From alpha to beta and back again – 21st century leadership


By Elisabeth Goodman, 14th September 2020

Expanding established leadership models

I referenced Dr Jeffrey Hull’s FIERCE model of leadership in an earlier blog (Flexing your leadership style for greater inclusivity, inspiration and impact) after hearing him speak at a conference in June.

Jeffrey Hull’s (2019) F.I.E.R.C.E. leadership model – illustration by Elisabeth Goodman

I have since read Hull’s book (2019), and found that it both expands and adds depth to other well referenced models for leadership such as:

  • Hersey and Blanchard’s (2013) Situational Leadership. This guides a leader through directive, coaching, supportive and delegating behaviours depending on the skills and motivation of those they are working with.
  • Daniel Goleman’s (2000) six leadership styles (which I referenced in Keeping hold of your authenticity as a leader, manager and coach). These include the coercive and pace-setting styles which can be described as short-term directive approaches for immediate results, and the authoritative (visionary), affiliative, democratic and coaching styles which are longer-term approaches.

Hull (2019) contrasts and compares alpha and beta styles of leadership, and suggests that both have a role to play in today’s workplace.

Jeffrey Hull’s (2019) alpha and beta leadership styles – interpreted and illustrated by Elisabeth Goodman
  • Alpha leadership, is the more traditional style of directive leadership. It can provide valuable structure and drive to ensure productivity and delivery of results.
  • Beta leadership reflects the more collaborative nature of the modern workplace, where everyone’s potential is able to come through, there is a mind-set of continuous growth and creativity can flourish.

These two styles have strong echoes in Hamel and Zanini (2020) recently published “Humanocracy”. It is a ‘call to arms’ to transition from old bureaucratic models: “How do we get human beings to better serve the organisation?” to a ‘humanocracy’ that “elicits and merits the best that human beings can give”.

It is certainly a theme that I recognise working as I do with managers and leaders in the dynamic world of start-up, small and medium Life Science / Biotech organisations.

The skill, for a leader, is to understand your default leadership style and use it effectively, whilst also being able to flex and effectively use features of the opposite style.

A foundation in coaching

Jeffrey Hull’s (2019) book has a foundation in coaching in more ways than one. Like Hersey and Blanchard (2013) and Goleman (2000), he includes coaching as part of a leader’s necessary capabilities.

He also developed his model on the basis of his own and his colleagues’ considerable experience of coaching leaders, and on evidence from wider research. These experiences echo and cast light on the conversations I have been having with the managers and leaders that I train and coach.

Last but not least, Hull’s book is designed as a self-coaching guide for leaders. It is packed with case studies and tips to support and illustrate his approach.

Jeffrey Hull’s (2019) self-coaching model for leaders – interpreted and illustrated by Elisabeth Goodman

In true coaching style, Hull (2019) begins by encouraging self-diagnosis and self-awareness around what he describes as three types of “leadership energy”:

  • Are you cerebral? With an emphasis on thought and logic, facts and data, theories and models, science and technology?
  • Are you empathetic? With an emphasis on feelings, relationships, metaphors and analogies, art and music?
  • Are you somatic? With an emphasis on ‘doing’ and action, what’s practical and pragmatic, physical activity, sports and hobbies?

[These descriptions are analogous to those I have encountered in personality tools such as the Belbin Team Roles and Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and others.]

According to Hull (2019) a leader’s ability to tap into and expand their cerebral, empathetic and somatic energies will help them to achieve each of the six components of F.I.E.R.C.E. So for instance:

  • Getting the right balance between a focus on results and establishing consensus (for flexible decision-making)
  • Establishing emotional connection: leading with the “why” (for intentional communication)
  • Balancing authority (or perceived competence) with a willingness to be vulnerable: being transparent and having humility (for real authenticity)
  • Recognising that collaboration requires an effective use of a leader’s power (of which there are 10 different types!), and working in partnership with others
  • Building engagement from a foundation of both purpose and passion

As Hull points out, leaders are faced with numerous paradoxes or polarities for flexing their styles – where the choice is not so much ‘either/or’ but ‘and/both’. This is something that Emerson and Lewis (2019) also address in their book on navigating polarities in a way that enables people to find a richer middle or ‘third way’.

Six levels of engagement to enrich the whole

Steven R. Covey (1989) wrote about how important it is to “Sharpen the Saw” by drawing on and continuously developing our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual faculties.

Hull (2019) takes this a step further through his six levels of engagement which delightfully draw together many of the threads in his book, as shown in this illustration.

Jeffrey Hull’s (2019) six levels of engagement – interpreted and illustrated by Elisabeth Goodman

He encourages leaders to begin with the heart: the ‘why’, and then work through each subsequent layer in a way that accesses, optimises and balances all of the resources and energy available to us. The final level – the universe – is a reminder to us all to enjoy and “stay connected to the vast unknown, to tap into [our] spirit of exploration”.

Conclusion

Dr Jeffrey Hull’s (2019) book is a tightly crafted blend of insights for how the most effective and inspirational leaders (and their coaches) can and do navigate seemingly contradictory approaches to leadership.

It is a deep reflection about how leadership and organisations could adopt a more enlightened approach to working life: one that values each person – and both challenges and supports people to be at their best.

Dr Hull’s book is one to experience with the mind, the heart and one’s whole self.

NOTES

References

Covey, S.R. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Franklin Covey Emerson, B. and Lewis, K. (2019) Navigating Polarities

Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, March – April

Hamel, G and Zanini, M. (2020) Humanocracy. Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside them. Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA

Hersey and Blanchard (2013). https://www.selfawareness.org.uk/news/situational-leadership-and-developing-great-teams (Accessed 3rd February 2020.)

