Archive for the ‘Leadership Development’ Category


Change Agility: a leadership priority in 2020

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020
Little did we know when we started writing about Learning Agility in 2019 that we were soon to face a worldwide threat that would cause millions of people to dramatically change their daily lives.

We expected our next topic would focus on defining Change Agility and making a compelling case for it to be central to leadership development in 2020 and beyond.

Now, we find ourselves in the grip of a global crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has reached more than 2.5 million known cases, claiming over 177,688 lives across 210 countries.*

Revisiting our plan in this context, we quickly recognised that the mindset and behaviours associated with Change Agility are even more critical for leaders than before.

To explain, we initially called out the need for leaders to:

  • Understand the social needs of their people, especially during times of change.
  • Cultivate curiosity and scan the environment diligently for opportunities and threats.
  • Prepare for the future of work with strong growth in flexible working and remote teams.

Today, we are seeing these in a new light through our coaching practice as we talk daily with leaders dealing with the critical issues of caring for their people and safeguarding the future of their business.

change agility defined

Energy for the new and different is the essence of Change Agility. We see it in people who embrace change and seek out continuous improvement, from small, incremental enhancements to large-scale transformations.

As we look at the characteristics of change agile leaders, we see they:

  • Regularly scan the environment, inside and outside the organisation, for opportunities and threats.
  • Envision the future and project multiple scenarios to maximise their chances of success.
  • Like to experiment and use an iterative process in devising new methods, products and services.
  • Look outside the box to find creative and unique ideas they can bring to life.
  • Recognise that change is unsettling for many and take steps to deal with their own feelings and alleviate the anxiety and fear of others.
  • Encourage input from others, recognising that they themselves do not have all the solutions.

How many of these are true for you?

Take time to reflect on each point and ask yourself how much time and attention you devoted to practicing each one in 2019. What does this tell you about what you need to do differently in 2020?

honest self-appraisal

An accurate view of our self and our capability is essential is essential for leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses. Sometimes, we know what we need to work on for development, but don’t prioritise the action steps that are required.

At other times, daily pressures get in the way and we lose sight of the value of equipping ourselves with new skills, habits or the mindset that will make work easier and results more attainable.

If you need inspiration on how to strengthen your Change Agility in the current environment, seek input from two or three people who know you well. Invite their suggestions on how you can strengthen your impact as an agile leader.

Listen to their suggestions and decide which to apply to raise the bar for yourself, as you support people, lead change and ready your business for the future.

leading in a crisis

Leaders everywhere have faced accelerating disruption in recent years. No industry is immune and disruptive forces come in many forms, such as rapidly emerging new technologies, unexpected competitive threats and shifting social trends.

Right now, disruption has landed in the form of the coronavirus crisis at a scale and speed that the majority of people have not experienced in their lifetime. The reaction of leaders we know is an all-consuming urgency to find ways to manage the impact and fight for the survival of their businesses.

In this context, Change Agility is vital. We propose to amplify it with two critical behaviours identified though research at the IMD Business School in Switzerland:

  • Act quickly to execute decisions. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to speed especially in large organisations. Leaders need courage and determination to implement change promptly.
  • Be visionary, which means holding fast to a sense of long-term direction even in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty. Hard to do, but a clear definition of where the organisation needs to go is important for everyone as they work out how to get there.

In her book Forged in A Crisis, Nancy Koehn illustrated how five legendary leaders demonstrated a sense of urgency and unwavering resolve during times of great adversity. She described how each one navigated through the calamity they faced and was transformed as a result. You can see her latest blog post here.

tips for increasing change agility

We put it to you that the way you conduct yourself during this time will be long remembered by those who work with you and for you. Here are some thought starters:

  • Help people adjust to the new and different. For many, resistance is a natural response. Be more available to your people, keeping them informed and letting them know you are there for them. Accept that this is going to take more of your time.
  • Keep things in perspective. Identify the issues that are of most concern to your people so you can address them. Tune in to any individuals or groups who seem to be having a greater struggle. Find ways to resolve their immediate challenges and act on them.
  • Be ready to disrupt your usual style of leadership. Human beings are creatures of habit. Formed in the brain, habits allow us to perform daily tasks without having to think about them. Reboot your approach to leadership by looking for what you can do differently for greater impact.
  • Create a safe place for yourself. Stress and anxiety can impede performance. When times are tough, establish a physical location you can go to regroup and do your best thinking. Find a trusted person who can act as a support for you.
  • Behave strategically. Leading through a crisis involves intense pressure to focus on day-to-day operations. As soon as you can, address the longer term by working with your team on future-focused planning with clear intentions and purposeful actions.

