Contribution

Charisma was once a key word in discussions of leadership. It suggested that leadership was a gift from God. Today it is less commonly used. We are not comfortable talking about God. So the name has been changed to idealized influence. A person with idealized influence is inherently good, does things for a higher purpose and radiates positive energy. The person is an attractor.

Idealized influence comes to us when we embrace our most deeply held ambitions. Our most deeply held ambitions are not selfish. They are heroic. We all want to contribute. When we commit to create a result, when the result reflects our deepest values and when those values lead us to serve the common good, we step out of the normal life state. We are no longer passive or reactive. We are fulfilling a mission that matters.

We thus experience the unfolding of our best self and we love what we are doing. We therefore feel good about ourselves. We are filled with positive emotions and positive thoughts. We are filled with hope, optimism and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek. It means being “filled with spirit” or “God in us.” It lifts other people.

When we are enthusiastic, we usually have an idea, vision or project that is giving us energy. When this happens others are often attracted and want to be part of that which we are creating. Charisma is not limited to a few gifted people. Charisma is the energy that is manifest in each of us when we chose to do that thing the universe has prepared us to do. When we make the choice to contribute, we attract people into a new, higher order of community. Even in the midst of the most secular hierarchy, people begin to share energy and potential escalates.

Reflection

Who do I know at work who has idealized influence?

Why drives people of idealized influence?

How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

 

Discovering the Underlying Template

In 2015 Jim Harbaugh accepted the job as football coach at the University of Michigan. Over the next 12 months he became a perpetual motion machine with an electrifying effect on play, recruitment, the university, town and even the country.

Close to the 2016 signing day for new recruits, Harbaugh appeared on the Dan Patrick show in San Francisco. There was a light-hearted moment when Patrick challenged Harbaugh to convince a young man named Seton O’Connor to hit himself in the face with a pie. The humorous event, which can be seen here, actually reveals a lesson worthy of our attention.

At the start there is a brief moment of awkwardness for both people.   Then we watch Harbaugh do things that seem natural to him. First, instead of trying to persuade, Harbaugh uses inquiry. He asks Seton if he remembers George Halas, coach of the Chicago Bears.

Normally asking a question like this creates engagement. The only problem is that Seton looks at Harbaugh blankly. To the shock of everyone on the show, he cannot answer.

Pause for a moment. If you were Harbaugh, on television with this awkward situation, what would you do next? I believe most of us would get nervous and become increasingly ineffective. What does he do?

Harbaugh says, “I want you to put this pie in your face better than it has ever been done before.”

Despite his disorientation, Seton suddenly focuses. He says, “You want me to do it with enthusiasm?”

Notice that now the conversation is not about if he will put the pie in his face, but about how he will do it.

Harbaugh nods and replies to the query about the level of enthusiasm, “Unknown to mankind, better than anyone has ever done before.”

Seton seems excited but then looks at the pie and pauses. Harbaugh notices the pause and asks, “Do you want me to give you a three count?” He is referring to the count that a quarterback gives to a center so as to trigger the snapping of the football.

Seton nods his head. Harbaugh gives the count and Seton puts the pie in his own face with enthusiasm. The group explodes with glee.

It all seems so funny yet in this scene is a microcosm from which we can learn much. What Harbaugh does is clearly spontaneous and natural. Yet his efforts follow a recognizable pattern. While it may be an unconscious pattern, he is operating according to the positive mindset and the principles of transformational influence.

He can stimulate people to think and behave differently. We call this transformational leadership. Transformational leaders change cultures and people. They inspire high performance. The seemingly silly scene is a microcosm of transformational leadership.

Transformational leaders create interest or engagement. They often do this by asking questions. This was the first thing Harbaugh did.

They also provide inspirational motivation, a desirable image of the future. Instead of giving instructions, Harbaugh gives Seton the opportunity to pie himself as no one has ever done it before.   Even though he is uneasy, Seton finds the challenge inspiring and intrinsically motivating. He is ready to go.

