On 10/1/18 at 1:15pm, I took part in online professional development through Wake Technical Community College’s Leadership Program with the Session ULEA 126, Empowering Leaders through Self-Reflection! This was co-presented by Lori Dees and Emily Moore of Wake Technical Community College
LEA126: Empowering Leaders Through Self Reflection
Our overall goal for this course is to help improve our own practice of self-reflection in order to strengthen leadership skills. Upon completion of course activities and assignments, I was awarded a certificate for two hours of Professional Development credit.
Module 1: Self Reflection Basics: What and Why?
Upon completion of this lesson, we should be able to:
- Define self-reflection
- Locate several research articles on self-reflection
- Identify the relationship between self-reflection and leadership
- Discuss reflective leadership
Practicing Reflection Online
I have seen this famous quote at some point in the past. It speaks to the importance of reflection across the ages, and how it can bring us wisdom. I hope to keep this in mind and share with a little about my own journey with reflection. This should also help me consider some ways I can incorporate reflection into my practice as a leader.
Think its important here to define two key terms:
Reflection- consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose (Merriam-Webster)
Collaborative Reflection- sharing reflections with each other
Why is it important to learn about reflection and to be a reflective leader? I think that reflection is key to leadership. Reflection is powerful. Self-reflection is a powerful tool for self-improvement and for self-appreciation.
Again, this is another ancient quote that you may be familiar with. Although I certainly do not think that your life is worthless if you haven’t been practicing reflection regularly… :). Reflection is an important part of maintaining balance and focus in life.
Reflection is productive. Later in the lesson, I see I’ll be watching a video featuring Giada Di Stephano, a Harvard researcher. I already watched it though 🙂
In that video, she discusses the findings of a study on reflection. You will want to watch the video for details about the experiment and the findings of the research team. Essentially, this research demonstrated the relationship between reflection and learning. This study has some important implications for teaching and leading.
We do not have to rely on just the research to know that reflection works, however. Through our own experiences with collaborative reflection, we become convinced that it is key to personal growth and development and to leadership. As we explore the research on reflection, and practice collaborative reflection as part of this course, perhaps I’ll cover the redesign process myself, and come to some important realizations.
There are some common barriers to reflection, especially to collaborative reflection, including the fear of exposure (being vulnerable with ourselves and others) and insufficient time for reflection. Some possible ways to overcome these barriers include making reflection intentional, using online forums dedicated to reflective practice, and encouraging vulnerability. Asynchronous communication is great for millenials, but it can also be good for working professionals when reflecting with others.
We have developed two sites dedicated to online reflection through discussion forums available on Blackboard shells. The first of these is the one we call our “blue site,” which is our internal site available to Wake Tech employees. Membership on this site is open to any Wake Tech employee and provides you with the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across our campuses as you reflect together. They send a weekly reflection prompt to serve as a reminder to reflect and to give you a starting point for discussing issues and ideas together on the forum. In addition, there is an external site, our “green site,” that we use when we present to our community college colleagues across the country. This site is open to anyone, and is hosted on the Blackboard MOOC platform.
You can find and enroll in this class by doing a google search for PRO Project Blackboard Course sites. It is here: https://www.coursesites.com/s/_PROProject
This graphic shows a snapshot of the activity on the site. Although we have forums dedicated to different interests and areas of the college, our weekly reflection forum is by far the most popular. Comparing the number of “hits” to posts in the previous slide also shows that people like to visit the forums to consider the thoughts of their peers, even when they do not wish to post themselves. Some sites call this “lurking,” but we don’t! Participation in any form means that you are making reflection a part of your day. You can also post anonymously.
Looking at this, consider the difference between the “boss” and the leader. As I read over the list, I took a brief moment to reflect on the qualities of my own leaders over the years. How can I demonstrate the qualities that will make people want to follow me?
The Power of Insight
From Values to Action
Finally, in order to demonstrate my understanding of the first lesson, I was asked to reflect on one of the following topics, discuss my thoughts with others and report what we covered :
Thinking about what I have learned from the first lesson, including the article you read, identify three reasons for incorporating a regular practice of self-reflection into your practice as a leader.
Thinking about what I have learned from the first lesson, including the article you read, identify at least two qualities of an inspirational leader. How can I incorporate these qualities into my own leadership style?
Thinking this over, I decided to read an article on Leadership by Meier
Prompt 2: Thinking about what you have learned from the first lesson, including the article you read, identify at least two qualities of an inspirational leader. How can you incorporate these qualities into your own leadership style?
