Thursday, April 8, 2021

4LeadershipDISes

Leaders have the responsibility of trying to make things better. Almost always, it's a heavy lift. 

Here's one of my favorite definitions of leadership: The craft of moving others by influencing them to do things they would not do of their own accord, or at a pace which they would not undertake for themselves.

Leaders who fail to move organizations toward better futures often fall victim to one or some combination of the 4 DIS-es. 

1) DIStrust - when leaders fail to gain the trust of organizational members or fail to foster a culture of trust in the organization.

2) DISrespect - when leaders signal lack of respect (overtly or covertly) it becomes a cancerous toxin in the system.

3) DIStancing - when leaders disregard feedback, ignore the viewpoints of the customers, or show favoritism to some (which implies disenfranchisement of others).

4) DISsonance - when leaders dishonor the time of others by allowing meetings to be ineffectual time-wasters and engagements with members to be superficial or off-putting.

As leaders, we need not delude ourselves into believing anything positive will ensue if we foster, or allow, those four DISsing dynamics to exist - or worse, to persist - in our organizations. 

Get better. Every day. On purpose.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

WillAbility

 Getting better is a personal choice. We can choose to improve ourselves, either personally or professionally, along several domains: intellectual, physical, or emotional-spiritual.

Two elements determine our success in affecting better futures for ourselves: 

1) Will - Do we have the strong sense of need for a change in status and the drive to put processes in place to make that change?

2) Ability - Do we have the moxie, the skills, the discipline, the capabilities to actually make the changes we deem important to make?

Almost every human on the planet has the Ability piece in their skill set. The most frequent barrier, however, to personal/professional improvement comes in the area of Will. 

These same two dynamics are fundamental to organizational improvement. Wise leaders attend carefully to both aspects - Will and Ability - if they hope to foster a culture of continuous improvement.

But, oh, when they do!!!!

When is it too late to start getting better? When we're dead.

When is the best time to start? Now. 

GO!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Influenced-er

Influence is an interesting dynamic. We can think of it as the act of impacting some sort of outcome through unobvious and often indirect means. 

The Earth is a physical body, yet it influences weather patterns, seasonal changes, celestial bodies beyond itself. The Sun is similar. While it is a finite physical body (in one sense), it’s power, reach, impact, INFLUENCE can be felt well beyond the confines of its physicalness. It commands attention and it emanates significant influence across millions of other celestial bodies, across light years of time. And, the Sun’s influence does not just stop at the surface of the Earth; it penetrates to its very core, to and through all the life forms that live here.

I am increasingly aware of the power of influence among and between humans. We, too, emanate signals(?), fields(?), influence(?) – SOMETHING – that reaches beyond our physical bodies, and across time. 

What is not in question is that you and I have some impact on the thinking and behavior of others, well beyond the physicalness of our bodies.

What IS in question, however, is the nature of that influence, and whether or not we are intentional in what we are emanating. 

We are at once the influenced, and the influencers.

A question most worthy of our deepest consideration: “What am I emanating in the way of influence?” 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

TheMeritMyth

I recently read The Merit Myth: How Our Colleges Favor the Rich and Divide America by Anthony Carnevale, Peter Schmidt, & Jeff Strohl (2020).


 My top takeaways:

- Educational separation and sorting, by race and class, begins in kindergarten.

- College admissions and IQ standardized tests are inherently skewed to disfavor the non-privileged.

- “Enrollment management” processes used at elite universities ensure access for the wealthy and well-connected, at the expense of all others.

- Financial aid support in higher education is frequently directed (or re-directed) to those that need it the least.

- The high school diploma is no longer a harbinger of lifelong economic security.

- Bachelor’s degree owners have been rising out of the middle class into the highest-earning 30% while those with only a high school diploma have been dropping into the bottom 30%.

- Bachelor’s degree possessors can expect to earn about $1 Million more dollars over a working lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. (That’s a whole lot of iTune purchases!)

- A quality education can, and should, serve as the “social glue” that mends societal divisions.

