Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Leadership at the Dentist, By Katelyn Chapman

Yesterday I had the joy of getting my second cavity ever filled. Feeling a roller coaster of emotions during my visit, I reflected on the experience during my drive home. One minute I was comfortable and smiling… another minute almost passing out and being left alone in the room. The rollercoaster experience linked to the concepts within the Bronze Leadership Challenge program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Even though the five group coaching sessions are offered as “separate” items, a colleague explained that the sessions are

More like a jigsaw puzzle…. Each session is an individual piece which when combined with the other pieces makes a complete puzzle.

I believe the key aspect is that the pieces should complement each other, or elicit the best in the others and work in harmony with the other pieces.

When the dentist first walked in my room, he gave me a friendly smile and asked “How are you?” I proceeded to share “Great, especially since I graduate with my MBA on Friday.” He took off his goggles and looked intently at me and said, “Really? That’s awesome….” I didn’t feel like anyone else was in the room.

Aha, that’s exactly one of the examples we use in the Active Listening workshop. More specifically, Former President Bill Clinton was an amazing listener. People who spoke with him reported feeling as if they were the only one in the room.

Now how does actively listening affect our relationships with our friends, family members, and colleagues? When the Dentist removed his goggles and shared one minute to listen to my story, I felt valued. As leaders, by actively listening, we can build relationships through individuals feeling valued. Now, how powerful is that?

Not listening can adversely affect our relationships. After the assistant injected Novacain into my gum to prepare for the filling, I felt odd. My hands started tingling and chest pounded. Oh No! I communicated to the Assistant: “I think I’m going to pass out.” She comes over, stares at me and asks questions. After a couple minutes, I felt a little better but still not 100%. What happened next shocked me! She said “Okay, I’m going to leave. I’ll be back.” Are you serious?! I just about passed out and you’re going to leave me in a room by myself? Oh that makes sense. Couldn’t she have at least asked me, “Katelyn, I need to get something. Are you okay with me leaving the room? Or would you like me to ask someone else.” We often talk about the power of questions. Well at that moment of time, I saw it in full bloom. How can you ask a question to build someone up, rather than using a directive comment that tears them down?

Speaking of building people up, one of my core values is community which I identified in the What is leadership? session. Community to me is fostering the relationships around me. I strive to facilitate a positive environment where everyone can feel comfortable and learn and grow together. During the procedure, the Dentist was very directive in his communication to the assistant. He would use one or two word orders for instruments. At one point, he firmly said “irrigation.” Besides feeling like a human lawn with a manual irrigation system, I was intrigued. Intrigued because after a couple seconds, he said in an even firmer voice, “irrigation!” No “please” was involved or question as to why it wasn’t immediately handed over. The Assistant, a bit frazzled responded with a few stutters and said “Yes, I know.” After about another 5 seconds, which felt like a lifetime, she stuck the irrigation system in my mouth.

Since community is fundamental to who I am, it extremely bothered me how he treated his Assistant. I didn’t feel like he treated her with human dignity…he didn’t make her feel valued. As I mentioned in Quiet Leadership, we can build people up by treating them as where we see they can be.

Values. Actively Listening. If you remember three words from this post, I hope those are it. Incorporate them and see positive transformation.


Katelyn Chapman

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quiet Leadership, By Katelyn Chapman

Colorado. Skiing. Friends. Quiet Leadership.

The last two words probably threw you for a loop. My exposure to experiential education had my wheels turning in “Reflective Observation” and “Abstract Conceptualization” mode (see Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle) after my trip to Colorado with friends.

I had an "Aha” moment on the flight home. While the rest of the crew was enjoying some shut eye, I got amped as I realized a cool connection between what I’ve been learning through David Rock’s Quiet Leadership and what I experienced skiing in Colorado. I will show how 3 components contributed to having one of the best trips ever!

To explain how my Colorado trip rolled out and connected to quiet leadership, I’ll back up to share my story of skiing…

On the first day, I had the normal first day jitters. Besides being my first time skiing out west, I experienced the typical, “Oh, I hope my body remembers how to ski.” Some of you super confident people may not experience that quick moment of self doubt. For me, I usually experience it on the first chair lift up the mountain, hoping that I make a first smooth exit off the chairlift. I know my friends and random spectators would enjoy some free entertainment, but I’d prefer if it didn’t come from my direction. For those non-skiiers/snowboarders, you can equate it to riding a bike… or rollerblading… something that you may not do a regular basis but you just ‘pick it back up.’

