How to Help Leaders Help Others Grow

How to help leaders help others grow

I was excited to read about my friend and colleague Bill Treasurer’s upcoming webinar for NetSpeed Learning’s 2015 Thought Leader Webinar Series, Open Door Leadership: A Radically Simple Way to Lift People, Profits and Performance. Bill’s session will focus on how leaders can “create meaningful opportunities for challenge and growth.”

Of course, you don’t have to look far in this environment to find a challenge. There’s a reason VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) has become the acronym du jour for describing today’s business world. But too often I’ve seen high potential programs and similar initiatives designed to help people stretch beyond their comfort zones so they can further their growth and careers actually backfire because the people involved weren’t set up for success.

The point is to get them to stretch, not to snap! Read more

A Powerful Learning Tool: Seating Based on Thinking Preference

Photo via World Financial Group

The keynote I delivered at World Financial Group last week had more than 200 leaders in attendance, all seated by their HBDI® thinking preferences. It’s always so striking to see how that validates people’s learning about themselves and others, both as they discover their HBDI® Profiles and begin applying what they’re learning.

In The Whole Brain Business Book, Ned Herrmann shares a story of the “aha” moment that came from just such a seating exercise. Presenting to a leadership group of a large company, he had assigned people to tables based on preferences (unbeknownst to the participants), and it turned out that the company’s chairman/CEO and president/COO had opposing profiles.

Elected as spokespeople for their respective tables to discuss the kinds of work they really loved and were energized by, it was almost as if they were speaking directly to each other, Ned recalled, as the “source of their 15 years of arguments and differences of opinion and frustration was being revealed.”

They realized they had a huge opportunity they were missing out on because they hadn’t been appreciating and taking advantage of their differences and cognitive diversity. It was not only a memorable public demonstration of the consequences of thinking preferences at work, but also the beginning of a true partnership between the two leaders.

Wayne Goodley, Director of Herrmann International in New Zealand, makes the point that seating by quadrant preference is “the best way to ease leaders into the appreciation of the HBDI®” and break down barriers to learning, adding that “the lively and often robust discussion which follows eliminates any doubts as to the effectiveness of the learning process.”

For HBDI® Practitioners out there, what’s been your experience with seating based on thinking preference? How has it affected the learning process and outcomes?

Employee Engagement and Retention: What You Don’t Know Could Cost You

 

The “shocking” to “disturbing” headlines about employee engagement are almost routine these days. Study after study turns up numbers in the range of 70 to 80 percent of the workforce that’s either not fully engaged or actively disengaged at work, costing companies billions in annual turnover.

It’s not that executives aren’t throwing money at the problem. In fact, by some estimates, companies are collectively investing upwards of $1.5 billion a year into trying to turn it around, without much to show for it in return.

But there have been a few positive signs beginning to emerge. Modern Survey’s Fall 2014 Employee Engagement Index showed engagement levels are beginning to inch up, while disengagement is at its lowest point since the study began.

Sounds good, right? Well, keep reading.

That same survey examined “who wants to leave” and found that, surprisingly (or “alarmingly,” as they put it), nearly a quarter (24%) of fully engaged employees are currently looking to leave their companies.

Something is clearly wrong when companies are spending billions of dollars on engagement, and they can’t even count on their fully engaged people to stay.

One of the biggest culprits? By and large, leaders, managers, and even L&D and HR professionals don’t know their employees. They don’t know what they care about, what matters most to them or what they pay attention to. This is the critical “homework” that has to be done before you put all that money into engagement and retention efforts.

Because work of any kind is primarily a mental activity, the best way to get to know your employees is to start by understanding how they think. This is the filter through which they communicate, listen and process information. It influences how they approach a task and what kind of work they find stimulating (or draining).

As part of the process of writing the second edition of The Whole Brain Business Book, we looked at some of the data around work satisfaction, and generally speaking, we found that the highest satisfaction comes from those who have a strong alignment between their thinking preferences and the mentality of the work they’re assigned to do. The lowest are associated with those who are misaligned—unless they’re looking for a challenge in that specific assignment and have been prepared and are motivated to stretch.

And that’s why this isn’t just about them; it’s also about you. Unless you’re intentional about your thinking, which is what Whole Brain® Thinking is all about, your own preferences will become filters and blind spots, impacting how you communicate, make decisions, assign work and create development plans for others. When fully engaged people are still looking to leave, being able to see past your own preferences and “get inside their heads” is the critical missing piece.

So before you make assumptions about what’s going to engage and retain them, start with thinking. In our experience, it’s the much more cost-effective—and just plain effective—route.

On-Demand Webinar: Developing Leadership Agility for an “All of the Above World”

What’s your biggest leadership challenge?

Engaging employees?

Preparing emerging leaders to step up?

Building high-performance teams?

Developing a leadership mindset across the organization?

