Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

A Blinding Blizzard

March 23, 2015

blizzard

Blinded by the data blizzard?

In 2014, this volume of data was produced, each minute:

  • 204 million email messages were sent
  • Google received more than 4 million search queries
  • 2.46 million pieces of content were shared on Facebook
  • 277,000 tweets were sent, along with 48,000 apps downloaded
  • 26,380 reviews were posted on Yelp! and 216,000 photos posted on Instagram
  • 3,472 images were pinned to Pinterest, and
  • 72 hours of new video were uploaded to YouTube

In Digital Destiny, Shawn DuBravac, PhD, reminds us there’s no need to remember these figures. They are obsolete. The quantities are far greater today. However, these facts show something very important: the huge scale and speed of data production.

Data is everywhere in your organization, community, home and life. Managing effectively depends on measuring accurately. The careful use of data sets strategy, creates programs, provides feedback, shows potential for improvement and displays  outcomes.

With increasing frequency, we see metrics, indicators and findings mis-used. To support a conclusion or point of view, some people consciously (and unconsciously) will generate or select data to suit their purpose. It’s a strong way to market any message.

There’s no public or private “regulator” that practically sorts this for you. The volume and quality of data used across many contexts presents tremendous challenges for those with little measurement experience or awareness.

Professionals who handle data routinely know and practice ethical standards for data use. What can you do? Here’s a start: listen to skeptics; trust your intuition; ask hard questions to challenge assumptions, methods and sources; read more about metrics; understand limitations in findings; secure an independent review by an ethical evaluator.

Data can be very powerful in the right hands, heads and hearts. Because of this, every manager-leader needs data literacy.  Sorting out the signals from the noise is a vital skill in demonstrating value, for learning and creating change.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Mandela’s Virtues

December 20, 2013

mandelaface

For nearly 30 years, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for sabotage and promoting revolution.  And, at 71 years old, in barely just ten years of activity, Mandela secured a peaceful launch of a democratic South Africa.

The long, useful life of Mandela has given us an important leadership example. Described by many as a complex man, some of his attributes certainly warrant cultivation. Here, I note three important ones:

Tenacious. Surviving nearly three decades of prison is only partial evidence of this virtue. After 20 years, the government offered Mandela freedom if he’d renounce violence. He declined.  Mandela also chose to “pivot” or modify strategies to ensure an intended outcome. Initially, a staunch believer in non-violence, he reluctantly modified this perspective to include sabotage (without bloodshed) and, eventually, guerilla warfare because it was the only option to be effective. Mandela’s determination meant he was wholly committed to planned results.

Humble. Mandela endeared his prisoner peers and the wardens by refusing privilege. Until others had the treatment he was offered, he declined. He did not expect or seek individual reward. This maturity is valuable evidence of authenticity. Mandela was embarrassed by attention. As a descendent of royalty, he used his traditional name Mandiba, but with no cult of personality. He said, “I should like to be remembered as an ordinary South African.”

Reconciler. Avoiding vengeance, Mandela chose the more powerful strategies of negotiation, mediation and compromise to assure peace. He acted as a midwife and guide for hope, democracy and a nation built on the rule of law.  Mandela understood moral authority. He used the power of enduring values to support South Africa’s rebirth.

One can expect tributes, analyses and editorials about Nelson Mandela for months, indeed years, to come. His heroic example has delivered vital changes. It is a sharp contrast to the common plays of corruption, infighting and partisanship. One principled person made a great difference.

As 2014 starts, consider what could be in the new year? Not long ago, many loathed Mandela. Most had interests to protect and only a few could see the vision he offered. As the world honors him, it’s a reminder that we need champions for change with worthy attributes.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Provoking Progress

March 7, 2013

ninja

Goal success relies on some critical attributes and practices. Research suggests discipline, strategy, adaptation, decisiveness, and will matters. To deliver breakthroughs and be “out front,” leaders need to be agile, creative risk-takers. All of these factors can contribute to progress or innovation.

Innovation can be understood in three types: evolutionary, revolutionary and disruptive.

