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BEING GREAT: An acronym for learning leadership

Friday, September 18th, 2015

By Nancy Hardaway

Listening 2 Leaders

How do you teach people how to manage (or become better at managing, depending on their experience) in 20 minutes? That was my challenge last spring when I gave a talk to a group of young professionals.

Research has found that over 70% of people in corporate America name their boss as their biggest stressor in their lives and that anywhere from 40-70% of managers fail. Obviously, people need help! In order to make the concepts easier to digest and remember in just 20 minutes I organized them with an acronym : BEING GREAT

Typically it’s not the content of the work or the tasks that cause problems for managers. It’s the people interactions. Every interaction between people is “co-created;” you are half of the equation so managing or leading others requires managing yourself. The first word of the acronym, BEING, represents ways to manage yourself:

B: Boundaries

E: Emotions

I: Intent and Impact

N: Nature

G: Goals

BOUNDARIES: Managers need to set and understand their boundaries. They have to find the appropriate place for themselves between the company and their boss, and their allegiance to their staff. They have to be careful about friendships past and present, and where the boundary is in what they disclose to whom. Promotions from within cause colleagues to become staff overnight, necessitating careful and explicit renegotiation of boundaries. Then there’s that tricky balance between work and home. Those boundaries blur too easily and you find yourself answering emails while playing with your kids – not successful or satisfying for either activity.

EMOTIONS: Emotions impact perspective, decisions, and affect interactions with colleagues or staff. It takes awareness to recognize your emotions in the workplace and skills to manage them successfully. Neuroscience research tells us that some of the most successful ways to manage emotions are labeling (putting a word to the feeling shifts the brain from feeling to thinking mode), reframing (looking at it in another way, or in Gestalt terms, looking for the multiple realities), and refocusing (turning your attention elsewhere).

INTENT AND IMPACT: How often does it happen that someone takes your message (words, body language, action) the wrong way? We need to know the difference between what we intend to convey and the impact we actually have. It requires knowing our intention. It requires paying careful intention to the way our message is being received and interpreted. And we need to check and verify – just plain ask.

NATURE: Managers and leaders need to understand how they are different from others: What are your biases and filters based on your experience, wealth, gender, family of origin, age, culture, occupation, etc.? What’s your work style? How are you motivated?

GOALS: Understanding your goals, your priorities, and your values is key to managing your time appropriately and knowing whether you are succeeding. You have to know your organizational goals (the big picture) and the goals of your role, which shift your focus from to-do lists to prioritization toward the bigger picture. And you’ll only know whether you are succeeding if you have some sense of your goals in life.

You can’t lead without followers – you would be a parade of one. So the second word of the acronym, GREAT, is about managing others.

G: Goals

R: Reviews

E: Events

A: Accountability

T: Teams

GOALS: Goal are so important, they show up twice. In this case it’s about knowing your organization or boss’s goals (make sure to ask and clarify) and then setting the goals for your team as a whole and for each individual. Express the “why” and express the “how” and express the “when.” The why is what inspires so make sure to spend time with it. The how and when create the basis for success and holding people accountable. Provide enough detail for clarity and enough space for innovation and independence.

REVIEWS: Massive research demonstrates that only 30% of performance feedback has a positive impact. Our Gestalt training enables more successful results. Build on the positive. Provide feedback on a daily and weekly basis rather than waiting for the annual review. Provide specific data – evidence and examples of what you mean. Provide support for new behaviors – assume if they could have done what you wanted before and knew you wanted it, they would have. Follow up to feedback (71% of managers never follow up on reviews – how unfortunate!).

EVENTS: I chose the word events (which typically involve a lot of planning) to cover meetings, important conversations, retreats – planned interactions where you want to accomplish something. Know why, who, what, when, and how for every meeting. Plan how much time will be needed for what you want to accomplish and know what a successful outcome would look like. Plan for good beginnings, middles, and endings – don’t skimp on those endings or overbook your agenda so you run out of time. Closure is important for effective results.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Start with clear expectations, and maintain communication. Be specific about what and by when, and the consequences to all for missed targets. Don’t wait – quick and frequent check-ins are better than big blow ups after the deadline passes. Be direct – too often new managers confuse directness with being mean, often because they wait until they are angry at failed performance to act.

TEAMS: It takes intentional leadership to create teams, even though our brains are wired for collaboration. But we want to collaborate with “friends,” not “foes.” Here’s where the Gestalt concept of intimate (relational) and strategic (work accomplishment) is so helpful – it takes a balance of both for good work to occur.

BEING GREAT takes work, important work. Being a great manager or leader is an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those who work for and with you rather than becoming the biggest stressor in their lives.

