Why I wrote “Teaching for Transformation — Teaching from the Heart”


Why I wrote “Teaching for Transformation — Teaching from the Heart”

For a while after each class, a little vexed, my new teammates would ask, “How do you do it? How come people get involved so readily and so intensely in your sessions, and not in ours? The energy is so high, it’s exhausting at times. Why are your classes so popular? I want some of that power, that voodoo stuff. How can I learn? They would sit in the back of the room and observe. And then, they would try and reproduce what they considered techniques, to no avail. The response they received from students remained lukewarm despite their best efforts. They would ask me why, and I would tell them that more than mere techniques, my approach requires a mindset shift. Course participants react mainly to a mindset. My words fell on deaf ears. They looked dispirited. They gave up trying to emulate me, and chalked up the success I’d had to me being very lucky. And they resumed lecturing and dishing out unsolicited advice. The results they were not getting soon became a threat to their parts of our program. We had to have a serious talk. I started sharing basic principles and random ideas with them, which they soon dismissed as utterly impractical. Getting them to consider anything different  from what they’d  been exposed to became impossible.  The ideas I was proposing went against everything they believed about people, training, and learning. In their eyes, I was a heretic. A crazy person who simply refused to admit he had been lucky in the classroom. If that was true, then I had been lucky for 25 years. That is when I decided to write a manifesto, and simply capture my beliefs about what I thought gave me an advantage over them in the classroom. If they would not listen to me, maybe at least they would read my words on their own terms, I naively assumed. It so happened that the boss asked to read my paper when no one else on the team was interested. She had wanted to learn to teach and had never gotten around to doing it. She thought it a daunting task. a pipe dream even. A few months later, the boss requested to be included as an instructor in a new course we’d just finished designing and were about to roll out. After she facilitated learning for an hour in a session chock-full of pertinent information, the sixty participants and some of her peers, managers like her who had an interest in the topic gave her a standing ovation. She was impressive to say the least. Fearless, she owned the floor, caused people to show up in their brilliance through the insights they shared, and orchestrated the delivery of course content and class discussions until light-bulbs went on for everybody. She raised the room temperature by creating intellectual heatwaves. Her colleagues soon started asking where she’d learned to engage students in such a skillful way. In response, she pointed in my direction when in fact, she truly deserved all the credit for what she’d done. She had put in the work. She’d read the manuscript with an open mind and after much reflection, she’d applied what she’d learned. What she did for me that day was miraculous. She gave me the confidence I needed to stand behind my heresy, and she proved that my ideas worked. She confirmed the value of what had been peremptorily dismissed by less open-minded instructors. She adopted the mindset that helped produce the results she experienced, and thanks to her, my teammates found out that luck had nothing to do with high engagement. The novice instructor engaged sixty learners in an intense contemplation of concepts. She inspired them all to take the learning to a higher level, and to act on it. Her teaching career started with a bang! Thank you, Lisa A. D. (You know who you are!)

Excerpt from « The Unraveling »

The Unraveling 2020-001

Antoine overheard the conversation between the dean and his teammate. It forced him outside the circle of relevance. It alienated him. The insult injured his sense of belonging, and instantly made him the ‘other’. Overwhelmed, fighting the urge to jump out of his skin, caught between the fear of losing his mind and the fear of losing his job, he repressed his knee-jerk inclination to confront, and instead cowered in his chair. Antoine knew those voices, and tingling with resentment, slowly, robotically pricked his distressed body to check and verify. He saw their backs moving away toward the conference room. He felt betrayed, like an outcast even and could no longer do what he had planned to do that day or concentrate. He was numb. More than the comment, what ate him inside for the full agonizing year that followed was how he had cowered for lack of a snappy comeback. He had groveled and betrayed his own sense of morality!

How we think matters

If you do belong as I suspect to the tribe called ‘the creatives’, then your job is not exactly to support anybody, but to lead the way through your service; to inspire employees to think more creatively as they tackle complex problems.

You have a responsibility, and it is to remain true to your calling, to never forget who you are and what you stand for. Remain immersed in conviction, Wholehearted, become bigger and authentically YOU.

It is only when you walk the talk, live a life of immersion in your values and embody your purpose that you stand a chance of prevailing. And prevail you must, because you know that creativity is the key to human liberation, and that message needs to be heard.

We are tired of the same old, same old, because same old only produces the same boring results. You were meant to be change agents, not just process agents. If you truly belong to the tribe of the creatives it is high time you became the change agents you were meant to be.

How we think matters. It matters to the results we say we want. It matters to our personal and professional bottorn-line.


