Four Recommendations to Keep your Plan Current and Adaptable

Innovative leadership overcome stressThis post is by James Brenza co-author of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.

It’s 7:00 am in the hotel parking lot and I’m facing a 20 minute commute to the office. That leaves 10 extra minutes before my 7:30 presentation. Complicating factor number 1: the windshield is covered by a thick coat of frost. Complicating factor number 2: the car rental agency decided I didn’t need a window scraper. I didn’t have many options as I stared at my ungloved hand, a credit card, a frost encrusted windshield and listened to my watch continue to tick. I knew the commute very well and needed to improvise to arrive as expected. Have you ever been in a similar predicament? Despite your original plan, the next step includes an unexpected twist.

Isn’t it “funny” how we all encounter distractions from our plan? Whether you’re completing a product launch, a customer segmentation strategy or a new price optimization method, it seems there is always a wrinkle in your plan. In many circumstances, you may face challenges with your stakeholders, team members, incomplete data, inadequate models or insufficient time to properly train the models. In most of these situations, the mark of a strong leader isn’t their ability to personally resolve the underlying problem. Innovative leaders are known for their ability to adapt to the situation, pressures, team dynamic and think creatively to help the team resolve the issue. The following section explores various distractions from plan and recommended actions to mitigate the impact.

  • Communicate quickly and honestly. Key indicators and keys to success of innovative leadership are integrity and adaptability. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the adage that bad news doesn’t age well. When facing adversity such as distractions from our plan, an unexpected or delayed outcome, deceiving the stakeholders is never an option. However, we have the ability to creatively and adaptably apply our resources to attain all or a portion of the visionary goal.
  • Address leadership gaps quickly. If the distraction from your plan included a gap in your team’s skills or leadership capability, you can seek substitutes, additional resources, coaching or training. In especially challenging situations, including specialized consultants in a coaching mode can meet the short-term objective and bolster long-term capability. You can also leverage your network and personal skills to fill small gaps.
  • Address data availability and integrity. If your analytic initiative is struggling with data acquisition or qualification of available data, you may need to revise your objective until the data is available, validated and qualified for use. If you drive forward with inadequate data, you risk developing inaccurate models. Since the predictive ability of the available data may have some value, another alternative is to segment the population and attempt a small pilot with highly structured A/B testing.
  • Validate our analytics model. If your analytic models are evolving slower than planned, you can support your data scientists with a fresh perspective to validate the underlying descriptive statistics, foundational predictors or potentially confounded attributes. It’s especially important to ensure the models aren’t being over fit due to inadequate data or hasty elimination of valid predictors.

With all of these technical mitigations, your role as a leader is even more vital. You’ll need to ensure your communications are completely transparent, and your stakeholders are aware of the issues and mitigations. It may be necessary to remind them that the only thing worse than not implementing a predictive model is an inaccurate model that may reduce value through sub-optimization. In difficult and tense situations, your team’s resilience may crumble. Scheduling special activities or a little time away may help refresh them. It’s also vital to take care of yourself. With the extra stress and high expectations, your competing commitments may erode your performance. It’s critical to maintain your life balance and control any conflicts raised by your “inner voice”.

For the curious few seeking closure, I survived my frosty morning commute by using the defrosters to help with the windshield, minimized scraping on the side windows, skipped scraping the back window and missed seeing my favorite barista on the trip to the office. By adapting my expectations, reducing my typical commute plan and accepting a few risks, I was able to meet all of my commitments.

What adjustments are you prepared to make so you can meet your expectations?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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Photo credit: www.flick.com By: Techniker Krankenkasse

Cultivating Resilience: Developing our “Response-ability” to Stress – Part 2

ResilienceThis week’s blog post was written by one of our coaches, Lisa Iverson, innovative leadership coach & mental health counselor.  Last week we discussed resilience and how it’s helpful in the workplace by exploring the first two of four elements. This week we will discuss the remaining elements and how they can be applied.

