Leaders Get Your Non-Fussy 360 Degree Feedback to Move Forward

By Nedra Chandler, 5-minute read

I just had a heart-to-heart talk with a friend who is the leader of an organization in the middle of some extra churn. There have been departures of permanent staff, a busy season coming up, hiring for positions and a lot of competing priorities at the exact time when there is no slack in the system or schedule, least of all her schedule.

While her many years of experience and successes make her confident about what she brings to her leadership role, she’s feeling a troubling sense of isolation from her larger team. She said some days it feels like she has a shrinking number of people she can count on to speak their minds with her. For example, she said her board is not super engaged or active at the moment, her senior staff are out of the office a lot managing their own projects and staff, and she senses a pervasive attitude of “let’s just make it through this quarter and talk later…” Now what?

While it may seem a counterintuitive move, now may be a great time to amp up her resilient self-awareness, pick of posse of 7 or so people to get and give some fresh and focused feedback. Low-tech (not online) and clear about the purpose. I’ll start by giving you the take home points up front.

5 take-home points for leaders with that feeling of a little bit of lonely isolation right now…

  1. First the good news/bad news reminder that feedback is everywhere, all the time. Whether it’s invited or not, welcome or unwelcome, direct or subtle, verbal/nonverbal, written or implied, it’s everywhere. (See my post on this topic using insights from co-authors of Thanks for the Feedback, Sheila Heen and Doug Stone if you’re interested.) What’s hard is focusing on tangible or other feedback you’re ready to use.
  2. Everyone has self-limiting behaviors. No one is spared. Because we’re humans. You are already an accomplished leader. Focus on the habits that limit you now.
  3. This low tech 360 posse I describe below is not a one-shot deal. Expect it to take months, no, a lifetime (!) of small, daily commitments and practice with one thing, one habit at a time (not 12 or 15 things) you’ve chosen to grow yourself out of and into your next lively state of being.
  4. Frequent, regular check ins with a posse of people you trust (or at least respect) will be key. Probably one person at a time, but it could be a group on the phone or in person, every quarter or so.
  5. Briefly and simply listen to them and thank them for telling you whether or not they notice you making progress on the one habit you are attempting to shift. The hardest thing: no explanations and certainly no excuses: just “thank you.” Then you privately choose how you deal, or not, with what you hear.

Reminder of why online 360 degree feedback is valuable…and there is often a ‘too muchness’ at the same time

Frequent, regular feedback is crucial, transformative in some cases, to support your development and your capacity to be of service to what you care about most. If you like an evidence base for this, it’s already in the bag.

Also, when leaders set the example of working on their self-limiting habits for the good of themselves and the good of the whole, people notice and appreciate it. It gives your staff and partners extra permission and encouragement to keep learning and developing themselves as well.

As a credentialed coach facilitator who uses a range of online 360-degree feedback tools, especially the ones my government clients lean to, I’m not giving up on the online tools. But I am not recommending them for leaders at the top of organizations. The online tools have an important function, and especially for staff. But for top leaders in particular, I believe there is a too-muchness about many of these intensely-designed online tools — too many competencies, so much anonymous feedback, sanitized and over-systematized. Overwhelm too often ensues. Shut down may follow.

How do you get diverse-yet-pointed feedback more simply?

I am excited about a fresh approach to getting 360-degree (full circle) feedback for leaders. The heart of it is a small, frequently-consulted posse of colleagues such as direct reports, board members, and partners.

I owe Marshall Goldsmith a debt of gratitude for teaching his approach to me and the other Lead60 coaches — encouraging us to use it and share it widely for adapting and using. If you are one of my coach facilitator readers or colleagues please email me at cadence@montana.com and I can send you the basis to lead the process. In the meantime, the briefest explanation I’ve seen yet is contained in this disarming note from a leader. See how he made it possible to say no? See how he made it easy to say yes?

Hi (NAME),

I’m not sure if you are aware, but  (names of leadership team here) and I have been working with Nedra on our leadership team development and personal growth, with the aim of improving our organizational and leadership skills and styles.  As part of that, we are using a sort of 360 degree approach to get feedback from our “posse.”  I would like you to be a member of my posse.

Yes, you are allowed to say “no!”  But it’s pretty simple and won’t take much time.  If you are game, Nedra will contact you relatively soon to schedule a 10-15-minute phone conversation for some time before April 6. 

From those visits, she will provide each of us with thematic yet focused feedback that will not be attributed to any of our posse members. You don’t need to respond to me.  I’ve copied Nedra, and you replying to her will get things moving (or not!).

Thank you for considering my request, (name of leader)

Shouldn’t we focus on strengths? Why focus on habits they notice in us like frowning, sighing, not listening, or always being in a hurry?

Granted, it’s wonderful to hear genuine positive feedback about your strengths. Truly. And it’s important to solicit that. Granted too, it’s not fun for most of us to hear negative feedback about ourselves and how we’re coming across to a group of various humans. It’s important to solicit that too. Especially in this particular approach to full circle feedback. This way, you get right after the tangible, actionable things.

We’ve all been there. Feedback is a gift, and you get to choose what you pay attention to. All feedback is not created equally worthy or ‘accurate,’ yet it’s information you can use to heighten your awareness and inform your own choices. That’s the gift of it. Admittedly, the whole deal is also fraught with a bunch of messy, irrational humans in it, and therefore the situation is ambiguous at times. That’s why you use a coach facilitator to guide it from the side.

