Metanoa Integrators (Strategy, Culture, Change and Leadership)

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Is your specialisation hindering your potential? 10 key strategies.

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Eugene Fernandez

Because of the complexity in our world, people have learnt to specialize in particular areas. They move forward, but it is usually in lockstep and immersed in the groove of their profession. Effective knowledge becomes professionalized knowledge, which serves the narrow bandwidth of the profession, ruling what is in, and what is out.

Professionalised knowledge ‘produces minds in a groove. Each profession makes progress, but it is progress in its own groove’. To work in the groove of a Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, Chemist, Psychologist or Manager, is to work in contemplating a given set of abstractions. The groove prevents us from seeing other worldviews; it corrals us within the paradigm of the profession.

Recent studies on the brain highlight how this groove is literally reinforced within the architecture of the brain. Our lifestyle and profession imprint ways of responding and dealing with the world and through affiliation and repetition we strengthen these activities, which becomes our habits or regions of thoughts. In some ways this is our own self-imposed hard-wiring and though neuroplasticity allows us the opportunity to circumvent this hard-wiring it takes awareness and consistent determination to move this.

Nicholas Carr in his book the ‘Shallows’ comments that for all the mental flexibility neuroplasticity offers, it can end up locking people into rigid behaviours as the chemicals in our neural circuitry prefers that we keep exercising pre-existing circuits.

In essence operating within the groove of the profession offers the path of least resistance, which implies that we progress deeper into the groove and the deeper we go the harder it is to peer over the ditch.

Outlined are 10 strategies to lift you above the groove:

  • Span the grooves – In my workshops I talk about my love for music and in particular playing my old analog LP’s. I ask the audience to picture themselves on the playing field of an LP where there are deep grooves. Like the songs on the LP, each profession occupies their own groove, moving forward, but to their own beat, rhythm and tune. Rather than an LP, I ask them to now jump on to the playing field of a DVD, where there is an opportunity to span the grooves, you can still hear and be part of the tune of the profession, however the grooves are smaller, easier to navigate and more responsive. So what does this mean in practice? Well it means firstly to visualize your-self on a different playing field.
  • Become aware about what informs your view of the world, how was it formed? What or who are some of the major influences?
  • Arouse your interest in things that are different to what you normally do. For example I recently encouraged a senior Engineer I was coaching to attend a psychodrama program so that he could immerse his whole body rather than just his head in the experience.
  • Deliberately talk to people from another profession or field, seek out how they see things and why.
  • Read beyond your field or profession.
  • Place yourself on a different committee or project. Take up an overseas posting or travel to places where you would not remotely contemplate going.
  • Deliberately ask what’s positive and how will this work when a new idea is suggested. Play with the idea. Ask what-If questions.
  • Ask questions that encourage you to look at two sides to every dilemma for example how do I encourage my team (us) to step up and deliver whilst maintaining our highest quality standards and team spirit.
  • See reality as a construction rather than solid with defined boundaries. Everything is permeable as the boundaries are our own construction.
  • Be willing to be irreverent and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Is there Leadership in Management?

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Eugene Fernandez

The Management in Leadership and The Leadership in Management

I know this is well trodden ground and academia and the press are rife with arguments and debates about the difference between Leadership and Management and that we should not confuse one for the other.

John Kotter in his article ‘Management is (still) not Leadership’ states that it drives him crazy when people use the words Leadership and Management synonymously. He sees management as employing complex processes involving planning, budgeting problem-solving etc - To do the things that an organisations does well with predictable efficiency and consistent quality. Leadership on the other hand is about vision, empowerment and creating change - It’s about behaviours and not attributes.

Similarly Markus Buckingham from First Break all the Rules fame makes a distinction between Management and Leadership, proposing that management is a key skill and Managers are not simply Leaders in waiting - and challenges some of the conventional maxims like ‘Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things’- He asserts that such maxims cast the manager as a plodder and the leader as a sophisticated visionary executive, and argue that this differentiation encourages managers to label themselves as Leaders since they are most likely to prefer to think of themselves as ‘visionary’ than as a ‘plodder’.

His research indicates that the important difference between a ‘great manager’ and a ‘great leader’ is one of focus. Great Managers ‘look inwards’ at the individual, goals and motivations, they pay attention to all of the subtle and nuanced differences. Whilst Great Leaders ‘look outwards’ at the competition, market forces, the future, and they also focus on patterns, connections and a way to cut though complexity.All of these are valid comments and statements, however they do tend to reinforce a dualistic either or frame with clearly delineated boundaries. These boundaries are being challenged as the issues in the world become more complex, interrelated and wicked. There is a need for a more distributed and integrated model of Leadership, that is responsive, adaptable, co-creative and accountable.

Leadership in this sense is a demonstrated behaviour that is valued within the organisation irrespective of the position it emanates from. The designated title of manager within this context critically relies on the key behaviours of Leadership to maximise potentiality. Leadership becomes the vital component of management as it adds both an organic and systemic element to what can be perceived as mechanistic. We could go as far as to say that there can be no manager who is not a leader.

Likewise a distributed and integrated model of Leadership needs some of the key attributes of management to promote and sustain it. A vision needs a plan to ground it, a story is populated with people grappling with real dilemmas, empowerment is achieved through listening and real dialogue which takes organisational skills and a real investment in time. Feedback and follow through are scheduled processes and ‘being’ a Leader intentionally incorporates a rigorous process of self inquiry and reflection supported by critical feedback from important stakeholders.

Leadership needs some of the key attributes of management to ground it and make it effective and a manager lives the behaviours associated with leadership to be effective.

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