Persevering in a Pressure Cooker World
2012 Summer Seminar Series
The COR Summer Seminar Series includes 13 workshops focused on issues of organizational health and leadership. Each workshop is a “stand-alone,” and participants may attend any number of them, whether they are consecutive or not.
This year’s Summer Seminar Series focuses on the persevering in a world that continues to keep increasing the pressure–pressure that’s experienced economically, personally, and organizationally. Whatever the cause, leaders must find ways to deal with this intense, relentless pressure so that the mission of the organization can still be addressed.
All workshops provide concrete actions leaders can take to increase the level of their organization’s effectiveness, even while operating under extreme pressure. Workshops will also present information about the topic at hand, as well as include resource materials, so that participants can better understand why certain actions will help and others hinder.
Picking Up Steam: Team Coaching for Adaptive Leadership
Date: July 9th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
By definition, adaptive leadership refers to the sets of knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed whenever an organization [or group] faces a problem that is outside its repertoire of usual experiences. Adaptive leadership is needed in situations that demand a response outside your current toolkit or repertoire; it consists of having the skills and courage to know what to do when you don’t know what to do—and leading others while you do so.
“This is quite different from the more common view that people in authority know what they are doing or, if they don’t know what they are doing, they shouldn’t be in the job. In an adaptive challenge leaders don’t know what they are doing because it’s a frontier where everyone is in over their heads” [Creelman, 2009].
These are times of limited resources, hyper-change, and daily confrontations with problems so enormous, bizarre, or complex that they make us feel inadequate. Most leaders recognize that place of “when you don’t know what to do,” when the very pressures around them are to take action. However, “taking action” within one’s leadership repertoire  will not, by definition, solve an adaptive problem;  will probably make the problem worse;  reinforces the old idea that “leaders must be smarter than everyone else; and  also reinforces a dependency relationship between a leader and followers.
We believe that the most powerful way to lead in a complex environment is to do so as intact members of leadership teams [e.g., senior management, department heads, boards]. If an intact team must learn to adapt [ie., learn new ways] together, then a team coach is the best resource available, both economically and in terms of “moving the culture.”
COR currently uses a model of individual leadership coaching aimed at improving the target organization’s culture while simultaneously facilitating stronger skills and attitudes for individual “coach-ees”. COR’s Team-Coaching for Adaptive Leadership model is a mid-level type of assistance [meaning that it’s not a one-time “sheep dip” nor is it long-term] that is designed to increase the collective capacity and performance of a team, particularly in regard to how the team deals with its adaptive problems. The use of coaching skills and principles [assisted reflection, situational analysis, skill development, goal setting, etc.] are the processes used to coach at the team level.
- Team coaching is different from training [although it may draw on teaching to some degree.
- It is different from team-building [but might include ways to enhance genuine trust and courage among team members].
- It is not about coaching each individual who is a member of a certain team [but may include particular attention to individuals when needed and appropriate].
- It is not the same thing as facilitating a group through a discussion or resolving a here-and-now conflict [although such a temporary step could be taken].
This workshop introduces the concepts of adaptive leadership and the requirements of team coaching—and is perfect for small teams to attend together so that all have similar understandings of these important concepts. Please note that this workshop is not one that trains people in coaching skills; rather, we will teach how team coaching assists a team in those situations where leaders “must learn what to do when they don’t know what to do.”
Building Interpersonal & Workplace Trust
Date: July 10th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
“There is no single variable which so thoroughly influences interpersonal and group behavior as does trust.” (Golembiewshi & McConkie, 1975)
“Trust is a critical success element to most business, professional, and employment relationships.” (Lewicki & Bunker, 1996)
Nice words, but how do we know when we’re really acting to develop and protect trust in our important relationships? What things affect how much we are willing to trust and to want others to trust us?
Trust is one of the most important qualities found in human relationships. When trust is present, people can withstand crises, handle stresses, and produce amazing results; when trust is absent or broken, the opposite is true. In organizations of all kinds, trust is increasingly recognized to be key to healthy cultures, positive morale and productivity, and successful implementation of changes of all kinds. Likewise, when organizational trust is not present, the stage is set for issues, problems, and crises to occur.
