“Civility is not not saying negative or harsh things. It is not the absence of critical analysis. It is the manner in which we are sharing this territorial freedom of political discussion. If our discourse is yelled and screamed and interrupted and patronized, that’s uncivil.” – Richard Dreyfuss
We have a civility crisis in our culture. The problem is, we’re too busy cutting others down to recognize how uncivil we have become.
In numerous contexts, civility has been replaced with, “If I disagree with you, I must publicly diminish you. I must paint you as my adversary, mock your values, even lie about you if necessary, with little regard for the ramifications of my words and behaviors.”
Sadly, all levels of government are not immune, which is ironic when you consider civility is a foundational government building block.
Civility is an adverb. It is derived from the word civil. The origin of the word is late Middle English. That word is from the Old French word civilite, which is from the Latin civilitas, from civilis meaning, “relating to citizens”. In early use, the term denoted the state of being a citizen; and as a result, denoted the action of practicing good citizenship or orderly behavior. Politeness became associated with civility in the 16th century.
In local government, we must consistently remind employees that no matter what choices others make, we as public servants can model putting citizens first. We can be orderly. We can embrace politeness. These characteristics can be learned and these attitudes can be embraced. How? Consider the following possibilities:
- An organization’s governing body can model civility in public forums. If council or commission members disagree, they can respectfully argue facts without attacking character or motive.
- Executive team members can model civility in day-to-day leadership. Doing so decreases an “us versus them” mindset. Decreasing distrust creates opportunity for trust to flourish.
- Employees can model civility when interacting with citizens. Even if a situation involves bad news, i.e., a shut-off notice, citation, ticket, etc., the issuer can treat the recipient with dignity and respect.
As a former county commissioner, I realize civility is often easier discussed than practiced. Strong emotions, personal values, and competing agendas can fuel uncivil fires. Ironically, even the strongest emotions, values, and agendas can be expressed within a civil framework. In other words, I can honor you even if I strongly disagree with you.
Intentionally practice civility. Good governance cannot exist without it.
Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson. I really liked this book. It was a fun read – extra fun for anyone who follows sports. But, it is also a leadership journal. Though the book is quite narrative, principles and practices and challenges and difficulties of leadership kind of ooze through every page.
Here are Phil Jackson’s “Basic Principles of Mindful Leadership”:
1) Lead from the inside out.
2) Bench the ego.
3) Let each player discover his own destiny.
4) The road to freedom is a beautiful system. (Tex Winter taught me a system known as the triangle offense )
5) Turn the mundane into the sacred.
6) One breath = one mind.
7) The key to success is compassion. Simplicity, patience, compassion.
8) Keep your eye on the spirit, not on the scoreboard.
9) Sometimes you have to pull out the big stick.
10) When in doubt, do nothing. However, there are occasions when the best solution is to do absolutely nothing. “No one does nothing better than Phil.”
11) Forget the ring.
Here are some observations:
1) Phil Jackson “used” Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. He learned from Carl Rogers. He learned from Native American tribes. He learned from jazz musicians. He seemingly learned from anyone, anywhere.
2) Phil Jackson knew he could work with receptive people. Leaders need receptive people.
3) Phil Jackson knew that he had to treat different players differently (e.g., he gave extra slack to Dennis Rodman). He had to react to different players differently – to communicate with different players differently.
4) Phil Jackson absolutely understood the value of the fundamentals.
5) A sense of community/connectedness really matters. And spending time together – with proximity to one another – really helps. (Thus, L.A. was tougher than Chicago for this).
6) Phil Jackson built on the work of others (other coaches) and relied on the work of others (other coaches).
7) Phil Jackson changes his approach, and the way he works, throughout each season – year by year, player by player.
8) Phil Jackson used lots of communication tools/techniques – movies, music, silence, props, rituals, etc.
And here are my five takeaways:
1) Treat each person differently because they are different.
2) Pay attention to the inner life.
3) Seek to make a difference in the soul of the people around you — especially the people you lead.
4) Read widely – read a lot – learn from what you read. (Phil Jackson gave a book to each player to read each season. A different book that he selected specifically for that player. Remarkable!)
5) Help people aim high – very high.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
Recently, I taught a class on Conflict Resolution and there was a lot of discussion within the class on whether or not a person can prepare for conflict. The class was divided on the issue, which I suppose means we had a conflict—something I was not prepared for! Actually, we agreed that whether or not you could prepare for conflict depended on the level of conflict that you were discussing.
