Byron's Babbles

You Will Just Have To Accept This! Why?

file 6I have always believed we need to always refuse to accept the existing reality. I really believe this in our personal lives, organizations we work in, state, nation, and world. My thinking was affirmed when reading A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger this past weekend. He told the story of Van Phillips. This amazing and inspiring story is about the person that invented the mind-blowing “blade runner” prosthetic device.  When Phillips lost his leg in a boating accident, he could have asked the usual question.  Why me?  Instead he went further, asking “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they make a decent foot?”  Then he took ownership of the question:  How can I make a better foot? It’s easy, when we’re confronted with a challenge that seems insurmountable to ask “what are we going to do?”  Or… worse yet, to just accept that is the we it has to be. What if, we ask, “why does it have to be that way. Or… better yet, what if, instead we asked “What if this change represents an opportunity for us?”

AMBQ-Hardcover-Paperback_edited-1-768x634In this great book, Berger, incorporates a wide array of examples and his three question framework of innovation: Why, What if, and How. Plenty of innovation has started with questions, many of which are downright strange. Warren Berger’s definition of a beautiful question is, “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.” We need to remember that questions trump answers, every time.

As leaders, we would all be better served to practice divergent thinking and encourage our teams to think and question this way as well. Divergent thinking is the intellectual ability to think of many original, diverse and elaborate ideas. This type of thinking is associated with the right brain dominant, which is seeing things in a perceptual manner. In other words asking, “Why does it have to be this way?” This is in contrast to convergent thinking which is the ability to logically evaluate and choose the best idea from a selection of ideas. This type of thinking is associated with the left brain dominant, which is seeing things in an analytical manner.
We need to develop the capacity in ourselves and those we lead to produce many, or a greater number of complicated or complex ideas from a single idea or “why does it have to be this way?” question to trigger more ideas. It calls for making unexpected combinations, changing information into unanticipated forms, identifying connections among remote associates, and the like. In divergent thinking, a single question returns multiple answers, and though the answers vary considerably depending on the person, all answers are of equal value. Perhaps they did not exist ever before and so are novel, surprising or unusual. Now, this is not to say we need only divergent thinkers because we will need the convergent and linear thinkers to help us accomplish our goals.
Asking the powerful question “why?” forces people to think deep. They can then peel back the layers of excuses and get to the root cause of the problem. Asking “why” seems easy enough. It’s just a little word, after all. So, why don’t leaders ask this powerful question more often? Probing deep can be scary for a leader. It smells of confrontation and hints of accusation. It also is giving up some authority and asks others to weigh in. Many leaders are also accustomed to and want to be the go-to person for answers. They’re used to giving direction and opinion. It makes them feel valued, important and reinforces their position of authority. Also, some leaders prefer to deliver the answers because they think it will save precious time. Unfortunately, when leaders routinely dish out the answers, they become enablers of that dysfunctional cycle, which is actually a huge time-waster. Employees regularly seek out leadership for the solution rather than being leaders where they are and becoming problem-solvers. This prevents the ability to develop real solutions, stifles employee growth and ultimately limits company productivity. Remember, leadership should be happening where the data is produced.
The best leaders are those who understand that asking “why” is a highly productive teaching method. Teaching – true professional growth – and challenging people to think is what stimulates discovery, solutions and growth. So, the goal of any leader is to become a great teacher and develop the necessary skills. This includes not only asking “why”, but then also giving employees the autonomy to ask “why” and the appropriate amount of time to determine the real answer. Remember, we all live in the world our questions create!

Great Leadership: Offering Up Something Better Than The Status Quo

file 3As a school leader it is my most important role to find the right solutions that are best for students. People will then buy into solutions that are developed collaboratively. I believe the staff will buy in if we offer up something that is better than the status quo.

