Posts Tagged ‘ Conflict Resolution ’

Moral Courage

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?

Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?

All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.

But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people?  The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.

This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?

In a word: yes!

The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.

Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.

Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The  video of her speech, from TED.com, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.

Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.

As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.

Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:

  • You and your friends are deciding what movie to see, or where to get dinner, but you don’t like the choice they all prefer. Instead of going along silently, or pretending to agree, say, “Well, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you all like it, that’s OK with me.”
  • One of your friends has gotten a tattoo, and everyone is admiring it, but you don’t like tattoos. Instead of letting everyone believe that you also think tattoos are really cool, have the courage to express a different view. “I’m glad you like his tattoo, but personally, I just don’t see the appeal.”

You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.

But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?

The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage.  Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees

Why is moral courage important in leadership?

Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.

Actions speak louder than words.  Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.

Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.

An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.

Top 5 Office Pet Peeves (Leadership Quote)

You Are Always Hypothesizing

One simple statement really stood out to me from a conversation this week: “remember that you are always hypothesizing.” During an executive coaching class, my colleagues and I were role-playing coaching scenarios around dealing with perceived resistance from a client. Note the key word, “perceived.” The group discussion and activity were meant to illustrate the fact that in coaching relationships, what we perceive as resistance might actually be indicative of something else. If we can acknowledge that our perceptions are just our interpretations of what we are experiencing as we interact with another person, then we open ourselves to the possibility that our interpretations might not be accurate. It’s easy to misinterpret because we are, in fact, always hypothesizing.

According to Merriam-Webster, a hypothesis may be defined as:

  • “An idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion”
  • “An assumption or concession made for the sake of argument”
  • “A tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test the logical or empirical consequences”

Notice that a commonality across these definitions is the element of making an assertion for the purpose of verifying or validating it. A hypothesis is ground for further action; it is an antecedent and not an end result. Miscommunication is often attributable to misinterpretation, but we can avoid this fundamental error by noticing our assumptions and investigating them with a sense of openness and curiosity. The challenge in any interaction—whether your role is a coach, manager, advisor, teacher, peer, or friend—is to become truly curious about the other person’s experience so that testing our assumptions is an act of gaining clarity about that individual’s experience from their perspective rather than from our own.

TNH_Understanding

Contrary to common belief, hypothesis testing is not a function of proving our theory, but rather it is a function of trying to uncover whatever truth exists. Yes, in scientific pursuits, we hope to furnish evidence in support of our hypothesis, but this is not the case in pursuits of human relations. True communication and connection with others requires humility and acceptance of the fact that our assertions and conclusions may be incorrect. If we are always hypothesizing then we must also be ever curious and open to alternatives, asking, “What else might explain this? What might I not be aware of?”

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han), is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, teacher, Zen Master, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his activism and advocacy of nonviolent solutions to conflict. You do not need to endorse Buddhist philosophy in order to appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh’s approachable writing style and germane messaging. In one of his seminal books, Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh uses the quote above to explain what is needed in order to achieve true understanding in communication. If we only seek to validate our own preconceived notions without acknowledging that our way of thinking might be flawed, then we will not be able to truly understand whatever we are facing.

ansel_adams_quote

Each interaction, each conversation, each moment of life is associated with some image in our minds. We create a story about that image, and Ansel Adams reminds us that we are not the only ones looking at our pictures. Others are involved in those interactions, conversations, and moments.  Two photographers can stand aside one another taking in the same landscape, but the images they see and capture through their lenses will be different depending on what and where they choose to focus. Two viewers may look upon the same photograph and see or describe it in very different ways depending upon their interpretation and the meaning they assign to what they see. It’s all about how you make sense of what you observe.

ansel adams_fuzzy concept_quote

In the art of communication, the skilled performer is ever conscious that the image seen may not reflect the one captured, and the story created by the viewer may not match the one being projected by the sender. If you truly seek to understand another person’s point of view, you must be willing to see the world through their lens. Like photography and all fine arts, perspective-taking is a skill which is developed over time through diligent practice, keen observation, acute trial and error, and endless wonder about the natural world. You are always creating images and painting pictures from your own pallet of interpretation. How might someone else see it differently? What would it be like to view the world through another lens? What is the potential benefit and beauty of considering another point of view? What else might be present? What else could sharpen your image? What are you not seeing? In what other ways could this situation being conceptualized or understood?

