Monday, December 9, 2013

Everyone Has a Different Lens

The cool thing about lenses is that they come in different glasses - something that I failed to acknowledge at the beginning of this course. After reading the prompt for this blog post I went back to my original blog assignment where I had described a leader as someone who:

  • Commands a room
  • Knows without controlling
  • Has high stature
  • Is genuine
I still agree with my "September self" that a leader should be genuine, but everyone should be genuine. Most of these descriptions have to do with the status of the leader and how they take control, but through this course I've found that a leader doesn't always have to fit the cookie-cutter description. They don't always have to be older or wiser, and stand at a podium to tell you what they want from you. Sometimes a leader doesn't even begin with a goal of becoming a leader, people just follow their example.

Leadership can come in many "glasses". In the past three and a half months we've seen leaders come in the form of a deceased young girl, a scarecrow, a team of multiple people, and a guy who presented a lollipop to a student - to state a few. These people all had a different goal in mind and how they wanted to achieve that goal and often the goal wasn't concrete, it was just to bring joy to someone else or to make a change. I think the aspects from the Leadership Challenge are the most influential things to know when moving forward in group scenarios. Inspiring a shared vision or encouraging the heart, etc. may seem like the obvious things that every organization does, but I think they are often neglected and I have really learned how impacting they can be for a group.

In my original leadership lens I said a leader should be able to "command a room", but what about Drew who gave one girl a lollipop moment that inspired only her? It's important to acknowledge that leadership can come in many packages and that it doesn't have to be the same for every group.

I had a phone interview today for an internship where I was able to use terms from our class and discuss the SWOTT analyses of companies. I also had a semester filled with group projects this fall (five classes, five group assignments) and I started to end group meetings with "Great job today guys! Good meeting!" I don't know if it was the caffeine or if I caught the leadership bug, but we learned in class about the power of telling people what you appreciate about them and celebrating small wins. By telling my groups when we were doing well I almost felt more motivated to continue forward - group assignments can be difficult and frustrating sometimes so a few uplifting words can go a long way.

I have learned that I am really obsessed/good with GoogleDocs ;) In a symbolic sense maybe this shows how visual of a person I am. I am confident when it comes to delegating tasks that apply to peoples' strengths. And I feel more confident about assignments when I know everyone can see everyone else's progress. GoogleDocs also symbolize the ability of groups to come together and great something fluid and consistent. Great minds think alike and four great minds are better than one!

I have also learned that it takes looking at small details to learn about a group or business. I think knowing how to analyze an organization will be beneficial to me in my future internships and jobs. I can continue to see how they are run and will be able to state suggestions to colleagues with the proper knowledge. I will also use my future leadership roles to improve myself as a leader. I think the lens we have can change and grow and this is only the beginning.

Most recently, my group presented on our organization and left with a TEDtalk about trust in groups and how this trust can move mountains and push boundaries. This is something that has stuck with me because we never think specifically at what skills and attitudes allow a company or group to do something extreme and different, and having trust in others is something I've come to realize my group this semester has done and something I will continue to instill in future groups.

Since Melissa shared music she enjoys listening to, I figured I could share something as well. Below is a drawing of John Lennon that I did.

Quite literally, John Lennon can be recognized by his different lenses. He has been known to embody peace and progression and I think 1. his glasses are iconic and 2. his goal of peace through people coming together can also be applied to organizations. Someday I hope to inspire people through my art. Feel free to check out more of it :)

Thanks to everyone for a great semester!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Can't Make Change Alone

It's difficult to implement change in a historical organization, but it's even more difficult to do it alone.

Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veteran affairs, took on the daunting task to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs. We learn in class that people can often be adverse to change in an organization because they fear the change will be difficult and timely. However, we also learn that this is not true and as long as an organization makes changes for the better it will get done over time.

The most difficult part of changing the structure of the DoVA is the historical aspect. The Department is set in historical standards and does what has always been done, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's accurate and sometimes structures get outdated and are no longer best for the organization. Shinseki's greatest obstacle is that he is working alone to create change.

Bolman and Deal identify Kotter's eight stages towards a successful organization change. Shinseki's steps to improve the DoVA can be applied to Kotter's stages of change. Stage one is a "sense of urgency." Shinseki does this by applying the symbolic frame and political frame. He tells a compelling story in an interview about the baggage that everyone experiences. By relating himself to the rest of the veterans he shows that the issue at hand is vast and urgent. He also is seen as President Obama's spokesman for veterans' care. His networking with key players reinforces his credibility.

