A Simple Question

How do I get people to do what I need them to do?

A Simple Question

Many years ago I received a phone call from an exasperated direct line supervisor who asked, “How do you get people to do the things you need them to do?” It was a great question, but perhaps a flawed notion. Edward Deci, suggested, “Don’t ask how you can motivate other people, that’s the wrong way to think about it. Instead ask, how can you create the conditions within which people will motivate themselves.” This is the key difference between leadership and stewardship.

Shepherds and Sheepherders

The balance between Authority and Ability

Shepherds and Sheepherders

If we do not know what ability is, our tendency is to lean heavily on authority to get things done. Abraham Maslow said, “…it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” * Although using authority can produce surface compliance, underneath it fails to capture the hearts and minds of human beings. We can order people to say ``cheese,`` said Viktor Frankl, “…only to find that in the finished photographs their faces are frozen in artificial smiles.” **

Between Beasts and the Angels

The way we see people is the way we treat them.

Between Beasts and the Angels

There is maxim attributed to the 18th century German philosopher and writer, Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, which states, “The way we see people, is the way we treat them, and the way we treat them is what they become.” Our established beliefs can have a narrowing effect upon our view of ourselves, others, and the world. Like set of prescription glasses, paradigms bring into focus the things we notice and blur what we don’t notice, and our belief, William James said, “…becomes father to the fact.” If we see human beings as objects, machines or animals, we will treat them that way.

The White Picket Fence

Independence inside a set of values, rules, and ideals.

The White Picket Fence

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Being free is like being “pregnant with possibilities” said John Macquerrie, creating “a kind of instability before action.” For this reason, there is a part of us that yearns for more certainty amongst all the possibilities. Harry Emerson Fosdick once said, “No horse gets anywhere unless he is harnessed. No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined. No Niagra is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined”.

Can I Borrow Your Shoes?

Being understood and using my truths.

Can I Borrow Your Shoes?

Stewardship accepts, as William James suggested, that “neither the whole of truth nor the whole of good is revealed to any single observer;” each observer “holds a partial superiority of insight from the peculiar position in which he stands. Even prisons and sick-rooms have their special revelations.” *** For this reason a steward comes prepared to learn from each perspective; they see value and strength in not having all the answers.

The Statue of Responsibility

Keeping responsibility where it belongs

The Statue of Responsibility

Our popular view of freedom is often narrowed by our own self-interest. Being free from oppression or having the freedom to make choices are only two parts of the full package of freedom. “Real freedom” said Robert W. Young is not just freedom from or freedom to, it is also “freedom for.”Young goes on to illustrate this point by quoting Sir Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize winning poet, who said, “I have on my table a violin string. It is free…But it is not free to do what a violin string is supposed to do – to produce music. So I take it, fix it in my violin and tighten it until it taught. Only then is it free to be a violin string.”

The Measuring Cup of Today’s Success

All eyes on the moment, not the scoreboard.

The Measuring Cup of Today’s Success

Consider the words of John Wooden, one of the greatest basketball coaches in all of sports history, who said “The best way to achieve dreams is to ignore them. The best way to attain long-term goals is to put them in an envelope. My first goal and priority was never long term, it was very short term: helping the team improve right now in practice.” He continued, “All we have is the opportunity to prepare in the present. It is impossible to do this when and if you’re peering into the future”

The Elephant in the Room

Leadership: The least understood phenomena on earth.

The Elephant in the Room

In 1991, the leadership scholar Joseph C. Rost, expressed some frustration when he said, “…the concept of leadership does not add up because the scholars and practitioners have no definition to hold on to. The scholars do not know what it is they are studying, and the practitioners do not know what it is that they are doing.” At some point we must ask ourselves the question, why, after so many years of harvesting for leadership answers is the barn of consensus sitting empty? This is the elephant in the room; the obvious truth that is being overlooked.

Rulers, Managers, and Stewards

The three major concepts of leadership

Rulers, Managers, and Stewards

Imagine throughout history there have always been only three primary concepts of leadership: rulers, managers, and stewards. Rulers lead primarily by command and control in order to get what they want. Managers lead more by transactions, punishments, and rewards in order to manipulate outcomes. Stewards move about in a conscious quietness, absorbed with establishing conditions where individuals can lead themselves.

Fire in the Bones

The burning dissatisfaction with the way things are and the dream of what could be.

Fire in the Bones

Dr. William James said, “Need and struggle are what inspire us, our hour of triumph fills the void.” A fire in the bones is sparked by challenging causes outside ourselves that is strong enough to pull us into a state of self-forgetting. It is created from a burning dissatisfaction with things as they are, followed by a dream of what could be, and a simple framework of how to get there. A steward frames, embodies, and adds fuel to keep a fire in the bones burning.

A Meaningful Life

Being needed and necessary to an outcome.

A Meaningful Life

Beyond the basic needs of food, shelter, and safety lies one of the deepest human needs of all; the need to be unique, important, and useful to others. The primary reason this is so important is because it is directly connected to our sense of meaning and purpose in life. Consciously or unconsciously, life’s greatest prize, as the author Leo Rosten suggested is “...to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” And this perhaps why Dr. Arthur E. Morgan alleged, the “lack of something to feel important about is almost the greatest tragedy a man may have.”

