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06

May 2018

Tyler Pelke | What is Half of Eight?

Posted by / in Blog, Emotional Intelligence, Inspirational, Leadership / No comments yet

Seems like the answer is an obvious one and you would not be wrong if you thought in your head – four is half of eight.  What if I told you that E or 3 or 0 could also be the right answers to “what is half of eight?”. Read on…

I was part of workshop not long ago and one of the exercises to help start the day was designed to challenge our perspectives and foster an environment of brain storming. The facilitator drew a large number 8 on a piece of flip chart paper at the front of the room and asked the group the question – “what is half of eight?”.    It was first thing in the morning and I was suffering from not having enough caffeine on board, so I appreciated when a few others spoke up and said “ah, 4?”. I thought to myself, I was glad it was not just me who thought it was an obvious answer.

After a few moments of silence, a voice from the back of the room someone said – “half of eight could also be E” “… Now I was intrigued!? “E”, how could “E” be considered half of eight? Of course the letter “E” is in the word eight, but it does not represent half the letters in the word so what does this guy mean exactly,  clearly I am missing something.

In this instance, the back row voice had seen this exercise before and so had the inside track. Now the rest of the room was interested. The facilitator smiled and then drew a line dissecting the number eight in half vertically from the top of the eight to the bottom and then ahhhhh, it came through clear. Well, look at that (I really did say it to myself in the moment), on one side of that line an “E” is formed (if you look correctly) and then once your brain starts to recondition itself to thinking differently about the question, you notice something else. On the other side of that line is a “3″.

One of my table mates then pipes in and says “half of eight could also be zero – 0″…  The facilitator then drew a horizontal line dissecting the middle of the 8 to show a 0 on the top and bottom of the line.  (Since you have read this far by now you may have also realized the picture for the blog post is the same figure described to emphasize the point.) 

Once the facilitator drew the 8 with the dissecting lines as a visual catalyst to re-frame the question, it demonstrated to me how quickly I assume my perspective on a question or a problem may not be clear. It is amazing to think of how our brains are wired to be conditioned around a set way of thinking. I do not mean to make a simple question posed to be more than it really is, but at times I wonder whether autopilot is turned on in our minds related to questions or problems we encounter, especially when we think of them as simple. How do assumptions affect our perspective when we do not challenge them, especially in relation to problems or questions? In this instance, to assume the obvious answer is correct or more importantly that we do not need to test the question, is likely our approach. Its a basic math question really, or so it appears.

Obviously context is important when considering any question posed to us, but I would suggest that the main point of this post is to encourage us to pause in our day to day to think about our perspective in the moment and how we can re-frame our thinking to consider there is always another way to look at things. How many times have we looked at situation or problem we are facing through the same lens or only considering the obvious?  Asking the same question hoping for a different answer?

A friend of mine told me once ” you find value in what you chose to find value in every situation” and one simple exercise at a workshop left me with one nugget to always apply.  Always  do my best to understand the context of the question to reflect the perspective in my answer.

As a wrap up, I have included a few notes about perspective – take em or leave em!

Some thoughts about perspective:

- Sometimes it takes someone or something to challenge our assumptions or our conditional thinking to see things differently. When it happens, it often does in an instant so be present in the moment and capture your take away’s!;

- Being intentional about seeing things differently takes work so ask others to help you challenge your current way of thinking and build a circle of supporters that challenge you to always try to see things from different angles;

- Visualizing is so important when re-framing a problem or looking for a new perspective. Get used to drawing out your problem or question to look at it from different angles. When all else fails, even change your physical location and get a different outlook on your surroundings and ultimately your question or problem;

- Enlightenment from a change in perspective can be contagious, so when it happens around you jump on board. Seek to understand how those around you are seeing things differently – what are they seeing that you do not? What should you ask yourself in the moment to challenge your perspective.

Share this post if you like and or I would love to hear comments!