While inspired, Seton, nevertheless, pauses. Transformational leaders also supply individual consideration and support. While they ask people to perform at high levels, they are also sensitive to individual needs and they use their creativity to help individuals commit and move forward. Again, without much conscious thought, Harbaugh offers to give the three-count. Seton is ready to act.

Some argue that leaders are born, not made. It may be that some people are naturally inclined towards transformational influence, but no one internalizes the positive template without going through their own transformative learning processes.

We were invited to meet with a group of young professionals in medicine. They wanted to discuss how to become change agents. We started with two questions. First, how did they define the word leader? They responded that it was someone who can stimulate people to feel, think, see and do things in a new way.

Next, we asked them to differentiate between a novice, an expert, and a master. One person said a novice is someone who is just learning. An expert is a person who learns to effectively lead his or her own organization or group. A master is a person who takes the principles of leadership and generalizes them in such a way that they can effectively lead any organization or group.

The answer exceeded our expectations. They were implying that there is a generalized theory of leadership that allows a person to effectively inspire change in any situation. We have already made this claim about Harbaugh. Two other illustrations come to mind. The first was a world leader. The second is relatively unknown public school teacher.

There is a movie called Gandhi. It well illustrates his development from novice to master. At the start of his career Gandhi was awkward in his attempts to influence. Yet he continually reflected on his experiences, tried new experiments and grew into a master. At the end of his life he was able to enter nearly any situation and stimulate people to feel, think, see and do things in a new way. He, like Harbaugh, had a generalized set of action principles that he could use in any situation.

The public school teacher was someone we had met personally, a woman who struggled to get her credentials and who took years to learn how to excel, eventually becoming highly effective in the classroom. Referring to her experience as an undergraduate in an education school, she told us, you learn the “rules” of teaching. Then you go to your first class and you learn that every child is different, that each one has a unique set of needs that you have to learn how to work with each unique child.

“Then,” she said, surprising us, “you go to the next level.” Fascinated, we asked her what that was. She said that she eventually learned that every child was the same. No matter what a child says or does, every child wants to be respected, every child wants to succeed, and so on. No matter what the superficial signals suggest, they all have the same set of intrinsic needs. She told us that once she discovered they are all the same, she could effectively teach any group, old or young, gifted or special education.

This woman, like Gandhi, reflected continually on her experiences, tried new experiments and kept growing. She went from a novice at empathy to an expert who could understand and attend to the needs of each child. Operating as an expert she kept growing until she made a profound discovery. She learned to scale empathy. She learned to empathize with the whole. Now she is a master of influence. In any situation, like Harbaugh on the TV show, she can identify the collective needs of the group or individual and focus her efforts to influence on those needs. She can therefore teach/lead anybody anywhere. She is a master change agent.

We delight in the fact that she is a public school teacher and not a CEO or a world leader. She has a job that tends to be depreciated. Professionals in pursuit of power would not think of going to the local public school to find a master of leadership. Yet she illustrates an important fact; master change agents emerge in every profession and context. As people pay the steep price for acquiring the positive perspective, they become more and more masterful. Eventually they gain a theory of influence that allows them to inspire positive change in any situation. They may make mistakes, like asking about George Halas, but they tend to recover. If we look for them, even in strange places, like a TV show, we can choose to learn from them and we can accelerate our own efforts to become masters of positive influence.

Reflection

What is the steep price that has to be paid to become a master of positive influence?

Who, in my personal circle of relationships, has paid the price, and what can I learn from that person?

How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

The Other Side of Complexity

Oliver Wendell Homes once remarked that he placed little value on simplicity that lay on this side of complexity but a great deal of value on simplicity that lay on the other side. Put another way, there is a vast chasm between being simple and being simplistic. I would like to suggest something similar. I believe that in any activity there are many novices, a few experts, and very occasionally there is an extraordinary master. If you ask a novice about a topic, the novice will give you a very simple (simplistic) explanation that will be of little value. If you ask an expert the same question, the expert will give you a complex explanation that will also be of little value. If you ask a master the same question, the master’s explanation may be simple, breathtakingly elegant, and remarkably effective. But the master’s answer will only be valuable, breathtaking, and effective if you and I are ready to hear it and act on it.

