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5 THINGS ABOUT LEADERSHIP

1877

1877

ACCORDING TO A FEW EXPERTS, leadership is defined as, “the ability to get work done with and through others while winning their respect, confidence, loyalty, and willing cooperation” (Greer and Pkunkett, 2007:261). That definition implies quite a broad set of traits. A number of you might have all of these, and at the same time, not really grasp that leadership is part of your heritage, it’s in your veins.

Leadership is a consequence of complex interactions, whether psychological or social; and we all know history has created complex socio-psychological situations for Native People. The notion that leaders possess a specific set of traits traverses cultures. While all cultures do not share a universal idea of what every leader looks like, or acts like, there is a set of universal traits that all leaders do have. Let’s look at 5 of them, here.

Leaders are trustworthy. Leaders uphold a reputation for integrity, are less likely to be engaged in risky ventures, cheat, or conduct affairs that could place others in danger. Being trustworthy, that people trust your judgment is the first trait of a leader.

Secondly, Leaders act out of concern for others. Leaders are not loners, they are inherently part of a social group. So it is the people of the group who agree on leadership. It’s one thing to declare oneself a leader, and another when people treat you as one. If you are greedy, or otherwise unethical, people will see that. Leaders keep the greatest good in mind, rarely, if ever acting in self-interest. Think of the 19th Century leader, Chief Joseph.[1] Chief Joseph thought it best that his small tribe survive, instead of continually sending the dwindling men and boys to die fighting against the technologically advanced settlers ever moving westward into Nez Pierce country. Fighting was senseless by the late-1800’s. The millions of settlers weren’t going anywhere. Chief Joseph recognized that the numbers were clearly not on his side and so he acted on behalf of his people: advocating for a reserve. Acting out of concern for others, is primary, and must be in the heart of a leader.[2]

Thirdly, while leaders must be intelligent, not every intelligent person has the ability to explain things clearly . Thus, leaders must not only know the important issues at play, but need to also have the ability to clearly explain them to others. It’s through explaining and clarifying issues that consensus is developed. Consensus equals followers or disciples, and building a consensus is derived from the ability to explain important things clearly.

Leaders have to possess courage to proclaim a particular course of action. What’s the point shouting that there is such-and-such problem, trying to get people to listen without also providing the solution? Solutions don’t fall from the sky. Leaders will have taken the time to ponder about consequences. It will be from those variables that leaders must decide the most appropriate course of action. Otherwise, what you have is a clairvoyant. A clairvoyant is not concerned with outcomes, they simply report what’s going to happen next!

Finally, a leader will be scrutinized when things get tough. When water and food are scarce, or when buildings are burned down, the leader must have already developed in herself the determination and will to persist a course of action, but remain flexible enough to know when a change of direction is needed. Changing course can be both psychologically and socially difficult. Consider how Chief Joseph must have felt when he desired true freedom for his people, that he desired to fight on, but that his people were few and hungry. He had to inform his people – many of whom already knew – that it was in their best interest to settle, so that the Nez Pierce would live on- albeit on a reserve.

For sure, leadership is a social necessity. Leadership takes on unique shapes provided by the cultural and situational settings. For the Indigenous of America, leadership is part of their heritage. However, in movies and other popular media, Indigenous Americans are romanticized as as mostly Sioux-Indian males – sitting around a nighttime fire (inside a teepee) bickering about issues, perhaps passing a pipe while a drum beats into the night. On the contrary, most American Indigenous leadership hed councils in vastly different places. The Caddo Tribal leadership met in grass structures; and the Iroquois, in longhouses.

Notably, the Iroquois, or “People of the Longhouses”, (Kannonsionni ) are known broadly as the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee).The Six Nations include the Seneca, the Cayuga, the Oneida, the Mohawk, and Onandaga – and later, the Tuscarora. Today, this Six Nation Council is known as the Iroquois League.[3] Each of the Six Nations have representative leadership who are selected by the clan mothers of each Nation. These 56 chieftain leaders (Hoyenah) make up The Great Iroquois Council.[4] This ancient council is nearly 600-years old. According to the best contemporary archaeological evidence it is stated to have began around the year 1450.[5]

Throughout half a millennia we can trust that the clan mothers made sure that their selections to the Great Council possessed the 5 traits discussed here and that historically, there were undoubtedly difficult decisions made by these elected Hoyenah (chiefs). More difficult still, was that courses of action taken by the council had to be unanimous. Imagine the kind of leaders it takes to create unanimity? That’s the heritage in your veins. That’s the kind of leader you are.

