All posts by harnessleads

About harnessleads

Champion of corporate climate change, I have a belief in people - a belief that everyone wants to make a contribution to their work, their world. Leaders create the environment where we all can make that contribution.

ENGAGING LEADERS…ONE EMAIL AT A TIME

Keep the Passion Burning: Emails That Inspire Action

The Leadership Challenge® Workshop is an amazing experience for so many people. The time leaders spend  with others making commitments as to how they will engage in the behaviors and practices of exemplary leadership really get them fired-up about making substantive changes in their work and personal lives. You  see the passion and purpose in participants’ eyes as they walk out of the workshop.  And we, as facilitators and coaches, “hope” we have provided each and every person the tools they need to be successful.

However, when we visit with these same leaders  a few weeks later, the fire we once saw   is now merely a flicker: the “real world” of work has overshadowed the excitement they had in the workshop. And despite our best efforts—e.g., post-workshop learning trios, individual coaching sessions, following up with one-day sessions at six months—we  wonder if maybe, just maybe, there was something more we could do to help keep that passion burning brightly.

One leader in a government social service agency I have worked with extensively—training nearly 600 leaders in The Leadership Challenge—has implemented a creative way of  keeping leaders focused on The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® with meaningful and targeted email communications. Each weekly email reminds leaders of one of the 30 behaviors associated with The Five Practices, encouraging leaders to focus their thoughts and actions on that specific area for the entire week. And, unique among other organizations I work with, this client also includes inspiring quotes and links to additional resources, from YouTube and Ted Talks to HBR, that truly bring the Practices to life and continue the learning. .  Here are a few examples:

Email Title: Behavior #18 – Asks “What can we learn?” when things don’t go as expected.

Good morning LC’ers! (Leadership Challengers)

Last week, I started highlighting the behaviors of The Leadership Challenge in hopes of focusing our thoughts and actions on one topic for an entire week. As a reminder, we focused on Behavior #9 – Actively listens to diverse points of view. How did that go for you?  Did you see a difference? I would love to hear your stories from your week!

This week, I want to focus on Behavior #18 – Asks “What can we learn?” when things don’t go as expected.

This is really an easy concept to understand but, at the same time, really difficult to put into practice—especially in a fast-paced environment like ours. I think the reason it is so difficult to put into practice is because it takes a high level of vulnerability on the part of everyone involved in the process. We are often quick to look for someone or something to blame when things don’t go as expected. We often ask “What went wrong” verses “What can we learn?” and there is a HUGE difference…

Here is some cool stuff I found that may help make this behavior a little easier to put into practice:

 

 

 

 

 

I hope and trust that you find value in some of these resources and that, either at work or at home, when something doesn’t go the way that we had anticipated we ask “What can we learn?” versus “What went wrong?”.

Finally, thank you so much for your personally commitment to The Leadership Challenge! We are hearing wonderful success stories  about how the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® are being creatively implemented. If you have a story that you would like to share, please give me a call or send me an email! We would all like to celebrate your small (and big) wins!

Enjoy the week!

Notice how the email mentions the focus from the previous week and encourages reflection?

As a reminder, we focused on Behavior #9 – Actively listens to diverse points of view. How did that go for you?  Did you see a difference? I would love to hear your stories from your week!

It encourages leaders to stay engaged, providing small reminders that leadership is about learning.

Another Example

Another example focuses on seeking out challenging opportunities to test leadership skills.

Email Title: Challenge Yourself…

Behavior #3 – Seeks out challenging opportunities that test his/her own skills and abilities.

It’s pretty easy to get comfortable, isn’t it? Be it at work, or in our personal lives, we as human beings generally choose to take the path of least resistance. Why wouldn’t we, right? We have the ability to create scenarios, situations, and processes in our life that make our day “easier”.  Most of the time this can be a really good thing! Can you imagine doing everything that we need to do every day without so many of the “shortcuts” we have created?

I think this is why this exemplary leadership behavior, associated with the Practice of Challenge the Process, is so critical to our growth and development as leaders.  Consider the following quote:

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -Robert F. Kennedy

We need to challenge ourselves to seek out opportunities to do not what is easy and convenient but what is hard and difficult, because through this we grow and help others around us to grow as well.