* Worldometer, 22 April 2020

people agility: a potential game-changer for leaders

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
People agility has emerged as a ‘must-have’ capability for leaders in today’s complex and dynamic business world.

Not only do leaders need to navigate this turbulent environment successfully themselves, but they also need to be the enablers for their people to solve problems and deliver results.

One way they can create the inclusive, collaborative and innovative culture their organisations need is by consistently demonstrating a desire to explore, discover and learn with others.

Simply put, it’s about being agile in the way they engage with their people. However, many strategic and operational demands on senior executives can get in the way.

people agility defined

At first glance, people agility seems to describe the capacity to get on well with others, but there is more to it than that. People agility is the ability to take an open-minded, curious and flexible approach to people, looking for diverse opinions to broaden mutual understanding and achieve common goals.

People agility is also about communicating clearly, adjusting the style, pace and message to the audience. It’s being willing to take on a different viewpoint depending on the person or circumstances. People agile individuals learn quickly how to hear out opposing views and take care not to incite or escalate tension or conflict.

These characteristics are rounded out by the ability to read people well and predict how individuals and groups will respond to various events and situations and being ready and willing to help others to excel. This is often referred to as ’emotional intelligence’ or EQ.

This is the second of five blogs on why Learning Agility matters for executive success, with specific tips for enhancing the people agility dimension for yourself and others. You can read our first blog on mental agility here, learning agility: why it matters for executive success.

social leadership

Leading involves understanding the social needs of people, including those who consider themselves focused on tasks rather than people. It must be recognised that social engagement is fundamental to human health and well-being which has a significant impact on organisational performance.

Dr. Matthew Lieberman, neuroscientist and author, describes social engagement as a fundamental requirement built into our biology along with the basic needs for survival. In his book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect he suggests that it deserves to be at the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Infants embody the need to be connected because they are totally dependent on their caregiver(s) and the quality of care they receive has been shown to influence their cognitive and emotional development. The effects can last a lifetime.

So, what are the implications for business leaders? They need a mindset that helps them focus on:

  • Recognising the need for people to ‘belong’ and emphasising the importance of the team.
  • Facilitating open dialogue with a wide variety of contributors and stakeholders.
  • Breaking down barriers to collaboration across the organisation.
  • Building a sense of community connected to a higher purpose.

people orchestration skills

In his book Know-How, Ram Charan describes skills that separate leaders who perform from those who don’t. One of those skills is the ability to manage the social system of their business so people can work effectively and cooperatively together.

As many of us recognise this isn’t always easy, and the title of that chapter tells us so – Herding Cats!

Charan says that building the right social system requires making superb judgments on people, knowing how to select them, get them into the right jobs and help them build the skills to lead. He says this is highly developable.

So is people agility. Each of its elements is described in behavioural terms, so with targeted and systematic efforts leaders can adopt the practices used by great people leaders.

tips for increasing people agility

  • Keep an open mind by suspending judgment. Listen to what people are saying and find clues about how they formed their opinions. Think about why you might differ and how you can reach common ground.
  • Take time to get to know your people, make sure you are aware of their strengths, weaknesses and career aspirations and check in regularly. Don’t assume you know.
  • Be alert when decisions are to be made, by being present and in the moment. Stop and consider whether you have all the facts in unfamiliar situations. Look for anything you are missing and read the people in the room.
  • Slow down when you disagree with others. Choose your words carefully so you don’t appear biased. Focus on the issue at hand, not the person.
  • Set people up for success by sharing what you know. Be an advocate for people you believe in and make sure you give credit where it’s due.
  • Build a network for yourself outside your immediate circle. Connect with individuals and groups who don’t know each other so you than can access new information and fresh thinking.

the future of work

The rapid pace of change today brings a need to transform the way we do business and find new ways of working. We are in the midst of a massive shift, evidenced by the trend to flexible working, remote teams, coworking spaces, artificial intelligence and more.

Add to this the fact that people are living longer and retiring later, whilst younger people are now entering the workforce. This means that, for the first time, we have five generations in the workplace and must accommodate the different needs and expectations of those groups.

Last year research conducted by PWC published the results of a global survey of business and HR leaders. In a paper entitled Preparing for tomorrow’s workforce, today, they note that the most astute leaders must ask the question: “How can I deliver great performance by helping our people to thrive?”