The title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s books, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There says so much about what is at the heart of stalling out at the top. As Goldsmith points out that the higher you rise in your organization, the more likely your problems are likely to be behavioral. Marshall’s newest book with co-author Sally Helgesen, also covers some of this ground beautifully in How Women Rise

Remember you are here in this leadership role because you’re already smart, strategic, focused and probably a strong communicator. What that means is that what’s left to work on are behavioral things. Habits. 

You, like every other mortal on the planet, sometimes default to habitual responses or reactions — some that do and some that don’t serve you or your organization. The consequences of our leadership habits run the gamut from small to huge in these cases. We all do this unconscious thing — default, automated behavior called habits.

Habits are notoriously hard to recognize in yourself and difficult to shift once you do. Can adults change their behavioral habits? Emphatically: yes. It’s because of neuroplasticity and it’s some of the best news we humans have gotten from science during this decade. The best news of all: your behavior lies within your control–unlike toddlers, the global economy and other peoples’ choices.

Have you noticed people are less likely to risk telling you how your habits affect them since you rose closer to the top?

Have you considered that your power and influence has been growing? And along with that expansion, it got a lot harder than it used to be to have others feel safe telling you, for just one possible (yet common) example:

“Your way of consistently defaulting to being the first to talk in a meeting, is keeping the people around you from contributing for fear of being out of step with you and your views. They are censoring themselves, knowing you’ll speak first anyway…”

I listened to a former US Attorney General describe how, after he got some similar feedback to the above, he began to practice waiting to speak until everyone in the room had the chance to contribute. Why? He (and the country) needed the benefit of his staff’s diversity of views. Knowing that if he spoke first it would dampen the courage of others to disagree, he coached himself with the internal reminder:

“I will practice waiting until I’ve heard from everyone present before I chime in.”

Viola. With practice, he says he entered a new realm in leadership effectiveness with that one fundamental shift.

For another example:

“Your chief of (whatever) can’t find an opening to let you know that the way you sigh out loud and your mouth goes into a big frown when you’re thinking makes staff and other leaders avoid you. Some (inaccurately) perceive your sighs as a sure sign you don’t like or respect them.”

Can you see yourself or people you know in any part of these examples?

If you’re still reading, then maybe you’re ready for this! I invite you to find your own development partners and serve as a partner to your colleagues in the same way. When you choose it, it can be rewarding beyond measure.

A bit about me: writer, Montanan, mediator and development coach for government leaders & teams. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.

We help people listen and talk with each other with purpose and clarity. We find out what people are ready for and design custom collaborative or other opportunities. We serve as guides on the side to help participants find common ground and take action where they choose.

See What Condition Your Condition Is In

By Nedra Chandler, 1-min read, 3 min listen to the tune see link below*

What condition is your condition in right here, right now?

Picture slumped shoulders, crossed arms, avoidant or flat facial expression, defended, closed.

Now envision what one leader I know calls her athletic stance. An athletic stance can be any size or physical strength, yet the shape gives a sense of being present, ready, aware, alert-yet-at-some ease at the same time. Open.

Now just look at you. How are you currently…arranged?

I am more and more frequently paying attention to the very shape of my own body, and my clients’ bodies.

I want to convince you this is useful, super relevant data to notice about yourself and others.

What if you run a little experiment for yourself: what happens when you tune into this information on purpose, even just a little more often? What tangible, visible effects follow?

Earlier this year, I facilitated an off-site retreat for a government agency senior management team. As they sat together, they confirmed the desired outcomes they had set for their time together.

I asked, “is there anything you need to count on from each other in order to accomplish these things together?”

(there was a longer-than-usual thoughtful pause here…)

“be open,” said one, “stay open.”

Genuine nodding of all heads and a brief conversation followed to interpret together what that might look like, sound like, feel like in action.

It turns out that to them, ‘stay open’  had to do with cultivating awareness of internal and external states on purpose, more deliberately staying receptive to possibilities a bit longer than might otherwise be typical for them. Sort of a:

“we don’t know exactly where this is going next…let’s create the best possible conditions for ourselves so that we can create the best possible outcomes, together.”

This team’s encouragement to each other was toward that. Stay open, they said.

To repeat, I’m dropping in to see what condition my condition is in, and I’m checking out the shape of my client bodies and teams at the same time. By that I mean my stance, their stance — individual and collective group shape.

Why? Because whether you are guiding from the side, or actively participating, or both/and at the same time, you get immediately-useable data. This information helps you make the most skillful choices you can about how to contribute, how best to engage, moment to moment in service to your purpose.

In the fine grain here, consider the connections you might notice between the shape you or someone else takes and how the verbal content of what they say out loud might come across to you.

For example, imagine a speaker in front of you who has her arms relaxed at her sides, maybe palms open toward you, asking,

“I want to hear what you think about this policy change.”

Now change her stance in your mind’s eye. She has her fists above her head, high in the air in the victorious ‘V” shape and feet planted apart — apparently a version of the universal, across-cultures power pose — and she’s still saying the same thing,

“I want to hear what you think about this policy change.”

Hmmmmm. Are the impacts of these two scenarios significantly different in your view? Or just a little? Or not much if any?

There is no ‘right’ answer here, yet certainly something to consider in your day-to-day leadership of you and your co-conspirators…

*If you can spare a few extra minutes for fun, listen to Kenny Rogers sing Just Dropped In to See the Condition My Condition Is In (1972), singing “Yeah, yeah, oh yeah…” right HERE exactly 46 years ago today.

