Lessons from a Sixth Grader: Conflict Resolution & Strategy

Kids show a capacity for logical reasoning
that most adults could benefit from emulating.
Photo used with permission from Flickr, Parker Michael Knight.
Recently I noticed that my son, Ethan, had become hesitant to spend time with one of his best friends (I’ll call him David). When I asked what was going on, he explained that he had grown uncomfortable around David because he frequently made hurtful remarks about other friends behind their backs but in Ethan’s presence.  Ethan was conflicted because he felt that by being around David, even without actually speaking or participating or agreeing, he was being disloyal to his other friends. He said he had confronted David a couple of times when he made one of these comments, but David laughed it off and did not seem to appreciate how upsetting it was for Ethan.

When I asked Ethan what it would look like if he could have it any way he wanted, he explained that he wanted to continue to be friends with David, but that he wanted David to stop talking about other people. I asked how he might accomplish that goal given that the only person’s behavior he can control is himself. Ethan replied, “Mom, I only see 2 options: First, I can stop being friends with David. Second, I can keep being friends with him and when he says these things, I can keep telling him to stop.” I asked him which of those would achieve his goal of continuing to be friends without the negative talk, and it was then he realized that neither would accomplish that goal. So, I suggested he think some more.

Holding Yourself Accountable to Finding the Potential in Others

Leaders hold themselves accountable for finding potential in people and processes.  ~Brene Brown

Brene Brown is one of those people who could honestly be characterized as “having gone viral.”  Her TED Talk, entitled The Power of Vulnerability was posted online in December 2010 and has amassed well over five million views.  It’s one of the top-viewed TED Talks right up there with Steve Jobs and Elizabeth Gilbert.  

I recently listened to a webinar Brown recorded and I like her definition of leadership: holding myself accountable for finding potential in people and processes. Note: it’s not about holding others accountable, it’s about holding yourself accountable. And it’s not about accountability for results, but accountability for finding potential.  Results are a consequence but the means is finding potential

I’m personally struggling with finding potential.  I certainly don’t disagree with it; I’m struggling with doing it. I have one particular client that is challenging me. I knew from the beginning that it likely wouldn’t be an easy ride.  They are a highly successful start-up that’s matured enough that they now need to move from the kitchen table to the conference table. They need to become more like an organization with some structures and processes that will support their continued growth. Said another way, they’ve outgrown being a start-up. The change from kitchen table to conference table is a significant transition and like many organizational transitions it can be uncomfortable. t leaves people asking, “If what got us here has worked, why won’t it get us there?”

This client is challenging for me because it seems much of what I suggest isn’t coming out right or being received in the way I intended. I feel like I keep fumbling the ball and I’d like at least a few good plays to move the ball down the field. So I’ve turned to Brown's definition of leadership for inspiration and guidance. Since I’m a person who likes to make lists, I’ve come up with a list of five specific things I could do to find potential in people and processes with this client.

1. List what I believe to be the strengths for each of the leaders and use that as the lens for changes I might suggest.

2. List the strengths of the organization and use that as the perspective or lens for suggested changes.

Entangled Employees are Olympians at the Office

By Thomas Walter with Molly Meyer

Tom Walter is a "serial entrepreneur" who has launched nearly 30 companies. He is the CEO of Tasty Catering, named one of Winning Workplaces best small companies in 2010. This post is republished with permission from Serial Entrepreneur

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the Olympic Games are just finishing, or maybe that’s what sparked the idea for this blog post. Two years ago, when we set out to write our book on the phenomenon known as “organization entanglement” with fellow co-authors, Dr. Ray Benedetto and Dr. Ken Thompson, we compared an organization’s workforce to an athletic team. Specifically, we wrote about the parallels between a collegiate athlete and an engaged employee and the parallels between an Olympic athlete and an entangled employee.
With the book—titled, It’s My Company Too!—slated to release in October, and the Olympics in full swing right now, it’s high time we got cracking on this collegiate athlete-Olympic athlete analogy.
Comparing Olympians and College Athletes to Your Workforce
Think of your workforce as a team of athletes. What level of competition has your workforce reached? At the college level, your organization is certainly quite competitive. Not many athletes make it onto a college team; yet, being a college athlete is not the pinnacle of competition.

University of Michigan Signs on as CVDL Research Partner for ROV Study

University of Michigan's Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship has been named as a research partner for the Return on Values three year-study, a partnership between the Small Giants Community and the Center for Values-Driven Leadership.

The Return on Values (ROV) initiative explores the relationship between values, culture, and success in small and mid-size businesses. To learn more, visit our research initiatives page, or watch this four-minute ROV overview video:

Story Telling as a Leadership Tool (Part 2): Finding the Stories to Tell

In a previous blog, we discussed the value of storytelling as a way to motivate employees, provide direction, inspire desired behaviors, and spark innovation. So what does a good story look like? Start by thinking of your own favorite stories from childhood. Did it contain these elements?

Elements of a good story
-          It must be true and believable
-          It must have a message or theme– that can be crystalized and easily retold
-          It should draw on the uniqueness of the company to inform its distinctive advantage/vision
-          It should leave enough “room” for individuals to do their “sense-making” and fill in the blanks
-          It should demonstrate how a company’s purpose extends beyond its profits
-          It should invite the legend  “to be continued”
-          It should allow for a visual picture to be created

With those factors in mind, begin to uncover your company’s story.

Pssst….Did you hear the rumor about our company? The Good News about Gossip | Story Telling as a Leadership Tool (Part 1)

Company gossip is often considered a negative environmental factor that must be managed in a corporate context. The idea of workers standing by the water cooler whispering over the latest “happenings” is frowned upon and discouraged. But, is there a way to use this natural instinct to gossip to your corporate advantage? I say yes.  In fact I say, your communications strategy should center on it.

 Most organizations go through a painstaking process to develop their corporate and business strategy.  They analyze industry dynamics, competitors, internal capabilities and resources then develop a set of actionable items to drive the business forward. These details are agonized over. Often, senior executives communicate this strategy to employees though town halls, email blasts, and appropriately-timed messages.  But far too often, the strategic messaging, while well researched, is often forgotten soon after. What is remembered by the employees (if anything) are the set of actions, tasks or specific objectives for which they may be responsible – with limited emotional connection to the strategy outlined.

So, how do you connect that strategy to a vision that the employees can relate to?