A Different Type of Feedback & Coaching Method

In an age where the cognitive components of individual human intelligence are rapidly absorbed by smart algorithms, the next milestone of human performance is emotional and relational in nature. The Kingbridge Institute is now offering a NEW type of learning experience and coaching method beneficial for giving feedback about group dynamics and effectiveness while engaged in discussions.

We have partnered with Mihnea Moldoveanu, Director of the Mind Brain Behavior Institute and Vice-Dean of Innovation at the University of Toronto – to develop the technologies, tools and experiences to help teams develop the awareness, acuity and aplomb to handle difficult dialogues, deliberations and decisions by better understanding their own emotional landscapes and being able to intervene with insight and incisiveness to transform the way they work together.

We are introducing a learning platform that provides a tailored and customized feedback solution for teams who carry out strategic and operational discussions. The tool is designed to diagnose and pinpoint interpersonal blockages to the flow of critical information, breakdowns of trust and hidden biases and power dynamics that undercut the objectivity of their discussions.

This is a transformative feedback solution for giving formative feedback on team member’s social, relational and affective abilities while they are engaged in discussions. Reveals the various degrees of engagement and involvement that people feel relative to each other when communicating.

The social intelligence learning platform – tracks, analyzes and displays variables that give coaches more information about learners’ emotional and physiological states – such as heart rate, heart rate variability and galvanic skin responses – which can be used in combination with a person’s features or characteristic expression and voice analytics to provide even sharper insights of what learners feel while they are interacting with others.

A DIFFERENT COACHING METHOD
The technology – a 360 degree and virtual reality camera is used to capture footage and audio of leaners’ presentations, pitches, meeting discussions, and problem solving sessions which are stored on a secure server. The platform then uses advanced machine learning algorithm’s to identify and map individual users voices and faces and automatically tracks, records, and displays the emotional states of each learner on the basis of recognizing patterns of facial expressions and of voice-related variabilities (pitches, loudness, pitch range, loudness range, rhythm, articulateness) that identify the learners emotional states. Learners can see for themselves the kinds of interpersonal dynamics that their communications – or lack thereof – produce in other participants and they can be coached and briefed on the ways in which their ways of making statements, responding to questions and according or withholding attention from others contributes to the collabortiveness and effectiveness of group sessions.

VALUE PROPOSITION:

  • Learn how your expressions, gaze, body language, tonality, modes of using language, beliefs and perceptions influence your teams ability to effectively engage in collaborative inquiry during discussions.
  • Learn how to become more self-aware so you can read and better understand how your emotional dynamics are affecting group performance.
  • Learn how to communicate more persuasively (great for sales professionals).
  • Learn how to adapt, modify, navigate and self-regulate your emotional states.

IDEAL FOR:

  • Sales Professionals
  • Coaches
  • Negotiators
  • Public Speakers
  • High Performing Athletes
  • Board Members
  • Project Managers
  • Leaders

To learn more about this exciting new technology and experience, visit our website.

Do you know which emotional states help you achieve peak performance?

How We Feel_Page_05

Introducing The Kingbridge Institute – Where we use the latest mind-brain-body science to create the ultimate learning environment.

Our work is focused on bringing the latest mind-brain-body science to executive skill development. We push the boundaries of inter-personal skills through the use of wearable technology to create an environment in which individuals and teams can learn about feelings. Real time brain-body mapping allows each participant to understand the effects their feelings and thoughts have on decision making. Seeing feelings as they unfold enables the next-level of collaboration in relationships and business.

Interested in staying connected?
Sign up to receive a continual stream of updates www.kingbridgecentre.com

Test your abilities to read facial expressions:
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ei_quiz#21

Cultivating Your Personal Resilience

Cultivating Your Personal Resilience Photo

Written by: Mary Stacey, Context Consulting

In today’s ‘always on’ environment, leaders experience pressure, information overload and constant distraction. Over time this sabotages many things, from their wellness to their ability to be personally resilient: present and productive during turbulence. Perhaps its because of this that we’re hearing a lot about resilience these days.

