If you’re a reporter, you’ll eventually be called a pot-stirrer. Conflict is inherent in the definition of news, so I suppose it was accurate. But I’ve always found it ironic that my occupation for so long was based on something I tried to personally avoid. I really, really don’t like conflict. How much? I will illustrate shortly below.
However, let me begin by being explicit: Today’s column is promoting the latest Lead Up leadership development workshop presented by the ALL Alumni Association and The Ohio State University at Lima. “The 3 C’S: Communication, Conflict, & Change,” will feature Dr. Jeff King, director of the OSU Leadership Center. Jeff is really good at his job, and I hope you can join us. ALL alumni receive priority registration until April 24.
So, how deeply do I try to avoid conflict? When Jeff King last summer administered an assessment on how we approach conflict, I initially didn’t fill it out. It sat blank for a good long while. Thirty questions, each with an A answer and a B answer, and all I had to do was pick which one was more like me.
Here’s an example:
I am usually firm in pursuing my goals.
I try to do what is necessary to avoid useless tensions.
And I wasn’t going near any of it. But then just enough of the responsible Heather crept in (“I’m the executive director of the darn presenting agency! Get yourself together!” my brain signaled) and as fast as I could I picked, A, B, A, A, B. There are four conflict mode descriptors. My top two were tied for most dominant: compromising and avoiding. The third, not far behind: accommodating. Told you.
Each descriptor is tied to an action word. Compromising goes with sharing. OK, so far. Accommodating goes with smoothing. Uh-oh. Avoiding goes with withdrawing. Nail.In.The.Coffin.
Jeff asked for volunteers to share their scores and I did a really stupid thing. I shared. He came and sat down next to me, and I felt my neck and face flush. We did a little role playing, and other than feeling as if I could lose my box lunch at any moment, it went pretty well.
Jeff’s workshop left me with new tools in my toolbox. When I approach a situation with conflict, i now have ways to approach it and navigate the conversation. The whole thing still gives me the shakes, but I can manage it. I’m getting better.
“Communication and Conflict Management” is our afternoon session. In the morning, we tackle “Leading and Change: Strengthening Your Capacity to Lead Others Through Change.” We’ll discuss how you approach change, and how to communicate more effectively with people who don’t see things the same way.
These are both excellent signature workshops that you would otherwise have to attend in Columbus. Through a partnership with The Ohio State University at Lima, we’re bringing this opportunity to you. We’re at the Lima Campus June 8. You can find out more about the day, and get details about each workshop at http://www.allenlimaleadership.com/events.html. Scroll down to “Lead Up.”
As I’ve taken on a career change and am now engaged in leadership development, I’ve tried to practice what I preach, that we can get better, little by little, every day. If I can do it, you can too.
Those who follow my misadventures on Facebook may know that my beloved Lima Beanie “Love Thy Neighbor” work coffee mug cracked recently and was retired. I believed a new mug would find its way to me, organically.
Just the other day, thanks to Coleman Professional Services, one did just that. I happily scooped up the mug (the Kit Kats inside helped) at a Coleman informational coffee, but really the mug was the least of what I gleaned.
Coleman served 5,813 people in 2016 in Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties. For a long time, the majority of those served were helped with mental health issues. Now, for the first time, the single largest client group were helped with substance abuse issues. The opioid/heroin crisis is directly responsible for that.
Coleman’s response to the opioid/heroin crisis is one of real community leadership. One piece of that is new treatment coming this summer. As part of Coleman’s renovation of the Crisis Stabilization Unit in Lima (also known as the We Care Regional Crisis Center on South Main Street), by July the center will include beds for people beginning detox. The program will be clinically managed, medically supported and highly intensive residential treatment, Coleman officials shared during a recent ribbon cutting.
My guess is that program will be at capacity from the moment it opens. When she spoke to Lima Rotary Club in January, Coleman’s local chief said for every person they’re successfully treating, a new addict is walking through their door. Tammie Colon is Coleman Professional Services’ chief officer for behavioral health services in Allen, Auglaize, Hardin Counties. Coleman is the primary contracted provider for the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin Counties.
Colon challenged the group at Rotary that day, saying one of the biggest ways to improve the situation is to provide employment to recovering addicts. Steady employment is a major help to keeping recovering addicts on a very difficult path. That is a workforce issue, because one of the places in the coming years we’ll close the workforce gap is with the chronically underemployed, difficult to employ, and people who have long been out of the workforce.
