Courage

Knowing That Leadership Has a Rhythm of Growth and Loss Holds One to Hope By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair


How is your leadership journey going? In our ever changing world being an effective leader is a daily challenge. Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockwell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair is a new book that speaks to leadership journeys with hope, during despair, and with forgiveness. Here is an some insightful information from the authors to help you become the leader that you were meant to be.

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By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

The hope of the gardener described in the next story is a wonderful metaphor for the place that hope dwells—a place that enables and encourages leaders to sow the earth knowing that some things will grow and some will flounder. Leaders repeatedly begin again and resow, knowing that the wind, rain, and sun can be nurturing friends or destructive foes. Sometimes leaders retrace their steps to find things they should have understood, and other times they strike out in new directions. In the garden, there is both hope and its shadow. Hope holds in its hands the soft earth as it readies it for planting; hope is open to the possible and deeply feels the moment of beginning, not the prediction of the end state. A leader described her leadership life as a gardener this way:

I am a gardener—one who nurtures, tends, plants, cultivates, and harvests. I am a leader who inspires, creates, celebrates, encourages, and invests. Gardeners and leaders have many skills and talents and values in common. Great gardeners are full of hope. It is genuine and considered hope that is the essence of how I see myself as a gardener and a leader. This is a hope that is based in reverence for life in its deepest and most profound meaning.

Some of my earliest memories of hope involve planting radish seeds as a small girl and waiting impatiently for them to sprout. I can still feel and smell the soil and relive the joy of the first shoots. In a similar manner, I can still visualize my first formal leadership role in my Brownie pack. The possibilities of making a difference, of helping others with their badges, of teaching them the rituals, of being there for them when they forgot their tams or scarves. Hope for the future was the essence of these early experiences.

The lessons of the gardener inform me in the lessons of leadership. Sometimes, despite all the necessary prep of soil, nutrients, seed selection, etc., the seeds blow away, the plant withers, and the bugs attack or the bloom fades before it flowers. The ground is fallow for periods of time and only a few stalks blow in the wind. I prepare again, gather more information, and make selections, try different nutrients, check the weather, except that for me roses do not do well—concentrate on daisies. This is hope. Next time, the garden will be great, it will be different, and it will grow.

My leadership is embedded in the hope of the gardener—learning to accept, to rethink, to reimagine, to redo, to undo, knowing that tomorrow is another opportunity full of possibilities and potential to discover and celebrate.

I have loved every job I have ever had—some lasted longer than others. In some positions there was more to plant, more to nurture, and more learning to be had. I have chosen to change jobs based on my assessment of the possibilities for growth for myself and others.

Much as a gardener decides their type of garden. All my life, I have been associated with some aspect of education, whether it be teaching pottery, swimming, or anthropology, or facilitating teams, or teaching others to teach and be leaders. For me, education is all about hope—for oneself, for others, and for a different world. It is the hope that sees me through to more possibilities and to uncovering the potential in others and providing me the opportunity to be a small part in realizing the possibility. Finding the seeds, nurturing their beginnings, tending the fragile shoots, staking their stems, and admiring their unique blooming beauty is the gift of hope and the reason to be. I will always be a gardener and revel in the possible, despite stormy weather, dry seasons, scattered seeds, and invasive pests. In leadership, I cherish the hope of the gardener, and this hope inspires my leadership and sees me through the tough times.

The practice of hope in all the multiple tasks of leadership is the recognition that hope can be nurtured in the early stages when the outcome is not known; in the journey along the way, where already some things have floundered and some have grown; and in the final outcome, which might be different than planned. It is undertaking leadership in all of these places with the heart of the gardener that can help sustain hope as the rhythms of growth and loss and the seasons change.

About the authors

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firmCockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors ofBuilding Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they'll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

Is This The End? By Dr. Dawn Graham

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Fewer of us are staying at our jobs for decades like our parents. People are less likely to tolerate toxic work cultures, no advancement, poor leadership, and want more out of life than just work. Are you ready for a change? Pick up Dr. Dawn Graham's book Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers - and Seize Success. Here is some advice or perhaps the kick in the behind that you may have been needing to make changes in your own career. 

While it’s not unusual to have bad days at work (and some that even lead to dreams of quitting and retiring to a sunny island), deciding to actually resign is a big deal. How can you tell if you’re just going through a tough phase in your job or if it’s time to explore new opportunities? Consider these:

1.    Identify the root of the problem: Is the boss hindering your professional growth or maybe the culture isn’t a great match? Is your work environment toxic or maybe your daily commute or travel schedule is slowly killing you? Some things can be changed. Other problems will follow you. Either way, when you can pinpoint the major hurdle, you’ll be more equipped to overcome it.

2.    Craft an experiment: If the company is interested in retaining you and the root of your problem is boredom, they may be open to you taking on special projects or transitioning to a different department to learn a new function. Think about your longer-term career goals and identify skill gaps you’d like to close. Even if you plan to leave the company down the road, you can use your remaining time wisely by building up your resume and relationships.

3.    Know where you’re going:  You’ll always be more successful when you run TOWARD an exciting opportunity versus running AWAY from a bad situation. Once you identify the problem (see #1), next map out what your ideal situation looks like so that you can aim for that target. Even the least skilled interviewers can recognize the difference between motivation and desperation, so clarify your goal and communicate why you’re excited about it.

