What I Learned From Ron Heifetz

The following was written by and from the perspective of CM Partner Elizabeth Waetzig:

On November 14, 2019, I got a chance to hear one of my long-time, favorite authors and thinkers on adaptive leadership. I have been studying, practicing and incorporating Heifetz’s work into my technical assistance, training, coaching and, parenting since 1997. Heifetz was a plenary speaker at the American Evaluation Association’s annual conference. The conference supports the evaluation discipline in which we, the Expanding the Bench team at Change Matrix, have begun to integrate an adaptive leadership mindset and approach.

For the evaluators, Heifetz offered three important points: 1) the nature of the work defines leadership, 2) adaptive leaders must be willing to engage others in uncertainty with compassion for the loss change brings about, and 3) communicate messages that people are not expecting (do not think they want) which requires a willingness to spend authority or trust.

The characteristics and competencies of leaders that we often think about are hard to measure as they are general to being human and not specific to leaders. Also, muddying the measurement waters, people, it turns out, are not linear systems. So, Heifetz invited us to look at the nature of the work to drive the definition of leadership. When the work includes the type of change that requires new learning, the work of leadership is adaptive. To do that work requires looking out into the frontier of new knowledge to support transformative change.

Looking to what is new to engage transformative and adaptive change asks us to move into the uncertain and distressful world of the unknown. Human beings have a difficult time with change, that is not new. We have all experienced a variety of responses to change from fear and obstruction to excitement. What Heifetz offered in his talk was a call to leaders to recognize the loss that change means. When people are asked to change what they do, how they do it and/or why they do what they do, they will likely feel some sense of loss of competence, possibly a loss of relationship or identity based on present learning and belief. Leaders must have a reverence for what they are asking people to lose.

Knowing that there will be a sense of loss by some, leaders must look for the thresholds of learning, where people are in a productive range of distress, and where the limits of tolerance for loss and engaging the unknown lie. In that space of new learning, Leaders are often called upon to deliver information, messages, and observations that are unexpected and often unwelcome. This can be personally challenging when the messages acknowledge that they are also entering a frontier of the unknown. In the process of engaging others in the work of transformative and adaptive change, leaders will have to spend their authority telling people what they don’t want to hear. This element of leadership is risky for a leader who has spent time building their competence as well as trusting relationships.

So, in the space of the unknown, without a predictable path, charting an adaptive course, leaders must be improvisational, listen for that which must be preserved along with the sacrifice that is being asked. Evaluators who choose to lead adaptively will be called on to carefully consider what is being asked of them. What is already known? What are the stated hopes? What is the appetite for change? What are the limits on tolerance for loss? In defining their work, evaluators who lead must first identify the nature of the work – are we talking about transformative and adaptive change? Then get ready to look for the threshold for learning, where things feel uncertain, the risk, the pace that can be tolerated, and the level of distress. All with compassion, vulnerability, and courage.

What is the work, who will you be, what will we build on, and how far can we get?

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Top 12 Accomplishments in 12 Months of Expanding the Bench

The American Evaluation Association’s Evaluation 2019 Conference marks the one year anniversary since Change Matrix became the managing partners of Expanding the Bench™ (ETB). The theme of the conference was “Paths to the Future of Evaluation.” As we look forward to the future path of this critical initiative, we took time to reflect on our journey to this point.

In one year, we have accomplished many milestones, all while working to enhance all that ETB has to offer. From increasing the number of diverse evaluators in our Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network and Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Program, to meeting benchmarks that align with our greater theory of change, ETB has much to celebrate!

Top 12 Accomplishments in 12 Months of ETB:

  1. Launched the ETB Website, Bench (Re)Marks, and the ACE Evaluation Network Note which we use to communicate key resources and opportunities with our external audiences and ETB community members.
  2. Convened an ETB Advisory Team, consisting of 7 ACE Evaluation Network, 5 LEEAD and 9 Fundraising and Capacity Building advisors to provide input, feedback, and recommendations.
  3. Partnered with American University and LEEAD Instructors to design a new LEEAD curriculum focused on the theory and practice of culturally-responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE).
  4. Selected 15 LEEAD Scholars as part of a third cohort of diverse evaluators representing 11 states across the U.S. and various disciplines.
  5. Paired LEEAD Scholars with LEEAD Mentors who are experts in the field of evaluation with 15+ years of experience, 5 of whom are also ACE Evaluation Network members.
  6. Hosted the LEEAD Symposium & Reception at the beautiful  Annie E. Casey Foundation to formally kick-off the LEEAD Program, engage with evaluation experts, and network with each other as evaluators and leaders.
  7. Launched the ACE Evaluation Network Database, which serves as a virtual access point for foundations and other commissioners of evaluation to seek and retain diverse evaluators who practice culturally responsive and equitable evaluation for projects and other commissioned work.
  8. Invited 12 new ACE Evaluation Network Members to join our highly qualified group of experienced evaluators who are eager to build connections, support communities’ and programs’ evaluation.
  9. Hosted multiple ACE Evaluation Network professional development and networking opportunities including a virtual business development and collaborations-focused community of practice; regional virtual networking sessions; and the annual ACE Evaluation Network Luncheon to discuss ways to increase the presence and best practice of CREE.
  10. Entered into a formal partnership with the American Evaluation Association to join forces to support diversity in the field and increase the practice of CREE.
  11. Joined Evaluation Funders, affinity groups and universities virtually and at in-person meetings where we spoke to our shared alignment and the need for a field-building movement.
  12. Recruited Practicum Sites, including universities, foundations, think tanks and evaluation firms to host a LEEAD Scholar’s practicum site experience in 2020.

