August 12, 2014
Six years ago a coaching pilot was launched with MBA students in the Smurfit Business School. To date 851 individuals from 30 different countries have benefited from this programme.
The purpose of the MBA coaching programme is to provide a space for reflection in the lives of MBA participants to enable them to work on a personalised agenda thereby maximising the value of the MBA as they transition back into the work-place.
Myself, Orla Nugent (MBA Programme Director) and Michael McDonnell (Leadership Development Programme Manager) took a look back over the last six years of the programme and recently published this article in the Association for Coaching Bulletin. Hopefully you will find it of interest.
June 20, 2014
Is it just me or is everyone talking about ‘values’ in leadership these days? I have noticed an increase in such conversations in the last 6 months.
This week, it has come up every single day whether with colleagues or clients (corporate and personal).
I came across some research done by the Barrett Values Centre in 2012, where they surveyed 4,000 people to understand their personal values to form a view of what’s important to society as a whole in the UK (See picture and more detail in this report).
Would it be useful to understand Irish values so it can inform decision making at a national level?
March 18, 2014
Imagine a big room in the attic of a rural hotel in the Swiss mountains. There are 8 people, 2 facilitators (clown/ consultants) and 6 participants diverse in terms of age and country of origin. This is a leadership lab run by AZck! Learning and Development in conjunction with Tom Greder.
I went to this programme as a participant really unsure what leadership can learn from clowning but open to finding out. The journey over the 3 days brought us out of our comfort zones (with our permission) and helped us each to address areas of development we wanted to explore. I have never before seen a programme so tailored to the needs of the individual.
Like many leadership programmes, we explored the areas of self-awareness and our impact on others. However in contrast to the usual programmes, we really entered unknown territory. Our journey mirrored some of the challenges of life outside the lab: leading in ambiguous situations, with limited resources and having to improvise in the spotlight (although in this case, there really was a spotlight!)
We often learn a lot from times when we are stretched… and this was one of those occasions – a very special one indeed! We learnt and laughed so much!
So I ask myself the question in hindsight what has leadership got to learn from clowning? Surprisingly for me, quite a lot! So many of the regular leadership themes emerged in the act of clowning: presence, vulnerability, connection with others, leadership and followership, adaptability and so much more. But instead of reading it from a textbook or listening to theory, we were in a laboratory, and we ourselves were the subject of our own experiments. I can’t think of a more engaging way to learn.
February 25, 2014
A recent article in the FT by Maxime Boersma entitled ‘We want coaching,’ say high-fliers shows how perceptions of coaching have changed dramatically over recent years.
The Head of Learning and Development at a UK organisation describes how “Executive coaching is increasingly sought by senior leaders as a space where they can have reflective conversations about their work and be challenged on their thinking and approach.”
January 16, 2014
For those who follow my blog, you will know that my trip to Harvard in 2012 was significant for me and altered my views and approaches to leadership development. I also benefited from meeting an incredible international group of people with similar interests and aspirations. One such person is Annick Zinck (www.AZck.com).
I have the pleasure of collaborating Annick this June on ‘The Sail and Lead program 2014′ on Lake Geneva. It is a unique learning opportunity enabling participants to learn more about themselves and how they interact with others in situations where they are under pressure, with limited resources and in a changing environment. No sailing experience is needed as there will be two top-class sailing coaches working with the participants.
You can get more details on the programme by clicking here or contact me directly to chat through this unique learning experience.
October 7, 2013
Over my life-time I have been on a journey of gaining expertise in the actuarial field, as an IT consultant, as an operations director and now as a leadership development consultant and coach. After-all, expertise gives credibility.
In my quest to learn more and know more, I never really considered the down-side of expertise – surely it can only be a good thing? This morning I was reading a review of a book called the ‘Reflective Practitioner’ by Donald Schön and I was reminded that expertise can actually restrict our thinking. It can narrow our vision. We expect that the challenge we are facing is the same one as the one we saw last week or last month with similar characteristics. In fact, if we have ‘over-learned’ what we know we can become ‘selectively inattentive to phenomena that do not fit’ our past experience . The risk is that we misdiagnose the issue we are facing and presume that we know the answer.
Donald Schon describes a process of ‘reflection in action’.
