Byron's Babbles

A New Approach to Leadership

The following is an excerpt from Humble Leadership

A New Approach to Leadership

By Ed and Peter Schein

This book introduces a new approach to leadership based more on personal relationships than transactional role relationships.

The good news: employee engagement, empowerment, organizational agility, ambidexterity, innovation . . . all of this can flourish in the rapidly changing world when the fundamental relationship between leaders and followers, helpers and clients, and providers and customers becomes more personalized and cooperative.

The bad news: continued deception, scandals, high turnover of disengaged talent, safety and quality problems in industry and health care, all the way to corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of industry and politics, driven by financial expediency and the obsession with retaining power as primary success criteria . . . all of this will continue to happen as long as leader-follower relationships remain impersonal, transactional, and based on the roles and rules that have evolved in the current culture of management that still predominates in our hierarchical bureaucratic organizations.

The Leader-Follower Relationship

“Leadership” is wanting to do something new and better, and getting others to go along. This definition applies as much to senior executives developing new strategies, new purposes, and new values as it does to a group member down in the organization suggesting a new way of running a meeting or improving a process to drive better results. Both the word new and the word better remind us that leadership always refers to some task that can be improved and to some group whose values and culture will ultimately determine what is better.

What is new and what is better will always depend on context, the nature of the task, and the cultural values that are operating in the group or organization that is doing the work. What we later may label as “good or effective leadership” thus always begins with someone perceiving a new and better way to do something, an emergent leader. Our focus will be not on the individual and the desired characteristics of that emergent leader, but on the relationships that develop between that person and the potential followers who will have influenced what is finally considered to be new and better and who will implement the new way if they agree to try it. Those potential followers will always be some kind of workgroup or team, so our focus will also be on the relationships between them. They may be co-located or widely spread in a network, and their membership may change, but there will always be some kind of grouping involved, hence group dynamics and group processes will always be intimately involved with leadership.

*************************************

About Authors

Edgar H. Schein is Professor Emeritus from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He’s a pioneer in organizational studies, organizational culture and leadership, process consulting, career development. Ed’s contributions to the practice of O.D. date back to the early 1960s and continue with the recent publication of Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th edition and now Humble Leadership, co-authored with Peter A. Schein, co-founder of OCLI.org who brings 30 years of hands-on experience in large and small companies leading growth initiatives in Silicon Valley.

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“The Rock” In The Atlantic Ocean

Yesterday while exploring the rocks along the Atlantic Coast of Maine I found a beautiful rock that once I took out of the ocean 🌊 wasn’t so beautiful any more. That experience prompted this VLOG Post:

https://youtu.be/lK92Io2ocWc

Independence Day Leadership Lessons From Maine & Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

On this 2018 Fourth Of July morning I am reminded of the great leadership that has been necessary for the United States to become the great country it is. My family and I are vacationing in Maine right now so, of course, I had to do some studying of influential leaders from Maine. Boy did I come across a great one: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Now I know that Independence Day is observed to honor our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of Great Britain and those who provided the leadership during this important time of our country’s founding, but since I am in Maine I am going to honor and remember Chamberlain too.

Raised from a modest life in the small town of Brewer Maine, Joshua Chamberlain chose the professions of ministry and academia filling in the post of Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College during the tumultuous 1850s. As the Civil War broke out, Chamberlain felt the impulse to serve based on his belief in preserving the union and his moral conviction against the institution of slavery. In early 1862, Chamberlain expressed his desire to serve to the Governor of Maine, who offered him the rank of Colonel in the Maine volunteers. He turned that rank down because he did not believe he had the experience necessary for the rank. This is lesson one learned from him – be modest and know what skill level you have and what you still have to learn. Believing he needed to gain experience and knowledge of the military profession, Chamberlain’s uncommon act of humility set a tone for the remainder of his service.

