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Expert Developmental Perspective

January 26, 2015

Expert Developmental perspective

This blog seven part blog series talks about Leadership 2050 and the leadership mindset necessary for success in the future. We walk through what the future of leadership will look like then walk you through the story of Jill as she moves through the developmental perspectives. Growth through the perspectives is a linear process in that we progress through each step without skipping stages.

In the post last week we met Jill as a Diplomat Developmental Perspective. This week we will see Jill move to the Expert Perspective. This is the second of the five perspectives that we see most often in professional settings. Our intent is to illustrate how a leader progresses through the developmental perspectives and how they “fit” in jobs aligned with their developmental perspective.

Jill started moving into the Expert stage as she finished high school and entered college at a state school in a neighboring city. She moved into a dorm with some friends from high school, although her roommate was someone she never met. Late night conversations with this roommate, an international student with a very different background from Jill’s, pushed her to consider new ideas. While her old friends still held considerable influence, Jill became more aware of her individuality apart from them.

Jill learned intellectually and emotionally through her college experiences. She began seeing the many options before her as she looked at different majors. Her conversations with her roommate become more meaningful as she explored her new identity. She thought more about her role in the world and what traits would help differentiate her from others.

As Jill evaluated her skills, she cemented her belief that she was detail oriented and excellent at math. She fell in love with accounting with its many defined rules and procedures. She quickly became a standout in the department as she studied excessively and roses to the top of the class.

Jill started tutoring in accounting to make a little extra money. She became well known for her expertise in the field as well as her obsessive questioning of those working with her. She was often found asking why someone took a particular action and defending her own answer. Her professors quickly learned that any deduction on one of her papers would result in an email interrogation and explanation about how Jill’s response was correct, if not superior to the professor’s.  

As she finished up her college experience, Jill’s competence attracted the attention of recruiters and she was offered several positions. Jill created a pros and cons matrix to evaluate the opportunities, but eventually turned to her parents for help in making her decision. She took their advice and accepted the job at the Big 4 accounting office in the state capital just a couple hours away from home. 

Jill settled into her first professional job but did not make friends as easily as she did before. Her first manager seemed to be irritated by Jill’s incessant questioning and her initial annual review was not very good. Indeed, her first review was terrifying to Jill as she was told by those she respected that while her work was fine, she was too intimidating and alienating to those around her to be particularly effective. Her pleasant nature had been overtaken by her perfectionism and it was negatively impacting her life.

In response to the feedback, Jill started to pull back a bit in meetings and watch how other people interacted. She continued to receive good marks on her work and her reduced questioning appeared to be well-received. As she evaluated what this meant, she started to transition to the next stage.

According to an HBR article, Seven Transformations of Leadership by Torbert and Rooke, 38% of leaders test at the Diplomat level. Characteristics of the diplomat include:

  • Demonstrates basic abstract thinking.
  • Concerned with expressing a sense of individuality in sharp contrast to others
  • Concerned with measuring up to the “right” standards.
  • Can often appear to be a perfectionist.
  • Makes constant comparisons with others to gauge identity.
  • Can often be critical and blame-oriented.
  • Adept at developing multiple new solutions to problems but not able to determine the best fit solution.
  • Can begin envisioning short-term time horizons: three months to one year.

Next week we will follow Jill as she moves from Expert Developmental Perspective to Achiever.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com Rapheal Marquez

Diplomat Developmental Perspective

January 19, 2015

Diplomat Developmental Perspective

This blog seven part blog series talks about Leadership 2050 and the leadership mindset necessary for success in the future. We walk through what the future of leadership will look like then walk you through the story of Jill as she moves through the developmental perspectives. Growth through the perspectives is a linear process in that we progress through each step without skipping stages.

In the post last week we reviewed developmental basics. This week we will review the first of five developmental levels seen most office in organizational settings. In this series we will give an example of a person, Jill, who is a composite of multiple people we have worked with as they developed through developmental perspectives. Our intent is to illustrate how a leader progresses through the developmental perspectives and how they “fit” in jobs aligned with their developmental perspective.

