The Curious Leader: The 4 zones of comfort that keep your team stuck

CuriousHow curious are you?

Leaders are curious people, seeking to explore possibilities. If you are like me, something will spark your imagination, you will see a new opportunity and then start to explore. Then your big job is to help your team to catch the idea and step out of their comfort zone.

 

Curious… It has the desire to understand, a desire to try, a desire to push whatever envelope is interesting. Leaders are curious because they can’t wait to find out what the group is going to do next. The changes in the tribe are interesting, and curiosity drives them.Tribes, Seth Godin

They [curious people] are the ones who lead the masses in the middle who are stuck. The masses in the middle have brainwashed themselves into thinking it’s safe to do nothing, which the curious can’t abide.

Once recognised, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity  that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.  

(Seth Godin, 2008, Tribes: We need you to lead us)

“Lead the masses stuck in the middle” this is the challenge for the majority of leaders. If we think about it statistically, most of us work under a leader’s vision, and are responsible to bring a range of people along. They invariably represent a variety of positions, often brainwashed… into thinking it’s safe to do nothing.

The curious leader looks beyond the present and has an eye on the next steps, drip feeding the future, while simultaneously shaking people from their comfort zone. After all, Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. (Godin, 2008)

Alice in Wonderland

Transition your team from the four comfort zones:

The Mind Zone: This is what I know. It’s how I’ve always worked, and now you’re telling me what?

Present the research, the wisdom and the opportunity that the new idea or project will bring. When people become mindfully engaged, they will step up. Describe the big opportunity and cast vision. Repeat.

The Culture Zone: This is the way we’ve always done it… If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Addressing cultural issues is essential to effective leadership. These are usually deeply held views, evident in behaviour and conversation. This means that the desired mindsets, behaviours and language are consistently modelled and reinforced.

The Familiar Zone: I’ve got all my tools and resources. We’ve all worked together for years.

The right tools for the job and positive working relationships are important to productive and meaningful work. Leaving comfort zones may mean deploying new teams and operations. Your team needs time to process this and establish new relationships. They will need training and coaching.

The Safe Zone: If I stay safe I can’t fail. New ideas might not work and then what do we do?

We all agree that feeling safe is an important human conditions. Leaders are usually people who can live with a degree of risk. Taking your team into unchartered waters requires trust. They need to trust that you know where you are going and where you are taking them will be better.

As Alice said, I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole — and yet — and yet — it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!

This rather curious sort of life is the stuff of adventures worth having.

@anneknock

Will you take the pledge: I will only use the term “21st Century” as a noun, not an adjective

All students at school right now have only been at school in the 21st Century and the majority of them were born in the 21st Century.

Slide1

Language we use in education needs to be relevant and have meaning to the context. I believe there is no place for the use of “21st Century” as an adjective, it is 2014 after all. This applies to:

  • 21st Century Doo Wop21st Century learning
  • 21st Century skills
  • 21st Century schools
  • 21st Century education
  • 21st Century spaces

 

 

 

Today we can just say: learning, skills, schools, education and spaces. We know, and are excited, that the “21st Century” requires a different approach than what the 20th Century had to offer. The young people at school now have only really known:

  • Mobile devices, rather than desktop computers
  • The Internet as the source of information and Google and Wikipedia as the gateway
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Music and video as device-based, not stored separately to the player, such as videotape and CD
  • Simple and fast long distance communication as the norm
  • Social media as communication and information source
  • Photographs and video immediately available for viewing
  • International travel and communication as normal and accessible to many
  • Queensland beating NSW in the State of Origin Rugby League Football series*

We use “21st Century” as an adjective because it has adequately described an aspiration. The way we would like to see schools meeting the needs of the young people we serve. But language is alive, it’s organic and can change.

Dictionaries provide updates of the words and terms that have reached everyday speech. In 2013 new terms were officially recognised by the Oxford Dictionary, including:

  • BYOD
  • babymoon
  • double denim
  • FOMO
  • MOOC
  • srsly
  • twerk (sadly)

We now have the opportunity to either add the words/terms we would like to see, or create new ones. The more we use them in speech and written forms, the more they will be used.

Think about changing… Replace with…
lesson and period
describing learning as a discrete,
time-bound activity
learning session
computer (anything)
skills, room, lesson, the thing itself
technology, device
homework
tasks set that could not be finished
in class or for extra drills
pre-learning, post learning, applied learning
occurs outside school hours, but not
necessarily at home
discipline
describing the system
relationship management
behaviour development
classroom learning space, or just give the spaces
their own unique names
desks and chairs furniture
student learner

There are some terms that will probably stay. I think we still say ‘teacher’, the nature of the role continues to change and encompasses a broad range of skills and expertise. I can’t see it ever replaced by ‘facilitator’, this is just one of the skills a teacher needs.

