Byron's Babbles

Thoughts From The Barn On The Opioid Crisis

Posted in Agriculture, Agriculture Science, Community, Convening, Culture, Dopesick, Leadership, Opioid Crisis by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 5, 2019

This morning I had a moment of reflection while caring for our dairy show heifers. We had some heifers dehorned this week and we then give them a pain/antibiotic bolus (what you would know as a pill) for five days. Just to be clear, removing horns while the calf is young and horns are small is important for the safety of the animal itself, the other animals, and those of us caring for them. After giving the boluses I thought about whether the pain pill was addictive like opioids. Then I thought, well this is irrelevant because our heifers won’t get addicted because they won’t get more than the prescribed dosage of our veterinarian. Then, I couldn’t help but think about the opioid crisis that is a very real and relevant problem in my own state of Indiana and the nation.

This caused me to go back and study the work of Beth Macy and author of the great book, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America. I blogged about this book in Why Everyone Should Read Dopesick. The supply-side of the opioid issue is one that Macy has chronicled in detail. The supply-side narrative is much more complex for humans, however, than our show cattle, but the analogy helped me understand the messiness of the supply-side argument.

I learned from Macy that there are several parts to the opioid crisis. There is no doubt that companies like Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, profited from understating the addictive risks and forced high sales quotas on their salespeople. But, government regulations to limit supplies haven’t been successful solving the crisis. In the case of my cattle, I can control the supply and do what’s best for them. With people, however, it is much more complex. We cannot just stop the supply completely. One challenge with supply-side regulations has been people not being able to get the pain medications necessary. Targeting supply is very important, but we must still address the needs of people with real pain. I read about those that by battling the opioid epidemic that some patients who need opioids are being abandoned by their patients.

We really need to make sure our policies are not too draconian and that we really get to the root causes of addiction. Our country has become flooded with opioids and it has made for lots of literary works, but we need to make sure and learn who is most at risk of addiction and why. The other thing that has resonated in my studying of this issue is the disconnect between science and policy. Or, what I often describe as policy not meeting reality.

Additionally, another big obstacle to solving the crisis is that many local, state, and federal agencies and governments are more concerned about protecting turf and budgets than solving the problem and helping people. I’m not sure that technocracy can solve this issue. It is going to take intersectional thinking that includes mental health, physical health, housing, peer support, community, workforce development, education, and harm reduction.

While I believe in individualism and personal responsibility, we need to find ways help our addicted, limit supply to those who need the drugs and in the proper doses, and really get to the root causes of the crisis. Policy, knowledge, science, and reality need to come together.

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MacGyver Intersectional Leadership

I don’t watch a lot of television, but tonight I have scheduled time to watch the new episode of MacGyver. I love the old, original show that ran from 1985-1992, but also really like the remake version. I can’t wait for the 8:00 start time for the show. MacGyver is the poster child of resourcefulness and core values. There really needs to be a little MacGyver in every leader.

There are times in our leadership careers when we are faced with unforeseen circumstances that don’t fit the usual textbook solutions. What we do at those times will go a long way to determine our success or failure. So, what can we do? We need to be be like MacGyver and look for the solutions, not look at the problem. I love watching him look around for what’s available and really out of context to the problem till he uses his knowledge and skill to put it all together. We need to encourage purposeful efforts to find unusual concept combinations to solve the opportunities we have.

Skills and talents are not labels, they are tools, ‘MacGyver’ tools that allow leaders to improve how their organization functions.  When organizations dare to move from a weakness-fixing organization to a talent-focused organization, they will enjoy improved productivity, greater efficiency, new levels of engagement, higher retention rates, and overwhelming organizational improvement.

Really, people are more likely to bring something new to the organization if they are not recruited to fill an established role. And if they are motivated and engaged, they will be able to find intersections between their skills and the organization’s needs.

If you notice, all the members of the Phoenix Foundation team on MacGyver all have different skills. If we want to generate intersectional ideas, we should seek and provide environments where we and our team members will work with people who are different from us. In The Medici Effect, What Elephants and Epidemics Can Tell Us About Innovation, author Frans Johansson wrote: “A sure path to inhibit your own creativity is to seek out environments where people are just like you.” We all come to the table with with different skills and we need to develop those skills and search for the intersections.