Stage three of Kotters stages is "uplifting vision and strategy." Like I stated before, the DoVA is based on historical values and goals. Shinseki appeals to this by applying the symbolic frame to stage three. He creates a hopeful vision of future when he talks about bring a "change of culture" to the department. He maintains the organization's history by acknowledging that he is making a change and that the changes are better suited for the veterans.

Shinseki continues to communicate his vision and strategy by creating structures to support change process. He does this by advocating for the DoVA to work on Saturdays in order to help the veterans attending college receive payment. Even though this task may be small, he implements a vision of caring rather than a "tough, deal with it" outlook. This good deed symbolizes his compassion for the veterans and allows people to understand what it is he is communicating.

He also creates long and short term goals. These goals keep people on plan and allow them to plan for short-term victories. Shinseki created an original goal of three years to revamp the DoVA, but instead he worked hard and already had viable changes within the first nine months. These "early wins", as Kotter would describe them, empower people to see change. He also created a goal to be succeeded six years down the road about getting veterans off of the streets. This numerical goal keeps people on plan so that his workers have something to work towards and will know they have succeeded when they meet the goal. Shinseki also requested the largest single-year budget increase. This demonstrated the political frame in action for early wins because by investing his resources and power he can guarantee more early wins to motivate the organization forward.

Rather than coming in to the organization and continuing it's failing ways, he proposed a new way to do things. Major General Olson acknowledges that Shinseki is going about things differently than they typically do in Washington. By reshaping the org. he is aligning structure to new culture.

I feel Shinseki did not approach the "Guiding team" stage of change. In a big, federal organization it is impossible to implement a new structure alone. Shinseki may be more influential if he divides and conquers his goals amongst different leaders. I feel it would have been helpful for him to develop a coordination strategy for his goals. It would have been more impacting if he had called upon other influential people to take up certain tasks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Make Awesomeness

Leadership (n): a position as a leader of a group, organization, etc.
In the beginning of the TEDTalk Drew asks the audience who considers themselves a leader and only a select few people raise their hands. This is probably because the definition listed above (that was pulled from the Merriam-Webster dictionary) is out of date for society and doesn't relate to most people.

Our current class unit on the structure of organizations tends to lead back to examples of companies, but what about the leadership that isn't defined by the way your business is set up or by the tasks delegated by one person to the larger group?

Drew's talk was really compelling just because of how relatable it is to the average person. While I was listening to him tell his story I was blown away by how easy he made it seem to be a leader. Yes, I was involved in SGA (Student Government Association) in high school. And yes, I'm a mentor to prospective and new UMD students, but what about the other things I do just in my daily life?

Drew ignited a fire and changed the attitude of a stranger just through his actions unknowingly. I think realized from his talk is that leadership isn't just guiding a group or being able to delegate tasks, but that you can be a leader just from inspiring someone.

Yes, we talked about Inspiring a Shared Vision in our Kounz and Posner book, but I connect that more to how you run an organization and inspire people to work towards the mission, rather than just inspiring a single person to do something different.

The craziest part of his story is that he didn't even know that he was changing that girls life in that moment. Most leadership activities we all engage in and work towards are mission driven. Like we join clubs in high school so that we can put them on our extracurricular sheet for college applications. And we join one of the 500 clubs at UMD to put on our resume for job applications. And when you join a club, for example Habitat for Humanity, you know the goal of the group and you identify with that and want to support that goal. But how often do we take a moment to take pride in ourselves as people?

I think a lollipop moment can just be a time where something you did or said affected someone else's view of the world. The first thing that comes to mind for me was in a meeting with a faculty member last year just to talk about my interests and the future, she said "If you go in asking for a job, you'll come out with advice. And if you go in asking for advice, you're more likely to come out with a job." It's not a difficult concept or anything really taboo, but it really stuck with me and I find myself reflecting on it often. I never told her how her words have helped me move forward in life, but maybe I will have to.

The view I had of leadership was completely blown away by his story. I really think it will change every day actions for me. Maybe that one thing I said to someone will inspire them too? But I do feel challenged by his question about who has had a lollipop moment in their life. Like David Silvers identified, we tend to only see the world from our perspective and that comes with accepting things about ourselves. It's easy think that someone has inspired you, or to see leadership qualities in another person, but it's against human nature to analyze and praise ourselves for something good we may have done.

You also have to consider that Drew had no idea about this impact he made on the girl until she told him the story and he reflected on it.

Maybe if we all just told others what we appreciated about them more often then we would be more confident to lead in this world.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Questioning if Organizations Display Teamwork or Personal Interest

Last year I was involved with the Arts and Humanities Ambassadors program. It is a group of diverse students studying majors under the College of Arts and Humanities and after an application process these students then serve as mentors to younger current students as well as prospective students. There is a 1-credit class every other week where the ambassadors discuss different leadership tactics and current projects. I observed the class for this Monday.