We experience conflict at various levels and with different degrees of intensity. Here are some levels:
- Mild Difference
We all understand the nature and importance of preparing for level 6, but we can also prepare ourselves for level 1, simply by coming to terms with the fact that within any organization or relationship, there is going to be some conflict—even if it is just at the level of mild difference or disagreement. If you are a supervisor and you have some conflict on your team, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a bad leader or that you are working with a group of hopeless people. It means you are working with people!
If you never even have mild differences or disagreements within your group, you might see that as a sign of unity, but it may also be a sign of apathy—or repression. Either way, the dynamic energy that it takes for a group to perform at its best may be missing if you take the approach that all conflict is bad.
In a healthy team, you will have many more conflicts at level 1 and 2; a few at level 3, and hopefully, very few or none at levels 4-6. One way to keep conflict from escalating to levels 4 and up is to confront conflict wisely at the lower levels, instead of avoiding or overreacting to it. Here are some things that a leader can do to prepare for conflict:
- Know the situation. Get your facts straight.
- Know your current emotional state. If you are not in control of your own emotions, it’s more likely that things will escalate.
- Know your body language. Make sure your body language is sending the message you want to send. Be self-aware and intentional about that message.
- Know your options. During the discussion, an entirely new idea may emerge, and that’s ok, but you should go into the meeting with some ideas of possible options.
Resolving conflict isn’t fun, but it’s an important part of effective leadership. The more you accept that and prepare yourself for it, the more likely it will be that conflicts do not escalate and result in positive outcomes.
“Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on.”
― Criss Jami, American Poet
Grudges are poison. They are poison to the person who’s holding it, and if nothing is done about them, they are poison to the entire workplace.
Recently, I was talking to a director of an organization, and it was amazing how much ongoing strife within the organization was caused by resentment and pure bitterness. Something that started so small turned into such a big mess. And that’s exactly what a grudge will do—it grows as time passes.
Where there is a grudge, there is no trust; and whenever there is an absence of trust, teamwork will be lacking. And how can an organization successfully function if there is no teamwork?
You WILL get your feelings hurt in the workplace. Something will not go your way, someone will say something to you that you feel is insensitive, and your work will get criticized.
You can’t just keep a counting record of each person’s wrongdoings and let those bitter feelings fester.
If the problem is not that big of an issue, get over it and don’t take it personally. If it is something that you feel is a big deal, address the problem to the aggressor in a professional, non-confrontational manner and allow yourself to forgive him or her.
By all means, go to the Human Resources Department if the problem warrants you to; but from my experience, it’s usually smaller nuisances that people hold grudges towards.
As Anne Lamott, American novelist, says, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
Do yourself and your whole organization a favor and nip all the bitter feelings in the bud.
Do any of these lead-ins sound familiar?
“If you don’t…”
“If you ever want to be…”
“If you refuse to do this my way…”
Typically, these types of lead-ins are followed by a threat. Something like:
“No one will ever want to hire you!”
“You’ll never get that promotion!”
“You won’t be working here long!’
Here’s the bottom line. Threats do not work. Sure, it’s possible you might evoke short-term motivation, but you are much more likely to demotivate, lose trust, and eventually watch employees on the receiving ends of those threats walk out the door. Ironically, if these same employees are encouraged rather than threatened, well, they might actually grow into an irreplaceable asset.
Instead of beginning an opportunity to correct someone with a phrase like, “If you don’t…” why not:
- Create clear expectations before employees are hired that lets them know conversations along the lines of, “Let’s call a time-out and engage in a quick coaching session” are a normal part of the work process.
- Remind employees during their performance reviews that “on-the-spot coaching” is a normal part of how your organization operates.
- Make it a two-way street. Give your direct reports the freedom to coach you if they see an opportunity for improvement.
Such actions diminish the need to finger point, cajole, intimidate, and threaten and position you to be much more likely to get a favorable response from your direct reports. Additionally, you contribute to a workplace culture where employees begin to understand that coaching is not punishment. This decreases an “us versus them” mindset and enhances the likelihood of creativity, productivity, and teamwork.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the Apple app store, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize how dramatically mobile apps have altered the way we live.
I have a meeting today at a location I have never been to, so when I get in the car, I will enter the address and follow the directions provided automatically. As I start the engine, I will hear a song I like on the radio and open an app that will immediately tell me the artist and name of the song and save it, so I can come back to it and buy it later. Since I am not familiar with my destination or my route, I will use an app to help me find a local Starbucks for my morning cup of coffee.
