All Posts by Carl Sanders-Edwards

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Apr 09

It’s a Meeting Not a Date

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

How changing the way you show up to virtual meetings can leave you feeling fresher

Many of us have been working remotely for years. Conducting the bulk of our interactions via virtual meetings, either on Skype, Google Meet or Zoom. It’s an incredible way to connect. On a number of occasions I have met people in-person for the first time and couldn’t believe that we hadn’t actually physically met, so deep was our relationship. This is now a reality for much of the world!

However, as good as virtual meetings are, they can sometimes be taxing. At times I’ve found myself regularly spending five, six or even eight hours in virtual meetings in a day. I’d stagger away from the computer completely zapped!

Over time I have adapted. I’ve made micro tweaks and changes that make a big difference energy wise. Last week was very heavy on virtual meetings but I finished pretty fresh. I reflected on why. One thing I noticed was that I now spend a lot of time ‘looking away’ during a meeting – staring outside or at the ceiling – especially as I talked. I still glanced at the other people, but no longer held their gaze. Why is this?

I then read an article based on this. Boom! It turns out in physical meetings we only spend a fraction of our time actually looking at other people. We take notes, we look at the wall, we create space. Non-verbal queues are extremely important but they are also cognitively demanding for our brains. We get so much data from faces and try to ‘read’ the other person’s mind and emotions (it’s called Theory of Mind). In a virtual meeting we are trapped – staring at the person(s) and getting a flood of data. No wonder we feel exhausted!

So here’s my hack. Try to manage your direct face to face time during virtual meetings. This doesn’t mean turning off the camera or doing another task. Stay attentive – but take notes, ponder while looking away, mange your space (digitally). Actually just do the stuff you would in a physical interaction.  

Or just remember this, it’s a meeting not a date!

Take Care,

Feb 27

R.I.P Competency Frameworks

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

Competency frameworks have dominated Leadership Development for the last 30 years.

They do a great job at summarising the capabilities that make great leadership. They provide a backbone to development…

1) Get assessed against a set of competencies (360 degree eval or similar)
2) Pick strengths to build, weaknesses to fix or a combination depending on the doctrine you follow,
3) Do the work.

It’s good, but is it enough?  Nick Petrie first raised this question in his paper, Future trends in Leadership Development. Here, he proposed that competencies are a form of ‘horizontal’ development. Horizontal development is fine, but in a modern highly complex working environment we need more vertical development. That is building capacities as well as capabilities. Competencies look back at what used to work and may not be a good predictor for what is coming next. Capacities build your ability to deal with increasingly complex and unpredictable environments.

Enter experiences. At the heart of vertical development or capacity building, are experiences. We grow and develop when we need to, when faced by something our current ways of operating can’t deal with, not when we simply choose to develop. Therefore facing novel and challenging experiences deliberately is a powerful way to develop. Given this lens why not make experiences the central part of a leadership development framework? Experience development frameworks. Could we identify core experiences that we expect people to have at different stages in their career? We could then ensure people have the opportunity to have these experiences in a deliberate thoughtful way, getting feedback and reflecting on the results they got. Wow, we could even make certain experiences a prerequisite for certain jobs. We could create a standard for certain jobs regardless of company. Your experience inventory follows you around!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this


Jan 22

Write It Down

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

This is a true story from 18 months ago.

I was looking down. Focusing on my feet. Trying to ignore the mounting hurt in my lungs. Damn this hill is steep. Slowly, after the longest 10 minutes, I pushed over the top, aghhhhh. I was awash with relief from exertion…everything relaxed. Then it hit me. That’s it! A breakthrough idea for work! This will solve everything. Relaxing into the rest of my weekly run I stopped thinking about work, I enjoyed the moment, and I promptly forgot what was without doubt my best idea ever! 

Now I’m sure the idea wasn’t as good as it seemed but who knows? Now, during a run, I assign each idea I have to a finger and write them down as soon as I get home. Once you write it down you don’t forget it (but you can decide it’s actually a terrible idea). This is the focus of my insight this week and something I’m doubling down on for 2020 as a practice.

