Category Archives: Leadership

You Cannot Save the World (But We Can)

French helps here: Tu (singular, familiar form of you) will not, on your own, save the world – from whatever it needs saving. But vous (plural, formal) just might. All the yous together make an us, a we, an ourselves, that can do this – if we choose to.

We can mitigate some aspects of climate change; we can change attitudes; can beat viruses; can end hunger. We can make sure every child on the planet is fed, loved and educated. We can make our world a kinder place.

But will we? Will you? Will you add your tu to the collective vous?

Let me share a really simple way to begin: Stop – Start – Continue.

Pick a theme that helps make the world a better place (personal, local, national, global – your choice). Then choose one, small action that you will STOP doing; one that you will START doing; and one that you will CONTINUE to do.

The psychology is simple and beautiful: STOP is the usual, expected injunction – stop wasting food; stop smoking; stop ignoring nature’s cries for help. We’re used to this kind of thing from our schools days – even if we don’t like it, it’s familiar.

But START is positive: a meaningful action and personal impact. It gets you up and moving with purpose.

and CONTINUE is a wonderful affirmation that you were already doing something positive. It’s confirmation that you’re playing your part.

Here’s one of my SSCs:

STOP eating meat at breakfast and lunch. (I’ll take the full leap one day, I promise)

START using the Too Good To Go “end food waste” app. (surprise bags of just-going-out-of-date goodies from chain and independent cafes, supermarkets and coffee shops)

CONTINUE getting oddbox deliveries (the unwanted, overbought, unloved yet perfectly in-date-and-edible vegetables that would otherwise end up in landfill)

Small actions; my agenda; not everyone’s, but a micro-contribution to the more ethical use and consumption of food. Why this focus? For me, just the statistics really:

931 million tonnes of food waste was generated in 2019 (UN Report)

820 million people went hungry in 2019 (WHO Report)

It’s not my intent for you to conflate the two findings though it’s hard not to feel a horrible irony. Other numbers are available for juxtaposition – funding to treat diabetes vs that for malnutrition for example (go look). And you can even watch these kind of numbers grow and change live here at Worldometer.

They say those of us over 50 won’t be around to see the world boil. But our children and grandchildren will be, and surely that’s more than enough of a reason for tu and vous and you to act now.

What is your STOP-START-CONTINUE?

info@thinkingclassroom.co.uk

Scripts for Being Radical

Radical Candor

Do you care about the people you work with? Do you challenge them if they need to change? Do you care for them and challenge them at the same time?

You’ve likely heard of Kim Scott’s ‘Radical Candor’ (book at Amazon) advocating the principles of ‘Caring Personally AND Challenging Directly’. Omission of one or both, argues Scott, makes for team dysfunction and reduced productivity.

Prioritising care can lead to ‘ruinous empathy‘: necessary (and difficult) professional feedback is withheld through fear of upset or ‘rocking the boat’. Overemphasising challenge is aggressive and causes fear, disengagement and conflict. If a leader lacks both you’ll know; manipulation and insincerity prevail.

But to care AND challenge is to have ‘Radical Candor‘ – you give essential, performance-related feedback for the sake of the other person’s growth and success. You care about them doing well. ‘I’m telling you what needs to change in your practice so that you can achieve more, can be more, can do more‘.

Of course, it can be hard to balance the two: picking your moment to give the tough message; reading the context, the other person, the risk; preserving their esteem, their control, their security. But here’s why taking the risk makes sense:

Receiving Radical Candor

Imagine that, even though you believe you’re doing the best job possible, you actually aren’t. You don’t know this; you haven’t realised; you think things are just fine as they are. After all, non-one’s told you anything different. But you are making things harder for yourself and running at 80% efficiency.

So, what if your manager knew of a couple of things you could do differently that would make your job easier and eventually get you promoted. You’d get more done; you’d enjoy the work more, you’d thrive. Would you want them to keep this to themselves?; keep quiet in case you get upset; or would you want them to come out with it? And if they did, how would you like to hear their message?

Giving Radical Candor

Here are a few phrases to get you started – whether your radical candor aims to help a team member, a child, a colleague, friend or even a family member:

I’ve noticed a few things that might help you get this done more effectively, may I share them?

There’s a difference between what we were expecting to see and what we’re actually seeing. Let’s talk about what might account for the difference.

I’m going to share a couple of ideas here that I need you take on board right now. Tell me what the positive impact might be for you…

And if you want to make this a whole lot easier in your organsiation, normalise it. Have the big discussion up front before anyone needs to use radical candor. Reach a shared understanding of what radical candor is, why it’s important and how you’ll all use it for the organisation’s benefit.

Then you’ll work in a culture where everyone cares personally and isn’t afraid to challenge directly.

Here’s Kim summarising the core concept.

7 Billion Stories and How to Hear Them

You don’t know what it’s like to lead a school through a global pandemic unless you’ve led a school through a global pandemic.