Resilient people are more healthy, hopeful, optimistic, and positive, able to learn and adapt more quickly, turn adversity into a growth experience, and flourish in times of change. Its easy to see why they can be effective leaders.

The Impact of Resilient Leaders
Resilient leaders stand out. They boost their team’s performance. They exude spaciousness that allows others to open up and take risks, making it possible to accommodate diverse perspectives and needs. Their emotional self-regulation helps the team work through conflict creatively rather than become polarized. They contribute their resilience to pivotal team conversations where collaboration and collective intelligence are essential, creating a climate that is less reactive and more responsive. Their teams spend less time fire-fighting and more time being proactive.

Google has found that resilient leaders create the most important dimension of team success: a climate of psychological safety. In contrast, non-resilient leaders who are reactive and emotionally off-balance create a climate of threat, triggering the brain’s shut-down fight-flight-freeze response. Threat undermines a team’s ability to form trust relationships, stay goal-focused during uncertainty, and bring their diversity to solve complex problems—all essential elements of collaboration.

Teams of Resilient Leaders
Teams of resilient leaders achieve exponential benefits. Their psychologically safe environment has coherence, things make sense and flow more easily. The team experiences high energy and continuously renews its sense of purpose. Conversations are open and vulnerable, helping the team access greater capacity to lead complex change. At peak performance, the team is collaboratively resilient, able to quickly improvise and adapt in ongoing turbulence.

Building Collaborative Resilience
Here are some ideas for developing your personal resilience and turning it into a leadership act that supports collaboration.

1. Cultivate your personal resilience
A recent Harvard Business Review study demonstrated that even ten minutes of daily mindfulness practice produces improvement in resilience, the capacity for collaboration, and the ability to lead in complex conditions.

Developing a personal practice (journal writing, breathing for relaxation, embodiment exercises) will help you to remain present, emotionally self-regulated, and capable of performing at your best. Over time you’ll spend less time in threat response and be better able to thrive in uncertainty.

2. Turn your resilience into a leadership act
You can translate your personal resilience into a leadership act by modeling presence: the ability to focus on the current moment, be open to diverse perspectives, listen and reflect. When others see that your presence combines with the performance level you are able to maintain, you will be demonstrating how they, too, might contribute to collaborative resilience in turbulent times.

3. Facilitate collaborative resilience in your team
Begin your meetings with a check in. Combine the HBR study’s ‘mindful minute’ with a round-table response to a question as simple as ‘How are you?” This allows team members to settle in, re-connect with themselves, choose their quality of attention, and build trust with others before turning to the issue at hand.

Be aware that your team members’ brains are constantly evaluating what you say and do in relation to threat. Design your meetings and pivotal conversations to maximize creative conflict and minimize threat. You’ll know when you’re in the zone: your team will experience a surge of energy and a renewed sense of purpose. They’ll anticipate disruption with confidence and navigate it with greater ease.

I introduce these strategies, along with many others, during Leading with Personal Resilience, part of the Collaborative Leadership Essentials at the Kingbridge Conference Centre.

References:
One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness (Hougaard, Carter, and Coutts, 2015)

How to Bring Mindfulness to Your Company’s Leadership (Harvard Business Review, 2016)

What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team (New York Times, 2016)

Kingbridge founder John Abele speaks on collaboration

Conversations that Build Trust, Agility, Resilience & Creativity

image for tree post for Michael

Last week at Kingbridge we unveiled our first newly designed leadership workshop, Leading through Conversations that Matter, hosted by Michael Jones. One of the techniques that Michael shared with the group involved using the ecology of a tree to help us understand the distinction and value of learning how to host three very different levels of conversations.

Those who attended the workshop found this valuable so we thought we would share the information with you.