What is one skill or ability you would like to improve on over the next 30 days? Think about that. Then, I challenge you to share your goal with someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable to challenge yourself to achieve it.

Here are a couple of things I found that might help with this challenge:

So, what part of your “ordinary” do you want to make extraordinary? What have you been wanting to do as a leader that seems a bit out of your comfort zone? Take a few minutes to write down your thoughts and begin to challenge yourself over the next week to take steps to move forward on these. And as always, keep me posted on your progress!

As you can see, these emails are constructed in a manner that engages the reader with:

  1. A “catchy” email subject line
  2. Stating which singular behavior you will be addressing in the email
  3. A quick story to catch the reader’s attention
  4. A familiar quote or idea that is inspiring
  5. A reminder of the importance of this specific behavior
  6. A call to action
  7. A video, article, or other resource whose message reinforces the behavior you want your leaders to focus on

Through email communication like this, you have a great tool to help participants remain focused on the individual behaviors and support their own leadership journey.  The power of each of the Leadership Behaviors can be reinforced both in the content and in the challenges you present to leaders. Encouraging reflection, keeping leadership and the Five Practices ‘top of mind’ will help the organization continue to build the language of leadership.

Renee Harness is founder of Harness Leadership and a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge. Her leadership journey has included helping leaders at Charles Schwab and Co., Inc., Roche Diagnostics and in her own consulting practice to fully engage those around them. Contact Renee at renee@harnessleadership.com.

What the 317 Needs & The Guys we Need to Do It.

Let’s become leaders in music here in the great city of Indianapolis! We’ve built great groundwork, great venues, and it’s time we have a successful, multi-year run at a music fest!

artful fund raiser

I was in Louisville recently for the mighty Forecastle Festival and it was a terrific three days of fun. I attend one of these festivals every year and, as always, spent money like a foreign tourist, stayed at the amazing (and soon to be in Indy) 21c Hotel, ate the local cuisine and sampled the local culture. And I wasn’t the only one. The festival was crawling with Indiana folk. Half the crowd high fived me the day I wore a Butler t-shirt.

My beloved Indianapolis, like so many American cities, is in full bloom. Chef centered restaurants with the good kale, fat tire bike sharing, a wonderful orchestra, bearded hipsters in vests offering $14 cocktails and all the other trappings of Big Time City Living.

What are we lacking? What do we need now? A music festival. A proper multi-day festival. The time is now. NOW. NOW…

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Your Are Not Alone: Lean on Colleagues with Your Next Leadership Challenge

Participants in the 2014 TLCW for Non-Profits. Learning from each other!
Participants in the 2014 TLCW for Non-Profits. Learning from each other!

“I’m not creative.” It’s one of the most often refrains that I hear from leaders when discussing methods to help engage people. In the last week, and in this coming week, I’ll have had great experiences that tell me that, “YES, you are creative!”

Last week I spoke to a group of child welfare professionals on how to creatively reward and engage their teams. At first, folks were stumped when it came to coming up with a creative way to encourage their team for their contribution to their organization. But the minute two or three people get together to talk about ideas, prompted to “help each other”, the energy changed in a big way and creativity ran rampant.

And this coming week, I look forward to my favorite week of the year when I’m able to join colleagues from around the world at The Leadership Challenge Forum. It’s a great time of learning from each other, catching up and building our community. It’s amazing how much we talk about what we can do that’s new, next or better with each other – capturing some great ideas in the moment and then bringing those creative inspirations home to our teams.

So when you are thinking you are in it alone, or not feeling creative, take a cue from my friends:

  • Lean on your colleagues with your next leadership challenge. Stop by their space, call them, or buy them a coffee.
  • Take just 15 minutes to brainstorm with a friend. Solving problems is sometimes just slow on your own. Check in quickly to get a different perspective and you’ll see the problem with renewed vigor! (Really)
  • Take 5 minutes to reflect. What will help your next interaction, solution or leadership move be a success? What metaphors might help you describe that?
  • Oh, and share a laugh while you’re at it! Let’s have some fun while we do the work of the world.

