6 Ways to Become a More Mindful Leader

6 Ways to Become a More Mindful Leader

In a society that glorifies business and constant productivity, the concept of mindfulness has begun circulating around modern workplaces as a means of intentionally slowing down and alleviating stress. Mindfulness, at its core, is the practice of being fully present and engaged in one’s own life, exploring self-awareness, and making an effort to act intentionally.

5 Lessons Learned from 16 Years in Leadership Development

5 Lessons Learned from 16 Years in Leadership Development

When I started working in corporate learning and development 16 years ago, a few trends were predicted to be inevitable:

  • The classroom would become obsolete

  • Most lessons would be taught online

  • Professors would be replaced by e-learning

Today, not all of these predictions have come true. We continue to see new technologies, fads, and buzzwords (remember Second Life classrooms?) but most of them fade as quickly as they arrive.

So rather than write about another new trend, I wanted to reflect and take stock of some truths that I have found to withstand the test of time.

Below are five lessons I’ve learned about leadership development – lessons that I think will stay relevant even in learning environments full of VR and AI learning.

Coaching, The Johari Window, & Experiential Learning

Coaching, The Johari Window, & Experiential Learning

When an organization seeks to bring about change, the team will often work with a consultant to help them see things they can’t see themselves. We’re often too close to our own organizational problems to be able to see them clearly. The same can be said for an individual — which is where a good coach comes in.

A coach can help you in the same way a good change consultant can help an organization: by spotlighting your blind spots and helping you connect areas you otherwise would miss out on.

The importance of the individual development that a good coach can bring is greater than the individual level. There is no amount of organizational change that can happen without real change at leader level.

Leaders set the culture and direction for organizations — whether they know it or not — which means that if they want to effectively bring change to an organization, they’ll have to bring change to themselves. This is not an easy task. One way a good coach can help a leader, and therefore an organization, grow, is by growing the leader’s self-awareness. One tool a coach can deploy to achieve the goal of self-awareness is the Johari window.

Organizational Training Lessons from Universities

Organizational Training Lessons from Universities

This post is adapted from content originally posted on the Enspire Learning Blog

Better learning, better retention, better transfer, and better business results — critical goals of any organization’s training and development program. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve these training outcomes in our classrooms and online training offerings. Have you ever wondered about how our nation’s most prestigious universities pursue these same goals?

UT Austin is engaged “in reinventing higher education in the 21st century” by applying the latest evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning. We're excited to see these approaches in learning sciences and instructional technologies applied to corporate and non-profit organizations’ learning programs.

Below, I’ve distilled the basics of several higher-ed transformation lessons that you can integrate into your training.

Margin Notes: Are you utilizing surprise in your corporate learning?

CAT GIF • Funny Cat playing hard with his green fidget spinner.gif

Be honest. Were you expecting to see a cat playing with a fidget spinner on Abilitie’s blog? Do you know what that GIF and your amygdala, a pleasure center in your brain, have to do with each other?

I’ll hazard a guess that you were not expecting the cat and that you don’t know the connection between the cat and your amygdala. It will all come together.

You’ll remember this post as the one on Abilitie’s blog that kicked off with a GIF of a cat playing with a fidget spinner (surprise hit of 2017) and then asked you if you know anything about the amygdala. 

The image was unexpected, I’ve repeated the statement in different words four times, and (bonus) I picked a picture that was likely to make you laugh. Moments of surprise, especially moments of surprise pleasure, help to anchor memories in the brain. This post is a basic example of the power of surprise.

This is a margin note meant to get our brains moving a little bit, so I won’t dig too deeply into the science (you can read up on that here and here). 

All I’ll do is prompt the following question: are you spending much time thinking about your learners’ attention? If you are, how are you optimizing your learning to keep their attention? Do you use moments of surprise and unpredictability?

Thoughts?
 

Who Should You Share Your Leadership Development Plan With?

Who Should You Share Your Leadership Development Plan With?

Understanding the “Action” of your Development Plans

The phrase “Development Plan” gets thrown around in learning and development departments so often that, for many, it has lost its meaning. Far too often, organizations make a goal to create employee development plans, they meet and craft goals, and then they never see any action taken. Business returns to usual and the development plan is left in the dust.

There is an argument for keeping your action plan to yourself. Studies show that telling people about your goals can actually result in a momentary feeling of success that can knock you off your path to real success. The thinking goes that if you tell people about your plans to be better, their support is as encouraging as success is and can actually decrease your motivation to succeed -- what’s the point when you’ve already gotten the positive affirmation from the people you told about your plan?

While there’s good science behind that belief, we think it’s not quite so simple.

Three Elements of Motivational Speech

Motivating a workforce is one of the most persistent challenges that managers face. Even at the most mission-driven companies, it can be hard to bring people together to put their energy toward a common goal.

According to research conducted by husband and wife team, Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield, there are three key elements that must be balanced in order to achieve this group motivation.

The first, “direction giving,” is an essential tool for any communicator. In the case of a motivational speech, this can take the form of a challenge. Rather than encouraging your team to “increase sales,” one might lay out a task: “Call 20 potential clients.” This challenge is specific and actionable. It’s a lot easier to get aligned and motivated for a task that has already been outlined than for a task that is theoretical.  

“Emotional acknowledgement” is an element of motivational speaking that is familiar to most managers, but can be easy to neglect when deadlines are looming. That being said, this element is as easy to add as saying (and genuinely believing!), “I understand this is not easy, but we are in it together.”

Last and certainly not least is “meaning-making language.” This is often the missing ingredient when managers communicate with their teams. While we can always pull up our company website and read off the mission statement, it is worthwhile for you to articulate to your team the “Why?” of your organization. Think of it as a rejuvenating practice--you have a captive audience, remind them why they actually want to be achieving!

Utilizing these elements in tandem can be difficult. Speaking in terms of big picture “meaning-making” can make it easy to breeze over the more personal “emotional acknowledgment.” Focusing on “direction giving” can minimize the “meaning-making” you want to accomplish. It takes practice and determination to learn how to be a good manager, but with an intentional approach to development, it is possible!

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