Last Friday we had again our Autonomy Day presentations at MDI. I am impressed how simple and effective this agile tool is. We agreed in our company on the following: Each employee has 1 day during the quarter to work on whatever she/he wants to work on as long as it supports the success of the company.
Let’s say I have a leadership problem. The solution? I am looking for a coach who can help me solving this problem. But, nowadays coaching is no longer as simple as that. Like in many other industries as well, the coaching industry is undergoing major changes caused by topics such as AI, VUCA, and digitalization. Central for the coaching industry is, that there are no longer stand-alone challenges. Executives have many connections to stakeholders, systems and the environment, where only the best coaches can really provide support.
About the author
Inge is an experienced executive coach and facilitator who works with senior leaders and leadership teams across different industries and countries. The most important thing during a coaching session for her are impactful conversations that enable leaders to make some positive changes within their organisations. She focuses on increasing connectedness and impact as well as successfully navigating change. Her work experience ranges from managing complex international projects and programs through to managing culture and change processes and has intimate knowledge of starting up as well as integrating businesses. She has almost 20 years of international business experience and is working together with MDI Management Development International for about 4 years already.
From the individual challenge to a transformational coaching
Like almost every business sector, the coaching industry is undergoing major changes as well. The challenges are changing and so must the solutions, we offer as coaches. Many things have changed since I started working as a coach.
In the past, I worked a lot with individuals and their specific challenges. In a coaching session, we focused on current leadership topics and talked about them. Nowadays, we not only work on the challenges from one person but of the whole system the person is connected with. Instead of solving one specific problem or improve specific competencies, I am rather confronted with a complex system of connections, relevant stakeholders, different interests and structures. As a coach, you have to think beyond the individual. You have to think systematically. This skill was not that relevant in the past.
Generally speaking, coaching is changing towards a partnership approach, such as many other business fields as well. The key is that the coach and coachee really work together as a team. As a coach, you must be able to understand the person as an individual but at the same time as a part of a company and society. During a coaching session, you must permanently switch between these two roles. You can’t ask your coachee to tell you the topic you’re working on today. One could simply say: the individuality has increased massively in recent years when it comes to coaching.
But coaching is not only about strong individuality and a partnership approach. It is about changing things. A coaching should not only transform the coachee but as well the economic environment. Coaching is more than just working on the coachee’s skills.
And: as coaches, we must be faster, more agile and we must adapt our methods to the challenges and needs of our time. So far, as coaches, we have worked a lot with 360° feedback and various analyses. This is actually not so effective because you’re looking into the past with those tools instead of working into the future.
As a coach, you have to be much more agile these days to look into the future and not the past
Responsibilities as a Coach – Living a partnership approach
The partnership approach, we’ve been talking about earlier, involves certain responsibilities. The times where you went to a coach and spent one hour with him/her are over. As part of this partnership approach, you as a coach have to support your coachee as good as possible, also beyond the coaching session. In my opinion and regarding leadership development, this sentence applies more than ever “The heroic CEO is dead, long live the leadership team”. This is the reality and the reason why my work as a coach has changed. I still have coaching sessions with individuals, with senior leaders, but I work much more with teams and groups of people than a few years ago. Individual coachings are more an additional measure from time to time. This development is exciting and challenging at the same time. You cannot coach someone for a few hours, get paid for it and you’re done. But you can achieve a completely different impact and experience successes together with the individuals and with teams. This change is taking place throughout the whole training and development industry. In most companies, more than 50% of the employees are millennials by now. They have different needs and a much more personalized and individual working approach. In my opinion, the time of training programs, as we know and realize them today, will be over soon.
Excursus: Artificial Intelligence in Coaching
The Singularity University has built a new app that makes diagnoses, highly complex diagnoses and sometimes even better than most doctors. Some people may start asking themselves: why should I still go to a doctor? Tomorrow we may be sitting at home, uploading our data via a chip and someone will tell us what to do. In my opinion, this will be the reality in less than 20 years.
AI also affects the coaching industry. If you ask Alexa or Siri “How should I deal with my conflicts?” they will have a lot to say. One effect: you no longer have to tell your coachee all the basics because they can find them on the internet. Another effect: many average coaches will probably lose their jobs because they have been replaced by Artificial Intelligence.
What moves executives today
Nowadays, we have this interesting phenomenon that children learn a lot in school they don’t need later in life. Meanwhile, other skills remain on track. For example, the ability to quickly work together with people you’ve never worked with before – beyond nationalities. That’s a skill you cannot cover or replace by the internet or AI – unless we will all be robots at some point. This is a key challenge for today’s leaders. Everything has to be fast, you face a new situation with new teams and stakeholders and you do not even have 6 months to incorporate. You immediately have to get used to the new situation. In this case, we as coaches, can support them with questions such as “Who am I?”, “How do I affect people?”, “What kind of impact can I have?”
We learn so many things in school, but one of the most important things we don’t – for instance, the ability to work together with different people from different countries.
Nevertheless, the interpersonal relationship is still the focus of the coaching – in all possible forms. Of course, that has a lot to do with communication, whose challenge has increased with the complex systems, we live and work in. People no longer work alone, isolated in their personal “silos”. There is always a connection with partners, not only within the company but also on the outside. This is the reason why everything about cooperation is one of the most important topics during coaching.
Equal to the interpersonal challenges is the time, we currently live in, and all the challenges it brings. Complexity, overextension, the flood of information, aggressive competition, and constant disruption are just a few keywords. So many things are happening at once nowadays. As a leader, you must make sure that your business is running. At the same time, you must be aware of the changes which might come. The speed of change is enormous. Not too long ago, people were starting to talk about VUCA – now it’s here!
When working on a senior level, the question of meaning is central and more present than ever. People are wondering and asking themselves if their work really adds value to the world. “If my life comes to an end, will I be satisfied with what I did in my life?”
Coaching in times of disruption – a conclusion
We all come from areas where it is said over and over again “This is the agenda.” Based on this agenda, things get told, questions asked and on certain actions will be agreed on. But we all know that many of these actions are never put into practice – whether in a meeting or a leadership program. Now, when we think about what makes coaching meaningful and successful, it’s the following: the moment you take part in coaching, something must happen. We must change our mindset from “I am asking a few questions” to “I am doing interventions right now!” Such an intervention does not have to be big, it can be – for instance – just a sentence that triggers something in the coachee. What’s important is that something is happening and that you try to make a difference in this exact moment.
As long as this happens, as long as coaching creates impact, it will persist – still in times of AI – but at a different level with higher quality.
Dear Inge, where do you see the purpose of your work?
Firstly my work is enormously exciting and complex and consistently an adventure. Methodological I always start to work with the principle “We start with the end in mind”. This means that I always try to find out where we have to go. Actually, we never know where the journey of development will bring us and what will happen. That all happens unbelievably fast and this is what fascinates me. I like the complexity and I like working intensively, starting the journey anywhere and find out what it needs to support a person, a team or a company on their way. Most important for me is knowing to have an impact on people and the organization I work with and to make some change. Especially when I think of my kids and their kids. Primarily, I work in the organization sector, in government as well as in non-government and I would like to leave not just chaos for the next generation. I am trying to support the people as good as I can so that they can advance the organization in their way. Therefore, we are all helping to create a better world.
What serves you next?
Many of today’s leaders are asking themselves the question of meaning: Why do I do what I am doing? What do I contribute and what is the point of all of this? Anita Berger accompanies organizations internationally as a consultant in organizational development. We talked to her about the importance of the question of meaning and why the purpose plays a crucial role nowadays.
The digitalization forces almost all companies to change significantly. The technological progress led to some main changes in our society. Based on Khan’s work, we identified 6 core changes: Interconnectedness, the abundance of information, the increased complexity and transparency, less hierarchy and more empowerment and man-machine cooperation. Gunther Fürstberger explained what these changes mean for organizations.
What are the consequences of the digital revolution when it comes to leadership? One thing is clear: a new leadership approach is needed and agile leadership could be the answer. In our agile leadership model, we summed up, what you need to be a successful agile leader in today’s world: the right mind-, tool- and skillset.
While seeking for possibilities to co-create and co-learn as well as have significant impact as a community, the method of Working Out Loud crossed our way. The mission is simple: Define your personal goal, build relationships that matter and therewith increase the quality of your work and life together with the feeling of belonging somewhere. And we jumped right into it.