The work to help people with substance abuse issues and mental health issues is heavy lifting, and also complicated. Because of this, Coleman does a really smart thing: They invite the public to hear what they’re up to. That’s how I came to attend a coffee, and you can too. The next Coleman Coffee information session for Allen County is April 19, and you can find out more about it at http://www.colemanservices.org/events/coleman-coffees.aspx.
You’ll be surprised to learn the different ways Coleman is affecting the community, including in workforce development. For example, Coleman, Allen County Job and Family Services, West Ohio Community Action Partnership, and Allen County Child Enforcement Agency now work together helping fathers with felonies who couldn’t get jobs, and as a result were not paying child support, and as a result of that, not seeing their kids. Today, Fathers Accountable for Children's Tomorrows (FACT) is helping dads get and stayed employed, which means they’re paying support and seeing their children.
I’d invite you learn more about Coleman’s creative and collaborative efforts. They’re eager to share.
As soon as I took a sip of my dirty paintbrush rinsing water, my first thought was, “Did anyone see that?” My second thought was, “That will fit in a column some day.” So, here we are.
I recently attended a Paint and Sip situation, a birthday party for a friend. This is not my thing, at all. While we had a very fun girls’ night out, I don’t have a deep desire to do it again. I did indeed pick up the wrong liquid and take a sip of my brush water that was awash with acrylic paint. Another woman rinsed a paintbrush in her wine. And this was early in the evening.
We had fun, and walked out of there with 100 percent decent work, as you see above. My snowman approximated everyone else’s snowmen. Now, I can’t paint to save my life. But Joe Warnement, the Apollo Career Center floral instructor who guided us, is really good at this Paint and Sip thing. He instructs, step by step, and he uses participants’ canvasses to explain. Along the way, he works a little magic, which is to say he fixes your painting. Because my lovely wife and I both attended, we actually have two of these snowmen paintings at home, which is as funny as you think it is. I put mine on the mantel, and our son said, “I like Mama’s better. Put hers there.” Mine went on a wall darn near directly across from the other, and together they make quite the conversation piece.
In a fit of over analyzing the Paint and Sip experience, I was feeling ill at ease about my painting. I knew I couldn’t produce something like this by myself, and it felt fraudulent to claim it as my work. I felt like an imposter. I’ve been researching Imposter Syndrome; leadership development expert Susan Ritchie blogs about it and has a small e-book you can download from her site, susanritchie.co.uk. She is based in England, but many leadership challenges are universal. Her focus is on women’s leadership development, but I think much of what she addresses can apply to men as well.
As Ritchie writes, Imposter Syndrome is characterized by a believe that you are a fake, and that one day you will be found out. Research shows that women are “particularly affected” by debilitating significant self-doubt that can affect their own career success. Anyone in a new role, particularly a leadership role, knows what this feels like.
Ritchie offers several practices to overcome Imposter Syndrome, one of which she calls career mapping. It involves showing yourself a realistic picture of how far you’ve come in your career, with actual milestones and challenges you’ve overcome. She also suggests to ask yourself this question: “In what ways am I not an imposter?” She advocates saying the answer out loud and writing it down. Repeat until you have a good list to stand up to your imposter self. Ritchie has much more to offer on the topic, and I would invite you to check it out.
My Imposter Syndrome feelings came early and often as I made a career change, from journalist to nonprofit director. For many years as a reporter and even as an editor, I joked that someday I would have to find a real job. First, reporting and writing fit like a glove to me, and it never felt like “work.” Second, anyone who’s spent time in a newsroom understands it’s a unique environment. To paraphrase a former boss of mine, it’s no insurance agency.
And, so here I found myself, leading an organization, working with a governing board, joining organizations and other boards I had previously reported on. I resisted joining Lima Rotary Club, and even after I was in, didn’t feel comfortable. As a reporter, I worked to be connected and knowledgeable about my community, but it was purposely from the outside. You don’t get much more “inside” in Lima than in Rotary.
What got me over my Imposter Syndrome? In my new career, I applied a core belief of my journalism career: that my work is important because educated people are the ones who make positive change. I still see the function of Allen Lima Leadership through that lens. In my other roles, I looked for places I could help, and started making myself useful. I feel more comfortable earning my keep.
The research is clear that there remains a gender gap in leadership roles; Ritchie says that’s because not enough women are in the pipeline to begin with. That is for many complex reasons. Don’t let one of them be your own self doubt.
Oh, the tough love of a consultant. Much like a trainer or doctor, or, if you’re me, my mother -- a consultant’s job can be to make plain what you most likely know deep down.