What we typically call thinking is aimed mostly at interrogating our memory for solutions to problems. The operative assumption is that the answer lies in memory if only we could access it. This is thinking focused on the past, retrieving stored information is thinking that avoids risk and novelty. It is thinking that seeks to restore certainty. It does NOT produce insight (new thought). To produce fresh new thoughts we must look to the unknown and get out of our comfort zone. We must look to the future.

When we think from the past, we re-actualize that past and prevent the exploration of more creative avenues for solutions to problems. Future—thinking or forward-thinking is unsettling for it offers no assurance of rightness; nothing has been tried and tested. Yet it almost always guarantees new and unforeseen possibilities.

There is a common state of mind that facilitates the emergence of insights (new thoughts): an easy-going, unpressured and open state. The more often you reside in that state, the more often you will have insights.

Ways of thinking – Logical thinking versus lateral thinking

What is the Whole point of thinking? What is the purpose?

What does it mean to think logically? Is there another way to think?

Asking what does (5 + 5 =?) equal – is our traditional way of asking. There is only one possibility.

Asking what two numbers add up to to. (? + ? =10) The creative way provides many possible answers.

Lateral thinking is a term created by Edward de Bono (1970) to describe a set of approaches and techniques designed to find radically new approaches to problems- to come at them from the side rather than the front.

Vertical thinking is selective, lateral thinking is generative.

(Linear, logical thinking versus non-linear thinking)

The processes are quite distinct. Rightness is what matters in vertical thinking.

Richness is what matters in lateral thinking.

Vertical thinking selects a pathway by excluding other pathways. Lateral thinking does not select but seeks to open up other pathways.

With vertical (logical) thinking, one may look for different approaches until one finds a promising one. Then the search is over.

With lateral thinking, one goes on generating as many approaches as one can, even after one has found a promising one.

Lateral thinking is provocative, it provokes the future. Lateral thinking and vertical thinking are complementary. Much like transactional leadership and transformational leadership are complementary.

Mental Models

Our filters — biases, triggers, assumptions and habits — restrict communication, limit, alter, and misrepresent what we hear. They define and confine our reality.

The way we see our world (mental models) affects our thinking and experience of the world and therefore determines our way of being and our actions.

Mental models are representations of reality that people use to understand specific phenomena. They represent deeply ingrained assumptions or generalizations that influence how we understand the World and how we take action. These deeply held internal images of how the world works are developed over time through the process of socialization, including education, experience and interaction with others.

Filters, determined by our history, family myths, social constructs, hopes and dreams, education, relationship issues, religious beliefs, ego issues, keep us in our safety zones.

“Filters help us organize our world, regulate emotions, accomplish goals, maintain our sense of self and maintain our moral centers. We need them. We just need to know when they are limiting the outcomes of our conversations.”

Mental models are very often hidden and we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior. Once created, they become fixed and reinforced in the mind, becoming difficult to change.

The function of mental models is to “mediate reality for our minds and help us categorize and organize an endless stream of information we take in every day.”(DeBono, 1991).

Our brains restrict what we hear in order to maintain our status quo, limiting the accuracy of how we hear what our communication partners intend to convey.

The success in our conversations largely depends on how well we know our communication partners, how the topic fits with our beliefs, memory and habits, and how our filters bias the conversation.

Your world is perfectly organized to support what you believe.

Our brains hear what’s comfortable and misunderstand, ignore, misappropriate everything that is not. We listen through filters. Our filters try to keep us safe.

It’s much easier to stay in the safety of the status quo, the current state of what other people around you are doing, rather than put your neck out there with an idea that could necessitate a change.

When the way we see our world changes (our mental models are challenged and changed), we can then change our actions and get very different results.

Saying YES — Possibility—thinking versus Deficit—thinking

Have thoughts ever caused you to become sad?

Words have an emotional content. The way we communicate triggers emotions in others, fear, joy, etc. many emotions. Emotions determine if and how an action will be taken. An emotion is energy in motion. Our Words have the capacity to alter the chemical balance in someone else’s brain.

SCARF examples.

The usual questions exercise.

What happens when you say YES?

Things fall into place to give you what you want.

You gradually start seeing possibilities. Confirmation bias.

What happens when in the interest of remaining in our comfort zone, we get in the habit of saying NO to life?

-We miss opportunities (disguised as challenges) to discover something new, try something we haven’t tried before, opportunities to learn and grow.

Learning and living are the same. In fact, learning is the whole point of living.

Try and stop and see what happens!

When we stop learning, we start to die.

