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The clearest way to know you are in The Middle is you are taking fire from all “sides”.  In politics, another native Texan, Jim Hightower, said it colorfully – “There’s nothing in The Middle of the Road other than Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.”  If you have driven much across Texas, that is not a pretty sight 😉  One thing being raised in Texas taught me was to watch out for things that are “obvious”.  The “dumb good old boys” would catch you in a second, leading down the path to their answer, smiling all the way.  The skill it developed was not so much what was I missing, but what was missing… observing the perspective, the voice, the data that would offer another approach.  That was keen when we “lost” a competition – and had the right answer on our team… 

… it was in an early leadership class, and the task was to put items of a project plan in the “correct” order.  As a trained project manager, it seemed obvious, but as we started sharing answers, it was clear my view was not shared.  And of course, being a “leadership” class, we all knew we had to “play nice” and “collaborate” … whatever that meant.  So we were all very politely discussing how our answer was better than theirs, and came up with an agreed-upon solution that was… actually worse than any one of our individual scores (clearly NOT the design of the exercise).  And… there was a quiet person in our group that actually had almost the perfect answer…. who never spoke up.   The discussion was too loud, too confrontational, and she just chose to observe…. and none of the rest of us even notice she wasn’t participating… and we lost her insights, and her answer… 

It is rare that I can find a group that has enough great albums, with great songs, and members, to go in order through 7 days.  This week I will almost pull that off.  Today we are up to their 4th album, On the Threshold of a Dream, and it follows the same formula – sorta.  It starts with a spoken word poem, here set to visuals from 2001 A Space Odessey which had come out a year before.  It is written by the visible voice/lead singer you always associate with the Moody’s – Justin Hayward.  Another British youth that got a guitar at 9, and wanted to find a way into music.  He actually was in a few backup bands, and started to develop a talent for writing songs, enough to land a contract to record a few singles that were….. not well received 😉  He was referred to Eric Burden who was forming a group (the Animals) but sadly they had already picked someone… 

… and was referred to the Moody’s who had lost Denny Lane and needed a frontman.  With a pocket full of songs, and natural charisma and talent, he cemented the lineup that was now hitting their stride.  The 3rd album had shown that their focus on Progressive Rock was not a fluke, and for this album, while not technically a “concept” album, it had the same themes and structure… and by now they had trained everyone on what the “Moody” sound was.  This album is often looked down on by critics as not as strong, but it was their first Number 1 in the UK, and hit Number 20 in the US, and gathered the recognition to then get the previous albums and songs played around the world.  Justin was and is one of the key “voices” of the band, pulling together complex harmonies and lyrics into well-crafted songs that eventually became staples of the Progressive Rock movement… 

… the competition was not important, but this learning stuck with me.  Later I learned that there are 4 major groupings of communication styles – embodied in something called DiSC.  Her style likely was one that I heard someone else characterize perfectly. “I don’t even start to talk about my perspective, my view of the “right answer” until we resolve the conflict”.  Stunned, the person on the ‘other side’ said – “But all I want is the right answer” – yes… and ” … but your demanding style shuts me out of participating”.  I had observed that directly – as the loud mouth in most groups, I had to actively talk WAY less, and in a very different style, to find the “best” answers.  The people who actually had thought about the issue, and had constructed some pretty amazing solutions – IF – you only asked in the right way.  As you step into teams today, observe the voices that are missing, particularly in our Zoomed out world… how can you pull them into each discussion… and say to them it is…. Lovely to See You Again. 

I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.

[Establishment:] Of course you are my bright little star,
I’ve miles
And miles
Of files
Pretty files of your forefather’s fruit
And now to suit our
Great computer,
You’re magnetic ink.

I’m more than that, I know I am, at least, I think I must be.

[Inner Man:] There you go man, keep as cool as you can.
Face piles
And piles
Of trials
With smiles.
It riles them to believe
That you perceive
The web they weave
And keep on thinking free.