This workshop develops the concept of trust, from an attribute present in a relationship between two people, to trust among colleagues and hierarchical levels in organizations. We present a review of recent research suggestions for building trust in concrete ways, knowing when to trust, and when to be careful. Please note: We will not cover the many issues involved in repairing broken trust relationships in this workshop because such topics require much more time and personalized attention than one SSS workshop can handle.
Grace Under Fire (Or Water?): When The Leader Has A Personal Crisis
Date: July 10th & July 12th, 2012
Time: 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
By their very nature, personal crises usually happen without warning. The announcement that your spouse is leaving you. The death of a child. An episode of mental illness. A diagnosis of a terminal illness. The felony arrest of a family member. A major accident.
When events like these happen to people, they change lives forever. Some people end up being thankful for the lessons learned from a significant crisis—but this is a long-term outcome when it happens. But in the middle, when every ounce of energy has drained away, and “moving ahead” feels impossible, the experience often allows an individual to know intimately “the dark night of the soul.”
What happens when the individual involved works in a significant leadership or professional position? How can one “lead” when one doesn’t even know if it’s possible to get out of bed? How does a leader bring the selfless presence to “be there” for others when s/he is so filled with rage that an explosion seems to be always seconds away? How can someone act fairly with others while reeling from the most unjust experience of a lifetime?
We’re guessing that you’ll be tempted to skip consideration of this workshop, because of the unpleasant memories it evokes, because you’ve got “fatter fish to fry,” or because you’re convinced that you possess the personal resilience necessary to sail through whatever life brings to you.
If this sounds like you, please reconsider. There are some important steps you can take now that you’ll thank yourself for forever. This workshop will include stories and “lessons learned” from individuals in significant leadership roles who thought “these things” won’t happen to me, or—if they do happen—I’ll just figure it out. Let us leave you with this question: If you are really serious about the moral imperatives of your leadership, how would you explain your decision to deny reality or to “play it by ear” to your followers when [not “if”] your life goes in a very surprising direction?
This is a two part workshop that will take place over two nights on July 10th and 12th from 6:30 – 9:30 PM.
Hard-Pressed: Making Effective Leadership Transitions
Date: July 11th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
So… you’re moving to a new job! You are probably exciting and enthusiastic, and your brain feels like it’s on overdrive with ideas and questions. New leaders are “in a fishbowl” in a sense, because all eyes are on them; some new leaders relish this type of attention, but others do not. Some experience the “imposter’s syndrome” as they mentally measure themselves for the challenges of the new role; some feel only confidence and positive anticipation.
So… you’re getting a new boss! You will no doubt be somewhere on the emotional range between “this is the best thing that could have ever happened” and “unfortunately, we’ve lost the best thing we’ve ever had and we’ll never find anything like it again.” You may feel preoccupied with questions and concerns and ideas, but you and your colleagues may receive little or no attention at all to the major changes that are soon to occur in your work lives. Why? Because you aren’t “the boss,” and the transition process focuses only upon him/her.
So… you’re losing your boss to a new job! You are a member of this group temporarily, until you become a member of the group previously described. The group who has lived with the “departing leader” for some time is seldom considered at all because all “official” eyes are on the search for the new person who will follow. Little attention is given to what has ended for this group, only what will “get better,” and “what our new priorities should be” when a new leader is selected. And then, almost all of the focus is on how the new leader will sustain or change this receiving group, and what occurs with the “departed group-ness” is seldom even seen.
The success of a leadership transition is almost based upon [at least] the traits and actions taken by the newly-hired person. The “receiving followers”—who used to be the “leader’s old followers” are seldom seen, except as an object: the group that will be “done to” by the new boss.
Why do so many leadership transitions fail, or at least, never achieve their intended goals? We believe that one reason is that the “groups”—the staff, department, or entire organization—on both the “sending” and “receiving” ends of the transition are virtually ignored as all eyes focus upon the individual leader.
