ePortfolio: Dr. Simon Priest

LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT

 

 

THE CONDITIONAL LEADERSHIP THEORY: My keen masters student, Bob Chase, worked this out with me during a late night van ride across the entire state of Texas in 1988. At three o'clock in the morning, we had our eureka moment! Leadership style is not determined so much by a leader's concern for tasks or relationships, but by concern for the favorability of conditions. Hence the Conditional Theory, where we coined the word abdicratic: to abdicate power.

Leadership is a social influence process expressed through one’s choice of style as defined by who (leader or group) controls decision making power. Leadership styles range from autocratic (where leader holds the power) through democratic (where power is shared between leader and group) to abdicratic (where power is given to the group). Dictatorship or Laissez-Faire would fall outside this range. Choice of style depends on the leader's concern for the task (getting the job done), concern for relationships (keeping the group interactions healthy), and concern for the favorability of conditions. Conditional Favorability (CF) factors include: group unity, team competence, leader experience, decision consequences & environmental risk.

Group Unity is the degree to which members are cohesive. A well performing team is favorable, while a group falling apart in conflict is unfavorable. Team Competence refers to the skill of the group members. Experts are less of a concern than novices. Leader Experience denotes a base of pragmatic data a leader has to fuel sound judgments. A rookie has little and can be a worry, while a veteran has lots and is less of a concern. Decision Consequences asks what will result from a wrong choice of options. Often the outcomes are minor, but sometimes they can be major. Environmental Risk refers to the potential for loss due to the presence of dangers. Frequent or severe hazards are more of a concern than occasional or mild perils.

These five CF factors can have individual or aggregate values of low, medium, or high. As these values shift, the influence of CF can bend the expression of leadership style. Under medium CF (the center square at left), the styles are relatively equal. Leaders express their style dependent upon the weighting. Concentration on tasks (urgent emergency) requires autocratic, consideration for relationships (ample time for everyone to get to know one another) suggests abdicratic, but a balanced attention to both recommends democratic. If CF changes, then style will follow accordingly. Autocratic reigns during low CF (top square) and abdicratic prevails in high CF (bottom).

 

 

LEADERSHIP STYLES & GROUP DEVELOPMENT: While helping Aram Attarian as a doctoral student back in 1993 (now retired professor and the other half of the PARTIs: Priest Attarian Risk Taking Inventories), we worked out this model of suggested styles to use during the five classic stages of group development. The five stages have different task and relationship dimensions. A leader's concern for each varies as the group develops and, consequently, the interactions of these leadership concerns for task and relationship determines the style that should be expressed for each stage of group development.

 

 

DECISION MAKING POWER: As noted earlier, power for making a decision can rest with the leader or the group of clients as diagrammed below. Six categories of shared power, ranging from leader to group, are:

  1. Directive: leader decides, informs group, and seeks their reaction to the decision
  2. Expert: leader decides, informs group, adjusts decision based on their reaction
  3. Consultative: leader gathers input from, entire group, then makes decision, and adjusts it by seeking group's approval
  4. Shared: group votes on the decision (or uses another method) and agrees to go with “majority rules”
  5. Consensual: almost everyone agrees with the decision, while some have reservations, but will go along anyway
  6. Unanimous: Everyone/group agrees with decision reached and executes decision without any reservation

These six categories become increasingly collaborative as one moves from autocratic to abdicratic styles of leadership. In the three categories where the leader decides, you will need to determine how much to engage clients in making decisions. Before engaging individual clients or a group of them, ask yourself whether a dozen heads are better truly than one.  You will likely come up with reasons like: a diversity of opinions and experiences brings broad options that an individual could never imagine; engaging people close to the problem brings deep insight; and those who are asked to be architects of a decision are more likely to embrace and implement the resultant action.  To be fair, people ought to be engaged in making decisions that will impact them.  However, clients may unwittingly bring bias to the decision making process when they are afraid, fatigued, hungry, uncommitted, inexperienced, or otherwise rushed.  Carefully choose when and when not to involve others.