The power of simplicity that comes from the other side of complexity can be most challenging. Indeed, the master’s explanation of the answer that he or she offers is often paradoxical and therefore difficult to understand. Once we grasp it, it may become revolutionary.

It is clear to me that masters perform differently. In the heat of the moment, they wait calmly. They seem to have unconditional confidence that they will react in a way that is not only appropriate but also highly effective. They have a minimum of performance anxiety. Masters know to trust their process. In the chaos of the moment masters see an underlying pattern and follow it. With minimum effort they shape the outcome. We watch the master’s performance and we marvel at the understanding, skill, and influence of this person. We envy the creative power and the revolutionary impact they can make on the world.”

Introduction to Change the World

Positive Influence Up and Across the Organization

At the Center for Positive Organizations we have a speaker series. I was asked to give the presentation at the 100th session. The audience was able to submit questions ahead of time. There were 11 questions submitted. I was surprised to see that 8 of the 11 questions were essentially the same question. Here is my edited integration: How do I introduce positive organizing to executives at higher levels, who are:

  • Oblivious
  • Embrace command and control
  • Have never communicated a vision
  • Have no consistent values
  • Have only a technical view of life
  • Are in public health care
  • Are in education,
  • Are in operations
  • Are in finance

This is a question of great importance and it requires an answer that is not conventional. Too influence upward and also across silos, one must be an unusually effective change leader. Most people do not exert much positive, upward or horizontal influence. A few do. There is a reason.

Effective change leaders understand a profound but elusive lesson:  Transformative change begins on the inside. If we want to positively influence our leaders or peers we need to do what they and others are afraid to do. We have to have the courage to put the collective good ahead of our ego needs. Doing so is the essence of leadership.

When we serve the good we transform the relationship, and the people in the relationship may find the virtue necessary to transform. Carl Rogers, the great psychologist, understood this, but not at the start of his career, it took him years to make the discovery. He claims that in his early years as a therapist he asked himself how he could change his clients. Most new managers do the same. As he matured, he came to a more effective question. He found himself asking how he could provide a relationship that the other person could use for his or her own personal growth. Few managers ever ask this question. It is far outside the conventional perspective.

Scott Peck, another noted psychologist, described growing into the second perspective. Like Carl Rogers, it took Peck years to discover that his clients tended to transform themselves when he cared enough about the relationship to model the self-change process. Only when he stepped outside the comfort of his defined role, only when he was willing to risk doing new things, did the client seem to change. When he cared enough to do the unconventional thing, the risky thing, he brought love to the relationship. It was then that the other person found the capacity to change.

As we yearn to bring positive organizing to those above us or across from us, we are yearning for others to have the courage to be positive deviants, to do good things that are outside the conventional culture. Like us, they are filled with fear. The fear is justified because deviance is risky. We have legions of managers who hold hierarchical positions, but we have very few leaders who wield transformative influence.

As we model increased virtue in our own zone of control, we create relationships in which increased virtue can become contagious. As we choose to sacrifice for the common good, our local community becomes enriched. The people put more value in the community and they begin to experiment with making sacrifices for the collective good. As they do, they enter an elevated or more positive life state. As they choose to change, it inspires us and we choose to evolve even further.

As we facilitate positive organizing, we become more empowered. Like Carl Rogers and like Scott Peck, we can mature and take the second, less conventional perspective. We can go outside our roles and take risks for the good of others. We can approach those above us in ways that are more purposeful, authentic, loving and humble. In such a state of positive deviance, we invite them into the world of positive organizing. The second perspective does not come from embracing conventional assumptions. It comes from personal evolution and the formation of new and more inclusive assumptions.

 

Reflection

Why do I want those above me and across from me to create a more positive organization?

How could I help a child transform from a life of fear to a life of positive deviance, how could I help a boss or peer to do the same?

How can I use this passage to create a more positive organization?

