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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

LeadersAsArchitects

The best leaders I know serve largely as Architects of organizational culture.

In very overt and transparent ways, these Architects are:

  • Futures-oriented -- They focus constantly on the "horizon" and help those around them do the same.
  • Clarifying -- Even when the ambiguities and contradictions of contexts muddle things up, they keep their attention on worthy and noble driving principles.
  • Relational -- They understand that how we treat each other is a powerful "attractor" in creating a sense of safety, belonging, appreciation, effectiveness, and value among/between organizational members.
  • Outcome-focused -- They provide operational discretion and support and forgiveness in abundance, so long as folks are achieving results (or authentically trying to).
  • Continually improving -- They invest heavily on better getting ... personally and professionally and collectively.
Architects understand that what is left behind is the legacy of what is being done today. 

What we build can and should convey beauty, resilience, ecological sustainability, social efficacy, and positive contribution.

Back to the drafting table...

Sunday, November 27, 2022

BounceLesser

I engaged an 84-year old cowboy (Ben) in conversation during a luncheon not long ago. Ben was an interesting character, with bright eyes and a quick wit. He had been a working cowboy his entire adult life and a ranch manager for over 40 years.

Ben told me that he had "recently" quit breaking horses because he "didn't seem to bounce" like he used to. WHAT!?, I thought. Still breaking colts (and getting bucked off) in his 80s???

Though age (and wisdom) had called upon Ben to adjust his behavior and thinking to account for the realities of life, he was still exhibiting curiosity, vim, and vigor. He was, however, wisely aware that changing contexts require us to adapt.

A good lesson for us all: Get better at adapting to evolving realities/contexts. But never QUIT contributing and serving. 

How best can I continue to "bounce," even when some of the former "bounciness" is not available to me?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

ContrarianRepellant

Every organization has its contrarians. 

Contrarians are habitual resisters. They disagree, oppose, block, slow, argue, distract, and disrupt...................simply for the sport of it.

Contrarians are not interested in outcomes or improvement. They are interested in "likes" and attention, more entertainers than contributors. 

The organizations that make consequential and consistent improvements, that change the world for the better, that are focused on serving well and pervasively and NOW...............somehow keep the contrarians on the margins (or in the closet).

A powerful contrarian repellant boils down to the cultural behavior leadership is willing to tolerate.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

WisdomPursuit

According to leadership guru Dan Rockwell, "Wisdom is practical know-how. (Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.)" 

From observing others over the years it appears to me that wisdom gatherers fall into three categories:

  • Happenstancers  - With this group, little morsels of wisdom "stick" on and to them as result of simply living life. 
  • Attenders - This group shows up for "class" every day. They take the trouble to actually pay attention. They watch, they learn, and they apply the learning when appropriate. Their wisdom grows incrementally. They are present, and accounted for.
  • Seekers - This group adopts and embraces the HABITS of wisdom acquisition. They read purposefully, they watch intently, they tinker persistently, they listen deeply, they relentlessly engage with many wise others (across learning disciplines), they are on a continuous mission of "connecting the dots." They have learned the financial lesson of "compounding interest" and apply it adeptly to their wisdom "savings accounts." In short, their "nutrition" is LEARNING and their "exercise" is the application of that LEARNING.

You know the next question...

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

LiberatingLeadership

Oppressive environments mean one thing: lack of freedom.

Oppressive environments look like this:

  • Fly-under-the-radar syndrome
  • Commitment-less
  • Lack of energy
  • Risk aversion
  • Protectionism
  • Isolationist

Free environments look like this:
  • Energized
  • Transparent
  • Enthusiastic
  • Collaborative
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Innovative and creative

Talented folks have the FREEDOM to work where, and with whom, they choose.

While high quality systems are good and needful, they can never replace talented folks.

Leaders.............................take heed.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

TeachersALL

ALL of us are teachers. Regardless of age, regardless of title, regardless of station in life.

Someone is always watching us. And they learn.

Our Watchers glean numerous things from that watching:

  • Ways of Thinking -- The way we think impacts our behavior. It has the same effect on our Watchers.
  • Ways of Behaving -- The way we behave impacts the way we think. It has the same effect on our Watchers.
  • Ways of Symbolizing -- The way we think and behave is modeled by exemplars we have chosen to emulate and manifestations/processes we have chosen to embrace. The same dynamic occurs in our Watchers. 
Through that triad we give our Watchers both permission and encouragement.

