Archive for July, 2014

Leadership Equation Round Two

Posted on: July 30th, 2014 by admin 1 Comment

By Shawn P. Quigley

Previously on Leadership

In our last post (Leadership Equation), we discussed an equation for leadership. Using that equation to further our discussion on leadership, we will delve into the two major drivers: Experience and Attitude.

Experiences of a Team Member

Let us first look into experience. As we can all attest that our experiences commonly jade how we approach every situation, good or bad. It is the nature of people; in general, to relate one thing to another so they feel more comfortable with new situations. This is a good thing as we can recall from our first post were we discussed how this stopped us from being eaten by wild animals in the past. However, one should ask is, “how this will affect our ability to lead people or manage a project?” As in our previous post, we discussed the issue of letting our experiences be the sole driver for how we react to new situations. We can conclude that it if we only use past experiences and do not maintain an open mind we would be doing both our workers and ourselves a disfavor. So now we have the question of how do we overcome our natural propensity to use past experiences? We do not; we add them into the equation as a starting point not the full conclusion. This is a topic in Organizational Learning and known as the Mental Model.

Experiences Provided to a Team Member

Now let us look at what experiences we provide our people. We can do little to change the experiences people already have had, but we can mold the ones they gain while part of our project or company. Having said that, what are we doing to ensure we provide our people constructive experiences? The most common answer to this is that training was provided.  Training; while useful does not always provide useful or productive experiences. Experience is gained from the actual interaction and how it is handled. Do we as leaders or managers provide our people positive or negative experiences?  This again falls back to the Organizational Learning in that it relates to the Mental Model and Systems Thinking. Do we listen before we react or just react? Do we help them come to a productive conclusion or do we just override them, i.e. pushing a negative experience on them?

Team Member Attitude

This is a good starting point for our second part of this topic, Attitude. From our last post, we saw that attitude makes the other major part of the equation. What makes up a person’s attitude? Everyone has a disposition for a certain type of attitude based on their past experiences and their personality. As we covered earlier, we can do little to nothing about past experiences, but can and should play a major role in the ones they obtain during their time working as a member of time. Most people’s attitude is generated by their feeling of belonging and worth: this is discussed in the work by Maslow and Zig Ziggler. Both of which are easily shown to the individual through two way discussions about the goal(s) of the company and listening to suggestions from the team member. By listening, we mean more than just acting as if we hear what they have to say. It means to provide constructive feedback and maintaining an open mind to the possibilities of their suggestions containing some merit.

Conclusion

Throughout our discussion today, we have talked about how to enhance our workers through providing positive experiences and shaping their attitudes, but when we look deep into this philosophy we see that the majority of what we have discussed relates mainly to our employment of a Learning Organization or better yet being an example of a Leaning Individual.

Leadership as an Equation.

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by admin 5 Comments

By Shawn P. Quigley

Leadership Behavioral Equation (as if it were that easy)

We have previously discussed there is no single model that can capture leadership and management in all instances.  However, we can extract some major principles that are required for success.  With that in mind, let us dive into Kurt Lewin’s behavior equation.

B = f (P, E): where B is behavior, P is person, and E is environment. (Lewin, 1936)

This should clear up all our questions about leadership and personnel and professional development, right?  Let us further dissect Lewin’s equation.

If we say that P = f (Exp) (MM) (A): where Exp is the individual’s personnel experiences, MM is the Mental Model of the individual, and A is the individual’s Attitude.

And then we say that E= f (P2) (GB+GTX) (WC): where P2 is other people influences, GB is Group Behavior, GT is Group Think (X is the number of people in the group), and WC is the actual working conditions.

Having stated all this we can now modify Lewin’s equation to be:

B= f {f (Exp) (MM) (A)} {f (P2) (GB+GTX) (WC)}

Now we can further break down some of the person portion of the equation if we assume:

1.)  Mental model is a function of experience (Exp), attitude (A) , and desire to learn (DL):

MM= f (Exp) (A) (DL)

2.)  Attitude is a function of experience (Exp), environment (E), and treatment (T):

A= f (Exp) (A) (T)

Therefore we can say: B= f {f (Exp) {(Exp) (A) (DL)} {(Exp) (A) (T)} {f (P2) (GB+GTX) (WC)}

Or B= f {(Exp3) (A2) (DL) (T)} {f (P2) (GB+GTX) (WC)}

So thus far, we could surmise that behavior is predominately experience and attitude. What if we go further? Without going through some more equations, we can all agree that the way people respond to group behavior and groupthink is based mainly upon experience and attitude as well. This would only further assert that experience and attitude are predominating.

