Leadership Training from Sister Act

Leadership Training From Sister Act

Sister Mary Clarence Teaches Important Leadership Principles

In this video clip, Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopie Goldberg) is hiding out from the mafia in a convent and is “disguised” as a Catholic nun. After breaking some rules, Mary Clarence has been relegated to the choir.

Watch this video clip and observe what Sister Mary Clarence is doing.

Here are the key elements.

1. Mary Clarence was first recognized by her peers. She already had some credibility. It helped that the rest of the choir had grown frustrated with the status quo. They knew that things could be better and felt that Mary Clarence could be helpful.

How Many?

How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

One….but the light bulb has got to want to change.

Have you ever tried to resolve a problem, purchase when the other person didn’t think that a problem existed? Pretty tough wasn’t it?

Until there’s a readiness for change and improvement, people aren’t ready to be led through the valley of death. The valley of death in the change curve moves from the old to the new. The valley of death progresses through areas such as denial, anger, resistance, acceptance, before moving to “search for solutions”.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross lists the five stages of grief.

She lists the stages as including:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

I would suggest that during times of change, many employees go through these same phases. Probably the biggest disconnect occurs when leaders who are in “Search for Solutions” communicate with employees who are in denial. The leader starts giving a “Rah Rah” speech about an inspiring vision. The employee’s reaction is often, “What planet are you from?” Employees who are in denial need to know the reasons for the change.

If I were to give one piece of advice it would be….Always communicate based upon where the follower is at, not where you are at. If you give people what they need, they will continue to move through the valley of death. As one person said, “When you are moving through Hell, keep moving!”

2. The second thing that Mary Clarence did was deal with resistance from the establishment. This video is a shortened version, but at one point the senior choir director said, “I knew that”. Mary Clarence responded, “As soon as I walked in here, I knew that you knew that”. Then, she began to win over the resistance.

3. Mary Clarence then organized the choir by having the basses, the altos and the sopranos standing next to each other.

4. Mary then discovered what she was dealing with, which was quite shocking.

5. Important feedback was given. For some, the voice needed to be toned down. For others, voices needed encouragement.

It’s important for leaders to understand how to effectively give feedback. For some, you will be able to be honest without pulling any punches. With others, you will need a kinder gentler approach. Consider the self -esteem and sensitivity of the follower.

Keep it Between the Ditches

My philosophy is to say what needs to be said, while preserving a good working relationship.
Keep it between the ditches. The ditch is a metaphor for a dangerous place to drive. One dangerous ditch is not to say what needs to be said. The other ditch is to damage the working relationship.

6. Sometimes people need a wake- up call. “Alma, check your battery”. Clear, concise, and easily understood.

7. Sometimes people need a translation in order to teach them important skills.

“Visualize yourself in a room, full of people, lots of silverware, people dropping things, talking loud, drunks, women with trays saying, ‘What are you gonna have’….You’re voice has to carry over the din. You have to get up over all of that to be heard in the back of the room where I’m sitting, listening, straining to hear you. Keep that in mind as we do this.”

I remember a story that Kenneth Blanchard tells of his experience teaching a tall awkward basketball player how to avoid being faked out. He advised the player to watch the belly button, to guard the belly button, because the belly button doesn’t move. The player may fake with the hands or feet, but if you are watching and guarding the belly button, you will always be guarding the player.

Good leaders need to translate skills into behavior that is easily understood by the follower.

8. Leaders instill purpose in the follower. “You have to put attitude into what you sing, you have to think about what you’re singing. It’s not just quacking. This is rejoicing. You are singing to the Lord.

I’m Building a Cathedral

It reminds me of the story of 2 bricklayers. One of them is working slowly and somebody asks him what he’s doing. He replies, “I’m laying brick, what does it look like.” The second bricklayer is working 90 miles per hour. Someone asks him what he’s doing….he replies, “I’m building a cathedral.

Look for ways to encourage followers toward a purpose that is a noble one.

9. Continue to improve performance. “Listen to each other; you must listen to each other if you are going to be a group”.

The Chinese word for learning is a symbol that means to take in and practice constantly. There is no arrival. When we arrive at the end of our journey, we see the place for the first time, and realize that we’ve just begun.

As you consider this lesson on leadership, reflect on the following questions.
A. What is your group’s readiness for change or improvement?
B. Have you developed the skill of influencing without authority?
C. Can you say what needs to be said while preserving a good working relationship?
D. Have you built sufficient trust within your team?
E. Can you give clear concise feedback when needed?
F. Can you translate skills into language that is easily understood?
G. Are you driven by a purpose that is a noble one? What is that purpose?
H. Are you always looking for improvement opportunities?