Most organizations are not short of innovative ideas. What they do lack, however, is an environment that allows for the careful enrichment of the soil in order for these seeds of possibility to take root and grow.

What builds this soil is conversation. But not all conversations are the same. The leader’s ‘art’ involves knowing which conversation they are taking part in – and which ones they need to be taking part in – in order to achieve the results they desire.

One picture that helps us understand different levels of conversation is the image of a tree. This image offers a lens for making distinctions between three levels of conversation and how each contributes to growing the culture of an organization.

Level 1: Tactical/Incremental
In Level 1 conversations – the primary question is, “how do we do things differently?”

In Level 1 conversations, the focus is on the distribution of power, influence and getting things done. There is an emphasis on negotiation advocacy, tools, techniques, problem solving, action planning and results.

Level 1 conversations see the enterprise as a mechanical system for which all problems have a corresponding technical or expert-driven response. To extend the tree metaphor, Level I conversations – like the upper branches and the leaves of the tree – are highly sensitized and reactive to changing circumstances. Because they are focused on the performance of the parts rather than the system as a whole, their emphasis is on efficiency-based thinking, quantitatively-driven results and mechanistic responses to problems.

Level 2: Strategic/Transactional
Here the primary question is, – “how do we do different things?”

At Level 2 we see not only the leaves and branches, but their connection to the trunk of the tree as well. Here the focus is on structure and strategy as well as rational problem-solving through policies, technology, detailed plans and systems thinking.

Level 2 conversations shift the emphasis from efficiency to effectiveness, embracing a human resources lens which encompasses human assets and potential, matching people to jobs and working in teams.

Both Level 1 and Level 2 conversations tend to focus on change that is instrumental. They don’t ask the larger questions like ‘why’ or ‘what for?’ For this more profound shift of mindset to occur and to navigate the complexities of a rapidly changing world, we need to look to another level of conversation.

Level 3: Regenerative/Transformational
With regenerative Level 3 conversations the primary question is, – not on “how we act differently”, but in “how we see differently.”

Here, there is a shift from mechanistic thinking to engaging with the organization as a living system. If the other levels focus on the leaves, branches and trunk, Level 3 conversations examine the soil and the root system underneath.

By ‘regenerative’, I mean conversations that focus not only on the people, the power and the structure of the system, but also on the culture and the sense of place where the leader is also the steward, the sage or prophet, the storyteller and place maker.

At Level 3 there is a greater attention on dialogue and listening together as well as on the regenerative power of beauty, destiny, synchronicity and mythic thinking in which art and poetry, music and celebration carry an equal voice. Generative conversations are participative, reciprocal and imaginative. They involve a collective search for deeper meanings and insights to emerge.

In so doing, these conversations shift the focus from preserving the life of the tree to growing the tree into a sturdy and fertile oak through the constant turning and care of the soil.

Eighty percent of what determines the health of a tree is the condition of the soil – the ‘magic’ that supports and nourishes its roots. In the context of an organization, this ‘magic’ is found within its creative spirit: conversations about what we aspire to, about when we feel vital and alive, about the gifts and heritage from our past and our present challenges and opportunities. These are ‘root’ conversations that focus on the common roots of our shared human experience. As such, they create the fertile ground – so frequently passed over in a fast-paced environment – where the seeds of our future can take root and grow.

It is commonly believed that the fastest way to change a system is with Level 1 and Level 2 conversations. So the overwhelming majority of an organization’s attention is usually focused in these two areas and the typical goal-setting processes that have been used for decades emphasize specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and strategic time-bound results. Yet these rarely correlate with either work satisfaction or real success.

We need to be highly literate with Level 1 and Level 2 conversations while being aware that they concentrate our attention on the most obvious and visible issues. They promote an expert-driven ‘outside in’ response and rarely evoke a fundamental shift of mind when practiced without Level 3.

All levels of learning are necessary, but only Level 3 conversations invite us into seeing new possibilities in the future. As such they take tactical and strategic learning in new directions that could not have been foreseen in advance.