This week we will focus on the level called the Diplomat.

Jill is the first child of a young couple. Her mother finished law school when Jill was still a baby and became an attorney at a local law firm. At the time, her father was a chef at a mid-priced restaurant in town. Between the two of them, they made a nice living for Jill and her younger sister, Beth.

A normal child growing up in the Midwest, Jill grew up in quite the typical fashion. Her parents encouraged education and values-oriented life experiences, so she took piano lessons and played sports. She discovered her talent for athletics, particularly soccer, but was also a good pupil who was well-liked by her teachers and fellow students.

Around age 14, as she entered high school, Jill began to develop around the Diplomat perspective. She began focusing on issues such as the different groups at school (nerds, athletes, musicians, etc.), what clothes other kids were wearing, and what accessories were important.

Jill also began identifying more closely with her peers, specifically the athletes. As such, she pushed her parents to buy her the clothing, accessories and status symbols to match her circle of friends.
She began joining her friends in the teasing of those who were of lower ranked status according to the consensus of other students, specifically the nerds. Jill focused on enforcing that those around her and her group know their status and importance. She kept her own behavior and language within the bounds created by her circle of friends.

Personal appearance became very important to Jill as she came to believe that a significant part of her value was in her appearance. Having the right clothes, hair style, make up and accessories were critical to her and occasionally this created conflict with her parents who apparently failed to recognize their importance.

Jill loved to give advice to those around her about how to fit into their world. Her sister enjoyed Jill’s help as she tried to navigate junior high school.

Anytime Jill broke a rule, she felt disappointed in herself as though she was letting down her friends. She was often concerned with what other people thought about her and those thoughts generally dictated her own self-image.

As we’ll see in Jill’s development, the Expert perspective is concerned with doing a good job as defined by a specific organization’s standards. Experts appreciate hierarchy, command and control because these structures allow them to easily understand who is setting the standards they need to follow to be successful.

According to an HBR article by Torbert and Rooke, about 12% of business leaders test at the Diplomat level. Characteristics include:
• Demonstrates predominately concrete thinking style.
• Hyper-concerned with social acceptance.
• Emphasis on conforming to the rules and norms of the desired group.
• Imagines that others think and feel the same as they do.

Diplomat is the first level often seen in organizations. Next week we will follow Jill as she transitions from Diplomat to Expert Developmental Perspective.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com mikecoch

How Does Developmental Perspective Connect with Level 5 Leadership?

January 12, 2015

Innovative Leadership Developmental PerspectivesIn the previous blog post Leadership 2050 – What Does the Future of Leadership Look Like? we referred to Strategist also known as Level 5 Leadership as referenced by Jim Collins in his best selling book Good to Great. In this post, we will present the foundation of developmental perspective (one of the five key elements of the innovative leadership framework). We will start with the basics then during the next five weeks we will explore the five most common developmental perspectives. Since people grow through perspectives or levels, we will walk you through the levels ending with strategist.

 The Importance of Developmental Level/Perspective

We believe that a solid understanding of developmental levels and perspectives is an important foundation for leadership development. Developmental perspectives significantly influence how you see your role and function in the workplace, how you interact with other people and how you solve problems. The term developmental perspective can be described as “meaning making” or how you make meaning or sense of experiences. This is important because the algorithm you use to make sense of the world influences your thoughts and actions. Incorporating these perspectives as part of your inner exploration is critical to shaping innovative leadership. We will look at the five most common of those meaning-making approaches in greater detail in this blog series.

Leadership research strongly suggests that although inherent leader type determines your tendency to lead, good leaders develop over time. Therefore, it is often the case that leaders are perhaps both born and made. How leaders are made is best described using an approach that considers developmental perspective.

The Leadership Maturity Model and Developmental Levels/Perspectives 

Innovative Leadership Hierarchy of NeedsThe developmental perspective approach is based on research and observation that, over time, people tend to grow and progress through a number of very distinct stages of awareness and ability.   One of the most well-known and tested developmental models is Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” A visual aid Maslow created to help explain his Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid showing levels of human needs, both psychological and physical. As you ascend the steps of the pyramid you can eventually reach a level of self-actualization.

