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How Do You Know You Know What You Know?

P6141528By chance….Have you noticed that right now, intelligent people are polarized on issues? They’re holding polar opposite viewpoints? We all do. We think we’ve carefully vetted our positions and are in the right. So how much should we trust our own wisely-thought-through views?

Not much, actually, if one considers the research on how we form our viewpoints. A recent slew of books asks us to ponder this and perhaps change how we interact with those who hold opposing views.

Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, guides us through the neuroscience and psychology research on how we form our opinions. And it’s humbling. Or should be. Not only do we consistently pay attention to information that reinforces what we believe, but the more intelligent we are, the better we are at spinning one-sided arguments.

In Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Katheryn Schulz uses both research and humor to help us understand just how wrong we can have the facts and thus how flimsy our arguments can be.

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The Test of a First-Rate Intelligence

Fitzgerald quote.001

The Center for Creative Leadership identified it as the second-most important strategy leaders can develop.

F. Scott Fitzgerald deemed it the test of a first-rate intelligence.

Congress is obviously clueless about it.

What is it?

Polarity Thinking

You see, all too often we need our opposites to understand the bigger picture, the viewpoints or elements we’re overlooking. In our increasingly polarized world, though, the beauty of working with our opposites seems to be entirely overlooked.

If you live in the Upper Midwest, autumn colors are beginning to peak. Why are they so beautiful? It’s the pairings of contrasting colors–those opposite each other on the color wheel. Reds and greens. Oranges against the pure blue sky. Purples and yellows. Richness comes not from sameness but from contrast!

And so it is with opposite points of view.

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Do You Really Know—and Use!—Your 4-Letter MBTI® Code?

Adam Grant’s recent post Goodbye to the MBTI® has gathered forces both for and against personality type theory. The comments are full of people who agree with him. Rich Thompson’s post nicely outlines the research behind this instrument. Hile Rutledge’s calm response The MBTI®–My Most Valid Tool highlights the benefits of the instrument and the framework. And Jennifer Selby Long adds info on the MBTI/Big 5 debate.

I’ll take a different direction here. As I read all the comments to these blogs, I wondered, “Did they really take the MBTI® and was it properly administered?”

For group adminstrations, I often first ask, “How many of you have taken the MBTI before?” As many as ¾ of the participants raise hands. “How many of you remember your four-letter code?” Perhaps 20 percent of the hands stay up. I remind them that ESPN is a network, not a type, and then ask, “How many of you had the chance to apply the framework of type to your team, or career, or marriage, or parenting, or personal development, or any of the other deep applications?” And only a few hands remain in the air. When asked, these people willingly share stories of the differences understanding these basic differences among people can make.

So how do you know if you really know your type? Most people who find the theory a waste of time haven’t been through an ethical interpretation. Here’s a quick guide to finding out:

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Get Your Priorities Straight!

Intentional Leadership Priority CardsDid you know…leaders are great at setting goals, but seldom set priorities.

Another way to put this is that leaders far too frequently bite off more than they, or those they lead, can chew. Lack of priorities can take several forms, such as:

  • Overwhelming their staffs with competing initiatives
  • Leading projects with “scope creep” that end up devouring time and resources way beyond what was anticipated, funded or staffed
  • Asking others to “do more with less” until, inevitably, human capacity is truly overwhelmed.

Goals are often tangible—profits, products, student learning targets, or implementation of strategies. Priorities are things such as professional development, staff relationships, accountability, autonomy, consistency in policy, and so on. And we can only concentrate on so many of them. Not setting priorities is similar to playing poker–you won’t have as much control as you like over the cards you’re dealt.

When I coach for intentional leadership, I start by asking leaders to sort their priorities. We then map those priorities onto essential tasks of leadership and compare the patterns to the leader’s natural strengths and equally natural blind spots. Are they focused on the right priorities for the situation, including their current goals?

Now there are three ways to sort your intentional leadership priorities:

  • Use the exercise provided in the book (included in the first chapter, part of the amazon.com free downoad)
  • Work with an Intentional Leadership Coach
  • Use the Leadership Priority Cards–hot off the press and available through me. When you use these cards, though, you’ll be able to choose your ideal hand–and move toward your goals.

Why the cards? All learning styles benefit from the tactile use of cards. As a coach, you can observe

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Boundaries, Barriers, or Limiting Beliefs?

P1040304Co-active coach Cynthia Loy Darst kicked off the ICF Midwest Coaching Conference, “Breaking Boundaries,” by asking us to think about the differences between boundaries, bariers, and limiting beliefs. Here’s what my table came up with:

Boundaries that we set ourselves can be extremely healthy. For leaders, boundaries can:

  • Help us know when to say yes and when to say no
  • Create healthy workplaces for ourselves and for those we lead
  • Define our goals in purposes in ways that allow us to move forward

In contrast, barriers keep us from doing things. They can be external, whether imposed by others, by society, by circumstances, by prejudices, or by very real factors such as professional standards or our own health concerns or constraints on time or money.

Leaders need to examine barriers by asking questions such as:

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Any Initiatives Not Working?

P6141528Three times this weekend, friends relayed tales of woe regarding initiatives, strategies or decisions that aren’t working. All in casual conversation.

  • An accountability test for science is given to students with disabilities via computer voice. The computer mispronounces words such as “wind” and “lead” so that question meanings are changed. And students can’t adjust volume once it is set, even though portions are so loud that they pull off their headphones
  • Late in the year, teachers are asked to add a specific read-aloud to their curriculum to prepare for a school-wide event. Not only will it keep some teachers from finishing key curriculum units, but as they preview it, several do not believe it is age-appropriate
  • District-wide cuts in school office staff hours are made without consulting office staff workers. Turns out, several key personnel will not be in the office during the traditionally busiest weeks of the year.

All three of these situations are the result of two common leadership imbalances:

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Could You Slow Down For a Bit?

Bruges coffee breakHave you in the past six weeks

A.  Complained about “so much to do, so little time…”
B.  Thought, “We should be spending more time on this…”
C.  Realized you rushed through a book, article, conversation, or ___, and aren’t sure what it was about…
D.  Felt a strong desire to sit still. Very still. Very far from that always-buzzing smart phone…
E.  All of the above?

While you probably don’t have full control of your life, you are constantly making choices. And those choices may be rushing you as well as those you teach or lead. Here are three good resources for slowing down just a little.

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