Leadership

Be a Gardener, Not a Mechanic - Guest Blog

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What if you could sit down with a group of the top leaders in the world and just listen and learn. What an honor to soak up all of their ideas and experiences. You can! The new book LeaderSHOP by Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan offers incredible insights on the workplace, career, and real life advice from some of the top leaders around. Here is a guest blog from this new gem!

By Rodger Dean Duncan

A first tendency of many business people is to fix things. After all, they’re paid to solve problems, so the metaphor of the mechanic seems natural.

Unfortunately, some leaders then try to “fix” people.

How many of us want to be fixed? Not many. We may be open to persuasion or influence, but we don’t want to be “fixed.”

Rather than adopt the role of mechanic, great leaders adopt the role of gardener.

What does a gardener do?

A gardener creates an environment that encourages growth. An environment full of light and nourishment. An environment with sufficient space for stretching and expanding.

Leadership—and gardening—are all about creating positive change.

Great leaders—and great gardeners –resist the temptation to micromanage. They know that flowers cannot grow if you keep jerking them out of the ground to check the roots.

Great leaders don’t get hung up on position or titles. They invest their energy in creating devotion to a worthy cause. They are more interested in getting a job done than in who gets the credit.

Let me illustrate: I worked with a CEO of an organization that had lost $156 million the previous year. He was brought in from the outside to turn the company around.

On his third day on the job he went out into the employee parking lot behind the headquarters building. There was a row of “privileged” parking spots closest to the building. In front of each parking space was a sign with the name of a senior executive. The CEO took a can of spray paint and sprayed over each name. He knew that many employees were looking out their office windows, likely wondering what the CEO was up to.

After spray-painting over all the signs, the CEO went inside and got on the building intercom. He said he felt like the high school principal making morning announcements.

He began with something like this:

“Some of you saw me spray over the names of our executives in the parking lot. You may be wondering, ‘Is he firing the executives?’ No, I’m not firing the executives. We need ‘em. We need everybody. We’re all in this boat together and we need to row together. Last year this company lost $156 million. We can do better. We must do better.

“Beginning today we’re going to break down all these artificial barriers … we’re going to be less concerned about what title you have and what parking place you have. Beginning tomorrow, if you get here late and it’s raining, you’ll get wet. If you get to work early, you can park anywhere you want. All that matters is what will each of us do to make our team stronger and build our business.” Then he said: “Thanks a lot. Have a great day.”

This CEO was demonstrating what it means to be a gardener and not a mechanic.

He did dozens of things like that. The cumulative effect was that he created an environment where his people felt involved and obligated regarding the needs of each other and the needs of the organization.

He helped his people see themselves in a fresh light. He helped them see each other in a fresh light. He helped them see their marketplace potential in a fresh light.

Rather than smother his people with constraining rules and policies, he gave them elbowroom to try new things and experiment in new directions.

Rather than cut his people down for past poor performance, this great leader chose to lift them up toward future great performance.

He created an atmosphere that had absolutely no tolerance for blaming or any kind of “victim-talk.”

He created an environment full of encouragement, collaboration, and personal accountability.

So what was the result? In only 12 months that company harvested a $207 million improvement in profits. It’s now a case study at the Harvard Business School.

Now, was this guy some sort of flower child? Did he sing “Kumbya” and other camp songs in the employee cafeteria?

No. He’s actually one of the toughest-minded business people I’ve ever known. And he’s one of the most effective leaders I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.

Great leaders know that you can rent a person’s back and hands. But you must earn a person’s head and heart.

Great leaders know that organizations are living organisms with many interrelated elements, capable of extinction or growth.

Great leaders invest energy in growing rather than fixing.

They are gardeners. They create a nurturing environment—or culture—and they cultivate with care.

Be a gardener, not a mechanic. Don’t try to “fix” people. Create an environment that affirms and encourages people. An environment that places a premium on solving problems and getting results. An environment where blame is weeded out and people feel free to stretch and grow and produce.

Is this just warm and fuzzy, touchy-feely stuff for “soft” people? Not at all.

It’s the key to the hard realities of high performance in a tough and fast-moving world.

Believe it. Practice it. It makes all the difference.

Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leaders. Early in his career he served as advisor to cabinet officers in two White House administrations and headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He has coached senior leaders in dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

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.

Eight Reasons Why You Are Still In High School

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I remember years ago when I was in high school my mom telling me numerous times “these are the best years of your life!” Sure, spending day after day dealing with gossip, cliques, homework, disenchanted teachers, including kids who didn’t care much about actually learning was the best right? The sad thing is that many of us are still in high school only we call it work. Sound familiar?

Years ago employees hung out around the water cooler or coffee counter. Open office plans have flipped that practice upside down. Most employees have minimal privacy and are sitting on top of each other. It’s like sitting in a classroom all day working on homework assignments. Ultimately not much has changed since graduation, and you are still in high school.

Eight reasons why you are still in high school

1. Gossip. I think that corporate gossip is worse than in high school, we are just sneakier about it. Back in the old days, we didn’t have social media and smart phones to share what we heard. Technology has exasperated the spread of gossip and adults are savvier about making chatter sound like corporate strategy. These days gossip destroys people and careers. Don’t get wrapped up in its dangers.

2. Bullying. Adults can be cruel. Bullying takes place every day in the form of intimidation, sabotage, belittling, and even subtle threats. Not long ago, I had a manager that was smooth one day and the next day would micromanage and throw out threats with a smile on his face. We would all do a double take to try and understand his game.

3. Cliques: We were all in a group in high school whether we realized it or not. Nothing has changed. You are in a circle at work. Look around you. Higher level managers stay in their corner; the interns hang together all day. The IT folks have their spot. These cliques often meet after work for “team building”.

4. Lackadaisical Coworkers: My twins love school. Fortunately, they are bright and motivated to learn. They also complain weekly about being in classes with kids who could care less about learning or growing. It brings them down and at times, interrupts their learning. We all work with people who don’t care. They don’t want to learn. They don’t care about growing and strengthening the team. They just show up.

5. Competition: The magical word. In high school, we see competition in every sport, and it permeates throughout the system. Most of the time it’s healthy, but not always. Competition encouraged with negative intent can impact lives. You know where the competition is and who owns it in your area. You have probably seen how a competitive team can thrive and accomplish. You have also been on the receiving end of spiteful and negative competition. I have seen people pay with their jobs from malicious competition.

6. Teachers: I remember some of my best teachers. They were passionate about my learning and growth and cared about preparing me for success. I also remember the poor teachers. They had tenure and just showed up every day for a paycheck. Managers are not much different. Some leaders thrive on growing and mentoring teams. Others don’t care and like a tenured teacher, just show up.

7. The Principal: I’m guessing that you either loved or hated your high school Principal. It probably depended on how much trouble that you created! You still have a Principal – your top leadership including the CEO. The Principal is the one that manages the culture of the company, makes or breaks your future in the company and can make your job easy or challenge you. They probably don’t know you well unless you are a troublemaker or….a suck up. Beware of the Principal.

8. School Board: The school board oversees the entire system and has no idea about the inner working of the company nor do they care how you function on a daily basis. They only know what they are told and generally go along with what they hear. They don’t tend to dig deep into the company culture or care about employee well being or team challenges. Making cuts, moving employees, cutting departments is all in a day’s work for them.

Hopefully, you loved high school and have positive memories. You may also be in the minority. I was eager to move on after high school and grow through my college years. As you read this and if you are at work, look around you, and I bet you will whisper to yourself “I AM still in high school!”

The Importance of Conviction By Jim Haudan and Rich Haudan

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Leadership is an enigma. There are some that feel that they are strong leaders and have everything that it takes to be successful. Their teams don’t agree. Strong leaders know that they always need to work on their leadership skills and are open to learning about what they are missing or what blind spots that they have. Here is a guest post from the new book What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back.

In order to activate purpose at your organization, your leaders must have conviction in that purpose while also being clear on their personal purpose at work. People generally have a desire to bring their best selves to work, but if you or they are not sure what that best self is, it’s hard to consistently bring it or know when and where to apply it. Great organizations don’t just have an organizational purpose, but they bring out personal purpose in individual people as well.