I will pay for my coffee with my electronic wallet app that not only lets me pay with my phone, but tracks my loyalty points. While drinking my coffee, I will use my travel app to check on the status of my son’s flight which arrives late in the day. Once I arrive at my meeting, I will use my timer app to make sure that my meeting stays on schedule. When I break for lunch, I will use my calorie counter app to evaluate which meal I select.
You get the picture. Mobile apps have completely altered our daily routines. They have transformed the way we live life – and the way we do business. Today there are over 750,000 apps available for Apple and over 800,000 available for Android. By the end of the year, it is predicted that over 1,000,000 will be available for each. But what is stunning is not the number of apps available or even the way we have become so dependent upon them.
What is truly stunning is how fast they have transformed our world. Five short years ago, they did not even exist! But it is not just mobile apps; breath-taking change is happening on every front. And it is not just that things are changing; it is that the nature of change itself is changing. The pace of change is shaking the very foundations of how we do business and live our lives.
Unfortunately, too many of our organizations are using technology, organizational structures, and operating policies that were designed for a world that no longer exists. Old world organizations who still think that change management means learning to tolerate and endure change will increasingly be victimized by the change and will sink further and further behind with each day that passes until they are so far out of sync with the new world that recovery is almost impossible.
“16% organizations” recognize that change is the new constant, and they are investing in creating an organizational culture that anticipates, embraces, harnesses, and channels the change rather than being victimized by it.
Harvard Business Review recently published a study by the University of Toronto on how leaders make use of their formal and informal networks to create change within organizations. This study provides great insights for anyone who wants to see change take place.
You can’t do it without your network
Within every organization, there are both formal and informal networks and both are important. However, their study found that a person’s informal network was more crucial to success when it comes to implementing change. Among the middle and senior managers studied, high rank did not improve the odds that their change initiatives would be embraced. What mattered was the influence of his/her informal network.
The kind of network you have matters
“Cohesive” networks are ones where people within the network are also connected to each other. “Bridging” networks are ones in which people are connected to you, but not really to each other. The study found that leaders with “cohesive” networks were more successful at implementing minor changes, but those with “bridging” networks were more successful at implementing divergent measures that represented dramatic changes in direction.
Reaching Out to Resisters is a Double-Edged Sword
The study identified people as either: endorsers, fence-sitters, or resisters. Endorsers were for change whether or not they had a close personal tie to the leader. The study found that building a closer relationship with “fence-sitters” always made a positive difference. However, when it came to “resisters”, it became more complicated. If the change was relatively small—incremental—then having a close relationship with a “resister” tended to help. However, when it came to sweeping changes, the opposite was true. The “resisters” saw sweeping changes as a significant threat and were, true to their name, resistant. On top of that, having a relationship with “resisters” also tended to cause the leader to be less open to introducing those kinds of changes because the leader is not immune to peer pressure, either.
- You can’t just build deeper and deeper relationships with people you already like and hope that those relationships will be enough to create change. It won’t work. Expand your network.
- Building relationships with people on the fringe will give you access to more resources and perspectives. If you don’t give the people on the fringe a seat at your table, you will miss out on as much as they do.
- If your need to be liked by others is too strong, you may find that the internal resisters keep your ship of dramatic change from ever leaving the harbor. Their “openness” to incremental changes will usually be used as leverage against you to justify their resistance to bigger changes.
While I was preparing my remarks, Kobe dropped by my room carrying a copy of my book, Sacred Hoops. He asked me to sign the book, and said he was really excited about working with me because he was a big Bulls fan. It was a good sign.
– Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings
We are all so fragile. We are all so worried about what others think about us. We are all, it seems, so competitive with each other. We forget that if we could just learn to show a little respect, and to show a little more interest, we might build a better future together.
As I was reading Eleven Rings, I read the quote above. Phil Jackson was preparing for his inaugural press conference as the new Los Angeles Lakers coach. Kobe Bryant shows up, asks for Jackson’s autograph in his copy of Jackson’s book Sacred Hoops, and says, in essence: “I can’t wait to work with you. Teach me. We can do great things together.”
Interest and attention and respect. And a little “sucking up”. (Carville and Begala write about the smartness of “sucking up” in Buck Up, Suck Up… and Come back when you Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets for the War Room.)
It seems that there is a shortage of these qualities these days — interest and attention and respect. Respect seems a little lacking. Simply paying attention is in short supply. And so, people get off to a wrong start in a new job with a new supervisor/manager. What if we simply gave it a try? Say to one another, “I look forward to working together. I respect your abilities, and want to learn from you. Teach me.” What if we started, and acted like, we want this to work?
