Thursday, May 4, 2017

A stronger community requires repairing relationships

By Marisa Geitner
President and C.E.O.

Recently, while studying about relational justice I came upon a quote by Jonathan Burnside: "Seeking justice means seeking wisdom, seeking community and seeking right relationships."  I found it a thoughtful statement as we continue exploring the deeper ways in which we can support one another through the ups and downs that come along with our lives and the lives of those we share time with.

In this age of acceleration the world doesn't slow down for anything, let alone when bad things happen. It is often that we find ourselves, despite our best intentions, experiencing an outcome that is less than we'd hoped. Maybe that's as simple as squeezing in a few too many errands while someone waits a bit too long for a ride after baseball practice. Maybe that's having a moment of frustration where someone's behavior pushes someone they care about away -- missteps that can usually be corrected with a bit of time and a heartfelt apology. 

But what happens when the outcome comes with an even greater pain?  What happens when it is an outcome that causes emotional heartache, spiritual confusion, financial burden or even physical pain?  Usually it wasn't the person's intention to cause hurt to another, but most often in today's society when bad things happen, our first response is to attend to the one that was hurt. We want to stop the hurting and ensure healing. We focus on restoration of that person -- their health, their dignity, their well being. In doing so, we might also find a bit of relief ourselves, believing that restoration for the victim is a part of the justice we seek even as a bystander.

Then we typically turn our sights to the one whose actions led to a less than favorable outcome and we start the second part of our justice -- the punishment, the reprimand or the directive to never do that again. Then we, as bystanders move on, hoping or maybe believing that we have made the world a better place. 

In seeking justice through wisdom, community and relationship we are called to provide a bit more than that. We need to extend ourselves in offering opportunity for healing and restoration to the second victim -- the ones whose actions might have led to a poor outcome. We have to repair the relationship between each victim, offering them the opportunity to talk about what happened, look to rebuild trust and again share a relationship.

It is often that individuals who require the support of others for their most personal care are asked to simply forgive and forget when the innocent actions of another lead to an unintended, but poor outcome to them. But without relational justice, the burden on both is too great. The relationship just severs and leaves both still hurting. 

I believe we are a society that seeks wisdom, values community and honors right relationship. Let's put it to practice in a way that challenges who we are and advances who we'd like to be.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Appreciative Inquiry

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

Appreciative Inquiry, while not a new concept, certainly has a very important place in today’s world.  Broadly summarized, it’s a way of developing a discipline for positive change. It's the act of transformation anchored in positivism that seeks to explore the best in people, their organizations and the world around them. It breathes life into a being, process or movement and activates the deep study of a moment when things are working and fully alive. Approaching advancement through an appreciative and curious way is not only spirit lifting, it also ensures we build on opportunities and assets.

I have experienced how quickly this approach can turn negativism on its head. Some may wonder if this is just a superficial strategy to "weed out the complainers." It certainly could disorient the person who rehashes everything that has not worked or who prefers to list reasons why it won't work. After all, the further we push potential solutions from our point of influence, the less responsibility we take for unmet outcomes. It's a classic leadership trap of the modern age.

Dare to be different. Confront the tough stuff. Ask about exceptionally positive moments and share stories that give life to a cause. Allow others to dream with you about the future then innovate and improvise in a way that shapes that future. Learning and inviting others to take part in appreciative inquiry is a discipline. In a world that bends toward negativism, it is counterculture. Critics suggest it ignores reality, and to them I say it isn't about ignoring reality, it’s about surrounding it, embracing it and shaping it!

We all need help day-to-day to stay in a positive frame of mind. I appreciate having a team that supports and influences my thoughts more positively. A team that can remind me that growing from what's working well is more productive than belaboring what's not.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The true meaning of accountability

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

I find myself having a keen awareness of the number of times I hear someone placing blame in the name of accountability.  Not only are they two very different things, placing blame is actually counterproductive to strengthening accountability and improving results -- and blaming often diminishes motivation and  performance.  This misguided strategy is pervasive in our personal and  professional lives and can creep in at a very young age. 

