“The 2017 JDAI National Intersite conference was so inspirational!” “It was awesome to be in the company of so many reform champions,” “The conversations about advancing equity were just what our delegation needed to hear,” “I can’t wait to take these lessons back home to my colleagues.”
These statements reflect all the passion and energy that the National Intersite Conference invokes in us all. Then the conference is over, and it’s time to get to work.
Once back home, work begins, as do the challenges of implementing the lessons learned. Other reflections emerge, like “I wish they could have been at the conference. Then they’d understand why we have to do more,” “There’s no more ‘low-hanging fruit.’ But there’s still disparity at multiple contact points,” “We have a responsibility to protect public safety. How are we holding these children ‘accountable’?”
These impressions represent the realities of doing good reform work, once we’ve left the “container.” In the safe, supportive learning environment that is the container, reform results show us what we are capable of accomplishing when committed to the challenge. Before we see the results, however, we are typically confronted by the obstacles.
What gets in the way of achieving the best results on the projects, ideas and commitments that mean the most to your organization? Has your passion been challenged once too often? Has organizational commitment to the change waned? Has the idea lost its value? Maybe the collaborators aren’t ready for the change you believe is needed.
These potentialities may exist. The fact is, as the leader, you are responsible for mitigating all these possibilities. This may seem unreasonable or unattainable. Well, don’t be so fast to change course or stop altogether. There are tools and techniques that help leaders achieve the results that can make a difference. These tools and techniques are part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results Count, or results based leadership (RBL) framework.
The most meaningful ideas generally come from a place of passion, like detention reduction. Who in their right mind would challenge a nation of juvenile justice systems with an idea to shrink institutions’ admission numbers? This idea came from a place of passion; for children to live a good life. The thing is though, passion is aspiration. Truly helping children live the good life requires transferring the aspiration to operation. And, that’s how we get to the results that have meaning.
Let’s dig into the transfer of aspiration to operation, using the RBL framework — the 5-2-2: five core competencies, two foundational frameworks and two foundational skills. For now, we’ll consider one of the core skills (facilitation) in the context of a practice issue. Results-based facilitation (RBF) helps leaders design, lead and contribute in meetings that effectively move groups from talk to action and hold participants accountable for advancing the work.
Here’s a challenge: The stakeholder group has completed a strategic plan for further system enhancement initiatives. There are three stakeholders who want to address sentencing to juvenile probation as the first priority. There are three stakeholders who want to address commitments to adult corrections as the first priority. And you represent the 10th stakeholder, the committee chair. How will this virtual deadlock be resolved?
Here’s the result: The facilitator, applying the RBF skill of “holding a neutral position,” uses a prepared data walk exercise to inform the stakeholder group with a visual representation of the population at each decision point, highlighting the most over-represented population. The stakeholder group, presented with evidence, will make an informed decision, moving them to action.
Here’s how we got here: The facilitator planned for the meeting result (a decided target), brought the data to inform the decision and affirmed commitment from all stakeholders of the determined starting point. Each step is a practice in one of the foundational skills of RBL and in leading for results.
There is not always a direct, clear path to the results we set as our target. Still, the tools and techniques of RBL help us mitigate the obstacles and lead with confidence.
For more on results-based facilitation, the 5-2-2 framework of results-based leadership and the JDAI Applied Leadership Network, visit us on JDAIConnect@jdaiconnect.org
Miquel A. Lewis is a deputy chief probation officer at the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department. He is also the president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s JDAI Applied Leadership Network. Connect with him at JDAIConnect@jdaiconnect.org.