Emerging Leadership Levers

Highlights from GILD (Global Institute for Leadership Development) sponsored by Linkage Inc.

Recently, I attended the Leadership Development Institute sponsored by Linkage in San Diego, CA. Attendees at the San Diego meeting included about 500 worldwide leaders. I served as one of the executive coaches.

I thought that this was the best learning experience of its kind that I have ever attended. This is a very strong statement for while I always find something useful in every meeting I attend this was a special event that truly was a positive learning experience for all involved: the Institute organizers, the presenters, facilitators, coaches and the attendees. Given the positive nature of the experience here are some of my key findings about learning and leadership.

1) Importance of Atmosphere- The design of the Institute experience was critical to its success. The Institute ran for six days and consisted of world class thought leaders including Gary Hamel, Carly Fiorina, Bill George and W. Chan Kim. All of the presenters focused on salient real world leadership challenges supported by key concepts. Additionally, all of them were compelling storytellers capturing our collective attention and mindshare. This was no easy task.

Following conversations with the thought leaders, participants engaged in team facilitations either with intact work teams or mixed teams. The focus was on implementation issues, and to test and validate reactions with peers confronting similar issues. These teams met everyday.

Each participant had a number of hours of individual coaching where they could explore what was important for them and their organizations. As an executive coach, this was a singular experience I have never had previously: having the privilege of having every coachee ready to explore what’s important for them, the core issues in their way, what motivates them, etc. (Of course, some coachees did require some skillful coaching to get them there.) I found it was a pleasure to work with clients focused and motivated to improve their performance and effectiveness as leaders.

The learning environment, an interesting mixture of varied and continuous learning experiences, created a positive atmosphere. People received exposure to leading edge ideas, discussed the ideas in depth with peers and then availed themselves of focused individual time to investigate what was limiting their own development. They were supported in this part of their development by one of the talented executive coaches on the faculty. The “heat” generated from the intensive all day learning permitted people be open to what was next for them.

2) Managing Personal Productivity through Energy Management One of the key challenges for today’s leaders is finding the time to engage in activities that can enhance their leadership skills. . It is difficult to keep up with the tasks and deliverables that leaders must focus on every day. Slowing down to reflect, change behaviors and finding ways to do become more effective is very difficult for most leaders given the magnitude and complexity of tasks they face.

A new paradigm presented by Tony Schwartz, co-author of The Power of Full Engagement, offered hope and direction in this area. (He will have a new piece in the October Harvard Business Review that presents his latest research.) Schwartz’s research suggests that there is physiological data that supports the need for rest and recovery to achieve increased productivity. His research suggests that our ability to focus and sustain productive activity only lasts 60-90 minutes. We need to rest or renew for a period of time after a period of focused activity to regain full productivity.

Schwartz suggests that we need varied kinds of renewal: physical, spiritual, mental and emotional to re-charge and renew, and that every successful executive knows this instinctively and takes appropriate action. The best way for us to manage our need for renewal is by creating simple, positive rituals so that, by better personal energy management, we can learn to better manage our time.

An example: get in the habit of checking in with your team daily, at a specific time, so that you create a regular, consistent time to facilitate communication. This would be a mental renewal activity. Once we have this positive habit routinized, we can move successfully to a physical renewal activity. Thus we schedule exercise 3-4 times a week just like we schedule meetings.

A key point: New activities must make it into your calendar!

Lying behind the activities are 3 core questions that enable us to drive focused, prioritized activity in the right direction:

  1. What’s my purpose? How can I spend my energy in ways that align with my values?
  2. What’s the truth? How am I really spending my energy now?
  3. What actions will I take? Close the gap between where you are and where you want to be

These core ideas are used to focus our time and energy on the right ways for us to manage our productivity.

3) A NEW THOUGHT:

The biggest opportunities and leverage for improvement today come from managing and leading better not from process and product improvement

These findings come from several sources: including Gary Hamel, Bill George (former CEO of Medtronic), Carly Fiorina (former CEO of HP) and from W. Chan Kim, author of Blue Ocean Strategy.

WHAT THOUGHT LEADERS SAY

The last 20 years of business have seen tremendous improvements in work processes, technology and infrastructure. Many of these improvements have led to unimagined improvements in productivity. Now, the high levels of improvements derived from these vehicles, have leveled off. Business people are exploring new and better ways to achieve productivity improvements. All of the experts above suggest that the next transformation in productivity will come from the people side of the business.

