What makes us do what we do? What makes a leader interested in development? QUESTION: How does the ‘trigger’ happen?
The behaviour approach that can be used to guide this moment comes from the widely researched, B-COM and B-MAT models. Behaviour equals Capability, Opportunity and Motivation or the very similar Behaviour equals Motivation, Ability and Trigger.
There are three primary triggers (or opportunities) that can be used in this space for developing leaders in the workplace:
An invite. It’s important to signal to a person that development and dedicating attention to development is important. An invite from a leader who knows the value of development is key. People dedicate time to things that they know other people care about. Setting this up in the initial invite process makes a big difference to initial motivation. Follow up is even more important. A coach or a manager taking a few moments to reflect with this leader on their learnings creates a dramatic increase in follow on engagement and carries a long shadow of continued engagement.
Assessment. This is very powerful and plays into our natural desire to understand how we currently show up and then a want to improve or move forward in some way. If we’re not tracking how our thinking changes through the stages of our development it’s hard to support an ongoing journey of growth.
Situational prompt.We develop best when we have to, not when we want to. Real situations in the workplace create great triggers for self development. Prompting around situations leaders face, moves development right into the day-to-day nature of work. I.e “It’s time to start thinking about that crucial conversation coming up”. A few of these prompts go a very long way turning day-to-day experiences of leadership into deep developmental opportunities (and you get incredible data in the process).
COVID-19 has sent a ripple through the Leadership Development world. You see we are predominately people’s people. That means face-to-face is king and leveraging technology is often a distant ‘not as good’. But now we operate in a world where in some places face-to-face isn’t an option.
The conversation is now all about technology and leadership development. The gradual process of change and technology adoption has become rapid. Delivery isn’t always face-to-face, it’s now sometimes virtual. Practitioners have moved from tech starters to tech masters. Zoom meetings are the norm. It’s all about how we can best move delivery from face-to-face to virtual.
What It Means
This is both good and not enough. It’s good because there are many benefits of integrating technology into leadership development. We can reach more people, reduce travel, allow people more private (and public) reflection. We can focus coaches and facilitators more on the art of our practice than the process and more easily extend the time people are paying attention to their development.
It’s not enough because half the benefits I just mentioned have nothing to do with face-to-face or virtual delivery. They are about asynchronous delivery. Asynchronous is when individuals work in their own time and space – it can still be together but they don’t need to be together. Face-to-face and virtual delivery on the other hand are actually almost identical. They are synchronous. People together during the same time working on the same thing. We even use technology to share the same space when meeting virtually.
The Learning Curve
Therefore when we talk about ‘blended’ developmental experiences we shouldn’t be talking about blending classroom and technology. We are actually talking about blending synchronous and asynchronous.
Why am I sharing this? Well the real learning curve is around blending asynchronous with synchronous delivery. Asynchronous brings flexibility and integration with work and life, synchronous brings commitment (check out student syndrome) and a fresh context to view work and life from.
Want to continue reading? Find our last blog on the Five Things You Can Do to Avoid Burnout here
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?
Small Changes for Successful Virtual Meetings
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.
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. Competency frameworks 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.
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!
This is a true story from 18 months ago and ever since I’ve learned that to make things happen, I need to write it down.
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.
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. Because 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.
Relationship to Leadership
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. So 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?
We tend to engage in the anticipation of success more than anything else in our workplaces.
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 this 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 measurement platforms (Perceptyx) for this metric 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
Cycle of Engagement
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?
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:
It models the situation you are facing – the model is gleaned from how you answer reflective questions
It matches this situation to a model it creates for each of our content tools and each action-insight from other users
It suggests the tools and insights that ‘fit’ best for your situation – similar context, dissimilar insight
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.
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.
“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)
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