Grow Towards the Light #edchat #lead

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Are you a leader who works in darkness or light? In my personal experience, the leader who "works in the dark" is the one who makes decisions without others input, keeps others guessing about motives and intentions, doesn't let them know what he's thinking (or if any cognition was involved at all!).
Cowardly leaders love hiding in the dark. But, the best we can do is stumble when the lights are out. Declarations shine light in darkness. The five light-giving declarations of leadership: Declare yourself. Stop hiding, pretending, and losing yourself. People need to know who you are and what you are about. (Source: The Five Declarations of Leadership)
I wouldn't go so far as to say that ALL leaders hide in the dark, and therefore are cowards. Rather, it's often ignorance of how to lead. I remember when I first started my journey towards making decisions in the light of day with others rather than unilaterally. It felt wrong at first, but I felt more comfortable over time. The feeling probably isn't dis-similar to that of employees who are finding their way through a new pattern of behavior assigned to them when their standard behavior doesn't work. But the necessity for both learners is essential to survival in their roles--you learn new ways of interacting with others or you fail.

That's realization is one reason I love this quote from VitalSmarts folks:
Whenever you're not getting the results you're looking for, it's likely that a crucial conversation is keeping you stuck. Whether it's a problem with poor quality, slow time-to-market, declining customer satisfaction, or a strained relationship, if you can't talk honestly, you can expect poor results.
Talking honestly. How do you accomplish that? One approach that's quite popular these days is instructional coaching. Since I'm new to instructional coaching, here's the definition via Edutopia I'm relying on...feel free to offer others:
We all know it's important to work in teams. We know we can't figure out how to solve the crisis in public schools without collaboration. But how many of us have been a part of a team that has felt useless, dysfunctional, leaderless, or that just didn't fulfill its potential? Working in teams is hard and teams need strong facilitators, people who have been trained specifically on supporting a group of adults to collaborate. 
This is the role that a coach can play. 
In order to effectively support teams, coaches need knowledge about team development, they need to know how to design and facilitate meetings, and they needs skills to manage group dynamics and deal with conflict.
As I read this, I can't help but think of the VitalSmarts folks' work on crucial conversations. From my narrow perspective, it addresses the third paragraph quoted above. Rather that jump from approach to approach, I wonder why we don't just focus on one. Almost as soon as I ask that, though, I realize that people different and what fits me, may not fit them.

Another way of thinking of that is that some solutions "cover" or "align" or "map" the problem terrain--different for each person--better than others.

Although new to instructional coaching, the concept of cognitive coaching isn't new to me. I can't really compare the two or offer clear definitions. This is an area I am a beginner in, and wouldn't pretend to offer advice. So what follows are really self-reflections as I process information and read The Power of Rapport.

I regret that I didn't pay more attention and haven't really kept up with the whole coaching discussion. That fact was driven home from certain members of my PLN--people I'd introduced to the concept of PLN this year--when they started sharing information via their PLN about coaching.
Rapport begins with the sights and sounds of openness and positive regard. Any normal person approaching a potentially anxious encounter will raise his antennae high in search of clues about the road ahead...Mentors who broadcast power signals (peering over an imposing desk, closed body language, a reserved manner, or facial expressions that telegraph distance) risk complete failure to establish a good mentoring partnership. (Source: Random Acts of Leadership: The Power of Rapport)
Complete failure. Yes, if I were to make a score card of the points raised in the quoted paragraph above, I would find myself failing. I remember one of my first coaching efforts earlier 7 years ago, and it was a tense situation. Obvious to me now, I had not prepared adequately for this coaching effort.

1) Peering over an imposing desk.
Although I was to work with a colleague, coaching them on interactions with other departments, I relied on the power of my desk to create distance between us. To be honest, I did not want to get any closer to this staff member than I had to. I had no idea how to go about holding him/her accountable. So, in addition to failing to build rapport for a mentoring conversation, this person was choosing not to

The VitalSmarts folks have come out with a new series on Crucial Accountability; on their Facebook page, they cite the following stats:
Accountability is endangered. Did you know: - 94% fail to effectively hold their co-workers accountable - 1 in 3 have dealt with a co-workers' bad behavior for 5+ years - 3 in 4 report that unaccountable co-workers create severe problems for them, their customers or the organization
I can attest to the veracity of the information listed in those stats from personal experience. That's why crucial conversations/confrontations are so essential, even though I often sense that people feel, "Yeah, this is obvious and it doesn't apply to me." Simply, Crucial concepts are so deceptively simple that people fail to practice them because they don't think these principles apply to their situation. It's a mistake I've seen made again and again.

2) A reserved manner or facial expression that telegraph distance
Argh, this is one that leverages a long-time strategy of mine that is almost cultural. The stoic, reserved approach--the "poker face"--has been one that I grew up engaging in all my life. Changing that habit is hard work. My habits of aloofness, stepping back from the situation to gain perspective before re-engaging, enable me to gain a certain distance from a hostile scenario. However, that aloofness often confuses others I work with.  When I do allow a bit of personality to poke out (usually my impish sense of humor, or light sarcasm), it ends up sending mixed signals. For me, letting down the guard sends the message that it's OK for the other person to engage in unprofessional behavior.

Unfortunately, this means that others control my personality. That doesn't work for them or for me. I want to be a consistent presence of support. So, the question is, how can I allow my personality to shine while continuing to send a message that a lack of professionalism isn't permitted?

As a result, I have to focus on these factors mentioned in this article to enhance my professional relationships with others:

  • Find ways to send signals that our relationship will be beneficial to them.
  • Be sensitive to other's feelings behind the words and make responses that address those feelings without asking, "What are you feeling?"
  • Practice reflective listening that embeds my personal stories to help the other person know I understand what they are saying.
  • Don't be afraid to share my own feelings about an external situation.

Chris R. Bell shares the following:
...rapport is best served by humility and sensitivity. If you feel awkward, say you do. If you feel excited, say so. The sooner you speak your feelings, the faster the protégé will match your vulnerability.
I'll have to spend a bit more time focusing on coaching. Do you have any suggestions on how to best enhance my coaching?

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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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