Whatever we decide to think, however we decide to behave, whichever symbols and exemplars we choose to highlight..............................is best done intentionally.

Someone is learning from our teaching. What we teach our Watchers, we teach their Watchers. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

UnStuck

We all deal with problems -- in our personal lives, in our family lives, in our organizational lives.

Problems that are not addressed become an insidious drag on our resources -- mental, physical, emotional-spiritual.............whether we address them or not. 

In that case, why not pick one and address it?

Here's a good start. Ask and answer the following questions:
  • What is THIS problem?  (In just a few words, not more than one sentence.)
  • What is this problem keeping me/us from accomplishing?
  • What one action can I/we realistically take to diminish or eliminate this problem?
Today, take that step. Move the needle, just a little. Make it a habit. Repeat tomorrow.

Problem mitigation is 1/2 of the Continuous Improvement Process. 

"There's no crying in baseball!" (Tom Hanks, from the movie "League of Our Own")



Friday, November 4, 2022

Culturize

I recently read Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes by Jimmy Casas (2017).


JS speaks to strategies that school leaders can enact to positively impact student learning outcomes, along numerous dimensions. He focuses a great deal of the book on concrete moves leaders can make.

My biggest takeaways:

·       A conversation is not just words flying – it’s body language, smiles, eyes, pacing and pausing…

·       Definition of Culturize: To cultivate a community of learners by behaving in a kind, caring, honest, and compassionate manner in order to challenge and inspire each member of the school community to become more than they ever thought possible.

·       Fairness necessarily means treating others differently.

·       Providing clarity lowers anxiety.

·       Power and rightness are not the same thing.

·       Tricky conversations are best had in person.

·       There is no excuse for not contacting the parent of a failing student.

·       Leaders own their morale.

·       Awfulizing is the habit of verbally bashing others, circumstances, decisions. 

·       Awfulizing = unwelcoming, rude, critical, provoking, cruel. 

·       Awesomizing = inviting, civility, accepting, deterring, compassionate.

·       Great change begins with self-change.


My favorite quotes:

“To often, however, we get stuck in the habit of simply managing a mediocre culture.” (p. 9)


“Your culture of your organization will be defined by the worst behavior you are willing to tolerate.” – Todd Whitaker & Steve Gruenert (School Culture Rewired). (p. 97)


A very nice read in relation to leadership moves dedicated to improving organizational culture. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

LeadThink

Those in leadership roles frequently feel the burden of that responsibility. It is real! To whom much is given, much is required.

Being the best leaders we can be requires us to spend some of our personal resources on self-care. If WE are not healthy and well, what makes us think we can lead entire organizations toward health and wellbeing?

From my observations of some particularly "well" leaders over the years, I deduce common forms of Leader Think in which they engage. 

Particularly "well" leaders...

  • Hold zealously to their principles.
  • Remain relentlessly committed to acts of service.
  • Doggedly pursue continuous improvement, personal and collective.
  • Engage in disciplined "exercise"_intellectual, physical, and emotional-spiritual.
  • Ask excellent questions, grounded in curiosity and in relationship building.
  • Engage and meaningfully connect with many others.
  • Model and expect respectful behavior.
  • LEARN daily.
How leaders think is how leaders lead.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

OffensiveExcellence

Pursuing excellence is tricky business.

Many folks find the pursuit of excellence offensive. Here's why...
  • It requires deep thinking about an ambiguous future.
  • It produces as many questions as it does answers.
  • It challenges assumptions, encroaches on dogma.
  • It requires extra investments of effort and time.
  • It exposes mediocrity and averageness.
  • It means shaking up the status quo.
  • It requires continuous LEARNING.
  • It is extremely uncomfortable.
  • It is risky.
And yet, some folks pursue excellence anyway -- zealously.

Sign me up!

Monday, October 24, 2022

FutureDriven

I recently read Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World? by David Geurin (2017).


This book was as much about pedagogy and engagement as it was about affecting future- and life-ready students. But, of course! Are those not inextricable entanglements?