 

 


 

Becoming a Master of Positive Influence

I was invited to meet with a group of young professionals in medicine. They wanted to discuss how to become change agents. I started with two questions. I first asked them each to define the word leader. They responded that it was someone who can stimulate people to feel, think, see and do things in a new way.

Next, I asked them to differentiate between a novice, an expert, and a master. One person said a novice is someone who is just learning. An expert is a person who learns to effectively lead his or her own organization or group. A master is a person who takes the principles of leadership and generalizes them in such a way that that can effectively lead any organization or group.

The answer exceeded my expectation. I love the notion of a generalized theory of leadership that allows a person to effectively inspire change in any situation. Two illustrations come to mind. The first was a world leader. The second is relatively unknown public school teacher.

I have paid much attention to the life of Gandhi. There is a movie about his life that I like a great deal. It well illustrates his development from novice to master. At the start of his career Gandhi was awkward in his attempts to influence. Yet he continually reflected on his experiences, tried new experiments and grew into a master. At the end of his life he was able to enter nearly any situation and stimulate people to feel, think, see and do things in a new way. He had a generalized set of action principles that he could use in any situation.

The public school teacher was someone I had met personally, a woman who struggled to get her credentials and who took years to learn how to excel, eventually becoming highly effective in the classroom. Referring to her experience as an undergraduate in an education school, she had told me, you learn the “rules” of teaching. Then you go to your first class and you learn that every child is different, that each one has a unique set of needs that you have to learn how to work with each unique child.

“Then,” she said, surprising me, “you go to the next level.” Fascinated, I asked her what that was. She said that she eventually learned that every child was the same. No matter what a child says or does, every child wants to be respected, every child wants to succeed, and so on. No matter what the superficial signals suggest, they all have the same set of intrinsic needs. She told me that once she discovered they are all the same, she could effectively teach any group, old or young, gifted or special education.

This woman, like Gandhi, reflected continually on her experiences, tried new experiments and kept growing. She went from a novice at empathy to an expert who could understand and attend to the needs of each child. Operating as an expert she kept growing until she made a profound discovery. She learned to scale empathy. She learned to empathize with the whole. Now she is a master of influence. In any situation she can identify the collective needs of the group and focus her influence efforts on those needs. She can therefore teach/lead anybody anywhere. She is a master change agent.

I delight in the fact that she is a public school teacher and not a CEO or a world leader. She has a job that tends to be depreciated. Professionals in pursuit of power would not think of going to the local public school to find a master of leadership. Yet she illustrates an important fact, master change agents emerge in every profession and context. As people pay the steep price for acquiring the positive perspective, they become more and more masterful. Eventually they gain a theory of influence that allows them to inspire positive change in any situation. If we look for them we can choose to learn from them and we can accelerate our own efforts to become masters of positive influence.

Reflection

What is the steep price that has to be paid to become a master of positive influence?

Who do I know who has paid the price and what can I learn from that person?

How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

Creating Positive Relationships: Surprising Lessons from a Conventional Context

Over the last few years, I have worked on an exciting project with three wonderful people, Katherine Heynoski, Mike Thomas, and Gretchen Spreitzer. We spent much time doing workshops and also interviewing highly effective public school teachers.   Our work turned into a book called The Best Teacher in You. We also wrote a chapter for an edited book.

The chapter was called Co-Creating the Classroom Experience to Transform Learning and Change Lives.  The focus was on how highly effective public school teachers get extraordinary results. What we learned is that they operate from non-conventional assumptions. They turn classrooms into positive organizations. In those classrooms, discipline and love operate simultaneously. We wrote the chapter for managers to show the universal nature of positive leadership.  Here, for example, is an excerpt from the chapter.

Consider the following, contrasting statement; “When a child is disrespectful, I immediately correct the child, but I do it while modeling complete respect for the child.” Here the problem is addressed, but it is addressed in a way that transcends directive assumptions. The teacher is exercising the self-discipline necessary to model unconditional positive regard. To correct a disrespectful child while showing “complete respect” for the child is to model something the child has probably seldom experienced. The teacher is modeling behavior that attracts reflection, discovery, and change. This behavior is based on a complex perspective; a perspective that gives the teacher unusual power.

