5 Crucial Tips For Success Before You Start Your New Leadership Role

Securing a new executive role is exciting, especially when it offers career advancement and professional growth. Planning for success before diving into the position can give you a significant advantage.

With 15 years of experience coaching newly hired or promoted leaders, we recognise some common mistakes and the challenges of recovering from them in the early days. Here are five crucial tips to consider before embarking on your first day on the job.

1. Get to know the business

To what extent do you already know the business?

Regardless of your prior knowledge or research, there will be much to learn once you begin. Be curious and open to gathering diverse insights from various people on the business, its operations, opportunities and challenges.

Take detailed notes and use them to analyse the job and its context to understand fully what you are dealing with. If you discover any overlooked but problematic issues, address them promptly to create a positive impact in the short term.

Newly appointed leaders tell us that documenting their findings has been invaluable for deciding how they would make a difference in the new role and for drafting an initial business plan for their manager or the board. Keep these objectives in mind; they will help you shape the questions you ask and filter the information you are given.

Top Tip: Maintain a journal to record what you learn during your first 90 days. 

2. Audit your leadership capability

Do you view this new job as the next step in your leadership journey? 

Orient yourself quickly to the job’s needs by identifying the responsibilities you feel confident and well-prepared to handle. Next, explore any challenging areas and consider seeking guidance from a mentor or support from an executive coach to fast-track your learning.

Reflect on how best to present yourself and your capabilities to your new colleagues. Some incoming leaders create and share an engaging story about their background, values, and priorities, allowing others to get to know them immediately. However, others neglect this incredible opportunity to make a positive first impression.

Remember, when people first meet you, they are eager to learn about you and what it will be like to work with you. You can help them by establishing a warm, optimistic tone that promotes productive working relationships.

Top Tip: Reflect on your personal brand to find an authentic way to describe yourself.

3. Connect with your manager

How well do you know your new line manager?

To establish a strong relationship with your new line manager, you must build on the rapport you developed when you were selected for the role. Observe their actions, communication style, and decision-making process to adapt effectively to their leadership style.

You can expect to meet initially to discuss expectations, goals, and priorities. However, we have seen situations where this doesn’t happen because the manager is preoccupied with pressing business matters or travelling. Occasionally, a manager may have such confidence in the selected candidate that they expect them to get right into the job with minimal direction.

In such situations, finding a way to align with your manager is essential. Remember that your manager has critical goals to achieve, and knowing how to support them will help you succeed in your role.

Top Tip: Providing proactive support will help your line manager achieve critical business goals.

4. Assess the talent in your team

Does your team have the skills to support you? 

Knowing your new team’s abilities is crucial for effective leadership. Familiarise yourself with the current team before implementing any changes. These three steps will help you build a strong team:

  • Identify whether each team member has the required skills for their role.
  • Consider whether the roles are structured in a way that will help you deliver the right results.
  • Address any skill gaps as soon as possible.

Collective progress depends on recognising and leveraging each team member’s unique strengths. Consult your human resources partner to evaluate and improve individual capabilities if necessary.

A common regret among senior leaders reflecting on their first executive role is that they should have managed their team talent sooner. Developing a high-performing team requires thoughtful planning and investing time in professional development.

Top Tip: Act swiftly to assess and nurture talent to achieve results.  

5. Expect and plan for change

Are you an inspiring leader? 

Leaders who inspire others typically have a compelling vision for the future of their business. This means envisioning what’s possible and being able to communicate and drive change – simple to say but harder to do.

We are noticing that more newly appointed leaders than ever face business transformation initiatives that are already in progress when they assume their roles. Leading change and making decisions on restructuring in the early days of a new job can be incredibly challenging.

They have reported that polarity management is a valuable communication framework in these circumstances. This involves celebrating past successes, sharing all available options for future success with the team, and settling on the best way forward. Acknowledging the challenges ahead gives people time to process the implications and  prepare to adapt.

Top Tip: Embrace change constructively and demonstrate courage in driving it forward.

To learn more on best practice leadership transitions, read Mastering the Art of Successful Leadership Transitions’.

