Learning to Lead

December 26th, 2006

This, being performance and bonus time, you may have been given feedback about your “leadership”, “teamwork” and “people” skills. And of course, you are committed to make big changes in 2007. Many executives believe that 360 and management feedback given to smart, capable and ambitious individuals results in desired change. Would that it were so simple.

Have you ever watched a baby learning a new skill? At first s/he demonstrates random movements. Getting a pleasurable result (making a parent smile, hearing a noise, setting something in motion, grabbing a toy, tasting something sweet, getting praised) results in repetition and eventually a new habit. It takes time, trial and error, and reinforcement, to create a new behavior. Yet, so many adults think they will learn to lead, change perceptions of themselves, develop new people skills just as a result of getting feedback. It does not happen.

An article in Fortune entitled Five Levels of Greatness last October outlines the stages required for developing new behaviors.

To take that model a little further, I recently created a Leadership Development Process tool (download here) for my clients mainly in response to unrealistic expectations for leadership development coaching. Many of my clients, having been successful in turning around businesses, executing strategy, and displaying complex professional expertise believe that learning to lead well is simply executed based on data. But, the truth is that, even when we are all grown up, every new skill starts with awareness and then moves through a set of developmental steps to eventually become habit.

So, congratulate yourself on having achieved the first stage. Then, provide yourself with the input, reinforcement mechanisms and patience you will need to convert the data to a deliverable!

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