Developmental growth occurs much like other capabilities grow in your life. We call this “transcend and include” in that you transcend the prior level/perspective and still maintain the ability to function at that perspective. Let us use the example of learning how to run to illustrate the process of development. You must first learn to stand and walk before you can run. And yet, as you eventually master running, you still effortlessly retain the earlier, foundational skill that allowed you to stand and walk. In other words, you can develop your capacity to build beyond the basic skills you have now by moving through more progressive stages.

People develop through stages at vastly differing rates, often influenced by significant events or “disorienting dilemmas.” Those events or dilemmas provide opportunities to begin experiencing your world from a completely different point-of-view. The nature of those influential events can vary greatly, ranging from positive social occasions like marriage, a new job or the birth of a child to negative experiences, such as job loss, an accident or death of a loved one. These situations may often trigger more lasting changes in your way of thinking and feeling altogether. New developmental perspectives can develop very gradually over time or, in some cases, emerge quite abruptly.

Some developmentally advanced people may be relatively young and yet others may experiencing very little developmental nuance over the course of their life. Adding to the complexity of developmental growth is the fact that the unfolding of developmental perspectives is not predictably evident along the lines of age, gender, nationality or affluence. We can only experientially sense indicators that help us identify developmental perspective when we listen and exchange ideas with others, employ introspection, and display openness to learning. In fact, most people very naturally intuit and discern what motivates others as well as what causes some of their greatest challenges.

To further examine developmental perspectives we will talk about the assessment tool we use, the Maturity Assessment Profile (MAP) and its conceptual support, the Leadership Maturity Framework (LMF). This developmental toolset was created by Susann Cook-Greuter as part of her doctoral dissertation at Harvard. We will use the MAP and the Leadership Maturity Framework as the foundation for our developmental discussion. The MAP evaluates three primary dimensions to determine developmental perspective: cognitive complexity, emotional competence and behavior.

3 Dimensions of Developmental Level/Perspective

  • Cognitive complexity describes your capacity to take multiple perspectives and think through increasingly more complex problems. This is akin to solving an algebra problem with multiple variables. For example, a complex thinker is able to balance competing interests like employees’ desire for higher pay, with customers’ desire to pay low prices and receive good service.
  • Emotional competence describes your self-awareness, self-management, awareness of others and your ability to build and maintain effective relationships, along with your capacity for empathetic response.
  • Behavior describes how you act; this dimension generally describes the actions you take.

A sense of time, or time horizon, is another essential feature in the development of perspective. For example, if a leader is limited by their developmental perspective to thinking about the completion of tasks within a timeline of three months or less, then optimally this leader should only be leading a part of the organization that requires short-term tasks. On the other hand, if a leader has the capacity to think and implement tasks with three-year time horizons, then that leader can and likely should be taking on a role that includes longer term tasks. This could be a leader responsible for overseeing the implementation of an enterprise-wide computer system, where the migration may take substantially more time and the process is more complex. 

Elaborating on this example, there will be components of the team primarily responsible for the more tactical, hands-on part of the installation and who demonstrate shorter time horizon thinking. Obviously, they are held accountable for certain tasks within the plan but will not be responsible for designing the more strategic portions, nor be charged with the daily decisions that impact the overall budget. 

Further still, imagine that one year into the project a key member of the team takes another job and the Project Manager (PM) becomes responsible for finding a suitable replacement. The PM must consider all options when selecting a replacement. The most effective staffing solution for the project will need to account for potential changes over the next 2 years, and how they will impact overall project cost, quality of the final outcome, and team cohesiveness. Time horizons, along with developmental complexity, are directly applicable to innovative organizational decisions.

Next week we will begin exploring the five developmental levels we see most often in organizations.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Leadership 2050 – What does the Future of Leadership Look Like?

