Tag Archives: learning

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Creativity: Are you building it or crushing it?

When it comes to creativity, fear of criticism, judgment, of taking risks and putting your reputation on the line is a huge obstacle.

We’re born creative and continually experience the excitement of that creativity as we grow. Over time, our environment and experiences can cause us to fall into thinking patterns that get in the way of our creativity.

Your job as a leader is to help shift thinking and remove these obstacles:

Play is frivolous. We’re told that children play and adults are meant to be serious. This creates the self-limiting belief that if something starts to feel too much like fun then it can’t possibly be productive work. Start by changing your thought patterns around creativity. The more you let go of the existing beliefs and thoughts that limit you in thinking of new possibilities, the more you can explore creativity. Find small ways to be creative everyday while encouraging the same in others. If you’re interested in watching a truly outstanding creative process in action, search “IDEO Shopping Cart” on youtube.com and watch their process. (Thanks to Cactus Club CEO Richard Jaffray for recommending this video.)

Creativity comes from creative people. When people think that creativity is the job of marketing or PR, they disable their own creativity. Once they understand that creativity is a choice for all of us, not part of a select few people’s job descriptions, the realms of possibility open up substantially. As a leader, consider where you might be categorizing others as “creative” or “not creative.” Work on altering that thought pattern to embrace the idea that we all have that capacity by asking people for ideas on projects when you normally wouldn’t seek their input.

Deciding before you start. If you think you know the answer before you start the creative process, then you may be limiting yourself to a smaller set of possibilities. Instead, view your idea as only one possible solution and look at it from new perspectives. Curiosity creates leverage in brainstorming so ask a lot of questions, considering as many different view points as you can.

Believing there is a “right” answer. When we focus our problem solving on trying to find the “right” answer there’s a tendency to have a narrow focus. This prevents us from exploring the problem or opportunity in favour of trying to “fix it” as soon as possible. Try “reverse brainstorming,” where you reverse the problem or challenge by brainstorming answers to the question “How could we possibly cause this problem.” Once you have a number of ideas to solve the reverse problem, reverse them into solutions for the original problem or challenge.

Stinking thinking. The easiest way to kill a brainstorming session is with killer statements: “We’ve tried that before,” “That won’t work in this market,” “We don’t have the resources/budget” (this one’s my personal favourite). Next time you’re in a brainstorming session with your team, take a positive approach by first getting all the ideas out on the table before debating or discussing any of them.

Fear of failure. When it comes to creativity, fear of criticism, judgment, of taking risks and putting your reputation on the line is a huge obstacle. After all, your ideas may be a complete flop, so it just feels safer to stick to the status quo. As a leader, it’s your job to create the space for people to take the risk. Consider failure as feedback; focus on and celebrate learning, how to move forward, and what to do differently next time.

BIV Boardroom Strategy – Creativity are you building it or crushing it – Sept 2012

Guest post: 3 Leadership Lessons Animals Can Teach Us

My mom is a great cook, but whenever I ask her for a recipe, she tells me that mere words are not enough to do justice to a dish. She suggests that the best way to learn to cook is to watch her prepare meals and then try them out myself. Now mom doesn’t have a college degree, but she does have a point there. There are in fact many things we can learn through observation alone, and I believe that leadership is one of them. Of course, you may have to adapt what you observe to suit your environment and also use feedback to refine your technique, but in general, it pays to be observant.

  • Geese: Now here’s a bunch that knows what synergy truly means. If you’ve ever seen a flock of wild geese flying overhead, you know that they do so in a V formation. Now V may stand for victory, but it also stands for common sense and practicality. The leader of the bunch is the goose at the tip of the V. All the other birds are able to fly easier because of the uplift caused by its wings. And each of the birds that follow fly assisted by the previous bird’s uplift. This way, by pooling their resources and helping the weaker ones, the geese are able to travel 71 percent more than they normally could. Also, when the leader tires, it falls back and another goose takes its place. So for synergy and cooperation, look no further than the geese.
  • Ants: Ants are some of the most diligent creatures on earth. The tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper tells us that this tiny animal slogs all day and gathers food for its community when it is available and stores it away for leaner times. It does not waste time and does what it needs to do to secure its future. Also, the ant uses pheromones to leave trails for its fellow ants. This helps the bunch find the fastest way to food and the best way to avoid danger. Aspiring leaders can learn a thing or two from ants – how to work hard for what they want and how best to lead their followers in simple ways.
  • Dolphins: Dolphin trainers will attest to the fact that these beautiful beasts of the sea are not like other animals – they don’t respond positively to threats or punishments of any kind. Rather, if you want the dolphin to do your bidding, you must coax, cajole and praise. In our world too, praise and encouragement work much better in getting people to do your bidding willingly. The operative word here is “willingly” because any task done unwillingly is never well done.

