Category Archives: The Leadership Challenge

The Leadership Challenge is written by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, with contributions by other thought leaders. Renee is a contributor to the 4th and 5th (current) edition.

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.

 

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

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!