The practice of engaging in Level 3 conversations connects us with how nature itself creates and sustains life. We become allies with each other and our destiny in ways that intellect, tactics, and strategies alone cannot encompass. Our destiny is rooted in the rich soil of intuitive wisdom, the power of place, our heart’s desires, our greatest aspirations, the gifts in each person and the collective intelligence that has called us to be together on this journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innovating for the Future with Outmoded Mentality?

One of the most daunting challenges for leaders today is how to innovate and stay ahead of the curve.  It seems a herculean task for most and the question is always “why is this so hard?”

The simple answer is that is isn’t hard……..if you are able to shift your mindset away from antiquated (and painfully slow!) bureaucratic procedure into a new paradigm of rapid prototyping and group leadership.  In this new landscape of rapid change and ambiguity leaders can no longer operate a system of ‘approval’ wherein they make the decisions on behalf of the organization.  Rather, future leaders must evolve into a system where their primary function is to create the conditions for leadership capacity throughout the organization.  This shift in mentality and skill set enables agility with rapid decision making and rapid course correction – the cornerstones of innovation.

So how do we get there?  Kingbridge would like to offer the insight that what is required to achieve such an overhaul in leadership is a shift from organizational development to personal professional development wherein individuals take on the accountability for their own education and capacity growth.  In fact it hardly seems possible to do it any other way – trying to shift into a paradigm where rapid decision making is necessary throughout the organization and under any number of circumstances and across skill sets requires networks, systematic thinking and conversational skills.  None of which are things you can really ‘pick up’ during a corporate training session, they all require practice, forums for discussion and most importantly adaptation of this new mindset. Relying on organizational training to equip you with these skills is kind of like trying to learn to swim from a you tube video on your living room floor!

To read more on future leadership trends and their implications check out this paper from Center for Creative Leadership.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Collaboration?

It has come to my attention recently that in these articles we have often explored the nuances of collaboration including the conditions and behaviours needed to get it right and the barriers you may face to success and how to identify pseudo collaborations but we have very minimally referenced the pit falls of too much collaboration.

It is indisputable that organizations leveraging properly executed collaborations produce superior innovation and results over traditional bureaucratic systems.  However, that doesn’t mean that every decision in an organization needs to be a collaborative effort.  As part of HBR’s Insight Center “Getting Collaboration Right” authors Morten T. Hansen and Herminia Ibarra identify the 2 main traps organizations fall into when ‘trying to get it right’:

Under-collaboration. Companies that operate as a collection of silos commit the cardinal sin of under-performing. Both ideas and money are left on the table because managers are unwilling or unable to combine resources to create new products, or share best practices to improve efficiency. Sony for example was unable to come up with its version of iPod/iTunes because divisions competed with one another.

Over-collaboration. The alternative problem is that collaboration sometimes goes too far. It sets in when people collaborate on the wrong things or when collaboration efforts get bogged down in endless discussions and consensus decision-making in which no one is clearly accountable. The result is slow and poor execution. At the oil giant BP a few years back, efforts to promote collaboration across the many operating business were so successful that employees over-collaborated. According to former CIO John Leggate: “People always had a good reason for meetings. You’re sharing best practices. You’re having good conversations with like-minded people. But increasingly, we found that people were flying around the world and simply sharing ideas without always having a strong focus on the bottom line.” Only when they calibrated their effort did BP reap benefits from collaboration.

So yes, you can over-collaborate.  Having said that, the example of over-collaboration above was missing a key component of any organizational culture as a whole – accountability.  In a successful collaborative culture an organization shares common values and goals, as such everyone in that organization is accountable for putting their maximum effort towards achieving those goals.  Any organizational systems designed to reward collaboration must take steps to ensure what they are promoting is disciplined collaboration.