If you’re like most training leaders today, the answer is “all of the above.” The good news is, you and your leaders already have the best tool for navigating an “all of the above” world—the brain.

Even better news: Kevin Sensenig’s webinar for Training Magazine has the practical strategies and steps you need to take full advantage of your brainpower and consciously shift your thinking when the situation requires it.

The webinar recording and follow-up resources for Developing Leadership Agility for an “All of the Above” World are available now for on-demand access.

Take a moment to check it out and download the materials, because particularly as the world grows more complex, the time you spend now getting your thinking in order will pay off exponentially in 2015.

 

Why Learning and the Brain is on Everyone’s Mind

Learning and the BrainIt’s no secret the subject of learning and the brain is always on my mind. But lately, it seems to be something everyone is thinking about.

In the past month alone, I’ve received two requests to write articles about the impact of brain research on training and learning. It’s also a topic that seems to be percolating more and more in the overall business community, particularly as new methods of studying the brain have generated new findings, more publicity and greater interest in broader circles.

In light of all this, it’s not surprising that one of the most common remarks I now hear from business leaders, training professionals and learners alike is an exasperated, “I feel like people are telling me I have to be a neuroscientist to do my job these days!”

The last decade has seen a frenzy of neuroscience research, leading to an avalanche of new findings and interest in the field. But along with the exciting new knowledge comes the inevitable hype and distraction. New studies abound that may or may not really be practical or relevant in application.

For true ROI®—the Return on Intelligence that comes from getting a better return on not just Investment but also Initiatives, Interactions and Innovation—application is what matters most. That’s why being able to filter out the signal from the noise, the “breakthroughs” from the “bunk,” is critical.

How has this explosion of research and interest affected your strategies? What can we do to avoid the “neuro-learning fad” syndrome? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Drop me a line or tweet me @annherrmann.

(And join me at the Learning 2014 Conference in Orlando next month where I’ll be conducting sessions on this very topic!)

Snapshots from Training 2014

We had the opportunity to mix and mingle with some of the sharpest minds in the training profession at the Training 2014 Conference earlier this month in San Diego.

We enjoyed learning about the latest trends in training and development, and from our booth in the Expo Hall, we had a chance to catch up with a number of you who shared how Whole Brain® Thinking is playing a role in your development, performance and business strategies.

In case you missed it, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi presented two sessions at the conference, Getting More Done with Less: 4 Steps to Leadership Agility,” and “Thinking and Learning Agility: 10 Steps to Maximizing Learning Outcomes.” If you’d like more information about these topics, please let us know.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts: Agility, social learning, new technologies, employee engagement, measurement…What tops your training agenda for 2014?

Social, Sleep and Learning: Update from the 2013 NeuroLeadership Summit

Herrmann International’s CEO Ann Herrman-Nehdi filed a video report from this year’s NeuroLeadership Summit, where she was also a presenter.

Some highlights:

Matt Lieberman’s new book “Social” explores the impact of the social brain on everything we do. Key lessons for learning and development professionals:

  • When someone is learning to teach versus learning to memorize, it engages the brain in a way that is much more effective in terms of long-term retention. Consider this when designing learning experiences.
  • The discussion about the tension between the analytical brain and the social brain is substantiated by our HBDI® data. It’s rare to see both in play, and important for us to understand how to help leaders activate the social part of who they are.

Jessica Payne’s research on leadership stamina reinforces how important sleep is. If you feel sleep deprived, get 20 minutes more a day – go to bed earlier, sleep later or take a power nap if necessary to improve what you can get out of your brain.

Tony Bingham, President of ASTD, says that 70% of learning in today’s organizations is informal. What are you doing to build in more tools and opportunities for informal learning?

Watch the video to hear Ann’s full report.

Developing Managers? Start With Their Thinking.

“Agility” has become one of the hot buzzwords of the workplace today. As we settle in to a reality of rapid changes, continual uncertainty and new circumstances that have very little precedent and no clear-cut answers, everyone is feeling the pressure to adapt, to flex, to shift on a dime.

In many organizations, it’s the managers and emerging leaders who are on the front lines of this pressure. As Tom Davenport of Towers Watson put it, “Creating a resilient workplace that can deal with trauma and come out engaged on the other end is not a senior executive’s role. It’s a line manager’s job.”

Ultimately, managers are the ones responsible for bridging strategy and performance, for taking the organization from Point A to Point B faster and more effectively, even when it seems as though there’s always too much work and never enough time or resources to get it done.

A recent Forbes article describes agile leaders as those who can “handle any curve ball thrown their way. Leading through this new business environment requires the capability to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible.”

The question is, are your managers up to the task? Between putting out fires and managing the daily workflow, getting people to bring their best thinking to work while optimizing communication time and managing relationships up, down and across the company, it takes a whole new level of intensity and skill to keep up.

