“The Truth about Leadership” by James M Kouzes and Barry Z Posner

Posted January 12, 2021 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

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“The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know” (2010) by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner is a short, easy-to-read collection of “fundamental principles that inform and support the practice of leadership,” based on the “Leadership Practices Inventory,” a learning assessment tool used in 70+ countries.

Based on the idea is that leadership can be learned, Kouzes and Posner identify 10 fundamental truths about leadership:

  1. You make a difference. Leadership starts by looking inward, taking the first step, and becoming a role model for others. “It’s about what you do.” If you manage others, you have a big impact on their commitment to the company, productivity, and job satisfaction.
  2. Credibility is the foundation of leadership. Leadership continues only if other people also believe in you. You must be honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent. The key is to align your actions and words (do what you say you will do).
  3. Values drive commitment. Clarity about personal values has the most significant impact on employees’ feelings about their work. Before you can effectively lead others, you have to understand who you are and what you believe in. Leaders gain consensus on common values and a common cause.
  4. Focusing on the future sets leaders apart. Look beyond what’s in front of you and imagine possibilities. Remind people that there is a larger purpose. Remain optimistic about what is yet to come.
  5. You can’t do it alone. Leadership is about the relationship between leaders and their constituents. You have to make a human connection and inspire a shared vision. It is critical to build a team of people who feel powerful and capable of taking action.
  6. Trust rules (no, this doesn’t mean put your trust in rules). High trust leads to greater influence on group members, greater cooperation, enhanced information flow, and increased willingness to become better group members. People won’t take risks unless they feel safe. The more people trust, the more they’ll risk. Leaders are the first to trust. You can build trust by behaving predictably and consistently, communicating clearly, treating promises seriously, and being forthright and candid.
  7. Challenge is the crucible for greatness. Leadership is about guiding people through uncertainty and change; or in complacent times, about actively disrupting the status quo to pursue new opportunities. People with grit (perseverance and passion) are more likely to achieve positive outcomes and see failure as learning.
  8. You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. People are always watching, and your actions have to be consistent with your words. Take responsibility for your mistakes and accept feedback.
  9. The best leaders are the best learners. Leadership can be learned and the capacity for learning begins with a growth mindset – the belief that we can become better leaders. It requires deliberate practice and a supportive environment, with five elements of learning: it is designed specifically to improve performance; it has to be repeated a lot; feedback on results must be continually available; it is highly demanding mentally; it isn’t all that much fun).
  10. Leadership is an affair of the heart. The highest performing managers and learners are the most open and caring. Show people you care by paying attention to them. Fall in love with the work you are doing and the purpose you are serving. Positive leadership breeds positive emotions.

What kind of leader are you? What leadership skills can you put into practice today?

Better Hawaii’s best books of 2020

Posted January 5, 2021 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Books

Tags: ,

Books are my favorite hobby, and the stay-at-home orders gave me time to catch up on my reading (though there’s never enough time for good books).

In 2020, I indulged in escapist fiction and was drawn to books about coping with adversity, doing the right thing, loyalty, and fighting for those you love.

Here are 5 of the best books that I read in 2020:

* “Inspiring Women of Hawai’i” (2019) by Dr. Loretta Chen
A collection of honest, inspiring interviews with 24 women in Hawai’i, including politics, entrepreneurs, pioneers, artists, activists, and social services. Interviewer Dr. Loretta Chen explains that she knew from experience that “some of our biggest trials and tribulations are our own best teachers, and that most illuminating conversations were not always the most comfortable.” Three common themes: the understanding that women can have a career and be a mother if they have a strong support system; the importance of scholarship pageants (formerly called beauty pageants) in giving women support for higher education, experience with public speaking, and opportunities for community service; and the power of saying “yes” to new opportunities.

“Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know” (2019) by Malcolm Gladwell
An attempt to understand what really happened by the side of the highway that day in rural Texas, July 10, 2015, between police officer Brian Encinia and Sandra Bland, who committed suicide in her jail cell three days later, to identify the strategies we use to translate one another’s words and intentions, and figure out how to fix them. The two challenges we face: First, why can’t we tell when the stranger in front of us is lying to our face? Second, why are the people who are deceived the ones you’d expect not to be while those who see the truth are the ones you’d think would be deceived?

* “Crescent City” (House of Earth and Blood #1) by Sarah J. Maas
A romantic urban fantasy about fighting for freedom, redemption, survivor’s guilt, seeing who people really are, believing that “through love, all things are possible,” self-sacrifice, redemption, and holding on to the people you love, and trusting that things happen for a reason.

* “Network Effect” (Murderbot #5) by Martha Wells
A science fiction novel about the family you choose (“my humans”), treating all beings as individuals with rights and free will, learning what you want, accepting that change can be terrifying, self-sacrifice, and of course the importance of watching media.

* “Age of Deception” (Firebird Chronicles #2) by TA White
A romantic science fiction adventure about making the most of your talents, trust, choosing what affects you in life, finding where you belong, doing the right thing, loyalty, secrets that are not yours to share, and protecting those in your care.

Which books engaged you in recent months? Which books do you plan to read this year?

Happy reading and happy new year!

Mahalo in 2020

Posted December 29, 2020 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Mahalo

Tags: , ,

Happy New Year, Better Hawaii readers!

Rising out of the challenges of 2020, there are so many bright lights of compassion, generosity, and selflessness. I’d like to share my thanks for just a few of the wonderful people who have shared their knowledge, passion, and commitment:

Mahalo to Debbie Oliveros, Admissions Chair for the 2020 Sony Open in Hawaii, who organized volunteers, ensured we were trained, and made us feel appreciated.

Mahalo to Elizabeth Kent, an experienced mediator and proprietor of Meeting Expectations Hawaii, who taught me that there’s a name for the anxiety I sometimes feel while working in a counseling office: “vicarious trauma” or “compassion fatigue.”

Mahalo to Dr. Leonard Sax, author of “The Collapse of Parenting,” who gave a talk about evidence-based parenting and reminded us to “Be the parent!” Teaching children self-control and virtue should be every parent’s top priority.

Mahalo to Tor.com’s Ebook Club for giving away all four of Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries books in April – science fiction novellas about Murderbot, an awkward, sarcastic, unintentionally funny SecUnit who just wants to be left alone to watch entertainment serials who is motivated by the concern that “If the humans were dead, who would make the media?”

Mahalo to Anisa Wiseman, program director at NAMI Hawaii, for presenting webinars about coping with stress, such as writing down long-term goals, setting intentions for time at home during a pandemic, practicing breathing techniques, and creating a gratitude inventory.

Mahalo to Malama US Hawaii, a group of eight high school students who support and speak out about mental health. They presented an informative webinar, “Well Being Mana’o” with speakers Dr. Loretta Chun, who talked about the power of perspective and reminded us that optimism is a practice; Allison Silva, who shared her video poetry; and Dr. Maya Soetoro, who shared a River of Life activity and asked, what helps you cross the river from sorrows to joy?

Mahalo to performer and entertainer Henry Kapono, for sharing his music, his gracious spirit, and generosity to brighten our lives and support those in need in Hawai’i, through virtual concerts, the Henry Kapono Foundation, and supporting initiatives like the 2020 Census and honoring veterans, military, and their families.

Mahalo to you, Better Hawaii readers, for being open to respectful discussion, practicing optimism, and helping to make Hawaii better.

Who are you thankful for? What do you appreciate most about living and working in Hawaii?

Helping kids cope with uncertainty with Dr. Christine Carter

Posted December 22, 2020 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Family, Health

Tags: , , ,

As a parent of a teenage boy, starting high school in the middle of a pandemic, I was thrilled to listen in on a Team Up! conversation between author and sociologist Dr. Christine Carter and Dr. Michael Latham, president of Punahou School.

