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“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh

New York Public Library Exhibit

What can we learn from a ‘Bear of Little Brain’ who is constantly on the quest for more honey, gets himself into all kinds of goofy trouble, and yet reveals insightful, lofty thoughts that apply to life and leadership? Leadership principles from a fuzzy bear follow…..

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” Winnie the Pooh

Taking the initiative; stepping out with conviction is key to effective leadership. Seeking out your customers and connecting with clients is a way to progress smartly forward during the current health and economic crisis. Reaching out to customers with novel media campaigns demonstrates a commitment to align with your customers’ concerns, needs, and desires. Nike did just that!

Nike created ‘Play for the World,’ a campaign that acknowledged social distancing mandates and a lack of group work-outs and gym access during the covid 19 pandemic. Videos of people working out across the globe in bedrooms, kitchens, basements, and bathrooms celebrated a united front with customers; maintained brand loyalty; and sustained Nike’s Guiding Principles. Three of these principles fueled their smooth pivot to engage professional and amateur enthusiasts alike: It is our nature to innovate, Do the right thing, and Evolve immediately.

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” Winnie the Pooh

Ask yourself – do you have some ‘fluff in your ear’? Are you listening more now, in a deeper and more conscious way, to seek understanding and build empathy? While teaching university courses in Leadership and Business Communication Skills, I found the topic of active listening to be a challenge for most leaders and managers. The ‘fluff in our ears’ originates from various sources – filters of experience, age, socioeconomic status, background noise, noise in our busy minds, pressures, deadlines, and personal problems.

Leaders and organizations who have responded to customers’ concerns and questions practice thoughtful listening and develop an empathetic response to catastrophic change. Starbucks listened, then announced a customer mask policy in response to ongoing health concerns for employees and customers alike. “In our continued effort in prioritizing the health and well-being of partners (employees) and customers, beginning on July 15, we will be requiring customers to wear facial coverings while visiting all company-owned café locations in the US,” Starbucks representative Reggie Borges said in a statement to Business Insider on Thursday.” [July 9, 2020]

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” Winnie the Pooh

During turbulent times; the value of seeking input, inviting dialogue, and examining divergent viewpoints sparks creativity, instigates engagement, and propels productivity. Daniel Pink, thought leader and author of books such as Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, asked his team to brainstorm 25 outlandish ideas to consider for reinventing the company and brand in this stormy period. Encouraging employee ingenuity and devising a clever team activity fosters inclusiveness and positive group dynamics.

Leaders and students all across the country and globe faced a disappointing 2020 school year end, especially Seniors. Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California produced a virtual Spring Concert with their Orchestras, Jazz A, and Choirs performing. ‘Thinking out of the Box’ spurred talented students, led by faculty advisor Mark Aubel and the infamous Boys Club, to produce a fabulous and inspiring event! AVHS is one example of how students, faculty, and administrations imaginatively celebrated and honored graduating students this year. Enjoy a remarkable show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWqT05u8TCM.

“I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” Piglet

Enthusiasm and a sense of excitement fuel a company’s purpose, vision, and goal achievement. PwC’s worldwide accounting practice offers audit, tax consulting, cybersecurity, human resources, and forensics serving a global network of clients in 157 countries. One of PwC’s teams devised a way to create excitement and have fun while dispelling ennui and providing breaks from the remote work protocols in our stay-at-home world. Dubbed Quarantine Days, members of the PwC’s Financial Services People and Organization team initiated a collaborative art project involving doodles and drawings. The ‘doodle challenge’ instilled a sense of fun, enlightened contributors about team members’ interests, and de-stressed the work enviroment. Overall, a win-win-win.

Leaders who embrace Initiative, Deep Listening, Creative Thinking, and Excitement instill courage, commitment, and enthusiasm in their organizational culture. How can Pooh challenge us to lead with insight, courage, and his own brand of humility? Contact me to start the conversation regarding the lessons from Pooh that you want in your leadership style. Start your leadership journey NOW! karen@haleyallenassociates.com   


Karen Haley Allen, M.A., is an international leadership coach and retreat facilitator. A former leadership and global business instructor at UC Berkeley, Dominican University and ITU, she founded HALEY ALLEN ASSOCIATES – “Our mission is to challenge and empower leaders and their teams to align their deepest values with business results.”