In order to move the staff, a community of continual learning where everyone is a leader must be developed. The following are guidelines that need to be followed for effective adult learning and motivation to take place:

  • Learning needs to be frequent and sustained over time
  • There must be connected and coherent learning sessions
  • Opportunities for teachers and staff to practice and reflect on new learning must be afforded
  • Opportunities must be available to tap into expertise or prior knowledge
  • Clear and reasonable objectives must be provided
  • Adults need challenging tasks
  • Respect of the risks involved in new learning need to be recognized; in other words, it is o.k. to fail.
  • Choice and flexibility is important to adults
  • Collaboration
  • Regular coaching and feedback are provided
  • Focus everything on academic content
  • Letting staff problem solve will motivate them to learnfile 5

I believe two things will really help here:

  1. The notion of empathy  – of really listening to your staff and understanding their views and what they need.
  2. The idea that innovation lives as much within the way you define problems as the way you generate solutions

Additionally, I believe in an intent-based leadership style where everyone is considered a leader. With this style of leadership, authority is shifted to where the information/data is generated. In other words, teachers would be empowered to act on both data and new thinking. But… for this empowerment to work there must be the professional development necessary to make sure that teachers have the skills necessary to utilize this empowerment.

These skills are two-fold:

  1. Technical Competency
  2. Organizational Clarity

We must feed our leaders by:

  1. Committing to leadership development
  2. Making it a priority to give professional growth time to developing leaders

Finally, it is crucial to treat all teachers as leaders!

This all really will produce a happier, healthier, and more engaged staff.

Loyalty: Leveraging Your Expertise

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.59.29 PMI am a major fan and student of the late Peter Drucker. He certainly understood both management and how to lead people. One of my favorite quotes (and I have many) of his is, “Never push loyal people to the point where they do not give a damn.” Loyalty has long been valued by leaders. The problem is that many times organizations use and abuse this loyalty to stifle their best leaders into status quo or just going with what the organizations top leaders want to do, or not do.

Unfortunately, the more authoritarian and dogmatic the leader, the more they prize loyalty in their followers. Dictators, both political and organizational, love to surround themselves with “yes-men and women,” eager to prove their loyalty by saying whatever the person in power will find most acceptable. The pressure to fit into and organization led like this is particularly tough for the most talented and strongest leaders. Suppressing these unpleasant realities can be overwhelming. This, what I will call forced loyalty, stifles creativity and discourages people’s willingness to speak the truth about their leaders, themselves, their organizations, or their work. I’ve seen so many cases where too much unquestioning loyalty meant important issues were suppressed until it was too late. This is why I am such a believer in an intent-based and participatory led organization where questioning of authority (short of defiance), may be essential if we’re not to lose our way.Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.53.07 PM

So, I believe Peter Drucker was warning us not to just force our team members to have blind trust and loyalty just because they work for us. I hate it when leaders say, “You are a part of this organization, school, or company so just be a team player and conform.” I believe this pushes team members to, as Drucker said, “not give a damn.” I say, “All the more reason for us to want to make improvements and challenge the status quo.” Particularly when these improvements and challenges are in line with the core values of the organizations. In an organization where divergent ideas and open dissent are encouraged, loyalty is actually increased.

Loyalty has become a very precious resource. Some organizations and leaders still excel at cultivating remarkable loyalty within their teams. Nobody likes to work for a phony. In past decades, it was more common for employees to tolerate insincere and ineffective leaders. What we really want are authentic leaders. We need to put a greater premium on authenticity. Authentic leaders can be counted on to say what they mean and do what they say. They’re the same person to their staff, their own superiors, their customers, and their partners. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives.

How are you leading your team toward excellence? Are you authentic in your leadership? Do your words and actions align with who you claim to be?

Letting My Lite Shine

file1-2A couple of weeks ago at one of our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) retreats I was asked by participants to do a session about how to balance the amount of personal information that should be mixed with our professional lives. This can be particularly tricky in education. Of course I said sure, but I had no idea how challenging of a topic I had taken on. As I began to study I realized that there was not much out there on the topic except for people who thought you should reveal everything and those who thought you should reveal nothing. I wasn’t sure I agreed with either of those theories.

file-1 2Therefore, me being me, I decided to develop my own program from scratch with all my own thoughts for getting the discussion started. I really like to use a through line and some type of building or creating to get the process started. After quite a bit of thinking I decided to use Lite Brite® as the through line and creation activity. I purchased one of the flat screen LED Lite Brites® for all the participants. Hopefully you can all remember the Lite Brite® toy and have had the opportunity to create a picture on one.file-2 2

Mavin Glass introduced Lite Brite® in 1967. It was an electric alternative to painting. To me this was a genius toy to use for this topic. The black paper acts as a filter. Just as we have to filter out what we message/reveal at times. The filter element makes the picture worth a thousand words. The black paper which blocks a portion of the light acts as Lite Brite’s® filter. Without the black paper, the pegs poked in would blend in, leaving and indistinct message. It is not about letting all light out, but what light is limited. This is like asking the question: What is relevant and what is unimportant?