Thinking is the catalyst for greater manager agility.

In essence, where agile managers outshine all the others is in their ability to successfully deconstruct today’s complexities to take advantage of the right resources for the job, and by doing so, get better results faster.

Our research has shown that the way people prefer to think impacts how they approach interactions, decisions, problems and every other aspect of work and management. By understanding and then optimizing their thinking for the situation, managers can increase their agility and overall effectiveness exponentially across the board.

Here are just a few questions to consider as you look at your management development activities in the context of building thinking agility.

  •  Do your managers know how to stretch beyond their thinking preferences when necessary to execute where you need to go?
  • Do they know how to leverage their own brainpower and the brainpower around them in the most efficient, optimal ways?
  • Do they understand how to best manage and allocate the thinking resources on a project or initiative?
  • Do they know how to optimize and shorten communication time, regardless of whom they are interacting with?
  • Can they quickly adapt to the communication needs of others?
  • Much of management’s focus in the past has been on individuals, but effective collaboration is becoming more important for better, faster and more innovative results. Do your managers know how to encourage collaboration, bring together the best cognitive resources for the task at hand, and participate in a collaborative way to make sure objectives are achieved?

To get the “Agile Leader’s Toolbox: 4 Key Areas to Increase Agility Through Better Thinking,” download our new white paper, Navigating in an Unpredictable and Complex World: Why Thinking Agility is Critical to a Manager’s Success.

What about you? Have you seen a need for greater agility in your own role? Is it impacting the way you approach the job?

 

Engage the Brains of Your High Potentials & Managers As If Your Business Depends On It (Because it Does)

High-potential leaders are critical to ensuring businesses can meet their goals now and in years to come, and that’s why one of the most pressing human resource challenges today is a lack of up-and-coming managerial talent to quickly and effectively execute on critical strategies and initiatives.

A recent PWC survey found that 50% of business leaders say their biggest challenge is recruiting and retaining high-potential middle managers. The impact, they report, is being felt across the business, from cancelled or delayed strategic initiatives to missed market opportunities and an inability to innovative effectively.

In its 2012 Talent Shortage Survey report, Manpower points out that organizations need to make some changes to turn this tide:

This lack of talent will force organizations to adopt a new mindset regarding talent development, where upskilling their existing employees and developing candidates with potential becomes the norm rather than the exception.

The question is, what’s the best way to do it, particularly when time and resources are limited?

Start with thinking.

Our research shows that thinking preferences impact the way people approach communications, problems, decisions, projects and tasks. When you align management and high-potential development with what we know about thinking and the brain, you can accelerate and optimize the performance of the “bench,” helping this essential group accomplish more today and lead the way tomorrow.

Here are just a couple of areas where a framework of thinking can help your up-and-coming leaders meet the challenges of today’s business environment:

Execution: Leaders need to quickly and efficiently move the organization from Point A to Point B, and that means knowing when and how to get work done through others and manage the thinking resources on a project. Your leaders — whether they have the title or not — need to effectively leverage their own thinking and the thinking around them to successfully execute on critical strategies.

Innovation and Problem Solving: Quickly coming up with breakthrough ideas and solutions requires leaders who can bring together and manage diverse thinking and put it to work to solve problems that may not have clear-cut answers. The most effective leaders are encouraging everyone around them to bring their best thinking to work. And they understand how to lead an effective problem-solving process so even the most complex issues are addressed quickly.

These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. In her November 29th HR.com webinar, Building Brainpower on the Bench: Motivate and Engage the Brains of High Potentials and New Leaders, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi will show you how to incorporate a Whole Brain® Thinking framework into your HR, talent management and learning & development strategies so you can develop a strong bench with the thinking capacity to lead effectively in any situation.

What do you think? Is the leadership skills gap impacting your organization?

In Preparing for the Olympics, Coca-Cola Exercises its Brainpower

conference room

Seventy days, 8,000-plus miles, 1,000 towns, and one momentous flame.

Preparing for what was dubbed the “logistical minefield” of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay wasn’t so much a physical test as a mental one for the organizers and sponsors of the London Games.

As a Worldwide Partner, Coca-Cola knew it would need to unleash its full brainpower to execute with flawless communication, stay agile in the face of enormous complexity, and generate world-class teamwork from a diverse group of people who, for the most part, had never worked together before.

We recently spoke with David Barker, Strategic HR Business Partner for Coca-Cola’s London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games project teams, about the company’s decision to bring in the Whole Brain® methodology, training and tools to help prepare its Olympic teams for success.

As we discovered, while the Games would soon become a part of history, the framework and collaborative benefits of Whole Brain® Thinking were just getting started as a foundation for the culture going forward at Coca-Cola Great Britain.

Download the full story here for a glimpse behind the scenes of Coca-Cola’s innovative approach to preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympics.