Leadership Connections – A Reflective Look Back

Leadership Concept Map August 2016

Leadership Map PDF                             Video explanation of Map

As I reflect on what leadership means I’m drawn to Kruse’s attempt to define leadership.

“Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, toward the achievement of a goal”
(Keven Kruse, What is Leadership?, 2013)

Leadership is not about your position or title, it’s about the choices you make within your circle of influence.  Covey (2006) explained that you can begin by leading yourself.  Great leaders start by recognizing the value of ongoing professional and personal development. Regardless of whether you are involved in education or in business, it’s about making purposeful choices to help your team work together to reach a goal.  A team can be your friends, family, your educational colleagues, your classroom of students, the people on your home based business team or the people in your department at work.

Leaders are integral members of teams which are similar to communities of practice (CoPs).  Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) noted that CoPs are voluntary, vibrant and productive groups that foster ongoing relationships amongst group members, which builds value and engagement and in turn contributes to social capital. While every reading acknowledged teams or groups or followers, communities of practice was not a common phrase in the popular literature.  The strategies suggested for developing vibrant, voluntary communities of practice are simply good strategies to consider for all teams in any context.

As Stephen M. R. Covey (2006) said “leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust” (Speed of Trust, p. 40).  Leadership is a multidimensional concept that not only focuses on the task at hand but on how you go about achieving the goal.  It’s like going on a trip.  We all need to be headed to the same destination, but the paths we take and the stops we make along our journey all depend on how we are going to get there.

There’s many ways to reach your destination.  The concept of differentiated learning is based on the idea that we have a common outcome to achieve, but the learning and instructional strategies we use to get there depend on our choices.   You can hop in a car and drive yourself.  Going it alone will eventually get you there, but you may have to make more stops along the way to get everything done.  You could car pool with people that you trust, but that means you have to carefully choose your team so they can fit in the vehicle.  You could hop on the company bus, train or plane.  There’s lots of ways to get results, but not every path will be as efficient or support the coevolution of social and intellectual capital.

In a Good To Great article, Collins (2001) explained that it’s all about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  As the bus driver (leader), you have to start with WHO is on the bus.  The right people will bring a diverse and unique set of intellectual capital with them. It also means that you have to get the wrong people off the bus.  Building strong social capital within a group starts by creating a culture of excellence where individuals are motivated to be part of strong, dynamic team.

Part of creating a culture means defining the boundaries. Dr. Henry Cloud (2013) explained we have to lead in a way that people’s brains can follow.  You won’t foster strong, interpersonal connections and create a trusting environment by creating fear.  You have to keep the team focused on their goal, inhibit the barriers that will distract them and provide the opportunity to create routines in their working memories. Sinek (2014) agreed noting the importance of creating the circle of safety and how all of our actions as group members trigger brain based responses that either reinforce the relationships or create trust gaps.

Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) referred to the organizational advantage of companies that have both high intellectual and social capital as creating innovative, trusting and cohesive teams.  While trust is not the only component of building social capital, trust was mentioned by Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998);  Daniel, McCalla and Schwier (2003); Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002); McGonigal(2015); Sinek (2014); Cloud (2013); the Heaths (2010); and most definitely by Covey (2006) in The Speed of Trust.  Trust was the common thread in the majority of reading that I did.

Covey (2006) gave specific trust building behaviours to practice.  Cloud (2013) discussed how trust permeates the culture you create.  It “is the starting point … [that] makes it all work” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 171). Both McGonigal (2015) and Sinek (2014) focused on the body’s response to hormones like oxytocin which help foster trusting relationships. Trust is an integral part of creating healthy social capital, which in turn creates a strong, leadership culture.  As Covey (2006) stated and Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) noted, when trust goes up, the costs both financial and relationship go down. Trust increases the likelihood of knowledge exchanges which also generate intellectual capital.

Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) cited Nahapiet & Ghoshal’s (1998) different aspects of social capital.

