Leadership by Design is Rebranding to Mantle!

As part of our cunning plan  for world domination Leadership by Design is rebranding as Mantle.

Hi Everyone,

As valued readers and clients, Graham and I wanted you to be the first to know about an exciting development at Leadership by Design.  
From the 28th of April we will be operating under the new brand name of Mantle, while maintaining Leadership by Design as our tag line.  The main change for you will be the opportunity to tap into our fresh new website, where we have lots of free resources and food for thought – check it out at www.mantle.co.nz.
What won’t be changing is our commitment to provide you with an interesting and thought provoking read . And of course our Consulting Clients will continue to get the very best and value and support in our continued relationship.
Many thanks for your interest and continued support
Graham and Denise
Mantle

 

 

collborative leadership learning

Collaboration a Critical Leadership Skill?

In todays volatile, uncertain complex and ambiguous world is our ability to collaborate and outsource some of our thinking the most critical human ability to foster?

At leadership By Design we spend a lot of time working on leadership development interventions in larger organizations. So much of the development value people get from these types of programmes seems to be around how they see the world and perceive themselves and how much that drives them to change their interactions with others.

It really is how to get more done with others or in other words how to collaborate better.

Interestingly ” to collaborate” has some mixed meanings:

  •  to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor
  •  to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one’s country and especially an occupying force
  •  to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

Do these go some way to illustrate why collaboration is not always seen as positive or a high priority? In an organisation made up of silos do we sometimes compete for resources or recognition? Are there some other parts of the organisation we are not immediately connected with? When you also factor in a resource constrained busy environment with an understandable bias to urgency collaboration can be confined to “What has to be done” to get the work done rather than “What would like to be done”   if you had the time.

Being “more collaborative” features on just about every notable assessment of critical leadership capabilities for now and the future I have  had the opportunity to review from CCL to Deloitte and the CPD.

Forgive my hard-wiring I tend to try and make sense of the world referencing neuroscience and the act of collaboration raises a number of questions I find interesting to ponder.  If you will accept the following assumptions that all our brains are different and are being continually shaped by our perceptions of our experiences.

We are all bias about our own views of the world and will tend to try and confirm our “working model” of about things are in order to obtain the meaning we need in the world.  When we collaborate it is worth remembering that it is our brains that are collaborating. In light of that:

  • Is effective collaboration about developing the skills and knowledge and motivation to suspend our own views so we can take on others?
  • Is it is also about building new ways of thinking with others?

Both of these would seem to be good things that could foster engagement improve decision making and encourage  innovative thinking in our organisations. Areas where improvements could drive real value.

That being the case shouldn’t organisations be more purposeful about fostering collaboration?

Back to home

 

Wellington and Auckland One Stop Update for Accountants Conference Update

Leadership by Design was asked to speak at the above conference on “Taking the Leap Career Strategies for the Finance professional.” We knew we had taken the right angle NOT to talk about Career Plans when we asked the 150 delegates how many of them had a Career Development Plan?  We don’t seek out to highlight Finance professionals as being any different from any other work groups  to although of course they may be.  Those that indicated they had a plan numbered less than 10 and even allowing for those that have a plan but were reluctant to  raise their hands by any stretch of the imagination  it was a small minority.

Perhaps not surprisingly what research there has been seems to support this view that the majority of mid-career managers do not have a career plan.

It is interesting when you consider these two perspectives:

1. The world is volatile, complex, changing and full of ambiguity

2. Despite endless restructuring and significance job losses in the last few years there is still a talent shortage

The latest Immediate NZ Skills Shortage List from the Ministry of Business Information and Employment has close to a 100 occupations on it. The Long Term Shortage List  for NZ is even longer.

Our angle was to talk about how our brains respond to change, work pressures and increases in complexity. Most of us prefer to spend more time bolstering our current perceptions (or bias)  of the world rather than meeting the challenge of  being disciplined and finding quieter  time in order to reflect on the current realities.

In many work places it feels to us that we feel we are just too busy to think and we tend to get distracted by both detail and urgency. Something we describe with the metaphor of the clock and the compass. The clock represents our task, deadline and activities the compass our values, purpose and direction. It is our view that our brain biology moves us more on autopilot  towards the clock whereas an act of will is required to  reflect and focus on the compass.

Any way we hope you enjoy the slides and our thanks to Daniel Pink for his 6 Career Principles for a changing world.

 

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business decision

Problem Solving and Business Decision Making

Ever have that feeling of a ‘full brain’ – your head hurts (you touch your forehead) and you can’t take in another thing? Trouble is in these changing and volatile times there is always a lot to think about and seemingly not quite enough time to think.