But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power. ~ Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain went on to have a very successful military career and ended that career as a Brigadier General, but two Civil War stories are worth telling in this blog post. Here they are:

Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, Little Round Top

Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, who he now commanded, ordered the 20th Maine Regiment to execute a daring counterattack against the 15th Alabama Regiment of the Confederate Army on July 2nd 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg. At the extreme left flank of the Union Army, the 20th Maine fought off repeated assaults for the past several hours against the determined Confederate Soldiers. Even though the 20th regiment was outnumbered and low on ammunition, Chamberlain’s bold decision and courageous leadership led his men of Maine down the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stopped the Confederate assault against the Union Army’s left flank. He showed tremendous insight and leadership in making this bold move. Colonel Chamberlain was inspirational to his men and as a leader, a true influencer.

Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, April, 1865

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain taught us what it meant to be a man of character and compassion when he was personally asked by General Ulysses S. Grant to preside at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse over the surrender detail. It was not the fact that he presided that is noteworthy here, it is the awesome act and example of leadership he performed. As the 20,000 Confederate Soldiers paraded by to turn over their arms and battle flags, Chamberlain gave the Union Army detail the command of “carry arms” to salute Confederate’s service and gallantry in battle. Many, then and now, credit this leadership gesture as the beginning for the country’s healing process toward reconciliation.

This act took courage and would bring him accolades and plagued him politically for the rest of his life. The southerners deeply respected him for this show of compassion and respect. Conversely, however, many northerners, including those in his home state of Maine, did not see it that way. They wanted to continue the humiliation of the Confederacy. Chamberlain did what was right and faced the consequences.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was awarded the Medal Of Honor for his service At Gettysburg. He saw combat at Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Five Forks, and the Appomattox Campaign.

Chamberlain Leadership Lessons

Chamberlain always positioned himself in the middle of his brigade’s formation. He led shoulder to shoulder with his men. This built trust and gave him the ability to truly know what was going on. Chamberlain reassured his soldiers through his cool and calm presence during the heat of combat. He garnered the trust of his men through his actions in combat. The other thing that really impressed me as I studied this hero was his commitment to studying his new military profession, and his commitment to developing his subordinates. We need to pay attention to these lesson learned and apply them to our daily lives as leaders.

Learn More About Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

There are so many more leadership lessons to learn about this great man that went on to be President of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and four term (one year terms at that time in Maine). Let me suggest two ways that I did to learn more:

  1. Visit Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and visit the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Museum. It is awesome! I learned a great deal from the tour and curators there. The museum is the restored home (the only home he and his wife, Fanny, ever owned). There is family history, Civil War history, history of his time as Bowdoin College President, and history of his Governorship. It is awesome!
  2. Read the great book by Alice Rains Trulock, In The Hands Of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain & The Civil War. This book is awesome and I gave it five stars. Is a very well written well told story of this great leader. This book inspired me to dig deeper and explore more to understand how this man became the great leader he did, at a crucial time in our nation’s history.

I am thankful on this Independence Day, 2018 for Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. What leaders are you thankful for on this day of celebration of our great country, The United States Of America?

What’s Your Elevated Story?

One of the most common questions we get when meeting new people is, “So, what do you do?” Most of us have a standard answer about our profession, but there are some people who have jobs that you might not even know existed. More importantly, everyone’s job is important and in some way improves the lives of others. Think about every job that affects your household; there are a lot.

Perkins Cove

I was reminded of this yesterday when in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine. This is a lobstering port and a beautiful place with shops and restaurants. While exploring we came across a boat named the SS Crusher that had been dry docked (see picture). It was a cool looking boat and I wondered what was up with it. Then, I found that a children’s book, The Pride Of Perkins Cove, had been written about it by Brenda Yorke Goodale about the boat.

So, of course I had to dig deeper and found that the boat and it’s harbormaster have very important jobs. When it gets cold, and it gets cold in Maine; Perkins Cove freezes. Because the Cove is a working port, it has to stay open, so Harbormaster Fred Mayo spends hours every day breaking the ice. The town’s special boat, the SS Crusher, is built for the task of “crushing” through the ice. Before yesterday I did not even know what a lobstering port looked liked, let alone that freezing was a problem.

