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Carl Robinson, Ph.D. on Leadership September 15, 2010
We help maximize the effectiveness of individuals and organizations by helping them improve their ability to lead, work together, select and develop their people.  Some of our related business services include: executive coaching, executive team coaching and executive assessments for development and selection.

Carl Robinson, Ph.D., Managing Principal
Seattle, Washington

In This Issue:

Winning with Change Leadership

Learn by Doing - with Action Learning

Situation Room

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Winning with Change Leadership

Are successful leaders going to excel, regardless of the times in which they lead?  Some may say yes. Afterall, Jack Welch lead General Electric through both solid and turbulent times, right? But hold on a moment. 
In the last two years, we have seen countless top executives stumped (and many of them have later failed) when trying to maneuver through this changing environment.  At the same time, some companies have taken the recent rough waters and, even given a shrinking industry or seemingly impossible sales slump, have turned their companies around. 
Let's look at some of the characteristics that are embraced by leaders (and their organizations) in changing times.
Using Organizational Memory
In less turbulent times, lessons learned in the past could be called on as wisdom for decisions made in the present.  These days the past should not be counted on for the wisdom it once offered.  The playing field has changed, and you will not be able to count on those lessons to lead you through.  Of course, they still have value.  They just can't lead the way anymore.  
Innovative leaders do still use the past to inform decisions, but they don't count on those old lessons to show them the way. 

Remaining Committed to Change
Being committed to change could mean that you are continuously changing.  Consider those organizations that are always bouncing from one production methodology to another, continually trying out new supply chain management systems or can't seem to get enough of the latest management fads.  No, remaining committed to change means making a change and committing to it.  The new direction may not be the panacea that you are looking for, but you won't know until you have given the new plan time to take hold. 

Learning at the Speed of Light
The world is changing at a faster pace than ever before.  Imagine the significant changes we've seen in how we use technology in our daily business, even in the last eight to 10 years!  Ask yourself what you need to learn, and how you can push yourself into new knowledge areas.  This will keep you growing and evolving.  Most of all, it will mean that you will be more prepared for making the next set of decisions that come your way. 
Tapping the Group Genius-or the Hidden Genius in the Group
Change is not best made alone.  Let's face it; you may be the leader in your department or organization, but you need the troops to get involved.  These days, the most powerful contributions often come from the most unexpected places.  You may find a hidden genius in your group or a collective genius, aka: your customer!

Your change leadership mindset gives you the tools to consider ideas from every corner, in order to address the current climate with a large dose of courage, informed risk-taking and ambition.

Learn by Doing - with Action Learning

We develop training programs, plan for monthly expenditures, solve business challenges, develop new products and services, and take care of human resources procedures.  We can do it all, right?

But you still have them.  Those real workplace problems that don't have a home.  They may be big, they may be complex, but they don't sit squarely in anyone's corner.  So how can you solve them? 

By utilizing action learning, that's how.   Action learning is a process for bringing together a group of people with varied levels of skills and experience to analyze an actual work problem and develop an action plan. The group continues to meet as actions are implemented, learning from the implementation and making mid-course corrections.

Action Learning is a form of learning by doing. It is used to address problems and issues that are complex and not easily resolved; find solutions to underlying root causes of problems; and to determine a new strategic direction or to maximize new opportunities.

Organizations such as General Electric, IBM and the Federal Aviation Administration have used action learning for successful resolution of complex, real workplace problems.

In short, action learning involves working through real, relevant problems; reviewing both the results achieved and then analyzing the process by which the results were accomplished.   When GE has implemented action learning, it typically enlists two groups of five to seven people of varying backgrounds and levels in the organization.

The process works best when dealing with substantial issue that will have visible consequences if failure occurs.

The problem to be addressed by the team should be real and in need of being solved in a timely manner. The solution to the problem should be acted upon.  Incidentally, one bonus as a result of this process is that critically reflective learning will also take place.  The action learning team typically does not have a leader, but rather is a self-directed work team with shared responsibilities. 

When working with an action learning team, shift emphasis away from what people already know, pushing them to ask fresh questions about how to create a solution.  The last part of the action learning process is actually solving the problem.  It is not a list of recommendations or a report.  It ends in a follow-through to a solution.

Give action learning a try.  It has worked for many organizations, and introduces a new way of looking at and taking charge of real workplace problems.

Situation Room

Generational Issues or Management Challenges?

Joan, the hiring manager of a mid-size training firm, conducted a series of interviews for summer interns.  The summer internship typically consists of general office work, catching up on some filing projects and doing web site maintenance.  Joan chose to hire Greg, the candidate who seemed most appropriate for the post. 
Greg came in on his first day and announced that he had been working on developing his own training program for large corporations, and he had chosen your firm to roll it out to the market.  He had clearly gone to great lengths to prepare curriculum materials, activities and accompanying trainer notes. 
He had also prepared a presentation to show the executives at the firm.  After showing Joan his full package and explaining all of his ideas and plans, he finished with the sentiment, "I'm ready to put this program into the pipeline.  …And the sooner the better!"

How would you handle this situation? Send in your solution
If you send in a solution, I'll reward you with the opportunity to take the Influence Styles Inventory free.  It's a leadership oriented assessment and development tool.

Advanced Leadership Consulting • 14416 3rd Ave. NW, Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98177
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