And speaking of fun, I’m off to talk about the LPI and a Coaching for Culture change:

2015 Leadership Challenge Forum Presentation with Amy Dunn @integrisPA
2015 Leadership Challenge Forum Presentation with Amy Dunn @integrisPA

Check out more about Harness Leadership at ReneeHarness.branded.me.

 

I Want to Be Bradley Cooper: 3 Lessons from an Actor

I want to be an actor - specifically, Bradley Cooper.
I want to be an actor – specifically, Bradley Cooper.

Last week I decided on a career change. I want to be an actor. More specifically, I want to be Bradley Cooper. Okay, so I have absolutely no experience in acting (though Dr. Reece McGee suggests that teaching is acting.) A February  Fresh Air interview of Bradley Cooper won me over and I’d love to have an actor’s life.

In listening to dozens of podcasts over the last three months while driving between Indianapolis and St. Louis – many of them about Hollywood and Entertainers – I’ve not found many in this short survey of actors in interviews that I find likable. Obviously, I am not familiar with the process of acting, or the Hollywood scene. But it has rang rather hollow to listen actors in the build-up and let-down of the Academy Awards talking about what they do. “I just wanted to play this role as honestly as I could.” I’m not sure what that means. And when repeated over and over, “honesty” becomes jargon. It’s likely that they mean that they want to play the role as authentically as they can, given that they are not the person they are portraying.

So why do I want to be Bradley Cooper? In two words: Empathy and Passion. Of all of the interviews I’ve heard, Mr. Cooper seemed to me to be so in-tune with the roles that he played. From Chris Kyle, a modern American Hero (a few argue anti-hero) to John Merrick, the elephant man, on the Broadway stage, Cooper embodies the role, and we see it on the screen. The Hangover? Silver Linings Playbook? American Hustle. All such different roles, and in each, Cooper manifests the perfect mix required for the character. How can he “become” his character without a keen sense of empathy? His transformation before and after a role are in a small way similar to what his American Sniper character went through when returning home.

In the Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, Cooper showed not only his passion in the process, but his passion for the US Military. While never enlisting in the military, he started doing USO entertainment stops when no one knew him, or even the show he made guest appearances on (Alias.) It’s as if he was preparing for the role of Chris Kyle all along.

So, okay. Now that I’ve had some time to seriously contemplate the career change, I’ll stick with working with leaders. So I will ask: What can leaders learn from Cooper?

1. Know Your Role: Cooper has been intrigued by John Merrick since he was 12 years old. He did the research to learn as much about Merrick, his life, his mannerisms as he could. Research your role, learn about leadership and keep learning.

2. Follow Your Passion: Cooper was so passionate about playing John Merrick, that he’s worked since he was 12 to “become” the role, and to produce the play on Broadway. What is it that you are passionate about? What makes you talk fast and loud, and waive your arms? That’s a passion, my friend.

3. Empathize Deeply with Others: Leadership is not about the self. Just as Bradley Cooper became others in his acting, leaders are only successful if they can empathize with those they lead, building relationships with others.

As we walk the path of our own leadership, I can only hope that my path crosses those of you who bring the empathy for others and the passion for your role that Bradley Cooper does. Lead on!

Surprise Yourself: Leverage the Uncomfortable

We learn the most when we are engaged in the status quo, the mundane of everyday life. Said no one ever!

I traveled to Shinjuku, Tokyo - what I learned.
I traveled to Shinjuku, Tokyo – what I learned.

It is when we are knee-deep in challenge, controversy, or adversity that we learn the most. As Kouzes and Posner say, “Challenge is the crucible for greatness.” In my work, I continuously hear examples of when people are at their best. Without fail, it’s when they have waded through the muck of a challenge. Here are some ideas on how to surprise yourself and leverage the uncomfortable situations you experience.

1. Put yourself in tough situations. If someone volunteers you for something you don’t think you can do, it’s highly likely that they have the confidence in you. Go ahead and do it! If there is a daunting challenge you think you want to engage in, but are afraid, do it. If you end up hating it, at least you can use it as a learning experience (see #5 below). But, without a doubt, you will grow in the process.

