"Proof of Leadership Blog" - 5 new articles
Collaboration has become one of those words.
Used by everyone, to cover everything, providing the solution for all problems. A recent HBR article by Rob Cross, Reb Rebele and Adam Grant says it all “Collaborative Overload”.
Collaboration as an important leadership capability
Despite its overuse, collaboration has become one of the top leadership capabilities required by organisations for a reason. It’s a critical gap in capability for most organisations.
Innovation and collaboration for business results
Product innovation, reducing time to market, and sourcing new customers is increasingly critical for all types of businesses from finance to food manufacturing. Particularly when small, agile competitors are using new products to boost sales and grab market share.
So the temptation is to do more of the same, to increase production, increase targets and to reduce costs, including development of people. And at the same time focus on individual results as a way of achieving business results.
However, complex situations require different behaviours, collective behaviours, and in particular collaboration because complex situations require diverse approaches to create successful solutions.
But most of our business heritage has rewarded delivery of individual responses to problems, even as our research and experience is telling us that to respond to our increasingly complex and global business environments, we have to be more collective, collaborative and network oriented[i].
So if you’re a leader or a HR professional responsible for developing capability, how do you respond to this call for collaboration?
Developing collaborative leadership capability
Collaboration is essentially getting the right people together at the right time to achieve a result or solve a complex problem.
It seems to be counter-intuitive, but taking time to skill people in key capabilities, even when you are under pressure, can support innovation in business.
This approach does a number of things – it not only skills people up, but it also says it’s OK to allocate time to change, and that there is a senior leadership expectation that change will happen.
How do you develop collaborative capability?
First of all, understand the skills and processes required for effective collaboration.
Identify whether collaboration is really required
Getting smart about when collaboration is needed and is not – is crucial. Sometimes it seems like collaboration is needed to solve a problem, particularly when there are a lot of stakeholders involved. And getting together with people often feels good. But if there is a solution to the issue you’re confronting and people are agreed on what needs to happen – collaboration isn’t required.
Understand the difference between adaptive and technical issues
Following on from the first point, Heifetz and Linsky provide a good focus on how to differentiate and define “technical” situations verses those that require “adaptive” solutions including collaboration and collaborative leadership.
Recognise that collaboration isn’t an individual sport
From experience and research, key skills required for collaboration include the ability to:
Start the collaboration well
From the start of the collaboration great leaders do some key things:
Deal with blockages to collaboration
Successful collaboration requires a good understanding of the issues that can block collaboration:
Measure and communicate results
The results of collaboration are often hard to measure and to communicate, because they cannot be ascribed to one individual or team, but it is possible to create metrics to test whether the collaboration is delivering tangible results from the collaboration.
And recognizing everyone’s contribution to the collaboration means they are more likely to get engaged in the future.
Then you aim to develop collaborative capability
What leadership development approaches can support development of collaborative capabilities?
Experience indicates that the strongest shift in collaborative performance comes through the careful design of development -i.e. good collaboration doesn’t happen by accident. Ways you can build capability include:
Taking your next step
When the call for collaboration next goes out, use the ideas in this blog to test the call, and if collaboration is required for a complex business project, create a structured approach to ensuring it’s successful.
[i] Van Velsor, E. (2008). A Complexity Perspective on Leadership Development. In Complexity Leadership Part 1: Conceptual Foundations. M. Uhl-Bien and R. Marion. Charlotte, North Carolina, Information Age Publishing Inc. 1: 333-346
Corporate Executive Board (2015) Enterprise Leaders Improve Team Outcomes, p. 9
Ramo, J C (2016) The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune and Survival in the Age of Networks, Little, Brown and Company New York
Heifetz, R. A., Linsky, M., & Grashow, A. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and the world. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.
As part of wrapping up 2016 I’ve been reviewing “most requested” capabilities required of leaders in 2017.
And the winner is…developing people.
Organisations expect leaders to focus on revenue targets, customer service targets, and productivity targets.
