Byron's Babbles

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.

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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.

What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?

Last week I finished reading an incredible book by our former Vice President Joe Biden. Ever since I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with him and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, back in 2010, I was impressed. As Indiana Teacher of the Year, I spent an afternoon at the residence of Joe and Jill Biden. Number One Observatory Circle is the official residence of the Vice President of the United States. Located on the northeast grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., the house was built in 1893 for its superintendent. I just remember thinking how real and genuine the Vice President and Dr. Biden were. They cared about our country, our kids, and the world.

In the book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. Vice President Biden opens up and allows himself to be vulnerable. The throughline of the book is about his son’s battle with brain cancer. Vice President Biden recounts in vivid, heart-wrenching detail what it was like for him and his family from the time his eldest son, Beau, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was diagnosed with brain cancer, to his death less than two years later and the aftermath. The Vice President spoke of his son being like him but better. He said, “Beau Biden, at age 45, was Joe Biden 2.0,” Biden writes. “He had all the best of me, but with the bugs and flaws engineered out.” What a great reflection to be able to have about one’s son.

The book was also an awesome recount of the history and what was going on in our country and the world at the time. The Vice President opened up about his weekly lunches with President Obama and the tremendous friendship that developed. Having spent time with the President on the same trip I met Vice President Biden I can understand how that friendship could happen. Both are guys that you would want to be friends with and hang out with.

Probably, the story that most resonated with me in the book was when President Obama, at lunch, asked the Vice President, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” This question really caused me to reflect. I believe that it caused Joe Biden to reflect as well. This wasn’t about success, being President of the United States, or some job; it was about being significant. I thought the Vice President summed it up nicely in the epilogue of the book when he said, “So how do I want to spend the rest of my life? I want to spend as much time with my family, and I want to help change the country and the world for the better. That duty does much more than give me purpose; it gives me something to hope for. It makes me nostalgic for the future.” How can we argue with duty giving us purpose and hope.

“Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”~ Immanuel Kant

The question of “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” caused such great reflection in me that I decided to use it as the inspiration for a session at our Indiana Cohort training of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program. Participants were asked to think about the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” They were to list these things out and then determine what they would like their legacy to be.

This was the catalyst for an incredible discussion. The comment and part of the discussion that most excited me was when one of our very talented young aspiring leaders said, “You know, before you told us not to think in terms of jobs, promotions, or titles, that is where I was headed. This is the first time I’ve really thought in terms of being significant and having a purpose.” Mission accomplished! The graphic recordings each participant made on the tables during this session say it all. Here are a few samples:

So, I leave you with this thought: “What do you want to do with your life?”

Leadership To Tear Down Walls

IMG_2465Today, I had the opportunity to stand in Berlin, Germany where President Ronald Reagan stood in 1987 behind two panes of bulletproof glass 100 yards from the Berlin Wall at the Brandenberg Gate and called on the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to dismantle it. I can remember that speech like it was yesterday and to then be standing there, was awe inspiring.

Think about it, at that time it was a very powerful stage: a United States president in front of the Brandenburg Gate at the height of the Cold War, with an East Berlin security post visible behind him. President Reagan firmly said, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That is audacious leadership, and why President Reagan is at the top of my most admired Presidents list.IMG_2452

The effects of the speech have been debated by historians, but I will always believe it was an important part to the wall coming down and the freedom and unification of Germany. President Reagan’s speech emphasized freedom and reunification, and then ingeniously and deliberately asked for more than Gorbachev would stretch to. President Reagan saw an opportunity to undercut Europe’s perception of the Russian leader as a leader of peace. A little more than two years later, on Nov. 9, 1989, East and West Germans converged on the wall and began dismantling it after East Germany lifted travel restrictions. The country was reunified less than a year later in 1990. The wall had been in place from 1961-1989.

As a leader, President Reagan was showing us his resilience to continue working with the Soviet Union to end the Cold War. Most who listened at the time viewed Reagan’s speech as a dramatic appeal to Gorbachev to renew negotiations on nuclear arms reductions. eight months before, a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev had ended unsatisfactorily, with both sides charging the other with bad faith in talks aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals. Reagan, who had formed a personal closeness to Gorbachev during their previous meetings, obviously wanted to move those negotiations forward. In December 1987, the two met once again and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles from Europe.