My biggest takeaways:
·      NEVER………...delay gratitude.
·      In schools, desks in rows is “the cemetery effect.”
·      In learning task design, avoid the trash can finish.
·      Learning task designer is the teacher’s premier role.
·      If we can’t change our mind, we can’t change anything.
·      Could I sell tickets for my lessons? (Are they that good?)
·      Writing improves our thinking; thinking improves our writing.
·      Unless we can do something useful with our learning, it is meaningless.
·      People complain about two things: 1) The way things are, and 2) Change.
·      If everyone in my workplace had my attitude, what kind of place would it be?
·      Embed the standards in the learning; don’t let the standards BE the learning.
·      Charles Schultz: “Life is like a 10-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.”

My favorite quotes:
“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.” (p. 46)

“If our students master every standard but do not discover joy and passion in learning, we have failed them.” (p. 64)

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker (p. 65)

“We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey (p. 106)

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” —C.S. Lewis (p. 179)

A good read for educators. An excellent book for team studies.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Connectedness

We -- all of us -- are connected, whether we want to admit it or not. 

Easily seen are the ecological connections of nature and the underlying interdependence that goes with them. Social versions of that same interconnectivity and interdependence also exist. We are inextricably connected. That is more the case now than ever in human history. 

Are we not richer, wiser, more understanding, when we consider the viewpoints, and the antecedents of those viewpoints, of others? 

Purposefully keeping our "connections" open, and expanding our network of connections is an excellent way to grow, and learn, and get better.

LISTENING is an excellent way to make others comfortable connecting with us. It's a learnable skill.

BONUS: Eric Bibb nicely captures our connectedness in his song you can listen to HERE.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

ReflectiveBetterment

Getting better. On purpose. Every day.

Easier said than done. But it always starts with reflection. It's hard to purposefully move toward improvement (either personal or collective) until/unless we turn the mirror on ourselves. That mirror-gazing is both a look at what exists in this moment, and a look over the shoulder at where we've been.

WHY - Why have we thought and acted as we have been? Are those moves in alignment to where we want to go and what we want to be in the future? 

WHAT - What needs to change today to bring us into that alignment? Some "stuff" likely needs to be halted, and other "stuff" needs to be ramped up.

HOW - Knowing the WHAT leads to the HOW. The required changes in habits don't occur on good intentions. Action of some kind is required. We need to be clear about how we intend to make those moves.

WHEN - We can't eat the whole elephant in one bite, but we can move the needle a little today (how's that for mixed metaphors?). NOW is the time.

GO! 

(Tomorrow we can re-evaluate and revise as needed. It's sort of like continuous improvement.)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

SpeedVsAccuracy<>WHY

When we create targets -- goals, outcomes, expectations -- in life or work, we are faced with a series of decisions about how to hit those targets.

Most of those decisions fall into one of two categories:

Speed -- How fast and with what intensity are we going to pursue those outcomes? 

Accuracy -- What variability in achievement/performance levels are we willing to tolerate?

Increased Speed almost always means decreased Accuracy. Increased Accuracy almost always translates into decreased Speed. 

Knowing WHY we have chosen the targets is the starting point. When we are very clear about WHY we are trying to achieve whatever it is we deem worthy of our time, effort, and resources, then it's easier to find the right balance between the Speed at which we pursue it and the Accuracy tolerances we are willing to accept.

If we don't know the WHY, then neither Speed nor Accuracy matter much -- unless all we're doing is checking off boxes and writing reports.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Warmth+Competence

Influencing others is tricky business. The late Dr. Phil Schlechty often reminded us that the members of our organizations are "volunteers." We must earn their engagement and effort (not demand it).

Leadership guru Dan Rockwell believes that winning over those volunteers boils down to two things that we must convincingly convey:

1. Warmth - Do others perceive us as kind, caring, friendly, honest, and service-minded?

2. Competence - Are others convinced that we are thoughtful, discerning, skillful, influential, and have sufficient positional power to deliver? 

Stakeholders (internal and external) are constantly judging us against those two standards (whether they know it or not). 

The number of "yes" responses we garner to each of those indicators in the two listings above is directly proportional to our effectiveness as leaders. 

