Really this comes down to personal influence. What is the power of personal influence? Paul Hershey and Kenneth Blanchard, in their book Management of Organizational Behavior, describe it this way: “To the extent that followers respect, feel good about, and are committed to their leader, they will see their goals satisfied through the goals of their leader.” When there is internal motivation, close supervision is not required, and the leader is effective. This is the kind of leadership that makes teachers effective in their work. It also reduces tension and stress.
Unfortunately, we leaders can tend to be more concerned about tasks than people. We have board meetings to prepare for, committees to attend, agendas to develop, phone calls to make, paperwork to do, and a gazillion other things that are, just that – things to check off mob a checklist. I would argue we communicate a lack of trust when we refuse to delegate tasks and then give people the freedom to pursue the task in their own style. By encumbering ourselves with paper shuffling, we lose contact with people. By staying in direct personal contact with the development of those we lead, we are able to develop the technical and leadership skills of those we serve.
The cure to this is spending more time with your leaders, in my case: teacher leaders. Make no mistake, this takes time and some rearrangement of your ordinary schedule. But more than that, it requires an adjustment in thinking. Here are two ways to care for and feed your leaders:
- Committing to Leadership Development
- Make it a priority to give professional growth time to developing leaders
Two avenues I have found to do this effectively are task forces and our Focused Leader Academy (FLA). The goal for both is to have teacher leaders developing while actually serving in leadership roles and working on real leadership issues. I just received a message from a teacher leader, Cassidy Thomas, that I was deeply touched by and one sentence in the note really drove home the importance of this idea of training leaders while under fire and working on real school issues: “I truly feel that I have grown so much just as a person from the opportunities that you have provided me in just a little over a year. First experience toward the end of last school year where I got the phone call, will you be a BA… I felt…anxious, nervous, flattered, several emotions.” I have always said that for real professional learning to be happening there must be both excitement and some fear.
So, let’s talk a little about what we did this weekend at our FLA retreat (design sprint). By using the through line of telling leadership stories through food, our FLA participants first learned from Chef Nicholas Townsand and Bar Manager Patrick at Ulen Country Club Friday night on how to prepare a meal to tell a story. Nick and Patrick took us from a journey starting in the north and ending in the south. Stories were told between each course and a long discussion of the meal preparation with Nick and Patrick took place after the meal. Our participants learned so much from the experience. We did a debrief Saturday morning using the prompts from the evening before of:
- Know your team!
- Where are we going to put the money, where are we not going to put the money?
- If it was just price, I’d run an Applebee’s®
- Plan, Organize, Execute
- Other Thoughts
Here are pictures of the prompts with our FLA participants’ responses:
Then a great discussion ensued about lessons learned from Nick and Patrick. Here are the Mike Fleisch graphic recordings from this design sprint:
Then we started the day Saturday with my good friend and Graphic Recorder, Mike Fleisch, telling a story of our six year journey working with teachers together by cooking breakfast. I am going to do separate consecutive blog posts from the other parts of Saturday. Here are the titles and graphic (so you don’t think Mike’s skills are leaving him, you need to know I did the agenda graphic) of our agenda from Saturday:
Stories have always been shared over a good meal, but more and more chefs and artists alike are using the food itself to tell the story. I have become so immersed with this concept that I have planned a leadership retreat for this weekend starting tonight with food telling the story as the through line. Our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) participants will be learning from Chef Nicholas Townsand at Ulen Country Club tonight on how to prepare a meal to tell a story. I am super excited about this!
Then we will start the day tomorrow with my good friend and Graphic Recorder, Mike Fleisch, telling a story of our six year journey working with teachers together by cooking breakfast. I am not going to give the story away yet. You will have to wait for tomorrow’s post. Needless to say, we have quite the plan.
The narrative side of food really intrigues me. Subconsciously, when you eat something, your brain is always comparing it to what you’ve had previously, the place you were eating it, and the people you were eating with. Think about it – our brain tries to find connections and similarity. Just like being able to tell stories is a very important leadership trait, the more powerful story behind the food, the more it evokes the memory, which in turn enhances the flavor. There is no doubt that flavor is inextricably linked with memory and emotion. They’re all processed by the same part of the brain.
As a concept, “story food” is happy to pick and choose from any of these former trends, but with the intention of offering a non-verbal narrative through taste sensations. The challenge for the chef is to create tastes that manage to convey the message, while at the same time being pleasurable to consume. The best thing about “story food” is how accommodating it can be. Just as chefs tell a story with food, we as leaders need to be able to tell stories using our experience that inspire and guide those we lead.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
By using the metaphor of the working end of a Kaleidoscope, this book teaches us about the core characters of value-unique service: enchantment, mercy, grace, trust, generosity, ease, truth, alliance, and passion. Just like the colorful glass pieces in the end of a Kaleidoscope, the core characters don’t change, but can be moved around to fit the needs and personal development of team members in order to deliver great service experience.
