What is the Connection Between Leadership and Civility?

The Wallace Centers of Iowa offered a series of lunches on leadership and civility for Spring 2015. Since the series was announced, people have been asking about the link between the two concepts.

The concept of leadership is a process of creating new outcomes or results.  The concept of civility is about small actions or behaviors (practices). A leader can skillfully apply civility practices to create sustainable outcomes.

Graphic of Which?When leaders intentionally include others, speak up when things need to be said, listen well when people are trying to speak, notice little things that seem off and ask questions, and remember to smile often, they end up building a culture of resilience and growth.

There are leaders who get results even when they behave in ways that exclude some, tell people what to do, talk more than listen, notice only mistakes and flaws, and rarely crack a smile. They end up building a culture of weak or even toxic relationships.

What is your experience with civility and leadership?

Do you think skilfully applying civility practices will impact the culture or environment of the leader’s workplace?

Graphic of CultivateSeeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  Here we cultivate conversations about civility in the workplace.

10 Civility Insights from Twitter Chat about People Skills

Here are the 10 questions Kate Nasser asked on her Sunday, Feb 1, 2015 Twitter Chat.  This as an opportunity to gain insight about civility and leadership in the workplace.

1. Optimism is best summed up by this quote.  Graphic of Saying Believe“Believe there is good in the world.”  The benefit to this approach is that it aligns a person with a mindset of openness to change and a willingness to “Be the good.”

2. Vigilance is about facing reality. It involves asking questions and seeking real solutions to the problems that one faces. The benefits of vigilance only show up when the leader has the ability to face problems before they grow into larger problems. Vigilance is not the same thing as pessimism because two perspectives can be held at the same time: hopefulness and awareness.

3. Yes, vigilance and optimism can co-exist and they are both essential to any leader. However there is a missing piece to the leadership puzzle. The third piece is the ability to take action (if needed) based on the new information gained from the delicate balance between optimism and vigilance.

4. The words that describe a vigilant and optimistic leader are the actions the leader can take.  Actions that have an impact on respect for others and help lead to positive working relationships and environments.  Actions like: Including others, listening well, speaking up, noticing little things, and even smiling when passing a person in the hallway.  For example, a smile is a small action that is vigilant because the leader has his or her head up and is paying attention when they see another person.  At the same time this action is optimistic because it is a form of showing respect for the person he or she is passing.

5. When a very optimistic person interacts with a highly vigilant person both people have an opportunity to learn from the perspective of the other person.  Realistically, we all probably have an inborn temperament toward vigilance or optimism. It is common in the workplace to think that if a person thinks different than others we should be suspicious or cautious. In reality, we need to reach out and try to understand the perspective of people that think different.

6. Pushing either vigilance or optimism too far could create stagnation and prevent results in the workplace and make the environment less positive or too idealistic.  That is why we need each other to balance things out and provide helpful perspective.

7. Great leaders know how to utilize their people skills to balance optimism with vigilance by working with the people around them to learn and grow.

8. Staying optimistic and vigilant can come from having hopeful positive goals and recognizing that results do not just unfold in a linear fashion. Once the goal is set, the leader needs to be vigilant about the current situation so he or she can make adjustments. Instead of just setting a goal and not thinking about it again, one should remain vigilant about focusing on the goal every day.

9. This quote takes vigilance to a level of civic engagement.  Liberty requires continued awareness and a sense of hope. In other words, vigilance and optimism both.

10. People skills are essential  because they allow us see what others see and find the balance between optimism and vigilance.

Gather 510 px squareThe Seeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  Here we gather tips for leading (and developing emerging leaders) with civility.

Speaking Up: Small Words Matter

Small Words Matter

In a recent post, Leading With Civility: 4 Lessons for Speaking Up at Work, the case was made for the importance for speaking up in the workplace.

When speaking up even small words can impact meaning.

The problems with small words came to my attention after reading a blog post of a mediator and attorney in private practice.  I  had just met Kristen Hall of KH Mediation at a Des Moines West Side Chamber of Commerce event.

Ms. Hall explained that a mediator is an impartial party that helps conflicting participants first identify issues, determine the breakdown in communication and develop a plan for moving forward with an eye toward preventing future conflicts.

The blog post that caught my attention on the KH Mediation website gives an example how selecting the right words can impact how communication will be heard. Ms Hall writes:

Focus on what is, rather than what “shoulda, coulda, woulda” been.  At the end of the day we are where we are.  A good example is the proverbial glass of water.  Optimism says it is half full.  Pessimism says it is half empty.  Being present says it is four ounces, how do we make the most of it. It allows us to be solution oriented.  One way to do this is to replace “but” with “and.”   For example, consider these two sentences.

I want to turn in our report in three days but my partner wants to get everyone’s input before we complete it.


I want to turn in our report three days and my partner wants to get everyone’s input before we complete it.

This made me remember the problem with the word “but.”  According the the dictionary, this word is used to contradict something that has already been stated. So when we use that word we are negating everything stated prior to the word.

In the example above, If I were the speaker, I would be saying that I want to turn in our report. However in reality, because I used the word “but” I am implying that my partner is the reason for my lack of action on the three day time frame. Now, the listener sees me as less powerful because I am placing blame and not accepting responsibility. I move from a position of standing tall to appearing weak without even physically changing my physical posture.

In the cartoon at the top of the post, the listener is confused.  The speaker used words to say that the listener had a good idea.  Then he or she takes the compliment away with the use of the word “but”.

What are some other ways you’ve noticed that small words matter?

Keep the conversation going by tweeting @seesdsofcivility .

Graphic of CultivateThe Seeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  Here we cultivate conversations about civility in the workplace.