Who shares in your vision? How reflective of your organization’s current culture is your vision? Are your frontline team members, that have the most amount of contact with your citizens, clients, or customers, engaged and enthusiastic about your vision? With 67% of people reporting to Gallup they are disengaged at work, and competition for time and people’s attention at an all time high, starting with why they want to work for your organization could be a good place to begin.
As we further explore Peter Senge’s, The Fifth Discipline of a Learning Organization, which outlines the 5 disciplines are personal mastery, mental models, building shared visions, team learning and systems thinking you may want to take a short-cut to learning the principles by trying this 15-minute summary version of the book.
Next up, shared vision and team learning – what they mean and how you can apply them to your team and organization.
- Shared Vision is building a sense of commitment in a group, by developing shared images of the future we seek to create, and the principles and guiding practices by which we hope to get there.
What stood out to me, and maybe it did to you as well, was the use of “we” and “shared” and “in a group”. Who is your “we”? Most organizations create a vision when their executive leaders go on a retreat or one person, the founder, perhaps, develops it and shares it with everyone who works there. Many times, a vision is created and for years it is placed on the website and framed in their lobby. Peter Senge has a different way of approaching an organization’s vision.
Senge encourages organizations to share the vision, discuss it, modify it as you obtain new information and your organization changes and grows. Let your vision grow with it. Suppress ego, he says, and give credence and lend an ear to everyone’s idea, however, each idea should contribute towards establishing an all encompassing shared vision. It’s about working together, towards a common goal that everyone in your organization believes in. Conflict and failure occur when there are disparate visions or a lack of one at all.
“More people actively sharing in the vision not only bolsters their self esteem and sense of worth, it also makes full use of everyone’s personal strengths, thus enhancing the strength of the collective as a whole. If people feel left out, resentment may fester.” He also teaches that it must be kept in check with the measurement being whether it is at odds with what is realistically achievable.
Asking these questions, regularly, can help. What are we endeavoring to create? What is our ideology? Does our vision align with our ideals? Do team members feel like they are a part of our vision?
- Transforming conversational and collective thinking skills, so that groups of people can reliably develop intelligence and ability greater than the sum of individual members’ talents.
There it is again, things like “collective”, “groups of people”, “greater than the sum of individual members”. There’s a pattern to the most successful, innovative companies out there right now. They learn things together. Yes, they constantly improve their own skills and use a team effort to synthesize collectively to create a combined power. They collaborate to point the organization into one, clear, direction.
In order to seek team learning you’ll want to focus on:
- Shared skills
- Coordinated action
- Developing and nurturing interaction
- Defining one single, clear goal
- Promoting and refining communication
Start by asking yourself these questions:
Do you have platforms available to team members for open debate? Debating a point can lead to learning different perspectives and makes the decision-making process more informed.
Do you promote conflict? Yes, people are going to have to learn to have authentic communication in order to create greatness. People holding things back and not saying what they really think only further embeds silos which lead to lower productivity and performance. Here’s a past article about spotting the elephant in the room that might help.
Do you have learning platforms? When is the last time that your team go away from the office to experience something new and different in order to bond and build trust?
As I begin my learning adventure with a new, collaborative partner we are working with at Cortex, Axialent, I’ll be writing articles that focus on the main principles and practices that have helped their clients, like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Proctor and Gamble, and so many others, reach high profitability and innovation levels and low disengagement scores.
I am, and perhaps you are too when you look up the definition of what prejudice is.
Prejudice: Any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.
I have a prejudice against people who don’t want to learn. My mind has trouble understanding how someone can solve problems, permanently, if they don’t take the time to learn enough about what be causing that problem in the first place.
I’m prejudice when it comes to hard work. This serves me well sometimes and other times it doesn’t. Because I have a prejudice that really hard work leads to success I sometimes miss the easier way to accomplish things.