We have at last updated our Employment Today article on Problem solving and Business Decision making of which an extract is available here with a link to the full PDF you are free to download.

Contemporary neuroscience is revealing two important things about our problem solving and decision making. Firstly that we have a limited bandwidth for complex decision making and indeed our thinking is often rather more biased than we might like to admit.
One of the best ways to enhance our decision-making capability is to understand these limits and natural biases.

“The human understanding once it has adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it” Francis Bacon

Neuroscience informs is that we think in neural networks and for efficiency sake our brain tries to automate what thinking it can. We all develop a theory of how the world works and we need this to successfully navigate ourselves around in a changing world. This automation in thinking allows us to take many things for granted so we can focus our limited mental resources on the new and different and interesting. Trouble is that once we have formed an opinion we have adopted a “Bias” and it can be hard to change this belief.

Here is an example where our assumptions can mislead us: suppose your best friend up to now successful manager in another company is warned for poor performance.

That probably doesn’t fit your view of him so first information that doesn’t fit is discounted there must be some mistake it will get resolved. Secondly it is distorted so you may assume that there is another agenda here like a personality clash…
The bottom line is that we are not clinically evaluating all new information but what we see and perceive is so influenced by the filters of everything we have in our long term memories (values, beliefs, experiences etc.).

Here is another common source of problem solving bias: Jumping on What Springs to Mind
This is a kind of information retrieval theory; basically the first thing that comes to mind has a disproportionate effect on our reasoning and opinions. A classic experiment by Solomon Asch in the 1940’s asked people to form an opinion on someone who were described as “intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, and envious.” If the word were presented in that order the opinions were more positive than if the words were reversed. The adjective presented first created a favourable or unfavourable impression.

Another aspect of this retrieval is recency. Things that we have experienced more recently have disproportionate impact. Have we not experienced this in appraisals?) Lastly strongly emotional events are tagged by the brain for easy retrieval and are more likely to influence our thinking depending on if we are feeling good or feeling bad.

We all have our decision making biases but we can reduce there effect by being aware of them and through an act of will choosing to look for evidence that disproves our theory.

What gets in the way of good decision-making?

The limited capacity of our PFC for one. Then there are all sorts of biases that creep into our ‘rational’ thinking too. For example, if you love your own idea, you may dismiss evidence that contradicts your idea – confirmation bias; if you put too much emphasis in one area it is anchoring (bias); and loss aversion makes us too cautious.

A McKinsey study conducted in 2011, of over 1000 business investments, showed that when organizations tried to reduce the impact of bias, they increased their ROI by 7%.

Problem solving and making good decisions about complex issues where there isn’t necessarily one right answer, and to help check against biases requires good process. Judgement of even the best leaders can be flawed. Kahneman, Lovallo and Sibony from Harvard have created a 12-question checklist to support a good decision-making process; to check that alternatives have been explored and to consider influences such as self-interest, overconfidence, loss aversion or attachment.

So take your time for important decisions use a structured approach to weigh up pros and cons, check out your decisions with others using 2 minds is usually better than one for reducing biases

Back to that bandwidth issue, much of our complex decision-making requires the use of our pre-frontal cortex (PFC). This is the executive function of the brain, also used for problem solving, learning, planning, memorizing, recalling and inhibiting. The pre-frontal cortex is relatively slow, energy intensive and has small capacity with a narrow peak performance window.

We always imagine we can do complex tasks all day long. The truth is that most people can do a few hours of quality work in a day. Our rational conscious resources are very limited and we should respect those limitations”. “We may only have 6 – 10 hours of really productive work time each week.” Now that you appreciate that   your best thinking is a limited resource would you make different decisions on how and when you used it?

Read the article in full for some tips on how to use your brain to make better decisions.

Get a full copy of the article right here on our resources page

Back  to home

HR Leaders Conference in Auckland

Graham was a key note speaker at the inaugural HR Leaders Conference in Auckland last week .

The topic was HR Transformation and Graham decided to talk about  perceptions of HR and the role of HR Leaders in strategy  and leadership.

There was some interesting data from the UK and US on HR  leadership and if you are interested in some simple key steps to improving your Leadership (HR or any other type pf leadership) then you might like to flick through the enclosed presentation .

 

canstockphoto1006806

Managing Change Yeah Right!

It seems that our basic brain physiology is designed to accommodate learning and growth on the one hand  whilst at the same time being  resistant to imposed change.  How can our leaders best deal with that reality and what specifically can leaders do if anything to help facilitate change in individuals and teams.

