Sunday, November 21, 2004

Leadership as Impact: A review of two presentations from the Educational Impact Learning Library

A paper written for “Introduction to Conflict Resolution and Alternate Dispute Resolution” (Leadership 9610).

The Educational Impact Learning Library provides a host of information on a variety of topics of interest to individuals studying and focusing on education. The content – in the form of streaming video of presentations, slides and outlines, transcripts of content sessions, and papers – provides overviews and in-depth commentary on issues of contemporary interest to professional educators. In reviewing this material, I have sought out presentations which provide relevance to leaders outside educational settings. I have looked for content which provides universal themes.

In the “Web of Support: The national perspective on leadership,” Alan November provides a presentation about “The Power of Leadership.” November’s focus is on technology and leadership, a focus of value to all leaders. While November’s talk is directed at educational institutions, particularly K through 12 schools. November suggests, “All books, all video, all radio, all television, essentially every media we now know in a separate box is going to merge onto the internet…. It’s going to be as big a revolution as the printing press.” (p. 1) He suggests that the major question coming out of this is “What’s the role of a school leader trying to make sense out of all this?” (p. 1) I believe the question is even larger than this. The question is “What is the role of an organizational leader who is trying to determine how to harness technology within the organization, whatever the organization?”

November suggests there are two basic ways for leaders to think about technology. The first way is what November terms “automating.” With automating, we merely take what we are currently doing and “bolt technology on top of it.” (p. 1) A school example of this is using computers for writing; when students are sent to a computer lab to write an essay using a word processor, they are doing the same thing they’d be doing using pen and paper, only they are using technology. (p. 2) A non-school example might be voice-over-internet, which is merely using the computer and the internet as a telephone. We’re merely using technology to do the same thing, in basically the same way, as we were doing it before. The second way to think about technology is what November calls “informating.” (p. 2) Three questions frame informating: “Are you giving people access to information they’ve never had before?” (p. 2) “Are you giving people access to people? (p. 2) “Are we empowering people to take more responsibility for managing their own work?” (p. 3)

November spends the remainder of his presentation building a case for embracing technology in an appropriate, informating manner so that students, teachers, and parents can best function in, and contribute to, our rapidly changing world. We are moving to a knowledge economy where being “self-directed, self-motivated, and a team player” (p 4) are of vital importance. He builds a case for “information literacy” and “communication literacy,” two literacies which impact not only schools but all organizations.

Phil Schlechty, president of the Center for Leadership in School Reform, provides an “Expert Analysis” for a chapter from “Breaking Ranks: Revisited.” The chapter is “Leadership: Attributes that need nourishing,” and Schlechty provides a sometimes rambling review and commentary on the seven recommendations “Breaking Ranks” makes for creating leaders in high schools. The recommendations are specific to educational settings; the first recommendation is “The principal will provide leadership in the high school community by building and maintaining a vision, direction, and focus for student learning.” We could re-rack this recommendation to be more universal in applicability: “The senior leader will provide leadership in the organization by building and maintaining a vision, direction, and focus for creating customer and stakeholder-desired outcomes.”

As I see it, Schlechty’s major contribution to expanding on the seven recommendations comes near the conclusion of his talk. He states two steps which are mandatory for good leadership. The first is to “get your own head right.” (p. 24) He suggests, “Unless you have a clear conception of – and a clear vision yourself – where you think things ought to go, there’s no way to get a group to develop a vision…. Groups respond to visions that are developed, and they modify them.” (p. 24) He goes on to say “the first step in leading real change is for the leader to sit down alone and figure out what they believe about a number of important things.” (p. 24) What is the organizations purpose? How can we create the desired outcomes? What are our critical success factors? The second mandatory step for good leaders is “to gather around you a group of people who … function as a guiding coalition.” (p. 25) The people of this guiding coalition must have the “ability to get other people to do things without authority” (p. 25) and they must have the understanding and skills to do the work required of them, and they must have “some degree of credibility with those other people who are going to have to support the change.” Schlechty suggests, “And then once I got those folks around me, we would take my beliefs and their beliefs; and we’d have dialog until we came to a consensus about what we believe. And then we’d begin to take that same dialog to wider and wider circles.” Schlechty’s counsel is appropriate for all organizational leaders, not just school leaders.

Both November and Schlechty provide insight into organizational leadership. Schlechty’s counsel focuses on what I might term the “soft side” of leadership. He is about building relationships and consensus; he is about leaders exercising our four human endowments – self awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent well (Covey, 1989, p. 71) – in creating an environment for change. November’s work focuses on the impact technology will continue to have on organizations. He is about using technology to not just automate processes, but to “informate” – to create a community based on information and communication and relationships. Leaders, of schools and of other organizations, need the joint focus of Schlechty’s and November’s counsel.