Continue Reading5 Crucial Tips For Success Before You Start Your New Leadership Role
Read more about the article 3 Ways to Maximise the Benefit from your 360 Degree Feedback Report
Businessman checking documents at table

3 Ways to Maximise the Benefit from your 360 Degree Feedback Report

So you have participated in a 360 degree survey on your leadership skills, several people who know you well have rated your skills and you are ready to receive the feedback.

Well, are you? Ready, that is?

Maybe you’ve had feedback before and you know the drill. You’re going to sit down with a feedback coach and go over the results in your 360 report. Which of the following describes what you are feeling right now?

  • “Hopefully there won’t be any surprises and I can get back to work.”
  • “I need to find something to work on in time for my review with my manager.”
  • “I’m intrigued to know if people think I have done well building my team”.

Whatever your thoughts about 360 or your level of motivation to receive and act on feedback, there are career-building opportunities in your report. You just have to find them!

Look for Key Themes

What trends are you seeing in the data? Do people see you stronger strategically or operationally? How’s your ability to motivate others? Is there a perception you step up to conflict or shy away from it?

  • Look at the pattern of scores. Understandably, higher scores concentrated on a few skills will be evident for a linear career in one discipline, whereas a broader spread will result from a variety of diverse jobs and assignments.
  • Pay special attention to the highest rated items, say your top five or six. They sum up your ‘personal brand’ and are vitally important. Having the right strengths will open doors for you to new opportunities.

What do these themes say about your performance in your current role and the implications for your next move or future career?

Are you seen the way you want to be seen? What do you need to address to get you from here to where you want to be?

Read the Data

Quantitative data, in the form of actual skill ratings, are very useful. It’s always good to see the numbers! You can compare the highs and lows and see how people view your relative strengths and weaknesses.

High ratings across the board are a good endorsement of your overall ability. If, on the other hand, you have some very low ratings, people are sending a clear message that they want more from you. Don’t ignore them!

Qualitative data in the form of written comments are invaluable. If people acknowledge your strengths and suggest ways in which you could improve, it adds real depth to the feedback.

If this option is available in your 360 survey tool, make a point of asking raters to add comments when you invite them to participate in rating you.

Seek Out Differences

Some differences in the way others see you are to be expected. After all, your raters interact with you in different situations and each one brings their own opinion and perspective. If you have significant variations though, consider why.

First, look for the gaps between your ratings and those of others. This is the real biggie! Do you see yourself the way others do? If there are significant gaps, you could be at risk of seriously over or underestimating your ability.

  • Our 360 database tells us that most people have 3 or 4 blind spots – skills where they rate themselves higher than others do. What matters here is the size of the gap, the smaller the better.
  • On the other hand, hidden strengths are skills others rate higher than you. It can be a nice surprise to know what people value about what you do, especially if they’ve never told you!

Next, look for gaps between your raters or rater groups. Where they exist, explore the reasons.

  • Maybe you show different faces to different people, consciously or not. If people believe you favour some team members over others, think of the implications for your reputation as a leader.
  • If you have big gaps in perception within a group of raters, say your direct reports, think about what you need to do about it.

360 feedback is an excellent way of road-testing your level of your self-awareness.

Lack of self-awareness will inevitably hold you back or could even stall your career. It will certainly limit your ability to coach and develop others, lowering your effectiveness as a leader.

Final Words

Over the last decade we have observed that 360 feedback can have a very powerful impact on people. For some it’s confirmation that they are on the right path, with only a few tweaks needed in their management style.

For others it’s a game changer that offers a roadmap to make real improvements in performance or job prospects, or even rescue difficult relationships with other people.

We like to see 360 feedback as a GPS system for a person’s career. Used properly it will help you reach your destination. Even if it does occasionally tell you to perform a U-Turn at the next opportunity!

Continue Reading3 Ways to Maximise the Benefit from your 360 Degree Feedback Report
Read more about the article Five reasons to unlock the talent in your team
Group of business people brainstorming. They are working with sticky notes on a glass wall. They are excited and enthusiastic. People are pointing and talking.