2. Get to know someone you butt heads with. I often hear people say something like this : “I didn’t really ‘get’ what Karen was all about, but spending the day together has really helped me understand her world better.” (Hugs all around.) Figure out a way to be in a situation where you can get to know this person – ask about their family, what they value, what they enjoy. If successful, you will have a much better experience in this part of your life. If not, see #5.

3. Go to that training session or professional meeting even though you are swamped. When you are referred to a great training session or association meeting, go to it! When you get outside of your normal environs, you can bring so much more energy and insight to your team. This is the time and space where you have more than 15 minutes to reflect and contemplate – use it to push yourself and have the courage to implement it.

4. Attempt something you truly believe you can’t. One thing that we know leaders are bad at is inspiring a shared vision of the future. It’s a critical to inspire hope by providing a vision, but we just don’t practice this skill. I’ve seen hundreds say they just cannot (or won’t) do this. And hundreds have succeeded at it when given a few simple tools. (Try this: describe the sights, sounds and tastes of your favorite vacation spot to someone. Now, you’ve used the skills needed to inspire!)  Try and fail at something? That’s still a builder of experience, so go for it.

5. Ask yourself what you can learn from the failures and successes in your life. When I was barely 30, I was asked to go to Tokyo to a new acquisition in my company to help assess their leadership training needs. I was terrified about the solo travel and the assignment. When I got there, the leader asked “What the (insert expletive) are you doing here?” They really weren’t ready for the project, so I went home. So, what did I learn: when challenged with something you think you can’t do, take a deep breath and go forth (see #1 above). It’ll all be okay in the end. (And if you can access a Japanese bathtub, it will calm you from all the stresses 1-5 above create.)

You never know what you can learn when you challenge yourself. New year, new challenges. Take them on and learn.

6 Lean Lessons in Leadership: Learnings from Washington State Lean Transformation

1.Start with Respect. To improve our work (and world) we first need to start with respecting others and building a culture of respect.

Harness Leadership

Integris Performance Advisors Team Meeting aboard My Girl in Tacoma, WA. Integris Performance Advisors Team Meeting aboard My Girl in Tacoma, WA. (I’m back row, 3rd from left.)

Last week I attended the Washington State Lean Transformation Conference with Integris Performance Advisors. As a leadership consultant I often work with Integris in a corporate setting, and it’s intriguing to learn about the company’s roots in Lean/Six Sigma and leadership in a government context where @ResultsWA goal is to improve the lives of Washingtonians.

What is Lean?According to goleansixsigma.com, Lean is simply a method of streamlining a process, resulting in increased revenue, reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction. I’m interested in the interplay between innovation and leadership and in my second visit to the conference in two years, was impressed that so many of the presenters stressed the critical importance that leadership and coaching play in creating Lean government.

So here is my take on what I heard from the…

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6 Lean Lessons in Leadership: Learnings from Washington State Lean Transformation

Integris Performance Advisors Team Meeting aboard My Girl in Tacoma, WA.
Integris Performance Advisors Team Meeting aboard My Girl in Tacoma, WA. (I’m back row, 3rd from left.)

Last week I attended the Washington State Lean Transformation Conference with Integris Performance Advisors. As a leadership consultant I often work with Integris in a corporate setting, and it’s intriguing to learn about the company’s roots in Lean/Six Sigma and leadership in a government context where @ResultsWA goal is to improve the lives of Washingtonians.

What is Lean? According to goleansixsigma.com, Lean is simply a method of streamlining a process, resulting in increased revenue, reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction. I’m interested in the interplay between innovation and leadership and in my second visit to the conference in two years, was impressed that so many of the presenters stressed the critical importance that leadership and coaching play in creating Lean government.

So here is my take on what I heard from the folks and partners @resultsWA and leadership.