Let’s look at an example of a client who is currently in a very tough leadership role. He has excelled his entire career, but is now facing challenges he hadn’t experienced before. His strategies are no longer working like they did in the past. Specifically, he is finding his responses to colleagues and people he respects and cares about are leaving him short tempered and agitated. This agitation comes out in his ability to respond in a supportive manner. The first step we took was for him to not only review his professional contributions and agendas for meetings, but to also prepare for the amount of emotional energy required. Now, when he is going into what is likely a challenging meeting, he takes two minutes in advance to calm himself and review his goals for the meeting. He also reflects on his appreciation for the talented team with whom he works. He appreciates his colleagues and finds that this momentary reflection helps him improve his ability to focus on the progress they are making rather than on the challenges they continually face.

3.    Be aware of and manage the way you think and speak to yourself.

Learn and practice the essence of more positive psychology. In his book A Primer in Positive Psychology, Christopher Pederson introduces positive psychology in the following manner:

Positive psychology is the scientific study of what goes right in life…It is a newly christened approach within psychology that takes seriously as subject matter those things that make life worth living…positive psychology does not deny the valleys. Its signature premise is more nuanced but nonetheless important: ‘What is good about life is as genuine as what is bad and therefore deserves equal attention.’”

Learn to focus on and recall the positive aspects or your life:

  • your experiences
  • your behaviors
  • your opportunities and potential
  • the gifts, strengths, and talents that you offer to other people
  • aspects of life you are grateful for
  • learn to reinforce these positive thoughts as opposed to dwelling on the negative
  • learn to “reframe” challenging situations and develop a wider perspective, imagining that something positive might arise from the challenge

4.    Build Emotional Intelligence: Self-Knowledge and Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is certainly not a skill that can be learned overnight nor through a weekend workshop. Developing true self-knowledge is a life-long process that must be attended to on a daily basis, and it matures and deepens as long as we value the process and give it time and guidance to develop.

Robert Wicks, in his very helpful book Bounce: Living the Resilient Life, writes,

If resilience is to be strengthened, if stress is to be limited, and if the quality of our personal and professional well-being is to be enhanced, then self-knowledge is not a nicety… Self-knowledge leads to personal discipline and self-management, which are essential to resilience. Psychologists call this ‘self-regulation.’” 

Wicks identifies eight major themes that should be considered in an on-going self-reflective process:

  • understanding our unique self and being true to that self
  • embarking on a disciplined search
  • elements of clarity
  • awareness of our own agendas
  • facing failure in a productive way
  • critical thinking
  • appreciating and overcoming our resistance to change
  • improving self-talk

Very few people will find all of these characteristics of “a resilient person” easy to cultivate. While each area of effort seems healthy and worth the pursuit, most of us are not trained or programmed to be aware of our stress level and our personal triggers, to self-regulate our emotions, or to change our self talk, nor is it easy for any of us to carve out the time for the many positive suggestions that are offered to increase our resilience. Yet, I believe that the skill sets described here are as vital to our leadership toolbox as any other, perhaps more so in the long run. These skills, once developed, are as applicable to personal life as to our work places and simply make us happier, more resilient, and more effective human beings. The skills inherent in being resilient improve our overall quality of life.

Most of us can build these skills on our own, to some degree, but the assistance and guidance of a coach can both speed up and further deepen this important area of development. If, like most of us, you are either challenged by stress or are working hard to develop some element of the skill set mentioned in this article, consider a hiring a coach to assess your current status, and to guide, encourage, and assist your progress toward greater resilience.

Cultivating resilience is an effort and a gift to yourself you won’t regret.

Lisa Iverson is a certified coach and a licensed mental health therapist. Lisa was also the founder and was the long-term Executive Director of NOVA School, an independent middle school for highly capable students. She has spent years in senior leadership roles running this and other schools. During this time she honed her skills in leadership, organization development and individual leader development. She now focuses on providing innovative leadership and organizational development coaching and consulting. Lisa coaches her clients to effectively navigate the complex terrain of transformational leadership in organizations as well as in entrepreneurial settings.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Resources:

Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, Metcalf, Maureen and Palmer, Mark

Bounce: Living the Resilient Life, Wicks, Robert J.

A Primer in Positive Psychology, Peterson, Christopher

The Power of Resilience, Brooks, Robert and Goldstein, Sam

Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, Graham, Linda MFT

photo credit: www.flickr.com wetzel

Using Leader Type to Build Authentic Leadership

IntrospectionHow to use the five elements of innovative leadership to become a more authentic leader is the focus of this five-blog series. We will explore each element in sufficient depth and provide recommended next steps. The first component is how an understanding of leader type helps you become more authentic and also create a more authentic workplace.