* Dr. Gary Hamel talked about recent productivity research from a variety of worldwide organizations. The research concluded that most organizations just get 55% productivity from their employees. That leaves a potential productivity improvement of 45%, which he posits must be derived from the creativity and passion of the employees. The first 55% has come primarily from specialization, hierarchy, standardization, planning and control and extrinsic rewards. He suggested that leaders could best tap into the remaining 45% productivity potential by exploring emerging principles in biology, the principles inherent in democracy and from transformational efforts that have transformed cities like London, Tokyo and New York.

* Carly Fiorina posited that the essence of leadership is facilitating change and that quality leadership frequently drives us to non obvious choices. She also suggested that if you could do only one thing to lead change it would be focusing on rewards and recognition.

* Bill George talked about democracy and capitalism both being based on trust. There are interesting similarities between his work and Stephen MR Covey’s The Speed of Trust. Bill also discussed his five keys to leadership:

  • Self awareness: Who are you really?
  • Practicing your values: What are you doing when others aren’t looking?
  • Motivations- both intrinsic and extrinsic: What’s important?
  • Asking what kind of life you want to lead- Demonstrating integrity in all aspects of your life. Do you exemplify your highest values?
  • Building your support team: Do you use a partnership model?

* Dr. W. Chan Kim discussed some concepts and applications from his compelling book, Blue Ocean Strategy. His basic premise is simple: to succeed in today’s marketplace you need to enter uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. This is contrary to much of the strategy teaching of the last 25 years. The leadership premise required to support new market success, though, is similar to all three of the thought leaders cited above. Chan Kim advocates a focus on creativity management, not production management to support increased productivity. If you want to leverage productivity you need to focus on creativity management which includes:

  • growth and innovation,
  • new business development,
  • global management,
  • future strategy,
  • methods of creativity and
  • building your corporate brand.

Conclusion

The conference was meaningful and impactful for me, personally, and for most of the participants. It included stimulating and provocative information, entertaining and informed speakers, quality interactions, new friends. That is a brief summary of the experience. But I left asking, “What is the meaning of what happened? What are the implications for leaders today? How can leaders use the learnings to make a difference? What can the coaches take away and apply to better support their executives? What can be done to sustain the impact over time?”

A few months ago I read a very powerful article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “Make Yourself a Talent Factory” by Ready and Conger. The articles focus on eight (8) key areas for development and what I now call the “three fuels” for organizational vitality: accountability, commitment and engagement. Commitment focuses on involving interns and new employees early in important work and involves line managers and leaders participating directly in filling important positions. Engagement reflects the degree to which company leaders show their commitment to the details of talent management, making it a real business priority. Accountability involves all stakeholders doing their part to make systems and processes robust.

Both Gary Hamel and Chan Kim talked about the diminishing returns for leaders from focusing on production. They then highlighted the possibilities available for organizational effectiveness today by tapping into the creativity and passion of the people in their organizations. Three areas of focus seem ripe for possibility:

  • creating the atmosphere for learning
  • focusing on managing your personal energy and
  • focusing on leading better

What does this mean in practical terms for leaders? What it means is that if you are truly seeking to enhance and leverage organizational effectiveness you need to make the three items above top priorities. And how do you work with these priorities? In the organization, you look for what you need to do to put in place new and improved ways for creating accountability, commitment and engagement. Personally, you look at the best ways to improve your social and emotional intelligence. Increased social and emotional intelligence will improve your ability to hold others accountable successfully and to influence effectively towards greater commitment and engagement. A simple process but not one easy to execute on.


4 Responses to “Emerging Leadership Levers”

  1. stan Labovitz Says:

    well done Patrick

  2. Jan Newcomb Says:

    Some good thoughts here, Patrick. One of the things I have found especially helpful in managing my own energy, as well as helping executives manage theirs, is to determine clearly the natural strengths that can be leveraged, the areas where it makes sense to develop skills, and the areas which are better to avoid or delegate to someone else. The BTSA tab on my website www.focusedcoach.com talks about an assessment that is invaluable in making these determinations.

  3. Kristi Rocha Says:

    Great summary Patrick. As usual, you are insightful and demonstrate your quest for continuous learning. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  4. Catherine Robinson-Walker Says:

    Hi Patrick,

    What a great piece. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and the “content” highlights. I got a lot out of this! (And I almost never, ever write comments to blogs or anything else.) ;-)

    All best wishes, and thanks again,

    Cathy R-W