Who’s going to help you tip the change?

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Pixabay – Open Clipart-Vectors 

In the Switch, Chip and Dan Heath (2010) explained the value of growing your people.  In particular, they noted the value of identity and a growth mindset. I was struck by their question, “How can you make your change a matter of identity rather than a matter of consequence?” (p. 154).  After all, they shared that a change which violates a person’s identity is likely doomed to fail and mere incentives will not change people’s behaviour (p. 154).

We see it in education… most students don’t change just because there’s a consequence and in business team’s don’t just increase their numbers because there’s a bonus.  It’s deeper than a simple exchange of service.  Each person is motivated by a different set of experiences, when you can unite your team toward a common goal that they truly believe in – that’s when you will see the most growth.

As a leader, how often do you stop to think about the identity or mindset that you are fostering?  James March identified two models of decision making.  People either make a rational decision based on an analysis of the pros and cons or they decide based on the identity they’ve adopted.   March suggested people using the identity model decide based on three questions,

“Who am I?
What kind of situation is this?
What would someone like me do in this situation?”
(Heath, 2010, p. 153).

Rational doesn’t always win and identities aren’t written in stone.

As a leader with ethos and logos, you may convince the rational rider of the value and cost effectiveness of your plan, but if the emotional elephant (pathos) isn’t moved by the numbers they won’t travel very far down the path with you. It goes back to knowing your students and your people.  What matters to them?  Have you listened first and spoke last?

Take for instance the fascinating example of Brasilata.  It illustrated how identities can be adopted and shaped over the course of people’s lives.  The Heath’s wrote of how Brasilata  chose to create an inventor identity.  Everyone in the company was considered an inventor and it was their job to share their ideas.  The company, in turn, built on the ideas suggested and in time became one of the top leaders in steel can manufacturing (p. 156-157).  As an educator, the story of how one principal changed the identity of a down and out inner city school to a one of striving for excellence was heart warming.  It’s certainly not easy, but there are bright spots.

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Pixabay – Geralt 

It also turns out that there are 3 key types of people you want involved in your change efforts.  In fact as Malcolm Gladwell (2006) wrote, they will tip the change.  Have you heard of connectors, mavens and salesmen?

First, you need to find your connectors.  These are the people who know lots of people in a diverse variety of social circles.  They also make it a habit to introduce people from different circles.  They are the connectors. Think about who you know and who introduced you to those people….often, Gladwell noted, those connectors show up over and over in how you met your friends.

As an introvert, connectors are very helpful.  Finding people who genuinely care about connecting you with other people of similar interests decreases the energy it costs to meet new people. When I’m connected with a person who has similar interests, you can get right to the issues rather than the preliminary small talk. Less stressing about meeting people means more time investing in real learning.

You’ve likely identified the connectors, but have you thought about the mavens?  They are the “people we rely upon to connect us with new information” (p. 19). They are the curators of knowledge about very specific topics.  We all know them.  They are the people you go to when you have a question about something specific; moreover, you trust them and what they say because they have a great track record. People buy or go places because these people recommended it.

Lastly, you have your persuaders sometimes known as salesmen. Not the stereotypical used car salesman, but rather people with well developed rhetoric skill.  They have ethos (you trust them), they know their stuff (logos) and they can sell (pathos – emotion). Even their body language cues your brain to buy in.  We’ve all heard them.  They are the TED speakers that Carmine Gallo (2014) wrote about.  They are the people you would follow to places you’ve never wanted to go.  Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious.

To this day, I still remember attending my first Sciematics conference as a young biology teacher and listening to Brian Keating speak.  By the end of the session I wanted to travel to Antarctica and camp on the ice just to learn more about the penguins.  (I didn’t really but in that moment it sure felt like I did)  Just a few weeks ago I listened to Color By Amber Executive Chairman and Founder, Talley Goodson.  As he shared his passion for design and innovation in a way that not only gives back to the artisans but makes the planet a better place, his positive energy was contagious.  He not only wants to make the world a better place, he’s committed to making it happen.  Who doesn’t want to be part of that.

So we need all kinds of people to sustain change.  Gladwell (2006), Gallo (2014) and the Heath’s (2010) emphasized the fact the your message has to be sticky.  People have to remember the change to actually share it.  In fact in today’s social media world, Gallo (2014) reminded us that you need to be able to share your message in 140 characters or less.

Finally, remember the power of context.  Gladwell (2006) asked readers to think about the broken windows effect.  That is… our behaviour changes to fit the context of the environment in which we function.  If you walk down a dirty street with garbage strewn all around and broken windows surrounded by graffiti filled storefronts, the petty crime rate goes up.  An increase in small crimes is the gateway to more violent crimes.  So when people talk about cleaning up the streets, it does actually make a difference.  Start with the small changes and the bigger ones will follow.

