Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Providing Quality Service with Technology

Source: http://goo.gl/x6Cv9
"I'm off to a campus!" Those are words that either signal great trust among central office support staff, or cause apprehension.

PROBLEM
This all came to a head about two years ago for a mid-size district (in another state, not Texas!) whose schools were spread all over the county, it seemed. A friend who works in that school district shared a new initiative implemented in her district--walkie-talkie phones with GPS for staff. The problem, she pointed out, was that several technology specialists were checking in every morning, then disappearing for the day. The concern among top administrators was that these specialists were going home, running errands across town, which in a large urban center can take hours. 

THEIR SOLUTION?
The solution, they decided, was to issue these push to talk phones to address the gap from what was happening to what should be happening. Though the problem wasn't rampant, morale was low among the specialists who knew what was going on but felt like they could do little but grumble anonymously. Rather than confront the issue, leadership decided to implement a costly solution paid for with precious district funds--push to talk phones with GPS built into them. The phones' GPS signal allowed the district administrators to track where every specialist was at during the day, except when the specialists left their district-issued phone at work on their desk.

In many districts, this would be a non-issue. That is, it would be handled quickly and expediently. The process is one you're probably familiar with:
  1. Survey your customers to ensure that service is provided in a timely manner and establish a baseline.
  2. Let everyone know that you're going to hold people responsible for this after a certain period of time.
  3. Document the problems as you can, including following up to see if work orders are taken care of.
  4. Meet individually with offenders and go through the district process identified in admin procedure.
But for fun, what's another approach? Let's try the Crucial Confrontations approach on and explore it below. If you think I'm off on my interpretation, let me know in the comments!

REFLECTION
In school districts, we've seen a growing realization that technology can't be used to manage classroom behavior. Simply, you don't use content filtering, enact complex policies to control something that isn't a technology problem in the first place, right? 

Is technology the real problem the folks in the scenario are facing? One of my favorite books for dealing with these kinds of issues is Crucial Confrontations. The approach can be boiled down to a 3 step approach that goes something like what follows. For fun, I'm going to write it up as a narrative.

Step 1 - Safely Describe the Gap
"John," Maria began after they had both seated themselves in a private meeting room. "When we met last week as a group, we agreed that we would start the day here to pick up assigned trouble-tickets, then go out to campuses. At the end of the day, we would head back and check into the office, update the database to reflect completed jobs. Do you recall that conversation?"
"Yes, I do," answered John.
"Earlier today, Ms. Martinez (Principal) called and shared you'd signed in after lunch. Since you arrived after lunch, there wasn't time to finish the job and she pointed out that you told her you would have to come back later this week. Since this was the only campus you had to visit today,  I was wondering what happened. Did you run into a problem of some kind?"
The goal in this step, as I understand it, is to describe what the gap in what was done and what was expected. How you begin this conversation, per CC, is whether this is a first-time occurrence, a recurring trend, or flagrant violation of your relationship with the staff member. The authors of CC use a simple approach called CPR-Content, Pattern, Relationship.  In the first incidence, you deal with the content of what happened. The scenario above is focused on the content. If this scenario occurs more than once, you have to establish that there is a pattern of behavior that has developed. If the pattern continues, then the entire relationship suffers, and you change your focus to deal with that.

Step 2 - Identify Why the Problem Occurred-  Motivation, Ability or Both
The importance of this step is to identify what is motivating the person, whether it's the consequences of what has to be done (or not done), a lack of ability that prevents him from getting it done, or both. For example, in the scenario above, it may be that John has other circumstances outside of work that require his time elsewhere. The consequences of failing to be present in that situation (e.g. sick mother who needs attention) appear greater than the consequences of being tardy in meeting the needs of the school (the organization's needs).