A child who is exposed to such a message is having an atypical experience. He or she is being honored and corrected simultaneously. The student cannot help but pay attention because the reaction requires sense-making. In the process, the child may come to new assumptions and consider new behaviors. That is, the child is positioned to have a personal transformation. The teacher is effective because he or she breaks the self-reinforcing, transactional cycle. The teacher’s transactional students can begin to love the teacher because teacher loves them first. As one HET said, “How are you going to change them, by resenting them?”

Another teacher told us of a time a student decided to erase another student’s name on a paper and replace it with his name: “I calmly asked him to meet me in the hall … I knew from looking at the paper that it was not his work.” She paused, and instead of yelling at the student or disciplining him in the way in which he expected, I waited for the student to speak. He expected to get in “big time” trouble for the “mistake.” He said it was the worst thing he ever did in his life. Years later when the teacher ran into the student at a store, the student stopped her to tell her that he is now a preacher who tells this story to others as an example to aspire to. The teacher closed the story by saying “I suppose I love teaching because we are constantly setting examples for children. They have so much potential! We influence them every day with lifelong learning values. It is a real privilege to shape the future of so many young people!”

We were thrilled a few months ago to learn that the book won the Benjamin Franklin Award as the best book in Education for 2015. Recently the chapter was also recognized. It received a 2015 Emerald Literati Network Award for Excellence. You can find the chapter here: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/S0897-301620140000022000

Reflection

What does it mean to correct with love?

How might this skill be acquired and used to create a more positive organization?

How could we use this positive passage to get better?

Way Finding: Learning from Maori Traditions

There is a woman named Chelli Spiller who focuses on the wisdom traditions of indigenous people.  She says that in the Maori culture the perspective on purpose is multidimensional.  It includes the spiritual, social, cultural, environmental and economic well being of the enterprise and leadership includes wisdom, selflessness, humility, purpose, action, awareness, and learning.

One of the things she studies is how Polynesians were able to navigate the ocean without any of the Western technologies.  She speaks of the Maori navigator as the “way finder.”  The way finder assumes that the canoe is stationary and the world is moving past.   The challenge is to be “still” and ponder the various signals in the natural context.  The island is “pulled” forward to the canoe.

These notions seem very strange. Yet they bring to mind an experience worthy of reflection.

I was doing a workshop on vision.  One of the participants said that a vision is a future state that already exists. This sentence seemed contradictory. How can the future already exist?  According to my left-brain logic, the present and future are two different categories.  The future cannot already exist.

As I wrestled with the contradiction, a retired entrepreneur spoke up and enthusiastically supported what the first man said.  “Once you see the vision, you become passionate about it and you cannot stop working on it. You become totally committed and everything changes.”

I recalled my own previous experiences working with this second man. He so believed in his vision it gave purpose to all he did. I watched him build his organization with passion.  He had extraordinary influence. When he spoke, people listened and willingly devoted themselves to the pursuit of the vision. He did not force them. He declared the vision with such confidence and selflessness that everyone seemed to be able to see it.

Once they did see it they began to extend themselves, moving forward, taking risks and learning from experience.  The learning was not hoarded. They shared and did sense making together.  As they thus moved forward, the future was being co-created in the present because the people were unified in a system of growing, collective intelligence.

In such an organization the people feel themselves moving towards spiritual, social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being.  As they do, they all become “way finders” and they collectively “pull” the future to their organizational canoe.  It all begins when one “way finder” becomes totally committed to a desired future, then everything changes.

A leader is able to imbue people with a sense of purpose.  She lights the spark of hope in those around her and helps people to “see” possibility.  I invite you to embrace the Maori notion of way finding.

(This blog is the positive passage included in my July Newsletter.  If you haven’t already subscribed, you can find it here:  http://eepurl.com/bo4dRn )