A bit about me: writer, Montanan, mediator and development coach for government leaders & teams. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.

We help people listen and talk with each other with purpose and clarity. We find out what people are ready for and design custom collaborative or other opportunities. We serve as guides on the side to help participants find common ground and take action where they choose. 

How We Humans Rock & Roll: Triangle of Satisfaction

By Nedra Chandler, 5-min read

Humans can be Bermuda Triangles of needs.

If you are a leader, team participant, or facilitator of collaborative work of any kind, I promise you at least one insight you can use and apply directly to what you do. Here are 3 points of the triangle representing human needs for 3 different kinds of satisfaction.

Maybe you work with a team or an inter-agency or other multiparty group. Do you remember the last meeting you were part of that ran off the rails, either a little or a lot? You might have left thinking: “why?”

Why do we seem to make things so hard? Why is this situation such a mess? Why can’t we pick a direction and go? Why does everything take so long? Why? Why? Why?

Enter the Triangle of Satisfaction – one of most powerful, “sticky” (as in it sticks with you) pieces of applied theory ever, especially in the realm of public decision-making, yet also in the world of leaders and teams — how we humans rock and roll.

The diagram shows the three types of satisfaction we all need every time we seek agreement, movement or improvement on complex issues, plans or decisions.

Especially public ones.

All participants harbor these intersecting needs, whether conscious of them or not. We humans not only want, most of need, these types of satisfaction in order to reach decisions and move forward.

Let’s take each type of need in turn, and see how you might apply these. Click on the Rolling Stone’s tune, Can’t Get No Satisfaction for background music here.

SUBSTANTIVE Satisfaction

The substance is simply the thing you are doing or deciding. It is often the easiest to identify. But ask yourself: “is what we’ve defined as the substance just the tip of the iceberg”?

What is submerged below the surface that could hinder collective progress? The answer is in the other two corners of the triangle, the ones that are below the surface. P.S. the ones you can’t see. The ones just waiting to crash the boat into.

A famous example of this was during the Vietnam War peace negotiations where participants spent months haggling over the shape of the table and who would sit where.

Submerged needs for clear Process and Relational Satisfaction will greatly affect any purposeful dialog or discussion. Every time.

The ability to step back and deliberately design a tailored process and with relational/emotional safety in it rather than rushing and driving straight to possible ‘solutions’ is key. It’s also a primary value a facilitator, or facilitative leadership team can bring in with, for example, the use of readiness assessments, liberating microstructures or mutual gains negotiations.

Challenge for fun on substance tip of triangle: think of a time you were part of group that faced conflict over substantive issues. What was it about? And how did things show up on the surface? Just recall that first. Then get ready to consider how questions of process and emotion shaped what happened next.

PROCEDURAL Satisfaction

In complex settings, procedural satisfaction is way too routinely overlooked.

Participants and others with a stake in the outcomes must use or create credible processes by which people can catalog together what the facts are, consider what they mean, and then discern now what can happen next.

What process will be followed? Who will decide? What steps will be taken and how long will it take? Is the process fair and transparent? Is it inclusive? Why or why not? Who will interact with whom at what points in the work?

Think of the many times you’ve been in any role with this scenario. The data may be there to support a decision, but if participants, the partnering agencies and/or people with a stake in the outcomes don’t find some honest ways to come along, then…can it be supported and carried out? Hmmmmm.

Challenge for fun on process tip of triangle: thinking of that situation you recalled from your own experience, what were the steps you took to collaboratively frame and explore the issues at hand? Were they more or less sequential steps? Was there a realistic time line or not? By what means did people stay oriented to the process? See my friend Martha Bean‘s visual “framing” here.

EMOTIONAL Satisfaction

No big surprise here: people need emotional satisfaction.

How do they feel about the whole shebang? Is there sufficient mutual trust or at least a working trust and respect present? If not, how will we make this a safe space to engage anyway?

People with the biggest stake in the outcomes often begin to consider their other best alternatives to collaboration — other methods for getting their interests met at that point. And, depending on the context and ethics, there’s nothing wrong with any of these strategies to get interests met.

Think for example of some of these best alternatives to collaboration:

-litigation

-other ways to block or discredit decisions.

-media or other campaigns

-civil disobedience

-other?

Checking on the emotional state of the situation is a must for anyone charting a path forward in a contentious environment.

Challenge for fun reflecting on the emotional tip of the triangle: now think about someone in the situation you recalled from your own experience. This could be you or someone else: what qualities did this person bring to the situation that helped or otherwise memorably affected how people felt in the situation? What upfront or other shared expectations allowed for progress with emotional satisfaction?

(minor note: sometimes people use the words “relational” or “psychological” satisfaction for this ’emotion’ corner of the triangle.)

Collaborative Work Requires Attention, and Usually More Time Than You Expect…

Want outcomes that can be carried out over the long haul? Want decisions that people will not only support but also tell a story later with liveliness and satisfaction? Want to, as Keith McCandless says, “unleash and include everyone” and make room for innovation?

A situation is always ripe for something by way of increasing substantive, procedural and emotional success and satisfaction. The questions are mostly ready for what? With whom and how?

Stay curious while looking and paying close attention both above and below the surface to all three aspects of the Triangle of Satisfaction.

Cherie Shanteau-Wheeler and I had just spent a wonderful year teaching and coaching facilitation and collaboration skills to and with public land managers in 2015 when I wrote this the first time. Each time in our courses and onsite work, it was an all-time favorite to bring out this Triangle of Satisfaction and then hear participants say, “I get it! I’ll use that!”