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Notes:

1. Nez Pierce Chief, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Joseph
2. “In 1885, Chief Joseph and his followers were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest to settle on the reservation around Kooskia, Idaho. Instead, Joseph and others were taken to the Colville Indian Reservation far from both their homeland in the Wallowa Valley and the rest of their people in Idaho,” ibid.
3. http://www.bigorrin.org/iroquois_kids.htm
4. “The Grand Council of the Iroquois League is an assembly of 56 Hoyenah (chiefs) or Sachems, a number that has never changed. Today, the seats on the Council are distributed among the Six Nations as follows: 14 Onondaga, 10 Cayuga,  9 Oneida,  9 Mohawk,  8 Seneca,  6 Tuscarora”, ibid.
5. Dean Snow states, “the archaeological evidence does not support a date earlier than 1450,” ibid.
Greer, Charles, R. and W. Richard Plunkett. (2007). Supervisory Management, 11th Ed. Pearson/Prentice. Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ. 07458
Images, public domain customizations

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APPROACHING RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

AS HUMANS, DESPITE OUR COLLECTIVE TALENTS and knowledge, we all encounter challenges in our lives. Although one challenge may be greater than another, it is the challenges that create action, create impetus to change, to adapt, or employ patience or some other skill that allows us overcome these challenges, and to evolve past them.

Challenges can be physical, such as in making the basketball squad in your school or college (a challenge that is not subject to diplomacy: you either are good enough or not). Then there are emotional challenges, such as involving the bereavement process (loss of a loved one) which may invoke spiritual, religious, and intellectual challenges, such as consideration of creeds of worship or religious rites. Moreover, challenges can be social, and perhaps a combination of any of these. No matter the type of challenge, they create stress.

So what do you do then?

Well, some people exercise – to increase endurance; some people do sudoku or perhaps take a class. Whatever the method utilized to combat stress, hopefully it works for you, but there is a pre-stress technique I would like you to be aware of which may allow you to affect a positive outcome in the face of certain social challenges. The technique, termed force-field analysis, comes to us from social-psychologist, Kurt Lewin. [1] Force-field analysis is used in business, collective-bargaining, and mediation. It can be employed by anyone who takes a few minutes to conduct such an analysis, and it is quite easy to remember. Force-Field Analysis, then, can be viewed like this:
In response to challenging stimuli, people will behave as resistant or encouraged to change – in relation to the adversity. There are 3 types of forces in any “field of controversy”. The first set of forces is called restraining forces – which aid ones resistance to change. Then, there are driving forces – which encourage change. Finally, there is the “inertia force” in the field, where both restraining and driving forces collide. The term force-field analysis is named for the insight used to devise strategies based on what is learned from competing forces in the field.

Let me clarify with an example:

You have been tasked with a project at work, this Friday afternoon, and due to the nature of your employment, are forced to work overtime. The project will likely add another 6-hours to your shift therefore you will certainly miss your son’s coveted playoff basketball match – one you promised to make. However, you realize that you could complete the extra work in around two-hours and still be able to keep your promise to your son if you could convince another colleague to also work overtime – which for any one of them – is not mandatory. After your initial inquiries nobody is convinced to stay late. There is one lead who seemed promising, but she had voiced concerns about additional pay for the babysitter, and was not sure she could afford to cover an extra 3-hours considering she has already exceeded her monthly budget expenditures.

A Force-Field Analysis for this scenario would look like this:

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In this situation, without the analysis, it looks as if you will miss your son’s senior basketball game and you will have broken a promise to him. However, a close analysis provides hope. If you are able to introduce an additional driving force (money) it might act upon your colleagues resistance. Offers to cover the babysitter out-of-pocket, and/or perhaps order a take-out meal to reinvigorate your colleague’s energy stores, or you might offer to baby sit for free a few nights, so your colleague could get a night on the town at some point in the future? Whatever course you choose, the answer lies in the creativity you attach to your analysis of the forces at play. This technique not only works well in business and in mediation-type arenas, you might discover that it can be used to see many kinds of challenges from a clearer perspective, thus, overcome resistance to behaviors you wish to modify.