  • Structural – how members connect with other people in the community; how does information spread (Daniel, et al., 2003, p. 5).
    • Here’s where I see an interesting connection to Gladwell’s work in The Tipping Point.  Although he asked what causes a word of mouth epidemic, the question is essentially the same as asking how information is dispersed through a person’s network.  Gladwell (2006) talked about “connectors”, the people who are linked to many different people in a variety of social circles. While the articles on social capital didn’t mention the common links in the network, I would propose that the efficient dissemination of information flows out through key connectors with in the community.  Gladwell (2006) likened it to the game the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. While we live in a social media age, there are still key influencers online that we all follow or are connected to through our online network.
    • Next Gladwell (2006) mentioned the “mavens,” individuals that are extremely knowledgeable about specific topics.  They are your go to people.  When a maven answers your questions there’s a high probability you are going to follow their advice because you trust them and know that they are suggesting the best option for you.  Networks high in social capital will include mavens and connectors.  Both have a high knowledge capital and are willing to share their tacit knowledge with the group.
    • Finally, Gladwell (2006) explained the “persuaders” are the members of the group that can change people’s minds.  They are able to convincingly share and spread ideas.
  • Next Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) noted the relational dimension.  There are 4 components: Trust which we noted the value of earlier; norms; obligations: and identification.
    • Both Covey (2006)  and Cloud (2013) noted the importance of clear boundaries for a team.  People need to know where they are going, clarify what’s expected and be supported by a culture that trusts them to get it done.
    • Chip and Dan Heath (2010) explained you have to shape the path.  You have to create the environment which not only encourages people to make the change but shapes their choices. The Heaths’ strongly emphasized the significance of a shared identity.  In fact, they noted it’s our go to decision making model.  We may reason out our decision using the rational model, but when in doubt the elephant wins and we decide in favor of our identity.  Avolio, Walumbwa and Weber (2009) agreed that activating an identity to which people can relate, helps to build a shared identity (p. 427).
    • Gladwell (2006) likened this notion to the broken windows effect.   We are shaped by our environment and the people in it.  Culture is how we make sense of the world and our behaviour shifts according to the environment and context in which we live and work.
    • Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) also noted the value of network ties and configuration as essential aspects of how we access information, which connect back to Gladwell’s connectors, mavens and persuaders.
  • Lastly, the cognitive dimension is based on building meaningful connections in a shared context.  A shared language helps teams facilitate the exchange of information which creates an opportunity to build intellectual capital. Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) noted the significance of shared narratives (p. 6).  Just as Carmine Gallo (2014) explained in Talk Like TED, stories not only help us organize the world, they are given preferential treatment in our memory.  Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) also highlighted how stories are a powerful way to not only transfer explicit knowledge, but if you look closely at how the story flows the tacit knowledge is embedded, as well.
    • Bolden, Gosling, Marurano and Dennison (2003) pointed out that although there are many different leadership theories, there is no one size fits all leadership style and each theory lends itself to different styles, followers and situations (p. 8).  Knowing what style to apply depends on your context and situation and it’s an important part of responding to the needs of your team

Melrose, Park and Perry (2015) reminded us of the value of articulating our personal philosophy.  Before we can decide what or how to reach our destination, we have to understand why we chose that teaching approach in the first place.  Reflecting on your personal philosophy of learning and leadership is an important part of growing as a leader.  We all have a go to framework that not only helps us organize our learning, but it’s what we default to in times of stress.  In his TED Talk – How great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek explained

people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.

Whether it’s selling a product, implementing a change or teaching a new skill.  People don’t buy in because you told them to, they are drawn to your why.  Just think about the teachers and leaders that have inspired you. It was likely their genuine enthusiasm and leadership style that you connected with most.   A strong understanding of content is important but unless people understand why the concept is important, it’s just data.

It doesn’t mean that your why or your personal philosophy of leadership or learning won’t change.  They will continue to evolve.  What’s important is that you are an active part of the evolution.  It’s the small actions each day that become the habits shaping your path and in turn your life.  Make sure you are becoming the leader you want to be not just the one that happened.

Sometimes the smallest actions say the most.  Body language and non-verbal communication surfaced on several occasions during my research.  From Amy Cuddy’s (2012) research on how body language can change the hormones released in our body and in turn how our brains think to McGonigal’s (2015) physical resilience power-up strategies, body language is embedded into social capital without us even realizing it.  Our brains will judge within seconds whether members of our network are trustworthy or not.  It’s not even something we need to consciously decide.  Our primitive brain is always working to protect us.  Sinek (2014) pointed out if the trust begins to fail our brain chemistry changes and we are no longer focused on the team goal but rather our individual survival.  Ruggieri, Boca and Garro (2013) noted face to face leadership is established through “body language, vocal inflection, eye contact and clothing” (p.98), which is reinforced based on the group’s response.

Winkler (2010) mentioned in several theories the results a leader produces are dependent upon the a group’s favorable response.  In the idiosyncrasy credit theory of leadership, for example, a leader rises as they gain credit for upholding the social norms and expectations of the group.  Once they become a leader their credits enable them step outside the boundaries and push the group in innovative directions, but only as long as the group finds the results favorable.  Too many withdrawals in your leadership credits means you will lose control. Similarly, Covey (2006) discussed the significance of making deposits not just withdrawals in your trust account.    While Winkler (2010) didn’t directly define the concept of social capital, it permeated the majority of contemporary theories that he discussed.

As I re-read my Super Better post wondering how I was going to connect gaming and resilience to leadership, I was drawn back to McGonigal’s (2015) keys connections between our thinking and behaviours that contribute to post-traumatic and post-ecstatic growth.

  • Learn to benefit find connected to Chip and Dan Heath’s (2010) find the bright spots which pairs with the strength based leadership focus.
  • Finding the heroic story encouraged us to connect to our story and how we identify with our network.
  • Cultivating connectedness builds relationships.
  • Being flexible and adopting a challenge mindset will help you and your team find the best solution rather than the one you think should work.
  • Lastly, taking committed action links to following through with what you say you are going to do (Cloud (2013) & Covey (2006)).

All of which help build social capital.