Maybe you already apply this. Maybe you helped create it. I hope you find it simple. It’s simple, but not always easy. We find it useable nearly every day. Powerful and memorable. Thanks especially to Chris Moore.

(Special note: we all stand on one another’s shoulders: this Triangle of Satisfaction comes from the work of Chris Moore from CDR as one original source of this model as well Julia Gold of the University of Washington Law School for the ‘tip of the iceberg’ metaphor, and also Rhian Williams and the South Australian Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement for some of the insights as well. Thanks!)

We’d love to hear your story of using it in your work in the comments below or by message.

A bit about me — external coach and process maven: my latest jam is about organizational health and development, preventing & managing conflict and delivering credentialed coaching for leaders and teams who choose it. In my winter 2018 blog series I am offering my readers practical moves to give ourselves and each other permission to keep learning. I focus on government because that’s where I do most of my work – yet these approaches are relevant across sectors. Thanks for reading all the way to here!

We help people listen and talk with each other with purpose and clarity. We find out what people are ready for and design custom opportunities to find common ground and to take action. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.

Tune Into Power and Level Up Your Leadership

By Nedra Chandler, 3-minute read

Hi readers, I promise you insight into power here that you put into use right away. How is it that power dynamics are simple (see my slide above) and wickedly complex at the same time? Upping your awareness of how power moves around all the time can make a big, positive difference in your life, and that of your organization.

___

We were on Bainbridge Island in Washington, walking around the waterfront one autumn day. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and my husband Scott’s mood was glum. He was less than a day away from a work trip to China and was dreading it.

What fresh hell?

The source of Scott’s angst was that he had a new boss who treated his professional staff like kids under his thumb — wielding power over them in ways that left them wondering what fresh hell was coming next.

This new mode at work left Scott and his team hamstrung. They began to see, feel and realize how diminished their collective power was together.

Power Moves Around All the Time — How Many Kinds of Power? At Least 7…

For example, they began to walk on eggshells, ‘asking permission’ to show up as leaders in their own right and do their work to serve their international customers. Before the re-shuffle, each team member had taken initiative to be innovators and be of excellent service. Now they began to quietly complain and adopt a team culture of disempowerment. By the way, go see this short overview of 7 types of power to get you noticing power more expansively and usefully.

So there we were, strolling along past some small shops on Eagle Harbor. Something caught Scott’s attention. He stopped to look at a rack of sale T-shirts on the sidewalk. There was this t-shirt with a skull and crossbones on the back:

“The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

“This shirt is so mine”

Scott, typically not much of an impulse buyer, was immediately sold on the shirt. I chuckled, but honestly found the line disturbing. No wonder it was here on the sale rack.

Yet, there it was, a silly-yet-somehow-cathartic way to express his extreme frustration with the new mood at work – set by a leader who didn’t yet have the experience or discernment to use his positional power with, rather than over, his team.

Use your ‘power over’ like a bomb

Scott’s previous boss had confidently possessed the power to decide too, yet had used his unilateral power more like a bomb – as in almost never. That approach of fostering trust and a culture of stewardship had made Dale one of the most effective men in the company, but that’s another story.

Here’s the thing I want to offer today:

Unless you are in a field where strict chain of command and control is paramount (for example, the military or a fire crew), choosing to use power over, rather than power with, will most likely descend into team dysfunction characterized by low trust.

What using excessive power over people can do to organizational culture

When I come into an organization to help out as a third party, this is what the use of excessive ‘power over’ can look like: an unlively work culture where people don’t have the courage to take risks or work together for the good of the whole. Nor are they as inclined toward accountability to one another or to those they serve, especially when those qualities are not acknowledged or rewarded.

Slide above from Keith McCandless, adapted from Edgar Schein’s work.

Scott lasted 9 difficult months under the new boss. That kind of work stress kills people early, so now he’s with another global business where trust and courage to skillfully confront (inevitable) conflict is the norm rather than the exception. Where commitment and accountability to collective results is rewarded and celebrated. There’s an aliveness to their work.

But right then, those years ago, when he bought that “I give up” t-shirt, he was experiencing workplace dysfunction that most adults find themselves in at least once or more during a career. Sometimes this sets the default tone for an entire organization or administration. It’s a lose-lose deal all around. And it’s almost never about just one person, or just one new leader. Organizational culture is built and re-built everyday through habits of interaction.

I’m curious, two questions for you:

1) what are you learning as you notice these power dynamics — ‘power over people’ and ‘power with people’ in your own lives and organizations? Please share an insight, question or comment below.

and

2) As you consider your own leadership style, how does “use your unilateral power like a bomb*” resonate with you?

Ari Weinzweig mentioned this in an interview I heard. In the business he runs with thousands of employees, he said nearly always chooses to use a consensus-building kind of stewardship approach — and the effects on business are remarkable. Listen to him here with Amiel Handelsman.

A bit about me: My work is about organizational health and development, preventing conflict and/or managing it, and professional development coaching for individuals and teams. In this winter blog series I am exploring practical moves we can make to give ourselves and each other permission to keep learning. I focus on government because that’s where I do most of my work – yet these approaches are relevant across sectors. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.

 

Which Parts of Your Work Are Ready to Burn?

By Nedra Chandler, 4-minute read

There is an end to everything, to good things as well. –attributed to Chaucer, probably about 1374

In every situation where humans are working with other humans there comes a time when the work that is being done becomes stale, overwrought, or otherwise finished.