As a leader, how are you empowering your team to shape the path to sustainable change?  Will it happen in the climate and culture you currently exist in?  Like Cloud (2013) said, “you always get what you create and what you allow” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. xvi).

Where do you want to be?


Resources

 

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

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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).

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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:

Behave yourself into trust – Covey’s Suggested Behaviours Part 2

In this post, we continue with a brief overview of Stephen M. R. Covey’s 13 trust building behaviours.  Again these are a very brief summary of those explained in Covey’s book, The Speed Of Trust – The One Thing that Changes Everything (2006).  All to often we talk about the need to build connections and Covey offers concrete strategies that you can implement to increase trust.  Like he said you can’t buy your way out of something you behaved yourself into, but you can behave yourself back into a trusting relationship.

Let’s pick up with #8.

8.  Confront Reality (p. 185- 191)
– What’s the cost of not addressing the elephant in the room?  Covey (2006) asked if you’ve ever been part of the meeting after or before the actual meeting?  What could you accomplish if you addressed what he called the “undiscussables?” (p. 185).  As uncomfortable as it may be to face the issues head on, it will in the long run create stronger relationships.

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9. Clarify Expectations (p. 192-199)
– This one will cost you the most if you don’t deal with it up front.  It means that we all need to be on the same page.  We need a shared vision (p.193).  Make the time with your team and your family to clarify what you expect and the standard to which you expect it to be done. How many times, for example, have you asked a family member to do something?  Clean your room…. only to find out it’s not done the way you wanted it or to the same standard….perhaps the results really say more about my instructions than the results say about my daughter’s attempt to clean her room.  She’s 7.  We have different standards of what it means to clean your room.  I really need to work on clarifying my expectations in a pro-active rather reactive way.

– Educators often talk about the importance of before, during and after strategies.  If people aren’t producing a product your are happy with, it may not be because they are purposefully choosing to do poorly.  They may simply have not spent enough time in the before stage.  Clarifying expectations and knowing where you are going before you start is important in ensuring that everyone successfully ends up at the same end point.  Plus it saves time and money.

10.  Practice Accountability (p. 200-207)
– Covey (2006) reminded that there are two key parts.  First, you must hold yourself accountable.  Using Jim Collin’s metaphor, Covey explained that we must close the window and look in the mirror. As a leader, you are part of the success and the failure.  Second, you will have to hold others accountable. If you don’t, other members of the team will become frustrated (p. 204).  What this means is that you must have clear expectations and have provided feedback, so that you can have a conversation about being accountable.

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Pixabay – Clker-Free-Vector-Images

11.  Listen first (p. 208-214)
– Are you really listening?  Are you actively seeking to understand a different perspective before you add your response?  Or are you just waiting and thinking about your reply while the other person is talking?  (p. 209).
– Through a number of challenging personal experiences including a health scare of my own, I’ve been reminded several times that life is all about perspective.  Our experiences shape our stories and impact how we see those around us.  We all have insights to offer based on our life experiences.  Learning to listen … to truly actively listen, will open up a new world of perspective, insight and innovation.

  • Covey offered these key insights:
    • You have to actively listen with your whole body and your brain.  When people feel that they are heard, you they become more willing to listen to your ideas. (FYI, your body language tells people if you are listening or not)
    • Listen before your make up your mind.  If you don’t it will show in how you listen.
    • Listen to understand what matters most to your people, you don’t know everything (and just because you are a leader doesn’t mean that you do need to know everything.  Some of the best leaders I’ve worked for simply said that’s a great question let’s figure it out together.)
    • Remember once you’ve listened others, you also have to listen to yourself.
      (p. 212-214)

Cloud (2013) noted listening as the “glue that makes of the rest of this work” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 97).  Nothing replaces active listening, “people’s deepest need is to be know and understood before they can join someone or be led by them.  They want to know that you get it” (p. 96).

Lastly, Covey (2006) included one of Peter Drucker’s Eight Practices of Effective Executives.

Listen first, speak last.

(Speed of Trust, p. 210)
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Pixabay – kimheimbuch0

12. Keep Commitments (p. 215-221)
– Covey explained that this is the “Big Kahuna” of behaviors.  The quickest way to build trust or lose it. Roger Merrill explained, “when you make a commitment, you build hope; when you keep it, you build trust” (The Speed of Trust, 2006, p. 215).
–  Building trust is simple.  Think carefully about the commitments you make, keep them and repeat the behavior.  Nothing builds trust faster than following through on what you say you will do (p. 221).

