leadership dot #2645: intellectual humility

In a brilliant Pinkcast, author Dan Pink provides some of the most powerful two minutes of content that I have seen in a long while. Pink shares four questions that help people to develop the skill of intellectual humility — the willingness to accept that what you believe may be wrong. These key questions allow you to question your own cognitive blind spots in search of greater understanding.

What I liked about how Pink framed the issue was that he turned “being wrong” into a virtue instead of a failure. He gave intellectual humility a positive spin and linked it to an identity that people would want to take on for themselves.

Atomic Habits author James Clear writes that “the ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”* The Pinkcast video helps people take on the identity of being open-minded, inquisitive, and yes, sometimes wrong.

I’d suggest using this video as a quick but potent way for facilitators to begin group work or for leaders to frame discussions that could prove to be contentious. It can give your team language to aid in constructive conflict with civility – something that every organization can use more of today!

*Atomic Habits by James Clear, 2018, p. 33

 

leadership dot #2629: redux

During some small talk with a loan officer, he asked me what one leadership concept I would share if I only could tell him one. My answer: Indianapolis.

Here’s the concept: more major roads lead to Indianapolis than any other city in the country. The job of the leader is to define “Indianapolis” for their organization and then allow people latitude and freedom to get there in individual ways: going north, southeast, west, etc.; by using interstates, scenic routes or goat paths; and in cars, trucks, buses or bicycles. The “how” becomes far less important than the destination.

So much time is spent – unnecessarily – requiring people to achieve a goal in the same way. You need involvement and buy-in on determining “Indianapolis”, but you can allow so much flexibility in the methods to arrive there. Ultimately, it helps you gain support for the outcome when you don’t limit freedom around the inputs.

I wrote about Indianapolis in one of my earliest dots (see #29) and have used the concept so often that I keep a map of Indiana in my briefcase! It’s a powerful and simple visual to help you and your team stay focused on where you are headed.

 

 

leadership dot #2628: preserve and stimulate

There is one consistent theme to the training I am asked to do: change. Whether organizations want to learn how to create it or need assistance in coping with the change already happening, it is clear that not much stands still these days.

One of the tools that I use with organizations is the concept of “Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress” from Built to Last by Jerry I. Porras and Jim Collins. Although the book is from 1994, many of the concepts, like the visionary companies they studied, continues to endure.

Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress serve as a yin and yang balance of what successful organizations must achieve. Their example: Disney’s core preserves the “magic” image and “striving to bring happiness to millions” but has stimulated progress by evolving from the Mickey Mouse Club to animated features, theme parks, Broadway shows, television networks and more.

It helps organizations to spend some time articulating the key elements of their core and to realize that many components can be preserved even as the organization evolves. Workgroups, departments and other units can define core values of how they wish to work and the culture that they want to preserve in their area, helping people feel more control over the changes.

Helping people embrace the duality of enduring and changing is a key skill for leaders today.

 

leadership dot #2585: black hairy tongue

In a recent Zits comic strip, Jeremy was caught looking through his dad’s old dental school yearbooks. Dad got all excited and said: “Doing some career shopping?” Jeremy replied: “No, looking for band names. ‘Black Hairy Tongue’ – that’s a definite maybe.”

While it seems absurd out of context, band names tend to skew toward the crazy: Smashing Pumpkins, Bare Naked Ladies, Lonely Goats, Hootie & the Blowfish, Matchbox 20, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Echo & the Bunnymen, and, appallingly, the Child Molesters. Even bands that have become iconic – so we have become accustomed to their name – don’t really make sense when taken in isolation: the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, the Who, and the Grateful Dead just to name a few.