The more we use the desired terminology in context, the more the community will understand what we mean.

How else would FOMO not require a descriptor?

@anneknock

*Australian Interstate football rivalry, that to date, has seen Queensland will 9 series in a row… maybe this year.

Change Agents: “If you build it they [may not necessarily] come” The key is provision and empowerment #cefpioz14

There are two things you need to know about me:

1. I’m not at fond of Kevin Costner movies
2. I have never believed the rhetoric of “If you build it they will come”

“No such thing as best practice in education anymore, education is complex in the knowledge economy.” Prof Martin Westwall

Building something is just the start of providing the context, following close on the heals is empowering the people to step up and make it happen. The world of full of edifices, both real and metaphorical, where the people didn’t actually come.

Currently I am at the CEFPI Conference in Adelaide and we just heard from Professor Martin Westwell, Strategic Professor in the Science of Learning at Flinders University. Martin is an engaging and challenging speaker who debunked a lot of myths around what we think about learning.

For educators and architects, the primary audience of is conference, the concept of “provision and empowerment” connected both disciplines. Provision of flexible learning spaces needs to be transformed into empowerment through knowing how to use the space effectively. Providing the space alone is insufficient. We can provide spaces and learning contexts that look interesting and engaging, but how we empower the users is where the magic happens.

Professor Westwall showed PISA data about the effectiveness of types of learning commonly used in schools:
Application
Hands on
Investigation
Student-to-student interaction.

Interestingly, ‘student-to-student’ interaction showed the greater levels of learning retention, and ‘investigation’, the least (for Australian students). The most powerful student-to-student interaction occurred when students were working in pairs. Investigation was ineffective because teachers ‘left them to it’ and therein was the problem, provision but no empowerment.

Teachers and the students can be empowered through a strategic approach to ensure the provision of space, learning opportunities. We may even see improvement in learning through investigative activities when teachers change the way they work.

The new mantra is “provision and empowerment”

If you build it they will come, but only after great planning and execution.

@anneknock

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Excuse me, Change Agent, what’s your strategy? How-to guide for educators.

I am on the board of Halogen Foundation. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a contribution to the leadership development for a generation. Halogen runs the hugely popular National Young Leaders Day across Australia and exists to:

“to inspire and influence a generation of young people to lead themselves and others well”

I really enjoy the board meetings and they are also a great learning experience for me, as we collaboratively develop strategy to guide the future direction of the organisation. Working with the fellow board members and the CEO we focus on the big picture. This is what strategy is all about.

A strategy is how we turn ideas into action.

An idea alone doesn’t change anything. Actions in isolation may either help or hinder. Articulating a strategy provides a plan. Yet, as the board chair at Halogen remarked at a recent board meeting, “a strategy is just a hypothesis”.

What is strategy?

Put simply, it relates to plans and actions that will help you to achieve goals. Blue sky thinking is really important in the early stage, but if we just stay there we will achieve little and just ‘do stuff’. There comes a time when strategy and discipline needs to be applied for change to become reality.

Many of us have learnt this along the way, yet as we face a society of fast-paced change, the skills and process of working strategically have become more critical. If we are working in teams on projects, then adopting a strategic approach facilitates progress.

Change AgentThis applies at every level of responsibility in a school, not just the executive team, remember:

  • Change agents are leaders
  • Leaders can be anywhere in an organisation

 

How do we develop strategy to meet our goals, however large or small?

If you have accepted the role of Change Agent, then growing the skills of strategic planning is an important step.

Developing goals and implementing a plan is a process available to anyone. No longer just the domain of the board or Senior Leadership Team.

Strategy involved three elements

Goals: Identifying what do you want to do

People: Deciding who is going to do it with you

Activity: Planning what things are you going to do (and by when)

Where do you start?

Strategic planning is a process that starts with a floodlight and
narrows into a laser beam.

The Floodlight

Your team: __________________________

Who is with you on this process? It is important that you are working collaboratively on the strategy. Educators are no longer lone rangers and need to work in teams.

Your goal: __________________________

Goals that are clear and well-articulated will guide process. It needs to be:

  • Relevant and add value to the school
  • Consistent with the school’s vision/mission/values
  • Completed by…
  • Measured
  • Achieve something purposeful and meaningful
  • Worth all the effort

Predict the Future: 

What will it look like when we have achieved our goal? Draw, make, creatively express the future. Have some fun in this stage. There needs to be a good reason why you have your goal. Leaders change things for the better. So, what is “the better”?

