Byron's Babbles

8 Tips for Riding the Mood Elevator

MoodElevator-Floors-LarrySenn 2This is a guest post from Larry Senn:

The Mood Elevator is an illustration of the human condition; it is our moment-to-moment experience of life. We all ride the Mood Elevator every day, take a moment and identify what floor you are on right now.

The Mood Elevator map is based on my own experience, as well as input from hundreds of groups and tens of thousands of people who have attended seminars that Senn Delaney, the culture shaping firm has put on over the past few decades.

Look at the top of the Mood Elevator and think of the times you’re more likely to be at those levels. It could be when you hug your children at the end of the day, it could be spending quality time with your significant other, or it could be when you accomplish something at work. We all, of course, would love to live on the higher levels but that’s just not realistic. As part of the human condition we will experience loss, stress, financial insecurity and other events that will cause us to drop down to depression, anger, and stress.51zlHThxx6L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

In my new book The Mood Elevator, I provide a variety of tips and tools that will help you better understand your human dashboard as well as help you navigate the daily up and down ride of the Mood Elevator.

Here are 8 tips to help you better ride The Mood Elevator:

  1. Know that to be human means you will ride the Mood Elevator and visit each and every floor. Don’t expect to live at the top of the Mood Elevator all of the time, cut yourself some slack when you drop down.
  2. Learn to recognize the feelings that accompany any unhealthy normal thinking or thought patterns, and make them a loud bell. When you start experiencing feelings like: impatience, anger, anxiety, excessive intensity, neediness, disconnection, and self-righteousness it’s a good indication that you’re sliding down the Mood Elevator. When you recognize this, you can take some corrective action to avoid an unhealthy normal.
  3. Use pattern interrupts to change your thinking and your feelings. Pattern interrupts are anything healthy tactics that can help you escape your spiraling negative thoughts. They can include exercise, calling a good friend, watching a funny YouTube video, or getting a good night sleep.
  4. Feed the thoughts you favor, not those that drop you to the lower floors on the Mood Elevator. If you find yourself reminiscing on a negative event in the past, or fixating on a mistake you made at work or might make at work in the future- recognize that your thoughts are going negative. You can identify your thoughts based on your feelings, if you’re feeling worried- it’s probably because you’re having worried thoughts. Use a pattern interrupt or think about something you are grateful for to break that train of thought.
  5. Take better care of yourself and remember to stretch and recover with exercise, sleep, and time off. We are more likely to catch colds if we are run down physically, and we are also more likely to catch bad moods when we are run down physically. Exercise has many mood boosting benefits and eating the right foods can help keep our energy levels up which improves our moods. Have you ever noticed how life can look so much better after a good night sleep? Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night can drastically help us stay up the Mood Elevator.
  6. Maintain a gratitude perspective, count your blessings daily and be grateful for life itself. Even when life doesn’t look as good as we would like it to, there are always things to be grateful for. Those who choose to look at life with gratitude are happier than those who don’t. Try starting a gratitude practice by making a daily list of what you are grateful for.
  7. Remember that your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states; delay important conversations and decisions; don’t act on your unreliable thinking, and don’t take your lower mood state out on other people.
  8. Have faith that when you are down the Mood Elevator; this too shall pass-just like the weather. The sun is always up there; the clouds can obscure it, but they will pass as will your low mood.

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About Dr. Larry Senn

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.

 

 

 

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Growth Vs. A Fixed Mindset

MoodElevator-Floors-LarrySennThe following is a guest post by Dr. Larry Senn:

The Mood Elevator is an illustration of the human condition; it is our moment-to-moment experience of life. We all ride the Mood Elevator every day, take a moment and identify what floor you are on right now.

Of course, the goal is to stay at the top of the Mood Elevator more often and there are some techniques that can help you do that. Most of those tricks involve a switch in thinking and changing your perspective.

One of those perspective shifts is focusing on having a growth mindset versus having a fixed mindset. This was researched by Carol Dweck and written about extensively in her book called Mindset. In her writing she explains that if someone has a fixed mindset they believe that their intelligence and talents are fixed traits and they won’t get any better. Compare that to someone with a growth mindset who believes that they can always improve through hard work and dedication. They believe they can always be learning something new and where they are right now doesn’t need to be where they are forever.

This growth mindset can help tremendously in getting you out of the basement of the Mood Elevator. Let’s take a look at the bottom floors and see how you might apply this:

Impatient/frustrated: Let’s say you’re stuck in traffic or waiting for your turn at the DMV. Most people will sit there frustrated at the time wasted waiting, but if you take on a growth mindset you could be catching up on reading that article or listening to that podcast that you claim you never have time for.