Cheers,

Tyler

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06

Apr 2018

Tyler Pelke | 4 Tips to Build Resilience

Posted by / in Blog, Emotional Intelligence, Inspirational, Leadership / No comments yet

It has been one of those weeks for me inside my head, which can be a scary place..Right? Seriously though, you know those times where you get trapped in your own head? Not in a bad way per say, but one of those weeks where life comes at you in a few different directions and reminds you of what is really important.

Based on the aforementioned “week”, it felt like this week should be a quick hit on 4 reminders of things we can do to maintain our resilient approach to life.

Here goes:

Adaptation
it might suggested that adaptation is arguably one of the most important elements that ensures a species survival. It isn’t rocket science that learning to change when external environmental factors push at you is critical, but how may of us actually give any thought to whether we are adaptable?  How many of us have heard of a significant life change or job change affecting a friend or peer and then for years after you hear how horrible their life is. Have they failed to adapt to the changes that have taken place? Inevitably change will happen in our lives, so, how does one learn to adapt? I believe it is a learned skill that starts with us understanding how to evaluate our emotions in relation to change. Are you an early adopter? Late adopter? Being upfront with yourself about your own feelings and knowing how you process change sets the foundation for your ability to adapt to what is happening around you. Once you understand how process change, you can put steps in place to for the emotional and or physical transition required to adapt.

Being Flexible 
This is not to be confused with the a aforementioned “Adaptation”, but it is related. Flexing is about developing a healthy perspective related to control. If we think hard, there are only really a few things in life that are within our control. The most important things to sustain life are automated – breathing is unconscious, blinking, hearing, tasting – most of our senses and bodily functions are on auto pilot…We can’t control the external environment either… What our spouse says to us, what our boss is going to say to us or get us to do in any given day, how others treat us and even sometimes health issues that affect us. Truthfully, all we can really do in a day is to control our emotions and choices – that’s really about it! Resilient people understand this concept the most because our emotions will affect our choices and our perception of the world around us. Which in turn affects our ability to take on the next challenge or issue in life. Challenge your perspective and approach to control in life and see how you become more flexible!

Learn from failure
As Viper said to Maverick in Top Gun (Yes, I am using a Top Gun quote -> insert face palm here) “A good pilot is compelled to always evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned.”… It might be cheesy that I quoted a line from that movie, but the point rings true. At it’s root, if we are not choosing to take the perspective of being able to learn something about ourselves in every situation and apply it to change our future responses, we are no different than the person who chooses to build their house in the sand and is then upset when they have to rebuild year after year because of the annual flood. I think at some points in life, we are all that person, so learn to learn from failure and see where life takes you!

Realize life is not all about you
Have you ever worked with a person who appeared to think or feel they were indispensable? They behave as though if they weren’t there making decisions everything would grind to a halt? The problem with those who behave this way (aside from the obvious), is that they align their value with their perception that “they” are the key to success in everything they are involved with. Their value then is tied into the notion of perception vs. reality and when reality changes, there is an identity crisis and a struggle to flex and adapt. Not to mention, it is possible they have alienated others with their approach over time and may have no support networks. When we get to a place where we realize that life is really not about us, our approach to life turns towards gratefulness and appreciating we have the opportunity to contribute and be a positive leader in our sphere of influence. If something changes in our world we have already established a thankfulness attitude and we are not then threatened by the change. Instead we are thankful for all things, apply what we have learned seek to embrace the change.

Hoping you feel the points are relevant and I’d love to continue the discussion! please share and or post your comments!

Cheers,

Tyler

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24

Mar 2018

Tyler Pelke | Is it ever too late to tell someone what you think???

Posted by / in Blog, Emotional Intelligence, Inspirational, Leadership / No comments yet

Over the last few weeks I have been in thought about someone that wasn’t necessarily my close friend, but was someone admired for their work ethic, steady demeanor and then one day…he was suddenly gone. He was a gent…. He was kinda gruff, but that was his charm. He worked hard, he served and most importantly he set a great example as a team player… I don’t believe I ever mentioned to him exactly how I admired what I just described to you.