In Cracking Creativity, Michael Michalko describes taking “thought walks” in order to look for random combinations or get new, fresh ideas for solving opportunities. I compare this to how MacGyver walks around and looks for items to put together to form a potential solution. Michalko tells this story about a group that did a successful thought walk: “A few months back, a group of engineers were looking for ways to safely and efficiently remove ice from power lines during ice storms, but they were stonewalled. They decided to take a “thought walk” around the hotel. One of the engineers came back with a jar of honey he purchased in a gift shop. He suggested putting honey pots on top of each pole. He said this would attract bears. The bears would climb the pole to get the honey, and their climbing would cause the poles to sway and the ice would vibrate off the wires. Working with the principle of vibration, they got the idea of bringing in helicopters to hover over the lines. Their hovering vibrated the ice off the lines.” All of that from a jar of honey. Amazing, right?

We need to learn from MacGyver and step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, and combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas. So let’s stop looking at the problem and use our skills and talents to search for solutions.

“Old Hickory” Leadership

General Jackson’s Home At The Hermitage

Our family had the opportunity to visit The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s farm and home, near Nashville, Tennessee, this past week. We love going to historical sites of past presidents and this one of our seventh president was awesome. General Jackson’s, as we learned he wanted to be referred as, home is very well preserved and cared for. Our tour guide, Stewart, was incredible and very knowledgeable. To be on the farm where General Jackson worked, stand outside the room where he met with other presidents, and be next to the bed where he died was awe inspiring and caused a great deal of reflection about the leadership of this great American.

Some praise his strength and audacity. My son and I had learned about his great military leadership prowess this time last year when we walked the grounds of the Battle of New Orleans where General Jackson led the defeat of the British and soaked up all the history. We learned how his servant leadership, dedication to his troops, and toughness gain him the affectionate title “Old Hickory”. Others see our seventh President as having been vengeful and self-obsessed. To admirers he stands as a shining symbol of American accomplishment, the ultimate individualist and patriot.

Andrew Jackson, the President, believed republican government should be simple, frugal, and accessible. As President he was very accessible and was know as the people’s President. By 1835, President Jackson had reduced the national debt to a mere $33,733.05 and would eventually pay it off, making him the only president to ever accomplish that feat. He was an ardent supporter of state’s rights, and individual liberty fostered political and governmental change, including many prominent and lasting national policies. Many believe it was his stubbornness and tenacity to keep fighting for what he believed was right that made him a great leader. There was a lot that happened in our great country under the many leadership roles that Jackson held during his lifetime. We can agree and disagree on his decisions and policies, but it is important to reflect on the General’s leadership influence and learn from our history.

Just As I Am

Posted in appreciation, Community, Culture, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Memories, Servant Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 25, 2018

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting this Christmas season. With the passing of my mom in 2018, it is the first holiday season that I am parentless. That has been a point of great reflection since May. For a kid that was close to his parents, it is very weird to now not have any. As I think about the holidays, I got to thinking that I really don’t remember the gives, but have lots of memories of things we did together. For example, every year we would go to Indianapolis and walk around the “Worlds Tallest Christmas Tree.” My dad would stop in the little nut shop (not there any more) and by a bag of cashews and we would eat them as we walked. It was a Christmas tradition. You get the idea.

Circle Christmas Tree, Indianapolis

We now have some great traditions we do as a family like picking out the Christmas tree, going to Metamora, Indiana, the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, or go to the Music City Bowl to watch Purdue beat Auburn (we can’t wait). But, none of this involves presents. These are memory building activities. As we enter this holiday season, it makes sense to pause for a moment and think about gifts. What’s the point of them?

I guess we give gifts because we’re supposed to. On certain occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, dinner parties, the end of the year it just seems to be customary. Allegedly, we give people gifts to show them that we are grateful for them and value the role they play in our lives. But don’t forget, gifts don’t express appreciation, people do. And when people don’t express it, neither do their gifts. The greatest gifts I will receive this holiday season will be time spent making memories and being accepted for who I am.

Just as I am. Wow, is there any better present than being acknowledged and appreciated for who you are? There is no more powerful way to acknowledge others than to be thankful for them just as they are. Our families are the masters at this. We need to work really hard at genuinely doing this for those we work with, our friends and associates, and those we lead. So maybe instead of the gift card, an individualized note of appreciation or some way of building a memory. Remember, memories, not materials are what make the season so magical.