I felt most strongly attuned to the idea of flexibility in leadership. In thereadings for this first lesson. There was a great graphic representing the difference between a boss and a leader. The real leader here “Generates Enthusiasm” instead of issuing ultimatums, they “Develop People”, and values “Strength In Unity”. These values are not ones in while there is a set goal, but an ideal in place which must be adjusted and judged based on what every person can bring to the table. You cannot excite and enthuse people in the same way- each must be approached individually. You cannot develop people in the same way, or we’d all be wunderkind polymaths. Each person must be motivated and encouraged individually. Strength in unity is not built by seeking a wall of spartan soldiers, but in the creation of a set of individuals who can work together as a team with each bringing their own skills to bear to help the group. In the classroom, faculty approach the class with a single idea, but encourage each students with tweaks to performance and ability, finding the best in each and encouraging it. This helps me to find the leader within myself, and I can aspire to the difference between boss and leader, and of course by looking to the best examples of leaders before me.
In the article How Self-Reflection Can Make You a Better Leader, I was very taken by this phrase:
“Self-reflection is not spending hours contemplating your navel,” Kraemer says. “No! It’s: What are my values, and what am I going to do about it? This is not some intellectual exercise. It’s all about self-improvement, being self-aware, knowing myself, and getting better.”
I find the examination of your feelings and motivations to be an excellent introspective moment, allowing us to to feel out situations. This flexibility allows us to change our opinions, desires, and if needed, re-examine out choices and commitments. Will we shirk on those commitments, certainly not. That said, we can certainly approach them with the understanding and ability to work through the issues with the best intentions, and mindful of what our actual goals are, the equitable standards that we commit to internally, and solving the problem with the optimal outcome in mind.
I feel the judgment of the individual should be taken into account at every opportunity, constantly weighing in the best actions to go with each situation- while being mindful of the commitments you’ve made. This was great reading.
Module 2: Self Reflection Standards: What and Why?
Upon completion of this lesson, we should be able to:
- Identify four lenses for reflection
- Explain the relationship between vulnerability and leadership
- Assess key aspects (values and emotional intelligence) of their own leadership styles
- Discuss ways to apply the results of self-assessments for personal and professional growth
Three pioneers in reflective practice theory are John Dewey, Jack Mezirow, and Donald Schon.
Dewey brought reflection to the forefront of education in the early 1900s. In the late 1900s, Mezirow began developing his transformative learning theory, which focuses on using reflection to change one’s worldview. A few years later, Schon was exploring reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. Reflection-in-action refers to reflecting in the moment.
Imagine you’re leading a group and you start to notice the session isn’t running smoothly. Through a quick reflection in the moment, you decide to change your approach. Next, imagine you’ve already finished leading a training. You return to your office to reflect on how the session went and make changes accordingly. This process is called reflection-on-action. All three leaders in the field of reflective practice have numerous publications you can explore for further information.
Stephen Brookfield is another leader in reflective practice theory. I’ve had a book discussion on Brookfield’s Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. At that meeting, we explored Brookfield’s approach to reflection. Brookfield sees reflection as a process that must utilize four lenses to be the most beneficial.
The first lens Brookfield proposed was the autobiographical lens. Using this lens, you want to remember what it feels like to be a learner. Because his book focused on the teaching profession, the lenses are explained from a teacher-student perspective.
As a leader, you can translate these lenses to your daily responsibilities. Some ways you can reflect on yourself are to reflect on any experiences you have had as a graduate student, in professional development workshops, or as a conference attendee. You may also want to reflect on your experiences in a new and intimidating learning environment.
Brookfield shares a story about his first experience swimming and his first experience driving. In both cases, he was an adult, and he could reflect on what it felt like to be in an intimidating learning environment for the first time. He reiterates how important it is for us to find opportunities to experience something new and intimidating so we don’t forget what it feels like to be led through a new process.
Other ways you can explore the autobiographical lens are to write or review your philosophy of leadership, make audio/video recordings of yourself leading a group, keep weekly leadership logs that record your leadership experiences, create yearly leadership audits that you can compare at the end of each year, create role model profiles of leaders you admire, and write a survival advice memo that you would give to someone who was taking over your position.
The second lens Brookfield discusses is the student lens. To utilize this lens, you will need to reflect on feedback you receive from those you lead.
One way to implement this lens is to reflect on yearly evaluations from your team, training evaluations after you have led a training session, or conference evaluations after you present at a conference. Taking the time to reflect on this type of feedback is essential to becoming a good leader and reflective practitioner.
The third lens Brookfield discusses is the theoretical lens. This lens focuses on the theory behind your practice.
Brookfield encourages us to constantly seek out and reflect on theory in our field. Some ways you might incorporate this reflection are to complete LEA courses, read scholarship of leadership, attend conferences and workshops on leadership, and subscribe to professional leadership journals.
The final and most crucial lens Brookfield discusses is the peer lens. Without putting this lens into practice, the other three lenses will fall short in giving you the full benefit of reflective practice.