Five reasons to unlock the talent in your team

Are you prepared to discover and harness the potential talent within your team, to propel your business to new heights of success? Here are five compelling reasons why you should start now:

1. Discover a crucial skill you might not know you need

A well-rounded view of your team’s abilities means knowing their strong and weak points. One of your more vulnerable areas could suddenly become critical for your organisation. A successful leadership team experienced this when a significant customer restructured their business and unexpectedly removed them as a supplier.

This painful setback happened after the team celebrated 360 feedback showing a strong bias toward action, accountability, and results. Sadly, they had overlooked low scores in strategic thinking and innovation. But, on the bright side, they immediately reviewed market trends and connected with customers to align with their short and longer-term plans.

Ensure you take a future-focused look at your team’s skillset to avoid such mishaps.

2. Draw on individual strengths and interests

When people love what they do, productivity skyrockets. Creative ideas and innovations flow. By delving into each team member’s unique capabilities, you can leverage their skills and interests for superior outcomes.

For example, a leader saw an opportunity to revive a stream of business at risk of closure due to competitor activity. This individual was passionately committed to its continuation for customers who would be disadvantaged if it closed down. With a carefully drafted business case and astute planning, the leader won support to deliver an outstanding outcome.

It shows that one person’s vision and talents can make a huge difference.

3. Pinpoint the skills required to round out the team

By recognising the different capabilities of team members, you can identify and fill any skill gaps, leading to a more balanced and effective team. When an executive team reviewed their organisation’s employee engagement survey, they realised that inadequate technology frustrated many employees.

Despite a sizeable investment to enable remote working, the executive team acknowledged they needed to do more to meet the needs of their people and their business. So rather than relying on IT, they took responsibility and educated themselves on how leaders can actively anticipate and support digital and technology solutions to advance their business.

They subsequently rolled out a series of very successful information sessions to all managers in the organisation.

4. Continually track and enhance your team’s abilities

To keep your team at the top of their game, evaluate their skills regularly, offer them growth opportunities, and adapt to changes in the business world. Imagine a situation where you inherited a team that received very little meaningful development in the past.

A newly appointed leader discovered that their team had made promises to customers that the company couldn’t keep. To address this, the team needed to quickly gain negotiation and financial skills. The solution was a skills assessment followed by practical, hands-on sessions on creating win-win solutions to satisfy both the customer’s and the organisation’s needs.

This approach helped the organisation to maintain profitability whilst delivering in full on customer expectations.

5. Embrace the power of curiosity for team building

To elevate your team’s performance, why not foster an atmosphere of curiosity and collaboration? Inspire your colleagues by being the first to share your thoughts, creating a safe space for others to contribute. One approach is to model a new leader who spent the first 30 days in the role having individual meetings with every direct report and their subordinates.

Simple yet powerful questions such as “What were your biggest contributions last year?”, “Can you identify any obstacles that are hindering your goals?” and “How I can improve your experience here?” helped this inspiring leader gain invaluable insight to improve things for their employees and the company.

By focusing on team building activities and fostering curiosity, you can create a strong and cohesive team that works together towards a common goal, unlocking the full potential of each member.

Demonstrate curiosity today and encourage others to do the same for the growth and success for your team.

Continue ReadingFive reasons to unlock the talent in your team
Read more about the article Results Agility: What is it and why should it matter to you?
Results Agility

Results Agility: What is it and why should it matter to you?

The word “agile” has become a buzzword in the workplace. It’s commonly used to describe an iterative approach to software development and project management.

But in the context of business challenges that leaders face in today’s uncertain times, one of the most important terms associated with agile is Results Agility.

It’s a concept that’s been around for a while. It’s one of the critical components of Learning Agility, the construct that describes how people learn from experience and use that learning to their advantage to perform well.

Results Agility is not simply about whether a person gets results or not. It refers to how they go about achieving them. It’s the “how” that makes the difference.

If you’ve ever worked for or with a leader who was slow to react, rigid in their thinking and seemed to find it difficult to change course quickly, you know exactly what I am talking about.