Experience is a long-term item and therefore we will call that a slowly sloping curve. However, attitude is a rapid response item; a log-rhythmic curve. It is directly tied to treatment in that one changes directly proportional to the other. Having said this, we can conclude that for a rapid change, we should focus on improving the treatment (perceived or real) of our personnel, but for the long haul, we should focus on developing good experiences for our people.

This I am sure clears up any questions you may have had about leadership, Right? This is why people have studied what makes a good leader and why they are successful for so long. There is no simple answer, but there are commonalities. Most of which we can gather from the equations above.

Lewin, K. (1936). Principles of Topological Psychoogy. In K. Lewin, Principles of Topological Psychoogy.New York: McGraw-Hill.

Leadership and Group Theory

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by admin 3 Comments

By Shawn P. Quigley

Introduction:

In this blog, we will be discussing Situational, Transformational, and Transactional styles relating to leadership style and group dynamics. We will start with defining each leadership style and then look at that style for guiding a group to success. Upon completion of assessing each style of leadership, we will attempt to determine which style would be the most effective within the group. Keeping in mind that each group is different and that as Rick Curtis stated,

   “When we are placed in a new situation, our old behaviors may not be appropriate. So there is a thawing period during which new behaviors/skills can be learned.”(1995)

Looking at our discussion from this perspective the leadership style we determine most effective will be based on the percentage of its’ use and success. I will then discuss the leadership style that best describes the type of leader I am and in conclusion, we will discuss an overall assessment of leadership styles and group dynamics.

Styles of Leadership

Transactional leadership as defined in “The Art of Leadership” is:

”Focuses on clarifying employees’ roles and providing rewards contingent on performance.” (2012)

Having defined what transactional leadership is we can now look at its’ role in-group dynamics. We have all determined that the establishment of roles within the group is extremely important. Establishing roles allows the group to know who is doing what, identifying each individual’s responsibilities’. With that being said, transactional leadership would appear to be a good style of leadership for the group. However, we must also look at the reward aspect of this type of leadership. When rewards are added to the group picture it will inevitably add a layer of competition to the members of the group. This brings us to the issue of competition and cooperation. While some competition is good, care must be taken to ensure that it does not diminish the cooperation of the group members. Taking both of these aspects of transactional leadership into account, it would seem more of a middle of the road choice for group activities.Transformational leadership as defined in “The Art of Leadership” is:

“The elevation of the potential of followers beyond previous expectations; the ability to raise aspirations and achievements to new levels of performance primarily as a result of the intelligence, charm, and talents of a charismatic leader”. (2012)

     Whereas the leader of the group is key to the success of the group the group’s performance should not be based solely on the leader’s personality. Basing the functioning of the group on a trait of the leader will lend itself to requiring the leader to have constant engagement with the group to ensure success. The goal of the leader should be to help the group obtain a level of maturity where they are no longer needed for higher-level guidance, but are there for minor course adjustments. This cannot be obtained if the leader is the focal point due to their charisma. Therefore, this style of leadership might be good for the young group with people who have little group experience, but would potentially cause more mature groups to lose their edge.

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard developed situational leadership theory. The theory was first introduced as “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership” and was renamed to situational leadership in the 1970s (1969). The basis for this theory/style is that there is no one best leadership style. The style employed is driven by the immediate task and the maturity of the group to which they are leading.

Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership

This leadership style is divided into four different categories:

  • S1 – Telling
  • S2 – Selling
  • S3 – Participating
  • S4 – Delegating

The Maturity level are likewise divided into four categories:

  • M1 – they still lack the specific skills required for the job in hand and are unwilling to do or take responsibility for the task
  • M2 – they are unable to take on responsibility for the task, but are willing to work
  • M3 – they are experienced and able to do the task, but lack the confidence or willingness to take on responsibility
  • M4 – they are experienced at the task and comfortable with their own ability to do well. (2012)

At first glance, it would seem that the use of this leadership style would meet everything a group could want or need.  This is due to the culmination of several different style to meet the team and task demands.