Hull, J. (2019) Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World. Tarcher / Putnam

Hull, J. F.I.E.R.C.E. leadership assessment – https://www.jeffreyhull.com/quiz (Accessed 13th September 2020).

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis. 

She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to achieve authenticity and autonomy in the workplace by enhancing their management, interpersonal and communication skills, and their ability to deal with uncertainty and change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Going on a growth mindset journey


By Elisabeth Goodman, 10th August 2020

Have you ever…?

  • Decided that something that you wanted to do was just too difficult?
  • Hit obstacles that have put you off continuing with something that you started?
  • Got depressed or had a sense of failure because something has not worked out?
  • Felt put off by someone being a lot better than you?
  • Judged that someone you were managing was not capable of doing something – perhaps a little too hastily?

These are all examples of what Dr Carol Dweck (2017) describes as a fixed mindset. Her book “Mindset” is a rich source of information on fixed and growth mindsets, their consequences and what we can do about them.

This is applicable to us as individuals, as managers, leaders and coaches, as parents and teachers.

Here are some points that stood out for me from Dr Dweck’s book. They are helping me to go on a growth mindset journey as an individual, and in my work with managers and individuals within teams.

Fixed mindsets and limiting beliefs get in the way

They stop us from achieving our potential, and from helping others to achieve theirs.

They cause us to feel anxious or depressed about what we might or might not be able to do.

In an organisation, this can result in high levels of turn-over, and missed opportunities to increase productivity, innovation and competitive standing with respect to other organisations.

Fixed mindsets are based on assumptions

These assumptions include thinking that:

  • People can either do things or they can’t.
  • We have a limit to our intelligence.
  • You are either born with talent or you are not.
  • To admit that you can’t do something is a sign of weakness.
  • Having to put effort into learning how to do something means that you are not good enough.

For people with a fixed mindset, not being able to do something that you are supposed to be talented in can feel literally terrifying. Having to put effort into something with the possibility that you might fail can be equally so.

Managers, leaders and organisations can either reinforce a “culture of genius” or they can cultivate a “culture of development”

A “culture of genius” is symptomatic of a fixed mindset. It leads to everything being about validation – and to “group think”:

  • The CEO or team leaders are not to be contradicted because they are so talented that they have all the answers.
  • To express a different point of view would be seen as dissent and might be punished.
  • To comply is to fit in.

Where there is a “culture of development”, or a growth mindset, in Carol Dweck’s words:

  • Everything feels more possible.
  • The world expands and is filled with energy.
  • It feels like fun!

Dweck cites examples from Jack Welsh at GE, and Anne Mulcahy at XEROX. They role modelled how listening to people, giving them credit, nurturing them, focusing on learning, and combining toughness with compassion can turn things around in organisations that were previously floundering.

What a growth mindset is and is not

A growth mindset is about…It is not (just) about..
Being dedicated to growing talentBeing open minded and flexible
Putting in hard work AND trying new strategies AND seeking input from othersPutting in lots of effort
Providing or accessing support and resources to make progressTelling others or yourself that “you can do anything”

How to cultivate a growth mindset in the people that you manage, and in yourself

As managers, leaders and coaches we can expand our belief in human development and growth by:

  • Recognising that skills can be learnt – that people can develop their abilities
  • Valuing learning and perseverance in those that we work with
  • Giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success
  • Being a resource for learning

As individuals we can:

  • Acknowledge that we are likely to have a mix of fixed and growth mindsets.
  • Be aware of our fixed mindset triggers (see the opening list to this blog!).
  • Here’s the fun bit: recognise the fixed mindset persona within ourselves (I’ve named mine Defensive Deirdre!).
  • Our fixed mindset personas were born to protect us and keep us safe – when they crop up we can acknowledge and educate them and invite them to go on our growth mindset journey with us.
  • We might even want to let other people around us know when our fixed mindset persona is being triggered and what we are trying to do about it.

What growth mindsets will deliver and conclusion

Carol Dweck conducted a study across a number of organisations and found that those that adopted a “culture of development” witnessed:

  • A greater sense of trust by individuals towards their companies.
  • A greater sense of empowerment, ownership and commitment by people within their companies.
  • More support by the companies for a (reasonable) level of risk-taking, creativity and innovation.

For us as individuals, a growth mindset offers us a richness of opportunities to continue to learn and develop and reach ever higher levels of achievement in our professional and personal lives.

Notes

References

Dweck, C. (2017) Mindset. Changing the Way you Think to Fulfil your Potential. Robinson,

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

The manager as coach: micro-management, empowerment or ownership?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 7th August 2020

I hear a lot about micro-management in my work with managers and team members: managers worrying that they are being too directive and “hands on” but finding it difficult to delegate with confidence. Individuals frustrated that they don’t have the level of autonomy that they would like.

And I still hear that word that makes me cringe: “empowerment”. It feels too parental somehow: like something that a manager needs to convince or nurture their direct reports to take on; whereas the will to do so has often been knocked out of them.

Of course where we all want to get to these days is “ownership” – individuals just getting on with what they are best placed to do, and managers being available to support them if and when needed. Having a coaching mindset will help a manager to get everyone to this point.

Illustration by Elisabeth Goodman

A case study on how to move towards ownership via ‘responsabilisation’

I’ve enjoyed Gary Hamel’s articles for Harvard Business Review in the past (see for instance Why is employee engagement such an important topic, Maintaining employee engagement in growing and large organisations. You might also want to read The soul of a start-up, nimble leadership, flexibility and control on a similar theme.)

