I was privileged recently to interview a number of participants of past programmes for a short video. We didn’t know what they were going to say, although it’s fair to say that if you agree to go on video you probably have positive things to say!
Be that as it may, it was amazing to hear the ongoing benefits from authentic leadership development being embedded long after the work on the programme had concluded. As I’ve said in the past, leadership development can get a bad rap for adopting a “sheep dip” and/or “break ‘em down to build them up” approach, something we do our best to avoid.
The answer is to give the development time. Time on programme, time back at work to practice and reflect, more time on programme, time to embed an ongoing reflection habit, and then allow sufficient space for participants to own the development opportunities presented to them.
One of those I interviewed referenced the Leadership Walk as being one of the most powerful parts of her development. She didn’t call it by our anointed name, but the meaning she took out of it and then applied back at work was very gratifying to hear. Another said that the most powerful feedback moment he took was, well, about feedback. He has adjusted how and when he gives feedback to his team and said it’s made a material difference to his team leadership.
Whether we’re on a programme or just genuinely focussed on pushing our own development, giving ourselves space between learnings to reflect, try new stuff, embed and try again, is vital.
That creates a sustained leadership development journey, whether that be a formal or informal process.
It has a night before Christmas feeling tonight with the Authentic Leadership Programme commencing proper in the morning. All the pre-work has been done by us and the new participant leaders and the room is all set up.
We’ve done this a few times of course so we know more or less what to expect. But it won’t be the same as ever before. Refinements have been made and we’re trying out some new things and new locations too.
But more significantly, each of the 20 leaders on the Programme will bring with them their own leadership opportunities, challenges, personalities, hopes and aspirations.
Like you experience when leading people.So in the morning there’s some time spent getting to know each other in a meaningful way, developing ways of working together over the next six months, exploring our personality profiles, reviewing 360 feedback, and sharing stories. It will be a very full first day with some time to reflect too.
One thing we’ll say tomorrow but we’ll say again several times is that everything we do on the Programme is transferable back at work. You won’t notice that unless you’re mindful. Which reminds me, being present will be vital!
We’ve been running the Authentic Leadership Programme for almost a decade. It’s never stood still and if you attended one of the early programmes when I was at AUT you’d notice many changes from those days.
Relevancy is a word we are increasingly using in business and leadership development must remain relevant, to be relevant.
Leadership development is a nice to have at many organisations and even though I’m in the development business, I’m not surprised.
Facilitators without any authentic leadership experience themselves, dried out old case studies straight out of a 1980s MBA, lecturing and bring ’em down to build ’em up nonsense all make potential participants question the true value.
So what changes have we been done lately? Learning conversations with senior leaders led by the participants themselves, micro-coaching sessions on the way through, location, location, location – context driven locations for learning – like on a tram for transport leaders hearing early stories of trams in Auckland.
We’re reshaped the reflection process putting it out in front of everyone with ReflectBack™, enhanced our Blueprints with time on Programme to complete, share and reflect with. We’ve embraced client direct participation on the programme. After all, we’re not running a secret society and we’re confident enough in what we do that we’re very proud for our clients to see close up the development we’re providing for their managers.
And we’re using technology – an App to stay connected and share practical details throughout – and running in-between sessions via electronic methods sometimes.
The next edition of the Authentic Leadership Programme will be different – we try and learn as we go – keeping the Programme relevant for the new context, and at the same time providing us with new energy to try new things out.
You don’t always know where it’s going to go, but hey, that’s leadership isn’t it?
We finished another Authentic Leadership Programme this week with presentations to the participants’ Executive Leadership Team. It was a time of some anxiety: Presentations! Public Speaking! Jerry Seinfeld says that public speaking is the number one fear of most people. Number two? Dying. So if you’re at a funeral most people would rather be….
But what happens when you decide to have a conversation in lieu of a presentation? Participants speaking about deep experiences from a journey of discovery.
It was really quite simple and at the same time very complex. An authentic conversation is easy, and sounds easy. In leadership development it only comes from a shared experience, a deep examination of self and exploring and identifying one’s leadership strengths and challenges.
Everyone on the programme should feel proud of where they had got to and for taking a risk with their vulnerability. It paid off and will bring dividends in the years to come.
This programme couldn’t have happened without the enduring wisdom of David Carter who recently moved on. He won’t be stoked that we’re talking of yet another journey, but it was, and a powerful one for which he had a significant role. Thank you.
On Monday we’ll continue an Authentic Leadership Programme for 18 leaders. There’s a good chance that many of the group coming back together will have been busy – especially busy because of the time out from work on the Programme – to have spent much time focussing on the development work ahead.
I’m feeling a bit like that too. I’ve turned my attention to make sure that the mechanics of the module will work, as you might expect, but getting my head in the right space has had to wait until now.
So will it work to front up on Monday morning good to go? Probably. The key is to be present in that moment, for that moment, during the two days.
A bit like leadership. Being present is incredibly important. And we don’t always get the luxury of time to prepare for that moment. It just happens, and authentic leaders are able to adjust their focus and presence as required.
In the movie Testament of Youth young men enthusiastically head to war in 1915 to “do the right thing”, for a bit of an OE and to join their mates. When I walked out of the cinema the phrase Testament of Stupidity came to mind.
Most of the people I know are fortunate to have choices in life. Some people don’t because of restricted society rules, war, cults and other tragedies of humanity.
The young men in the movie appeared to be making free choices. No doubt those who survived would agree that they had far from full information.
We start the Authentic Leadership Programme this morning with 18 managers embarking on a journey of discovery about themselves and others. We’ll start by learning about individual preferences and what others say about us. It won’t be exact information, but time, space and resources will be freely given to enable all the participants to interpret the information and plan for their individual next steps.
Taking new information on board to develop our leadership requires deliberate actions to be made by leaders to ensure the new insights are properly understood, interpreted and acted on. It can’t just be accepting someone’s interpretation of “the right thing” or what our mates are doing.
On the first day of the Programme, and in the ensuing months, our managers will be encouraged to make deliberate choices and changes in their leadership based on full information, reflection and planning. What will matter will be what is best for each leader to grow his or her leadership potential, their teams and their organisation.
Pressure will come for sure, it’s not always easy making changes, but the pressure will be based on honest and full information.
Despite my post-movie reaction, Testament of Youth is a powerful story and a great movie.