To achieve what Peter Senge deems as personal mastery, which is our ability to focus, manage our energy, and practice patience, or emotional discipline as I’ve called it, we also need to recognize our prejudices known as mental models. These concepts can be found in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization.
As I noted in the article The Fifth Discipline of a Learning Organization, the 5 disciplines are personal mastery, mental models, building shared visions, team learning, and systems thinking. Here are some ways that you can develop the first two and practices that will help with continually improving them.
Why create some time and focused energy on personal mastery?
Here are some payoffs from effort you would put into this area. You have an improved likelihood of achieving greater:
- Meaning that you will develop clearer goals and be able to envision your future with more clarity.
- You will get better at unemotionally collecting and processing data about your current reality so that you can better understand where your starting point is and recognize the gap between that and what your desired outcome is.
- Seeking out underlying causes will allow you to gain greater power. When you are able to more easily spot root causes, rather than just effects, you will be more empowered.
- As you learn more about yourself, those around you, and the key factors that drive your organization, the stronger your subconscious or “intuition” becomes. As it gains strength you are able to more quickly spot those keys. There is great power when you continue to build your knowledge base and combine it with experience
Your individual strengths and behaviors along with what motivates you creates a unique perspective. When you are in an organization focused on learning and continual improvement, that perspective is valued and encouraged to continue to grow.
What are some things you can do to start developing personal mastery?
- Take or review a scientifically validated assessment in regard to your behaviors and motivators. These robust reports, like DISC/Motivators or Team Work Cycle will give you an objective look at what your strengths and areas of development are. Here’s a quick 2-minute video that will explain why organizations ask their employees to take these types of assessments. If you’ve taken one and haven’t fully reviewed it or looked at it in awhile, go through it with a fresh set of eyes to determine which areas of development would have the highest impact on the outcomes you would like to achieve this year.
- Practice things like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or quiet walks in which you can observe your breathing and be fully present. When you enter a high-pressure zone at work you will need to quickly shift out of reactive mode and into a proactive one in order to recognize what may be the root cause of the problem you or your team is facing. By knowing when you are in your highest level thinking, and when you aren’t, and how to quickly elevate yourself is one of the most powerful leadership tools you can learn to use regularly.
- Turn off your notifications. Becoming more intentional and proactive about incoming stimuli can lead to better awareness of what state of mind you are in. Having things buzz, beep, and basically, interrupt your thinking and focus are distractions that will not serve you in problem-solving and decision making processes. Create specific times when you will check your messages. The ability to be present and focus on the matter at hand will lead to better relationships and your ability to observe and notice things you may have missed.
- Be curious. Practice curiosity with yourself and others. Be curious about why you have the same patterns of behaviors. Actively listen to others that are talking to you for more than just the words they are using. When you have interactions with others, how is what you are saying “landing”? Is the person engaged in what you are saying? How do you know? How do they respond to you? What do they do because of what you said? As you listen to others, how engaged and present are you? Are you listening for confirmation or information?
To be a good problem solver, it’s important to be aware of and identify your ingrained mentality and prejudiced perceptions. These biases lead to assumptions. Assumptions can be killers when it comes to gathering and processing information in order to solve a problem.
We’re making assumptions constantly. We have to in order to get anything done. You have to assume that the electricity is most likely going to come on in the morning, your car will start, or that your paycheck will be there when it’s supposed to be. Assumptions like thinking you know what it’s like to do someone else’s job when you have never done it before or what someone is going to say before they say it, or that because something is the way it is now is the way it will be forever, can lead to poor choices and decision making.
Mental models existing in the mind, are resistant to change and affect actions.
Here are some ways to alter your mental models in order to notice the root causes of problems more quickly:
- Create alternatives. Ask yourself things that like, “Is that true?” “Is that really true?” “What if the opposite of that were true?” “What would someone who is nothing like me believe about this situation right now?” “How would someone see this situation if they were in a different position than I am right now?”
