Byron's Babbles

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.

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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.

 

That’s A Little Too Far Out There!

This past weekend, at our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering, I was recording comments during a planning discussion for a project they were working one. It struck me that at one point they went from talking transformation to the comment, “That’s a little too far out there.” I’m thinking to myself, “Uhm…if it’s going to be transformational, it probably needs to be out there.” I’ve always believed, and I we often see this; the idea that seems crazy at first turns out to be the idea that propels the organization forward or enables the desired transformation.

As I see it, passion, purpose, and capacity are the only requirements for coming up with and participation in “way out there” ideas. And, once the freedom to try out new ideas becomes ingrained in employees’ behavior, it can spread and transform the entire culture of your organization to be nimbler and more creative.

We need to create environments where we can challenge the status quo as if no one’s judging you. If being open and willing to try out new ways of working isn’t practiced and encouraged in the culture at the top of the organization, how anyone ever have the courage to voice their ideas?

The secret to truly agile and innovative organizations is this: they encourage and invite new ideas from all levels and see leaders at every level. So, next time you have that idea that might just go too far, voice that “crazy” idea regardless of your title or level; lead from where you are!

“Big Boy” Leadership

This week I went to Nashville, Tennessee with a group of great colleagues from Noble Education Initiative to put on a day of professional development for Trevecca Nazarene University. The day was amazing, and there was some great learning that went on. Really it comes down to being student centric – whether that student is a college pre-service teacher or a pk-k-12 student in our schools. We must deliver our best each and every day.

Our professional development covered the topics of “A Day In The Life Of Our Indy Schools,” Social Emotional Learning, Restorative Justice, and our Eight Step Process for Continuous Academic Improvement. Plus, we started the day with Mr.& Mrs. Potato Heads and participants making their Potato Heads answering the question: what does education look like on you? At the end of the day, participants had the opportunity to reflect and change their potato head answering the statement: now I look like this. Here is the agenda we used for the day:

On the way down to Nashville we saw signs for Frisch’s Big Boy. Since all six of us seemed to have some affinity or fond memories of going to Frisch’s Big Boy, it was decided that is where we would eat on the way home. Needless to say, I was excited because there is just no better hamburger than the Super Big Boy.

On the way home it became quite fun searching for our Big Boy location. Of course, I became “Big Boy” because I am a “Big Boy.” And…I couldn’t wait to get my picture taken with the iconic Frisch’s Big Boy. In fact, the group was so kind to buy me one of the “Big Boy” banks. It is now a treasured item on my desk.

Then I got to thinking about the principles and core values that guided Dave Frisch, the founder of Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants. He founded on the idea of great food, a great work environment that was fun for employees, and a place of integrity. Who could argue with this?

As I did a little Big Boy studying. I found that Frisch’s Restaurants, Inc. use the value of being “Guest Centric.” Being in the field of education this was interesting to me because we use the term “Student Centered” a lot. I like the “guest centric” terminology better, however, because it refers to internal and external guests. The internal guests are employees. Frisch’s wants to provide its best service and support to its employees. I’ve always said in education we need put teachers first so we can put students first. I love that Frisch’s says, “We will be our best every time by delivering our best and being guest centric to our internal and external customers.” I believe this speaks to empowerment, engagement, and professional growth and development of staff, regardless of the industry we are in.

Frisch’s also has a core value of treating everyone as family (employees and customers), too. Their restaurants have a very diverse workforce and customer base. Frisch’s supports each team member through teamwork, coaching and development, fair treatment, and mutual respect.

Do you practice “Big Boy” leadership?

Leading With Clarity

Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding PerformanceClarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance by Karen Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clarity is so important in today’s world where we need to be constantly changing, resisting the status quo, and having agility for meeting our stakeholders’ needs. This book teaches us that clarity requires a highly focused effort for a person to give clarity to others in the form of clear communication. This clarity must also be seen in the living of the vision, mission, and core values of the organization. Clarity is also explained In this book as something you receive from others when they communicate clearly with you. I have said many times that, as leaders, we can’t always give certainty, but we must always provide clarity. This great book shows us the way to providing this clarity.

View all my reviews

Teacher Leadership

IMG_3896This week I had the chance to do a couple of sessions on Teacher Leadership at the Impact CSUSA 2020 Conference that Noble Education Initiative put on. In the session we discussed creating a shared leadership model and engagement pipeline. I even did a plate spinning show to represent how hard it is to spin all the plates we need to as leaders. If we empower teacher leaders, we can spread out the load and keep all the plates spinning. We must create a supportive community where everyone helps to spin the plates. By the way, I can only keep three going at once, but brought others up and we were able to have all six plates that I have going at once. Another one of my metaphors!