When we talk about personal purpose, we don’t mean an all-encompassing answer to what makes you happy in life. That’s a bonus. We are referring to understanding what makes you happy and most effective at work. As a leader who wants to be truly purpose driven and have teams that are as well, you must ask yourself the following questions:

• Do I know what drives, motivates, and inspires the people working on my team?

• Do I know the core strengths and passions of my team?

• Do I know what each person’s personal best is and understand how to activate it?

• Do I know the personal purpose of the members of my team?

• Do I help individuals bring their purpose to life?

• Do I know how to connect people’s personal purposes to the larger purpose of my organization?

Once you can answer yes and elaborate on each of your answers, you will be ready for a game-changing performance. Simon Sinek wrote in his book Start with Why:

Studies show that over 80 percent of Americans do not have their dream job. If more knew how to build organizations that inspire, we could live in a world in which that statistic was the reverse—a world in which over 80 percent of people loved their jobs. People who love going to work are more productive and more creative. They go home happier and have happier families. They treat their colleagues and clients and customers better. Inspired employees make for stronger companies and stronger economies.

If you want to create an organization in which 80 percent of your people are excited to come to work and are vested in the success of the business, your people need to know and feel that you are fully vested in their success. They need to see how they connect to the purpose of the organization and how their contributions make a difference.

About Jim Haudan

Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses. He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.

About Rich Berens

Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc, and has helped align leaders at Global 2000 organizations to drive strategic and cultural change at scale. He is a noted speaker on the issues of, transformation, and how to create lasting change and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs. Under Rich’s leadership, Root has been listed among the Great Place to Work® Institute’s top 25 places to work, been named to the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list, and experienced 10 years of consecutive growth. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc.

Guest Post From Alex Vorobieff - Transform Your Company

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In our hectic world it is more important than ever to bring our work and personal lives into focus. Alex Vorobieff’s new book Transform Your Company - Escape Frustration, Align Your Business, and Get Your Life Back is an effective tool to Discover, Learn, and Eliminate in order to make change whether you are a business owner or part of a team.

The Other Form of Compensation – Does Your Company Offer it or Extract a Tax?

By Alex Vorobieff

Why do people want to work for your company? Do you have a clearly defined answer? Why are the best going to give to your company their all and majority of their waking hours? Monetary compensation only goes so far especially with the younger generation. More and more people want to work for companies with a purpose and culture that aligns with their values while performing work that is fulfilling. In addition to monetary compensation, they are seeking emotional compensation.

Unfortunately, companies without a thought-out emotional compensation plan are more likely to extract an emotional tax. When a company is frustrating to work in, people feel it especially A-players and they grow resentful. People leave companies when they are frustrated when they realize marginal dollars don’t compensate for the emotional taxes. When you hire A-players, does their life-cycle with the company follow a similar pattern? Do they join the company engaged but grow distant and surly over time? They likely grow tired of paying emotional taxes.

Alright, Vorobieff, I get it, our company needs to remove the emotional taxes and replace it with emotional compensation. What are the forms of emotional compensation?

It starts with acknowledgment. People want to be acknowledged for their effort and contribution. “But they are paid to do their job.” Acknowledgment doesn’t cost anything. When you acknowledge the good when you point out poor performance they know you see the positive and the negative and it is more likely better received. Many people spend more energy on trying to receive acknowledgment than on achieving material objectives and if your compensation plan focuses solely on money? Your wasting money.

Other parts of emotional compensation include being proactive. Consistently work to identify what processes are working and which are not. If they are paying a frustration tax, working with them to eliminate it is a RAISE. Companies that pay emotional compensation do not force their employees to find competitive offers from other companies to leverage changes in their current positions.

Emotional compensation is a neglected topic. The good news is the IRS has ignored it as well since they can’t easily tax it, yet 😉

But where do you start? Assess whether your company is paying emotional compensation or extracting an emotional tax. The most common form of an emotional tax is frustration working in a dysfunctional business. Lifting a burden is a raise and the first step to unleashing your HumanPower.