- Select some new board members. Who do you go to for advice? How can you find a few new people to add to your professional “board of directors” that may bring a new perspective and have different views for you to consider? Have you spoken to someone who has no knowledge of your job or industry to get a completely different viewpoint, periodically?
- Create self-awareness. How often do you question your set of beliefs about people that you work with, your industry, your organization? What types of new experiences have you created in order to see things from a different perspective? How often do you force yourself out of your comfort zone?
- Get people to ask questions. Create time to use rounding in meetings to check in on other people’s point of view and perspectives on situations and problems that the organization or a team is facing. Work, as a leader, on asking higher level questions that are open-ended and are based in curiosity. Challenge your team to ask you questions that challenge you and your thinking. Support and encourage frankness and learn to respond by asking questions in order to achieve a deeper level of understanding.
Mastering yourself and breaking through set mental models doesn’t require approval from anyone else. You have complete control and authority over these disciplines. Taking 100% responsibility for your growth and building the skills necessary to be an effective problem solver is completely within your control and abilities. You are capable, smart, and determined. You know how I know this… because you chose to spend time reading and considering this article. A sure sign that you are someone that is committed to being a leader others will admire.
Tough, thoughtful, questions produce the best answers. Are you asking yourself and your team enough of them? As a leader, what are the best questions to ask and when? In Peter Senge’s timeless work, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of a Learning Organization, leaders learn which disciplines they need to develop to be prepared to ask the right questions, at the right times, to the appropriate people.
The foundation of his work is based on creating a learning organization and the fundamentals that need to be in place to do that. “Learning disabilities, “ Senge states, “are tragic in children, but they are fatal in organizations. Because of them, few organizations live even half as long as a person – most die before they reach the age of forty.” In fact, according to the SBA only a third of small businesses survive past their 10th birthday. I am curious about the survival rate on entrepreneurial-type initiatives within existing organizations. Probably pretty dismal.
To reduce the chance of the same problems occurring over and over again, learning organizations look at the underlying causes of the problem and then present a solution. The leaders think in terms of creating thinking space and time between noticing a problem and developing a lasting solution. They look existing at systems and mindsets that might be causing the problem. They reframe from the blame game towards team members and instead analysis the problem from start to finish in order to better understand what may be the root cause.
What are the 5 disciplines Senge focuses on?
- Personal Mastery – Mastering one’s focus, energy and patience can go some way to creating a well-rounded individual of great worth to any organization.
- Mental Models – Understanding the role our ingrained mentality and prejudiced perceptions play in our decision making.
- Building Shared Visions – A team-shared vision for the future is more beneficial to a company than a few disparate visions promoted by self-obsessed employees.
- Team Learning – Teamwork that brings together combined knowledge and expertise creates a fulfilling, powerful collective.
- Systems Thinking – ‘Systems thinking’ encourages businesses to look at the bigger picture, thereby providing sustainable long-term, as opposed to, short-term solutions to inherent problems.
What are some typical problems organizations face when converting to a culture of learning?
- Internal politics
- Exclusive power
- Lack of time for learning
- Difficulty in maintaining a good work/ life balance
Learning organizations, Senge teaches, are active and forward thinking. They are dynamic with an emphasis on team-work and shared learning. They are productive because they build teams and solutions based on one another’s strengths. Innovation is a cornerstone of learning organizations as they focus on genuinely effective improvements. They share their knowledge, and utilize constant communication to drive productive solutions.
For this week, contemplate the following questions to get started:
- How much thinking time do you leave open on your calendar to consider your highest level organizational challenges?
- Who do you use as a thinking pair for those challenges? What might prevent them from speaking the truth to you?
- Are your personal and professional “board of directors” always the same or do you invite different minds in for different challenges and to gain a completely different perspective in order to uncover assumptions and existing mind models?
- What reoccurring problem are you, your team, or organization facing that you have yet to find a permanent, viable, productive, solution for?
In the coming weeks, we’ll break down each of the 5 disciplines to help you learn and apply them to yourself, your team, and organization.