Note: Warmth precedes Competence for good reason...

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

JustFishin'(Repeat)

Rarely do I re-post a blog. This one from 2015 was on my mind today...

JustFishin'

Trace Adkins recorded a song in 2011 titled "Just Fishin'."  

The song describes a father taking his young daughter fishing.  While she believes the experience is all about fishing, the father understands the experience to be intentionally multidimensional.

My younger years were filled with those experiences that I thought were simply "fishing trips."  Perhaps you also have benefited from the wisdom, the guidance, the mentoring, the relationship building, the solace, the teaching of a beloved parent/grandparent/great grandparent, embedded in the simple activity of fishing (or sewing or cooking or gardening or building stuff).

As time has passed, the shoe has increasingly been on the other foot.  More and more I find myself sharing important nuggets of life-wisdom through the profound acts of fishing or playing cards or gathering eggs or walking in the pasture.  Little do they suspect.  They think we're just fishin'.

Here's the song.  

Enjoy.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

DivineAppointments

I used to believe in coincidences and random events. No longer. I have come to view the encounters I have with others, even in this space, as being Providentially directed. 

My clarity of understanding in that regard, though embarrassingly late arriving, triggers reflection on the subsequent responsibility I bear in these encounters. 

Here we are. It is no accident. Our minds and spirits are somehow, inexplicably, intertwined at this moment. 

How do/can I make your life and experience more positive as result? 

I'll do my best to bring blessings your way. (It runs both ways, you know.)

Feels like there might be magic on the other side of this Divine Appointment... 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

PrimoMarketing

We often perseverate on getting our message (or product or idea) out into the marketplace.

The first stop, however, is internal marketing.

If we fail to convince or persuade our own tribe -- family, house of faith, business, campus, team -- of the importance and efficacy of whatever it is we're trying to promote (whether tangible or intangible), then the likelihood of it gaining traction is minimal.

There are several upsides to marketing "at home" first:

  • Valued team members can help us improve the "product"
  • The internal discourse can help us clean up and tighten the messaging
  • The team members (if we win their support) will likely use their individual networks as force multipliers.
Note #1: The willingness of the internal team to actual "listen" to us is directly proportional to the quality of the relationships we have developed with them.

Note #2: Every conversation, every email, every memo, every exchange is a marketing opportunity. Intentionality is a must.

Happy marketing...

Sunday, September 25, 2022

DiscouragementDemolition

Who among us does not deal with discouragement? Stuff happens, and usually in multiples. There's no need for me to generate a list of discouragement causers: We can all do that for ourselves, without help.

How can we deal with discouragement? Consider the following...

  • Rest - slow down, watch the sunrise, toast the sunset, listen to some lovely music
  • Reset - change physical positions, change environments, change focal tasks frequently (no more than 90 minutes per)
  • Reflect - reassess, re-prioritize, re-learn (or learn anew)
  • Connect - reach out to those you love and love you back (even if briefly)
  • Celebrate - the stuff gone well, the folks who "show up," the many blessings and people that frequently go unnoticed
  • Serve - somehow meet the needs of another (or others), no matter how small the gesture
  • Move - walk, jog, bike, swim, yoga,...something that gets Mind-Body-Spirit into the action together
  • Pray - connect somehow with the God of your understanding
Any one of those things will help dissolve discouragement. 

Multiple of those strategies is downright liberating. 

ALL of them.........is a force multiplier.

May the FORCE be with you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

LeadershipJobs

Leadership is a team sport. 

How can the leader manage the organizational attention, and the team, in order to pursue the Vision and achieve the Goals?
  • Clearly articulate the Vision and Goals in an easily understandable way.
  • Relentlessly keep the Vision and Goals as the focal point of effort.
  • Chunk the work out; all team members must have clearly articulated skin in the game.
  • Calendar regular conversations with team members about their progress.
  • Remove unable or unwilling team members gracefully and quickly. 
Job 1: Focusing the attention of the organization on the Vision and the Goals. 

Job 2: Execution toward Vision and Goals achievement.

Job 2 is harder than Job 1. That's the part where the TEAM has to produce.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Interim-ness

I've held several posts over the years that had the word "Interim" hung in front of the title. 