Brookfield strongly believes collaborative reflection is essential to a promising reflective practice. Ways that you might collaboratively reflect are participating in collaborative benchmark projects focused on leadership and intentionally participating in structured critical conversations on leadership.
It is important to note, that as you begin to incorporate these lenses into your reflective practice, particularly the peer lens, you may begin to notice a fear of being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is critical to growth in a reflective practice. One of your goals should be to embrace this vulnerability so you can become a stronger leader.
Brene Brown discussed her vulnerability research in a video below- which I had already watched. I watched all the videos before viewing this material, so it was a nice tie-in.
In her video, Brene talks about the importance of being willing to be vulnerable and how this practice can lead to personal growth. It was interesting.
In Brown’s video, she shares the quote on this slide from Theodore Roosevelt. After reading the quote and reflecting on why she may have chosen to include this quote in her discussion of vulnerability, I though about some of the times I had dared greatly.
“Showing up in the Arena” affected my worldview. I was able to see things from the place where the action was truly happening, and get a better understanding of the real problems being faced. I also had a chance to taste the real defeat and trials which covered that job. In short, I gained a new perspective and much more respect.
Do you think vulnerability is necessary for leadership? Why or why not? I don’t think that vulnerability equates to this “In the Arena” idea. I think vulnerability is not necessary, but flexibility should certainly be awarded. That ability to be wrong and still be a leader would be more important.
Let’s discuss some steps to increased self-awareness.
To experience the benefits of a reflective practice, It would be good to investigate and understand our personality types, personal values, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.
Step 1 is to investigate your personality type. Knowing yourself and others will improve your leadership skills. As mentioned in Harry Kraemer’s video on reflection and leadership in Lesson 1, if you don’t know yourself, you can’t lead yourself, and if you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others. If you know yourself, you will be able to easily recognize the personality types of those you are leading. If you know their personality types, you will be able to predict their behavior. Thus, you can take action to stop bad behavior before it goes too far and reinforce good behavior.
I might have gone a bit too far there, but I think you’re seeing what I’m saying.
Step 2 is to understand your personal values. We have two types of personal values: instrumental values and end values. Instrumental values are those you use everyday to make decisions. These values include being honest, polite, and logical. End values are those that reflect lifelong aspirations, such as equality, wisdom, and contentedness.
Why is understanding your personal values important as a leader? Your values set the tone for the people you are leading and help build trust within your group. If those you lead understand and sense what values are important to you, they will trust you and mirror those same values. Sharing values with those you lead allows for a more cohesive, productive team.
Understanding your employer’s values is just as important. You want to make sure your values align with your employer’s so you can positively reinforce those values with your team. Think about Wake Tech’s six core values.
How do your personal values align with Wake Tech’s values? I think that over the years, Wake Tech has chosen to value staff over faculty. As time moves forward, faculty breaks diminish, pay for faculty remains 47th in the nation, and no faculty member I know will admit to making at or above the median income for Raleigh, where the campuses are. I like the innovation here, but it can be very very difficult to move ahead.
Do you feel comfortable working in an environment where these values are important? I am a team player. Sometimes its more important to support the team than to run after individual dollars and concerns.
Are you an advocate for these values in your team?
Take Time to investigate your cognitive style. Cognitive style is equivalent to learning style. Consider the questions: How do I process data for making decisions? How do my team members process data? If you understand how you process data, you will be able to more easily identify how your team members process data. Understanding how your team members process data is important when you build committees or other small groups. You want to be sure to include team members from all cognitive styles on a committee so the team is balanced. Diversity is key when it comes to cognitive style and a productive team.
Step 4 is to understand emotional intelligence.I have already completed LEA 114 on emotional intelligence, and you may be familiar with these tenents. Emotional intelligence relates to emotional self-awareness, empathy, a positive outlook, emotional self-control, and adaptability.
Lastly, in order to demonstrate my understanding of the second lesson, I’ll answer ONE of the following discussion prompts.
After taking the quiz on Emotional Intelligence provided in Lesson 2, reflect on your scores. Choose one or two competencies that seem well developed (look at your highest scores) and think about how you can exercise them even more fully. You may also want to reflect on your lower scoring competencies. Why do you think you scored lower on these? What could you do to develop these competencies more?
After taking the personal values assessmsent provided in Lesson 2, complete the Self-Development: Exercise 2 included in the report. What insights did this activity provide? Will you attempt to stop any of your current actions? Will you attempt to start any new actions?
The item I had the highest score on (23 out of 25) was Emotional Self-Awareness, but I don’t really want to talk about that. I have a good handle on why I’m feeling the way I am. that’s a bit of a no-brainer.
