Byron's Babbles

From Yahoo To Hoodoo!

As you know, my family and I spent Sunday at the Calgary Stampede. I blogged about that experience in Calgary Stampede: Invented Tradition & Cultural Phenomenon. Because there are such different and great things to explore and see going all four directions from Calgary, Alberta Canada, we decided we would explore in all four directions. Yesterday we went east to see the rich prairie lands of Alberta.

And, rich prairie lands were what we immediately encountered. My son and I were immediately road farming and taking in all the beauty of the cattle in pastures, hay fields, the hay making of the roadsides (we should do this in Indiana), and yellow Canola fields. In just a few decades, canola has become one of the world’s most important oilseed crops and the most profitable commodity for Canadian farmers. The name canola is a contraction of Canada and ola, meaning oil. This Made In Canada” crop is the raw material for one of the healthiest cooking oils there is.

We also learned from the locals the importance of natural gas and oil production to this part of the world. In fact, Alberta is Canada’s leading producer of oil and natural gas.

Then it was off to Drumheller and the Canadian Badlands. Of course we had to experience the world’s largest dinosaur (pictured in this post). It was an incredible view from the the mouth of this impressive beast. Here is what we did:

After all this we stopped off at Beefsteak Restaurant in Beiseker, Alberta. I mention this stop because we had some great conversations with the local people. We learned about their agriculture, oil, and natural gas business.

On the drive back to Calgary my son, Heath, commented on how friendly and accepting people were in Canada. I was feeling that too. This was a reminder to us when we have visitors to make sure we are inviting and attentive. Sometimes it is good to walk in another persons shoes. So as guests of these great Canadians, we are learning to be better hosts. We have learned we need to take opportunities afforded with guests to Indiana and the United to share our stories and learn the stories of our guests.

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Scaling Partnerships In Education & Telling Our Story

D-BSkhhXsAIXDRGI’m so sad to be sitting at the airport because I hate leaving Harvard University. I always learn so much from my friends at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As always, my thinking as stretched, what I thought I knew challenged, and new creative and innovative ideas developed. As Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer said last Sunday, “You may not leave here with complete closure, but with new questions.” That is learning at its best! My description for my learning this week is that I have been “coached up!”

Screen Shot 2019-06-26 at 7.48.22 PMToday’s learning was just as great as the rest of the week. I loved doing a case study on a partnership with the Nike Innovation Fund for improving Oregon student success. Dr. Monica Higgins did a great job of facilitating the case study and I learned a great deal about scaling the impact of public private partnerships. This learning was followed up by a great session by Dr. Irvin Scott on story telling and its importance to teaching and leadership.

As I have done all week in Thriving Students, Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity, and Changing The Narrative For Our Students, I compiled a top 20 list of the things I learned today. Here is my list:

  1. It’s not just if we do partnerships, it’s how we do partnerships.
  2. Partnerships should match the core values or mission of the partners.
  3. Partnerships are great ways for industry to understand education and for education to understand industry.
  4. It is very important to analyze both sides of all partnerships.
  5. Partnerships are a psychological contract.
    1. Everything’s not always explicit (context, risks, et cetera).
    2. In partnerships everything is not always spelled out.
  6. Move partnerships from individual to individual to organization to organization. This plays to sustainability.
  7. Open communication is key to partnerships, even when things go wrong.
  8. Agenda items versus surface level just for show.
  9. Eliminate hidden targets in partnerships
  10. Partnerships need an exit strategy so the innovation can be sustained without the partner.
  11. Partnerships should be mutually beneficial, with beneficial up for debate.
  12. In partnerships:
    1. Make implicit explicit
    2. Have clarity of roles and limitations
    3. Have flexibility built in
    4. Have mutual goals, timelines, and milestones
  13. Is the voice of the student heard in the partnership?
  14. You never want to scale until you know you have something that works.
  15. Need to decide to scale deep or scale out.
  16. Everyone has a story of how they got where they are. What is your trajectory?
  17. We need to be warm demanders for our students.
  18. We need to give an academic press to our students.
  19. You can’t lead if you don’t read.
  20. Why story/narrative in leadership?
    1. Stories are fundamentally human…
    2. Stories build connection…critical for leaders…
    3. Stories bring data alive…
    4. Stories capture what is possible…

Remember Who You Are And Be Okay With It

IMG_3778One of my favorite compliments to give someone is: “Thanks for being YOU!” I believe it is a powerful compliment because it implies that what makes that person such a unique human being comes from deep within. What I am trying to do is give unconditional gratitude. I want the person to remember who they are and be okay with it. When I say, “Thanks for being YOU!” I am not just saying thank you for what the person has done – I am saying thank you for who he or she is. I am telling him or her that I value them as a person.