If we asked Fred Mayo what he does, he might give the same kind of answer we all would: “I’m a harbormaster.” But, wow, is it so much more. In fact, here, according to Wikipedia, is truly the world of a harbormaster: “A harbormaster is an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbor or port, in order to ensure the safety of navigation, the security of the harbor and the correct operation of the port facilities.” Think about all the other colorful details that a harbormaster like Fred Mayo could add. I’ll bet there are some great stories of ice crushing in Perkins Cove. Here are a couple of pictures of Fred Mayo and the SS Crusher doing their job:

A few weeks ago I read a great book by Shawn Achor entitled Big Potential: How Transforming The Pursuit Of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. In the book, Achor points out that we usually just give a very quit and boring answer of what we do for our job. He argued, however, that we need to quit this and give what he calls the “elevated speech;” not to be mistaken with the elevator speech. The “elevated speech” should be us telling what we really do and why what we do is so important. The example I like to give here is the answer that we hear so many times from teachers: “Oh, I’m just a teacher.” I’ll admit I’m guilty of having done this. But, are you kidding me, “just a teacher?” I think not! Actually, I hope not!

Let’s take a look at teaching as a very significant profession, or “job.” Here is my elevated version: “Teachers have been given a great gift – the power to change lives, each day I must be inspirational. I am a significant human being helping other human beings to realize their full potential and go on and make a positive difference in their world.” What do you think?

Achor posited that our beliefs create our world. He argued that if we elevate the story of what we do, we will get a new spring in our step and renewed inspiration for what we do each day. He’s right because Gallup (2017) told us that 60% of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them. Here’s the challenge, though, in 2016, only 33% of U.S. employees were

engaged – involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace (Gallup, 2017). This translates to only 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agreeing that in the last year, they have had opportunities to learn and grow (Gallup,2017). This is a huge engagement issue. Gallup (2017) results suggested that by moving that ratio to eight in 10 employees, organizations could realize 44% less absenteeism, 41% fewer safety incidents, 24% higher retention, and 16% higher productivity. I guess it is time to elevate those we serve.

Just like the story of the SS Crusher, we all have unique gifts, jobs to do, and make a significant difference in the world. Let’s get engaged and elevated! What’s your elevated story?

Reference

Gallup (2017). State of the American Workplace. Gallup, Inc. Washington D.C

Rewriting The Story To Create The Future!

Story Driven: You don't need to compete when you know who you areStory Driven: You don’t need to compete when you know who you are by Bernadette Jiwa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rewriting The Story To Create The Future!

This book is outstanding and warrants the writing of a review. I did a great deal of highlighting while reading this book and tweeting. Bernadette does an outstanding job of guiding us through how to differentiate ourselves, our brands, and our organizations by telling the right story. In order to do this she teaches us in the reading how to know who we are, what we stand for, where we are headed, and what has made us personally, our brand, and our organization. Most importantly, she teaches us why this story is important to be told. She posits we need to forget about competition and focus on what makes us and our work unique and valuable. It was great to be reminded that we, and those we serve, are identified by what we do. Our story needs to be one of significance and not just success. Anyone who wants to be grounded, intentional, and deliberate in the creation of the future he or she wants the world to realize needs to read this book.

~Dr. Byron L. Ernest

View all my reviews

Ready, Set, Switch – Shape Up Your Social Media

This guest post originally appeared on Forbes

Ready, Set, Switch – Shape Up Your Social Media

By Dr. Dawn Graham

If you’re a job seeker who isn’t on social media, you might as well not exist.

That’s a harsh statement, but in today’s technology-based world, there’s a basic expectation that you’re at least mildly engaged online, especially in the business world. Clients, employers, network contacts and even social acquaintances want to connect with you virtually.

So if you’ve been resisting social media, now is the time to get in the game, especially if you’re in a job search. You don’t need to go so far as to consult your teenager about the latest Apps, but there are a few foundational things that will help significantly.

First, the “why:”

Working your network. Contacts and referrals continue to be the best source for finding new employment opportunities, and it’s pretty difficult to network if you’re not on LinkedIn when over 500,000,000 other people are. While you may be well-connected in your local geography, networking crosses global boundaries now, and the internet enables you to easily access that world. Don’t limit your reach.