January 6, 2015

Wizard of OzThis blog post was created by Susan Cannon, Maureen Metcalf and Mike Morrow-Fox to explore the question of what does leadership look like in 2050. You can read a more in-depth analysis when a full chapter is published by International Leadership Association Building Bridges series in 2015. Current research on future trends indicates that increasing complexity, accelerating change, and near constant uncertainty is ahead. This level of challenge will most certainly exceed the capability of any nation or leader to manage it. Historically, such times have catalyzed cultural evolution. As each new stage of human culture has emerged, the requirements of leadership have shifted accordingly.   In the next 10-35 years, we expect a new and more complex stage of culture to emerge, “Integral” culture, bringing with it a new paradigm of technology and economy. This will require different leadership skills than in the past, we will refer to those skills as Strategist skills based on the work of developmental psychologist Susanne Cook-Gretuer. Research shows that Strategist Leaders have a lens that facilitates consistent, innovative, problem solving during times of times of stress and constraint.

We are not certain that L. Frank Baum ever published a leadership text. Yet, his Wizard of Oz provides a rich metaphor emphasizing the intensity of change and the urgency of leadership that characterizes the next thirty-five years. With Dorothy on her bicycle, a Kansas storm provides the first antagonist of his drama. The sky darkens, the winds strengthen, and the world becomes an overwhelming, hostile milieu.   As we gaze forward, our barometer of change foretells meteorological twisters and technological tornados that will be forceful, formidable foes. Dorothy turns to The Great and Powerful Oz, leader of the Emerald City, who appeared to have situational control of his empire. However, when routine answers, distancing conventions, and dismissive formalities were challenged, his true limitations as a leader became apparent.

The smoke and mirrors that had so well served The Great and Powerful Oz are no match for complex problems demanding transformational answers. Our survey of the future shows that many of the upcoming challenges are as daunting as the return to Kansas from the Emerald City. Just as Dorothy requested of Oz, our leaders will need substance over presentation, and ability as well as tools. Given the challenges before us, effective leaders in the near future and beyond will not just need to “KNOW” about innovation, sustainability, and inclusion; they will need to “BE” innovators, transformers, and coalition builders. Come the year 2050, none of us will be in a metaphorical Kansas anymore.

Much like Dorothy learning to make her way in the new world of Oz, as each new stage of human culture emerges, the needs for leadership shift accordingly. While already underway in small pockets, in the next 10-35 years, we expect this shift to grow in significance. This shift will require (and catalyze) what developmental researchers call “Strategist” leadership skills. Strategist Leaders have a developmental lens that facilitates consistent, innovative problem solving that endures during times of times of stress and constraint. They are roughly aligned with the Level 5 Leader referenced by Jim Collins in his best-selling business book Good to Great. The authors have established a Competency Model that will help develop the Strategist Leaders that society and organizations will require to effectively navigate this new cultural paradigm.

Strategist leaders are uniquely prepared to navigate the complexities of the coming global interconnected world both behaviorally and developmentally. Strategist leaders have also been linked to attaining the highest level of business results. In a study of CEOs, researchers David Rooke and William Torbert found that Strategists were found to have the greatest ability to create transformational results for their companies. These transformations included profitability, market share, and reputation over a four-year period.

Equally as important as the behaviors and the results, the key to the effectiveness of the Strategist leader is that these behaviors are not born of external prompting or skill mimicking. They are intuitive, innate actions arising from a developmental maturity. Strategist leaders don’t have to examine innovation because they are innovational, they don’t need to ponder transformation because they are transformational, and they don’t need to study collaboration because they have become collaborative. This ‘being’ rather than ‘acting’ facilitates a clarity and consistency that endures during times of stress and constraint.

Author and developmentalist Ken Wilber claims that while only about 2% of the world population has reached the Strategist level, it could potentially reach 10% within another decade. However, this is not a foregone conclusion. Much will depend upon the conditions and environments fostered by influential institutions such as business, government, nonprofits, and education.