Future iQ CEO David Beurle laid it bare for Limaland Thursday when he said: “What we’re doing is getting us what we’ve got. And it’s not good enough.”
Beurle said this from a place of love - after more than two years of consulting on projects here, the folks at Future iQ are fond of the Lima region. It shows in their work. But, their work is nearly finished, and it’s time for ours. We are left with challenging but achievable economic development goals. When you ask whose responsibility this is, I suggest to look in the mirror.
It’s been a look-in-the-mirror kind of week for community leaders, as a packed house Thursday received that unvarnished but constructive way forward from Future iQ and Allen Economic Development Group for our economic development goals.
The Collaborative Growth Plan is the culmination of work that’s also produced quality information about our region’s supply chain and workforce, and holes in those things, among other reports. With Future iQ’s help, we’ve learned a lot about our strengths, who talks to each other and who doesn’t, and the significant gaps we need to bridge to achieve our economic and community goals.
The plan shared Thursday is a path to achieving three goals, decided on by Allen Economic Development Group after hours of interviews and focus group conversations facilitated by Future iQ:
The growth plan details seven challenges that must be overcome to achieve these three goals. At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is a quantity and quality gap in our workforce.
Buerle called it the “burning bridge” issue. If it’s not addressed, nothing else matters. So, where are we finding 22,000 people in less than a decade? Many of them are already here, it turns out, and it’s a job for each of us to help keep them.
Some of these folks will need attracting and recruiting. But others are here. High school graduates who realize a good job is in their own great hometown. College graduates who would return home, with the right job and an improved quality of life. Graduates of regional colleges who could stay, if the place they interned hired them. People who have become disengaged from the workforce. And people who could retire, but don’t, because employers crafted flexible schedules and renewed purpose by having them mentor those college grads.
Each of us must play a role. Maybe you’re a CEO and worried about losing experienced workers and attracting talented new folks. Give an older worker extra vacation and ask that they stick around another couple of years to mentor that 20-something full of potential. Maybe you’re a member of the Lima Young Professionals, and you’re creating partnerships with area colleges and universities, to connect with students before they graduate. Maybe you’re an ALL graduate and you need to serve on a board of a nonprofit that helps move people into the workforce.
For nearly 30 years, Allen Lima Leadership has contributed to workforce development. We’re starting to see a generational effect: Some of our recent Signature Course adult graduates also graduated from our high school youth program. That’s long-term work, keeping people engaged in their community. But, what we’re doing is getting us what we’ve got, and it’s not good enough. So, this year we strengthened our leadership development curriculum. We’re creating an alumni association. And we’ve recommitted to making positive change, by increasing the number of ALL grads who serve on boards (If you need a board member, or want to serve, call me!), and improving the quality of those board members with board leadership training.
I would challenge you to ask what more could you be doing. To put that 22,000 number in perspective, Future iQ’s modeling shows that if we did nothing, we’d have a workforce shortage of 11,000 people. Doing what we’re doing would grow the workforce by 1,500 by 2025. But we need 22,000. And every other economic region is facing exactly the same workforce issue. The bridge is burning. How are we getting across?
The last day before the holiday break, our son came home from school with news of the most momentous sort: There was a mouse in his classroom. Where it came from, and how it came to enter his second grade room, could not be ascertained, but its end -- the bottom of a janitor’s trash bin, limp -- was certain.
Most days, “How was your day?” is answered with an 8-year-old boy’s “Fine.” This day he didn’t wait for the question. He was off, wide-eyed and arms waving, with a tale of girls on their chairs and his own attempt of bravery and chivalry as he and a friend tried to catch it. Other than the dead mouse, the only other seeming consequence of note was that they moved to another room to watch a movie.
Several weeks later, at a teacher conference, we learned another casualty of the day. His teacher had planned to clean and organize that day. Papers, clutter, gone. Supplies and books, back where they belong. Derailed, and then back from break, it never happened. They just dove in after the calendar turned, and she realized it was affecting her classroom management. So, they took a morning and tended to the overdue.
Several weeks into your new year, are your best intentions of better eating, more steps, keeping up with email, derailed before they have taken hold? Whatever the plan, resolution or goal, have you had a mouse? Some days, we all have mouse-like things: a train on Cable, a spilled cup of coffee. More often, it’s the worst of ourselves who do the derailing.
