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7,000 miles away

Watch Julia Middleton discuss her past present and future circles and how influential they are in her decision making
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So as we get to the end of week one of this MOOC, which is quite a journey for us all. And you’ve just been doing the past, present and future exercise. I mean, I love that exercise. It reveals so much about other cultures, and it reveals quite a lot about your own culture. And I think it also actually transfers quite usefully into understanding your own leadership. If I look at my own circles they are– I suppose the past one is quite fuzzy.
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Because on the whole, the short-term past I can never remember. Occasionally, I meet somebody who’ll say, you’ve never forgiven me for that. The honest answer is, I don’t remember it anyhow. I’m not that interest in what’s happened in the short-term past. In the longer-term past, I’m very interested. But mostly, I’m interested in other people’s long-term past because if you want to understand other cultures, it’s quite helpful to look at the history of that culture. I thought I do this session with this on. I went diving this summer and found a wreck, and found all these pieces of china down at the bottom of the sea.
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And I’ve done masses of research as a result of it, on where that China must have come from. Apparently it was a ship that was going from the UK to the US, in about 1822. I’ve been fascinated about that, I love history. But short-term history, I’m hopeless at. What’s just happened is of no interest to me at all. Mostly, I can’t remember it. So a sort of fuzzy, biggish, but not very big circle. Present is tiny for me. I’ve got no interest whatsoever in what’s happening now. I think it’s my weakness as a leader.
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I tend to make– Common Purpose, because I’m the leader of it– slightly breathless, because I’m not really very interested in the present and what we’ve achieved. The present is merely a transition point to get in to the future, and that’s for me is absolutely huge. It’s both a strength and a weakness of my leadership. I’m always looking ahead, always having ideas, always planning ideas. Some of them work, some of them don’t work. Doesn’t much matter. So the future to me is absolutely enormous. And I think sometimes this exercise doesn’t just help you understand other people’s cultures, it understands your own culture.
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Why, you’re good at some things, and not good at other things. And for example, I think I should be better at being in the present and recognising what’s happening now, rather than always planning for the future and jumping ahead. And to some extent, celebrating where we’ve got to now. I think that, you know– my father, who introduced me to this concept of these three circles. It’s worth taking them out and testing them on people that you know and say, does this look like me. And at every opportunity, wherever you are, grab a little piece of paper and get other people to do a past, present and future. And then ask them lots of questions about why. Why, why, why?
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Why do you do this? Why do you do that? Why do you think that is? If it was your parents’ generation, would that circle be bigger, would it be smaller? It’s the conversation around those three circles that gives a richness of understanding. It’s over simple, like most things in life that really work, they’re over simple. But they prompt a really useful conversation.
It is worth taking these circles out and testing them time and time over. They begin to reveal a lot about other cultures, our own cultures and leadership.
Take this opportunity to share your circles with others. Those that you think are like you and those that are very different to you.
What did you learn from the conversation and what did you notice about yourself and others?
Add your thoughts to the comments section below.
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Developing Cultural Intelligence for Leadership

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