We will continue to explore Strategist Leaders in upcoming blog posts.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com Brett Kiger

Faith Supports Resilience

December 22, 2014

faith cc roger smithDuring the holiday season, many of us take time to focus more on family and our faith. For many people, this faith is a key foundation in the formation of our character and values. Many of us have fond memories of family traditions that supported our spiritual journeys. Do you have a practice that supports your faith during the rest of your year, beyond the holidays?

Some people may suggest that faith has no place as a leadership topic and yet, for many leaders, faith is what carries them through the toughest of times and guides their choices. For some, this faith is nourished by going to church, synagogue, or temple, and for others, it may be fed by a walk in the woods or watching a sun rise. What is important is that we as leaders find a way to nourish and strengthen our hearts and spirits and tap into the insights we get during these quiet moments.

Susan is a highly principled leader who has a strong spiritual grounding. Every day she wakes up and does a daily devotional practice. This devotional practice is done quietly as she gets ready for work in the morning. She thinks about the gifts she has been given in her life and how she will use them to do her job and serve her family and community today. At the end of the day, before going to sleep, she reflects on how grateful she is for the positive outcomes during the day. Susan’s life is highly stressful. She has two small children, a high-stress job and a supportive partner. Her life is busy and often challenging. Her spiritual practice helps her stay connected to what she holds most dear and it allows her to put some of life’s challenges into perspective.

How does faith help us as leaders? The following is just a small subset of what leaders report they derive from their spiritual practice:

  1. Set the standard for high ethical performance
  2. Guide me toward right action on an ongoing basis
  3. Enables me to put challenges into perspective
  4. Support me in a bigger perspective when things go wrong
  5. Inspire me to move forward to meet a higher purpose

 

As leaders and busy people, it is easy to put our faith and spiritual practice aside so we can get more accomplished. Life’s deadlines seem to be accelerating. As we approach the New Year and begin looking at our goals (for those who revisit goals around New Year), will you set a faith goal and reinforce it with a spiritual practice?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com Roger Smith

Sustaining Resilience – 6 Steps Invest Your Time Wisely

December 15, 2014

Prioritize goals cc sewpixieOne of the biggest challenges I see with highly accomplished leaders is knowing when to “down shift”. They consistently produce high quality results and do high quality work. This is true on the most important tasks and also on the less important ones. Many of us grew up with the message that if you can’t do something right – do not do it at all. As we advance in our careers, this belief can contribute to our sense of overwork and actually take critical time away from the most important activities in our lives.

I am working with Mike; he was recently promoted and is taking on a team that is 10x larger than his prior team. He will need to relate to his team differently to ensure the larger group gets sufficient attention, and he will need to do less of the tasks he did well in the past. Mike has been trying to work through the challenge of identifying what he is doing that he can stop or delegate and also what he is doing with great attention where he needs to take a “good enough” approach. In our discussion, we talked about the idea that he has always been proud of his work ethic and meeting high standards and now that same work ethic is leaving him exhausted and feeling overwhelmed.

How do you, as a leader, know when it is time to do less? Here are a few steps that will help you become more goal focused and clarify where to spend your time and attention:

  1. Have a clear sense of your professional goals. Know your #1 objective and review it every morning before starting work.
  2. As you review your schedule for the day (the night before or in the morning), clarify what you must get done during the day.
  3. If possible, build time on your calendar to accomplish your primary tasks.
  4. When you get a break in your schedule, focus on your most important tasks first.
  5. Set a couple of times during the day to attend to e-mail, texts, and phone calls, and build discipline about how often you check.
  6. For each activity ̶ rate it high, medium, or low in importance. For highly important tasks, focus your energy on getting those done to the best of your ability. For low priority tasks, it is still important to do them well enough to satisfy the recipient of this work product but invest only the time necessary to complete them effectively, and reallocate the time you would have gone “above and beyond” to the highly important tasks.

For over achievers, we are working to our own high standards that far exceed the person receiving the work product. It is important to remember that we are investing our time at work and our goal is to produce the greatest return (or impact for our employer) on our investment.

