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A blog by Ryan Quinn, Robert Quinn, Shawn Quinn, and Amy Lemley

Archive for the ‘High Performance’ Category

Engaging Again and Again

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

By Ryan W. Quinn

My common refrain when talking about teaching and working with teachers is “to love the people you teach.” I believe that’s what we, as teachers, should do. And I also believe that expression can be a platitude: It is so true that we ignore it or take it for granted. As a result, we often do not love the people we teach even when we think we do.

A few weeks ago, I was training some public school teachers. One participant raised her hand and said, “Every morning I forgive my students.” I loved this sentence. Someone who hears or reads this sentence out of context may find it off-putting. After all, what have your students done that they need your forgiveness? Maybe the problem is you, not your students!


How to Read a Book like Adam Grant’s “Give and Take”

Friday, April 19th, 2013

giveandtake-coverBy Ryan W. Quinn

Our friend and colleague, Adam Grant (whose work we have featured in this blog before), has a new book that is receiving wonderful media attention from outlets as diverse as the New York Times Magazine and the Diane Rehm Show. The title of his book is Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, and it has its own accompanying web page, blog, assessment tool, and opportunity to nominate and highlight givers you know and admire. The book is fun to read and well-grounded in research. As with anything I’ve known Adam to do, it is a high-quality product and worth the investment. Rather than review his book in the typical fashion, however, I would like to take a different approach. I would like to discuss how a person should read a book like this.


Becoming a Master of Influence

Friday, March 29th, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn

I was invited to meet with a group of young professionals in medicine to discuss the topic of becoming a change agent. I started with two questions. First, I asked them each to define the term. “A leader,” they responded. “Someone who can stimulate people to feel, think, see and do things in a new way.”

Next, I asked them to differentiate between a novice, an expert, and a master. This was difficult, but one person finally gave an answer I found striking. He said a novice is someone who is just learning. An expert is a person who learns to effectively lead his or her own organization or group. A master is a person who takes the principles of leadership and generalizes them in such a way that that can effectively lead any organization or group.

Two people came to mind. The first was Gandhi and the second was a public school teacher. (more…)

Work-Life Enrichment and Being Willing to Die for the Organization That Would Kill You for Caring

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

By Ryan W. Quinn

There is a phrase used in Bob Quinn’s book Deep Change that is intentionally provocative—perhaps a little too provocative: “being willing to die for the organization that would kill you for caring.” I once had a discussion with someone about this phrase, and her reaction was immediate and visceral: “I can’t see why anyone would die for their organization. I wouldn’t.”

I can understand why she felt that way. In a world where there seems to be a new biggest scandal every year from corporations, governments, religions, and other organizations, many of our organizations inspire more mistrust than they inspire commitment, and certainly not sufficient commitment to fall on the sword for them. And, frankly, if I am going to feel that level of commitment for anything, it would be more likely that I would feel it for my family or other loved ones, not my organization.

The lack of commitment we feel toward our organizations, however, may say more about our particular view of our organizations than it does about who does and does not deserve our commitment. In fact, sometimes, our lack of commitment to our organizations may, in fact, hurt our families or loved ones (and, conversely, our lack of commitment to our families and loved ones may hurt our organizations). (more…)

Access Your Sense of Awe: Finding Meaning in Your Work

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn

I remember a heart surgeon once telling me about his work. “Sometimes a person is dying,” he said quietly. “I take their heart into my hands, and when I am finished, they are alive.” He made this simple statement with awe and humility at how meaningful this experience was for him every time. 

It’s a feeling I know. It occurs when I do cultural surgery. I am regularly asked, for example, to help senior management teams. These are brilliant, successful people with years in business. Their salaries are often staggering. So what could they possibly need from me?

The invitation comes because they know they need to make a fundamental change that they don’t know how to make: to turn themselves into a team. They don’t know how to lure conflict to the surface and transform it into creative collaboration. Yet it’s critical to the organization’s health that they do so. Without a cohesive team, there is no synergy,

This condition is a “silent killer” because few organzations are ready to admit they’re not optimizing their potential. When a team is not cohesive, there is no synergy, which can cause a chronic condition that may indeed threaten the life of the organization. (more…)

How Do You Write Your “Opus”? By Doing What You Love to Do

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn 

Recently, I rewatched the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus. When I reached the last scene, I started to cry.