Write It Down

Fishermen can often exaggerate their catch – so theres a rule – if you don’t measure it, don’t say it. We’re all busy people and can often forget things with everything going on around us, so I think our rule should be – if you don’t write it, it doesn’t happen. The point is that we discuss a lot in meetings, good ideas and plans. But, unless we write key things down we run the risk of forgetting them and then spending 1/2 our time re-discussing next time.  Here are six reasons I think we should all work on writing more stuff down.

1) The Ziegarnik effect. Unfinished work or thoughts stay active in our brain. This is the stuff that keeps us awake at night. Writing down your last thoughts and next steps settles this process and satisfies your brain – welcome to a better sleep.

2) Writing clears your thinking.  Nine times out of ten my brilliant ideas look terrible when I write them down. It forces you to think, clarify and improve.  

3) Work is complex. Theres so much information for us to keep in working memory.  Writing it down free’s our capacity.

4) Working in an agile manner.  Short sprints of focused effort requires more not less discipline to stay on track.  Without writing down decisions and agreements things turn into a mess faster than in a traditional work arrangement.

5) Cultures and world views.  Each person in an organisation brings different frameworks and perceptions.  Our communication benefits from slowing down and carefully articulating where we are coming from – and we learn more.

6) It reduces rework and avoidable complexity.  How often do we spend 3/4 of our time in a meeting agreeing and aligning on what we are talking about?  This can be dramatically reduced if one person writes and shares the context first to get the conversation on the same plane.  You can still disagree and propose something else but everyone is standing in the same place to have that debate from.

I’d love to hear your reasons, practices and improvements on this.

Dec 12

Quantum Leadership

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

Welcome to the Quantum Age

Geek alert. In the next few lines I’ll be talking about Newtonian and Quantum physics. My challenge, is to make it fascinating…

Over 400 years ago, thanks to long bouts of ‘deep work’, a bad-tempered Isaac Newton changed the world.  He defined principles explaining how much of the world behaved. He even invented the mathematics to support it. Magic was real. We could now calculate, predict, and create how the physical world interacts. The benefit (short term anyway) to humanity was vast, machines, industry and invention flourished. Culturally we had a new narrative. The universe could be 100% understood, predicted and controlled. It is like a machine. Welcome the deterministic world.

It was good times until just over 100 years ago when scientists started finding obscure cases where Newtonian physics didn’t work. We found our universe consisted of a whole new realm that didn’t behave as we thought it should.  At the quantum level things had their own set of rules.  Bizarre kinds of not really rules, rules.  My favourite is the ‘uncertainty’ principle.  You can measure the speed or location of a quantum particle but not both.  Measuring something changes it.  In this world everything is a complex system, nothing totally as it seems.  

What has this all got to do with leadership?  Lot’s… you see many people and the organisations they create, operate with a Newtonian deterministic narrative.  One that says we can control and predict exactly. 

It’s time to catch up with over 100 years of physics and upgrade this idea.  Leadership, people, societies and our environment are complex adaptive systems. More a forest, less a machine. Let’s celebrate this, stimulate the systems, sense the patterns and respond to them while recognising we can’t fully predict or even less, fully control them. This gives us all freedom to be more human, more part of something rather than make us central to it.  Maybe even, it’s our final circle of belonging?

Thanks for reading and catch you in the new year


Nov 28

What Drives Engagement?

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

We tend to engage in the anticipation of success more than anything else.

It’s safe to say that I’m engaged in my work.  I put in discretionary effort, I enjoy it and in many ways it doesn’t feel like work. I’m working now on a plane, not watching TV and although I would have rather been with my family, I made a choice to fly last weekend on a red-eye to run a workshop at a conference on a Sunday.

