Drs. Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair provide this post, an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciateive Inquiry from the authors.
Change is a constant for leaders in all walks of life and is often prompted by crisis, financial or organizational. In building the practice of hope and a hopeful view, leaders need to face what is happening and yet inspire people in order to move toward a better future. This practice of hope pulls the crisis of the past into the possibility of the future. One leader we interviewed told an amazing story about hope and how at times, as leaders, we must acknowledge the past and our fears, and still inspire people for the future:
Hope should have filled the air. It was late August, always an exciting time of year as we welcome new students and faculty and kick off another academic year. I had served the college for twenty-six years in a variety of faculty and administrative roles, but this year was my first as president. I wanted nothing more than to walk in to our opening-day meeting and inspire the college community with an exciting vision for the future.
But times were hard. The college was experiencing an alarming decline in enrollment and, along with it, a dramatic drop in revenue. As I thought about what I would say on that opening day, I had more questions than answers. How do I create excitement about the future in a time of tremendous difficulty? Could we survive without layoffs for the first time in the college’s history? How should we change and grow and prosper? What could I say as an old colleague and a new president to inspire hope for the future? People were depending on me for leadership, inspiration, and vision. I felt like it was our time and we needed to move, but how?
One afternoon that summer, as these questions were swimming in my brain, I was enjoying a video with my children. One particular scene in this film seemed to be speaking directly to me. As I listened to the dialogue about a character who was struggling with returning home and facing the past, it struck home for me that we at the college needed to both hold to the past and face the future. Change was coming. We needed a new beginning, a way to collectively envision our future while, at the same time, addressing unprecedented challenges. In the movie, the character thought he was afraid to return to his past, but he was really afraid of his future. In the end, he embraced his future, just as our college had to embrace its future. I had dreams for what our college could become. As the new president, I knew it was vital that I convey my core belief that change is good. Out of this core belief, I came to recognize the intimate connection between change and hope, that hope is nested in change, and within hope is the fuel and energy to move us with passion toward an exciting future.
I told the story of watching the movie with my children at that opening-day meeting, and change became a hallmark of my early presidency. We came out of that financial crisis as a much stronger college focused on the success of our students. Little did I know at the time how a character in a kid’s movie would crystallize for me the importance of change and the connection between change and hope.
This leader’s story speaks to the power of story to inspire people to change in response to a crisis. The president used the story of watching the movie with his children to inspire the members of the institution and enable them to face together what needed to be faced. Hope shared is all the more powerful in its energy.
About the authors
Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.
Success doesn’t come easy. It takes planning and focused effort to enable yourself and your team to attain those goals.
One of the most overlooked and neglected factors into any success for your team is to ensure the proper landscape is in place that better enables those goals to be met. That landscape is your culture.
Just as a great landscape sets the stage for painting a beautiful picture or taking a breathtaking and rewarding hike, having the proper landscape for your organization will enhance the success that you strive to attain.
Having the proper landscape for your organization will enhance the success that you strive to attain
Lolly Daskal’s post a few months ago stated “Culture sets the stage for success” is true. It not only brings people together but allows performance to thrive. Michael Lee Stallard’s book Connection Culture outlines how great cultures allow people to have more commitment and find better success corporately and personally. It’s no mistake that Connection Culture’s Twitter handle is @ConnectToThrive. Stallard outlines that a connected culture possesses the following 3 key aspects:
- Vision – a share in the mission and where the team is headed
- Value – everyone feeling important and a contributing member
- Voice – people having input and being truly heard
These aspects help remove barriers that impede cooperation, productivity, ambiguity, and rogue agendas. It’s the removal of these impediments that allow individuals to perform, both more freely and with more commitment. They also can create incremental success where people feel more support and freedom to solve problems, go the extra mile, and look after the organization’s best interests because the organization has looked after theirs first and foremost.
Conversely, neglecting and allowing a poor culture will set up a toxic landscape where people will default to a survival mode, meet minimum performance and justify their actions why they did not do better.
In any organization – business, sports team, community program, church and even family – having the proper landscape of culture that allows people to feel valued, have a voice, and share the vision will create a far better environment where they will most likely naturally work harder and be more deeply engaged. Setting the right culture is essential for anyone wanting more success from their grouping structure.
How will you set the landscape for success for those you impact this year?
Have you every had to reiterate an email, voice mail, or even a text in order to convey what you stated in the original message?
It seems that more and more people do not take time to read or understand what we send them.
Which means we have to spend more time going over the message again.
And to make matters worse, we may tend to quote what we wrote before, which makes us sound petty or angry. Or feeling like a jerk.
It seems people don’t read emails past 1st line much anymore. Just like they don’t go through a Google search past the first page (if they scroll down the first search page).
If we each took time to understand the message and the context of what we receive, we could save so much wasted time, and avoid extra frustration.
Take time for context. Read to understand.
Careful reading – and thinking – about what was communicated to us will help break down those communication barriers we complain about.