The world we live and work in has become more and more fluid over the past few years. Changes are happening so fast that we can barely build on a solid ground. In the past, most companies worked like this: an industrial company, for example, built a factory that would work and exist for a few decades. Today, the most valuable companies, have – in comparison to the past – little-fixed assets. Current ideas, connecting resources, and a constant adoption became much more important. If we are looking for a metaphor for the modern leader, we should start with the underground. Nowadays, the underground of the modern leader would rather be water or air than a solid underground. Waves in the sea are a good metaphor for the waves of the disruption.
Waves instead of a solid ground
Often, these waves arise far away before they come to the coast, where their size is only predictable at short notice. Therefore, they can either be a threat or a great chance for the surfer. An experienced surfer observes the waves and chooses the right one for him. If the waves are not strong enough, you can’t really do a lot with it.
Is the wave a threat or a great chance for the surfer? An experienced surfer observes the waves in the first place and chooses the right one for him afterwards.
As a leader in the digital transformation, you should definitely keep an eye on the approaching waves of change. Many companies are drowning because they ignore the changes, which are often coming from an unexpected side. If they do not ignore them, they often only recognize them when it is already too late. In the meanwhile, others could perceive the opportunities and the creative potential of the changes and are often surprised by the unexpected possibilities which suddenly arise.
The surfboard – a tool of agile leadership
Basically, a surfer only needs the right surfboard as a tool. The material entry barrier for this sport is very low. This applies to the digital economy as well. Many of today’s largest Silicon Valley companies were founded by students with little equity. As an agile leader, you have a variety of tools at your disposal. We’ve already worked out the most important key tools, you should have as an agile leader in a previous blog article.
As with the digital economy, the material entry barrier at surfing is very low – all you need is a surfboard, basically. Some of Silicon Valley’s top companies were founded with little equity as well.
Next to the tool-set, the associated skills want to be developed as well. A surfer’s main skill is the ability to balance on a moving surface which can only be achieved by a constant and balanced movement. This is cognitively difficult. As a surfer, you develop a sense of balance through a lot of practice. The same applies to an agile leader. The key to stay on track is the ability to react quickly and adequately to the many and rapid changes. Doing this by himself is quite difficult. Therefore he needs additional collaboration skills, such as creating transparency and visualizing things.
Attitude and skillset
Both, the surfer and the agile leader, are only able to gain mastery when tapping into creative potential.
Even more important as a tool-and skillset is the right mindset: the disruption surfer sees a change as an opportunity, acts with others at eye level and with much openness. Even if the disruption waves look threatening to many people in the first place, the disruption surfer says, with brightness in his eyes: “Wow, this wave I’ll take!”
What serves you next?
Modern technologies have changed our working conditions. Digitalization has become the number one leadership challenge and many leaders ask themselves how to lead their company through this digital transformation. What is important is, to have an agile mind-, tool- and skillset. We summarized what you need to lead your company successfully through this digital change.
Personal computers have been in our workplaces for 30 years. We’ve been using e-mails and the internet for 20 years. So why are we only talking about the digital transformation now? Armin Bonelli is a trainer and coach and works in the area of tension between identity and brand for almost 20 years. We talked with him about the digital transformation and made clear if it is just a buzzword or much more than this.
Many of today’s leaders are asking themselves the question of meaning: Why do I do what I am doing? What do I contribute and what is the point of all of this? Anita Berger accompanies international organizations from all sectors as a consultant in organizational development. She told us more about what it means to be an (agile) leader, how to motivate your employees and why it’s all about purpose.
Many of today’s leaders are asking themselves the question of meaning: Why do I do what I am doing? What do I contribute and what is the point of all of this? In a time where the speed of change is enormous and nothing seems to be permanent, it is only natural to deal with such issues. Companies can help their leaders and leaders can empower their employees to find meaning and simultaneously encourage their engagement for the job.
About the author
Anita Berger is MDI Managing Partner and accompanies organizations internationally and from all sectors as a consultant in organizational development, as a management trainer and coach, for many years already. She is an expert when it comes to engagement and motivation 3.0. As a certified trainer, she offers the Original Drive Workshop after Daniel H. Pink, which is also a module of the Agile Leadership certification course.
Being an agile leader – be mobile & motivate
For me, being an agile leader means to be flexible and to stay mobile. The conditions in companies, teams, and projects are changing so fast today that it is often not possible to act proactively – you have to react. As fast as possible. Agile leadership is about being mobile and staying mobile. Wherever possible, you should, of course, be able to plan and act proactively. But in my opinion, nowadays, it is more important to react quickly, constructively and productively. Another important skill is being able to adapt to different circumstances as a leader.