Information sharing. Over 90% of companies reported using social media in their recruiting and hiring in efforts. While LinkedIn was by far the top online site, Facebook and Twitter are gaining speed. Some recruiters use the tools to research candidates, while others use them as vehicles for posting openings and sharing updates. If you’re not following, you’re missing out. Additionally, the Society for Human Resource Management found that 35% of employers were less likely to interview candidates they could not find online.

Getting recruited. Passive hiring is on the rise according to 2018 hiring trends, and it’s hard to be “found” if you’re not active online. To be competitive, you need to go beyond the basic profile. Your online presence needs to be intentional, showcasing your brand and demonstrating qualities that are attractive to your target audience. The Undercover Recruiter recently reported that passive candidates are 120% more likely to want to make a positive impact on their new organization. With pressure to find stellar talent, recruiters are recognizing this and prefer to find YOU. They can’t do that if your profile doesn’t exist or reflects who you were five years ago.

Now the “how:”

Reconnaissance. Google yourself. Find out what comes up when you search for your name online. Is it a professional, updated LinkedIn profile at the top of the results list, or a DUI mug shot of someone who shares your name? Also, check your social media sites for questionable content and clean up photos or old posts that are not reflective of your professional brand. Even if your pages are “private,” chances are one of your contacts is connected to your new employer in some way. The world is getting smaller and that provocative photo at your friend’s wedding in Vegas may have been hilarious at the time, but not at all impressive to a potential employer. In fact, 55% of employers admitted to reconsidering a candidate after what they found online.

Rebranding. Dust off your LinkedIn and ensure it reflects your current skills, interests, and accomplishments. Is it time for a new photo? Have you been remiss in connecting with new people you’ve met in the last few months (don’t forget the power of 2nd level contacts!). Is your profile linked to an old company you used to work for or do you include dates that make it easy to calculate your age when you’d rather not publicize it? You don’t need to, nor should you, include everything about yourself online. However, a few well-placed accomplishments and a descriptive summary will take you far. Bonus: A study by Jobvite showed that 65% of employers who noticed volunteer or charity work on prospective candidates profiles viewed them more favorably.

Repurpose. Create a strategy to get active online to expand your brand professionally. Create a personal webpage, blog, or company page. If you’ve shied away from these strategies in the past, you might be surprised at how easy (and inexpensive) these things are today. If you’re not ready for that, follow influencers online whose work reflects your value and interests, and then repost their content with your network, sharing your insights. Also, check your daily notifications for anniversaries, birthdays or announcements about your network, which are easy ways to stay in touch. Create Google Alerts that do the heavy lifting for you by bringing relevant information directly to your inbox.

If you still long for a life before texting and Twitter, you’re definitely not alone. However, these are the rules of engagement in today’s job search, so find a balance that works for you and get in the game. A job search is tough enough – why not tip the odds in your favor?

Happy Hunting!

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Dr. Dawn Graham, PhD is one of the nation’s leading career coaches. She is the Career Director for the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School, where she counsels business leaders on making strategic career choices. A licensed psychologist and former corporate recruiter, she hosts SiriusXM Radio’s popular weekly call-in show Career Talk and is a regular contributor to Forbes.

Her latest book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers – and Seize Successis written specifically for people thinking about changing career paths. Packed with psychological insights, practical exercises, and inspiring success stories, Switchers helps these individuals leap over obstacles and into a whole new field.

A KISS of Stardom!

IMG_3094This week I had the opportunity to do something that I had never done before. I became Gene Simmons as a part of a team in a Battle Of The Bands Lip Sync Contest. This was part of our Carolina Schools Big Potential Leadership Conference put on by Noble Education Initiative, Inc. What an experience. Although each of the group’s members is iconic, perhaps the most memorable of them all is front man Gene Simmons, who is famous for his demonic character that breathes fire, spits blood, and engages in all sorts of outrageous behavior on stage. Here’s the deal: when we hit the stage, after an hour and a half of getting in costume and having makeup put on, I became Gene Simmons. I even spit blood. And, I didn’t lip sync. I sang every word of “Rock And Roll All Night.” Then, I spit blood (we got the fake blood capsules at a party supply place and I put the all in my mouth – what a mess) and did “God Of Thunder.” The crowd was going wild – literally. I’ve got to tell you, I did not want it to end. It was addictive.