IMG_2463President Reagan was a great leader because of his vision. He said, “America is too great for small dreams.” I believe this is true of every organization we lead. We need to dream big. My favorite President certainly did. Great leaders are not satisfied with small dreams. Rather than trying to just gain an edge over the Soviet Union, Reagan totally dismantled the “Evil Empire”, where he succeeded. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall was just one part of that vision.

Here is what former President George Bush had to say about President Reagan, “Our friend was strong and gentle. Once he called America hopeful, big hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That was America and, yes, our friend. And next, Ronald Reagan was beloved because of what he believed. He believed in America so he made it his shining city on a hill. He believed in freedom so he acted on behalf of its values and ideals. He believed in tomorrow so the great communicator became the great liberator.” President Reagan had a huge vision and had the audacity to go after it. Because of that the world is a better place and more nations are free because of him. Do you have an an uplifting and positive vision for your organization and our country and their future. Let’s get out there and tear down the walls.

Setting Your Leadership Style

IMG_2258Last evening we did a really cool project during our 3D Leadership Development Program. First of all, the participants were tasked with bringing 10 pictures of leaders that had influenced the participants in a positive way. I must say that all participants put a great deal of thought and reflection into this and all brought their 10 pictures to our gathering. To begin with I had the participants quickly pick four of the leaders and make/draw/create their own person Mount Rushmore with the four most influential leader examples in their lives. These turned out really cool and I have included some pictures of the personal Mount Rushmores that were created, here:

IMG_2254IMG_2255In the discussion afterward, the participants explained how tough it was for them to just pick the four influencers for the original Mount Rushmore. Creating that frustration of only picking four was by design. It is very tough to only pick four for a Mount Rushmore. At the same time we need to realize that our influencers come and go. Also, our influencers have different levels of influence at different times. In other words, as we take our journey of leadership, our role model can, or maybe need to, change. This is why I love reading about a diverse group of leaders. For example, right now I am reading about President James K. Polk. I don’t think he would make my current Mount Rushmore, but I am certainly learning things from his leadership style I can use. Some of them are things I have learned to not do, or stop doing. This is certainly important to our development. The bottom-line is that our personal Mount Rushmore should be continually changing. More importantly, we should constantly be studying and looking for new candidates for our own version of Mount Rushmore.

IMG_1857I have to admit, the idea for for this activity came from my own desire to have a drawing made of what would be my personal Mount Rushmore. Originally, I thought I would have the Wright Brothers, Gene Simmons (KISS), Patrick Henry, and Thomas Edison. But, then I started wanting President Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, President Harry Truman, et cetera. Honestly, I couldn’t decide so it never got done. In fact the person I wanted to do the drawing told me that it can’t be fixed, it needs to be fluid. In fact he suggested it should be a Mount Rushmore frame with no pictures and then I should have a bunch of magnet pictures to move in and out. Additionally, as new influencers come on, they can be added.

I’ve got to tell you, it really impacted me to see my picture on one of our participant’s Mount Rushmore. Others in the cohort were also on others’ Mount Rushmore’s or leadership mosaics (described next). This really caused me to think about and ask the question of “Am I worthy of this?” Particularly, when I was right next to Jesus on Mount Rushmore. See picture here:

IMG_2253After that activity and share out, I had participants go back and create a leadership mosaic using all 10 pictures/leaders. Here is what I asked them to do:

•Place a tear sheet on the wall
•Now create a collage with all 10 pictures
•Be creative so that the 10 individuals you selected are incorporated in a way that tells a story.
•Now gallery walk
•Place at least one comment on each
•Popcorn out things that jumped out at you

I have to tell you, this was impactful. There were individuals who teared up while looking at the 37+ mosaics that were created. It was amazing. Here are a few examples:

IMG_2256IMG_2257We then had a very impactful discussion about leadership style and influence. Then one of our always thoughtful and very engaged participants, Christopher Scholl, from Langtree Charter Academy Upper school spoke up and said, “What really struck me was how different everyone’s mosaics are, but everyone completed the assignment correctly, did everything we were supposed to, and all were very impactful.” We then had a discussion about this. Chris went on to say, “As leaders we need to lead more like the way you set up this activity. We need to lay out the vision, but how our teams and those we lead get there or what the final product looks like really does not matter and needs to be theirs to own.” Wow, this was an awesome discussion that came out of this. It really is intent-based leadership being described at its best. David Marquet would sure be proud. Get all the team developed in the technical skills necessary (otherwise it is chaos) and then let them do their jobs and tell you, the leader, what they intend to do. This will truly drive innovation and creativity. And…HELLO…it means the decisions will be made right where the data is being created.