4.    Evaluate the landscape: If it’s been a while since you’ve changed roles, the market and skill sets may have shifted. Take time to understand your current value in the industry you’re targeting and be able to relay how the problems you solve contribute positively to a company’s bottom line. Reconnect with your network and get feedback on your candidacy. Also, get up to speed on the latest hiring trends. You don’t want to be blindsided by a request for a one-way video interview or miss a job opening because you’re not on social media.

5.    Look before you leap:  Unemployment bias is real, therefore, it’s easier to land a new role while still employed since you’ll seem more attractive as a candidate. Sometimes a workplace is so toxic that it’s not possible to stay a moment longer, but if that’s not the case, continue to deliver your best work while engaging in a stealth job search after hours.

6.    Get creative: If you’re not able to change jobs now or the job search is taking longer than anticipated, keep your energy and motivation high by finding career fulfillment in other ways. Join a nonprofit board, take on a mentee, or enroll in continuing education courses. A positive attitude will be your best friend in an interview, so avoid feeling “stuck” by taking action. Bonus: These actions are great for networking, which may ultimately lead to your next opportunity!

7.    Don’t look back. Trust your gut to tell you when it’s time to move on. Most jobs have difficult periods, but if you constantly feel stressed, are getting physically ill (e.g., headaches, etc.), or if your relationships are suffering, it’s time to go.

Happy hunting!

Dr. Dawn Graham, PhD is one of the nation's leading career coaches. She is the Career Director for the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School, where she counsels business leaders on making strategic career choices. A licensed psychologist and former corporate recruiter, she hosts SiriusXM Radio's popular weekly call-in show Career Talk and is a regular contributor to Forbes.

Her latest book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers - and Seize Success is written specifically for people thinking about changing career paths. Packed with psychological insights, practical exercises, and inspiring success stories, Switchers helps these individuals leap over obstacles and into a whole new field.


 

Differentiation Increases Complexity By Sunnie Giles

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I'm honored to share a guest post from Sunnie Giles author of the new book The New Science of Radical Innovation - The Six Competencies Leaders Need to Win in a Complex World. Her insights and big-picture thinking focusing on the complexity around us is fascinating. 

According to complex systems theory, differentiation increases positive (internal) complexity. By allowing more variation, each differentiated agent in a system can make different connections with other agents and systems, which adds more variety and strength to the quality of connection. This additional connection increases the probability of natural selection and evolution because the organism’s variations (i.e., mutations) facilitate better adaptation to the environment. Complexity increases when differentiated parts are connected. This increased internal complexity, in turn, enables an organism to respond even more effectively to unexpected challenges from the environment and increases its chances of survival.

My church choir provides a simple example of how differentiation increases complexity. When we learn a new song, the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices practice their parts by themselves. When each part is sung in unison, the resulting music doesn’t sound very rich or complex. When the four parts are finally combined, they produce a rich tapestry of beautiful, complex music.

Let’s take another example. Fruit flies and humans share 60 percent of their DNA—a surprisingly high number. One would be right to question how the remaining 40 percent could account for the much higher complexity of humans. The key is in the number of interactions in many-to-many networks among the genes. Humans have about twenty-five thousand unique genes; fruit flies, about fourteen thousand. The number of protein interactions among the genes in humans is about 650,000—ten times as many as that of fruit flies. Each additional differentiated gene produces exponential growth in the number of genetic interactions. The network effect, which we discussed in chapter 2, resulting from the interaction among genes explains how a small difference in the number of genes can create an enormous difference in the complexity level between humans and fruit flies. The same pattern of exponential growth we see in the relationship between the number of genes and the gene interactions.

The highest level of internal complexity can be achieved by developing optimal differentiation, connecting the differentiated parts, and replicating that connection on multiple levels. If you have just undifferentiated parts, there is nothing to integrate, which results in suboptimal complexity. Once the foundation of safety is in place, Quantum Leaders facilitate differentiation in each of their team members, as well as the whole team as a unit, maximizing each member’s unique talents, skills, and perspectives.

Differentiation is so important to the optimal functioning of the human race that a differentiation mechanism is inherently built into the human development phase—it’s called pruning, and it takes place in the teenage brain. At birth, neuronal synapses in a child’s brain are more numerous than in an adult’s. Synapses multiply rapidly during childhood, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. This is why it’s much easier for children to learn foreign languages, musical instruments, and sports. As a child matures into a teenager, the brain prunes away underutilized synapses, so the synapses used most often can work more efficiently. The long body of the retained neurons get myelinated in a myelin sheath, which accelerates the conduction speed of the ions between neurons a hundredfold. This increased speed is made possible through the process of saltatory conduction, in which ions jump between nodes instead of steadily traveling along the axonal length of the neuron. In addition, myelination accelerates the resting period between neuronal firings—the refractory period—thirtyfold. The combination of these functions makes pruned synapses three thousand times more efficient than unpruned ones.

The pruning process produces unique patterns of neuronal synapses manifested into unique strengths and talents. This evolutionary mechanism highlights the importance of differentiating individuation before integrating with another differentiated person (e.g., a spouse or a team). Once parts are fully differentiated, connecting differentiated parts and replicating these connections to the next level (in this case, raising the next generation of children or leaders) increases internal complexity. All complex systems strive to increase internal complexity by nature because higher complexity means better chances of natural selection.

About Dr. Sunnie Giles:

Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership.

An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.

Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.