About Alex Vorobieff

Founder and CEO of The Vorobieff Company, Alex Vorobieff is a business turnaround specialist, working to implement Business Alignment Tools for their specific needs. Alex has served as clean-up CFO and president of companies in telecommunications, aviation, aerospace, and real estate development, leading successful turnarounds in as little as three months. He shares his how-tos and techniques through Confident ROi magazine and his latest book, Transform Your Company: Escape Frustration, Align Your Business, and Get Your Life Back.

Humble Leadership

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A Case of an Admiral's Humble Leadership by Ed and Peter Schein

Luckily, the hammer approach to leadership has been changing, albeit slowly, over the years. Leaders are becoming more personal, understanding, learning to be servant leaders, and humble. The new book The Future of Leadership by Edgar and Peter Schein offers insight into how leaders need to work smart and be humble. They tackle issues like the power of relationships, openness, and trust. Here is a story of humbleness from a place you wouldn't expect - the military.

We were recently told a memorable story by a retired US Navy admiral that illustrated how “collapsing” the hierarchy and opening the door to Level 2 relationships can sometimes be done quickly and decisively. The admiral, at the time, was in command of a nuclear-powered US Navy aircraft carrier. Effectively, he was the CEO of a 5000-person co-located organization for whom safety and high-quality performance would be top priorities. As a nuclear scientist and naval aviator, his background, experience, and hands-on knowledge suited him exceptionally well for the technical aspects of his mission, yet his instincts as a leader are what this story is about.


There was an incident on the flight deck in which an error in chocks and chains handling, a critical part of aircraft operations, could have endangered lives or caused the loss of very valuable naval aircraft. The error resulted from mishandling by one of the flight deck handlers (a “blue jersey” in aircraft carrier parlance) who reported up to an aircraft handling
officer (a “yellow jersey”).


Given normal Naval hierarchy and protocol, this error would have been recorded, post-mortem debriefed and corrected, and there would have been some degree of reprimand and disciplinary consequences for the blue jersey. The admiral told us that this was not outside of the normal course of aircraft carrier flight deck operations. Complicated things happen, and the US Navy has a few hundred years of organizational knowledge to deal with such incidents. That is, the commanding officer could have let the hierarchy work the problem and the solution, but that is not what happened.


Instead, he invited the blue jersey to the bridge to discuss the incident, just the two of them. One can hardly imagine how that junior chocks and chains handler must have felt, getting called up to the bridge, presumably to get reprimanded directly by the commanding officer. Knowing how critical these intricate details of deck and aircraft handling are to the safety and to the mission of an aircraft carrier, the commanding officer, a pilot himself, wanted to hear directly from the deck what had happened, perhaps why, and certainly how and why it would not happen again. At a deeper level, he cared more about the truth and the process, and far less about the discipline to be applied. The system would take care of that. 


What must that meeting have been like? Was the blue jersey terrified, mortified, contrite, and reconciled? If all of those feelings were present, how would the commanding officer get to the truth of what happened? The admiral told us how he managed to quickly create what we would describe as psychological safety for the deckhand by focusing the conversation on his own curiosity of what had happened and why, making it clear that this meeting was not about punishment but about exploration. The shared goal was for that junior seaman to walk away from the meeting with a dedication to doing it better, not a reprimand for doing it wrong. 

A reprimand would certainly reinforce a commitment to the hierarchy. As commanding officer the admiral wanted commitment to the task, to safety, and to quality performance. With the gesture of calling this meeting, and focusing the dialogue on the person and the truth, he reinforced his commitment to improving the processes that save (or could cost) lives on an aircraft carrier. The visible, personal two-way dialogue demonstrated a commitment to a process that the most senior leaders and the most junior sailors could identify with and learn from.


Stepping back from this case, small acts of Humble Leadership by the admiral may well have been a matter of course in his organization, a culture set by a senior leader that existed before and after this incident. This does not change the story except to amplify the truth that this admiral had a clear sense for the importance of personization, establishing openness and trust, even in a 5000-person hierarchical organization.


LESSON
What is most striking to us about this story is that the existence of a steep and formal hierarchy does not require the persons at the top of that hierarchy to behave in a transactional Level 1 manner. They can choose to personize at any time and at any level, thereby very visibly reinforcing some of the central values that they wish to highlight.