“Thanks for being YOU!” Even for all the mistakes the person made and the flaws he or she found that they want to change. For the times he or she did and the times he or she could not, for one day they will all add up. Any of us at our best is what serves us all best. We need each of us to be who we are in order to shape the future. We grow into being who we are one day at a time. We need everyone’s contribution. We need your contribution as much as mine. It’s something we build as much as we find, to do either takes a present mind.

Remember, you are not a robot or a Barbie™. Therefore, let’s be who we are and be okay with it. This does not mean that we should not work to improve or learn new things. It means we need to be okay with who we are as we continue to improve and evolve as the person we are. I believe every person is a work of art. Research indicates that our capacity for self-evolution and growth of our personality, mental capacities, relationships and actions are all based on conscious intent. Shaping our being is like making art; the same way an artist develops, evolves and creates a painting; or a composer creates music. We can all make our conscious being and all that emanates from it a work of art. As I always say, “There is no bad art.” So let’s go out there and remember who we are and be okay with it.

Getting The Whole View

The person who tries to hide weaknesses actually highlights them rather than concealing them. This concealment actually creates the perception of a lack of integrity and self-awareness. This is why I hate the term “fake it till you make it.” I don’t even think that is possible. At least not in all situations. Let’s face it, whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone still sees them.

Self-awareness is probably one of the most important focus areas for leaders, but least discussed. When we are self-aware we can concede all the things we still need to learn and admit any missteps or mistakes we make. These can then turn into teachable and learning moments that give everyone on our organizations permission to be collaborative, thus creating a learning organization.

What’s In Your Leadership Toy Box?

IMG_4980A week ago I facilitated one of our 3D Leadership gatherings in Florida. We used a Leadership Toy Box through line and had the participants pick a toy at the beginning and describe what leadership traits the toy possessed and how they could use the toy for great leadership. From that discussion we came up with a great list of leadership traits to focus on:

  1. IMG_4978Flexible
  2. Big
  3. Supportive
  4. Balanced
  5. Resourceful
  6. Wise risk taking
  7. Celebrate
  8. Confident
  9. Results driven
  10. Perspective
  11. Approachable
  12. Resilient
  13. Humble
  14. SynergisticIMG_4979
  15. Listens
  16. Caring
  17. Vulnerable
  18. Encouraging
  19. Purposeful
  20. Empathetic

Pretty incredible list, don’t you think? If you aspire to lead, but fill effective leadership roles whose vision will inspire, these are the leadership skills to answer. There are many other leadership traits that could be listed here, but these are certainly traits that, if mastered, would make a pretty effective leader.

The trait that came up the most in all our discussions was flexibility. Flexible leaders are those who can modify their style or approach to leadership in response to uncertain or unpredictable circumstances. Flexible leaders have the ability to change their plans to match the reality of the situation. This flexibility can be helpful when pushing through change. Dr. Ron Heifetz, Harvard University, was the first to define the distinctive theory of adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership is about mobilizing others to make progress addressing the gap between the way things currently are and the desired state you are striving toward. Additionally, adaptive leadership is a way of reading the situation and understanding what is needed to work with others.

To fully get our minds wrapped around this we need to recognize there are two types of opportunities (challenges): technical and adaptive. With a technical opportunity there is an exact answer that is already known. Adaptive opportunities involve a human component and multiple viewpoints, opinions, attitudes, or diverse set of stakeholders. I believe if a leader takes the 20 items from above and applies them to an adaptive challenge she would be well served and in a position to lead effectively. This is why I am such a believer in creating an open environment for learning about leadership. It enabled the discussions, which started with toys, to get to learning about 20 skills for developing as a leader. What traits/skills would you add to the list?

We Must Listen For What Is Not Being Said

img_4774One of the things I love most about facilitating our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership gatherings is when participants say things that really make the group dig in and think. This is heuristic learning at its best. Last night one of our central Florida participants made the comment that as a leader she needs to “listen for what is not being said.” This caused a good discussion around the idea of why was something not being said or were the things not being said even known about to be said. That’s quite a mouthful, don’t you think?

So, how does one get better at paying attention to what is not being said? Good question, right?

Sometimes the challenge is on the end of the person or group communicating with us. If you think about it, we’ve all been in this situation, or at least I have. There are times when we just don’t have the knowledge, words, or correct vocabulary to express what we are thinking. Additionally, the other person does not have the emotional self awareness to convey what they are feeling to get their needs on the table for discussion. Furthermore, there are times when people are just afraid or uncomfortable to intimate their honest thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

We must, as leaders, listen for avoidance of topics, vague communication, or lack of knowledge. These are all cues that something may not be being said that should be. We can combat this by doing more listening than talking. Also, we need to listen to understand, not listen to respond with an answer. We should think more in terms of what is the right next question. Word clues are great to listen for. Finally, we need to pay attention to body language and other non-verbal cues that tell us the person or group we are convening with has more information that is not being told.

