Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big on Learning, Myopic on Learning

Learning and leadership are irrefutably linked. The link is so important that learning took the first position in the Lead Quietly commandments that I proposed in February.

I have written about learning frequently. My personal carnival of learning at Lead Quietly would include these posts:
These posts all stress the importance of learning to leadership. I truly believe in the notion as stated by John F Kennedy when he said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

Nevertheless, I feel that my view of learning and leadership is too myopic. Most of my thinking about learning was centered on my own desire to learn and understand as a leader and team member. However, as a leader, we must also strive to create learning environments for all around us. A situation where everyone views learning as indispensable.

In the workplace of days past, any discussion of learning generally led to a discussion about training, likely formal instructor-led training. However, today the opportunities for learning include new, informal collaborative learning approaches. Personal learning should no longer mean a taking class.

In another revelation, I participated in a number of hiring interviews in the past few weeks where I usually asked a question about learning style. I would simply ask, "How did you learn the skills that you know?" I was never impressed if the response was "a class or school." I was impressed if the candidate talked about a number of channels including web sites, forums, blogs, and networks.

This leads me to the theme that I am proposing for the next few weeks on this blog. I want to explore learning for the today's workplace. I'd like to focus on creating a learning environment for not only me but the people around me. I'd like to get some hint about the future of learning. What are the tools that we should be exploring. How do the social media tools fit into this thinking. Who are the thought leaders in learning?

As a new student of learning, I need help. I need the insight of learning experts. What are the approaches and tools that leaders should employ to create a learning environment for everyone on their team? I'll be reading, learning, and studying.

However, I need help. Please send me you thoughts about team and personal learning in a collaborative environment. Use either Twitter or comments to this post.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and help me better understand learning and increase my view of learning across my team.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Balance in the news

I appreciate balance. It's a concept that comes with many definitions and many dimensions. This is how I actually view the concept when I say that it is important for leaders to "Stay balanced."

I'm not alone in my desire to seek balance. Here is a carnival of balance from this morning's Google news:
People and organizations in many areas seek balance. It's complex. It's desirable. It's multi-dimensional.

Finally, the balance in the news that I was most excited about this morning is quoted in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and St. Paul in an article titled, Lots to like in lineup. On the 2009 Minnesota Twins lineup,

It's a lineup balanced with lefthanded, righthanded and switch hitters, and balanced with speed and power potential.
Balance also gives hope.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly. Stay balanced.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Finding the right balance

I believe that balance in opinion, aspirations, views, collaboration, and politics is a positive force in life and leadership. I believe that a key mission of leadership is to help our teams and organizations find that middle ground where differing opinions can coexist and real strength in purpose and mission can thrive. It is my belief that most leadership challenges do not have black and white answers. The best position on most issues is likely to have some shade of gray.

My explorations and reading this past week brought two examples of "Finding the right balance."

New Dialogue on Abortion
We all recognize the ongoing debate on the abortion issue. It is not my intention to debate this issue on this forum. Nevertheless, the black and whiteness of the opposing perspectives could support a polarizing debate forever. I read with interest this morning in the Star Tribune (yes, I'm old fashioned and I read the paper edition of the newspaper every morning) the article titled "One side tries new strategy in debate over abortion." The article sites that there is a growing trend by organizations to move public opinion on a variety of issues toward solutions instead of polarization. The American mood is showing increasing fatigue with extreme politics whether the issue is abortion, gay marriage, stimulus debate on tax cuts versus spending. I am one of them who is saying, find some common ground at a point where the color is some shade of gray and let's move toward solutions.

The Impact of Money
Another example of balance came from an article on the New Scientist site titled "Why money messes with your mind." Our relationship with money is complex and has many dimensions. This becomes particularly clear when you evaluate the relationship between greed (think Bernard Madoff) and social ethics. The balance message in the article is that there is a positive and desired balance between the pursuit of extrinsic aspirations (money and wealth) and intrinsic aspirations (building personal relationships). In summary, a more balanced relationship with money is better. Although, "we are still a long from knowing why some people appear to go crazy over money", there is recognition that balance is better.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and stay balanced.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Keeping the Brain Young

This post is a third post for the week that commemorates Brain Awareness Week. The general message that I am promoting is that your brain is a tool that we must nurture and develop in order to learn and grow.

The Dana Foundation is the founder and primary sponsor of Brain Awareness Week. An exploration of their web site uncovers numerous articles, events, podcasts and more about current brain research. It's an interesting review of the current state of brain research.

On my exploration, I discovered a document titled Q & A - Answering your Questions About Brain Research. I appreciated the simple question and answer format and would recommend the document for anyone who is curious about basic brain functions and the role of the brain in learning, life, and health. A sample of the questions include:
  • How does the brain work?
  • How do we learn?
  • How does the brain influence and regulate the function of the other body systems?
  • Can the brain heal itself from trauma or injury?
  • Why do some people develop mental illnesses?
Curious about the brain? This is a nice document.

More than any other question that caught my attention was, How can I keep my brain young?