I hope this was helpful. May the force be with you. 😉

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Notes:

1. Lewin, K. (1951) Field Theory in Social Science, New York: Harper and Row
2. Simple guides to carry out force field analysis, with examples in management, see: http://www.mindtools.com/forcefld.html.

EMPLOYING YOUR PERSONALITY

Employing Your Personality

In today’s atmosphere, applying for a job entails providing a large amount of personal information to prospective employers. Health records, medical documents, and psychiatric records, are – in the vast majority of cases – protected information beyond the reach of anyone without direct written authorization. This helps to prevent specific discrimination as exemplified by the 1990’s film Philadelphia. [1]

At any rate, savvy employers may not necessarily require a direct peek into health information as a few carefully worded questions can give any HR Department insight into what type of people are applying for jobs. This way businesses can weed out those applicants – who despite meeting qualifications – are simply not the kind of worker the business desires. Let me exemplify how questions could be posed to applicants in the near future by recalling a few ethics scenarios that I encountered in my college days.

The first scenario presented to you, goes like this:

“Imagine you’re a train conductor on a runaway train. The brakes have failed, the horn does not respond and you have come to a fork in the tracks. On the right side of the tracks – the side you and the train are – there are five Girl Scouts crossing the tracks headed to an adjacent neighborhood to sell cookies. On the left side of the tracks there is a hobo who has fallen asleep on the tracks. You have only enough time to either A) pull a lever to switch the course of the track, saving the five little girls, but killing the hobo, or B) do nothing, whereby the five Girl Scouts are killed, but saving the hobo’s life. Which action do you take?”

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That was a rather common ethics question; one I have proposed to my own students over the years. I have heard everything from, “I’m not answering that”, to “I need more information”, and even, “I’m just jumping off the train”. While their responses are simply attempts to avoid responsibility, for class, this was OK, but mostly, for others, the question is a great point of deep contention and leads to discussion that allows students to get to know one another early on in the course.

Let me give another scenario.

“Imagine you’re a mute walking along the sidewalk at a roadside festival. You are part of a small crowd of people where only you notice an oncoming vehicle that is about to ram into three women at a high rate of speed and kill them. The women are beyond your reach, but there is an elderly man between you and the girls such that if you were to instantly act, you know with certainty that A) pushing the man into the girls would create a domino-effect which will save the lives of three ladies, but would kill the man by placing him in the path of the vehicle, or B) do nothing whereby the three women are killed. Which choice would you make? ”

If you compare the two scenarios, there is a basic distinction that produces answers that could be of keen interest to prospective employers. While the vast majority of businesses will never request access to protected health information, answers to scenarios like these are not protected, and may reveal more about “the real you” than a physical exam. In fact, one retailer, KMart has used actual personality assessments. These are used to determine likelihood of deception in answering, or perhaps an inclination to steal, or embezzle money. The practical usefulness of assessments are unknown, but answers are compiled to hopefully reveal more about you than what you present in your history.

Part of the point is that you have to pay close attention to the changes in the law as relates to applicant-prospective employer relationships, but more importantly, that you occasionally remind yourself of the kind of person you truly are. Reread the two scenarios I presented above. If you have any trouble answering, then perhaps you could benefit yourself and everyone else around by taking some time alone to hopefully figure out why that is before applying for that job.

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Notes:
1) HIPA ( The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191)

• Images: public domain customizations

The Secrets to Managerial Success: Unlocking Functions

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SUCCESS IN MANAGEMENT STEMS LARGELY FROM skill sets as opposed to externalities such as height, good-looks, or racial group as it may have pre-21st Century. Neither does success depend on charisma alone. The primary determinant of managerial success results from how well the manager knows then executes her Four Major Functions as manager.
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These four major functions of management are Planning, Organizing, Controlling, and Directing. While these functions share similarities, they are distinct and developed to produce different outcomes. However, this is accomplished with the success of the enterprise as the end-goal.