The 2 items I had the next highest scores on were Adaptability and Positive Outlook. I am sure these are clear because of my background in the field. As a designer, I am constantly having to work with shifting schedules, clear guidelines which change at the last minute, and clients who change their minds or fail to choose clear winners in the design process. If one is not adaptable to change, they will quickly find themselves out of work, out of time, and without a pipeline of work coming in. Adaptability in the classroom keeps us on our toes, and allows us to structure and restructure the curriculum to meet the needs and abilities of our students- while making minute and major adjustments along the way to ensure that low skills get more time while advanced skill timelines are preserved. I have often thought that I could expand my knowledge in adaptability by taking some improv courses. I also found that I scored high in positive outlook. I think this was a high score because I surround myself with people who are uplifting, joyful, and superior workers. I am happy to be with them, talk with them, and thrive and grow alongside them. In my classroom, I reach out to students and share my positivity. In return, I am bolstered by their positivity. I could possibly improve this aspect of my life by tkaing prozac… just kidding. I could possibly improve this by shining UP the flagpole instead of simply working with my peers and students.
My Final Thoughts
The two items I scored lower on were empathy (17 of 25) and self-control (15 out of 25).
I think many of the questions with empathy were stated in a way that did not appeal to me, in which case I think I railroaded myself into a poorer score. Many of the questions for empathy seemed like they had to do with the discovery of others’ personal feelings, curiosity into how people are feeling and why, often questions came off (to me) as though you’d be demanding to know the emotional state of others, and that’s something I do not value. Every student is slammed. Those with jobs, families, etc., even more so. If a student is performing well, has their work in on time, and is participating in the class, there is no reason for me to be demanding to know their emotional states and why they feel certain ways. I have had numerous students crying in my classes, crying in my office, crying in the hallway or breakroom… they have very real feelings and are under tons of pressure. Students who are clearly hurting or in need of help are open to approach, but more often than not, a student in control of their faculties is just trying to keep things together. I’m happy to share their passions, joys and pains, but I will not be actively pursuing the reasons behind their emotional states unless they are forcing it on me. I open most conversations with students by asking “how’s your semester going?”. This is a nice, open question that invites others to talk about their wellbeing, but is non-invasive.
Self control is also a weak point. I think we all try to clamp down on our emotions and let our heads lead the way. I have a great deal of issues with self-control with impulse buying especially. I often give in to what I want and procrastinate. I can certainly increase this score if I were to exercise more self-control. There is always room to exercise more patience, indulge others before myself, and to work on deadlines first and personal choices last. But, of course, its easy to say you’ll do better, and difficult to make that a reality.
I found this class and this exercise to be quite reflective.
Planning for Results Managing Priorities Creative Problem Solving
In the beginning, we rated ourseles on the 10 habits of successful leaders and the 20 bad habits of leaders. I was fairly happy with my results, but honestly it would take a fair amount of work and adjustment to quash these. If you’re interested in learning where you stand, try visiting our class examples at http://www.slideshare.net/bright9977/10-habits-of-the-great-leader
Part One: Assessing Your Leadership
The training hopes to introduce practical ideas and techniques for short and long term planning with an improved focus on results. We also seek to help define criteria for prioritization of your work and a system for managing to those priorities.
Introduce a five-step, structured process for problem solving in teams or groups.
Wake Tech Mission & Vision
The MISSION of Wake Technical Community College is to improve and enrich lives by meeting the lifelong education, training, and workforce development needs of the communities we serve.
Our VISION is to be a college that exceeds the expectations of our stakeholders for effective lifelong education, training, and workforce development by providing world-class programs and services. Wake Tech will structure its operations, training, and educational programs around the CORE VALUES of accountability, respect, responsibility, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
Part Two – Planning, Priorities and Problem Solving
Planning for Results
Types of Planning
- Planning for Results
- Strategic Planning in Higher Education
- Wake Tech Mission and Values
- Types of Planning
- Obstacles to Planning
- Planning for Results
Wake Tech Core Values
Accountability is essential for an environment of learning. Those who are accountable stand by their words and actions, taking full responsibility for what they create and for what they contribute to the community.
Respect is a prerequisite for enhancing learning. Community members who respect themselves and others help create a safe, yet open, climate of learning.
Responsibility is the root of success. Students who assume personal responsibility for their education will reach their goals. Responsible students also make contributions to their communities.
Critical thinking is the fundamental purpose of higher education. The ability to solve problems through the application of the appropriate skills is critical to all disciplines.
Communication is increasingly the key competency for living and working in the information age. Communicating effectively in oral and written forms through traditional and new media is a powerful tool for personal and career success.
Collaboration, by bringing together individual knowledge and talents, creates teams that are greater than the sum of their parts. Such teamwork maximizes benefits to individuals and the community.
Making the Plan Work
Leadership – Defining leadership roles and responsibilities. Creating a commitment to the plan.
Communication – Attention given to each affected group of plan to lessen resistance.
Assessment – Monitor plan’s progress and assess its outcomes.