A successful leader also creates a set-up that allows employees to think in terms of ideas and solutions rather than problems. Employees must be able to think outside the box and constantly explore options and opportunities. Employees need a high degree of self-commitment and personal responsibility. The reason for this is that our fast-paced time is exhausting, certainly not always “easy-cheesy” and relaxing. In order to do so, a leader needs employees who understand the reason behind actions and projects. More importantly, they need to believe in it and go an extra mile to achieve the maximum performance from their own accord.
It’s all about purpose
In this context, the purpose plays a crucial role. Ideally, it is like this: There is a clearly formulated and strong corporate purpose the employees know about. They can reflect on this corporate purpose and establish an intersection between what is important to them and the purpose of the organization. With this interaction, they know how to contribute to the “bigger picture”.
Of course, there will be cases in which the company’s purpose is not tangible enough to define one’s own contribution as an employee. If this is the case, it takes a break on the organizational unit, which is relevant for each team member, followed by the comparison: How does that fit together? What is important to the person?
I think that there is still potential in many companies when it comes to defining the purpose. Especially regarding the correlation between one’s personal purpose and the purpose of the organization.
Many leaders are asking the same question: Why do I do what I am doing? How can I contribute?
If you would like to start working on this topic, start with questions like What does purpose actually mean for our company? How tangible is it and is there place and time for a real confrontation? Is it something that stands on a marketing folder or do I associate more with it as a leader, as a CEO or as a board member?
Furthermore, it is important to look for the dispute according to rounds of questions and discussions. It is about a conscious process, in which employees deal with their own purpose and at the same time as the one of the company. As well as actively looking for points of friction and similarities. It can happen that somebody says: My purpose is not your business, that’s private. Of course, this must be respected and, as a leader, you must at least make sure that the respective team members recognize their own contribution to the corporate mission through their work tasks. Thereby they have to find meaning in what they do and, as a result, gain commitment.
The concept of engagement – Drive by Daniel H. Pink
A concept, I really like to use, is the Drive concept from the bestselling author Daniel H. Pink. I use it to reflect with leaders and team members and to work on motivation and purpose. From my point of view, it gives you clarity in a complex of topics that is sometimes elusive and difficult to grasp. Furthermore, it provides valuable insights by determining the location: where do I stand? How do I fit for the business purpose? What else would it take for the fit to be better?
For example, I worked with a group of senior executives and spent a whole afternoon answering questions like: ”What is my own purpose? How does this coincide with the corporate trajectory?” One participant has stated that she clearly separates her own purpose from that of the company, and at the same time realizes that it requires quite a bit of effort. As a result, she asked herself where there could be a common intersection, and how much energy she can use to bridge this gap.
Exactly those kinds of reflections are the ones, I find extremely valuable for both sides, the participants, and company. It offers a real value, to pause for a moment and go into depth to gain clarity on the one hand, but more importantly to gain motivation and commitment for the daily challenges.
What serves you next?
How can exposure therapy help you face your fears? Michael is a coach at ComfortZoneCrusher, where he helps clients to become more confident by stepping out of their comfort zone. He told us what exposure therapy is about, how to overcome negative emotions and talked with us about comfort zone crushing in team development. [incl. practical exercises]
Computers have been in our workplaces for 30 years. We all have been using email and the world wide web for 20 years. So why are we talking about a digital transformation just now? What’s the big deal about this and how will it change our world in the following years? Is digital transformation just a buzz word or more than this?
OKR, Kanban, Scrum, Design Thinking, Management 3.0, Lean Management…the list of tools and concepts around agile leadership is long and somehow it seems that everybody is talking about it. Alexandra Sock is a trainer at MDI and expert on the field of agile leadership. She gave us a nice overview of agile leadership and the different methods.