So, what did I learn?

IMG_3093Shared Vision and Enthusiasm – Everyone, regardless of her or his age, knows KISS, the band. They are the band that would wear 6-inch heels, has blue/black hair, paints their faces, and one member, Gene Simmons, who would spit blood and blow fire. Amazingly, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know that. Furthermore, when my colleagues and I started our rendition of “Rock and Roll All Night” it amazed me that everyone knew the words and sang along. It wasn’t just singing, though, it was singing with enthusiasm. We could tell, the song meant something to this group. Everyone was connecting in some way to it. As leaders, that is our job to make connections. Whether that means partnerships, or connecting everyone in the organization to a shared vision.

Engagement – I did a session yesterday morning on student engagement. While I was facilitating that session I was thinking about my rock band front man experience. My job both as a facilitator and front-man was to move, affect and engage an audience. This is also true in a classroom. We must move our students toward proficiency of skill, standards, and competencies, as well as affect change in their lives, while engaging them.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 1.58.38 PMThe Band Is A Team – While I acted out the part of the demonic and crazed front man part of our our band, I realized it was the other three members of our band that made it all possible. Others in the band literally got my costume ready and did my makeup. They were supporting my antics on stage and supporting me acting crazy. The lesson here is that we can never be as good by ourselves as we can be as part of a team.

We All Need A Brand or To Be A Part of A Brand – The 2016 Gallup survey information tells us that we all want to be part of a successful brand or part of an organization that is doing good in the world. KISS holds all the records for record sales for any rock band ever – including Elvis and the Beatles. Their empire is worth over 1 billion dollars and there are over 3000 branded KISS products on the market today. KISS is a rock BRAND not a rock Band. What is your brand?

Have A No Limits Attitude and Approach To Life – There truly are no limits to what you can achieve. Success is a mind set. We all need to have a growth mindset. Either you think you can achieve it, or you don’t. Never let someone else tell you what you can and cannot achieve. Control those thoughts yourself.

IMG_3108Upon reflection, I got chills thinking about a few things:

  • Without KISS, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
  • What would the world and I be like if there were no KISS?
  • What band would have been my mentor to have a no-holds-barred attitude toward going after all my dreams?
  • Who would have taught me it doesn’t matter what the critics are saying because you cannot please everyone; I learned, from KISS, to go after what I believe will create change in the world?
  • Without Gene Simmons I don’t have the example of a humanitarian. Simmons received the MEND Humanitarian award, for his support of Mending Kids International, which provides surgical care to children in developing countries. During his acceptance speech he said, “I don’t have the right NOT to give back and neither do you. Some mother somewhere is crying her heart out because her child can’t have what we have in this country and we can change that.” Did you catch that? “I don’t have the right NOT to give back…” I heard you loud and clear, Gene!

IMG_3109 2IMG_3110As you can see, Gene Simmons and KISS has had quite an affect on me since the band began when I was 10 years old. I am so glad they have been a part of my life. I am also glad I had the opportunity this week to experience a very, very, very, very small part of what it feels like to be Gene Simmons on stage.

Learning By Playing Like Kittens

Those of you who know me well, know that I really value my time in the barn in the morning. For some reason I can be working along giving bottles to babies, milking cows, or washing heifers, and at the same time, be thinking and reflecting on a lot of things. This morning I became entranced while watching a new litter of kittens romping and playing. They would go from one end of the barn to the other and then became totally into playing on a feed pallet we had leaned up against a grooming chute. They would climb, jump, and knock each other off. Such fun!

I began to think about all the things learned while playing. I also thought about how important it is for us to make learning fun for both our student and adult learners. Here is what kittens learn from playing, according to iheartcats:

6 Life Skills Kittens Learn By Playing With Each Other

• #1 – How to hunt. Kitten play is full of stalking, chasing, and tackling to the ground. …

• #2 – Good social skills. In order to grow into social, emotionally-healthy cats, kittens need to be socialized. …

• #3 – Coordination. …

• #4 – Communication. …

• #5 – Confidence. …

• #6 – Boundaries.