Let’s examine individual functions, starting with Planning.

Planning includes major activities that encompass decisions involving company goals and direction, and figuring out ways to implement these directives within constraints of finite resources. Besides ones education, the industry in which one learned to manage provides some initial direction. For instance, ideas used in the hospitality industry may not translate to success-filled plans in agribusiness if one changed jobs.

Primary plans need to be available for everyone to see. These plans are policies, procedures, and most mission statements. One must communicate these plans to the work force.

The ever-important planning function must expound a direction and its goal(s); planning must also elaborate the means to accomplish the jobs; the resources to be used, and training to accomplish these tasks. Additionally, there must also exist a means through which to evaluate alternative courses of action, and determine if ones goals and procedures have aligned, or tragically, why they have not. If ones goals are not being met, troubleshoot the plans, ask for feedback, and never be fearful of going back to the drawing board. After all, short cuts such as installing faulty products (instead of finding another distributor to provide a better part) have led to deaths and billions of dollars in liability, resulting in mass recall of products because the end goal of profit was thought to be more important short-term than long-term, ethical and strategic plans and procedures upon which any company is founded.

Organizing, as alluded to in the first function, is likely the most similar and parcel to the planning function. It’s in the organization of the business that ones goals will be implemented and tasks carried out. This entails deciding which employees do specific jobs and “establishing a framework of authority and accountability among the people… ” assigned to complete the jobs (Greer & Plunkett, 2007:100).

Whether a business is bureaucratic (infexible and reactive) or organic (flexible and creative), this design will have an effect on the entirety of philosophy, hierarchy, and effort of the employee. This must be kept in mind as part of some radical strategy may even perhaps involve revamping the design of the organization itself so as to better compete in a dynamic market (e.g. outsourcing, virtual conferences, etc.)
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Planning and Organizing

Planning and Organizing

Direction and Control

Direction and Control

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Directing is thought of in much the same way as one thinks if a music conductor. The music conductor coordinates the structure of a symphony by employing variously specialized musicians to work together, each contributing to a highly intricate goal at the behest of the conductor. Successful directors and managers do the recruiting and staffing based on needs, tasks and corporate goals, and coordinate training staff to function in their particular symphony of commerce. Once staffed and trained, these roles also require support through incentives, discipline, evaluation, and motivation.
This important function, a human resources function, demands a group of skills that the manager must enrich through practice. One must learn to draw upon these skills at-will to influence others and to exercise leadership.

Finally, there is the Control function. This function invokes history; that is, comparing industry standards for performance to ones own. Standards must be accepted practices, produce quantifiable or measurable results, must be economically sensible, and focus on key points of the service or production to have maximal effect.

To illustrate this control concept, there is a popular story about a manager who held a meeting before shift began at an assembly plant. She talks about efficiency and savings then concludes the meeting with, “Does anyone have input or suggestions?” The workers are standing around trying to come up with something when a new employee yells (in a strong southern accent) from the back of the crowd, “We always have to leave the production floor to fetch gloves and that takes like 30-min. We have to walk to storage, fill out some long form. On top all that, we have locate two-managers to sign-off on it just to get a pair of gloves to do our jobs. That seems to be completely senseless, if you ask me.”
The manager smiles, then she replies, “From now on gloves will be moved to the production floor, require no forms, and no signatures.”

Needless to say its easy to see production increased throughout the entire organization based on initiative to ask a question and take really simple action.

While not every problem can be solved as easily as shown in the glove anecdote, it does illustrate successful use of all four functions of management. With practice and experience employing functions of management, one ties the success of business to oneself. Skilled, confident employment of these functions starts with these “secrets”:
1) knowing the business
2) knowing the staff
3) knowing corporate goals
4) possess the willingness to elevate the firm through critical thinking and decisive action.
Those are the secrets.

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Sources:

• Charles Greer, and R. Plunkett.
SUPERVISORY MANAGEMENT, 11th ed. NJ.
PEARSON. (2007).

• images, courtesy of shutterstock.com

🙂

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