You can probably contrast that experience with working for a flexible and adaptable person who was ready and willing to consider all options to achieve the right outcome. In other words, they were results agile.

Understanding Results Agility

People who demonstrate Results Agility have a strong desire to achieve goals, tackling them with drive and energy. Their signature strengths are resilience, resourcefulness and a willingness to take risks.

They are not afraid to change their mind when new information emerges, or circumstances force them to take a new direction. Instead, they find the most effective way to move forward, regardless of conventional approaches.

Results Agility is about pivoting. It helps people move quickly and intelligently when the situation calls for it or they discover better ways to solve old problems.

Importantly, Results Agility comprises skills and techniques, typically described as behaviours.

So, the good news is that you can learn it!

Great Leaders are Results Agile

Results Agile leaders tend to bring out the best in people. Open to learning, they are prepared to admit when they are wrong. They like trying new things and learning from their mistakes. They apply this thinking as they support their people, making it safe for them to do the same.

People who flex their adaptability muscles are more likely to experience positive results as they push themselves and explore alternative courses of action for themselves and others.

When people work for a results agile leader, they are happier, more motivated, and more engaged. They are likely to go the extra mile, think creatively and bring new solutions to the table.

In summary, strong Results Agility makes leaders great. They are a pleasure to work with because they bring excitement to the workplace and convey a “can do” attitude.

By raising the confidence of others to tackle challenges, they reinforce teamwork and empower others to achieve results.

Where Do You Stand on Results Agility?

Take a moment to think about yourself right now.

Are you (a) energised by new, challenging assignments and overcoming obstacles to achieve stretch work objectives, or (b) do you prefer well-defined goals that require steady and consistent effort to deliver on time and within budget?

Be honest about it; what is your preference? Are you more strongly oriented to (a) or (b)?

If you identify with (a), you are probably already seen as a results agile person. However, if (b) seems more like you, consider what more you could accomplish if you strengthen your ability to flex and adapt in challenging situations.

Whatever your response, here are some questions to help you think through how you can elevate your Results Agility.

Reflection Questions

  • Think of a challenge you faced recently. How did you approach it? Based on what you have read above, what could you have done to achieve a better and faster outcome?
  • When have you faced significant obstacles before achieving an important goal? How did you respond to that situation? What would you like to do the same or differently next time?
  • Can you recall a situation when you were unable to deliver on  your objectives? What did you learn from the experience? What steps could you take to avoid that in the future?
  • Do you know what motivates and engages  the people who work for you? Would it be an advantage to understand them better? What steps will you take to learn more about them?
Continue ReadingResults Agility: What is it and why should it matter to you?

Change Agility: a leadership priority

Little did we know when we started writing about Learning Agility in 2019 that we were soon to face a worldwide threat that would cause millions of people to dramatically change their daily lives.

We expected our next topic would focus on defining Change Agility and making a compelling case for it to be central to leadership development in 2020 and beyond.

Now, we find ourselves in the grip of a global crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has reached more than 2.5 million known cases, claiming over 177,688 lives across 210 countries.*

Revisiting our plan in this context, we quickly recognised that the mindset and behaviours associated with Change Agility are even more critical for leaders than before.

To explain, we initially called out the need for leaders to:

  • Understand the social needs of their people, especially during times of change.
  • Cultivate curiosity and scan the environment diligently for opportunities and threats.
  • Prepare for the future of work with strong growth in flexible working and remote teams.

Today, we are seeing these in a new light through our coaching practice as we talk daily with leaders dealing with the critical issues of caring for their people and safeguarding the future of their business.

Change Agility defined

Energy for the new and different is the essence of Change Agility. We see it in people who embrace change and seek out continuous improvement, from small, incremental enhancements to large-scale transformations.

