I sat through a meeting earlier this week where an executive in one of my new client groups revealed the department’s new research indicating that having good engagement between leaders and their direct reports was extremely critical. I can imagine what you’re thinking … “this is not news!” At least that was what I was thinking. But the executive went on earnestly and others nodded with conviction. They committed to do something about this crucial discovery. Driving back to my office I was thinking about how disappointing it was that the group found the engagement data surprising. Then I paused and began to consider that maybe I had better take a new look at my own assumptions about engagement. We have repeatedly seen, during this class, how so many of our assumptions about how to achieve work and personal success are changing. How will I ensure that engagement continues to be front and center if my attention is constantly alternating between the demands of technological and humanential? I think, moving forward, motivation and engagement may prove more and more difficult as a leader. We certainly tend toward distraction. I wonder how many people in the “engagement” meeting were actively engaged …
Debra Edwards-Onoro reports that 64% of employees visit non-work websites every day adding that 75% of these employees spend upwards of an hour a day on Facebook. Although companies try to limit this in various ways, I feel I’ve learned in this class, that connecting is necessary. As a leader I need to figure out how to build on this tendency toward distraction and re-channel or integrate this energy. It seems people are very engaged with their connection and maybe less and less with their work and/or their leaders. I think on some levels humans tend toward laziness and inaction when it comes to change and in many ways the internet and technology enable this. Which means, we committed leaders may be working against inertia.
Yet it is critical that we do! Consider Gerd Leonhard’s message in his Change2 animated video. He implores us to embrace technology not become it – to transcend it. To achieve this I believe as leaders we will need to emphasize helping people become more flexible, curious and to deal with ongoing change more confidently. We will need to develop environments which allow people to make mistakes and experiment. As leaders a main goal will be to help those around us get to a point described by Weinberger where“… our hyperlinked infrastructure will give us a self-understanding that makes it easier for our curiosity and compassion to overcome our self-centered fears.” (p. 193) Weinberger also emphasized the importance of guiding people toward learning to love difference. As I previously noted, noted, in many ways we prefer sameness and routine; to be re-affirmed in our opinions. We, as leaders, must learn to deal with this discomfort and push ourselves and others past this barrier. On a personal level, Weinberger recommended we could do this by putting ourselves in very different situations, and exposing ourselves to multiple works of literature, art and people. Why not do this at work? Certainly encouraging diverse collaboration and stretching people for project work is possible. Why not literature and art? People are probably checking out Instagram and Pinterest at work so I will look for opportunities to see how I might build on that impulse and channel that interest/energy into work related goals.
Michele Martin’s essay is very inspiring and I really appreciated her discussion of Meg Wheatley’s differentiation of hero as leader and hero as host. She describes the hero leader as one who encourages us to be passive. The host leader, on the other hand, encourages everyone to find their inner leader. The Hero leader feels she is responsible for finding and executing solutions. The Host Leader creates space for conversations to happen allowing new connections and relationships to form. The host leader would focus more on the overall process of leading rather than being a leader. This is somewhat analogous to the old form of wisdom where knowledge and wisdom sat on the pile of data and information where only one interpretation won out. Now everyone has access and multiple interpretations abound and as Weinberger reminds us we need to rethink knowledge. In the same way we need to rethink leadership more along the lines of being the host.
Michelle’s essay also draws on the work of Etienne Wenger discussing social artists, which align nicely with the host leader. Throughout the essay the need for leaders to establish space for dialogue to take place is discussed. The first three items listed for social artists reinforce establishing a conversational space: they invite participation, relinquish control, and create environments of high trust and aspirations. This is aligned with my discussion of conversational space from week 3’s blog. As Baker, Jensen, and Kolb (2005) explain conversational space is both a physical and psychological space created with the purpose of enabling diverse opinions to be expressed, reflected upon and transformed into new knowledge by the group. With this being such a constant theme throughout our readings I feel it is an imperative for me to provide thought leadership to establish this level of conversational space at every opportunity.
I continued to find guidance in all the social artist guidelines: helping people to access their full potential is the primary reason I became a learning professional. I’ve done that successfully in the analog world. Now my challenge is to figure out how to utilize technological connectivity and AI to enable this discovery. I am fully aligned with having a vision but also being aware of obstacles and limitations to achieving the vision. I see this as strength, particularly when significant change is required. I imagine I will need to refine and demonstrate this skill even more in order to lead effectively in coming years. At the moment I am having some challenge reconciling the two. In order to be strategic and more inspirational I need to be more in the vision space yet the furious pace of my current situation (and the world in general) has me mired in tactics to navigate obstacles. And finally social artists get things done by collaborating. This is enabled by our enhanced connectivity, yet I also see areas of opportunity for me to grow here as well. I value collaboration, but again am influenced by the pace of my life and find that the most efficient method wins out. And often just getting it done myself or delegating parts is more efficient than collaboration.
Michelle outlines what she considers 4 Patterns for Guiding Career Moves which I think are also pertinent for leading into the future because they help build resilience which given the pace of change, may prove to be a top need for us to help our employees develop. These patterns include: Clarifying, Connecting, Creating, and Coping. Clarity involves being aware of what is going on in the world and setting your goals based on your self-awareness as well as reference to the anticipated changes. Connecting refers to much of what we have been discussing – and reinforces the need to find the right connections who will help us grow and get work done as well as affirm who we are. Creating involves making a framework for our time management, priorities, taking risks, and making plans which uniquely enable us to thrive. Coping requires us to nurture ourselves in ways to help us manage the vicissitudes of life. All of this wraps up with helping people find their sparks that which helps individuals light their inner fire. Which brings us full circle back to engagement. How do I hope to foster engagement moving forward? By encouraging employees to be curious, empowered, resilient, to form opinions and express them in a safe conversational space and guiding them (as I guide myself) to find the proper balance between technological and humanential.
Baker, A. C., Jensen, P. J., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Conversation as experiential learning. Management learning, 36(4), 411-427.
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: Basic Books.