I’m frequently asked what books I would recommend to a leader. This one is foundational. In reading it you can easily see how so many other leadership works and models were built after having studying this one. This work is high-level and designed for the deep thinking leader who has complex problems to solve, although anyone can gain an understanding of their thinking that will transform the way they approach the challenges facing us all.
It’s possible that how you appear at work could be costing you thousands of dollars. Changing your appearance at work can have a positive impact on your income level. What you wear to work can leave a lasting impression for the good or bad. How is that, you might say? Because your executive brand is either moving you toward the position you want or away from it. You either look the part or you don’t. Sure, there are plenty of examples of someone who doesn’t present themselves well, for the industry or culture they want to fit into, and they get promoted or land their dream job, anyway. There are many more examples I can site for the opposite.
In less than .07 seconds we create a lasting impression on others. Sort of scary, isn’t it? How much can you say in less than a second? Nothing. In a flash, you make an impression with how you look.
Brad Pitt once explained in an interview, after being asked about what it felt like to be the “sexiest man alive”, something like… My father taught me that looks may get you in the door, but your personality and smarts will keep you there. You don’t have to look like Brad Pitt to get in the room. You don’t have the perfect face or body (thank goodness). What to consider, moving forward, is whether how you dress and present yourself is keeping others from “opening the door”.
Our brain thinks in pictures. How many times have you heard someone say to you, or you
have said to someone else, I am good with faces and terrible with names, can you tell me yours again? That’s because we can remember visual images, many times, more easily than things that were quickly said and not repeated.Appearance can be a very sensitive subject. It’s hard for us to see ourselves the way others see us and even more difficult to tell someone else how their appearance is working for or against them in a situation. What this means to you is that if someone mentions your appearance in a way that seems hard to take, it probably took a great deal of courage for that person to tell you about it. Even though it’s only one person you may want to weigh what they say with more weight than the silent majority who say nothing.
Appearance can be a very sensitive subject for some. It’s hard for us to see ourselves the way others see us and even more difficult to tell someone else how their appearance is working for or against them in a situation. What this means to you is that if someone mentions your appearance in a way that seems hard to take, it probably took a great deal of courage for that person to tell you about it. Even though it’s only one person you may want to weigh what they say with more weight than the silent majority who say nothing.
Here are a few things to consider in regard to your appearance from an Executive Brand standpoint:
- Consider culture and situation. If you are in an IT culture where you everyone dresses in jeans and t-shirts – great! Wear jeans and a t-shirt and you got it. If everyone dresses in suits and you show up to work in jeans and a t-shirt you need to consider that how you dress may not be serving you to create a higher level of influence at work.
- Everything communicates. The question is, what are you communicating with how you are dressed, how you smell, how you wear your makeup and hair, what shoes you wear? You may think you are “cool”, or that you will standout by dressing extremely casually in a formal environment. Are you sure that’s the impression you are leaving? Have you asked someone that you want to influence what they think of your attire and do you think they gave you an honest answer?
- Dress however you want off the clock. Just dress. Those FB pictures from a wild party last Saturday night or years ago are visible and shareable. If you think “only my close friends” on FB see my posts, that is simply not accurate. Everything you put on line is visible digitally and shareable, with sometimes surprising little effort, whether you want them to be or not. Look, if you don’t care about rising through the ranks at work or you never need to get another job, go for it. Post away with carefree abandon.
Sometimes even a small pivot in your appearance can make a big difference. For clients that ask, hire me just for the purpose of improving their executive brand, ask me, or are clearly being affected at work because how they are dressing is holding them back at work, I tell them. Don’t wait to ask someone about the appearance portion of your executive brand if you want to move to higher levels of influence. It’s one of the easiest things to modify.
For more on executive brand click here.
If you are getting ready to be on TV or Facebook Live or a make a YouTube video for your organization, click here.
For a private, confidential, coaching session to discuss your executive presence for the purpose of rapidly accelerating your progress towards reaching your potential at work, send me a note.