In our discussion, we decided there is to perfect equation for listening for what is not being said, but that we must be curious and listen for underlying issues or topics. We need to ask clarifying questions to make sure we we understand before moving on from a topic. Listen and clarify!

A Focus on What Is Working

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

A Focus on What Is Working

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

In a problem-based world, it is very challenging to keep a leadership focus on what is working. We believe that focusing on what is working matters as a practice that builds appreciative resilience. Leaders are bombarded by problems every day. A focus on what is working pulls them out of that mindset of problem- and deficit-based thinking to begin to see what is right and what is good inside a team or an organization. Joan worked for a president who made this a practiced part of her leadership. She started every meeting with the question “What do we have to celebrate?” As Joan and other leaders in the room shifted their mind-set to uplift the stories worth celebrating, the entire feeling in the room shifted. The thinking shifted from “We have problems” to “Yes, we have problems needing to be solved, but we also are doing some things right.” 

This particular leader had several catastrophic events occur within the organization in a short period of time. Joan always noted that she started every conversation during those very difficult times with some version of celebrating the skills of the people handling those events.

Focusing on what is working inside a team or organization builds resilience for the individuals and the group by constantly reinforcing a drive to be excellent, not because of fear, but because their successes are celebrated. Celebrating what is working is like depositing resilience into an emotional bank account for later use. This bank account helps leaders deal with uncertainty, fear, and stress. In a crisis, a leader can tell others, verbally or through action, that their jobs, livelihood, and reputation are on the line, or they can share what is working well and uplift the drive of people to repair and rebuild.

It takes a conscious and mindful effort to focus on what is working. It takes the practice of pausing and thinking through the situation from multiple perspectives and asking powerful questions. This practice is easier in hopeful times, and we suggest that these are the times to begin the practice. If leaders practice a focus on what is working in hopeful times, they will find it much easier to do when a crisis arises. It is difficult to focus on what is working in times of despair, yet it is possible if one has practiced in times of hope. As leaders move through the element or state of despair, it is very difficult not to assign blame, seek justice, dole out retribution, or withdraw. In forgiveness, one must hold what is working close to one’s leadership heart, because a focus on what is working and forgiveness are linked together. Without leaders focusing on what is working or on what is possible, forgiveness cannot happen. 

Focusing on what is working well is a practice that trains leaders to seek out the appreciative stance and, in doing so, discover what can be built on and taken into the future.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

Forgiveness: Rising Again

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

Forgiveness: Rising Again

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

How do we put down the burden of nonforgiveness when carrying it seems so justified? There are so many experiences in organizations that seem unforgivable. People who are otherwise good betray others, become in one’s eyes untrustworthy or incompetent. In the larger world, there are acts that are perpetrated in hate and anger that seem undeserving of forgiveness.

When we first began the journey of exploring building resilience with appreciative inquiry, we wondered about what it is that opens the door to the possibility of returning to a state of hope, however transient that might be. We deeply understood that the practice of hope and a hopeful view offered the ability to find hope in the tiniest of places. In finding that hope and a hopeful view greater resilience could be created. We also recognized that tapping into strengths and capabilities in times of despair was a powerful sustaining force. 

As we read, thought, and worked with leaders, we began to recognize another element at play in resilience: forgiveness. It wasn’t something that just happened along the way. Leaders decided to enter into the state of forgiveness with grace and power so that they could move themselves and their organizations forward. In the appreciative resilience model, forgiveness is the most difficult element to practice, because in organizations, the thinking often is that people should be punished, removed, or banished. In forgiving self and others, a leader chooses to be in a state of acceptance of what is and begins to move forward from that place.

Forgiveness offers a place where dialogue can begin and change can take place. Practicing forgiveness is very challenging because of the sheer will it takes to enact. Forgiveness is a conscious act that requires one to examine one’s leadership and deeply forgive failures—others’ and one’s own. As one interviewee stated:

Forgiveness is one of the fundamental necessary things we need to have happen in our lives. I wish I had more. I wish forgiveness came easier to me. Forgiveness is very important. In any human system, you are going to have a problem with someone else. Somebody’s going to do something that offends you, or you misperceive and it is offensive to you; whatever it is, you see it as a slight or an attack, and if you hold on to that, you really can’t move forward in a human system together.

It is only through forgiveness that we literally have our minds changed and can see the possibilities before us. Forgiveness is a means of moving toward hope and sometimes of just living with what is unchangeable in our leadership lives. Forgiveness creates a space for leaders to let go of anger and hurt and look forward with realistic expectations.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.