While gaming may not be your thing, the value in Super Better lies in the small, achievable challenges that build resilience. If you are focused on developing a team of strong leaders, building these strategies into your community of practice will not only strengthen the resilience of the individuals, but the team as well.  As Collins (2001) said, you need the right people on the bus and then it doesn’t matter what detours you encounter the team will make it happen.

What about e-leadership?

Avolio et. al. (2009) noted that e-leadership comes with its own unique set of challenges based on the physical distance, as well as, the type of technology; moreover, face to face is not the same as virtual environments (p. 440).  Ruggieri, Boca and Garro (2013) explained that online transformational leadership encouraged increased communication, self awareness and increased levels of team identification.  By focusing on more than just the transactions that occur within a group, transformational leaders build the skills of their followers in multiple dimensions. In short, they foster the growth of well rounded, leaders working towards a common goal.

As I reflected in an early post.  I learned the most from online classes lead by transformational leaders where we were encouraged to share our ideas without the fear of being wrong.  The true building of intellectual capital is in the sharing of and reflecting on ideas.  You don’t grow unless you share, make connections and think more deeply about your experiences.   All of which rarely happens without a positive, social capital rooted firmly in trusting relationships.  As Sinek (2014) noted, “the people always have the power” (p. 67) and the true power lies in realizing that we are all responsible for protecting the circle of safety.  The circle is what supports the coevolution of social and intellectual capital which creates an organizational advantage (Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998); Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003)).

Driscoll (2005) cited Wenger (1998) as she noted how our learning trajectory changes over time.  Whether you are on an inbound trajectory headed toward full group participation as an insider or sustaining relationships in related communities of practice as a broker or on an outbound course, people are always interacting with communities of practice in different ways (Psychology of Learning for Instruction, p.168-169).  Driscoll (2005) noted the work of Lave & Wenger (1991) when she explained that becoming an insider takes time.  Newcomers start on the periphery and through their interactions with oldtimers (full participants) slowly progress toward full participation.  As new members join the group, the once newcomer becomes a mentor as they move closer to becoming an old timer (Driscoll, 2005, p. 166).

Learning trajectory is an interesting way to think about home based business entrepreneurs.  There’s a strong core group that is very active and in some cases includes the founders.  As teams grow, newcomers learn the business and progress toward full inbound participation, but just as often as new people join others are on their outbound path.  It’s an ever evolving community of practice held together by the core members.  As Driscoll (2005) shared with reference to the work of Lave and Wenger (1991), there is no illegitimate peripheral participation.  Access to most specific home based business groups requires actual membership before detailed sharing of knowledge occurs.  Whether people choose to engage and move from legitimate peripheral to full participation, depends upon the social and intellectual capital within the group.  The community of practice needs to welcome the new members and in turn new members must choose their level of participation (Psychology of Learning for Instruction, p. 167-166).

While it may at times be necessary for someone to actually take the lead, it doesn’t mean that all members can’t practice positive leadership.  We all have a choice to participate in and help strengthen the team.  The strength of a team lies not in in one person but in the complex interconnections between the explicit and tacit knowledge shared by the group.  Perhaps in the end effective leadership is less about the person leading and more about creating the conditions in which we can all learn to lead.  Avolio et. al. (2009) discussed leadership as an emergent state in which team members collectively lead each other (p.431).  Providing opportunities for each person’s strengths to contribute to and lead the team when appropriate creates a unified and cohesive group that can take on any challenge.


References available on our Leadership Resources page.

 

Advertisements

Afraid to try? What a toxic culture does to your brain…

man-1519667_960_720
Pixabay – intographics

As a leader, you have the opportunity and responsibility to shape the culture and environment in which your team functions. From experience, I know first hand the joys of working for a leader that values your effort and encourages innovation.  It’s energizing and fun.  It’s where you want to be and you’ll give more effort toward reaching the goal than money can buy. You are a part of the story that’s making a difference for others. You are inspired to make the vision a reality because you know what you do matters and you believe in the vision.

On the other hand, when the leader changes and connections diminish.  You lose the passion for the career you chose and it simply becomes a job.  You only stay because you’re not sure what else is out there and you hope if you just keep your head down and don’t make eye contact that it will get better.  It often doesn’t and those leaders don’t tend to move on quickly. Not only does trust fail, but the damage that working environment or relationship does to your mental and physical health is disturbing.

What happens when fear becomes toxic?

As Simon Sinek (2014) discussed in “Why Leaders Eat Last, “we are hardwired to ensure our survival.  Our primitive brains haven’t caught up to cultures that we live in.  Our legacy survival systems, as Sinek, pointed out continue to ensure that whether something is life threatening or just stressful our bodies respond in the same way.   The problem is that stress at work isn’t life or death, but our body releases cortisol regardless of the difference.  So when our Circle of Safety begins to fail and we begin to fear what’s happening, our body releases more cortisol (p.55-56).  In turn, cortisol inhibits oxytocin, the trust and empathy hormone. So we devote even more energy towards being suspicious of those around us at the very time we need more support from the group.  It make us more vulnerable to outside threats, less productive and startlingly less healthy.

