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Agile Leaders—More Maturity, More OptionsDecember 4, 2014

There’s a substantial body of research that supports the idea that managers and leaders at higher stages of development are more effective than those at lower stages of development. This holds true for most meaningful measures of business and organizational effectiveness. Post-conventional or what we sometimes call “post-heroic” forms of leadership and management out-perform and out-maneuver less developed individuals.

Research into nearly 500 managers across a wide range of industries reveals the 80/80 principle. 80% of managers scoring near the bottom of the Leadership Development Profile were found in junior management positions. In contrast 80% of the individuals testing near the top of this developmental assessment were found in senior levels of management. (For those of you not familiar with the Leadership Development Profile, it was created by two of the most trustable names in adult development, Bill Torbert and Susann Cook-Greuter, and has over 40 years of research behind it.)

What this means is that when your capacities develop or mature, you get more options. More choices become available. More diverse behaviors become viable responses. Vertical development yields greater response-ability. Vertical development yields greater command, and more influence.

So, following from that, it also means that if you’re interested in climbing the organizational ladder, one of the most essential tools you need to invest in is your development. And, there’s a good chance that in order for you to even thrive at your current position—let alone add complexity to your job description and responsibilities—you may need to develop.

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The Art of Disappointing OthersNovember 7, 2014

Most people won’t recommend disappointing the people you report to as a strategy for furthering your career. It’s simple: your boss or the board you report to are to be pleased by your work, not disappointed. Right? Not necessarily.

I want to share with you why disappointing the people you report to can be more efficient in garnering greater respect and demonstrating larger capacities. I call this The Art of Disappointment.

The first thing to understand is that supplying the people you report to with what they want is not a wise strategy. It communicates complacency. Yes, this strategy yields a particular kind of trust—but one that is rooted in dependability.

Merely executing on the expectations of others who hold organizational power over you demonstrates a lack of vision on your part. It means you can’t lead yourself.

Fulfilling the vision, agendas and desires fashioned by others demonstrates you’re a solid employee but not a worthy leader. Be too consistent in merely following your marching orders, and you’ll be communicating a message you might want to carefully reconsider before sharing it with the people who determine who gains new responsibility in your organization.

Now for those reading this who don’t have the ability to consistently execute on the demands handed to them, this isn’t for you. Don’t get ahead of yourself. This message is for those who’ve already spent many years delivering solid, predictable and valuable work day in and day out. While many people want to skip some steps along their professional development in the hopes of getting ahead faster, premature deployments of complex strategies can have undesirable outcomes. Consider this your warning.

But for those of you who know the heart of discipline, sacrifice and commitment and are ripe to take your professional development to the next level, this is for you:

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The desire to impact and influence our world in lasting and meaningful ways is one of the most important maturations of adulthood.

Erik Erikson, the first developmental psychologist to propose a developmental model covering the entire lifespan from birth to death, called this drive for greater influence generativity. He contrasted this immensely generative, service-oriented stage of life with what he called stagnation. Instead of devoting life to serving the mosaic of humanity, when we are caught in stagnation we remain largely self-centered. Instead of focusing on the broader community, organizational and institutional well-being, we remain fixated on what’s good for “me,” “myself” and of course what’s “mine.”

Yet longitudinal developmental research conducted at Harvard University and spanning over 80 years reveals an interesting fact: If we do not remain selfish enough to take care of ourselves, we cannot be the generative human beings we are supposed to be as we mature into adulthood. The individuals who just give again and again burn out. Because they are not resourcing themselves in the essential ways, they often detract from the larger well-being of their communities, organizations and institutions. Instead of being a brighter exemplar of how to live, those who don’t take care of themselves become reminders of what not to do.

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