In the three categories where the group decides, you can simply outline the situation, delegate the process to the group, and express what your level of contribution will be: ranging from a great deal to none.  Be sure to teach the process being used with rules for voting, process guidelines to reach consensus, and criteria for unanimity.  In tempering which approach to use, consider the group’s urgency and motivation to decide, their competence with decision making and communication, and the available time. If necessary, add a time limit and explain that you will step in and either choose for them after that limit expires, or begin swaying them in a particular direction, depending on the urgency of the situation.  Never use a group-based approach as a ruse to hide your already pre-determined and leader-based decision.  This deception frequently dissolves the strong bond that you have formed with clients and can lead to conflict between you and your group.

 

 

THE BRICK WALL OF HARD, SOFT & META SKILLS: This idea initially cropped up from my 1983 masters thesis on outdoor leadership. However, it has also proven useful in business leadership. The general skills or sets of competencies needed for leadership are like a brick wall with a foundation, two kinds of bricks, and mortar to glue it all together.

Leaders need a sturdy foundation to understand human behavior and so learn some social psychology. In business, leaders add knowledge of marketing, finance, and economics. In the outdoors, leaders might add biology, geology, and ecology.

Sitting atop this support are hard bricks: the skills that are tangible, simply identified, and easily measured. These are specific to the job being done. An outdoor leader might be competent at hiking (technical), first aid (safety), and camping (environmental). The business leader might be skilled in accounting (technical), fraud prevention (safety), and stock market fluctuations (environmental).

And this is where the differences end. Leaders in politics, science or technology have different backgrounds for foundation and hard bricks, but all leaders merge at the next layer. The next layer is composed of soft bricks: those skills that are intangible, tricky to identify, and difficult to measure. All leaders need to be capable at organizing resources, teaching others the skills above, and facilitating learning and change. With respect to the latter, I have always been a fan of facilitative leadership and several facilitation techniques follow: funneling, frontloading, and fortifying.

Holding everything together is the mortar or meta skills of communication, ethics, leader style, problem solving, decision making, and sound judgment. The leadership wall is only as secure as its foundation, only as solid as its component bricks, and only as strong as the mortar that binds these pieces together.

 

 

FUNNELING AS A FORM OF FACILITATION: Mindee Naismith, teaching assistant and one of my two CATI Directors (Community & Corporate), was trying to get a handle on sequenced questioning in order to debrief learning experiences. As we talked, and creatively argued, the funnel was born in 1990. In my work training corporate executives to be facilitative leaders, the funnel has proven itself to be effective in "debriefing" past projects and learning from them. In my work enhancing faculty, the funnel is excellent for reflecting and refracting best teaching practices

The funnel is a sequence of six specific questions that filter out extraneous content in an effort to distill the broad and deep learning experience (full of rich and diverse elements) into a single change effort. Here are examples of each question type:

  1. REPLAY: can you recall the order of events for that last experience? -OR- can you review the elements needed for _(name the learning outcome here)_?
  2. REMEMBER: do you remember a critical incident (or example) regarding this element (or event)?
  3. AFFECT/EFFECT: what was the impact of that incident (or example) on the task (or you, your group, etc.)?
  4. SUMMATION: what did you learn from this impact?
  5. APPLICATION: how does this learning relate to changes in your life (or work, school, family, etc.)?
  6. COMMITMENT: what will you do differently to ensure this change in your daily life (or next experience)?

The last 3 questions echo the critical 3 queries from Gestalt Therapy (what?, so what?, now what?) and the first 3 questions are about readying the learner for and directing the learner toward the last 3. Note that the latter are also the 3 parts of the 4 part Experiential Learning Cycle. Without these, learning fails to be truly experiential and is only experience-based activity.

FRONTLOADING AS A FORM OF FUNNELING: Mike Gass and I experimented with frontloading as part of the work we did at the Corporate Adventure Training Institute (a research center) and identified these 6 types of questions (used after explaining the experience) by 1991.