Of course, once he was gone, we gathered to celebrate and hear further about the impact his life had on his family and close friends. I wonder what would happen if we had living celebrations for those around us? No, really, think about that for a second? I know, I know – the introvert in many of us is screaming out “PLEASE, NO!”.. So, I think you get the concept.

I know, it is somewhat natural for humans to reflect on their own mortality in the face of death or significant adversity. That said, we as grow older and we start to get calls about friends, family and acquaintances passing, it really just made me think about whether I let those around me know how much I value them… When I close out an interaction, have I let people know I valued the interaction? Are they aware I appreciated the skills and abilities they bring to the workplace or a personal interaction? Maybe, selfishly they make me feel better about myself because they are a great encourager? Or maybe, it is a difficult conversation…Even if I disagree, can we disagree about an issue and find common ground as friends or colleagues?

I cannot put finger on what that barrier is exactly that prevents us from recognizing or encouraging those around us. Is it pride? Is it a competitive spirit? Professionally, if I let people know I value what someone else brings to the table and I promote their skills to others, does that mean the spotlight is less on me and I lose an opportunity in the future? Do I feel threatened by their abilities or presence for some reason? It could be a result of a relationship eroding and becoming broken, affecting how you interact? Maybe a colleague or peer moves on before you have had a chance to tell them how you value them, or you just seem have a fear or issue being able to tell someone how you value them. Worst case scenario someone in our circle of connections passes away and we did not get the chance say how we felt. Regrettably, we can all likely relate to one of those situations at one time or another and the question then is do we do anything different?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure at this point, maybe it is a combination of a few things I described in conjunction with other environmental factors. The good thing about blogging is the cathartic process you go through to further test your own assumptions. This post is meant as a moment of reflection and a reminder (mostly for me).

So, in honour of a guy who always worked hard and had a tremendous impact on his inner circle and teammates – I have 3 things to commit to in our daily interactions….

  1. We have all been given the ability to encourage each other in whatever we do – so lets actually do it…When you don’t feel like it, is exactly the time when you should! It may feel unnatural at first – but don’t worry, it will pass the more you do it, so push through and just do it anyways…
  1. Say thank you to those you disagree with, or that disagree with you for having the guts to tell you they have a difference of opinion and for showing you a different perspective…
  1. Ask those in your inner circle what their goals and dreams are for their life and how you can help them get there. The great thing about this tip, it means we actually have to spend time listening to those close to us… Then, actually commit to playing your part, whatever that is…

So, not to make this post any longer than it has to be, I guess in answer to my question, it would appear as though it can be too late to tell them. So… lets make everyday count when we can!

To my teammate, thank you for your inspiration and what you brought to the team everyday. I am sorry I never got to tell  you what I admired about you..  I know I have some work to do going forward!

Cheers,

Tyler

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06

Feb 2018

Tyler Pelke | I Fail Everyday…

Posted by / in Blog, Emotional Intelligence, Inspirational / No comments yet

It is true, I fail every day…

I fail at communicating with those closest to me.  I fail at listening more than I speak. I fail at making those around me feel like they are important and deserve my undivided attention when they are having a conversation with me.  I fail at completing all the things I need to in a day. Honestly, I could go on and on about areas I drop the ball in every day, but that is not the point of this post.

Failure has become something intimate for me both personally and professionally over the last 24 months.  Professionally, I have failed. I didn’t get promotions, i have failed at meeting goals I set for myself. Personally, I wasn’t meeting my goals in reaching and influencing people like I wanted to and I spent time in a funk about it all!

Then, about 18 months ago, I had the opportunity to take the lead on introducing an innovation program into the fire department.  An interesting journey to say the least, striving to push a hierarchical culture towards embracing engagement, open discussion, respectful dissent – I really had no idea what I was in for.

