The MOR Associates Tuesday Reading for Nov. 25 was about Gratitude. While I’ve always thought of gratitude as saying thank you and showing appreciation, I haven’t thought of it from a perspective changing lens. We are encouraged not only think about how we can change our own perspective but how can we help others. Each of our colleagues has work frustrations, but they also have personal frustrations. Whether these are related to money, health or something else how can we help them see the “positive”, to be grateful for what they do have. This is not always easy as we don’t always know the personal circumstances of those we work with. This may be a lead by example situation. If we always try to see the positive, to show gratitude for what we do have, and not complain maybe we can help those around us do the same. Although it is well past Thanksgiving it is always the right time of year to show gratitude!
How can I change my perspective and look at the positive? Instead of “complaining” or looking at something as a limitation, how can I instead look at it as an opportunity? We all have processes and procedures and best practices. We all are experts in our field. Rather than approach someone who isn’t doing things the way we think they should be done with a negative thought look at it as an opportunity to build a new relationship. Through the act of building a relationship you will naturally look at the situation from their perspective, see things the way they do and understand where they are coming from. Rather than just jumping in and telling them how things should be done, take the time to ask questions, and get to know them. Before the meeting think about what image you want to portray, how should you approach the situation? How do we do this? The 4 I’s are a great way to start! Initiate, Inquire, show interest and influence.
This week’s MOR Associates Tuesday reading focuses on not just setting priorities, but honoring them. I wrote my Tuesday reflection on how difficult it is to do just that. I commented on how easy it is to let the week go by and not spend any ELP time. I made a commitment to block out time every week and even said that I was immediately going to put that on my calendar. Yet what actually happened? As soon as I finished the reflection I had to run off to a meeting and told my self I would do it when I got back. Well, here I am a month later and I still have not blocked out the time on my calendar. This weeks reading was a good reminder for me. There, I just blocked out the time. Now I need to guard it and honor the priority. I feel I’ve been given an amazing opportunity, being a part of this program, and it is important to me to make the most of it.
The other thing that struck me in this week’s reading was how one spends their lunch time. In the past I used that time for walking. At some point I started sitting at my desk working rather than going out for a walk. I’ve been using the time to read articles, and catch up on e-mail. Rather than choosing between reading or walking I’m going to try and combine the two and listen to a book while walking.
I created this blog to serve the purpose of keeping me accountable and doing more than just reading. Blogging forces me to really listen to what is being said, think about it and respond on how I will involve, change and follow-up. Listening doesn’t just have to be in real time.
This is what it is all about. We can attend workshops, read, watch videos and reflect but it all comes down to putting it into action. We’re being told again and again to “get out of our comfort zone”. One of the new skills we are supposed to be working on is our presence and the 4 I’s:
When walking into a meeting or room where you don’t know someone, instead of pulling out your cellphone and reading e-mail, initiate contact. The first step, which can be the hardest, is simply sticking your hand out and saying “hi, I’m Patrice”. Don’t leave it at that, inquire. This is something that needs to be practiced and some thought should be put into it. Don’t just ask questions, but ask meaningful questions. What do you really want to know about this person? What information would be helpful to you in building a relationship? Most importantly, invest. If you are asking questions but not actively invested and listening it will come across. When having a conversation you should only be focused on that. In our multi-tasking overworked world this can be especially hard. Working at building relationships will then enable you to influence. Don’t forget to practice your elevator speech. Be ready when somebody initiates with you!
At the first meeting I attended after our first session I felt I missed an opportunity to “put it into action”. I walked into a room where everyone knew each other and I didn’t know anyone. They were not engaged in conversation as they waited for the meeting to begin but sitting and reading their phones. While I think of myself as an outgoing person, I found it difficult to try and initiate a conversation with people focused on not conversing. If someone is busily reading e-mail are they: catching up on work and don’t want to be interrupted? Feeling uncomfortable and going to their phone to avoid conversation? Hoping that someone will approach them and start a conversation?
For me getting out of my comfort zone isn’t just about initiating conversation with people I don’t know but in situations where I am uncomfortable. This could be a meeting I’ve been invited to that is not directly in my area of expertise. As I reflect on how I interact in different situations I’ve realized that when I’m in a space that is not my “area of expertise” I am less comfortable speaking up and voicing my ideas and opinions. This quote shared in our MOR materials seems very appropriate:
“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This week’s MOR ELP Tuesday reading is based on an article by Whiteny Hischier and Rajiv Ball about 3 underappreciated IT leadership skills.It discusses a transition that is similar to the transition many service based businesses have gone through in the last several years: moving from mass production to personalization; reducing costs; increasing value. In this new world Hischier and Ball suggest there are three needed competencies:
- Problem Finding, Problem Solving: I was excited to see that the suggestion here was to use the design thinking methodology. I’ve recently used it as a way to understand whether my team was addressing the right problem and found it to be a very effective process. Last week I participated in a symposium organized by George Siemens focused on a MOOCs and creating a vision of Higher Ed in 2030. Upon reflection on our two days of discussion I think a design thinking session would be the perfect next step. We came up with several challenges we felt our universities faced. I think it would be beneficial to use design thinking to narrow in on finding the problem that is at the root of these challenges and then, as a team, developing a solution.