Sometimes the expectation for interim service is to fix problems, to clean house, or to "burn it down," so the next non-interim will have a cleaner slate to work with. In effect, the interim serves as a hired Gunslinger.

Other times, the interim is hired to calm stormy waters, to heal open wounds, to quietly mend fences. I think of these interim servants as the PeaceMakers.

Frequently, the interim is a person that wants the job without the word "Interim" hung in front of the title. These are the Campaigners, who engage in politicking and coalition building, with an eye on creating the fewest enemies possible during the window of interim service. This the trickiest of all versions of interim-ness. Keeping everyone happy is a very tall order.

Occasionally, a servant leader will don the title of Interim __?__ purely from a heart of service. They agree to help the organization survive, improve, and prosper. They engage in the difficult work of continuous improvement with the long view, in a short-term role. I think of these interim servants as the BetterMakers.

Really, we are all just Interims. We're only visiting this planet for a short period of time. 

I wonder how others will view our service as Interim?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

LeadershipPotholes

We all just want to be more effective as leaders.

As we move and grow and learn and stretch ourselves along the journey to more effectiveness, we sometimes hit potholes in that pathway.

Here are some of the potholes that slow our journey toward betterness:

  • We spend more time talking than listening
  • We forget to notice and acknowledge the good work of those around us
  • We get focused on the little stuff at the expense of the BIG stuff
  • We opt for convoluted/complex systems instead of the most easily navigable
  • We abandon growing others and ourselves due to "time constraints"
Note to self: Dodge the potholes.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

InfluenceAmplifiers

We all influencers others. Except in the rarest of cases most of us desire that our influence has some sort of positive outcomes connected to it. 

While we don't have to possess a "title" to influence others, those in recognized leadership positions are afforded disproportional opportunities to affect positive outcomes, and vibes.

There are some concrete things we can do to make ourselves and the organizations we lead move toward betterness:

  • Focus on the best in others
  • Shift the focus from blaming toward collective resolution
  • Build bridges, not walls
  • Assist with the work, don't take over the work
  • Recognize, acknowledge, and model servant leadership
When we choose to do the opposite of those things, we should not be surprised at the the disharmony that results.

Getting better, every day, on purpose. 

We can.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

TalkingDoing

Accomplishing our organizational goals rests heavily on a lot of Talking and a lot of Doing.

Some folks in the organization are excellent Talkers. Some are superb at Doing. A precious few are good at both Talking and Doing.

Leaders are wise to assess (sooner rather than later) the skills of team members in this regard. Placing them strategically in roles that optimize their "gifts" is a consequential act of leadership.

A placement hierarchy to consider when assigning roles:

  1. TalkersDoers >> place in positions of leadership responsibility
  2. Doers >> place in positions of operational responsibility
  3. Talkers >> place in positions of some responsibility (if and only if their Talking is aligned to and advances organizational goals)
Note: Talkers whose talk is disruptive, toxic, or distracting should be marginalized or removed, with haste. The damage they do is a tax on the organization.



Thursday, September 1, 2022

Contagion++

Early in my professional career I often told the athletic teams I coached that "Attitudes are contagious."

I believe that more strongly now than I did then (after several decades of observation).

Regardless of our status or role, we most certainly have an impact on the attitude, the perspective, the mindset of others. That impact can enrich and improve their day, and ours. Or it can be an energy deflator. WE get to choose.

My lovely bride of 45 years (Moe) and I often reminded our daughters as we were raising them of the following: "You can be unhappy if you want. Just remember, nobody else cares -- much."

What are some ways we can be contagious in a positive way?

  • Smile - for some reason, or no reason
  • Listen - with real interest
  • Be thankful - and express it
  • Engage - connect with others authentically
  • Care - and show it
  • Serve - to make things better
Force Multiplier: Seek out and hang with others who choose to be happy. 

Everybody wins when we choose to be positively contagious.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

NonLeading

Some titles come with the assumption of leadership skill: CEO, Director, President, Chair, etc.

Some leaders wield influence in informal, yet powerful ways. Many title-less yet impactful leaders traffic their thinking and behavior through the media of influence.

What a blessing when the influencing comes coupled with the title!

What a complete disaster when the title comes completely devoid of the ability to influence.