It was also discussed how we must also create space like this for our students to be able to have the autonomy to create and not have to always turn in assignments where every child’s work looks exactly the same. This is why I am such a big believer that we should be looking at student outcomes and transferable skills. In fact, we should be changing our whole school accountability models to look at outcomes instead of outputs or the inputs.

The whole point of the personal Mount Rushmore and leadership mosaic activities was for participants to take a deep personal and reflective look at their personal leadership style. Keep in mind that leadership style is different than leadership skills, theory, and tactics. To me, leadership style focuses specifically on the traits, behaviors, and personalities of leaders. In my opinion, no one should ever let anyone determine their leadership style for them. Leadership styles can be broken down in several different ways depending on what information is being looked at. There are many ways to define styles, such as: being charismatic, participative, situational, transactional, transformational, adaptive, disruptive, loud/boisterous (like me), quiet or servant-like. One more way to differentiate leadership styles is according to whether leaders are task-oriented or people-oriented. Task-oriented leaders are said to have a considerate style and people-oriented leaders an initiating-structure style.

So why was it important for us to take a deep look at our own personal leadership style and recognize those we learned those skills from. Since organizations are always striving to find great leaders that can lead them to success, much effort has been put forth into finding out how they operate. More specifically, organizations are trying to identify the characteristics and behaviors associated with the best leaders. As a result, many leadership theories have been developed over the years that attempt to explain what makes a leader great. Organizations figure if they can identify the traits that make a successful leader, they cannot only identify potential leaders more readily, but also can hone in on those specific skills for improvement. While I agree with all of what I am saying here, I also want to make sure we do not lose sight of the fact that leadership style should be an individual thing. I certainly would not want a world where all the leaders looked and acted exactly the same. I do have some leaders, however, I would love to know who the world is on their Mount Rushmore and who they are using as a role model. Ill bet you have some you are wondering about too.

I challenge those reading this post to reflect on who is on your Mount Rushmore or your leadership mosaic. Most importantly, I encourage you to reflect on whether you are worthy of being on someone else’s Mount Rushmore or leadership mosaic. Thinking about being on someone else’s Mount Rushmore is not egotistical or vain; It is, again, about reflecting on our worthiness of being a role-model of leadership influence. I would love to have some replies of who you would put on your personal Mount Rushmore and why.

Seek It with Your Hands: Integrate Head, Heart, and Hand

The following is an excerpt from The Essentials of Theory U

Seek It with Your Hands: Integrate Head,
Heart, and Hand

By Otto Scharmer

As the master coach puts it in the novel and 2000 movie Bagger Vance when helping a golfer who has lost his swing: “Seek it with your hands—don’t think about it, feel it. The wisdom in your hands is greater than the wisdom of your head will ever be.”

This is of course what artists have always known. Erik Lemcke, a sculptor and management consultant from Denmark, once shared with me his experience:

After having worked with a particular sculpture for some time, there comes a certain moment when things are changing. When this moment of change comes, it is no longer me, alone, who is creating. I feel connected to something far deeper, and my hands are co-creating with this power. At the same time, I feel that I am being led with love and care as my perception is widening. I sense things in another way. It is a love for the world and for what is coming. I then intuitively know what I must do. My hands know if I must add or remove something. My hands know how the form should manifest. In one way, it is easy to create with this guidance. In those moments I have a strong feeling of gratitude and humility.

My hands know. That is the key to operating on the right-hand side of the U. Moving down the left-hand side of the U is about opening up and dealing with the resistance of thought, emotion, and will. Moving up the right-hand side is about intentionally reintegrating the intelligences of the head, the heart, and the hand in the context of practical applications.

Just as the inner enemies on the way down the U deal with the Voice of Judgment, the Voice of Cynicism, and the Voice of Fear, the barriers on the way up the U are the three disconnected ways of operating:

Mindless action: executing without learning

Action-less mind: analysis paralysis

Blah-blah-blah: oversharing, talking without embodied change

The three barriers share the same structural feature: Instead of balancing the intelligence of the head, heart, and hand, one dominates (the head in analysis paralysis; the will in mindless action; and the heart in oversharing).

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More about Otto Scharmer

Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-sector innovation that helps leaders from business, government, and civil society to innovate at the level of the whole system. He is the author of Theory U (translated into 20 languages) and co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future, which outlines eight acupuncture points of transforming capitalism. His latest book, The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applicationsilluminates the blind spot in leadership today and offers hands-on methods to help change makers overcome it through the process, principles, and practices of Theory U.