Most of these are skills we need all need to have. I have to tell you I witnessed a large group engaged in fun learning this past Friday. I had the opportunity to keynote an event. Click here to read about it. During my keynote, that was about the critical need for relevant learning, I had the over 200 participants put together toy glider planes I had put on the tables ahead of time. Everyone at each table became a team and the participants developed team names and then wrote the team name on the wing of their plane. Four containers had then been placed at the corners of the room and boundaries marked off. The participants were given time to put the planes together, practice, and then given one try at gliding the plane into the container.

I have to tell you, every person was up and engaged. There were questions being asked, teams practicing, laughing, strategizing, and adults and students having fun. It was amazing! Check out this video tweet – it shows it all. Click here to watch. All the while, they were learning the importance of learning in a relevant and engaging way. And…let’s see here…they were learning social skills – team work, coordination, communication – giving advice and feedback to one another, confidence – rooting each other on, and boundaries.

So, just as we know play is the cornerstone of the kitten’s learning process in the first few weeks and months of its life; I believe it is also the cornerstone of learning for our students and lifelong learning adults. It is by playing together that we humans and kittens will develop both physical and mental abilities. But play is more than that: it is also good, rollicking fun, which in turn increases both the kitten’s and our social skills, technical skills, and sociability.

The Critical Need for Relevant Learning

IMG_3066This past Friday I had the opportunity to attend and keynote a tremendous event put on by the Horizon Education Alliance. The event was called “Pathway Showcase” and was held in the Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre, which by the way is an awesome facility in Elkhart, Indiana.  More than 200 local educators, business and state government leaders were there to see project based learning (PBL) projects that were created in partnerships between students, teachers, and business leaders. These projects were created in order to teach our students in a relevant context – a subject near and dear to my heart. There were more than 40 of these projects that took place this past year. I continue to be so impressed with the work of Horizon Education Alliance to bring the Elkhart County community together to collaborate for the betterment of education for our students.

During my keynote I talked about how we need to connect school work to real life. I told attendees that education exists in the larger context of society. Students need to know why they are learning what we are teaching and how the learning fits into his/her real world context. When society changes, so too must education, if it is to remain viable. We need to be teaching our students to use adaptation to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate to apply the learning to real world predictable and unpredictable situations. If we can achieve this level of relevant learning our students will be motivated and have the ability to creatively innovate and problem solve.

I was so inspired to spend time talking with the students, teachers, and industry leaders about their projects. What I found were students working in teams to experience and explore relevant, real-world problems, questions, issues, and challenges; then creating presentations and products to share what they have learned. What I found were engaged students who were great communicators and very passionate about the projects created for their learning.

IMG_3039All the projects were awesome, but a couple really spoke to me. Chamberlain Elementary School students walked me through how they had learned to create by developing a first draft, multiple revisions, practicing and receiving feedback, and then finishing the final draft. These Chamberlain Explorers were learning to iterate. The students would not let me leave without sharing the Chamberlain Habits of Scholarship. See photo below for the habits:

IMG_3038I also had the opportunity to meet students from Elkhart Memorial High School who had been doing real world/real time research on soybean phytopathology with scientists from Agdia, Inc. As a former Agriculture Science teacher I could not have been prouder of these students. We cannot make it much more relevant for our students than having them do actual research on real problems with actual scientists. This adult interaction is also a very important part of facilitating relevant learning.

IMG_3033At the end of the event I really got emotional and realized that the world is going to be o.k. as long as we continue to teach our students relevant skills in engaging ways. Here are my final thoughts on how to make learning relevant and meaningful for our students:

To learn collaboration  work in teams

To learn critical thinking – take on complex problems

To learn oral communication – present

To learn written communications – write

Thank you to all the schools in Elkhart County and to Horizon Education Alliance for inspiring me and what you are doing for students!