But increasingly leaders are also are expected demonstrate how they are developing people for performance and as talent.
Here I’ve identified 5 (relatively) simple ways to develop your people.
1. Making sure they know what’s expected
A key element of this is feedback. As I said in my 9 ways to design valued and brilliant leadership development programs article, we mostly mess up feedback – it’s outsourced to surveys and responsibility for results is targeted at the survey process, instead of the feedback givers and the individuals involved. Creating structured, well-timed, and regular feedback can help people identify strengths and career-limiting blindspots.
The other key element is encouraging forward planning. I’m constantly surprised by the number of organisations not doing forward planning at the individual level. It may be that this is tangled up in concerns about performance plans and remuneration, but knowing is expected for the year, helps people to focus and achieve results – in cognitive neuroscience terms it can create certainty and reduce anxiety.
Development can be embedded into planning, with opportunities for project leadership, contribution ensuring that learning on the job is both planned for and recognised.
2. Developing leadership mindsets
The ability to be flexible and build strategic mental habits is emerging as a crucial capability for leaders and for development. It can particularly assist developing leaders with:
See a great article on the Neuroscience of Strategic Leadership
3. Getting out of the way
There are two things that are useful for leaders to consider here:
For leaders, having a developmental mindset often means taking a deep breath and giving someone a chance to be part of a new project, or team, or to do something innovative. BUT, it can bring up emotional responses that leaders generally ignore. These emotional responses can include fears that key performance targets won’t be achieved or concern about potential failures reflecting on leadership “brand”.
Reflective learning requires each individual to explore “how” as well as “what” they are learning. This supports acceleration of the development of not only the individual but also the enterprise and organization- it’s strategic[iii].
Reflecting often isn’t valued in organisations, and someone who says they are spending time reflecting instead of saying “I’m so busy” sets themselves up for some questions…
Leaders have the power to create structures, time and space, to help their people reflect, learn and think strategically through an enabling culture and through structuring in time.
4. Providing opportunities to understand what’s behind the strategy
Taking leaders to the next stage of cognitive development, supporting a shift in mindset, a broader strategic focus, and engagement with ambiguity is becoming a feature of leadership development programs.
But you don’t need to wait for formal leadership development. You can spend time with your people talking about what’s behind the strategy aiming to broaden their perspective and help them understand that strategy is not a document, it’s a series of complex and often uncomfortable decisions and choices.
This, along with encouraging reflective capacity and development of personal leadership capability is crucial for developing talented, authentic and strategic leaders in your organisation.
5. Testing whether you have been successful
So how can you measure whether you’ve been successful in developing your people?
Here are some ideas for metrics and measures:
[i] Waldman, D. A., Balthazard, P. A., & Peterson, S. J., (2011). Leadership ad neuroscience : can we revolutionise the way that inspirational leaders are identified and developed? Academy of Management Perspectives. (25(1) 66-74.
[ii] See Carol Dweck Mindsets
[iii] See Bob Dick’s work on Action Learning
There really isn’t much written about how to design and facilitate great leadership development activities, so I’m interested in capturing what has really worked over 20 years of working with more than 10,000 leaders, and of course in working on my PhD which is focused on leadership development practice.
Here are some emerging approaches to leadership development, integrated with some old but good development strategies. When integrated well, they can ramp up leadership capability shift and value to both participants and their organization.
If you would like to talk more, please contact me: email@example.com
1. Leaders need to experiment
Design thinking is increasingly popular, and the idea of human centered design and “experiments” to test ideas with clients and employees can be adapted to leadership development. Having leaders undertake low risk, low cost leadership and behavior change experiments is proving to be incredibly valuable for our approach to development.
2. Leaders need feedback
We mostly mess up feedback – it’s outsourced to surveys and responsibility for results is targeted at the survey process, instead of the feedback givers and the individuals involved. Creating structured feedback that can help people identify strengths and shift out of blindspots is crucial, particularly early in life, as is owning the results.
