Leadership Activities--You Can Do Anything --and-- Developing Global Leaders

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In this Issue:
  1. You Can Do Anything--A Case Study
  2. Developing Global Leaders by Louise Korver
Pyramid of the Ancients

You Can Do Anything--A Case Study
Leadership Activities for Developing Leaders
The title “you can do anything” sounds like a cliché of what parents or a teacher might tell children when encouraging them, but I have a different connotation in mind here.  When doing action or experiential learning with organizational leaders, our approach is to coach them to develop awareness of themselves as leaders, and of the underlying system and assumptions that are operating in their organization.  The organizational system is holographic, fractal, and self-similar in the various scales of its existence.
The idea is to get these leaders into action together with their teams – doing something that will reveal these dynamics at work, and by the unconscious tendencies becoming conscious, they can make adaptations and changes that will serve them, their team and organization, and their purpose and mission in more powerful and effective ways.  That “something” can be almost anything--generally a task with some complexity that they will take on and execute together as a team.  The Key is not the undertaking itself, but the context in which it is set up, delivered, and debriefed
Meaning within a collective system is never composed of the added meaning of each of the parts. It emerges from the whole system taken as a coherent and indivisible entity.                       -Alain Cardon-
The “you can do anything” approach has led to some fun inventions of activities over the years.  Face The Music’s roots lie here.  While preparing for a team development session with a consulting group in Paris, I was thinking, “What could we do together that would be energetic, fun, and lead to a rich debrief?”  I decided to bring my guitar and do a blues ad-lib exercise.  I’d done this kind of thing at parties with friends, and had a lot of fun while we all learned something about what was going on in the life of each singer.  So we get the group activity for systemic debrief, with the added bonus of the information communicated through the lyrics¾something we wouldn’t get through, say, a problem-solving exercise.  It turned out to be so¾a rich debrief on process and lyric themes and content.
Here’s a case study on an invented leadership activity to illustrate with another example.
An intact team of seven was working on team functionality and incorporating a new leader who was a long-time team member of an experienced team, but not experienced as a leader.  I wanted an activity that would give the leader an opportunity to direct the team in a project, and that would help them become self-aware of the current dynamic and what changes they could identify to move forward.
We were at a site with a large outdoor space with some curious design features, and I thought it would be interesting to incorporate the environment into the design.  So “Facilitating Humanity’s Cosmic Evolution” was born.  (I know, it’s a bit clunky as a name, but it amuses me…)
I made up a story of what was to be accomplished.  In short, at the Obelisk of the Cosmos, a divine energy is available that facilitates the human consciousness here on Earth.  The Sacred Vessel (SV) is an aerodynamic projectile (foam football with fins) that is also a celestial battery that is charged instantly by touching the hallowed Obelisk of the Cosmos.  The SV is activated by grounding at the Pyramid of the Ancients, enabled by touching the Fire Circle of the Wise and the Bridge of Transformation in rapid sequence, and then being fully charged at the Obelisk.

