Byron's Babbles

Are You An Inukshuk?

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 10, 2015

2015/01/img_0669.jpg Last October I was in Calgary, Alberta Canada to speak at a conference. While there I did some studying of the history of the area. In my studies I found that the original people of the region were called Inuit. The Inuit live throughout most of the Canadian Arctic and subarctic. The Inuit are a culturally similar indigenous peoples. Because of the vast openness and size of the arctic and subarctic regions of Canada I learned that the Inuit people would build what are called Inukshuks. I had the chance to get a Inuit hand carved Inukshuk while in Calgary. My carving is proudly displayed in my office and pictured at the beginning of this post. When I learned the story behind the Inukshuk I put it in a prominent place in my office as a reminder of how important coming together as a team is. The Inukshuk are a symbol of the human spirit. They recognize our ability to succeed with others, where we would fail alone. They remind us of our need to belong to something greater than ourselves. They reinforce our ability to commit to common goals.

Inukshuk, pronounced in-ook-shook, are stone monuments erected in the image of humans. One of their purposes was to communicate direction in the harsh and desolate Arctic. They would also mark places of good hunting, food supply, shelter, or safety. As such they were a tool for survival, and symbolic of the the unselfish acts of a nomadic people – the Inuit – who built them as signposts to make the way easier and safer for those who followed. The hands of many and the efforts of an entire group were required to build these massive stone sculptures. They are the result of a consensus of purpose, of focused action by a group united in its goal and labour. The Inukshuk are the product of cooperation, teaching us that as good as our individual efforts may be, together we can do even greater things.

2015/01/img_0668.jpg As a person who considers himself a trailblazer the Inukshuks have a special meaning. To me these structures stand for: Someone was here. you are on the right path. As leaders it is important for us to be able to put our teams at ease by letting them know,’hey I’ve been there, we’ve got this, and it will be o.k.’ This is why I believe that leaders that have had specific experiences have an obligation to take on responsibilities where they are helping and influencing others through tough situations. I actually blogged about this in a post entitled “Deer In The Highlights.” Click here to read that post.

Each stone is a separate entity. Each supports, and is supported by, the one above and the one below it. No one piece is any more or less important than another. Its strength lies in its unity. Its significance comes from its meaning as a whole. What is true about the Inukshuk is true about people. Each individual entity alone has significance. As part of a team each of us supports, and is supported by, another. We are united by our common goals, and together we are part of a greater whole. The stones which make up the Inukshuk are secured through balance. Just as it is important for us to carefully choose and develop our team members’ complimentary skills The stones of the Inukshuk are chosen for how well they fit together. The symbolism is so amazing here. We, as leaders, need our teams to mesh and fit together in order to stand strong and complete the vision and mission intended. Looking at the structure it can be easily seen that the removal of even one stone will destroy the integrity of the whole. So, too, with a team. Each individual in a team is necessary for the realization of the team’s purpose. The removal of even one person will result in the weakening of the structure. What holds the team together is the balance – the complementary nature of the individual skills

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