3. Leaders develop across time
We all know this, but challenging the current drive for leadership “events” and shallow dives into development is difficult. It is clear that leadership development is more effective where it is “multilevel and longitudinal” rather than on short-term or one-off leadership events[ii] and taking a long-term perspective helps deliver on the 70 of the 70/20/10 if designed well:
4. Leaders need cognitive development
The Centre for Creative Leadership’s Nick Petrie[iii] proposes two distinct areas to focus on to support the development of leaders, following in the footsteps of Robert Kegan and of course Bill Torbert:
5. Leaders mindsets are important
Cognitive neuroscience offers ways of new thinking about leadership development including: neuroplasticity; mental habits; mindsets and how the mind works. It can particularly assist leaders with:
6. Development needs to be real
Business focused action learning helps explore and resolve critical challenges and opportunities for the organization at the same time as enhancing leadership development and self-awareness[iv]. This is a very intensive boost to development when done well. Leadership development cubed!
7. Reflection accelerates behaviour change
The need to take action and be seen to be taking action is the major driver for leaders in many organisations. So reflection is mostly counter-cultural, but my research into impact indicates it’s one of the program design elements that most supports leaders in making behavioural change[i].
Reflective learning when integrated into development design, requires each individual to explore “how” as well as “what” they are learning. This supports acceleration of the development of not only the individual but also the enterprise and organization.
8. Strengths are often ignored
Positive organisational psychology suggests that leadership development benefits from moving from a purely deficit approach – what needs to be fixed. There is a lot of debate about this, but from my own practice in executive coaching and program design, people rarely focus on their own or others strengths.
And this approach is incredibly valuable to help people:
9. Leadership development value isn’t measured
Measuring value isn’t about ROI. It’s about each person understanding what the value of the program or development has been for them. And about capturing what has changed for both individuals the organization, along with “investors” – those who are funding, supporting and designing the activity.
Little is done about measurement in the leadership development industry. Mostly people rely on how it went on the day – and often on how the facilitator went on the day. This is fraught with danger. Learning can create discomfort, and probably should create discomfort.
Not measuring can also mean that capabilities developed and strategies put in place over time and in the 70% development frame are totally lost to the organization in its thinking about development and talent.
If you would like to talk more, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] See Bob Dick’s work on Action Learning
[iv] McGonagill G. & Pryn, P.W. 2010. Leadership development in the US: principles and patterns of best practice, Bertelsmann Stiftung Brookline, MA, USA, Gutersioh, Germany
[v] Waldman, D. A., Balthazard, P. A., & Peterson, S. J., (2011). Leadership ad neuroscience : can we revolutionise the way that inspirational leaders are identified and developed? Academy of Management Perspectives. (25(1) 66-74.
[vi] See Carol Dweck Mindsets
[vii] Cameron, K. & Spreitzer, G. (Eds) (2012) Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship. New York: Oxford University Press.
We all say that leadership development is important but does it really have impact?
This is particularly important when you are aiming to invest in the development of a key section of your leadership team.
Some of the short-term (just after the program) indicators of impact can include:
Research evidence suggests leadership development should deliver long-term impact for:
While of course there are many contextual issues that impact upon these type of organisational results, leadership development is a contributor. Some useful research is provided below.
CONTRIBUTING TO THE DIALOGUE ABOUT LEADERSHIP IMPACT AND ITS DEVELOPMENT
While there is a lot written and researched about leadership development, particularly in relation to the “capabilities/competencies” that need to be delivered and about the “how to” or methods of development, much less is available help us explore what we should seeking through leadership development.
Research indicates that the effectiveness of the senior leadership team is regarded as the second most important factor (after financial results) in determining business success  and the evidence includes: the quality and reputation of leadership make a significant difference to stakeholder and shareholder support for organisations (research indicates that investment analysts place a premium of 15.75% on effective leadership).
