Byron's Babbles

Empowering To Pull Together

This past week during our 3D Leadership gatherings a theme kept coming out about empowerment and having everyone pulling together. We talked about this and that empowerment does not just mean making sure everyone is doing something. So many times we, as leaders, fall into the trap of getting wrapped up in our own things and we forget that true empowerment means making sure everyone understands the vision, is pulling in the same direction, and have had the skills developed to do the right things and do things right. There must be a common language and a common approach, which helps to communicate the goals and objectives and create a winning culture, with increased teamwork and ensures that we are all pulling in the same direction.

I believe in a more distributed leadership model. This model secures team members’ full participation in the organization’s or school’s decision-making processes, promotes meaningful collaboration and harmonious work relations, generates passion for accomplishing goals, and boosts student and teacher productivity. I was reminded of how powerful this is in Gem #8 entitled “People Tend To Support What They Create” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart. In this lesson Stewart reminded us that creation is a pervasive instinct for we humans. So, we naturally become much more engaged when we have a part in creation of programs, processes, procedures, and policies. I really believe this is why I loved teaching so much. This is what it is like in an effective classroom with students. It should be that way in a well run school or organization too.

Done properly, team members take leading roles, assume responsibility, and act independently as individuals or groups. The thing I really like about a more distributed model is that it promotes the staff’s full participation in key decision-making and implementation processes and also makes them accountable. But, it does require us, as the leader to serve as both chief coordinator and evaluator of processes and results. In other words, we need to be in the boat rowing 🚣‍♀️ too.

How can you help your team become involved in decision making and creation?

Leadership Algorithms

This past Tuesday I facilitated a gathering of our South Carolina 3D Leadership Program cohort. The through line was “Your Leadership Toy Box.” The idea was to use toys to discover ways to be focused leaders. At the beginning of the gathering I had each participant grab a toy and answer the question of how the toy they chose represented leadership. Participants were given 10 minutes to prepare a response in any format they chose. Needless to say, the responses were awesome, inspiring, and most importantly – FUN!

One of the toys chosen was a Rubik’s Cube. As was the plan, this toy caused a lot of reflection, and even more for me after the participant reported out. Click below to watch the video of her presentation: Leadership Algorithms. It’s awesome!

Her reflection really got me to thinking about leadership and education. I thought about how this game reveals lessons that we all face as educators and leaders. Every year, we encounter and solve challenges that must be addressed on several levels, just as the Rubik’s Cube must be solved side by side and layer by layer. Every day teachers make decisions before, during, and after classroom lessons to successfully engage students and lead the learning process, maneuvering through numerous machinations to address diverse learning styles and skills. This is what teacher leaders do. School leaders must search for ways to enable continual school improvement, which requires school leaders to study, plan, implement, analyze, react, and adjust throughout the decision-making and implementation processes. These are the same skills and actions necessary to conquer the Rubik’s Cube.

So what did we learn from the Rubik’s Cube algorithms? Leadership requires us to step back from time to time and re-assess the situation in order to move forward. Successful leaders are continually convening the team to assess and re-assess processes in order to improve. We also learned that making one twist of the cube leads to multiple changes on the cube. When we make changes as leaders, we have to understand there is a ripple effect that affects the team and the organization. Leadership is so much like the Rubik’s Cube because to be a successful leader, we must think several moves ahead of the one we are actually working on. In talking to those who have solved the Rubik’s Cube, they tell me you have to think ahead and there are algorithms. What is your leadership algorithm?

What Do You Think?

IMG_2007

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?”

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.

 

How to Make Your Next Meeting as Engaging as a Video Game

indexHow to Make Your Next Meeting as Engaging as a Video Game

By Dick Axelrod

Originally published on dickaxe.cayenne.io

Have you ever tried to pry a child from a video game? Not easy, is it? That is because game designers embed core engagement principles into every game.