Interview with leadership expert Nataliya Sergiyenko
What are – according to your opinion – the biggest challenges for companies in the United States and Europe?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge in the US is to become client oriented externally and internally. Probably, the US is one of the best countries in the world when it comes to “organizing activities” and processes, especially online. The organizations in the US have tons of information about their clients – if you buy food for your pet for instance – they take your telephone number and email. You buy show tickets online – give them names, addresses, telephones etc. But at the same time, they never make use of it and never ask you what type of pet that you have in order to sell you something else or to strengthen their customer relations. Just a few of those companies try to make a real contact with the customer. We had an experience like this. A month after we bought a new car, the car company gave us additionally a 30-minutes session in order to help us understand how to use all the electronics inside the car. The lady from the company, let’s call her the instructor, was following her procedure. After a while, I forgot the questions which I wanted to ask and didn’t’ buy some additional electronic devices which I really wanted to buy in the first place. Why? Because nobody asked me what I really wanted. In USA they do not offer reprogramming services of car electronics after the car is sold. The car company would win if they would have it in the procedure – “make a contact with a client, ask him/her questions about the needs” and give him what he wants. At the same time, sure, this is a subjective point of view of a newcomer to this huge and rich country.
American companies have to start putting more effort in their customer relationship management and not only collecting information about their customers
For Europe, as it consists of so many different countries, I wouldn’t be able to name one distinctive challenge for the whole continent. But I can talk about Ukraine – the country of my origin, which becomes more and more being the part of European Union. The biggest challenge for Ukraine is to allow young, well-educated, ambitious people to grow professionally inside their own country. For the last 3 years, nearly 4 million people left the country to work abroad.
Ukraine is perceived as a country with well-educated young people especially in the field of software development. One of my clients for instance – a software development company based in Lviv – is growing rapidly. The company has probably now more than 5000 employees. Their customers are mostly situated in the USA. They try to be so much internal customer oriented, and try to create and save their unique culture to attract and to retain talents.
“Nice to have” or a strategic factor of success: How do you experience that organizations in the USA and Ukraine view (international) leadership development at the moment and how will that be in the future?
It is still a question – how much leadership is an inborn trait, and how much one can learn to be a leader. Let’s suppose that anyway some characteristics are inborn and some characteristics the environment supports, based on the values of the environment. In the US – right from the elementary schools and further – they try to teach and support respect, honesty, loyalty and the ability to follow the rules. And this is great! At the same time, there are many situations where you should speak up, demand higher standards, and reveal yourself. You should not be afraid to be different – this is important if you want to be a leader. Just remember famous American leaders – Martin Luther King with his “I have a dream” speech. Or Steve Jobs who was crazy demanding high standards on everything his people were doing.
“Nice to have” for the US organizations – they should support their people to go beyond the expected rules and procedures. Probably, what I’ve seen in the US, many companies work on stable markets. To go beyond, it’s about changes and development. But if you do not grow, one day the market will kill you.
How is the situation in Europe? Well, the amount of international business headquarters situated in Europe is tremendous. When they operate in their home countries – which again are stable markets – the leader is a person who is able to support the status quo. When these companies go to the growing markets – they need another type of leadership. The challenge here is to manage the transfer from a stable environment while to a flexible and changing environment. “Nice to have” is to stop trying multiplying strategies and approaches which worked for them in the past. The future is different.
Working as an international trainer – the challenges and the skills you need
What is most important when working as a trainer on an international level and what skills does it take?
To be flexible. Be able to follow before leading. To develop your “sixth sense” – research cultural differences, be attentive and to be sensitive enough to adapt your training to the group you are working with. Once I got an advice from a local taxi driver in Uzbekistan – do not make any critical comments – any at all. It worked, the group blossomed for me like a wonderful lotus. On the second day, they were ready to help each other and give confrontational feedback.
Can you think of any typical challenges and maybe think of some challenging moments you’ve experienced during a training?
Cultural differences, “the training traditions” and different languages, especially the idioms, are the most typical challenge for me. One American group I’ve worked with used so many idioms that I can still remember some of them. For instance, they said their company had to “reinvent the vows”. Usually, when people marry they give each other “vows” – promise to love and take care. So, their 50 years old company had to look at what they promised at the start, and, probably change something to answer the needs of their current customers.
What can help as a trainer is to prepare the slides of the flipchart with written rules and tasks if English is not the first language for the group. My MDI colleagues are doing a wonderful job creating some Power point slides with a vocabulary list in case we give a group some sort of bright metaphors or stories with unusual or uncommon words and terms.
And then there is also a difference of the room set-up between different groups. Some training groups prefer to sit around a big table with their laptops. Other groups are ready to have an open space training without any desks inside. Psychogeography (the location of people and subjects in the space) influences a lot of the training path.
How much does the digitalization really influence the training industry?
In times of the unstoppable digitalization – do you think that classroom trainings will vanish completely at some point? And according to your experience: do you think that e-learning solutions are more developed in the US than in Europe?
