The Leadership Factory is delighted to announce that Andy Burrows has joined our team. Andy has a wealth of experience in leadership and management development and will be a valuable addition. We’re very proud of our reputation and protective of our business values, and this can make it difficult to find the right’ kind of people to work with us. Andy does this as well as providing additional skills and approaches that can only be of benefit to our clients.
Andy shares some of his thoughts on one of the challenges facing leaders in all walks of life below:
Human beings love to learn. It is as if we are programmed to learn. Perhaps our genetic coding encourages it to ensure the survival of the species. ‘Un’ learning is more of a challenge.
Introduce a leader or manager to new material which can be used without inhibition and it is welcomed and thrived upon. Challenge a leader to change existing behaviours and their underpinning beliefs , and this is a much more difficult task.
To illustrate, contrast my experience in two sports, climbing and golf.
A climbing novice, I recently embarked on a climbing course. With a fear of heights, this was a small but meaningful challenge. To start with, perched twenty or so feet above the ground, I felt uncomfortable , out of my depth with a little voice asking me, ‘what are you doing this for? You don’t have to do this. Just let go and get out of here’. However another voice, a deeper more resounding one, was saying ‘see this through’. The second voice was more influential and I found it an enriching experience. The discomfort and the overcoming of the fear made it so. I returned to the climbing walls a week later and was soon reaching the top of the highest walls, relishing the moment.
This is great example of acquiring a new skill. I had fear and doubt, but having not climbed before there was not a major requirement to unlearn. Therefore my skill development was rapid and relatively unhindered by any existing beliefs and mindset.
This is quite contrary to my experiences on the golf course. I play golf with a handicap of four. Depending on your viewpoint this is a reasonable handicap. However like all golfers I do believe I can improve and have identified chipping as my opportunity to reduce wasted shots. My biggest difficulty is unlearning. I already have a strong belief set about me as a chipper. It is not as positive as it should be. Although my technique on the practice ground is good, on the golf course, under pressure negative feelings surface and technique can often desert me. I know how to play the shot , my feelings and beliefs get in the way. Although things are getting better, breaking the mental barriers for a fairly simple golf shot have been far more challenging than climbing a difficult 100 foot high climbing wall!
This provides a good metaphor for learning and leaders. Leaders love to learn new stuff. Like the climbing wall, after a brief period of conscious incompetence, leaders progress to conscious competence and enjoy the practice. A good example of this would be introducing a leader to the GROW coaching model. Once the process is grasped and the primary skills developed, leaders love to internalise the model and go on to use it in variety of ways
However, obtain some 360 degree feedback for a leader which requires a change in existing behaviour and this proves far more difficult. This is the chipping paradox. A common example of this would be when someone receives feedback saying that they need to become more ‘assertive’. ‘I know that already’ is often their answer. However there will be a strong set of beliefs underpinning the behaviour. These will restrict their ability to assert. Despite words to the contrary, when they are called to make the shot, (eg to speak up in a meeting) they will default to the established behaviour and remain silent.
How can leaders conquer the challenge of unlearning?
A number of powerful approaches are available. The most successful that I have experienced for my chipping are:
In team situations the most powerful lever for change is to use a promise based management approach where individuals make carefully crafted public promises to the team. These promises are then reviewed on a regular basis.
More information concerning these techniques can be found on our courses and through personal coaching.
What we do know can often be as strong a barrier to our development as what we do not!