Byron's Babbles

Flaw-Tolerant Leadership

This morning while feeding in one of our pastures I came across the most beautiful spider web. There was a dew on, which accentuated the detail and geometry of the web. It was so cool I took a picture and have included it in this post. I tweeted that the spider web either had a geometry or leadership lesson in it. Here is the leadership lesson. 

In researching spider webs just now I came across the research of Markus Buehler, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT. Buehler has analyzed the complex, hierarchical structure of spider silk and its amazing strength. His research shows that on a pound-for-pound basis, it’s stronger than steel. 

Working with CEE graduate students Steven Cranford and Anna Tarakanova, and Nicola Pugno of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy Buehler found that a key component of spider silk that helps make webs robust is something previously considered a weakness: the way it can stretch and soften at first when pulled, and then stiffen again as the force of the pulling increases.
Additionally, these researchers found that spider webs typically only fail or get damaged in small areas. This makes it easy for the spiders to make repairs. If you’ve ever looked closely at a spider web, it still functions even with damage. This what Buehler described in this way: “It’s a very flaw-tolerant system.”

This made me think about leading in a flaw-tolerant way and creating a flaw-tolerant organization. We talk about encouraging taking risks and encouraging failing quickly, but have we made our organizations flaw-tolerant? We need to make sure we are set up like the spider web to have localized failure/damage without it being catastrophic. 

We are beginning to accept the value of failure in the abstract. In other words we have learned, at least that corporate policies, processes, and practices. Conversely, it’s an entirely different matter at the personal level. Everyone hates to fail.

In order to create a flaw-tolerant system, more effective and interdependent upon the decisions made by each departmental leader. We need to be like the spider web and weave our teams together so we can sustain failure or small damage and be able to quickly make local repairs without missing a beat.

Is your organization flaw-tolerant?

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3 Self Leadership Strategies to Reduce Stress at Work

Guest post from Susan Fowler. Originally Published 5/25/17: https://leaderchat.org/2017/05/25/3-self-leadership-strategies-to-reduce-stress-at-work/

The fast-paced nature of today’s work environment can create stress and anxiety for workers at all levels in an organization—but especially those responsible for getting things out the door on a daily basis. Even the most organized and efficient among us can feel the strain.

Looking for some relief? Recent research confirms that a little proactive self leadership results in significantly less strain (and more energy) at the end of your workday.

See for yourself by giving one—or all three—of these strategies a try.

Ask for FeedbackTomorrow morning, try a bold start to your day. Ask for feedback from your manager, colleagues, or staff members: “Would you be willing to share one piece of feedback, based on your experience or observation, that you think would help me do my job better today?”

Neuroscience provides evidence that asking for feedback sets up a more responsive brain condition. Requesting feedback delivers the information you need when you need it, but also results in less defensiveness—meaning you are more likely to hear what you need to hear and act on it.

So, when you learn something of value, act on it! Put what you’ve learned to use. Asking for feedback and then acting on it will demonstrate the willingness to learn and grow and the courage to be honest. What’s more, others will see it as a valuable example of proactive behavior.

Identify Solutions to Problems

Ask people what is getting in the way of their being more productive and many will half-jokingly point to their manager, an irritating coworker, or an unreasonable client. Instead of bemoaning your manager who “doesn’t get it,” why not be proactive and sell your solution? Follow these four steps:

1. State the problem or issue in one clear sentence, including the implications for you and others if the situation isn’t improved.

2. Generate three solutions with the pros and cons of each solution. One of the solutions should be the one that you believe will solve the problem based on your experience and insight. But as good as your idea may be, you need to generate two more. Three is the magic number.

3. Identify the decision makers and present to them your three solutions and the pros and cons for each—not revealing which one you think is best.

4. After presenting all three solutions, provide your recommendation for the solution you think is best, along with the rationale for why. Then, seek agreement.

This technique has been proven to create either the change you desire or a valuable learning moment. Either way, you experience less stress and more energy.

Be Proactive
Stop waiting to be given authority. Be proactive.

It’s been said authority is 20 percent given and 80 percent taken. If you have a solution to a nagging problem or an idea for improving efficiency on a particular task or project, don’t let yourself get frustrated by the permission process or the hoops you need to jump through to get things done. Instead, take action. Build a business case for giving you the authority to act.

In taking action you will experience a sense of competence and autonomy—two psychological needs required to thrive at work. And those who give you the authority will also benefit by empowering you to do more so that they can focus on other things that need their attention.
Practice a little self leadership each day to reduce your stress and fatigue. Ask for feedback, identify solutions, and be proactive starting tomorrow morning. You might find yourself able to devote more time to your health, family and friends, and all those dreams you’d pursue if you only had the energy!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people. In her latest bestselling book, she explains Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … And What Does: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing. She is the author of by-lined articles, peer-reviewed research, and six books, including the newly revised bestselling Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs, such as the Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. For more information, visit SusanFowler.com

 

Neuroscience Savvy Leadership Practices

This guest post is an excerpt from The New Leadership Literacies (Johansen, 2017).

