For many years Decurion has offered its members a course called The Practice of Self-Management.  Over ten weeks, we explore readings and practices aimed at helping people develop three skill sets:  the ability to be more present, the ability to dissolve apparent barriers between ourselves and others, and the ability to make what is subject into object in order to reduce reactivity and to engender appropriate responses.  We think these skills enhance both personal development and business effectiveness.

During the course’s penultimate week, we address skillful speech.  We begin with some observations about listening.  Krishnamurti notes “if we try to listen we find it extraordinarily difficult because we are always projecting our opinions and ideas, our prejudices, our background, our inclinations, our impulses; when they dominate we hardly listen at all to what is being said” (from J. Krishnamurti, Talks and Dialogues).  Having spent many weeks working on being more present and on observing our constant internal dialogue, we attempt to create space for true listening. Read the full article…

Servant leadership is one of Decurion’s six core values.  The term comes from Robert K. Greenleaf’s essay, “The Servant as Leader.”  When I first encountered this essay, I had the sense that Greenleaf was describing many of Decurion’s views and approaches but was doing so much more eloquently than we had yet managed.  Many years have passed since that first encounter, and I continue to value not only Greenleaf’s ideas but also the way he expresses them.  The following sentences (with my underlining) come directly from his essay, collected in Servant Leadership:  A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. Read the full article…

Everyone has something unique to express, some unique gift or gifts to give to the world. Giving that gift is our Work or purpose. And in giving it, we are most truly ourselves. Taking the time and making the effort to clarify our purpose leads to a greater sense of wholeness, connection, and meaning. Here is an exercise I found useful in clarifying my purpose. It comes from The Path of the Everyday Hero by Lorna Catford and Michael Ray. Read the full article…

Here is a talk I gave last month at the 25-year reunion of my class at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.  It picks up and brings together several of the themes from earlier blog posts.

I always knew I would join the family business.  I’d follow my father as he had followed his.  Growing up I didn’t think about a career or about the unfolding of a life filled with purpose.  I certainly didn’t connect the two.  I treated the guarantee of a job as a source of freedom.  And in college and graduate school I studied what I loved (namely, ancient history and philosophy) rather than what I thought might be useful in business.

Then when I began working full-time at the family company (The Decurion Corporation, which operates movie theaters and develops real estate), I was, well, miserable.  The intellectual stimulation and clear standards of academe had disappeared.  In their place were mundane and pointless tasks.  After two years of what seemed like serving time I left for business school. Read the full article…

In two previous blog posts, I shared Decurion members’ reflections on their experience of Decurion.  In this post, I want to share one more.  It includes her full response to the questions, “Has Decurion had a meaningful impact on your life?” and “Have you flourished in some way because of your time at Decurion?”  She had been at Decurion for ten and a half years.

“When I joined Decurion in October of 2000, I held the perspective that I was bringing a set of gifts—in the form of skills and competencies in theater operations—to the company that would enable it to achieve a set of desired outcomes.  My perspective also assumed that through achieving these goals I, too, would gain additional business skills and competencies.  To me, this was the way a ‘good’ employment relationship worked, and it didn’t occur to me that my time at Decurion would or should be more than that.  It has been my lived experience at Decurion that the possibilities of an employer’s impact on the lives of those it employs and touches through business can be and have been infinite.  I went from desiring only ‘good’ to experiencing ‘great’ through this employment relationship. Read the full article…

In a recent Atlantic article, Emily Esfahani Smith argues for the merit of a meaningful life as opposed to a happy life.  She cites psychological researchers whose study showed that happiness is about feeling good and that people become happy when they get what they want.  According to one of the study’s authors, “‘Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others, while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others.’”  Meaning comes from giving part of oneself away to others, from making a sacrifice on behalf of the overall group, from investing oneself in something bigger than oneself. Read the full article…

When I was in high school and then at university, I viewed good grades as something to be earned.  If I worked hard enough and had a little luck, I could get A’s.  This view carried over to Decurion.  In my early days at the company, we were debating whether or not “respect” was one of the company’s core values.  I argued that respect was something one earned, not something we should simply confer on one another.  My focus remained on the outcome, not on the process; on the achievement, not on the person.  All changed utterly ten years later when I attended a rehearsal of the USC Symphony Orchestra led by Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. Read the full article…

In the previous post, I shared Decurion members’ reflections on their experience of Decurion.  Most were excerpts from longer notes.  In this post, I want to share one member’s full response to the questions, “Has Decurion had a meaningful impact on your life?” and “Have you flourished in some way because of your time at Decurion?”  She had been at Decurion for 7 years and was preparing to leave the company.

“I want to thank you for creating the opportunity for me to experience an entirely different way of acting and leading in business.  I have long held a desire to make a meaningful contribution in my life and to continually grow and develop.  At Decurion, I found a place that helped me move these desires from unformed aspirations to actionable standards for behavior in my everyday work.

Read the full article…

When I turned 50, several of my colleagues collected the reflections of current and former Decurion members and then presented the collection to me as a gift.  They asked two questions:  “Has Decurion had a meaningful impact on your life?” and “Have you flourished in some way because of Decurion?”  I assume that some people chose not to respond, and I recognize that the result is not a complete survey.  Nonetheless, those who wrote something about their experiences captured multiple perspectives of what it is like to be at Decurion.  I found myself informed and moved by their comments.  Here are some of their responses to the two questions, along with information about their tenure at Decurion:

“Working for Decurion has been challenging and exciting.  At times it has brought pain and joy.  Decurion has brought meaning into my life in ways that I did not imagine nor could have imagined before experiencing the journey of transformation with the company.  It has contributed to my development as an individual, a parent, and as a human being.”  [Decurion member for 30 years] Read the full article…