Remember that you are always hypothesizing, so ask yourself, “what am I not yet aware of?”

ansel_adams_awareness_quote

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4

The Look of Ethical Leadership

Call me idealistic, but I want more from Gen X and Gen Y when it comes to leadership. I want to see us go beyond the standard leadership stereotypes to something more global, accepting, and inclusive. To encourage non-typical leadership types to emerge and develop.

Can you imagine what it might look like if high-potentials weren’t chosen based on how well they fit the corporate image, but instead on how well they treat others? Have we gone overboard with making sure leaders present themselves a certain way as seen in the following video?

Sure, they all have the right corporate image, but is that what the leader of the future should be? What if these guys in the following video were the most ethical leaders you would ever met…

What about those people you work with right now who might not say the right corporate buzz-words, wear the right clothes, or graduate from the right schools?

What if instead, true leaders naturally emerge because everyone whom they come into contact with experiences a solid trustworthy person. When faced with the decision between right or wrong without hesitation he or she takes the ethical high-road. They might not have the right hair, but go out of their way to give credit to the entry-level employee with the bright idea that just made the company millions.

Maybe leadership looks more like the quiet co-worker who detests public speaking and back-to-back meetings, but whose character is unmistakable. Maybe it’s the guy who knows nothing about golf and can’t stand wearing polo shirts or it’s the girl who really doesn’t want to hide her tattoo because it’s part of who she is.

The Look of Ethical LeadershipWhat if tomorrow’s leaders are more about the inside than the outside? Less about the look and more about how they make you feel. Can you imagine? What if tomorrow’s leaders make good decisions, treat people well, and have brilliant ideas, but don’t look or sound the part.

I realize that in a global context, defining what it means to be an ethical leader will differ slightly, but the idealist in me once again asks whether we can move to a broader view of what an ethical leader should look like…

…to a leader who treats others with respect at every given opportunity, someone who is inclusive in encouraging dissenting opinions and viewpoints. Someone who really hears the thoughts and ideas of others, who doesn’t hold an employee’s title over his or her head as a mark of competence, and instead encourages all people regardless of background to lead at all times in everything they do.

All regardless image. Can you imagine…something different?

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Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

Tips to Contain the Crazy: Increasing Productivity While Reducing Stress

I love to learn new ways to increase my own productivity while also reducing stress. I call it containing the crazy. Like many of you, I cling to my calendar, my to-do list…I shudder to think of the chaos should I ever lose my phone.

Tips to Contain the CrazyRecently, I decided to try some new ways to be more productive and less stressed:

1. Spa water – in a scientific study, those who were fully-hydrated had improved mood and were less sleepy. So, I decided to try drinking spa water (sometimes called “infused water”) and I’m hooked. You get your water in for the day and it’s flavored without all the calories and chemicals. Refill as needed and enjoy. Here is a wikihow on how to make spa water:

How to make spa water

2. Concentration Music – it is said that listening to baroque classical music has been scientifically shown to improve mood, productivity, and concentration. So, I decided to give it a whirl and wouldn’t you know, it works! I get more work done faster and more precisely while being relaxed the entire time. Gotta love classical music! Here is a sample for your listening pleasure:

3. A Timer – scientific studies also show we have a limited attention span for tasks. This time has varied in studies anywhere from 10 minutes to up to 40 minutes. So, I set a timer and only worked on a task for a specified period and then took a break. I also used a timer to go back and forth between tasks. This has worked wonders for getting many more things done in a day than I could have imagined. A link to a fabulous, easy-to-set online timer:

Online Timer

These tips for containing the crazy work well for my own personal work style and help me to be a more calm, productive, and focused leader.

Share with us your tips to contain the crazy, increase productivity, and reduce stress. No matter how unique they may be, please share! What works for you?