If no one is following (or if the following is purely the result of forced compliance) then it's NOT leading.

Leaders are wise to take a reflective and thoughtful look in the mirror each day (both to self-examine and to see if anyone is following).

Sunday, August 21, 2022

BlendedLearning

When has learning ever NOT been blended?

The "stickiest" learning occurs when the attention of the learner is directed repeatedly, over time, and via many media toward the desired learning outcome.

The best teachers figure out how to bombard the learner with that cacophony, in invitational and engaging ways (NOT through threat, coercion, and compliance).

After all, both learner and learning task creator are continually in the process of LEARNING. Another way to think of blended learning, maybe?

No end in sight.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

PeopleStuff

Leaders grapple daily with the stuff....

the What?

the Why?

the How?

the When?

The most important question stem, however, is...

the Who?

At the end of the day -- or the reporting period, or the project launch, or customer satisfaction -- it's the people in our organization that make us what we are. 

That performance and/or perception can range from Yuk to Blah to Yeah Buddy! It all comes back to the folks on our team.

A very worthy question for us to ask ourselves as leaders:  Why in the world would smart, capable, talented, creative, and innovative people CHOOSE to work with us?

Because they can. Those kinds of folks really can CHOOSE the team they play on.

Our people ARE our brand.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Evangelists&Pastors

A leadership analogy...

Evangelists = Pray fervently + Preach like a beast + Seek and save the lost + Bolster and teach the flock + Add more flock + Forge (fleeting) relationships + Speak truth with a sharp edge + Craft solutions to abstract problems + Receive support from the flock + Travel to the next flock + Repeat

Pastors = Pray fervently + Preach like a beast + Seek and save the lost + Bolster and teach the flock + Add more flock + Forge (lasting) relationships + Speak truth with a softer edge + Craft solutions to concrete problems + Receive support from the flock + Live with and among the flock + Share in the daily struggles of the flock + Resolve conflicts within the flock + Manage the business of the flock + Move the flock toward espoused goals + Repeat

Now replace the word Evangelists above with Consultants/External Coaches.

And replace the word Pastors with Managers/Internal Coaches.

All four leadership roles are tough and necessary. 

Living with the flock, however, is trickier.



Wednesday, August 10, 2022

SermonLife

Some of the pastors I've had over the years stand out prominently in my mind. The fondness of those memories have little -- or nothing -- to do with their oratory skills or deep biblical knowledge. What drew, and draws, me to them is their spirit.

What about their spirit influenced and influences me so? They were/are...

  • Kind
  • Calm
  • Caring
  • Selfless
  • Inclusive
  • Thoughtful
  • Empathetic
  • Non-judgmental
  • Service oriented
  • Powerful listeners
Neither pastors nor Christians have the market cornered on that stuff. What if we all..........

Our life IS our sermon.


Sunday, August 7, 2022

LeadershipBondage

Leaders often delude ourselves into believing some things that actually work against us. Those faulty beliefs serve, rather, to hold us back. 

What kind of faulty beliefs limit our impact and effectiveness?

  • Culture is the by-product rather than the antecedent
  • Negative mindsets can be "fixed"
  • Perfection must precede deployment
  • Wisdom is isolated in an elite few
  • Control affects higher productivity
  • Transparency is too costly
  • Little things can be ignored
  • There is an endpoint to the work
  • Talk is more powerful than listening
  • "Stuff" is more important than people
Try reading each of those detrimental beliefs out loud, then pause briefly and say "NO!" (also out loud).

What are we to do, then? 

Break them chains!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

FailForward

Tackling tough tasks and challenging complex conundra is what leaders do. (The easy stuff is almost always handled down the hall or on another floor of the building.)

Consequently, our work disproportionately carries higher risk levels for failure. 

No prob! Failure is how we learn -- to improve, to adapt, to reassess, to re-engage, to re-imagine.

Some failure triggers to anticipate:

  • Information sharing among the team is sporadic, cluttered, or non-existent
  • Micromanagement and/or bureaucracy generate inertia
  • Poor onboarding processes of new team members
  • Launch or deployment time windows are too tight
  • Political protectionism
  • Resource famine

If we effectively forecast the triggers of failure, we stand a chance of interdicting or mitigating them.