Another possibility may be that John doesn't have the skills to get the job done or a personality conflict. He may find the work he's about intimidating and he's putting off dealing with it as much as possible, prolonging the time away from dealing with the issues. To get through this step, Maria has to remind John of consequences that matter to him. Here's a scenario that attempts to capture that:
"As you know, we've agreed to provide a high level of customer service to our campuses. When you don't meet your appointments, it puts me in the awkward position of trying to fix a problem you are responsible for. While I can make a temporary adjustment to your schedule so you can take care of your mother, we need to have more open communication about when you aren't going to be able to meet your commitment to the organization, or put another way, when your personal commitments are going to take you away from work. "
An observation: This problem isn't about technology issues, is it? It's a leadership issue. As leaders, we have to be brave enough to hold people accountable, diligent enough to follow up and set deadlines for completion of work.

Step 3 - Wrap up conversation by determining who does what by when.
Since the goal of the conversation really is close the gap between what was agreed upon and what actually happened, it's important to set measurable outcomes. One of the ways that is suggested is to set expectations for who will do what by when.
"Maria," John started, "I appreciate your time and understanding about this issue. To review, after I leave here in the morning to sign in, I will head to my assigned campus and arrive no later than 8:30am to resolve trouble-tickets. I will finish the job in a timely manner and log it via the web interface, as well as ask the person who submitted the work order to complete a customer service survey about the quality of the work."
Again, if this single event is a pattern of behavior that continues, damaging the relationship between Maria and John--essentially, Maria no longer trusts John to honor his word--then it's time to step up the documentation, consequences, and move to reprimand and/or termination per District procedure.

Thoughts?


Note: This is one in a series of blog entries exploring the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Director of Technology. Please be sure toread the whole series! 

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Fit In - The Kundalini Equation in #EdTech


Note: This is one in a series of blog entries exploring the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Director of Technology. Please be sure toread the whole series! 


Why doesn't technology fit in better with curriculum and instruction? It's a question that I've pondered often over the last 20 years, often wondering if it shouldn't be the other way around. Why doesn't curriculum and instruction fit in more with technology? But, then, I remember my experience driving the highway one day and ask, Is fitting in the right way to look at it? Or, do we need to focus on dynamic tension, the synergy between the 3?

Do you remember when "fitting in" was a good thing? You know, you go to school, and the advice your parents gave you was, "Don't worry, you'll fit in." You start a new job, and the boss says to you, "Don't worry, you'll fit in soon enough!" That's a death knell, right? Does fitting in mean you're going to accept the status quo?

On my work commute, I had a visceral reaction to a sign from a university. I forget the university, but the gigantic billboard next to the highway certainly grabbed my attention. In red letters, Fit in. caught my eye and my gut-level reaction was, "No way!" I immediately second-guessed myself. Am I so rebellious, so anti-authority, anti-establishment that fitting in is now a bad thing? 
Seth refuses to believe that passion is something you're born with. So if it's not heredity, what is it that differentiates someone [who does something]...from a random person working at a "compliant" type of a job without any desire to change the world? The difference, Seth says, is fear. It's the most important emotion in the world. 
We evolved as human beings to fit in. If you did not fit in to the village of 150 people and the chief got mad at you, you were kicked out, the tigers would find you and you would die. So we were trained to fit in, to do what we're told, to buy into the norm.
Today, the ideas is the currency, not the ability to do what you're told. If you want to make an impact in this world, you better overcome your fear of being different and stand out from the crowd. (Read More Seth Godin)
We don't overcome our fear, so we're "doomed" to fit in. We overcome our fear, we better watch out for tigers and a short lifespan. Yes, that about covers the popular perspective on the lives of modern superintendents who endure for 2-3 years before moving on to another job. If they were afraid, they'd do something else. 
As I've shared previously, my desire as a K-16 student was to fit in whenever possible. Even during my early career years, the goal wasn't to do extraordinary things--unless helping students be extraordinary using writing and technology isn't ordinary--but to get a job and keep it. Some time in the last 20 years, my vision has changed. Now, I feel an onset of irritation when someone says, "Why do more? Why don't you just be grateful for a pay check? Why don't you fit in?" even when I'm not a part of the conversation! 