Understand the Now:

A realistic assessment of Where am I? is essential and a SWOT Analysis is a good place to gather information.

SWOT

What is the Big Opportunity?

The goal is important as the basis of the strategic plan, but may not be exciting enough to “sell” your idea to the team. Reframing your goal as a Big Opportunity makes the task ahead something that engages and excites people.

The Big Opportunity

Narrowing the beam

The next step is taking the broad information and start to focus the light on your goal. It’s time to put pen to paper on your idea. Spending time working on planning documents is essential and develops accountability. This involves articulating your goal in a way that creates a plan of action.

Start answering these big questions.

The next step

Narrowing your ideas even further involves making decisions and these decisions are commit to action. One of the most difficult thing is committing to a time frame.

The plan is your road map.

The plan

Strategic planning is a discipline. It’s not set in stone, you can deviate from the path as time progresses, but it provides the essential point for implementing ideas, guiding your team and leading change.

@anneknock

Change Agents are Leaders: Are these roadblocks preventing change for your team? #fourtransitions

The essence of leadership is change. Change unsettles people and obstacles emerge.

Of course, there are those of us that are quick to leap at something new, the ones who normally lead the way. These people, I know from personal experience, are excited by the vision for change and can see potential in the ‘new’ but can be frustrated by those that can’t easily embrace change.

At these times I am reminded of one of Covey’s Seven Habits – #5

Seek first to understand, then be understood.

If our role as leaders is to take people through change, it is helpful to consider the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, first developed in 1962 by Everitt Rogers, a professor of rural sociology.

Diffusion of Innovation

This graph helps to explain what is happening internally when people are faced with change. Not everybody will immediately think your plans and ideas are their own next steps. However, as leaders we are in the business of change and movement, not status quo and standing still.

(Image from Sinek, Start With Why)

 

At each stage of the Four Transitions to Culture Change different roadblocks can hinder the process

Four transitions

Building Knowledge:
Complacency

Shifting Mindsets:
Fear and doubt

Forming New Habits:
Stuck

Changing Culture:
Uncertainty

 


Complacency: I don’t need to change anything

When people are complacent they see no sense of urgency. There is comfort in doing what they have always done.

Creating a sense of urgency for change, providing the right and timely information can shift people out of self-satisfaction. This needs to be a true sense of urgency.

The change agent’s role is to know your people and know that they have different motivators. This will help you to provide the right information, experiences and examples that provides the evidence that change is required.

Solution: Create a sense of urgency


Fear and doubt: Will it be better or worse for me?

Overcoming fear and doubt is as much about listening, as it is speaking. We need to stop and listen. Change agents and innovators are excitable individuals. All of our communication needs to appreciate where we are and how we got to be here, and then point to a better future.

Unless there is a sense of confidence in the future and in the leaders to take them there, the necessary changes in behaviour will not be lasting.

Solution: Give confidence


Stuck: I can’t change the way I do things

“If you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine, and the odds of your success go up dramatically.” Duhigg (2012), The Power of Habit

Brain research has taught us about habits. According to Duhigg, habits occur when our brain is in automatic mode. A behavioural cue triggers the brain, a routine kicks in, and then there is a reward. Habits change when the routine changes. The cue and the reward can stay the same, yet behaviour is transformed.

Solution: Replace the routine


Uncertainty: Is anyone else doing this

Certainty is achieved when people realise they aren’t the only ones thinking this way. The key to shifting the thinking in the late majority is showing them that there is a growing school of thought by many, not just the whacky few.

Twitter has been an incredible phenomenon in education. Many of us for many years have longed for change in education, yet felt alone. Being part of a social media tribe, sharing ideas and resources has meant that others thinking the same things can create a movement for change. There is power when we realise we aren’t alone.

Solution: Create a movement. Grow a tribe


Leadership takes people on a journey to a better future.

“If you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.”
Afghan proverb

@anneknock

Change Agents are Leaders: The four transitions toward culture change in your school

Change, culture and leadership are concepts that are inseparable.

Achieving the desired culture for your team or school requires a process of change, and leadership is essential to make this happen. In my last post I encouraged you to consider leading change and taking on the role of  a change agent wherever you are in your school, organisation, or even your family.

What makes you a leader is that there is an idea or a vision for the future that you cannot shake, and you are compelled to do something about it. This idea will make life better for someone and your mantra needs to be “if not me, then who?”