Certainly, there is much that can be done for individuals who are making such a move to be more successful in their transition, and this workshop will address these ideas. But we go further. This workshop also addresses ways in which the groups involved, from both ends of the equations, can be supported so that they are able to contribute to a new leader’s success as important and active parts of this dynamic, rather than just the stage upon which the “new boss” will act.
Transformative Conflict Mediation
The Fine Art of Human Investment: Finding our Vincent
Date: July 13th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
This workshop is a one-day journey through the lives of two brothers–one named Vincent– the other named Theo. Today their shared last name, Van Gogh, brings to mind a body of art known the world over, yet during their lifetimes the story of Theo and Vincent Van Gogh was the furthest thing from an assured success story. The outstanding feature of this story is that one of them was a wise and persevering investor, and the other was nothing short of a very risky investment. This workshop is dedicated to the challenge of being an artful investor in the lives of others.
This story captivated the heart of my brother, Darrel, who valiantly ended his earthly journey after a fourteen-month battle with brain cancer on July 22, 2010. As he placed his finishing touches on his book How to Invest in a Vincent Van Gogh: The Fine Art of Human Investment (yet to be published), we talked about sharing this story as a way of reminding our world that we live in places full of Vincents who stand in desperate need of more Theos.
This workshop is the further fulfillment of a promise I made to my brother to share this story and its significance with anyone seeking to make a positive difference in world. “Investing” in the life of another, as Theo Van Gogh did, is a gift that makes an impact far greater than on one other human being.
– Dr. Terry Young
Balancing Honesty and Compassion in Telling the Truth
Date: July 16th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
It’s the kind of issue that keeps you awake at night: you must have a critical conversation with someone who’s important to you, and you’re worried that it won’t go well. You know that your message will be difficult for the other person to hear, and you’re mostly anxious about your own skills in delivering the message in a way that is truthful, but that also conveys your deep caring about the person. How do you know how to convey “caring”? To stay 100% honest and candid, without sounding harsh or curt? Will something unforeseen happen that derails even your best strategy?
These “important conversations” occur frequently in our lives, and they are probably “mis-delivered” more often than not. This workshop addresses the key ingredients involved in maximizing your chances to balance the truth and the humanity in the right ratios when you face such a task.
The conversation may be about a termination decision with an employee; it might be an apology for a professional error to your supervisor; it could be about a needed change in your working conditions with a peer. It may be a personal issue, rather than a professional one. No matter the topic, the idea of telling a difficult truth often drive anxiety levels up, and sometimes, the very anticipation of such a conversation is so unsettling that our anxiety leads us away from having the conversation at all.
This workshop looks at the “basic skills” necessary for having a difficult conversation. Such skills include coming out of the conversation feeling as if we have communicated competently, clearly, and honestly. They include treating the other person with authentic respect, and yet maintaining our own self-respect during the encounter. Finally, such skills help us communicate the kind of message that is likely to achieve the results we are after—in other words, making the difficult conversation “work” in the best ways possible. Participants will have opportunities to discuss and practice these skills and take away a gold mine of materials on the subject. These ideas may save you a bit of insomnia in the future.
Employee Morale In Pressure-Cooker Times
Date: July 16th & July 18th, 2012
Time: 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
It is a challenging time to try to help others. What COR calls helping organizations are those that exist for this explicit reason, and include schools and colleges, social service agencies, churches and religious organizations of many kinds, health care institutions, and most nonprofits and charities, among others. Not only must each of these organizations simultaneously respond to increased emphasis on accountability for measurable outcomes, more clients in distress, more complex issues and technologies, and greater expectations for increased collaboration with individuals and other organizations—but they all must currently do so within a climate of decreasing resources. Few employees, regardless of organizational position, can escape the effects of this overload. They may describe it differently, but it always boils down to the experience of increased overall distress.
Now, of course, this situation refers to our professional or occupational roles, and if these were the sole stresses in our lives, we would still, no doubt, feel overloaded. But the “rest of our lives” does not get put on hold while our work lives grow increasingly complex. The “rest of our lives” includes our health, our relationships, our financial circumstances, our spiritual foundations and religious affiliations, our neighborhoods and communities, etc. And for most of us, these areas of life—as well as our work situations—also feel increasingly hard to manage.