The Kingbridge Insight this week is one I am sure you have heard many times before: Collaboration isn’t easy!  It takes extensive planning, knowledge, behavioural considerations and self reflection not to mention re-designing entire corporate cultures to even give all that work  a chance to be successful!  It is not to be taken lightly, real collaboration is a massive undertaking and doing it wrong can be as damaging to an organization as not doing it at all.

Are Your Employees Buying Your Leadership?

In the May 2014 Harvard Business Review article “Blue Ocean Leadership” authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne elaborated on their take on the issue of employee engagement in the workplace.

Some startling statistics include that from Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report that just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job and another 50% are just putting in their time.  Perhaps the more concerning stat is that for the remaining 20% who are actively discontent and negatively influence their co-workers and by extension the productivity of your business.

So, what is the solution?  Well it is simple in theory but takes a considerable effort and shift in organizational culture – leadership empowerment at all levels.  If employees don’t ‘buy’ what you are ‘selling’ as a leader, at any level, the result will be disengagement. Now, this isn’t new information, for years the importance of leadership in any organization has been espoused.  So, why is this still the number one problem plaguing the workplace? Simply, education and training are traditionally focused on the high level leaders while front line leaders who are closer to the market, the customer and the workforce interacting with your customer rarely benefit from the kind of leadership coaching and training that would empower them to communicate effectively and work towards bringing out the best in their people.

The Blue Ocean Leadership model highlighted in the HBR article suggests that by applying the Blue Ocean Leadership Strategy at the 3 distinct levels of leadership: senior, midlevel and frontline an organization can significantly improve employee engagement, satisfaction and subsequently the bottom line.

Conventional Leadership Development Approaches

Blue Ocean Leadership

Focus on the values, qualities and behavioural styles that make for good leadership under the assumption that these ultimately translate into high performance. Focus on what acts and activities leaders need to undertake to boost their teams’ motivation and business results, not on who leaders need to be.
Tend to be quite generic and are often detached from what organisations stand for in the eyes of their customers and the market results their people are expected to achieve. Connect leaders’ actions closely to market realities by having the people who face market realities define what leadership practices hold them back and what leadership actions would enable them to thrive and best serve customers and other key stakeholders.
Focus mostly on the executive and senior levels of organisations. Distribute leadership across all three management levels because outstanding organizational performance often comes down to the motivation and actions of middle and frontline leaders who are in closer contact with the market.

So, as is our custom the Kingbridge Insight this week is to ask you to gain some insight into your own leadership: Are people buying what your selling as a leader?  Have you been provided the tools to excel as a leader?  If not……..what are you going to do about that?

Hacking Work

Work is broken.  As Bill Jensen and Josh Klein point out in their book “Hacking Work”, companies are moving faster, but not really getting anywhere. In fact organizational performance has been deteriorating for decades, regardless of economic conditions. Companies have tried to avert this through short term fixes like layoffs and spending cuts however, in the long run the result is the same.  Work is broken and needs to be hacked.

Employee engagement continues to decline, while leadership frustration continues to rise. We could blame the people (employees) or the economy but the truth is that as the complexity in the workplace has increased over the years the way we work has changed very little. People are frustrated with constantly shifting priorities, limited resources and an accelerated market place.  The feeling of accomplishment and pride in work that feeds the ‘soul’ of the employee is marginalized because current (and by current we mean old) organizational structures haven’t evolved to accommodate shifts in the market, communication or technology, thus don’t allow for significant achievement.  In short, it is the way we work that is failing to keep up,  not the people.

Jensen and Klein suggest that the solution to the problem of how we change the work landscape is not a top down approach but rather will come from individuals at all levels of an organization challenging the status quo, daring to bypass sacred structures, using forbidden tools, and ignoring silly corporate edicts. In other words, they are hacking work to increase their own efficiency and job satisfaction.  When enough of today’s workforce joins the hack, there will be a definitive movement towards functional work in the 21st century.

The Kingbridge Insight this week, like many others comes as a question:
Are you going to remain part of the problem, protecting the status quo? Or, are you going to join the tribe of individuals implementing the solution and teaching others how to hack work and make it better for everyone?