Having successfully exited the first chairlift, I sighed relief. Now it was warming up the legs and experiencing the difference of skiing out west. Friends agreed about using the first day on the slopes to effectively warm up. We enjoyed exploring the new terrain, focusing on green circles and blue squares coined “Easiest Terrain” and “Intermediate Terrain” respectively. At the end of the day, I felt thrilled but excited about trying more difficult trails the next day.

During the second day, I continued to ski blue squares and bumped it up a notch with black diamonds on “Expert Terrain.” The Expert Terrain challenged me with much steeper trails and moguls. During the last run of the day, two of the more experienced skiers in our group chose to go down a double black, “Expert Only”. I started the trail and then changed my mind. My legs already felt tired- I realized it wasn’t the best time to try something I was uncomfortable with. At the end of the day, I felt excitement but also yearning for the rest of the mountain. A part of me respected the fact I chose not to do the trail on tired legs, but was determined to “achieve” it.

During the third and final day of skiing, I woke up beaming from ear to ear. I was READY but still had self doubt- Was I truly prepared for a Double Black Diamond? We hit the lifts as soon as they opened and proceeded to savor our last day skiing out west. We created our own tracks with the fresh powder – in this, I truly felt like I was crashing an X Games competition or something of that sort. Ha!

Following a few warm-up runs, we proceeded to the Super Bee (a chairlift that runs to the more difficult terrain on the mountain). At the top, we spotted the double black signs and the same trail the two friends had done the prior day. My gut started to sink and the three friends proceeded to help me by incorporating three principles in Quiet Leadership:

  1. Stretch people- My friends looked at me for ‘what they thought I could do.’ They didn’t limit my capabilities based on “what I had achieved” in the two prior days. They didn’t assume I wouldn’t ski a double black. They “stretched” me beyond my current position, away from my comfort zone. By them stretching me, they helped me focus on an outcome that I wanted deep down but was nervous to achieve.
  2. Be solutions-focused- Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario, like if I caught a ski and then enjoyed a hamster roll down a mountain….or reminiscing about how injured people have got in the past- they focused on how nice the trail was. They emphasized that the first part was the steepest and after that, it wasn’t bad at all. (i.e. Katelyn could take a breath of fresh air after the first bout). They also led the group, showing us a specific line that they knew would be most manageable for us. By being solutions focused, they provided me support to meet my stretch goal – “the double black.”
  3. Provide positive encouragement- “Katelyn, I’ve skied with you the past 3 days and I know you can do this.” Naturally when we are outside of our comfort zone, we are afraid of the unknown, the failure, our anxiety ramps up and we doubt our capabilities. By providing positive encouragement, we reinforce positive thinking and help stretch people.
They helped me enjoy the ride of my life (and I have awesome pictures to prove it!). How will you incorporate the 3 principles to INspire change?

Katelyn Chapman, MBA

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sharpening the Blade, By Ryan F. Reese

As a leadership coach I encourage and help my clients work with others to develop a common vision, a set of resources to accomplish that vision, and a deeply embedded commitment to get there. Some might think that the organization’s arrival of these three elements automatically end in an organization’s success. Once a system like this is developed nothing can go wrong…

I am currently a first year doctoral student in Counseling & Counselor Education at UNCG. I like to think that I have a vision, a very specific plan for being in the doctoral program. I also like to think I am aware of and utilize resources to help me along the way. And, I’m still here, so I must somehow be committed. About a week before spring break I found myself floundering. I began questioning my vision, I had forgotten about my resources, and I was about to jump off the commitment train. I was so overwhelmed with all that was going on I couldn’t maintain focus on my vision. I was shaken.

I was about to take a week off for spring break and felt a deep sense of guilt. How could I take a week off when there was so much work to do? Well, I was fortunate in that I had a meeting with my supervisor a few days prior to spring break. I remember opening up and telling him how stressed and overwhelmed I was, how I didn’t think I could make it through the rest of the semester, especially if I took a week off. He then proceeded to share a story with me about two different lumberjacks working in a mill yard.

They were both required to make a quota of cross-sectional cuts in a given day. After meeting quota they would be free to leave for the day. They both began at the same pace and after about an hour they had made a similar number of cuts, though they had begun to slow down because the saw blade began to dull. One of the lumberjacks decided to take a break. He grabbed some water, a bite of food, and sharpened his blade. The other lumberjack, still hard at work, looked to the other worker in disbelief. “How could he be taking a break? He’ll never finish!” he thought. Though the lumberjack was tired, hungry and thirsty, and his saw blade was dull he kept working. After about 30 minutes, the other lumberjack went back to work. His cuts were quick, clean, and sharp. He began producing twice as many cuts as the lumberjack who forewent any kind of break. The lumberjack who had not taken the break looked over and saw what seemed to be effortless work. He began working harder, with his blade dull and feeling fatigued. Two hours later the lumberjack who had taken a break was finished making his cuts and the man who had not sharpened his blade was not nearly finished.