Sinek (2014) recounted that cortisol isn’t meant to be released on an ongoing basis.  It’s meant for a short release to help you survive a dangerous time and then the system is meant to reset.  Unfortunately, work stress continues and as a result prolonged cortisol works against us.  Sinek explained that cortisol:

  • affects glucose release
  • increases blood pressure and inflammatory response
  • impairs cognitive ability
  • increases aggression
  • suppresses sex drive
  • it prepares us for fight or flight and in doing so it shuts down digestion, growth and the immune system.  It makes sure all energy is redirected toward only essential fight or flight systems.
    (p. 56)

Guess what that does to your long term health… It’s not good.

So does the culture and environment of your workplace matter?

YES

Workplaces that foster connections and increased trust decrease cortisol release and let oxytocin and serotonin work to foster cooperation (p. 58).

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it…

Knowing that our brain is impacted by our primal instinct for survival means that we not only pick up on what is said, we notice how the body says it.   Over the past year, I’ve attended sessions and worked 1:1 with Carla Gradin, body language trainer.  She referred to the fact that our primal brain is designed to ensure our survival.  As a result, how our brain reads body language also impacts our response. She explained that the first part of the body our brains notice is our hands.  Where you put your hands tells us if you are a friend or foe. If the palms of my hands aren’t visible during an interaction, your brain is questioning my motives.  If I reach to shake your hand palm down, your brain is considering whether or not I’m concealing a weapon.  If you want to build positive connections with people, your body language needs to say the same thing you are (Speak up and Stand Out, Carla Gradin, p. 8).

Cloud (2013) noted “research suggests, people don’t leave jobs — they leave bosses” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 56).  He too drew the connection to our primal brain and stressed that it’s not just what a leader says, it’s how a leader communicates that causes our brains to revert back to fight or flight (p. 56).

holzfigur-980784_960_720
Pixabay – Counselling

Covey (2006) cited John Gardner, “One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure” (Speed of Trust, p. 178).  So what’s one reason we fear failure?  To be honest, failure – trial and error, is how we learn.  We try it one way and when it doesn’t work we learn from what we did and try again.  Why is it that some teams become stagnant and stall out rather than take a chance?

Cloud (2013) explained that it’s all about the right kind of fear.  There’s positive stress that helps you get your taxes in on time.  The stress that helps you meet the deadline, yet in the process you never lose sight of the goal.  It helps us focus on closing the gap (p. 65).  If you cross over into the realm of toxic stress as Sinek (2014) and Covey (2006) also mentioned, then your primitive brain takes over and productivity decreases (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 67).

People can’t learn from mistakes if they are too “afraid of what you might do to [them]” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 74).  People need to know that their leader is there for them during times of success, but more importantly, a true leader stands by them and helps them learn from their mistakes (p. 71).

It’s a fine line between healthy, motivating stress and debilitating, toxic fear.  The first step as a leader is reflecting on the culture you have created and realizing that a team united on the same path with healthy brains will always out perform a team paralyzed in fear.

To fail is to begin again knowing one more way that doesn’t work.  It’s a culture shift worth pursuing because the resilience of our students and teams depends on their ability to learn from their experiences rather than being derailed by them.  And that begins with you!


Resources Referenced: 

Other articles:

Connections – United we stand…

Connections build a united culture… (Connections Part 2)

hand-1030565_960_720Pixabay – Geralt

United we stand, divided we fall … the leadership choices that you make today shape the culture you live in tomorrow.

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your team and achieve goals you thought were out of reach, it begins by creating a culture in which people not only feel safe, they feel valued.

In “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek (2014) introduced us to the Circle of Safety.   Knowing that you are part of the circle of safety frees up people’s minds to focus on the team’s goals.  When a leader creates a culture where you “trust that the people to the left…[and] to the right of us have our backs, the better equipped we are to face the constant threats from outside together” (p. 22). Sinek wrote that you can feel it.  You can feel when you are surrounded by the circle of safety.  We feel valued and cared for by our colleagues and superiors.  We feel like we belong and our confidence grows along with our connections.  All of the group’s energy is directed towards the greater good (p. 24).

group-157841_960_720Pixabay OpenClipart-Vectors

When the circle begins to falter, we become suspicious of those around us and our brains go into survival mode. Our energy is redirected into watching for the dangers all around us instead of trusting our team (Leaders Eat Last, p. 22).  When trust goes down, speed goes down and costs go up (Speed of Trust, 2006, p. 13).  Trust, as Covey (2006) pointed out, is one of the most highly valued competencies of the new global economy (p. 21).

Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) pointed out that “in almost every discussion of social capital, trust is treated as a central variable” (p. 6). While the development of social capital isn’t as simple as a direct cause and effect relationship with trust, Daniel et. al. noted that opportunities for positive social interactions do build trust.  Over time, increased trust is an integral part of growing social capital within a community (p. 6).

trust-1418901_960_720Pixabay – lcaroselli

In recent body language and confidence workshops and coaching sessions, Carla Gradin (2015-16) shared building connections is all about building on your know, like and trust factors.  As soon as you meet someone their brain automatically starts to process their first impression of you. Keep in mind first impressions happen in 2-3 seconds, likely before you’ve actually said anything (Gradin, 2015, p. 9). She reminded that our primitive brains immediately sort people into 4 categories:

  1. Friend
  2. Foe
  3. Sexual Partner
  4. Indifferent
    (page 8)

So if you want to build positive connections with people not only does what you say matter, how you say it has more impact than you think. Gradin reinforced Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk comment

“that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it”
(minute 4:00).