First, understand your leadership type by taking an assessment to understand yourself; then, learn about your colleagues’ types. By knowing who you are and who they are, you can create an environment in which people are able to comfortably be themselves and create a common language where they understand one another. An environment in which people are given tacit permission to be themselves allows them to focus their energy on their skills, rather than using it to fit into an expectation and aligns individuals aligns with the culture of the overall group.

Paul, an engineering leader, is a Type six personality,(the loyalist). He is committed, reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy, and security-oriented.  .  Though he is cautious and has problems with self-doubt, he’s quite methodical and also passionate about the value his work provides to our community. He evaluates how his projects will impact his children and future generations, and is focused on building the physical infrastructure required to promote a better future. These qualities make him an exceptional engineer. He’s an excellent “troubleshooter” and can foresee problems and foster cooperation, but Paul—often running on stress—can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious.

He focuses heavily on process and has insufficient levels of empathy to be an exceptional leader of people and projects. After taking the Enneagram assessment, he was able to identify his strengths and deficiencies. By understanding his authentic type (Enneagram Type six) and building on his strengths, he has improved his leadership ability. To augment his strengths, he also needed to build the capacities where he showed limitations—one of which is the capacity to show authentic empathy. He started by trying small experiments in leading with empathy that was appropriate for his work environment. He documented these experiments in a journal that allowed him to reflect on what was blocking his success as well as what was working well.

Over time he began to receive very positive feedback that these experiments were working, and his ability to be empathetic evolved into an authentic skill. While this may never be his strongest skill, he has made great progress in understanding what others need from him and developing the skills to relate more effectively. His success is attributed to both his willingness to learn about himself and also to take corrective action to address a gap in his skills and comfort level.

Part of the challenge in building authentic leadership is learning to leverage the clarity of your introspection. You can only be authentic if you understand who you truly are. Looking inside yourself and examining the makeup of your inner being enables you to function in a highly-grounded way, rather than operating from the innate biases of uninformed decision-making.

First and foremost start by simply considering your disposition, tendencies, inclinations, and ways of being. Authentic leadership hinges on understanding the simple, native manner in which you show up in your life. One way to observe this is by examining key aspects of your inner being, often called Leader Type, which reflect a leader’s personality type. The leader personality type is an essential foundation of your personal makeup, critically influencing who you are as a leader and greatly shaping the effectiveness of your leadership. The ancient adage “know thyself” holds true as a crucial underpinning in leadership performance.

When the sixty-five member Advisory Council for the Stanford Graduate School of Business was polled several years ago on the topic of what is most important to include in the school’s curriculum, there was an overwhelming, and quite impressive, agreement that the most important thing business school graduates needed to learn was self-awareness and the resulting ability to reduce denial in their perceptions of themselves and their actions. This speaks to the emerging deep recognition that we are highlighting in authentic leaders: Leaders who are unable to manage their authentic personality quirks and biases, can derail the most progressive initiatives toward an organization’s sustainable success. The real goal is to understand who you are at your core, build on your strengths, and  manage prejudice and idiosyncrasies.

Recommendations to improve your leadership authenticity using the focus on leader type:

  1. Take a personality type assessment;
  2. Learn about your type;
  3. Get input from others on what they think is most effective and least effective about your leadership style relative to your professional goals;
  4. Do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) assessment to evaluate how your type maps to your work;
  5. Identify the strengths on which you can build, and the weaknesses and threats that may interfere with your success;
  6. Create a development plan that includes defining  daily practices to support development, including introspective routines;
  7. Seek assistance in accomplishing your plan and getting feedback from trusted others;
  8. Make the changes you defined in your plan.

Your ability to use deep introspection relies on your development of, and a capacity for, self-understanding and self-awareness. Both allow you profound openness of personal perspective as well as a greater understanding of others. These critical traits support leaders’ abilities to self-regulate, communicate effectively with others, and encourage personal learning. Employing a deeper understanding of Leader Type for both yourself and others is a powerful tool to promote effective leadership.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com h.koppdelaney

Five Steps to Becoming an Authentic Leader

Authentic LeadershipBill is a highly skilled leader. Self-aware, Bill makes a concerted effort to create an environment in which each of his team members can be their most effective at work. He has assembled a diverse staff with unique skills and a lot of idiosyncrasies. Bill has worked hard to help this staff of stars come together as a cohesive team.