We’re All Unique

Thanks a lot Mr. KibblewhiteThanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author of this book, Roger Daltrey, was the founder and lead singer of The Who, one of the great British bands of the ’60s and ’70s and arguably one of the most influential bands of rock and roll development. This book grabbed a hold of me right from the start and kept me engaged right to the end. I felt as though I was there for the Nazi bombing of Britain as Daltrey was born in 1944. Peacetime followed but the food rationing and lack of opportunities followed for his young childhood. Daltrey tells all and there are certainly lessons to be learned. One statement he made early in the book really struck me. After being expelled by the headmaster of his school, Mr. Kibblewhite, whom the book is titled after, Daltrey says, “If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did” (p.21). As a leader in education this really hit me like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, it is true that some do lose site that schools are students, not the teachers or school systems themselves. I was motivated to blog about this in School Is For The Student: https://byronernest.blog/2018/11/18/s…

At the end of the book as Roger Daltrey reflects now, later in life, that his school principal was wrong to tell him he’d never do anything with his life he said: “We’re all unique. We all have our own unique lives. But seeing my life like that, I just felt overwhelmingly lucky. In the middle of this strange out-of-body experience, I said to myself, ‘Would you ever imagine the things you’ve done?’” (p. 238). Why do educators do that?

Daltrey leaves us with great lessons we all can use, no matter our profession. He said, “You can’t be mediocre. A band can be either terrible or brilliant. There is no middle ground. So you have to make tough decisions.” This lesson pretty much applies to anything.

Daltrey may be 74, but he’s still causing a sensation along with Pete Townshend as original members of the group who still tour. He’s also causing a stir with this great book that was released this past October, 2018. You should check it out.

~ Dr. Ernest

View all my reviews

Unintended Consequences: Minimizing  the ‘Oops Factor’ in Decision Making

This guest post originally appeared on Forbes. 

Unintended Consequences: Minimizing 
the ‘Oops Factor’ in Decision Making

By Rodger Dean Duncan

“Unintended consequences” is the term for outcomes that are not the ones foreseen by a purposeful act.

When a manager consistently gives tough assignments to a worker who’s proven himself to be reliable, the go-to employee may begin to feel “penalized” by the additional load while the less reliable workers get a free ride. What was intended as a compliment and vote of confidence turns out to be an unwelcome burden.

In medicine, unintended consequences are called “side effects.” Have you listened carefully to television commercials for drugs? The list of side effects is often longer than the narrative promoting the medicine. Why would we be warned that a product purported to relieve a simple ailment may also produce paralysis, high blood pressure, thinning hair, skin rash, weight gain, blurred vision or even thoughts of suicide? Because the lawyers said so.

The old caution of “don’t operate heavy equipment while taking this medicine” seems to have morphed into “this pill will help your headache, but it also might kill you.” Caveat emptor indeed.

The fine print on an over-the-counter pain remedy I bought said it caused “irritability” in one in 10,000 users. It turns out that the first day I took one of those pills I was “irritable.” (I’m relying here on the assessment of an independent observer: my wife.) Irritable or not, I felt special. At that ratio there are fewer than 32,000 of us in the entire United States. We could rent Madison Square Garden and throw a party. The capacity of Madison Square Garden is only 18,200. But I’m confident a lot of us (at least those still taking the pain remedy) would be too grouchy to attend anyway.

I should be embarrassed to admit it, but sometimes I don’t bother reading the list of possible side effects. This behavior is risky, much the same as failing to read the terms and conditions on a contract before checking the box claiming to have read the terms and conditions. 

As Isaac Newton observed, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In business, as in the rest of life, most every action we take has the potential for consequences we didn’t anticipate. Some of those consequences may be serendipitous, like the “accidental” invention of the Post-It® Note by the guy at 3M Company who brewed up a batch of sticky-but-not-too-sticky adhesive. And some consequences are unpleasant, like a profit-based bonus system that inadvertently motivates people to trim spending on maintenance and safety issues.