Plan Process Considerations
- Create a diverse leadership team to gain variety of perspectives
- Foster readiness and shared sense of need for change
- Gain historical perspective of previous planning efforts
- Anticipate concerns and develop strategies to address them
- Engage faculty and staff to ensure openness and inclusion
- Identify needed resources
Obstacles to Planning
- Lack of Awareness
- Culture of Immediacy
- Lack of Initiative
- Fear Factor
- “We’ve never done it this way before“
- “We’ve always done it this way”
- “What happens if we fail?”
Planning for Results
- Develop a sense of direction and purpose
- ID factors that affect the College
- Understand circumstances contributing to past successes (or failures)
- Coordinate efforts – include your team
- Ensure availability of adequate resources
- Develop “What If” Scenarios
- Establish Performance Standards
- Establish priorities
Prioritizing Your Time
A Guide for Prioritizing
Set 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day. If you could only do three things today, what would I feel the most fulfilled in doing?
Focus on providing value. How much value will this provide me, or someone else?
Think long-term. Will this make a difference a week, month or year from now? Five years?
A Guide for Prioritizing. First things first.
I will focus on completing my most important tasks early in the day so that if my afternoon gets busy, I can still finish the day feeling that I accomplished what I wanted to.
Have a clear vision. Is this activity moving me closer to my vision? Will it make much of a difference tomorrow or next week?
- Do you need a meeting?
- Plan the meeting – Begin with the end in mind.
- Select the appropriate participants.
- Distribute agenda and work materials in advance of the meeting.
- Begin and end the meeting on time.
- Appoint a facilitator and time-keeper.
- Designate follow-up actions with due dates.
- Publish meeting minutes – including action items – within 24 hours.
- For those with action items, work into priorities matrix.
Structured Problem Solving Process
- Identify the stakeholders
- Define the problem
- Understand the problem
- Identify solutions
- Pick a solution
- Implement the solution
- Measure the results
- Revise and repeat
- Tackling Your Committee “Opportunity”
- Define the problem.
- Do you really have enough information for this?
- Who would you need to involve? (A “committee” isn’t always the best option.)
- To get creative, you need to get outside of the box – to get out of the box… you need help!
- What information would you need to collect?
- What do you already have?
- What do you need to research / create?
- Tackling Your Committee “Opportunity”
- Once you have all the information you need – what possible solutions can you identify?
- What will they cost?
- How easy / difficult will they be to implement?
- What will drive results?
- Get in the way?
- Tackling Your Committee “Opportunity”
- Select a solution – build consensus.
- How will you measure your results? (If you can’t measure results, how will you know if the problem is fixed?)
- Plan your implementation:
- Who needs to be on board?
- What do they need to know?
- What needs to be done to support implementation?
- Implement, measure, evaluate and revisit.
Part Three – Reality
- The phone
- The email
- The “drop-in”
- Contracts with your “significant others”
As a result of today’s discussion, what will you?
Monday Morning Leadership is a book by David Cottrell about leading your team, cutting out the non-important things in your daily routine, and doing the right thing. I was given this book by Chris Knotts, Director of Enterprise Marketing at ASPE, Inc, and old friend of mine even before I took on a role at Knotts and Associates.
This book was an excellent read, outlining multiple ideas of leadership in 8 short sessions. It was very interesting to see the ideas represented in this book when looking back at my leadership training in the past (most recently the word “pity party” used in the ECGC leadership sessions. (you can choose leadership or ECGC from the tags menu to access all leadership training and ECGC articles at any time 🙂 ).
One of the most important things I took away from this book was the idea that you need to keep the Main Thing The Main Thing. And, surprisingly, the main thing for Wake Tech, the college I teach at, is 3 things:
- Provide the best, most comprehensive, and excellent programs that we can
- Provide our Students, Faculty, and Staff with the tools they need to succeed and excel
- Provide educated, trained individuals into the local community workforce
If we aren’t doing the first, we can hardly be doing the second. If we aren’t doing the second, there is no way we are doing the third.
I have actually read this book through twice, and I think I’ll read it again. Strongest revelation I found in this book: Being a leader is as far above being a manager as a manager is above a worker. This can easily be seen in terms of drivers and passengers in a car. The whole team is set on a direction, with a similar vision, but it is the leader’s responsibility to get them there. The passengers have the freedom to talk, listen to loud music, goof off, sleep, surf the web on their phones, but the driver has to get everyone to the destination safely, and preferably on time. The decisions the leader makes are different ones, and there is certainly more responsibility, but also the freedoms of the driver are reduced as well.
I will be reading this off and on to help with my leadership qualities. The author also recommends taking some time out to read other books on management and leadership. If you set aside a half-chapter a night devoted to leadership, you’re likely to get in a book a month- 12 a year. In 15 years, that’s about 150 books. Can I become a better leader simply by reading books and taking actions?