One morning he arrived to find an obviously upset employee sitting in his office. He has a conversation with the employee who is clearly concerned about the condescending behavior of another colleague. The upset employee, Michelle, suggests that the work environment Bill created is hostile and clearly not supportive of her doing her best work. She feels belittled by her colleague and is seeking Bill’s support to ensure the office in which they work is conducive to delivering top quality service to their clients. As she leaves, Bill thinks about his leadership style. He asks himself if his style has created an environment that promotes a positive work environment for all employees. Is he allowing some people to treat others in a negative or unsupportive way? Is there anything he should do differently to promote a more productive and supportive environment? How can he create an environment that allows unique people to be themselves and at the same time work as a cohesive team? Bill’s instincts say he has created a positive environment but now he hears from a valued employee that he may not be doing as well as he thought. Fundamentally, the question for Bill becomes – is his authentic leadership style supportive of organizational success? Does he need to refine his style or develop as a leader to be both authentic and create a positive environment?

The question that comes to mind is: How can leaders be authentic and encourage others to do the same while concurrently meeting the needs of the overall team and organization?

Let’s start with a definition of authenticity from a recent Forbes article: Learning about yourself is perhaps the single most important outcome of a powerful educational experience. Self-awareness can lead to an ever-increasing authenticity, which in turn leads to powerful leadership abilities. Authenticity is not about “accept me for what I am”; authentic leaders are self-aware, willing to adapt and change and “be who they are in service to others.” Education should be a powerful process of increasing self-awareness, of coming to know yourself and of learning the intrinsic value of who you are as a human being. . . and then understanding the need for constant change, personal growth and learning for the rest of your life.”

Innovative Leadership 5 Key ElementsNow let’s turn to innovative leadership and how it can help leaders become more authentic. As you examine the pyramid you will notice five key elements. By using these elements you can become a more authentic and effective leader:

  1. Understand your leadership type by taking an assessment to understand yourself; then, learn about your colleagues’ types. By knowing who you are and who they are, you can create an environment in which people are able to comfortably be themselves and create a common language where they understand one another. In an environment such as this, the balance allows colleagues to be completely who they and aligned with the culture of the overall group.
  2. Understand developmental perspective and how individuals are able to take the perspective of many different levels. By understanding the level of your colleagues and meeting them where they are, you are showing the highest degree of respect and appreciation. The golden rule of authentic leadership could be “treat people as they need to be treated to perform at their best.” Since we are all unique, treating others as you want to be treated may create some significant problems in a leadership role.
  3. Building resilience includes developing a strong sense of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, knowing your strengths and preferences. It also includes understanding others’ strengths and preferences, and demonstrating the flexibility to respond to another’s level appropriately.
  4. Situational Analysis is, in part, your ability to adjust your communication and behavior to the cultural norms and behavioral expectations of the organization. This means you can read the situation quickly and respond accordingly. If you are an introvert and prefer to process solo, you will benefit—as will your team—when you can expand your capacity to process with the group. This is particularly helpful if you are surrounded by extroverts who process “out loud” with others. This does not mean you change your innate preference or act in a way that is not genuine, but rather you expand your ability to do both. It is a bit like learning to swing forehand and backhand in tennis. You’ll continue to have preferences, but, by expanding your abilities, you can be both authentic and agile.
  5. Leadership behavior means behaving in a manner that is authentic to you, and appropriate to the organization and situations in which you find yourself. To do this well it means you need access to a broad range of behaviors.