Kobe Bryant understood. Phil Jackson came into Los Angeles with 6 championship rings as head coach. He left the Lakers with 5 more – eleven rings. These last five were with Kobe as part of the team. Starting well seemed to pay pretty rich dividends.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
I recently led a workshop with a City Council and the City’s Management Team based upon their I-OPT Strategic Profiles and Patterns. This team has worked well together for an extended period of time; but they had some friction that had created some injured feelings, some misunderstanding, and consequently, a drop in trust. The drop in trust felt like being dehydrated.
In this particular situation, the management team leans toward the Changer pattern. They see change as a solution to problems, and they are anxious to see their ideas implemented. The council, on the other hand, is equally committed to the success of the city and wants to support the staff; but as a whole, they are less inclined to the Changer pattern. They are inclined toward the Conservator pattern. What does it mean when Changers introduce new ideas to Conservators? It means lots of questions from the Conservators and eventually from the Changers.
The “aha moment” came for the Changers when the Conservators were able to say, “When we ask questions, it’s not because we don’t trust you or like you. It’s because we are anticipating how we can support you to the public so that when citizens ask questions, we’ve got answers.” They went on, “However, when you seem perturbed at our questions, or your answers seem to lack detail, it creates uncertainty in us, and that’s when our Conservator pattern puts the brakes on.”
The “aha moment” came for the Conservators when they realized that the way they were being perceived was impacting the entire team’s effectiveness. Taking a few moments in an unemotional setting to clarify their motivations went a long way in creating cooperation and rebuilding trust.
I’ve seen it many times, but it was a learning experience for me. Here were my takeaways:
- Self-Awareness. It’s really critical to understand why you are behaving as you do, and its impact upon the rest of the team. Avoid carrying your style too far.
- Attribute the Best—not the Worst—to Others. It’s easy to assign less-than-noble motives to people who don’t see things the way you do. Understanding the concepts of the I-OPT Profiles, however, can help you to avoid this fatal flaw to effective leadership.
- Open Dialogue. It’s human nature to want to talk about people instead of talking to people. That’s not the winning formula, though. In fact, it’s a recipe for more misunderstanding and misperception.
- Trust. I have noticed that some groups try to go on functioning even though trust is dangerously low. We wouldn’t keep pushing our bodies if we were dehydrated. Leaders, don’t try to do that to your team when trust is low. Do something about it.
Strategic Government Resources entered the world of online learning in 2008. Since that time, we have developed over 40 online courses that have been viewed by over 17,000 online learners. Can online learning work for your organization? If you respond with a yes to the following questions, then the answer is a resounding, “Absolutely!”
- Are your training dollars stretched? Almost all public sector agencies feel the pain of budget constraints. Online learning provides an affordable solution. In our Learning Management System (LMS), for example, an employee may choose from dozens of topics created by SGR, or he or she may choose from courses created by his or her organization’s internal subject matter experts.
- Is online learning here to stay? Without question, online learning is here for the long haul. With the explosion of computers, tablets, and other mobile devices, online courses have never been easier to access. Considered a luxury just a few years ago, many of these items are now a necessity for developing a trained and competent workforce. Technology, coupled with user familiarity, provides a recipe for major employee development success.
- Is online learning a powerful employee development tool? The answer is of course, “Yes,” but with a caveat. It is important to understand that online courses and learning management systems are not “THE” tool. Rather, they are two tools in an overall training and development toolbox. It is also important to understand that an ignored tool is worthless. If you invest in one course or a fully-functioning LMS, then you must be prepared to invest more than budget dollars. You must also be ready to invest training time in order to use such resources to their fullest potential.
- Will online learning allow me to be creative? Again, the answer is, “Yes!” Many think online learning boxes an organization in and limits its training options. In reality, online learning opens the door to creative application, topical dialogue, policy refinement, employee accountability, and much more.
- Is online learning a comprehensive training solution? As I mentioned earlier, online learning is a tool in an overall training and development toolbox. However, online learning is far from a Band-Aid. Used in a contextually appropriate manner, online learning can substantially complement learning activity that ranges from new employee orientation to highly technical training.
Online learning will never fully replace hands-on learning. However, it can save organizations money without compromising quality. It fits with technology trends. It is a powerful tool within a training and development toolbox and allows organizations to creatively and comprehensively complement learning activity.
If you would like to know more about SGR’s courses or register for a free demo of our LMS, you can email email@example.com.
Happy training and development!