In 2015, he co-founded the MITx u.lab, a massive open online course for leading profound change that has since activated a global eco-system of societal and personal renewal involving more than 100,000 users from 185 countries. With his colleagues, he has delivered award-winning leadership development programs for corporate clients and co-facilitated innovation labs on reinventing education, health, business, government, and well-being.

How Do We Change This World?

IMG_2188This morning as I was driving to visit with my mom I was listening to my favorite band, Alter Bridge. I would argue that no group has a line up of more inspiring songs. If you disagree, let’s have that discussion because I would love it, but that is not the point of this post. One of my top five songs from Alter Bridge is “Rise Today.” The main lyric of the song says, “I Wanna Rise Today And Change This World!” How can you not be inspired by that? But then as I sat with my mom, I got to thinking about what it, or what does it, mean to “rise today and change this world?” Particularly, when we all have different ideas of what it means to change the world.

img_0666Then I remembered what Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, so famously wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This got me thinking that if we really want to change the world we need to think and act on changes that we need to make to ourselves. Tolstoy’s dictum is a useful starting point for any leader engaged in organizational change that will change the world. I’m convinced that organizational change and changing the world is inseparable from individual change. Most change falters because individuals overlook the need to make fundamental changes in themselves.

There are a few pieces of the lyrics of “Rise Today” that really hit home as I was reflecting on the question of what it means to change the world. Here they are:

  • Have we lost our way tonight?
  • Have we lost our hope to sorrow?
  • Feels like we’re all alone, running further from what’s right
    And there are no more heroes to follow
  • Hope we find a better way before we find we’re left with nothing
  • Seems to me that we’ve got each other wrong. Was the enemy just your brother all along?

Research shows that half of all change efforts for transformational change fail either because leaders don’t act as role models for change or because people defend the status quo. Let me tell you, I have experienced this a lot lately. So as I think deeply about the five phrases I pulled from the song, it really comes down to something I learned from my studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education: Technical vs. Adaptive Leadership. The problem is we view most things as technical challenges and they really aren’t. Technical leadership is just about applying the solution we already know to apply. An example I can think of right now to illustrate the difference is with budgets. Most think doing a budget is just a math problem – tweak here, tweak there, presto… done. That would be a technical challenge. But, with all budgeting, difficult discussions, trade-offs, staffing changes and re-deployments, and disappointments happen—this is the adaptive leadership work.

“Adaptive leaders learn to live with unpredictability. They spend less time fretting about the inability to establish a routine or control the future and focus more on exploiting opportunities.” ~ Dr. Leonard Wong
Therefore, if I want to be an adaptive leaders and truly change the world I must go through the continual process of challenge, adaptation, and learning, which readies me for the next challenge. It also challenges me to examine whether, as Alter Bridge’s song says, whether “the enemy was just [my] brother all along.”  If we want to be adaptive leaders we need to hone the following skills:
  • Be able to consider diverse and conflicting views in all situations.
  • Be able to operate with autonomy under a general framework (and not just look for the easy way to be compliant).
  • Model great behaviors as being both technically and and tactically proficient.
  • Be mentally flexible and agile.
  • Recognize and be able to navigate the gap between the way things are and the desired state.
  • Understand there are multiple perspectives on the issue.
  • Remembering that new learning will absolutely need to happen.
  • Knowing that resistance will be triggered in stakeholders.

So, if we are going to change the world we know that behaviors and attitudes will need to change. The tough part is people with the problems are key to solving the problems. And, those groups will have varying opinions on solutions. Thus, why I believe the lyric, “Seems to me that we’ve got each other wrong. Was the enemy just your brother all along?” is so appropriate. We must also remember that with adaptive leadership, old ways need to change, and that will create a sense of loss for some (or a lot).

As I reflect on rising today to change this world, I believe we must, as leaders, not miss thinking, “What’s good, right, and just for everyone?”

Leading Like Billy Graham

With the passing of the great leader, Billy Graham, this week I feel compelled to reflect on what made him a great leader. It just so happened I was in Charlotte, North Carolina working with school leaders and teachers this week and had the opportunity to go to the Billy Graham Library, pay my respects, and reminisce about growing up with Billy Graham on our television set.

