It is now time for my favorite activity that John Manning (2015) has readers do as part of reading the 52 lessons in The Disciplined Leader. The book is divided into three different parts and Manning (2015) instructs readers to pick their own three vital few from each part that he/she needs to work on. I really like that this is a part of the reading, as it provides a way to reflect on what has been learned in the reading and a chance to put the learning into my own real world context. In other words, the learning meets reality.
Click here to read my reflection and my vital three from Part I, The Responsibility To Lead Yourself. This post will be a reflection of Part II, The Responsibility To Lead Your Team. Part II included the following lessons:
- Choose the right words
- Put your game face on
- Be in the moment
- Focus on what is right, not who is right
- Don’t cross the line
- Treat everyone fairly
- Honor your commitments
- Don’t overuse the “I” word
- Surround yourself with great talent
- Hire who is right
- Empower employees
- Hold your team accountable
- Check up on daily goals
- Give effective performance feedback
- Spot opportunities to coach
- Demand more solutions
- Encourage disagreement
- Advocate for your team
- Recognize your employees
As you can see, Part II in The Disciplined Leader had some pretty heavy stuff. It took some studying and long reflecting to decide what my vital three would be. Since I had blogged about all 19 Part II topics, I also went back and studied all my posts. Here are my vital three:
- Empower employees
- Surround yourself with great talent
- Give effective performance feedback
Anyone who works with me or has spent very much time with me will probably not be surprised by these vital three. Empowerment and being surrounded with great talent is essential to the success of any organization. Performance feedback makes the top three because this is an initiative I just formed a task force of teachers to begin working on.
This is a huge deal for me. I strive to create a “make it so” culture. Our team members are encouraged to be creative, innovative, and self starting. My desire is to have team members come to me with such great, thought out ideas that all I have to do is say, “Make it so!” What I have found is that the more I say “Make it so!” the more innovative and great ideas I get. This is such a powerful tool for employee engagement. We know that employees being engaged and and believing that what she is doing makes a difference is the number one item on the job satisfaction list.
Just last night we had the perfect example of this: A team of teachers presented our new vision, mission, and set of core values to our school board. This was a project of our Focused Leader Academy and our teachers worked through whole rewrite process as well organizing a board retreat session and other stakeholder feedback sessions. The beauty of the process is that the teachers owned it. And, one of the byproducts was the learning and professional growth that went along with the project. Therefore I would add to Manning’s (2015) on empowerment and say that with empowerment also comes professional growth. In fact, empowerment and professional growth are one of our core values:
Surround Yourself With Great Talent
This is so easily said and much tougher done. I am somewhat of a subscriber to the theory that talent is overrated. Skills must be developed. None of the great athletes, musicians, or artists were born with skills and talent at the top of their games. We all have had to be bad at something to get good and go on to be great. Therefore, surrounding ourselves with great talent also means we have the responsibility to help our team members grow and develop. I call this hyper-personalized professional development. This takes work. This takes a lot of work to imbed in cultures where this has not been a part before. It is, however, crucial for a culture of excellence.
This also relates to empowering our team members. If we want to empower our team members to make decisions and have autonomy to get the work done, then we must provide the hyper-personalized professional development necessary to help them become the great leaders they can be and have the necessary skills to do their jobs at the highest level. It would be ludicrous to empower employees to the level of a “make it so” culture without also provide the necessary knowledge to do the job. This would be the definition of chaos. Therefore, a vital part of my role as a disciplined leader is to go after top talent and then do everything possible to provide for the utmost personal professional growth.
Give Effective Performance Feedback
This vital part of being a disciplined leader is so related to my other vital three in this part of the book because at the core of performance feedback is professional growth. Our teacher performance evaluation process and tool that I inherited leave a lot to be desired. The reason for the deficiencies is how it was developed – top down. Basically, it was a “here it is” development process. There is pretty compelling research that suggests that affected by the performance feedback process should be heavily involved in the development. Leadership needs to come from those affected by it.
My goal for the task force I mention earlier is to come up with an evaluation process that is much more formative than punitive. There must be more regular check-in conversation and not just the once or twice per year evaluations. We are doing our teachers a disservice if all our principals do is check up on teachers once or twice a year. I am looking forward to seeing the work that our teachers do this.