Leadership as an Experience in Humanness

At the beginning of my career, desperate for experience, I took whatever job I could in my field. Fortunately, my first manager treated employees and customers like gold. Luck struck twice when I was hired by yet another wonderful manager.

Regrettably, subsequent managers provided the “opportunity” to witness appalling treatment of both employees and customers. Still relatively naïve, I unconsciously swept their behavior under the rug in an attempt to gain valuable experience.

As my skill-set grew, I became disillusioned with my own attempts to lead. Emulating a combination of previous managers, who overall, seemed successful, led to followers who appeared blatantly angry, humiliated, and hostile. Advised not to take it personally, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing wrong and how I could change. With a warrior mentality, I read every work regarding leadership I could find and studied leaders as if by doing so I could internalize their success merely by being in their presence.

My leadership skills improved, yet something was still missing. I fervently questioned reasons why I was obsessively engaged when being led by some and so greatly disappointed when being led by others.

It took a truly unfortunate interaction with a leader long ago for me to embrace that even in the workplace I was a learning, feeling, developing, mistake-making fallible human being….and that there was nothing anyone could do to change this. The difference between those leaders who got the best and worst of me was their willingness to unconditionally accept me. Those who received my highest level of loyalty, performance, engagement, and respect were those who liked and even embraced my humanness.

Leadership as an Experience in Humanness

Downshifting emotionally, I tapped into a level of humility that allowed me to personally, yet not unprofessionally, connect with those I was leading. Forgiveness, understanding, compassion…the willingness to let go of control enveloped me. Resultantly, I felt the vulnerability and fear of those I was leading. I could see and feel the need for hand-holding and that was okay! I could connect with their lack of confidence and disbelief in their abilities.

I listened. Then, I listened some more and allowed for silence and space. Never have I experienced employees so willing and hungry to give everything they have to their work. The change was so fast and dramatic it was emotionally overwhelming. There was no need to question how those I lead felt; it was clear that through their actions they felt just as I had at the beginning of my career.

*Photo courtesy of http://i368.photobucket.com/albums/oo121/4thfrog_2008/2uel34n.jpg

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Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

Leaders, Are You Listening for Explanations or Excuses?

Stop for a moment and consider the last time either you or one of your direct reports missed a deadline. What happened? It’s likely you were asked, or asked for, an explanation. When the explanation was given, how was it received? If it was not well received, do you feel that ANY explanation would have realistically been acceptable? When this point is reached, unfortunately, the only thing being heard is an excuse.

Most people inherently know the difference between an explanation and excuse. Subconsciously, however, we frequently confuse the two. When explaining an action or behavior, you’re making clear the cause or reason for that action or behavior. When making an excuse for an action or behavior, you’re maliciously trying to hide something and/or avoid any consequences. The subconscious confusion comes into play when our expectations become so high that no explanation is good enough so, by default, it is interpreted as an excuse. Or, when an explanation is either overused or seemingly unbelievable, it is also easily interpreted as an excuse.

One of the most well known excuses that we all grew up with was, “the dog ate my homework.” But imagine the child who spent hours finishing his homework assignment and then woke up in the morning only to find that Fido used it as a chew toy during the night. When he tells his teacher that his dog ate his homework, is that an explanation or an excuse? When he’s laughed at, called a liar, or punished, how will that make him feel both in the moment and in the future?

The very first post I ever did for this blog was entitled, Assume the Best Intentions. The gist of this piece was that in your daily interactions, you “give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best intentions.” People generally want and try to do well even when it may appear to you that their actions or behavior might not seem to support this. My challenge then is to apply this mentality whenever you are being offered an explanation for a behavior or action that you find displeasing. Listen with an open mind and with the intent to be influenced.

You’ll find that in most cases, an explanation is legitimate and valid. This then becomes an opportunity to flex your leadership skills. Hear the explanation and discover how you can support your direct report in accomplishing the task at hand. And when giving an explanation, do so with confidence and be prepared to share how you can be supported in accomplishing your task.

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