Thursday, June 27, 2013

R2: Strengthening Our Capacity to Reframe

If we can learn how to share our perspectives, we can see the whole picture.  That may sound easy, but as a practical matter, it involves figuring a way out of our own minds…with practice and the right methods, we can learn to see the way in which attention limits our perspectives.  After all, we learned how to pay attention in the first place.  We learned the patterns that convinced us to see in a certain way.  That means we can also unlearn those patterns.  Once we do, we’ll have the freedom to learn new, collective ways that serve us and lead to our success. Cathy N. Davidson. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn, Viking Penguin, 2011. p. 5.

You are choosing your focus and so is everyone else. Your attention is being drawn in lots of directions. What do you want to focus on?

As a leader, how do you “see” the people you work with? From what frame do you direct the attention of your team?  What criteria are you using to choose a focus?  What questions are you asking? The single greatest tool we have at our disposal to craft our frames is the ability to ask powerful questions, questions that illuminate a situation, the context, the stakeholders, our current place in it, and what future we want to create.

Here is a framing chart I have pulled together over the past years that helps me choose how to look at something. I’m sure it’s not complete.  If you think of other ways to help us frame a situation, please share them in the comments section below. I’d love to make this more even more useful and to have more dialogue with you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Reframing Leadership, Transformation, and Engagement

 A leader’s personal development and transformation is important, yes, in terms of human growth and what that enables us to do, but it’s not what will bring on organizational success.

YOUR transformation, leader, is not why you were hired.  The organizational aim and mission is the reason, isn’t it?  You are supposed to be able to guide delivery of that mission.

So, what if leaders focused on reframing their sense of employees in the context of organizational missions? [I know that very often gets done, but this is a reminder of where our attention and framing might belong—not on ourselves but on the people who are making the organization go everyday.

It encourages us to reframe who employees are in our organizations, what they bring and what they are being managed/allowed to offer to the organization in service of the mission. This lies at the heart of employee engagement and engagement lies at the heart of organizational mission delivery.

Gallup has done a great job over the years of tracking employee engagement.

According to Gallup’s latest 2013 statistics, nationwide, 30% of employees are Engaged, similar to the 28% who were in 2009. Meanwhile, nearly one in five (18%) workers are Actively Disengaged," while the majority are simply Not Engaged. This is not auspicious for high-energy, connected mission delivery. []

I’m not going to offer any data in terms of proven statistics. The following reflects my experience in 20+ years of working in all kinds of organizations, from religious institutions to international development organizations to some of the world’s largest companies:

95%: Ninety-five percent of anyone who will ever work for or with you very much wants to do a good job.  It’s part of our human makeup. Sometimes the organization is designed for that to be easy, and sometimes it’s not all that easy to perform well in a system. The engagement or disengagement of this group depends almost entirely on how they are treated: how they are managed, included, asked to contribute their strengths, listened to around ideas and involved in the direction the organization is taking, especially around their particular areas. This group is a gold mine, if they are recognized as such and treated that way. Leaders should be asking themselves: What is getting in the way of the performance that people naturally want to offer?

2+%: Another 2+% are in the wrong positions in the organization so can’t and don’t perform well.  Some of them used to be in the right position for them, but perhaps they have outgrown it or the position has gradually changed over time, so that it is no longer a fit. This group should not present such a big management issue.  The organizational structure should help them get into the right roles or help them leave without punishment.]

2+%: The last small percentage of employees is in some sort of trouble that keeps them from doing a good job and may even create disturbance in the organizational system. Maybe they are ill or addicted, dealing with enormous family or emotional issues, or wounded by something that has happened to them. They can create havoc.  This is where leaders, and the Human Resources staff, seem to spend most of their employee time.

Organizations tend to set up their policies and structures for this last 2% group. They manage the entire employee base as if they are potential criminals or slackers or difficult to deal with.

EVERYTHING depends on what perspective the leadership [and the organizational system] has about the staff.  Either you see the people who come in the door everyday as incredible assets with a strong desire to contribute, or…you see them as some sort of problem to be solved—entitled, lazy, dishonest, disengaged. And when you treat employees that way, they become disengaged, and eventually, so do you.

Here’s another example of the importance of being able to reframe reality, to look from a different vantage point, to study different statistics and see what they tell us.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reframing Leadership

Of course, a leader needs to have expertise in the sector in which they are working, as well as possess skills and knowledge in some particular area: finance, engineering, program management, technology and so on.

But leading a company or a team takes additional skills and literacies. The predominant school of thought about developing leadership is that leaders should be focusing on developing their inner core and centers, honing their interpersonal skills and growing as individuals so that they can better manage people. The idea is that they need to transform personally to be great leaders.

I’ve come to think that when we place our attention on developing leadership through personal transformation, we are missing something. That seems a luxury that not many leaders or organizations or communities can wait around for.  We all would like to evolve and grow but personal transformation is not a one-day event.

What if…
But what if we grow ourselves most effectively by taking our focus off our own development and placing it on others? 

What if we spend the time focusing on the space between us, on how we work with others, on how we tap the best ideas of others, how we frame our conversations, and how we elicit the strengths of others?

What if we spend our time stalking solutions in the full company of others, if we engage ourselves in traversing and getting to know that space ‘between’, leaning in to the strengths of those around us?

What if we stop worrying about our personal meditation practices [even though I strongly recommend them] and instead, start worrying about whether or not the teams that report to us have the room to do their jobs well, whether they have dialogic forms and forums that help them think well together in exploring ideas that directly impact the mission? 

What if we worry about the usefulness of the decision-making patterns and processes in our hierarchies?  

What if we worry about how our organizational systems and processes are making whole-hearted engagement and excitement possible?

As we do this, WE INDIVIDUALLY will develop relationally and personally.  We will reframe our ideas about leadership, and our ability to effectively lead will indeed transform.

More on reframing leadership coming up.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More on Reframing Reality

When we examine our assumptions, it can become clear how often we manage our lives within some type of ‘echo chambers’ [Fred Wilson,] where we only interact with those who have similar assumptions and filters.  It can be hard yet refreshing to get out of the zone of like views and reexamine what we believe to be true.

Understanding that our views are not necessarily the truth makes it easier to consider and practice reframing a situation or relationship with someone.

Our perceptual capacity is like the magnifying glass that we can move over text or go deeper into an illustration. We focus in on something and often lose awareness of what originally surrounded that magnified area.  We crop the picture and forget the rest of the pattern. 

When we consciously reframe, look for patterns, examine our filters, question our perceptions, we get a new picture of reality.  If we share our new perceptions with others and hear theirs, we get a new shared reality.

In many ways, leaders orchestrate the frames and ‘realities’ of their organizations. A leader can offer enormous value to their organization or community by consciously and intentionally questioning, reframing and expanding their own and others’ frames.

Next: More on ways to reframe reality and why.