We need everybody …

So this post is not about Agile or Scrum, Change or Collaboration — I simply have a photo album to share and thought I’d post it here! … Especially given that I’ve not posted anything in over six months. There is a thing, right, about setting blog writing goals, once a week, once a day? <— I believe that I am failing in that.

I could make this post about Leadership, though, and dog training. I think that could be a thing. I’m currently reading, How to Make your Dog COME Without Being a BUTT-HEAD … we could write the book, How to Make your Team WORK Without Being a BUTT-HEAD : )

Anyway, my family volunteers with Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue, transporting dogs. We’ve got two Pyrs, my Mom has three, and I grew up in a household that raised multiple litters of Pyrenees pups. Below is an album of photos I took at AGPR’s PyrFest 2016. Enjoy!

Via the Internet I was introduced to someone yesterday — Tragically, just a few days after he died, in an accident while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, though that manner of passing actually speaks volumes about his life and what I have learned about him since. He had guts.

I am talking about Scott Dinsmore, founder of Live Your Legend, and clearly an inspiration for thousands of individuals, likely hundreds of thousands. I wish I had “met” him sooner. But this is the thing of legends and connections via the web – in many ways, I can still get to know him, learn from him, be inspired by him. For that I am grateful, grateful to him, and grateful and intrigued by our connected world. And I am sorry for his wife, his family, and his friends, sorry for (though admittedly a little jealous of) those who knew him well and had the opportunity to spend time with him.

This video from his TEDx talk in San Francisco has been viewed, like, millions of times, but I’ll include it here as it remains a valuable message to anyone looking to live a life of meaning, purpose, self-direction, passion, courage, empathy, love — such was Scott’s life as I now read about and understand it.

Thank you, Scott.

Appreciation to Leo Babauta (zenhabits) for my introduction to Scott Dinsmore.

Another good eulogy from Chase Reeves: When an Internet Friend Dies

I recently read a Harvard Business Review Blog post by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, Research: 10 Traits of Innovative Leaders. I actually really like this list and will share it here, but I do have a couple qualifiers.

First off, let’s recognize that there are an uncountable number of lists out there claiming to distill “leadership” traits into an easily digestible number — not possible — Though, for my part, I do continue to read them when they crop up — and the many numbered lists do prompt thought and consideration around the “whats” and “hows” of leadership. My goal some day is to distill my own list, my own approach, down to a one thing.

Second: I wouldn’t relegate this particular list to only “Innovative” leaders. This is a good list for any leader, boss, manager, person responsible, person in charge. In this context, I am not even sure what “Innovative” means — Best clue is the first sentence which states, “Many organizations would like their leaders to create more innovative teams.” So what we are really talking about is “leaders of innovation” as opposed to “innovative leaders.” I would rephrase as, “Leaders of people (teams) working together to create something new, interesting, and valuable.”

What is most innovative, to me, about this particular list is that the authors went through the hard work of interviewing and understanding leaders, and leadership, from 360-degrees — gaining insight from people who surround these leaders, peers to bosses to direct reports.

Here’s their list, and I’ll leave it as my 2014 last word on “Leadership:”

  1. Display excellent strategic vision. The most effective innovation leaders could vividly describe their vision of the future, and as one respondent noted about his boss: “She excelled at painting a clear picture of the destination, while we worked to figure out how to get there.”
  2. Have a strong customer focus. What was merely interesting to the customer became fascinating to these individuals. They sought to get inside the customer’s mind. They networked with clients and asked incessant questions about their needs and wants.
  3. Create a climate of reciprocal trust. Innovation often requires some level of risk. Not all innovative ideas are successful. These highly innovative leaders initiated warm, collaborative relationships with the innovators who worked for them. They made themselves highly accessible. Colleagues knew that their leader would cover their backs and not throw them under the bus if something went wrong. People were never punished for honest mistakes.
  4. Display fearless loyalty to doing what’s right for the organization and customer. Pleasing the boss or some other higher level executive always took a back seat to doing the right thing for the project or the company.
  5. Put their faith in a culture that magnifies upward communication. These leaders believed that the best and most innovative ideas bubbled up from underneath. They strived to create a culture that uncorked good ideas from the first level of the organization. They were often described as projecting optimism, full of energy, and always receptive to new ideas. Grimness was replaced with kidding and laughter.
  6. Are persuasive. These individuals were highly effective in getting others to accept good ideas. They did not push or force their ideas onto their teams. Instead, they presented ideas with enthusiasm and conviction, and the team willingly followed.
  7. Excel at setting stretch goals. These goals required people to go far beyond just working harder. These goals required that they find new ways to achieve a high goal.
  8. Emphasize speed. These leaders believed that speed scraped the barnacles off the hull of the boat. Experiments and rapid prototypes were preferred to lengthy studies by large committees.
  9. Are candid in their communication. These leaders were described as providing honest, and at times even sometimes blunt, feedback. Subordinates felt they could always count on straight answers from their leader.
  10. Inspire and motivate through action. One respondent said, “For innovation to exist you have to feel inspired.” This comes from a clear sense of purpose and meaning in the work.

In leading a team, and inspiring creativity, in motivating people and co-workers, trust is critical. Trust is an important value in SCRUM. I was once being interviewed for a new position in a company. The interviewer was complaining about the work of one of their graphic designers. He hadn’t hit a critical deadline. They have daily stand ups, where obstacles are meant to be shared, but he hadn’t indicated any troubles. She didn’t understand why. So, I asked, “How is the trust?” She answered, “Well, there’s none now — he basically just screwed it up!” — She didn’t get it. I was asking, “How is the trust from you, in your communication and a staff member’s ability to speak of obstacles, or failures, without blame?” Not likely very high.

Roderick Kramer has a good article in Stanford Business on how trustworthy leaders behave. I suggest it as a good, and brief, read — But here are some bullet points:

  • They project confidence, competence, and benevolence.
  • They say — and show — that trust is an important company value.
  • They establish clear roles and systems to speed trust.
  • They share the credit, and they take the blame.
  • They don’t mask a crisis.

Great points, great insight!

I am always intrigued by reminders that we are all so human and still driven by biology and chemistry. In this article Judith E. Glaser highlights the neurochemistry behind a particular challenge of leadership, management, and collaboration: We can become addicted to the neurochemical feeling bestowed by being right, and we can let that chemical payoff impact our ability to listen, to encourage others, and to collaborate.

I’ve coached dozens of incredibly successful leaders who suffer from this addiction. They are extremely good at fighting for their point of view (which is indeed often right) yet they are completely unaware of the dampening impact that behavior has on the people around them. If one person is getting high off his or her dominance, others are being drummed into submission, experiencing the fight, flight, freeze or appease response I described before, which diminishes their collaborative impulses.

Ms. Glasner prescribes some exercises to help one overcome this addiction: Setting rules of engagement, listening with empathy, planning who speaks. These are good.

In general, I would encourage you (us) to be aware of this possible addiction — to pause, check yourself — what’s driving your need to be right? If there is a question as to that answer, then stop talking for a bit and simply listen.

Reference kudos: Hugh MacLeod, creative genius at gapingvoid.com