I think I’m willing to find out. – Tyler Dockery
Session entitled: Managing Disciplines You Don’t Understand, ECGC, 4/24/14. Professional development on leadership with Dustin Clingman. This session was principally for producers and anyone managing a multi-disciplined task force.
Leaders and leads are primarily the target for this talk. Clingman posed the question: “What shall we rant about?” asking leads and leaders what some of the major complaints about their jobs happen to be.
Major responses included:
- Team members (or team as a whole) don’t do what they say they will
- They don’t follow through
- They provide work that does not meet specs
- They fail to communicate (problems, solutions, issues, or at all)
- Excuses (there’s always an excuse)
- They do not meet established schedules
Many team members do not understand that leaders and leads are on the spear’s tip to meet deadlines and produce quality work.
What is the role that we play as the lead? We have the ability to explain and understand the scope and intent of the project, goals, parameters, and the timeline. We have to make sure team is happy or healthy (preferably both).
In reverse, what are the staff saying about the leaders?
- Producers suck.
- Producers suck. (this is not a typo, these are the top 2 complaints)
- Producers talk, and they don’t listen
- Producers don’t defend us
- We’re always being crunched
- What do they do?
- I’ve never worked with a good producer.
Where does that energy come from? Those commenters are not bad apples or poor designers or crybabies. Those responses are from qualified employees. Producers are middle managers- buffers and barriers between workers and the management team. Many producers take so much time managing and not enough time leading. So, I have renamed this discussion and professional development session:
LEADING DISCIPLINES YOU DONT UNDERSTAND
“Producer” is a term pulled from the movie-making and video industry. Perhaps because we see video games as elaborate and award-winning as movies. Real producers gather the money to make a film come to the screen, and then take an elaborate amount of the attention. So, we are not paying for the production costs, but maybe taking credit though.
Not all producers have experience with each and every discipline in the game industry. Just ask a developer. It can be said that the level of happiness for Developers is measures by the number of WTFs per minute. The important thing to remember here though, is that we are all different, and we are all the same. Many of us chosen to be leaders have little or no experience- and some of us no interest- in leading. If successful, we charge ahead from game to game, we don’t backfill or teach people how to be great leaders. There is little in the budget or time for leadership training, and most of us achieve training within the the community.
TESTING: BOON OR BUST?
Myers-Briggs and True Colors tests are good to point out blind spots in our views, and different needs for staff members based on emotional behavior. BLAME-CULTURES are the worst. Don’t take the test if you work in a blame culture location. People will lump together into hate groups and strike out or shun those who think differently. Bad information in these climates can be used to reinforce grouping behavior, and it will be painful in the end.
Most leaders are FORCED into the role. Some choose it. It is lonely being OF the people but at the spear’s tip, leading the group. As a leader, you need to recognize the personality and humanity of those under you. They will not think the same of you. 😦
The boss needs to know the people. Spend time investing in personal relationships, get to know them (that is their lives) outside of work, etc. Don’t be a buddy over a boss, but fraternize in limited amounts. This will pay big dividends. Once you can recognize their qualities and individuality, they are willing to work harder.
Give clear directions, and Grow a Spine
Decide a production methodology that works and then find a way to sell it to your management and team. “But, we’ve always done it this way” are the seven most dangerous words in business.
Grow a spine when either side fights back. If you’ve agreed on a path, take it- don’t let management above roll your team, and don’t let the team force you away from your path. Hold people accountable and support them. Spinelessness is not leadership. Negotiation and compromise ARE leadership. It is evil to be disengenuous to your team and crumble to the boss. Be swift, spare no souls who stand in the way. People are often afraid to tell the truth, especially if it is about failure, disagreement on keen points, or needing more than you initially planned. IF you tell the truth, you can return to the team as a hero
Protect the creative environment
Find out how your people like to work best, and enable that to happen. Get buy-in from the rest of the studio or at least your neighbors. Examples of this might include: quiet time from 2-5pm, low/high light, headphones
Keep YOUR personal life together
You can’t lead when you’re not in your right mind. All your hard work on relationships in your workplace can be ruined by a glib comment or two. Know how to keep things separated. If you’re the leader, you never get a pity party. EVER. There is a lot of stress in leadership, but you cannot let that affect your workplace
Get rid of troublemakers
If you have non-performing indvidual, do not balk about getting them on a performance plan. Mental anguish arises and team morale quickly declines when one person isn’t pulling their weight. Developers don’t like conflict, because that’s your job as a manager. Everyone would rather do more work than have to put up with someone dragging them down.
Don’t over-manage/be a control freak too often
If you come from another discipline, use it. Don’t ever argue over colors or words.