The list is pretty simple, most of which are very accessible to anyone that want to say vital in life. Here's how to keep your brain young:
  • Incorporating physical activity—especially aerobic exercise—into our daily schedule, even if only for 10 minutes at a time.
  • Stimulating our mind with mental activities and novel experiences that challenge the brain and activate new neural pathways.
  • Interacting with other people and engaging in social activities.
  • Having a sense of self-worth and self-efficacy, the feeling that what we do matters.
  • Reducing cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Eating a healthful diet that includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables (for antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals) and fatty fish or nuts (sources of Omega-3 fatty acids), and that limits trans fat and saturated fats.
  • Managing stress and finding healthful ways to cope with high-stress periods.
  • Getting adequate amounts of sleep—about 8 hours for most adults.
  • In addition, population-based studies seem to suggest that mild to moderate alcohol consumption—from a couple of drinks a week up to about two a day—is associated with longer life, and in some cases better cognitive functioning. However, it is not at all clear if this is due to a true biological effect of alcohol or because the people who drank alcohol tended to also be doing something else good for their brain health, such as interacting socially.
The answer invites you to work "brain-friendly" activities in your life and to know that it is never too late to start. Brains of any age can benefit.

Final piece of fascinating trivia from the Q&A article:
Did you know that the 3 pound marvel that we know as the brain is typically only 2 percent of our body weight but consumes 20 percent of our oxygen and 20 percent of our bodies energy. It strikes me that the brain is one energy guzzler that we don't' want to go green.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly. Keep your brain young and guzzling.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brain Rules

This post is a second post for the week that commemorates Brain Awareness Week. The general message that I am promoting is that your brain is a tool that we must nurture and develop in order to learn and grow.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by Dr. John Medina is a very interesting and captivating book that presents 12 brain rules for optimizing your .... brain.

I found the book pretty amazing. For a book that is based on substantive scientific research, it is a good page-turner. For those who want the twenty minute overview, I'd encourage you to visit the Brain Rules website for a complete list of rules. Additionally, you can can view fairly comprehensive videos at his site and also on You Tube.

There were several take-aways that resonated with me from the book. Here are some examples:

Exercise benefits muscles and the brain - we know that exercise is good for our bodies. It is incredibly good for the brain. How much? Active people have half the risk of Alzheimer's disease compared to sedentary people. Let's keep up the exercise. I think the crunches will be a little easier with this new information.

Impossible Multitasking - I consider myself to be a great multitasker. At work, colleagues can send me a dozen issues and I can alternate between attention and division to get the the tasks handled. But the reality is that the brain simply cannot multitask. Watch the You Tube video with John's rant about cell phone use in cars.

The Power of Sleep and Naps - Our brains are very active during sleep and continue to develop and rehearse while sleeping. The essential message is that good sleep lead to good brains. Additionally, there is research that suggests that our brain has a period during the day where the benefits of a nap are profound; a nap zone. Research by NASA shows that a 25 minute nap increase pilot performance by 34%. Not a bad return return. How do we convince our employers? A good nap requires a least a cot.

Vision Wins - Brain Rules provides evidence that when it comes to impact, vision wins. Recognition and memory are aided significantly by visual cues in your presentations and documents. When I need to be persuasive, I need to add vision to my presentation.

We are curious explorers - Research with babies suggests that we are natural explorers. Give a baby an object and you will discover the a baby methodically looks to understand. Curiosity is an incredible motivator for learning, growth and problem solving.

Enjoy the book. It is highly recommended. Now it's time for me to exercise and then a nap.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly. Brain rules.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Brain Awareness Week - Let's focus on learning

This week is Brain Awareness Week. Founded by the Dana Foundation, the event promotes that:

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is an international campaign dedicated to advancing public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. Founded and coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and its sister organization, the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, BAW is now entering its fourteenth year as a catalyst for public understanding of brain science.

I wasn't aware of the event before this past weekend but I have decided that the brain is a nice focus for some learning that I wanted to pursue in a couple of posts this week. This notion started as I was watching the public TV show, "Brain Fitness Program." My curiosity about brain development eventually brought me to the Dana Foundation web site where I became aware of BAW.

Continuous learning is so important to success and the health of your brain is key. In recognition of BAW, let's revisit a couple of "fun" brain/learning posts from my archives.

In Improve Your Brain Power - Use your right brain I encouraged you to develop your brain by switching you mouse to your non-dominant hand.

In Learning to Use the Full Brain, I provided a link where you could experiment with the "Left Brain versus Right Brain test.

The full list Lead Quietly learning posts is here.

I'll focus on the brain in subsequent posts this week.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and remember, it's all about learning.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Quiet - It is Just a Label, Not a Description

I believe that the adjective "quiet" is not a great descriptor of the leadership style that I have tried to describe over the last 20 months of writing this blog.

I had a discussion this past week with some of my colleagues and again found that I had to explain that Quiet is really only a label and not really part of the substance. I almost feel that if someone focused on quiet, they might miss the real substance behind the leadership style.

There are better labels. Those more descriptive labels and the posts where I explored these more descriptive styles include:

Bill George - Authentic Leadership "Be Yourself"

Servant Leadership from Quiet Leader Hall of Famer Robert Greenleaf "Servant Leadership"

Leaderful Practice - Shared Leadership from Joe Raelin "We need to be Leaderful not Leaderless"

If you focus on quiet you might miss other concepts that I have tried to communicate. First and foremost are the leadership elements cited in my masthead including community, collaboration, learning, vision, and balance. These concepts have little to do with quiet.

Bottom line: Quiet is not very descriptive. It is however, the label and the brand around which I have blogged in my quest to identify leadership that is simply effective.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly err.... effectively.