I do not think they “vanish completely”. But in the nearest future, a huge part of the training content will be digital. It is the same tendency for Europe, the USA and for Ukraine, as well. Sure, Ukraine has fewer resources for it to happen quickly. But in Ukraine, we are highly oriented on gamification of such sort of digital education, especially in IT companies.
How does the digitalization affect the training industry in general? Which changes/processes are happening at the moment and do you think that companies are ready for this change?
Right now we as training and development companies/specialists need to develop a new set of skills and competencies. Briefly, it is the ability to create useful and engaging digital content. It’s much more being a scenario writer. We need to be able to understand what picture we will put on the screen. Well, probably we need to learn from Hollywood now.
According to your opinion: What will be the biggest challenge for the training & development industry in the next 5 to 10 years?
The world changes faster than the industry. In order to survive and win, the training industry has to learn faster than the other business world. To learn faster doesn’t mean to run quickly. It means the training industry has to find a creative way of doing it. This is the main challenge.
About the interview partner:
Nataliya Sergiyenko is working as a trainer for more than 15 years and is focused on providing business-trainings for multinational companies. Last year, she left her home country Ukraine and moved to Texas, where she is continuing with working as a trainer for sure. Why she loves being a trainer? “I love to learn. On trainings, participants share their unique experience and knowledge. We have a lot of WOW moments”
What serves you next?
Laurie A. Santos is originally from California but moved abroad more than 10 years ago and was living in different European and African countries before moving to Kuwait in 2009. She was working there for 7 years and is currently living in the Netherlands. We talked to her about leadership development in the Middle East, how the situation changed since she started working there and the differences between organizations in Kuwait in Europe.
South Africa is famous for its cultural diversity, the warm hospitality of the people and an impressive wildlife. Although, the country doesn’t have an easy past. Intercultural conflicts are still noticeable in many different situations. We asked Gerard Le Sueur, who is working as a trainer for more than 20 years, about the current challenges, “African leadership” and the differences to Europe.
Darko Tot is trainer at MDI and has already more than 10 years of experience in leadership development. When he started working as a trainer, development measures were more seen as a punishment than a benefit for the person. We talked with him about how the situation looks like at the moment, the biggest challenges for organizations in Serbia and international leadership development in General.
Why leaving your cozy comfort zone?
You know there is this saying: life happens outside of your comfort zone. That is – to be honest – taking it a bit too far because comfort zones are not a bad thing per se. But still, getting out of it can have this devious attraction. When we have to face something challenging, we run back to our comfort zone. When hard things come our way, something we are scared of, it is just so much easier to go back to our comfort zone instead of facing this challenge, whatever it is. So what happens every day is that we can choose between facing a challenge or between going back to where we feel comfortable. And of course, people are tempted to just go back to the second and are therewith missing out on a lot of things which might make their lives so much richer. Therefore you need to be able to step out of your comfort zone in order to make some change and achieve something bigger because changes don’t happen in your comfort zone. Russ Harris, one of the biggest guys in acceptance & commitment therapy calls it the “same old crap zone” and that’s often what it is. My mentor used to say:” While doing the things that scare us the most, that’s when magic start to happen in our lives.”
People often recognize that it is time for a change when we are talking about excuses. We probably all know this situation when we make up excuses for not going to the gym for instance. It is the same with other situations as well, doesn’t matter if it is in our personal or business life. Excuses pop up in our head when we start feeling uncomfortable and when we are finding ourselves in an unpleasant situation. In particular, I help people overcome this negative feelings and emotions.
About the author
Michael is a coach at ComfortZoneCrusher, an American company, which helps its clients to become more confident through stepping out of their comfort zone with playful exercises. He is as well a professional speaker and has already spoken at TEDx or members of the parliament. Before working as a Comfort Zone Crusher, he has been a character animator working on movies and TV shows like “Kung Fu Panda”. But this was before he realized that helping people to live a meaningful life is much more rewarding than creating Saturday morning cartoons.
Facing your fears is more than showing courage
Probably some of you are wondering if it is simply courage that we teach people. I would say that courage is a byproduct of what we do. In the end, courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act despite your fear. So basically what we teach people is a skill set that helps them to act on what is important to them. Regardless of how they are thinking or how they are feeling. Let me explain that with a metaphor:
Usually, our immediate thoughts and our immediate emotions are sitting in the driver seat of the car which is our life and we ourselves sit on the passenger seat. What happens is that we hope that this driver just thinks or feels the right way and that he or she is going to drive in the direction we want to go. We are sitting in the passenger seat and we just try as hard as we can to make the right thoughts and emotions.