Placing the Tiller in the Hands of the Pupil

Being Trusted with Increasing Responsibility

Placing the Tiller in the Hands of the Pupil

The former President of Amherst University, George D. Olds, once counseled, “The wise teacher will place the tiller in the hands of the pupil and let him feel its touch, learn by experiment, how shrewdly the helm directs and unruly craft.” In the beginning, when we teach a child to ride a bike, we operate in continuous serires of holding on and momentarily letting go: with the ultimate goal of letting go completely. Booker T. Washington made the famous quote that states, “Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him and to let him know that you trust him.”

To Dominate, Compromise, or Integrate?

Finding the third way amid conflicts and disagreements

To Dominate, Compromise, or Integrate?

Understanding how to deal with conflict and come to a resolution has been in debate for centuries. However, in the early 1900’s, one of the pioneers of organizational theory was Mary Parker Follett, who made things simple saying, “There are three ways of settling differences: by domination, by compromise, or by integration.” **** In domination one side gets what they want, while the other does not. In compromise neither side gets fully what they want because they each have to sacrifice something in order to reach an agreement. “Both these ways,” she says “are dissatisfactory.”

That Which we Persist in Doing…

We cannot eat like a bird and expect a bowel movement like an elephant.

That Which we Persist in Doing…

The following principle has been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, saying, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do, not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased” Accordingly, we should expect that it will take consistent practice before our old leadership ideals and practices are exhumed and stewardship becomes an integral part of being. Practicing the piano once a month will never produce a master pianist. According to neurologist Daniel Levitin, in Malcolm Gladwells bestselling book Outliers, “The emerging picture” amongst researchers “is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert – in anything.”

The Keyhole to which our Eye has been Pasted

The Golden Age of Players and Pawns

The Keyhole to which our Eye has been Pasted

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of leadership is that of George Washington standing in the rowboat while crossing the Delaware River. He looks heroic, confident, and in command; and by all appearances it looks as if he is leading the way and the men in the boat are following him. This leader with followers model is our most cherished and fundamental paradigm. It is the trunk of the tree from which most branches of leadership theory sprout and grow, and the keyhole to which our eye has been pasted for a very long time. Buy what if the leader/follower model is a tragic miscalculation of what is happening?

More Stagehand than Performer

Defining Stewardship and the role of a steward.

More Stagehand than Performer

“Historically” said Peter Block, “stewardship was a means to protect a kingdom while those rightfully in charge were away or more often, to govern for the sake of the underage king.” A steward therefore, is consumed with creating the conditions to increase an individual’s confidence to lead, govern, educate and motivate themselves. The primary role of stewardship is to “set the stage, not perform on it.” ” Success is measured, as Lao Tzu suggested, “…when individuals barely knows he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

Words and Super Glue

Simplicity, Metaphors, and Storytelling

Words and Super Glue

“Information is not enough…How you present the information triples the effectiveness of your effort” said Jeni Cross, sociology professor at Colorado State University. Words are an extremely important part of stewardship because of their capacity to inspire, provide clarity, and stick like glue. It is not as important to know the exact words we should say, it is more vital to understand the package we use to deliver them. The three of the most influential forms of language are storytelling, apperception, and proof.

More Player than Pawn

Being the originator of my own actions and behaviors

More Player than Pawn

Professor of Psychology and Education at Washington University, Richard de Charms, “An Origin is a person who perceives his behavior as determined by his own choosing; a Pawn is a person who perceives his behavior as determined by external forces beyond his control. The distinction is continuous, not discrete – a person feels more like an Origin under some circumstances and more like a Pawn under others.”

When is a Bell a Bell?

The opportunity to be useful and the evidence that follows.

When is a Bell a Bell?

The award winning songwriters Rogers and Hammerstein, wrote the lyrics to a song, saying, “A bell is not a bell until you ring it, and a song is not a song until you sing it.” Likewise, left alone to ourselves, it is not always clear when we have been unique, important, and useful to others. For human beings, the highest form of communicating our usefulness is delivered by evidence that is specific not general, and illuminates how our strengths or abilities were or may be needed and necessary for a challenging cause outside ourselves.

The Disciplinarian Within

Being confronted with freedom; the catalyst to self-discipline.

The Disciplinarian Within

For Mariah Montessori, early 20th century educator and physician, the answer to discipline was simple, “…to obtain discipline, give freedom.” This highly unusual principle can be an uncomfortable paradox. Disciplining others, has been long associated with imposing external control through evaluations, write-ups, restrictions, or punishments; but Montessori prized self-discipline and had discovered something completely different. There is a disciplinarian inside of each of us, and it rises to the surface when we are confronted with our freedom.

* Kohn, A. (1990). The Brighter Side of Human Nature. United States: Basic Books
** Viktor E. Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning (Kindle Locations 1380-1381). Kindle Edition.
*** (TT, 264). Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals. New York: Henry Holt, 1899
**** Parker Follett, Mary (2013-08-21). Freedom and Co-ordination (RLE: Organizations): Lectures in Business Organization (Routledge Library Editions: Organizations) (p. 65-66). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.