  1. REVISITING: what did we say we were going to do differently in this upcoming experience?
  2. MOTIVATION: how might learning in this next experience be useful in your life (work/school)?
  3. OBJECTIVES: what learning do you think this experience is designed to teach us?
  4. FUNCTION: what positive actions will we need to succeed and how can we do more of these?
  5. DYSFUNCTION: what negative actions might bring failure and how do we avoid these?
  6. PREDICTION: what do you think is going to happen next (or during this experience)?

Frontloading is simply asking a single prebriefing question (one of the above) immediately before a learning experience. Doing so focuses learners on change in/during the experience, so that less funneling is needed after the experience. Notice that the 6 questions are variations of the funnel sequence turned upside down. Therefore, the metaphor of a bullhorn is used for frontloading, but clearly one is not yelling at the learners!

 

 

FORTIFYING FOR RESISTANCE TO CHANGE: I credit Mike Gass with most of the good ideas for this, I just gave the six techniques a sense of stepwise sequence in 1999 and called them Fortifying as in strengthening one's ability to appropriately address resistance to change. Here is an explanation of the six techniques that make up Fortifying.

  1. CLARIFICATION: Rather than risk potential conflict at the outset by engaging in argument with resistant individuals, ask a coworker (admired by the resistant individuals) to explain the changes to them.
  2. NEGOTIATION: Bargain with resistant individuals and settle on what is reasonable and/or necessary for them to make the requested changes.
  3. CONFUSION: In an effort to have resistant individuals re-examine their positions on change from many different perspectives, simply act genuinely puzzled and mystified by their responses to "help me understand...."
  4. PARADOXICAL: Do the unexpected in a kind of reverse psychology. For example, for people who worry about change, talk with them about the benefits of worrying and encourage them to take a specific time each day to list what could possibly go wrong.
  5. DOUBLE BIND: Describe two possible courses of behavior and the consequential outcomes from your past experience with others, then explain that to resistant individuals that they are free to choose their own paths: change or something else.
  6. ROLE SHIFT: If all else fails and after more than three strikes for resistant individuals, find them new jobs that are either doing different work in another part of the same organization or in a completely new organization!

Warning! Fortifying should be used in a stepwise manner, ethically for the benefit of resistant individuals, and with their best interests at heart and in mind. These techniques should not be used to manipulate, control, or power play a person or group.

 

 

CONFLICT RESOLUTION, NEGOTIATION & MEDIATION: From my perspective, the key steps to successful conflict resolution are the same for negotiation (unfacilitated between two parties) and for mediation (facilitated resolution). The first two steps involve doing homework in order to understand the conflict/disagreements and the main viewpoints surrounding them. Before positions are exchanged or perspectives are shared, consent is gained to work in good faith and under certain ground rules. During the bargaining and compromising steps, both parties ideally work within the limits of worst to best alternatives (trying to find middle ground), focus on common goals and mutual interests, collaborate to seek a win-win outcome for both, and are willing to give in a little to get more in return, so that an agreement can be reached that everyone is comfortable with. After the agreement, they seal the deal in documented writing or recorded audio/video and implement appropriate action.

 

 

THE POSITIVE TRANSFORMATIONAL CURVE: I based this 2015 model on my earlier research with enzyme kinetics. In chemistry, reacting materials require some energy input to get their reaction started and then they either produce energy from the reaction (positive) or continue to consume energy in order to maintain the reaction (negative). Transformation is very similar. In a positive curve, the typical situation (status quo) is transformed into the intended outcome (steady results). This positive curve represents the shift in energy saved by making the transformation. Some energy is needed to get over the resistance hump, but after that, transformation becomes self-sustaining and provides a return on invested energy.

