A recent Deloitte Survey indicates that many CEOs and CXOs claim interest in developing talents and leadership, while at the same time expressing lack of confidence in future leaders. One key reason is: they do not see sufficient motivation and ambition; young talents do not appear “committed”. Let’s rephrase this in a provocative way: is it possible that motivation and ambition have taken different forms among the new generations? Other studies indicate that “commitment” may have lost meaning in favor of a new concept: “engagement”; and how about “fun”?

An article recently appeared in a McKinsey Quarterly claims that “telling CEOs these days that leadership drives performance is a bit like saying that oxygen is necessary to breathe”. The same article thoroughly identifies the key behaviors that need to be encouraged in leadership development programs: Solving problems effectively. Operating with a strong results orientation. Seeking different perspectives. Supporting others.

Yes, this is right; those are skills of paramount importance today. Yet, if many top leaders doubt the very engine that stimulates people to learn these behaviors (ambition and commitment), why do we continue to “teach” behavioral skills the same way as we did in the past? Why do we stage extensive programs focused on “do’s and don’ts” based on the assumption that people are motivated to learn this way? No surprise that so many traditional leadership programs do not produce the expected mobilization and effectiveness of talents!

A “do’s and don’ts” approach may work well when we look for simple rules of thumb to help us in a predictable environment; in this case we also need to trust that such rules of thumb will be consistently applied across our organization and guarantee effectiveness.
Let’s face it: today’s working environment is complex and unpredictable; sources of advise on what is the best rule of thumb for a given situation have grown exponentially and are often contradictory; and learning rules of thumb of sometimes doubtful effectiveness is actually quite a boring exercise.

Now that many organizations are busy with planning training for 2015, we suggest to look for the following three elements which characterize a truly effective Leadership Program:

Focus on attitudes rather than behaviors; this gives a more sustainable approach; participants do not learn techniques, they get a chance to go deeper to the roots of their behavior and challenge some of our assumptions. In this way, not only is the training more personalized (hence more stimulating and fun), the participants also gain a better understanding of what drives their choices and are in a better position to gear their behavior to having the desired impact.

Let’s take the example of effective delegation: we can recognize the need to delegate, make nice lists of what can be delegated, assign tasks and then still continue to stay on the back of people; why do we do that? When we investigate our attitude (our instinctive beliefs) we may discover that we are afraid of loosing control; we can then challenge this belief: we can ask to be briefed at given intervals and more promptly if something starts to go the wrong way. Or maybe we are hindered by the fear of compromising quality, and then identify ways to let people make their own mistake and learn, as long as there are quality check gates.

Focus on Engagement, Purpose and Alignment on Intention
No effective Leadership Development Training can ignore the importance of Employee Engagement, a concept that is increasingly becoming a crucial point of strategic attention, given its unequivocal correlation with productivity. Extensive studies show that an engaged workforce produces more consistent and innovative results, improved decision processes and … a better working environment with fewer complaints and more open communication.

And what exactly is engagement? It is to know that our unique contribution is relevant and appreciated as a building stone in creating a vision in which we believe. It starts with finding an alignment between our own purpose and the purpose of the company, so that everyone can feel to contribute to a common vision; this gives more meaning to our work, we feel proud of our unique contribution and empowered to participate.

Leaders need to learn how to invite the dialogue and drive the engagement agenda.

In the old times, we used to talk of sense of duty and commitment. Some of us may still remember the “eggs and bacon anecdote” (you know: “in our breakfast, the chicken is involved, the pig is committed”). Times have changed and the eggs and bacon story is (happily) seldom heard again, because it does not make any sense. Who wants to be called a pig and be expected to succumb for a job (and for an unhealthy breakfast, by the way)? Commitment and ambitions are not part of what counts today. Engagement is.

Here a more modern and appropriate anecdote:
An architect visited a construction site on his vacation. As he walked around he asked the brick masons what they were building. “Mister,” the first worker said as he slapped mud onto a brick, “can’t you see I’m building a wall?” Every worker he chatted with, no matter if the chore was laying brick, shoveling or mixing cement, told the architect they were laying brick or stacking a wall.
One worker offered a different version of his labors.
As he stood upright and smiled, the man said, “Look. I’m building a cathedral.”

Focus on an informally productive and fun learning context: gone are the times of large classrooms with trainers or speakers obsessed with power-point, and participants sitting at tables or desks, erected as a defensive wall with the excuse of accommodating note pads, now replaced by an array of smart phones, tablets and PCs. People need to connect and move around, no tables, no other distractions. When we are able to create a safe space for learning through interactions, tablets and tweets are easily forgotten, because interactive learning is not only more effective, it is also fun!

Copyright © 2015 Grooa AS

Grooa runs off-the shelf and bespoke Leadership Development Programs focused on “Attitude based Behavioral Training”, “Driving the Engagement Agenda” and “Joy and Fun at Work” :

Leading with a Smile

For information, please contact us at info@grooa.dev-projects.tech. We speak English, French, Italian, Norwegian, German and Dutch.

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