The most progressive and memorable moments in our lives happen when we say YES. When you say YES, the next opportunity might change your life; you build a better network, you become happier and you reconnect with your child-like creativity.

NO closes possibilities. YES opens up possibilities.

Innovators act differently so they can think differently.

Try behaving differently. Try saying yes to something you would normally turn down. Try different foods, different music (in Nashville, I did, and now understand country music), try making the first move…

Whatever happens, you will learn something.

What matters is that you open yourself more to what life has to offer. Life is already saying YES to you in so many ways. Now it is simply waiting for you to say YES back so you can have it more abundantly.

There is no script, no limits, no rules, no set path, just you and your beliefs.

You are in charge of your experiment. You can try a little change, or a huge change.

Saying NO is the real risk, because it closes doors.

What are you willing to say YES to?

How we view failure does not help us succeed

Failure happens when our response to an event is not constructive.

It is indeed our lack of appropriate responsiveness that turns an event into a failure. It is also how we view failure that ultimately makes failure real. To some, there is no failure, only learning. It is only recently that our view of failure has changed for the worse. It seems that we have forgotten that success is built on repeated failures that triggered tenacity and perseverance as the only adequate response. You graduated, not because you had the highest IQ but because you persisted when others dropped out.

We have grown to understand success and failure as opposites, when in fact they are the two sides of the same coin. If you try very hard and push the envelope, you will surely fail. And that’s good because if you learn from it and keep trying you will eventually succeed. Intelligent failures take you to lasting success. Think of Michael Jordan’s “I win because I failed so much.” There are no failures, only lessons. The real question is “Are we willing to learn from them?”

Why are we all so afraid of failure?

Fear is the creativity killer

All the negativity around us causes us to develop Internalized powerlessness.

Internalized powerlessness is Fear by another name.

Fear is just a thought that has one job – to keep us safe. Fear keeps us safe by keeping us small, stuck and the same.

What we need is bring Courage back and counter Fear—based decision-making.

Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose?

Fear is a negative prediction of the future. Fear seems bigger the more you dwell on it. Face it and it lessens or disappears. Fear is the opposite of creativity.

« Creativity is the key to human liberation. » Grace Lee Boggs

« The enemy is fear. » Gandhi

Monkey brain and its effects [stress and ADHD culture]

Fear is exacerbated by the fact that as a culture we find it difficult to remain mindful. Fear, through the stress that it produces, raises the level of cortisol in our bloodstream and triggers us to pay attention to threats that are only imagined and to other False Evidence Appearing Real. Certainly controlling people capitalize of those fears and use them to make us their puppets.

Monkey brain simply means that our minds are always in a state of agitation.

They constantly ruminate over something that happened in the past or make projections about things that may happen in the future, finding it hard to stay in the present.

Rumination is the real cause of stress.

To remain in the present non-judgmentally, focused on the here and now, paying attention to the body, its sensation, not identifying with or seeking to capture any thought that happens to pass through our head is the best way to learn to regain a sense of perspective and regain control of our own behavior. To be mindful is to be non-reactive. It provides you the freedom to choose your own responses, a sort of freedom if you will. Growing in mindfulness is also a way to grow one’s ability to focus in the interest of great creativity.

The job of true leadership is to transform internalized powerlessness in the words of Steve Jobs: “Innovation differentiates between a leader and a follower.”

Leadership and followership are both about exercising your right to speak up, to be heard, and to be strategic about it. The movement of followers contains leadership within it. In fact, followership is leadership. Leadership is followership.

The fixation on leadership has contributed to a culture in which the rest of us feel we don’t have to do anything, we are not responsible. It’s the leader’s fault.

The fantasy is that the leader is responsible for our collective good.

Let us all acknowledge that we have become leader-centric, fixated on leaders.

There is this fantasy that the leader is the one that matters.

Certainly, leaders do matter, however… followers have always mattered, and they matter more now than ever. Technology is driving the change. Followers have impact, they either support the status quo or they don’t.

Followership is the response of people in subordinate positions to those in senior ones.

It is a social relationship between the leader, followers and the group. It is not subservience or passive obedience to orders. Rather it is a process whereby followers engage in constructively critical thinking, and interact with and support the leader to help achieve a task.

Followers provide the “horsepower” to organizational performance. Everyone is a Follower. Virtually everyone is a follower at some point in his or her life. And perhaps more importantly, anyone occupying a position of authority plays a followership role at times, as first—line supervisors report to mid—level managers, mid-level managers report to vice-presidents, vice-presidents report to CEOs, CEOs report to Boards of Directors, etc. This being the case, followership should be viewed as a role, not a position. It is worth keeping in mind that some jobs have clear leadership requirements; virtually all jobs have followership requirements. Given that the same people play both leadership and followership roles, it is hardly surprising that the values, personality traits, mental abilities, and behaviors used to describe effective leaders can also be used to describe effective followers.