Now that you have had the chance to learn about my vital few, what would you choose as your vital few?
Imagine a room full of teachers “mooing” for their colleagues. That’s just what you get at Hoosier Academies Network of Schools, whether it is a face to face assembly or an online meeting. I have to admit I stole the idea from Zappos. They created COW (Creator of Wow) Awards for their employees. As an old ag teacher and farmer, I thought the idea was genius and instantly saw the possibilities. Now, I can’t attach the huge monetary value that Zappos has on their COW awards, but ours has become a just as coveted award. Think about it, wouldn’t you want to be considered a COW – Creator of Wow? Who wouldn’t?
Here’s how it works. This is an anonymous, peer nominated award. There is no limit to how many can receive the award each month and there is no limit as to how many times you can receive the award. The only qualification is that the nominator must write a justification for why the recipient should receive the award. Then each month we ceremoniously give out the awards by reading the COW nomination. What does the COW get? A COW medallion for their first COW, a trophy for the second COW, a bigger trophy for the third, and so on. This is becoming an important part of our culture. Our staff looks forward to the ceremony each month (sometimes we do it twice during the month because of the way the meetings fall) and, literally, there is “mooing” when the names and nomination justifications are read. It doesn’t get any better than that!
“Practice making your praise specific for your staff members. Give details about what was done right.” ~ John Manning (Kindle Locations 1997-1998)
Praise from COW Awards is very specific and comes from peers. The justifications have evolved into very specific descriptions of what the teacher has done to create wow. Let me share two examples of COW Award nominations (I have changed the names of the recipients):
I would like to recognize Angela for a COW Award for her FLA project. I have really enjoyed collaborating with other schools and teachers on best practices to increase attendance at class connects during our first session and on data (usage, collection, implementation) during our second session. It is so nice to collaborate not only within our school but across other K12 schools to continue to improve. We were able to share some of our ideas that they found helpful and they shared some great ideas with us as well. We now have a shared folder in google drive to continue that collaboration in between sessions and I look forward to our next meeting!
As you can see, it is a quick description of what was done. The best part, again, is that it comes from a peer. Also, I believe it is important for it to be anonymous. There should not be the feeling of obligation to thank or reciprocate the award from the recipient. Here is another example (again, I have changed the name of the recipient):
I would like to nominate Betty for a Cow Award. She initiated the African-American History event this month. Last night we held an online event to look at African-American history. The presentation she created was wonderful! It included a virtual Museum that was interactive, detailed, and very educational. The students were engaged and interacting the entire hour and a half. Today the students are invited to attend an event at Crispus Attucks to continue learning about the history. This was a huge event for Hoosier Academies Network of Schools to recognize African-American History month and due to her initiative, I’m sure it will become an annual favorite. I was proud to be a part of Hoosier last night. Thank you, Betty!
Manning (2015) reminds us that recognition is a strategy. While this is not our only recognition strategy it has become an important part of our culture of excellence. What are the best practices of your recognition strategy?
I had the honor of learning at Harvard University again last week. The topic of learning was leadership communications. I don’t care how experienced you are or how many expert communicators we have supporting us, we can always use additional knowledge and skill building in the are of communication. I spent several intense hours learning how to be a more effective leader through communications.
Really, it came down to three key parts to effective leadership communications:
- Logic, structure, clarity, data brought to the conversation at the right time
- Empathetic Connection
“Not understanding your audience is like writing a love letter to, ‘Whom it may concern.’”
