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

Archive for the ‘Learning’ 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!


Discovering What You Love To Do: Overcoming the First Barrier to Success

Friday, July 12th, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn

During the graduation season, National Public Radio aired a highly provocative broadcast.  It began with short clips from three graduation speeches in which well-known speakers told students the key to their future success was for them to go forward doing what they loved.  Then the narrator pointed out that most students have no idea what they love.  The show then featured a segment in which three economists tried to help a student determine what he might love to do.  The process failed. Being unable to discover what you “love to do” was apparently a barrier to success.

I believe the process failed because the economists did not understand love.  Love does not come from rational analysis.  It comes from the evolution of the self. Here I examine a case in which a woman experienced such an evolution and was then able to design a life doing what she loved.


From Manager to Leader: Accelerating the Process

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn

A former executive MBA student came to see me.  He was scheduled to be in another part of Michigan, but said he wanteto make a special trip to Ann Arbor because he had something important to share it with me.

He is an executive in his early forties.  Prior to attending our program, he had worked in one of the Fortune 500’s most aggressive firms.  He entered my class believing he was already a leader, and wondered if there was anything to gain by taking the required course.

One of his assignments was to become a mentor—not a normal mentor, but a transformational mentor, a mentor who radically alters the outlook and capacity of another person.  Like many of his fellow students, this one failed to alter the person he selected for his assignment.

This happens often.  I give this difficult assignment for a reason.  Many EMBAs are accomplished executives who think they understand change leadership.  What they actually understand is change management.  The failure to help another person transform often brings humility and openness to the notions of change leadership—a valuable lesson. (more…)

The Generosity Family Project: Do Good and Feel Good

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

By Ryan W. Quinn

I posted a review of Adam Grant’s new book, Give and Take, a few weeks ago on this blog. The timing of this book’s release was fortuitous for me on a personal level.

It was good timing. Just when the book came out, my wife approached me to let me know that we needed to help our children become more generous (read: “less self-centered”).

Now, I don’t think that our children are all that different from most children their ages. But generosity is a value I hold in high esteem, so I agreed. We gathered the children for a family meeting to discuss what we could do to learn to be more generous.

It was very nice of Adam to publish a book right at this same time on the very topic we were working on. I’m sure he did it just for us! (more…)

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…)

Learn Your Way In: Hunger to Get Better, Persist through Experiences, and Watch Competencies Emerge

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn

I recently listened to a talk by Fred Keller, the CEO of Cascade Engineering, a company recognized for its positive approach to business. One of the unusual practices for which Cascade is known is  bringing in people who are on the welfare rolls and turning them into productive employees.

This idea originated in a casual conversation between Keller and another man, who agreed to champion the idea and work on it. They brought in 12 people who were on welfare. In a short time, however, they were all gone. There were many problems that made the idea impractical. The man was ready to give up on it.

But Fred Keller encouraged the man to reconsider. “We needed to discover how people on welfare feel and think,” he recalled. “We needed to understand them and their culture so we could support them effectively.” So the man kept trying. They ended up going into the literature, talking with the people, and working to understand the culture of poverty.  Over time, the company learned how to do what it did not know how to do. (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.

Lead from the Positive by Cultivating a Grade-School Classroom’s “Culture of ‘Can’”

Monday, February 11th, 2013

By Amy Lemley

No manager wants to “baby” his or her employees. Who has time? Yet borrowing some ideas from the grade-school classroom can bring positive leadership into play in a way that is meaningful at an adult level—no babying necessary.

A recent post by InformED blogger Julie DeNeen identified 20 tenets schoolteachers can use to create “a culture of ‘can’” for their pupils. Those practices read like a page from the positive leadership playbook:

1. Make It a Safe Place to Fail

2. Encourage Curiosity

3. Give Your Students a Voice

4. Tiered Responsibility—“show me, teach me, let me”

5. Foster Peer Support

6. Use Natural Consequences

7. Confidence Building

8. Model How to Learn

9. Don’t Impose Limitations

10. Use Real-Life Examples of Perseverance

11. Teach Students How To Set Manageable Goals

12. Teach Students How to Overcome Disappointment

13. Reward Attitude, Not Just Aptitude

14. Believe in Their Abilities

15. Accept the “Mess”

16. Offer Reflection after the Project Is Over

17. Give Immediate Feedback

18. Give both Short and Long-Term Assignments

19. Identify Obstacles and Negative Beliefs

20. Let Go of the Idea That a Student’s Success Reflects on You

When we picture a classroom full of children, I think most of us imagine it as a place where these 20 tenets are in play. Boys and girls, young men and young women, engage with each other and with their teachers openly and without fear of ridicule, receive constructive feedback that supports them to try, try again. Their teachers show them how to learn and learn with them. And their self-confidence grows.

In recent weeks, Lift Blog cofounder Bob Quinn wrote a six-part series for educators and managers about teaching positive leadership. Last week, Ryan Quinn looked at two ways issuing “positive tickets” when young people were doing something right had made a quantifiable difference in their behavior.

As I read Julie DeNeen’s article, it occurred to me that, whether we are four or forty, we respond best to a positive leadership framework. It’s only natural. We look to our leaders—parents and teachers when we’re young, supervisors and senior executives when we’re adults—to, in Bob Quinn’s words, “create the space” in which we can succeed. When we enter that space, whether as employees or students and as leaders, our potential expands, and so do our achievements.

Teaching and Leading Positively, Part 4: A Provocative Tool for Discussing Transformation

Sunday, January 27th, 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.

Teaching people how to transform and how to stimulate transformation is very difficult. The life assumptions of normal people are tied to survival assumptions—not to flourishing.

When I teach I have to entice people to explore things that violate what they want to believe. So I am always hungry for conceptual tools that will help people think about transformation in new ways. This week one of my friends sent me the following passage by Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM:

Historically speaking, in most cultures the role of men has been to create, to make new things, to fix broken things, and to defend us from things which could hurt us. All of these are wonderful and necessary roles for the preservation of the human race.

However, most children saw their mother in a different way. She was not a creator, a fixer, or a defender, but rather a transformer. (more…)