leadership dot #2691: huddles

Two takeaways from a conference a colleague attended:

  • Instead of offering only your standard breakout sessions, this conference provided an option for “huddles” – a time when people in similar positions could gather and talk about relevant topics for a three-hour time block. While workshops are wonderful and it’s always great to learn new content, some of the most practical wisdom comes from peers. Huddles are a tangible way to ensure that networking and idea-sharing happen more in-depth than what can occur in other ways at a conference.
  • During one of these huddles, the facilitator gave prompts in three general topic areas (e.g. staff and culture) and then asked each table to discuss the topic using these four questions: 1) What’s right (in our organization relating to this topic)? 2) What’s wrong? 3) What’s confused? and 4) What’s missing? These questions seemed to be broad enough to engender lively conversations but still focused enough to stimulate meaningful idea generation and specific examples.

Think of how you can apply these concepts to your own work. Are there people in similar positions throughout your organization that don’t currently have time to meet to discuss larger issues beyond the nuts-and-bolts? Perhaps you could swap out one of your task-oriented meetings and allow them to huddle instead.

Can you use the four questions to conduct assessments of your own operations or in 1:1 meetings with staff members? Think of how you could frame your evaluations and broaden your thinking by sharing the four questions in advance and having meaningful dialogue on where each of you sees the performance in these quadrants.

Ironically, huddles took less preparation than a traditional workshop and probably produced just as much learning. What can you do to reframe how you absorb or share content that increases its impact?

From the Spire Conference 2019 – Thanks, bg!

leadership dot #2684: evaluation narrative

New supervisors are often overwhelmed when it comes to writing performance evaluations for their staff. Instead of avoiding this critical task, here are five key sections that can form an outline for the narrative:

Context: What (if any) extenuating circumstances/factors that were outside of the employee’s control occurred during this evaluation period that may have influenced the job the person did/was able to do? (examples: staff vacancies that caused the employee to do double duty, new supervisor, reorganization, new technology system, etc.)

Contributions: Looking back on the evaluation period – what are specific contributions that the employee made? Cite evidence/examples for your statements.

Challenges: Looking back on the evaluation period – what are specific challenges that the employee had/what do they need to do differently… Cite evidence/examples for your statements.

Goals/Looking Ahead…and then, looking forward – what goal/plan/actions are needed to remedy these challenges and what are priorities for the employee in the upcoming evaluation period (to remedy challenges or to seize opportunities)

Summary: Overall assessment of the employee, optional comments on intangibles

Writing an evaluation narrative is an effective way for the supervisor and employee to ensure that their expectations and impressions are aligned. It’s a worthwhile exercise for every supervisor to do every year – both as a conversation prompt and as a snapshot of performance progress. Don’t let the task intimidate you from doing it.

More on the evaluation process can be found at dot 1753.

leadership dot #2667: cloak

One of the barriers to change is overcoming internal resistance to ideas – and sometimes it is challenging to even identify from where that resistance will come.

A technique recommended in Creative Confidence suggests that you imagine yourself as owning an “invincibility cloak” that allows you to overcome challenging processes or people – and before your change efforts begin to consider where or when you would use this special garment. By framing the question through this hypothetical lens, it will often unlock keys to where you should expect to encounter resistance and give you preparation time to address it.

Harry Potter’s cloak may have made him invisible, but allowing your “cloak” to inform your strategies gives you much more power.

Source: Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, 2013

leadership dot #2664: resilience

In a workshop on resilience, Dr. Jasmine Zapata gave each of the participants a handful of rubber bands and asked us to conduct a “scientific experiment” to list 7 observations about the elastic tools. In addition to the obvious such as they stretch and return or were different sizes and colors, the group generated quite a list, including:

  • If you stretch it over and over, it gets easier to stretch
  • It is malleable to any shape that you want
  • When you double or triple them, they become harder to stretch
  • They hold things together, yet can “fly” – they hold/store energy
  • They make a distinctive noise
  • They have not changed much in decades
  • They are separate but can easily be connected

After this experiment, we related these characteristics to resilience in humans – and many of the characteristics hold true. People have the ability to stretch and become stressed, yet are able to return to their original shape only to be stretched again. If you stretch something too far it may break, but can often be tied back together to continue on. People – like rubber bands – handle their flexibility differently – some are weaker and some are stronger but all have the ability to stretch.

Two takeaways from the workshop: 1) give yourself credit for the resilience that is part of you, just as it is inherent in the rubber bands and 2) whether using rubber bands specifically or another set of items, the “scientific experiment” is a useful teaching technique that causes participants to look at something ordinary in a whole new light.

The next time you’re facing a stressful situation, act like a rubber band where the tension is just temporary before you return to your original shape.

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.