Learn how to play poker
For leaders, this is a must. Life itself is a game of incomplete information. How people behave or patterns they exhibit become their behaviors. How they play poker is how they think about life
Play to the strengths of the team
set them up for success at least on this project. FInd the path that works and speed things up. Some team members thrive under controlled crunch. Find out ow your team works best and then create those conditions.
DON’T BULLSHIT ANYONE OVER ANYTHING. EVER.
This will trivialize them. If you don’t know, ask them questions and make them teach you,
So leadership tactics formed easily in the first part of this discussion, but lets talk specifically about how to manage and lead disciplines if you are unfamiliar with the archetypes.
Managing the artists
Artists need space and they space out more than you like. Save them from themselves, get involved early and give good boundaries to your art requests. Be very specific about what you want to see, how many variations, how many ideas, etc. Rework drives them BONKERS, especially when this is preventable.
When engineers explain their ideas and plans passionately, ask them to deconstruct this for the lay person. Don’t be afraid to ask them what the options are. Look to them as technical mentors and ask how you can learn more about a particular subject. Beware the coding zinger joke.
Designers want rules, but they are often tempted to break them. Give them Bite size work, and embrace the protypes! Support them, organizational chart pending. Understand that they exist to give order to the game. They are frequently Tauran, liking stability, sameness, comfort.
Managing sound designers
Audio guys want respect. Bring them into the process early so they can be part of the ideas and concept from the very beginning. People usually want to build the game THEN add the sound, like a movie. The more immersed the sound designers are, the better the product will be. Be very, very clear with your feedback.
How can you get people to separate their ego from the end product? Well, you can’t. Leadership starts at the top. I never introduced a person as someone who works FOR me, but rather I introduced them as someone who works WITH me. If ego is trumped at the top, it will trickle down. Leadership should be humble, willing to do everything they ask others to do. Preferably the interview process will allow you to throw someone under the bus and tout themselves so you can get an idea of what they’ll be like in your organization, but good luck getting that to happen…
Went to the East Coast Gaming Conference Session: What makes you think YOU know what a leader is? as presented by Keith Fuller
In this lecture, Keith Fuller talked about leadership and what some of the qualities of good leaders were, and what was the major roadblock in the industry as far as leadership goes. He began by letting us know what his expectations of us for the talk were: that we would care , that we would participate, and that we would focus.
Leaders set the expectations for those they lead. And a leader, by definition, is responsible for the behavior, tasks, work performance, and development of one or more people whom they manage. The Jetsons boss is NOT leadership.
Leaders watch the quality of your work, and put you where you’ll be best used. A good leader makes you want to show up! The best leaders are approachable, and knows you as a person!
Leaders should not be pulled from a hat. “working ok” is not the same as innovating and excelling. Work should be lead to be efficient, not a “churn and burn” prfoile, because time you are spending at work is not time with the ones you love.
Quality of leadership can be most accurately seen through employee engagement. When and employee cares and is engaged, they work harder. When they are disengaged, they cost you money and productivity.
Quality of work as measured by the happiness of the employee can be directly noted through 2 main objectives: Their relationship with their immediate supervisor, and their belief in senior leadership. More often than not, you don’t quit a company, you quit a boss.
Consider reading: “First, break all the rules” by Buckingham and Coffman.
If stuck down into two main points from these hundreds of interviews:
- First, treat each employee as a person- know things about them and care about them
- Secondly, Don’t make leadership the default career path- great skills do not always translate into leadership, not everyone wants to become a leader.
Communicate, Relate, and Motivate.
Consider reading: “12 – The elements of great managing” wagner and karter
Good leaders have consistently good social skills, are impactful, value people, and objectively improves the business- doing so by supporting the people (arguably the most important part [supporting the people] of the group)
Biggest obstacle to quality leadership: the idea and pat response “We’re good.” (you are fooling yourself). Poor leaders and organizations that sponsor poor leadership feel they have no need to focus on leadership or improving performance.
Here was a good exercise:
You will get points for your organization (0-5) based on the following questions, Yes or No, 1pt a piece:
- You’re asked to give feedback about lead?
- Does everyone get regular 1:1 meetings?
- Performance review more than 1/year?
- Specific training in leadership skills?
- Does lead ask “how can I help you?”
Are you willing to give your score and NAME your company out loud? Some were willing to give their score out loud (About half). However, when they were asked if they were will to give their company name, it dropped to 4 individuals.
Problem: you are not willing to discuss this and name this in public.
What makes you think you know what a leader is? People are more open and will talk about taking notes in meetings, but NOT about what makes a leader.
WHY? Well, this could be a reputation issue that stops you from getting hired in the future. Many people are worried that the proud nail gets knocked down. What if you are the leader? Are you prepared to self-identify as a bad leader or to ask for help? We should encourage people to ask questions! Getting up to complain on a Soap Box is a bad idea, a 1:1 meeting is the right way.