Assessment of Leadership Styles:

Having discussed the three leadership styles, we can conclude that each has their merits and drawbacks. However, it would appear that situational leadership; being a culmination of all styles, embodies the things that would be effective for most types of groups. This is more than likely due to the fact that situational leadership is based upon the situation at hand vice just one aspect. Even with this perspective there is no sure way to determine which style will lend itself to group success due to every group being different. If it were as simple as one shoe fits all then all the research, books, and classes to develop leaders would not be required.

Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Guide to Group Dynamics & Leadership, 1995, PrincetonUniversity, http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/manual/sect9.html

Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H., (1969), Life cycle theory of leadership, Training and Development Journal, 23 (5), 26–34.

George Manning & Kent Curtis, THE ART OF LEADERSHIP, 4th ed. P. cm., Cr. 2012,

Practical Management, Designing a better workplace, http://www.practical-management.com/Leadership-Development/Situational-Leadership.html

Bing Images (Situational Leadership) http://managewell.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/situational.gif

Modern Management and Leadership

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by admin 2 Comments

By Shawn P. Quigley

There are a lot of new management and leadership jargon out there and perhaps it has always been so. Why? Did the roles of a leader and/or manager change? What did we do before and why does that no longer apply? Yes, the roles of the leader have changed; many people have been trying to define what makes a good leader so they can sell it to everyone. However, we all know that even if you do what a good leader did in one situation it may not work due to the situations and the people being different.

It can be argued that work has gotten more complicated. We have distributed our organization’s activities all over the world and that requires more coordination. The rate of change is great; just consider Moore’s Law that postulates the rate of increase in the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubling less than every two years. Finding one person with all of the requisite knowledge to be successful in the face of such complexity is rare and perhaps is not possible. Enter the learning organization.

The Learning Organization

Let us start with the term Learning Organization. The basic tenet of this “new” way of thinking is to be open minded and overcome ones mental models which can actually be obstacles that restrict our thinking differently. Well, why would I change how I think? Was I not open-minded when I started, what has changed, and why did it; I, change? Sometime you will find that time; what helps your experience, has blocked our view of new ideas and new possibilities. We may find that we have become creatures of habit and not willing to alter our perspective in accordance with the new reality presented. Why would time and experience impact or affect us this way? We are the product of our experiences, the good and the bad. When the situation looks familiar, we will instinctively jump to conclusions based upon those previous experiences. In the olden days this pattern recognition and ability to see the outcome quickly based upon the past was instrumental to survival – it kept you from being eaten by an animal. Now days this quick jump to conclusion can be a liability. Pattern and outcome variation are more difficult to ascertain or discern. Whereas pattern recognition can be helpful for trend analysis, it is only a small part of what an individual should use to assess the path forward.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It would seem that it would actually help us keep an open mind if your organization was truly that way to start with or we really desired to keep learning rather than rest upon our biases from our past. Most of us are not driven to constantly improve our thinking or the way we work as we age. This would seem contrary to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but for most of us we find obtaining the pinnacle needs will not occur or we relegate ourselves to tier one and two items. Perhaps we fear that these changes will make us obsolete or at best require more of our time at a time when we are acutely aware of the limits of time. The truth of this is quite the opposite. The constant improvement of ourselves and our organization will make us a more integral part of our company and as someone who embraces these changes or ideas we will learn them as they are implemented. This will also allow for the obtainment of the higher order items Maslow’s discusses. Again, this is not something new, it is the way we were when we started. Commonly asking the questions like, how does this work, and “how can I do this better”? When we find ourselves saying, “I just want to get this done”, that is when we should stop and remember why we have stayed with this company. If we are only here for the paycheck then we are in the wrong field or the wrong company. But if it is because we found the work exciting and thought we could affect change when we started then we are back to why is it different now? Companies that sit on the reputation that they made and do not challenge themselves are destined to be surpassed by those that do. Did you take this job because people listened and work with your ideas to improve the company and ourselves? Then you must ask yourself, why am I not listening to the people who work for me? Have all our young people gotten dumb? The answer is “NO”! Most of them are smarter than we were in their position. So why do we write them off so easily? Even a bad idea has some merit, even if only from a learning perspective and needs investigation. It is this dialog that fosters growth for both the company and the individual. It is this individual growth that makes the Learning Organization. Which when boiled down to brass tacks is no more than people working together.