The antidote to being forced to make the choice between being authentic and responding appropriately to many diverse situations is to expand your “range of behaviors” and increase your comfort with this broader range. A personal example is that I am an introvert by nature, yet I teach and speak publicly  as part of my work. I love the role of faculty member even though the specific task of teaching is not in my innate comfort zone. The key for me was to stretch my comfort zone so that I can be authentic in front of a class or an audience at a conference. When I started teaching I really struggled with this, and now it is second nature. I continue to be an introvert—and I probably teach a bit differently than an extrovert would—but through self-awareness, pushing the confines of my comfort zone, and practice, I’ve found a way to be authentically myself.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com sweet dreamz design

Transforming Organizations Using Innovative Leadership

Change Leadership PerspectiveSarah was the Vice President of Marketing for a Fortune 100 company when we met several years ago. She was known throughout her division for the bright colors that she wore and for her equally bright disposition. Her ability to help people she feel almost instantly comfortable was a well-crafted skill. Sarah rose through the ranks in the company starting out as a sales assistant and then slowly earned her way to progressively more responsibility.  As an executive she was centered, focused, and highly successful. Having a conversation with Sarah in this setting felt that something of importance was about to transpire.

When we last met, she told a story of a senior director. “He was a top salesman when he came to us and was quickly moved into our high-achievers program. His numbers were always solid and his group was very productive when he was a manager.” At that, she looked down and paused.  “But even then” she remarked, “I would hear of incidents where people left meetings feeling demoralized—he has such strong people skills and is so bright—I thought these incidents must have been attempts to help his staff stretch. Now, in retrospect, I think I missed some warning signs. We are at the point where he has stepped on so many toes that nobody wants to work with him.”

Problems like those of this senior director are as complex as they are common. Though he had all of the technical skills, intelligence, and motivation to be a very effective leader, staff turnover, poor collaboration, and a reputation as being difficult to work with found him doing as much harm to his company as good. Part of the challenge in building innovative leadership is learning to leverage the clarity of your introspection. Looking inside yourself and examining the make-up of your inner being, enables you to function in a highly grounded way, rather than operating from the innate biases of more uninformed decision-making. This ability to reflect and consider how as a leader you need to change as part of the larger change initiative is critical to leading successful organizational transformation efforts.

Accelerating change continues to impact every facet of business. To thrive long term, business leaders must make implementing change a core competency that allows them to capitalize on our changing world instead of merely attempting to adapt to it.

Organizations clearly need innovation to successfully navigate the new economic landscape—and they are not getting it. It’s relatively rare for transformation programs to deliver the results that were projected in the original business case. Simply put, companies attempting to traverse the new economic landscape with incomplete tactics will not succeed. In addition to looking at tactics used to implement change, we also need to look at the impact leadership has on the organization’s ability to successfully implement change. An exclusive focus on systems’ performance and analytics can prove costly. Enhancing organizational capacity must extend beyond increasing system functionality.

If, in addition to developing better functional processes, you begin to clarify strategic vision, grow leadership capacity, and build a cohesive company culture, you will achieve much greater and more sustainable success.

Complex challenges illuminate deeply held beliefs and force a change in how work is done, and also in the leaders themselves and an organization’s values. What results is more than a process change or innovation translation. A complex solution not only creates changes in processes, but allows a natural progression and forum in which to explore and develop personal values and beliefs, behaviors, and interactions. The most effective solutions to complex challenges are those that change the leader and the organization’s relationship to processes, values, behaviors, and interactions. In other words, the change process works on the leader at the same time the leader works on the change.

The concept of leading change starts with leadership and yet in many organizations the process often omits the idea that transforming leaders is part of the overall transformation process.

Innovative leadership is based on the recognition that four dimensions (intention, behavior, culture, and systems) exist in all experiences, and already influence every interactive experience we have. To deny the interplay of any one of the four dimensions is missing the full picture. You can only build innovative leadership by simultaneously addressing all four dimensions.

Because innovative leadership influences by engaging the four dimensions equally, balanced leaders are uniquely qualified to implement complex change with a much higher success rate. A primary reason for transformation failure is that leaders focus primarily on the systems, rather than the larger context that includes themselves as leader and the organizational culture.

Combining innovative leadership with a comprehensive change model to solve complex problems leads to a higher success rate. This success rate is possible because this new model:

  • Addresses complex problems by analyzing them and developing comprehensive solutions beyond those found in traditional problem-solving approaches;
  • Addresses the four dimensions: a leader’s intention and behavior along with the organization’s culture and systems in a systematic manner that creates alignment between them;
  • Includes the innovative leader in the change process by expecting the leader to innovate how they lead to keep pace with the challenges they are solving.