Leadership is not a position.

You cannot be assigned or appointed to be a leader. You do not need anyone’s permission to be a leader. You don’t need to be the smartest, or the prettiest. You don’t need a degree.

Leadership is a posture, a decision, a choice, an impulse. It is initiative.

Leadership is ACTION. Leadership, thought of that way becomes a habit, a pattern of thoughts and behaviors, and eventually, a lifestyle.

It is now initiative, rather than conformity, that is required.

Leadership is interaction, between leaders and their followers. What goes on between leaders and their supporters is what is significant. Leadership is essentially about how we relate to others; how we view them, as mere cogs in a wheel, objects, or real people with a brain and a voice. To dehumanize people means to suppress or at least, not honor their yearning for freedom and justice.

Sawu bona/Wabu Sawu bona/Sikhona. “We see you.” “I am here.

Leadership arises from the core (values) of who a leader is. It starts from the inside out. For people to follow your lead, it’s important to demonstrate and share your values so they aren’t left guessing what they are, and to give them clear and compelling answers as to what you stand for and what they should expect.

Taking a stand clarifies your own morality. We all choose what we stand for with what we say, what we do, and what we keep silent about. If you are going to take a stand, it forces you to make the case. You initiate change because something does not align with your values and you envision a better way.

Leadership is about taking responsibility. When you take responsibility you cannot feel like a victim taking 100% responsibility and making zero excuses; and not looking to anyone else to do it.

Leadership is about having the courage to step up despite the fear. Stepping up is seeing a need and deciding YOU are the right person to do something about it.

It is about doing what YOU can, focusing on the right things at the right time.

Choosing to act and stepping up inspires and challenges others to act. When you step up, it inspires others to believe they now have permission to step up. People begin to stand up because they know they will not be alone. They follow because they believe it is a better way. But deep down, people show up and step up for themselves.

Leadership is an act of influence. It is never an act of control, coercion, or domination. Authentic leaders live according to core beliefs and principles that attract others.

Leadership is truly about listening, the most important part of interaction and communication. Saying ‘No’ is safe and easy. It requires little thought. Finding ways to say ‘Yes’ is the real accomplishment. One that requires real thought.

Becoming bigger

True empowerment gives people the confidence, competence, freedom, and resources to act on their own judgment. There is such a thing as self-empowerment. You do not need permission to be great. You can give yourself permission.

Definition of empowerment: the granting of authority to do a particular task without first seeking approval.

Empowerment goes both ways. People empower leaders by acknowledging their leadership and working harder to make their vision a reality.

When you allow yourself to become bigger you experience increased feelings of personal power, security and tolerance for risk; your thinking expands and you become bolder.

The acquisition of power causes individuals to feel more positive, in control, and optimistic about the future, and to become more goal-oriented and likely to take action.

The absence of a sense of personal power does the opposite: pessimism, inertia…

Elements of strength and power: straight back, self-confidence, relaxed and calm demeanor, great listening skills, slow measured vocal tempo, absence of nervousness in voice and body, succinct to the point speech, few words packed with high value, take up space, alignment of verbal message with non-verbal message, cut out excessive head bobbing, comfortable with silence, deliberate uses of silence and pauses…

Elements of presence: Posture, centering, grounding, they are in the moment, focus, eye contact, deliberate body movement, paying attention to what’s going on rather than being caught up in our own thoughts, feeling good and showing it…

Elements of warmth: open body language, attentive stance, lean in, voice modulation, dress style, positive attitude, attitude of gratitude, show compassion, making others feel comfortable by being comfortable, smiling…

Rethinking conflict as collaboration

What are the benefits of conflict?

Bold claims:

  1. Conflict fosters an awareness that problems exist
  2. Conflict puts more information at everybody’s disposal
  3. Conflict offers us an opportunity to appreciate different perspectives
  4. Conflict challenges assumptions
  5. Conflict leads to the clarification of important issues
  6. Conflict leads to greater understanding
  7. Conflict often results in a better grasp of options, better decisions and options
  8. Conflict leads to better solutions to problems
  9. Without conflict there is no innovation

1O. Conflict is a great way to learn more about others

  1. Conflict teaches you a great deal about yourself
  2. Conflict creates opportunities for growth
  3. Conflict leads to improved communication
  4. Conflict leads to improved working relationships
  5. Conflict reflects caring about the issues

I6. Conflict signals the presence of some measure of trust

I7. Conflict leads to increased commitment

I8. Conflict leads to higher levels of engagement

I9. Conflict leads to improved employee morale

  1. Conflict leads to higher team performance
  2. Transforming conflict is quicker than letting conflict fester
  3. If you are unwilling to engage in conflict, you will not accomplish the things that are important to you.