Let me provide you with some bullet points that were some of my top takeaways:
- Be deliberate in delivering information
- Drive to synthesis – it give you the end goal
- Body language needs to align with the message
- Make sure and consider who your ultimate audience is
- Consider with one way or two way communication is most appropriate for the message
- Consider the level of knowledge of your audience
- If communicating change, gauge the level of resistance
- Study the political environment of your audience
- Consider what preference your audience has for information intake
- When doing a persuasive communication to a mixed audience cater to the ones who will ultimately make the decision
- Determine what the reaction to the message will be (ie. surprise)
- 80/20 rule: strive to be in person 80% of the time
- Think about who delivers the message – messages should be delivered by the person directly leading the recipient
- People like to be listened to
- Listen genuinely without judgement
- Most people only remember 3-5 things you tell them
- Make it personal
- Always develop a hierarchy of information
- Anticipate objections to a message being communicated up front before the communication is made
- Good listening is a form of presence
- The harder the story is to tell, the more impact it will probably have
- Tough stories to tell about yourself will have the most impact on those you are communicating with
“Resistance is a natural process, and should be expected. Don’t take it personally; view it as a sign you are on target.”
There are four keys to written communication:
- Main idea
If we stick to these key components we will not fall into the trap that I am sure you have either fallen into or been the recipient of – a lengthy email or letter that went on and on telling story after story, becoming emotional, and not really ever getting to the point. If you have people on your team that do this, or you do it, you might pass these four keys along or deliberately use them yourself.
It is important to note that people only remember 3-5 things you tell them. Therefore, we need a hierarchy of information. A great tool is the Minto Pyramid Principle developed by Barbara Minto. The Minto Pyramid Principle says that your thinking will be easy for a reader to grasp if you present the ideas organized as a pyramid under a single point. In her book, The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking and Problem Solving (2010), Minto explains a technique for working out your thinking on any subject, so that you can present it clearly to someone else. It explains:
- why organizing your ideas into a pyramid structure will make them easy for someone else to grasp.
- how to use the pyramid rules to help you discover and develop your thinking.
- how to focus the thinking to be compelling to your audience.
I would recommend getting the book or taking one of her online courses. She takes you through using either an inductive or deductive approach, or a combination. With this system you consider your audience and whether an inductive, deductive, or a mixed approach would be most effective, then you just work through the communication pyramid. I found this to be an incredible way to work through decisions because when completed, the communication piece is ready as well.
As you can see, I learned a great deal. I’ll leave you with this thought on leadership communications:
“Presence:” “The ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others in order to motivate and inspire them to achieve a desired outcome.” ~ Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar
In Lesson #37 of The Disciplined Leader, John Manning (2015) wrote on how to advocate for your team. I call this pulling up shoulder to shoulder with your team. The best way to advocate for your team is to work right alongside of the people. This comes down to having a philosophy of a flattened hierarchy. I believe leadership must happen whenever and wherever necessary, by whomever can best provide that leadership. With this type of culture it is important to lead shoulder to shoulder with the team.
I like the flat organizational structure because the employees work in smaller teams and have more voice and power over how they work. Many exemplars of this structure can be found in the business community. The term I use here of being shoulder to shoulder comes from a teacher from another school district other than my own, who said to me, “You know, I’ve never seen an administrator who is so involved in every piece of the school like you are. It is not that you are micro-managing, you are just working ‘shoulder to shoulder with everyone.” Honestly, I took this as a huge compliment. I do believe it is important to work right next to those you lead.
I have always said one my most important roles is serving as a blocker. Manning (2015) called this “overcoming obstacles.” The only way to truly advocate for your team and give them the support they need is to be right on the line (using a football analogy) with them ready to block. The other real advantage to being shoulder to shoulder with your team is the opportunity to learn the micro-knowledge of the organization from those doing the important work.
How about you; are you shoulder to shoulder with your team?
I talk a lot about how leaders have to provide safe places for those we serve. This safety is most important when related to disagreement and discourse. I wrote extensively about this in Civilized Disdain Vs. Political Correctness. In Lesson #36 of The Disciplined Leader John Manning (2015) tackles this subject. Manning (2015) argues healthy work cultures demand disagreement, which creates viable possibilities for ingenuity, change, and progress. As a leader is up to us to create a safe environment for discourse and be comfortable with opposition and debate, knowing full well the result is sharper analysis and well-crafted ideas.
