Randy White at HEC Paris Knowledge Lab in Qatar

Strengths are still overrated and overplayed

In the 13 years since author Marcus Buckingham popularized the strengths movement in leadership development, we’ve seen varying degrees of acceptance among our clients and colleagues.

Late last year Forbes contributor Ekaterina Walter offered up the “Four Essentials of Strength-Based Leadership.”

“The simple truth is that if we stop trying to ‘fix’ our employees and rather focus on their strengths and their passions, we can create a fervent army of brand evangelists who, when empowered, could take our brand and our products to a whole new level.”

In August, the Executive Development Group partner Randy White published an alternative take on development that emphasizes the value of focusing on, and improving upon, weaknesses. His article, “Strength is Not Enough” in Chief Learning Officer challenges the strength-only approach as potentially shortchanging the organization and the individual:

…with this approach [strength-based] everyone’s passion could start to get in the way of management, collaboration, innovation and leadership…

“Strengths-only approaches are valid for certain situations, such as those in which people are pretty much where they plan to be in their careers. However, a single focus on strength is shortsighted for people who want to advance and for organizations that require succession plans.”

It’s a subject we’ve followed and written about for some time. Randy wrote the capstone article for the 2009 compilation, The Perils of Accentuating the Positive, edited by Robert B. Kaiser.

There is a transglobal leadership development model coming

Is there a new “transglobal” model for leadership development emerging? Yes.

Executive Development Group is heavily engaged around the world this year, partly through our work with HEC Paris and Duke Corporate Education, but also from our direct corporate clients. Executive coaching and teaching is in high demand, with Western style leadership still being requested.

As we attain a transglobal model, it’s likely that our domestic work (here in the USA) will pick up as we “bring home” the sort of curricula and development practices emerging around the world.

We have articles pending in Consulting Psychology Journal by Randy White and Sandy Shullman. And this month, Lily Kelly-Radford writes about executive education in Qatar in this article from Training magazine.

By the way: follow and contact us on Twitter and Facebook. More to come.

Lily Kelly-Radford leads youth leadership workshop in Qatar

EDG partner Lily Kelly-Radford is wrapping up “Leadership Acceleration Program,” a youth leadership learning opportunity, in Doha, Qatar this week.  It’s part of our work for HEC Paris and is sponsored by Commercial Bank of Qatar.

Lily’s workshop functions as an introduction to executive education and leadership development for high school students, with requisite assessments and feedback using FIRO-B and MBTI.

She includes leadership examples from young emerging leaders around the world, including entrepreneurs such as Ayah Bdeir, founder of the interactive learning game “Little Bits.”

EDG partner Randy White led a workshop component and found an apt example of how teachers learn as they teach, then teach what they learn! Notice how Matt starts out teaching a dance and ends up teaching an entirely different dance at the end.

Gratitude for Captain Edge and the crew of Flight 2276— American Airlines pilot demonstrates some down-to-earth leadership

Teaching leadership to executives around the world, sometimes the curriculum and principles can get so theoretical that it’s nice to hear what leadership sounds like in the real world. I heard it on American Airlines Flight 2276 from Curaçao to Miami, December 27.

My work has made me an American Airlines Executive Platinum member and also a Global 1K on United Airlines. Between the two airlines, I travel over 300,000 miles/year. Other than flight delays and cancellations I have the typical day-in day-out experiences of most long haul business customers when I am traveling. Except on December 27.

After a winter vacation on the balmy Dutch island, our flight was off the gate on time, actually about a minute or two early. Flying as much as I do, I’ve gotten into the flow of getting on the plane, the announcements (yes, I listen), the taxi and run up, being cleared for takeoff, building speed for rotation and wheels up.

Somewhere about 4000 ft down the runway one of the turbines started making a groaning sound.

“Gosh, I’ve not heard that before.”

And then we were off on a fairly steep climb. After executing a left turn we were out over the water and suddenly we could feel the plane throttle back. This can’t be good, I thought.

In a second, a very calming voice on the PA, that of Captain Edge, says something about this not being someone’s day and although not in anyone’s plans we needed to head back because we have experienced a bird strike and the right engine is damaged. He explained he wasn’t sure how badly it was damaged but we are alright and they are expecting us back at the airport.

Very calmly he explained, “We will execute two left turns and be back in the pattern to land. All questions will be answered after we land. Just sit tight, we are all fine.”

I have consulted to leaders and organizations on leadership characteristics and potential for over 30 years. I was impressed by the Captain’s evenness as he made the announcement, as though this was just a short walk in the park. The number of training and simulation hours and his leadership were obvious. Captain Edge, his first officer and the entire cabin crew were extremely professional, calm and well trained. American Airlines should be very proud.

This was this gist of my e-mail to American Airlines as soon as we were safely back in the terminal. I concluded my grateful correspondence, thusly:

“By the way, do you get copies of incidents like this? I never thought about it before but I figured that you must get reports of situations like this, so I am sure I am not informing you of something that you are not already aware. The reason I am writing you is to tell you of the professionalism of the crew and to tell you how well we were treated in getting back to Raleigh-Durham. We did reach Miami that evening, about four hours late. We thanked Captain Edge and the first officer (name, unknown). We never thanked the cabin crew.

“Is there a way to give an appreciation award to this entire crew? I know there are ways to give appreciation to individuals on my American Airlines App–but how about for the ground staff in both Curaçao and Miami? They were actually waiting for us with vouchers and onward journey information! Most importantly, I want Captain Edge and his entire crew to be appreciated for their skill, professionalism and leadership.”

American Airlines, if you’re reading this, thanks for the leadership!