IMG_3891First, let’s start by answering the question, “What is teacher leadership?”Here’s the definition I have always liked: “Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individually or collectively; influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement.” (York-Barr & Duke, 2004, p. 287) During the workshop, participants came up with a list of teacher leadership roles. Here is there list:IMG_3884I also laid out a seven step process for growing teacher leaders:

  1. Realize teacher leadership is essential
  2. Recognize teacher leadership as a teachable skill
  3. Recruit teachers to become teacher leaders
  4. Build leadership capabilities among teachers
  5. Nurture leadership qualities in teachers
  6. Empower teacher leaders
  7. Provide ongoing professional growth opportunities for teacher leaders

Of course it wouldn’t be a session by me without there being model making, innovation, creativity, and creations. First, I asked the question, “Why is building a great teacher leadership pipeline more like chess than checkers?” We had a great discussion in both sessions about this. We discussed how in checkers there are very limited moves and you can’t the checkers cannot be promoted until they reach the other side of the board – we believe everyone should lead from where they are. We discussed how chess is about strategy and a longer term overall play. I’m sure you get the idea.

I broke the participants into groups of four or five, gave them a chess board, pipe cleaners of all sizes, colors, and even with glitter, glue sticks, masking tape, little eyes, fuzzy balls of all sizes, and straws. I then told them that there objective was to replace the traditional chess pieces with ones that represented the ideal chess game for building an amazing pipeline of teacher leaders. I’ve got to tell you, it was amazing to watch them. Even more amazing were the descriptions of the chess pieces and and the discussion. Following are pictures of some of the games created:IMG_3892

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Finally, we created a list of attributes for effectively developing teacher leaders. Here’s our list:

  • Results-driven
  • Standards-based
  • Job-embedded
  • Differentiated
  • Linked to learning needs (student and teacher)
  • Collaborative in nature
  • Sustained over time
  • Discipline-focused/Content rich
  • Reflective
  • Evaluated

How are you doing at developing your teacher leaders?

What is Clarity?

The following is an excerpt from Clarity First by Karen Martin

What Is Clarity?

By Karen Martin

The simplest definition of clarity is the quality of being easily and accurately understood. Clarity in a business context goes deeper than that, however, since it exists in multiple forms: as an organizational value, a state of being, and an outcome.

When clarity exists as a value, individuals and the organizations they work for operate in a way that places a premium on clarity and rewards the people who seek it. In that environment leaders and team members pursue clarity in their daily activities and cultivate an expectation of clarity throughout the organization. An example of clarity as a value can be seen in Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Ford, who applauded members of his team when they called attention to drops in performance or other areas of the business that needed attention instead of staying silent.

Alternatively, organizations can operate in a way that dismisses clarity and penalizes those people who seek it. At Wells Fargo, for example, employees were fired when they tried to report wrongdoing when they saw their peers opening false accounts in order to meet new account targets. Opening unauthorized accounts was reportedly condoned by bank leadership, and employees who refused to comply or actively worked to call the practice to light were penalized.

Wells Fargo is an extreme example of how clarity might be discouraged or dismissed. More commonly, organizations are benignly ambiguous, operating with a lack of clarity because it seems to be easier and safer in the short term. Remember, ambiguity is the default stage—it is what happens automatically.

Clarity, in contrast, requires work for a person to achieve it as a state of being, and it requires focused effort for a person to give clarity to others in the form of clear communication. Clarity can also be something you receive from others when they communicate clearly with you. In this sense, clarity exists inside a person’s mind, as well as in the space between that person and another with whom he or she wants to share information.

What does clarity as a state of being look like? Clarity exhibits many qualities, the most important of which are coherence, precision, and elegance. Clarity as coherence comes through information that is both purposeful and logical. Precise information is succinct. Elegant information is crisp and easy for the intended recipient of the information to grasp.

Despite the multiple forms and multiple qualities that clarity possesses, there are also things clarity is not. Clarity is a close cousin to truth, for example, but they are not one and the same. A person or an organization can issue untruthful statements that are received as true because they have the coherence, precision, and elegance of clear communication. There is even a term for this— agnotology—coined by Stanford Professor Robert Proctor as the study of the willful act to spread ignorance or doubt.