During this era of increased complexity, an accelerated need for change, and failed change initiatives, it’s critical for organizations to identify new models which address these challenges while maintaining efficient and effective operations.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

photo credit: www.flickr.com suez92

Five Keys to Building Tenacity and Humility in the Face of Chaos

In his bestselling business book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about the importance of tenacity and humility in Level 5 Leaders—two qualities that help anyone survive in the face of chaos. We all know how our lives can turn upside down with no warning, leaving us confused and doubting a positive outcome. During chaotic times how do you stay focused on critical priorities and keep moving forward?  Can you maintain focus when the world seems out of control and you see your plans disintegrate in front of you?

I recently worked with an executive who lost his job when the organization changed direction.  As if that unexpected transition wasn’t enough, his wife of 24 years told him she wanted a divorce and out of the house immediately.  In a relatively short time, his world was upended. He felt defeated and that everything he had worked so hard for was lost. At the time, he couldn’t imagine what he could possibly do to make it through each day, and wondered if he would ever regain a sense of control and success in his life.

While most people do not watch their lives fall apart frame by frame as if they had stepped into a horror or science fiction film, each of us has had to face a situation that changed the path we’d been on.  What can you do to keep focused when life’s distractions want to pull you off course?  Whether you’re currently caught in a transition or not, the following steps are important to staying grounded.

  1. Take care of your physical well-being.  Are you eating, sleeping and working out?
  2. Manage your thinking!  It is easy to get caught up in what’s wrong—how will you build the discipline to stop the negativity and remind yourself of the good in your life even if it seems very small or distant at the moment?
  3. Return to basics.  Remember what your reasons are for getting you up in the morning and keep you going even on the toughest day.  Do you have a clear sense of purpose in your life that expands beyond your job?
  4. Identify the top 2-3 people you can trust and ask for their support.  How do you ensure you are getting the emotional and mental support from people you trust and who care about you?
  5. If you are a person of faith, recommit yourself.  What do you do that keeps you feeling spiritually connected?

By tending to these five key areas, you’ll build the foundation to navigate the toughest of situations and come out of your challenge a stronger and more compassionate person.

My client is now successfully working in a new company with a much greater appreciation for the challenges others face. He has more confidence in his ability—and a better perspective when little things go wrong.  As a result of his own experience, he developed greater humility and appreciation for others that he didn’t possess before his life began to unravel.  He is also better at leading people because he has lost some of his judgmental attitude toward others. His chaos provided an opportunity for personal growth has made him a better leader—and one who is certainly more tenacious and more humble.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

photocredit:  abode of chaos  www.flickr.com

Vision and Values – The Antidote to Burnout?

I have had a number of discussions with clients and colleagues lately that point to the profound risk people are facing of burnout and the cost we experience when this happens.  Many of our strongest leaders are saying they cannot maintain the pace and they are looking for other options that will allow them to maintain their health even if it means stepping back in pay and responsibility.

I had three discussions this weekwith highly successful executives who are seriously considering these options.  To paint the picture, these are people who have been the ones who stepped in when others could or would not.  They are the heroes; they had the stamina, the competence and the commitment to sacrifice their personal wellbeing for the good of the organization.  What happens when they cannot do it anymore?  In many cases, they stepped up because others could not or would not so they are filling a gap that they thought was temporary.  Things were supposed to get better.  This was supposed to be a short term choice and now it has been a few years for some of them.

According to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chair of the World Economic Forum: “In the run-up to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, there is a distinct sense of burnout in the air.”

What is the impact?

According to Wendy Woods in Meditating at Work: A New Approach to Managing Overload, “Basex research found that 50 percent of a knowledge worker’s day is spent “managing information” and that an excess of information results in “a loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.” In fact, research shows that constant information overload sends the brain into the fight-or-flight stress response, originally designed to protect us from man-eating tigers and other threats.

What do they recommend?

The theme of this year’s annual World Economic Forum is “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models”, precisely because we are in an era of profound change that urgently requires new ways of thinking instead of just more business-as-usual.

According to Klaus Schwab again, “There is an urgent need to act. As well as finding new models to collaboratively address all our global challenges, we also need to form a new model of leadership that is effective in the modern world: leadership that emphasizes both vision and values in order to overcome the current challenges. It is this combination that can provide leaders with a compass to guide their decision-making.”  Leadership based on vision and values will go a long way to regaining trust and beating the burnout, but only if leaders themselves can prove through concrete actions that social responsibility and moral obligations are not just empty words.