References

Covey, S. R. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful lessons in personal change. New York: The Free Press/Simon & Schuster.

November, A. (n.d.). “The Power of Leadership.” Retrieved November 20, 2004, from Nova Southeastern University, Educational Impact, Web of Support/The National Perspective on Leadership Web site.

Schlechty, P. (n.d.). “Breaking Ranks – Revisited: Chapter 12 Expert Analysis.” Retrieved November 20, 2004, from Nova Southeastern University, Educational Impact, Breaking Ranks Revisited Web site.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Role of the Facilitative Leader: A Literature Review

A paper written for “Introduction to Conflict Resolution and Alternate Dispute Resolution” (Leadership 9610).

Both a review of the literature and working in organizations over the last twenty years show a shift in leadership from dictatorial and hierarchical in nature to a style more attuned to consensus, collaboration, and synergy. This second style is facilitative leadership, a style which calls for a different set of skills, tools, and knowledge. For many of us who grew up in hierarchical organizations which emphasized decision making solely by leaders and delegation of task from the top down, facilitative leadership requires us to learn and implement these new skills and tools. A host of resources exists to help with this transition; in the following discussion, I’ll discuss five sources which can provide assistance for anyone seeking information on facilitative leadership.

Bens (1999) states “Facilitation is a way of providing leadership without taking the reins. A facilitator’s job is to get others to assume responsibility and to take the lead.” (p. 3) Her handy, pocket-sized, spiral-bound volume is an excellent primer on facilitation and provides insight into conflict resolution in the work place, suggestions on group decision-making and meeting management, and process tools for facilitators. Bens focuses on leadership and facilitation in the “meeting” environment. Her work does an excellent job of differentiating between content and process during a meeting; she then provides the tools for the process, the “how” of the group’s work. Her focus is on the methods and procedures, how relations are maintained, the tools being used, the rules or norms set, the group dynamics, and the climate. (p. 5)

While Bens covers common process tools (such as brainstorming, force field analysis, and multi-voting) for facilitators – like other pocket guides’ authors including Martin & Tate (1997), Brassard & Ritter (1994), and Goal/QPC & Oriel (1995) – Bens tackles new ground in her chapter on facilitating conflict. While Bens’ approach is somewhat simplistic in that she often presents topics as two sided or either/or (such as debates vs. arguments) or two stepped (such as managing conflict by venting emotions and then resolving issues) her ying/yang approach works: it provides the basic information necessary for a person to successfully facilitate a meeting or lead a team.

Bens’ guide is a good primer for novice facilitators; it is also a good review for more experienced facilitators and leaders. A facilitator or leader can use the book in preparing for a meeting; the guide offers checklists for meeting planning. Team members, the team leader, or the facilitator can also use the book during a meeting when answering questions on process and meeting management.

Scholtes’ (1998) handbook is not a pocket guide, but rather a desk manual designed for use by leaders at all levels of an organization. Scholtes’ work is a balance between “instruction” and tools. While Scholtes’ handbook is certainly of value to new or inexperienced leaders, its real value is likely to seasoned and more experienced leaders. Scholtes’ concepts and tools will support and challenge seasoned leaders, demanding they re-think their own leadership philosophy and paradigms.

Scholtes proposes six leadership competencies which fit with the concepts of facilitative leadership. These competencies – and the discussion, models, and checksheets which expound on the competencies – challenge leaders to think about their own current competencies and what steps they need to do to develop skills in the six “new” leadership competencies.

While Scholtes provides a host of useful tools and models, the tools and models are interspersed throughout the text and discussed in proximity to topics which use the tool. For instance, flow charting is discussed in depth with six different types of flow charts presented along with the process for using and building these flow charts. The tools, however, are buried in a discussion of “getting work done.” They are not easily found.

Of particular note for facilitative leaders is Scholtes’ discussion about performance without appraisal. Scholtes shares a philosophical worldview with W. E. Deming, the father of the total quality movement in Japan and here in the United States. Scholtes outlines the “case against appraisal” with what he defines as the faults common to all types of performance appraisal systems. (p. 307-308) The facilitative leader will ask, then, “What am I to do?” Scholtes suggests “debundling” the various aspects or benefits of the performance appraisal process and experience. Through debundling, the facilitative leader can still gain the benefits of a traditional performance appraisal system without the faults Scholtes identifies as catastrophic to creating a healthy, high performing organization.

