Cultivating leadership composure

Cultivating leadership composure is an aspect of leadership development which does not get too much explicit attention. Yet, as we face ever increasing demands on our time, constantly interrupted with technology, this is becoming a leadership differentiator.

Can we remain composed and focus our attention on matters that are most important on a day to day basis?

One way of cultivating such composure is through a coaching engagement, where you have the opportunity at regular intervals to step off the treadmill, explore the challenges you are facing with a ‘thinking partner’ and consider what is most important to focus your attention on so you can maximise your effectiveness. We are on auto-pilot so much of the time, going from meeting to meeting whilst we drive results. I along with many leadership development professionals are advocating ‘conscious leadership development’ where we endeavour to lead in a more conscious way, understanding our impact on others, making conscious decisions at every moment available to us and understanding our triggers and how we can best manage them.

If this resonates with you, you might be interested in exploring a coaching engagement with me, or one of the leadership programmes I am involved with:

Law Society of Ireland

Institute of Banking Executive Education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership and well-being

Being composed is a hugely important element of leading effectively, being grounded and leading in a conscious way, whilst minimising our reactions to our triggers. That’s pretty easy to write down, but so hard to do especially when we meet unanticipated challenges every day of the week.

business-meditation1Image Source: http://maybusch.com/5-ideas-for-keeping-your-composure/

 

I was reflecting on how such leadership composure can be cultivated and I came across some really interesting resources. This particular post will focus on the well-being element, with more to follow…

We all know that it is so much harder to be composed when we are under stress or not feeling well. Nurturing our well-being is an underrated aspect of leadership. I would like you now to reflect on your own well-being.

I have three simple questions which I would like you to slowly consider. I am a big fan of keeping a reflective diary when developing our leadership capacity. This could be the first exercise to note in your reflective diary.

  • What does well-being mean to you? (e.g. when you are in a really good state of well-being, what does that look like for you?)
  • How would you rate your well-being right now on a scale of 1- 10?
  • What actions could you consider taking that would improve your well-being by just one point? (Consider your sleep patterns, healthy eating, family time, ‘off-time’, exercise, yoga, meditation, being close to nature or anything else that resonates with you personally).

 

(Questions borrowed and adapted from Dr. Mia Leijssen of University of Leuven).

What Leadership can learn from ‘Clowning’

If your reaction to this blog title was disbelief at the possibility of a connection, then read on…. I felt the same! A few years ago a colleague a friend of mine mentioned that she did her master’s thesis on this topic and it conjured up images of a circus act which didn’t connect in any favourable way in my mind with leadership.

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My colleague, Annick runs a leadership development business in Geneva and I admire her for bringing her personal passions (both clowning and sailing) to her work. I signed up to one of her ‘leadership labs‘ a couple of years ago as the use of theatre for leadership development was definitely unknown territory for me.

What did I learn? I was astounded at what leadership and clowning have in common. When I say ‘clown’, think Marcel Marceau and explore some of these possible connections.

  • The need for a strong presence
  • Visibility and exposure (good and bad) that results from putting yourself out there
  • An ability to connect
  • Being in the moment… being able to be fully present and aware of events and possible consequences as they happen
  • Adaptability to whatever the environment presents
  • Ability to feel the mood
  • Not taking oneself too seriously.

The leadership lab I took part in was a fascinating experience for me personally and taught me to broaden my perspectives. By stepping into a space I was less familiar with, I learnt.

 

Annick is now taking this another step further and she has a new value propositions ‘the corporate jester’. If you have a conference or meeting coming up and you are looking for something a little different, this is definitely one to be explored. Annick brings her character ‘Margret’ to an event and through use of humour and play, she can:

  • Raise awareness of existing patterns, behaviours and habits in a non-traditional way.
  • Bring across key messages, even on sensitive topics, in a light hearted yet memorable manner
  • Demystify issues, complex or sensitive topics in a humorous way.
  • Raise awareness of existing defense mechanism and stimulate readiness to change of behaviours,
  • Suggest alternatives & different ways of looking at things
  • Generate a sense of togetherness, connecting people around the common issues without blame, motivating them to work together in the same direction.