We completely agree with this assertion.  In our recently published book, the first step in developing innovative leadership is to examine and clarify your vision and values.  This set of exercises and reflections encourages you to consider the impact you will make on the world and how you will behave in the process.  We will be publishing a workbook in the first quarter of 2012 with exercises to help you identify your vision and values.  This will be a condensed version of the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.  Our current plan is to make this chapter available at no cost on-line to encourage leaders to consider their personal vision and values and provide a set of tools to make this possible. In the absence of this clarity, leaders and organizations are more susceptible to the onslaught of information, changing priorities and fires to be addressed with no “north star” to use for navigation.

Are you considering improving your ability to be an innovative leader?  If so, take this free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to determine where you fall on the innovative leadership scale.  If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.  Metcalf & Associates offers assessments, coaching and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative.

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Photo credit:  flickr: L.I.N.S.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

5 Benefits of Investing Time in Innovative Leadership

I had lunch with a dear friend and executive yesterday talking about her sense of dread about getting out of bed in the morning and going to work.  She is a very upbeat person so this is a new experience for her.  She believed about 80% of her executive peers had similar dread on a daily basis and really wondered how they could make it through their day.

People are actually hoping the 2012 disaster predictions are true so they can escape the jobs that they dreamt about and worked their entire lives to achieve.  How can that be?

We go to college, take the right stretch assignments, relocate for jobs, and work crazy hours so we can reach this goal – being an executive.  All those sacrifices, time with friends and family, missed events, putting off relationships and family.  Then the question – I gave up so much to get here?  Now what?  Is this really it?

How does this tie to innovative leadership?  Most of the leaders I know are working longer hours than they ever imagined at this point in life.  We all expected to pay our dues and we expected that the long hours and crazy schedules would be rewarded with promotion and an opportunity to live a more balanced life. Many are at the top of their game with regard to skills and abilities and still working crazy hours and feeling burned out.  As they look down the road, what are they working for?

Innovative leadership helps leaders change how they see their role as leaders and develop additional awareness and skills to shift their experience. What do you get from focusing on Innovative Leadership?

  1. It can help you become more self-aware – providing a foundation for different choices and more productive interactions
  2. It can increase your ability to find innovative approaches to solve problems
  3. It can help you change your habitual thinking –  moving away from unproductive thoughts
  4. It can help you become more systematic in your problem solving and decision making – more comprehensive solutions mean more efficiency
  5. It can guide your leadership behaviors to a more generative (less controlling) style – increasing engagement and productivity among your team

So, with those potential benefits – can you afford the time to explore what it is?  Please see our blog post on Innovation Excellence site explaining more about Innovative Leadership – titled Is Your Leadership Innovative.  You can also take the free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to test your own development.

Based on feedback from busy executives, we are in the process of condensing the highly acclaimed Innovative Leadership Fieldbook into a much shorter workbook format.  While it does not have the depth of information, it is shorter thus requiring less time.  We provide practical tools and templates that help you in your leadership development along with an example of what completed worksheets look like.  You can use this as a stand-alone process or work with a coach. If you as a leader find the content and process helpful, you can use it with your staff to help them develop.

If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.  Metcalf & Associates offers assessments, coaching and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative.

To receive future blog posts in your mailbox, enter your name in the subscribe box on the right column.

Photo credit:  flickr h.koppdelaney

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Leadership Innovation & Friends at Work

As we talk about innovative leadership, many people are likely wondering what this really means in concrete examples, not some theory.

One concrete example is the shift from the view that good leaders and managers ensure their employees are doing their work and not spending time on activities that take away from their focus on tasks.

Early in my career, my boss asked that I make sure my team members do not spend too much time talking.  When they talked for more than about two minutes, I was to go over and ask them if there was anything I could help them with.  If not, they were to get back to work.  Now we have interesting research that suggests that this focus on productivity at the expense of camaraderie at work is counterproductive.  I understand there is a balance in all things and this this case is no exception.

So, what changed?  As we moved from the industrial era model for many jobs to a knowledge based economy, we are now more worried about “employee engagement”.    The world’s top-performing organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resources initiative — it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business.