I believe creating a safe environment for disagreement considers civilized disdain, where we allow each other to feel disdain for a person’s or group’s views or beliefs while maintaining respect for the human beings that hold them. Then, we need to take those difference and through compromise and consensus-building form them into a “best” solution. Organizational learning can certainly be thought of as a discursive practice and it can be argued that disagreement improves learning. Oswick et al (2000), for example, attempt to formulate a more ‘discourse-sensitive’ conceptualization using the idea of dialogue. This position is cooberated by Senge (1990) who argued dialogue represents an important part of the learning process and they attempt to formulate a more sophisticated analysis of organizational dialogues using a discourse analytical framework.
Are you creating an environment of learning that is safe for discourse and disagreement?
Manning, John (2015). The disciplined leader: keeping the focus on what really matters. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition
Oswick, C., Anthony, P., Keenoy, T. and Mangham, I.L. (2000) A dialogic analysis of organizational learning. Journal of Management Studies, 37(6): 888-901.
Senge, P. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.
As a leader it is not your job to be what John Manning (2015) calls an “answer guru” in lesson #35 of The Disciplined Leader. It is our job as leaders to build the.culture of the learning organization where we provide support, reinforce success, and embrace team members’ idea (Manning, 2015). Both education and business/industry have been run in a command and control environment for so long it is tough to switch to an environment of trust, openness, collaboration, inquiry, or dissent (learning organization) where the “leadership” provides all the answers.
Highly effective schools and organizations with highly effective teachers and team members promote environments where everyone can be “Learning Leaders.” Everyone in an organization fits into one of these three categories: Aspiring, Beginning, and Experienced Leaders. Because of this coherent and coordinated quality learning opportunities to support our leaders must be a part of career long professional learning. As a leader, we are a leader of learning. In my case, I am a leader of learning for our staff and the students we serve.
High performing schools and organizations have fatter decision making structures. This fatter, more effective structure comes from shared leadership. Shared leadership works through its motivational impact and the staff works to create structures for collaborative decision making. The organization or school then really becomes a place shared learning. This in turn keeps the leader from becoming the “answer guru.” And, quite frankly, the answers/solutions are much better than any one leader, at least speaking for myself, could ever come up with.
Looking at this from a school perspective; built correctly, a shared learning school has an instructional ethos where there is an an acute awareness of the instructional actions and an acute awareness of teaching and learning in the school. Then, as a learning organization, everyone in the school become designers of worthwhile tasks for students.
Who are the “answer gurus” in your organization?
Manning, John (2015). The disciplined leader: keeping the focus on what really matters. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Essential Insight for Talent Development Leaders
Guest Post By Ann Parker
CTDO (Chief Talent Development Officer) magazine provides essential insight for any leader responsible for developing talent. You can expect the following regular feature articles and columns in this free, quarterly, digital magazine. Learn more at www.td.org/CTDONow.
- CTDO spotlight: This profile showcases a talent development (TD) executive who is championing employee development in meaningful and innovative ways. It also incorporates commentary from another C-suite peer, showing how the two collaborate to achieve business success.
- Hot topic: This feature unpacks one of the macro-level ideas that CTDOs care about – global issues that will affect the world of work in the future and that executives must consider now.
- Debate: This article contrasts two diverging viewpoints on a popular practice or theory, such as emotional intelligence.
- State of Talent Development: This four-piece round-up features public policy and talent development research.
- The Angst Index: You will get a deep dive into the top challenges of TD leaders, such as leadership development, adapting to globalization, employee engagement, and succession planning.
- Prove It: This column provides a practical look at how TD executives can effectively measure the impact of the seemingly intangible work that they do.
- Giving Back: We highlight TD efforts – at the individual and organizational level – to give back to the community and society at large.
- Career Hacks: This series showcases practical and sometimes quirky tips for talent development careers and competencies.
- Confessions From the C-Suite: A different perspective from the typical “happily ever after,” this case study article focuses on a big problem that a company is facing and lessons learned from implementing a talent development initiative.
Check out the latest content on the above topics in the Spring 2016 issue of CTDO magazine.
Ann Parker is manager of the Human Capital Community of Practice and the Senior Leaders & Executives Community of Practice at ATD. Prior to this position, she worked at ATD for five years in an editorial capacity, primarily for TD magazine, and most recently as a senior writer and editor. In this role, Ann had the privilege to talk to many training and development practitioners, hear from a variety of prominent industry thought leaders, and develop a rich understanding of the profession’s content. Visit Chief Talent Development Officer Magazine.