Well the good news for leaders is that there are some things that you can do  and at the same time probably some things that you should try and stop doing unintentionally.  Contemporary Neuroscience is starting to give us some “How to’s”  on change and  I don’t mean endless mechanistic change methodology checklists either.  Look change readiness assessments and and all the paraphernalia of change project management frameworks are useful, and have their place  but estimated global change project effectiveness  at 30% rates suggests they are not the whole story.

The trouble is that they are based on flawed principles of rationality in human beings. “If we could only communicate effectively enough  for long enough our employees will see the wisdom of our change and rationally choose to get on board”.  Well some might I suppose “the quick adopters ” but the truth is we are profoundly self interested emotional beings and much of our responses to change ( I am talking about both leaders and followers here) have very little to do with rationality.

So how can leaders influence the emotional perceptions of their colleagues? STOP :- it needs to start with themselves befote they attempt to influence others.  Global research suggests many Leaders respond to and cope with organisational change by working harder, taking fewer risks and keeping their heads down just at the time when their teams are paying more attention to them and looking for greater visibility of leadership and clarification. So leaders need to “lead themselves”  in order to be in the best place to provide leadership to others.  Assuming they can do that how can leaders positively influence their teams?

Well why not check out the article free and in full right here.

Get a full copy of the article right here on our resources page

enhancing productivity

Thinking Clearly for Better Decision Making (Part 1)

In today’s really hectic workplace it is really important that as leaders we know how to think clearly.

Understanding a little about our psychology can be useful in ensuring we perform at our best when problem solving and therefore make better decisions. Bear with me here I am simplifying but you could consider there to be 4 main mistakes of thinking that are not uncommon in leaders and other human beings.  These are:

1.       Misled by assumptions

2.       Jumping on what springs to mind

3.       Being misled by others opinions

4.       Making false associations

I will discuss the first 2 here in part one of this article

Misled by Assumptions

“The human understanding once it has adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it” Francis bacon

Neuroscience informs is that we think in neural networks and for efficiency sake our brain tries to automate what thinking it can. We all develop a theory of how the world works and we need this to successfully navigate ourselves around in a changing world. This automation in thinking allows us to take many things for granted so we can focus our limited mental resources on the new and different and interesting.  Trouble is that once we have formed an opinion we have adopted a “Bias” and it can be hard to change this belief. Here is an example suppose your best friend up to now successful manager in another company is warned for poor performance. 

That probably doesn’t fit your view of him so first information that doesn’t fit is discounted there must be some mistake it will get resolved. Secondly it is distorted so you may assume that there is another agenda here like a personality clash…

We are not clinically evaluating all new information but what we see and perceive is so influenced by the filters of everything we have in our long term memories (values, beliefs, experiences etc.).

We all have our biases but we can reduce there effect by being aware of them and through an act of will choosing to look for evidence that disproves our theory, committing to memory those situations where our assumptions were incorrect, and trying to be open and flexible and reflective where we feel it might be more important to do so.

Jumping on What Springs to Mind

This is a kind of information retrieval theory; basically the first thing that comes to mind has a disproportionate effect on our reasoning and opinions. A classic experiment by Solomon Asch in the 1940’s asked people to form an opinion on someone who were described as “intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, and envious.” If the word were presented in that order the opinions were more positive than if the words were reversed. The adjective presented first created a favourable or unfavourable impression.  Another aspect of this retrieval is recency. Things that we have experienced more recently have disproportionate impact.   Have we not experienced this in appraisals?)  Lastly strongly emotional events are tagged by the brain for easy retrieval and are more likely to influence our thinking depending on if we are feeling good or feeling bad.

So take your time for important decisions use a structured approach to weigh up pros and cons, check out your decisions with others using 2 minds is usually better than one for reducing biases

Check in next week for part 2 of this article where I will talk about the remaining 2 main thinking mistakes plus 4 simple principles borrowed from statistics to bear in mind if you want to think clearly.

Back to leadership by design home

Business Acumen

Business Acumen – who needs it?

Business Acumen – who needs it?  Well apparently NZ Inc. does according to research presented by Cynthia Johnson of Muritai Consulting at a recent HRINZ event.

According to a survey carried out by NZ Trade & Enterprise, our key trading partners, such as China, Korea, the US, UK and Australia see NZ businesses as being high in human value but low in business acumen i.e. we are seen to be ‘nice’ but not that business savvy – the ‘bach & boat’ syndrome?