Irritated/bothered: When you’re working from home or doing chores around the house and your child keeps bugging you to listen to a story they want to tell you or to go play with them outside- instead of going to irritation or bother, take 5 minutes and listen to them or play with them, you never know what you might learn about them (or yourself) in that short time.

Worried/anxious: Imagine your boss just asked you to take on a new project you’ve never done before and you’re worried you’ll mess it up. Instead think about all that you’ll learn by doing this and how you can translate that to your next project and you might even be able to add a new skill to your resume.

Defensive/insecure: Many of us tend to shut down or get defensive when we’re offered constructive criticism. Instead, take a deep breath, set your ego aside, and look at it through the growth mindset lens. Focus on what you can learn from it and how you can improve.

Judgmental/blaming: Your spouse is driving and is taking (in your eyes) the “wrong way” to the restaurant you’re having dinner. Instead of immediately telling them how wrong they are, don’t give unsolicited advice and just relax. You might learn a new and faster way to your favorite restaurant.

Self-righteous: When you’re talking with a friend and they say something wrong about a current event happening (at least in your head it’s wrong). Instead of pointing that out to them, you might ask why they see it that way. Part of growing it hearing new perspectives on things, and again you’ll probably learn something new.

Stressed/burned out: Stressed with an upcoming deadline at work? Chances are this isn’t the first deadline you’ve been stressed about. Think back to a time this happened before and remember how you grew from it and what you learned.

Angry/hostile: Is someone you know being rude or mean towards you? Instead of getting angry back at them, try asking them how they’re doing. You might learn something they’re going through and you’ll grow more as an empathetic person.

Depressed: If you’re going through something that is tough and seems unfair, ask yourself “why is this happening for me?” instead of “why is this happening to me?” You probably have a great growth opportunity or a blessing in disguise coming out of this tough situation. Focus on how you can grow from it instead of sitting in the discomfort.

51zlHThxx6L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Changing floors on our Mood Elevator is a matter of simply changing the way we think or having a change in perspective. It is simple, but by no means easy. It will take time to start automatically thinking like this but with enough time it will come!

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About Dr. Larry Senn
Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.

Hands On & Hands In Leadership

While doing my doctoral dissertation I had the occasion to do an in-depth review of the academic and practical literature on leadership. Make no mistake it is impossible to read it all. There have been tens of thousands of books written on leadership and there are several academic journals devoted entirely to the subject. The task of reviewing the leadership literature, and acting on it as leader, isn’t to understand it all (that is impossible). It is up to us, as leaders, to develop a point of view on the few themes that matter most.

One of the phrases that has always stuck with me from my leadership studies is from the brilliant Warren Bennis. He said, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.” Furthermore, in Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader he asserted, “There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial.” I believe there is a distinction between leadership and management, but I also believe that the best leaders do something that might properly be called a mix of leadership and management. 

Lesson #42 entitled “The Right Job, Done Right” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart really drove home the fact that we must make sure the tasks we are doing are the best use of our and our team’s time. Being efficient does not mean anything if we are not doing the right things, or more importantly, things that matter. Remember, the content matters more than the form. 

So, to be a great leader I would argue we need to understand what it takes to do things right, and to make sure they actually get done. It’s really a balance of mastering seeing the big picture and selecting the right strategies. I always say my job is to know what to have my hands on and what to have my hands in. 

Inspiration of Herbert Hoover Leadership

Today, my family and I had the privilege of visiting the Hoover Historic Site in his birthplace of West Branch, Iowa. The historic site is well done with the home Herbert Hoover was born in, his dad’s blacksmith shop, his one room schoolhouse, the Quaker Meeting House, and many other buildings set to the time of his birth on August 10, 1874. He was born in a two-room cottage and could have been any small town boy. Orphaned at age nine, he left West Branch, never to live here again. 

We also visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, and we took the opportunity to learn some leadership lessons from our 31st president. Values learned in his hometown of rural West Branch guided Herbert Hoover throughout his life of service to the nation and the world.

Herbert Hoover was President during the early years of the Great Depression, others may know him as a complex public servant, the “Great Humanitarian” whose career spanned a remarkable seven decades. A graduate of the Pioneer Class of Stanford University, Hoover became a successful mining engineer before organizing relief programs for the starving victims of World War I.