I grew up watching Billy Graham while sitting beside my dad on the couch in our living room. Growing up in a rural Christian home, we could relate to the teachings of this North Carolina man who, as his daughter has described him, was always a farmer at heart. Little did I know at the time I was witnessing one of the greatest leaders that would ever walk the earth (besides Jesus, of course) for 99 years. Also, little did I know he was teaching me to lead like Jesus.

It has been said that there are three very important questions that leaders must answer:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Who do I want to be?
  3. How do I make a difference in the greater world and bring influence to others?

Certainly, Billy Graham modeled answering these three leadership questions for us. There was never any doubt who Billy Graham was. He believed in Jesus, told the stories of Jesus, and that was who he was. He led with integrity because who he was on the outside was who he was on the inside, period. That was who he was and who he wanted to be. Bottom line: he wanted everyone to know Jesus, and that was that. As we would say today, “drop the mic!”

Furthermore, as a believer in the idea that leadership is influence, I am not sure you could name me anyone else who has influenced more people in a life span, other than Jesus of course. This morning as I was studying the day’s tweets, I came across one from Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz. She had written a tribute to her dad, “Daddy Is Home.” Needless to say, I was inspired. Click here to read it, because you’ll be inspired too.

A sentence Anne wrote in the statement really stood out to me. She said, “While he may be physically absent and his voice silent, I am confident that his message will continue to reverberate throughout the generations to come.” Wow! If leadership is influence, then this says it all. Even after passing, Billy Graham’s influence of changing the world and influencing others lives on. Powerful!

“While he may be physically absent and his voice silent, I am confident that his message will continue to reverberate throughout the generations to come. My prayer on this day of his move to Our Father’s House is that his death will be a rallying cry.  That tens of thousands of pastors, teachers, evangelists, and ordinary men and women will rise up to take his place.  That they will take up his message like a baton being passed in a relay race and faithfully pass it on to those with whom they come in contact. Because Daddy’s message is God’s message.  And it’s a message of genuine hope for the future, of love for the present, of forgiveness for the past.” ~ Anne Graham Lotz

We all look for leaders who can appreciate our vulnerability and inspire us, understand us, support us, and guide us through looming chaos. We are inspired and influenced when this happens. As leaders, we need to understand who we are, why we are doing something, and be clear about about our own core values and goals when applying our skills of influence. That way, influence comes from a place of authenticity and has the greatest impact. Remember, to be truly influential, we need to be the same person on the outside that we are on the inside.

The Servant Leadership: Self-Esteem Connection

IMG_2023The Servant Leadership: Self-Esteem Connection

By Ken Blanchard

Originally Appeared on the Ken Blanchard Companies Blog 

Servant leadership is best described as an others-focused form of leadership. It’s not an easy model to follow for leaders who believe in commanding and controlling their people—but it is easy for leaders with high self-esteem. Such people have no problem giving credit to others. They have no problem listening to other people for ideas. They have no problem building other people up. They don’t see praising others as a threat to themselves in any way. People with high self-esteem buy into the ancient Chinese philosophy of Lao Tzu:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” 

Leaders who place themselves in the center of the universe and think everything must rotate around them are really covering up not-okay feelings about themselves. This is an ego problem that manifests as either fear or false pride. When you don’t feel good about yourself, you have two choices. You can either hide and hope nobody notices you, or you can overcompensate and go out and try to control your environment. I think people who feel the need to control their environment are just scared little kids inside.

I learned from the late Norman Vincent Peale that the best leaders combine a healthy self-acceptance with humility.  Norman liked to say, “Leaders with humility don’t think less of themselves—they just think about themselves less.” To me, this approach sounds like a great way to begin for an aspiring servant leader.

Coaching and Self-Esteem

To me, servant leadership is a good way to describe the role that managers are expected to play today to help their people win. Judging and evaluating people erodes their self-esteem, but servant leadership builds self-esteem and encourages individual growth while attaining the organization’s objectives.

Servant leadership is something people need. Leaders need to support and help individuals in the organization to win. The days of the manager being judge, jury, and critic are over. Today, a manager needs to be a cheerleader, facilitator, and listener. Managers who are servant leaders are the ones most likely to achieve both lasting relationships and great results. 

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servant_leadership_in_action_3dMore about Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is a best-selling business author with over 21 million books sold. His newest book, Servant Leadership in Action, is being released on March 6. Ken is also hosting a free Servant Leadership in Action Livecast on February 28 featuring more than 20 authors, CEOs, and thought leaders speaking on the topic.  Learn more here!