Leadership The Butler Way

January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Since we began dating, one of the favorite things for my wife and I to do is attend basketball games at her alma mater, Butler University. It certainly helped our enjoyment of the games and team that during that time they’ve risen to nearly the top of the college basketball world with their near miss in the NCAA championship game in 2010. During their run it became popular for pundits to talk about “The Butler Way‘” as if it was their magical elixir. Intrigued, I investigated The Way and have come to respect the leadership values that it promotes.

Developed by the patriarch of Butler coaches, Tony Hinkle (Hinkle Fieldhouse), to offer guidance for his players and students, The Way demands commitment, denies selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while promoting the good of the team above self. It has developed today into a backbone of their basketball teams, the athletic department and other elements of the school. Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the Butler Way as it appears in their basketball locker room:

  1. Humility – know who we are, strengths and weaknesses
  2. Passion – do not be lukewarm, commit to excellence
  3. Unity – do not divide our house, team first
  4. Servanthood – make teammates better, lead by giving
  5. Thankfulness – learn from every circumstance

When I looked into the principles last Spring I immediately identified connections between values that I share as well as those  espoused by the MFA in Visual Communications program at IU’s Herron School of Art and Design. Let’s discuss the way that I envision the principles:

Humility – being honest about our abilities and situations better lets us leverage our talents and mediate and build on our weaknesses, be this individually or as an organization

Passion – having a desire to succeed regardless of the sacrifice necessary has pushed many from good to great

Unity – having teammates to share the load, hold us accountable, talk honestly with, commiserate and rebound with, and to celebrate successes with is vital to many projects, if not life

Servanthood – it is necessary for us all to be servants at times and leading by giving is incredibly valuable and rewarding both for a team and within an individual

Thankfulness – sometimes a loss or critique may hurt, but we should be thankful for the opportunity regardless as there is much to be learned from painful moments as well as those instances when we come out on top

Coaching Reflection

December 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

During the second half of this semester I acted as the project management coach for first year MFA students working through the Simplex creative problem solving process to address an issue concerning Herron. Team KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) was given the difficult task of tackling an issue related to smoking in or around the building.

I met with team KISS about once a week to offer feedback, insight or simply to participate in their meetings. As the team was nearing its last week on the project we met to discuss project management. Using three questions — What’s helping our process?, What’s hindering our process?, What are we learning from the process? — I tried to get KISS members to reflect on managing their project up to that point and how they would handle the last steps.

In the last meeting we had a good conversation and the team was able to articulate their learning the project management realm during the course of the project. As the project began they were eager to define a schedule with tight deadlines so that they could be done with the project on time. Working through the project they came to the realization that rather than following a strict timeline, the path they followed was more of a natural, organic route. They stated that there was a need for “soft” deadlines so that they could complete their work in the end and that it could be a hinderance and not in the project’s best interest to make a decision or move forward simply because their schedule dictated that they do so. (Certainly it is vital that the project met it’s final deadline.) The team felt that they spent an appropriate amount of time in each step, not too long or too short, and that being flexible and intuitive on decision making was necessary. I found it interesting that they also identified the possibility of having an official project manager for their next project.

I believe that I worked with the team well over the project term because I was able to build trust and a positive rapport with them. I often asked them how they were doing, inserted myself into the process and took time to encourage and offer positive comments whenever I saw an opportunity. This confidence with each other helped when it was time to talk about serious issues and to give honest comments; I was critical of aspects of their project at times but because we had a respect for one another I was able to share and they were receptive to my thoughts. I tried to keep my comments specific and to the point, in effort to not overwhelm or confuse them with unfocused or too much information. When it came time for our final meeting on project management I used the three process questions, with a focus on their schedule and project management, to frame our conversation and it worked very well and they were able to articulate their thoughts and learning as described above. These questions are invaluable and could be used at any point during a project to gain an understanding of team strengths, weaknesses, and learning. The tips for providing positive feedback are also highly valuable for communicating with others, and have application across many relationships.

Finally, I learned that I really enjoyed acting as an advisor to a project team. It was usually a highlight of my day in the studio when I sat with them to learn about their project and to talk about elements of it. Sometimes I could offer insight and other times I was able to learn something new from them.

Leadership Visual

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Visual closeup

In my Design Leadership seminar we recently read two articles and visualized our integrated understanding of them. The first article discussed the leadership style of seven different types of leaders. Three of these under perfom, two styles are average to good performers, and the final two types are the cream of the crop, transformational leaders. The second article, written by Design Thinking advocate Roger Martin, focused on the ability to think integratively. Rather than simplifying problems into either-or scenarios using conventional thinking, the integrative thinker is able to create a new third-way to approach the problem.

Click here for my visual. (Warning: LARGE file)

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