Herbert Hoover was a man of action. When he saw a need, he took action to meet it; when he saw a wrong, he did his best to rectify it. Hoover didn’t wait to see if someone else would take care of it – he recognized need and took initiative to resolve it. Hoover was a responsive leader.

In addition to being responsive, Hoover was also understanding and compassionate. Though later in life he became a millionaire, Hoover was born into poverty and orphaned as a young boy. It was only through hard work and determination that he was able to make a better life for himself. Because of his personal experience with poverty and hardships as a boy, Hoover empathized with the less fortunate. Turning his attention to the woes of the world, Hoover used his wealth and influence to become an international humanitarian; under his charge, millions of starving men, women and children were fed and lives saved.

As Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, he helped to create safer highways and aircraft, better health care for children, and the standardization of commercial products. And, in 1927, he mustered a fleet of 600 boats and 60 airplanes to rescue 325,000 Americans who were left homeless during the catastrophic Mississippi River flood.

“There is no joy to be had from retirement, except in some type of productive work. Otherwise you degenerate into talking to everybody about your pains and pills. The point is not to retire from work or you will shrivel up into a nuisance to all mankind.” ~ Herbert Hoover

President Truman chose Hoover to help the hungry people of Europe at the end of World War II, and he spent his “retirement” years as an amazingly prolific author, speaker, and government adviser. Continuing his life-long desire to help needy children, he also served as chairman of the Boys’ Clubs of America, helping to open 500 new chapters throuhgout the United States.
Hoover really never retired. I admire him for that. Hoover really understood that significance is much more important than success. With success leaders add value to themselves. Make no mistake we have to work toward success innour careers, but I believe significance comes when you add value to others—and you can’t have true success without significance.  Hoover truly worked toward significance, where he asked himself, “What else is there in life beyond professional, political, and monetary success? He, in my opinion, made the world a better place. 

It also strikes me how Hoover did not make ideological differences personal. He always said to attack the problems and differences, not the person. We need to take this lesson and apply it to our world today. Especially in the field I am in of education. We always make differences so personal. We all want the same ends for our children; we just have different means by which to get there. 

As you can see there are many leadership lessons to take from the historical leadership playbook of Herbert Hoover. What areas do you want to work on? What would you like to have as a legacy for your family and country? How does Herbert Hoover’s life inspire you?

Making Cultural & Spiritual Connections

Yesterday, my family and I went to see Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. It was part of a four state excursion in one day, which included Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. What a day. On our trip that started last Friday night, we have seen some incredibly beautiful parts of our great country, majestic and powerful wildlife, National Parks and Monuments, and awesome people. Fly fishing Spearfish Creek from Belle Fuersch, South Dakota then all the way through Spearfish Canyon was a truly incredible experience with nature for my son, Heath, and I.

Many times on this trip I thought, “Wow, what beauty God has created.” As I have studied Native American history and culture and had the honor to visit personally with Native Americans on this trip, I have come to realize I don’t appreciate what I believe to be God’s creations enough. Today, at Devils Tower I had the opportunity to learn how sacred places are in the Native American culture and spiritual life. The connections which tie American Indian culture Devils Tower are both ancient and modern. Oral histories and sacred narratives explain not only the creation of the Tower, but also its significance to American Indians. They detail peoples’ relationships with the natural world, and establish those relationships through literal and symbolic language. The Northern Plains tribes, including the Kiowa, Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow, Arapahoe, and Shoshone have the closest ties to the Black Hills area where Devils Tower is located, but there are some 24 other tribes that have a connection there. 

The connection to nature, and specifically Devils Tower, is not only about the creation of the place, but also the people’s relationship to the place. I find this interesting because I don’t think those in my culture think enough about our relationship to nature and our place in it. Particularly our responsibility to what God (as I believe) created. In doing some studying I found that a key difference between American Indian religions and many other contemporary religions (“western” or “near eastern” religions) is the importance of places that dominate the religion of American Indians, as opposed to the sense of time that dominates many western religions. Instead of a focus of chronological events and the order in which they are presented, American Indian religion focuses on a place and the significant events that are connected with that location. Now to be sure, Christianity in my case, has important places, but we do not hold the level of sacredness associated with the important places of American Indian religions.We had the chance to experience one of the most common ritual that takes place at Devils Tower: prayer offerings. Colorful cloths or bundles are placed near the Tower – commonly seen along the park’s trails – and represent a personal connection to the site. We saw many tied in the trees. They are similar to ceremonial objects from other religions, and may represent a person making an offering, a request, or simply in remembrance of a person or place. As with many religious ceremonies, they are a very personal act. My family and I spent many hours hiking on the trails and in the boulders of Devils Tower. I overheard one young child ask his parent why there were red ribbons tied in the tree. The parent actually replied, “Don’t pay any attention to that it is just something those ‘Indians’ do.” Wow, what a missed opportunity to help our children understand other cultures, religions, and our fellow man. 
We must take more time to truly understand and have courageous conversations with those with customs and beliefs different than our own. I so believe in the principles OUR (that means all of us) country was founded on. Freedom of religion is one of those and we need to respect others’ cultural and spiritual beliefs. Take some time and learn others’ beliefs and help our young people understand those beliefs as well. 