My recommendations:

  1. In the name of excellence in delivering the mission, managers and employees need to develop conflict-confidence.
  2. By setting clear expectations, we need to co-create a workplace in which constructive conflict is encouraged.
  3. We need to reward, recognize and thank people who are willing to take intelligent risks, stand up and support their position (even if they are wrong). That’s leadership.
  4. We need to establish a norm in our groups that conflict around ideas is expected and that personal attacks are not tolerated.
  5. We need to emphasize that if any leader experiences little to no conflict in their group; they may want to examine their own actions. They may be stifling it and with it, the creativity of the group.
  6. We need to emphasize that if what you’re doing engenders no conflict, no one cares, and it may not be worth doing.

What is conflict?

Conflict comes from differences in values, ideas, expectations, perspectives, intentions, priorities; experiences… Conflict is a by-product of our diversity.

Conflict occurs when what you want, need or expect interferes with or violates what I want, need or expect.

Conflict is always about what’s important, and it is inevitable.

Conflict arises from pe0ple’s needs, and needs unmet do not just go away, and cannot be wished away.

They lie in wait for the next opportunity to express themselves, which in organizational life means that they will continue to get in the way of something we want or need to get clone.

Difference is the genesis of conflict, and conflict is the genesis of change.

Conflict is change.

Conflict is change. Without it, attitudes, behaviors, and relationships stay the same.

The issue of conflict is really about allowing everyone to bring their full potential to what they do every day at work.

There are five levels of conflict:

  1. Problem to solve
  2. Disagreement
  3. Contest
  4. Fight
  5. Intractable situation

Why don’t we intervene early when conflict is easier to transform?

Change the focus from people to behaviors.

Labeling people shifts attention from what they did to who they are.

Define the problem as a person and you’re in trouble. The possibilities become limited.

If you define the problem as the difficult behavior, now you can do something about it.

People can’t change who they are, but almost everyone can change what they do.

Understanding the situation and framing it in terms of behavior enables you to be softer on the person and harder on the problem.

Assertiveness is where you need to be in order to properly start building your conflict-confidence.

Conflict Transformation

The best way to deal with conflict is to radically change the way we think about it.

We must abandon the notion that conflict has to be resolved, and adopt instead the notion that conflict is ‘energy in motion’ that needs to be transformed into what it really is, an opportunity for creative growth. But that requires conflict-confidence.

This presentation is about rethinking conflict and putting its power to work for our offices and our lives. Putting the energy it generates in motion. Channeling it into forward movement.

It is not about a clash of personalities, which should be avoided. It is about creative abrasion or a clash of ideas, which should be encouraged; and ultimately, is about our ability to be more creative and innovative together.

Under what circumstances can we consider conflict constructive?

When it is future—focused, (not past) and focused on ideas, (not personalities).

The Tools of Conflict Transformation are

-Practiced listening skills and Powerful Appreciative Questioning skills

-Own your perspective

-Focus on behavior

-Take deeper breaths

-Slow things down

-Pay attention to your words

-Indicate your desire to solve the issue

-Find a shared vision of success

Managing Diversity of Thought

The best way to deal with conflict is to radically change the way we think about it.

Diversity means difference.

Difference takes many forms.

Difference is relational.

Difference is disruptive. It disrupts the status quo. Any time you add difference you create tension.

How has your difference been troublesome in the office?

Difference is generative. It generates change. Whether the change is positive or negative depends on the capacity of the group to include difference.

Inclusion is the capacity to include difference. Social groups are naturally conformist. They tend to resist difference and change. They absent their brains, and deny their critical thinking skills in the name of acceptance and belonging.

Inclusion is dialogic. It is about the sharing of power. When power is not shared, and one party has to do all the accommodating, the relationship is not dialogic, and inclusion is not happening. What is different is forced to conform, and we get mediocrity, if not worse.

Inclusion is creative. The more difference we include, the more intersections we create. Intersectional thinking gives life to new things.

Creative abrasion

The bottom-line here is that we have to be willing and able to work with and through tension to leverage diversity of thought.