~Dr. Byron L. Ernest
We checked into the Lake Lure Inn. Built in 1927, the antique North Carolina hotel served as command central for the making of the movie Dirty Dancing. You now can stay in the Patrick Swayze Suite or the Jennifer Grey Suite. Furnished with exquisite period furniture and meticulous attention to detail, the surroundings make guests feel elevated, enchanted, and enriched. If the experience were an object it would be a kaleidoscope!
We had dinner in their Veranda Restaurant overlooking the lake, only a stone’s throw away from our table. The staff was all locals from the small mountain town. They reached way beyond their plain heritage in a noticeable effort to create a sense of elegance and worth. After seating us at our reserved table, the maitre d’ presented the menus and wine list, and then graciously said, “Hope ya’ll enjoy”––not a phrase you’d hear at a five-star restaurant in Boston or San Francisco. There was an earnest effort to take the experience much, much higher than you would get at Nettie’s Diner down the street where the wait staff simply performs their tasks.
The difference between the Lake Lure Inn and Nettie’s Diner came primarily from a deliberate attempt to not take the customer for granted. Someone decided that this classy hotel setting should come with an equally classy guest experience. Knowing they could not afford to import a Ritz-Carlton Hotel–trained wait staff, they entrusted their valuable reputation to young people recruited from the local Burgers and More. Then they trained them to not take the guest for granted but make their experience consistently and perpetually as elegant as the old hotel.
The next morning we were in too much of a hurry to wait for the hotel’s Sunday brunch, featuring eggs Florentine and fresh mountain trout. So, we stopped at Nettie’s for scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits. The food was just as we expected—completely routine, plain vanilla, nothing out of the ordinary. As we looked at the Lake Lure Inn in the distance, we suddenly realized that, had we stopped at Nettie’s first when we came to town, the diner might not have seemed so plain vanilla. The Lake Lure Inn had altered our service expectations and Nettie’s would never be the same again—nor, would any other service provider for that matter.
Do all customers want every service experience be a Lake Lure Inn moment? Maybe not, but most customer definitely want something special. Give your customers a Lake Lure experience and watch them “check-in” with you again!
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.
Drawing with pencil, pen, or brush on paper isn’t just for artists. For anyone who actively exercises the brain, doodling and drawing are ideal for making ideas tangible. In order to encourage doodling in meetings, retreats, and professional development events I put white butcher paper sheets on the tables, a box of crayons, and a small container of colored markers to use for doodling. Then there other details, like getting small flower vases and the flowers. These may seem like little things, but you have to understand that creating the perfect environment is crucial to convening great conversations.
Recall a time when you had a great conversation where real learning or new insight occurred—what enabled that to happen? In this way, participants have the opportunity to participate in an environment where the emotional context and framework support innovative thinking. If you can design the physical space, the social space, and the information space together to enhance collaborative learning, then that whole system turns into a learning system.
As a side note, many of our presidents, like the rest of us, doodle. Dwight Eisenhower drew images of tables, pencils, and nuclear weapons. A Herbert Hoover doodle provided the pattern for a line of rompers. Ronald Reagan dispensed cheery cartoons to aides. John F. Kennedy reportedly doodled the word poverty at the last cabinet meeting before his assassanation.
Are you encouraging your team to doodle?
When planning big events, retreats, or task force meetings flowers should always be on the table. Flowers are every table conversation’s must-have accessory. Flowers have a place as the focal point in the middle of the table. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, the right blooms may offer the perfect pick-me-up for attendees who don’t consider themselves morning people. So when you’re putting together your plans for the workshop, professional development, task force setting, be sure to include bright blooms front and center — it could have a big impact on the outcome of your meeting.
Now when you think of putting flowers on tables you may think that it is a crazy idea and no one will really pay attention to the flowers in the meeting, but it has been proven that flowers can help the mood of the meeting and add a cheerful tone to any type of meeting. Just by adding flowers to your meeting tables can help you to make a long lasting impression on your clients and anyone else that might come to a conversation hosted by you.
For a team meeting, a floral arrangement put in the middle of the table can make the atmosphere more friendly and welcoming. Choose bright colors for the flowers and types of flowers that are cheerful, such as tulips. If the arrangement is to be placed in the middle of a meeting table, keep the height of the arrangement low enough that the participants can easily see each other around the table and conversation is not hindered by the flowers.