I look forward to seeing Margret in action in Ireland!

 

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Exciting new Leadership Programme for those in the legal and financial services fields

The Law Society of Ireland is launching a brand new Leadership Programme for those with ten plus years experience in Law or Finance. The programme will comprise group learning as well 1-1 coaching sessions which are tailored to your specific learning agenda.

I am delighted to be involved in this programme. For further details click here for the brochure or get in touch for more information.

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Assumptions and the ladder of inference

In the last two weeks I became aware of 3 assumptions which I made which were perfectly reasonable, but also perfectly wrong. It reminded me of the pictures used to illustrate Gestalt theory for example the one below:

gestalt picture

Picture source: http://www.curiositiesbydickens.com/2012/03/

Sometimes we only see a part of the picture but sub-consciously complete it using our assumptions, leading to a correct or often an incorrect completion of the picture. Being conscious of this process is really powerful in understanding how we make sense of the world.  It enables us to challenge the lens through which we view situations and gain different perspectives which can then inform our decisions.

To help with understanding this, I would like to share a model developed by Chris Agyris and Peter Senge called the ‘ladder of inference’ which a colleague reminded me of recently (thank you Annick!).

Ladder_F1

Picture source: http://www.processexcellencenetwork.com/lean-six-sigma-business-transformation/columns/working-the-ladder-of-inference-part-1/

Imagine an interaction between two people. At the very bottom of this ladder, we consider the ‘observable data’. This is the data that a video recorder would record if there in the moment. It is the solid ground on which the ladder is positioned. From this data then, we select the a sub-set of data that we believe is relevant to us and this will be different for all of us. No doubt we all have recollections of conversations where different people remember completely different things from a meeting. The data we notice is that which typically fits with our views of the world. It helps to simplify the situation so we can make sense of it. At this stage as we can see, we are already restricting our data-set and seeing a narrow view of the reality.

From there we add meaning based on our personal history, experience culture etc. and then this is where we start to make assumptions. As we go up the ladder further we see that this leads us to drawing conclusions based on these assumptions and ultimately taking actions based on beliefs (which are often times firmly held).

So we go from the solid ground of observable data, up the ladder of inference and end up with firmly held beliefs which are based on restricted data, meaning being added, assumptions being made and conclusions being drawn.

This process is crucial to us not being over-whelmed when trying to make sense of situations. We do this on auto-pilot. What has been really interesting for me recently is to walk through this ladder to understand where my assumptions went astray almost in slow motion. What part of the picture was I not seeing? What meaning did I add based on my personal history that I need to re-think in the future? All of this can help us understand the lens we use to view the world and how we might broaden our perspectives.

 

Once again in my opinion, the greatest learning comes from situations which are not neat and orderly, but those that challenge our thinking!

 

 

 

An unexpected lesson in coaching psychology… from the long grass!

Those who know me won’t associate me with golf. I took it up over a decade ago, but it didn’t last long due to the arrival of family and all that that entails! Anyhow, last summer as my own kids took an interest in golf I came across an opportunity for golf lessons that I couldn’t pass up. It entailed 7 lessons in a driving range with 9 other ladies as well as 3 on a golf course with a buddy.

About 10 days ago I was due to have my first experience on a golf course in 10 years. I have to admit it was a bit daunting, so you can imagine that I was a little relieved when it was called off due to rain. So last Sunday morning, I was again secretly hoping for the same phone-call but on this occasion it went ahead. It turned out that my ‘buddy’ was the pro in the golf club and none of my playing partners turned up! As one of my girls would say, this could be ‘a little bit good and a little bit bad’!