In order to believe your why, people need to make a connection with you.  Gradin noted that people first notice your hands.  If I can’t see your hands or more specifically the palms of your hands, my primitive brain becomes quite concerned with what you are hiding and if you are a threat (p. 8).  Even palms facing down tells my brain that you could be hiding a weapon and I need to be on alert.  The story people’s body language tells is often more honest than what people actually say.

So how can you help build connections?

Touch, builds connection.  As Sinek (2014) explained in Leaders Eat Last, it’s all about the hormones.  Oxytocin in the right balance can enhance positive, trusting connections. Gradin (2015) explained that when we touch people, it has the potential to release oxytocin, “which can evoke the same feeling of connection equal to 3 hours of talk time” (p.10).  In Super Better, Jane McGonigal (2015) explained “touch and gratitude are two of the most effective” (p. 17) ways to increase your social resilience.  In particular, McGonigal noted that 6 seconds of holding hands or touching someone not only increased your oxytocin level but theirs as well.  The more oxytocin you release the more likely you are to help and protect that person which deepens your connection (p. 18).  Gradin added that when shaking someone’s hand making eye contact also enhances oxytocin release (p. 10).

Interestingly, McGonigal highlighted research by Dr. Robert Emmons & Cheryl A. Crumpler along with Sara B. Algoe, Jonathan Haidt and Shelly L. Gable when she wrote:

“gratitude is the single most important relationship-strengthening emotion because, as researchers explain, ‘it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people'” (p. 18).

It turns out that expressing your appreciation is one of the best ways to build positive connections with others (McGonigal, p. 18), which is why Gradin highlighted the significance of the handshake.  When done well, it’s a socially accepted greeting that can enhance how people see your agreeableness (you appear more extroverted), your open mindedness and your emotional stability (p. 10).  Wonder what a great handshake is – check out our video on the handshake.

Interested in learning specific behaviours that can increase your trust factor?  Check out our next post on Covey’s Recommended Trust Building Behaviours.

 


 Resources Referenced:

Connection… it really does matter

Designed by FreepikDesigned by Freepik

      Leadership is more complicated than you might think and for the most part our conscious awareness of what’s happening is minimal.  We may choose to follow or be frustrated by our leaders, yet how often do you step back and think about what makes a good leader great? Or for that matter, why we are frustrated with our job?  There are many factors in play that impact how our brains consciously and unconsciously respond to the leaders and followers around us.

4-01
Designed by Freepik

After reviewing many resources for this class, a few key topics consistently rise to the surface.  Relationships and trust.   Google defined relationships as “the way in which two or more concepts, objects or people are connected or the state of being connected…[how] people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.”

It’s really about the connections you have with the people around you. Dr. Henry Cloud (2013) explained “relationships change brain chemistry” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 82).   As a leader, it’s important to consider how your leadership impacts people’s executive functioning.  Cloud asserted that we must lead in ways that match our brain’s executive functioning processes.  We must be able to focus our attention on connections, inhibit distractions and use our working memory to remember and build on relevant information. (p. 27 & 83).  As Cloud explained, connections foster unity and help the brain become more effective (p. 84).  When was the last time you considered how the brain functions when you planned a meeting?

So how are you building connections within your team?

smartphone-1445489_960_720Pixabay – Geralt

People notice, if you only show up when you need something and Cloud (2013)  shared many stories highlighting the effects of attempting to carry forward a sound plan without a healthy culture (p. 84-85).  Steven M.R. Covey (2006) echoed similar assertions when he repeatedly stated when”trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down” (Speed of Trust, p. 13).

So how do you foster a culture of connections?  I’m reminded of a book I read a few years ago called “TouchPoints” by Dougals Conant and Mette Norgaard. Their premise… every interaction you have with someone is an opportunity to foster the relationship in a positive or negative way.  The smallest moments build the connections and shape your relationships.  Do the best you can to make those moments count.

Daniel, McCalla and Schwier (2002) noted the value of social capital within face to face and virtual communities. Social capital is “a stock of active connections among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and shared values and behaviours that bind people as members of human networks and communities” (p. 1).  The more social capital an individual has linked to within a community, the more potential benefits that are possible.  Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) cited Putnam’s work reminding that social capital is “an attribute of an individual in a social context” (p. 5).  It’s always the individual’s choice to access their connections; moreover, social capital is not a commodity to be passed from one person to the next unless you you are dealing with the reputation of a brand or larger company. Then people would expect the new owners to uphold the brand’s track record.  Individual social capital is built upon the connections one has within a community (p.5).