In “Harnessing everyday genius”, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini (2020b) explore how Michelin has challenged outdated top-down bureaucratic approaches to management, and thereby “dramatically increased the authority and accountability” of all individuals in the organisation. They do admittedly use the term “responsabilisation” (from the French) which equates to “empowerment”, but none-the-less there are some good lessons to be learnt for moving towards a culture of what I’ve called “ownership”.

Hamel and Michele break down what Michelin achieved into headings that include:

1. Launching the movement

The company recruited volunteer teams to trial a new way of working, where teams were encouraged to “be bolder and more creative” and find their own solutions. (This is a classic coaching approach.)

Team leaders were to shift their role from “deciding” to “enabling”. They could ask such questions as: “What decisions could you make without my help?” and “What do I do today that you can imagine taking over tomorrow?” as ways to achieve that.

2. Converging on a shared view

Monthly phone conferences, shared online spaces, 3-day workshops to share experiences and develop ‘signature’ practices for more autonomous teams all helped with building a shared approach.

The learnings gained clustered around such themes as shared mission and objectives, developing competencies, coordination with others, managing performance.

3. Scaling up

Approaches for scaling up included day-long employee brainstorming sessions that generated more than 900 ideas, which were translated into themes that teams then took forward.

At one of the plants, in Poland, mindsets shifted to one of implicit trust in everyone – where it was “up to the individual to lose trust based on his or her actions”. This in itself had a “big impact”.

4. Redefining boundaries and roles

There was a big emphasis on developing skills that would enable managers to shift from “boss to mentor”, through training programmes on emotional intelligence and on “leading from behind”.

Being freed up from their more micro-management approach enabled those with the expertise to address the frontline work, whilst managers could focus on such areas as building team skills and resource planning.

Other interesting points and conclusion

The article covers a lot more than I’ve included here.

One of the notable points that the authors make is that companies around the world that have adopted this more enlightened approach to management:

“share a deep belief that “ordinary” employees, when given the chance to learn, grow, and contribute, are capable of extraordinary accomplishments. That conviction, when consistently acted upon, produces a workforce that’s deeply knowledgeable, relentlessly inventive, and ardently focused on the customer.”

They also reference Buurtzorg, a Dutch home-health-care provider, and how they train all employees in peer-coaching and other skills that enable them to hone their interpersonal and problem solving capabilities.

Why would managers not want to hone their own coaching skills to enable their direct reports in this way?

Hamel and Zanini’s (2020b) publication “Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them” would seem like a very worthwhile next read to find out more about this!

NOTES

References

Hamel, G. and Zanini, M. (2020a). Harnessing Everyday Genius. How Michelin gives its frontline teams the power to make a difference. Harvard Business Review, July – August, pp. 86-95

Hamel, G. and Zanini, M. (2020b). Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them, Harvard Business Review Press.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

The manager as coach: helping your team find new meaning


By Elisabeth Goodman, 6th July 2020

The pandemic is by no means over, and everyone is experiencing it in different ways and at different paces. Whether your team has just kept going, somehow, or is only just beginning to emerge into a different way of working, two articles in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review have some great insights for your role as a manager.

Recognising that what we are all going through is some form of grief

David Kessler (2020) puts it with great humanity: we will all be experiencing this pandemic in our own ways. It is a trauma, and each of the ways in which we are experiencing it can be legitimately described as a form of grief.

There are the worried well who are healthy, have not experienced sickness or bereavement, but will still be grieving losses in various aspects of their way of life.

The affected will have been ill themselves or know someone who has. They have recovered or are recovering. They have suffered trauma and will be looking for ways to deal with that.

And there are the bereaved who will be mourning someone who has died, and will continue to do so for quite some time.

I’ve written about how managers can support people through grief before (Goodman 2019). Kessler, who was a co-author with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s (2005) of the five stages of grieving, adds something more.

He suggests that we can help people move beyond acceptance to find new meaning: a sixth stage of grief that has been accepted by the Kübler-Ross foundation, and also features in Richard Tedeschi’s (2020) article in this same issue of HBR.

First connect

Reaching out to the members of your team is probably something that you have already done, and are continuing to do. It is a common theme in both HBR articles.

I was fortunate to be able to work with some of my clients in the early stages of the pandemic. They recognised that bringing people together, whether at work or furloughed, through some form of learning over the internet, would help them to connect and continue to feel part of a community. I certainly saw some of that connection in practice, and indeed have benefited from it in working online with my clients, and through other communities that I am a part of.

Tedeschi (2020) suggests that your connection with your team can go further. It takes courage, and it involves communicating at many levels. And it’s the kind of thing a manager can do with a coaching mindset.

In the last part of this blog I take Tedeschi’s (2020) five steps and put a bit of my spin on it: how you can make this connection with your team, and how it can lead to finding new meaning.

Five steps to healing, meaning and growth

1. Learning and re-imagining.

What we have all been through has been a tremendous time of learning at so many levels: about ourselves and our values, as well as what we’ve discovered is and is not possible. Managers can act as coaches in helping the members of their teams reflect about these things, derive strength from doing so and take their learning further in terms of what might be possible going forward.

2. Emotional regulation

This is about being aware of and acknowledging how we are feeling (as managers) and giving ourselves the time, space and resources (e.g. mindfulness, focusing on successes, exercise, sleep) to help ourselves recover. This bring us to the next point – disclosure and listening.