"Fit in" is good advice for college students when that phrase means, Find some place that aligns with your core values and beliefs, that will help you dig to bedrock of your soul and tap into the wellspring of power that lies latent inside you. "Fit in" in this sense lets you unleash your "kundalini" (would you believe I first ran into that term reading science fiction--Steven Barnes' The Kundalini Equation--when I was a high school senior and it stuck with me until this blog post? Unbelievable). 

Watching my daughter go through interview process with a university that could swing her up into the stars, it occurs to me that "fitting in" is terrible advice when it means, "Do what you can to fit in, don't rock the boat, support the status quo." The reason my daughter gets access to awesome university opportunities--scholarships that can take her far farther than my wife and I could with our meager education pay--is because she's 1) Obsessed about pursuing her academic passions; 2) Unwilling to sit still and be quiet, instead reaching out to make connections; and 3) She's darn smart!

Now, what happens when you think of technology, pedagogy and content? If we were to personify those 3 areas, it would be easy to imagine technology as the child who is constantly being told to "fit in," right? Think about the conversation:
Pedagogy says, "You can't do nothing without me, baby!" 
Content cries out, "You ain't got nothing without me, honey!" and 
Technology replies, "I guess that must be true."

A quote from a recent MyNotes article really has stuck with me, and I'm going to share it again:
Digital design neither learning about technology nor learning with technology, but learning creativity and innovation through technology. 
http://tpck.org/
Now, while many educational technology folks know about this already, it's worth revisiting the idea of TPACK:
The TPACK approach goes beyond seeing these three knowledge bases in isolation. On the other hand, it emphasizes the new kinds of knowledge that lie at the intersections between them. Considering P and C together we get Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), Shulman’s idea of knowledge of pedagogy that is applicable to the teaching of specific content. Similarly, considering T and C taken together, we get Technological Content Knowledge (TCK), the knowledge of the relationship between technology and content. 
At the intersection of T and P, is Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), which emphasizes the existence, components and capabilities of various technologies as they are used in the settings of teaching and learning. 
Finally, at the intersection of all three elements is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator). Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, [transactional] relationship between all three components. (Source: http://tpck.org/)
When people ask, where does technology fit into the grand scheme of teaching, learning and leadership? we have to step back and ask ourselves, do we really want technology to "fit in," or do we want to find that sweet spot, unleash the coiled energy that lies at the base of the relationship between Pedagogy, Content, and Technology?

Source: http://goo.gl/YjAIK

Note: Lest I be branded a New Ager and burned at the stake, please know that this blog post is not an endorsement of kundalini, yoga, chakras or anything like that, but rather, a playful "stretch" of the mind that encourages educators--especially ultra-conservative educators--to rethink their approach to the idea that technology should fit into pedagogy and content model.

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Short-handed and Resource Rich


Note: This is one in a series of blog entries exploring the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Director of Technology. Please be sure toread the whole series! 

"How many people on your staff?" I'd struck up a conversation with a technology director at the TCEA 2012 Conference. She was riding herd on Google Academy flyers and sign-in sheets, an exciting job that made her look like a shepherd without a flock since they'd all gone to attend workshops. "I'm the only one," she responded, "chief cook and bottlewasher."
"You mean you do the networking and the instructional stuff," I inquired incredulously, "all by your lonesome?"
"Yes," she replied. Her hard smile spoke of grim determination and commitment to a job well done. Of course, given there was no one else to complain about, no other staff members whose unhappiness kept them from getting the job done well, Louis L'Amour's quote in the mouth of his characters came to mind: One is stronger when he stands alone (a poor paraphase).

As I reflect on that chat with the tech director, I realize I forgot to ask the most important question of all--how do you do it?

The truth is, a part of me didn't want to know. I suppose I was sufficiently awed that any one person could be a technology demi-god--a position I turned down early in my career that paid, quite literally, less than a teacher making poverty line pay. Still, in the years I've been in edtech, one lesson has been driven home--A small team of tech-savvy individuals can accomplish quite a bit. The reason why is the technology itself makes data-collection, information/idea dissemination easy to accomplish. 

