Holding Back

February 24, 2015

I wrote last week in this space about the positive place for disagreement in organizations; and I held back on pushing the topic a bit further.

Sometimes an organization leader has to hold back. Sometimes the leader needs to recognize that the organization has more disagreement than it can handle and that taking on another topic for which much disagreement is likely would be like drinking from a fire hose.

In Leadership on the Line (HBS, 2002), authors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky write that “leadership requires disturbing people – but at a rate they can absorb.”

Heifetz and Linsky describe the need to “orchestrate the conflict” in four steps:

  1. “Create a holding environment” – a safe place to interact.
  2. “Control the temperature” – turn the heat up to get people’s attention, and turn it down for them to cool off or to catch up.
  3. “Set the pace” – not too fast that we leave too many people behind; not too slow that we lose the vision and momentum.
  4. “Show the future” – remind people of the “orienting value” – that is, the positive reason to go through all the negative rancor.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.