3. Disclosure and listening

It takes courage to communicate how we are feeling and what we are doing to help ourselves. Doing so will help others too. And of course so will just listening – such an invaluable coaching skill for managers. Just having someone hear how we are feeling is an invaluable step towards healing.

4. Develop your stories

Turning this whole experience into a story for yourself, your team, the organisation – what happened and what emerged from it – could be a great source of inspiration going forward. Tedeschi (2020) references “stories of crucible leadership” such as those around Nelson Mandela and Johnson & Johnson as examples of people and organisations that have emerged more strongly from crisis.

5. Find new meaning

Tedeschi (2020) suggests that finding work that benefits others can be a great source of strength after a trauma. We’ve seen and heard lots of examples of that in what key workers have done, and how others have supported them. I have found it in just being able to continue to provide training and one-to-one coaching online to some of my clients during this time.

As a manager working with your team, you might want to tap into the ideas that people have to do things differently, or to do new things. As Tedeschi (2020) says: coming through a crisis can be a bonding experience; look for personal and shared missions that will energise the team further and help it to find meaning.

Conclusion

What are your thoughts on the above? What have you found useful that you might follow-up on?

But also, be aware that people’s experiences of the pandemic are not yet over – they may be at an earlier stage of the grief curve. If that is the case, give people time.

NOTES

References

Goodman, E. (2019) The manager as coach: when your direct report is grieving – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/manager-coach-when-direct-report-grieving-elisabeth-goodman/

Kessler, D. (2020) Helping your Team Heal. Harvard Business Review, July – August: 53-55

Kübler-Ross, E. and Kessler, D. (2005) On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. Simon and Schuster

Tedeschi, R.G. (2020) Growth after Trauma. Five Steps for Coming out of a Crisis Stronger. Harvard Business Review, July – August: 127-131

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Flexing your leadership style for greater inspiration, inclusivity and impact


By Elisabeth Goodman, 1st July 2020

My copy of the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review has arrived and it includes a great read about power in leadership (Long Lingo and McGinn 2020) that dovetails nicely with one of the presentations at the recent “Coaching in the Workplace” conference (Hull 2020).

The days of control over others as a source of power are long gone

Jeffrey Hull’s presentation referenced his book (Hull 2019), a copy of which I have ordered and am eagerly awaiting. He suggested that the days of the authoritative and heroic leader are long gone, and it is now time for a more holacratic approach that relies on inspiring and involving others, whilst taking a wider perspective of the overall system in which we work.

Elizabeth Long Lingo and Kathleen McGinn (2020) have completed many years of research and consulting with senior leaders and they also assert that “the traditional concept of power… may not even be an option”.

Inspirational and situational sources of influence – connecting with “purpose”

I’ve written before about the nature of inspirational leadership (Goodman 2019).

Daniel Goleman et al (2017) for instance defines inspirational leadership as:

“..the ability to inspire and guide people to get the job done, and to bring out their best.  With inspiration, you can articulate a shared mission in a way that motivates and offer a sense of common purpose beyond people’s day-to-day tasks.”

Long Lingo and McGinn (2020) suggest that a leader’s ‘power is situational“. It depends on thinking about the goal that you want to achieve in the context of what’s important to “your colleagues, your company, and society”. This sounds to me like the systemic basis of Hull’s (2020) holacratic approach.

Long Lingo and McGinn also talk about the importance of understanding the environment in which you would like to make things happen, what barriers might be present, and how articulating the “why” (akin to Goleman’s “purpose”) will help you to win people over.

Lastly, Long Lingo and McGinn talk about aligning with the “bases of power” in the organisation, which include shared values as well as other existing practices and commitments that you can build upon. With shared values you can understand and identify with what is important to you and your colleagues and essentially be seen as one of us.

Building on existing practices and commitments is a bit like building on the opportunities in a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). They are the ‘open door’ that give you the opportunity to continue an existing conversation.

Inclusivity is another aspect of influencing through ‘relational’ connectivity

Matthew Lippincott (Goleman et al 2017) references relationship management as one of the key aspects of emotional intelligence for inspirational leadership.

Long Lingo and McGinn (2020) also assert that “power is relational” and Hull (2020) cites collaborative skills as one of six key dimensions for leadership.

Long Lingo and McGinn (2020) encourage leaders to understand, develop and work with their network: those who will help them to achieve what they want, those who might resist or otherwise affect their plans.

They suggest various ways to choose who you interact with and how for instance by:

  • Including key players in developing your ideas and solutions will help to build buy-in
  • Finding opportunities to support and help others succeed, whilst recognising how others can help you will create a stronger climate of interdependency
  • Bringing people strategically together to achieve specific goals (and also deliberately choosing when to keep them apart!)

Keeping things under dynamic review

Having a dynamic approach is the third of Long Lingo and McGinn’s (2020) definitions of a leader’s sources of power, and indeed no-one’s job is complete without continuous review.

In this case it is about:

  • Taking time to pause, reflect, and evolve your approach based on changes in the environment or in your network.
  • Carrying out small scale experiments to test ideas and build support
  • Giving people who resist time to adjust to your ideas and approach
  • Generally looking for ways to help people buy-in more easily in the future

Working with a coach to flex your strengths and achieve greater impact

What kind of leadership style are you adopting? How could you flex your strengths to achieve the kind of impact that you would like to have?