Most of the fourteen steps (described below) use energy to counter resistance: a sometimes painful experience. Once that is achieved (tipping point), transformation gathers momentum rolling downhill and return on investment begins to appear (benefit point): an often gainful experience. After that, transformation tends to coast down to the new state of affairs. If one anticipates considerable resistance, fortifying techniques (described above) can be employed to reduce the amount of energy is necessary to quickly get past and over the resistance hump. Obviously, if you have to put more energy into a change than you get out of it, then you have a negative curve and that change might not need to be made or may not be worth making.

 

 

FOURTEEN STEPS TO TRANSFORMATION: Here I've used the framework of the Eternal Staircase, as designed from the Penroses' mathematics and adopted by Escher's artwork. To me, it represents a never ending cycle of change management. These are the steps (also shown on the Transformation Curve above) that one needs to consciously enact to bring change to an individual or organization (2014).

 

 

STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS: When I was very young, I used to draw treasure maps and imagined I would be a pirate when I grew up. Strategic Planning is a lot like pirates hunting for buried treasure. You know your location (current state of affairs) where the pirate ship is anchored, your destination (vision of desired future) where the treasure chest is buried, and you have a map and directions (general strategic plan) that will get you from start to finish. During the journey, you have to make route choices and take actions (execute specific tactics) to find your way and then use checkpoints and landmarks to gauge your progress along the way (balanced scorecard and success metrics) to know you are still on the right track and have not gotten lost. To facilitate finding the treasure, you pick up newly required tools as needed, such as a key to the chest, and recommended training as necessary, like digging 101. Utimately, "X" always marks the spot.

From this metaphor, I evolved a customized strategic planning process for some of the companies I worked with (like every business consultant at the turn of that century). The process shown employed a modified SWOT analysis to determine the current state of affairs and modified appreciative inquiry to envision the desired future.

SWOT was modified into TOWNS, where Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths remained the same, but undecided factors with Neutral influence (at the time) were listed in the central cell. This "N" addition was important, since many of these factors (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legislative or Environmental) could easily change on short notice to become helpful (opportunities) or harmful (threats) and would require a complete plan adjustment. Therefore, these factors could not be ignored during the TOWNS analysis.

Appreciative Inquiry was accelerated by removing some non-critical steps. The next section shares these details.

 

 

ACCELERATED APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY: Normally, I don't like to shorten successful processes, because each step makes necessary contributions to the final results. However, after discussions with David Cooperrider, during one of his early workshops in Tennessee and shortly after completing his dissertation (which initially imagined the Appreciative Inquiry process), I decided to omit a few steps at the cost of losing an estimated 10-30% of the outcome value. Depending on the group size and their comfort with an accelerated process, the time commitment can be reduced from two days to one or even to half a day. Here is a comparison of both sequences.

First, a lot of time can be saved by eliminating the need to reach guiding inspiration by predefining organizational issues and concerns from the SWOT/TOWNS analysis. Second, all the preparatory work for conducting community or organizational interviews (creating prefaces, crafting questions, choosing methods, and developing a guide with protocols) can be by-passed if, and only if, key members of the community or organization are included in the AI process. By having them present, the time and energy needed to prepare for and locate them can be applied toward thematic interviews with only two robust and predetermined questions.

Third, I switch the order of the middle two tasks and results in the Dream Phase. I have found that imagining ideal images works better after sub-group discussion on personal dreams and reactions to common images rather than before. Fourth, I don't enter into the deisgn and Destiny Phases directly. Instead, I incorporate much of this into drafting the strategic plan and mapping out tactics. I differentiate between these two terms as follows. Strategies are thoughful directions for the entire organization organizing resources for the long run. Tactics are active methods conducted by parts of the organization using those resources to achieve each strategic directive in the short term.

Last, by making these changes, I have managed to save at least one day in duration and believe I am only losing a small number of the contributions toward generating compelling stories by not considering every single person in the community or organization. Consider this Vision, Mission, Values, and Motivation Statement as generated for a learning and teaching center by engaging everyone in a one day accelerated AI event.