Failure is rarely fatal. 

Fail Forward!

Monday, August 1, 2022

RelationalCalculus

Leaders traffic in relationships. That's our jam.

We can either bolster or bruise those relationships through our actions.

Relationship bruisers include stuff like:

  • Devaluing
  • Disrespecting
  • Blame casting
  • Micromanaging

Relationship bolsterers look like this:
  • Caring, and showing it
  • Engaging -- personally, often, authentically
  • Acknowledging problems but focusing on solution crafting
  • Perseverating on the wildly important things (but keep 'em few)
  • Noticing, then acknowledging, effort and good work toward goals
  • Fostering a culture of learning by modeling what a Lead Learner looks like

We can energize others through our relationships. Or, we de-energize them.

Yep, it's our choice...

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Condescension'sDividend

When we, as leaders, choose to engage in condescending behavior there are some guaranteed results that can be expected:

  • Others will feel devalued
  • Trust in us will plummet
  • Polarization will ensue
  • Our message will be throttled
  • Our impact and influence will be diminished
Kinda hard to see how any of those things move us toward betterment.

Condescension might be tempting. It might feel good. It might allow us a sense of self-righteousness. It might score a few short-term points. It might even get a few laughs.

Perhaps we should step away from the microphone and think twice -- or 100 times -- before engaging in condescension. Doesn't look like it pencils out.............

Monday, July 25, 2022

SimpliClarity_NOT!

Clarity and simplicity are NOT one and the same. The consequential problems we deal with, as leaders, are rarely simple. Thus, clarity is elusive. Rarely, if ever, are the solutions to our complex problem(s) clear. 

While we strive for simplicity and clarity, wise leaders understand that both are illusory. 

A similar dynamic tension exists between curiosity and knowledge. BOTH are necessary in our efforts to gain better grasp of the problem(s), and the potential solution(s). While curiosity + knowledge bring us deeper understanding, they almost always are accompanied by the unveiling of previously unbeknownst circumstances, motives, variables, history, etc.  

Beast mode LEARNING is the requirement for effective leadership. 

Whenever we hear someone (especially in leadership) say something like ..."The solution is simple and clear"... that is our cue to begin backing slowly toward the exit. They are either delusional, or they're trying to sell us something (that will likely NOT solve the complex problem we're dealing with).

learn >> Learn >> LEARN!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

DownstreamLeadership

Our impact as leaders -- in our families, in our communities, in our workplaces -- is the downstream effect of our influence.

Our influence as leaders is the downstream effect of the TRUST others have in us.

The TRUST others have in us as leaders is the downstream effect of what they conclude from their interactions with us.

What others conclude from their interactions with us is the downstream effect of decisions we make (either consciously or otherwise) about what we believe, why we believe it, and how we communicate it.

Evidently we should be paying purposeful attention to what we are doing upstream.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

BehavingItForward

We wish things were better. So much so that we frequently craft elaborate strategic plans to that end. Channeling my high school football coach, the best strategy in the world is meaningless unless we execute it. Execution comes down to a disciplined commitment to the "fundamentals" of that plan, at the micro and personal level. 

Plans almost always exist in the abstract. It's the execution -- the concrete enactments -- that move us toward the outcomes we desire. Execution moves us from the Thinking/Talking to the DOing. 

Our habits -- personal and organizational -- created our current state. Changing some of those habits is the first step toward our aspired outcomes. While we can't "eat the whole elephant in one bite," we CAN change one thing today.

As my friend Dr. Glen Shinn is fond of saying, "It's easier to behavior yourself into a new way of thinking that it is to think yourself into a new way of behaving." Wise counsel.

Today, I think I'll adopt (or abandon) the behavioral habit of.................

I and We can get better today -- one habit at a time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

-Energy+

Managing energy is a key task of leadership.

De-energizers...

  • Inflated egos
  • Fails and losses
  • Ambiguous goals
  • Micromanagement
  • Bureaucratic inertia 
Energizers...

  • Self-care
  • Delivering
  • Team synergy
  • Reflective practice
  • High levels of alignment
  • Worthy and noble aspirational goals
Note to leadership self: 
Maximize the Energizers, and minimize the De-energizers.