For reasons like these, staff engagement is one of the most revered prizes for organisations. The link between engaged people and business performance is clear. Billions is spent measuring and trying to improve it. It’s also important to us as engagement is one of the key success measures for leadership development. But here’s where this insight gets interesting. The CEO of one of the worlds biggest engagement measurement platforms (Perceptyx) admitted that despite all the effort, engagement wasn’t getting any better. No change. It seems there is a chicken and egg problem;

– Success leads to engagement
– Engagement leads to performance
– Performance leads to success

So ahh – what comes first?  After a little digging (actually a lot) he shared what ‘triggers’ the cycle.  Anticipation of success.We engage in the anticipation of success.  Tricky and also kind of doh.  It’s even trickier as the definition of success is personal.  It may be related to; achievement, affiliation, autonomy, etc.  I’ve summarised the essence of the insight in a diagram below. 

So my question is – how can we use this insight to improve how we develop leaders?  How can we help improve millions of peoples working lives through improved engagement?

I’d love to hear your thoughts


Oct 30

The Power of Artificial Intelligence

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

Find out how we’re using AI.

The wing nut wouldn’t budge. My fingers were raw from trying to turn it and I had no tools.  How to open this thing? I paused and scanned for insights that might help. Got it. My old friend Simon once undid a hex head screw by using the slot of a kitchen spatula. The grill on top of a storm water drain beside me had slots like a spatula! I pushed the wing nut into the slot then twisted, voila it was open!

This story outlines the process and power of a colliding perspective to open a new pathway and expand your capacity to deal with a situation. To work, colliding perspective need to be;

1 – similar to you on some dimensions

2 – dissimilar to you on some dimensions

Similarity helps you engage and not dismiss it as crazy.  Difference turns this engagement into novel neural pathways and new thinking. Simon and I had similar challenges but I needed his fresh perspective see the grill as a tool.

Adeption is the online coaching platform we use at JumpShift. This new generation AI leverages these processes to provide powerful job and developmental support for our users. Here is how it works:

  1. It models the situation you are facing – the model is gleaned from how you answer reflective questions
  2. It matches this situation to a model it creates for each of our content tools and each action-insight from other users
  3. It suggests the tools and insights that ‘fit’ best for your situation – similar context, dissimilar insight
  4. You then improve this further through your own new unique action and insight creating potential new inspiration for the next user(s)

Curious about how our AI tech could fit in with you or your organisation? Reach out here or check out the video below for a better idea of what it looks like in practice.


Aug 21

Why Vertical?

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

Carl Sanders-Edwards shares his thoughts on why vertical development is beginning to thrive in the world of leadership development (four minute read)

The world faces many complex opportunities and challenges.  For example global mobility, technology and population growth are contributing to:

  • Social changes such as the opportunity and challenge of immigration
  • Economic changes including automation and more global (and restricted) trade
  • Environmental changes such as climate change

These are examples of the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world we live in.  The same VUCA challenges play out on a smaller scale daily in most of our work.  Despite (or because of) our technological advancements life and work isn’t simple and predictable.

However I believe that on a case by case basis we have the technologies to solve these big challenges.  For example, ‘Project Drawdown’ outlines 100 initiatives that could reverse climate change while delivering a positive return on investment.  Therefore our technologies aren’t the constraint.  We are.  The challenges are beyond any one person, one organization or one nation to solve.  Our ability to lead and mobilize people to act positively in this complex environment is the constraint.  We need a very large number of capable people (I prefer to say people than say ‘leaders’) who are equipped and evolved to deal with today’s reality.

The good news is that we can develop such leadership.  Adult developmental theory has shown that humans naturally develop through predictable stages.  Later stages have more capacity to deal with complexity and are more able to bring about the leadership we need as a species and a planet.  We call this ‘Vertical Development’. 

There are many benefits to vertical development, not just saving the planet!  Organisations speak to the importance of collaboration, listening and fostering diversity and inclusion in their leaders.  Training courses to develop these capacities are created and delivered costing billions annually.  This type of development is called horizontal development and is important.  However when a person develops vertically they have more capacity and can ‘see’ more of the complexity in the environment they face.  They naturally realise that they alone can’t create solutions and therefore need to listen, collaborate and foster diverse thinking.  They then either go learn on their own accord or respond to formal training more effectively.

It’s easier said than done.  Vertical development takes time, is driven by experiences not content and requires a big mindset shift for most leadership development practitioners.   Also, the field of Vertical development is new and proven approaches and case studies are hard to find.

