Developing your growth mindset is accelerated by learning from professionals in other industries.
I find it interesting that the students that teachers are dealing with today in their classrooms are going to be the work force of tomorrow that business leaders will be working with. In this way, our efforts and futures are aligned. Educators must find ways to reach and teach young children from a variety of backgrounds, needs and cultures. Employers must find ways to attract, develop and retain individuals entering the labor pools.
A good friend of ours works in the school system helping with positive behavior interventions. What is a behavior intervention you may ask? Simply put, when a student is having an issue at school and acts out, how do we assist them to a positive outcome?
I would like to point out that first, this is not a deep dive into the behavioral sciences or our education system. This is a dip of the toe into another arena to explore issues, discussions and solutions that may assist us in our own progress. We ran through a similar exercise with an article published with The Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) in reviewing best practices in the criminal probation system.
Secondly, opinions, like belly buttons, are abundant. I am sure the reader has their opinions on these matters. If you are willing to journey for a moment into this scenario, I believe you will learn something that will be helpful to your personal and professional development.
Developing the skill to succeed
As a member of the behavior team for a local elementary school you have been trained in positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS). The system has been set up with three tiers of prevention with plans of support associated with the needs of the student at each tier.
Does this sound familiar in the workplace?
As a team we establish our vision and operate out of our core values. For the majority of our team members the culture provides a “universal prevention” that inspires alignment within the team. Those in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) know the feeling of working with “some” who need targeted plans and “few” who need intensive efforts.
Teachers, para educators and staff will have had training with universal preventions and resources for supporting students. When a student has been identified as needing Tier 2 or Tier 3 support, the process includes getting all stakeholders which may include parents, school specialists and professionals who are working with the student together to design a support plan.
To reach our goals as an organization we outline our follow through with these tiers in language such as followed by all (FBA) or key performance indicators (KPI). In the world of PBIS the language they use states that implementation must be practiced with fidelity.
So, let’s take our journey into a PBIS scenario with our eyes and ears open for nuggets of truth that are applicable to our roles and responsibilities in business.
You are called to a classroom to assist a teacher who is working with a student that has escalated beyond their control.
You arrive in the classroom.
The teacher is upset.
There is a small child who is upset.
The rest of the class is unable to be managed properly due to the disruption.
You ask the teacher, “What transpired?”
The teacher explains, “I instructed the class to color a rainbow and to start with the color purple.”
The child declared, “I don’t want to start with purple, I want to start with orange.”
In that moment, the teacher had a choice.
As an important piece of background, we should note that this particular student has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). We may be losing some of you who are starting to think that sounds like a made up issues that simply describes a disobedient child.
How many of you are thinking that this child just needs better parenting, real consequences or any number of common opinions (belly buttons)?
Oppositional defiance, in base terms, means the child will do the opposite of what they are instructed. If the situation escalates, the child will escalate as well. Hopkins Medicine outlines that the scientific community has not unanimously agreed, as with many behavioral complexities, whether the sources of ODD are developmental or learned. Even the health community has their belly buttons in a jam.
Back to the teacher’s choice.
The guiding principle is supposed to be the behavior support plan. All of the stake holders for this student have developed a plan that is unique to the student and has been agreed to by all. Fidelity in implementation is key to PBIS progress.
Developing the will to succeed
The will to succeed is different than the desire to achieve success. As we have discussed before, Vince Lombardi, regarded as one of the greatest football coaches of all time, has said, “The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.”
If we want to develop our will to succeed, we have to clarify our vision and work to get everyone rowing in the same direction. We prepare to win.
At moments like this, our will to succeed is tested. Our will to follow the plan is directly associated with our ability to progress in our process.
The teacher can choose to go with the plan, which in this scenario of opposition by the child would mean they should say, “Do it or don’t,” and then proceed with classroom instruction. Easier said than done in the moment but having the will to succeed means following the plan especially when the plan is tested (fidelity).
On this day, the teacher choose not to go with the plan. This can be a reaction out of frustration, exhaustion or any number of factors a teacher faces when instructing a class full of students.
How often does this happen in a work setting as well?