Quarrel®, a combination of Risk® and Scrabble®, is a good example. In Quarrel® you play against a variety of characters of varying levels of skill. Examples are: Caprice, who is not very smart; Damien, who is of average intelligence; and the super bright Helena, to name a few. Depending on the level of the game, you can play against one to four opponents who possess varying skills. Each round pits you against another opponent who must spell words containing up to eight letters. You gain territory if you win a match, and lose territory if you lose a match. There are numerous messages that let you know how well you are doing throughout the match. There are other more sophisticated features to the game, but the basics give us insight into why the game is so engaging:

  • It is challenging. Participants must take a random set of letters and make words of a specific length within a specific time limit. Participants must also strategize about how to take over the most territory as well as how to play against opponents of varying skill.
  • It invites people to participate. The audio and visual aspects of the game make the game easy to play and encourage participation.
  • It provides feedback. The game provides immediate feedback about how well you are doing compared to others, and rates your word IQ.
  • It builds interest through variety and drama. The game is intriguing because you are not always playing against the same players. There is a sense of drama because you are never sure of the outcome.
  • It supports learning. One of the unique features of the game is that it provides dictionary definitions of words that you and your opponents play. If you want to practice by playing the same game again with different moves, you can do that as well.
  • It brings closure to the work. Games have a specific beginning and end. You know when you start, you know when it is over, and you know how well you did.

What if your next meeting was one where:

  • There was challenge to be met
  • Participants felt invited to participate?
  • Feedback occurred so that participants knew how close they were to meeting the challenge
  • Interest was built through variety and drama: new people, new ways of working, new settings
  • Learning occurred: participants left smarter than when they entered
  • Closure occurred through clear decisions, assignments

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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.

Explore Heuristically

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 6.23.02 PMThis past weekend at the kickoff of our Indy 3D Leadership Program for education leadership we did a session on norm building for our learning journey. I had put together a few example norms to get the juices flowing. One of the examples was #9. Explore Heuristically. This caused quite the discussion. Of course, that was my intent!

IMG_1857I have to give credit where credit is due on the thought of exploring heuristically. This came from my good friend and great graphic facilitator, Mike Fleisch. Everything he does as a facilitator is heuristic and I really respect that about him and have learned a lot from him on how to let learning happen organically.

The participants were working in groups, so of course the first thing was for the groups to define heuristic. This really gave them pause and made them think, because here are of some of the definitions:

  1.  Any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect (Wikipedia).
  2.  Often enough the search ends in no overt positive conclusion (Dictionary.com).
  3. Describing an approach to learning by trying without necessarily having an organized hypothesis or way of proving that the results proved or disproved the hypothesis. That is, “seat-of-the-pants” or “trial-by-error” learning (WhatIs.com).

IMG_1987Now let’s dig a little deeper. It is really deriving an answer from experience. In other words, enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves. So, wouldn’t it make sense to learn heuristically when in a group, from the experience of everyone in the group. This gives us the chance to explore the possibilities rather than a set of rules. Leadership learning developed by most organizations seems to be one where system developed provisions over-shadows individuals taking personal responsibility for their leadership learning. I believe we must endeavor to create a balance between organization and individual agendas, with the pendulum swung more toward the individual side. Amazingly, we talk a lot about differentiating and individualization of education for our students but we don’t do a very good job of it with adults. Furthermore, it has been my experience that adults really like to learn in the same way we learned when we were kids. Therefore, we should create more leadership learning models that make use of heuristic pedagogy and tools.

IMG_1949Let me share an example of an activity I used this past weekend. Participants were given a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head kit and told to build a model that represented and answered the question: Who Am I As A Leader Today? After giving participants time to think through create their models we then got in a circle and went around and had everyone explain why they built their model the way they did. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads are great to use for model building because of the many pieces and infinite ways to build them. Needless to say it was inspiring. Here are a few of examples of what was said:

IMG_1957To me this was a great model of heuristic learning. I designed this model building activity as a starting point only, intended to help leaders identify the state of their current knowledge about leadership as well as their future professional development needs. The Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head models were used to show his or her current leadership knowledge profile and the knowledge fields on which he or she will need to focus their learning in the future. Heuristically, the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head model building guided discovery and investigation. This allowed participants a rare chance for reflection. This reflection allowed participants to learn things about themselves and for themselves.

