by Abbie Lundberg

Be Here Now

Sep 11, 20073 mins

This simple dictum has power beyond the obvious, whether you are pursuing a turnaround in your company's fortunes, or seeking personal fulfillment.

On a recent trip to the West Coast, I visited with PG&E CIO Patricia Lawicki at her company’s headquarters in San Francisco. PG&E emerged from bankruptcy protection a few years ago with an almost completely new executive team and a major transformation effort ahead of it. The new CEO, Peter Darbee, began the turnaround with a culture change.

According to Lawicki, company directors and their direct reports went through weeks of facilitated sessions to both define a set of values everyone would live by as well as to map out how those values would be demonstrated in the daily life of the company. The values include acting with integrity, communicating openly and honestly, respecting each other, meeting customer and shareholder needs, and being accountable. The values are supported by a set of dictums and concepts to help bring them to life.

One that I found personally relevant is “Be here now.” Borrowed from the title of a 1971 book on spirituality by Ram Dass (or an album by the rock band Oasis, depending on your orientation), the idea is that whatever you are currently spending your time on should be important enough to give it your full attention. No beneath-the-table BlackBerry fiddling in meetings; no IM while on the phone, no thinking about a work problem when your kid is telling you about her day. As an incorrigible multitasker, this was a powerful message for me.

PG&E reinforces these ideas with wallet cards and posters in the halls. At every staff meeting, one of Lawicki’s direct reports explains how he or she has embodied one of the concepts in the past month. “I’ve been through these exercises before, where you spend a few weeks coming up with your vision and values statement, then it goes in a drawer,” Lawicki said. “We didn’t want that to happen.”

Attendees at August’s CIO 100 Symposium were treated to a variation on this theme by Dewitt Jones, the renowned National Geographic photographer. He urged the audience to “see the extraordinary in the ordinary” and to ask, “What will I be given today, and will I be open enough to receive it?”

For me, these simple ideas are a means to demonstrate greater respect for the people around me and achieve a greater sense of personal fulfillment. I suspect they will enhance my effectiveness as well. Not bad for three small words.