Methods or strategies lose their edge after a while. Structures need to be torn down, rebuilt or otherwise transformed.  It takes great courage to let go of some of these things to the compost heap, the burn pile.

I was recently working with a large intergovernmental partnership, one with a complex agenda of almost 6 dozen projects — each of which was vying for limited staff and funding resources.  They needed to trim their burgeoning portfolio of projects back, but how?  They wanted to take a hard look at their big spreadsheet of a list and sort them out.  It wasn’t easy.

There are lots of ways to approach a task like this.  One obvious way is to slog through them one by one, take a power vote of some kind on each one, and move on.  But does it have to go like that?  Is there another way to move through a useful process that’s less of a grim death march?

There is.  It starts by adjusting your approach to take a learner’s stance, to dare to look with curiosity at the whole picture, not separating the do-ers from the deciders.

Letting go of structures and particular activites or tasks is made harder by our human tendencies to avoid looking at the big picture. This is true especially when the project portfolio has grown to a size and complexity from which most mere mortals would run and hide.

Are there projects in the list that are demanding ongoing investment even though they may no longer be delivering what you hoped for or now require?  Maybe these are the ones that need to go to the compost heap in order to free up resources to enable some other activities that are  more effective.

Last month, in Permission to Learn, I said I’d offer you at least one practical move you could make to get yourself into a “learner’s stance.”

In that November post I mentioned a lot of agency leaders and teams are finding themselves in “pile on and pedal harder” as they are increasingly overwhelmed with demands.

Those teams report feeling chronically overextended, less resilient. Yet still, so many of us resist letting go of anything. Sound familiar?

 “Let’s stay calm,” said a branch chief encouraging her staff in a similar situation in another part of the country as they moved through their own ecocycle mapping last fall. “There is victory in having the courage to look at it. If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority. Awareness leads to conscious choices.”

What is an Ecocycle Map and How Can I Use One?

Ecocycle mapping is systems theory applied to your context, your projects, your relationships. You choose.

Picture an old growth forest or any natural system moving through the infinity loop from birth (see lower left) up the front loop of growth to maturity (upper right) then moving into creative destruction (lower left), then moving up the back loop toward renewal.

On either side of the model you have the scarcity trap on the left where things may be formed but stalled out maybe because they haven’t attracted the resources necessary to launch them. There you have the crowded bunch of saplings, each being stunted by the others in their scramble for moisture, nutrients, sun.

On the right is the rigidity trap where projects or investments slide that are requiring ongoing investment even though they are no longer delivering what is needed.  There are the barely-standing trees taking up space and sunshine, while holding on to resources that could be used elsewhere.

Any project or activity that is in either of these traps needs to be looked at deliberately.

Here’s my personal ode to the always-moving ecocycle dance: the facts of all life cycles/systems can seem existentially bleak and amazingly wonderous at the exact same time. Birth, growth, death, renewal.

Even the sun will die eventually. Rather than choose grim all the time though, maybe it’s challenging and enjoyable enough to just be fully present more often. I owe this full-body knowing partly to the eclipse of August 2017: standing on a ridge in Idaho watching it go dark and feeling the chill…

As I just heard one of my new heroes, Joanna Macy, say in an interview last month, “we’re here now. Let’s not make our love of the world dependent on whether we think the earth will last forever. That’s just a thought anyway. We’re here now.”

 

Apply the Wisdom of Ecosystems to Your Portfolio of Projects

To recap using different labels for the quadrants:

Birth is entrepreneurial, you’re growing it and shaping it.

Maturity is managerial, a bureaucratic stance in the best sense of that word, managing effectively, producing quality results (nice ripe tomatoes!)

In creative destruction, you’re taking a heretical stance – burn it, put it into the compost, you get the picture.

Then, moving up the back loop of renewal, you’re linking people and ideas together networking into the next initiative.

Confused? Bravo!

Looking at all the things we’ve committed to is messy. If you feel irritable, afraid, confused, overwhelmed: bravo! You are bravely taking a learner’s stance.

Why? I see so many of you leading and dealing with what’s real in these weird times. In the face of disheartening evidence of so much extra bleakness in our American government and broader ecosystems, we’re still here now. You are somehow making room for the commitments that matter most.

Successfully confronting difficult times, and navigating increasingly complex and conflictual partnerships requires taking a learner’s stance.

I heard from one of the leaders who is part of that aforementioned intergovernmental partnership as she was looking at the results of the ecocycle map the group created together:

“It’s going to be hard to keep adjusting our view of the big picture as things keep changing…yet by looking at it all together and having some conversations we had been avoiding, we saw our choices better, and left just a little less overwhelmed…”

Here’s a standing ovation for all of you willing to keep wading into the mess day to day, week to week. Thank you for daring to look and make even one more doable move, and then another, in the direction you know is right for now.

Here is encouragement to stick with the mess, all the ways you keep focusing on what is working, and have the patience to generate clarity. Together.

A bit about me: I work with government clients as partners in professional and team development, navigating conflict and learning opportunities of all kinds. For the past several years I’ve been writing on this theme of how our collective trust in government is linked to trust in ourselves. In the coming few months in I am continuing to write about practical moves we can make to give ourselves and each other permission to keep learning. I focus on the government space because that’s where we do most of our work. Find me and my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com and/or sign up to receive my monthly posts into your inbox on the right side of the page at Cadence.