I’ve named just a few here, but I do believe that there are many more acts that we can observe from nature and adapt to the boardroom and the corporate world. So the next time you hear the phrases “It’s a dog-eat-dog world” and call competition a rat race, remember that you can also draw positive examples to follow from the animal kingdom.

This guest post is contributed by Shannon Wills, she writes on the topic of Online Engineering Degrees . She welcomes your comments at her email id: shannonwills23@gmail.com.

Giving Effective Feedback

Our leadership development philosophy

Over the past year I’m consistently asked to answer the question, “what is your overall leadership development philosophy?” I thought it would be helpful to put pen to paper and blog my answer. Our experience over the past 10 years working with thousands of senior leaders in medium to large organizations has led to some core tenets that consistently hold true. Over the past year I’ve written several posts that together sum up our leadership development philosophy. I’ve consolidated those here and added a few thoughts to round things off:

  1. Why most Leadership Development initiatives fail
  2. Interactive Business Learning Experiences™:
  3. Theory versus reality: many “leadership development consultants” have academic backgrounds but little to no practical experience in the trenches working at an executive level. Their approach is based on case studies and teaching theories. The challenge with this is the Grand Canyon sized gap that exists between theory and application. Having leaders who can “talk” about leadership but cannot clearly demonstrate in a tangible way (and by tangible I mean a way in which others can easily understand what they are doing and learn for the approach), leads to great theorists who talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.
  4. Three Core Areas of Leadership: The are actually three core areas of leadership that leaders need to become students of: leading self, leading other, leading organization. Most people only consider the second one, leading other, when considering how they can develop their core leadership skills.
  5. Authentic Leadership: Bill George in his talk at Google describes Authentic Leadership in a way that resonates with what our experience at ViRTUS.  Here are the five learnings from his hour long talk: leadership is about internal development and introspection (self-awareness) not how you create a perception for the public, know your values and what’s really important to you, it’s the sweet spot at the intersection of your greatest strengths and your greatest motivation, find a support team and mentors who you can be totally honest with and who can be totally honest with you, lead an integrated life by being the same person in all areas of my life (authenticity).
  6. Emotional Intelligence: The founding father of Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) in the workplace is Daniel Goleman. He developed the four main EI constructs as: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (sometimes referred to as awareness of others), and relationship management. Our experience has shown us that by weaving these tenets into the background of the competencies we help leaders develop by showing them practical tools and techniques using everyday language, leaders can be coached much more rapidly into demonstrating changes in behaviour.
  7. Andragogy vs Pedagogy – the old school style of having a teacher stand at the front of the room and lecture to the students about a theory has been proven not only to be inefficient in helping adults learn, it’s also incredibly boring for the learner. The new style is collaborative, engaging, interactive, focused on opportunities and challenges they’re actually facing, accountability based (instead of memorizing), and open to failing as a key part of the learning process.
  8. Adult Experiential Learning Cycle
  9. Entrenching Learning
  10. Five Stages of Learning: There are five stages of learning that we grow through when absorbing a new concept literally from apathy to “this is just the way I do it”:  Unconscious incompetence – I don’t know what I don’t know, Conscious Incompetence – I know what I don’t know, Conscious Competence – I know what I know, Unconscious Competence – I don’t know what I know, Reflective or Enlightened Competence – I am aware that I don’t know what I know but I can shift back into conscious competence to teach someone else.
  11. How do you know it’s working?: The reality of transforming a business is fairly straightforward: if you can’t change a behaviour or a system within the business then everything stays the same. The easiest way to measure changes in behaviour is to witness them using the ViRTUS Video Test.

As always I welcome your comments, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m interested to hear what your personal experience has been in helping develop leaders within your organization.

PS Why post this on my blog where my competitors can see it? It was an easy decision. Even though people can cut and paste the words, they can’t match the results we provide and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

Why most leadership development initiatives fail.