Evolutionary refers to improvement in a current market that can be expected. For example, in health care more nurse-delivered care is evolutionary.

Revolutionary refers to improvement that’s not expected. For example in dentistry, dental therapists may be certified and licensed to replace dentists in some care settings.

Disruptive refers to improvement that is unexpected and lots more. It can create new customers, competitors, value and a marketplace previously unidentified. For example, the application of networking and information technology to healthcare has (and will) generate new enterprise. Sensors or robotics that assist patients in specific ways can prevent new costs and complications.

Some change can be replication with “tweaks” or evolutionary. But, there’s lots of room for both revolution and disruption as you (with others) imagine, plan and deliver results. Generating innovation requires new attitudes, thinking and processes.

Gary Shapiro’s latest book, “Ninja Innovation” calls out some important qualities associated with success. Ninjas were spies for the Japanese noble class and valued for skills and training. They were smart and adept professionals. A contemporary US counterpart might be Special Forces personnel.

A few of Shapiro’s ninja innovation characteristics are:
• A ruthless dedication to secure the goal.
• Building the right, great team.
• A disciplined attitude with unwavering focus on the goal.
• Environmental sensing and adjustments to plan.
• Both risk-taking and rule breaking with ethics.

As an agent for change, your choices and actions catalyze others. The factors that can influence individual and organization success are intertwined. We each have direct control of our own attitudes, knowledge, skill and behavior. Where’s the ninja in you?

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com.

A Leadership Checklist

January 3, 2011

A big income or job title does not magically confer leadership, neither does elected office or a governance appointment. Responding to and creating change is the work of leaders. Social complexity, power dynamics, emerging knowledge, and technology combined with urgent needs create a context where effective leadership is an increasingly difficult assignment.

Leadership development, from unskilled to masterful, reflects a process of maturation. Anyone can get “stuck” at any time. It’s also true some people lead better in some situations than others. However, a fast way forward is an explicit checklist to review as you lead.

Here are seven gentle reminders to do (along with a bit of the counter-factual don’t) that will help you be more effective.

1. Specify Clear Purpose(s).
Defining purpose is integrally linked with setting direction. It is the why of where we are going. Big ideas like excellence, capacity, quality of life, and performance can be manipulated and interpreted in many ways.   Be crystal clear about your intended outcomes.  Specify what result(s) you are after and how success is defined. This enables others to engage in shared work, too.  Don’t offer a confused agenda.  It’s problematic and will continue to plague the work. Beware of substituting a declared purpose, however compelling, for strategy. They’re not interchangeable.

 
2. Seek Visual Acuity.
Constant discovery is an ally. Asking questions and uncovering perspective, facts, and experiences are essential to correcting and improving your sight. The people and organizations that are most “dangerous” are those that insist on being blind about their blind spots. Most political contexts encourage people to share just the “story” you want to hear. Don’t pursue “ blind insistence.” Most of us want to be “right” and like our own (or other) mental models that affirm. Without exception, though, we all have issues or items we can’t see…We also may have some we don’t want to see. Co-option is a common way to ensure cover and conformity.

3. Keep Open Ears (Heart & Mind).
Listening skills are vital to a capable leader. Be sure you listen – inside and outside the organization, committee or task force. Use your ears, heart and mind in listening. Seek out ethical, experienced people who are willing to be candid with you. Any group you lead has foibles, flaws, preferences, comforts and agendas. Talent is comprised of competencies and attributes. Assemble the best you can on both dimensions. Tolerating unethical behavior is a huge error – even great skills never compensate for it. Don’t allow deafness to be an elective disability. Choosing not to hear critique, alternative view point, or considering better, different expertise is foolish.

4. Choose Risks.
Any decision has risk to it. Calculated and intentional risk is essential to creating change. Understand who is helped and hurt by your choices and why. Take responsibility for movement and progress. Site an ambitious new possibility and articulate its benefits. Choose improvement and change. Don’t avoid decisions. It’s irresponsible. Keeping the status quo is inconsistent with leading.

