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Mindful Engagement During the “Stretch” Experience

Mindful Engagement During the "Stretch" Experience
So we’ve talked about the value of the mindset that your team members will bring to these challenging experiences. Now I wanna shift and talk about how they go through those experiences. The value of experimentation. Your team members, often time they will focus on execution. You give them a task, you give them a role. And they will focus on doing what they’ve always done to execute at a high level. From a growth and development point of view. That’s very dangerous because it puts them in that fixed mindset, that performance mindset where they’re gonna focus on doing what they know they can do well.
Another frame that you can give them as they go through these challenging experiences that’s consistent with our mindful engagement process. Is what I call the research and development orientation, where their research and development way of going through an experience. If you think about how research and development labs work, whether it’s in biotech, pharmaceuticals. Auto design, whatever the case may be. It’s experiments that they use to go through trial and error, trial and error. These small experiments that they build on each other to the point at which they discover an innovation or a solution. The same is true for coaching and developing your talent. As your team members are going through these stretch, these high challenge experiences,
what you want to do is focus them on the value of experimentation. Create these mini experiments with different ways of being a team member, contributing to the team, even leading the team. These mini experiments where they can try out new ways of acting, new ways of feeling, new ways of communicating. With each other so that they can learn through experience. What actually works for them. And that’s the research and development way of going through these challenging experiences. And what we’re finding in our research is that people who focus on execution do really well in routine experiences.
People who focus on experimentation and having these mini trial and error, these mini experiments as they go through the experience, they actually learn more and perform better in the end. And so, as a leader, your responsibility is to reinforce the value of experimentation. Maybe even creating some of these experiments for your team members so that they can learn what works, what doesn’t work as they go through their experiences within your team. Once you have established this commitment to experimentation there are some very specific strategies that you can use to reinforce learning. And really escalate the pace at which people grow and develop in your team.
So here what I want to do is share with you some very specific strategies, some very specific tactics. That we’ve discovered through our research that you can use to maximize learning from experience in your team. The first one is to expect and tolerate ambiguity.
In the fast paced dynamic world in which we all live and work, ambiguity is everywhere. We have to expect it and we have to get comfortable with it. I often tell my teams expect and get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And I think that’s something you can reinforce, either as a team member or as a team leader in the teams that you are part of.
The other strategy is to revisit the learning goals and priorities on a routine and regular basis. As your individual team members learn, you need to be able to update those goals and priorities, even for yourself, your learning goals and priorities, as you grow and develop. This is a dynamic process. You have to revisit those learning goals and priorities on a routine and regular basis. And always continue to update them. I often recommend with many of my executive clients to keep a learning journal. Actually writing down what you’re learning or finding enhances the degree to which you’re able to retain and even more importantly, implement new lessons that you’re learning along the way.
I recently finished a study in Singapore with public service employees, and we had them keep learning journals and write down diary entries of not only what they were learning, but then write stories of how they were going to use those new insights on their job to make themselves or their teams more effective. And on average we saw about a two to three times increase in the retention of what they were learning but also their ability to implement those insights. Really powerful way to improve or escalate your own learning. But then, also the learning of your team.
Also, make sure you’re managing your own energy, as well as the energy of your team members. Learning is a process, and it often is a process that requires a lot of energy. And a lot of commitment time. What we’re finding is the more you can focus on one or two learning goals as opposed to many different learning goals, you’re able to manage and focus your energy in ways that improves not only your learning but also your performance. Also try to find a balance between competing priorities. We’re always going to have competing priorities in our teams and as leaders of those teams.
The more you can balance those competing priorities the more you will able to focus in on the learning priorities and the goals that you have. This next set of learning strategies focuses on things where you are going to involve other people. If you look carefully at the first five strategies, you’ll find that those are individual things that you can do, and that you can coach your team members to do on their own. But the next several that I’ll give you really require you to seek counsel from others, and really involve other people in the learning process. And so the first one is just that. To seek feedback, to seek counsel from others.
There are many people in our lives who have gone through similar challenges and often times we as leaders of our teams or maybe even as team members, we’re scared or we’re anxious about reaching out to people and asking for help. But what we find in our research, one of my colleagues Sue Ashford has done an extensive amount of research on feedback seeking and what we find is when we seek counseling, when we seek feedback from other people not only are they willing to give that feedback, they find it valuable because they’re able to help. But they actually see us more favorably as a result of that feedback seeking and feedback giving process.
Also, I encourage you to engage others to hold yourself accountable. The learning process is often ambiguous, and accountability is often a fuzzy concept. And it’s very easy to go back to the routine. And continue with what’s new or what’s challenging and stretching us. If you bring others into the mix and use them, share with them your learning goals. Share with them what you’re trying to do to help grow and develop yourself, as well as what you’re trying to do to help your team grow. They can help hold you accountable to those actions. And then lastly is, I encourage you to meet regularly, with either your mentors, your coaches.
But then also your team, to talk about the stressors of teamwork and the tasks that you’re having to do. Because those stressors can often undermine the learning and growth process. But what we’re finding in our work is the more you openly talk about those stressors, the more we’re able to cope with them and the more effectively we are to deal with them so that we can continue to grow and develop as leaders of our teams as well as helping our team grow and develop.
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