It’s an interesting concept well worth your consideration.  Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) observed several potential benefits including: enabling community members to more easily solve problems; increased cooperation;  a united group allowed for more efficient forward movement toward a goal; increased trust fostered increased interactions which in turn led to more positive daily business interactions; increased socially accepted behaviour; upheld social norms; increased knowledge sharing; and bridging of cultural differences (p. 3).  Daniel et. al. (2003) even noted social capital related success in both education and business settings (p.4).

As with anything, a strong community of practice is vulnerable to the negatives of social capital. It depends which type of influence a strong, cohesive group chooses to exert on its members.  Entry into a strong community of practice may be more difficult for outside members as opposed to those already linked to the group.  It all depends on how each unique community of practice chooses to interact with the norms of society as a whole (p. 4).

As a leader, what can you do?

Daniel, McCalla and Schwier (2002) noted the importance of creating space for social interactions to occur.  Each interaction then has the opportunity to build trust.  The second factor considered the time needed for social capital to develop.   Community members need the space and time to develop trust building social capital (p.2).

Dr. Henry Cloud (2013) offered 5 aspects to consider when attempting to foster stronger connections.

star-209371_960_720Pixabay by Geralt

1. Look for opportunities to create meaningful connections
– Cloud (2013) advocated for different meetings rather than more meetings.
– Meetings that have a purpose of uniting the team toward a common goal create the social context trusting interactions; moreover, regular, purposeful meetings build in the time to enhance social capital (Daniel, McCalla & Schwier, 2002, p.2).

Cloud highlighted the value of asking three questions:

~ How did we do today on working together?

~ Did we do what we said we were going to do?

~ Did we live out our team operating values?
(Boundaries for Leaders, 2013, p. 87)

— If you didn’t do those things, then figure out what you can do to more forward.

2. You have to be on the same page. 
– Your team has to be working toward the same goal and it can be as simple as beginning with a clear agenda or agreed upon objective. You have to define your purpose (Boundaries for Leaders – Cloud, 2013, p. 90).

– Daniel, McCalla & Schwier (2002) explained that both virtual and face to face communities share a common language which they use “to negotiate meaning, understand each other and build common vocabulary around their interests and goals” (p. 1).  Without a shared history and common language, a group runs the risk of miscommunication.  As a leader, you have to keep people on the same page.

3. Be aware
– Be aware of the different perspectives on your team as Cloud pointed out, everyone “need[s] to know and operate from the same set of facts and realities” (p. 91).  If you aren’t all on the same page, people are going to begin to feel disconnected which in turn begins to fragment your team.  Listen to the different perspectives, deal with the differences and move forward so everyone is aware of what’s happening and why.

network-1020332_960_720
Pixabay – Peggy_Marco

4. It’s more than what you say, it’s how your body says it
– Cloud (2013) again reminded that as a leader your body language sets a tone for the team.  There needs to be a consistency between what you say and the non verbal signals you are sending (p. 91).

5. The stories we tell ourselves matter
– Cloud (2013) noted that “the human brain likes to organize experiences into a story…The more you attend to keeping the relevant narrative alive, the more connections you will create” (p. 92).  Safir (2015) explained in her article, “The Power of Story in School Transformation” that paying attention to people’s stories will build connections and in turn help you construct a new narrative for your team.

Safir noted 3 types of stories:

  • Your Story – sharing your experiences shows vulnerability and models social-emotional experiences.  Just think about how you connect when you hear someone else’ story.  (Brene Brown – Daring Greatly is a great read on this topic)
  • The stories of others – truly listening to other’s stories develops trust and connections
  • The organizational story “Organizations carry their own core memories” (para. 8)
    (As summarized in an earlier blog post).

The idea, as Safir explained, is called storientation – paying attention to and actively listening to other’s stories (para. 4 & 5).  It turns out that stories are powerful connectors.  Even Carmine Gallo dedicated a chapter to the value of stories in his book “Talk Like TED.”  In 9 Public-Speaking Lessons from the World’s Greatest TED Talks, Gallo shared how brain scans confirmed that “stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience” (p. 2).

If you want people to make a connection, share a story.  If you want people to make a difference,

make a place for people to see where they are in the story, what it means for them and what role they can play in moving the story forward
(Boundaries for Leaders – Cloud, 2013, p. 92).

As Covey stated, “Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust” (p. 40); moreover, “how you go about achieving results is as important as the results themselves, because when you establish trust, you increase your ability to get results the next time.  And there’s always a next time” (Speed of Trust, 2006, p.40). 

Connections matter.  How are you building connections?

Read Part 2 of this post.

 


Resources Referenced:

Who’s TED and Why would you want to talk like him?

A Review of
Talk Like TED:  The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
By: Carmine Gallo


book Cover      It was one of those books that kept appearing in my amazon and audible suggested reading list.  I’m a avid consumer of TED Talks, TED radio hour and local TED X events.   I love learning and 18 minute TED Talks are just enough time to learn a little bit that will hook me into learning more.  I’ve listened to hundreds of TED Talks as I drive from one location to another or weed the garden.  And you know when you find the one TED Talk that changes your perspective or just makes you stop what you are doing and think.  Sometimes I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with friends and colleagues.  I’ve often wondered why I can explain the concepts and tell the story of some TED Talks like I just listened to them, while others were interesting but I can’t remember them for very long.

