Jan 28 '15

Corporate Opportunity to Practice Leadership: A Plan for Practicing and Preparing for Success

January 28, 2015

By Curtis R. Sprouse

My children are required to try out for the high school athletic teams they play on. During the tryouts they are tested for speed, agility, endurance, and proficiency at the sport. They are ranked based on this process and assigned to the varsity, the junior varsity, or cut based on the coach’s assessment of these factors.

My children—who are fortunate enough to have made their teams—are then required to practice 10 to 12 hours a week, on average, to participate in one or two athletic events that will span an hour each. During this time they develop physical skills, speed, strength, and agility. They are taught the game, techniques, and a system that defines offensive and defensive strategy. They study historic information on opponents that allows them to develop situational awareness and intellectual interpretation of the opponent’s actions, preparing them to react in a split second to various scenarios they will encounter in a way that will yield a desired outcome.

Even with all this practice, my children experience failure and loss. There are many reasons for these failures. The other team was stronger, faster, more athletic, better coached, or in some situations, just lucky. That said, the preparation is important, as it positions our children for success. The practice develops skills and abilities that will benefit them beyond the targeted event. It makes them better athletes, better friends, and better siblings, while strengthening analytic skills, preparing them to face adversity, and in the end making them better, stronger people.

Many times the failure on the athletic field occurs due to misdirected or poor preparation. Perhaps the kids did not train hard enough, they prepared for the wrong offense or defense, or the strategy was flawed. But in the case of corporations, the failure occurs due to lack of preparation and limited or no opportunities to practice. Many corporations are not developing talent or are missing opportunities to optimize the development of talent. Most companies ask people to lead or be led daily, but they provide little training, no practice, and little if any objective assessment of skills.

What if we were able to provide people with a granular understanding of why they do what they do? What if people understood the behavioral factors that cause them to be impatient, controlling, relentless in their pursuit of an objective vs those who feel no need to move with urgency, little concern for the outcome, no desire to engage when confrontation is present.

Putting people in the right position, and then then developing their skills to take advantage of strengths and positioning people so that their more challenging areas are not limiting them represents a significant opportunity for employers. This will give them a tool that will help them to understand the important dynamics of behavior and how to best position and develop skills to optimize outcomes. Practicing in a work environment is considered difficult but is very possible and highly impactful. It requires objective data that quantifies and focuses individuals, team, and leaders in areas that need to be targeted. It requires a common vernacular that people understand and a methodology that clearly defines complicated behavioral topics in usable actionable steps.

For example: A Listening behavioral model is comprised of seven behavioral traits. If I observe one of my team members not listening in a meeting, I can approach them and say. “You were not paying attention to your peers in that meeting, you were obviously not in agreement, and you did not track with the conversation or offer any suggestions. I expect you to behave differently the next time we meet. I expect you to engage and support the process.” This approach is driven by observation with no mention of “why” the person did not listen.

A second approach using behavioral data might go like this: “You were clearly not engaged in that discussion. I know you have a very high Energy score that makes you impatient. Your strong analytic skills allow you to get your mind around a topic and add a lot of insight and perspective, but you did not focus these skills that way. Your mind was clearly wandering. I also sense that you entered the discussion positioned as your lower Compromise score tends to drive your cynical side, especially when you feel you are the subject matter expert. We both know you can be over confident, as your Expertise score is 30% above the effective range. Good thing you are not over Dominant and an aggressive Competitor, we would have a real challenge getting you to engage in an effective way. When we meet next week, please try to focus your Reflectivity on the issue to help the others in the room. Use your insight, ask questions that help the presenter, and help you to better understand how the conclusions were reached, even if they are not consistent with your perspective. This will help everyone in the room, be patient and manage the cynical well informed side of you personality.”

The second approach is very specific, as it gets at the mechanism of action, why the person did not listen. It also has significant effect when shared with others on the team as the poor listener is now accountable for their behavior, and their peers know why.

This approach can be likened to my children reviewing game film the day after. They review video to study performance and they get feedback from coaches with their peers. The process allows everyone to see were the individual and team can improve and it is based on objective data. The coach does not say I feel like you missed an assignment, he or she can point to the misstep, poor positioning, or improper technique—similar to the example provided above.

As my children move on to college, the training and practice becomes more intense, not less. They spend more time practicing and developing their physical abilities, refining technique, learning more sophisticated strategies, and practicing the use of this knowledge and skill in pursuit of an objective.As the competition and demands on them become greater, so must the training and practice.

Companies striving to be the best must consider these dynamics. They will benefit from most investments in tools, systems, and process that will provide the data, vernacular, process, form and function required to make the organization a learning organization that allows people to practice, learn, and grow as they engage in the daily activates.

Note: Scores and profiles referenced in this article refer to characteristics defined in the EurekaConnect Behavioral Dynamics program

About the author: Curtis R. Sprouse is the President and CEO of EurekaConnect, LLC. Curtis has spent over 25 years building companies and consulting for hundreds of the fortune 500 companies. EurekaConnect, LLC uses proven technologies and data driven solutions that objectively and measurably improve organizational performance. For more information please email:customerservice@eurekaconnect.com