Though this group of students is supposed to represent a driven team of students such as the football team in Remember the Titans, the cafeteria scene from Mean Girls might be more accurate. When I was a part of this program last year I could feel the tension and differences within the group, but as I sat in and observed this made it more prominent.

Leaders or Posers?

On good a day, the ambassadors sit Socratic seminar style (desks in an open circle). Fortunately, this was one of those "good" days. The leader of the program would be Darius... or Damian in this example. He is an admissions counselor for the College and runs the Ambassadors program. He was the instructor during my year too. I always felt that everyone viewed him with respect, yet as a friend. When I was observing the class, I noticed how he takes control by being the one to start and end the class, but during class he will pose a topic and let the students self-discuss. This style of instructing gives boundaries while letting the ambassadors lead for themselves.

Then we move onto the ambassadors themselves. Some of them have changed out since I was last in the program, but a few have stayed. Even so, it looked like the stereotypes were still there. The Monday I observed, the class was practicing responses for being on a panel for prospective students.

You have Regina George- who always has to have the last say about any topic and her idea of leadership is the only correct one that there is. She's basically the "over-achiever" and likes to brag about it. So when a "prospective student" asks about involvement on campus, Regina speaks up that UMD has lots of clubs to join and she's on eight of them and is captain of most, so she should know.

Then you have the Gretchen Wieners of the group who complains about how much work she has. When the possible question is "How has ARHU helped you in your post-graduate career search?",
she answers "Well I'm a linguistics major and there aren't really any jobs out there for me so..."

Karen Smith is also there too... She's just in the class for a good time and fortunately is one of the few people with a likable personality.

List goes on with the athletes, the nerds, the know-it-alls, the wannabes, and the few normal kids thrown in.

So what is this group supposed to be doing?

Keep in mind that the purpose of this organization is to use the experience of current students to get prospective students excited about UMD and to help lost younger students to no longer be confused. The word "ambassador" almost gives this idea of being regal and a leader or mentor.

It's unfortunate that while many of these students have the academics and extracurriculars to apply to this program, they do not have a value-driven heart. They join the program because it's just another thing they can add to their list of activities for jobs and grad school, while actually joining the program because they want to make a difference in the future student body of the University of Maryland.

A class session will typically have everyone speaking equally with understanding and open-minds of one-another, but sometimes arguments break out when there are differences in ideals and ideas.

Many of the students are quick to give their opinion on what the College of ARHU could be doing better, but don't actually lift a finger to help better the situation.

Are we making a difference?

The actual work of the program reflects it's values. Outside of class, Damian makes sure that the ambassadors sign up for certain open houses, panels, and other events going on on campus that involve prospective students. To a prospective student and parent, these kids may seem prepared, ideal, and a
true UMD student, but the truth of the matter is that this group of ambassadors does not reflect the entire student body of ARHU, only a part of it.

I feel that the program has a lot of potential for the university. What's a better way to answer kids questions than with answers from people who have recently been in that position? But the program itself should be facilitated by its students less like the lunch room, and more like the gym room scene of Mean Girls where everyone comes together and listens to each other while suspending their own self-obsessions. The students should be working towards something great for this university, not just towards a notch on their resumes.

I think a lot of this can be applied to many groups on campus. It's easy for students to join a group because they like the padding to their resumes, but there are only a handfull of Cadys out there who want to join a group to make a difference.

Last remarks from Cady and me

After I "sat on the balcony" and reflected on the defaults of this group, I feel that only a quote from Cady Heron is appropriate at this time:
Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George's life definitely didn't make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Dialogue

This week I read David Bohm's On Dialogue, in which he talks about the differences between what dialogue actually is and what we may assume it is. This reading got me reevaluating past group discussions. Were they really dialogue as I had thought?

Bohm says that dialogue is discussed and its purpose is to be the glue that hold societies together. This is where we usually get confused... personally, I use discussion and dialogue interchangeably. Bohm deems this inappropriate because he makes the argument that 'dialogue' glues things together and 'discussion' is used to break things up.

As I consider these definitions further, they make more sense. For instance, in addition to big lectures we have discussions once a week where a smaller group of students get together to discuss the material. There's that word again. Discuss. But if you think about it as getting together to go over the lecture material and break down the lesson so it's more understandable, then it makes sense.

Bohm also talks about why dialogue is different than debate. While in both instances people have their own opinions, a dialogue only happens if people suspend their own opinions and listen properly to other opinions with the goal in mind of finding a shared common meaning.