5. Engage Your Conscience.
Leaders interact in a social context. This means they are both in front of and behind others. Humans, like most animals, instinctively prefer the “cover” of a group. Far too often being “in” is better than out – even when “in” is wrong. Use a moral compass that serves the common good. Persuade others why self interest is just far too small an agenda. Be conscious of your own motives and that of others. Don’t ignore values like justice, candor, integrity, compassion and sustainability. Social conformity is how political cultures thrive and block change. It’s why bullying and corruption are far too common.

6. Acknowledge Errors.
Most days most people make errors. They can be simple and unintended or not. Whether a poor word choice, the tone of voice, a decision about strategy, resource allocation, or staff selection — we all make errors. Assumptions get all of us in “trouble.” Although slightly different, misunderstandings can happen easily. Build reflective skills to recognize and quickly correct errors.  Don’t avoid disclosure and authentic apologies. They are important to credibility. Sharing your vulnerabilities and flaws are critical to trust.

 
7. Pursue Learning Daily.
Our own willingness to learn (and change) affects the potential to lead others. Learning is a high standard.  Human development requires a complex chain from new awareness, to knowledge, skills and different actions.  Identify your own “learning agenda,” then pursue it with vigor. Without explicit attention and commitment, learning won’t happen.  Routinely seek constructive feedback from “critical” friends and colleagues. Be sure there are people near you who care enough (about you/your work) to provide far more than praise. Don’t let current habits and ego prevail. You’re not growing if you’re not learning.

Leading change isn’t easy.
Start this year with a handy to-do checklist and beware of the don’ts!

Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also a W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. For more, see: www.pwkinc.com

Leadership for Great Culture

September 14, 2010

When Nelson Mandela and his colleagues secured hard-won positions of leadership he challenged “selfish thinking.” He suggested that “restraint and generosity” guide decisions and the use of power. We all know he offered wisdom and exemplary leadership in a very difficult and complex circumstance. When in power he did not make the mistake of ego: serving self. He was able to transcend this temptation and do the right thing for the common good. He surprised his opposition by rising above the self interests of his constituency to advocate reconciliation over revenge.

 Politics or Performance

Power is about the access to and use of resources. How power “plays” is a key dynamic in any organization. The norms and values that guide power define a leadership culture. In a healthy nonprofit organization, power is used for a specific change mission.  Capable leaders extend influence beyond the organization’s viability. They serve a vulnerable population or serious challenge to quality of life.  Regrettably, this isn’t always the agenda.   Dysfunctional leaders use their power for politics: control and self interest. If you’re willing to look, it is easy is to see whether a leadership culture is focused on politics or performance.

Denial, Avoidance, Blindness

The choice to look away from what exists is denial and avoidance. It happens when a leader  manages relationships and self interest rather than organizational performance.  When someone says, “You can talk to me – but I am not changing my mind.”  Although a  subtle difference, “inattention blindness” is  the  inability to see what’s right in front of us.  It happens when  the desperate circumstances of many become so common they are ignored. It happens when the leadership culture is all politics. When there is no rudder, no conscience, no accountability and lots of ego —anything  goes.

 I believe great leaders step past denial, avoidance, blindness. They face into the wind and are  accountable. They agree with Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, who recently said: “The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger, and smarter. That’s what accountability is all about — facing the truth and taking responsibility.”

 Power  as a Tool

Power  that focuses on domination  is oppressive in many ways. It can generate then perpetuate hardships and injustice.  It often  occurs by individuals and groups through gender, age, or racial affiliation. Far too often it occurs by people in jobs whose purpose is to serve. While some  may not find the courage to name it, many people are  offended and perplexed by the examples  these leaders offer. It can severely hamper organization performance. 

When Mandela assumed a recognized position, he  walked past  ego and challenged others about theirs.  He chose  mission over self-interest and competence over cronies.  His altitude didn’t influence his attitude or behavior. His example begs a  question: What surprise can you offer ?

Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also a W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. For more information, see : www.pwkinc.com


%d bloggers like this: