Leaders have to lead or the change won’t stick

Life would be much easier if things stayed the same and you didn’t have to change, but it seems these days the only thing constant is change.

Alvin Toffler said, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those you cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”

toffler

So how do you, as a leader, help your followers navigate the ongoing changes?  How do you keep your team focused on a goal that moves toward the greater vision, while inhibiting the negative distractions and enabling them to “remember and build on relevant information” ( Boundaries for Leaders- Cloud, 2013, p. 27) which in turn creates a pattern in their working memory.  Dr. Henry Cloud (2013) explained “you always get what you create and what you allow” (p.xvi) so the person that has to help with the change is you.

It makes sense, you are the leader.  It would be nice if you could stand on your soap box and proclaim that we are now on the path to xyz and the change would ripple out virtually seamless.  But let’s remember, we live in the real world and change is hard.  How do you get change to reach the tipping point and then stick?

Here are a few of the most memorable suggestions that I have come across during my research. My two favorite reads were Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath (2010) along with The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2006).  Both are filled with real life examples of how change happens.

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Pixabay – Clker

So it’s Chip and Dan Heath’s (2010) image of a rider on an elephant that has stuck with me.  (Borrowed from psychologist Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.)  As all of the writers have shared, in order for change to happen someone has to act differently.  Okay, so by someone, I mean us.  We are in control of ourselves – the behaviour change has to come from within.

It’s the connection between your behaviours and your brain.  The Heath brothers (2010) suggested we think of each person as a rider on an elephant.  We are composed of the rational thinking part of our brain – the rider and the emotional elephant.  Yes there’s a significant size difference.  As a rider you will only be able to force the elephant to do want you want for so long and then you’ll be over-powered by the emotional side.  In order to succeed, you have to get them both going in the same direction (p. 7).

Here’s a very quick overview of Chip and Dan Heath’s 3 key suggestions on how to make change happen. (This summary is based on the 2010 book and the resources provided to compliment the book – available on their website.  Included in the overview are my personal thoughts and wonders). 

First you have to Direct the Rider:

  • Following a strategy similar to Wiggins & McTighe’s Understanding by Design, you have to understand where you are going and why it’s of value in order to direct the rider.  The Heath’s call it pointing to the destination (Switch, p. 73), begin with the end in mind.  On the way there, you have to focus on the bright spots.  All to often we tend to look for what’s not working and try to fix it, Chip and Dan Heath (2010) suggested focusing on what is working will lead to better long term performance than looking at what doesn’t work.
  • The rider has a tendency to analyze big problems which often causes the him to be obsessed with finding a solution to the same scale as the original problem.  The brain wants to match the big problem to a big solution.  The Heath’s reminded that big problems take time and are more effectively solved by a series of smaller solutions (p. 44).
  • Lastly, you have to script the critical moves (p. 49-72).  They explained that a group wanted people to eat healthier, so they advertised just that.  Everyone needs to eat healthier.  The problem: it was to vague.  People for the most part, do want to eat healthier but translating that general goal into an actionable behaviour is hard.  You have to be specific.  Switching the campaign to buy 1% milk lead to a documentable change (p. 15-17).

As leaders, we need to build on the positive, identify the specific behaviours that will get us there and build on the bright spots.

Next you need to Motivate the Elephant:

  • Just because you know we need to look after the planet doesn’t mean we will make better choices.  Aristotle’s explanation of rhetoric referred to ethos, pathos and logos as key aspects to persuading an audience. The rider would be similar to the logos appeal, but the elephant is moved by pathos.  For a change to start, there needs to be an emotional connection. The Heath’s (2010) noted Kotter and Cohen’s observations

    “that, in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE” (p. 106).

  • Then you have to “Shrink the Change” (p. 124-148). Turn the change into small manageable pieces that are doable rather than intimidating.
  • Here again the Heath’s mention culture.  You have to grow your people (p. 149-178) and you can only do that by creating a growth mindset that builds an identity.

Lastly, you need to Shape the Path:

  • It’s all about the environment you create.  Cloud (2013), Covey (2006), Gladwell (2006), Driscoll (2005) and the Heath’s (2010) all noted the environment you work and learn in shapes your behaviours.  So “tweak the environment” (p. 179-202) and you will shape the path.
  • The next time a minor change isn’t working think about how you play it out in your mind?  Is it the product you created or the people refusing to change that you are frustrated with?  Turns out all of us have a propensity to turn to incentives and consequences to force a change (p. 185).  Rather, we tend toward the fundamental attribution error.  We instinctively tend to “attribute people’s behaviour to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in” (as noted by Heath’s reference to Lee Ross, p. 180).
  • It’s where usability testing in the instructional design process followed by evaluation makes a significant difference to the end quality of the product. Feedback matters. Have you stopped to ask why people aren’t using it the way you expected?  Have you stopped to observe what they are doing instead?
  • Build Habits (p. 203-224) When you lead in a way that creates positive habits or relevant patterns in their working memory (Cloud, 2013), you free up the brain.  It’s energy can be spent on other processes.  The Heath’s (2010)explained when you change the environment, people’s habits change (p. 206-207).  It’s as Malcom Gladwell (2006) explained in The Tipping Point.  People’s behaviours tend toward the environment in which they live.  It’s the broken window’s effect.
  • Finally, you must rally the herd (p. 225-249). What can we learn from the herd?   It’s the first place you look, when you don’t know what to do.  Not sure when to stand up to show appreciation for a speaker, if you see others doing it you will too. The Heath’s explained that behaviour is contagious, just as Dr. Cloud noted that mood is also contagious.  We infect others with our feelings and energy (Boundaries for Leaders – Cloud, 2013, p. 57).  It connects back to Eric Worre’s assertion that you are like the 5 people you spend the most time with.