Today at ECGC (The East Coast Gaming Conference), I attending a leadership training seminar: Gamified Talent Management: Using RPG design to motivate employees and redefine work, a lecture by IBM guru Phaedra Boinodiris. This was really fantastic, and should fit nicely with the classroom gamification that I’d like to see in some of our flagging classes. Phaedra Boinodiris identified 4 major attributes of using gamification to find and motivate successful employees:
- Cognitive stability
- Cognitive complexity
- establishes a baseline
She then demonstrated a game used for potential employees, a game in which the user built a structure with spots and lines to reach a given point. This could then be used with responsive software to determine some of the cognitive qualities of the individual to help with the onboarding process. She further showed some proprietary software (darnit!) which could be used to chart an individual’s current state and progress in a gamification environment: Nick’s portal environment result from data showing changes and adjustment over time.
Using their previous data as well as the results of the employee profile and reviews, a composite was created similarly to a character sheet– showing calculated mentor matches (along with that mentor employee’s contact information, job matches and suggested promotion track to achieve it, how that employee ranked against others in the industry, how that employee was perceived by their peers, how the current marketplace is embracing their recognized skillsets, an employee assessment, and list of training or certifications suggested for the employee.
Upon my request, Ms. Boinodiris would not reveal information about IBM’s proprietary software. 😦
Questions posed by the leaders using this software required the team to be evaluated as a group. Once all members had taken the assessment, a team could further be assessed, posing questions based upon the team performance in addition to the qualities shown by the team:
- “To be good at my job, what paths need to be completed?”
- “What training needs to be completed by our current team?”
- “What training might need to be required of new or potential team members?”
- “How many goals are being completed within the group?”
- “What is it about the ‘class’ of employee that makes this optimal or in need to accomplish our team or individual goals?”
Based on results of these tests and questions, what kind of employees are they? Could you give them designations such as hunter, farmer, leader, etc.? After a class designation has been properly identified, can you change or adjust these designations to make your team the team you desire or the team numbers show is best suited for a particular task?
Once backed up with data, adjustments to your staff’s ‘class’ could be made by sending them ‘quests’ perhaps once per day or week. These quest tasks would slowly evolve the thinking of the team or team members, so that training is no longer siloed. For instance, you might recognize ‘Hunter’ employees as those who track down new, effective leads. ‘Farmers’ on the other hand, might be constantly revisiting old leads to grow new business in already fertile ground. You might assign hunters to revisit ‘old hunting grounds’ once a day and slowly evolve their systems. Farmers on the other hand, might strike out into leads on ‘newly forested areas’ where they can begin relationships and begin a new harvesting in new areas.
By removing the siloed training, you make continual training something that is both approachable and achievable. Also, it CAN become fun. However, you must find ways to provide tailored content to make sure your employees know what they need to do, or show them how they can improve.
It is vitally important to remember: As far as gamification goes, if you’re spending a majority of your time at the beginning determining what motivates your audience, you are doing it wrong.
When adding gamification to your school, workplace, etc, you must avoid the ‘chocolate covered brocoli’ – adding a small benefit to something which your population already hates. A badge alone will NOT motivate the students or employees anymore than covering something they don’t want with chocolate.
Consider reading The Multiplayer Classroom by Sheldon Lee. (I spoke with Sheldon Lee the author during a conference call last week. This was great timing!)
Also consider reading Serious Games for Business by Phaedra Boinodiris
I felt this was a great presentation, and I learned a lot that I felt would be helpful in methods of leadership! Tell me what you think!
LEA 124 – Leadership Training: Beyond Diversity
Since I had taken LEA113 (Understanding Diversity in the Workplace) and I clearly “understand” Diversity in the Workplace, it’s time to look BEYOND Diversity and put this clear level of understanding into action.
This course was presented by Jackie Popp (Jacqueline Popp) and Kimberly Breivogel on Wake Tech Community College’s Main Campus. During this leadership training session, we tooke a look at the biases we all hold (and we all have them, even if we’re not aware of it!).
We then explored how we could respectfully interact with others while actively working to reduce or eliminate preconceived notions which prevent us from being as effective as we could be, especially in the workplace. Research-based, hands-on activities and case studies allowed us to apply learning content to the workplace. We shared experiences as we got to know each other
In this class it was very interesting to see Cindy Foster, department head of Wake Tech’s Simulation and Video Game Development curriculum. Her experiences from the state and areas where she grew up made for some excellent insights. In her case study, her group had a staff member making harassing comments repeatedly. Her team made the breakthrough realization that the staff member might not be under their management control, which opened up a loooong and frankly quite fruitful discussion on how to deal with people under your management, those outside of your management, the difference in legal matters, performance improvement plans, and written/verbal warnings.
I thought this would be a general rehash of an earlier class, and was very pleased to find it stepping above and beyond my expectations.