“I just want my class to move forward smoothly and this child is being oppositional about a very mundane instruction,” would be a natural thought.
So, the teacher engaged, “Please don’t use orange, I told you to use purple. The rest of the class is using purple.”
The student responded, “I don’t want to use purple, I am using orange,” and went on to color more vigorously.
“Look at this student, they are using purple,” the teacher appealed to positive peer pressure hoping to get a better response even though they know the situation was beginning to escalate.
Developing the chill to succeed
As this situation unfolds, the student with oppositional defiant disorder is responding to the rising tension which naturally frustrates the teacher. Teacher knows they should be following the plan, engaging the will to succeed with the chill to succeed in the moment.
“Please do as you are told, you are making a scene,” the teacher states.
Now the attention is fixed on the child which adds fuel to the fire. The plan was not followed. Fidelity misfired and progress is stilted. Please understand this is not meant to pick on the teacher in this scenario, only to point out the disconnect.
We are back to the point where the behavioral support team arrived. Behavior support staff are not better than teachers, they just have a specific area of training to assist in these areas of need.
The behavior support team member says, “We need to clear the room.”
The teacher knows this is in accordance with the behavior plan. In this scenario the child needs space to de-escalate so that the plan can be brought back into play.
The keys to success with positive behavior interventions include understanding the unique needs of individual children, developing relationships, creating personalized plans and equipping stake holders to carry out the process.
Skill alone does not lead to success. All three elements are necessary. As a team, each member needs to have the will to succeed, the chill to succeed and the skill to succeed. We commit to clarifying our vision, executing our plan consistently and holding each other accountable to rowing in the same direction.
The will to succeed.
When working with behavior support it is important to understand that it is a battle of the wills. The end game isn’t a clear win but making progress towards being peaceful and productive. In an escalated situation, a successful outcome will result from an endurance of the will. Long term progress requires clarity of vision and consistency in execution.
The skill to succeed.
Training and development of staff to understand the plan and consistently follow the plan is critical in behavior as well as business. Individuals are unique and the team must work together to clarify the approach, adjust as needed and hold each other accountability to execution.
The chill to succeed.
Humans make mistakes. Whether you are a teacher, a behavior support specialist or a person in a position of leadership, you will make a mistake. The chill factor usually comes from making these mistakes, being willing to discuss our failures and adjusting our effort moving forward. When we survive our mistakes and failures we develop our chill to succeed.
Leaders need to invest in developing skills to work with people if they want to be successful.
This article was featured as part of the monthly Intentional Restorer segment with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine.
Can you name a single team that has succeeded without people?
No people = No team = No success.
Understanding how to work successfully with people is a skill that every leader has to intentionally develop on a continual basis. In a tight labor market, recruiting, developing and retaining good people is essential to success.
P is for People, which is the first P in The Four P’s of Success.
There is no finish line when it comes to working with individuals. Many have come to label these as “soft skills” or “emotional intelligence”. Soft skills are defined as, “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
Whatever you choose to call them, what leader couldn’t use a boost in their ability to interact effectively with other people? Intentionally developing your people skills is critical to your success as a leader and as an organization. You will win when you continually humanize your process.
Where do we start when we want to:
Having an identity as a person in a position of leadership
Who do people work for?
People work for people.
You work for someone, right?
If you are somewhere on the ladder of leadership roles, you likely work for someone and have someone who works for you. Perhaps you have a lot of someone’s who work for you.
If you are a someone who has someone’s who work for you, it’s important that you be the best someone you can be in as clear a way possible.
Having clarity about who you are, what you do well and what you need assistance with creates opportunities for others. Leaders who are confident in their role and abilities can assist others to learn new skills, express their creativity and find their spot on the team.
Your ability to develop a team starts with your effort to develop yourself. Continue that process of clarifying your identity so that you can attract and build with good people.
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while
Developing a clear process for identifying and hiring good candidates
When you are clear on your vision, values, goals and traits as an organization you can seek out candidates who embrace as well as enhance your culture. Hiring is one of the most important aspects of a leader’s job as an individual as well as an essential mechanism for any organization to achieve consistent pursuit of excellence.