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Transitions are the phases we work through on the way to changing culture. If  we can simplify this process, then change can be more achievable. It doesn’t mean that change is necessarily as quick and as simple as we would like it to be, but a clear process can help to track progress.

As I have thought about this, played around with ideas and read about culture change, I have identified four transitions to change culture. The change process begins inside, and then as it reaches a critical mass of people, culture change occurs.Four transitions

1. Building Knowledge

2. Shifting Mindsets

3. Forming New Habits

4. Changing Culture

How can you grow a culture of collaboration in your school?

1. Building KnowledgeBuilding knowledge

Many people facing change want to know the facts. What does research tell us? Are there case studies we can draw from? What are the pros and cons? Providing the right conditions, the fertile ground of knowledge and information is the first step. This includes preempting questions and concerns and having some answers ready will help facilitate this process.

 

2. Shifting MindsetsShifting midsets

At some point during the Building Knowledge phase, the seed of a changing mindset will start to germinate. This is when we begin to have a change in attitude. There is a lot of pondering and thinking through what the vision will look like in reality.

 

 

 

3. Forming New HabitsForming new habits

As mindsets and attitudes change, the seed has taken root, the plant starts to rise above the surface and changing behaviour is evident. This behaviour shows new habits that are consistent with the vision and the desired culture.

 

 

 

4. Changing CultureChanging Culture

When there is a critical mass of changed behaviour, then the new culture can flourish. It’s not just one plant above the surface, but a landscaped garden begins to emerge.

 

 

 

Organisations everywhere are struggling to keep up with the pace of change – let alone get ahead of it.* This process is both continual and parallel. As leaders we need to accept the complexity and rate of change, because… If not you, then who?

@anneknock

*Accelerate, John P. Kotter, 2014

Position vacant – Change Agent: 6 characteristics required to lead change wherever you are.

Change AgentThis is an exciting time to be in education. There is a groundswell for change, that will eventually see governments and administrators stop and take notice. The innovation in school education that so many of us seek seems to be low on their policy agenda at the moment. So as a result leaders are emerging, individuals, groups and entire schools, are taking action and creating a movement.

 

The time for incremental, slow-moving change has passed, and now we need to step it up a pace. Leaders are restless people. They see and sense the need for change, but usually the biggest blocker is the culture that surrounds them. It can be conducive to change, or resistant. 

To change culture effectively we need to strategically position change agents in schools.

Position vacant: Change Agent

Thank you for applying to become a change agent. Before we go any further, you need to realise that being a change agent is synonymous with leadership. There are a plethora of change agent positions available. Here are a few things you need to know before applying:

Leaders change things.

Leaders are at all levels in an organisation.

Leaders are not content with the status quo

People are looking for leaders.

People will be poorly led, if that’s the only option available.

People often resist change.

Change is inspired by vision.

Change requires strategy

Change is effective when it disrupts the prevailing culture.

Change is a subject, an attitude or an environment that can polarise people. There are those who love it and those who are terrified by it and many in between who sit on a bell curve from acceptance to rejection.

Position Vacant: Change Agent

Essential Criteria for Change Agents

Only passionate, inspired and selfless individuals should apply. This is hard work, and in the initial phases, there may be little return for your effort. You will need to be:

Motivated by meaning and purpose: Being an effective change agent starts internally. You will not be successful if this is just your next step on the ladder of success. You want to do this because you know that change is essential to for growth, improvement and potential.

Positive outlook on life: You possess a can-do attitude that excites people and compels them to join you on the mission. You are known for being a glass-half-full kind of person.

Self awareness: Change agents are optimistic, but also have a good grasp on their own strengths and limitations. You need to build a team with complementary skills and talents. People with honest self-awareness attract great talent.

Courage to ask tough questions: This is not mutually exclusive with having a positive outlook. As a change agent you will not be a person who accepts the status quo. You will need to find alignment between roles and goals and develop a plan. This will mean shaking things up.

Warmth and good humour: Shaking things up and being courageous needs to be conveyed in such a way that relationships are not only maintained, but strengthened. Not everyone will accept your ideas, but that is a choice that they have made, so long as you have prioritised relationships along the way.

Authenticity: Maintaining trust and respect, through navigating difficult waters is essential. This is achieved by being real and responding in a way that models a healthy culture

Perks and conditions

Change agents can’t assume there will be any. You do it because you believe that students need an education that will better equip them for their future. You will, however, belong to a tribe of world-wide change agents.

There is no application process. Just get started and make a difference.

@anneknock


 

Ref: Dr Samual Chand – Ch 5: Change starts with me.

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