The image below was making the rounds on social networks near you--G+, Facebook--and when I imagine what life is like in organizations that are short-handed, resource-rich environments, I can't help but smile a bit.


In every organization I've been in, I've always been short-handed. You know, so much so that I wonder if it wasn't perfect training for the kind of world many of us have found ourselves living in as budgets are slashed and we're left trying to figure out how to implement. In these environments where a small team specializes to the nth degree, there's a danger that cross-training will fall by the wayside and we'll end up with the "tyrant competente," a made up term that describes a person like the one below:

An individual contributor is a person whose technical competence is judged in terms of singular rather than interdependent action. The more unique the individual output, the more powerful the person becomes. The overapplication of the technical paradigm by an individual can lead to a negative state called the tyranny of competence.
Source: Robert Quinn's Tyranny of Competence 
The tyranny of competence results when ONE person become THE person in the organization that can do stuff.  
“Knowledge was not meant to be locked behind doors. It breathes best in the open air where all men can inhale its essence.” ― Louis L'AmourThe Haunted Mesa
We have to ask ourselves, what do we do when key staff members supporting critical district systems your District has purchased and upon which it is dependent, leave or "play it close to the vest?" Each person's competence in a singular area--and no one else on the team who knew how to do something--puts Districts in this situation.

Often, Districts that find out a staff member is leaving will do the following:
  1. craft a transition plan,
  2. schedule a series of meetings to explore how, not what, this person was accomplishing what s/he had been tasked with doing.
  3. assign new roles to other staff and
  4. adjust the deadlines and expectations (usually, longer and down, respectively)
When we face "brain-drain" situations, when we have allowed people to become tyrants of competence, we have to remember to be grateful. Going forward, we can put the following in place:

  • Hire new staff that can 1) work as a team and 2) have the skills to be technically competent.
  • Change the culture of his remaining workers to ensure that the focus is on teamwork.
  • Establish a model of teaming and learning that does not make any one person a tyrant of competency.
But that's not enough. When you're short-handed, key personnel are gone, you have to pick up the pieces. You fundamentally have to learn how to rely on technologies and ways of communicating that differ from what you've done in the past that put you under the thumb of tyrants of competence.

In my own work, I see cross-training as an absolute must-do. If you have one person in charge of a massive system--such as a learning management system that tracks high quality professional development and is used for federal funding reports--then rotate the job among available staff. If you have a network gal who is the only one who can do network configuration, then you have to cross-train. "No" is not an acceptable answer...we must teach each other what we know so that when we get hit by a truck at a gas station, the organization won't be left scrambling to figure out what to do.
"The radical ideas of today are often the conservative policies of tomorrowand dogma is left protesting by the wayside." Louis L'Amour, The Walking Drum
Perhaps, more importantly, we need to consider what technology we have available to help us rethink out approach to the work we are about.

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Cheap is Beautiful - Linux, RaspberryPi and Scratch


Back in January, 2012 I experimented with Crunchbang Linux and then promptly replaced it with LubuntuLinux. Last night, a bit bored and while reading some dry material, after upgrading LubuntuLinux to 12.04, I decided I didn't like the look-n-feel. So, I found myself installing Crunchbang, using it without problems, and realizing that my first impression was slightly off...it was probably my first experience with Openbox GUI interface (as opposed to GNOME or, yuck, KDE).

The Debian Squeeze-based system seems to be working well, and I only had to make some minor modifications, all handled via GUI menu that's built-in. And, it's hard to convey, but the system is fast on this Dell Latitude E6410!! It will be some time before I decide if I like it better than LubuntuLinux, or PeppermintTwo, which I still have installed on my Macbook. For now, Crunchbang is working smoothly and I only made a few modifications such as add repositories, customized Tint2 to get the clock to display the way I wanted, and added some of my favorite programs (sudo apt-get install shutter libgoo-canvas-perl simple-scan as well as GoogleChrome, LibreOffice, KeepassX and Truecrypt. In truth, GoogleChrome and LibreOffice actually had scripts to help load software faster, in addition to the initial Crunchbang script to make loading miscellaneous software easier (and fast!)).