Back to Comfort Zone Crushing, what we teach is how to move yourself to the driver seat and how to make and control the thoughts and emotions now. This means that you can drive wherever you want to and to go for what is important for you in life. Of course, if we are honest, the passenger is still going to be there sometimes but this is not important. The important thing is to sit in the driver seat and to drive towards something, which is important to you.
We must be our own driver to go for what is important to us despite negative feelings and thoughts
Overcoming negative emotions with exposure therapy
An old proven and effective method to face your fears and overcome your negative emotions is exposure therapy, which has been researched since the sixties. We probably all know photos or videos of people lying on the sidewalk, high-fiving strangers or howling like a wolf in public. Those exercises are all used in exposure therapy. By confronting your fears in general – or your social fears like in the challenges I’ve mentioned before – you slowly desensitize yourself to the fear of rejection and of embarrassment. My job, as a comfort zone crusher, is to show people that nothing bad will happen even though they don’t feel comfortable in the beginning. No one will judge you, even when you make a fool of yourself. So when we are talking about exposure therapy and its effects, these kind of exercises are only the tip of the iceberg I would say.
Real change happens in the huge hidden part of the iceberg. Let me explain it to you with an example:
What would your reaction be when I am telling you to howl like a wolf in the middle of the street? Probably a lot of excuses and bad emotions would pop up in your head. So when we think of our car metaphor again, the bad emotions and excuses would climb back in the driver seat and take you wherever they want to go. Which time and targeted exercises you can learn to climb back in the driver seat to control your emotions and thoughts yourself. Howling like a wolf might not sound life changing but it will help you in other situations as well.
We all experience unpleasant situations, for instance at work, when we have to do a pitch or speak up in a meeting. And every time we find ourselves in difficult situations like this, all the bad emotions and thoughts will come up. But here is the important thing: when you think back to how you did overcome your fear and howled like a wolf in the street, you know that you can master this situation as well. So transferring the techniques and skills to your everyday life is the important part, not howling like a wolf in the first place. And exactly this is what exposure therapy and stepping out of your comfort zone is really all about.
Making yourself a fool in public might not sound really effective – but exercises like this will help you overcoming your fears in everyday situations
Comfort zone crushing in (virtual) team development
So the essential thing about comfort zone crushing is to develop tools and techniques for dealing with unhelpful thoughts and emotions in everyday life situations. Having unhelpful thoughts and emotions often apply to situations at work or within teams. Thus, comfort zone crushing is a good workshop method for teambuilding. When I work with teams it is amazing for me as a coach to see that people not only overcome their fears but that the exercises we do also strengthen the bond between the team members. The teambuilding aspect of comfort zone crushing is very intense because people are going through intense emotional situations together. And this is where bonding happens because they are all in the same situation and support, push and congratulate each other.
But nowadays – in times of digitalization – I have clients, where the team is spread all over the world. Many of you probably wonder if teambuilding and comfort zone crushing actually works with virtual teams as well. According to my experience, I get the impression that people who are working in a virtual team are still able to develop the skills and the psychological flexibility. Unfortunately, they are missing out one thing in my opinion and that’s the team building effect. Going out together, pushing each other and overcoming your fears together really does support the team spirit. But what I see is that people from virtual teams actually text and tell each other before they complete an exercise which has a positive effect on the team spirit as well. So I would say that it works for both teams, face to face is just a little bit easier because of the direct support of the team.
Excuse me, can I get a coffee for free, please?
To get all that into practice, I would like to give you one challenge, dear reader. The next time you go out for lunch ask the people at the restaurant or take-away place if you can get something for free. It doesn’t matter if it is a coffee, a dessert or only a plastic spoon. The whole thing is not about getting something for free, it is about facing your fears of getting rejected. So when they say no for the first time, probably a lot of negative emotions and thoughts will pop up in your head but here is the thing: don’t let the bad emotions climb into the driver’s seat. Face them and ask the people at the restaurant for the reason etc. It might sound easy and funny now, but you will see, the moment you go there and ask the employee for something free, you will feel uncomfortable. But believe me, afterwards, you will see that it wasn’t so difficult and you will feel so proud and relieved!