It is for these reasons that I believe our focus and investment in advancing the space of Vertical development is worth the effort.  Taking actions and reflecting or ‘having experiences’ is central to our leadership development approach and puts us in a unique space to do some very special things.   


Jul 11

Learn to Fish

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will sit on a boat and drink beer all day”

Carl Sanders-Edwards is back this week with his thoughts on ‘Learning to learn’ – using his favourite past time as an analogy of course! (Three minute read)

Hi Everyone,

Err – I’m not sure if I got the quote above 100% correct! However it introduces what I believe is and will be one of our greatest skills for the future.  Constantly adapting, learning and reinventing ourselves. 

We are back in NZ for a month and I’ve been having some success fishing.  This success highlights how much I still have to learn about catching fish in San Francisco!  Much of what I know here in the NZ context doesn’t really translate.  I’m a beginner again.  It’s frustrating and interesting.  You never stop learning to learn. 

This is even more relevant with leadership development as careers and jobs become evermore less defined and predictable.  In my 25 or so years of working I’ve had 9 distinct roles that could easily have each been a career.  Each of them with totally different challenges and opportunities requiring a lot of leadership flex. This isn’t an exception.  We have billions of people living on a very interconnected world with rapidly evolving technology, the next 25 years will likely see more change than the last 100! 

Here is my concern.  In this environment of change, content (the fish) is relatively unimportant as it is soon out of date but the ability to understand and adapt to context (learning to fish) is huge.  Knowing how to catch snapper in NZ doesn’t help much in San Fran.  Why then does so much leadership development focus on ‘teaching content’?  We make it worse with most digital technologies homogenising life lessons and spreading simple ‘formulas’ for success that only worked in one context.  It’s selling a false promise of an easy path to a version of ‘success’ that is unlikely to be relevant to us.

There is hope.  Some of the most progressive (and popular) methodologies today focus more on context than content, on learning to learn.  I find it interesting that all of these are in service of something big and beyond any one individual.  I alone don’t shape my context, we all do.  Humans became great at learning in service of survival (fish is good to eat).  Design thinking is a method in service of human experience.  Agile is a method in service of reaching large shared goals.  Lean is a method in service of a start ups vision or a corporates drive to reduce waste.  Indeed, I believe the core reason these methods sometimes fail is when the ‘content’ within them dominates (here are the ‘rules’) at the expense of the context they ‘service’. 

So where does this leave us?  What are you in service of and how does that inspire you to learn and keep learning?  When developing other leaders, are we helping them clarify what (really) matters to them and equipping them with the skills to learn and keep learning and what it will take to be in service to what matters?  Content can then support this – not the other way around.   These are the fundamentals that our D-I-Y approach with JumpShift and Adeption’s digital coaching workouts are built on. I believe that as humans our ability to live in harmony with each other and this world we share, depends on it.

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this


The Future of Leadership Development Breakfast

Carl will be deep diving into this concept this July in Auckland. Join us to hear Carl discuss what’s next in the global leadership development field. Work has changed, but the way we develop leaders hasn’t. It’s still focused on the ‘old’ world of the top 10-15% of rising talent. Today we all need these skills.

Friday 26th July, 7:00am – 9:30am, AUT Conference Centre

To Register click here

Jun 05

Compassionate Leadership Starts with Self Compassion

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

This weeks insight: Wanda’s Wisdom

New Zealand leadership has been propelled into the spotlight over the past few months in the aftermath of the March 15th Terrorist Attack on the Christchurch Mosques… An act that generated an uprising of love in New Zealand and widespread support for a group of people who in our country were not safe going about their daily lives and whom were victims of hate and white supremacy. 

The strong and unprecedented compassionate and empathetic leadership of our Prime Minister has been celebrated around the world as the type of leadership required in our modern world.