In “Talk Like TED,” Carmine Gallo shared why some talks go viral and the ideas stick.  While a sticky idea is an important part of getting people to remember the information, it turns out great public speakers employ several key strategies.  Gallo explained that ideas are the currency of the 21st century and if they are delivered well, they can cause lasting change.

Based on his extensive analysis of TED Talks and presentation strategies, Gallo shared 9 key strategies that will change how you share information in a presentation.  Here’s a very quick overview as I highly recommend you listen to or read his book.  It’s filled with practical strategies.

  1. Unleash the Master within – Find what you love to talk about and share your inspiration.  Your audience will know if you don’t love what you are talking about.  Your passion shows not only in your voice but in your body language.
  2. Tell stories – Gallo noted brain research showed that stories better engage listeners.  They help you connect with your audience by sharing a piece of you.
  3. Practice – There’s no way around it.  Great TED Talks are the result of hundreds of revisions, test runs and practice.  They become a conversation not a lecture.
  4. Teach your audience something new – Humans love novelty and our brains will tune in to learn new things.  So teach them something they didn’t know before.
  5. Deliver jaw-dropping moments – This means sharing something that causes a strong emotional response.  We encode emotionally charged memories better and more accurately. So help your listeners make a connection.
  6. Use humour without telling jokes – It better connects you with your audience.
  7. Stick to about 18 minutes – Much longer and you overload people’s memories and they won’t remember what to share.
  8. Favor pictures over text – we are more likely to recall a picture that a text based bullet.
  9. Stay in your lane – Share your story and what you’ve learned.  People will connect with your authenticity.

Gallo shared personal experiences and numerous TED examples to explain the 9 strategies in a detailed and engaging way that not only makes you think about why some speakers are better able to draw you in, but how you too can share your ideas.

Leadership Connections:

  • Being a leader means sooner or later you are going to have to speak in front of other people in order to share your ideas.  Sharing ideas that connect with an audience requires more than making it up as you go along.  Keeping these 9 ideas in mind can help you shape and refine your presentation skills each time you speak to an audience.
  • Teachers address students each day.  Understanding how to share ideas not only increases the chance that students will remember but it also models presentation techniques.  Just think back to the teacher you remember the most.  I’d wager it’s not the content specifically you remember but how they delivered the content or engaged you in learning that sealed it in your memory.
  • Enhancing your ability to communicate increases the chances that your message is not only heard and understood but that it’s remembered.  Clearly communicating where you are going and how you are going to get there will move your followers forward.

 


Gallo, C. (2014). Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. New York: St. Marin’s Press.

Image – Screenshot of the cover from Amazon.ca

 

What or Who causes ideas to tip?

A Review of
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By: Malcom Gladwell


book coverJust as the title promised, Gladwell explained how it’s the little things over time that make the difference and in the end cause the change to tip.  Despite being written in 2006, the basic ideas still resonated strongly with me and added to my perspective of how change comes to be in the world around us. As leaders, The Tipping Point reminded us to appreciate the people in our network and value the the small changes because in the end it’s more often the combination of small consistent changes that have shaped the world around us than large sweeping initiatives.

Gladwell skillfully uses real life case studies and stories to engage the reader in an interesting journey through the evolution of an idea.   He compared an idea to that of an epidemic.  One moment or perhaps for years it’s just an idea or how things have always been and then it hits the tipping point and everything changes. He referenced New York City’s drop in crime and why Paul Revere’s ride changed history and the other guy’s didn’t.  Did you know there was another rider that tried to warn of the British invasion?  By encouraging us to reflect on the world around us, Gladwell opened our minds to the possibilities of change and helped us understand why some ideas spread. He also noted the factors that help ideas catch fire.

It seems simple that good ideas will spread.  People get excited, they share their ideas and the effect ripples out.  It would be interesting to read an updated afterword by Gladwell based on the changes in social media in the last 10 years, but I imagine he’d say the same types of people still exist.  It’s just their medium and perhaps sphere of influence that has broadened.

“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts” (p. 33).  That is the law of the few.  Gladwell explained that there are three key types of people in our world. Connectors, Maven and Salesmen.

Connectors are those in our networks that know lots of other people and their networks cross into many different types of social circles.  They enjoy bringing people together from different circles and introduce you.  Gladwell encouraged the reader to pause for a moment and think about your friends.  How did you meet them?  Who introduced you? More than likely, there’s one or two people that made those connections.   As an introvert, connectors are very important people to me.  They eliminate the need for small talk and connect you with people without requiring the extra energy it takes to meet strangers.  When you are brought together by a connector, you already have something in common to talk about.

Mavens are the “people we rely upon to connect us with new information” (p. 19) about specific topics. They are passionate about the topic they care about and you trust their advice. Just think about it.  Who’s your tech person?  Who recommends the best places to eat? Who do you ask when your car doesn’t work?  We all know mavens.  They want to share and they are often skilled communicators.