It was an important step emotionally and as a leader to begin exploring the notion of making it safe for myself and others to fail. We don’t innovate, create, or grow without failing.  It. Just. Does. Not. Happen.

In all of that, I have come to realize that I have always been someone who wants to try something and see what happens. I am generally OK with testing something, not worried if it doesn’t work.  I am genuinely someone who is OK with taking a risk, to have the debate with those that are in direct opposition of my view point and to learn from them to build something better, together.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the book launch for the Canadian published “Canadian Failures – Stories of building towards success”.  It’s a mix of journeys compiled by author Alex Benay that highlights stories of an Astronaut, Dr. Robert Thirsk; an Olympic athlete, Erica Wiebe; and Chatelaine CEO, Aimee Chan, to name a few. Specifically, the book discusses how failure in life is not terminal, but critical to success.

Dr. Thirsk describes one of his many prep sessions for one of his space flights and how it is critical for Astronauts to fail on the ground at NASA in order to learn to work through those failures in every possible scenario before they get to space.  As you can imagine, failing in space could mean destroying a billion dollar space station, or killing your crew and yourself – not to mention the disastrous reputation damage for the country should that happen.

While I was in amazement with the brilliant insights Dr. Thirsk shared and wishing beyond everything I was an Astronaut - it triggered a powerful story of one of my first failures in the fire service. I learned very early on in my career that failure is not terminal, but necessary to shape who we need to be in the future and that it takes true leadership to set the tone for making it all right to fail.

It was June of 1998 and I had been a firefighter with the City of Vancouver Fire Department for about 6 months.  I was scheduled to complete my 6-month probationary exam on this particular day and on our way to the training academy we caught a kitchen fire.  I promise, I am not making that part up! We were very close to the address and were able to arrive and help very quickly.  Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about the job, being part of a great team and crew, but of course… the test still loomed in my future!

We had to complete a practical exam and a written exam. We arrived, and the Chief Training Officer of the day greeted us at the front gate to provide my Captain with the rundown on what was to take place. We would be doing the practical portion first and he explained all the components that we were expected to complete. For 6 months all I did at work was study, drill, eat, respond as required and repeat.  I was ready for this… no problem… Everything was flowing, I was confident and clear with instructions provided to me and demonstrated everything that was asked, until… “Probationer Pelke, please raise the extension ladder with a beam raise to the 2nd story window to prepare for ventilation.” I repeat back the direction to be sure he hears that I understand, “Raise the extension ladder to the 2nd story window to prepare for ventilation. Chief, please provide wind direction so I can place the ladder appropriately”
“Wind as you observe it today.”
“Yes, sir.”

I direct my crew how to assist me and the ladder goes up; it is secured appropriately; it is set at the right climbing angle and is on the windward side of the window… check, check, check, check..

“Chief, the ladder is ready to climb.” This was the last evolution in the practical exam and, for the most part, you do not get a second chance to demonstrate your abilities in an exam environment.
“Probationer Pelke, can you repeat to me how I asked you to raise that ladder?”
“Yes Chief, on a beam raise, for the purpose of ventilation.”
“Probationer Pelke, and how did you raise the ladder?”
As my heart fell into my gut, I realized I had performed the incorrect raise of the ladder based on his instructions.
“Flat raise, sir.”

I remember thinking in that moment, “I am dead. This Chief is known as a hard ass! And how could you be so stupid – dummy…”  Yes, I was thinking that and more at the time and really at the mercy of whatever was to happen next. I really was not ready for his next statement.
“Probationer Pelke, your flat raise was impeccable, now you should lower the ladder on a beam raise as I previously requested.” The ladder came down and he told me to wait for a moment while he spoke with my crew.

A moment seemed like forever, of course, but I did not soon forget his words and more importantly was reminded of this lesson the other night.