Rees (2001) presents a full text on using facilitative leadership with teams in organizations. This book is not a pocket guide, or even a desk guide, but rather a text providing a more academic presentation of facilitation and facilitative leadership. Rees first discusses teamwork in evolving organizations, noting a shift in organizational leadership from traditional, or hierarchical, organizations to team-based organizations. The second section of the book provides an in-depth discussion of facilitative leadership with an emphasis on the leadership aspects. Rees presents a model which delineates four goals a facilitative leader must keep in mind at all times: (a) lead with a clear purpose, (b) empower to participate, (c) aim for consensus, and (d) direct the process. (p. 31) She then presents information on communication in team settings and the skills necessary to facilitate productive communication in one-on-one settings, in small groups, and with distance teams. The fourth section, a how-to for facilitating team meetings, consumes the bulk of the text.

Rees’ text is an excellent resource for anyone interested in facilitative leadership. Her discussion about facilitating meetings is full and complete. While she does not provide specific tools, her discussions provide the background and philosophical under-girding important in understanding the process beyond just the doing of it. Her chapter on “recording people’s ideas” provides an excellent overview which would help any leader interested in harnessing group member’s ideas beyond the moment of the meeting.

Putz (2002) provides a simplistic overview of the facilitative process in his book. Putz’s work focuses on pure facilitation and identifies the roles and responsibilities of all participants, including the leader, the facilitator, and team members. He provides a step-by-step overview for a successful facilitation experience, and he outlines nuts and bolts issues such as room setup, logistics, and meeting management issues. Putz also provides information and models for handling conflict. He provides and overview of conflict, using the assertiveness & cooperation 2x2 matrix, and he provides helpful hints for dealing with problem behaviors. Two sections, of the most benefit for someone facilitating, are a set of frequently asked questions and examples of flip charts for use during meetings. These two sections of Putz’s work address issues not seen in the other resources.

Sadly, Putz’s book is not all that user friendly. The book is replete with line drawings which many learners may find distracting. The material is presented in a way which may appeal to novices, but will turn off a seasoned professional. Aside from the FAQ and the flip chart examples, most of the volume will be of little use to most facilitators. The volume will likely be of even less use for the facilitative leader as Putz’s paradigm is one of “pure facilitation.” By pure facilitation, I mean his focus is on traditional team-based meetings with a facilitator – most likely not a member of the group and thus a “hired gun” – and a team or meeting owner (the boss) and team members.

Kaner’s (1996) work is also mostly a pure facilitation text, although Kaner approaches the topic from a broader perspective. People in a variety of roles can use the tools, models, and skills Kaner presents in a host of group settings. The common denominator for users of Kaner’s work is that they see facilitation – which Kaner notes comes from the Latin root meaning “to enable, to make easy” (p. xi) – as key to group work. Kaner’s work revolves around a model of dynamics of group decision making involving “divergent thinking” leading to “convergent thinking” through what he calls the “groan zone” and the “struggle in the service of integration.” (p. 19-20) Kaner presents a series of facilitator fundamentals which provide tools, models, and skills for facilitation. His presentation is comprehensive, yet easy to understand and would aid beginners and experienced facilitators alike. In addition, he writes from a paradigm which allows a leader to latch onto the tools and models and see applicability in a variety of leadership situations.

Kaner presents six brief case studies which help put a “real world” spin on his tools, models, and skills. These case studies would be of benefit to a facilitative leader in helping to understand the material and see how it applies. A facilitative leader who is willing to improve their own leadership behaviors could learn much. In addition, Kaner’s reframing activities are a unique vision for facilitative leadership. Kaner provides seven specific tools to help the facilitative leader “invite group members to break out of their normal categories of analysis and re-examine their beliefs and assumptions. These activities require participants to make deliberate mental shifts in order to look at a problem from a completely different angle.” (p. 195)

Indeed this is what each of these resources is asking of us. Each of these resources is asking us to look at leadership and group work in a new light; each of these resources is asking us to use new tools, and to approach the work with new worldviews, in order to harness the collective power and intelligence of a group of people. These resources provide assistance for the leader just starting the transition away from hierarchical decision making or the accomplished and experienced facilitative leader.


References

Bens, I. (1999). Facilitation at a Glance: A pocket guide of tools and techniques for effective meeting facilitation. Salem, NH: Association of Quality and Participation & Goal/QPC.

Brassard, M. & Ritter, D. (1994). The Memory Jogger II: A pocket guide of tools for continuous improvement & effective planning. Salem, NH: Goal/QPC.

Goal/QPC & Oriel Incorporated. (1995). The Team Memory Jogger: A pocket guide for team members. Salem, NH: Author.

Kaner, S. (1996). Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Martin, P. & Tate, K. (1997). Project Management Memory Jogger: A pocket guide for project teams. Salem, NH: Goal/QPC.

