Notes from the Field: Using Developmental Perspectives in Job Transition

Leadership Point of ViewWelcome to Notes from the Field! In the first set of posts in this series, Alice shows how she used the five elements of innovative leadership to onboard in a new job. In her posts she will explore the elements and provide examples of how she applied each one of them.

The second component (or layer) of innovative leadership highlights the importance of developmental perspective, as outlined in the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook by Maureen Metcalf and Mark Palmer. Essentially, this is the foundation for how leaders view their role in the workplace and how they interact with others in order to accomplish work. Otherwise stated, it is the “meaning making” or making sense of one’s experiences.

While leadership type sheds light on personality characteristics—and may not change dramatically throughout one’s career or lifetime—developmental perspective has the ability to expand capacity with increased growth. This is encouraging to me as I am focused on increasing my perspective taking and developmental level. It’s important to me to have a means to evaluate where I am in order to benchmark toward the level of leader I aim to be. It’s equally as important to have the ability to understand others’ perspectives when leading or participating in teams.

Most common developmental perspectives:

Most commonly, there are six developmental perspectives found in the setting of an organization. More information on the specifics of each perspective can be found in the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. Recommendations on how to improve your developmental perspective capacity can also be found in the blog post, Using Developmental Perspective to Build Authentic Leadership. Essentially, the six most common developmental perspectives are listed below in order of increasing capacity:

  • Diplomat
  • Expert
  • Achiever
  • Individualist
  • Strategist
  • Magician

I would currently classify my perspective to be between the individualist and strategist. My goal is to break the barriers holding me back from becoming a strategist over the next five years. Some of these characteristics I most identify with include:

  • A beginning awareness that perception shapes reality
  • Understanding the mutual interdependence with others
  • Long term focus is on the next  15-20 years
  • Pursues actualizing personal convictions according to internal standards

Take time to assess those on your team:

This developmental level is helping me during the onboarding of my new position in that I am able to understand systematic patterns of our processes without being given much detail, and I am able to piece together an assumptive viewpoint of the members on my team and their strengths. From my assumptions, my team currently consists of an expert, two achievers, me (who is mostly an individualist), and our leader is likely a strategist.

Understanding my team’s objectives and what is important to them will make for more effective communication. For example, understanding that the expert has a tendency to be more critical and blame-oriented is important during interactions with him. I may feel that it is unnecessary to point out a small mistake that had little impact because in the big scheme of things it does not matter. However, for the expert, it is critical to clear his name and distance himself from the issue; so, he publicly identifies the mistake and the responsible party. To the “guilty” party, this can feel like an attack, but, in reality, the expert’s objective is to clear his name, not tear someone down.

The achievers on my team are important to recognize because their objective is to get things done. The day is not over until the objectives are accomplished even though, due to unexpected events, tasks may take longer to complete—which pushes for a longer than planned day. I must realize the achiever’s perspective when I am expected to stay later than planned even when it puts me in a state of crisis in order to get to class, or to my next planned function. These situations can easily become emotionally charged situation if I am not careful.

There is no better/worse developmental perspective:

Also from the blog post, Using Developmental Perspective to Build Authentic Leadership,” it is important to remember there are no better or worse developmental perspectives—all are necessary to make an organization function optimally; there are, however, better and worse ways to interact based on the perspectives of those involved. All perspectives play a unique and important role, with distinct strengths if managed properly. Additionally, each perspective/level has a place within the organization where it is most effective.

Insert a pause:

For me, it’s not always easy or natural to communicate with someone who has a different developmental perspective. Typically, in the heat of the moment, or in an intense, fast-paced environment is where I struggle. I’m learning its necessary discipline for me to pause before communicating or responding to ground myself emotionally, and to evaluate the other person’s perspective on the situation. It will also allow for further information gathering, by picking up on body language, or other signals I may have missed. This discipline is especially important as I am learning to communicate with my new team. Building authentic relationships with my team the right way will pay dividends down the road, and is great practice for difficult situations that are inevitable in the future.

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: sigma

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