Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey

The Question Burst Strategy, Part 1, Set the Stage

Hal Gregersen invites leaders to consider brainstorming questions instead of answers. He proposes this process opens us to novel insights and transformative thinking, moving us past our cognitive biases. He offers a three-step process. This week we explore Step 1: Set the Stage.

An individual should frame a problem in a manner that can be explained to a group in two minutes or less. Include how things would change for the better if the problem was solved.

Select a group to do the brainstorming, including two or three people who are unfamiliar with the problem. That assists the group in discovering perspectives that might have been left out through its biases. Then frame two guidelines for the brainstorming: 1) only questions can be contributed and 2) no explanations of the questions can be given.

Invite the group to focus on questions that are open-ended, cognitively complex, and move from descriptive (what’s working?) to speculative (what if? what might be?). Avoid accusatory or aggressive questions. Keep the questions short and simple.

Before starting, the leader should reflect on his/her emotional state, writing for 10 seconds about feeling positive, negative or neutral. This allows the leader to attend to how emotions may be affecting creative energy.

Take some time this week to consider how you might prepare to frame a problem for a group to use the question burst strategy. Who might you include in the group for maximum effectiveness?

Source: “Better Brainstorming,” by Hal Gregersen (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2018)

Gender and Voice

In two studies of work groups of cadets at West Point, the author found status and group leadership was affected differentially by gender and types of expression. When both genders used “prohibitive voice,” that is, speaking to problems or offering criticism, no change in status or leadership occurred. However, men gained status and were more likely to become leaders when they spoke with a “promotive voice,” that is, providing ideas for improvement. Women received no gains in speaking with the “promotive voice.”

How might this research inform your attention to gender patterns in your own work groups? How might engaged participants and facilitators attend to gender patterns and invite reflection by the group?

Source: “The Social Consequences of Voice: An Examination of Voice Type and Gender on Status and Subsequent Leader Emergence,” by Elizabeth J. McClean et al. (Academy of Management Journal, 2017)

What the Best Teams Do to Be the Best Teams! Concluding Thoughts

Daniel Coyle in his bestselling book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, shares three key elements he has found that makes teams highly effective. This past month, we’ve studied how the best teams build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose.
As a reminder, a safe environment is an environment where it feels okay to say, “I missed that one” or “I didn’t get it today” or “I’m not sure.” It’s where you receive signals that you belong and are valued. It’s where relationships come first and we know our team story.

So what are the take-aways from Coyle’s research? Coyle (2018) says, “When you create safety, allow vulnerability, and have a purpose, guess what? You have a culture.” This culture is one that you have collectively created. To be on a team where you feel safe, where you can be vulnerable to share your growth points, and can work toward a meaningful purpose, it becomes a mission, my friend, and it’s no longer “work.”

How might you begin to live into Coyle’s work? Knowing Coyle’s research, what is your vision for shaping your culture?
To read more, buy the book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle or see bestselling author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker’s blog: “This Is What The Best Teams And Families All Do: 3 Rituals From Research” at https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2018/03/best-teams/

What the Best Teams Do to Be the Best Teams! 3—They Establish Purpose

Daniel Coyle in his bestselling book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, shares three key elements he has found that makes teams highly effective. Coyle professes that the best teams build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose. This week, we will take a look at how teams establish purpose. You will most likely have guessed what the most prevalent purpose for a successful team is. But first, what is “purpose”?
“Purpose is reminding a group of their shared goal—and it works best when it comes in the form of a story” (Barker, 2018). So what does THAT mean? “Purpose isn’t about tapping into some mystical internal drive but rather about creating simple beacons that focus attention and engagement on the shared goal. Successful cultures do this by relentlessly seeking ways to tell and retell their story” (Coyle, 2018). Stories are the narrative that weave people together. Groups say, “This is where we came from. This is who we are. This is why we do this. This is our purpose.” Sound familiar?

Purpose starts when an organization considers what their priorities are (usually five or fewer) and make those priorities crystal clear. If you haven’t guessed already, nearly all groups place their in-group relationships at the very top of their list of priorities. Successful groups realize that if they have the relationships in place, everything else will come together. When teams find their purpose, they believe that this is their calling, their mission. Successful teams unabatedly sing the same chorus.

