Tag Archives: managingtolead

Qualities of Effective Collaborators

Appreciate the nature of adult learning


Embrace the uniqueness of each adult and interact in ways that sincerely appreciate and connect with the individual


Celebrate the fact that your work requires effectively listening to and understanding the individuals you serve so that you can help them identify and connect with their specific growth


Respect the complexity individuals face as they explore and address their own growth related to thinking interdependently


Accept that while individuals are learning about and becoming engaged in thinking interdependently this might lead to a real sense of disequilibrium


Reframe and embrace the challenges that present themselves as learning opportunities for those you serve


Establish an appreciation for and understanding of the adaptive and developmental nature of becoming more comfortable and able to initiate and/or engage in interdependent thinking


Acknowledge and remind adults that the transition from mostly thinking independently to often thinking interdependently will take time and will require letting go of old ways and for a time, being unsure of new ways to interact


Support the adult and invite him/her to revisit their motivation (both personal and for the common good) for entering into this potential major change in their approach to interacting, engaging and thinking with others


Maintain a core focus on the individual continuing to increasing his or her ability to listen for understanding – this is a major behavior for those engaged in improving their ability to think together


Articulately and with sensitivity point out your impression (if you hold the perception) that the adult(s) you are assisting seem to be engaging in polite parallel thinking as opposed to the engaging in thinking interdependently


While thinking interdependently individuals must be welcoming, friendly, and sincere


Celebrate the growth of those you serve


Learning whether it is possible to think and feel that we can still be safe while pushing for change is the essential change challenge

My writings often suggest that our families, communities, and countries would benefit from each of us pushing ourselves to develop, grow and think in new ways.  Often I truly encourage people to be courageous and develop a sense of capacity to meet challenges.   Other times I suggest that it’s important for us to reframe our thinking in ways that will help us to be more effective in acting in ways helpful to the future.

New ways of thinking are not easy. I know that and I certainly understand that from my own life.  And I know that new ways of thinking are required for us to move forward.  Robert Kegan in Lisa Laskow Lahey have written the book Immunity to Change: How to Overcome it and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization 2009. They have a lot to say about helping us to change both as individuals and as groups so that we can move forward and navigate our worlds effectively. I think that their thinking is of value and I would like to share some of their thinking here.

New ways of thinking permit new ways of feeling, and new ways of feeling encourage and validate new ways of thinking. Energy that had been trapped in the immune system (the system or systems that keep us from changing) is now released and can be redirected to feeling increasing competence and control in our lives. New energy leads to new action, and a particular kind of action furthers the process of adaptation.

Working through an adaptive challenge is a head–and–heart consideration of an alternative cost-benefit equation. Learning whether it is possible to think and feel that we can still be safe while pushing a change is the essential change challenge. We come out the other side with a new understanding that the world works differently than we had imagined, that we can still be safe–and even experience more expensive benefits–doing things we never thought possible before. We discover not only that we can survive, but thrive. This discovery–a kind of recalculating of our risks and benefits–entails a simultaneous “thinking about our feelings” and “feeling our way into new ways of thinking.” pages 215-217

Yes, this is not easy.  And YES, it is worth our effort.  Our children and grandchildren require us breaking our immunities to change. Holding onto the status quo is not an act of courage.


Adaptive Leadership

Roland Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky in their book – The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (2009 p 13-17) write about how Adaptive Leadership has roots in evolutionary biology.  I think they make a lot of sense and I share some of their thoughts for you to consider.

Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive. Successful adaptations enable a living system to take the best from its history and the future.

The concept of thriving is drawn from evolutionary biology, in which a successful adaptation has three characteristics:

  • it preserves the DNA essential for the species’ continued survival;
  • it discards (reregulates or rearranges) the DNA that no longer serves the species’ current needs: and
  • creates DNA arrangements that give the species’ the ability the floors in new ways and in more challenging environments.

Successful adaptations enable a living system to take the best from its history into the future.

What do these concepts of evolutionary biology suggest for adaptive leadership?

~  Adaptive leadership is specifically about change that enables the capacity to thrive. – New environments and new dreams demand new strategies and abilities, as well as the leadership to mobilize them.

~  Successful adaptive changes build on the past rather than jettison the past. – More than 98 percent of our current DNA is the same as that of a chimpanzee: it took less than a 2% change of our evolutionary predecessor’s genetic blueprint to give humans extraordinary range and ability. A challenge for adaptive leadership, then, is to engage people in distinguishing what is essential to preserve … and what is expendable.  Successful adaptations are both conservative and progressive.

~  Organizational adaptation occurs through experimentation. Those seeking to lead adaptive change need an experimental mind-set.  They must learn to improvise as they go, buying time and resources along the way for the next set of experiments.

~  Adaptation relies on diversity.  In evoluntionary biology, nature acts as a fund manager, diversifying risk.  Each conception is a variant, a new experiment, producing an organism with capacities somewhat different from the rest of the population. The secret of evolution is variation, which in organizational terms could be called distributed or collective intelligence.  For organizations, adaptive leadership would build a culture that values diverse views and relies less on central planning and the genius of the few at the top.

~  New adaptations significantly displace, reregulate, and rearrange some old DNA.  By analogy, leadership on adaptive challenges generates loss.  Learning is often painful. One person’s innovation can cause another person to feel incompetent, betrayed, or irrelevant.  Nobody likes to be “rearranged.”  Leadership therefore requires the diagnostic ability to recognize those losses and the predictable defensive patterns of response that operate at the individual and systemic level. 

~  New adaptation takes time. – Although organizational and political adaptations seem lightning fast by comparison with biological adaptations that occur – they also take time to consolidate into new sets of norms and processes. Adaptive leadership thus requires persistence. Significant change is the product of incremental experiments that build up over time. And cultures change slowly.”




HOPE > pessimism



FORWARD MOTION > being stuck

APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY > traditional problem solving

CREATE THE FUTURE > status quo


AUDACITY > Accepting Status Quo

HOPE > fear

STORIES > lectures

AN IMPROVED FUTURE > the status quo

ADAPTIVE CHANGE > status quo

NAMING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM > remaining formally silent

NAMING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM > only talking about it at the water cooler

Leading complex change

Understanding change

More thoughts on change: Michael Fullan sees change in complex situations as a process that cannot be understood and handled simply in terms of cause and effect. Instead of managing such situations by applying local fixes, we need a “feel” for leading complex change, as Fullan puts it, and an approach that is developed and refined as an on-going process.

Fullan suggests a number of points of reference to help develop an on-going process of understanding change. One is “reculturing”, transforming the culture of an organization and changing the way things are done. New ways of doing things need to be in line with moral purpose, but also appropriate to collaboration and the building and testing of knowledge. He also stresses the importance of heeding the messages of those who resist change.  From – “Leading in a Culture of Change” Jossey-Bass, 2001