Lastly, Gladwell referred to the salesmen or those who are good at persuading.  Not only are they skilled verbal communicators, their body language seals the deal.  Interestingly, Gladwell mentioned the role of body language and the subtle ways these people exude persuasive body language.

Share your idea with one of these people and the chance of it spreading greatly increases, however, just sharing the idea won’t cause a word of mouth epidemic. He explained the message has to stick.  If people don’t remember it, they won’t share it.

What truly resonated with me, partially because the idea has come up in several other reads, was the power of context. People’s behaviour is reflective of the type of environment that’s been created.  It’s what he called the broken windows effect.  In short if we walk down a street with dilapidated old buildings, dark alleys, filled with garbage and lots of broken windows, we will act differently. The theory suggested that you will also see a higher violent crime rate.  Literally, clean up your streets and your crime rate will drop.

Filled with moving examples, Gladwell repeatedly draws the connections back to case studies and the complimentary research in a way that is sure to keep you turning the pages. It increases your awareness of the change happening around you and the next time something tips…maybe you’ll spot one of the reasons why.  Interestingly, Gladwell explained it’s not the huge changes that cause ideas to spread it’s the small, consistent actions that happen everyday that build into lasting change.

Leadership Connections:

  • What’s this have to do with being a leader?  Change is always happening.  As a leader, we are often asked to move change forward.  Understanding how change works and how you can tip change in a positive way, increases your chances at successfully reaching your goal.  Whether you want to improve your school or lead an effective team, understanding change will help you better support your team.
  • Do you know your people?  Can you spot the connectors, mavens and salespeople on your team?  The diversity of your team is an asset on which you can build the skills of everyone.
  • Understanding the value of the tipping point means that you don’t have to stand at the front and lecture people on what to do.  You need to come up with a sticky idea and shape the environment and then work with your team.
  • Gladwell offered interested readers the gateway to working on change. If you are ready, you have the opportunity to add more to your Leadership Toolbox.  Because you just never know when you might need to fix a broken window.

 


Gladwell, M. (2006). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference . Little, Brown and Company.

~ Thanks to Eric Hufnagel, Superintendent of Learning NESD, for recommending this book. 

Image – Screenshot from Amazon.ca

Body Language- What you are really saying…

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are ~ Amy Cuddy

TED Talk
Interactive Transcript

One of my favourite TED Talks, okay I have lots of favourite TED Talks.  It turns out what you can learn in 18 minutes truly change your life.  This one in fact has impacted my daily interactions and lead me to attend more workshops on non-verbal communication.  Did you know how you carry yourself and how you stand can change not only the way you think about yourself but the hormone levels in your body?  Strong leaders are able to clearly communicate their message and this includes the non-verbal aspects, as well. I do have to warn you, once you learn more about body language it has the potential to change the way you see the world.  Do you think two minutes of power posing can change how you feel? Are you ready?

Cuddy noted in her 2012 TED Talk that “we make sweeping judgement and inferences from body language” (time 2.04).  From deciding whether or not we like someone, to whether a physician is nice (turns out nice Doctors are sued less often) or if we will vote for a political candidate,  those seconds before you speak shape lasting impressions. As a social scientist, Cuddy wondered “do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?” (time 6:57). Can you fake till you make it?

By examining levels of “testosterone, which is the dominance hormone, and cortisol, which is the stress hormone” (time 7:57), Cuddy tracked hormone levels in both powerful and powerless people.  Research showed that “powerful and effective leaders also have high testosterone and low cortisol” (time 7:57). Based on her team’s experiments, Cuddy had people pose in high power and low power poses for two minutes prior to the testing of hormone levels and then in the second experiment an independent panel of body language experts evaluated them during an intense interview.  What she found was that 2 minutes of power posing (think wonder women) changes your hormone levels.  Power posing increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, whereas weaker poses like hunching over and checking your phone in the waiting room have the opposite effect (Time 11:44).

Cuddy explained “that our bodies can change our minds and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes” (15:35). Anyone can be a leader but part of that is in our minds.  People respond to our non verbal communication, so paying attention to the signals you are sending makes a difference in the congruency of the messages you convey.  As Amy Cuddy says, “don’t fake it till you make it.   Fake it till you become it” (time 19:14).

Leadership Connections: 

The more I learn about body language the more I understand how  nonverbal communication impacts our daily interactions.  Many leadership theories talk about the charisma and other dominant characteristics of leaders, while only a few acknowledge body language directly.  It’s importance is embedded into every interaction a leader has with a follower.  In fact, Cuddy explains that if one person has bigger body language the other person doesn’t mirror it rather they do the opposite and become smaller (4:55). Learning how to read the nonverbal signals in the room isn’t easy and learning how to respond is even harder but in the end your conscious body language choices will become more automatic and you will change your relationships with those around you.

Now imagine yourself as a teacher or team leader that’s aware of  body language.  The ability to consciously share the strategies with those around you has the potential to change their self-confidence. It has the potential to transform your team.


TED Talk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – Amy Cudy
Interactive Transcript