Why write a book about Gestalt leadership in fiction form?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

By Nancy Hardaway

 

What does fiction and Gestalt have in common?

 

People have asked me why did I write my book The Awareness Paradigm in fiction, when I wanted to teach leadership theory and behavior.   Why write about Cesar and Fletcher, Mark and Redley?  Why write about their coach, Julia? It was a way of “showing, not telling.” A way of creating some of the feel and touch of a GISC program.

 

Whether as student or teacher, my richest learning opportunities contain only small bits of talking at, and lots of opportunity to experience new things through exercises and practicum groups.  Where I learn not only from different faculty with varied styles that I resonate more or less to, but also from participants, hearing their stories and sharing my own.  And… I have a bit of fun!

 

Further, I know that we rarely learn from being exposed to something once (okay, maybe being burned would be an exception).  We need to engage with it, chew on it, see it again in a different light or a different context, try it, hear it again, etc.

 

For us, Gestalt learning occurs not just by doing but through reflection, as primary a tool as didactic, experience and practice.   With schedules so rushed, many leaders come to leadership training and are both discomforted and refreshed by the time set aside for reflection.  Research shows it is a primary skill of highly successful leaders.

 

In a recent Harvard Alumni Magazine, I just read about a task force called the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT).  At a recent HILT symposium, psychologists and educators talked about new research on cognition and learning.

 

They emphasized the importance of learning how to think, and of practice and cumulative engagement (successive relearning of foundational knowledge).   One academic who studies strategies that promote durable learning said that students need to learn how to learn.   A professor from Harvard Business School explained that they no longer find its case method – talking about what to do – as useful as actually doing.  So Harvard is finally figuring out what Gestalt faculty have always known.

 

How could I create some facsimile of the Gestalt learning experience to teach Gestalt concepts in a book?  Experiences.  Connection.  Practice, repetition, reflection.  Fun. How could I create that support which is an important piece of leadership training? I first sought out support for myself as writer, from Joe Melnick – who asked me questions, and kept my going when I flagged.

 

I thought briefly about writing a book of theory with lots of exercises to try, but I was intrigued by the idea of stories. After all, down through the ages, people have learned through stories, connecting with the characters and internalizing the lessons.  We learn best when our whole brain is involved – intellect and emotion.

 

Most importantly, leadership happens not in a vacuum, but only in relation to others, and our growth as leaders happens in the way we relate to ourselves, so I needed a vehicle to demonstrate the space within and the space between us.

 

I also knew the characters would have to learn as we all do, incrementally and with fits and starts, defaulting back to old behaviors under stress.  This is especially true for adult learners who have fixed patterns that have been reinforced for years.  They get excited about something new at a program and then are return home to be bombarded with emails and crises and catch-up, and the new learning tends to slip away.  That’s why coaching and ongoing reinforcement is so useful, and why leadership training has far more ROI when that occurs.

 

I envisioned leaders with unique styles and challenges from different organizations, coming together to solve a common problem.  Those first wisps of characters came to life in a role play for which I recruited students in the first GISC coaching program. Although their efforts took just over an hour, that experience allowed me to interact with the characters and see them interacting with one another. They jumped off the page after that, diverging wildly from the participants who played them.   A surprise character came in and the story started to have the page turning qualities of a mystery – a bit of fun!

 

Just as I sometimes forget about reflection for myself, and often have to remind my leader clients to include it in their days, I almost forgot about including reflection for the reader, but it happened by accident.  Once the book was designed, there ended up being some blank pages because publishing convention calls for chapters to start on the right facing page.  I decided to take those randomly spaced blank left pages and use them as reflection points for the reader.   On Joe’s urging, I also added an appendix with a chapter by chapter summary of the plot and primary lessons so a reader or team could go back and reflect alone or together, as well as an appendix of theory for the layman (a bit of didactic, if you will).

 

There’s no way a simple book could possibly replicate the richness of a Gestalt program, but hopefully, this book will reinforce that richness for those who’ve taken a program, and introduce Gestalt learning and experience to those who haven’t.

 

The Awareness Paradigm: A Story of Leadership Success is available in GISC’s online bookstore and at your favorite online book retailers.

 

Nancy Hardaway, MEd,  is a member of the GISC faculty and internationally known leadership consultant, combining her experience as a serial entrepreneur and corporate executive with an avid curiosity in human behavior and neuroscience.  A former journalist, banker, and CEO, she is a certified leadership coach and holds degrees from Tufts University and Harvard University.  Follow Nancy on the Listening 2 Leaders blog.

 

 

   
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