 

 

SEVEN STEPS TO FORGIVENESS: Since I typically work with distressed teams and organizations, I've seen the destructive impact that comes from harboring grudges and wanting to get even via revenge. To counteract the deep seated conflict, I worked up this 10-page (7-step FORGIVE) program for one of the more challenging dysfunctional groups. My appreciation goes out to Monica Kay, Director of Conflict Management at the University of British Columbia, for her guiding advice.

  1. F eel the pain (discuss with friends or write down your feelings about conflict, hurt and revenge).
  2. O wn your part (discuss/write your contribution in the conflict and be willing to forgive yourself).
  3. R eflect on others (reconsider their meanings to you, good attributes, and roles in the conflict).
  4. G ive benefit of doubt (what life experience caused them to do this? – can I carry their burden?).
  5. I magine the future (what have I learned? – what can I do? – would I do it differently next time?).
  6. V oid all debts (destroy writings or revisit discussions and consciously forgive offenders out loud).
  7. E stablish new relations (find reasons to work with prior offenders in new and functional ways).

 

 

FIFTY SIX MANAGERIAL COMPETENCIES: During my days of researching executive leadership and corporate team-building, I had the great fortune to spend a decade working with one of the best companies in the world, Canadian Tire, and its inspirational and charismatic leader, Jos Wintermans. He trusted me to develop their initial university: a collection of courses for management training. In preparation for this, I surveyed all company employees and conducted a delphi consensus to identify 56 competencies (in blue) that were necessary for a manager in their culture. This formed the basis of our early competency-based university courses (1996), where employees stamped their passports as they achieved each of the expanded 100 competencies (in red). Obviously, lengthier descriptions exist for each competency and only the shortened titles are shown here for clarity. My gratitude to Tom Young, VP of HR & IT at Canadian Tire, who was kind enough to support me and champion my efforts, while I worked there during my delayed sabbatical year.

 

 

TOP TEN EMPLOYMENT SKILLS: Over the decades, I’ve hired thousands of employees as faculty, staff, or administrators.  The successful ones showcased ten generic competency areas and so, early on, I/we began looking for these as default settings in all of our candidates.  Beyond these ten predictors, each opportunity we hired for had to have some position-specific skills: instructional ones for faculty, productivity skills for staff, and facilitation ability for administrators as a few examples.  However, we wanted all employees to have these generic top ten.

  1. Communication/Feedback: speaking, writing and getting the message across effectively online and in-person;
  2. Effective Teamwork: working together with people in harmony, showing sensitivity and respect for everyone;
  3. Decision Making: diverging a variety of options, converging better ones by criteria, and choosing the best one;
  4. Problem Solving: applying analytical and creative methods to known information and judgment for unknowns;
  5. Learning Propensity: continuously willing to learn new skills and to seek out fresh perspectives or new ideas;
  6. Professional Ethics: having honesty/integrity, trustworthiness/loyalty, and commitment/passion for the work;
  7. Technical Competence: conscientiously knowing how to do the job, use key technology, and serve customers;
  8. Positive Character: showing flexibility, confidence, tenacity, awareness, independence, stability under distress;
  9. Influential Leadership: motivating, persuading, and supervising others engaged in the above eight roles; and
  10. Resource Management: planning projects, executing actions, prioritizing tasks, and organizing time, self, budget, etc.

 

 

MULTIPHASIC PROBLEM SOLVING: In 1998, I developed this flowchart to help leaders integrate critical and creative thinking skills into problem solving and to differentiate among the often conflated trinity of problem solving, decision making, and sound judgment. The model has three phases: assessment, analytic, and creative. In the assessment phase, one is looking for the existence of problems and evaluating the solution of problems. In the analytic phase, the crux of is defined, the desired outcome is anticipated (this can be used to later measure success of a solution), several solutions are identified and the best one is selected and enacted.