Conversational leadership is an art, not a science. Use your own creativity when setting up the room. In addition to flowers, I like to put butcher paper on the tables and provide crayons and markers for doodling, taking notes, and graphic recording. Be sure to encourage people to write, draw, or doodle on the tablecloths in the midst of their conversations. Often these tablecloth drawings will contain remarkable notes, and they help visual learners link ideas.
The flowers on the tables creates a special ambiance. They provide a focal point. Rigid positions seem to drop away as people listen together in order to discover creative connections. The flowers give everyone at the table something in common. At a task force meeting I hosted yesterday, I asked participants to comment during our +/^ session on the flowers. Everyone had actually thought about the flowers. Thoughts like, “I wonder when the Lilly’s will bloom,” to “I’m going to match my crayon color to the flowers,” to “Im glad the flowers are not blocking my view to the person on the other side.” Bottom line is they noticed and likened the flowers and they had served as a focal point. Flowers help us focus when you’re not talking and are listening together with others focused on the ideas in the middle of the table.
I believe flowers help us focus on opportunity and fuel energy. What do your tables look like?
Today, according to Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a new book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, we are in the Age of Authenticity, where “be yourself” is the defining advice in life, love, and career.
Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. As Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines it, authenticity is “the choice to let our true selves be seen.”
We all have developed social filters or self-controls that prevent us from saying whatever may be on our mind at the time. If we expressed our true self and all the unfiltered thoughts that pop into our brain, we would probably be in a state of constant conflict and turmoil. Some things are just better left unsaid.
How much you aim for authenticity depends on a personality trait called self-monitoring. If you’re a high self-monitor, you’re constantly scanning your environment for social cues and adjusting accordingly. You hate social awkwardness and desperately want to avoid offending anyone. But if you’re a low self-monitor, you’re guided more by your inner states, regardless of your circumstances.
Studies have shown that high self-monitors “advance faster and earn higher status, in part because they’re more concerned about their reputations. And while that would seem to reward self-promoting frauds, these high self-monitors spend more time finding out what others need and helping them.”
I would argue that this style reflects an insightful and empathic view of what’s happening to those we work with.
Rather than selling out, it’s a way to demonstrate how you can contribute to the good of the team and others along the way. This reflects positively on how you are viewed as a collaborator and a teammate. It does not mean that you live your work life in the selfless pursuit of the common good; it means that when what’s good for you, your team, and the organization are aligned, everyone wins.
If being authentic and a low self-monitor demands a greater level of self-disclosure about your feelings on a situation, then I can see the potential risk. I find that a candid appraisal of the impact of various decisions can be refreshing and stimulate good dialogue, but overly emotional responses get awkward and can stifle discussion.
Grant suggests that we focus on being sincere rather than just authentic.
I would also suggest we should make every effort to be sure that we are consistent and congruent in how we connect with others.
As I reflected upon this interesting perspective, it occurred to me that high self-monitors must have well-developed emotional intelligence and are probably highly empathic to those around them. Instead of focusing on how everything affects them and what they need, they first tend to focus upon the following questions regarding others:
- Why are they saying that?
- What are their needs for this effort or project?
- What would a good outcome look like for everyone involved in this discussion or project?
- How can they contribute in a manner that allows me to learn and grow?
Borrow and try to incorporate those styles as you grow and develop yours. Your ultimate transformation will always be the addition and subtraction of those behaviors and styles that work best. It does not diminish or sell out who you are, it’s just part of everyone’s life journey.
- Since you are not always the best judge of the impact you have on others, do you regularly ask for feedback in a manner that is efficient and effective for all involved?
- Do you regularly seek to understand before you worry about seeking to be understood?
- Do you exercise appropriate caution about how you present yourself to others on social media? Do you allow inappropriate social media tidbits to contradict the authentic self you are trying to project?
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
Willy Steiner is the President of Executive Coaching Concepts, an executive coaching services firm dedicated to assisting senior executives in taking their individual and organizational performance “TO THE NEXT LEVEL”. He fine-tuned his skills in leading organizational change, building high performing teams and in devising innovative incentive systems with General Electric, RCA Corp. and Galileo International. Assisting executives in driving change by creating urgency, focus and alignment, with a keen eye for cultivating and sustaining necessary relationships, is an ongoing focus of his work. He is an expert in guiding organizations through complex international mergers and divestitures, blending distinct cultures and supporting growth in international markets.
For more about Willy, his new book, Discover the Joy of Leading: A practical guide to resolving your management challenges, and business, visit executivecoachingconcepts.com.