A recent IBM study, of 1,500 CEOs worldwide, identified complexity as a factor increasingly affecting the leadership capabilities required across organisations  and some interesting data includes:
Leadership quality affects much more than the financial bottom-line; it also affects employee retention and engagement:
Where talent management in organisations once focused on recruitment, the focus is now broader. Development and support during transition are the keys and the research  In this way, organisations can create a culture in which talented individuals can thrive.
Leaders in transition – including moving functional areas or being promoted from individual contributor to management – are particularly vulnerable to disillusionment and derailment.
‘Leadership derailment’ can include behaviours such as poor performance or lack of delivery; not updating leadership style; lacking core skills for new challenges; and poor focus on people development, is expensive for organisations.
Organisations can support transition, and reduce derailment, through: being clear about the capabilities required at each leadership level; establishing mentors for individuals taking up new roles; and requiring that individuals take up leadership development (such as executive coaching) to support transitions.
 Boatman, J. & Wellings, R.S. (2011) Global Leadership Forecast. DDI.
 Boedker, C., Vidgen, R., Meagher, K., Cogin, A., Mouritsen, J., & Runnalls, J. M., (2011) Leadership, culture and management practices of high performing workplaces in Australia: the high performing workplaces index, Society for Knowledge Economics.
 Study of Australian Leadership (SAL) 201, p.23.
 Holland, S. & Thom, M. (2012). The leadership premium: How Companies win the confidence of investors. Deloitte.
 Ancona, D. (2005). Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty. MIT Leadership Centre.
 CEB. The rise of the network leader: reframing leadership in the new work environment. Executive Guidance for 2014.
 Boatman, J. & Wellings, R.S., op.cit.
 Study of Australian Leadership (SAL) 201, p.26.
 Deloitte 2013 Human Capital Trends 2013 Leading Indicators. Deloitte: U.S. edition.
 Deloitte 2013 Human Capital Trends 2013 Leading Indicators. Deloitte: U.S. edition.
 Bumker, Kram, & Ting, 2002; Hughes, Ginnett & Curphy, 2008.
 Watkins, M. (2003). The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.
What’s important in leadership development
Last year Jeffery Pfeffer challenged those working on the development of leaders to move beyond simple recipes for great leaders because the recipes aren’t working[i]
He says they aren’t working because the list of capabilities required of leaders aren’t real. They focus on an idealised world where, for example, leaders don’t lie and are always authentic.
The pressure on leaders
The need to aim for an unattainable ideal of behaviour, emotional stability and vision may be decreasing leaders’ interest in developing capability as a leader.
And as Pfeffer says, it’s likely that an idealised view of leadership is ignoring what it really takes to lead our organisations today.
What does this mean for the development of leadership capability?
My PhD research examines the practice of leadership development. I’ve also been establishing, facilitating, and designing leadership development programs for more than 20 years and more than 10,000 people (I know it sounds a lot but I’ve developed programs for large organisations, education, health and also for the state public sector system in Queensland Australia). I have also evaluated the impact of leadership development for organisations from the Cape York (Australia) Indigenous Leadership Program to global companies like Nestle Malaysia and Singapore.
There are some fundamentals that I’ve learnt – based on my experience and impact measurement evidence, and also based on leadership development academic research.
Developing real, impactful, leaders
Great leadership development has a flow on effect, it’s not only good for leadership at work but it’s good for life at home – this is one of my ways of informally measuring the impact of a program.
What’s real about this approach is that it focuses on where people are at and provides them with many ways to move to where they want to be, and where they need to be to lead organisations.
I’d been alerted to Jeffery Pfeffer’s book through a presentation by Bob Quinn at the Academy of Management in Anaheim in August and was intrigued to learn more about the leadership industry critiquing the leadership industry.
I’d like to acknowledge the work of my colleague Professor Michael Fischer, whose article on transforming leadership development I found recently, after I’d developed my “list” above. Michael and I work together on the Leadership and Change in Healthcare Program for Melbourne Business School and it’s great working with colleagues who have similar thinking about leadership and its development.
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