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Posts Tagged ‘21st Century Leadership Skills’

“The innovation point is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams.” —W. Arthur Porter

Too often we get wrapped up in the here and now, the day-to-day, and we don’t take the time to take a step back and look at who we are and who we have become. We often overlook the messages that are telling us to get out of our rut and try something different, even uncomfortable. Or maybe we just need to get back to who we really are. Exploring these messages is where we can find inspiration that often leads to the creative tension that becomes our pivot point of innovation. That chance to actively make a change.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

This pivot point is what happened when I was asked by Jeff to collaborate for this series. The discomfort was in the sharp reminder that I had traveled away from my own desire to inspire others to grow through what I have learned and experienced. To leverage my strengths to help others embrace theirs. So here I am at my pivot point.

My inspiration is often what I read. What I’ve discovered about my reading is that there is often a purpose for what I’m drawn to depending on what is happening in my life at that time, personal and professional. And there is almost always a level of learning involved with the purpose of taking that learning and sharing with others. As a friend and colleague told me some time back, I’m a natural information curator. So as I was thinking about creative tension and the connection of this to how we can each embrace this tension for the development of our own unique talents, I was reminded of an article I read several years ago.

This article, Why we need to let kids be creative, encourages letting children “play” and experience their world in their way (with guidance) to creatively solve the problems they encounter. The problem the toddler solves in figuring out how to get to the cookies on the counter, or the coveted toy from a playmate, develops the capability that could lead to the next technology, or social media innovation 20 years later. As the parent, and leader, responsible for that “child”, it’s our responsibility to nurture the creativity that leads to capability – even for ourselves.   What we, as leaders today, should encourage is:

  • Engage in divergent thinking – a key to problem solving and a foundation of creativity – understanding what is, and then imagining the possibilities of what could be.
  • Play with others – this teaches us how to negotiate group dynamics and cultivate creative-thinking skills.
  • Take time for free play – when you take a break from gathering data, you allow your brain to loosely explore and reconfigure information.

Over the course of this series I will engage in some divergent thinking and take time to play with others (Thanks, Jeff!). And I will encourage you to do the same. The beauty of this journey is that even though we may not have a map, our world will be richer and the potential for innovation will be greater because we each bring our own unique strengths and perspective as we explore this together. To help guide us, I’ll be pulling from my learning, and library, of strength-based development, such as Marcus Buckingham’s StandOut books. In these books, we are introduced to an assessment that is an “innovation delivery system” designed to help reveal our edge. While invention is an idea, even a novel idea, innovation is “novelty that can be applied.” Innovation is what keeps us relevant.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 

And so like the wild flowers I used to pick as a young girl, I’ll pick and share some ideas and practical tips to help us be relevant, even beautiful, as we discover our edge and explore together what it means for us to…


Gather ~ Give ~ Grow.

 

Jennifer Rainey "Natural Information Curator"

Jennifer Rainey

All that Jennifer does is driven by a commitment to help you look inside and identify your passions and strengths. Jennifer is a practitioner and consultant for organizational effectiveness.

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Through the Door of Possibility

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Driven by the Impact I desire to have and drawn to the Impact I intend to have, I have for many years been a person who studies.

On the day I began my part of this composition, Judy (my coach, colleague, and friend) and I were talking about a shift in our motivation for reading and studying. We have each come to a place where we no longer study for study-sake. It is now more important to be in study driven by what it is we know we must now learn. And what we now study is in direct support of what we desire and intend to impact.

Modern education is training for autonomy, and in that context, it is almost impossible to admit that knowledge itself is a gift.

–Parker J. Palmer, The Promise of Paradox

In the quest for learning, Judy and I are being challenged to go beyond acquiring for mere practicality and now see our learning for application that is pure.

Please understand, study has served up value and purpose in my life and work. This place where I now stand in life & living requires the shift from a need to study to a need to learn. It is time to bring fullness into the rhythm.

Study is to gather information on the one hand. On the other hand is the need to grow something with what has been gathered. In the sense of application and practice, as I use the term in my coaching, is a true knowing–learning that occurs when the hand of Gather joins the hand of Grow and we then know how to truly Give.

And there lies, with Give, the stand in Creative Tension. Difficult it is to be creative without the tension between what we desire to be real and the possibility we intend.

Impossible it is for me to learn and give of that learning if I do not first receive it as a gift. When received as a gift I find myself soaked in gratitude, and I know then my responsibility is to dry out in the air of giving.

And hence, we have the gift of leadership. A leader holds such tension; holds it long enough to understand what it looks like to give in the present, allowing us to come together and make real the larger story we desire to tell.

A Leadership Poem: You Are Someone

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What is the power of Story?

To put it as simply as I know how, I will answer with one word; Why.

I remember being asked to lead a major project in my last 2 years of corporate experience. The work included staff reductions in three states. Rick, who enrolled me to lead the project, gave me 3 pillars around which to build: 1) Achieve the cost savings 2) Maintain and even improve the quality of the work we would be moving around, and 3) Do the right thing by the people.