Is there an absolutely foolproof way to make decisions? No. But there are some common sense guidelines that can help:

1. Decide what to decide. Many decisions can and should be delegated to others. Not only does that give them the practice, but it enables you to devote attention to those decisions that legitimately require your laser focus.
2. Be collaboratively independent. Confer with subject-matter experts, but avoid getting mired in decision-by-committee. Solicit the views of credible sources, but be prepared to own your own decision.
3. Avoid information bloat. Tom Hanks’ character in “You’ve Got Mail” said it well: “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc.” Information overload can lead to analysis paralysis, which can lead to fuzzy thinking, which can lead to faulty decisions. Keep it simple.
4. Define your desired outcome. As we learned in Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll get you there.” To the extent possible, clarify what your desired result would “look like.” Establish a handful ofSMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).
5. Beware getting stuck in the thick of thin things. Most of the hundreds of decisions and choices we make each day are relatively inconsequential—which dental floss to buy, or which salad dressing to order. Save your decision-making energy for the issues that really matter.
6. Don’t expect perfection. Gather the best information available. Weigh the pros and cons of your options. Then decide. You’re unlikely to have all the answers, or even all the questions. And you can’t anticipate every possible consequence. Just be ready to build your wings on the way down.

Again, most decisions come with no guarantees. But remember this uncomfortable reality: failing to make a decision is, in itself, a decision. With consequences.

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Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leaders. Early in his career he served as advisor to cabinet officers in two White House administrations and headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He has coached senior leaders in dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

 

Doing More With Less: Avoid Fake Work

Hey This guest post originally appeared on Forbes.

Doing More With Less: Avoid Fake Work

By Rodger Dean Duncan

In a question-and-answer session following a recent speech, I was asked the following question: “How should we respond when we’re constantly asked to do more with less?”

My answer might not have been particularly comforting, but it was honest: “The challenge to do more with less is industry agnostic,” I said. “Virtually everyone everywhere is being given that challenge. And I expect that will be an ongoing mantra far into the future.”

Judging by the expression on the questioner’s face, I suspect that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

But I wasn’t finished. The good news, I told him, is that the “do more with less” challenge presents a golden opportunity for smart, proactive people.

Most anyone can do less with more. That’s a no-brainer. Doing more with less requires strategic sorting of priorities. It’s fairly common for business people to tell me that in their organizations “everything is a priority so, therefore, nothing is a real priority.” That’s the equivalent of saying you’re too busy driving to stop and get gas.

One of the most useful ways to sort priorities is to launch a relentless search for fake work.

Fake work is work that’s not explicitly aligned with the strategies and goals of the organization.

Now let’s be clear. Most fake work is not deliberate. Most fake work is perfectly well intended. People who engage in fake work—and that’s most of us at least some of the time, and some of us most of the time—just don’t notice that what they’re doing is not producing intended outcomes.

It’s not that people doing fake work aren’t busy. They’re often very busy. But they mistake activity for results. And working hard is not a barometer, because you can work very hard and still be building a road to nowhere.

You might be doing fake work because you were told to do it. You might be doing fake work because you’re rewarded for doing it.

Fake work thrives when needed results are not clearly and thoughtfully articulated. Fake work thrives when people don’t honestly challenge the value of their activity.

Companies often set expectations, write job descriptions, and review performance in ways that actually promote fake work. This means you can follow directions, complete your assignments, and even get promotions—while spending most of your time on fake work.

Here are some warning signs that people in your organization may be building a road to nowhere:

 People are unclear about company strategy and the things that are most important to accomplish
 The connection between strategy and work is fuzzy
 Hard work is failing to produce results that measurably matter
 Meetings lack clear purpose and seem to waste time
 Despite long distribution lists on emails, it’s unclear who really needs or uses the information
 Offsite meetings often provide distraction, not value
 Some projects suck up a lot of time and other resources, then die a slow death or are killed outright for lack of interest
 People do a lot of paperwork because, well, everyone does paperwork

Of course there are lots of other signs on the road to nowhere. You could make a list of your own.

Most people don’t want to do fake work. Most people want to feel that they’re making positive contributions to meaningful accomplishments.

Remember: Fake work can be invisible because it often masquerades as real work. (Real work is critical activity that explicitly aligns with key goals and strategies.) In this age of everyone trying to do more with less, it’s more important than ever to identify fake work, eliminate as much of it as we can, and replace it with real work.