How might you discover your team’s purpose? How might you begin to write your team’s narrative?
To read more, buy the book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle or see bestselling author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker’s blog: “This Is What The Best Teams And Families All Do: 3 Rituals From Research” at https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2018/03/best-teams/

What the Best Teams Do to Be the Best Teams! 2—They Share Vulnerability

Daniel Coyle in his bestselling book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, shares three key elements he has found that makes teams highly effective. Coyle professes that the best teams build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose. This week, we will take a look at how teams share vulnerability…and it isn’t as scary as you might imagine!
If you look for words that are synonymous with “vulnerable”, you see vulnerable coupled with “helpless, powerless, weak, susceptible.” While this might be a little unnerving, you might try thinking of vulnerability as exposing your humanity (being human) and being transparent, open, and honest about yourself and your capabilities.
And just like the popular song, it takes two! There are two distinct parts to vulnerability. The first part is to show vulnerability. The second part, and equally as important, is how team members respond to the vulnerability that has been revealed. It’s about exchanges of vulnerability. Vulnerability is actually less about the sender (the first part) and more about the receiver (the second part).
How might a group share vulnerability? Groups consciously listen for offerings of vulnerability. An offering might sound like this, “I am struggling with how to engage a certain group of students” or “I am not sure how to teach inference so that the kids really get it” or “This worked last period, but it certainly didn’t work this period and I’m not sure why.” When you hear statements like these, rank is switched off and humility is switched on and receivers offer understanding, reciprocate by sharing their own vulnerabilities, and/or (while living in humility) offer to help.
What might you carefully do to create an environment where vulnerability can thrive? How might you listen for moments of vulnerability and then reciprocate?
To read more, buy the book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle or see bestselling author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker’s blog: “This Is What The Best Teams And Families All Do: 3 Rituals From Research” at https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2018/03/best-teams/

What the Best Teams Do to Be the Best Teams! 1—They Build Safety

Daniel Coyle in his bestselling book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, shares three key elements he has found that makes teams highly effective. Coyle professes that the best teams build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose. This week, we will take a look at how teams build safety. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Words, policies, or well-intentioned assurances don’t create safety. Instead, Alex Pentland at MIT says safety is created by sending “belonging cues.” Belonging cues are little behaviors that we rarely pay attention to, but they send a critical message that you are cared about and are respected and valued. Belonging cues include, among other things, “proximity, eye contact, energy, mimicry, turn taking, attention, body language, vocal pitch, consistency of emphasis, and whether everyone talks to everyone else in the group.” Pentland charges that you can predict how well a group is going to perform by looking at belonging cues. Belonging cues are even more reliable at predicting a group’s success than intelligence, leadership, or skill.

Why do belonging cues offer so much when building safety? They trigger the amygdala and “…in a heartbeat, [the amygdala] transforms from a growling guard dog into an energetic guide dog with a single-minded goal: to make sure you stay tightly connected with your people” (Coyle, 2018). The amygdala tunes in and starts to build and sustain social bonds that are required for meaningful engagement.

What are some purposeful actions you might take to build safety in your team? Offer inclusion activities where people feel valued and heard. Take turns speaking. Listen with the intent to understand. Honor the ideas put on the table. Be highly aware of your verbals and nonverbals. Body language speaks volumes.

How might this align with your current thinking? In what ways, does this motivate you to be conscious of your belonging cues in the messages you send to your team?
To read more, buy the book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle or see bestselling author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker’s blog: “This Is What The Best Teams And Families All Do: 3 Rituals From Research” at https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2018/03/best-teams/

What the Best Teams Do to Be the Best Teams!

Have you ever wondered what makes a team great? Daniel Coyle in his bestselling book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, shares three key elements he has found that makes teams highly effective. In writing his book, Coyle spent four years studying world class teams. He interviewed the Navy SEALS, PIXAR, and even some highly successful teams of jewelry thieves! When Coyle wove these interviews into research, he found three elements that created team trust, increased cooperation, cultivated motivation, and produced high performance. Coyle professes that the best teams:
1. Build safety,
2. Share vulnerability, and
3. Establish purpose.
Building safety is more than offering a sensitivity training or providing a feel good professional development or retreat. While these activities can help, safety is grounded in day-to-day social exchanges. Through actions and conversations, community members display their commitment to invest in each other’s sense of well-being.
To share vulnerability means to reveal one’s humanity, to acknowledge that we don’t know everything and that we can’t do it all. It’s called “being human” and it’s about recognizing that we are in a constant state of learning. And…there’s an essential second component to sharing vulnerability and that is that vulnerability is reciprocated. It then becomes a shared vulnerability. Read more about this in Week 3.
Establishing purpose is about naming and ranking priorities and then articulating those priorities so that everyone feels a responsibility to attain the purpose that is collectively held. Here’s a hint at what invariably is the top priority for successful groups: it’s all about building in-group relationships.
Got your attention? We’ll explore these three elements in greater depth during April.
To read more, buy the book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle or see bestselling author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker’s blog: “This Is What The Best Teams And Families All Do: 3 Rituals From Research” at https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2018/03/best-teams/

“The Four Hats of Shared Leadership”

Garmston and Wellman (2016) explain the Four Hats of Shared Leadership in this way:
In adaptive schools, all the players learn to “wear all four hats,” or play four roles. By all players we mean administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and, when appropriate, parents. In such schools, all the players must have the knowledge and skills to manage themselves and influence and lead others. Leadership is a function, not a role and is a shared function in meetings, staff development activities, action research, and classrooms. Recognizing the “hats” and knowing when and how to change them is shared knowledge within the organization” (p. 33).