    In fact, Chip and Dan Heath (2010) noted, “you might not find a single statement that is so rigorously supported by empirical research as this one: You are doing things because you see your peers do them…Behaviour is contagious” (p. 227).

  • In unfamiliar situations, the Heath’s reminded, we are more prone to watching what our peers do.  It’s simple the elephant is going to follow the herd (p. 228).  So help spread the behaviours that are going to facilitate your change.

 


 

Other Resources:

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:

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).

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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).

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.

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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.

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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:

Sustainable Leadership – Part 2

PART 2

Open or Closed?

Dr. Cloud asked which type of system you are creating.  One creates a culture of energy and innovation, which enhances long term growth or the other.  The one that locks down your team and creates the potential to spiral down into chaos.  Cloud connected the closed system to the second law of thermodynamics.

So here’s a quick aside for the science teachers out there.  Simply stated, Lucas explained the second law of thermodynamics means systems left unto themselves will tend towards disorder (What is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Jim Lucas, 2015, para. 1).  A leader who isolates their team, including themselves, runs the risk of being isolated.

It may be lonely at the top, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a support system.  Thinking that you can do it all and that you can solve everything jeopardizes the success of your entire team.  What you need most as a leader is an outside support system that helps you look after your professional and personal development.  As Cloud noted,

“Leaders need outside voices to provide emotional and functional support, not just so they can avoid mistakes but also so they can grow as leaders” (p. 201).

What’s the lesson?

  • There will always be new situations that we encounter as leaders.  Having a trusted external support system in place enables you, as a leader, to have a sounding board that will give you honest feedback (p. 202-203).

One thing to keep in mind as you build your support network, is the law of association.  In Go Pro, Eric Worre (2013), reminded us of a lesson that he learned from Jim Rohn.  Your associations matter. The law of association says

“you’ll become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.  You’ll think how they think, act how they act, talk how they talk and earn how they earn.” (p. 131).

Eric Worre shared this video with his viewers:

Who are you surrounding yourself with?  Do they provide you with honest feedback?  Do they encourage you to grow outside your comfort zone? While being surrounded by people that agree with everything you say and do may be easy and comfortable.  They aren’t going to step up and make you think, they aren’t going to challenge you to do more and become more.  The people around you shape you more than you realize.

So are you open to feedback, energy and ideas that can come from outside your network and the diversity within your network that can help you grow stronger?  Both Cloud and Worre highlighted the value of ongoing professional development.  You have to work on yourself to truly become a leader worth following!

After all, life begins a the end of your comfort zone
(Neale Donald Walsch).

 

Check out Part 1 of Sustainable Leadership


Sustainable Leadership

Leadership just doesn’t happen….

Sustainable leadership is about more than just getting to the top.  It requires ongoing care and attention to the needs of your organization and team.  It begins with looking after you!

Now I don’t mean it’s all about you and you have to look our for number 1, rather I’m referring to the importance of looking after your health and learning as a leader.   As. Dr. Henry Cloud asked, “How are you leading yourself?” (p. 198).

Why do I matter?

  • As a leader, you are utilizing qualities, skills, talents and competencies that have helped you get where you are today.  You are leading formally or informally because your leadership is making a difference to those around you.
  • As I was reading, Boundaries for Leaders, I was struck by Dr. Henry Cloud’s numerous reminders that,
    you always get what you create and what you allow” (p.xvi).  

  • Just step back for a moment and think about that….how often have you seen or heard of leaders frustrated with their teams or the results of their teams.  If you are the one leading, you create the chaos and in turn the results.  It’s important to step back and reflect on the impact your leadership is having on the team.
  • Creating sustainable leadership means not only reflecting on where your team and organization are at, it means reflecting on how you are leading and what you need to keep growing.  I’m the first to agree that this isn’t always easy or fun to own what you’ve created and as a teacher I’m reminded of  a speaker I once heard.  Tom Schimmer explained that we are all too willing as educators to take credit for the students who are doing well particularly, those that go on in life to reach significant achievements. We are the first to put up our hands and say we taught them.  He reminded us all that to own the successes we must also reflect on our struggling students.  In the end, we’ve taught all of them.  You don’t get to pick and choose.
  • So how do you continue to grow towards the leader that you want to be… a leader worth following?

The Law of Leadership:

“The higher you go in leadership, the fewer external forces act upon you and dictate your focus, energy and direction.  Instead you set the terms of engagement and direct your own path, with only the reality of results to push against you”
(Dr. Henry Cloud, Boundaries for Leaders, 2013, p. 197)

Dr. Cloud explained that the higher up in leadership you go the less people are directing you.  You create the boundaries.  The problem, however, for many leaders is that they lead their organizations and teams but forget to ask how they are leading themselves (p.198).  Do we start to be shaped by the circumstances and environment that we initially created?  Do we forget to manage ourselves and in turn become more reactive and essentially forget to lead ourselves?  It reminds me of a quotation by Jim Rohn, “Either you run the day or the day runs you” (Self Made Success).

Have you stopped to think about how your leadership has evolved?  Are you still on the same path you want to be?  Are you still leading in a way that helps you grow?

Check out part 2 for continuing ideas on sustainable leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

As Dr. Henry Cloud says, Why not be ridiculously in charge?

A Review of
Boundaries for Leaders
Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge
By Dr. Henry Cloud


book screenshotI came across Boundaries for Leaders after listening to an Entre Leadership podcast on the importance of mentors. What really drew me into the book was the idea that learning to lead required us to better understand how the brain functions.  Dr. Henry Cloud explained that if you aren’t leading in a way that people’s brains can follow you are losing out on your most talented resource – the skills of the people on your team (p. 25).  Being ridiculously in charge means that you as a leader are in control and Cloud emphasized, “as a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow” (p. xvi). It’s your responsibility as a leader to set boundaries.  Essentially, you have to decide the positive boundaries and what negatives are off the table.  (Screenshot from Amazon.ca)

Cloud explained the importance of understanding the brain’s executive function.  In particular, he focused on attention, inhibition and working memory.  As a leader, we need to help people focus on specific goals, help them stay on the right track (inhibit distraction and toxicity) and retain and build on relevant information to create a repeatable pattern in our working memory (p. 27).  When you consciously lead with these in mind, you can unleash a whole other level of efficiency for your team.

As a consultant, I attend many meetings.  Cloud shared that it’s not necessarily less meetings that we need it’s better meetings. It’s your job as a leader to focus your team on the purpose of the meeting, prevent distractions and enable a flow of ideas so that meetings energize your team.  Cloud reminded that not only is positive or negative mood contagious, emotions will affect your team performance.  Take fear, for example.  There are different types.  Healthy fear or positive stress will help people to achieve clear goals or meet their deadlines.  Toxic fear, however, paralyzes people.  Their brains are physically unable to focus on what they need to do (p.65).  As Simon Sinek explained in Leaders Eat Last, their primal brain is taking over to promote survival over everything else.

Cloud shared a story of a young Olympic gold medal athlete whose performance had surpassed and surprized those around her.  She explained the conversation that her parents had with her when they noticed how her fear of failing affected her ability to do her best.  She noted how her parents had sat her down and said that it was okay to make mistakes and not win.  They would still love her just the same. She told the interviewer “knowing that failing was OK made her able to succeed” (p. 71).  Cloud highlighted that this freed her brain up to “use every mistake as a learning opportunity” (p.71).

What type of environment or culture do you help to create?  Brain research shows that a constant ongoing threat  invokes the flight or flight response rather than increasing self awareness so that we can learn from our experiences.  As leaders, it’s important for us to remember that for our team to learn from their mistakes, they have to be in a state where they know it’s okay to make mistakes.  If your followers live in fear of what you’ll do to them next, no one wins (p.74-75).

Leadership Connections: 

  • As an educator, it’s reminded me of the importance of consciously creating a positive collaborative learning culture.  Both students and teachers have to know that it’s safe to step outside their comfort zone because experience is how we learn.
  • Leadership in any style influences the lives of the followers.  Regardless of whether or you are a transformational servant leader or a strong transactional leader, the effectiveness of your team lies in understanding how what you do impacts and sets the tone for all other interactions.  After all you do get what you create.
  • My only challenge with this book is that Cloud referenced many research based concepts and while he credits specific people, studies or institutions in the context of the book, there isn’t a collection of references included in the edition that I had access too.  While I don’t doubt his scientific links, I’ve just appreciated the access to the specific research cited in other books that I have read.
  • Cloud also noted the value of clear communication including being aware of what your non-verbal body language is saying to your team.
  • Cloud offered practical strategies and reflective questions to help readers better understand how they can make a positive difference as a leader. He also acknowledged that change isn’t easy and there is no quick fix, but when you lead in ways that make sense to people’s brains they will follow.

It turns out that what you do today matters in the story that you write tomorrow… not just for yourself but those around you.


Cloud, D. (2013). Boundaries For Leaders Results, Relationships and Being Ridiculously in Charge. USA: Harper Collins.