 

You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

This guest post originally appeared on the Conversations Worth Having Blog

You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

By Cheri Torres

Adopt an attitude of curiosity about life. When we are genuinely curious, we naturally ask generative questions. Such questions:

• Make room for diverse and different perspectives. How do you see it?

• Surface new information and knowledge. How did they manage this process at your previous place of work?

• Stimulate creativity and innovation. What might be possible if we . . .?

When dealing with any issue, even difficult issues, generative questions make unseen information visible and result in conversations that create trust, positive energy, and the transformative power to move the system forward in a desired direction. The result: new ways for solving complex problems and compelling images for collective action.  Here is a table from our book, Conversations Worth Having.

Here’s an example that parents of teenagers will easily relate to. Monica, mother of a teenage boy, uses generative questions to change the conversational dynamic with her son. Monica had been in the midst of a recurring argument with her son, Aiden. She was tired of the same old interaction that never produced a way forward. Aiden wanted to borrow the car over the weekend to go ‘do things’ with his friends, and Monica didn’t like the idea of him joyriding with the possibility of getting into trouble. Their critical conversations had created a rift between them, which saddened Monica, but she didn’t know what else to do. Suddenly, in mid-conversation, it occurred to her she could use the practice she’s learned at work for shifting the tone and direction of a conversation. When Aiden started to reiterate the argument, Monica held up her hand, paused and said, “I really do understand why you want the car, and I hope you understand why I’m worried for your safety and well-being. So, how can we have a more productive conversation? How can we come to some agreement that allows you to get the car and me to feel comfortable that you’ll make good decisions, even if your friends are pressuring you?”

Aiden was stopped in his tracks. This time it was his turn to pause, and then they began a brand new conversation that promised to be worthwhile . . . and it was. Monica’s question allowed Aiden to let his mom know he did understand. He shared that sometimes he was glad he hadn’t been allowed to have the car because of where his friends ended up. But other times, he’d missed out on experiences he wanted to have and at those times, he felt she was being over protective. Upon hearing that, she realized she hadn’t even considered that part of the stalemate might be her own refusal to let go. They eventually arrived at an agreement to start small and keep expanding car privileges as trust and confidence grew between them.

Monica shifted the conversation out of critical debate and into a conversation worth having by reframing the situation and asking a generative question. This simple action shifted the tone and direction of the conversation. It allowed both of them to step back, reflect for a moment, and be more open and honest, and this shifted the outcome of their interaction.  [To read more stories like this, order Conversations Worth Having today.]

This is one of the most valuable practices you can develop for building strong relationships, expanding the potential of a group, surfacing possibilities in the face of challenges, and rapidly moving towards desired goals.

Generative questions often arise naturally when we frame a conversation around what we want but don’t currently have. For example, “I don’t have the money to buy a new car” to “I do have the money to buy a new car.” It’s as if the second statement primes our question generator automatically:

• “Where did the money come from?”

• “What did I do to earn, find, or save it?”

• “What miracle might occur to support that?”

• “I wonder how I could ask for a raise, it’s been six years, and they tell me I’m a real asset.” What if I frame it as an adjustment in pay?

• “What if I offered a workshop and had just enough people coming to pay for the car?”

Take the opportunity now to try this little miracle maker with your own problems or “don’t wants”.  Flip it, and then let the generative questions flow. Let your curiosity and imagination help you turn the flip into your future reality. You can download the Executive Summary for an overview of the practices and principles.

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About Cheri Torres:

Cheri Torres, Ph.D. brings the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, design thinking, and an ecological worldview to communities and organizations striving for sustainable growth. Her work facilitates learning, innovation, and dynamic interpersonal relationships capable of achieving remarkable outcomes. Cheri has worked with diverse communities across the globe, from public schools and community organizations to corporations and government entities, to elevate their strengths and broaden their capacity for collaboration and collective intelligence. She has trained thousands of trainers and teachers in the use and practice of Appreciative Inquiry and Experiential Learning, with a particular focus on leadership development, teamwork, creativity, and sustainable collaboration.

She has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, the newest of which is Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement co-authored with Jackie Stavros.