Monday, April 30, 2012

The Role of Optimism in Leadership

One of my favorite quotes about effective leadership comes from a book, Resonant Leadership. In the book, Boyatzis & Mckee, suggest that “Optimism is a way of looking at life…this outlook actually influences how you feel and what you think about things that happen to you and around you. Optimistic people tend to believe that good things will happen, and when bad things do happen, that the situation is bound to change for the better fairly quickly." Leadership scholar Warren Bennis said it like this -  "In short, every exemplary leader that I have met has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism – and that helps generate the energy and commitment  necessary to achieve results." So here's a question, How are you perceived by others? Are you viewed as an individual with a hopeful and positive outlook? A person who envisions an exciting future? A leader who breaths life into the organization and its members? Or, are you perceived by others as a negative force. An energy drain?

Now, do not get me wrong, an unrealistic sense of optimism can be detrimental to organization as well. Overly optimistic people may have a difficult time confronting the brutal facts or facing the challenges inherent in each organization. However, the unique individual who carefully balances the realities of organizational life with an optimistic outlook is a powerful force. Optimism energizes others toward a better future in a powerful way. So as you reflect on your role as a leader or even leaders who have come in and out of your life…think about their general outlook and the tone you set with others.

This post comes to you from Lead Facilitator Scott Allen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Anyone Can Make Facilitative Contributions

At the LeaderShape Institute or Catalyst, it’s easy to know who the facilitators are… it’s in their titles: Lead Facilitator, Cluster Facilitator, etc.  But just as leadership is more about how you behave than what your title is, so is facilitation about the contributions you make regardless of your role
Break down the word facilitation and you find two components:  facile which means easy and ation or actions.  So simply put, facilitation is defined as actions that make things easier.  So what is facilitation trying to make easier? Possibilities include:
  • Individuals working together more effectively 
  • Diverse perspectives being more thoroughly explored
  • Individuals feeling comfortable contributing and speaking up
  • Groups efficiently accomplishing more and in less time
  • Creative thinking and innovative solutions emerging
  • Individuals exercising greater ownership over discussions and accountability for decisions reached.
Just because we sometimes have individuals designated as facilitators doesn't mean everyone else can abdicate the responsibility they have for the group to function well.  And if you are in a formal position of leadership, you can draw on the values, beliefs, and techniques of facilitators to more effectively engage those you are leading in the work that needs to be done. These include: 
  • Using active listening skills including paraphrasing, summarizing, reflecting, and questioning; 
  • Encouraging and generating participative discussion in groups;
  • Stimulating creative thinking through brainstorming/other idea-generation processes; 
  • Ensuring strategic consideration of alternatives and informed decision-making of appropriate choices;
  • Managing contrasting perspectives that might result in conflict among members of a group; 
  • Intervening with individuals and groups without taking total control of the situation;
  • Designing meeting processes to accomplish a wide range of goals and objectives;
  • Drawing out others' opinions in an objective and nonjudgmental manner;
  • Supporting teams in various stages of group development;
  • Helping individuals and groups reflect on their experiences and capture relevant learning; and
  • Leading/desigingn inclusive group processes that honor different learning styles Help shape more powerful and strategic questions for exploration.
As Roger Schwarz says in his book, The Skilled Facilitator,"Being a facilitative leader means changing how you think in order to change the consequences you help create."  So think about the groups and teams that you are a part of: (1) What are the consequences you want to help create?  (2) What would be required for that to occur in each group? (3)What shifts in your thinking might help you do contribute to the group doing so? 
Interested in learning more?

Every Friday throughout 2012, Jeffrey Cufaude (a former cluster and lead facilitator) is offering a post at his blog that explores some aspect of facilitation in order to help you change how you think, and ultimately, change the consequences you help create. Search for posts labeled facilitationfriday.

Descriptions of Jeffrey’s six favorite facilitation resources can be found here:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Values – an International Experience…

In July of 2002 I had my first encounter with LeaderShape by serving as a Cluster Facilitator at Allerton. I’ve described to many friends and a colleague working in Student Affairs administration that serving as a Cluster Facilitator was really one of the best gift had been given because of all of the shared learning that resulted from that wonderful experience.  In 2007 I had a second opportunity to serve as a Cluster Facilitator in Doha, Qatar when I was working in Student Affairs with the Qatar Foundation (QF). As a result of collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University – Qatar, QF was afforded the opportunity to sponsor the first LeaderShape in an international context. It was an amazing experience and I felt very fortunate to be a part of it.

I have heard it said that you have to leave your culture to really truly come to know it. I found that to be true for me while living as an expatriate in the Middle East. I learned that leading with integrity and being committed to a particular set of values was just as relevant, and important to my friends in Qatar, as it was to me coming from a North American cultural context.  Thank you LeaderShape® for teaching me time and time again the value of leading with integrity – this is a life-long gift for which I will always be thankful!


Kevin Konecny has served as a Cluster Facilitator for The LeaderShape Institute at a national session in Illinois as well as at the first session for the Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar. He has also played in integral part in bringing the program to Seminole State College of Florida. Kevin's next adventure is an entrepreneurial one as he transitions from higher education to the CEO and Managing Partner of I Repair Now, LLC.