Reflections from Arts Leaders Workshop: Resilient Leaders from the Inside/Out | Beth's Blog

Reflections from Arts Leaders Workshop: Resilient Leaders from the Inside/Out

Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Instructional Design, Leadership


Earlier this month I was in Boston for the annual convention for Americans for the Arts where I facilitated a leadership development pre-conference workshop, “Impact without Burnout: Resilient Arts Leaders from the Inside/Out.”  I was lucky enough to collaborate with Janet McIntyre, a nonprofit leadership coach and Jeffrey Golde, Adjunct Professor of Management: Columbia Business School, along with Abe Flores from AFTA.  Needless to say, I learned a lot and wanted to capture some of it here as well as the Tweet transcript.

This training was a day and half  and here’s what we covered:

Section 1: Self-Awareness: Understanding and Moving Through Your Leadership and Communications Style

The first session focused on self-awareness skills.  Participants took the “Columbia Leadership Styles” diagnostic created by Paul Ingram and Bruce Craven in 2013 that session leader Jeffrey Golde had customized for arts leaders.  The five different styles included: Educator, Creator, Visionary, Organizer, and Creator.  Participants reflected on their style strength and how it has helped them be successful in different situations.  They also had a chance to interact with peers with different styles to learn more.

The second half used a communications style diagnostic called “The Social Style Model” which helps people learn how to improve their people skills by being able to understand their own communications style and those who are they are interacting with and then “flex.” This is known as being “versatile” and can help you succeed in different situations.   The styles are based on the degree to which your behavior is assertive (asking versus telling) and responsiveness (display or control emotions).    After taking a diagnostic, you better understand which communications style is your natural one and what is required to adapt when interacting with other people.

  • Analytical Style people control their emotions but tend to ask questions rather than give orders. They are focused on accuracy, and they act deliberately to achieve that end. Others see them as slow-paced and detail-oriented.
  • Amiable Style people show their emotions openly and prefer to ask questions rather than give orders. Relationships, feelings and personal security are important to Amiable Style people. Others see them as friendly and warm.
  • Expressive Style people show their emotions and speak assertively. They enjoy sharing their ideas and perspectives openly with others. Others see them as creative, but unfocused.
  • Driving Style people control their emotions and speak assertively. They prefer to control a situation and are focused on big-picture results. They are often seen by others as highly efficient and not concerned about relationships or feelings.

We had some fun doing role plays with a partner to figure out their style and some reflection on how we needed to adapt.

Section 2: Social Awareness: Reading and Adaption to Various Situations and People

This section started out with a mini-session on practical skills for self-management so your emotions don’t run away with you.  The mini-session included some practical tips and a reflective exercise based on the emerging nonprofit leaders peer learning project I facilitated last year.   You can find the resources here.

Before we took a deep dive with Janet on social awareness skills, we had a short session on understanding non-verbal communication such as body language.   My inspiration for the instructional design was learning that there was a game show in the 1980s called “The Body Language Game.”  So I set up a series of photos depicting different body language and different situations.  Participants had to first guess what the body gesture meant and then several folks came up an role played a real life situation.  We debriefed on the different ways people were responding.

The gesture that prompted quite a bit of discussion and debate was someone on their mobile phone during a meeting.    The debate boiled down to – “Just because someone is on their mobile phone does not mean they are not paying attention, they could be looking up information versus checking out.”   Participants generated some ideas about how to avoid this misunderstanding about technoference in the workplace.

Janet took us through some excellent skill practice in social awareness which included:  listening, asking powerful questions, and positive coaching.

The listening exercise reminded me of “Mindful Listening” where you take turns with a partner and listen to each other for 2-3 minutes without interrupting and then reflect on the experience.  We did a little role play showing good listening techniques and bad listening techniques.

Next Janet shared examples of empowering questions that help facilitate listening and coaching.  Leaders ask empowering questions that inspire people to think in new ways, expand their vision, and enable them to contribute more to a team or project.  In this HBR article about asking empowering questions,  the benefits are clear:

An empowering question does more than convey respect for the person to whom it’s posed. It actually encourages that person’s development as a thinker and problem solver, thereby delivering both short-term and long-term value: the short-term value of generating a solution to the issue at hand and the long-term value of giving subordinates the tools to handle similar issues in the future independently.

A disempowering question, on the other hand, undercuts the confidence of the person to whom it’s asked and sabotages her performance. Often, these types of questions focus on failure or betray that the questioner has an agenda.

The article offers as “cheat sheet” for empowering questions;

  • Clarity: “Can you explain more about this situation?”
  • Don’t Put People on the Defensive: Instead of “Did you make your sales goal?” ask, “How have sales been going?”
  • Inspire Critical Thinking: “What are the consequences of going this route?”
  • Reflection questions: “Why did this work?”
  • Inspire new ideas: “Can that be done in any other way?”
  • Challenge assumptions: “What do you think you will lose if you start sharing responsibility for the implementation process?”
  • Create ownership of solutions: “Based on your experience, what do you suggest we do here?”

We then went through a fishbowl exercise where I role play exercise where I talked about a situation and Janet then invited participants to ask me questions, coaching them on formulating empowering questions.

We ended the afternoon with a coaching exercise that helps motivate and empower people by focusing on their strengths.  It is called “The Strength I See in You.”   It was done in triads, where each person took a turn sharing a story about something in their work that they are passionate about and the two others gave them feedback starting with “The strength I see in you,” writing down their points and giving it as a gift back to the person.     Participants felt the exercise was empowering, although there are skeptics of strength-based approaches.

Section 3:  Impact without Burnout:  Self-Care in the Workplace

This workshop was based on the ideas in my forthcoming book, “The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Impact without Burnout” co-authored with Aliza Sherman.   Self-care is not a leadership skill per see but provides the pillars for people to practice their leadership skills in communications and listening.

The session had two parts.   Participants took “The Nonprofit Burnout Assessment” to help learn how to detect the symptoms of burnout and at what stage they were at.   Once identified, they were able to have peer conversations identifying what was causing stress.



In the second half, we did a modified world cafe where participants had cafe table discussions about self-care to brainstorm ways they practice it.   Each table had some markers and flip chart paper (“table cloths”) so participants could take notes.   We did several rotations and the discussions generated many ideas.   As part of the harvesting of insights,  I shared some ideas about habit change and participants committed to making some tiny changes to incorporate self-care into their daily lives.

Later in the conference,  I was able to facilitate another mini-workshop about how to bring self-care into the workplace and create a culture of well-being – which relates to the second part of my forthcoming book.  When the book is published next fall, I look forward to leading many workshops on the topic!

Here’s a write up from a participant in the workshop.


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