Remember that you don’t always control how an employee turns out but you do have control of who you let in the door. Industries that are service based are competing with each other to attract the available labor force. Think outside the box and be willing to train candidates who exhibit core character traits such as:
Make happy those who are near and those who are far away will come. – Chinese Proverb
If you want to retain good people, treat them like good people
Do you remember when you were had an entry level position and you were treated poorly by a supervisor?
What did you tell yourself?
After you told yourself that if you ever had the chance you would knock some sense into them, you probably told your future ladder climbing self that you would never be like them.
“I’ll never be like that,” was your journal entry from that day.
So, here’s the tough question, how would you rate yourself in your effort to not be like that terrible leader? How would your team members rate you?
Comparing ourselves to the worst manager we have ever had is a bit of a straw man. At the same time, often what we swear we would never become can creep up on us and when we stop to evaluate ourselves we are more like that person that we’d like to admit.
We need to constantly be checking ourselves against our vision, values and goals. Are we living out what we say or do we need to spend some time getting back on course? If we have veered away from living out our vision and values this could be a reason why we are struggling to attract, develop and retain good people.
How do we keep ourselves on track with our vision, values and goals?
For more on this topic, check out our video Tips for Recruiting and Hiring More Effectively
Originally published as How To Lead With Empathy
May 4, 2017 by About Leaders
By Jon Isaacson
In all of the various words expended on business, entrepreneurship, and leadership, there are few that discuss the role of empathy as a key to the development of emotional intelligence.
Feelings are a component of life. But they are often treated as though they have no place in a professional organization and are of no concern for the successful leader. The truth is that most people in leadership positions make decisions based on feelings, whether they are willing to admit that or not.
A recent study entitled Only Human conducted by Gyro surveyed 720 senior business executives and noted that, “A majority (61%) of executives agree that when making decisions, human insights must precede hard analytics.” Life is theater, business is full of drama, and people are sensitive.
So how do modern leaders elevate their emotional intelligence to address these realities in an organizational environment, especially if they are working to flatten out the organizational chart? Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is what separates emotionally intelligent leaders from managerial programmed robots who are following a passionless script.
Consideration and Engagement
Consider the engagement equity in the ability to understand what someone is feeling, to comprehend the perspective of another human and engage with them, whether you agree or disagree with their conclusions. Consideration for others’ feelings, compassion for their trials as humans, and caring when addressing sensitive issues at work are essential soft skills that can elevate a leader to inspire others to buy-in to the organizational vision. We know in principle that empathy is a form of understanding. So we should understand what empathy is as well as what it isn’t.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is listening to others, attempting to see things from their perspective, and making leadership decisions based upon a fuller engagement with team members who can help in accomplishing the mission. Empathy is a skill that must be developed as an essential component in the tool belt of emotional intelligence. This can assist a leader to more successfully work through periods of resistance while working with other individuals.
Empathy is not capitulation. Listening and understanding does not mean that a leader changes course simply because there are individual(s) who respond negatively to directions and changes within the organization. Empathy is not appeasement. Acquiring perspective does not mean that a leader will seek the path of least resistance by sacrificing long-term success for short-term peace acquired by cowering to demands.
Employees, co-workers and business partners come in all emotional shapes, sizes and shades of complexity. Developing leadership soft skills and emotional intelligence is a process that requires consistent intentionality, which often includes making a fair share of mistakes.
The beautiful side to humanizing the organizational process is that where empathy is practiced and modeled by leadership, it is more likely to be reflected in the interactions throughout the team. When leaders listen, empathize, and demonstrate a hunger to ever improve themselves, they tend to attract team members with the same values who will assist them to build an organization of vision.
As noted, empathy does not make a leader a door mat whom capitulates to negative forces. Conflict resolution by temporary appeasement in the face of resistance is the opposite of emotional intelligence.
Leaders who listen so that they can understand their teams will unlock the resources that may be hiding within their organization that would otherwise remain hidden under the misguided actions of cut and paste management principles.
Step out of your comfort zone, make some smart mistakes, build a thriving team and be the leader that your team deserves. If you are resistant to change as well as growing as a leader, you will continue to attract and manage the team that you deserve.