Debate and dialogue are also different according to Bohm because in a debate you are trying to win over the other side, but in dialogue conviction and persuasion are not called for. As I reflect back and try to think of an instance where I had dialogue within a group, I am finding that the amount of dialogues I have had is a lot less than the amount of discussions or debates I have had.

One dialogue I can think of is from an english class in high school. My class was having a dialogue on a book and rather than breaking down the topics of the book (as I feel English class usually does) we talked about how we felt about the book. There weren't any intentions of swaying people to feel the same or hostile feelings, it was just a group of people getting a greater understanding of a story. The dialogue we had was really open, informative, and unifying.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Socially Interactive Technology Connects the Online World with Reality

In today's blog, I do some research of my own and cover youth relationships and technology, cyberbullying in the news, and the main issues we have with diffusing the problem. 

I became interested in this topic after hearing my eleven year old sister talk about interacting with her friends via their iPhones. Research and experts show that virtual play is impacting physical adolescent interaction- in both good and bad ways. While the social groups that adolescents are forming may be becoming closer, this also increases the ability for being “left out”. Gone are the days of being left out on the playground, and in is being left out of an iPhone group message. Either because they don't have the latest technology, or if they do, the misuse of social media and applications are increasing the rate of cyberbullying. 

Socially Interactive Technologies are making social groups more tight-knit.
Much research has been done in order to identify the impact that growing up in an age of technology has one the younger generations, specifically with personal relationships. Communication has been studied to see if people hold conversations differently in person than they do online. 

What are identified as SITs (Socially Interactive Technologies), such as texting, IMing, etc. are used among social groups as a platform to form relationships and make plans. A 2006 study found that 48% of youth felt that they use the internet to “improve” their relationships with friends. 

Even with such statistics, it is still questioned about how strong these social ties are. The study concludes with the question: “Are adolescents creating more, but weaker, ties using SITs?” An interesting discussion point made by the study for statistic variation is that the possibility of someone finding out who they listed as their “friends” (for instant messaging) may have discouraged people to participate. It is instances like this that are on the premises of peer pressure.

Jason Farman, assistant professor of American Studies and Digital Cultures and Creativity, explains that these SIT platforms bridge a gap between something mental and physical. Farman says that though the relationships are cyber-based, that does not mean they do not impact the person in reality. 

Online personas crossover to reality.
It’s the connection to reality that begins to cause problems when someone gets emotionally abused on this cyber-platform. The issue being that not only is the online persona being attacked, the human psyche is also affected.

Over the past two or so years, it has become prevalent that cyberbullying is advancing with technology. Originally, it began under the preconceptions of social networking (MySpace, Facebook, blogs, etc.), as identified by a 2010 article by NBC about Louisiana’s bill to ban cyberbullying. (The bill was passed). However, Representative Gary Smith makes a valid point- we have to be cautious of those who don’t mean to be “malicious”.  With the increase in smart phones being obtained by younger generations, technological harassment is becoming more of an issue.

Farman gives his insight on the matter, referring to the reality and online platforms as "spaces". He brings up the concern about how these social media sites are being used and in our discussion off camera, we also explored this issue further. Since kids are growing up with this technology, on occasion, they don't know the correct use of it.

"There isn't a separation between a distinct physical world and this world of online social media"

A reporter for The South End writes about how “Bullying leaves school halls [and] goes digital”. The main point of her article is to expand awareness on the outbreak of cyberbullying- the more modern version of getting shoved into a locker. Since communicating over the internet has become possible, it has been a liability, but the problem stands with this new term, “digital natives”. Children are “growing up in the age of rapidly advancing technology” which just fuels the technological harrassment.

Bridging the gap and staying informed.
A main concern about the harassment is that there is such a large technological gap between children and parents, so many parents are unaware that this is even an issue.

Cyberbullying: Bullying in the Digital Age is one of the many research books that have been published in order to raise awareness. It’s authors preface that the book is not only for prevention, but to “empower” parents to talk with their kids so that the enjoyable experience of technology is not ruined by such a malicious thing. Since cyberbullying is so different from school bullying, many studies have been done examining the actual “bullies” themselves. A recent 2012 study distinguishes different characteristics between bullies and victims, proving that it is not just a silent issue, but one that is psychologically lasting. 

So to decrease the threat of cyberbullying that can lead to drastic manners such as even suicide, parents are advised to keep note of these attitude changes, but to also inform their kids- not only of cyberbullying as an issue, but also of the appropriate use of these applications.

What do you think?
Not only is technological threat taking away the enjoyment of something so innocent, but it blurs the lines of our First Amendment.

How do you think cyberbullying can be regulated, if at all?