Dr. Carter begins by acknowledging that the pandemic has changed the way children learn and socialize, and the way that we parent them.

One of the most powerful ways to cope with the overwhelm we feel is gratitude, she shares. Instead of focusing on the things we cannot do, we can appreciate the things we have, the people we know, and the things we can do.

Dr. Carter shares three key parenting skills that we should practice:

1. Help kids connect and learn social skills. “Family connections are a good predictor of mental health,” Dr. Carter said. More than ever, we need to have dinner as a family and build at least one good friendship to sustain them. In a way, introverted kids can do better because they can focus on a single relationship.

2. Help kids focus and command their own attention. Technology is designed to distract, Dr. Carter warns, so we need to set up an environment where it doesn’t disrupt learning. For example, put device chargers in a parent’s closet (not in a child’s bedroom or even a common room), turn devices off during family meals, and encourage kids to read books.

One suggestion is to give children freedom within limits, so they have the security they need and the choice to make mistakes safely, knowing that parents will stop them before things get dangerous.

3. Help kids rest and get enough sleep. This is one of the easiest practices, and for the parents of teenagers, may be the hardest to follow through on. I remember wanting to stay up later and wake up later, and it’s a struggle.

One of the most important reminders is that as parents and teachers we should acknowledge that things are hard, and help children label what they are feeling. Validate their emotions, and listen without trying to fix their problem.

“It’s very hard to witness pain in our children, and it’s also the most helpful thing we can do for them when are struggling, is to bear witness to their pain,” Dr. Carter admits.

Asked about what has changed since she wrote “Raising Happiness.” Dr. Carter shared, “Happiness isn’t the most important thing –having meaning is much more important, having a connection to something larger than yourself.”

How have your parenting practices changed in response to the pandemic? What challenges do children face? How can we help children recover from difficulty?

Less health insurance, not more

Posted December 15, 2020 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Health

Tags: ,

Many people have lost their health insurance, because it was employer-sponsored, and many people have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

Even before the pandemic, my family has been reducing our coverage and benefits – and accept higher copays and deductibles – in order to keep our health insurance premiums affordable.

The debate about who pays for health care has become critical – whether it is health insurance companies, government, individuals, or a mix of all three.

Our current health care system means that individuals don’t need to take a lot of responsibility for their own health. Healthcare providers and insurance companies approve authorized procedures on set schedules. In most cases, individuals don’t know how much an office visit or procedure really costs.

Just as the true amount of taxes we pay are “hidden” in automatic deductions from our paychecks, the true cost of healthcare is “hidden” by employers, government, and health insurance companies.

Insurance is protection against risk. The relatively small co-pay or co-insurance for routine visits, often between $12 and $20, but increasing to $30, $40, or even $50 recently, means that the true value of health services is a mystery – until we lose our health insurance.

Maybe if we see the true cost of healthcare, we would take better care of our health. Maybe we need less health insurance, not more health insurance.

This could mean that health insurance would cover a) preventative care from prenatal to age 18, including infant and youth check-ups and vaccinations, vision screening, and dental exams; and b) catastrophic care for emergency care and life-threatening illnesses and diseases. Everything in between would be paid for out-of-pocket.

Another thought is that we reduce our reliance on health insurance. Some healthcare providers are already offering their own monthly or annual plan for people who don’t have health insurance, offering discounts on procedures. For example, a healthcare clinic could offer a one-stop annual physical for check-ups, vaccinations, vision screening, and dental exams in one visit, for one flat rate, paid monthly. If additional care or lab tests are needed, they would refer patients for additional services.

Doctors and hospitals could publish their rates for basic services and procedures. Individuals would know the costs up-front, with no surprise bills, and would be able to choose a provider that they are comfortable with and can afford. Providers would get paid up-front, without filling out complicated claims and waiting months for reimbursements.

Are you satisfied with your health insurance plan? How could the healthcare system be improved? What are your thoughts about a universal health care system?

Artwork courtesy of BSGStudio on All-Free-Download.com.