This workshop is not about “feel-good” techniques to help employees “get the right attitude” about the difficulties of stretching toward an organization’s mission when that goal seems most impossible. Morale isn’t the ability to be “up” constantly—especially in hard times. Morale is based upon individuals’ self-concept and world view, and by their beliefs in themselves and the work that they do. There are many ways we can help ourselves and each other hold onto and strengthen these beliefs, especially when times are tough.
This is a two part workshop that will take place over two nights on July 16th and 18th from 6:30 – 9:30 PM.
Holding Our Feet to The Fire: Accountability in Organizations
Date: July 17th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
What does the word “accountability” mean to you? Do you have any emotion—even slightly—when you hear or read the word? Some people feel a positive sense of affect when they encounter this word, because to them, of course, people should be accountable as a matter of living ethically. However, other people get a knot in their stomachs because accountability has come to mean blame, and working toward “outcomes” that feel impossible to reach.
This mixture of reactions isn’t uncommon. To quote one well-known expert: “In the current debates about accountability, cacophony rules. There is little agreement, and perhaps even less clear thinking, about what accountability means, to whom it is owed, and how it can be operationalized.”
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms defines “holding someone’s feet to the fire” as a person’s actions to keep up the pressure on someone by constantly reminding him/her of her promises, obligations, or beliefs. We often hear the phrase as applied to elected officials who, once elected, “forget” their campaign promises and the duties of their positions. Evidently, this idiom alludes to either an ancient test of courage, or a form of torture, in which a person’s feet were literally placed in a fire.
Many of us may have learned that a person is either accountable or not—an intrinsic trait. Well, have you ever seen a person who was not blessed with this characteristic act in an accountable way? This happens a lot! And we believe that the reasons for this good news is because:  everyone knows what “accountability” means in this situation, and  the culture around this person continues to influence behaviors in accountable directions.
This workshop focuses on clarifying the concept of accountability as much as possible, and then mostly sharing ways to promote the best aspects of accountability into the cultures around us—our workplaces, families, friendships, places of worship. We share powerful results of recent research that focuses on this environmental aspect of accountability so you’ll know where to invest your time and attention in your own settings.
Living With Obstructionists Without Insanity or Violence
Date: July 18th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Close your eyes and picture this person—you’ll remember the situation well. You thought you were good with people, but nothing works with him or her, and it was crazy-making. You normally don’t feel so enraged with difficult people, but you want to strangle this individual. Perhaps s/he is something like these examples…
First of all, he was always late for staff meetings, and then—when he’d finally graced us with his presence—nothing would satisfy him; he’d find something wrong with every idea placed on the table.
Okay, she was always very pleasant in meetings, and was positive and encouraging to others without fail—to their faces. But once the meeting was over… it’s as if her life goal was to back-stab, criticize and mock, and do her best to derail every action item the group took on. And people were afraid to confront her, because they’d be on her “list” next, creating pain and anger in her wake.
Or… she just won’t shut up. Discussions with her are endless and pointless and all about her. She’s an important family member, you love her, but you hate being around her, and you’ve tried everything you can think of to change the dynamics between the two of you. Now, avoiding her is all you want to do.
These are three typical portraits of obstructionists” a name given to those who try to derail the activities of others, are completely passive-aggressive in their behaviors, and/or who are so self-focused that no one or nothing else is worth their attention. In this workshop, we’ll share some unique strategies for making sense of and working with the issues obstructionists present.
Wiki-Leadership: Leveraging the Changes Brought About By the Social Media Revolution
Date: July 19th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Arthur “Bugs” Baer (1886-1969) was an American sports journalist, cartoonist, and humorist in New York. He is known to have said of the newspaper business at that time: “A newspaper is a circulating library with high blood pressure.” If this description of the newspaper evoked such a reaction, it makes one wonder what Baer would say to the pressures we encounter from today’s social media by people who struggle to keep up with one email account. That is, instead of hourly postings on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Social media include internet forums, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, video, and social networking [to name only a few examples]. What qualifies as “social media” today are web-based and mobile technologies used to get human interactions going among individuals, organizations, and communities. Supposedly, for the millennial generation, all of this is a taken-for-granted way of life; supposedly, for baby boomers, it is a practice designed to torment peaceful sleep with how out-of-date they’ve become. The Gen-Xers want to see themselves on the millennial side, of course.