As leaders we must choose delivery design and place our pegs in a way people will understand our message. We have to design how much light to let through and design the picture in such a way it tells our leadership story. Remember, simplicity is not stupidity; instead it causes a better understanding. Lite Brite® is such a simple toy, but gives us such a great example of developing a balance of how much light to shed and how much of our true colors to reveal. The Lite Brite® bulb symbolizes our message – our thoughts, words, beliefs and ideas that we want others to know. The pegs then symbolize our points. Just as the pegs are colorful and beautiful, so are the differences that we bring into the world.

“It is simplicity that makes the uneducated more effective than the educated when addressing popular audiences.” ~ Aristotle

To begin our discussion I had the FLA participants take their Lite Brites® and make a picture by either using templates provided or a picture created by them. Here is a picture of all of their Lite Brite® creations: file-1

The participants then needed to describe why they did the picture they did and reveal something about themselves and their own leadership journey. This prompted an amazing discussion. I have included the graphic recording by Sita Magnuson here:file1-1

What Will You Reveal?

Your message won’t be bright if there is no light, but will chaos if all light is revealed. As a leader we need to take complex issues and deliver them in an understanding manner. We need to be adaptive leaders and make adjustments/orientations according to context. There is value in vulnerability and authenticity. This opens the door to dialogue and community. We decided in our discussion that knowing decreases judging. We need to experience feeling, listening, seeing, and embodying. We must decide what we will reveal and break down the barriers that are not useful. How will you let your Lite shine?

What Do You Bring To The Table?

file1A couple of Saturday’s ago for our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) we used the mental model of food again. Participants decided to prepare breakfast and tell their story. This was pretty special and really meant a lot. I was struck by the fact that these teachers who had been ISTEP (Indiana’s students achievement test) all week and were probably exhausted would want to do this, But, as always, they amazed me one more time.

What a spread! It was the most amazing breakfast buffet I had ever seen with: two kinds of bacon, cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins, yogurt, biscuit and gravy casserole, bagels, cheesy potatoes, and lots lots more. I have put a picture of the buffet here for you to see, We have a practice of writing on the table butcher paper and on the breakfast buffet table someone had written the statement, “What do you bring to the table?” This of course then became the theme for the discussion. file 5

So what does it mean to bring something to the table? I believe it means to ​provide something that will be a ​benefit. Just like the fact that I believe everyone is a leader, I also believe everyone brings something to the table. Essentially, your list of what you bring to the table should reflect your best qualities, and that is what you should be offering to an organization, school, or business. Is what you are offering equal to what you are expecting? Do you consider what you have to offer those you lead, or merely what your team is offering YOU?

Leadership is about taking care of those you lead. Leadership is serving others. It is involving others in setting and achieving their own goals or the group goals. Leadership includes learning from mistakes and growing from them. Leadership is about having a positive impact on anyone we cross paths with. Leadership is contagious. If we can do these things, we are offering quite the leadership buffet to our organizations.

It was so great that Saturday to have Mike Fleisch, Sita Magnuson, and Kelvy Bird all present to graphic record the discussion presented by the FLA members about their food. It is the first time they had ever worked at an event all together. These are amazingly talented individuals, thought leaders, community leaders, and facilitation conveners. I have embedded a photo of the graphic here:file2Just like the awesome selection and choices that a breakfast brings us, the more different people become leaders, the more problems we will solve. The more skills, interest, and expertise that will be brought to the table. We need leaders to think about and organize around many issues beyond those of our organizations and schools like: youth development, economic growth, substance abuse, crime, the environment, health care — the list goes on and on. Each issue will require a troop of skilled leaders to handle them. We need leaders who are women, young people (we were all young once), people of color, low -income people, immigrants, people with disabilities and many others that have been told that they should follow others, not lead. We need leadership from all walks of life in order for ours to be a truly democratic society. Remember, we are all leaders!