Extra fun for process mavens:

Ecocycle is one of many micro, ‘learner stance’ moves. Go see 30+ more of them on the free app on your smartphone called Liberating Structures. These are immediately useable by novices and process experts alike.

If you have 15 minutes to do a personal ecosystem map for your personal life see instructions below. If you have 60-90 minutes you can effectively do this with your group and your whole shared portfolio.

Map Your Stuff: 5 personal ecocycle steps. Ready to make your own ecocycle map now?

  1. Choose activities OR relationships for the first one. Don’t try to map both at the same time.
  2. Make a list of all the activities you are spending your time on now. I suggest you set your timer for no more than 10-15 minutes as a way to avoid overthinking.
  3. Done? Set your numbered list aside briefly while you draw your version of the ecocycle as above, on a sheet of paper.
  4. Place each of your numbered activities where you decide it is now. Is it right in the middle of one of the 4 quadrants? Is it moving up the front or back loop? Is it right inside the scarcity or rigidity trap on either side of the infinity loop?
  5. Step back and look at the big picture of all your activities as you placed them in this first round. Ask: are the items distributed across the different phases of ecocycle or clumped up in one or two of the quadrants? What’s happening? What do you see? So, what does it mean to you? Now what do you choose to do next with these insights? Things shift, move and change fast sometimes. Don’t hesitate to do this repeatedly and often. Quarterly?

final quote on endings:

I’m not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, next to cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.
― William GoldmanThe Princess Bride

 

 

 

Permission to Learn

By Nedra Chandler, 1 minute read

Giving yourself permission to keep learning isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for everyone providing leadership and being of service in American government right now. I just returned from several weeks of work across the country mostly with U.S. EPA and Department of Interior leaders and their teams who told me taking a learner’s stance is a big unmet need in government now.

Instead, many agency leaders are finding themselves in “clamp down and over-control” mode and “pile on and pedal harder” mode.

Overcontrolling can take lots of forms but micro-managing people is a big clue, as is the presence of complaints and workplace conflict gone wild. People get isolated. They get any combination of “cold, wet, tired and hungry.” They get chronically overextended. Burnt out.

Pile on and pedal harder often looks like a growing portfolio of priorities with no focus on letting go of what has become irrelevant or unsustainable or both.

In response to so many challenges, many of the government leaders and teams we work with are actively giving themselves permission to learn. They don’t expect to have all the answers every hour, every day. They remain open, inquiring, listening, learning, taking action based on clear purpose.

This is no small thing.

In my December 12 post I’ll lay out some things I’ve noticed about what ‘taking a learner’s stance’ looks like, sounds like, as reported by leaders and teams we work with now.

A bit about me: I work with government clients as partners in professional and team development, navigating conflict and learning opportunities of all kinds. For the past several years I’ve been writing on this theme of how our collective trust in government is linked to trust in ourselves. In the coming few months in I am exploring practical moves we can make to give ourselves and each other permission to keep learning. I focus on the government space because that’s where we do most of our work. Find me and my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com and/or sign up to receive my monthly posts into your inbox by giving me your email at Cadence.

 


Immerse Yourself!

By Nedra Chandler, Triangle Associates & Cadence

Bird or bear with me now…

Are you feeling at least a little fed up with the status quo in public life today?

Do you want to relax and have fun while learning and practicing some moves with others who are also ready for some shifts, even the small-yet-meaningful kind?

If so, be like this bird pictured above taking a bath.You may want an immersion bath in liberating structures. There’s an opportunity link below. There will be others in other places other times if you miss this one.

Here’s a story about using them. I had this candid conversation with two public leaders yesterday from different agencies, both of whom have devoted themselves to public service protecting ecological and human health. It went like this. One said a close version of this:

“It’s human nature, we can fall back into patterns of just working and pedaling harder when things get overwhelming or we’ve lost more staff and funding resources…”

the other leader agreed saying:

“When we don’t stay in touch it’s too easy to drift into busy, non-sharing protective mode and then things just get even tougher…”

At the end of the call they set their time get together again with their agency team mates. They will clarify and (re)-commit to align actions, avoid distractions, help each other out, make some more graceful and responsive moves. They will re-co-mission. Together.

I loved that play on words! A mission is a purpose, see? Purpose gives life to partnerships. Co. Mission. Recommission.

At some of their joint meetings in the past few years, they’ve practiced some communication skills that help include and transcend the dead-end trap of making decisions either/or instead of both/and when it’s possible.

They look for ways to innovate. It’s not about choosing project stability or fluidity; over control or under control, independence or integration. And why over help orunder help anywhere? Most of us don’t. At least not on purpose, not consciously. We might over help or over control much more when we are overextended, stressed out.

In that space between those opposite poles, are liberating microsctructures (LS). They are not magic. They are just structures. Space is arranged, groups are configured, participation is distributed, there is sequence and allocation of time, and there is always an invitation that includes a task or a question.

LS are useful. Sometimes audaciously useful. Practice them with your team inside your organization, with your intergovernmental collaborators, or while carrying out all kinds of complex deliberation and decision making.

Liberate you and your collaborators from drudgery and deadly boring meetings or someone else’s best practices. Save yourself from one too-long slide presentation and uncontrolled ‘open questions’ at the end.

Quit wondering why people don’t speak up more often and why they don’t bring their whole selves to the challenges in front of us right now more often.

Here’s an important aspect to remember: it’s fun playing with these micro-structures.

Unleash and include everyone. Everyone.

__________

P.S. If you are still curious why I’ve invited you twice now to Bozeman, Montana on September 19-20, here. This is where I’m coming from with this.

