Popular Culture vs Academic Writing

As with anything the way that I attempt to convey my message is dependent upon the message I am attempting to share, my purpose and my intended audience.  Mullen (2011) noted that persuasion is at the root of what we do as researchers, teachers and with our colleagues.  We are often trying to convince others of our intended purpose (para 1). He went on to explain logos as the use of argumentation to convey data, statistics and information in a logical format.  It’s research based.  Pathos, Mullen noted, serves to stir up people’s emotions and appeal to what Chip and Dan Heath referred to as the elephant sides of our brains while logos appeals to our rational rider.  Lastly, ethos reflects not only how you speak but the individual integrity you bring to what you are saying.  It’s your credibility based on your previous results (para 4-6).

As I look back on the leadership resources that I’ve reviewed they fall into two groups.  Resources that are more easily accessible may be considered more popular reading while highly academic pieces follow more rigorous standards and processes before they are published.  Does one have more value than the other?

I was certainly drawn to the page turning pop culture books.  They not only shared statistics and data they made it come alive by sharing stories and personal experiences.  It appealed to my logos and pathos side.  A powerful combination when you get both the rider and the elephant headed in the same direction.  Over the course of my ETAD program, I came to re-appreciate not only the ideas and data that come from more academic writing, but the rigorous process of publishing respected work.  It appealed to me on both a logos and ethos level; moreover, the academic work often forms the foundation for more popular books.

I noticed frequent citation of each other’s work within the more academic realm including both formal studies and academic articles.  If you hit on the right concept and trace the research back it forms a long chain of reference.   Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003), for example, often cited the work of Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) with regard to social capital. Even Google has run with this concept by highlighting the number of times an article has been cited.  I’m certainly drawn to the articles that have been cited many times.  It seems to reason, they are more credible.  It doesn’t necessarily mean those articles have the information I’m interested in learning more about.  To apply Nahapiet and Ghoshal’s concept of intellectual capital, the more connections between cited articles the higher the intellectual capital.

In reviewing, Covey’s Speed of Trust references, it’s apparent that Covey wants you to know where the information comes from and he has organized his references by chapter highlighting where he found the material.  His references range from interviews, quotations, conferences (i.e. Stanford Leadership Conference), many articles – some of which included newspapers while others included the Harvard Business Review; he noted formal studies, surveys and annual reports.  Overall, his resources pulled from both popular culture and academic sources as did Chip and Dan Heath’s in the Switch.

Not all of my pop culture reading and articles provided detailed references.  Some simply mentioned the reference in the context of the text.  They clearly stated who the information came from, but a list of references wasn’t included in the copies of the books that I read.  It is something that I’m more aware of since my return to grad school and it makes me wonder why they didn’t note their sources more directly.

McGonigal’s Super Better book, for example, provided a detailed chapter by chapter break down of the science.  In fact, she has even dedicated a website called showmethescience.com to share the research behind living gamefully.  In fact, McGonigal’s references tended toward the more academic side citing numerous journals and academic studies.  In fact, Super Better, itself has been involved in two clinical trials.  So while there is certainly differences in how pop culture authors cite the research, there is ethos embedded into the writing.  Sometimes, however, the ethos may come from their status in society not from the detailed references that they provided.

I did notice that Covey’s work was referenced on a few occasions in other pop culture books.  I think how often some of them cited each other depended on how recently the book was published. With regard to the concepts of leadership, different authors often mentioned the names of respected and well known leaders instead of citing other books about those leaders.

Having learned more about social and intellectual capital, it’s often what the pop culture leadership books are referring to or at least in part.  Again it depends on the message and the particular focus the author is attempting to convey.  As with anything, we need to acknowledge that while the main purpose of writing a book or publishing a study is to better the common good and increase what we as a society know.  There is a financial factor involved.  As a reader, it’s important to actively think about the material you are reading and it sources.  Citizens have to be able to make informed decisions and not just go with what sounds best.

Lastly, it’s about the audience.  Writers compose their text with a specific audience in mind.  Academic writing has a very specific audience and purpose, as does pop culture.  The latter perhaps to make the research more accessible to a larger group of people in a variety of social circles.  Perhaps how you write and the language you use defines the community of practice to which you belong. Shared language and codes help build positive social capital as does following the expectations and norms of the group.  Each group has a different form and standard of what’s considered acceptable when sharing information including different ethical responsibilities.

ETAD 898 has provided a unique opportunity to delve into the topic of leadership from both sides of the spectrum.  While some topics distinctly came up in each realm others were more subtly connected. Communities of practice weren’t formally mentioned in the pop culture books, however, the characteristics were discussed in relation to teams and various groups.  Researching leadership from both perspectives has increased my appreciation for the ongoing need for both types of writing.  In the end it’s about sharing our explicit and if we are willing our tacit knowledge with members of our group.  The more diverse our network and sources the more we can grow our understanding of the world around us.


Mullen, Lincoln. (2011).  How to Persuade – with Ethos, Pathos, or Logos? ProfHacker

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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.

 

Who’s going to help you tip the change?

justice-1296381_960_720
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.

change-1076218_960_720
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

 

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: