Does learning lead to performance?


“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.” 

— Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO

In today’s disruptive and hyper competitive world, the need for learning new skills and competences come in continuous waves.  Such learning becomes more and more transitory as the skills and competences get replaced by new requirements and technology. There is widespread realisation that it is this increased capacity and hunger for such learning that provides Leadership with its “last frontier of business advantage”.

Because of the disruptive and accelerating changes all around, the capacity for self driven learning within a‘learning organisation’ culture could be the key differentiator. In the book‘The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning’ its authors outline a process which they claim would add significant value to businesses through creation of such a ‘Learning culture’.

The 6D process goes through these stages.

  • Define Business outcomes rather than falling into the trap of defining Learning outcomes.
  • Design the Complete Experience rather than merely a learning event.
  • Deliver for application, which essentially means the learning in itself should motivate its application.
  • Drive Learning transfer. Possibly the most critical stage. This is when ‘Can I?’ shifts to ‘Will I?’
  • Deploy performance support to overcome the resistance mindset to change as one gets down to ‘doing it the new way’.
  • Document results. Did it achieve the results? Was it worth it?

 As I read the book, I am left pondering about what is it that stops organisations from adopting and applying the six disciplines as outlined.

Is it :

  • The absence of a link between what is learnt to how it would support one to personally succeed and get recognised?
  • The law of fast forgetting  one’s new learning  as one gets back into the comfortable rut of old ways?
  • The failure to shift from ‘Can I?’ to ‘Will I?’And the underlying reason for that?
  • The plethora of disparate factors  about one’s own motivation,  existing workflows and processes, the work place culture, the political, economic and social aspects?

If indeed there exist such a large number of factors which come in the way of learning transfer,what could be done to optimise performance? In such a situation, how could we shift people from being disengaged to be innovative, how could we transform an organisation to imbibe a learning mindset and be a leading edge innovator?

To be able to do the above Leadership too needs to Learn. Learn how to use future based generative language to articulate a future which addresses the concerns of all the above disparate stakeholders. A future into which everyone concerned comes to live into with learning and actions in the present to make the future happen.

In learning……..

Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: “THE SIX DISCIPLINES OF BREAKTHROUGH LEARNING” How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results by Calhoun W. Wick, Roy V. H. Pollock, Andrew Mc K. Jefferson, and Richard D. Flanagan. Published by John Wiley &Sons Inc., Hobokern, New Jersey 2015.

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Does Leadership theory help Sales?


Leadership and Sales

Yesterday I got a call from the Training Manager of a leading pharmaceutical company. She wanted to know how a Leadership program could support the sales personnel to perform better.

“I do understand the importance of Leadership in rewriting the future of an organisation”, she said to me. “But to a sales guy all this seems airy fairy stuff with no value.  What he needs are tools and techniques which would allow him to effectively close some prospects and achieve his target.”

“So would that imply that the Sales personnel, in-spite of their selling experience and closeness to customers, are falling short of organisational expectations?”  I asked.

“Well that is what the corporate guys in Head Office seem to think”, the training manager confided.

I did not have the heart to tell her that the solution lay not in new tools and techniques but a shift in how and what shows up when confronted with a business challenge. And that in essence is what leadership is all about.

For a start, we need to un-hinge our self from a “fixated to the past” mindset.  To do that we need to first understand what this “fixated in the past” mindset is all about.

Our brains are hardwired to view an emerging situation through the lens of our past experiences.  What is merely needed is copy paste what worked in the past to find a solution in the future. We are thus conditioned to believe that a person with a ten year sales experience would perform better than someone with lesser experience.

But what the above mindset assumes is some kind of continuity of the environment and all that it represents.  The competition and its response. The buyer and his decision making behaviour. The technology and product gaps.  And so on.

The third millennium however is all about discontinuity, disruption and accelerating change. In every which way one could think of. Be it competition and emerging strategies, buyer psyche, technology and products. The beacons of our past experience are no longer effective to handle this.

So we come back to the aspects of Leadership that could support performance in this era of discontinuity, disruption and accelerating change. Be it in Sales or some other business domain.

  • The awareness that you do not know.  You cannot upgrade your performance if you already know all there is to know.
  • Say YES to being pushed away from the beaten track and into the discomfort of the unknown. It is such discomforts that unhinge you from fixated beliefs and mindsets.
  • Avoid assessments during a situation. This leads to hasty reactions based on the ‘what worked in the past’ mindset.   Effective reflection and assessment can only happen after a situation has occurred. And this is when the space for new learning opens up.

 

In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

 

The Millennial Leadership Series : How do you grow your leadership?


This is a question that I am frequently asked by the students of the two business schools where I am a visiting faculty. Knowing about my decades of corporate experience, they assume that I carry nuggets of experience based wisdom that can grow leadership. I do not have the heart to tell them that my so called “experience wisdom” seldom if at all played a role in my leadership initiatives. In fact if truth be told, my leadership situation most of the times was akin to, “I have no idea where I am going”.

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So how does one grow into great leadership?

Well for a start, one cannot think one’s way into great leadership.  It really comes down to putting our feet on the ground, being a “Do- er” under all situations, never mind the nay-sayers and doomsday prophets.  The essence really is “DOING”. We grow when we do things, as we tweak our path and approach intuitively.

Leadership is really about our impact on others. Many of us though confuse this with the great intentions that we hold.  But intentions, which is all about us, has little or no alignment with impact, which is all about others.  So how does one create this alignment? We do this by seeing our self through the eyes of those we serve. I like to see this as a kind of empathy working in reverse.

Literature is full of how empathy is an intrinsic part of great leadership.  Which is all about what we need to do with getting into the other person’s shoes and looking at a situation from his / her perspective. But how often do we think of allowing the other person to get into our shoes and providing a fresh perspective from our vantage point?

Feedback from others who watch our ability ( or otherwise!) to impact others is  really the fuel that can ignite our leadership transformation.

Ask the following questions of your team.

  • What did I do that led to a positive impact?
  • What did I do that negatively impacted the team’s initiative?
  • What Could I do better to encourage the team to perform?

 

………. In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

 

The Millennial Leadership Series : Core of Leadership transformation


The only way to change someone’s mind is to connect with them from the heart.”

– Rasheed Ogunlaru, Life Coach & Speaker

 

How-Well-Do-You-Use-the-Leadership-Skill-of-Empathy

Recently I had the opportunity to be a Master Mentor to a set of alumni mentors of a premier business school as part of its ambitious initiative to offer a Career Support Program for its graduating students.  As the master mentor, my role was really about ensuring the effectiveness of the mentoring process.

The alumni mentors had graduated from the same school few years back and were shaping up as young business leaders in the industry.

In one of my interactions, an alumni mentor mentioned that inspite of his efforts, he sensed a lack of openness and desire to engage from some of the students. I could sense his frustration of seeing his mentoring efforts becoming unproductive.

I asked, “What shows up when you think of your own leading ability?”

“Well, when I am able to influence and get things done”, he answered.

“… and when you see that happening, what behaviours do you display?” I continued.

Reflecting a bit, the mentor replied, “Well I believe I encourage people to take on new initiatives.”

I could sense the disparity between what the mentor believed he was committed to and the outcome that he was achieving. I avoided saying so.

Changing the track somewhat, I then asked, “What do you think gets in the way when you try to support others to take on new challenges?”

The alumni mentor responded almost immediately, “Well I think I need to be more empathetic and less of a stickler to holding people accountable.”

I thanked him for this great insight.

***********

As a Leader, Manager or Supervisor dealing with teams tasked to produce outcomes, we get conditioned to link results to all that is happening outside us. So tracking people, their performance and holding them accountable comes naturally to us. Very seldom do we look inside our own selves to determine whether the way we speak, listen and act could have a bearing on our team member’s performance. This is where the power of empathy steps in.

In the disruptive world that we live in, where past performance has less and less traction for the future, Leaders need to anchor more within, with empathy at the core of growth and transformation.

  • What might you do today to focus on building trust through empathy?
  • How could you be a ‘success enabler’ of people by proactively removing barriers out of their way?
  • How could you be a sounding board for people to come to, so that you could put them in a position to succeed?

In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

 

‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’


The more things change the more they remain the same

 

Have you been witness to the following situation in your workplace?

Team member speaks of things like: “We just do not have what it takes. It will not work out for us. We are more involved with internal politics and lack initiative. We are always behind and late in responding to competition. Our leaders just do not possess the calibre required.  We will only go down and down…….”