Cynthia became interested in trying to identify what actually constitutes business acumen when she was working at Fonterra and they also became interested in looking for an agreed definition which might help them to recruit, select and develop an attribute which would seem to be pretty important in a global business context.

Cynthia proposed Ram Charan’s definition as a starting point: “the ability to position the organisation to make money”.  After interviewing 200 senior NZ managers, it is suggested that they view business acumen as consisting of 3 main constructs:

  • Factor 1:       Understanding how the organisation works to make money
  • Factor 2:       People focus – attention to the people side of the business,  internal & external
  • Factor 3:       Energy – the passion, drive & optimism of people with business acumen

As I was listening to the presentation, I began to recognise the attributes of one of my clients.  The female MD has taken the business in 5 years from a failing situation to a year on year 36% increase in sales and profit, all in a market where her competitors are falling by the wayside.  The really interesting question for me is:  how much of this has she learned to do through experience or development and how much is intuitive. She just seems to ‘know’ when something is not right from a financial perspective and has an incredible ‘nose’ for opportunities that others just don’t pick up on and still operates on a gut feel often with her people.

So……… can Business Acumen be developed?  This question was raised at the session and hotly debated but without any definitive answer – what do you think?

If you are interested in a summary in a 1 page summary of the findings, please follow this link.  http://www.muritai21.com/pdfs/Business-Acumen-Phase-1-Results.pdf

Back to leadership by design

The Power Of Habit

Thought you might find this interesting folks Charles Duhigg has deconstructed the process of habit forming and the impact that has on organisational culture.  Interestingly Dughill started a recent study of students at Duke university that distinguishes decision making  from habit and found that the test subjects were using habits about 45% of the time during the day.

I like the definition of a habit something you made a decision on in the past and still demonstrate the behaviour but no longer feel the need to think about. For those of you familiar with a little neuroscience we use the Pre-frontal cortex for decision making whilst we use the basal ganglia for more habitual thinking. So we may not be conscious or overly clear on our own habits unless we reflect upon them.
Every habit has 3 components a cue, a routine and a reward ( sounds a lot like ABC of behavioral analysis:  Antecedant, behaviour and consequence)  There is some useful concept and useful illustrative stories.

Video: Good Life Project: Charles Duhigg – Power of Habit

The cue and reward are the critical parts of an habit that can empower you to change your habits. We can manipulate the cues or the reward. A nice example if you are struggling to get into  exercising then trick your brain and give yourself a small piece of chocolate as a reward.  Apparently your desire for that reward will diminish after a week or 2 or be replaced by other rewards such as  dopamine.

I like the identification of the  different types of cues (other people, an emotion, certain time, certain place,)  to behavior and how to influence that process to create constructive habits.

It endorses the view that instead of trying to stop a habit ;building a new habit to replace an old one is the best way to go.

Anyway we hope you find the video interesting.

Back to leadership by design

lightbulb

Change Thinking

I was looking up a change management methodology the other day which was full of excellent advice and checklists  like “create a change coalition, complete a change readiness assessment,  and align HR practices etc.”. and coming to the conclusion that this all too typical change methodology tells us almost nothing about how to help people change.

I was reminded of  a change management training course I attended 25 years ago ( yes they also had change management back then) . The topic was how to be  flexible and change agile and the advice back then was to deliberately change your daily routines in order to remain mindful rather than being on autopilot .  For some reason this really resonated to me at the time to the point that” mixing it up” is something I still do just about every day a quarter of a century later.  Be it so trivial as starting my shaving from a different place each day to finding an ever more varied route  driving home.  My teenage children constantly berate me for taking sudden turnings down unfamiliar streets instead of taking the most familiar and quickest way home.

I have no idea if this practice has in any way made me more change agile over the years but I do think the designers of that original training had a point. So much of how we deal with change or support others is related to the types of thinking we do and what we think about.

You could say that a lot of change leadership is trying to facilitate the right sort  of thinking in others. This is problematic as we now know all our brains are different  and we have varied individual perceptions of how the world works. It seems that change really does need to happen one brain at a time.  Ironically our brains are wired for learning and change even if we are out of the habit of reflecting on our practice.

Our brains hold our potential to change however we will tend to resist being changed by others. A key operating principle of how we think  is self direction.  If more leaders understood the implications of this they might benefit from trying  less hard to “sell” change to their people and think about how they could help them “buy in”  .

It does take more effort in consultation and dialogue up front so change initially appears slower however in my experience the pay back and pace of change later on can be breath taking.  Surely an estimated change success rate of about 30% for large scale change projects  is in itself a compelling reason for changing how we do change?