Putz, G. B. (2002). Facilitation Skills: Helping groups make decisions (2nd ed.). Bountiful, UT: Deep Space Technology Company.

Rees, F. (2001). How to Lead Work Teams: Facilitation skills (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Scholtes, P. R. (1998). The Leader’s Handbook: Making things happen, getting things done. New York: McGraw-Hill.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Case Study Analysis and Synthesis: A marriage ends in assault and disagreement

A paper written for “Mediation and Negotiation Strategies” (Leadership 9620).

Please note: the following analysis and synthesis is based on the case study provided by Michelle Bailey-Cole.

Case Synopsis

This conflict case involves a married couple, Susan and Duane, and the wife’s son, Johnny, from a previous marriage. Susan and Duane have been married for two years; they are now separated and headed for a divorce, although they continue to live in the same house. Recently, Susan and Duane had an argument which ended in Duane assaulting Susan. Duane was arrested; he was then served with a restraining order initiated by Susan. Concurrent with that restraining order, Duane initiated an order against Johnny. Due to the dueling injunctions, all three people find themselves before the circuit court judge. We are asked, “What should be considered in order to allow Susan, Johnny, and Duane to mend the family relationship?”

Causes of Conflict

The causes of conflict within these relationships are many. We learn Susan and Duane are both superficial, share limited trust and respect, and are reactive in nature. They find themselves in a conflict spiral with every action sending them further into conflict. From the description of the case, it appears they have little in common and, at the moment at least, little reason to salvage the marriage. It appears their marriage is built on a foundation of sand, such as looks; we don’t learn what drew them to each other early in the relationship beyond physical attractiveness.

Conflict Prevention

The conflict could have been prevented by action on the part of Duane and Susan more than two years ago: they could have chosen to not marry. Considering they did, however, conflict prevention could occur through healthy communication styles. Both Susan and Duane have much emotion and baggage which gets in the way of their interpersonal communication. They don’t know how to talk with each other without entering the conflict spiral. Putting distance between them would also help with preventing conflict.

I note here that since Duane owns the home – and it appears he owned the home before the marriage with Susan and she has no interest or piece of the home – Susan is going to find new lodging for herself and her son. Since she’s paying rent to Duane, money does not appear to be a constraining factor. With the conflict having escalated to a violence situation, a situation which drew all three of them into the conflict spiral, putting physical distance between Duane and Susan is paramount.

Options

At this point, Susan and Duane have limited options. The violent assault in front of Johnny, and the dueling court orders, have raised this conflict to levels they had not previously experienced. As noted earlier, they need distance between them, if possible. Or, if they remain living in the same house, Susan and Duane should build a living-under-the-same-roof agreement, delineating roles, responsibilities, and behaviors.

Individual and Shared Needs

Susan, Duane, and Johnny all have individual needs. Susan has a need for a home for herself and her teenaged son. She has also expressed a desire to no longer be married to Duane. Finally, Susan has a need to be able to live without fear of being assaulted. Johnny’s needs are related to Susan’s: he has a need for a home and a need for he and his mother to be safe. Duane’s needs are more worldly; his primary need is to exert power within his own house. While he sometimes claims to love Susan, his behavior does not demonstrate love. The shared needs between Susan, Duane, and Johnny are few; they all share a desire for a home and safety.

Recommended Intervention Strategy

I propose a four-part intervention strategy. The first component of the intervention strategy is to separate Duane from Susan and Johnny in terms of living arrangements. Recent history has demonstrated that the relationship between Duane and Susan has become increasingly violent in nature. If Susan is not able to immediately find a place for Johnny and her to live, Susan and Duane must create a situation whereby Duane and Susan are not in the house at the same time. The second component of the intervention is to have Duane and Susan determine what would be necessary to move toward divorce and dissolving the marriage. The case study notes “Duane has attempted to delay the process of the divorce due to feelings of failure, jealously (sic), anger, and vindictiveness.” Working with a third party, Duane can explore those feelings and work to put them aside as he moves forward with his life. The third component of the intervention is to develop a formal separation agreement detailing a property settlement and support agreement which can later be incorporated in the divorce decree. This would need to be a mediated process with both Susan and Duane. The fourth component of the intervention is for Susan and Duane to come to some understanding that while their marriage is over, some good was created in the marriage. The mediator would have them focus on good from the marriage not to help them salvage the marriage, but to salvage the memory of the relationship, ending it on a more positive note.

Expected Outcomes

The expected outcomes for this case are deceptively simple: to create a safe living situation for all involved. We have other outcomes, of course. We expect the marriage between Susan and Duane to end in divorce; we expect Susan and her son Johnny to live in a safe and comfortable home; we expect – indeed, we hope – Susan and Duane will remember some good from their time together.