Hull (2020) described 5 other key dimensions of leadership in addition to the collaborative one mentioned previously:

  • Flexible decision making
  • Intentional communication
  • Emotional agility
  • Real authenticity
  • Collaborative
  • Engage

(The terms are chosen so that the first letters spell out F.I.E.R.C.E!)

All of these would seem to relate in some way to: being inspirational / situational; deliberately including and involving others / being relational; taking a dynamic approach that takes account of significant changes.

Leaders are likely to be on a spectrum for these dimensions that bring them closer towards the heroic or the holacratic polarity of leadership.

Working with a coach can help leaders to develop greater awareness of where they are in relation to these dimensions, and how they could flex their approach to achieve a more inspirational, inclusive and hence more impactful approach.

I’m looking forward to reading Hull’s book to find out more.

NOTES

References

Goleman, D. et al (2017) 12. Inspirational Leadership, in Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence, Key Step Media

Goodman, E. (2019) Inspirational Leadership through the Lens of Emotional Intelligence – https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/inspirational-leadership-through-the-lens-of-emotional-intelligence/

Hull, J. (2019) Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World. Tarcher / Putnam

Hull, J. (2020) The Six Key Dimensions of Leadership in Coaching in the Workplace. Performance. Culture. Mastery. Association for Coaching and Institute of Coaching (digital conference).

Long Lingo, E. and McGinn, K.L. (2020) A New Prescription for Power: spend less time exerting control and more time mobilizing energy and commitment. Harvard Business Review, July – August: 67-75

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Fostering individual and team learning from outside our comfort zones


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th June 2020

I enjoyed my first experience of “Coaching in the Workplace, 2020” this week: a joint conference by the Association for Coaching and the Institute of Coaching, delivered this year through a digital platform.

I learned about more than can be covered in just one blog, but was particularly drawn to this  blog’s theme that applies not only to coaches, but to any individual and team in the workplace.

VUCA and the DNA for learning

Inevitably, at this time of Covid-19, a common theme of the conference was that of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity), and how our individual experiences of the pandemic have accelerated our learning in so many ways.

Illustration based on my notes from David Peterson’s presentation at “Coaching in the Workplace” 2020.

David Peterson’s DNA (Diversity, Novelty, Adversity) model is a very useful synthesis of how the nature of the pandemic has accelerated our learning through adversity.

In response to a question from me during the Q&A session after his presentation Peterson suggested some playful small ways in which we can do this:

  • Read a novel or magazine that you would not usually read.  Think about the target audience and what value they would derive from that. [Diversity and Novelty]
  • Challenge yourself to only use 3-word questions in your coaching interventions. (Tell your client that you are planning to do this before-hand!). [Novelty]

Peterson summarised this perspective for learning in terms of:

“There’s no comfort in the learning zone, and there is no learning in the comfort zone.”

I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve been experiencing this form of learning during the last 3 months or so.

For example:

  • It has coincided with completing the taught component of my PG Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching, and the University of Chester.  Completing a course of this nature involves a lot of personal reflection on every aspect of one’s own life and nature – and that process is continuing.
  • This was accentuated during the pandemic by the abrupt interruption of the end of my course, and then being plunged right into the experiences and insights of a completely different set of people with whom I completed the course.  How I responded to this emotionally was a surprise to me and another source of learning.
  • I found myself PIVOTing (another popular acronym at the moment – Purpose, Innovation, Vulnerability, Opportunities and Threats) and converting my courses so that I could deliver them via the internet. This involved rising to the challenge of learning new technology and how to use it effectively to deliver a positive learning experience for my clients.
  • And of course there has been further reflection associated with working from home, the changes in the dynamics of interactions with family and friends, changing the nature of my leisure activities – experiences very familiar to all.

The Summer issue of Project (the APM’s journal for project professionals) abounds with stories of how project managers and their teams have accelerated their learning during this time.  It includes some individual learnings that project managers have shared as tips for the present time, some of which will continue to apply as we go forward:

  • Create positive habits such as having a designated workspace if working from home; using the time saved from commuting for learning and development; develop a routine; take regular breaks and exercise; ensure you schedule in time to keep connected with your colleagues.
  • Put extra measures in place to provide direction and support for your employees such as regular one-to-ones, company-wide updates, newsletters that celebrate employees and provide resources for wellbeing, in-house training.
  • Make the most of video calling to reduce travel time and the environmental impact of travelling.
  • Take the time to personally engage with each person that you interact with, and say thank you, every day.  It helps people to feel valued, they feel good, they will be more motivated.

How have you been experiencing VUCA and what learning have you been gaining associated with the DNA of it? To what extent has this stretched you outside of your comfort zone?

The “antidote to VUCA” and learning in teams

I was excited by the “antidote to VUCA”, which came up in a session at the conference that featured Georgina Woudstra, Founder and Principal of Team Coaching Studio, in conversation with Carroll Macey.

They described this antidote as:

  • Vision – to anticipate issues and shape conditions
  • Understanding – to know the consequences of issues and actions
  • Clarity – to find coherence, align expectations and check for understanding
  • Agility – to prepare, interpret and address opportunities

Woudstra’s organisation focuses on team coaching, so it’s perhaps no coincidence that her antidote sits well with what would also foster a collaborative and learning approach in teams.

In fact there are strong echoes for me with the “5 Behaviours” developed by Patrick Lencioni and colleagues (https://www.fivebehaviors.co.uk/), and which I and my Associates at RiverRhee are starting to explore through team coaching with our clients.