Lesson #32 in The Disciplined Leader by John Manning (2015) deals with accountability systems and checking up on goals daily. Accountability, regular check-ins are very important. Many organizations, my own school included, use dashboards to keep track of the important data that needs to be regularly monitored. Disciplined leaders are goal minded and this dashboard data needs to be linked to goals both for the organizations, teams and individuals. Besides the dashboard looks at data, Manning (2015) provides three really great ways to manage performance daily. I would like to illustrate these by providing examples of how we do these while doing our state testing for the school I lead. Keep in mind, we are a statewide school and test in 23 different locations – a monster! Here are the three practices:
- Implement flash reporting – We do this by keeping a spreadsheet that is updated by our site leads at each testing location. An important metric for us is test participation. By law, we need to hit at least 95% attendance for our Full Academic Year (FAY), those students who have/will be with us for 162 days, students. Our goal is 100% of our students to be tested. The spreadsheet shows the sites, FAY students, non-FAY students, attended vs. non-attended, and whether a make-up has been scheduled for non-tested students. This report goes out every evening to our team giving us a flash update as to how we are doing.
- Manage by walking around – I am sure you have all heard of this practice before, but I practice this during testing by picking three to four locations across the state to just show up and be an extra set of hands. This gives me a chance to visit with teachers, parents, and students and see how we are doing with our testing first hand.
- Implement “daily huddles” – This is my favorite practice during testing and the one I believe does the most good. Each night we have a daily huddle debrief call with our testing staff, site lead teachers, principals, and myself to debrief about the happenings of the day. This debrief includes a discussion on attendance, things that went well, and areas of concern/challenge/opportunity/problems. The thing I like most about these daily huddles is the fact that it allows us to implement lessons learned the very next day. Another very important component in these huddles is the time spent laughing and telling stories from the day. Most of the time these stories start with, “You can’t make this up.” This time spent telling stories laughing and having some humor really makes the stress of testing go much better and builds camaraderie among the staff. Never forget – humor is an important leadership tool!
I believe these are great tools/best practices for keeping track of important accountability data and goals. Hopefully, my examples from just one area in a very complex school are food for thought to apply to your leadership setting. Do you have other best practices you would like to share or experiences? Please share by replying to this post.
In prepping for writing the post What’s In Your Culture, I reflected on the 71 highlights I made while reading It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture by Dee Ann Turner. In What’s In Your Culture I said that my big takeaway from the book was the fact that Dee Ann Turner was the product of the culture of excellence she taught us about in the book. Then, I got to thinking that the content of the book was too great to not blog about. Therefore, I have decided to share my top five highlights from my Kindle Edition of It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture.
The culture of an institution, I’ve come to learn, is not just one of the things you manage. It ultimately affects everything that goes on in the institution. You have to understand it, shape it, and talk about it, and you have to lead it. —Lou Gerstner, CEO, IBM (retired)
For me, this drove home the fact that every organization has a culture. The question is whether it is a great culture or toxic culture. The point here is we, as leaders, cannot just leave this to chance. We must lead our organization’s culture to greatness!
“It was an honor to be a “facilitator of opportunity” on behalf of Truett Cathy.” ~ Dee Ann Turner
As leaders we are facilitators of all that happens in the organization. Note, the word here is facilitator, not doer of, commander of, or all knowing of, but facilitator. Facilitators lead people to understand their common objectives and assist them to plan how to achieve these objectives.
“Creating a strong, compelling culture requires intentionality and vision. This creation cannot happen instantly or accidentally. A visionary must imagine the future and then design the path to align the organization with that future.
Culture is the soul of the organization. It is the way we envision, engage and experience others within an organization. Culture defines the values and behaviors that are acceptable and expected. Culture can be an elusive concept to describe, but at Chick-fil-A, we call it living life together.” ~ Dee Ann Turner
Leaders must envision what the culture of the organization can become. The culture of the organization defines the stories that are told by those in the organization. Therefore it is important that clear values and behaviors are defined. This, in turn, defines how the stories of our organizations are told.