Creating a good working environment is not an easy task but it should be the goal for any company that wants to remain competitive in the current market where finding good people is often more difficult than finding good customers. When we reached out to multiple leaders across various industries, we found one ingredient that is key to developing a team that operates in the positive margins of employee engagement is the simple art of listening.
Danny Morgan, who is a store manager for a national retailer in Eugene, Oregon, shared, “I can tell you it’s not about the money no matter what they say, we all work for the money but it’s not about the money – ain’t about the fetti.” So it if isn’t about the money, what can leaders do to ensure they are communicating to their employees that they are invested in them as people? Mr. Morgan told us, “Every moment to listen, every second of praise and every time letting them know that they can come to you with anything knowing that you will provide a positive spin or reaction.” Listening to team members shows them that they are worth our time and that we care to hear what they have to say. Employees may not always come to you when it’s convenient, but it is important to remember to make time for them as what they share may not seem important but it could be critical to them.
Fire fighters know a thing or two about building a team. Team work is important to all professions, but it is critical when a group must band together to respond to life and death scenarios. Coy Morris, who fights fires with his team near Seattle, Washington, notes that, “Finding the common goal(s) amongst you and your team. Which in and of itself demands open and safe conversation.” Who initiates the process of establishing common goals and building a culture of open communication? For Mr. Morris, “I think the organization sets the mission, the team balances objectives with reality, but I think it starts with management.” Even though fire-fighting is dangerous, this alone is not enough to forge individuals into a strong team as there are plenty of dysfunctional teams that work in high pressure situations. Many of these teams are able to pull it together when necessary but how much more positive would the environment be if they were able to function cohesively? Danny Morgan reminds us that building respect goes both ways, from leaders to and from employees, “One important thing [to remember] is it takes time, one day at a time.”
Tom Los who leads a team for a local government entity in Moses Lake, Washington notes that listening can bring engagement as well as new opportunities for the organization, “I listen to my staff and then give them projects and tasks which mixes their job up. They really enjoy it. If someone has an idea, I try to embrace it as much as possible and let them do it.” When those in a position of leadership fail to listen they may be holding the team back from sharing ideas that could solve problems or push the organization forward. Service industries are built upon the strength of their team members to work together to carry the values of the organization through consistently on every project. Denis Beaulieu who operates in project management leading property restoration and abatement teams in Moorpark, California echoes the importance of listening, “Making sure that they are heard when asked. Have their ideas mean something and not just ask for an opinion or suggestion but try them and see if they work. Don’t discount anyone’s ideas or make yours more important.”
As noted by many that we interviewed, the catchwords and principles we hear from business leadership books go only as far as we are willing to apply them in our teams. What we want to know from real people who are practicing team work, leadership and developing organizations that operate on their values, is how they flesh out these principles in their day to day lives. Denis builds upon his comments from before regarding listening, “Empower people. They feel more a part of the organization when they feel they are part of it and not just working for it. Most important people want to feel they belong.” To be successful in a position of leadership, individuals must remember where they came from, what they desired while they were in the trenches and serve as an intermediary between the makers of decisions (the suits) and the daily decision makers (those in the field). Rex Fox who serves in the leadership team for a credit union based out of Eugene, Oregon, outlines a few key touch points relevant to listening, “Be approachable. Learn about the staff and what is important to them. Be trustworthy and trust your staff (but inspect). Roll up your sleeves and help when needed, but don’t do their jobs for them.” Rex brings up a great point that when we roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty being shoulder to shoulder with our team members there is an organic exchange between individuals that cannot be built any other way.
Listening provides a means to blur the lines between management and employees that often holds a company back from reaching it’s potential. When a person in a position of leadership takes the time to listen, they remind themselves and the whole team that we are all in this together. Much can be learned about individuals, teams, issues and opportunities by simply taking a moment to hear and receive input from those who are investing in the team, the customers and the culture.
Please note this is one segment in a series related to creating a good working environment based upon brief interviews that we conducted with multiple professionals across various industries, leadership roles and viewpoints on the topic. Stay tuned for more. Shoot us an email or comment if you have something to say on this as well.
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.