My Fourth of July Leadership Wish!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day in what I would call some of the most beautiful parts of the world – the Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, the Black Hills National Forest, the Crazy Horse National Memorial, and finishing the day at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. All in the great state of South Dakota. We have been prepping for this trip for quite some time and, of course, I have been reading a lot of books. It was so exciting to see so many of the historical sites where important events took place. Also, it was very moving to see sites that had religious and cultural meaning to the people who were the true original caretakers of this land long before it was the United States of America. I question if how we came to have this part of the country would have pleased George Washington. 

As you can imagine, I had the audible books playing for Hope, Heath, and I for the trip out. Reading books is such a great way to learn others’ perspectives, cultural differences, and history. 

The Badlands National Park was such an awe inspiring display of the forming of our earth and the climatic and geological changes that occur over time. We did some hiking and spent time enjoying the wildlife. It reminded us how important it is to take care of and respect the parts of the earth we personally affect. Also, we said a little thank you to Teddy Roosevelt for being a preservationist and ensuring we had these National Parks to learn from and enjoy.

Then, it was off to Wind Cave National Park. Immediately, upon entering the park we encountered buffalo, elk, and prairie dogs. The highlight for me, however, was seeing the place where The Lakota Nation believe was the beginning of their people and the buffalo. It is a small opening in the earth, about 18″X24″ where there is a constant cool wind coming out of the cave. The Lakota believe they and the buffalo entered the world from this opening. It was very sobering to stand in this spot. I wish everyone in the world would take time to understand the cultures and beliefs of others. 

Heath made the comment to me, “You know dad, the Lakota’s belief in their creation from the earth is no less believable than ours, as Christians, of there being a Garden of Eden.” I was proud of him for “getting it.” It doesn’t take away from our own beliefs to understand and respect the beliefs of others. As a state’s rights/individual rights democratic government guy, I question if the way we (the United States) came to be in control of this land is what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when penning the Declaration of Independence. Particularly, being founded on the principle of freedom of religion. I’ll let you ponder that question. 

Next, it was off to the Crazy Horse National Memorial. Crazy Horse, as you know, was one of the great leaders of the Oglala Lakota who worked with Sitting Bull and Chief Red Cloud to save the region where we are right now for their people. This memorial is awesome and does not use any tax dollars for creation. As an example of how this is being done is the fact that all the granite that is cut away from the mountain in sculpting is used to build the buildings and roads as a part of the complex. I would recommend everyone do some studying of the inception and continuation of the work on this monument. 

I also had the distinct honor of getting to meet, spend time visiting with, and learning from the author of one of the books I had read in preparation for the trip, Ed McGaa Eagle Man. He even autographed his book for me! Ed McGaa (Eagle Man) was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and is a registered tribal member of the Oglala Sioux. He received his Bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and earned a law degree from the University of South Dakota. 

He studied under Chief Eagle Feather and Chief Fool’s Crow, both influential Sioux holy men, and is honored by the Sioux for having participated six times in the Sun Dance ceremony.

He also served as a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, receiving eight air medals and two Crosses of Gallantry, and was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross.

We discussed his heritage, cultural practices, religious beliefs and those of the Oglala Lakota. It was so awesome for Heath and I to sit and learn from this great man. If we would all just take time to understand the beliefs of other and really respect them; what a better place the world would be. Everyone needs to take time to read Ed’s book, Crazy Horse and Red Cloud. It would serve us well to learn from the arrogance, hubris, and lack of understanding of the leaders of the time that caused the removal of the true caretakers of the land at the time. 
Ed told the story of how General Custer lost at Little Big Horn because he did not understand the Lakota, the superior weponry of the Winchester repeating rifle the Lakota had acquired, and the fact that Custer turned down an extra 800 men. We could point to all of this as bad leadership. It is also disappointing to hear all the times our government negotiated and then did not keep our promises. As Chief Red Cloud said of the only promise kept by the United States: “…They promised to take our land and they took it.” I would like to have a conversation with Abraham Lincoln about what happened here and the vision for our country that he was not able to see through to completion. 