- High school, college, and career should be treated as ONE system, not three distinct ones. 

- “College” should represent a pathway to security and contribution, not a codification of prestige.

- Social forces exist in six types of mechanisms: 

1) Cognitive mechanisms, causing us to inaccurately judge and categorize each other 

2) Spatial mechanisms, segregating us into very different living conditions 

3) Market mechanisms, leaving the disadvantaged disproportionately unlikely to benefit from economic change 

4) Policy mechanisms, via government and/or other entities, having the effect of increasing inequality 

5) Cultural mechanisms, which influence our thinking/behavior as we adapt to our distinct circumstances 

6) Educational mechanisms, which tend to replicate disadvantage generationally.

 

My favorite quotes:

 “In a seminal paper on the industry, the late Gordon Winston, a Williams College economist, described higher education as a place ‘in which very different educational quality is produced in very different schools at very different cost and sold at very different prices—gross and net—to students with very different input characteristics who get very different subsidies and are often selected from very long queues of applicants, leaving a lot of unsatisfied demand.’” (p. 62)   

 

“We currently set aside seats in the top colleges for students who already have the most advantages—the equivalent of reserving beds in the best hospitals for the healthiest people.” (p. 196)  

 

The authors of this book did an excellent job of pulling together data, identifying from that data a compelling societal need, and making a sound argument for change.

 

The only “gap” I detected in their argument was the insinuation that “college” represents a means to an end, rather than an accelerator of a lifetime of self-directed, disciplined, and ongoing learning.  

 

When we stop learning, we start dying.

 

A very good book, and one that’ll bump your thinking about how we can do better.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

(im)Measurable

We humans are fond of measurement.  It seems to give us a sense of control, of understanding, of certainty.   

Below is a picture of the folding rule my paternal grandfather (who passed before I was born) used in his trade as a carpenter.


To be sure, Austin Coulter used that rule to design and craft buildings, cabinets, and furniture that was at once structurally sound, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. 

However, very few things are as reliably static and dependably consistent as a 2x4 cut to 82.5" in length (actually, even those vary wildly).  And, the more complex the issue we wish to measure - mental health, body weight, wind speed, IQ, love - the less dependable our measuring devices become. 

Complexity of contexts added to relentless variability makes the act of measurement, on its best day, tenuous. 

Albert Einstein is oft quoted, "Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted." 

Margaret Wheatley, one of my favorite authors, asserts that "Every act of measurement loses more information than it gains, closing the box irretrievably and forever on other potentials."

We are wise to try to take account - to measure - things in order to track change and make improvements.  

We are wiser still to understand that those measurements, in almost all instances, are nothing more than snapshots of the present state (which has already changed).

Saturday, February 27, 2021

44

 For the 44th time I woke up with my lovely bride on our anniversary.

She is NOT the same person I married 44 years ago.  And neither am I.  The hang is easy, still. 

We feel greatly blessed for our having evolved through those years in ways that have made us even more compatible than we were when it all started.

Here's hoping for 44 more (but absolutely thrilled with each one we get to have together).  

The year 2020 seems to have raised our awareness in that regard.

Monday, February 22, 2021

BandwidthBumping

Bandwidth is a term we have come to use with great frequency over the last 20 years.  We typically use it to describe the amount of capacity a system has for delivering/processing digital data.

 

The more bandwidth you have in the system, the more capacity it has to receive, move, and process the digital information at hand.  

 

In the digital realm, we can increase bandwidth through beefing up the capacity of the transmission, hardware, and/or software systems.

 

Wise leaders understand that organizations also have “bandwidth,” in terms of the capacity of their teams.  Only in the rarest of cases can they simply buy more bandwidth (as occurs in the digital context).  

 

In most instances, those astute leaders understand that they must build the capacity of the organization – its “bandwidth” – through very intentional processes of expanding the learning and skills – the “bandwidth” – of each member of the organization.  

 

Organizational learning occurs as result of purposeful planning and deployment processes, NOT happenstance. 

 

But, oh what dividends it pays…