These current days in public life we are too-often showing up and operating in some kind of outright denial of reality. Standing on an Idaho ridge last week looking at the total eclipse of the sun brought this feeling home to me again more than ever. So it’s time to geek out even more in using and practicing with process tools that enable positive innovations.

As one very skilled LS practitioner told me, these immersion workshops do not resemble what many of us think of as “training.” You’ll take home what’s meaningful and useful to you in the contexts you are working in now.

The Bozeman workshop organizers have their necessary number of diverse participants registered. They could accommodate about 10+ more. Still, if you are in a picky mood or have a BIG bucket of preconceived expectations about the precise qualities you require in your immersion workshop experiences right now, it’s probably not a go.

There will be more opportunities other places, other times to go play with these. Full workshop details and registration options in the link below:

Unleashing Innovation in MT: The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures

A bit about me: My favorite work right now is about human and organizational health. Today that’s about serving my public sector clients and their partners as third party facilitator and professional coach. I am a committed process maven and applied social geographer. People call us most when they have conflict to navigate and public decision making to carry out. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle and Cadence.

Come to Montana for Some Liberation in September

 

Liberating Structures: Coming September 19-20, 2017: see link to register below

By Nedra Chandler: 2 minutes to skim, 5 minutes if you read ‘resources’ section.

One day I was driving home from Seattle listening to one of my favorite podcasters Amiel Handelsman, interviewing Keith McCandless about liberating structures. A big smile spread over my face just listening with this recognition: “Eureka.”

Within two days I was using 1-2-4-All (think by yourself for 1 minute, get in pairs for 2 minutes, get in a quartet for 4 minutes now integrate what you’re learning with full group of any size) at a meeting between some government leaders about redevelopment projects in Indian Country.

Within a short time after that we were using more liberating structures like Troika, The 9 Whys and Ecocycle. We are applying them in more and more high-stakes interagency meetings with tangible results and participant satisfaction. See for example what participants say on the Liberating Structures website.

For times when organic conversations won’t cut it, and your own go-to methods are likely to end in a few dominating the many, try using one or more of these liberating micro structures. See what happens. Prepare to be surprised at the experience and the durable outcomes.

No matter how experienced we become in our chosen areas of work or public service, questioning assumptions about ‘how we do things around here’ or ‘what we know about how the world works’ so often leads to generative ways of working together that we couldn’t have seen without that beginner’s mind. The point: liberating structures provide surprisingly easy avenues to strike a fine balance between over- and under-control of dialog and decision-making processes. These methods you can learn well enough to begin using within a half hour support us in unleashing actionable innovations large and small where we are in each moment.

Keith McCandless and Sarah Hayward are co-leading an immersion workshop on Liberating Structures and their applications in Bozeman, Montana on September 19 and 20. This will be a great opportunity to learn how to apply these in your organizations. Come and bring a friend or colleague! It will be seriously playful and have a lasting impact on your work.

See full workshop details and registration options in the link below:

Unleashing Innovation in MT: The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures

Resources You Can Use Right Now

  • Listen in on this podcast McCandless interview for fun and to immediately expand your practice in every area of work and organizing.
  • Visit the generous http://www.liberatingstructures.com Liberating Structures website for more background and easy-to-follow instructions.
  • Get The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures by Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz.

Notice their chart in the first chapter that shows levels of control and inclusion inherent in familiar methods of working together like presentations and open discussions. Take a look at where Liberating Structures appears on this chart in comparison – they have much higher levels of inclusion and distributed control. Just follow the easy-to-follow recipes (yep, I said recipe) for increased creativity and innovation. Use or adapt one useful method, or string some together for an integrated meeting design.

Contact me at 406-461-1621 if you have any questions about the workshop or want help planning your trip to Bozeman. We look forward to seeing you. Design team members please consider putting your contact info in the comment section here so folks can connect with any of us.

A bit about me: my work is about organizational health. Today that’s about serving my public sector clients and their partners as a third party facilitator and as a professional development & conflict management coach. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle and Cadence.

What’s Your Professional Development Plan?

by Nedra Chandler, estimated 4 minute reading time.

Working with a coach can help you recognize your strengths, leverage your talents and self manage more and more consistently. Learn more in this written interview with me by Louise Harris for Savvy.

A bit about me: I work primarily with government clients and their partners as a professional coach or third party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me at https://www.cadenceinc.us and me with more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com.

 

6 Actions in New Gallup Report to Improve U.S. Workplace Culture

by Nedra Chandler (8-10 minute reading time)

Last night I read all 200+ pages of the newly-released “State of the American Workplace” report from Gallup and there are some great nuggets to notice in there.

The findings are based on more than 195,600 U.S. employees via the Gallup Panel and daily tracking in 2015 and 2016, and about 31 million respondents through their Q12 Client Database. The results reveal findings that won’t surprise those immersed in organizational development. Yet the actions suggested here are not yet front and center in this country. It’s time to bust some moves. Even small shifts will move us toward significant improvements.

The report says leaders of U.S. organizations must:

  1. design and deliver a compelling and authentic employer brand
  2. take employee engagement from a survey to a cultural pillar that improves performance
  3. approach performance management in ways that motivate employees
  4. offer benefits and perks that influence attraction and retention
  5. enable people to work successfully from locations besides the office
  6. construct office environments that honor privacy while encouraging collaboration
  7. improve clarity and communication for employees who work on multiple teams

The themes workers told Gallup were: “we want our work to have meaning and purpose; to use our talents and strengths and to have at least part of each day spent on doing what we each do best. We want to learn and develop and we want our jobs to fit our lives.”