Bonus points go to the leaders who identify and elevate team members who embody the Energizer elements.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

UncertaintyExposure

We ALL have values, whether we know it or not. Some of us simply adopt the values we were raised with, giving little thought to them. Others of us spend a great deal of time and thought examining our values, then carefully articulating them for clarity (both for ourselves and others).

Then............Uncertainty enters the picture, like the villain in a western movie. Uncertainty tends to unsettle us, to disrupt our flow, to generate doubt.

Uncertainty does NOT alter our values. Rather, Uncertainty exposes our values.

If we don't like what we see in ourselves when Uncertainty storms in, it might be time to reassess what we believe, and why we believe it.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

ProspectingLeaders

Leaders are like prospectors. Some seem focused on looking for gold. Others, however, seem busily intent on digging up dirt, detritus, and dung.

Both kinds are mining in the same medium. The difference is in the leader's perspective. 

De-energizing leaders look for (and almost always find) the following:
  • Mistakes and misses
  • Shortcomings
  • Scapegoats
  • Self-aggrandizements
Energizing leaders look for (and almost always find) the following:
  • Praise-worthy effort
  • What's working
  • Opportunities for improvement
  • Collective discernment/analysis
  • Results-oriented thinking and behavior
Two questions to consider:

Which kind of leader would I prefer to work for/with?

Which kind of leader do I choose to be?

It is a choice, you know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

CoachRelationship

The coaching relationship is a dynamic phenomenon between the coach and the coachee. The coach generally possesses knowledge, skills, experience, and perspective that the coachee does not yet have (and needs or wants).

The coach-coachee relationship is just that -- a relationship. The coaching process works best only when that relationship exists on a presumption of volunteered participation and grounded in TRUST. If either the coach or the coachee are externally "compelled" to participate, that trust suffers erosive effects from the get-go. The prospect for optimal outcomes are diminished from the start. 

As leaders, we often find ourselves wearing both hats -- coach and coachee -- at the same time. Thus the coached-coaching experience is not hierarchical, but rather, multi-directional. There is much we can learn from that interpersonal schema, if we are paying attention. 

Perhaps we should spend the preponderance of our time on becoming relationship experts.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

LoveWorks

 I recently read Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby (2020). 

In this book Manby frames his experiences as a chief executive officer of several large organizations against the pillars of love as articulated in 1 Corinthians 13 of the Bible.  

 

My top takeaways:

·       Think first and always of LOVE as a action verb – not as a noun or an emotion. 

·       Reframe personal and organizational goals as either BE goals or DO goals – with the BE goals being preeminent.

·       BE goals are timeless; DO goals are context dependent and malleable.

·       Protecting the dignity of others should be paramount.

·       Praise lacking specifics is perceived as bogus and hollow, killing our credibility.

·       Making others consistently feel bad does NOT make them better.

·       Customer experience is the direct downstream effect of employee enthusiasm – starting with leadership.

·       Effective and Efficient are goals that can work against one another, or they complement each other in symbiotic conjunction, depending on the culture we choose to shape.

·       The gift of time – the leader’s time – is a powerful incentivizer.

·       Insisting on getting at the truth keeps the best people and creates the best decisions.

·       Forgiving heals both the giver and the recipient.

·       The seven timeless principles of LOVE that can be leveraged in leadership: PATIENCE, KINDNESS, TRUSTING, UNSELFISH, TRUTHFUL, FORGIVING, and DEDICATED.  

 

My favorite quotes:

 

“Profits are a product of doing the right thing—over and over again.” (p. 31)

 

“Do or do not. There is no try. —YODA In Star Wars.” (p. 35)

 

"The truth is this: interrupting is a sign of distrust.” (p. 83)

 

“Listening well is critical because it demonstrates trust and builds a team’s sense of camaraderie and cohesion.” (p. 84)

 

“Let others make the decisions for which they are responsible.” (p. 95)

 

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. —MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. ” (p. 196)

 

“And the more we focus on do goals, the greater the risk that we will betray our be goals.” (p. 215)

 

Manby makes a compelling case that effective leaders – the best leaders – not only can lead from a standpoint of LOVE, they should do so.

 

This book is a worthy read.