Neuroscience Savvy Leadership PracticesBy Bob Johansen

David Rock is the founder the Neuroleaderhip Institute in New York, the first research group that is integrating neuroscience and leadership principles. They are studying things like job performance.

They argue that many of the classic performance review systems trigger fight or flight mechanism in our brain and have exactly opposite effect from what we like to have. They draw upon neuroscience research and bridge to what they research means in a work environment.

David Rock’s book Your Brain at Work is a practical handbook for applying neuroscience lessons to specific daily work activities. Using detailed scenarios from days in the life of a young working couple, he makes the research practical. For example:

“I noticed a surprising pattern while putting this book together. I saw that there are five domains of social experience that your brain treats the same as survival issues. These domains form a model, which I call the SCARF model, which stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. The model describes the interpersonal primary rewards or threats that are important to the brain.”

The SCARF model suggests that, in order to be balanced and productive, our brains need to feel a sense of status, some certainty that provides grounding, autonomy to for self strength, balanced with a sense of relatedness to others, and finally a sense of fairness in the system. Without these brain balance basics, we feel sapped of energy.

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About Bob Johansen:

Bob Johansen is a distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley. For more than 30 years, Bob has helped organizations around the world prepare for and shape the future, including corporations such as P&G, Walmart, McKinsey, United Rentals, and Syngenta, as well as major universities and nonprofits.
The author or co-author of ten books, Bob is a frequent keynote speaker. His best-selling book Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present was selected as one of the top business books of 2007. His latest book is The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything discusses five new leadership literacies—combinations of disciplines, practices, and worldviews—that will be needed to thrive in a VUCA world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. 

 
 

8 Tips for Riding the Mood Elevator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About Dr. Larry Senn

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

 

 

 

Growth Vs. A Fixed Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baling The Side Ditches

My family and I are on vacation this week in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As you can imagine I have been reading up on the Lolitas, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, General Custer, the US involvement with Native Americans, and of course, Mount Rushmore. Despite all this learning, there was another lesson staring us in the face as we travelled completely across (literally) the awesome state of South Dakota: almost every mile of Interstate 90 of side ditch (what we call the roadsides in Indiana) were either baled, being baled, or being mowed for hay. 

We were amazed by the quantity of grass hay being baled on these roadsides. For one stretch, my son Heath, counted 150 big 6’X6′ round bales on the north side (west bound) lanes of the interstate and got tired of counting. Heath really got me thinking when he said, “Dad, this is genius, why don’t we do this?” He went on to say, “Look at all the good hay they are getting and the state does not have to pay to mow roadsides.” I was pretty proud of his thinking – particularly cutting government costs!

Then I got to thinking that we need to find the roadsides to mow in all our organizations. What might be going to waste somewhere that our own business, organization, or school could be using? I am sure if we spent a little time brainstorming we could come up with some pretty amazing stuff. 

In my own case of leading a school, I talk a lot about existing infrastructure. In other words, what are others doing that the school could partner with and not have to use State dollars to provide? I think about this a lot around social services. To me it does not make sense for schools to spend a lot of money on services that are being provided in every county; and done very well, I might add. I continue to say we need to develop a “constellation of services” so we are not all trying to do the same thing.

Really, we need to be thinking like a farm kid. As a young boy I would go to the local elevators and other farms and clean up their grain screenings (broken corn kernels and chaff that is screened as corn goes up the elevator). Left in piles it would just get wet and gross as it rained in the fall. These screenings were dusty to pick up and no one really liked the job. For me, it was an opportunity. I could spend the fall feeding out some pigs on all the grain screenings I collected. In fact, it got to where people would call and tell me the pile was getting big. Also, I was always very busy collecting the screenings when the weather report was calling for rain. 

So, just as the farmers in South Dakota, and I’m sure other states, apply for permits to bale roadsides, we need to consider what our opportunities for baking side ditches are. I’m sure they are out there if we just take the time to look. 

Alternative Truths

This past week I had the opportunity to do an awesome activity with members of The Value Web at their annual gathering. We were all given the task of picking an article that we had individually read in recent months that was impactful to us. We were then instructed to send the link to the article to our facilitators the Friday before the event. Then, yesterday all the articles had been printed out and pinned to boards. Then we went on a hunting expedition to find an article (not our own) that we found intriguing and interesting. We were instructed to get into groups of six. We were then given the Read, Read, and Read Some More protocol to carry out. I have posted the protocols here: 

Of course, the article I sent in was by Peter Block and entitled, “You Are The Guest.” Click here for the link to that article. The article I picked for the activity was “Why bullshit is no laughing matter” by Gordon Pennycook. Click here to read that article.