  1. Start with Respect. I love that to improve our work we first need to start with respecting others and building a culture of respect. Of course, it makes sense. No one wants to share their ideas or suggest solutions to problems if there is a lack of respect. The message was clear: if you don’t have an organization where people feel respected, start there – not on process improvement.
  2. Build a language of leadership to build culture. The language we use creates our environment and our culture. If your organization doesn’t talk about and reinforce dignity and respect, you likely will have a hard time engaging others to innovate. See lesson #1.
  3. Break it down. We can’t innovate until we are very familiar with what exists. Each of us might have our own personal understanding of “what is,” however, until you shine a light on the process, it exists in our minds only. That light is shown in many ways, but we have to break down the process before we can determine what needs to go and what needs to stay.
  4. Use humble coaching. This is a nuance that I had not heard articulated until now. It’s in line with my idea that our “belief in people” can help increase their engagement and development. It goes one step further, however, and reminds you to take your self-interest out of the equation. Leave your “great advice” at the door – in most cases – and truly coach by asking opinions and helping people grow their problem-solving capabilities.
  5. Reflection is key for improving your work and your world. This is a theme that I return to frequently. If you don’t take time to reflect, you may be implementing ideas that are “half-baked.” In her sessions entitled “Burn the Popcorn,” Carol Knight -Wallace shared a brainstorming technique called the 7 Ways. To use this technique, think of 7 ways to solve the problem at hand. This is a great technique to help you reflect on your challenge and prevent the mistakes that come with rushed decisions.
  6. It’s about relationships. If you don’t have the relationship, it’s very hard to inspire people to want to work WITH you to improve what you do and how you do it. To create and implement “what’s next and new” you need to have the attention of others. That comes from building a strong relationship, including getting to know those around you. Good at your work relationships? Work to make them deeper and you will reap the rewards as people deepen their trust in you.

And speaking of relationships, thanks to the Managing Partners of @IntegrisPA: Tracy O’Rourke, Evans Kerrigan and Brett Cooper for inviting me along. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this fabulous team of consultants (pictured above in our team meeting on the Puget Sound), helping create healthy workplaces…and just having fun!

 

 

What Do You Dedicate Yourself To?

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Indy Cog is dedicated to promoting safe cycling in Indiana http://www.indycog.org.
I met a woman this week named Carol who works in the Toxics Cleanup Program in Washington State Department of Ecology who has biked an incredible 33,500 miles to work since April of 2001. No, that is not a misplaced comma – thirty three thousand, five-hundred miles! This is a woman who is dedicated to the environment. In the last 13 years, the only times she has NOT taken her bike to work, she commuted with a neighbor or took public transportation (like on days with ice or more than 8 inches of snow).

Did I say “dedication.” Yes, this is an excellent example of what true dedication is. And it made me wonder, “who else do I know that is dedicated to something meaningful?”

My friend/brother Jeremy @ www.theartfulfundraiser.com, has dedicated himself to the arts. He engages the leaders of arts organizations to understand how they can keep their doors open by appealing to the hearts and minds of their constituents. He works with leaders to find ways together to engage folks in creating sustainable arts programs.

Best friend to many, Susan is dedicated to all of her friends. What do you need? She’ll help you. While she is especially good at helping design your kitchen, she’s open to helping you with your mulch, your wardrobe, your latest work or love-life drama, or even helping you pick out the perfect diamond for the girl of your dreams. She’s all-in to do all of those “true-friend” things you can think of.

Belinda in D.C. wants to transform the way that women give birth in the U.S. and will be a first-class midwife once she transitions out of her government job in H.R.

Mike, Deb, Troy and Vicki are dedicated to helping others see the impact they can have on how we treat and envision the aging among us.

Tom, Dan, Amy, Tracy, Evans, KJ and Brett are each dedicated to helping leaders understand the power they hold, and the potential they have in making our workplaces healthier.

Celina is inspired by the possibilities of restoring Washington waterways.

This all takes me back to a phrase my husband, Dennis, says to me each time I work with a new group of leaders: “Use your powers for good.” I always smile when he says or texts it to me. But it has a deeper meaning to me as well. There are lots of ways every day that we are not so kind; not so giving; not so hopeful; not uplifting or uplifted. And some people, I would swear, dedicate themselves to that dark side of things.

So, this is my heartfelt appreciation for those who are making the world a better place. Who are dedicating themselves to work that matters and who are making a real difference in the lives of others. Thank you for being you! “Use your powers for good.”

Inspiring or Inspired?