“We recognize the tremendous responsibility not only to lead, but also to serve those we lead. In our culture, leaders are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Leaders ensure that everyone else is served first. They give deference to others and do not expect, nor accept, privilege.” ~ Dee Ann Turner
“The Talent we select to be part of our team brings unique abilities, perspectives, ideas, thinking and insights. If we are to maximize their contributions to our business, then we have to steward not just the competencies of the employee, but also their interests and their dreams. In our business, Chick-fil-A Operators hire many team members that are on their way to something else. For some, it is their very first job. For a few others, it may be the first step toward pursuing an opportunity to operate their own restaurant. As the NCAA ad says, however, many will ‘go pro’ at something else.” ~ Dee Ann Turner
The idea of servant leadership was coined in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf. Greenleaf said that “the servant-leader is servant first.” By that he meant that that the desire to serve, the “servant’s heart,” is a fundamental characteristic of a servant-leader. It is not about being servile, it is about wanting to help others. It is about identifying and meeting the needs of colleagues, customers, and communities. This is why I really walk the walk on the idea of what I call hyper-personalizing the personal and professional growth of the teachers (Talent) I serve.
“When the core values of an organization match the purpose and the mission, they inspire that organization’s members to play an integral role in the organization’s success.” ~ Dee Ann Turner
Strong core values can set an organization apart from the others by clarifying its identity and serving as a rallying point for employees. But coming up with strong core values, and then sticking to them, requires real guts. Indeed, an organization considering a core values initiative must first come to terms with what is non-negotiable and then realize that, when properly practiced, adhering to core values is tough, and sometimes inflicts pain. Core values limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom and guide the behavior of its people.
I finished a great book yesterday that has easily made it onto the list of greatest books I’ve read. The book was, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture by Dee Ann Turner. Of course I was tweeting like mad while reading and was excited to have the author liking, favoriting, and replying to my tweets (@ByronErnest). In fact, I was getting lots of Twitter interaction from others on those tweets, too. You’ll notice Dee Ann Turner liked a tweet where I set a new goal for 2016 of having lunch with her at a Chick-fil-A. She liked and replied to the tweet; sure hope she’ll consider it.
Then, I was real excited yesterday to receive a tweet from Andy Van Weele (@AndyVanWeele). He tweeted the question, “What was your big takeaway?” This is an awesome question because it is not plural, it’s singular. I, of course, tweeted back and told him to stay tuned for this post. As I began to think about this, I considered the 71 highlights I made while reading the book. I reread and studied each one. Then I realized no single one of these great thoughts shared by Dee Ann Turner was my big takeaway. My big
takeaway was the fact that Dee Ann Turner was the product of the culture of excellence she taught us about in the book. Think about it; lots of people write books about culture and leadership. Here, however, is an author who has lived and become a product of an outstanding culture. In addition, is continuing to provide outstanding leadership to continue that legacy. This book isn’t about turning around or building an organization, it’s about what it’s like to be a product of an incredible culture of “It’s My Pleasure” and wanting to continue and further hone that culture of excellence. It is about it being an honor for Dee Ann Turner to be a “facilitator of opportunity” on behalf of Truett Cathy.
I must admit, I’m a little jealous of Dee Ann’s opportunity to learn and develop under the tutelage of S. Truett Cathy, the author of the phenomenal culture that is Chick-fil-A. As a leader of schools turning around, I spend most of my time on culture building, so I’m just so blown away by the thought of spending over 30 years growing in such a great culture. But, then I get chills thinking about this is the very reason I have accepted the calling to lead the schools I have; to give our students and staff the same culture that Dee Ann Turner grew, developed, and flourished in. Not an easy task, but clearly attainable!
So, there’s my big takeaway: Dee Ann Turner was the product of the culture of excellence of Chick-fil-A. So, my question to the readers of this post is: “Would you want to be a product of the culture you have created?” Or, an even more compelling question is: “Would you want someone to write a book about the culture you are leading? If you waivered on your answer, or said no, you need to read It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture by Dee Ann Turner. Let’s all become “facilitators of opportunity.”