Interestingly, in our group of six the discussion using the Talk About It protocol revolved around the idea of “bullshitting.” You can see a graphic recording of our discussion, here: 

Graphic Recording By Jessica Browdy


We had a great discussion. Here are some points that really resonated with me: 

  • Conversations leading to trust are more valuable than scientific knowledge leading to jargon
  • Letting serendipity occur and create space is more valuable than engineered space
  • Be intentional to create space for serendipity to occur
  • We must build our emotional capacity to balance science and our beliefs to create space for trust
  • We live in the age of information, which means we live in the age of misinformation
  • It’s easy to bullshit – impress rather than inform
  • For the bullshitter, it doesn’t really matter if she is right or wrong. What matters is that you are paying attention
  • Many will rate sentences with buzz words as more profound than sentences with clear meaning

We also discussed how opportunities arise that we don’t consider, some objectives fall short and some exceed our wildest expectations. We spent time talking and thinking about how many times we have achieved success and realized that it is a combination of a great strategy, solid execution and serendipity. Serendipity is defined as “An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.” Pretty straight forward and I’m sure we can all think of many instances in our lives that came about in this very way.

Then we discussed the need to incorporate into your strategy a process to create and take advantage of serendipitous moments. Sounds like planning for accidents, right? We clearly cannot plan for all of the unexpected opportunities that may come our way, but what we need to do is analyze the unplanned opportunities that come out way and search for a pattern of some sort. We need to figure out the commonalities and devise a strategy that increases the chances of the random becoming less random, possibly even somewhat predictable – serendipity.
If we acknowledge that chance and circumstances beyond our control often do play a part in our success and allow ourselves to open our eyes to more opportunities whether we planned for them or not, we will create more serendipitous space.

Imaginal Leader Cells

Graphic Recording By Kelvy Bird


Yesterday I had the distinct honor of spending the day learning with The Value Web. One of the discussions involved the work of Imaginal Labs and the work of Carolyn Buck Luce and Rob Evans. When first seeing the word “imaginal” my thoughts were drawn to “imagining” or having an “imagination.” I quickly learned, however, “imaginal” is a biology term. The imaginal cells and the Blue Morpho Didius Butterfly 🦋 were the inspiration for Imaginal Labs. 

I am way over-symplifying here but basically imaginal discs (cells) are what allow the caterpillar to metamorphosis into something completely different – the butterfly. Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth. The imaginal disc might begin with only 50 cells and increase to more than 50,000 cells by the end of metamorphosis.

So, when thinking in terms of “imaginal” it is about creating new ideas and concepts of things that do not yet exist. As leaders we must do this at times. We must also be able to use our “imaginal leader cells” to iterate or metamorphosis the innovations and creations of our organizations. I like the way the Imaginal Labs puts it: 

“We believe that courageous leaders are the Imaginal cells within their organizations to help them transform to meet the challenges of our times.” ~ Imaginal Labs

Are you an Imaginal Leader?

Kaleidoscopic Adventure

Yesterday, we had our annual Focused Leader Academy (FLA) Summit where Cohort #2 graduated. Our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) at Hoosier Academies Network of Schools provides leadership skills the ability that are flexible and relevant no matter the situation and time. We want to inspire with valuable and effective methods for assisting our teacher leaders in discovering what they need to become focused and disciplined leaders. Over one hundred were in attendance because Cohort #1 and our newly selected Cohort #3 were there too. Additionally, we have each FLA member’s significant other in attendance as well. I dubbed the theme of the day to be: “Kaleidoscopic Adventure
.” We have used toys as through-lines all year and I thought it only too appropriate to use a kaleidoscope for the finale. Of course I gave everyone their very own kaleidoscope. We started with an activity of looking through the kaleidoscope and the thinking about what words they would use to compare the view through the kaleidoscope to their personal leadership journey. Ann Semon set up a text poll for us. Here are the results: 

Our adventure has been like that of a Kaleidoscope – colorful glass pieces or prisms 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 experience.
Additionally, we can use the same Kaleidoscopic through-line to describe the complexity of a school – enchantment, mercy, grace, trust, generosity, ease, truth, alliance, learning, and passion.
Our schools are like giant kaleidoscopes:

  • Schools are always moving, ever changing, and made up of simple parts that have highly complex results. 
  • They are beautiful because of the “dynamic complexity” that takes place every minute.
  • Even with the same common elements – hallways, desks, students, schedules – no two are exactly alike and they are beautiful because of their uniqueness.
  • When you look at them from the outside, they are relatively simple. When you view them on the inside, they are amazingly complicated.
  • Kaleidoscopes are fun and meant to be shared! 

Then sometimes I think we need an inside-out kaleidoscope—a de-fragmenter— this might be useful for looking at a fractured order through a lens of unity. 

For me personally, yesterday represented a spin of the Kaleidoscope. A new Cohort of beautiful pieces come into FLA, and the view gets even more complex and beautiful. Yesterday I tweeted that I was blessed to be able to form great relationships with our teachers. I mean that, and it is very important to me.

School leaders need personalized care. Remember, I believe everyone is a leader. Therefore, everyone in the school needs personalized care. When I personalize the care, I come away knowing my leaders better, sensing their concerns about the school, education, and about their own lives. I believe in the fundamental strategy of personally training individual leaders, particularly teacher leaders, to be the key for a strong, healthy school with effective leading of learning and family engagement. Many times we rationalize that the teacher leaders are too busy with their jobs and families to spend time with us. But the truth is, we are allowing ourselves to be swamped with the immediate and losing our priorities.

Adaptive Cultures

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

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Gert Jan Hofstede

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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