Much of what we have done has centered around listening and learning from others, and as we work to grow in 2020, we hope to continue to engage in dialogue with diverse voices in the field and continue to share learning with others.  A heartfelt thank you to all who have contributed to and supported our work throughout the year.

Learn more about our work to transform the evaluation field on the ETB website.  Interested in staying up to date on all things ETB?  Sign up for Bench (Re)Marks, our monthly newsletter!

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Minimizing Holiday/Seasonal Stress and Burnout

Our CM team offers our practices and strategies below to minimize holiday/seasonal stress and burnout:

Kristin – I love to crochet holiday gifts, which is a super meditative practice for me. Also, I really value my time off and holidays honestly don’t tend to be too stressful for me! Just enjoy the down time and good food and coziness with loved ones.

Kazzy – This holiday season has been more stressful than usual for me! In order to minimize this stress, I have been grounding myself with meditation and personal tarot readings. In addition, I have conducted several at home DIY projects to better organize all the clutter! Living and working in an organized space really helps ground me and enjoy my space even more. To top it off, some family members are making their way to me this holiday season! Getting rid of travel and making time for sleep makes for a rejuvenating end to the decade.

London – I enjoy being outside with my family in the winter. Spending time with our children outside reminds me of the importance of experiencing nature to get any nervous/negative energy out of our systems and create a balance between work and play. I also love being alone outside in the snow, when it’s so quiet that all you hear is the crunch of the snow under your boots and the sound of your own breath. It’s so peaceful and grounding.

Alina – While this a busy time of year, it’s also a time to come together with coworkers, family, and friends (over food!) to celebrate another collective trip around the sun. Fewer daylight hours often get to me, but after not having seasons for four years, I really do enjoy all the beauty and activities that winter brings. Being outside, especially by myself, puts me at peace and enables me to escape from anxiety that plays tug-of-war with my heart on a daily basis.

Sandra – I love walking in cold weather, so I try to take a morning walk every day and when possible, hiking in the Colorado mountains is a really peaceful experience. I also like to fully unplug from work for at least a week. That means no work, and no checking email or our other communication platforms. And I spend this time instead stimulating my creativity through photography, traveling, art and music; and supporting mindfulness through yoga and meditation.

Alice – I love on a cold snowy day cuddling in my warm cozy bed with a book in hand. I could spend all day reading in bed if I am allowed to. Sometimes it is nice to have your own space and alone time. It clears your mind and can be very soothing to your soul.

Annie – I focus on being present when spending time with friends and family, which is fulfilling and rejuvenating. I also start early on holiday shopping which allows me to get more personal and thoughtful gifts.

Jennifer – In order not to feel overwhelmed with the holidays, I choose a few holiday activities and traditions to do that season and give myself a break on the rest. I also make sure to unplug and give myself some quiet time.

Tennille – This year to reduce the stress my family and I are breaking away from tradition. We are traveling for the holidays.

Karla – I enjoy baking cupcakes and decorating them with holiday colors and swirls. Infusing creativity into the design is relieving, while focusing on the design is a much needed distraction. It helps quiet the mind, and is very therapeutic.

Shannon – I remember sharing time is the most important regardless of the activity. I love intimacy of winter gatherings with friends and family. Gratitude and generosity are abundant during the season. We have to create internal light to dispel the external darkness! I don’t find the holiday season to be stressful as the activities I participate feed my spirit, like the winter solstice and calling back the light, bonfires and hot chocolate, music making, food sharing and storytelling…bring it on!

Elizabeth – Now that two of my girls are living in other cities, holidays become the time that I know we will all be together. My stress level decreases as we laugh, cook, dance and take walks with the dog. I can’t wait to get in our jammies, pop popcorn and watch movies snuggled up in the family room. I love this young adult stage!

Rachele – The holidays are a time for me to slow down, reflect to look forward, and nourish my soul; enjoy family, togetherness, love, and laughter; and share with those in need. It is also a time to say special prayers for those who are no longer with us physically, but who are always with us in our hearts and minds.

Suganya – I enjoy a hot tub and a massage – aaah! We have a Korean bathhouse in town, and one Christmas my husband and I spent 5 hours, alternating between the hot and cold tubs, massage table, steam room, and resting rooms where the floors are covered with different types of marbled clay that supposedly absorbs the bad vibes. When I am stressed, a short trip to the bathhouse is a great gift.

What do you do to minimize seasonal/holiday stress?

Let us know on our Facebook page!

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