Here are five quick tips for focusing on real work:

1. Be clear about strategy. Don’t mistake mission for strategy. Mission is about purpose. Strategy is the plan to accomplish the purpose. Make sure job descriptions explicitly focus on work that matters most.
2. Use meaningful metrics. A common cause of fake work is not knowing what results are required and when they should be achieved.
3. Beware the activity trap. Fake work prospers when people are uncertain about priorities. Don’t let busyness overwhelm emphasis. Again, focus on the work that matters most. For example, if a regularly-scheduled meeting fails to produce valuable results, remove it from the calendar.
4. Treat communication as a communal task. Check and double check to ensure that your message was received and understood. Seek feedback. Listen to it. Communication about work issues needs to be simple, clear, compelling, and often repetitive.
5. Understand the people around you. Some people have a knack for handing off projects just when the work gets hard and accountability is on the line. Others invent new projects to prop up their reputation. The key is to recognize how other people’s behavior can cause fake work, hen figure out how to avoid falling into the fake work traps they’re setting. Equally important—and possibly even more difficult—is assessing whether you are the one who’s creating fake work for others.

When you’re asked to do more with less, regard the challenge as an opportunity. Your strategic approach to priorities will set you apart from the complainers and establish a positive example.

That should come in really handy at promotion time.

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Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice FromToday’s Top Thought Leaders. Early in his career he served as advisor to cabinet officers in two White House administrations and headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He has coached senior leaders in dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

Leading Like Theodore Roosevelt

Yesterday day I had the opportunity of a lifetime while visiting the offices of our Vice President, Mike Pence. Our Vice President has offices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), which is located next to the West Wing of the White House. In addition the Vice President has an office in the West Wing, on the Senate side of the Capitol Building, and Vice President Pence has one on the House Of Representatives side in honor of his service in Congress.

When we were taken into the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building I was struck by an extra large desk at one end. Then we were told it was Theodore Roosevelt’s desk when he was Secretary Of The Navy and President Of The United States. The desk was no longer extra large, it was larger than life! I was standing next to the desk of one of my heroes, Teddy Roosevelt! You know, one of the guys on Mount Rushmore!

Of course, and this will be no surprise, I asked “Can I please sit at the desk?” The answer was, “Yes.” So, now I am sitting at the desk of Teddy Roosevelt and the many Vice Presidents who have signed the inside of the top drawer (see picture). Again, I am sitting at the desk of President Teddy Roosevelt! Then I look in the drawer and see the signature of Vice President Joe Biden, who also used this desk, and a leader who I greatly respect and had the opportunity to spend time with. What an experience! Thank you Vice President Pence for the opportunity!

This experience was yesterday and I still can’t get it out of my mind. I have been reflecting on why Theodore Roosevelt is such a hero. Theodore Roosevelt is recognized as a transformational leader. He defined numerous aspects of leadership that we now take for granted in the presidency as well as in private life. His inspirational vision about the economy, industry, environmental protection, and the National Parks system is still influencing our great country to this day. He had a remarkable ability to communicate his vision, not only through his well-crafted words, but even more through his indelible example. Roosevelt’s well-publicized, courageous exploits in Cuba in the brief but deadly Spanish-American War of 1898—the fateful days he viewed as the linchpin of his life—are perhaps the most apt symbol of his leadership. Roosevelt, mounted on horseback in front of his troops, showed the way—asking others to “come” rather than saying “go” in the words of his friend Henry Cabot Lodge—putting himself at risk, making himself accountable, giving more of himself than he would ask of others. I have always said that we must walk arm in arm with others, even pulling them along at times, instead of pushing!

“Reading is a disease with me.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was very curious and was continually learning. He was a voracious reader, but the book, the classroom, formal education, were far from the only venues for learning in his opinion. These forms of learning had produced many of what he called the “educated ineffectives.” Roosevelt believed in combining the life of ideas and the life of action. This was central to his project of self-creation as a leader. He was practicing project based, interdisciplinary learning.

As soon as any man has ceased to be able to learn, his usefulness as a teacher is at an end. When he himself can’t learn, he has reached the stage where other people can’t learn from him. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Interesting this had been brought up in the great session at the ExcelinEd National Summit on Education Reform by Andreas Schleicher with what he described as “some things are caught not taught.” This is what work based learning and project based learning is all about. We must be immersed in a relevant learning environment.

Theodore Roosevelt believed that learning is an ongoing project of self-creation – personal professional growth. He offered his life as a template for anyone who would seek to re-create themselves.

It’s amazing what effect sitting at a desk can have. Who’s desk would you like to be sitting at?