Clarity is also a close cousin to transparency, but they are not identical either. One can be clear with the information he chooses to share while withholding some of the details. Likewise, one can believe she’s being transparent without being clear. Transparency is a noble goal in many situations, but it’s not a “one size fits all” virtue. There are good reasons why the Healthcare Insurance Portability Protection Act (HIPPA) precludes healthcare providers from sharing private patient information outside the patient’s direct care team, for example, but those reasons don’t apply to doctors writing clear orders or providing clear direction to their patient’s treatment team. Generally, though, transparency serves efforts to operate with greater clarity.

Finally, clarity is different from certainty. Certainty is not always possible, but achieving clarity nearly always is. For example, companies can’t always predict when a competing product will rob them of market share, when a natural disaster will cut off access to a key supplier, or when political priorities will shift so that what they thought was tomorrow’s concern becomes today’s crisis. But organizations can improve their predictive powers and the speed with which they respond by gathering information, interpreting it, and communicating findings clearly. In this way, both clarity and uncertainty can coexist in the same environment. Similarly, certainty is a dangerous mindset in the early stages of problem solving, but it’s essential to operate from a clear problem definition.

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Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc., is a leading authority on business performance and Lean management. Her latest book, Clarity First, is her most provocative to date and diagnoses the ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.

The Frustrating Truth Of Turf

Great Pumpkin 🎃 Carving By Steve Treffiletti

I learned a new term this week: “Lawnmower Parents”. One of our activities during our North Carolina 3D Leadership was to carve pumpkins using the prompt of: “Truths we Are Frustrated With”. This turned into a great and meaningful activity in all our states with some really deep conversations. I love to watch the carvings develop and am always trying to guess what is being represented. I had to laugh when I saw Coach Steve Treffiletti from Langtree Charter Academy carving a lawnmower. If I would have carved a pumpkin using our prompt, I would have carved a lawnmower too. I have made the picture of his pumpkin the featured picture of this post. While we both would have carved pictures of mowers, our stories were different. I am going to write about both in this post.

Lawnmower Parents

Coach Treffiletti’s truth he was frustrated with, was that of a new group of parents categorized as “lawnmower parents”. I guess I have been under a rock because I had not heard this term yet. For those that are like me and aren’t familiar with theses parents, they are pushing aside “helicopter parents” to intervene or, mow down, any person or obstacle that stands in the way of any inconvenience, problem or discomfort their child might encounter. Coach Treffiletti’s point was that our students won’t be prepared for life or to be great citizens if every hurdle is removed for them.

Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure. Make no mistake, this does not mean parents should not keep their children safe, help, and encourage them. But, lawnmower parents are not teaching kids how to deal with discomfort. Quite the contrary, they are preventing kids from learning to problem-solve.

I’ve never met a parent who sets out to be a bad parent or whose heart wasn’t in the right place. We all want what was is best for our kids. But we have to watch being too focused on reducing our child’s discomfort in the short-term, rather than focusing on our child’s needs in the long-term Sometimes we must just back off and let our children gain experience dealing with adversity.

Turf

My truth I am frustrated with is that of “turf”. Let me explain. As an education policy-maker it is so frustrating when it becomes challenging, and many times nearly impossible, to innovate and make improvements because the different turf is being protected by the individuals, groups, organizations, or governmental agencies involved. All have a stake, but everyone is afraid of losing turf. When we don’t mow down the turf, we end up with the status quo. I actually discuss this so much in meetings that a person, who I respect a great deal, gave me a toy lawnmower in honor of my constant desire to “mow down the turf.”

Beth Macy discussed the issue of “turf” in her great book, Dopesick. Macy argued that it is hard to get agencies to work together to solve an issue because of turf. She used the example of most drug offenders being sent to federal prison instead of being dealt with at the local or state level because it would leave money at the local and state level. The problem is we begin to view problems to rigidly based on where our funding comes from. We need to figure out ways to eliminate turf’s devastating effect on innovation and changing the status quo.

What’s your truth that frustrates you?

The Blind Spots Identified

The following is an excerpt from What Are Your Blind Spots?

The Blind Spots Identified

By Jim Haudan and Rich Berens

We have identified five leadership blind spots that perpetuate disengagement and indifference. They do the exact opposite of creating thriving, innovative workplaces that turn customers into advocates and fans. Let’s take a quick look at each one before each chapter breaks them down further and answers the key questions leaders need to ask themselves in order to see things as their employees do.

Leadership Blind Spot #1: Purpose

Common Misconception. Purpose matters, but it doesn’t drive our numbers.