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Posted on: July 17th, 2014 by admin 1 Comment

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Learning Organization and Organizational Development

Posted on: July 9th, 2014 by admin 2 Comments

By Shawn Quigley

This blog is inspired by The Fifth Discipline Field Book, published by Double Day – New York, Peter M. Senge copyright 1994

The Learn Organization

The five disciplines of a Learning Organization are Team Learning, Personal Mastery, Mental Models, System Thinking, and Shared Vision. With that, let’s look at the items that make up an organization; Structure, Processes, and People. The structure is merely how the people of the organization are organized. The process is how the people are setup up for their task and communication between each other and each team and/or department. And last; but not least, is the people who compromise the organization. Looking at LO is this context provides a manner in which we can see how it relates to OD in a simpler manner. All the portions of LO are directly connected to individual understanding and improvement. First we should look at the correlation between the two: LO & OD.

Team Learning is based upon the individuals in a group or department sharing their ideas in an open forum. Everyone in the group or department discusses their prospective of where the group is and where it could/should go with an open mind as to the feedback from other members of the group. This shared prospective allows several things. In Team Learning the team operates as a collective not as a group of individuals. This free exchange between members satisfies this group operation. It also supports the remaining four parts of LO.

Mental Models

Mental Models are how we perceive things based on our past experiences.1 mental models are constructed from assumptions and reflected past actions, not necessarily by the same individual or organization. We all have mental models of people, places, and things we have developed over time. It is not so much the mental model that is an issue as it is the manner in which we allow them to tailor our actions on new and/or the current people, place, and/or things we are dealing with. I would refer to this as an inhibitor. I refer to it in this manner because it is human nature to apply the worse experience we have had to a new situation. It is this application that can stop us from taking an action or providing someone a chance. It is only when we effectively listen: have an open mental model, to other individual’s mental models that we allow our own mental model to be expanded to the point where it is not an inhibitor, but is a source for effective analysis of a situation. It is this effective analysis that will sponsor OD & change for the individual, team, and organization.

Personal Mastery

For the Personal Mastery portion of LO this relationship is no as obvious so we will discuss the relationship between the two. Personal Mastery is realizing what you want in life by defining your values and priorities, both personally and professionally, and aligning your efforts to reach your goal.1 One cannot properly determine a path to their goal; either personally or professionally, if they are not aware of their actual starting point.2 Not their perceived starting point. This determination of ones’ actual starting point can only be effective ascertained through obtaining input from others; personal and professional, who are involved with you. Then taking that information and conducting an evaluation of all inputs, good and bad. The mere evaluation is in itself Personal Mastery in its’ finest form. With that being said, we can now see how all the parts of LO will cause individuals to be constantly changing and how this constant change will promote OD.

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking is when we look at the system as a whole vice just looking at our portion or ourselves. Systems’ thinking encourages us to step back and look at the broader picture to see the patterns of how one action can affect an area that we thought to be totally unrelated. Systems thinking is akin to Mental Models in that we are or could be looking at something from only our own prospective: how does this affect me, my team, or department, not how it will affect the organization in its’ entirety. When we shift the paradigm of our mental model to be more open we also shift our ability to see the bigger picture, i.e. begin to perform systems thinking. It is this cycle of an evolving mental model affecting our system perception that will create an environment for organizational development. This continual evolution of our mental model and system thinking (evaluation) is a prime example of Argyis’ theory of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning. Double-loop learning is where actions are constantly evaluated and vice scrapping a plan for a new one when issues occur a course change is made to realign the direction of the action to the goal: either the new goal or previous goal. With this being said, we can astatine how systems thinking is related to and will cause OD and change.

Vision

Shared vision is identifying shared ideas for the future to achieve a common goal. This discipline requires us to build a shared vision of the future we seek to create and then define the principles and practices we will use to achieve the desired future state. As with most of the disciplines we have discussed thus far the key to this discipline is the effective communication between individuals, teams, departments, and/or even organizations. The only real difference is the extent of that communication. With shared vision the communication scheme must be throughout the entire organization or organizations involved. This would make shared vision closely related to systems thinking in that we must understand how the vision affects the entire system involved and to what extent each is affected as part of developing an appropriate communication plan for the vision. It is this understanding and communication plan and the vision that link this LO principle to OD and change.

Summary

In summation, if an organization is actively using the disciplines of LO than OD is occurring on a constant basis. And that the individuals that comprise the organization are integral to all of the sub-processes required making both LO and OD effective.  This is mainly because all the principles are based on the individual’s perception of the situation and their being open minded to both different perspectives’ and possible solutions and/or actions for issues with the plan to achieve the desired future state.

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