‘The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on the prior understandings which have been implicit in his behaviour. He carries out an experiment which serves to generate both a new understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the situation.’ (Schön 1983: 68)
I am often struck by the questions my kids ask. I accept so many things in the world which they question and that certainly challenges me. I am reminded here of the benefits of not accepting or presuming, but seeing each challenge we face with fresh eyes and ‘puzzlement’.
As an authority figure, we are typically expected to know the answers i.e. have the expertise. In leadership, our ability to ask insightful questions is so much more important so we can broaden our field of vision.
Image Source: http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2010/288/c/1/restricted_vision_by_popcorn_nut-d30syuz.jpg
March 12, 2013
Looking at things through a different lens can often help us see a situation differently and learn. This was exactly what struck me when I came across this quote recently… except the lens in this case is more like a mirror – so we can understand ourselves and our impact on others a little more.
Image Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/08/07/157743116/does-the-mirror-reflect-how-you-feel
October 1, 2012
Leadership in the age of complexity
This is an interesting article on the transition from Heroic Leadership to Leadership as a ‘Hosting’ activity. As the article describes, Heroic Leadership relies on the assumption that someone can be in control, which is impossible in this age of inter-connectedness. No one person can offer solutions to every problem and control the environment through their implementation.
This paper suggests that leadership is more about inviting in and ‘hosting’ people who can help solve the challenges we face. ‘Leaders-as-hosts invest in meaningful conversations among people from many parts of the system as the most productive way to engender new insights and possibilities for action.’
From a leadership development perspective, we should reflect on whether we are attempting to be the sterotypical charismatic leader, the person with all the answers, or indeed the person who is engaging in meaningful conversations to deliver substantive change?
September 25, 2012
I wrote in a previous post about the benefits of experimentation to open up our minds to possibilities. I heard today of a cookery book which intersperses QR codes along the way so you can link into a video clip using your phone, iPad etc.. I love it! Such ideas come about through experimentation, making mistakes, learning and enhancing.
Someone mentioned to me yesterday that we are rearing a generation of kids who feel the need to be perfect. Many won’t attempt new things if they feel they won’t be good at them. How do we change this mind-set to one of curiosity and interest in the intended and unintended outcomes?
Since my trip to Harvard in May I am now attempting to view the world as a laboratory where I can observe, experiment, challenge and hopefully innovate to see what emerges – particularly but not exclusively in the field of leadership. I have managed to spot learning opportunities in activities I was not even looking forward to. By approaching these tasks with a curious mind-set my motivation actually increased. I have been surprised at what I have learnt about myself. For example, I am finding that the broader my interests are, the more varied the ideas I generate. Suddenly the worlds of maths, art, sport, science and leadership are merging and I am seeing connections where I never saw them before. Not everything is a success but I am enjoying the journey.
I am attending a swimming session this evening which is way out of my league (in the fabulous new 50m pool in UCD). After a challenging start last week, I am nervous about what lies ahead, but most of all I am curious about what I will learn, not just about swimming, but about coaching, motivation, and the levels of endurance I can personally tolerate. I am hoping I will be still attending these swim sessions the next time I post!
Image Source: http://www.classroomjr.com
September 5, 2012
A key part of leadership is taking risks. Albert Eintstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. If we care deeply about something we will take a risk. If we have an illness and take the decision to take a drug that has potentially serious side-affects, we will take the drug if we feel it is a risk worth taking. In a work context we might speak out if we feel certain values that we care about are being dis-regarded. It is challenging sometimes to figure out what we care deeply about until we are faced with a situations which strike a chord with us.
Trevor Madigan of Facebook speaks about the culture of risk-taking in Facebook in the first part of this video clip. Facebook has demonstrated it’s willingness to take risks in pursuit of it’s mission “… to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” and not always with a successful outcome. Trevor asks the question ‘what would we do if we were not afraid?’ If we did not fear failure, the possibilities are endless.
In ‘The practice of Adaptive Leadership’ by Heifetz, Linsky and Grashow the authors suggest developing an experimental mind-set by ‘increasing our tolerance for a slightly higher level of risk-taking than we might have been comfortable with before’. They suggest small things to start with for example starting the day in a different way to usual e.g. getting up earlier or later or accepting invitations we would not usually accept. This type of low risk experimenting will shake things up a little and open us up to the possibilities that are out there.
I am now asking myself the question what new risks I will be willing to take this week in the interest of something I care deeply about?