—Randy White

How three clients mastered ambiguity

Randy White and Sandy Shullman feature the stories of three clients of the Executive Development Group in their article, “Build Leadership’s Tolerance for Ambiguity.” Read it all in this month’s CLO Magazine

quoteWe have a serious problem at the Food and Drug Administration and the President would like to know if you’d take over,” came the request in an after-hours phone call to cancer surgeon Andrew von Eschenbach in 2005.

Cathy Nash, had an enviable resume in banking when she was promoted by Citizens Republic Bank to CEO. A nice gig, but the only problem was the year: 2008. Citizens was under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and had acquired a less-than-stable real estate oriented thrift. Nash said yes to the promotion and TARP dropped in her lap.

Accepting ambiguity is tantamount to failure when your job is calculating the strength of vulcanized rubber at high speed on a freeway. But engineer Hervé Coyco had to accept the complexity, irrationality and emotionality of human organizations and, more so, consumers, when he advanced from leading a team of about 60 engineers to heading 60,000 for Michelin. Coyco took on—among other things—changing Michelin’s Car Tires business strategy worldwide.quote

What did they do? Read the full story, here.

For more information, contact the Executive Development Group..

Sandra L. Shullman receives American Psychological Association award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Independent Practice

Sandra L. Shullman, PhD.

The Executive Development Group is delighted to announce that our partner, Sandra L. Shullman, PhD, has been recognized by the American Psychological Association for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Independent Practice.

Sandy received the award and presented her invited address, “An Independent View of Independent Practice,” during the Association’s Annual Convention, August 2-5, 2012 in Orlando.

The APA award citation reads, in part, “For her outstanding contributions and leadership as an independent practitioner n the fields of counseling and consulting psychology. Through her national scholarship on sexual harassment in the workplace, her development of the practice of organizational counseling psychology, her management of a leading behavioral health care practice and her pioneering leadership development initiatives for national and international clients, Sandra L. Shullman has greatly enhanced the public’s recognition of psychology.”

Earlier this year, Sandy and the Executive Development Group partner Lily Kelly-Radford led the first executive MBA program in Qatar.

Sandy is currently a senior lecturer for HEC School of Business in Paris and a member of the Duke University Corporate Education academic and global learning network. She is an adjunct faculty member for the Cleveland State University Diversity Institute and lectures in executive education at the John Glenn School of Public Policy and the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University. She received her master’s degree from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Ohio State University. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and chairs the APA Workgroup on Executive Coaching.

360 assessments to help resolve sexual harassment can work, if…

The Executive Development Group partner Sandra L. Shullman weighs in on an engaging article appearing in Talent Management concerning the use of executive coaching with 360 assessments to resolve harassment cases in the workplace.

Sandy has been an expert witness in sexual harassment cases and while she sees how the process can be helpful, she offers some cautions.

“I can imagine how this might be helpful,” said Sandra L. Shullman, a psychologist, executive coach and partner with the Executive Development Group. “However, HR and managers in charge need to think about how willing the affected members of the organization are to participate effectively.”

A coach to harassment victims and an expert in harassment cases, Shullman also has consulted with client firms seeking to reform harassers. She said 360s and coaching should be applied judiciously because using 360s as remediation could cast a negative light on assessments, decreasing their acceptance for positive development interventions. She also said these processes should never be a substitute for sanctions or the mandate to maintain appropriate behavior.

You can read the entire article by assessment expert Dr. Paul Connolly here.

Learning from failure helpful in mastering uncertainty

Frank Kalman writes in this month’s edition of Chief Learning Officer about learning from failure:

…Aside from the psychological distaste associated with human failure, one of the larger barriers keeping more corporations from embracing it as an engine for learning is rooted in organizational culture. Creating a culture where failure isn’t the goal but is treated as a learning driver remains an uphill battle for many, said Amy C. Edmondson, professor of leadership and management at the Harvard Business School. The most frequent gaffe organizations make is equating perfection with good performance.

“The biggest mistake we make is thinking we’re not supposed to make mistakes,” said Edmondson, who wrote an April 2011 research article on the topic for the Harvard Business Review. Read the article here.

In our work on ambiguity, the ability to learn from failure is a requisite for overcoming the fear of uncertainty.

Kalman’s source, Amy C. Edmondson offers a 12-minute video presentation on the subject here.

Executive education, meritocracy and a few lessons from Qatar’s first executive MBA program

Executive Development Group partners Lily Kelly-Radford and Sandra L. Shullman write in this month’s Chief Learning Officer Magazine about their teaching experience in Qatar’s first executive MBA program:

Late in 2010, The International Federation of Association Football announced that Qatar will host its World Cup tournament in 2022. Soccer fans were stunned. It’s not an understatement to say Qatar has not been a powerhouse in the sport. A few months later, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris (HEC Paris), a business school ranked first in 2011 by the Financial Times, launched Qatar’s first executive MBA program, including a module on executive leadership. Learning executives were excited, but not surprised. Qatar is striving to become a leader in the region for global learning initiatives…

…How can learning executives help make corporate education an example for greater society? Consider:

Embracing diversity: Being mindful at all times of gender, ethnicity and culture isn’t about being politically correct; it’s related to the curriculum. It also can be a way to lead by example. It can help to be open and ask for feedback from a local resident to learn how to “show up” or participate respectfully in his or her culture.

Learning from students: Schedule time for students to share how their personal experiences relate to their goals in the learning process. This can be as important as course evaluations in any efforts to enhance or improve the program. It is also a way to improve teaching agility and examine or focus on a topic from multiple perspectives.

Being immersed in the local society: Become an active learner by making a point to master regional protocol and local news to be better informed and more sensitive to student experiences in the classroom.

Including topical issues in the coursework: Don’t hesitate to address world politics and current events as they relate to business leadership and strategies. Encourage ethics-based decisions and conscientious solutions.

Read the article here.

Our global business continues to keep us busy in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.