Covey also included a poignant reminder, “family members are often the most important commitments of all” (p.220).  I’m thankful to be surrounded by role models that don’t hesitate to remind me of the ne

13. Extend Trust (p. 222-229)
– Covey explained that this behaviour is different.  Now you actually have to extend trust to others (p. 223).  He advised us not to be foolish in how we trust others but to extend a smart trust based on the situation and the people involved (p. 229). Trust in the end will take you farther.

So how do you build connections within your team?

Have you created a culture where people choose to go above and beyond because they know you value what they do and trust them to make it happen?

It’s always a work in progress. Learning how to be a leader is never done.  What matters is that each day you have an opportunity to practice and build better connections.  As Talley Goodson said at the Color By Amber Summit 2016 conference,

“the only competition you truly have is the person looking back at you in the mirror.”


 Resources Referenced:

Covey’s Recommended Trust Building Behaviours – Part 1

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Pixabay – Geralt

In The Speed of Trust The One Thing That Changes Everything, Stephen M. R. Covey (2006) shared 13 behavioural strategies to increase trust dividends because your behavior will either increase or decrease your connections.  Here’s the very brief descriptions of the 13 key behaviours with my perspective added in.  For a more detailed explanation of the behaviours I highly recommend reading or listening to The Speed of Trust.

Why take the time to review these behaviours?  There’s lots of theories on how to be a good leader, but there isn’t always specific, tangible examples of how to grow as a leader.  Covey’s 13 behaviors offered specific examples that you can practice to become a more trusted leader. I’ve noted the pages in the Speed of Trust that apply to each section, so you can choose to dig into those that matter most to you.

  1. Talk Straight (p. 127-143)
    – Just like it sounds.  “Be honest. Tell the truth” (p. 143). Covey (2006) recommended getting to your point as quickly as possible using simple language. “Recognize that in most cases, “less” is “more.”  In the legal world vernacular, ‘If you’re explaining you’re losing.'” (p. 142).  It’s not always easy and as with most things it will take practice, but do your best to be straightforward in a respectful way.

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    Pixabay – Maiconfz

    – In part one of our series on building connections, we referenced the significance of a shared language.  Shared language and codes enable people to access and share information with other people.  Without a common understanding of the language, communication falters and connections are lost (Daniel, Schwier & McCalla, 2003, p. 6).

  2. Demonstrate Respect (p. 144-151)
    – It shows in your interactions with everyone from your superiors to your cleaning staff.  Be genuine and treat others with dignity.  Kindness is in the little things. Try to do or say something each day that makes someone else smile (p. 150-151).  It’s evident in nonverbal communication, so make sure it shows in a genuine way.
  3. Create Transparency (p. 152-157)
    – It’s a balancing act.  Not all that you know needs or should be shared because people have trusted you with that information, but on the other hand does failing to share information make it seem like you have something to hide?  Covey (2006) suggested being open and authentic.  A what you see is what you get demeanor (p. 157).
  4. Right Wrongs (p. 158-164)
    – Covey asked a simple yet telling question, when you make a mistake how do you respond?
    – Do you own it and take responsibility for it and attempt to make it right by apologizing and making restitution?
    –  Or do you try to rationalize, down play or deny it? (p.160 & 164).Who do you want to be associated with?
    We’re not perfect all the time so make a choice to do better next time and behave yourself into the trust dividends rather than paying higher trust taxes (p. 160).
  5. Show Loyalty (p. 165-171)
    – How you talk about other people when they aren’t there says more about you.  As Stephen R. Covey said, “To retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent” (p. 169).
    – Another point that resonated with me is give credit where credit is due.  Acknowledge the contributions of your team members, as Robert Townsend said, “A leaders doesn’t need any credit . . . He’s getting more credit than he deserves anyway” (p. 165).  Your team, your followers are what is going to make the goal possible.  Value what they do and they will do more for you.
  6. Deliver Results (p. 172 – 176)
    – Results build credibility. “It’s how you establish trust…it’s how you gain flexibility and choices . . . it’s how you can restore trust quickly” (p. 174).  Show that you can do what you say and your credibility will grow.
    – Something I’ve seen happen in both education and business is as Covey explained if you over promise and under deliver you’ll make a withdrawal in the trust account every time (p. 176).  It’s so frustrating when people don’t do what they say.  I can’t build a business on what you might do.  Always under promise and over delivery.
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Pixabay – johnhain

7. Get Better (p. 177-184)
– This was a behaviour that hits close to home for me.  As a grad student and new entrepreneur, the last two years of my life have been about getting better.  I’m an avid learner.  I love learning.  It’s energizing.   Yet the ongoing challenge is how do you take what you’ve learned and step out of your comfort zone.