Recently, while watching a basketball game, I couldn’t help but notice the coach yelling at the players on the court and throughout each time out.  The coach rehashed all they hadn’t done or had done “wrong” with clear frustration.  I have sadly become used to the sight of coaches yelling but when I heard another proudly proclaim that “he’s good at holding them accountable,” it made me think.  Accountable to what I wondered? 

Accountable by definition is “subject to the obligation to report, explain, justify.”  Simply stated, others should be encouraged to provide account or explanation for the outcome.  When we are too busy blaming, judging or rehashing the result, we don’t even ask questions, let alone offer others the opportunity to explain.

Now let’s take this a bit deeper. Besides listening for an explanation, are we willing to learn in order to influence future opportunity? Let’s keep going with the basketball experience.  What is usually the first thing you hear a coach or crowd yell once someone misses a rebound?  "Get that rebound!” Or maybe “Box out!”  Well rest assured that’ll do it. Next time they’ll surely remember your directive and get the rebound.  I’m being sarcastic of course. We say those things and react that way because in that moment it feels good to us. It likely has no positive impact on shaping the next event.  The players know they are supposed to rebound the basketball and they are highly motivated to successfully grab the basketball, so why don’t they?  Ask them!  What pulls their attention in the heat of a game?  Knowing how to rebound is only the first step. Knowing how to execute the rebound in every complex scenario that you face in a competitive game is another.  What interferes with each player's ability to call on that knowledge and execute the rebound?  Timing of the jump, balance on one foot versus the other, position of their other teammates?  Lastly, what other competing priorities are they managing in the thick of trying to secure that rebound?  Are they avoiding a push or over the back penalty, ensuring their feet aren’t swept out from under them while they're in the air, positioning themselves down court for the pass following the rebound?  You never know until you ask but I guarantee a better outcome the next time if you coach them proactively from the perspective of their game time reality.  Helping them learn from their own perspective of the game will help them build strategies they can use to navigate the next experience.

Accountability isn’t about placing blame, it’s about supporting one another in delivering on a commitment along with the outcome and the tasks necessary to achieve it.  It comes through clear expectations, measurement against expectation, timely  communication and a review of results.   When done right, it also makes for a better leader, coach and teammate!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Recommending 'The Four Elements of Success'

By Marisa Geitner, President and C.E.O.

Leadership development is important for all of us as we grow within our work and gain alignment with what fuels us. One of my favorite leadership reads is The Four Elements of Success written in 2005 by Laurie Beth Jones. Despite its age, it remains a relevant resource. It is grounded in the realization that throughout our worldly existence we have an innate need to form teams and bond with others, while acknowledging the good, bad and ugly that comes through the human dynamic of relationships. 

The book groups behavioral tendencies into understandable terms we can remember by using the elements of nature: Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. The definitions, matched with the elements as we know them, makes the tendencies more understandable and easy to discuss. For example, we can easily think of the qualities of fire -- hot, unpredictable, smoldering, fast moving, brilliant, colorful, mesmerizing, forging, etc. Perhaps we can also easily draw association to those whose behavioral tendencies lean toward that element. We can then draw correlations related to the interaction between elements -- fire is fed by wind, cooled by water, etc. We can understand the strengths and challenges among elements just as we see the dynamics among human tendencies. 

Our team at Heritage Christian studied this book in early 2006. It allowed us a safe and comfortable way to discuss our dynamics as a team. We learned so much about one another and how to better work alongside each other. I even remember some of my colleagues who lean toward predictability, stability and planning (Earth) would post signs on their doors during busier times of the month that said "No Wind Zone." It was a fun and safe way to suggest to their somewhat relentless, unpredictable, more impulsive coworkers that this wasn't a good time to pop in and brainstorm. Our experience was so successful through the book study that we welcomed Laurie Beth Jones in for a deeper dive into the concepts. To this day many of us still identify with the elements when digesting team dynamic and working to appreciate the needs of those around us. 

It is a quick, enjoyable read for teams, and it's just over 250 pages. If you give it a try, I don't think that you'll be disappointed. This leadership resource stands the test of time.