Leader responds with thoughts like : “ We have a mediocre set of people working here, they just do have the capability. We keep on training them , we involve them in decision making but they just don’t have any good ideas. We just cannot afford more expensive professionals so need to make do with such mediocrity. We are doing the best we can but our team is not upto the mark………….”

The perception about the problem and what is needed to remedy it is diametrically opposite in the minds of team member and the leader. What remains common for both the sides is the direction in which the organisation is heading, which is only downwards. Opposing perceptions, opposing prescriptions, same outcome!

In the words of Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan in The Three Laws of Performance:

“Everyone experiences a future in front of them, even though few could articulate it. The future lives at the gut level, we know it is what will happen. We call this the default future, and every person has one. And so does every organisation. We live into our default future unaware that by doing so, we are making it come about.

………….the same dynamic exists at the organisational level. Statistical evidence shows that most significant change efforts fail. This is because regardless of the Management interventions tried, the default futures of employees and leaders are still in place. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’

With the new millennium heralding an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, the tenets of Change Management as we know it, might not work.

So what is it that the millennial leader has to do to transform the situation and elevate performance?

 In Learning………………………………

Acknowledgement :  The Three Laws of Performance  by Steve Zaffron  & Dave Logan. Published by Jossey – Bass, CA , US.

The Millennial Leadership Series: Whatever one resists, persists…….


Pimp Slapped

The other day I was speaking to the CEO of a mid- sized organisation and we got to discussing his intentions and plans.  He told me about how he is currently engaged in bringing in technology and transforming the existing processes and the way of doing things.

“So how successful have you been till now?”, I asked.

“Well I have been able to demonstrate to my Board the trend of costs going down. Which should hopefully result in profits going up”, the CEO responded.

“ So have the profits started going up?” , I continued my enquiry.

The CEO looked troubled.  He confided, “Actually the profits are not up at all. We have been facing significant resistance to adoption of the changed processes by team members. Our team seems to have got de-motivated and are putting in less efforts. So much so that the productivity levels are actually down.”

The above is one more case of a Leadership unilaterally trying to improve profitability through implementation of technology.  When such implementation is done in a ‘command and control’ manner without adequate involvement of various stakeholders, the Leadership might occur to the team as ‘untrustworthy and self-serving’.

Such organisations become locked into a cycle. I call it ‘the cycle of repairing an old tube’. As one patches a leak in the tube and build back the pressure, a new leak starts at a different place. As the organisation resists a problem by trying to fix it, the more it pushes, the more the problem pushes back.

Whatever one resists, persists.

Amidst the whirlwind pace of change occurring in the environment today necessitating the need to constantly shift the technology and process base of an organisation, the millennial leader needs to provide the anchor of a unifying context for such shifts to occur.

What is that unifying context that millennial leaders need to create and exercise for transformative changes to succeed?

In Learning……….   Shakti Ghosal

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The Millennial Leadership Series: Freedom versus Accountability


freedom_birdcage

I hear the following words often.

“if you wish to see creativity at work, cut the bureaucratic red tape dammit!”

“Hierarchies no longer serve.  We need networks of free individuals”

Red tapes and Hierarchies are all designed to drive accountability. To ensure that in a work situation, where you have been given freedom to act, you become accountable for delivering something in return. Red tape dictates that one submits to certain checks and balances as part of a process to drive an initiative. And to hold onto a work position within an organisation, one needs to accept the command and control hierarchy there.

So what is that which has created this belief that Red tape and Hierarchies which drive accountability somehow negate Freedom and the creativity that might flow out of it?

As I think of the above question, I sense the concerns are really about the perceived loss of Power. Power that comes from a freedom to take decisions and explore creative possibilities. But there is also a flip-side to this. In my own work-life I have seen innumerable instances of people not able to handle the freedom allowed them and actually floundering and not sure of how to proceed.

The Millennial Leader, faced that he is with relentless changes and disruptive influences, can ill afford to get overly involved with sorting out red tapes and hierarchies. He needs to instead  focus on creating a culture that  drives both Freedom and Accountability.

Freedom not about unburdening people and allowing them to do what they want. Rather the kind of freedom that allows people to envision new possibilities.

Accountability not of imposing something and devising reward and punishment schemes to do that.  Rather the kind of accountability that would lead people to take ownership and hold passion for the possibility they envisioned.

What practices does the Millennial Leader needs to adopt to shift from ‘Or’ to ‘And’ between Freedom and Accountability?

In Learning………

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