 Once the SV is charged it needs to be returned to touching the Pyramid of the Ancients as swiftly as possible. One of the properties of the SV is that it discharges rather quickly in time, and is also discharged some by touching the Earth.  The faster the cycle time the more cosmic energy becomes available to humankind.  The team performance is therefore rated on speed with a time penalty for each drop
The process is to give the team leader the instructions and rules to review ahead of time.  They lead the exercise by giving the directions, the context and purpose (cosmic evolution), giving a time goal, and being in charge of the project.  As the consultant/team coach, I observed and gave the leader feedback between rounds of the 3 rounds they have to get their best time.  This sets up the opportunity for the team to deploy their team system in the execution of the task, and for the leader to demonstrate the leadership style and efficacy. 
One of the frameworks we use for the debrief is the Situational Leadership Model with the four styles: directive, informational, participative, and delegative.  Each style is appropriate at different times, and dependent on the experience and willingness of the team.  In this case, the new leader had an experienced high-performing team, so he would need to be less directive, and could delegate more quickly. 
The first deliverable was the time goal for round one.  The leader gave the goal without consulting his team, and it was perhaps four times what I thought might be needed.  Normally I would just let it go, but I called an audible and said that wasn’t good enough; he provided a lower (but still very cushy) one, and they got started. After giving the instructions, he immediately started telling the team what to do--”You go here, you stand here, then …”. 
Unfortunately, his vision of how it would happen was a terrible solution.  The team stepped in and asked that they all work on giving ideas and then decide on the best one together.  This process was very rich for the debrief later.  The leader shared that he basically panicked and went to a place in his thinking that he was the leader, and he needed to tell people what to do.  The team stepping in and overriding the directives paralleled their nervousness and lack of trust in the leader that they were experiencing on the job.
The process, however, delivered much better ideas on how to go about the task, including addressing the goal directly, evaluating and using talents, and defining roles.  On their first round, they beat their goal by about half, and I challenged them to try and define their very best¾the future of the species is at stake!
Between rounds, they had time to plan their next attempts, and by reviewing their process, they came up with several useful suggestions.  The next round cut the time in half, and for their third and final round, they set a goal that was less than a quarter of their round one goal (and less than 12% of the leader’s initial paltry goal).  They introduced several refinements that streamlined the process, and made their final goal by a few seconds.  Humankind is saved!
The debrief and learning from these exercises is about delivering key process questions.  It is not about the strategy and tactics that the group came up with, but what was their collective process.  Every event in our lives unfolds to reveal a meaningful structure, a characteristic form, a precise pattern or process. 
Everything that occurs reveals who we are as a leader, who we are in relationships, what our operating assumptions are--if only we pay attention.  The art of the consultant or coach in this situation is to hold this context, and guide the team to a deeper understanding of their operating system, and through that, define new possibilities and better assumptions that evolve the system toward maximum potential.

By Paul Kwiecinski

Developing Global Leaders

By: Louise Korver, Sr. Consultant, Executive Development Associates, Inc.

Who has potential for global leadership?

Businessman holding the world in the palm of hands concept for global business, communications, politics or environmental conservation Earth image courtesy of Nasa at http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

In the past, most organizations developed global leadership skills by expatriating or through globally cross-functional teams. That is yesterday’s solution. These types of assignments are for the few, not the many, who are expected to perform effectively in a challenging multi-cultural environment. Global development initiatives should be available to leaders at all levels, since the work of most employees is global today.

To be successful globally, leaders need to lead at scale – and that requires cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development. A review of the global business and leadership literatures identifies over 50 different models of global competence and most have similarities in the intra- and inter- personal skills areas: self-awareness, empathy, openness, ability to develop trust, and respect for differences.

Global skills develop along a learning path that includes knowledge, skills, and abilities, but the secret sauce is the all-important development of consciousness and the capabilities we refer to as managing complexity. In essence, in order to move forward in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) conditions – real or perceived – we all need to think through what to do with greater skill. Research in the field of cognitive psychology has helped us combine general management skills and practices with the development of cognitive reasoning and critical thinking by looking at the business skills as part of a horizontal curriculum of topics. The cognitive and emotional capacity to help people gain perspective from complex experiences follows a stage theory that is hierarchical. Think about it as a ladder. The bottom line is that leaders operating in a global context need to operate on multiple levels at the same time which includes self-management in a multi-cultural context using different leadership skills, negotiation skills, and business rules. It is no longer possible to be “in charge,” and traditional leadership training lacks the sophistication to achieve these higher levels of conscious awareness. We may not realize it, but we are also asking them to act with high levels of cognitive ability to manage the complexity and constant change that are typical of global business.

Many executives land in roles that require expertise in cross-cultural sensitivity and an attitude of openness and acceptance of cultural diversity. Few leaders have sufficient strength to be resourceful in global roles without specific development. It’s important to understand that to develop a global leader, you need to develop the whole person – values, beliefs, mindset, thinking, and behavior, as well as their business context which is strategic, constantly changing, and full of risks.  In a recent study of 1867 global leaders from 134 industries with an average age of 43, three critical competencies (respecting beliefs, instilling trust, and navigating ambiguity) taken together had a mean of only 2.86 on a 5-point scale. By any measure, these vital competencies make the difference in being able to align and drive business strategy. Dealing with these cultural issues will be a mandate for at least the next ten years.

What are the “critical few” skills to develop?