The “5 Behaviours” are those that enable a team to:

  1. Start from a position of trust where people have the courage to be their authentic selves (equates to ‘Clarity’)
  2. Be comfortable with conflict in the form of open and honest discussions that take account of everyone’s views (equates to ‘Understanding’)
  3. Be committed to priorities and decisions made by the team, without them needing to be reached by consensus, and to review these on a regular basis (equates to ‘Vision’)
  4. Be individually and mutually accountable for following through on commitments, and to learn from the impact of these (equates to ‘Agility’)
  5. Achieve results through the previous four behaviours

Woudstra (2019) describes team coaching as :

“Partnering with the team, unleashing its potential to collaborate, to achieve its collective purpose.”

Accelerated learning at this time, as exemplified by the many case studies in the current issue of Project is surely at the heart of a team’s ability to achieve it’s purpose.

Has your team been operating outside of its comfort zone? To what extent are you adopting the “antidote to VUCA” to support your team’s learning?

NOTES

References

Peterson, D. (2020) The DNA of VUCA: coaching leaders to deal with chaos, complexity and exponential change in Coaching in the Workplace. Performance. Culture. Mastery. Association for Coaching and Institute of Coaching (digital conference).

Project Me (2020). Project, Summer, Issue 3030: 63-64

Woudstra, G. (2019) cited in Woudstra, G. (2020) Sitting in the Fire: the journey to team coaching mastery in Coaching in the Workplace. Performance. Culture. Mastery. Association for Coaching and Institute of Coaching (digital conference).

Woudstra, G. (2020) Sitting in the Fire: the journey to team coaching mastery in Coaching in the Workplace. Performance. Culture. Mastery. Association for Coaching and Institute of Coaching (digital conference).

The Five Behaviors – https://www.fivebehaviors.co.uk/ (Accessed 26th June 2020)

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

The manager as coach: helping others find their goal


By Elisabeth Goodman, revised 11th June 2020

(Originally posted as “Developing your coaching skills as a manager” 18th January 2017)

Helping people perform at their best – where to start?

We teach coaching skills in  RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management  course and also in Coaching Skills for Managers.

We also apply these skills ourselves as coaches.

The result is a double benefit: it enhance managers’ performance and it gives them a tool to develop their direct reports’ performance.

[You can read more about some of these coaching skills in my blog on Appreciative Inquiry which also references the GROW model of coaching.]

Michael Bungay Stanier’s  (2010) “Do more great work” is proving to be a valuable starting point for helping people who are making decisions about their direction in life: what they want to achieve.

Helping people to articulate what they want to achieve

This the Define step in Appreciative Inquiry, or the Goal in GROW.

What you’re looking for, in terms of a coaching conversation, is what will help the individual define, in positive terms: what they want to move towards, rather than away from.

Adapted from Michael Bungay Stanier, 2010

Ask them to think about what’s currently happening: find the great work and what makes this so

Use this 3-part circle to help individuals differentiate between the aspects of their work that is OK, that they don’t particularly enjoy, and that is ‘great’.

(This equates to the Reality step in GROW).

What you’re after are the instances of great things that happen for them in their work.

  • What are they doing when they are feeling wonderful?
  • What do they really enjoy?
  • Feel fulfilled about?
  • What are they doing when they are completely “in the zone” or absorbed in their work?

Then ask them to differentiate what they are doing in terms of:

  • How it relates to interaction with others – is there any interaction; does it involve training or mentoring; working things out together; anything else?
  • The kind of thinking they are doing – does it involve researching; creating new theoretical models; evaluating alternatives?
  • What they are practically doing – is it hands on work; making or testing things?

Helping them to drill down in this way will help them to identify the kind of work they might want to focus on going forward:

  • What they value most about their work
  • What motivates them
  • What their particular strengths are that they would like to use more fully

What to do once someone has discovered what makes their work great

Stanier (2010) gives us a 4-box grid which compares and contrasts the things that an individual cares and does not care about, with those that their organisation does or does not care about.

I have super-imposed the grid with the 5-Ds’ from the MindGym’s (2006) “Give me time”.

So this becomes a useful tool for discussing what options the individual has for doing their ‘great’ work within or outside of the organisation.

(‘They’ is the organisation. ‘I’ is the individual.)

taking-action-on-great-work

Michael Bungay Stanier’s (2010) ‘caring’ 4-box matrix overlayed with the 5Ds (in blue text) from the MindGym

At this point, the person you are coaching may be ready to consider what they will do…

The ideal is of course is to achieve the dream scenario: a perfect match between what the individual cares about, and what the organisation expects.

(The dream scenario fits nicely with the Dream step in Appreciative Inquiry.)

The reality is that we tend to have a mix in our work – and the individual may need to decide what they want to do about that.

(These are the Design / Deliver steps in Appreciative Inquiry or the Will step in the GROW model.)

If they arrive at the conclusion that there is not a good fit between what they want to do, and what the organisation expects from them – then that is a useful realisation in terms of their onward career planning.

Conclusion

Having this kind of coaching discussion with your direct report might assume a high level of trust between you.  It could equally be a way of building trust: you are demonstrating a real interest in what they value in their work.

Your ability to respond to the outcome in a positive and supportive way will also help to reinforce that trust.

Using this approach will enable an open and honest conversation about your expectations and theirs, and their options within or outside your organisation as a result.

As always, I’d be interested in hearing what readers think of these tools and approaches.

NOTES

References

Stanier, M.B. (2010) Do More Great Work. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.

The Mind Gym (2006) Give me Time. Time Warner Books.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Keeping hold of your authenticity as a manager, leader and coach


By Elisabeth Goodman, 24th May 2020

Many of the people that I work with, on RiverRhee’s management courses, and also in one-to-one coaching, are either relatively new to management, or transitioning from a management to a leadership role.