I tee’d off at the first hole and the ball cleared a stream (an obstacle I had been unaware of beforehand!) and landed in long grass. I didn’t disgrace myself on Sunday, but I did get quite familiar with navigating long grass and this is where I gained some insights into coaching psychology.

golf ball in long grass

Maybe it’s better not to know all the obstacles: I take quite a diagnostic approach to coaching leveraging adaptive leadership frameworks and approaches. I love to get stuck in to make sure a problem is really understood before taking action. So what was interesting for me on Sunday after taking this first shot is the fact that if the pro had pointed out the stream, I would probably have become apprehensive of it, and may have come up short or landed in it. One thing is for sure, I would probably have tried too hard and I would not have taken my best shot. So maybe knowing the in’s and out’s of a situation is not always helpful. I find approaching an issue with a ‘beginners mind’ invaluable, but it is key to balance the need to understand an issue with the risk of over-thinking it.

Picturing success not failure: As the ball lay in the long grass, the golf pro said ‘now don’t scoop it up Eadine’. So what did I do?… I scooped it up and it landed back into the long grass. So the pro said ‘now this time Eadine, make sure you don’t scoop it up!’…. and once again I scooped it up with a marginally more successful outcome. The pro asked me what happened. So I told him the story of the pink elephant.

Imagine I asked you not to think of a pink elephant…. what do you do? Of course, you visualise a great big pink elephant. The more vivid the description of the elephant the clearer the picture.

pink-elephant-clip-art-eiMjoknin

So I asked him what success looked like and he painted this for me in graphic detail along with an image of the great big divot that should appear in the grass afterwards. A lovely shot followed…. and this could not have been taught in the driving range.

Nothing can beat real live experience: All the lessons in the world in the driving range were no substitute for getting out there. As mentioned in a recent article in Forbes magazine ‘Can leadership be taught?‘, 70% of learning comes from ‘on-the’job’. The author describes the ideal blend of 70:20:10 between ‘on-the-job’, coaching/ mentoring and classroom sessions. Much of my work involves supporting and challenging clients as they take on ‘stretch assignments’ in the workplace. Even in the classroom sessions that I and my colleagues facilitate, we ask participants to bring in real live challenges to work in the classroom to apply concepts being learnt. I learnt more from my 1 hour on the golf course (with a patient pro) than in the 7 (albeit necessary) lessons in the driving range.

 

Last Sunday morning’s golf lesson served as a reminder to me of some principles of coaching and positive psychology …. and hopefully my golf improved also! Only time will tell…

 

 

Image Source: http://www.gettyimages.ie/detail/photo/golf-ball-in-long-grass-in-the-rough-high-res-stock-photography/88802021

 

Are you ‘immune to change’?

How many of us make new years resolutions with the best of intentions but don’t follow through on them? How many of us are intent on improving our listening skills, delegating more or changing any other behaviours that would enhance our abilities to do a better job,… but somehow we never really get there?

In the video below Robert Kegan shares an overview of our in-built ‘immunity to change’ which as he describes results in us having ‘one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas’. This model of change that Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey developed allows us gain insights into the in-built assumptions that we make that can block us from making the changes we desire despite our best intentions. These are examples of personal adaptive challenges rather than technical challenges in the language of ‘adaptive leadership’.

 

I have now used this model with many clients as well as personally, and I have to say that the richness of the exploration is amazing in almost all cases. We discover internal resistance or ‘big assumptions’ that we never anticipated. Through discovering these ‘big assumptions’ we can devise experiments that allow us to test their validity and alter the way we see the world with the aim of releasing us from this ‘immunity to change’.

The fascinating thing for me is that this can be used to understand a group or teams ‘immunity to change’ as well as individuals. It provides a new opportunity to help teams spot assumptions which are preventing them from fulfilling their collective potential.

Next week, my coaching class from 2008 are meeting going to explore this approach in depth and share experiences of using it. My homework for this session prompted me to write this – thanks John and Barbara! If you would like to learn more about this approach don’t hesitate to get in touch or check out Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s web-site.

 

 

Upcoming Leadership Development Lab with AZck

From October 22 – 24th Annick Zinck and Tom Greder will host another leadership lab in Switzerland using the performing arts to learn about how we lead. From personal experience I would highly recommend this experiential workshop. There are currently 3 places left. For further information click here.

Leadership and clowning!

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.

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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.

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