The Basics. While there was a time when employees were only paid to complete a specific set of tasks, there is way more to it than that today. Many leaders are starting to embrace the concept of purpose but fail to actually run their businesses in a purpose-driven way.

The Question We Will Answer. As leaders, how can we put purpose at the center of the way we operate our business and achieve exceptional financial results because of it? Leadership

Blind Spot #2: Story

Common Misconception. We have a compelling story to tell that our people care about.

The Basics. Most organizations have a semi generic vision statement, accompanied by what seems like too many slides to outline their strategy for what winning looks like for the organization. Leaders believe they have a compelling story to tell, but when seen through the eyes of the employee, the complete opposite is often the case.

The Question We Will Answer. What makes a strategy story compelling, and how can we craft one for our people?

Leadership Blind Spot #3: Engagement

Common Misconception. Rational and logical presentations engage the hearts and minds of people.

The Basics. In many organizations, a tremendous amount of money is spent creating strategies to win. Those strategies then get communicated using PowerPoint presentations, road shows, or town hall meetings—but things seemingly get stuck. Employees fail to connect with the strategy, leaders are frustrated about the lack of progress, and managers just try to hold the ship together.

The Question We Will Answer. How do we move from presentations to conversations and create genuine engagement in strategies in the business?

Leadership Blind Spot #4: Trust

Common Misconception. People will not do the right thing unless you tell them what to do and hold them accountable to do it.

The Basics. Companies want and need to deliver great service to differentiate themselves, and the common belief is that the best way to deliver this is to create tight processes, scripts, and routines that minimize variability—to hold people and their behaviors to a strict policy and uniform standards. But that approach will never create consistent yet unique, differentiated, and personalized experiences that lead the market.

The Question We Will Answer. How can we trust and scale the unique human judgment, discretion, and care of our people, while at the same time having firm standards that we all share?

Leadership Blind Spot #5: Truth

Common Misconception. My people feel safe telling me what they really think and feel.

The Basics. In many leadership teams, what people really think often gets discussed in the hallways and bathrooms and by the watercooler rather than in meeting rooms. People don’t feel safe telling the truth because they don’t think it is smart or safe to do so. Many leaders believe that to be effective and successful, they need to be smarter than the next guy, fight for their area of the business, and not show vulnerability. This mentality creates lack of trust, collaboration, and common ownership for a greater goal—and ultimately greatly slows down execution speed.

The Question We Will Answer. What can we do as leaders to make it safe for our people to tell the truth and act on those truths to make the business better?

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About Jim Haudan

Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses.  He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.

About Rich Berens

Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc, and has helped align leaders at Global 2000 organizations to drive strategic and cultural change at scale. He is a noted speaker on the issues of, transformation, and how to create lasting change  and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs. Under Rich’s leadership, Root has been listed among the Great Place to Work® Institute’s top 25 places to work, been named to the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list, and experienced 10 years of consecutive growth. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc.

Cultivating Your Team For Maximum Growth & Blooms

Consideration of the flower bed and the flower farmer is fertile ground that allows a leader to reflect upon her or his own performance. It gives insight into the needs of the flower bed (the people) and the outlook and perspectives needed by the person involved in floriculture (the leader). As leaders we need to develop ourselves as a leader and as a servant so that, together with our people, we can flourish and achieve our full potential in the purpose of our organization.

I was reminded of this flower bed analogy this week when working with our South Carolina 3D Leadership cohort. I already blogged about our project of carving pumpkins to tell the story of “Truths We Are Frustrated With.” Click here to read my original post about this project from our Indiana cohort entitled, “The Messiness Of The Truths We Are Frustrated With.”

Ms. Russell’s Pumpkin 🎃 Carving

Ms. Linda Russell, Kindergarten teacher at Mevers School Of Excellence in Goose Creek, South Carolina, carved her pumpkin in the shape of an irregular flower with her as the stem. Her point was that everyone, just like the petals of a flower, develop at different rates, different sizes, in different ways, and has different needs. As Ms. Russell works as Kindergarten lead, this is a truth she has to remember. She has to work hard to not be frustrated by this, but embrace it. As I always say, we work really hard at differentiating for our students, but then don’t do a good job of differentiating for the different professional growth needs of our team members.We need to design professional growth opportunities that embrace the fact that we all develop like flowers. Too often, we fail to be good gardeners (leaders) in providing the choice, agency, and nurturing our team members deserve. How about about you? Are you doing everything you can to enhance the growth of your blooming team members?