Conflict is constructive when it improves the quality of the decisions made, stimulates creativity and innovation, encourages interest and curiosity (the unpacking of ideas), provides the medium through which problems can be aired and tensions released, and fosters an environment of self-evaluation and change.

Conflict improves the quality of the decision-making process enabling all points of view, particularly the ones that are unusual or held by a minority, to be weighed in important decisions. The expression for this is creative abrasion and what it simply means is that groups often produce more and better ideas when they are composed of assertive individuals with diverse skills, knowledge life experiences, abilities and perspectives.

Creative abrasion is a process in which people with divergent worldviews and skills interact to produce, synthesize and catalyze lots of new ideas. In this process, differences are amplified while none is discarded or allowed to dominate.

Innovative companies like Google, Pixar, Apple, IBM, Nissan Design International and many others have cultivated and harnessed the frictional energies released between distinct perspectives and work styles to generate new directions and novel solutions. They have transformed pregnant moments of friction into opportunities for breakthroughs.

Conflict transformation is all about SCARF. Status. Certainty. Autonomy. Relatedness. Fairness.

How to Become a Transformational Leader

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If you expect consistent, across the board performance beyond expectations from employees, how do you prime the pump? Transformational leaders know how to get above average results on a consistent basis.

When you think of a mushroom, what comes to mind?

If you answered ‘fungus’ and ‘dirt,’ you are right!

Where do mushrooms grow?

Certainly not in direct sunlight, right? Yes, in darker, moist or humid places. They thrive on manure. Fungi have an important role in the decomposition of organic matter. Along with bacteria, they are the major decomposers in most ecosystems.

What does the expression mushroom management conjure up in your mind?

This expression was coined by Traci Kidder in “The Soul of a New Machine.” It is an allusion to a style of management in which employees are treated like mushrooms by their leadership. They are kept in the dark, covered with dung, and when they grow too big, are canned. Management makes decisions about employees, (those affected by those decisions), without consulting them.

Mushroom managers hoard information and in so doing encourage rumor-mongering. A few people are singled out for attention, and get offered opportunities for growth; that in turn leads to the development of an ‘in’ crowd, cliques, stovepipes and silos. The pecking order is clearly defined. Other employees plow along aimlessly, dispirited, not understanding where they fit in the larger picture and what their own prospects are. They become increasingly fearful of management and focused on avoiding negative attention and mistakes.

Team membership then becomes a function of like-mindedness and expected agreement. Fitting-in becomes an absolute imperative for survival in the office. Employees grow fearful of expressing loyal dissent and alternate viewpoints. As a result, distrust sets in, muted cynicism prevails, engagement goes down, and absenteeism increases.

Mushroom managers are often more concerned with their own career advancement and less concerned with advocating for their employees. Mushroom managers rely on a lot of poor assumptions about what people know and what motivates them. Employees, on the other hand, are left to interpret what their managers want or care about. What they know for a fact is that the managers do not care about them or the organization. The mushroom manager will communicate when they have to, but will talk at you. Listening to direct reports will make them feel less powerful, so they will avoid it.

Mushroom managers mobilize no one behind a vision, and produce no positive change. So, what can mushroom managers typically expect of their employees in terms of day to day performance?

What level of performance are they priming the pump for?

How many in your leadership fit into that mold?

Hopefully, more often than not, in any workplace, there are fewer mushroom managers than transactional managers. Actually, most managers and leaders are transactional. They take care of business.

What exactly is a transactional manager?

If a transaction is basically an exchange, transactional leaders leverage rewards, compensation, or punishment as the primary ways in which to motivate employees. They appeal to our most basic deficiency needs, a person’s need to get the job done and make a living. Transactional leaders motivate employees by appealing to their own self-interest. They seek compliance.

Transactional managers spend a lot of their time putting out fires, finding answers, being tactical, focusing on the day-to-day business processes, monitoring deviations from rules and standards, if not deviance, and taking corrective actions. They react when standards are not met, and spend a significant amount of time dealing with problems. They seldom ask powerful questions because these questions produce insight, unsettle the status quo, and create more taskings. Their sense of control is easily shaken. They are mostly quality controllers, enforcers, judges and/or gatekeepers. In the rush to get things done, they tolerate little to no deviations from standard operating procedures. Transactional managers have answers, or feel they ought to have answers. Yet, answers signal a full stop in thinking, whereas questions open new possibilities; however, new possibilities create anxiety; (exactly what they cannot afford more of).

What level of performance can they typically expect from their employees?

If you expect – consistent, across the board — performance beyond expectations from employees, how do you prime the pump? What do you do differently?

