Byron's Babbles

What Do You Think?

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Governor Eric Holcomb

I had the opportunity to meet with an impressive group of community leaders this past Friday. As we continue to work through the guidance and implementation of our new Indiana Graduation Pathways, of which I chaired the panel that created this policy, we are working very hard to learn from the groups in the state that have been doing this work already and successfully. The Community Education Coalition and Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO) Network in southeast Indiana is one such group that brings educators, manufacturing leaders, workforce, and community-based organizations together to coordinate and align educational program offerings for students to successfully connect with well-paying manufacturing occupations.

Last year, the Indiana State Board of Education was charged with establishing graduation pathways per HEA 1003. The goal was to create an educated and talented workforce able not just to meet the needs of business and higher education, but also have students able to succeed in all post-secondary endeavors. To account for the rapidly changing, global economy, every K-12 student needs to be given the tools to succeed in some form of quality post-secondary education and training, including an industry recognized certificate program, an associate’s degree program, or a bachelor’s degree program. Every student should graduate from high school with 1) a broad awareness of and engagement with individual career interests and associated career options, 2) a strong foundation of academic and technical skills, and 3) demonstrable employability skills that lead directly to meaningful opportunities for post-secondary education, training, and gainful employment. During the process of our panel convenings we did a lot of asking, “What do you think?” Now, thanks to the Community Education Coalition we are able to continue to ask “what do you think?” as we work through making sure schools are able to put the pathways in place for students. We are so grateful that they put the event together last week that included Governor Eric Holcomb, State Legislators and Policy Makers, business and industry leaders, higher education leaders, K-12 school leaders, and most importantly students. There was a lot of question asking and learning going on.

IMG_2035The partners and facilitators of the Community Education Coalition and EcO initiatives have learned to make inquiry a habit of mind, thereby initiating a long-term commitment to continual improvement and growth. This coalition has developed an outstanding process that uses the questions of “who?, why?, what?, and how?” in order to identify key community issues. You can bet the four words of, “What do you think? are asked in this process. Essential to the success of this process was collaboration with colleagues across different disciplines for clarifying their questions and for understanding and analyzing the data they collected. For example, data like: high school graduation rate, education attainment growth, STEM enrollment growth rate, GDP per capita, employment growth, and average annual wages are used as outcomes to measure success.

IMG_2005This data is then able to be used by stakeholders to answer the questions of “who?, why?, what?, and how?” and the question of: What do you think? We are reminded of how important these four words are in Gem #7 entitled “Four Magic Words: ‘What do you think’” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart. In this lesson Stewart reminds us that leaders often fall into the trap of assuming they have the right answer. I am also reminded of the teaching of one of my heroes in community work, Peter Block, who believes that effective leaders are not problem solvers, but conveners of communities of people to solve issues.

“Using these four inclusive words [What do you think?] is evidence of an effective and healthy leader who actively listens to the input of the members of the team.” ~ John Parker Stewart

All research is messy and recursive; and it has been my experience that collaborative inquiry is more so because no one knows the end. You are not starting with answers, but with questions. Throughout the process, partners reflect on what is being observed and found out. The stakeholders may change direction, ask new questions, challenge the inconsistencies they discover, seek new perspectives, and fill gaps in their information. During our gathering on Friday we were reminded over and over that the process of connecting the stakeholders is more important than looking at programs. It would be very hard to replicate programs in all parts of the state, but it would not be hard to replicate the process of deciding what programs are needed and developing programs specific to each area. It is all about bringing collaboration to scale.

To do this we must remember to ask the pertinent questions, listen, and ask “what do you think?”

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The Servant Leadership: Self-Esteem Connection

IMG_2023The Servant Leadership: Self-Esteem Connection

By Ken Blanchard

Originally Appeared on the Ken Blanchard Companies Blog 

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

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

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

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

Coaching and Self-Esteem

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

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

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servant_leadership_in_action_3dMore about Ken Blanchard

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

Four Causes of Unproductive Meetings and What to Do About Them

IMG_2002Four Causes of Unproductive Meetings and What to Do About Them

By Dick Axelrod

Originally published on dickaxe.cayenne.io

  1. Unclear Purpose

Meeting participants are unclear about the purpose of the meeting or what they want to accomplish. Before holding a meeting, ask yourself what you want to be different for yourself, the participants, and the organization as a result of holding this meeting. Make sure you share this purpose with the participants. If you are a meeting participant and don’t know or understand the purpose of the meeting ask, “What is the purpose of this meeting?” at the beginning of the meeting. Then ask yourself, “What can I contribute to make this meeting productive?”