How do you actually make a change?

This independent study on leadership has enabled me to study a topic I’ve always found interesting, but the challenge is to create a product that will be of value to someone other than me.  And so I’ve struggled with how to share what I’ve learned in a way that won’t overwhelm, yet will make sense others.

– Covey opened this section with one of my all time favourite quotations:toffler

Life is about learning and Covey reminded that continuous improvement builds trust and confidence (p. 178). He also shared John Gardner’s comment, “One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” And to that I would add the reason people stop taking those risks is a double edged sword. For one, it’s easy to stick with what you know.  It’s comfortable and, lets be honest, it means I’m less likely to get hurt or fail publicly.

Second, in what climate or culture am I working?  If I’m constantly afraid of what might happen to me if I fail, I’m certainly not going to risk doing something different. In fact, as Sinek  (2014) and Cloud (2013) reminded us, our brain chemistry is going to take over to ensure our survival.  Fear, however, is another blog post.

Covey explained there are two ways to get better at getting better. First, it’s being confident enough to ask for feedback.  That’s not always easy and sometimes feedback says more about the person giving it than you; however, listening to it gives you ways to get better.  Plus, “what differentiates the best from the good companies is not whether they ask the questions, it’s how they respond to the answers” (p. 181). We all like to be heard, but if nothing every happens…. were you really listening in the first place?

Second, Covey (2006) noted we must learn from our mistakes.  First, we have to be brave enough to risk a mistake because without trying we will never get better. He said, we do what’s comfortable because we are afraid to fail or we just want to look good.

Dee Hock, Founder and Former CEO, Visa International said:

“You learn nothing from your successes except to think too much of yourself.  It is from failure that all growth comes, provided you can recognize it, admit it, learn from it, rise above it, and then try again.” p. 182

Here’s something you could try….

Covey (2006) suggested a Continue/Stop/Start feedback system...

Simply ask:

  1. What is one thing we are now doing that you think we should continue doing?
  2. What is one thing we are now doing that you think we should stop doing?
  3. What is one thing we are not now doing that you think we should start doing?
    (p. 183)

How are you getting better?

Curious about the rest of Covey’s Strategies – Check out Part 2.


 Resources Referenced:

 

Connections – United we stand…

Connections build a united culture… (Connections Part 2)

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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:

What I’ve Learned….

As is true for many journeys, I thought I knew exactly where I wanted to go when I started but is was soon quite apparent that the more I learned the less I seemed to know:)  It’s been a great experience learning more about leadership.

First, leadership is something that surrounds us everyday, but how often do we really stop to think about leadership.  This class has given me the opportunity to focus my studies on leadership and really dig into the theories.

And wow!! There are so many theories of leadership which build on an even greater number of frameworks and competencies.  It wasn’t a piece that I was overly interested in but thanks to the encouragement of Dr. Marguerite Koole.  It was well worth the time.  There are so many different types of theories and the theories themselves have evolved over time.  I found I could relate to bits and pieces of a number of theories but those that appealed most to me seemed to involve moving towards a transformative style, yet there are parts of others that can’t be ignored…psycho-dynamic, idiosyncratic…

My goal from the beginning has been to create resources and reflections that offer value to others interested in learning about leadership in small manageable chunks. So that after I’ve shared my posts it invites reflection and perhaps a slightly new way to look at the world around you.

I’ve attempted to pull together ideas from many of the articles, blogs, videos and books that I’ve read.  At first I thought it would be great to create a series of mini leadership presentations so that readers could easily share with their teams.  Upon reflection, however, a typical presentation with just slides doesn’t really do justice to the story behind the writing.  So I chose to blog about key topics that resonated deeply with me in an attempt to pull together ideas and link you to resources of value.  I’ve tried to reference key parts of the resources that have helped me so that if you find value, you can really dig into the work of the writers.

I’m still very interested in how leadership differs in the online world compared with face to face interactions.  In our ever evolving world of social media, I’m intrigued by how some leaders grow their following in person and online.  What is it that draws people to your message and helps you grow a following online?  Do they do anything different?

It’s my hope to continue to add and grow this leadership blog as I continue my learning journey beyond the completion of my ETAD Masters classes.  It’s a topic that affects how we live our lives and it’s my hope that by increasing our understanding of leadership that we can all make healthier choices and continue to develop positive, strong, resilient leaders that are truly worth following:)  Remember leadership comes in many forms and choosing to positively change your behaviours will ripple out to those around you.  You never know just how far or who you will impact along the way, but it will make a difference.