IMG_1958As opposed to traditional learning which usually employs facts, theories and postulations, heuristic learning involves testing, doing, practice, trying, and listening to others’ experiences. One of my heroes, Thomas Edison, was the ideal role model of learning heuristically. You all know the famous story of how Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb after 1000s of unsuccessful attempts. In fact we have all heard the quote from Edison when he said, “I have not failed 1000 times, but I have discovered 1000 ways how not to invent the light bulb.” Are you exploring heuristically? Better yet, how are you helping others explore heuristically?

The Gift of Listening Without Fixing

IMG_1941The Gift of Listening Without Fixing

An excerpt from The Courage Way

By Shelly L. Francis

A senior management leader we’ll call Bob had tension with another person on staff, which made him feel as though his value to the organization was being questioned. He went to the CEO, Mike, for advice—and to vent a bit, too. He paced around the corner office, unsettled. Rather than give Bob instructions about what to do next, Mike consciously opted to ask open, honest questions. That meant asking questions Mike couldn’t possibly know the answer to but that would help Bob listen to his own inner wisdom.

In their conversation that day, Mike posed these questions in response to Bob’s unfolding story: What does that mean to you: feeling your value is being questioned? How does that feel to you? Do you recall a time when you had a similar feeling? How did that turn out? What are some things that occur to you as a next step?

The questions helped Bob connect the current situation with some other times in his current life and in his past. He was able to look at the workplace episode differently, and he gained a new perspective on how to approach his colleague for further conversation.

Mike’s internal stance as a leader was the foundation of this curiosity-driven yet nonjudgmental conversation that led to Bob’s insights. What Bob couldn’t see was that Mike was also embodying a few other touchstones to create safe and trust- worthy space: allowing silence, turning to wonder, and no fixing, saving, advising, or correcting. This approach empowers others to make wise decisions based on their own genuine inner knowing, rather than just accepting a superior’s advice (or seeming to but without a sense of ownership). Mike said, “I’m fascinated every time in these interchanges how much more satisfying the result seems to be when I don’t jump in with the first advice that comes to mind. My conversation with Bob had so much more texture to it. My impression was that Bob appreciated the fact that I didn’t dive in and tell him what to do and that I was interested enough in the situation to help him talk through it.”

Mike knew that his approach was atypical. “Allowing silence is challenging, especially in the workplace. People are taught to fill the silence. If you engage in conversation with open, honest questions and you give people time to ponder, that means you have to be patient with the silence.”

Mike sees how this form of conversation supports a workplace culture of compassion and empathy. “It’s harder to stop and think of asking an open, honest question. But it is a form of caring for someone, and it comes across that way—as caring.” It also communicates a charged expectation that Bob will address the situation responsibly and will be accountable for maintaining professional relationships with colleagues. This is paradox in action, to hold the tension between caring and accountability.

Mike told me that learning to ask open, honest questions is both a challenge and benefit of Courage Way practice because it’s made him a much better listener. “I’ve realized there is no greater gift you can give someone than deeply listening to them.” Open, honest questions are a form of humility in leadership, too. It’s easier but can be a form of arrogance to ask questions that try to manipulate people into the answer you want them to find.

An open question leads us to what Einstein referred to as a “holy curiosity.”  ~ Dawna Markova

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courage_way_3dAbout Shelly L. Francis

Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.

The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. Her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life.

The Courage Way

The Courage Way: Leading and Living with IntegrityThe Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity by Shelly L Francis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Review: Being a leader takes tremendous courage and involves taking risks every day. That courage, if we are honest, is very hard to muster up at times. We all have core values we believe in and when the proverbial bullets begin to fly and hit our Kevlar, we find out just what we are made of. More importantly, those around us and that we serve find out what we are made of, too! In The Courage Way, we learn about five very important ingredients to being a courageous leader: understanding our true self, trust, being a part of trusting community, learning to embrace the paradox of leading and learning, and learning to reflect as a part of learning to lead more effectively and courageously. This book is a must read for anyone wanting to lead courageously at any level of community, even on the world stage.
~Dr. Byron Ernest

View all my reviews