“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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
The February 2012 issue of Chief Learning Officer offers a special report on leadership development that makes an effective and topical preamble for The Ambiguity Architect and our work in understanding the importance of managing uncertainty as it relates to leadership.
“Now you’ve got to work with huge amounts of ambiguity, help other people do that too, and manage risk,” she said. “You’re always trying new things, pushing the edge of the envelope — and you have to enable your teams to experience and also let them fail. That’s a whole set of leadership capability that we really didn’t have a huge dose of to start with.”—Diane Gherson, vice president of talent at IBM, CLO Magazine
That’s pretty specific to our work, but the report also describes an environment in which leadership is “granted” and subjective and harder to teach. All of this points to the value of ambiguity tolerance as a leadership trait.
For instance, globalization has forced GE’s leaders to think and manage in multiple layers, making critical thinking a top skill. They must have an acute sense of how these complex layers relate, and be able to assimilate business strategies across cultures. That is the framework in which executive leadership — across all global organizations — now operates.
“The information age has changed the world of leaders,” said Jeff Barnes, senior manager of global learning at GE. “Information is so quick. You don’t have time to really stop and think about it … your job [as a leader] has gotten so much more complicated.”
Randy was interviewed while in Brisbane by Research News, the publication of the Australian Market and Social Research Society.
Glass ceiling author still waiting for more diversity among leaders
During his visit to Australia this year, Dr Randall White argued leaders need to be able to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity, rather than just take a command and control approach.
As an international thought leader in the field of executive coaching and leadership development – and the ‘token guy’ in the team that wrote the 1987 hit Breaking the Glass Ceiling – Dr Randall White was invited to Brisbane to deliver a keynote address at the 2011 Organisational Psychology Conference.
At the same conference, Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) CEO Serge Sardo argued that Australian businesses needed to move on from the concept of ‘the leader’ to the concept of ‘leadership’ and building a culture within an organisation that nurtures new leaders. READ MORE.
White cites Joe Rost, who claimed that there are more than 300 definitions of leadership in the West alone, but when asked to define a good leader, he says, ‘Effective leaders create an environment where everybody can maximise their potential, whatever that is. I think effective leaders aren’t afraid to surround themselves with people who are better than them. They are open to asking for, receiving and giving feedback about their performance. They aren’t afraid to be confronted by people around them who are faster, quicker, brighter and more prescient. You start to see the best in leaders when they come to understand that it’s about the legacy that they leave behind them.’ READ MORE.
Diversity in leadership:
He says it’s also important to acknowledge that one of the best breeding grounds for leaders is a start-up.
‘Across a wide variety of industries, we see excluded classes of people – women, those who might be termed minorities – starting up their own businesses because they get to write their own rules and create their own culture. They bring different kinds of behaviour to the leadership enterprise. Start-ups give people the opportunity to try their hand at leadership whereas, if they were in a larger organisation, they might not experience as big a stretch.’…
Leaders don’t just come packaged as white, male and 6’1 ”
White says organisational psychology could be potentially very helpful in helping those in the market and social research industry develop leaders, because it encourages people to try out different ideas.
‘For example, let’s have more diverse teams because the greater heterogeneity the more likely the business is to achieve its objectives.’READ MORE.
Gawande writes compellingly and authoritatively about his own decision to innovate and consider a surgical coach, but he also describes the process as one of potentially mutual fulfillment for he and his coach.
Improving our performance can be as emotionally refreshing as it is career-advancing.
Randy White’s keynote address at the Australian Psychological Society got the attention of the Australian Financial Review and netted a feature article by Fiona Smith. Read “When being unsure is a strength” here.
Soon after, Australian blogger, Dwight Towers picked up on the theme with some of his own commentary, calling it “Kinda good.” Hey, that’s high praise in this age of managed expectations. Read it here.
The Hobart-based employee assistance firm of Newport and Wildman felt the message is meaningful to their mission to include it on their home page.
Executive Development Group is currently providing executive education in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
“…India is a fascinating crucible for what could become a true meritocracy.
Perhaps what the West can most effectively learn, in an immediately practical way, is:
• People who live in emerging economies see learning—and learning fast—as a primary competitive advantage.
• Knowledge-based reward and advancement may improve the work environment by diminishing the cult of personality.
• A corporation that believes in its learning initiatives can become a true meritocracy.
• The West needs to reevaluate and invest in education at every level long before graduates arrive at the corporation.
• For the near term, US corporations need to take on a retraining role, taking on people who come of age in an era of educational mediocrity. In the longer term, corporations will need to help any number of stakeholders revamp the US educational system.”