This story really hit home with me. I felt like I had been running a marathon all semester without “sharpening the blade” every so often. I needed a break. I went away for a week, back home to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. I fished, hiked, and relaxed in my place of fortitude. It was just what I needed. I came back to school and work with a different perspective and alternative approach to tackling the task at hand. In many ways I realigned with my vision and resources and I discovered a new kind of commitment to completing the semester. I decided that each week I would take time out of my schedule for myself and my family. I needed to sharpen my saw each week as to avoid using a dull blade. I still work long hours; I still work hard. But I work more effectively, I get work done in a shorter period of time, and I am back to enjoying what I am doing.

I hope you can relate my story to your position in your organization or work group. How can you sharpen your blade to be at your best for yourself and your group? As we approach summer, take time to recuperate and develop routines that include self-care. As I say to my coachees, you need to tend to your own needs and well-being before you can meet the needs of your organization and those you serve.


Ryan F. Reese

Monday, April 11, 2011

Creating Social Capital in our Communities, By Cathy Hamilton

From “Me” to “We” - Creating Social Capital in our Communities

Ever heard of the term Social Capital? This term is defined by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro ( as the “inter-personal relationships, social connectedness, trust, cooperation, and engagement in the life of the community. In many ways, social capital equates to the social fabric that weaves a community together.” Using the metaphor of ‘community as social fabric woven together’ opens the door for individual and collective leadership. Beautiful fabric, woven from the connections among diverse textures and colors, thread characteristics and dimensions, calls forth the imagery of creativity in life. How do we creatively respond in our efforts to craft a more just and equitable world?

Leadership is as simple and as difficult as taking ownership of the reality that we both live in and create our world. Peter Block (2009) outlines a significant role for leadership: crafting structures that enhance the experience of belonging (p. 98). Focusing on creating structures of belonging rather than leadership style, liberates leaders from having to think in traditional terms of the associated questions of whether or not one has the “appropriate characteristics” of good leadership. Taking the lead in crafting structures of belonging is taking what already exists within, your knowledge, skills and attitudes, and using it to create social capital within the communities where we live. That social connectedness, trust, and cooperation, the essential building blocks of social capital, can be fostered through intentional conversations that build community connections.

Yes! We can craft our world simply through talking with one another. Conversations that build on our relatedness, ask the right questions (and listen to the answers!), recognize one another’s gifts to transform community, and focus on the possibilities, can shift the conversation from “me” to “we.” Creative leadership can initiate and sustain these transforming conversations. No sense of belonging happens without trust – one of the fundamental building blocks of social capital. We can build that trust through conversations that make for change. Higher social capital means that people are more inclined to work together for the common good of all. Hmm….this could be a community worth living, learning, playing, and working in, huh? How might you contribute to the social capital of UNCG and beyond?


Cathy Hamilton, Ph.D.

Director. Office of Leadership and Service-Learning

Thursday, April 7, 2011

3 Steps to Living in the Present, By Julie Kay

Some people spend their lives focusing on the past, wishing things weren’t changing and using their energy in an often futile effort to maintain the status quo. Others are so future orientated, dreaming, hoping, planning and wishing, that their present fades to gray. When they achieve great things they don’t stop to celebrate and enjoy the moment because they are already striving for the next goal.

For me it’s all about balance. Albert Einstein put it well when he said:

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

As someone who tends to naturally look to the future I have learned to consciously move my attention to the present, more often. I want to relish it, be fully present for my children and live in the moment. One of the ways I do this is to take a leaf out of Einstein’s book and use questions – questions for the start of the day, the evening and at bed time.

Check out the rest of this post on Julie Kay's blog.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Leadership Summit: Welcome to the Launching Pad! 6 Months, 30th Post, By Preston Yarborough

The Leadership Launching Pad  was conceived to be a resource for those dedicated to developing our next generation of leaders. We invited  leadership experts, educators, coaches, and leaders of many ages to share insights. After  six months and 30 posts, it’s worthwhile to reflect on what the LLP blog has become and envision where it might go from here. For those of you new to the LLP, please use the search tags (right column) to locate potential posts of interest. We hope for the content to reflect the activities and interests of our community. If you have a topic you would be willing to contribute, please contact us ( We'd love to add your perspective to the mix!

The focus of the Leadership Launching Pad has much in common with the Leadership Summit, a recent event sponsored by The Search Institute and the Center for Creative Leadership. Some of our country’s foremost practitioners of youth leadership development convened in Greensboro, NC, to discuss the current state of youth leadership development. Summit participants envisioned how the profession of youth leadership development might grow in the coming years.

I believe the Leadership Summit represented a real and present “leadership launching pad.” Those of us at the virtual Launching Pad want to extend an invitation to our Leadership Summit friends. Please enjoy the information contained herein, and we would love for you to join our network and expand the breadth and depth of our common goal of providing an effective launching pad for leader development. We have expanded into Twitter (@LeadrLaunchPad--see "Follow Me" button on right)  To ease your introduction, please scan the brief 6-month review below. Consider it a cursory introduction to our growing community.

The Launching Pad’s managing editor, Katelyn Chapman, has diligently worked to source diverse and fresh leadership perspectives. We strive to provide to post weekly and Katelyn runs a tight ship. Between her management and our contributors’ generosity, the Launching Pad has generated a wealth of knowledge during its brief tenure. We encouraged contributors to provide well-informed pieces, but avoid sounding too academic. At their best, the posts are insightful, clever, authentic expressions of leader development.

Some of these leadership expressions were personal growth experiences: Kendra Hammond (Leadership Anxiety), Eric Durham (Leaders and Nuts), and Lara Amshay (Taking Risks) offered undergraduate student perspectives. A different point of view came from Mike Beitler, after his bid for U. S. senate last year. Volunteers played a crucial role in the campaign process. He commented on their enthusiasm, commitment, and how they influenced his understanding of leadership in Leadership Lessons from the Campaign Trail.

We’ve received a variety of thought pieces. Chris Ward, a doctoral student with extensive coaching experience with undergraduates wrote about Relational Leadership. Dr. Marin Burton shared her wisdom on Experiential Education, addressing both the philosophy and method of the process. Jessica McCall shared 10 Commandments of Small Group Leadership; Jessica is a faculty member in UNCG's Department of Communication Studies, is an excellent facilitator, and has a wealth of knowledge matched only by her passion for the subject. Professors from the Bryan School of Business weighed in as well. Dianne Garrett wrote a series on Change Principles 1, 2, 3, and 4 based on neuroscience leadership; Joe Erba addressed leading change in an entrepreneurial organization; and William Tullar provided his thoughts about “The Stuff of Leadership.” Mark Villacorta, PhD shared his thoughts on multicultural aspects of leadership and society--heady stuff.

Preston Yarborough (yours truly) has written on Experience is the Best Teacher...Wanna Bet?, Values and Leadership, and Community Identity: Moving from "A" to "The."

Katelyn Chapman has expounded on What is Leadership?, Choose Your Challenge, Getting Your Team on the Same Page, Managing Relationships, Creating and Achieving Your Personal Vision (the highest visited post to date), and Changing Your Environment.

We have a variety of articles on other subjects as well, so please explore using keywords, topics of interest, or simply scrolling through our posts. If you would like to contribute a post, you may see our post guidelines on the FAQ page. We want to network with other organizations' websites, resources, and integrate high quality leadership content from across the country. The potential breadth and depth of this resource is limited only by our investment of time, imagination, and technological know-how. Join us and help the Launching Pad reach new heights.

Please Join Us!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

VISION: The Stuff of Leadership, By William Tullar

Leadership is about communicating an articulated, attractive map of what the future can look like if we all act together. Such a vision is contagious. Such a vision is energizing and positive. Leaders need to encourage voluntary, enthusiastic compliance on the part of their subordinates in order to realize the vision. In order to build this enthusiasm, it is important to center the vision with the following:

· A sense of urgency - - we must get started on the vision without delay

· A coalition and how subordinates and followers can play a part in the vision

· Communicate the vision in simple terms, and communicate it regularly

· Empower subordinates and followers to remove obstacles that stand in the way of the vision becoming reality

· Build on the self-efficacy that comes from small wins - - encourage and challenge the followers based on first results

There are always barriers to achieving the vision. Successful leaders build coalitions and teams that innovate, adapt, and get around those barriers and overcome the obstacles. It is not possible to micromanage followers in those coalitions and teams - - they have to catch the vision and work toward it on their own. Nothing succeeds like a positive, strong vision of the future. All great leaders have one.


William Tullar, Ph.D.