One of the things that we stress in our leadership course is the importance of being authentic: being true to yourself.  People respond to who you are.  If this is at odds with what you say and do, this can not only cause stress to yourself, but also affect other people’s trust in you.

So how does this sit with Goleman’s (2000) description of different leadership styles, and the suggestion that leaders should flex their style to meet different situational requirements?  And how does that sit with the concept of a manager as coach?

Daniel Goleman's leadership styles

There may be some answers from Frei and Morriss (2020) in their HBR article: “Begin with trust.  The first step to becoming a genuinely empowering leader”.

Authenticity

Authenticity is when you are being “the real you”: in terms of what you know, what you believe, what you think and how you feel.

Many of us are aware that we are different when at work to how we are at home. Why is that?  What is making us behave differently?  What are we holding back of our better selves in one or the other environment?

I’d be intrigued to know whether the “current situation” (as many of us are calling it), where many people find themselves working from home, or otherwise dealing with exceptional circumstances, is making a difference.  Are we being more open, more genuine, more consistently our true selves?  If so, what difference is that making to the quality of our interactions with others? Is it creating more trust?

Empathy

Empathy is the second of three components that Frei and Morriss (2020) suggest are essential for creating trust.  It’s an easy quality to recognise that managers and leaders have needed to tap into at the present time.

Many people are juggling so many conflicting demands: looking after children at home or worrying about elderly parents whilst still trying to meet expectations for their work.

Empathy sits well with the affiliative leadership style where people come first. It relies on creating harmony and building emotional bonds. It’s great for motivating people during times of stress.

Empathy also sits well with a coaching style of leadership: one where you are paying attention to an individual’s strengths and values as well as their feelings, and supporting them in their development.

Could a leader, who is not naturally empathetic, argue against digging deep within themselves to find some empathy when a situation demands it on the grounds that this is not their authentic self?

Perhaps their loss of authenticity, and the risk to how others trust them, would be to go overboard with the empathy, rather than not demonstrating any at all when the situation does demand it?

The role of logic

Logic is the last of the three components in Frei and Morriss’s (2020) triangle of trust.

Logic is needed to be able to effectively communicate the information and data supporting a course of action that you are advocating.

Logic is an important asset for the authoritative style of leadership: where a manager or leader is communicating a vision to encourage people to adopt a new way of working for example. Interestingly, Goleman also lists empathy as one of the qualities for authoritative leadership.

The democratic leadership style also relies on information and data: where a leader is seeking input to shape the new way forward. Although Goleman does not emphasise empathy as a component of this style, it is a collaborative one.

So, can a manager or leader (or coach) be authentic and still switch into either one of these two other styles of leadership, using logic effectively, when the situation demands it? Without acting against their character, and without jeopardising trust? Again, to be able to do so would seem both desirable and possible and, in the right situation, likely to inspire trust in the leader.

It may be that being able to access and communicate information and data at the necessary level of detail is not something that comes naturally to all managers and leaders. In which case, the important thing is to be conscious of this and either develop this ability, or ask for support from others in the team.  Pretending to be more knowledgeable, or being otherwise misleading would certainly jeopardise trust.

A look at coercive and pace-setting leadership styles

These two styles are described as ‘negative’ ones in that they demand instant action and cooperation from the team.  There is no room for empathy, consultation or collaboration.

These are perhaps the two styles that raise the greatest questions, for me, about authenticity.  If either one is someone’s natural style, then it will be harder for them to switch to any of the other four.  And vice versa.

We know why managers and leaders need to be able to switch into the other four, as described above.

There may also be occasions though when the coercive or pace-setting styles are appropriate:

  • The coercive style of leadership may be needed in a crisis, when time is of the essence, when health, safety, security or the company’s reputation are at stake
  • The pacesetting style of leadership may also be appropriate when time is short and work needs to be delivered to a specified quality or turn-around time.  It’s likely to work best when everyone knows exactly what they need to do and are competent and motivated to do so.

By definition both these leadership styles would seem to be ones to adopt in the short-term, before reverting to one of the other four more collaborative or empathetic styles.

Could a manager or leader (or coach) still feel they are being authentic if they were to switch into one of these two styles, if it was not their most natural?

Conclusion

How are these reflections resonating with you?

Who is the authentic you?

Do you inspire trust in your team as a manager or leader, or in the people that you coach?

What role do empathy and logic play in this?

Do you, or could you flex your leadership style?  What would be the impact?

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Liz Mercer of Perla Development, and to Nicki and Tim Hedin (my learning buddies from Barefoot Coaching’s Cohort 57) , for helping me to reflect on the concept of authenticity and its link to leadership and coaching.

References

Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, March-April,

Frei, F. and Morriss, A. (2020) Begin with trust.  The first step to becoming a genuinely empowering leader. Harvard Business Review, May-June, pp. 112-121

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Starting from a position of choice in manager-employee relationships


By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th May 2019

An article in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review has, as is often the case, triggered some lateral thinking on my part.  Borys Groysberg (2020) explores a case study of whether a manager should fight to keep a star employee who decides to leave the organisation without any apparent prior indication of wanting to do so.

There follows some very valid discussion, from the author and from two contributing experts, on the merits or otherwise of various remedial-style actions.

What are your options when an employee says they plan to leave your employment?