I can’t wait for Lady Gaga’s half time show of the Super Bowl Fifty One tonight. Most of you know I am a huge Lady Gaga fan. This fandom started back in 2010 when I had the opportunity to see her in concert in Portland, Oregon. I was in Portland for a conference and sat down at a table for a dinner with six women who I did not know. They apologized that they would be leaving the dinner before it was over because they were going to see Lady Gaga. I probably said something super intelligent like, “Awesome, wish I was going so I didn’t have to sit through this dinner” (sounds like me doesn’t it?). Then one of the women said, “Hey we are going with a group of college sorority sister friends and one can’t go now at the last minute. Would you want to go?” Now, anyone reading this that knows me knows that I’m not turning down an adventure, no matter what it is. I was in! The rest is history, I have been a Lady Gaga fan ever since.
Now I know Lady Gaga causes controversy, her music might not be your cup of tea, but it is certain that you will be familiar with the girl from the Lower East Side of New York who in a few short years transformed herself from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta into one of the world’s best-known musical performers. This post is about Lady Gaga – leader that walks the walk.
“When I wake up in the morning, I feel like any other insecure 24-year old girl. Then I say, “Bitch, your Lady Gaga, you get up and walk the walk today.” ~ Lady Gaga, Rolling Stone Interview June, 2010.
I love the fact that Lady Gaga walks the walk. There are many leadership lessons we can learn from her. When it comes to authentic leadership, Bill George identifies five dimensions and their respective characteristics that someone must develop in order to be an authentic leader (George, 2003). The five qualities authentic leaders demonstrate are:
- Understanding their purpose
- Practicing solid values
- Leading with heart
- Establishing connected relationships
- Demonstrating self-discipline
Lady Gaga has been referred to as the queen of the outcasts because of her support of individuals who ride the boarder of social outcasts and underdogs. As everyone knows, Lady Gaga is far from what most people call “normal” and as a result suffered much bullying growing up. Propelled by her own experiences, Lady Gaga made it her purpose to help others rejoice in their individuality and not feel like outcast. In just this alone you can see the five qualities of authentic leaders being displayed.
Actually there have been many case studies done on Lady Gaga as a leader, including ones done by the Harvard Business School. Additionally, a case study done by Jamie Anderson and Jörg Reckhenrich of Antwerp Management School and Martin Kupp of ESMT European School of Management and Technology dives into the idea of leadership projection. The concept of leadership projection is an integrative approach of communication, behavior and aspiration that provide a leader with wide recognition across an industry or sphere of public life – in the case of Lady Gaga, social change. An important element of leadership projection is the ability of an individual to project herself into a future role that is much more influential than the current state – again, this describes Lady Gaga perfectly. Leadership projection is very much about followership; after all, a true leader only exists if he or she can excite loyalty in others. It involves a communication approach that typically integrates three universal story lines to excite and gain buy-in from followers:
- Who am I – how life experience has shaped my individuality and character
- Who are we – demonstrates and guides the values and behaviours of a group
- Where are we going – explains what is new, and creates a sense of excitement about direction.
Because of Lady Gaga’s display of the five dimensions of authentic leadership (George, 2003), walking the walk of the three principles of leadership projection, and the number of lives she has changed because of her efforts, it is safe to say that Lady Gaga displays the characteristics of what I consider to be a true leader. I cannot wait to watch her half-time show of the Super Bowl later this evening.
George, B. (2003). Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. Jossey-Bass.
I continue to be amazed at how many people espouse to want to have great conversations and be a conversational leader, but really can’t help themselves from becoming a pontificator and problem solver. So many leaders leap right to answering the questions themselves. There are many reasons for this, but I believe for many it is just ego of hierarchy – he wants to be seen as the smartest or person who solved the problem. Authentic conversation that deepens a group’s thinking and evokes collaborative intelligence is less likely to occur in a climate of fear, mistrust, and hierarchical control.
I believe everyone is a leader. Everyone has the right, responsibility, and ability to be a leader. In fact, I believe everyone has the obligation to be a leader. We all need to lead from where we are. How we define leadership influences how people will participate. In my world with educators, teacher leaders yearn to be more fully who they are—purposeful, professional human beings. Leadership is an essential aspect of an educator’s professional life. This is why I spend a great deal of time working directly with our rising teacher leaders in our Focused Leader Academy.
We are building an organizational community for thinking more deeply together about key strategic questions. It has been my experience that results do come from the questions. The results lie in the personal relationships, the knowledge, and the mutual caring that gets strengthened in people’s conversations together about the questions, along with the discovery of their own answers.
What kind of conversations are you leading?