What's really incredible is that we have full-featured operating systems available for use on computers--old and new--that wouldn't cost schools ANY money, and, more importantly, are easy to share with students. That may explain why Raspberry Pi $25/$35 "computer" sold out so quickly. People are looking for accessible technology that doesn't cost half a grand.




The younger generation may be considered more tech-savvy than their elders, however, knowing how to access social networks or use Microsoft Office applications does not necessarily equate to knowing how the software actually works — a skills gap that many businesses and organisations are now coming across.
The Raspberry Pi is sold uncased and comes with a USB port for a keyboard, an Ethernet port, SD card slot, a HDMI port for video and is able to run a number of systems. In order to use the Raspberry Pi, users must supply their own keyboard and screen.
The $35 version runs as a Linux computer with 256MB RAM — although a £16 ($25) version is in the making and will be available later in the year.
Created by volunteers, mainly from technological and academic circles, the Raspberry Pi Foundation hopes that it will help inspire children to learn how to program. 
Read More at ZDnet

If you've heard of Scratch from MIT, it's a simple, powerful programming tool for youngsters! It's mentioned as one of the tools in this STEM Digital Design course, and can be installed on Linux. Let me say that again...you can install a powerful tool like Scratch on Linux, which is free. Scratch is also free, so all that you're paying for is a machine. What could we do with students if only we didn't have to buy the latest fad for schools?

http://scratch.mit.edu/


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide


The Classroom Teacher’s Technology Survival Guide
 


http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118024559,descCd-buy.html
A comprehensive guide for integrating educational technology in the K-12 classroomThis is a must-have resource for all K-12 teachers and administrators who want to really make the best use of available technologies. Written by Doug Johnson, an expert in educational technology, The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide is replete with practical tips teachers can easily use to engage their students and make their classrooms places where both students and teachers will enjoy learning.
  • Covers the most up-to-date technologies and how they can best be used in the classroom
  • Includes advice on upgrading time-tested educational strategies using technology
  • Talks about managing "disruptive technologies" in the classroom
  • Includes a wealth of illustrative examples, helpful suggestions, and practical tips
This timely book provides a commonsense approach to choosing and using educational technology to enhance learning.

The Classroom Teacher’s Survival Guide to Technology is the book I’ve always wanted to write, but Doug Johnson did it first and did it better. It’s a clearly written, funny, common sense, yet absolutely comprehensive book for the everyday teacher. It offers a wealth of practical advice for using technology in the classroom and developing a personal plan to improving professional practices. Doug’s book is a must-read for any teacher who’s the slightest bit white knuckle about teaching and using technology in the digital age. Ian Jukes, Director, 21st Century Fluency Project
Doug Johnson’s latest book, The Classroom Teacher’s Survival Guide to Technology, is required reading for all educators.  Appropriate for any experience level, the book is a comprehensive field guide to effective teaching with technology.  Ric Wiltse, Executive Director, Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL)
 
It is no surprise that “The Classroom Teacher’s Survival Guide to Technology” reads with the easy to understand sage advice of this seasoned veteran.  In Garrison Keeler style comfort, Doug takes the reader on a building spiral of more sophisticated learning, peppered with humorous and down-home bits of wisdom honed from decades of diligence and success. Readers can use the book for personal learning, a book study, or to be more informed as a participant in a school or district technology leadership committee. Experienced or future educational technology directors or CTO’s can gather insights in how to work with the educators in their district on their continued journey to maximize effective technology enhanced strategies, along with some inspiring anecdotes. Gordon K. Dahlby, PhD, Educational Technology Advisor/Consultant Leadership in Policy,  Planning and Practice

