This has been a very stimulating summer. I've been working with Wayne Rawcliffe and Christopher Neep of Senga Consulting Inc
. to create a management/leadership development program based on one of the acronyms I have developed and refined over the past couple of years. This one is SMART - Soulfully, Mindfully, Astutely, Responsibly, and Trustingly. SMARTer Management
is a whole systems approach to the art of influencing and co-creating desired results. Senga's tag line is "Aspirations Achieved." In this program, we want to help companies and organizations achieve their leadership aspirations one conversation after another.
What we have come to realize is that there is one core management/leadership competency and that is the ability to have the right conversation with the right person/people at the right time about the right issue. Everything we do in our managerial or leadership roles depends on the quality of the conversations we initiate and sustain. The substance and sounds of those conversations determine the quality of positive influence we exercise in the organizations we serve.
Just like jazz musicians, we develop the sounds of our voices through deliberate practice. Just like jazz musicians, we learn through that practice:
- who we are and what we can do best (the Soulful part);
- how we pay attention to those with whom we are working and bring out their best (the Mindful part);
- how we analyze our organizational and market environments (the Astute part);
- how we generate mutual accountability for achieving common aspirations (the Responsible part); and
- how we build the confidence to keep the system working harmoniously (the Trust part).
This is an exciting collaboration and I'll keep you posted on its progress.
As I said in July, I trust you will find some sabbath times this summer to reconnect with what's most important to you and rest in that joy.
Core Chart for Great Teamwork - J. Richard Hackman
J. Richard Hackman teaches social and organizational psychology at Harvard. In his book, Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performance (2002), he draws together the results of over two decades of research and sets out five core conditions for creating and sustaining effective teams. What I like about his core chart for great teamwork is the realism he brings to his thinking about the human dynamics in teams and how bad the results can be. Further, he hones in on the key role of the leader in getting agreement on a compelling purpose and direction. Among the leaders of jazz groups that I have been interviewing for Finding Your Leadership Groove, this insight has come up often. They see themselves responsible for finding the opportunities to play, deciding on who will play together, and choosing the repertoire that will be played. Only within that context can talented and highly-individualistic musicians work together in harmony and rhythm.
Here's Hackman's core chart for great teams:
- Teams must be real. It is the leader's job to be clear about who is on the team and who is not. This may seem ruthless in an age of inclusivity, but Hackman argues that it is essential to team success.
- Teams must have a compelling direction. Members need to know and agree upon what they are supposed to be doing. Otherwise, different assumptions will create conflicts, diffuse focus, and drain energy.
- Teams must have enabling structures. These structures include clearly designed tasks, the right mix of members, and enforced norms of conduct. Any laxness in providing and applying these kinds of structures reduces the trust that is essential to effective teamwork.
- Teams must have a supportive organization. Creating the organizational conditions of team success is essential and involves the rewards system, the HR system, and the communications system. If teams do not enjoy a favorable environment for mutual accountability and achievement, they will flounder and often fail.
- Teams must have expert coaching. The coaching is not for the individuals, though that can help as well. The coaching Hackman talks about deals with the whole team as it interacts in its group processes, especially at the beginning, middle, and end of the project. The coach can help the team catch early signs of dysfunction and make the corrections necessary to sustain and complete successful teamwork.
Great teams, as Hackman observes below in our quote of the month, need leaders who are more like jazz musicians that symphony section players or conductors. It is the flexibility and trust that arises under the conditions outlined above that provides the inner dynamics for sustainable success in teamwork.
And I find it particularly encouraging that yet another expert, writing from years of research and reflection, finds in jazz a powerful metaphor for the brilliant leadership and teamwork we aspire to in our organizations in this challenging and constantly changing context.
Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
The challenge for practitioners is to make sure that team leaders are carefully selected and competently trained, to be sure. But even fine leaders can make little constructive difference if they have little latitude to act--for example, if all team performance processes are dictated by technology or pre-specified operating procedures. It is the difference between a jazz musician and a section player in a symphony orchestra: The former has lots of room to improvise, whereas the latter must follow exactly a detailed score, and do so under the direct and constant supervision of a conductor. Team leaders should be more like jazz musicians.
- J. Richard Hackman, "What Makes for a Great Team," American Psychological Association Online
, Volume 18: No. 6, June 2004 (click here
to read the full article).
What People Are Saying about Brian and Jazzthink
"Brian facilitated our recent board meeting with such grace, guidance, and clear focus that we efficiently covered all seven major topics on our agenda - and still had room for fun. His hands-on exercises honoured the views of all participants, allowed maximum input, and produced an impressive action list. Throughout the meeting, Brian listened, directed, and questioned with thoughtful wisdom, drawing on his broad knowledge of leading thinkers. As a result, we have an exciting plan for new growth with an excellent follow-up process in place. Thanks, Brian!"
- Heather Conn, Workplace Centre for Spiritual and Ethical Development, Vancouver, BC
"We left the strategic planning session you did for the board of the Filipino Social Workers Association of British Columbia feeling so positive, inspired, excited and engaged to work on our new projects in a more realistic way. Your positive and dynamic energy was so infectious and inspiring. We still talk about you and the positive impact you had on our association. Thanks so much for giving so much of yourself and for supporting our association. We learned a lot from you!"
- Bella Cenezero
"Brian's 2 hour facilitation amongst 30 of my peers in the sustainability community provided us with a fantastic insight into true leadership. This highly dynamic and engaging session allowed us to walk away with a valuable perspective on how to recognize and foster the inner leader. Using jazz as the anchor for our discussion was a totally unique experience opening a doorway to some very creative and much appreciated dialogue."
- Mel Phadtare
Gathering MOS (Mobilization on Sustainability)
Michael Fullan is one of Canada's most distinguished leadership theorists. Now retired, he was dean of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where I did my master's in the history of education. I have been exploring two of his books - Leading in a Culture of Change
(2001) and The Six Secrets of Change
In Leading in a Culture of Change
, Fullan develops a model of five independent yet mutually reinforcing components of thinking about and leading complex change:
- Acting with clear and compelling moral purpose.
- Understanding the change process, especially the complex dynamics of moving patiently yet persistently through the change.
- Building good relationships with the diverse people and groups involved in the change.
- Creating and sharing knowledge that will strengthen the relationships and advance the benefits of the change.
- Making coherence of the value that is emerging from the change process.
These five components, working together and constantly interacting, have their greatest positive impact when leadership maintains a culture of energy, enthusiasm, and hopefulness.
Fullan's six secrets are simple and profoundly practical, but they must be implemented to work. Seems obvious, but I'm constantly amazed by people who say they know what to do and don't do it.
- Collegiality cannot be left to chance, it must be deliberately cultivated.
- Long-range plans must allow for the possibility of unknown opportunities.
- Employees must be developed and nurtured.
- Learning opportunities must be offered frequently.
- Leadership potential must be developed at all levels.
- Positive pressure must be inescapable.
The examples Fullan uses are drawn from both business and educational institutions. His writings offer a rich source of inspiration and wisdom for those seeking to exercise effective leadership and build successful teams in organizational environments calling for innovative improvements. That would be all of our organizations!
Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver
"Vancouver's answer to the Village Vanguard, this small (70-seat) club/restaurant presents the best local jazz, as well as some touring acts. Great sound, which has been used to enhance the club's record label, Cellar Live."
- Down Beat magazine's list of 100 best jazz clubs in the February 2009 issue