Do you not encourage conflict? The exclusion of conflict carries a heavy price. Conflict is the creative force in the world that gives birth to real change. Do you not encourage the free flow of communication? Do you not encourage large scale information-sharing? Do you not encourage decentralized decision-making? What about a bottom-up approach to management, decision-making and initiatives? Would you not encourage the identification and elimination of unnecessary rules and regulations? Would you not actively promote a culture of inquiry? Transformational leaders do!

Questions instigate out of the box thinking and can become the engines of profound transformations. Communication confronts us with limits to our perceptions, our interpretations, and our evaluations, and provides impetus for discovery. Communication is all about access. Access drives inclusion. Inclusion creates intersections. Intersections provoke innovation. “Communication and information are essential to innovation.” Innovation keeps us all thriving.

If you want – consistent, across the board – performance beyond expectations, do you not set high expectations of everyone? Especially since expectation is a bias, a choice born out of necessity; do you not articulate what it is you truly want and value; take a stand and allow others to step up, take that stand with you, and share that stage as they show up for themselves?

Would you not tell them why you believe what you believe and allow them to exercise their power of choice? True leadership is not value-neutral, it is value-laden. Let others choose to believe with you. The power of values is mobilizing and compelling. The most potent appeal is moral. Ideals move people and inspire them to strive for their higher selves. Transformational leaders use the absolute most effective influence approaches and techniques known to men, among them, an inspirational approach through an appeal to values and through modeling. An appeal to values is truly an appeal to the heart. Transformational leaders seek others’ commitment and leadership, not just their compliance.

A leader’s job is to embrace conflict, harness it and give it a future-focus, keeping it strategic. A leader’s job is to connect with people by empowering them; granting them more authority, more support, more resources, more freedom and confidence. A true leader’s job is to get over himself and give away his power generously. A true leader’s job is to make leaders out of all direct reports. That’s what drives engagement and speedier mission accomplishment.

That sounds an awful lot like what one would expect of a coach. Doesn’t it?

What do we need to become more transformational?

We can start by adopting a different stance.

Transformational leadership is a form of positive deviance. Positive deviance is about getting the people whose self-image is wrapped up in being the person who knows the answer to become the person who knows the right questions. A big challenge is to get leaders to relinquish their power to enable others to find their own solutions. Communities already have the solutions to their problems. They are the best experts to solve their own problems through collective intelligence.

Adopting a different stance as a way of becoming more transformational also involves looking at problem-solving in a whole different way. Instead of focusing on problems, we can focus on what gives life to, and invigorates human systems. We can focus our organizations’ attention on its positive core. That focus on what works is generative. It produces solutions beyond expectations, whereas traditional problem-solving merely restores the status quo.

Becoming more transformational begins when we adopt an inclusive and positive stance. The next step in the journey consists in understanding the four components of Transformational Leadership.

Intellectual Stimulation

Transformational leaders challenge their direct reports to be innovative and creative, which can only be done when they provide cover for failure, lots of them. Innovation happens only in the context of a corporate culture with high tolerance for failure. The brain is our main productivity tool. Thinking has become the main competency, and there can be no definitive failure in thought. As failure results from employees actively stretching their competence to reach higher levels of performance, in the process value is undeniably added. Failure becomes feedback and unexpected situations so many opportunities to learn. Transformational leaders nurture and further develop people who think independently and differently.

Individualized Consideration

Transformational leaders demonstrate genuine interest in the needs and concerns of employees in ways that are concrete. They meet employees face to face to listen exclusively and understand employees’ thought processes. Conflict confidence makes it possible for them to hear most things. That face to face meeting, that personal attention, is to a great extent responsible for bringing out employees best efforts, and their renewed connection to mission. They provide opportunities for coaching, mentoring, teaching, and counseling that further reinforce the bonds between the leaders and the led. Real power emerges from people wanting to work with you because of the way you interact with them. Transformational leaders understand that it is their responsibility to create an environment in which employees feel free to talk to them. That realization drives inclusion.

Idealized Influence

True leadership is never an act of control, coercion, or dominance; it is an act of influence. Authentic leaders do not seek to compel, they seek to inspire. They do not impose their will on others; instead, they live according to core beliefs and principles that attract others.

Those leaders serve as role models, they “walk the talk,” and exemplify highly ethical behavior before gaining respect and trust. Besides all the influence techniques in effective leaders’ toolboxes, the most significant factor in successfully leveraging Idealized Influence remains willpower, the will to influence, or the courage to act.