Over the past ten years we’ve had the opportunity to work with well 1,000+ executives and CEOs, focused on helping them becoming better leaders, strategists, and visionaries. In that time I’ve seen the aftermath of many failed leadership development initiatives, that we’ve been called in to fix or replace, and they seem to carry a number of similarities. If you’re a CEO, VP HR, or Director of Leadership Development, I think you’ll find this helpful.  Here is a list of the reasons that most leadership development (LD) initiatives fail:

  1. They ignore reality. Good, bad, or ugly, there is a style of leadership that is accepted in your company right now. It’s been woven in to the fabric of the organization until it became the unwritten rule of “how you lead here.” Ignoring the fact that most people don’t look down the organization for tips on leadership they look up, and hoping that by training the “up and comers” below the exec team to behave differently than the exec team does simply doesn’t work. People turn off the volume and watch the video: how are leaders acting in this company so I know how to act like them so one day I can become an exec too. We call it the Video Test. If the senior team doesn’t understand, promote, and clearly demonstrate the behaviours that you are hoping to teach your up and coming high potentials (hi-po’s) then it’s really just paying lip service to leadership.
  2. There’s no connection to the business. Teaching leaders how to lead without showing them the direct connection to the actual situations and circumstances that they are going to run into in your business is leaving out a very crucial step. Making the connection from behaviour to situation to outcome to success based on actual circumstances that occur today in the business or occur frequently in their day-to-day roles is one of the most effective ways to ingrain an approach.
  3. We’ll do it in-house “through HR.” Most HR departments are not equipped to handle facilitation of leadership development programs in-house. It’s not their expertise, they are usually understaffed, and this is the core capability of the company. The most effective way (yes, I know, I’m biased, tough – it’s true), to implement a proper program is to work with an external leadership development partner who is willing to take the time and energy to understand what success looks like for you and the business, and design something that fits your situation (run away fast if they have the solution already built – your business is unique, you deserve a unique solution).
  4. It’s event driven. Holding an annual leadership retreat or semi-annual “learning event” means that for about one month after the event you’ll see some faint signs (usually in the form of terminology from the event) leaking out. After that it’s back to business as usual. The only way adults can actually their behaviour is to: see a model of what world-class behaviour in this area looks like, immerse themselves in learning in a practical way how to change their behaviour, and have the opportunity to revisit the learning on a frequent basis.
  5. Stick it in the LMS (Learning Management System). Right and magically everyone will find it since they spent the majority of their day surfing your corporate intranet looking for learning opportunities (is the sarcasm too light?). Leadership development is something that people need to be invited to participate in in a tangile way. Whether it’s live, on a webinar, a coaching call, whatever, the point is you engage them, not the other way around.
  6. They used an elementary school approach. Remember when you were in elementary school and your teacher was the expert and she told you how to do stuff that you weren’t sure you’d ever use again and that’s how you learned.  Well that’s called pedagogy. There are some things missing from that experience for adults: no control over the learning, no feedback to the person helping me learn, no connection to my reality, and no practical application right now. Adults require interactive, experiential learning where the “teacher” is really facilitating the learning process by bringing forward new concepts in a way that allows the learners to try them out.

If you’re not sure where to get started but you know you need to do something about developing stronger culture of leadership in your business here’s the best ways to begin:

  1. Write a list of all of the leadership behaviours that you don’t like that are going on in your company today.
  2. Take that list and write what the opposite, positive behaviour would look like.
  3. Think one year down the road and ask yourself this question, “what would substantial progress look like for us?”
  4. Interview your executive team and ask them one question, “what are the core leadership abilities that we need to foster in this organization to help us compete in the business over the next 1-5 years?”

Adult Experiential Learning Cycle

Adult Experiential Learning Cycle

  • Experiencing – designed to generate individual data from one or more of the senses (hear, smell, taste, see, touch), thinking (interpreting, judging, conclusions, assumptions – based on past experience i.e. stored information), action (verbal and nonverbal), wanting or intending, feeling (positive/negative affective or emotional responses) modes.
  • Reflection & Sharing– to report the data generated from the experience. The purpose is three-fold. First, the person having the experience, in their sharing, learns to articulate the experience and in so doing expands that experience. They also learn the skill of effective communication. Third, on hearing other people’s experiences, add to the depth and breadth of their seemingly unique experience.adult-experiential-learning-cycle
  • Interpreting  to make sense of the data generated for both individuals and the group. Interpretations allow me to formulate a position or hypothesis about my experiences. With this in hand I can go into the “real’ world” to test my hypothesis.
  • Generalizing – to develop hypotheses and abstractions from the data.
  • Applying – to bridge the present and the future by understanding and/or planning how these generalizations can be put into operation.
  • Revising & Repeating – through trial and error the learning becomes personalized and the behaviour turns into a habit over time

What Entrenches Learning?

What Entrenches Learning?

  • Modeling – model what world-class practitioners do
  • Immersion – immerse myself completely in the learning
  • Spaced Repetition – schedule regular follow-up [this is one of the more critical pieces as our research at ViRTUS has shown that spaced repetition is the critical stage in shifting a new behavior into a habit and finally a style]

Entrenching Learning

(source: Robbins Research International, Inc. (RRI))