As we look at the characteristics of change agile leaders, we see they:

  • Regularly scan the environment, inside and outside the organisation, for opportunities and threats.
  • Envision the future and project multiple scenarios to maximise their chances of success.
  • Like to experiment and use an iterative process in devising new methods, products and services.
  • Look outside the box to find creative and unique ideas they can bring to life.
  • Recognise that change is unsettling for many and take steps to deal with their own feelings and alleviate the anxiety and fear of others.
  • Encourage input from others, recognising that they themselves do not have all the solutions.

How many of these are true for you?

Take time to reflect on each point and ask yourself how much time and attention you devoted to practicing each one in 2019. What does this tell you about what you need to do differently in 2020?

Honest self-appraisal

An accurate view of our self and our capability is essential for leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses. Sometimes, we know what we need to work on for development, but don’t prioritise the action steps that are required.

At other times, daily pressures get in the way and we lose sight of the value of equipping ourselves with new skills, habits or the mindset that will make work easier and results more attainable.

If you need inspiration on how to strengthen your Change Agility in the current environment, seek input from two or three people who know you well. Invite their suggestions on how you can strengthen your impact as an agile leader.

Listen to their suggestions and decide which to apply to raise the bar for yourself, as you support people, lead change and ready your business for the future.

Leadership in a crisis

Leaders everywhere have faced accelerating disruption in recent years. No industry is immune and disruptive forces come in many forms, such as rapidly emerging new technologies, unexpected competitive threats and shifting social trends.

Right now, disruption has landed in the form of the coronavirus crisis at a scale and speed that the majority of people have not experienced in their lifetime. The reaction of leaders we know is an all-consuming urgency to find ways to manage the impact and fight for the survival of their businesses.

In this context, Change Agility is vital. We propose to amplify it with two critical behaviours identified though research at the IMD Business School in Switzerland:

  • Act quickly to execute decisions. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to speed especially in large organisations. Leaders need courage and determination to implement change promptly.
  • Be visionary, which means holding fast to a sense of long-term direction even in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty. Hard to do, but a clear definition of where the organisation needs to go is important for everyone as they work out how to get there.

In her book Forged in A Crisis, Nancy Koehn illustrated how five legendary leaders demonstrated a sense of urgency and unwavering resolve during times of great adversity. She described how each one navigated through the calamity they faced and was transformed as a result. You can see her latest blog post here.

Tips for increasing Change Agility

We put it to you that the way you conduct yourself during this time will be long remembered by those who work with you and for you. Here are some thought starters:

  • Help people adjust to the new and different. For many, resistance is a natural response. Be more available to your people, keeping them informed and letting them know you are there for them. Accept that this is going to take more of your time.
  • Keep things in perspective. Identify the issues that are of most concern to your people so you can address them. Tune in to any individuals or groups who seem to be having a greater struggle. Find ways to resolve their immediate challenges and act on them.
  • Be ready to disrupt your usual style of leadership. Human beings are creatures of habit. Formed in the brain, habits allow us to perform daily tasks without having to think about them. Reboot your approach to leadership by looking for what you can do differently for greater impact.
  • Create a safe place for yourself. Stress and anxiety can impede performance. When times are tough, establish a physical location you can go to regroup and do your best thinking. Find a trusted person who can act as a support for you.
  • Behave strategically. Leading through a crisis involves intense pressure to focus on day-to-day operations. As soon as you can, address the longer term by working with your team on future-focused planning with clear intentions and purposeful actions.

* Worldometer, 22 April 2020

Continue ReadingChange Agility: a leadership priority

People agility: a potential game-changer for leaders

People agility has emerged as a ‘must-have’ capability for leaders in today’s complex and dynamic business world.

Not only do leaders need to navigate this turbulent environment successfully themselves, but they also need to be the enablers for their people to solve problems and deliver results.

One way they can create the inclusive, collaborative and innovative culture their organisations need is by consistently demonstrating a desire to explore, discover and learn with others.

Simply put, it’s about being agile in the way they engage with their people. However, many strategic and operational demands on senior executives can get in the way.

People agility defined

At first glance, people agility seems to describe the capacity to get on well with others, but there is more to it than that. People agility is the ability to take an open-minded, curious and flexible approach to people, looking for diverse opinions to broaden mutual understanding and achieve common goals.