Robot Collaboration

You are probably wondering how we could possibly program robots to collaborate when most of us have such a difficult time doing it effectively ourselves!  Well MIT researchers have recently discovered that it is quite a challenge indeed. (“Helping Robots Collaborate”, Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence News, February 14, 2014)

Currently researchers are working on applying a combination of robotic control programs to enable groups of robots to collaborate.  The most recent tests of this complex system have included a simulation of a warehousing application where teams of robots are required to retrieve arbitrary objects from indeterminate locations, collaborating as needed to transport heavy loads.  It sounds simple enough right?  Well, as with any collaboration communication has proven to be one of the primary issues.  There are far too many variables involved to program a detailed set of communication conditions – similar to communications in any work environment.  And similar to human work environments and modes of communication the greatest success in this venture for robotic collaboration has come when the robots are given the tools and freedom to ‘decide’ how best to communicate and accomplish what they need – like a self organizing team.  Each robot has a series of coloured lights to use for communication when their direct relay systems are slow or out of order.  Originally, the programmers were attempting to create a specific light response for any situation/communication need that may arise, which of course proved impossible given the infinite number of variables and qualifiers involved in a group collaboration.  What has provided some success is programming the robots to identify the coloured lights as a method of communication and allow the artificial intelligence algorithm determine whether use of the lights is necessary and what the colours mean.

The Kingbridge Insight this week is an extrapolation of the lessons this robotic experiment has to offer while attempting to program collaboration behaviour.

Traditionally, organizations work in a hierarchy, where actions and behaviours are determined by a superior officer.  Even though many organizations have taken some steps towards creating ‘bottom up’ environments the underlying structure for the most part remains the same. In this experiment however, the most successful collaborations resulted from self organization and the absence of command and control.

What conclusion would you draw from this about the conditions required for successful collaborations?

The Dominance Problem

Another classic problem of most meetings is the dominance problem.  A few people intimidate others.  As a meeting organizer or leader how can you mitigate the negative effects these people can have on potential collaborations?

Sometimes a few loud individuals can dominate your meetings.  And that can lead to quiet people (e.g. introverts) not sharing their best ideas.  There are lots of ways to manage this psychological dynamic between the louder and quieter people in your meetings.  But one such technique is called the Nominal Group Technique (NGT), an alternative to traditional brainstorming.  NGT prevents the domination of discussion by a single person, encourages the more passive group members to participate, and results in a set of prioritized solutions or recommendations.

Let’s say your team is trying to make a decision, for example; imagine you’re trying to decide whether to bring your proposal to the CEO now or wait until after the Board meeting.  Now, this is a classic situation where a few louder voices could steamroll the rest of the group.

So, as the team leader, what you do is ask everyone to write down their opinion on a sheet of paper. Then you collect those papers and record the opinions on a white board or flip chart and vote. This forces team members who wouldn’t have otherwise spoken up to voice their opinions.  It also minimizes the effect of group members who would otherwise dominate the conversation.  And yet, everyone still has input, and you get all of the best possible ideas.

You, as team leader, can control each of the member’s voices.  You can control their input, the flow, and the tone of it.
ngt
Another benefit of the nominal group technique is that it reduces Groupthink because it encourages independent thinking – people don’t get swayed by listening to everyone else’s arguments.

An alternative to the manual recording method for Nominal Group Technique is to utilize a collaborative technology tool such as an audience response application like Turning Point or one of the many smartphone applications or a decision support application like Think Tank.

The Kingbridge Insight this week is to encourage you as a leader, whether of a group or an entire organization to continuously try new techniques for group engagement  – the results will speak for themselves.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, ask for help if you need it! Consult a professional management consultant or if you are in the Greater Toronto Area give us a call and we can connect you with one of our trusted advisers.  There are resources out there to help you reach your goals – tap into them!