Mr. Holland aspires to write a great symphony. Because he needs money, he takes a job as a teacher, devoting his passion for music to the composing he does in his spare time—and in obscurity.

As a teacher, he is initially ineffective. As the film unfolds, he learns to relate to his students, and then to invest in them. At the end of the movie, many of his former students hold an event to celebrate his life. Aware their beloved teacher feels like a failed composer instead of the phenomenal educator they know him to be, one student makes a moving tribute in a single sentence: “We are your symphony, the music of your life.”  

Mr. Holland evolved into a great teacher as he learned to let his passion for the creation of music spill over into the creation of learning. He came to love the creation of the capacity to create. As he turned the joy of music into the joy of learning, he was letting his passion flow into his students. Yet the normal and natural desire for fame and fortune kept him from fully understanding the magnificence of the symphony he was actually writing.

I cried because Mr. Holland’s struggle is my struggle, it is the universal struggle, it is a wonderful struggle in which we learn that we are at our best when what we do we do because we love it.

Teaching and Leading Positively, Part 1: The Digestion of Experience

Monday, January 21st, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn

This six-part series, “Teaching and Leading Positively,” explores the goals of teaching positive leadership: not merely to serve as an  instructor conveying the theories or practices drawn for positive organizational scholarship, but to prompt lasting transformation in the way our students work and live. Serving as this kind of catalyst requires full engagement on our part. We must live from the positive leadership framework, allowing our students to learn by our example, each other’s, and their own.

When I teach, my objective is not to transfer information to my students. It is to transform their identities. My history as a teacher tells me that if I can accomplish this objective, they will experience a huge jump in their capacity to influence their own lives and the lives of others. To accomplish my objective, I must have them do something unusual.

My wife was telling one of her friends about my writing frequent journal entries and sharing them. The woman later approached me about it. She asked several questions, including how much time it took to write a typical entry. I told her 15 minutes to an hour.

That is a serious time commitment, she responded. I explained that I see the journal writing as a form of meditation that has become like a positive addiction. She understood the benefit, but wondered whether a modern professional who leaves for work very early, puts in 12 hours, and comes home exhausted could accomplish such a thing?

I acknowledged that it would be hard for someone like that, and the conversation went on to other topics. But my heart stayed there for a time. Of course, I recognized the demands of modern life, yet I felt a deep sense of sadness about how we let the world act upon us. (more…)

Positive Politics: Using Self-Honesty and Transparency to Achieve What’s Best for All

Friday, October 12th, 2012

By Ryan W. Quinn

Politics is not bad. Practicing managers always seem surprised when organizational behavior scholars tell them this. But politics is just the activity of using power—something all of us do in big ways or small ones every day. Every relationship is, in some way, a power relationship. It’s not exerting power that is bad, but the way people choose to wield it.

When practicing managers and other employees use the term politics, they are seldom referring to the generic (and less charged) definition of politics as the use of power. Instead, they are referring to the unacknowledged organizational games people play to get what they want, irrespective of whether what they want is the best thing for the organization or for other people. (more…)

Define the “Situation,” Find Your Motivation

Friday, July 27th, 2012

By Ryan Quinn

One of the things I spend a significant amount of time doing as a professor is research. Academic research projects are usually big, long, and ambiguous. They can take years to complete, and what you thought you were doing when you started the project is seldom what you end up having done when you finish. You get extensive negative feedback throughout the process, but it is seldom clear how to respond to it.

Losing motivation is all too easy in circumstances like these—which are not limited to the academic world, but exist with many other kinds of projects, too. (In fact, in some ways, it sounds a lot like parenting.)

The situation keeps shifting. But what is a “situation” exactly? Could the right definition firm up your motivation and spur you on to action? (more…)

Truth Tears: The Joy of Knowing Deeply

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

By Robert E. Quinn

A woman came to see me. She had been reading my book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within. She talked about how the book spoke to her soul. I listened and asked questions. She told me how hard she had struggled to find her professional identity. She had changed majors several times as an undergraduate. As a professional, she has shifted her focus several times. This has led to deep introspection.

In recent times she has found great meaning in the field of organizational development. When she read Deep Change, everything started to come together in a new way. She referenced one particular passage that she had read over and over; t’s about facing our own hypocrisy, making self-change, and finding the power to make a difference in the world (If you’d like to read it, turn to pages 78 through 79).

As she spoke of this passage, her eyes filled with tears. She started to apologize. Then she said something shocking: “I bet a lot of people cry in this office.”