How are you investing your time?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

photocredit: www.flickr.com sewpixie

5 Steps to Building Individual Capacity to Navigate Organizational Change

December 8, 2014

Become change innovative leadershipMany organizations are undergoing significant change. These changes range from focusing on growth and merging to divesting and shrinking, and are expected to continue to accelerate during the balance of our careers. We’re likely to see multiple concurrent change on an ongoing basis. For this reason, developing the ability to navigate organizational change is critical to individual and organizational success. This post focuses on the key elements to build individual capacity for change.

Wayne is a middle-level manager in a technology company. This company, like most technology companies is positioned for growth. Wayne is highly aware of technology growth trends and how they impact his specific industry. His organization has been on a growth trajectory for several years that is now leveling off. Wayne is aware of their positioning relative to the competition and aware that for his company to remain successful they must accelerate their growth. With this in mind, he has aligned himself with the highest growth segment in the company. He is building skills to ensure he is able to contribute significantly to the growth this segment will produce. Wayne has also taken it upon himself to mentor people within the organization to help them understand the changes and position their work to add maximum value to the company. The good news for Wayne is that he continues to build skills, keeps a positive attitude, adds value to the company, and builds his network. Irrespective of his company’s success, Wayne will thrive professionally because he manages his contribution and also is positioning himself for long-term success within his industry.

The three things successful employees have in common across all organizations are their ability to anticipate change, manage their own reaction, and help others— and the organization—succeed. During times or organizational change, there are five common practices of successful employees practice. They are:

  1. Take responsibility for their own careers and success, and adopt the mindset that they are the drivers of their own career success.
  2. Pay attention to industry and organizational trends and anticipate when and where change will occur. They keep current on trends.
  3. Proactively prepare to manage the change in their lives and careers.
  4. Focus on adding value to the organization with all of their interactions aware that organizations generally reward those focused on contributing to the organization’s success.
  5. Help others succeed. Success is contagious and, as a key part of your strategy, you can help others.

As employees, we may think that a company will take care of us. This thinking can be dangerous. While good companies are dedicated to taking care of their employees, they are also taking care of their owners (for public companies this is stockholders), customers, suppliers/partners, and employees. Even the best companies take actions occasionally that are not be in the best interests of individuals or employee groups because they are making a decision for the benefit of the larger organization. For this reason, it is imperative that employees manage their own careers.

The most successful executives also demonstrate these qualities. It is often these, among other qualities, that have allowed them to rise in the ranks and retain leadership roles.

What are you doing to anticipate the change your organization might be facing in the next year? Do you read industry publications, belong to industry-based associations, read futurist materials in your field? How are you using what you are learning to navigate the organization and ensure you are adding value to support the organization’s success and, thereby, your own personal success?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com andyadontstop

Tool to Build Resilience – Find Your Feet

December 1, 2014

Feet cc Jonathan Cohen

Today’s post is written by Virginia Macali, a member of our consulting team and also the Founder of High Point Transitions.

VUCA. Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous. This is an acronym created by the US Army War College to describe the state of our world today. Leaders in business, government, and non-profit organizations are very familiar with VUCA. This level of constant disruption pervades the workplace with a powerful undercurrent. As leaders, we’re thrown off center many times a day from large challenges such as changing economic conditions to policy and priority changes. We are thrown off center by smaller challenges like too many emails to respond to, interruptions, or running late for a meeting.

Leaders are hungry for ways to deal with VUCA. They have found that pushing harder does little to stem the tide of the disturbance. At a recent program on Resilience for Leaders for the Leadership Challenge for Ohio Job and Family Services, we taught leaders how to use the body to calm the mind. One of the practices is called Find Your Feet. Here are the instructions:

Find your feet touching the floor. Press your feet into the floor. Focus on any sensations in your feet. Feel the soles of your feet. Feel your toes. Feel the whole foot.

This simple practice can be done in a minute or less. It may bring a sense of grounding, quiet the mind, and interrupt habitual patterns. People who use this practice report feeling more resourceful, more clear-thinking, and take effective action with greater ease. This is a practice that can be done anywhere, requires no special equipment, and is always available.