It made me laugh to see the point made on p. 9 that one thing organizations should not do is sit and wait for millennials to “get older and start behaving like baby boomers.”

What does “engagement” mean?

“Gallup measures employee engagement using a 12-element survey (Gallup’s Q12) rooted in employees’ performance development needs. When those needs are met, says Gallup, employees become emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace. As a result, their individual performance soars, and they propel their team and organization to improved crucial outcomes such as higher levels of productivity, safety and quality.” (p. 62)

The four levels of performance development needs are:

1. basic needs

2. individual needs

3. teamwork needs

4. personal growth needs

The report points out that attending to the first 3 levels help create a working environment of trust and respect that in turn supports each individual and team toward awareness and development in the fourth level — personal growth.

The authors emphasize that managers must become coaches and attend to all four levels through “frequent, focused, future-oriented” coaching conversations. I agree with this. Just imagine how this shift from the (awful) annual, backward-looking official performance review to this new approach will animate organizations in the best possible ways.

These findings resonated with me. While reading it, I re-lived some uncomfortable flashback memories of losing my composure at work way too often – especially near the end of my own hellacious management job inside a government agency.

If it weren’t for my own professional coach — Rebecca Johns – whom I was able to hire with federal grant dollars to support me and all staff on our team, I might still be stuck in a mismatch/bad fit job, not feeling or seeing opportunities that were present in my work and life – mostly as a result of being too stressed to show up as my best self.

The most interesting aha to me of all in this detailed report is that fully 4 of Gallup’s 6 overall themes presented at the front are about the value of coaching – internally delivered (again, frequent, focused and future-oriented) and developmental coaching.

The takeaway for me is that it is clearly time to invest more resources into serving each other internally as development partners in our workplaces while we serve customers, end users and stakeholders in the same committed ways, externally.

From my vantage point as an external coach to government leaders, I see this as massive mindset shift that has yet to be realized.

Summary of 6 Calls To Action

My summary and word choice on of Gallup’s 6 big- picture calls to action follow, with Jim Clifton’s quotes in italics below each.

Clifton, who is the CEO and board chair of Gallup, makes a bold claim in his introduction that ‘taking these steps ….will lead to historic bursts in productivity and will change your organization, America and the world.’ I hope he’s right.

1. Development coaching matters. A lot.

Clifton says, “call an executive meeting and commit to transforming your workplace from old command-and-control to one of high development and ongoing coaching conversations.”

What this means is a significant shift from treating the workplace like it’s a strip mine to recognizing it’s an ecosystem that thrives on generative, sustainable practices for the long haul.

2. Don’t wait for clarity. Clarity will come with action.

 “Dive in — don’t put your toe in. You can afford a lot of mistakes and even failures because the system you currently use doesn’t work anyway.” Ouch. Yet I like this one for its blunt clarity.

3. Create a coaching culture from the inside out and outside in.

“Switch from a culture of “employee satisfaction” — which only measures things like how much workers like their perks and benefits — to a “coaching culture.”

4. Purpose matters. We want our work to have meaning.

“Change from a culture of “paycheck” to a culture of “purpose.”

5. Actively invest in and support leaders and managers to know their strengths and those of others, and have courage and support to use them.

“If you have 25,000 employees, then you likely have about 2,500 managers and leaders at various levels. Transform them all.”

Again, my own worldview and bias here: the main shift we need to make is to be true development partners to one another. Not only must we be of service to customers and others with a direct stake in our organizations, we need to be of service to each other at work.

6. Make sure people know their strengths and how to leverage them with their peers and work partners.

“Require all 25,000 employees to take the CliftonStrengths assessment so your organization recognizes each individual by their strengths. Institute a leadership philosophy of developing strengths versus fixing weaknesses.”

My view is that there are many tools that help humans know and keep developing their strengths. Lumina Learning and Play to Your Strengths are the two I’ve come to rely on most often. The point is that it is both crucial and way-too-often overlooked to know your strengths and the strengths of others, and then cultivate the courage and presence to use those in your integrated work and life.

Takeaway Message from All 6 Actions

My takeaway is that we will all be much better off when we invest in serving each other as development coaches and relate with each other at work as human beings, not limited to our sanitized, yet disengaged roles as cogs in a machine.

That means we show up and serve as genuine, humble-yet-confident partners to one another at work for the good of ourselves and the good of the whole.

Important caveat: like the famous coach Tony Robbins says, “You can’t influence somebody when you’re busy judging them.”

My work at Cadence is about delivering coaching that evokes a shift in view such that we each see and experience our current situation in new and useful ways. While you’re cultivating your own growth identity you are also gaining valuable experience to help you be of the best possible service as a development partner to others. How cool is that?

We develop ourselves at the exact same time we are contributing to the development of others. That’s a generous, new model – it’s a vision of coaching culture in American workplaces that will help us evolve and transform our workplaces for the better.

I took time to digest this monster Gallup report and I appreciate you taking the time to read me. I may dig into some more of it in future posts. If you find something of value here, please sign up to receive these monthly at https://www.cadenceinc.us/news/

Please share/forward to your friends and associates who might benefit from the insights here and let me know what you are noticing in your own experience at your workplace. I need to hear.

A bit about me: I work primarily with government clients and their partners as a professional coach or third party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me and more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com.