He made no attempt to tell me how to do what I needed to do. In his 3 pillars I knew what to focus upon. And, even though it may not seem like it at first glance, I had the Why. For me, the 3 pillars became the Story that I, and my project team, had to tell.

What is for the mind. Why is for the heart. −Dave, Coaching Client

Why is the core of compelling narrative. And what and how hold powerful support data if we help others make the connection.

I’ve been booked for a day in Illinois where I will serve as a feedback facilitator. A selection of technical leaders are learning more about the consultative part of their individual roles. As part of this learning experience is practice and application of meeting with an executive, listening, gathering info, and then creating and delivering a compelling presentation to pitch solutions and create partnerships. Through experience these leaders will learn the power of story and storytelling in business.

Years ago I received some similar training. The trainer, Bobbie Lawrie, was an expert in helping executives and politicians speak to the media. While she gave us many tips, tools, and tactics, I came away with 3 simple steps to help me improve in the important task of forming a compelling message:Skill 7

  1. Consider my audience. What’s in it for them to hear from me?
  2. Develop my One Main Message point.
  3. Provide vivid support to this 1 point.

Considering your receivers opens you to the reality of what. Your main message is the heart of the matter−Why. And, as you provide vivid support, you tie how to the heart, making ever more clear the message.

Confusion can never compel; that takes clarity.

Storytelling is the 7th 21st Century Skill for the leader. Storytelling balances, or pulls together, the objective and subjective into a compelling and ongoing narrative.

Leading from the clarity of your Desire & Intent others are compelled by your purpose (your story). In such clarity, together we are transformed, driven by individual purpose and drawn into a collective vision.

For more on your Voice in the process, see post; Shadow Strengths – Chapter Seven (Love)

BCL Blog 4

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The 21st Century highway of management is jammed with those speeding to solve as they exercise limiting judgment, fixes, and attempts to otherwise set another straight.

We manage process and we lead the individual. As a leader you are a facilitator. To Facilitate means “to make easy.” This doesn’t mean you ignore conflict or difficulty. Quite the opposite is true as you facilitate the necessary holding together of good process and desired outcomes.

“For peace and agitation are stitched together and, tugged on, they unravel a thread of Oneness.” −Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

I was very fortunate in my corporate career to have opportunity to take advantage of good learning experiences. Such learning was in the balance of classroom and application; practicing knowledge into a skill. The skill I treasure is that of Listening. This skill has served me well in my coaching, and molded me into a facilitator who can create and navigate dialogue.

Listening is the foundation of 21st Century Skill 6: Collective Facilitation.

In my corporate experience I was given much opportunity to practice as a facilitator. Early on I knew enough to be moderately effective and dangerous at the same time. Let me illustrate.

My customer service manager and his team approached me and asked that I facilitate a session to assist them in working through an important issue with their service work. We scheduled everything, gathered together, and got to work. So there I was standing in front of them facilitating. The team came together around the information needed and I dismissed them to go and collectively implement what they thought best.

A week passed and I had not heard any follow-up or follow-thru on their decision. I called Bill, the manager, to my office and asked what they had decided to do. His response, “We did what you told us to do.”

I was stunned. I asked Bill to tell me what he had heard from me. He did. And I was stunned even further−not by him or the team. I was slapped with the reality of the lack of neutral focus in my brand of facilitation. As I supposedly facilitated, I had unconsciously also participated: participation at a level that was easily perceived as an order or a request from their division leader.

I had unintentionally held their loyalty in a manner that diminished their full creative abilities and individual and collective contribution.

Skill 6If left apart, good process and desired outcomes pull against one another.

If focused upon one at a time, as is usually the case, they are left in conflict causing us to ignore one or the other.

To expertly be with the skill of Collective Facilitation, you must hold the two circles together where they merge in support of the depth of listening required.

You then facilitate in the power of a neutral focus.

 

Read about the shadow strength related to Focus; Shadow Strengths – Chapter Six (Focus)

BCL Blog 4

 

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Things go the way they go, as opposed to the way I’d like them to go.

Very often what is in any situation is in opposition to what I would prefer−and both are most likely okay; full of their own truth. And so here I have opportunity for a mandorla. What might I discover in a specific situation by holding the two together for a bit? What might I see and learn in the overlap of the two circles−which in the overlap itself is the teaching mandorla?

The example is my mind and heart in some proposed work with a favorite client in Oklahoma. My mind wants it finalized, adding nicely to my year. My heart desires to hold the moment and trust all will be okay. And maybe for now my learning, and holding, is in the simple recognition of the mind-heart mandorla.

This overlap (tension) is, I suppose, Creative Presence.

Skill 5As with any two sides to any one issue−seeming opposites−there is tension. It just may be that this overlap of tension is when we are at our best with Giving. And here lies the paradox with Skill 5, the skill of Giving. This skill is about giving in and through our work at all levels.