Similarly, Jeff Wiener, CEO of Linkedin speaks of compassionate leadership as its organisations bedrock and key to the ongoing success of Linkedin and its people, he also believes that it is the key to positive change in our world.  He explains to be able to put yourself in the shoes of others, understand them as people, know their hopes and dreams, their strengths and their weaknesses, what they are fearful of and what motivates them allows you to lead them compassionately.  When you lead compassionately you will bring out the best in individuals, in their performance ,and enhance their own and their families lives.  He believes that the heart and soul of an organisation is the connection between its people.
He also shares, in order to be a compassionate leader you must first get the fundamentals of your own hierarchy needs (self-leadership) right including starting with eating well, sleeping well, and working out regularly (mirroring what Carl and Nick shared about our virtuous cycles) and building up from there. 

The insight I want to share builds on this (and is something that made a big impact on me personally) comes from one of our partners from Simmons University, Susan Brady.  In her new book ‘Mastering your Inner Critic‘ she shares, to be compassionate with others we first be compassionate with ourselves.  To be compassionate with ourselves we must become a spectator to our own thoughts, master our own ‘inner critic’, and recognise the fear based response it generates.  This requires us to step outside of ourselves, get curious, be mindful of our well worn external and internal triggers, and self aware of how we are behaving towards ourselves and others.  Our Coach vs Critic tool aligns nicely with this concept.

So, are we speaking to ourselves in a way that is kind and loving to ourselves and coming from ‘enoughness’ or are we mostly acting out of fear and listening to the sometimes loud ‘inner critic’ in our head?  Most importantly what external forces bounces us between the two on a day to day moment to moment basis?

How can we and our participants implement more compassion in our daily lives and moment to moment:
n really simple terms, I understand that it is first and foremost a practice of compassion and most people are not in a place of compassionate centre 100% of the time.  For me it is about firstly embracing the belief that you are enough and others are enough too, the belief that we are no better or no worse than any other human being.  We are doing our best and others are just doing their best too.  

In the moment, it is the skill of recognising when you are triggered out of that compassionate place into a critical or judgemental mindset of self and others and pushing pause before you act or react and which can show up as grandiose or ‘less than’ type behaviours and thoughts which has less than desirable impacts on yourself and others.Once you have pushed pause, you can reconnect with your ‘compassionate centre’ using an affirmation or a ritual and choose your response from a place of compassion for yourselves and others. Personally I have found it works really well when I get it right (work in progress) and profoundly changes the way I feel and act.

Thanks for reading! Wanda@JumpShift.

May 07

Riding a Bike

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

This weeks insight:

A week ago Alexa (our youngest) was learning to ride a bike.  In true Dad fashion I was walking with her nudging and holding her up.  She has good balance but it wasn’t pretty.  So I helped more; I nudged, I held, I made it worse.  After a quick break and a regroup (read into this what you will he he).  We tried again, but this time I just got her started then stood back.  Two crashes later she was away! 

I’d just learnt something very important.  True development is self directed, all we can provide is a little scaffolding.   

Let me go deeper in terms of vertical development.  As adults develop ‘vertically’ we move through some big shifts.  First we start with a dependant (or socialised) mindset.  We take our cue’s, sense of worth and identity from others – we are dependant.  Then we grow to be independent (or self authoring).  Here we have a sense of our own identity and can assess things against an internal compass and values.  Beyond this we then grow to integrate the two and become interdependent – part of something bigger.  The big shift most of us (need to) make is from dependant to independent.  It’s not easy, humans are social animals and care deeply about how others perceive us, it’s a good thing but this need to fit in can hold our growth back.  Add in social media and the impact is magnified 100 fold, effectively anchoring us in a dependant state as we seek affirmation and follow the ‘perfection’ of others.   

Now the crux of all of this for us as Leadership Development professionals is an interesting paradox.  Leaders want clarity and want to know how to be better.  They want the bike to be held and nudged.  This is exactly what many of our competitors do, including some new very well funded technology solutions.  However this doesn’t grow people.  Giving in to these requests just anchors the people we are serving in a dependant state, robbing them of the chance to truely grow. 

Tricky huh?  However, I think we get the balance right.  With the right support of reflective questions, self awareness, gentle inspiration and safe places to have some crashes most people get started and love the process of true self directed development.  Go Alexa! 

Thanks for reading!

Carl @ JumpShift