At any point in this linear process, if the answer is unknown, one can cross over to the creative phase and cycle through divergence and convergence techniques to generate a single answer to return back to the analytical phase. These creative techniques are used to diverge many options: brainstorming, improvising, reversing, busting (of assumptions), sizing, and more. These creative techniques are used to converge the many options down to the singular: gathering information, weeding out, ranker ordering, weighting, and choosing.

Problem solving requires several decisions. Decision making (DM) is necessary at the end of each creative cycle and when picking the best solution. Sound judgment is only necessary whenever key information is missing, unknown or vague. Judgment is used to substitute for this uncertainty by supplying predictions based on the induction, deduction, and evaluation of past experiences (see Sound Judgment based on Experience).

 

 

PROBLEM CONTENT VERSUS CONTEXT: In the diagram above, short and long forms of the model are possible. The short form simply goes step by step and makes one decision about which solution appears best (SELECTION). The long form takes time to pause at each step and cycle through a diverging and converging decision making process (light blue diamond). In order to decide which form to use (long or short), the solver needs to understand the balance of problem content versus problem context.

Content refers to the structure and composition of the problem. Depending on the answers to these five questions, the content can be defined as clear or vague. Is the crux well or ill-defined? Are the parameters of the problem exact or ambiguous? Is a solution obvious or obscure? Is information sujective or objective? Are data mostly known or unknown? Answers to the last two questions also determine if the use of simple decision making will be enough (short form) or whether sound judgment is necessary to substitute for missing data (long form).

Context refers to the nature and setting of the problem. Depending on the answers to these five questions, the context can be defined as simple or complex. Can you solve the problem yourself or do you need help from others? Is the problem a single stand alone situation or does it interact with other things? If and when you solve the problem, will the situation apply locally to this one situation or more universally to many situations? Are the conditions static and stable or are they changing and dynamic? Are the solution consquences minor or major?

The graph below maps content (clear or vague) against context (simple or complex) to provide four corresponding quadrants. When a problem is clear and simple, its solution is easy. My 80+ year old mother loves to solve sudoku and crossword puzzles that are the very definition of clear and simple. Even though they are extremely challenging, these puzzles are straightforward and can repeatedly be solved in a linear manner. This quadrant is where the short form of multiphasic problem solving works best.

The other three quadrants call for the long form, because they tend to be solved in non-linear fashion, where traditional stepwise analyses are insufficient to derive a tenable soution. When the complexity increases, an easy problem becomes more difficult to solve. Imagine an emergency, where outside assistance is required, but while waiting for help, the consequences for loss of life are major, conditions are constantly changing, the impact of the crisis threatens to spill over into neighbouring areas, and all of these elements interact to add complexity.

When a problem is simple and vague, the solution is perplexing. Once in a rare occasion, my mother can't seem to finish her puzzle, because something about it is unusual, confusing, or deceptive. At least in this instance, the final solution is still understood and can be measured for success. However, comprehension and quantification are not always possible. When a problem is complex and vague, the solution is chaotic. Imagine that emergency, where the cause of the problem isn't clear or is misunderstood and where your solution runs the risk of creating additional problems or unintended consequences. In these often confounding and sometimes contradictory circumstances, several disparate explanations may all seem reasonable. These factors conspire to make the solution awkward to understand or impractical to measure. Chaos ensues.

 

 

ENTREPRENEURSHIP CURRICULUM: In one region, where I lived for a few years, the local economy was bust by 2005 (Billy Joel wrote a song about this place). Industries had closed their factories and large numbers of people were unemployed. In response, I formed an Entrepreneurial Center composed of three parts: a resource clearinghouse (information found on a website and at school), an education program (from local induction, through instruction by integrated curricula, to incubation with nearby groups), and a mentoring process (with ongoing support from alumni, facilitators, guest faculty, and outside experts).

The central component, a 17-course educational program leading to a BSc degree in Entrepreneurship, consisted of several phases. Four foundation courses, already common to our other degrees, came first. Four courses in creativity were next. Four planning and management courses followed on from there. Four project funding courses rounded out the last phase. A final capstone project completed the sequence as the seventeenth course.

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