– a statement to which many of the leaders with whom I work will relate. And it speaks a wider truth: everyone on Earth has a unique pandemic story to tell. Tales of tragedy and transformation; of reflection, resilience or resignation; of anger, of loneliness; of division and unity; selfishness, cruelty and, thankfully, of kindness.

How to Tell a Story

Look to stories that have already been told to find the kind of narrative you need. Booker’s Seven Basic Plots (2004) is one of many frameworks that makes this easier. Booker analyses thousands of tales and argues for a meta-narrative that describes ‘story’ per se, together with 7 plots that keep on cropping up. Your story will be a combination of these seven motifs:

  • Overcoming the monster – defeating an evil force.
  • Rags to riches – gaining power, wealth, success; loosing it; getting it back.
  • Quest – setting out to acquire an important object; facing challenges and temptations.
  • Voyage and return – visiting a strange land; overcoming threats; returning changed.
  • Tragedy – a personal undoing because of a flaw or a mistake.
  • Comedy – concluding happily after twists, turns and misunderstandings.
  • Rebirth – changing ways (for the better) because of a significant event.

And these themes tell our shared, global story of the last 18 months as well: the quest for vaccines to overcome the devastation of COVID-19; the plot twists and muddles as politics, media, social media and science intertwine; and our rebirths as we return to a world changed forever.

How to Hear a Story

I joked recently with a group of specialist teachers I’m training in coaching skills that there are 5 different kinds of listening:

  • Active Listening – paying full attention to meaning.
  • Dialogic Listening – learning through conversation.
  • Discerning listening – gathering specific information.
  • Pub Listening – waiting for the other person to finish speaking so you can say the thing you wanted to say before they started.
  • Family Listening – two or more simultaneous monologues.

They all have their place but the first three offer real value to the speaker. If you’ve ever been able to just talk freely, confidentially, without judgement and without expectation; if you’ve been heard, really heard, by another person then you’ll know the power of that kind of exchange.

Telling your story and having it authentically heard can be affirming, healing and empowering.

Whose story will you hear? And to whom will you tell yours?

Advice to a Bully

You do realise that 10% of these people will dislike you as soon as you open your mouth, don’t you Mike?

I’m just about to present to 150 senior leaders in education when my co-presenter offers this heartening advice. She’s a psychologist specialising in recruitment. Companies pay her to spot sociopathic and psychopathic behaviours at interview. They argue her fee is far, far less than the price of employing a bully.

Her helplful observation is actually empowering and emancipating. Get over expecting everyone to like you or your message. People see the world in very different ways and that’s OK. My colleague just happens to have put a number on it. It rings true: I have to work a little harder with one in ten, one in twenty people and why would this audience be any different?

Maybe you’d have felt bullied in this situation; a victim of her well-timed passive-aggression designed to destabilise a co-presenter – I was only sharing information with you, I thought you’d be interested!

Maybe she’d have caused her own alarm bells to ring at interview. Who knows her intention. I never asked.

Anyhow the keynote passed off without a hitch and my life carried on. But I’m reminded of this now in early 2020 (Corona Virus, Brexit etc.) as current secretary of state for the home department Priti Patel stands accused of bullying behaviour. Initiated by the departure of senior home office official Sir Philip Rutman, who is suing the UK government for constructive dismissal, the story is playing out around the issue of bullying. Is she a bully or a strong and focussed leader? Are her behaviours appropriate? Misunderstood? Effective? Is this just someone’s hissy fit in response to Patel’s poorly executed ‘difficult conversation’. And would my colleague have nailed her at interview? We won’t know for a while, if ever.

I once set up an anti-bullying program in school. After much research I chose the ‘No Blame’ approach.  Although vilified by punishment-hungry traditionalists, the system worked. It seeks long term solutions by presenting the full impact of the bullying behaviour to the perpetrator – but without blame. For once they are not judged. They have a chance to assimilate the consequences of their actions. The victim gets an equal voice and healing happens. We found most times the bully was themselves a victim, their skewed actions a cry for control and esteem.

But that was children, learning to navigate power. These are adults who should know better. And what is better? I’m not suggesting the No Blame approach for the UK government. I am mooting ‘Radical Candour’ to anyone who finds themselves in a bullying scenario.

Conceived by entrepreneur and CEO coach Kim Scott, this approach to strong leadership is deceptively simple:

1. Care personally

2. Challenge directly

Missing 1. you are abrasive and bullish, without 2. weak, unwilling to speak necessary truths. If both are in deficit there’s toxicity and manipulation.

No, for strong and effective leadership Scott argues we need to say it like it is to a person who we continue to value.

Maybe, way ahead of Scott’s thinking, that’s exactly what my co-presenter was doing all those years ago.

Something to think about

What features of radical candour do you see in yourself, your leaders?

Bully? Bullying behaviour? Sociopathic or sociopath?

What’s the best way to speak truth to power?

How do we teach pupils Radical Candour?

http://www.thinkingclassroom.co.uk