ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - October 2001


Issue Highlight — A Day in the Life of a Fool
- A Day in the Life of a Fool asks whether
e-government will improve government or make
it more distant from those it is supposed to
serve without actually improving efficiency, as

    Views For A Change

 In This Issue...
The Big Bang Theory of Teambuilding and Leadership or Listen Up!
Just a Little Suggestion
Highly Satisfied Customers
Gotcha! Office Politics at Work

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Brief Cases

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Consultant Q&A

John Runyan Responds:

I believe that individual workers have to find and bring their own motivation. As leaders, you can do the best possible job on your side providing a healthy context in which employees can work. But then it is up to them to do their best.

My basic answer to your question is:
   Build a two-way learning relationship with each employee focused on that specific employee’s performance and your management of that person.

   This seems particularly appropriate for leaders and managers in a school district working with teachers and other educational support staff.

   The first step in building a learning relationship is to choose to learn about yourself as a manager and a leader. Be curious, open, and enthusiastic about getting feedback from your employees about your impact and influence on them.

   The second step is to invite your employees to learn about themselves and their performance, especially as that performance impacts the mission of your schools—serving students and their families. Make this invitation real and deliver it consistently over time directly in person, both in a group setting and then one-to-one. Optimize your chances of engaging employees in fruitful mutual exchanges by being a learner on your side and providing initial orientation, training, and support to them.

   The third step is to develop along with your employees a set of language, standards, and expectations that will work for all of you as you give each other information about your performances in various roles and on different tasks. You may choose to use some professionally, pre-prepared language, forms and agreements as the framework for your performance feedback. But you should be sure to customize and align your process and materials to fit your particular school district and situation.

   Finally, you should embark on these exchanges on a schedule and with a rhythm of give-and-take that fits your particular situation. Provide a number of opportunities and iterations to try out your performance-oriented feedback. Allow for the inevitable mistakes, misunderstandings, and mid-course corrections that will follow—i.e., allow for learning about the mutual learning exchange that you have undertaken.

   I assume that many of your employees will choose to take you up on your invitation for a two-way learning exchange. What if some don’t? In the beginning, I would allow them the choice to opt out. If they choose to work in the dark or to just receive more traditional, structured one-way feedback with you setting all of the standards and details of the process, that may be OK for now. They just need to know that their performance evaluation and their resulting job prospects and security then move far more out of their own hands. Over time, I would recommend that you hire only those who want to be a part of the larger mutual learning culture that will develop over time in your school district. Eventually, you will end up with a growing, critical mass of teachers and staff who want to get the feedback that will help improve their effectiveness.

   Once you have launched into these learning relationships, you should figure out together the right balance of corrective feedback and appreciative, supportive behavior that will work for each individual employee. Instead of having to guess or simply impose a common pattern of these feedback styles, you will find out from and with each employee what works best for her or him.

JOHN RUNYAN is a senior consultant, now affiliated with Leadership Everywhere, LLC, in Seattle. An educator and consultant for 25 years, he specializes in coaching leaders and helping to create “learning organizations.” Runyan’s colleagues, Elaine Sullivan, Leopoldo Sequel, Rhonda Gordon, Rene Pino, Catherine Johnson, and Merrilee Runyan, inspire him and help him to think carefully and write clearly in response to these questions. His e-mail address is



Nancy Coleman Responds

Question for Consultants

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