About Authors
Edgar H. Schein is Professor Emeritus from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He’s a pioneer in organizational studies, organizational culture and leadership, process consulting, career development. Ed’s contributions to the practice of O.D. date back to the early 1960s and continue with the recent publication of Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th edition and now Humble Leadership, co-authored with Peter A. Schein, co-founder of OCLI.org who brings 30 years of hands-on experience in large and small companies leading growth initiatives in Silicon Valley.

Where Has Professionalism Gone?

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Some friends and I chatted over dinner about a month ago and concluded that either we are getting old or the world is upside down. I prefer the latter view. After college graduation, I jumped into the world of banking. Back then we all wore suits, wearing pants was a crime if you were female, and pantyhose with no toes showing were the norm. Times have changed, and I admit that I enjoy seeing casual bankers not all suited up for battle.

Back then the internet was in its infancy and guess what? We completed our work and surpassed goals without it. We communicated just fine, and the world didn’t crash around us. At dinner we were nostalgic about the old days and wondered where has professionalism gone?

•    The internet has turned us into slaves. Most of us are tethered to our electronic devices and obsessed with checking them – myself included. Managers, co-workers, and customers contact us at all hours and expect a response. Despite calls for a “work-life balance” it seems to be getting worse. Some countries are recognizing the toll that this takes on employees and have implemented laws against contacting employees during specific times.

•    Texting has made our lives easier and can be efficient. Don’t assume that everyone wants to communicate via text. It can be cold and often your message comes across as terse or demanding. Please, don’t text after business hours.

•    We use receiving “too many emails” as an excuse to not respond within 24 hours. The message that teams and customers receive is that they aren’t valued enough for a response. Also, is it really necessary to copy half the company in emails? It blocks effective communication and inhibits action. Moreover, some people feel like they are being “tattled” on.

•    Dress professional. The workplace is not the beach so leave the tanks tops and flip flops at home. No matter what industry you work in or your role, show respect and dress professional. It shows customers respect and you are the face of your company.

•    We have so little time for face to face communication. When you are in meetings, keep the phone away and the laptop shut. A few years ago, I worked for a company where everyone brought a laptop to meetings. People were so busy taking notes or shopping online that they didn’t pay attention.

•    Be respectful of others space and time. Some days I miss closed offices. Recent research shows that open office plans inhibit productivity, people are interrupted too often, none of us want to be rude and tell people to leave us alone. It just plain stresses us out.

•    Technology has enabled us to reach our customers where they are and at any time of the day. Unfortunately, we often assume that clients want to be contacted solely online or by email. What happened to writing customers personal cards of thanks, letters inviting them to meet with us, or personal phone calls to engage?

•    Be spontaneous with your teams or customers. Get out of your office and communicate face to face. Bring them coffee or a company token of thanks. See their offices and find out their pain points. Be unique and do what your competitors aren’t.

•    Treat everyone that you meet as if you are meeting with your grandparents. Be respectful, embrace their opinions, remain professional, keep the technology off, and treat them like they are the most important person in the world.

It’s time to bring professionalism back. As leaders, we may need to mentor our young team members on what professionalism is, the message that it sends to others, and how to be a professional. I would love to hear what your biggest pet peeve regarding professionalism is!

 

 

 

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.

 

Guest Post from Ken Blanchard

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Servant leadership has been around for decades, however, for many it is just becoming mainstream. It's leadership that focuses serving people not standing on a pedestal asking to be served. I'm please to host a guest post from Ken Blanchard who just happens to know a thing or two about leadership! Enjoy.

Servant Leadership: A Model for Leading in Today’s World

By Ken Blanchard

When I first began to teach managers back in the late 1960s, I met Bob Greenleaf, who was just retiring as a top AT&T executive. Bob talked about servant leadership—the concept that effective leaders and managers need to serve their people, not be served by them. It was entirely new thinking then, and in many ways Bob is considered the father of that term.

Today, it is much easier for people to see the importance and relevance of servant leadership. There seems to be general agreement that leaders have two basic roles in business: one of vision and the other of implementation.

In the visionary role, leaders are the definer of direction. They must communicate the mission, values and beliefs the organization aspires to for its people. They need to communicate what the organization stands for and how organizational values encompass the individual values of its members.

