Thursday, March 13, 2008
Leadership class keeps having fun
By SUE WATSON
The 2008 class of Leadership Marshall had lots of fun February 28 at Annie’s Restaurant as participants plowed through modules that provoke thoughts about attitude and work.
Susan Seal, with the Mississippi State Extension Service in Starkville, facilitated the module on Fish Philosophy, a segment she enjoys and has presented each year since leadership classes began four years ago.
The philosophy, which can be found on the Internet in numbers of versions, was developed by a fish house in Seattle, Washington.
The philosophy incorporated four basic ideas: make their (the customers’) day; choose your attitude (daily); play (at work); and be there (for others).
“Not every day is the best day,” Seal said.
Class member Terry Morrison quipped about how women have an easy excuse for having a bad day.
“Y’all (women) get to blame it on hair,” he said.
Millie Smith discussed distractions in the work environment and at home.
“Be there, be present. In our multi-task society, you have to turn away from the screen and talk to them (the ones you serve),” she said. “People are busy text messaging on the phone.”
Chaundra Wright suggested it is important to look at a task as fun rather than a job.
Jim Sanderlin spoke of ways to have fun during long hours in the heat.
To break the monotony, his co-workers like to throw mud.
Smith, principal at Holy Family, said they have fun at school and keep it orderly at the same time. She likes to make sound effects when she’s talking with children, she said.
“It’s up to managers to define the size of the playing field; to say how we can have fun,” she said. “Managers decide what is appropriate and how big the playing field is.”
Sarah Sawyer, with the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce, said sometimes people take things personally.
“Everyone makes stupid mistakes,” she said. “Laugh about it.”
“You can make fun of yourself,” Seal suggested. “Some things people say about me may be kind of true.
“There are things other than financial ones that make a happy day. If people love what they are doing, it makes a difference.”
Amy Heaton, interim director of the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce, expressed how good it felt when she was told by a photographer, “you made my day,” because she showed interest in her project.
To illustrate how leadership works, the class formed in the shape of a ship.
“It’s a leader ship,” Seal said. “Sometimes you have to be the leader and drive the ship. It’s a personal vision. Sometimes you are in the middle when you have a hard day. Be willing to row when they (associates) need you. They do care.”
She said sometimes when you row, you can see better ways to do things and offer better solutions. Just tell somebody.
“Good suggestions get passed around,” she said. “In the back of the ship, you can pat people on the back. You can see the direction - what’s happening. There are lots of leadership lessons in movies.”
Each person got an opportunity to sit in the front, the middle and the rear of the ‘ship’ as points were made about roles each can play in a group endeavor.
As groups change directions, people begin to come up with ways the new direction won’t work, she said.
“Uncertainty comes in. The initial reaction is something negative, regardless of what the change is. Negative attitudes lead to resistance. Resistance blocks change. People dig their heals in.”
People get outside their comfort zone and backbiting and squabbling occurs when there are changes in a group endeavor, she said.
The negative attitudes include statements like ‘nobody asked me or this hasn’t worked before,’ she said.
“As a leader, oftentimes you institute a small or big institutional change. Leaders need to identify the issues by asking what the change will do. Identify people’s reactions,” Seal said.
Big changes may mean present skills become obsolete to the new situation. Some leaders may try to find some better opportunities.
“If you are the one affected by change, it’s OK to ask why and what the change is for and how you fit in,” she said. “Positive attitudes and seeking to understand change can be fruitful with opportunities. Negative attitudes and resistance lead to failure to change.”
Change occurs with an individual who has an idea, Seal said. Then the person with the idea goes to a few other people to look for support for the idea.
For change to occur in a group, the idea has to be carried to the entire organization or department. The largest entity has to agree to it, Seal said.
“Then the change becomes what you do, becomes an institution or a tradition,” she said.
The group discussed simple changes at work - like the change in the size and cost of a soft drink in the machine. People who don’t want to pay more for a larger drink or for the size drink they are used to, may start bringing their drink to work. They may boycott the drink machine and the cooler stays full of the drinks they don’t want.
Seal introduced steps sometimes used to bring about a change:
After the session, Chaundra Wright said her attitude about leadership had changed.
She came to class expecting to be bored, she said.
“I had forgotten about the fun element,” she said. “I have been looking at my new job more as a task and analytically.
“I had worked before when it was fun, but I’d forgotten how enjoyable it is and how much more productive business can be when we are partners.”
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