I’m doing well with some of my ‘new year’ things, not as well with others. I’m reading for pleasure, something I let go years ago as a new mother. This past fall, I couldn’t take any more cable news and realized a book was a far superior alternative. I’ve nearly kicked fast food, and hope my cholesterol is responding accordingly. I’m not exercising as often as I said I wanted to, and my office is a hot mess.
Here are two of my biggest derailers: I’m a huge procrastinator, and I avoid conflict at all costs. We’ll save conflict avoidance for another day (and maybe a therapist), but let’s talk procrastinating. After 20 years as reporter on a deadline, I got better at not putting things off. My mother does not believe me, but it’s true. However, I’m still really good at it. The internet does not help. While thinking about this mouse column, for example, I considered the phrase, “the best laid plans of mice and men.” Which lead to time on Wikipedia reading about John Steinbeck’s novel and the Robert Burns’ poem for which the book is named.
Where was I? Oh yes, derailers. The longer I’m in this business of studying leadership, the more I value and appreciate discipline. To consistently do the thing you don’t want to do but need to do comes easily for a few yoga instructors and Navy Seals, but for most everyone else, I suspect not. Forming new habits is hard. An excellent first step is owning up to those derailers. Name them and claim them, because you’ll never rid yourself of them completely. Better to be on a first-name basis so when they knock, or even when they’ve overstayed a welcome you gave them, you recognize them and boot them back out, and start again.
Now, I’m going to clean the office.
LIMA - Above, you’ll see a short video of birds at my backyard feeder. I’ll get back to that, I promise.
But first, let me welcome you to the inaugural, and I hope to be the first of many, #ALLIN column. Some of you know I was a journalist in a former life. I missed writing and decided with the reboot of the Allen Lima Leadership website to add a blog. Sometimes I’ll write about leadership development, sometimes something else. It’s truly a work in progress. I am certainly no leadership guru, definitely not an original thinker on the topic, nor even an expert. But I cull and curate and synthesize and share.
So, we’ve all seen the animal videos in our social media streams, the ones in which a dog befriends a cat, or a mother cat adopts an orphaned weasel baby, or some such thing. Two polar bears “hugging” and “in love.” The rise of the viral has led to an equally exponential increase in anthropomorphism: We assign these human qualities and behaviors to animals because we think it’s cute. “She gave a violin to a koala. You won’t believe what happens next!”
This is what I was doing when I watched the birds the other day. I thought they were fighting over a scarce resource, the seed in my feeder. I said so to my lovely wife, who, as she often is, was skeptical. But I watched the flurry of their fury, as they flapped their tiny wings, one pushing another out of the way before the first even had a chance to stick his beak in for a seed. And then that one would get moved out by another. It seemed no bird was eating. All motion and activity, with no purpose or production. Ever have a day, or a job, like that?
I recorded a bit on my phone, because it seemed like a good place to start a column. Birds aren’t dumb. They travel in numbers, literally for safety. And they know how to stay warm, primarily by eating and staying out of the weather. If it’s windy, you’ll see them gather on the sheltered side of a bush to break the gusts. We do that. We know how to stay safe, generally. With the discovery of fire and our opposable thumbs, we do OK. We do better when times are good. Add some stress, such as competition over a limited resource, and things can go south.
Which is when good leaders are needed. Leadership expert Simon Sinek says a leader’s job is to take care of the people in his or her charge, to make sure they feel safe. Safe to take chances, to offer a new idea, or challenge a concept. When do people feel safe to do that? When they trust each other, and when they trust their leader.
This past fall, I shared with the 2017 ALL class information about Google’s Project Aristotle. Google wanted to find out what it was that made their best teams the best teams. It’s a really good and long story for another day, but the bottom line was that the best teams had team members who trusted each other.
How do leaders create a culture of trust? Much more informed people than me have written volumes of books about that. Paul Zak, in the January-February issue of Harvard Business Review, identified eight “management behaviors that foster trust.” He says they are measurable and can be managed to improve performance. You can read more about them, but here’s the eight, from Zak, the author of “Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies.”
Whew. Each of those is worthy of their own exploration, and topics, again for another day. But, notice that squirrel in one of the feeders in my video? He’s helping himself to a hefty serving of black oil sunflower seeds. Next to him is your team, pushing and flapping. Maybe even plotting, slacking, faking. All motion and activity, with little purpose or production.
Now, he’s a squirrel, and they’re birds, so no creature outside my window was recognizing excellence or building relationships. But you can. I would encourage you to consider the concept of trust, revisit this list and pick something as an initial focus and explore how a culture change can bring about measurable progress for your team.