The day after the program, David Sapper, the director of The Leadership Challenge, gave an example of how this practice worked. As he described how mentors would be matched with participants, tension increased in the room. David invited everyone to stand and Find Your Feet. Within minutes, tension was reduced, participants felt calmer, and the matching process was smooth and successful.

The next time you feel tension rising, take a minute to Find Your Feet.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com Jonathan Cohen

Giving Thanks – Good for Your Health

November 24, 2014

Monster thank you I’ll guess that most of you have heard of the old song “Accentuate the Positive.” First published and performed in 1944, the message is as relevant today as it was then. Staying positive is linked with gratitude, and so as we approach Thanksgiving, I want to talk about the notion that being grateful is actually good for your health. Being grateful has been linked to reduced stress, improved physical health and better psychological health.

According to University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons in an article on Webmd.com: “’Grateful people—those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind—have an edge on the not-so-grateful when it comes to health…’ It’s no secret that stress can make us sick, particularly when we can’t cope with it. It’s linked to several leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer, and claims responsibility for up to 90 percent of all doctor visits. Gratitude, it turns out, can help us better manage stress. ‘Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,’ Emmons says.”

If you think of your stress on a scale from one to ten, what is your average daily stress level? Is your stress affecting your health? Would you like to change that by developing a gratitude practice?

So, let’s do an experiment. Choose a time when you have two to three minutes to close your eyes, sit quietly, and let your mind roam to a time in your life when you were completely happy. Let yourself feel this happiness and absence of negative feelings. Enjoy this feeling for a few minutes then think about what you are most grateful for in your life now.

Now select a regular interval to revisit this feeling of joy and gratitude. It could be a “conscious coffee/tea break” in which—rather than refilling an actual mug—you take a couple of minutes to refill and revisit this feeling of joy. Or, create another one. The objective is to build a routine to rid your body of negative chemicals that build up from stress and to release positive ones. The more often you get rid of the negative, the better. Our goal is to create a habit of gratitude.

Since it takes approximately twenty-one days to build a habit, are you willing to continue this practice for the next twenty-one days? If you are in the U.S. and reading this post around our Thanksgiving holiday, twenty-one days will take you through much of December— one of the most stressful months of the year for many of us.

At a minimum, try the gratitude practice when you wake in the morning and when you go to bed at night. This way, you will start and end your day on a positive note. Listen to the song—it’s simple and you might even use it as a prompt to remind of the good things in your life. Whistle it when you’re feeling stressed to put everything in perspective.

Most of us have many reasons for gratitude even during our most challenging days. By building this routine you will strengthen your ability to navigate the challenging days.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com AForestFrolic

Resilience – Creating an “I’ll do that” Culture

November 17, 2014

CJTF-HOAThis post is written by a guest blogger Brent Barkett Account Manager, Mountain Region at Cardinal Health, Capital MBA student, and former US Marine.

November 10 being the Marine Corps Birthday and November 11 being Veteran’s Day I decided it was the perfect time to expound on resilience and how it is key to emerging successful in our changing market place across all industries.

Why should leaders hire, promote, teach, and help identify resilience as a key characteristic of success and aptitude?

Change is constant for better or worse. Organizations change, cultures change, finance changes, customers change, how we market changes, our True North changes etc…Resilience is one of the basic skills that allows us to meet these changes and turns them to success.

I was speaking with a group of Veterans the other day on what makes them successful and what makes veterans successful in general. During the discussion a common theme emerged and we all had a good laugh when someone called it out to our attention. “The problem is we all think we can accomplish any task…and we are probably right”. Just hearing this should be a win for the military. The armed forces produce a spirit and mindset that convinces an individual that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to…seriously. It is the one characteristic that sets aside, in our minds, Veterans from Civilians. So why do recruiters and managers look at this as almost a negative when it is mentioned in the context of hiring value? I asked a lot of questions regarding this to some managers and HR folks and when you really get down to it, it’s too broad and not tangible on paper. It almost sounds silly.