Research by Gallup and others shows that engaged employees are more productive. They are more profitable, more customer-focused, safer, and more likely to withstand temptations to leave. The best-performing companies know that an employee engagement improvement strategy linked to the achievement of corporate goals will help them win in the marketplace.

One of the questions in the Gallup engagement survey asks if employees have a best friend at work.  According to Gallup, “Those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1 in 12 chance of being engaged.  Social relationships at work have also been shown to boost employee retention, safety, work quality and customer engagement.”  So think about this – if I take time to have conversations with people at work enough to consider someone a good friend, I must be breaking the 2 minute rule.

Beyond the time, I was also taught that my personal life is private and not to be shared with colleagues.  I remember a boss who shared her struggles with this notion.  She was very private and she seemed distant and a bit uncaring.  My favorite boss was much “warmer” and more open.  She was professional and appropriate and could have a very direct approach and yet no matter how frustrated she became with the work, I always knew I could count on her to be fair.  My trust in her ran deep because I had a “friendship”.

So, this is one example of how the rules have changed in many workplaces.  If employee engagement is a differentiator, then we need to move beyond the old rules to a new and more innovative view of leadership.  This is one small example of how innovative leaders look at work and people in the workplace very differently.  They are not “human resources”, rather they are real people who have hopes and dreams and friends.

Do you have a colleague or friend at work that you trust to give you honest feedback?  Someone to help think through a challenging work situation?  Do you feel like someone cares about your career success?  What are you doing to be a “friend” at work to your colleagues?

Photo credit:  Al Abut

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Building Resilience in an Environment of Change – Stories

Today we have a guest post from Maria Polak, one of our associates and also faculty member at Otterbein University and Franklin University.

Almost every day provides information on external changes to organizations and systems that can affect us in many ways.  Market demands in the private sector have already affected those organizations, with resilient organizations adapting to change to stay relevant in the marketplace.  External change is now affecting public and nonprofit sectors: From thinking differently about how education is delivered in our schools, to funding constraints in the nonprofit sector, to thinking differently about the interaction of government with its citizens, no sector is immune.

How can you be resilient in the face of external change?  A colleague was struggling with the direction of his spiritual needs.  It was both an external and an internal change he sensed.  Externally, should he stay with the institution of his childhood?  That was the easy direction, and staying the course would provide him the security and safety of the known.  Internally, it was different.  His path wasn’t clear, and after the review and participation in various religious communities, he was able to settle on one different from childhood.  He was willing to be open to change and explore options to make that change happen.

In reading about this shift it can sound like a simple transition yet for many people this is one of the most important and difficult decisions they make because spiritual communities may be the longest lasting and most stable in our lives.  Many of us have fiends, mentors and teachers that have been involved in our entire lives.  The process my friend went through involved a very serious consideration of what he valued, how the church met his current needs and where it did not.  Additionally, he considered the impact the loss of that particular community would have on him weighted against the hope that he would build even stronger bonds with the new community that better reflected the person he is becoming.

Directing Mental Perspective is one of four primary categories of resilient leaders listed in the blog post: Building Resilient Leaders – Part 1.  Your attitude, beliefs, and assumptions, not just knowledge about the change, are under your control.  Rather than be overwhelmed with external changes, actively question or check with yourself about your thinking about the change.  Perhaps you have an assumption that change shouldn’t be allowed to happen and strong efforts (your belief) stop the change.  This assumption and belief may prevent you from seeing options.  With the colleague mentioned above, his willingness to look at alternative spiritual communities (options) freed him to choose the direction he needed to move forward.

Peter Drucker (March-April, 1999) writes about providing options for oneself in a knowledge economy in his Harvard Business Review article, Managing Oneself.  He states that “having options will become increasing vital.”  Options provide a sense of control and the ability for future action.  Think of giving yourself options as the branches of a tree.  Each branch provides shade (an option) and the fuller the tree with branches the more options (and the more shade) available.  As the tree has strong roots to keep it steady, the branches and the trunk of the tree move with changes in the environment.  By staying flexible the tree adapts.  As we stay flexible, our ability to be resilient improves and gives us strength.

Is your thinking allowing you options to live your life to its fullest potential?  Are you accepting the opportunities in your life that allow you to grow as a leader?  As a person?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.