The genesis of this workshop comes from the pressure felt to “get a Facebook page” for one’s organization; to “do a weekly blog” if one is a responsible professional and/or leader; and to “upgrade the website” if it doesn’t already include webinars and podcasts.
Many organizations today are experiencing an exponential amount of conflict. Traditional businesses were built on a model of hierarchical control and brand protection. With the introduction of social media, a new world model is demanding openness, transparency and authenticity. No matter what generation you find yourself in, we are all looking for the appropriate boundaries, networking etiquette and protocols. In this workshop we will explore the history, the benefits as well as the liabilities of this new phenomena of social technology.
Leadership Issues 102: The Pressures of Pleasing Everyone
Date: July 20th, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Leaders face so many issues today that it’s hard to list them all. Surely one of these issues is the multitude of stakeholders—staff, clients, board members, etc.—who always seem to want something from whoever is in charge, and these pressures—on top of everything else—is enough to make a leader grouchy. In the past, COR has conducted workshops on leaders who are in some way dysfunctional, narcissistic, or even grouchy, but we’ve never addressed the “other side” of these issues: the pressure to be “a nice guy” at all times.
Fortunately, one of our favorite leadership models involves just this focus. The model was developed by Murray Bowen and, in the past, was used extensively with family systems. More recently, Edwin Friedman applied Bowen’s systems ideas to leaders and organizational systems. As a leadership model, Bowen’s concept of differentiation is at the heart of the matter; differentiation refers to the capacity of a person to manage emotions as well as cognition and to “hold on” to themselves when pressures to comply or conform with others is intense.
Leaders with “low differentiation” are highly susceptible to others’ approval and acceptance. They either conform to others in order to please them, or find themselves constantly fighting to get others to comply with their point of view. A leader with “high differentiation,” according to Friedman, “is not an autocrat who tells others what to do or orders them around, although any leader who defines himself or herself clearly may be perceived [to be autocratic] by those who are not taking responsibility for their own emotional being and destiny.”
Friedman’s work has not only been applied with family systems, but also with organizations—particularly religious and nonprofit ones—certainly two apt settings [although not all of them, by any means] for individuals who feel pressured to please others. Additionally, Friedman stresses the need for both self-knowledge and self-control in the face of disagreement, conflict, and sabotage. He blasts the “failure of nerve” in leaders who are more concerned with good feelings and harmony than progress on the group’s genuine problems.
This workshop introduces and explores these ideas in safe and practical ways, so that participants can apply them to both themselves and to other leaders they have known.
Coming to The Table
Date: July 20th & July 21st, 2012
Time: 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM & 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
A crisis knows no organizational boundaries. Crises of many kinds can occur in all groups and organizations – including religious congregations of every faith.
Beginning a couple decades ago, and exploding in the early years of the 21st century, several denominations—most notably the Roman Catholic Church—experienced a crisis of unestimable proportions. This nightmare involved revelations of hundreds of instances of the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy—the personal face of “the Church” wherever it exists.
When a crisis hits a religious congregation, it often has a different impact than when a tragedy strikes a secular organization. Somehow, we feel more ambushed when a disaster strikes our communities of faith. There’s often more of a sense of violation and feeling that “this kind of thing shouldn’t happen here.” Conflict usually arises among members about who is responsible, what should or should not be done, what could have prevented the situation, how others are reacting to it, etc. No one wants to see conflict in their place of worship.
More than at any other time, a crisis – whether from internal or external causes – has the potential to change the entire nature of a congregation. It can destroy relationships or build stronger ones. It can equip the community with skills for an uncertain future, or maim its coping resources. It can take down powerful leaders or strengthen leadership capabilities in those who might never have guessed themselves to be wise, capable, and strong.
This is a two part workshop that will take place Friday night July 20th, 6 – 9:30 PM and Saturday morning July 21st 9 AM – 12 PM.