Hi, I’m Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate with Dynamic Results, and coauthor with my colleague, Henry Evans, of our book “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter.” You can follow me on Twitter @DrColmFoster.
In a recent blog, we spoke of our belief that leadership is a developable skill, and some of you have asked us to say a little bit more about that. Based on our work with many senior executives, we believe that leadership is a set of behaviors or competencies that are demonstrated at a high level of skill. The specific competencies required in today’s organizations are changing all the time. In fact, in Henry’s upcoming book, “The Leadership Edge,” which he has coauthored with our Dynamic Results colleague, Dr. Michael McElhenie, they identified the key leadership competencies for 21st century leaders. Once you have identified those competencies, you want to work on the key to improving in these areas, which is to purposefully learn from experience.
Behavioral skill is learned in a part of the brain call the limbic system, and this learns best through repeated practice. There are four components to effective learning from repeated practice. Firstly, experimentation: you have to actually try new behaviors. Holding the intention to change is not enough. Feedback: get good quality feedback on your performance—ideally from a trusted coach. Thirdly, reflection: deeply consider what happened when you tried out the new behavior. And last, fourthly, making sense: understand what worked and why—equally, what didn’t work and why, and use this to set up the next experiment, and so on in a virtuous circle.
I’m sure as you’re listening to me; you more than understand what I just said. But that doesn’t make you any better at actually doing it. You have to practice what we’re talking about today, in order for it to become a sustainable competency. So, what might those four steps look like? Experimentation: I want to show more empathy with Mary and Sherianne, so I think I might try to make a more personal connection with them. Feedback: Mary now says our relationship is better, which is great; but Sherianne doesn’t seem to have responded in the same way. Reflection: I wonder why there’s a difference? Is it to do with their personality? Is it to do with their role? Was I just more engaged with Mary? Maybe there’s a cultural dimension that I was missing here. Making sense: I think that I’ve misunderstood the cultural norms for my Asian colleague, so I’m going to have to approach the relationship building exercise with Sherianne in a different way, and here’s what I am going to try next.
Our clients have reported great results when they adopt this approach, and we’re confident that you will, too. Thank you for your continued interest, and we look forward to bringing you more insights from our experts in future blogs.
If you want to learn more about Stepping Up, contact us.