So, which skills are important and how do you develop them? How can a leader develop in so many different competencies at once? And, where do you start? Here are five recommendations:

  • Embed learning in primary education. UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (UNC) is modeling the way, and I hope to hear all schools taking this approach in the years to come. Starting this fall, the UNC Kenan-Flagler Global Education Initiative is embedding global education across its entire business curriculum and co-curricular offerings, whether on campus or abroad, with four expected outcomes:
  1. The ability to understand, analyze, and apply Business Practices that are specific to at least one functional area in business (i.e., marketing, finance, general management).
  2. The ability to identify, explain, and demonstrate business, logistical, intercultural, and self-awareness Knowledge in global contexts.
  3. The ability to identify, associate, and implement reflection, empathy, adaptability, collaboration, and communication Skills in cross-cultural interactions.
  4. The ability to recognize, exemplify, and demonstrate Attitudes—flexibility, openness, respectfulness, resiliency and introspection—that are conducive to positive global business interactions.
  • Adopt a new global leadership model, or add global dimensions to your existing model. In a study of the differences in performance across a large population of executives with profit and loss responsibilities resulted in a new global leadership competency model that combines global leadership characteristics with the cognitive changes necessary to operate in complex multinational operating conditions.
  • Build immersion leadership simulations. Time bound client requirements often require leaders to develop skills more quickly so they can work in a new way due to business responsibilities. So, if you need to support an executive through rapid development of global skills, total immersion is the best solution. In the case of Bank of America, I developed a country-specific simulation to support a significant, multi-year initiative that involved hundreds of people.
  • Add global action learning projects to programs.  Ericsson uses a group-centered approach that is excellent for developing teams of emerging leaders. The program includes a six-day module of living and working in another country as part of a “World Action Team.” This program draws the red thread and weaves together the three dimensions of developing leaders: knowing yourself, knowing the world, and knowing the company’s strategy. A program that includes living and working in country develops their global dexterity and “contains many peak experiences that shape their values as a leader.” (Scott Miller, P. A., Tanzania Global Perspective Program.)
  • Use globally-specific executive coaching. Other short-burst development solutions include cognitive behavioral coaching (CBC), which is the centerpiece of my global leadership development practice. When a global leader feels “I cannot afford to make a mistake in this meeting,” or says, “I have a general dislike for people from this culture”, I use CBC. Built on the ABCDE model, (Neenan, 2008), this coaching approach uses specific homework, experiments, task assignments, debriefing, and guided reflection to accelerate the client through critically important performances. Over time, the client becomes his/her own coach and can mentor others.

How do I align and sustain development?

Global competitiveness is a strategic imperative. Businesses are global in many different ways – from multi-cultural employees, to their supply chains, international joint ventures, and multinational customer relationships. Most employees find it challenging to work in cross-cultural teams and often report difficulty in understanding and interpreting their job assignments when working for global leaders for whom English is a second language or from those who have a regional dialect. Despite these difficulties, leaders are required to find solutions in ambiguous and volatile operating conditions when there are not any clear answers and many options have high levels of risk. In this article, we have tackled the issues of developing leaders with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead in a multi-cultural context. Our solutions include adopting new global competencies in your leadership model and building a portfolio of development solutions to make a difference now, while leaders are in domestic roles.

How can organizations develop practices that support leaders in developing cognitive, technical practice, competencies, and attitudes necessary right now? What are the options for developing global leadership capabilities in a role that is not offshore? Benchmark your mobility, diversity, and leadership initiatives to drive your company’s strategic advantage using these suggested ways to develop global leaders and accelerate development of executives in globally important strategic roles.

Louise Korver is a Sr. Consultant, Executive Development Expert and C-Suite Coach with EDA. She has an extensive background in executive education academically, as well as practical experience working for large organizations such as Ingersoll-Rand, Bank of America, EMC Corporation, H. J. Heinz, and AT&T. She currently provides executive assessment and coaching, working primarily with global general managers and senior women leaders. Her book on mid-career onboarding offers fresh ideas, tools, and a troubleshooting guide to help mid-career leaders make a successful move.

*This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 edition of Training Industry Magazine, and can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/2clBMzG

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