- Be a True Peer and Sparring Partner to Business: Hischier and Ball suggest IT leaders must, “articulate their own ideas and perspective and do so in a way that resonates across the organizational boundaries”. It always comes down to communication! For me the key phrase here is in a way that “resonates across organizational boundaries”. ELP stresses the importance of developing relationships. No matter how good your communication skills are I don’t think you can effectively communicate with a person or organization unless you truly understand their culture. We recently went through a team building exercise and one of the things that quickly rose to the top was how different our organizational cultures were which impacted how we approached things. Once we had a mutual understanding of each other’s culture we were able to communicate more effectively.
- Move Others to Action: This aligns with my goal of building a coalition of people aligned with my goal of providing leadership and direction in support of digital learning initiatives and increasing access to education. Hischier and Ball suggest, “nurturing and sustaining trusted, mutually supportive relationships.” Trust is critical. I recently ran a workshop about how to build collaboration in our IT community. What rose up to the top, across sessions, was that we can’t have collaboration without trust. Something to consider is how you define trust. It is important all stakeholders have a mutually agreed upon definition of trust. I will be attending a Franklin Covey session on The Speed of Trust to learn more about this.
Making the time to read these articles and finding a quiet space to reflect and think has been a challenge. Not different from exercising, it is alway difficult to find the time but when you are done you never you never wish you hadn’t. When I mentioned my difficulty in carving out time, my MOR coach, Susan Washburn said, “We all have the same amount of hours in the day, but some of the ways we choose to spend those hours TAKE energy and some GIVE energy. Time to reflect, for example, can be a deposit into your energy resources where as time wasted in an unnecessary meeting is energy taken”.
As part of the MOR Associates Cornell Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) I am supposed to reflect upon the Tuesday readings. Last week’s reading was based upon a Marshall Goldsmith video “Leadership is a Contact Sport”. A leader should reach out, listen and learn..sounds easy, right? The eight steps to being an effective leader and team member include:
- Ask: In ELP we are learning to always ask for feedback. Ask what kind of a job we’re doing and how can we do things better. I’ve always been an “asker” and sought feedback. I now find myself being more “planful and thoughtful” when it comes to asking for feedback. I first consider what my goal is, what is it I want to know or improve? Asking is the easy part…
- Listen: This is the hard part. In our last ELP session we were given an example of how 40 people can hear the exact same thing and interpret it 40 different ways. I think we’ve all experienced this. In my job I’m seeing on a daily basis how easy it is for this to happen and how important it is to not just listen but repeat back what you think you heard. A follow up e-mail summarizing your conversation is even better. I’m thinking about how I can be a better listener not just at work but at home. I am working on clearing my mind and focusing on only the person speaking. This is not easy to do. Our minds are used to multi-tasking and processing input from any number of places. It is hard to turn it all off and just…
- Think: We’ve beed told that the feedback we receive is a gift worthy of reflective time. After receiving feedback allow some “dead air” to just think about what you’ve heard. What additional information do you need? What do you not understand? It is not easy to allow time to just think…
- Thank: There is nothing as important as a thank you when receiving a gift. We’re learning to say “thank you for the feedback”. That will take some practice. Why does it feel so awkward to say?
- Respond: This is the critical step. We’ve all been to a performance review or conference and left reinvigorated to make changes and do things differently. How frequently do we end up doing the same thing, forgetting those changes? What will I do to make sure I respond to the feedback I receive? I’m hoping this blog will help. A place to reflect upon my journey, share with others and watch my growth. I’ve found for me the most important thing is blocking time off on my calendar each week. Time for me to think, respond and reflect on how I will involve, change and follow-up.
- Involve: I’ve been lucky to continuously find myself surrounded by people who support me in reaching my goals. Moving forward I would like to expand my network and develop relationships with people I might not normally interact or work with. What can I learn as I move out of my comfort zone?
- Change: Aren’t we always told “people don’t change”. Change is hard. It requires deep understanding of not just why the change is important but how to effectively change. Change needs to be meaningful. For me, meaningful change will help me attain my goal of providing leadership and direction in support of digital learning initiatives and increasing access to education. As I continue to develop my goals and action steps I’m thinking about what changes I need to make. Once you change, how do you know if you really changed or if the change you made was a positive one?
- Follow-up: Follow-up of course! This is an iterative process. After I’ve changed I need to go back to step 1 and start over again. I’m looking forward to our next ELP session and discussing with others what they are doing to implement these 8 steps.
I have posted the following words above my desk…”Remember to reach out, listen and learn”.