Inspirational Motivation

It is not enough for transformational leaders to “walk the talk,” and exemplify highly ethical behavior, they also will challenge the rest of us to do the same. They provide meaning for the task at hand, bolstering our sense of purpose. Purpose and meaning then dispense the energy that drives us forward. Needs that are gratified are not motivators. That is why transformational leaders appeal primarily to our need for self-realization, or personal growth and self-fulfillment as they satisfy their personal need for transcendence, or helping others to self-actualize.

Transformational leaders make leaders of all their direct reports. What you get consistently with transformational leadership done right is performance beyond expectation. Below is an excerpt from an Army officer in Afghanistan as reported by Colonel Mark Homrig:

A Chechen commander was killed. On his body was a diary that compared fighting the US with fighting Russians. He noted that when you take out the Russian leader, the unit stops and mills about, not sure of what to do next. But he added that when you take out a US leader, somebody always and quickly takes his place with no loss of momentum. A squad leader goes down, it may be a private that steps up to the plate before they can iron out the new chain of command. And the damn thing is that the private knows what the hell he is doing.

Organizations change only when people change.

L’ombre du Noir conservateur

Cette année encore, en 2016, nous avons assisté à la campagne avortée d’un Noir candidat à l’investiture républicaine. En 2012, il y en avait un autre, Herman Cain, un Noir conservateur favori de l’extrême droite du parti républicain, le Tea Party. Avant eux, il y avait, Alan Keyes, un républicain noir candidat à la présidence des États-Unis en 1996, 2000, et 2008. Michael Steele fut le premier noir américain à diriger le parti républicain, de 2009 à 2011.

En 2015, les élections de mi-mandat qui ont renouvelé la Chambre des représentants et une partie du Sénat ont marquées l’entrée notable au Congrès de deux conservateurs noirs : Mia Love, la première femme noire républicaine au Congrès. Une haïtienne américaine de 40 ans, représentant l’Utah et convertie au Mormonisme. Et, Tim Scott, un républicain de 49 ans, le premier Noir élu dans le sud, en Caroline du Sud pour être précis, depuis la guerre de Sécession et envoyé au Sénat.

Le feu des projecteurs se braque à juste titre sur le mouvement populaire de gauche « Black Lives matter ». Pourtant, ces conservateurs noirs sont loin d’être des anomalies, malgré un contexte politique qui les présente comme telles. Nous connaissons tous les ex secrétaires d’État, Colin Powell et Condoleezza Rice, ainsi que le juge de la Cour Suprême, Clarence Thomas. Mais, derrière eux se dissimulent une ribambelle de personnes connues et moins connues, les rappeurs, LLCool J., 50 cents, Nikki Minaj. L’actrice Stacey Dash. Les acteurs, Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, James Earl Jones. Les ex joueurs de basket, Dennis Rodman, Charles Barkley, et Shaquille O’Neal. Le promoteur de boxe, Don King. Autant de conservateurs républicains. Leur parti tente, coûte que coûte, d’élargir sa base électorale traditionnelle pour assurer le contrôle républicain de la Maison Blanche dans les années à venir.

Il est tentant de penser qu’ils se sont simplement tous fait « les perroquets de l’extrême droite », mais qu’en est-il vraiment ? Lorsqu’on apprend que Martin Luther King lui-même était républicain, on se rend compte que l’image qui se profile demande à être élucidée. En apportant une perspective sur cette question d’actualité nous pensons faire un peu plus de lumière sur ce que l’avenir réserve à la communauté noire américaine.

Plus les Noirs intègrent la classe moyenne, et dans certains cas les classes supérieures, plus les rangs de ceux qui se laissent séduire par le conservatisme augmentent. On assiste à une résurgence incontournable du conservatisme noir. Les nouveaux conservateurs doivent leur bonne fortune à la politique du parti démocrate qu’ils soutenaient autrefois. Ils n’hésitent dorénavant plus à le rejeter pour protéger leurs nouveaux privilèges.

Convaincus qu’ils sont que l’État, malgré les bonnes intentions qui l’animent, empêche aux Noirs de s’en sortir ; subventionnés par la droite, ils s’attellent à convertir l’électorat noir à la cause de la révolution conservatrice. Ils se transforment en autant de chantres prêts à faire miroiter à la communauté noire une alternative aux organisations comme la NAACP, et à livrer l’électorat noir au parti républicain pour en garantir les futures victoires.

Ce retournement de situation inattendu, extraordinaire même, est en train de transformer le paysage politique américain.  Nous devons comprendre ce phénomène qui va en s’amplifiant pour pleinement apprécier la complexité de la communauté noire américaine et le dialogue qui s’instaure. Il marquera le 21ème siècle aux États-Unis.