To the lay person hearing someone, who may not appear to have a certain background on paper say “I can do this” in reference to a job or task sounds like desperation or lunacy. But to someone who was been trained and forged to act and think this way, to adapt and overcome countless obstacles, contradicting orders, uncertainty, low budgets-no budgets, and lack of support on a daily basis it sounds normal and expected.

When I was serving in Iraq we experienced a period of time without a communications operator to coordinate a 56 man platoon to include the equipment, frequencies, call signs, etc. that are needed as part of routine communications effort. No worries, Private Jones jumped in and within a few days he was running our communications and servicing the equipment. How? We were faced with adversity and a motivated young man jumped at the opportunity to provide his resilience as a skill set (he was not a radio operator). He sought the information from a nearby group of radio operators. He had them run him through a crash course in radio operation and implementation. Now the good of the platoon could persevere. He bet on himself and knew that all the pieces were out there somewhere. He just had to put it all together. Why not him? After all, he was taught that there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish. It was not his aptitude to learn radio operation that made him successful, it was his resilience. His mind set was not “I could learn the radio” it was “I can learn the operation, I will do my best, and I will do it in a short period of time”.

Situational AnalysisBack to the original question, why should managers focus on hiring and seeking those with reserves of resilience? Let’s break down the indicators and alignment of Resilient Organizations and see if we can’t answer this question. Let’s start with this diagramthat helps us create alignment between individuals, culture and systems. Implicit in this diagram is that expectation that systems are aligned with one another and that those systems are aligned with the overall mission.

At the foundation we identify the basic accomplishments that need to happen to overcome change and be successful. We need to pass or leverage knowledge throughout the organization. If marketing catches a big trend shift the whole corporation needs to follow the trend to better serve the customer and introduce products and values accordingly. We all need to think horizontally not vertically. Breaking down silos…this is business cliché 101. Organizations need to unite and align with their purpose to overcome external changes to mirror internal positive change. We need to be aware of the situation, have creativity, be proactive, make a decision based on little knowledge, partner with subject matter experts and use internal resources. We need to inject resilience into the overall system. There are a few elements of resilient systems that stand out. The culture and the leaders must value resilience. Then, the systems need to be structured in a way that people are encouraged rather than penalized when acting with resilience. That can mean employees are encouraged to find balance and healthy lives and it can also mean the systems they use to do their jobs can be changed to meet the organizational changes.

Even without formal business training Private Jones walked through this diagram focusing on what needs to be done. He sought training on his own from internal subject matter experts, he was pro-active, thinking horizontally, he got creative, formed partnerships, and most importantly he brought the motivation to accomplish this. What else was missing? Managerial road blocks? As his Sergeant I didn’t stop him from running with this. I stepped aside and put my trust in his fidelity and resilience.

Why should managers hire and develop resiliency? Instead of having a “That’s not my job” mentality or culture in the work force, imagine how you can out rebound your competition, gain leverage in accounts, and decrease your down time response in service by having an “I’ll do it” culture? As a manager and leadership team are you equipped with the skills and tools to teach, train, and develop resiliency? Have you measured your own resilience and do you consider yourself a resilient person. Resilience is not something you are born with. You must be trained in the thought and cultured to mentally adapt and overcome. If you are not one to push your comfort zones or try your boundaries then perhaps you could enjoy some resiliency training.

As a leader and manager if you are looking at your work force and scratching your head as to why changing is so difficult, why no one wants to step in and take on a roll, if there is a lack of resilience in your organization it may start at the top. Leaders should have the pulse of the culture. Does it feel like your business is lashed tight and can turn on a dime? Do you feel that if the market were to shift right now that you could overcome adversity with your cultural toughness?

In a previous post I spoke to Strategic Disengagement and Transformation Leadership. These all have to do with change. However, as a leader and as a company it will do no good to simply find the new course and direct that the culture must change to it…we need agents of change internally. These internal agents or shining stars are most likely the most resilient men and women you have when you size up their values.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com US Marine Corps