This week I spoke about leading change in challenging times to a group of child welfare professionals. At the end of the session I touched base with a leader who had been focused on a difficult challenge. Before she said goodbye, she stated confidently that she was going to refocus her energy and push local government and law enforcement officials to address the growing problem of heroin abuse in her Southeast Indiana community. Wow. Her passion, and the potential impact of it impressed and humbled me.

I thanked her for working to make her community better. She said, “You inspired me.”

Again, wow! This may sound funny coming from someone who facilitates leadership workshops for a living, but it’s not a natural state for me to want to be inspiring. I want people to see their own potential, and I want others to be inspired. Frankly, a huge part of the time that I spend facilitating is talking about leaders who inspire others and sharing ways that they do that. But, I – as a person who tends toward introversion – don’t feel that I have to be in front and center, a star or an inspiration to others. I don’t aspire to give rousing performances for an audience. I’d prefer that people “get it” without me putting myself out there.

That said, one of my core beliefs is that people want to contribute to something greater than themselves. I do want to help leaders help others to get there – to feel that they are a part of something bigger. To be inspired by that bigger picture. So…

…that means that I do indeed have to work at inspiring others.

What I’ve learned from @Jim_Kouzes and Barry Posner (@bzposner), of The Leadership Challenge fame, is that we inspire others when we’re inspired. While the stereotypical “charismatic leader” may be what we have in our minds as the only one who is capable of inspiring people, we each have a passion that we can tap into in order to enlist people in what we believe can make a difference in the world.

Charisma isn’t limited to the great leaders like Martin Luther King. You show charisma when you talk about something that you truly care about – be it something at work that you care about, a political issue, your children, or even a favorite vacation. It’s about speaking – with conviction – about the meaning of your work, your world. 

What are you passionate about…today?

5 Creativity Questions: Boost Your Leadership with Creativity

Raise your hand if you are a creative genius. No? Well you are not alone if you feel that creativity is not your strong point. Many of us feel we left our creativity back in grade school with the finger-paints and Row Your Boat rounds.

Artist Rae Witvoet - A Creative Mind
Artist Rae Witvoet – A Creative Mind

Creativity is one of my personal values. For me, creativity is more about what I take in than my “output.” Sure, I’d love to say that I come up with cool graphics and unique ways to position things. And sometimes I do. But really, creativity is about what I have around me. A big part of that, for me, is art and music. I’m amazed at the talent, creativity and ingenuity I see in art, artist, music and musicians.

Creativity is a huge part of what we do as leaders, but I hear so many leaders say “Oh, I’m not creative.” What I find is that taking just 5 to 10 minutes exploring what that means and asking a few questions helps people see that they can be creative. I think most often, people feel like they aren’t artistic or don’t “think outside the box,” and stop expecting this of themselves.

Musicians and artists, on the other hand hone their creative skills by using simple things that we can all use. A simple prompting question can take them in another direction, ideas building on ideas. I’m a huge fan of reflection questions – they give folks time to ruminate on what’s important. So let’s try some creativity questions.

Here are a few examples I’ve seen of the challenges that leaders have and how Creativity Questions can help:

  1. Change your perceived environment to show vulnerability (read more about vulnerability at Bestbehaviors.com): Imagine you’ve never met your team before. What would you tell them about yourself as a leader?
  2. Use lists and images to encourage others: Who needs your encouragement today? List 10 things they are doing well. For each item on the list, think of a visual image or metaphor that would help them understand the impact they are making.
  3. Use humor to show that you are listening: What are some funny ways that you can share that you sometimes aren’t the best listener? (tip: this is another way to build trust through showing vulnerability)
  4. Compare your team to another kind of organization to find unique solutions: What would we do if we were a non-profit organization? Or what would we do if we were a start-up?
  5. Reflect on your own creativity to examine what’s holding you back: What’s the most creative thing I’ve done in the last month? Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem very creative. Take that example and list how you could have made that even more creative.

Most of the time we sell ourselves short when it comes to our creativity. Take one of these questions, or a question that you’ve been wrangling with recently. Write it down right now. Take just 10 minutes to come up with ideas, and I’m sure that you will surprise yourself with the ideas that start flowing.

I’d like to thank Mr. Jeremy Hatch, the Artful Fundraiser, for his prompting question to me this week that inspired me to continue to make a contribution – to leadership.

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