An integrated and systemic approach to learning and development will give you outstanding results.
Crucial to the ability of today’s organisations to thrive and excel in tomorrow’s world is their capacity to be continually learning and adapting rapidly.
This implies that all the different stakeholder groups have an important part to play. Whilst this might seem anidealistic notion to some, the fact is that, internationally, organisations which have adopted an integrated and systemic approach to learning and development are seeing exceptional results.
Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School in the United Kingdom points outthat ” the world has moved beyond the time when major challenges could be met by the great individual leader (CEO) – Human beings have created a world of such complexity and global interdependence, and of continuous, fast-moving and volatile change, that leadership is beyond the scope of any individual (no matter how competent), and requires more effective collective leadership and high-performing leadership teams.”*
Some of the key themes experienced by a significant number of executive leadership teams include:
• Managing the expectations of all the different stakeholders, including regulators, board members, shareholders, key clients, partner organisations and, not least of all, their own divisions and functions;
• Leadership teams have to run and transform the business and its wider system, in parallel. This requires the process of collectively engaging the commitment and participation of all major stakeholder groups to radical change in the context of shared endeavour, values and vision;
• Teams need to increase their collective capacity for working through systemic conflict;
• Leaders have to live with multiple memberships and belonging. Rarely do senior leaders at this time belong to just one team. It is often psychologically difficult to commit equally to two or more teams;
• The world is becoming more complex and interconnected. We live in a world where it is increasingly harder to get the distance necessary to stand back, reflect, and see the bigger picture;
• Virtual working has grown. The global working day operates 24/7 as activity moves to different parts of the globe as the day progresses. Communication is often electronic, which requires new communication skills and new ways of establishing and sustaining trust;
• Trust needs to be restored. Trust in organisations is at an all-time low, and so is the trust in the collective leadership by their employees;
• The major leadership challenges lie not in the parts, but in the connections between the parts – the interfaces between people, teams, functions, and different stakeholder needs;
• Increasing the quality of engagement. Executive leadership needs to be extremely effective in constantly engaging their direct reports (managers), employees, customers, the Board, regulators, unions, and other relevant critical stakeholders; and
• Leaders have to talk to all of their people, all the time, and all need to be saying and acting according to the same message. This requires a strategic narrative, engaged managers, listening to the employee voice and organisational integrity – clear and consistent alignment between what is said (values) and what is done.
Starting at the top, it is essential to the success of any system-wide learning change initiative that the organisation’s leaders are seen to take the lead in continually fostering their own collective and individual learning and improvement. How to transform organisations into adaptable, change-able learning systems, accountable, resilient and ready for tomorrow’s world, will be the focus of the next set of articles in this series.
Barbara Walsh is an executive coach and coaching consultant with Metaco, www.metaco.co.za. She has an MSc in Coaching and Behavioural Change from Henley Business School in the UK, and is an accredited Neuro-Semantics Meta-Coach and Coach Trainer.
*Peter Hawkins: Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership, 2014.
This article appeared in the July 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.