Consulting. To consult is to have your expertise be used by others. A consultant can be an information specialist or an advocate for content or process. As an information specialist, the consultant delivers technical knowledge to a group. As a content advocate, the consultant encourages group members to use a certain instructional strategy, adopt a particular curriculum or program, or purchase a specific brand of computer (equipment or materials). As a process advocate, the consultant influences the group’s method¬ology… To effectively consult, one must have trust, commonly defined goals, and the group’s desired outcomes clearly in mind (Block, 1981; Garmston and Wellman, p. 34).

No matter your position in your school, how might you serve as a consultant to share information or to advocate for a content or process?

What might be some technical knowledge that you possess that would enrich your organization by your sharing?

What are some of the skills, tools, and structures you have learned in Cognitive Coachingsm or Adaptive Schools that would support you in this function?

What might be some of the opportunities that you might capitalize on to take on the leadership role of a consultant?

“The Four Hats of Shared Leadership”

Garmston and Wellman (2016) explain the Four Hats of Shared Leadership in this way:
In adaptive schools, all the players learn to “wear all four hats,” or play four roles. By all players we mean administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and, when appropriate, parents. In such schools, all the players must have the knowledge and skills to manage themselves and influence and lead others. Leadership is a function, not a role and is a shared function in meetings, staff development activities, action research, and classrooms. Recognizing the “hats” and knowing when and how to change them is shared knowledge within the organization” (p. 33).

Presenting. To present is to teach. A presenter’s goals are to extend and enrich knowledge, skills, or attitudes and to enable these to be applied in people’s work. A presenter may adopt many stances — expert, colleague, novice, or friend — and use many strategies of presentation — lectures, cooperative learning, study groups, or simulations. Touchstones of effective presentations include clarity of instructional outcomes, of standards for success, and ways to assess learning” (p.34).

No matter your position in your school, how might you serve as a presenter to extend and enrich knowledge, skills, or attitudes? How might you help these to be applied in people’s work?

What are some of the skills, tools, and structures you have learned in Cognitive Coachingsm or Adaptive Schools that would support you in this function?

What might be some of the opportunities that you might capitalize on to take on the leadership role of presenting?

What were some of the qualities of successful and enjoyable presenters that you might want to emulate in your own presentations?

“The Four Hats of Shared Leadership”

Garmston and Wellman (2016) explain the Four Hats of Shared Leadership in this way:
In adaptive schools, all the players learn to “wear all four hats,” or play four roles. By all players we mean administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and, when appropriate, parents. In such schools, all the players must have the knowledge and skills to manage themselves and influence and lead others. Leadership is a function, not a role and is a shared function in meetings, staff development activities, action research, and classrooms. Recognizing the “hats” and knowing when and how to change them is shared knowledge within the organization” (p. 33).

Coaching. “To coach is to help a group take action toward its goals while simultaneously helping it to develop expertise in planning, reflecting, problem- resolving, and decision-making. The coach takes a nonjudgmental stance and uses open-ended questions, pausing, paraphrasing, and probing for specificity. The skillful coach focuses on group members’ perceptions, thinking, and decision-making processes to mediate resources for self-directedness” (Costa and Garmston, 2015; Garmston and Wellman, p. 34).

No matter your position in your school, how might you serve as a coach during planning, reflecting, decision-making, or problem solving?

What are some of the skills, tools, and structures you have learned in Cognitive Coachingsm or Adaptive Schools that would support you in this function?

What might it look like, sound like, and feel like when you step into this function/role even if it is not a formal coaching conversation?

“The Four Hats of Shared Leadership”

Garmston and Wellman (2016) explain the Four Hats of Shared Leadership in this way:
In adaptive schools, all the players learn to “wear all four hats,” or play four roles. By all players we mean administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and, when appropriate, parents. In such schools, all the players must have the knowledge and skills to manage themselves and influence and lead others. Leadership is a function, not a role and is a shared function in meetings, staff development activities, action research, and classrooms. Recognizing the “hats” and knowing when and how to change them is shared knowledge within the organization” (p. 33).

Facilitating. “To facilitate means “to make easier.” A facilitator conducts a meeting in which the purpose is dialogue, shared decision-making, planning or problem solving. The facilitator directs the processes used in the meeting, choreographs the energy within the group, and maintains a focus on one content and one process at a time. Ideally, the facilitator is not the person with the role or knowledge authority” (p. 34).