“Probationer Pelke, you have passed your practical exam. While you did not correctly follow my directions on the last evolution, we have all had moments like you did today, and it is better for that to happen here than on a real fire ground, when you are raising that ladder to rescue someone.  I want you to remember how important it is for you to not just to hear an order but to process the request and act accordingly. Despite the stress or environment around you, people and your crew will be counting on you in critical moments. I have spoken with your Captain and crew and they have expressed how dedicated you are and how hard you have worked during the past 6 months – they also recognize how important it is to fail here, not when it counts the most.”

Sometimes, we just need to fail to learn what is important and realize the solution we would never get to otherwise.  I have realized over the years to how important it is to create a culture of being able to take risks in a safe envronment and making sure those around me know it’s OK to fail.

As leaders, peers, and humans, do we accept those that fail around us?  Do we help each other in those failures and seek to learn how to do it better?

My challenge for us today – fail. Fail often and early and note what you learn, then get back up and do it again – and give people the space to do the same!

Thanks Chief McLeod for the lesson.

Cheers,

TP

 

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06

Sep 2017

Tyler Pelke | How Might We Weaponize Empathy?

Posted by / in Blog, Emotional Intelligence, Inspirational, Leadership / No comments yet

Exploring empathy has a two-fold purpose for me:

1) Once or twice in my life I have been told I only have one feeling, and while a bit tongue in cheek from close friends, empathy has been something I have wanted to continue to develop and truly believe is one of the most important skills you can develop as a leader.

2) Anyone who explores social innovation or has an interest in solving problems from a human centered perspective is keenly aware that empathy is a key ingredient within the recipe of innovation. More importantly, being empathetic is one of the most powerful influences to bring about change, solve problems, and bring people together.

Leading innovation is part of a role I took on about a year ago as part of my responsibilities as a leader within the fire service. Not long ago a few team members and I took part in an empathy workshop put on as part of some amazing work being done at the City of Calgary in regard to innovation. Post workshop, I got thinking specifically about the work I am doing, and what the world is coming to after the events of the past few weeks and months… Virginia, North Korea or the US presidency, just to name a few.

Various thoughts came to mind, including disappointment in those who I believe should know better. But then I began to self-reflect.  Mainly I still have hope that good triumphs over bad, and there is some semblance of justice yet to come as we have hopefully evolved as a human race.  Through all of that, I thought about the notion of what the world would look like if we weaponized empathy.

I know the meaning behind the term “weaponizing” something is actually to “arm an object for destruction”, so what if we applied that philosophy with empathy as the object to destroy our impatience and intolerance in our day to day interactions? If I take a minute to think how many times I am impatient with the people I care about most, let alone co-workers or even strangers, no wonder some days we have it tough!

I realize I am being somewhat idealistic at the concept of empathy for all, and why can’t we just get along, but I would say that what I am suggesting is deeper than “love everyone, and let’s just get along”. What would your day to day look like if you really truly tried to understand a person’s perspective, experiences, and thoughts that form their feelings in your interaction?

What if we refocus the energy we employ in our personal defense weapons on destructive empathy?  How about weaponized empathy?  Really what I am getting at is reversing that negativity and reprogram it in our brains to have our first thought be, “ I wonder why,” and being curious about each other’s perspectives vs. being offended and thinking of how to respond back, locked and loaded and enforcing our rights?

Assumptions and misbeliefs are significant barriers to empathy and directly contribute to how we feel about a situation. More importantly, we need to test whether our feelings are lying to us about a particular situation – just because we feel does not mean it’s true.  How often have you offended someone only to realize that your intent did not match the impact it had on the person and the situation? Ding ding ding, winner winner chicken dinner – well at least for me, anyways.

How often have you been in a position of disagreement or dissension on a particular point, and felt like if only the other party would just see your point? Whether it’s solving problems or working through conflict, the same principles can apply.

Warning, at first people may wonder why you are so curious to understand, but that will pass so do not let it discourage you in your approach! Test yourself for a week and I guarantee you will begin to see a change in your world and interactions.

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