You have to make a decision to lead and view yourself as a leader. No one else can contribute what you can. You have a point of view that no one else has. You have a set of skills that is unique. Your corner of the world will be different if you decide to act on its behalf.

How has your organization benefited from having you in leadership roles? What do you bring to the table? Are you showing value in your current role?

Share the Financials – the $100 Tool

culture_works_fbad_1This is a guest post from Kris Boesch originally published on www.choosepeople.com/blog

Share the Financials – the $100 Tool

Be open with your team about the flow of money. Sharing tells employees they’re important. Commitment grows and confusion declines.

Every year in an all-company meeting I would share our financials with the team using the $100 Tool (described below). It was amazing to see the light bulbs go on. Their entire awareness and attitude would shift. They would come up to me for weeks after this meeting with ideas on how to make and save the company money. They now realized why it was so important to take care of the trucks (cost of truck repairs) and to charge customers for boxes (high margin product) and not to forget moving blankets at the customer’s home ($13/each – easily four hours worth of profit.)

Some organizations are worried about sharing their financials, either because they’re struggling or very successful. Sharing financials when you’re in trouble is the only way engage your employees’ support. It helps them understand the urgency in your voice. Your employees aren’t stupid. They know if something’s off. Sharing the financials puts fears to rest because rather than grappling with the unknown, they can see what you see and participate in generating money making and saving solutions.

If you’re on the flip side and very successful and fear employees will want a bigger piece of the pie, communicate your growth plan and the need for cash to fund investments in equipment, technology, personnel or assets. Rather than envisioning all the extra money going into your pocket, they see it as a shared savings account. If you’re not looking to grow, make sure your people are well compensated and appreciated. This may also be a good time to share the risks and rewards of owning a business.

Use the $100 Tool to share your financials in a tangible, accurate, concrete way.

  1. Get one hundred one dollar bills.
  2. On a flip chart or white board break down by percentage your high-level income streams:$43 – local moves, $37 – national moves, $12 – storage, $5 – boxes, $3 – insurance. On another page or board break down by percentage your high-level expenses (fuel, truck repairs, truck maintenance, furniture repairs, regulatory fees, marketing and networking, utilities, insurance, rent, payroll – including workers compensation, payroll taxes, and benefits.
  3. Speak about how your organization makes money. Share which verticals, products and services are the most and least profitable. Explain why you choose to keep those that are less profitable — (loss leader, bread and butter, competitive edge.
  4. Then speak about expenses. As you detail each expense, hand out the dollar bills to individual employees. Saying for example:
    You are my landlord you receive $4 for rent.
    You are my accountant you receive $2.
    You are my utilities you receive $5.
  5. Speak to employee payroll, payroll taxes, work comp and benefits last. Employees are always wowed by the comparatively large piece of the pie that is directly theirs.
  6. Then show them, with the dollars left in your hand, how much profit is left.  Explain this profit is taxed, leaving a net profit and how that money has to be used to pay off debt as well as to reinvest in the company to spur growth. Explain how it is this money – the money that’s left over – that funds raises, better benefits, new uniforms, additional staff, or new equipment.
  7. Help them understand which numbers they can impact and which ones they can’t. You want them to leave knowing how they individually can help the organization make and save money.
  8. Depending on your team, it can also be valuable to explain the difference between profit and cash available. You may want to share the role of revenue to profit. Clarify that without profit, revenue is wheel spinning. Small increases in revenue beyond goal can cause exponential increases in profit due to the relatively static nature of overhead costs.

Owners tend to wonder how to represent their compensation when sharing financials. In the process I recommend above, simply roll your compensation into payroll. By being open with your team, you can begin to create a culture of honesty.

*****

Kris Boesch is the CEO and founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom line. Her new book, Culture Works, and accompanying workbook are available now on her website and will be available on Amazon around May 15.