  1. Unclear Roles

It is amazing to find out how many attend meetings where they don’t know why they are there or what is expected of them. We see many leaders who invite people to the meeting because they might provide a different perspective. However, these participants do not know that is what is expected of them. They attend the meeting not knowing why they are there and consequently feel the meeting is a waste of time.

  1. Decision-Makers Not Present

When the meeting participants are not empowered to make decisions, everyone feels their time is wasted. While participants may have fruitful discussions, they must then take their work product to the decision-makers who were not part of the discussion and who may not understand the reasons why recommendations are being made. This additional layer of bureaucracy wastes everyone’s time. Empowering meeting participants to make decisions or having decision-makers present will eliminate this added bureaucracy.

  1. Unclear Decision-Making Process

We have watched many groups flounder because the decision-making process is unclear. They don’t know whether they are being asked to learn about a decision that has already been made, provide the leader with feedback, or be part of the decision-making process. Clarifying the decision-making process prior to starting the discussion saves time and energy.

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stop_meeting_like_this_3dMore about Dick Axelrod

Dick and is wife Emily Axelrod are pioneers in creating employee involvement programs to effect large-scale organization change, and co-founded the Axelrod Group in 1981. Dick is also a lecturer in University of Chicago’s Masters in Threat and Response Management Program, and a faculty member in American University’s Masters in Organization Development program. Dick and Emily created the Conference Model®, an internationally recognized high-involvement change methodology.

Together, Emily and Dick are frequent keynote speakers and co-authors. Their latest book is Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done it outlines a flexible and adaptable system used to run truly productive meetings in all kinds of organizations―meetings where people create concrete plans, accomplish tasks, build connections, and move projects forward.

Plus + / Delta Δ

IMG_1993One of the tools I learned from my work in the Advanced Educational Leadership Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education was how to do a Plus + / Delta Δ session at the end of a convening. I appreciated learning this from Dr. Liz City from Harvard University. She does this at the end of any convening or class I have been involved with. I have found this to be one of the greatest way to really find out what has gone well and what has not.

Here is how it works: At the end of the day or session we put up a board and put a + and a Δ on it. Then open it up to the group to give the positives from the day and the areas of improvement needed. I have found it to be a much more valuable experience if I do not start with positives or negatives and then switch to the other. The way I run the session both +s and Δs can be given together and not in any order. This way of doing it allows for pluses to be thought of when thinking about a delta and visa versa. As the discussion ensues all comments recorded in writing up on a foam board (see blog post picture).

I really believe this model does a couple of important things for the convened community. One big thing this process does is help to bring trust. Nothing can be off the table to bring up. More importantly, once a delta is on the table it is up to the leader/facilitator to make adjustments for the next convener. Or, if it is a plus, how do I, as facilitator continue to make sure this is a plus in the future. The second thing I believe happens using this way of collecting feedback is the depth of the information received and the amount of information. Let’s face it, getting surveys back is tough.

IMG_1979IMG_1971Furthermore, let me give you an example of the great information that a +/Δ session can give at the conclusion of a convening this past weekend. I always have butcher paper and crayons on the tables for participants to take notes, draw, doodle or whatever helps them learn. This convening was no different. The group of teacher leaders and school leaders I was working with were very much into graphic recording, both on the tables and when reporting out from small group work (see inset photos).

IMG_1994During the Plus / Delta session a participant said, “I have one that is both a plus and delta.” I said, “Great, lets talk about it.” She went on to say, “I really like the butcher paper and I took lots notes and made graphic. I really consider it a big plus.” She went on to say, “However, I wish we could use our doodles, notes, and graphics in a more intentional way.” I asked, “What do you mean by that and how could we do that?” The participant said, “Maybe we could do a gallery walk at different times during the day and reflect on the work of our fellow participants.” How cool was that! Participants taking ownership of making a convening designed for them better. It doesn’t get any better than that! I would argue that we would have never got to that level of discussion in a survey. Needless to say, we will build in intentional activities to learn from the butcher paper captured work of our participants. Exciting stuff!

I would encourage you to find your Pluses + and Deltas Δ.