At the core of all brands of giving is listening. In the mind circle, listening is at the surface focusing on outcomes. In the heart circle, listening is at the source of what’s most important to you.

You’ve heard it said, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” You’ve also heard it said, “The heart wants what it wants.” In the mind circle is the timing aspect. Once you’ve done your part, you expect an outcome in return. The heart circle wants to trust the process and desires freedom in giving−a brand of presence that is not distracted by the sometimes trivial pursuit of the mind.

As the two circles collide, we are presented with one of the most troublesome challenges, waiting.

“Paradox is brought to its next stage of development by a highly conscious waiting. The ego can do no more; it must wait for that which is greater than itself.” −Robert A. Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow

If  you can bear with the overlap of the two circles, hold it long enough, the mind and heart begin to push you into the necessary Creative Presence.

So, holding this overlap as best I can I find myself carefully reviewing how I can give in my network at a deeper, more contextual level; hopefully taking proper advantage of my waiting.

What is an important issue where you need to create a mind/heart mandorla and enter your Creative Presence?

For more on Presence, see post Shadow Strengths – Chapter Five (Presence)

BCL Blog 4

 

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Networking, in order to be effective, must leverage your Voice. If you are a regular reader of mine then you know I’m not referring to an audible voice. I’m referencing your authentic self−how who you really are shows up in your interactions.

The networks we need today are the ones based in mutual respect. They are built on the common understanding that comes from a genuine meeting of the minds. They are fueled by generosity and kindness. They are reciprocal because of a desire to help the other, not out of obligation. They are connections that allow gifts to be exchanged, not favors tallied up. −Ric Gonzalez

What is Networking in this 21st Century? I like what Tim Sanders says in Love is the Killer App. He calls networking Biz Love, and says your network exists for you to:

  1. Share your knowledge; and what you continue to learn
  2. Share your web of relationships; and experience
  3. Share compassion; your ability to reach out

It seems, over the last three years, that my network has, for the most part, frozen; causing me to question the fruits of networking. The freeze has two sources. There is the outside force of an attention-demanding 21st Century culture, and there’s the inside failure to apply my voice consistently and confidently.

And then I must ask what it would take to thaw it. For the longest time the answer has been stuck in the personal confusion of the slow freeze. But now I know the only thing I can know, and do: I must allow my voice, in more full engagement, to thaw the connections.

So how do we apply the fullness of sharing in our networks? It is by sharing our own brand of love in our own network. And that brand of love is resonate in your voice. (see post, Shadow Strengths – Chapter Four (Voice))Skill 4

The paradox one must face, and hold, with the skill of Networking is the external competing demands colliding with the internal focus needed to stay true.

As you stand firm and hold these two for a while, you may more easily see the warm application and need for your voice.

From this middle stand you hold what you do with how you do it, until your voice presence reminds you of why you do what you do.

And so in my own network and networking I must reengage with both my Voice and my original Why I do what I do.

I’ve got some fresh Networking to do!

BCL Blog 4

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Individual purpose and collective purpose can seem like opposites, and often working one against the other.

The leader’s personal purpose brings to light a confidence we who follow need to see. And we need to feel and hear how such confidence becomes our own. The 21st Century leader speaks from A New Confidence−a clear articulation rooted in purpose.

We can all appreciate the one who is practiced in the third skill of Messaging. When practiced and present, the messenger brings clarity in the moment. Such clarity becomes the foundation for engagement and the fuel for connection, combining to inform the future by our individual and collective choices in the present. Aimed at the collective, the engagingly clear message encourages individual purpose.

As a leader you must stand strong for us in the middle−in the creative tension of the space between what we need as individuals and what we need to pull and keep us together. This creative space exists only in the present.

Without getting into all the varying reasons, I think we can agree that change is a constant in this 21st Century. And while there are indeed many levels and types of change, any particular alteration can throw individuals in seemingly competing directions. From the same experienced change some begin a grieving process and others become excited to move forward. While we may react to change uniquely, we must soon come together in a proactive move through the change.

Skill 3Enter the 21st Century leader who leads us to connective clarity. This leader is not held back by a need to be understood that overwhelms the essentiality of understanding. Someone in a position of leadership who holds a selfish focus diminishes individual contribution−belittling efforts beyond their own capacity. But you, in A New Confidence, lead us with personal purpose, modeling for us in your message how individual purpose joins with and empowers collective purpose.

What a message eventually produces is not nearly as important, to those who need its clarity, as the creative space opened by the engaging view.

The clear message is basically Storytelling in its purest form. As it is told to us together, we each are engaged in seeing, hearing, and feeling it as our own.

Together we are transformed, driven by individual purpose and drawn into a collective vision.

For more on A New Confidence, see post:
Shadow Strengths – Chapter Three (A New Confidence)

BCL Blog 4

 

 

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