People agility is also about communicating clearly, adjusting the style, pace and message to the audience. It’s being willing to take on a different viewpoint depending on the person or circumstances. People agile individuals learn quickly how to hear out opposing views and take care not to incite or escalate tension or conflict.

These characteristics are rounded out by the ability to read people well and predict how individuals and groups will respond to various events and situations and being ready and willing to help others to excel. This is often referred to as ’emotional intelligence’ or EQ.

This is the second of five blogs on why Learning Agility matters for executive success, with specific tips for enhancing the people agility dimension for yourself and others.

Social leadership

Leading involves understanding the social needs of people, including those who consider themselves focused on tasks rather than people. It must be recognised that social engagement is fundamental to human health and well-being which has a significant impact on organisational performance.

Dr Matthew Lieberman, neuroscientist and author, describes social engagement as a fundamental requirement built into our biology along with the basic needs for survival. In his book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect he suggests that it deserves to be at the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Infants embody the need to be connected because they are totally dependent on their caregiver(s) and the quality of care they receive has been shown to influence their cognitive and emotional development. The effects can last a lifetime.

So, what are the implications for business leaders? They need a mindset that helps them focus on:

  • Recognising the need for people to ‘belong’ and emphasising the importance of the team.
  • Facilitating open dialogue with a wide variety of contributors and stakeholders.
  • Breaking down barriers to collaboration across the organisation.
  • Building a sense of community connected to a higher purpose.

People orchestration skills

In his book Know-How, Ram Charan describes skills that separate leaders who perform from those who don’t. One of those skills is the ability to manage the social system of their business so people can work effectively and cooperatively together.

As many of us recognise this isn’t always easy, and the title of that chapter tells us so – Herding Cats!

Charan says that building the right social system requires making superb judgments on people, knowing how to select them, get them into the right jobs and help them build the skills to lead. He says this is highly developable.

So is people agility. Each of its elements is described in behavioural terms, so with targeted and systematic efforts leaders can adopt the practices used by great people leaders.

Tips for increasing people agility

  • Keep an open mind by suspending judgment. Listen to what people are saying and find clues about how they formed their opinions. Think about why you might differ and how you can reach common ground.
  • Take time to get to know your people, make sure you are aware of their strengths, weaknesses and career aspirations and check in regularly. Don’t assume you know.
  • Be alert when decisions are to be made, by being present and in the moment. Stop and consider whether you have all the facts in unfamiliar situations. Look for anything you are missing and read the people in the room.
  • Slow down when you disagree with others. Choose your words carefully so you don’t appear biased. Focus on the issue at hand, not the person.
  • Set people up for success by sharing what you know. Be an advocate for people you believe in and make sure you give credit where it’s due.
  • Build a network for yourself outside your immediate circle. Connect with individuals and groups who don’t know each other so you than can access new information and fresh thinking.

The future of work

The rapid pace of change today brings a need to transform the way we do business and find new ways of working. We are in the midst of a massive shift, evidenced by the trend to flexible working, remote teams, coworking spaces, artificial intelligence and more.

Add to this the fact that people are living longer and retiring later, whilst younger people are now entering the workforce. This means that, for the first time, we have five generations in the workplace and must accommodate the different needs and expectations of those groups.

Last year research conducted by PWC published the results of a global survey of business and HR leaders. In a paper entitled Preparing for tomorrow’s workforce, today, they note that the most astute leaders must ask the question: “How can I deliver great performance by helping our people to thrive?”

Yes, indeed! The need for leaders to cultivate people agility has never been greater!

Last words

If you would like to see how leaders can create a circle of trust to build cooperation and collaboration, check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk – Why good leaders make you feel safe.

Sinek says that doing this, especially in an uneven economy, is a big responsibility for leaders – but it’s the key to helping ordinary people achieve extraordinary things.


Continue ReadingPeople agility: a potential game-changer for leaders

Learning Agility: Why it matters for executive success

Learning Agility refers to the ability and willingness to quickly adapt. The concept was derived from systematic research over several years into the careers of highly effective business leaders.