When assembling a group together in a workshop or for a team project, instead of encouraging them to provide a team name – which tends to conjure sports teams or common nouns – require your group to name themselves as a band. (You can also use it as an individual icebreaker: “If you were going to start a band, what would you name it?”) The exercise automatically gives them license to be crazy and stimulates thinking outside of the box – music to the ears of a facilitator.

leadership dot #2580: culture of evidence

For a change effort to truly last, the overall culture must change as well. Spurlock and Johnston have created a wonderful matrix to help organizations assess to what extent their culture is truly changing. The Measuring a Culture of Evidence matrix provides descriptors of what to observe in five areas: intentionality, perspective, critical linkages, initiatives & directions and planning processes. Based on those behaviors, individuals can assess where the organization falls:

  • A Culture of Good Intentions (people have a sense that they are doing good things)
  • A Culture of Justification (people can describe what they are doing)
  • A Culture of Strategy (people can describe what they are accomplishing and how it relates to mission and goals)
  • A Culture of Evidence (people can describe why they are doing things and what they are accomplishing through them)

Too often people declare success because they feel like they are doing “good things” but without understanding and a strategic path, there is little opportunity to measure the success or to replicate it. The “good things” may provide short-term progress but will fail to achieve transformation or permanent change.

It’s much easier, and initially more fun, to create some changes and show them off. But only with planning, measurements, systemwide operational changes and continuous evaluation will significant differences occur. Utilize the Measuring a Culture of Evidence rubric to take a hard look at where your organization falls in its change efforts and take steps to change your internal functions before you attempt to change your output.

Sources:  Tweet by Matthew D. Pistilli @mdpistilli 6/15/19 — Spurlock, R. S. & Johnston, A. J. (2012) Measuring a Culture of Evidence. In M. Culp & G. Dungy (Eds.), Building a Culture of Evidence (p. 65). Washington, DC: NASPA.

leadership dot #2572: mood elevator

In this world of constant change, we often feel like circumstances are happening to us but one thing we can control is our emotional reaction to events. To help people calibrate their various emotions, Dr. Larry Senn has developed a Mood Elevator tool. He notes that everyone “rides the elevator” up and down throughout the days, but encourages people to intentionally “start from curiosity” before reacting.

Curiosity is the dividing point on the Mood Elevator that allows people to keep their negative emotions in check. Instead of getting upset by a behavior, if it is approached with curiosity it often allows the person to move “up” the elevator toward humor, understanding and insight instead of “down” the elevator toward frustration, irritation or judgment.

By keeping the Mood Elevator in a prominent location, people can use it as a reminder that their moods are within their control and consciously work toward expressing moods that are positive, instead of instinctively revealing a negative reaction.

Naturally, everyone goes up and down depending upon the situation, but like in skyscrapers, the view is better from the top! Perhaps the Mood Elevator can help you stay on the upper floors more often.

Thanks, Bekki!

 

leadership dot #2527: assemble

Oftentimes, people procrastinate about writing a speech or proposal or delay their efforts to design a workshop or presentation. These things seem so big that they become daunting and in the absence of a clear starting point it becomes easier to avoid the task as long as possible.

I smiled when I read Adam Grant’s Originals and he talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. “assembling” his speeches rather than writing them outright. He had key points he wanted to make (much like yesterday’s dot) and would craft whole speeches by rearranging components to fit the need and audience.

A similar technique that has served me well is compiling notes over time – written with just one concept per piece of scratch paper or index card. If I’m working on an article or educational session, I begin with a pile of paper and brainstorm all the ideas that come to me about the topic, writing only one idea per sheet. Then I keep the pile handy for a few days (or weeks) and just add to it as another idea comes to me. When my incubation time has ended and it’s time to get serious about creating the final piece, I sort them all on my counter or floor and, presto, I have an instant outline.

In the picture below, I used this method to develop a six-session nonprofit training program – I had a big pile of ideas, then sorted them into logical delineations for the six workshops. The little sheets are easy to group together, rearrange, add to and remove. Once you get the piles organized in a way that makes sense, you can type them up into an outline and fill in content, or just leave them in an ordered pile and work from that.

It’s intimidating to start from a blank page or to figure out where to begin on a big project – so don’t. Start with one idea on an index card, and then another, and then another. Soon you’ll be well on your way to assembling your masterpiece.