Yes, indeed! The need for leaders to cultivate people agility has never been greater!

last words

If you would like to see how leaders can create a circle of trust to build cooperation and collaboration, check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk – Why good leaders make you feel safe.

Sinek says that doing this, especially in an uneven economy, is a big responsibility for leaders – but it’s the key to helping ordinary people achieve extraordinary things.

 

Learning Agility: Why it matters for executive success

Friday, July 5th, 2019
Learning Agility refers to the ability and willingness to quickly adapt. The concept was derived from systematic research over several years into the careers of highly effective business leaders.

These leaders were found to share important characteristics that set them apart. Keen observers of what was going on around them, they were intellectually curious, flexible and adventurous.

Reflective about their experiences, they frequently made creative connections between apparently unrelated pieces of information and they had a preference for bold and new solutions to problems.

Learning Agility Dimensions

Further studies revealed some interesting facts about those who had greater Learning Agility – not   only did they get promoted faster and more often than others, but they were significantly more successful after they were promoted.

Learning Agility has since been widely accepted as a key indicator of potential, and interest in Korn Ferry’s multidimensional model as way to develop leadership capability and performance has grown.

This is the first of five blogs on why Learning Agility matters for executive success, each focusing on one of the agility dimensions – mental, people, change, results and self-knowledge – with tips for enhancing Learning Agility for yourself and others.

Learning Agility in the 2020’s

The qualities associated with Learning Agility have taken on a new currency in today’s complex and dynamic business environment where change and uncertainty are the norm.

Significant shifts in technology, globalisation and social trends require organisations to transform the way they do business to stay relevant in their markets. Over the next decade, the organisations most likely to succeed will be those that are nimble and adaptable.

The guidance of forward-thinking and strategic leaders will be essential. You’ll know them when you see them – they embrace complexity, examine problems in unique and unusual ways and are open-minded toward ideas and people. In other words, they are learning agile.

Developing Learning Agility

A commonly asked question is – can people develop their Learning Agility? Whilst it’s a relatively stable attribute, Learning Agility is defined in terms of behaviours. So, the answer is yes. Conscious and deliberate practice of those behaviours will enable people to enhance their Learning Agility.

As a starting point, a person should be on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow or, even better, embrace the concept of learning as a lifelong journey. In her book Mindset: The Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck described this as having a ‘growth mindset’ which she says is the key for realising one’s full potential.

Mental Agility

This dimension of Learning Agility concerns the way people deal with concepts and ideas. Being mentally agile is primarily about being curious and inquisitive – searching for the new, exploring the unknown, taking time to think things through and looking for themes within and across situations.

A person with this orientation doesn’t stop at obvious answers to problems but looks below the surface for underlying causes, drilling down into complex issues to simplify and make sense of them.

About Curiosity

A Google search today on ‘curiosity’ resulted in 122 million results. Seems like a lot of people are writing about it! Narrow the search by adding the word ‘executive’ and there are still 44 million results. Impressive.

One of the top results points to a feature on curiosity published in Harvard Business Review (2018), highlighting that curiosity is vital to an organisation’s performance.

The author says curiosity helps leaders and employees come up with more creative solutions to external pressures. It enables leaders to gain more respect from their followers and inspires employees to develop more trusting and collaborative relationships with colleagues.

Sounds good? Well, of course there’s a trap. Although leaders say they value inquisitive minds, in practice they may stifle curiosity. It was reported that about 70 percent of employees who were surveyed said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

Tips for increasing Mental Agility

  • Challenge yourself to think about how curious and creative you really are. Over the last week, what was the balance between solutions you provided and questions you asked?
  • Questions are the fuel for new ideas, so start and keep asking why, how and what. Listen to the answers carefully, suspending judgement as you do.
  • Encourage curiosity and learning by reviewing events and outcomes, posing the right questions. Why did that happen? What can we learn from that?
  • Become an observer of agile thinking, listen to people talking and note the words and phrases that reveal a ‘growth’ mindset versus a ‘fixed’ one.
  • Reflect on questions asked in your organisation. Are they encouraged or are they seen as a challenge to authority? Do your people explore ideas with each other or are they too task-focused to take the time? What do you need to do to enable creative and innovative thought?

Last Words

If you are looking for inspiration on what it means to be curious and creative, try reading A Curious Mind, written by Oscar-winning film producer Brian Grazer.

Having practiced ‘curiosity conversations’ for years with people outside his industry, he describes curiosity as having many shades and intensities that serve different purposes. A great read!