A Focus on What Is Working

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

A Focus on What Is Working

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

In a problem-based world, it is very challenging to keep a leadership focus on what is working. We believe that focusing on what is working matters as a practice that builds appreciative resilience. Leaders are bombarded by problems every day. A focus on what is working pulls them out of that mindset of problem- and deficit-based thinking to begin to see what is right and what is good inside a team or an organization. Joan worked for a president who made this a practiced part of her leadership. She started every meeting with the question “What do we have to celebrate?” As Joan and other leaders in the room shifted their mind-set to uplift the stories worth celebrating, the entire feeling in the room shifted. The thinking shifted from “We have problems” to “Yes, we have problems needing to be solved, but we also are doing some things right.” 

This particular leader had several catastrophic events occur within the organization in a short period of time. Joan always noted that she started every conversation during those very difficult times with some version of celebrating the skills of the people handling those events.

Focusing on what is working inside a team or organization builds resilience for the individuals and the group by constantly reinforcing a drive to be excellent, not because of fear, but because their successes are celebrated. Celebrating what is working is like depositing resilience into an emotional bank account for later use. This bank account helps leaders deal with uncertainty, fear, and stress. In a crisis, a leader can tell others, verbally or through action, that their jobs, livelihood, and reputation are on the line, or they can share what is working well and uplift the drive of people to repair and rebuild.

It takes a conscious and mindful effort to focus on what is working. It takes the practice of pausing and thinking through the situation from multiple perspectives and asking powerful questions. This practice is easier in hopeful times, and we suggest that these are the times to begin the practice. If leaders practice a focus on what is working in hopeful times, they will find it much easier to do when a crisis arises. It is difficult to focus on what is working in times of despair, yet it is possible if one has practiced in times of hope. As leaders move through the element or state of despair, it is very difficult not to assign blame, seek justice, dole out retribution, or withdraw. In forgiveness, one must hold what is working close to one’s leadership heart, because a focus on what is working and forgiveness are linked together. Without leaders focusing on what is working or on what is possible, forgiveness cannot happen. 

Focusing on what is working well is a practice that trains leaders to seek out the appreciative stance and, in doing so, discover what can be built on and taken into the future.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

Forgiveness: Rising Again

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

Forgiveness: Rising Again

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

How do we put down the burden of nonforgiveness when carrying it seems so justified? There are so many experiences in organizations that seem unforgivable. People who are otherwise good betray others, become in one’s eyes untrustworthy or incompetent. In the larger world, there are acts that are perpetrated in hate and anger that seem undeserving of forgiveness.

When we first began the journey of exploring building resilience with appreciative inquiry, we wondered about what it is that opens the door to the possibility of returning to a state of hope, however transient that might be. We deeply understood that the practice of hope and a hopeful view offered the ability to find hope in the tiniest of places. In finding that hope and a hopeful view greater resilience could be created. We also recognized that tapping into strengths and capabilities in times of despair was a powerful sustaining force. 

As we read, thought, and worked with leaders, we began to recognize another element at play in resilience: forgiveness. It wasn’t something that just happened along the way. Leaders decided to enter into the state of forgiveness with grace and power so that they could move themselves and their organizations forward. In the appreciative resilience model, forgiveness is the most difficult element to practice, because in organizations, the thinking often is that people should be punished, removed, or banished. In forgiving self and others, a leader chooses to be in a state of acceptance of what is and begins to move forward from that place.

Forgiveness offers a place where dialogue can begin and change can take place. Practicing forgiveness is very challenging because of the sheer will it takes to enact. Forgiveness is a conscious act that requires one to examine one’s leadership and deeply forgive failures—others’ and one’s own. As one interviewee stated:

Forgiveness is one of the fundamental necessary things we need to have happen in our lives. I wish I had more. I wish forgiveness came easier to me. Forgiveness is very important. In any human system, you are going to have a problem with someone else. Somebody’s going to do something that offends you, or you misperceive and it is offensive to you; whatever it is, you see it as a slight or an attack, and if you hold on to that, you really can’t move forward in a human system together.

It is only through forgiveness that we literally have our minds changed and can see the possibilities before us. Forgiveness is a means of moving toward hope and sometimes of just living with what is unchangeable in our leadership lives. Forgiveness creates a space for leaders to let go of anger and hurt and look forward with realistic expectations.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.