen Covey’s famous book, he talks about the distinction between matters that are urgent versus those that are important.

The connection between these two authors is this. Matters that are urgent are important to someone other than you (externally motivated) and matters that are important get their importance because they are consistent with your internal motivation and goals. Saying this out loud helps highlight the point Covey was making and helps us name the quadrants of his famous urgency-importance square. Here in deference to Rotter’s earlier work, we call the diagram the Rotter-Covey Square and name the four quadrants something other than I, II, II, and IV.

The upper right quadrant, called the do-it quadrant, concerns matters that important to you and others. There can be little question that these are matters of the highest priority.

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Are You in Judger Mode or Learner Mode?

There are many things to like about Marilee Adams book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (here). Written as a business parable, this book explores the role of asking questions and curiosity in effectiveness at work and in life. Routinely in my coaching and training practice, I use many of her

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particular questions as well as her idea of Q-storming (brainstorming with questions) to help clients become more creative and less stuck.

One of the most useful distinctions in the book is the distinction Adams makes between judging and learning. Oftentimes, someone behaves in a manner we are unaccustomed to or tells us something unfamiliar, and we immediately judge it, oftentimes as something bad. This is entirely natural, as human beings we are “living-breathing assessment machines,” and the making of assessments and judgments is part of our evolutionary apparatus that once protected us from harm on the savanna.

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Below the Waterline: A Deep Dive to Rethink Engineering Education

If we think of engineering education as an iceberg, many educators are focused on the visible part of the iceberg — the part above the waterline. As such, they teach students the known elements of existing science, math, engineering science, etc., thus leading students on a path of “mastery of the known.” While all this knowledge is important and useful, many fail to realize that there’s so much more to education — especially engineering education — than what we can see above the waterline. In fact, if the goal is to educate people for a full life, then we need to broaden our focus and educate in the areas that don’t involve known facts. In other words, we need to look below the waterline.

Focusing above the waterline and filling young minds with known facts and knowledge used to be sufficient for engineering education. In the past, engineers were category enhancers, making existing products and technologies faster, better, and more efficient, so mastery of the known used to be enough. Today, however, engineers do so much more. They are no longer category enhancers; they are category creators, bringing to fruition things that don’t yet exist. As such, because we don’t know what future solutions will be needed, we can’t merely pour existing knowledge into students’ heads, hoping that this will be enough; rather, we need to educate deep, lifelong learners so they can adapt, create, innovate, and lead the world to a better future.

This need for competent lifelong learning shifts the focal point of education. To instill the joy of being a masterful lifelong learner requires education to dive below the waterline, to stop focusing so heavily on mere mastery of the known so that in the future we develop engineers who can take initiative, find the problems that need to be solved, think both critically and creatively, and come up with solutions that our world demands.

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More Accomplishment, Less Worry: Follow the Epictetus Square

Epictetus was a Greco-Roman moralist who shared practical advice and wisdom with his countrymen.  Once a slave, Epictetus was freed and then went on to influence his followers, who captured his teachings and passed them down to us. One piece of wisdom that comes to us in the Enchiridion (here), is the following:

Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions. 

We can visualize this advice and take it a step further on what I’ve called the Epictetus Square in the poster. On the y-axis, we have activities and whether we control them or not, and on the x-axis we have our internal state of mind and whether we are concerned with the particular activity or not.

In the West, a particular quadrant of concern is the quadrant of accomplishment.  In this quadrant, we can control an outcome, we do, and we achieve something we desire.  A lot of self help is focused here.

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Ten Steps to the Whole New Engineer

Dan Pink called for a Whole New Mind in his book on creativity of the same name (here).  Mark Somerville and I call for a Whole New Engineer and a Whole New Engineering Education in our latest Huffington Post article: We live in a technological time. With nearly 7 billion people on the planet (and counting), we depend upon technology in almost every aspect of our…

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Two Student-Centered Success Stories in Brazil

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Belo Horizonte, Brazil to work with Alessandro Moreira, Vice-Director (Associate Dean) of Engineering at UFMG, Universidade Federale de Minas Gerais. During the visit, I learned of a special group of students and how they helped the University in its engineering education transformation efforts.

On the first day of my visit, Dean Moreira and I were touring campus and we went to the entrepreneurial business incubator, where I was surprised to meet students in Junior Enterprise.  I engaged them in conversation regarding the need for change in engineering education, and they were articulate about the need for better pedagogy, more practical subjects, and hands-on projects.  I also learned how they were backfilling what their educations’ were not providing themselves.

Junior Enterprise was started in 1967 in France, and it has chapters in many countries, but Brazilian universities have taken it especially to heart.  At UFMG, most of the engineering disciplines have a Junior Enterprise chapter or enterprise, and each enterprise organizes to do consulting projects for local businesses.  The students organize in functional specialties (marketing, technical, administrative, etc.), and take pride in teaching each other professional skills such as powerpoint presentation and project management.  Enterprise sizes of 25-50 or so with 5-10 or more projects running at time are not unusual.  Enterprises have faculty advisors, but they are largely hands off, and many of the research faculty would prefer that students concentrate on their studies.

I was unfamiliar with Junior Enterprise before this visit, but it is an exemplary model of students taking action in service to their education in a direct way.  Students in design competition clubs and projects get similar experiences, but the connection to markets and work in Junior Enterprise closes the real-world loop in a very special way, and Junior Enterprise students come out of the experience ready to tackle the world of engineering full force.

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