The last stop of the day was Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This was a pretty incredible culmination to a great day of reflection and learning. As you have noticed, I have weaved reflections about the four presidents on Mount Rushmore into this post. It is my sincere hope that I can contribute to our country in significant ways and live the life I have described in this post of understanding and respecting the beliefs of others and caring for this beautiful earth we have been given. This is my Fourth of July wish.

Adaptive Cultures

file-1 2I began a new journey of learning today and let me just say it was awesome. Today I became part of the Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I have been watching and admiring the work of this group that is a consortium of leading researchers and practitioners in the field of organizational learning and change. To be asked to be part of such a distinguished group in very exciting. I certainly admire the mission of this project of: Bringing together the leaders of organizational learning to develop a greater understanding of the field’s current challenges. Today I attended my first session which was the 2017 LILA Summit. This event, which was held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was the culmination of the work done this year around the topic of Adaptive Cultures. Next year’s topic that we will be studying was announced today and is: Emergence In Organizations: Shaping The Future As It Unfolds.

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Gert Jan Hofstede

I want to reflect here on a discussion we had as a small group at the end of the day today that was on the question: How do we get from cultural practices to cultural values? This question was posed by Gert Jan Hofstede. Gert is a Dutch population biologist and social scientist in information management and social simulation, interested in the interplay of the contrasting forces of cultural evolution, societal change, and cultural stability. Bottom-line, he is a genius and I was excited to be learning from him today.

 

I must admit, however, when I first heard his question I thought he had it backward. Don’t we need to get our cultural values straight first, then get the practices in place? But, as the discussion ensued I realized I was wrong. In most organizations and social structures there are already cultural practices in place. So, there must be a matching, shift, or discover of values in order to get practices in line with values. We used a small group sharing best practice of each telling a story from our own experience. I told the story of my own school network and how a new culture needed to be developed where basically a free for all of everyone doing their own thing with no real direction had existed.

Furthermore, I told how we used teacher leaders in concert with stakeholders to develop a guiding set of core values. I even mentioned how I believe the statement “students first” in many ways hurts education. I cannot count the times I have heard someone answer “students first” to the question of how to do something or how to develop a process. Let’s be clear here, “students first” is a core value, not a task or tactic. Just saying “students first” without a process does nothing. In fact, it probably does more harm. Now, please understand I do believe in the core value of “students first,” but we must have the cultural practices in place to do just that. That’s why I now have grown to like Gert’s original question of how to get from cultural practice to cultural values.

In this example, we really started over by developing the cultural values and then building the processes to be in line with the cultural values. A point made by Gert that really resonated with me was that we have to watch make our cultural values banners that we fly to answer everything, like my “students first” example with know real cultural practices to support the cultural values.

Another key point that came out of this discussion was that in an organization cultural practices are more important than values. As a believer in having core values and making decisions based on these values I had to get my mind wrapped around this. In the end, however, the group was right because without practices the values are just words spoken or written on a page. We need to look at cultural values as the drivers. These should drive our actions. Our values will also show our perceptions.

We then discussed others in the group’s stories. Some were more societal than organizational. Then the question of: Why do we bother? came up. It is tough because as Gert pointed out, “You can only surf on the waves of where society is going.” We discussed reframing the cultural values by looking at what the backdrop is. We also discussed this as a tactic when dealing with adaptive cultures. We discussed that there is a big difference between the cultural value of “saving the planet” and “preserving the natural landscape.” Sometimes we can, and do, have the same values, but are looking at them through different lenses.

We must recognize the fractal nature of culture – there are cultures within cultures within cultures within cultures. Additionally, creating a culture where we can interact a lot with a lot of different people is important. If we interact a lot, we influence each other. We have leverage with those we frequently interact with and they have leverage over us. The person(s) with the most diver set of connections will always make better decisions. Who talks to whom and who interacts with whom matters. For adaptive cultures we, as leaders, have to be around the edges nudging. We must also be humble and realize we do not know everything.

To summarize our small group discussion we did a cool activity and developed a tweet representative of our learning. Here is our tweet: “Values derived should drive cultural practices and then inform leadership.” #LILAculture17 What is driving your organization’s culture and informing you as a leader?

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?