I once asked Max Dupree, who wrote a fabulous book entitled Leadership Is an Art, what he felt was the most important role of a leader. He compared the role to that of a third-grade teacher who keeps repeating the basics. "When it comes to vision and values, you have to say it over and over and over again until people get it right, right, right!"

Once people are clear on where they are going, an effective leader’s role switches to the task of implementation. How do you make the dream happen? This is where servant leadership comes into play. The traditional way of managing people is to direct, control and supervise their activities and to play the role of judge, critic and evaluator of their efforts. In a traditional organization, managers are thought of as responsible and their people are taught to be responsive to their boss.

We’re finding that kind of leadership isn’t as effective as it once was. Today when people see you as a judge and critic, they spend most of their time trying to please you rather than to accomplish the organization’s goals and move in the direction of the desired vision. "Boss watching" becomes a popular sport and people get promoted on their upward influencing skills. That role doesn’t do much for accomplishing a clear vision. All people try to do is protect themselves rather than to help move the organization in its desired direction.

The servant leader is constantly trying to find out what his or her people need to be successful. Rather than wanting them to please him or her, they are interested in making a difference in the lives of their people and, in the process, impacting the organization.

More about Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is a best-selling business author with over 21 million books sold. His newest book, Servant Leadership in Action, is being released on March 6. Ken is also hosting a free Servant Leadership in Action Livecast on February 28 featuring more than 20 authors, CEOs, and thought leaders speaking on the topic.  Learn more here!

 

Knowing the Self Who Leads by Shelly L. Franci

Have you ever found yourself wondering where inner wisdom and courage come from? Have you been in a situation where your real leadership blooms because you know what you value and believe in?

Shelly L. Franci's new book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity offers soul searching and a path you can take to find your authentic self and bring out your true gifts to impact others. Here is an excerpt from Shelly's new book.

The underlying premise of the Courage Way is that we all have a trustworthy source of inner wisdom that informs our lives and leadership. It is our identity and integrity, the sum of our shadows and light, our true self. Without knowing our true self, we cannot be an authentic leader.

Just as Ed came to recognize, leaders must find clarity about what they value, what unique gifts they have to offer, what contribution they wish to make. Strength and resilience as a leader come from knowing the ground on which you stand, the convictions you will act on with courage. But that’s not all. Resilience comes from being aware of and accepting your limits and what problems your shadows are causing. That is wholeness—and that comes from knowing your true self.

Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U, acknowledges this inner life: “We observe what leaders do. We can observe how they do it, what strategies and processes they deploy. But we can’t see the inner place, the source from which people act when, for example, they operate at the highest possible level, or alternatively, when they act without engagement or commitment.”

This inner place Scharmer speaks of is more than intellect, ego, emotions, and will. In the inner work of leadership, it is a light behind the eyes, the energy that animates us, or, as Howard Thurman puts it, “the sound of the genuine in you.” Instead of true self or soul, you could say inner wisdom, essential self, or even trusting your gut. Poets, musicians, and mystics have given words to the essence of who we are—our human spirits—when we take off the trappings of our resumes. John O’Donohue calls it the dignity somewhere in us “that is more gracious than the smallness / that fuels us with fear and force.”  William Stafford appeals to “a voice, to something shadowy / a remote important region in all who talk.”

Although Parker Palmer often refers to his inner teacher, he often says that what you call this core of our humanity doesn’t matter, “but that we name it matters a great deal. It’s important to recognize it: If we don’t name it anything, we start to lose the being in human being. We start to treat each other like empty vessels or objects to be marketed. When we say ‘soul,’ or ‘identity and integrity,’ there is something to make a deep bow to. There is a word for it in every wisdom tradition.”

Beyond being the sum of your life experiences, the true self is a mystery that simply is. How do you get to that underlying mystery of knowing people deep down? Intimacy is not necessarily the goal of every relationship in community, especially in the workplace. But respecting that each person has an essential core self, an undeniable dignity and humanity—now that is worthwhile.

But seldom, if ever, do we ask the “who” question. Who is the self that engages in leadership? How does this self impact the practice of leadership, for good and for bad? How is the self continually honored and renewed as we lead?

—Parker J. Palmer

About Shelly L. Francis

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

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

 

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