Let Doug Johnson, an educator’s educator,  be your guide-on-the-side to make the most effective, most efficient use of technology in your classroom—whatever your grade level, whatever your subject.  David Chojnacki, Executive Director, Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools
Re-title this book—The Book of Wisdom: A balanced guide to classroom technology integration by folksy, easy to read, veteran educator, Doug Johnson. Miguel Guhlin
Few educators can offer more practical advice on navigating the challenges and embracing the opportunities of the world of technology we live and learn in today. And even fewer deliver that advice in such an engaging, witty style. This is an important, enjoyable book for anyone interested in improving classrooms and schools for our kids. Will Richardson
Teachers, IT Directors, and integrators will benefit from the practical, high-impact ideas Doug shares in his book. His blog has been a mainstay of my PLN since day 1Vicki Davis, author - Cool Cat Teacher(tm) blog, co-founder Flat Classroom(r) projects. 
The Classroom Teacher’s Technology Survival Guide will empower every classroom teacher to use technology in a meaningful way to support teaching and learning. Filled with practical overviews of the “big picture”, as well as specifics on the use of technology for real-life classroom applications, Doug uses his years of experience to guide the classroom teacher to an understanding of how technology best fits in the classroom. A must for every teacher’s bookshelf! Kathy Schrock, Educational Technologist
With so much written about technology in schools and so little of it that is both practicl and thoughtful, The Classroom Teacher’s Technology Survival Guide splendidly meets thos often-ignored standards. Thank you, Doug Johnson. Larry Cuban, Professor Emeritus of Education, Stanford University
Doug’s trademark humor and humility will help any teacher - whether novice or expert - navigate the difficult terrain of classroom technology integration. This is a great resource for a building-wide book study. Dr. Scott McLeod, Associate Professor, Educational Leadership, and Founding Director, CASTLE, University of Kentucky
Mashing handy checklists, practical wisdom, deep experience, and a refreshingly honest dose of skepticism, Doug Johnson coaches even the most reluctant teachers and administrators to plan a move from basic to meaningful to transofrmational use of new and emerging technologies. Joyce Kasman Valenza, PhD, Teacher-Librarian at Springfield (PA) Township HS Library, author, and technology advocate.


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Slash and Burn - Leadership in the Field

Image adapted from source: http://goo.gl/1uizf
Note: This is one in a series of blog entries exploring the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Director of Technology. Please be sure toread the whole series! 


Do you remember reading your grade school social studies textbook, looking at a picture a field with brown figures depicting Native Americans engaged in slash-n-burn on their fields? I do. The idea of slash-n-burn approach to getting a field ready for use has stayed with me and it pops into my head when I consider leadership approaches that many of us encounter in real life, even in K-12 education.
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique which involves cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock herding.[1] (Source: Wikipedia)
What I like about juxtaposing slash-and-bun with leadership styles is the concept of subsistence agriculture. That is, an approach to farming that results in only enough food for the family and themselves. It's an easy connection to make because leadership styles that are command-n-control are focused on getting the minimum out of workers. The organization subsists but it doesn't thrive...people don't give "their all" and instead, you have people throwing a party when it's time to leave at day's end. In these organizations, micro-management, distrust are systemic and decision-making is concentrated in the hands of a few rather than delegated to trusted teams and/or individuals. Instead of resulting in high-performing people, slash-n-burn leadership degenerates an organization filled with people doing what they need to survive, the bare minimum to earn a paycheck.

We can be so much more.