As the manager you can:

  • Make various forms of counter-offer to the employee
  • Find out why the employee is leaving and see if the reasons can be addressed in a way that would stop them doing so
  • Promote their colleague to stop them leaving as well, and to fill the gap even if they might not (yet) have the necessary skills
  • Give their colleague the incentive to work towards promotion by developing their skills to fill the gap
  • Put your own work to one side in order to fill the gap until someone else can be found to fill it

What the article also begins to explore is what preventative actions the manager could have taken which might have prevented the employee wanting to leave in the first place, or helped them to be better prepared for them wanting to do so.

What are your options to pre-empt an employee taking you by surprise with their career choices?

I believe that such preventative options could be even better positioned were managers and employees to adopt the mindset that:

  1. People work for a company by choice, just as a company chooses to recruit people for specific jobs
  2. The relationship between an individual and their manager is a collaborative one, which combines meeting the organisation’s requirements and supporting the individual in their personal development plans
  3. An individual may find that their personal development is best continued elsewhere
  4. A company’s requirements from an individual will also evolve over time

There are various tools that can support discussions between managers and employees about their respective expectations. Most important is to have the conversation itself. [Illustration based on various RiverRhee courses for managers.]

How to start from a position of choice in manager-eMployee relationships?

If we start from a position of choice in manager-employee relationships, then some good practices, which the HBR article does mention, could be re-cast as follows:

1. Have regular one-to-one discussions which are not only task-focused, but also reflect on how things are going in terms of :

  • The individual’s expectations for their personal development
  • The organisation’s requirements from the individual

2. Discuss succession planning:

  • How the individual’s career might evolve within the organisation in terms of potential gaps from other people leaving
  • What the individual could do to develop others who might fill their role if they move to other roles within or outside the organisation

3. Perhaps most importantly of all, regularly demonstrate, through positive feedback, how much you value the individual’s contribution to the company

notes

Reference

Groysberg, B. (2020) Case Study: Should you Fight to Keep a Star? Harvard Business Review, May – June

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Working with diversity in thinking, learning and interpersonal styles


Elisabeth Goodman, 9th May 2020

I’ve been doing a bit of reading and thinking about the impact of diversity in how we think and learn and how this might play out in our interactions with each other at work, or indeed at home.

A look at Neurodiversity

There is a lot that we can learn from people who are described as ‘neurodiverse’, given, as Nancy Doyle (2019) says, that:

It is estimated that just 59% of people can be considered “neurotypical”. With prevalence data like that, we have to assume that neurodiversity is a natural variation within the human species.

People who are ‘neurodiverse’ include those “with autism, Asperger’s, dyslexia, ADHD. They have a cognitive profile of extreme strengths and weaknesses and in how they think, and in how they interact with others. People who are ‘neurotypical’ tend to score about the same on all measures of their cognitive profiles.

According to Genius Within , the cognitive strengths of the ‘neurodiverse’ cover a plethora of intellectual and interpersonal skills (or intelligences) such as problem solving, holistic thinking, verbal skills, visual thinking, mechanical skills, creativity, attention to detail, hyperfocus, empathy, persistance etc.

The list represents all the different skills that we would want in the workplace the difference being, Doyle (2019) suggests, that individuals who are ‘neurodiverse’ will specialise in some of these, whilst those who are ‘neurotypical’ might be more generalist. Or would they?

Insights from personality tools and learning styles

We have a vast choice of personality tools available to us to help us understand our individual strengths and those of others.

MBTI summary slide

MBTI summary slide from RiverRhee’s training courses, with illustrations by Nathaniel Spain

What we can learn from personality tools is that we are all diverse in terms of which cognitive and interpersonal skills come to us most naturally, and which ones we have learnt to develop over time.

Kolb, and Honey and Mumford add yet more perspectives to this in terms of our different learning styles such as:

  • experiential or activist
  • reviewing or reflecting
  • concluding or theorising
  • planning or pragmatism

Are we simply talking about different types of intelligences?

In digging deeper on this whole subject, as part of carrying out my research for my PG Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching, I came across Watagodakumbura (2014).  His focus is on the need to address all of these differences in terms of education.

He quotes, amongst other really useful things, a range of intelligences: linguistic, spatial, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal and interpersonal, naturalistic and existential.

Watagodakumbura also reminds us, as Grandin (2013) does, that a lot of the differences in our cognitive and interpersonal skills can be related to differences in brain development. This opens up further questions for me about what we are born with, and what we can develop over time.  What role does neuroplasticity for instance play in all of this?

Conclusion: So what can we do with this understanding of diversity?

I personally find this whole area tremendously fascinating and exciting.  There is so much we can learn about ourselves and the people around us.

We can use this knowledge in a way that is enriching for ourselves and to enhance our interactions with others. We can make conscious choices about how to develop ourselves, and how to take advantage of opportunities that make the best of our strengths.

There is so much more to learn about this area.  I’m looking forward to finding out more.

Notes

References

Doyle, N (2019). Making the invisible visible – supporting neurodiversity in the workplace. Personnel Today, 1st Feb. https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/making-the-invisible-visible/ (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Genius Within – https://www.geniuswithin.co.uk/infographics-and-literature/neuro-diversity-venn-diagram/ (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Grandin, T. and Panek, R. (2013). The Autistic Brain. Rider Books.

Honey and Mumford – https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/pluginfile.php/629607/mod_resource/content/1/t175_4_3.pdf (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Kolb – https://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Watagodakumbura, C. (2014). The need to address psychological and neurological characteristics of learners in the mainstream education system. Journal of Studies in Education, Vol 4(1), 94-108

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.