What serves you next?
No one really likes to step outside their comfort zone and to go to their personal limit – as well as in their personal or business life. But the thing is: for real training results as well as a positive and direct contribution to business goals it takes courage – on both sides. Coach and training expert Masha Ibeschitz talks about this topic and tells us why you need sometimes need to get out of your comfort zone.
Modern technologies have changed our working conditions and the digitalization has become one of the biggest challenges for leaders these days. So what are the consequences of the digital revolution for leaders and how can you successfully lead your business and employees through these uncertain and complex times?
The world we live in is constantly changing. Many people are talking about a VUCA-world and there are many new business models that are trying to get along with this process. Still, somehow you get the impression that the field of training and development is not going along with this process. So what does it need to change this and how can unconventional methods help you with it?
Modern technologies have changed our working conditions. Digitalization has become the number one leadership challenge. In order to succeed as a company in times of this digital revolution, a new, agile leadership approach has become a matter of survival.
Whereas the business world used to be rather steady and predictable before the digitalization, it is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).
Nevertheless, many leaders still employ practices, strategies, and tools that were common in times before digitalization, where leadership was long-term, bureaucratic, hierarchical, directing and instructive.
But – this leadership model is no longer up to date due to the changes in the business world. Specifically, this means that
- the “internet of things” is real
- information is accessible to everyone instead of a small group only
- old businesses close down and new ones open up every day
- former constants now underlie regular change
- expertise shows in a well-developed resource-network rather than mere theoretical knowledge
What are the consequences of the digital revolution for leaders?
Due to the changes in our business world, a lot must change on the leadership level as well. Leadership must be adapted to constant changes and keep track with the latest technologies and trends. But what are now the specific consequences for leaders?
- Traditional development is expensive and time-consuming
- Teams need to be empowered; collaboration is essential
- Development often requires customers to be involved in the process
- Requirements are constantly changing
- No clear conclusion, development continues
In short: a new leadership approach is needed.
We need a leadership approach that is natively adaptive to change – and does not build upon past conditions. An approach that does not assume that the world is stable and predictable – but rather is aware of the fact that the fundamental conditions have to be questioned again and again during a project. After all, the future of business-success belongs to those, who know how to use the changes for themselves and to turn challenges into opportunities.
Agile leadership as a new leadership approach
Agile leadership originates from the IT industry, which is an industry that is constantly changing. This leadership approach is designed for fast changing cycles and is using shorter sprints, iteration cycles, and continuous feedback. Agile leadership is driven by transparent processes and developments and supports team-collaboration, communication, and interaction within the team.
What do you need as an agile leader to be successful in today’s world?
- A new mindset, to see change as an opportunity to create an agile organizational culture, to communicate the „big picture“ and to always be one step ahead of the competition.
Individuals & interactions instead of processes & tools
Working software instead of comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration instead of contract negotiation
Responding to changes instead of following a plan
2. A new skillset, to create the framework and infrastructure for an individual development of each employee.
Skills, an agile leader needs to have
- Entrepreneurial thinking
- Strong customer focus
- Employee focus
- Self-leadership and reflection
- Tolerance for ambiguity
- Change management competencies
- Solution competency
- Leading virtual teams, leading from distance
- Knowing agile work and management methods
- High communication competency
3. A new toolset, to successfully implement the theory into practice and maintain an agile organizational culture.
What are the concrete consequences for you as a leader?
Due to the digitization, roles and responsibilities have changed within companies. The market is changing daily and the world is becoming increasingly uncertain. Agile leadership is indispensable in order to be able to assert itself as a company on the market in the long term. However, the successful transition to an agile leadership model requires the full support of everyone involved.
What serves you next?
Personal computers have been used at our workplaces for already 30 years and we all have been using e-mails and the internet for the past 20 years. But why are we only talking about a digital transformation now? And what’s the big deal about it? Is digital transformation just a buzzword?
The digitalization has changed our business world in the last years. To master the challenges of the digital transformation, new leadership approaches are needed. MDI trainer and agile leadership expert Alexandra Sock gives a brief explanation about the need for agile leadership and different agile tools.
We are working with the agile OKR (Objectives and key results) method since the beginning of 2017.Gunther Fürstberger, CEO at MDI, is talking about the implementation of OKR, the procedure of the different meetings and the current results evaluation.