This connection came to mind when I read Leadership vs Control. In that blog entry:
A new administrator takes over a department or division and immediately begins issuing edicts, disbanding committees, replacing people, and squelching the inevitable dissent–through fear and intimidation, if necessary. 
In another area, a new person comes in and right away starts working to build consensus, listening to those who have been there longer and seeking to understand the issues before making any drastic decisions. 
How can two people in such similar situations take such radically divergent approaches?
When you consider how essential it is to cultivate relationships of trust with the people you work with to get anything done, control leadership can easily be perceived as a slash-n-burn approach that destroys the environment, involves the use of "burning up" or consuming resources because a leader is unwilling to make a change in approach. In fact, fear of trust characterizes command and control leaders, as a comment on the blog entry cited above points out:
Control goes hand-in-hand with micro-managing...both of which tend to neglect the skills and expertise of those hired to do their jobs.
Yet, if we want people to bring everything to the table for the benefit of those whom the organization serves, neglecting and be dis-trustful of the people who serve causes fundamental problems (a neat follow-up question is, how do you address problems once you've established people were unworthy of trust you bestowed upon them?)

Some of the strategies that facilitate building relationships that diverge radically from slash-n-burn approach include the following:
  1. Listen fully
  2. Share differences openly
  3. Find truths that integrate opposing perspectives.  (Source: Nick Heap)
I really like the approach outlined in this blog entry--What Makes a Leader?--focusing about emotional intelligences:


In building relationships, I really see self-regulation as a key area - 1) ability to control or redirect one's own disruptive impulses and moods; and 2) the propensity to think before acting. In my own work as an administrator, it's easy to engage in slash-n-burn approaches to leadership. The default for folks is to exert top-down control, but you have to check that approach at the door. The reason is so easy to jump to conclusions--those disruptive impulses--is because they involve a story of some sort, a story that makes you look bad, and embarrasses stakeholders involved. 

How do you back out of that? In the blog entry, Leadership vs Control, it is suggested that consensus might be the approach to use. We get a false dichotomy, right? Consensus vs Command-n-Control. As one of the commenters on that blog entry points out:
if the leadership literature tells us anything, it is that no one leadership style is right for all situations.
Again, we don't have to choose between one or the other. Instead, we can agree that we must build relationships and then decide what is the best approach for making decisions in particular situations. For example, in Crucial Conversations, the authors suggest 4 methods of decision-making along with 4 questions to ask (hmm, I feel a diagram coming on):
  1. Command - Use this approach when it's a "low-stakes issue" or we have "complete trust in the ability of the delegate to make the right decision. More involvement adds nothing." In this approach, it's important to identify which elements are flexible and which are not, then allow others to provide feedback on flexible items. Also, explain the reason why.
  2. Consult - This approach is used when "the decision-maker invites others to influence them before they make their choice." Often people feel that they shouldn't be asked about something if you're just going to do something...and that makes sense, right? There's unclear expectations about the consultation process, especially if a leader has already made up their mind. If you let people know what to expect up front about the process, when you report your decision they won't be as surprised.
  3. Vote - This is best used when "efficiency is the highest value and there are a number of good options" but "should never be used when team members don't agree to support whatever decision is made." Use voting to eliminate many choices down to a few, then consider using consensus to make the final selection. Avoid using voting as a way to avoid dialogue.
  4. Consensus - This approach should only be used with high-stakes and complex issues OR issues where everyone absolutely must support the final choice. That said, the authors of encourage one to be aware that just because you engage in consensus doesn't mean the final choice will be exactly what they want. 
The 4 questions to ask include the following: 1) Who cares?; 2) Who knows? 3) Who must agree?; and 4) How many people it is worth involving?

We need to be able to work together...leaders have to find ways to unleash the power in those they work with, enable them to all do their best in their area of expertise to realize the benefits of the hard work:
Source: http://goo.gl/N4DRo
If we had to compare it, we might look at it as slash-and-burn vs sustainable agriculture. The latter seeks to 1) Give back to to the environment; 2) Avoid using artifice (a.k.a. chemicals); 3) Treat everyone with trust and respect; 4) Hold yourself accountable.


Disclaimer: I'm playing with ideas in this blog post. I have never been a farmer in my life and pray that in the coming zombie apocalypse, I don't have to learn that skill that kept humans alive for thousands of years (and still does!).


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure