Everyday leadership

Last week, I spent a couple of days networking and selling books at a conference in the Lexington Center in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday afternoon, I transitioned to facilitating an event for my niece, Tresine, who works for the Fayette County Schools in Lexington. She leads a group consisting of the city schools and the city itself focusing on sustainability. This group is involved in creating processes around reducing energy consumption and the amount of materials going into landfills as well as making students and the community healthier. She also facilitates the Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council that hosted President Clinton for a presentation on Earth Day 2012.

The session began with introductions and proceeded with a vision statement to address sustainability. For vision statements I use a three-step process. First is “To” or the thing or things that the team needs to do in order to accomplish a desired future state. Second is “In A Way That” or the process descriptor. Finally, we describe the desired results or the “So That” section. When the three elements are put together, a comprehensive vision statement is designed.

Then I facilitated a round robin idea generation technique on the question of “What can/should we do that would best meet the group’s vision?” Each of the 19 participants wrote down at least three things that would be important to do. I went around the room collecting one unique idea from each person. There were 20 ideas in all.

Finally, we prioritized the 20 ideas using a multivoting technique. The most important idea was to set policies for all school buildings to follow in order to realize energy savings. The second idea was to provide training from outside sources to educate the people who run the buildings to be able to meet the new energy saving policies. Third was to create active sustainability teams with community involvement at more schools. Fourth was for each site to partner with the BYSC to create student driven projects that involve student mentoring. The top five ideas were completed by a suggestion to incorporate sustainability features in all new building designs.

Originally, this group had designed a comprehensive set of goals, objectives, and strategies and had a lot of success in meeting the plans they created. However, with any performance improvement team, energy of team members tends to fade. Our session was designed to reignite the Sustainability Council and refocus them on future actions. The next step for the Sustainability Council is to create design teams consisting of board members, students, and other stakeholders to put implementation structure to the top five ideas.

The best leaders understand that periodically their teams need to review past successes, explore the present status and lock onto exciting future actions. When a team brainstorms about valuable future actions and prioritizes them against the vision, energy is rekindled and positive results start pouring fourth. Good leaders realize when an outside person is needed to provide new processes or perspectives to accomplish the team’s work.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. .Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.