These leaders were found to share important characteristics that set them apart. Keen observers of what was going on around them, they were intellectually curious, flexible and adventurous.

Reflective about their experiences, they frequently made creative connections between apparently unrelated pieces of information and they had a preference for bold and new solutions to problems.

Learning Agility Dimensions

Further studies revealed some interesting facts about those who had greater Learning Agility – not only did they get promoted faster and more often than others, but they were significantly more successful after they were promoted.

Learning Agility has since been widely accepted as a key indicator of potential, and interest in Korn Ferry’s multidimensional model as a way to develop leadership capability and performance has grown.

This is the first of five blogs on why Learning Agility matters for executive success, each focusing on one of the agility dimensions – mental, people, change, results and self-knowledge – with tips for enhancing Learning Agility for yourself and others.

Learning Agility in the 2020’s

The qualities associated with Learning Agility have taken on new currency in today’s complex and dynamic business environment where change and uncertainty are the norms.

Significant shifts in technology, globalisation and social trends require organisations to transform the way they do business to stay relevant in their markets. Over the next decade, the organisations most likely to succeed will be those that are nimble and adaptable.

The guidance of forward-thinking and strategic leaders will be essential. You’ll know them when you see them – they embrace complexity, examine problems in unique and unusual ways and are open-minded toward ideas and people. In other words, they are learning agile.

Developing Learning Agility

A commonly asked question is – can people develop their Learning Agility? Whilst it’s a relatively stable attribute, Learning Agility is defined in terms of behaviours. So, the answer is yes. Conscious and deliberate practise of those behaviours will enable people to enhance their Learning Agility.

As a starting point, a person should be on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow or, even better, embrace the concept of learning as a lifelong journey. In her book Mindset: The Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck described this as having a ‘growth mindset’ which she says is the key for realising one’s full potential.

Mental Agility

This dimension of Learning Agility concerns the way people deal with concepts and ideas. Being mentally agile is primarily about being curious and inquisitive – searching for the new, exploring the unknown, taking time to think things through and looking for themes within and across situations.

A person with this orientation doesn’t stop at obvious answers to problems but looks below the surface for underlying causes, drilling down into complex issues to simplify and make sense of them.

About Curiosity

A Google search today on ‘curiosity’ resulted in 122 million results. Seems like a lot of people are writing about it! Narrow the search by adding the word ‘executive’ and there are still 44 million results. Impressive.

One of the top results points to a feature on curiosity published in Harvard Business Review (2018), highlighting that curiosity is vital to an organisation’s performance.

The author says curiosity helps leaders and employees come up with more creative solutions to external pressures. It enables leaders to gain more respect from their followers and inspires employees to develop more trusting and collaborative relationships with colleagues.

Sounds good? Well, of course, there’s a trap. Although leaders say they value inquisitive minds, in practice they may stifle curiosity. It was reported that about 70 per cent of employees who were surveyed said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

Tips for increasing Mental Agility

  • Challenge yourself to think about how curious and creative you are. Over the last week, what was the balance between the solutions you provided and questions you asked?
  • Questions are the fuel for new ideas, so start and keep asking why, how and what. Listen to the answers carefully, suspending judgement as you do.
  • Encourage curiosity and learning by reviewing events and outcomes, posing the right questions. Why did that happen? What can we learn from that?
  • Become an observer of agile thinking, listen to people talking and note the words and phrases that reveal a ‘growth’ mindset versus a ‘fixed’ one.
  • Reflect on questions asked in your organisation. Are they encouraged or are they seen as a challenge to authority? Do your people explore ideas with each other or are they too task-focused to take the time? What do you need to do to enable creative and innovative thought?

Last Words

If you are looking for inspiration on what it means to be curious and creative, try reading A Curious Mind, written by Oscar-winning film producer Brian Grazer.

Having practised ‘curiosity conversations’ for years with people outside his industry, he describes curiosity as having many shades and intensities that serve different purposes. A great read!

Continue ReadingLearning Agility: Why it matters for executive success