No matter your position in your school, how might you serve as a facilitator during dialogue, shared decision-making, planning, or problem solving?

What are some of the skills and structures you have learned in Cognitive Coachingsm or Adaptive Schools that would support you in this function?

Even in very small groups, how might you perform the function of a “citizen facilitator” and still be a valued and engaged group member?

Story Features to Make Them More Compelling

We are delighted to share that Bob Garmston’s next publication will be available soon through Corwin Press. The draft title is The Power of Story Telling: How Leaders and Presenters Persuade. Bob has been gracious enough to allow us to give you a little preview this month.

In Chapter 5, Garmston describes 8 features that increase the desirability of a story. We highlight three for this entry – engaging openings, present tense, and sensory images.

Engaging openings alert the audience that the story is coming and increase receptivity. Phrases such as, “Imagine this or picture this,” cue the brain. Strong experiences can invite connections from the audience, e.g., “When I was six, the world changed.” A prop might also serve as a means to attract the audience attention through a different medium.

It may feel unnatural to tell stories in present tense, but Garmston reminds us that is how we generally tell stories, “I am driving my car down the road and suddenly a huge crowd appears before me.” Writing your stories this way assists the audience in feeling they are there in the moment.

Using sensory references can cause an attention similar to a light trance. Garmston suggests vague references to senses so that audiences can construct their own meaning.

…one might say the trees were alive with color, sunlight dancing through their boughs, rather than refer to the green leaves. Saying the leaves are green puts the color green in the audience’s experience. Alive with color, instead, has listeners create their own colors, much richer and more engaging than you could suggest. This is not to say being sensory specific is bad; sometimes it’s quite appropriate to say the ball was red. Listeners will still produce their own conception of red.
How might these tips inform you in preparing stories for a presentation or meeting?


Signature Stories

We are delighted to share that Bob Garmston’s next publication will be available soon through Corwin Press. The draft title is The Power of Story Telling: How Leaders and Presenters Persuade. Bob has been gracious enough to allow us to give you a little preview this month.

One of the book chapters describes sources of stories including personal stories, stories from the work culture, and stories from specific cultures. One other source is called signature stories. This

…is a story about something that is autobiographically you, that contributes to your uniqueness, and that illustrates a theme in your life. Signature stories can be told many times, to many different audiences…
Most of us don’t think of our lives as signature stories, but we all have one. Finding yours can be a source of grounding for stories in a variety of contexts. Bob describes his as when he stole his birth certificate from the county clerk’s office.
Signature stories, because they are so personal, require consciousness in their use. They are probably not appropriate in a small office setting where personal boundaries for supervision might be important. They are very appropriate for keynotes in capturing the audience and connecting. It is not about bringing attention to oneself or reliving an experience, but instead to emphasize a key point.
What might be some signature stories you could develop in your work?

Why Stories are So Persuasive?

We are delighted to share that Bob Garmston’s next publication will be available soon through Corwin Press. The draft title is The Power of Story Telling: How Leaders and Presenters Persuade. Bob has been gracious enough to allow us to give you a little preview this month.

We have all experienced a moment when a presenter or leader captured our hearts and minds through the almost magical sharing of a story. What are some that you can recall from your own experiences?

Dr. Garmston explains the power of story in the first two chapters of his book using both poignant stories and background from the neurosciences. He carefully models the power of the story in his writing. We learn that stories have far greater power than data to influence. Garmston states, stories

…are uniquely effective because: (1) they stimulate neurological changes that increase empathy; (2) they personalize presentation content, sending forth a gossamer filament that connects the audience and the presenter; (3) they open windows to the intuitive knowledge of an audience; and (4) they can tap the resources of the unconscious mind.
When is a time where you might tell a story instead of presenting data?

Categories of Stories

We are delighted to share that Bob Garmston’s next publication will be available soon through Corwin Press. The draft title is The Power of Story Telling: How Leaders and Presenters Persuade. Bob has been gracious enough to allow us to give you a little preview this month.

The book presents four types of stories as an organizer for ways we might want to influence an audience. The presenter or leader assesses his/her audience’s needs and chooses a category to best serve them. One type is for Shifting Perceptions, which taps into flexibility. It invites the listener to move beyond current mental models and consider new ways of interpreting the world.

A second category is stories for Inviting Learning. These inspire the recipient to open him/herself to new understandings and ways of thinking about the familiar and unfamiliar. A third category is Inspiring Action which plants seeds for trying new ways of being and acting in one’s world. Finally, there are stories for Changing Behavior. These are stories to help the listener acknowledge existing states and seek more desirable behaviors, attitudes, and ways of perceiving.

As you consider a presentation you have coming up, which of these types of stories might serve your audience?